April 26, 2009 archive

Weekend News Digest

Weekend News Digest is an Open Thread

Now with Top, World, U.S News, and Politics Stories, including special Swine Flu Supplement.

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Iraq says U.S. raid "a crime," violated security pact

By Aref Mohammed, Reuters

26 mins ago

BASRA, Iraq (Reuters) – Iraq considers a U.S. military raid that killed two people a crime and wants U.S. forces to hand over those responsible to the courts, an Iraqi official said on Sunday.

Hundreds of Iraqis protested in the southern city of Kut against U.S. forces and the provincial governor also condemned the military operation.

The U.S. military had any immediate comment on the Iraqi stance but said the raid was carried out with the full approval of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s government.

Four Viruses in One Mainstream Says:The Big One

Yet will zombinals everywhere make any sort of connection?

Doubt it.

Bird Flu,Swine Flu,Spanish flu for you too.  I have two wonderful summer days at beach away from “news”, the net, and “modern” society and return to find the human condition unchanged.  

A “combination” of viruses.

“Outbreaks” simultaneously in diverse geographical locations.

Emergency, emergency, please to get from street.

Dare you say manufactured event?  Yes it is.



copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Never for a moment in my life have I been “in love.”  I do not believe in the notion.  Fireworks have not filled my heart.  Flames of a fiery passion do not burn within me.  Indeed, my soul has not been ablaze.  Thoughts of a hot-blooded devotion seem illogical to me.  Such sentiments always have.  Fondness too fertile is but torture for me.  I admire many, and adore none.  For me, the affection I feel for another is born out of sincere and profound appreciation.  To like another means more to me than to love or be loved.  Excitement, an emotional reaction to another, rises up within me when I experience an empathetic exchange with someone who has glorious gray matter.

Today, it happened.  I felt an a twinge that startled me.  I stood still as he entered the room.  I expected nothing out of the ordinary, or at least nothing other than what has become his recently adopted, more avoidant, routine.  Although long ago, I had become accustomed to his face, his voice, and his demeanor, for I have known the man for more than a few years.  In the last few weeks, while essentially he is who he always was, some of his stances have changed.  Possibly, Barry has felt a need to compromise his positions, but I wonder; what of his principles.

green and black

Each single blade of green grass vibrates with the flooding sun of a new day. Rising over the verdant rolling fields of hills large and small providing the context and contrast to the flat white cloud ribbons as the snake their way throughout the multi-hued blue sky. Our minds look up and follow the progression of blues from bright to dark as it fades to space.

Our minds range outward through the stars finding the solace of the empty space between them and exploring at whim the burning heart of the giant suns.

The comfort of nothing, the rest of black.

We want to reach farther than that even being human and all but being human and all we soon range far enough out to find the no unauthorized personnel sign on the outer edge of the small conscious we are allowed through the Original Bargain that gave us sex and banana splits but prevents consciousnesses trapped in meat from knowing the full secrets lest we use them wrongly. In our tiny little world where we purposefully lose our way to apprehend another informational state and to serve the greatness through the being small. For now.

So we float back down still only seeing with our eyes to the place we call home with its loud and its mess and its asphalt but soon float past that and back to the tiny tiny big hilltop of green grass studded with a ring of brilliant white stones and for the first time notice the structure.

A small but exquisite pagoda in a still lake,

couches and teas,

a breeze,

A moment of peace

Before the call of our meat draws us inevitably back to the fray and the struggle and the joy of now deathless (for some) battles to be fought in our fine containers of small consciousness and flesh.

Still yearning for BIG and for home.

For the inevitable reunion with the absolute that is the craving of the center of us, but content enough again with the bargain we have made….trading battle and booty and banana splits for the experiences of unlimited expansiveness.

For a while.

That seems like an eternity from here.

But in sooth is but a blink of the non-existent eye.

Barack Obama administration seeks to change police questioning law

As an Illinois state senator, Obama sponsored a bill to require the police to videotape interrogations in capital crime cases.  Illinois was the first state to do this.

Now, the Obama administration is urging the US Supreme Court to overturn a landmark decision that stops police from questioning suspects unless they have a lawyer present.  Nineteen former judges and prosecutors, including Larry Thompson (ex-deputy attorney general) and Williams Sessions (former FBI director), have urged the Supreme Court to leave the 1986 ruling intact.

The Michigan vs Jackson ruling in 1986 established that, if a defendants have a lawyer or have asked for one to be present, police may not interview them until the lawyer is present.  Any such questioning cannot be used in court even if the suspect agrees to waive his right to a lawyer because he would have made that decision without legal counsel, said the Supreme Court.  

The US Justice Department is arguing that the existing rule is unnecessary and outdated.  The sixth amendment of the US constitution protects the right of criminal suspects to be “represented by counsel”, but the Obama regime argues that this merely means to “protect the adversary process” in a criminal trial.  

