Friday, August 3, 2007

Eddie Murphy's ex-wife and Scary Spice meet.

Entertainment: There is just no way this will end up as a positive for Eddie....HALF!

Remember the adage "the enemy of my enemy is my friend"? Melanie Brown seems to be putting it into practice.

Scary Spice was spotted Thursday meeting up with Nicole Murphy – Eddie Murphy's ex-wife and the mother of five of his children – at Beverly Hills eatery the Ivy, where the pair laughed over bottled water and lunch.

Joining the two women were daughters Angel Iris, Brown's 4-month-old, and 5-year-old Bella Zahra, Murphy's youngest child with Nicole.

"They seemed really friendly toward one another," says an onlooker of the pair, who wore curve-hugging dresses and posed for cameras outside. "They had a pretty private meal in the back corner, away from all of us."

The lunch date came one day after Brown and her lawyer Gloria Allred held a press conference claiming that Brown's former boyfriend Murphy "has not paid one penny of child support." A DNA test in June established that the actor is the father, but "paternity has not been legally acknowledged," according to Allred.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, baby Angel was already getting to know her half-sister, and Nicole Murphy – whose divorce from the actor was finalized in April 2006 after 12 years – even comforted the crying child when mom Brown went to the restroom. She rocked Angel until Mom returned, then the two new friends continued laughing and playing with the baby.

Says an onlooker: "Right before they left, Nicole gave Melanie two kisses on the cheek."

Mirthala Salinas suspended for two months.

Politics: Two months for a horrendous breach of journalistic ethics and behavior that would have any wife looking to beat the hell out of her.

A Spanish-language newscaster who had an affair with the mayor of Los Angeles has been suspended from her job for two months for violating conflict-of-interest policies, her network said Thursday.
Mirthala Salinas was having the relationship with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa when she announced the news of his separation from his wife of 20 years on local Telemundo station KVEA, Channel 52.

Salinas was suspended without pay. The findings of Telemundo's three- week investigation were reported on its national newscast.

"Her reading of copy during newscasts ... regarding the Mayor's separation from his wife was a flagrant violation of these guidelines," network president Don Browne wrote in a memo to employees.

Messages left with Telemundo and Salinas' representative were not immediately returned.

Media watchdogs assailed not only Salinas for her conflict of interest but her superiors for allowing her to continue reporting on the mayor after they knew of the relationship. One analyst predicted that the scandal would tarnish Salinas' career.

"People will always remember her as the reporter who had an affair with the mayor, and that she got in trouble for that," said Judy Muller, a former ABC network news correspondent and current NPR commentator who now teaches journalism at USC.

"That damages her credibility, and I don't know where she goes from Telemundo," Muller added. "A reporter only has her credibility, and once that's sullied you have lost your value to your news organization."

Some reason this part shows up on google and news google but not in the revised version online at LATIMES.
Everyone knew — cameramen knew, the producers knew and the reporters all knew,” said one Telemundo executive, who spoke on the condition he not be identified because he was not authorized to comment. “This is a very small business.”

A bad decision by Telemundo that makes it look like the latino version of Pravda in terms of credibility at this point.

Beware, parts of Immigration bill coming back to life

Immigration: Some good.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 — When a broad immigration bill failed in the Senate in June after a vitriolic national debate, many legislators said the issue was dead, perhaps until President Bush left office. But already some of the less contentious pieces of the bill are returning to life.

Last week, the Senate approved $3 billion for border security as part of a Homeland Security Department spending bill. Democrats and Republicans have also begun laying ground for a bill to create a new temporary immigrant worker program for agriculture.

Some bad which need to be fought as they are going to try and slip it thru.

Another bill, also with bipartisan support, would give a path to citizenship to high school graduates who are illegal immigrants if they complete two years of college or military service. Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and a sponsor of the bill, attached it as an amendment to the military authorization legislation that the Senate last month put off until September. Mr. Durbin said he would seek to move it again then.

The Dream Act is going to get a major lovefest from the press as they have found their poster boy so to speak in Juan Sebastian Gomez which by no mistake dominates this article.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Video of Jake Brown's fall at X-games.

Entertainment: Damn lucky to be even walking after this.

Youtube link if you need it.

Youtube version in HD and commentary.

NYTIMES write up.

A ride on the Mega Ramp begins by taking the arena elevator to the top floor. From there, riders choose to plunge down either a 60- or 80-foot roll-in that resembles a ski-jumping ramp, which launches them over either a 50- or 70-foot gap.

After landing, they ride up a 27-foot tall quarterpipe ramp that sends them soaring as high as 50 feet. Their height is measured by a rotating lighted sign that looks like something borrowed from the Las Vegas strip.

Runs are judged on difficulty and execution of tricks done over both jumps.

The inherent danger associated with riding the ramp was on display during the finals Thursday night when the skateboarder Jake Brown fell more than 45 feet during his fifth and final run.

Brown was in first place at the time, but attempted a series of difficult tricks. After landing a 720 — two full rotations — he prepared for what looked like a 540 on the quarterpipe. As he reached the lip of the ramp, Brown appeared to lose control. His momentum carried him away from the wall of the ramp and over its flat section.

