Entries in the Category "News"

Ron Paul - Audit the Fed!

Ron Paul mentioned again on the Tech Ticker about his "Audit the Fed" legislation which has received quite a lot of support in the Congress.

Link

"Why is Congress so sympathetic to transparency?" Paul wonders. "The American people are demanding it. They've awoken and said 'we want to know what's going on with our money. Why are you bailing out the rich guys?' The timing is right. The conditions are right."

"Imagine if we had all the records that showed every communication between the Treasury and the Fed and Goldman Sachs?" Paul muses. "That would be really something. That's why they're ganging up [to oppose the audit]. They're a lot more powerful than I am. I have no clout whatsoever."

Ron Paul - Healthcare is "not a right"

Ron Paul was interviewed on the Tech Ticker about current healthcare legislation.

Link

As far as the Texas Congressman is concerned, healthcare is not a right. "I don't have a right to medical care," he emphatically states. In his view, the constitution only guarantees citizens "life, liberty and (the right to) keep the fruits of my labor."

Fellow Phikap Ed McMahon dies at 86

Reported by NBC News

Ed McMahon died at a hospital in Los Angeles this morning, his agent said today.

The 86-year-old TV personality died this morning at Ronald Regan UCLA Medical Center.

In Memory

Record-breaking $3.55 Trillion Budget puts us deep in the red

President Barack Obama is seeking $81 billion more in spending on domestic initiatives in his record $3.55 trillion budget plan while calling on Congress to trim $17 billion worth of programs, including raising more tax revenue from the oil and gas industries.

Link

In a 1,360-page document released this morning, Obama proposes abolishing preferential tax treatment for the two industries as part of a package of 121 federal programs the administration wants to eliminate. Doing so would generate about $26 billion over the next decade.

However, his budget fails to address the Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid imbalance that will jeopardize our long-term budget outlook.

As of May 5, 2009:

National US Debt is at $11.227 TRILLION DOLLARS!

Obama's $17 billion budget cuts won't likely happen

Obama's promised line-by-line scrub of the federal budget has produced a roster of 121 budget cuts totaling $17 billion -- or about one-half of 1 percent of the $3.4 trillion budget Congress has approved for next year. The details were unveiled Thursday.

Link on cleveland.com

However, the Democratic Congress has already rejected some of those cuts, so it's all going to be just a PR stunt anyways.

It goes to show how hard it is to eliminate a government program after it has been created.

Pressure on Obama to deal with gay issues

President Obama was noticeably silent last month when the Iowa Supreme Court overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

But now Mr. Obama — who has said he opposes same-sex marriage as a Christian but describes himself as a "fierce advocate of equality" for gay men and lesbians — is under pressure to engage on a variety of gay issues that are coming to the fore amid a dizzying pace of social, political, legal and legislative change.

Social issues like same-sex marriage bring together deeply held principles and flashpoint politics, and many gay activists, aware that Mr. Obama is also dealing with enormous challenges at home and overseas, have counseled patience.

More on MSNBC

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It has been past 100 days, and some gay activists are getting impatient with Obama. Do people think Obama can just do a complete 180 on the whole entire populace to accept gay marriage?

Now some are upset with Obama because he did not include any gays or lesbians in his cabinet, and even more upset if Obama does not pick a pro-gay Supreme Court nominee.

What if Obama could not find any good pro-gay candidates? I guess that does not matter. It seems to me just like with any other group, they can put it in a nice shiny press release saying that the Chief of Staff is the first [insert ethnic, religious, sex affiliation] ever to hold the position.

Could it even be said that gay issues may prove to be a conflict point within the Democratic Party? If Mr. Obama reverses on his stance on same-sex marriage, then he alienates the moderates and religious voters in the party. Of course, how can folks be sure that all Democrats are in favor of same-sex marriage? It is more likely that they would openly support same-sex civil unions, but marriage is always the touchy point. Semantics!

Gay issues are obviously a touchy topic to address but it must be done so in a patient way. If you push too hard, it will backfire.

Is NASA giving up on the moon?

According to USA Today, NASA is changing their mind about building a permanent base on the moon. Instead, they may focus more on sending a manned mission to Mars.

It's still a wonder that in the 21st century, we haven't achieved permanent settlement of the moon and more space stations in orbit. It is now more likely that China or the Europeans may have manned bases on the moon before the United States.

It is advantageous for the US to establish orbital and moon stations in order to reduce energy consumption of longer manned missions. If you build a space infrastructure, you have less fuel requirement.


CNN a bit bias at the Chicago Tea Party

NYC - Tax Capital of the World

Wall Street Journal - Link

I love the part about how democratic leaders are saying that the plan is of a "shared sacrifice." Then why are the public employee unions getting a 3% pay increase??? New York State is getting $10 billion in federal stimulus, but Albany plans to increase spending by 9% and they tell us that raising taxes are the only way to close the budget deficit.

Is there a problem here that the public does not know? It has always been true that the New York legislature is the worst state government. Its elected officials cannot change anything. The backroom leaders are the ones who draw the plan and get the rest of the legislature to rubber-stamp it.

No wonder folks are leaving New York for better opportunities elsewhere. According to Census data, 1.97 million New Yorkers have left. Any reason why???

Mayor Bloomberg proposes to increase the NYC sales tax to 8.75 per cent from 8.375. It is 7 percent in New Jersey except for special Enterprise zones where it is 3.5 percent.

I wonder if they going to start having fashion police man the tunnels and bridges entering NY from NJ to grab New Yorkers trying to save money.

I do feel sorry for folks living in Chicago, Cook County. Their sales tax rate is 10.25 percent, the highest in the country.

New York Times re-evaluates illegal immigration

In the New York Times correction page, Powerline blog noted that in the March 5th edition, NYT stated:

"An editorial on Feb. 22 stated incorrectly that unlawfully entering the country is not a criminal offense. It is a misdemeanor for a first-time offender."

Only in New York, the ticket meter grinch

Link

New York City has landed itself squarely on Santa Claus' naughty list after a ticket agent gave jolly St. Nick a ticket for double parking while delivering gifts to children in Brooklyn.

Auto bailout dies in Senate

Link

A $14 billion bailout for Detroit's struggling Big Three has died in the Senate after failing on a procedural vote.

The collapse came after bipartisan talks on the auto rescue broke down over GOP demands that the United Auto Workers union agree to steep wage cuts by 2009 to bring their pay into line with Japanese carmakers.

Majority Leader Harry Reid said he hoped President George W. Bush would tap the $700 billion Wall Street bailout fund for emergency aid to the automakers. General Motors and Chrysler have said they could be weeks from collapse. Ford says it does not need federal help now, but its survival is far from certain.

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I call it UAW arrogance to not recognizing the serious situation and trying to keep their archaic benefits intact.

They refuse to any wage concessions by a specific date in 2009, aiming to accept any cuts in 2011 when their contract expires.

We are in the middle of the biggest recession and the UAW refuses to adapt or change.

Ron Paul interviewed by Robert Kiyosaki

Let Detroit Go Bankrupt (Times Op-Ed)

Link

By former Governor Mitt Romney

CEOs of GM, Ford, and Chrysler flew on a private jet to Washington to make their case fora bailout

All three CEOs - Rick Wagoner of GM, Alan Mulally of Ford, and Robert Nardelli of Chrysler - exercised their perks on Tuesday by flying in corporate jets to DC.

Another reason to say no to a Washington bailout.

Link

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Wagoner's private jet cost $20,000 roundtrip.

Mulally's corporate jet is a perk as part of his $28 MILLION salary from last year. He actually lives in Seattle, so the jet takes him to Detroit and back on weekends.

The GOP really loves our heartland to death

WSJ's Thomas Frank gives his take on "The GOP Loves the Heartland to Death"

Link

Local Maine TV Reporter takes it to McCain on Palin and wins!

Link

Honestly, if Palin is so awesome, why can't McCain defend her?

Cowards fail to help subway victim

It happened shortly after midnight on a SEPTA subway train (in Philly). A thirty-something guy with a child with him flew into a monstrous rage and attacked an unidentified man with a double-claw hammer. The victim did not know the attacker. He did not even provoke him. He was actually dozing off in his seat when the attacker used his hammer on the victim's head and neck.

This lasted five long minutes.

There were indeed witnesses. At least 10 of them. What did they do?

NOTHING!

They did nothing when the attack moved from the train to the platform.

They did nothing when the hammer-wielding maniac tried to push his victim down onto the train tracks.

When the beating was finished, the victim staggered back on the train, bloodied, confused, and alone.

Even by that stage, there was still no one there to help him.

The victim managed to get to the local hospital nearby, and received several staples and sutures and was discharged.

* * * * * * * * *

The cowards actually outnumbered this attacker at least 10 to one. Instead, they all dashed off the train during the brutal attack. Not even one tried to use their mobile phone to call police.

Very sad.

Link

Ron Paul on Fed and Imperialism

Lack of news: Military buildup in the Persian Gulf

The mainstream media have not reported that there is a buildup of US naval vessels in the Persian Gulf. There have been confirmed and unconfirmed sources that up to five (5) aircraft carrier groups are now in the Middle East region.

DEBKAfile - Three major US naval strike forces due this week in Persian Gulf

DEBKAfile's military sources have named the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the USS Ronald Reagan, and the USS Iwo Jima that are enroute to the Gulf. Already in place are the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea opposite Iranian shores and the USS Peleliu which is cruising in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

If all of this is true, there will be more than 40 carriers, warships, and submarines operating in Middle Eastern waters, and in particular, close to Iran.

Why are there so many ships in the region?

Also, third-party sources have reported that French and British ships are accompanying the USS Theodore Roosevelt to the Gulf.

Could this be a planned naval blockade of Iran in order to stop it from importing benzene and other refined oil products?

In the Jerusalem Post, the US Department of Defense have denied those reports.

Egypt's Middle Eastern Times said Kuwait had activated its Emergency War Plan after learning that a force "consisting of a US Navy super carrier battle group and is accompanied by an expeditionary carrier battle group, a British Royal Navy carrier battle group and a French nuclear hunter-killer submarine" are headed for the Middle East. Some of the ships were allegedly involved in Operation Brimstone, held in the Atlantic last week, which simulated a naval blockade of Iran.

All of this have not been reported in any mainstream news channel or web site.

Just imagine having more than 40 naval warships in the Persian Gulf. What are they doing? Some large-scale exercise? It seems quite a concern when you have that much firepower.

The sites above have guessed that the United States, aided by France, Britain, and Canada will enact a partial naval blockade of Iran. The large number of warships are there to keep the Strait of Hormuz oil route chokepoint open if Iran attempts to shut down the Strait in retailiation. Another guess is that Israel may very well prepare an attack on Iran's nuclear installations, and these naval forces are acting as back-up.

As of now, military bloggers, web sites, and other informants are trying to keep tabs on these ships and their whereabouts.

Gary North

Lew Rockwell

Good article on New Yorker

Annals of National Security - Preparing the Battlefield
The Bush Administration steps up its secret moves against Iran.
by Seymour M. Hersh

No freedom of the press in Denver?

Police in Denver arrested an ABC News producer today as he and a camera crew were attempting to take pictures on a public sidewalk of Democratic Senators and VIP donors leaving a private meeting at the Brown's Palace Hotel.

ABC News Link

Kosovo versus South Ossetia/Abkhazia

On Tuesday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed an order recognizing the independence of two Georgian breakaway provinces, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, a day after it was overwhelmingly approved by both houses of Russia's parliament.

He called on other countries to follow Russia's lead. He blamed Georgia's president, Mikheil Saakashvili, for forcing his hand by launching a military assault on South Ossetia rebels, triggering a major invasion by Russia's military.

US President Bush:
"Georgia's territorial integrity and borders must command the same respect as every other nation's, including Russia's."

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:
Called the decision "regrettable."

Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, OSCE Chair:
"The recognition of independence for South Ossetia and Abkhazia violates fundamental OSCE principles."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel:
"This contradicts the basic principles of territorial integrity and is therefore absolutely unacceptable."

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt:
"Russia’s decision to recognize the rebel Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states was a "deliberate violation of international law. Medvedev now dramatically escalated the crisis between Russia and the rest of the world. The decision is also a deliberate violation of international law and basic principles for stability in Europe."

South Ossetia and Abkhazia broke away from Georgia during civil wars in the 1990s. So both provinces declared themselves independent nearly two decades ago. It wasn't till now that Georgia decided to try to retake South Ossetia. Of course when things started going badly there, rebels in Abkhazia took action and started taking over towns near their region.

Out of all of this, how does this compare with Kosovo?

Kosovo's parliament proclaimed independence in defiance of Serbia and Russia. Serbia called the declaration illegal and its ally Russia denounced it, saying it threatened to touch off a new conflict in the Balkans.

Kosovo had formally remained a part of Serbia even though it has been administered by the U.N. and NATO since 1999, when NATO airstrikes ended former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic's crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.

Ninety percent of Kosovo's 2 million people are ethnic Albanian — most of them secular Muslims — and they see no reason to stay joined to the rest of Christian Orthodox Serbia.

Forty-six countries went ahead and recognized the Republic of Kosovo. The United States announced its recongition of Kosovo on February 18, 2008. The US called Kosovo a "special-case." It said that independence from Serbia for the majority Albanian province was the only "viable option" to keep the region stable.

As for UN membership, both China and Russian Federation have stated that they will oppose Kosovo's application. They also stated that Kosovo's actions do violate international law.

They refer to UN Security Council Resolution 1244, adopted in 1999, which reaffirmed “the commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.” The plan was to give Kosovo “substantial autonomy and meaningful self-administration.” Recognizing Kosovo’s independence prior to new authorization by the Security Council would clearly violate international law.

Naturally, a new UN Security Council resolution for Kosovo independence will not pass because of Chinese and Russian opposition. So the United States, some EU countries, and others have chosen to bypass the UNSC on this issue.

******************************

The US and the West accused Russia of violating the territorial integrity of Georgia.

The Russian Federation accused the US and West for violating the territorial integrity of Serbia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Who is truly right? Kosovo does not want to be a part of Serbia. But South Ossetia and Abkhazia do not want to be a part of Georgia.

To be honest, it is really all Mikheil Saakashvili's fault. He chose the military option; to re-take South Ossetia by force. Now the chances of both South Ossetia and Abkhazia returning to full Georgian control is pretty much impossible.

Here's one tenant to avoid having in your apartment

Dr. John Getzow, serial evictor

SF Weekly - How renters work the system to live for free in one of America's most expensive cities

EU to lift sanctions on Cuba.... hint hint US!

Members of the European Union decided Thursday to formally lift sanctions on Cuba, a spokeswoman for EU Secretary-General Javier Solana told CNN.

Christina Gallach said the decision, made over dinner during the first day of a planned two-day summit in Brussels, Belgium, will be formally confirmed on Monday during an EU council meeting.

The diplomatic sanctions, which limited visits to the Communist island by senior EU personnel, were imposed in 2003 after concerns were raised about human rights in Cuba. The sanctions were suspended in 2005, so lifting them now could be considered a symbolic move.

Link

* * * * * *

The US embargo will soon reach 50 years. Have we finally seen the light? Perhaps we should follow our previous examples with Vietnam, China, and South Africa and lift economic sanctions.

All we get is Fidel's laugh having survived Kennedy though Bush.

Isn't it time to try something new?

Ross Perot: Focus on National Debt!

Ross Perot is jumping back into the political fray -- this time with a stern warning that the country better start paying attention to the national debt.

The former presidential candidate has reemerged with a new Web site spotlighting the soaring budget deficit -- more than $9.3 trillion and growing.

"We live in the greatest country in the history of man. We've been so successful for so long that we now take our success for granted," Perot says in a video posted on PerotCharts.com.

Link

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

David Walker, the former U.S. comptroller general and nation's top accountant, consulted with Perot on the need to cut spending in Washington.

deficit.jpg

While we may seem to be mesmerized with Obama's call for change, and McCain's Straight Talk, both candidate fail to list solutions for combating our national deficit and debt.

Of course both candidates would submit budget plans to cut or eliminate our deficit, neither one wants to tell the American public about the huge NATIONAL DEBT that we have.

As of 6/18/2008, the total national debt is $9.392 trillion. (link)

Within the next decade or so, it will no longer be Democrats versus Republicans. The demographics with regards to the federal budget and spending will divide between the young and old. Could the AARP and legions of senior citizens vote to keep Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security alive at the expense of federal domestic programs and higher taxes on the young and working class?

Can tax cuts bring more growth in the long run? Or what if tax cuts are not enough? Should there be some tax increases on certain groups? Should we focus more on accountability and spending cuts? But then we have to make sure there is oversight on agencies and departments doing competitive pricing. Or is it too late?

Arizona opts out of Real ID!

Good news! The Arizona Legislature is sending Gov. Janet Napolitano a bill barring the state from participating in new federal security standards for driver's licenses.

Real ID faces criticism because of the federal mandate, costs to states and privacy concerns. The Bush administration says the law will hinder terrorists, illegal immigrants and other wrongdoers.

Link

$23 Billion Lost

BBC investigation estimates that around $23 billion may have been lost, stolen, or just not properly accounted for in Iraq.

It is always interesting to find how external news organizations are finding out about this before our American counterparts. Of course, efforts to seek out more about financial mismanagement have been gagged by the U.S. government.

Currently, there is a gag order to about 70 court cases against some of the top US companies.

To date, no major US contractor faces trial for fraud or mismanagement in Iraq.

Is this justified because there is a war on terror? What if $100 billion was missing? Or even $200 billion? Can the government justify these losses for the sake of protecting Americans from terrorists?

While I can understand that lawsuits may be ill-timed if there were continuing war operations or the country has not been effectively stable, but after 4-5 years, it is time to really see if money has been spent legally and to take action if there is any mismanagement.

With President Bush still in power, effective action against US contractors is still being blocked.

China's censors ban Time Out magazine

Beijing has declared time out on Time Out. The English-language edition of the monthly magazine that gives foreign residents and visitors the latest lowdown on the coolest bars, the hippest shops and the hottest shows in the Chinese capital has disappeared.

The June issue of Time Out Beijing has been banned from distribution by China's censors, The Times has learnt. But the decision seems to have been taken not because of any racy or politically incorrect content. Time Out Beijing has fallen victim to the accelerating imposition of restrictions on any aspect of life in the capital deemed to pose a potential threat to a smooth Olympics.

WTF?

Link

China: World is watching

china_world_is_watching.jpg

Link

Fox News' America's Pulse E.D. Hill jabs herself

While it has been amusing to see the MSM get so fascinated with the Michelle and Barack Obama fist bump, a slip of the tongue by Fox News' America's Pulse host E.D. Hill was either unintentional or his brain was tased at the worst possible way.

During the June 6 edition of Fox News' America's Pulse, host E.D. Hill teased an upcoming discussion by saying, "A fist bump? A pound? A terrorist fist jab? The gesture everyone seems to interpret differently."

It's likely that he just said that just to put an extreme example of why folks do a fist bump. Of course, most folks would point out that because of confusion of whether Obama is a Christian or Muslim, or that folks would mistake Obama with Osama, someone with ill-will may choose to associate his actions with terrorism.

From another viewpoint, why would the host choose to say "terrorist fist jab?" We probably have not seen any photos or footage of terrorist individuals or groups practicing the so-called fist bump. This could have been a cheapshot aimed to insult the Obamas.

Of course, I do have to point out that in the ensuing discussion with her guest, Janine Driver -- a "body language expert," there was no further mention about Hill's terrorist words. Perhaps the producers in the back studio took quick action right after she uttered those words, and told her (via earpiece) not to say anything more about it.

Not sure if Janine Driver was also told the same thing (via earpiece).

I'm sure bloggers from the conservative side may argue that it was just words in jest, or just a poor example made by Hill.

Liberal bloggers may see it differently because of Fox News' history of favoring the conservative viewpoint and they think Hill's words were sanctioned by the network or other high-placed individuals.

Media Matters has issued a call to action on this.

Huffington Post

In any case, the fist bump is NOT a terrorist fist jab.

Japanese parents taking a page from Americans and more?

Across Japan teachers are reporting an astonishing change in the character of parents, who, after decades of respectful silence, have become a super-aggressive army of complainers. The problem is that nobody can decide whether this is a good thing or not. Japan's mass media has opted to demonise them: a lavish television drama starting next month will present the monster parents as a vile symptom of a society that has lost all respect for its traditions and decorum.

The parents believe that they are champions of basic consumer rights, rights that Japanese society has supposedly long trampled over in the name of conformity and order. Either way, few deny that mothers and fathers have shifted from being staunch supporters of Japan's rigid education system to its most ardent assailants. Previously, when a child was in trouble the parents apologised profusely to the teacher; nowadays, they try to have the teacher sacked.

Where previously schools were trusted and respected, they are now the targets of concerted activism. Dozens of educators have been forced to resign in the face of the blazing fury of parents who no longer tolerate anything that appears to disadvantage their offspring.

Read more (Times Online UK)

Secret plan to keep Iraq under US control

Independent UK reports a secret plan (military alliance) that would subvert Iraqi sovereignty in order to keep the American military in Iraq indefinitely

Red Light Cameras - Trolling for Trouble

NYT Article shows the flaws in our red light cameras

Be sure to check to see if red light cameras in your area are tinkering with the duration of the yellow lights. Generally, it should be 3 seconds. Companies installing the red light cameras have been found trying to decrease the time in order to generate more revenues for the camera operator and the municipality.

For example, in Charlotte, NC, the number of accidents at intersections has gone down less than one percent. The number of rear-end accidents has gone up 15 percent.

Another reason to avoid Scientology

ABCNEWS - Ex-Scientology Kids Share Their Stories

Former Scientologists, Including Church Leader's Niece, Share Stories With 'Nightline'

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Honestly, thank god we haven't see Scientology clubs popping among college campuses. Luckily, I haven't had to deal with that while I was VP of Finance in USG.

Monster US embassy in Iraq is ready

The over-budgeted U.S. embassy is now ready for occupancy. The bloated $730 million facility was given the "certificate of occupancy" by Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy.

It is completely fortified, located inside the Green Zone, and allows staff to move into its 27 buildings.

Kennedy got the ok, after receiving assurances from experts that fire, electrical, mechanical, and communication tests have passed. Anyone willing to bet their lives on that? Hmmm.

The facility is supposed to provide secure housing. Unfortunately, none of the buildings are equipped with special repelling paint that would cause mortars and bombs to bounce off the buildings. The Vatican-size compound would still give insurgents a large target where they could not miss.

It's not that hard. The color and building style would be a complete giveaway. Plus, how can we be so sure that it will protect staff and security forces? The project went over by 6 months. There are allegations that the main contractor, First Kuwait, has committed fraud in building our facility.

I wonder how historians would view this $730 million dollar monster. A sore sight for the Iraqis or a symbol of a crumbling neo-con dream of an American empire.

Link (CNN)

Secret US Plan for Iraq

As discovered by the Guardian UK newspaper...

The draft strategic framework agreement between the US and Iraqi governments, dated March 7 and marked "secret" and "sensitive", is intended to replace the existing UN mandate and authorises the US to "conduct military operations in Iraq and to detain individuals when necessary for imperative reasons of security" without time limit.

Who's going to pay the bill? We are.

Kids' Dress-Up Day called controversial

Years before political correctness became the rule of the land, high school senior class students would hold a "Role-Reversal Day" as part of Senior Week where students would dress up as the opposite sex. In college, there would be parties where males dress up as females and vice-versa. It was all done in spirit of good fun and silliness. I could still remember when one guy dressed up as Madonna with the pointed bra. It was so funny.

The notion of these students trying to promote alternative lifestyles or transgenderism was unheard of. It would have been the last thing to cross their minds.

Of course, some folks today believe that doing such a thing is completely taboo and might even (shudder) cause a fellow student to think he/she is a different sex. Some call it un-Christian.

Are such reactions exaggerated? Or justified?

It appears that students at Pineview Elementary decided to do a "Senior Citizen and Opposite Gender" day as part of this year's Wacky Week. Every year, the students would do a different theme meant to boost classroom energy at the end of winter. This year, students can dress up as senior citizens or as members of the opposite sex.

The opposite sex theme must have gotten a fellow local resident upset so that person informed the Voice of Christian Youth America, a Milwaukee-based radio network that aired on nine radio stations throughout Wisconsin. The radio network, believing that demons have overtaken the school, issued a special broadcast alert. They criticized the dress-up day and accused the district of promoting alternative lifestyles.

At this point, did the radio network issue their special broadcast based on the opinions of this one local resident? Did they contact the school to find more about this Wacky Week event? It would seem a bit stupid to base your findings on only one source. Most of the news stories talked about one local resident calling the radio station about the event.

Jim Schneider, Network's program director:
"We believe it's the wrong message to send to elementary students. Our station is one that promotes traditional family values. It concerns us when a school district strikes at the heart and core of the Biblical values. To promote this to elementary-school students is a great error."

Vic Eliason, VP and Exec Director of VCY America:
"If it was some kind of silly party, a birthday or fun, this is not an issue. We're not against kids having fun. But one of the things that has happened of late is the issue of gender and transgenderism, and these are deeply held issues within the family."

Being that only one side of the story was aired over the radio network, calls complaining about the event flooded the school and the Reedsburg School District office.

I would expect most of the calls were pretty much accusing the school trying to promote alternative lifestyles, that it was alright for boys and girls to pretend like girls and boys respectively, and other unethical things.

Shari Miller, Student Senate Advisor:
"We didn't think about it like that, the kids didn't think about it like that. And therefore, that's why we went with it. We never thought that anything would come about like this."

Principal Tammy Hayes:
"We did not mean to offend anybody by accepting the children's idea here and the children certainly did not mean any ill will by choosing this day."

The principal noted that no one had raised any objections beforehand. She said a flier detailing Wacky Week had been sent home with children the prior week, and an announcement was also included in teacher newsletters.

Of course, they did not ask the Christian Youth America group. Maybe there should be a CYA censor at the school to make sure Christian valued themes are taught over there. Yes, we do not want to have corruptive, adult-style themes that would damage the children. Could we please exercise some common sense?

Honestly, imagine if it were medieval times, the school would be razed and the heretics burned at the stake.

It sounds to me that if a school wants to hold an event, they have to literally ask everyone living in the district including residents that do not have any children.

I can help write the form....

"Dear Resident,

Despite the fact that you do not have a student going to Pineview Elementary School, we just wanted to let you know that we are holding a Opposite Sex Event where males and females will undergo surgery and become members of the opposite sex. If you have any objection, please contact the Reedsburg School District office. Thank you."

Anyhow, the school district wanted to stop the complaints, so they decided that Wacky Week will still continue, but Opposite Gender Day would not be on the list for students to choose.

Link

Possible photo doctoring by China on Tibetan riots

Link

The post shows a photo where a dressed up Tibetan brandishing a knife is shown with other protestors. It is later revealed that this so-called "Tibetan" was a Chinese policeman.

Of course, after his identity was revealed, Chinese media sites cropped out his figure from the photo.

Lawmakers choose to love pork

It's 2008, an election year. We are likely in a recession. Some lawmakers want to get re-elected.

That means, it's time to file their "pork" projects, earmarks, projects designed to waste your taxpayers' dollars.

Sure, Clinton, Obama, McCain, and Paul have denounced earmarks, but the rest of Congress are not following suit.

After the Senate did a thumbs down on a ban of legislative earmarks in next year's budget, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi surrendered as well by shelving the idea of a one-year moratorium.

Of course, lawmakers insist that earmarks means jobs back in their home districts. As long it is sensible and justified.... of course we have seen examples of pet projects that border on the insane and idiotic.

News Link

Russian players at Blackjack

In addition, I do have to rant on one thing that happened this past weekend. I took a few friends down to Atlantic City and we had a good time. I did pretty well at the blackjack tables and just before heading back home, I was at one table where everyone was doing great. Over half of the table decided to take their winnings and leave, and three russian players (all brothers) took the seats.

Then they decided to screw the usual rules and make lousy decisions. On most cases they follow the "book." In other cases, they started to make dumb choices and screw the rest of the table. In the end, I lost half of my winnings. They berated one player for splitting two 6's against a dealer showing a 2. Of course, if you have a 12 against a dealer showing a 2, you can choose to hit or stay. Some players would adopt a policy of staying or hitting on a 12 if a dealer is showing a 2. But if you have a split-combination, then you should split against a 2. The russians weren't happy, and they were being obnoxious and strong-headed.

I finally decided it was time to go when one of them decided to stay on 14 with the dealer showing a Queen. Of course, if he had hit, the next card was a 4 giving him an 18. The dealer would have later busted if he took that card. Instead, the dealer won against everyone except me (I had a higher number). If he took the card, then the dealer would have busted, so everyone would have won.

I think in the best interests of everyone playing blackjack, never have more than one russian playing at the table. If you have more than one, they're a dangerous factor.

Craigslist hoax is a concern for all

Some folks may believe that anything posted on the internet could be true. If you look at a blog site, note the contents and you would have to decide if the article or posting is true or false. Some entries would be backed up with research or links citing such facts. Sometimes, it could be just word-of-mouth.

This incident should not be treated lightly.

Someone posted an ad on Craigslist telling folks that a Southern Oregon man's property was up for grabs stating that the owner was forced to leave the area suddenly and his belongings were free for the taking.

However, the ad was a hoax.

Unfortunately, some people thought it was true. They took the man's work ladders, his lawn mower, weed eater, his porch swing, and others. When the owner got home, there were 30 people going through his barn and front porch. Most of them were armed with the Craigslist printout. Because of it, they told the owner they had a right to his stuff. Ridiculous...

Of course, when it was finally confirmed that it was indeed a hoax, some folks did return his stuff, but he is still missing some of his belongings.

This is very dangerous especially after other incidents where party events advertised on Craigslist without the owner's knowledge have resulted in hundreds of people crashing parties and causing property damage. Other similar postings have resulted in the owner's house being ransacked.

Ron Paul Rally in Washington, D.C. - April 15th

There will be a mass rally in Washington, D.C. on the west lawn of the Capitol building.

April 15, 2008 @ 11AM

Guest speakers include Ron & Carol Paul

Link

A bit overzealous? TSA Screener Opens Teen's Sterile Equipment

Link

A sick teenager said an over-zealous security screener at Orlando International Airport put his life in danger. After Channel 9 started making calls, the TSA opened an investigation into the matter.

James Hoyne, 14, has a feeding tube in his stomach and carries a back-up in a sealed clear plastic bag. Hoyne said two weeks ago a TSA officer insisted on opening the sterile equipment, contaminating his back-up feeding up tube which he later needed.

"I said 'Please don't open it' and she said 'I have to open it whether you like it or not. If I can't open it, I can't let you on the plane,'" Hoyne said of his conversation with the TSA screener.

TSA officials apologized to James and said they're looking into the incident to see what corrective steps need to be taken.

Could war break out in South America?

Did the foreign policy analysts at the intelligence agencies miss this one?

Could it be just a bunch of leaders making a temper tantrum at each other or could war break out between Ecuador and Venezuela, and Colombia?

And will the United States intervene?

Another low for the dollar, oil hits high

The Euro (EUR) rose to another record, $1.5274 in early New York trading.

The dollar also fell to its lowest level in three years against the yen.

Oil prices marched past $103 a barrel today.

AAA reports average price of a gallon of gasoline at $3.165.

Diesel prices hit another new record of $3.674 a gallon.

Builders are building less, the government reported. Manufacturers are cutting back.

Another interest rate cut will not help this economy.

The nation's unemployment rate is expected to bump up to 5 percent.

The economy grew 0.6 percent for Q4 2007.

Economists believe Q1 2008 will be a 0.4 percent uptick, but most folks really doubt that.

Link

* * * * *

We may see $4 per gallon in the summer.

We may see the Euro hit $2.

We will see inflation skyrocket in the later months. Core price index be damned. Labor Dept says food prices went up 0.7 percent in January, but could they be underestimating it?

We are entering a recession. We cannot continue to delay the inevitable. Let it come, let us weather the storm, and let the business cycle work the market. The Fed has failed.

Scientology taking hits online

LA Times Link

All they want is your money and your loyalty. Keep the criticisms going and tell folks the truth.

Chicago has the highest sales tax

Early Saturday, Cook County Board President Todd Stroger struck a deal with board members, who approved a 1 percent increase in the sales tax - driving Chicago's overall sales tax to double digits at 10.25 percent, easily among the highest of any big city. And it will be enacted just in time for the Christmas shopping season.

Link

So if folks are looking for something cheaper, Indiana's sales tax is 6%. Iowa ranges from 5-7%, Missouri is 4.225%, Wisconsin is 5.0-5.5%.

"Anonymous" protests against Scientology

Link

Protests in Boston, New York, Toronto, the U.K., Australia, and a dozen other locations.

Rock on!

Iceland complains about treatment of tourist

Iceland's government has asked the U.S. ambassador to explain the treatment of an Icelandic tourist who says she was held in shackles before being deported from the United States.

Erla Osk Arnardottir Lillendahl was arrested when she arrived at JFK airport in New York because she had overstayed a U.S. visa more than 10 years earlier.

She contended she was interrogated at JFK airport for two days, during which she was not allowed to call relatives. She said she was denied food and drink for part of the time, and was photographed and fingerprinted.

On Monday, Lillendahl claimed, her hands and feet were chained and she was moved to a prison in New Jersey, where she was kept in a cell, interrogated further and denied access to a phone.

Link

* * * * * *

Overzealous security personnel? Did she have terrorist links? Conspiracy against the government? Nah, she overstayed her visa 10 years ago....10 years!!!

It's immigration's fault for not even stopping her when she left 10 years ago.

Were they that bored? If they catch an actual terrorist at immigration, they can use the dogs, their tasers, and some mace/pepper spray, and a few kicks to the head.

Thumbs Down: Fox News - Ron Paul


So Ron Paul appeared on Fox & Friends today, and it was so disappointing. The woman was kinda playing dumb asking Ron Paul about his fundraising record and he was still lagging in the single digits. Then she comes up with this questioning: I will give you a topic or issue, and you give me one word to describe it.

One word???

How can you give a one-word response on immigration? On war on terror? On Iraq? You bloody can't!

It was a waste of time for Ron Paul to appear on that show. Perhaps they can find a better interviewer next time.

After a train beating, a bus beating

Link (Baltimore Examiner)

This reminds me of the youth problem in the UK. Of course, the newsies refer them as "yobs," they are become quite an annoyance to public safety.

In this case, a bunch of middle school kids beat up a woman on a Baltimore city bus. What did she do to provoke them? She sat down.

Sarah Kreager, 26, was attacked by nine students -- three females and six males -- from Robert Poole Middle School. She sustained "serious injuries" which included two broken bones in her left eye socket.

All nine suspects, ages 14 and 15, were arrested and charged with aggravated assault. Their bus tickets -- provided by the school -- have been revoked.

Was it race-motivated? The attackers were black. The victim is white.

There were no racist remarks or comments made. Apparently, the kids refused to let the lady sit on the bus.

Tell Massachusetts not to get involved with your family

Link

Lawmakers on Beacon Hill are set to consider a proposed ban on spanking children in the commonwealth. State Rep. Jay Kaufman filed the spanking ban petition at the request of an Arlington, Mass., nurse who wants Massachusetts to become the first state in the country to stop corporal punishment.

If it becomes law, any parents caught hitting their children who are under the age of 18 could be charged with abuse or neglect.

* * * * * *

While the intention is good, the government should not control the way you should raise your family. If a child deserves to be punished, some tolerable form of physical punishment is needed. Sending a child to his or her room, or being grounded are not absolute solutions. If your child was misbehaving in the store or mall, a simple no would not suffice.

The nanny police would probably have to arrest every parent in the mall who are trying to control their kids during this holiday season.

A waste of taxpayers' expense.

The $54 Million Dollar Pants: Judge finally loses his job

Roy L. Pearson, Jr., the infamous law judge who filed a $54 million lawsuit against the Chungs on a pair of pants has finally lost his job.

The judicial committee from the Office of Administrative Hearings, hand-delivered a seven-page letter to Pearson directing him to leave his office at the end of the day.

Of course, the panel said that the lawsuit did not play a substantial role in their decision to not re-appoint him. Instead, the committee reviewed Pearson's judicial decisions and audiotapes of proceedings over which he had presided and found he did not demonstrate "appropriate judgment and judicial temperament," according to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Pearson was also criticizied for displaying a "combative" nature with supervisors and colleagues and for failing to comply with policies in drafting opinions.

Anybody want to take a bet if Pearson sues the city for losing his job?

Link

Cleveland: Sub-Prime Capital of the United States

Investors and markets are in fear that banks could have around $1 TRILLION in toxic debt or so-called sub-prime debt.

BBC News shows Cleveland, Ohio, as the sub-prime capital of the United States. One in ten homes in the city is now vacant, and whole neighborhoods have been blighted by foreclosed, vandalized, nd boarded-up homes.

Cleveland is thought to be facing a rising crime wave, and the cost of demolishing the vacant houses alone will cost the city $100 million of its tax base.

Jim Rokakis, the County Treasurer for Cleveland's Cuyahoga County:
"Wall Street strategies that made the cycle of no-money-down, no-questions-asked lending possible have sucked the life out of my city".

subprime_lenders_in_cleveland.gif

Sub-prime mortgages carry a much higher risk of default by the borrower than other kinds of mortgage lending.

That is because most of them are "balloon" mortgages (technically known as hybrid-adjustable rate mortgages, or ARMs), which offer the borrower a fixed-rate loan for two or three years, and then switch to a much higher adjustable rate after that.

Many of them are set to switch in the next two years, leaving borrowers unable to afford the higher payments.

Claudia Coulton, co-director of the Centre for Urban Poverty at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, over 10,000 families - one in eight of all owner occupiers in Cleveland - will face eviction this year - and the number is expected to rise.

She says the crisis is threatening to "overwhelm the government agencies and community organisations that address the problem".

* * * * *

Link


NJ voters: constitutional amendment on idiot/insane person

It is actually funny that this phrase is still in our state constitution for so many years.

It reads:

Shall the amendment of Article II, Section I, paragraph 6 of
the Constitution, agreed to by the Legislature, revising the
current constitutional language concerning denial of the right
to vote by deleting the phrase “idiot or insane person” and
providing instead that a “person who has been adjudicated
by a court of competent jurisdiction to lack the capacity to
understand the act of voting”
shall not enjoy the right of
suffrage, be adopted?

Just imagine...you can find a bigshot lawyer who can argue that half of the voting population could be considered idiots because they are just mindless zombies voting for their elected leaders because the political party told them to. =)

Christian Monitor: Media Myths about the Jena 6

The Christian Monitor posts an article by a local Jena journalist on the Jena 6. This journalist has been there from the very beginning and presents a different story than what the media is showing.

Perhaps our Jena 6 activists can read the actual truth and know that thanks to our lazy media and opportunistic black leaders, this whole thing has been blown out of proportion.

Myths include:

1) There was no "Whites-Only" tree.

2) The nooses on the tree was a white-on-white prank.

3) The schoolyard attack and the nooses are not related.

4) The all-white jury happened because several black residents that were summoned did not appear.

* * * * *

From the Jena Times:

The so-called "schoolyard fight" between the Jena 6 and Justin Barker. Witnesses stated that several black students, including those now known as the Jena 6, barricaded an exit to the school's gym as they lay in wait for Barker to exit.

When Barker tried to leave through another exit, court testimony indicates, he was hit from behind by Mychal Bell. Multiple witnesses confirmed that Barker was immediately knocked unconscious and lay on the floor defenseless as several other black students joined together to kick and stomp him, with most of the blows striking his head.

* * * * *

It is true racial injustice must be stopped, but to protray these guys as the victims instead of the attackers is ridiculous.

For all the activists and protestors, where are you getting your information? How do you know if it is the exact truth?

You call those that doubt it as racist or ignorant.

How about doing some research? How about questioning the questioners?

The noose was a political creation. In reality, it was a prank by three white students aimed at their fellow white friends, members of the school rodeo team.

Did you get your passport?

JANUARY 31, 2008
U.S. and Canadian citizens will need to present either a WHTI-compliant document, or a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, plus proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate. DHS also proposes to begin alternative procedures for U.S. and Canadian children at that time.

