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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Daily Drift

And I Quote 

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Today in History

43 BC   Octavian, Antony and Lepidus form the triumvirate of Rome.
511   Clovis, king of the Franks, dies and his kingdom is divided between his four sons.
1095   In Clermont, France, Pope Urbana II makes an appeal for warriors to relieve Jerusalem. He is responding to false rumors of atrocities in the Holy Land.
1382   The French nobility, led by Olivier de Clisson, crush the Flemish rebels at Flanders.
1812   One of the two bridges being used by Napoleon Bonaparte's army across the Beresina River in Russia collapses during a Russian artillery barrage.
1826   Jebediah Smith's expedition reaches San Diego, becoming the first Americans to cross the southwestern part of the continent.
1862   George Armstrong Custer meets his future bride, Elizabeth Bacon, at a Thanksgiving party.
1868   Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer's 7th Cavalry kills Chief Black Kettle and about 100 Cheyenne (mostly women and children) on the Washita River.
1887   U.S. Deputy Marshall Frank Dalton, brother of the three famous outlaws, is killed in the line of duty near Fort Smith, Ark.
1904   The German colonial army defeats Hottentots at Warm bad in southwest Africa.
1909   U.S. troops land in Blue fields, Nicaragua, to protect American interests there.
1919   Bulgaria signs peace treaty with Allies at Unequally, France, fixing war reparations and recognizing Yugoslavian independence.
1922   Allied delegates bar the Soviets from the Near East peace conference.
1936   Great Britain's Anthony Eden warns Hitler that Britain will fight to protect Belgium.
1942   The French fleet in Toulon is scuttled to keep it from Germany.
1950   East of the Choosing River, Chinese forces annihilate an American task force.
1954   Alger Hiss, convicted of being a Soviet spy, is freed after 44 months in prison.
1959   Demonstrators march in Tokyo to protest a defense treaty with the United States.
1967   Lyndon Johnson appoints Robert McNamara to presidency of the World Bank.
1967   Charles DeGaulle vetoes Great Britain's entry into the Common Market again.
1970   Syria joins the pact linking Libya, Egypt and Sudan.

Non Sequitur



Here's 5 ways the religi-o-wingnuts imploded in 2012

NY court date Monday in massive insider trading case

A former hedge fund portfolio manager charged in one of the biggest insider trading cases in history was due in a New York federal court after an investigation that touched on the activities of one of the nation's wealthiest financiers.
Mathew Martoma's court date Monday was expected to be largely procedural, though there could be some discussion of the $5 million bail set for him last week in Florida. He was arrested at his home in Boca Raton, Fla., but the case is based in New York.
While working for CR Intrinsic Investors LLC between 2006 and 2008, Martoma exploited an acquaintance with a medical school professor to get confidential, advance results from tests of an Alzheimer's disease drug, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's office said.
Then Martoma used the information to make more than $276 million for his fund and others, prosecutors said. First he led other investment advisers to buy shares in the drug companies, and then he and the others ditched their investments before the public found out about the drug trial's disappointing results, allowing them all to make big profits and avoid huge losses, according to prosecutors.
Defense lawyer Charles Stillman said Martoma simply worked hard and vigorously pursued public information.
Stamford, Conn.-based CR Intrinsic Investors is an affiliate of SAC Capital Advisors, a firm owned by Steven A. Cohen. Cohen's net worth is estimated at $8.8 billion on the Forbes 400 list of the richest people in the U.S.
Court papers in Martoma's case repeatedly allude, without using Cohen's name, to his dealings with Martoma in the lead-up to an announcement about the drug trial.
The FBI subpoenaed SAC and other influential hedge funds in November 2010. Martoma is the fourth person associated with SAC Capital to be arrested on insider trading charges in the last four years.
Cohen has not been charged with any crime. SAC spokesman Jonathan Gasthalter has said the company and Cohen are cooperating with the inquiry and "are confident that they have acted appropriately."

Faux News ends Benghazi interview after expert guest calls them “wing of the repugican cabal”

Author Tom Ricks was just on Faux News to talk about Benghazi. According to Politico, Ricks “writes a blog for Foreign Policy magazine and is a best-selling author of books such as ‘Fiasco’ and ‘The Generals’.”Faux News apparently didn’t like what Ricks had to say.
RICKS: I think that Benghazi, generally, was hyped by this network especially. And now that the campaign is over, I think [McCain's] backing off a little bit…
FAUX HOST: When you have four people dead, including the first US ambassador in more than thirty years, how do you call that hype?
RICKS: How many security contractors died in Iraq, do you know?
FAUX HOST: I don’t.
RICKS: No, nobody does, because nobody cared. We know that several hundred died, but there was never an official count done of security contractors dead in Iraq. So when I see this focus on what was essentially a small firefight, I think number one: I’ve covered a lot of firefights, it’s impossible to figure out what happens in them sometimes. And second, I think that the emphasis on Benghazi has been extremely political, partly because Fox was operating as a wing of the Republican party.
FAUX HOST: All right. Tom Ricks, thanks very much for joining us today.
Suddenly, after only a minute and a half, the segment was over.  Now you’d have to ask Ricks how long his segment was supposed to go, but usually things like this, if you’re the sole guest, would go a good 4 minutes. Not one minute 30.
Here’s the clip – more from me after:

Ricks raises an excellent point.  We lost a lot of people in Iraq and Afghanistan.  And suddenly, when four people die in Libya, it’s the end of the world as we know it and repugicans are peeing their pants wondering if America has been permanently emasculated by four deaths.
Might have been nice for Faux News and the repugican cabal to have cared as much about the 6,610 US service men and women who died in Iraq and Afghanistan, especially the 4,474 who died in Iraq because a Republican president, and all of his propaganda organs on TV and the radio and in the Congress, lied.
Here are only 10% of the American men and women who died in these two repugican wars. It’s amazing that Faux News, and the repugican cabal, suddenly figured out that Americans were dying in the Middle East and environs.
Images of dead American service members in Iraq and Afghanistan10% of the US war dead in Iraq and Afghanistan, source Wash Post

Ethics panel investigating New York repugican

FILE- This May 9, 2012 file photo shows Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y. speaking on Capitol Hill in Washington. The House Ethics Committee announced Monday that Grimm, a former FBI agent, is under investigation for possible campaign finance violations, but said it is deferring the inquiry because of a separate Justice Department probe. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)  
The House Ethics Committee announced Monday that Rep. Michael Grimm, a former FBI agent, is under investigation for possible campaign finance violations, but said it is deferring the inquiry because of a separate Justice Department probe.
The New York repugican may have violated campaign finance laws by soliciting and accepting prohibited contributions, actions that may have caused false information to be included in campaign finance reports, the committee said.
One focus of the investigation is whether the congressman improperly sought assistance from a foreign national, by soliciting contributions in exchange for offering to use his official position to assist the person in obtaining a green card, according to a committee statement.
William McGinley, Grimm's lawyer, said, "Today's announcement by the House Ethics Committee comes as no surprise. We appreciate the committee's decision to defer consideration of this matter while we continue to work with the Department of Justice to favorably resolve the false allegations against Congressman Grimm.
"Any fair and objective review of all of the facts in this matter will conclude that Congressman Grimm engaged in no wrongdoing. We are confident that the Department of Justice and the Ethics Committee will reach that result."
The independent House Office of Congressional Ethics had recommended dismissal of the case because it could not establish with sufficient certainty that a violation occurred after Grimm became a congressman.
However, ethics committee Chairman Jo Bonner, r-Ala., and ranking Democrat Linda Sanchez of California said the panel previously has investigated conduct that occurred during an initial campaign for the House. The Office of Congressional Ethics is run by a board that does not include members of Congress, but can only make recommendations to the ethics committee — which has five members from each party.
"Based on this precedent, notwithstanding OCE's view...the committee unanimously voted to continue to assert jurisdiction over matters relating to a successful campaign for election to the House of Representatives," the Bonner-Sanchez statement said.
The committee said the Justice Department sought the delay in the House effort — as it often does — when conducting a parallel investigation. Following precedent, the ethics panel voted to place its investigation on hold.
Grimm, whose district covers Brooklyn and Staten Island, was first elected in 2010 with 51 percent of the vote. He was re-elected this year with 53 percent.
It has been previously reported that the FBI was probing money donated to Grimm's 2010 campaign by followers of an Israeli rabbi. Agents last summer arrested an Israeli businessman with links to the adult entertainment industry who had helped Grimm raise hundreds of thousands of dollars from the rabbi's followers in New York.
Some donors have said they broke campaign finance law by donating more money than allowed, or by funneling donations from foreigners who aren't legally allowed to give to U.S. candidates.
Grimm repeatedly has denied knowledge of any improper donations or any other illegal activity.
It will be a short investigation: he's a repugican, ergo he has no ethics.

The repugicans threaten Senate shutdown

“I think the backlash will be severe,” said Sen. Tom Coburn of Sen. Harry Reid's possible filibuster reform

GOP threatens Senate shutdown  
If Harry Reid tries to stop Senate repugicans from blocking everything, Senate repugicans will…try to block him.
Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, is pushing to reform the filibuster, but is facing opposition from repugicans. “I think the backlash will be severe,” Sen. Tom Coburn, r-Okla., said of Reid’s plan. “If you take away minority rights, which is what you’re doing because you’re an ineffective leader, you’ll destroy the place. And if you destroy the place, we’ll do what we have to do to fight back.”
From Politico:
Here’s what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is considering: banning filibusters used to prevent debate from even starting and House-Senate conference committees from ever meeting. He also may make filibusters become actual filibusters — to force senators to carry out the nonstop, talkathon sessions.
“It will shut down the Senate,” Sen. John Cornyn, r-Texas, told Politico. “It’s such an abuse of power.”

