Scotland storm blackout hitting thousands

From BBC:

8 December 2011

Police have told people in Scotland not to travel, as winds of up to 165mph (264km/h) affected the country, leaving more than 30,000 people without power.

As the Met Office issued its highest warning, a red alert, hundreds of schools have shut and bridge and road closures are causing disruption.

England, Wales and Northern Ireland were also being hit by wind and rain.

Winds of up to 90mph (144km/h) and possible blizzard conditions are expected in north Scotland into Friday.

The severe weather hit many other parts of the UK, including:

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Denying Access to Plan B: An Act of Political Cowardice

From RH Reality Check:

by Lorraine Berry, SUNY Cortland
December 8, 2011

Fool me twice. I’m an idiot.

I keep thinking someone in this administration is going to take a stand that will mean something.

It’s a small thing, really, but a huge thing when you’re a teenager. You need access to emergency contraception and you can’t get it because your government is controlled by fundamentalist body haters who think that sex is for procreation only.


I’m still hunting for the right words to say. Nearly 40 years after abortion was made legal in this country, 50 years since we’ve had the Pill, and women are still told, day-after-day, that the only thing that matters about them is their ability to bear children. And if bearing a child costs you your life, well, what greater sacrifice can you make? (And besides, there are plenty of women to replace you.)


To visit the local cemeteries is to see this philosophy carved in stone–acres of stones that tell the same story. One man will be buried with two, often three, wives. He died in his 80s. The first two wives died in their 20s or early 30s, but the third wife grew old with him. Frequently, there are newborns whose death dates approximate the death dates of their mothers.

We tell ourselves that this was before modern medicine. That puerperal fever, or ruptured uteri, or hearts weakened by childhood diseases and then too weak to bear the strains of pregnancy, that these things are all things of the past.

But, we maintain maternal mortality statistics because pregnancy is still potentially deadly. And lest any American think that we have the best health care system in the world, ask yourself why our rates of maternal death are among the highest in the industrialized world?


The FDA cannot find a single reason why Plan B contraception can’t be on a shelf where anyone can buy it. Katherine Sebelius, and her boss, Barack Obama, they moved the football again.

We were all so happy when Obama chose a pro-choice champion to head HHS. But, it turns out, just like her boss, she’s a political coward.

So what, the right wing thinks teenagers shouldn’t be having sex? How has that changed in all the years that we’ve been talking about it?

Sebelius, no doubt ordered to by her boss, overruled the FDA, denied scientific evidence, to make moralistic assholes happy.

I really thought you were going to hold the football steady this time, Obama. I really did.

I’m an idiot. I keep hoping against hope that you’re not going to throw women under the bus. That you can stand up to the ladies who swoon at the Concerned Women for America. You think they’re going to vote for you because you said no to Plan B?

I know you’re not stupid.

You’re a coward.


Go To this Link and Sign the Petition.

Tell the Obama Administration Its Decision on Plan B® Is Unacceptable

On December 7, the Obama administration interfered with a decision from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA was about to follow medical experts’ recommendations and remove an age restriction on the emergency contraceptive Plan B®. At the last minute, the Secretary of Health and Human Services overruled the recommendation that would have allowed women of all ages to buy Plan B® without a prescription.

The Obama administration has broken a key promise to the American people that it would base its decisions on sound science and what’s in the best interest of women’s health. We had a major opportunity to improve young women’s access to contraception, which is the best way to reduce the need for abortion, and the Obama administration missed the mark.

Add your name to our letter expressing your disappointment to the Obama administration.

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“By Imbeciles Who Really Mean It”: Lost Verities and Dirty Hippies

From Common Dreams:

by Phil Rockstroh
Published on Wednesday, December 7, 2011 by

Regardless of the dissembling of corporate state propagandists, free market capitalism has always been a government subsidized, bubble-inflating, swindlers’ game, in which, psychopathic personalities (not “job creators” but con job perpetrators) thrive. By the exploitation of the many, a ruthless few have amassed large amounts of capital by which they dominate mainstream narratives and compromise elected and governmental officials, thereby gaming the system for their benefit.

Historically, the system has proven so demeaning to the majority of the population that the elite, from time to time, have, as a last resort, due to fear of a popular uprising, introduced a bit of socialism into the system, allowing a modicum of swag to funnel downward, and, as a result, the ranks of the middle class have been expanded. For a time, the bourgeoisie are bamboozled by the sales pitch that one day they will be affluent enough to be freed from the taxing obligations of a dismal, debt-beholden existence, when, in fact, they sowed their fate (like those swindled by opening their bank accounts after receiving email from parties claiming to be momentarily cash-strapped Nigerian royalty) by their own greed i.e. by their self-imprisonment within their own narrow, self-serving view of existence.

