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Friday, June 20, 2008

McCain: I 'Didn't Love America' Until Held Prisoner (VIDEO)

Republicans have hammered Michelle Obama for her remarks in February that she was proud of America "for the first time in my adult life." Tonight, however, Dan Abrams showed footage he uncovered of a Fox News interview with John McCain on March 13, 2008, in which McCain said, "I didn't really love America until I was deprived of her company."

Abrams thinks McCain's comments could undermine the "right wing's steady attacks against Michelle Obama."

[WATCH]

Original here

McCain's support among GOP women shows cracks

PDT San Francisco -- The challenges facing Sen. Barack Obama as he tries to woo supporters of former rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton could pale in comparison with Sen. John McCain's troubles with female voters - if the voices of a growing number of prominent Republican women are any indication.

"I cannot see a more counterproductive candidate for women," said Jillian Manus-Salzman, a leading California Republican activist and generous GOP donor in the nation's most populous state, an ATM for presidential campaigns. "I cannot vote for McCain."

Susan Eisenhower - granddaughter of former GOP President Dwight Eisenhower and a Washington, D.C.-based expert on foreign policy and national security issues - said Wednesday she is backing Obama over McCain because the Democrat has shown more understanding of how the Iraq war, the economy and other key issues affect women's daily lives.

And Harriet Stinson, the 82-year-old founder of Bay Area-based Republicans for Choice, said that - after 60 years of Republican registration - she has finally reregistered as a Democrat.

"I couldn't take it anymore," she said, arguing that on issues like funding birth control and support of sex education, McCain "couldn't be worse."

Competing voices

The comments come as Michelle Obama gets high-profile face time on television's "The View" this week, talking up family matters, and former Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Officer Carly Fiorina, acting in recent days as surrogate-in-chief for GOP candidate McCain, is promoting his support among female voters.

Much attention has focused in recent weeks on the discontent of leading Democratic women who supported Clinton, including Susie Tompkins Buell - one of the Democratic Party's most generous and influential donors. The San Francisco-based entrepreneur has warned that many of Clinton's female supporters are absolutely not ready to support Obama, the party's presumed presidential nominee.

Buell has led a vocal group of women behind a political action committee called WomenCount ( www.womencountpac.com), which plans a new campaign of full-page newspaper ads to address what she calls lingering concern regarding the party's disengagement with older women during and after Clinton's historic race as the first major female candidate for president.

Such efforts underscore how women are considered the must-have vote in the contest between McCain and Obama, said Barbara O'Connor, professor of political communication at Cal State Sacramento, "especially in a close election, because there are more of them, and they vote more regularly."

O'Connor said the disappointment of Clinton Democratic women is understandable - but unlikely to last for long.

Baby Boomer women "wanted to vote for a woman as president before they died," she said. But "when they calm down, they'll take a look at McCain's position on choice, on drilling the California coast ... and I can't believe these Democratic women activists will entrust their future to John McCain.

"While McCain is refreshing compared to his peers, and a solid citizen on his values ... he's really a Republican in his heart on social issues. And that's going to drive the average soccer mom around the bend," O'Connor said.

Ellen Malcolm, who heads the Democratic pro-choice Emily's List, the nation's largest political action committee, said her group is one of many that will educate women to McCain's positions on issues like judicial appointments and offshore oil drilling.

'Common ground'

"Hillary supporters will find tremendous common ground with Barack Obama," said Malcolm, a Clinton backer. "He believes what they believe. John McCain believes what George Bush believes."

Stinson said GOP women must ask critical questions of their candidate.

"If McCain is so against abortion," she asks, "why does he oppose all the measures needed to reduce the need for it - making insurance companies cover contraceptives, federal funding for birth control and comprehensive sex education?"

Some major Democratic Party donors, like philanthropist Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis - president of Sacramento-based AKT Development Corp. who has written checks to Clinton since her first Senate race in 2000 - say that even for some Democrats, the idea of getting behind Obama was "hard, no question about it."

But she has come around, she says, and she believes many women, Republican and Democratic alike, will follow suit.

"After many days of feeling very sad," the Democratic insider said she went online this week and did what was once unthinkable - "maxed out," writing the maximum donation to Obama's presidential campaign.

Fiorina, in recent events, has tried to stress McCain's sympathy and connection with Clinton and her female supporters.

"Having started as a secretary and eventually becoming a CEO, I not only have great admiration and respect for Hillary Clinton, and her candidacy and leadership, but I also have great empathy, I must tell you, for what she went through," Fiorina said. "I also believe, though, if we are striving for a gender-blind, color-blind society, that we really ought to be focused on the person that we think will make the right judgments ... that person is John McCain."

Move toward Obama

Manus-Salzman said she hasn't yet endorsed Obama, but she will not be surprised if Republican women begin writing checks and openly expressing their support.

"I would have had a hard time selling Republican women on Hillary Clinton," she said. "But selling Republican women on Barack Obama is a whole different story."

"They don't see him as a partisan," she said. "My instinct, as a woman, is that this is a truly special person who respects women, who will listen to our voice and use women to rejuvenate and resurrect this country."

John McCain on abortion

-- "I'd love to see a point where (Roe vs. Wade) is irrelevant, and could be repealed because abortion is no longer necessary. But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal Roe vs. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to (undergo) illegal and dangerous operations." McCain said he would support legislation banning abortions in the third trimester. - Interview with The Chronicle, Aug. 20, 1999

-- "After a lot of study, a lot of consultation and a lot of prayer, I came up with a position that I believe there should be an exception for rape, incest or the life of a mother ... (the issue) is one of the most difficult and agonizing issues that I think all of us face, because of our belief - yours and mine - that life begins at conception." - Reported in the New York Times, Jan. 22, 2000

-- "John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned, and as president he will nominate judges who understand that courts should not be in the business of legislating from the bench." - McCain for President Web site

What they're saying

Some prominent GOP women are expressing concerns about John McCain for president. Among them:

-- Jillian Manus-Salzman, Atherton literary agent, GOP activist and a generous donor to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger: "I cannot vote for McCain. I cannot ...we don't want to be perceived as a one-issue vote. But in this case, the Supreme Court is in play, medical advancements are in play ...to ignore his positions ... and simply say, 'We're going to agree to disagree?' " I don't think we can do that."

-- Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of former GOP President Dwight Eisenhower and now a Washington strategist and consultant, and lifelong GOP voter: "The war issue is a strong one ... as lower-income, middle-American families are taking a disproportionate share of the burden. ... It really touches the lives of women who are left behind while their husbands are deployed overseas and families who have lost a loved one."

-- Harriet Stinson, 82-year-old founder of Bay Area-based Republicans for Choice, who said that after 60 years as a Republican, she has reregistered as a Democrat for the first time: "If he overturns Roe v. Wade, what criminal penalties would he propose?" she said. "He's had a terrible record (on reproductive rights). He's zero, he couldn't be any worse ...he's all against big government, and he wants big government ... to get involved in the most private decision women can make. And a lot of women have no clue on how he is on this."

E-mail Carla Marinucci at cmarinucci@sfchronicle.com.

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Obama's First General Election Ad: "Country I Love" (VIDEO)

"The Obama campaign today announced the release of its first television advertisement for the general election," an Obama camp press release states. "The sixty second ad, entitled "Country I Love," will begin airing in eighteen states across the country tomorrow to highlight how our shared values have shaped Senator Obama's life."

In the spot, Senator Obama speaks to voters about the core values this nation was founded on and how they have guided him to work hard for his education, to bypass jobs on Wall Street to work as a community organizer, and to lead the fight for America's families and veterans as an Illinois and United States Senator.


The ad presents Senator Obama's record of passing laws to reform welfare, to cut taxes for working families, and to ensure America's veterans have the health care they deserve.

The ad will air in Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Virginia.

Watch the ad:

Washington Post's Chris Cillizza notes:

It's clear from this ad that the Obama campaign recognizes that it must educate voters about his background in order to counter the slew of negative information being moved via whisper campaigns and email chains already in this race.


This ad's message is simple: Barack Obama is just like you. He knows what it's like to start with little and work your way up, he loves his country, he loves his family.

It's a powerful opening salvo -- aided by a candidate who looks natural delivering the message. It's also an important sign of the work still facing the Obama campaign in the coming weeks and months.

