Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Letting openly gay troops serve won't hurt military

Washington (CNN) -- Allowing openly gay or lesbian troops serve in the military would have little lasting impact on the U.S. armed forces, according to a long-awaited Pentagon review of the controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Repealing the policy would have "some limited and isolated disruption to unit cohesion and retention," the year-long study found, but the effects would not be long-lasting or widespread.

"The general lesson we take from ... transformational experiences in history is that in matters of personnel change within the military, predictions and surveys tend to overestimate negative consequences, and underestimate the U.S. military's ability to adapt and incorporate within it ranks the diversity that is reflective of American society at large," the report concluded.

President Barack Obama used the release of the report to urge the lame-duck Senate to follow the lead of the House of Representatives and pass a repeal of the Clinton-era law before the end of the year.

This report confirms that "by every measure -- from unit cohesion to recruitment and retention to family readiness -- we can transition to a new policy in a responsible manner that ensures our military strength and national security," Obama said in a written statement.

"Our troops and their families deserve the certainty that can only come when an act of Congress ends this discriminatory policy once and for all."

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates also urged the Senate to act quickly, warning that the military doesn't want change imposed by "judicial fiat." Speaking at the Pentagon, he alluded to a recent string of court opinions calling the legal viability of the current policy into doubt.

A repeal forced by the courts would be the most damaging scenario imaginable, he said. Those who choose not to act legislatively "are rolling the dice" that "change won't be forced by the courts."

Both Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen back a repeal of the law.

There is, however, strong minority opposition to a change, particularly in the Marines and some combat arms specialist units, according to the chairs of the study, Defense Department General Counsel Jeh C. Johnson and Army Gen. Carter F. Ham.

As many as 40 to 60 percent of troops in those units were against changing the 17-year-old policy that lets gay and lesbian troops serve as long as their sexual orientation is secret.

Overall opposition throughout the military was about 30 percent -- roughly the same as it is in America as a whole, according to recent findings from CNN/Opinion Research Corp. and the Pew Forum.

Johnson told members of Congress on Tuesday that he thought "don't ask, don't tell" could be repealed even while the United States is at war, sources said.

More than nine out of 10 troops said their unit's ability to work with someone they thought was gay or lesbian was very good, good, or neither good nor bad.

The authors of the report say gay and lesbian troops would continue to be discreet about their personal lives, even with a repeal, based on observations of workplaces in civilian society.

"I think a lot of people think there is going to be this big 'outing' and people flaunting their gayness, but they forget that we're in the military," one service member said. "That stuff isn't supposed to be done during duty hours regardless if you're gay or straight."

Another service member said, "I don't feel that this is something I should have to disclose. Straight people don't have to disclose their orientation. I will just just be me. I will bring my family to family events. I will put family pictures on my desk. I am not going to go up to people and say, 'Hi, there, I'm gay.' "

One Special Forces operative -- a part of the military with overall higher resistance to the change -- said, "We have a gay guy [in the unit]. He's big, he's mean, and he kills lots of bad guys. No one cared that he was gay."

The authors said they did hear a large number of religious and morally based objections to homosexuality.

"A large number of military chaplains believe that homosexuality is a sin and an abomination and that they are required by God to condemn it as such," the report notes.

But the report also points out that different moral values and religious convictions already exist inside the U.S. military and that while chaplains and others won't be required to change their personal views and beliefs, they must respect and serve others.

The report goes into detail over concerns that allowing gays to serve openly would create invasions of privacy and discomfort over sharing bathrooms or living facilities.

"We disagree and recommend against separate facilities," it concludes. "The creation of a third or possibly fourth category of bathroom facilities and living quarters, whether at bases or forward deployed areas, would be a logistical nightmare, expensive and impossible to administer."

"Separate facilities would in our view stigmatize gay and lesbian Service members in a manner reminiscent of 'separate but equal' facilities for blacks prior to the 1960's," the report states.

The report suggests not making gays and lesbians in the military a special class of military personnel, for diversity programs or complaint resolution.

"In a new environment in which gay and lesbian Service members can be open about their sexual orientation, we believe they will be accepted more readily if the military community understands that they are simply being permitted equal footing with everyone else," it says.

The report also says that men and women removed from the military under the current "don't ask" rules should be allowed to return, without the reason for their dismissal being considered as part of their application.

On the issue of benefits, the authors urge more study, including a full review of any policy change in a year. Even with a repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," not all benefits would be available to gay service members and their partners because of the Defense of Marriage Act.

The authors of the report point to military housing as one area of likely difficulty.

"We do not recommend at this time that military family housing be included in the benefits eligible for this member-designated approach. ... Military housing is a limited resource and complicated to administer and a system of member designation would create occasions for abuse and confusion," the report says.

The recommendations are based on surveys, focus groups and face-to-face meetings at bases around the world and even a carefully controlled effort to communicate anonymously with homosexuals serving in the military.

The Pentagon sent surveys to 400,000 troops and got about 115,000 responses. It sent separate questionnaires to 150,000 military spouses and got 44,000 back.

The Defense Department also set up a website for service members who wanted to comment. That effort elicited 72,000 responses.

And the Pentagon held meetings at 51 U.S. military bases around the world where 24,000 more troops discussed the issue.

Officials preparing the report also went to the service academies to hear from staff, faculty and students.

Social conservative activists, however, were quick to attack the report.

"The surveys did not ask whether respondents support repeal of the current law," said Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council. "If most service members say that under a different policy, they would continue to attempt to do their job in a professional manner, that is only what we would expect. This does not mean that a new policy would not undermine the overall effectiveness of the force.

"If even a small percentage of our armed forces would choose not to re-enlist, or part of the public would choose not to serve in the first place, the impact on the military would be catastrophic," he argued.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, echoed Perkins' complaint, saying the authors of the survey "didn't ask the right questions" because it was "all about how you implement the repeal, not should it be repealed."

Graham also criticized the House's decision to pass a repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" before the study was concluded.

"We spoke on the middle of a survey, which I think tainted the whole process," he said.

In October, Gates wrote in a letter to Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, that it was not part of the charter of the Pentagon's so-called working group to poll the troops on whether the "don't ask, don't tell" policy should be repealed.

"I do not believe that military policy decisions should -- on this or any other subject -- be subject to referendum of service members," Gates wrote.

His letter to McCain has not been released, but a Pentagon source confirmed the accuracy of the quote.

On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee will hear directly from Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. On Friday, it will hear from the top brass of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.

Outside the military, Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of repealing the current law.

A Pew survey released Monday indicated that a majority of Americans say they favor allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the armed forces.

According to the poll, 58 percent of the public approves of allowing homosexuals to serve openly, with 27 percent saying they are opposed.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll conducted earlier in November indicated that more than seven in 10 Americans said that people who are openly gay or lesbian should be allowed to serve in the military, with 23 percent opposed.

Despite public opinion on the side of repeal supporters, the heads of the four military branches have either directly opposed or been unenthusiastic about the policy change, at least until the Pentagon report was finished and released.

Marine Commandant James Amos has said that he opposes the change while the U.S. is fighting in Afghanistan because of its potential negative effect on unit cohesion. He will be joined on the second day of hearings by another Marine, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright.

Gen. George Casey, the Army chief of staff, has said he is on board with Gates in considering the effect of the repeal. But committee members may remind him of something he told them earlier.

"I do have serious concerns about the impact of the repeal of the law on a force that's fully engaged in two wars and has been at war for eight and a half years," Casey said this year.

Once the Armed Services Committee's hearings are over, the spotlight will turn to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada. He will decide how the issue will move forward, whether to keep it part of the Defense Authorization Bill or whether to strip it off for a separate vote.

But the calendar could be the biggest factor weighing on whether the law is repealed or upheld. With just weeks left for this Congress with its significant Democratic majority, the leadership will need to decide whether it has the time, amid other priorities it wants considered, to mire the Senate in debate about "don't ask, don't tell."

A little CONSUMER information you may appreciate

Faster cellphones to bring a wave of new services and charges

If you think cellphone bills are complicated now, just wait.

Within weeks, some of the biggest wireless companies will offer super-fast Internet connections for cellphones that rival the speeds delivered to desktop computers. As competitors follow suit with their own juiced-up networks geared for the Web, consumers can expect a cornucopia of new services - along with new charges.

For now, consumers can buy flat-rate monthly data plans from most carriers. But Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile are moving toward tiered pricing packages based on how much data a customer uses. All-you-can-eat plans are no longer available to AT&T's new customers, who must choose from a menu of data services.

"There are a variety of things you can do and a lot is on the table," said Peter Thonis, a spokesman for Verizon Communications. "You could be charged based on useage or by speed difference, or you could do both. There are no definitive answers here."

The Federal Communications Commission is trying to keep up, launching an effort to prevent mystery fees and confusing increases from appearing on cellphone bills. But the wave of changes is only beginning.

Cisco, which provides routers for wireless networks, is working with corporate clients such as Verizon to create even more options for consumers. Users could opt for "turbo charging" streaming video feeds to their smartphone for an extra fee. Just pay a little more for "gold service" compared with "bronze service" for data packages and speeds, said a Cisco official, who wasn't authorized to be identified speaking for the company.

Imagine bundles of television channels such as ESPN and Fox delivered on your iPad or other tablet for a few dollars extra. Add a few more dollars and get parental controls to block R-rated movies and World of Warcraft on your teen's Droid.

Heavy users of Facebook may be able to buy priority service for that application or spend a bit more to keep Twitter's Web site from failing during peak hours.

None of this is offered today, but Cisco says its partners are far along in implementing such new features.

All this, according to consumer groups and analysts, will lead to a labyrinth of fees and charges on cellphone bills that could make an accountant's head spin.

Consumer advocates say confusion is to the advantage of carriers.

