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Member since: Thu Dec 23, 2004, 11:30 AM
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Journal Archives

U.S. sends four Guantanamo prisoners home to Afghanistan


(Reuters) - Four Afghans held for over a decade at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been sent home to Afghanistan, the Pentagon said on Saturday, the latest step in a slow-moving push by the Obama administration to close the facility.

The men were flown to Kabul overnight aboard a U.S. military plane and released to Afghan authorities, the first such transfer of its kind to the war-torn country since 2009, according to a U.S. official.

Obama promised to shut the internationally condemned prison when he took office nearly six years ago, citing the damage it inflicted on America's image around the world. But he has been unable to do so, partly because of obstacles posed by the U.S. Congress.

With a recent trickle of releases, including the transfer of six prisoners to Uruguay earlier this month, Guantanamo’s detainee population has been gradually whittled down to 132.

Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/20/us-usa-guantanamo-afghanistan-idUSKBN0JY0FL20141220

Here comes another President Obama accomplishment...

Scalia on Retirees Losing Their Health Insurance: 'I Can't Feel Bad About It


In Apple Grove, West Virginia, there are some retirees from a chemical plant whose Christmas wishes probably include this: They want to keep the health insurance they were promised.

The United Steelworkers union negotiated a series of collective bargaining agreements stipulating that retired employees "will receive a full company contribution towards the cost of benefits." The union believed the benefits were guaranteed for life. The company contends it could take away these benefits whenever it chose--which it did in 2007.

The retirees challenged that action. The retirees won in the lower courts, and now their case is pending before the Supreme Court.

As USW President Leo Gerard points out in a column for the union's blog:

The agreement never says the retiree loses the benefit after so many years or must pay a portion of the costs. It also doesn't say benefits earned by retirees over their work lives end with the expiration of any given collective bargaining agreement.

In that same blog post, Gerard quotes Freel Tackett, the lead plaintiff in the suit and one of those who helped negotiate the agreements, as follows:

"We have several people who passed away," as they awaited the outcome. "We just don't know how many of them died as a result of not going to the doctor when needed or not getting medication they needed" because they couldn't afford the insurance.

Is there anyone who simply wouldn't care what happens to these retirees? Apparently, yes. During oral arguments, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia offered up the functional equivalent of "Bah, Humbug!"

Said Scalia:

You know, the nice thing about a contract case of this sort is you can't feel bad about it. Whoever loses deserves to lose. I mean, this thing is obviously an important feature. Both sides knew it was left unaddressed, so, you know, whoever loses deserves to lose for casting this upon us when it could have been said very clearly in the contract. Such an important feature. So I hope we'll get it right, but, you know, I can't feel bad about it.

House Votes to Sell Sacred Apache Lands to International Mining Corporation


The San Carlos Apache Tribe is fighting to preserve sites sacred to them after lawmakers slipped a clause in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would swap 2,400 acres of copper-containing land for 5,300 acres of substandard land, allowing the international corporation Resolution Mining Inc. to mine there.

The land in question is sacred to the Apache, including Oak Flat, Devil’s Canyon, and Apache Leap, where 75 Apache men, women, and children were massacred.

On top of that, the tribe says that the methods used to mine the area, a technique called block cave mining, poses a huge risk for cave-ins and landslides, potentially damaging the site and wildlife.

This is also land set aside by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who specifically said it should be protected from mining.

Can I just say this? We can all agree that if this were land sacred to Christians, destroying it wouldn’t even be a question, right? It just wouldn’t happen.

Fox News journalist Dominic Di-Natale is dead, an apparent suicide

Source: Washington Post

Fox News correspondent Dominic Di-Natale, 43, who most recently reported on the protests in Ferguson, Mo., has died, Fox News reports. He was found dead Wednesday in Jefferson County, Colo., after an apparent suicide, the county coroner told the news network.

Di-Natalie owned property in the area. A friend alerted authorities to check on Di-Natale, according to the network, concerned about his state of mind after “serious undisclosed health issues.”

“We were extremely saddened to learn of Dominic’s passing and send our deepest condolences to his family and friends,” Fox News said in a statement. “He was an esteemed journalist and an integral part of our news coverage throughout the Middle East.”

Di-Natale, who was originally from Britain, began his journalism career in 1989 as a magazine writer in Portugal. In 1995, he went back home, where he started freelancing for BBC World.

