Monday, August 31, 2009
Daily Presidential Tracking Poll
Monday, August 31, 2009
The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Monday shows that 30% of the nation's voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -11 (see trends).
Twenty-nine percent (29%) are confident that Congress knows what it’s doing when it comes to the economy. If Americans could vote to keep or replace the entire Congress, 57% would throw out all the legislators and start over again. Just 25% would vote to keep the Congress.
The Presidential Approval Index is calculated by subtracting the number who Strongly Disapprove from the number who Strongly Approve. It is updated daily at 9:30 a.m. Eastern (sign up for free daily e-mail update). Updates also available on Twitter and Facebook.
Overall, 46% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President's performance. That’s the lowest level of total approval yet measured for Obama. Fifty-three percent (53%) now disapprove. Eighty-one percent (81%) of Democrats approve while 83% of Republicans disapprove. As for those not affiliated with either major party, 66% disapprove.
See other recent demographic highlights from the tracking polls.
The articles have been posted on each and every power grab. Next, Obama will try to expand the federal court system.
August 28, 2009
Bill would give president emergency control of Internet
by Declan McCullagh
Internet companies and civil liberties groups were alarmed this spring when a U.S. Senate bill proposed handing the White House the power to disconnect private-sector computers from the Internet.
They're not much happier about a revised version that aides to Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, have spent months drafting behind closed doors. CNET News has obtained a copy of the 55-page draft (excerpt), which still appears to permit the president to seize temporary control of private-sector networks during a so-called cybersecurity emergency.
The new version would allow the president to "declare a cybersecurity emergency" relating to "non-governmental" computer networks and do what's necessary to respond to the threat. Other sections of the proposal include a federal certification program for "cybersecurity professionals," and a requirement that certain computer systems and networks in the private sector be managed by people who have been awarded that license.
"I think the redraft, while improved, remains troubling due to its vagueness," said Larry Clinton, president of the Internet Security Alliance, which counts representatives of Verizon, Verisign, Nortel, and Carnegie Mellon University on its board. "It is unclear what authority Sen. Rockefeller thinks is necessary over the private sector. Unless this is clarified, we cannot properly analyze, let alone support the bill."
Representatives of other large Internet and telecommunications companies expressed concerns about the bill in a teleconference with Rockefeller's aides this week, but were not immediately available for interviews on Thursday.
A spokesman for Rockefeller also declined to comment on the record Thursday, saying that many people were unavailable because of the summer recess. A Senate source familiar with the bill compared the president's power to take control of portions of the Internet to what President Bush did when grounding all aircraft on Sept. 11, 2001. The source said that one primary concern was the electrical grid, and what would happen if it were attacked from a broadband connection.
When Rockefeller, the chairman of the Senate Commerce committee, and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) introduced the original bill in April, they claimed it was vital to protect national cybersecurity. "We must protect our critical infrastructure at all costs--from our water to our electricity, to banking, traffic lights and electronic health records," Rockefeller said.
The Rockefeller proposal plays out against a broader concern in Washington, D.C., about the government's role in cybersecurity. In May, President Obama acknowledged that the government is "not as prepared" as it should be to respond to disruptions and announced that a new cybersecurity coordinator position would be created inside the White House staff. Three months later, that post remains empty, one top cybersecurity aide has quit, and some wags have begun to wonder why a government that receives failing marks on cybersecurity should be trusted to instruct the private sector what to do.
Rockefeller's revised legislation seeks to reshuffle the way the federal government addresses the topic. It requires a "cybersecurity workforce plan" from every federal agency, a "dashboard" pilot project, measurements of hiring effectiveness, and the implementation of a "comprehensive national cybersecurity strategy" in six months--even though its mandatory legal review will take a year to complete.
The privacy implications of sweeping changes implemented before the legal review is finished worry Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco. "As soon as you're saying that the federal government is going to be exercising this kind of power over private networks, it's going to be a really big issue," he says.
Probably the most controversial language begins in Section 201, which permits the president to "direct the national response to the cyber threat" if necessary for "the national defense and security." The White House is supposed to engage in "periodic mapping" of private networks deemed to be critical, and those companies "shall share" requested information with the federal government. ("Cyber" is defined as anything having to do with the Internet, telecommunications, computers, or computer networks.)
So let's get this straight - when Karl Rove was in the White House, everything he did was political. From the firing of the federal attorneys to the change in White House recipies - all were political. When Bush was president, everytime he mentioned 9/11, it was political. Yet Obama would have control of the internet and ... it's not political.
"The language has changed but it doesn't contain any real additional limits," EFF's Tien says. "It simply switches the more direct and obvious language they had originally to the more ambiguous (version)...The designation of what is a critical infrastructure system or network as far as I can tell has no specific process. There's no provision for any administrative process or review. That's where the problems seem to start. And then you have the amorphous powers that go along with it."
Translation: If your company is deemed "critical," a new set of regulations kick in involving who you can hire, what information you must disclose, and when the government would exercise control over your computers or network.
The Internet Security Alliance's Clinton adds that his group is "supportive of increased federal involvement to enhance cyber security, but we believe that the wrong approach, as embodied in this bill as introduced, will be counterproductive both from an national economic and national secuity perspective."
Key Democrat suggests party moderates 'brain dead'
Aug 27, 2009
By ERICA WERNER
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - A key House liberal suggested Thursday that party moderates who've pushed for changes in health care legislation are "brain dead" and out for insurance company campaign donations.
Moderate Blue Dog Democrats "just want to cause trouble," said Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., who heads the health subcommittee on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.
"They're for the most part, I hate to say, brain dead, but they're just looking to raise money from insurance companies and promote a right-wing agenda that is not really very useful in this whole process," Stark told reporters on a conference call.
A spokeswoman for the Blue Dog caucus did not immediately respond to an e-mail request for comment.
Thursday's call was being hosted by the liberal group Campaign for America's Future to release a report making the case for a strong new public health insurance plan to compete with private insurers as part of any health overhaul legislation.
Health care legislation introduced in the House included a public plan with payment rates to providers modeled on Medicare rates. Doctors and hospitals say those rates are too low, but Stark and other liberals support the model, saying it would result in lower costs to the public.
Stark's Ways and Means Committee passed a version of the bill with Medicare-style rates. But in the Energy and Commerce Committee, Blue Dogs pushed successfully for changes that would have a public plan with payment rates negotiated by the Health and Human Services secretary.
The Blue Dogs said this would mean fairer rates to providers but Stark and others say it would be more expensive to the government and costlier to patients.
The final form of the public plan in the House bill remains to be determined because versions passed by the Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and Labor committees must be reconciled once Congress returns from its summer recess after Labor Day.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
This coming Congressional election will be very interesting, for everyone.
Aug. 30, 2009
Las Vegas Review-Journal
Enough is enough, Harry
Stop the childish bullying
This newspaper traces its roots to before Las Vegas was Las Vegas.
We've seen cattle ranches give way to railroads. We chronicled the construction of Hoover Dam. We reported on the first day of legalized gambling. The first hospital. The first school. The first church. We survived the mob, Howard Hughes, the Great Depression, several recessions, two world wars, dozens of news competitors and any number of two-bit politicians who couldn't stand scrutiny, much less criticism.
We're still here doing what we do for the people of Las Vegas and Nevada. So, let me assure you, if we weathered all of that, we can damn sure outlast the bully threats of Sen. Harry Reid.
On Wednesday, before he addressed a Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Reid joined the chamber's board members for a meet-'n'-greet and a photo. One of the last in line was the Review-Journal's director of advertising, Bob Brown, a hard-working Nevadan who toils every day on behalf of advertisers. He has nothing to do with news coverage or the opinion pages of the Review-Journal.
Yet, as Bob shook hands with our senior U.S. senator in what should have been nothing but a gracious business setting, Reid said: "I hope you go out of business."
Later, in his public speech, Reid said he wanted to let everyone know that he wants the Review-Journal to continue selling advertising because the Las Vegas Sun is delivered inside the Review-Journal.
Such behavior cannot go unchallenged.
You could call Reid's remark ugly and be right. It certainly was boorish. Asinine? That goes without saying.
