Friday, November 30, 2007

World AIDS Day: December 1, 2007

Tomorrow is the international World AIDS Day. It is estimated that 33.2 million people around the world (that's one in every 200) are living with HIV. Every day, 6,800 people are infected with HIV and 5,700 people die of AIDS-related illnesses.

The theme for World AIDS Day 2007 is "Stop AIDS. Keep the promise." Organizations around the world are calling on leaders to show some leadership to stop this epidemic. According to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “This is not the time for complacency nor apathy. It is the time for compassionate leadership.”

There are thousands of events planned around the world marking World AIDS Day. The World AIDS Campaign is stressing the urgency of new and renewed leadership commitments by all stakeholders in the response to HIV and AIDS.

The World AIDS Campaign has straightforward information about the AIDS epidemic, and suggestions for how you can get involved.

I encourage you to read World AIDS Day 2007: Electing to Fight Against HIV/AIDS, by Susan Blumenthal, MD. She has written much more eloquently than I ever could on the importance of keeping this issue in the public debate. As she states:
... of the seventeen declared Presidential candidates, only a few have detailed their plans to combat HIV/AIDS in the United States and worldwide. When nearly 25% of Americans infected with HIV are unaware that they are infected, when nearly two-thirds (63%) think domestic spending on HIV/AIDS is inadequate, and when nearly one-third believe that the U.S. is losing ground in the battle against HIV/AIDS,20 it is critical that the Presidential candidates share with the American public their proposals to fight this pandemic that threatens the health, economy and national security of our country and world.

Donald Trumped

Donald Trump's controversial plans to build a £1billion golf resort along a stretch of the Scottish coastline have been rejected by the local council. From the Telegraph:
Councillors have rejected the proposals for two links courses, a five-star hotel, a golf academy, nearly 1,000 holiday homes and 500 private houses in one of the biggest single property developments seen in Scotland.

Following the decision, the flamboyant American property tycoon threatened to pull out of Scotland and take the scheme, which would be worth more that £100 million a year, elsewhere in Europe.
Oh boo hoo, Donald Trump. Take your money and your environmental nightmare elsewhere. I'm sure you'll be greeted with equally open arms "elsewhere in Europe."
The scheme was opposed by conservation groups which warned that the Trump International Golf Links would damage the dunes and wildlife on the 1,400-acre site near Balmedie.

Why is our childs behind the rest of the world in science? (and reading, and math)

Breaking news out of Texas:

The state’s director of science curriculum has resigned after being accused of creating the appearance of bias against teaching intelligent design.

That's right. Read it again:
The state’s director of science curriculum has resigned after being accused of creating the appearance of bias against teaching intelligent design.
Blue Gal posted the following story at Crooks and Liars:

Comer was put on 30 days paid administrative leave shortly after she forwarded an e-mail in late October announcing a presentation being given by Barbara Forrest, author of “Inside Creationism’s Trojan Horse,” a book that says creationist politics are behind the movement to get intelligent design theory taught in public schools. Forrest was also a key witness in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case concerning the introduction of intelligent design in a Pennsylvania school district. Comer sent the e-mail to several individuals and a few online communities, saying, “FYI.”

Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, which sent the original e-mail to Comer announcing the event, said Comer’s situation seems to be a warning to agency employees.

“This just underscores the politicization of science education in Texas,” Scott said. “In most states, the department of education takes a leadership role in fostering sound science education. Apparently TEA employees are supposed to be kept in the closet and only let out to do the bidding of the board.”

Needless to say this is taking the science blogs by storm…more at two of my favorites, Bad Astronomy (thanks for the tip, Phil) and Pharyngula.

Update: Some commenters are taking offense that this post is anti-Christian. I wrote it. I’m a Christian (believing Quaker). A great many members of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State believe as I do that intelligent design is a specific attempt by Fundamentalists to inject religion into the public schools, and some of us also believe that if the State teaches the Bible they will misinterpret it for our children. Religious freedom requires freedom from anyone’s individual religious beliefs being force taught in the public schools as scientific fact. Read more here. — BG

The Matthew Shepard Act is in trouble - Please take action now!

