|Tammy Baldwin |
|Luis Gutierrez |
Monday, June 15, 2009
What began as the normal transportation of a Guantanamo Bay detainee to the United States ended in chaos and destruction today, as prisoner Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani easily escaped custody and leveled 15 New York City blocks, killing and injuring over 30,000 people.
Authorities say Ghailani used a combination of terrorist training and telekinetic powers to unleash a wave of supervillainy on New York.
"We knew those Guantanamo bastards were supercriminals, but how can any city defend against a terrorist who can levitate 100 feet in the air, and shoot fireballs out of nowhere?" said New York City Police Department commissioner Raymond Kelly, pounding his fists in frustration. "The worst that we all feared is now happening. God help this nation now."
Kelly referenced the fact that many politicians and American citizens have long been concerned that bringing detainees from Guantanamo to American soil could have dire consequences. Ghailani himself acknowledged their concerns, laughing as he summoned a large dragon demon named Kluulorth from the Hudson River.
"Only that wretched super prison Guantanamo could hold me," Ghailani hissed, after clarifying that he now wants to be called Doctor Natas. "Now that I'm out of there, my powers have only grown exponentially."
"You fools," he added, giggling. "You unbelievable fools."
Shortly after his escape, Dr. Natas teleported to various neighborhoods around the country, alarming citizens by literally being right in their backyards.
President Barack Obama called a press conference to address the situation, but he didn't get far before being disintegrated by a blast from Dr. Natas' eye lasers.
"This is what I get, America," Obama sobbed as he faded away from existence. "This is what I get for wanting to close the only prison we had that was able to hooollldd...hiiiimmm..."
In a recent Associated Press poll, most Americans agreed, saying Obama's belief that the Guantanamo Bay prisoners could be tried and placed into supermax prisons throughout the country was "naive".
"Yes, our prisons currently hold some of the world's most violent and brutal criminals," admitted Kathy Blovitz, president of the Iowa chapter of the organization Keep Them Away From Me, "but when was the last time you saw a normal criminal shoot a freeze ray out of his genitalia?"
Blovitz says that super-terrorists like Dr. Natas and some of his Guantanamo Bay cohorts, including Captain Gold and Giganta, have the potential to do untold damage to the country, even by merely entering its borders.
All 178 House Republicans plan to vote against the $100 billion Iraq/AfPak War Supplemental to protest $5 billion for the International Monetary Fund. That means 39 Democratic opponents could defeat the bill. 34 Democrats on the right promised to vote no, so we only need 5 more.
The list below includes every House Democrat who has ever voted against Iraq War funding, so activists should contact every one they can.
The first column codes are:
++: voted with us on May 14 and will definitely vote with us
+: voted with us on May 14 and still with us as far as we know
*: voted wrong on May 14 but will vote with us now
~: voted with us on May 14 but wavering now
a: absent on May 14
I: will vote with us if it includes IMF funds
M: will vote with us if it includes IMF funds that could go to Iran
F: will vote against us if IMF policy is "pro-growth"
P: will vote with us if it includes FOIA ban on torture photos
-: voted with us on May 14 but now oppose us
By MARSHALL KIRKPATRICK and READWRITEWEB
The western world's most feared government is shaking with insurrection in the streets after a contested election and the leading name in news, CNN, is shockingly absent from the story. Twitter, meanwhile, is how Iranians are communicating with the outside world. It's the best place to follow events going on in that country and CNN's failure to engage with the story is one of the hottest topics of conversation there.
Hours after Iranian police began clashing with tens of thousands of people in the street, the top story on CNN.com remains peoples' confusion about the switch from analog TV signals.
One quip we've seen is that "Tienanmen + Twitter = Tehran." Twenty years ago this month, CNN brought real time news about the Tienanmen Square uprising to the world. It's really strange that the network is absent from this story. CNN anchor and mega-Tweeter Rick Sanchez defensively Tweeted hours ago that he covered Iran throughout the afternoon on TV, so perhaps it's just the CNN.com web team that's incurring the wrath of news consumers. CNN's official Twitter account has been silent for four hours.
The BBC is covering the story well, we found this video posted to YouTube. It's being passed around Twitter. These photos on Flickr are good, too. This video from LiveLeak is quite moving, if likely to cause motion-sickness. Twitter search engine Twazzup has created a great aggregator page for real-time multi-media updates from and about Iran. Andrew Sullivan writes well about the extensive use of Twitter by Iranians in the uprising. This in a country where the government recently debated applying the death penalty for subversive blogging.