He fell about 45 feet, landing on his feet before falling to his back. Brown lay motionless on the ramp for several minutes while he was tended to by medical personnel.

“I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Pierre-Luc Gagnon, who wound up finishing third in the event. “That was the gnarliest slam I’ve ever seen in my life. I thought he was dead.”

Much to everyone’s surprise, Brown walked off the ramp afterward with assistance and was seen talking.

Italy struggles with Chinese migrants

Culture: As Chinese working conditions have undercut price of labor in Prato, Italy's main textile manufacturing city and some other places in the nation.

The Mayor of Prato, Marco Romagnoli, is worried.

"The Chinese are such a strong, close-knit community and our two cultures are very different. Many Italians blame them for economic problems. And as the Chinese get richer they are buying up large chunks of our textile sector - using their ties with China to become even more powerful."

Business leaders blame Italy's high labour costs, the strong euro and weak dollar, for a dramatic drop in exports and productivity.

But they also blame the Chinese migrants flooding into Italy's factories.

"Everybody underestimated the impact of this. Socially it's a disaster. The Chinese don't mix with us or speak the language. It's been a shock," says Carlo Longo, an Italian yarn entrepreneur and chairman of the Confederation of Industrialists in Prato.

"We have to allocate a lot of resources for the Chinese in the city. And many of them work "black" - they don't pay taxes or contribute to the costs of the city. My colleagues resent having to stick to the rules when the Chinese don't."

"What happens in Prato" he adds, "is a yardstick for all Italy. I fear that what happened in Milan could happen here in Prato."

Southwick makes it out of Judiciary Committee.

Politics: Thanks to Dianne Feinstein's vote. Far left groups are going to be pissed and poor Tavis Smiley.

Background on the nomination here.

Obama no nuke pledge. Clinton nails him again.

Politics: Someone needs to get a hold of Obama and sit him down about his foreign/terrorism/military policy. He is the 2007 version of Jimmy Carter after he left office.

"I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance," Obama said, with a pause, "involving civilians." Then he quickly added, "Let me scratch that. There's been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That's not on the table."

Clinton: "I think that presidents should be very careful at all times in discussing the use or non-use of nuclear weapons. Presidents, since the Cold War, have used nuclear deterrence to keep the peace. And I don't believe that any president should make any blanket statements with respect to the use or non-use of nuclear weapons."

Teacher disillusioned after failing student gets a pass.

Edumacation: It is clear Mr. Lampros never heard of the student alive just pass them curve in various schools.

After having failed to graduate with her class in June 2006, Miss Fernandez, who, through her mother, declined to be interviewed, returned to Arts and Technology last September for a fifth year. She was enrolled in Mr. Lampros’s class in intermediate algebra. Absent for more than two-thirds of the days, she failed, and that grade was left intact by administrators.

When second semester began, Miss Fernandez again took the intermediate algebra class, which fulfilled one of her graduation requirements. According to Mr. Lampros’s records, she missed one-third of the classes, arrived late for 20 sessions, turned in half the required homework assignments, failed 11 of 14 tests and quizzes, and never took the final exam.

Two days after the June 12 final, Miss Fernandez told Mr. Lampros that she had a doctor’s note excusing her from school on the day of the exam, he said. On June 18, she asked him if she had failed the class, and he told her she had. The next day, the principal summoned Mr. Lampros to a meeting with Miss Fernandez and her mother. He was ordered, he said, to let her retake the final.

The hilarious ending.

Samantha Fernandez, Indira’s mother, spoke on her behalf. “My daughter earned everything she got,” she said. Of Mr. Lampros, she said, “He needs to grow up and be a man.”

From Michigan, Mr. Lampros recalled one comment that Mrs. Fernandez made during their meeting about why it was important for Indira to graduate. She couldn’t afford to pay for her to attend another senior prom in another senior year.

read it.

Useful idiot Sean Penn goes to praise Hugo Chavez.

Entertainment: Castro is ailing so I suppose Hollywood liberals need a new anti-American hero to get close to these days.

Hollywood star and activist Sean Penn was welcomed overnight to Venezuela by President Hugo Chavez, who shares the US actor's strong criticism of US President George W Bush's foreign policy.

"Sean Penn is in Venezuela," Mr Chavez said over national television.

"I spoke with him by telephone and will see him" on Thursday, he said. "He came by himself on a commercial airliner."

On Tuesday, Penn "walked the neighborhoods of Caracas," Mr Chavez said.

He said that the 2003 Oscar-winning actor of Mystic River visited Barlovento, 100 kilometres east of Caracas.

Penn "is moved by his conscience, in search of new pathways," Mr Chavez said.

Mr Chavez also read part of an open letter Penn sent to Mr Bush, in which he criticised the war in Iraq.

Mr Chavez said Penn "is well informed about what goes on in the United States and in the world, despite being in Hollywood.

"He is not a man who lives in poverty - we can imagine his income - but is involved in social action."

CAIR goes after Robert Spencer.