These stultifying circumstances will level an atmosphere of restiveness and nebulous rage. In general, the middle class can be counted on to detest the poor…blaming those born devoid of societal advantage and political influence for the impoverished circumstances that were in place long before the happenstance of their birth. Moreover, in a bit of noxious casuistry, as despicable as it is delusional, all too many members of the middle class have been induced by grift artists, employed by the ruling elite, to blame their own declining social status and attendant beleaguered existence on the poor.

“Be thine own palace, or the world’s thy jail.” –John Donne

This has proven to be an effective, time-tested grift: Because as long as the animus of the middle class remains fixated on the poor, the criminal cartels known as the economic elite can continue to ply their trade. Of course, in reality, by their greed and complicity, what the middle class has gained is this: trustee status in the capitalist workhouse.

Although, there is no need to fret: The run of neoliberal capitalism is about over. Don’t mourn: This late stage, rapacious, mutant economic strain has leveled destruction on community and the planet itself as well as the hearts and souls of too many of those imprisoned within its paradigm.

At this point, the situation comes down to this: paradigm shift or perish.

The hour is amenable to reevaluate, reorganize and re-occupy. Doing so will prove helpful in withstanding false narratives.

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Occupy SF regroups after early-morning raid

From SF Gate:

Will Kane, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 7, 2011

San Francisco’s Occupy movement was left reeling after police raided the 142-tent encampment before dawn Wednesday, arrested 70 protesters and confiscated truckloads of goods.

Police moved in after Mayor Ed Lee gave up hope of negotiating a voluntary departure from Justin Herman Plaza with the leaderless Occupy movement. The mayor, who had said repeatedly that tents would not be allowed in the plaza, repeated that warning Wednesday and said he meant it.

Supporters of the city’s 2-month-old Occupy encampment regrouped Wednesday evening in the plaza to discuss how to continue without a logical center.

“It is clear we need to evolve as a movement,” said Philip Oje, 26. “(Camping) has been a good method of raising awareness – we just need to figure out how to get back into the plaza.”

Other ousted campers said that if they couldn’t move back into the plaza, they would re-form the camp elsewhere in the city or look for vacant, foreclosed homes they could occupy.

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Using Debt to Crush Democracy: How Financiers Are Waging Warfare Against Nations

From Alternet:

Recent debt protests from Iceland to Greece and Spain suggest that creditors are shifting their support away from democracies and crushing national self-determination.

By Michael Hudson
December 6, 2011
  *This article appeared in the Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung on December 5, 2011.

Book V of Aristotle’s Politics describes the eternal transition of oligarchies making themselves into hereditary aristocracies – which end up being overthrown by tyrants or develop internal rivalries as some families decide to “take the multitude into their camp” and usher in democracy, within which an oligarchy emerges once again, followed by aristocracy, democracy, and so on throughout history.

Debt has been the main dynamic driving these shifts – always with new twists and turns. It polarizes wealth to create a creditor class, whose oligarchic rule is ended as new leaders (“tyrants” to Aristotle) win popular support by canceling the debts and redistributing property or taking its usufruct for the state.

Since the Renaissance, however, bankers have shifted their political support to democracies. This did not reflect egalitarian or liberal political convictions as such, but rather a desire for better security for their loans. As James Steuart explained in 1767, royal borrowings remained private affairs rather than truly public debts [1]. For a sovereign’s debts to become binding upon the entire nation, elected representatives had to enact the taxes to pay their interest charges.

By giving taxpayers this voice in government, the Dutch and British democracies provided creditors with much safer claims for payment than did kings and princes whose debts died with them. But the recent debt protests from Iceland to Greece and Spain suggest that creditors are shifting their support away from democracies. They are demanding fiscal austerity and even privatization sell-offs.

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Obama Road Tests Hopey-Changey Big Lie 2.0: He’ll Reincarnate as Teddy Roosevelt if You Are Dumb Enough to be Fooled Twice

From Naked Capitalism:

Yves Smith
December 7, 2011

Wow, I have to hand it to Obama’s spinmeisters. They’ve managed to find a way to resurrect his old hopium branding by calling it something completely different that still has many of the old associations.

