Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Truthout 6/30

William Rivers Pitt | Summer in Iraq
William Rivers Pitt, Truthout: "Afghanistan has been getting all the ink lately, and for good reason. General Stanley McChrystal's act of self-immolation by way of Rolling Stone magazine kicked off a genuine no-bones-about-it constitutional crisis over civilian control of the military, until President Obama sacked him at pretty close to the speed of light."
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Afghan War Lumbers On; Representatives Push for Withdrawal
Mike Ludwig, Truthout: "The United States invaded Afghanistan nine years ago to topple the Taliban and weed out terrorists, but the world's richest military has failed to pacify a network of scrappy militants who continue to provoke chaos and bloodshed as the war lumbers on."
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BP's Ombudsman Gave Congress Wrong Information About Employee Retaliation
Jason Leopold, Truthout: "Last January, Reps. Henry Waxman (D-California) and Bart Stupak (D-Michigan) sent a letter to John Minge, BP's Alaska president, seeking information about how the company was managing its Prudhoe Bay operations on Alaska's North Slope, as well as internal reports about the circumstances behind five serious incidents dating back to September 2008."
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Jim Hightower | The GOP's Genetic Link to Big Oil
Jim Hightower, Truthout: "If scientists were to compare the DNA of Republican congress-critters and of oil corporations, I'll bet they'd find that they match perfectly. After all, the two species have identical political instincts and seem to have a natural affinity for each other - so I'm pretty sure they sprang from the same genetic pool."
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Goldman Admits It Had Bigger Role in AIG Deals
Greg Gordon, McClatchy Newspapers: "Reversing its oft-repeated position that it was acting only on behalf of its clients in its exotic dealings with the American International Group, Goldman Sachs now says that it also used its own money to make secret wagers against the U.S. housing market."
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Tom Tomorrow | This Modern World
Award-Winning Cartoonist Tom Tomorrow features "Chuckles" the sensible woodchuck to highlight American liberals who are afraid of critiquing President Barack Obama.
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Living on a Dying Delta
Dahr Jamail, Dahr Jamail's Dispatches: "Our first full day in Louisiana finds us venturing south from New Orleans to Houma, a town about an hours drive to the southwest. It is from here we are to take a flight over the marsh to inspect the damage, thus far, caused by the ongoing BP oil catastrophe."
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G20: Paving the Way for a New Great Depression?
Peter Grier, The Christian Science Monitor: "World leaders have pledged to slash the government deficits of industrialized countries by half over the next three years. Is that goal, set at the just-concluded G20 summit in Toronto, fiscal prudence - or the prelude to the next Great Depression?"
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The Lottery Nobody Wins: Child Care Subsidies in America 2010
Mary Sojourner, Truthout: "She wants to work. No child care - no work. She's a single mom. She's young. You might think you know her - irresponsible, a slacker, having babies so she can get Welfare payments. You're wrong. A recent article in The New York Times, 'Cuts to Child Care Subsidy Thwart More Job Seekers,' presents a clear picture of the lose/lose many working low-income families face. Moms. Dads. Moms and Dads. And always - kids."
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Unexpected Environmental Alliances Amid the Oil Spill
Paul Rogat Loeb, Truthout: "In the wake of the BP disaster, we've heard powerful stories from fishermen whose livelihoods may have been destroyed for decades or longer. However long it takes for the Gulf's fish, oyster and shrimp harvests to recover, those who've made their livelihoods harvesting them will need to create a powerful common voice if they're not going to continue to be made expendable."
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Eight Ways the Great Recession Has Changed Americans
Mark Trumbull, The Christian Science Monitor: "Fifty-five percent of Americans in the labor force have experienced a job loss, a pay cut, or a reduction in hours since the onset of the Great Recession in 2007, a new survey finds."
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In Summer's Heat, Washington Seeks Refuge in the Loophole
Michael Winship, Truthout: "I spent part of last week in Washington, DC, and the heat already was so oppressive I recalled the old story that, during the summer, the British Foreign Service used to classify the capital as a hardship post, allowing embassy employees to go about their official business clad in pith helmets and shorts."
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Live Dangerously: Ten Easy Steps to Becoming a Radical Homemaker
Shannon Hayes, YES Magazine: "When Shannon Hayes made a list of easy steps for becoming a radical homemaker, she didn't realize just how revolutionary they were. When I first released Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture, I was advised to make a list of 'easy steps for becoming a radical homemaker' as part of my publicity outreach materials. My shoulders slumped at the very thought: Three years of research about the social, economic, and ecological significance of homemaking, and I had to reduce it to 10 easy tips?"
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FP morning brief 6/30

