Here are some videos of the IDF bombing Hamas military targets. Reportedly, some of these videos have been removed from youtube.
Strike on armed launchers
Strike on weapons smuggling tunnels
Strike on Hamas government headquarters
Last update - 15:25 31/12/2008
Israel decides to push on with Gaza op until 'all goals reached'
By Barak Ravid, Amos Harel, and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondents, and Reuters
Israeld decided on Wednesday to continue its offensive on the Hamas infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, according to the original plan of the defense establishment.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told cabinet ministers, who reached their decision following a presentation by defense officials, that Israel would not conclude its operation until all of its goals had been reached.]
"We did not begin the Gaza operation in order to finish it with rocket fire continuing like it did before," Olmert said. "Israel has restrained for years and given plenty of chances for a calm."
"We knew what the price would be to enable people living in the Negev to recuperate and to live for some time without concern," the prime minister added. "But Hamas breached the calm."
Israel earlier Wednesday rejected a French proposal for a 48-hour cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, which would have allowed a freer flow of humanitarian aid into the bombarded coastal territory.
The decision was reached by the members of the "kitchen cabinet," which includes Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
Meanwhile, Israel decided to open the Kerem Shalom crossing to the Gaza Strip on Wednesday afternoon to allow 106 trucks filled with humanitarian aid supplied by foreign aid groups to enter the coastal territory. Full story here.
Gaza assault, rocket attacks continue
By Reuters and Lauren McNabbDecember 30, 2008 8:55 AM
JERUSALEM - Israeli warplanes struck the Gaza Strip again Tuesday, the fourth day in a row, but the ongoing assault failed to deter Hamas, which vowed to keep up rocket attacks on Israeli cities.
Defence Minister Ehud Barak said Israel, which is blockading Gaza, was gathering ground forces at the frontier and would expand its operation "as much as is necessary" to stop the rocket fire and "deal a heavy blow to Hamas."
Israeli planes attacked Hamas targets, killing 12 Palestinians. They included sisters age four and 11. Several rockets fired from Gaza hit Israel, a day after three Israelis were killed in cross-border salvoes.
Medical officials put Palestinian casualties since Saturday at 348 dead with more than 800 wounded. A United Nations agency said at least 62 of the dead were civilians. Four Israelis have been killed by rockets since the operation began. Full story here.
Will Senator Harry Reid Get 'Daschle-d'?
by A.W.R. Hawkins (more by this author)
Posted 12/29/2008 ET
About a year before the 2008 elections, NBC’s Chuck Todd wondered if Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was about to face the same shameful defeat that Senator Tom Daschle faced in 2004 when he was the Minority Leader of Senate Democrats. He asked, “Could McConnell get Daschle-d?”
Fortunately for Republicans, the answer was “no.” McConnell successfully held his seat this year, albeit barely. So pundits are already looking toward 2010, where they see vulnerability again. But it’s not a Republican they believe may get “Daschle-d.” This time, it’s Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
Many Americans don’t know who Reid is, so allow me to remind you. He’s the senator who turned his back on our military and declared we’d lost the war in Iraq in April 2007. He’s also the senator who partnered with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to oppose offshore drilling when we were paying four dollars a gallon for our gasoline just a few short months ago.
Yes, he’s the same senator who mocked George W. Bush’s low job approval numbers yet now presides over a Democrat-controlled Senate that has approval numbers at 9% according to the latest Rasmussen polls. No wonder The New Republic is reporting that Senator John Cornyn, “the newly-minted chief of the National Republican Senatorial Committee,” wants to make Reid’s senate seat the central target for Republicans in the 2010 elections.
To be fair, Reid’s personal approval numbers are a bit higher than those of Congress as a whole. He can boast of a whopping 38% job approval rating. But he ought not boast too much, because this means 62% of the people don’t approve of the hyperpartisan job he’s done thus far.
Of course, Reid doesn’t believe his low approval numbers are his fault. Rather, he blames them on Bush’s low numbers. Stop laughing -- I’m being serious. Read more here.
The Boston Globe
For US, a terror threat lurks in drug smuggling subs
Shift of cargo to arms and people is feared
By Bryan Bender
KEY WEST, Fla. - Skimming just below the surface, they are extremely difficult to detect from surveillance aircraft or patrol boats. Their sleek design, up to 80 feet in length, can secretly carry several tons of cargo thousands of miles.
These "semi-submersibles," which exhibit some of the same characteristics as military submarines, mark a significant advancement in the ability of drug smugglers to slip past coastal defenses.
So far this year, the Coast Guard says it has encountered at least 27 such vessels headed toward the southern and western United States, more than in the previous six years combined, while far more are believed to have gone undetected, according to US military and law enforcement officials.
The growing number and increased sophistication of the vessels, officially designated "self-propelled semi-submersibles," has set off alarms at the highest levels of the US military and the federal Department of Homeland Security. Counterterrorism officials fear that what drug runners now use to deliver cocaine, terrorists could one day use to sneak personnel or massive weapons into the United States.
Navy Admiral James Stavridis, commander of the US Southern Command, the Miami-based military command that concentrates on Latin America, warned in a recent military journal article, "If drug cartels can ship up to 10 tons of cocaine in a semi-submersible, they can clearly ship or rent space...
Full story here.