And we have a twofer in Obama’s launch of his new branding as True Son of Teddy Roosevelt. Never mind that Teddy, unlike Obama, was accomplished in many walks of life and had meaningful political accomplishments (such as reforming the corrupt New York City police department) before becoming President at the tender age of 42. The second element of this finesse is that Obama is using the Rooseveltian imagery to claim he will pass legislation to get tough on Big Finance miscreants. That posture, is of course meant to underscore the idea that you just can’t get the perps with the present, weak set of laws.

Team Obama may have planned to wheel this new, improved image out later, with the timing accelerated by Judge Jed Rakoff’s decision against a proposed $285 million settlement between the SEC and Citigroup over a bum CDO in which Citi allegedly wielded considerable influence over its contents so it could bet against it. The SEC has gone on a full bore media offensive against Rakoff, with enforcement chief Robert Khuzami’s becoming uncharacteristically accessible to the media and also using scheduled speaking engagements to take issue with Rakoff’s ruling. And on top of Khuzami’s own efforts, the media has taken up some other dubious plants by the SEC. The biggest howler is a story in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week. Titled “Financial Crimes Bedevil Prosecutors,” not one of the sources for the story is a prosecutor!

The centerpiece of the piece is one David Cardona, who just joined the SEC. Gee, you think he is going to do anything other than sell the party line? And what was his last job? At the FBI, investigating financial crimes, which by the way, resulted in pretty much no criminal cases, except, curiously, Taylor Bean. But doesn’t count, since the wronged parties were even bigger fish.

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Tim Geithner backs Merkel-Sarkozy eurozone rescue plan

Ah one of the Masters of the Universe Meets with the Puppets…

From The Guardian UK:

Treasury secretary endorses Franco-German rescue plan as US remains anxious about European debt crisis spreading

in Brussels
, Wednesday 7 December 2011

US treasury secretary Tim Geithner on Wednesday gave strong backing to Franco-German plans to resolve the sovereign debt crisis by reshaping the eurozone through tougher budget discipline.

The US is anxious to see that the European debt crisis does not drag it and the rest of the world into renewed recession. Geithner said he had “a lot of confidence” in what the countries were doing.

“We are very encouraged with the progress that is being made,” Geithner told reporters following a meeting with French finance minister Francois Baroin on the second day of his whirlwind trip through Europe.

The meeting came ahead of discussions with Europe’s centre-right leaders at their congress in Marseille, where he met French president Nicolas Sarkozy and German chancellor Angela Merkel along with new Spanish premier Mariano Rajoy. After the talks in the Mediterranean port city he will fly to Rometo meet Mario Monti, Italy’s new technocrat prime minister on Thursday.

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Police arrest Occupy DC protesters

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Despite law against it, stealth commercials frequently masquerade as TV news

From The Washington Post:

By ,
Published: December 6, 2011

Alison Rhodes is passionate about child safety, and in hundreds of TV news interviews, the self-styled “Safety Mom” has talked up products designed to increase it. During a segment on WTTG’s morning news last year, for example, Rhodes showed off a home electronic monitor made by ADT and a backpack with a built-in alarm known as the iSafe bag.It’s amazing,” she gushed to Fox5 host Tony Perkins about the backpack. “It really is amazing.”

What neither Rhodes nor WTTG mentioned to viewers was this: The companies Rhodes mentioned on the air had paid her to plug their products. In effect, Rhodes’s appearance was a kind of stealth commercial dressed up as a traditional product-review interview.

Such product-friendly segments aren’t just potentially deceptive; they’re illegal, under a federal law that prohibits “payola” or “plugola,” as the practice is commonly known. Yet similar types of segments have grown as TV stations have expanded their early-morning newscasts over the past decade, packing them with “expert” reviews. And they are especially rife during the holiday gift-giving season.

Rhodes is one of a small army of hosts and reviewers of fashion, toys, electronic gadgets and other consumer-oriented topics who pop up on morning news shows with advice about what to buy. The advice almost always involves products from companies that have paid the expert to slip in a few favorable words. The disclosures about this arrangement can range from minimal to nonexistent.

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Between 2008 And 2010, 30 Big Corporations Spent More Lobbying Washington Than They Paid In Income Taxes

From Think Progress:

By Zaid Jilani
Dec 7, 2011

Today, thousands of 99 Percenters will march on K Street in Washington, D.C. as a part of an action called “Take Back The Capitol,” taking aim at the lobbying firms that corporate interests use to influence the federal government.