Many voters know little of Obama and are hungry for more information. Do they get that information from the candidate or from other sources that are far less favorably inclined to the Illinois senator? It's a key question heading into the fall.

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Ohio Looking to Be Big Swing-State Pickup for Obama

When it comes to presidential elections, Ohio has been- in recent years- a boon to the GOP. In each of the last two contests, it's provided it's 20 plus electoral votes to George W. Bush, both of which were decided by fewer than 12.

But this time around, things are looking bright for the Barack Obama's campaign in the Buckeye State, where three consecutive polls have given Obama a comfortable lead over John McCain in the general election. It began with a Survey USA poll from mid-May that put Obama up 9 points, and was followed by a Public Policy Polling study from earlier in the week that gave him an 11-point lead. The latest is a Quinnipiac poll that shows McCain trailing by six. That puts the RCP average at +6.2 in favor of Obama, enough to move the state from the "tossup" column firmly into the Obama camp.

Consider what an improbable victory the Ohio numbers represent for the Obama campaign. The fact that the state hasn't been particularly friendly to Democrats in recent years is just the beginning. Beyond that, it's even less friendly to Obama, who was throttled by Hillary Clinton here back in March. Clinton didn't just edge out a victory here, as she did in Texas and Indiana - she sailed to it. The final tally gave her a 9-point margin over Obama, who came in at just over 44% of the popular vote.

Moreover, this is a state that is seemingly in McCain's central demographic. The balanced political climate features a cross section of voters, including a wealth of independent swing voters, which the Arizona Senator has targeted as his must-win group. In fact, a poll from just about six months ago by Survey USA put McCain ahead of any Democratic challenger by 15 points.

What has likely contributed to Ohio's change of heart is the continued economic woes on the national front. The Economist called the state "a slice of Midwest that contains a bit of everything American- part north-eastern and part southern, part rural and part urban, part hardscrabble poverty and part booming suburb." With the widespread financial burdens, that means that people across Ohio's socioeconomic spectrum are struggling as a result of the sagging economy. A good chunk of the state's GDP comes from industrial production, one of the hardest hit sectors of the national downturn. It's home to numerous automobile and manufacturing plants that supply everything from rubber tires to the machines that produce them. In many ways, the national economic situation can be measured on the faces of the men and women work there, and with layoffs in all types of manual labor, Ohioans are looking for some respite. As it stands, Republicans- and George W. Bush in particular- are finding their feet to the fire when it comes to accountability, and that appears to be putting McCain in a rough spot.

Trouble in Ohio could spell danger for McCain on a much wider scale. It's varied and diverse demographics make the state a perfect testing group for the rest of the nation. In other words, the ground situation in Ohio is a fairly good indicator of feelings across the United States. Since 1892, the candidate who wins Ohio in the general election has won the White House all but twice. What could be more bad news for McCain is that no Republican presidential candidate has ever won the White House without winning Ohio.


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The Right-Wing Offshore Drilling Scam

Crossposted from UNBOSSED

Don’t be fooled, amigos. All this talk about offshore oil drilling and the price of gas and the pump is a bunch of BS. In fact, the Republican Party is colluding with the oil and gas industry to drive up the price of energy.

This is criminal.

The oil and gas industry, buoyed by their Right-Wing minions are on a coordinated and well-thought out mission to end the twenty-six year old moratorium on off-shore oil and gas drilling. The goal? To at once embarrass Barack Obama, take down the Congressional Democrats, increase corporate profit and further drive up the price of energy.

First of all, there is no "ban".

"Ban" is just more GOPer-speak. In reality, there is a moratorium on drilling in certain coastal areas. Other areas are not only open to drilling but leases and drilling permits have already been issued.

And they are not being drilled.

In fact, only 17% of the leased areas is in production. So, with about 33 million acres of offshore areas already available to drill and not being drilled, why does the oil and gas industry need to have access to still more? The fact is that nearly 25 BILLION barrels of oil off the coast of the United States is currently available for drilling...and industry is not drilling it.

Not to mention natural gas. Most of the natural gas occurring offshore (over 328 TRILLION cubic feet – an eleven year supply at current consumption rates) is currently available for leasing and development.

And they’re not going after it.

This is the story throughout the country, more than 44 million acres of onshore public lands are leased for oil and gas development and yet most of it is not being drilled. All told (onshore and offshore), 68 million acres are leased and sitting idle. Over 10,000 permits are currently 'stockpiled' by industry. But still they want more.

Between 1999 and 2007, the number of drilling permits issued for development of public lands increased by more than 361%. And did you see your gasoline costs drop? How about your electricity costs? Propane? natural gas? Uh...no. There is absolutely no correlation between the industrialization of public lands and the price of fossil fuels.

It has been estimated that if all of those currently inactive leases were drilled, the USA would produce an additional 4.8 million barrels of oil and 44.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas EVERY DAY, accounting for a doubling of US oil production and a 75% increase in US natural gas production. The Minerals Management Service tells us that about 80% of fossil fuels available in offshore are currently available for development.

What's going on here is yet another cynical attempt by the GOP and the oil and gas robber barons to increase and assure huge industry profits at the expense of the American people. These companies don’t want to drill these areas. They want to hold them as assests to limit the amount of oil and gas on the market so that prices rise still further - and they make more money. They want to hold on to these areas so that they can drill them ten or fifteen years from now and make an even bigger fortune.

Meanwhile:

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday blocked debate of a bill to offer about $17.7 billion in tax incentives for consumers to build renewable energy sources like windmills and solar arrays, and buy plug-in cars that run on electricity rather than gasoline.

The Energy Independence and Tax Relief Act of 2008 would have extended a tax credit to build windmills by one year through December 31, 2009, and extend for three years similar credits for renewable energy sources like biomass, geothermal, landfill gas and trash combustion.

John McCain, George W. Bush and the Republican party don’t give a damn about high energy prices. They only want their friends in the oil and gas industry to make still more outlandish profits while the rest of us suffer.

UPDATE/ADDITION:

Some of the numbers cited in this post came directly from these documents:

Energy Information Administration, AAnalysis of Crude Oil Production in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,May 2008.

Inventory of Onshore Federal Oil and Natural Gas Resources and Restrictions to Their Development, U.S.
Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and Energy; May 2008.

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FLASHBACK: Giuliani Previously Praised Prosecuting Terrorists In U.S. Legal System»

giulianimccain.jpg On Tuesday, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) criticized the Bush administration’s indefinite detention of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, stating that the United States can crack down on terrorists “within the constraints of our Constitution“:

And, you know, let’s take the example of Guantanamo. What we know is that, in previous terrorist attacks — for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center, we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons, incapacitated.

Regurgitating Bush’s 2004 campaign strategy, Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) campaign blasted Obama yesterday for wanting to take a “totally criminal justice approach to dealing with international terrorists.” Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said:

The real problem is [Obama] having said that in essence, the 1993 situation was really correctly handled by it’s being a criminal prosecution, and these people were incapacitated. The reality is that I think most experts on terrorism who are non-partisan would tell you that that was a terrible mistake in not recognizing the full dimension of what we were involved with.

He also added, “I’m not saying they shouldn’t have been prosecuted. But it’s the idea that it’s the be all and end all that’s the mistake.” Giuliani, however, also once praised the prosecution of the 1993 bombers, agreeing with Obama that terrorists should have to face the U.S. legal system:

– “‘It should show that our legal system is the most mature legal system in the history of the world,’ he [Giuliani] said, ‘that it works well, that that is the place to seek vindication if you feel your rights have been violated.’” [The New York Times, 3/5/94]

– “[M]any who were bruised by the traumatic event were certain that no verdict by a jury or punishment by a judge will exorcise the pain and terror that remain. … Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani declared that the verdict ‘demonstrates that New Yorkers won’t meet violence with violence, but with a far greater weapon — the law.’” [The New York Times, 3/5/94]

– “I think it shows you put terrorism on one side, you put our legal system on the other, and our legal system comes out ahead,” said Giuliani. [CBS Evening News, 3/5/94]

As hilzoy points out, the McCain campaign’s allegation that Obama wants only a criminal justice approach to terrorism is a total distortion. In fact, in August 2007, he stated, “I will not hesitate to use military force to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to America.” Earlier this year when Obama proposed going aggressively after terrorists, McCain accused him of having “once suggested bombing our ally, Pakistan.”