SUMMER 2008
At a later date, to be determined, the departments will implement the full requirements of the land and sea phase of WHTI. The proposed rules require most U.S. citizens entering the United States at sea or land ports of entry to have either a U.S. passport; a U.S. passport card; a trusted traveler card such as NEXUS, FAST, or SENTRI; a valid Merchant Mariner Document (MMD) when traveling in conjunction with official maritime business; or a valid U.S. Military identification card when traveling on official orders.

The implementation date will be determined based on a number of factors, including the progress of actions undertaken by the Department of Homeland Security to implement the WHTI requirements and the availability of WHTI compliant documents on both sides of the border. DHS and DOS expect the date of full WHTI implementation to be in the summer of 2008. The precise implementation date will be formally announced with at least 60 days notice.

Washington Post calls Ron Paul, the Howard Dean of '08

ron_paul_collage.jpg

Link

In terms of online popularity, Ron Paul wins by a landslide.

More Facebook supporters than Rudy Giuliani

More MySpace friends than Mitt Romney

More viewed YouTube videos than Romney, Giuliani, and McCain combined

And still the most frequently searched terms on the Technorati, which offers a real-time snapshot of the blogosphere.

Is the Pledge of Allegiance that bad?

pledge_of_allegiance.gifAbout 50 Boulder High School students walked out of class Thursday to protest the daily reading of the Pledge of Allegiance and recited their own version, omitting "one nation, under God."

They also say the daily reading of the pledge over the school public address system at the start of the second class takes away from education time and is ignored or mocked by some students.

As a result, the protesting students, members of the Student Worker Club have offered their own pledge:

First the original pledge:
"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

The Alternative Pledge:
"I pledge allegiance to the flag and my constitutional rights with which it comes. And to the diversity, in which our nation stands, one nation, part of 1 planet, with liberty, freedom, choice and justice for all."

* * * * *

The law in Colorado about the Pledge states that it must be made available for recitation during school hours. Before this year, the high school had the Pledge recited in the auditorium and could be optionally attended by any student who felt so inclined. This year, the school moved the pledge to the beginning of second period.

The Student Worker Club argues that the new policy imposes the Pledge on students who are opposed to recitation, disagree with the phrase "Under God," or would simply rather be studying. Student Worker is also worried that the Pledge will be trivialized in the eyes of those who do wish to recite it by the vast majority of students who simply ignore the recitation and remain seated.

Student Worker’s goal was to move the pledge from being broadcasted over the intercom during second period to an optional recitation in the auditorium during lunch hours, not the removal of the phrase “under god” or recitation of the pledge itself completely.

* * * * *

I am a bit miffed that the students chose to not mention "United States of America" in their alternative pledge. That is of course the country we are pledging allegiance to. Relegating to just "nation" seems to make it a bit shallow.

Back in middle school, we had homeroom first so everyone stands and recites the pledge as it is broadcasted over the loudspeaker and the aide takes attendance, and that's it. In high school, the pledge is recited at the beginning of first period class. It only takes about 2 minutes or so.

I doubt that these two minutes could be spent on studying. We are not doing some sort of elaborate ceremony here.

You are being asked to respect the flag, and if anyone feels they are slighted by the "Under God" phrase, they can just sit during the recitation and that's it.

Hopefully our national anthem won't get taken apart in the same fashion.

* * * * *

Side note: It seems that only in New York, Yankee or Shea Stadium, we do a "God Bless America" song before the "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" song during the half of the 7th inning. Mind you that we take the song seriously because of what has happened to the city back on 9/11. The folks in the stands really do get angry if fellow fans do not take off their caps or talking during the song.


Cities, Towns find new sources of revenue for red-light cameras

Red-light-camera.jpgHouston, Texas local station KPRC 2 reports that the city is now expanding their red-light camera to include illegal left and right turns, and drivers who do not come to a complete stop before making a turn.

All through September police only issued warnings for those caught on the new cameras, but soon that will change.

"Oct. 1 we will start sending out notice of violations at all the locations, including those illegal left and right turns," said Sgt. Edward Robinson.

There are a total of 70 cameras watching drivers.

Red-light runners and those who fail to come to a complete stop before making a turn at a red light can expect a $75 ticket in the mail.

* * * * *

Yes, we are all for car safety at the intersection but could this get too picky? Instead of safety, it will all be about a town or city trying to milk more money from its drivers. First you get illegal turns, then not making a full and complete stop, then you could get a fine for going 1-2 mph over the speed limit, or you lights were not on while using the wipers, or you did not signal in time.

It's really about the money, not automobile safety.

SF Resolution to Ban Blue Angels Fails

San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly and his peacenik allies have been trying to get rid of anything military in the city. Their latest attempt has been the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels. He has been trying to ban them from performing their aerial acrobatics over the city during Fleet Week.

His arguments have centered on safety, citing a fatal air accident with the Blue Angels in April in a small rural town in South Carolina where eight people on the ground were injured. He believes that having a fighter pilot exhibition over a densely populated area like San Francisco poses an unwarranted risk to life and property.

Unfortunately for him, the Board of Supervisors voted down his resolution yesterday afternoon.

Blue Angels 1, Chris Daly 0

Bush asks for $200 billion for the war for 2008

President Bush plans to ask lawmakers next week to approve another spending measure -- totaling nearly $200 billion -- to fund the war through next year.

U.S. war costs have continued to grow because of the additional combat forces sent to Iraq this year and because of efforts to quickly ramp up production of new technology, such as mine-resistant trucks designed to protect troops from roadside bombs. The new trucks can cost three to six times as much as an armored Humvee.

The funding request means that war costs are projected to grow even as the number of deployed combat troops begins a gradual decline starting in December. Spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is to rise from $173 billion this year to about $195 billion in fiscal 2008, which begins Oct. 1.

The new spending request is likely to push the cumulative cost of the war in Iraq alone through 2008 past the $600-billion mark -- more than the Korean War and nearly as much as the Vietnam War, based on estimates by government budget officials.

* * * * *

If Bush feels that continuing the war is important in Iraq, then how about proposing a tax to fund the war? It is so easy for the President because he thinks the federal government can continue to spend and spend without regard to our fiscal responsibility. I am sure they all love deficit spending.

Also, how dare for the Bush administration to not include the $200 billion as part of their annual federal budget? They do not count this line-item as part of their deficit forecast. How convenient!


New York State gives drivers' license to illegals

Update 9/29/07:
This has to be one of my more lively posts so far this year.

The Republicans in the NY State Assembly have issued Gov. Eliot Spitzer an ultimatum: Rescind an executive order that allows illegal aliens to get driver's licenses or face a lawsuit. Spitzer has until Oct. 31 to withdraw his proposal.

The critics contend the measure violates state law and promotes terrorism. Spitzer argued that the new order will lower insurance rates, train better drivers, and boost security by creating records on illegal aliens.

Meanwhile, New York Secretary of State Lorraine Cortes-Vazquez has announced that she fully supports the Governor's order. Funny for the newspaper to say she is latino. Isn't true that the media always emphasize the minority affiliation for any state and local office holder?

Cortes-Vazquez says it's all about fair play and public safety, who spoke to the Latino Democratic Committee of Orange County.

"By licensing individuals, one, we are also making sure that everybody on the road is insured, so that if you are engaged in an accident, you know that somebody is insured; it's a public safety issue. We will save you $120 million a year as a result of just having more people driving who are insured."

It's not just the GOP by the way. The 9/11 Families are against it. The New York Times did a report on New York's DMV offices that are supervised by county clerks and found that more than 80% of them oppose Spitzer's license plan and will RESIST processing applications that don't include proof of legal residence.

Mayor Bloomberg said, "I'm really skeptical that we should be issuing driver's licenses willy-nilly because it then leads to lots of other problems." To which Spitzer responded, "He is wrong at every level - dead wrong, factually wrong, legally wrong, morally wrong, ethically wrong."

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said, "I understand the fear of 9/11 and I agree security is essential, but our nation is an immigrant nation ... and to deny law-abiding immigrant New Yorkers licenses ... is to give into that fear."

Chris Bentley, a spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Services, said yesterday that the federal government "would prefer that individuals that don't have status don't have legitimate identification documents. But at the same time, the states have the right to produce those."

New York becomes the 9th state to offer licenses to illegal immigrants: Others are Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.

Folks, if you look at the fine print in Spitzer's executive order, he is allowing illegal immigrants that have a valid and verifiable foreign passport to get a driver's license.

Now how many of the 500,000 to 1 million illegal immigrants living in New York have that? Not a huge percentage, I guess.

Proponents believe that it will reduce insurance costs. Yet, insurers will likely charge illegal immigrants more because of their status and risk of accident. For public safety, I do hope that when they go to take their exam and road test, they will do their best to drive safely and be responsible on the road. However, if an illegal carrying a valid license does get into an accident, then the penalties are much more harsher. Then you have to go into the nitty-gritty stuff if the accident was a fender-bender or an accident that has a fatality.

But this victory could be short-lived. It won't help with border crossings because the Dept. of Homeland Security will require federal passports to be used at the beginning of 2008 to travel by land and air. The REAL ID enhanced license program where states can use their license in subsitute of a passport will not help either. Then New York residents, both legal and illegal, won't be allowed to use their driver's license to travel or enter any government building.

Would any one believe that Gov. Spitzer's actions are illegal? Could a governor choose to take such action without approval by the state legislature?

* * * * *

Governor Eliot Spitzer decided to lift the citizenship requirement for driver's licenses because they cannot ignore the illegals.

"We're changing our policy with respect to getting more people out of shadows and into the system so people don't hide they're here," Spitzer said.

He said the current restrictions on non-citizens have filled the roads with unlicensed drivers five times more likely to get into accidents.

Under the new policy, the Department of Motor Vehicles will accept foreign passports and birth certificates from immigrants as proof of identification. They will no longer need to provide a Social Security card.

* * * * *

Does the Governor really think that giving illegals the right to have a NYS driver's license would really help them? They are still more likely to carry a fake or invalid license. They are still more likely to cause a vehicle accident because they do not know the rules of the road. They are still more likely to flee from the scene of an accident.

Why?

Despite Spitzer's reasoning that it would cut down the number of unlicensed drivers, it would actually give law enforcement agents an easier time to check out the driver's record and determine whether the person has the proper documentation to stay in the state and country.

Actually, this new executive order is pretty much short-lived. If the Federal REAL ID Act is not repealed, it would institute a federal standard on drivers' documents nationwide which will require the use of the SSN.

How about auto insurance? Since they are considered high-risk, any insurance company that wants to do business with them would usually charge higher premiums.

So basically, we are still screwed either way.

Editorials
News Blaze - Against
NY Daily News - For
New York Post - Against

The $54 Million Dollars Pants Suit: Where are the Chungs now?

Despite their initial victory in the $54 million pants lawsuit (Pearson is appealing the decision), the Chungs' store, Custom Cleaners, has gone out of business. The emotion and financial burdens took their toll, and the family is down to one store, Happy Cleaners on Seventh Street NW, across from the Washington Convention Center in Shaw.

The Chungs are still bewildered that one vindictive customer could cause so much trouble for their business.

Unfortunately, it's not over yet. Pearson is appealing the verdict, but fortunately, the Chungs' attorney, Christopher Manning, has stated that his firm will handle the appeal without charge.

Washington Post

Iranian President Ahmadinejad plans to visit Ground Zero despite NYPD rejection

WABC is reporting that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad intends to visit Ground Zero on Monday at 10AM despite NYPD's rejection of his request to visit the site.

Iran's president and his entourage will be accompanied by a Secret Service protective detail, a detail provided to all heads of state when they visit the U.S.

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani released the following statement on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:

"Under no circumstances should the NYPD or any other American authority assist President Ahmadinejad in visiting Ground Zero. This is a man who has made threats against America and Israel, is harboring bin Laden's son and other al-Qaeda leaders, is shipping arms to Iraqi insurgents and is pursuing the development of nuclear weapons. Assisting Ahmadinejad in touring Ground Zero - hallowed ground for all Americans - is outrageous."

Senator Hillary Clinton released the following statement:

"It is unacceptable for Iranian President Ahmadinejad, who refuses to renounce and end his own country's support of terrorism, to visit the site of the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil in our nation's history."

The 9/11 Families: Shove your wreath, Ahamdinejad!

Friviolous Lawsuits

Here are some examples of lawyers gone "greedy:"

  • Jin and Soo Chung, owners of Custom Cleaners in Washington, DC, were sued by Roy Pearson, a lawyer and sitting judge, for $67 million (later reduced to $54 million) over a pair of allegedly lost pants. These small business owners had to close one of their three stores as a result of their two-plus years of battle. They won the case; Pearson is appealing.
  • A man in West Virginia is suing McDonald's for $10 million over a drive-thru order mistake. He's allergic to cheese and mistakenly got a cheeseburger. He didn't bother to check the burger before he bit into it. His mother is also suing for reckless endangerment for having to drive him to the hospital.
  • A woman in Michigan is suing the makers of Starburst candies because they don't warn consumers about the dangers of the candies being "too chewy." Her lawyer just wants to make sure others avoid this danger.
  • A New Jersey man is suing Starbucks because his tea was too hot and the Starbucks employee didn't put the lid on right. His wife is also suing for losses due to his injury.
  • Three Kentucky lawyers were ordered to repay $64 million they kept from their 440 clients in a diet drug class action case. Two of the lawyers took some of the money and bought a stake in Curlin, the Kentucky Derby race horse and winner of the Preakness. They continue to seek delays in the case. This month the judge threw them in jail until the trial in January, saying: "In my opinion, not only these three gentlemen are on trial, the whole legal profession is on trial in this case."
  • Wealthy plaintiffs' attorney John O'Quinn of Texas was ordered to repay nearly $36 million to a group of 3,000 women he had represented in a breast implant case nearly eight years ago. Many of the women reportedly have seen little or none of the average $12,000 per woman settlement.

    As for Roy Pearson, he continues to pursue his insane lawsuit against the Chungs. In mid-August, he filed an appeal against Judge Judith Bartnoff's decision. The appeals process will take about 3-4 months. There is a chance the D.C. Court of Appeals will affirm Bartnoff's ruling, but if not, then it will be another 12 to 18 months before this case is decided.

    Jin and Soo Chung, owners of Custom Cleaners, "continue to be baffled by Mr. Pearson's actions," says their lawyer, Christopher C.S. Manning. They had dropped their motion to recover legal fees as an "olive branch" in the hopes of ending what they have called "a nightmare." Manning says they are very "disheartened" by the process and are even considering closing their business "just to be rid of the memory of this case." Manning said that with his appeal, Pearson has chosen "desperate irrationality over common sense."

    Pearson continues to say that he is fighting for all consumers, but it would seem that very few people believe that excuse. Since he wants to continue this stupid lawsuit, the commission that oversees administrative law judges in D.C. has sent him a letter expressing doubts about reappointment. His original 2-year term expired in April. You can bet he will lodge a lawsuit against the commission for not letting him stay as a D.C. judge.

    He is making a mockery of the judicial process. He is hurting the reputation of all D.C. administrative judges. I hope the appeals court will end this madness and affirm the initial ruling. Then I hope the Commission boot his ass out of another judgeship. He does not deserve it.

    Alan Greenspan criticizes Bush's Overspending

    It took Bush 7 years to finally put his foot down, and tell Congress to stop overspending.

    "The Republicans in Congress lost their way," Greenspan wrote. "They swapped principle for power. They ended up with neither. They deserved to lose."

    Greenspan, 81, ran the Fed for 18 1/2 years and was the second-longest serving chief. He served under four presidents, starting with his initial nomination by Ronald Reagan.

    The ex-Fed chief writes that he regrets the loss of fiscal discipline under Bush.

    "`Deficits don't matter,' to my chagrin, became part of Republicans' rhetoric."

    As such, Bush's administration defended their tax cuts, but how can they justify with so much government overspending?

    Waiting for his book...

    Link

    Taiwanese march for UN bid

    taiwan_march_un.jpg

    At least 100,000 people have marched in Taiwan in support of a government plan to hold a referendum on joining the UN under the name Taiwan.

    With China holding veto (as with the rest of the permanent members on the UN Security Council), Taiwan's bid will fail this year.

    The march was in the city of Kaohsiung, the powerbase for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). While some feel the government is causing unnecessary problems with China, at least the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party favours a referendum, but the argument they have is that want the country listed as Republic of China, not Taiwan.

    As such, both China and the US are against Taiwan holding a public referendum.

    The Taiwanese government plans to time the referendum with their presidential elections next March.

    I would expect a high level of alert in China, US, Taiwan, and Japan during that month.

    BBC News

    Pro / Anti-War groups converge in Washington DC

    The ANSWER coalition are getting together about 10AM Saturday along the north side of the White House, in Lafayette Square. Their rally will be from noon to 1:30PM. Demonstrators will march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol, where the die-in ist to take place.

    The Gathering of Eagles and the DC chapter of the conservative group Free Republic plan to rally at 9:30AM on the Mall at Seventh Street NW and later line Pennsylvania Avenue NW between Seventh and 10th streets.

    It's going to be quite a party there tomorrow.

    Save a woman from a carjacking, get fired

    Remember the advertisements about doing a good deed on 9/11. Well, it seemed Juan Canales was in the right place at the right time to save a woman from a carjacker in the parking lot outside the Fort Lauderdale restaurant where he worked as a waiter.

    Canales tackled the culprit and kept the man pinned down until police arrived on the scene. He was then questioned by police and reporters.

    Unfortunately, when he returned back to the restaurant, the manager fired him on the spot, much to the dismay of his co-workers and restaurant goers.

    "He told me you're dismissed, you're fired," Canales said. "And I looked him and I said, 'Are you serious?' (He said) go get out of here, you're fired."

    "Did he give you a specific reason why?" the reporter asked.

    "No, he did not," Canales said.

    According to reports, the manager of the 84 Thai Food restaurant did not like the attention the rescue was bringing to his establishment. He even stated that Canales was not a good employee.

    But because of his good deed, he got job offers from area business owners including two electrical companies and a roofing firm. Even the manager of the Thai restaurant apologized and wanted to give his old job back.

    84 Thai Food Manager Sathaporn Yosagrai said "I feel sorry about all of this."

    However, Canales has no plans to return to his former workplace, "He hurt me too much."

    * * * * *

    Is there some sort of fear about helping others in need? Somehow I was thinking the manager thought that by stopping the carjacking, his restaurant will get all the attention, and someone out there may want to carry out a crime against his place. It's kinda stupid.

    Even if the waiter was not a very good worker, it's seriously a bad time to fire him right after he saved a woman's life. Talk about really bad publicity.

    Link 1
    Link 2

    Vietnam Veterans Memorial Vandalised?

    Update 9/18/07:
    U.S. Park Police has concluded that the oily substance found splashed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was the result of vandalism. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund has offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.

    Since Monday, there are still dark blotches along a stone curb at the base of the wall for much of its length. At least 14 of its 140 inscribed panels appeared to be stained. Park Service and preservation crews expect it would take a week or more to remove the stains.

    Update: Pictures posed by free republic

    (rephrase)
    So who is getting desperate, or perhaps some really stupid people doing a really dumb thing? Were the anti-war groups responsible? Anarchist groups being anti-American as usual? Peaceniks who hate the military? Or maybe it was all just your everyday vandal?

    Are the anti-war, nah, anti-American, nah, cowardly person? anti-military? teen vandalism? ... groups getting desperate?

    Or an "accident?"

    The National Park Service is investigating an oily substance that was found along the paving stones and the bottom of some of the panels. The material was reported to US Park Police on Friday evening.

    Cleaning crews over the weekend worked to remove the substance and are currently trying to analyze what it is. Initial conclusions believe it was an oil/petroleum-based substance. Seems that some of the soldiers' names have been corroded by the mixture.

    The black granite wall, dedicated in 1982, bears the names of more than 58,000 men and women who were killed or went missing during the Vietnam War.

    Link

    As of 9/14, they still do not know who did it. Of course, the blogosphere are speculating who could be the villians.

    No mention of the defacing on some of the anti-war sites. Ominiously, ANSWER has a section where there is Veterans for Peace E-Bulletin from Adam Kokesh, saying "Protesting is not enough. Come for the rally, stay for a week of direct action." Now, no direct link from this to the memorial, but separately, it sounds that he wants more than a non-violent demonstration.

    High School Bans American Flag

    Yesterday, on 9/11, the mailroom staff in our company distributed American flags to everyone. Was this offensive to other nationalities? We all knew what happened on that horrible day and we are just showing the spirit and pride of being great citizens of this country.

    So are the actions by this high school unreasonable or justified? The story tells of Hobbton High School in North Carolina implementing a new school rule where students are not allowed to wear items with flags from any country, including the United States. This rule was brought about when there were complaints about students wearing shirts bearing flags of other countries.

    Now, the reason why it became news was 9/11. Apparently, some students wanted to wear the American flag to show their spirit on that day, but educators did not let them. They were afraid of being forced to pick and choose which flags should be permissible.

    * * * * *

    People ought to stop complaining about students wearing this flag or that. If a student feels uncomfortable with other students wearing the American flag, then I think we need to find out why. It would seem ridculous for the high school to adopt this policy especially during the Fourth of July or Memorial Day. How can you stop people from expressing their patriotism?

    PETA's theory on global warming, it's the meat!

    Has someone over there at PETA headquarters been smoking up? It would seem that the animal rights group and others believe that meat is causing global warming.

    al_gore_chicken.jpgYes, that's right. By using United Nations research showing the meat industry is worse for the environment than driving and flying, they are organising a campaign against Mr. Environmentalist, former American Vice-President Al Gore.

    When he delivers a lecture on global warming in Denver next month, protestors will display billboards showing a cartoom image of Mr. Gore eating a drumstick and the message: "Too chicken to go vegetarian? Meat is the No 1 cause of global warming."

    PETA spokesperson Matt Prescott:
    "For Al Gore, the fact that his diet is a leading contributor to global warming is a highly inconvenient truth - pun intended."

    These groups are unhappy because Al did not highlight the impact of meat-eating in his movie, An Inconvenient Truth.

    The recent UN Food and Agriculture Organisation research report showed that animal agriculture generates 18 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions - more than the 13.5 per cent produced by all forms of transport combined.

    * * * * * * * * * *

    First, they want less driving, so we try to buy better fuel-efficient vehicles and use mass transit. Second, they want less flying. I doubt you can really do anything unless there are new aircraft that are more efficient, faster, and produce less pollution. Plus how can you compare with flying to London from New York in about 6-7 hours versus several days by cruise ship? Now, they want us to go veggie.

    If this keeps up, we'll get animal protestors going nuts outside of major steakhouse chains and eateries. Of course, it would be fun to watch cooks and owners use their kitchen cultery to chase them away.

    What else can we do? Resort to cannibalism? Any PETA members available? Kidding!! I kid, I kid!


    One gas station to avoid and others that try to scam motorists

    I know it's in Orlando, but hopefully the blogosphere can work to force this gas station out of business.

    The Landing Strip gas station is located on Semoran Boulevard, just north of Orlando International Airport.

    Motorists are fuming mad when they saw the $4.499 price for a gallon on the lcd display of the gas pump.

    The problem is that there are no signs displaying the prices at this particular gas station. The local news station WKMG asked station manager Bob Barnes how he can get away with charging the prices when other gas stations are offering $2.60 or $2.70 a gallon.

    His response: "Well, mainly it is volume. As you can see, the pumps are practically full. Everybody knows what the price is because they have to hit the little lever and they see the price above the lever. And that is how you get away with it."

    Is this illegal? Nope. According to the state, the high prices are not illegal. Businesses can charge whatever the market bears for gasoline, unless the governor has declared an emergency.

    Also, there is no state law requiring businesses to erect gas signs showing how much customers will pay.

    * * * * *

    Basically, the gas station owner is betting that when you drive up to the gas pump, lift the lever, and see the high price, you would still go ahead and fill the gas tank up, or perhaps partially, because it would be inconvenient to stop and drive to another gas station nearby.

    Since his station is next to the Hertz and Thrifty rental shops, and are the last pumps before the airport, I bet most customers are rental car users. They could be in a hurry to catch their flight, and they are willing to pay the outrageous price.

    Honestly, if any Ohio gas station tries to do the same thing, just pass the word, and boycott them.

    Not really the right coherent answer by Miss South Carolina Teen USA

    Lauren_Caitlin_Upton.jpgLauren Caitlin Upton represented Miss South Carolina Teen USA. She graduated with a 3.5 GPA from Lexington High School, and was a varsity athlete and student leader.

    She actually participated in pageants to help improve her communication skills.

    Unfortunately, that was not the case when host Mario Lopez asked a "thought-provoking final question" selected at random.

    The question was: "Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can't locate the United States on a world map. Why do you think that is?"

    Lauren Caitlin answered: "I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uh, some people out there in our nation don't have maps, and, uh, I believe that our education like such as in South Africa and, uh, the Iraq everywhere like, such as and I believe that they should, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., er, should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries, so we will be able to build up our future for our children."

    Mario Lopez couldn't stop her because of pageant rules, but I think he should have just to save her and the rest of the tv viewers.

    "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno joked, "People in South Carolina [are] filing out now."

    Fox News Channel's Andrew Levy sarcastically noted, "Whitney Houston says she no longer believe the children are our future."

    One person, Pete Garbacki, commented that "the only intelligent thing she did was to specify 'U.S. Americans.' Canadians and Mexicans are also 'Americans' technically. We are of the United States. That is actually an intelligent thing that many of your readers are too dense to understand."

    Caitlin said she "completely misunderstood" the geography question posed to her. "I didn't do anything wrong. I wasn't expecting [the question]. I lost my train of thought."

    Here's the video

    Talk Radio loves it!

    * * * * * *

    I wonder if they are going to start "dumbing" down next year's questions.

    Vatican takes to the skies, Ryanair delivers a cheapshot

    The Vatican launched the world's first airline for Catholic pilgrims. The inaugural flight travelled from Rome's Fiumicino airport for the shrine of Lourdes in France.

    They hope to serve approx 150,000 pilgrims a year on its chartered Boeing 737, run by Italy's Mistral Air.

    Ryanair, the cheapest low-fare, screw the customer airline in Europe decides to take a cheapshot at the Vatican.

    "Ryanair already performs miracles that even the Pope's boss can't rival, by delivering pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela for the heavenly price of 10 euros," in a statement released by the airline.

    It would be a miracle if you actually take care of the passengers for your mistakes.

    Creative or Annoying Advertising Schemes

    New York Times has two articles...

    1) Would you let your vehicle become an advertising spot for a couple of hundred dollars each month?

    2) Will airlines resort to covering overhead luggage covers and the backside of your tray table with lavish advertising?

    Monster.com hacked

    1.6 million entries possibly stolen

    Will people please use stronger login and passwords???

    China acknowledges Tiananmen Square Massacre...for 12 hours

    It would seem that the verification & censorship process over at the China Daily and People's Daily needs some fixing.

    According to East South West North blog, the online edition of China Daily on August 8 posted an article titled: "China invites the world to Olympics" on its website. Further down the article, it included a paragraph which reads "Security was tight around Tiananmen Square, where troops crushed pro-democracy demonstrations in 1989 with huge loss of life, as crowds gathered for the celebrations."

    It seems someone at China Daily copy and pasted the article from Reuters' Nick Mulvenney without checking the content.

    So it stayed that way for 12 hours before the censors caught wind of the "offending" sentence and removed it.

    The Hong Kong newspapers Apple Daily, Ming Pao, Sing Tao, etc. also had the same article with the Tiananmen Square sentence.

    Google's cached version

    China Daily "corrected" version

    * * * * * *

    Speaking of the Tiananmen Square, here's a video "The Tank Man"

    Jim Cramer goes a bit nuts on CNBC

    Real ID Program - States vs Federal

    Update 8/17/07:
    At this time, more than half the nation's legislatures have passed symbolic legislation denouncing the plan, and some have penned bills expressly forbidding compliance. The governors of Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Washington are refusing to comply. Six others have passed bills and/or resolutions expressing opposition, and 15 have similar bills pending.

    New Hampshire called the Real ID "contrary and repugnant" to the state and federal constitutions. A Colorado House resolution dismissed Real ID by expressing support for the war on terror but "not at the expense of essential civil rights and liberties of citizens of this country."

    Only four states have passed bills or resolutions expressing approval for the program, and 13 states have similar legislation pending of which some have it both applauding and opposing Real ID.

    A Real ID-verified card would be mandatory for all "federal purposes," which include boarding an airplane or walking into a federal building, nuclear facility or national park. Citizens in states that do not comply with the new rules would have to use passports for federal purposes.

    Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff alleges that there are presently 8,000 types of identification accepted to enter the United States.

    8,000? We can certainly cut down the use of non-photo id's and birth certificates.

    If the Real ID provision does not get repealed, all states would be required to issue new federal licenses, lasting no longer than 8 years, by May 11, 2008. So all 245 million license and state ID holders must visit their local DMV agency and apply for a Real ID by 2013. Applicants need to bring a photo ID, birth certificate, proof of SSN, proof of residence, and states have to maintain and protect massive databases housing the information.

    States are against it because it is an unfunded mandate expected to cost over $11 billion over 5 years. It is also a threat to privacy and also a major target for identity hackers. Some states believe it violates the 10th Amendment to the Constitution. The Constitution does not expressly let the federal government issue driver's licenses, so that power, they maintain, should be reserved for the states.

    A honest debate must be carried out on this national identifications scheme. It was not discussed or debated in a timely manner. It was attached as a "rider" to a 2005 emergency military spending and tsunami relief bill. Republicans, who were in power at the time, knew it would not survive as a standalone bill, and decided to add it to the relief bill.

    CNN.com - Federal ID plan raises privacy concerns

    Boston.com - A real bad ID law

    * * * * *

    real_id_pic.jpgBoth conservative and liberal groups applauded the failure of an amendment offered to the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill that would have authorized $300 million of federal funding for states to implement the Real ID driver's license program, which has been estimated by DHS to cost $23.1 billion.

    The amendment was killed when a motion to table it passed 49 to 45, after both the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senators Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Thad Cochran (R-MS), spoke against the funding proposal. This means that there will be no federal funds to implement Real ID.

    Quick background. The Real ID Act of 2005 basically creates a national identification card. Supporters believe such a measure would enhance national security, unmask potential terrorists, and guard against illegal immigrants. National ID cards have been in use in many countries including most European countries, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand. The United States as well as the United Kingdom are currently debating the merits of adopting such a card.

    Opponents believe it would place another burden of identification on the populace. It is a law imposing federal technological standards and verification procedures on state driver's licenses and identification cards, many of which are beyond the current capacity of the federal government. State DMV workers would also be state immigration officials, as they must verify the citizenship status of all those who want a Real ID-approved state driver's license or identification card.

    Why there was no debate before? Well you have to thank Congress for that. The Real ID Act was appended to a bill providing tsunami relief and military appropriations, so it passed with little debate and no hearings. People start to find out when the DHS issued draft regulations for the Real ID in March 2007. The legislation called for state compliance by May 2008.

    When it was first envisioned, it was supposed to cost $100 million. Instead, it estimated to cost more than $11 billion over 5 years according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Only $40 million was allocated for 2006. Of course, DHS gave a worse estimate of $23.1 billion over 10 years.

    There has been calls to repeal the Real ID Act. Seventeen state legislatures have passed laws rejecting the program. Seven of those states passed binding legislation refusing to implement it. The 17 states are Maine, New Hampshire, Illinois, Missouri, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Nevada, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Nebraska, South Carolina, Georgia, and Hawaii.

    Anti-Real ID legislation has been introduced in Alaska, Texas, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.

    Anti-Real ID legislation has made partial progress (passing one chamber) in Oregon, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico, Louisiana, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Vermont.

    Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, Kansas, and California have no legislation pending.

    The DHS is not quite happy with the states that have passed noncompliance legislation against the Real ID program. "I think residents of states that choose not to comply are going to be displeased with their leadership's decision when we get closer to full implementation," a DHS spokesman said. "They'll no longer be able do certain things that carriers of state-issued drivers licenses take for granted today."

    He noted that residents of states whose identification cards don't comply with the law will be prohibited from entry to airports and federal buildings. It could also block access to "certain critical infrastructure sites" such as a power plants or dams, he said.

    Final DHS regulations are expected around Labor Day. Initial compliance is May 2008, with full compliance by 2013.

    Electronic Privacy Information Center - National ID Cards and Real ID Act

    * * * * *

    Why do we need another level of bureaucratic nonsense? States would be forced to federally standardize their driver's licenses, restructure their computer databases, and create an extensive new document storage system. Real ID will become an "internal passport."

    Instead of 50 different types of systems for terrorists, hackers, and troublemakers to hack into, there will be only one system. Oh boy, I cannot wait to hear when the Real ID database gets hacked and everyone's information is now in the hands of the enemy.

    Never Too Young for Identity Theft

    New York Times reports on the woes of Gabriel Jimenez, 25, and a valid U.S. citizen. For almost half of his life, he has beeh sharing his identity with an illegal immigrant.

    His mother, Jeri Marks, discovered the problem when he was 11, after filing taxes for work he did as a child model. The I.R.S. informed her that someone had already filed their tax return for her son's social security number.

    After a few years, she requested her son's file with the I.R.S. and found an illegal who was using the number.

    At first, the illegal tried to bribe Ms. Marks by giving his tax refund in exchange for using the SSN. She refused. But it would seem the illegal kept on using it.

    In short, Gabriel was pretty much screwed. Over the years, he made some success with the I.R.S. and Social Security. Yet he still had problems. When he went to Northwestern University, he was denied phone service, gas and electricity, because he had already accounts. At 20, when he went to set up a bank account, he was denied because someone opened up an I.R.A. using his info. When he attempted to obtain auto insurance, he faced a similar roadblock.

    Today, he got most of his credit report cleaned up, but his rating is ruined. Now he can managed to rent an apartment with utilities, but if he wanted to purchase a home or vehicle, it would probably take months of paperwork and in the end, he may get the financing, but with a high interest rate.

    Check out the Identity Theft Resource Center on various types of theft and what victims should do when their identity is stolen.

    For those entering Case for their first year as well as upperclass students, you should get a copy of your credit report to ensure that your data is correct.

    Credit Card Nonsense for today

    In New York, Frank Van Buren, an accountant working in Manhattan uses an Exxon gas credit card for his business for 17 years. He called customer service because his card was near expiration, and he requested two new ones.

    Three weeks went by. Then a rather large-sized box arrived at his doorstep in Texas. Inside were 1,000 credit cards! ONE THOUSAND! Each card was identical with his name and account number.

    Van Buren called customer service and was told to destroy the cards. It took three hours to shred them.

    A week later, another large-sized box arrived.

    Behold! Another 1,000 credit cards! "How could you send me 2,000 cards by mistake?" Van Buren said he asked customer service.

    Exxon Mobil spokeswoman Paula Chen - "We don't know what happened."

    Citibank, who handles Exxon Mobil cards - "We certainly apologize to him for any inconvenience."

    One huge problem was that every credit card had no activation sticker, so it seems these cards were active right from the start. Quite dangerous.

    Then we go to Kyle Shoemaker, a 9-year old kid in Louisiana, who got two credit cards and an $18,000 line of credit.

    Powered by AOL Video

    Kyle never submitted a credit card app, so it is likely that someone may be impersonating his identity but fortunately the credit cards went to their address. Who knows if they went somewhere else, Kyle would see his credit history completely ruined.

    Creationist appointed as head of Texas School Board

    Texas Governor Rick Perry appointed Bryan resident Don McLeroy as chairman of the Texas State Board of Education.

    McLeroy has been on the board since 1998, representing nearly 30 counties from the Brazos Valley to the Oklahoma border. Locally, he represents Brazos, Grimes, Leon, Madison and Robertson counties.

    He has gained a reputation for being a "nonestablishment" member of the board, avoiding what he calls the "groupthink" of district administrators.

    McLeroy said as chairman he wants to raise standards in the Texas school systems.

    While most hope that he exercise leadership in this 15 member board, his religious ideology must not rise above the broad interests of Texas' 4.5 million public school students. His past history does give us a moment to be concerned.

    According to the Austin American-Statesman:

    In 2001, McLeroy and a majority of the board rejected the only Advanced Placement textbook for high school environmental science because its views on global warming and other events didn’t comport with the beliefs of the board majority. The book wasn’t factual and was anti-American and anti-Christian, the majority claimed. Meanwhile, dozens of colleges and universities were using the textbook, including Baylor University, the nation’s largest Baptist college.

    In 2003, McLeroy voted against approving biology textbooks that included a full-scale scientific account of evolutionary theory. The books were approved.

    McLeroy's elevation to chairman comes as the board begins a revision of science standards for public schools. That could prove embarrassing for Texas if McLeroy pushes for standards that push theology over science. If McLeroy wants to restore the board's credibility, he should promote standards — and textbooks — that educate, not preach.

    Are you ready for $100+ per barrel of oil?

    oildrum.jpg$100 per barrel of oil? It seems unheard of a few years back when oil analysts and consultants were looking at certain scenarios which could cause a "super spike" in the price of oil. Now the possibility of seeing a triple-digit price could happen in the next several months.

    Now this is not an attempt to generate fear or panic. It seem obvious that this was coming and if you had a general knowledge of our current oil demand and supply and the geopolitical scene, this scenario is bound to happen.

    Checking the latest crude price, September futures are at $74.90 in New York today.

    Additional disruptions of Nigerian or Iraqi supplies or a military strike against Iran can trigger the rise. Other factors include OPEC's decision on increasing production toward the end of the year; if demand remains unexpectedly high; refinery breakdowns and repairs; and chances of a hurricane hitting the Gulf oil region.

    OPEC won't meet until September and its members have not called for a gathering before that month.

    One surprise is that near-record fuel prices have failed to restrain global oil demand growth. Even though prices have doubled, but demand is still high. While gasoline pump prices are now averaging more than $3 a gallon across the U.S., it has not dented sales. The American Petroleum Institute reported a record 9.23 million barrels a day in the first half of this year.

    Robert Ebel, chairman of the energy program at the Center for Stategic and International Studies:
    "It appears that high prices are acceptable to the American consumer. People want the house with a yard and white-picket fence so they are moving further and further out of the cities. They have to just get up earlier and drive further."

    Will demand falter if gas prices increase up to $4 per gallon?

    Yet, other analysts believe $100 crude will not happen. An energy analyst at Citigroup believes that the prices do factor in a shortage or production gap.

    Another analyst suggests that prices will go higher if the chaos in Iraq continues to grow.

    * * * * *

    Obviously, oil prices will spike to $90-100 if the U.S. carries out military strikes in Iran or if the security situation in Iraq completely collapses. Even though there is high demand, OPEC is not in any rush. We must see if they will ramp up production in September because the effects won't start to happen until the end of the year. Another factor to take in account is the depreciation of the U.S. dollar. OPEC knows that increased production would reduce prices but with a falling dollar, the pricing is much lower.

    According to data from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), OPEC dollar deposits fell by $5.3 billion, while euro and yen-denominated deposits rose by $2.8 billion and $3.8 billion respectively. Russian placements of dollars went up by $5 billion, but most of their $16 billion additional deposits were denominated in euros. Percentage-wise for OPEC and Russia, dollar holdings decreased two per cent from 67 to 65 per cent in the second quarter. It may not seem that significant, but it could be considered a decreasing trend given the dollar's 20-month low against the euro, and a 26-year low against the sterling.

    We are also in hurricane season till the fall, so if we get a strong one hitting the Gulf coast direct where 20% of the refineries are located, we are in a world of hurt. Plus with the usual repairs and breakdowns.

    Related Link

    Bloomberg.com - $100 Oil Price May Be Months Away, Say CIBC, Goldman

    FT.com - Oil producers shun dollar

    Death of Zina Linnik: The Violent Immigrant & Failure of the System

    zina_linnik.jpgIt is with very sad news that 12-year-old Tacoma girl Zina Linnik was found dead today, ending a week-long search after her July 4 abduction that drew national attention. The body was found somewhere in Pierce County.

    Zina, one of eight children in her family, was abducted from an alley behind the family's home the night of July 4, police said.

    About 9:45 p.m. that night, her father, Mikhail Linnik, heard a scream, according to a police report. When he went to the alley, he saw an Asian man get into a gray van parked nearby and drive off, the report says.

    The investigation led officers to 42-year-old Terapon Dang Adhahn, who drove a gray van with recently-changed license plates registered to another car. State Department of Corrections records say Adhahn is an Asian-Pacific Islander.

