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Jan. 26th, 2010 12:33 pm
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The Dangerous Desire to adopt Haitian babies


This week, I’ve been deeply disturbed at the swelling public desire to adopt Haitians. Haitian orphan babies. The very name is problematic. In our imagination, an orphan has no family, but the vast majority of “orphans” all over the world have living parents, and almost every single one has living extended relatives. And the children that need family care are, overwhelmingly, older children.
Quite a few other parents I know are really pissed off about it. If you want to adopt, why not consider adopting from foster care? Why Haitian babies? I can guess at some of the answers. Most of them will not be very flattering.

There’s a certain group of white adoptive international parents that dominate much of the discourse around adoption in this country. The most organized of these are evangelical Christians, but many of them are secular in their beliefs on adoption. They’re across the political spectrum, ultraconservative to ultraliberal, though if I had to hazard a guess, most of them are center-right in politics. I believe these people are, basically, a force for evil. If I put it in any nicer words, that would be a lie. Examining their belief system, and their potential political influence on the recovery efforts in Haiti, is a pretty terrifying process. Continue Reading »


Rush for Adoptions from Haiti Poses Questions



In the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, we’ve seen many solutions posed around the world (and even suggested a few of our own). One option that has been raised is allowing more adoptions from Haiti; Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell even got involved in bringing orphans into the U.S., managing to land a plane when relief planes were unable to get in.

But is this really the best answer? We ask David M. Smolin, professor of law at Samford University, who has written extensively on intercountry adoption, Dawn Davenport, author of The Complete Book of International Adoption and executive director of Creating a Family, and Phil Bertelsen, himself an transracial adoptee and award-winning filmmaker, and the director of Outside Looking In, a documentary about transracial adopton.

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with mention of at least two books I want to read.


Re-Whiting History Just In Time For MLK Day


From the comments of that article: A Time to Break Silence: By Rev. Martin Luther King





ETA: Switch the circumstances to today and its bloody eerie and disappointed just how current this speech is.



ETA: funny how that quote about the arc of the universe bending towards justice is so thoroughly divorced from its context in the cultural zeitgist.
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From Daily Kos No one is going to save you fools
The first thing you need to understand about healthcare reform is what Jane Hamsher identified long ago: nothing--absolutely nothing--is going to trump the White House's deal with PhRMA and the insurance industry.  The question you need to ask yourselves is: why?  If you're intellectually mature enough to get past "personal betrayal" as your best answer, you'll be on the right track.


While you ponder that one, you might want to also consider why nothing has been done--nor will anything serious actually be done--about financial industry reform.  Standing up to the financial industry in the current political environment should be a no-brainer.  So what in the heck is going on here?  If you can think past shadowy conspiracy theories and possible personal enrichment for the Obama family, you'll be doing the kind of thinking that will help actually solve the problem.


The problem is people like me, and the people I work for.  I'm what they call a Qualitative Research Consultant, or QRC for short.  Here's my website.  There's even a whole association of us who meet regularly to discuss ideas and tactics.  Together with the AAPC, the MRA, the AMA, ESOMAR, and a whole host of other organizations you've never heard of, we have more power and control than you know.  We're extremely good at what we do, and we do it all behind the scenes, appealing to and manipulating your subconscious brain in ways that your conscious brain has little to no control over.



Give us a little money to test some things out, and we can work magic.  Our business is persuasion, and we're very good at it.  Just watch PBS Frontline's series, The Persuaders to get just a small inkling of what you're up against.  We can make a company that earns a 38% gross profit margin manufacturing purely propriety products seem hip, cool and progressive.  We can take sugar water and sell it back to you as a health drink, and even Whole Foods shoppers will believe it.  We can take 30 different brands of vodka with almost exactly the same ingredients, and make you understand instantly just what kind of person drinks which brand, and how much you should expect to pay for each, without a moment's thought.  


For any given category of products, I can show you a bunch of different brands, and you'll be able to tell me a wealth of information about each one, despite the near absolute similarity of their actual products to one another.  One exercise we QRC's like to conduct involves actually turning a brand into a person in a group discussion; it's called personification.  And you wouldn't believe how effectively and universally we can tailor a brand's image, right down to what kind of car that "person" would drive, and what music he/she would listen to.  