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McCain's Offshore Drilling Position A Flip From Three Weeks Ago

It is hardly a secret that when it comes to offshore drilling, Sen. John McCain was against the idea before he was for it. On Monday, the Arizona Republican told a crowd in Texas that he was abandoning his long-time support for a federal moratorium on drilling along the nation's coastlines in favor of allowing states to decide for themselves.

But how recent a convert is McCain to this position?

In late May, during a campaign town hall, McCain was asked about the prospect of coastal drilling. His answer then was far more nebulous and skeptical of the idea compared to his recent, full-throated endorsement.

On a campaign stop in Greensdale, Wisconsin, the Senator suggested that turning to the nation's coast for energy needs would be something of a waste in time and effort and do little to resolve America's broader energy needs.

"[W]ith those resources, which would take years to develop, you would only postpone or temporarily relieve our dependency on fossil fuels," McCain said when asked about offshore drilling. "We are going to have to go to alternative energy, and the exploitation of existing reserves of oil, natural gas, even coal, and we can develop clean coal technology, are all great things. But we also have to devote our efforts, in my view, to alternative energy sources, which is the ultimate answer to our long-term energy needs, and we need it sooner rather than later."

Those remarks differ widely from the sentiment offered by the Senator yesterday, in which he presented coastal drilling as a move that would "be very helpful in the short term resolving our energy crisis."

"I believe it is time for the federal government to lift these restrictions and to put our own reserves to use," he said on Tuesday, "as a matter of fairness to the American people, and a matter of duty for our government, we must deal with the here and now, and assure affordable fuel for America by increasing domestic production."

In part because of these limited benefits, McCain was far cooler to the idea of ending to federal moratorium on drilling offshore back in May. Responding to an audience question, the presumptive GOP nominee stated his respect for states' rights while adding a healthy dose of concern about forcing states to open up their coasts.

"Can I just say that this young man just pointed out that that he believes in states' rights, and so do I. And the people of Louisiana decided that they wanted to drill off of their coast. And they do. The people of California and the people of Florida, those two states decided that they didn't. What I would like to do, frankly, is to maybe give them a greater source of the revenues to help maybe encourage them to allow some kind of exploration far off of their shores. But if I told the state of California, you've got to have drilling off of your coast, that would frankly be a contradiction of what were just talking about, about -- that's their land and that's off of their coast."

That McCain would, two weeks later, offer a full endorsement of removing federal restrictions on the drilling practice seems hard to attribute to the high price of gas (after all, gas prices were similarly priced in late May), but rather political posturing. A Republican with an environmentalism streak, the Senator has long stood against drilling offshore, arguing that longer-term solutions were needed to end the energy crisis. But the general election has changed that dynamic.

On other issues as well, McCain has found himself back-tracking from his prior advocacy.

In mid-May 2008, for example, the Senator was quoted saying he didn't "like obscene profits being made anywhere," and, as such, would be "glad to look" at a windfall profits tax on oil companies. Yesterday, however, he criticized Barack Obama for wanting "a windfall profits tax on oil to go along with the new taxes he also plans for coal and natural gas."

Update: McCain's position also seems at odds with a study recently completed by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) which in their Annual Energy Outlook 2007, reported:

"The projections in the OCS access case indicate that access to the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030."

Original here

Muslims barred from picture at Obama event

By

Barack Obama
For Obama, the old-fashioned image-making contrasts with his promise to transcend identity politics, and to embrace all elements of America.
Photo: AP

Two Muslim women at Barack Obama’s rally in Detroit on Monday were barred from sitting behind the podium by campaign volunteers seeking to prevent the women’s headscarves from appearing in photographs or on television with the candidate.

The campaign has apologized to the women, both Obama supporters who said they felt betrayed by their treatment at the rally.

“This is of course not the policy of the campaign. It is offensive and counter to Obama’s commitment to bring Americans together and simply not the kind of campaign we run,” said Obama spokesman Bill Burton. “We sincerely apologize for the behavior of these volunteers.”

Building a human backdrop to a political candidate, a set of faces to appear on television and in photographs, is always a delicate exercise in demographics and political correctness. Advance staffers typically pick supporters out of a crowd to reflect the candidate’s message.

When Obama won the North Carolina primary amid questions about his ability to connect with white voters, for instance, he stood in front of a group of middle-aged white women waving small American flags.

On the Republican side, a Hispanic New Hampshire Democrat, Roberto Fuentes, told Politico that he was recently asked, and declined, to contribute to the “diversity” of the crowd behind Sen. John McCain at a Nashua event.

But for Obama, the old-fashioned image-making contrasts with his promise to transcend identity politics and to embrace all elements of America. The incidents in Michigan, which has one of the largest Arab and Muslim populations in the country, also highlight an aspect of his campaign that sometimes rubs Muslims the wrong way: The candidate has vigorously denied a false, viral rumor that he himself is Muslim. But the denials at times seem to imply to some that there is something wrong with the faith, though Obama occasionally adds that he means no disrespect to Islam.

“I was coming to support him, and I felt like I was discriminated against by the very person who was supposed to be bringing this change, who I could really relate to,” said Hebba Aref, a 25-year-old lawyer who lives in the Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills. “The message that I thought was delivered to us was that they do not want him associated with Muslims or Muslim supporters.”

In Detroit on Monday, the two different Obama volunteers — in separate incidents — made it clear that headscarves wouldn’t be in the picture. The volunteers gave different explanations for excluding the hijabs, one bluntly political and the other less clear.

In Aref’s case, there was no ambiguity.

That incident began when the volunteer asked Aref’s friend Ali Koussan and two others, Aref’s brother Sharif and another young lawyer, Brandon Edward Miller, whether they would like to sit behind the stage. The three young men said they would but mentioned they were with friends.

The men said the volunteer, a 20-something African-American woman in a green shirt, asked if their friends looked and were dressed like the young men, who were all light-skinned and wearing suits.

Miller said yes but mentioned that one of their friends was wearing a headscarf with her suit.

The volunteer “explained to me that because of the political climate and what’s going on in the world and what’s going on with Muslim Americans, it’s not good for [Aref] to be seen on TV or associated with Obama,” said Koussan, a law student at Wayne State University.

Both Koussan and Miller said they specifically recalled the volunteer citing the “political climate” in telling them they couldn’t sit behind Obama.

“I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. Are you serious?’” Koussan recalled.

Shimaa Abdelfadeel’s story was different. She’d waited in line outside the Joe Louis Arena for three hours in the sun and was walking through the giant hall when a volunteer approached two of her non-Muslim friends, a few steps ahead of her, and asked if they’d like to sit in “special seating” behind the stage, said one friend, Brittany Marino, who, like Abdelfadeel, is a recent University of Michigan graduate who works for the university.

When they said they were with Abdelfadeel, the volunteer told them their friend would have to take off the headscarf or stay out of the special section, Marino said. They declined the seats.

After recovering from the shock of the incident, Abdelfadeel went to look for the volunteer and confronted her minutes later, she said in an e-mail interview with Politico.

“We’re not letting anyone with anything on their heads like baseball [caps] or scarves sit behind the stage,” she paraphrased the volunteer as saying, an account Marino confirmed. “It has nothing to do with your religion!”

In most work and school settings, religious dress — such as Jewish yarmulkes, Sikh turbans and Muslim hijabs — is permitted where secular clothing, such as baseball caps, is not.

“The scarf is not just something she can take off — it’s part of her identity,” said Marino.

Photographs of the event also show men with hats in the section behind Obama and former Vice President Al Gore, though not directly behind the candidate.

Abdelfadeel, like Aref, felt “disappointed, angry and let down,” she later wrote.

She said she was “let down that the Obama campaign continuously perpetuates this attitude towards Muslims and Arabs — as if being merely associated [with] one is a sin.”

The two women’s friends who witnessed the incidents were disappointed, too. Aref’s friend Miller said he was “shocked” by the contrast between Obama’s message and their experience.

