News and Opinion Based on Facts

Monday, November 18, 2013

Rush Limbaugh and Rob Ford

Does the crack smoking Mayor of Toronto remind anyone of another drug guzzling overweight celebrity?
Both are infamous for making stupid remarks, both are immoral, by normal standards, both are drug users, both are a disgrace to their  profession.
Check out this report:

Rob Ford our Very Own Rush Limbaugh

Ford’s pattern of dishonesty reminds this blogger of one of America’s most polarizing, controversial figures – radio broadcasting legend Rush Limbaugh. Aside from the mutual-yet-differentiating situations with Oxycontin, Ford and Limbaugh share an over-the-top, loudmouth style where the spectacle often outshines the practical. They speak to their bases in an unapologetic, unforgiving tone, usually railing against progressives and liberals in a venomous verbal assault that receives coverage for their entertainment value. Missing from their rants, and this is the crux of the problem, is factual evidence to prop up the conjecture. Simply put, they just sort of say stuff and believe context is flexible.
Watch this space.....

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Now This is Comedy!

A woman on a train walked up to a man across the table. "Excuse me," she said, "but are you Jewish?" "No," replied the man. A few minutes later the woman returned. "Excuse me," she said again, "are you sure you're not Jewish?" "I'm sure," said the man. But the woman was not convinced, and a few minutes later she approached him a third time. "Are you absolutely sure you're not Jewish?" she asked? "All right, all right," the man said. "You win. I'm Jewish." "That's funny," said the woman." You don't look Jewish."

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tea Baggers Should be Prosecuted

The Tea Baggers are conspiring to damage our country and our Constitution.
They are saying that laws  passed constitutionally can be repealed by shutting down our government and going into default.
These people should be arrested for treason before they cause more harm to our country.

"According to Article III, Section 3 of the United States Constitution, “any person who levies war against the United States or adheres to its enemies by giving them Aid and Comfort has committed treason within the meaning of the Constitution. The term aid and comfort refers to any act that manifests a betrayal of allegiance to the United States, such as furnishing enemies with arms, troops, transportation, shelter, or classified information.” Republicans deliberately harmed the U.S. economy in the 2011 debt ceiling crisis, and the resulting sequestration cuts began affecting the defense industry on March 1 2013. Coupled with using extortion for political gain, the Republican plot to shut down the government must be regarded as one part of several subversive acts to weaken the power of the United States to attack or resist its enemies."

They need to feel the full power of the law before they destroy our way of life.

The quote is from:

Sunday, October 13, 2013

GOP Admits They're Committing Treason

Rob Gray –a media strategist and former senior advisor to bankster Mitt Romney appeared on a local Fox affiliate in Boston and admitted that Republicans are working to make the economy worse. Gray said referring to lawmakers in his party, “they’re rooting against the economy somewhat because they think that the short-term pain of the next four months is much better than having additional four years of pain under Obama…if we have to suffer between now and November to get a better president for four years, they’re all for it.”

So forget about the millions of Americans who need help from foreclosure, the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are out of work and running out of unemployment benefits, and the millions oF children who depend on food stamps to eat –Republicans in Congress are committed to making everyone suffer just so they can win the White House in November and give their super rich buddies more tax cuts. They might call it politics, but I call it treason.

By Thom Hartman

Thom Hartman

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Business Leaders Need to School Tea Baggers

If we are going to have a debt ceiling and default crisis —with all of the havoc it may well entail —it may well be because Republican voters want such a crisis, even if it causes serious economic harm.

No, really. That’s what a new poll shows.

The new Washington Post/ABC News poll on the debt ceiling tells us something remarkable: Among Republicans who believe that not raising the debt ceiling would cause serious harm to the economy, a majority of them wants Congress not to raise it anyway. By contrast, Americans overall see it in the opposite way.

This is a complicated one, but it’s worth it. The new WaPo poll asks two questions on the debt limit. It finds that 46 percent of Americans want Congress to raise the debt limit “so the government can keep paying its bills and obligations,” while 43 percent want Congress “not to raise the debt limit and let the government default on paying its bills and obligations. "

That’s roughly an even split; the debt limit tends to poll that way.

Meanwhile, the poll also finds that 73 percent think not raising the debt limit would “cause serious harm to the U.S. economy,” versus only 22 percent who say it wouldn’t. How to explain the divergence?It turns out it’s largely driven by Republicans.

I asked the Post polling team for a breakdown. Here’s the upshot:

*Republicans are far more likely to oppose raising the debt limit than anyone else; they say don’t raise it by 61-25. By contrast, Dems say raise it by 62-31, and independents split by 48-46 on raising versus not raising it.

*Republicans, however, also believe overwhelmingly that not raising it would cause serious economic harm —by 66-27. (Dems and indys tilt the same way.)

*How to square that?
Simple: Among Republicans who believe not raising it would cause serious economic harm, a majority say don’t raise it by 53-32.

By contrast, among Americans overall who say not raising it would cause serious harm, they tilt in favor of raising it by 54-35. Independents who say not raising it would cause serious harm also tilt in favor of raising it by 58-36.

And there it is: Republicans want Congress not to raise the debt ceiling, even if it would cause widespread economic harm.

I don’t really know how to explain this. Perhaps it’s confusion about the debt limit (not raising it, of course, would only cause default on debts already incurred), or maybe it’s an expression of generalized hostility towards something Obama wants. Or perhaps it’s that Republican lawmakers have been telling these voters for years now that spending under Obama is the leading threat to the survival of American civilization (even though the deficit is falling and there just isn’t any near term crisis to speak of), and that standing up to Obama in these epic spending confrontations is the only way to arrest the republic’s slide into total ruin. Apocalyptic intervention is required to salvage what’s left of our country, no matter how much harm it causes in the process.

Greg Sargent, Washginton Post

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Miley Cyrus, Twerking, Is This the End Times?

It's the talk of the entertainent world, Miley Cyrus, AKA, Hannah Montana, "twerking" at the Video Music Awards, wearing a nude colored bikini, demonstrating the versatility of her posterior and her tongue while singing her latest, and possibly her biggest hit. Some are shocked, some are revolted, I even read an article that claimed this performance signaled the end of Western civilization. In actuality, the performance was about a 20 year old billionaire shaking her booty and singing a decent enough tune, which will probably go platinum, thanks in part to the shock factor. Miley Cyrus has talent, she did a superb cover of Dylan's "You're gonna make me lonesome when you go" recently, which attracted little attention and therefore, encouraged her to go in a different direction. As for all the too will pass, and Miley will either concentrate on her considerable vocal abilities or not.
Life will go on.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The war is over

OK, The "drug war" isn't over, but President Obama has taken significant steps, with AG Holder, to curtail some of the most egregious and damaging aspects of
the government's drug prohibition policies.
The AG has begun a process to reduce the harm caused by mandatory sentencing for minor drug offences.
As Holder pointed out, the harsh enforcement of drug prohibition policies has mainly impacted minority communities.
It was suggested that rehabilitation would be more beneficial for non-violent offenders than prison.
It would be more cost effective, as well.
Apparently this shift in attitude is shared by both parties.

This is change you can believe in.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Texas GOP Unleashes Political Quackery on Women's Reproductive Rights

A few years ago, during consideration of a bill being pushed by a Republican elder in the Texas Senate, first-term Sen. Wendy Davis asked him a question about it. Rather than respond to this Democrat, this woman, the old bull replied dismissively, "I have trouble hearing women's voices." No more. Even a stone-deaf old bull would've been jerked to attention by the clarity of Davis' voice on June 25. Starting at 11:18 a.m., she literally stood tall for more than 11 grueling hours, filibustering a mean and demeaning attempt by extremist Republican leaders to put the state government in charge of the most personal right women have: controlling decisions about their own bodies. Davis' principled stand — in Texas, no less — rallied over 2,000 mothers, grandmothers, girls and others to come to the capitol from all over the state, packing the gallery in quiet witness. Quiet until 10:04 p.m., that is, when GOP leaders tried to silence her by unilaterally ruling her filibuster over. Suddenly, the ruling solons were startled by a high-decibel reprimand from their subjects — the gallery erupted in citizen outrage, causing chaos on the floor. Then, when the "leaders" tried to force a vote, the "followers" took charge, with jeers so loud that senators couldn't hear themselves. With the session set to expire at midnight, panicky leaders tried to push the clock back, which led to deafening chants of "shame, shame, shame," ultimately blocking the GOP's brutish ploy. Texas Republicans have already re-rigged the rules so they can get their way on another day, but they can't escape the huge significance of this defeat. As Davis rightfully noted, while she was the one standing on the floor, "it was the 'people's filibuster' that stopped (the bill)" and awakened a new movement in Texas that won't be stopped. Texas has long experience with animalistic approach to public policy. In 2007, a local school superintendent rejected any need for sex education classes in his district. Noting that many students there live on farms, he said, "They get a pretty good sex education from their animals." Guess which state is No. 1 in teen pregnancies? Yes, Texas. And who should be the ones to make medical decisions about pregnancies? Not women and their doctors. They might choose "wrong" over the doctrine of certain religious groups. Rather, the macho Republican autocrats and theocrats who now reign over state government say they are the ones to decide such deeply personal matters. How embarrassing for these political bullies, then, to have had their repressive, extremist and dangerous anti-choice legislation derailed by ... well, by women. " An unruly mob," cried the lieutenant governor as he fled the capitol. One GOP lawmaker tremulously tweeted that Davis, the opposition leader, was a "terrorist." And Gov. Rick "Oops" Perry ran away to Dallas, where he whimpered that the people's assertion of citizen's authority was a "hijacking of the democratic process." Odd concept: The people "hijacking" democracy. All this from "leaders" who blatantly hijacked the rules to shut down Davis' gutsy filibuster. In 2011, these same wimps even tried to hijack Davis' Senate district by illegally shoving more than half of her minority precincts into neighboring districts — a racist ploy that federal judges overturned. And now Perry is trying to hijack reality, huffing and puffing that he'll slap down the women's opposition to his assault on their rights, because that's "what the people of this state hired us to do." Get a grip, Rick. In a June poll, 63 percent of registered Texas voters said we already have plenty of anti-abortion laws on the books, and nearly three-fourths of the people (including six out of 10 Republicans) say such personal medical decisions should be made by women and their doctors, not by political quacks masquerading as Talibanic moral arbitrators. And 81 percent say the legislature should focus on basic economic issues wracking the majority of Texans. Davis pointed out that far from helping the economic plight of women in the Lone Star State, he vetoed the equal-pay-for-equal-work bill recently passed by the legislature. How rude of her!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Whitey Bulger to Use Stand your Ground Defense

