Thursday, October 30, 2008


Millions of Iraqis at risk from contaminated water, says Red Cross

Country continues to face one of the world's worst humanitarian disasters

Flooded Baghdad street this week

Heavy rain flooded streets in Baghdad this week due to the inadequate sewage system. Photograph: Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty

Improved security has failed to prevent Iraq becoming the scene of one of the world's most critical humanitarian disasters with water supplies and sewage systems putting millions at risk of disease, the Red Cross said today.

The statement from the International Committee of the Red Cross said the situation has not improved significantly since March this year when the organisation published its report, Iraq: No Let-up in The Humanitarian Crisis.

The report found that the humanitarian situation in Iraq following the US invasion was the worst in the world.

Today's findings state that water supplies in the war-torn country have continued to deteriorate with even the most basic infrastructure not functioning.

More than 40% of people are relying on poor quality and inadequate supplies and millions, especially children, are at serious risk of water-borne disease, the Red Cross said.

Ronald Reagan Endorses Obama

The Paranoia and Psychosis of Meth

Medical Experts Say the Supposed Admissions of an Obama Assassination Plot Fits Behavior Pattern of Users
obama meth
The three men involved in a supposed assassination plot against Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama were allegedly on a methamphetamine binge.
(ABC News Photo Illustration)
More Photos

Tharin Robert Gartrell is currently in custody, along with two other men who face meth-related and illegal possession of firearms charges.

The arrest of the three men has focused renewed attention on the paranoia and psychosis that go along with abuse of the drug which is widely used across the country.

Medical experts say their supposed admissions about an assassination plot fit into the expected pattern of erratic behavior from meth users.

Gartrell, Shawn Robert Adolf, and Nathan Johnson expressed strongly racist views and spoke about killing the Democratic presidential nominee while using meth, according to U.S. Atty. Troy Eid. The talk, Eid said, does not meet the legal standard for filing charges for threatening a presidential candidate.

Fox host berates 'Joe the Plumber' after McCain surrogate says Obama vote means 'death to Israel'

by David Edwards and Nick Juliano

The all-out effort from John McCain's presidential campaign to scare voters into backing the Republican candidate continued apace on Tuesday as McCain surrogate Joe the Plumber agreed that a Barack Obama presidency would mean the "death of Israel" and end democracy in America.

The Ohio plumber, who has no license and is actually named Samuel Wurzelbacher, spoke at a McCain campaign event in Columbus Monday. A McCain supporter asked if "a vote for Obama is a vote for the death of Israel." JTP hardly batted an eye.

"I'll go ahead and agree with you on that," Wurzelbacher said.


It's all your fault!

Weekly Reader Poll Has Predicted 12 of Last 13 Elections and This Year Obama Wins in Electoral Landslide


PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y., Oct. 29 /PRNewswire/ -- Just days before Americans choose our next president, voting has concluded in the Weekly Reader Student Presidential Election Poll. And the nation's students resoundingly say that Barack Obama will be the country's next leader. In the 14th Weekly Reader election survey, with more than 125,000 votes cast from kindergarten through 12th grade, the result was Obama 54.7% and John McCain 42.9% (with "other" candidates receiving 2.5% of the student vote). The Obama victory in the classroom electoral vote was even more resounding: The Democrat won 33 states and the District of Columbia, garnering 420 electoral votes, while McCain took 17 states and 118 electoral votes.

For the past 52 years, the results of the Weekly Reader poll have been consistently on target, with the student vote correctly predicting the next president in 12 out of 13 elections. (The only time the kids were wrong was 1992, when they chose George H.W. Bush over Bill Clinton.) This year, as in 2000 and 2004, the student election was conducted in conjunction with noted polling organization Zogby International.

"Historically, our poll has been an amazing indicator of the presidential race's outcome, so we're all waiting with great anticipation to see what happens on Election Day," said Neal Goff, President of Weekly Reader. "Throughout the past few months, we've delivered cutting-edge multimedia election materials directly to schools so that students could cast an informed vote. We're excited to have given kids this important forum to express their opinions about who should be the next president."

Credit Cards: The Plastic Trap

by: Dominique Nora, Le Nouvel Observateur

photoSome Americans have no choice, Dominique Nora recounts, but to pay $35.50 for a two-week $200 payday loan, an annualized rate of over 468 percent. (Photo: Kevin Steele / Flickr)

    "It was too easy."

    After houses, consumer credit? While bankers plug up the breaches created by the mortgage earthquake as best they can, another bubble threatens them: Americans have been living their dreams on credit. And, having overheated up their cards, millions of households will have problems making their payments ...