    The surprise here is that Adhahn was just arrested Monday (July 9) on an unrelated immigration matter and was charged with failing to register as a sex offender. It seems that way back in 1990, he was charged with violently raping a 16-year-old relative. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of first-degree incest in exchange for completing 60 months of sexual-deviancy counseling.

    During an evaluation in August 1990, Adhahn told a therapist he'd been sexually molested countless times by an older brother when he was between the ages of 7 and 9 years old, according to court records. He also said his biological father was an abusive alcoholic.

    The therapist called Adhahn's personality profile "extremely problematic." But by the time Adhahn completed sex offender treatment in 1997, his counselor wrote that he had made adequate progress and was actively involved in weekly group therapy.

    But was the therapist correct in his analysis. Could it be that Adhahn was just pretending to be well again?

    But it would seem that he was a permanent resident [corrected] at the time. In fact, according to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Adhahn should have been deported to his home country after he served his 60 months sentence. Federal law mandates that all aliens convicted of felonies be deported to their home country.

    It is clear that he will be charged with the death of Zina Linnik. He provided information to police which led them to the girl's body. Also in his Tacoma home, police found girls underwear and other items, which they said are being tested.

    For most immigrants living around Tacoma, it's a betrayal of their code where you work hard, you get ahead, and you contribute.

    Michelle Malkin - Kidnapping and murder of Zina Linnik

    Sound Politics

    The second surprise part is that he's a registered voter, but he shouldn't be, right?

    Seattle Times - Police seek to tie other cases to girl's death

    Modesto Bee - Wash. case brings review of missing kids

    Instead of wine bars, a water bar?!?!

    I understand we have cases of Poland Spring, Dasani, Evian, Fiji water and paying up to a few dollars for them, but $55 on just one water bottle.

    But it's not Evian or Fiji, it's "Bling H2O." That's freakin ridiculous. Now we got a water bar set up in Chappaqua, NY (yes, the home of your infamous Clinton couple) called Via Genova.

    The owners are cashing in the bottled water mania by stocking bottles from far and away vendors. Owner Felicissimo has boasted to have close to 80 different types of waters.

    There are luxury water bottles from all over the world containing magnesium, calcium, and even potassium. One particular brand "10 thousand B.C." is a top seller at $30 per bottle. This brand comes from British Columbia, Canada. Supposedly the water source is a three-day journey by yacht.

    If you want to a true water connoisseur (if someone comes up to me and said that was his/her profession, I will show the person facts about millions of people with no access to drinking water), you have to keep your water out of sunlight (duh!), serve it at 55 degrees (how about ice cubes made out of Bling H2O so I can throw it at you), and nice is a big no-no (well up yours!).

    Felicissimo claims that within 5 years, everyone will be drinking bottled water. But a bottle costing $30 to $55 dollars??? I don't think so.

    Honestly, let's boycott this water bar. It's a ridiculous idea. It's not even a fancy drink or fine wine. It's water!!!

    Link

    The $54 Million Dollars Pants Saga Continues!!!

    Update 08/03/07:
    Washington Post reports that Roy Pearson will receive a letter that starts the process of putting him out of a job. City sources told of a marathon meeting of the commission that reviews the performance of administrative law judges (ALJs) ended last night with unanimous agreement to meet next Monday to finalize a letter that will state the panel's doubts about granting Pearson the 10-year reappointment that he has been seeking throughout the last months of his battle against Custom Cleaners and its owners, the Chung family.

    The chief ALJ, Tyrone Butler wanted to recommend Pearson's reappointment, but it would seem that Pearson decided to send a series of emails to all ALJ staff disparaging the chief judge, calling him "evil" and mean-spirited. This led to Butler switching his recommendation.

    Meanwhile, Mr. Friviolous Lawsuit is preparing an appeal of Judge Judith Bartnoff's rejection of his case against the Chungs.

    Fortunately, enough people and fundraising have helped contributed more than $92,000 to cover legal feeds the family incurred in their defense against the Pearson suit. But because of Pearson's appeal, it would mean further legal fees for the immigrant family.

    Pearson is making a mockery of our judicial system as well as causing harm and injury to a decent family trying to survive in this country.

    Roy_Pearson.jpgRoy Pearson refuses to let this die peacefully. The D.C. administrative judge who fought and lost a $54 million lawsuit against the Korean immigrants who own his neighborhood's dry cleaners chose the Fourth of July holiday to file a motion (via his attorney) arguing that D.C. Superior Court Judge Bartnoff failed to address Pearson's legal claims and asking the judge to reverse her verdict in the case.

    At the conclusion of the original case which was found in favor of the Chungs, they have been saddled with more than $100,000 in legal expenses.

    The Chungs' defense attorney, Christopher Manning, has beseeched Pearson to consider moving on. Unfortunately, Pearson stated that he will continue to fight in the best interests of all Washington residents. (Or is that long-speak for "in particular my own interests.)

    He is still doing this despite a CLEAR finding by Judge Bartnoff that his lawsuit against Custom Cleaners HAD NO MERIT!

    He is still doing this despite the fact that the Chungs have been wiped out financially.

    This two-year jihad against the Chungs must end.

    The Chungs found his wayward pants and tried to return them to Pearson. He continues to say that those pants are not his.

    Despite a settlement offer of $12,000 by the Chungs, Pearson wanted to still go to court.

    Of course, he changes his reasoning that the lawsuit was not about the pants, but the sign that promised "satisfaction guaranteed."

    Plus, to end this story, the panel that will determine whether Pearson is to be re-appointed for a full, 10-year term as an administrative judge has not issued their opinion. At Mayor Adrian Fenty's request, the panel put off consideration of Pearson's case until the mayor had a chance to fill a vacancy on the commission on the tenure of ALJ's. Now that Fenty has filled up the commission, the decision on re-appointment will be made pretty soon.

    Let's fervently hope that the commission decide NOT TO EXTEND Pearson's term as administrative judge.

    the_chungs.jpgPlease note that the Institute for Legal Reform and the American Tort Reform Association are co-hosting a fundraiser on Tuesday, July 24 in Washington, D.C. Click here for more information.

    Also, click here for the Custom Cleaners Defense Fund.

    This is one example why we need reform. This is one example to show that there are people out there willing to destroy the American dream for others. This is one example where people try to twist the law to fit their personal vendetta.

    I even believe that Pearson just wants to bankrupt the Chungs regardless.

    Washington Post: The $54 Million Pants Suit That Wouldn't Die

    Michelle Malkin: Support the dry cleaners!

    Update 7/14/07

    In more detail, Roy Pearson accused the judge Judith Bartnoff for committing a "fundamental legal error." He stated that she failed to address his legal claims. "The court effectively substituted a guarantee of satisfaction with 'reasonable' limits and preconditions for the unconditional and unambiguous guarantee of satisfaction the defendant-merchant chose to advertise for seven years," Pearson wrote.

    If Bartnoff rejects his appeal, he will take the matter to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

    So "Satisfaction Guaranteed" would mean unconditional, unlimited promise on his interpretation. Judge Bartnoff disagreed by saying that such a statement must be considered in the context of a 'reasonable' customer.

    I would agree such a thing would mean that if you are not happy with the transaction, you can demand to have your money back. Yet Pearson decides to employ his own calculation in determining the penalty which resulted in the $54 million dollars based on some sort of literal analysis of the D.C. consumer law in the books.

    At this point, it wouldn't matter since the Chungs are effectively bankrupt by this case, so Pearson wouldn't really see a cent. But he continues to justify this on principle not on the monetary amount, unless he believes that such a high financial amount would deter other dry cleaners from trying to rip off the same customers like him.

    Now, it is possible that there could be a District Judge that may side with Pearson if the reasoning is based on some sort of literal analysis of the current law. Then the Chungs would appeal forcing it to the Court of Appeals hoping that the verdict can be dismissed because it was unreasonable and that the law was used 'out-of-context.'

    The whole thing is pretty ridiculous. I just hope that the Court of Appeals can see past Pearson's friviolous lawsuit and back up Judge Bartnoff's call.

    Peaceniks trying to fly impeach banner at All-Star Game

    It would seem the Facebook group "The Nationwide Movement to Impeach Cheney and Bush" are trying to sponsor a banner to be flown over the All-Star Game at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

    Looks like Advertising Aerial will do the flight on short notice. Organizers were able to raise the $695 needed to hire the plane from 47 donations.

    The banner would fly over AT&T park while people arrived for the All-Star Game but because of the high-level event, it would have to land an hour before the first pitch.

    So any chance we can do some target practice? How many holes can we punch through that banner while it's flying over the stadium? =) At least we won't be distracted by that during the game itself. But who knows...a Code Pink protestor would go and streak across the field. I bet over half of the crowd would cheer when the streaker gets clobbered by one of the baseball players.

    Link

    NAACP Buries N-Word, but does it help?

    bury_nword.jpgOn Monday, the NAACP held a symbolic event to bury the use of the N-word during its annual convention. Delegates from across the country marched from downtown Detroit's Cobo Center to Hart Plaza. Two horses pulled a pine box adorned with a bouquet of fake black roses and a black ribbon printed with a derivation of the word.

    The coffin is to be placed at the Detroit Memorial Park Cemetery and will have a headstone.

    Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick:
    "Today we're not just burying the N-word, we're taking it out of our spirit. We gather burying all the things that go with the N-word. We have to bury the 'pimps' and the 'hos' that go with it. Die N-word, and we don't want to see you 'round here no more."

    But will rap stars and black comedians stop using it?

    Billboard's Hot Rap Tracks

    I guess T.I. and Lil Boosie did not get the NAACP memo.

    We should follow up on this in a few months and see if it takes hold. Plus it requires parents, adults, politicians, celebrities, singers, well, pretty much everyone to get rid of the N-word.

    Can you spend $12 billion a month?

    The government's credit card on the Afghan/Iraq War is adding up to $12 billion a month. The Congressional Research Service, which provides research and analysis to lawmakers, has calculated that Congress has allocated $610 billion in war-related money since 9/11/01. $450 billion of it has gone to Iraq.

    For the 2007 budget year, Pentagon is asking for $166 billion, a 40 percent increase over 2006.

    The $12 billion per month includes $10 billion for Iraq and almost $2 billion for Afghanistan. About two years ago, the monthly cost was about $8 billion.

    The $4 billion increase? To repair and replace worn out equipment.

    Yet, the military somehow calculated that only $5.6 billion would be spent through September. Someone must be using the wrong calculator or the abacus has a wrong number of beads.

    * * * * * * * * * * *

    The President promises to cut our federal deficit in half, and a balanced budget in another few years, but the national debt continues to grow, and as of 7/6/07, the national debt is at $8.875 trillion dollars.

    But know this, the President does not count the emergency spending bills for Afghanistan and Iraq as part of his annual budget, so his so-called plan for cutting the deficit in half and balancing the budget is all smoke and mirrors.

    How do conservatives feel about that? In times of war, we raise taxes or issue war bonds to finance the military operations. Why not do this today? We cannot keep spending without fail no matter what. How can you keep a war going and pretend nothing bad is happening? Yes, we got a strong economy, but there's a war going on too.

    Plus we may even have a war with Iran. You might as well draft everyone and declare war on the whole planet.

    So how many people can you fit into a SUV?

    I thought fitting in 15-16 people in a Dodge Ramcharger to get to Detroit from Cleveland was crazy enough. Of course it was somewhat humorous when we stopped at a gas station along the way back, and a police cruiser stopped by and asked about our crowded vehicle. "I am transporting some Mexicans," the driver said. The officer chuckled and drove off.

    But squeezing 21 people in a SUV?

    Not really that funny. The vehicle was transporting suspected illegal immigrants. It tried to flee police through two counties around San Antonio, Texas. Speeds reached 100 mph. It ended when it blew a tire and flipped.

    Of the 21 occupants, 14 were hurt, but three people died.

    The driver was arrested at the scene and will be charged with capital murder, which carries a possible death penalty under Texas law. The rest of the occupants did not have any valid documentation and were believed to have come from Mexico.

    Adam Carpenter's Incredible Car Chase in Ohio

    Carpenter deserves to stay in prison for a very long time. It is very unfortunate for such a young person (only 20 years old) to become a criminal. He was in jail before, and he violated his probation which would guarantee his return to prison to finish up his five years.

    He could not even handle living in Talbert House, a halfway house. He was written up too many times, so knowing he will be returned to prison, he escaped.

    Adam broke into a home in Warren County. He tied up two women when they came up and stole their SUV. An off-duty officer spotted the vehicle on I-71 near King's Island and the chase began.

    During the chase, dozens of car had to pull off, but several vehicles were hit or forced off the road causing damage and injury to the occupants. Fortunately, no one was killed.

    Of course, Adam said he "was trying [his] best not to hit nobody."

    The chase ended at the base of the Kenwood Towne Center. The SUV's tires were pretty much destroyed.

    Link

    Michael Moore Going to Iran.... NOT!

    It would seem that writer, producer, and director, Michael Moore, will be going to Iran for the screening of his new production SICKO in the first international documentary film festival held there. It is scheduled for the 15th to the 19th of October in Tehran.

    Any chance we can leave him there permanently?

    Link

    Update 7/3/07

    "Sicko" producer Meghan O'Hara gave a statement that Michael Moore's visit to Iran was false. "There is absolutely no truth to the "right wing" promoted rumor that Michael is going to Iran -- none, zero, zip."

    Hmm, but would it even be possible to consider that Michael Moore could do such a thing? I mean, I could expect him to show up in Cuba or Venezuela for some film festival just to piss off Bush.

    Philly Mayor Forced from iPhone Line

    So the Mayor of Philadelphia John F. Street was a technology enthusiast and he showed up outside an AT&T store at 3:30AM.

    Then a guy sporting a mohawk showed up and asked him, "How can you sit here with 200 murders in the city already?" Apparently, the city had its 200th slaying of the year.

    Street told the man: "I'm doing my job." Then he left. The time was 11:30AM. He did promised to return to his spot when the phone goes on sale at 6PM.

    His argument: "We don't have to be sitting in City Hall to be conducting city business."

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    I'm just curious. If you see your local legislator, or perhaps your federal representative or senator doing some shopping or standing in line for a movie, would you go to that person and questioned him/her for not doing the people's business? Who knows if that person could be on vacation, but would it be appropriate?

    Imagine if you saw Senator Brown shopping at Best Buy? Are you going to confront the senator about Iraq or taxes or gas prices?

    Should they be offered some moments of privacy, or is it a free for all?

    Article

    Ohio considering ban on tanning for under 18

    Lawmakers in Columbus are considering a bill that would prohibit anyone younger than 18 from using a commercial tanning bed without a doctor's perscription for UV treatments.

    Sponsor is State Representative Courtney Combs (R-Hamilton).

    Current law requires minors to have parental permission before using a tanning bed.

    Article

    Michael Moore Not Allowed into NYSE

    Moore: They’ll let me on the floor tomorrow?

    Bartiromo: We don’t have the permission…(stumbling)…to do that…

    Moore: Has anyone been denied with you as a guest?

    Bartiromo: Ummm, hey…let’s talk about health care a second….

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    First thing, know all the facts. Michael Moore knew he would not get into the NYSE. The proper paperwork for access to the Exchange was not filled out. Plus you are required to dress appropriately while being on the exchange floor (sport coat and tie). Moore had neither.

    CNBC made it clear later on the day.

    It was a publicity stunt designed to show everyone that big business (especially the health care companies) were trying to refuse access to Michael Moore.

    If you worked in the financial industry, access to the NYSE floor is strictly regulated and is usually limited to brokers and specialists. Plus if you have special connections to any companies that are having IPOs or certain bureaucrats.

    But come on... he just failed to fill out the paperwork and you cannot just show up at a moment's notice and demand entry to the Exchange floor.

    Bottled Water Mania

    bottledwater.jpgLast year, Americans spent $15 billion on this luxury item.

    No, it's not Apple iPods.

    Nope, it's not on movie tickets.

    It was on BOTTLED WATER!

    30 years ago, bottled water barely existed as a business. Today, we spent billions on Poland Spring, Fiji Water, Evian, Aquafina, and Dasani. This year, we are expected to spend $16 billion.

    It is quite a phenomenon. The previous generation was raised on tap water and water fountains and now we have today's folks and children drinking bottled water while looking at tap water with disdain, and water fountains with suspicion.

    We are also willing to pay bottled water instead of gas to run our vehicle.

    Come on here, it is true that bottled water is simply an indulgence that we take for granted. We're buying the convenience. We are told that bottled water is pretty much cleaner than tap water or that water fountain you see in the office. Yet, you can buy a filter for the tap water at home and still save money from buying a 36-bottle pack of Poland Spring. The United States, with Brazil, China, and Mexico have universally reliable tap water.

    (Of course, we are stuck with the impression that if you go to Mexico, never drink the tap water. I am still told to buy bottled water, plus you can only drink tap water at the 4-5 star resort hotels.)

    But while we take bottled water for granted, one out of six people on this planet have no dependable, safe drinking water. That's about 1 billion people who need water.

    For San Pellegrino water, the town of that name has a spigot that runs all the time, giving free water to the local citizens. But if you want the bubbles, you have to get it after the water is processed through the local bottling plant.

    For Fiji Water, while their factory spits out more than 1 million bottles a day, half the people in Fiji do not have safe, reliable drinking water.

    Is it a more healthy choice? We think it is. A 12-year-old kid buying a water bottle from a vending machine instead of a 16-oz Coke is definitely making a safer choice. Obviously. We are also told that within a decade, our consumption of bottled water is expected to surpass soda.

    The fascination with bottled water has led to an explosion of more water-related products. Aquafina, for example, has introduced flavored waters, enhanced waters, colored waters, water drinks branded after everything. Others now tote water with vitamins, water with immunity-type benefits, water to keep the skin younger, and water that gives you energy. It's getting a bit crazy, right?

    Remember I mentioned Pepsi's Aquafina and Coke's Dasani. They do not get their water from any spring or special lake. They get it from ordinary municipal water! You see, they put the water through an energy-intensive reverse-osmosis filtration process. They are essentially recleaning perfectly clean tap water, but with this process, they make sure that the water you are drinking basically tastes the same.

    Environmental-wise, we go through about 50 billion plastic water bottles but the recycling rate is only 23%, so about 38 billion bottles are filling up in our landfills.

    So has your impression changed after looking at that water bottle?

    Fastcompany.com - Message in a Bottle

    Lou Dobbs - Press Club Speech - 6/26/07

    Go to the Principal's Office for hugging

    Washington Post reports on Fairfax County's draconian rule on prohibiting physical contact at their middle schools and some elementary schools.

    Can't hold hands.

    Can't comfort one another.

    Can't celebrate together.

    Can't high-five each other.

    Can't do any handshakes.

    It's Flag Day

    flagtowers1.jpg

    June 14 - Today is Flag Day!

    Could World War 3 start just because of a handshake?

    There is an uproar in most of China over an event that has not yet been picked up by the mainstream media in the United States.

    Today, President George W. Bush was at the unveiling of a new memorial that remembers the tens of millions that were killed under communism. The memorial, a replica of the Tiananmen Square "Goddess of Democracy," was dedicated 20 years to the day since Bush's predecessor Ronald Reagan stood at the infamous barrier dividing Berlin and urged Moscow to "tear down this wall."

    The bronze memorial near the Capitol building is modeled on the papier-mache statue raised by pro-democracy demonstrators on Beijing's Tiananmen Square before they were brutally suppressed by Chinese paramilitary forces in June 1989.

    At this memorial, the President somehow shook hands with Joseph Wu, the Taiwanese representative to the US. This has infuriated the Chinese communist government in Beijing believing that this handshake constitutes a warming in relations between the US and Taiwan.

    Government officials spoke of dire consequences during a press conference as China made clear its fury that Bush had even chosen to acknowledge Wu's visit. They have threatened to plan new war games and heighten military readiness in anticipation of any attempt by the US to defend Taiwan should a Chinese invasion occur, or simply if Taiwan declares its independence.

    In Taiwan, the media are concentrating on the handshake event. China has accused Taiwan of being part of a conspiracy to worsen relations and the current geopolitical landscape in the Taiwan Straits.

    Strange enough that no one in the mainstream media has picked up on this. We are too busy watching the Paris Hilton jail debacle, K-Fed impregnating his former girlfriend,

    China Threatens War Escalation Over Bush Handshake

    Also reported on Digg.com

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    It is obvious that China is bitching and whining about Bush meeting with a Taiwanese government representative. I am sure they will make a huge fuss and everything will calm down again. Bush will tell China through Rice or Cheney or some mid-level bureaucrat that it was just a chance meeting not an official recognition of Taiwan as an equal partner. It is all politics, but please understand that if you push China a bit too much, they will take action. If they do so, the United States must react swiftly. If we blink and do nothing, then our status as the world's lone superpower is at an end. China would know we are bluffing.

    I do wonder if Bush knew that China would not be happy if he met with Wu during the memorial dedication.

    Anyways, China still has 950-1000 short-range missiles pointed at Taiwan.

    The $67 Million...no wait the $54 million dollar pants

    Yes, it has gone to trial. The most friviolous lawsuit ever devised by Roy Pearson.

    Check Washington Post's live blogging on the trial.

    It's pretty amusing and interesting, and boring at the same time.

    CAIR representing the Muslim-American community, I think not

    The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) seems to have problems keeping their members. Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, membership has declined more than 90 percent.

    The Washington Times stated that the number of reported members has gone down from more than 29,000 in 2000 to less than 1,700 in 2006. This has contributed to a loss of their group's annual income. It was $732,765 in 2000 when yearly dues were $25. Last year, it was $58,750 from dues that were $35.

    So how do they still manage to keep their $3 million budget intact? Through about two dozen individual donors. Even though CAIR continues to hail their grass-roots support, it is hard to say whether these dozen unnamed donors have more pull over the organisation as a whole.

    Anyways, the overall decline threatens their argument that their organisation represents the nation's 7 million American Muslims.

    Recently, CAIR has been involved in questionable accusations of discrimination. They are also known to trump up hate crimes. They have sided with the imams when they were thrown off a Northwest Airlines flight for suspicious behavior. In response to the "Fort Dix Six" arrests, CAIR is playing the politically correct card asking the media to refrain from linking this case to the faith of Islam, and even asked mosques and Islamic institutions nationwide to report any incidents of anti-Muslim backlash.

    Could their actions have lead to a decline in its membership?

    San Fran wants to kick out the Blue Angels

    blue_angels.jpgThe continued anti-military mindset in San Francisco has now targeted the Blue Angels flight demonstration team. The peacenik groups of CodePink, Global Exchange and Veterans for Peace, and Chapter 69 are working with Board of Supervisor member Chris Daly to introduce a resolution calling for a permanent halt to the popular Fleet Week flyover.

    The U.S. Navy's Blue Angels have been providing this aerial show for San Francisco since 1981. They are scheduled to do their show as part of Fleet Week during October 4-9.

    Chris Daly calls the planes "dangerous and unnecessary." The Veterans for Peace is against it because the Blue Angels are pro-military and they would cause undue "noise pollution." They even called the event a safety risk, citing the April crash of a Blue Angels plane during an air show in Beaufort, S.C.

    According to Paul Cox, a Vietnam veteran and a members of the peace-loving Veterans for Peace, a slight miscalculation or mechanical failure can cause a plane to "go barreling into the Golden Gate Bridge or a high-rise."

    Edward Leonard, Chairman of the San Francisco Fleet Week Committee argued that the planes' maneuvers are approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and they are safe. He also stated that the more challenging maneuvers are conducted over the Bay waters and that "commerical airlines fly over [San Fran] all the time."

    The other peace-loving group CodePink has launched an online petition, signed by more than 500 "noise-challenged" people to date, calling on city leaders to end the flyovers for reasons of public safety, air pollution, and fuel waste.

    The groups may also considering suing in order to stop the air show.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Frankly, the military should just cancel Fleet Week outright and move it to a city that appreciates them. I am sure San Fran won't mind losing 1 million people and about $4 million that is usually pumped into the local economy when the fleet comes by.

    The Blue Angels have 35 air shows scheduled in 2007. Last year, more than 15 million people watched the fighter pilots.

    The anti-military groups' reasoning that the planes pose a safety risk is lame. They have been doing this air show since 1981. The chances of a crash is pretty much remote. What are the chances of a commerical jet crashing on landing or takeoff? I would equate those odds to the Blue Angels' air show. "Noise pollution," what noise pollution??? Tell that to the perp driving that SUV with the music blaring. Can't handle some planes flying by for a few days? Get frakking real. Obviously, they just want to kick out anything that is military.

    I am sure any other city would be happy to host San Fran's air show. They don't need it. They're the same folks that got rid of the JROTC program in the high schools, refused the Navy request to commission a warship in their city, and even rejected the berthing of the battleship U.S.S. Iowa in the San Fran harbor.

    Examiner - Daly backs move to ground Blue Angels show

    Taiwan loses another diplomatic ally

    taiwan_flag.jpgTaiwan's number of diplomatic allies went down a notch when Costa Rica announced it was switching its support to China after 63 years.

    Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian condemned China for wooing over Taipei's diplomatic ally and urged the Taiwanese people to unite in the fight for national sovereignty and dignity.

    Essentially, Taiwan was stabbed in the back when Costa Rica assured them that it was going to switch diplomatic ties.

    Of course, in a joint communique between Costa Rica Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, it stated that "The Costa Rican government recognizes that there is only one China in the world, and the government of the People's Republic of China is the sole legitimate government representing the whole China. Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory."

    I am quite sure afterwards, China gave them a huge cash package.

    It was a political decision since Costa Rica was seeking a non-permanent member seat on the UN Security Council and China would effectively veto its selection because of support for Taiwan.

    Taiwan now has 24 countries left: half of them in Latin America, and four in Central America. Analysts are worried that Costa Rica's departure would have a domino effect on Panama, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, and Belize.

    Link


    In Rememberance - The Massacre at Tiananmen Square - 06/04/1989

    tiananmen_tanks.jpg

    On June 4, 1989, hundreds of innocent civilians were shot dead by the Chinese army in a bloody suppression of a democratic protest in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

    Tanks rumbled through the streets of Beijing late on June 3rd as the army moved into the square from several directions.

    The event reminds us of the brutal tactics that the Communist regime will do to maintain control.

    BBC - On This Day - 1989: Massacre in Tiananmen Square

    WSJ - Tiananmen's Legacy

    Interview with Tao Jun, Student Leader of the Tiananmen Square Democratic Movement

    tiananmen_secured.jpg

    Reuters report that there was a heavy presence of paramiltary policemen around the Square today. The media in China have not reported anything. Discreetly, the government has put a number of activists and dissidents under house arrest or were warned to lay low over the past few days.

    In Hong Kong, the annual candlelight vigil is expected with tens of thousands in attendance. It is the only such commemoration on Chinese soil.

    The United States issued a frank warning to China that its hosting of the Olympics could be marred by its poor human rights record, most notably its failure to acknowledge the Tiananmen massacre.

    Cut the Power and I will die, so he cut the power

    If you are the company electrician arriving to a house that is behind on their payments and you see a woman on an electric oxygen pump that needs to power to stay alive, do you go ahead and cut the power, or defer to a supervisor or some person in charge to consider the situation.

    Obviously, common sense would dictate that you would call the company office and have the supervisor make the call.

    Instead, this Mercury Energy electrician chose to cut the power, even after the family showed him that the mother needed the electric oxygen pump to stay alive.

    For a bill that was $122 in arrears.

    Mercury Energy's general manager James Moulder stated that "we were simply unaware that loss of electricity to the household was putting a vulnerable customer at risk."

    Wait a minute here...didn't the technician that arrived on-site saw the electric oxygen pump? And after he cut the power, the woman had difficulty breathing, became faint, and then collapsed. She was pronounced dead within two hours.

    CNN

    The Honor Killing of Du'a Khalil Aswad

    dua_khalil_aswad.jpgIt sickens me that this medieval savagery continutes to take place. While our U.S. soldiers try to keep the peace in Baghdad and in other major cities, we depend on the Kurdistan government in northern Iraq to keep the peace and maintain a fledging democracy and to suppress the use of "honor killings."

    This act of barbism was committed by members of the Yazidi religion, a pre-Islamic, pre-Christian pagan faith.

    Du'a Khalil Aswad was a 17-year-old girl who fell in love with a Sunni Muslim boy. Yes, she fell in love with a person who was not of her religion. Her family was shamed by this. A sentence of death was passed on her after she did not return home one night.

    Miss Aswad took shelter in the house of a Yezidi tribal leader in Bashika, a predominantly Kurdish town near the northern capital of Mosul. A large crowd watched as eight or nine men stormed the house and dragged her into the street.

    For 30 minutes, she was beaten, kicked, and stoned at the hands of a lynch mob. Among these men were her uncle, brother, and cousin.

    She was killed when a large and heavy cinderblock was passed through the crowd, and one man forcefully dropped it on her head.

    The crowd of men cheered. As her lifeless body lay there on the ground, observers and participants took photos and video shots as some sort of memento.

    A local security force witnessed the incident but did nothing to stop it.

    Her boyfriend is now in hiding fearing for his life.

    It is known that honor killings have taken place, but this incident was so publicised. The sick bastards decide to take pictures and videos of her battered body and posted them on the internet.

    Of course, the Yazidis are now asking the Iraqi government for protection because of all the retailiation.

    "It is unacceptable because Yazidis, in addition to being a minority in Iraq, have been discriminated against for their beliefs and are forced to isolate themselves to stay alive," Hebert Yegorova, a spokesman for Yazidi Peace Association, said.

    "Whatever we worship doesn't affect the normal lives of Iraqis and as we respect their beliefs, we have to have ours respected too," Yegorova said. "We don't worship the devil but they are confusing terminologies and this is unfair."

    Honor killings are barbaric. Stonings are abhorrent. We will respect your beliefs, but we will not condone cold blooded murder. The men shown on the photos and video killing this girl ought to be hunted down.

    The Daily Mail has photos of the killing. Viewer discretion is advised. Another link.

    Amnesty International condemned the killing as abhorrent.

    Unfortunate general chosen as "war czar"

    lt_gen_doug_lute.jpgInterestingly enough, the army general does have a resemblance to the President. So it is unfortunate that Lt. General Douglas Lute, the Pentagon's director of operations and a former leader of U.S. military forces in the Middle East has been chosen as the new "war czar" for Iraq and Afghanistan.

    As the new "war czar," he would serve as an assistant to the president (how many does he have now?) and deputy national security adviser (oh..so two people...hmm, to get more than one opinion), and would also maintain his military status and rank as a three-star general (i thought major general would sound cooler than lieutenant).

    But wait Bush says he is not a "war czar" but a "full-time manager." How about "possible scapegoat if you screw this up" position?

    He still needs to be confirmed by the Senate.

    But honestly, his colleagues must have been telling him not to do it. A bit of political pressure? Bush is the President and Commander-in-Chief. I guess he needs someone to be the patsy.

    I truly hope General Lute can pull it off. If he does, maybe we'll make him President.

    CNN.com - Bush taps general to coordinate war efforts

    91-year old man being beaten up, bystanders stood by and did nothing

    The thief was trying to carjack an elderly man's vehicle and punched him 21 times. In the video, there were several bystanders. They did NOTHING to intervene.

    Circuit City Clerk should not be afraid of being a hero

    Imagine if you were working a counter handling video-to-DVD requests and you got a mini-cassette tape showing a group of bearded men wearing "fundamentalist attire" and shooting guns. For ninety minutes, you see them screaming "God is great!" as they practice their gunfire at a target range. Would you do something about it?

    The teenage clerk at the Circuit City store did not know what to do. He told his co-worker about it. He was afraid that he was discriminating someone or being "racist" about it. The clerk then talked to his manager before deciding to call 911.

    It set in motion a 16-month undercover investigation that led to the arrest and capture of six men trying to launch an attack on the military facility Fort Dix.

    After news broke that federal authorities arrested the six foreign-born Muslims, the teen clerk went into hiding -- not coming to work or going to school until the situation blew over.

    Do not be scared. You did what was right, and you acted on instinct. If CAIR screams about discrimination and racism, screw them.

    NY Post Article

    The Boston Pops Brawl

    bostonpops_fight.jpgWhen someone mentions a brawl, you picture maybe 10-15 people fighting it out. Such a thing can be seen at a baseball, basketball, soccer, or football game. But at a classical concert hall???

    During opening night for the Boston Pops Orchestra at Symphony Hall, a fistfight broke out in the balcony. Television cameras caught two men struggling in the balcony -- one with his shirt pulled off -- as several people stood around them.

    Both men were later escorted out.

    One of the men, Matthew Ellinger, says the trouble started when the man in front of him wouldn't stop talking during the concert. He says when he asked him to quiet down, the guy threatened to throw him off the balcony. Ellinger called an usher. Witnesses say the man then punched the victim in the face and grabbed him by the hair.

    MSNBC - Fight breaks out in audience of Boston Pops

    Another U.S. embarassment: most of $850 million in foreign aid for Katrina went nowhere

    Former presidential confidante Karen Hughes sends a cable msg from her State Department office to U.S. ambassadors worldwide.

    Titled "Echo-Chamber Message" -- a public relations term for talking points designed to be repeated again and again -- the Sept. 7, 2005, directive was unmistakable: Assure the scores of countries that had pledged or donated aid at the height of the disaster that their largesse had provided Americans "practical help and moral support" and "highlight the concrete benefits hurricane victims are receiving."

    However, most of the U.S. diplomats knew the truth. The government was actually turning down many allies' offers of manpower, supplies, and expertise worth untold millions of dollars. Over $854 million was offered in cash and in oil, but only $40 MILLION has been used so far.

    Most of aid went uncollected, including $400 million worth of oil. Some offers were withdrawn or redirected to the Red Cross. The rest have been delayed by red tape and bureaucratic limits on how it can be spent.

    Wow, so much "confidence" in our federal government to respond to a national disaster.

    One example included telling Italy that their shipments of medicine, gauze, and other medical supplies were spoiled.

    Greece offered to send two cruise ships to act as free hotels or hospitals, but U.S. rescinded the offer, and instead paid $249 million to use Carnival Cruise Lines vessels.

    Overall, the great and almighty powerful United States of America declined 54 of 77 recorded aid offers from three of its most strongest allies: Canada, Britain, and Israel.

    If this keeps up, I would expect an aid check about 3-4 years later, and who knows, my destroyed home would have been gone, moved somewhere else, and I will be sitting somewhere in Ohio, and suddenly, a postal carrier would drop off a letter with a government check dated 3-4 years ago. Ha Ha, not impressed at all.

    Article

    Speak out against REAL ID

    stoprealid.gif

    Over 40 organizations representing transpartisan, nonpartisan, privacy, consumer, civil liberty, civil rights, and immigrant organizations have joined to launch a national campaign to solicit public comments to stop the nation's first national ID system: REAL ID. (see list)

    The groups joining in the anti-REAL ID campaign are concerned about the increased threat of counterfeiting and identity theft, lack of security to protect against unauthorized access to the document's machine readable content, increased cost to taxpayers, diverting of state funds intended for homeland security, increased costs for obtaining a license or state issued ID card, and because the REAL ID would create a false belief that it is secure and unforgeable.

    Five states, Montana, Maine, Idaho, Arkansas, and Washington have prohibited cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security in implementing the national identification system.

    Take action! To make your voice heard, submit comments against this flawed identification scheme. The deadline is 5:00PM EST on May 8, 2007.

    Imagine all 50 states' identification cards as 50 keys. If hackers or terrorists hack into one of them, the other 49 are not affected. If all these states were combined into one federal database, this one key alone will make it more likely for hackers or terrorists to crack the security and have access to more than 240 million people's records.


    The $67 Million Dollar Pants

    After you read this, you probably would agree with Al Bundy's Nine Sacred Commandments: 3. It's okay to put all bad people in a giant meat grinder. 4. Lawyers: see rule three. I hope we can include arrogant judges for rule 4.

    ABCNEWS tells of a judge in Washington, D.C. filing a $67 million dollar civil lawsuit against a dry cleaning store for losing his pair of prized pants. Plaintiff Roy Pearson says he has endured "mental suffering, inconvenience and discomfort." He says he is unable to wear his favorite suit on his first day of work. He says he was lured in by the most insidious marketing toll in the dry cleaning industry arsenal: "Satisfaction Guaranteed."

    The defenders are Korean immigrants (legal by the way) Jin and Soo Chung and their son, who own Custom Cleaners and two other dry cleaning shops in the Fort Lincoln section of DC.

    How did this all started???

    In 2002, Pearson took a pair of pants to Custom Cleaners and they got lost. So Jin and Soo Chung gave him a $150 check for a new pair. Three years later, it happened again. This time it was his favorite gray trousers that he wanted to wear for his new job.

    So the judge demanded $1,150 for a new suit. Lawyers were hired and legal wrangling ensued. In the end, the Chungs offered Pearson $3,000 in compensation. Nope. $4,600. Nope. $12,000! Still nope.

    Instead, Pearson went to the lawbooks and citing the District of Columbia's consumer protection laws, he "claims" he's entitled to $1,500 per violation, PER DAY!

    So how did he come up with $67 million for damages and legal fees?

    $1,500 for each violation, each day during which the "Satisfaction Guaranteed" sign and another sign promising "Same Day Service" was up in the store - more than 1,200 days.

    Then he's multiplying each violation by three because he's suing Jin and Soo Chung and their son.

    He also wants $500,000 in emotional damages.

    Plus $542,500 in legal fees.

    And he wants $15,000 for 10 years' worth of weekend car rentals (for forcing him to drive to another dry cleaner store).

    Greedy Pearson even wanted to expand the case into a class action suit, but was denied by DC Civil Judge Neal Kravitz.

    Amusing enough, a week after Pearson dropped off the missing trousers in 2005, the Chungs found them, but Pearson denied it was his despite that the receipt and tag do match with each other.

    "I've been in the dry cleaning business for 14 years, but this has never ever happened before. If anything happened to our customers' clothing, we would always compensate them accordingly and fairly," Jin Chung said through a translator.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    It was strange enough that the lawsuit has not been thrown out yet, and who knows if this expensive civil lawsuit will be settled for much, much less. Was the point of the lawsuit to show that the customer service at the dry cleaners was not up to par? When Pearson lost his first pair of pants, he went to another dry cleaners. Three years later, he decides to try again and loses his favorite pants.

    So he places the fault of those three years on the hands of the Chungs. Mental suffering? How about being called an idiot for the rest of your life? Already, the town of Fort Lincoln is laughing about it. Pearson will be known as the judge with the multi-million dollar pants wannabe.

    Drop the lawsuit! It does not even score you any favors with the rest of the national spotlight regardless of your principles. I think the Chungs get the point. Settle the cost at $12,000 and go on your merry way.

    Suddenly, I feel the urge to do a 'Pearson'! Let me sue someone for $100 million for not un-wrinkling my favorite shirt.

    digg.com might face shutdown over HD-DVD key

    As suggested by gizmodo.com, the power of Web 2.0 is in full effect over at Digg, a social content web site where users can submit content, which gets read by other users. If your story rocks and receives enough Diggs, it is promoted to the front page for the million of visitors to see.

    digg.jpgThe riot started when one fellow Digg user posted the HD-DVD AACS Processing Key number, which would allow someone to crack the copy protection on an HD-DVD. Under the threat of legal action, Digg.com booted the user from their web site and removed the key.

    As a result, Digg users have protested in large numbers over the site's actions, accusing founder Kevin Rose for selling out or betraying the community. A number of people have pointed out that HD-DVD is a Digg sponsor, and have used that fact to level such charges at Kevin.

    Due to the hundreds of stories and thousands of comments that have been submitted, Kevin Rose has reversed his decision. According to his post, "You’d rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company. We hear you, and effective immediately we won’t delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be. If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying."

    The code has already surfaced on gizmodo.com and slashdot.org, and other social content web sites.

    Even if digg.com goes to web heaven, there is always another one and another.

    digg_snapshot.jpg

    Reaching the $500 Billion Mark - Iraq War

    If the latest Iraq & Afghanistan war funding bill gets passed, the war will have cost American taxpayers more than $500 BILLION DOLLARS.

    This estimate is more than 10 times more than the Bush administration anticipated before starting this war more than 4 years ago.

    If you add in the $78 billion in this "emergency" funding bill, plus another $116 billion for the next fiscal year in September, the total for Iraq will be about $564 BILLION DOLLARS.