Lawyers for Whitey Bulger, criminal
mastermind and gangster, being tried for 19 murders, say that after the success of George Zimmermans use of the "stand your ground defense" in his shooting of an unarmed teenager in FLA,  they have decided to switch to this defense for Bulger.
"Its the same principal. You kill your victim, and if there are no witnesses, you say you were losing a fight, got scared, and killed your victim." Said Bulger.
Bulger's attorney's say it might be more difficult to use this defense to justify killing white people, and women, but Bulger said, "Hey, Zimmerman snuffed an unarmed child, I didn't kill no kids, but like Zimmerman, I stood my ground.
I got that right."
A reporter mentioned that neighbors heard one of Bulger's female victims screaming for help before he killed her.
With a twinkle in his eye, Bulger chuckled, "Uh, no. That was me screaming."

Monday, July 15, 2013

Racism Alive and Well

Last week the increasingly conservative SCOTUS struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, this week George Zimmerman was aquitted in the brutal murder of an unarmed black youth in South Florida. It is sad to see this trend, officially condoned racism, particularly at a time when cohesion between disparate groups of poor and working class people is so important. We would just say that all of us need to remember that the bigotry of some, the conservatives on the SCOTUS, and the jury in South Florida, for example, does not change the feelings of acceptance that many people, perhaps most people, hold towards their fellow Americans.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Bush Praises President Obama

Could it be the beginning of a new era of inter-partylove? Former President George W. Bushwas caught praising current President Obama's approach to immigrationreform inan interview with ABC's The Week Sunday. "It's very important to fix a broken system," he said, "totreat people with respect and have confidence in our capacity to assimilate people." He's also a fan of Obama's decision to hold onto counterterrorism policies put in place during his own administration. Can the love last?

Read it at New York Daily News Jul 7

Friday, July 5, 2013

Arab leaders happy to see Morsi gone

Arab leaders happy to see Morsi gone

Sent from Pocket.

These events may prove to be the beginning of the Muslim world's realization that radical Islam is harmful to all. The Egyptian military should outlaw the Muslim Brotherhood.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pee-wee Herman’s Crazy Dad

Pee-wee Herman's Crazy Dad

by Zachary Solomon,
Those antics had to come from somewhere.

Hours after Ben-Gurion announced Israeli independence, Arab forces launched a massive ground invasion. Days later, the American pilot Milton Rubenfeld volunteered for the brand new Israeli Air Force. The young man from Peekskill, New York, his recruitment officer later told an historian, was "so cocky he seemed to swagger even while sitting down."

But Rubenfeld was more than just swagger. He quickly proved himself a skilled pilot, though he was no match for the Arab missiles that shot down his Avia S-199 and forced him to bail over the Mediterranean. As he swam to shore, Israeli farmers began to shoot, thinking him an Arab pilot. As the story goes, Rubenfeld knew no Hebrew to prove himself a compatriot. So he improvised, shouting, "Shabbos, gefilte fish! Shabbos, gefilte fish!"

Rubenfeld's storied life continued after the war. He returned to America and had 3 children, one of whom was Paul Reubens, i.e. Pee-wee Herman. Reubens even cast his father as an extra, earning Rubenfeld, along with his military accolades, his very own IMDB page.

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Obama's Attack on Civil Liberties Has Gone Way Beyond Imagination

by Mike Stivers,
April 26th 2013

The President may believe "The left has nowhere to go"...

Mike Stivers: Anyone following issues of civil liberties under Obama knows that his administration's policies have been disastrous. The signing of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which effectively legalizes indefinite detention of US citizens, the prosecution of more whistleblowers than any previous president, the refusal to close Guantanamo, and the adoption of ruthless positions in trials such as Hedges vs. Obama and Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project don't even encapsulate the full extent of the flagrant violations of civil, political and constitutional rights. One basic question that a lot of people seem to be asking is, why? What's the rationale?

Noam Chomsky: That's a very interesting question. I personally never expected anything of Obama, and wrote about it before the 2008 primaries. I thought it was smoke and mirrors. The one thing that did surprise me is his attack on civil liberties. They go well beyond anything I would have anticipated, and they don't seem easy to explain. In many ways the worst is what you mention,  Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project. That's an Obama initiative and it's a very serious attack on civil liberties. He doesn't gain anything from it – he doesn't get any political mileage out of it. In fact, most people don't even know about it, but what it does is extend the concept of "material assistance to terror" to speech.

The case in question was a law group that was giving legal advice to groups on the terrorist list, which in itself has no moral or legal justification; it's an abomination. But if you look at the way it's been used, it becomes even more abhorrent ( Nelson Mandela was on it until a couple of years ago.) And the wording of the colloquy is broad enough that it could very well mean that if, say, you meet with someone in a terrorist group and advise them to turn to nonviolent means, then that's material assistance to terrorism. I've met with people who are on the list and will continue to do so, and Obama wants to criminalize that, which is a plain attack on freedom of speech. I just don't understand why he's doing it.

The NDAA suit, of which I'm a plaintiff - it mostly codifies existing practice. While there has been some protest over the indefinite detention clause, there's one aspect of it that I'm not entirely happy with. The only protest that's being raised is in response to detention of American citizens, but I don't see why we should have the right to detain anyone without trial. The provision of the NDAA that allows for this should not be tolerated. It was banned almost eight centuries ago in the Magna Carta.

It's the same with the drone killings. There was some protest over the Anwar Al-Awlaki killing because he was an American citizen. But what about someone who isn't an American citizen? Do we have a right to murder them if the president feels like it?

On Obama's 2012 election campaign web site,  it clearly states that Obama has prosecuted six whistleblowers under the Espionage Act. Does he think he's appealing to some constituency with that affirmation?

I don't know what base he's appealing to. If he thinks he's appealing to the nationalist base, well, they're not going to vote for him anyway. That's why I don't understand it. I don't think he's doing anything besides alienating his own natural base. So it's something else.

What it is is the same kind of commitment to expanding executive power that Cheney and Rumsfeld had. He kind of puts it in mellifluous terms and there's a little difference in his tone. It's not as crude and brutal as they were, but it's pretty hard to see much of a difference.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

ADL Survey In Ten European Countries Finds Anti-Semitism At Disturbingly High Levels

Anti-Semitism is a symptom of something very flawed in those who propagate it.

New York, NY, March 20, 2012 � Anti-Semitic attitudes in ten European countries remain at "disturbingly high levels," according to a new poll from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released today, with large swaths of the population subscribing to classical anti-Semitic notions such as Jews having too much power in business, being more loyal to Israel than their own country, or "talking too much" about what happened during the Holocaust.

Attitudes Toward Jews in Ten European Countries (.pdf), an ADL opinion survey of 5,000 adults � 500 in each of ten European countries � revealed that pernicious anti-Semitic beliefs continue to be held by nearly one-third of those surveyed.

The poll was conducted between Jan. 2-31, 2012 in Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom. The survey has a margin of error of between +/- 4.43 and +/- 4.85, depending on the specific country.

"The survey is disturbing by the fact that anti-Semitism remains at high levels across the continent and infects many Europeans at a much higher level than we see here in the United States," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "In Hungary, Spain and Poland the numbers for anti-Semitic attitudes are literally off-the-charts and demand a serious response from political, civic and religious leaders."

In France, where a shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse yesterday claimed the lives of three small children and a teacher, the overall level of anti-Semitism increased to 24 percent of the population, an increase from 20 percent in a previous ADL poll conducted in 2009. In France, 45 percent of respondents attributed the violence against European Jews to anti-Jewish feelings, an increase from 39 percent in 2009.

