A Woman's Lot Is Not a Happy Lot: Afghanistan

It's a big article posted in its entirety, but I make no excuses for that, it being essential reading on the plight of Afghani women.

A plight, that once upon a time, under Soviet influence, started to show real progress in freeing women from the control of the misogynist, backward clerics and the equally backward and misogynist Mujahedin.

Until that was, the entry into the conflict by the USA.

U.S./NATO Troops Out Now!

Afghanistan: Women Under Imperialist Occupation

We Said: Hail Red Army in Afghanistan!

16 March 2012
On March 6, two days before International Women’s Day, Washington’s Afghan puppet president Hamid Karzai announced that he had approved a new “code of conduct” issued by the Ulema Council of senior Muslim clerics. This edict legally confines women to their homes, barring them from going out without a male guardian or mingling with men in schools, offices or markets. It also officially condones wife-beating. “Men are fundamental and women are secondary,” said the statement, which Karzai saluted as “the sharia law of all Muslims and all Afghans.”
Throughout the past ten years of U.S. occupation, Afghanistan has been a living hell for women. To sell their predatory war in retribution for the September 11 attacks, the U.S. and its NATO allies pointed to the crimes against women under the then-ruling Taliban, pledging that an American-led takeover would bring liberation. After U.S. forces seized control of the country in 2002, George W. Bush proclaimed that “today, women are free.” In reality, the U.S. rulers merely handed power to another wing of the anti-woman fundamentalist forces that they had backed against the Soviet Union and the leftist regime of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) from the late 1970s to the early ’90s.
In Afghanistan today, women are forced to wear the suffocating head-to-toe burqa almost everywhere. The sight of women begging for money to feed their starving families is commonplace on the streets of Kabul, the capital city. To survive or pay off debts, families sell their daughters in marriage or to the many brothels servicing U.S. troops and contractors. More than half of all girls are forced into marriage before the age of 16.
There is a saying in Afghanistan that a woman belongs either to her husband’s house or to her grave. Half of the inmates at the Badam Bagh women’s prison in Kabul have been imprisoned for years for refusing to marry or for fleeing abusive husbands. Returned runaways are often shot or stabbed by family members in “honor killings.” Other women are jailed for being victims of rape or assault. For a woman in Afghanistan, any sex outside marriage is considered a crime—including when she is raped. The rapist, meanwhile, almost always goes unpunished.
Barely a quarter of Afghan girls go to school. Religious fanatics attack those who do, including by spraying acid in their faces, as happened at a school in Kandahar in 2008. The following year, the education ministry reported that nearly 500 schools, mostly schools for girls, had been destroyed, damaged or forced to close. Between March and October 2010, at least 126 students and teachers were killed. The literacy rate for women is 12 percent, while their average life expectancy is 44, some 24 years below the world average. To escape their unbearable lives, many women turn to suicide. Even according to official Afghan statistics, some 2,300 women and girls kill themselves every year—more than six each day. The most common method is self-immolation with cooking oil.
The atrocities endured by Afghan women are not in the main the actions of rogue elements breaking the law. In 2004, the U.S. overseers brokered a constitution that enshrined Islamic sharia law. Despite the token presence of women in the constituent assembly and a claim that women have “equal rights,” the constitution states that “no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam.” In 2006, Karzai’s cabinet reestablished the Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which was notorious under the Taliban for its brutal imposition of sharia, including stoning to death women who defied its edicts.
Calling Afghanistan “the good war,” in 2009 the Obama administration reinforced the U.S. occupation with another 30,000 troops. The imperialist troops, full of racist contempt, continue to massacre untold numbers of civilians. American soldiers have murdered Afghans for sport, cut off their fingers as trophies and urinated on their dead bodies. Marine snipers have posed for photos with a flag bearing the Nazi SS insignia. Soldiers regularly stage night raids in which they go after suspected opponents of the Afghan regime at private homes and shoot dead whoever opens the door. The explosion of anger that followed the revelation that the U.S. military had burned copies of the Koran last month shows the depth of resentment that has built up among the Afghan peoples.
In the latest atrocity, a U.S. Army staff sergeant went door-to-door in a village in southern Afghanistan overnight on March 11, gunning down at least 16 civilians, including nine children. This outrage provoked an immediate condemnation from the Karzai government and vows for vengeance from the Taliban, further complicating the U.S. rulers’ efforts to extricate themselves from the Afghanistan quagmire.
After repeated instances of Afghan forces turning their guns on American soldiers, the Obama administration announced last month that it was moving up the timetable for ending U.S. troops’ “combat role” to some time next year and withdrawing them in 2014. The U.S. is looking to open negotiations with the Taliban, which continues to control large parts of the country, in order to somehow cobble together a “political solution” that would create a modicum of stability after U.S. troops are withdrawn. Karzai’s approval of the clerics’ woman-hating “code of conduct” is widely seen to be an overture to the Taliban on the part of his regime.
As Marxists, our starting point in opposing the U.S. occupation is proletarian class opposition to America’s capitalist rulers and their imperialist predations. In the lead-up to the 2001 invasion, we called for the military defense of Afghanistan against the U.S. and allied forces without giving any support to the Taliban reactionaries. In the face of the ongoing occupation, we emphasize that every blow struck against the blood-soaked U.S. ruling class is a blow against the chief enemy of working people and the oppressed around the world. All U.S./NATO troops out of Afghanistan now!
Afghanistan: Front Line of the Anti-Soviet War Drive
In their drive for world domination, the U.S. imperialists have never had any compunction about siding with the most retrograde social forces. It is impossible to comprehend the current plight of Afghan women without examining Washington’s role in backing the forces of Islamic reaction against the Soviet Union and its PDPA allies starting in 1978.
Many of the modernizing left nationalists who led the PDPA were educated and trained in the Soviet Union, which they rightly saw as a source of social progress. The Soviet Union was a workers state that embodied key social gains of the October 1917 Russian Revolution, centrally a planned economy and collectivized property, despite its subsequent degeneration under a nationalist Stalinist bureaucracy. Progressive-minded activists in Afghanistan in the 1970s looked at the example of Soviet Central Asia, just across the border, which was a modern society where women went unveiled, were educated and participated in public life and where everyone had access to free education and health care.
On coming to power in April 1978, the PDPA began to implement serious reforms favoring women and poor peasants, such as redistributing the land, lowering the bride price, educating women and freeing them from the burqa. In the context of this cruelly backward country, which had far more mullahs than industrial workers, such reforms had an explosive impact. They fueled a revolt by reactionary traditionalists who sought to maintain the old society, including its all-encompassing degradation of women. When the Muslim insurgency threatened the PDPA’s hold on power, the government made repeated requests for Soviet assistance, until the Soviets finally dispatched tens of thousands of troops to Afghanistan in December 1979.
This was the only war in modern history fought centrally over women’s rights. From the start, the U.S. imperialists, determined to strike a blow against the Soviet Union, took the side of benighted reaction. Democratic president Jimmy Carter and his successor, Republican Ronald Reagan, backed the mujahedin holy warriors to the hilt in the biggest covert CIA operation in history. Billions of dollars in aid went to an array of Islamist groups based in Peshawar, Pakistan, and to that country’s ISI intelligence service. The CIA used the ISI and the Egyptian and Saudi intelligence services to create, train, finance and arm a network of 70,000 Islamists (including Osama bin Laden) from more than 50 countries to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, giving a huge boost to Muslim fundamentalist movements the world over.
We wrote at the time of the Soviet intervention: “For revolutionary socialists there is nothing tricky, nothing ambiguous about the war in Afghanistan. The Soviet Army and its left-nationalist allies are fighting an anti-communist, anti-democratic mélange of landlords, money lenders, tribal chiefs and mullahs committed to mass illiteracy.... The gut-level response of every radical leftist should be fullest solidarity with the Soviet Red Army” (Spartacist [English-language edition] No. 29, Summer 1980). The threat of a CIA-backed Islamic takeover on the USSR’s southern flank posed directly the need for unconditional military defense of the Soviet Union. Moreover, the extended Soviet presence opened the possibility of social liberation for the Afghan masses, particularly women. We proclaimed: Hail Red Army! Extend social gains of the October Revolution to the Afghan peoples!
In contrast, the bulk of the left internationally, with few exceptions, eagerly joined the imperialist chorus against the Soviet Union and whitewashed the mujahedin. The International Socialist Organization and its then ally in Britain, Tony Cliff’s Socialist Workers Party (SWP), stood foursquare with the imperialists. The 12 January 1980 issue of the SWP’s Socialist Worker blared, “Troops Out of Afghanistan!” In 1981, the then fake-Trotskyist United Secretariat of Ernest Mandel called for “stopping Soviet occupation in Afghanistan.” In howling with the imperialist wolves against the Soviet intervention, these groups made common cause with the worst enemies of the rights of women and all the oppressed.
Huge Gains for Afghan Women Under Soviet Presence
Freeing Afghan women from purdah (seclusion) and giving land to the peasants required ending the domination of the mullahs and tribal khans and overturning the country’s entire social structure. But the popular base of support for such moves within Afghanistan was very narrow. The country utterly lacked a proletariat with any social weight. Its tiny manufacturing workforce of some 35,000 was dwarfed by the quarter million Islamic clerics. Those elements in the cities aspiring to progress were surrounded by a sea of nomadic herdsmen and landless peasants beholden to the khans and the landlords. Thus, the presence of the Red Army, together with substantial Soviet aid, was essential to social progress.
Afghan women made unprecedented gains under the Soviet umbrella. While the 1964 constitution had declared women equal to men, equality largely remained on paper except for a few women in the upper strata of urban society. A thin layer of women had taken off the burqa and obtained education and employment outside the home, but even in Kabul, the main urban center, half of all women still wore the full veil in the late 1970s. Throughout the country, 98 percent of women were totally illiterate. In the 1980s, in contrast, there were vast opportunities for women to escape at least the strictest restraints of purdah. Many thousands became university students, workers, professionals and leftist activists.
Suraya Parlika, a founder of the PDPA-affiliated Democratic Women’s Organization, recounted some of these accomplishments in the 2007 documentary Afghan Women: A History of Struggle: “Women worked very hard to get their rights. They formed childcare centers in their workplaces to make it easier for women to work. Maternity leave was extended to three months from six weeks and they were still getting their salary.” The Afghan government also began mass literacy campaigns and provided free medical care.
By the late 1980s, women made up 40 percent of the country’s doctors (women doctors were in high demand, especially in rural areas, where women were still strictly secluded and barred from consulting male doctors). Sixty percent of the instructors at Kabul University and 65 percent of the student body were women. Family courts, in some cases presided over by female judges, had replaced the mullahs’ sharia courts. The number of working women increased 50-fold. By 1987, there were an estimated 245,000 women working in fields ranging from construction, printing and food processing to radio and TV journalism and especially teaching, where they made up 70 percent of the workforce.
