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Great A&P Tea
29 марта 2013, 20:09

Ralph Nader: Enlist the Enlightened Super-Rich!

You often hear progressives bemoaning the massive war chests of the right-wing funders, particularly after their successful backing of the boisterous Tea Party movement. But a common mistake made by the left is not adequately focusing on cultivating their own likeminded super-rich to provide the necessary resources to advance their own noble causes. It would only take a few enlightened mega-billionaires to provide the major funding needed to shift power from the few to the many and to get the ball rolling on long overdue, fundamental solutions to our country's biggest problems. History shows a precedent. The greatest civil rights struggles in American history were bankrolled by wealthy, enlightened benefactors. Gerrit Smith, Joshua Bowen Smith, Arthur and Lewis Tappan and James G. Birney were some of those who funded the abolitionist movement -- using their resources to create organizations like the Anti-Slavery Society and the Liberty Party, an independent, antislavery third party. Louisine Havemeyer, Carrie Chapman Catt, Alva Belmont and Julia Ward Howe contributed their finances to the women's suffrage movement. Catt, the wife of a wealthy engineer, contributed a million dollars (about $25 million today) to send out information to newspapers and magazines and to mobilize activists during the final push to gain the women's right to vote in 1917-1918. In 2013, we need to tap into that fervor which led to such great progressive victories. With adequate resources, it is possible to build powerful new constituencies to make government open and honest and reflective of the prevailing public sentiment. The difference between charity and justice must be made clear. Soup kitchens are a vital and humane charity. Justice, on the other hand, looks to the root of the problem, and asks why the wealthiest places on Earth, such as the United States, have any starving or hungry people at all. It's true that many wealthy people donate substantially to charity -- presently, most philanthropy does go to charity. But by directing billions of dollars to preventing deprivation in the first place, the impact could be much greater. A society with more justice needs less charity. This practical approach has been proven again and again in the areas of public health and safety. Think of seat belts, clean air and safe vaccines. Furthermore, more resources are needed in the much neglected area of corporate accountability. Wall Street and other commercial interests have met too little resistance to their wrongdoings for too long. The public sentiment is there, what is needed is the fuel. A vast frontier of opportunity exists for our political economy to serve the needs of the many, especially our children, and not just the overpaid executives of massive corporations. Justice needs financial resources to spread its embrace. Enlightened, senior super-rich have the power to give our citizens much needed organization in communities around the country. As an example, back in 2003, hundreds of retired military, diplomatic and national security officials publically and separately challenged George W. Bush's drumbeats to invade Iraq. The commercial media and Congress -- even the Democratic leadership -- refused to hear these numerous experienced and credible antiwar voices. What difference could a wealthy backer have made to the antiwar movement? Look to George Soros, the wealthy philanthropist and progressive-cause supporter. During the lead up to the second Iraq War, his voice was one amongst the opposition. He accurately predicted the quagmire the United States would find itself in as a result of its march to war. His criticism received some media coverage, but like the others, it wasn't sustained enough to counter the months-long propaganda campaign of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld. What Soros failed to do was devote some of his considerable resources to creating an equal-footed coalition to oppose the warmongers. Soros could have used that nucleus of three hundred or so retired officials and expanded upon it with a backup secretariat that coordinated a mass media campaign and placed full-time organizers in congressional districts to directly challenge senators and representatives to assert their constitutional duties. To Soros, the $200 million cost of such a campaign would have been a small part of his annual income. The potential payoff could have saved billions of dollars, millions of lives and injuries and avoided the sociocide of Iraq. My book, "Only the Super-rich Can Save Us!" laid out a blueprint for such a movement by the enlightened super-rich that could actually happen. Using 17 real-life wealthy Americans in fictional roles, led by Warren Buffett, a massive, well-funded campaign is launched to galvanize millions of Americans to organize themselves and restore their problem-solving sovereignty over their government and the massive corporations that have co-opted too much power and influence in Washington, D.C. for too long. One thing is clear -- we can't enact great change without making a serious commitment to civic engagement. Such a commitment can be jumpstarted right now by a few of our wealthiest citizens -- only they have the immediate resources necessary to turn the tide against the corporate oligarchy. Who among them will step forward?For more on this issue, see the chapter "Court the Enlightened Super-Rich" of my new book, The Seventeen Solutions: Bold Ideas for Our American Future. Available and autographed from Politics and Prose, an independent book store in Washington D.C. And for those wanting a glimpse of the broader agenda the super-rich could advance, start reading "Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!"

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25 марта 2013, 22:56

Boris Berezovsky and the dangers of being a Russian exile in the UK

Boris Berezovsky was the Kremlin's bogeyman for many years. He's not the only Russian exile in the UK to meet a suspicious death – so is Putin really silencing his enemies in Britain?The circumstances of Boris Berezovsky's tragic death seem clear enough. A depressed man, a locked bathroom, bruises on the neck. Berezovsky's bodyguard discovered him lying fully dressed on the floor, 17 hours after he had last seen Boris alive. There was no note.The bodyguard became concerned when he spotted Berezovsky's mobile phone lying on the table. Uncharacteristically, there were missed calls. He went upstairs, broke down the door, and found his boss on the floor. "He touched Boris's hand. It was cold. He called the police," Berezovsky's friend Yuli Dubov, who arrived at the scene at 5pm that day, says.On Sunday, Thames Valley police gave their provisional account of what had befallen the 67-year-old Russian oligarch. Detectives said they were talking to his friends and family – code for the fact that he had been visibly depressed, following his crushing high court defeat to Roman Abramovich last year. (In another twist, Abramovich was wrongly reported to have been arrested in the US on Monday.)Most crucially, they ruled out "third-party involvement at this stage". Their findings, expressed in cautious police prose, all point to suicide rather than foul play. Berezovsky's swirling problems – personal, political and financial – had conjoined and driven him to the desperate act of taking his own life, the police hinted.And yet, three days after his death, some of the tycoon's grieving family and friends remain deeply unconvinced by this version of events. Rather, they strongly suspect he was murdered. "I will never believe in the natural death of Boris Berezovsky," Nikolai Glushkov, a Russian exile and close friend, says.Gluskov adds: "The idea that he would have taken his own life is bullshit. I saw him the day that Mrs Justice Gloster handed down her judgment in Boris's case. He was full of life even then, talking about a certain young lady who was waiting for him in the house. Latterly he had managed to resolve his financial issues."Glushkov said Berezovsky's ex-wife, Galina – who rushed to the house on Saturday afternoon – was also sceptical that her ex-husband had died naturally. The pair were on good terms, with Berezovsky moving into her Ascot home after he was forced to sell his Surrey mansion. She believes he may have been strangled; a scarf was found next to his body. By the time she arrived, police were there; they kept Galina, her two kids and the bodyguard in the kitchen.Others who spoke to Berezovsky in his final months cast doubt on the official version. "When we recently spoke for the last time, Boris was looking to the future. He did not appear to be suicidal," his friend Yuri Felshtinsky says, adding that Boris had been looking for private schools in the US for his daughter. Felshtinsky goes on: "Boris understood that the Kremlin aimed to destroy him."The suspicions are understandable. The Kremlin, after all, has a nasty track record of eliminating its enemies abroad, of whom Berezovsky was undoubtedly one. The British government is convinced that Berezovsky's friend Alexander Litvinenko was murdered in 2006 by Kremlin agents, sent by Moscow to London. The Litvinenko row plunged UK-Russian relations to their worst since the cold war.Scotland Yard believes two former KGB officers, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, slipped radioactive polonium into Litvinenko's tea during a meeting at a London hotel. Polonium-210 is an unusual substance. Its use as a murder weapon, government sources suggest, is the most compelling proof of Russian state involvement.There are divergent opinions over Litvinenko's assassination. One version says his gruesome killing – he lingered for three weeks – was a demonstrative act, designed to send a message to Berezovsky and to others like him who dare to oppose the Russian state.Another says that the killing was meant to be the perfect crime. Polonium is virtually undetectable, and in this case was only found at the very last moment. Moreover, Litvinenko was an obscure Russian émigré whose death, his killers wrongly assumed, would provoke little police interest or official reaction.The truth of Litvinenko's murder may emerge in October, when an inquest is held. Berezovsky had expressed keenness to attend – another reason they find his death baffling. Friends, meanwhile, point out that since then the bodies of UK-based Russian exiles keep piling up. In 2008, Berezovsky's long-time business partner and fellow exile Badri Patarkatsishvili suddenly dropped dead. A postmortem concluded he died of a heart attack.Glushkov and others are unconvinced by that explanation. "You have the deaths of Boris and Badri over a short period of time. Too many bodies are happening. I would say this is a little bit too much," Glushkov says.Meanwhile, last March, the Russian banker German Gorbuntsov who had fled to London following a series of business disputes was gunned down in Canary Wharf. He survived, just, and the alleged shooter, a Moldovan man, was recently arrested in Moscow.In November another Russian fugitive, Alexander Perepilichnyy, collapsed and died outside his Surrey mansion. Perepilichnyy had passed documents to Swiss investigators on corrupt Russian officials. Two autopsies have yet to uncover a cause of death.Those of a suspicious disposition suggest the Kremlin was preternaturally well prepared over the weekend to respond to Berezovsky's sudden demise. Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin's press spokesman, claimed that Berezovsky had written to Russia's president in the past few months, begging forgiveness and saying sorry.A Russian reporter for Forbes magazine then claimed to have interviewed the tycoon at the Four Seasons Hotel the evening before his death. Berezovsky allegedly told him he yearned for Moscow and had "over-estimated" the west. He also drank a cup of tea with honey – echoes, some think, of the poisoned cuppa that finished off Litvinenko.Friends angrily dismiss these Moscow-inspired media reports as self-serving junk. (In essence, they amount to a Kremlin morality tale. It says that if you oppose legitimate Russian power, you end up exiled, broke, friendless, and ultimately dead.) Russian officials said Berezovsky's relatives want him buried back in Moscow – a lie, a source close to the family says.The Kremlin's true feelings on the issue are probably best expressed by Nikolay Kovalyov, the former head of the FSB, Putin's old spy agency. Speaking on Russian TV, he said that Berezovsky had got what he and other traitors to the motherland deserved under the KGB's unforgiving code – a nasty death.All agree that Berezovsky was a toxic figure for the Russian government and for Putin personally. Putin isn't a man who likes criticism, especially from an oligarch instrumental in giving him the job of prime minister and then president. For over a decade Berezovsky had taunted him from afar, seemingly protected by British law.The story of their friendship and subsequent bitter enmity is well known. Berezovsky plucked the untested Putin to run the country, only for them to quarrel in 2000 when it became clear Putin was no democrat. At Putin's behest, Russian prosecutors opened numerous criminal cases against Berezovsky, enthroned as enemy number one.When I arrived in Moscow in 2007, as the Guardian's correspondent, Berezovsky was the Russian state's omnipresent bogeyman, a baddie responsible for all evils. State media blamed him for the murders of Anna Politkovskaya and Alexander Litvinenko, and accused him of fomenting jihadist rebellion in the North Caucasus. Viewed as a flippant historical analogy, he was Trotsky to Putin's Stalin.Just how hated Berezovsky was I learned first-hand. In April 2007, two colleagues interviewed him in London. In self-dramatising style, he told them he was plotting a violent revolution to overthrow Putin, his friend-turned-enemy. The Guardian put the story on its front page. My name also appeared after I asked Peskov – then, as now, Putin's spin doctor – for a quote.The following day the FSB, the KGB's paranoid successor agency, fell on me. Strange young men tailed me through the streets of Moscow; emails tagged "Berezovsky" vanished from my inbox; FSB goons broke into my Moscow flat. The agency summoned me for interrogation. I reported to Lefortovo, the KGB's detention centre. A young FSB colonel began his interrogation by plonking in front of me a colour photocopy of the Guardian article featuring Berezovsky's photo.But if the FSB did finally catch up with Berezovsky, how was it done? According to Boris Karpichkov, a former KGB agent who defected to the UK in the late 1990s, the agency has a great number of clandestine methods. In particular, Karpichkov says, Russian spies are adept at using sodium flouride, an odourless substance that can be lethal in certain doses.Typically, he adds, the KGB has used poisons that can induce heart attacks but don't show up in postmortems. He explained: "The substance is colourless and without smell. It can be applied to personal items – like a pen, phone or door handle – or to places where the target inhales it. It dissolves in the 'mark's' body. It's undetectable in any postmortem carried out."It might sound far-fetched – were it not for the fact that Litvinenko died from a similarly ingenious and invisible poisoning. Certainly, Thames Valley police were taking no risks over the weekend, carrying out a series of chemical, biological and radiation tests at Berezovsky's rustic country house in Berkshire, near the M25. So far they have found nothing.Whatever the truth, Russian exiles opposed to Putin are convinced his regime is capable of anything, and they wonder who might be next. With Berezovsky, Litvinenko and Patarkatsishvili gone, the list is getting smaller. "I don't see anyone left on it apart from me," Glushkov says gloomily. As we speak there is a Moscow-style click on the phone: someone is listening in.Luke Harding's Mafia State: How one reporter became an enemy of the brutal new Russia is published by Guardian Books. Buy it for £13 at guardianbookshop.co.ukBoris BerezovskyRussiaEspionageVladimir PutinEuropeLuke Hardingguardian.co.uk © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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21 марта 2013, 02:55

