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The place where the world comes together in honesty and mirth.
Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Daily Drift

The truth be told ...

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Today in History

558   The dome of the church of St. Sophia in Constantinople collapses. Its immediate rebuilding is ordered by Justinian.  
1274   The Second Council of Lyons opens in France to regulate the election of the pope.  
1429   Joan of Arc breaks the English siege of Orleans.  
1525   The German peasants' revolt is crushed by the ruling class and church.  
1763   Indian chief Pontiac begins his attack on a British fort in present-day Detroit, Michigan.  
1800   Congress divides the Northwest Territory into two parts. The western part will becomes the Indiana Territory and the eastern section remains the Northwest Territory.  
1824   Beethoven's "Ninth Symphony" premiers in Vienna.  
1847   The American Medical Association is formed in Philadelphia.  
1862   Confederate troops strike Union troops at the Battle of Eltham's Landing in Virginia.
1864   The Battle of Wilderness ends with heavy losses to both sides.  
1877   Indian chief Sitting Bull enters Canada with a trail of Indians after the Battle of Little Big Horn.  
1915   The German submarine U-20 torpedoes the passenger ship Lusitiania, sinking her in 21 minutes with 1,978 people on board.  
1937   The German Condor Legion arrives in Spain to assist Fransico Franco's forces.  
1942   In the Battle of the Coral Sea, Japanese and American navies attack each other with carrier-launched warplanes. It is the first time in the history of naval warfare where two fleets fought without seeing each other.Two crucial battles in 1942 marked the turning point of the war in the Pacific.  
1943   The last major German strongholds in North Africa–Tunis and Bizerte–fall to Allied forces.  
1945   Germany signs an unconditional surrender, effectively ending World War II in Europe.  
1952   In Korea, Communist POWs at Koje-do riot against their American captors. 1954   French troops surrender to the Vietminh at Dien Bien Phu.  
1958   Howard Johnson sets an aircraft altitude record in F-104.  
1960   Leonid Brezhnev becomes president of the Soviet Union.

Non Sequitur


Semper fi

A nurse took the tired, anxious serviceman to the bedside. “Your son is here,” she said to the old man. She had to repeat the words several times before the patient’s eyes opened.

Heavily sedated because of the pain of his heart attack, he... dimly saw the young uniformed Marine standing outside the oxygen tent. He reached out his hand. The Marine wrapped his toughened fingers around the old man’s limp ones, squeezing a message of love and encouragement.

The nurse brought a chair so that the Marine could sit beside the bed. All through the night the young Marine sat there in the poorly lighted ward, holding the old man’s hand and offering him words of love and strength. Occasionally, the nurse suggested that the Marine move away and rest awhile. He refused.

Whenever the nurse came into the ward, the Marine was oblivious of her and of the night noises of the hospital - the clanking of the oxygen tank, the laughter of the night staff members exchanging greetings, the cries and moans of the other patients. Now and then she heard him say a few gentle words. The dying man said nothing, only held tightly to his son all through the night.

Along towards dawn, the old man died. The Marine released the now lifeless hand he had been holding and went to tell the nurse. While she did what she had to do, he waited.

Finally, she returned. She started to offer words of sympathy, but the Marine interrupted her, “Who was that man?” he asked.

The nurse was startled, “He was your father,” she answered.

“No, he wasn’t,” the Marine replied. “I never saw him before in my life.”

“Then why didn’t you say something when I took you to him?”

“I knew right away there had been a mistake, but I also knew he needed his son, and his son just wasn’t here. When I realized that he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son, knowing how much he needed me, I stayed. I came here tonight to find a Mr. William Grey. His Son was killed in Iraq today, and I was sent to inform him. What was this Gentleman’s Name? “

The nurse with tears in her eyes answered, “Mr. William Grey………”

The Colorful Life of Antonia Larroux

vIf you can discern anything at all from her obituary, Antonia Larroux had a non-stop sense of humor. Her paid obituary ran in the New York Times Friday and Saturday, although Larroux lived in Mississippi.
Waffle House lost a loyal customer on April 30, 2013. Antonia W. "Toni" Larroux died after a battle with multiple illnesses: lupus, rickets, scurvy, kidney disease and feline leukemia. She had previously conquered polio as a child contributing to her unusually petite ankles and the nickname "polio legs" given to her by her ex-husband, Jean F. Larroux, Jr. It should not be difficult to imagine the multiple reasons for their divorce 35+ years ago. Two children resulted from that marriage: Hayden Hoffman and Jean F. Larroux, III. Due to multiple, anonymous Mother's Day cards which arrived each May, the children suspect there were other siblings but that has never been verified.
But that's just the beginning. Read about Larroux's four oddly-nicknamed sisters, her overdue library books, and the "questionable choice" of a clergyman for her funeral. She must have been a delightful woman. More

Did you know ...