Rahm the Enforcer
In Washington, where big personalities create even bigger legends, Democrat Rahm Emanuel has achieved mythic status.
He throws cells phones. He once sent a dead fish to a pollster who displeased him. At a dinner to celebrate Bill Clinton’s 1992 election, Emanuel repeatedly stabbed the table with a steak knife, shouting the names of his political enemies. Journalists have trouble quoting him, because his routine utterances are replete with profanity.
“Rahm is a little intense,” Barack Obama once said.
As even Emanuel concedes, “I wake up some mornings hating me, too.”
Emanuel’s political intensity has a darker side. His numerous contacts with disgraced Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s office to push various candidates for Obama’s open Senate seat put him inside the lines of an unseemly political scandal.
The Obama transition team last week cleared itself of wrongdoing in the matter, but it’s unlikely that its report is the last word on the federal government’s wide-ranging public corruption investigation. Full story here.
Israel Launches Unprecedented Series of Strikes on Gaza
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Dec. 27: Smoke rises from Israeli missile strikes in the northern Gaza Strip as seen from the Israeli community of Netiv Hasara.
Dec. 27: Smoke rises from Israeli missile strikes in the northern Gaza Strip as seen from the Israeli community of Netiv Hasara.
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israeli aircraft struck Hamas security compounds across Gaza on Saturday in unprecedented waves of simultaneous attacks, and Hamas and medics reported dozens of people were killed.
The strikes caused widespread panic and confusion as black smoke rose above Gaza. Health Ministry official Moawiya Hassanain said at least 120 people were killed and more than 250 wounded. Officials said others were still buried under the rubble.
In one of the Hamas compounds, the bodies of more than a dozen uniformed security officers were seen lying on the ground. One survivor raised his index finger in a show of Muslim faith, uttering a prayer. Among the dead was the Gaza police chief, Maj. Gen. Tawfiq Jaber, witnesses said.
Hamas officials said all of Gaza's security compounds were destroyed. Hamas said it would seek revenge, including launching new rocket attacks on Israel and sending homicide bombers to Israel.
"Hamas will continue the resistance until the last drop of blood," said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, speaking on a Gaza radio station.
Israel confirmed it carried out a series of air strikes on Hamas installations but did not provide details. Israel has warned in recent days it would strike back hard against continued rocket fire from Gaza on Israeli border towns. Full story here.
Top 10 dud predictions
Article from: Herald Sun
December 19, 2008 12:00am
GLOBAL warming preachers have had a shocking 2008. So many of their predictions this year went splat.
Here's their problem: they've been scaring us for so long that it's now possible to check if things are turning out as hot as they warned.
And good news! I bring you Christmas cheer - the top 10 warming predictions to hit the wall this year.
Read, so you can end 2008 with optimism, knowing this Christmas won't be the last for you, the planet or even the polar bears.
1. OUR CITIES WILL DIE OF THIRST
TIM Flannery, an expert in bones, has made a fortune from books and lectures warning that we face global warming doom. He scared us so well that we last year made him Australian of the Year.
In March, Flannery said: "The water problem is so severe for Adelaide that it may run out of water by early 2009."
In fact, Adelaide's reservoirs are now 75 per cent full, just weeks from 2009.
In June last year, Flannery warned Brisbane's "water supplies are so low they need desalinated water urgently, possibly in as little as 18 months".
In fact, 18 months later, its dams are 46 per cent full after Brisbane's wettest spring in 27 years.
In 2005, Flannery predicted Sydney's dams could be dry in just two years.
In fact, three years later its dams are 63 per cent full, not least because June last year was its wettest since 1951.
In 2004, Flannery said global warming would cause such droughts that "there is a fair chance Perth will be the 21st century's first ghost metropolis".
In fact, Perth now has the lowest water restrictions of any state capital, thanks to its desalination plant and dams that are 40 per cent full after the city's wettest November in 17 years.
Lesson: This truly is a land "of drought and flooding rains". Distrust a professional panic merchant who predicts the first but ignores the second.
2. OUR REEF WILL DIE
PROFESSOR Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, of Queensland University, is Australia's most quoted reef expert.
He's advised business, green and government groups, and won our rich Eureka Prize for scares about our reef. He's chaired a $20 million global warming study of the World Bank.
In 1999, Hoegh-Guldberg warned that the Great Barrier Reef was under pressure from global warming, and much of it had turned white.
In fact, he later admitted the reef had made a "surprising" recovery.
In 2006, he warned high temperatures meant "between 30 and 40 per cent of coral on Queensland's great Barrier Reef could die within a month".
In fact, he later admitted this bleaching had "a minimal impact".
In 2007, he warned that temperature changes of the kind caused by global warming were again bleaching the reef.
In fact, the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network last week said there had been no big damage to the reef caused by climate change in the four years since its last report, and veteran diver Ben Cropp said this week that in 50 years he'd seen none at all.
Lesson: Reefs adapt, like so much of nature. Learn again that scares make big headlines and bigger careers.
3. GOODBYE, NORTH POLE...
The rest of the list is here.
ASIA - UNITED STATES
U.S. debt approaches insolvency; Chinese currency reserves at risk
by Maurizio d'Orlando
In a few months, America's public debt has grown to more than 100% of GDP. Fear of a valuation crisis for the dollar, with tremendous consequences for Asian countries, major exporters to the United States.