Bruce Weinstein: Office Gambling Is Unethical

March Madness office pools involving cash are common, exciting, and potentially lucrative. But they can violate corporate policies and the law. Even where they are legal and not in violation of company protocol, however, they're ethically unintelligent, and we shouldn't participate in them. Here's why. The Fundamentals Arguments about ethics are not entirely dependent on what the law, public policy, and corporate rules and regulations happen to be. An action can be legal but wrong, or it can be illegal but ethically required. One would like to believe that laws, regulations, and policies are always based on what is right, but we know that too often they are shaped by special interests, outdated beliefs, or pure and simple prejudice. For any law or policy, we can and should ask: "Is it right? Is it fair? Is it just?" This is not a call to civil disobedience, however. The law is an important first step in deciding what we should do and why we should do it. For example, we are legally required to file a federal tax return each year, so anyone who wishes to be a citizen in good standing (or at least not to become a member of the prison population) wisely chooses to pay his or her taxes. For all of the problems in the legal system, it is hard to imagine that a civilized society could survive for long without laws and the serious consequences of failing to honor them. When examining the propriety of office pools, it is thus important to look at the relevant law. Before doing so, I must emphasize that I am not an attorney, and nothing in this blog should be considered legal advice. Based on my research, however, I've discovered the legality of office pools in which employees bet cash on professional or college sports teams varies from state to state. In other words, in some states, office pools are illegal. Yes, it is true that these laws are rarely enforced, and yes, it makes sense for police to investigate homicides, bank robberies, sexual assaults, and other serious crimes before they pursue rumors that employees in the local coffee shop are betting on the Louisville Cardinals over the Kansas Jayhawks. But before you conclude that office pools have few legal consequences, consider this: Some employees, including those at the management level, have been fired (and in at least one case, arrested) for participating in these games, on the grounds the practice was either illegal or in violation of company policy. Because pool participants risk violating the law, the rules they have agreed to when they accepted their jobs, or both, the games are of questionable value. But this isn't the main reason we shouldn't place bets at work. The High Cost of Low Living My argument that it is wrong to participate in office pools is not based on the ethics of gambling as such. In the right social setting, gambling is a fun way to spend some time and, one hopes, not too much money (provided one does not have an addiction to gambling). When I'm in Las Vegas -- to give talks on, of all things, ethics -- I usually make time for the roulette tables. Yes, roulette has terrible odds, but I like the quiet atmosphere and the fact that there is absolutely no skill involved. The office, however, simply isn't an appropriate place for gambling. It's called a workplace for a reason: It's the place where we're supposed to work. Things that interfere with doing our jobs well should be done before or after work. The same goes for talking politics at work , having sex, drinking single malt whisky, surfing the Web for bargains, or yakking with friends on our smartphones. The issue isn't whether a particular activity is high- or lowbrow. If you're on the job, it's just as questionable to spend 45 minutes debating the Cartesian mind-body distinction as it is to play your favorite game app for that long. Whether either activity is your cup of tea is up to you; what isn't up for grabs is the propriety of doing either at work for a significant amount of time. But what about the folks who just place their bets and get back to work--what's the problem there? Let's look at some frequently marshaled defenses of office pools and why these claims are mistaken. Misguided Justifications 1. "Office pools build morale and camaraderie." Next to the thrill of winning, this is the most popular justification for office pools. "Companies are fighting like mad to bring people together, and office pools are a great way to stimulate watercooler conversations," said John Challenger, chief executive of Challenger Gray & Christmas, to The Business Review in Albany, N.Y., in 2002. But there are lots of stimulating things to talk about that just don't belong at work. Besides, winning a sporting event is extremely important to some of us, and arguments about sports can out of hand. It's one thing to have a heated discussion about a project on which you and a colleague are working. It's quite another to have a shouting match about something that has nothing to do with one's job. 2. "It's harmless fun." At the beginning of March Madness, you kick in a few dollars, then follow your team over the coming weeks and months. Most people lose. A few win. What's the harm in that? Even if there happens to be no legal or policy issues at stake, the harm has to do with how stakeholders would view the business if on-the-job gambling activities were revealed. "If the stakes are high, the result of the pool could create disharmony in the workplace, and the problems could escalate," says employment law expert B. David Joffe of the law firm Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP. If even a small percentage of customers, board members, and shareholders is likely to be troubled by the practice of on-site betting, that alone is sufficient cause for concern. Some stakeholders may have religious objections to it. Others might be concerned that employees will not give their full attention to their work. A third group may simply view gambling on the job as unseemly. Whatever the objections are, they deserve to be taken seriously. 3. "The CEO allows or encourages it." This is, quite frankly, a cop-out. The fact that the head of an organization sanctions a practice says little or nothing about whether the practice is justifiable or not. After all, Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling of Enron thought it was perfectly fine to play with employee pension funds as if they were Monopoly money, but no one today is saying that their leadership roles made what they did O.K. When David Frost asked former President Richard Nixon in 1977 if it is acceptable for a President to do something illegal, Nixon replied, "Well, when the President does it, that means that it is not illegal." Nixon was mistaken, and so is any corporate leader who believes that "if I say it's all right, then it must be all right." Bottom line: The workplace shouldn't be a joyless Orwellian nightmare. Some of the best moments in our lives occur at work with close colleagues. But it's ethically intelligent to draw the line between fun that's appropriate in the workplace and good times that are better had elsewhere. Betting money on sports (or the Oscars, or anything else) falls in the latter category. * * * A slightly different version of this article was published originally on Bloomberg Businessweek Online. Order my books Ethical Intelligence and Is It Still Cheating If I Don't Get Caught? from your favorite independent bookseller or here. Watch an excerpt from my keynote speech on ethical intelligence here. Book me to speak at your next event here.

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18 марта 2013, 22:02

10 reasons why we're watching more TV

It's official: the average Briton now watches four hours of television a day. And it's not all down to reality TV and talent shows. So what is the new attraction?For those eyeing up teetering piles of unopened DVD boxsets, considering a PVR overspilling with whole series as yet unwatched or negotiating the daily minefield of spoilers about shows it's impossible to keep up with, news that we are watching more TV will be both unsurprising and vaguely panic-inducing. Unsurprising given the great stacks of stuff demanding to be watched; panic-inducing given the great shortage of time there seems to be to devote to it.According to a new study from TV Licensing, the average Briton now settles down to watch a little more than four hours of telly a day – an almost half-hour increase on 2006 viewing habits. But why? What's keeping us glued to the telly?Better British televisionAdmittedly, the BBC often feels like Greg Wallace bellowing on a loop, but beyond the endless editions of MasterChef and the never-ending talent shows, British television is in rude health. Drama in particular is having something of a moment, with the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 investing in bringing exciting British voices to screen, and shows such as Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife pulling in huge audiences. It's not all about grabbing ratings either: single dramas such as last summer's Hollow Crown season of Shakespeare, new drama such as Channel 4's Utopia, and brilliant instant hits such as Sherlock all underline the quality of homegrown drama.It's a shame that a budget cut means we will be losing BBC4's excellent output of thoughtful dramas – A Room at the Top, starring Maxine Peake was among my TV highlights of 2012 – but, from Parade's End to Top Boy and Broadchurch, there's ambition on show from terrestrial broadcasters. And the digital channels are also showing a bit more oomph than in years past: Sky has been pouring cash into comedy in particular, albeit with somewhat mixed results, and re-run channels such as Dave have dipped their toes into commissioning new content.And better imported shows tooMad Men fans were rightly cross when their favourite US import was hoovered up by Sky, turning what had once been a Freeview show into one that required a subscription. And there are many who are less than thrilled that Sky Atlantic is now the British home of HBO shows such as Girls and Game of Thrones. (On the plus side: the date between broadcast in the US and in the UK is much reduced, and we know we are definitely going to get them. Unlike, say, Breaking Bad.)But the past few years have also proved that some great US shows do make it to terrestrial – it was Channel 4 which brought us Homeland – and that subtitles are no bar to a drama finding a committed audience in the UK. BBC4's stream of European dramas such as The Killing and Borgen has provided a good reason to stay in on a Saturday night. Which is a good thing because …Television's cheap and we're all brokeThe economic downturn might have seen us reduce our spending in other areas, but spending on television remains buoyant, and the licence fee great value for money. We might not be able to afford dinner and a movie at the weekend any more, but we can just about stretch to something nice for tea and a snuggle on the sofa in front of the box. (Under a blanket, of course: the heating is more strictly rationed than ever.) Really, what could be more jolly than a gritty, grey European cop drama on a Saturday night? What?And we're bound by the schedules less and lessCatch-up services, on-demand television packages with whole libraries of boxsets waiting to be unleashed, that filled- to-busting PVR – if for some reason subtitled shouting doesn't appeal, there are plenty of other shows you can be watching at a time that suits you. While a surprising number of houses still have VHS players hooked up to their televisions – 29%, according to TV Licensing – the arrival of iPlayer, ITVPlayer, 4oD and the rest means there is no forgetting to press record and missing a crucial instalment of your favourite programme.Although our TVs are now better quality than everSales of TVs in general are falling, but we are splashing out on bigger, swisher sets when we do replace them. And really, a massive HD screen is always going to be more of a pleasure to watch than your old, now slightly fuzzy-looking set.But we don't need to be at home to watchHome isn't always the most convenient place to watch TV. We now have fewer televisions, and are keeping up with television on a variety of devices: phones, laptops, and tablets. So, EastEnders on your commute? Why not? Watching the football in the kitchen while your partner catches up with the drama they're halfway through? Now perfectly possible without the need for multiple boxes or sets. Although there are, of course, downsides: there is little more infuriating than finding yourself out of sync with the rest of your household on a big show and – worse – that someone has deleted the episodes you have yet to watch. Which is why …Event television remains importantBig set pieces such as the Olympic opening ceremony, the jubilee celebrations and the X Factor final really need to be watched live.Twitter has reminded us how great discussing telly isAs Channel 4's Gogglebox, in which we watch families watching television, makes clear, not all conversation sparked by TV shows is insightful, cutting-edge stuff. But you don't need real-life sofa companions for a satisfying carp about the TOWIE cast's latest fashion choices. Twitter has turned tutting about telly in your living room into something close to an art form – 40% of traffic around peak times is about television, with conversation around live shows particularly busy.And can help make rubbish telly brilliantThe X Factor final feels increasingly like an endurance trial rather than an entertainment offering. Eurovision, despite the promise of Bonnie Tyler and the usual quota of bonkers acts, can try the patience of even committed fans. But knowing everyone else is also slowly dying of overexposure to tedious songs and ridiculous costumes is motivation enough to keep watching to the bitter end. And even, perhaps, wring a bit of enjoyment out of proceedings. (Or at least a terrible joke.)There's even more television on its wayIf you are despairing of your must-watch list now, it's only likely to get longer as companies such as Netflix and Amazon begin making their own television to supplement on-demand services. Worse: it's even threatening to be good – House of Cards, which Netflix released in one 13-episode chunk last month, is as good a piece of TV as you'll see on any platform this year.TelevisionDramaVicky Frostguardian.co.uk © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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18 марта 2013, 14:41