In 2007, he joined Fox News, covering international news for Fox News Channel and FoxNews.com as well as contributing to Fox Business Network. He reported from Osama bin Laden’s compound after he was killed and from Egypt’s Tahrir Square during the uprising against President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Over Thanksgiving, he reported from Ferguson, where white police officer Darren Wilson killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/12/12/fox-news-journalist-dominic-di-natale-43-an-apparent-suicide-at-43/

Obama Announces $1B for Early Childhood Education

Source: abcNEWS

Declaring early childhood education "one of the best investments we can make," President Barack Obama on Wednesday followed up on a promise to expand early education opportunities for tens of thousands of children by announcing $1 billion in public-private spending on programs for young learners.

Obama said that less than one-third of 4-year-olds are enrolled in preschool and blamed the high cost of these programs for essentially shutting off access to poorer infants, toddlers and preschoolers. He said studies repeatedly show that children who are educated early in life are more likely to finish their educations, avoid the criminal justice system, hold good jobs and have stable families. All those factors are good for the U.S. and its economy overall, Obama said.

"We've got kids in this country who are every bit as talented as Malia and Sasha but they're starting out the race a step behind," Obama said, referencing his teenage daughters. He said the investments announced at a daylong White House summit on early education will help level the playing field.

Nationwide, 28 percent of America's 4-year-olds were enrolled in a state-funded preschool program last year.

"We're not close to where we need to be," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said during a morning panel discussion on how to pump more investment into early learning.

Read more: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/obama-announcing-1b-early-childhood-education-27494542

Our President is the real Santa Claus. Giving Children, our Future, what is needed most!

Once again Thanks President Obama!!

The dangerous myth at the heart of conservative ideology


The right believes the separation of church and state is a modern conceit. It couldn't be further from the truth

Rick Santorum may be a terrible politician, but when it comes to being a conduit for some of the hoariest, long-standing myths of the right, he’s ol’ reliable. His latest bleatings are of particular interest, because, without meaning to, Santorum managed to articulate one of the biggest lies that has fueled the conservative movement for decades now: The myth that America was “supposed” to be a theocracy, but somehow lost its way.

In a conference call with members of the right-wing Christian organization STAND America, a caller went on a rant about how Democrats are pushing a secret agenda to push “a number of the tenets of The Communist Manifesto,” a book the caller seemed to believe was about “amnesty, the elevation of pornography, homosexuality, gay marriage, voter fraud, open borders, mass self-importation of illegal immigrants and things of that nature.” (Zero of these issues are mentioned in The Communist Manifesto, a book about the role of labor in capitalist societies.)

Santorum latched onto this old-fashioned red-baiting and said, “The words ‘separation of church and state’ is not in the U.S. Constitution, but it was in the constitution of the former Soviet Union. That’s where it very, very comfortably sat, not in ours.”

This myth–that separation of church and state is a modern invention created by communists/liberals/atheists and shoved down the throats of a Christian America until it forgot its theocratic roots–is a popular one on the right, perhaps the defining myth that created the modern conservative movement. It’s also pure malarkey. Even just reading the first amendment to the Constitution shows that this line is self-serving nonsense dished out by people who wish to believe they are patriots while standing against America’s grand tradition of secularism. The Constitution explicitly prohibits any law “respecting an establishment of religion,” a phrase that is so obviously about the separation of church and state that even the most literal-minded among us can get that.

Walker meeting with Sheldon Adelson in Vegas

Source: CHANNEL3000.com


Gov. Scott Walker is in Las Vegas to meet with billionaire casino mogul and Republican super donor Sheldon Adelson, as Walker continues to consider running for president in 2016.

Walker's campaign spokeswoman Alleigh Marre said Tuesday that Walker was in Las Vegas for "public and private events."

Adelson's top political adviser Andy Abboud confirms that Walker is meeting with Adelson. Abboud says, "About every elected official comes by to say hello."

Adelson gave the Wisconsin Republican Party $650,000 in late October and he previously gave Walker $250,000 during the 2012 recall.

Read more: http://www.channel3000.com/news/politics/Walker-meeting-with-Sheldon-Adelson-in-Vegas/30136532

Meanwhile presidential hopefuls collect for "pay to play".

Activists bait N.J. Gov. Chris Christie with doughnuts over his refusal to halt cruel bear hunt


Perhaps hoping to bait Gov. Chris Christie, animal rights advocates with doughnuts in tow rallied in Trenton on Dec. 4 to bash the governor for allowing the state’s fifth consecutive annual black bear hunt, which is scheduled to run from Dec. 8 to 13.