"You have a population without true knowledge of how much they are consuming compared to carriers who have true knowledge of demand on their networks, and that assymetry leads to things like bill shock," said Sascha Meinrath, a director of the open technology initiative at the New America Foundation.

The FCC is considering rules that require carriers to text or call users when they approach their voice and data limits. The regulation is aimed at avoiding "bill shock."

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said that even though carriers say they let users know how many minutes of talking and megabytes of data they use, mystery fees continue to confound consumers. Verizon Wireless recently agreed to pay $25 million in a settlement with the FCC on false data charges for 15 million subscribers. The federal agency estimates about 30 million cellphone users have experienced bill shock from sudden increases.

And Genachowski doubts that most people know how much data is consumed by watching an episode of "Mad Men," a recipe for even more confusion in the new world of ever-more-powerful smartphones and tablets that act like computers.

"Most people still don't know what a megabyte is," Genachowski said in a speech introducing the regulatory proposal. "So it's hard to expect them to know when they have reached their limits."

In a recent survey, the research arm of investment house Sanford C. Bernstein found that consumers were not happy with the idea of usage-based pricing plans.

"They're generally ill-equipped for any estimation of their usage and they are ill-equipped to judge its implications," Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett wrote. "Given the option, the vast majority of respondents would stay with their unlimited plans."

Sprint Nextel was the first to offer mobile broadband services, known as fourth-generation wireless. It is offered in 62 markets and only in unlimited plans, though chief executive Dan Hesse said he is watching competitors with tiered data plans.

The nation's largest carriers say they need to manage traffic with various offerings to prevent congestion. They tout more options for users and say tiered prices are more fair to those who don't use their phones for Internet access as much as others.

For now, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile offer tiers of data packages and flat-rate plans. AT&T's customers can maintain their unlimited voice and data packages until the end of their contracts. Those customers will then have to choose from a menu of data plans.

"What we're trying to do is offer choice, and there will always be those that then say choices are too many. So you're darned if you do and darned if you don't," said John Walls, a spokesman for wireless industry trade group CTIA.

Cecilia Kang
Washington Post

WikiLeaks provides the truth Bush obscured (NO! GWB LIE? How is that possible!!!!)

Richard Cohen

Say what you want about WikiLeaks - and I don't much like what it has done - it nevertheless would be useful for its founder, Julian Assange, to follow George W. Bush as he lopes around the country, promoting his new book, "Decision Points." When, for instance, Bush attempts to justify the Iraq war by saying the world is a better place without Saddam Hussein, Assange could reach into his bag of leaked U.S. government cables and cite Saudi King Abdullah's private observation that the war had given Iraq to Iran as a "gift on a golden platter."

Iraq now has a Shiite-dominated government and many senior officials who are ominously friendly with Iran. It was always American policy to use Saddam's Iraq to counterbalance Iran since it was really Iran that posed a danger to the region. That danger is now amply documented in the new WikiLeaks documents - including the revelation that North Korea has sold Iran missiles capable of reaching, say, Tel Aviv or, a minute or so later, Cairo.

To a certain extent, the leaked documents contain the rawest form of gossip. It is amusing to learn that Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi is psychologically gridlocked with all sorts of neurotic tics and will not travel without his Ukrainian nurse, described as a "voluptuous blonde." It is good to see that parody of a blowhard, Italy's Silvio Berlusconi, characterized as being in the pocket of Russia's Vladimir Putin and fun to wonder, in a Scrooge McDuck moment, how Afghanistan's vice president was able to take $52 million in cash out of the country and get it through customs in the United Arab Emirates last year when you and I get stopped for having a small bottle of shampoo. Something's wrong here, I suspect.

The Arab world's alarm at the imminence of an Iranian bomb is on full display in the leaked documents - as is the Obama administration's methodical and effective attempts to isolate Tehran. Saudi Arabia's Abdullah implored Washington to "cut off the head of the snake" while there was still time, and the United Arab Emirates "agreed with [U.S. Gen. John P.] Abizaid that Iran's new President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad seemed unbalanced, crazy even."
Some months later the Emirates' defense chief, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi, told Abizaid that the United States needed to take action against Iran "this year or next." If cables from Jordan and Egypt could be read, they would be no different. The (Sunni) Arab world loathes and fears Iran on sectarian grounds and also because it espouses a revolutionary doctrine of the sort that kings and dictators find disquieting.

This is the world George Bush left us. It exists everywhere but in his book, where facts are either omitted or rearranged so that the war in Iraq seems the product of pure reason. As my colleague, the indefatigably indefatigable Walter Pincus, has pointed out, Bush manages to bollix up both the chronology and the importance of the various inspections of Iraq's weapons systems so as to suggest that any other president given the same set of facts would have gone to war.
"I had tried to address the threat from Saddam Hussein without war," he writes. On that score, he is simply not credible.

The accumulating evidence at the time showed that Iraq lacked a nuclear weapons program and did not have biological weapons either. As for its chemical weapons program, while harder to ferret out, it not only no longer existed, but even if it had, it was insufficient reason to go to war. Poison gas has been around since the Second Battle of Ypres.
That was 1915. "The absence of WMD stockpiles did not change the fact that Saddam was a threat," Bush writes. Heads he wins, tails you lose.

Reading Bush's book, seeing him in his various TV appearances, I keep thinking of Menachem Begin, the late Israeli prime minister. In 1982, Begin took Israel to war in Lebanon.
It cost Israel as many as 675 dead, 4,000 wounded and its image as invincible on the battlefield. Begin took responsibility. He resigned and became a recluse, a depressed and beaten man.

I suggest no such course for Bush -- only that he read the WikiLeaks documents and, for the sake of history and the instruction it offers, reassess his vaunted decisions. His jejune approach to decision-making - know yourself but not necessarily the facts - is downright repellent. On the book's dust jacket, Bush is shown in a ranching outfit. A Peter Pan outfit would have been more fitting. Like him, Bush has never grown up.

GOP should take on Palin Joe Scarborough

Republicans have a problem. The most-talked-about figure in the GOP is a reality show star who cannot be elected. And yet the same leaders who fret that Sarah Palin could devastate their party in 2012 are too scared to say in public what they all complain about in private.

Enough. It’s time for the GOP to man up.

Everybody knows that Palin is a busy woman. The former half-term governor of Alaska stays so busy these days that one wonders how this mother of five manages to juggle her new reality show, follow her eldest daughter’s dancing career and launch her latest frenetic book tour while still finding the time to insult a slew of revered presidents and first ladies.

You’ve got to admit hers is a breathtaking high-wire act.

What man or mouse with a fully functioning human brain and a résumé as thin as Palin’s would flirt with a presidential run? It makes the political biography of Barack Obama look more like Winston Churchill’s, despite the fact that the 44th president breezed into the Oval Office as little more than a glorified state senator.

Still, Palin is undeterred, charging ahead maniacally while declaring her intention to run for the top office in the land if “nobody else will.” Adding audacity to this dopey dream is that Palin can’t stop herself from taking swings at Republican giants. In the past month alone, she has mocked Ronald Reagan’s credentials, dismissed George H.W. and Barbara Bush as arrogant “blue bloods” and blamed George W. Bush for wrecking the economy.

Wow. That’ll win ’em over in Iowa.

One can only guess what comes next on Palin’s bizarre road show. Maybe the publishing world’s favorite reality star can keep drawing attention and selling billions of books by spitting on John Wayne’s grave or “manning up” by shooting an American bald eagle.

Or how about this? Maybe Palin could show up on Fox News and build her weak résumé by tearing down Reagan’s.

Oh, wait. Been there, done that.

When Sean Hannity asked Palin whether being in a reality show diminished her standing to be president, the former half-term governor mocked Reagan’s biography, dismissing him as “an actor.”

Sounding like every left-wing politician and media elitist who ridiculed Reagan for decades, Palin sneered that she could be president if the actor from “Bedtime for Bonzo” managed to do so.

A longtime disciple of the Gipper’s, Peggy Noonan, dismissed the remark as “ignorant, even for Sarah Palin.” Noonan reported that Reagan loyalists were outraged that Palin would stoop to using the old left-wing jab. Reagan’s former speechwriter then used her Wall Street Journal column to strike back.

Noonan noted that Reagan walked into the White House as far more than an actor.

The 40th president first led a major American labor union through massive upheaval, toured factories for General Electric for eight years and was California’s governor for two full terms during the Golden State’s most momentous times. Reagan then challenged an incumbent president from his own party and reinvented American conservatism without the help of the GOP establishment or the conservative movement.

After Palin mocked Reagan’s credentials, the TLC reality show star took aim at the 41st president and his wife. Borrowing again from old left-wing attacks that Democrats used against GOP presidents, Palin channeled Ann Richards by bashing Bush and his wife as “blue bloods” who had wrecked America.

Palin was perturbed that a former president and his wife would dare to answer a question about whom they preferred for president in 2012. Perhaps her anger was understandable. After all, these disconnected “blue bloods” had nothing in their backgrounds that could ever make them understand “real America” like a former governor from Alaska who quit in the middle of her first term and then got rich.

Maybe Richards and Palin were right. Maybe poor George Herbert Walker Bush was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Indeed, he was so pampered growing up that on his 18th birthday, the young high school graduate enlisted in the armed forces. This spoiled teenager somehow managed to be the youngest pilot in the Navy when he received his wings, flying 58 combat missions over the Pacific during World War II. On Sept. 2, 1944, “Blue Blood” Bush almost lost his life after being shot down by Japanese anti-aircraft fire.

With his engine shattered and his plane on fire, Bush still refused to turn back, completing his mission by scoring several damaging hits on enemy targets. His plane crashed in the Pacific, where he waited for four hours in enemy waters until he was finally rescued. For his bravery and service to this country, Bush was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, three air medals and the Presidential Unit Citation for bravery while in combat.