“He was the one candidate who you would expect to stand up for something like that — and behind the scenes, you have something completely contrary to what he was running on,” said Koussan, Aref’s other friend.

Aref and her friends complained to the campaign, and after those complaints and an inquiry from Politico, Obama’s director of advance, Emmett S. Beliveau, called her to apologize.

An Obama aide also noted that the campaign has no policy against the candidate’s appearing with women in headscarves: The next morning at Wayne State University, Obama posed for a picture with a student wearing a hijab.

Photographs from a Seattle rally earlier this year also clearly show a couple in Muslim garb behind the candidate.

The administrator of the Muslims4Obama group on Obama’s website, which is not a formal part of the campaign, also said she had “not heard anything regarding Muslim supporters being steered away from sitting behind Sen. Obama at the event” and noted that he had Muslim supporters present at events in Minnesota, including one at which he stood with a Muslim member of Congress, Keith Ellison.

Aref said she was glad Obama had apologized, but she was not entirely satisfied.

“I think this is a much bigger deal than maybe they’re perceiving it as,” she said, noting that Obama had placed a personal call to a television reporter he’d dismissively called “Sweetie.”

“An apology from him personally would be better,” she said, then reconsidered. “If they are true to their word, I think it would suffice to have an invitation to their next rally and have seats behind him and show up on TV.”

Original here

As Long As We're Talking About Michelle Obama, Did You Know Cindy McCain Was A Drug Addict?

It's a psychedelic experience this week, watching Cindy McCain out on the campaign trail, attacking the opponent's wife. In rally after rally she says, "I've always been proud of my country," a not so subtle jab at Michelle Obama's gaffe earlier about really being proud of America for the first time.

But Cindy McCain has one hell of a scandal in her past. In the mid-nineties she was addicted to prescription pain killers. Worse, she was stealing the drugs from the American Voluntary Medical Team, a third world relief organization she founded. Like most ridiculously rich people, she didn't have to go to jail for her crimes and was allowed to enter a rehab program rather than face criminal charges. The charity was shut down.

So when Cindy McCain says, "All I know is that I've always been proud of my country," take it with a grain of salt. She spent at least three years stoned out of her mind. It's impossible to know what she thought during that time. Was she really proud, or was she just hallucinating?

Cindy's addiction has been virtually ignored this election season. As a thought experiment, try to imagine what the reaction would be if Michelle Obama had a history with drug addiction? If Michelle Obama had stolen drugs meant for third world countries to support her own addiction?

Of course, we want to leave spouses out of politics. But if Cindy is out attacking Michelle people are going to start throwing rocks back at her glass house. She'd have to be high to think otherwise.

Original here

Wyatt Cenac Channels Kanye West

It's not marked on my calendar, but this must be Wet Hot American Summer week. First there was that AV Club re-review, then it was Michael Showalter's birthday, and then last night, there was this Daily Show segment about the Midwest floods called Wet Hot American Bummer.




If this WHAS-centricity keeps up, by the end of today, I expect to receive sage advice from a talking can of vegetables. Though, that's just a typical Thursday for me.

Last night also featured the return of Steve Carell to the show. That clip is after the jump.





Posted by matt tobey

Original here

Dems Agree to Expand Domestic Spying, Grant Telecoms Amnesty

bushfisaPresident Bush is set to win a huge victory in the controversy over warrantless wiretapping, as the House Democratic leadership agreed to telecom immunity and expanded spying powers.
Photo: AP/Haraz N. Ghanbari

By Ryan Singel

Breaking months of acrimonious deadlock, House and Senate leaders from both parties have agreed to a bill that gives the nation's spy agencies the power to turn a wide swath of domestic communication companies into intelligence-gathering operations, and that puts an end to court challenges to telecoms such as AT&T that aided the government's secret, five-year warrantless wiretapping program.

Civil liberties proponents quickly blasted the deal.

"The proposed FISA deal is not a compromise; it is a capitulation," said Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russ Feingold, the only senator who voted against the Patriot Act in 2001. "The House and Senate should not be taking up this bill, which effectively guarantees immunity for telecom companies alleged to have participated in the President’s illegal program, and which fails to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans at home."

The deal marks a huge, though belated, victory for a lame-duck White House, which fought a pitched, hyperbolic battle to expand its legal wiretapping powers after being busted targeting Americans without warrants.

Despite that desire for expanded spying powers, the president threatened to veto any bill that did not give amnesty to the telecoms that helped with program, which has been declared illegal by a secretive U.S. surveillance court.

The bill (.pdf) could be voted on as soon as Friday in the House, given its backing by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who in February organized a high-stakes showdown with the president over a substantially similar bill. The Senate would likely also quickly pass the bill, despite already vocal opposition from the ACLU, left-leaning bloggers, as well as Sens. Christopher Dodd (D-Connecticut) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont).

Under the proposal, the intelligence community will be able to issue broad orders to U.S. ISPs, phone companies and online communications services like Hotmail and Skype to turn over all communications that are reasonably believed to involve a non-American who is outside the country. The spy agencies will not have to name their targets or get prior court approval for the surveillance.

Under the longstanding rules of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the government was free to engage in dragnet wiretapping outside the United States, but in order to tap communications inside the country, the government needed court approval and individualized warrants if an American's communications would be caught.

Additionally, the bill grants amnesty to the nation's telecoms that are being sued for allegedly breaking federal wiretapping laws by turning over billions of Americans' call records to government data-mining programs and giving the government access to internet and phone infrastructure inside the country. The bill strips the right of a federal district court to decide whether the companies violated federal laws prohibiting wiretapping without a court order.

Instead, the attorney general would need only certify to the court either that a sued company did not participate, or that the government provided some sort of written request to the companies that said that the president authorized the program and that his lawyers deemed it to be legal. That would be presented to federal district court Judge Vaughn Walker, who is overseeing the more than 40 consolidated cases against the telecoms. Walker's authority would be limited to judging whether the preponderance of the evidence is that the companies did get a written request, and if he finds that to be true -- as the Senate Intelligence Committee has already publicly stated -- he must dismiss the cases.

That's immunity, and it's unconstitutional, according to the ACLU's Caroline Fredrickson.

"The telecom companies simply have to produce a piece of paper we already know exists, resulting in immediate dismissal," Fredrickson said in a written statement. "That's not accountability. Loopholes and judicial theater don't do our Fourth Amendment rights justice."

Hoyer, under pressure from so-called Blue Dog Democrats wanting to avoid being labeled soft on terrorism in the fall campaigns, justified the bill as a necessary compromise.

"It is the result of compromise, and like any compromise is not perfect, but I believe it strikes a sound balance," Hoyer said in a press release announcing the deal.

That's a significant change for Hoyer, who in March in a House floor speech opposed blanket immunity, saying "I submit that a reasonable -- responsible -- Congress would not seek to immunize conduct without knowing what conduct or misconduct it is immunizing."

The bill itself oddly admits that the government's surveillance activities included more than the previously admitted "Terrorist Surveillance Program." That program, admitted by the president after The New York Times revealed it in December 2005, targeted Americans to intercept their international phone calls and e-mails without getting court approval. In a provision authorizing an oversight investigation, the bill refers to the "President's Surveillance Program," of which the so-called TSP was just one part.

That all but confirms what many have reported and suspected: that there was much more unilateral surveillance than the president or his lawyers have ever admitted.

The current immunity language differs very little from the proposal that was debated in February and March, according to Kevin Bankston, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation -- which is arguing the leading case against the nation's telecoms.

"The current proposal is the exact same blanket immunity that the Senate passed in February and that the House rejected in March, only with a few new bells and whistles so that political spinsters can claim that it actually provides meaningful court review," Bankston said.

The top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee -- a longtime immunity proponent -- sounded a more upbeat note.

"Today we reached a bipartisan solution that will put the intelligence community back in business, protect American families from attack and protect our civil liberties," said Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri.

That's despite a provision in the bill that orders the inspectors general of the Justice Department and various intelligence agencies to spend a year working on a report about what the extent of the government's secret surveillance programs were, and what their legal rationale was.

That report would not be delivered to Congress until well after the White House has a new inhabitant.