In a 1994 PhD thesis, Educated Afghan Women in Search of Their Identities, the Afghan-born academic Sharifa Sharif reported on her 1987 interviews with 30 women workers in Kabul, undertaken as part of a survey for the United Nations Development Program. The sharp increase in women’s participation in economic life was partly due to the war, which had taken away many men and brought women from the countryside into Kabul. But it was also the result of greater legal rights, supportive government policies and economic development, including the construction of new homes, factories, schools and hospitals.
The transformation of these women from backward traditionalist areas into skilled workers gives a glimpse of what might have been achieved if Afghanistan had been able to continue its Soviet-assisted development. While initially encountering fierce resistance from their families, women workers were exposed to technology, education and literacy. They took pride in acquiring job skills and becoming ustad (expert masters) in their fields. Some were sent for training to the Soviet Union. At a construction site, Sharif interviewed a 23-year-old widow and mother of two children, who was one of three female crane operators, a job never before done by a woman in Afghanistan.
Many women took up arms against the mujahedin threat. Four of seven military commanders appointed in 1986 were women. By 1989, the regime reported having armed some 15,000 women. The same year, all female members of the PDPA received military training and arms. The arming of unveiled women with Kalashnikovs symbolized the social transformation then under way in Afghanistan. As early as 1984, Indian journalist Patricia Sethi reported encountering 15-year-old girls carrying rifles who were members of a civilian brigade in a village near Kabul: “They spoke fervently and passionately about their revolution and what it meant for young women in Afghanistan: it meant ‘an education, freedom from the veil, freedom from feudalists who want to keep us down,’ said Khalida. ‘We do not want to become the fourth wife of a 60-year-old man, existing solely for his whim and pleasure’” (India Today, 31 July 1984).
Soviet Withdrawal Betrayed Afghan Women
The Soviet military presence posed the possibility not only of defeating the U.S.-backed Islamists but also of incorporating Afghanistan into the Soviet system. In the 1920s, Soviet Central Asia looked remarkably like Afghanistan in the 1970s—a miserably backward and desolate place where women were bought and sold. Every step toward emancipation taken by the Soviet regime was met with fierce resistance from the khans, mullahs and their armed gangs of basmachi (the mujahedin of the time), including the wholesale murder of Communist agitators and women who rejected the veil.
The imposition of Soviet power under the umbrella of the Red Army created the conditions for dismantling centuries-old tribal/clerical domination and developing the region’s vast natural resources. Once the Soviet Army got the upper hand against the basmachi in 1922, Bolshevik women activists were sent in to work among the horribly oppressed women, who stood to benefit most from the extension of the gains of the October Revolution. Under Lenin’s guidance, they set out to gradually undermine the power and authority of the khans’ and mullahs’ institutions through legal and administrative measures, demonstrating that the Communists were the foremost fighters for the oppressed.
Beginning with the Stalinist political counterrevolution in 1923-24, the USSR underwent a qualitative bureaucratic degeneration in which the working class was deprived of political power. Even after this, however, the necessities of industrialization and economic planning continued to produce particularly huge benefits for Central Asia. As the USSR was transformed from a largely peasant country into an industrial power starting in the late 1920s and early ’30s, Soviet women were increasingly mobilized to work in industry. In Central Asia, women entered the industrial workforce in large numbers during World War II, when many Soviet factories were relocated to the region away from the front lines of the war.
Had the Soviet leadership been determined to see the war in Afghanistan through to victory, the country could have undergone similarly immense social progress through the construction of a modern infrastructure, the creation of a significant urban proletariat and the institution of economic planning. But the Stalinist bureaucrats in the Kremlin did not pursue this course. Instead, the regime of Mikhail Gorbachev withdrew the Red Army in 1988-89.
This was not because it faced military defeat; to the end, the Soviet Army had the upper hand militarily. The Soviet withdrawal was a political decision by the Stalinist bureaucracy in Moscow carried out with the fatuous aim of appeasing U.S. imperialism. It was a betrayal of the Afghan masses, especially women, that helped pave the way for capitalist counterrevolution in the Soviet Union itself in 1991-92.
The Stalinist bureaucracy was a contradictory caste whose nationalist outlook subordinated the interests of the world proletariat to the defense of its own privileged position as a parasitic layer resting on the collectivized economy. The 1979 Red Army intervention was a decent and progressive act, even if it was carried out by the corrupt and conservative regime of Leonid Brezhnev, that cut against the grain of the Stalinist dogma of “socialism in one country.” However, we warned from the outset that the bureaucracy might cut a deal at the expense of the Afghan peoples as part of its quest for “peaceful coexistence” with Washington. We fought for a proletarian political revolution to oust the treacherous Stalinist bureaucracy and return the Soviet Union to the Bolshevik internationalism of Lenin and Trotsky.
After the Soviet withdrawal, the Afghan government fought on valiantly for three years. The Partisan Defense Committee—a class-struggle legal and social defense organization associated with the Spartacist League—wrote to the PDPA government in 1989 offering to organize an international brigade to help fight the forces of Islamic reaction. When that offer was turned down, the PDC, at the request of the Afghan government, launched an international fund drive to aid civilian victims of the mujahedin siege of the city of Jalalabad, raising over $44,000. The Afghan forces were able to repel this attack.
When the mujahedin finally took Kabul in 1992, re-enslaving Afghan women, the various tribally-based militias carried out a vengeful war of mass murder, torture and rape of rival ethnic populations, which left at least 50,000 people dead in Kabul alone. This led to four years of horror under the rule of various warring fundamentalist factions which brought the city to the point of famine and total devastation.
A recent New York Times article (“In Afghanistan, a Soviet Past Lies in Ruins,” 11 February) captured some of the destruction wrought by these U.S.-backed cutthroats. The article notes that in the Soviet House of Science and Culture during the 1980s, “Soviets and Afghans gathered for lectures, films and the propagation of modernizing ideas that for a while refashioned Kabul, including a time when women could work outside the home in Western clothing.” It continued:
“But during the civil war of 1992-96, the House of Science and Culture was occupied by one faction and wrecked as another lobbed shells down from a nearby hill. Today, the auditoriums are littered with rubble; cold air comes in through rocket holes; and once-bold Soviet murals of men and women, Afghans and Russians, are hidden in the squalid darkness near cartoon images depicting a Taliban fighter instructing children to become suicide bombers.”
Eventually the Taliban, recruiting from the historically dominant Pashtun ethnic population, emerged as the strongest of the mujahedin factions. Backed by Pakistan and supported by the U.S., it came to power in 1996. A year later, an American diplomat declared: “The Taliban will probably develop like the Saudis did. There will be Aramco, pipelines, an emir, no parliament and lots of Sharia law. We can live with that” (quoted in Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia [2000]). Only when the U.S. rulers realized that there would be no Aramco (or any other oil company) and no pipelines did they start talking about the Taliban’s barbaric treatment of women.
Many of the CIA-financed fundamentalists who fought the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s turned against their former paymasters over the following decade. This was the case with the September 11, 2001 attacks carried out by Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network, which led in turn to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. After ousting the Taliban, the Bush administration installed a regime based largely on the same mujahedin warlords who devastated the country from 1992-96.
The Impact of Counterrevolution in the USSR
The counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union has fed the bonfires of social reaction on a global scale. In many countries, women’s rights and social progress in general have been thrown back by generations. For working people in the ex-Soviet Union and the former deformed workers states of East and Central Europe, the return of capitalism has been a calamity measured in unemployment, homelessness, collapsing life expectancy and intercommunal violence.
In ex-Soviet Central Asia, while the effects of more than seven decades of socialized economic development did not permit a quick and easy victory for the Islamic fundamentalists, millions of women have found themselves again trapped under veils and classified as second-class citizens. Fewer and fewer girls attend secondary schools. In much of the region, women can no longer initiate a divorce. The resurgence of nationalism has led to interethnic strife, as in Tajikistan in 1992-97 and more recently in Kyrgyzstan. The region remains a powder keg, where ethnic clashes continue to rage.
The horrors produced by U.S. imperialism’s “holy war” against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, as well as its present occupation of the country, underline how the capitalist system is a barrier to social progress and a breeding ground for reaction. As in Afghanistan, U.S. occupation forces devastated Iraq during their occupation of that country, fueling sectarian massacres and throwing back the rights of women and other oppressed.
Through its “war on terror,” U.S. imperialism aims to impose its will on oppressed peoples around the world. The despotic bourgeoisies of the neocolonies subjugate and plunder their “own” people for their own profit and that of the imperialists to whom they are beholden. There is plenty of hatred among the masses for these parasites and their overlords, however the aspirations of the downtrodden have increasingly been channeled into religious reaction. Islamist forces continue to grow in influence throughout North Africa and the Near East, from Egypt to Gaza to Turkey and beyond.
The only way forward is the struggle for an internationalist revolutionary leadership dedicated to the fight for workers revolutions in both the neocolonies and the heartlands of world imperialism. While this may seem a distant prospect in this very reactionary political period, the bitter truth is that no other road can put an end to ethnic and national oppression, the oppression of women and the exploitation of working people.
The domestic complement of the murderous occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan is an escalating war on the U.S. working class, black people and immigrants. While a handful of wealthy capitalists accrue massive profits, the rest of the population is faced with increasing assaults on its living standards or utter poverty. Moreover, anti-woman religious fundamentalism is also rampant on the home front, as bourgeois politics is saturated with God and the right to abortion and even contraception is under siege.
The purpose of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist), of which the Spartacist League is the U.S. section, is to forge revolutionary Marxist parties modeled after Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolshevik Party that led the October Revolution. Only the working class has the social power and objective interest to sweep away the deeply irrational and inhumane capitalist system through socialist revolution, replacing it with a planned economy in which production is based on the human needs of all, rather than profits for the few.
Particularly in the neocolonial world, where women’s oppression is so acute, women workers will be in the front ranks of such parties. The overthrow of the imperialist-dominated world order will lay a material basis to free women from age-old family servitude and reorganize society in the interest of all. The social functions of the family—housework, child rearing, preparation of food, etc.—will be replaced by collectivized institutions. When the bloody rule of capital is swept away by the workers of the world, the veil, the bride price, purdah, “honor killings” and the social degradation of women in all its forms will become but bitter memories of a barbaric past. ICL
H/T Maren.