So much attention has been paid to Naomi Klein's outstanding
Shock Doctrine, that few pay much attention anymore to her far more provocative and important work No Logo.  If all Americans truly internalized the message of No Logo, people like me would be out of work, and we could really reform this country. ...


If you want to win, you will ORGANIZE. You will organize in the same way the Right has done for the last 40 years, and you will spend money on persuasion, where it really matters.  You will, in short, make the politicians as afraid of you as they are of them.  The Right has built vast networks of think tanks, newspapers, periodicals, cable news channels, and political advocacy organizations to spread their finely tuned, well-honed messages.  Their politicians may fail them, and their actual policies may be deeply unpopular, but their message machine nearly always works its magic to get them what they want, even when Democrats are in power.


That's partly because the American political Right never quits and never gives up.  They know that organization is the key to their success, and they don't trust politicians to do their work for them.  Democrats, on the other hand, get disappointed and quit when our politicians don't pan out the way we wanted.  That's why we lose.MORE

Slam.

Oct. 15th, 2009 02:42 pm
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College Mental Health: A Different Diagnosis

Student mental health is a hot topic, but also a confusing one. The broader psychiatric framework often equates "psychic difference" (a term used by some mental health activists to describe a mental/emotional/spiritual experience and distinguish it from a medical diagnosis) or emotional distress with "mental illness."

Getting to the root of what constitutes student wellness is not easy, especially when taking into account the variance in services among colleges or universities. Most schools offer some kind of mental health services, ranging from a few professional counselors to a 24-hour hotline to opportunities for group therapy.
But students across the country are making their voices heard, drawing attention to campus mental health services that are inadequate, under-funded or harmful. In her presentation on college mental health at the 2006 National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy conference (NARPA), Karen Bower, an attorney with the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, stated that colleges are a "climate of unmet mental health needs."
So what do students want?

Those interviewed for this story said they wanted better access to qualified counselors, peer support groups and the creation of safe spaces for students to openly discuss problems they are dealing with.
College mental health counselors also agree that there is much room for change. While the International Association of Counseling Services (IACS) recommends a counselor to student ratio of 1 to 1,000-1,500, the average ratio is 1 to 1,698. A 2008 National Survey of Counseling Center Directors (PDF) conducted by IACS found that one third of college mental health directors believe that psychiatric consultation is "woefully inadequate or non-existent on their campuses."MORE



Standing Up for Muslim Women's 'Writes'
When writing is solicited, the narratives of Muslim women are often vetted. The ones deemed appropriate for public consumption generally fall along four plot lines: A trite tale of alienation, sudden acceptance, and seemingly premature celebration; the well-assimilated Muslimah who has an American flag sewn into all of her hijabs; the angry conspiracy theorist who recites Al-Fatihah and preaches about the authenticity of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion ; or the widely accepted apostate who is paraded as the "liberated woman" having successfully escaped the stranglehold of Islamic patriarchy.

We needn't forget the super heroine whose hijab serves as a cap, an unconditional shield against a sexualized male gaze, and a colorful stain-resistant accessory that matches the stitching of her jeans. We can be the super heroines or distressed woman in need of saving. The veiled amongst us are given the option of producing writing that reduces us to a tragic footnote or exposes us as a glaring example of the "clash of civilizations."
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Indeed.

Oct. 15th, 2009 02:19 pm
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One Nation, Under Illusion

There is nothing wrong with self-satisfaction or national pride. But the incessant trumpeting of our national superiority to every other country in the world is more than just off-putting and insulting. It is infantile, like the vaunting of a schoolyard bully that his Dad is better than your Dad. It is wrong. And it might be dangerous both to ourselves and to the rest of the world.

Consider what it means. By what standard is one nation any greater than any other nation? Yes, the United States has vast material resources - we rank eighth in gross domestic product per capita - but we also have, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the "highest inequality and poverty rate'' in the world, outside of Mexico and Turkey, and things are getting worse. Nothing to boast of there.

Yes, we have a relatively high median income, but our standard of living as measured by the Human Development Index of the United Nations ranks us only 15th in the world, behind, among others, Norway, France, Canada, and Australia. Are they better than we are? Even our home ownership rate trails that of the citizens of Canada, Belgium, Spain, Norway, and even Portugal.

