March 5th, 2009
Bishop punishes mom for daughter's abortion
Brazilian to excommunicate her and doctors for allowing it
updated 37 minutes ago
RIO DE JANEIRO - A Roman Catholic archbishop says the abortion of twins carried by a 9-year-old girl who allegedly was raped by her stepfather means excommunication for the girl's mother and her doctors.
Despite the nature of the case, the church had to hold its line against abortion, Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho said in an interview aired Thursday by Globo television.
"The law of God is higher than any human laws," he said. "When a human law — that is, a law enacted by human legislators — is against the law of God, that law has no value. The adults who approved, who carried out this abortion have incurred excommunication."
Health Minister Jose Gomes Temporao rebuked the archbishop, saying, "I'm shocked by two facts: by what happened to the girl and by the position of the archbishop, who in saying he defends life puts another at risk."
Abortion is generally illegal in Brazil, which is home to more Catholics than any other nation. But the procedure is allowed when the mother's life is in danger, when the fetus has no chance of survival or in rape cases where the woman has not passed her 20th week of pregnancy.
Doctors said the girl was 15 weeks pregnant when the abortion was performed Wednesday in the northeastern city of Recife, where Sobrinho is archbishop. Health officials said the life of the girl — who weighs 80 pounds — was in danger.
The pregnancy was discovered last week when the girl fell ill and her mother took her to a clinic. The child then told officials she had been abused by her stepfather, who is in police custody.
A similar case in southern Brazil surfaced Thursday. Authorities in Rio Grande do Sul state told the O Globo newspaper that an 11-year-old girl allegedly raped by her stepfather is seven months pregnant.
The 51-year-old stepfather has been in jail since January while the girl is in a hospital for high risk pregnancies and apparently will not have an abortion.
February 28th, 2009
OTTAWA – The cause of gay refugees who flee persecution in Iran only to face harassment in Turkey has caught the attention of the federal immigration minister, who says Canada is willing to facilitate their resettlement here.
Jason Kenney wrote the Canadian office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to urge quick processing of their applications after a story appeared last month in the Toronto Star.
That story centred on Iranian Arsham Parsi, now a Toronto-based advocate whose "Iranian Queer Railroad" project tries to help gay and lesbians in legal limbo in Turkey reach Canada or the United States.
"I can't imagine more legitimate grounds for protection than folks who are facing potential execution in Iran for their sexuality," Kenney said in an interview. "These are people who are clearly in need of protection, and Canada has already received a number of gay and lesbian Iranian refugee claimants through the UNHCR, typically through Turkey."
Kenney suggested Canada had accepted a few dozen. His office could not provide a more precise number as this type of "persecution" is not specified for "government assisted refugees."
Parsi told the Star he recently helped secure refugee status from the UNHCR office for 45 Iranian gays, who were awaiting interviews at the Canadian and U.S. embassies.
Kenney said Turkey "deserves credit" for being a place of initial refuge for the asylum seekers, but added "it is not an ideal permanent settlement location, and a lot of them are stuck in pretty awkward circumstances while they're waiting for their applications for status to be processed."
Kenney's letter to the UNHCR says "homosexual Iranians who have been granted asylum in Turkey are subjected to persecution (random beatings, harassment, etc.) in the country of asylum, and that homosexual Iranians are in a uniquely precarious position."
Kenney told the Star more gay and lesbian Iranians could be accepted here under current targets.
"We have targets for both government-assisted and privately sponsored refugees that are set for different regions of the world and I believe that within those targets we could easily accommodate more of these folks as government-assisted refugees, which is how they would be if they're coming in through the UNHCR."
But Kenney said he cautioned their Canadian-based advocates they must ensure "these are legitimate claims."
The Immigration and Refugee Board has recently rejected what it says is a number of fraudulent claims based on sexual orientation.
Kenney also said Ottawa was looking "at ways to address the issue" of the low number of visa approvals for Iranians.
Canada has a "very awkward diplomatic relationship with Iran," he said, which makes it difficult for visa officers attempting to enter Iran under diplomatic passports. "It's a sensitive matter, and I don't want to say anything more."
Good for Canada.
February 27th, 2009
Is it time?