Moscow and Washington say spy arrests won't affect relations

Top story: While Russian leaders initially reacted angrily to the U.S. arrest of 11 suspects on charges of spying for Russia, Moscow has now softened its tone with on foreign ministry official saying the arrests would "not negatively affect Russian-U.S. relations."

While Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said during a meeting with former U.S. President Bill Clinton that U.S. police had "got out of control," he too said that "the positive that has been accumulated in the recent time in our international relations will not suffer."

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that "I think we have made a new start to working together on things like the United Nations, dealing with North Korea and Iran... I do not think that this will affect those relations."

It's becoming clear that despite the elaborate nature of the spy ring, none of those arrested were in particularly sensitive positions and it appears unlikely that damaging information was gained. "The effort is out of proportion to the alleged benefits," said former CIA Moscow station chief Richard Stoltz. "I just don’t understand what they expected.”

Afghanistan: Gen. David Petraeus was confirmed by the senate as the new commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan after an uneventful Senate hearing.

Middle East
  • A Colombian court has handed down the first sentences for convicted leaders of illegal right-wing militias.
  • The U.S. has rejected accusations by former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya that it was behind the coup that ousted him.
  • A 6.2-magnitude earthquake hit a sparsely populated area of Southern Mexico.
-By Joshua Keating


McClatchy Washington report 6/30

  • Reversing its oft-repeated position that it was acting only on behalf of its clients in its exotic dealings with the American International Group, Goldman Sachs now says that it also used its own money to make secret wagers against the U.S. housing market.
  • Federal immigration officials now have the ability to identify potentially deportable foreign nationals booked into all 67 of Florida's county jails on suspicion of crimes. Critics insist the feds continue to deport noncriminal immigrants in large numbers and target people arrested for any reason, such as traffic violations and loitering.
  • Rough seas and high winds from Tropical Storm Alex, churning in the Gulf of Mexico far west of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, forced the suspension Tuesday of skimming and booming operations off the coasts of Louisiana, Alabama and Florida, a BP spokesman said.
  • The Gulf of Mexico oil spill has been a wake-up call for the countries of the Americas -- some who fret tar balls could reach their beaches and damage fisheries and others who question the safety of their own offshore drilling programs.
  • A poised Elena Kagan on Tuesday spent the second day of her Supreme Court confirmation hearing fending off Republican efforts to paint her as a liberal activist, saying she'd be a fair, open-minded justice and refusing to call herself a "legal progressive."
  • South Carolina's Republican senators appeared to be headed toward once again casting divergent votes on a Supreme Court nominee of President Barack Obama, this time for Elena Kagan. Last year, Lindsey Graham voted to confirm Sonia Sotomayor while Jim DeMint voted the opposite.
  • Army Gen. David Petraeus' reputation as a political operator was on display during his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday, deflecting worries that the administration's Afghanistan strategy was off course and marked by divisiveness.
  • The UCLA Anderson School of Management Tuesday evening presented Gerald Loeb Awards for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism to reporters from the McClatchy Washington Bureau and The Miami Herald.
  • Once upon a time, rednecks in politics tended to be either marginal firebrands like George Wallace or, more recently, the ne'er-do-well, embarrassing siblings of well-educated Southern pols — think Billy Carter or even Roger Clinton. But nowadays they seem to be the mainstream politicians themselves.
  • Through frequent media attention and new government initiatives like First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign, there has been a mounting focus on obesity in the U.S. this year. But according to a nationwide report released Tuesday, American waistlines continue to expand.
  • The founder of a Fresno-based humanitarian project that provides medical care for Afghan civilians says his project shouldn't be endangered by a recent shakeup in the U.S. military leadership in that country.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Truthout 6/29