Culture: CAIR scoring own goals day after day.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Obama would invade Pakistan! Bullhockey.

Politics: Hillary naive dig got to Obama hard because I have never seen a more idiotic reponse in trying to make himself a tough guy leader.

Obama said if elected in November 2008 he would be willing to attack inside Pakistan with or without approval from the Pakistani government, a move that would likely cause anxiety in the already troubled region.

"If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will," Obama said.

The Illinois Democrat is trying to convince Americans he has the foreign policy heft to be president after a rival candidate, New York Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton, questioned his readiness to be commander in chief.

Clinton last week labeled Obama naive for saying he would be willing to meet the leaders of Iran, Cuba, Syria, North Korea and Venezuela without preconditions in his first year in office.

A poll by The Wall Street Journal and NBC News said Clinton has widened her lead over Obama, going up to 43 percent in July from 39 percent in June. Obama tallied 22 percent, down from 25 percent in June.

Those polled cited Clinton's experience and competence highest among her positive attributes.

Obama said he would make hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional on Pakistan making substantial progress in closing down training camps, evicting foreign fighters and preventing the Taliban from using Pakistan as a staging area for attacks on Afghanistan.

A ridiculous line of thinking. Pakistan is a useful ally in the vein of " They are bastards, but they are our bastards" that you can't push around in a speech. The area where al-qaeda is holed up in is lawless, not even Pakistan has a small hold on power over it. You are talking about an area where you can't roll up in tanks and huge numbers expecting to win or even get the tribes on your side. Iraq now would be a cakewalk compared to Obama's proposal.

How the hell can you think of meeting with leaders who want to roll over us and then turn around talking this sort of trash against a nuclear-armed Muslim country where a sizable minority answers to no one but their own clan? General Musharraf right now is shaky and this sort of rhetoric shows how naive and irresponsible Obama is when it comes to foreign policy. You push Musharraf out and you are liable to get someone in power that would provoke India to go to war.

Other Dem rivals and GOP candidates have ripped him so far tonight.

"....Thousands of Taliban fighters are based in Pakistan's vast and jagged mountains, where they can pass into Afghanistan, train for suicide operations and find refuge from local tribesmen. Intelligence experts warn that al-Qaida could be rebuilding to mount another attack on the United States.

Analysts say U.S. military action could risk destabilizing Pakistan, breeding more militancy and undermining Musharraf. A military response also could be difficult, given Pakistan's hostile terrain and the suspicion of its warrior-minded tribesmen against uninvited outsiders.

Obama's speech opened him to new criticism from rivals for the presidential nomination. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said the United States should practice tough diplomacy with Musharraf, but ``it is important not to unnecessarily inflame the Muslim world.''

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden was harsher, saying Obama was showing inexperience in foreign policy.

``The way to deal with it is not to announce it, but to do it,'' the Delaware senator said. ``The last thing you want to do is telegraph to the folks in Pakistan that we are about to violate their sovereignty, putting Musharraf in the position that makes it virtually impossible for him to do anything other than what he's done, basically cut a deal with the warlords on the border.''

Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd said he would make fighting terrorists a top priority if elected president, ``but I will not declare my intentions for specific military action to the media in the context of a political campaign.''

``It is dangerous and irresponsible to leave even the impression the United States would needlessly and publicly provoke a nuclear power,'' Dodd said.

The Clinton campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

On the Republican side, Sen. John McCain, campaigning in Palo Alto, Calif., for the GOP nomination, said Obama's threat to use military force in Pakistan shows he does not understand the complexities of the region. He called the situation in Pakistan ``very delicate'' and said a direct American attack could cause a backlash that might topple Musharraf.

President Bush has said he would order military action if intelligence showed top terror leaders were hiding in Afghanistan. But the relationship with Musharraf has been friendly and cooperative.

Michelle Malkin has a roundup of incredulous blog reaction to this speech.

Punisher gets a 3rd restart as movie franchise.

Entertainment: I actually thought the second version with Thomas Jane started out well and then couldn't decide if it was a comedy/action pic. 3rd time the charm?

Lionsgate is overhauling "The Punisher," setting an October start date for a new franchise that will be built on the broad shoulders of "Rome" star Ray Stevenson.
Director Lexi Alexander, the German-born former world kickboxing champ who directed "Hooligans," will helm the film, which will aim for an R rating.

Nick Santora, Kurt Sutter, Matt Holloway and Art Marcum wrote the script. Gale Anne Hurd and Marvel Studios' Kevin Feige are producing with Avi Arad. MHF Zweite Academy Film is financing.

Stevenson was first seen in Hollywood alongside Clive Owen in the Antoine Fuqua-directed "King Arthur," but he's known for playing the Roman soldier Titus Pullo in the HBO series.

"Ray was the first name I wrote down after I saw 'Rome,' because he managed to keep the audience caring about him despite being the most violent guy," said Feige.

Ray Stevenson.

"The Joe" turns the screws on Spitzer.

Politics: It sounds like Spitzer is going to find out what New York politics is really about after Brune gets done with him.

Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer rolled into office on a promise to clean up and energize a moribund government beholden to special interests, and one of the state's top Republicans looked like a man with a target on his back.

