Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Russians launch Sirius FM5 satellite for Sirius Satellite Radio Inc.

Alexander Borbrenyov, press secretary of the Khrunichev center, said a Russian Proton-M carrier rocket, with a Sirius FM5 atop, blasted off at around 23:10 Moscow time (1910 GMT) from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan. The satellite is expected to separate from the booster 9 hours later.

The Sirius FM5 satellite, manufactured by the U.S. Space Systems/Loral Company and owned by U.S. broadcasting Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. Company, will function in orbit for 15 years. 

The satellite, whose liftoff weight is 5,840 kg, has a power twice as that of any existing satellites. It will provide music, sports and other broadcasts for regions including the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean Sea area. 

The launch of the Sirius FM5 satellite is the fifth involving a Proton-M carrier rocket this year. A product of the Khrunichev Center, the three-stage carrier rocket using liquid propellant has a lift-off weight of about 700 tons.

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Sanford had audultery in his heart

Didn't some other politician from the South say that, too? 

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Governor Mark Sanfordsaid that he had visited with his Argentine mistress more times than he initially disclosed and that he had had inappropriate flirtations with several other women as well.

Governor Sanford said today at his Statehouse office that those flirtations had “crossed the line” and that he had let his “guard down” by engaging in some physical contact with a woman other than his wife, Jenny Sanford. He admitted to a sexual relationship he began last year with María Belén Chapur, an Argentine woman. He suggested those other  flirtations did not result in 'booty calls.'

Sanford concluded the interview by asking that any further questions about his escpades should be referred to his politcal advisors, David Vitter and Newt Gingrich.


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Another conservative narcissist who thinks he is always right

Guess who?

Rush: "Hi Ya folks. Ah, welcome back. Rush Limbaugh here, highly trained broadcast specialist executing assigned host duties flawlessly. Zero mistakes, now documented to be almost always right 98.8 percent of the time. It's an amazing feat. Never the less, ah, take it for what it is. We're very proud of it.

Both Limbaugh and Sarah Palin both exhibit narcissistic qualities.



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Russia thanks President Bush for its new international role in 2008

Editor's Note: This is the Russian view of their major achievements in 2008. George W. Bush was antagonizing the Russians by trying to deploy a US anti- ballistic missile (ABM) system to former Warsaw Pact countries on the Russian border. In addition, the US armed Georgia with modern US weapons. Both the US and Israel provided training to the Georgian military.

Did George W. Bush consider the Russians to be identical to the old Soviet Union? Why did he provoke Russia? Did he think he could salvage his domestic reputation with another international adventure? Regardless, his reach exceeded his grasp.

Bush flopped both domestically and internationally. When US historians evaluated him at the end of his second term, ninety eight per cent said his presidency was a failure.

Russia / Politics31.12.2008 Source: Pravda.Ru
The world has started to respect Russia and take Russia’s opinion into consideration. This is Russia’s major achievement in 2008. The future of 2009 is rather vague because of the financial crisis, which has all chances to develop into a global political crisis. interviewed State Duma deputy Konstantin Zatulin, TV journalist Mikhail Leontiev and political scientists, Sergei Mikheyev and Alexander Rar, regarding the results, which the nation achieved in 2008.

Konstantin Zatulin, a deputy of the Russian Federation State Duma, United Russia faction, the director of the CIS Institute:
“I would like to point out a number of events, which are not limited with the time period of one year only. It is the economic crisis, first and foremost, which inevitably leads to political consequences.

The five-day war in South Ossetia and Russia ’s recognition of Abkhazia’s and South Ossetia’s independence is the second most important event. A new situation has been created on the post-Soviet world. Russia responded adequately to the challenge, but the West perceived it as a challenge, because it did not expect Russia to act like that.

“I think that it is too early to analyze the consequences of the reappraisal of values. Many try to underestimate the significance of what happened. Russia exercised its will to resist at the moment, when its interests were affected. All these aspects are beyond the scope of the year 2008.”

Mikhail Leontiev, editor-in-chief of Profile Magazine, the host of “However” program of The First Channel:
“There are two things which identify Russia 's international results in 2008. The first one of them is the conflict in South Ossetia. It was the first time in the post-Soviet history of the world, when Russia stood up against the US will. We must realize that it was the USA, not Georgia that acted as the antagonist. It was a direct order to Saakashvili, although it is not clear why they gave that order and what they wanted to achieve with it. The USA participated in the conflict with its arms, money, advisors and direct prewar assistance in the form of electronic guidance on targets from space.

“Russia’s recognition of Ossetia’s and Abkhazia’s independence and Russia’s de-facto recognition of the US patronage over Georgia is a new political situation, a new political reality. It is very important that the situation emerged during the year, when the world crisis began. The second result of the year is the global crisis, which resulted in many changes in the current state of affairs.

The USA has stopped being the world’s dominating economic power. I do not believe that it will be all about the economy only. It is not likely that the Americans will use only economic methods to preserve their domination. Such crises always evolve into socio-political, military and political conflicts. This is the biggest challenge for Russia.”

Sergei Mikheyev, deputy director of the Center for Political Technologies:
“The war in South Ossetia is the most important event of the year, of course. The war showed that Russia could defend its interests. They originally tried to blockade and isolate our country, but then it was revealed that the world was not so unanimous in estimations of Russia 's actions, as the US administration would like it to be.

“Russia’s authority in the world has grown. Russia proved that it was not going to stand on its knees. This is the most important positive outcome of the year. The war is not the best way to achieve such results, of course, but we had no other choice.”

Alexander Rar, a political scientist, a member of Germany’s Foreign Policy Council:
“I would say that the year has a gloomy ending for everyone. Every country suffers from the financial crisis, and it may grow into a political crisis. One can already witness that in Greece with its street riots. Demonstrations [will] take place in other countries too. This is the first major clash within the scope of the globalization. The whole world is tumbling down – this is the major outcome of the year 2008.