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Lost Cities of the Ancients: The Dark Lords of Hattusha

For someone who professes an interest in history, what I'm about to admit, I can only do with no small amount of embarrassment. That there existed some 3,000 years ago, a fourth great empire that rivalled Egypt, Babylon and Assyria, and that until an hour ago, I had never even heard of, the Hittite empire of the north eastern Mediterranean.

Equally as fascinating as discovering this lost civilisation, is the story of how successive generations of historians have unravelled the mysterious of this hitherto unknown empire.

More than 3,000 years ago a mysterious and ruthless civilization rose from nothing, created a brutal and unstoppable army and built an empire that rivalled Egypt and Babylon. Yet, just as it was at the height of its powers, the great empire suddenly vanished from history.

This is the story of the formidable Hittites, a civilisation bent on world domination. Their long-lost capital, Hattusha, which disappeared 1,000s of years ago, was recently rediscovered, and archaeologists have unearthed one of the most astonishing and ingenious cities of the ancient world, featuring rings of impenetrable walls, secret tunnels, temples, palaces and a vast pyramid-like structure facing Egypt.

Buried in this lost city is one of the greatest libraries of the ancient world. All the secrets of the mysterious Hittite empire were written in two codes - one a unique form of hieroglyphs. Using these deciphered texts, this film recreates the ancient world of the Hittites, telling the story of what happened to them, and what caused an empire built to last forever to vanish so completely from history. BBC


Uploaded by, and thanks to, allisonpita 65 uploads.

The Federal Bureau of Entrapment Are At It Again

I shouldn't laugh, because if you have been here before, you will know how seriously I take these cases of FBI entrapment, but...

But we have a brown dude living in Pittsburgh, who, when he smells a rat, contacts an British newspaper, the Guardian, and.... oh just read on!

'Taliban sympathiser' arrest prompts new questions about FBI tactics

Khalifah al-Akili emailed the Guardian shortly before his arrest to say he thought he was the target of an 'entrapment' sting
Paul Harris
26 March 2012

Al-Akili said he believed two men he met were FBI informants because of the way they appeared to want to get him to make jihadist statements. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla

The arrest of a Pittsburgh man described as a Taliban sympathiser has sparked allegations that the FBI deployed a notorious confidential informant used in previous controversial stings on suspected Muslim radicals.

Khalifah al-Akili, 34, was arrested in a police raid on his home on March 15. He was later charged with illegally possessing a gun after having previous felony convictions for drug dealing. However, at his court appearance an FBI agent testified that al-Akili had made radical Islamic statements and that police had uncovered unspecified jihadist literature at his home.

But, in a strange twist, al-Akili's arrest came just days after he had sent out an email to friends and local Muslim civil rights groups complaining that he believed he was the target of an FBI "entrapment" sting. That refers to a controversial FBI tactic of using confidential informants – who often have criminal records or are paid large sums of money – to facilitate "fake" terrorist plots for suspects to invent or carry out.