But to fully capture the magnitude of Reid's remark (and to stop him from doing the same thing to others) it must be called what it was -- a full-on threat perpetrated by a bully who has forgotten that he was elected to office to protect Nevadans, not sound like he's shaking them down.
No citizen should expect this kind of behavior from a U.S. senator. It is certainly not becoming of a man who is the majority leader in the U.S. Senate. And it absolutely is not what anyone would expect from a man who now asks Nevadans to send him back to the Senate for a fifth term.
If he thinks he can push the state's largest newspaper around by exacting some kind of economic punishment in retaliation for not seeing eye to eye with him on matters of politics, I can only imagine how he pressures businesses and individuals who don't have the wherewithal of the Review-Journal.
For the sake of all who live and work in Nevada, we can't let this bully behavior pass without calling out Sen. Reid. If he'll try it with the Review-Journal, you can bet that he's tried it with others. So today, we serve notice on Sen. Reid that this creepy tactic will not be tolerated.
We won't allow you to bully us. And if you try it with anyone else, count on going through us first.
That's a promise, not a threat.
And it's a promise to our readers, not to you, Sen. Reid.
By Daniel Bates
26th August 2009
The Daily Mail
After weeks of excruciating pain, Mark Wattson was understandably relieved to have his appendix taken out.
Doctors told him the operation was a success and he was sent home.
But only a month later the 35-year-old collapsed in agony and had to be taken back to Great Western Hospital in Swindon by ambulance.
To his shock, surgeons from the same team told him that not only was his appendix still inside him, but it had ruptured - a potentially fatal complication.
In a second operation it was finally removed, leaving Mr Wattson fearing another organ might have been taken out during the first procedure.
The blunder has left Mr Wattson jobless, as bosses at the shop where he worked did not believe his story and sacked him.
Mr Wattson told of the moment he realised there had been a serious mistake.
'I was lying on a stretcher in terrible pain and a doctor came up to me and said that my appendix had burst,' he said.
'I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I told these people I had my appendix out just four weeks earlier but there it was on the scanner screen for all to see.
'I thought, "What the hell did they slice me open for in the first place?"
'I feel that if the surgery had been done correctly in the first place I wouldn't be in the mess I am today. I'm disgusted by the whole experience.'
Mr Wattson first went under the knife on July 7 after experiencing severe abdominal pain for several weeks. He was discharged but exactly a month later he had to dial 999 after collapsing in agony.
Following the second operation his incision became infected and he was admitted to hospital for a third time for treatment.
He said: 'I had a temporary job at a sports shop but when I took in two medical certificates saying I had my appendix out twice they didn't believe me.
'Now I'm helpless. I can't go out and find a job, I can't go to interviews, I can barely walk and am in constant pain. Before the first operation they told me I had to have my appendix removed and when I woke up afterwards they said it had been a complete success.
'But then I keeled over in agony one month later and when they did some tests at the hospital we could see the appendix was still there on the scans.
'As far as I was aware they took my appendix out and no one told me any different.
'I have no idea what they did take out, but I want to find out what went wrong.'
A spokesman for Great Western Hospital confirmed that a representative had met Mr Wattson and that an investigation had been started.
He was unable to confirm what, if anything, was removed in the first operation.
Paul Gearing, deputy general manager for general surgery at Great Western Hospital NHS Trust, said: 'We are unable to comment on individual cases.
'However, we would like to apologise if Mr Wattson felt dissatisfied with the care he received at Great Western Hospital.'
Saturday, August 29, 2009
By Jenny Hope and Nick Mcdermott
The Daily Mail
26th August 2009
Maternity crisis: Women are giving birth in lifts and even toilets.
Thousands of women are having to give birth outside maternity wards because of a lack of midwives and hospital beds.
The lives of mothers and babies are being put at risk as births in locations ranging from lifts to toilets - even a caravan - went up 15 per cent last year to almost 4,000.
Health chiefs admit a lack of maternity beds is partly to blame for the crisis, with hundreds of women in labour being turned away from hospitals because they are full.
Latest figures show that over the past two years there were at least:
63 births in ambulances and 608 in transit to hospitals;
117 births in A&E departments, four in minor injury units and two in medical assessment areas;
115 births on other hospital wards and 36 in other unspecified areas including corridors;
399 in parts of maternity units other than labour beds, including postnatal and antenatal wards and reception areas.
Additionally, overstretched maternity units shut their doors to any more women in labour on 553 occasions last year.
Babies were born in offices, lifts, toilets and a caravan, according to the Freedom of Information data for 2007 and 2008 from 117 out of 147 trusts which provide maternity services.
One woman gave birth in a lift while being transferred to a labour ward from A&E while another gave birth in a corridor, said East Cheshire NHS Trust.
Others said women had to give birth on the wards - rather than in their own maternity room - because the delivery suites were full.
Tory health spokesman Andrew Lansley, who obtained the figures, said Labour had cut maternity beds by 2,340, or 22 per cent, since 1997. At the same time birth rates have been rising sharply - up 20 per cent in some areas.
Mr Lansley said: 'New mothers should not be being put through the trauma of having to give birth in such inappropriate places.
'While some will be unavoidable emergencies, it is extremely distressing for them and their families to be denied a labour bed because their maternity unit is full.
'It shows the incredible waste that has taken place that mothers are getting this sort of sub-standard treatment despite Gordon Brown's tripling of spending on the NHS.
'Labour have let down mothers by cutting the number of maternity beds and by shutting down maternity units.'
The NHS employs the equivalent of around 25,000 full-time midwives in England, but the Government has promised to recruit 3,400 more.
[And in any government run health program, you would expect to find a larger number of midwives, to keep women out of the hospital and free up the beds for people with ruptured appendixes.]
However, the Royal College of Midwives estimates at least 5,000 more are needed to provide the quality of service pledged in the Government's blueprint for maternity services, Maternity Matters.
At the same time almost half of all midwives are set to retire in the next decade.
Jon Skewes, a director at the Royal College of Midwives, said: 'The rise in the number of births in other than a designated labour bed is a concern. We would want to see the detail behind these figures to look at why this is happening.
'There is no doubt that maternity services are stretched, and that midwives are working harder and harder to provide good quality care. However, we know the Government is putting more money into the service.
'The key now is to make sure this money is spent by the people controlling the purse strings at a local level.'
Care services minister Phil Hope said: 'The number of maternity beds in the NHS reflects the number of women wanting to give birth in hospital. Giving birth can be unpredictableand it is difficult to plan for the exact time and place of every birth.
'Local health services have plans to ensure high quality, personal care with greater choice over place of birth and care provided by a named midwife.
'We recognise that some parts of the country face particular challenges due to the rising birth rate and that is why last year we pledged to increase funding for maternity by £330million over three years.
'We now have more maternity staff than ever before and we have already met our target to recruit 1,000 extra midwives by September.'
Case study: I gave birth in a car
Pregnant Linda Corbett, 33, was turned away from one hospital and gave birth in a car as she dashed to another.
Her husband Chris, 39, delivered their daughter Iona in the back seat while her father raced to the hospital at 70mph.
'I was really scared but I had to hold it together as I was the only one who knew the way to the hospital,' she said.
Fighting start: Linda and Chris Corbett with daughter Iona who was born in the back of a car
'The baby was born just as we entered the car park.' Mrs Corbett, pictured, was due to give birth at her Brighton home in June last year but when she phoned the Royal Sussex County Hospital after her contractions started she was told the maternity unit was too busy to send a midwife to her.
When she phoned back later, she was told the unit was full and she would have to go to another hospital. Fifteen minutes later she gave birth.
She said: 'We had such a happy ending but it could have been a disaster.'
Dire Report Says 50 Percent Infection Rate, Up to 90,000 Deaths Possible This Flu Season From H1N1
By BRIAN HARTMAN, SARAH HERNDON and LEE FERRAN
Aug. 25, 2009 —
Up to half of the population of the U.S. could come down with the swine flu and 90,000 could die this season, according to a dire report from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
The report, which claims as many as 1.8 million people could end up in the hospital seeking treatment for the H1N1 virus, comes as government officials push drug companies to make a vaccine available next month.