Milan (AsiaNews) - In the United States, the danger of debt insolvency is growing, putting at risk the currency reserves of foreign countries, China chief among them. According to new figures published by Bloomberg in recent days (Nov. 25, 2008 ), the American government has employed a total of 8.549 trillion dollars to stop the financial crisis. This means a total of about 24-25.4 trillion dollars of direct or indirect public debt weighing on American taxpayers. The complete tally must also include the debt - about 5-6 trillion dollars - of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are now quasi-public companies, because 79.9% of their capital is controlled by a public entity, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which manages them as a public conservatorship.
In 2007, public debt in the United States was 10.6 trillion dollars, compared to a GDP (gross domestic product) of 13.811 trillion dollars. Public debt in 2007 was therefore 76.75% of GDP. In just one year, direct and indirect public debt have grown to more than 100% of GDP, reaching 176.9% to 184.2%. These percentages exclude the debt guaranteed by policies underwritten by AIG, also nationalized, and liabilities for health spending (Medicaid and Medicare) and pensions (Social Security). By way of comparison, the Maastricht accords require member states of the European Union (EU) to reduce their public debt to no more than 60% of GDP. Again by way of comparison, in one of the EU countries with the largest public debt, Italy, public debt in 2007 was equal to 104% of GDP...
Report: CIA Uses Little Blue Pills to Entice Afghan Warlords
The growing Taliban insurgency has forced the CIA to get creative in how they obtain certain information from Afghan warlords and tribal leaders.
In an effort to win over fickle warlords and chieftains in Afghanistan and get information from them, CIA officials are handing out Viagra pills in exchange for their cooperation, the Washington Post reports.
"Whatever it takes to make friends and influence people - whether it's building a school or handing out Viagra," an agency operative, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Post.
The growing Taliban insurgency has forced the agency to get creative in how they obtain certain information from Afghan warlords and tribal leaders, including Taliban movements and supply routes.
CIA operatives use everything from toys and school equipment to tooth extractions to their advantage and note that if Americans don't offer incentives, others, including Taliban commanders, will. Link here.
Religious Shelters Say Rules Squeeze Them Out
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By LESLIE KAUFMAN
Published: December 24, 2008
As temperatures outside were dropping from icy to arctic early Monday evening, volunteers inside the Friends Meeting House off East 15th Street prepared their gym for homeless guests, following a routine that has taken place nightly for more than 25 years.
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Michael Appleton for The New York Times
A warm end to a cold day for one homeless person inside the shelter at the Friends Meeting House in Manhattan.
They arranged green cots in neat lines on the polished wood floor, placed cold cuts and leftover lasagna on pink cloth-covered tables, and set out 14 chairs — 12 for the homeless, 2 for volunteers who share the communal meal, then sleep in the next room.
But these lovingly preserved rituals may soon come to an end because of a pending change in city policy in which shelters that contract with the Department of Homeless Services to provide beds would be required to provide hot dinners and transportation, things that the Friends shelter and many of the others do not have the staff to handle. Full story here.
Why Do We Believe in Santa?
ScienceDaily (Dec. 24, 2008) — Having kids believe there's a jolly man in a red suit who visits on Christmas Eve isn't detrimental, although some parents can feel they're outright lying to their children, according to a new analysis by Serge Larivée.
"When they learn the truth, children accept the rules of the game and even go along with their parents in having younger children believe in Santa," says Larivée, a psycho-education professor at the Université de Montréal. "It becomes a rite of passage in that they know they are no longer babies."
Larivée, along with colleague Carole Sénéchal from the University of Ottawa, examined a study from 1896 involving 1,500 children aged 7 to 13, which was repeated in 1979. More than 46 percent of children in 1896 and 44 percent in 1979 gradually found out on their own that Santa didn't exist.
The studies also analyzed the reaction of the children once they discovered the jolly old elf wasn't real. More than 22 percent in the 1896 study admitted to being disappointed compared with 39 percent in the 1979 study. But only 2 percent and 6 percent, respectively, felt betrayed. Full story here.
Obama Interviewed In Blagojevich Probe
President-elect, two aides quizzed last week by federal prosecutors
DECEMBER 23--President-elect Barack Obama and two of his top advisers were interviewed last week by federal prosecutors probing Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's alleged bid to sell Obama's vacated Senate seat, according to a report issued today by an Obama lawyer. The lawyer, Gregory Craig, concluded that Obama and his aides engaged in no improper conduct in connection with the Senate opening. A copy of the Craig report can be found below. As part of his review of transition team "contacts" with Blagojevich, Craig reported that only incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had spoke with the Illinois pol. Emanuel, Craig disclosed, had "one or two telephone calls" with Blagojevich in early-November. The Smoking Gun.
No Improper Contact With Governor, Says Obama Report
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By JEFF ZELENY
Published: December 23, 2008
HONOLULU — An internal report issued on Tuesday by lawyers for President-elect Barack Obama found that his top advisers had numerous contacts with the office of Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich and attempted to guide his choice to fill a vacant Illinois Senate seat, but none of the talks suggested an attempt to play along with the governor’s alleged attempts to sell the seat.
Rahm Emanuel, the new White House chief of staff, had two conversations with Mr. Blagojevich and four calls with John Harris, the governor’s chief of staff, about the Senate seat. He provided a list of six names of Illinois Democrats whom Mr. Obama favored to fill his Senate seat.