It seems to me that the current Constitution is being ignored now more than ever [and has been for several decades]. Most Americans are completely ignorant of it and are more concerned with what they consider 'pragmatic' solutions [solutions that are unconstitutional but do not break the law in a manner that bothers Americans]. So, my question is:
Is it time to call a new Constitutional convention with the purpose of severely overhauling our current or creating a new Constitution? Why? Why not?
Bonus Question: What would you specifically like changed/added to a new or revised Constitution?
February 26th, 2009
President Barack Obama charted a dramatic new course for the nation Thursday with a bold but contentious budget proposing higher taxes for the wealthy and the first steps toward guaranteed health care for all — accompanied by an astonishing $1.75 trillion federal deficit that would be nearly four times the highest in history.
Denouncing what he called the "dishonest accounting" of recent federal budgets, Obama unveiled his own $3.6 trillion blueprint for next year, a bold proposal that would transfer wealth from rich taxpayers to the middle class and the poor.
Congressional approval without major change is anything but sure. The plan is filled with political land mines including an initiative to combat global warming that would hit consumers with considerably higher utility bills. Other proposals would take on entrenched interests such as big farming, insurance companies and drug makers.
Obama blamed the expected federal deficit explosion on a "deep and destructive" recession and recent efforts to battle it including the Wall Street bailout and the just-passed $787 billion stimulus plan. The $1.75 trillion deficit estimate for this year is $250 billion more than projected just days ago because of proposed new spending for a fresh bailout for banks and other financial institutions.
As the nation digs out of the most serious economic crisis in decades, Obama said, "We will, each and every one of us, have to compromise on certain things we care about but which we simply cannot afford right now."
Signaling budget battles to come, Republicans were skeptical Obama was doing without much at all.
"We can't tax and spend our way to prosperity," said House GOP leader John Boehner of Ohio. "The era of big government is back, and Democrats are asking you to pay for it."
Obama plans to move aggressively toward rebalancing the tax system, extending a $400 tax credit for most workers — $800 for couples — while letting expire President George W. Bush's tax cuts for couples making more than $250,000 a year. That would raise the top income tax bracket from 35 percent to 39.6 percent for those taxpayers and raise their capital gains rate from 15 to 20 percent as well.
Thursday's 134-page budget submission, a nonbinding recommendation to Congress, says the plan would close the deficit to a a more reasonable — but still eye-popping — $533 billion after five years. That would still be higher than last year's record $455 billion deficit.
And the national debt would more than double by the end of the upcoming decade, raising worries that so much federal borrowing could drive up interest rates and erode the value of the dollar.
Also, to narrow the budget gap, Obama relies on rosier predictions of economic growth — including a 3.2 percent boost in the economy next year — than most private sector economists foresee.
There is already resistance from Democrats who are upset with the budget's plan to curb the ability of wealthier people to reduce their tax bills through deductions for mortgage interest, charitable contributions and state and local taxes.
That tax hike would raise $318 billion over the upcoming decade toward a down payment on Obama's high-priority universal health care plan. Cuts to the Medicare and Medicaid federal health programs would supply an additional $316 billion, but that still wouldn't provide enough money to guarantee coverage for all, and Obama wants Congress to come up with hundreds of billions of dollars in additional hard-to-raise revenues to pay for the rest.
Then there is the proposed clampdown on the Pentagon budget, which would get a 4 percent boost, to $534 billion next year, but would then get increases of 2 percent or less over the next several years. Domestic programs favored by Democrats would, on average, receive a 7 percent boost over regularly appropriated levels — even as many agencies are already swimming in cash from the just-enacted economic stimulus plan.
Taken together, Obama's plan contains so many difficult-to-digest ideas that it's virtually certain to be significantly redrafted during debates later this year.
"It's going to be a tough row to hoe, but he has large Democratic majorities and a lot of popular support and we're in times of crisis," said Robert Reischauer, president of the Urban Institute. "So his prospects of him getting much of what he is seeking, while not good, are higher than ... we've seen in the past."
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., predicted Congress would pass much of Obama's plan, though with significant revisions. For instance, he's unimpressed with a proposal to reduce payments to farming operations with sales above $500,000 per year and says the plan to curb tax deductions for the wealthy faces uncertain prospects because of opposition from lawmakers from high tax states and universities whose endowments have shrunk.
