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The Right of the People to be Secure in their Persons, Houses, Papers, and Effects,
Against Unreasonable Searches and Seizures,
Shall Not Be Violated


Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Blaze:

Chaos In Cairo: Lethal Egyptian Police Crackdown on Tahrir Protestors

The Blaze/AP)– Hundreds of Egyptian soldiers swept into Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Saturday, chasing protesters and beating them to the ground with sticks and tossing journalists’ TV cameras off of balconies in the second day of a violent crackdown on antimilitary protesters that has left nine dead and hundreds injured.

The violent, chaotic scenes suggested that the military – fresh after the first rounds of parliament elections that it claimed bolstered its status as the country’s rulers – was now determined to stamp out protests by activists demanding it transfer power immediately to civilians.

Here is a video from Tahrir posted to Youtube, which shows a veiled woman thrown to the street, beaten, and stripped of her veil:

TV footage, pictures and eyewitnesses accounts showed a new level of force being used by the military against pro-democracy activists the past two days. Military police openly beat women protesters in the street, slap elders on the face, and pulled the shirt off of at least one veiled woman as she struggled on the pavement. Witnesses said they beat and gave electric shocks to men and women dragged into detention, many of them held in the nearby parliament or Cabinet buildings, witnesses said.

An overview of the protest crackdown from a window with a direct line of sight to Tahrir, as posted to Youtube:

Aya Emad, a 24-year-old protester, had a broken nose, her arm in a sling, her other arm bruised. She told Associated Press that troops dragged her by her headscarf and hair into the Cabinet headquarters. She said soldiers kicked her on the ground, an officer shocked her with an electrical prod and another slapped her on the face.

tents before crackdown

With Egypt in the midst of multistage parliamentary elections, the violence threatens to spark a new cycle of fighting after deadly clashes between youth revolutionaries and security forces in November that lasted for days and left more than 40 dead. The clashes in November involved the widely disliked police force. But in a key difference, this time the police have stayed away and the crackdown is being led entirely by the military.

That could indicate a new confidence among the military that it has backing of the broader public – after elections held under its watch that saw heavy turnout, were largely peaceful and the fairest and freest in living memory.

Ahmed Abdel-Samei, who came to check on Tahrir Square, said he opposes protests. “Elections were the first step. This was a beginning to stability,” the 29-year-old said. “Now we are going 10 steps back.”

Noor Noor, an activist who was beaten up trying to protect Emad, said, “Public opinion is addicted or naturally inclined to favor stability or the illusion of it. But in time, it will be hard for the army to cover everything up.”

The heavy-handed crackdown could galvanize the military’s opponents and even some in the public who praised the army for delivering clean elections. Among those killed Friday was an eminent 52-year-old Muslim cleric from Al-Azhar, Egypt’s most respected religious institution. At the funeral Saturday of Sheik Emad Effat, who was shot in the chest, hundreds chanted “Retribution, retribution,” and marched from the cemetery to Tahrir.

Tahrir and streets leading to the nearby parliament and Cabinet headquarters looked like war zones. The military set up concrete walls between the square and parliament, but clashes continued.

Flames leaped from the windows of the state geographical society, which protesters pelted with firebombs after military police on the roof rained stones and firebombs down on them. Stones, dirt and shattered glass littered the streets around parliament.

Protesters grabbed helmets, sheets of metal and even satellite dishes to protect themselves from stones from troops above.

In the afternoon, troops charged into Tahrir, swinging truncheons and long sticks, chasing out protesters and setting fire to their tents. Footage broadcast on the private Egyptian CBC television network showed soldiers beating two protesters with sticks, repeatedly stomping on the head of one, before leaving the motionless bodies on the pavement.

The troops swept into buildings from which television crews were filming from and confiscated their equipment and briefly detained journalists.

ap image

In one case, plainclothes officers charged up the stairs of a hotel from which Al-Jazeera TV was filming the turmoil below and demanded a female hotel worker tell them where the media crew was or else they would beat her up, a member of the Al-Jazeera crew said. “The woman was screaming and saying I don’t know,” the crew member said speaking on condition of anonymity because of security concerns. The soldiers threw the Al-Jazeera crew’s equipment from the balcony, including cameras, batteries and lighting equipment to the streets, landing on a sweet potato cart whose stove started a fire.

Troops also stormed a field hospital set up protesters next to a mosque in Tahrir, throwing medicine and equipment into the street, protester Islam Mohammed said.

At least nine people have been killed and around 300 people injured in the two days of clashes, the Health Ministry said.

A journalist who was briefly detained by the military forces told Associated Press that he was beaten up with sticks and fists while being led to inside a parliament building, next to Cabinet headquarters.

“They were cursing me saying ‘you media are traitors, you tarnish our image and you are biased.”

He also saw a group of men and one young woman being beaten: Each was surrounded by six or seven soldiers in uniform and plainclothes beating him or her with sticks or steel bars or giving electrical shocks with prods. “Blood covered the floor, and an officer was telling the soldiers to wipe the blood,” said the journalist, who asked not to be identified for security concerns.

ap image

Mona Seif, an activist who was briefly detained during violence Friday, said she saw an officer repeatedly slapping a detained old woman in the face, telling her to apologize for objecting to the mistreatment.

“It was a humiliating scene,” Seif told the private TV network Al-Tahrir. “I have never seen this in my life.

Pictures posted online by activists during Friday’s fighting showed military police dragging several women by the hair, including young activists wearing the religious headscarf. One photo showed soldiers beating up a woman who appeared in her 50s.

ap image

Tahrir was the epicenter of the 18-day wave of protests that ousted Mubarak. The military was welcomed by many when it took power and proclaimed itself a partner in and protector of the revolution. Since then, tensions with activists have swelled. In a statement Saturday, the military denied targeting “Egypt’s revolutionaries,“ saying it was pursuing ”thugs” who hurled firebombs at its forces at the Cabinet.

Egypt’s new, military-appointed interim prime minister defended the security forces’ response. He denied the military or police shot at protesters, saying gunfire came from an unidentified group that “came from the back and fired at protesters.”

He accused the antimilitary protests that have been held for weeks outside the Cabinet building of being “anti-revolution.”

In a potential embarrassment to the military, a civilian advisory panel it created this month suspended its work, demanding an immediate end to violence and a formal apology from the ruling military council. Eight of its members resigned in protest of the crackdown.

The latest round of violence touched off late Thursday after soldiers stormed the antimilitary protest camp outside the Cabinet building near Tahrir Square, expelling demonstrators demanding an end to military rule and an immediate transfer of power to a civilian authority. Witnesses said troops snatched a protester, taking him into the parliament building and beating him.

Mustafa Ali, a protester who was wounded by pellet shot in clashes last month, accused the ruling generals Saturday of instigating the violence to “find a justification to remain in power and divide up people into factions.”


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Russia Seizes Radioactive Metals From Tehran-Bound Passenger

Dec. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Russian customs officials at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport stopped an Iranian citizen who was trying to board a flight to Tehran with luggage containing a radioactive substance used for medical purposes.

The young man was stopped at the airport in mid-November because his luggage was found to contain substances exceeding the natural background radiation level 20-fold, Ksenia Grebenkina, a spokeswoman for the airport’s customs office, said by telephone today. Further study found the substance was sodium-22 and a criminal case was opened, she said.

“At the time when he was checked, there was an elevated radiation level, but an analysis had to be conducted,” Grebenkina said. “There wasn’t enough evidence to open a criminal case, so there were no grounds to hold the young man.”

Russian leaders oppose new sanctions on the Persian Gulf state, which was seeking to develop atomic weapons until at least last year, according to the United Nations nuclear watchdog. President Dmitry Medvedev today reiterated Russia’s opposition to unilateral sanctions against Iran, saying they are “counterproductive.”