Public would blame repugicans for budget impasse, wants tax increases

A strong CNN/OCR poll for the President and Democrats in Congress on the “fiscal cliff,” in terms of what the public wants out of the talks, and who they’d blame if the talks go south.In a nutshell, the public wants tax increases as part of the bargain, by an overwhelming majority, and they would blame the repugicans more than the President should a deal not be struck.

The Public Wants Tax Increases as Part of the Bargain

67% of the public wants tax increases as part of the fiscal cliff bargain, including strong support among men, women, whites, non-whites, Democrats, Independents, and even repugicans.
Independents support including tax increases as part of the bargain by 60-34 , and even repugicans support tax increases by 52-44.  Even conservative repugicans support some tax increases by 51-45.  Those are devastating numbers – the repugicans in Congress are more extreme than conservatives in their own party

The Public Will Blame the repugicans if Talks Fail

45% blame would blame the repugicans if talks fail.  What’s interesting here is that Independents would blame the repugicans as well.

Let's Get Fiscal

Poll: Two-thirds say fiscal cliff a major problem
Two-thirds of people questioned in a CNN/ORC International survey say that the U.S. would face a crisis or major problems if the country went off the "fiscal cliff" at the end of the year, and if that happened, The repugicans in Congress would  receive the blame.

Influence Game: Tax them, not us, groups say

A big coalition of business groups says there must be give-and-take in the negotiations to avoid the "fiscal cliff" of massive tax increases and spending cuts.

Failed CEO Carly Fiorina, with $40m retirement package, says union pensions too high

Carly Fiorina Wants Stuff 

The other day it was the CEO of a bailed out bank demanding cuts to Social Security.
But nobody whines about the fake “fiscal cliff” better than failed GOP candidate and “19th Worst CEO of All Time” CEO Carly Fiorina.
Carly Fiorina

You might remember Fiorina from the days when she worked at HP, and was sent packing in 2005 with a whopping $40 million severance benefits package. Was that “fair,” Carly?
Fiorina is widely considered one of the worst CEOs in recent years, though that didn’t stop her from receiving millions in cash, stock, benefits and pension when she was fired. It rarely does.

Carly Fiorina Says You Can’t Want Stuff Too

But no, in her entitled little world, the problem is not the fat cats like her, but the unions.
“It is not fair that public employee union pensions and benefits are so rich now that cities and states are going bankrupt, and college tuition is going up 20 and 30%… There is a lot that isn’t fair right now.”
Failed investments and drastic tax cuts by governments have nothing to do with the problem. Imagine that. As Think Progress noted, Fiorina whined on TV that she “only” received a $21 million severance, though she somehow overlooked the rest of the redundancy plan. But to be fair to Fiorina, what repugican candidate hasn’t overlooked another $20 million plus?
She starts at about 2 minutes into the video below.  More from me after the video.Other than being an expert on living off of a platinum parachute and failing as a political candidate, it’s not clear what special expertise Fiorina has to offer for NBC News or any other media outlet. She’s certainly not even considered to be a corporate jobs creator, the way Jack Welch is (wrongly) considered by the media. She has a pretty good agent though if she can get TV spots despite her awful record.

So tell me who is really part of the moocher class that corporate CEOs and 1%-ers keep talking about? Are they the people asking for basic healthcare or the people who have enough money to build moats and personal golf courses around their mansions? Another tip off sign of a moocher is that no matter how much they have, it’s not enough and they want more of your money.
Damn if these repugicans don’t always want stuff.
The other sign of who belongs to the moocher class is to listen to who actually believes in the so-called fiscal cliff. Anyone who believes it’s for real is probably a moocher, but a moocher who grabs a lot more money than anyone who actually needs Social Security or Medicare.
As we get closer to the end of the year, expect the moocher class to be in your face a lot more, explaining how the situation is dire and the world will end if we don’t address the “fiscal cliff” but cutting everything we hold dear while leaving the repugican tax and war machine firmly in place to kill the budget yet again another day.
Ignore them and remember, it’s not a fiscal cliff, it’s an austerity bomb.