A plan to devote up to $250 billion to support as much as $750 billion in increased spending under the government's rescue program for banks and other financial institutions landed with a thud.
Republicans scoffed at the idea that Obama's plan calls for much sacrifice on the spending front, citing the big increases for many agencies. they also pointed to tax increases and hundreds of billions in revenues from a contentious proposal to auction off permits for carbon emissions in a bid to address global warming.
Obama and top aides emphasized that they didn't make the financial mess.
Said the president: "We cannot lose sight of the long-run challenges that our country faces and that threaten our economic health — specifically, the trillions of dollars of debt that we inherited, the rising costs of health care and the growing obligations of Social Security."
"For too long, our budget has not told the whole truth about how precious tax dollars are spent," he said. "Large sums have been left off the books, including the true cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. And that kind of dishonest accounting is not how you run your family budgets at home. It's not how your government should run its budgets either."
Among the many programs that would receive generous boosts are education and cancer research. The size of education Pell Grants would automatically increase every year by inflation plus 1 percent, while Obama promises to double cancer research over several years. He also wants to put the United States on a path to double foreign aid.
Obama's budget contains almost $1 trillion in tax hikes over 10 years on individuals making more than $200,000 and couples earning over $250,000. About $350 billion more would be raised through a variety of other hikes, including raising taxes on hedge-fund managers by taxing their compensation as income rather than at the 15 percent capital gains rate. Obama would also increase taxes on corporate income earned abroad.
Some $526 billion in revenue from carbon pollution permits would be used to extend the "Making Work Pay" tax credit of $400 for individuals and $800 for couples beyond 2010 as provided in the just-passed economic stimulus bill.
The budget would make permanent the expanded $2,500 tax credit for college expenses that was provided for two years in the just-passed economic stimulus bill. It also would renew most of the Bush tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003, and would permanently update the alternative minimum tax so that it would hit fewer middle- to upper-income taxpayers.
Obama's $634 billion head start on expanding health care could easily double as lawmakers flesh out details in coming months on how to provide medical coverage to all of the 48 million Americans now uninsured while also trying to slow increases in costs. Health care costs now total $2.4 trillion a year and keep rising even as the economy is shrinking.
Thursday's submission was an overview of a more comprehensive plan that will be submitted in April.
February 24th, 2009
You have probably already noticed our new homepage since we are going live as I write this. We have decided to give DF a much better look and feel than the old software was capable.
Our system (CrowdReport) is a seamless integration of Vbulletin and WordPress that allows us to share discussions in the same way that the old frontpage did, but it also gives us the opportunity to select any member created thread and publish it to the homepage. This way, the best content from the community is showcased in addition to the editorial provided by our tireless news team.
Please feel free to voice your comments. I realize that forum members can be grumpy about change, but we are deploying this system across all of our forums and so far members have been very happy!
Questions? Comments? Bugs? Please feel free to play around and let us know your thoughts.
February 21st, 2009
President Barack Obama wants to slash America's ballooning deficit in half by 2013 by cutting spending on the Iraq war, eliminating wasteful public programs and raising taxes on the wealthy, an administration official said on Saturday.
"The deficit this administration inherited was $1.3 trillion or 9.2 percent of GDP. By 2013, the end of the president's first term, the budget cuts the deficit to $533 billion or 3.0 percent of GDP," the official said on condition of anonymity.
"Most of the savings will come from winding down the war in Iraq, increased (tax) revenue from those making more than $250,000 a year, and savings from making government work more efficiently and eliminating programs that do not work," the official said.
Obama's administration is due to deliver the outline of its first budget on Thursday, for the 2010 fiscal year. It will reflect big increases in spending on public works that were part of the $787 billion economic recovery plan that Obama signed this week.
"Over time, the budget deficit will make it harder for our economy to grow and create jobs. That's why the president's budget for FY (fiscal year) 2010 puts us on the path to cut the deficit he inherited on January 20, 2009, in half by the end of his first term," the administration official told Reuters.