Yes, the United States has the best system of higher education in the world, but, according to an Educational Policy Institute report, we rank 13th in the affordability of that education, and we are much less successful with lower education - 11th in the percentage of the 25 to 34 population with a high school diploma and 22d in science education.

...

The point of all this isn't that America doesn't have a lot to be proud of. It does. The point is that just about every country has a lot to be proud of, and America has no more right to assume it is the greatest nation in the world than does France, Switzerland, China, or Russia.MORE


So much for human rights, for instance:
Flowers, Candies and Tumors from An Arab Woman Blues, Reflection in a bottle...

That was the deal. You greet us with flowers and candies and we will greet you with D.U, napalm and neutron bombs...

This may be news to you, but all kinds of weapons were tested in Iraq by the demoniacal terrorists called the Americans. Depleted Uranium is the most "famous" one.

D.U was used during "Desert Storm", may wrathful storms engulf you. And it was used during "Operation Freedom".

Napalm was used in Falluja and Mosul.

According to fellow MDs, they are convinced that neutron bombs were also used (for those of you who don't know, neutron bombs are a limited range nuclear mini explosions that carbonize people and leave buildings intact). According to them, those were used in 2003, in the battle for Baghdad, namely around Baghdad's airport. Fellow MDs said that the corpses they saw in ER on one particular day, were no longer corpses, they were not even burnt, like in napalm, they were simply disintegrated like and I quote "a handful of sand".

While, the sectarian Shiite puppet government is busy plundering and pimping for Iran,

While the numbed out, dumb assholes called American "people ?" are busy checking out the latest released single from Michael Jackson and Paris Hilton new hairdo,

While the filthy English are busy getting plastered on beers and cheers,

While the U.N and its "specialized" agencies are busy snoring in the corridors of silence

While environmental NGOs are busy saving another penguin in Antarctica...

While ...

Tumors are multiplying in Iraq, at a vertiginous rate...sparing none.
Click through for the Al Jazeera English video


As a note on the above blog post. No tone arguments, please. I am almost sure that testing weapons on people war crime behaviour, and its not as if the US has not done this before. I do love this country, but Lawd if karma should ever catch up with us? Even unto the 20th generation we would STILL be crying out.
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Fascist America II: The Last Turnoff


In the previous post, I pointed out that the most insidious part of fascism is that by the time it's finally obvious to absolutely everyone that these people are dangerously out of control, it's too late to do anything about it. Early warnings are even more valuable here than they are in most domains. And since futurists are -- more than anything -- in the business of early warnings, it falls to me to step up there and point out that according to at least a few of the more reputable atlases in the glove box, this looks a lot like the last turn into the parking lot of downtown Fascist Hell.

The good news is: we're not yet parked and locked, let alone committed to entering the building. (Which is good, because the doors appear to be all one way, just like in the Hotel California.) We've still got a few minutes left to change our minds, back out of this, and go spend our future somewhere else. But we are now actively in the process of choosing, whether we're aware of it or not. There are things happening now that are setting us on a course that may prove impossible to change.
How do we turn back? A few basic principles:

First: The teabaggers must not win this one.
Back in elementary school, most of us learned that when a bully learns that intimidation and threats work, he'll will keep doing more of it. In fact, the longer he goes without comeuppance, the bolder and badder he becomes, and the harder it is to make him stop. Every success teaches him something new about how to use terror for maximum effect, and tempts him to push the envelope and see what else he can get away with. Do nothing, and he'll soon take over the whole playground.

And it happens like this for bullies in groups, too. Living in a fascist regime is just living in a town dominated by the Mob, a street gang, the KKK, or a corrupt sheriff. It only takes a small handful of thugs to terrorize people into giving up their civil rights, abandoning democracy, and doing what they're told, just so they can keep their jobs, windows, and families intact. The main imperative in life becomes staying off the goons' radar. All the enforcers need to do is make an horrific example out of one or two troublemakers every now and then -- and the resulting fear will keep everybody else quietly in line.

Conservatives have tried to subdue other Americans this way for centuries, so there's nothing new going on here. And this is the way they've always done it: they used race (and yes, the birthers and anti-health care rioters are, at root, all about race) and economic calamity to whip up a posse of terrified, well-armed vigilantes, and then turned them loose on society to "enforce order." Given their colossal investment in organizing and indoctinating the teabaggers, we'd be stupid to believe that this is all going to go away when Congress returns to DC in September. Having had a taste of power and publicity, these newly-empowered mobs are very likely to stick around town and see what else they can do to keep the muck stirred up.