“The events that we saw in South Ossetia are just a shadow. One may also recollect the missile defense issue and Medvedev’s suggestions regarding the new European security system. The USA will be engulfed in its home problems, Russia, China and the European Union will have very serious problems to deal with too.”

Tatiana Barkhatova, Vadim Trukhachev


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Al Franken wins the 60th Democratic senate seat

The Supreme Court of Minnesota has ruled that a vacant senate seat should be granted to Al Franken, a Democrat, more than seven months after the US elections.

Franken, who is also a popular comedian and author, was granted the seat over Norm Coleman, the Republican incumbent, by the court on Tuesday.

"Al Franken received the highest number of votes legally cast and is entitled under Minnesota statute... to receive the certificate of election as United States senator from the State of Minnesota," the court ruling said.

Tim Pawlenty, the Minnesota governor and a Republican, is now expected to formally grant the senate seat to Franken.

Legal battle

Franken had been engaged in a months-long legal fight over the validity of the November 4 election.

A series of recounts in the state gave him a victory of just 312 votes over Coleman, prompting the Republican to challenge the accuracy of the recount.

Coleman has the option to appeal the decision to the US supreme court.
Should Franken be seated, Democrats would possess the 60 senate votes needed to prevent opponents from forcing a filibuster, a tactic which delays the passage of legislation through parliament through the method of protracted debate.

Further control of the senate would give Barack Obama, the US president, increased power to advance his legislative agenda.

The Democrats already have a strong majority in the House of Representatives, the lower house of the US  legislature.
 Sources: Agencies

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Dick Cheney upset about US pull out from Iraq

Former Vice President Dick Cheney said the pending pull out of U.S. troops from Iraq's cities could reverse the military progress made by American and Iraqi forces there since the George W. Bush administration's 2007 surge.

"I hope the Iraqis can deal with it," Mr. Cheney told The Washington Times' "America's Morning News" radio show. "At some point, they have to stand on their own, but I would not want to see the U.S. waste all the tremendous sacrifice that has gotten us to this point."

Gosh, Mr. Cheney, the entire Iraq War was a waste of national treasure and blood. 

Of course, what Cheney didn't say was that this was the end for the Cheney Plan. Cheney had spent 10 years working on a plan to restructure the Middle East.  In addition, a PNAC memo indicated that Bush had planed to invade Iraq before he was elected. Bush thought the war would vett him as a commander-in-cheif. Bush also knew the iraqis didn't have weapons of mass destruction and told Tony Blair he planned to fly a U2 over Iraq painted in UN colors with the express hope iraq would fire a missile at it. Bush wanted to provoke a war with Iraq.

The removal of US forces in iraq will be the first step toward defeating the real enemy who is in Afghnistan.

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Does Sarah Palin have a personality Disorder?

The Daily Beast put out a a summary of an article about Sarah Palin in Vanity Fair. The Vanity Fair article suggests that Palin has a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Most of her key advisers have eventually abandoned her.

More work for Sarah Palin's handlers: Ex-McCain staffers dish on his vice-presidential choice in the latest issue of Vanity Fair. "They can't quite believe that for two frantic months last fall, caught in a Bermuda Triangle of a campaign, they worked their tails off to try to elect as vice president of the United States someone who, by mid-October, they believed for certain was nowhere near ready for the job, and might never be," Todd Purdum writes.

According to Vanity Fair, she maintained "only the barest level of civil discourse" with her chief handler, Tucker Eskew. "I think, as I've evaluated it, I think some of my worst fears…the after-election events have confirmed that her more negative aspects may have been there," says one ex-campaigner. "I saw her as a raw talent. Raw, but a talent. I hoped she could become better."

Read it at Vanity Fair:$L/dail4

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The tax refuge in Delaware

By Hamish Macdonald

World leaders have launched an almighty money hunt and they say they're going after the super rich.

But, if you are trying to hide millions of dollars that should be paid in taxes, there is still one particularly reliable country to bury the money. The very place that's leading the crackdown on tax havens – the United States of America.

It was in April that both Barack Obama, the US president, and Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, promised to bring an end to banking secrecy and pursue jurisdictions which open their doors and bank vaults to tax cheats.

But critics, including banking chiefs and politicians in both Switzerland and Monaco, have told Al Jazeera that the US is actually one of the biggest offenders.

A senior figure in the Swiss banking industry, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that Washington is targeting other countries, but failing to look at the tax loopholes within its own jurisdiction.

Delaware dealings

More than 6,500 companies are registered on the sleepy North Orange Street in Wilmington, Delaware, but most make absolutely nothing and employ only one person.

They all go there for the same reason – to avoid paying taxes elsewhere.

And Delaware is a popular place. Two thirds of the companies in the Fortune 500 have subsidiaries listed here.

Users can move their money 'off-shore' with the click of a button
It is surprisingly easy to set up a Delaware shell company.

All it takes is a few minutes, a laptop and a credit card. You can do it from anywhere in the world.

They ask for a name and address and then ask you to confirm you'll be the beneficial owner of the company. Then you need to identify the source of your funds.

On the website viewed by Al Jazeera, the registration costs are just $1,750.

The annual fees are then $1,100. All together it comes in at less than $3,000.

It may be hard to believe, but you really can move your money 'off-shore' with the click of a button.

State law

Companies use Delaware shell companies by transferring ownership of all their non-tangible assets, including creative- and knowledge-based things like trademarks, patents and investments, to the shell company.

The parent company then pays royalties, or license fees, to the shell company for using the assets. They are effectively paying money to themselves.

Some companies are then able to claim tax deductions in the place where they are actually doing their business.