    Robert Hormats, author of "The Price of Liberty":
    "If it's really vital, then whatever it costs, we should pay it. If it isn't, whatever we pay is too much."

    Former White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey becomes scapegoat
    He suggested a $200 billion estimate before the war even started. He got sacked soon after he made that prediction and was scorned by his administration colleagues.

    But still the cost of Iraq was less than our other major conflicts. In today's dollars, the cost of World War II was more than $5 trillion, Korea and Vietnam each cost about $650 billion.

    I would understand if this war was vital to our nation's security. Yet, could we be a bit more fiscally responsible with this conflict? Cutting taxes helps our economy, but you got domestic commitments plus the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, so we keep on borrowing. Perhaps we can handle over $9 trillion in debt, but when it passes $10 trillion, or $11 trillion, or $12 trillion? You got this plus the country's financial obligations to Social Security and Medicare. Would you like to say to our nation's seniors that we have to continue the war but looks like we have to cut your benefits down to food stamps? Maybe they can tolerate for a year or two, but what if it lasts a decade or even longer?

    It cannot be just business as usual. You cannot treat war as a routine expense of the federal budget. If taxes must be raised for the wars, it must be that way instead of borrowing more and more.

    So what if Bush succeeded? We accomplished the impossible in Iraq. Now Mr. President, we got about $12 trillion of national debt, how are we going to pay it off? But better yet, we got a federal deficit of a few hundred billion each year? It will take decades to cut our debts back to manageable levels, but who knows if peace would last that long. Are you willing to tell the American taxpayers that taxes need to be raised in order to help pay off this gigantic debt?

    China's success a mirage

    City Journal points out the facts that China desires to be suppressed and hopes that its economic prowess would negate any of its past failings and events that deserve publicity such as the Tiananmen Square massacre on June 4, 1989.

    Speaking of China-Taiwan, during yesterday's Yankees-Red Sox game, they did the Talkin Baseball segment between innings in which some of the players would pronunciate their country's version of baseball words such as "strikeout" or "home run."

    It was interesting that one of the players was Chinese, and he was definitely from Taiwan when they showed the Taiwanese flag in the upper left corner of the large-screen display. I didn't hear much of a protest or anything about it.

    First Imus, then Howie Mandel?

    howie_mandel.jpgIt would seem the politically correct activists are trying to use their newfound prowess to find new blood. Apparently, Z100 radio station has noted that some viewers are complaining about Howie Mandel, the host of the NBC show Deal or No Deal was being racist towards a female Greek-American contestant. He was saying she was a Greek princess and that the banker was "Zeus."

    Pretty stupid. From what I hear on the radio, it was not obtusely offensive.

    Also, it would seem one blogger thinks the twenty-six girls' skin color plays a part on whether or not the dollar amount in their suitcase would be low or high. It would seem according to his research, the dark-skinned girls held the high-dollar amounts, and the lighter-skinned girls held the lower dollar amounts.

    Come to think of it, where are all the women activists? They should be protesting the suitcase-carrying women component of the show.

    It's a bit different in the UK. The original version and still running have 26 friends and relatives of the contestant holding the money boxes. A bit more family-oriented.

    No more 'Assassin'

    A popular game on campuses nationwide called "Assassin" may no longer be suitable. After the massacre at Virginia Tech, campus police at various schools are raising concerns and warnings about the game.

    Already, police in Illinois and Pennslyvania have urged students to halt the games, which involve ambushing other players with sometimes realistic-looking toy guns or other objects.

    Assassin, according to police and players interviewed this week, is a game in which players have the goal of "killing" or eliminating other players while avoiding similar attacks on themselves. Typically each player is assigned a target, who can be attacked with a designated "weapon" during certain times of day or night, usually outside of classrooms or after school. When successful, the player receives a new target; the eliminated player is out of the game.

    No kissing

    gere_shetty.jpgIn most other countries, this would be considered a waste of time and money. An Indian court has ordered the arrest of Hollywood star Richard Gere for kissing Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty at an AIDS campaign event this month saying it was an obscene act committed in public.

    Gere's kisses has sparked protests by Hindu vigilante groups, who saw it as an outrage against her modesty and an affront to Indian culture.

    Penalty can be jail time for up to three months or fined or both for the crime if he is arrested.

    Come on, it was a harmless peck on the cheek. An affront to Indian culture? What an idiotic attempt.

    Lou Dobbs says it right

    "Each year, we accept 2 million immigrants legally. We give a million legal immigrants permanent residency every year. We bestow citizenship on 700,000 people a year and provide almost half a million work-related visas a year."

    Interesting that the mainstream media fails to mention this.

    Read Dobbs' latest editorial on immigration

    Shooting creates mis-directed anger and denial

    The Plain Dealer reports on the killing of a teen during an attempted robbery.

    Supposedly, resident Damon Wells shot and killed a 15-year-old kid named Arthur "Ace Boogie" Buford. Obviously, neither person knew each other, but it would seem Buford attempted to rob the house, and Wells shot him in self-defense.

    So far, the story has not placated other residents in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood. Somehow, they do not feel that it was done in self-defense.

    Let's see. Buford was carrying a gun, and he threatened Damon Wells. Of course, unknown to Buford, Wells also had a gun. Fearing for his life, he had to take the only action possible at that time. Who knows if Wells was unarmed, would Buford kill him?

    Teenagers who are friends of Buford are in denial. "[He] never did anything wrong," they say. Unfortunately, the kid was on probation for a robbery committed last August. It seems he wanted to revive his extracurricular hobby.

    I won't be surprised if the wanna-be rapper's family files a wrongful death lawsuit.

    Do we need guards for performance reviews?

    The NASA shooting could have been a result of an employee getting a bad performance review. It led to a supervisor being shot dead plus the employee comitting suicide. A female hostage that was taken suffered minor injuries.

    So in the case of a reactionary measure, will guards or armed officers be patrolling an agency building during performance reviews? How can we be sure if a fellow employee won't behave rationally if he or she receives a negative review? Really, if you are doing bad, then you should try to fix your mistakes. If you think your review was unjust, go up the chain and voice your feelings.

    It sounds like violence is the only thing to get your words across. But in the end, how can you get a positive review if you kill your boss?

    SF Mayor Newsom pledges sanctuary for illegals

    After presiding over a debacle with the Yale singers being beaten by grads from a prep school, he is now trying to score political points by promising to make San Francisco a sanctuary for illegal immigrants and will take steps to discourage federal authorities from conducting immigration checks.

    Obviously, the city cannot stop the feds from doing so, but he can tell the city employees not to cooperate in any immigration enforcement.

    If Newsom wants to give illegals safe harbor, then I think the city should be held responsible if any one of them is found responsible for killing a person in a hit & run, robbery, assault, and other crimes. It's a fair exchange.

    Monserrate - Scientology's new cheerleader

    New York City Councilman Hiram Monserrate of Queens has drafted an official proclamation to have yesterday (April 19) as L. Ron Hubbard Day in honor of the late science-fiction writer who invented Scientology.

    Article Link

    This was done ahead of a fundraiser for a controversial 9/11 detox program.

    Monserrate lauded the supposedly program "that can safely and effectively resolve the symptoms of toxic exposure." He also said the program worked for him.

    I guess that means he has been brainwashed by the Xenu aliens.

    Councilman Peter Vallone agrees: "Even though this program may help responders, it's really just a PR stunt meant to legitimize their cult in society's eyes."

    L. Ron Hubbard Day...what a waste.

    Rapper would let people die just to maintain his reputation

    Rapper Cam'ron tells 60 Minutes that he would not help police catch a criminal, even a serial killer, because it would hurt his business and his "street credibility."

    When interviewed by Anderson Cooper about a scenario where he's living next to a serial killer, Cam'ron would just move away, without calling in the police.

    Crimes committed against him would also fall in his "code of ethics." Even after being shot and wounded by gunman, he would still refuse to cooperate with police. Why? "Because...it would definitely hurt my business, and the way I was raised, I just don't do that."

    Excerpt of the Interview

    * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    So a person willing to let other innocent people die and refusing to offer assistance just makes him a less than deserving human being.

    What a set of wonderful values he's preaching to today's hip-hop culture.

    University of Rhode Island Student Senate Defies First Amendment

    FIRE is reporting that a committee of the University of Rhode Island (URI) Student Senate voted on Monday to derecognise the College Republicans student group.

    It would seem that the College Republicans hosted a $100 "white, heterosexual American males scholarship" to protest against race-based scholarships back in November 2006. In a meeting on February 19, the Student Senate's Student Organisations Advisory and Review Committee (SOARC) prohibited the group from disbursing the money. It also demanded a public apology because the "satirical" scholarship violated URI's anti-discrimination bylaws.

    The College Republicans appealed the decision, but the full Senate denied that appeal.

    On March 27, the Student Senate, in a memo to the group, ruled again that they must publish an apology and stated that they authority to force them to do so. That sanction was later reduced to an “explanation” to be published in the campus newspaper and a mandatory apology to be sent to all of the students who applied for the scholarship.

    College Republicans agreed to publish an explanation of its intentions but refused to publicly apologise. FIRE asked URI President Robert Carothers to intervene.

    In a letter dated April 6, President Carothers instructed the Student Senate to drop its unconstitutional demand for an apology because of the First Amendment.

    The SOARC committee ignored him and voted on April 16 to derecognise the College Republicans. The decision by the committee must be confirmed by the whole Student Senate on Wednesday, April 25.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    FIRE quotes:

    To URI President Robert Carothers
    “URI administrators have a legal duty to step in where the Student Senate has failed and to check its attempt to trample upon students’ most basic freedom of conscience.”

    “[b]y fulfilling this responsibility as a public official, you can teach the Senate leadership that they must respect the rights of URI students and help to instill in them an understanding of the full repercussions for repeatedly and recklessly defying the Constitution.”

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    It would seem that University President Carothers agrees with FIRE's argument. He told the Student Senate that its demand for an apology "does not meet consitutional standards as laid forth in the First Amendment," and directed that "you may not impose any sanctions on the College Republicans, or any other student group, that requires them to make public statements which are not their own."

    Will the URI Student Senate subvert free speech?

    Update 4/24/07

    Rhode Island ACLU defends College Republicans in a letter to the URI Student Senate

    URI Student Senate responds back to FIRE

    Rhode Island ACLU cites previous examples of other groups staging "discriminatory" events without consequence. Wisconisn chapter of NOW held a "Pay Equity Bake Sale." The Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance at SFSU also held a similar bake sale. Neither suffered any retailiation. The College Republicans at Roger Williams University at Roger Williams University held an affirmative action bake sale and protests occurred, and the student senate there was being asked to curtail their activities.

    Somehow I think the punishment does not fit the crime. I would believe that there are certain individuals in the URI Student Senate bent on political correctness and are loving it. I think they would not mind kicking the College Republicans out, not b/c of the whites-only scholarship, they just want to get rid of any "conservative" groups invading their liberal minds.

    Cho was declared mentally ill, but the state let him go!

    This gets better and better.

    A Virginia court found that Virginia Tech killer Seung-Hui Cho was "mentally ill" and dangerous. Then, the state let him go.

    In 2005, after a district court in Montgomery County ruled that Cho was either a danger to himself or to others -- the legal criteria to obtain a detention order -- he was evaluated by a state doctor and ordered to undergo outpatient care.

    The doctor found that Cho's "insight and judgment are normal" and that he was not taking any medications, according to documents obtained by ABC News.

    Did the University know about this?

    Simon Cowell Allegedly Rolls Eyes on Virginia Tech

    There is a sort of media frenzy involving Simon Cowell on American Idol last night. Apparently, Cowell was caught on camera rolling his eyes at comments made by contestant Chris Richardson about the Virginia Tech massacre.

    "My heart and prayers go out to Virginia Tech. I have a lot of friends over there. Be strong," Richardson, a Chesapeake, Virginia native, told the audience of the nation's top-rated TV show.

    A quick camera shot showed Cowell rolling his eyes and impatiently tapping his hand on the table.

    Video Link

    * * * * * * * * * * *

    Now according to the video, Simon was criticising Richardson's performance on his Rascal Flatts song "Mayburry." As they were exchanging comments, Richardson then went immediately into giving tribute to the Virginia Tech students. I suppose Simon felt he was trying to get out of the negative criticism.

    Was it just bad timing since Simon was not accepting Richardson's reasons for his performance? Why did Richardson decide to give his tribute? It looks like he wanted to do that just to deflect his bad performance.

    It would have been better if the whole cast and judges of the show got together and paid tribute and rememberance to the Virginia Tech victims.

    Or the contestant could have said "Since I am from Virginia, I would like to pay tribute..."

    St. Edwards University Evacuated; More

    Reported by KLBJ 590AM news station

    Officials at St. Edwards University evacute their campus today after finding a threatening note in a bathroom on campus. The University's Michelle Amador says classes are canceled all day and students will be allowed back on campus at 5 this afternoon. Amador says the University police are canvasing the campus to make sure it is safe.

    The University is located in south Austin, Texas.

    St. Edwards students hold vigil for shooting victims

    Also reported: The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga ordered three campus administration buildings to be evacuated in response to a telephone bomb threat. Nothing was found.

    At the University of Oklahoma, there was a report of a man carrying a suspicious object, but was later found to be a yoga mat.

    Virginia Tech campus shooting

    vt_memorial.jpgStudent Cho Seung-Hui, a 23-year old South Korean national and permanent U.S. resident was responsible for killing 33 students and faculty (including himself) on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Virginia. He was a senior majoring in English literature.

    The shooting began about 7:15 in the morning when Cho entered the fourth floor of West Ambler Johnston, a high-rise coed dormitory and killed two people. Reports suggest that he was quarrelling with his girlfriend, whom he believed had been seeing another man. (Correction: reports show that he did not have a girlfriend.) A resident assistant, Ryan Clark, was called to sort out the argument. Cho then produced a gun and shot them dead.

    The shooting event was not known by the rest of the campus until a mass e-mail was sent out at 9:26. The e-mail reads:

    "A shooting incident occurred at West Amber Johnston earlier this morning. Police are on the scene and are investigating. The university community is urged to be cautious and are asked to contact Virginia Tech police if you observe anything suspicious or with information on the case."

    Approximately 19 minutes later, Cho entered Norris Hall, the university's engineering building and began firing indiscriminately into the classrooms. A further e-mail was sent out warning students that a gunman was on the loose. It read:

    "A gunman is loose on campus. Stay in buildings until further notice. Stay away from all windows."

    After entering Norris Hall, Cho proceeded to chain the doors to prevent entry and escape. Then he went from classroom to classroom injuring and killing students and faculty. Another 30 people were killed and dozens injured from gunshot wounds or broken bones. The dead were found in at least four classrooms as well as a stairwell.

    shooterMap.jpg

    Cho took his own life by shooting himself in the head before police confronted him.

    He was carrying two handguns (Glock 9mm and .22 caliber) and several clips of ammo. Ballistics showed that one of the guns was used at both buildings.

    Twelve students remain hospitalised in stable condition on Tuesday, officials said.

    Photo of Cho Seung-Hui, the gunman

    cho_seung_hui.jpg

    How did he buy the guns?

    According to law enforcement officials, Cho bought his first gun, a Glock 9mm on March 13, and his second weapon, a .22 caliber handgun within the last week. Both guns were purchased in Virginia.

    Under Virginia law, state residents can only buy one handgun in any 30 day period, suggesting Cho bought his second weapon after April 13, or sometime over the weekend.

    4_16_07_banner.jpg

    Names of the victims (released by collegiatetimes.com as of today)

    Maxine Turner, Chemical Engineering student

    Henry Lee, Computer Engineering student

    Matt La Porte, University Studies student

    Jamie Bishop, Foreign Language lecturer

    G.V. Loganathan, Civil and Environmental Engineering professor

    Juan Ortiz, Civil Engineering student

    Jarrett Lane, Civil Engineering student

    Ryan Clark, Biology, English & Psychology student

    Leslie Sherman, History and International Studies

    Caitlin Hammaren, International Studies and French

    Liviu Librescu, Engineering Science & Mechanics professor

    Kevin Granata, Professor, Engineering Science & Mechanics

    Reema Samaha, student

    Emily Hilscher, Animal and Poultry Sciences, Equine Science (picture below)

    EmilyHilscher.jpg

    Photos of the victims are available on The Sun Online web site.

    Another detailed listing - BBC News

    CNN has a video that was shot by a student with a cellphone. He does not specifically have pictures of the shooter but you can hear the shots and chaos.

    Reuters - List of major shootings inside schools or universities

    Google News Wire

    Duke Lacrosse Case Collapsed: After

    NY Times report that even after the three Duke University lacrosse players were declared innocent by the North Carolina DA, their demonising continues.

    Newsweek gives the inside story to that infamous evening.

    They lynched Imus...who's next?

    Media Matters takes credit for Imus' downfall

    Beware of Media Matters for America, a liberal watchdog organisation bent on censoring and using misinformation to take down radio talkshow hosts, blogs that may be considered offensive, or basically anything that goes against their agenda.

    In Defense

    A small California radio station (KCAA-AM) in San Bernardino says it will run a "Best of Imus" series next week in defiance of the firing of radio host Don Imus after he made a "sexist" and "racist" joke on his nationally syndicated show.

    Did you remember?

    Imus' dismissal is not the only one. Bob Grant, a popular New York radio host, was put off the air for calling the African-American mayor at the time a "washroom attendant." And Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder lost his CBS job on NFL football pre-game telecasts by saying black athletes were superior to white athletes.

    Satellite radio, A place of refuge?

    What are the chances for Imus to appear on satellite radio, following in the footsteps of Howard Stern?

    Hypocritical words by Jesse Jackson

    Jackson called the firing “a victory for public decency. No one should use the public airwaves to transmit racial or sexual degradation."

    Sharpton too...

    Said Sharpton: “He says he wants to be forgiven. I hope he continues in that process. But we cannot afford a precedent established that the airways can commercialize and mainstream sexism and racism."

    US News rankings boycott

    How big will the revolt be?

    Dozens of schools have recently refused to fill out surveys used to calculate ranks, and efforts are now afoot for a collective boycott.

    College presidents plan 'U.S. News' rankings boycott

    BBC does not like hero stories

    johnson_beharry.jpgWhile we see suicide bombings, insurgent attacks on Iraqi, American, British, and other coalition forces, and ethnic violence, we would appreciate a bit of heroism.

    Among Britain's forces, a private named Johnson Beharry rescued an ambushed foot patrol, then in a second act, saved his vehicle's crew despite his own terrible injuries. These actions earned him the Victoria Cross, the highest recognition for valour "in the face of the enemy."

    For the British Broadcasting Corp (BBC), his story was deemed "too positive" about the Iraqi conflict. It cancelled the commission for a 90-minute drama about Britain's youngest surviving Victoria Cross hero because they were scared. Scared of what? They were scared of those that were opposed to the war in Iraq.

    Did you know what BBC wanted to do with the film? They wanted to do the drama, then get Private Beharry to denounce the war and ask for British withdrawal.

    Source close to the project: "The BBC has behaved in a cowardly fashion by pulling the plug on the project altogether. It began to have second thoughts last year as the war in Iraq deteriorated. It felt it couldn't show anything with a degree of positivity about the conflict."

    Now the project has taken the script to ITV.

    BBC admitted they pulled the project but refused to elaborate on the decision.


    I wonder if Al Sharpton would apologise

    (Added Nifong's apology statement)

    Look, I know we all do not like Imus. To be frank, I think less than
    25% even watch his show or even listen to it. I know Imus was on MSNBC but I never listened to any of his shows.

    After Sharpton, Jackson, and everyone has made Imus apologise profusely for his stupid comments, will we expect an apology on the Duke Lacrosse case?

    Let's go back to O'Reilly questioning Al Sharpton on the case back on April 18, 2006.

    O'Reilly: "Is this a racial issue?"

    Sharpton: " think that there are certainly a lot of racial factors. Whether it is directly in the case, we'll see, because some reports said that there was racial language used. But I think that when you look at the racial atmosphere, when you look at the fact that there again were the allegations of racial statements, when you look at a lot of people feeling that they have been treated differently, where this girl has basically had a character charged in the media, there is a lot of racism that's in the air. Having said that, I commend a lot of the blacks and whites who stood vigil and to come together in that community to stand up for this girl. So I think in the midst of this, there is some good."

    Then...

    SHARPTON: But I think that all of the facts that you have laid out the DA had — and I know this DA is probably not one that is crazy. He would not have proceeded if he did not feel that he could convict. So it tells me that all of what you said is either not true or he has convincing evidence that would certainly knock that out and no one is not letting him proceed. You know, a lot of those community leaders down there, pro and con, wanted a lot of people to come in. I know for a fact asked Jesse Jackson to come, we said we don't want to be (INAUDIBLE)...

    And...

    SHARPTON: First of all, they better be prepared to see if she is the only witness. You don't know what other people are going to testify. You don't know what other evidence they have. So let's not get ready to discredit the girl until we see the whole passage. That's what happened with Louima. We had more than Louima, so let's not assume just discrediting the girl will work this time.

    Ok, we have concluded that the victim was not credible and the amount of evidence or lack thereof showed that the charges of rape and kidnapping are not warranted against the defendants.

    The former prosecutor Nifong was in an election season, so you have to expect that there was a political angle to all of this. He knew that if he did not proceed with the case, he would have been criticised by civil rights advocates, women groups, and the NAACP.

    So after all of this, will we expect an apology from Sharpton and Jesse Jackson? How about the Group of 88, members of Duke faculty that sided against the players? Probably not.

    These three men deserved some sort of apology.

    Update 4/12/07

    Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong released a statement:

    "To the extent that I made judgments that ultimately proved to be incorrect, I apologize to the three students that were wrongly accused."

    Enough with Imus

    (CBS 2 has announced that CBS-owned radio station WFAN has fired Don Imus)

    imus_shockjock.jpgThe nationwide sensation with "shock jock" Don Imus and his producer keeps on going and going. From the major news networks to the hundreds of web sites, everyone is having a field day with this. Yet, should all of this be a total surprise?

    In the past, Imus has criticised and denigrated Jews, Catholics, overweight people, and other minorities. It is probably true he was a terrible talk show host, but why the sudden deluge? Was it just bad timing for him to utter the comments "nappyheaded ho" and "hardcore hos" when the Rutgers' women basketball team lost the NCAA Final?

    After a week of condemnations by Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, black activists, feminist groups, and presidential candidates, it was Rutgers' turn. The university president, Richard McCormick, said "Mr. Imus' comments were offensive to the Rutgers University community, as well as the entire nation. In this difficult time, we must make an increased commitment to tolerance, civility and equality," while the team coach, C. Vivian Stringer went even further stating that "It’s not about the Rutgers women’s basketball team. It’s about women. Are women hos? Think about that. Would you have wanted your daughter to have been called that?"

    Team captain Essence Carson stated it simply by saying, "At first we thought to let it slide, but when we read the transcript, we decided it was unacceptable." Rightly so!

    First, I applaud McCormick and Carson's comments. They have every right to respond back to Imus' regretful words.

    However, Coach Stringer's words suggest that Imus was also attacking women in general. Yet, is it not true that the word "hos" has been used by both whites and blacks (more frequent on the latter)? It would seem that the rest of us are warned that saying the "H-word" would make us insensitive and racist. Then she spends at least 30 minutes hyping it up. Was this hour-long conference really necessary? How much can you milk this up?

    But please, let's stop beating around the bush here.

    Let me say it again. How much can we keep this story going?????

    Already, CNN was busy contacting "past political guests" of MSNBC host Don Imus to inquire whether they would appear again on his show after those racist remarks. Does this mean that every federal, state, and local politician must voice their opinion on the "shock jock" just to avoid being labelled as "soft" on combating racism?

    The sponsors of Imus' program started leaving. On Tuesday, Staples and Miralus Healthcare dropped their sponsorship. Procter & Gamble said it would suspend its advertising altogether from MSNBC. Today, American Express will no longer advertise on Mr. Imus' show, but will continue to advertise on other MSNBC shows. General Motors followed in the same fashion.

    Protests against Imus are being planned today: one at City Hall, one at Rutgers-Newark campus, and Rutgers-New Brunswick campus.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    At the end of all of this, we have clearly concluded that Imus was stupid and dumb for uttering those distasteful remarks and should be disciplined, but it would seem the mob wants much more.

    Where's George Carlin when you need him? His comments would make Imus' look like child's play. Yet, we have not seen nation-wide protests to force HBO to drop his shows or a boycott on all the movie stores of his DVD's.

    It seems the mob wants the "I do not approve of what he said or did" content. Then broadcast media will be boring, free of vulgar and indecent content. I guess that leaves the guns, violence, and drugs on cable and satellite.

    Are you telling me that none of these basketball players are somewhere snapping their fingers to the beat of 50 Cent or Snoop Dogg? These entertainers are the ones glorifying the nappy-headed pimps and hos. Go ahead and ask these players what songs they have on their iPods.

    Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson were just busy sitting and waiting for someone like Imus to have a slip of the tongue.

    It is also embarassing to note that Comedy Central offered Dave Chappelle $50 million to make racially insensitive jokes about black and white people on TV. Do black activists have an answer for that?

    Honestly, did Imus' remarks destroy Rutgers' wonderful season? No.

    Did Imus' remarks permanently harmed Rutgers' basketball program? No.

    Is he a threat to America? No.

    After a week or two of this, we should be done. Now all of this is a distraction and an ample opportunity for some to make some sort of financial windfall out of this.

    If the NAACP wants Don Imus fired, fine. But the NAACP should tell BET and their hip-hop stars and entertainers to stop popularising hos and their bling-bling. Fair enough?

    Today Show - Don Imus v Al Sharpton


    Interesting Article

    TIME - The Imus Fallout: Who Can Say What?

    Sharpton Promises More Fallout

    'It is our feeling that this is only the beginning. We must have a broad discussion on what is permitted and not permitted in terms of the airwaves'

    O'Reilly vs Geraldo Rivera

    It would make obvious sense:

    U.S. citizen get convicted of a DUI which resulted in a death -> prison term

    Illegal person get convicted of a DUI which resulted in a death -> deported

    * * * * * * * * *

    British teachers ignoring the Holocaust

    Schools and teachers in the UK are dropping the Holocaust from their history lessons because it would offend Muslim pupils. This conclusion came from a Government-backed study by the Department of Education and Skills. Teachers are reluctant to cover these heinous acts for fear of upsetting students whose beliefs include Holocaust denial.

    In addition, there is also reluctance to talk about the 11th century Crusades because their facts would contradict what is taught in local mosques.

    Chris McGovern, history education adviser to the former Tory government, said: "History is not a vehicle for promoting political correctness. Children must have access to knowledge of these controversial subjects, whether palatable or unpalatable."

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    I guess physics and biology will have to be dropped because of the anti-Darwin folks.

    Then geography gets banned because the world is really flat not round.

    Next, Communism and facism were actually good for the planet.

    Sigh, history must be told regardless of a person's beliefs or viewpoints. Failure to do so will ensure that we will repeat the same mistakes in the future.

    It would seem our children will be politically brainwashed and over-sedated with multi-culturalism. I don't mean to say it's a bad thing, but I think there are folks out there trying to twist it to their own bad agenda.

    Great American Boycott II

    The so-called "Great American Boycott II" is being planned for May 1, organizers for the March 25 Coalition said Monday. The group is made up of immigrant rights organizations and others who frequently plan rallies around the country.

    Last year's demonstrations, businesses and schools were closed across the country as people took to the streets in Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and other cities.

    The boycott was fueled by anger over federal legislation that would have criminalized being in the country in illegally and fortified the U.S.-Mexico border. The goal was to raise awareness about immigrants' economic power.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Doesn't make sense... so the boycott is in favor of illegal immigration? Oh I am sure about the immigrants' economic power, but you're telling me that illegals contribute much of it, so we should let them stay? I don't think so.

    1.4 million pending arrest warrants

    Does Pennsylvania have enough jail capacity to hold 1.4 million people?

    Craiglist hoax can get bad

    A fake ad on Craigslist, inviting people to take whatever they wanted for free from a Tacoma home, is all common sense.

    Could you really believe that such a thing is true?

    First, the outside of the home is trashed, the inside is nearly gutted and covered in graffiti. How could anyone take the ad with a literal tone? A vinyl window was gone. The hot water heater, the kitchen sink were ripped from their housing.

    Neighbors reported seeing strangers hauling stuff away from the person's home.

    The likely suspect is the tenant that was evicted from the place. Craiglist refused to release the poster's indentification without a subpoena or search warrant.

    * * * * * * * * * *

    Was the house really unlocked or someone made sure that was the case? If it was locked, it is pretty much breaking & entering. Then there's the deal with taking things that were bolted or permanently housed. Could people really think they can take the boiler with them? Also, not one of them actually called the poster to verify the ad or bother to really think straight when they are ransacking the place.

    Such an ad is too good to be true. If you are told that you can knock down the wall in order to get that nice window frame, alarm bells should be ringing.

    A bunch of idiots.


    Cincy Mayor could have practiced throwing before

    C'mon here, if you knew or if you haven't thrown in a while, at least do some practice before the game, or somewhere. This clip is going to be remembered for years!

    American University students try to stop Karl Rove

    NBC4 News 4 in Virginia has reported an attempt by American University students to stop Karl Rove from leaving the campus. He was there for an event sponsored by the College Republicans.

    Apparently, the students threw things at Rove and his car, and then they got on the ground and laid down in front of his car as a protest.

    Here's a video of the protest:


    FCC keeps ban on mobile phones on planes

    Good to see that the cabin will be kept quiet as much as possible. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has officially grounded the idea of allowing airline passengers to use mobile telephones while in flight.

    French train breaks speed record

    A French train with a 25,000-horsepower engine and special wheels broke the world speed record Tuesday for conventional rail trains, reaching 357.2 mph as it zipped through the countryside to the applause of spectators.

    The fastest speed record is still held by Japan's magnetically levitated train, which hit 361 mph in 2003.

    A California delegation came to study the prospect for a high-speed line running from Sacramento in the north to San Diego, in the south, via San Francisco and Los Angeles.

    Yet, it may takes years or decades before fast-speed trains matching our European and Japanese counterparts appear in the U.S. While some may favour travelling via plane, fast-trains would be useful for short-distance. The Acela Express has a record number of passengers over the last four months (about 1,000,000), yet its max speed is about 135 mph. Most of the rail infrastucture limits train speeds to 90 mph or less. Maglev and other high-speed projects must be given priority. What's to complain? You can avoid going to the airport 2 hours early and spend an hour in the security line. Less hassle.

    Four WWI veterans left...

    April 6 will mark the 90th anniversary of the United States' entry into World War I.

    Frank Woodruff Buckles, now 106 years old, joined the Army in 1917. He is one of four remaining veterans of "The Great War."

    US loses top spot in technology

    The United States has dropped to seventh in the 2007 World Economic Forum's "networked readiness index." The index measures the range of factors that affect a country's ability to harness information technologies for economic competitiveness and development. They noted the U.S.' low rate of mobile telephone usage, lack of governmental leadership in information technology, and the low quality of math and science education.

    Nordic countries — traditionally strong in all surveys conducted by the Geneva-based Forum — dominated the top of the rankings. Denmark edged Sweden for the top spot, while Finland was behind in fourth.

    Singapore, which topped the poll in 2005, was the top Asian nation in third. Rounding out the top 10 were Switzerland, fifth; Netherlands, sixth; Iceland, eighth; Britain, ninth; and Norway, 10th.

    U.S. was first in last year's report.

    Separate standard for Cubans

    It would seem that U.S. policy favours Cubans being able to stay in the U.S. under the "wet feet, dry feet" policy.

    A Cuban caught on the waters between the two nations (i.e., with "wet feet") would summarily be sent home or to a third country. One who makes it to shore ("dry feet") gets a chance to remain in the United States, and later would qualify for expedited "legal permanent resident" status and U.S. citizenship.

    Yet 100 Haitian migrants reaching the Florida shore will be deported back to Haiti.

    Hmmmm.

    Example of Hoboken, NJ politics

    One thing for sure, make sure your landlord is not Esmat Zaklama.

    From The Jersey Journal

    A good or bad landlord?Traci Kuther is the owner of an apartment next door to Zaklama's building. The problems began in 2005 when water began seeping through her second-floor apt causing thousands of dollars in damages.

    When she tried to get a plumbing inspector to take a look, the next door owner refused to give him access. It would seem that this act was not the only one that Zaklama has stopped or disputed.

    Despite Kuther's efforts to remedy this situation through the city, they have not been helpful to her cause. The workers contracted to fix the water problem were not state certified and insured. Strangely enough, city officials did nothing when they were told about it.

    For example, City Construction Code Official Al Arezzo allowed the workers to continue to repair the plumbing. The City Attorney, Joe Sherman, actually took the word of the construction official despite the absence of any certification and insurance.

    This plus other situations dealing with health code and building violations have dragged this problem over a year resulting in thousands of dollars in legal fees.

    Kuther Statement

    "I have paid over $25,000 in legal fees and other expenses," Kuther said. "I have no choice, this is my home. I have to protect my family. I moved to Hoboken so we could have a beautiful home and the city is allowing Mr. Zaklama to keep his home in such a state of disrepair that our quality of living is being infringed upon."

    After all this, the mayor, David Roberts, has jumped on board. Where was he before all of this? Maybe two or three news articles ago. His action? He ordered the assistant city attorney, Joseph Poganowski, to conduct an internal investigation.

    Yet it seems Poganowski had prior dealings with Zaklama a few years back.

    Will this problem ever get solved?

    * * * * * * * * * *

    The Hudson Reporter also has an March 25th article on the Garden Street housing situation. It is explains it more detail about the housing as well as the bureaucratic mess of the Hoboken City Council.

    Clearly, as an anesthesiologist, he is probably paid pretty well. Why not have a good heart and attend to the residents' concerns? Imagine if he was asked if he would live in that building? I believe there was a movie where he was forced to live in one of his run-down properties for a week.

    Open Skies agreement between US & EU is flawed

    airlines.jpgA new "open skies" aviation agreement between the United States and the European Union on Thursday will help lead to more competition and competitive pricing, but does not help reduce American protectionist rules currently in place.

    Ultimately, the landmark pact will open Heathrow Airport to European and U.S. airlines wanting to fly the lucrative transatlantic routes. Before this agreement, there was an agreement between London and Washington where only two British and two U.S. airlines (BA, Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines, and United) can fly the route. Currently, about 40 per cent of all transatlantic flights from Europe leave from Heathrow.

    The new deal will allow European carriers to fly to the U.S. from anywhere in the European Union (EU). Restrictions on the number of U.S. airlines flying the other way will be eased. For London's Heathrow airport, any carrier can negotiate a deal for its scarce landing space. So for example, Continental can choose to fly a route to Heathrow, instead of London Gatwick. Delta or Northwest could try to apply for a route to the airport too. In reverse, BMI can now fly a route from the EU to the U.S., or Virgin can now choose to fly a route from Paris to New York.

    With more airlines being able to fly routes from the U.S. to Europe and back, this should result in cheaper costs. European officials estimate that it will generate $16 billion in economic benefits and create 80,000 jobs.

    Obviously, this should be all good news, but not everyone is happy.

    First, British Airways, Virgin, American Airlines, and United will be the ones to lose out since their monopoly on transatlantic routes will be over. They had to know that this day was coming anyways.

    Second, one part of the agreement favours America over the EU. U.S. airlines would be able to fly within Europe, but European airlines would not get that privilege. This means that a U.S. airline can land at any European city, pick up more passengers, and fly on to any other European city. Their European counterparts cannot. They can fly to any American city, but are forbidden from continuing to a second city.

    Third, American protectionist policies remain in place. While American companies could buy European airlines up to 49% of any kind of stock, foreigners can only control no more than 25% of voting shares and 49% of total ownership. Essentially, it protects U.S. airlines from any foreign takeover.

    Fourth, America's domestic airline market remains closed to European competitiors.

    The UK was the only European country initially opposed to the open skies agreement but managed to secure two concessions for its approval.

    One, the implementation of this deal will be delayed from October to March 2008.

    Two, if the United States does not take further steps to open its airline market by 2010, the European Union can scrap the agreement.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    So U.S. travelers get to enjoy two years of possible lower prices and more competition. However, while price may be a major factor in selecting an airline to fly to Europe, airline loyalty and good quality service should not be left along the wayside. Discount airlines such as Ryanair have horrendous service, and if you think paying a ticket 50% cheaper for a discount airline is good, expect a lousy service in return.

    As for British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, it is time for them to give up more slots at Heathrow and focus on producing more quality and competitive service. This is what consumers want.

    As for U.S. regulators putting up roadblock after roadblock on Branson's Virgin America airline, it is a sign that this agreement may not be fruitful in the long term, or at least until 2010.

    Related Articles

    Cheapflights - Agreement on "open skies" finally reached

    Financial Times - "Open skies" fares cut in doubt

    LA Times - Partly Open Skies

    TimesOnline - Open Skies "will not ease" merger

    Telegraph UK - Open skies to US

    MarketWatch - "Open Skies" could hasten airline mergers

    Scotsman - UK wary as "open skies" pact nears

    Aircraft Carrier USS Kennedy Decommissioned

    I am quite fond of the aircraft carriers, so it's a bit sad to see another one of these grand ships being retired.

    Today marks the end of 40 years of service this ship has given to the U.S. Navy. The Kennedy (CV-67) launched aircraft into hot spots around the globe during its service, including both Iraq wars. At 1,050 feet long, it carried a crew of about 4,600 and 70 combat aircraft.

    The retirement of this conventional aircraft carrier will leave only the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63), the lone conventional carrier. Unfortunately, it is also scheduled for decommissioning in 2008.

    This will reduce the active carrier deployment to 10. In 2009, the USS George H. W. Bush (CVN-77) will be commissioned, followed by the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) in 2015.

    Watch out for the balloon police

    Let go a balloon in the sky, regardless of accident, you will be charged $250 for littering. A second balloon, it will cost you $500.

    Who's the lucky state? Vermont.

    Link

    Getting sent home b/c of Tigger

    A seventh-grader, Toni Kay Scott, was sent to an in-school suspension program called Students With Attitude Problems last year for violating a dress code. It seems she donned socks with the Tigger character from the Winnie the Pooh cartoons on them, along with a denim skirt and a brown shirt with a pink border.

    But Redwood Middle School's policy requires students to wear clothes with solid colors in blue, white, green, yellow, khaki, gray, brown and black. Permitted fabrics are cotton twill, corduroy and chino. No denim is allowed.

    The lawsuit, filed Monday in Napa County Superior Court by The American Civil Liberties Union and a law firm on the girl's behalf, alleges that the dress code is unconstitutionally vague and too restrictive.

    * * * * * * * * * * * *

    It would seem the dress code policy was thought up by some out-of-work fashion designer.

    Imagine losing data worth $38 billion

    In the financial industry, handling electronic data is high priority. I would hope that no one will encounter what this computer technician did at the Alaska Department of Revenue.

    While reformatting the disk drive during a routine maintenance check, the technician mistakenly reformatted the back up drive as well and, suddenly, all the data disappeared.

    But the dread didn't really set in until the department turned to its third line of defense, back up tapes that are updated nightly, only to find those tapes were unreadable.

    Nine months worth of information concerning the yearly payout from the Alaska Permanent Fund was gone: some 800,000 electronic images that had been painstakingly scanned into the system months earlier, the 2006 paper applications that people had either mailed in or filed over the counter, and supporting documentation such as birth certificates and proof of residence.

    The only backup left was the paperwork itself - about more than 300 cardboard boxes.

    It took the department over a month. Half a dozen seasonal workers came back to assist the regular division staff and about 70 people working overtime and weekends re-entered all the lost data into the system by the end of August. Costs incurred... over $200,000.

    Recommended Movie: Offside

    http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1809425441/info

    Release Date: March 23rd, 2007 (limited)

    Six Iranian girls disguise themselves as boys in order to enter Tehran's Azadi Stadium to watch the 2006 World Cup Asian zone qualifier between Iran and Bahrain. However, their presence is discovered and they are arrested one by one.

    China will get there before the U.S.

    NASA Administrator Michael Griffin told the House Science and Technology Committee that the Chinese will be able to put humans on the lunar surface "within a decade." Thus, they could arrive perhaps 2-3 years before a U.S. manned mission is sent.