“At no time in the discussion of the Senate seat or of possible replacements did the president-elect hear of a suggestion that the governor expected a personal benefit in return for making this appointment to the Senate,” said the report, which was written by Gregory Craig, the new White House counsel. Full story here.
Music industry drops effort to sue song swappers
By RYAN NAKASHIMA
The Associated Press
The group representing the U.S. recording industry said Friday it had abandoned its policy of suing people for sharing songs protected by copyright.
The Recording Industry Association of America said it instead would work with Internet service providers to cut abusers’ access if they ignored repeated warnings.
The move ends a program that saw the association sue about 35,000 people since 2003 for swapping songs online. Because of high legal costs for defenders, virtually all of those hit with lawsuits settled, on average, for around $3,500. The association’s legal costs, in the meantime, exceeded the settlement money it brought in.
The association said Friday it stopped sending out new lawsuits and warnings in August and then agreed with several leading U.S. Internet service providers, without naming which ones, to notify alleged illegal file-sharers and cut off service if they failed to stop. Full story here.
President Signs Bill Lowering Salary of Secretary of State
December 19th, 2008
On December 19, President George W. Bush signed Senate Joint Resolution 46, which lowers the salary of the Secretary of State from $191,300 to $186,600. SJR 46 had been introduced in the U.S. Senate on December 10, and it passed unanimously that same day. The House passed it unanimously on December 12. The reason for the bill is that Article I, section 6, says that no member of Congress may take an office if the salary for that office had been increased while that individual was in Congress. Senator Hillary Clinton was in Congress when the Secretary of State’s salary was increased in 2007. Link here.
Pay Raises for Lawmakers Anger Watchdog Groups
Each lawmaker is due for a $4,700 cost-of-living wage hike starting in January, which will amount to a total cost of $2.5 million for taxpayers
By Stephen Clark
Saturday, December 20, 2008
As Americans across the country grapple with one of the worst financial crises since the Great Depression, members of Congress quietly are getting a pay raise.
Each lawmaker's annual salary is due for a $4,700 cost-of-living increase starting in January, which will amount to a cost to taxpayers of $2.5 million in 2009, infuriating watchdog groups.
"Members of Congress don't deserve one additional dime of taxpayer money in 2009," said Tom Schatz, president of the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste.
"While thousands of Americans are facing layoffs and downsizing, Congress should be mortified to accept a raise," he said in a written statement. Story here.
And while the United Auto Workers said the plan would keep factories running, the union said it was upset by loan conditions "singling out workers."Gettelfinger is upset about the Bush administration's direction for wages to be brought in line with the transplants by 2009 year end. He is counting on Obama and a Democratic Congress to protect him. He is probably correct. The Obama administration will throw another 30~50 billion at the Big Three and refuse to force the UAW to get serious about helping cut costs. They will attach a bunch of environmental rules to force GM and Chrysler to build small fuel efficient vehicles in a market where gas is $1.49 a gallon.
"We will work with the Obama administration and the new Congress to ensure that these unfair conditions are removed," said Ron Gettelfinger, president of the UAW.
Green Cars for Cheap Gas?The big winner in this bailout may be Ford. They could get a piece of any cost reductions that take place and they won't be bound by any of the restrictions placed on the companies that took bailout money. If gas prices stay low, people will start buying more trucks and SUV's. Those products are Ford's bread and butter.
December 14, 2008
by Dennis Avery
Now we're going to give Ford, GM and Chrysler billions of dollars so the Feds can order them to build more "green" cars-with gas
now costing $1.49 per gallon. How many Americans will pay $30,000 for one of these new high-mileage lightweights instead of getting a family-protective SUV for the same bucks? Or a pickup to pull the boat? At $1.49 per gallon, not many. So Detroit will go broke again, unless the Feds slap on another $3 per gallon in gas tax.
Haven't we just been there? And we didn't like it much. We demanded, "Drill, baby, drill." We forced a liberal Democratic Congress that hates oil to end the drilling ban on public lands. Thus, we could pump more domestic gas and oil and bring down the price-so Detroit's old lineup of SUVs and big pickups would sell again.
Which way are we going? And why?
My sister is a GM widow in Michigan; I understand the problem of Big Three pensions and medical insurance. But that doesn't really have much to do with the sort of cars we build. The costs the United Auto Workers saddled onto the Big Three years ago makes their cars non-competitive today no matter how tiny and fuel-efficient they get. Link here.
Helen Jones-Kelley resigns from state job
By William Hershey | Wednesday, December 17, 2008, 06:47 PM
Helen Jones-Kelley has resigned as director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Gov. Ted Strickland’s office announced today, Dec. 17.
State Inspector General Tom Charles found that Jones-Kelley, of Clayton, improperly authorized state database searches for personal information on Samuel Joseph “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher during the presidential campaign.
Strickland suspended Jones-Kelley for a month without pay on Nov. 20 in the wake of Charles’ report.
Strickland had first put Jones-Kelley, a former director of the Montgomery County Job and Family Services department, on paid administrative leave Nov. 7 because of reports that she used her state e-mail account for political fund raising. Charles’ report also confirmed that she used the account to raise money for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.
She earned $141,980 in her state job. Full story here.