Our choice now is a stark one: knock them back while they're still new, small, and not yet entrenched; or deal with them later, when they've got some real power to fight back with, and the cost to all of us will be so much higher.MORE




Fascist America III: Resistance for the Long Haul


How in the hell did we get here? And more to the point: how do we get back out?
The first question is depressingly easy. This is precisely where 40 years wandering in the right-wing moral, cultural, and economic wilderness has left us -- and, in fact, where it was always intended to lead us. A liberal democratic society is a complex system that's designed to be very resilient and self-correcting in the face of all kinds of extremism. But the health of that system -- especially its natural immunity to would-be attackers -- ultimately depends on just one factor. It cannot survive without people's ongoing confidence in a functioning political contract.

When it's working right, this contract guarantees the upper classes predictable, reliable wealth in return for their investments. It promises the middle class mobility, comfort, and security. It ensures the working classes fair reward for fair work, chances to move ahead, and protection against very real risk that they'll be forced into poverty if they can't work any more. Generally, as long as everybody gets their piece of this constantly re-negotiated deal, everybody stays invested in keeping the system going -- and a democratic society will remain upright, healthy, and moving mostly forward.
For the past four decades, conservatives have done everything in their power to dismantle that essential contract, and thus destroy our mutual confidence in the fundamental agreements that allow any democratic system to function. (None dare call it treason -- but a solid case could be made.) This isn't news: by now, most of us can recite the litany, chapter and verse, of the all the many ways they hacked away at America's essential ability to function as the Constitution intended.

But the biggest loser, as always, has been the working class -- the people whose only real power lies in their sweat and their numbers. Their faith in the promise of democratic self-government has been shattered through years of union-busting, farm foreclosures, factory exports, college grant cuts, subprime mortgage scams, and all manner of betrayal, treachery, neglect, and abuse. Over in the comments threads at Orcinus, we hear from these furious folks almost every day. The way they see it, representative democracy has repeatedly failed to deliver on anything it might have once promised them. At this point, the disgust runs so deep that anybody who's got other ideas -- theocracy, corporatocracy, anarchy, whaddaya got? -- has a fair shot at getting their attention.
...

Third: We need to get serious about investing in education. It's well understood now that our broken health care system is right on the bottom of the barrel among industrialized countries; but most of us don't realize that our schools are in the same comparatively wretched shape. Thomas Jefferson understood that liberal democracy is impossible without a literate, well-informed populace; and the endless parade of teabagger loonitude is precisely the kind of know-nothing nightmare he most feared.

Conservative "tax revolt" politics have been undermining American education since California's Proposition 13 passed in 1977 -- and we should draw a clear, bright line between decades of systematic defunding and the monumental failures of reason we're seeing all around us now. Don't know much about history -- so the Christian Right is busily rewriting it to argue that there's no such thing as a wall between church and state. Don't know much biology -- so fewer than half of all Americans think the theory of evolution explains our origins. Don't know much about the science book -- so we're ready to believe whatever junk science the corporate PR folks can conjure up. Don't know much about the French I took -- which has left the country insular, parochial, and unable to work and play well with others in a world it purports to lead.

But the worst failure is that we went through a decades-long patch where we didn't teach civics -- and still don't much, especially in states where it's not part of the standardized tests. Which means that there are tens of millions among us who have absolutely no idea what's in the Bill of Rights, or how a law gets made, or where the limits of state power lie. It's quite possible that if the conservatives hadn't undermined universal civics education, the right-wing talking heads would have never found an audience. Instead, what we have is a country where most people are getting their basic political education from Rush Limbaugh and FOX News.
If we want our democracy back, that has to change.

MORE
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Media: Angry right-wingers are important; angry libs are annoying

I guess Howard Dean was just ahead of his time.
When the liberal anti-war candidate ran for the White House in 2003 and 2004, the Beltway press was uniformly clear that Dean had an "anger" issue. When Dean launched his campaign and gave voice to the hundreds of thousands of activists who had marched and protested against the Iraq war, the media elites did not approve.
As early as June 2003, The New York Times was fretting over whether Dean's "angry message" would be his downfall. "All the Rage," read a Newsweek headline on a Dean profile.