Barack Obama has a good excuse for not engaging substantially with the protests in the streets - if he condemns the incumbent's victory then negotiations around nuclear weapons will be much more difficult. What's CNN's excuse?
There's no question that something large happened in the Iranian telecom space, and that the timing aligns with the close of voting and the emerging controversy. Iran typically has a fairly high baseline level of sporadic route instability, due to the country's highly centralized incumbent transit through DCI (Data Communications Iran, AS12880) and DCI's somewhat peripheral connectivity to the main east-west conduits for data. Even so, we started seeing spikes of route instability (changes in the paths to Iranian IP space) starting around 08:05 UTC on Saturday (just after noon in Tehran) that were significantly larger than normally expected. These bursts affected as many as 400 prefixes (blocks of IP addresses) — the majority of Iran's Internet presence.
At 17:48 UTC, instability turned into outage, as more than 180 Iranian networks were withdrawn from the global routing tables, indicating that there were no remaining paths into DCI for that portion of Iranian traffic. Contrary to media reports, however, the outages were fairly short-lived. Within a few minutes, half of the outaged population were restored to alternative transit; over the course of an hour, outage levels returned to their normal baseline. Route instability continued to be fairly high, and that pattern has continued through the night and into Sunday.
What can we say for sure? Not much, except that Iran remains well-connected to the Internet from a routing perspective. If I had to guess, I'd say that there are probably a lot more people around the world pulling local content from Iran's providers right now, and that surge of demand is probably contributing to increased congestion and (perhaps) some of the route instability we see. It wouldn't be unusual for there to be some inbound cyber-mischief as well, from supporters of one or the other side, but so far we only have rumors on that front.
It is interesting to note that the changes in routing that took place were very specific in their impact on DCI's various transit providers, who keep the country connected to the world. There are six of them: Turk Telecom (TTNet, AS9121), FLAG (AS15412), Singapore Telecom (AS7473), PCCW (AS3491), Telia (AS1299), and Telecom Italia Sparkle (AS6762). As the following plot shows, five of them lost Iran's transit, and one of them (Turkish Telecom) was a big gainer. (Red arrows indicate loss of transit preference from the outside world; green indicates a gain in transit via the given provider.)
A transit shift of this magnitude may indicate that something (administrative, or physical) has affected Iran's connection to the submarine cables running east and west — not a total outage, but some kind of significant impairment. Turkey has their own, interesting arrangements with Iran for transit, and those are still in good shape (perhaps somewhat congested, having presumably doubled or tripled in transit volume). It wasn't unusual to see 300ms traceroutes from North America and Europe in this timeframe to many Iranian sites.
Of course, you have to remember that globally visible routes are the signposts for inbound traffic to and through DCI to the local providers; from the outside, there's no telling what the Internet experience of the average person inside Iran is like today. It sounds as if a lot of content is being blocked within the country. For now, it's a good sign that information continues to flow, and Iran is still connected to the world at large. Let's hope they stay connected.
Regular readers will probably remember my that my father-in-law Frank Burstin, who passed away about a week before last fall's elections, was a survivor of the Auschwitz death camp. For that reason, as you may imagine, the news this afternoon about a shooting at Washington's Holocaust Museum hits pretty close to home for me and for my family.
But you don't know the half of it.
I have a special memory of Pop (as we knew him) from last summer. It was a few weeks before he received his cancer diagnosis, during what turned out to be his last visit to the Holocaust Museum. Because he lost his parents and all of his siblings to the Nazis, and because no grave site exists for any of his family, Pop made it a habit to visit the Museum at least once a year. It fulfilled for him the custom that many Jews practice of visiting the cemetery of loved ones once a year. I only got to accompany him on one of these visits, that one last year, along with my wife's nephew Jake.
I described him last year as "kind and optimistic soul," and he certainly was. But when he entered that museum, something changed. He was not unkind, but in that place, as I soon learned, he suffered no fools (nor anyone else).
We wandered into the museum, through the same doors and into the same foyer where shots rang out this afternoon. My wife had given us visitor passes that she receives as a member of the Museum. The lines were long, and it was not obvious which line we needed to stand in.
Pop was having none of it. He walked away from me and wandered up to the museum staffer standing at the head of the long line leading to the elevators that takes all visitors to the museum exhibits. I thought for a moment that Pop was going to ask directions. I was wrong.