Instead, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno has the upper hand on Spitzer — nicknamed the Steamroller — just seven months into the governor's first term and as the GOP fights to keep its slim majority in an increasingly Democratic state.

"Steamrollers don't do very well when the going gets tough. Going uphill, they just spin," Bruno said, "and he didn't know that. But he's finding out now."

Resident Evil 5 upsets over killing African zombies.

Gaming: Concerns started over having a white military guy killing black zombies in an African setting at the Village Voice blog and I am going to ignore blacklooks as it seems she doesn't understand the mythos behind the game and the different settings it has been played in. The Village Voice blog is more inane because it is your typical hypersensitive liberal white person going on about how she feels about it.

Though the full details of the storyline aren’t public yet, the trailer makes a few things clear: you play as a white Chris Redfield, the same all-American boy who has been taking down old-school leg-draggers for years. And the zombies? You guessed it: the local villagers. Which means that the hordes of undead you’ll be pumping round after round of ammo into—they’re all black.

Resident Evil 5 is already raising questions about racism (White good guys vs. black bad guys? Is this some kind of race war?), or maybe questions about Capcom’s judgment (Who okayed this for production?). As one forum commenter wrote, “Is it just me, or is there something subtly racist about gunning down mobs of angry Africans?”

But the point isn’t to smack one more label on mainstream video games (violent, sexist, racist). The point is that—for this white girl, at least—the Resident Evil 5 trailer is strangely disturbing.

My opinion to this point on how little is known about the plot is get over yourself. Unless Capcom went Tintin in the Congo in RE5 this is all a bunch of overworked imaginations and paranoia that millions will be playing the game for the sole purpose of killing off black people.

Dems want to keep GOP from votes on Iraq

Politics: No matter what, everything comes down to politics.

WASHINGTON - House Democratic leaders are intent on sidetracking bipartisan attempts to change course in Iraq at least until fall, officials said Tuesday, rather than allow nervous Republicans to vote for legislation that lacks a troop withdrawal deadline.

Several lawmakers and aides said the goal was to deny members of the GOP rank and file a chance to proclaim their independence from President Bush by voting for a limited measure — after months of backing his policy in an increasingly unpopular war.

...One strategist, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Democrats had concluded Republicans "want to put some daylight between themselves and the president" and should not be allowed to do so "after voting in lockstep for the past four years." All officials spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss the issue publicly.

One such bill requires the Pentagon to provide Congress with plans for a troop redeployment within 60 days. The measure cleared the House Armed Services last week on a bipartisan vote of 55-2.

Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, one of the sponsors, said in an interview that he was hoping for a vote before Congress begins a vacation at week's end.

"The one thing that would actually advance the agenda would be to get a redeployment plan," said Abercrombie, a self-described progressive who has voted for far stronger legislation, including a fixed troop withdrawal deadline.

In a challenge to his own leadership, Abercrombie said, "I would hate to be in a situation where the Democratic Party was trying to explain that it wants to score political points rather than end the war."

Abercrombie is so naive about Washington.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Democrats running to expand eavesdropping.

Terrorism: Don't want too look that obviously weak on terrorists.

WASHINGTON, July 31 — Under pressure from President Bush, Democratic leaders in Congress are scrambling to pass legislation this week to expand the government’s electronic wiretapping powers.

Democratic leaders have expressed a new willingness to work with the White House to amend what both sides agree is a problem in the current law, Congressional aides said. The administration says that the National Security Agency is now required to seek court approval before eavesdropping on some purely foreign telephone calls and e-mail.

Democratic leaders and the White House have agreed that the law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, should be changed to make it easier to monitor such communications.

39 year old granny sells heroin with 11 year old granddaughter.

Crime: Yet another story where so much wrong is packed into one short article.

A 39-year-old grandmother accused of selling heroin on the streets of a Los Angeles suburb with her 11-year-old granddaughter as a lookout has been arrested on drug and child endangerment charges, police said on Tuesday.

Undercover officers watched for two weeks as Martha Gutierrez Novas sold heroin at a bus stop in Long Beach, south of Los Angeles, clutching a brown and white Chihuahua and often with her granddaughter at her side, a police spokesman said.

"The granddaughter acted as a lookout, standing at the corner of the building looking, I assume, for police officers," said Sgt. Paul LeBaron, a Long Beach spokesman. "It's horrible. Absolutely horrible. I've never seen anything this blatant. She just didn't even care."

Someone can figure out the math about the daughter.

Pace University lies about meeting CAIR.

Nation: The on-going travesty of a case against Stanislav Shmulevich who threw Korans in the toilet. Pace Uni now denies meeting with CAIR about this case, but LGF says they are lying.

Update# Christopher Hitchens/Prager on Paula Zahn show talking about the case with CAIR's Hooper who is trying hard to deflect while throwing a dishonest smear on Robert Spencer and lying about Cat Stevens aka Yusuf Islam.

Don Oprah Corleone Winfrey.

Media: It's not personal James Frey, strictly business.