And in two features in the summer of 2003, The Washington Post described Dean as "abrasive," "flinty," "cranky," "arrogant," "disrespectful," "fiery," "red-faced," a "hothead," "testy," "short-fused," "angry," "worked up," and "fired up." And trust me, none of those adjectives was used in a complimentary way. In fact, the Post took pains to distinguish Dean's anger from that of then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, whom the paper termed "brilliantly cranky."

Bad luck for Dean, because back during the Bush years, there was really no worse crime, at least in the eyes of the Beltway press, than being "angry." (Especially being an angry Democrat.) It was practically a deal breaker. Serious people simply didn't conduct themselves that way in American politics. They didn't let their runaway partisan emotions get the best of them.

But oh my, how times have changed! Suddenly this summer, as right-wing mini-mobs turn health care forums into free-for-alls, as unhinged political rage flows in the streets, and as the Nazi and Hitler rhetoric flies, anger is in. Suddenly anger is good. It's authentic. It's newsworthy. Reading and watching the mini-mob news coverage, the media message seems clear: Angry speaks to the masses.MORE


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DC will recognize samesex marriages from elsewhere in the US.


the following post was originally flocked. I asked for it to be unlocked, and as a courtesy, the poster allowed it. As a result, just as a reminder: No obnoxiousness. No rudeness. No defensiveness. Be adult, please. No wank allowed.

Something to think about
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My report for the Cato Institute on the effects of full-scale drug decriminalization in Portugal -- the background for which I wrote about here -- is now available online. It can be read here, and the .pdf is here. I'll be at Cato tomorrow to present the report at noon, and the event can be watched live here. Drug policy is being more openly debated than ever before in the U.S. (Time 's Joe Klein just wrote a column advocating marijuana legalization), and the unambiguous success of Portugal's 2001 decriminalization -- which is what enabled the Portuguese Government to address their exploding drug problems in the 1990s and to achieve far better results than virtually every other Western country -- provides a compelling empirical basis for understanding the profound failures of the American approach.


I'm traveling today and it's unlikely I'll be able to write again, but today is the deadline for the Obama DOJ either to release 3 key, still-secret OLC torture memos or explain to the court why they refuse to do so. A report two weeks ago from Newsweek's Michael Isikoff (which quoted an anonymous Obama official as describing the memos as "ugly") claimed that Obama had disregarded the emphatic objections from ex-CIA Director Michael Hayden and others in the intelligence community and had decided to disclose the documents in full, but a New York Times article this week indicated that no decision has been made because of very adamant objections to disclosure from the likes of Obama counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan (whose pending appointment to be CIA Director, it's worth recalling, was opposed precisely because he was clearly an advocate for some of the worst CIA abuses of the Bush era). MORE
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Free Higher Education: A GI Bill for Everybody

What if education were available without tuition charges to every resident meeting admissions criteria, as a right, at any public, post-secondary educational institution in the United States? Is this idea feasible? Is there potential public support for it? What would be its likely effects if implemented? What would such a commitment cost? How could those costs be met? These questions are not on the radar screen of American public discourse today. In fact, they are virtually unthinkable in the current consensus that sets the boundaries of acceptable policy debate.

Yet paying for higher education is a major concern for most Americans. In 2000, polls indicated that respondents included education, along with the economy, as one of the two highest priority issues in choosing a presidential candidate. Although much of this expressed concern is centered on the quality of pre-collegiate schooling, Americans are also worried about access to post-secondary education. Legitimately so, for post-secondary education is increasingly a prerequisite for effective labor force participation, for any hope of a relatively secure, decent job. If that is the case, shouldn't society have an obligation to provide universal access to such an essential social good? Why should we accept a putative consensus that preempts consideration of an issue so important to so many Americans?