BP in the Gulf - the Persian Gulf
Stephen Kinzer, TomDispatch: "To frustrated Americans who have begun boycotting BP: Welcome to the club. It's great not to be the only member any more! Does boycotting BP really make sense? Perhaps not. After all, many BP filling stations are actually owned by local people, not the corporation itself."
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General Petraeus Hearing to Put Afghanistan War, Not Him, in Hot Seat
Dan Murphy, The Christian Science Monitor: "Gen. David Petraeus's confirmation as the new commander for the Afghanistan war is virtually assured at the Capitol Hill hearing Tuesday, but not before he takes tough questions from skeptical legislators about the wisdom of a nine-year war that is seeing its deadliest month for foreign troops."
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NYT Attacks "Border" With False Rant of Pro-Coup Reporter
Robert Naiman, Truthout: "No reasonable person would have bet serious money that news editors at The New York Times would be huge fans of Oliver Stone's new documentary about South America, 'South of the Border.' A key point of the film is that mainstream US press coverage of South America in recent years has generally followed State Department priorities more than objective news standards."
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News in Brief: At Confirmation Hearing, Kagan Tries to Keep Quiet, and More ...
Kagan faces day two of confirmation hearings; not expected to face opposition, Petraeus faces Senate confirmation hearing; US-Russia relations grow cold; G20 protesters rallied against violent police crackdowns outside police headquarters in Toronto on Monday; Chicago's removal of handgun ban is setback for gun control advocates.
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BP Killing Endangered Sea Turtles in "Burn Fields" (Video)
Catherine Craig interviews boat Capt. Mike Ellis, who was hired by BP and the Coast Guard to help rescue endangered Kemp's ridley turtles. He describes what he sees on the frontline of the effort to save the turtles and shares his firsthand account of BP corralling the turtles and burning them alive.
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After Supreme Court Ruling, Will Gun-Control Laws Be Under Siege?
Mark Guarino, The Christian Science Monitor: "Gun-rights advocates say that a US Supreme Court ruling today will embolden them to challenge gun-control laws in cities across the country. The ruling says that the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms applies to every jurisdiction in the country - throwing doubt on a Chicago law that bans handguns in the home."
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Brown-Nosing Wall Street Reform
Zach Carter, The Media Consortium: "More than two years after the collapse of Bear Stearns, the House and Senate finally ironed out their differences on Wall Street reform in the wee, small hours of Friday morning. The bill now goes back to both the House and Senate for final approval, but it's fate in the Senate is uncertain following the defection of Tea Party Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA)."
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Drugsters in Academia: How Big Pharma "Educates" American Doctors
James Ridgeway, The Unsilent Generation: "The pharmaceutical industry has wormed its way into the hearts and minds of the medical professions in any number of ways - wining and dining doctors, sending them off to vacation in splendid spas, and even buying their names to put on industry-written articles promoting different drugs."
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Eugene Robinson | Byrd's Change and Redemption
Eugene Robinson: "'End of an era' is an overused trope, but in this case it's appropriate: The last of the old Southern Democrats is gone. Sen. Robert Byrd had long since repented, of course. The West Virginian, who died Monday at 92, deeply regretted his segregationist past, which included a year as a member of the Ku Klux Klan and at least several more years as a Klan sympathizer."
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Australia's New PM Called On to Tackle Climate Change
Stephen de Tarczynski, Inter Press Service: "Australia's newly appointed prime minister, Julia Gillard, has hardly warmed her seat, yet she has already been urged to take action on climate change."
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McChrystal Tells Pentagon He'll Retire
Nancy Youssef, McClatchy Newspapers: "Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal told the Army Monday that he intends to retire, military officials said, less than a week after President Barack Obama fired him as the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan."
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Outsourcing Security: Defense Manufacturing Goes the Way of the Automobile
John Lasker, Truthout: "From the microchips that fly F-16s and activate nuclear warheads, all the way down to the lowly (but deadly) bullet, more and more US military weapons are being made overseas by foreigners. Some experts say that outsourcing defense contracts not only costs Americans jobs and America's connection to the war, but one of the nation's most essential assets, as well: its security."
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Facebook and Muslim Outrage: Gleaning the Wrong Lesson, Again
Ramzy Baroud, Truthout: "'Any depictions of the prophet are considered blasphemous by Muslims,' wrote Agencies, as reported readily by English. The above statement is meant to fully summarize the reason behind the outrage that arises in Pakistan and other parts of the Muslim world whenever some provocative 'artist' decides to express his freedom of expression and 'expose' Muslims as anti-democratic. Such a simplistic interpretation of such an intricate issue."
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On Music Appreciation, Or, I’m Taking The Day Off

