A bit of levity that helps keep all the bullshit in perspective. Hat tip to Joe My God.
A bit of levity that helps keep all the bullshit in perspective. Hat tip to Joe My God.
Aug 31, 2013
A Virginia inmate is one step closer to getting sex-reassignment surgery.
53-year-old Ophelia De’Lonta, born Michael Stokes, is currently serving a 73-year prison sentence for bank robbery. She has spent the past 30 years at the Buckingham Correctional Center in Buckingham County, Virginia.
De’Lonta has been fighting for her rights behind bars since 1999, when she first filed a lawsuit petitioning for hormone treatment. That lawsuit was dismissed by a federal judge. In 2003, De’Lonta tried again. This time an agreement was reached. State authorities agreed to provide her with hormone treatment and psychological therapy. De’Lonta would also be allowed to dress as a woman in the men’s prison.
Despite receiving hormone treatment, De’Lonta continued to suffer. She made several attempts at self-castration and, in 2010, was hospitalized after an attempt resulted in the destruction of one of her testicles.
In 2011, she filed a lawsuit that claimed the Virginia Department of Corrections decision to prevent her from having sex-reassignment surgery violated her Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment. She claimed she suffers from the uncontrollable urge to castrate herself and needs the surgery to prevent serious self-mutilation.
From Common Dreams: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/08/31
Dear President Obama:
Before you decide to attack Syria, yet another Arab or Islamic country that does not threaten U.S. security, there are certain constitutional “niceties” that you should observe. Chronically violating the Constitution overturns the rule of law and can produce costly blowbacks.
On August 28, you stated that bombing Syria “is not about war, it’s about accountability,” obviously referring to the brutal gassing of neighborhoods outside of Damascus. What about your accountability to receive authorization from Congress which, under Article 1, Section 8, has the sole and exclusive power to declare war? Spare Americans the casuistry of your lawyers who “legalized” your war on Libya, with no declaration, authorization or appropriation of funds from Congress, and pushed the envelope of the “unitary presidency” beyond the unlawful and brazen extremes advocated by George W. Bush and his lawyers.
Nearly 200 members of both parties of Congress – now on its August recess – demanded there be no attack on Syria without Congressional authorization. These signers have so far included 72 Democrats. Merely secretly consulting with some lawmakers on the Intelligence Committees does not substitute for formal Congressional authorization. The framers of our Constitution – whatever their other differences – were unanimous in writing Article 1, Section 8, so that no president could go to war on his own. To do so, as you have already done in the past, would be a major impeachable offense.
The media have reported that your lawyers are searching for legal justification for Tomahawk Missiling Syria. They need look no more – the Constitution clearly rests the power to engage in war with Congress and Congress only. You cannot start another war! You cannot continue to be the prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner anywhere, and at any time.
You may think the foregoing cautious and mere formalities. But the framers held the war-making power in Congress for another reason than just thwarting a latter-day King George III tyranny. They wanted a deliberative open process to avoid reckless presidential decisions that were bad for our country and produced entanglements with warring foreign nations. Remember George Washington’s farewell address on this point – truer today than in his day.
Continue reading at: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/08/31
From Common Dreams: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/09/01
Grassroots pressure has forced President Obama to seek approval from Congress for an attack on Syria. But Obama is hell-bent on ordering a missile assault on that country, and he has two very important aces in the hole.
The administration is about to launch a ferocious propaganda blitz that will engulf a wide range of U.S. media. And as a fallback, the president is reserving the option of attacking Syria no matter what Congress does.
Until Obama’s surprise announcement Saturday that he will formally ask Congress for authorization of military action against Syria, the impassioned pitches from top U.S. officials in late August seemed to be closing arguments before cruise missiles would hit Syrian targets. But the pre-bombing hyper spin has just gotten started.
The official appeals for making war on yet another country will be ferocious. Virtually all the stops will be pulled out; all kinds of media will be targeted; every kind of convoluted argument will be employed.
Hell hath no fury like war-makers scorned. Simmering rage will be palpable from political elites who do not want to see Congress set an unprecedented precedent: thwarting the will of a president who wants Pentagon firepower unleashed on another country.
President Obama and top Democrats such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will twist every arm they can to get a “yes” vote for attacking Syria. Meanwhile, most mainline media pundits, numbingly addicted to war, will often chastise and denigrate foes of authorization.