Scientists Call AP Report on Global Warming 'Hysteria'
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Scientists skeptical of the assertion that climate change is the result of man's activites are criticizing a recent Associated Press report on global warming, calling it "irrational hysteria," "horrifically bad" and "incredibly biased."
They say the report, which was published on Monday, contained sweeping scientific errors and was a one-sided portrayal of a complicated issue.
"If the issues weren't so serious and the ramifications so profound, I would have to laugh at it," said David Deming, a geology professor at the University of Oklahoma who has been critical...
Full story here.
Fitzgerald renews interest in Rezko-Obama deal
Appraiser claiming fraud says prosecutor's office talked to him after Blago arrest
Posted: December 15, 2008
10:14 pm Eastern
By Jerome R. Corsi
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald
Since arresting Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has renewed interest in convicted fundraiser Tony Rezko's part in the purchase of Barack Obama's Chicago mansion, according to a former real estate analyst who says he was interviewed by the federal prosecutor in the past 10 days.
Kenneth J. Conner told WND he was interviewed by investigators from Fitzgerald's office regarding the purchase of the Obama mansion and the adjacent vacant lot that Rezko's wife, Rita, purchased simultaneously. As WND reported last week, Connor filed a civil complaint in October with the Illinois Circuit Court in Cook County alleging he was fired by Mutual Bank of Harvey, Ill., because he objected to land appraisals submitted on behalf of the Rezkos and the Obamas, with the complicity of the bank...
Full story here.
It's official: Barack Obama elected 44th president
5 hours ago
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Presidential electors have formally elected Barack Obama the nation's 44th president.
Electors gathering in state capitols across the country have pushed Obama above the 270 electoral votes needed to win, according to a tally by The Associated Press. Obama takes office Jan. 20, becoming the nation's first black president.
Monday's voting was a largely ceremonial procedure, but one mandated by the Constitution. Obama defeated Republican Sen. John McCain in the Nov. 4 election.
Woman told to remove Christmas lights to avoid offending non-Christian neighbours
A woman was told to remove her Christmas lights by a housing association worker in case they offended non-Christian neighbours.
Dorothy Glenn decorates her home in South Shields, Tyne and Wear, with hundreds of festive lights every year, including a giant tree and a 4ft Santa Claus.
But this year she was astonished when an employee of South Tyneside Homes called at her house and informed her that the decorations she was displaying might be offending her neighbours.
The association has now apologised to Mrs Glenn and started an investigation but a spokesman insisted that removing Christmas lights was not part of their policy.
Mrs Glenn, a 41-year-old mother-of-three, said: "I put the lights up in the first week of November and then recently a uniformed housing worker was outside, and it looked like he was counting my decorations.
"When I went outside he said that the lights were 'offensive to the community'. If I was offending anyone I could understand why he was telling me, but nobody has complained...
Read more here.
China "cancer village" pays ultimate price for growth
Wed Dec 10, 2008 10:27pm EST
By Emma Graham-Harrison and Vivi Lin
XIDITOU COUNTY, China (Reuters) - Once an isolated haven, the Chinese village of Liukuaizhuang is now a tainted hell, surrounded by scores of low-tech factories that are poisoning its water and air, and the health of many villagers.
One in fifty people there and in a neighboring hamlet have been diagnosed with cancer over the last decade, local residents say, well over ten times the national rate given in a health ministry survey earlier this year.
Many fear they are paying for the country's breathtaking economic expansion with their lives, as surrounding plants making rubber, chemicals and paints pour out health-damaging waste.
"They asked in the hospital whether my family had a history of cancer. I said: 'No, in the last three generations no one had it'," one villager told Reuters, pulling out his x-rays and doctor's diagnosis that he had lung cancer. "It must have a lot to do with the pollution here."
Three decades of reforms and opening up since 1978 have transformed China from a rigidly ideological backwater into the world's fourth largest economy, lifting millions out of poverty, but not without a price...
Full story here.
Palin's Church Severely Damaged by Arson
Sunday, December 14, 2008; A02
ANCHORAGE, Dec. 13 -- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's home church was badly damaged by arson, leading the governor to apologize Saturday if the fire was connected to "undeserved negative attention" from her campaign as the Republican vice presidential nominee.
Damage to the Wasilla Bible Church was estimated at $1 million, authorities said. No one was injured in the fire, which was set Friday night while a handful of people, including two children, were inside, according to James Steele, the Central Mat-Su fire chief.
He said the blaze was being investigated as an arson. Steele said he didn't know of any recent threats to the church, and authorities did not know whether Palin's connection to the church was relevant to the fire.
"It's hard to say at this point. Everything is just speculation," he said. Link here.
Ever wondered what a UAW contract looks like? Here is all 22 pounds of it (in this case, Ford’s 2,215 page 2007 master contract; Coke can is for scale and because I was thirsty).
I’ll tell you this much, those 2,215 pages don’t include much regarding efficiency and competitiveness. What you’ll find are hundreds of rules, regulations, and letters of understanding that have hamstrung the auto companies for years. (Excerpted)from laborpains.org
If you’d like to read the contracts for yourself, here they are:
More information here.
U.S. households pay down debts for first time
Net worth plunges at 18% annualized rate in third quarter, Fed data show
By Rex Nutting, MarketWatch
Last update: 1:34 p.m. EST Dec. 11, 2008
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- Stung by the loss of more than $2.8 trillion in their net wealth, the nation's households paid down debts in the third quarter for the first time since at least 1952, the Federal Reserve reported Thursday.