The Justice Department, in a brief signed by Elena Kagan, the solicitor general, said the 1986 decision “serves no real purpose” and offers only “meagre benefits”.

Critics argue that the 1986 decision is important to protect vulnerable defendants such as the mentally disabled, poor or juveniles who could be easily swayed by the police.

“Your right to assistance of counsel can be undermined if somebody on the other side who is much more sophisticated than you are comes and talks to you and asks for information,” said Sidney Rosdeitcher, a New York lawyer who advises the Brennan Centre for Justice at New York University.

So according to the Obama administration, the criminal rights of the mentally disabled, poor and juvenilles are too meager to be bothered with, and the Bush administration’s crimes are too important to look back on in anger or with thoughts of revenge.  

Where the hell are their high priced consultants, their values, their heads?  There is no way this administration can sell taking away rights and justice from America’s most vulnerable while protecting torturers and fraudulent banks.  If this isn’t morally and politically bankrupt on all counts, I don’t know what is.  

Somebody really needs to let President Obama in on the screwed up messages “the Obama administration” is sending out in his name, and Democrats better remember that even the Iraq war got a honey moon.  If Obama and the Democrats don’t deliver the change they promised, they will lose to it; and this country can’t afford to have them blow another opportunity to enact the progressive change that the people and the country so urgently need.  Democrats can either be the hero and keep power for 30 – 40 years, or they can be the goat and concede power in 4 years.    

I want to believe, but he keeps pissing me off.  

tip of the hat and cross posted here


Heart Chakra

The main thing about traveling is this… “things” get jettisoned- quick.  Amazingly fast, in fact.  

At first, the lack of baggage feels weird.

The other day I became so lightheaded I landed in an emergency room, convinced my heart had slipped

its moors.  It (my heart) was usually settled heavy and firm on top of my solar plexus.

But that day it was up in my throat and in the very next minute, out the third eye.  Like a fucking balloon, gone, that fast.  I panicked.

The oxygen the nurse gave me helped.  (Sweet girl, she said she liked my earrings, and I am so very,

very vain and attached to my earrings – it’s one of the reasons I know I could never become a nun.)

(Well, one of the reasons.)

So, I don’t know if it was the oxygen, or the radioactive dye they put in my veins, or the amusement of hearing Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride” blaring over the PA while the gamma camera moved this way and that, but all of a sudden I knew everything was okay.  

That this wasn’t, after all, a good day to die.

That despite certain residue and the possibility of glowing in the dark; my heart was fine.

It (my heart), was, in fact, supposed to roam freely through the chakras, one minute in the pelvis, the next in the center of my forehead and then, you know, out and about in the world. (Yogi’s have a name for that, me, I’m a Midwesterner (although some of the sea has crept in).

An old poem, multiple times rejected and unpublished, yet a favorite (and one of the other reasons for not becoming a nun):

The Role of Secrecy in Democracy

One of the things that I think we will need to tackle in order to ensure that this country never again tortures is to think about the role of secrecy in a democracy. Last week I wrote a bit about the fact that, especially since the Cold War, our intelligence services have routinely been engaged in torture. The one difference between those incidents and the Bush administration is that the later had the hubris to make it official policy and tried to give it a ridiculous cloak of legality. Under previous administrations, it was practiced with even more secrecy and often took decades for the amount of information we know to become public.

It seems to me that there is an inherent contradiction between democracy – a form of government that is based on an informed citizenry – and secrecy. And I think the very nature of giving power to human beings to operate in secret is almost guaranteed to produce abuses of that power. If our intelligence services are allowed to continue to operate in secret, we are left with very little means to hold them accountable for what they do. As a matter of fact, it becomes incredibly circular. As I write this, I recognize that I know very little about how our intelligence services operate and it becomes difficult to proscribe solutions. So I am left to “trust” them and the oversight provided by elected officials to tell me where the lines about secrecy should be drawn. This is especially frustrating for those of us who have seen the abuses of power that are so often cloaked in secrecy.

Sunday music retrospective: Roberta Flack

Roberta Flack

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

Killing Me Softly

Docudharma Times Sunday April 26

Torture Has Achieved

Nothing But Disgrace For

The Bush Administration


Sunday’s Headlines:

Military embraces green energy

Green party committed to coalition and EU reform treaty

Brothels cut prices to beat the recession

Trapped civilians in Sri Lanka are facing starvation

Kim Jong Il son appointed to top government body

Opposition parties cowed as ANC lion roars victory

Somalia: Has Piracy Drawn the World’s Attention To Country?

Clinton Reiterates Iraq Commitment

Israel: No preconditions to talks with Syria

‘News From the Empire’ by Fernando del Paso; translated from the Spanish by Alfonso González and Stella T. Clark

Effectiveness Of Harsh Questioning Is Unclear

Detainee May Have Faced Few Traditional Tactics

By Joby Warrick and Peter Finn

Washington Post Staff Writers

Sunday, April 26, 2009

During his first days in detention, senior al-Qaeda operative Khalid Sheik Mohammed was stripped of his clothes, beaten, given a forced enema and shackled with his arms chained above his head, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross. It was then, a Red Cross report says, that his American captors told him to prepare for “a hard time.”