In the email – which was also sent to the Guardian before al-Akili was arrested – he detailed meeting two men he believed were FBI informants because of the way they talked about radical Islam and appeared to want to get him to make jihadist statements. According to his account, one of them, who called himself Saeed Torres, asked him to buy a gun. Al-Aikili said he refused. The other, who was called Mohammed, offered to help him go to Pakistan for possible Islamic radical training. Al-Akili also refused.

In the email al-Akili recounted that he obtained a phone number from Mohammed and put it into Google. The search returned a reference to the case of the Newburgh Four, where an FBI confidential informant called Shahed Hussain helped secure the convictions of four men for attempting to blow up Jewish targets in the Bronx.

Hussain's actions became notorious among civil rights groups due to the incentives he deployed on his targets, who were local black Muslims in the impoverished town of Newburgh. They included offering one suspect $250,000, a car and a free holiday. Al-Akili said he also found a picture of Shahed Hussain on the internet and realised it was the same man as "Mohammed".

Al-Akili concluded his email by saying: "I would like to pursue a legal action against the FBI due to their continuous harassment and attempts to set me up." The Guardian contacted al-Akili by email and on March 14 by phone and al-Akili agreed to talk more to the Guardian about his belief that he was being set up by Hussain. But he was arrested the next day and has been denied bail as a potential threat to the public, keeping him in jail.

Al-Akili's lawyer Mike Healey believes that the FBI may have been monitoring al-Akili's emails, and possibly his phone, and then rushed to arrest him once Hussain had been identified and al-Akili had effectively gone public with his fears.

Healey questioned why the FBI would use Hussain, who has also been widely criticised for his role in another "entrapment" case in Albany, New York, which resulted in the jailing of a local imam and a pizza shop owner. "What are they doing bringing him here? I am amazed they would use someone like that," he said.

Yet, despite being painted in court as a dangerous radical Islamist, the only charges brought against al-Akili were for firing a rifle – which Healey said was owned by a friend – at a local shooting range almost two years ago in June 2010. Al-Akili faces the prospect of a hefty jail sentence if found guilty.

A spokesman for the FBI declined to comment on whether the agency had been using Shahed Hussain as a confidential informant in Pittsburgh. guardian

Blowing Shit Up It's The American Way

To what avail?

U.S. Military Desperate To Be Handed Just One Solid War It Can Knock Out Of The Park
March 28, 2012

ARLINGTON, VA—Reportedly fed up with complicated and protracted operations overseas, top Pentagon officials acknowledged this week they were desperate to be given just one straightforward, no-nonsense military engagement they could really knock out of the park.

"Given all these messy, ambiguous conflicts we've been fighting against enemies you can't even put your finger on, what we could really use right now is a plain old war against a clear-cut bad guy employing conventional tactics and weaponry," said Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "No roadside bombs or plainclothes militants hiding out among innocent civilians—just a fair fight where two sides shoot at each other and someone wins. That's it."

"If Congress or our commander in chief could pull a few strings to make that happen, I swear we could totally nail a war like that, no question," Dempsey added. "The sort of thing where you go in, blow up a number of actual tanks and jets, declare victory, plant a flag, and then exit—that's all we're asking for."

Citing the country's long history of winning wars against sovereign nations with actual standing armies, the Pentagon's top brass repeatedly assured reporters they would "completely wipe the floor" with such an opponent if given the chance, and promised they would make America "very, very proud."

Additionally, military leaders said that engaging in such a conflict "would be a huge confidence boost for [them] right now."

"We'd be really grateful if the United States became embroiled in a war requiring us to bomb munitions factories, engage in aerial dogfights, or torpedo battleships," said Marine Corps commandant Gen. James Amos, noting that when it comes to facing actual armies with actual naval and air weaponry, the U.S. is "great at that stuff." "I guarantee it would be an absolute slam dunk for us."

"Come on," the four-star general added, "we really, really need this."

Admitting they "can't even look at a map of the Middle East anymore," members of the Joint Chiefs also said they were still skittish about Southeast Asia and would prefer to "stay as far away as possible" from any situation in which the term "insurgency" might apply.

Additionally, the nation's top generals stressed it was vitally important that any new conflict have a clear standard by which to measure victory, front lines "that are actually lines," and conditions under which dropping bombs actually weakens the enemy instead of rallying more people to its cause and making it stronger.

"While we'd gladly take almost any conventional military confrontation, we'd really prefer to liberate an oppressed citizenry that would be unconditionally happy when we arrived," said Gen. James Mattis, head of U.S. Central Command. "Ideally, we'd like to avoid that whole mixture of violent loathing toward us as occupiers and utter dependence on us as peacekeepers. That's not really our strong suit."

"I should also point out that it's been a while since we last had a good old-fashioned European war," Mattis continued. "Because that sort of thing might just do the trick for us. We know the area, the culture, and all the languages real well. Give us a war with a nice, dependable Western front, and we could bang that sucker out in our sleep, no problem. Just something to think about."

Pentagon leaders also said they were open to the option of a sovereign nation attacking the United States directly, stating that nothing mobilizes a country or boosts troop morale faster than the defense of one's home soil. In addition, they noted that a war in which America is not seen as the aggressor is "exactly the type of thing we're talking about here."

"Ultimately, we just want a chance to unleash our full land, air, and sea power on actual uniformed soldiers for a change," Army chief of staff Gen. Ray Odierno said. "Believe me, if America let us do that, I've no doubt we could totally lay waste and come home victorious."

As of press time, the Navy had positioned its entire Atlantic fleet along the coast of Portugal and informed the president and Congress it was "ready to go" if given the word. The Onion

Flu Fridays: Could your job put you at risk for the flu?

It's Flu Friday, and we want to know: Are you sick of your job? Or is your job making you sick?

A new study looked at the jobs of people who were hospitalized with the flu during the 2009–2010 flu season. What researchers found was surprising: People who worked in some fields were more likely to get a very bad case of the flu than people who worked other types of jobs.

What kind of jobs were related to workers having a serious case of the flu? At the top of the list were health workers. This wasn't breaking news, because nurses, doctors and other health workers have to deal directly with sick people. But some other surprising jobs made the list:

  • Transportation and warehouse workers: 1.5 times more likely than the average worker to get serious flu.
  • Administrative support and waste management workers: 1.5 times more likely.
  • Hotel and restaurant workers: 1.3 times more likely.
  • Retail workers: 1.1 times more likely.

The study found that other jobs — such as teachers and construction workers —  were less likely than the average U.S. worker to get sent to the hospital from a serious case of the flu. (That may surprise any teacher who has had to deal with lots of sick students!)

But if this news makes you want to quit your job, not so fast!  First off, the study found that in general, people with jobs landed in the hospital a lot less often than people who didn't work at all. So having a job — and a regular paycheck — is generally a good thing for your health, according to the study.

Plus, the study found other things could have increased people's risk for getting very sick with the flu aside from their job. For example, researchers found that more than 30 percent of people who worked in the hotel and restaurant industry were smokers — and smoking can really increase your chances of having serious complications if you get the flu. Other things that made people more likely to get really sick from flu included having a chronic disease, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, and not having a regular place to go for health care, such as a doctor or clinic that you go to every time you get sick.

So what does it all mean? No matter what kind of job you have (or want to have), this new study doesn't change the fact that you can do a lot of things to protect yourself from a bad case of the flu.

Our top tips:
  • Get a seasonal flu shot every year.
  • Wash your hands and practice good hygiene.
  • In general, keep yourself as healthy as possible to prevent things like diabetes and heart disease.
  • If you smoke, quit smoking.
  • If you get sick, see your doctor.
  • If you get the flu, stay home from work. You'll get better faster and you won't spread the flu to your coworkers!

400 Afghan Women Jailed for "Moral Crimes"

Why does this sound oh so familiar? Perhaps because it is.

Those poor long suffering Afghani women, and not a bit of hope for the future. What the future holds in store under President Hamid Karzai, for these wretched unfortunates is bad enough, without even considering what life is going to be like under the Taliban when it all goes to hell in a hand basket.

I have two previous articles, both featuring the antics of Hamid Karzai, Is This What We Are Fighting For In Afghanistan? (2009) and Afghanistan: State Controlled Women's Shelters A Recipe For Tears (2011) Both articles, harbingers of what is to come, and goes without saying, none of it good for women.