The added bonus is that the profits made by the shell company in Delaware are tax free and can get pushed back to the parent company in the form of dividends and loans.

Shell companies and holding companies can be established in many jurisdictions, although few have the same tax advantages available in Delaware.

The crusading Tax Justice Network is highly critical of Delaware shell companies, although Richard Geisenberger, Delaware's assistant secretary of state, recently told the New York Times that the opportunities presented by the state's tax regulation "is simply a state tax law".

The claim being that Delaware does not allow tax evasion. There are plenty of people, particularly in places like Monaco and Switzerland, who would argue otherwise.

Source: Al Jazeera

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Factoid: What is the status of the stimulus money?

About $53 billion of $479 billion has been appropriated by federal agencies.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Russian Vulcan style cannon demonstration

All the Russian web site says is that it is a very powerful weapon. It may be a Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-6-30-2, a Russian 30 mm cannon used by Soviet and later CIS military aircraft. if anyone can identify this weapon, please leave a comment on the Rightardia blog.

The GSh-6-30, designed in the early 1970s and entering service in 1975, is a six-barreled Gatling gun similar in design to the Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-6-23. It was based on the naval AO-18 used in the AK-630 system. Unlike most modern American rotary cannons, it is gas-operated rather than electric, allowing it to "spin up" to maximum rate of fire more quickly, allowing more rounds to be placed on target in a short-duration burst. Ignition is electrical, as with the smaller GSh-6-23.

The GSh-6-30 fires a 30x165 mm round with a hard-hitting 390 g (13¾ oz) projectile. With such a high rate of fire, it is a potentially devastating weapon, although its tactical usefulness is restricted by ammunition supply. That limitation may be why the cannon has seen few aircraft applications.

The principal application for the GSh-6-30 is the MiG-27 'Flogger and the SU-25 'Frogfoot.'It is also used as the gun component of the CADS-N-1 Kashtan air defense weapon.

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Mystery of crop circles solved

Tasmania's opium poppy farmers have been offered an explanation for mysterious crop circles in their fields which have become part of local lore: They're caused by drugged-up wallabies which get blasted on the plant heads and hop around in circles.

That's according to Taz attorney general Lara Giddings, who explained that she'd discovered the industry had "a problem with wallabies entering poppy fields, getting as high as a kite and going around in circles".

The wallaby isn't the only animal with a penchant for scrumping drugs from the state's 500 or so suppliers of pharmaceutical opiates, as Rick Rockliff of Tasmanian Alkaloids explained:
There have been many stories about sheep that have eaten some of the poppies after harvesting and they all walk around in circles.

Rockliff added that the principal risk associated with animal alkaloid abuse was contamination of the meat, but he noted: "There is also the risk to our poppy stocks, so growers take this very seriously but there has been a steady increase in the number of wild animals and that is where we are having difficulty keeping them off our land."

Tasmania accounts for 50 per cent of all the world's opiate supplies, local paper The Mercury notes. Its main products are codeine and thebaine. ®


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Imagine: No Liberals!


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Obama to conduct video Town hall Wednesday on health care

President Obama will hold an online town hall on Wednesday to discuss health care. The White House is asking people to get involved by submitting their questions about health care reform using video.

The White House's blog says that in this instance "we are engaging online networks outside of such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter." Watch the video about the event. To learn more about how to submit a question, read here.

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Steve Kangas FAQ on liberlaism: Should the Founders should be revered as secular saints?

Myth: The Founders should be revered as secular saints.

Fact: The Founders were human.


The Founders, although brilliant, were also corrupt, inept, scandalous, prejudiced and slave-owners. To deify them is unwarranted.


There can be no doubt that the Founding Fathers were among the elite of the young nation, and were exceptional intellects by any standard. Thomas Jefferson was considered so brilliant that when John F. Kennedy invited all the Nobel Prize winners to dine at the White House, he told them: "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House -- with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined here alone."

However brilliant they were, the Founders do not deserve to be historically recast as secular saints. They were not gods -- they were quite fallible human beings. They owned slaves, denied women the right to vote, committed atrocities against Native Americans, and made clearly anti-Semitic statements. The government they created was not really of the people; it was of rich, white, male landowners. Although they created a Bill of Rights guaranteeing individual freedoms, this document was not seriously enforced for 130 years afterwards. For example, the press was frequently censored for "seditious" material, and it was not until the early 20th century that the Supreme Court actually heard its first case on free speech!

The Founders first attempt to build a nation -- the Confederation of States -- was a dismal failure. Even our current constitution passed by sheer luck. The federalists were in the minority, but the anti-federalist majority was divided, overconfident and badly organized. Had they not been, our nation would look very different today. Furthermore, judicial review -- the process by which the Supreme Court reviews federal laws for their constitutionality -- wasn't even included in the constitution. Its authors simply trusted Congress to pass laws that obeyed it.

Not surprisingly, the Founders' personal lives were filled with all the same foibles that plague our current politicians -- and then some. Vice President Aaron Burr, for example, shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. Even our first president is more remembered by his mythology than his actual life. Every American school child learns the legend of young George Washington cutting down the cherry tree and then admitting to his father, "I cannot tell a lie." The story itself is a lie, but what is true is that Washington bought his first election. Historian George Thayer writes:
    "When [George Washington] ran for the Virginia House of Burgesses from Fairfax County in 1757, he provided his friends with the 'customary means of winning votes'; namely, 28 gallons of rum, 50 gallons of rum punch, 34 gallons of wine, 46 gallons of beer, and 2 gallons of cider royal. Even in those days this was considered a large campaign expenditure, because there were only 391 voters in his district, for an average outlay of more than a quart and half per person." (1)
Should we praise the Founders for their revolutionary new approach to democratic government? Of course. But to turn them into secular saints, incapable of error, atrocity, immorality or faulty judgment, is clearly unwarranted.