What a spoiled brat.

I suppose Palin’s harsh dismissal of this great man is more understandable after one reads her biography and realizes that, like Bush, she accomplished a great deal in her early 20s. Who wouldn’t agree that finishing third in the Miss Alaska beauty contest is every bit as treacherous as risking your life in military combat? Maybe the beauty contestant who would one day be a reality star and former governor didn’t win the Distinguished Flying Cross, but the half-termer was selected as Miss Congeniality by her fellow contestants.

And now a point of personal privilege. I work hard every day to assume the best of Americans who engage in public service. But I am offended by Palin’s attempt to build herself up by tearing down great men like Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Palin is not a stupid woman. But like the current president, she still does not know what she does not know. And she does know how to make millions of dollars, even if she embarrasses herself while doing it.

That reality hardly makes Palin unique, but this is one Republican who would prefer that the former half-term governor promote her reality shows and hawk her books without demeaning the reputations of Presidents Reagan and Bush. These great men dedicated their lives to public service and are too good to be fodder for her gaudy circus sideshow.

If Republicans want to embrace Palin as a cultural icon whose anti-intellectualism fulfills a base political need, then have at it. I suppose it’s cheaper than therapy.

But if the party of Ronald Reagan, Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio wants to return to the White House anytime soon, it’s time that Republican leaders started standing up and speaking the truth to Palin.

A guest columnist for POLITICO, Joe Scarborough hosts “Morning Joe” on MSNBC and represented Florida’s 1st Congressional District in the House of Representatives from 1995 to 2001.

Scientists Trick Cells Into Switching Identities (SY FI SCIENCE STUFF)

NEW YORK (AP) — Scientists are reporting early success at transforming one kind of specialized cell into another, a feat of biological alchemy that doctors may someday perform inside a patient's body to restore health.

So if a heart attack damages muscle tissue in the heart, for example, doctors may someday be able to get other cells in that organ to become muscle to help the heart pump.

That's a futuristic idea, but researchers are enthusiastic about the potential for the new direct-conversion approach.

"I think everyone believes this is really the future of so-called stem-cell biology," says John Gearhart of the University of Pennsylvania, one of many researchers pursuing this approach.

The concept is two steps beyond the familiar story of embryonic stem cells, versatile entities that can be coaxed to become cells of all types, like brain and blood. Scientists are learning to guide those transformations, which someday may provide transplant tissue for treating diseases like Parkinson's or diabetes.

It's still experimental. But at its root, it's really just harnessing and speeding up what happens in nature: a versatile but immature cell matures into a more specialized one.

The first step beyond that came in 2007, when researchers reversed the process. They got skin cells to revert to a state resembling embryonic stem cells. That opened the door to a two-part strategy: turn skin cells from a person into stem cells in the lab, and then run the clock forward to get whatever specialized cell you want for transplant.

The new direct-conversion approach avoids embryonic stem cells and the whole notion of returning to an early state. Why not just go directly from one specialized cell to another? It's like flying direct rather than scheduling a stopover.

Even short of researchers' dreams of fixing internal organs from within, Gearhart says direct conversion may offer some other advantages over more established ways of producing specialized cells. Using embryonic stem cells is proving to be inefficient and more difficult than expected, scientists say. For example, the heart muscle cells developed from them aren't fully mature, Gearhart noted.

And there's no satisfactory way yet to make mature insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, which might be useful for treating diabetes, says George Daley of Children's Hospital Boston and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.

So direct conversion might offer a more efficient and faster way of getting the kinds of cells scientists want.

A glimpse of what might be possible through direct conversion emerged in 2008. Researchers got one kind of pancreatic cell to turn into another kind within living mice.

But far more dramatic changes have been reported in the past year in lab dishes, with scientists converting mouse skin cells into nerve cells and heart muscle cells. And just this month came success with human cells, turning skin cells into early stage blood cells.

The secret to these transformations is the fact that all cells of a person's body carry the same DNA code. But not all the genes are active at any one time. In fact, a cell's identity depends on its lineup of active genes. So, to convert a cell, scientists alter that combination by inserting chemical signals to activate particular genes.

"This is something that's really caught fire because it's an easy strategy to use," Gearhart said. "Everyone's out there trying their different combinations (of chemical signals) to see if they can succeed."

But success is not so easy. "There's a lot of experiments failing," Daley said. "A lot of people are just taking a trial-and-error approach, and that's fundamentally inefficient. And yet, it may create a breakthrough."

Even when the experiments work, there are plenty of questions to answer. Can this technique reliably produce transformed cells? Are these new cells normal? Or do they retain some hidden vestiges of their original identity that might cause trouble later on?

"When we make a duck look like a cat, it may look like a cat and meow, but whether it still has feathers is an issue," Daley said.

And ultimately: Would it be safe to transplant these cells into patients?

"We're a long way from showing safety and efficacy for any of these things," Gearhart said. "This stuff is all so new that we have a lot of work to do."

In any case, he and Daley said, scientists will still work with embryonic stem cells and the man-made versions first produced in 2007, called iPS cells. Those technologies clearly have places in various kinds of research, and it's not yet clear whether they or direct conversion will eventually prove best for manufacturing replacement cells for people.

That question, Daley said, "is way, way open."

Gov't Targets Web Sites Selling Counterfeit (INFO YOU MAY NEED TO KNOW)

Gov't Targets Web Sites Selling Counterfeit Goods

WASHINGTON (AP) — On one of the year's busiest Internet shopping days, federal law enforcement announced a crackdown that blocked 82 domain names of far-flung commercial websites to keep them from peddling counterfeit merchandise and illegal copies of music and software.

Nearly 100 million people shop on "Cyber Monday," a day when consumers return to work from the long Thanksgiving weekend. Many buy items online.

Counterfeiters are prowling the back alleys of the Internet, waiting to unload shoddy presents unlikely to bring any holiday cheer, John Morton, head of immigration and customs enforcement at the Homeland Security Department, told a news conference.

Attorney General Eric Holder said federal law enforcement agents got court orders allowing them to seize the domain names after making undercover purchases from online retailers and confirming that the items sold were counterfeit or infringed on copyrights.

The move was applauded by the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America.

Anyone attempting to access one of the websites will find a banner saying that the domain name has been seized by federal authorities.

The counterfeit goods include sports equipment, shoes, handbags, athletic apparel and sunglasses. The copyright infringement covers copies of DVDs, music and software.

Most of the counterfeit goods are produced and shipped from China.

On a trip to Hong Kong and to Beijing last month, Holder told law enforcement counterparts from China and around the world to do more to fight these crimes.

Congress is considering giving law enforcement more tools to crack down on copyright infringement and the sale of counterfeit goods online, but the proposed legislation has run into some opposition.

Earlier this month, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved a bill that would allow the Justice Department to obtain court orders identifying sites dedicated to "infringing activity" and require companies that register Internet domain names to suspend those accounts. And to reach Web sites registered outside the U.S., the bill also would require Internet service providers to block their users from accessing those sites and prohibit payment processors and online advertising networks from doing business with them.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has strong backing from Hollywood, the nation's big record labels and other industries that depend on strong intellectual property protections. But some in the technology industry say it could result in Internet censorship by blocking access to Web sites.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The new front in the culture wars: food

If you shelled out $10 a pound for a "heritage turkey" this Thanksgiving, tea-brined it and stuffed it with rosemary bread (that you made), speck (from the local charcuterie guy), fennel (from the farmers market) and lemon (okay, there are limits to this), you might assume that everyone, if given the opportunity, would support such a makeover of a meal that not long ago was dominated by frozen Butterballs and jellied cranberry sauce.

In fact, not everyone would. And that is an important thing to understand about the effort to remake America's food culture. Advocates of fresh, local and sustainably raised food say it is healthier, better-tasting and morally sound. If everyone could afford that heritage turkey and had a local charcuterie guy, the argument goes, then all Thanksgiving meals would be elevated to ethereal heights.

But many in this country who have access to good food and can afford it simply don't think it's important. To them, food has become a front in America's culture wars, and the crusade against fast and processed food is an obsession of "elites," not "real Americans."

Consider these shots from leading conservative voices in just the past month:
Rush Limbaugh, responding to the report of a Kansas State nutrition professor who says he lost 27 pounds eating mainly Twinkies, said: "I know liberals lie, and if Michelle Obama's gonna be out there ripping into 'food deserts' and saying, 'This is why people are fat,' I know it's not true."
Sarah Palin took cookies to a Pennsylvania school to register her disapproval of policies that forbid sweets.
Glenn Beck suggested that food-safety legislation was a government plot to raise the prices for beef and chicken and thereby turn us all into vegetarians.

Both sides in this gustatory dust-up understand just how dangerous it is to tell people how to eat. The right's cultural warriors see an opportunity to turn the complicated issue of food into a class-war weapon - and to make nice with the fast-food industry, which has donated generously to the GOP. They are banking on the fact that over the past 60 years, the American way of eating has moved from small farms and home-cooked meals to industrial production and drive-throughs.
The Golden Arches long ago replaced Mom's apple pie as a symbol of the all-American meal. Thus, "Don't let them take away your Big Mac!" becomes a rallying cry.

This transformation has been sold to us as progress, though not without consequences: Obesity-related diseases cost $150 billion annually.

Proponents of a more progressive food system - liberals mostly - have sought to avoid a paternalistic tone, too. They have focused on systemic failures that prevent families from making healthier choices. Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" initiative, which aims to end childhood obesity within a generation, addresses access (Is fresh food available?) and affordability (Can poor and working-class families afford to buy it?).

When reformers talk about personal decisions, they are mostly urging people of means to "vote with their forks" by consuming from places such as farmers markets and Whole Foods.