Study: 400 Afghan women jailed for "moral crimes"

March 28, 2012

(AP) KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghanistan's criminal justice system has made little progress in the way it treats women accused of running away or adultery, despite public commitments from the Afghan president to protect women's rights, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.

The New York-based group's report on women jailed for so-called "moral crimes" comes as many women's rights activists say they're worried that President Hamid Karzai will abandon promises to protect those rights as he tries to court the Taliban for peace talks. Under the Taliban regime, women were forced to wear body-and-face covering burqas and were not allowed out of the house without a male family member as an escort.

There is no entry in the Afghan penal code for the crime of "running away" and yet hundreds of women have been jailed for fleeing their families or husbands.

In this Jan. 19, 2003 file photo, Zarghona, who is in prison because she left her first husband who abused her and forced her into prostitution, holds her seven-month-old son Balal and looks out through their cell window, at the Kabul Women's Prison in Afghanistan.

Women interviewed by Human Rights Watch often said they were trying to escape abusive husbands or forced marriages. In some cases, those who had left were assumed to have cheated on their husbands, and therefore were jailed for adultery, which is a criminal offense in Afghanistan.

The report said police, prosecutors and judges routinely ignore women's accusations of abuse, arguing even in the face of physical evidence that women are either lying about the abuse or making it seem more severe than it was.

"What's needed first is the political will on behalf of the Afghan government to prosecute violence against women," Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, told reporters in Kabul.

In one case cited, prosecutors declined to file charges against the husband of a woman who went to police with wounds from being stabbed repeatedly with a screwdriver. The prosecutor did not question that her husband had inflicted the wounds, but declined to prosecute him because the injuries had not been life-threatening. The woman, identified as Nilofar M., was then imprisoned for adultery because she told prosecutors she had invited another man to her house.

"Police, with a crime victim sitting in front of them, see a criminal instead," said Heather Barr, the group's Afghanistan researcher and author of the report.

The report is based on interviews in October and November with 58 women and girls in Afghanistan who have been jailed for "moral crimes" — primarily running away from home or adultery. About 400 women are currently in Afghan prisons because of moral crimes, the report said. That's lower than in August 2010, when the U.N. reported that 565 women were in detention in Afghanistan for moral crimes.

But those 400 remain imprisoned despite a numbers of releases by President Hamid Karzai of groups of women accused of moral crimes in recent years. In the most recent such incident, Karzai announced a blanket pardon earlier this month for women who ran away from their parents to make a love match or who chose a different husband than their families wanted. The government says it is working on identifying and releasing these women.

Neither the Interior Ministry, which controls the police and the prisons, nor the attorney general's office responded to calls seeking comment.

A spokesman for the Supreme Court said that men and women are treated equally in Afghanistan's laws and courts.

"The courts of this country hear equally cases of all Afghan citizens, without paying attention to whether they are men or women," spokesman Abdul Wakhil Omery. He said the chief justice had seen the Human Rights Watch report, but did not find specific enough evidence to prove wrongdoing or negligence in any individual cases. CBS

Americans Are Not Safe Anywhere From Police

Americans Are Not Safe Anywhere From Police is actually a header taken from a 2007 article by Paul Craig Roberts. But as we witness more and more police forces that are totally out of control, I don't think there is any danger of such a header becoming redundant any time soon.

As the video progresses, it's quite hard, in spite of hearing similar stuff like this before, to actually get your head round it.

Killed at Home: White Plains, NY Police Called Out on Medical Alert Shoot Dead Black Veteran, 68

As the Trayvon Martin case draws national attention, we look at another fatal shooting of an African-American male that has received far less scrutiny. Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr., a 68-year-old African-American Marine veteran, was fatally shot in November by White Plains, NY, police who responded to a false alarm from his medical alert pendant. The officers broke down Chamberlain’s door, tasered him, and then shot him dead. Audio of the entire incident was recorded by the medical alert device in Chamberlain’s apartment. We’re joined by family attorneys and Chamberlain’s son, Kenneth Chamberlain, Jr., who struggles through tears to recount his father’s final moments, including the way police officers mocked his father’s past as a marine. "For them to look at my father that way, (with) no regard for his life, every morning I think about it," he says. Transcript.

Cottage Confessions

Rest Stop Confidential: How I Ended up Having Sex With Men in Bathrooms

Across America, countless men are meeting up for sex in highway bathrooms. I'm one of them. Here's why.
by Conner Habib
March 30, 2012

I was 15 the first time I found out that men have sex in public. On the way to Maine with my mom and stepfather, we pulled off the highway and into a rest area. At the urinal, there was a man next to me. He was tall and homely, and holding himself. He stared at me. I was electrified, but held to that spot; he shook himself at me and I couldn’t move. We would have stayed there forever, but another man came in and saw what was happening and scowled. Time started again and I ran out of the bathroom.

If you’ve ever pulled over to a rest area, you’ve been near men having sex. I’m one of those men, I’ve done it a hundred times; we go into the woods or a truck with tinted windows, in a stall under cold light. It never stops, not for season or time. In the winter, men trudge through snow to be with each other, in the summer, men leave the woods with ticks clinging to their legs. Have you ever stopped at a rest area and found it completely empty? There’s always one man there, in his car, waiting to meet someone new.

This has been going on for a long, long time. The new ways that men meet — endlessly staring into phones, searching on hookup apps like Grindr or sites like Manhunt — haven’t changed the fact that we’re still having sex at rest areas, because they offer something different. For the man who is unsure of his sexuality, or unsure of how to tell others about it, for the man who has a family but feels new desires (or old, hidden ones) unfolding inside of him, the website and the phone apps are just too certain of themselves. They’re for gay men who want to have gay sex. Sex at the rest area, instead, abolishes identity; there’s a sort of freedom there to not be anything – instead, men just meet other men there; men who want the same sort of freedom.

Is it any wonder why people who feel the weight of their identities have been caught having sex at rest areas? Sen. Larry Craig and pop star George Michael were both discovered having sex at them. There is an appeal not just to having sex, but to having anonymous sex — not because you want to hide your identity from the other person; surely the other men recognized George Michael — but to feeling your own identity left behind. And this freedom is open to everyone, even those comfortable with their sexuality.

When I was 21, on the day I got my first car, I drove to a little parking lot off the highway near where I lived: the gravity of memory – of that day when I was 15 — drew me there. Later, on the long drives between college in Massachusetts and home in Pennsylvania, I’d pull over whenever I found a rest stop. When I got there, I would wait. I wasn’t nervous, I wasn’t thinking — it seemed like where I should be.

Sometimes men go to rest areas because there’s nowhere else to go. My college town and my hometown were surrounded by thick lines of trees and post-industrial abandoned factories. There was no way to meet anyone, or if there was, it felt forced, somehow. Maybe I could go on dates with a few guys who were out like me, but I didn’t really want to go on dates, so it would’ve been dishonest. The straight students were going to parties and hooking up, making out on the green, having sex in dorms. The gay guys had to do what they could, wherever they could find it. Making out drunkenly with straight also-drunk frat boys, sex in the library with townies, trips to the nearest big city: either do those things or sit with your sexual feelings, like many of us had our entire lives. All that energy and nowhere to put it, no one to share it with.

Someone else would park next to me and look over. There were lots of old men, and younger ones too. There was no signal, just the way we looked at one another. We could tell. I would go into the little bathroom building, like the one in Maine. At the urinals, when the bathroom was mostly empty, we could stand side by side and reach over to each other. Or if not at the urinals, someone would be sitting in the stall next to me, tapping his foot, and I’d get on the cold dirty floor and slide my body halfway underneath the divider or sometimes there’d be a hole in the wall. Go to page two.

Head to higher ground: It's National Tsunami Awareness Week!

Did you know that it’s National Tsunami Awareness Week? A tsunami is one of those natural disasters that can strike with very little warning, so it’s important to know the signs that a tsunami is coming so that you can quickly get to safety.