Original here

George Bush's latest powers, courtesy of the Democratic Congress

(Updated below - Update II - Update III - Update IV - Update V)

CQ reports (sub. req.) that "a final deal has been reached" on FISA and telecom amnesty and "the House is likely to take up the legislation Friday." I've now just read a copy of the final "compromise" bill. It's even worse than expected. When you read it, it's actually hard to believe that the Congress is about to make this into our law. Then again, this is the same Congress that abolished habeas corpus with the Military Commissions Act, and legalized George Bush's warrantless eavesdropping program with the "Protect America Act," so it shouldn't be hard to believe at all. Seeing the words in print, though, adds a new dimension to appreciating just how corrupt and repugnant this is:

The provision granting amnesty to lawbreaking telecoms, Title VIII, has the exact Orwellian title it should have: "Protection of Persons Assisting the Government." Section 802(a) provides:

[A] civil action may not lie or be maintained in a Federal or State court against any person for providing assistance to an element of the intelligence community, and shall be properly dismissed, if the Attorney General certifies to the district court of the United States in which such action is pending that . . . (4) the assistance alleged to have been provided . . . was --
(A) in connection with intelligence activity involving communications that was (i) authorized by the President during the period beginning on September 11, 2001, and ending on January 17, 2007 and (ii) designed to prevent or detect a terrorist attack, or activities in preparation of a terrorist attack, against the United States" and

(B) the subject of a written request or directive . . . indicating that the activity was (i) authorized by the President; and (ii) determined to be lawful.

So all the Attorney General has to do is recite those magic words -- the President requested this eavesdropping and did it in order to save us from the Terrorists -- and the minute he utters those words, the courts are required to dismiss the lawsuits against the telecoms, no matter how illegal their behavior was.

That's the "compromise" Steny Hoyer negotiated and which he is now -- according to very credible reports -- pressuring every member of the Democratic caucus to support. It's full-scale, unconditional amnesty with no inquiry into whether anyone broke the law. In the U.S. now, thanks to the Democratic Congress, we'll have a new law based on the premise that the President has the power to order private actors to break the law, and when he issues such an order, the private actors will be protected from liability of any kind on the ground that the Leader told them to do it -- the very theory that the Nuremberg Trial rejected.

I'll post more in just a bit on the new warrantless eavesdropping powers George Bush is going to have under this law. They're vast and precisely the kind of powers that were abused by our Government for decades prior to FISA. Returning to that era is going to be part of the legacy not just of George Bush, but of this Democratic-controlled Congress.

Our fund-raising campaign has just exceeded $200,000. So the only solace is that this hefty (and still growing) fund provides some real ability to target those responsible and do everything possible to remove them from power and end their political careers for good (the list thus far includes Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Rep. Chris Carney and Rep. John Barrow).

It is also worthwhile to continue to call Barack Obama's campaign to demand that he intervene with meaningful action to stop this (though you'd be advised not to hold your breath while waiting for that to happen). As noted earlier today, Obama is conspicuously missing as his party is on the verge of enacting a radical bill to give the President vast new warrantless eavesdropping powers and retroactive amnesty to an entire lawbreaking industry.

We're in the process of creating a new PAC in order to oversee campaigns of the type we're conducting against those responsible for this FISA/telecom travesty, and Jane Hamsher has a poll up asking people to identify the best name. If the Democrats enact this bill, and it looks increasingly like they will, it's vital to direct the resulting rage towards constructive purposes.

UPDATE: The rage level is going to be quite high today and will only get higher as the day progresses. From the Press Release jointly issued by the GOP and Democratic Chairmen responsible for this bill:

Bipartisan FISA Compromise Reached

Bill Protects Nation, Civil Liberties

WASHINGTON – Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman John "Jay" Rockefeller (WV), Senate Intelligence Committee Vice-Chair Kit Bond (MO), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD), and House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (MO) announced today that a bipartisan compromise has been agreed to that will modernize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. . . .

"This bipartisan bill balances the needs of our intelligence community with Americans' civil liberties, and provides critical new oversight and accountability requirements," said Hoyer. "It is the result of compromise, and like any compromise is not perfect, but I believe it strikes a sound balance. Furthermore, we have ensured that Congress can revisit these issues because the legislation will sunset at the end of 2012."

It's outrageous of anyone to suggest that the Democrats capitulated here. They stood firm for you and made sure that this bill will only last for five years. Jay Rockefeller celebrated this "historic, bipartisan agreement to modernize FISA [which] is about providing an essential tool in the fight against terrorism." We're going to be slaughtered by the Terrorists unless the President can listen to our calls and read our emails with no warrants and unless the telecoms are immunized for their lawbreaking.

UPDATE II: The full text of this bill is where it belongs: on Steny Hoyer's website, here (.pdf).

Perhaps the most repellent part of this bill (though that's obviously a close competition) is 802(c) of the telecom amnesty section. That says that the Attorney General can declare that the documents he submits to the court in order to get these lawsuits dismissed are secret, and once he declares that, then: (a) the plaintiffs and their lawyers won't ever see the documents and (b) the court is barred from referencing them in any way when it dismisses the lawsuit. All the court can do is issue an order saying that the lawsuits are dismissed, but it is barred from saying why they're being dismissed or what the basis is for the dismissal.

So basically, one day in the near future, we're all going to learn that one of our federal courts dismissed all of the lawsuits against the telecoms. But we're never going to be able to know why the lawsuits were dismissed or what documents were given by the Government to force the court to dismiss the lawsuits. Not only won't we, the public, know that, neither will the plaintiffs' lawyers. Nobody will know except the Judge and the Government because it will all be shrouded in compelled secrecy, and the Judge will be barred by this law from describing or even referencing the grounds for dismissal in any way. Freedom is on the march.

The ACLU's Caroline Fredrickson calls this "disastrous surveillance legislation" and said this about the new warrantless eavesdroppping provisions in the bill:

This bill allows for mass and untargeted surveillance of Americans' communications. The court review is mere window-dressing –- all the court would look at is the procedures for the year-long dragnet and not at the who, what and why of the spying. Even this superficial court review has a gaping loophole –- "exigent" circumstances can short cut even this perfunctory oversight since any delay in the onset of spying meets the test and by definition going to the court would cause at least a minimal pause. Worse yet, if the court denies an order for any reason, the government is allowed to continue surveillance throughout the appeals process, thereby rendering the role of the judiciary meaningless. In the end, there is no one to answer to; a court review without power is no court review at all.
I'd like to underscore the fact that in 2006, when the Congress was controlled by Bill Frist and Denny Hastert, the administration tried to get a bill passed legalizing warrantless eavesdropping and telecom amnesty, but was unable. They had to wait until the Congress was controlled by Steny Hoyer, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to accomplish that.

And isn't it so odd how this "compromise" -- just like the Military Commissions Act, the Protect America Act and all the other great "compromises" from the Bush era which precede this one -- is producing extreme indignation only from those who believe in civil liberties and the rule of law, while GOP Bush followers seem perfectly content and happy with it? I wonder if that suggests that what the Democratic leadership is supporting isn't really a "compromise" at all.

UPDATE III: Sen. Russ Feingold courteously answers the last question I just posed:

The proposed FISA deal is not a compromise; it is a capitulation. . . . The House and Senate should not be taking up this bill, which effectively guarantees immunity for telecom companies alleged to have participated in the President's illegal program, and which fails to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans at home.

Allowing courts to review the question of immunity is meaningless when the same legislation essentially requires the court to grant immunity. And under this bill, the government can still sweep up and keep the international communications of innocent Americans in the U.S. with no connection to suspected terrorists, with very few safeguards to protect against abuse of this power.

Meanwhile, has anyone seen Barack Obama?
The two presumptive presidential nominees have differed over the issue. A senior aide to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., recently indicated the senator would support granting immunity to the phone companies. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., was among the most vocal opponents of immunity in the Senate debate last year. . . .

A spokesman for the Obama campaign didn't return phone calls or emails seeking comment for this article.

If Obama remains missing much longer, it may be necessary to issue an Amber Alert for him.

Finally, D-Day reports that the House leadership is working to vote tomorrow on the war funding bill and the FISA "compromise" at the same time. As he puts it: "The final indignity. Funding for endless war AND etching out the 4th Amendment will be combined into the same bill to force enough compliance from [Blue Dogs] to get this bill passed." Did I mention that the Democrats currently control both houses of Congress?