Access and affordability are indeed problems. But the sense on the right that this is fundamentally a culture issue is also correct, even if its message is wrongheaded.

We moved this month to Huntington, W.Va. - the town where celebrity chef Jamie Oliver set a reality TV show about healthy eating this year - to research a book about efforts to change the way the city eats. Like most U.S. communities, Huntington is dominated by fast and processed food. Still, finding affordable, fresh and even local food there has not been as hard as we expected.
We have found plenty of organic produce at the supermarket. We've bought local eggs, buffalo meat and un-homogenized milk in glass bottles.

So far, we've prepared nearly all our meals at home and are averaging about $100 a week on groceries. That breaks down to $2.38 per meal, per person, though it doesn't include the gas and time it took to run down leads on food sources.

In other words, access to and the cost of "elite" food isn't beyond the budgets of many, perhaps most, Americans. Our meals cost less than the "Shrimpzilla" deal at the fast-food joint Captain D's - $4.99 for 30 fried shrimp and two sides - or the $2.59 McDonald's McRib (plus tax).

Those who would reform the U.S. food system need to address the question of values that Limbaugh, Palin and others criticize as elitist. They need to consider the role that socioeconomics plays in determining those values and how to begin to change them.
They have to make the case for why eating well matters at the local level, and that case will vary by community. In the Huntington area, residents spend $1.25 billion annually on food, but little of it stays in the region. Local food as economic development is a more persuasive argument in places where good jobs are scarce than is the do-the-right-thing mantra that echoes from both coasts. Good food is also at least part of the solution to the region's health crisis: high rates of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

For the good-food revolution to have a chance, people have to make finding and preparing fresh food a priority at a time when everything about our modern food system urges us not to bother. And that won't happen if people think healthy food is an elitist plot to take away their McRib.

WASHINGTON POST by Brent Cunningham Jane Black

The 9 Most Shocking WikiLeaks Secrets

The whistleblower’s latest document dump exposes Saudi Arabia’s plot against Iran, a corrupt Afghan’s $52 million payday, Putin and Berlusconi’s “bromance,” and more. See nine of the most startling details.

1. Yemen Takes the Fall for U.S. Drones

Leaked documents reveal that Yemen has been covering up for the U.S in the fight against al Qaeda by saying publicly that attacks initiated by the State Department were directed by Yemen. “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh told General David Petraeus in January 2010. The coverup, made necessary by severe distrust of the U.S. in the Middle East, prompted Yemen’s prime minister to joke about how the president had “lied” to his parliament about the strikes.

Sec. of State Hillary Clinton wanted diplomats to snoop out credit card numbers, schedules, email addresses, cell phone numbers—even DNA—of the members of the U.N. Security Council, according to the documents. (Susan Walsh / AP Photo) 2. China Hacked Google—and the Dalai Lama

The Chinese government was behind the much-publicized cyberattack on Google’s computer network this year, according to “a Chinese contact” who told the U.S. Embassy in Beijing about “a coordinated campaign of computer sabotage carried out by government operatives.” U.S. officials have previously declined to finger the Chinese government publicly for the attacks, but the WikiLeaks cable makes clear that Beijing directed hacks into not only Google, but also U.S. and Western allies’ computers, the Gmail accounts of Chinese dissidents, and even the Dalai Lama’s computer.

3. Hillary Commissioned U.N. Spies

Clinton wanted diplomats to snoop out credit-card numbers, frequent-flier details, schedules, email addresses, cellphone numbers, and even DNA of the members of the U.N. Security Council, according to the documents. That includes U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, about whom the secretary of state requested information on “management and decision-making style and his influence on the secretariat.” The requests, which were made in July 2009 and follow similar orders from Clinton’s predecessor, Condoleezza Rice, will no doubt cause embarrassment and could even be illegal: A 1946 U.N. treaty bans “search, requisition... and any other form of interference” of United Nations property.

4. “Feckless” Berlusconi Has “Shadowy” Ties to Putin

The cables are not very kind to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is deemed “feckless, vain, and ineffective as a modern European leader” by Elizabeth Dibble, the U.S. envoy to Rome. Another leaked document details Berlusconi’s already known “frequent late nights and penchant for partying hard.” The reports also question the intimate relationship between Berlusconi and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who reportedly use a “shadowy” bilingual go-between and lavish each other with expensive gifts. Secretary Clinton asked her envoys in the two nations to report on any business dealings between the two, in addition to their chummy bromance.

5. Saudi King Wants a U.S. Military Strike on Iran

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah repeatedly pushed the U.S. to attack Iran, according to the U.S. ambassador there. “Cut off the head of the snake,” the king said in 2008, requesting a military strike against Iran’s burgeoning nuclear program. The Saudi government also called for “severe U.S. and international sanctions on Iran.” Israel also urged action, labeling 2010 a critical year. A June 2009 message describes Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak outlining a “window between 6 and 18 months from now in which stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons might still be viable.” After that, said Barak, “any military solution would result in unacceptable collateral damage” Other cables show that the U.S. believes Iran has received advanced missiles from North Korea capable of striking Moscow and Europe.

6. Corrupt Afghan V.P. Caught With $52 Million in Cash

This must have weighed down his luggage: Officials working with the Drug Enforcement Agency in the United Arab Emirates last year discovered that Afghanistan’s visiting vice president, Ahmed Zia Massoud, had $52 million on him—in cash. Calling the bonanza a “significant amount,” the U.S. Embassy let him keep it “without revealing the money’s origin or destination.” Massoud denies funneling any cash out of Afghanistan.

7. U.S. Offers Payouts in Exchange for Guantanamo Detainees

U.S. authorities were so anxious to resettle Guantanamo prisoners abroad that they were ready to strike any deal with a foreign country willing to take them. Officials offered Kiribati, a tiny island nation in the Pacific—population 98,000—millions of dollars in incentives to shelter Chinese Muslim detainees. They also bribed Slovenian officials to take an inmate in exchange for the chance to meet President Obama. Belgium, meanwhile, was told that taking Guantanamo prisoners would be a “low-cost way…to attain prominence in Europe.”

• Peter Beinart: The WikiLeaks Drama Is Overblown

• Tunku Varadarajan: The Fallout from WikiLeaks8. U.S., S. Korea Are Planning to Reunite the Two Koreas

As tensions on the peninsula escalate, American and South Korean officials have already discussed plans to unite the two Koreas should the North ultimately collapse. They’ve also considered inducing China to go along with reunification, with the South Korean ambassador telling the State Department in February 2010 that economic incentives would “help salve” China should a united Korea end up in a “benign alliance” with the United States.

9. State Department Gives Low Marks to Germany’s Merkel

The German magazine Der Spiegel, which was among the publications allowed to preview the leaks, immediately zeroed in on the State Department’s cool perception of Chancellor Angela Merkel. The German leader “has not taken bold steps yet to improve the substantive content of the relationship,” wrote former U.S. Ambassador William Timken in 2006. Merkel was also called “risk averse and rarely creative” in a 2008 message. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, meanwhile, was deemed “short on substance.”

Bush v. Gore, 10 Years Later (AND STILL WRONG! The Court Stole the PRESIDENCY for GWB!)

Bush v. Gore, 10 Years Later

Usually, momentous Supreme Court cases are cited often in the years after their decision.

But compared to Brown v. Board of Education, cited over 25 times in the 10 years after 1954, or Roe v. Wade, cited over 65, Bush v. Gore has been cited exactly zero times in the last 10 years.

However, writes Jeffrey Toobin in The New Yorker, the case set a more general and pernicious precedent: the casting aside of judicial restraint and deference to states' rights in favor of partisan politics. Despite decrying judicial activism, conservative justices, led by one of Bush's lawyers in the Florida recount debacle, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., have been eager to overturn the work of legislatures when it comes to guns, campaign finance, and environmental protection.

This activism, Toobin writes, "is the tragedy of Bush v. Gore. The case didn't just scar the Court's record; it damaged the Court's honor."

The New Yorker

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Thieves in Minneapolis take money from stroke patient at fundraiser

Minneapolis police are investigating the reported theft of about $1,300 from a fundraising event over the weekend.

The money was taken outside of Jimmy's Bar in Minneapolis Saturday night. The victim was a 45-year-old Andover woman for whom the fundraiser was held, police said Sunday. The event was held to help her pay for medical bills from a recent stroke and surgery. The robbers apparently grabbed the woman's purse when she briefly went outside the bar.

Police Sgt. Jesse Garcia said it is not unusual for thieves to stake out such fundraisers in hopes of making off with some of the cash.

"People do scout out these types of things," Garcia said Sunday night. "They'll be in the crowd, and they will wait and follow someone outside."

Tom Toles WashPost comments I like "Say ahhh...

How come so little of the debate is about why our health care costs, like, TWICE what it does in other industrialized countries, without better outcomes?

Huh? Why is that?

Lotsa talk about the big debt looming, not so much about how health-care costs are the driver.
MUCH grumbling about COVERING PEOPLE who don't deserve to be covered and deserve to get sick and die or drive up costs even further by not getting pre-crisis care and ending up in emergency rooms where they cost even MORE before they die as they so thoroughly deserve, but that's about the level of focus on this particular public policy issue.

Much head-shaking and consternation about how your run-of-the-mill GOVERNMENT employee is so outrageously overpaid, to say nothing about if s/he happens to be a teacher.
No END of teeth-gnashing about that. But health providers here spending DOUBLE what they do everywhere else with no better outcomes to show for it?

Well, the crickets are busy discussing it, anyway.

Billionaires: Raise our taxes (can't be a Republican!)

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett said taxes should probably be cut further for most Americans, but raised for the super-wealthy, such as himself.

"I think that people at the high end, people like myself, should be paying a lot more in taxes," Buffett said. "We have it better than we've ever had it."