Customs officers found “18 industrially produced metal items individually wrapped in steel containers” in the passenger’s luggage, the Federal Customs Service said on its website earlier today. Sodium-22 doesn’t occur naturally and must be produced in cyclotron facilities, according to the customs service.

‘Raises Flags’

A man who answered the phone at Iran’s embassy in Moscow said the press service had already left.

There are between 600 and 800 seizures of radioactive substances each year in Russia, either of contaminated materials or items that weren’t properly declared, Elena Sokova, executive director at the Vienna-based Center for Disarmament Non- Proliferation, said by phone today. “It just raises flags because it’s Iran,” she said.

Iran denies accusations by the U.S. and its European allies that its civilian nuclear program is a cover for building warheads, saying the activity is needed to produce electricity. Russia built Iran’s first nuclear power station, located in the southern port city of Bushehr, which started generating electricity in September.

“The radioactive isotope itself is something that is used for medical purposes, in tomography machines,” Sokova said. “It’s not something that is suitable for a military program.”


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Daily Caller:

Federal judge: Iran shares responsibility for 9/11 terror attacks

NEW YORK — In an historic hearing in the federal courthouse in Manhattan on Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge George Daniels said he planned to issue a ruling in the coming days declaring that Iran shares in the responsibility for the 9/11 terror attacks.

“The extensive record submitted to this court, including fact witnesses and expert testimony, is satisfactory to this court,” Judge Daniels said. The court “accepts as true” the various allegations of the plaintiffs and their experts, he declared, and “will issue an order” in the coming days that Iran bears legal responsibility for providing “material support” to the 9/11 plotters and hijackers.

Family members of 9/11 victims who attended the open-court hearing broke into tears. They had nervously sat through a four-hour presentation by attorneys Thomas E. Mellon, Jr., and Timothy B. Fleming, consisting of evidence backing up their claims that Iran had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks and actively assisted the hijackers in planning, preparing, and executing their plan.

“My husband’s name is on that lawsuit,” said Fiona Havlish, the lead plaintiff in the case against Iran. Her spouse, Donald G. Havlish, Jr, perished on the 101st floor of the World Trade Center’s South Tower. “This is about my husband, all our husbands, our loved ones, our sons, our daughters.”

Ellen Saracini, whose husband, Victor Saracini, took off that morning at the controls of United Airlines Flight 175, called it “a historic day” because a U.S. court found that Iran was responsible for the attacks. “When I heard the verdict, I just smiled up to Victor and said, ‘we’re still thinking about you up there.’”

In presenting evidence gathered by the attorneys and their outside investigator, Timothy Fleming revealed tantalizing details of still-sealed videotaped depositions provided by three defectors from Iranian intelligence organizations.

One of those defectors was “physically present” when al-Qaida’s second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, came to Iran in January 2001 for four days of intense closed-door meetings with the top leadership in Iran to discuss the impending attacks.

Another took part in writing up the debriefing reports of Iran’s al-Qaida liaison, Imad Mugniyeh, once he returned to Iran from Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks.

The most dramatic moment of the hearing came when Fleming unveiled the identity of a third defector and described in detail the information he had provided.

The defector, Abdolghassem Mesbahi, had been a confidant of Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Islamic Republic’s founder, and headed up European operations for the new regime’s fledging intelligence service in the early 1980s.

Then, Mesbahi actively took part in developing a set of terrorist contingency plans, called “Shaitan der atash” — meaning “Satan in the Flames,” or “Satan on Fire” — to be used against the United States.

“This contingency plan for unconventional or asymmetrical warfare against the United States was the origin of subsequent terror attacks against the United States, up to and including the terrorist attacks of 9/11.” Fleming said. “Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda joined the Iranian operational planning in the early to mid-1990s.”

Those earlier “unconventional” attacks included the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole.

In 1996, Mesbahi learned hard-liners within the regime intended to kill him. He fled Iran for Europe, where he was granted political refugee status.

Mesbahi soon became a witness in German court proceedings stemming from the assassination of Kurdish dissidents in the Mykonos restaurant in Berlin, and went to ground in a witness protection program. Known only as “Witness C,” his testimony led the German court to name the top leadership of Iran as personally responsible for ordering the assassinations, and caused the European Union to withdraw their ambassadors from Iran for 18 months.

Ever since then, Mesbahi has been a marked man, hunted by the regime’s intelligence services.

Fleming described Mesbahi’s desperate attempts in the weeks before the 9/11 attacks to contact German and U.S. intelligence agencies, after he received a series of coded messages from one of his former intelligence colleagues in Iran.

The first message, which he received on July 23, 2001, told him that the “Shaitan der atash” contingency plan against the United States had been activated.

Mesbahi knew at that point that something awful was about to occur, but he didn’t know which of the many variants of the plan had been selected, Fleming said. In one version of the plan, Iranian-backed terrorists were supposed to attack gas stations around the United States, causing their underground fuel tanks to explode. In another, they were to attack oil refineries.

The second message, which he received on Aug. 13, 2001, told him which plan had been selected. “This was the plan to crash civilian jetliners into major U.S. cities, including New York and Washington,” Fleming said.

The third message, which Mesbahi received on Aug. 27, told him that “Germany was involved” in some way in the plans. As Fleming pointed out, several of the 9/11 hijackers, including the lead pilot, Mohammad Atta, were working out of Hamburg, Germany.

The 9/11 Commission report referred obliquely to Mesbahi and others who had “some fragmentary knowledge” of the impending attacks in its narrative of the events of the summer of 2001. The “system was blinking red” and U.S. intelligence agencies were receiving “frequent fragmentary reports from around the world,” Mellon, one of the 9/11 families’ attorneys, told the court.

Both Mellon and Fleming saluted the bravery of the three defectors who “risked their lives” to help bring out the truth of Iran’s involvement in the 9/11 plot.

In addition to the defectors, Mellon recruited three senior staff members from the 9/11 Commission to describe the importance of Iran’s efforts to facilitate the travel of the 9/11 hijackers to and from Afghanistan.

Janice Kephart, who authored a separate monograph on the terrorists’ travel for the Commission, told the court that travel facilitation was not just a coincidence. It was “like a military operation” and was “crucial military support” for the 9/11 plot, she said.

Fleming and Mellon explained that Iran sent its top terrorist operative, Imad Fayez Mugniyeh, to Saudi Arabia and Lebanon on several trips to accompany eight to ten of the “muscle” hijackers back to Iran.

This was critical, they said, because the hijackers needed to reach al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan for briefings on the 9/11 operation. But because they were traveling on new Saudi passports and either already had or intended to get U.S. visas, the U.S. might refuse them entry if they had Iranian or Afghan entry stamps.

So without Iran’s decision to allow the future hijackers invisible passage to and from Afghanistan — without stamping their passports — the 9/11 attacks might never have occurred.

As a result, Kephart testified, the U.S. State Department approved 22 of the 23 visa applications submitted by the future hijackers and their associates.

“Today, I feel a great sense of relief,” Mellon said after the judge declared his intention to rule in favor of the 9/11 families. “The families have waited a very long time for this day, so I was greatly relieved for the families. Ten years ago, one of the family members asked me, who was responsible?” for the 9/11 attacks.

“Well, today we have found — the judge has found — that the responsible party was Iran,” he added.

Judge Daniels said he expected to issue a final opinion in the case early next week, finding Iran responsible for the worst terror attacks ever perpetrated on U.S. soil.

Daniels is a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.


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Know The Religion Of Peace

Emirates 24/7:

Woman dies after beaten by ‘jinn’

A Saudi woman said to be haunted by jinn (spirits) beat and tortured herself with fire until she fell unconscious and died later at hospital.

