Wednesday, December 29, 2010

TSA Strikes Back!

Woman Who Protested TSA Pat-Downs At OKC Airport Banned From Flying

I just love how regular people become terrorists and suspicious, according to the TSA. Granted, I'm not saying what she didn't wasn't provocative, but that doesn't make her a terrorist. The TSA is making criminals out of regular people, all the while, people are still able to board planes with weapons. Example. Example. Example. Example.

Friday, December 24, 2010

All is Calm and Peaceful in Bethlehem

This news warms my heart..


Bethlehem celebrates merriest Christmas in years

By TIA GOLDENBERG and DALIA NAMMARI, Associated Press Tia Goldenberg And Dalia Nammari, Associated Press – 2 hrs 43 mins ago

BETHLEHEM, West Bank – The traditional birthplace of Jesus is celebrating its merriest Christmas in years, as tens of thousands of tourists thronged Bethlehem on Friday for the annual holiday festivities in this biblical West Bank town.

Officials said the turnout was shaping up to be the largest since 2000. Unseasonably mild weather, a virtual halt in Israeli-Palestinian violence and a burgeoning economic revival in the West Bank all added to the holiday cheer.

By nightfall, a packed Manger Square was awash in red, blue, green and yellow Christmas lights.

Merrymakers blasted horns, bands sang traditional Christmas carols in Arabic, boy scout marching bands performed and Palestinian policemen deployed around the town to keep the peace.

A group of 30 tourists from Papua New Guinea, all wearing red Santa hats, walked around the nearby Church of the Nativity, built on the site where tradition holds Jesus was born. Both church officials and the Palestinian president voiced hopes for peace.

Pat Olmsted, a 64-year-old teacher from Sugar Land, Texas, was celebrating her first Christmas in Bethlehem and broke into tears as she stood in Manger Square. "It just gives me a whole true meaning of the Bible. As I read the pages, it will mean so much more to me," she said.

Bethlehem used to attract tens of thousands of tourists from around the world for Christmas celebrations, but attendance dropped sharply following the outbreak of the second Palestinian uprising in 2000.

As the fighting tapered off over the last five years, attendance steadily climbed. The town's 2,750 hotel rooms were booked solid for Christmas week, and town officials say more hotels are under construction.

Israeli officials have said they expect about 90,000 visitors in Bethlehem during the current two-week holiday season, up from 70,000 last year.

But the bloodshed has left its mark. Visitors entering the town must cross through a massive metal gate in the separation barrier Israel built between Jerusalem and Bethlehem during a wave of Palestinian attacks last decade.

The Roman Catholic Church's top clergyman in the Holy Land, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, crossed through the gate in a traditional midday procession from Jerusalem. Later, he celebrated Midnight Mass, the peak of the holiday's events in town.

In his homily, Twal issued a conciliatory call for peace between religions and urged an "intensification" of dialogue with Jews and Muslims.

"We need to unite and integrate the many values we have in common: prayer, piety, fasting, almsgiving, and ethical values," he said.

"Our hope for Christmas is that Jerusalem not only become the capital of two nations, but also a model for the world, of harmony and coexistence of the three monotheistic religions," he added. "During this Christmas season, may the sound of the bells of our churches drown the noise of weapons in our wounded Middle East, calling all men to peace and the joy."

The crowds continued to swell throughout the day. By Friday night, Israeli military officials, who coordinate movement in and out of the West Bank, said the number rose to some 70,000 people on Christmas Eve alone, compared with 50,000 last year.

Raed Arafat, the 40-year-old owner of the Stars and Bucks Cafe, played Christmas songs over loudspeakers and handed out free Arabic coffee at his shop near Manger Square. Tourists snapped photos and bought mugs emblazoned with the cafe chain's green logo, modeled after the American Starbucks company.

"There are more people this year," an ecstatic Arafat said. "Christmas this year is not like every year because now there is more quiet."

The holiday had its surreal moments. Many visitors were local Palestinians, including a large number of Muslim women whose faces were covered by veils. The loud Muslim call to prayer from a mosque next to Manger Square briefly drowned out the celebrations.