"It's a plausible scenario that we need to be prepared for," said Marty Cetron, the Center for Disease Control's director of the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine.
The report says that under a worst-case scenario, between 60 and 120 million Americans could get sick with the swine flu and another 30 million could contract the virus but not show symptoms. Between 30,000 and 90,000 could die -- more than twice the annual average of deaths associated with the seasonal flu. Those deaths generally occur in people older than 65.
The swine flu is "unusual" however, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, because it tends to affect children and young adults more harshly than others and "hasn't yet affected seniors."
The report says the skyrocketing infections will peak on Oct. 15 -- the exact date a vaccine is expected to be delivered. The White House advisors suggest backing up the vaccine date by a full month -- meaning a vaccine and dosage that is still being tested would be used.
"Trying to rush in with an unknown, with an untested quantity of vaccine doesn't appeal to me at all," said Vanderbilt University's William Schaffner.
The council recommended that manufacturers begin to package the vaccine so that it could be used by those that are at high risk in September. All five manufacturers have already been asked by the government to bottle the vaccine when it's ready.
But health officials announced a delay in the vaccine production last week. Originally, the government expected 120 million doses to be available on Oct. 15, but it now estimates there will only be 45 million, with 20 million more each week through December.
Schools Take Precautions
The report calls the H1N1 virus a "serious threat to our nation and the world."
"We're going to have people hospitalized and we will, unfortunately, have more deaths," Sebelius said.
Many swine flu experts view the numbers as reasonable.
"This looks like reasonable estimates and consistent with how pandemic viruses act," said Greg Poland of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
"My reaction is that the numbers, although scary, may be quite accurate," said Joan Nichols of the University of Texas, Galveston.
But others are more skeptical.
"These speculations have no firm scientific basis, only a historical precedent from almost a 100 years ago and epidemiologic data from recent circulating virus patterns," said UCLA's Peter Katona. "Viruses have a mind of their own, and we will have to just see what happens."
Many colleges are taking steps to prepare their students for a significant spread.
At universities in Louisiana, Colorado, Tennessee and Texas, sick students are being kept in their rooms and given special surgical masks and told not to kiss.
[Is this like abstinence?]
At the University of Kansas 47 students are already sick with a flu, but it has not yet been cofirmed if it was the H1N1 strain.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Listen to her by clicking the link:
Commenting on something Rush Limbaugh may have said (that Limbaugh hopes HE fails, refering to Obama)
If the president, your commander in chief fails, America fails. Now, when a Senator says that this will be his Waterloo, and we all know what happened at Waterloo, then we have him and he fails. Do we want a failed state called the United States. So remember they are spreading fear and they are trying to see that the first president who looks like me fails. Now just understand whats at the bottom line. We just got 38 hours ago, I just got back from, we were in Beijing China, Hong Kong China, we were in Taiwan, we were in Guam, we were all over the Far East, and I want you to know that people look at the United States as a country that has changed its way, and has elected someone from Kenya and Kansas, I'll put it like that.
And they are saying we thought you would never do that. So we don't want this young man, and he just turned 48, we want him to succeed because when he succeeds we regain our status, we regain our status.
It was just mentioned to me, by our esteemed speaker, did anyone say anything about the Cuban health system. And let me tell you, before you say he's co ... You need to go down there and see what Fidel castro put in place. And I want you to know you can think whatever you want to about Fidel Castro but he was one of the brightest leaders I have ever met, and you know, the Cuban Revolution that kicked out the wealthy, Che Guevera did that, and then after that they took over they went out into the population to find someone who could lead this new nation and they found, we'll just leave it there, an attorney by the name of Fidel Castro.
Every chance she had she made it racial.
Wall Street Journal
The Absent-Minded Chairman
Charlie Rangel wins the personal lottery.
When normal people happen to "find" their own money, it might mean a twenty left in a winter coat, or discovering change beneath the sofa cushions. But if you're Charlie Rangel, it means doubling your net worth.
Earlier this month the Chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee "amended" his 2007 financial disclosure form—to the tune of more than a half-million dollars in previously unreported assets and income. That number may be as high as $780,000, because Congress's ethics rules only require the Members to report their finances within broad ranges. This voyage of personal financial discovery brings Mr. Rangel's net worth for 2007 to somewhere between $1.028 million and $2.495 million, while his previous statement came in at $516,015 and $1.316 million.
When you're a powerful Congressman and working diligently to increase tax rates to pay for President Obama's health-care plan, we suppose it's easy to lose track of one of your checking accounts. That would be the one at the federal credit union with a balance somewhere between $250,001 and maybe as high as $500,000. And when you're crunched for time and pulling together bills to pass in a rush, we guess, too, that you might overlook several other investment accounts, even if some of them are sizable, such as the ones Mr. Rangel missed at JP Morgan, Merrill Lynch, Oppenheimer and BlackRock.
Oh, and those vacant properties in Glassboro, in southern Jersey? Everybody in Manhattan tries not to think much about New Jersey, so those lots and their as-much-as-$15,000 value must also have slipped down the memory hole. (The New York Post reported yesterday that Mr. Rangel failed to pay property taxes for two of the lots, according to the county clerk's office.)
The Chairman probably isn't doing a lot of dining at KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell or Long John Silver's, either, which may explain why he didn't disclose the $1,001 to $15,000 in stock he owns in Yum Brands, the conglomerate that runs those chain restaurants. Compared to his undisclosed portfolio stake in PepsiCo—$15,001 to $50,000—that's practically a rounding error.
All lawmakers amend their financial reports from time to time, though rarely are the errors this extensive. Via email, a Rangel spokesman declined to offer details about how the errors occurred, noting that "Once the Ethics Committee completes its work, then we can answer questions in more detail." He added that Mr. Rangel is now "confident that his records have been subjected to an exhaustive and complete review, and that the amendments accurately reflect his financial interests."
Among other issues, Mr. Rangel is currently under investigation regarding his use of four rent-stabilized apartments at New York City's tony Lenox Terrace and soliciting donations with his official letterhead for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College of New York, which was itself built with a $1.9 million earmark. Yet another part of the probe is his failure to report $75,000 in income from a rental villa at the beachfront Punta Cana Yacht Club, in the Dominican Republic.
Mr. Rangel blamed that last one on the language barrier because he doesn't speak Spanish. We can only imagine what language he speaks with his accountants and tax attorneys.
Is there anything consistent when you openly attack policies.
You might think that it shows you examine, are introspective, reflective ...
Not really. In our world yes, but not in all worlds.
If one is correct, one does not need to change course. This simply proves that what we have done in the past is wrong and everything that has been leveled at the US was correct. It undermines.
But that is ok I suppose, as long as we ...
I would ask that soldiers or military men do what they are trained for - and do not suddenly put on the cloak of the Great Warm Fuzzy Giver.
Ironic - he argues Americans don't listen - we do, and that is why we are intent on waging an unrlenting war against Islamo facism.
Military chief seeks new plan to woo Muslims
Mullen says actions, not words, needed to erase 'arrogant Americans' label
The New York Times
August 28, 2009
WASHINGTON - The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has written a searing critique of government efforts at “strategic communication” with the Muslim world, saying that no amount of public relations will establish credibility if American behavior overseas is perceived as arrogant, uncaring or insulting.
The critique by the chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, comes as the United States is widely believed to be losing ground in the war of ideas against extremist Islamist ideology. The issue is particularly relevant as the Obama administration orders fresh efforts to counter militant propaganda, part of its broader strategy to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“To put it simply, we need to worry a lot less about how to communicate our actions and much more about what our actions communicate,” Admiral Mullen wrote in the critique, an essay to be published Friday by Joint Force Quarterly, an official military journal.
“I would argue that most strategic communication problems are not communication problems at all,” he wrote. “They are policy and execution problems. Each time we fail to live up to our values or don’t follow up on a promise, we look more and more like the arrogant Americans the enemy claims we are.”
While President Obama has sought to differentiate himself from his predecessor, George W. Bush, in the eyes of the Muslim world — including through a widely praised speech in Egypt on June 4 — the perception of America as an arrogant oppressor has not changed noticeably, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, where United States forces remain engaged in war, and in Pakistan, where American-launched missiles aimed at militants from the Taliban and Al Qaeda have killed civilians.