The 40-year-old woman was admitted with severe burns and injuries to King Fahd hospital in the western town of Madina and doctors said they tried in vain to save her life.

“We have determined that the woman beat herself up and tortured herself with fire because she is gripped by jinn,” police spokesman Colonel Abdullah Al Sarani told the Saudi Arabic language daily Okaz.

“Investigation showed the other members of her family are also controlled by jinn…we closed the case as no criminal act is involved.”

Voice of the Martyrs:

Church elder killed in Mindanao, Philippines

(Source: VOM-USA)

MacArthur Arbado, an elder at the Bible Baptist Church in Carmen, Cotabato, was murdered on November 10 as he returned to his farm. The attackers shot him in the leg, back and abdomen before decapitating him with his own machete. MacArthur leaves behind his wife, Lolita, and 13 children.

Although his farm was surrounded by land owned by Muslims, he had a good relationship with his neighbours. He learned to speak their language and was called "uncle" by many. Often his Muslim friends tried to convert him to Islam, but he stood firm in his faith and talked with them about Christianity. MacArthur's killers are thought to be members of a separatist Muslim group in the area. VOM has met with MacArthur's family and provided some assistance.

Please pray that God will comfort Lolita, her children, and the church. Pray that, as sufferings overflow, their comfort in Christ will be more than enough for them (2 Corinthians 1:5). Pray that the perpetrators of this attack will repent and turn to Jesus Christ.


Taliban cut nursing woman’s breast, asked others to eat pieces: UN-backed report

Pakistani Taliban fighters cut the breasts of a woman who was breastfeeding her child and asked other women to eat the pieces, in a gory incident highlighted in a report on the abuse of women in the militancy-hit tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.

The incident occurred when five militants walked into a house and saw the woman breastfeeding her child, The Express Tribune quoted the report titled ‘Impact of crisis on women and girls in FATA’ as saying.

The report, released by the human rights organisation “Khwendo Kor” (Sisters’ Home in Pashto) with financial support from the UN, is based on case studies of women from the tribal belt living in camps set up in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa for people displaced by militancy.

Women in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas are more susceptible to abuse in a post-conflict scenario, whether or not they are part of the conflict, the report says.

Another revelation is that women in camps were forced to have sex in exchange for food and non-food items. Girls and widows were at greater risk of such abuse.

“A security officer forced me to have sex in exchange for cooking oil and pulses when I was collecting food at the main entrance of the camp,” a 22-year-old woman in Jalozai camp is quoted as saying.

The surveys conducted at relief camps at Nahqai and Jalozai showed that women were uncomfortable going to toilets because men constantly lurked around.

The report said there was also an increase in “honour killings” in which women who were raped were murdered because rape was considered a disgrace to the family.


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Friday, December 16, 2011

John Coltrane
While My Lady Sleeps

Chronic Blues

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Congress, "All-American Muslim," and Lowe's

What to say to THIS?
US Representatives Hansen Clarke (D-Detroit), Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) and John Dingell (D-Dearborn) were among 32 congressmen who authored a letter asking Lowe's chairman and chief executive to reconsider his advertising decision regarding "All-American Muslim."


In an unrelated political move, California Senator Ted Lieu has said he is considering calling for a boycott of the corporation....
More at the above link.

How can there be this many members of Congress even considering getting involved in a private business's business?

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Obama Campaign: Supporters Should Snitch On Their Republican Friends

You can't make this stuff up:
The Obama presidential campaign is launching an effort [Read that link! Gotta see it to believe it!] to collect Republican email addresses by inviting its supporters to submit information about their Republican associates to the Obama 2012 website.

The effort could help the Obama campaign build a database that would enable it to target Republican voters during the general election campaign. But, more perniciously, it could also become part of an Democratic effort to influence Republican primary voters to select a candidate Democrats think Obama could most easily defeat.


The Obama information collection effort is cast under the mischievous guise of asking Obama supporters to “have a little fun at the expense of a Republican in your life” by signing them up to get an email from the Obama campaign ribbing them for having “inspired” the Obama supporter to donate....
The result, however, is that the Obama campaign gets a new trove of Republican email addresses that it could never have collected through voluntary submissions....Just imagine if this were happening in reverse: GOP contenders "having a little fun" at the expense of the private email addresses of their Democrat associates!

This kind of nonsense cheapens the campaign and election processes. Demeans them, even.

And what kind of list will the Democratic Party then have? A list of dissenters to torment or, possibly, to "investigate."

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Christopher Hitchens


Author, pundit Christopher Hitchens dies at 62

Shannon Stapleton / Reuters file

Author Christopher Hitchens outside his hotel in New York in June, 2010.

Christopher Hitchens, the author, essayist and polemicist who waged verbal and occasional physical battle on behalf of causes on the left and right and wrote the provocative best-seller "God is Not Great," died Thursday night after a long battle with cancer. He was 62.

Hitchens' death was announced in a statement from Conde Nast, publisher of Vanity Fair magazine. The statement says he died Thursday night at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston of pneumonia, a complication of his esophageal cancer.

"There will never be another like Christopher. A man of ferocious intellect, who was as vibrant on the page as he was atthe bar," said Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter. "Those who read him felt they knew him, and those who knew him were profoundly fortunate souls."

A most-engaged, prolific and public intellectual who enjoyed his drink (enough to "to kill or stun the average mule") and cigarettes, he announced in June 2010 that he was being treated for cancer of the esophagus and canceled a tour for his memoir "Hitch-22."

Hitchens, a frequent television commentator and a contributor to Vanity Fair, Slate and other publications, had become a popular author in 2007 thanks to "God is Not Great," a manifesto for atheists that defied a recent trend of religious works. Cancer humbled, but did not mellow him. Even after his diagnosis, his columns appeared weekly, savaging the royal family or reveling in the death of Osama bin Laden.

"I love the imagery of struggle," he wrote about his illness in an August 2010 essay in Vanity Fair. "I sometimes wish I were suffering in a good cause, or risking my life for the good of others, instead of just being a gravely endangered patient."

Eloquent and intemperate, bawdy and urbane, he was an acknowledged contrarian and contradiction -- half-Christian, half-Jewish and fully non-believing; a native of England who settled in America; a former Trotskyite who backed the Iraq war and supported George W. Bush. But his passions remained constant and enemies of his youth, from Henry Kissinger to Mother Teresa, remained hated.

He was a militant humanist who believed in pluralism and racial justice and freedom of speech, big cities and fine art and the willingness to stand the consequences. He was smacked in the rear by then-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and beaten up in Beirut. He once submitted to waterboarding to prove that it was indeed torture.

Hitchens was an old-fashioned sensualist who abstained from clean living as if it were just another kind of church. In 2005, he would recall a trip to Aspen, Colorado, and a brief encounter after stepping off a ski lift.

"I was met by immaculate specimens of young American womanhood, holding silver trays and flashing perfect dentition," he wrote. "What would I like? I thought a gin and tonic would meet the case. `Sir, that would be inappropriate.' In what respect? `At this altitude gin would be very much more toxic than at ground level.' In that case, I said, make it a double."

An emphatic ally and inspired foe, he stood by friends in trouble ("Satanic Verses" novelist Salman Rushdie) and against enemies in power (Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini). His heroes included George Orwell, Thomas Paine and Gore Vidal (pre-Sept. 11,
2001). Among those on the Hitchens list of shame: Michael Moore, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong Il, Sarah Palin, Gore Vidal (post Sept. 11) and Prince Charles.