UPDATE IV: Several readers have emailed to say that they called the Obama campaign and were told that Obama and his staff are "literally reviewing the bill right now and will make a statement shortly." This Kos diarist reports the same thing.

Nancy Pelosi -- who completely removed herself from this entire process, ceding control to Hoyer -- made comments today about the FISA bill that are both incoherent and inane:

Tomorrow, we will be taking up the FISA bill. As you probably know, the bill has been filed. It is a balanced bill. I could argue it either way, not being a lawyer, but nonetheless, I could argue it either way. But I have to say this about it: it's an improvement over the Senate bill and I say that as a strong statement. The Senate bill is unacceptable. Totally unacceptable. This bill improves upon the Senate bill. . . .

And it is again in Title II, an improvement over the Senate bill in that it empowers the District Court, not the FISA Court, to look into issues that relate to immunity. It has a strong language in terms of an Inspector General to investigate how the law has been used, is being used, will be used.

So that will be legislation that we take up tomorrow. We will have a lively debate I'm sure within our caucus on this subject and in the Congress. It has bipartisan support.

I commend Steny Hoyer for his important work on this legislation, working in a bipartisan way.

She doesn't have the courage to say if she supports it -- that is superb and strong leadership -- but in praising the bill, she invokes the justification so obviously misleading that it should insult anyone who hears it: namely, that we should all be grateful because this bill "empowers the District Court, not the FISA Court, to look into issues that relate to immunity."

Indeed. What a wonderful concession that is. Instead of ordering the FISA court to give amnesty to the telecoms in secret, the bill orders the District Court to give amnesty to the telecoms in secret. What a very significant and meaningful improvement that is. But, as Pelosi says, she "could argue it either way." Maybe she'll flip a coin before tomorrow's vote in order to figure out whether she's for or against this bill.

What's particularly amazing about this whole process is that the House leadership unveiled this bill for the first time today -- and then scheduled the vote on it for tomorrow. No hearings. Nothing. They all have less than 24 hours to "read" the bill and decide whether to eviscerate the rule of law and the Fourth Amendment. I recall Democrats long complaining that they were only given one day before being forced back in September, 2001 to vote on the Patriot Act, yet here they are -- even without the excuse of the 9/11 attack -- doing that to themselves. I'm sure their votes tomorrow will be the by-product of a very conscientious, thoughtful and diligent review of this lengthy bill -- just as thoughtful as Pelosi's review was before she whimsically pronounced that it's all just six of one, half dozen of the other.

UPDATE V: Now that Democrats have agreed to this bill, the GOP isn't even bothering with the pretense anymore that this is a "compromise." Instead, they're rubbing the Democrats' noses in the fact that this was a full-scale capitulation. From Eric Lichtblau's New York Times article:

With some AT&T and other telecommunications companies now facing some 40 lawsuits over their reported participation in the wiretapping program, Republican leaders described this narrow court review on the immunity question as a mere "formality."

"The lawsuits will be dismissed," Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri, the No. 2 Republican in the House, predicted with confidence.

The proposal -- particularly the immunity provision -- represents a major victory for the White House after months of dispute. "I think the White House got a better deal than even they had hoped to get," said Senator Christopher Bond, the Missouri Republican who led the negotiations.

The White House immediately endorsed the proposal, which is likely to be voted on in the House on Friday and in the Senate next week.

"The White House got a better deal than even they had hoped to get." The administration should know better by now than to underestimate the Democratic leadership's complete cravenness and eagerness to please the White House.

-- Glenn Greenwald

Original here

One in 5 Canadians can't find a doctor: survey

A physician uses a stethoscope to find a patient's heartbeat.  Recent numbers show many Canadians have a much tougher time finding a doctor.

A physician uses a stethoscope to find a patient's heartbeat. Recent numbers show many Canadians have a much tougher time finding a doctor.

Many of those who don't have a family physician reported going to walk-in clinics for treatment when ill.
Dr. Brian Day, with the Canadian Medical Association, speaks with CTV's Canada AM on Wednesday, June 18, 2008.

Dr. Brian Day, with the Canadian Medical Association, speaks with CTV's Canada AM on Wednesday, June 18, 2008.

CTV.ca News Staff

Canadians continue to suffer from a doctor shortage, according to a new report that found 1 in 5 people have not been able to find a physician to treat them regularly.

A Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) released Wednesday found that more than four million Canadians are without a doctor, either because they have not found a family physician to take them on, or because they have not looked for one.

This proportion was up by 3 per cent since the 1996/1997 National Population Health Survey.

"The overall picture of the study is that we're not doing as well as we need to do in the whole picture," said Dr. Brian Day with the Canadian Medical Association. "A 26,000 doctor shortage falls short of the average of other developing countries."

The survey also concluded that Canadians are not necessarily healthier than they were a couple of years ago. Then again, they're not worse off either.

Since 2005, obesity rates among Canadians have not changed, according to the report. Nor have the number of Canadians who smoke.

This is despite drastic changes in those health categories in previous years.

The report was based on a comprehensive survey of 65,000 Canadians throughout 2007.

Doctor shortage

Although four million Canadians reported not having a doctor, 78 per cent of those people --or $3.3 million individuals -- reported having somewhere to go when they fall ill.

The majority of people (64 per cent) went to a walk-in clinic for treatment, while others sought help in hospital emergency rooms or a community health centre. About 14 per cent of people chose to use telephone health lines or hospital outpatient clinics.

Almost one-quarter of rural residents said they would go to an emergency room compared with eight per cent of urban dwellers.

The study also found that more men than women reported not having a regular doctor.

Almost one-fifth of men (19 per cent) over the age of 12 are without a doctor and most of them admitted they have not looked for one.

However, as people get older the more likely they were to find a doctor.

Only five per cent of seniors aged 65 or older reported not having a doctor. Only two per cent had not looked for one.

The survey found that people who are in a low socio-economic brackets were most likely to not have a regular health resource.

"Individuals living in the households with the lowest incomes were less likely than those in higher-income households to have a regular doctor," the survey says. "Individuals in low-income households were also more likely not to have looked for a doctor."

Dr. Day called the situation a "medical crisis" on Canada AM Wednesday.

"There is a medical crisis in training of doctors here in Canada," he said. "We need to do a lot more. We're well short of being self-sufficient when there is a doctor shorgate."

Also, the survey found that aboriginal people were less likely to have a regular doctor than non-aboriginal people.

Smokers not quitting

Despite government-imposed smoking bans and a heightened social stigma, the number of Canadians who smoke has not decreased over the last couple of years, the report says.

The report, released by Statistics Canada on Wednesday, shows the number of Canadians who smoke has remained steady since 2005. This is despite the fact that there was a drastic reduction in the number of smokers from 2000 to 2005.

The survey showed that 22 per cent of people over the age of 12 smoked in 2007, either as a regular habit or on occasion. The numbers were the same in 2005.

While the numbers don't show an increase of smokers, doctors say this is a negative finding.

"The concern is that this number was going down," said. "It's a negative finding because previously the rates had been dropping."

Adults between the ages of 20 and 44 were the ones who more likely to light up as 28 per cent of the age group reported being habitual or occasional smokers.

Smoking rates for both men and women under the age of 20 were similar, the study says. However, for each successive age group, more men smoked than women.

Across the country, Ontario (21 per cent) and British Columbia (18 per cent) reported the lowest smoking rates -- below the national average in fact.

Smoking rates in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Quebec were significantly higher than the national average.

The threat of obesity

Maintaining a healthy weight continues to pose a challenge for many Canadians, though the rate of obesity has remained steady over the years.

According to the study, 16 per cent of the adult population or four million people reported data that put them in the obese category. Another eight million people or 32 per cent are considered overweight.

Rates of both obesity and overweight were similar to those in 2005 except for the fact that there was a slight increase in the number of women between 18 and 24 who are considered obese. There was also a decrease in the number of male seniors who were overweight.

However, Statistics Canada said Canada's obesity problem could be worse that it appears to be.

"Because of the tendency of respondents to over-report their height and under-report their weight, it is likely that these figures from the CCHS underestimate the actual prevalence of obesity and overweight," the report says.