It is a huge news day today, what with death and confirmation on everyone’s mind…and I’m not going to do anything about it—well, not today, anyway.

Instead, I’m taking the day off to bring you something more compelling: a music appreciation class, with recordings old and new, and just right for your summer soundtrack.

And if that’s not enough…by an amazing coincidence, we also get to talk about the (I never even know it existed) McRice burger, and, just for a summer bonus, we even have a smoking hot male model to grab your attention.

It’s all about fun today, so let’s get right to having some.

The stars of midnight shall be dear
To her; and she shall lean her ear
In many a secret place,
Where rivulets dance their wayward round,
And beauty born of murmuring sound
Shall pass into her face

--From “Three Years She Grew”, by William Wordsworth

So here’s what’s going to happen: I put together a playlist of songs with the idea of getting you to listen to artists that you may not know, either because you’re not an old geezer like me—or because you are.

Some of the songs will be “that song” from an artist, but other songs are designed to get you to explore the larger body of work that an artist has brought to the table; I’ll be telling you about those as we go along.

I’ll give ‘em to you in the same order as I used to assemble the playlist—and they do fit together, in this order, quite well, even to the point that if you set up for continuous play, the last and first songs also “match”.

Grizzly Bear is getting real big this year, so much so that they had a song in a Super Bowl commercial, and I’m just crazy about the song “Knife”.

If you can imagine modern doo-wop and 50’s guitar licks getting together in a very understated way, that’s this song. The version I used comes from a live performance they did at KEXP’s Seattle studios; you can hear it here, along with four other songs they did that day. There’s a disc available with that performance, but it’s the sort of thing you’d really rather find in a used CD store; there’s also a Grizzly Bear page at RCRD LBL with free and legal downloads of other songs. (The “original” version of the song is on the Yellow House album.)

Now here’s a trippy story: William DeVaughn was a Washington, DC sewer designer (he trained as a draftsman) who nailed it on the first try with Be Thankful For What You’ve Got, which has become one of the greatest soul recordings ever. Over the intervening 35 years it’s reported that he has been in and out of the industry; Wikipedia reports he returned to working at the drafting table. His own website,, is just a “placeholder” site today, suggesting he’s again inactive “in the biz”.

Remember the smoking hot male model? He’s also named William Devaughn (no capitalized “V”), and he became famous first for being on Pinoy Big Brother, then his McDonald’s McRice burger commercials (“modern rice for modern times”) in the Philippines.

He models today, which explains this picture of him in a “banana hammock”—and if you’re reading this at The Bilerico Project…well, trust me on this one, you probably do want to go click on the link…and, you know, when the straight guy in the room tells you to go check out the nearly naked man picture, you really should.

But now, back to music: there are few voices that ever graced a stage that can outshine Aretha Franklin’s, and Night Life is one of those songs that were just made for her and a horn section to absolutely own.