Universal access to higher education is not entirely unprecedented in recent American history. The most dramatic approximation to it was the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, popularly known as the GI Bill, under which a generation of Second World War veterans received what was usually full tuition support and stipends (up to nearly $12,000 per year in 1994 dollars) to attend post-secondary educational institutions. By 1952, the federal government had spent $7 billion (nearly $39 billion in 1994 dollars) on sending veterans to college. This amounted to 1.3 percent of total federal expenditures ($521.8 billion) during that period. A 1988 report by a congressional subcommittee on education and health estimated that 40 percent of those who attended college under the GI Bill would not otherwise have done so. The report also found that each dollar spent educating that 40 percent produced a $6.90 return (more than $267 billion in 1994 dollars) in national output due to extra education and increased federal tax revenues from the extra income the beneficiaries earned.MORE



why auto industry and student loans are intertwined. see La Lubu's comment in particular.
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When a Man is The Victim: A Study in Rape Apology

I do think that this case is believed to be prosecutable because of the offense that society takes at the very idea of a man being anally penetrated. This offense is understandably exaggerated when that penetration occurs by force. And this woman used a (presumably) plastic object. It’s so unnatural. Whereas a woman being forcibly penetrated by a man . . . well, what’s the big deal, sexually penetrating women in various orifices is what they’re for, after all. Simply put, there are different social values shaping the lenses through which people see this rape as opposed to many others. Just like female rape victims vary on the rapeable scale, many fewer people assume that a man in such an exposed position was “asking for it” than would if it was a woman. Because penetration is seen as something that men are supposed to do, not receive. And for that bizarre reason, people generally perceive a straight man as less likely to consent to anal penetration in front of a crowd of people than a woman — and think that for a woman, it would be less of a big deal.
But none of that is to say that the man in this case is not experiencing victim-blaming or mockery. He absolutely is. (Oh look, here’s an example.) That blaming and mocking just occurs somewhat differently. And from the majority of the many articles I’ve read on the subject, it seems to occur significantly less openly in the media. There are few overly victim-blaming comments, a lack of references to the alleged rape as “sex,” and so far a lack of instances where the word rape is put into scare-quotes.MORE




When a Man is the Victim: A Second Study in Rape Apology

In the majority of sexual assault cases, where a woman is the victim of a man’s violence, rape apology is rooted primarily not in the denial that male violence exists, but in the denial that male violence means something and needs to be stopped. Conversely, in cases where a man is the victim of a woman’s violence, rape apologism is strongly rooted in the denial that women’s actions can count as violence at all — and especially that their actions can count as sexual violence against men, who are routinely construed as incapable of being victims.MORE


Sen Kerry asks for asylum for gay Brazilian


BOSTON — Sen. John Kerry has asked the Obama administration to grant asylum to a gay man who was forced to return to Brazil after he was married to a U.S. citizen in Massachusetts.
Genesio "Junior" Oliveira has been separated from his husband, Tim Coco, since August 2007, when he left the country after his request for asylum and an appeal were denied.
Oliveira asked for asylum in 2002, saying he was raped and attacked by a physician as a teenager in Brazil, and feared persecution because of his sexuality. The Associated Press does not typically name rape victims, but Oliveira speaks openly about his case and allows his name to be used.
In a letter sent Thursday to <a target=" _top"="_top"" href="BOSTON — Sen. John Kerry has asked the Obama administration to grant asylum to a gay man who was forced to return to Brazil after he was married to a U.S. citizen in Massachusetts.
Genesio "Junior" Oliveira has been separated from his husband, Tim Coco, since August 2007, when he left the country after his request for asylum and an appeal were denied.
Oliveira asked for asylum in 2002, saying he was raped and attacked by a physician as a teenager in Brazil, and feared persecution because of his sexuality. The Associated Press does not typically name rape victims, but Oliveira speaks openly about his case and allows his name to be used.
In a letter sent Thursday to <a target=" class="rcLink">Attorney General Eric Holder, Kerry said Immigration Judge Francis Cramer found Oliveira's testimony to be credible and his fear of living in Brazil genuine. However the judge denied the claim, saying the man "was never physically harmed" by the rape, the letter said.
Kerry called the ruling "outrageous."MORE
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Riz Khan - What do Muslims want? - 25 Feb 09 - Part 1


Survey by a US based polling organisation reveals Muslim public opinion on terrorism, US policy, al Qaeda and Islamist politics.


Riz Khan - What do Muslims want? - 25 Feb 09 - Part 2


'Arab and HIV positive' - 28 Feb 2009


People living with HIV in the Gulf region face ostracism and commonly tell of their feelings of frustration.