First, the basics: A tsunami is a very large wave that is created when something like an earthquake or volcano eruption causes a sudden change in the ocean water level. These events can happen close to the shore, creating a tsunami that reaches the coast within minutes, or they can happen far away and travel more than 600 miles an hour to beaches on the other side of the ocean.

For far-away earthquakes, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has created a system of tsunami warnings, watches and alerts that can help warn people along coastlines around the world of an impending tsunami. However, tsunamis are very unpredictable, and when an earthquake happens close to the coast, a tsunami could happen without warning. For these reasons, it’s important that everyone knows the signs of a tsunami:
  1. Feeling an earthquake while on or near the beach, especially if it is so strong that it knocks people over.
  2. Seeing the ocean water level suddenly get very low or very high.
  3. Hearing a loud roaring noise, like an airplane or a train, coming from the ocean.
If you experience any of these warning signs, you must head to higher ground immediately. The best place to go is an area at least 100 feet above sea level, or up to two miles in from the coast. It’s best to travel by foot, as driving could mean that you get stuck in traffic or block the road for emergency vehicles that may need to come through. If you live near a coast, it’s important to think about tsunamis in your family emergency plan, and be sure to pick meeting places and evacuation routes that are outside of a tsunami hazard zone.

Tsunamis are not only a concern for people who live near coastlines — anyone who travels to a coastal city for vacation or work should also have a plan. To learn more about tsunami preparedness, check out our Get Ready tsunami fact sheets in English (PDF), y tambien en Español (PDF).

For more tips on preparing for a tsunami, watch this great video from NOAA’s TsunamiReady program:

Rick Santorum You Are Such a Twat

How very Presidential.

If Santorum isn't a raving closet gay, I'll show my arse in Burton's window.

Santorum tells young man not to use pink bowling ball ‘on camera’

By Eric W. Dolan
March 28, 2012

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Wednesday told a young man not to use a pink ball at a bowling alley in Wisconsin.

“You’re not gonna use the pink ball. We’re not gonna let you do that. Not on camera,” he said, according to Reuters reporter Sam Youngman.

“Friends don’t let friends use pink balls,” he added.

Santorum was bowling with the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse College Republicans. Wisconsin holds its presidential primary next Tuesday.

The Human Rights Campaign, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group in the country, blasted Santorum for his comment.

“This is another example of Rick Santorum intentionally making ignorant statements that have a real impact on LGBT people,” said HRC Vice President of Communications Fred Sainz. “Whether he’s comparing our marriages to inanimate objects, saying our children would be better off with a parent in prison as opposed to two loving same-sex parents, or calling open military service a ‘tragic social experiment;’ he’s proven that he thinks LGBT people are second-class citizens not worthy of dignity or respect.

“In this case, he’s advancing tired gender norms by implying a boy should be ashamed or embarrassed to use a certain color bowling ball.” Raw Story

Betty Boop is best remembered for her red-hot jazz baby persona. With a head like a giant peanut, vast mascara'd eyes, too-kissable lips, baby-doll voice, flattened marcelled hair, and mere threads of a dress exposing miles of hot flesh. Listen to her Songs .. the sexiest cartoon character out there! Listen

Man Arrested For Being Pushed

I stopped doing police abuse videos a long time ago, not because they are ubiquitous, which of course they are, but rather because they make me extremely angry. However, I shall on this occasion make an exception, it's not but a minute or two anyway.

I don't think I need to comment further, other than perhaps read the comments at source.

Man arrested for being pushed by a Ft. Collins, Colorado police officer
By Mark Frauenfelder
Tuesday, Mar 27

[Video Link] Do you think any disciplinary action will be taken against this duo? I don't.

Fort Collins police investigating after video shows officer shoving man (Via biotiv)


Seven Ways Citizens Are Using Humor and Creativity to Protest Injustice

The original article is a three page post, but I think the first item captures the essence of the thing. But if you do nothing else, do follow some of the links.

Seven Ways Citizens Are Using Humor and Creativity to Protest Injustice

While not a new concept, creative activism does seem to be having a "moment" right now as activists look for ways to draw attention to the recent attacks on our rights.
By Lauren Kelley
March 25, 2012

The recent spate of right-wing attacks against reproductive rights, the ongoing foreclosure crisis propagated by Wall Street banks, racist police actions that never seem to end - the injustices can seem overwhelming. But rather than give up, activists have been relentlessly fighting back.

There's the Occupy movement fighting economic injustice (among other things), of course, but there are also many other activists fighting for our rights all over the country. Lately, many of those activists have been using creativity, and sometimes humor, to get their message across. While not a new concept, creative activism does seem to be having a "moment" right now as activists look for ways to draw attention to the recent battles happening around the country and the world.

Below are several examples of recent actions that go beyond the traditional protest march. Some of them have made us laugh, while others make us think - but they've all been successful, in that they've grabbed the media's attention and gotten activist messages out to the masses.

Several of the funniest recent actions have been carried out by reproductive health supporters fighting back against the onslaught of right-wing attacks against reproductive rights: Komen for the Cure deciding to defund Planned Parenthood (and then backtracking), Catholic bishops launching an all-out assault on contraception, dozens of Republican-led legislative attempts to undermine Roe v. Wade. As Amanda Marcotte recently told Tracy Clark-Flory in a piece for Salon:

"Things have just gotten to the point of absurdity that you can't react without being absurd yourself." Thanks to recent attacks on even contraception, "ordinary women who often don't pay attention to politics are finally beginning to pay attention," she says. "And I think that means more opportunities to communicate through humor instead of the typical outrage thing. Humor can be very clarifying."

So we'll look at several humorous reproductive rights actions first.

1. Knitting vaginas and uteruses for anti-choice Congresspeople

The Snatchel Project has a simple rallying cry: "Let's make a uterus or VJJ for each male rep in congress!" The point is to send the following message to anti-choice Congresspeople: "Hands off my uterus! Here's one of your own!"

Here are the simple instructions for participation, via the group's website:

1. Knit or crochet a vagina or uterus

2. Print a message to enclose

(see below for a suggested message)

3. Mail it to your male Senator or Congressional Representative

(see the links to the right)

4. We're in the process of arranging hand delivery to congressional offices in Washington, until then, go ahead and mail yours in!

5. Record your items in this spreadsheet so we can track which representatives still need to receive a "gift"!

6. Don't forget to thank your representative if he respects women and supports our rights.

Learn how to knit, follow the patterns, and you too can send your government representatives a message they're unlikely to forget.

2. A sex strike for reproductive rights More

Blog News

It has been quite an upheaval these last few days, switching to a new email, a new PC, and I could say new operating system, but that system, Windows7, has been installed, uninstalled, and now replaced with good old XP.

There are one or two bits to sort out, I notice as I type this, that I have no spell-check operating. But for the main, I'm up and running again. I just need to go into town for a new keyboard, as delightful as my Mac keyboard is to use, scroll lock doesn't function within Windows, and scroll lock is something fundamental to operating two PCs in tandem.

But I must say, now with a four core processor and 8GB of ROM, this thing is rocket powered.

Santorum Would Consider VP Offer From Romney, Man He Daily Derides

File under: Desperate.

Not a principal between the pair of them.

Santorum Would Consider VP Offer From Romney, Man He Daily Derides

If on winning the Republican presidential nomination Mitt Romney needs a vice presidential running mate with the proven ability to use a New York Times correspondent as a rhetorical punching bag, Rick Santorum could be available.

Santorum on Monday told David Brody of CBN News (the Christian Broadcasting Network) he would consider being Mitt Romney's running mate if the frontrunner made the offer.

David Brody: If he for some reason asks you to be the vice presidential candidate on his ticket? I know, after is all said and done. Would you even consider it?

Rick Santorum: Of course. I mean, look. I would do in this race as I always say, this is the most important race in our country's history. I'm going to do everything I can. I'm doing everything I can.

Given how harshly both men have gone after each other, their teaming up seems unlikely. Also, Santorum's willingness to consider, even hypothetically, being Romney's running mate, would seem to raise the question of how seriously voters should take his present criticisms of Romney? NPR


In upcoming posts, I plan to pursue two main themes.  The first is a more comprehensive exploration of what determines eating behavior in humans, the neurobiology behind it, and the real world implications of this research.  The reward and palatability value of food are major factors, but there are others, and I've spent enough time focusing on them for the time being.  Also, the discussions revolving around food reward seem to be devolving into something that resembles team sports, and I've had my fill.