Other findings for France include: 45 percent of the population responded "probably true" to the statement "Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country; 35 percent agreed that "Jews have too much power in the business world; and 35 percent believe that "Jews still talk too much about what happened to them during the Holocaust.

When asked for their opinion about anti-Semitic violence directed against Jews, and whether that violence is the result of anti-Jewish feelings as opposed to anti-Israel sentiment, overall, 39 percent of Europeans responded that it was the result of anti-Jewish sentiments. "In France, you have a volatile mix," Mr. Foxman said. "France has seen an increase in the level of anti-Semitism. At the same time, more people today believe that violence directed against European Jews is fueled by anti-Jewish attitudes as opposed to anti-Israel sentiment. "Those increases are all the more disturbing in light of the shooting attack at the Jewish school in Toulouse."

In comparison with a similar ADL poll conducted in 2009, several of the countries showed dangerously high levels in the overall level of anti-Semitism, while other countries experienced more modest increases.

The overall findings among the countries for which comparison data is available:

Austria experienced a slight decrease, to 28 percent from 30 percent in 2009.

France: The overall level of anti-Semitism increased to 24 percent of the population, up from to 20 percent in 2009.

Germany: Anti-Semitism increased by one percentage point, to 21 percent of the population.

Hungary: The level rose to 63 percent of the population, compared with 47 percent in 2009;

Poland: The number remained unchanged, with 48 percent of the population showing deep-seated anti-Semitic attitudes.

Spain: Fifty-three percent (53%) percent of the population, compared to 48 percent in 2009.

United Kingdom: Anti-Semitic attitudes jumped to 17 percent of the population, compared to 10 percent in 2009.

Country-by-Country Findings on Anti-Semitic Attitudes

In responding "probably true" to the statement, "Jews are more loyal to Israel" than their own country, the 2012 survey found:

Austria � 47%, unchanged from 2009

France � 45%, up from 38% in 2009

Germany � 52%, down from 53% in 2009

Hungary � 55%, up from 40% in 2009

Italy � 61% in 2012

Netherlands � 47% in 2012

Norway � 58% in 2012

Poland � 61%, down from 63% in 2009

Spain � 72%, up from 64% in 2009

The United Kingdom � 48%, up from 37% in 2009

In responding "probably true" to the statement, "Jews have too much power in the business world," the 2012 survey found:

Austria � 30%, down from 36% in 2009

France � 35%, up from 33% in 2009

Germany � 22%, up from 21% in 2009

Hungary � 73%, up from 67% in 2009

Italy � 39% in 2012

The Netherlands � 10% in 2012

Norway � 21% in 2012

Poland � 54%, down from 55% in 2009

Spain � 60%, up from 56% in 2009

The United Kingdom � 20%, up from 15% in 2009

In responding "probably true" to the statement "Jews have too much power in international financial markets," the 2012 survey found:

Austria � 38%, up from 37% in 2009

France � 29%, up from 27% in 2009

Germany � 24%, up from 22% in 2009

Hungary � 75%, up from 59% in 2009

Italy � 43% in 2012

The Netherlands � 17% in 2012

Norway -- 23% in 2012

Poland � 54%, unchanged from 2009

Spain � 67%, down from 74% in 2009

The United Kingdom � 22%, up from 15% in 2009

In responding "probably true" to the statement, "Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust," the 2012 survey found:

Austria � 45%, down from 55% in 2009

France � 35%, up from 33% in 2009

Germany � 43%, down from 45% in 2009

Hungary � 63%, up from 56% in 2009

Italy � 48% in 2012

The Netherlands � 31% in 2012

Norway � 25% in 2012

Poland � 53%, down from 55% in 2009

Spain � 47%, up from 42% in 2009

The United Kingdom � 24%, up from 20% in 2009

ADL commissioned First International Resources to conduct the survey. Fielded in Europe by Ipsos-Reid Public Affairs, it was conducted in the national language of each country. The margin of error is +/- 4.43 to +/- 4.85, depending on the specific country, at 95% level of confidence.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Former Prisoner's Dire Warning: America's Prisons Turning Out Violent White Supremacists "Mentally Fighting Civil War"

by Alex Kane,
April 2nd 2013
Is a white supremacist group called the Aryan Brotherhood linked to a string of killings of state officials? That's the burning question for federal investigators as they seek to find out more about the deaths of two Texas law enforcement officials in recent weeks, and whether those killings are linked to the murder of a Colorado state prison chief in late March. 

The scrutiny on the white supremacist gang has prompted an ominous warning from a former prisoner, who  wrote anonymously in the  Daily Beast  why law enforcement "may have a real problem on their hands."

The prisoner, a black man who said he got on the Aryan Brotherhood's good side after assisting them with a legal request, says that law enforcement should know about the danger of the prison gang because "it's something they should have been aware of for decades," he writes.

"If these recent killings represent the Brotherhood's twisted form of retribution, the fact that it has taken so long to begin is all the more chilling. To me this would demonstrate a hard-nosed determination that all citizens should find frightening," the prisoner said in the Daily Beast. "America's harsh judicial system, coupled with a growing national affinity for utilizing complete isolation at super-max prisons as a corrections tactic of first choice, in many cases turns men into monsters."

The prisoner warned that "many of the first men locked up when our nation embarked on a policy of for-profit mass incarceration near the end of the last century are now returning into society." He also provided details on what motivates the members of the Aryan Brotherhood gang.

"They were still mentally fighting the Civil War (like so many other whites) and traced their roots back to men like Confederate guerrilla William Clarke Quantrill, whose Quantrill's Raiders sacked the pro-abolitionis t town of Lawrence, Kansas, at the beginning of the Civil War," the prisoner wrote.

Meanwhile, security has been beefed up for courthouses and prosecutors in Texas, especially near Kaufman County, the location of the two killings in the state. Some fear more attacks. And a joint local, state and federal investigation is probing whether the Aryan Brotherhood, a white supremacist prison gang, is involved. Still, there is no hard evidence that links the killings to the gang yet. The Southern Poverty Law Center has stated that the Aryan Brotherhood is one of the most violent groups in the country.

Two months ago, the first of the shootings under investigation took place. Mark Hasse, a prosecutor in Texas, was gunned down in broad daylight by men with their faces covered and who had black clothing and vests on. He was killed the same day that that two members of the Aryan Brotherhood pled guilty to racketeering charges in a case that Hasse handled.

The other shooting in Texas occurred on Saturday. Texas district attorney Mike McClelland and his wife, Cynthia, were found dead in their home. Shell casings from a powerful rifle were found in the house, and the district attorney was shot multiple times. The last of the shootings that investigators are looking at to see whether they are linked occurred in Colorado. There, Tom Clements, the Department of Corrections head, was killed, and the lead suspect was a member of a white supremacist gang. That suspect, Evan Ebel, was killed in a shootout with police officers in Texas.

Officials have stressed that, so far, there is no concrete evidence linking the three killings and the Aryan Brotherhood together. Still, a number of officials have also mentioned the Aryan Brotherhood as a group to look at.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Obama to name Julia Pierson as new Secret Service director

Just when I begin to wonder if Obama is drifting too far to the right, he does something like this.
He is an enigma.

by Scott Wilson,
March 26th 2013 5:25 PM

President Obama will appoint Julia Pierson, a veteran U.S. Secret Service agent and senior official, as the first female director of the agency, White House officials said Tuesday.

Pierson, 53, began her career in the Secret Service as an agent in Miami three decades ago. She serves as the service's chief of staff.

She does not need Senate confirmation for the post, which White House officials said would be announced Tuesday afternoon.

Obama's selection of Pierson comes after an extraordinarily difficult year at the service, and amid calls that the next director make internal changes at the agency whose masculine culture was exposed during an overseas trip last year.

In April, in preparing for Obama's visit to Cartagena, Colombia, for a summit of the hemisphere's leaders, several Secret Service agents brought prostitutes to their hotel rooms, where an argument ensued.

In all, 13 agents and officers were involved in a scandal that shadowed the president's summit and exposed a culture within the service of macho behavior while on the road with the president's protective detail.

The Secret Service's principal responsibilities are protecting the president and investigating counterfeiting and fraud.

The service's director for most of the past seven years, Mark Sullivan, announced his retirement last month after apologizing for the scandal.

In a statement Tuesday about Pierson's impending appointment, Sullivan said:

"I have known and worked with Julie for close to thirty years. She was an excellent Assistant Director and Chief of Staff, demonstrating sound judgment, leadership, character, and commitment to our Country, the men and women of the U.S. Secret Service and those we serve and protect. This is a historic and exciting time for the Secret Service and I know Julie will do an outstanding job."

Discuss this topic and other political issues in the politics discussion forums.