That like most repugican efforts, the working families flexibility act is a nice-sounding name for a terrible, terrible idea

That it's time to occupy the NRA

About the 24 hour all Boston, all the time

That a Washington judge orders police to return seized marijuana


Monday, May 6

Proposed South Carolina budget says no junk food for governor

Lawmakers in South Carolina are trying to keep junk food out of the governor's mansion.State senators inserted a clause in the 2013-14 budget plan that would bar Gov. Nikki Haley's office and the Governor's Mansion from buying junk food with public money, whether for employee treats or entertaining. The move was a response to state efforts to fight obesity by limiting what people can buy with money from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, known more commonly as food stamps. Those efforts need federal approval before being implemented. Democratic Sen. Darrell Jackson of Columbia pushed for the provision. He says it's only fair for Haley to implement with her staff the healthy purchasing she's promoting for poor people.

The repugican cabal and the un-Founding of America

Thus we are sowing the Seeds of Ignorance, Corruption, and Injustice, in the fairest Field of Liberty ever appeared upon Earth, even in the first attempts to cultivate it.
John Adams to Joseph Hawley, August 25, 1776
We posted yesterday about the U.S. Constitution and repugican nullification laws designed to undermine the Constitution. This is all very funny of course because, speaking of ignorance, corruption, and injustice, the repugicans claim to be the defenders of the Constitution; this while wishing to do away with every amendment save the Second and the Tenth- narrowing repugican goals to guns and secession.
And thinking about the Constitution got me thinking about the Declaration of Independence, that other all-important Founding document. We think now of the Declaration as the document that got the ball rolling; that laid out the ideological and philosophical framework of the country-to-be.
But at the time, to the committee assigned to write the Constitution – Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman – the Declaration of Independence was just an administrative detail. The whole point of the document was to justify the withdrawal of the thirteen colonies from England’s not-so-affectionate embrace, a deed that was, by the time of Bunker Hill,(actually Breed's Hill), already largely accomplished, for Boston was all that remained of British rule in North America. The Declaration was, in effect, putting the punctuation point on something – independence – that was already a done deal.
Thomas Jefferson himself got “stuck” with writing it because he was the least busy of the committee members and because Franklin cited not only his gout but an unwillingness to ever again write anything that would be subject to review by committee (a feeling Jefferson would soon come to share). And even then, Jefferson didn’t even want to do it, but wanted instead to return to Virginia where the “real important” work was taking place. Who could have seen at the time what would come of him being forced to remain in Philadelphia?
The committee, perhaps because they were so preoccupied with more important things, suggested only changing “We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable” to “self-evident” in the second paragraph’s opening lines. But this part of the document was not considered important and so this stylistic change was the only one made to the second, while the first paragraph was heavily revised.[1] When the document was presented to Congress for consideration, the focus was not on the first two paragraphs but on the list of grievances. The core of the Constitution for Jefferson and others was not “all men being equal” but the list of charges against the king. Not the first two paragraphs, but especially the last, a complete reversal of how we read it today.[2]
As Eric Slauter wrote, for readers, the Declaration was not that all men are created equal, but the statement that:
these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that they are absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political Connection between them and the State of Great-Britain, is an ought to be totally dissolved; and that as FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which INDEPENDENT STATES may of right do.
As Slauter points out, this was a declaration of national independence “and not a declaration of individual rights.”[3] But already by 1783, Quaker abolitionist David Cooper was pointing to Jefferson’s words in response to slavery. Thinking perhaps of Samuel Johnson, Cooper wrote, “When men talk of liberty, they mean their own liberty, and seldom suffer their thoughts on that point to stray to their neighbours.”[4] In 1784, the state of Rhode Island abolished slavery with the Gradual Emancipation Act, using the very words of Jefferson, that “all men are created equal.”[5]
Lincoln was right to point out that saying “The assertion that ‘all men are created equal’ was of no practical use in effecting our separation from Great Britain; and it was placed in the Declaration, not for that, but for future use.”[6]
Our use.
The Declaration was becoming something else, as Jefferson was beginning to realize before he died in 1826, and he became eager to attach his name to it, putting at the top of his list of accomplishments on his tombstone. Lincoln’s words above are his view in 1857. In 1859, Lincoln said,
All honor to Jefferson – to the man who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people, had the coolness, forecaste, and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, and so to embalm it there, that today and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling block to the very harbingers of reappearing tyranny and oppression.[7]
Now the Declaration is a “merely” revolutionary document that happens to contain a greater truth and its value lies not in justification for rebellion but in the assertion that by nature all men equal.
Lincoln turned again to the Declaration in 1863, when, in the midst of the Civil War, he began his Gettysburg Address by saying that, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
We could no longer say that men just happen to be equal. That equality is now the very basis of the founding of our country. As Slauter concluded,
Though for most of the Declaration had not taken on its modern meaning as a charter of rights, a small group of black and white readers beginning in 1776 asserted that it should and, in doing so, made the Declaration their own and helped to make it modern.[8]
Now America’s wingnut voices would have it that the Declaration does not mean this at all, that “all men are created equal” does not mean all women too, let alone those who dare to be a color other than white, or a religion other than christian. Liberalism vouches for the truth of Jefferson’s assertion today as it did yesterday; it was the radical liberal Thomas Paine, after all, who championed the rights of the landless and the old and the poor, and those are the same rights liberals champion today. They are the same rights conservatism battles endlessly against as it seeks to substitute the words “We the People” found in the Constitution with “We the Corporations.”
Political power in a democracy, as the founding Fathers realized, derives from the consent of the governed, which is why the Constitution begins with those words, “We the People.” It does not derive from the few rich, or from corporations, or from religious denominations, but from the people. And those people, all of them, says the Declaration of Independence, are equal.
As Lincoln said, Jefferson’s words should be “a rebuke and a stumbling block to the very harbingers of reappearing tyranny and oppression.” We see every day that they are. But how potent a rebuke to a party that has embraced all the dark excesses of the authoritarian mind?
Neither Jefferson nor Lincoln had to contend with the influence modern propaganda can bring to bear. For Jefferson’s words to continue as a rebuke, a sufficient rebuke, we must rally to them; we must insist they are relevant still. And they and they alone must be the ruler against which all laws are measured. The United States Constitution passes muster. The repugican platform? Their proposed laws at local, state, and federal level since 2008? Not so much.
It is touching the extent to which various Founding Fathers thought ahead, even (or especially) in the midst of crisis, to the “millions yet unborn,” sentiments expressed in their correspondence. That would be us. And that debt passes down to us. I hope that we equal to it, and in the midst of our own crises, can ourselves take time to think of the millions yet unborn who depend on our own decisions, and on our fortitude.
Image: John Trumbull’s Declaration of Independence from Wikipedia