Earlier on Saturday, Obama said he had ordered the U.S. Treasury to implement tax cuts for 95 percent of Americans, fulfilling a campaign pledge he hopes will help jolt the economy out of recession.
The tax cuts are part of the economic recovery plan passed by the Democratic-controlled Congress over Republican opposition. The aim is to put more money in the pockets of Americans and stimulate the economy by increasing consumer spending.
"I'm pleased to announce that this morning the Treasury Department began directing employers to reduce the amount of taxes withheld from paychecks, meaning that by April 1st, a typical family will begin taking home at least $65 more every month," Obama said in his weekly radio address.
"Never before in our history has a tax cut taken effect faster or gone to so many hard-working Americans," he said.
With tens of thousands of Americans losing their jobs in the midst of a global economic meltdown, Obama has said fixing the U.S. economy is his top priority. He has acknowledged that his success or failure in that will define his presidency.
How much more Orwellian nonsense are we going to get from this guy? Obama has added $3.27 trillion dollars of debt in less than a month of office, every day he talks about the need for billions more to spend on this project or that project, and yet he expects people to believe he is going to have a surplus and reduce the deficit in half by 2013 (the year he leaves the White House)? Obama is a cruel joke being played on America.
February 21st, 2009
ScienceDaily (Feb. 21, 2009) — Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the American Legacy Foundation have estimated that truth®, the nations’ largest youth smoking prevention campaign, saved $1.9 billion or more in health care costs associated with tobacco use.
“The cost effectiveness of the truth® campaign has major tobacco policy implications,” said lead author, David Holtgrave, PhD, director of the Bloomberg School’s Institute for Global Tobacco Control and Chair of the Department of Health, Behavior and Society. “The campaign was previously shown to lead to far fewer youth initiating smoking. In the current paper, we now estimate that the campaign will avert future health care costs of roughly $1.9 billion and perhaps more, because youth who avoid smoking will avoid the negative health consequences of smoking. Even under our most pessimistic analysis, the cost per quality adjusted life year saved by the campaign is substantially below the cost of other major prevention interventions and therefore its expansion would be an excellent public health investment.”
Using standard methods of cost and cost-utility analysis, Holtgrave and colleagues compared the costs of the truth® campaign to the absence of the campaign. The American Legacy Foundation spent $324 million to implement and evaluate the truth® campaign. The authors have compared the cost of the program to its health care savings; they found that both base and optimistic case results indicate cost savings over and above the campaign’s initial costs. Even the most pessimistic case analyzed indicated that the intervention is cost effective to society.
Launched in 2000 by the American Legacy Foundation, the truth® campaign aims to capitalize on the desire of young people between the ages of 12 to 17 to be rebellious and independent.
“Studies like this further validate the evolving approach to youth public education we have applied since the campaign first launched in 2000,” said co-author, Cheryl G. Healton, DrPH, president and CEO of the American Legacy Foundation. “It is indeed gratifying to know that a growing body of research continues to prove that, even over time, the campaign remains remarkably relevant to teens’ lives and effective in promoting healthy, educated choices when it comes to tobacco use.”
The research was supported by the American Legacy Foundation.
This is why investing for the long term can be important, though politically saving money 40 years from now isn't a winner.
February 21st, 2009
Yepper, at least six (Louisiana, Alaska, Idaho, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas have indicated that they may reject part or all of the stimulus money due to the conditions attached (ya gotta give it to the people who need it). At least four of the six are mentioned as possible presidential candidates (Jindal, Perry, Sanford, Palin).
As they mount their high horses, proclaiming themselves as real fiscal conservatives, they know two things: their states need the funds but there's a rather nifty loophole that they never mention:
|Mr. [Representative James E.]Clyburn [S.C.]included a provision saying that if a governor did not agree in 45 days to accept the state’s allocation in the bill, a legislature could request the money.|
February 20th, 2009
An estimated 4 million Americans have lost their health insurance since the recession began, and as many as 14,000 people could be losing their health coverage every day, according to a report by liberal think tank Center for American Progress' Action Fund.
The report also claims at least half of the 4 million who lost their insurance coverage still are uninsured. Before the recession started there were an estimated 46 million Americans without health insurance. The center reported the new estimates Thursday in a conference call.