Talese said she was led to believe Oprah's January 2006 show was going to be a panel discussion with Frank Rich of the New York Times and Richard Cohen of the Washington Post on "Truth in America," but just before air time she was told by a producer that the show had been changed and would now be titled "The James Frey Controversy."

She said she was bothered by the sanctimoniousness of Oprah Winfrey and the way the talk-show host attacked Frey, whose work Talese believes has great value for anyone who must deal with a loved one who is an addict. The publisher said that when she took responsibility for the publishing of the book on the show she said Oprah "didn't ask me another question," but turned her attention and wrath on Frey. After the show, Talese said Frey told her Oprah pulled him aside and said, "I know it was rough, but it's just business."

So Gayle King would be Luca Brasi?

One cannabis joint as bad as five cigarettes

Health: Crud, all those trips to Amsterdam are now in question, well more than before.

Smoking a single cannabis joint is as harmful to lungs as having up to five cigarettes in succession, according to research published on Tuesday.

Researchers found that those who smoking cannabis damaged both the lungs' small fine airways, used for transporting oxygen, and the large airways, which blocked the airflow.

It meant that cannabis smokers complained of wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness, the study by experts at the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand found.

The findings come less than a week after researchers said using marijuana increased the risk of developing a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia.

The government is currently considering whether cannabis should be reclassified as a more serious drug because of the dangers associated with stronger strains.

"The danger cannabis poses to respiratory health is consistently being overlooked," said Helena Shovelton, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation.

"Smoking a joint is more harmful to the lungs than smoking a cigarette and we have just banned people from doing that in public places because of the health risks."

Watch out potheads in the UK, the government is coming for you!

Illegals self-deporting in Framingham, Mass.

Immigration: Just amazing what happens when you put just a little effort in enforcing the law.

Across MetroWest and the Milford area, many Brazilian immigrants are packing their belongings and leaving for good as they grow tired of immigration crackdowns, increasing demands from employers to produce working papers, and the worsening exchange rate between the dollar and Brazil's currency, the real.

For years, illegal immigrants from Brazil have coped with the uncertainty of life here and the threat of deportation because of a favorable exchange rate. When the dollar hit its lowest level in three years this month compared to the Brazilian real, a result of the real's strengthening due to Brazil's export boom, many people decided to take the plane home.

UN approves 26,000 peacekeepers for Darfur

Africa: Finally, peace will be at hand....not really.

The United Nations launched the largest peacekeeping mission in the world last night in an attempt to halt more than four years of massacres that have cost almost a quarter of a million lives in the Darfur region of Sudan.

After months of tortuous negotiation, the UN Security Council adopted unanimously a landmark resolution, co-sponsored by Britain, to create a 26,000-strong “hybrid” UN-African Union peacekeeping force.

The force, to be composed primarily of African troops, will be empowered to “take the necessary action” to prevent attacks and protect civilians in the vast desert region that has been racked by violence since 2003.

It sounds lovely till you realize

Diplomats had been working to secure Sudan’s agreement to an expanded peacekeeping force. A British-sponsored resolution in 2006, authorising a larger UN force of 17,300 troops plus 3,300 police, came to nothing when Sudan refused to consent.

A summit in Addis Ababa last November devised a new three-tiered proposal, starting with the UN providing first “light support” and then “heavy support” to the African Union operation before establishing the UN-AU force. The UN is still struggling to deploy the “heavy support” package of 2,250 troops, 750 police and six attack helicopters.

Why would Sudan say yes to this 26,000 strong?

At Sudan’s insistence the new force will have a “predominantly African character”. China, an ally of Sudan, signalled yesterday that it may be willing to provide peacekeeping troops. China has already pledged 275 soldiers for the UN’s “heavy support” package in Darfur and could provide engineers to help to establish the new force. The Chinese Ambassador to the UN said that Beijing would send more troops if it were approached.

China buys two thirds of Sudan’s oil and is facing calls for a boycott of the 2008 Beijing Olympics for not applying enough pressure on the Sudanese Government over Darfur.

It is because they will be able to still get away with violence in Darfur while saying they are trying to work with the UN.

School to install foot baths for Muslims

Culture: Nothing new as the LATIMES once again comes late to the party on this issue. The ACLU is still spinning like crazy in a way they would never do for Christians.

"....Critics insist that such efforts are giving Islamic followers preferential treatment over other faiths.

"Plumbing? You must be kidding. That's an after-the-fact justification for something that is being done for the purpose of meeting a religious demand," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington.

"You start permanently changing your architecture for one religious group, you have to do it for all. After all, what's the difference between a foot bath used as part of a ritual and a fountain that can be used for a baptism?" asked Lynn.

"Considering there are 2,000 different religious groups in America, that's a very slippery slope."

Yet the American Civil Liberties Union, a fierce advocate for separating church and state, seems to be giving the foot baths a nod.

Though the plan raises a red flag because it's illegal for schools to use public funds to install religious symbols such as crucifixes, ACLU of Michigan officials said, the question of whether Muslim prayer rugs or foot baths fall into the same category remains fuzzy.