[1] Eric Slauter, The Declaration of Independence and the new nation. In Frank Shuffleton (Ed.). The Cambridge Companion to Thomas Jefferson. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2009, 18.
[2] Slauter (2009), 12.
[3] Slauter (2009), 13.
[4] David Cooper, A Serious Address to the Rulers of America On the Inconsistency of their Conduct respecting Slavery. London: J. Phillips, 1873. Retrieved from gilderlehrman-announcemen…
[5] Slavery and the Slave Trade in Rhode Island. The John Carter Brown Library. Retrieved from www.brown.edu/Facilities/…
[6] Abraham Lincoln, Speech at Springfield, June 26, 1857. MrLincolnandFreedom.org. Retrieved from www.mrlincolnandfreedom.o…
[7] Letter of Abraham Lincoln to Henry L. Pierce of April 6, 1859. AbrahamLincolnOnline.org. Retrieved from www.abrahamlincolnonline….
[8] Slauter (2009), 28.

Injustice For Most

Our Two-Tiered Justice System Is In Desperate Need of Intervention
by Deborah Foster

One would have to be exceptionally naive to believe that the American criminal justice system doles out punishments fairly. Justice is supposed to be blind, but the reality is that your economic status, the color of your skin, where you live, and who you hire as an attorney are more likely to determine your fate than the facts of your case. A series of cases juxtapose how the system behaves toward the wealthy criminal versus how the system treats the less advantaged members of society.
First, there is the case of Roy Brown, a homeless Black man, who entered a bank in December 2007 and pretended to have a gun. He held up a teller for $100 although she offered him more. The next day, Mr. Brown was overcome with guilt over what he had done, so he surrendered himself to the police. He explained to authorities that he had needed the money to stay in a detox center. He had nowhere else to go and he was hungry. Mr. Brown was sentenced to 15 years in prison for first-degree armed robbery.
Contrast his case with that of Paul R. Allen, representing your average wealthy, white collar criminal. In 2011, he was found guilty of $3 billion in securities fraud. He was sentenced to 3 years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to mislead investors. This was the result despite the fact that at least 2000 people lost their jobs as a result of his actions. His sentence was reduced, because he agreed to testify against a co-conspirator. Nonetheless, the justice doled out to Roy Brown and Paul R. Allen reflects just how unjust the system really is. Some crimes receive disproportionately harsh sentences, particularly if their perpetrators fit a certain profile. Other crimes, particularly white collar crimes, harm thousands of people in one act, yet receive relatively light sentences.
Another story of getting the justice you pay for in the criminal justice system comes this recently as the Department of Justice announced that it was in negotiations with the lawyers for Jeffrey Skilling, one of the architects of the Enron scandal. Apparently, the DOJ and Skilling’s lawyers may find a way to significantly reduce his 24-year sentence for conspiracy, insider trading, making false statements to auditors and securities fraud. At the time of his sentencing, the chair of the Enron Task Force, Sean Berkowitz, stated that the lengthy sentence Skilling received was necessary as a deterrent to other corporate criminals. He also pointed out, “The Enron fraud is as large and serious as any other fraud in this nation’s history.”
In somewhat encouraging news, the rate at which corporate misbehavior is being prosecuted by the DOJ in 2012 has risen substantially. Even from 2011 to 2012, the number of fines imposed on nefarious corporate conduct more than doubled. However, these punishments occurred at the corporate level. Individuals who actually committed that fraud, conspiracy or tax evasion are not held responsible. They are not criminally liable for all of the people they harm. Bankers can rip off American soldiers with improper foreclosures, and their consequence will merely be a fine and restitution. As Norm Prattis, author of “Juries and Justice,” told Mint Press:
“Mortgage fraud came close to crashing the economy in ways that ordinary drug abuse never will. Criminal defense lawyers marvel at the lenience of white collar sentences. Reducing white collar sentences sends the wrong message to pinstripe thieves — break the law, profit, have fun, take your slap on the wrist, and then do it all over again.  In the meantime, blue collar convicts grow resentful when they pull decades’ long sentences for lifestyle crimes.”
So, even as corporations receive more fines, the white collar criminals who commit the malfeasance are not brought to justice. These criminals tend to be overwhelmingly white, wealthy, and well-represented. Contrast this reality with the report released last month by the U.S. Sentencing Commission that found that black prisoners receive sentences that are essentially 20% longer than white prisoners for the same crimes. Nowhere are these disparities more evident than in the cases of Tyrone Brown and John Alexander Wood. Mr. Brown, a poor Black man, participated in a $2 armed robbery when he was 17. No one was hurt. He received a sentence of 10 years on probation. However, while on probation he tested positive once for smoking marijuana. The judge immediately revoked his probation, and sentenced him to life in prison. The wealthy and well-connected Mr. Wood, on the other hand, killed a prostitute by shooting him in the back. Mr. Wood also received a sentence of 10 years on probation. He repeatedly tested positive for cocaine use and was even arrested for cocaine possession, though the charges were never prosecuted. The judge, who was also the exact same judge who presided over the Tyrone Brown case, not only did not punish Mr. Wood, he ended up telling him that he didn’t need to take drug tests anymore.
The Department of Justice has been under fire for decisions like allowing HSBC to cater to drug cartels and terrorist networks with only a fine as a consequence. Matt Taibbi describes Americans as afflicted with “outrage fatigue” when it comes to the prosecution of all of the white collar crimes Wall Street has committed. Perhaps that is why the HSBC news received relatively little response from citizens. However, this gross neglect of people who steal the retirement savings of thousands of people in favor of focusing attention on people who steal TVs and stereos needs to at least come with an acknowledgement that justice in the United States is bifurcated: one for rich people and one for poor.


As schools around the country look for ways to reduce violence and bullying, they may want to consider encouraging students to participate in team sports, according to a study to be presented Sunday, May 5, [...]
Step into a class of 30 high school students and look around. Five of them have been victims of electronic bullying in the past year. What’s more, 10 of those students spend three or more [...]

Israeli raids in Syria highlight Arab conundrum

(AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video) 
by Sarah El Deeb and Brian Murphy