Microsoft founder Bill Gates said he voted for a failed ballot measure in Washington State to raise taxes on the wealthy. "I voted yes and I was hoping that it would pass," Gates said. "But that's done now."

Buffett dismissed the notion that cutting taxes for the wealthy will trickle down through the economy to benefit everyone.

"The rich are always going to say that, you know, just give us more money and we'll go out and spend more and then it will all trickle down to the rest of you," Buffett said. "But that has not worked the last 10 years, and I hope the American public is catching on."


Despite Alaska Senate race results, Joe Miller presses on in principle

Much of America may have moved on, but Joe Miller has not. More than a week after the last vote was counted in Alaska's closely watched U.S. Senate race, the Republican nominee continues to press his case in court in hopes of grabbing back a victory that once seemed inevitable.

Never mind that the incumbent, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), has already declared that she made history by mounting the first successful write-in campaign for Senate in more than 50 years. Or that the Alaska Republican Party has called on Miller to "end his campaign in a dignified manner." Or that there is but a sliver of a chance he could win even if all his court challenges prove successful.

Miller, a tea party favorite who beat Murkoswki in the GOP primary, has alleged bias on the part of state officials as well as voter fraud, arguing that some of the ballots have suspiciously similar handwriting. He has attacked the state Division of Elections for accepting minor misspellings of Murkowski's name. He has complained that the hand-count of the write-in ballots started too early to give him enough time to train his volunteers to monitor the outcome.

And he has asked for a hand recount of all the ballots, saying the machine-counted votes that went largely for him should receive the same scrutiny - and potentially benefit of the doubt - as the write-in ones cast for Murkowski.

"Lisa Murkowski's were counted by hand, allowing those not automatically tallied by the voting machines to be reviewed and counted. If Miller's ballots were given the same review, he will likely gain numerous votes," Randy DeSoto, a Miller campaign spokesman, said in an e-mail.

According to the state's unofficial results, Murkowski won a solid victory with about 40 percent of the vote. Miller received about 35 percent, and 23 percent went to Democrat Scott McAdams, who has conceded defeat.

Miller's campaign has flagged about 8,000 votes as problematic because of misspellings and other problems. But even if a judge sided with Miller and ordered all those votes thrown out, he would fall short.

"I'm just going to be very straightforward here. I think that race is over," said former congressman Norm Coleman, a Republican who was defeated in the 2008 U.S. Senate race in Minnesota. That contest dragged on for eight months after Election Day as the candidates battled in court before Democrat Al Franken was declared the winner.

"The counting's been done. I'm not sure that anything is going to change," Coleman said in a C-SPAN interview set to air Sunday. "Without criticizing Joe Miller, I would offer him advice . . . that I think it's time to move on, that there's not much you can gain by extending the process."

More at stake

After losing the Republican primary to Miller, Murkowski decided to stay in the race as a write-in candidate. She blanketed the state to teach voters to spell her name, an effort that paid off dramatically Nov. 2.

To Miller's ardent backers - still reeling from the events that led to this point - his continuing fight is neither frivolous nor quixotic. It is a principled stand by a man whose challenge of an establishment candidate they view as too moderate inspired a conservative groundswell.

Indeed, just three months ago, Miller seemed a shoo-in. He was so confident that in September he tweeted, "Think I'll do some house-hunting while I'm in D.C." That dispatch was followed a few moments later by, "Guess I should pick out some office furniture, as well, while in D.C."

A short time later, Miller, a former government attorney, acknowledged that in 2008 he had used work computers for campaigning purposes and lied about it. His image also took a hit when his personal security guards handcuffed a reporter who wanted to ask Miller about the controversy.

Miller's most ardent supporters say they are concerned by the allegations of fraud and negligence - and that more is at stake than the outcome of one race.

"I don't think it's a win or lose for him at this point," said Greg Pugh, a campaign volunteer from Wasilla. "What he's trying to say is, there were certain anomalies that have happened and the law has not been upheld. He wants to see that the election process has integrity for future elections."

Unanswered question

State officials have vigorously defended their process, which they say has been guided by a desire to allow the maximum number of votes to be counted. On Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell (R) called Miller's allegations baseless and harmful to the public trust. Miller's campaign responded by calling Campbell biased and saying he took actions that favored Murkowski.

Last week, Murkowski's campaign jumped into the legal battle, asking to intervene in a dispute that has largely taken place between Miller and the state. Murkowski argues that if the race is not certified quickly, she could lose the seniority she was allowed to keep despite having run against the Republican nominee.

For some of Miller's backers, there is but one question left: Should misspellings of a candidate's name count? Regardless of the outcome of the race, leaving that question unanswered would be a disservice to the public, said Eddie Burke, a tea party activist and radio talk show host from Anchorage. But Burke acknowledges that Miller's political future could be at risk if he presses the case too long and fails.

"He has two things to worry about. He has his future political reputation, but he also has right and wrong on the line. If wrong was done, then it needs to be corrected," Burke said last week. "I think by next week, either Joe has to have some pretty compelling evidence to show the public, or he needs to just fold up his luggage and just call it a day."

Sandhya Somashekhar Washington Post

Iraq’s Troubles Drive Out Refugees Who Came Back JOHN LELAND

BAGHDAD — A second exodus has begun here, of Iraqis who returned after fleeing the carnage of the height of the war, but now find that violence and the nation’s severe lack of jobs are pulling them away from home once again.

Since the American invasion in 2003, refugees have been a measure of the country’s precarious condition, flooding outward during periods of violence and trickling back as Iraq seemed to stabilize. This new migration shows how far the nation remains from being stable and secure.

Abu Maream left Iraq after a mortar round killed his brother-in-law in 2005. Amar al-Obeidi left when insurgents threatened to kill him and raided his shops. Hazim Hadi Mohammed al-Tameemi left because the doctors who treated his wife’s ovarian cancer had fled the country.

All three joined the flow of refugees who returned as violence here ebbed. But now they want to leave again.

“The only thing that’s stopping me is I don’t have the money,” said Mr. Maream, who gave only a partial name — literally, father of Maream — because he feared reprisal from extremists in his neighborhood. “We are Iraqis in name only.”

Nearly 100,000 refugees have returned since 2008, out of more than two million who left since the invasion, according to the Iraqi government and the United Nations high commissioner for refugees.

But as they return, pulled by improved security in Iraq or pushed by a lack of work abroad, many are finding that their homeland is still not ready — their houses are gone or occupied, their neighborhoods unsafe, their opportunities minimal.

In a recent survey by the United Nations refugee office, 61 percent of those who returned to Baghdad said they regretted coming back, most saying they did not feel safe. The majority, 87 percent, said they could not make enough money here to support their families. Applications for asylum in Syria have risen more than 50 percent since May.

As Iraq struggles toward a return to stability, these returnees risk becoming people without a country, displaced both at home and abroad. And though departures have ebbed since 2008, a wave of recent attacks on Christians has prompted a new exodus.

Mr. Obeidi, who used his tribe’s name instead of his father’s name as a surname, left for Syria in 2006 after an improvised bomb exploded near his nephew, terrifying the boy, and insurgents threatened to kill Mr. Obeidi. On a recent evening in Baghdad, he had trouble controlling his breathing as he talked about the daily blasts in his neighborhood.

“There’s no security here,” he said, ticking off his close encounters with guns and bombs. “I was near a female suicide bomber a couple months ago. Then I was in my brother’s truck when insurgents opened fire on a bridge. My friend was killed in front of me with a knife. I’ve been destroyed. My mother needs an operation for her eyes, and I don’t have money. We need someone to help us.”

“Feel my stomach,” he said. “It’s like a rock. It’s going to blow out.”

Before insurgents robbed his tool shops in 2006, he said, he earned about $1,000 a month and was planning to marry. But during several trips abroad he was unable to find work. Since returning to Baghdad he has struggled to find day labor, earning about $6 a day. The woman he had intended to marry is now with another man.

He has twice paid smugglers, to take him to Austria on one occasion and to Italy on another, but each time the men took his money without helping him.

“Life was better in Syria, but I can’t work there,” said Mr. Obeidi, who is a Sunni. “Jordan was the same. Turkey was the same. And it was expensive to live there. That’s why I had to come back. But our country is not our country. It’s Iran’s country. We need someone to help us.”

The United Nations provides some transportation costs and a small stipend for families that come back, but fewer than 4 percent of returnees take advantage of the program. Most either do not know about it or think they may still want to return to their asylum country and will want the agency to help them as refugees, not as returnees.

For Abu Maream and his family, who left for Syria in 2005 and came back last year, life has come down to a choice between bad options. Syria seemed safe, he said, but he felt “humiliated” as an unemployed foreigner seeking work, selling off his possessions to keep the family afloat. Back here, he has been unable to find work, and neighbors who used to respect the family now “look down on us,” he said.

On a recent afternoon he sat in a two-room apartment with only a mattress on the floor and a few possessions in boxes. He had no refrigerator and received only a few hours of electricity a day.

“Before, we had Shiite neighbors, and there were no problems at all,” said Mr. Maream, who is Sunni. “The government created the sectarian thing,” he said, meaning that the political parties formed along ethnic or religious lines, formalizing the division. Now his neighborhood has become a stronghold for Sunni extremists.

He sat on the edge of the mattress, his mother sitting behind him. In the coming months, he said, he will send his sisters and mother back to Syria for their safety, and he and his wife and three children will move in with an uncle in Iraq, splitting up the family. When the family would be reunited in Syria he could not say.

“It’s over; that’s it,” he said. “I’m not coming back. How can I come back? I don’t believe Iraq will have a chance again.”

Mr. Tameemi, who fought in the bloody eight-year war with Iran, said he hated leaving Iraq in 2006. “I love my country,” he said. But after years of sanctions and the American-led invasion, doctors and medicines were scarce in the country — one of the many toxic effects of displacement in Iraq.