Al Jazeera spoke to "Hamad", an HIV positive man living in Bahrain, where he says there is still a stigma associated with the deadly disease.
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The Road Not Taken


The true story behind this war is not the one Israel is telling: The world isn’t just watching the Israeli government commit a crime in Gaza; we are watching it self-harm

Uh HELLO Rachel Maddow?

...
The Israeli government did indeed withdraw from the Gaza Strip in 2005 - in order to be able to intensify control of the West Bank. Ariel Sharon's senior advisor Dov Weisglass was unequivocal about this, explaining: "The disengagement [from Gaza] is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that's necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians... Effectively, this whole package that is called the Palestinian state has been removed from our agenda indefinitely."
Ordinary Palestinians were horrified by this, and by the fetid corruption of their own Fatah leaders - so they voted for Hamas. ... It was a free and democratic election, and it was not a rejection of a two-state solution. The most detailed polling of Palestinians, by the University of Maryland, found that 72 percent want a two-state solution on the 1967 borders, while fewer than 20 percent want to reclaim the whole of historic Palestine. So, partly in response to this pressure, Hamas offered Israel a long ceasefire and a de facto acceptance of two states, if only Israel would return to its legal borders.
Rather than seize this opportunity and test their sincerity, the Israeli government reacted by punishing the entire civilian population. They announced they were blockading the Gaza Strip in order to "pressure" its people to reverse the democratic process. They surrounded the Strip and refused to let anyone or anything out. They let in a small trickle of food, fuel and medicine - but not enough for survival.
The Israeli government did indeed withdraw from the Gaza Strip in 2005 - in order to be able to intensify control of the West Bank. Ariel Sharon's senior advisor Dov Weisglass was unequivocal about this, explaining: "The disengagement [from Gaza] is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that's necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians... Effectively, this whole package that is called the Palestinian state has been removed from our agenda indefinitely."

Ordinary Palestinians were horrified by this, and by the fetid corruption of their own Fatah leaders - so they voted for Hamas. ... It was a free and democratic election, and it was not a rejection of a two-state solution. The most detailed polling of Palestinians, by the University of Maryland, found that 72 percent want a two-state solution on the 1967 borders, while fewer than 20 percent want to reclaim the whole of historic Palestine. So, partly in response to this pressure, Hamas offered Israel a long ceasefire and a de facto acceptance of two states, if only Israel would return to its legal borders.

...

Before it falls down the memory hole, we should remember that last week, Hamas offered a ceasefire in return for basic and achievable compromises. Don’t take my word for it. According to the Israeli press, Yuval Diskin, the current head of the Israeli security services Shin Bet, “told the Israeli cabinet [on the 23rd] that Hamas is interested in continuing the truce, but wants to improve its terms.” Diskin explained Hamas was requesting two things: an end to the blockade, and an Israeli ceasefire on the West Bank. The cabinet – high with election-fever, and eager to appear tough – rejected these terms.

The core of the situation has been starkly laid out by Ephraim Halevy, the former head of Mossad. He says that while Hamas – like much of the Israeli right – dreams of driving their opponents away, “they have recognized this ideological goal is not attainable, and will not be in the foreseeable future.” Instead, “they are ready and willing to see the establishment of a Palestinian state in the temporary borders of 1967.” They are aware this means they “will have to adopt a path that could lead them far from their original goals” – and towards a long-term peace based on compromise. The rejectionists on both sides – from Mahmoud Ahmadinejadh to Bibi Netanyahu – would then be marginalised. It is the only path that could yet end in peace – but it is the Israeli government who refused to choose it. Halevy explains: “Israel, for reasons of its own, did not want to turn the ceasefire into the start of a diplomatic process with Hamas.
MORE

...
That overly simplistic piece tonight? I was so disappointed.





230 Killed, 388 Wounded in 100 Israeli Air strikes on Gaza; Challenge for US, Obama


Sistani Calls for Action on Behalf of Gaza;
Third Day of Bombardment; Gaza Hospitals Overwhelmed



An Eye For An Eye Makes The Whole World Blind

You're an Idea Man Not a Yes Man

Gaza Update: The Hospitals Are Full and More

War Without End?