Five weeks ago, the head of the Arab League capped a summit in Qatar with an impassioned appeal to strengthen the rebel fighters trying to bring down Syrian President Bashar Assad. On Sunday, he denounced Israeli's airstrike into Assad's territory as a dangerous threat to regional stability.
The contrast reflects a fundamental conundrum for Arab leaders.
Nearly all Arab states have sided with the rebel forces seeking to topple Assad and inflict a blow to his main ally, Iran. And Sunday's attack by Israeli warplanes in Syria - the second in three days - was the type of punishing response many Arab leaders have urged from the West against Assad after more than two years of civil war.
The fact the fighter jets came from Israel, however, exposes the complications and regional crosscurrents that make Syria the Arab Spring's most intricate puzzle.
While Israel and much of the Arab world share suspicions about Iran, including worries over its nuclear ambitions and expanding military, the perception that they are allied against Assad - even indirectly - is strongly knocked down by many Arab leaders.
The airstrikes also highlight one of the critical side issues of the Syrian conflict: the Iranian-backed Shiite militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The Israeli warplanes apparently targeted a shipment of highly accurate, Iranian-made Fateh-110 guided missiles believed to be bound for Hezbollah.
Toppling Assad would cut the arms pipeline that runs from Shiite giant Iran to Hezbollah. But Hezbollah remains deeply popular on the Arab street for its battles with Israel, including a war in 2006 in which Hezbollah fired thousands of rockets into Israel.
No Arab leader wants to be perceived as giving a green light for Israeli attacks.
Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby warned of serious repercussions from the Israeli attacks and called on the U.N. Security Council to "immediately move to stop the Israeli aggressions on Syria."
Elaraby described the Israeli airstrikes as a "grave violation of the sovereignty of an Arab state that will further complicate the issue in Syria and expose the region's security and stability to the most serious threats and consequences."
Also Sunday, Elaraby held talks with Mouaz al-Khatib, who recently resigned as chief of the Syrian National Coalition of opposition forces, to discuss the Israeli raids and other issues. At an Arab League summit in late March, Elaraby backed a declaration by host Qatar that gave member states "the right" to back the Syrian opposition.
Qatar and other wealthy Gulf Arab have become leading backers of Syria's opposition in a dual bid to expand their influence while crippling Iran. Official Gulf reaction to the Israeli attacks was limited to straightforward reports with little commentary.
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi condemned Israel's airstrikes, calling them a violation of international law and warning they complicate the civil war in that country.
The statement from Morsi's office added that Egypt also "strongly objects" to the bloodshed and the use of Syria's military against its people, but rejected the violation of Syrian sovereignty and "exploiting its internal crisis under whatever pretext."
Egypt launched an Arab bid to bring a peaceful end Syria's civil war, but it gained little momentum.
Lebanon's Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour called on the Arab League to take a "firm stance regarding Israel's aggression against Syria." Mansour said that Israel is paving the way "for a wide aggression that would blow up the region."
In Iraq, the Syrian crisis has forced the Shiite-led government in Baghdad to try to balance its ties to Arab partners and its close bonds to Iran. In a statement, influential anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said "Syria's dignity should be preserved" and urged Assad to "retaliate."
Egypt's Popular Current, a leftist opposition group headed by former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, said in a statement that it condemns the "licentious" Israeli attack.
"No single Arab person, regardless of how much they disagree with the regime of Bashar Assad, can accept this aggression," the group said, calling Israel the "first enemy" of the Arab world.
The airstrikes come as Washington considers how to respond to indications that the Syrian regime may have used chemical weapons. President Barack Obama has described the use of such weapons as a "red line," and the administration is weighing its options, including possible military action.

In Pakistan town, men have spoken: No women vote

For decades, not a single woman in this dusty Pakistani village surrounded by wheat fields and orange trees has voted. And they aren't likely to in next week's parliamentary election either. The village's men have spoken.
"It's the will of my husband," said one woman, Fatma Shamshed. "This is the decision of all the families."
Mateela is one of 564 out of the 64,000 polling districts across Pakistan where not a single woman voted in the country's 2008 election. The men from this village of roughly 9,000 people got together with other nearby communities to decide that their women would not vote on May 11 either.
Next week's election will bring a major first for democracy in Pakistan - the first time a civilian government has fulfilled its term and handed over power to another. But women still face an uphill battle to make their voices heard in the political process, as voters, candidates and in parliament, where they hold 22 percent of the seats in the lower house.
Women represent only about 43 percent of the roughly 86 million registered voters, according to election commission data. In more conservative areas like Khyber Paktunkhwa province and Baluchistan, the percentage drops even further.