    Based on current level of funding, Griffin estimates that the U.S. will return back to the moon in 2019. A higher NASA budget could get the crews to the moon by 2017.

    He compared the Chinese space program to NASA's Gemini program, which first flew four years before NASA landed a man on the moon in 1969.

    * * * * * * * *

    Let's see, Apollo Program started in 1961. Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969. So about 8 years. Today, it will take at least 10 years before U.S. astronauts can go back. If Griffin really believes that the U.S. is the leader in space in the world, this is really a poor example.

    Quite a negative impact for the U.S. if the Chinese do get to the moon first.

    First Fox News, now Colbert too?

    Democratic Caucus chairman, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) has told new Democratic members of Congress to steer clear of Stephen Colbert, or at least his satirical Comedy Central program, "The Colbert Report."

    What's next? The Daily Show?

    Firing all 93 US Attorneys? It has been done before. Ask Clinton.

    Are politicians so dependent on the assumption that the public has an attention deficit disorder on issues or events that have happened more than a year ago? It would seem so in this case.

    I find it amusing that Congressional Democrats are "outraged" with the Administration's decision to fire eight U.S. Attorneys and that Bush's involvement was unjust. Even wannabe Presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton blamed President Bush for "the politicisation of our prosecutorial system."

    While the media, Democrats, and a few Republicans continue to criticise the Administration's conduct in this fiasco, we have to go back several years for a bit of rememberance. I am sure most people did not know that under former President Bill Clinton's term as President, former Attorney General Janet Reno fired all 93 U.S. Attorneys in March 1993.

    That's right, Janet Reno, with the approval of the President, evicted all the attorney generals.

    In response to the hoopla, President Clinton said it was perfectly ordinary. "All those people are routinely replaced and I have not done anything differently." But this was not true. The firing of all the prosecutors was unprecedented. Previous Presidents, including Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, had both retained holdovers from the previous Administration and only replaced them gradually as their tenures expired. This allowed continuity of leadership within the U.S. Attorney offices during the transition.

    While it seems that the firing of these eight Attorneys was done quite poorly, the Democrats should not start firing off salvo after salvo saying this was all a Republican consipracy. They should ask Hillary about what happened in 1993 and decide whether to keep their mouths shut and remember to do some more research before making any more regretful remarks.

    * * * * * * * * *

    Update 03/16/07

    Related Link

    You can find quite a boatload of information when you search for Janet Reno and Attorney General firings. When former President Bill Clinton appointed Janet Reno as US Attorney General, she was the first woman to hold the post.

    Normally, when control of the Administration changes from one party to the other, the old U.S. attorneys are replaced gradually. Thus, when Tom Corbett, chairman of the U.S.-attorney advisory committee, asked Miss Reno about the transition timetable on Thursday, March 18, and got no answers, he assumed there would be the traditional, slow handover. He reeled when, on Monday morning, Associate Attorney General Hubbell told him the attorneys would have to resign immediately. Literally. "[They] should be able to clear out of their offices over the weekend," one White House politico told Corbett. (Miss Reno was nowhere in sight.) Corbett had to fight just to get the attorneys an extra week to clear out.

    The next day Miss Reno called for resignations. Jay Stephens, the U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C., resigned that afternoon, commenting that he had been within thirty days of a "critical decision" about Rostenkowski. (Once Stephens left, the transition lost its urgency; some Republican U.S. attorneys are still on board.) The Illinois congressman may yet be indicted for his alleged abuse of the House Bank, but Stephens's hasty dismissal surely slowed the investigation, leaving Rosty, who loses his chairmanship if indicted, in place to steer Clinton bills through the House.

    Imams III: Lawsuit!

    The imams just won't let this one die. The six imams who were removed from a US Airways flight in November say they'll will sue the airline for discrimination.

    The whining Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) says it will provide details on the lawsuit at a Washington news conference.

    Related Posts

    The Flying Imams

    The Flying Imams II

    NAACP / Democrats jumps on the Imams bandwagon

    Kucinich actually said something right

    The cancellation in the past two days of two planned nationally televised debates because of candidates’ “scheduling conflicts” and unwillingness to participate smacks of “manipulation by some candidates who would rather run and hide than defend their records and their positions on the war,” Ohio Congressman and Democratic Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich said today while campaigning in Texas.

    Of course I wouldn't support Kucinich's run, but he's pretty much right in that regard.

    In response to the Nevada debate where candidates sidestepped the event because of Fox News co-sponsorship:

    “If you want to be the President of the United States, you can’t be afraid to deal with people with whom you disagree politically,” Kucinich said. “No one is further removed from Fox’s political philosophy than I am, but fear should not dictate decisions that affect hundreds of millions of Americans and billions of others around the world who are starving for real leadership.”

    Kucinich said “the public deserves honest, open, and fair public debate, and the media have a responsibility to demand that candidates come forward now, before the next war vote in Congress, to explain themselves.”

    Quite true, but we have seen the past where all the presidential nominees and their campaigns, during the primaries and presidential races, make so many complex and burdening rules and regulations with the debates. It makes the whole thing a sham of the political process. Rehearsed questions and answers. The public is mislead and we get screwed in the end.

    Nevada Democrats Chickened Out

    What an awful shame... The Nevada State Democratic Party has decided to pull out of the presidential debate scheduled for August 14 in Reno. The debate was hosted by Fox News Channel, Fox News Radio, the Nevada State Democratic Party, and the Western Majority Project.

    What's wrong fellow Democrats? Are you unwilling to be subjected to Fox News questioning? Never mind whatever conservative bias Fox News may have, but the unwillingness to tolerate and be able to respond to a large viewership who may have a different viewpoint is just sickening. It's like you want to deal with Chris Matthews or Keith Olbermann instead of O'Reilly.

    I am sure if it was an event sponsored by MoveOn, no one would complained. If it were NPR, the liberals would start crying foul. Stop whining about it. To me, you just want to hear rehearsed questions and vague answers to convince the mob that you are electable.

    Why is it necessary to eliminate last-minute provisions being inserted in legislation

    So what's the big deal with the dismissal of eight US attorneys by the Department of Justice?

    Well, for one thing, a last-minute provision was inserted to last year's re-authorisation of the USA Patriot Act at the request of the Justice Department.

    It gives the president authority to replace a US attorney without going back to the Senate for confirmation.

    No lawmaker noticed it when it passed.

    No surprise there!

    $3,400 to chat with Michael Jackson

    Japanese fans have to pay 400,000 yen ($3,400 USD) to chat and take pictures with the so-called "King of Pop."

    If he keeps this up, he can make a profit just by shaking hands and being in photos. But please, a waste of hard-earned money.

    Bill: No credit cards for illegal citizens

    A Republican representative from Tennesssee introduced legislation on Monday that would prevent illegal immigrants from receiving credit cards from American financial institutions.

    The Photo Identification Security Act would require banks to use what Blackburn calls "secure forms of identification" to obtain credit. In a statement put out by her office, she says that Bank of America "has come under fire in response to reports that it allows illegal immigrants access to credit cards without proper documentation."

    Bank of America spokesmen maintain that they follow the letter of the law in permitting customers to use the forms of identification permissible under the U.S.A. Patriot Act. That includes matricula consular cards issued by the Mexican government.

    Fox News Conservative Bias? Oh really???

    According to CBS News, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards won't participate in a debate co-hosted by Fox News and the Nevada Democratic Party, his campaign said, as party officials tried to settle a dustup over their partnership with the cable network.

    Plus the fanatical MoveOn.org Civic Action says it has collected more than 260,000 signatures on a petition that calls the cable network a "mouthpiece for the Republican Party, not a legitimate news channel."

    * * * * * * * *

    So if Fox News the mouthpiece for the Republicans, I guess CBS, ABC, and MSNBC are the mouthpieces for the Democrats not to mention the New York Times and the LA Times.

    One thing for sure, ratings for Fox News still continue to outnumber CNN and MSNBC viewers. The idea for the Nevada Democrats to pursue a partnership with Fox News is a step in the right direction.

    Why are online activists and MoveOn followers so intent on shunning Fox News? My guess is that they are unwilling to listen to the other side.

    Jim Cramer's Take on Today's Market Sell-Off

    Link

    Cramer: How the System Failed Us Today
    By Jim Cramer
    RealMoney.com Columnist
    2/27/2007 4:15 PM EST

    You didn't even have time to panic.

    The system failed us, breaking down too fast for you to panic.

    We totally collapsed between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. ET, dropping 200 points. All the circuit breakers and all of the rules that were put into place years ago after 1987 just utterly failed.

    Then we had the backdraft, and it happened so fast we don't yet know how it went wrong. But it did, with the sellers' heavy tinder. Maybe that exacerbated the hard-selling ETFs. Whatever it was, the wick caught and then flared -- when we thought we were fireproof.

    The buyers, and there are plenty of them, simply couldn't get to the floor fast enough to buy and put out some of that selling.

    In the old days, when things were sane, we would have had order imbalances, a stoppage of trading. We didn't get that today. We got nothing. We got nothing but a gap, and it reminded us of the old days, when we used to have to have bids way underneath. In other words, be ready to buy because of the whims of sellers.

    But there's another difference now. You can force the market down. The old rules put into place in the 1930s, the ones that were meant to stop motivated sellers from breaking the market are all gone now, taken out by a complacent Securities and Exchange Commission that never dreamed of what could happen today. My sources indicate that a big options trade went awry and some concentrated ETF selling simply cut through this market as easily as a knife through butter.

    You only have a couple of protections from the whims of a broken system:

    A company that pays you a dividend that is equal to or better than Treasuries after taxes is a good defense.
    Or you want a stock that has a valuation so low that you know it's a bargain -- and its management knows it's a bargain (read: it's buying back stock right here).
    Last chance: a company that is so defensive in nature that even if there's a worldwide slowdown, it will meet expectations regardless: Coke (KO - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr), Pepsi (PEP - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr), Altria (MO - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr), Kellogg (K - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr), General Mills (GIS - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr), Clorox (CLX - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr) and Colgate (CL - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr).
    If you don't anything that fits one of those three criteria (I'd rather have two or three per company) you will not be OK for now. That's because we are now going to have people who just say, "Wow this is too crazy, let me out of here!"

    But nobody ever made a dime panicking. This time will be no different, but only if you are shrewd about what won't hurt you and what can work in a volatile and down environment.

    At the time of publication, Cramer was long Altria.

    One hundred twenty-three pounds of burger-loving fat

    Denny's Beer Barrel Pub in Clearfield, PA have unveiled their Beer Barrel Main Event Charity Burger which weighs 123 pounds. The sizable sandwich features an 80-pound beef patty, along with a pound each of lettuce, ketchup, relish, mustard, and mayonnaise, 160 slices of cheese, up to five onions, and 12 tomatoes.

    It's topped with a couple of pounds of banana peppers, then sandwiched into a 30-pound bun, plus a garnish of 33 pickles.

    Price tag: $379 dollars

    Expect to sign a waiver, and an ambulance waiting to take you to the mortuary if you happen to not survive the eating episode.

    Clearly, how could anyone eat this monstrous burger? By a dozen or more people...sure! But by one person, I don't think so. I guess it's the best way to become obese in one setting.

    Kid Jesus - Denied

    While it is ok for boys and girls to dress up as devils and witches on Halloween, a Jesus costume is not ok.

    A 10-year-old boy who said he was not allowed to wear a Jesus costume during his school's Halloween activities sued the district, alleging that his religious and free-speech rights were violated.

    The complaint, filed in federal court Tuesday, says officials at Willow Hill Elementary School in Glenside told the boy Oct. 31 that he could not wear his faux crown of thorns or tell others he was dressed as Jesus.

    Interestingly enough, most Roman emperors and nobles wore a crown of thorns and robes. But the school district reasoning that the Jesus costume would promote religion seems a bit far-fetched. Is the kid an official missionary of the Christian religion? Is he going around the classroom saying Jesus will save them?

    Hell, they should sent the devil and witch costume students home for causing mental trauma! Perhaps a kid wearing a Bush face costume could get sent home for promoting the war in Iraq. Are we insane???

    Another lawsuit against Brandy

    As a follow-up to my first post with Brandy's car accident in which the parents of Awatef Aboudihaj filed a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against the music artist, another wrongful lawsuit has been filed against her.

    This time a different lawyer, Paul N. Philips, has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Awatef Aboudihaj's two sons who were injured in the Dec. 30 accident on the San Diego Freeway. The papers alleges that the sons received unspecified injuries that may result in some permanent disability (nice vague words to use). Damages will be determined at trial.

    Would it seem obvious to merge both lawsuits into one? Now you have two different lawyers for the parents and children against Brandy. A two-prong approach to exact the maximum amount of money from the artist? Sounds a bit fishy to me.

    Plus, the city attorney's office has not decided whether to charge the singer.

    Somehow I am just waiting for another wrongful death lawsuit to be filed by the cousins, aunts, and uncles of Aboudihaj. Maybe another one on behalf of the friends. Then the future children to be born. It's a terrible tragedy, but I am finding it displeasing that the victims are trying to milk as much money as possible from the singer.

    Refuse to Wear the Veil -> Get Shot

    Fox News reports that a Pakistani minister and woman’s activist was shot dead Tuesday by an Islamic extremist for refusing to wear the veil.

    Zilla Huma Usman, the minister for social welfare in Punjab province and an ally of President Pervez Musharraf, was killed as she was about to deliver a speech to dozens of party activists, by a “fanatic”, who believed that she was dressed inappropriately and that women should not be involved in politics, officials said.

    According to the gunman, Mohammad Sarwar, he said “I have no regrets. I just obeyed Allah’s commandment,” he said, adding that Islam did not allow women to hold positions of leadership. “I will kill all those women who do not follow the right path, if I am freed again.”

    Perhaps if we put him in a prison cell filled with pictures of ladies wearing bikinis, he would die of extreme fright!

    NYC immigrant activists want to give right to vote to legal non-citizens

    Do they know that this would open up Pandora's box?

    The New Immigrant Community Empowerment group want to allow permanent residents (holding a green card) and other legal immigrants the right to vote in municipal election. The group's representative, Cheryl Wertz, quoted that "more than 50,000 adult noncitizen taxpayers in those two districts are disenfranchised by citizenship voting laws."

    In case people are wondering what defines a permanent resident, check wikipedia. This permanent resident card, also known as a Green Card, is proof that the holder has permission to permanently reside and take employment in the U.S. After that, one can apply for naturalisation to become a full U.S. citizen.

    Councilman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn) is the sponsor of the Voting Rights Restoration Act, which has been stalled in the City Council since last year. He states that many years ago, immigrants were allowed to vote. In agreement was CUNY Professor Ron Hayduk, who stated that from 1776 to 1926, immigrants voted in national elections.

    Well, people change and so do the laws. Perhaps the citizenry realised that we ought to maintain fair and just elections and these rules and regulations are needed to ensure that. It reminds me of the film, Gangs of New York, where Tammany Hall bought Irish votes. Plus becoming a U.S. citizen was very easy. Make your mark, you are a citizen and a member of the Union Army.

    Of course, the processing time should be improved for permanent residents so they can get naturalised, but in the mean time, they know that they are not being accorded all the same rights as given to full U.S. citizens.

    I fear that giving legal non-citizens the right to vote will empower immigrant activists to pursue voting rights for illegal aliens. You got 12 million of them waiting to be used as a pawn on the political stage. Follow the system, and help improve it, but do not find ways to go around it. These 50,000 so called non-voters are just amble ammunition for the NYC Democratic Party.

    Seems violence is normal with NBA games

    I really think the NBA should take Las Vegas off her list for future All-Star games. Rowdy crowds, a fight at Wynn Hotel & Casino involving rappers and police, and as a result, the nightclub was shut down.

    Plus a shooting at the MGM Grand. Lasvegasnow.com has already reported that nearly 300 people involved with NBA-related festivities have been booked into the Clark County Detention Center. Plus the usual 400 or so arrests police make in a 48-hour period.

    Google censors anti-satellite graphic

    ASAT3.jpgSeeing that the anti-satellite test was a bit embarassing for China, Google has blocked Chinese users from seeing an image showing the anti-satellite graphic.

    According to officials, three MIT researchers, Geoff Forden, Ted Postol and Subrata Ghoshroy, produced a color graphic showing the flight path of the missile that destroyed an orbiting Chinese weather satellite by ramming it with a non-explosive warhead.

    Google removed the graphic from its service.

    Bank of America offers credit cards to illegal immigrants

    BofA has begun offering credit cards to customers without Social Security numbers. This new card will be open to people who do not have a SSN and a credit history, as long as they have held a checking account with the bank for three months without an overdraft.

    Is it possible that an illegal immigrant has a better chance at getting a credit card than a college student? To some banks, this group is an untapped resource, but are they willing to take the high-level risk that comes with it?

    Authorities label online gambling 'terrorist financing'

    It now appears that the FBI and other state and federal law enforcement groups are labelling online gambling as a "terrorist threat" to the United States. Currently, authorities are attempting to link NETeller's online payment processing of gambling money to terrorist funding.

    This is a sign of how short-sighted US regulators are. They are taking one step forward and three steps back.

    Since electronic money is terrorist financing, I guess we will need to shut down Paypal and Google checkout. No more paying your goods online, it could get shunted to terrorists!!!

    So now HSBC, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Kleinwort are all accessories to supporting terrorists?!?!?! How far fetched is that?

    As for the Neteller customers, they cannot get their money back because authorities have declared everything "as evidence."

    Get Arrested for iPod Walking

    State Senator Carl Kruger of Brooklyn, New York City plans to introduce legislation that would ban people from using an MP3 player, mobile phone, Blackberry, or any other electronic device while crossing the street in either New York City or Buffalo.

    He is doing this because of two recent pedestrian deaths in his district. One of the pedestrians who was struck and killed was listening to his iPod while walking across the street.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    This is basically unenforceable. You cannot force police to add the stressing duty to watch every major sidewalk and make sure every person is not listening or talking to their electronic device. Plus, how would you know if a person is still listening to their iPod player while walking down the block? Why waste a few minutes to take off your earphones, walk across the street, and put them back on?

    Common sense is more practical. Perhaps it's better to remind pedestrians to look both ways before crossing, or not to max the volume on your headphones.

    Savings Rate lowest in 74 years

    Commerce Department reported that the savings rate for all of 2006 was a negative 1 percent (that's -1%), meaning that not only did people spend all the money they earned but they also dipped into savings or increased borrowing to finance purchases.

    It was -0.4% in 2005. The poorest showing was -1.3% in 1933 during the Great Depression.

    Wrongful Death Lawsuits

    Brandy-Full_Moon.jpgRecording artist Brandy got into a driving accident on December 30 when her Land Rover struck the back of a Honda driven by Awatef Aboudihaj. According to the California Highway Patrol (CHP), after the initial hit, Aboudihaj's car hit another vehicle, slid sideways into the center divider and was then hit by another car. She later died at a hospital from blunt-force injuries, according to the coroner's office.

    The CHP concluded that Brandy be charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence. It would appear that she failed to prevent her Land Rover from hitting the car in front of her when traffic suddenly slowed.

    A day after the police released their recommendation, the parents of Awatef Aboudihaj filed a wrongful death lawsuit seeking $50 million dollars in compensatory and punitive damages. The three-page form compliant stated that her death was caused by "reckless driving" by Brandy.

    Now, what does "reckless driving" mean? According to law.com, it is operating an automobile in a dangerous manner which can include speeding, driving after drinking, cutting in and out of traffic, failing to yield, or any other negligent acts.

    According to police reports, they have ruled out alcohol and drugs as factors in the crash and say there was no evidence that Brandy was using a cell phone or was otherwise distracted. She was alone in the car. It is very likely that her reaction skills did not performed quickly enough when the traffic immediately slowed down. This usually happens when there is a glut ahead when two major roads are merging, or some car way ahead decided to hit the brakes to screw th driver behind him. She was also driving at the posted speed of 65 mph when the accident occurred. In any case, it is difficult to justify her actions as "reckless driving."

    So far, the Los Angeles City Attorney's office is currently reviewing the CHP's recommendation. The misdemeanour offense carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $1,000 dollar fine.

    Yet, this news is what probably led to the wrongful death lawsuit. Strange enough, there was no definition found in wikipedia. Not to worry, many law firms have a section devoted to wrongful death lawsuits. On this particular injury law firm web site, a wrongful death is a claim in tort against a person who can be held liable for a death. The claim is brought in a civil action, usually by close relatives. Under such a lawsuit, the defendant has fewer due process and Constitutional protections such as immunity or the right to refuse to give testimony. The standard or proof is typically preponderance of the evidence as opposed to clear and convincing or beyond a reasonable doubt.

    The web page goes on to suggest that it is easier for a family to seek retribution against someone for wrongful death in tort than a proper criminal law conviction. It also includes that on a technical matter, a wrongful death claim is not a tort claim. In most, if not all states in the United States, there was no common law right to recover civil damages for the wrongful death of a person. Of course, today is a different story. All states have enacted such statutes to correct this "deficiency" in the law so there is a right to such recovery.

    I am sure everyone is wondering if the family knew about Brandy and her celebrity status. Of course, the family's lawyer, Lotfy Mrich, denies claims that from Project Islamic HOPE that Brandy is being used as a “political trophy” and being “unfairly” targeted “for prosecution because of her celebrity".

    City attorney Rocky Delgadillo also criticised the claims in a news conference, insisting: "We will treat this case like every other case and treat it very seriously because someone has died. We look at cases without regard to anyone's status, whether it's an average Joe or someone more prominent."

    Is $50 million fair? It looks to be Brandy's first-time offense and it would seem that the circumstances and evidence presented would suggest that in a criminal case, she will do alright. Of course, in a civil action, the sky's the limit.

    Just imagine if Brandy was seriously hurt or also killed (just a hypothesis). Would the family go after her family in seeking compensation? I could also throw out more if's. If Brandy's vehicle was registered under her father or mother, they can file a lawsuit suggesting that her reckless driving is caused by the teachings and actions of her parents. I know it's ridiculous, but I would assume that any injury lawyers would try to think that way. Their ideal job is to maximise recovery for the victims.

    US Taxes to double by 2040

    We, the somewhat recent alums, recent alums, and current students will endure a country where the only way to balance the federal budget is to cut spending by 60 percent, or raise all taxes by 2 times.

    Who sounding the wake-up call? Our Comptroller General, David M. Walker. He is the nation's accountant and is the Director of the Government Accountability Office (GAO). His position is appointed to a fifteen-year term with the advice and consent of the Senate. Mr. Walker was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1998. His term will end 2013.

    Ever since 2000, he has warned the federal government that excessive spending will jeopardise the nation's economy and its national security. He has stated that net social insurance commitments and other fiscal obligations have surged from $20 trillion to $50 trillion, which is quadruple this country's total economic output. Much of it is attributed to rising health care costs.

    Article Link

    Also, here's the link to the current national debt, as calculated by the Dept of the Treasury. We just passed $8.6 trillion. It was a little under $8 trillion back in September 2005. Under $7 trillion in 2003. Under $5 trillion back in 1995.

    Cheering Regulated

    Student fans at recent Baraboo High School athletic games have been trying to sneak a few cheers with double meanings past officials, leaving administrators tightening enforcement of WIAA rules and some students and parents wondering what's wrong with a little team spirit.

    WIAA policy states that only cheers supporting one's own team are permitted — no put-downs, no innuendos. Every BHS game has a contest manager, often an administrator, to reel in a rowdy crowd and put a damper on inappropriate cheers, signs or attire.

    Article Link

    * * * * * * * * * * *

    I would agree that a degree of civility is warranted in high school events, but can this be applied on a national level? Understandbly, Americans spectators are not creative enough. I have heard the usual chants of "Let's go " or "De-fense, De-fense" not to mention the songs of Cotton Eye Joe or We are the Champions during the break or when the home team wins the game. Add "U-S-A" to the mix when its an international sport.

    "You suck" is a familiar phrase, or perhaps the other meaning of U Suck Ass is also used. We chime "airball" in basketball and we boo the official when he makes a bad call.

    If we want real cheering, look to the Brits for help.

    In the UK, there are over 15,000 football chants. Every song has been re-worded and use for a victory, defeat, praise or scorn for the player, the manager, or the team itself.

    It has its own entry in Wikipedia too.

    If the officials tried to regulate chanting during football (soccer) games in Britain or in Europe, you will get a riot.

    With Beckham coming over to the states, we ought to freshen ourselves with some of his songs.

    More songs

    China avoids saying oink oink to the Muslims

    China Central Television (CCT) announced it would ban all verbal and visual pork references from advertisements during Lunar New Year celebrations next month. The regulations are intended to avoid offending Muslims, who consider pigs unclean animals. China has about 20 million Muslims, less than 2 percent of the population.

    It already denied a commercial ad by Nestle SA featuring a smiling cartoon pig and the message, "Happy new pig year."

    Is this a bit too sensitive? Shall we see Year of the Pig banned from the Chinese calendar?

    Foxnews.com

    Wall Street Journal (requires subscription)

    Winning a Prize is not free - Uncle Sam

    Did you know that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires winnings from lottery drawings, TV game shows, and other contests to be reported as taxable income?

    According to Topic 419 covering Gambling Income and Expenses, gambling winnings are fully taxable and must be reported on your tax return. It also includes cash winnings and also the fair market value of prizes such as cars and trips.

    Technically, students that win prizes at the RHA Casino game or that dinner at Sushi Rock or a gift certificate are supposed to be reported as income. But why would the IRS need to go after a student if he or she fails to report that Party for 25 certificate at Jillians? It does not seem advantageous for the agency to waste time and manpower to go after you. Would they go after a contestant on a radio show if he or she won a front row pair of tickets to see Justin Timberlake or Madonna?

    Remember in 2004 when Oprah Winfrey gave away 276 Pontiac G-Six cars to the audience of her show, we saw images of people laughing, jumping, and crying after opening the box and finding a car key. It was talked about on the late night talk show hosts and newspapers. Of course, Uncle Sam had to ruin it for everybody. It told the 276 winners: Pay $7,000 in taxes or give up the car. The model given away had a sticker price of $28,500 so it would need to be claimed as taxable income, so depending on the individual's tax bracket, the tax could be as high as $7,000. This was the amount even with Pontiac agreeing to pay most of the local charges, including state sales tax and licensing fees.

    For these people, they had three choices: they could keep the car and pay the tax, sell the car and pay the tax with the profits or forfeit the car.

    Today, we turn to Brian Emmett. It was his childhood fantasy to go to outer space, and it almost came true for him when he won his ticket to the stars in a 2005 sweepstakes by Oracle Corp., in which he answered a series of online questions on Java computer code. He became an instant celebrity, giving media interviews and appearing on stage at Oracle's trade show.

    Unfortunately, Uncle Sam said that the winning trip costs about $138,000 and must be reported as income, so Emmett would need to fork over $25,000 in taxes! Twenty-five thousand dollars!

    Unwilling to sink into debt, the software consultant from the San Francisco Bay area gave up his seat.

    Once again, the only people that can go on these future space orbital flights are the ultra-rich. If you win a trip, you gotta pay taxes on it. So much for the lower classes.

    Honestly, the amount of taxes we pay for lottery and grand cash drawings are horrendous. Is it right for them to take so much out of our pockets?

    So the next time you see a contestant on a TV show or listening to a contestant winning on a radio show, that grand prize they won is not free. It's taxable winnings. Another gift from Uncle Sam, and this is the same country and the only country to tax American citizens working abroad. Did I mention that the government raised taxes on them for this year?

    NAACP / Democrats jumps on the Imams bandwagon

    The repercussions of U.S. Airways' decision to remove a group of imams from a commercial flight in Minneapolis has now resonated in Congress this year. Civil rights groups are pushing the Democratic Congress to ban racial profiling.

    I would remind everyone that the imams' behaviour attracted the attention of nearby passengers and the crew. If you can check my previous posts on this issue as well as blogs and news outlets, there is definitely more information that the major news networks fail to mention.

    An arabic speaker near one of the imams told a flight attendant that the imams were invoking "bin Laden" and condemning America "for killing Saddam" in their prayers. The imam in first class asked for a seatbelt extension even though he looked too thin and he placed the belt extension on the floor. Another imam got up in first class and moved to the back of the plane in coach. Why would he do that? A married couple next to him tried to strike up a conversation, and he ignored them. Other factors included that three of them had one-way tickets. Between the six men, only one had a checked bag. They were spread out on the plane: two in first class, two in the middle, and two back in the economy section. It also looks like they were sitting in seats not assigned to them.

    Also, consider this: in Islamic practice, praying is usually done once at sundown, not twice. For these six imams, they prayed at the gate, then on the plane.

    If you ask me, the imams were deliberately trying to get kicked off the flight.

    However, these facts are being ignored by civil rights groups and some Democratic lawmakers. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., chair of the Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution are introducing a ban on racial profiling.

    Senator Feingold:
    "Many law-abiding African Americans, Arab Americans, Latino Americans and others live with the fear of being racially profiled as they go about their everyday lives."

    Hilary Shelton, director of NAACP's Washington Office
    "I'm convinced that once the body of evidence of racial profiling occurring in our nation is presented before the U.S. Congress and the American people, that indeed they'll be compelled to do something about it."

    Peter Gadiel, president of 9/11 Families for a Secure America
    "The 9/11 atrocity was committed by 19 young single men from Arab nations. If you want to hand this country over to terrorists, why don't you say it right out front? We don't have to worry about 80-year-old ladies with bleach-blonde hair and southern accents."

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    More exclusive info found on PajamasMedia

    Previous Post: The Flying Imams II

    Previous Post: The Flying Imams I

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    I believe that if you see someone or several persons acting suspiciously on the plane, you have that right to speak up and tell the flight crew your concerns no matter what. I continue to advocate that these six imams are just an opportunistic group trying to elicit criticism on our law enforcement by trying to intimidate everyone with their ethnicity.

    If you disagree, I invite you to visit the many sites that have analysed this incident from front to back, top to bottom.

    Wow, another anti-Iraq protest

    Yep, ten of thousands marched Saturday in another anti-Iraq protest at the Capitol. Hanoi Jane made her famous debut in her first anti-war protest in 34 years.

    Organisers of United for Peace and Justice, a coalition group sponsoring the protest, said more than 100,000 attended, but capitol police said it was smaller than that.

    Smaller rallies were held in San Francicso, Los Angeles, and Sacramento.

    iraq_protest.jpg

    ESPN - Outrageous Justice - Genarlow Wilson

    Link to article

    Genarlow Wilson, a honor student and promising football star, had consensual sex with a fellow teenager. However, he was 17, and she was 15. According to Georgia law, this constitutes aggravated molestation which carried a mandatory 10-year prison sentence.

    He was found not guilty on rape, but was found guilty on the molestation charge. Two other charges were dropped. The jury did not realised about the 10-year sentence until after the guilty verdict was made.

    Because of his case, the law was changed by the legislature, but was not applied retroactively.

    To add more salt to the wound, a white female high school teacher was found guilty of having a sexual relationship with a student -- a true act of child molestation. She received 90 days in prison. Wilson received 3,650 days.

    Unjust Ban on Online Gambling

    online_gambling.jpgIt is quite amusing to find the United States so intent on banning gambling on the Internet. While living abroad in the UK, the use of online betting sites is quite popular and provides a more immediate access for customers to use Ladbrokes, 888.com, PartyGaming, and SportingBet to place wagers on all sports and unique competitions.

    The notion that revenues from online gambling are going to criminal or terrorist elements is an easy excuse to make the public fearful of them. I would not disagree that there are some gambling sites that may have links to unlawful groups, but there are also legitmate sites out there which are providing a lawful service to their customers. One thing for sure, certain criminal elements within the United States are pleased with the law. It means more customers resorting to local and street bookies to continue to wager on sports and you know who controls them.

    I have to also thank the 109th Congress and the Republicans for inserting the legislation, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 as a rider to the port security bill. It would seem they wanted to avoid any explicit mention of their official position on the gambling bill. With the new law and using the flexible clauses in the Patriot Act, they are now labelling online gambling as a threat to the national security of the United States. Somehow, I have to wonder about the happiness emanating from Atlantic City, NJ and Las Vegas, NV. Are they happy because this means Americans citizen must travel to their cities to gamble their money away and placed their sports wagers at their gaming arenas? Are they ecstatic that they do not have to worry about gamblers using the Internet to play table games, slots, or sports wagering and the loss of revenue from it? You can bet on that! =)

    With the exit of online gambling companies (many of them based in London, United Kingdom) from the US market, they and their financial backers thought that they would not have to worry about the U.S. authorities anymore. This turned out to be a huge mistake.

    On January 15, 2007, shares in popular payment processor, Neteller PLC were suspended when their founders, Stephen Lawrence and John Lefebvre were detained by U.S. authorities. The two men were charged with laundering billions of dollars in gambling proceeds. This was the beginning of a crackdown by the U.S. on the financial middlemen that sprung up after credit card companies and Paypal gave into pressure to stop processing online gambling transactions from U.S. customers in 2001. Neteller handled $7 billion in transactions in 2005, $5.1 billion in the first half of 2006, mostly from U.S. clients to and from online betting sites. The Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) stated:

    online_gambling2.jpg"Internet gambling is a multibillion-dollar industry. A significant portion of that is the illegal handling of Americans' bets with offshore gaming companies, which amounts to a colossal criminal enterprise masquerading as legitimate business. There is ample indication these defendants knew the American market for their services was illegal. The FBI is adamant about shutting off the flow of illegal cash."

    After the arrests, British Columbia-based (Canada) payment processor Citadel Commerce Corp. announced Wednesday (Jan 17) that it, too, would withdraw from the U.S. market. Another company, Instadebit also pulled out. With the loss of Neteller, Citadel, and Instadebit as well as Paypal and major credit card companies, gambling users are finding other "safe, secure, and similar banking methods." Remaining payment processors are ePassporte, ATMonline, and CLICK2PAY. We do not know how long these payment methods will last, but the crackdown will lead to a rise of less trustworthy money dealers.

    But it gets better. TimesOnline has now reported that the Southern District Court of New York has issued subpoenas to at least 16 banks, including HSBC, Dresdner Kleinwort, Credit Suisse, and Deutsche Bank demanding e-mails, telephone records, and documents on their involvement with online gaming in the U.S.

    It would seem the Department of Justice is going after the banks which helped float the online gaming companies over the last few years. With the passage and signing of the gambling ban last October, the DoJ has a valid law behind its actions. Here is one example:

    Bettingmarket.com has a running blog on the latest events in the U.S. about online gambling. It mentions about a U.S. law, the Prohibition of Illegal Gambling Businesses Act of 1955. It clearly states that:

    (a) Whoever conducts, finances, manages, supervises, directs, or owns all or part of an illegal gambling business shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

    In the past, there was debate on whether online gambling fell under the jurisdiction of this law. Prior to the passing of the Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, Fidelity, Blue Ridge Capital, Morgan Stanley, Prudential, and Merrill Lynch, all U.S. firms were all main institutional investors in SportingBet PLC. Are these companies now liable for prosecution?

    It would seem so.

    With the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, the DoJ is now going after any company or individual that has ever accepted a bet from a U.S. citizen, every bank that has promoted or invested in a US-facing online gambling company, every bank or payment processor company that ever faciliated a financial transaction to a US-facing online gambling web site, and every gambling portal that has ever advertised US-facing online gambling companies. (from an anonymous gambling industry analyst)

    What about European banks such as HSBC and Deutsche Bank? They and other City banks in London are upset about the actions from the U.S. DoJ. The UK Treasury Ministry is monitoring the situation.

    Some quotes from UK politicians:

    Alan Duncan, Shadow Trade and Industry Secretary, said: “There is growing suspicion that the US Department of Justice is using its muscle in a highly unpleasant manner, and is targeting financial institutions beyond their own shores in a way that cannot be justified. I hope the Department will stop and review its approach so that its behaviour doesn’t sour relations between us.”

    Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman and a former chief economist for Shell, said: “This appears to be another case of extra-territorial and retrospective action from the US authorities that goes against two basic principles of justice.”

    Deutsche was co-broker to PartyGaming, the largest online gaming company. PartyGaming was advised by Dresdner on its IPO in 2005, which raised £5 billion and propelled the company into the FTSE 100. HSBC advised 888.com on its £590 million IPO later in the same year. Credit Suisse had advised the company’s former shareholders.

    The UK Home Office has not commented on whether it had received a request from the United States for "mutual legal assistance," a statutory precursor to the U.S. authorities conducting an investigation in the UK.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    It may seem quite unfair for the federal government to go after U.S. banks and financial companies over their involvement in the online gambling industry before the passage of the 2006 law. Now it looks like everything before 2006 is now liable for prosecution.

    As for targeting banks like Deutsche, HSBC, and Credit Suisse for their involvement in the IPO of several popular online gaming companies, it seems to be an overreach of U.S. jurisdiction and extra-territorial arrogance. Quite a difference when online gambling is illegal in America, but legal in Great Britain and pretty much the rest of Europe. It will be quite interesting to see how it plays out. Will the UK government cooperate with U.S. authorities?

    Here is one site keeping tabs on what is available for gambling users with regards to online financing. No matter how many companies are closed or forced to cease their U.S. activities, there is always someone else to take over.

    Here is another interesting article. It would seem Las Vegas casinos are looking into mobile gaming devices so customers in Nevada can still enjoy their gambling addiction wherever they are. It is not yet considered in New Jersey.

    Also, government bureaucracy on the federal and state level need to be standardised. During the time when online gambling was vague on the federal law books, it was subject to intepretation by the 50 state attorney generals. I could assume that with the 2006 law, the federal can prosecute, but what about the states? How many potential lawsuits can be made out there?

    A blanket ban on online gambling will not be the ideal solution in the long term. Regulate it, not ban it. You are forcing them to go underground with no legitmate tracing mechanisms in place. Bringing forth evidence will be a lot harder and no one will be following rules. Honestly, the ban will promote an underground gambling industry. The mob and crime syndicates will have a field day with this one.

    A repeal of the gambling ban must be introduced as soon as possible.

    Turkish-Armenian writer shot dead

    If you do not like a person's viewpoint, there would be protests, a bit of physical intimidation, and other ways to suppress or deny the person from speaking. In Turkey, you get shot.

    Hrant Dink, a prominent Turkish-Armenian editor, was shot dead outside his newspaper office in Instanbul.

    He was given a six-month suspended sentence in October 2005 after writing about the Armenian "genocide" of 1915.

    BBC News - Turkish-Armenian writer shot dead

    Muslims criticise '24'

    274px-24tv.jpgMuslims groups are once again criticising the hit Fox drama '24' for casting Islamic terrorists as the villians for Season 6. Two years ago, they protested when the plot cast them as the villains who launched a stolen nuclear missile in an attack on America.

    The whining Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) held a conference call with Fox executives to protest the current plot line and request more positive portrayals of Muslims on the show.

    Spokewoman for CAIR, Rabiah Ahmed, stated: "The overwhelming impression you get is fear and hatred for Muslims."

    The Fox network released a statement:

    "24 is a heightened drama about anti-terrorism. After five seasons, the audience clearly understands this, and realizes that any individual, family, or group (ethnic or otherwise) that engages in violence is not meant to be typical."

    "Over the past several seasons, the villains have included shadowy Anglo businessmen, Baltic Europeans, Germans, Russians, Islamic fundamentalists, and even the (Anglo-American) president of the United States," the network said. "The show has made a concerted effort to show ethnic, religious and political groups as multidimensional, and political issues are debated from multiple viewpoints."

    Engy Abdelkader, a member of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee from Howell, New Jersey, launched a campaign Wednesday to encourage Muslims offended by the program to complain to Fox.

    "I found the portrayal of American Muslims to be pretty horrendous," she said. "It was denigrating from beginning to end. This is one of the most popular programs on television today. It's pretty distressing."

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Obviously, since the Chinese kidnapped Jack Bauer at the end of last season, everyone should be pissed off at anyone of Chinese descent for putting him in prison for 2 years.

    CAIR tell us that the show makes repeated links between Muslims and terrorism. A sign of paranoia? It would seem that '24' did not get that many complaints when other villians such as Germans, Russians, Europeans, Anglo businessmen, and the corrupt U.S. president were used.

    Soon, CAIR will tell us to ban movies such as "Executive Decision," "True Lies," from movie rental stores. Remember Tom Clancy's novel, Sum of All Fears, the villians were actually Muslim fundamentalists, not disaffected Russian scientists and a former Nazi Austrian businessman.