A report released this month by Public Campaign demonstrates just how important it is for Americans to battle corporate special interests and reclaim our democracy. The group’s research finds that thirty big corporations actually spent more money lobbying the federal government between 2008 and 2010 than they spent in taxes. For example, General Electric — one of the top 10 most profitable companies in the world — got a net tax rebate of $4.7 billion during this period. Meanwhile, it spent $84 million lobbying the federal government.

Here’s the full list of the 30 corporations identified and what they paid in federal taxes as opposed to lobbying:

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Islamic cleric bans women from touching bananas, cucumbers for sexual resemblance

From Bikyamasr:

6 December 2011

CAIRO: An Islamic cleric residing in Europe said that women should not be close to bananas or cucumbers, in order to avoid any “sexual thoughts.”

The unnamed sheikh, who was featured in an article on el-Senousa news, was quoted saying that if women wish to eat these food items, a third party, preferably a male related to them such as their a father or husband, should cut the items into small pieces and serve.

He said that these fruits and vegetables “resemble the male penis” and hence could arouse women or “make them think of sex.”

He also added carrots and zucchini to the list of forbidden foods for women.

The sheikh was asked how to “control” women when they are out shopping for groceries and if holding these items at the market would be bad for them. The cleric answered saying this matter is between them and God.

Answering another question about what to do if women in the family like these foods, the sheikh advised the interviewer to take the food and cut it for them in a hidden place so they cannot see it.

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Euro Last Chance? ‘Mer-Kozy’ race against downgrade

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The eurozone crisis: a terrifying race to become a diminished world power

From The Guardian UK:

To see off the bond markets, the eurozone has to create a credible sovereign – but that may divide the larger EU
, Wednesday 7 December 2011

Europe will not be saved in Brussels this Friday. At best, it will live to face another trauma. After these “10 days to save the euro” there will be 10 weeks, 10 months, 10 years. What one Brussels observer describes as Europe’s “terrifying and boring” crisis will run and run. Angela Merkel compares saving the eurozone to a marathon; actually it’s more like a cross-country obstacle race, with a large new water-jump over every false horizon.

First, there is the immediate question of whether eurozone governments can win back the confidence of the markets. How difficult that will be is shown by the fact that, on the very day Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy announced how they were (once again) definitively going to save the eurozone, Standard & Poor’s put even Germany’s AAA credit rating on a negative watch.

A bond market analyst explains to me how, once the fundamental confidence of investors is undermined, the whole calculus is changed. Then it is no longer about price. Company X or country Y can offer yields of 5%, 6%, 7%, 8% – the investors just don’t want to be there. Eurozone countries such as Italy need to borrow large sums early next year and the markets – those aggregators of individual greed and panic – may again say no. Then we’ll have another “10 days to save the euro“.

Next, there’s the question of what mix of fiscal union, greater European Central Bank (ECB) intervention and German guarantees for at least some of other eurozone countries’ debt (eurobonds, stability bonds, debt mutualisation, choose your own term) will calm the markets for a longer period – and whether the slow-grinding wheels of EU politics can get there fast enough.

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Clean Air A ‘Luxury’ In Beijing’s Pollution Zone

From NPR:

December 7, 2011

On the way to school, my kids and I play a guessing game: How polluted is the air today? We use an app linked to the air pollution monitor at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, and we try to guess the day’s exact level on the Air Quality Index, and whether the air is dangerous.

These days, chances are that it could well be. For more than half of the past 60 days, the air pollution has hit levels hazardous to human health. Experts estimate long-term exposure to such pollution could reduce life expectancy by as much as five years. But I don’t tell the kids that.

Living inside the pollution zone, those daily measurements determine how my family spends its days. Whenever the levels hit “very unhealthy,” we keep the kids indoors and refuse to let them take part in outdoor activities, no matter how much whining might ensue. When to wear a pollution mask, when to stay indoors, it’s all become crucial knowledge, even for our 4-year-old.

Differences In Measurement

That U.S. air pollution monitor has become central in the debate over Beijing’s air quality, since it measures fine particles and thus produces different readings to China’s official statistics, which measure only larger particles.

According to leaked cables, in 2009, Chinese officials claimed the air monitor’s readings were causing “confusion” and undesirable “social consequences” among the Chinese public, and asked the embassy to consider limiting access to the data to American citizens.

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