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Silicon Valley Reportedly Full of Stoners

by Kristen Gwynne
Another major marijuana stereotype just got blown totally out of the water -- this time the idea that consuming cannabis is for unemployed slacker types. In fact, pot is wildly popular in one of America's economic centers, Silicon Valley. According to a new report in Bloomberg's Businessweek, the "physical toll" of computer coding has made Silicon Valley workers key consumers in the medical marijuana industry.

In San Jose, which Businessweek dubs the "Bay Area capital of medical marijuana," 106 medicinal marijuana dispensaries span the city's 177 square miles, more than adequately serving its 967,000 residents. One of those dispensaries, Pallative Health Center, told Businessweek that tech workers make up an estimated 40 percent of clients. 

"We're seeing people from some semiconductors, lots of engineers, lots of programmers," Ernie Arreola, 38, the assistant manager, told Businessweek, which noted, "That makes sense, because the shop is an easy shot from some of the area's biggest employers—Cisco Systems, Google, Adobe Systems, Apple, EBay—and a short drive from dozens more. Also, people in Silicon Valley do like their pot."

One medical marijuana executive told Businessweek that marijuana-infused chocolate toffee is a favorite among tech workers, who he says represents about 15 percent of customers. "It does not give the high or intoxicated feeling that you would typically get from a lot of medical cannabis," Doug Chloupek, CEO of MedMar Healing Center, told Businessweek. "Those who are coding for 15 hours a day with cramping hands, that is the product that allows them to have mental clarity and still get pain relief." 

But while Silicon Valley employees are getting stoned in a culture that embraces marijuana use, Businessweek notes policies forbidding drug use and possession at Cisco and Adobe, though neither company screens new employees for drug use. Maybe that's because, as Silicon Valley CEO Mark Johnson told Businessweek, "Pot is an extremely functional drug. Coders can code on it, writers can write on it."

Still, as Galen Moore notes at the Boston Business Journal,  weed isn't the only drug popular in Silicon Valley:

Some commenters also challenge Businessweek's assertion that marijuana culture is "raging" in Silicon Valley. It may be news to Businessweek, but the reality has always been that people from all ends of the social spectrum use drugs, pot especially. Not everybody, however, is arrested for it.

Friday, March 8, 2013

There is Beauty In Science And In Reality: An Atheist’s Perspective

Because the Pope's resigning, I thought it would be onlyfitting to "come out" as an atheist, publicly. Here's my own story.

When I was a little girl, I was baptized in the Catholic religion. Because I was the first of two children, I was not baptized as an infant as most Catholics are, but for some reason my mother and father waited until I was around 2 or 3 to baptize me, until a sibling was born, and baptized us together.

I vividly remember the baptism. (I have very long memories going very far back in childhood, and this one stands out particularly, as I did not like church.) When the priest poured water over my head, I remember thinking how strange the ceremony was, and how little sense 'church' made, but I was still too young to articulate what about it bothered me.

When I was 6 or so I was given a beautiful, pastel colored Bible, a version called "Precious Moments," by my aunt. It had illustrations of children with big puppy dog eyes and puppies and kittens inset at random locations through the bible; the leaves were colored gold on the sides. The book was stunningly beautiful. I was a voracious reader at the time and immediately tried to read it. I found it dull going, but managed to get through the first few books of the Bible. The creation story wasn't bad- but it didn't make much sense either. When I got to the story of Lot (who sleeps with his daughters after they get him drunk) and Abraham sleeping with his sister, and Cain sleeping with his sister, I began to feel sick. So much incest! And then there was the senseless violence. God decides that everyone has been bad, and decides to wipe the earth with a flood to show how powerful he is, and let only a few survive? But then he's repentant, and so he puts a rainbow in the sky to say, "Oh, sorry. I won't do that again." Where was the logic in that? "God" came across as a vindictive, vengeful jerk, quite a lot of the time. I sat there puzzling. Then he advocated stoning people. Without a jury trial, on hearsay evidence. Quite often, indeed, in the old Testament.

So THIS was the beautiful, purple hued, guilt sided, illustrated book that  was handed to a 6-year-old child to be read? I closed it and decided it was bunk. Luckily my father, possibly sensing my discontent, also handed me an alternative book right around the same time. It had pictures of mammals and it talked about evolution.

My father had also been born into the Catholic Church and had even gone so far as to study to become a priest for 2 years. However, he met a beautiful girl and decided to drop out of seminary, which is the special type of school they educate priests-to-be in. That, as well as the discrimination against women becoming priests, is yet another reason the Catholic Church should really reconsider that celibacy clause. Most healthy adults, if faced with the prospect of celibacy as a job requirement, would tend to go the route my father went. It is normal and physically healthy to have an interest in sex, between adult partners, above the age of consent. Celibacy, however, is not normal, very few humans are truly asexual or identify as such. The others are simply repressed, and the way it's implemented in the Catholic Church, it has disastrous consequences.

The Catholic Church's ancient celibacy requirement has resulted in the abuse of literally thousands upon thousands of children by priests in dozens of countries; they simply transfer the offending priests from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and very few of them ever face criminal trial for the offenses. It wrecks the lives of whole families; sometimes the victims commit suicide, or go on to lead lives of shame, guilt, and can never fully recover. Child abuse is a cycle that perpetuates onto the next generation. It's kept secret because the victims never talk about it.

If you want to see exactly the details of how the Vatican plays this scenario out, a grand jury investigation in Philadelphia finally decided to investigate, and what they dug up was mind-blowing. Read the report here:  It goes into graphic detail about how priests in the area of Philadelphia were able to abuse children for years without being held accountable; when the church realized who was doing what, they literally just took the priest and transferred him to another state, sometimes to another country, where he would continue to offend other children, but there would be less of a paper trail. I have never been able to read it without feeling literally sick to my stomach.

Back in my childhood, though, this cycle of abuse was kept quiet. Nobody spoke up about the abuse, because an abuser's first tactic to keep a victim quiet is to threaten, and to tell the abused child that no one will believe him if he speaks up. And these abusers had the power of the Catholic Church behind them. They could be threatened with something called "excommunication" if the church wasn't pleased (excommunication is the formal process by which the church kicks you out and shuns you.) Their form of intimidation works in so many cases children stay silent for years. This is why when one person speaks up so many others finally find the courage to step forward. I urge you if you have been a victim, come forward. You will be giving a voice to so many others who might never have had the courage to do so otherwise.

Getting back to my father, however, he was a normal man, with a strong sense of right and wrong. As he studied at seminary in the early 1960s, he decided that celibacy was not a good system which he could live with, so he left and stopped studying to be a priest. He loved the long hours he could dedicate to research of science and math, because he was deeply interested in science and math and read a great deal about the two subjects. Although he considered religion very personal, as he learned more about evolution, he also decided it must be true. He wasn't quite ready to give up on the Catholic Church entirely, but he gave me the book about evolution because he considered evolution was too important to ignore. .

To this day I still I have vivid memories of one of the pictures I liked best in the book. It showed an artist's rendering of an ancestor of the whale, back when it had been a land-dwelling creature and before it had gone into the ocean. It talked about how all creatures were related, interconnected over many millions of years. There were also pictures of prehistoric humans, hairy creatures holding rocks and trying to make fire. (For what it's worth, keep in mind this book was written in the 1970s and is now badly outdated. But it had the general concepts right.)

"Aha," I thought, "This book makes so much more sense than the other beautiful, but disturbing one." From then on I was a staunch atheist, although I went to church, I would pass the time by mentally trying to improve the church, most of these "improvements" being things like adding an alligator pit in front of the altar of the church, and a rope for people to swing over it when they went to get their wafer at mass.

As the weeks passed, I added other imaginary obstacles between the church benches and the altar; one, I remember vividly, involved a trampoline, where church members would have to vault in order to reach the priest. Vault too high, and I'd picture church members getting stuck in the ceiling (which was decorated with the most absurd looking little cherubs, half-naked, floating around with bows and arrows.) From the best I could tell they were trying to sink their arrow into another cherub's behind, which again led me to question the motives behind both the artistry of the work in general. I suspect repression was written deep within the walls of that church.

When I had to attend sessions where I learned about church teachings and church dogma, I literally stared at the clock. The nuns who taught the classes could come down very harsh on you if they caught you not paying attention to the point of slapping rulers across your knuckles if they felt you were not paying proper attention, but I became expert at faking paying attention while my attention wandered elsewhere. I also learned to make fun of Catholic church dogma in my mind while they were teaching it. To this day I credit my highly developed sense of humor to those wasted hours in CCD (which is Catholic code for indoctrination classes.)

When I got older, in my teen years, I became seriously, gravely ill, from an immune system disease, systemic lupus. I'm just going to openly address it here because I know this statement will be fodder for those who wish to take me down in comments. I can hear them now. "You probably got ill because of your lack of faith in God."

Religious people love to make this sort of accusation, especially to people who profess to have no faith.

My answer is, "No." In fact it was quite the opposite. I did not become ill because I "lost the grace of God" or "stopped believing." No, my illness had a very real, much more physical cause. My abuse was at the hands of physical caretakers, namely my biological mother, who was supposed to be my best ally, and who herself professed strong faith in God.