But we have a real chance to prevent a U.S. attack. One cogent argument after another, from intelligence veterans and policy analysts and weapons experts, has debunked the messaging for war on Syria. And some members of Congress — not nearly enough, but some — have begun to speak up with cogent opposition.
One of NPR’s inside-the-box hosts of “All Things Considered” on August 30 asked Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) about the Obama administration’s claim that missile strikes on Syria would be “a limited action” and not “war.” Congresswoman Lofgren replied: “I think that anyone who argues that shooting missiles and dropping bombs on another country is not an act of war has got some further education warranted. If somebody shot cruise missiles at Washington for only one day, we would still consider it an act of war, wouldn’t we?”
Continue reading at: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/09/01
Posted by Nafeez Ahmed
Friday 30 August 2013
On 21 August, hundreds – perhaps over a thousand – people were killed in a chemical weapon attack in Ghouta, Damascus, prompting the US, UK, Israel and France to raise the spectre of military strikes against Bashir al Assad’s forces.
The latest episode is merely one more horrific event in a conflict that has increasingly taken on genocidal characteristics. The case for action at first glance is indisputable. The UN now confirms a death toll over 100,000 people, the vast majority of whom have been killed by Assad’s troops. An estimated 4.5 million people have been displaced from their homes. International observers have overwhelmingly confirmed Assad’s complicity in the preponderance of war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Syrian people. The illegitimacy of his regime, and the legitimacy of the uprising, is clear.
Experts are unanimous that the shocking footage of civilians, including children, suffering the effects of some sort of chemical attack, is real – but remain divided on whether it involved military-grade chemical weapons associated with Assad’s arsenal, or were a more amateur concoction potentially linked to the rebels.
Whatever the case, few recall that US agitation against Syria began long before recent atrocities, in the context of wider operations targeting Iranian influence across the Middle East.
In May 2007, a presidential finding revealed that Bush had authorised CIA operations against Iran. Anti-Syria operations were also in full swing around this time as part of this covert programme, according to Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker. A range of US government and intelligence sources told him that the Bush administration had “cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations” intended to weaken the Shi’ite Hezbollah in Lebanon. “The US has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria,” wrote Hersh, “a byproduct” of which is “the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups” hostile to the United States and “sympathetic to al-Qaeda.” He noted that “the Saudi government, with Washington’s approval, would provide funds and logistical aid to weaken the government of President Bashir Assad, of Syria,” with a view to pressure him to be “more conciliatory and open to negotiations” with Israel. One faction receiving covert US “political and financial support” through the Saudis was the exiled Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.
From Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/02/noam-chomsky-syria_n_3851911.html
WASHINGTON — A U.S.-led attack on Syria without United Nations support would be a war crime regardless of congressional approval, Noam Chomsky, the antiwar activist and author, said in response to President Barack Obama’s announcement that he would seek Hill approval.
“As international support for Obama’s decision to attack Syria has collapsed, along with the credibility of government claims, the administration has fallen back on a standard pretext for war crimes when all else fails: the credibility of the threats of the self-designated policeman of the world,” Chomsky told HuffPost in an email.
Chomsky recently traveled to the region to learn more about the Syria crisis, and his comments there led some to believe he was open to military intervention if negotiations failed to produce peace. “I believe you should choose the negotiating track first, and should you fail, then moving to the second option” — backing the rebels — “becomes more acceptable,” he said.
But his comments to HuffPost indicate that he remains opposed to any military action that came without U.N. approval.
“[T]hat aggression without UN authorization would be a war crime, a very serious one, is quite clear, despite tortured efforts to invoke other crimes as precedents,” he added.
Liberals more associated with the establishment than Chomsky, who have nevertheless tended to be critical of the president’s foreign policy, cheered his decision to involve Congress as a step away from an increasingly imperial presidency and toward more democratic accountability of war making.
Chomsky upended the field of linguistics with a devastating critique of B.F. Skinner in 1959 that changed the way people think about human cognitive development. He has led a parallel career as a leading anarcho-syndicalist author, historian and activist.
From The Guardian UK: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/sep/02/climate-change-sandy-storm
Scientists expect stronger hurricanes under climate change, and possibly even more frequent storms – especially those at category 3 and higher. But New York City and much of the seaboard will be at lower risk of taking a direct hit, the study published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences said.
Instead, climate change will make it even less likely future storms will follow Sandy’s devastating track. The killer storm made a sharp left turn to slam straight into the Atlantic coast. The odds of a storm like Sandy were already extremely remote – a once in 700 year event – when it hit in October 2012. But it was that trajectory that made Sandy so devastating.
