Friday, January 23, 2009

Who brought down the plane in the Hudson River?

Airlines treating squabbles, snuggling as terrorism

At least 200 airline passengers have been convicted of terrorism for incidences that have involved little more than raised voices, foul language and drunken behavior.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Tamera Jo Freeman was on a Frontier Airlines flight to Denver in 2007 when her two children began to quarrel over the window shade and then spilled a Bloody Mary into her lap.

She swatted each of them on the thigh three times. It was a small incident, but one that in the heightened anxiety after the Sept. 11 attacks would have enormous ramifications for Freeman and her children.

A flight attendant confronted Freeman, who responded by hurling a few profanities and throwing a can of tomato juice on the floor.

The incident led to Freeman's arrest and conviction for a federal felony defined as an act of terrorism under the Patriot Act, the controversial federal law enacted after the 2001 attacks.

"I had no idea I was breaking the law," said Freeman, who spent three months in jail before pleading guilty.

Freeman, 40, is one of at least 200 airline passengers who have been convicted under the law. In most cases, there was no evidence that the passengers had attempted to hijack an airplane or physically attack a flight crew member. Many simply have involved raised voices, foul language and drunken behavior.

Some security experts say the use of the law by airlines and their employees has run amok.


by B. Elwin Sherman -- Court TV Reporter
() Disassociated Press

Fiery TV JudgeTo Hear Landmark Suit
"Hell On Heels"The REAL 'Decider'

LOS ANGELES, CA -- (DP) A spokesman for the popular long-running Court TV program Judge Judy has confirmed that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney will "finally get their day in court."

In a surprise programming announcement from CTV, the network reported that the soon-to-be former U.S. President & Vice-President will appear as co-defendants in an upcoming episode of Judge Judy. It was taped last summer at an undisclosed location.

"Yes, at the time, we couldn't believe it either," said Timothy Regler, the show's Executive Producer, "but we knew that Dick Cheney had always been a big fan of the show. His people contacted us to set it up."

Presented on the docket as Court Case #2009-XO, this historic episode is named: "One In The Bush Is Worth Two In The Bush." It will air February 1st, immediately following the Super Bowl.

Working closely with the office of California's Attorney General Edmund G. Brown, Jr., lawyers from both parties were able to broker special dispensations in behind-the-scenes negotiations. This resulted in a lifting of the standard $5,000 award limit, and made Judge Judy's ruling the final & absolute decision in a case that's rumored to see staggering dollar amounts.

Any award monies, if the plaintiff prevails, will come from a special fund reserved for this purpose.  And, like the other Wall Street bailouts recently approved by Congress, no one has a clue where the money will come from or how it will be dispersed.

The special class-action suit was filed by "every living thinking thing that walks or crawls" in the United States.

In Final Legal Act, Bush Appeals Spy Ruling

By David Kravets

Spy With a mere 64 minutes left in its last full day in office, the Bush administration asked a federal judge to stay enforcement of a  ruling that would keep alive a lawsuit which tests whether the president can bypass the Congress and eavesdrop on Americans without warrants.

The request was lodged with U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker of San Francisco at 10:56 p.m. EST on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday -- about 13 hours before the inauguration of President Barack Obama. The filing was among now former President George W. Bush's final legal acts in office.

The Bush administration asked Walker's permission to appeal his Jan. 5 decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. Walker had ruled that "sufficient facts" exist that two U.S.-based lawyers for an Islamic charity might have been spied upon for the case to proceed to the next stage.

The case seeks the courts to rule on the constitutionality of the Bush administration's warrantless eavesdropping program the president approved in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

Congress authorized the spy program last year as part of legislation immunizing participating telecommunication companies from lawsuits accusing them of violating their customers' civil liberties, but the spying in this case allegedly happened in 2004. Eric Holder, the incoming U.S. attorney, said the Obama administration supported the spy legislation and would defend it in a separate challenge.

On Monday, the Bush administration sought to prevent the disclosure of a Top Secret document at the center of a closely watched spy case, a document Walker ruled could be admitted.

UN Rapporteur: Initiate criminal proceedings against Bush and Rumsfeld now

By Scott Horton

In an interview on Tuesday evening with the German television program "Frontal 21," on channel ZDF Professor Manfred Nowak, the United Nations Rapporteur responsible for torture, stated that with George W. Bush's head of state immunity now terminated, the new government of Barack Obama was obligated by international law to commence a criminal investigation into Bush's torture practices.