As of Sept. 30, the total outstanding debt for households shrank at an annualized rate of 0.8% from $13.94 trillion to $13.91 trillion, the Fed said in its quarterly flow of funds report. It's the first decline in household debt ever recorded in the report.
Households paid off more mortgage debt than they took on for just the second quarter on record. Mortgage debt fell at a 2.4% annual rate to $10.54 trillion, as foreclosures mounted and fewer new mortgages were taken on.
Other consumer debts, such as credit cards and auto loans, increased at a 1.2% annual rate in the quarter to $2.6 trillion.
Total U.S. domestic nonfinancial debt increased at a 7.2% annual rate, boosted by a postwar record 39.2% increase in debt taken on by the federal government, mostly to fund the Federal Reserve's massive efforts to provide liquidity to credit markets. Excluding federal debt, U.S. debts rose at a 1% annual rate in the quarter.
Business debt increased at a 2.9% annual rate, the slowest in five years. Corporate debt rose at a 3.7% annual rate, a four-year low. Read more here.
Senate Rejects Auto Bailout Despite Intense Negotiations
Democratic leaders and the White House made final pleas for the bill's passage on Thursday, but the two sides in the Senate failed to forge a compromise
Thursday, December 11, 2008
The White House said it was evaluating its options in light of the breakdown of a deal on $14 billion in aid to Detroit's Big Three automakers. The deal fell apart Thursday night in the Senate despite intense negotiations on Capitol Hill between lawmakers, union officials and representatives from the three companies.
"It's disappointing that Congress failed to act tonight," Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto said in a statement. "We think the legislation we negotiated provided an opportunity to use funds already appropriated for automakers and presented the best chance to avoid a disorderly bankruptcy while ensuring taxpayer funds only go to firms whose stakeholders were prepared to make difficult decisions to become viable."
The bailout died after failing 52-35 on a Senate procedural vote.
Earlier in the evening, the talks appeared to have produced a breakthrough, with Democratic leaders "hopeful" that an agreement had been reached that would be acceptable to Senate Republicans, who have resisted the aid package. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid came back later to report the effort had failed, adding he was "terribly disappointed."
Reid called the bill's collapse "a loss for the country," adding: "I dread looking at Wall Street tomorrow. It's not going to be a pleasant sight."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a statement after the bill was blocked, saying: "Senate Republicans' refusal to support the bipartisan legislation passed by the House and negotiated in good faith with the White House, the Senate and the automakers is irresponsible, especially at a time of economic hardship. The consequences of the Senate Republicans' failure to act could be devastating to our economy, detrimental to workers, and destructive to the American automobile industry unless the president immediately directs Secretary Paulson to explore other short-term financial assistance options, including TARP and those available to the Federal Reserve....
Full story here.
House Passes Auto Bailout Vote, Despite GOP Roadblocks
Democratic lawmakers and the White House strike a deal on an emergency $14 billion loan program for the auto industry, but Senate Republicans are not happy with the plan.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
WASHINGTON -- A $14-billion rescue package for the imperiled U.S. auto industry sped to approval in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday night, but the emergency bailout was still in jeopardy from Republicans who were setting out roadblocks in the Senate.
Democrats and the Bush White House hoped for a Senate vote as early as Thursday and enactment by week's end. They argued that the loans authorized by the measure were needed to stave off disaster for the auto industry -- and a crushing further blow to the reeling U.S. economy.
The legislation, approved 237-170 by the House, would provide money within days to cash-starved General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC. Ford Motor Co., which has said it has enough to stay afloat, would also be eligible for federal aid.
Republicans were preparing a strong fight against the aid plan in the Senate, not only taking on the Democrats but standing in open revolt against their party's lame-duck president on the measure.
The Republicans want to force the companies into bankruptcy or mandate hefty concessions from autoworkers and creditors as a condition of any federal aid. They also oppose an environmental mandate that House Democrats insisted on including in the measure.
Earlier Wednesday, auto state Republicans who have pushed hard for a bailout, said the measure needed work. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., said he wanted to see changes. And Sen. George V. Voinovich, R-Ohio, said the measure didn't have the necessary Republican votes to pass Congress. Full story here.
Blagojevich arrested on federal charges
December 9, 2008 at 2:11 PM | Comments (107)
Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, were arrested today by FBI agents for what U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald called a "staggering" level of corruption involving pay-to-play politics in Illinois' top office.
Blagojevich is accused of a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy, including alleged attempts by the governor to try to sell or trade the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Barack Obama in exchange for financial benefits for the governor and his wife. Blagojevich also is accused of obtaining campaign contributions in exchange for other official actions.
Blagojevich was taken into federal custody at his North Side home this morning--one day shy of his 52nd birthday. Full story here.
Internet drives Barack Obama birth-certificate battle
Web allows opinions to "live forever," expert says
By Tim Jones | Tribune correspondent
December 8, 2008
This is a story that won't go away.
Five weeks after the State of Hawaii vouched for the authenticity of President-elect Barack Obama's birth certificate, the controversy over allegations that Obama is not eligible to take office next month has reached the Supreme Court, which is expected to announce Monday whether it will consider the matter.
The fight is unusual because it thrives outside the so-called mainstream media, far beyond the oak-paneled offices of $700-an-hour lawyers and a world away from the 535 individuals whose surnames are preceded by Representative or Senator.