The recent rocky economic climate, however, has likely increased the number of uninsured at the rate of 14,000 a day, according to the center.
The report uses estimates from Urban Institute researchers that a 1 percentage point rise in the national unemployment rate causes 2.4 million people to lose employer-sponsored health coverage. Of those people, 1 million rely on Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program and 1.1 million end up uninsured.
Since data was last collected in the spring 2007, the unemployment rate has grown from 4.4 percent to 7.6 percent, and as a result, an estimated 3.5 million people have lost their health insurance and are now uninsured.
Not sure if the source is reliable, but if true it's an astonishing number.
February 20th, 2009
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- William Jackson was a slave in the home of Confederate president Jefferson Davis during the Civil War. It turns out he was also a spy for the Union Army, providing key secrets to the North about the Confederacy.
Jackson was Davis' house servant and personal coachman. He learned high-level details about Confederate battle plans and movements because Davis saw him as a "piece of furniture" -- not a human, according to Ken Dagler, author of "Black Dispatches," which explores espionage by America's slaves.
"Because of his role as a menial servant, he simply was ignored," Dagler said. "So Jefferson Davis would hold conversations with military and Confederate civilian officials in his presence."
Dagler has written extensively on the issue for the CIA's Center for the Study of Intelligence . Video Watch the stories of slaves as spies »
In late 1861, Jackson fled across enemy lines and was immediately debriefed by Union soldiers. Dagler said Jackson provided information about supply routes and military strategy.
"In Jackson's case, what he did was ... present some of the current issues that were affecting the Confederacy that you could not read about in the local press that was being passed back and forth across local lines. He actually had some feel for the issues of supply problems," Dagler said.
Jackson and other slaves' heroic efforts have been a forgotten legacy of the war -- lost amid the nation's racially charged past and the heaps of information about the war's historic battles. But historians over the last few decades have been taking an interest in the sacrifice of African-Americans during those war years.
Jackson's espionage is mentioned in a letter from a general to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Maj. Gen. Irvin McDowell refers to "Jeff Davis' coachman" as the source of information about Confederate deployments. Video Watch grandson of slaves: "They call me Little Man" »
Dagler said slaves who served as spies were able to collect incredibly detailed information, in large part because of their tradition of oral history. Because Southern laws prevented blacks from learning how to read and write, he said, the slave spies listened intently to minute details and memorized them.
"What the Union officers found very quickly with those who crossed the line ... was that if you talked to them, they remembered a great more in the way of details and specifics than the average person ... because again they relied totally on their memory as opposed to any written records," he said.
Jackson wasn't the only spy. There were hundreds of them. In some cases, the slaves made it to the North, only to return to the South to risk being hanged. One Union general wrote that he counted on black spies in Tennessee because "no white man had the pluck to do it."
No one was better than Robert Smalls, a slave who guided vital supply ships in and out of Charleston Harbor in South Carolina. He eventually escaped and provided the Union with "a turning of the forces in Charleston Harbor," according to an annual report of the Navy secretary to President Lincoln.
"A debriefing of him gave ... the Union force there the entire fortification scheme for the interior harbor," Dagler said.
One of the most iconic spies was Harriet Tubman, who ran the Underground Railroad, bringing slaves to the North. In 1863, she was asked by the Union to help with espionage in South Carolina. She picked former slaves from the region for an espionage ring and led many of the spy expeditions herself.
"The height of her intelligence involvement occurred late in 1863 when she actually led a raid into South Carolina," Dagler said. "In addition to the destruction of millions of dollars of property, she brought out over 800 slaves back into freedom in the North."
As the nation marks Black History Month in February, Dagler said that history should include the sacrifices of the African-Americans who risked their lives for their nation. Many paid the ultimate sacrifice.
"They were all over the place, and no one [in the South] considered them to be of any value. Consequently, they heard and saw virtually everything done by their masters, who were the decision-makers," Dagler said.
Whatever happened to William Jackson, the spy in Jefferson Davis's house?
Unfortunately, that remains a great unknown.
"He simply disappeared from history, as so many of them have."
Kind of ironic that the bigotry of southern leaders may have played a role in their downfall.