"The evidence is sitting on the table," he stated. "There is no avoiding the fact that this was torture." He pointed to the U.S. undertakings under the Convention Against Torture in which the country committed that it would criminally prosecute anyone who tortured, or extradite the person to a state that would prosecute him. "The government of the United States is required to take all necessary steps to bring George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld before a court," Nowak said.

Manfred Nowak, an internationally renowned law professor at the University of Vienna, currently serves as an independent expert for the United Nations looking at allegations of torture affecting member states. In 2006, he undertook a special investigation of conditions at the U.S. detention facilities at Guantánamo in which he concluded that practices approved by the Bush Administration violated human rights norms, including the prohibition against torture.

How to hallucinate with ping-pong balls and a radio


Obama naysayers speak out


Conservative talk show host Rush LimbaughWith Barack Obama's approval ratings in the 70s and his visage plastered on every shop window and Metro card in Washington, it's hard to remember that 58 million Americans voted for the other guy.

Even President Bush — who presumably counts himself among that group — said last week that Obama's inauguration is "a moment of hope and pride."

That's not exactly how Michelle Malkin describes it.

"Jan. 20 has turned into a schlock inauguration, (where) every last moocher has come to cash in on Obama," says the conservative blogger and pundit. "There are some of us who want to bang our heads against the wall."

While most Republicans now in office are saying all the right things about Tuesday's proceedings — roll tape on "peaceful transfer of power" and "historic moment for the country" sound bites — some conservatives can't quite get themselves in the "We Are One" mood.

Not even for a day.

On his radio show last week, Rush Limbaugh railed against "people on our side of the aisle who have caved and who say, 'Well, I hope he succeeds. We have to give him a chance.'"

"Why?" Limbaugh demanded. "They didn't give Bush a chance in 2000. Before he was inaugurated, the search-and-destroy mission had begun. I'm not talking about search-and-destroy, but I've been listening to Barack Obama for a year and a half. I know what his politics are. I know what his plans are, as he has stated them. I don't want them to succeed."

Bush and Cheney portraits will come down at noon Tuesday -- and then be destroyed

by Peter Krouse/Plain Dealer Reporter

CLEVELAND -- Portraits of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney that hang in federal buildings across the land will come down about noon Tuesday, which is when the outgoing administration officially comes to an end.

"We're going to try to get it as close to noon as possible," said Kathy Lease, supervisory property manager for the General Services Administration in Cleveland.

Once removed, the portraits will be destroyed.

Meanwhile, replacement pictures of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, who take their oaths of office at noon, have yet to be printed.

"We were told the Government Printing Office will likely have them done the first week in March," said Lease, who handles the Carl B. Stokes and Howard M. Metzenbaum courthouses.

In all, the printing office expects to produce portraits for 9,000 federal installations, including hospitals and military bases. The public can buy prints of the official presidential portraits by going to and clicking on Inaugural 2009. An 8-by-10 is $9 and an 11-by-14 is $12.

But don't bother placing dibs on the Bush or Cheney pictures being removed from the federal buildings. That includes people looking for a keepsake to treasure and those who might want to accentuate the portraits with a moustache or goatee, or worse.

Afghanistan: Peace Through Accordions


I loved this video produced in Afghanistan by Globalpost contributor Gregory Warner. For Which It Stands: Afghanistan, an accordion journey (Globalpost, via Bigthink, thanks Sepideh Saremi!)

Pete Seeger Deserves the Nobel Peace Prize

Peter DreierNow that Pete Seeger has sung at Barack Obama's inaugural celebration Sunday at the Lincoln Memorial -- leading more than half a million people on the mall and millions of people watching on TV in a rendition of "This Land is Your Land" -- what is left for the 89-year old folksinger to accomplish?

How about the Nobel Peace Prize?

Indeed, his admirers have launched a campaign, a petition (signed so far by over 21,000 individuals), and a website to nominate Seeger for this honor.

It is much deserved. Since the late 1930s, Seeger has been a political activist and a troubadour for social justice in the U.S. and human rights around the world. He has used his remarkable talents as a performer, musician, songwriter, and folklorist to engage other people, from all walks of life, across generations and cultures, in causes to build a better and more civilized world. He almost singlehandedly popularized the notion that music can be a force for social change.

Seeger is without doubt the most influential folk artist of the past century. No one can get a crowd singing like Seeger. The songs he's written, like "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" "If I Had a Hammer," and "Turn, Turn, Turn" (drawn from Ecclesiastes), and those he's popularized, including "This Land is Your Land," "Guantanamera," "Wimoweh," and "We Shall Overcome," have been recorded by hundreds of artists in many languages and become global anthems for people fighting for freedom. His songs are sung by people in cities and villages around the world, promoting the basic idea that the hopes that unite us are greater than the fears that divide us.

