August 24, 2008 archive

Weekend News Digest

Weekend News Digest is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Pakistan’s ruling coalition on verge of collapse

By ASIF SHAHZAD, Associated Press Writer

Sun Aug 24, 9:20 AM ET

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan’s ruling coalition teetered on the brink of collapse as the two main partners squabbled over a successor to ousted President Pervez Musharraf.

Former Prime Minster Nawaz Sharif, who heads the junior partner in the coalition, demanded the dominant Pakistan People’s Party slash the president’s powers before he would support its candidate.

Asif Ali Zardari, head of the PPP and widower of the party’s assassinated leader Benazir Bhutto, agreed Saturday to run for the presidency.

In Which I Go Out Among the Good Citizens of My City

I was volunteering at a community event benefiting my employer, at a small park plaza located downtown.  I don’t generally go to public events like this if I can help it — I dislike crowds.  But duty called, so I went.  It was a lovely, sunny, warm day.  I didn’t have a lot to do during much of the day except just sit at a volunteers’ hospitality table, so had time to read the book I brought with me at intervals, and I had almost unlimited time to just watch the goings-on around me.

Café Discovery: Levels of Threat

Did you ever check out what measures are used to define how much species are threatened?  Since I have been using the terms repeatedly in my photo essays, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to summarize them.

Café Discovery has been, after all, mostly about words and phrases and meaning.  Or at least, it has tried to be.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature maintains a Red List. of threatened species.  The categorization they used ranks species as, from worst on down, extinct, extinct in the wild, critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable, conservation dependent, near threatened, or least concern.  Of course, there are also situations in which there is not enough data and also cases where species have just not been evaluated.

Conservation dependent (CD) is a category no longer used except for species who were previously in that category and have yet to be re-evaluated.  A taxon was considered CD if it was “dependent on conservation efforts to prevent the taxon becoming threatened with extinction.” (Wikipedia entry)  So one will still encounter the label, as with giraffes, for instance.


Iraq Troop Is Back Behind The Camera

Crossposted from Fire on the Mountain.

IVAW member Casey J Porter has been vlogging from Iraq for month’s now. I’m not about to try and better Casey’s description:

The latest film, Deconstructed, continues to show the realities of war. Featuring statements from former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Former President Bill Clinton, The O’Reilly Factor host Bill O’Reilly, amongst many others, this is a look into the arrogance and lies of those who promoted, and continue to promote this war interlaced with combat footage straight from Iraq.  Included are scenes of Soldiers not only speaking their minds, but speaking the truth about the continued occupation of Iraq.

Also featured are some of the harsh realities of combat and in the midst of that combat, good Soldiers continuing to make the best out of it by helping their “adopted” child at their combat outpost.  This is an honest look into the minds of Soldiers, and an honest look into their lives during a deployment.  

This is Deconstructed.

[The usual hat tip to Jeri Reed.]

Sea World: killer whales

Saying goodbye to comfort

For years, my co-worker Mary and I have gone to the same Chinese buffet every Thursday for our weekly lunch meeting. One day, another co-worker teased us about being in a rut. When we came back at him with the fact that he has lunch every Monday at Subway, he said, “Oh, that’s not a rut, its a tradition.”

I think traditions are important for all of us as human beings. And for me, there are certain things (like where I go for lunch) that are much more easily decided by being in a rut than they are by having to devote alot of time and attention to them on a regular basis.

On the other hand, those I work with also tend to refer to me as a “change junkie.” I’ve often thought that my addiction to change is a result of the fact that from birth to my 30’s I moved across this country 8 times and overseas twice. Its kind of hard to get in much of a rut when you’re constantly facing the challenge of “starting over.” So, being in a leadership position at work, I’ve had to learn to be more sensitive to people for whom the kind of change I’ve grown accustomed causes a tremendous amount of stress. And there are times I’m envious of those who, when they go home to visit their parents, sleep in the same room they grew up in. There is certainly a place for constancy as well as for change.

But I would guess that most of us blog and engage in activism because we feel strongly about the need for change in our politics and culture. The ruts we find ourselves in are unbearable and unsustainable. And for some of us, Gandhi’s words “be the change you want to see” are the cornerstone of how to make that happen. But the challenge of when to hold on to someone/something and when to let go is difficult and is often impacted by our discomfort with change.