My father, who'd taught me so much about evolution, science, and math, became physically ill with terminal stage 4 cancer and was given about 6 months to live by his doctor when I was a young teenager. My mother fell to taking care of him and all the duties of the rest of the household, but for some reason decided to blame all her stress and misgivings on me; partly because she is mentally ill; she needed someone to blame, and someone to abuse. She'd do things like locking me out of the house on a cold winter's night without shoes or a jacket; I would sometimes sleep in the snow. I went through periods of extreme starvation, neglect, and physical and emotional stress. I will not go into the exact details of how that happened on this post. That comes into another part of my story. But the point is that she, the main abuser, fervently and ardently embraced "religion" in her active, day-to-day life; as the main abuser, in fact, repeatedly developed a habit of telling me, after she would slap my face, that she expected me to go to hell and burn there. God, she repeatedly said, was on her side. As such, she could not be wrong, ever. She was justified in whatever she did, whatever or however horrible the offense. God condoned it, because in her mind, God condoned and approved of her. This sort of thinking is common in the Religious right. Abuse, no matter how severe of children, is recognized as necessary, and those who physically beat children often do so by backing it up with Biblical verses about how the Bible says it is all right to beat children. There are even books published which espouse these horrible claims. You can read summaries of some of them here. The author of one of them is the founder of "Focus On The Family."'discipline'_guides

Unfortunately in my case, I now require very expensive medications and go into the hospital regularly because of the many complications that resulted from the stress induced illness. They think that perhaps genetics might play a factor in lupus, but they also now think stress is a major factor in autoimmune diseases.

I never physically retaliated against my mother. I had then, as I do now, a deep abhorrence of violence. Unfortunately. In retrospect I think that if I had, she might have backed down. But as a result, I developed a severe, chronic case of systemic lupus. After so many years of exposure to stress, intermittent periods of cold and freezing temperatures, I began to be repeatedly hospitalized and to get more and more ill. My lupus became so severe that the doctors thought at times that I might die. Lupus as a disease is irreversible, and at this point, it is degenerative. I get so weak due to infection sometimes it's just literally touch and go.

I have come close to death on what I think are 3 occasions. They tell me that a 4th was close enough to count, but quite honestly, I never felt enough pain to really rank it up there, so I just count 3.

However, I never "saw Jesus" or a "tunnel of light" or had any religious conversion at any time when I have been so seriously ill; I can tell you, however, that when the body is very ill, the brain does calm itself down and you very much mentally surrender to the prospect of death, so that it is not traumatizing. I suspect this is a natural, innate function of the brain to prepare any dying creature for the inevitable end. We can take comfort in knowing that many of the creatures we see on nature documentaries who are dying a natural death may suffer, but as the brain shuts down, they do not suffer long. The way the brain processes shock and trauma usually ensures this; I have felt it myself in some of my most scary moments. I am lucky to be alive in the days of modern medicine, so that although I have faced quite traumatic brushes with death, (for example, one year I had MRSA, and the treatment for it gave me an allergic reaction, which triggered a severe, life threatening lupus flare in me, so at the same time I was fighting the MRSA, the awful lupus flare, and the allergic reaction.) For those who are not aware, lupus flares are when the immune system becomes over-reactive in response to a perceived threat, real or imaginary, and then tries to attack the individual's own body.

I was not responding well to antibiotics for MRSA, the lupus medication was shutting down the immune system further, and for one awful weekend, it looked like the end of the road. My doctor later admitted that he did not think I would pull through. While I can say that I never gave up fighting, mentally, I understood that my odds of survival at that moment were not very good. So this comes down to the basic question: was I tempted to have a religious conversion in the hopes that it would somehow extend my life? I know this will surprise many, but actually, the answer is no. I did not, and never have requested the services of a priest, chaplain, or other counselor in the hospital. Well, apart from a visiting service dog. I do love a hug from a puppy. But then a puppy never tries to convert you.

I find the thought of a finite existence, one which does not have to be prolonged into an imaginary afterlife, comforting. Nothing lasts forever, nor should anything. Yet in our plastic saturated society, we find so many instances of things which look like they 'should' last forever, that perhaps the new backlash against understanding decay, death, and the inevitable passing of time and evolution's part in the natural order of things is part of our new bright and shiny world.

If you are tempted to think of possibilities outside the realm of your existence, then instead of looking towards religion and a fantasy kingdom filled with angels, I urge you again to look towards science; get into physics, start learning and reading about the possibilities of multiple universes. We may never be able to explore them or contact them or even to actually verify their existences, but thinking about them, and that copies of you might actually exist in some of them right now- and that loved ones you have lost might still be living in some of them (which is plausible, depending on which theory you're currently exploring). There could be hundreds of thousands- millions, even. Trillions? Who knows. Of course, many of these multiple universes might have completely different physics than the universe we live in; some so radically different that no planets may have formed in them. But some may be remarkably similar to our own. A great author to read on this topic is Brian Greene. His books are good for reading even if you don't have a science background or just want to know a little more. Read his book on multiple universes here:

If you want to know more about evolution, check out this book by Richard Dawkins:

And above all take comfort in the fact that you are here right now. The simple fact that you are reading this means you are here, right now, and you don't have to worry about what happens after your death. After all, you won't be there. It's enough to appreciate the beauty of the now and the beauty of this world; science, evolution, and understanding what we have is truly enough for a lifetime; it has always puzzled me since I was a child as to why we would need to make up more. Especially when the arguments over the 'more' can cause so many wars, misunderstandings, anger, hatred, and above all, child abuse. This to me is the worst thing of all. The fact that the Catholic Church actively shelters pedophiles is revolting to me and I have no shame about writing this, even where I to be 'ex-communicated' for it. What would I care about the Catholic Church's version of heaven when it It as an institution it has hurt so many children? It is time it ended the practice of celibacy and faced up to what it has done over the years. They have opposed the use of condoms in Africa, allowing the spread of HIV and AIDS; as well as the huge population booms which has allowed the population on the planet to read 7 billion people. The church still pushes a "no birth control" agenda, as unbelievable as it can seem in this day and age. It still subverts women and refuses to allow them to be placed in positions of authority, implying that a woman should have no control over her body or a political structure. You may recall that recently the medical institution in Ireland caused the death of a woman by denying her an abortion as she miscarried her baby over several days. The medical community told her they were sorry, but it was "a Catholic Country, and that there was nothing they could do."

Because I'm chronically ill, people often tell me, "I'll pray for you." I'm not offended by this; indeed, prayer, and "good thoughts" are a kind way of being empathetic to others; I think we should consciously try to be empathetic but we need to understand that we can do this without invoking a magical being in the sky. If someone you know named J's father is sick, you can do it by just thinking, "I hope J's father gets better." It's not wrong to hope and to think positive emotions; indeed, thinking positively can help the brain very much and there's a lot of evidence thinking this way is much healthier for you than thinking negatively. Empathy is a way forward for us as a society; however, it does not need to be connected to religion at all. Not in the slightest.

However, magical thinking is harmful; and we need more than anything in the world right now to focus on science and what science can do for us as a society.

The majority of people elected to congress are people who come from a religious background. Trying to run for Congress when you're openly atheist and pro-science is almost impossible. That's part of why it's nearly impossible to get science friendly legislation like climate change action passed. We've now cut into the NASA budget substantially and we will see decreasing returns from the technology developed as a result. It's time for the world to focus on moving forward as a society and this means moving into the light, and putting science forward. Reality, and taking action about our future, are really empowering. Working to make a better tomorrow is such an amazing thing, that if we all actually did it, and did it now, we'd have nothing to fear about, nothing to bemoan, and we could stop making these ridiculous "end times" prophecies that always seem to spring from the religious mentality.

The best thing you can ever do for a child is to get them interested in science early on. The worst thing you can ever do for a child is to indoctrinate them with fear. Instead, empower them! Encourage them and equip them with the tools to explore their world, the world of science, and then choose their own path. If they, of their own accord, come back to religion, so be it. But I would lay some bets on the fact that many would not. Children are naturally curious. If given freedom to explore they will come up with so many creative ideas it can blow your mind at times. Support them in this quest. is doing their part to make this happen. Support and share them as much as possible, and get the word out.

I respect your right to your own belief, but remember: that respect extends to you so long as you do these things:

1. Embrace human rights as part of your belief system, do no harm to others.

2. Do not reject scientific fact. I expect that you, even if you are not an atheist, will embrace and not find evolution challenging to accept, (the earth is roughly 4.5 billion years old, and we know this for a fact.) Science can't proceed without acceptance of basic geologic evidence.

3. You personally, as an empathetic human, should find the struggle for the rights of GLBTQ individuals as important to you as your own, because when someone else's civil rights are violated, it should be as much of a red flag to you as when your own rights are violated.

Also, know that the term "militant atheist" is a misnomer and an unfair one. When have you ever heard of an atheist army taking to the streets to kill others who refuse to embrace atheism? It's a personal attack by the other side, and don't let it confuse you. I wrote this deeply personal account to encourage those who are sitting on the fence, thinking it over; to take the time you need, but also to know that over here it's not so bad. Those who are actually militant take up arms and kill others to force those into their belief systems; and that happens in religious doctrine. Atheists simply use logic and reason to explain point of view to others.