Over the next 25 days, beginning on March 6, 2003, Mohammed was put through a routine in which he was deprived of sleep, doused with cold water and had his head repeatedly slammed into a plywood wall, according to the report. The interrogation also included days of extensive waterboarding, a technique that simulates drowning.

Global flu fears as 68 die and virus spreads

• BA cabin steward in isolation ward

• Mexico invokes special measures

Tracy McVeigh and Jo Tuckman in Mexico City

The Observer, Sunday 26 April 2009

A British Airways cabin steward is being treated in an isolation unit at a London hospital after falling ill on a flight from Mexico, where a killer virus is believed to have caused at least 68 deaths and sparked widespread panic. Health experts say it has the potential to become a global pandemic.

The BA steward was undergoing tests in a London hospital for the swine flu virus after arriving on a flight from Mexico City. It is the first suspected case of the new flu strain to be reported in Europe, prompting fears it may have spread across the Atlantic from Mexico.

The World Health Organisation says the swine flu strain – a unique mix of human, pig and bird viruses – constituted a public health emergency of international concern.

Torture? It probably killed more Americans than 9/11

A US major reveals the inside story of military interrogation in Iraq. By Patrick Cockburn, winner of the 2009 Orwell Prize for journalism

Sunday, 26 April 2009

The use of torture by the US has proved so counter-productive that it may have led to the death of as many US soldiers as civilians killed in 9/11, says the leader of a crack US interrogation team in Iraq.

“The reason why foreign fighters joined al-Qa’ida in Iraq was overwhelmingly because of abuses at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and not Islamic ideology,” says Major Matthew Alexander, who personally conducted 300 interrogations of prisoners in Iraq. It was the team led by Major Alexander [a named assumed for security reasons] that obtained the information that led to the US military being able to locate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of al-Qa’ida in Iraq. Zarqawi was then killed by bombs dropped by two US aircraft on the farm where he was hiding outside Baghdad on 7 June 2006. Major Alexander said that he learnt where Zarqawi was during a six-hour interrogation of a prisoner with whom he established relations of trust.

Major Alexander’s attitude to torture by the US is a combination of moral outrage and professional contempt. “It plays into the hands of al-Qa’ida in Iraq because it shows us up as hypocrites when we talk about human rights,” he says. An eloquent and highly intelligent man with experience as a criminal investigator within the US military, he says that torture is ineffective, as well as counter-productive. “People will only tell you the minimum to make the pain stop,” he says. “They might tell you the location of a house used by insurgents but not that it is booby-trapped.”

Late Night Karaoke

Watching Those Who Watch You  

Torture is Effective

Let’s face it.  Torture is effective.  These programs would not be happening if they weren’t effective in some manner.  The examples throughout history, particularly during the medieval ages, prove it.  There is no doubt.  So lets not get into this torture is effective or not game. It is, period.  It’s not effective in getting the truth to prevent a “24” type catostrophic incident, the “ticking time bomb” scenario.  But that’s not why a broad scale torture program is initiated.  It is most effective in getting false confessions and spreading terror to a population.  Think of the Vietnamese torture program at Hanoi Hilton.  It was designed to strike fear at the American soldiers and pilots, individually and as groups, and to gain false confessions or statements to deploy propaganda.  The idea that the primary reason is to “gain actionable intelligence” as Cheney and his cohorts claim, is ridiculous because they know that rarely happens.  

What’s in SUPERTRAINS for Small Town and Rural America?

Crossposted from Hilbilly Report

This last weekend I wrote up a small diary, cross-posted to various places … which even stumbled into being wrecklisted at Agent Orange … about the High Speed Rail plan released by the Obama administration.

That diary focused on laying out the three “tiers” of HSR in the announced plan. “Express HSR” is one of the bullet train systems, like they are planning for California. But between that tier and conventional rail, are two more tiers:

  • “Regional HSR”, with a top speed of around 125mph, able to provide trips at average speeds in the range of 100mph, operating in existing rail rights of way, but mostly on its own track, with upgraded signaling and substantial investment in grade separation and/or the top level of “hardened” level crossings, normally with electrified lines; and
  • “Emerging HSR”, with a top speed of 110mph, able provide trips at average speed in excess of 80mph, operating on existing rail right of way with improved capacity, but sometimes sharing track with freight rail, the 110mph standard of quad gate, speed sensitive level crossings, and provided by either electric or diesel 110mph tilt-trains

The bullet trains are the show ponies … but for small town and rural America, the genuine seat at the table for Emerging and Regional HSR is the real good news from the announcement.

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