Note: For a progressive view of the Founding Fathers read the article on historian Charles A. Beard. See


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Editorial: We need super-felon laws for white collar criminals

I was elated that Bernie Madoff got 150 years for defrauding thousands of investors for as much as US$65 billion. In addition. There is another super-felon named Alan Sanford who is sitting in a jail in Texas. He defrauded investors of US$8 billion. He is Mini-Madoff.

If either of these had committed economic crimes of this magnitude in China, they would have been executed. In the US many of these super-felons have been getting probations after 5 years or less. Others have have walked out of court on technicalities. Lincoln Savings and Loan chief Charles Keating Jr., of the Keating 5 got out of jail after 4 years on a legal technicality. Of all the S&L people that went to prison, most served one fifth of the sentence that a bank robber would get according to

Michael Milkin was convicted of six securities and reporting felonies and paid a US$200 million fine for his 'junk bond' hijinks. Milken served only about 22 months before being released.

For his part in running an S&L into the ground, Neil Bush, George's son, served no time in jail and was not banned from future S&L involvement. The authors of Inside Job, an exposé of the S&L scandal, found evidence of criminal activity in 100 per cent of the thrifts they investigated.

Many years ago the GOP passed the 'three strikes' laws with mandatory sentences. One man faced life in prison for stealing a 50 cent pack of dough nuts. Other men have gotten 10 years in jail for stealing loaf of bread. If we are going to have such severe sentences in the US, why not give men like Madoff and Sanford, who have committed super-felonies, automatic life sentences with no possibility of parole?
The US has got to stop the wrist slapping the white collar criminals while they are throwing the book at the blue collar ones. Class warfare should be removed for the justice system.

If someone is stupid and greedy enough to steal a million dollars of more, give them life in prison. Or use the Chinese approach. Perhaps some of the high flyers on Wall street will think twice before they consider looting America again.

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MAULED BY A BEAR THEN MAULED BY BLUE CROSS Last summer, while working on my ranch in the Southern Sierra mountains, I was attacked and badly mauled by a predatory black bear.

Although my face was ripped off, and I was blinded, I was able to make my way back to my vehicle and drive myself down a rutted mountain road to a fire station for help. From there I was airlifted to UCLA Medical Center where a team of nearly a hundred people put me back together in a grueling seven-hour emergency surgery.

That was the easy part. Although I’ve maintained a private individual health insurance policy with Blue Cross of California for thirty (30) years, they have, at every turn of my ordeal, tried to waffle, obfuscate, or outright deny me benefits for medical care.

Because my injuries were mostly to my eyes, my facial structure (including my nose and most of my teeth,) and obviously, cosmetic appearance, my policy “does not cover services,” for putting me back together, and demands 30% co-pays before they will pay for the hugely expensive ($300,000 and counting,) reconstructive surgeries

I need to regain a degree of functionality. I am, not surprisingly, disabled and unable to work. My assets and savings were exhausted long ago, (the deductable and co-pays reset every calendar year and my reassembly is a multi-year project.)

I always thought having a "good" insurance policy was not only my civic responsibility, but would cover my medical expenses should I ever face a catastrophic illness. But it turns out that Blue Cross's $2,500 deductible is actually more in the order of an $11,500 deductible before they kick in for 100% of what they deem "reasonable and customary" care.

Even that determination is subjective and skewered in their favor. All this is on top of Blue Cross's insanely expensive monthly premiums. Twice in the last month, Blue Cross denied payment for ophthalmologic consults I had arranged to see if some of my eyesight can be retained.

Then there is the $600+ per month Blue Cross doesn’t cover in specialized prescription eyedrops I need to save what is left. My other medications are similarly extortionate and not covered. MediCal, for which I now qualify, does not have any participating ophthalmo-plastic, maxilla-facial, periodontic, or reconstructive surgeons here in Kern Kounty who are qualified to do these surgeries.

Nor will they or Blue Cross pay for anesthesia if I DO find someone willing to do them! (There’s nothing like having an acute PTSD episode when you’re trying to lie very still for a delicate bone or tissue graft.)

On the plus side, I DID fight off a bear attack and survive to tell the tale. As I am also the daughter, sister, mother, sister-in-law, niece, and former wife of physicians–and spent my 20’s working in the medical malpractice insurance industry– I am, more than most, familiar with all aspects of this issue--and am convinced that the health "insurance" industry is at the very least criminally incompetent-if not outright corrupted.

Eliminating the seventy-three middlemen between my doctors and my wallet would be a good first step to corralling the mess that is our American health care system. We need a standardized single-payer system.



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Ann Coulter and Katherine Harris visit Tehran to clear up the election mess

Perhaps Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will do America a favor and arrest these ladies.

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Madoff receives 150-year jail term

Editor's Note: It was heart warming to see a white collar criminal get his due. In China, a man like Madoff would be executed for such a terrible economic crime. In the past in the US many of the financial and bank scandals have ended up with wrist slaps. Charles Keating Jr. of Keating 5 infamy spent 4 years in jail before he had his conviction overturned on a technicality. 

Madoff pleaded guilty in March to counts of
securities fraud, perjury and theft [EPA]
Bernard Madoff, a former Wall Street financier, has been sentenced to 150 years in jail for running a multibillion-dollar fraud scheme.
Judge Denny Chin handed down the maximum possible sentence against the former chairman of the Nasdaq stock exchange in New York on Monday.

The 71-year-old was arrested last year for orchestrating what has been called the biggest financial fraud in history.

He had pleaded guilty in March to counts of securities fraud, perjury and theft.
Victims of Madoff's fraud included Hollywood celebrities, some of the world's most famous banks and charities.

Many of the foundations were forced to close after Madoff's rogue investment scheme suddenly collapsed.