Last week, during a visit to Pakistan by Richard C. Holbrooke, Mr. Obama’s special envoy, Pakistanis told his entourage that America was widely despised in their country because, they said, it was obsessed with finding and killing Osama bin Laden to avenge the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
American messages 'lack credibility'Admiral Mullen expressed concern over a trend to create entirely new government and military organizations to manage a broad public relations effort to counter anti-Americanism, which he said had allowed strategic communication to become a series of bureaucracies rather than a way to combat extremist ideology.
He also challenged a popular perception that Al Qaeda operates from primitive hide-outs and still wins the propaganda war against the United States. “The problem isn’t that we are bad at communicating or being outdone by men in caves,” Admiral Mullen wrote. “Most of them aren’t even in caves. The Taliban and Al Qaeda live largely among the people. They intimidate and control and communicate from within, not from the sidelines.”
American messages to counter extremist information campaigns “lack credibility, because we haven’t invested enough in building trust and relationships, and we haven’t always delivered on promises,” he wrote.
As a guide, Admiral Mullen cited American efforts at rebuilding Europe after World War II and then containing communism as examples of successes that did not depend on opinion polls or strategic communication plans. He cited more recent military relief missions after natural disasters as continuing that style of successful American efforts overseas.
“That’s the essence of good communication: having the right intent up front and letting our actions speak for themselves,” Admiral Mullen wrote. “We shouldn’t care if people don’t like us. That isn’t the goal. The goal is credibility. And we earn that over time.”
Members of Congress also have expressed concern about the government’s programs for strategic communication, public diplomacy and public affairs. Both the Senate and House Armed Services Committees have raised questions about the Pentagon’s programs for strategic communication — and about how money is spent on them.
The Senate Armed Services Committee issued a budget report last month noting that while “strategic communications and public diplomacy programs are important activities,” it was unclear whether these efforts were integrated within the Pentagon or across other departments and agencies. “Nor is the committee able to oversee adequately the funding for the multitude of programs,” the Senate report stated.
'Certain arrogance'Admiral Mullen did not single out specific government communications programs for criticism, but wrote that “there has been a certain arrogance to our ‘strat comm’ efforts.” He wrote that “good communications runs both ways.”
“It’s not about telling our story,” he stated. “We must also be better listeners.”
The Muslim community “is a subtle world we don’t fully — and don’t always attempt to — understand,” he wrote. “Only through a shared appreciation of the people’s culture, needs and hopes for the future can we hope ourselves to supplant the extremist narrative.”
He acknowledged that the term strategic communication was “probably here to stay,” but argued that it should be limited to describing “the process by which we integrate and coordinate” government communications programs.
Coinciding with the publication of his essay, Admiral Mullen released a YouTube video inviting questions from members of the armed services and the public on a range of national security and military personnel issues for an online discussion.
“The chairman intends to use social media to expand the two-way conversation with service members and the public,” said a statement announcing the interactive video question-and-answer session.
By Paula Newton
August 27, 2009
SANA'A, Yemen (CNN) -- It is midday and girls are flooding out of school, but Nujood Ali is not among them.
We find her at the family's two-room house in an impoverished suburb of the city where Nujood is angry, combative and yelling. Tension surrounds the home like a noose.
After much arguing with family members, Nujood finally grabs her veil and agrees to sit down with CNN. Her presence is grudging, although CNN had got permission in advance to see how the girl who rocked a nation by demanding a divorce was shaping up.
Nujood is very different from the girl we first met nearly two years ago. Then, there was no doubt the 10-year-old was every inch a child. She was the very portrait of innocence: A shy smile, a playful nature and a whimsical giggle.
That picture was very much at odds with the brutal story of abuse she endured as a child bride who fought for a divorce and is now still fighting.
Nujood says she remains relieved and gratified that her act of defiance -- which led to appearances at awards shows and on TV -- had paid off.
The story was supposed to end with the divorce and an innocent but determined girl allowed to fully embrace the childhood she fought so hard to keep.
Instead, there has been no fairytale ending for Nujood.
There was, though, a stunning transformation. Nujood went from being a victim and child bride to a portrait of courage and triumph. Her inspirational story was told and re-told around the world, but at home all was not well.
In the fall of 2008 Nujood was recognized as Glamour Magazine's Woman of the Year, alongside some of the world's most impressive women. She even attended the ceremony in New York and was applauded by women from Hillary Clinton to Nicole Kidman.
There is a tell-all book which is to be published in more than 20 languages, and the author says Nujood will receive a good portion of the royalties.
Nujood's strength was celebrated by complete strangers. But what did all the fame do for the one person it was meant to transform?
"There is no change at all since going on television. I hoped there was someone to help us, but we didn't find anyone to help us. It hasn't changed a thing. They said they were going to help me and no one has helped me. I wish I had never spoken to the media," Nujood says bitterly.
There was never going to be a fortune. Generous people have donated thousands so Nujood could go to a private school, but she refuses to attend, according to Shada Nasser, the human rights lawyer who took on the child's divorce case.
"I know Nujood was absent from the school. I spoke with her father and her family. And I ask them to control her and ask her to go every day to school. But they said, 'You know we don't have the money for the transportation. Don't have the money for the food,' " says Nasser.
She believes Nujood is being victimized by her own family because they believe Nujood's fame should bring them fortune.
Nujood's parents say they've received nothing, and in the meantime Nujood stews wondering out loud how everything turned out this way.
"I was happy I got divorced but I'm sad about the way it turned out after I went on television," she said adding that she feels like an outcast even among her family and friends.
Nujood was pulled out of school in early 2008 and married off by her own parents to a man she says was old and ugly. And yet, as a wife, Nujood was spared nothing.
"I didn't want to sleep with him but he forced me to, he hit me, insulted me" said Nujood. She said being married and living as a wife at such a young age was sheer torture.
Nujood described how she was beaten and raped and how, after just a few weeks of marriage, she turned to her family to try to escape the arrangement. But her parents told her they could not protect her, that she belonged to her husband now and had to accept her fate.
CNN tried to obtain comment from Nujood's husband and his family but they declined.
Nujood's parents, like many others in Yemen, struck a social bargain. More than half of all young Yemeni girls are married off before the age of 18, many times to older men, some with more than one wife.
It means the girls are no longer a financial or moral burden to their parents. But Nujood's parents say they did not expect Nujood's new husband to demand sex from his child bride.
To escape, Nujood hailed a taxi -- for the first time in her life -- to get across town to the central courthouse where she sat on a bench and demanded to see a judge.
After several hours, a judge finally went to see her. "And he asked me, 'what do you want' and I said 'I want a divorce' and he said 'you're married?' And I said 'yes.'" says Nujood.
Nujood's father and husband were arrested until the divorce hearing, and Nujood was put in the care of Nasser.
Indeed, it seems the judge had heard enough of the abuse to agree with Nujood that she should get her divorce.
But based on the principles of Shariah law, her husband was compensated, not prosecuted. Nujood was ordered to pay him more than $200 -- a huge amount in a country where the United Nations Development Programme says 15.7 percent of the population lives on less than $1 a day.
Khadije Al Salame is working to help Nujood get her life back. Now a Yemeni diplomat, 30 years ago she too was a child bride. But when she left her husband, she did not have to endure the publicity that now haunts Nujood.
She said: "It's good to talk about Nujood and to have her story come out, but the problem is it's too much pressure on her.
"She doesn't understand what's going on. She's a little girl and we have to understand as a media people that we should leave her alone now. If we really love Nujood then we should just let her go to school and continue with her life, because education is the most important thing for her."
To get her divorce, Nujood showed a character and strength not easily expressed by women in Yemen, let alone a 10-year-old child bride. But she will need to muster all that strength and more if she's to finally reclaim her life.
Nujood told us she thought the divorce would be the end of her struggle and she's still angry that it turned out to be just the beginning.
The subtext, not mentioned, is worth considering!
August 23, 2009
The New York Times
One of the major goals of health care reform is to cover the vast numbers of uninsured. But how vast, really, is that pool of people? Who are they? And how important is it to cover all or most of them?