"Because of the hard situation and the pressure we are living in, we take advantage of any joyful moment and bring our children to play," said Khitam Harazallah, a veiled Muslim housewife from the nearby Deheishe refugee camp who came with her two young children.

Today, just one-third of Bethlehem's 50,000 residents are Christian, down from about 75 percent in the 1950s. The rest are Muslims.

The Christian population throughout the Middle East has shrunk in recent decades as people flee violence or search for better opportunities abroad. Christians make up roughly 2 percent of the population in the Holy Land.

With the end of fighting, the West Bank has undergone an economic revival in recent years, illustrated by new shopping malls and widespread construction projects in the bustling city of Ramallah.

But a deadlock in Mideast peace talks between Israel and the West Bank government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, along with a flare-up in violence between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip, threatened to cast a pall over the celebrations.

Abbas, a Muslim, traveled to Bethlehem to greet the revelers, saying he hoped the coming year will finally bring peace. He also said the Palestinians were issuing a special postage stamp honoring Bethlehem.

"We are seekers of peace in the path of Jesus," he said. "We hope that next year will be a year of peace by establishing the independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, living side by side with Israel in peace and security."

Israel maintains an embargo on Gaza, which is governed by Abbas' rival, the Islamic militant group Hamas. In a goodwill gesture, Israel allowed 500 members of Gaza's tiny Christian community to travel to Bethlehem.

Niveen Wadia, a 40-year-old Gaza woman, said coming to Bethlehem was "a very beautiful feeling."

"In Gaza we don't have any celebration atmosphere. We are the minority there," she said.

Dampening the holiday cheer, Israeli authorities said three Italian pilgrims were killed Friday afternoon when their car crashed into an electric pole near the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel. Two other women in the car were hospitalized. Israeli officials said the women were in the Holy Land to celebrate Christmas.

Article retrieved from here.

More pictures are here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Unemployed? Try Yoga!

Here's another example of the American ineptitude to stomach the economic crisis we're in and an indicator that nobody is taking it seriously:


Unemployed get another jobless benefit _ free yoga

(AP) – 5 hours ago

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The women snuggle into nests of pillows and blankets.

A light breeze, like a mother blowing on a baby's boo-boo, falls from ceiling fans and tickles their backs. The room is dark, silent, until they crawl out of child's pose and chant, "Omm."

This is free yoga for the unemployed: a different kind of jobless benefit where former managers, laid-off limo drivers and others can turn to the grown-up version of nap time to ease the stress of being out of work.

With national unemployment just below 10 percent, $20 yoga classes don't qualify as necessities for many out-of-work people who've pruned luxuries from their budgets. So in a gesture that's part send-good-vibes-to-the-universe and part community outreach, a handful of yoga studios have decided to cut the unemployed a break.

"We didn't want them to have to choose, 'Should I eat today or go take this class?' We wanted to give them the ability to do both," said Zack Lynn, a computer techie by day who teaches a free yoga class for people out of work in Columbus.

The Integral Yoga Institute in New York started offering free weekly classes last year when some students lost their jobs and couldn't afford to pay $17 per course. Now, a dozen or two jobseekers drop in for free sun salutations and other stretches every week.

"It helps to quiet the mind and helps people realize that this is a temporary situation," said Jo Sgammato, the studio's general manager.

Yogis say breathing exercises can reduce the stress of job interviews and post-stretching tea time is good for networking.

"You're not really thinking about other things," said Quinn Johnson, a 42-year-old former limo driver who started attending Integral Yoga's free classes earlier this year. "You're relaxing. You're stretching."

Some students have found work and switched to paid classes. But employment experts and yogis alike are quick to point out that yoga shouldn't get all the credit.

"Yoga's not getting anybody a job," said Wendy Enelow, an executive career consultant in Coleman Falls, Va. "What the yoga studios do — and I think kudos to them — is if you physically feel better, your head's going to feel better and you're in a better place to manage your job search."