"We have never encountered a situation where the motivation seems to be a response to a practical cleanliness and safety issue," the ACLU of Michigan said in a statement. "Indeed, if the university refused to allow Muslim students to wash their feet in the sink without there being a viable alternative, we would have concerns about whether the university was unconstitutionally interfering with students' right to practice their religion."

University of Toronto closes shooting range.

Canada: As peace broke out across the city as the U of T Wussies to strike a blow to paranoid delusions of feeling better about themselves because being around guns make them feel so sad.

Concerns about the "sinister uses" of guns in society have prompted University of Toronto officials to rid the campus of its 88-year-old sport shooting range, despite its continued popularity and spotless safety record.

"In today's world, even the perception of tolerance of guns and gun violence is seen as a negative," said Catherine Riggall, the university's vice-president of business affairs, who approved the decision recently. "This is the last university in the country to have a gun range on campus ... it's just not seen as a priority activity."

Leaders of the 400-member Hart House Rifle and Revolver Clubs argue otherwise, saying the decision reflects a distorted view of a calm and highly technical activity, perpetuates unfair stereotypes and blocks off an avenue to explore and debate uncomfortable ideas.

"The big distinction is that shooting is a politically incorrect sport," said Kristofer Coward, a graduate student in mathematics who has been a member of the rifle club's executive and the university's governing council.

"The university is the last place in the world that should be shying away from politically incorrect things."

The shooting clubs' woes are unfolding against a wider backdrop of concern about firearms because of high-profile incidents of gun violence in Toronto and elsewhere. Less than 10 days ago, an 11-year-old Toronto boy was killed by a stray bullet during a gang-related shootout, prompting Ontario Attorney-General Michael Bryant to call for a nationwide ban on handguns. As well, campus shootings at Virginia Tech in April and at Montreal's Dawson College last September still resonate.

Earlier this year, a U of T committee reviewed the activities at Hart House, which houses recreational clubs and events for students and alumni. Among the committee's 12 recommendations was a call to abolish the rifle and revolver clubs because, "while firearms and other weapons can serve some purposes, they are also a painful reminder and a symbol (and, regardless of the safeguards, a potential agent) of more sinister uses."

Next up a ban on knives because they are a painful reminder they can cut things.

Muslims protest over factory that could 'rain down' pork

UK: This could be one of the most embarrassing "outrages" UK Muslims have come up with in a while.

A group of Muslims have opposed plans for a pet food factory to be built as possible pork emissions will violate their religious rights.

Butchers Pet Care could shelve plans for a factory in Coton Park, near Rugby, because angry Asian families have complained to their residents' association about pork smells drifting into their garden.

Muslim residents in the area also claim the pork will effectively "rain down" on their homes and gardens after the factory's 100ft chimney has pumped the meat extracts into the atmosphere.

The Coton Park Residential Association said they have received complaints from Muslims - who are directed to not eat pork by the Qur'an - and are taking the matter very seriously.

Of course they are and already the "I have my rights! I have my rights" crowd is out in force.

Another Muslim family added: "A Muslim is obliged to be clean spiritually, mentally and physically.

"Abstention from eating flesh of swine is one of the obligations a Muslim must observe to attain purity of the soul and of the human nature.

"Therefore, we believe that not only will we be contaminated but also our faith by the owners of this proposed pet food plant.

"In this country we are allowed the right to follow our religion and religious beliefs. By allowing this plan to go ahead our religious rights are being swept to one side for what appears to be economic greed.

"We feel sure that there are other areas where this factory could be built that would not impact on us or others like us."

I guess all those jobs will be going with it too to mollify a couple of malcontents who stupidly thinks a pet food factory will rain pork bits across the land.

A statement from Butchers Pet Care said: "The majority of our natural products are beef and poultry.

"Pork ingredients account for less than 10% of our range.

"At Coton Park we plan to introduce state-of-the-art odour extraction through the chimney stack.

"An environmental impact report has already concluded that emissions at the proposed Coton Park site should not have an adverse impact on air quality and odour levels.

"We would like to reiterate that we do not burn any animal materials."

Monday, July 30, 2007

Illegal immigratgion down in Colorado?

Immigration: Cause of tougher state laws, the self-deportation method seems to be working.

The 46-year-old native of Chihuahua, Mexico, was on his way home - for good.

"It's getting too difficult to stay," said Rodriguez, a construction worker who came to the United States illegally in 2003. "It was fine when I got here. It was easy to get work. Nobody bothered you. Now, everyone is asking for documentation. I want to live a more tranquil life."

Rodriguez is hardly alone, say local business owners who cater to Hispanic immigrants. They say state laws aimed at curbing illegal immigration, along with several high-profile raids in Colorado by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials over the past year, have scared away their immigrant clientele.

How many immigrants may be leaving Colorado or passing through the state when they cross the border is unknown. But a recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center found that since mid-2006 the number of immigrants either returning from Mexico or arriving in the United States for the first time has apparently tapered off.

'Sicko' slant irksome even in Canada.

Nation: Via Scrippsnews. Sally Pipes blasts Moore and his love for Canadian Health Care.

