Thursday, August 6, 2009

Radio Chazerei

Murdoch papers to charge for websites by 2010

By Stephen Foley

Rupert Murdoch urged Australians to revive their frontier spirit to meet global financial challenges in his Sydney lecture The days of being able to read newspapers for free on the internet are coming to a close, the media mogul Rupert Murdoch signaled, as he promised The Times and The Sun would begin charging for access to their websites within months.

In a sweeping rethink of how the beleaguered newspaper industry operates, the News Corporation founder declared that quality journalism must come at a price.

"We will be platform neutral, but never free," Mr. Murdoch told investors, moments after revealing that plunging revenues from his newspapers had helped push the company into the red. With newspaper advertising collapsing, "the drumbeat for change" is only growing louder, he said. "Quality journalism is not cheap, and an industry that gives away its content is simply cannibalising its ability to produce good journalism."

The plan to charge for online news is being hatched by a team of Mr. Murdoch's senior lieutenants, including his son James, and Rebekah Wade, the editor of The Sun who is moving up to become head of News International, the newspaper division that controls the company's four British titles.

And it could also mean the start of charges to access Sky News on the internet, Rupert Murdoch signaled last night. The same online strategy will be adopted at News Corp's US businesses, which include the Fox News cable channel and The New York Post newspaper.

Lying about Iraq made me quit, press officer claims

By Kim Sengupta

Having to peddle "government lies" about the safety of soldiers in Iraq led to a Ministry of Defence press officer suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, an employment tribunal will hear.

John Salisbury-Baker will claim that he suffered "intolerable stress" through having to "defend the morally indefensible" when responding to media inquiries about the ability of army vehicles such as the "Snatch" Land Rover to protect soldiers.

Mr Salisbury-Baker, 62, says he found it impossible to support the official line on deaths and injuries after seeing the suffering of soldiers' families. After 11 years of service at Imphal Barracks near York, he could no longer keep working and is taking legal action against the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

The case takes place amid accusations over the government's attempts to claw back compensation from two injured soldiers, as well as a rising toll of casualties from improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan.

Mr Salisbury-Baker's partner, Christine Brook, said: "John is an honest, sensitive and moral person, and having to peddle government lies that soldiers in vehicles such as the Snatch Land Rovers were safe from roadside bombs made him stressed.

"He was particularly plagued by the thought that some of the bereaved families he was visiting might have previously believed their loved ones were safe, because of what he himself had said to the media.

"He felt responsible. He has been diagnosed as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder by his doctor and is pursuing a claim for disability discrimination, on the grounds that the stress of what he was being asked to do effectively made him disabled."

Mr Salisbury-Baker will say that about 30 per cent of soldiers killed in Iraq came from the area in which he was working. Ms Brook said his job "was to visit families just hours after an officer had called to tell them the news that their loved ones were dead." He provided a "media shield" to help them deal with the press interest.

"He helped more than a dozen families through this traumatic time, whereas I believe the officers deployed to give the bad news to families only had this duty once, with the role passed on to someone else the next time," she said. "He sometimes attended funerals at the same church on more than one occasion."

Ms Brook claimed that the MoD had failed to give her partner training on how to cope with the stress of dealing with the bereaved and this had contributed to his illness.

Push for the Kucinich Amendment and Keep Single Payer Alive

By Siobhan Kolar

The people started lining up an hour early in Aurora, Illinois, 40 miles west of Chicago and not a hotbed of radical socialism, to hear Representative Dennis Kucinich talk about HR 676, the single payer bill he co-authored with John Conyers. "Hastert Country" recently turned blue with the election of Democrat Bill Foster, but conservative ideas still dominate. But people want to know about healthcare. Two fiftyish white women said their pastor told them to attend. Another woman stood on the edge and left, telling one organizer, "I think you are really on the wrong track" and others discussed their viewpoints in small knots in the hallway.

It was a real grassroots event with details coming together at the last minute and the speakers' list growing as Rep. Mary Flowers and Rep. Mike Boland, two primary sponsors of Illinois single payer bill HB311, joined single payer speakers, antiwar activists, representatives of labor and Greens.

What drew them together was the belief that single payer was the answer, and the desire to hear Dennis Kucinich, co-author with John Conyers of HR 676, the single payer bill that would make healthcare available to all at a huge cost savings because 1/3 of every healthcare dollar going to insurance companies would now go to healthcare. The bill currently has 86 sponsors. Kucinich believes that the time for HR 676 is coming and that the movement has to build nationally and state by state.