For the first time, hate crimes prevention legislation has passed both chambers of Congress. This is the closest we've ever been to securing federal assistance for the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation and gender identity.

Please join me in urging your senators and representative to ensure that the Matthew Shepard Act (S 1105) is included in the conference report of the Department of Defense Authorization Act (HR 1585) and sent to the President's desk for signature.

This legislation would eliminate the barrier currently preventing federal involvement in protecting victims of bias-motivated crimes on the basis of sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability. Current law authorizes federal involvement only in cases involving bias related to race, color, religion or national origin.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

3879 U.S. soldiers dead: Much more than just a statistic

It is heartbreaking to enter this holiday season with 3879 sons/ daughters/ brothers/ sisters/ mothers/ fathers/ loved ones gone forever. We as a nation seem to be numb to the pain of the deaths of these fellow Americans. I have posted this quote before, but it bears repeating. In 1945, Joseph Stalin said to Winston Churchill:
The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.
To remind us of the tragedy of the war in Iraq, I will be regularly posting stories about some of the 3879 dead. From today's NewsDay:
Bronx soldier killed by roadside bomb in Iraq

A Bronx man who enlisted in the Army in January was killed Tuesday by a roadside bomb in Iraq, the Defense Department said last night.

Pvt. Isaac T. Cortes, 26, died after a bomb blew up near his vehicle in Amerli, about 100 miles north of Baghdad.

Cortes was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) in Fort Drum. He died along with Spc. Benjamin J. Garrison, 25, of Houston. He is survived by his parents and brother.

At Cortes' home in the Parkchester section last night, family members said they didn't want to speak to a reporter. Cortes lived there with his father and older brother for at least 14 years, said a neighbor.

"Oh, no," he said on learning of Cortes' death. "It's terrible ... I can't even imagine how his father is feeling." The neighbor said he watched Cortes grow up. "I think he joined because he wanted to go to college," he said. "He was a nice kid, a polite kid. He just got over there."

"They've got to stop this [war], these young boys coming back like that," he added.

Blog roundup

I'm crunching on some things at work, so I encourage you to take a look at these stories from other bloggers and websites:

Steve Benen of The Carpetbagger Report has GOP YouTube Debate: Who Loves Torture and Hate Immigrants the Most?

Are the execs at MSNBC finally coming to their senses and realizing what an assclown Tucker Carlson really is? Possibly, says Crooks and Liars in Save Tucker Carlson hilarity.

Mock, Paper, Scissors is up to his usual snarky genius with
How many world leaders does it take to…

If you haven't yet checked out The Political Voices of Women, start today with Catherine Morgan's post CNN/YouTube Republican Debate with Anderson Cooper

Media Matters calls out the New York Times for misleading reporting in NY Times' Herbert claimed few congressional Dems opposed Iraq war resolution; in fact, most voted against it

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Is Cheney's latest heart ailment a fraud -- and a set-up?

I have now read this in several places, and an idea which seemed at worst paranoid and at the very least cynical — now sounds quite plausible. Consider this:

Is Dick Cheney's recent heart ailment a fabrication by the White House in an effort to smooth the way for a Cheney resignation? And, would Cheney's replacement then run for President in 2008 with the strength that incumbency has historically proven to hold?


From BuzzFlash:
Before you dismiss this as speculation from a conspiracy nut whose tin-foil hat is on too tight, consider the fact that the Bush team created an elaborate and entirely false pretext for taking the country to war that snookered the corporate media and a majority of the public. Faking news of a heart ailment in order to quietly shuffle Cheney off the stage is child’s play by comparison.

Your inner European

Forget DNA! Now you can take a little poll on your likes and dislikes and really find out your "Inner European." As far as I know, I have no actual Irish blood in me, though plenty of Scottish and a wee bit of Welsh. So I guess this is not far off:

Your Inner European is Irish!

Sprited and boisterous!

