Monday, January 12, 2009



From Harlem To Gaza — We’re All Palestinians

(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

NEW YORK — On Saturday, January 10th, in solidarity with other protests around the world, members of MDS Staten Island joined over a 100 protesters in Harlem — to denounce the indiscriminate bombing of Gazan civilians by Israeli armed forces. The event was one of many protests in recent days as the world takes to the streets in defense of Gaza. Protesters across the globe are demanding an immediate cease fire by Israel, which has the support of the United States government in its assault on the Palestinian civilian population.

Over the last two weeks, the movement against Israeli aggression has grown throughout the world. However, in spite of a UN resolution for Israel to stop the bombing, the United States Congress, both the Senate and the House, recently passed passed a bi-partisan resolution in support of Israel's "right to defend itself" against terrorism. Conversely, the number of civilians killed, particularly women and children, has caused many in the peace movement to accuse the Israelis of committing genocide.

Members of the New Black Panther Party at the protest
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

In response to the Israeli aggression, Movement for a Democratic Society, World Can't Wait, the Harlem Revolution Club, the New Black Panther Party and members of various Arab-American activist groups joined together Saturday, in front of the Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office building on 125th Street and 7th Avenue. On a cold and snowy afternoon the assembled activists were warmed only by their outrage. Demands shouted into bullhorns, audible over the din of the traffic in the bustling shopping center, announced "Down, Down Israel!", "Free, Free Palestine", and "From Harlem to Gaza, we are all Palestinians!". Protesters ranging in age from 2 to 62 marched through the streets of Harlem, calling attention to what is happening in the Middle East.

The vibrant procession was met with shouts of solidarity, and questioned as to what was happening. A number of pedestrians were happy to see the march taking place, told protesters to keep up the fight, and a few joined the march as it wound down 125th street. Drivers honked their horns in support, people on the buses waved, and even some members of the NYPD, who accompanied the unpermitted march, were overheard saying they denounced what Israel was doing to the people of Gaza.

God prefers Atheists

Iran Using Fronts to Get Bomb Parts From U.S.

The Iranian businessman was looking for high-quality American electronics, but he had to act stealthily: The special parts he coveted were denied to Iranians, especially those seeking to make roadside bombs to kill U.S. troops in Iraq.

With a few e-mails, the problem was solved. A friendly Malaysian importer would buy the parts from a company in Linden, N.J., and forward them to Iran. All that was left was coming up with a fake name for the invoice. Perhaps a Malaysian engineering school? "Of course, you can use any other company as end-user that you think is better than this," the Iranian businessman, Ahmad Rahzad, wrote in an e-mail dated March 8, 2007.

The ruse succeeded in delivering nine sensors called inclinometers to Iran, the first of several such shipments that year and the latest example of what U.S. officials and weapons experts describe as Iran's skillful flouting of export laws intended to stop lethal technology from reaching the Islamic republic.

Despite multiple attempts by the Bush administration to halt illegal imports -- including sanctions against several Dubai-based Iranian front companies in 2006 -- the technology pipeline to Tehran is flowing at an even faster pace. In some cases, Iran simply opened new front companies and shifted its operations from Dubai to farther east in Asia, the officials said.

Shopaholic spinster found dead under 3ft of unopened goods

By James Tozer

Jean Cunnane

A spinster who obsessively hoarded clothes died in her home after a mountain of suitcases fell on her, burying her alive.

Joan Cunnane, 77, owned 300 scarves as well as thousands of trinkets and valuables.

They took up so much space in her bungalow that she had only a 2ft-wide path to get around them, and her car and garage were packed with other goods.

After she was reported missing earlier this week, it took police searching her home two days to sift through her possessions.

Miss Cunnane was eventually found buried under a 3ft pile of cases in a back bedroom where she had apparently gone in search of a favourite item.


Depression Modern

Americans can't afford to spend like they used to, but is frugal living ever really going to become trendy?

by Rob Horning

It was thought to be impossible, as impossible as house prices falling simultaneously nationwide, but the American consumer has stopped spending. Even when the savings rate went negative in the midst of the housing bubble, many economists took to the op-ed pages to proclaim this perfectly rational and nothing to fear. People were saving through appreciating asset prices, we were assured. Consumer-led recessions were things of the past; we'll never run out of money.