Nonetheless, the study found that obesity rates were the lowest among adults between the ages of 18 and 24 however men aged 25 to 44 were more likely to be obese compared to women in the same age group.

The study didn't focus on childhood obesity rates but Day said that is where most of the concern lies.

"There is concern because obesity is associated with an increase in chronic disease but the other concern is that there's alarm because of an increase of obesity in young people and children," Day said.

Once again, B.C. residents are the healthiest Canadians when it comes to weight control as only 11 per cent of adults in the province are obese.

The highest rates of obesity were recorded in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Atlantic Canada. Newfoundland and Labrador residents were the worst off, reporting 22 per cent of adulthood obesity.

Obesity has been linked with a multitude of health problems including Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Original here

English language legislation gathers steam across the USA

English as an official language has gained momentum as proponents keep going to the ballot box with measures that discourage bilingual ballots, notices and documents.

Thirty states now have laws specifying that official government communications be in English, says U.S. English, a group that promotes the laws. This year such bills are under consideration in 19 legislatures.

"It's multiplying tremendously," says Mauro Mujica, a Chilean immigrant and chairman and CEO of U.S. English. "We've made huge progress."

Critics do not see progress. Some say the increase in the measures nationwide sends a hostile message to newcomers.

"It just poisons the atmosphere in local communities," says John Trasvina, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

A  sign telling customers they must order in English at Geno's Steaks in Philadelphia in 2006 put the restaurant  into the eye of a political storm. Thirty states now  have laws specifying English as the official language for government communications, but the effectiveness of the movement is in question.
AP file photo
A sign telling customers they must order in English at Geno's Steaks in Philadelphia in 2006 put the restaurant into the eye of a political storm. Thirty states now have laws specifying English as the official language for government communications, but the effectiveness of the movement is in question.

Typically the proposed laws require that documents, ballots and other communications be published in English. Exempt are communications to protect public health and safety or efforts to promote tourism.

This year:

•In May, the Ohio House of Representatives approved a bill making English the state's official language. It is now before the state Senate.

•In April, the Oklahoma House passed a bill requiring the majority of state business to be conducted in English. It is before the Senate.

•Missouri will decide this fall on an amendment to the constitution requiring English for "all official proceedings."

Advocates say they are not suggesting that English be the only language spoken but that it be the only language used in dealing with government.

Mujica, who speaks Spanish in his home, says requiring English for official business encourages immigrants to learn English. That will help them to assimilate into U.S. society and prosper in its economy, he says.

"We're making it too easy for people to function in other languages," he complains.

But the effectiveness of the movement is in question since federal sometimes trumps a state's official English law. For instance, the Voting Rights Act requires certain localities to publish bilingual ballots.

"They've raised the level of ire against languages other than English (but)… haven't really changed the government's or businesses' way of doing business," Trasvina said.

Rob Toonkel, spokesman for U.S. English, says that is not true. He says the laws do not cover everything but ensure that things like driver's licenses, zoning forms and the day-to-day activities are overwhelmingly in English.

"We want to be sure (immigrants) are becoming part of America and American society," he says. "That's what official English is about."

There is one issue the two sides appear to agree on — more can be done to help non-English speakers learn English.

Sam Jammal, legislative attorney in MALDEF's Washington, D.C. office, says making English classes more available for adult immigrants is a better solution than official English.

"We fully agree with that," Mujica says.

Original here

House Resolution Calls for Naval Blockade against Iran

America’s powerful pro-Israel lobby pressures the US Congress




A US House of Representatives Resolution effectively requiring a naval blockade on Iran seems fast tracked for passage, gaining co-sponsors at a remarkable speed, but experts say the measures called for in the resolutions amount to an act of war.

H.CON.RES 362 calls on the president to stop all shipments of refined petroleum products from reaching Iran. It also "demands" that the President impose "stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains and cargo entering or departing Iran."

Analysts say that this would require a US naval blockade in the Strait of Hormuz.

Since its introduction three weeks ago, the resolution has attracted 146 cosponsors. Forty-three members added their names to the bill in the past two days.

In the Senate, a sister resolution S.RES 580 has gained co-sponsors with similar speed. The Senate measure was introduced by Indiana Democrat Evan Bayh on June 2. In little more than a week’s time, it has accrued 19 co-sponsors.

AIPAC's Endorsement

Congressional insiders credit America’s powerful pro-Israel lobby for the rapid endorsement of the bills. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) held its annual policy conference June 2-4, in which it sent thousands of members to Capitol Hill to push for tougher measures against Iran. On its website, AIPAC endorses the resolutions as a way to ''Stop Irans Nuclear Proliferation" and tells readers to lobby Congress to pass the bill.

AIPAC has been ramping up the rhetoric against Iran over the last 3 years delivering 9 issue memos to Congress in 2006, 17 in 2007 and in the first five months of 2008 has delivered no less than 11 issue memos to the Congress and Senate predominantly warning of Irans nuclear weapons involvement and support for terrorism.

The Resolutions put forward in the House and the Senate bear a resounding similarity to AIPAC analysis and Issue Memos in both its analysis and proposals even down to its individual components.

Proponents say the resolutions advocate constructive steps toward reducing the threat posed by Iran. "It is my hope that…this Congress will urge this and future administrations to lead the world in economically isolating Iran in real and substantial ways," said Congressman Mike Pence(R-IN), who is the original cosponsor of the House resolution along with Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Chairman of the sub committee on Middle East and South Asia of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Foreign policy analysts worry that such unilateral sanctions make it harder for the US to win the cooperation of the international community on a more effective multilateral effort. In his online blog, Senior Fellow in the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Ethan Chorin points out that some US allies seek the economic ties to Iran that these resolutions ban. "The Swiss have recently signed an MOU with Iran on gas imports; the Omanis are close to a firm deal (also) on gas imports from Iran; a limited-services joint Iranian-European bank just opened a branch on Kish Island," he writes.

These resolutions could severely escalate US-Iran tensions, experts say. Recalling the perception of the naval blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the international norms classifying a naval blockade an act of war, critics argue endorsement of these bills would signal US intentions of war with Iran.

Last week’s sharp rise in the cost of oil following Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz’s threat to attack Iran indicated the impact that global fear of military action against Iran can have on the world petroleum market. It remains unclear if extensive congressional endorsement of these measures could have a similar effect.

In late May, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reportedly urged the United States to impose a blockade on Iran. During a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in Jersusalem, Olmert said economic sanctions have "exhausted themselves" and called a blockade a "good possibility."

Original here

Kucinich threatens 60 impeachment articles if Judiciary doesn’t act

Rep. Dennis Kucinich warned the House Judiciary Committee that it would be wise not to ignore the 35 articles of impeachment against President Bush last week. If the committee does not act within a month, he plans to introduce even more articles.

The Ohio Democrat and former presidential candidate tells the Washington Post’s Sleuth blog that he’s not giving up his fight to kick Bush out of the White House.

Kucinich tells us he’s giving the House Judiciary Committee 30 days to act on his resolution proposing 35 articles of impeachment against President Bush or else he’ll raise even more hell on the House floor. Thirty-five articles was just the tip of the iceberg. If Judiciary does nothing, he’ll go back to the House floor next month armed with nearly twice as many articles.

“The minute the leadership said ‘this is dead on arrival’ I said that I hope they believe in life after death; because I’m coming back with it,” Kucinich vowed in an interview with the Sleuth this week. “It’s not gonna die. Because I’ll come back with more articles. Not 35, but perhaps 60 articles.”

Elected on a platform of holding the president accountable, the newly Democratic Congress has nonetheless been unwilling to even consider impeachment. A Kucinich-sponsored measure to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney was referred to the Judiciary Committee last November; the Committee has done nothing with it.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has declared impeachment “off the table,” and Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers has been unwilling to cross her. House Democrats simply do not believe they have enough votes to actually impeach Bush or Cheney, and they are unwilling to dwell on the issue with just a few months left in the current administrations’ term.

Kucinich told the Sleuth that he plans to sit down with Conyers this week to try to convince the chairman to consider at least one article of impeachment, which accused Bush for waging a war “based on lies.”

For Kucinich, impeachment is more than simply a political windmill at which to tilt, he says. It’s about preserving the sanctity of the republic’s founding document.