You drink everyone under the table.

Who's Your Inner European?

POST SCRIPT: Okay, okay. In all honesty, I'm not sure my friends would describe me as "boisterous," and although I used to hang with the best of 'em, it's doubtful I can drink many folks under the table anymore. Especially if it's past 10 p.m.

Choosing the next President: Who really decides?

It seems that every day we get a new poll about who's ahead in Iowa or New Hampshire. Having the first primary and caucus obviously makes these significant contests. However, are the populations of these two states really representative of the rest of the United States? I've never been to Iowa, but have spent some time in New Hampshire. It's a lovely place. But it's nothing like Baltimore (and yes, that's a large part of why I like to go to New Hampshire).

I thought it would be interesting to learn more about these two bellwether states. After all, they hold a pretty powerful place in the choosing of the next president. From the U.S. Census Bureau (2005 figures):
Iowa (total population 1,314,895)
94.9% White
2.3% Black
1.4% Asian

New Hampshire (total population 2,982,085)
96.1% White
1.0% Black
1.7% Asian
How does this compare with other states?
Maryland (total population 5,615,727)
64.0% White
29.3% Black
4.8% Asian

California (total population 36,457,549)
77.0% White
6.1% Black
12.2% Asian

Georgia (total population 9,363,941)
66.1% White
29.8% Black
2.7% Asian

United States (total population 299,398,484)
80.2% White
12.8% Black
4.3% Asian
That's probably enough statistics. You get my point. The populations of these two highly publicized contests to decide the next nominee for the Republican and Democratic parties are not at all representative of the rest of the country. So although I initially thought it was a bad idea for other states to move their own primaries up on the calendar, I'm now thinking that maybe the rest of us ought to have more of a say in who becomes the party's nominee.

The tradition of Iowa and New Hampshire first is quaint. And as outdated as Rudy Giuliani's dress.

Wednesday poetry break

Today is the 250th anniversary of the birthday of William Blake. Garrison Keillor gave a wonderful reading of the poem below this morning on The Writer's Almanac.


I wander thro' each charter'd street,
Near where the charter'd Thames does flow,
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infant's cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forg'd manacles I hear.

How the Chimney-sweeper's cry
Every blackning Church appalls,
And the hapless Soldier's sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls.

But most thro' midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlot's curse
Blasts the new-born Infant's tear,
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.

— William Blake

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

President Bush at work: Unable to pronounce either "Olmert" or "Mahmoud"

ThinkProgress has video of President Bush making a statement from the MidEast Peace talks in Annapolis. Too bad he stumbles badly on the names of both the major participants from Israel and Palestine. Watch it and wonder. Has he fallen off the wagon again, or do we have a functionally illiterate president? (click on the image to go to the video)


Flashback: In September, a marked-up draft of Bush’s speech to the U.N. was inadvertently released. The draft included “phonetic spellings of some names and countries.” Dana Perino said at the time that it was “offensive” to suggest Bush has a hard time pronouncing certain names:

REPORTER: Does the president have a hard time pronouncing some of these countries’s [sic] name?

PERINO: I think that’s a offensive question. I’m going to just decline to comment on it.
More offensive than mispronouncing the names of two world leaders?

Cluster bombs remain, terrorizing civilians long after the warriors are gone

On Sunday, The Washington Post ran a powerful photo essay about a young Lebanese girl, Rasha Zayoun, who's foot was blown off by a cluster bomb. As often happens with these types of weapons, this was a cluster bomb from an earlier conflict, dropped by the Israeli army during the war between Israel and Hezbollah in July and August 2006,

From the story:
Rasha's father, a day laborer, unwittingly brought the small, bell-shaped explosive home when it was scooped into a bag of wild thyme that he picked after a long, unsuccessful day of searching for work.

The blast from the cluster bomblet knocked Rasha's mother unconscious. Rasha's brother, her elder by three years, heard her screams and found her face-down, her front tooth chipped on the rug-covered, cement floor.