Critics play down the seriousness of the problem by pointing out that the ranks of the uninsured include many people who have chosen to forgo coverage or are only temporarily uninsured: workers who could afford to pay but decline their employers’ coverage; the self-employed who choose not to pay for more expensive individual coverage; healthy young people who prefer not to buy insurance they may never need; people who are changing jobs; poor people who are eligible for Medicaid but have failed to enroll. And then there are the illegal immigrants, a favorite target of critics.
All that is true, to some degree. But the implication — that lack of insurance is no big deal and surely not worth spending a trillion dollars to fix — is not.
No matter how you slice the numbers, there are tens of millions of people without insurance, often for extended periods, and there is good evidence that lack of insurance is harmful to their health.
Scores of well-designed studies have shown that uninsured people are more likely than insured people to die prematurely, to have their cancers diagnosed too late, or to die from heart failure, a heart attack, a stroke or a severe injury. The Institute of Medicine estimated in 2004 that perhaps 18,000 deaths a year among adults could be attributed to lack of insurance.
The oft-voiced suggestion that the uninsured can always go to an emergency room also badly misunderstands what is happening. By the time they do go, many of these people are much sicker than they would have been had insurance given them access to routine and preventive care. Emergency rooms are costly, and if uninsured patients cannot pay for their care, the hospital or the government ends up footing the bill.
So how many uninsured people are out there, facing those risks? The most frequently cited estimate, 45.7 million in 2007, comes from an annual census survey. That number was down slightly from the year before, but given the financial crisis, it is almost certainly rising again.
Some or even many of those people may have only temporarily lost or given up coverage, but even that exposes them to medical and financial risk. And many millions go without insurance for extended periods.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in the Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 28 million people were uninsured for all of 2005 and 2006 and that 18.5 million of them were uninsured for at least four straight years. That does not sound like a “temporary” problem, and the picture today is almost certainly bleaker.
Various analyses have tried to decipher just who the uninsured are. These are the main conclusions, with the caveat that there is overlap in these numbers:
THE WORKING POOR The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that about two-thirds of the uninsured — 30 million people — earn less than twice the poverty level, or about $44,000 for a family of four. It also estimates that more than 80 percent of the uninsured come from families with full-time or part-time workers. They often cannot get coverage at work or find it too expensive to buy. They surely deserve a helping hand.
THE BETTER OFF About nine million uninsured people, according to census data, come from households with incomes of $75,000 or more. Critics say that is plenty of money for them to buy their own insurance. But many of these people live in “households” that are groups of low-wage roommates or extended families living together. Their combined incomes may reach $75,000, but they cannot pool their resources to buy an insurance policy to cover the whole group.
Still, about 4.7 million uninsured people live in families that earn four times the poverty level — or $88,000 for a family of four — the dividing line that many experts use to define who can afford to buy their own insurance.
Those people who could afford coverage but choose not to buy it ought to be compelled to join the system to lessen the possibility that a serious accident or illness might turn them into charity cases and to help subsidize the coverage of poorer and sicker Americans.
YOUNG ADULTS Some 13 million young adults between the ages of 19 and 29 lack coverage. These are not, for the most part, healthy young professionals making a sensible decision to pay their own minimal medical bills rather than buy insurance that they are unlikely to need. The Kaiser foundation estimates that only 10 percent are college graduates, and only 5 percent have incomes above $60,000 a year, while half have family incomes below $16,000 a year. Many of these younger people would be helped by reform bills that would provide subsidized coverage for the poor and an exchange where individuals can buy cheaper insurance than is now available.
ALREADY ELIGIBLE Some 11 million of the poorest people, mostly low-income children and their parents, are thought to be eligible for public insurance programs but have failed to enroll, either because they do not know they are eligible or are intimidated by the application process.
When such people arrive at an emergency room, they are usually enrolled in Medicaid, but meanwhile they have lost out on routine care that could have kept them out of the emergency room. They will presumably be scooped up by the mandate under reform bills that everyone obtain health insurance.
THE UNDERINSURED The Commonwealth Fund estimates that 25 million Americans who had health insurance in 2007 had woefully inadequate policies with high deductibles and restrictions that stuck them with large amounts of uncovered expenses. Many postponed needed treatments or went into debt to pay medical bills.
NON-CITIZENS Some 9.7 million of the uninsured are not citizens; of those, more than six million may be illegal immigrants, according to informed estimates. None of the pending bills would cover them.
If nothing is done to slow current trends, the number of people in this country without insurance or with inadequate coverage will continue to spiral upward. That would be a personal tragedy for many and a moral disgrace for the nation. It is also by no means cost-free. Any nation as rich as ours ought to guarantee health coverage for all of its residents.
I had the clipping from the paper sitting in a vast folder of interesting bits. I'd like to throw out a lot.
Los Angeles Times
March 5, 1997
Part A; Page 5; National Desk
OFFICIAL FUMBLE: It isn't often that a U.S. vice president gets to become the father of a new country, but Al Gore seemed to be doing just that when he signed a letter to the "Council of Khalistan" about goings-on in the state of Punjab. The letter came as a big surprise to India, which had been pretty certain that the United States considered the territory--where Sikhs want to create their own state--to be part of India. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns says the letter was an error by Gore's staff and the Clinton administration has apologized to India. "Sometimes we have a perfect foreign policy and sometimes we have minor mistakes," Burns said. "In this case there was a mistake. . . . Of course, we do not recognize a republic of Khalistan. We recognize the Punjab to be part of India."
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Another break for Obama
Burton defends new vacation
By POLITICO STAFF
After a mid-August trip to America's national parks and a weeklong vacation on Martha's Vineyard, President Obama plans ...
... to take a little more time away from the office next week. Obama will head to Camp David on Wednesday, Sept. 2, and stay through the weekend, White House spokesman Bill Burton told reporters in a Thursday briefing.
Joking that it may have been "wishful thinking" to suggest Obama's current trip out of Washington would coincide with a news-free week, Burton quipped that the president needs a "break from his vacation."
For the second time in just a few days, however, the deputy press secretary emphasized that Obama hasn't disengaged from his responsibilities.
"When you're president, you've always got that job," Burton said. On Monday, Burton pointed to former President George W. Bush's vacation habits to defend scattered criticism of Obama's August schedule.
"As I recall, the previous president [took] quite a bit of vacation himself, and I don't think anyone bemoaned that," Burton said.
Mr. Burton, your memory fails you. Liberals did nothing but attack Bush everytime he was on vacation - as if he was not involved, detached, unaware.
Khalid Sheikh Muhammad was responsible for the deaths of 3000 human beings. Despite the fact that September 11 is a National Day of Service, Muhammad intended it to be far more. The goal was not to murder 3000 human beings but closer to 50,000 human beings. The buildings held close to 25,000 each. Women, children, mothers, fathers, babies, grandfathers and grandmothers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives ... and they knew that and wanted to kill them all. They desired to kill them, they wanted to kill them, they planned on killing them and they delighted in their deaths. They were orgasmic afterward - those still in the US and around the world.
Blowing smoke in their face, telling them their children would be killed (which was fine for those who died and the tens of thousands they planned on killing), discharging a weapon in an adjacent room and leading someone to believe something would happen to them if they didn't tell WHAT THEY KNEW about terrorist activities that included the deaths of 3000 human beings and possible other actions that would take the lives of tens of thousands of other human beings.
I have absolutely no problem with that behavior.
I do have a problem with al qaida and their behavior.
It is Obama who is blowing smoke up our you know whats.
Blowing Smoke at Terrorists
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
By Terence P. Jeffrey
Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, according to the 9-11 commission report, was the mastermind of the Oct. 12, 2000, attack on the U.S.S. Cole that killed 17 U.S. sailors. Nashiri was also the target of an "unauthorized" CIA interrogation technique (that had not been legally vetted by the Justice Department) that is described in a May 7, 2004, CIA inspector general's report that was partially declassified by the Obama administration this week.
CIA officers blew smoke in Nashiri's face, according to the report, and they used cigars.