Comments are disabled as this is a deeply personal story of my own experience, and I can see this devolving into flames quite rapidly. I will, however ask that those of you who will take offense at this piece really and truly this entire grand jury report: ( ) Really. Read the whole thing. I challenge you to read every single word and still think the Catholic Church is a legitimate institution.

One thing to keep in mind: You are right now, creating your own reality and destiny based on the thoughts and ideas you're willing to embrace. You are choosing, actively, how to respond, positively or negatively to this post. Please set aside those preconceived notions and open the mind- because the best things yet to be are the things that are out there, waiting to be discovered.  I argue that they are lying here in the fields of scientific discovery, and we as a society are largely ignoring them because so many of us spend 1/7th of our time in church. What if we spent all that time studying science? How much more could we learn? And that, I think, is one of the most fascinating mysteries the universe has to discover. The mystery of its unlocked secrets. They're out there. Just waiting for you to open a book, log onto the internet, start doing some research, and there you go. What you discover could be the next big thing, the next big life changing invention. It doesn't always take a degree. It takes an open mind, and diligence along the way. We would not be where we are if some of the world's greatest thinkers had not dared to challenge the might of the Catholic Church in the past 600 years. Galileo, Copernicus, Thomas Hobbes…. Don't be afraid to follow where they've lead.

First published on Monica's Blog

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Lead investigator booted in Pistorius case

by Robyn Curnow and Michael Pearso,
February 21st 2013
Pretoria, South Africa (CNN) -- Prosecutors in the Oscar Pistorius murder case will make a final push Friday to keep the acclaimed track star in jail after a bail hearing jolted by the sudden removal of the lead investigator.

The South African Police Service pulled Hilton Botha from the case Thursday after prosecutors reinstated attempted murder charges against him.

Botha is accused of chasing and firing on a minibus full of people while drunk in 2011. He is charged with seven counts of attempted murder.

The allegations were the latest blow to a prosecution case that has suffered through several miscues during the bail hearing, including admissions that police could have contaminated the crime scene and failed to properly catalog evidence.

Prosecutors are trying to keep Pistorius jailed pending his trial on a charge of premeditated murder in the February 14 shooting death of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, 29. The hearing ended Thursday with no decision on bail and is scheduled to resume Friday.

Pistorius, 26, is accused of the premeditated murder of Steenkamp after, according to prosecutors, a heated argument in the early morning hours of Valentine's Day.

The sprinter, however, says he thought an intruder was hiding in a toilet room inside the bathroom of his Pretoria home. He says he fired into the room in a fit of terror before realizing the person inside was Steenkamp.

Replacing Botha

Court officials learned Thursday that prosecutors had restored the charges against Botha in the 2011 incident. The charges had previously been withdrawn for additional investigation, but prosecutors decided Wednesday to proceed, said Commissioner Riah Phiyega of the South African Police Service.

Phiyega praised Botha, saying he is an experienced investigator who "has presented the case of the police well."

Botha was replaced by the department's most senior detective, Vinesh Moonoo, in a move Phiyega said positioned the department for a "long-haul" investigation of Steenkamp's killing.

During the three-day bail hearing, being held in a dark, stuffy Pretoria courtroom, defense attorney Barry Roux hammered away at the credibility of Botha and the entire police investigation.

He argued police had missed a bullet in the toilet of the bathroom where Steenkamp was shot and may have contaminated the crime scene by failing to wear protective foot covers.

Botha told Roux that investigators didn't wear the booties because they'd run out.

Bulelwa Makeke, the spokeswoman for South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority, said before the announcement of Botha's removal that the accusations against the investigator would be little more than a "speed bump" in the Pistorius case.

Gallery: Athletes charged with murder

Monumental collapse?

In arguments wrapping up Thursday's session, Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said Pistorius' defense team has failed to explain why investigators found two cell phones and the gun believed to have been used in the shooting in front of the shower.

That goes to the prosecution claim that Steenkamp didn't merely get up to relieve herself in the middle of the night, but in fact had locked herself in the bathroom with her cell phone to protect herself from Pistorius.

Nel also said Pistorius has shown a lack of realization of what he has done and cast doubt on Pistorius' claims that one of the reasons for his extreme fear that night was that he had been a victim of burglary and violent crime in the past.

Where, Nel asked, are the court cases from those incidents? Why, Nel asked, didn't Pistorius whisper to Steenkamp or try to wake her up when he heard noises?

In full: Pistorius' affidavit to court

In addition to his questions about the bullet and the booties, Roux got Botha to acknowledge during the hearing that investigators had failed to collect any evidence that counters Pistorius' argument that he mistakenly shot Steenkamp.

Roux told Magistrate Desmond Nair that the prosecution's case had suffered a monumental collapse.

The defense attorney also questioned police claims that a witness who lived at least 300 meters (328 yards) from Pistorius' home had heard a raging argument coming from the home.

He also said officers had failed to properly investigate and catalog evidence found there, including ammunition and a bottle of what Botha first called testosterone before backtracking.

Roux said the substance is an herbal remedy.

Authorities have argued that ballistic evidence shows Pistorius had to intentionally target the toilet to strike Steenkamp, and that evidence shows he was standing on his prosthetic legs when he shot through the bathroom door.

Pistorius said in his statement that when he shot through the door, he was feeling vulnerable to an intruder because he was not wearing his legs and had limited mobility.

Prosecutors are fighting bail because they worry that Pistorius will disappear if he's released, and they say that he has a history of police encounters that suggest he is a threat to public safety.

Pistorius has pledged to stay in South Africa and fight the charges if released, adding that he's unlikely to escape notice as a well-known athlete who walks on prosthetic legs.

Anger about detention

In other developments, the women's branch of South Africa's ruling party accused authorities of giving Pistorius special treatment by holding him at the police station instead of prison.

"If there is some special circumstance that permits this, authorities must share this with the public as they are setting a bad precedent," the statement from the African National Congress Women's League said. "All should be treated equally before the law no matter your standing in society."

What's life like in a South African prison?

Nike pulls away from sprinter

Also Thursday, Nike announced it had suspended its contract with Pistorius, saying it would "monitor the situation closely."

Nike had already pulled a TV ad featuring the sports star.

Nike's bullet ad with Pistorius backfires

Robyn Curnow reported from Pretoria, and Michael Pearson reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN's Marilia Brocchetto, Kim Norgaard and Dianne McCarthy also contributed to this report.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Police Say Testosterone Found at Home of Pistorius

February 21st 2013

PRETORIA, South Africa - South African police said on Wednesday that officers found testosterone and needles at the home of double amputee track star Oscar Pistorius when they went to his home last week to investigate the shooting death of his girlfriend.

But the athlete's lawyer said the substance was a herbal supplement and was not subject to international prohibitions on doping.

At a bail hearing in Pretoria, prosecutors have accused Mr. Pistorius, 26, of premeditated murder - a crime he denies. But the testimony on the third day of hearings since the shooting last Thursday seemed to introduce fresh accusations relating to the athlete's lifestyle.

According to prosecution testimony by a police detective, Hilton Botha, Mr. Pistorius accidentally fired a weapon at a restaurant in January and persuaded a companion to take responsibility. He had also threatened violence in another incident in an altercation about a woman.

The police asserted that two boxes of testosterone and needles were found when officers searched Mr. Pistorius's home in a gated community where Reeva Steenkamp was shot to death.

The prosecution did not accuse him directly of using or abusing the substance. Testosterone in various forms is among banned substances on the 2013 list of prohibited drugs for athletes issued by the World Anti-Doping Agency on its Web site. But Barry Roux, Mr. Pistorius's defense lawyer, said the substance found at his client's home did not figure among banned drugs.

It was "not a steroid and it is not a banned substance," Mr. Roux said, accusing the police of taking "every piece of evidence and try to extract the most possibly negative connotation and present it to the court."    

The International Paralympic Committee in Bonn, Germany, said on Wednesday that Mr. Pistorius was tested for drugs on Aug. 25 and Sept. 8 last year and both tests proved negative.

At around that time, Mr. Pistorius made sporting history by becoming the first Paralympic sprinter to compete against able-bodied athletes in the London Olympics, which were held between July 27 and Aug. 12.  In the Paralympic  Games between Aug. 29 and Sept. 9, he won two gold medals and a silver.

Mr. Pistorius, 26, arrived early at a courthouse here in a police car, his head covered by a blue blanket, to press his case to be released on bail pending trial in the death of Ms. Steenkamp, 29.

Prosecutors, who say bail should be denied, opened their arguments on Wednesday by saying they had a statement from a witness who said she heard "nonstop talking, like fighting" from 2 to 3 a.m. on the morning of the shooting. The prosecutors are seeking to depict the killing as following an argument.

As a police investigator described Ms. Steenkamp's wounds to the right side of her head, arm and hip, Mr. Pistorius broke down in tears.