The truth hurts

Walmart shopper dies after struggle with staff

Nothing says “the holidays” like death and mayhem at America’s mega-stories over Black Friday weekend.While there have been the usual reports of madness by shoppers at Walmart, this story is sad for many reasons.  (It also does help Walmart to have even more negative news after Friday’s Black Friday protests.)
I had been under the impression that employees were not supposed to chase alleged shoplifters for exactly this reason. If something goes wrong, the employees are faced with high legal costs (and possibly more), as are the stores.
Besides lousy pay and benefits, the Walmart employees are now going to have to find the money to defend themselves, regardless of how the alleged shoplifter died. Even if they did nothing wrong, this is going to be expensive, and Walmart is not known for its generosity to its employees.
The situation may change if it turns out that the local store pressured workers to take aggressive action but as it stands today, Walmart is in full CYA mode, repeating their policy to not pursue alleged shoplifters in such circumstances.
This is sad all around.
According to a police report obtained by Channel 2 Action News, the incident happened at the Walmart on Fairington Road in Lithonia. The police report said that about 1:30 a.m. Sunday, a middle aged man was caught shoplifting two DVD players.
He exited the front door of the store and three employees caught him in the parking lot, where a physical altercation took place while they detained him.
When police arrived, they found the employees on top of the man. The officer put the man in handcuffs and said he noticed there was no resistance from him.
Police say one of the employees put the shoplifter in a choke hold.  According to the video, below, Walmart is saying the security guard, who accompanied two employees to confront the shoplifter, will no longer be providing services to Walmart. That may be a CYA move by Walmart, but it also sounds somewhat like an admission of guilt.

Brandon Baxter thinks 10 years is too long.

One of the four men who pleaded guilty in a failed plot to bomb a highway bridge in Ohio has appealed his nearly 10-year sentence.
Well, we can always make it 20 years, you know

Supreme Court struggles over workplace harassment standard

The U.S. Supreme Court building seen in Washington May 20, 2009. REUTERS/Molly Riley 
Fourteen years after deciding that employers can be liable for workplace harassment by supervisors they employ, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday appeared to struggle with an issue left unanswered: who qualifies as a supervisor.
A decision in the case against Ball State University, brought by a black catering assistant named Maetta Vance, could clarify how readily harassment victims may hold deeper-pocketed employers accountable under federal law.
Several justices questioned where best to draw the line, a task made harder by the agreement of the parties arguing in court that the standard set by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago in dismissing Vance's case was too strict.
In that June 2011 ruling written by Judge Diane Wood, considered one of its more liberal members, the 7th Circuit said that to be a supervisor, an employee must have the power to hire, fire, demote, promote, transfer or discipline the victim.
Three federal appeals courts have adopted this standard, while three others have said day-to-day oversight is enough to result in liability. A definition proposed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission resembles the latter standard.
At Monday's oral argument, Chief Justice John Roberts suggested to Vance's lawyer Daniel Ortiz that the 7th Circuit standard might prove workable.
He posed a scenario in which the most senior of five employees assigned to work in a single room gets to choose the background music, and tells a colleague: "I know you don't like country music; if you don't date me, it's going to be country music all day long.
"I would have thought, under your theory, that means that senior employee is a supervisor," Roberts said. "I would have thought the benefit of the 7th Circuit was that you don't have to go on a case-by-case basis."
Some justices suggested other scenarios, including whether a person becomes a supervisor by having authority to control a thermostat, or decide which employee must work in the only office without air conditioning.
In contrast, Justice Elena Kagan suggested that the 7th Circuit test might be too lenient on employers.
She said, for example, that a university could be freed from liability if a professor subjected a secretary to "living hell, complete hostile work environment on the basis of sex," solely because the secretary could not be fired by the professor, but rather by the head of secretarial services.
Vance, a black catering assistant at Ball State in Muncie, Indiana, who prepared everything from boxed lunches to formal dinners, had claimed she faced racial epithets and threats of physical harm at work.
Many of her problems stemmed from her dealings with Saundra Davis, a white woman she viewed as a supervisor. She said general manager Bill Kimes, also white, did not protect her and treated other workers better.
Vance said Ball State eventually retaliated against her complaints by making her a "glorified salad girl" who cut vegetables and washed fruit, despite a recent promotion.
Justice Samuel Alito suggested that this might not be enough to subject Ball State to liability.
"What is the most unpleasant thing that Davis could have assigned?" he asked. "Chopping onions all day, every day?"
Ortiz said the standard was not that precise, and that courts would have to use a "sliding scale of negligence" to review harassment claims.
He said a person who oversees a victim's work and can "instill either fear into the victim (or) control the physical location of the victim" would qualify as a supervisor.
Gregory Garre, arguing for Ball State, said the 7th Circuit standard was not a "complete answer," and that a harassing employee whose control of a victim's work meaningfully aided the harassment could subject an employer to liability.
But he said that Davis, under any definition, did not qualify as a supervisor, and therefore that Vance must lose.
With the parties in agreement that the 7th Circuit test was too restrictive, some justices suggested possible concern about having taken the case to begin with, given that the Supreme Court does not generally issue "advisory" opinions.
Alito asked "why shouldn't we just remand" to more fully develop the record, while Justice Antonin Scalia said, "There's nobody here defending the 7th Circuit" in the courtroom.
The federal government officially supported neither party, suggesting that the similar standards proposed by the EEOC and the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York might be appropriate.
"Control over daily work activities is where we would draw the line," Deputy Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan said.
Several women's and civil rights groups supported Vance's appeal, while the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation and various conservative groups supported Ball State.
A decision is expected by the end of June.
The case is Vance v. Ball State University, U.S. Supreme Court. No. 11-556.