"We have known for a long time that Prince Charles' empty sails are so rigged as to be swelled by any passing waft or breeze of crankiness and cant," Hitchens wrote in 2010 after the heir to the British throne gave a speech criticizing Galileo for the scientist's focus on "the material aspect of reality."

"He fell for the fake anthropologist Laurens van der Post. He was bowled over by the charms of homeopathic medicine. He has been believably reported as saying that plants do better if you talk to them in a soothing and encouraging way. But this latest departure promotes him from an advocate of harmless nonsense to positively sinister nonsense."

Hitchens was born in Portsmouth, England, in 1949. His father, Eric, was a "purse-lipped" Navy veteran known as "The Commander"; his mother, Yvonne, a romantic who later kill herself during an extramarital rendezvous in Greece. Young Christopher would have rather read a book. He was a "a mere weed and weakling and kick-bag" who discovered that "words could function as weapons" and so stockpiled them.

In college, Oxford, he met such longtime friends as authors Martin Amis and Ian McEwan and claimed to be nearby when visiting Rhodes scholar Bill Clinton did or did not inhale marijuana. Radicalized by the 1960s, Hitchens was often arrested at political rallies, was kicked out of Britain's Labour Party over his opposition to the Vietnam War and became a correspondent for the radical magazine International Socialism. His reputation broadened in the 1970s through his writings for the New Statesman.

Wavy-haired and brooding and aflame with wit and righteous anger, he was a star of the left on paper and on camera, a popular television guest and a columnist for one of the world's oldest liberal publications, The Nation. In friendlier times, Vidal was quoted as citing Hitchens as a worthy heir to his satirical throne.

But Hitchens never could simply nod his head. He feuded with fellow Nation columnist Alexander Cockburn, broke with Vidal and angered liberals by stating that the child's life begins at conception. An essay for Vanity Fair was titled "Why Women Aren't Funny," and Hitchens wasn't kidding.

He had long been unhappy with the left's reluctance to confront enemies or friends. He would note his strong disappointment that Arthur Miller and other leading liberals shied from making public appearances on behalf of Rushdie after the Ayatollah Khomeini called for his death. He advocated intervention in Bosnia and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

No Democrat angered him more than Clinton, whose presidency led to the bitter end of Hitchens' friendship with White House aide Sidney Blumenthal and other Clinton backers. As Hitchens wrote in his memoir, he found Clinton "hateful in his behavior to women, pathological as a liar, and deeply suspect when it came to money in politics."

He wrote the anti-Clinton book, "No One Left to Lie To," at a time when most liberals were supporting the president as he faced impeachment over his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Hitchens also loathed Hillary Rodham Clinton and switched his affiliation from independent to Democrat in 2008 just so he could vote against her in the presidential primary.

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, completed his exit from the left. He fought with Vidal, Noam Chomsky and others who either suggested that U.S. foreign policy had helped caused the tragedy or that the Bush administration had advanced knowledge. He supported the Iraq war, quit The Nation, backed Bush for re-election in 2004 and repeatedly chastised those whom he believed worried unduly about the feelings of Muslims.

"It's not enough that faith claims to be the solution to all problems," he wrote in 2009 after a Danish newspaper apologized for publishing cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that led Muslim organizations to threaten legal action. "It is now demanded that such a preposterous claim be made immune from any inquiry, any critique, and any ridicule."

His essays were compiled in such books as "For the Sake of Argument" and "Prepared for the Worst." He also wrote short biographies/appreciations of Paine and Thomas Jefferson, a tribute to Orwell and "Letters to a Young Contrarian (Art of Mentoring)," in which he advised that "Only an open conflict of ideas and principles can produce any clarity." A collection of essays, "Arguably," came out in September 2011 and he was planning a "book-length meditation on malady and mortality." He appeared in a 2010 documentary about the topical singer Phil Ochs.

Survived by his second wife, author Carol Blue, and by his three children (Alexander, Sophia and Antonia), Hitchens had well crafted ideas about posterity, clarified years ago when he saw himself referred to as "the late" Christopher Hitchens in print. For the May 2010 issue of Vanity Fair, before his illness, Hitchens submitted answers for the Proust Questionnaire, a probing and personal survey for which the famous have revealed everything from their favorite color to their greatest fear.

His vision of earthly bliss: "To be vindicated in my own lifetime."

His ideal way to die: "Fully conscious, and either fighting or reciting (or fooling around)."


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Newt Gingrich's Culturist Error

In a recent debate Republican Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich created a stir by calling the Palestinians “invented.”   In fact, no such type of Arab existed prior to the 1940s.  The term actually referred to Israeli Jews.  What Gingrich argued were undeniable facts. But his belief in the solidity of facts overlooks the culturist construction of reality.

After so many generations of people calling themselves Palestinians, the use of Palestinian flags, anthems, television, and politicians; the Palestinian people have been created. A nation is a shared set of ideas backed by emotion.  The reality of Palestinians has so much cache that people will die for it.  Nations and peoples are not eternally existing entities, they are creations.  But this does not make them any less real.
If fate threw all of the Palestinians into exile, say if all of them got sent to Saudi Arabia, would they persist as a people?  The Jews faced this very question in the 5th century B.C.  Deprived of land and scattered, the Jews in exile compiled the Bible to consolidate their identity.  This common text allowed them to have something in common even when far apart. I suspect the Palestinian identity would only exist in academic / radical pockets after a few generations in exile. 
My unproven contention about time eroding the Palestinian identity in exile points to the importance of long standing shared traditions to a national identity.  The Palestinians flag and national anthem are recent creations.  They have no ancient traditional art forms particular to them. But in “The Invention of the Jewish People” Schlomo Sand argued that even the idea of Jews has been created in time. While this is obviously true, the duration of the Jews makes their identity more solid.    
What culturist lessons lie in this reality parsing? Well our starkest comparison to the Israeli situation comes from the strong concentration of people with Mexican loyalties in our Southwest.  This situation resembles that of the Palestinians because many Mexicans believe that America exists land that was stolen from them.  Herein lays the importance of Texas’ new culturist curricular laws.  To avoid Middle East style conflict our schools must teach our side of the Mexican-American War and the glory of American identity to all residents in our borders.
But many other culturist lessons emerge from my refutation of Newt’s statement. The “national existence without land” standard reminds us of the importance of shared language, flags, history, heroes, geography, ideals, etc..  Multiculturalism’s anti-colonial ideology must be replaced by culturism. We must emphasize our unity, not our differences. Our government should return to its traditional stance of considering national cohesion legitimate considerations. Borders and Nativity Scenes impact survival. But the most important lesson is that all nationalisms are fictions that must be reinforced to survive.
Buy Culturism for 99 Cents HERE! www.culturism.us has more information on culturism.

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Sonny Rollins
Old Devil Moon

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Cracking the Foundation Of American Liberty

If you don't already realize it, the measure passed yesterday all but scuppers the Bill of Rights. Off the top of my head the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth and Ninth can ALL be swept aside and denied to American Citizens if they are deemed to be substantially supportive of Al Qaida and their ilk.

As Rep McClintock states in the video, does that mean if you link to a site that links to a site that links to a site that links to an extremist site is that substantially supportive? If so then we are guilty of it here. But we don't know, it is not define. And the time and place to define that is not AFTER someone has been rounded up and indefinitely detained.

This is not a slippery slope. It is a landslide threatening to engulf your Constitutionally protected Freedoms.

This could make Waco and Ruby Ridge look like a sandlot scuffle.

Thanks Will:

Want to know how your congresscritter voted on this nonsense? go here then be sure to let them know how you feel.


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Thursday, December 15, 2011

RIP Joe Simon

Captain America's co-creator along with Jack Kirby has passed away at 98 years of age.

