Tag: Open Thread

Four at Four

Some news and an afternoon open thread.

  1. The Chicago Tribune reports Blacks hit hard in drug sentencing, study finds. “African-Americans in Cook County were imprisoned for drug offenses at 58 times the rate of white people-the seventh-worst racial disparity among large counties nationwide, according to a new report. The Justice Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank advocating alternatives to prison for social problems, was set to release a study Tuesday detailing the different treatment white and black drug offenders receive under the criminal justice system. The institute found that nationwide, African-Americans are imprisoned for drugs at 10 times the rate of white people.”

  2. According to McClatchy Newspapers, Iraqis in Syria face food shortages. “Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees in Syria face a bleak winter, with rising fuel costs that could leave many without enough money for food, the director of the World Food Program said… About a third of Iraqi respondents in a recent United Nations study said they skipped one meal a day to feed their children. Nearly 60 percent said that they’re buying cheaper, less nutritious food to cope with a dramatic increase in prices. With the weather turning colder and heating prices rising, humanitarian workers predict more Iraqis will go hungry in order to keep up with rent and utilities.”

    Meanwhile, The New York Times reports Red Crescent says 25,000 Iraqi refugees have returned. “At least 25,000 Iraqi refugees have returned to their beleaguered homeland from Syria since mid-September, according to preliminary estimates released Monday by the Iraqi Red Crescent. The figure represents a fraction of the estimated 1.5 million Iraqis who fled to Syria in recent years to escape the sectarian violence and ethnic cleansing in Iraq… The refugees are finding an altered landscape, with neighborhoods largely ethnically homogenous, reshaped by sectarian strife. Unemployment also hovers at roughly 40 percent, and corruption is rampant, with many people paying bribes to obtain jobs.”

  3. The Sydney Morning Herald reports from the IPCC conference that the US still all talk at Bali, and no steps on climate. “The US has failed to offer any hope it will embrace binding targets to cut its greenhouse gas emissions, on the first day of the United Nations climate conference in Bali. But its negotiators are promising to be ‘very open and flexible’ in the talks aimed at a new global agreement to slow down dangerous climate change.” As Spiegel reported yesterday, the Bush administration is determined to obstruct any possible progress out of Bali.

  4. The Guardian reports Honey ‘beats cough medicine’. “A clinical trial has found that honey is more effective at soothing a sore throat than a common active ingredient in children’s cough medicines. Honey has been used for centuries to relieve a tickly throat and scientists now believe it may be effective because it has constituents that kill microbes and acts as an antioxidant. That means it might prevent damage inside cells from chemical byproducts of their activity. The study compared buckwheat honey with dextromethorphan, an ingredient in a range of branded medicines.”

Docudharma Times Tuesday Dec.4

This is an Open Thread: For the Curious

Headlines for Tuesday December 4: Editorial
Evolution and Texas: On Thrill Rides, Safety Is Optional: For Congress, election imperils balanced budget: Bay Area counties toughest on black drug offenders: S African miners strike on safety



Evolution and Texas

Published: December 4, 2007

Is Texas about to become the next state to undermine the teaching of evolution? That is the scary implication of the abrupt ousting of Christine Comer, the state’s top expert on science education. Her transgression: forwarding an e-mail message about a talk by a distinguished professor who debunks “intelligent design” and creationism as legitimate alternatives to evolution in the science curriculum.

In most states, we hope, the state department of education would take the lead in ensuring that students receive a sound scientific education. But it was the Texas Education Agency that pushed out Ms. Comer after 27 years as a science teacher and 9 years as the agency’s director of science.

On Thrill Rides, Safety Is Optional

No Federal Oversight of Theme Parks

By Elizabeth Williamson

Washington Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, December 4, 2007; Page A01

In December 2005, 9-year-old Fatima Cervantes and her 8-year-old brother boarded a Sizzler ride at a carnival in Austin, thrilled to climb into one of the candy-colored cars on rotating arms. But shortly after their blue car started whirling, Fatima slipped beneath the lap bar and was thrown onto the platform, where a metal arm crushed her head.

Since 1997, Sizzlers have been involved in at least four other deaths and dozens of injuries in the United States. Noting similarities in several accidents, a group of 25 state inspection chiefs requested in June that the ride’s manufacturer, Wisdom Industries, take immediate measures to prevent “an unacceptable level of ejection risk.”

The Stars Hollow Gazette

I remember the best sliding day ever.