On the bill in the House, Kucinich told the 300 plus crowd, "Let me be clear, I am not here in support of HR 3200," he said "because it keeps insurance companies in the game." Kucinich said that when he and John Conyers wrote the single-payer bill they viewed healthcare for all as the next civil rights struggle.

Health Care Reform Sell-Out: Why Obama and the Democrats are Either Shysters or Idiots

As I wrote months ago in an article titled America's Stupid Health Care Debate: Keeping Some Ideas Off the Table and several subsequent pieces on my website, President Obama and the Democrats who currently run Congress have been hoist on their own collective petard by their craven and gutless refusal to consider adopting a Canadian-style single-payer system to finance health care in the US, or simply to expand Medicare, which is a successful single- payer program, to cover everyone, instead of just people over 65 and the disabled.

Instead, because they are the recipients of hundreds of millions of dollars in legal (and probably plenty of illegal) bribes from the health care industry, they have cobbled together a "reform" in name only, which preserves not just the central role of the vampire-like health insurance industry, but also ensures the continued rapacious profitability of the other segments of the medical-industrial complex—the hospitals, the pharmaceutical industry, and the specialist doctors.

Now, like Hillary and Bill Clinton before them, these weasels and slimeballs who pose as the people's advocates are left with nothing but a Potemkin Health Plan that looks on the outside lie a reform, but that changes little or nothing, leaves vast numbers of Americans uninsured, forces tens of millions to buy crappy plans from private companies, and that will end up doing nothing to halt the continuing rise in health care costs that is bankrupting the people, employers and the country.

Nice going guys!

Let's for a moment consider what could have happened.

Medicare, which is wildly popular among seniors and the disabled according to every poll I've seen, currently covers 45 million of the highest-cost segment of this country's 300 million people—its elderly and its permanently disabled. It does this at a cost of $484 billion.

Now that's a heck of a lot of money—about 13% of the federal budget—but it's money well spent. We're talking about our parents and grandparents here, and because they're all covered by a government single-payer plan that pays virtually all of their doctors' and hospital bills, we don't have to pay those bills for them out of our own pockets. Okay, there are problems—the drug industry managed during the Bush/Cheney dark ages to get a prescription drug law passed that bars Medicare from negotiating group discounts for drugs, and that has added enormous rip-off costs to the program, but that's just another example of corporate scamming of the system that needs to be fixed. The important point that needs to be made is that according to Medicare analysts, 10 percent of Medicare beneficiaries account for fully two –thirds of the total annual cost of Medicare.

What that tells you is that the cost of treating that 10% of the elderly is $320 billion, while the healthier 90% of the elderly—roughly 40 billion people--only cost $160 billion a year to care for.

Now, given that the rest of the population under 65—about 255 million people—need on average far less care than the 90% of seniors who are in that lower-cost group, extending care to them all would clearly cost less than $1 trillion. Add in the cost of the 10% of high-cost elderly, and you've got a total bill of $1.34 trillion to care for everyone in America.

That's a big number, but now you need to subtract out the total cost of Medicaid—the crappy program that, primarily funded by the states through income and sales taxes—pays for the crappy care of the poor. That would be about $400 billion in 2009. So now we're down to $944 billion to care for all Americans. But from that we need to subtract the cost of Veterans health care—another successful single-payer program that already cares for veterans (or at least some of them—it's grossly underfunded). If we had a single-payer system for all, we could just fold the Veterans Hospital system into the national program. That would mean eliminating another $100 billion that would be saved (because remember, we calculated that original expanded Medicare budget for covering all 300 million of us. So now we're down to an annual budget of $844 billion for a single-payer program to cover all Americans. Finally there is uncompensated care provided by hospitals to those 47 million Americans who have no health insurance but who don't qualify for Medicaid. This care is funded in two ways—one by state and county revenues, which come out of state income and sales taxes and also out of local property taxes, and the other is in the form of higher hospital charges and insurance premiums and Medicare costs for the rest of us. Uncompensated care is estimated to cost about $200 billion, all of which would be eliminated if we had a single-payer plan for all.