Somalia car bomb leaves 10 dead

Blast meant for officials ended up killing members of public near presidential palace and national theatre, say policeA car bomb has exploded near the presidential palace in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, killing at least 10 people in a blast that appeared to target senior government officials, police say.The suicide attacker detonated explosives while driving along a boulevard that runs between the palace and the national theatre, a route lined by tea rooms which were engulfed in fire moments after the blast on Monday, the senior police officer Abdiqadir Muhammad said. A public minibus driving along the road burst into flames."The suicide car bomber targeted a senior national security officer whose car was passing near the theatre," Muhammad told Reuters."Most of the people who died were on board the minibus – civilians. This public vehicle coincidentally came between the government car and the car bomb when it was hit. Littered in the scene are human hands and flesh."Security in Mogadishu has improved greatly since a military offensive drove Islamist rebels allied to al-Qaida out of the city in August 2011. But bombings and assassinations in Mogadishu, blamed on militants, still occur often.It was not clear who was behind Monday's bombing. The al-Shabaab insurgent group, which has claimed numerous similar attacks, was not immediately available for comment.In late September, al-Shabaab withdrew from the southern Indian Ocean port of Kismayu, its last major urban bastion in the Horn of Africa state, signalling its demise as a quasi-conventional military force.But it pledged to step up a campaign of suicide bombings and hit-and-run attacks.SomaliaMiddle East and North AfricaGlobal terrorismAfricaguardian.co.uk © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

17 марта 2013, 18:40

Karl Rove Mocks Sarah Palin Tenure As Governor

WASHINGTON -- GOP uberconsultant Karl Rove lashed out at former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) on Sunday, mocking her decision to leave office early. Rove's criticism was a response to comments Palin made at the Conservative Political Action Conference in which she suggested the poor performance of Rove-backed candidates in the 2012 elections indicates that Rove should get out of the political consulting business. "If these experts who keep losing elections and keep getting rehired and getting millions -- if they feel that strong about who gets to run in this party, then they should buck-up or stay in the truck," Palin told CPAC Saturday, referring to Rove. "Buck up or run. The Architect can head on back to the great Lone Star State and put their name on some ballot –- though for their sakes, I hope they give themselves a discount on their consulting services." Rove pushed back in an interview with Fox on Sunday. "I'm a volunteer and I don't take a dime with my work from American Crossroads and pay my own travel expenses out of my own pocket and I thought she was encouraging volunteer grassroots activity and I'm a volunteer," Rove said. "Second of all, look, I appreciate encouragement I ought to go home to Texas and run for office and, it would be news if I did to have her support. But I don't think I'm a good candidate -- a kind of balding, fat guy. And second, if I did run for office and win, I would serve out my term and I wouldn't leave office midterm." Palin famously resigned her governorship midway through her first term in office in early 2009, shortly after her 2008 bid for vice president came up short. Rove's Crossroads operation spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the 2012 elections, only to see nearly all of his marquee candidates fail to be elected. Rove has since become a magnet for criticism from much of the Republican Party base for his more recent efforts to recruit candidates that are more palatable to voters than Tea Party favorites like failed Senate candidate Todd Akin, whose electoral bid collapsed after he stated that women are biologically incapable of becoming pregnant from a "legitimate rape." Rove's latest strategy has been interpreted by some Republicans as an effort to undermine hardline conservatives and move the party toward more moderate candidates.

15 марта 2013, 23:20

WHISKEY SOUR: No, Sen. Alexander, and, no, Ruth Marcus, Mitch McConnell Is Not Everett Dirksen. So Sorry.

Everett McKinley Dirksen (January 4, 1896 – September 7, 1969) was an American politician of the Republican Party. He represented Illinois in the U.S. House of Representatives (1933–1949) and U.S. Senate (1951–1969). As Senate Minority Leader for a decade, he played a highly visible and key role in the politics of the 1960s, including helping to write and pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Open Housing Act of 1968, both landmarks of civil rights legislation. He was also one of the Senate's strongest supporters of the Vietnam War and was known as "The Wizard of Ooze" for his oratorical style. That’s the Wikipedia version of how LBJ was able to get the Civil Rights Act through Congress in 1965.  But it’s inaccurate.  Here’s the accurate version: Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the onus is on the president. “You can’t do it without presidential leadership and we’re all hopeful he’ll be prepared to provide that leadership,” McConnell said. “The president needs to deliver his side.” Other senators also cited the leadership meme. “The point that was consistently made to the president was that in the absence of his leadership, issues that are important to the people of America will not be addressed,” [Sen. Jerry] Moran said. “I really think it was rather a bland conversation. No fireworks on either tone. This wasn’t memorable, it was the opposite of that.” Alexander brought up meetings between President Lyndon Johnson and GOP Senate leader Everett Dirksen. “I told him that every great crisis in our history has been solved by presidential leadership or not at all,” he said. “I’ve been around here a long time and this is the kind of thing that used to happen when President Johnson would show up unexpectedly in Dirksen’s office for a drink because Dirksen wouldn’t go down to the White House. As a result the next year they passed the Civil Rights bill.” --  Obama to Democrats: Chill out, Manu Rafu, Kate Nocera, Jonathan Allen, Politico, yesterday OK.  I grew up in a household with two liberal Democratic political junkies (my parents), one of them a journalist (horrors!), both of them lifelong Illinoisans, one of whose ancestors on both sides were Illinoisans dating back to not long after the Civil War.   So I grew up knowing, for example, that the only thing “Jerksen” ever did in his political career, before his surprising aggressive support of the Civil Rights Act and his assistance to LBJ in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination in getting it enacted, was to get the Marigold declared the official state flower (when he was a top State legislator, or something).  So all you Illinoisans who didn’t know that your state even has an official flower, and who are reading this post, must be glad you read AB occasionally, because now you know.  (I can also tell you extremely detailed information about, say, Chicago politics dating back to about the early 1900s, but you’ve had your Illinois-political-history fill for the day, I’m sure. And you’ll probably agree, as I do, that the Marigold is a pretty flower.  Even my mother, she of “Jerksen” coinage, agreed; she just didn’t think it was necessary to have an official state flower.)My point in all this, of course, is that while Sen. Alexander has been around there a long time, that time isn’t quite long enough for him to know that, contrary to what he apparently thinks--or at least what his choice of analogy implies--Lyndon Johnson did not cave to the Republicans and finally agree reluctantly to support the Civil Rights Act.  Johnson himself actually strongly supported enactment of the Act and obtained the assistance of the Republican Senate Minority Leader in bringing along enough members of their respective parties to vote for it.  That included, on Johnson’s part, persuading some Southern Democrats in the House and Senate to vote for it despite the very substantial risk to their own political careers, and, on Dirksen’s part, doing the same with Republicans from mostly-rural states.  And while he first had to persuade Dirksen himself, Dirksen was not going to be “primaried” by a Tea Party candidate, or by some “out there” equivalent of the 1960s.  Nor did he have to fear, as both McConnell and John Boehner do, the loss of their leadership roles if they, y’know, actually act as leaders.  Nor is it clear that, had he had to worry about these things, he would have shown the leadership he showed, helping write two really strong, landmark civil rights laws and helping shepherd them through to enactment. There was no “compromise” in the enactment of the 1960s civil rights laws; the nature of those laws were, all or nothing.  Dirksen chose the “all” option.  McConnell and Boehner won’t even choose the “compromise” one, choosing a new  and ludicrous definition of “leadership”--one that they’ve sold to analysis-challenged members of the centrist punditry.  Such as Ruth Marcus, who writes today in the Washington Post: Speaking to [George] Stephanopoulos, the president sounded distinctly pessimistic about the prospects for such a bargain and disturbingly unconcerned about failing to reach one. That, he said, would be more missed opportunity than “crisis.” Perhaps he’s posturing; if the president is seen as coveting a deal too much, he won’t be able to get the kind he wants. Perhaps it’s simple realism; Republicans’ refusal to consider revenue raised by curtailing loopholes is unacceptable, and the president shouldn’t accept a cuts-only deal. But failure would not only tarnish Republicans; it would also stain Obama’s legacy. Great presidential leadership entails figuring out how to deal with even those who do not like you. Indeed it does.  Maybe Marcus has in mind the option of dealing with those in Congress who don’t like him by, say, informing the public that federal spending is now at its lowest level in more than 50 years; that the budget deficit had declined substantially since he took office (after initially rising); that the 2011 and 2012 debt ceiling and fiscal cliff agreements included large reductions in spending; that he and the Dems are now proposing further reductions in spending; and that taxes on the wealthy are at historically low levels dating back to pre-WWII, with the single exception being the decade of the 2000s. And that there actually is no good reason at all to have a balanced federal budget, and it’s just being used as a way to gut the federal budget. And that he could even directly inform the public of what the Ryan budget actually proposes.   But I doubt it. Marcus's op-ed piece, after all, isn’t titled ”Obama has to be dealmaker in chief,” for nothing.Great presidential leadership entails figuring out how to deal with even those who do not like you. And certainly Obama hasn’t yet figured out how to deal with even those who do not like him. Or how to deal with even those who themselves are in leadership positions and whose very political careers depend now entirely on being the un-Dirksen.   Those who, say, wouldn’t engage in actual leadership--as opposed to Leadership--if Everett Dirksen himself reappeared as a ghost in the Capitol and defined it for them.  And who are buttressed in this every single time some "name" pundit claims otherwise.   The centrist-pundit crowd should not be held harmless in this. They are not harmless.