In places like Mateela, the fact that men decide women should not be allowed to vote is a decades-old tradition. Some men say women don't have the mental capacity. Other times they don't want wives and daughters to leave the house. Some simply don't see the point.
At a recent gathering in the village, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Islamabad, activists tried to encourage the opposite. The Association for Gender Awareness & Human Empowerment, an independent group working to increase voter participation, met with residents, trying to encourage them to let women vote.
Mateela's men sat with male activists in a courtyard near the village mosque. Secluded behind a gate, the women sat on a concrete floor and listened to a female activist talk about the benefits of voting.
Yar Mohammed, one of the village elders, insisted it isn't a matter of discrimination. The problem, he said, is that the local polling station is mixed gender. The men worry that their wives and daughters will be harassed, so they want a separate women's station. In some places, but not all, polls are specified for men or women only.
"We stop our women from going to polling stations because we think if they do, men would tease them by staring or touching them," he said.
Mateela's women certainly want a political voice. They talk of their desire to see better roads, schools where their daughters can get an education and a reliable supply of gas for cooking and heating.
They don't directly defy their fathers and husbands - but they do lobby them to change their minds.
One resident, Mohammed Shamshed, said the women in his family "come up to us and say, `We want to vote.'"
"But we tell them that it is a collective decision," he said.
Rubina Arshad said things are slowly starting to change as men and women become more educated. "This is the tradition and the culture, from many, many years ago. We could not cast the vote," she said.
Another deterrent to women voting has been that many don't have the proper identification card, called a CNIC card. Historically, many men in conservative areas haven't seen the need to send their wives or daughters to get the ID card or haven't wanted to pay for it.
But activists say that has begun to change in recent years - in large part because it makes more financial sense for men. Poor women who want to receive money through the Benazir Income Support Program, a government plan to give money to poor people, need a valid ID card. And many programs that give out aid to flood victims or people displaced in fighting in the tribal areas also require an ID card.
"These two have tremendously enhanced the registration of women," said Muddassir Rizvi, CEO of the Islamabad-based Free and Fair Election Network. "If they see an advantage of a relationship with the state, then they agree to things."
There are other encouraging signs as well, with more women competing in the elections.
In Pakistan, 60 of the 342 seats in the lower house of parliament, known as the National Assembly, are reserved for women. They are handed out to parties in proportion to how they do in the overall race, so women don't have to campaign publicly for them. But women can also run for the general seats, in competition with men on the campaign trial. In 2008, 64 women ran for general seats and 18 made it to the parliament.
This year, the number of women contesting general seats has jumped to 161, out of a total of 4,671 candidates, according to data provided by U.N. Women, which focuses on women's empowerment and gender issues. Elections for provincial assemblies saw a bigger rise, with 355 women running among nearly 11,000 candidates, up from 116 in 2008.
The type of women running has also changed.
Traditionally, many female candidates have been from wealthy, land-owning families and were seen more as a continuation of political dynasties than as women entering politics in their own right. Benazir Bhutto was famous for being Pakistan's first female prime minister, but she was also the daughter of a powerful political family.
Experts say many of the women running this year are from the middle or even lower classes. A woman in the tribal area of Bajur is running for parliament, marking the first time a woman has ever run for election from the conservative tribal areas that border Afghanistan. In the southern city of Hyderabad, a Hindu woman is also running for election.
Still, the number of female candidates is extremely low, and most run as independents without the support of a political party.
The Pakistan People's Party, the party that Bhutto headed before her assassination in 2007, is fielding women candidates in only 7 percent of the races. A PPP spokeswoman, Sharmila Farouqi admits that is not enough.
"There is a perception that women cannot contest elections against men due to many reasons," she said. "There is a need to encourage and support women."
When they do get into the parliament, women tend to get down to business.
According to FAFEN's data, female lawmakers last term asked more questions and submitted more bills and resolutions than men.
The women also banded together to help pass five pieces of important legislation protecting women, including laws against sexual harassment in the workplace, according to Farkhanda Aurangzeb, from the Islamabad-based Aurat Foundation.
In Mateela, the men say they are willing to let women vote if the election commission sets up a separate polling station. But the commission said that isn't possible because the voting lists had already been finalized.
Abdul Hamid Abbasi, an activist from AGAHE, tried to convince the tribal elders that allowing women to vote will increase their power at the polls.
"You can change your fate by electing a good candidate," he says. "It won't be possible without the active participation of women voters."