Disabled parents face bias, loss of kids

In this Nov. 14, 2012 photo, Carrie Ann Lucas, right, mother of four disabled adopted children, holds up a mirror for her daughter, Adrianne, 13, at their home in Windsor, Colo., before going on an outing. Carrie Ann Lucas herself uses a power wheelchair and is reliant on a ventilator due to a form of muscular dystrophy. In diverse and profound ways, the millions of Americans with disabilities have gained rights and opportunities since Congress passed landmark legislation on their behalf in 1990. Advocates say barriers and bias still abound, however, when it comes to one basic human right: To be a parent. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
Millions of Americans with disabilities have gained innumerable rights and opportunities since Congress passed landmark legislation on their behalf in 1990. And yet advocates say barriers and bias still abound when it comes to one basic human right: To be a parent.
A Kansas City, Mo., couple had their daughter taken into custody by the state two days after her birth because both parents were blind. A Chicago mother, because she is quadriplegic, endured an 18-month legal battle to keep custody of her young son. A California woman paid an advance fee to an adoption agency, then was told she might be unfit to adopt because she has cerebral palsy.
Such cases are found nationwide, according to a new report by the National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency. The 445-page document is viewed by the disability-rights community as by far the most comprehensive ever on the topic — simultaneously an encyclopedic accounting of the status quo and an emotional plea for change.
"Parents with disabilities continue to be the only distinct community that has to fight to retain — and sometimes gain — custody of their own children," said autism-rights activist Ari Ne'eman, a member of the council. "The need to correct this unfair bias could not be more urgent or clear."
The U.S. legal system is not adequately protecting the rights of parents with disabilities, the report says, citing child welfare laws in most states allowing courts to determine that a parent is unfit on the basis of a disability. Terminating parental rights on such grounds "clearly violates" the intent of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, the report contends.
Child-welfare experts, responding to the report, said they shared its goals of expanding supports for disabled parents and striving to keep their families together. But they said removals of children from their parents — notably in cases of significant intellectual disabilities — are sometimes necessary even if wrenching.
"At the end of the day, the child's interest in having permanence and stability has to be the priority over the interests of their parents," said Judith Schagrin, a veteran child-welfare administrator in Maryland.
In the bulk of difficult cases, ensuring vital support for disabled parents may be all that's needed to eliminate risks or lessen problems, many advocates say.
The new report, titled "Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children," estimates that 6.1 million U.S. children have disabled parents. It says these parents are more at risk than other parents of losing custody of their children, including removal rates as high as 80 percent for parents with psychiatric or intellectual disabilities.
Parents with all types of disabilities — physical or mental — are more likely to lose custody of their children after divorce, have more difficulty accessing assisted-reproductive treatments to bear children, and face significant barriers to adopting children, the report says.
One of the cases it details involved Erika Johnson and Blake Sinnett of Kansas City, whose 2-day-old daughter, Mikaela, was taken into custody by Missouri authorities because both parents were blind. The action occurred after a hospital nurse reported that Johnson seemed to be having trouble with her first attempts at breast-feeding — which Johnson said happens with many first-time mothers.
During a 57-day legal battle, before the couple regained custody, they were allowed to visit Mikaela only two to three times a week, for an hour at a time, with a foster parent monitoring.
Since then, the family has been left in peace, said Johnson, who tries to offer support to other disabled parents facing similar challenges.
"Some parents just give up or don't have the resources," she said in a telephone interview.
A Windsor, Colo., woman with disabilities says the prejudice she encountered prompted her to go to law school, to better defend her own rights and those of other disabled parents.
Carrie Ann Lucas uses a power wheelchair and is reliant on a ventilator due to a form of muscular dystrophy. She is a single mother of four adopted children, ages 22, 17, 13 and 11, all of whom also have disabilities, including two who use wheelchairs and three with intellectual disabilities.
Lucas says she's been the subject of several investigations by child welfare officials that she attributed to bias linked to her disabilities.
"Each one of these referrals that gets accepted for investigation causes a great deal of stress, not only for me, but for my children," Lucas wrote in an email.
She said the investigations dated back to her first efforts to adopt Heather, her biological niece, in 1999, after the girl was placed in foster care. At one point in a long procedural struggle, a social worker told a judge that "there was no way that handicapped woman could care for that handicapped child."
"We are nearly 13 years later, and Heather is still doing very well," Lucas wrote.
As a lawyer, Lucas has represented many other parents with disabilities.
"I have had parents with paralysis be threatened with removal of their children, deaf parents punished for using sign language with their hearing children, and blind parents told that a social worker can't possibly fathom how they could parent a newborn," Lucas said. "When families do need intervention, it is often because the services they need are not available outside a punitive social services case."
The lead author of the new report, disability-rights lawyer Robyn Powell, says her goal was to challenge presumptions that disabled people can't be effective parents.
"Of course there are going to be some parents with disabilities who would be lousy parents — that's the same with parents without disabilities," she said. "If there is neglect, is it due to the disability? And can it be rectified by providing the necessary support?"
Ella Callow, a lawyer with the National Center for Parents with Disabilities and their Families, said the report raises fundamental questions about America's social priorities — given that state and federal laws value both the well-being of children and the rights of disabled people. The ultimate goal, she said, would be to promote both values by expanding support for disabled parents.
"If we really believe that families are the key unit on which society is built, then we have to enable these families to be healthy and functioning, even at public expense," Callow said. "We know foster care isn't a good place for children to be — they do better with their own parents, at their own home."
Callow, who is based in Berkeley, Calif., said child welfare agencies need to provide more funding and specialized training with the aim of improving services for disabled parents.
"Child welfare is so incredibly underfunded, and the workers are so incredibly overwhelmed, their attitude is, 'Really, you want my attention on this?'" Callow said. "There's a tendency to think these families aren't the same as our families. But these children, when they lose their families, have the same type of grief."