14 марта 2013, 23:18

Lindsey Graham Proving Tea Party Has Its Limits

WASHINGTON -- To gauge the limits of the tea party's ability to frighten re-election-seeking Republicans into a rightward panic, spend time with Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. One day he's blasting tea party hero Rand Paul on the Senate floor, calling the Kentucky senator's 13-hour filibuster – which criticized U.S. drone policy – wrong-headed and "ill-informed." Another day Graham is at a groundbreaking ceremony in Greer, S.C., mixing jokes and politics in a fashion even his enemies have to admire. Citing a January CBS News poll showing Congress' approval rating at 12 percent, he asked: "Who are the 12 percent, and what do they like?" Three years ago, South Carolina Republican clubs were condemning Graham, calling him too moderate and too willing to cooperate with President Barack Obama and other Democrats. Nikki Haley, now the state's governor, supported the censures. Graham seemed a prime candidate for the type of tea-party-backed insurrections that ousted GOP senators in Utah and Indiana, and prompted other senators to steer hard right to save their jobs. Today, even his critics say Graham is on track to win a third Senate term next year. "His approval numbers are pretty high," said Lin Bennett, executive director of the Charleston County Republican Party, one of two major groups that censured Graham three years ago for supporting a bank bailout and for being too accommodating on immigration. "He offers great constituent services," Bennett said. "One unhappy county isn't enough." Graham calls himself a proud conservative. But he makes no apologies for sometimes seeking compromise with Democrats, which some tea partyers consider villainy. "How do we get out of this mess?" Graham asked the Greer crowd, referring to the nation's economic troubles. "The same way the country has survived and thrived for the last 200 years: find common ground. Try to find a way to make everybody a winner instead of everybody a loser." Graham's bipartisan talk contrasts with the recent tones of Senate Republican leaders Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and John Cornyn. Both men face possible GOP primary challenges from the right next year, and they have sharpened their criticisms of Democrats. Graham didn't pass judgment on fellow Republicans. But he said politicians needn't kowtow to ideological groups if they visit their home districts regularly and explain their positions forthrightly. "I've been fortunate enough to be judged by the body of my work," he said in an interview in his Senate office. "I don't worry obsessively about my political re-election. And I've become a very good senator. If you don't overly worry about losing, you become hard to beat." All politicians and states are different, so Graham's lessons and luck may not apply elsewhere. But by any measure he's folksier and friendlier than the standoffish McConnell. He's far more visible in his home state than was Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, defeated in last year's GOP primary. And he seems unlikely to be caught off guard by hard-right insurgencies, as were Republican senators in recent years in Utah and Alaska. Graham "is a ferocious campaigner, especially when he gets back home," said Katon Dawson, a former South Carolina Republican Party chairman and a major Graham fundraiser. "Lindsey doesn't have a lot of hobbies." The Senate and politics are "a lifestyle, and he works hard," Dawson said. Some South Carolina tea partyers still hope to challenge Graham in next year's primary. But they lost perhaps their best prospect when state Sen. Tom Davis – a libertarian-leaning former top aide to Gov. Mark Sanford – declined to run. Another state senator, Lee Bright of Spartanburg, might try. Graham's criticisms of Paul's filibuster "kind of pushed me over the edge," Bright said. But some South Carolinians see Bright as a fringe candidate. Meanwhile, Graham has a formidable campaign fund of more than $4 million and rising. Assuming Graham survives the GOP primary, as expected, he is "completely bullet proof" in a general election against a Democrat, Dawson said. Non-South Carolinians might be amused to hear Republicans debate whether Graham is conservative enough. Four years before being elected to the Senate he was one of 13 House managers for President Bill Clinton's impeachment. He sharply criticizes Obama at times, calling presidential budget plans "a road map to disaster." Like his pal and mentor Arizona Sen. John McCain, however, Graham often carves an independent path. Despite conservative attacks on Republican senators who have voted to confirm Obama's judicial nominees, Graham says presidents should get their choices barring something that's clearly disqualifying. "I don't know how to construct a world where we get all of our judges, and they never get any of theirs," he said. Graham says he would consider higher tax revenues in exchange for serious changes to Medicare and Social Security. His says immigration reform must include a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Both stands are anathema to many conservative activists. Graham most recently drew their fire for joining McCain in denouncing Paul's highly publicized filibuster. Paul – a libertarian Republican weighing a presidential bid – demanded White House assurances that unmanned aircraft will not be used to kill American citizens on U.S. soil and not engaged in combat. Graham called the question groundless and defended Obama's use of deadly drones against terrorist suspects overseas. He shrugged off the resulting torrent of angry tweets and e-mails, saying he and Paul get along fine. "Rand and I play golf together," Graham said. They differ on surveillance and other anti-terrorism policies, he said, "but these differences have been around forever in the Republican Party." Graham supports a "big-tent" GOP, which is disdained by those conservatives who say Republicans have become too wishy-washy and too willing to compromise. "Partisan ideas, on big issues, never fare well over time," he said. He cited Obama's embattled overhaul of health care as an example. As for the nation's economic challenges, he said, "the path off the road to becoming Greece is a shared path." If the Republican Party is to thrive, Graham said, it must have "tea party libertarians, tea party conservatives, married up with traditional Republicans. That's the coalition of the future." So far, most South Carolina Republicans seem disinclined to punish him for that vision. ___ Collins reported from South Carolina.

14 марта 2013, 23:18

Lindsey Graham Proving Tea Party Has Its Limits

WASHINGTON -- To gauge the limits of the tea party's ability to frighten re-election-seeking Republicans into a rightward panic, spend time with Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. One day he's blasting tea party hero Rand Paul on the Senate floor, calling the Kentucky senator's 13-hour filibuster – which criticized U.S. drone policy – wrong-headed and "ill-informed." Another day Graham is at a groundbreaking ceremony in Greer, S.C., mixing jokes and politics in a fashion even his enemies have to admire. Citing a January CBS News poll showing Congress' approval rating at 12 percent, he asked: "Who are the 12 percent, and what do they like?" Three years ago, South Carolina Republican clubs were condemning Graham, calling him too moderate and too willing to cooperate with President Barack Obama and other Democrats. Nikki Haley, now the state's governor, supported the censures. Graham seemed a prime candidate for the type of tea-party-backed insurrections that ousted GOP senators in Utah and Indiana, and prompted other senators to steer hard right to save their jobs. Today, even his critics say Graham is on track to win a third Senate term next year. "His approval numbers are pretty high," said Lin Bennett, executive director of the Charleston County Republican Party, one of two major groups that censured Graham three years ago for supporting a bank bailout and for being too accommodating on immigration. "He offers great constituent services," Bennett said. "One unhappy county isn't enough." Graham calls himself a proud conservative. But he makes no apologies for sometimes seeking compromise with Democrats, which some tea partyers consider villainy. "How do we get out of this mess?" Graham asked the Greer crowd, referring to the nation's economic troubles. "The same way the country has survived and thrived for the last 200 years: find common ground. Try to find a way to make everybody a winner instead of everybody a loser." Graham's bipartisan talk contrasts with the recent tones of Senate Republican leaders Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and John Cornyn. Both men face possible GOP primary challenges from the right next year, and they have sharpened their criticisms of Democrats. Graham didn't pass judgment on fellow Republicans. But he said politicians needn't kowtow to ideological groups if they visit their home districts regularly and explain their positions forthrightly. "I've been fortunate enough to be judged by the body of my work," he said in an interview in his Senate office. "I don't worry obsessively about my political re-election. And I've become a very good senator. If you don't overly worry about losing, you become hard to beat." All politicians and states are different, so Graham's lessons and luck may not apply elsewhere. But by any measure he's folksier and friendlier than the standoffish McConnell. He's far more visible in his home state than was Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, defeated in last year's GOP primary. And he seems unlikely to be caught off guard by hard-right insurgencies, as were Republican senators in recent years in Utah and Alaska. Graham "is a ferocious campaigner, especially when he gets back home," said Katon Dawson, a former South Carolina Republican Party chairman and a major Graham fundraiser. "Lindsey doesn't have a lot of hobbies." The Senate and politics are "a lifestyle, and he works hard," Dawson said. Some South Carolina tea partyers still hope to challenge Graham in next year's primary. But they lost perhaps their best prospect when state Sen. Tom Davis – a libertarian-leaning former top aide to Gov. Mark Sanford – declined to run. Another state senator, Lee Bright of Spartanburg, might try. Graham's criticisms of Paul's filibuster "kind of pushed me over the edge," Bright said. But some South Carolinians see Bright as a fringe candidate. Meanwhile, Graham has a formidable campaign fund of more than $4 million and rising. Assuming Graham survives the GOP primary, as expected, he is "completely bullet proof" in a general election against a Democrat, Dawson said. Non-South Carolinians might be amused to hear Republicans debate whether Graham is conservative enough. Four years before being elected to the Senate he was one of 13 House managers for President Bill Clinton's impeachment. He sharply criticizes Obama at times, calling presidential budget plans "a road map to disaster." Like his pal and mentor Arizona Sen. John McCain, however, Graham often carves an independent path. Despite conservative attacks on Republican senators who have voted to confirm Obama's judicial nominees, Graham says presidents should get their choices barring something that's clearly disqualifying. "I don't know how to construct a world where we get all of our judges, and they never get any of theirs," he said. Graham says he would consider higher tax revenues in exchange for serious changes to Medicare and Social Security. His says immigration reform must include a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Both stands are anathema to many conservative activists. Graham most recently drew their fire for joining McCain in denouncing Paul's highly publicized filibuster. Paul – a libertarian Republican weighing a presidential bid – demanded White House assurances that unmanned aircraft will not be used to kill American citizens on U.S. soil and not engaged in combat. Graham called the question groundless and defended Obama's use of deadly drones against terrorist suspects overseas. He shrugged off the resulting torrent of angry tweets and e-mails, saying he and Paul get along fine. "Rand and I play golf together," Graham said. They differ on surveillance and other anti-terrorism policies, he said, "but these differences have been around forever in the Republican Party." Graham supports a "big-tent" GOP, which is disdained by those conservatives who say Republicans have become too wishy-washy and too willing to compromise. "Partisan ideas, on big issues, never fare well over time," he said. He cited Obama's embattled overhaul of health care as an example. As for the nation's economic challenges, he said, "the path off the road to becoming Greece is a shared path." If the Republican Party is to thrive, Graham said, it must have "tea party libertarians, tea party conservatives, married up with traditional Republicans. That's the coalition of the future." So far, most South Carolina Republicans seem disinclined to punish him for that vision. ___ Collins reported from South Carolina.

14 марта 2013, 19:07

The Fat Cat and the Mousewife

There is a great interrelationship of dependence in the markets that can see supposedly opposing interests living contently together in forms of symbiotic relationship. US debt and who owns it comes to mind. We can also see this symbiosis between politicians and business, the Fed and financial markets and even the interrelationship between the rich and the poor. This cold war detente can also be seen closer to home in personal relationships. So we have written a little allegorical poem and leave you to decide who the cat and the mouse are in real life as we think there are too many to pick from.  The Fat Cat and the Mousewife Cat leaves at dawn to earn the crust,  Mouse stays behind to clean the dust And cook the food and mend what's bust A life of toil but, hey, needs must.    But once Cat leaves this mouse will play  Cat's out at work for all the day So that's the time for making hay But once Cat's back this mouse will say "I toiled so hard, today was tough,  Look, nails broke and palms so rough Yet I can never do enough  To clean and mend and all that stuff." But once he's out, she'll say "lets see. Tour the shops, take café tea?   Or lunch with friends down by the sea?"  But once Cat's home her tale will be       "Oh my life you would not choose. Left alone to clean the loos  Who'd want to wear my weary shoes" (Even if they're Jimmy Choos) Yet unbeknownst to Mouse, Cat knows  He has to pay the bills she owes. But 'tis small price for all her woes And hide the places that HE goes For Cat's not fat without a reason  Wines "clients" late, dines dams in season. All adds to life a certain frisson. But if found out he'd hang for treason.  But here's the twist, Mouse also knows   The texts, the lipstick on his clothes The scents on shirts, the pantyhose   But Cat and Mouse are old, old pros. Neither dare upset the cart.    And wreck the lives they know by heart Easier that than brand new start.  So Cat and Mouse will NEVER part.