The Episcopal Church next to the library had three parking lots connected with driveways that sloped fairly steeply.

Conditions were perfect, ice storm following a light snow.  When you came to the piles at the bottom of the last lot it was easy enough to crunch through the crust and slow down.  You were headed up slope anyway weinie.

Had perfect equipment too.  Runner polished and waxed Flexible Flyers.  Belly skates.

It was just my sister and I on this particular occasion and after the obligatory high speed suicide runs that day’s particular pleasure was how many 360s you could throw before the end.

We were adventurous sliders on our block.  The regular run took you through 6 hedges in 5 back yards before it dumped you spark shedding and grinding out in the street.  Special favorites got to use the popular kids’ ‘Devils Drop’, but I was never that popular and I didn’t like it so much as you usually ended up with your head next to a tree.

Four at Four

Some news and afternoon open thread.

  1. Climate talks take on added urgency after IPCC report, according to The New York Times. Thousands are gathered in Bali for a new round of climate talks to replace the expiring Kyoto treaty, “but few participants expect this round of talks to produce significant breakthroughs… By far, the biggest obstacle to forging a new accord by 2009 is the United States, analysts say. Senior Bush administration officials say the administration will not agree to a new treaty with binding limits on emissions… In his latest statement on climate change last Wednesday, Mr. Bush said, ‘Our guiding principle is clear: we must lead the world to produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and we must do it in a way that does not undermine economic growth or prevent nations from delivering greater prosperity for their people.'” Arghhhh!

  2. According to Spiegel, the US seeks alliance with China and India to block climate protection. “In the run-up to the Bali Climate Conference that opened Monday, the administration of US President George W. Bush established contact with representatives of the Chinese and Indian governments in an attempt to curb progress on climate protection initiatives, SPIEGEL ONLINE has learned from a source familiar with the White House’s Bali strategy. According to the source, Washington is hoping that the two greenhouse gas emitters will openly declare during the conference that they are unwilling to accept any binding limits on emissions of greenhouse gases — at least not as long as the US is unwilling to do more or if the Western industrial nations do not provide them with more financial aid for climate protection initiatives. If successful, the US could use the tactic to prevent itself from becoming an isolated scapegoat if negotiations in Bali end in a stalemate.” When will other nations use economic clout, such as sanctions and carbon tariffs, against eco-terrorist nations?

  3. The Hill reports Waxman seeks Mukasey’s help in CIA leak probe. “Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) is asking new Attorney General Michael Mukasey to help him advance a probe into the leak of the name of a CIA operative to the media. Waxman, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, petitioned Mukasey in a letter Monday to side with Congress in a battle with the White House over whether special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald can release ‘key documents’ to the panel… The panel is investigating circumstances surrounding the leak of the name of Valerie Plame Wilson to the media.”

  4. The Washington Post reports a Rare, “mummified” dinosaur unearthed in North Dakota. In 1999, “a high school student hunting fossils in the badlands of… North Dakota discovered an extremely rare mummified dinosaur that includes not just bones but also seldom seen fossilized soft tissue such as skin and muscles… The 25-foot-long hadrosaur found by Tyler Lyson in an ancient river flood plain in the dinosaur-rich Hell Creek Formation is apparently the most complete and best preserved of the half-dozen mummified dinosaurs unearthed since early in the last century… Although described as ‘mummified,’ the 65 million-year-old duckbilled dinosaur would be better described as “mineralized”. National Geographic News and Wired has pictures and more!

Docudharma Times Monday Dec.3

This is an Open Thread for the Curious

Headlines for Monday December 3: Arab-American paratrooper faces deportation after Afghan service :New Orleans Hurt by Acute Rental Shortage: Obama’s Gains Show Volatility Of Iowa Contest: Chavez Loses Constitutional Vote


Arab-American paratrooper faces deportation after Afghan service

· Highly decorated sergeant ordered to stand trial

· Anti-discrimination committee protests

Ed Pilkington in New York

Monday December 3, 2007

The Guardian

A highly decorated Arab-American sergeant in the US army, who is currently serving as a paratrooper in Afghanistan, faces deportation on his return to the United States because of an irregularity in his immigration papers.

Sgt Hicham Benkabbou has been served with an order to stand trial for deportation as soon as he arrives home, despite the fact that he has been on active service in Afghanistan for almost two years with the 508th parachute infantry regiment, known as the Red Devils.