House fire blamed on shiny metal dog bowl

A couple is pointing the finger at their dog's water bowl for a fire that sparked up at their home. Firefighters in Santa Rosa, California say it is one of the most unusual fire calls they've ever had. Perry and Shay Weisbrich love their dog, Toby. They take good care of their canine companion and on hot days, he gets lots of water.

But his water bowl nearly destroyed their home. Shay, was the first to notice something was wrong. "I just looked outside a minute and saw what I thought was steam. A big plume of it through the glass door, so I went over there thinking, 'That's not right, not normal.' And it was smoke," said Shay. Toby's shiny new bowl was reflecting a concentrated beam of sunlight onto the side of the house.

"Opened the door and looked. Looked to me like it was about to burst into flame," said Perry. The beam so powerful the wood started to burn. The Bennett Valley Fire Department responded before the fire got out of control. Lt. Rene Torres has been a firefighter for over 10 years, and he says this is his first dog bowl fire.

"Yeah it's unusual but you always hear the legendary tales of the horse hooves sparking or the bullet sparking. Or the Coke bottle that reflects the light. The broken glass that can start a fire. So now the dog dish," said Lt. Torres. It's remarkable that the angles happened to line up and produce a powerful beam of light. The Weisbrichs say Toby's getting a new dish, a plastic bowl.

Man clung to hood of woman's car for almost two miles following hit-and-run

Police in Roswell, Georgia are searching for a woman who drove for nearly two miles while a man clung to the bonnet of her car.

Elton Kim says he saw the woman back into his wife's SUV in the parking lot outside of his dry cleaning business two weeks ago and went outside to confront her. Kim stood in front of the woman's car, which had Alabama plates, and she accelerated into him.

He jumped on the bonnet and the woman took off driving for nearly two miles before he was able to get off at a red light. Police told Petchenik they intend to charge the driver with felony aggravated assault, if and when they find her. While police don’t condone the driver’s behavior, they also want to discourage citizens from taking matters into their hands.

“We do not want people to stand in front of a car to prevent it from leaving,” said Officer Lisa Holland. “Just get a description of the driver, the car, the tag number and let police do their job.” Kim said he was shaken by the incident, but thankful he wasn’t seriously hurt or killed.

Woman says she stole clothes so her boyfriend wouldn't have to pay for them

A woman from Niceville, Florida was arrested and accused of trying to take clothing from a local store without paying for the items.
A loss prevention officer at Beall’s Department Store on Emerald Coast Parkway in Destin called the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office to report the theft. The employee told a deputy he detained two women for theft.