The IG's office described this smoke-blowing as one of several "unauthorized or undocumented techniques" it discovered had been used in isolated incidents by CIA employees interrogating high-level al-Qaida terrorists.
"An Agency (redacted phrase) interrogator admitted that, in December 2002, he and another (redacted phrase) smoked cigars and blew cigar smoke in al-Nashiri's face during the interrogation," said the IG report.
The IG, however, was unable to clearly establish that the smoke-blowing was intended to force Nashiri to cough up what he knew about al-Qaida's plans.
"The interrogator claimed they did this to 'cover the stench' in the room and to help keep the interrogators alert late at night," said the IG report. "This interrogator said he would not do this again based on 'perceived criticism.' Another agency interrogator admitted that he also smoked cigars during two sessions with al-Nashiri to mask the stench in the room. He claimed he did not deliberately force smoke into al-Nashiri's face." The interrogators learned their lesson: Don't blow smoke at terrorists.
In a more serious incident, a CIA interrogator reported that some unspecified interrogators told Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, the mastermind of the 9-11 attacks, that they would kill his children if America was attacked again.
"An experienced agency interrogator reported that the (redacted) interrogators threatened Khalid Sheikh Muhammad (redacted)," said the IG report. "According to this interrogator, the (redacted) interrogators said to Khalid Sheikh Muhammad that if anything else happens in the United States, 'We're going to kill your children.' According to the interrogator, one of the (redacted) interrogators said (redacted)."
An obvious question: What is the word or phrase in this passage that has been redacted in three instances from immediately before the word "interrogators"? All we know for sure is the government thinks it should remain secret.
Presumably there's a good reason: national security.
Having survived his exposure to second-hand smoke, Nashiri was exposed to the most serious unauthorized interrogation technique documented by the IG.
"Sometime between 28 December 2002 and 1 January 2003, the debriefer used an unloaded semi-automatic handgun as a prop to frighten al-Nashiri into disclosing information," said the IG report.
"After discussing this plan with (redacted) the debriefer entered the cell where al-Nashiri sat shackled and racked the handgun once or twice close to al-Nashiri's head.
"On what was probably the same day," the report continued, "the debriefer used a power drill to frighten al-Nashiri. With (redacted) consent, the debriefer entered the detainee's cell and revved the drill while the detainee stood naked and hooded. The debriefer did not touch al-Nashiri with the power drill."
Now, this truly idiotic behavior led the CIA's inspector general to conscientiously refer the case to the Criminal Division of the Justice Department — six years ago, immediately after it happened. The Justice Department declined to prosecute.
Other reported instances in which CIA interrogators used unauthorized techniques did not merit a separate IG investigation, according to the report. "These included the making of threats, blowing cigar smoke, employing certain stress positions, the use of a stiff brush on a detainee and stepping on a detainee's ankle shackles," said the report. "For all of the instances, the allegations were disputed or too ambiguous to reach any authoritative determination regarding the facts."
In the end, the IG dodged a definitive judgment on the productive value of the enhanced interrogation techniques that the Justice Department did approve for use by the CIA, saying that the "effectiveness of particular interrogation techniques in eliciting information that might not otherwise have been obtained cannot be so easily measured."
But CIA interrogations of detainees, according to the report, did uncover plots against the U.S., including plans to "loosen spikes in an attempt to derail a train," "blow up several gas stations to create panic and havoc," "hijack and fly an airplane into the tallest building in California in a west coast (sic) version of the World Trade Center attack" and "cut the lines of suspension bridges in New York in an effort to make them collapse."
In the eight years since Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaida has not managed to strike America again. As a reward for the CIA's part in this success, President Obama has now stripped the agency of its lead role in questioning terrorists and Attorney General Eric Holder has named a special prosecutor to investigate its interrogation practices.
Robert Novak wrote about Valerie Plame. Details of which were revealed to him by Richard Armitage.
Democrats for a year screamed that Karl Rove or Cheney or even Bush had committed treason or had violated the laws of the US and placed a CIA agents life in danger. They screamed and hissed (they do a lot of that). The hissing and spitting went on for the entire duration until Armitage was revealed to be the culprit. I am sure some far left loons still believe Bush put him up to it, but ...
Valerie Plame was a cubicle worker at CIA. Her past work was years behind her. She was known by many people to work for or be a part of CIA. She was not an agent, she was not doing secret stuff, she was ... a nobody.
Liberals would say - regardless, you can't reveal ....
(I don't hear any liberals calling for impeachment or arrest or investigations or their perfunctory outraged stance ...)
Detainees Shown CIA Officers' Photos
Justice Dept. Looking Into Whether Attorneys Broke Law at Guantanamo
By Peter Finn
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 21, 2009
The Justice Department recently questioned military defense attorneys at Guantanamo Bay about whether photographs of CIA personnel, including covert officers, were unlawfully provided to detainees charged with organizing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
Investigators are looking into allegations that laws protecting classified information were breached when three lawyers showed their clients the photographs, the sources said. The lawyers were apparently attempting to identify CIA officers and contractors involved in the agency's interrogation of al-Qaeda suspects in facilities outside the United States, where the agency employed harsh techniques.
If detainees at the U.S. military prison in Cuba are tried, either in federal court or by a military commission, defense lawyers are expected to attempt to call CIA personnel to testify.
The photos were taken by researchers hired by the John Adams Project, a joint effort of the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, to support military counsel at Guantanamo Bay, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the inquiry. It was unclear whether the Justice Department is also examining those organizations.
Both groups have long said that they will zealously investigate the CIA's interrogation program at "black sites" worldwide as part of the defense of their clients. But government investigators are now looking into whether the defense team went too far by allegedly showing the detainees the photos of CIA officers, in some cases surreptitiously taken outside their homes.
If proved, the allegations would highlight how aggressively both military lawyers and their allies in the human rights community are moving to shed light on the CIA's interrogation practices and defend their clients. Defense attorneys, however, described the investigation as an attempt by the government to intimidate them into not exposing what happened to their clients.
When contacted about the investigation, the ACLU declined to discuss specifics.
"We are confident that no laws or regulations have been broken as we investigated the circumstances of the torture of our clients and as we have vigorously defended our clients' interests," said Anthony D. Romero, the group's executive director. "Rather than investigate the CIA officials who undertook the torture, they are now investigating the military lawyers who have courageously stepped up to defend these clients in these sham proceedings."
It is unclear whether the military lawyers under investigation identified the CIA personnel in the photographs to the al-Qaeda suspects or simply asked the detainees whether they had ever seen them. It is also unclear whether the inquiry involves violations of federal statutes prohibiting the identification of covert CIA officers or violations of military commission rules governing the disclosure of classified information, including to the defendants.
The investigation is being overseen by John Dion, head of the Justice Department's counter-espionage section, who has worked on many high-profile national security cases, including the prosecution of Aldrich H. Ames, the CIA mole who spied for the Soviet Union. The CIA reports security breaches to Dion's office. The Justice Department and the CIA declined to comment.
Air Force Col. Peter R. Masciola, chief military defense counsel at Guantanamo Bay, and his deputy, Michael J. Berrigan, also declined to comment.
The Washington Post could not determine how many and which CIA personnel were photographed, which photographs were shown to detainees, or when.
Romero said he does not know what laws the government thinks the military lawyers may have broken.
"That is the most vexing part of it," he said. "Usually when you're read your Miranda rights or visited by the Justice Department or the FBI, you are given some indication as to what laws are at stake."
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers also declined to address the specifics of the inquiry but questioned its timing.
It is "customary in our experience that any kind of investigation like these are conducted after legal proceedings are finished in the case so as not to interfere with the defense function, not to interfere with the rights of defendants, not to give the appearance that the government is looking to chill the defense function," said Joshua L. Dratel, counsel for the John Adams Project and a former board member of the NACDL, who spoke on behalf of the group.
He added: "The lawyers have a duty to find out what happened to their clients, and to the extent that the government and certain agencies are resistant to that to protect themselves and to insulate themselves from accountability, there is a tension there, and to the extent that this investigation is part of that tension, it's most unfortunate. But the lawyers will not shirk their duty."