    If people are reacting because they saw it on '24' it goes to show that they need help in trying to distinguish between fiction and reality.

    No Spanking

    Only in California...

    In the state Legislature, Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, D-Mountain View, wants to outlaw spanking children up to 3 years old. If the law passes and is signed, it would make California the first state in the nation to explicitly ban parents from smacking their kids.

    The bill, which is still being drafted, will be written broadly, she added, prohibiting ``any striking of a child, any corporal punishment, smacking, hitting, punching, any of that.'' Lieber said it would be a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail or a fine up to $1,000, although a legal expert advising her on the proposal said first-time offenders would probably only have to attend parenting classes.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    I am sure spanking a really young baby is not good, but do we really need a law on the books that explicitly states it? Soon, we will have parents being told how to read to their kids for at least 30 mins every night, or make sure their kids are not in the pool until one hour later after eating food.

    As Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine puts it, "Where do you stop?"

    Border Patrol Agents to go to prison - Fair Justice?

    Two Texas Border Patrol agents, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, were convicted of shooting a Mexican drug runner in the backside while on duty. They will serve 11 and 12 years in prison respectively for the February 2005 non-fatal shooting of Osvaldo Aldrete Davila.

    Apparently they were found guilty of violating the civil rights of Davila when they shot him on Feb. 17, 2005, in Fabens, Texas, about 30 miles east of El Paso, then tampered with evidence by picking up shell casings from the shooting.

    The U.S. government gave the Mexican drug smuggler IMMUNITY for his testimony against the two agents. It would seem the smuggler was trying to smuggle 750 POUNDS of marijuana - which had a street value of more than $1 million -- into the United States on the day he was shot. Better yet, he was then treated in a U.S. hospital and is now suing the federal government for $5 million.

    Foxnews.com - 2 Border Patrol Agents to Turn Themselves in Today for Shooting Mexican Drug Runner

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Were the actions of the two border agents justified? At what point would the rule of law be supplanted in favor of removing known criminals from their routing drug activities? This drug smuggler has probably does many runs from Mexico to the United States transporting illegal drugs. We are not talking about a few ounces here and there, but 750 POUNDS!

    Why did the government give this criminal immunity? Is it because he would have refused to testify against the two agents unless the feds offered something substantial to him? Then that would mean the agents would have gone free! Or the prosecution is assuming that these two men would try to do the same thing against another drug smuggler? Perish the thought!

    The federal prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, is focused on the civil rights violations that the agents committed, not on the criminal activities of the drug smuggler. By common sense, this would have been absolutely wrong, but the rule of law must be upheld, no matter who is the person.

    It really does suck to see an illegal alien with a drug criminal history being able to send two border agents to prison.

    Currently, groups such as Friends of the Border Patrol, The Minutemen, and Grassfire.org are writing up petitions to keep the agents out of prison or through a presidential pardon from Bush.

    Several lawmakers, including Poe; Rohrabacher; Walter Jones, R-N.C.; Tom Tancredo, R-Colo.; and Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., last week sent a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales asking him to allow Ramos and Compean to remain free on bond pending the appeal of their convictions.

    A dozen rallies were held across the country in support of the agents last week.

    Update Jan 23 2007

    WorldNetDaily reports at least 70 Republican Congressional members are co-sponsoring a House resolution ordering that the convictions and sentences of Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean be vacated and that they be released from custody immediately.

    It would seem President Bush is not in any hurry to pardon these two Border Patrol agents.

    How can you give immunity to a known drug smuggler who probably has criss-crossed the Mexican-U.S. border many times with illegal drugs?

    Will the U.S. lose the future space race?

    Since Congress failed to pass the appropriation bill that covers NASA, the agency's budget is frozen at 2006 levels though Sept. 30. So it will be stuck at $16.3 billion and about $520 million short of President Bush's request as part of his vision for exploration of the moon and Mars.

    Article

    NASA Administrator Michael Griffin has a choice on whether to lay off workers, gut science programs, or delay the development of spacecraft Orion to return astronauts to the moon.

    Orion is intended to replace the aging space shuttle fleet and carry astronauts to the international space station, the moon and beyond. The spacecraft, being developed by Houston's Johnson Space Center, is scheduled for launch by 2014, four years after the planned retirement of the nation's three remaining space shuttles.

    This four-year gap is worrisome to lawmakers and space fans. It is possible that domestic politics and foreign factors may threaten to expand that gap.

    NASA was expecting to see a $1 billion increase in their 2007 budget. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, working last year with Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., tried to add $1 billion to NASA's 2007 budget. They hoped the money would shore up all of the agency's programs, help NASA recover from the 2003 Columbia shuttle tragedy and repair damage to space facilities in Louisiana and Mississippi caused by Hurricane Katrina.

    But after their amendment was approved by an appropriations subcommittee, it collapsed when the GOP-controlled Congress passed only two of the 11 federal spending bills for fiscal 2007 — those for the military and homeland security.

    * * * * * * * * * * * *

    The concern is if the United States falters in the manned space race, it will leave a vacuum for other spacefaring nations to take over.

    Should the space program go private? Or should private industry get involved in the space effort? Or maybe NASA should start issuing space licenses to companies that want to develop and implement space exploratory programs?

    Euro Beats Dollar in the Bond Market

    The euro has displaced the US dollar as the world’s pre-eminent currency in international bond markets, having outstripped the dollar-denominated market for the second year in a row.

    Outstanding debt issued in the euro was worth the equivalent of $4,836bn at the end of 2006 compared with $3,892bn for the dollar, according to International Capital Market Association data.

    Is the US dollar's popularity under threat?

    Financial Times - Euro Displaces Dollar in Bond Markets

    New Jersey: Debate over remembrance holidays

    A legislative proposal that has passed both the House and Senate of the state legislature and is waiting for the Governor's signature will no longer require New Jersey schools to teach about Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

    Other holidays includes Lincoln's Birthday, Washington's Birthday, Columbus Day, Thanksgiving Day, Arbor Day, and Commodore Barry Day, which commemorates Revolutionary War hero John Barry.

    Currently, NJ has a 1967 state law which requires schools to promote "the development of a higher spirit of patriotism." Other states that have a similar law to this are Florida, Nebraska, and Washington.

    The sponsor bill, state Senator John Adler, cited a 2004 report by a state commission that schools should be given more flexibility to decide holiday observations. Plus he does not think schools would take the effort to recognise such holidays.

    Unfortunately, New Jersey school officials support the bill.

    The New Jersey School Boards Association:
    It's simply time and flexibility," said Mike Yaple, spokesman. There's nothing in the legislation that can undermine the amount of pride and honor a community feels toward their veterans."

    CNN Article - Veterans fight to save school remembrance mandate

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Now, I am curious why Martin Luther King is not mentioned. I am really sure we all have reasons why MLK should be recognised and we should apply that reasoning to the other holidays that will no longer be required if the Governor signs the legislation.

    Giving the schools more flexibility seems to me like a very poor excuse to reduce the teaching of our civic history to our students. Sometimes these requirements are needed to ensure that students know about our country's foundation, its history, and their Founding Fathers.

    On a side note, it would really screw up the vacation schedule. A lot of people do travel during Memorial Day wknd, Thanksgiving Day wknd, and Washington's Birthday wknd since it's a 3-day holiday. I know, a petty excuse, but I really think these days are quite important and should be remembered.

    While some are against the Iraq War conflict, our military and our veterans have done their duty to protect this country during the world wars, Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf conflicts. Days like Memorial Day and Veterans Day are tributes to their sacrifice.

    Update 16 Jan 2007

    This is the time for action against a law which is unjust for our military veterans.

    Contact Governor Jon Corzine

    Contact John Adler, NJ state senator, democrat who co-sponsored the bill to end the recognition of Memorial and Veterans Day.

    Legislation that will repeal the holidays (see section 5)

    Dress Code Violation - Penalty: Bodily Harm

    17-year old student Sabrina Herndon has been charged with a felony over what appears to be a dress code violation with a strap. She was wearing a jacket and strapless top and was changing in the girls' locker room at Palm Beach Gardens High School.

    A teacher noticed that the strapless top is a dress code violation though Sabrina countered that with the jacket, it was within the rules.

    Then a male assistant principal allegedly put Sabrina in a chokehold twice.

    Apparently, the school district says the student is a juvenile and her behaviour warranted physical force and felony battery charges.

    So what's next? Ripped jeans is 10 lashes? Wearing a sexy t-shirt requires an arm to be cut off? Oh, maybe a guy wearing a studded earring will be shot and killed?

    Link

    Update-1

    Palm Beach Post reports that the school has denied that the student was choked.

    Assistant principal Mike Chamberlin said gym teacher Cheryl Green called him to the girls' locker room after 17-year-old senior Sabrina Herndon refused to comply with school dress code policies.

    The actions afterwards are in dispute between the student and the asst prinicpal and gym teacher.

    So right now, she's recommended for explusion and she would have go to an alternative school for students with discipline problems. Plus, the district has referred charges of assaulting a school board employee, a felony offense, to the state attorney's office.

    She's in her final semester of high school.

    Just let her finish her last year and she's gone. Plus, the dress code really needs a dose of common sense added to it.

    LA Dodgers Provide Fast Approach to Obesity

    The Los Angeles Dodgers will offer "all-you-can-eat" seats next season. The right-field pavilion at Dodger Stadium will be converted into a special section, giving around 3,000 fans as many hot dogs, peanuts, popcorn, nachos, and sodas as they want.

    Tickets will cost $35 in advance, $40 on gameday.

    Beer, ice cream, and candy will be sold separately at regular prices.

    If people want a buffet, go to the restaurant and they can watch the game on TV.

    Accuser changes story AGAIN! in Duke lacrosse case

    The accuser in the Duke lacrosse rape case has changed her account again about when the alleged gang rape occurred, who attacked her, and how.

    The News Observer report that the defense attorneys representing the three Duke players have filed a motion to dismiss the case.

    The same is reported in the abc11tv web site.

    Honestly, it is time to end this. Prosecutor Nifong should concede defeat and just let the case die right there.

    If the reliability of your star witness, the accuser herself, is completed destroyed, then how can the case proceed?

    Yale all-male a cappella group beaten up in San Francisco

    (Updated 25 Jan 2007)

    bakersdozen.jpgThis is quite shocking and it is very disturbing to know that politics is dragging the police investigation there.

    During New Years' Eve, Yale University's renowned, all-male a cappella group, The Baker's Dozen were beaten outside of a party after singing "The Star-Spangled Banner."

    The incident was first reported by Dan Noyes, an investigative reporter from local ABC affiliate KGOTV.

    Basically, the all-male singing group were invited to Reno Rapagnani's home for a NYE party. It would seem that a few local young men came to the party uninvited and proceeded to taunt and berate the choir group. These young individuals were graduates from a local college prep school, Sacred Heart Cathedral. Now, it is known that Rapagnani's daughter Rose and Yale student Stephanie Soderborg '09 were alumni of another prep school, St. Ignatius. Both schools were local rivals. It is not fully known whether the rivalry played a major factor into the incident.

    Apparently, the graduates from Sacred Heart were jealous of the Yale choir group. They proceeded to harass the singers for their "conservative" formal dress and that they were not from San Francisco. It also seems that their singing of the national anthem got them even more angrier, so the Yale students decided to leave the party to avoid further conflict.

    Witnesses stated that one of the Sacred Heart graduates, 19-year-old Richard Aicardi, took out his mobile phone, and called in reinforcements saying "I'm 20 deep, my boys are coming." Soon after, assailants arrived in two vehicles and proceeded to attack the choir group. There were reports of five, six, or seven men attacking each singer.

    Several students sustained injuries including concussions, black eyes, sprained ankle, and other bodily bruises. One group member, Sharyar Aziz '10, suffered a broken jaw in two places, requiring surgery. His jaw would have to wired shut for eight weeks. Reports indicate that it was pretty much a one-sided fight where the Yale students tried to defend themselves and none of the assailants showed any noticeable injuries.

    When police arrived on the scene, there were probably over 20 people fighting in the street outside of the party.

    Here's the shocker... police detained four of the attackers that were identified by The Baker's Dozen, but they were not arrested! They were later released!!! Now, you tell me, if there two groups of gang members, blacks or Latinos, the police would arrive and arrest everyone they caught on the spot! No offense, but that would be the expectation. Same goes for college riots or any thing resembling a major fight. Anyone that is caught would be arrested, booked, and later release. These four individuals that attacked the Yale students were released because police felt there was no substantial proof that they had assaulted them. WTF! Excuse my language, but they were clearly identified. Also, notice there were no injuries on the attackers, and quite a lot on the Yale singers.

    Here is another interesting note. It would seem the police knew who were the assailants. Some of the suspects were sons of a local prominent area pediatrician. It was mentioned that the pediatrician was "quite connected" with the local political establishment.

    Now, for about three days after the incident, while the Yale singers were still in San Francisco, police investigators never attempted to contact any of them for statements. They did not even photograph the injuries to The Baker's Dozen. The Rapagnani couple had to do that.

    A week after the incident, no arrests have been made.

    Today, S.F. police investigators have asked the choir group, who are now in Los Angeles, to return back to the city for questions and statements. A bit of common sense here. Would it be more sensible to have one or two investigators fly to Los Angeles and interview the choir members there instead of the other way around? The police department did not even consider paying the airfare for the group to return, suggesting that the Yale students were affluent or financially well-off to take care of it themselves. Come on here, not all students at Yale are rich and politically connected. What an insensitive assumption to make here.

    Before the incident broke upon the national media, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom had no comment about it or refused to talk about it. Afterwards, he convened a meeting of the top brass of the police department and is pushing for a thorough investigation. Maybe he was waiting for some poll results on what would happened if he did not do anything.

    Yale University issued a statement saying they hope the "perpetrators will be apprehended and prosecuted."

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Interested about this "politically connected" pediatrician Eileen Aicardi?

    From what you can find on the WWW, she is serving as Secretary for the California Chapter 1 of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

    It would seem her influence is quite substantial since her office handles quite a lot of upper-income patients.

    Involvement with Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep - the Aicardi family has two named trophy cases and the SHCP Connection newsletter.

    A substantial donor to the Salesian Boys' & Girls' Club of San Francisco.

    Clearly, a substantial donor to several major organisations, no listing of political groups yet. Maybe she is a major donor to Mayor Newsom?

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    11 Jan 2007

    San Francisco Chronicle Article

    yalestudentinjured.jpgSan Francisco's police chief Heather Fong defended the investigation saying they made no arrests because they are unable to find anyone who could substantiate any charges.

    Excuse me? First, I am sure the attackers were identified when they entered the NYE party un-invited, and some of the singers were able to identify them after police arrived to break up the one-sided fight. What about the car that was seen on the security tape from the church? Did it match?

    Their police dispatch log suggests that the incident was minor. So bodily bruises, sprained ankle, and a busted jaw is not a big deal??? I would say that the police officers probably knew who the attackers were (either by association or reputation).

    Finally, Mayor Newsom has responded by saying he was "deeply concerned for what happened to the students from Yale." So eleven days after the vigilante attack, the mayor promised a "swift and fair" investigation.

    No comment from the Aicardi family in this article.

    I was wondering if the police went ahead and submitted a subponea for Richard Aicardi's mobile phone records. Who did he call that night?

    The choir families have hired the law firm of Gonzalez & Leigh.

    The Examiner has reported that two SanFran police inspectors will fly to Southern California and show a photographic lineup to the singer group. That is good news.

    Of course, it will lead down to a word vs word play. The singers will say that the Aicardi boys and others were responsible, and I am sure the alleged attackers will deny this and have their "friends" vouch for whatever alias they can think of. Rapagnani and Dawydiak, who co-hosted the party should be able to provide more information on who came to the party un-invited.

    ABC KGO TV has a follow-up article (they were the first to report this heinous incident).

    It includes a link to a picture of 19-year-old Richard Aicardi at the party (part of slideshow)

    Slideshow of injuries that the Yale singers received

    Former San Francisco prosecutor Jim Hammer has joined the team of attorneys for The Baker's Dozen.

    The local news station is keeping an I-Team blog on this.

    14 Jan 2007

    San Francisco detectives have completed their interviews with 15 members of the Yale choir group in a police station in Southern California.

    I am still a bit perplexed by their police chief, Heather Fong. Her excuse on why there were no arrests: Yale students, after pointing out the alleged attackers to police on the night in question, were unavailable to make positive identifications and formal statements or to explain exactly who did what to whom.

    According to the Yale choir, they DID identify the ones that assaulted them, and the police officers on the scene thanked and told them they can go.

    The San Francisco Chronicle takes the assumption that because this popular and well-known a cappella group was beaten up after singing the national anthem, the national media thinks it is all about politics and the city being un-American.

    But I would say that the incident would still have been reported on the national circuit if the choir group did not sing that song. They are still a well-known historical music group, and I think they impressed the local girls, much to the disgust of the guys who attacked the group on that night.

    San Jose Mercury News reporter Scott Herhold gives a rundown on the current scene.

    Update 25 Jan 2007

    ABC KGO News Affiliate has an exclusive interview with Hunter Fairman, one of the hosts of the party. Also, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris decided not to take action at this point.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    More News Articles

    Yale Daily News

    ABC 7 News (had video)

    Washington Post

    News Ch 3 Palm Springs Station

    Fox News

    SFGate.com

    Hartford Courant

    Salon.com

    Ch 17 KGET

    OSU - Florida Wager

    Governor Crist and Strickland placed a friendly wager and with Florida winning the BCS National Championship, Crist gets:

    1) Some of Cincinnati's famous Skyline Chili

    2) candy buckeyes

    3) some Ohio wine

    4) Strickland has to fly the Florida Gators' flag over the governor's mansion.

    Hilton-Owned Hotel in Oslo says no to Cubans

    The 140-hotel Scandic Edderkoppen Hotel chain has banned the Cuban delegation, who are visiting Oslo for a travel fair, from booking the hotel after it was bought by U.S.-based Hilton Hotel Corp. Since the hotel is now owned by an American company, it must abide by the United States' trade embargo against Cuba.

    In the previous five visits to Oslo, the Cuban delegation was able to stay at the hotel all five times. When the hotel chain was bought out by Hilton in March, the Cubans were informed in December that they would have to find another hotel due to the American boycott.

    As a result, the 300,000-member Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees announced a boycott of the Scandic hotel chain. The Anti-Racist Center in Oslo has filed a police complaint citing Norwegian law that "no one can be denied access based on their citizenship or ethnic origin."

    The Foreign Ministry has stated that companies operating in Norway have to obey Norwegian law, regardless of their home base.

    The 830,000-member Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions have demanded that "the government take steps so that companies like Scandic, which clearly abide by the United States' illegal boycott and blockade and not Norwegian law, are barred from doing business in Norway."

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Does a Norwegian company, owned by an American corporation have to follow U.S. law in addition to Norwegian law?

    Would it make sense if an American company bought out one of the national rail companies in the UK, then force it to bar Cuban nationals from travelling the trains because of U.S. law?

    Since when did U.S. law supercede the laws of a foreign country? An American company operating on foreign soil would ultimately have to follow the laws and regulations of the foreign country, correct?

    Besides, the Cuban embargo is a farce and should be repealed. It is likely that Castro has only, but a few more years to live, and his brother seems a bit more receptive with the U.S. This is an opportunity for the embargo to be lifted and start a new beginning with Cuba.


    MoveOn.org to use "mob tactics"

    It would seem that MoveOn.org has a plan for politicians that supported sending troops to Iraq - mob violence!

    Well, not exactly like what the Columbia University protestors did, but almost similar. MoveOn plans to urge their supporters to "crash" the Iraq Forum featuring Senators John McCain (Arizona) and Joe Lieberman (Connecticut), hosted by the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

    Link

    Chanting anti-war slogans and disrupting forums and speeches have lost their creativity. Does this mean MoveOn and their members are unsure or perhaps unable to argue and debate constructively with Iraq war proponents?

    My guess is that the protestors just want to be shown on CNN and FoxNews being dragged off by security officers. Ahh, a few seconds of fame! =)

    Some Vindication for Accused Duke Lacrosse Players


    Sorry, one more...

    The light at the end of the tunnel is getting much brighter.

    Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann have been invited to return to Duke University and be placed in good standing. Duke has said it has asked the both of them to return for spring semester starting next week.

    While the rape charges have been dropped, the kidnapping and sexual assault charges are still there. The university could still punish them if they are convicted of any of the charges, Larry Moneta, Duke's vice president for student affairs, said in a letter to Duke's president.

    However, university officials made it clear that their estimation of the prosecution's case has changed.

    "As circumstances have evolved in this extraordinary case, we have attempted to balance recognition of the gravity of legal charges with the presumption of your innocence," Moneta said in a letter to Seligmann and Finnerty dated Tuesday.

    How soon before the rest of the charges are dropped? Could the accuser be charged with lying to police or a civil lawsuit by the lacrosse players?

    Would longtime coach Mike Pressler see some sort of apology by the University?

    Paris Hilton Fired

    One more for this morning...

    It seems there are two nightclubs in Orlando and Jacksonville, FL named Club Paris that were using Paris Hilton as their "official" face.

    It turns out that Paris Hilton has not been keeping up with her obligations in showing up for certain events. As a result, the club's owner, Fred Khalilan, has "fired" the hotel heiress.

    We do know she is very fashionably late, showing up six hours late for the grand opening of the club in downtown Orlando.

    Since she is charging about $1 million for showing up at parties and other events, why bother with these two clubs? Plus, we should never expect Paris to come to an event on-time or even remember her next speaking engagement.

    One less thing for her to deal with.

    She's already giving herself a bad name while in Australia. Turns out she has been leaving a cafe and a restaurant without paying. A symbol of being a D-list celebrity.

    32nd Annual List of Cliches Deserving Banishment

    Lake Superior State University's 32nd annual List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-Use, Over-Use, and General Uselessness

    Gitmo

    undocumented alien

    pwn

    TomKat

    awesome

    Brangelina

    gone / went missing

    gone bad

    truthiness

    sounds healthy

    boast

    Republicans Complaining about Minority Rights - themselves!

    CNN's article about the Democrats taking over Congress also includes concerns by Republicans that they will be cut out of setting House rules and is urging Pelosi and other Democratic leaders to adopt the same "minority bill of rights" that the Democrats had urged in 2004.

    Republicans want guarantees that they will be able to offer substitute legislation and amendments to bills as they move through the chamber.

    Didn't Democrats wanted the same thing after the Republicans won Congress back in 1994 and again in 2004?

    Obviously, I understand the euphoria for the Republicans after they ousted their counterparts after 40 years of power, now after 12 years of being in the majority, the Republicans are now back in the minority. They are now fearing that the Democrats will put them down just like what they did to them.

    Also, Republicans are complaining about Democrats pushing through their 100-hour legislation without their input. If they can remember back in 1994, Newt Gingrich's Republicans pushed their Contract with America through Congress during the first 100 days. Of course, implementation of the Contract did not do so well since most of the bills died in the Senate. In the end, it was pretty much a mythical than material role in their victory.

    Incoming House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat said they will treat the Republicans much better after their 100-hour legislation has been passed.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Here's some more. In the House TV gallery yesterday, Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry (North Carolina) demanded that the new Democratic majority give the new Republican minority all the rights that Republicans had denied Democrats for years.

    "The bill we offer today, the minority bill of rights, is crafted based on the exact text that then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi submitted in 2004 to then-Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert," declared McHenry, with 10 Republican colleagues arrayed around him. "We're submitting this minority bill of rights, which will ensure that all sides are protected, that fairness and openness is in fact granted by the new majority."

    Cindy Sheehan Disrupts Democrats' Press Conf

    So Democrats get their turn at being shouted down by anti-war protestors with their usual leader, Cindy Sheehan. She led the group to Capitol Hill and disrupted the House Democrats' press conference chanting "de-escalate, investigate, troops home now."

    Sheehan's Statement:
    "We didn't put you in power to work with the people that have been murdering hundreds of thousands of people since they have been in power. We put you in power to be opposition to them finally and we're the ones who put them in power."

    What is this? She's claiming that because of her and the anti-war movement, the Democrats should thank them for restoring them to power in both houses of Congress. The war in Iraq certainly played a factor, but Miss Sheehan should really stop thinking about taking in all the glory. The voters were also concerned with the economy, high government spending, immigration, and the Republican's bad record on ethics. The Democratic Party cannot be hijacked by the anti-war arm of their organisation.

    The Washington Business Journal has an article on the disrupted press conference too.

    Attention-Grabbing Cindy Sheehan


    Lawsuit Paranoia: Omaha Bans Sledding

    KETV News reports that the city of Omaha, NE has banned all types of sledding activities at two area parks: Cunningham and Zorinsky.

    This action was taken after the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that public entities, such as parks, are not protected by law, so they could be liable if a person gets injured on park property.

    Ok, so in an extreme case example, a kid using a sled down a park hill and directs himself into a tree, can sue the city for failure to protect kids from harming themselves while sledding.

    In addition, activities on frozen ponds and lagoons are also banned. So slip and break your back on the frozen pond, sue the city. Jump and break the ice on the lagoon and hurt yourself, sue the city.

    How about banning snowball throwing too? Or maybe all running and walking? Who knows if a person slips on an icy patch on the walkway, he or she can lodge a lawsuit against the city.

    Imagine booths at the park entrances where people have to sign a waiver. So sad...very, very sad.

    Scandalous Texas Cheerleaders

    Newsweek has published a "Mean Girls" article on five cheerleaders from McKinney North High School in Texas.

    It would seem that these girls were going through some sort of "Girls Gone Wild" period. But during their high school years, not college. It has been alleged by photos on MySpace and witnesses they have committed acts of raunchy behaviour. Known as the "Fab Five," they were an elite social clique that flagrantly flouted school rules but faced few sanctions. Perhaps the reason was that the ringleader was the daughter of McKinney North's principal, Linda Theret.

    While it would seem that these girls have been caught boozing and found to have sent dirty pranks to their cheerleadering coach, their punishments was pretty much a slap on the wrist. For one example, when the condom-store photos hit the Internet, the principal wanted to kick the five girls off the squad, a committee of administrators from the school and district recommended 15-day suspensions for the girls in the drinking photo and 30-day suspensions for those in the condom-store snapshot. After parents protested that the latter picture shouldn't be treated more harshly than the former, the superintendent of schools agreed and reduced the penalty for the condom-store photo to 15 days. Reduced to 15 days??? After hearing this, it would seem the adults are condoning the girls' behaviour.

    As an end result to all of this, the principal resigned after accepting a monetary settlement. All five girls are no longer members of the cheerleading squad.

    But is the whole thing over? Wait till these girls go into college. Could their behaviour still be an issue of concern for future students, professors, and administrators?

    Could this elite social group be the same in every high school? Is there a group of affluent kids in each school breaking the school rules, and because their parents have some sort of connection in the town, their disgusting actions are accepted?

    They should join the Paris Hilton & Britney Spears Club for the Socially Crazed and Inept.

    MySpace, Facebook still relevant after college?

    NY Post - Some Rethink Posting of Private Info

    Throughout high school and college, your MySpace or Facebook entry must be filled with your postings about school, social life, and crazy events and images, plus comments and responses from friends and other visitors.

    What you put on your MySpace or Facebook is for public consumption unless you explicitly set your entry to private so only your close friends can access it. For people who blog (like myself) and use social-networking sites, we have to realise that these places are really public and anyone can read whatever information we have uploaded, posted, and commented on.

    Thus after college graduation, is it still appropriate to leave your personal page as-is? Probably not. Some examples from the article above:

    Chuck Sanchez, a 25-year-old Chicagoan, recently deleted references to his public relations firm on his MySpace page after everyone from a job applicant to his fiancee's mother found the page.

    Rachel Hutson removed some photos from her college sorority days after she took a job as a civilian working for the military. She's also made her Facebook and MySpace profiles private, so that only friends she approves can see it.

    With everyone becoming more savvy with the Internet, more adults - teachers, parents, university admissions counselors, and prospective employers - can find your personal webspace via Google, Yahoo, or any other search engine. No matter if you deleted the page or changed it, it will take some time before it is completely purged from the Internet (note Google's cached page example).

    Some of you may think it's invasion of privacy, but there is nothing you can do to prevent me from looking you up on Facebook or MySpace, or your own personal blog journal. If it is accessible on the Internet, it's public.

    There is already increasing occurrences where employers are informing applicants that they will check up on their personal webpages or social-networking sites as part of their background check.

    So if you want to remove some "embarassing" photos or cleaning up offensive posts or comments, now it is the time to do it. Or make your site restricted to just close friends and colleagues.

    It is not about free speech. It is just about being more aware and to educate ourselves to be more cautious and careful.

    The importance of checking one's resume

    Sometimes that perfect resume may be too good to be true.

    CNN Money.com - Trump mortgage chief inflated resume

    Applicants should know that any company will try to verify your references so if you want to "hype" your resume, you better not stretch it too far.

    Fuel Economy Changes Needed

    The traditional Big Three automakers continue to argue that the current government's Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) are sufficient despite the fact that the current 27.5 miles per gallon for cars and 20.7 miles per gallon for trucks and SUVs have not been changed over a decade.

    The technology is there to make it happen. Even if the standards remain the same, Japanese car makers Toyota and Honda will still win in the long run. If the Big Three won't adapt, they will suffer.

    We are not asking for a 100-mpg vehicle. The technology is there to create vehicles that can run on 50-60 mpg saving consumers hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in gas costs.

    How can one fail to see any logic in that?

    CNN Money.com - GM slams possible fuel economy changes

    Fifth Third Bank - Highest ATM Surcharge Fee

    We like to award Fifth Third Bank for having the highest ATM surcharge fee to non-Fifth Third customers.

    Their ATMs charges: $2.50 per cash withdrawal transaction

    Not to mention that your own bank will charge you for using a different bank, most likely $1.00 to $1.50 per cash withdrawal transaction in addition.

    Thank you Fifth Third for gouging everyone else.

    Space: The Cost-Prohibitive Frontier

    The Independent has an article on whether the United States should continue to support a new effort to launch a manned mission to the Moon with the hopes of establishing a permanent settlement.

    It is estimated that it will cost approximately $600 billion over 20 years, or possibly $1 trillion if we incorporate cutting edge technological projects along the way.

    Quite a huge sum, but given it is spread among many years, it could be managed. The US GDP is some $12 trillion annually.

    If you believe Professor Stephen Hawking as stated in the article, space travel must be achieved to save the human race. Last week, the professor stated, "The survival of the human race is at risk as long as it is confined to a single planet." The dangers of a major asteroid collision or a devastating planetary war would threaten mankind's future.

    Public interest in space has waned. Perhaps the media no longer views NASA missions as publicity-attention events, only if a mishap or scandal would generate news coverage. Launches are routine, except to the most loyal space observers. Is it possible that we need some sort of threatening type of event to re-generate interest? Perhaps another cold war? An incoming asteroid of death or Martians?

    While the U.S. estimates that they will return to the moon and established a settlement no later than 2018 or 2020, the Chinese hope to be there a few years earlier. The European Space Agency is concentrating on sending a manned Mars mission by 2030.

    Clearly, the NASA initiative cannot be the only one that we should be dependent on. Private enterprise is probably the only way to revitalise the space industry. If the SpaceShipOne can complete its suborbital flight, then there should be no problem in letting private interests help speed the way to space colonisation and industry.

    Mobile Phones on Airlines

    Merry Christmas everyone!

    Emirates Airlines has announced that in January, they will launch mobile phone usage in its planes. Thus, they will be the first to allow passengers to make mobile phone calls on its flights.

    Australian carrier Qantas has also started evaluating technology that will let fliers use their mobile phones and PDAs during flight yearly next year.

    In the United States, air carriers do not allow in-flight mobile phone calls, although the FAA is reviewing the safety concerns associated with mobile calls made in the air.

    Enforcement varies. On my flight to Las Vegas from Newark, the female passenger on my left did not turn her Blackberry off. Throughout the flight, she took quick checks for incoming emails and text messages. The possibility of mobile phones and other units interfering with airplane electronics seems less remote. I would not be surprised if there was an emergency on the plane, passengers would use their mobile phones.

    The technology that will allow the use of mobile phones in mid-flight at international roaming rates is coming soon. Its addition on U.S. carriers is all but certain, it's just a matter of when. It would definitely be quite cheaper than the current inflight phones which can be upwards of $10 a minute, plus a connection fee.

    But will people be anxious in using their mobile phone? A majority of business travelers (61 percent) oppose the idea of being able to use their phones in the sky, according to a global survey conducted by travel management company Carlson Wagonlit Travel early this year. The plane is pretty much the only "quiet" place left while it is in flight. Discretion must be used obviously.

    Could you imagine mobile phone ringing throughout a long-haul flight? Think of a loved one calling every hour to make sure his son or daughter is safe on the flight? Yes, you want to make sure they are safe and sound, but you can find out their flight status on the airline's website.

    I could think of business travelers more likely using their blackberry or PDA since the company pays the bill, but I think they would also appreciate the peace and quiet while the plane is in mid-flight. Plus instead of talking, use email or text messaging.

    It is not about having the right to talk on your mobile, it's about giving some due courtesy to your fellow passengers that are flying on the same plane.

    Hispanic groups call for work raid moratorium

    Latino_Protest.jpgReuters reports that U.S. Hispanic groups and activists which include the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Hispanic National Bar Association, and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials are calling for a moratorium on workplace raids.

    They believe that the raids are similar to the Nazi crackdowns on Jews in the 1930's. They also accused the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of "racial profiling," or selective enforcement against Hispanics. This comes after the raids that resulted in the arrest of over 1,300 workers on immigration violations on December 12 at meatpacking plants in six states.

    Rosa Rosales, President of LULAC
    "We are demanding an end to these immigration raids, where they are targeting brown faces. That is major, major racial profiling, and that cannot be tolerated."

    LULAC even stated that the raids are causing families to be separated and is hurting the U.S. economy.

    Democratic Party activist Carla Vela:
    "This unfortunately reminds me of when Hitler began rounding up the Jews for no reason and locking them up. Now they're coming for the Latinos, who will they come for next?"

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    First, I want to remind people that over 1,300 legal citizens or residents were the victims of identity theft since the arrested individuals held fake paperwork or other people's social security numbers. When the LULAC said families are being disrupted, the identity theft victims' lives are also messed up.

    As for rounding up Jews for no reason, the Facist government in charge had lots of reasons, and in most cases, because they just Jewish. It was obvious that Jews were targeted because they were to blame for Germany's defeat for WWI, the recession and hyperinflation, and for the rest of the country's social and economic problems.

    How can this be linked to the Hispanic immigration arrests? First, they were clearly found to be illegal citizens with no verifiable or legal documentation. Jews were indeed citizens and had verified documents. In the early 1930's, they had to register themselves with authorities because they were Jews. If they did not have any documentation, they would have been arrested and deported. Of course, things did get worse for them when the war started and during it. But linking them to the Nazis in the 1930's seems unreasonable.

    Some would say that federal authorities were being obvious in targeting Hispanic workers at these plants, but another viewpoint would show that there was a high probability that workers at those meatpacking plants held illegal documentation, and unfortunately, most of them were Latin American.

    Obviously, such a high-profile and public event of these arrests brought out Hispanic, immigration activists in protest. You have to wonder how long it took them to respond. How many other work raids occurred before the one on December 12? Maybe it just reached beyond a certain size, and the groups knew they had to act.

    Should the raids continue? Or should the raids be suspended until immigration legislation has been passed? But how long would that take? Would we stand idly by and watch more Americans be subjected to identity theft? How would we feel if illegal workers are taking our jobs and not paying taxes? Which is the better decision? The more reasonable one?

    In any case, a comprehensive immigration bill must be passed as quickly as possible, or these problems will continue to increase and worsen.

    Christmas is now labeled as a Western thing

    Ten doctorate students from China's elite universities are calling for a boycott of Christmas and urging people to revert to Chinese traditions.

    In a statement carried by many Chinese Internet websites, they lamented the loss of Chinese traditions and morals, amid what they said was the widening invasion of western popular culture.

    "We notice that many Chinese who do not believe or do not know anything about Christianity... would join in Christmas partying without much thought," said the students, all from elite universities.

    "This is a phenomenon of the collective loss of sense."

    The students said they supported religious freedom but called on Chinese people who are not Christians to stop celebrating Christmas and not to give cards and presents or go to parties.

    They also urged government departments to consider regulating Christmas activities in public venues and in the media.

    The statment said Chinese people should not pander to western culture and instead look to Confucianism for spiritual fulfillment.

    Link

    * * * * * * * * * *

    If you want to support religious freedom, discuss the appointment of catholic bishops with the Vatican, stop abusing non-registered religious groups, and actually allow Chinese citizens to practice whatever their faith freely.

    So the act of giving each other Xmas presents is anti-Chinese. Regulation is government control. Somehow I wouldn't be surprised if Chinese schoolchildren will be taught that Kris Kringle is the devil and it's all an imperialist plot to brainwash Chinese citizens.

    Consumer Technology invading corporate computing

    The Economist has an interesting article on the spread of consumer technology in the corporate workplace.

    It seems the IT department at Arizona State University decided to shift all 65,000 student accounts to Google Gmail, a free web-based email service. It is part of the bundle called "Google Apps for Your Domain" that also includes instant messenging (IM) and a web-based calendar.

    According to Dave Girouard, the boss of Google's small but growing enterprise division, “tens of thousands” of organisations have already signed up to use Google's web-based tools in place of traditional in-house e-mail systems and other software.

    ASU's decision is ahead of other IT organisations who tend to be sceptical of consumer technologies and often ban them outright. Employees, in return, tend to ignore their IT departments.

    You can read more off the Economist web site.

    * * * * * * * * *

    I would figure that this type of service would be beneifical to educational institutions, small and medium sized businesses. I really doubt that any one in the corporate Wall Street industry to take up Google's free service because of SEC rules and regulations and other compliance requirements.

    Microsoft Outlook, Live Meeting, Lotus Notes will remain the backbone of most major financial companies. I am sure some of Google services will be used, but not exclusively. For instant messenging, we must keep records of conversations of users utilising AOL, MSN, and Yahoo Messenger. Hmm, I do not know if Google Talk is compatible yet.

    But still, would you want all of your stuff to be under the control of Google?

    Another $99.7 Billion for Iraq and Afghanistan

    The Pentagon wants the White House to seek another $99.7 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to information provided to The Associated Press.

    Overall, the war in Iraq has so far cost about $350 billion. Combined with the conflict in Afghanistan and operations against terrorism elsewhere around the world, the cost to taxpayers has exceeded $500 billion, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

    Will Democrats go along with the request? Will they demand that any spending bill for Iraq/Afghanistan must include an equivalent of money that should be cut from the federal budget?

    In the past Republicans and the White House did not include these figures as part of the fiscal budget. This action deceived the American people into thinking that the federal deficit was doing better than it was supposed to.

    $1 billion needed for White House Race

    The Washington Times has reported that the chairman of the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) predicts that 2008 will produce the first $1 billion presidential race, and that $500 million is needed from each party's candidate in order to compete.

    FEC Chairman Michael E. Toner said that nominees would need to raise up to $500 million for their campaigns and that the "entry level" for getting into the presidential nomination campaign as a serious contender will be $100 million by the end of 2007.

    Hmm, maybe Bill Gates can make a run for the White House or maybe the Google founders can just cash some of their stock and buy the presidential mansion at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

    Any bank willing to give me a $1 billion loan?

    Honestly, there should be a campaign to buy every American a TiVo, then we can speed through all the political ads and junks that are going to flood the media waves over the next two years.

    Another Santa incident!

    Reported from a FOX affiliate in South Bend, IN on an incident on Long Island, NY:

    Santa Hat-Wearing Bus Driver Allowed to Keep Job

    Ken Mott (Newsday)

    A Santa hat-wearing school bus driver on Long Island, N.Y., has won the right to keep wearing his festive headgear, Newsday reported.

    Kenneth Mott, who keeps a long, white beard, almost lost his job after a parent called the bus management to complain. Mott, who has worn the red and white hat every Christmas since he started with the Bauman & Sons bus company five years ago, was ordered to stop wearing the hat because a child didn't believe in Santa Claus and was bothered by the hat.

    "I said, 'What, are you kidding me?'" Mott recalled. "I thought it was a big joke," Newsday reported.