14 марта 2013, 18:28

West warns of ‘freebies’ over freedom

Former Florida Rep. Allen West said in a speech at CPAC on Thursday that when more Americans "prefer freebies to freedom," the United States will be at a greater risk for tyranny. "Unfortunately, some of our American brothers are lost in the woods and have no compass, they have no map and their GPS satellites are inoperable. When more Americans prefer freebies to freedom these great United States will become a further ground for tyranny," West said in his speech. In a nod to former Democratic President John F. Kennedy, the tea partier added: "When did, 'Ask not what your country can do for you' become, 'Ask only what your country will give you?'" West, an African American, said that liberal progressives fear black conservatives. "Folks, I'm speaking from experience when I tell you that there is nothing on this green earth that a liberal progressive fears more than a black American who wants a better life and a smaller government," West said in his speech, which received a standing ovation. He later added: "I'm a conservative because I believe in peace - real peace, and not peace of mind. I'm a conservative because I believe and understand that real peace comes from the Marine Corps, not the Peace Corps." West lost reelection to Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy in November.

13 марта 2013, 01:29

Great Britain: Tea, Porridge and Fog

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12 марта 2013, 20:11

Republican Decides Against Big Switch

WASHINGTON -- Citing fundraising difficulties and the current partisan political environment, Virginia Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) announced Tuesday that he will not seek the governorship as an independent this year. Bolling, who announced in November that he would not seek the Republican gubernatorial nomination, had been considering entering the November contest as a moderate independent alternative to Democrat Terry McAuliffe and state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a tea party favorite who is the presumptive GOP nominee. Bolling said that the difficulty in raising the $10 million to $15 million needed to make a third-party statewide run was one of the main reasons he decided not to make the race. Bolling said in a message posted on his website that he believed he could raise money to be competitive, but he believed without a party organization or national ties he would be unable to raise enough to defeat his opponents. The Washington-based Republican Governors Association and Democratic Governors Association are both expected to make heavy investments in the Virginia governor's race, one of only two gubernatorial battles in the country this year. Other third-party groups, including conservative allies of Cuccinelli, are also expected to spend heavily in Virginia. Bolling had been expected to play a spoiler candidate in the race, grabbing moderate Republicans, particularly in northern Virginia, away from Cuccinelli, as well as moderate votes away from the Democrat. McAuliffe, a former Democratic National Committee chairman, now stands to pick up moderate Republicans who had considered backing Bolling because they find Cuccinelli too conservative. Bolling, a two-term lieutenant governor currently serving as Virginia's chief jobs creation officer, used his statement to attack what he described as Richmond's culture of extreme partisanship, which he said has made it tough to govern. Bolling writes: [T]he political process has become much more ideologically driven, hyper-partisan and mean spirited. Rigid ideologies and personal political agendas are too often placed ahead of sound public policy and legitimate policy disagreements too quickly degenerate into unwarranted personal attacks. This makes it more difficult to govern effectively and get things done. While I still value public service a great deal, the truth is that I just don’t find the political process to be as enjoyable as I once did. Because of this, I decided that the time has come for me to step away from elected office and look for other ways to serve Virginia.

11 марта 2013, 00:28

Republicans Cautiously Optimistic After Obama Wooing

BY PHILIP ELLIOTT, ASSOCIATED PRESS WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers said Sunday they welcome President Barack Obama's courtship and suggested the fresh engagement between the White House and Congress might help yield solutions to the stubborn budget battle that puts Americans' jobs at risk. Yet the lawmakers cautioned that years of hurt feelings were unlikely to heal simply because Obama dined last week with Republican lawmakers. They also said they would not to rush too quickly into Obama's embrace during three scheduled, and unusual, visits to Capitol Hill next week to win them over. "He is moving in the right direction. I'm proud of him for doing it. I think it's a great thing," Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said. "I'm welcoming (him) with open arms. I think the president is tremendously sincere. I don't think this is just a political change in tactic. I think he would actually like to solve the problems of this country." The White House charm offensive comes as automatic spending cuts have begun to take hold, and if Washington does not block them, they could cut jobs as varied as air traffic controllers, meat inspectors and Head Start teachers. "I hope that this is sincere," said Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, who lunched with Obama at the White House last week. "We had a very good, frank exchange. But the proof will be in the coming weeks as to whether or not it's a real, sincere outreach to find common ground." His close friend, Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., said lawmakers were unlikely to become fast friends with Obama after four years of being vilified in private and, in some cases, public. "I hope that he's genuine. But I don't think we're going to be doing the Harlem Shake any time soon together," Gardner said. And Tea Party favorite Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin – who has proved a fiery foil to Obama's agenda – said he heard from White House chief of staff Denis McDonough and now is willing to give "the president the benefit of the doubt." "If we're going to solve these problems, it's going to have to be done on a bipartisan basis ... and I think most Republicans are more than willing to work with this president," he said. Obama hopes this week to woo lawmakers to help avert a coming budget showdown – the next deadline is March 27, when the current short-term budget extension expires and a government shutdown looms. Yet Congress is scheduled to leave town on March 22, meaning the president is working on a shortened timeline to avert the latest crisis. And the automatic spending cuts, known as sequester, remain in place despite both parties calling them ill-conceived and -executed. Senate Democrats said they were ready to pass a spending measure to pay for day-to-day federal operations through September. The measure would impose automatic cuts of 5 percent to domestic agencies and 7.8 percent to the Pentagon "At the end of the day, we're going to have to find a balanced solution," said Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat whose state economy is closely tied to military contractors. The budget cuts are expected to be devastating to Virginia if they are not reversed. Coburn said he was puzzled that it took so long for Obama – whom he called a friend after last week's dinner – to make the effort to work across party lines. "It shouldn't be news that the president is reaching out in a bipartisan fashion," Coburn said. Obama seems to be making up for lost time after four years of frosty relationships with Capitol Hill. The White House said Obama planned to meet with the Senate Democratic Caucus on Tuesday, House Republicans on Wednesday and Senate Republicans and House Democrats on Thursday. Last week, Obama had Ryan and the Budget Committee's top Democrat, Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, to lunch at the White House the day after he dined with a dozen Republican senators. "I don't know what he's doing, but I would encourage him to do more of it," said Republican former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a brother and son to U.S. presidents who visited five Sunday shows to keep buzz building toward a potential presidential candidacy in 2016. "People are more willing to do so if they believe that their partner is sincere in their efforts. And the only way you can do that is to engage them on a personal level." Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy, the number-three GOP lawmaker in the House, said Obama's visit might be plain politics and tried to tamp down expectations. "He has problems on both sides of the aisle. He hasn't brought many people to the White House; he doesn't know that many people in the House; he knows more people in the Senate because he served there for a couple of years," McCarthy said. "He is coming to the House Republican Conference, which I think is positive. He has only done that once before. But he should come and listen, communicate and try to find where we can find common ground." Even members of the president's own party said the outreach was needed. "I think frustration by the American people – and frustration by members of Congress as well – have stemmed from the fact that a lot of these debates have taken place on TV or on the House floor but have not had very meaningful discussion," said first-term Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii. Coburn, Gardner, Kaine and Gabbard appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press." Ryan spoke to "Fox News Sunday." Johnson was interviewed on ABC's "This Week." Bush appeared on CNN's "State of the Union," "This Week," "Meet the Press," CBS' "Face the Nation" and "Fox News Sunday." McCarthy appeared on "State of the Union."

11 марта 2013, 00:28

Republicans Cautiously Optimistic After Obama Wooing

BY PHILIP ELLIOTT, ASSOCIATED PRESS WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers said Sunday they welcome President Barack Obama's courtship and suggested the fresh engagement between the White House and Congress might help yield solutions to the stubborn budget battle that puts Americans' jobs at risk. Yet the lawmakers cautioned that years of hurt feelings were unlikely to heal simply because Obama dined last week with Republican lawmakers. They also said they would not to rush too quickly into Obama's embrace during three scheduled, and unusual, visits to Capitol Hill next week to win them over. "He is moving in the right direction. I'm proud of him for doing it. I think it's a great thing," Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said. "I'm welcoming (him) with open arms. I think the president is tremendously sincere. I don't think this is just a political change in tactic. I think he would actually like to solve the problems of this country." The White House charm offensive comes as automatic spending cuts have begun to take hold, and if Washington does not block them, they could cut jobs as varied as air traffic controllers, meat inspectors and Head Start teachers. "I hope that this is sincere," said Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, who lunched with Obama at the White House last week. "We had a very good, frank exchange. But the proof will be in the coming weeks as to whether or not it's a real, sincere outreach to find common ground." His close friend, Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., said lawmakers were unlikely to become fast friends with Obama after four years of being vilified in private and, in some cases, public. "I hope that he's genuine. But I don't think we're going to be doing the Harlem Shake any time soon together," Gardner said. And Tea Party favorite Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin – who has proved a fiery foil to Obama's agenda – said he heard from White House chief of staff Denis McDonough and now is willing to give "the president the benefit of the doubt." "If we're going to solve these problems, it's going to have to be done on a bipartisan basis ... and I think most Republicans are more than willing to work with this president," he said. Obama hopes this week to woo lawmakers to help avert a coming budget showdown – the next deadline is March 27, when the current short-term budget extension expires and a government shutdown looms. Yet Congress is scheduled to leave town on March 22, meaning the president is working on a shortened timeline to avert the latest crisis. And the automatic spending cuts, known as sequester, remain in place despite both parties calling them ill-conceived and -executed. Senate Democrats said they were ready to pass a spending measure to pay for day-to-day federal operations through September. The measure would impose automatic cuts of 5 percent to domestic agencies and 7.8 percent to the Pentagon "At the end of the day, we're going to have to find a balanced solution," said Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat whose state economy is closely tied to military contractors. The budget cuts are expected to be devastating to Virginia if they are not reversed. Coburn said he was puzzled that it took so long for Obama – whom he called a friend after last week's dinner – to make the effort to work across party lines. "It shouldn't be news that the president is reaching out in a bipartisan fashion," Coburn said. Obama seems to be making up for lost time after four years of frosty relationships with Capitol Hill. The White House said Obama planned to meet with the Senate Democratic Caucus on Tuesday, House Republicans on Wednesday and Senate Republicans and House Democrats on Thursday. Last week, Obama had Ryan and the Budget Committee's top Democrat, Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, to lunch at the White House the day after he dined with a dozen Republican senators. "I don't know what he's doing, but I would encourage him to do more of it," said Republican former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a brother and son to U.S. presidents who visited five Sunday shows to keep buzz building toward a potential presidential candidacy in 2016. "People are more willing to do so if they believe that their partner is sincere in their efforts. And the only way you can do that is to engage them on a personal level." Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy, the number-three GOP lawmaker in the House, said Obama's visit might be plain politics and tried to tamp down expectations. "He has problems on both sides of the aisle. He hasn't brought many people to the White House; he doesn't know that many people in the House; he knows more people in the Senate because he served there for a couple of years," McCarthy said. "He is coming to the House Republican Conference, which I think is positive. He has only done that once before. But he should come and listen, communicate and try to find where we can find common ground." Even members of the president's own party said the outreach was needed. "I think frustration by the American people – and frustration by members of Congress as well – have stemmed from the fact that a lot of these debates have taken place on TV or on the House floor but have not had very meaningful discussion," said first-term Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii. Coburn, Gardner, Kaine and Gabbard appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press." Ryan spoke to "Fox News Sunday." Johnson was interviewed on ABC's "This Week." Bush appeared on CNN's "State of the Union," "This Week," "Meet the Press," CBS' "Face the Nation" and "Fox News Sunday." McCarthy appeared on "State of the Union."