I think what I appreciated most about Simon besides creating one of the most famous superheroes for Marvel was that he understood the menaces we're still facing long after 9-11 back in 2001 (I think he supported the war in Iraq) and, as he told in this interview written just 2 months ago:
SIMON: Stan Lee, bless him, was right in that we’d all like to be that hero, punching out Adolf Hitler or Osama bin Laden. I did an updated version of the famous comic book cover, this time featuring bin Laden, and one day we may make it public.
I do hope we can get to see that newer drawing someday, but what if the lefties now holding Marvel hostage try to prevent that? It remains to be seen if Simon's drawing of Cap punching bin Laden will ever see the light of day.

For now, it's sad to see another legend gone. We owe Simon a lot of thanks for the good he brought in his time.
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Census shows 1 in 2 people are poor or low-income

WASHINGTON (AP) — Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans — nearly 1 in 2 — have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.

The latest census data depict a middle class that's shrinking as unemployment stays high and the government's safety net frays. The new numbers follow years of stagnating wages for the middle class that have hurt millions of workers and families.

"Safety net programs such as food stamps and tax credits kept poverty from rising even higher in 2010, but for many low-income families with work-related and medical expenses, they are considered too 'rich' to qualify," said Sheldon Danziger, a University of Michigan public policy professor who specializes in poverty.

"The reality is that prospects for the poor and the near poor are dismal," he said. "If Congress and the states make further cuts, we can expect the number of poor and low-income families to rise for the next several years."

Congressional Republicans and Democrats are sparring over legislation that would renew a Social Security payroll tax reduction, part of a year-end political showdown over economic priorities that could also trim unemployment benefits, freeze federal pay and reduce entitlement spending.

Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, questioned whether some people classified as poor or low-income actually suffer material hardship. He said that while safety-net programs have helped many Americans, they have gone too far. He said some people described as poor live in decent-size homes, drive cars and own wide-screen TVs.

"There's no doubt the recession has thrown a lot of people out of work and incomes have fallen," Rector said. "As we come out of recession, it will be important that these programs promote self-sufficiency rather than dependence and encourage people to look for work."

Mayors in 29 cities say more than 1 in 4 people needing emergency food assistance did not receive it. Many formerly middle-class Americans are dropping below the low-income threshold — roughly $45,000 for a family of four — because of pay cuts, a forced reduction of work hours or a spouse losing a job.

States in the South and West had the highest shares of low-income families, including Arizona, New Mexico and South Carolina, which have scaled back or eliminated aid programs for the needy. By raw numbers, such families were most numerous in California and Texas, each with more than 1 million.

The struggling Americans include Zenobia Bechtol, 18, in Austin, Texas, who earns minimum wage as a part-time pizza delivery driver. Bechtol and her 7-month-old baby were recently evicted from their bedbug-infested apartment after her boyfriend, an electrician, lost his job in the sluggish economy.

After an 18-month job search, Bechtol's boyfriend now works as a waiter and the family of three is temporarily living with her mother.

"We're paying my mom $200 a month for rent, and after diapers and formula and gas for work, we barely have enough money to spend," said Bechtol, a high school graduate who wants to go to college. "If it weren't for food stamps and other government money for families who need help, we wouldn't have been able to survive."

About 97.3 million Americans fall into a low-income category, commonly defined as those earning between 100 and 199 percent of the poverty level, based on a new supplemental measure by the Census Bureau that is designed to provide a fuller picture of poverty. Together with the 49.1 million who fall below the poverty line and are counted as poor, they number 146.4 million, or 48 percent of the U.S. population. That's up by 4 million from 2009, the earliest numbers for the newly developed poverty measure.

The new measure of poverty takes into account medical, commuting and other living costs as well as taxes. Doing that pushed the number of people below 200 percent of the poverty level up from the 104 million, or 1 in 3 Americans, that was officially reported in September.

Broken down by age, children were most likely to be poor or low-income — about 57 percent — followed by seniors 65 and over. By race and ethnicity, Hispanics topped the list at 73 percent, followed by blacks, Asians and non-Hispanic whites.

Even by traditional measures, many working families are hurting.

Following the recession that began in late 2007, the share of working families who are low income has risen for three straight years to 31.2 percent, or 10.2 million. That proportion is the highest in at least a decade, up from 27 percent in 2002, according to a new analysis by the Working Poor Families Project and the Population Reference Bureau, a nonprofit research group based in Washington.

Among low-income families, about one-third were considered poor while the remainder — 6.9 million — earned income just above the poverty line. Many states phase out eligibility for food stamps, Medicaid, tax credit and other government aid programs for low-income Americans as they approach 200 percent of the poverty level.

The majority of low-income families — 62 percent — spent more than one-third of their earnings on housing, surpassing a common guideline for what is considered affordable. By some census surveys, child-care costs consume close to another one-fifth when a mother works.

Paychecks for low-income families are shrinking. The inflation-adjusted average earnings for the bottom 20 percent of families have fallen from $16,788 in 1979 to just under $15,000, and earnings for the next 20 percent have remained flat at $37,000. In contrast, higher-income brackets had significant wage growth since 1979, with earnings for the top 5 percent of families climbing 64 percent to more than $313,000.

A survey of 29 cities conducted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors released Thursday points to a gloomy outlook for those on the lower end of the income scale.

Many mayors cited the challenges of meeting increased demands for food assistance, expressing particular concern about possible cuts to federal programs such as food stamps and WIC, which assists low-income pregnant women and mothers. Unemployment led the list of causes of hunger in cities, followed by poverty, low wages and high housing costs.

Across the 29 cities, about 27 percent of people needing emergency food aid did not receive it. Kansas City, Mo.; Nashville, Tenn.; Sacramento, Calif.; and Trenton, N.J., were among the cities that pointed to increases in the cost of food and declining food donations. Mayor Michael McGinn in Seattle cited an unexpected spike in food requests from immigrants and refugees, particularly from Somalia, Burma and Bhutan.

Among those requesting emergency food assistance, 51 percent were in families, 26 percent were employed, 19 percent were elderly and 11 percent were homeless.

"People who never thought they would need food are in need of help," said Mayor Sly James of Kansas City, Mo., who co-chairs a mayors' task force on hunger and homelessness.


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The Guardian:

Military given go-ahead to detain US terrorist suspects without trial
Civil rights groups dismayed as Barack Obama abandons commitment to veto new security law contained in defence bill

Guantánamo Bay
Americans can be arrested on home soil and taken to Guantánamo Bay under a provision inserted into the bill that funds the US military. Photograph: John Moore/Getty

Barack Obama has abandoned a commitment to veto a new security law that allows the military to indefinitely detain without trial American terrorism suspects arrested on US soil who could then be shipped to Guantánamo Bay.

Human rights groups accused the president of deserting his principles and disregarding the long-established principle that the military is not used in domestic policing. The legislation has also been strongly criticised by libertarians on the right angered at the stripping of individual rights for the duration of "a war that appears to have no end".

The law, contained in the defence authorisation bill that funds the US military, effectively extends the battlefield in the "war on terror" to the US and applies the established principle that combatants in any war are subject to military detention.

The legislation's supporters in Congress say it simply codifies existing practice, such as the indefinite detention of alleged terrorists at Guantánamo Bay. But the law's critics describe it as a draconian piece of legislation that extends the reach of detention without trial to include US citizens arrested in their own country.

"It's something so radical that it would have been considered crazy had it been pushed by the Bush administration," said Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch. "It establishes precisely the kind of system that the United States has consistently urged other countries not to adopt. At a time when the United States is urging Egypt, for example, to scrap its emergency law and military courts, this is not consistent."

There was heated debate in both houses of Congress on the legislation, requiring that suspects with links to Islamist foreign terrorist organisations arrested in the US, who were previously held by the FBI or other civilian law enforcement agencies, now be handed to the military and held indefinitely without trial.