Pony Party: Sunday music retrospective

The Turtles

Happy Together

Docudharma Times Sunday August 24

Its Sunday And The Talking Heads Come Out

To Play

But As Usual Have Nothing To Say

Sunday’s Headlines:

A Teacher on the Front Line as Faith and Science Clash  

Amid Georgians’ tales of violence, death toll is unclear

Madrid air disaster: Air hostess describes her ‘miracle’ crash escape

Taliban win over locals at the gates of Kabul

The legacy of Krakatoa

Israel’s missile shield against Iran: Three Americans in a trailer

Activist boats reach Gaza Strip

Nigeria, SA worst greenhouse gas emitters in Africa

Moroccan terrorism suspect’s murky trail

Bolivia split in two as the wealthy aim to defy the Morales revolution

Child malnutrition: Old stain on new India

Half of young Indians are malnourished. In a nation seen as a rising power, combating the problem ‘has not been a policy priority . . . for the last 40 years,’ a U.N. expert says.

By Henry Chu, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

August 24, 2008  

SARAIYA, INDIA — Sitting in the basket of a hanging scale, 20-month-old Deep Kumar epitomizes the silent but monumental crisis gripping this country: The needle stops at 14 pounds.

A healthy child his age ought to weigh nearly twice as much. But very little about Deep is healthy. Whereas a normal toddler would run around, the boy seems to struggle to keep his stunted frame sitting upright. His limbs are pitifully thin, the bones within as fragile as glass.These are classic signs of severe malnutrition, and they are branded on the wasted bodies of millions of youngsters across India.

Astonishingly, an estimated 40% of all the world’s severely malnourished children younger than 5 live in this country, a dark stain on the record of a nation that touts its high rate of economic growth and fancies itself a rising power.

Al-Qaeda Masters Terrorism On the Cheap

Financial Dragnet Largely Bypassed?

By Craig Whitlock

Washington Post Foreign Service

Sunday, August 24, 2008; Page A01  

LONDON — Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, al-Qaeda has increasingly turned to local cells that run extremely low-cost operations and generate cash through criminal scams, bypassing the global financial dragnet set up by the United States and Europe.

Although al-Qaeda spent an estimated $500,000 to plan and execute the Sept. 11 attacks, many of the group’s bombings and assaults since then in Europe, North Africa and Southeast Asia have cost one-tenth as much, or less.

The cheap plots are evidence that the U.S. government and its allies fundamentally miscalculated in assuming they could defeat the network by hunting for wealthy financiers and freezing bank accounts, according to many U.S. and European counterterrorism officials.


Choice of Biden is a demographic calculation too

Joe Biden adds experience and foreign policy expertise, yes, but he could also help with Catholics, blue-collar whites and women.

By Peter Wallsten, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

August 24, 2008  

Barack Obama’s Harvard pedigree, soaring rhetoric and professorial demeanor have helped critics paint him as an elitist. So when he stood Saturday next to his running mate, a new set of characteristics was on display: a public university graduate of modest means, a Roman Catholic who talks like regular folks.

It is true that Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s foreign policy experience may help assure voters who wonder whether the youthful Obama is ready to be commander in chief, and may give the Democrats a voice of gravitas to challenge the Republicans’ war-hero presidential candidate.

But it was clear Saturday that Biden’s potential appeal to white, blue-collar Democrats — those who did not support Obama during the primaries and remained wary of his candidacy — was also important in Obama’s selection of the Delaware senator.

The newly minted partners made no secret of such a goal.

As they shared the stage for the first time as the Democratic ticket, they invoked Biden’s native Scranton, Pa., no fewer than five times, and Obama called the 65-year-old Biden the “scrappy kid from Scranton.”

Olympic gold for LGBT athletes

Though the Olympics aren’t quite over, I thought it’d be good to bring people’s attention to the openly queer athletes who’ve succeeded in Beijing, despite the stigma often attached whenever sports and sexuality cross paths.  

Stories like theirs often slip between the cracks, despite 24/7 coverage of the games.  But as long as stereotypes exist about the ability of gay, lesbian, bi, and trans athletes to perform at the same level as their peers, we need their stories to remind us that they can and do succeed.  

Here’s a quick roundup of athletes who are not only at the top of their game, but also open members of the LGBT community.

More Hot Air?

The first questions I asked when I came to Docudharma for the first time last October 2007 were…

Are we at the beginning of the end?

Or are we at The End Of The Beginning?