Schagrin, the Maryland child-welfare official, said she found parts of the report troubling because they seemed to suggest children were sometimes removed from their families only on account of parental disabilities.
"That's not why they are taken away," she said. "They are taken away because the disability has continued to the point where there's an episode of maltreatment or neglect."
She said one recourse is to find members of the extended family — or other types of support — to help a parent with psychiatric or intellectual disabilities care for a child. But she said this approach could be taken too far, for example if a mother with intellectual disabilities was placed in a group home with other disabled parents.
"What kind of way is that for a child to live — being raised by a shift of caregivers in a mom-and-child group home?" she asked. "Is that really better than an open-adoption agreement?"
Andrea Bartolo, a senior consultant at the Child Welfare League of America, said there is no question that some disabled parents encounter discrimination in the child welfare system, "sometimes inadvertently, sometimes very overtly."
Under current practices, Bartolo said, an expert assessment of a child's home life and the possible provision of services to the disabled parents might occur only after the child has been removed and "the damage has been done." Going forward, she hopes child-welfare agencies will try harder to provide support before a problem worsens, potentially reducing the need for foster-care placements.
The report praises a few states — including Idaho, Kansas and California — for modifying child-custody laws to the benefit of disabled parents. It urges Congress to amend the Americans with Disabilities Act to add protections for parents, and it calls on state lawmakers to eliminate disability as a distinct ground for terminating parental rights.
Christine Waters, an attorney with Legal Services of Central New York, based in Syracuse, worked with colleagues in 2008-09 in a bid to change the state law specifying that parental rights can be terminated if a parent has psychiatric problems or is intellectually impaired. Some legislators expressed support, Waters said, but the effort ultimately failed.
"Everything would look like it was going fine ... and then there would be some well-publicized, awful incident where someone who had a mental illness — without support — did something shocking and horrible, and a child was seriously harmed or died and we'd be back to square one," Waters said.
Waters said some child-welfare officials resisted any change, wary of being held responsible if something went wrong.
The assumption that people with disabilities can't parent "is bad for society and heartbreaking for families," Waters said. "The easy thing is to terminate the parental rights. We need to do the right thing, not the easy thing."
Disabled parents whose parenting ability comes into question often are placed at a disadvantage by parenting assessments that are inappropriate or unfair, the report says. It calls for better research to improve assessment standards and gain more knowledge about how various disabilities affect the ability to be an effective parent.
One topic worth further study, it said, is "parentification" — the phenomenon in which children of disabled parents take on various caregiving responsibilities, even at a young age.
In Arlington Heights, Ill., Jenn Thomas, a 36-year-old mom who has cerebral palsy, says her 8-year-old twins occasionally complain about having to do a few extra chores around the house to help her.
Her daughter, Abigail, nods and smiles upon hearing this, but says for the most part, their lives are "kind of normal." For her, having a mom with a disability is just how it is, she says, shrugging.
Sometimes, they ride on the chair with her — especially son Noah because he, like his father, D.J., is a "little person," the term used by the family and others for someone genetically predisposed to having unusually short stature. When activities are farther away, the couple has created a support network to help when D.J. is working. He drives, but Jenn does not.
"I want them to enjoy activities and not be limited because I am limited," she says. So she coordinates with neighbors to help get the kids to swimming, cello lessons or basketball practice. Or she arranges for "paratransit," a bus service for riders with disabilities and their families.
Friends also helped redesign their kitchen to make it more accessible.
The new report stresses that improved networks of support for disabled parents — encompassing transportation, housing, health care, and outside intervention when appropriate — should be welcomed, and not viewed as evidence that the parents on their own are incapable.
When children do face removal from their disabled parents, those parents may encounter barriers to meaningful participation in their legal cases, the report says. For example, financially struggling parents may have to rely on a court-appointed attorney with no special knowledge about the effects of disability.
Kaney O'Neill of Des Plaines, Ill., a quadriplegic Navy veteran, endured an 18-month legal battle to keep custody of her young son. Her ex-boyfriend filed for custody in 2009, when the boy was 10 weeks old, alleging that O'Neill was "not a fit and proper person" to care for the child because of her disability.
Refuting the allegation, with legal help from Ella Callow, Kaney demonstrated how she had prepared for motherhood by working with an occupational therapy program, adapting her house, securing specialized baby-care equipment, and using personal assistants to help her as needed.
"I lived in fear every single day that my son would be taken away from me," said O'Neill, 36. "In a lot of ways it made me a better mother because I felt that I had a lot to prove."
She says her son, who taught himself to climb up his mother's wheel chair into her lap, is now going to preschool twice a week and is thriving.
"If you are a parent with a disability, you don't have a role model — you have to figure out how you're going to be a mother and overcome challenges," she said.
For disabled women who either cannot bear children or choose not to, the possible option of adoption often can be complicated. Some foreign countries, notably China, rule out disabled people as potential adoptive parents.
Elizabeth Pazdral of Davis, Calif., who wears a brace and uses crutches to walk because of cerebral palsy, said she encountered discrimination several years ago when she and her husband sought to adopt a child. She said one local adoption agency billed her an advance fee of $3,400, then advised that there were "serious reservations" about her ability to be a parent.
"I think it was dishonest to take my money and then tell me they were worried," said the 4-foot-tall Pazdral, 42, who is executive director of the California State Independent Living Council.
Initially distraught, Pazdral obtained legal help, paid for an occupational therapist to come to her house to assess her capabilities, and researched how other parents with disabilities had succeeded in raising children. The efforts paid off: The adoption agency dropped its objections, and in May 2008, Pazdral and her husband, a Stanford University physicist, adopted a baby girl named Madeleine.
"It was a huge life change — but that's true for any new parent," Pazdral said, recounting sleep-deprived nights, higher levels of chronic pain, and the challenge of maintaining one's energy level.
"But I start with the joy I get from being her mother — the rightness I feel," Pazdral said. "It's the best thing I have ever done with my life."