He thrust out his arm in the direction of the staffer, displaying the number the Nazis tattooed on his arm at Auschwitz just a few inches from her face. Without making eye-contact and barely breaking stride, Pop kept walking. Understandably, the staffer barely blinked. She didn't make a move to stop him.
Pop kept walking right into the elevator that had just filled with the visitors that had been waiting in that long line. And even though the elevator was already quite crowded, he walked right in. Jake and I had to run past the guard to catch up. "Pop, Pop," I said, feeling a little embarrassed, hoping to talk him into at least waiting for the next elevator.
The staffer inside the elevator must have heard me, because he smiled, held the door and said with smile, "We have room for Pop. You guys too. C'mon in."
And up we went. I have been to the Holocaust Museum many times, but none as memorable as that visit.
About a month ago, in a conscious effort to carry on her father's tradition and to commemorate his birthday, my wife Helen paid her own solo visit to the Museum. She arrived at the end of a busy work day, in a rush, just a few minutes before closing time. Unfortunately, given the late hour, they had run out of the candles usually provided in the Hall of Remembrance for visitors to light and leave in the niches of the outer walls.
Already feeling emotional -- her dad had passed away just six months before -- she broke down sobbing.
A staffer nearby immediately came to her assistance, asking if she needed help. She explained, and the gentleman asked her to wait. He soon returned with a candle, explaining with a conspiratorial wink that he kept his own special supply for such emergencies.
The guards and staff at the Holocaust Museum have a special duty. The do more than just protect and operate one of Washington's many heavily trafficked museums. On a daily basis, they help open the doors to the elderly survivors of the atrocities of World War II. As my stories attest, they do it with a remarkable degree of kindness and professionalism.
As far as I know, the Holocaust Museum personnel that we encountered were not armed guards, though it is possible they were. But when I heard about the shooting this afternoon, and more specifically that at least one of the victims is a security guard now apparently in critical condition, it struck very close to home.
This is personal.
I recently had the opportunity to read your response to the Senate Finance Committee proposal [pdf] for health care reform, and it is clear to me that I cannot remain a member in your organization. Please remove my name from your membership rolls, effective immediately.
In reading the response, I was frustrated and disheartened by the fact that you couldn't get through the second paragraph before bringing up the issue of physician reimbursement. This merely highlights how the AMA represents a physician-centered and self-interested perspective rather than honoring the altruistic nature of my profession. As a physician, I advocate first for what is best for my patients and believe that as a physician, as long as I continue to maintain the trust and integrity of the profession, I will earn the respect of my community. The appropriate financial compensation for my endeavors will follow in kind.
I encourage the AMA leadership to read Atul Gawande's recent article describing how physician culture drives up the cost of health care without benefiting patient outcomes. At the heart of this problem are physicians who have a vision of themselves as money-generating profit centers rather than professionals serving the public good. The AMA represents, and encourages, this mindset with its single-focus on physician reimbursement over all other health care reform issues.
However, the most disappointing aspect of the AMA's response to the proposed health care reforms was the opposition to the public health insurance option. I simply cannot support an organization that opposes the public health insurance plan for my patients. Instead of advocating for patients, the AMA is supporting the private insurance industry, which has been a driving force in creating the dysfunction health care system we have today.
But this should not have surprised me: when health care reform has been necessary, the AMA has always stood on the wrong side of history. The AMA opposed the creation of Medicare in the 1930s, when it was first proposed as part of Social Security. The AMA opposed Medicare again in the 1960s, going as far as to hire an actor named Ronald Reagan to read a script to the AMA Auxiliary declaring Medicare as the first step toward socialism, and concluding with the statement that if Medicare were to become law, "One day, we will awake to find that we have socialism.... One of these days, you and I will to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children's children, what it was once like in America when men were free."
That was 50 years ago ... and none of that has come to pass. And yet this year, the AMA argues that a public health insurance plan will destroy the private insurance market. I challenge the AMA leadership to cite a single example of an industry where involvement by the government has lead to the elimination of private enterprise. This has not been the case with the creation of public police forces in the second half of the 1800's (private security companies still exist), we have a robust system of public and private colleges existing the same market, and bookstores still sell books despite the presence of public libraries. A mix of public and private enterprises in the market is a truly American solution to ensuring equal access, as well as competition to drive quality improvement. In fact, the creation of the public health insurance option will *increase* competition, as demonstrated by the AMA's own studies showing that 94% of health insurance markets only have 1 or 2 providers in the market.