The second topic I'm going to touch on is human evolutionary history, including amazing recent insights from the field of human genetics.  These findings have implications for the nutrition and health of modern humans. 

I look forward to exploring these topics, and others, with all of you in the coming months.

Recent Media Appearances

Men's Health interviewed and quoted me in an article titled "Reprogram Your Metabolism", written by Lou Schuler.  Part of the article was related to the food reward concept.  I'm glad to see the idea gradually reaching the mainstream. 

Boing Boing recently covered an article by Dr. Hisham Ziauddeen and colleagues in Nature Reviews Neuroscience that questioned the idea that common obesity represents food addiction-- an idea that I often encounter in my reading.  Maggie Koerth-Baker asked me if I wanted to respond.  I sent her a response explaining that I agree with the authors' conclusions and I also doubt obesity is food addiction per se, as I have explained in the past, although a subset of obese people can be addicted to food.  I explained that the conclusions of the paper are consistent with the idea that food reward influences fat mass.  You can find my explanation here.

It's Time To Pull The Stumps Ricky Buh Bye

Because you really are, a piss-ant little player.

You have to watch the two minute clip for the full effect.

Not this one, the one at the link.

The “walking dead” phase of the Republican primary is upon us
by Chris Cillizza

This is how primary campaigns end — not with a bang but with a wimper. Or, more accurately, a whine.

Rick Santorum lost his temper with the New York Times’ Jeff Zeleny on Sunday when Zeleny, perhaps the most even-tempered reporter we know, pushed the former Pennsylvania Senator on his remark that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney would be the “worst Republican” to nominate against President Obama .

“Quit distorting my words. It’s bulls---,” Santorum said to Zeleny, insisting that he was referring only to Romney’s health care positioning not to the candidate more broadly.

This is how primary campaigns end — not with a bang but with a wimper. Or, more accurately, a whine.

Rick Santorum lost his temper with the New York Times’ Jeff Zeleny on Sunday when Zeleny, perhaps the most even-tempered reporter we know, pushed the former Pennsylvania Senator on his remark that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney would be the “worst Republican” to nominate against President Obama.

“Quit distorting my words. It’s bulls---,” Santorum said to Zeleny, insisting that he was referring only to Romney’s health care positioning not to the candidate more broadly.

That, of course, is a distinction without a difference. And Santorum knows it.

It’s the latest in a series of head-scratchers from Santorum — make sure to check out his “Are you kidding me?” riff from late last week — and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich over the past week or so, a familiar pattern that typifies the final throes of candidates virtually certain to come up short in the primary. (Gingrich’s latest outburst came on Friday when he called President Obama’s remarks about slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin “disgraceful”.)

“What we’re seeing are signs that the nomination battle is effectively over,” said John Weaver, who served as a senior adviser to the presidential bid of former Utah governor Jon Huntsman. “The lashing out at the media and grasping of straws, as in Newt’s comments about the killing of Trayvon Martin, are indicators we’ve entered the walking dead period.”

The simple fact is that these candidates have been on the road campaigning nonstop for more than a year — and in some cases considerably longer than that.

The only way that Santorum and Gingrich, and Romney for the matter, force themselves out of a bed early every morning and hopscotch across the country in search of more — votes, money, attention — is to see the light at the end of the tunnel and to believe they can make it to that triumphant day when they seize victory.

But, as the thrill of the early votes wears off and the hard reality of the delegate math sets in, the bone-tiredness and frustration of a year (or more) of trying to unsuccessfully convince voters why you are the best choice begins to set in.

Take the 2008 Democratic presidential primary fight between then Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. By the end of February, it became clear that Clinton had fallen hopelessly — or close to it — behind in the delegate chase.

And yet, she kept winning states — giving her and her campaign plenty of justification to stay in the race. (Sound familiar?) Then came an editorial board meeting with the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader (South Dakota) in late May in which Clinton said the following:

“My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. I don’t understand it.”

The Obama team immediately pounced, insisting that Clinton was invoking the assassination for political reasons. The New York Senator was forced to apologize. The whole episode left an unpleasant taste at the end of a campaign — the primary race formally ended on June 6 — that was, by any measure, one of the greatest in modern political history.

Why did it happen? Because Clinton was worn down. She was tired of having to answer question after question about why she hadn’t dropped out of the race yet. She was tired of trying to win an unwinnable race.

That’s the same mindset that seems to have infected Santorum and Gingrich in the wake of the Illinois primary and the endorsement of Romney by former Florida governor Jeb Bush .

Their windows of opportunity, which were always open a crack (at best), have now slammed shut. The danger for both men is that they linger in the race so long past the point which they should that they tarnish the (mostly) positive impressions they have left on the Republican electorate in the race. (Kind of like how Kareem Abdul-Jabbar just kept playing and playing — and playing.)

“Normally these are signs of a campaign on its last breath, but then again, given that Newt has been touring zoos, and Santorum is talking about how porn affects the brain, it feels like this final last gasp seems to never end,” said Todd Harris, an unaligned Republican media consultant.

We’ve reached the end of the end — or damn close to it — in the Republican race for president. The only question now is when (or if) Santorum and Gingrich recognize it. Video

Japan Will Be Nuclear Free By May

At the risk of sounding a tad cynical; for how long?

Japan's Second-to-Last Nuclear Plant Shuts Down - Nation Will Be Nuclear Free By May
Mat McDermott
March 26, 2012

Another casualty of the Fukushima nuclear disaster: Japan's nuclear power industry as a whole. The Tokyo Electric Power Company has closed the final reactor of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, leaving just one operational facility in the entire country.

This final reactor, on the northern island of Hokkaido and the 54th in Japan, is scheduled to be shut down in May for maintenance and is not expected to be restarted. Only if local support exists to restart the reactor will it come back online, BBC News reports.

Since the Fukushima disaster and resultant nuclear shut down, Japan has faced the problem of avoiding power supply problems during times of peak demand, especially the summer. Last year large companies were ordered to reduce their power consumption by 15%. Older non-nuclear power plants have been temporarily brought back online, with fossil fuel imports rising.

TEPCO's president issued the follow statement to its electricity customers:

As for the electricity supply and demand in the foreseeable future, we expect to maintain stable supply. However, we ask that you continue to make a reasonable effort to save electricity. In addition, while we have been carefully reviewing this summer's electricity supply and demand, the shut down of Unit 6 [the final reactor at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa] will result in a significant reduction in our electricity supply capacity. We will continue to make efforts to maintain stable operations and maintenance of the power facilities in order to secure stable power supply. Treehugger

If I am slow to respond, it's due to teething problems with a new system. Thank you.

New immunization recommendations

In early February 2012, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) published the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended childhood, adolescent, and adult immunization schedules for 2012.  Childhood, adolescent and teen, and adult schedules are available online at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/recs/schedules/default.htm.

Maine Immunization Program advises health care providers to use these schedules for 2012.  The program has mailed childhood and adolescent schedules in poster size, which are the most popular, to all pediatric and family medicine providers in the state. Providers may order additional wall size or wallet size childhood immunization schedules by clicking the link “Order Brochures, Pamphlets, VIS, and More” at http://go.usa.gov/EBU

Due to funding limits, the program will not provide the catch-up schedule for children ages 4 months through 18 years and the adult schedule available.  Instead, the program asks providers to print these from the US CDC link above.

If you have any questions regarding any vaccine schedules, please call 1-800-867-4775 and ask for a health educator to help you.