Practicing yoga is believed to reduce stress and improve concentration. Some studios offer special classes to help veterans work through traumatic experiences and women cope with pregnancies.

Can't make it to the weekly class? The studio in New York — and others in cities such as Chicago and Berkeley, Calif. — have given unemployed people discounts on other sessions. At Integral, that means paying $10 per class instead of $17.

Yogis follow a granola-crunching code of honor at the free classes in New York and Columbus. (Asking for proof of unemployment seems like a yoga buzzkill.)

"If somebody comes all the way here and tells us they want to take that free class because they're unemployed, we're going to believe them," Sgammato said.

Back in the dark yoga sanctuary in the Columbus studio, called Yoga on High, Lynn leads a group of unemployed — or barely employed — women through relaxing poses.

It's yoga more shabby than chic. Most of the students are dressed in T-shirts and hoodies rather than the hip hippie garb of Lululemon. They rely on the kinds of blankets you might find in car trunks.

Apparel aside, the class resembles its full-priced counterpart. Students bend into silhouettes of the alphabet — the outline of an A in downward-facing dog, an I as they stretch long, lean, toward the ceiling.

The din from the street gives way to a yawn-inducing state of silence, the kind of silence that quiets the deepest worrier's qualms. A sign reminds fellow yogis passing by, "Quiet Please.... Savasana In Progress!"

Lynn adjusts the students' postures as they ripple through poses. Then he tucks them into forts made of ergonomic pillows for deep relaxation.

"If you are extremely comfortable and want to stay there, that's fine," he says. "But I would prefer that you lie on your back for at least a few minutes."

Bethia Woolf, a 35-year-old who recently started a food-tour company in Columbus, went to her first free class after she lost her job as a rowing coach. She says the class forced her to get out of the house and stay in a routine — something she wouldn't have been able to afford if she had to shell out $15 per class.

"Even though it has a lot of health and well-being benefits, there's things you feel guilty about spending money on that aren't essentials," Woolf said.
On the Net:



Retreived from here.

Monday, December 06, 2010

American Environmentalism

If something was real and you knew it was real, data alone would be the compelling argument. The would be no arm twisting or pay offs to convince others that whatever it is that you are talking about is real. It just is. This is why I am seriously concerned about the arm twisting phenomenon that I have seen throughout this country the past couple years; the botched data from the IPCC, to Al Gore flying around the world preaching how everyone else needs to conserve but him. It's ok that he has a mansion and yacht. However, everyone else should change their lifestyle to comport to what he says is true. All the more reason when I checked the news this morning that I was yet again dismayed at what I read about "Global Warming" initiatives. Let me tell you that Global Warming is becoming such a joke that even Japan doesn't want to extend the Kyoto accord..


The US embassy cables
WikiLeaks cables reveal how US manipulated climate accord

Embassy dispatches show America used spying, threats and promises of aid to get support for Copenhagen accord

Hidden behind the save-the-world rhetoric of the global climate change negotiations lies the mucky realpolitik: money and threats buy political support; spying and cyberwarfare are used to seek out leverage.

The US diplomatic cables reveal how the US seeks dirt on nations opposed to its approach to tackling global warming; how financial and other aid is used by countries to gain political backing; how distrust, broken promises and creative accounting dog negotiations; and how the US mounted a secret global diplomatic offensive to overwhelm opposition to the controversial "Copenhagen accord", the unofficial document that emerged from the ruins of the Copenhagen climate change summit in 2009.

Negotiating a climate treaty is a high-stakes game, not just because of the danger warming poses to civilisation but also because re-engineering the global economy to a low-carbon model will see the flow of billions of dollars redirected.

Seeking negotiating chips, the US state department sent a secret cable on 31 July 2009 seeking human intelligence from UN diplomats across a range of issues, including climate change. The request originated with the CIA. As well as countries' negotiating positions for Copenhagen, diplomats were asked to provide evidence of UN environmental "treaty circumvention" and deals between nations.