The docs have escaped media scrutiny—so far
During the campaign, Barack Obama promised his cheering crowds that, when he rolled up his sleeves to work on health care, he would "have insurance company representatives and drug company representatives at the table. They just won't be able to buy every chair." Now is a good time to look at just what kind of seats special interest groups will have at Obama's table, and what they're doing to bring the public around to their ways of thinking. This is the fourth of an occasional series of posts that will analyze their activities and how the media are covering them. The entire series is archived here.
The last graph of a relatively recent New York Times story hinted at the politics of health reform. The story, a rather routine piece about a Congressional Budget Office report, described the potential savings from various cost containment nostrums. At the end of its story, the Times revealed what's at stake. Medicare is scheduled to cut doctors' fees by 21 percent in 2010 and by 5 percent in each of the next few years. If those cuts materialize, the government would save $318 billion over the next decade, far more than would be saved by other remedies.
In a presentation to Congress, acting CBO director Robert Sunshine amplified this point: "Significantly reducing the level of growth of health care spending would require substantial changes in the incentives faced by doctors and hospitals to control costs," he said. Translation: to really reduce medical spending, doctors and hospitals might face cost controls that could lower their incomes. The American Medical Association successfully fought this possibility every time health reform rose on the national agenda, and it's a good bet they will fight again, while angling for a prominent place at Obama's table.
In the current round of reform mania, the media have hardly discussed the role of doctors and other health professionals. For starters, they have given gobs of money to Obama and to those legislators who will be gatekeepers for reform. According to Opensecrets.org, the Web site of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, health care professionals—including doctors with lucrative specialty practices as well as dentists and nurses—rank sixth out of eighty-some industries in campaign donations this year, spending nearly $87 million on various candidates, with more than $10 million going to Obama. Senate recipients include influential Republicans John Cornyn and Mitch McConnell, who got about half a million dollars each, and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, who got almost $360,000. That's not chump change.
In Germany's Bremerhaven zoo almost a third of the penguins have formed same sex relationships. So, when one pair of heterosexual Humboldt's penguins adamantly refused to incubate their egg the keepers turned in despair to Z and Vielpunkt, two gay males in a relationship and with an obvious hankering for adoption. The egg has now successfully hatched and the pair is looking after the chick as if it were their own. Oblivious to the raging debate around gay humans and adoption they seem to be doing a very good job so far. Gay (or homosexual if you prefer the technical term) behavior in the animal kingdom is more common than many think or choose to believe. So, what other gay animals can we proudly put on parade?
Another argument that has been raging has been the statistical fact that the majority of giraffe couplings are homosexual in nature. When observed in action, it seems that over ninety percent of mountings are between males. However, when the males come in to contact with females when they are in estrus then they invariably will go with them. This means, one can only suppose, that the majority of male giraffes are bisexual. It could be argued then that the gay behavior they exhibit is down to the fact that they are so constantly horny that they will go with each other when the females aren't having any of it. Bisexuals, huh, nature or just plain and simple sexual greediness? Discuss...
The Bottlenose Dolphin has long been shown to exhibit gay behavior. Male dolphins will regularly form lifelong pairings. When in their adolescence the males live in large same sex groups and gay activity is commonplace. Pairs will bond very closely and this often translates in to a lifelong pairing, exclusive to each other. Other male pairs will work together to follow a female, often for weeks. When she becomes sexually receptive then one of them will mate with her, then they will go their own male-male way again. These male couples are often observed engaging in pretty obvious (not to mention explicit) sexual play with each other. Scientists have argued that this homosexual behavior is vital and helps the species on an evolutionary basis. Those that play together, so it seems, stay together and when you are in a gang (even of two) then your chances of survival are so much higher.
Gay Snow Monkey
The Japanese Macaque, otherwise known as the Snow Monkey is best known for its habit of taking baths in the hot springs around its home habitat. The female monkeys, however, will form intense lesbian relationships that last for a few days to several months. It must be noted here that gay behavior has been noted in all of these animals mentioned in the wild, and has nothing to do with captive living, and apparently also has nothing to do with mates of the opposite sex being unavailable.