The law applies to anyone "who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaida, the Taliban or associated forces".

Senator Lindsey Graham said the extraordinary measures were necessary because terrorism suspects were wholly different to regular criminals.

"We're facing an enemy, not a common criminal organisation, who will do anything and everything possible to destroy our way of life," he said. "When you join al-Qaida you haven't joined the mafia, you haven't joined a gang. You've joined people who are bent on our destruction and who are a military threat."

Other senators supported the new powers on the grounds that al-Qaida was fighting a war inside the US and that its followers should be treated as combatants, not civilians with constitutional protections.

But another conservative senator, Rand Paul, a strong libertarian, has said "detaining citizens without a court trial is not American" and that if the law passes "the terrorists have won".

"We're talking about American citizens who can be taken from the United States and sent to a camp at Guantánamo Bay and held indefinitely. It puts every single citizen American at risk," he said. "Really, what security does this indefinite detention of Americans give us? The first and flawed premise, both here and in the badly named Patriot Act, is that our pre-9/11 police powers were insufficient to stop terrorism. This is simply not borne out by the facts."

Paul was backed by Senator Dianne Feinstein.

"Congress is essentially authorising the indefinite imprisonment of American citizens, without charge," she said. "We are not a nation that locks up its citizens without charge."

Paul said there were already strong laws against support for terrorist groups. He noted that the definition of a terrorism suspect under existing legislation was so broad that millions of Americans could fall within it.

"There are laws on the books now that characterise who might be a terrorist: someone missing fingers on their hands is a suspect according to the department of justice. Someone who has guns, someone who has ammunition that is weatherproofed, someone who has more than seven days of food in their house can be considered a potential terrorist," Paul said. "If you are suspected because of these activities, do you want the government to have the ability to send you to Guantánamo Bay for indefinite detention?"

Under the legislation suspects can be held without trial "until the end of hostilities". They will have the right to appear once a year before a committee that will decide if the detention will continue.

The Senate is expected to give final approval to the bill before the end of the week. It will then go to the president, who previously said he would block the legislation not on moral grounds but because it would "cause confusion" in the intelligence community and encroached on his own powers.

But on Wednesday the White House said Obama had lifted the threat of a veto after changes to the law giving the president greater discretion to prevent individuals from being handed to the military.

Critics accused the president of caving in again to pressure from some Republicans on a counter-terrorism issue for fear of being painted in next year's election campaign as weak and of failing to defend America.

Human Rights Watch said that by signing the bill Obama would go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in US law.

"The paradigm of the war on terror has advanced so far in people's minds that this has to appear more normal than it actually is," Malinowski said. "It wasn't asked for by any of the agencies on the frontlines in the fight against terrorism in the United States. It breaks with over 200 years of tradition in America against using the military in domestic affairs."

In fact, the heads of several security agencies, including the FBI, CIA, the director of national intelligence and the attorney general objected to the legislation. The Pentagon also said it was against the bill.

The FBI director, Robert Mueller, said he feared the law could compromise the bureau's ability to investigate terrorism because it would be more complicated to win co-operation from suspects held by the military.

"The possibility looms that we will lose opportunities to obtain co-operation from the persons in the past that we've been fairly successful in gaining," he told Congress.

Civil liberties groups say the FBI and federal courts have dealt with more than 400 alleged terrorism cases, including the successful prosecutions of Richard Reid, the "shoe bomber", Umar Farouk, the "underwear bomber", and Faisal Shahzad, the "Times Square bomber".

Elements of the law are so legally confusing, as well as being constitutionally questionable, that any detentions are almost certain to be challenged all the way to the supreme court.

Malinowski said "vague language" was deliberately included in the bill in order to get it passed. "The very lack of clarity is itself a problem. If people are confused about what it means, if people disagree about what it means, that in and of itself makes it bad law," he said.


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Washington Post:

Simon Wiesenthal Center: Time to clean up the discourse

Over the last week, Ben Smith, my colleague Greg Sargent and I have reported on the controversy concerning the Center for American Progress’s Think Progress bloggers and others in the left blogosphere who have deployed language that invokes anti-Semitic tropes of dual loyalty and who have peddled extreme anti-Israel views.

Perhaps in an effort to distract onlookers from the serious substance, CAP and its defenders have waged a war of words with Josh Block, a prominent Democratic activist who was quoted in Ben Smith’s original column and in subsequent reports. This episode is catnip for the left but ultimately, with all due respect to Block, this is a more substantive and bigger story than simply the dealings of one activist and a handful of bloggers whose rhetorical incontinence has come back to haunt them.

In response to my inquiry, Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center sent the following that puts this all in context:

Simon Wiesenthal Center Response to CAP and Media Matters “Israel Laster” Bloggers
The Middle East is a dangerous place — and not merely for people who live there. Unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly difficult in this country to take a position sympathetic to the Jewish state and in favor of the continuation of America’s historic strong alliance with Israel without being called “an Israel Firster” and charged with “dual loyalties.”
A case in point: recent attacks on the Simon Wiesenthal Center by the Center for American Progress (CAP)-associated bloggers on “the far-right Simon Wiesenthal Center, which purports to promote tolerance, [but] basically called Obama a Nazi” for saying that Israel should return to the pre-1967 borders (Ben Armbruster). CAP blogger Eli Clifton joined Media Matters Senior Foreign Policy Fellow MJ Rosenberg in using Twitter to promote an article accusing the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance of pushing “Western groupthink that has for centuries justified wars and countless atrocities against the Arab world . . . [that’s] representative of the way many Americans feel toward Muslims and Arabs — that they are all terrorists.” Rosenberg himself has repeatedly smeared Jewish groups such the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee as “Israel Firsters.”
First, let’s admit to the terrible sins that we are indeed concerned about the future of Israel, about U.S. security interests in the Middle East, and about the threat posed to regional and even global peace by Iran’s nuclear program which, according to the International Atomic Energy Commission and other authorities, may be within six to nine months of putting an nuclear weapon in the hands of a regime committed to annihilating Israel.
When it comes to the charges of being “Israel Firsters” and having “dual loyalty,” we not only plead innocent but also counter-charge that these sponsored bloggers are guilty of dangerous political libels resonating with historic and toxic anti-Jewish prejudices.
These odious charges have been around since Henry Ford in 1920 said, “Wars are the Jews’ harvest,” Charles Lindbergh in 1940 condemned Jews for conspiring to plunge America into World War II, and “Jewish neocons” were charged with colluding with Israel to cause the 2003 Iraq War. Recently, University of Chicago Professor John Mearsheimer, co-author of The Israel Lobby and Foreign Policy, has descended to making the accusation that American Jews — unlike American Poles, Italians, Greeks, Turks, Chinese, Africans, etc., etc. — exercise a uniquely malevolent influence over American foreign policy. Now, he writes publicity blurbs for Gilad Atzmon’s genocidal broadside, The Wandering Who?, accusing the Jews of responsibility for bringing the Holocaust on themselves.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center since its founding in 1977 has always been a mainstream institution. It has never endorsed a political candidate or party in the United States, or anywhere else. It has adhered to the bipartisan consensus that the U.S. has a vital interest in maintaining an alliance with Israel, the Middle East’s only vibrant democracy and reliably pro-American nation. In the 1990s during the era of the Oslo Peace Accords, its senior officials attended the White House ceremony convened by President Clinton where then Israeli Prime Minister Rabin and Palestinian President Arafat shook hands. We had the honor to both visit King Hussein at his Royal Palace in Amman, and later host the late monarch at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. King Hussein was a proud, card-carrying member of our Museum of Tolerance, whose 5 million plus visitors learn about not only the Nazi Holocaust but also all manifestations of contemporary bigotry. Our respected Digital Terrorism and Hate Project, has for 14 years, chronicled the leveraging of Internet technologies by anti-Semites, terrorists, neo-Nazis and Islamophobes. The Simon Wiesenthal Center has repeatedly supported a two-state solution between Israel and a peaceful, democratic Palestinian state with borders to be determined by Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations — not imposed by outside parties.
Far from slandering Islam or demonizing moderate Muslims, we’ve seized every opportunity available for interfaith outreach by organizing and/or attending conferences and dialogues from Spain to Indonesia.
Eli Clifton, ThinkProgress’ National Security reporter, has also recently articulated the view that it is “factually inaccurate” to assume that “Iran has a nuclear weapons program”—and, in any case, that the danger posed by that program is exaggerated for political purposes. Is Clifton’s view in “the political mainstream” or is he guilty of being an “Iranian Firster” by virtue of a reflexive, automatic defenses of the mad mullahs’ regime? For his views do not jive with those of Iran’s Arab neighbors, including those articulated leaders in the Gulf with whom Simon Wiesenthal Center officials personally have met and who expressed their fear of the existential threat posed to them by the Iranian regime that stands quite apart from the threat posed to Israel.
Lastly, about President Obama, Ben Armbruster’s charge that we “basically called . . . [him] a Nazi” —is a low blow that should disqualify Armbruster from participating in future civil discourse. We don’t take partisan political positions, and have never leveled a personal criticism of the President who has an open invitation to visit our Museum of Tolerance, just as other high-ranking world leaders have. About calling him “a Nazi,” we condemned that odious label when it was applied to former President George W. Bush by extreme leftists, the same way we have condemned its application to President Obama by the rightist lunatic fringe.
The Center for American Progress ought to stick to fair-minded discussion of serious issues about the U.S’. future. It ought to disown immediately “Israel Laster” bloggers who take the low road and drag down policy debates into the gutter of individual and group defamation.