WHouse stops pending Bush regulations for review

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama's new administration ordered all federal agencies and departments on Tuesday to stop any pending regulations until they can be reviewed by incoming staff, halting last-minute Bush orders in their tracks.

"This afternoon, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel signed a memorandum sent to all agencies and departments to stop all pending regulations until a legal and policy review can be conducted by the Obama administration," the White House said in a statement issued just hours after Obama took office.

The review is a tool commonly used by a new administration to delay so-called "midnight regulations" put in place by a former president between the election and Inauguration Day.

Midnight regulations have been heavily used by recent former presidents, including the Democrat Bill Clinton, Republican George H. W. Bush, and most recently, the Republican George W. Bush.


Nazi angel of death Josef Mengele 'created twin town in Brazil'

The Nazi doctor Josef Mengele is responsible for the astonishing number of twins in a small Brazilian town, an Argentine historian has claimed.
Candido Godoi twins - Nazi angel of death Josef Mengele 'created twin town in Brazil'
One in five pregnancies in the small Brazilian town have resulted in twins - most of them blond haired and blue eyed
The steely hearted "Angel of Death", whose mission was to create a master race fit for the Third Reich, was the resident medic at Auschwitz from May 1943 until his flight in the face of the Red Army advance in January 1945.

His task was to carry out experiments to discover by what method of genetic quirk twins were produced – and then to artificially increase the Aryan birthrate for his master, Adolf Hitler.

Now, a historian claims, Mengele's notorious experiments may have borne fruit.

For years scientists have failed to discover why as many as one in five pregnancies in a small Brazilian town have resulted in twins – most of them blond haired and blue eyed.

But residents of Candido Godoi now claim that Mengele made repeated visits there in the early 1960s, posing at first as a vet but then offering medical treatment to the women of the town.

Shuttling between Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil, he managed to evade justice before his death in 1979, but his dreams of a Nazi master race appeared unfulfilled.

In a new book, Mengele: the Angel of Death in South America, the Argentine historian Jorge Camarasa, a specialist in the post-war Nazi flight to South America, has painstakingly pieced together the Nazi doctor's mysterious later years.

After speaking to the townspeople of Candido Godoi, he is convinced that Mengele continued his genetic experiments with twins – with startling results.

He reveals how, after working with cattle farmers in Argentina to increase their stock, Mengele fled the country after fellow Nazi, Adolf Eichmann, was kidnapped by Israeli agents.

He claims that Mengele found refuge in the German enclave of Colonias Unidas, Paraguay, and from there, in 1963, began to make regular trips to another predominantly German community just over the border in Brazil – the farming community of Candido Godoi.

And, Mr Camaras claims, it was here that soon after the birthrate of twins began to spiral.

"I think Candido Godoi may have been Mengele's laboratory, where he finally managed to fulfil his dreams of creating a master race of blond haired, blue eyed Aryans," he said.

We need a radical in the White House

New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman's most fervent hope about President Obama is that he will be as radical as this moment — that he will put everything on the table and boldly tackle the myriad problems confronting the nation.

For one day, for one hour, let us take a bow as a country. Nearly 233 years after our founding, 144 years after the close of our Civil War and 46 years after Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, this crazy quilt of immigrants called Americans finally elected a black man, Barack Hussein Obama, as president.

Walking back from the inauguration, I saw an African-American street vendor wearing a home-stenciled T-shirt that pretty well captured the moment — and then some. It said: "Mission Accomplished."

But we cannot let this be the last mold we break, let alone the last big mission we accomplish. Now that we have overcome biography, we need to write some new history — one that will reboot, revive and reinvigorate America. That, for me, was the essence of Obama's inaugural speech and I hope we — and he — are really up to it.

Dare I say, I hope Obama really has been palling around all these years with that old Chicago radical Bill Ayers. I hope Obama really is a closet radical.

Not radical left or right, just a radical, because this is a radical moment. It is a moment for radical departures from business as usual in so many areas. We can't thrive as a country any longer by coasting on our reputation, by postponing solutions to every big problem that might involve some pain and by telling ourselves that dramatic new initiatives — like a gasoline tax, national health care or banking reform — are too hard or "off the table." So my most fervent hope about President Obama is that he will be as radical as this moment — that he will put everything on the table.

Misunderestimation accomplicated