The Heath Ledger-directed video for Modest Mouse's "King Rat" premiered today, over 18 months after the Academy Award-winning actor passed away tragically at the age of 28. The blueprint for the video was mapped out at the time of Ledger's death but the animation itself was unfinished, so the Masses, a film and music company that Ledger was a partner in, completed Ledger's vision with the "King Rat" video. Keeping with the spirit of the video, proceeds from when the video is purchased on iTunes will benefit the non-profit marine life organization Sea Shepherd Conservation Society for the next month. The video hits iTunes August 7th.

A NEW LIFE: Journalists on how they reinvented themselves - Part 1 - ME Sprengelmeyer, from Washington correspondent to weekly newspaper owner

by ME Sprengelmeyer - Former Washington correspondent for the Rocky Mountain News
(Photo by Mark Holm)

I shed tears twice this year.

On Feb. 26, 2009, there wasn't a dry eye in the Rocky Mountain News newsroom after we got word that we'd be working on the paper's final deadline – just weeks short of its 150th birthday.

It meant the loss of Colorado's oldest business and oldest friend. And for a couple hundred great journalists, it meant the end of something really special. The Rocky was not your typical big-city paper. It had a soul.

John might not like this, but I always thought the alternative weekly Westword absolutely nailed it with a May 25, 2006, description of the two Denver papers.

"Based on front pages from twelve days in May, the paper seems like a slightly off-kilter relative who's prone to the occasional rant but is seldom boring, whereas the Post comes across as a steadier, more solid member of the community, albeit one apt to drone on drearily at cocktail parties."

I'll take that juxtaposition, especially when you consider the four Pulitzer Prizes the paper won under the off-kilter relative's leadership, and the innovative coverage we tried (sometimes with success, sometimes not) day in and day out.

But it wasn't just an institution that died in February. Hundreds of veteran reporters, editors, artists, photographers and support staff lost their vocations. Diving into the current job market is like going head-first into a kiddie pool in the middle of a drought.

I knew that long before the Rocky's closure.

I saw the handwriting on the wall a couple years ago. As the Washington correspondent via Scripps Howard News Service, I watched corporate chain after corporate chain drain the talent pool at the national bureaus, which started being referred to as "cost centers" in corporate lingo. I watched "paper cuts" inflicted in newsrooms all over the country. It was clear, even two years ago, that if I ever lost my dream job in the D.C. bureau – the one that had led me to Iraq and Afghanistan and too many adventures to count – then I would be hard-pressed to find anything nearly as satisfying…anywhere.

So a few years ago, I hatched a harebrained plot.

I've known John Temple for years. He was my city editor when I was a stringer at the dearly-departed Albuquerque Tribune. And he became my big-boss editor for ten years at the Rocky. But here's something even he doesn't know.

In early 2007, after Denver was awarded the Democratic National Convention, I pitched a radical idea to pack up the D.C. bureau, move it to Des Moines, Iowa, and go start-to-finish following all the presidential candidates of both parties – including the one who would eventually be the star of our show in Denver. It was a bold, multimedia plan, and I'm proud of the hundreds of thousands of words that made it into the paper, into the "Back Roads to the White House" blog and my memory banks for political coverage after that.

But I had a quirky ulterior motive, too. I knew that the back roads would take me to little dots on the map where little weekly papers have been standing for just about as long as the Rocky Mountain News. I had the fantasy – and a whole lot of reporters I know have had the fantasy – of one day being a one-man newsroom at a tiny little paper like the one in "The Milagro Beanfield War" and so much great literature.

I landed in Iowa in April 2007 and would have to chase the candidates to places you've never heard about. As a reporter, one of the best ways to understand a candidate and a message she or he is spinning in that area is to wander into the local newspaper and get the lay of the land from the editor, publisher and staff (if there is a staff). So I'd rush ahead of the candidates, pop into little newsrooms and get the lay of the land. And, heck, while I was there, I'd always sneak in a few questions about the state of small town journalism.

How's it going? Are the ads still flowing? What about the Internet? Is it much of a threat out in the sticks? How many people does it take to put out a quality product? What if you made some strategic investments in quality content here and there? Would your franchise do any better, or had it already maximized the local potential?

I didn't always find healthy newspapers. But invariably, I saw potential, because if you look very closely, the small-town newspaper's business model does and always has resembled a miniature version of the direction the big-city papers will eventually reach.