Weekend News Digest

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Putin party scores landslide win in Russian election

by Sebastian Smith, AFP

1 hour, 3 minutes ago

MOSCOW (AFP) – President Vladimir Putin’s party won a huge majority in Russian parliamentary elections Sunday tainted by fraud allegations, early results showed, paving the way for the Kremlin leader to retain power after leaving office.

The United Russia Party won 62.3 percent of the vote, according to official results with 12 percent of the ballots counted and with opposition complaints mounting.

United Russia and its allies, A Just Russia and the Liberal Democratic Party would enter the State Duma with a collective 86.3 percent of the vote, according to an exit poll by the All-Russian Centre for the Study of Public Opinion.

Docudharma Times Sunday Dec.2

This an Open Thread for the curious.


US says it has right to kidnap British citizens

AMERICA has told Britain that it can “kidnap” British citizens if they are wanted for crimes in the United States.

A senior lawyer for the American government has told the Court of Appeal in London that kidnapping foreign citizens is permissible under American law because the US Supreme Court has sanctioned it.

The admission will alarm the British business community after the case of the so-called NatWest Three, bankers who were extradited to America on fraud charges. More than a dozen other British executives, including senior managers at British Airways and BAE Systems, are under investigation by the US authorities and could face criminal charges in America.

Docudharma Times Saturday Dec.1

This is an Open Thread: Chit chat is welcome

Headlines for Saturday December 1: Witness Names to Be Withheld From Detainee : Estimate of AIDS Cases In U.S. Rises: A ‘difficult day’ ends peacefully : In Iraq, U.S. shifts its tone on Iran: Jordan’s Spy Agency: Holding Cell for the CIA


Witness Names to Be Withheld From Detainee


Published: December 1, 2007

Defense lawyers preparing for the war crimes trial of a 21-year-old Guantánamo detainee have been ordered by a military judge not to tell their client – or anyone else – the identity of witnesses against him, newly released documents show.

The case of the detainee, Omar Ahmed Khadr, is being closely watched because it may be the first Guantánamo prosecution to go to trial, perhaps as soon as May.

Defense lawyers say military prosecutors have sought similar orders to keep the names of witnesses secret in other military commission cases, which have been a centerpiece of the Bush administration’s policies for detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Four at Four

Some news and the Friday afternoon open thread.

  1. A new international ranking of the science ability of 15 year olds has been conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The study found the United States is below average and ranks a dismal 29th of the 57 countries evaluated. Finland, Hong Kong, and Canada were rated the top three countries on the science scale. (Hat tip The Great Beyond – the Nature blog.)

  2. The Guardian reports Russia pulls out of NATO arms pact. “President Vladimir Putin has withdrawn Russia from a key post-cold war international arms treaty, paving the way for the deployment of Russian forces closer to Europe. The withdrawal of Russian participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty was signed into law today. The United States, the European Union and Nato had urged Putin not to suspend the treaty, seen as a cornerstone of European security.”

  3. The Globe and Mail reports Taser firms picked up coroner’s lecture tab. “Taser International and another company closely linked to the manufacturer have paid the way for Ontario’s deputy chief coroner to lecture at their conferences on the phenomenon of ‘excited delirium,’ a medically unrecognized term that the company often cites as a reason people die after being tasered. James Cairns… publicly advocates the use of the stun gun, has become one of the top Canadian experts Taser officials turn to for help shoring up public support for their products in times of crisis.”

  4. Spiegel has an in depth examination of the impact of the U.S. dollars decline in Why America’s currency is the world’s problem. “The world depends on the dollar. It is the most important currency in global trade. Aircraft, oil, steel and most natural resources are priced in the US currency. Central banks around the world invest a substantial share of their currency reserves in dollars. The competitiveness of entire continents depends on changes in the value of the world’s reserve currency. For these reasons, the dollar’s decline has the potential to send the world economy into a crisis. Americans have been living beyond their means for years. That includes both consumers, who often buy their houses, cars and other consumer items on credit, and the government, which is adding billions to the national debt to pay for its programs, especially to fight terrorism and wage the war in Iraq.”


Docudharma Times Friday Nov.30

Headlines for Friday November 30: Citing Statistics, Giuliani Misses Time and Again: Immigrants’ children grow fluent in English, study says :Sanctuary Was a Lovely Word. Then the G.O.P. Got Hold of It.: Musharraf Sets Date for End of Emergency Rule: Iran Holocaust drama is a big hit


Citing Statistics, Giuliani Misses Time and Again

In almost every appearance as he campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination, Rudolph W. Giuliani cites a fusillade of statistics and facts to make his arguments about his successes in running New York City and the merits of his views.