    Maria, a housekeeper in a San Francisco clinic, came to the Polk Street Money Mart to borrow $150 (110 Euros) on her October month-end salary. Yet the usurious rate practiced by this boutique is posted in big letters on the wall: $35.50 for $200! But Maria has no choice: "I don't have anything to buy diapers with for the baby; the fridge is empty ..." This young woman who is raising her son alone has already gone through the ceiling of two credit cards: "I've got close to a 6,400 Euro balance, while I earn barely 1,400 Euros a month." In the beginning, Maria used her Bank of America card for exceptional expenses only, such as the pediatrician's bill. Then she got into the habit of paying the grocery with it ... "It was too easy." Today, she is suffocating. Because in the United States, credit cards are commonly used to borrow. And everything pushes you to repay no more than a minimum amount every month.

    Thus do millions of Americans find themselves caught in the "plastic trap." And experts are predicting a new deflagration. "In fact, there's a double financial bubble. The real estate credit bubble has exploded ... The next will be about consumer credit," warns Robert Manning, finance professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology, and author of the best-seller, "Credit Card Nation." The two problems are linked: "Because of the tax advantage, Americans repaid 250 billion Euros of credit card balances with money drawn from real estate between 2001 and 2006," he explains. "During that period, in defiance of the laws of economic gravity, people's real income declined ... but the price of real estate doubled, which completely distorted their perception of their debt capacity." The global balance on American credit cards is up to 700 billion Euros. Now that their houses can no longer be used as "cash machines," and economic activity is slowing down and unemployment rising, what proportion of this debt will turn out to be toxic? In the second quarter of 2008, the national default rate jumped to 7.3 percent. But it seems that that's only the beginning: according to the firm Innovest Strategic Value Advisors, credit card issuers will have to write off 29 billion Euros of losses this year and 69 billion more in 2009.

Come visit wild Alaska

Broken Securities Industry Still Has $20 Billion to Pay Bonuses

By Christine Harper and Serena Saitto

Oct. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Five straight quarters of losses and a 70 percent slide in its stock this year haven't stopped Merrill Lynch & Co. from allocating about $6.7 billion to pay bonuses.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley, both still on track for profitable years, have set aside about $13 billion for bonuses after three quarters, down 28 percent from a year ago. Even some employees at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., which declared the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history last month, will get the same bonus they received a year ago.

The worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, a $700 billion taxpayer bailout, public outcry over excessive pay and the demise of three of the biggest securities firms won't deter Wall Street from offering year-end rewards to employees on top of their salaries, compensation experts say.

``Critical producers and critical managers will be retained with the same bonus they had last year,'' said Robert Sloan, head of U.S. financial-services recruiting at Egon Zehnder International, a New York-based executive-search firm. ``The others will see sharp cuts.''

Goldman, the biggest and most profitable Wall Street firm until it opted to become a bank holding company last month, has set aside about $6.85 billion for bonuses, or an average of $210,300 for each employee, down 32 percent from $339,400 a year ago. Morgan Stanley, the second-biggest securities firm until it also converted to a bank, has $6.44 billion for bonuses, or $138,700 per person, down 20 percent from last year. Both firms accrue a fixed percentage of their revenue for compensation, so the decline in bonus pools matches the drop in revenue.

Merrill's Compensation

The money Merrill has set aside for bonuses equates to an average $110,000 for each of its 60,900 people, up from $108,000 a year ago because more than 3,000 jobs have been cut.

The 10 Dirtiest Election Tricks the Republicans Have Tried So Far

As Arianna Huffington warns Democrats, an increasingly desperate John McCain and the GOP are throwing the kitchen sink at Barack Obama. No wonder they called Joe the Plumber. So this week brought racist mailers, a tidal wave of robo-calls, more Bill Ayers, Sarah Palin's love of the "pro-American areas of this great nation" and McCain's outlandish claim that ACORN is "destroying the fabric of democracy."

Reed Hundt from Talking Points Memo writes, "The McCain plan will be to give up on the national popular vote and re-run the Bush campaign of 2000. By voter intimidation and robo-calls and litigation and outrageous allegations, it will aim for victory in the states that can provide an Electoral College victory. In this case, that means McCain will focus his diminished but vigorous efforts on Florida, Ohio, Colorado and Virginia. In each state we need hardly ask what images, stereotypes and fears the McCain campaign will hope to evoke."

The attacks by McCain and his surrogates are already at fever pitch -- and there is clearly a tidal wave on its way:

1. Rush Limbaugh's Racist Tactics: Bringing this toxic collection together in one despicable no-goodie bag was Rush Limbaugh, who charged that Obama -- aided and abetted by Ayers and ACORN -- is "smack dab in the middle" of a 30-year plot to teach black children to "hate, hate, hate" America.