The Third Rail of “Israel” Cools in the Blogosphere

Putting Israel’s “Perspective” in Perspective

Dov Weisglass' comment was that the Gazans were being "put on a diet." Turns out it's a starvation diet: Oxfam says only 137 trucks of food were allowed into the Gaza Strip this November -- an average of 4.5 per day, compared to the December 2005 average of 564 per day. Gaza has nearly 1.5 million people crammed into 139 square miles -- 137 food trucks wouldn't begin to cover their needs, especially since the inhabitants aren't allowed to go outside of Gaza to seek work. The UN says poverty there has reached an "unprecedented level."
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Drip, Drip, Drip


Meanwhile, as rallies seeking al-Zaidi's release continue, he received a judge in his jail cell rather than a courtroom today, pleading guilty to the charges.

THE Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at United States President George W. Bush has appeared before a judge in his jail cell because he is too injured to appear in a courtroom, his brother says.

The al-Zaidi family went to Baghdad's Central Criminal Court expecting to attend a hearing, his brother, Dhargham, said.

He said the family was told that the investigative judge went to see al-Zaidi in jail, and to return in eight days, Associated Press has reported.

"That means my brother was severely beaten and they fear that his appearance could trigger anger at the court," Dhargham said.
MORE


Bush issues health care 'conscience' rule

The Bush administration today issued a sweeping new regulation that protects a broad range of health care workers -- from doctors to janitors -- who refuse to participate in providing services that they believe violates their personal, moral or religious beliefs.

The controversial rule empowers federal health officials to cut off federal funding for any state or local government, hospital, clinic, health plan, doctors' office or other entity if they do not accommodate employees who exercise their "right of conscience." It would apply to more than 584,000 health care facilities.

"Doctors and other health care providers should not be forced to choose between good professional standing and violating their conscience," Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said in a statement.

The regulation, which was issued just in time to take effect in the 30 days before the change of administrations, was sought by conservative groups, abortion opponents and others as necessary to safeguard workers from being fired, disciplined or penalized in other ways.




Praying For Realignment

It occurs to me that this may have been one of the lessons the political establishment took from the Clinton years. Gore had the presidency denied him in 2000 largely because the Democrats had alienated a significant enough slice of the left that it defected to a third party, making the outcome much closer than it should have been. They may see the way to permanent realignment to be the replacement of liberals (who are universally loathed among their friends) with the salt-of-the-earth, well organized and easy to appease social conservatives. It makes some sense. It would keep liberals rootless and powerless but they could continue to serve as the useful punching bag for the political establishment.

And the good news is that if they do manage to completely marginalize these pro-choice and pro-gay rights millstones (and perhaps the inconvenient civil liberties cranks as well) they would probably also be pushing some progressive economic policies with the help of the social conservatives --- which is exactly what the Religious Industrial Complex is promising will happen. Of course, that's mostly because the only economic policies available are progressive, but it still makes the RIC look very, very smart doesn't it?MORE
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Why Can't A Kiss Just Be a Kiss?

Poor James Franco. (And poor Sean Penn. But for the moment, poor James Franco.)
In the relentless publicity interviews he's been doing for his new movie, "Milk," there's plenty to ask about his performance as the neglected lover of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, the gay rights martyr. So what does every interviewer -- from David Letterman to the Philippine Daily Inquirer to public radio's Terry Gross -- want to discuss most, over and over and over?
The kissing.

Wasn't it really difficult to kiss another man?
Implied: Without throwing up, seeing as you're so obviously straight? What were you thinking as you kissed? Did you rehearse it? What was it liiiiiike?

Underlying the questions (and the answers) is this notion that a gay kissing scene must be the worst Hollywood job hazard that a male actor could face, including stunt work, extreme weather or sitting through five hours of special-effects makeup every day. We live comfortably, if strangely, in a pseudo-Sapphic era in which seemingly every college woman with a MySpace page has kissed another girl for the camera; but for men who kiss men, it's still the final frontier.

There's a whiff of discomfort of the Seinfeldian, "not-that-there's-anything-wrong-with-it" variety. It's a post-ironic, post-homophobic homophobia, the kind seen most weeks in "Saturday Night Live" sketches or in any Judd Apatow movie.

Judging from their interviews over the years, actors who have filmed scenes in which they have pointed a revolver at someone's head and pulled the trigger still think gay kissing is the grossest thing they've ever had to do for a movie. Franco has tried to walk a fine line of laughing along in such interviews, while pointing out that "Milk" is essentially a movie about fighting for acceptance. He's had to rehash the same kissing stories again and again:
Read more... )

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