Now asset prices are falling across the board. And with retail spending recording a record drop in October, the economy has officially begun to contract, with GDP shrinking in the third quarter of 2008.

In the past, it was presumed that we could spend our way out of recessions, this one is different. Economist Nouriel Roubini has compiled an exhaustive list of 20 reasons, but they basically boil down to what Morgan Stanley analyst Stephen Roach argued in a New York Times editorial on Black Friday: "In an era of open-ended house price appreciation and extremely cheap credit, few doubted the wisdom of borrowing against one's home. But in today's climate of falling home prices, frozen credit markets, mounting layoffs and weakening incomes, that approach has backfired. It should hardly be surprising that consumption has faltered so sharply."

We are becoming poorer and probably feel poorer than we are, judging by consumer confidence figures. Even Best Buy's CEO declared recently that "rapid, seismic changes in consumer behavior have created the most difficult climate we've ever seen." Former financial analyst and tech-bubble booster Henry Blodget concurs in this post:

For 30 years, we piled on debt and then spent almost every new penny we got. This borrowing spree was made possible by a smorgasbord of no-money-down lending products and ever-appreciating asset prices. Unfortunately, the situation has now changed. The lenders who created those products have now been demolished, and asset prices are falling fast. And this is leaving American consumers with no choice but to cut back.

Not long ago, it seemed as though nothing could make us give up consumerism voluntarily—not impending global warming, not our awareness of the futility of quickening our pace on the hedonic treadmill, not the tech crash, not the blight of hipsterism, not the forced nostalgia, not the hypermediation and reification of every aspect of life, not anything. So what happens now that the impossible has become reality?  How will American consumers change their behavior, now that it appears that they have no choice? And should we be pleased about these apparently inescapable changes?

Nat Hentoff's Last Column: The 50-Year Veteran Says Goodbye

I used to say, 'I've been at the Voice since the Civil War.' But now I'm off to other combats.

By Nat Hentoff

I've borrowed Woody Guthrie's 1942 song to report that this is my last column for the Voice. I'm not retiring; I've never forgotten my exchange on that decision with Duke Ellington. In those years, he and the band played over 200 one-nighters a year, with jumps from, say, Toronto to Dallas. On one of his rare nights off, Duke looked very beat, and I presumptuously said: "You don't have to keep going through this. With the standards you've written, you could retire on your ASCAP income."

Duke looked at me as if I'd lost all my marbles.

"Retire!" he crescendoed. "Retire to what?!"

I'm still writing. In 2009, the University Press of California will publish my At the Jazz Band Ball: 60 Years on the Jazz Scene, and, later in the year, a sequel to The War on the Bill of Rights and the Gathering Resistance will be out on Seven Stories Press with the title Is This America? And I'll be breaking categories elsewhere, including in my weekly syndicated United Media column, which reaches 250 papers, and my jazz and country music pieces in The Wall Street Journal.

I came here in 1958 because I wanted a place where I could write freely on anything I cared about. There was no pay at first, but the Voice turned out to be a hell of a resounding forum. My wife, Margot—later an editor here and a columnist far more controversial than I've been—called what this paper was creating "a community of consciousness." Though a small Village "alternative" newspaper, we were reaching many around the country who were turned off by almost any establishment you could think of.

Belated Christmas song from hell

Mystery Roar from Faraway Space Detected

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Space is typically thought of as a very quiet place. But one team of astronomers has found a strange cosmic noise that booms six times louder than expected.

The roar is from the distant cosmos. Nobody knows what causes it.

Of course, sound waves can't travel in a vacuum (which is what most of space is), or at least they  can't very efficiently. But radio waves can.

Radio waves are not sound waves, but they are still electromagnetic waves, situated on the low-frequency end of the light spectrum.

Many objects in the universe, including stars and quasars, emit radio waves. Even our home galaxy, the Milky Way, emits a static hiss (first detected in 1931 by physicist Karl Jansky). Other galaxies also send out a background radio hiss.

But the newly detected signal, described here today at the 213th meeting of the American Astronomical Society, is far louder than astronomers expected.

There is "something new and interesting going on in the universe," said Alan Kogut of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

A team led by Kogut detected the signal with a balloon-borne instrument named ARCADE (Absolute Radiometer for Cosmology, Astrophysics, and Diffuse Emission).