But intelligence gathering was not just one way. On 19 June 2009, the state department sent a cable detailing a "spear phishing" attack on the office of the US climate change envoy, Todd Stern, while talks with China on emissions took place in Beijing. Five people received emails, personalised to look as though they came from the National Journal. An attached file contained malicious code that would give complete control of the recipient's computer to a hacker. While the attack was unsuccessful, the department's cyber threat analysis division noted: "It is probable intrusion attempts such as this will persist."

• Read more about how the US cajolled other countries into supporting the Copenhagen Accord.

The Beijing talks failed to lead to a global deal at Copenhagen. But the US, the world's biggest historical polluter and long isolated as a climate pariah, had something to cling to. The Copenhagen accord, hammered out in the dying hours but not adopted into the UN process, offered to solve many of the US's problems.

The accord turns the UN's top-down, unanimous approach upside down, with each nation choosing palatable targets for greenhouse gas cuts. It presents a far easier way to bind in China and other rapidly growing countries than the UN process. But the accord cannot guarantee the global greenhouse gas cuts needed to avoid dangerous warming. Furthermore, it threatens to circumvent the UN's negotiations on extending the Kyoto protocol, in which rich nations have binding obligations. Those objections have led many countries – particularly the poorest and most vulnerable – to vehemently oppose the accord.

Getting as many countries as possible to associate themselves with the accord strongly served US interests, by boosting the likelihood it would be officially adopted. A diplomatic offensive was launched. Diplomatic cables flew thick and fast between the end of Copenhagen in December 2009 and late February 2010, when the leaked cables end.

Some countries needed little persuading. The accord promised $30bn (£19bn) in aid for the poorest nations hit by global warming they had not caused. Within two weeks of Copenhagen, the Maldives foreign minister, Ahmed Shaheed, wrote to the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, expressing eagerness to back it.

By 23 February 2010, the Maldives' ambassador-designate to the US, Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed, told the US deputy climate change envoy, Jonathan Pershing, his country wanted "tangible assistance", saying other nations would then realise "the advantages to be gained by compliance" with the accord.

A diplomatic dance ensued. "Ghafoor referred to several projects costing approximately $50m (£30m). Pershing encouraged him to provide concrete examples and costs in order to increase the likelihood of bilateral assistance."

The Maldives were unusual among developing countries in embracing the accord so wholeheartedly, but other small island nations were secretly seen as vulnerable to financial pressure. Any linking of the billions of dollars of aid to political support is extremely controversial – nations most threatened by climate change see the aid as a right, not a reward, and such a link as heretical. But on 11 February, Pershing met the EU climate action commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, in Brussels, where she told him, according to a cable, "the Aosis [Alliance of Small Island States] countries 'could be our best allies' given their need for financing".

The pair were concerned at how the $30bn was to be raised and Hedegaard raised another toxic subject – whether the US aid would be all cash. She asked if the US would need to do any "creative accounting", noting some countries such as Japan and the UK wanted loan guarantees, not grants alone, included, a tactic she opposed. Pershing said "donors have to balance the political need to provide real financing with the practical constraints of tight budgets", reported the cable.

Along with finance, another treacherous issue in the global climate negotiations, currently continuing in CancĂșn, Mexico, is trust that countries will keep their word. Hedegaard asks why the US did not agree with China and India on what she saw as acceptable measures to police future emissions cuts. "The question is whether they will honour that language," the cable quotes Pershing as saying.

Trust is in short supply on both sides of the developed-developing nation divide. On 2 February 2009, a cable from Addis Ababa reports a meeting between the US undersecretary of state Maria Otero and the Ethiopian prime minister, Meles Zenawi, who leads the African Union's climate change negotiations.

The confidential cable records a blunt US threat to Zenawi: sign the accord or discussion ends now. Zenawi responds that Ethiopia will support the accord, but has a concern of his own: that a personal assurance from Barack Obama on delivering the promised aid finance is not being honoured.