Discussing his crime-fighting success as mayor, Mr. Giuliani told a television interviewer that New York was “the only city in America that has reduced crime every single year since 1994.” In New Hampshire this week, he told a public forum that when he became mayor in 1994, New York “had been averaging like 1,800, 1,900 murders for almost 30 years.” When a recent Republican debate turned to the question of fiscal responsibility, he boasted that “under me, spending went down by 7 percent.”

The Stars Hollow Gazette

Once upon a time we had a sun porch that was covered all in windows and each Holiday season Emily would tape up stencils and paint them in Tempra and leave the light on for a stained glass effect.

That same house had a balcony with a window that my sister and I would play “store” at.

In the near back yard was nothing much but grass, but in the near far back yard was a playset with a swing and a sandbox next to it.

The far, far back yard was forest until you came out above the Texaco Station.

We were three houses from the stoplight across the street from the school where mom worked, and a hundred yards from the A&P where we shopped.  A quarter mile from the butcher who sold prime beef and penny candy.

We went to church in the big church in Hartford with the bowling alley in the basement that the sixth grade Sunday school class studied in (yeah it was duck pin bowling and yeah I stuck out Sunday school long enough to find out they didn’t actually let them bowl).

There were lots of nooks and crannies including a Choir Loft at the top of the top most tower just past the Music Director’s Office and the parlors the Sewing Circles (what?  Bible Study?) used during the week.

Also a Hall/Auditorium where we had big church suppers and amateur theatricals.  Richard had great enthusiasm and delivery but couldn’t (and still can’t) remember his lines so he is hard to work with.

Four at Four

Some news and the afternoon open thread.

  1. The New York Times reports U.N. warns of climate-related setbacks. “A new United Nations report warns that progress toward prosperity in the world’s poorest regions will be reversed unless rich countries promptly begin curbing emissions linked to global warming while also helping poorer ones leapfrog to energy sources that pollute less than coal and oil…

    “Prompt investment in emissions curbs is a bargain compared with the long-term costs of inaction. The authors, led by Kevin Watkins of the United Nations, said anything less would be a moral and political failure without precedent. ‘The bottom line is that the global energy system is out of alignment with the ecological systems that sustain our planet,’ said Mr. Watkins… ‘Realignment will take a fundamental shift in regulation, market incentives and international cooperation.'”

  2. The Indepedent reports Why Venus, the Earth’s twin, became a wasteland.

    It is a world stripped of water and scarred by searing temperatures hot enough to melt lead. Yet Venus may once have been a planet much like Earth, where vast oceans of water could have supported life.

    The first detailed analysis of data gathered by a European space probe has revealed tantalising evidence that Venus – often considered Earth’s twin planet – became so inhospitable for life because of a series of chance events.

    Scientists have confirmed that the similarities between Venus and Earth were overshadowed by a shift in the former’s history that led to the loss of the Venusian oceans, an atmosphere clogged with carbon dioxide and a runaway greenhouse effect that gave rise to severe global warming.

  3. According to The Hill, Democrats switch tack, seize on economic woes. “Congressional Democrats will focus on the economy next week in an effort to win political advantage from public fears about an approaching recession. This underscores the party leadership’s concern to avoid getting bogged down in more debate about Iraq and to make sure it is President Bush and Republicans who are blamed in the 2008 election for voter anxieties about the economy.” In related news, The Hill reports “Bush’s top economic advisor Al Hubbard will resign at the end of the year and be replaced by his deputy,” Keith Hennessey, a former staffer for Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS).

  4. The Washington Post reports that Old allies abandon Chávez as constitution vote nears. Ramón Martínez, the governor of the Venezuelan coastal state of Sucre, and a “handful of others who once were prominent pillars in the Chávez machine, have defected, saying approval of 69 constitutional changes would effectively turn Venezuela into a dictatorship run at the whim of one man. They have been derided by Chávez as traitors, but their unimpeachable leftist credentials have given momentum to a movement that pollsters say may deliver Chávez his first electoral defeat. ‘The proposal would signify a coup d’etat,’ said Martínez, 58, whose dapper appearance belies his history as a guerrilla and Communist Party member. ‘Here the power is going to be concentrated in one person. That’s very grave.'”

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