If you don’t know her yet, learn about her, now: start with the popular stuff, like “Spanish Harlem”, but understand that the real treasures are a bit less well known, with “Drown in My Own Tears” or “Good To Me As I Am To You” or “Son of a Preacher Man” (yes, Virginia, Aretha did it, too) being at the truly soulful heart of her collection.

Are you old enough to remember Timbuk 3? The video for The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades was hugely popular on MTV, back in those halcyon days when MTV played music videos, but the next album, “Eden Alley”…that’s the one. It’s full of great songs; my favorite among several is Easy, which is a complex, layered mix of guitar, vocal, percussion, and harmonica that I just can’t hear often enough.

CBGB was the jumping off point for punk legends like the Ramones—but it was also the spot where the Talking Heads found their groove. This is another one of those bands who have a whole shelf of “hidden gems” (check out the spectacular “Fear of Music” or “Stop Making Sense” albums sometime); we’re going with Mind today. It’s rhythmic, it’s a great big “wall of sound” production…and it has a hypnotic quality about it that has you kind of wishing the song didn’t end so soon.

If you haven’t really listened to a lot of new music since Nirvana, then you don’t know about Gorillaz. We need to fix that instantly.

Gorillaz is an odd amalgam of cartoon characters that were created to form a framework upon which a variety of songs that tell stories about the character's adventures could be hung; that’s an imperfect explanation of what they do, but not a bad one.

The songs themselves evolve over time, with “Clint Eastwood” being an excellent example. I have four different version of the song, each much different than the other; the Phi Life Cypher version, for my money, being one of the best rap performances you’ll find anywhere.

Today we reach out to the title track from the Demon Days album (start about 2:15 into this video for the full effect), which is an orchestral and choral piece, believe it or not; the London Community Gospel Choir provides the vocals, which is something they’ve done a lot of over the years.

Meat Beat Manifesto is another one of those bands that the older of you have never heard of—and again, we need to fix that. For whatever reason, these Brit bands manage to really grab reggae by the horns, and the “…In Dub” album does it better than most.

Super Soul Dub is exactly that: a super-duper dubstyle song that will take you away from Babylon and have you feelin’ irie in no time at all.

From the new to the old: Sarah Vaughn is one of the great voices of the 20th Century, “Fever” is one of the greatest songs of any century, and the two were combined, with some help from producer Adam Freeland, to create a modern, very danceable version of an old classic originally made famous by Peggy Lee.

Verve Records, the jazz label, has been reissuing some of their classic singles in paired CD releases, the “Verve/Unmixed 3” and “Verve/Remixed 3” pair, within which reside the original and new versions of this song, are my favorite so far.

I am forever guilty of letting these stories get too long, and we’re already at about 1000 words, and we’re only halfway through this lesson…and all of that means we’re going to need a Part Two, tomorrow.

So far, we’ve covered a lot of ground; tomorrow we have more dance, more reggae (in English and French), a bit of reworked Beatles, one of the greatest jazz songs ever, and a 50-year-old classic from the guy many people credit with inventing the electric guitar.

It’s a beautiful day, so go get outside, have some fun, check out the new music…and we’ll see you back here next time.

FP morning brief 6/29

Federal agents round up elaborate Russian spy ring

After a series of dramatic late-night arrests, federal prosecutors accused 11 people of being part of an elaborate Russian espionage ring on Monday. The alleged spies are charged with being part of an ambitious, long-term program to embed themselves in the fabric of American life, establishing careers and raising families in the United States. The FBI had been surveilling the ring for at least seven years.

The espionage ring has been dubbed the "Illegals Program," because the spies operated outside of official diplomatic cover. Prosecutors described the program as extending to other countries throughout the world. The program was aimed at placing spies in think tank jobs and other nongovernmental positions, where they could obtain information from policymakers on national security issues.

The FBI decided to make the arrest just a few days after a positive meeting between President Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. According to one administration official, Obama was unhappy with the timing of the arrests. Members of the accused spy ring have not been charged with espionage, but with conspiring to act as unauthorized foreign agents and money laundering -- crimes that carry a maximum sentence of five and 20 years in prison, respectively.