“What we’re witnessing here,” he says, “is the not-so-slow-moving destruction of our Constitution.”

The following video is from washingtonpost.com:

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Deals With Iraq Are Set to Bring Oil Giants Back

Moises Saman for The New York Times

Oil fields in the Iraqi province of Basra. Iraq produces about 2.5 million barrels of oil per day.

BAGHDAD — Four Western oil companies are in the final stages of negotiations this month on contracts that will return them to Iraq, 36 years after losing their oil concession to nationalization as Saddam Hussein rose to power.

Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP — the original partners in the Iraq Petroleum Company — along with Chevron and a number of smaller oil companies, are in talks with Iraq’s Oil Ministry for no-bid contracts to service Iraq’s largest fields, according to ministry officials, oil company officials and an American diplomat.

The deals, expected to be announced on June 30, will lay the foundation for the first commercial work for the major companies in Iraq since the American invasion, and open a new and potentially lucrative country for their operations.

The no-bid contracts are unusual for the industry, and the offers prevailed over others by more than 40 companies, including companies in Russia, China and India. The contracts, which would run for one to two years and are relatively small by industry standards, would nonetheless give the companies an advantage in bidding on future contracts in a country that many experts consider to be the best hope for a large-scale increase in oil production.

There was suspicion among many in the Arab world and among parts of the American public that the United States had gone to war in Iraq precisely to secure the oil wealth these contracts seek to extract. The Bush administration has said that the war was necessary to combat terrorism. It is not clear what role the United States played in awarding the contracts; there are still American advisers to Iraq’s Oil Ministry.

Sensitive to the appearance that they were profiting from the war and already under pressure because of record high oil prices, senior officials of two of the companies, speaking only on the condition that they not be identified, said they were helping Iraq rebuild its decrepit oil industry.

For an industry being frozen out of new ventures in the world’s dominant oil-producing countries, from Russia to Venezuela, Iraq offers a rare and prized opportunity.

While enriched by $140 per barrel oil, the oil majors are also struggling to replace their reserves as ever more of the world’s oil patch becomes off limits. Governments in countries like Bolivia and Venezuela are nationalizing their oil industries or seeking a larger share of the record profits for their national budgets. Russia and Kazakhstan have forced the major companies to renegotiate contracts.

The Iraqi government’s stated goal in inviting back the major companies is to increase oil production by half a million barrels per day by attracting modern technology and expertise to oil fields now desperately short of both. The revenue would be used for reconstruction, although the Iraqi government has had trouble spending the oil revenues it now has, in part because of bureaucratic inefficiency.

For the American government, increasing output in Iraq, as elsewhere, serves the foreign policy goal of increasing oil production globally to alleviate the exceptionally tight supply that is a cause of soaring prices.

The Iraqi Oil Ministry, through a spokesman, said the no-bid contracts were a stop-gap measure to bring modern skills into the fields while the oil law was pending in Parliament.

It said the companies had been chosen because they had been advising the ministry without charge for two years before being awarded the contracts, and because these companies had the needed technology.

A Shell spokeswoman hinted at the kind of work the companies might be engaged in. “We can confirm that we have submitted a conceptual proposal to the Iraqi authorities to minimize current and future gas flaring in the south through gas gathering and utilization,” said the spokeswoman, Marnie Funk. “The contents of the proposal are confidential.”

While small, the deals hold great promise for the companies.

“The bigger prize everybody is waiting for is development of the giant new fields,” Leila Benali, an authority on Middle East oil at Cambridge Energy Research Associates, said in a telephone interview from the firm’s Paris office. The current contracts, she said, are a “foothold” in Iraq for companies striving for these longer-term deals.

Any Western oil official who comes to Iraq would require heavy security, exposing the companies to all the same logistical nightmares that have hampered previous attempts, often undertaken at huge cost, to rebuild Iraq’s oil infrastructure.

And work in the deserts and swamps that contain much of Iraq’s oil reserves would be virtually impossible unless carried out solely by Iraqi subcontractors, who would likely be threatened by insurgents for cooperating with Western companies.

Yet at today’s oil prices, there is no shortage of companies coveting a contract in Iraq. It is not only one of the few countries where oil reserves are up for grabs, but also one of the few that is viewed within the industry as having considerable potential to rapidly increase production.

David Fyfe, a Middle East analyst at the International Energy Agency, a Paris-based group that monitors oil production for the developed countries, said he believed that Iraq’s output could increase to about 3 million barrels a day from its current 2.5 million, though it would probably take longer than the six months the Oil Ministry estimated.

Mr. Fyfe’s organization estimated that repair work on existing fields could bring Iraq’s output up to roughly four million barrels per day within several years. After new fields are tapped, Iraq is expected to reach a plateau of about six million barrels per day, Mr. Fyfe said, which could suppress current world oil prices.

The contracts, the two oil company officials said, are a continuation of work the companies had been conducting here to assist the Oil Ministry under two-year-old memorandums of understanding. The companies provided free advice and training to the Iraqis. This relationship with the ministry, said company officials and an American diplomat, was a reason the contracts were not opened to competitive bidding.

A total of 46 companies, including the leading oil companies of China, India and Russia, had memorandums of understanding with the Oil Ministry, yet were not awarded contracts.

The no-bid deals are structured as service contracts. The companies will be paid for their work, rather than offered a license to the oil deposits. As such, they do not require the passage of an oil law setting out terms for competitive bidding. The legislation has been stalled by disputes among Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish parties over revenue sharing and other conditions.

The first oil contracts for the majors in Iraq are exceptional for the oil industry.

They include a provision that could allow the companies to reap large profits at today’s prices: the ministry and companies are negotiating payment in oil rather than cash.

“These are not actually service contracts,” Ms. Benali said. “They were designed to circumvent the legislative stalemate” and bring Western companies with experience managing large projects into Iraq before the passage of the oil law.

A clause in the draft contracts would allow the companies to match bids from competing companies to retain the work once it is opened to bidding, according to the Iraq country manager for a major oil company who did not consent to be cited publicly discussing the terms.

Assem Jihad, the Oil Ministry spokesman, said the ministry chose companies it was comfortable working with under the charitable memorandum of understanding agreements, and for their technical prowess. “Because of that, they got the priority,” he said.

In all cases but one, the same company that had provided free advice to the ministry for work on a specific field was offered the technical support contract for that field, one of the companies’ officials said.

The exception is the West Qurna field in southern Iraq, outside Basra. There, the Russian company Lukoil, which claims a Hussein-era contract for the field, had been providing free training to Iraqi engineers, but a consortium of Chevron and Total, a French company, was offered the contract. A spokesman for Lukoil declined to comment.

Charles Ries, the chief economic official in the American Embassy in Baghdad, described the no-bid contracts as a bridging mechanism to bring modern technology into the fields before the oil law was passed, and as an extension of the earlier work without charge.

To be sure, these are not the first foreign oil contracts in Iraq, and all have proved contentious.

The Kurdistan regional government, which in many respects functions as an independent entity in northern Iraq, has concluded a number of deals. Hunt Oil Company of Dallas, for example, signed a production-sharing agreement with the regional government last fall, though its legality is questioned by the central Iraqi government. The technical support agreements, however, are the first commercial work by the major oil companies in Iraq.

The impact, experts say, could be remarkable increases in Iraqi oil output.

While the current contracts are unrelated to the companies’ previous work in Iraq, in a twist of corporate history for some of the world’s largest companies, all four oil majors that had lost their concessions in Iraq are now back.

But a spokesman for Exxon said the company’s approach to Iraq was no different from its work elsewhere.

“Consistent with our longstanding, global business strategy, ExxonMobil would pursue business opportunities as they arise in Iraq, just as we would in other countries in which we are permitted to operate,” the spokesman, Len D’Eramo, said in an e-mailed statement.

But the company is clearly aware of the history. In an interview with Newsweek last fall, the former chief executive of Exxon, Lee Raymond, praised Iraq’s potential as an oil-producing country and added that Exxon was in a position to know. “There is an enormous amount of oil in Iraq,” Mr. Raymond said. “We were part of the consortium, the four companies that were there when Saddam Hussein threw us out, and we basically had the whole country.”

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