The Gay Seahorse
The Sea Life Aquariums of the UK did a survey in 2007 and discovered that their seahorse population was 'promiscuous, flighty and more than a little bit gay'. They recorded over three thousand sexual encounters and discovered that thirty seven percent of them were between same sex seahorses. The Australian Big Bellied variety was way out in the lead in terms of being indiscriminate about with which gender it mated. Generally, the scientists discovered that the seahorses were truly shameless and indiscriminate creatures, but noted that as no survey has been done in the wild, they are unsure whether this behavioral pattern would be reproduced there.
Carlos and Fernando are the names of two male flamingos that are resident at the Slimbridge Wildfowl Trust in the UK. They have been together for eight years and first came out, as it were, in 2001. They surprised the park workers by engaging in the usual elaborate mating rituals of the species and have been inseparable since then. The boys have even raised chicks together, but they were not gifted to them in the manner of the Humboldts of Germany. Naughty old Carlos and Fernando stole the eggs from their straight neighbors. Notably, straight flamingos stay together for the mating season and then go their separate ways, choosing a new partner the year after. Carlos and Fernando are unique as their love has endured the passing of the years.
The Gay Bonobo
Unusual among apes, the Bonobo has a matriarchal society and is one of the few species that can be labeled fully bisexual. Both females and males will engage in hetero and homosexual behavior. More than sixty percent of Bonobo sexual activity will be between two or more females. They have the highest homosexual pairing frequency of any animal. It seems that sex is their answer to reduce the chance of conflict and it is thought that sex is used to diffuse tension and to divert attention from things that may result in fighting. Make love, not war!
Last night, Bill O'Reilly discussed the "gay penguins" at a zoo in Germany with guest Dennis Miller. O'Reilly shocked Miller by being eminently tolerant of the penguins, saying the zoo should "leave the penguin alone" because "God made the penguin that way":
O'REILLY: Number one, if the penguin's gay, leave the penguin alone. God made the penguin that way and I agree — I mean, I'm not one of these guys who thinks you should be converting anybody to anything. If you're that way, and you're not hurting anybody, I think you and I agree, we're libertarians. So who cares? … If they're happy, they're happy. That's my philosophy.
If only O'Reilly were as tolerant of gay humans; alas, his record shows quite a different picture:
— O'Reilly complained that J.K. Rowling is making children "tolerant" of homosexuality.
– O'Reilly warned that if gay marriage were allowed, people could marry ducks, turtles, and dolphins.
– O'Reilly censored a photo of two men kissing.
– O'Reilly claimed J.K. Rowling is a "provocateur" for "the gay agenda" of "indoctrination."
– O'Reilly was disgusted by a transgender couple, saying, "Imagine a poor kid getting born into that family."
– O'Reilly was furious that "thousands of gay adults showed up and commingled with straight families" at a Padres game, and suggested that gay couples hugging were making "over-the-top displays."
In O'Reilly's world, gay penguins should be left alone, but gay people should be mocked, reviled, and censored.
The big demand in food these days is that it be locally-produced. A new term has even been coined – "locavore" – to describe consumers who want the freshness and sense of community that comes from eating the bounty of small-scale, local producers. You know, hometown guys like Frito-Lay and Hunt's Foods.
Proving that no standard of integrity is so pure that it can't be perverted by corporate profiteers, these giants of industrialized food production are reaching out with their deep-pocket advertising budgets to co-opt the locavore label. Frito-Lay – a multinational, multibillion-dollar, agribusiness giant, that buys two billion pounds of spuds a year from hundreds of very large farmers to make Lay's potato chips – is presently running national television ads trying to convince viewers that its farmers are just local folks.
"We grow potatoes in Florida," declares one of its corporate providers in an ad imbued with bucolic, down home imagery. Not mentioned is that the potatoes he grows on a sprawling 800-acre spread end up as chips that are sold in New York, California... and beyond. Local?
ConAgra, the conglomerate that owns Hunt's tomatoes, concedes that it can't literally be local in the geographical sense. So, says a consultant working on Hunt's current locavore ad campaign, "the question is, how do we take [local] to that next level?" In Corporate World, you see, "local" is not a place, but a figment of marketeering imagination.
Jessica Prentice, the food writer who coined the "locavore" tag, begs to differ with that definition. The local food movement, she explains, represents an ethic of small-scale production, ecologically-centered in a place, and based on personal relationships within a community. "Large corporations peddling junk food," she says, "are the exact opposite of what this is about.""
When 'Local' Makes It Big," The New York Times, May 13, 2009.