10 марта 2013, 02:00

Mark Lynas: truth, treachery and GM food

Mark Lynas spent years destroying genetically modified crops in the name of the environment. Now he's told the world – and his fellow activists – that he was wrong. So why did he change his mind? And does he have any friends left?What was that line in Lord of the Flies? When Roger decides to kill Piggy? He makes that irreversible transgression with something like "a sense of delirious abandonment". Mark Lynas couldn't quite remember, but that's exactly how he felt as he walked on to the stage, in the mid-morning of 3 January, to make his dramatic speech. The night before he'd paced among the farmers and agriculture experts who would be his audience, thinking: "These people have no idea what I'm going to say." They were probably expecting to be bored and annoyed by the appearance of this raving eco-warrior. They didn't know that he'd taken the decision to stand in front of the people who were once his enemy – and confess.Back in the mid-90s he'd belonged to a "radical cell" of the anarchist, anti-capitalist environmental movement. He was influential – a co-founder of the magazine Corporate Watch who'd written the first article about the evils of Genetically Modified Organisms [GMOs] and Monsanto, the multinational biotech company whose work with GMOs was to become notorious. He was a law breaker. He'd pile into vans with gangs of up to 30 people and spend nights slashing GM crops with machetes. He was angry. He believed that the kind of people who'd attend the Oxford Farming Conference were ruining the world with greed. And now he was preparing to stand under spotlights and bow his head before them. He'd been nervous about it for days. He was scared that by the time his speech was over he wouldn't have any friends left at all.Once the crowd's mannered applause had died down, he began. "My lords, ladies and gentlemen. I want to start with some apologies, which I believe are most appropriate to this audience. For the record, here and upfront, I apologise for having spent several years ripping up GM crops. I'm also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid-1990s and that I thereby assisted in demonising an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment. As an environmentalist, and someone who believes that everyone in this world has a right to a healthy and nutritious diet of their choosing, I could not have chosen a more counter-productive path. I now regret it completely."Fifty minutes later, the audience reacted with what he describes as "shocked applause". His website, on which he'd posted the text of his speech, crashed, unable to cope with the demand. He watched, on Twitter, as reaction spread around the world: Portugal, Spain, Chile, Argentina… Millions, he thinks, have now seen it. "It was a complete demolition, not just of anti-GMO but of the whole organic thing," he says. "For a lot of people, it was an 'Oh fuck' moment. They realised they'd been lied to, at a very profound level, by the very people they'd trusted." And what of his worst fear, that he wouldn't have any friends left at all? "Well," he smiles sadly. "That's probably what happened."Lynas, 39, lives in a modern terrace in a suburb of Oxford with his wife Maria, his puppy Scout and his children Tom, eight, and Rosa, six. He's handsome and fashionably presented, but in a strangely featureless way, like one of those members of Coldplay whose name nobody can remember. He gives me a cup of tea and leads me down towards his shed, with its sunken sofa, dusty curtains and shelves of sun-bleached books. He's worried about the interview and peppered me with questions beforehand: who was my editor? How many words would it be? Who was the photographer? Why did I want to write it? His anxiety is not surprising. Lynas's speech made the news internationally and, along with it, "all the hate started coming through". He found himself accused of being in the pay of Monsanto which, he says, "shows that people think I have no integrity and look at me with complete contempt".In the days when his anger came from the opposite direction, Lynas was a member of an organisation that was "loosely called" Earth First! It told a dramatic story about the world, in which the forces of industrialism were conspiring to bring about "environmental apocalypse. Big corporations and capitalism in general were destroying the earth." Theirs was a plucky struggle against the monstrous machines of profit. "We were the protectors of the land and the inheritors of the natural forces," he says. "We were the pixies."Lynas first heard about the notion of genetically modifying crops in a Brighton squat in early 1996, at a meeting of about six activists that was lead by Jim Thomas, a campaigns director for Greenpeace. "He really opened my eyes to the awfulness of what Monsanto seemed to be doing," he says. "Something unnatural was being done to our food supply. Big corporations were using more chemicals so that they could take over the food chain." It inspired him to write his Corporate Watch story that was "the first on Monsanto, as far as I know". By the time of Earth First!'s next gathering, GMOs had "become the next big thing". Lynas lead the early workshops that spread the message further. "The people who consider themselves leaders in the anti-GM movement today, I trained them."By 1997 his anger had turned to action, and the first "decontamination actions" to destroy experimental GM crops took place. "We'd head out in a van with gardening tools, dark clothes, some cash and no ID." Arriving at around 2am, between 20 and 30 of them would work until dawn, "just going along the line", destroying the plants.It wasn't always this straightforward. One night while he was slashing through maize with a machete somewhere in the east of England, Lynas saw flashing lights and heard the barking of dogs. He dropped into the dirt and held still. "For some reason the police went right past me," he says. "I got out of there. I found my way through some woods to the train station. A lot of the others were attacked by dogs and arrested. It was quite scary. In an odd way, I'm quite law abiding. You know, I wear glasses. I don't want to get hit in the face with a truncheon. I'm not really into confrontational situations at all." Lynas played a crucial role at a sit-in, on 29 April 1998, at Monsanto's offices in High Wycombe. "I cased the joint, printed the leaflets and hired the buses," he says.It was around this time, however, that Lynas began to experience the first mild cramps of rebellion. He'd begun to notice a widespread denial in the people around him. The more he recognised it, the more it felt like hypocrisy. "Everyone thought of themselves as being tolerant and open-minded," he says. "But if you said something critical about them, you'd be in quite serious trouble." Trouble? "I don't think anyone would've attacked you physically. But you'd go back to your worst days at school, just feeling like the child that everyone hated. I don't really thrive in that sort of bully-boy atmosphere."The movement deluded itself about its non-hierarchical nature. It didn't have leaders or elections because, to them, democracy was a lie. "But there were leaders – of which I definitely wasn't one – and everyone else was the sheep, the cannon fodder. The people who could rabble-rouse and were the most radical would rise to the top." The irony of all this was that Earth First! became acutely hierarchical, and in the worst possible way, "because the hierarchy is nontransparent".A critical fracture between Lynas and his movement occurred after London's 2000 May Day riots, which he helped organise. A branch of McDonald's was attacked, a statue of Winston Churchill was given a grass Mohican, and the Cenotaph was graffitied. At a meeting of key individuals in a north London pub that followed "everyone was saying: 'This is great'," he remembers. "'We've shown the corporate media!'" Lynas, however, didn't agree. "I thought it was a disaster. Everything we'd been trying to achieve was undermined by all the violence and window smashing. It just alienated people. I thought I'd be honest about it. Everyone looked at me in complete horror, shock and contempt." How did that feel? "Deeply hostile, and deeply limiting, actually. Tolerance and open-mindedness were qualities that people paid lip service to but were not really valued. That was one of the last meetings I went to."Lynas had an unusual childhood, being born in Fiji and schooled for three years in Peru. His father was a scientist – a geologist who did mapping for the government – and yet was politically assertive enough to emigrate to Spain in the mid-1980s because of Margaret Thatcher. Lynas remembers Nicaraguan folk bands staying as house guests. Today, his parents live in North Wales. "They have a little organic farm. Post-organic, really. My dad's with me in arguing the need for biological solutions, like GM, to reduce chemical use."Lynas's metamorphosis gathered real pace when he started work on his 2004 book High Tide. It concerned the consequences of manmade climate change and involved him touring the continents seeking out its effects. This was a cause he was happy to be swept into: climate change made a perfect subplot for his grand narrative about the world of evil capitalism ruining nature. But this new episode introduced a curious character – a nerdy stranger who would go on to corrupt the plot of his life entirely. "I didn't want my book to be just a series of anecdotes," he explains, "so I began researching the science. And I fell in love with it. I realised that science offers a window into truth that nothing else can."His embrace of evidence-based knowledge caused a problem. Many of his beliefs about GMOs were predicated on an extravagant dismissal of the scientific consensus. "The whole GM thing had been about criticising scientists, saying they were corrupt, corporate shills," he says. "And we definitely believed all those things. But I realised everything we were doing was deeply reductionist, basically saying: 'Scientists should shut down their labs and go and work in Tesco.' It was a kind of counter-enlightenment. People against a process."Lynas lived the next few years in a state of weird, gigantic dissonance. A 2005 column for the New Statesman, which expressed doubt about traditional anti-nuclear arguments, prompted activists that he knew to "write in, saying I'd ruined their lives". His next book, Six Degrees: Our Future in a Hotter Planet, won 2008's prestigious Royal Society prize for science writing. And yet he was still existing between narratives in a way that, inevitably, became excruciating. The last piece of "GM crap" he wrote was for the Guardian, the year of his award. "I knew at the time I didn't believe it," he says. "I wrote it in an internet café. I thought: 'God, I really need to have some sources for these things.' Then I thought: 'Fuck it.' I'd just had this stamp of approval from the scientific community. And then I'm writing this completely unscientific and hopelessly unintellectual thing. How embarrassing can you get?"In November 2010 he appeared on a Channel 4 documentary, What the Green Movement Got Wrong, and a live debate that followed. In the shows he defended GMOs and nuclear power. Afterwards, he says, a member of Greenpeace "was that close to me, shouting in my face. I literally left the studio with a bag over my head." Close friends felt betrayed. "George Monbiot sent me a really devastating email." He also fell out with the person who'd been best man at his wedding. "We'd been friends for 10 years. We still have no relationship."Lynas also experienced a more subtle realignment in his worldview. He'd been used to seeing the Green movement as the brave, scrappy underdogs. But the more he looked, the more little David began to resemble Goliath. "Just take the numbers," he says. "Greenpeace, the whole international group, is a $150m outfit [in fact, figures provided by Greenpeace show global income in 2011 as $313.4m]. Bigger than the World Trade Organisation, and much more influential in terms of determining how people think." For Lynas, the modern Green movement is one of undeniable force. It's changed the world "sometimes for the better", but not always. "The anti-nuclear movement is partly responsible for global warming," he says. "Everywhere, pretty much, where a nuclear plant was cancelled, a coal plant was built instead, and that's because of the anti-nuclear movement. The environmental movement has been very successful in regulating GM out of existence in some parts of the world."Lynas has been very critical of Greenpeace's policy towards a GM crop that's become totemic among campaigners. Golden rice is a crop that's been modified, by the insertion of the genes for the chemical beta-carotene, in an attempt to make it provide more vitamin A. "Vitamin-A deficiency is one of the leading causes of death in southeast Asia," says Lynas. "It's led to blindness and the death of about a quarter of a million people a year." Yet campaigners, including Greenpeace, lobbied against it.Greenpeace insists golden rice is a "waste of money" and an "ineffective tool… [that] is also environmentally irresponsible, poses risks to human health and compromises food security". For Lynas, its stance is "just superstition. There are tens of thousands of kids who are dead who wouldn't be dead otherwise. I don't see how you could put this any other way. Imagine if Monsanto had been culpable in the deaths of tens of thousands of children! It would be all over the Guardian." (Lynas later made the partial concession that "there have been technical hold-ups in the golden rice project, and you can't solely blame Greenpeace for the overregulation that is applied to GMOs".)Since his Oxford Farming Conference speech, some have launched attacks on Lynas's interpretation of the science. But the rebellion against his rebellion has also been personal. Some former associates have questioned his claim to have been an influential figure. Jim Thomas, the former Greenpeace activist who first told Lynas about GMOs and lived with him for a few months, says: "Lynas was a player, but not a very important player, and for a very short period of time. Maybe in his mind he was important, but I don't think anybody else saw him that way." Ultimately, says Thomas, "I feel saddened by the whole thing. He's built a very successful career on the back of portraying people who were his friends as unthinking."Lynas counters that he's unable to defend himself from charges he's exaggerated his role due the illegality of the acts he and his associates were complicit in. "People don't want their names mentioned," he says. But the attacks hurt. "I've been complaining to my wife, but she said: 'Don't feel sorry for yourself. You've insulted people at the deepest level of their values. You've done something completely wounding to their very sense of self.' This was a life's work for people I was close to, and as far as they're concerned I've tried to destroy it."As for Lynas's life's mission, the change has been everything and nothing. He might not be battling against corporations any more, but he still feels "as if I'm changing the world for the better in my own small way".Nevertheless, he speaks of the betrayal and subsequent loss of his friends as a tragedy – "but tragic in the Shakespearean sense that you could see it coming". Indeed, how much of his metamorphosis was inevitable? Can his mutiny really constitute a moral treachery when so much of it seemed to happen to him? He was, after all, born into a family of independent spirit, to a scientist father, who was also a political radical who deified the environment. Emotional rebellion became empirical rebellion, when a book project forced him from the "echo chamber" of Earth First!.And then, what should he do? Try to live with it all, hounded by the dissonance of his contradictions? Or speak up and brave whatever damage might be caused? His opponents, who mutter about his "successful career", despite his modest circumstances, deny the complexity of human motivation. Nobody is pure. But few do as he has done, and have the courage to doubt themselves with as much vigour as they've previously doubted others.GMFood scienceFoodFarmingActivismWill Storrguardian.co.uk © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

09 марта 2013, 04:08

Robert L. Cavnar: What the Hell Has Happened to Texas?