    However, after Mott told other parents he might be fired for wearing the hat, supervisors changed their stance and said he could continue to wear the hat.

    * * * * * * * * * * *

    A child was bothered by the hat? What is this? Some sort of brainwash attempt by Christians over the non-believers? A Santa hat does not cause mental harm or physical damage. Period.

    How come the parent did not use any common sense? What if the driver was wearing a NY Yankees cap, and the kid loved the Mets? Is he going to complain too?

    Soon, we are going to have drivers on the highway calling the cops about other drivers wearing Santa hats or have a Merry Christmas sticker on their bumper.

    ...and of course in the UK

    A primary school has been accused of spoiling Christmas for pupils after a lesson telling them that Santa Claus does not exist.

    No Bibles in Saudi Arabia

    BMI air stewardess is claiming religious discrimination in which she says banned her from taking the bible to Saudi Arabia.

    The Foreign Office of Saudi Arabia, on its website:

    "The importation and use of narcotics, alcohol, pork products and religious books, apart from the Koran, and artefacts are forbidden."

    Telegraph - Stewardess 'banned from taking bible on plane'

    So if the Bible is banned in Saudi Arabia, I guess it won't hurt if the Koran is banned in the United Kingdom or United States.

    Conservatives Fear Tax Increases

    First, I want to say that the Republican Congress did pass a tax increase last year. The Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005 did prevent various tax increases from occurring this year, and defers others due to apply in future years. It was estimated to save taxpayers $69 billion. BUT..... it passed a $2.1 billion tax increase on Americans living overseas.

    When it was signed into law this year on May 17, the changes are applied retroactively back to Jan 1, 2006.

    Here is some background. The United States is the only nation that taxes its citizens and residents on their overseas income. Such overseas residents can use the foreign earned income exclusion clause if they are (i) a U.S. citizen who is a bona fide resident of a foreign country or countries for an uninterrupted period that includes an entire tax year, or (ii) a U.S. citizen or resident present in a foreign country or countries for at least 330 full days in any 12 consecutive month period. Before the Act, the maximum exclusion amount was to have been $80,000 for 2006 and 2007, and indexed for inflation after 2007. The amount of the housing cost exclusion was equal to the excess of a taxpayer's housing expenses over a base housing cost amount. A qualified individual also may elect to exclude certain foreign housing costs paid or incurred on his behalf (or claim a deduction where the costs are not paid by the employer).

    Under the new Act, the $80,000 maximum foreign earned income exclusion amount is adjusted for inflation after 2005. As a result, the maximum 2006 exclusion is $82,400. That was the good news.

    The bad news is that housing costs are limited to 30% of the maximum foreign earned income exclusion (computed on a daily basis) for the calendar year in which the tax year begins, multiplied by the number of days of bona fide residence or presence for which the qualified individual is eligible for the exclusion.

    Thus, U.S. citizens are residents are adversely affected if they are living in Bermuda, Hong Kong, the Middle East, and Singapore. Those that are living in high taxed European countries would have a less impact because of the foreign tax credit, but they would still see a tax increase.

    Since I lived in London from Jan to June 2006, I have to see if I need to pay more to Uncle Sam. Thank you Republicans for giving me a tax increase!

    Link

    NY Times - Tax Leads Americans Abroad to Renounce U.S.

    Intl Herald Tribune - U.S. executives warn expatriate tax increase may backfire

    * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Back to the main topic at hand. Washingtion Times is reporting that Republicans are worried that the Democrats will raise taxes on upper-income citizens and President Bush may agree to it.

    Of course, Republicans are somewhat mum (except for the happy fiscal conservatives) since Democrats are reining in earmarks from the 2007 congressional spending bills. Since the GOP failed to pass nine of the 11 fiscal year 2007 appropriations bills, the Democrats have to do it. One proposal is to pass a huge omnibus bill that would cover the rest of the departments. The one good thing is that the Democrats will remove all earmarks from the spending bills, and introduce a more stronger earmark transparency requirement for the following year, something that the Republicans failed to do.

    The concern is that Bush may agree to some tax increase on upper-income families to win accomodations from Democrats. In addition, Bush has not rule out raising payroll taxes to help shore up our Social Security system. Since November, Mr. Bush has said everything should be on the table in the effort to fix the program's finances -- a statement in sharp contrast to his declaration after the 2004 elections that "We will not raise payroll taxes to solve this problem."

    A bit of background. The Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) imposes a withholding Social Security tax equal to 6.20% of the gross wage amount, up to but not exceeding the Social Security Wage Base ($90,000 for the year 2005; $94,200 for 2006; and $97,500 for 2007). The same 6.20% tax is imposed on employers. For each calendar year for which the worker is assessed the FICA contribution, the SSA credits those wages as that year's covered wages. The income cutoff is adjusted yearly for inflation and other factors.

    A separate payroll tax of 1.45% of an employee's income paid directly by the employer, and an additional 1.45% deducted from the employee's paycheck, yielding an effective rate of 2.9%, funds the Medicare program. This program is primarily responsible for providing health benefits to retirees.

    The combined tax rate of these two federal programs is 15.3%.

    One sad thing I should add is that when President Bush or anyone in Congress stated that the federal deficit is not doing too bad, they failed to mention that under the rules of unified budgeting, the surplus from the Social Security Trust Fund is used to offset the total fiscal debt, making it look much smaller. So when the Trust Fund starts turning out deficits, expect a more than larger sized federal deficit each year.

    Ok, so it is possible that Congress may introduce a bill to raise payroll taxes or eliminate the wage base cap currently in place. Should we be happy about this? Even such a tax increase would only extend Social Security's viability by a couple of years. For workers such as ourselves, we will likely see a bankrupt retirement system when we retire. While we have our 401k or any other profit-sharing program, could we continue to ignore the fact that 6.2 percent of our wages are going to a system which will not benefit us when we reach retirement age?

    As for tax increase on upper-income, more information is needed. Are we talking about going back to the same tax rates before 2001? Or an even higher increase? While some of you may think that a person earning over $100,000 is doing pretty good, a person living in New York City on that salary is actually barely getting by. Over a majority of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck and even some upper-income families are in that situation too.

    Duke Rape Case - Throw it out! (Update)

    More information revealed that puts more pressure on the D.A. to drop all charges against the Duke student players.

    Will the defendants sue the county on civil damages? You betcha!

    UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE

    Reports are coming in that the Duke DA will drop rape charges against the accused lacrosse team members.

    The kidnapping and sexual offense charges still stand. Kidnapping - C'mon here, totally unjustified. Sexual offense - ha ha ha. I am just thinking the DA is trying to get something out of all of this.

    I have to wonder how Duke will respond to the treatment they have lashed upon these student players.

    Knicks-Nuggest Game Ended in Brawl

    Despicable, and bad for the game.

    The Knicks players say it was a clean foul. The video tells us otherwise. Another black eye on the game. The players that were ejected were irresponsible and undeserving of our respect and pride. The leading scorer of the league ought to be ashamed of himself.

    Shame Shame Shame!

    Update 12/18/2006

    Knicks Coach Isiah Thomas insists that the Denver Nuggets are to blame because they left their starters on the floor too long and that it was poor sportsmanship for them to continue to play when they they had a lead of about 18-19 points.

    CBS Sportsline - Isiah puts blame on Nuggets for leaving starters in

    That is the most piece of crap excuse that I have ever heard from a coach. So if a team is leading by double-points at the end of the game, do they send in their second-string players? Sometimes yes, but it is NOT a requirement!

    What's wrong with a 18-19 point lead? You cannot hack it, Mr. Thomas? Your players cannot hack it? You feel that your pride is being hurt? Well, here's a solution for you. Go and PLAY BETTER! You think that if the Nuggets put in their second-string players, the score would be any different?

    Stop whining and stick to winning games!

    The punishments are out!

    New York

    Nate Robinson -- 10 games
    Mardy Collins -- Six games
    Jared Jeffries -- Four games
    Jerome James -- One game

    Denver

    Carmelo Anthony -- 15 games
    J.R. Smith -- 10 games
    Nene -- One game

    Each team was fined $500,000 as well.

    Bachelor's Lorenzo Borghese is a farce

    My prediction that Lorenzo is a fake has come true. It would seem the chosen girl "Jen," the teacher from Miami, has started dating her ex-boyfriend in the months she was forced to be apart from Borghese.

    The New Jersey semi-Italian is not fazed by this. Why? Because he invited the second place female, Sadie, up to New York for a romantic trip.

    Why is it that The Bacheolor never ends up with a happy ending? Just ratings and trying to make a bachelor an authentic Italian is just downright shoddy.

    Can we please cancel it? Please!

    Did you know about the "Real ID Act?"

    More information on the piece of legislation

    This law will take effect May 11, 2008.

    It is intended to deter terrorism by:

    1) Establishing national standards for state-issued driver's licenses and non-driver's identification cards;

    2) Waiving laws that interfere with construction of physical barriers at the borders;

    3) Updating and tightening the laws on application for asylum and deportation of aliens for terrorist activity;

    4) Introducing rules covering "delivery bonds" (rather like bail bonds, but for aliens that have been released pending hearings);

    5) Funding some reports and pilot projects related to border security; and

    6) Changing visa limits for temporary workers, nurses, and Australians.

    Did you know...?

    The Real ID act started off as H.R. 418, which passed the House (261-161-11) and went stagnant. It was then attached as a rider on a military spending bill (H.R. 1268) by Representative Sensenbrenner (R) of Wisconsin (the author) and was voted upon (100-0) . It was signed into public law (109-13) on May 11, 2005.

    This law essentially standardises all state drivers' licenses and ID cards for non-drivers.

    Each "de facto national" card must include, at a minimum:

  • The person's full legal name.
  • The person's date of birth.
  • The person's sex.
  • The person's driver's license or identification card number.
  • A digital photograph of the person's face.
  • The person's address of principal residence.
  • The person's signature.
  • Physical security features designed to prevent tampering, counterfeiting, or duplication of the document for fraudulent purposes.
  • A common machine-readable technology, with defined minimum data elements (the details of which are not spelled out, but left to the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of Transportation and the States, to regulate).

    But did you also know....?

    Anyone without a federal-compliant card would not be permitted to board an airplane, Amtrak train, open a bank account, or enter a federal building.

    Deport the killer

    Diego Pillco, an illegal immigrant from Ecuador, who murdered indie actress Adrienne Shelly, feared she would have called police and have him deported.

    He entered the U.S. via Mexico in 2005 by paying smugglers $12,000.

    Pillco became enraged after Shelly called him a "son of a bitch," police sources said after his arrest.

    In his confession, Pillco said he overpowered the tiny independent-film star, who struck her head on a table when he pushed her down in her apartment.

    Pillco said he panicked, and hanged the woman - who may have still been alive - in her bathroom with a bed sheet to cover up the crime. He apparently hoped to make it seem like suicide.

    * * * * * * * *

    Well, Mr. Pillco, your wish came true. I hope you get deported unless you committ suicide in jail first. One less person we should worry about.

    NY Post - 'Bad Mood' Let to Lethal Rage - Alien's 'Actress Slay' Tale

    Lou Dobbs: A tree grows in Seattle


    Web Site Link

    Editor's note: Lou Dobbs' commentary appears every Wednesday on CNN.com

    NEW YORK (CNN) -- Merry Christmas! That's right, Merry Christmas. Whether you're Christian, Jewish, Muslim, agnostic, pagan, barbarian or whatever, Merry Christmas!

    It's what most of us say in this country come this time of year. It's about who we are, where we are and where we've been. And all the namby-pamby, little sensitive darlings among us who can't handle this verbal assault on their delicate senses should immediately begin seeking emergency psychiatric care.

    This week we were treated to the spectacle of an easily offended and highly offensive rabbi who walked into an airport, gazed upon Christmas trees all around him and suddenly was overwhelmed with an immense, and apparently irresistible, urge to sue the management of the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport because nowhere among all the Christmas trees was a single menorah. Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement of Seattle even delivered to the airport's management a draft of a lawsuit he would file if they didn't sprinkle menorahs around the Christmas trees.

    Political correctness in this country reached an entirely new level of absurdity some years ago. But occasionally, and the situation at Sea-Tac is just such an occasion, we exceed ourselves. The militant fundamentalist rabbi so flummoxed Sea-Tac management with his threat and their perceived obligation to be "politically correct" that, rather than think rationally or simply tell him to stuff it, they started hacking away at all those artificial Christmas trees and quickly descended into a public relations nightmare in which they managed to offend reason, cultural values and the vast majority of Americans.

    As CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin told me, "The Supreme Court has held since 1984, the famous 'Reindeer Rule,' that if a symbol of Christmas is mostly secular, like a reindeer or a Christmas tree or Santa Claus, that is not a violation of the separation of church and state."

    The irony that escaped the rabid rabbi and the timid Sea-Tac management team is that the Christmas tree's likely origin dates back to pre-Christian pagan cultures. The Christmas tree is not by any means a religious symbol, and when we're honest about it, the tree's become a purely commercial symbol more closely associated with shopping, roasting chestnuts and guzzling eggnog than a nativity scene with baby Jesus.

    And hang on, Christians, because you're in 21st Century America, and our culture celebrates your holiest day of the year with such insensitive gusto that our economy would suffer a serious setback if your religious sensibilities were as easily offended as those of the litigious rabbi.

    More than 140 million shoppers spent an average of about $360 on Black Friday alone, the day after Thanksgiving and the unofficial kickoff to the Christmas shopping season, according to the National Retail Federation. And all those Christmas shoppers are expected to spend nearly a half-trillion dollars this shopping season.

    Now if I were a fundamentalist Christian, that might strike me as a little politically incorrect. And I think all of you folks should think about suing somebody. You know, get in the spirit of the season.

    This mindless movement of political correctness at all costs is one of the most un-American and crazy twists in our culture as anything we've witnessed. Remember, we're Americans, and we have freedom of speech, that whole life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness thing. Or at least we did.

    And I hope you'll celebrate the Christmas season by offending someone. If you're Jewish, how about a hearty "Happy Hanukkah" to a good Christian? If they're offended you've revealed a fool, not such a good Christian and someone you shouldn't waste your expression of good will upon. But get ready for a few robust "Merry Christmas" calls to be thrown your way as well.

    The operators of the Seattle-Tacoma airport quickly righted a potentially dreadful wrong. The rabbi decided not to file a suit, Christmas trees have sprung back up throughout the concourse, and no, not a single menorah has been spotted. I can only hope this is the beginning of a major movement in America, one that regards thinking as paramount to phony feelings and heightened self-centered sensitivities. Common sense and judgment should always reign supreme over political correctness, no matter what the current trend.

    And, my gosh, even Wal-Mart this year has abandoned its generic, politically correct "Happy Holidays" greeting in favor of "Merry Christmas." I'm starting to think this may be the season to be jolly after all. Ho, ho, ho.

    To all, a Merry Christmas. OK, and a Happy Hanukkah, too.

    The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

    Swift & Co. Immigration Raid

    Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agents raided six Swift & Co. plants Tuesday morning with civil search warrants, arresting hundreds of illegal immigrants working at the plants, including the plant in Greeley, federal officials confirmed.

    At least 800 workers at the Greeley plant are identified as illegal immigrants; 300 of them will be deported within the week, said Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck.

    ICE said the workers were being arrested on administrative immigration violations and in some cases, existing criminal arrest warrants stemming from a nearly yearlong investigation dubbed Operation Wagon Train.

    ICE chief Julie L. Myers told reporters in Washington that agents had uncovered a scheme in which illegal immigrants and others had stolen or bought the identities and Social Security numbers of hundreds of U.S. citizens and lawful residents to get jobs with Greeley-based meat processor, Swift & Co.

    fingerraid.jpg
    Hector Angel, a Marshalltown business owner, states his point of view about the raid as ICE buses roll away from the plant.

    ice_protest.png
    A few ICE protestors at the raid: The wonderful Mexican flag is used.

    The New York Times decides to use a sympathetic picture of grieving families after the raids.

    Immigration advocates point out that the worksite raids are not an effective form of immigration reform and that they terrorise workers and destroy families.

    But they failed to mention that hundreds of these illegal workers were using stolen Social Security numbers and identity cards.

    The local Greeley, CO Tribune paper has more on the identity theft.

    Video and more info at 7 News Denver

    United and Continental Merger?

    UAL's United Airlines is in preliminary talks with Continental Airlines about a possible merger, according to media reports.

    Each airline is worth about $4 billion in market value.

    UAL is ranked No. 2 and Continental is No. 4.

    A merger would make the merged airline No. 1 in passenger traffic.

    United's hub airports in Chicago, San Francisco and Washington would mesh with Continental's hubs in Houston, Cleveland and Newark, New Jersey.

    The combination also would combine Continental's strength in Latin America with United's Asia-Pacific routes and access to Heathrow.

    Plus Continental has the youngest jet fleet.

    Northwest has a "golden share" in Continental and could veto the merger.

    CNN.com - United and Continental flirt with merger

    Telegraph - United and Continental join merger round

    Rumor Mill: Fidel Castro Dead

    Increase in searches on google, yahoo... about Castro's death.

    Pajamas Media reports: Spanish Radio have reported Castro is dead. Miami police on alert.

    No mention yet on official news channels.

    Just a rumor? No word from Cuban government. Maybe Castro is in a coma? Just keep checking the blogosphere.

    Katrina Fraud $1 Billion

    a U.S. government report released today has estimated that fraud involving payments supposed to help victims of Hurricane Katrina and Rita would likely exceed $1 billion and only a tiny fraction of it has been recovered.

    FEMA only got about $7 million back. Ridculous!

    So for our next national disaster, you can get free money if the feds are not looking in the right spot.

    Could China or Japan Re-Think Investing into Dollars?

    Today, Wall Street took a tumble. Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1.3%, falling 158.46 points to 12,121.71. S&P 500 fell 1.36% and the NASDAQ was down about 2.21%.

    The decline in stocks followed comments Friday by a Chinese central banker, who expressed concern about the possibility of a depreciating dollar.

    "The exchange rate of the U.S. dollar, which is the major reserve currency, is going lower, increasing the depreciation risk for East Asian reserve assets," according to an academic paper by Wu Xiaoling, deputy governor of the People's Bank of China.

    The dollar has not been doing well against the euro (around 1.31) and the sterling pound (1.93). For the Euro, we are almost at a 20-month low.

    Wu's comments follow a Nov. 9 statement by Zhou Xiaochuan, the central bank governor of China, who said his country plans to diversify its assets, likely away from the dollar.

    The composition of China's $1 trillion of currency reserves remains unclear, but many speculate that at least 70% of it is in dollars. In recent months, the country has been buying U.S. Treasury bonds with dollars from its massive trade surplus with America. Were it to throttle back on its purchases--let alone start selling Treasurys--U.S. interest rates could be expected to markedly increase, putting pressure on American housing, indebted consumers and small businesses.

    Anaylsts and finance strategists are downplaying these facts, which I think is a mistake.

    Forbes - An Overcast Day On Wall Street

    Forbes - China Raises Red Flag On Dollar

    Microsoft's Zune player flops

    iTWire - Why consumers are angry with Microsoft over Zune

    As predicted by many iPod zealots, the much heralded launch of Microsoft's Zune music player has been a flop - they're moving about as fast as an elephant with arthritis. The few favorable reviews are punctuated with some real hissers that quite often sound angry. Why do so many reviewers and consumers seem to be angry with Microsoft over Zune?

    * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Honestly, if you bought a Zune player, return it, and either buy an iPod or wait for another competitor to offer a better viable alternative.

    FCC overzealous with indecency rules

    Fox, CBS Broadcasting Inc., NBC Universial Inc., and NBC Telemundo License Co. are suing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), challenging the way the agency metes out punishment for airing shows that contain profanity.

    We all remember the "wardrobe malfunction" with Janet Jackson during the Super Bowl halftime show. The FCC levied a heavy fine on CBS because of it.

    Fox is challenging what it calls an unprecedented campaign by federal regulators to punish broadcasters for airing "unintentional and isolated expletives" during broadcasts.

    David Fiske, a spokesman for the FCC, released a statement saying: "By continuing to argue that it is OK to say the F-word and the S-word on television whenever it wants, Hollywood is demonstrating once again how out of touch it is with the American people. We believe there should be some limits on what can be shown on television when children are likely to be watching."

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Because of the overzealous actions by the Parents Television Council and other groups, they intend to make prime-time television a kids-only category for everyone else.

    It took years for prime-time tv shows to say "bitch, butt, ass, jerk, slut, tramp, bullshit (sometimes)."

    Anything before 8PM should be restricted in using profane language or violent scenes. After 8PM or 9PM, it should be allowed. If parents or kids are offended, change the goddamn channel! This is called responsibility. You have cable or satellite? Use the parental control feature!

    Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction caused an uproar was all exaggerated. How can one event define the nature of our prime-time networks? Are people stupid or naive? So a mistake was made, it was not intentional. Live television with no delay shows the best of the creative and editorial process.

    I want to see "Saving Private Ryan" in its entirety on regular TV. I do not want any censorship. I want to see naked breasts at 9PM! If you don't like it, change the channel or block it. Leaving it to the federal regulators is unnecessary government intervention. Some groups want this because they do not want to handle the responsibility.

    And after midnight, I want to see soft porn on FOX!

    I will get off my soapbox. Have a good Thanksgiving everyone!

    Fox calls FCC indecency rules 'radical'

    Google hits $500 / share

    Google Inc has now surpassed $500 per share in today's trading. Its market capitalisation is now worth almost $154 billion dollars. It has almost 5,700 employees.

    Yet, do you honestly believe that this company is actually worth that much? The top founders and executives have very little pay but lots of exercisable options that will guarantee them to be either a billionaire or millionaire.

    Compared to Microsoft (MSFT) which is trading close to $30 and has a market cap of over $294 billion and 71,000 employees.

    Survey: US is most unfriendly country to visitors

    A global survey being released today shows the United States as the world's most unfriendly country for international travelers because of rude immigration officers and long delays in processing visas.

    The survey, of 2,011 international travelers in 16 countries, was conducted by the polling firm RT Strategies for the Discover America Partnership, a business-backed group launched in September to promote travel to the United States and improve the country's image abroad.

    More than half said U.S. immigration officials were rude.

    Two-thirds were fearful that they would be detailed on arrival because of a paperwork mistake or saying the wrong thing to an immigration official.

    Article

    * * * * * * * * * *

    I think we are nice over here in New York. I got a couple of Brits do a double-take on my car because of the West Ham United stickers.

    Cruise-Holmes - a Scientology Publicity Stunt

    So the wedding was a sham. Admist the glamour and extravagant ceremony, we now found out that they got "officially" married back in California.

    Bracciano Mayor Patrizia Riccioni is thinking about taking back the honorary citizenship she offered the couple before they wed.

    The ceremony angered the local priest, Father Nicola Fiorentini, who rang his bells for evening Saturday Mass longer and louder than normal before the wedding began. He said: "It wasn't a wedding at all. It was all just for publicity. I can't believe such an event was allowed to take place in the castle. A pope once stayed there and now we have all this. It's shameful and an offence."

    Why they got married in the states? Well, Italy does not recognise Scientology as a religion. So the wedding was not legally binding. Why cannot they be flexible and do the Catholic setup? It would have made it happy for Holmes' parents, but it looks like Cruise was inflexible with that.

    In tradition with being a close and secret society, the small village of Bracciano did not even had a chance to see TomKat or the 150 guests that attended the "ceremonial" wedding. Guests were ferried in cars and in blacked-out people carriers.

    At each dinner table, a Scientology adviser was present to answer any questions about the unusual ceremony and the "religion" in general.

    I wonder if they threw a free "E-Meter Audit Test" for the guests.

    Perhaps a donation to the Church after the ceremony was done.

    So they are finally married... congrats.

    Let the betting commence on how long before they divorce.

    Oh yea, they went off on their honeymoon to the Maldives but they did not go alone. Cruise's best man, David Miscavige, is with them. Is he along for a threesome? He's also the head of Scientology. Maybe there's a secret facility on one of those islands.

    San Francisco moves further down the road to being anti-military

    The Board of Education in San Francisco voted 4-2 (with one absent board member) to phase out the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) program from schools over the next two years, despite protests from hundreds of students who rallied outside the meeting.

    The Board eliminated the program because of the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding gay service members.

    This is the same reasoning used to say no to having the famous battleship USS Iowa as a waterfront museum.

    About 1,600 San Francisco students participate in JROTC at seven high schools across the district. The $1.6 million annual cost is shared between the school district and the military.

    * * * * * * * * * * *

    Mayor Gavin Newsom chastised the board for their decision:

    "The move sends the wrong message," he said. "It's important for the city not to be identified with disrespecting the sacrifice of men and women in uniform."

    If people want to participate in it and their families want them to participate, I think they have a right to participate without putting them in the political peril of being in this ideological debate,"he said.

    He called severing ties with the JROTC "a bad idea" that penalized students without having any practical effect on the Pentagon's policy on gays in the military.

    * * * * * * * * * * *

    They just wanted to feel good to themselves banning anything military. So I guess the Board can now censor the libraries and ban anything military-related. No Veteran's Day or Memorial Day parades too.

    Yet opponents of the program did acknowledge that the program is popular and even helps some students stay in school and out of trouble.

    True enough, cadets and instructors argued that the program teaches leadership, organisational skills, personal responsiblity, and other important values. Perhaps the Board peaceniks should take a course to actually learn about it.

    * * * * * * * * * * *

    Other unfortunate quotes:

    Former teacher, Nancy Mancias - "We need to teach a curriculum of peace."

    Sandra Schwartz of the American Friends Service Committee, an organisation actively opposing JROTC nationwide - "We don't want the military ruining our civilian institutions. In a healthy democracy.. you contain the military. You must contain the military."

    Board member Dan Kelly voting to eliminate - "It's basically a branding program, or a recruiting program for the military."

    * * * * * * * * * * *

    I can imagine what alternative program the Board members can come up with. Perhaps something a bit socialist, anti-miltiary, violence does not solve everything, we should be peace-loving and friendly. Essentially, a program on how to be a wuss.

    Board member Mark Sanchez, another opponent of the program, thinks the 1,600 students should not complain about it. "I think people should not despair too much," he said. I guess if someone was going to eliminate a gay-advocate program, he would be protesting 24/7, lodging legal lawsuits, and other ways to stop it. Is he doing this to serve the best interests for the 1,600 students? Absolutely not.

    * * * * * * * * * * *

    The costs:

    It is a $1.6 million dollar program. The military pays $586,000 or half of the salaries of 15 instructors (all retired military personnel). The district pays the other half, and $394,000 in benefits.

    If the distict wants to go and surrender, I think the seven schools should do a joint-independent program and keep the JROTC alive. I would really believe there are some groups out there willing to help support the $1.6 million cost. Perhaps the nearby districts can do something about it too.

    Note this, the program is voluntary, not a requirement. 1,600 students wanted to participate in it because it is a good-learning experience. The peaceniks are just on some fantasy land thinking the program is there to brainwash them and make them into violent soldiers.

    Related Articles

    San Francisco to Boot JROTC Programs (Fox News)

    School Board votes to dump JROTC program (San Francisco Chronicle)

    Apple iPod on planes

    Good news for iPod lovers. Apple has reached a deal with six major airlines (Air France, Continental, Delta, Emirates, KLM, and United) that will let passengers play video and music from their iPod on in-flight entertainment systems in 2007.

    The airlines will offer passengers iPod seat connections which can power and charge their iPods during flight, and where they can pipe their videos to the seat-back displays.

    A False Photograph by US News & Time Magazine

    usnews_photo.jpg

    We must remember not to assume that a photograph is truly authentic. Take the example above. The cover photo from U.S. News & World Report is from their July 31st edition. With the title "Lebanon's new ruins", it implies that the destruction that you see there is a Lebanese town, with an armed Lebanese man identified as a "Hezbollah fighter near Beirut."

    But upon closer inspection:

    actual_photo_usnews.jpg

    It's a garbage dump! And the armed fighter? It is ex-Reuters cameraman Adnan Hajj. He's pointing a gun at the site of the explosion.

    A week after this edition, TIME publishes the photo in their magazine.

    Both claim that the fire is the result of a wreckage of an Israeli jet trying to target Hezbollah trucks. Wrong!!!

    * * * * * * *

    Interesting site... Reuters Photo Fraud

    No more free speech on CBS Evening News

    logo_cbsnews.gifThe CBS Evening News with Katie Couric had a free-speech segment at the end where any person could speak their mind.

    Well, it looks like that idea is about to die off. One fellow blogger recorded a free speech segment, but it looks like CBS won't air it.

    He complained that the content he wanted to speak about was being discussed by the producers. That is not free speech, that is controlled speech.

    So the free speech segment on CBS News is a dead idea. For those that want to record something, use YouTube or Blip or digg this. The mainstream media cannot handle independent media types from saying the real truth.

    Another Military Video: Just funny or still inappropriate?

    I really have to wonder if it was right for soldiers to bring their digital cameras and videos. Perhaps most of them are alright, but there are always a few which are questionable.

    In this video, a female GI in a maintenance section gets duct-taped and put on a pole. The video is about 4 minutes long where a laughing female is getting wrapped in heavy tape.

    According to poster "wickedharleyluva" on YouTube, he claims "This is what happens in Iraq when there are no Hummers to fix and your the only chick in the section...AND the only Yankee in a Louisiana unit!"

    As you watch the clip, the female and and the guys are just enjoying themselves, and she was not under any such duress.

    Author's Opinion

    It's funny. Duct tape can be certainly be used to tie a person up pretty easily. In college, pranks often involve tying a fellow friend up. One time, one of brothers failed to get our soda machine re-filled, so he got duct-taped to our mascot cardboard guy and we paraded him around.

    But in today's world of political correctness and the information superhighway, I can imagine the following things:

    Taxpayer advocate groups criticising the waste of duct-tape for non-government purposes.

    Anti-military groups criticising the waste of manpower and effort on silly morale-positive where soldiers are trying to enjoy themselves.

    Women groups criticising the "aggressive" manhandling of the female soldiers and crying abuse when she is being duct-taped.

    Peace groups calling for the soldiers to return home because it shows they are just ignorant. They might even suggest that these soldiers do not care about the Iraqi people.

    John Kerry calling for soldiers to return because they are stupid and only know how to do pranks to each other.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Clearly, the folks at the Pentagon won't be happy with it. For the soldiers in the other ranks, they will just laugh quietly to themselves. It's always the officers that are concerned since it's all political, and for the grunts, they are trying to act human. On one side, these folks are defending our freedom and killing the insurgents, and on the other, they can still act and joke around just like you and me.

    China: Being Stingy with its UN Financial Contribution

    Japan has proposed to the UN Budget Commitee a way to redistribute the financial burden among the organisation. According to their draft, the permanent five veto holders would pay a minimum amount of 3 or 5 percent of the UN budget.

    Ok, that's sounds reasonable. Of course this arrangement would not affect France, the United Kingdom, or the United States since they are currently contributing 6.2 percent, 6 percent, and 22 percent respectively. However, it would boost China's contribution of 2.053 percent and Russia's 1.10 percent as assessed in 2006.

    The most vocal opponent to the idea is China.

    The country's administration has argued that its "crushing" population of 1.3 billion people should qualified the country as poor??? Its evidence: 23.5 million Chinese earning less than $85 US in 2005.

    China's total foreign exchange reserves has reached $1 Trillion Dollars. That's $1,000,000,000,000!

    It is quite strange to note their opposition giving their increasingly influential role at the UN. They have protected the deficient system of regional rotation in selecting the next secretary-general. It was mostly the Chinese oil interest in Sudan that has delayed robust action to stop the genocide in Dafur. Most recently, China's seat in the Security Council has prevented a stronger reaction to North Korea's nuclear test. Because of this, China has a responsiblity to pay more to an organisation that has been a very effective instrument in helping the country achieve its foreign policy goals.

    Britney Spears Files for Divorce

    spears_kfed.jpgA break from the political bickering.

    Britney Spears has filed her divorce papers in Los Angeles County Superior Court citing "irreconcilable differences." She has asked for both legal and physical custody of the couple's children with Federline getting reasonable visitation rights.

    Know that the couple have a prenup before marrying.

    For me, I can say thank god! D-list star K-Fed, or maybe no-list star, has enjoyed too much of Britney's goodwill to maintain his partying lifestyle.

    Link to the Divorce Petition

    Update 11/12/06

    I don't believe it. After Britney filed her divorce papers, Kevin Federline filed his own petition, demanding over half of her fortune, custody of their children, and legal fees and maintenance (spousal support). His bargaining chip is a sex tape they made near the beginning of their relationship. It is said that the tape contains an uninhibited range of love-making and sexual games.

    Kevin has told Britney she should comply with his demands otherwise the whole world will see her having sex. He is currently in talks with an Arizona company in putting the four hour video online for over almost $50 million dollars.

    So Britney can push for the prenup that they both signed and face her sex tape being publicised to the whole world, or give in and let K-Fed take almost half of her fortune, seeing her kids, and also receiving spousal support since his album has bombed.

    It is very sad since he's the one who broken up the marriage and he can use the law to get what he wants plus the leverage he has for the tape.

    Britney found Federline in bed with another woman. That's infidelity.

    He has been romping with Vegas hookers.

    He has snorted cocaine and popped ectasy.

    He has squandered millions on 24-hour gambling sessions and booze.

    News of the World - Oops, I Vid It Again

    Saddam Hussein GUILTY

    saddam_hussein.jpg

    The ousted dictator of Iraq has been found guilty of crimes against humanity in the 1982 killings of 148 people in a single Shiite town and will be sentenced to death by hanging.

    As he, his half brother and another senior official in his regime were convicted and sentenced to death by the Iraqi High Tribunal, Saddam yelled out, "Long live the people and death to their enemies. Long live the glorious nation, and death to its enemies!"

    In addition to the former Iraqi dictator and Barzan Ibrahim, his former intelligence chief and half brother, the Iraqi High Tribunal convicted and sentenced Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the head of Iraq's former Revolutionary Court, to death by hanging. Iraq's former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan was convicted of premeditated murder and sentenced to life in prison.

    Three defendants were sentenced to 15 years in prison for torture and premeditated murder. Abdullah Kazim Ruwayyid and his son Mizhar Abdullah Ruwayyid were party officials Dujail, along with Ali Dayih Ali. They were believed responsible for the Dujail arrests.

    Mohammed Azawi Ali, a former Dujail Baath Party official, was acquitted for lack of evidence and immediately freed.

    He faces additional charges in a separate case over an alleged massacre of Kurdish civilians — a trial that will continue while appeals are pending.

    AP - Saddam, 2 others sentenced to death

    BBC News - Saddam Hussein sentenced to death

    BBC News - Reaction to Hussein's verdict

    ABC News - Shiites Cheer, Sunnis Protest Conviction

    CNN.com - Saddam Hussein sentenced to death by hanging

    Foxnews - Saddam Hussein Sentenced to Die for Crimes Against Humanity

    Kanye West is a sore loser again!

    Kanye_West.jpgAt the 2006 MTV Europe Music Awards, occassional sore loser Kanye West did his immature act again.

    Even those he got the award for Best Hip Hop Artist, he was so disappointed at not winning Best Video that he crashed the stage Thursday in Copenhagen when the award was being presented to Justice and Simian for We Are Your Friends.

    His tirade, which included several expletives was definitely not scripted.

    West shouted, "F**k this! My video cost a million dollars."

    "Pamela Anderson was in it, I was jumping across canyons and s**t! If I don't win, the awards show loses credibility. Nothing against you (Justice Vs Simian), but hell man."

    He then said, "If I don't win, the awards show loses credibility."

    Before the awards, West told MTV, "I should definitely win best hip-hop. I should definitely win that (best video) also."

    At the press conference afterwards, West was still angry over the award, saying, "I haven't seen (the Justice and Simian video). Possibly it could have been quite good, but no way better than Touch The Sky.

    "That is complete bulls**t, I paid a million. Obviously it's not all about the money, but the response it got transcended everything, it really made great TV. It took a month to film; I stood on a mountain; I flew a helicopter over Vegas. I did it to be the king of all videos and I wanted to walk home with that award.

    "(The reason the other video won) - That was some spread the love bulls**t, 'Oh everyone should have an award.' Please press people print, 'Kanye says f**k that!'"

    There you have it, this absolutely proves that Kanye West is A SORE LOSER!

    Why should people defend him because of this? So he got one out of three awards this year. He should be thankful for getting nominated. He should be thankful for the fans that buy his music. Instead, we see that he only cares about getting some sort of trophy for his accomplishments.

    AP Photograph of Kanye West Complaining to Justice and Simian kanye_west_complains.jpg

    Global & Mail - Kanye West sore loser at MTV Europe Music Awards

    Entertainment News - Kanye's on stage tantrum

    Airport Security Risk in Paris, Muslims Barred

    According to BBC News, more than 70 Muslim workers at France's main airport have lost their security clearance for allegedly posing a risk to passengers.

    These workers, which also includes airport staff and baggage handlers at Charles de Gaulle airport, are said to have visited terrorist training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

    One man is thought to be a friend of Richard Reid, the British shoe-bomber who tried to blow up a flight from Paris to the U.S. in 2001.

    According to security reviews, surveillance, and other evidence, airport officials say some of the workers had frequently visited Pakistan and Afghanistan in the previous year. They also had evidence suggesting one of the workers may have been close to a senior figure in an Algerian terrorist group with links to al-Qaeda.

    Some of the workers have sued the airport on discrimination charges.

    Duke Lacrosse Rape Victim Case is becoming a farce

    It was somewhat incredulous for the Durham District Attorney, Mike Nifong, not to interview the rape victim about the incident months after it occurred. Even though it would be difficult to recount that "horrible" day, the memory would still be fresh. Many people would consider that given the months past, the person could change her story by a bit to fit her alibi or "refute" the alibis of the accused Duke players.

    This new relevation where the second dancer that attended the event with the victim has revealed that the she told her to "go ahead, put marks on me" after the alleged attack. Dancer Kim Roberts made the new allegation in an interview with Chris Cuomo on "Good Morning America."

    Obviously, by revealing this new evidence, it would place more doubt on the prosecution case against the Duke players. Also likely, the victim's family and supporters will accuse the second dancer of being intimidated or even a liar. Kim Roberts said she would be willing to take a lie detector test about the new information. But in any case, she have proved herself as an unreliable witness to either the defense or the prosecution.

    Three Duke lacrosse players — Dave Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann — were charged last spring with rape and kidnapping for the alleged attack on the exotic dancer, who had been hired by the men to perform at the off-campus party.

    All three men have vigorously declared their innocence, inside and outside of court.

    Based on the latest new information, the prosecution cannot prove beyond any unreasonable doubt that the three Duke lacrosse players are guilty of the charges specified.

    This story will never be over. I would not even be surprised if certain folks called the whole thing a consipracy.

    Update 11/07/2006

    According to The News & Observer newspaper, the accuser in the Duke lacrosse case told co-workers at a Hillsborough strip club that she was going to get money from some boys at a Duke party who hadn't paid her, the club's former security manager said.

    Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong stated nearly a month after the party, the woman appeared too traumatized to talk about what had happened to her. Throughout the April 11 meeting, the woman seemed near tears and had trouble making eye contact.

    In contradiction, the former security manager, H.P. Thomas, said that less than a week after the party, the woman seemed fine, and weeks later, realized a friend of his had a video of her dancing at the club in the early hours of March 26.

    The accuser never gave any indication that the party was a bad time, let alone that she was assaulted or raped, Thomas said.

    Sounds quite fishy. It is becoming more apparent that her goal is to extort money from the Duke lacrosse players.

    Update 12/13/2006

    DNA testing conducted by a private lab in the Duke lacrosse rape case found genetic material from several males in the accuser's body and her underwear _ but none from any team member, including the three charged with rape, according to a defense motion filed Wednesday.

    The case should be dismissed and the dancer should be charged with perjury.

    Breitbart.com - DNA Tests Reportedly Clean Duke Players

    Britain criticises US gambling ban

    Britain's culture secretary compared the U.S. crackdown on online gambling to the failed alcohol ban of th Prohibition.

    At the online gambling summit attended by 30 countries which includes Great Britain, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand, they will discuss ways to regulate the industry, including the protection of minors and keeping the industry free of crime.

    As expected, the U.S. has declined to participate.