That says it all.


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Washington Times:

Terrorist attack survivors outraged by White House guest

Iraqi’s ties to Iran a concern

Survivors of a 1996 terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. servicemen are offendedthat an Iraqi official with ties to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was welcomed to the White House this week.

“Outrage at the visit to the White House really doesn’t describe what I feel,” said William M. Schooley, who survived the June 25, 1996, bombing of the Khobar Towers.

“I watched outstanding airmen die that night and witnessed horrific carnage. The survivors of Khobar Towers have been swept under the rug and now have received the greatest insult,” he added.

The Washington Times first reported Tuesday that Hadi Farhan al-Amiri, who serves as Iraq’s transportation minister, was part of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s delegation to the White House on Monday.

The FBI linked Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to the terrorist attack on the Khobar Towers. No Iranians were named in the indictment, and the Saudi Hezbollah was blamed for the blast.

The Revolutionary Guard also has supported Shiite militant groups that have attacked U.S. troops in Iraq, Western officials say.

Mr. Schooley was a staff sergeant in the Air Force when the Khobar Towers were bombed. He was in his room in a building behind the one that was blown up and immediately went to help.

“I cleared the path for the walking wounded to evacuate and then provided first aid to the wounded. Unfortunately, the airman I was working on did not survive. I don’t know how to put arms back on,” he said.

Mr. Schooley was medically retired from the Air Force for post-traumatic stress disorder and now lives in Albuquerque, N.M.

Another survivor of the attack, who was a senior airman at the time and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he feels betrayed that Mr. al-Amiri would be allowed into the White House.

“Given Hadi al-Amiri’s ties to terrorism and potential knowledge of those who committed the yet-unsolved FBI investigation into the brazen murder of 19 USAF airmen at Khobar Towers, his presence in the White House was nothing short of insulting to those who both lost family members and those who survived the horrific attack,” he said.

“It wouldn’t matter whether it was a Democrat or a Republican in the White House, it was just wrong.”

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican and chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Tuesday in a letter to President Obama that she had “grave concern” about the White House’s decision to host Mr. al-Amiri.

Al-Amiri should have no part in a successful future in Iraq, and is unfit to receive a presidential audience,” Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen wrote.

Former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh this week said he was unaware of any evidence linking Mr. al-Amiri to the plot to attack the Khobar Towers. However, he said FBI agents would like to interview Mr. al-Amiri regarding what he knew of purported Iranian involvement in the plot.

As a commander of the Badr Corps, Mr. al-Amiri would have known Brig. Gen. Ahmad Sherifi, the Revolutionary Guard general who is suspected of conducting the attack, he added.

Mr. al-Amiri was commander of the Badr Corps, which was the armed wing of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

The Badr Corps was made up of thousands of defectors from the Iraqi army and refugees who fled Saddam Hussein’s regime. It received military and financial support from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

In 2003, the Badr Corps changed its name to the Badr Organization of Reconstruction and Development and pledged to disarm. Western officials and analysts are skeptical about whether the group kept its promise.

Mr. al-Amiri remained active in the Badr Corps during the late 1980s and 1990s, when he was working on resistance efforts against Saddam’s regime.

Eric Ziegler was an Air Force staff sergeant when he lived at the Khobar Towers in June 1996. All four of his roommates — Airman 1st Class Brent E. Marthaler, Technical Sgt. Patrick P. Fennig, Senior Airman Jeremy A. Taylor and Technical Sgt. Thanh V. Nguyen — were killed in the attack.

Mr. Ziegler, who has since retired, said he was appalled that the Iraqi prime minister would include Mr. al-Amiri in his delegation to Washington.

“To have someone like him here and then not be able to interrogate him is a slap in the face,” he said in a phone interview from Phoenix.

The attack took a heavy toll on Mr. Ziegler’s life. His marriage collapsed, and he drifted from one job to the next.

“It changed my life. I relive it every day, but I refuse to let the terrorists win,” he said


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This Week On The Gathering Storm: Midnight Rider!

Listen to The Gathering Storm Radio Show, hosted by WC and Always On Watch. The show broadcasts live every Friday beginning at noon, Pacific Time, for 30 minutes.

The call-in number is 646-915-9870.

Our scheduled guest is Midnight Rider.

Listen to the December 16, 2011 edition of The Gathering Storm Radio Show, live or later, by CLICKING HERE.

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Lightnin' Hopkins

John Lee Hooker
Blues For Christmas

Sonny Boy Williamson
Sonny Boy's Christmas Blues

Freddie King
Christmas Tears

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Remember Those "Strong Black Friday Sales"?


Holiday sales up, but returns may set a record
Stores already seeing consumers taking back purchases before they become gifts
Ah, the warm feelings of the holidays: Comfort and joy. Good cheer.

And buyer's remorse.

People who rushed to snag discounts on TVs, toys and other gifts are quickly returning them for much-needed cash. The shopping season started out strong for stores, but it looks like the spending binge has given way to a holiday hangover.

Return rates spiked when the Great Recession struck and have stayed high. For every dollar stores take in this holiday season, they'll have to give back 9.9 cents in returns, up from 9.8 last year, according to the National Retail Federation's survey of 110 retailers. In better economic times, it's about 7 cents.

This time of year, fractions of a penny add up. Stores are expected to ring up $453 billion during the holiday season. Merchants make up to 40 percent of their annual sales in the last two months of the year.

Returns are typically more associated with January than December. After all, that hot pink sweater with yellow stars on the sleeves may not be exactly what your sister had in mind. But these days, more is going back before it ever gets to Santa's sack.

Story: Online holiday sales rise 15 percent to $24.6B

"When the bills come in and the money isn't there, you have to return," says Jennifer Kersten, 33, of Miami. She spent $300 the day after Thanksgiving on books, movies and clothes for her nephews. Last week she returned half of it.