US determination to seek allies against its most powerful adversaries – the rising economic giants of Brazil, South Africa, India, China (Basic) – is set out in another cable from Brussels on 17 February reporting a meeting between the deputy national security adviser, Michael Froman, Hedegaard and other EU officials.

Froman said the EU needed to learn from Basic's skill at impeding US and EU initiatives and playing them off against each in order "to better handle third country obstructionism and avoid future train wrecks on climate".

Hedegaard is keen to reassure Froman of EU support, revealing a difference between public and private statements. "She hoped the US noted the EU was muting its criticism of the US, to be constructive," the cable said. Hedegaard and Froman discuss the need to "neutralise, co-opt or marginalise unhelpful countries including Venezuela and Bolivia", before Hedegaard again links financial aid to support for the accord, noting "the irony that the EU is a big donor to these countries". Later, in April, the US cut aid to Bolivia and Ecuador, citing opposition to the accord.

Any irony is clearly lost on the Bolivian president, Evo Morales, according to a 9 February cable from La Paz. The Danish ambassador to Bolivia, Morten Elkjaer, tells a US diplomat that, at the Copenhagen summit, "Danish prime minister Rasmussen spent an unpleasant 30 minutes with Morales, during which Morales thanked him for [$30m a year in] bilateral aid, but refused to engage on climate change issues."

After the Copenhagen summit, further linking of finance and aid with political support appears. Dutch officials, initially rejecting US overtures to back the accord, make a startling statement on 25 January. According to a cable, the Dutch climate negotiator Sanne Kaasjager "has drafted messages for embassies in capitals receiving Dutch development assistance to solicit support [for the accord]. This is an unprecedented move for the Dutch government, which traditionally recoils at any suggestion to use aid money as political leverage." Later, however, Kaasjager rows back a little, saying: "The Netherlands would find it difficult to make association with the accord a condition to receive climate financing."

Perhaps the most audacious appeal for funds revealed in the cables is from Saudi Arabia, the world's second biggest oil producer and one of the 25 richest countries in the world. A secret cable sent on 12 February records a meeting between US embassy officials and lead climate change negotiator Mohammad al-Sabban. "The kingdom will need time to diversify its economy away from petroleum, [Sabban] said, noting a US commitment to help Saudi Arabia with its economic diversification efforts would 'take the pressure off climate change negotiations'."

The Saudis did not like the accord, but were worried they had missed a trick. The assistant petroleum minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman told US officials that he had told his minister Ali al-Naimi that Saudi Arabia had "missed a real opportunity to submit 'something clever', like India or China, that was not legally binding but indicated some goodwill towards the process without compromising key economic interests".

The cables obtained by WikiLeaks finish at the end of February 2010. Today, 116 countries have associated themselves with the accord. Another 26 say they intend to associate. That total, of 140, is at the upper end of a 100-150 country target revealed by Pershing in his meeting with Hedegaard on 11 February.

The 140 nations represent almost 75% of the 193 countries that are parties to the UN climate change convention and, accord supporters like to point out, are responsible for well over 80% of current global greenhouse gas emissions.

At the mid-point of the major UN climate change negotiations in CancĂșn, Mexico, there have already been flare-ups over how funding for climate adaptation is delivered. The biggest shock has been Japan's announcement that it will not support an extension of the existing Kyoto climate treaty. That gives a huge boost to the accord. US diplomatic wheeling and dealing may, it seems, be bearing fruit.


Reference for this article can be found here.

Should a open and "free" Republic be engaged in this behavior? Does this not reflect our morally corrupt nature that we've become?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Federalist Papers: Interpretation of the US Constitution

In these trying times, in the United States nowadays, we are forced to take a good look at ourselves. Look deep, to find those things truly valuable to us in order for us to be able to move forward as a country. In an effort to more fully understand the founding principles, I have taken up the task of reading the Federalist Papers, essays commonly used as interpretations of the intent behind our United States Constitution. There Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison strive to explain in narratives the philosophies behind the decisions they made. I am currently on the fourth of 85 essays.. Wish me luck..

The Federalist Papers can be found here.