It’s was the second time in a week that activists have taken aim at Christie for cruelty toward animals. The first time was over the governor’s veto of a bipartisan bill banning the confinement of pregnant pigs in cages so small that they can’t sit or move. Activists said the governor’s action was an attempt to woo Republicans in Iowa, site of the first 2016 presidential caucuses.

Iowa is the nation’s top pork producer.

State officials say the bear hunt is necessary to reduce the bear population in northern New Jersey, which supporters say will lead to fewer encounters with people and lessen the chance of an attack like the one that killed a Rutgers student in September.

Kathy McGuire, founder of the Winslow Township-based NJ Aid for Animals, said she voted for Christie but would not support him if he runs for president because of the decisions

At America’s court of last resort, a handful of lawyers now dominates the docket


Part 1: A cadre of well-connected attorneys has honed the art of getting the Supreme Court to take up cases - and business is capitalizing on their expertise

WASHINGTON – The marble façade of the U.S. Supreme Court building proclaims a high ideal: “Equal Justice Under Law.”

But inside, an elite cadre of lawyers has emerged as first among equals, giving their clients a disproportionate chance to influence the law of the land.

A Reuters examination of nine years of cases shows that 66 of the 17,000 lawyers who petitioned the Supreme Court succeeded at getting their clients’ appeals heard at a remarkable rate. Their appeals were at least six times more likely to be accepted by the court than were all others filed by private lawyers during that period.

The lawyers are the most influential members of one of the most powerful specialties in America: the business of practicing before the Supreme Court. None of these lawyers is a household name. But many are familiar to the nine justices. That’s because about half worked for justices past or present, and some socialize with them.

They are the elite of the elite: Although they account for far less than 1 percent of lawyers who filed appeals to the Supreme Court, these attorneys were involved in 43 percent of the cases the high court chose to decide from 2004 through 2012.

The Reuters examination of the Supreme Court’s docket, the most comprehensive ever, suggests that the justices essentially have added a new criterion to whether the court takes an appeal – one that goes beyond the merits of a case and extends to the merits of the lawyer who is bringing it.

The results: a decided advantage for corporate America, and a growing insularity at the court. Some legal experts contend that the reliance on a small cluster of specialists, most working on behalf of businesses, has turned the Supreme Court into an echo chamber – a place where an elite group of jurists embraces an elite group of lawyers who reinforce narrow views of how the law should be construed.

Read more:

Thurgood Marshall Blasted Police for Killing Black Men With Chokeholds


Thirty years before the NYPD and Eric Garner, the Supreme Court justice took on the LAPD.

Early on the morning of October 6, 1976, 24-year-old Adolph Lyons was pulled over by two Los Angeles police officers for driving with a burned-out taillight. As the facts of the incident were later recounted by Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, "The officers greeted him with drawn revolvers as he exited from his car. Lyons was told to face his car and spread his legs. He did so." After an officer slammed his hands against his head, Lyons complained that the keys in his hand were hurting him.

What happened next nearly killed him:

Within 5 to 10 seconds, the officer began to choke Lyons by applying a forearm against his throat. As Lyons struggled for air, the officer handcuffed him, but continued to apply the chokehold until he blacked out. When Lyons regained consciousness, he was lying face down on the ground, choking, gasping for air, and spitting up blood and dirt. He had urinated and defecated. He was issued a traffic citation and released.

Lyons, who was African American, sued the Los Angeles Police Department for damages and asked a federal judge to enjoin the further use of chokeholds except in circumstances where they might prevent a suspect from seriously injuring or killing someone. Lyons also argued that his constitutional rights had been violated by being subjected to potentially deadly force without due process.

His case, Los Angeles v. Lyons, eventually made it to the Supreme Court. In April 1983, the justices ruled against Lyons 5 to 4. The majority punted on the question of whether chokeholds are constitutional, instead finding that Lyons lacked standing to sue the LAPD since he could not prove that he might be subjected to a chokehold again.
"An LAPD officer described the reaction of a person to being choked as 'do the chicken.'"

Writing in dissent, Marshall blasted this as absurd: "Since no one can show that he will be choked in the future, no one—not even a person who, like Lyons, has almost been choked to death—has standing to challenge the continuation of the policy." Lyon's lawyer said the ruling turned any encounter with the police into a deadly game of chance. "The LAPD regulations mean Lyons everyday plays a game of roulette," Michael Mitchell said. "The wheel has 100,000 slots. If the ball should fall in your slot, you die."
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