This is a different army at work, in an environment increasingly influenced by the Internet.
"It's only being mentioned by a relative few...
Full story here.
by Hank Rand on December 6, 2008 at 9:44 PM
"What difference does it make to the future of this country whether Obama was born on US soil? Advocates of this destructive campaign will argue that the Constitutional principle regarding the qualifications for President trumps all others. But how viable will our Constitution be if 5 Supreme Court justices should decide to void 64 million ballots?"
A proponent of the reality that there is an outstanding question that exists relating to Barack Obama's natural born citizenship (not that I have an answer, but rather simply that no answer has been given), my personal opinion is that this has less to do with the merit of this particular Constitutional law...and more to do with the character and integrity of a man who may have gone to such great lengths to, knowingly, break it. And in that course of action, our entire country (not just those who didn't vote for him) and our most coveted process of Democracy (our vote), were defrauded.
If he's found to be ineligible per the Constitution, proving he knowingly and willfully defrauded our people and process, it won't be the Justices who will have disenfranchised 64 million voters. It's Barack Obama. How many times are you prepared to claim "you fell down the stairs" for this man? I was an initial supporter. I started seeing very real and very questionable issues raised about the nature of his past associations, and the laughable explanations he would give...and I was sure it would hurt him in the press and among supporters. But what did I see? The press and most supporters to engrossed in their partisanship to care. In fact, the more reasonable questions came up about him...the harder the press and the 64 million that same press brainwashed, drove to the hoop for him. As I stood back watching this, again, as an initial supporter of his, even making phone calls on his behalf...I realized what I was seeing, was nothing short of WEIRD. Just, plain, weird.
And I thought this birth certificate issue (check that, "Certificate of Live Birth" issue...as opposed to "Certification of Live Birth") was cleared up a long time ago. I thought there was no way the DNC would have been capable of such a gross oversight. Then the court cases came up, and nothing was done to quell the question. What finally landed me understanding that something is not right, is when Chiyome Fukino, Director of Health for Hawaii, released the statement about his birth. That statement actually did more harm than good, and it only demonstrated further how moronic far too many public officials and people in the media and governing bodies, think Americans are.
Sure, America has it's slew of idiots. And sure, the aisle that questions Barack Obama's natural born and/or properly maintained citizenship statuses has it's smattering of fringe wingnuts. But just because one contingent of people happen to be on board, doesn't nullify the fact that the question is still outstanding. I hear the same 5 refutations over, and over, and over. "He posted his birth certificate on his website", "Factcheck proved it", "The state of Hawaii released a statement saying he was born there", "There was a birth announcement in a Hawaiian newspaper", "Judges meritoriously threw it out as 'frivolous'"; and while each of those statements hold an element of truth, they're also easily debunked. And "truth" is objective. There is no debunking it. We should be able to move past this on to more subjective and productive lines of communication...with all the dissent we're accustomed to...forging, like competition, improvement. But here we are. And one man can answer this objective question. And sure, not everyone will get on board if he were to release his college records and actual Certificate of Live Birth (as opposed to the factually less credible, more easily attained and more easily forged "Certification" - which bears no corroborating evidence like the hospital or doctor's name)...but many would get on board. Coming off a platform of transparency, directly in to a promised pursuit for unity...why leave so many of us divided on what is a simple and objectively debunked question? If the Certification is authentic, the it's more credible parent - the Certificate, exists. But rather than produce it, he has fought those requests so fiercely that he's allowed the same requests to land in court rooms...where he continues to fight them. Why? So rather than quell the reasonable, objective and easily answered outstanding question...he opts non disclosure. I wrote somewhere else that the production of Certificate of Live Birth is a very small price t pay for unity. And yet, here we are. And Barack Obama, and Barack Obama only, is responsible for that. I am certain of that beyond any reasonable doubt, because Barack Obama, and Barack Obama only, can quell it...with an actual Certificate of Live Birth, and he has watched requests transition to court cases, and still refuses. So as a first order of business, in a promised pursuit for unity, he leaves us divided, on what should be a very simple, very objective, very basic matter. Who among us can applaud that? "I do, Hank. Because you're all just whackjobs." That's all well and good if that's your opinion. My brother said to me, "Yeah but if we pull him out, we're going to look corrupt to the rest of the world." I replied, "I'd rather look corrupt and not be it, than be corrupt and not look it." So goes my position on being called a whackjob, for maintaining through nothing more than logic and fact, that there is a still outstanding question regarding Barack Obama's natural born and properly maintained citizenship statuses. I'd rather be called a whackjob and stand by truth, than submit to mistruths and be called sound.
I didn't hear any of the 5 standard press talking points in your piece, which leads me to believe the transition I anticipated is occurring. That is, virtually all of supporters (and I don't know if you were one prior to November 4th or not), will go from, "He didn't commit fraud. He is a natural born citizen", to "So what if he committed fraud. So what if he isn't a natural born citizen." I've challenged others, staunch supporters in fact, as to whether or not they'd concede a gross misstep in character and judgement, and support his being held accountable for that, if he did commit this fraud. They've uniformly claimed they would. This article, blog, whatever it is...demonstrates the first piece I've actually seen that goes out of it's way to say, "No. I wouldn't. Barack Obama can lie, cheat and steal all he wants. And if he gets held accountable for it, it's the fault of the Justices...because Barack Obama himself, is simply incapable of wrongdoing."