Beijing closing coal plants in environmental move

China has taken advantage of a drop in electricity demand due to the global financial crisis to speed up a campaign to close small coal-fired power plants and improve its battered environment, an official said Thursday.

Authorities have closed power plants with a total of 7,467 generating units, meeting a previously announced goal 18 months ahead of schedule, said Sun Qin, deputy administrator of the Cabinet's National Energy Administration.

"This couldn't be done when power demand was very intense," Sun said at a news conference. "Due to this financial crisis, the power generation has slowed down, so we took this opportunity to accelerate the shutdown."

Beijing is trying to improve its energy efficiency and reduce surging demand for imported oil and gas by closing smaller, less efficient power plants and encouraging use of wind, solar and other clean sources.

The latest closures will reduce sulfur dioxide emissions that cause acid rain by an estimated 1.1 million tons and carbon dioxide output by 124 million tons per year, Sun said. He said the closures involved moving 400,000 workers to new jobs.

China and the United States are the world's biggest emitters of carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse gases" that scientists say trap the sun's heat and are altering the climate.

China produced 6.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2006, according to a study by the Netherlands' Environmental Assessment Agency.

Beijing says it is committed to reducing pollution but has resisted pressure to adopt binding goals to reduce its greenhouse gas output, saying the onus is on developed countries to reduce their emissions.

The Chinese government's top priority in closing coal-fired power plants is controlling sulfur dioxide emissions. Acid rain from heavy coal use has poisoned most of its rivers and lakes and badly damaged its forests.

Sun said environmental officials will meet in August to make plans to close more small coal-fired power plants.

Whale saves drowning diver

A beluga whale saved a drowning diver by hoisting her to the surface, carrying her leg in its mouth.

Grateful ... Yang Yun returns to surface of the aquarium after her dramatic rescue
Grateful ... Yang Yun returns to surface of the
aquarium after her dramatic rescue

Terrified Yang Yun thought she was going to die when her legs were paralysed by crippling cramps in arctic temperatures.

She had been taking part in a free diving contest WITHOUT any breathing equipment.

Competitors had to sink to the bottom of an aquarium's 20ft arctic pool and stay there for as long as possible amid the beluga whales at Polar Land in Harbin, north east China.

But when Yun, 26, tried to head to the surface she struggled to move her legs.

Terrified ... Yang Yun dangles helplessly
Terrified ... Yang Yun dangles helplessly

Lucky Yun said: "I began to choke and sank even lower and I thought that was it for me - I was dead. Until I felt this incredible force under me driving me to the surface."

Beluga whale Mila had spotted her difficulties and using her sensitive dolphin-like nose guided Yun safely to the surface.

Los Angeles medical marijuana patients to say it with flowers

by J. Craig Canada

Tomorrow, August 6, 2009, the medical marijuana movement in Los Angeles will say it with flowers if Craig Rubin has his way.

Last night it was announced on Facebook and through IndyBay that the "Beverly Hills Green Cross" medical marijuana collective will be giving out an eighth-ounce of "Beverly Hills Haze" to the first 500 medical marijuana patients to speak to the Los Angeles Planning and Land Use Management Committee at 10:00 AM on Thursday, 6 Aug 09.

Patrick Duff of "Royal Temple of Zion", and "Discount Relief Collective" announced they would donate an additional 100 eighths of medical marijuana so that the first 200 medical marijuana patients to speak will receive a total of a 1/4 ounce of medicine.

The meeting of the Los Angeles Planning and Land Use Management Committee will consider 20 "hardship exemption" applications for medical marijuana dispensaries.  There are also 19 applications that have been withdrawn for consideration before the committee by the submitters.  These, along with the 20 medical marijuana dispensary hardship exemptions to be considered are listed with the IndyBay article of 4 Aug 09 by Brett Stone.

In order to receive the free medicine, medical marijuana patients will need to fill out a card to address one or more of the hardship exemptions scheduled that day and speak for one minute.  The eighth-ounce of "Beverly Hills Haze", which is promised to the first 500 medical marijuana patients to speak at the committee meeting, is said to be worth $60.

"We're taking a page out of 60's activism" said Craig this afternoon, "we need to clog the room with speakers, make it take an hour or two for each hearing instead of the 8-10 hearings an hour they have been doing."

The meeting will be at Los Angeles City Hall, 200 North Spring Street, Room 350.