Billmon in September of [2006] posted a story about

British scientist James Lovelock and his warning that catastrophic global climate change is both imminent and unstoppable:

Within the next decade or two, Lovelock forecasts, Gaia will hike her thermostat by at least 10 degrees. Earth, he predicts, will be hotter than at any time since the Eocene Age 55 million years ago, when crocodiles swam in the Arctic Ocean.

“There’s no realization of how quickly and irreversibly the planet is changing,” Lovelock says. “Maybe 200 million people will migrate close to the Arctic and survive this. Even if we took extraordinary steps, it would take the world 1,000 years to recover.”

It would be easy to view this as just another kooky end-of-the-world theory, if it weren’t for the history of some of Lovelock’s other kooky theories — like the time in the late ’70s when he hypothesized that chlorofluorocarbons wafted high into the stratosphere would eat great big holes in the ozone layer, exposing first the polar regions and then the rest of the earth’s surface to increasingly harmful ultraviolet radiation. What a nut.

As far as I can tell, Lovelock’s latest crackpot (or should I say “crockpot”?) idea is still the minority opinion among climatologists, most of whom seem to believe we have perhaps 70-100 years before the seriously disastrous greenhouse effects kick in — although Jim Hansen, the NASA scientist, has suggested that unless major cuts in Co2 emissions are made within the next decade, the process will become every bit as irreversible as Lovelock claims it already is.

If we break it, if we disrupt its integrity, we die. We die. It is as simple as that.

It now appears that we are on the verge of breaking it, if we have not already done so. It is my hope that we haven’t yet, but also my opinion that we are dangerously close to doing so. So close in fact that there is no more time to waste. The next year or two may very well be the turning point, if we have not already passed it.

Many say that security of the nation is most important because without it nothing else can happen.

Our environment, our entire world, is immeasurably larger, and the problems we face are immeasurably larger than national security in the context of the arguments about it over the past few years.

Nations cannot and will not exist if the planet is killed.

Our backs are to the wall this time. We are painted into the proverbial corner. There is no escaping it. There is only life, or death, for all of us. We have only ourselves to fault, and only ourselves to rely on. No invisible being is going to come down from the sky and save us from ourselves.

GENERAL STRIKE — 9/11/08 — & extended…

We have just a little less than 3 weeks to get this out now.  That’s okay, I’m reminded of a story about a great feast gathering back in the 1800s of native folks in the northern lands now called canada, who never communicated at all about what they were going to bring as food for the celebration.  But somehow, it all ended up in a perfectly balanced array of courses and dishes!  It can happen!

Now it’s our turn.  Now it’s our chance.

Support the General Strike effort.  

From the vote strike web  

This call for a General Strike is a non-violent, peaceful, and powerful means to send a message to D.C. It is not meant to hurt the country in any way but to remove those who have.  

The ONLY way to stop those who would bleed our nation dry, dismantle our constitution, and dissolve our national sovereignty is to say

I will not work for you, buy from you, fight for you, or die for you, until the

criminals are gone from the halls of our government.


We the people…The Constitution of The United States of America spells out in the first line where the power of our great democracy lies. Unfortunately we the people have allowed the power to slip away to special interest, lobbyist, corporations and career politicians. It is time to reclaim our democracy from the people that are destroying it. Thomas Jefferson said that “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent” now is the time for all people to be heard.


Career politicians will do and say anything to keep their power. Power corrupts even those with the best intentions.


The General Strike is a national call to action, from citizens to other citizens.

It is not about a single issue. It is not an anti-war protest, a gas price protest, a civil rights protest, an election fraud protest. It is not about torture, surveillance, corporate media, or the environment. This strike is about all these issues and more

The strike targets key issues facing the American public, issues that have not been addressed in any meaningful way by any branch of government.

You can order free flyers here.

A little more below the fold…  

Imperialism’s unstable world order

Original Article, sub-headed After seven days of bloody war in the Caucasus and growing tension between the US and Russia, John Rees asks what is it about the new world order that has made it so prone to warfare?, via

There is one fundamental thing that is common to capitalism in every age that makes it a uniquely violent system. It is not a marginal or accidental part of the system but something that is part of the very definition of capitalist society. That thing is competition.

Uh-oh!  Competition being bashed…must restrain from shouting ‘USA, USA, USA.’  After all, isn’t our competitive spirit what made us greater than everybody else?  Isn’t competition what makes our ‘free market’ system of capitalism work so well?

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