The police said two smartphones were discovered but neither had been used to make a call that morning. Police had also retrieved unlicensed .38 caliber ammunition from the house and Mr. Pistorius's lawyer and brother were accused of removing documents relating to offshore bank accounts from a safe in the house, according to the prosecution testimony.

Mr. Pistorius's appearance in court on Wednesday was his third since the shooting. Before he appeared, the scene at the courtroom was described by witnesses as bedlam with journalists battling for space to follow the proceedings.

Mr. Pistorius told the court on Tuesday that on the day of the shooting he heard a strange noise coming from inside his bathroom, climbed out of bed, grabbed his 9-millimeter pistol, hobbled on his stumps to the door and fired four shots.

"I fail to understand how I could be charged with murder, let alone premeditated," Mr. Pistorius said in an affidavit read by his defense lawyer, Barry Roux. "I had no intention to kill my girlfriend."

Prosecutors painted a far different picture, one of a calculated killer, a world-renowned athlete who had the presence of mind and calm to strap on his prosthetic legs, walk 20 feet to the bathroom door and open fire as Ms. Steenkamp cowered inside, behind a locked door.

"The applicant shot and killed an unarmed, innocent woman," Gerrie Nel, the chief prosecutor, said in court on Tuesday. That, Mr. Nel argued, amounted to premeditated murder, a charge that could send Mr. Pistorius to prison for life and, according to the magistrate hearing the case, make it more difficult for the athlete to be released on bail.

The prosecution repeated the accusation on Wednesday, saying Mr. Pistorius knew Ms. Steenkamp was in the bathroom but fired anyhow. While Mr. Pistorius had said the house was dark when he heard what he thought was an intruder, the prosecution cited a witness as saying a light had been switched on when the first of four shots was fired.

The witness heard a gunshot, then the sound of a woman screaming, then more shots, the prosecution said. But the defense disputed the prosecution testimony, saying the neighbor who claimed to have overheard an argument in Mr. Pistorius's home in fact lived 600 yards away.

Mr. Roux, the defense lawyer, said it was possible that Ms. Steenkamp had locked herself into the toilet when she heard Mr. Pistorius shout at an intruder.

Lydia Polgreen reported from Pretoria, South Africa, and Alan Cowell from London.

© 2013 The New York Times Company.

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Sunday, February 17, 2013

New Details Emerge in Oscar Pistorius' Murder Case

Today CBS Reported that although Pistorius appeared to be sobbing in court, his eyes were dry..

Bloody Cricket Bat Reportedly Found In Oscar Pistorius' Home

Police in South Africa are reportedly investigating the discovery of a bloodied cricket bat at the home of Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius.

Local reports stated police believe he may have used the bat to attack girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp before shooting her dead on St Valentine's Day morning, according to a local report.

Detectives are working on two other theories concerning the bat: that it was either used to break down the door of the bathroom where she hid, or that she used it to defend herself against Mr Pistorius, South Africa's City Press reported.

One bullet cartridge was found in the champion sprinter's bedroom and police are looking at whether he "chased" his girlfriend and fired the first shot before she locked herself in the bathroom and he fired three more through the door, the paper said.

It cited three sources "close to the high-profile investigation" who said the police had a "rock solid" case against South Africa's former golden boy.

A post-mortem examination on the body of the 29-year-old model revealed that as well as bullet wounds to the head, arm, hand and hip, she suffered a fractured skull, it reported.

"There was lots of blood on the bat. Forensic tests will show whose blood it was," one source was quoted as saying.

The latest revelations, under the headline The Case Against Oscar, come after his family launched a fightback campaign saying the police had no evidence to sustain a charge of murder.

Mr Pistorius' father Henke told the Telegraph in an exclusive interview that the family had "zero doubt" that Mr Pistorius shot Miss Steenkamp dead mistakenly thinking she was intruder.

A close friend of Mr Pistorius told how the athlete called him moments after Miss Steenkamp was shot.

"Oscar called me at 3.55am saying that Reeva had been shot. I said to him, 'What are you talking about? I don't understand you.' He then repeated himself – 'There has been a terrible accident, I shot Reeva," Justin Divaris told the Sunday People.

"Next thing his neighbour picked up the phone and told me it was true and told me to get to Oscar's home. I was in total shock. I asked the neighbour, 'Is she OK?' Did the gun go off by accident?' She replied, 'No. She's not OK. You need to get here'."

According to City Press, Mr Pistorius also called his father and sister and asked them to come to the house at around 3.20am on Thursday.

When they arrived, it said, Mr Pistorius was carrying his girlfriend's body down the stairs – her head and arms were "dangling", it added.

The athlete's sister Aimee has allegedly given a statement to police saying her brother told her he had shot the FHM cover girl thinking she was an intruder.

Miss Steenkamp was said to be still breathing as security guards, neighbours and Mr Pistorius' family gathered, and he tried to give her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

But once police and paramedics arrived on the scene, she was declared dead.

According to a source cited by City Press, Miss Steenkamp was wearing a nightdress, an overnight bag was found at the house and her iPad was on the bedroom floor.

"It was clear that both of them had slept in the bed," the source added.

The holster of a 9mm pistol similar to the weapon recovered by police was found on one side of the bed, the paper said. A bullet cartridge was also reportedly found in the bedroom and police are investigating whether Mr Pistorius fired one shot then "chased" Miss Steenkamp to the bathroom.

"The suspicion is that the first shot, in the bedroom, hit her in the hip," one source was quoted as saying. "She then ran and locked herself in the toilet. She was doubled over because of the pain. He fired three more shots. She probably covered her head which is why the bullet also went through her hand."

Police asked for blood taken from Mr Pistorius to be tested for steroids, City Press claimed, in anticipation that his defence team might claim he acted in "roid rage" – an aggressive condition associated with taking large doses of performance-enhancing drugs.

The sensational new claims come after Miss Steenkamp, a law graduate from Port Elizabeth on South Africa's south coast, appeared posthumously on the reality television programme, Tropika Island of Treasure, which was screened by the country's national broadcaster, the SABC, last night with her family's blessing.

In the programme, filmed in Jamaica, Miss Steenkamp was seen alongside other bikini-clad contestants taking part in a hunt for treasure to win £73,000 in prize money.

In a poignant interview, filmed just days before she died as she prepared to return home, she spoke about the importance of leaving a positive mark in life.

"Not just your journey in life but the way that you go out and make your exit is so important. You have either made an impact in a positive way or a negative way," she told the camera.

On Saturday, Miss Steenkamp's father Barry insisted that they did not "hate" Mr Pistorius for what had happened.

"He must be going through things that we don't know about," he told the Mail on Sunday. "There is no hatred in our hearts."

He said he and his wife June and the rest of their family were struggling "to find some reason why this happened to our lovely daughter".

"This is a very difficult time for us," he told the paper. "June is inconsolable. We just need to find some answers. We ask the Lord every day to help us find a reason why this should happen to Reeva. She was the most beautiful, kind girl in the world. She had love for everyone and she was loved by everyone who knew her.

On Friday, during his first court appearance, Mr Pistorius repeatedly burst into tears as prosecutors discussed how they would charge him with murdering his girlfriend.

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Friday, February 15, 2013

A Valentines Day in Hell

Oscar Pistorious, known as "the Blade runner", the first double amputee to race in the Olympics, a burgeoning super star, wealthy beyond what most of us can  imagine, tonight sits, filled with dread, in a dreary jail cell, awaiting trial for murder.
The Police have said that Oscar
murdered his girlfriend, well known supermodel, Reeva Steenkamp.
Commentators have suggested that it was an accident, that he mistook his girlfriend for a criminal breaking into his home.
The spokesman for the Police said, "This wasn't an accident, we are charging him for murder." 
The Daily Beast reported "Their relationship was described by family members as “healthy” and“fabulous.”
Steenkamp herself recently tweeted about her excitement for Valentine’s Day: “What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow???”

So what went wrong in the wee hours at Pistorius’s house that led to Steenkamp’s untimely end?

It may be a while before we have a definitive answer to that question, but police reports of possible domestic violence indicate that—beneath its glossy surface—their relationship might have been turbulent.

Pistorius notoriously got into a Twitter spat with his ex-girlfriend, Samantha Taylor, after she remarked on his new romance with Steenkamp: “Oscar has such a way with women. She's probably not the only one he's got." "

And so it goes, as they say.

The word that immediately comes to mind here is tragedy.
A momentary surge of primtive, instinctive anger, a handgun and probably alcohol and or drugs, and the unthinkable, murder, becomes a reality.
A young woman, on the verge of achieving her dreams, gone, shot four times.
A superstar, admired by all, his life is effectively over as well.

Alcohol, guns and rage, an all too common mix, the results of which are seen much too often.
As another such tragedy unfolds,the Blackburn Report will be sticking with the story and attempting to make sense of what on the surface seems completely senseless.

Michael Blackburn, Sr.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Do the Rich Pay Their Fair Share of Taxes?

A friend asked me Sunday morning if I thought it was fair that 50% of Americans paid little to no federal income tax.

