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Will Sgt. Bergdahl be left behind in Afghanistan?


Associated Press= WASHINGTON (AP) — The case of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, held by the Taliban since 2009, has arisen again as the U.S. and other countries engage in diplomatic efforts to free him.

But if he is released, will America's only prisoner of the Afghan war be viewed as a hero or a deserter?

While tattered yellow ribbons still adorn utility poles in his native Hailey, Idaho, others are expressing conflicting thoughts about Bergdahl's plight as the war winds down, with President Barack Obama threatening to withdraw all U.S. troops by year's end unless the Afghan government signs a crucial security agreement.

They are convinced that on June 30, 2009, just a few months after he arrived in Afghanistan, Bergdahl willingly walked away from his unit, which was deployed in Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan, adjacent to the border with Pakistan. While they do want Bergdahl home, they think he should have to answer allegations that he deserted his unit.

Bergdahl was last seen in a video the Taliban released in December.



Marijuana legalization on cusp of mass acceptance

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — In the ‘‘medication area’’ of the nation’s biggest marijuana exposition, scantily clad young women hand out marshmallows they’ve dipped into a rushing fountain of pot-laced chocolate.

A few steps away, Anthony Ramirez offers free hits from a bong filled with the waxy marijuana extract that his family started producing when a friend’s mother needed relief from the pain of lupus.

Across a vast outdoor plaza lined with hundreds of booths, last month’s Cannabis Cup gathering in southern California attracted more than 10,000 visitors at $40 a ticket.

By midafternoon, some of them are sprawled on overstuffed couches that merchants have thoughtfully provided. Others move from booth to booth, sampling wares from businesses that have risen from the underground economy to create a burgeoning industry of hazy legality.



Corrections officers have raped, beaten and harassed women inside Alabama prison for at least 18 yrs

WETUMPKA, Ala. — For a female inmate, there are few places worse than the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women.

Corrections officers have raped, beaten and harassed women inside the aging prison here for at least 18 years, according to an unfolding Justice Department investigation. More than a third of the employees have had sex with prisoners, which is sometimes the only currency for basics like toilet paper and tampons.

But Tutwiler, whose conditions are so bad that the federal government says they are most likely unconstitutional, is only one in a series of troubled prisons in a state system that has the second-highest number of inmates per capita in the nation.

Now, as Alabama faces federal intervention and as the Legislature is weighing its spending choices for the coming year, it remains an open question whether the recent reports on Tutwiler are enough to prompt reform.

“Yes, we need to rectify the crimes that happened at Tutwiler, but going forward it’s a bigger problem than just Tutwiler,” said State Senator Cam Ward, a Republican from Alabaster who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “We’re dealing with a box of dynamite.”



Paul Ryan and John Boehner Go Back On Their Word By Demanding More Spending Cuts

Ryan said he intends to write a new budget even though the December budget law established a smaller discretionary spending level of $1.014 trillion for 2015 than his Path to Prosperity budget, but he failed to give the rich and corporations unsustainable tax cuts or eviscerate Medicare and Social Security that Ryan calls “entitlements.” He said his new budget will combat income inequality to foster economic growth by giving “job creators” incentives to start hiring; such as a 15.9% tax cut for the rich and corporations. Ryan said, “CBO says our budget outlook is unsustainable. We’ve made some progress on the discretionary side, but on the main drivers of our debt, entitlements, we’ve got a lot more work to do. House Republicans will keep offering real solutions to get spending under control, fix our broken tax code, create jobs, and put us on the path to balance.” According to Ryan, fixing the broken tax code and creating jobs means more tax cuts for the rich and corporations as well as tax increases for the middle class and the poor. Putting us on the path to balance means ending Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and food stamps as Americans know them even though the Draconian cuts still will not pay for his concept of “fixing the broken tax code” (more outrageous tax cuts for the richest Americans).

The long-term deficit has already been reduced by $3.3 trillion due to spending cuts President Obama negotiated to preserve the good faith and credit of the United States, but Republicans were unable to take Americans’ Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and food stamps that is their motivation to replace the budget deal they just passed in December. Senator Murray sent out a memo to her Senate colleagues on Thursday arguing that spending cuts since 2010 reduced the long-term budget deficit by $3.3 trillion, and proposed that Congress pivot away from more time-wasting budget fights since “we have some breathing room to focus more on creating jobs, expanding opportunity and generating broad-based economic growth now and into the future—while we keep looking for ways to tackle our long-term fiscal challenges using a balanced and responsible approach.”

Republicans have absolutely no interest in a responsible and balanced approach to long term fiscal challenges, or creating jobs, expanding opportunity, and generating economic growth that does not entail more unsustainable tax cuts for the richest 1% and their corporations. Their approach for thirty years has been the so-called “trickle down” economic theory that not only failed to created jobs or improved the economy, it only enriched the wealthy and corporations beyond their wildest dreams. Subsequently, since their “approach” of taking from the 98% has so successfully enriched the wealthy, they are loath to change; particularly if change entails helping the great majority of Americans.

the rest


Comcast takes lobbying to new heights

At a museum near the U.S. Capitol three weeks ago, 700 guests sampled bratwurst and vodka and watched the Olympics. Comcast Corp.’s David Cohen addressed the crowd, which included the Russian ambassador.