Doctor Offers to Inject Poker Players with Botox for the Perfect Poker Face

poker table
Would you like to have a emotionless face, devoid of expression? If you're a professional poker player, the answer is yes. That's why Dr. Jack Berdy of New York City offers a service that he calls "Pokertox":
“Very few people can maintain a real poker face,’’ said Berdy. “They have some ‘tells,’ some expression that gives away that they have a good hand or a bad hand’’ to an opponent. [...]
“We can inject Botox appropriately’’ so the other player doesn’t get the message that they’re angry, disappointed or happy.
“What someone sees across the table is no movement,’’ he said.
Pokertox costs an average $600 to $800 and lasts three to four months, he says.

Munchausen by Internet

vA young woman begins a regimen of cancer treatment and reaches out to the internet to share her experience with others who are going through the same thing. She builds a circle of friends for support, but while going through her own struggle, finds out gradually two of them are faking their illness for attention. Playing the patient online is a lot easier and more common than faking illness in real life.
Think of it: You're anonymous—you can manifest any symptoms you want, like puking pints of blood, without having to actually puke pints of blood. And instead of being examined by the trained eyes of a doctor, you're welcomed unconditionally by flocks of people who stand on-call, ready to shower you with attention and emotional support 24 hours a day. For weeks or months or years, you can live out your deception without the fear of having your lies challenged in person. And if someone does eventually doubt your story, you can simply log out. Change your name or your illness. Find a fresh group of sympathizers.

This accessibility makes Munchausen by internet "way, way more common than Munchausen ever was or could have been," Dr. Feldman says. "Unfortunately, a lot of therapists have no clue what Munchausen is, let alone Munchausen by internet."
After she becomes a crusader to expose fake internet personas with tragic medical stories, she is victimized once again by an even more convincing troll who went to great lengths to prove her nonexistent illnesses. You may recognize some aspects of her story at The Stranger. Or you may learn to be even more diligent when befriending people online. More

NASA downplays still-unannounced findings from Mars

Just before Thanksgiving, the lead mission scientist for the Curiosity rover told NPR that his team had found something that would "be one for the history books." Naturally, we all began speculating about the presence of life, giant obelisks, and half-buried Statues of Liberty. Yesterday, however, a different NASA spokesman basically asked the world to not get its hopes up too high, revising the level of importance down from "earthshaking" to "interesting". So far, nobody has said what, exactly, was discovered.

What Happens If the Mississippi Runs Dry?

America's main aquatic artery may soon be too shallow for barge shipping -- that may choke trade but benefit wildlife.  