Of course, this is a loaded question. Others have pointed out that while some poorer Americans pay little to no federal income tax, they do pay 15.3% FICA taxes which covers their contributions to Social Security and Medicare, a highly regressive tax because only your first $106,000 of income is subject to the tax. In addition, local sales taxes are highly regressive because the poor and middle-class end up having to consume a much larger percentage of their income just to get by.

But the question got me thinking. What do the poor and middle class do with their money? Have they figured out some great way to avoid taxes? If they don't have Swiss bank accounts or tax shelters in the Cayman Islands, how exactly are they avoiding paying federal income taxes? What I found out was terribly disturbing.

I decided to examine household incomes in America by quintile to see, if indeed, the rich were paying too much tax. Following is a breakdown by quintile of the average incomes for American households for the year 2010. I have also included the data for someone with a million dollar income just to see what he or she ends up paying in tax;

Source: Census Bureau - Table H-3

Rather than making a traditional calculation on what percent of their total incomes each quintile pays in federal taxes (including FICA taxes), I thought it would be interesting to ask what percent in taxes they each pay after paying for basic necessities like food and shelter. I tried to come up with an estimate of what amount of money one would have to pay each month just to barely get by, to barely keep his or her head above water. Here is my estimate. You can see it is a very low estimate of what it costs to live in the US as it doesn't even include anything for medical expenses or health insurance or the required savings needed to send your kids to college or to retire on.

I know this is low and I challenge anyone who disagrees to try living on $2,000 a month for a while and to feed and clothe a family. But, let's call it the bare necessities and see what it means for American families.

If you subtract this $2,000 a month or $24,000 per year from the various quintiles' incomes, the following pre-tax disposable incomes result;

And here are the actual average taxes paid by quintile;

Source: Tax Policy Center

And so, here are the tax percentages that each quintile actually pays as a percent of their true disposable incomes assuming everyone needs at least $2,000 a month just to get by;

This certainly doesn't look fair, much less progressive. A rate cannot even be calculated for the lowest quintile because they are $13,000 negative in the hole before even paying their taxes. Similarly, the second quintile owes more taxes each year than it has available after paying for basic necessities. The third quintile represents the median income earner in the United States and is paying approximately 50% more of their disposable income in taxes than our richest Americans.

This is clearly a terribly regressive system in which the least among us are asked to pay the most from our disposable incomes. When looked at from this perspective there is no question that the wealthy have to pay a greater share of the taxes if we have a chance in balancing the federal budget.

But these numbers are distressing even regardless of tax policy. They suggest that 40% of American families after tax don't even have enough income to cover life's bare necessities. Think of it. 40% of American families can't save a dime for a child's college education, can't afford to save a dollar for their retirement and can't afford to buy health insurance.

What have we done? We have opened trade with countries that pay their workers less than one dollar an hour and get away with it because the cost of living in those countries is so low. But our own workers cannot be forced to compete with such low wages as it costs much more to live here.

I have watched my native Kentucky lose its manufacturing plants overseas and have its union plants busted up solely by the threat to outsource jobs. Manufacturing wages in my parent's home town in Kentucky have declined from $15 an hour plus benefits to $7-$8 an hour with no benefits. You cannot raise a family on seven dollars an hour even if both parents work.

We are killing this country. CEOs, entrepreneurs, bankers, lawyers, doctors and politicians at the top of the pyramid are all benefiting from the lower cost of labor for their employees and the lower cost of goods imported from low-wage countries. But our workers, our dear workers are getting crushed. This is not the America I grew up in. And this shall not stand.                    
By John R. Talbot

John R. Talbott is a bestselling author and financial consultant to families whose books predicted the housing crash, the banking crisis and the global economic collapse. You can read more about his books, the accuracy of his predictions and his financial consulting activities at

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Early Fan: To her amazement, when Ginsburg gave a talk at the University of Arkansas Law School decades ago, a curious then-Governor Bill Clinton showed up to listen.
Close-Knit Family: Ginsburg's mother's sister was married to her father's brother. The two couples combined households and raised their children together.  
Superwoman: Ginsburg's husband was diagnosed with cancer at the start of their time at Harvard Law School. During his recovery, Ginsburg not only cared for him and their young daughter while maintaining her own course load, she also took notes in all of his classes and typed his dictated papers.
Most Meaningful Advice Received:  From her mother-in-law on her wedding day (accompanied by a packet of earplugs): "Every now and then it helps to be a little deaf...That advice has stood me in good stead. Not simply in dealing with my marriage, but in dealing with my colleagues."

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

When Did God Get Into the Wedding Business?

The British House of Commons voted to approve same-sex marriage on Tuesday. The issue deeply divides the ruling Conservative Party, as well as the Church of England. The church accepts same-sex civil unions as a legal institution but opposes gay marriage, which church leaders say undermines the sacred place of marriage in society. Was marriage originally a legal or a religious institution?

A legal institution, mostly. Marriage developed independently in hundreds of human civilizations, so it's difficult to pinpoint history's first marriage or even the society that first conceived of marriage as an institution. Early Sumerian marriage agreements, which date to the third millennium B.C., are among the oldest records relating to marriage. The couples swore an oath to a series of deities in a small number of agreements, but most of the records contain no mention of gods or religion, suggesting that the Sumerians viewed weddings as legal events. The terms of marriage were decidedly contractual, including specific worldly punishments for cheating. (The penalty for male infidelity was 10 shekels in alimony to the jilted wife. If the wife strayed, she would be strangled and dumped into a river.) There is no indication that someone who violated the marriage agreement suffered the eternal wrath of Shamash and Marduk, or that those deities took a personal interest in strong marriages.

The ancient Hebraic take on marriage is difficult to ascertain. Scholars have argued for years over whether to translate the Old Testament word describing a marriage agreement as "contract," which is a simple agreement between two parties, or "covenant," which includes an additional vow to God. One of the difficulties is that the Old Testament uses the same word to describe both God's relationship with the Israelites and a husband's promise to his wife. Some ancient Hebrew writers explicitly analogized those two commitments, and, of course, the Ten Commandments mention God's aversion to adultery. However, like the Sumerian marriage agreements, documents describing ancient Jewish marriages are mostly lists of legal obligations and consequences and rarely contain spiritual language. It's likely that the idea of marriage as a sacred union involving God developed over time among ancient Jews, but the evidence is open to interpretation.

What about the pre-Christian Greeks, the founders of modern Western society? Some of Plato's writings cast marriage in a semi-spiritual light. He wrote that, "Love is born into every human being; it calls back the halves of our original nature together; it tries to make one out of two and heal the wound of human nature." That romantic sentiment echoes the New Testament notion that "two will become one flesh." But Plato's general philosophy was practical: Marriage was good for Greek society. He even advised young men to choose a partner based on the interests of the polis, not love or other personal desires. Aristotle had a utilitarian and legal view of marriage as well, writing that marriage "combines the useful with the pleasant." It appears that marriage was a contractual matter in ancient Greece.

The New Testament injected God into marriages like never before, most obviously by physically placing Jesus at the wedding at Cana, where he blessed the union by turning water into wine. Jesus also said of the sanctity of marriage, "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." A small number of Christians moved in the fifth century to describe marriage as a religious rite on a par with baptism, but it wasn't until the 1200s that marriage had completed its transition from contractual agreement to Christian sacrament.

Got a question about today's news? Ask the Explainer.

Explainer thanks John Witte Jr. of Emory University School of Law, author of From Sacrament to Contract: Marriage, Religion, and Law in the Western Tradition.
By Brian Palmer

Shared from Pocket

Friday, January 25, 2013

Israel's Barak: Syria serves as warning

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Thursday that global inaction on the bloodbath in Syria is a warning to many countries that they cannot count on outsiders' help _ no matter how dire the circumstances.

He suggested, in an ironic twist, that this applied to Israel itself, discouraging its people from backing risks for peace, such as the return of strategic Palestinian territories in exchange for various assurances.

"Many of our best friends are telling us ... `Don't worry, if worst comes to worst the world will inevitably (help),'" Barak said at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos. "It cannot be taken for granted."

The Syrian civil war was a major topic at Davos this year. This was evidenced by the startling vehemence displayed by even Barak and Israeli President Shimon Peres _ whose country is technically in a state of war with Syria _ as they lamented the killing of Syrian innocents.

"It's on the screens all around the world," Barak said, tens of thousands of people "slaughtered by their own leader and the world doesn't move."

His conclusion: Even "unspeakable atrocities ... taking place in front of the eyes of the whole world" cannot guarantee "that there will be enough sense of purpose, sense of direction, unity of political will, readiness to translate it into action ... in a way that will put an end to it."

He said Israel should nonetheless overcome its concerns and find a way to withdraw from the West Bank _ in order to avoid becoming inseparable from it in a single state that will ultimately have an Arab majority.

On the threat of Iran's nuclear program, Barak said that Israel believed there "should be a readiness and capability to launch a surgical operation" if diplomacy and sanctions fail.

He said it was in U.S. interests to be able to project credibility among future allies in Asia by ensuring that it makes good on promises to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon.
By Dan Perry

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