“What made Sandy so different was that it was steered into the coast rather than away from it,” said Elizabeth Barnes, a climate scientist at Colorado State University and an author of the study.
The researchers used climate models, based on a tripling of greenhouse gas emissions by 2100, to study whether future atmospheric conditions be more or less likely to blow a storm like Sandy westwards into the Atlantic coast.
They found future air patterns under climate change make a repeat of such a rare event even less likely. Wind and atmospheric conditions, including changes in the jet stream, would be more likely to push major storms further offshore, away from the big population centres along the Atlantic coast, the researchers found.
But, the researchers warned, the findings do not mean Americans can afford to be blasé about the risks to coastal areas from hurricanes and tropical storms. “You can’t let your guard down,” said Barnes.
Continue reading at: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/sep/02/climate-change-sandy-storm
By Henry Grabar
Saturday, Aug 31, 2013
“Whether you’re on the road or just cruising around town, your favorite McDonald’s menu items are never far away.” So boasts the McDonald’s Restaurant Locator, and a glance at a distribution map of franchises in the United States proves the point. Population centers burn brightly with the Golden Arches; even the sparsely populated Western states are adequately supplied by the nation’s 14,000-plus fleet of McDonald’s.
That reach is astounding, but not exceptional. Four out of five Americans live within 20 miles of our 11,000 Starbucks; 30 percent of American grocery shopping occurs at our 4,500 Wal-Marts. The most familiar element of the American landscape — excepting green highway signs and certain brands of automobiles — might be Subway, which has over 25,000 U.S. locations.
You could be forgiven for thinking, as Simon and Garfunkel sang, “Each town looks the same to me.” From Juneau to Jacksonville, we Americans share, as much as anything, a common commercial experience, a fractal pattern of retail at once comforting and mind-numbing. It stretches the powers of the imagination to think that eating and shopping options in the American city were once as distinct as fingerprints. The shift from mom-and-pops to chains has been one of the defining shifts in American cultural life, and counter-protests have been largely futile, with opponents pegged as sentimentalists standing in the way of progress and low prices.
That is changing. Dozens of American municipalities, mostly small towns with tourism in mind, have passed laws restricting the entry of chain stores. The biggest city to do so is San Francisco: in incremental steps punctuated by a ballot initiative in 2006, the California city famous for liberal activism has enacted the most influential anti-chain legislation in the United States.
You might not realize, walking the streets of Nob Hill, that you are experiencing an urban economy governed by the tightest big-city regulations on “formula retail” in the country. That’s because the San Francisco’s anti-chain net, while unique among large cities, is fairly permeable: three out of four chains that apply for permission to operate in one of the city’s protected zones are approved. Sure, San Francisco is quirky and diverse, true to its reputation, and bursting with independent bookstores, cafes, restaurants and boutiques. But the city isn’t an oasis: as in any other large U.S. city, there are dozens of Starbucks and Subway shops here too.
Continue reading at: http://www.salon.com/2013/08/31/san_francisco_to_chain_stores_get_out/
Radiation levels 18 times higher than previously reported have been found near a water storage tank at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, causing fresh concern about the safety of the wrecked facility.
The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), said radiation near the bottom of the tank measured 1,800 millisieverts an hour – high enough to kill an exposed person in four hours. Tepco said water levels inside the tank had not changed, indicating there had not been a leak. But the company said it had yet to discover the cause of the radiation spike.
Last month Tepco said another storage tank – of the same design as the container causing concern at the weekend – had leaked 300 tonnes of radioactive water, possibly into the sea.
Japan‘s nuclear watchdog confirmed last week it had raised the severity of that leak from level 1, an “anomaly”, to level 3, a “serious incident”, on an eight-point scale used by the International Atomic Energy Agency for radiological releases.
Earlier, the utility belatedly confirmed reports that a toxic mixture of groundwater and water being used to cool melted fuel lying deep inside the damaged reactors was seeping into the sea at a rate of about 300 tonnes a day.
Experts said those leaks, which are separate from the most recent incidents, may have started soon after the plant was struck by a powerful tsunami on 11 March 2011.
The tsunami smashed into the plant after Japan’s north-east coast was rocked by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake. The waves killed almost 19,000 people, while the resulting triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi forced 160,000 people to abandon their homes.
The high radiation levels announced on Sunday highlighted the dangers facing thousands of workers as they attempt to contain, treat and store water safely, while preventing fuel assemblies damaged in the accident from going back into meltdown.