In Jordan he found doctors to treat his wife’s cancer, but he could not find work. “They don’t treat us well,” he said.

Now, after two months back in Iraq, Mr. Tameemi is ready to leave again. Despite improvements in security, medical care here — once a model for the region — is still inadequate, and doctors have not returned. “Even if I have to sleep in the road, I want to take care of my wife,” he said.

His next plan is to apply for asylum in the United States, but he knows that the odds are against him. In the meantime, his experience has soured him on the country he can no longer call home.

“I regret coming back, but financial problems pushed me to do it,” he said. “The Iraqis don’t help the Iraqis.”

Dear First Lady Michelle

EVER since Barack Obama’s inauguration, the staff members and tutors at our nonprofit writing programs have marveled at how this presidency has percolated through student essays, stories and poems.

And it’s not just the president who has captured their attention — his wife, Michelle, has, too. From our students’ perspective, Mrs. Obama is glamorous but accessible, maternal but cool. They trust her.

So, earlier this fall, 826 National hosted a series of workshops inviting students to write to the first lady. The results were collected in the book “I Live Real Close to Where You Used to Live: Kids’ Letters to Michelle Obama (and to Sasha, Malia and Bo).”

Here is a sampling of what they came up with; some letters have been edited for space. — LAUREN HALL, grants director for 826 National

Dear Mrs. Obama,

If I was to get invited to eat dinner with you, I’d have so much fun. What if I was your daughter? I’d love you a whole lot and I would always play with you. Malia and Sasha are beautiful children and are so sweet to other people that they see. I would like to become friends with your two daughters. Can I? You should take Sasha and Malia to the Brooklyn Park out on Sixth Street. It has a swing that pushes by itself and if you say high it will go high, if you say low it will go low.

The Brooklyn Park closes at midnight and I stay until 10. It’s fun. I have too much fun. When I run I burn off energy. I know that you want kids to exercise every day for an hour, but I exercise two hours and 30 minutes every day.

— Ne’SHAWN BELT, age 8, Washington

Dear First Lady Michelle Obama,

My parents are divorced. I am having trouble moving on. Do you have any tips? I am confused and sad.

— MAI ROBINSON, age 9, Los Angeles

Dear Michelle,

Can I borrow some money so we can move into an apartment and buy a new Mustang convertible? I don’t mean to waste money. I will use some of the money to buy a drum set and have a cool pool. Can I have $10,000 to buy my passport to go to Las Vegas? Send me a picture of the White House and the statue of Abraham Lincoln.

— LUIS MOLINA, age 10, Los Angeles

Dear Obama family,

I am going to be in the second grade. Do you get a lot of threats? I have nine rooms in my house. I would like to be the first woman to become president. Our dads know each other.

— MIKAELA EWING, age 7, Chicago

Dear First Lady,

I am very vexed and sad about animal rights. Some cruel people abuse them or throw them away, and lots of animals are close to being extinct. When I think of how they feel, I cry for their suffering. Instead of complaining I decided to write ideas.

For starters, let’s not hunt endangered animals. If we hunt these animals, they’ll be extinct before we know all the information about them. I know that saying that we should all be vegetarians is too much, so how about we could just eat basic meats like cows, pigs, chicken and turkeys? That would help.

— JINHEE JUNG, age 11, Seattle

Dear Michelle Obama,

One of the solutions to greenhouse gas is hydrogen fusion. It’s when you fuse four H’s and you make an He and that releases a tremendous amount of heat. And after boiling the water and making electricity, it turns out that it makes, I think, 10 times the amount of electricity it takes to create the heat. The only problem with this is that it makes enough electricity to charge all the houses on a street for a couple weeks, but while traveling through the power lines two-thirds of the electricity is lost by the time it reaches the house. So it will be good to invest money in the power lines problem. Also, one of the best forms of renewable energy is solar panels. Even though they’re expensive now, I suggest investing money in commercials for them. The more they sell the cheaper they get.

— OMID TAVAKOLI, age 12, Flint, Mich.

Dear Michelle Obama,

Please bring me scary stories like the ones my second-grade teacher has. For example, a book full of scary stories that are very, very scary. Bring me a thing to put my books in because I have a lot of books and they are too heavy in my backpack. Please bring me a cute fish too, like the ones in “Finding Nemo.”

I want to be a teacher when I grow up because I want to teach other kids things they like learning, like how to take a test. Next year I will be going to the third grade. In the third grade I am going to learn very fast because I will practice the tests very fast, but sometimes I get some answers wrong. I know I can do better than that.

— JUAN BENITEZ, age 7, San Francisco

Dear Michelle,

You are eating 100 percent healthy. Can you put my dad in a job? I’m eating healthy. I’m eating watermelon, melon, mango and persimmons. I just want to have $200.

— SANTOS LOPEZ, age 8, Los Angeles

Dear Michelle,

My name is Sebastian and I did a report on you. I learned that you were raised on the South Side of Chicago and also that you visit school kids to help them study. I am tall and I like to sleep a lot, but some days I wake up early.

— SEBASTIAN MARTINEZ, age 13, Brooklyn

Dear Michelle Obama,

I think your husband should legalize immigration. Please put a statue of me in Echo Park. Thank you. J.K. No, really. I want a tuxedo on the statue.

— ANDRES ORTEGA, age 11, Los Angeles

Dear First Lady,

Could you tell Obama to stop the war because people are dying and give paper to the people that do not have paper? Also my dad works for the city. Can you give him more money? His name is Manuel and he is in the airport. And how many rooms are there in the White House? I live in 4142. The manager does not let us have a dog and people that live there have a dog. Could you tell the manager we got to have our dog back? Thank you.

— OSCAR CASTRO, age 9, Los Angeles

Dear Michelle Obama,

I am Isayas, and I wanted to tell you that English is a good language because it’s easier to learn. And I want to ask you why do people make up weird names like hot dog or runny nose, or even smelly feet? Because a hot dog should be a dog that’s hot and a runny nose should be a nose running, and a smelly foot should be a foot that has a nose on it. Do you get these? And do you have a nose on your foot?

Here is a joke: What is a hissing cockroach’s favorite subject in school? Hissssssstory. What should you do to a blue elephant? Cheer it up! Why do brooms and vacuum cleaners think people are mean? Because they keep on pushing them. So, were they funny? Great!

— ISAYAS BIKILA, age 9, Seattle

Dear Michelle Obama,

Hi, we are 10 and 9 years old. We live in Boston. We hope you send letters back to us.

I think that you should shut down cigarette and liquor companies and try to keep drugs off the streets. Robots may be able to help you. We all appreciate your hard work to make America better.


— AIDAN SHEILL-LOOMIS, age 9, and NICOLAS ALLEN, age 10, Boston

Dear Mrs. Obama,

You’re the greatest person I ever met. I know that you married Obama because he cares about people and also you think he is a special person. How big is your garden? I hope you have great vegetables and fruits so your two children can be strong and grow too. You’re a better dancer than your husband.

I live in Los Angeles. I live in a white and gray apartment. My favorite things are soccer, movies and also princesses. Do you think princesses are for little kids?

— TATIANA MORALES, age 10, Los Angeles

Saturday, November 27, 2010

How Palin Flunks Feminism HOW THIS WOMAN IS RICH JUST SELLING B S? I hope YOU aren't buying!

The governor-turned-reality-TV-star’s new book dives into feminist history—distorting and misunderstanding it every step of the way.

In some ways, it’s a good thing that Sarah Palin calls herself a feminist. It means that, even among conservatives, women’s equality has become a normative position, the starting point for debate. It means that feminism has gone from something that the right wants to destroy to something it wants to appropriate. That’s progress, of a sort.

But reading Palin’s new book, America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag, it’s clear that in order to claim feminism as her own, she’s had to radically distort its history. In a chapter on feminism that’s sure to be widely discussed, she mischaracterizes the views of nearly every historical feminist she mentions.

Sometimes she does it to defame them, other times to make it seem as if they shared her ideology. As so often with Palin, it’s hard to tell whether ignorance or dishonesty is at work. Perhaps neither she nor her ghostwriter had time to read up on women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, presented here as a pious Christian conservative. But couldn’t one of them at least have perused her Wikipedia entry?

In typically Manichean fashion, Palin divides the feminist movement into the hardy, maternalist foremothers who fought, justly, for the right to the vote, and the whining, anti-family radicals who came along in the 1960s and '70s. With a rather stunning lack of self-awareness, she rehashes Dan Quayle’s attack on the TV show Murphy Brown for glorifying single motherhood. She takes a swipe at what she calls Hillary Clinton’s former appearance of “1960s-era bra-burning militancy.”
Against such viragos, she sets earlier feminist heroines, who she seems to imagine were a lot like Sarah Palin. “What is hardest to take about liberals calling the emerging conservative feminist identity anti-feminist or even anti-woman is that this new crop of female leaders represents a return to what the women’s movement originally was,” she writes.

The historical revisionism here recalls that of Christian conservatives who try to paint our deistic Founding Fathers as devout evangelicals. At one point, Palin refers to Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s “Declaration of Sentiments,” which came out of the historic 1848 women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York. Stanton deliberately echoed the language of the Declaration of Independence, referring to the rights that women are entitled to “by the laws of nature and of nature’s God.” To Palin, this mention of God proves that Stanton shared her faith: “Can you imagine a contemporary feminist invoking ‘the laws of nature and of nature’s God?’ These courageous women spoke of our God-given rights because they believed they were given equally, by God, to men and women.”