    Antigua, a strong defender of Internet gambling, will bring up the U.S. ban to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

    BBC - US gambling flawed - Jowell

    Why do we think that an absolute ban will always work? It seems there are people who are unwilling to research and find different ways to solve the problem, and just say "just ban it and leave it alone."

    Either Congress should repeal the Ban on Gambling or the WTO should penalise the U.S. until the law is rescinded.

    11 Years under House Arrest

    11 Years... the length of time for Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest in Myanmar (Burma). She is a pro-democracy activist and leader of the National League for Democracy.

    She was awarded the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her peaceful and non-violent struggle under a military dictatorship.

    One of her most famous speeches was "Freedom from Fear" speech, which begins:

    "It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it."

    Her NLD party won the general elections in 1990, instead the military junta nullified the results and refused to hand over power.

    Suu Kyi continues to be imprisoned under the 1975 State Protection Act (Article 10 b), which grants the government the power to imprison persons for up to five years without a trial.

    11 Years where a country has been under military dictatorship.

    Strange enough, the U.S. has been using diplomatic pressure through the UNSC but no actual action is being undertaken. In September 2006, the UNSC voted to put Myanmar on the agenda docket. (Wow! What progress!)

    No unilateral force yet... very strange.

    Jeffrey Skilling, former Enron CEO: 24 years in prison

    Former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling has been sentenced to 24 years, 4 months in prison, the harshest sentence given out for corporate fraud in America.

    He was the last top former official to be punished for the accounting tricks and shady business deals that led to the loss of thousands of jobs, more than $60 billion in Enron stock and more than $2 billion in employee pension plans when Enron collapsed.

    Jesus saves Tiger Woods

    From the New York Post's Page Six:

    Tiger Woods had a Q&A session with guests at the 2006 "Tee It Up with Tiger Woods" event in Los Angeles. According to one source, most people were asking about their swings or golf questions until some guy - a guest of Nike - stood up and said, 'Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior? And if not, prayfully, would you?' " The source added, "You could have heard a pin drop. People were mortified. But Tiger was as unflappable as he is on the golf course and responded, 'My father was a Christian - of course Christianity was part of my life - but my mother is Asian and Buddhism was also part of my childhood, so I practice both faiths respectfully.'

    I wonder if the Jesus-loving guy was happy with Tiger's answer.

    A New Korean War?

    While some have played down the possiblity of another Korean War on the peninsula, it cannot be wholly discounted. Today, North Korea has declared that the United Nations sanctions being levied against the country is equivalent to a "declaration of war." It has declared that it would not accept any heavy handed pressure since it was a nuclear power.

    In its first official response to the sanctions, the statement said North Korea wanted "peace but is not afraid of war." It would "deal merciless blows" against anyone who violated its sovereignty.

    At the same time, intelligence officials in South Korea, Japan, and the United States have detected preparations for a possible second nuclear test. This would indicate that North Korea is more willing to engage in provocative acts against the international community.

    But could a resumption of war on the Korean peninsula start up again? South Korea remains optimistic still. Chun Young-Woo, Seoul's lead negotiator in the stalled six-nation talks called it "the usual rhetoric that they have been using" and it was nothing new since the crisis started over the North's nuclear test.

    Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is embarking on a diplomatic drive to persuade Asian allies and Russia to "intensify" North Korea's isolation by enforcing U.N. resolutions. She will visit Japan, China, South Korea, and Russia. She assured her allies that the United States "has both the will and capacity to meet the full range of our security commitments to allies like South Korea and Japan."

    She even tried to extend of an olive branch by saying "If North Korea reverses course and embraces the path of cooperation, if it makes the strategic choice to dismantle its nuclear weapons completely, briefly and irreversibly, an entirely new and better future would be open to it and to its people," she said.

    At this point, unilateral force by the United States would be disastrous. There would not be a coalition of the willing since South Korea, Japan, and Australia would not go along with it, and it may face intervention by Chinese and Russian forces on behalf of the North Koreans. Thus, the U.S. is using Cold War diplomacy: containment and deterrence.

    In an opinion piece, David Sanger of the New York Times, writes that the "United States still boasts the world's largest military, most dynamic economy and a culture that the world snaps up, there is rising evidence that many countries - Russia and the PRC among them - sniff a distinct change in the strategic atmosphere. While North Korea knows it would not last a day in a full-scale war with the United States, it skillfully exploits an American soft point when it stirs fears about its potential to sow havoc among America's Northeast Asian allies and crucial trading partners - Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and China."

    James Steinberg, dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, served as deputy national security advisor under President Clinton, noted the fact that America was willing to invade Iraq, he said, so it led North Korea and Iran to conclude that they needed nuclear weapons to deter America from putting them in its gunsights next. "And now, by failing to subdue Iraq and move on, we've encouraged them to conclude that there is little risk to them if they just speed forward into nuclear breakout.

    Sanger continues: "It's not only that American hard power is tied up in Baghdad and Kabul; Mr. Bush has acknowledged that soft power - the ability to lead because you are admired - is suffering, too. Abu Ghraib 'kind of eased us off the moral high ground,' he volunteered at the news conference the other day. In short, being a sole superpower isn't what it was cracked up to be 17 years ago. Back then, you could measure a nation's power in throw-weights. Now, it's the amount of weight you can throw around."

    Other development include Japan considering re-deploying its naval assets from the Indian Ocean (where they are currently assisting US operations in Afghanistan) to waters near the DPRK.

    It will also bring up debate of whether Japan should possess nuclear weapons as a response to DRPK's nuclear test.

    * * * * * * * * * * *

    Would North Korea invade first? Their forces number approximately 1.1 million soldiers. South Korea has about 690,000 and the U.S. has about 37,000. Not to mention that Pyongyang has about 100,000 in their special forces.

    Along the DMZ, South Koreans and Americans are at Watchcon Three condition (surveillance/alert level). Two condition would have been a heightened state of alert. Watchcon One would be a state of war.

    Certainly, North Korea's MiG-29s and Su-25S aircraft would not survive against US and South Korea air forces given their current state of readiness and short fuel supply. Thus it would need to utilise a blitzkrieg approach across the DMZ in addition to using their special forces to wreck havoc among South Korean infrastructure and installations.

    Seoul, the South Korean capital, is unfortunately in range of the North's 12,000 artillery tubes and 2,300 MLR (multiple-launch rockets/medium-long range) hidden in caves and underground. North Korean jets can reach the capital in about 6 minutes.

    North Korea would be favored if their timing is right. A few minutes of confusion would all be needed to carry out a crippling blow against the South's infrastructure, military, and otherwise. It would involve surprise in sending divisions of troops across the DMZ. Even though the mines and early-warning posts would trigger any warning, it would really depend on how fast the response time among the South Korean military forces. At the same time, North Korean special forces would already be conducting acts of sabotage to slow down reinforcements to the front lines.

    Even though superiority through air and sea will be controlled by US/South Korea and other allies, land forces will certainly be difficult. No one really knows if Seoul can be defended during the early actions of the attack. US reinforcements will have to come from their Japanese bases (approx 47,000 personnel and 20,000 marines) plus the U.S. Seventh Fleet (USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier).

    Additional fleet assets include the USS Stennis and Reagan aircraft carriers task groups which are currently based in the Pacific. Army and air force assets will have to come from either Afghanistan, Guam, and Western U.S. via Pearl.

    I am quite sure the North Koreans will be beaten, but are we prepare for the cost for it?

    Related Links

    Wikipedia - Korean Demilitarised Zone

    Wikipedia - United Nations Command Korea

    Geography of North Korea

    Geography of South Korea

    Latin American UN Seat: Guatemala vs Venezuela

    First Round: Guatemala - 109, Venezuela - 76

    Second Round: Guatemala - 114, Venezuela - 74

    Third Round: Guatemala - 116, Venezuela - 70

    Fourth Round: Guatemala - 110, Venezuela - 75

    Fifth Round: Guatemala - 103, Venezuela - 83, Mexico - 1

    Sixth Round: Guatemala - 93, Venezuela - 93, Mexico - 1

    Seventh Round: Guatemala - 96, Venezuela - 89, Cuba - 1, Mexico - 1

    Eighth Round: Guatemala - 102, Venezuela - 85

    Ninth Round: Guatemala - 107, Venezuela - 81

    Tenth Round:

    Reuters - U.N. at impasse on Guatemala-Venezuela vote

    NORAD: Retirement

    We have watched the classic movie "War Games" starring Matthew Broderick, Ally Sheedy, and Dabney Coleman. A under-achieving student finds a back door into a military central computer at Cheyenne Mountain, and plays a game, not knowing that he could have started World War III. A good many of us watched Dr. Strangelove, another cult classic.

    NORAD, America's vaunted underground war room deep inside Cheyenne Mountain is being retired. The nation's super-secret nerve center was a symbol of both Cold War might and apocalyptic dread. It was even capable of withstanding a near-direct nuclear missile hit.

    Since the Cold War ended, the war room was placed on "warm standby" to save money. All the critical work was moved to Peterson Air Force Base, about 10 miles away.

    Even though Peterson is above ground, Adm. Timothy Keating, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, said "In today's Netted, distributed world we can do very good work on a broad range of media right here." Also, the U.S. military says the countries that have succeeded the Soviet Union as the main threat to this country -- hostile states such as North Korea and Iran -- do not have the weapons to take out a command center in Colorado.

    But the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China do.

    Anyway, it costs about $250 million to keep Cheyenne Mountain fully staffed. Efforts to consider modernizing Cheyenne were too expensive or behind schedule. This does not bode well for some of us movie fans that would like to see those large-sized war rooms depicted in Dr. Strangelove, Fail-Safe, and War Games.

    Even though there are no official threats against the United States that could result in a worldwide conflict, this underground military base should not be discarded as an old relic of a past Cold War. In the future, we must consider asteroid impacts or alien contact that would require such a facility to be utilised. Besides thinking about science-fiction, the U.S. still sees a potential strategic threat of a surging China and developing "dictatorship" in the Russian Federation.

    The bottom line is one can feel somewhat more comfortable with granite rock between you and the outside than just a roof.

    Yahoo AP - U.S. Military putting war room on ice

    New Recruiting Video from the US Army

    Blackfive: The Army's new recruiting video - "Army Strong"

    Korea's Electricity Grid

    korea_electricity_grid.jpg

    Here's a startling contrast of North and South Korea's electricity grids. Now, the picture reflects the state of the grid in the evening. In North Korea, since it is so short of electricity, the whole country is switched off at 9PM - apart from the capital of Pyongyang where Kim Jong-il and his cohorts live in relative luxury.

    Google YouTube

    It is very likely that when the market closes on Columbus Day, Google and YouTube will announce a $1.65 billion acquisition stock deal.

    Yet it seems that YouTube has already signed three content and licensing deals with CBS, Universal Music Group, and BMG Music. Will Google cancel these deals if they acquire YouTube?

    Let's look at the windfall of about $1.5 billion if such a deal goes through. Hypothetically, Sequoia Capital will get a $500 million return on their $30 million initial investment. The founders will get a chunk of it too, and their 60 employees should walk a way with a couple of million each.

    It goes to show that Google Video just turned out to be a bad product and YouTube is the answer to their video problems.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Update!

    Google, has announced that it will purchase YouTube for $1.65 billion in stock. YouTube will operate as an independent unit of Google once the deal closes and will retain the YouTube brand name. No YouTube employees will lose their jobs and Google will still maintain their own online video business.

    CNN Money - Google to buy YouTube for $1.65 billion

    Ki-moon Ban to be next UN Secretary-General

    230px-Bankimoon.jpgWith the rest of the candidates withdrawn from the race, Ki-moon Ban, South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade will become the next Secretary-General of the United Nations on January 1, 2007.

    He will be the first South Korean to hold the post, and the first Asian to run the UN in more than 30 years.

    Ban has topped each of the four straw polls conducted by the U.N. Security Council on July 24, Sept 14, Sept 28, and Oct 2. In the fourth poll, he emerged as the only candidate with the support from all five permanent members, each of whom as the power to veto candidates.

    Today, the Security Council has officially nominated Ban as its choice to succeed Kofi Annan. The 192-member General Assembly is expected to formally elect him later this month.

    North Korea Conducts Successful Nuclear Test

    After months of waiting, the North Koreans finally did what they threatened to do... conduct a nuclear test.

    Apparently, the test was conducted underground at approximately 10:36AM (1:36AM GMT) in Hwaderi near Kilju city, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

    Senior U.S. officials said the United States is consulting with allies around the world and would push for sanctions Monday at a 9:30AM meeting of the U.N. Security Council in New York.

    South Korea's defense ministry has raised their military alert level.

    According to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, the force of the blast was 5 to 15 kilotons, equivalent to the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

    China was given a 20-minute warning ahead of the test and in turn passed the information along to the United States, Japan, and South Korea.

    In light of this, here's a graphic on the range of North Korea's missles:

    korean_missles3.gif

    As you can see, half of the United States including Alaska and Hawaii will be under threat.

    The US Geological Survey registered a 4.2 seismic event

    north_korea_nuclear_test.gif

    The preliminary earthquake report is available.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Full text of the nuclear test announcement carried by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA):

    "The field of scientific research in the DPRK (North Korea) successfully conducted an underground nuclear test under secure conditions on October 9, Juche 95 (2006) at a stirring time when all the people of the country are making a great leap forward in the building of a great prosperous powerful socialist nation.

    "It has been confirmed that there was no such danger as radioactive emission in the course of the nuclear test as it was carried out under a scientific consideration and careful calculation.

    "The nuclear test was conducted with indigenous wisdom and technology 100 percent. It marks a historic event as it greatly encouraged and pleased the KPA (Korean People's Army) and people that have wished to have powerful self-reliant defence capability.

    "It will contribute to defending the peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and in the area around it."

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Many nations have condemned the NK nuke test

    CNN: List of Nations Condemning the Test

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    According to confidential sources, US ambassador John Bolton told the Security Council that a North Korean attack on South Korea or Japan will be treated as an attack on the United States.

    North Korea's ambassador Pak Gil Yon remained defiant, saying the Security Council should congratulate the country for its nuclear test instead of passing "useless" resolutions or statements.

    Another air passenger gets "profiled"

    Seth Stein, a UK British Jewish architect, was pounced by a fellow passenger an hour into the flight. As he settled down with a book and a ginger ale, the father-of-three was grabbed from behind and held in a head-lock.

    The other passenger allegedly stated that he was Michael Wilk, and was with the New York Police Department, and told Seth that he was acting suspiciously and should stay calm. He then went ahead and took Mr. Stein's passport and iPod.

    UK Independent - Humiliation at 33,000 feet: Top British architect tells of terror 'arrest'

    The cabin crew and the captain of the aircraft had to do a security check, which ultimately cleared him. After this was made known, the so called NYPD passenger went back to his seat.

    One strange fact is that this Michael Wilk was certainly on the NYPD's official register of officers, but he retired 25 years ago. Officials told the designer that he may have worked for another law enforcement agency but have refused to say which one.

    While it may be alright for passengers to take proactive precautions to "protect" the rest of the crew and people on the plane, it could proved disastrous if a "innocent" passenger reacts violently to be judged a terrorist. Now, of course, we must do what is necessary to protect ourselves but we must act with common sense and not act unilaterally.

    If you do happen to see a passenger acting suspicious during the flight, alert a member of the flight crew. This is the most sensible and often first step that needs to be taken. Obviously, if you do see a passenger about to do something that could hurt any passenger or the damage the plane itself, then your "survival" instinct would kick in.

    I see this becoming a problem especially with paranoid passengers that believe that anyone who is "foreign-looking" is automatically suspect. I could imagine, along the most extreme case, of a racist passenger asking that every non-white person be double-checked with security. This could definitely happen, no matter how unlikely!

    Also in the news article, there is a tendency of passengers to immediately think terrorist before everything else. Earlier this month, a plane from London to Washington, D.C. made an emergency landing, after passengers alerted crew to the behaviour of a female traveller. It turns out she had a panic attack.

    Online Gambling takes stab in the back

    Online gambling takes a heart attack in the United States after the US Congress passed legislation prohibiting the use of credit cards, checks, and electronic fund transfers for it. Even though it was passed directly by the House, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was attached as a rider to the port securities bill in the Senate, guaranteeing its passage.

    President George W. Bush is expected to sign the bill into law within two weeks, thereby making it illegal for finance companies to collect credit-card payments from customers using Internet gaming sites.

    As a result, most online gaming companies listed in London, have lost more than half their value today. PartyGaming lost as much as 62 percent. Sportingbet shed 73 percent, and 888.com slid 50 percent. All three are expected to suspend their business with the US once the act is signed. The industry has taken a beating after US authorities arrested BetonSports chief executive David Carruthers and Sportingbet chairman Peter Dicks over alleged illegal Internet gambling on sport.

    Online gambling is a 15 billion dollar industry worldwide.

    Author's Opinion

    It seems that Las Vegas would benefit from such a ban since they would love everyone to travel just to their city and gamble there. I wonder if they have some sort of paranoia about losing their business to online gaming companies.

    Also note that horse race betting, state lotteries, fantasy contests, and certain online gaming activities are exclusively protected under the new law. You have to assume that certain special interests were rewarded for their "contributions" to some members in Congress.

    To suggest that the ban on online gaming is supposed to improve social stability in our society is a load of bollux! The argument that these Internet gaming sites are a front for money laundering, drug trafficking and terrorist financing is easily debatable. Are they saying that gambling in Las Vegas is "clean" gambling versus online?

    The main sponsor of the legislation in the Senate, Senator Jon Kyl from Arizona, called Internet gambling a moral threat. He even called it an Internet version of crack cocaine. Strange that he is doing nothing about the Las Vegas gambling mecca nearby in Nevada. His state has its own lottery. Isn't that morally wrong too?

    This is just blatant social and cultural authoritarianism. It encroaches on a person's individual freedom and unnecessary governmental interference in our private lives. How can this solve our social ills when other forms of gambling are sanctioned by the federal and state governments? An ineffective solution.

    Americans will always want to place a small bet on a sports contest or playing a bit of cards for entertainment. Over time, it will take needless resources to prohibit and enforce the law on online gaming. It is similar to trying to prohibit alcohol during the Prohibition Era. Legalised gambling is a significant social and economic force in this country.

    Let us have the right to gamble as we see fit. Banning online gaming outright does not solve the problem.

    Related Articles

    Bloomberg.com - House Approves Measure to Restrict Online Gambling in the U.S.

    AP - UK Gambling Shares Fall on US Move

    CNN.com - US ban sparks Web gaming crisis

    Passport Required when travelling to Canada - Deadline Extended

    The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative proposed rule will require citizens of the US, Canada, Mexico, and Bermuda to present a passport to enter the US when arriving by air or sea from any part of the Western Hemisphere beginning January 8, 2007. Originally, the deadline was December 31, 2006.

    For land border crossings, the proposed deadline for passport usage will be January 1, 2008.

    Fewer than 30 percent of Americans have a valid US passport. I guess people are just not interested in international exploration.

    However, according to the International Council of Cruise Lines (ICCL), 50-65 percent of passengers on long-duration cruises possess a passport. Only 30-40 percent of those who take short cruises have passports. The ICCL and the Travel Industry Association of America have been lobbying the government to postpone the deadline until June 1, 2009. So far, the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved an amendment to that effect, but the ultimate outcome is yet to be determined.

    People complain about the potential backlog of passport applications, but I think you have procrastinated long enough, and you got ample time before the land crossing deadline, and a good amount of time before the air/sea deadline. So how about clicking HERE, and get started on your new passport.

    US ban on Internet gambling unjustified

    Two stories have come to light due to the US ban on Internet gambling.

    BBC News - Gaming Shares hit by US Charges (18-Jul-06)

    BBC News - Sportingbet chairman held in US (7-Sep-06)

    Coming Soon!

    Another Man Taken Off Plane for Praying

    In reference with the post by Quick and the Dead: Moslem Prayers on the Plane not such a good idea, it seems that an Orthodox Jewish man was removed from an Air Canada Jazz flight from Montreal to New York City last week.

    As the airplane was heading towards the runway at the Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, eyewitnesses saw the Orthodox man began to pray. It appears he was saying something, not loud enough for other passengers to hear, but was lurching back and forth. Though the action did not seem to hurt anyone, a flight attendant approached the man and told him his praying was making other passengers nervous.

    The plane returned to the gate, and the man, who spoke neither English nor French, was escorted off.

    Jazz spokeswoman, Manon Stewart, stated that "the crew had to act in the interest of the majority of passengers."

    Jewish leaders in Montreal criticised the move as insensitive, saying that flight attendants should have explained to the other passengers that the man was simply praying and doing no harm.

    So the situation is a double-standard. It seems that with a Moslem praying, he is considered to be a security risk, but to an Orthodox Hasidic Jewish, it is normal. Maybe a man practicing his Budda prayers is also a danger to the whole plane. First off, it would have been appreciative of the Jewish passenger to ask his neighbor or neighbors if it was alright to do a prayer. Also, it would seem ill-timed to do his praying just when the plane is about to take off.

    I do not find it insensitive. Air Canada Jazz crew did what was necessary to protect the lives of its passengers and the plane. Perhaps Rabbi Ronny Fine should exercised some common sense and pick the right time to conduct his private prayer.

    CBC News - Jewish man removed from airplane for praying

    Space: What low expectations we have

    If you have watched 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick, we see a PanAm "Orion" shuttle docking with an Earth-orbital space station which has a Hilton hotel, complete with a Howard Johnson's restaurant. That was the prediction of how 2001 would be like when the film was produced in 1968. Today, we have a partially-completed ISS space station, but no hotels or restaurants. The history-making SpaceShipOne has started the effort to develop space tourism. There are still no manned moon bases.

    spacestation5.bmp

    In the 1960's and early 1970's, the US embarked on the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions to beat the Soviets on the race to the moon. Apollo 17, the last manned mission to the Moon left a plaque on the ladder of the descent stage of Challenger, the lunar module, which said:

    Here Man completed his first explorations of the moon. December 1972AD. May the spirit of peace in which we came be reflected in the lives of all mankind.

    The last man to walk on the moon was Eugene A. Cernan, Apollo 17 Commander.

    "As I take man's last step from the surface, back home for some time to come - but we believe not too long into the future — I'd like to just [say] what I believe history will record. That America's challenge of today has forged man's destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17."

    Eugene A. Cernan was born March 14, 1934 and is the author of Last Man on the Moon book. If Bush's outlook holds true that the US will return back to the Moon in 2015, Eugene will be 81 years old.

    * * * * * * * * * * * *

    The US Space Shuttle programme was the next-generation spacecraft after the capsule series. It is launched vertically, can carry 5 to 7 astronauts and up to 50,000 lbs of payload into low earth orbit. It is the only winged manned spacecraft to achieve orbit and land. It was only designed for a projected lifespan of 100 launches or 10 years' operational life.

    Six shuttles were built. Enterprise was the first prototype, but was never retrofitted for actual spaceflight. Columbia disintegrated during re-entry on February 1, 2003. Challenger exploded on January 28, 1986. Only Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour are still operational.

    Its replacement was supposed to be the X-33. It was supposed to flight test a range of technologies such as SSTO (Single stage to Orbit), metallic thermal protection systems, composite cryogenic fuel tanks for liquid hydrogen, aerospike engine, unmanned flight control, rapid flight turn-around times, and lifting body aerodynamics. Unfortunately, the program was cancelled by NASA in 2001 where the construction of the prototype was some 85% complete. About $912 million was invested in this program by NASA and about $357 million by Lockheed Martin.

    It was felt that at the time, this next-generation spacecraft was not viable.

    Now, President George W. Bush has unveiled a new space vision for America. Yes, we will return back to the Moon by 2015. However, the current space shuttle programme is obsolete and should be replaced. The cornerstone of America's space effort will be phased out by 2010. Mr. Bush proposed to develop a new spacecraft to take Americans to the Moon, which would be used as a "stepping stone" for a manned mission to Mars and across the solar system.

    Today, NASA announced that Lockheed Martin, the same company that help developed the ill-fated X-33, will enter into a multi-billion dollar contract to build a new generation of spaceships capable of carrying astronauts to the moon. It will be known as the Orion crew vehicle (pretty much like Apollo but with steroids).

    orion_apollo.jpg

    Instead of thinking forward, it is looking backwards to the old Apollo program, and developing a new vehicle based on the 1960's model but with some "upgrades." The reason why the US has such low expectations is a quote by Lockheed Martin Vice President John Karas.

    He said his company will succeed with Orion compared to its failure with X-33 because "we're not shooting as far... I'd say it (Orion) is within reach."

    Quite a declaration of confidence, don't you think?

    Shall we take a bet on whether:

    1) Will Lockheed Martin develop and test an actual Orion spacecraft in the next 5-7 years?

    2) Will it be able to launch a full production spacecraft by 2014? Will it meet Bush's goal of a manned mission by 2015? It was mentioned that a human landing may not occur until 2020.

    3) How much in cost overruns? (X billion dollars?)

    4) What are the chances that the next US President will mention about launching a spacecraft to the Moon by 2020, or 2025, or perhaps 2030? (Whoops, sorry America, got a technical glitch here, need to delay it for a few more years)

    * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Honestly, why don't we just surrender space? Let's just give it up because our government lacks the "real" inspiration to develop a productive spaceflight program.

    How about we start asking the Chinese if we can lease some cargo space from their Shenzhou spacecraft? It just seems to me that we have lost our creativity and our will to create new and better spacecraft. The ISS space station should have been completed already. It could have been used as a launching point to deliver heavy cargo to High Earth Orbit or to the Moon. It seems that we need some crisis just to jumpstart our space program.

    The Times (UK) got it wrong when it said America's dream of putting men on the Moon took a giant leap forward with Lockheed Martin.

    Supposedly it will take 8 years for the first Orion launch. Another 6 years for a actual human landing on the Moon. By the time we get there, the Chinese or the Russians will have a docking platform ready for us.

    The NASA contract is estimated to be worth $4 billion dollars. So far, it has not estimated what would be the overrun cost. I am just curious that it will take EIGHT YEARS to make it more efficient, more reliable, and more affordable. American productivity at its best!

    Related Links

    Top Three Reasons for Humans in Space

    Lockheed Martin to Build Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle

    8 planets now

    Time to change those space brochures, the science textbooks, even the solar system exhibit at the Space Center museum.

    Pluto is no longer a planet!

    The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has stripped Pluto of its planetary status it has held since its discovery in 1930.

    Membership will be limited to the eight "classical" planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

    I guess the only other people who are still upset are the ones that believe Earth is the center of the universe, not the sun.

    Decision was made at a conference of 2,500 astronomers from 75 countries in the Czech Republic.

    CNN.com - Pluto gets the boot

    Banning Hotel Porn

    It seems that a coalition of conservative groups are out to get the government involved in regulating what entertainment can be offered in your hotel room. About thirteen of these groups -- which also includes the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America -- took out full-page ads in some editions of USA Today earlier this month urging the Justice Department and the FBI to investigate whether some of the pay-per-view movies widely available in hotels violate federal and state obscenity laws.

    They even went onto suggest that offering hotel porn would "increase" sexual abuse cases, equating lodgings to be like strip joints or porn stores.

    First, honestly, getting the FBI and Justice Department speaks volumes of hypocrisy. Conservatives are supposed to advocate less government intervention not more.

    Second, you can ask the hotel front desk to turn off adult movies. It is quite simple, and it is very easy. Use your personal responsibility (aka "your mouth"), go to the front desk, and politely ask that the hotel turn off the adult movie titles. Or when you enter your hotel room, switch on the in-room entertainment system, and turn off the adult movie option.

    I find it ridiculous to believe that a hotel offering no adult movies is somehow more safer and family-oriented. That would only happen if the rest of the TV channels are censored, no profanity, and you can enjoy any sexual entertainment with your wife, lover, mistress, gf, or bf.

    Somehow I think they are just looking for another industry to emplace their "values" without offering everyone else the ability to make a decision for themselves.

    Citizens for Community Values -> Censors for Their Values, not Yours

    CNN - Conservatives ask FBI to investigate hotel porn

    If Russia can pay its debt off, why can't the US?

    Reborn Russia clears Soviet debt, By Edmund Conway, Economics Editor

    The Russian Federation has paid back its entire Soviet-era debt to the Paris Club. It used to owe approximately $60 billion when communism fell, and Russia took on all of the foreign debt owed by former members of the USSR (how sweet of them!).

    The paid off debt is clearly a sign of the country's financial independence. Of course, it is contributed by large amounts of revenues that have been taken in by high oil and gas prices.

    It is quite a turnaround for this "lesser" superpower. Eight years ago, it suffered a financial crisis when it could not pay its debt payments on $40 billion of domestic debt, sparking a run on the ruble currency and plunging thousands of its citizens into poverty.

    Today, it is projecting a budget surplus of $56 billion next year. Of course, the US is projecting a $260 billion budget deficit for this year. Russia is also the world's third-largest reserve of foreign currencies holding $277 billion. China ($941 billion) and Japan ($864 billion) are the only two countries that are higher. (Source: Wikipedia) The US only has about $67 billion in foreign reserves.

    By paying off the debt, Russia will save more than $12 billion in interest over the next 14 years. In reverse, the US had to pay $352 billion in interest payments for 2005, and it has already paid $360 billion for 2006 (Source: Dept of Treasury)

    Now, I do not know if comparing Russia with the US is a good example. But really, compare the financial responsiblity. Who's better?

    Airport Security & Carryon Luggage - Part 2

    Link - CNN.com readers share their travel woes

    Let's take a look at some of these thoughts and opinions. Some focused on the delays and inconvenience that the high security alerts that occurred during the past several days. One was upset because security would not allow him to pass because there was "gel" contained in shoe insole. Another had her asthma inhaler confiscated.

    Some hoped that their loved ones are getting to and from their destination without incident. There is a sense of helplessness when your family on the plane and there is nothing you can do if something bad happens, but only pray for their safe journey.

    A few were concerned because their travel arrangements are close to 9/11 and whether they should still go on their flight or re-book them.

    One reader wonders if passengers are not allowed to carry water or juices on the plane, why can't the airline provide them?

    That's called beverage service. Of course it would be nice for the FA's to bring the drinks around more often.

    Another reader believes that people should not whine and complain about the "inconveniences" imposed by the new security rules. Even one thinks there should be no carry-on luggage whatsoever. [They] suggest that the people that are complaining do not believe in airport safety and start appreciating the fact that they are alive, thanks to the authorities.

    I need to respond to this on behalf of the security-conscious and vigilant travelers out there. We do believe in strong airport security. We really do thank the British authorities for being able to break this terrorist plot to destory planes in midflight between the US and UK. I am sure we are willing to sacrifice our water bottle or Gatorade sports drink for public safety. I have to state what one reader submitted, "it confirms that Al Qaeda is succeeding in paralyzing the US via terrorist attacks (or attempts). They did not succeed in taking lives, but they succeeded by instilling fear in millions of travelers, by causing the American and British governments to scramble with new regulations..."

    Listening to the experts and implementing their "suggestions" would result in no luggage at all! Flying has been quite safe since 9/11, but the reality of liquid-based bombs is really nothing new. The possibility of someone mixing benign liquids into a volatile mixture during a plane in mid-flight is remote. If such an attempt was made, I am quite sure the flight crew and the passengers themselves will take the proper action to prevent such a thing from happening. Over the past few years, there have been incidents of people trying to cause a disturbance in the flight cabin, and were quickly subdued by crew and other fellow passengers. I am sure we can all rely on the vigilance of these people to keep everyone out of harm's way.

    We are looking at reasonable and proper security precautions to be done at every airport. Recently, airlines were testing new technology that will allow passengers to use their mobile (cell) phone in mid-flight. I guess the technology will now be put on hold indefinitely. The idea that your electronic device (CD player, mp3 player [iPod], laptop, mini-DVD player) could be used as a potential arming device reminds us about the guy MacGyver, but if anyone on the plane notices a person trying to take apart a laptop or iPod player, action will be taken. Do you think no one would notice a fellow passenger taking apart his laptop or CD player to effect a "repair" on it?

    Electronic watches are also suspected because they contain enough electrical charge (as suggested by the security experts) to explode a device. Are we getting a bit ridculous here?

    Would people with pacemakers be allowed to board the plane? People who need liquid-based allergic medication? Would vitamins be allowed to be carried on the plane? Could we please use some common sense here?

    Safe travel, yes, but not overzealous security regulations.

    One person asks why train stations are not equipped with these security regulations. Let's be realistic here. I doubt that you can properly enforce transit systems where millions of people use it everyday. The only way here is to have a vigilant staff and updated security camera technology, and a public who are more aware of their surroundings.

    This is a reaction to fear, and we are going way overboard on it. Let's take a step back and think this through properly. Security must be strong, but sensible and effective. Strong security does not mean a 3-4 hour checkpoint for a short-haul domestic flight, and double for international.

    ALERT: UK Terror Plot to Blow Up Transatlanitc Fights

    Breaking news from the UK

    As of 7AM EST (12PM BST)

    Scotland Yard has arrested 21 individuals in connection with a plot to blow up either American, United, and Continental airlines travelling between the UK and the US in mid-flight. Estimated number of flights targeted: about 10 (according to BBC News).

    As a result, UK airports are under "critical" alert. Short-haul flights (3 hours or less) have been cancelled. Long-haul flights are still coming in and going out, but are under severe delays.
    -Heathrow Airport:
    Latest reports show that airport is closed to all incoming flights that are not already in the air, while outbound long-haul flights are going out very slowly.

    -Gatwick Airport:
    All flights suspended.

    -Stansted Airport:
    Massive delays.

    Israel has cancelled all flights to London today

    Brussels Intl Airport has cancelled all flights to London today

    US has issued "severe" alert on all UK incoming flights today.

    All Italian airports' security have been increased.

    All other European airports have cancelled their short-haul flights to London.

    Sky News (UK)

    BBC News

    CNN.com

    Fox News

    9:00AM Update

    Irish airline Ryanair has cancelled all flights for today

    Reports that lines at Terminal B at Newark Intl Airport is six football fields long!

    TSA bans all liquids from passing thru security checkpoints at all US airports. (exception: baby formulas, perscription medicine, insulin)

    All hand baggage banned from any aircraft departing any UK airport. These must be checked into the luggage hold.

    Continental Airlines has issued a travel notice

    US overall threat on aviation sector increased from ELEVATED TO HIGH, it is SEVERE for all UK incoming flights

    Destination of the planes targeted were New York's JFK, Washington Dulles, Los Angeles, and Miami International.

    9:45AM Update

    2-3 hour delays reported at New York's JFK & Newark airports

    UK easyJet have cancelled all flights in and out of London for the rest of the day

    OAG reports that more than 400,000 travellers have been affected by the delays and cancellations in the UK.

    Airline Iberia have cancelled all incoming flights until 3PM to London

    Airline Lufthansa have cancelled all incoming flights until 4PM to London

    Airline KLM reports that their flights have resumed, but with massive delays

    Airline British Airways have cancelled all incoming flights until 3PM to London

    Airline BMI recommends people to rebook their flights

    Sky News have given a summary report on London/UK airports

    10:00AM

    Massachusetts Gov Mitt Romney has activated the National Guard to help with airport security at Logan Intl Airport.

    11:45AM

    During Mayor Bloomberg's news conference, a reporter actually asked if he would consider banning liquid substances from being taken aboard a NYC subway train. Bloomberg replied, "I don't think we are going to prevent any New Yorker from carrying their coffee onto the train."

    12:00PM

    President Bush: said it was "Islamic facists" even though the UK law enforcement forces have not released any details on the suspects yet.

    2:25PM

    UK police are actively searching for 5 suspects connected to this morning's counter-terrorist operation.

    Three more arrests, total number of suspects in custody: 24

    All are British muslims of Pakistani descent.

    3:00PM

    National Guard activated in New York, Massachusetts, and California.

    The diplomats are a failure

    Let's look at the word diplomacy. Wiki described it as an art and practice of conducting negotiations between representatives of groups or nations. The name itself comes from the Greek language, and roughly means "(having) double eyes" (suggesting that a negotiator's main attribute should be the ability to understand the interests of all participants). It can also be defined as an employment of tact to gain strategic advantage, one set of tools being the phrasing of statements in a non-confrontational, or social manner.

    As we review the diplomats' performance in addressing the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict, it is really an utter failure.

    The attempt of a UN ceasefire resolution has done nothing to stop the violence. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called the measure "the first step, not the only step." Of course, the resolution calls for a cessation of hostilities. A second resolution would be needed to authorise a multi-national force and buffer zone to separate the two warring parties.

    The impact of the first resolution, if it passes, is likely to be negligible. The Syrian and Iranian foreign ministers have rejected the resolutions outright, obviously. Lebanon's parliament speaker and Hezbollah's negotiator, Nabih Berri, said the plan was unacceptable since it would leave Israeli troops on Lebanese territory. Interestingly enough, he also chooses to include additional demands on behalf of Beirut -- release of prisoners and a dispute over the Chebaa Farms border area.

    The Lebanese government had the nerve to ask the UN to revise the resolution, demanding that Israel pull its forces out immediately with the end of hostilities. Yet, it could not explain how it would go about stopping rocket attacks conducted by the Hezbollah terrorist forces, nor it would explain the presence of Iranian and Syrian security officers assisting with the training and equipment of these forces. It also failed to explain why the official Lebanese military forces were unable to disarm Hezbollah over the last year. It has been reported by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) that Hezbollah had amassed an arsenal of about 10,000 (ten thousand) rockets over the past six years, and about 3,000 (three thousand) have been fired at Israel so far.

    Complaints about the Israeli offensive can only be measured when compared with the 1982 offensive. During the previous conflict, Israeli troops reached as far as Beirut resulting in over 6,000 Lebanese deaths. Today, over 600 civilians are dead and over 10,000 Israeli troops are concentrated in south Lebanon. The difference is that Israeli are trying their best to hit targets with precision strikes in order to minimise civilian losses. However, it is quite difficult since Hezbollah forces are firing their rockets from civilian areas.

    International decision making would not have any effect until those blue-helmet troops touch the ground, but they are already there. There is actually a UN mission being conducted there called UNFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon). It was created back in 1978 to confirm Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, to restore the international peace and security, and help the Lebanese government restore its effective authority in the area. Now, after hearing this, you ought to have concluded that this UN mission has been a COMPLETE FAILURE!

    The force has nearly 2,000 troops and 50 unarmed military observers and according to their UN fact sheet, it was tasked with seeking to maintain a ceasefire along the 70-mile UN "Blue Line" between Israel and Lebanon, by patrolling, observing, reporting violations and liaising with the parties. What a job performance, and you really have to thank the diplomats because their mission mandate is pretty much restrictive, they could not do anything about the violations occurring on the Lebanese side.

    It would seem that when a second UN resolution is passed to authorise an international stabilisation force, it would likely replace UNIFIL, but how effective would this force be. It will likely be lead by the French. However, the US, Canada, and the UK would not send troops. Italy, Greece and Turkey may send some. Indonesia and Malaysia were also willing. NATO and EU organisations as a whole are not willing to send troops in their name. But the biggest question is whether this force will be STRONGER than the UNIFIL force that is currently in place? Would it be given the authority to disarm Hezbollah? How much authority would be given to enforce the peace?

    In any case, much of the international community have been unhappy with the diplomatic performance of the United States. Most would believe that the US was slow to respond to what is becoming an extraordinary destructive conflict that threatens a wider war. If the US was busy criticising the UN for inaction, it seems hypocritical for the lone superpower to do the same thing. Again, the international standing of this great American power has probably been knocked down several pegs. Even the UK's Tony Blair may have lost some credibility with his Labor party and the populace back home for siding with President Bush during this crisis.

    The diplomats should learn to act, and act quickly instead of watching and commenting on how violence does not solve everything, civilian deaths, the need for humanitarian aid, and so on. There is a time for political posturing, and there is a time to ignore the political consequences and do what is right to preserve the peace and stability of the entire Middle East region.

    Note: Ever wonder if those two Israeli soldiers that were kidnapped by Hezbollah on July 12 are still alive? Since that day, this conflict has been going on for about 25 days.

    Channel News Asia - Asia calls for Mideast intervention, mulls sending troops

    Associated Press - Israel hits hard but suffers 15 deaths

    CNN.com - Hezbollah rockets pound northern Israel

    UNIFIL Fact Sheet - URL


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