Drug War Quiz: Just Say Know

Totally Wasted 

Dust off your short-term memory and test your drug war knowledge with some tidbits from This Is Your Country on Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America.


1. A 1918 New York Times article suggested Germany was trying to make Americans "cokeys" and "hop fiends" with...

  • Drugs mixed into sausage
  • Drugs in toothpaste and teething syrup
  • Narco-polkas

2. How much "ditchweed"—wild hemp with no psychoactive properties—did the DEA destroy in 2005?

  • 219 plants
  • 219,000 plants
  • 219 million plants

3. As the "methedemic" raged in 2004, how many meth "superlabs" did federal authorities seize?

  • 55,500
  • 550
  • 55

4. During the late 19th century, most opium addicts were first turned on to the drug by...

  • Doctors
  • Hobos
  • Chinese opium dens

5. Which of the following did not support efforts to criminalize marijuana in the 1930s?

  • Pharmaceutical industry
  • American Medical Association
  • Liquor industry

6. Nearly what portion of Mexico's arable land is used to grow drugs?

  • 1/5
  • 1/4
  • 1/3

7. Which president first declared cocaine "the most dangerous drug problem that the US ever faced"?

  • William Taft
  • Ronald Reagan
  • George W. Bush

8. Who was the Senate's most strident drug warrior in the 1960s?

  • Barry Goldwater
  • Robert F. Kennedy
  • Strom Thurmond

9. In which decade did Americans' illegal drug use decline most rapidly?

  • 1980s
  • 1990s
  • 2000s

10. In 2004, the White House buried a study that found that a $1.4 billion anti-pot ad campaign had...

  • Increased first-time pot use among 14- to 16-year-olds
  • Increased first-time pot use among whites
  • Both A and B

Gaza kids eye kite-flying world record

Thousands of Palestinian children have gathered in the Gaza Strip in an attempt to break the world record on the number of kites flown at the same time, in the same place.

Thursday's event was part of a UN initiative organised to restore hope and normality to the war-torn territory.

CNN purportedly refuses ad critical of insurance industry


By John Byrne

At least they don't call themselves "Fair and Balanced."

Days off refusing to run an ad spot criticizing its evening host Lou Dobbs, the cable network has now refused to run an ad criticizing a top health insurance executive who recently retired with a package worth some $70 million and was paid $12.2 million in total compensation last year (More details of Hanway's salary and compensation package are available at Forbes).


The ad "unnecessarily" "singles" out an individual company and person by name.

According to Washington Post Company blogger Greg Sargent, CNN wrote the labor-backed group Americans United for Change that, "This ad does not comply with our clearance guidelines because it unnecessarily singles out an individual company and person."

The ad claims that, on average, Cigna CEO H. Edward Hanway makes $5,883 an hour.

MSNBC, meanwhile, has said they'll run the ad.


Health insurer Cigna is now fighting back against the Americans United for Change ad. In an article published at, spokesperson Chris Curran said: "The debate on health care reform is not about how industry executives are paid; rather, it's about what kind of health care reform can be passed for the greatest benefit of the American people."

Curran said that Cigna "agrees" with Americans United For Change that "health care reform is needed. In fact, we also support the president's goal of expanding access, controlling costs, and improving the quality of care. However, we do not see how a government-sponsored plan accomplishes that."

The following ad, produced by Americans United for Change, was posted to YouTube August 2, 2009:

Parents take their faith to deadly extremes

Girl dies as they pray rather than seek medical treatment

Your 11-year-old daughter is on the floor of your home, unable to walk, talk, eat or drink. Do you:

A. Call 911.

B. Pray.

C. Call 911 and then start praying.

Options A. and C. are acceptable. Option B. is stupid, cruel and criminal.

A Wisconsin man has been found guilty of second-degree reckless homicide in the death of his daughter. Dale Neumann, 47, faces up to 25 years in prison because, as he testified last week, he believed God would heal his child. Neumann's wife, Leiliani, faces a similar sentence.

According to news reports, 11-year-old Madeline Neumann died in the family home as her parents and others surrounded her and prayed. They claim they didn't know how sick the girl was -- but how can any parent NOT call 911 when their daughter is so obviously suffering?

"If I go to the doctor, I am putting the doctor before God," Neumman said.

Really? In that case, why don't you jump out of a 20th-story window and ask God to save you?,CST-NWS-roep04.article

Drop dead!