Not really. Stanton was a famous freethinker, eventually shunned by more conservative elements of the women’s movement for her attacks on religion. In one 1885 speech, she declared, “You may go over the world and you will find that every form of religion which has breathed upon this earth has degraded women.”
Ten years later, she published the first volume of The Woman’s Bible, her mammoth dissection of biblical misogyny. Stanton was particularly scathing on the notion of the virgin birth: “Out of this doctrine, and that which is akin to it, have sprung all the monasteries and nunneries of the world, which have disgraced and distorted and demoralized manhood and womanhood for a thousand years.”

America by Heart packs a lot of deceit into a small package. Indeed, it’s an object lesson in the power of right-wing propaganda to create imaginary histories.

Palin also tries to claim Susan B. Anthony for her side. The idea that Anthony was anti-abortion is a cherished one on the right; one anti-abortion political action committee calls itself the “Susan B. Anthony List.” “Susan B. Anthony saw the fight for the rights of the unborn as part of the broader fight for women’s rights,” writes Palin.

Again, not really. As Ann Gordon, the editor of Anthony’s papers, and Lynn Sherr, one of her biographers, wrote earlier this year, “We have read every single word that this very voluble—and endlessly political—woman left behind. Our conclusion: Anthony spent no time on the politics of abortion. It was of no interest to her, despite living in a society (and a family) where women aborted unwanted pregnancies. “

Those who claim that that Anthony was anti-abortion usually cite an article published in a newspaper that she owned deploring “the horrible crime of child-murder.” There’s no evidence that Anthony wrote it—it’s simply signed “A,” which is not a shorthand Anthony was known to use. But if she did write it, it’s actually evidence that she didn’t share Palin’s politics.

The article in Anthony’s newspaper was a response to an article published elsewhere that called for abortion to be criminalized. While agreeing that abortion is horrible, A. opposed “a law for its suppression,” which the writer said would not “have the desired effect.” What women needed, said A., was the power to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies: “Women are educated to think that with marriage their individuality ceases or is transferred to their husbands.
The wife has thenceforth no right over her own body. This is also the husband’s belief, and upon which he acts.” The one thing we know definitively about Anthony and abortion is that she published an article opposing the sort of ban that Palin supports.

America by Heart is as wrong about the feminists Palin despises as it is about those she admires. She relies on the historical expertise of Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism for her attack on Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger. Paraphrasing Goldberg, she writes that Sanger was an advocate of “Nazi-style eugenics” who advocated birth control “to keep the ‘unfit’ from reproducing—particularly blacks.”

Sanger was a flawed woman who transcended some of the prejudices of her time and not others. There is no doubt that she said things that sound abhorrent to modern ears. (As did Stanton and Anthony.) She operated at a time when eugenic arguments were very much in vogue, harnessed by both sides of the birth-control debate. (Opponents of contraception claimed it would lead to a dangerous drop in the white birth rate). But Sanger, who got her last name from her Jewish husband, was no racist; she believed that intelligence and ability differed among individuals, not ethnic groups.

The name of Sanger’s attempt to bring birth control to poor communities in the black South—“The Negro Project”—has a hideous ring today. But it really was a humanitarian effort rather than a racist scheme; the project’s advisory board included W.E.B. DuBois, Harlem pastor Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. and Mary McLeod Bethune, founder of the National Council of Negro Women.
Indeed, upon accepting Planned Parenthood’s Margaret Sanger Award in 1966, Martin Luther King lauded her work among the poor. His speech, which his wife delivered on his behalf, said, “There is a striking kinship between our movement and Margaret Sanger's early efforts… Our sure beginning in the struggle for equality by nonviolent direct action may not have been so resolute without the tradition established by Margaret Sanger and people like her.”

One could go on and on parsing America by Heart like this; it packs a lot of deceit into a small package. Indeed, it’s an object lesson in the power of right-wing propaganda to create imaginary histories. Palin’s book shows that while she calls herself a feminist, feminism is just another subject she knows almost nothing about.
To point that out, of course, will only strengthen her sense of being persecuted by supercilious elites. When Palin complains about a cult of victimhood in modern feminism, she is wholly unaware of the irony.

Michelle Goldberg is a journalist and author based in New York. Her book, New York Times bestseller Kingdom Coming:
The Rise of Christian Nationalism, was a finalist for the 2007 New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Topric of little notice by public - BUT it should be a concern beyond just military families.

Civilian soldiers' suicide rate alarming

Members of the Iowa Army National Guard who will be deployed to Iraq march in front of family and friends this week at a sendoff ceremony.

National Guard soldiers who are not on active duty killed themselves this year at nearly twice the rate of 2009, marring a year when suicides among Army soldiers on active duty appear to be leveling off, new Army statistics show.
Eighty-six non-active-duty Guard soldiers have killed themselves in the first 10 months of 2010, compared with 48 such suicides in all of 2009.

The reason for the rise in suicides among these "citizen soldiers" is not known. It may be linked to the recession, says Army Col. Chris Philbrick, deputy commander of an Army task force working to reduce suicides.

Philbrick said investigations into the suicides of soldiers not on full-time-active status have found that some were facing stressful situations such as home foreclosures, debt and the loss of a job.

Other factors have played a role in the suicides, including relationship problems, depression, substance abuse, combat stress and mild brain injuries, Philbrick says.

The rise comes as the rate of suicides leveled among full-time active-duty Army soldiers, National Guard members and reservists following years of increases, Philbrick says. Among that group, there were 132 confirmed or suspected suicides in the first 10 months of this year compared with 140 such suicides for the same period in 2009.

That positive trend among active-duty troops was more than offset by the rise in suicides among non-active-duty National Guard members.

There were 252 confirmed or suspected suicides among active and non-active Army members through October of this year. There were 242 such deaths in all of 2009.

Active-duty soldiers have greater access to programs and mental health resources, Philbrick says. New efforts aimed at reducing suicides among that group may be beginning to have an effect. "We do whatever we can to drive down these numbers," Philbrick says. "But it doesn't happen overnight."

The Army has launched a series of programs aimed at breaking down a stigma among soldiers against seeking mental health treatment. It has also initiated two studies — a $50 million, five-year investigation by the National Institute of Mental Health in 2009 and this year, a $17 million research consortium — aimed at understanding why the suicides are happening and how to stop them.

Army suicides have been climbing since 2007, bringing the rate to 22 per 100,000 soldiers. The rate among civilians within the same age group is 20 per 100,000. The Marine Corps has seen an increase since 2008 and its rate is 24 per 100,000. But there, too, the trend may be downward.

There were 45 confirmed or suspected cases of suicides among Marines through October of this year compared with 53 suicides for the same period last year, Marine Corps statistics show.


SC Man Planned to Assassinate Obama

A nurse at a Veterans Affairs clinic tipped off authorities that Michael Stephen Bowden, 78, of Woodruff, South Carolina, told her he was thinking of killing the president. Secret Service agents found three handguns and a rifle under his bed and over a dozen more guns in the house.

Bowden served four years in the Navy and was formerly a New York City police officer. He was arrested earlier this month and will be given a psychiatric evaluation.

STUPID WATCH: FOX NEWS? CHANNEL - Stupid is as stupid does!!

Apparently Fox Nation Doesn't Know The Onion Is Fake News
And neither do their commenters.

The Fox Nation editors were apparently so enamored with an Onion piece from today entitled “Frustrated Obama Sends Nation Rambling 75,000-Word E-Mail” that they reposted the first two paragraphs in their culture section with nary a sign as to its fictional nature.

The only clue that this wasn’t real (besides a quick peek at your inbox to confirm that Barack Obama hasn’t been emailing you) was a link at the bottom instructing readers to go to TheOnion.com for the real story. This tiny link was, unfortunately, not enough for the vast majority of FN readers.

They've since tweaked the headline to say "The Onion: Frustrated Obama Sends Nation Rambling 75,000-Word E-Mail" but nothing has been added to the excerpt to clue non-Onion readers into the fact the story is fake.

From Mediaite

Little SARAH uses a three old child excuse for her stupidity!! BoooWoooooLittle Girly!

Sarah Palin Refudiates Press Over North Korea Gaffe, Obama Says Dumb Things Too!

Happy Thanksgiving from Sarah Palin! Palin left a scathing Thanksgiving note on her Facebook page yesterday in response to the furor over Wednesday's North Korean flub pointing out that President Obama has uttered many a stupid statement too.
And then she lists them (and tacks on a Shep Smith shoutout for good measure).

Of course, the paragraph above is based on a series of misstatements and verbal gaffes made by Barack Obama (I didn’t have enough time to do one for Joe Biden). YouTube links are provided just in case you doubt the accuracy of these all too human slips-of-the-tongue. If you can’t remember hearing about them, that’s because for the most part the media didn’t consider them newsworthy. I have no complaint about that. Everybody makes the occasional verbal gaffe – even news anchors.

Get out your hanky.

Obviously, I would have been even more impressed if the media showed some consistency on this issue. Unfortunately, it seems they couldn’t resist the temptation to turn a simple one word slip-of-the-tongue of mine into a major political headline. [ed note: imagine!] The one word slip occurred yesterday during one of my seven back-to-back interviews wherein I was privileged to speak to the American public about the important, world-changing issues before us.

If the media had bothered to actually listen to all of my remarks on Glenn Beck’s radio show, they would have noticed that I refer to South Korea as our ally throughout, that I corrected myself seconds after my slip-of-the-tongue, and that I made it abundantly clear that pressure should be put on China to restrict energy exports to the North Korean regime.

Sarah Palin, foreign policy expert. She also notes that rumors she has been stumping for Christine O'Donnell to appear on DWTS are (alas) untrue. So yeah, Palin was tired and said something dumb, everyone has been there. The problem with Sarah Palin in this case, however, is twofold. On the one hand she has turned herself into such a compelling circus act that practically anything she says is guaranteed to be clicked on (after which the story often takes on a life of its own).