"...Government-run health care in Canada inevitably devolves into a dehumanizing system of triage, where the weak and the elderly are hastened to their fates by actuarial calculation. Having fought the Canadian health-care bureaucracy on behalf of my ailing mother just two years ago -- she was too old, and too sick, to merit the highest-quality care in the government's eyes -- I can honestly say that Moore's preferred health-care system is something I wouldn't wish on him.

In 1999, my uncle was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. If he'd lived in America, the miracle drug Rituxan might have saved him. But Rituxan wasn't approved for use in Canada, and he lost his battle with cancer.

But don't take my word for it: Even the Toronto Star agrees that Moore's endorsement of Canadian health care is overwrought and factually challenged. And the Star is considered a left-wing newspaper, even by Canadian standards.

Just last month, the Star's Peter Howell reported from the Cannes Film Festival that Moore became irate when Canadian reporters challenged his portrayal of their national health-care system. "You Canadians! You used to be so funny!" exclaimed an exasperated Moore. "You gave us all our best comedians. When did you turn so dark?"

Moore further claimed that the infamously long waiting lists in Canada are merely a reflection of the fact that Canadians have a longer life expectancy than Americans, and that the sterling system is swamped by too many Canadians who live too long.

Canada's media know better. In 2006, the average wait time from seeing a primary-care doctor to getting treatment by a specialist was over four months. Out of a population of 32 million, there are about 3.2 million Canadians trying to get a primary-care doctor. Today, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Canada ranks 24th out of 28 countries in doctors per thousand people"

US gains against Iraq Al-Qaeda, sectarian fight still challenges.

Iraq: By the liberal Brookins Institution no less reported by the AFP.

US forces have made significant progress in weakening Al-Qaeda in Iraq, but it is not yet clear whether it will have a lasting impact on the broader sectarian conflict there, US analysts say.
In what may be the most far reaching development, Sunni tribal leaders and some insurgent groups have sided with US forces as they pressed a series of offensives against the Iraq arm of Al-Qaeda, known as AQI.

"The Al-Qaeda piece is certainly the main bit of good news on the military front, and I think it's extraordinarily good news," said Michael O'Hanlon, an analyst at the Brookings Institution.

"And it's become much more effective because of the collaboration of the Iraqis," he told AFP.

A longtime observer and critic of the way the war has been run, O'Hanlon returned this week from Iraq impressed by the broad shift in Sunni sentiment against AQI in areas where it once was a dominant force.

"The US military has cultivated magnificent contacts," he said.

"Although the best catalyst of all may have been Al-Qaeda itself, which has been so exceedingly brutal even with its fellow Sunnis that it finally turned them against Al-Qaeda," he added.

The turnaround has been most striking in Sunni communities in western Iraq that have fought the US occupation almost from the start more than four years ago.

As for the sectarian violence, my feeling would be to just move out of the way(not cut and run) and where you can push talks between groups do so.

Loren Thompson, a military expert with the Lexington Institute here, said the Sunnis and Shiites may never be reconciled.

"But recognizing that sectarian split, there is a special quality to suicide bombers that relatively few people on either side bring to the fight, a sort of crazy brutality that makes it impossible to come up with any stabilization plan that will be a success," he said.

"This is my oblique way of saying if we can suppress the suicide fanatics, everything else becomes easier."

"For the first time in years, we are making tangible progress in reducing the violence, and providing a reasonable environment to allow the political leaders to compromise," he added.

South African church shelters Zimbabweans

Africa: Via Reuters.

The tall 34-year-old, slouching exhausted in a Johannesburg church that has become a de facto transit camp, is one man in a tide of migrants washing up in South Africa.

"There is nothing for me there in our country any more. I had no job and I could not afford anything. Even when I was working life was tough," he said.

"It's hard for everyone ... I thought it was better for me here," said the former store clerk, whose dusty jeans and boots tell of a long and difficult journey.

The tale told by Average -- whose name is not unusual in Zimbabwe -- is depressingly familiar to a people who have watched their once prosperous land spiral into economic disaster.

When Mugabe's government, facing inflation of close to 5,000 percent, ordered companies to halve prices of basic goods and services a month ago -- effectively demanding that they operate at a loss -- Average lost his job as the supermarket chain he worked for cut staff.

Facing the prospect of homelessness and hunger in his own country, he joined the estimated 4,000 Zimbabweans who head south to South Africa, most of them illegally, every day.

Mugabe, 83 and in power since the country's independence from Britain in 1980, has been accused of running Zimbabwe's economy into the ground while implementing a draconian crackdown aimed at keeping power.

That soft diplomacy gimmick by South Africa will work any day now.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Obama doesn't get foreign policy.

Politics: Especially American foreign policy.

The quarrel emerged from this week’s debate in South Carolina, when Mrs. Clinton said she would not meet with foreign leaders, including those of Iran and North Korea, without preconditions. She later criticized Mr. Obama’s response as “irresponsible and, frankly, naïve.”

Those four words touched off the most direct confrontation yet in the fight for the Democratic nomination. And Mr. Obama worked to keep the distinction alive during a weekend trip to Iowa, turning the disagreement into an example of how he would lead the country differently.