Recently, Texas attorney general Greg Abbott cranked up his unlimited-contribution-campaign machine to go up against Rick Perry's unlimited-contribution-campaign machine for governor in 2014. Perry, who's known for gun play, stumbled badly during the 2012 presidential primary season, and been seen lately as vulnerable in his quest to again be Texas' Governor so he can take another crack at the presidential nomination in 2016. Perry's antics are well known, and Abbott apparently has determined that he has to board the Crazy Train to challenge him for the Republican nomination. To get things rolling, Abbott has been posting campaign advertisements to his Facebook page, but outdid himself a couple of days ago by posting the above ad pairing a semi-automatic handgun alongside an old dog-eared Bible lamenting the fact that gun play and Bible thumping were not being taught in schools. Being from Texas, I have to say that I've seen just about everything, from gubernatorial candidate Clayton Williams joking about rape, to Perry shooting and waving around revolvers at an event in Fort Worth, to Louie Gohmert wishing that the murdered principal at Sandy Hook School had been carrying an assault rifle when attacked, to Steve Stockman bringing NRA board member Ted Nugent to the State of the Union, but this one took my breath away. The historical context of this ad is simply wrong, and the irresponsibility of advocating gun play and teaching of a particular religion in schools should be clear disqualifiers for Abbott as a serious candidate, but not in Texas. My state has always been a larger than life, much caricatured place, and most Texans take it all in good humor; we look back with fondness at the old days of LBJ and John Connally, loved Big Tex at the State Fair, and watch UT football, no matter where you went to school. Texas' problem, though, is that over the last decade, the state and its leaders have taken a dark turn. Bigotry and racism that had been greatly overcome (or at least stifled) in previous years have raised their ugly heads again. Anti-intellectualism is glorified. Public advocacy of secession and gun violence, gleeful invasion of women's privacy, cruel reductions of health care and education funding, and radical gerrymandering that puts otherwise unelectable candidates in office have not only made Texas a laughing stock to most of the industrialized world, but more importantly, seriously affected (negatively) millions of people's lives. Texas has been pulled so far to the right that reasonable voices are seldom heard. Politicians' antics have become so commonplace that they are just shrugged off rather than being spotlighted. Time in Austin is not spent on education funding or improving the economy, but on forced ultrasounds, twisting up laws to defund vital health services provided by Planned Parenthood, legislating college football games, introducing open carry laws, and editing school books to match religious ideology. Two things, I believe, have driven Texas to this low level -- gerrymandering and unlimited campaign contributions. It's not unusual for wealthy donors to contribute millions to individual candidates. With the recent introduction of Super Pacs after Citizens United, the problem has only gotten worse. Every Republican tacks as far to the right as intellectually possible attempting to stave off radical, but well financed challengers. That's exactly what happened to David Dewhurst when he was upset by Tea Party candidate Ted Cruz, who brought in millions in outside money to counteract Dewhurst's wealth. Combined, the Senate primary race cost $45 million. To make matters even worse, the GOP maintains its death grip on the Texas state House by gerrymandering state Senate and House districts to keep Democrats out. That's what happened after the 2002 elections that allowed Tom DeLay the opportunity to lead the mid-decade US House redistricting the following year, after which only one Democrat, Gene Green, out of the 10 targeted for defeat, won reelection without changing parties or shifting districts. Add voter ID efforts, long lines in minority precinct polling places, and the takeover of Texas is complete. It won't last forever, though. Most recognize that the state's demographics are changing. Young Latino politicians like the Castro brothers are emerging and making strong showings. Fifty percent of Texas youth are Latino. And, the GOP brand is damaged with both Latinos and African Americans; last year's presidential primary season didn't help, especially with all the "self deportation" and "47 percent " talk. Understanding the threat that Texas Republicans are facing informs why they've been so desperately trying to consolidate power now, suppress minority voting, and install more radical representation at the local, state, and national levels. However, it's only a matter of time before all that won't work.

08 марта 2013, 18:40

Should You Move To Another Country To Escape The Collapse Of America? 10 Questions To Ask Yourself First

Michael SnyderActivist Post Why are so many people leaving the United States right now? Over the past couple of years, an increasing number of Americans have decided that moving to another country is the best way to prepare for the collapse of America. According to the U.S. State Department, an all-time record of more than 6 million Americans are now working or studying overseas.Of course many of those that have left the country do not believe that the U.S. economy is going to collapse, but without a doubt there are an increasing number of preppers that believe that now is the time to "escape from America" while they still can. And certainly there are a lot of reasons why the U.S. is becoming less appealing with each passing day. In addition to our economic problems, crime is on the rise in our cities, our liberties and freedoms are being eroded at a frightening pace, political correctness is wildly out of control, and our corrupt politicians continue to make things even worse. But is life really that much better in the rest of the world? The sad truth is that life in most other nations is more difficult than it is in the United States. Yes, there are some nations that are relatively stable and that look promising at first glance, but the truth is that moving to another country is never easy. If you plan to do it, there are some hard questions that you need to ask yourself first.If you plan to move permanently to another nation, it would be wise to visit first. The way that things work in a foreign country is often very, very different from how things work in the United States. If you are not accustomed to being in a foreign culture, it can feel like your whole world is being turned upside down. google_ad_client = "pub-1897954795849722"; /* 468x60, created 6/30/10 */ google_ad_slot = "8230781418"; google_ad_width = 468; google_ad_height = 60; But of course it is definitely possible to make a successful transition to another culture. Millions of Americans have done it. The following is from a recent RT article...Ever dream of leaving it all behind and heading out of America? You’re not the only one. A new study shows that more US citizens than ever before are living outside of the country. According to statistics from the US State Department, around 6.4 million Americans are either working or studying overseas, which Gallup says is the largest number ever for such statistic. The polling organization came across the number after conducting surveys in 135 outside nations and the information behind the numbers reveal that this isn’t exactly a longtime coming either — numbers have skyrocketed only in recent years. In the 24 months before polling began, the number of Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 living abroad managed to surge from barely 1 percent to over 5.1 percent. For those under the age span wishing to move overseas, the percentage has jumped in the same amount of time from 15 percent to 40.But picking up and moving to a foreign nation is not something to be done lightly. The following are 10 questions to ask yourself before you decide to move to another country...Do You Speak The Language? If Not, How Will You Function? If you do not speak the language of the country that you are moving to, that can create a huge problem. Just going to the store and buying some food will become a challenge. Every interaction that you have with anyone in that society will be strained, and your ability to integrate into the culture around you will be greatly limited.How Will You Make A Living? Unless you are independently wealthy, you will need to make money. In a foreign nation, it may be very difficult for you to find a job - especially one that pays as much as you are accustomed to making in the United States.Will You Be Okay Without Your Family And Friends? Being thousands of miles away from all of your family and friends can be extremely difficult. Will you be okay without them? And it can be difficult to survive in a foreign culture without any kind of a support system. Sometimes the people that most successfully move out of the country are those that do it as part of a larger group.Have You Factored In Weather Patterns And Geological Instability? As the globe becomes increasingly unstable, weather patterns and natural disasters are going to become a bigger factor in deciding where to live. For example, right now India is suffering through the worst drought that it has experienced in nearly 50 years. It would be very difficult to thrive in the middle of such an environment. Many of those that are encouraging people to "escape from America" are pointing to Chile as an ideal place to relocate to. But there are thousands of significant earthquakes in Chile each year, and the entire nation lies directly along the "Ring of Fire" which is becoming increasingly unstable. That is something to keep in mind.What Will You Do For Medical Care? If you or someone in your family had a serious medical problem in the United States, you would know what to do. Yes, our health care system is incredibly messed up, but at least you would know that you could get the care that you needed if an emergency arose. Would the same be true in a foreign nation?Are You Moving Into A High Crime Area? Yes, crime is definitely on the rise in the United States. But in other areas where many preppers are moving to, crime is even worse. Mexico and certain areas of Central America are two examples of this. And in many foreign nations, the police are far more corrupt than they generally are in the United States. In addition, many other nations have far stricter gun laws than the United States does, so your ability to defend your family may be greatly restricted. So will your family truly be safe in the nation that you plan to take them to?Are You Prepared For "Culture Shock"? Moving to another country can be like moving to a different planet. After all, they don't call it "culture shock" for nothing. If you do move to another country, you may quickly find that thousands of little things that you once took for granted in the U.S. are now very different. And there is a very good chance that many of the "amenities" that you are accustomed to in the U.S. will not be available in a foreign nation and that your standard of living will go down. So if you are thinking of moving somewhere else, you may want to visit first just to get an idea of what life would be like if you made the move.What Freedoms and Liberties Will You Lose By Moving? Yes, our liberties and our freedoms are being rapidly eroded in the United States. But in many other nations around the world things are much worse. You may find that there is no such thing as "freedom of speech" or "freedom of religion" in the country that you have decided to move to.Is There A Possibility That The Country You Plan To Escape To Could Be Involved In A War At Some Point? We are moving into a time of great geopolitical instability. If you move right into the middle of a future war zone, you might really regret it. If you do plan to move, try to find a country that is likely to avoid war for the foreseeable future.When The Global Economy Collapses, Will You And Your Family Be Okay For Food? What good will it be to leave the United States if you and your family run out of food? Today, we are on the verge of a major global food crisis. Global food reserves are at their lowest level in nearly 40 years, and shifting global weather patterns are certainly not helping things. And the global elite are rapidly getting more control over the global food supply. Today, between 75 and 90 percent of all international trade in grain is controlled by just four gigantic multinational food corporations. But grain is not the only thing that the food giants control. Just check out the following statistics from a recent Natural News article...The paper said three mega-multinationals now control better than 40 percent of global coffee sales, for example. Eight companies control the supply of cocoa and chocolate. Seven control the lion's share - 85 percent - of tea production. Five multinationals control three-quarters of the world banana trade. And the largest half-dozen sugar traders account for about 66 percent of world trade, the new report by theFairtrade Foundation said.The elite are also buying up food producing real estate all over the globe. That is why farmland prices in the United States have been absolutely skyrocketing lately. google_ad_client = "ca-pub-1897954795849722"; /* 468x60, created 7/28/12 */ google_ad_slot = "9833874419"; google_ad_width = 468; google_ad_height = 60; The people that run the world are rapidly getting a stranglehold over the global food supply. So wherever you end up - whether it is in the United States or in another country - you will need to make sure that you can provide enough food for you and your family to live on independently of the system. These are all things to think about when considering whether or not to move out of the United States. But there are many, including some of those that regularly read my website, that have made the transition successfully. If you have some advice that you would like to share with those that are considering moving away from America, please feel free to share it below...RELATED ACTIVIST POST ARTICLE:5 Best Countries to Move to Before Collapse of the WestThis article first appeared here at the Economic Collapse Blog.  Michael Snyder is a writer, speaker and activist who writes and edits his own blogs The American Dream and Economic Collapse Blog. 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07 марта 2013, 18:51