On the other, she has, since quitting her governorship, made herself entirely unavailable to the press except in the most controlled situations. So when she slams the press (or in this case, essentially the blogosphere) for not letting the facts "get in the way of a good story?" one has to wonder how Palin expects the press to fact-check someone who fundamentally refuses to engage with them. Answer: she doesn't. Facebook rants are far more self-serving.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The War in Afghanistan s going NOWHERE!!

U.S. Afghan Presence Reaches Dubious Milestone
American-Led Coalition Now Fighting in Afghanistan For as Long as Soviets' Ill-Fated Slog: 9 Years, 50 Days
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The Soviet Union couldn't win in Afghanistan, and now the United States is about to have something in common with that futile campaign: nine years, 50 days.

On Friday, the U.S.-led coalition will have been fighting in this South Asian country for as long as the Soviets did in their humbling attempt to build up a socialist state. The two invasions had different goals - and dramatically different body counts - but whether they have significantly different outcomes remains to be seen.

What started out as a quick war on Oct. 7, 2001, by the U.S. and its allies to wipe out al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the Taliban has instead turned into a long and slogging campaign. Now about 100,000 NATO troops are fighting a burgeoning insurgency while trying to support and cultivate a nascent democracy.

A Pentagon-led assessment released earlier this week described the progress made since the United States injected 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan earlier this year as fragile.

The top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, has said NATO's core objective is to ensure that Afghanistan "is never again a sanctuary to al Qaeda or other transnational extremists that it was prior to 9/11."

He said the only way to achieve that goal is "to help Afghanistan develop the ability to secure and govern itself. Now not to the levels of Switzerland in 10 years or less, but to a level that is good enough for Afghanistan."

To reach that, there is an ongoing effort to get the Taliban to the negotiating table. President Hamid Karzai has set up a committee to try to make peace, and the military hopes its campaign will help force the insurgents to seek a deal.

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on Dec. 27, 1979, its stated goal was to transform Afghanistan into a modern socialist state. The Soviets sought to prop up a communist regime that was facing a popular uprising, but left largely defeated on Feb. 15, 1989.

In 1992, the pro-Moscow government of Mohammad Najibullah collapsed and U.S.-backed rebels took power. The Taliban eventually seized Kabul after a violent civil war that killed thousands more. It ruled with a strict interpretation of Islamic law until it was ousted by the U.S.-led invasion.

Nader Nadery, an Afghan analyst who has studied the Soviet and U.S. invasions, said "the time may be the same" for the two conflicts, "but conditions are not similar."

More than a million civilians died as Soviet forces propping up the government of Babrak Karmal waged a massive war against anti-communist mujahedeen forces.

"There was indiscriminate mass bombardment of villages for the eviction of mujahedeen," Nadery said. "Civilian casualties are not at all comparable."

Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank and Afghanistan expert, said NATO forces have killed fewer than 10,000 civilians and a comparable number of insurgents.

The allied military presence has also been far smaller and more targeted. Even now, nearly all operations are restricted to the south and east of the country where the insurgency is most active. O'Hanlon points out that at the height of the resistance, there were 250,000 mujahedeen representing all Afghan ethnic groups fighting the Soviets, while "the current insurgency is perhaps one-eighth as large and is only Pashtun."

"We do have big problems. But there is no comparison between this war and what the Soviets wrought," he said.

"The Soviet war set Afghanistan back dramatically from what had been a weak but functioning state. NATO has, by contrast, helped Afghanistan to a 10 percent annual economic growth rate, 7 million kids are now in school, and most people have access to basic health care within a two-hour walk," O'Hanlon said.

He also points out that although Karzai was hand-picked by the United States after the invasion "he has since been elected twice by his own people."

The United States and its allies, however, have made strategic mistakes, including taking their eyes off Afghanistan and shifting their attention to the war in Iraq. In those crucial years, the Taliban and their allies surged back and took control of many parts of the Afghan countryside and some regions in the south - especially parts of Kandahar and Helmand.

Wadir Safi, a professor at Kabul University who served as civil aviation minister under the Najibullah government, said risks surround the U.S. effort because "the Americans never reached the goal for which they came."

"If they don't change their policy, if they don't reach their goals, if they don't reach agreement with the armed opposition and with the government, then it is not a far time that the Afghan people will be fed up with the presence of these foreign forces," Safi said.

The United States has pledged that its commitment to Afghanistan will run past the 2014 date when NATO forces are supposed to transition to a noncombat role.

A Russian analyst said the Soviet Union tried to do something similar when it left Afghanistan. It backed Najibullah with money and weapons, and left behind a trained and heavily armed Afghan military. But it all crumbled and the mujahedeen took over Kabul in 1992. Najibullah stayed in the city's U.N. compound until Kabul fell to the Taliban in 1996, and he was hung from the main square.

"The Soviet Union tried to leave its protege alone to run the country, but that ended in the Taliban victory," said Alexander Konovalov, the head of the Moscow-based Institute of Strategic Assessment, an independent think-tank.

"The U.S. now wants to create a self-sufficient structure behind backed by some support forces," he said. "It remains to be seen how successful it could be in Afghanistan."

aerobics and resistance training may provide health benefits for diabetics

The one-two punch of aerobics and resistance training may provide the most health benefits for diabetics

Yet more support for the combination of aerobic and resistance training exercise: A new study released Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. finds that combining the two was good for blood sugar levels in people with Type 2 diabetes, more than those who did not exercise or who did just aerobics or resistance training.

The study participants were made up of 262 sedentary men and women who had Type 2 diabetes and hemoglobin A1C levels of at least 6.5%. A1C levels are a measure of blood glucose over a two- to three-month period, and 4% to 6% is considered a normal range.

The men and women, average age about 56, were divided into three groups for the nine-month study: one that did resistance training, one that did aerobic training, one that did both, and a control group that did not do any exercise. Those in the exercise groups worked out for about 140 minutes per week.

The combination exercise group lowered its hemoglobin A1C levels minus 0.34% compared with the control group. The resistance and aerobic training groups showed less significant change; minus 0.16% and minus 0.24% respectively, compared with controls. Those in the combination group also lowered their hypoglycemic medications more than the other groups. Even small decreases in A1C levels may result in health risk reductions.

The participants in the combination exercise group showed even more improvements: They had the greatest increases in peak oxygen intake (a measure of fitness) and lost the most weight, compared with controls.

"Despite a population with many medical concerns," wrote the authors, "we obtained good exercise adherence and a low dropout rate. Furthermore, the exercise prescriptions performed are easily obtainable and well tolerated by individuals with diabetes, which has important implications for refining future physical activity recommendations."

Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times

What Murkowski's write-in win says about the electorate David S. Broder

If you have any doubts about the real meaning of this month's midterm elections, let me refer you to the most notable winner in those contests. I am talking about Lisa Murkowski, the reelected senator from Alaska.

The distinctive feature of the 2010 election was the energy generated among the voters by the combination of a severe economic recession and the widespread disillusionment with Washington and national politics as practiced by Barack Obama and both parties.

Murkowski was the most notable winner of the whole cycle because she was first a victim and then a victor. She is also the first person elected to the Senate as an independent write-in candidate since Strom Thurmond harnessed the racist forces in South Carolina in 1954 to win his seat.

The Murkowski saga began in the summer when she was upset in the Alaska Republican primary by Joe Miller, an attorney who had campaigned as the endorsed choice of the Tea Party and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, the 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate.

Palin has conducted a vendetta against the Murkowski family, and she became governor four years ago by upsetting Lisa's father, Frank Murkowski, in another low-turnout GOP primary.

Before he left office, Frank Murkowski appointed Lisa to a vacant Republican Senate seat only to see her lose the nomination this year.

When she lost the primary, that was expected to be the end of her. Miller settled in for an easy race against a little-known Democrat in his Republican-leaning state. But Murkowski, with some notable help from anti-Palin elements and parts of the energy industry, decided to try a long-shot write-in campaign.

It is difficult under any circumstances. With the state's rather restrictive voter-identification system and the requirement of a 13-letter, five-syllable name to be correctly spelled, the chances of success seemed small.

When Murkowski was asked recently by reporter Judy Woodruff on the PBS "NewsHour" how she had overcome Palin's endorsement of Miller to win, this is what she said:

"It is historic. It feels great." She exulted that more than 100,000 Alaskans had written in her name and that her 10,000-vote margin over Miller was so large that even if all the votes he has challenged were thrown out, she would still win by more than 2,000 votes. Under the circumstances, Miller's delay in conceding has no purpose, she said.

Then Woodruff asked what explained the outcome. Murkowski said, "Well, in an election, it's all about what that candidate has to offer. Joe Miller was clearly appealing to that more conservative element. But, in our state, we have got over 54 percent of the electorate that chooses not to align themselves with any party at all, not Republican, not Democratic, not green, not anything.

"And, so, it was important to make sure that all Alaskans, regardless of your political stripe, felt that they had somebody who's going to represent their best interests. I think that's what this election was about. They wanted somebody who was going to be a consensus-builder, someone that was going to work to bring people together to really work to effectively govern."

The demographics required that Murkowski seek support from Democrats and independents, as well as Republicans. But she said their expectations did not differ from group to group. "I think what they are looking for is the same thing that any Alaskan is looking for: Represent our state. Work together with people that have opposing viewpoints to build good policy that allows our state and our nation to go in a positive direction.

"I think that's what voters are looking for. I don't think that most are looking for somebody that is going to follow the litmus test of one party or another, and never deviate from it. I think they want us to think, and I think they want us to work cooperatively together. So, that's my pledge to all Alaskans, regardless of whether you are the most conservative Republican or the most liberal Democrat, I'm going to try to find a way that we can find common ground to help the state and to help our country."

Want to know what the election was about? That's an authoritative answer.