According to the arrest report, the employee saw 22-year-old Kayla Mechelle Ailey choose 14 items – shirts, dresses, jewellery and bottoms – and hid them on herself and in her purse. She then left the store without paying for the items.

The report didn’t say if the other woman played a role in the theft. The total value of the items taken was $316.60. Ailey told officers she took the items because she didn’t want her boyfriend to have to pay for them. She was charged with felony larceny.

Gang Member Runs Party and Pony Rental Business

Alleged Gang Member Runs Party and Pony Rental Business 
(Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Dilbert Coreas/Facebook) 
Being a member of a violent gang and running a kids’ party and pony rental business would hardly seem to be compatible career paths.

A Florida man may be proof, however, that the two can be one and the same.

Dilbert Coreas, an undocumented immigrant from El Salvador, was arrested in Palm Beach County, Fla., on federal charges of reentering the country after deportation, according to a criminal complaint. He had previously been ordered deported from the country in 2012.

Detectives with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Gang Unit said they became interested in Coreas when they viewed photos uploaded on social media sites that suggested he was a member of the Mara Salvatrucha gang, a violent Central American gang also known as MS-13.

Coreas reportedly runs a kids’ party rental business called “It’z a Kid’z World Party Planning and Rental,” where pony rides can be had for $70 and bouncy houses for $85. Photos on Coreas’ Facebook page show him posing with two ponies his company has available to rent.

According to the complaint, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Gang Unit monitored Coreas as he conducted numerous pony ride and bouncy house events in Palm Beach County.

In June 2009, Coreas was convicted on a charge of felony possession of cocaine with intent to sell, as well as felony tampering and resisting arrest.

The U.S. State Department currently lists MS-13 as a Transnational Criminal Organization. It is heavily involved in drug and weapons trafficking, human smuggling, money-laundering and murder for hire.  MS-13 reportedly has a presence in the United States of upwards of 300 cities across 40 states.

Briton arrested with roasted human fetuses for use in black magic ritual

A British man has been arrested in Thailand after being found with six fetuses that had been roasted and covered in gold leaf as part of a black magic spirit ritual.
Bangkok: After the deluge, back in the flow
Wat Arun, a popular riverside temple, Bangkok 
The corpses of the unborn baby boys were found packed in a suitcase in his hotel room in Bangkok’s Chinatown district.
Chow Hok Kuen, 28, who holds a British passport but is of Taiwanese origin, confessed to police that he had bought the foetuses several days earlier for almost £4,000. The source of the foetuses is unclear.
He said he intended to smuggle them to Taiwan where they would be sold for as much as six times what he paid on the internet to people who believe that their possession would bring wealth and good luck.
The man told police that that he was hired by another Taiwanese man, named Kun Yichen, who regularly travelled to Thailand to collect the ritualistic foetuses.
Worship of the foetuses — observed by some on the Chinese community — is a Buddhist-animist practice known as Kuman Thong that is described in ancient Thai manuscripts.
In Thai black magic rituals, also observed among some Chinese communities, preserved foetuses are believed to bring good fortune to the owner and are often kept in shrines within homes or businesses.
It required male foetuses surgically removed from the womb that were then dried as black magic incantations were said over the body, before it was covered in gold leaf. Kuman Thong means “golden baby boy”.
Lore has it that if the owner reveres the ritual foetus, its spirit will warn and protect its possessor of danger. In practice the foetuses have been replaced by wooden effigies.
Chow Hok Kuen faces up to a year in jail and a fine of £40 for possession of the foetuses, which police said showed development of between two and eight months.
Officers made the gruesome discovery in the hotel in the Yaowarat district of Bangkok, where they found that the foetuses had also been tattooed and were adorned with religious threads.
Col Wiwat Kamhamnan, of Bangkok police, said: “He said he planned to sell the foetuses to clients who believe they will make them lucky and rich.”
Abortion is illegal in Thailand unless the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or poses a threat to the mother’s health.
But women’s rights groups estimate that up to 400,000 Thai woman undergo abortions each year.
Last year two undertakers and woman who collected foetuses from illegal abortion clinics were jailed after more than 2,000 corpses were found at a temple morgue when the furnace for the crematorium broke down.


Monday, May 6

Woman stalks herself on Facebook

A western Michigan woman is accused of creating a Facebook account to stalk herself.
Cheryl Nelson, a 52-year-old from the Grand Rapids area, complained to sheriff's deputies that she was the victim of stalking, harassment and other crimes. But authorities learned that she set up a Facebook account with her ex-boyfriend's information and made it appear that his new girlfriend was using it to harass her.
Detective Jason Russo of the sheriff's department says Nelson couldn't let go of her relationship with her former boyfriend.
MLive.com (http://bit.ly/ZwcGvY) reports that Nelson is charged with falsely reporting a felony. She could not be reached for comment Saturday. There is no listing for a home number.