Many of Madoff's investors were also ordinary, elderly retired people who thought their life savings were in safe hands.
John Terrett, Al Jazeera's correspondent in New York, said the long prison term for Madoff would be welcomed by many.

"I think Madoff's victims will be reserved but quietly very happy about this. There are a lot of high-profile names [that have been defrauded by Madoff], such as film director Steven Spielberg, as well as a number of companies, charities and pension funds.

"But the vast majority of the 13,500 victims were individuals who did not have a lot of money - remember that in the United States having a couple of million dollars in a pension scheme does not go that far. We heard from lots of people inside the courthouse today, who gave us stories that were very sad."

Financial ruin

In depth

 Disgraced Madoff to forfeit $170bn
 US marshals seize Madoff property
 Madoff pleads guilty to $65bn fraud
 Video: Nader on Madoff
 What is a Ponzi scheme?
Madoff told the court in March that the billions of dollars which passed through his hands during his 30-year scam was never invested in markets.

Instead, he stored the funds in a Manhattan bank account.

The funds were then used to pay out "dividends" to investors in what is known as a "Ponzi scheme".

Prosecutors say about $13bn was handed to Madoff.

The financier has referred to losing about $50bn, believed to be the amount that would have been paid out had the funds been properly invested.

The sums were bigger than the gross domestic product of countries such as Luxembourg and more than the external debt of several African nations.

Forfeit order

Madoff's sentencing comes after a judge last week issued a preliminary $170bn  forfeiture order stripping him of all his personal property.

The Madoff scandal also affected financial institutions around the world [EPA]
The order forces Madoff to forfeit assets including a $7m apartment in Manhattan, a $11m house in Palm Beach, Florida, and a $3m home located in New York's borough of Long Island.

The government also settled claims against Ruth Madoff, the financier's wife, who must also forfeit her interests totalling $80m in property which she had claimed were hers, prosecutors said.

Besides an accountant, no one else has been criminally charged in the scam.

But Madoff's family, including his wife, and brokerage firms who recruited investors, have come under intense scrutiny by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), regulators and a court-appointed trustee overseeing the liquidation of his assets.

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China has an EEO program, too

Editor's Note: The right has always complained about Equal Employment, Opportunity and Treatment (EEOT) programs that help minorities get into college and get government jobs. There are also programs that have small set asides for minorities and women competing for government contracts. China also has similar programs for its ethnic minorities. 2009-06-29 10:32:36

BEIJING, June 29 (Xinhua) -- A talented Chinese student who got a place at the prestigious Peking University may not be enrolled for lying about his ethnic status during the national college entrance examination.

He Chuanyang, who attended Nankai Middle School, scored 659, which was the highest in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality and earned him a place at the Peking University in Beijing, Monday's China Daily reported.

However, local admission office said he and 30 other students were found to have falsely claimed 20 additional test points because of their "ethnic minority status".

Feng Zhiyue, head of Peking University's admission branch in Chongqing, told Beijing Evening News that the school admission office would decide whether to enroll the students who cheated on the exam.

The final results will be released after further investigation,according to the local admission office.

The boy's father, He Yeda, head of Wushan County admission office, told Beijing Youth that he feels regret for the wrongdoing and is ready for any punishment, but that his son knew nothing about the ethnicity change.

The son said he was not sure what his ethnicity was because his grandparents lived like minority Tujia people.

The case has provoked many comments from netizens, some of whom have shown sympathy for the boy and blame the current education system.

"With the severe competition for college entrance and increasing point-add categories, parents and students will not give up any possibility to get bonus points," Lan Yuhong, a student in Beijing Sports University, said yesterday.

In July 2007, three top scorers for both Han and minority groups were refused entry to universities because they had lied about their ethnicity.

Editor: An


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When fascism comes to America, it will be draped in the flag and carrying a cross

Sinclair Lewis said this in 1935: "When fascism comes to America, it will be draped in the flag and carrying a cross." Americans saw evidence of this the last eight years, didn't we?

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Israel tries to stop sales of Russian S-300 air defense systems to Iran

Editor's Note: The sale of this missile could complicate any Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. It is possible Israel would launch a preemptive attack on Iran prior to the delivery of the S-300 missiles. I would expect Israeli diplomacy to fall on deaf Russian ears. The Israelis trained Georgian troops and also provided them with new anti-tank weapons that destroyed several Russian tanks in the hostilities in South Osetia.

MOSCOW, June 29 (RIA Novosti) - Israel has intensified its efforts to prevent deliveries of Russian S-300 air defense systems to Iran under a 2007 contract, an Israeli newspaper said on Monday.

According to the Haaretz daily, "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and asked him to prevent the arms deal from going through."

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak met a week ago at the Paris Airshow with Gen. Nikolai Makarov, chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, and reportedly "asked that he also intervene to prevent the arms sale."

Israel and the U.S. insist that the delivery of advanced air defense systems to Iran would undermine the military balance in the region, and Russia has until recently delayed the implementation of the deal.

Although Russian sources said in March that Iran had not yet received any S-300 air defense systems and the deal relied on the leadership in Moscow, Russia had reiterated its commitment to fulfill the contract, which is worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Haaretz said that during the visit of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to Moscow several weeks ago, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told the Israeli official that some payments under the contract had already been made.

Arms deliveries to Iran are also important to Russia because Moscow is quickly losing its positions on key Asian arms markets in China and India.

In light of the recent developments and ahead of a meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama with his Russian counterpart next week, Israel has launched "intensive diplomatic order to restore the earlier Russian commitment not to complete the deal," the newspaper said.

The latest version of the S-300 family is the S-300PMU2 Favorit, which has a range of up to 195 kilometers (about 120 miles) and can intercept aircraft and ballistic missiles at altitudes from 10 meters to 27 kilometers.