The Google Earth Island That Never Existed

A South Pacific island identified on Google Earth and world maps does not exist, according to Australian geologists who went searching for the mystery landmass. Read more coral sea

Soyuz Re-entry

Russia brings their spacecraft home a bit differently from what NASA astronauts are accustomed to. Instead of splashing down in the ocean, or landing like a plane on a runway, Soyuz craft parachute onto land. On November 19th, NASA Commander Sunita Williams and JAXA engineer Akihiko Hoshide found out what that was like as they returned from the International Space Station on a Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft with Russian Yuri Malenchenko. This photograph shows the craft glowing brightly as it hits the atmosphere.
Since the spacecraft was moving significantly faster than you can pump a pump, the air got compressed savagely and heated up so much that it glowed. A lot of that heat was transferred to the spacecraft, which had a special surface to withstand it. The material ablated off, trailing bits and blobs of glowing matter as the spacecraft slowed from orbital speeds of several thousand kilometers per hour down to just a few hundred. At that point, parachutes were deployed, and the craft fell the rest of the way to ground, where it impacted more-or-less gently.
And you thought a roller coaster was an excting ride. Read more about the trip at Bad Astronomy.

Chicken Buses Of Guatemala

What happens to yellow school buses retired from commission in the United States? They start a new colorful life as Chicken Buses in Guatemala. A chicken bus (Spanish: camioneta or trambilla) is a colloquial English name for a colorful, modified and decorated bus that transports goods and people between communities in Honduras and foremost in Guatemala.

The word 'chicken' refers to the fact that rural Guatemalans occasionally transport live animals on such buses.

Inquiry ordered after cheering mob tried to set helpless bear on fire

The Jammu and Kashmir government has ordered an inquiry into an attempt by a jeering crowd to set a terrified bear, which strayed into a village, on fire. Footage of the attack that happened nearly a week ago in the state's Shopian district shows the bear trying to climb a tree in desperation as a crowd gathered around.  The villagers are seen tying a burning cloth to a pole, raising it towards the bear and poking the animal. The bear tries to perch itself further up on the tree's branches until it's unable to go up any further.

Soon engulfed in flames, the bear eventually climbed down and managed to escape, but its fate was not known. "An inquiry has been ordered. A senior government official will hold the inquiry," Jammu and Kashmir Forest Minister Mian Altaf said. "The bear had entered the village, but the locals had no intention to kill it. They had just gathered to watch the animal. I am told the bear ran away without being harmed," he said.

The attack was reported just two days before the Union Environment Ministry was due to host a global conference on bear conservation in New Delhi. Vivek Menon, executive director of the Wildlife Trust of India, said bear conflict was a serious problem in Kashmir. "Bears are entering orchards and maize fields, though not human settlements. Around 10 per cent of beds in Srinagar's main hospital are reported to be occupied at any time by people mauled by bears. There seems to be a general resentment and people are trying to take the law into their own hands," said Mr Menon.

YouTube link. There's a much longer news video, with debate, here.

Belinda Wright, executive director, Wildlife Protection Society of India, called for "better management, training and sensitisation" to reduce bear-human conflicts. In the last one week, Kashmir has reported four instances of bear deaths in attacks by villagers. Bilal, a student in Srinagar, said: "There is absolute lack of awareness. The wildlife department needs to work with communities that are facing this conflict in the state."

Vampire Algae Suck on Salad

Just as the Twilight saga is coming to an end, another group of light-loving vampires has been found out for what they truly are.  
 Vampire Algae Suck on Salad

Get a load of that Schnoz

Elephant shrews are not only adorable, they are also fascinating creatures. For example, they are actually more closely related to elephants than shrews.This little guy was just born at the National Zoo and the staff there must be proud of how cute he ended up.

Tardigrade is plump, loveable

Who's a chubby little water bear? Yes you are. Ooh, yes you are.

This moment of straight-up cuteness is brought to you by Bob Goldstein, who researches tardigrades at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.
Tardigrades are, of course, microscopic animals that live in moss and the muddy sand on beaches. They can survive high temperatures, freezing, and crushing pressures by drying themselves up into a little hard ball, called a tun. Stick a tun in water and — no matter what horrible conditions it's dealt with — it will rehydrate and regenerate back into a tardigrade. Beyond that, though, we know shockingly little about these animals. Even their place on the evolutionary tree of life is up for debate. Among other work, Goldstein and his team are in the process of sequencing the tardigrade genome. It may well be the most adorable genome on Earth.

Medieval manuscript marginalia show rabbits executing a hound

Back in 2010, Carl Pyrdum posted this medieval manuscript marginalia, founded on a text in the British Museum. It depicts a kind of Sergio Argones story about rabbits chasing down a hunting hound, trying it, and hanging it. There's also a delightfully gruesome coda.
But the rabbits, it turns out, are not hunters at all. They’re some sort of rabbit police force. Next stop for the hound is the rabbit judicial system, where he stands trial before a rabbit judge... It’s unclear if the jury was made up of hounds or hares, but the verdict is swift and certain. The hound is bound and carried in a cart to the gallows... For you see, the sentence was death by hanging.

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