Eleven Of The Wildest Technology Conspiracy Theories

Facebook was invented by the CIA. A longer-lasting light bulb has been kept out of consumer hands on purpose. The military can make warships invisible. Nothing is at it seems! Or is it? Plus, they're all out to get you.

Whether the motivations are political, financial, or otherwise, plenty of people are convinced that big businesses and governments are manipulating technology to keep power out of the hands of the people. Take a look at these conspiracy theories.

The Ten Worst Food Contamination Incidents Ever

Whether the cause is willful deception or simply a tragic mistake, contaminated food is a very real and present danger - and one that can have deadly consequences. Incidents range from the inclusion of nasty ingredients to the addition of hazardous substances that should never have entered human digestive systems.

From arsenic-tainted milk to mercury-poisoned fish, these are 10 of the most shocking and devastating food contamination cases in history.

Hybrid Flu Virus: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Some strains of the flu virus, like the H5N1 bird flu virus, are highly lethal but aren't easily transmitted from humans to humans, whereas others are very contagious but mild. What would happen if the two are mixed to create a new, hybrid virus that is both highly lethal and contagious?
Apparently, a team of Chinese scientists haven't seen the Hollywood movies about such dangerous experimentations and went ahead to create such a new virus:
They combined H5N1 avian influenza, which is highly lethal but doesn’t transmit easily between people, with the highly contagious H1N1 swine flu strain responsible for infecting tens of millions of people in 2009.
The new hybrid virus passed easily between guinea pigs, which are used to study how flu infects mammals. Molecular changes in the virus may provide clues of what to look for in circulating H5N1 strains, perhaps allowing scientists to anticipate when viruses will more easily infect humans.
“Mammalian-transmissible H5N1 viruses can be generated in nature,” said virologist Chen Hualan at China’s Harbin Veterinary Research Institute, who led the research team. “High attention should be paid during routine influenza surveillance to monitor such high risk H5N1 hybrid viruses in nature.”
What could possible go wrong? Brandon Keim of Wired has the story: Here.

The Amazing Monasteries Of Bhutan

The Kingdom of Bhutan is sometimes overlooked, locked between Tibet and India, but the Land of the Dragon as the Bhutanese call it is home to some of the most exquisite Buddhist monasteries in the world.

Take a fleeting visit to some of the over forty monasteries in Bhutan - quite a number considering the population of the entire country is only around 700,000.

The Innocent-Looking But Deadly Assassin Snail

At first glance, the bumblebee-striped snail may seem quite innocuous. Clea Helena is endemic to the freshwater lakes, rivers and reservoirs of Southeast Asia. It grows up to 1.2 inches in length and can be found burrowing around in soft mud or aquarium substrate, waiting under the surface for approaching creatures with its mouth and feeding tube sticking out.

Rather innocent-sounding, yes? Not quite! There's a good reason Clea Helena is better known as the 'assassin snail.'

Early Earth Smelled Like Rotten Egg

If you think that Early Earth, without industrial pollutants from humankind whatsoever, smelled fresh and natural, you'd be in for a rude and stinky surprise.
Scientists have determined that billions of years ago, Earth smelled of rotten eggs (irony: no chicken then, either):
Their work has revealed spherical and rod-shaped bacteria dining on the cylindrical outer shells of another, larger bacterium known as Gunflintia. To digest those Gunflintia sheaths, the feeding bacteria would have had to use oxygen atoms taken from salts, or "sulfates," in seawater. In the process, the microbes formed gaseous carbon dioxide, which would have been released into the atmosphere.
Another byproduct of this biochemical process is hydrogen sulfide, which produces a stench commonly known as "the rotten egg smell," explained Martin Brasier, a paleobiologist at Oxford University in London.
"The whole world didn't smell of rotten eggs," said Brasier, "but if you had a sensitive nose, it would have been very widespread indeed."

Awesome Pictures


Lightning Storm (source)

Mouse epilepsy cure holds hope for humans

UCSF scientists controlled seizures in epileptic mice with a one-time transplantation of medial ganglionic eminence (MGE) cells, which inhibit signaling in overactive nerve circuits, into the hippocampus, a brain region associated with seizures, as well [...]

Donald Trump Caterpillar

Researchers have photographed a caterpillar that bears an uncanny resemblance to property mogul Donald Trump's hair. With its brightly coloured, carefully parted 'do' the bizarre looking caterpillar has been compared to the U.S property mogul's unique look.

The creature was spotted in the Amazon by friends Jeff Cremer and Phil Torres who run photography tours. Nicknamed the 'Donald Trump Caterpillar', this creature is actually a flannel moth. They are found in Mexico, southern parts of the US, and some parts of central America. This one was found in the Amazon rainforest.

Animal Pictures