You Tell 'em Mark - Cruddas

ARTIST TAXI DRIVER ‏ @chunkymark

#marr Did Rupert Murdoch order the Cruddas sting To tell Cameron/police to back off #cashforcameron @BBCNews

#marr How much you being paid Andrew? Tory stooge

#marr Looking uncomfortable You fucking stooge

#marr Alleged???? You sickophant #cashforcameron

#marr Tory Govt love in

#marr Goes from Cruddas To several positive Govt stories Actually bugging them up This is apalling

This is criminal 1.50 secs Then #marr says let's move on #cruddas

#marr Where the fuck is the outrage Where is the condemnation They just sold #nhsbill

Wealthy donors trying to by access @BBCNews No you donots Govt offering access for cash #cruddas

Arrest Cruddas Cameron Osborne

Video secretly filmed by the Sunday Times newspaper shows Conservative Party co-treasurer Peter Cruddas apparently offering access to the prime minister and chancellor for £250,000.

London-based Mr Cruddas was appointed Tory co-treasurer in June 2011 and is the founder of online trading company Currency Management Consultants Ltd.

Tonight the Conservative Party said it would urgently investigate the claims against its top fundraiser. Watch


Evidence from 3 new studies demonstrates that aspirin can reduce the risk for cancer-related mortality and can reduce or prevent the risk for distant metastasis.
Peter M. Rothwell, MD, PhD, professor of clinical neurology at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, was lead author on all 3 studies.
In the first study, published online March 21 in the Lancet, comparing daily aspirin with no aspirin to prevent vascular events, aspirin use reduced the risk for nonvascular death in all 51 trials examined (1021 vs 1173 deaths; odds ratio [OR], 0.88; P = .003). When data from 34 trials were examined (n = 69,224; 89% of total cohort), there were fewer deaths from cancer in the aspirin than in the control group (562 vs 664 deaths; OR, 0.85; P = .008).
Dr. Rothwell and colleagues note that even though the decreased risk for major vascular events in these trials was initially offset by a higher risk for major bleeding, both of these effects diminished over time, leaving only the reduced risk for cancer after 3 years.
"In view of the very low rates of vascular events in recent and ongoing trials of aspirin in primary prevention, prevention of cancer could become the main justification for aspirin use in this setting," they write.
Compelling But No Recommendations Yet
In an accompanying editorial, Andrew T. Chan, MD, MPH, and Nancy R, Cook, ScD, both from Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, note that although these results are compelling, they do have limitations.
These analyses exclude the largest randomized trials in primary prevention, the editorialists point out. The Women's Health Study (WHS) of 39,876 women treated with alternate-day aspirin 100 mg over 10 years and the Physicians' Health Study (PHS) of 22,071 men treated with alternate-day aspirin 325 mg over 5 years were not included in the current study because of possible differences in the biologic effect between alternate-day and daily aspirin intake. However, in these 2 studies, aspirin was not associated with a lower risk for colorectal cancer or overall cancer incidence or mortality.
Another limitation, say the editorialists, is that the researchers only used 6 randomized trials to analyze low-dose aspirin in the primary prevention of cancer.
In these 6 trials (n = 35,535), aspirin was shown to lower the incidence of cancer after 3 years in women (132 vs 176; OR, 0.75; P = .01), in men (192 vs 245; OR, 0.77; P = .008), and in both (324 vs 421; OR, 0.76; P = .0003).
A third limitation is that because the included studies were designed to examine cardiovascular end points, there was no information about cancer screening or surveillance.
Finally, some of the analyses were limited by the quality of available data; some estimates pooled individual-level data with published results.
But "caveats notwithstanding, Rothwell and colleagues show quite convincingly that aspirin seems to reduce cancer incidence and death across different subgroups and cancer sites, with an apparent delayed effect," they write. For most individuals, "the risk–benefit calculus of aspirin seems to favor aspirin's long-term anticancer benefit. These findings are consistent with observational findings and our understanding of the stepwise progression of carcinogenesis."
These data might not be the final word on aspirin, as far as making a population-based recommendation, the editorialists caution, because the WHS and PHS remain "significant counterbalancing trials that have not shown a cancer benefit with alternate-day aspirin up to 10 to 12 years."
Another factor to be considered is the adverse events from daily aspirin. Even though there is a "convincing case" that the vascular and anticancer benefits of aspirin outweigh the harms of major extracranial bleeding, less serious adverse effects on quality of life, such as less severe bleeding, are not accounted for in these analyses, Drs. Chan and Cook write.
Nonetheless, until data from forthcoming trials and longer-term follow-up from the WHS and PHS become available, this "impressive collection of data moves us another step closer to broadening recommendations for aspirin use," they conclude.
Metastasis in Randomized Trials
In the second study, also published online March 21 in the Lancet, Dr. Rothwell and colleagues analyzed data from 5 large randomized trials of daily aspirin (75 mg or more daily) for the prevention of vascular events in the United Kingdom. The cohort consisted of 17,285 trial participants, 987 of whom had a new solid cancer diagnosed during a mean follow-up of 6.5 years.
Aspirin use reduced the risk for cancer with distant metastasis (hazard ratio [HR] for all cancers, 0.64; P = .001). The risk for cancer with distant metastasis was reduced by 36%, and the risk for adencarcioma was reduced by 46% (P = .0007). Among patients with adenocarcinoma who did not have metastasis at their initial diagnosis and who remained on trial treatment up to or after diagnosis, the use of aspirin reduced the risk for metastasis on subsequent follow-up by about 70%.
Aspirin lowered the cancer mortality rate among patients who developed adenocarcinoma, especially in those without metastasis at diagnosis (HR, 0.50; P = .0006). Aspirin also lowered the overall risk for fatal adenocarcinoma (HR, 0.65; P = .0002), but not the risk for other fatal cancers (HR, 1.06; P = .64). These effects were independent of confounders such as age and sex, but the absolute benefit was greatest in smokers, the authors note.
Observation vs Randomized
The third study, published online March 21 in the Lancet Oncology, looked at the effect of aspirin on metastases, but with a different approach. The authors compared the effect of aspirin on the 20-year risk for cancer-specific mortality between observational studies and randomized trials.
They conducted this comparison because although randomized trials can clearly establish the risk for colorectal cancer, other solid tumors, and metastasis, such trials lack the statistical power to establish effects on less common cancers and on cancers in women.
Observational and case–control studies can provide these data if the results are shown to be reliable.
Overall, results from observational studies were similar to those from randomized trials, and showed that regular aspirin use lowered the long-term risk for several cancers and for distant metastasis.
In 6 eligible randomized trials, the aspirin group had a consistently lower 20-year risk for death from colorectal cancer than the control group (OR, 0.58; P = .0002). In the 26 case–control studies, any use of aspirin was associated with a lower risk for colorectal cancer (pooled OR, 0.67; P < .0001).
In 17 case–control studies, the regular use of aspirin was associated with a reduced risk for colorectal cancer (pooled OR, 0.62; P < .0001). In the randomized trials, there was good correlation between the effect of daily aspirin use and the 20-year risk for death from colorectal cancer (OR, 0.58; P = .0002).
The authors observed the same consistent reductions in risks for esophageal, gastric, biliary, and breast cancers, and estimates of the effect of aspirin on individual cancers in case–control studies were highly correlated with those seen in randomized trials (P = .0006). The largest effects were observed for gastrointestinal cancers.
In 5 studies, the regular use of aspirin was associated with a reduced proportion of cancers with distant metastasis (OR, 0.69; P < .0001); in 7 studies, it was not associated with a reduction in regional spread (OR, 0.98; P = .71). This was consistent with the findings from the randomized trials.
The authors note that "there is an urgent need for more data for effects on metastasis when aspirin is started after diagnosis of cancer."
More data are also needed for the effects of nonaspirin nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, they write, adding that "new case–control studies...have the potential to provide data quickly for each of these issues, with reasonable reliability and good statistical power."
All 3 studies were unfunded. Dr. Rothwell reports a financial relationship with several pharmaceutical companies with an interest in antiplatelet agents, including AstraZeneca, Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim, sanofi-aventis, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Servier; and being on the executive committee of the ARRIVE Trial. Coauthor F. Gerald R. Fowkes, FRCPE, from the Centre for Population Health Sciences, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom, reports receiving research support and honoraria from AstraZeneca, Bayer, sanofi-aventis, and Bristol-Myers Squibb. Dr. Chan reports serving as a consultant to Bayer HealthCare and Millennium Pharmaceuticals. Dr. Cook reports being an investigator for the WHS.