Manufacturers Replace BPA with Still Highly Toxic BPS

Sayer JiActivist Post As we reported on back in June of last year in an exposé titled, Consumer Alert: BPA-Free Goods Still Contain Toxin Bisphenol, the petrochemical bisphenol A (BPA), an ubiquitous ingredient in thousands of consumer products and which has been linked to a wide range of serious adverse health effects,[i] has been removed by many ostensibly scrupulous manufacturers in favor of another equally toxic analog in the same chemical class, known as bisphenol S (BPS). This has enabled manufacturers of products as varied as thermal printer receipts to sippy cups to advertise their products as "BPA-free," while still exposing consumers to potentially harmful, and less regulated chemicals. BPS is actually not only within the same range of toxicity of BPA, but is slower to degrade, and therefore will be more likely to remain a persistent toxin and environmental pollutant.[ii] It has already been found to be present in the urine of 81% of those tested from the United States and seven Asian countries.[iii] Now, new concern is being raised by a study published this month in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives showing that BPS has estrogenic activity comparable to estradiol, the most potent and, therefore, concerning human estrogen, and is even capable of enhancing estradiol-mediated cell signaling activity. These actions indicate it has great potential to disrupt normal endocrine processes.The study also found that BPS is capable of inducing cell death (apoptosis), as well as interfere with cellular prolactin (PRL) secretion. This latter effect has a broad range of indications, as the prolactin hormone regulates hundreds of biological functions, including metabolism, reproduction and lactation.[iv] Taken together, the study authors concluded:BPS, once considered a safe substitute for BPA, disrupts membrane-initiated E2-induced cell signaling, leading to altered cell proliferation, cell death, and PRL release. google_ad_client = "pub-1897954795849722"; /* 468x60, created 6/30/10 */ google_ad_slot = "8230781418"; google_ad_width = 468; google_ad_height = 60; Global Chemical Sleight-of-Hand: BPS Replaces BPAIn many ways, the sleight-of-hand substitution of Bisphenol S for Bisphenol A, is just business as normal. Pharmaceutical companies, for instance, will often begin to phase out a drug when after years of causing side effects and even deaths it begins to lose its viability as a profit center because of accumulating lawsuits and adverse post-marketing surveillance research, as well as the impending expiration of its patent exclusivity. So, they simply alter the synthetic drug an atom or two, and reapply for a "new and improved" drug approval – even when, essentially, less is known about its toxicity; until, that is, the end users (a living guinea pig) experience convincing bodily evidence that it does more harm than good. Sadly, chemicals like bisphenols receive far less regulatory oversight than pharmaceuticals, despite the fact that exposure to pharmacologically active chemicals in everyday consumer products can be much more widespread. The extent to which manufacturers have replaced BPA with BPS is unknown, but a 2012 study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology titled "Bisphenol S, a New Bisphenol Analogue, in Paper Products and Currency Bills and Its Association with Bisphenol A Residues," indicates the shift is global, and therefore likely internally coordinated by the chemical industry:As the evidence of the toxic effects of bisphenol A (BPA) grows, its application in commercial products is gradually being replaced with other related compounds, such as bisphenol S (BPS). Nevertheless, very little is known about the occurrence of BPS in the environment. In this study, BPS was analyzed in 16 types of paper and paper products (n = 268), including thermal receipts, paper currencies, flyers, magazines, newspapers, food contact papers, airplane luggage tags, printing paper, kitchen rolls (i.e., paper towels), and toilet paper. All thermal receipt paper samples (n = 111) contained BPS at concentrations ranging from 0.0000138 to 22.0 mg/g (geometric mean: 0.181 mg/g). The overall mean concentrations of BPS in thermal receipt papers were similar to the concentrations reported earlier for BPA in the same set of samples. A significant negative correlation existed between BPS and BPA concentrations in thermal receipt paper samples. Because the research on bisphenol A toxicity is far more extensive than bisphenol S, a number of natural substances have already been found to degrade bisphenol A the body. We may assume that other toxic bisphenols could be degraded, blocks and/or detoxified from the body by similar mechanisms.Because the research on bisphenol A toxicity is far more extensive than bisphenol S, a number of natural substances have already been found to degrade bisphenol A the body. We may assume that other toxic bisphenols could be degraded, blocks and/or detoxified from the body by similar mechanisms. These beneficial substances include:Probiotics: Bifodobacterium breve and Lactobacillus casei, two commonly used strains in supplements, has been found to reduce the intestinal absorption of bisphenol A by facilitating its excretion.[v] Kimchi, a Korean fermented cabbage food, contains probiotics that have been found to degrade bisphenol A.[vi] [See also: Probiotics Destroy Toxic Chemicals in Our Gut For Us] Folic Acid: This methyl donor vitamin is capable of silencing genes (epigenetically) that when over-expressed can lead to diseases such as cancer. Maternal nutrient supplementation with folic acid has been found to counteract bisphenol A-induced DNA hypomethylation (low methylation) in early development. [vii] Keep in mind that whenever possible use folate, the natural form of folic acid, as it has not been linked to adverse health effects. Black Tea and Quercetin: Cell research has found that black tea extract and quercetin(found in high concentrations in onion) ameliorate bisphenol A-induced cell toxicity.[viii] Royal Jelly: Royal jelly is a bee product that has been found to inhibit the estrogenic and proliferative effects of bisphenol-A.[ix]While this is a limited list, it provides a clue into how we might naturally combat exposures to xenobiotic chemicals such as bisphenols through our diet. Organically produced, minimally processed, and especially traditionally cultured foods likely provide a broad range of protective actions against chemical exposures, the benefits of which we may obtain on a daily basis through our dietary choices. We don't have to wait around for more clinical research to prove what commonsense already knows: avoid chemical exposures and eat well, whenever possible.Resources:[i] GreenMedInfo.com, Bisphenol Toxicity Research[ii] Erica Danzl, Kazunari Sei, Satoshi Soda, Michihiko Ike, Masanori Fujita. Biodegradation of bisphenol A, bisphenol F and bisphenol S in seawater. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2009 Apr ;6(4):1472-84. Epub 2009 Apr 17. PMID: 19440529[iii] Chunyang Liao, Fang Liu, Husam Alomirah, Vu Duc Loi, Mustafa Ali Mohd, Hyo-Bang Moon, Haruhiko Nakata, Kurunthachalam Kannan. Bisphenol S in Urine from the United States and Seven Asian Countries: Occurrence and Human Exposures. Environ Sci Technol. 2012 May 23. Epub 2012 May 23. PMID: 22620267[iv] Julia R Barrett. Assessing the safety of a replacement chemical: nongenomic activity of bisphenol s. Environ Health Perspect. 2013 Mar 1 ;121(3):a97. PMID: 23454847[v] Kenji Oishi, Tadashi Sato, Wakae Yokoi, Yasuto Yoshida, Masahiko Ito, Haruji Sawada.Effect of probiotics, Bifidobacterium breve and Lactobacillus casei, on bisphenol A exposure in rats. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2008 Jun;72(6):1409-15. Epub 2008 Jun 7. PMID: 18540113[vi] Hayato Yamanaka, Kunihiko Moriyoshi, Takashi Ohmoto, Tatsuhiko Ohe, Kiyofumi Sakai.Degradation of bisphenol A by Bacillus pumilus isolated from kimchi, a traditionally fermented food. Appl Biochem Biotechnol. 2007 Jan;136(1):39-51. PMID: 17416976[vii] Dana C Dolinoy, Dale Huang, Randy L Jirtle. Maternal nutrient supplementation counteracts bisphenol A-induced DNA hypomethylation in early development. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Aug 7;104(32):13056-61. Epub 2007 : PMID: 17670942[viii] Ramtej J Verma, Neha P Sangai. The ameliorative effect of black tea extract and quercetin on bisphenol A-induced cytotoxicity. Acta Pol Pharm. 2009 Jan-Feb;66(1):41-4. PMID: 19226967[ix] Mako Nakaya, Hiroyuki Onda, Kyoko Sasaki, Akiko Yukiyoshi, Hirofumi Tachibana, Koji Yamada. Effect of royal jelly on bisphenol A-induced proliferation of human breast cancer cells. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2007 Jan;71(1):253-5. Epub 2007 Jan 7. 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07 марта 2013, 15:37

Liveblogging World War II: March 7, 1943

Harold James of the "Chindits", behind Japanese lines in Burma: The dropping area was strewn with ration tins, parachutes and mule fodder, and the men soon got to work collecting the stores. Burmese from the nearest village were called in to help, and in return were given the parachutes which they greatly prized, cloth being a scarcity. We soon learned that valuable information could often be obtained for a piece of parachute. The Gurkhas made handerchiefs and ration bags for themselves, and lanyards from the cords. Four tins were dropped with each parachute, padded with a shock absorber fastened by thick webbing – although this did not always work if the parachute should break loose. The four tins could conveniently be loaded each side of a mule, allowing extra rations to be carried as reserve, and, as on this occasion, the supplies could be easily transported from the dropping zone to our camp for distribution to the men. The hard scale daily ration laid down was: Shakapura biscuits l2oz; Cheese 2oz; Milk powder 1oz; Raisins and almonds 9oz; Tea 3/4 oz; Sugar 4oz; Acid drops or chocolate 1oz; Salt 1/2oz; Cigarettes 2 packets of 10; Matches 1 box. To imagine that men could keep fit on a ration of this nature for three months of marching through very rough country, fighting, physically and mentally extended, is beyond belief, and would seem to show a definite lack of imagination in planning the ration menu. But the expedition was heading into unexplored areas of logistics, and presented problems which had to be solved by guesswork before hard experience could produce the correct results. There was no meat, although tins of corned beef were dropped later, and on occasion corned mutton for the Gurkhas. But it was bulky, and went bad quite quickly, so had to be eaten more or less in one sitting. The parachute ration was supposed to be supplemented from local produce, which often proved impracticable. With over 300 mouths to feed, very few villages could provide more than a few mouthfuls of rice per person, and the odd chicken or egg. Some columns were lucky in coming across an extra friendly village which would be more helpful – but seldom more than once during the expedition. The idea behind the rations selected was that they contained nothing that required cooking, except water for tea, since it was expected that troops would not be able to count on more than twenty minutes for meals. In practice we rarely had to rush our meals. It was also assumed that supplies would be dropped regularly, which turned out, after the first two drops, to be a false hope, not because of any shortage of aircraft, just that the enemy’s presence often made it impossible to pick and choose time and place. As a result, for most of the expedition, one day`s rations had to last at the very least for three, and too often much longer. A great deal of will power was needed to limit the daily intake.