It is considered one of the world's most effective all-altitude regional air defense systems, comparable in performance to the U.S. MIM-104 Patriot system.

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Russia to hold massive military exercise prior to Obama arrival

“Kavkaz-2009” – a military exercise of a scale comparable to those in the Soviet era begins on Monday in Southern Russia. It will run until July 6, when US President Barack Obama arrives in Moscow.

More than 8,500 soldiers, 200 tanks, 450 armoured vehicles and 250 artillery cannons will take part in the war games.

Head of the General Staff General Nikolay Makarov will supervise the exercise that will take place in the Krasnodar, Stavropol, Astrakhan, Volgograd, Rostov regions, as well as the Russian republics of North Ossetia, Ingushetia, Dagestan, Karachaevo-Cherkessia and Chechnya.

According to military officials the purpose of the war games is to “test the real combat readiness and mobility of the Southwestern division of Russia’s Army.”

“Russia’s military exercise, as we see it chronologically, is a kind of response. We do it in order to increase the country’s defense capacity in the most threatening directions.”

Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s NATO envoy (Interfax)
The experience gained during the August conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia will be used in the exercises, in which Russian bases #4 and #7 located in South Ossetia and Abkhazia will also take part, as will the armies of the two independent republics.

South Ossetia’s Defence Minister Yury Tanaev called the exercises exceptionally helpful.
“We will continue to conduct joint events that are benefiting the security of the whole region. We are interested in making the region more secure,” Tanaev said.

Kavkaz-2009 is just one in a series of massive military exercises planned in Russia in 2009. Some 13,000 soldiers are planning to take part in September’s “Zapad-2009” exercise in Belarus. Experts are comparing the 2009 military exercises to the Soviet era ones.

Meanwhile, Georgia’s Foreign Ministry has protested the exercise as one “threatening the peace."
According to the vice-speaker of Georgian Parliament Paata Davitaya, “the war games are conducted on occupied territories with provocative intentions.”

”We don’t welcome the exercise. However, Tbilisi has nothing to worry about.”
Spencer Oliver, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Secretary General (Tass)

Numerous Western media outlets like The Times or Washington Post are also viewing the exercise as a possible prologue to another chapter of Russian-Georgian confrontation.

As Kavkaz-2009 comes less than a month after controversial NATO-led military exercises in Georgia that were condemned by Moscow, it is bound to be viewed as a response to the latter.

However, some see a possible alternative from possible hostilities with the visit of US President Obama in Moscow on the last day of the war games.

In a New York Times opinion article about the exercises, three former US diplomats called on the US to make moves to prevent a repeat of the August conflict.

In their view, Obama “should offer to engage Moscow in a broad security dialogue on regional security, NATO and the OSCE in which mutual interests and intentions could be clarified and potential disputes averted.”
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Definition of Liberal and Conservative: Roget's Thesausus

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US establishes new Afghan opium strategy

The United States intends to thoroughly overhaul its anti-drug strategy in Afghanistan, phasing out its opium poppy eradication programme, the US envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan has said.

Richard Holbrooke said on Saturday that poppy eradication - for years a cornerstone of US and UN drug trafficking efforts in the country - is not working and is only driving Afghan farmers into the hands of the Taliban.

Holbrooke said the policy would not target Afghan farmers, but the Taliban who buy their crops [AFP].

"Eradication is a waste of money," Holbrooke said on the sidelines of a G8 foreign ministers' meeting on Afghanistan in Italy, during which he briefed regional representatives on the new policy.

"It might destroy some acreage, but it didn't reduce the amount of money the Taliban got by one dollar. It just helped the Taliban. So we're going to phase out eradication," he said.

Eradication efforts were seen as inefficient because too little was being destroyed at too high a cost, Antonio Maria Costa, the UN drug chief, said.

The old policy was unpopular among powerless small-scale farmers, who often were targeted in the eradication efforts.

Highs and lows

Afghanistan is the world's leading source of opium, cultivating 93 per cent of the world's heroin-producing crop.

While opium cultivation fell 19 per cent last year, it remains concentrated in Afghanistan's southern provinces where the Taliban earned an estimated $50 million to $70 million, according to the UN drug office.

US to overhaul Afghan opium poppy strategy

The new policy calls for assisting farmers who abandon poppy cultivation.

Holbrooke said the international community was not trying to target Afghan farmers, just the Taliban who buy their crops.

"The farmers are not our enemy, they're just growing a crop to make a living," he said.

"It's the drug system. So the US policy was driving people into the hands of the Taliban."

Holbrooke said that Washington is increasing its funding for agricultural assistance from tens of millions of dollars a year to hundreds of millions of dollars.

"We're essentially phasing out our support for crop eradication and using the money to work on interdiction, rule of law, alternative crops," he said.

Afghan reaction

Reacting to the US announcement, a senior Afghan official said that his government agrees with Holbrooke's assessment .

"We are happy with the [new] policy," Mohammad Zafar, the Afghan deputy minister of drugs and anti-narcotics, told Al Jazeera on Sunday.

"Once the farmers get more support then they will leave cultivation of drugs in their fields, because they will have another type of alternative livelihood.

"If we control the drug trafficking, the drug trade, then the price of the opium will be reduced and nobody will go back to cultivating drugs.

"At the same time, if we provide support to the farmer, it will reduce the drug problem in Afghanistan."

Crackdown urged

The new US policy also calls for coordinating a crackdown on drug trafficking across Afghanistan's border before the heroin reaches addicts in Europe, Russia and Iran.

In recent months, US and NATO troops in Afghanistan have begun attacking drug labs and opium storage sites in an effort to deprive the Taliban of drug profits.

According to a UN report this week, opium eradication reached a high in 2003, after the Taliban were removed from power, with over 21,000 hectares destroyed.