“Our standing in the world has diminished so much because people think that the United States wants to dictate across the world instead of cooperate across the world,” Mr. Obama said Saturday. “When we start sending a signal that we are ready to engage in serious diplomacy, then we’ve got the opportunity to stand before the world and say: We’re back. America is back.”

America has never left thanks. America diplomacy applies when America can get something out of it and on our terms. Yes America wants to dictate on our own terms when it comes to our interest and we cooperate when it is in our best interest. That doesn't mean sending out PR coups for dictators who are trying to play us. When he makes a statement like this.

At a Concord rally, Obama said that it's time for a fundamental change in the country. He then fired off the latest jab in an ongoing battle with Clinton.

"I'm not afraid to of losing the PR war with dictators," Obama said. "I'm happy to look them in the eye and say what needs to be said."

It shows how completely naive he is about world politics and he would get mauled in the process.

Chuck Schumer looking out for Wall Street.

Business: In particular the private equity and hedge fund industries which some Dems are desperate to tax out of existence.

But there is another way Mr. Schumer has been busy with hedge fund and private equity managers, an important part of his constituency in New York. He has been reassuring them that he will resist an effort led by members of his own party to single out the industry with a plan that would more than double the taxes on the enormous profits reaped by its executives.

Mr. Schumer has considerable say on the issue. In addition to being the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate leadership, he is the only Democrat serving on both of the major committees, Banking and Finance, that have jurisdiction in the matter.

He has long been a pro-business Democrat and a fund-raising machine for the party, as well as a vociferous supporter of Wall Street issues in Washington, much the way Michigan lawmakers defend the auto industry and Iowa politicians work on behalf of corn farmers.

In this case Schumer has his head on straight because he understands the implication of trying to kill a cash cow.

Mr. Schumer said in an interview that he was torn between the need to protect an industry vital to his home state and the need to generate revenues to finance government programs. He said a tax increase on private equity and hedge fund executives could lead to an exodus of jobs and companies from New York, and even from the country. He said the plan, if enacted federally, would also lead to an increase in New York State tax that would further bear down on the industry. He said he worried that the industry was being unfairly singled out.

“Unintended consequences often occur when you do major tax work. And you have to be careful,” Mr. Schumer said in the interview, held in his office just off the Senate floor.

On the other hand he has to deal with people like Charles Rangel who doesn't seem to understand much of anything.

But even some of Mr. Schumer’s fellow New York Democrats dispute that notion, including Representative Charles B. Rangel, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax matters.

“If the businesses are so fragile that taxing them at an equitable rate will cause them to leave the city, I can’t picture that,” Mr. Rangel said.

Iran' halfway house to an atomic bomb.

Iran: Even a sympathetic Guardian reporter can't overlook the obvious.

"....For the time being, the wires are back in place at Isfahan, along with two IAEA cameras that stare down from high perches on either side. But the degree of international control is tenuous at best. The very fact that the machinery is humming at Isfahan puts Iran in contravention of UN security council resolutions, calling for all work related to uranium enrichment to be suspended.

The tour given to foreign journalists was a show of openness which backfired when the government changed its mind at the last minute over what it was prepared to show. But the trip was also meant to send a clear message: that Iran has no intention of giving up any part of its nuclear endeavour, which it regards as entirely within its rights.

The Iranian government has dug in deep, convincing its population that mastery of uranium fuel production is synonymous with development and prosperity.

Before the Isfahan tour, a promotion film was screened showing the production of the first UF6 at the plant in 2004. The Iranian government also claims to have mastered the next step in the process, the engineering feat involved in spinning the UF6 in a high-speed centrifuge and separating out a variant, or isotope, of uranium, that is highly fissile - uranium-235. The work is being done at a centrifuge plant being built in Natanz, to the northeast of Isfahan.

Spinning the UF6 gas until it is up to 5% rich in U-235 produces nuclear fuel. Keep spinning until it is 90% enriched and you have the makings of a bomb.

That - combined with the fact that Iran omitted to tell the IAEA about Natanz until its existence was revealed by an opposition group in 2002 - lie at the roots of the global scepticism over Iran's programme.

But there is another huge question mark hanging over Isfahan and Natanz: why is the government in such a rush to enrich fuel, when it has no nuclear power plants in which to use it?

They are like the boy scouts, be prepared?

Voters think Spitzer knew.

Politics: Yes, I am enjoying the bully getting his nose punched in a lot.

A WNBC/Marist Poll released today found that 62 percent of New York State voters say there should be a further investigation into what Gov. Eliot Spitzer knew about his aides’ use of the State Police to gather damaging information about the travels of the State Senate majority leader, Joseph L. Bruno.

The poll found that 33 percent thought the investigation released on Monday by the state attorney general, Andrew M. Cuomo, was adequate, and 5 percent were uncertain.
The poll, which was conducted among 554 registered voters across New York State on Wednesday and Thursday and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 5 percentage points, offers a first glimpse at the damage the scandal has inflicted on the Spitzer administration. The five-page poll results are here.