Google ends redirection workaround: Google, which is seeking to renew its operating license in China, will stop redirecting Chinese users to the site of its Hong Kong site. The Hong Kong website is free from the censorship restrictions imposed on the China site, but the Chinese government objected to the step.

Middle East
The Lebanese government arrested a man it accuses of being an Israeli spy.
French energy company Total will halt oil sales to Iran.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that there was "no chance" of the creation of a Palestinian state by 2012.

Taiwan and China signed a landmark trade agreement, removing tariffs on hundreds of products.
A U.S. surgeon was convicted of manslaughter for killing three of his patients in Australia.
South Korean media reported that Kim Jong Un, the youngest son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, secretly became a member of parliament last year.

Four men accused of attempting to assassinate Rwanda's former army chief appeared in a South African court.
Sudan will close its border with Libya.
A $300 million wind farm, the largest in Africa, opened in Morocco.

An Italian appeals court upheld a conviction for links to the Mafia of one of Prime Minister Silvo Berlusconi's key allies.
The head of the British inquiry into the Iraq war said that the panel held a private meeting with U.S. General David Petraeus earlier this month.
Pope Benedict XVI will create a new office to fight secularization and "re-evangelize" the West.

Former Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega is on trial in Paris for money laundering.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met with Cuban leader Raul Castro.
A candidate for governor of a state in northern Mexico was killed in drug-related violence.
-David Kenner

McClatchy Washington report 6/29

  • Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan confronted her critics Monday on the Senate Judiciary Committee, telling them that her experience and her broad philosophy will bring impartiality and "a commitment to principle" to the court. Republicans, in turn, challenged the readiness of the 50-year-old Kagan to serve on the court.
  • The death of West Virginia Sen. Robert Carlyle Byrd, the Senate's longest serving member, is the latest in a recent series of vivid reminders that the Senate — and the ways it shapes major policies — is changing fast. Lawmakers who came to power before You Tube and the 24-hour news cycle are ever fewer.
  • The IRS is investigating allegations that the Miccosukee Tribe used armored vehicles to deliver up to $10 million in cash from its gambling operations to hundreds of Indians four times a year — without anyone reporting the money as taxable income. Its chairman, Billy Cypress, is suspected of charging at least $3 million on tribe credit cards for personal travel.
  • The California State Conference of the NAACP is due to throw its support behind the initiative to legalize marijuana for adults over 21, allow small residential cultivation and permit cities to tax and regulate pot sales. The organization contends marijuana arrest rates unfairly target African Americans.
  • Do we really have a country where perfectly healthy young people "have the time" to camp outside for two days so they can buy an electronic device? Most people who sleep in the street do so because they don't have money to spend, not because they have it to burn. This was a line to give your money to one of the world's already-richest corporations, just so you could make a phone call, send an e-mail or download something — all of which you can already do with existing devices.
  • Afghanistan's military and police aren't on track to meet President Barack Obama's 18-month timetable for starting to withdraw U.S. troops, according to a report released on Monday by an independent watchdog group.
  • Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal told the Army Monday that he intends to retire, military officials said, less than a week after President Barack Obama fired him as the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
  • When Allen "Rookie" Kruse shot himself aboard his boat last week, his crew wondered why they hadn't noticed his sudden depression. Then the realization hit: everyone is down after more than two months of a massive oil spill.
  • World leaders headed home Monday from a weekend summit with a huge question mark hanging over their work: Will their pledge to curb deficit spending help or hurt the global economy?
  • A heavily armed hit squad Monday killed the leading candidate for governor of Tamaulipas state, putting a chill on Mexico just six days before local and regional elections in 12 states. Tamaulipas is across the U.S. border from Texas and includes the crossing points of Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros and Reynosa.
  • Conventional wisdom has it that education-obsessed Chinese parents send their children to years of arduous after-school tutoring to give them a leg up on the country's brutal college admissions tests. There may be more to it than that, however.
  • Shanghai is the nerve center of China's thriving economy, a booming metropolis that's leading the nation's charge to prosperity, but Qu Ting, like thousands of other poor students in China, seemed destined to be left in the dust.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Truthout 6/28