2. Racist Attacks on Immigration: Sarah Posner for the American Prospect's blog writes: "A newly formed political action committee, the National Republican Trust PAC, is buying up e-mail blasts to the readers of conservative outlets like Newsmax and Townhall to raise money for what it calls a 'shock and awe' advertising blitz against Barack Obama in key states in the last weeks of the campaign. One of the e-mails uses the screamer headline, 'Obama's Plan: Mohamed Atta Gets His Drivers License,' while another says Republicans should 'employ Hillary Clinton's strategy' to 'expose Obama for the dangerous radical he is.'" The PAC was founded by Scott Wheeler, a former correspondent for the Moonie-owned Insight magazine, and Peter Leitner, a former Pentagon adviser and president of the Higgins Counterterrorism Research Center, which trains law enforcement personnel on counterterrorism.

People against each other

Slacker Uprising


Director: Michael Moore

Cast: Michael Moore, Tom Morello, Eddie Vedder, Steve Earle, Viggo Mortensen, Rosanne Barr, R.E.M., Joan Baez

(Brave New Films, 2008) Rated: Unrated

US DVD release date: 7 October 2008 (Brave New Films)

UK release date: Available as import

by Anthony Henriques

cover artAll the negative hype surrounding Michael Moore post-Fahrenheit 911 has made me skeptical when it comes to approaching his work. Each time however, I have been struck by how funny, compassionate, informative, and simply reasonable he appears in contrast to how a lot of the media portrays him. To me, the man who, in the eye of mainstream America, carries the label of some sort of anti-American, raging, left-wing extremist, instead comes across as a patriotic, outspoken moderate who only leans left in these times.

The most enlightening section of Moore's new film Slacker Uprising – first released for free over the Internet, and now on DVD – is the portion which examines his detractors. The movie itself is a simple travelogue of his 62-city, get-out-the-vote, speaking tour of battleground states leading up to the 2004 US Presidential Election. About halfway through, the film addresses the pro-Bush protesters who showed up to most of his rallies. Several amusing, ignorance-exposing interviews with protesters are followed by some interesting statistics, providing insight into the origins of the extreme Michael Moore hatred that reached a fever pitch in 2004.

The statistics state that 44 percent of polled Republicans viewed Fahrenheit 911 positively and that 30 percent of those thought that the film was fair to George W. Bush. The film follows the stats with a few sound bites of George Bush, Sr. referring to Moore as a "despicable character", a "total asshole", and a "slime ball" among other insults. Suddenly the Fahrenheit 911 controversy comes into perspective and the anti-Moore campaign feels much larger than the product of a few angry right-wingers. It becomes apparent that certain individuals within the controlling party of the United States government felt threatened enough by a film to warrant launching a smear campaign against its maker. It is a historic testament to the power of art to see some of the most powerful people in the world fearful that the work of an ordinary civilian was convincing enough to derail their reign.

McCain's October Surprise Memo Leaked to Press

Okay team, don't forget to dispose of this memo when you're done reading it. Anyway, clearly we need a late-October surprise. Here are the possibilities I've come up with. Some may sound outlandish, but I'm willing to do anything and spend any amount to win this bullshit election.

1) Get Hillary Clinton to endorse me. I'm pretty sure I could get her to do it, but it would involve a trade-off which makes me gag every time I think about it. Anyway, let's just say this option is a last last resort.

2) Announce that I would launch a surge on the economy. It would be like the surge in Iraq that I so brilliantly invented except it would be on CEOs and investment bankers. Just imagine 100,000 of America's finest warriors storming the stock exchange and "neutralizing" those rich cocksuckers! (note: this is my favorite idea)

3) Reveal that Obama isn't black. I haven't worked out the details on this one.

4) Announce that despite being married, I've never actually slept with Cindy. I know you're probably wondering why that matters to voters. Well, I have a sneaking suspicion that a third of voters don't like me because they're horrified at the prospect of me doing the ol' inverted barrel role with that plastic ring-tailed lemur of a woman. Hell, the thought horrifies me too. If I announce I've never been in that snake pit, a lot of people would be more comfortable with me as a leader. What do you guys think? (We did try it once and let's just say it ended with a skin graft and me soaking my Johnson in Luvox.)

5) Hire someone to shoot me. You know, just a flesh wound - maybe the meaty part of the thigh. I think it would really up my star power, kind of like a rapper. Voters would think, "McCain took a shot and he's still ticking. He's hard boiled, man!" Right?

6) What if I were to strangle Palin to death? It might not help with the voters, but it would definitely help me let off some steam.

7) I personally fly a mission into Iran, take out a couple of their elite guard, and bring back their thumbs to prove I did it.

8) Hold a huge press conference where I present to America - Chandra Levy AND Natalee Hollaway alive and well!! They wave and say they're completely supporting the McCain-Palin ticket. (I haven't worked out the details of this one. Does anyone have a lead on those ladies?)

9) I come out against the Jews. I say I've never trusted those slimy loan sharks! I know, this is a risky move. But I think there's a simmering hatred I can tap into. When was the last time someone tried an anti-Jew platform? Not for at least fifty years. (Hey Joe, if you get this memo, I'm sorry. You know politics. Alls fair!)