A wide variety of groups, including European investigators, human rights groups and news organizations, have compiled lists of people thought to have been involved in the CIA's program, including CIA station chiefs, agency interrogators and medical personnel who accompanied detainees on planes as they were moved from one secret location to another.
"It's a normal part of human rights research projects, and certainly in defense work, to compile lists of individuals who interacted with clients," Romero said.
Tracking international CIA-chartered flights, researchers have identified hotels in Europe where CIA personnel or contractors stayed. In some cases, through hotel phone records, they have been able to identify agency employees who jeopardized their cover by dialing numbers in the United States. Working from these lists, some of which include up to 45 names, researchers photographed agency workers and obtained other photos from public records, the sources said.
The government has largely cut off the airing of details about the CIA's interrogation program during proceedings at Guantanamo Bay, although many have been revealed in government documents.
At the courthouse at the prison, a court security officer, who is thought be in contact with CIA officials, can cut off the audio feed to the public gallery if there is any possibility of lawyers or defendants discussing CIA detention. At a hearing in July, the audio feed was cut when a lawyer for Ramzi Binalshibh, one of the alleged Sept. 11 conspirators, mentioned sleep deprivation, one of the "enhanced interrogation techniques" used at the CIA's black sites.
Aug 20, 2009
While this may seem like a good thing considering the immense and rising percentage of crude the U.S. is forced to float across the oceans in foreign-flagged ships from the Middle East through pirate-infested regions, there is a problem.
Turns out Obama is going to lend billions of taxpayer’s deficit dollars to Brazil's state-owned oil company, Petrobras, to finance exploration of the huge offshore discovery in Brazil's Tupi oil field in the Santos Basin near Rio de Janeiro.
Sweet deal, you say? Not really. Should one estimate the tens of millions spent by Soros on behalf of Obama and the Democratic Party, Soros is only asking the Democrats for what is due him. The problem is that Obama and the Democrats are using your money to pay Soros, and if you happen not to support off-shore drilling for crude or (God forbid) you are Republican or a conservative, you still have to pay Mr. Soros, courtesy of Barack Obama.
George Soros indirectly underwrote much of Obama’s campaign, not to mention spending tens of millions to help get Democratic Party candidates elected since 2000. Unfortunately, since Obama is using taxpayer dollars to fund the Brazilian off-shore drilling project – we all must financially support the Democratic Party. What a country!
Billionaire investor George Soros bought an $811 million stake in Petroleo Brasileiro SA in the second quarter, making the Brazilian state-controlled oil company his investment fund's largest holding. Now, had George W. Bush concocted this off-shore drilling arrangement with, say, anyone, The Pelosi-led House would be screaming for an investigation after she had convicted him of sins against the planet and our nation during several press conferences. Now you know that’s right.
According to an article in the Bloomberg Press dated August 15, as of June 30, the stake in Petrobras, as the Rio de Janeiro-based oil producer is known, made up 22 percent of the $3.68 billion of stocks and American depositary receipts held by Soros Fund Management LLC, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Petrobras has since slumped 28 percent.
In a Wall Street Journal editorial article dated August 18, the editor laments, “If President Obama has embraced offshore drilling in Brazil, why not in the old U.S.A.? The land of the sorta free and the home of the heavily indebted has enormous offshore oil deposits, and last year ahead of the November elections, with gasoline at $4 a gallon, Congress let a ban on offshore drilling expire . . .”
Seven months into his term, Barack Obama’s administration seems to be running out of gas when it comes to driving home credible records on his pledge to reduce deficit spending and his promise of ethical governance.
Perhaps this Soros payback (with billions of taxpayer dollars being gifted to Soros to drill for off-shore oil) is just another clunker compared to his world-record first-year deficit of more than $1.5 trillion. Even so, taxpayers need to understand that they are now financing the Democratic Party and Obama with their children’s money.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Ian Birrell: Why I don't believe that the NHS is sacrosanct
In this heartfelt polemic, based on his family's experiences in the health service, our writer argues that it suffers from deep flaws – and we are wrong to ignore them
It was a simple thing. Another blood test, some more investigations into whatever flawed gene or missing protein might be the cause of my daughter's troubled life, with her terrible seizures, her blindness, her inability to walk or talk or eat unaided. Over the past 15 years, there have been many such attempts to identify her condition.
One year later, we asked the doctor, a top geneticist at one of the world's most famous hospitals, what had happened to the results. His office told us a rambling story about financial restrictions and the need to send such tests to a laboratory in Germany. They said there was little he could do but promised to pursue our case.
It was a bare-faced lie. The precious vial of blood had been dumped in storage and forgotten. The following day it was despatched to a laboratory in Wales and 40 days later the specialists came up trumps. They identified her condition, an obscure genetic mutation called CDKL5.
The breakthrough was rather mind-blowing, giving us some peace of mind and the chance to talk to families of the hundred or so other children worldwide identified with the condition. It was also life-changing, since it means our other child and close relatives are in no danger of passing on the condition. Indeed, had we known sooner we might have even tried for more children.
But the most shocking thing was not the lying. Nor even the incompetence. It was our total lack of surprise at the turn of events, since after 15 years suffering from the failings of the National Health Service we are prepared for almost any ineptitude.
Of course, everyone loves the NHS now. It is officially sacrosanct. Our doctors are deities, our health care the envy of the world. And anyone who says anything different is an unpatriotic schmuck who should go and join those losers in the United States. (Although American doctors terrified of litigation would have done all the tests possible on my daughter if I'd sufficient insurance, and would think twice about lying to patients.)
So forgive a harsh dose of reality. I used to share these delusional views, wrapped in a comforting blanket of national pride over Bevan's legacy. But that was before the birth of our daughter sent us hurtling into the hell of our health service. Since then, hours and days and months and years have been spent battling bureaucracy, fighting lethargy and observing inefficiency while all the time guarding against the latest outbreak of incompetence.
Despite my daughter being under palliative care, my wife currently spends two hours a day struggling against the system, to say nothing of the other endless appointments that go with being primary carer of a severely disabled child. Right now, following some dramatic hormonal and physical changes, we are waiting to talk to one of our daughter's doctors: the first call went in three weeks ago, followed by three more phone calls and one email. No reply yet.
Or take the request for a bigger size of nappies, urgently needed because of our daughter's sudden weight spurt. A simple thing to sort, you might think. Not in the parallel universe of the NHS. It has taken four weeks, three phone calls, two home visits from community nurses to assess our needs and fill in the requisite forms – and still looks like being one more week before there is any hope of delivery. It may seem comical, but the result is a distressed child and endless extra laundry.
The warning signs of what lay ahead came on our first visit to Great Ormond Street, when there was a young couple who had travelled down from the north-east of England in front of us, their tiny sick baby almost lost in its blankets. "Didn't anyone tell you – your appointment's been cancelled?" the receptionist told them breezily. They looked at each other despairingly.
Such insensitivity is all too typical. When my daughter was seven she underwent a major review at a specialised unit in Surrey, spending three days and nights with sensors connected to brain-scanning devices glued to her head, under constant video surveillance while my exhausted wife comforted her and stopped her ripping off the electronic pads. A huge strain, but worth it given the hope of a breakthrough. When we went to get the results a few weeks later, there was the usual wait. After eventually summoning us, the neurologist asked why we were there. Then she opened our daughter's notes and asked what was wrong with her. Then she couldn't find the results. We stormed out, me in fury, my wife in tears.
There are countless other examples. The celebrated neurologist who measured our heads before blithely asserting that our daughter – suffering up to 30 fits a day – would just have a slightly lower IQ than the average person. The GP who gave her an MMR injection against our wishes, despite warnings it might prove fatal. The nurse who, having been told our daughter was blind, asked if she would like to watch a video. And that is to say nothing of the endless minor irritations: the over-crowded waiting rooms, the blasé receptionists, the unanswered emails, the blinkered attitudes to people with disabilities.
It used to be said money was the problem, but that fails to explain why American health outcomes are not drastically better, given their profligacy. Or indeed, why Scottish death rates from heart disease, cancer and strokes were so much worse when spending levels were one-fifth higher than in England; it cannot be blamed entirely on haggis suppers. And it is striking that for all the money poured in recently, there is little evidence of further improvement in cancer survival rates, for example, or of solving the postcode lottery.