Wall Street Congratulates Washington: A Job Well Done
Dean Baker, Truthout: "New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman is well known for pretentious columns that consist of letters that he suggests some prominent person write. I licensed Friedman's literary tool in order to present the following letter from the Wall Street CEOs to the political leadership in Washington."
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The Pentagon's Threat to the Republic
Melvin A. Goodman, Truthout: "The New York Times' David Brooks minimized General Stanley McChrystal's remarks in Rolling Stone magazine as 'kvetching.' For the Times' Maureen Dowd, McChrystal and his 'smart-aleck aides' were merely engaging in 'towel-snapping' jocularity. The Washington Post editorial board noted that Afghan President Hamid Karzai called McChrystal the 'best commander of the war,' and concluded that the general should be retained as the Afghan commander."
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Robert Byrd, Longest-Serving Member of Congress, Died on Monday
David Lightman, McClatchy Newspapers: "Sen. Robert Byrd was very much a man of his turbulent era and a man of West Virginia, able to dramatically influence and shape policy for more than half a century while bestowing billions on his beloved state."
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Supreme Court Ruling Puts Local, State Gun Bans at Risk
Michael Doyle, McClatchy Newspapers: "The Supreme Court on Monday struck down Chicago's strict firearm ban in a landmark decision that casts numerous state and local gun laws into question."
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Closing BP's Escape Routes
Robert Weissman, Truthout: "BP generates enough cash to absorb its liabilities from the oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico. But that doesn't mean it will. One of the benefits of the corporate form is that it gives giant corporations the ability to escape liability. BP may or may not choose to capitalize on such escapes, but it would be foolish to presume that it won't."
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Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagan: What Questions Can She Expect?
Gail Russell Chaddock, The Christian Science Monitor: "For gravitas and spectacle, few set pieces on Capitol Hill match a Senate confirmation hearing for a lifetime appointment to the US Supreme Court. But for Solicitor General Elena Kagan, who faces 19 senators and a wall of cameras on Monday, there's an even more dramatic element: timing."
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One Year Later: Honduras Resistance Strong Despite US-Supported Coup
Bill Quigley and Laura Raymond, Truthout: "One year ago, on June 28, 2009, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was awakened by gunfire. A coup was carried out by U.S.-trained military officers, including graduates of the infamous U.S. Army School of the Americas (WHINSEC) in Georgia. President Zelaya was illegally taken to Costa Rica."
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Real News Journalist Attacked at G20
Jesse Freeston, The Real News Network: " On Saturday, June 26 at the G20 summit in Toronto, Canada, video journalist Jesse Freeston of The Real News Network was assaulted by police while filming peaceful protests outside the meeting. Freeston donned press credentials and was documenting police aggression on protesters when he was then grabbed by police and punched in the face."
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News in Brief: Husband of Justice Ruth Ginsburg Has Died, and More ...
Martin D. Ginsburg, husband of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has died; Sen. Robert C. Byrd has died Monday at 92; confirmation hearings for Elena Kagan begin; Turkey escalates its response to Israel's Gaza flotilla reaction; latest cost estimate for handling the Deepwater Horizon spill is $2.65 billion; G20 members focus on cost-cutting over stimulus spending.
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Glenn Beck to Hold Tea Party Rally on Anniversary of MLK Speech
Devona Walker, AlterNet: "Only a few weeks after whitewashing the entire slave trade by falsely claiming our Founding Fathers were both black and white, Glenn Beck is on another mission: the Fox news host is planning a massive 'take our country back' Tea Party rally at the Lincoln Memorial - on the anniversary of the day Martin Luther King delivered his 'I Have a Dream' speech."
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Tom Engelhardt | Obama Up to His Waist in the Big Muddy: On Appointing Celebrity Generals
Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch: "Much of the time, our wars may hardly exist for us, but in the age of celebrity, our generals do - exactly because they become celebrities. When Barack Obama picked Stanley McChrystal as his Afghan war commander, the general was greeted by the media as little short of a savior."
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Set Tougher Mileage Standards for Vehicles
Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang, The Detroit Free Press: "What is the best way to prevent future disasters in the Gulf of Mexico? Break our addiction to oil. One year ago, President Barack Obama took the biggest single step in this direction. He boosted the nation's fuel economy standard and established the first U.S. standards for greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks."
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Burma Election: Are Activists the New Third Force in Politics?
The Christian Science Monitor: "Inside a humid room, rows of neatly dressed Burmese students are quizzing their guest lecturer. The class is Social Entrepreneurship and the topic is the European Union, where the lecturer comes from."
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History Made in Australia With Election of First Female Prime Minister
Afzal Bhutt, Truthout: "Julia Gillard created history today by becoming Australia's first female Prime Minster. Gillard was elected unopposed at an extraordinary caucus meeting after Kevin Rudd decided to stand down."
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A New Deal for Local Economies
Stacy Mitchell, YES! Magazine: "Let me begin by sharing some good news. Scattered here and there, in my country and in yours, the seeds of a new, more local, and more durable economy are taking root."
Read the Article