Running that red light you sit at, day after day, when no one is looking, is pretty harmless too. But you know it's wrong. This man, if not a natural born and properly maintained citizen of the United States, will have knowingly and willfully cheated our entire country, and more critical than that - our absolutely, inherently, unquestionably most coveted process of democracy - in what can only be articulated as a relentless pursuit for unapologetic, integrity-free, and division-inducing pursuit for power.Link.
U.S. hails missile shield test but doubts remain
Fri Dec 5, 2008 7:44pm EST
By Andrew Gray
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military said on Friday it conducted a successful test of its missile defense system, but the target failed to deploy measures that experts said could have helped it avoid destruction.
The test took place as the Pentagon braces for more scrutiny of the program after President-elect Barack Obama, a Democrat, takes office in January. The system, which officials say is to defend against states such as North Korea and Iran, is a flagship policy of the Republican Bush administration.
In Friday's test, a target missile was fired from Kodiak, Alaska, and its warhead was destroyed 124 miles above the Pacific Ocean by a "kill vehicle" that detached from an interceptor missile fired from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
"It was the largest, most complex test we have ever done," said U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Patrick O' Reilly, the head of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency.
However, the 40-year-old target missile failed...
Read more here.
Obama's positive press sets record
McCain coverage negative
Jennifer Harper (Contact)
Saturday, December 6, 2008
It's a record-setting press honeymoon.
President-elect Barack Obama has received the most positive campaign news coverage on the main network news shows in the 20-year history of such studies by the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA).
Mr. Obama received 68 percent positive evaluations from the four major networks, according to the study released Friday.
"Obama's positive press is the strongest showing CMPA has ever recorded for a presidential candidate since we began monitoring election news in 1988," said Robert Lichter, director of the nonpartisan research group affiliated with George Mason University.
By contrast, his Republican rival almost set the record for hostile press coverage...
Read more here.
O.J. Simpson could get 6 years, 18 years -- or life
LAS VEGAS, Nevada (CNN) -- Former football great O.J. Simpson, convicted of armed robbery and kidnapping, deserves leniency in sentencing as he is a first-time offender who showed no criminal intent, his attorney says in court papers.
O.J. Simpson should receive a six-year sentence in a 2007 hotel room confrontation, his attorney says.
O.J. Simpson should receive a six-year sentence in a 2007 hotel room confrontation, his attorney says.
more photos »
Attorney Gabriel Grasso argued that Simpson should receive the minimum sentence, six years.
Grasso acknowledged in court papers, "Clearly Simpson was not using good judgment" during a 2007 hotel room confrontation over sports memorabilia.
Simpson could receive a maximum life sentence from Judge Jackie Glass on Friday. A pre-sentencing report recommended an 18-year sentence.
On October 3, a jury convicted Simpson, 61, and co-defendant Clarence "C.J." Stewart of 12 charges, including conspiracy to commit a crime, robbery, assault and kidnapping with a deadly weapon. Full story here.
Not just another car ride for GM CEO Wagoner
Dec 3 09:22 PM US/Eastern
By JOE MILICIA
Associated Press Writer
SOMERSET, Pa. (AP) - The head of the nation's largest automaker took perhaps the most important car ride of his life Wednesday, traveling 500 miles, mostly over highway through four states, to Washington, D.C., where he will ask Congress for a second time to save his slumping company.
Two weeks ago Rick Wagoner flew to Washington on a corporate jet. This time the chief executive of General Motors Corp. made the trip in one of his company's black hybrid Chevrolet Malibus, driving part of the way. He periodically made calls on his cell phone while in the passenger seat and wore sunglasses to protect from the glare of a sunny day.
Wagoner will be back in the spotlight Thursday and Friday, along with fellow CEOs Alan Mulally of Ford Motor Co. and Robert Nardelli of Chrysler LLC, when they appear before the Senate Banking Committee and the House Financial Services Committee to appeal for financial aid totaling up to $34 billion. Wagoner's plea will be the most desperate. GM submitted a plan to Congress on Tuesday that called for $18 billion in loans and warned that the 100-year old iconic American company won't have enough money to run its business without an immediate cash infusion of $4 billion...
Full story here.
Clinton's Confirmation May Spark Constitutional Battle
A provision in the Constitution technically bars Sen. Hillary Clinton from becoming President-elect Barack Obama's secretary of state.
By Stephen Clark
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
The biggest obstacle facing Hillary Clinton's Senate confirmation as President-elect Barack Obama's top diplomat may not be her husband's wheeling and dealing abroad for his foundation, as many suspected.
Instead, it could be the U.S. Constitution.
According to an emolument clause in the Constitution, no lawmaker can be appointed to any civil position that was created or received a wage increase during the lawmaker's time in office.
President Bush ordered Cabinet salaries raised to $191,300 from $186,600 by executive order early this year, while Clinton was senator.
"My understanding is that does prohibit her unless they can find some way around it and I gather that they have in the past," former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger told FOX News.
"This isn't the first time this has come up," he said, referring to appointees of other presidents. "Maybe she has to renounce the salary increase but I'm sure they'll find a way around it."
The Obama transition team did not respond to a request for comment. Full story here.