In July 2006, the instrument was launched from NASA's Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Palestine, Texas, and reached an altitude of about 120,000 feet (36,500 meters), where the atmosphere thins into the vacuum of space.

ARCADE's mission was to search the sky for faint signs of heat from the first generation of stars, but instead they heard a roar from the distant reaches of the universe.

"The universe really threw us a curve," Kogut said. "Instead of the faint signal we hoped to find, here was this booming noise six times louder than anyone had predicted."

Bam Loves the Berry

<p>Courtesty of Benjamin & Ribaudo Advertising, Inc.</p>
<p>Alan Benjamin, President</p>
<i>Disclaimer: This ad is for purposes of news and parody only and is not a promotion or endorsement of or by BlackBerry™, Research In Motion Ltd, or Barak Obama, none of whom played any role in its preparation.</i>

The First Wii: Obama brings video games to the White House

by Randy Nelson

When Barack Obama takes office on January 20th, he'll not only be the most powerful man in the world, but also the most powerful gamer. (Nintendo did give outgoing President Bush a DS and Brain Age some years ago; it's up to you to decide if he ever played it.)

The New York Times reports that the President elect -- who even took his campaign to the streets of Burnout Paradise -- gifted his daughters, Sasha and Malia, with a Nintendo Wii for Christmas ... but the head of the First Family has been playing with it, too. Apparently, Obama has been working on his bowling skills by playing Wii Sports. The President-in-waiting bowled a lowly 37 in the real-life sport while on the campaign trail, but tells the paper that he "performs better in the video game."

Being the leader of the free world probably won't leave President Obama with much time for gaming, but we'd like to hear your suggestions for Wii games he should play, given the chance. (Oh, and Mr. Obama, if you're reading this, we'd like to talk about that Video Game Czar position ... )

Army says it used "John Doe" in letters to grieving families

The Army said Wednesday that it had mistakenly sent 7,000 letters with the salutation "Dear John Doe" to family members of soldiers who have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

WASHINGTON — The Army said Wednesday that it had mistakenly sent 7,000 letters with the salutation "Dear John Doe" to family members of soldiers who have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The letters, which were sent to provide information about private groups that offer assistance to families of soldiers killed in the wars, were supposed to have carried personal greetings.

The Army said that the mistake was the fault of a subcontractor that printed the letters, but that the service bore ultimate responsibility because it did not check the letters before they were mailed.

"There are no words to adequately apologize for this mistake or for the hurt it may have caused," Brig. Gen. Reuben Jones, the Army adjutant general, said in a statement.

The Army said that its chief of staff, Gen. George Casey Jr., would be sending 7,000 personally addressed letters of apology.

White House Asked Howard To Stay In Blair House To Give ‘Some Plausible Reason’ For Refusing Obama

by Ali Frick

In December, President-elect Obama asked the White House if he and his family could move into Blair House — the White House's guest house — a week early, so that his daughters Malia and Sasha could start school. The White House rebuffed them, saying the house was already booked for another guest. A White House source added that "Blair House was appalled" by the request.

After weeks of speculation, the mystery guest that trumps the President-elect and his family has finally been revealed. The White House offered the house to John Howard, the former Prime Minister of Australia who is set to receive a Medal of Freedom. Instead of arranging other accommodations for Howard's one-night stay, the Bush administration told the Obama family to stay in a hotel for two weeks. (Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, who are also receiving the Medal of Freedom, opted to find other accommodations.)

Last night on MSNBC's "Countdown," Bloomberg journalist Margaret Carlson revealed that when the White House turned down Obama's request in early December, it had not yet even invited Howard to stay at the Blair House:

I reported…on December 11 and 12 that there were no foreign dignitaries booked into Blair House during that period of time. … I have the feeling they asked him [Howard] to come and stay so that there might be some plausible reason for not letting the Obamas stay there.

She also pointed out that Blair House has "119 rooms with 35 bathrooms. Howard wouldn't even have to share a sink with the Obamas." Watch it:

That the White House choose to prioritize the former prime minister of Australia over the incoming President of the United States emphasizes Bush's sense of loyalty. Howard, a darling of the right wing, was one of Bush's biggest cheerleaders whom Bush has called his "mate of steel" for standing with him on Iraq and being the only leader of an industrialized nation — besides Bush, of course — to refuse to sign the Kyoto Protocol.

Blair House drinking fountain