Covered in greasy oil on Pensacola beach from the BP spill

FP morning brief 6/28

G-20 leaders agree to halve deficits

Top story: In the final communique from the G-20 summit in Toronto, the world's industrialized nations agreed to halve budget deficits by 2013, echoing the concerns of European leaders about fiscal restraint. "Honestly, this is more than I expected, because it is quite specific," said German Chancellor Angela Merkel, one of the leading supporters of deficit reduction at the summit.

The agreement left some leeway for countries to cut spending at their own spend, reflecting the concerns of U.S. President Barack Obama, who has warned countries not to cut stimulus spending too quickly.

Following the summit, Obama stood behind the deal but stressed that "our fiscal health tomorrow will rest in no small measure on our ability to create jobs and growth today." Obama also vowed to double U.S. exports and eliminate the trade imbalances that give some countries an "undue advantage" in the world marketplace. Toward that end, Obama met with Chinese President Hu Jintao and welcomed China's decision to allow greater flexibility in its currency.
At the next G-20 leaders' summit in Seoul, South Korea in November, world leaders expect to adopt a new set of rules on banking regulation, but negotiators warn it could be years until they go into effect.

Thousands of protesters marched against the summit, with some vandalizing stores and property in downtown Toronto. Police arrested more than 600 people.

Afghanistan: CIA Director Leon Panetta said he has seen no firm evidence that Afghan insurgent groups are interested in reconciliation.

U.S. politics: West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd has died at the age of 92, having served a record 57 years in Congress.

Asia and Pacific
  • The Kyrgyz public overwhelmingly backed the country's new constitution in a nationwide referendum.
  • North Korea pledged to bolster its nuclear deterrent after President Obama urged President Hu to take a tougher stance against the country.
  • New Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced her new cabinet.
Middle East
  • Turkey has barred an Israeli military flight from its airspace.
  • Israel's commission on last month's flotilla raid has begun its investigation.
  • Militants attacked a U.N.-sponsored summer camp for refugee children in Gaza.
  • Vote counting is underway in Guinea's national election, which have been praised as the country's first free elections in more than 50 years. .
  • The breakaway republic of Somaliland held a presidential election on Saturday.
  • Rwandan police have arrested two for the murder of journalist Jean Leonard Rugambage.
  • Tropical storm Alex caused damage and four deaths on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula but seems likely to miss the BP oil spill site.
  • Haiti will hold its postponed presidential and legislative elections on Nov. 28.
  • Three people were killed in an attack on a political rally in Southern Mexico on Saturday.
-By Joshua Keating


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