There is no doubt that nearly tripling the health budget in a decade has led to visible advances, especially in the infrastructure. Some of the new hospitals are vast improvements on the crumbling Victorian buildings they replaced, and seemingly small things such as spruced-up waiting rooms and toys for children make a big difference. Unfortunately, it is equally clear that billions have been wasted, poured into a centralised monopoly that focuses on the manipulation of a target culture rather than delivery and innovation. It was little surprise to learn that more managers than doctors were hired last year. And all too often these managers seem to reinforce rather than challenge the patronising attitudes that often predominate, while failing to tackle glaring waste.
One visit to the gastroenterology department of a major teaching hospital summed up many of the enduring problems. Like any hospital regulars, we booked the first appointment to ensure the wait would not be too long. The young consultant was courteous and empathetic, going out of his way to explain the pros and cons of the invasive surgery under discussion. At one point he needed to call a colleague, so picked up the receiver of an old phone on his desk rather than the high-tech device jutting out of his computer screen. He explained that the new system cost £3m but didn't work properly, so no one in the hospital bothered to use it.
After 10 minutes, we left his consulting room. The waiting area felt tense, with harassed parents, bored children, raised voices and too few seats. This unfortunate doctor had to see more than 50 patients during his two-and-a-half hour clinic – or one patient every three minutes, with no time for reading notes, let alone a break. And we had already ruined his schedule. No wonder people were getting exasperated.
These are, of course, just snapshots over more than a decade. We may have been desperately unlucky, and friends who have suffered heart problems, cycling accidents or had very premature babies will testify to flawless treatment. But then I know of other friends with equally terrible experiences of arrogant doctors, disinterested nurses, lost files and suchlike. I could tell you of the single mother in Scotland rung in the middle of the night and asked if she would like doctors to resuscitate her profoundly-disabled child – and then they did nothing until the mother reached the hospital and berated them. Or the parents of another child with a life-threatening tumour whose care was a litany of mistakes, but when they complained to the hospital's chief executive the notes went mysteriously missing. Or the elderly cancer patient constantly ignored by her doctors. And so on and so on.
For all the rhetoric, this is daily reality in our health service. This is not to denigrate the many fine workers, both on the frontline and behind the scenes. We have come across doctors, nurses, paramedics, therapists and many others who have been supportive, caring and inspirational. Some have gone way beyond the call of duty to help in times of distress or difficulty, such as our palliative care team and the community nurses. But equally, we have come across too many ground down by a sclerotic system that crushes out the idealism or caring nature that presumably made them join the health service.
Clearly there is systemic failure. And it is a question of management, not money. Some of the worst problems encountered have been at the hallowed Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children, which uses the strength of its brand to suck up money and increase its reach. Many in the medical world are infuriated by its endless growth, but scared to take on the behemoth. But behind the soft-focus fund-raising and cuddly image lurks inefficiency and, all too often, needless insensitivity.
Indeed, should you feel moved to give money to help sick children, I would advise you to give to the children's hospice movement instead. As I write, my daughter is at Shooting Star in Hampton, Middlesex, a particularly deserving recipient. It is interesting to note that this sector, which derives a paltry five per cent of its income from statutory sources, does not seem bedevilled with the woes that afflicts so much of the public sector.
Anyone who has used health services in other Western nations knows that visiting the doctor or a hospital does not always have to be a frustrating experience. It is possible to run a health service around the needs of the patients, with appointments kept, notes read and consultations in a pleasant, friendly environment.
Given the swelling black hole in public finances, ageing population and rising costs of health care, Britain needs a serious debate about the future of the NHS. Sadly, the indications of the past fortnight are that we are too infantile to have such a discourse. A deranged Tory MEP became engulfed in the crossfire over Obama's reforms after some fatuous remarks in the US media, and back home – in a depressing foretaste of the election campaign – Labour uses it to smear the Conservatives, and panicked Tories rush to pay homage at the altar of Aneurin Bevan.
For all the supposed cost-effectiveness of the NHS, no other country has followed our model, despite what some Republicans might claim. Instead, we should be looking at what we can learn from abroad. No one in their right mind would want to import the American system here. But there are elements to admire: their popular community hospitals, the emphasis on effective diagnosis, even aspects of the much-derided compensation culture. And turning to Europe, there are systems that enshrine consumer choice, meld public and private systems, are cheaper than our own and have better health outcomes.
France is famous for its centralised approach to government. It also performs well on almost all health rankings, and has been top-ranked by the World Health Organisation. Its insurance-based scheme appears a chaotic blend of public and private partnership, but in reality is a sensible solution that blends the interests of patients with the need for some centralised direction, professional autonomy and safeguards for the poor. Like elsewhere in Europe, it has found a way that for all its faults harnesses the benefits of competition within a universal, patient-centred system. We are fumbling our way there, but it is one step forward and three back.
So what should be done here? I can only offer a few suggestions towards a wider debate. Firstly, it seems obvious that any organisation employing 1.5 million people is going to struggle with the concept of dynamism. I suspect the Chinese People's Liberation Army and Indian Railways – two other similarly-sized employers – suffer from similar deficiencies. Surely it makes sense to break up the monolith, thereby introducing genuinely competitive elements while retaining the principle of state-financed care that is free at the point of use. The more patient choice, the better the service will be. And trust me, patients can make highly-complex choices when it comes to their own health.
Secondly, the target culture should be made less proscriptive and the quality of managers raised. I don't mind managers, just bad managers. Thirdly, these managers and all the medical staff should be given greater freedom to experiment and innovate. This means some failures, but it is vital in any giant organisation. And the Government provides a safety net. Fourthly, there needs to be as much transparency as possible, covering everything from spending to surgical outcomes. This is the information age, after all – and it is our money and our health service.
Fifth, health workers must all realise they are meant to be serving the public. I wonder if medical schools should place greater emphasis on personal skills rather than just narrow academic criteria. And has the drive towards graduate nurses necessarily been a total boon for the care of patients? Finally, politicians should stop trying to micro-manage the NHS – and in return voters and, yes, the media should stop blaming them for everything that goes wrong.
Over the years, I have raised these issues with many politicians. I suggested to William Hague when he was Tory leader that he just tell the truth to the electorate and admit the NHS was a disaster zone. He laughed, and replied that he couldn't possibly say such a thing: "You're far too right-wing on health for us."
Later, I wrote an article for a weekly journal that ended with a challenge to the then Chancellor, Gordon Brown, at the time that Tony Blair and Alan Milburn were coming to terms with the need for root-and-branch reform. Unfortunately it was delayed a couple of weeks, coming out on the day of a group breakfast at Number 11. As I entered the dining room, Mr Brown gave me a wolfish smile and ushered me to sit down between him and Ed Balls, before the pair took me to task for the next half hour. Both seemed unabashed statists when it came to health, who saw more money as the answer to all problems and had little sympathy for the idea of introducing competitive or patient-led elements.
Likewise, David Cameron's experiences have turned him into a cheerleader for the NHS. He is angered by the failures of specialist education and shortfalls in respite provision, but was genuinely moved by the healthcare offered to his late son, as I know from many discussions with him. Days after becoming leader of his party we met for dinner. "I am not going to do what you want on the NHS," he said. "I will reform it if I get the chance, but I won't rip it apart."
Then there was the senior Labour Cabinet minister who told me about the nightmare he was enduring with his elderly relative. "I used to think you had been driven a bit nuts on the health service," he concluded. "Now I think you don't go far enough. It's awful. Absolutely bloody awful. We've got to do something about it."
I won't hold my breath.
Like the health secretary, I am an Everton fan. And like Andy Burnham, the national health service and Everton are among the most cherished institutions in my life. My daughter is still alive, for which I give thanks to the support, dedication and friendship of many in the health service. But it is precisely because I am such a fervent admirer that I believe it is so shameful that the NHS is allowed to limp on in its current state. For too many people, especially many of those most in need of its help, it is something of a disaster zone. The NHS is a sick institution, and cheap political point-scoring will do nothing to solve the problems. We need to find a cure.