Some reasons for the many unhappy returns:

  • Shoppers are binging on big discounts. Stores are desperate to get people in the door. But the same shoppers who find a "60 percent off" tag too good to resist may realize at home that they busted the budget.
  • Stores have made it easier to take things back. Nordstrom is letting online shoppers return items at no extra charge this year. It used to charge $6. Other stores are offering more time to return or rolling out "no questions asked" policies — no tag or receipt required. But that can backfire. "Spurring more returns wasn't part of the plan," says Al Sambar, a retail strategist for consulting firm Kurt Salmon.
  • Stores are undercutting each other in a tough economy. Wanda Vazquez spent $39.99 at a New York Target on iPad speakers for her 12-year-old daughter, then returned them when she found something similar for $16.99 at Marshalls.

Consumer electronics in particular are being returned at a rapid clip. Stores and manufacturers are expected to spend $17 billion reboxing, repairing, restocking and reselling electronics this year, up 21 percent from four years ago.

Story: A five-step plan for minimizing your mall time

About half of the 100 electronics manufacturers and stores surveyed by Accenture, a consulting firm, return rates have increased over the past three to five years. Most of the items are returned without flaws.

In an industry where profit margins are thin and competition is brutal, those return rates are unsustainable, says Mitch Cline, managing director of Accenture's electronics and high-tech group.

Several retailers declined to talk about returns. But if they need any evidence of growing remorse among their shoppers, all they have to do is look at the overstuffed aisles of liquidator warehouses.

Story: Rich, poor gap will show up under the tree

Liquidation.com, which buys returned merchandise from big stores like Wal-Mart and auctions it to small businesses and dollar stores, says return rates are 12 to 15 percent, up two percentage points from last year and double the rate in better times.

Its four warehouses across the country are packed with thousands more smartphones, TVs other holiday castaways than a year ago, says Bill Angrick, CEO of the site's parent company, Liquidity Services.

To get rid of all that extra stuff, the company says it is holding 20 percent more online auctions than it did last year. The company declined to say how many it was holding.

"This is going to be a record year for returns," Angrick says. "People are still reluctant to spend."

Dave Vehec, senior vice president of GENCO ATC, a liquidator that sells returned merchandise from six of the nation's top 10 retailers, also says stores are reporting a spike in returns this year.

Americans spent $52.4 billion over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, the highest total for that period, according to the NRF. But business has fallen. Sales last week were down 1.9 percent from a year ago, according to research firm ShopperTrak.

Stores are already being squeezed by rising costs for materials and labor. Returns make it worse. When you return a sweater, a paid worker has to restock it. Return a computer after just turning it on, and the hard drive has to be scrubbed.

It adds up to lost dollars for stores, which have to eat as much as 12 percent of the cost for returned clothes and 50 percent for returned electronics.

Shoppers, of course, are more concerned with their own bottom line.

That's why Lisa Dublin, a New York mother of three, last weekend returned half of the $200 she spent at Banana Republic. The clothes were going to be gifts for her 15-year-old son.

Dublin, 33, also returned a pair of knee high-boots that she bought as a gift for herself at Charlotte Russe, a women's store. She got them for $25, marked down from $40. It was a good deal, she says, but it wasn't good enough.

"I have been buying a bunch of stuff at a time," Dublin says. "Then, when I get home I analyze and figure out what I really need."


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"Push comes to shove, if we've got to move or something like that, I don't know what I'd have to tell her, how I would explain it to her," Deane said. "I can't imagine it."

Ooo, I'm right there with you. Mine is 13 but I understand EXACTLY what you are feeling.

I've even considered the reduced or free lunch program for her at school but as my 24 year old daughter and my wife point out I have this dep sense of pride that keeps me from doing it.

Deane story below sounds a lot like my own, although she is actually in a worse spot as a single parent. I tried to keep things as normal as possible. Pizza or sandwiches once in a while. That sort of thing. But that has now largely stopped.

You want to give this woman a hug and tell her you understand, there are millions like her out there, that she is not alone.

And although she would appreciate it it would not help one bit. It would not help her change her situation, figure out how to pay for the groceries or the mortgage or the oil bill. She will still go to sleep with that sense of dread and fear and, yes, panic -- imagine having a panic attack all day every day, that's what this long term unemployment is like, just more intense some days than others -- and not want to answer the phone (if she can stil afford to have one) because she knows it is probably a creditor calling because she has fallen behind on bills and they are empathetic even as they are asking her when does she think she WILL be able to make a payment (AYFKM??) is there anyone that can make a payment for her (AYFKM???) if it goes so many days past due it could very well go to litigation.




Millions set to lose jobless benefits — “I’m very scared,” one tells Yahoo News

For Dawn Deane, the difference between just keeping her head above water and falling under is the unemployment insurance check she receives each week.

In June, Deane, who is 49, was laid off from her human-resources job at a Philadelphia nonprofit, where she made over $50,000 a year. Since then, jobless benefits have allowed her, barely, to keep up with her mortgage and car payments and her other bills--as well as to maintain some normalcy in her 9-year-old daughter's life. Without the benefits, Deane told Yahoo News in an interview, her home would likely fall into foreclosure, and she'd be forced to apply for welfare--which would mean a significant drop in her income, and would dramatically upend her and her daughter's lives.

"Push comes to shove, if we've got to move or something like that, I don't know what I'd have to tell her, how I would explain it to her," Deane said. "I can't imagine it."

She may soon have to. Last December, amid persistent joblessness, Congress agreed to extend federal unemployment benefits for 34-53 additional weeks, beyond the standard 26. But the extension will expire at the end of the year, if it's not re-approved--a lapse that would cause nearly 1.8 million Americans to lose their benefits in January (pdf), according to the National Employment Law Project, which supports an extension. During 2012 as a whole, around 6 million Americans--including Dawn Deane--would likely be thrown off the rolls, the Labor Department estimates.

Commentators have largely treated the saga as the latest example of partisan rancor in Washington. It's also been portrayed as an economic and fiscal issue: By stimulating the economy, extending the benefits would increase growth by about $42 billion, or 0.3 percent of GDP, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. And it would add around $45 billion to the deficit, unless it were offset with other spending cuts or tax hikes.

But amid the various policy debates, it's easy to lose sight of the human side of the issue. The sheer scale of the population affected, for one thing, is magnified by record levels of long-term joblessness. The median duration of unemployment is currently 21.6 weeks--astronomically high by historical standards--and there are still around four unemployed workers for every job opening. Previously, the highest jobless rate at which Congress has failed to approve extended benefits was 7.2 percent, in 1985. Today, the national unemployment rate is 8.6 percent.

"It seems like a horrible job market in which to cast laid off workers adrift once they've used up 26 weeks of regular [unemployment] benefits," Gary Burtless, a labor economist at the Brookings Institution, told Yahoo News via email.

The White House and congressional Democrats have been pushing for an extension. House Republicans Tuesday passed a plan to extend the benefits--along with an extension of the payroll tax cut--but it would also cut up to 40 weeks from the program, allow states to drug test applicants and cut Medicare benefits. That adds up to a non-starter for Democrats.

As a result, when--or whether--the benefits will get extended is anyone's guess. And that means that recipients such as Deane are twisting in the wind as Congress bickers. She says that she's been looking for new work constantly since June. And she's applied for other government benefits, such as food stamps and home energy assistance, but has found she isn't eligible. "I'm always told: 'You don't qualify because you're making too much, and it's just you and your daughter,' " she said.

"I'm very scared," she said. "I'm doing everything except for going out there and actually physically protesting. And I think I'm gonna get to that point."


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