Four nights later, Cohen donned a tuxedo, bow tie and cummerbund for a White House state dinner.

Companies often want their lobbyists to hobnob with lawmakers and regulators. Comcast takes that to new levels, increasing lobbying expenditures 23 times over 2001 levels, to $18.8 million last year — behind only Northrop Grumman Corp. in spending by a single company.

Comcast has a new target for its lobbying: regulatory approval for a $45.2 billion deal to buy Time Warner Cable Inc.
“They are ubiquitous,” said Gene Kimmelman, the Justice Department’s former chief competition counsel. “They really have everything covered at the highest levels of skill and experience.”

Led by Cohen, executive vice president in charge of government affairs, Comcast deploys more than 100 lobbyists, donates millions of dollars to politicians through its political action committee, gets help from charities it supports and enlists two former senators, three retired House members and a former Federal Communications Commission member.


Workers Exposed To Radiation At N.M. Nuclear Waste Dump

February 28, 201411:58 AM

On Feb. 14 around 11:30 p.m. local time, something happened underground. Nobody knows exactly what went wrong, but the most likely scenario is that a huge chunk of salt fell from the ceiling and ruptured a drum or multiple drums of waste. The plant's safety systems quickly kicked in: The air from inside the underground facility was sucked through a series of filters designed to catch radiation before it escaped.

Initially, it seemed the system had worked flawlessly. But two days later, independent monitoring stations operated by New Mexico State University detected radioactive americium and plutonium on the surface. The levels are extremely low, well below Environmental Protection Agency reporting limits, according to Russell Hardy, head of the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center, which runs the stations.

"I do not believe there's any environmental or health concern associated with what information we have to date," Hardy told NPR.

The story didn't end there. On Wednesday, officials said samples from 13 employees on duty the night of the accident indicated they had inhaled radioactive americium. At a news conference on Thursday, Farok Sharif, president of Nuclear Waste Partnership LLC, the contracting firm that runs the plant, said the levels appeared to be very low. They are continuing to monitor the workers closely.

Sharif also said more workers might have been exposed. The morning after the accident, personnel returned to the plant apparently unaware that radiation had been detected on the surface. The workers were instructed to shelter in place later that morning, after a radiation release was confirmed. They were allowed to return home in the afternoon, but now those workers, too, must be checked for possible exposure.



Sunday's Doonesbury- Tired of being demonized!

Toon: Handbook for Homophobes

Cover up the art and shutter the library!

The Kansas Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a bill that will purge literature from our schools, censor art classes, and stop field trips.

Senate Bill 401 does two things:

Under current law, one can defend the display of art in an art history class because of the importance of a particular work of art. For example, works that include nudes - Michelangelo's statue of David, Peter Paul Rubens' painting The Fall of Man - are important in the history of art. Students can see them as part of instruction and, if a parent objects and accuses the school of promoting obscenity, the "affirmative defense" allows the school to argue the artistic merit of the piece in question.

Senate Bill 401removes from public, private and parochial schools the defense of literary or artistic merit or significance when someone accuses the school of exposing students to "offensive" materials.

The same applies to literature. For years people have tried to get books pulled from literature classes and school libraries. Huckleberry Finn, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret are three examples of books that have been challenged over the years. But the defense of literary merit has been allowed. Senate Bill 401 removes that defense from public, private, and parochial schools.

If you think this only has to do with "obscenity," you are wrong. While the bill does address obscene materials, its provisions also apply if "a reasonable person would find that the material or performance lacks serious literary, scientific, educational, artistic or political value for minors." This language is so broad as to include almost anything. Could someone challenge Sinclair Lewis' Elmer Gantry as lacking "political value?"



Disney to pull Boy Scouts funding by 2015 over policy banning gay leaders

CNN) -- The Walt Disney Company has given notice to the Boy Scouts of America that it will pull all funding to the group starting in 2015 because of a BSA membership policy that bans gay leaders, the entertainment company said Friday.

Disney does not give money directly to the national organization or local BSA councils. However, through its VoluntEARS program, Disney allows employees to do volunteer work in exchange for cash donations to the charities of their choice.

Employees taking part in the VoluntEARS program will no longer be able to submit the funds to the Boy Scouts, the organization said. The new policy will not affect Walt Disney employees who volunteer with the Scouts, the company said.

"We believe every child deserves the opportunity to be a part of the Scouting experience, and we are disappointed in this decision because it will impact our ability to serve kids," BSA spokesman Deron Smith said in a statement. "America's youth need Scouting, and by continuing to focus on the goals that unite us, we continue to accomplish incredible things for young people and the communities we serve."

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