In 2008, only 5,480 hectares were cut down, compared with 19,047 hectares in 2007.

The UN's Costa said Afghan opium would kill 100,000 people this year in the parts of world where demand for heroin is highest - Europe, Russia and West Asia.

To fight it, he said, major powers have to expand their counter-drug efforts to neighbouring Pakistan as well as Iran, where half the 7,000 tonnes of exported Afghan opium transits, "causing the highest addiction rate in the world".

"Facing a grave health epidemic, Iran should be given the chance to engage in common efforts to combat illicit trafficking," Costa said.

Iran had been invited to attend the G8 meeting in Italy because anti-drug efforts in Afghanistan have been identified as a vital area where the US and Iran can work together.

But Rome withdrew the invitation when Tehran failed to respond and after its severe crackdown on demonstrators protesting against the country's election result, which has sparked international condemnation.

Key Afghan opium figures

In 2007 193,000 hectares of opium was cultivated. In 2008 the number has dropped by 19 per cent to 157,000 hectares.

But opium production declined by only 6 per cent to 7,700 tonnes from 2007 to 2008.

Since 2007, the number of opium-free provinces has increased by almost 50 per cent, from 13 to 18.

98 per cent of all opium is grown in just seven provinces in the south-west where there are permanent Taliban settlements.

In Helmand province, in the south, 103,000 hectares of opium were cultivated in 2008 year – two thirds of all opium in Afghanistan.

In 2007, 19,047 hectares of opium was eradicated. In 2008 only 5,480 hectares were eradicated.

Sources: UN Office on Drugs and Crime

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Do we need to follow in the foot steps of the Founding Fathers?

Note: This is another essay from the Steve Kangas FAQ on liberalism. 

Myth: We should return to the original intentions of the Founding Fathers.

Fact: The Founders were conflicted and disagreed over the issues.


Appealing to the original intentions of the Founding Fathers is mistaken for three reasons:

1. The Founders were a contentious, disagreeable lot.
2. They were often personally conflicted on the issues.
3. Times change.


The Constitutional Convention of 1787 featured lively, even heated debates among the Founders. Small states were opposed to suggestions made by large states; federalists were opposed to anti-federalists; commercial interests were opposed to competing interests. Issues that bitterly divided the Convention included the method of Congressional representation, slavery, and the proper role and authority of the president. All these issues were resolved by compromise and consensus -- the very democratic principles that many conservatives and libertarians seek to nullify by appealing to the intentions of the Founders.

After the Convention, intense debate occurred in the press about the ratification of the proposed constitution. Two famous documents, the Federalist Papers and the Anti-Federalist Papers, were written during this period to make their respective cases. The federalists wanted a stronger central government than the anti-federalists, and the fact that the federalists won this battle is still a source of embarrassment to conservatives and libertarians today.

Seven states ratified the Constitution relatively quickly, but intense opposition was encountered in the other six. New York, for example, was opposed to a strong central government, because its greater population and economic power would fare well in a more competitive, anarchic system of sovereign states. After acrimonious debate and bitter struggle, the federalists convinced Massachusetts and New Hampshire to become the 8th and 9th states to ratify the constitution. Because only 9 states were needed to approve the union, New York saw that the union was an inevitability and surrendered its opposition, becoming the 11th state to vote for ratification. The remaining two states took a full year longer to join.

Considering the acrimonious debate and fluid compromises in the ratification process, it's easy to see the constitution could have easily turned out otherwise. The anti-federalists were actually in the majority, but were stymied by their own conflicts, overconfidence and lack of sure leadership. The most criticized feature of the constitution was the lack of a bill of rights guaranteeing individual freedoms - and the federalists gave the anti-federalists this single compromise in order to win their support.

One of the most important features of our constitutional system -- one that we all take for granted today -- is judicial review, in which our Supreme Court reviews the constitutionality of Congress's laws. Although #78 of the Federalist Papers argues forcefully for judicial review, this process wasn't even included in the constitution! The Founders debated it in the Convention and voted it down. Which presents a problem to many libertarians and conservatives today: how are laws to be screened for their adherence to individual rights? Should Congress simply be trusted to pass laws that do not violate constitutional rights, as the constitution implicitly allows? Such an idea is anathema to them. Judicial review became part of the system with the Supreme Court decision in Marbury vs. Madison (1803). It was justified on the basis that the constitution leaves the door open to judicial review, by allowing it to settle all disputes to which the federal government is a party.

Inner conflicts

Conflicts occurred not only between the Founders, but within the Founders as well. Thomas Jefferson, for example, was fully aware of the contradiction between his statement that "all men are created equal" and the fact that he owned slaves. He decried a government that told farmers how to grow their crops, but promoted compulsory and public-financed education. Unfortunately, Jefferson's conflicted views allow modern pundits to find numerous Jefferson quotes to support virtually any political point they wish, especially when taken out of context. For example, conservatives love to quote the following:
    "Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question." -- Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address
On the other hand, liberals love to quote the following:
    "If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it." -- Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address
Times Change

Finally, times change, a fact admitted by the Founders themselves. They never intended for their original intentions to stand forever, and that is why they created an amendment process to the constitution. Indeed, we have already amended the constitution 26 times -- and almost always for the better, as the abolition of slavery proves. Jefferson himself was clear on the point that constitutions should change with the times:
    "Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the ark of the Covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment... laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind... as that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, institutions must advance also, to keep pace with the times.... We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain forever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." -- Thomas Jefferson, on reform of the Virginia Constitution "That our Creator made the earth for the use of the living and not of the dead; that those who exist not can have no use nor right in it, no authority or power over it; that one generation of men cannot foreclose or burden its use to another, which comes to it in its own right and by the same divine beneficence; that a preceding generation cannot bind a succeeding one by its laws or contracts; these deriving their obligation from the will of the existing majority, and that majority being removed by death, another comes in its place with a will equally free to make its own laws and contracts; these are axioms so self-evident that no explanation can make them plainer." -- Thomas Jefferson to T. Earle, 1823.
And what has changed since the 18th century? Essentially, two things:

1. Society (and with it, the economy).
2. Our understanding of society and the economy.

Our society and economy have changed as they have become larger, faster, more complex and interdependent. And this has created a need for a larger public sector. The famous British historian E.H. Carr once penned an analogy that described this process perfectly. When modern roads were first built, there were few cars to travel on them. Hence, there was almost no need for traffic laws. If you happened to meet another motorist at an intersection, you could afford to tip your hat and generously give him the right of way. However, as the roads became more heavily traveled, this sort of anarchy became less and less functional. As more cars appeared, so did the need for more traffic lights, signs, police, safety railings, drivers' education, drivers' licenses, safety and planning commissions, etc. Without them, the streets would be chaotic, and traffic fatalities would soar.

In a similar manner, the Founders created our nation when there was great simplicity and sparseness to our society and economy. They perceived -- correctly -- that the federal government could rule with a remarkably light hand. But as our society and economy have grown larger, more complex and interdependent, the need for more rules and organization has risen as well. Just one example is the stock market. The operations of Wall Street were in their infancy during the Founder's day. It's activity wasn't even significant enough to warrant government attention. However, as trading grew on Wall Street, and it became an important and central aspect of the nation's economy, corruption arose in the form of dishonest trading, insider trading and stock manipulation by millionaires. By 1934, the stock exchanges were so untrustworthy that Roosevelt created the Securities and Exchange Commission. This regulatory watchdog significantly cleaned up Wall Street by requiring the full and honest disclosure of all pertinent information on the sales of stocks. Not surprisingly, the millionaire traders decried this as a violation of the free market -- opposed to the principles of non-interventionist government that the Founders had believed in.

But society is not the only thing that has changed. So has our understanding of it. Before World War II, economic depressions were a common occurrence in America; they visited every generation or two. During the Great Depression, British economist John Maynard Keynes developed a theory about the nature and cure of depressions. Using Keynesian policies, central banks in all capital countries around the world appear to have completely eliminated the depression from the human experience. The U.S. has gone a record six decades without a depression -- thanks to the very Federal Reserve policies that earlier Founders would have decried as "interventionist."

Today's Americans do not limit themselves to 18th century medicine, 18th century science, 18th century technology or 18th century English. Why they should then limit themselves to 18th century political science and economics is therefore a challenge to conservative and libertarian thought.


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Eight House Republicans deserve praise

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pulled out a major victory with the House's approval of a landmark climate bill -- thanks to a help from some Republicans. Friday's vote was 219-212.

The legislation was supported by 211 Democrats and eight aisle-crossing GOP members: Reps. Mary Bono (Calif.), Michael Castle (Del.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Leonard Lance (N.J.), Frank LoBiondo (N.J.), John McHugh (N.Y.), David Reichert (Wash.) and Christopher Smith (N.J.). Forty-four Democrats voted against the bill, making the eight GOP votes vital.


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Three of four Americans support a public health care option

In the Senate -- where filibuster-proof supermajorities have become essential-- Max Baucus, Ben Nelson, Kent Conrad, Mary Landrieu, Dianne Feinstein, Jeff Bingaman, and Blanche Lincoln have thrown up roadblocks to the possibility of a public option. They call it "centrism!" Rightardia calls it million of dollars in contributions these Senators have received to vote against public health care. See the You Tube video for details. Paul Krugman adressed this in his column Monday

Will these Senators sell Americans out? I hope not.


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Gov. Mark Sanford's Squeeze on YouTube

Maria Belen Chapur is the woman from Buenos Aires that was with Gov Sanford. She was a journalist for America TV channel of Buenos Aires in a 9-11 Video from C5N news channel.

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La Repubblica has ten questions for Silvio Berlusconi

This may be the begining of the end for the Premier of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi. There are now reports of drug use at his harem parties. 

Prosecutors in Bari, in southern Italy, were reported as saying that he could be summoned as a witness as a witness against Giampaolo Tarantini, a local businessman who pimped for the Prime Minister.

There is no suggestion that Mr Berlusconi is under investigation in a drugs and prostitution investigation. Several Italian newspapers indicated that the inquiry had widened, with Mr Tarantini being investigated not only for “abetting prostitution” but also for allegedly dealing in cocaine. He denies the allegations.

Two of the party girls fell ill after using drugs at Mr Tarantini’s villa during one of the parties.

Prime Minister's questions

For weeks La Repubblica has printed ten questions for Silvio Berlusconi about his relationship with Noemi Letizia. Now it has updated them:

1 When did you first meet Ms Letizia? On how many occasions did you meet her? Have you ever consorted with underage girls?

2 What prevented you from telling the truth during the past two months?

3 Do you not believe that it is a serious matter, for Italian democracy and for your leadership, that you rewarded the girls who called you Papi with political candidacies and promises of political responsibility?

4 You spent the night of November 4, 2008, with a prostitute. According to magistrates’ investigations, dozens of call girls were brought to your residences. Did you know that these girls were prostitutes?

5 Have state aircraft been used to fly female guests to parties at your residences without you on board?

6 Are you certain that your relationships have in no way compromised affairs of state?

7 Would you still feel able to take part in Family Day or to sign a law punishing the clients of a prostitute? [Such a law has been proposed but delayed]

8 Do you believe you will still be able to stand for election as President of Italy?

9 Can you guarantee that you have never used, nor wish to use, the intelligence services or the police against witnesses, magistrates or journalists?

10 In the light of all that has emerged over the past two months, what is your state of health?


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