The submunition blew a hole in the cinder-block wall and left a trail of pock marks from the floor to the ceiling. The same explosion tore Rasha's left foot almost completely from her leg. Rasha's brother, Qassam Zayoun, ran to his sister's screams. He then ran from their house in terror when his sister's foot came off in his hand.
According to a spokesperson for the U.N.'s Mine Action Coordination Center, since the end of last year's Israel-Hezbollah war, 25 civilians were killed and 185 wounded by cluster bomb and other ordnance explosions. In addition, 13 mine experts have also died during minesweeping operations. The most recent fatality was a British expert who died in an Oct. 11 blast.

There is no place in this world for cluster bombs. Ever. Yet a recent U.N. weapons conference called for new rules on when the weapon can be used but stopping short of launching talks on a legally binding treaty. Why? According to the Associated Press: "The United States, Russia and China have repeatedly insisted that the weapon has a legitimate military purpose."

Doesn't that company make you feel all warm and fuzzy? Have any of the presidential candidates made a statement on the use of cluster bombs? I haven't heard any, but would be interested if anyone else has come across this issue in any platforms. It's time we showed the world we have a shred of morality left in us as a country.

Cheney discovered to have an irregular heartbeat

Who knew he had a heart?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Wal-Mart Sues Brain Damaged Employee As Reward for Giving Her Health Insurance

Reposted from Mother Jones' MoJoBlog. I don't even know what to say about this. It has left me speechless — I'll just let the post's author Stephanie Mencimer say it all:

Just when you think that Wal-Mart had already exhausted every last possible strategy for screwing over its employees, here comes this story in the Wall Street Journal. Deborah Shank, a Wal-Mart employee gets into an accident with a semi and ends up permanently brain-damaged a few years back. Her Wal-Mart health insurance paid her medical bills, but she also sued the trucking company for damages. She wins $700,000, which after legal fees and expenses, nets her about $400,000, which was put in a trust to pay the nursing home she now lives in.

But Wal-Mart gets wind of the settlement and turns around and sues Shank for $470,000, the money its insurance company paid for her care from the accident. Now, the woman is reliant on Medicaid and Social Security and Wal-Mart apparently got a much needed windfall.

Wal-Mart isn't alone in such behavior. Insurance companies seizing lawsuit winnings from catastrophically injured Americans is a common practice that gives lie to the notion that anyone gets rich off a personal injury lawsuit these days, as insurance companies often get first dibs on any judgment or settlement in such cases. But Wal-Mart's cruelty, as always, is extreme in this case. Not only is Shenk profoundly disabled, but while her family was fighting off the company in court, her son was killed while fighting the war in Iraq. Not even bad PR like this, apparently, can eke out a drop of compassion from the retail giant.

Please check out the rest of the news over at MoJo ....

The American mindset: we can't even imagine a peaceful world

A few months ago when I was getting a flat tire repaired, I had an unexpected discussion about peace with the mechanic. It began when he saw the Kucinich bumper sticker on my car, and asked "Who's that?"

Now, I'd never been to this shop before, and I didn't know this guy. But he was really very sociable, and more talkative than some mechanics I've dealt with. He was kind of short and stocky, and had the shaved head look, which looked a little bit military to me, but who knows. Of course you can't judge a person by their looks, but in general I just didn't get the feeling he was a raging left-wing liberal — you know, like me.

So when he said "Who's that?" I tried to get a read on whether he was being serious, or making a joke about the long odds of the Kucinich campaign. I said, "Oh, he's just some guy running for president." The mechanic responded that he'd never heard of him, and he asked me a little about him. Well, again, I didn't feel like getting into a debate, but it seemed pretty open-minded of the guy to ask about Kucinich. So without going into great detail, I told him that Kucinich's basic platform was peace.

What the mechanic said next floored me. He said "Well if there was peace then I'd be out of a job — see, I'm in the National Guard."

"But there will always be floods and hurricanes," I said. "There will always be natural disasters here at home that will need the National Guard."

He looked up from his clipboard and said, "Huh, I guess you're right."