Wednesday, October 31, 2012

ELECTION 2012 - Opinion, Re-Elect Obama

"WHY AMERICA NEEDS TO RE-ELECT OBAMA" by Cliff Wilson, Cliff's Notes 10/30/2012

In the interest of full disclosure and for the benefit of those who don’t know I am a liberal Democrat and have spent most of my adult life in public service and party politics. I usually (though not 100% of the time) vote for the Democratic candidates for office. I do so based on my interpretation of the history of this nation and the principles that those candidates stand for.

On November 6th this nation faces an election that is much more than just a contest between two candidates or two parties. It is more than a referendum on an incumbent President. It is like some elections in the past a determinative election that may well decide the future course of this nation for the next quarter century.

In 1800 the election began a quarter century of essentially nonpartisan federal government allowing the new nation to grow and its government develop without partisan rancor. In 1828 the election began the Jacksonian era which was marked by the growth of white democracy and manifest destiny. In 1860 the election presaged a civil war that led to the end of slavery in this country and the transformation of states in a federation into one nation. In 1896 the election determined that the rich business oriented people would rule America basically until 1930. And, the election of 1932 set the state for the New Deal which was based on the theory that the federal government could establish level playing fields for all citizens and provide a social safety net so that working people would not fall into the poverty of the Great Depression. The elect of 1964 ratified that consensus approach which lasted until 2000 (the so-called Reagan revolution did not disturb the essential elements of the New Deal and the Great Society in fact with the Earned Income Credit Reagan recognized the need to help the working poor.)

Now we have the election of 2012: A clear contest between two attitudes toward the role of government. The tea party controlled Republican Romney-Ryan approach would privatize every possible feature of the federal government: end the social safety net programs Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, WIC, and PBS as we know them. The Democratic Obama-Biden plans call for continuing the federal government’s role in the lives of the citizens of One Nation (not Fifty) working with both business and labor.

The best example of these differences in the economic sphere is the auto bailout. While Bush was busy bailing out the Big Banks - Obama’s contribution here was to save and restructure the American automobile industry, saving thousands of American jobs and restoring that industry to its international preeminence by loaning money that has since been paid back. Obama did that without braking unions or bankrupting investors (in fact Romney made $15 million dollars on investments in a car parts supply business that benefited from the bailout - a company that closed 24 plants and shipped jobs to China). If there was an inadequacy in Obama’s response to the great recession it was that the stimulus was too small. Economists and politicians alike know that the federal government cannot create private sector jobs (in fact Republican governors have been busy eliminating public sector jobs at a rate as fast as the private sector can add jobs) it can only create the economic conditions at home and abroad to facilitate and encourage private sector growth. In the 1930's the New Deal was funded only to levels that allowed it to ease the pain of the people - it was only when World War II caused an astronomical explosion in our expenditures in hiring and producing that the Depression ended.

In the area of foreign policy the difference between these two philosophies is stark. The tea party Republicans have adopted the neo-con Bush approach to every problem - troops on the ground and dollars for the war machine companies. Eisenhower warned us of the military industrial complex I don’t think he expected it to take over his political party. Obama has followed the path of collective security; working through the United Nations and other international organizations that were founded on American governmental principles. Unlike the neo-cons who never met a dictator they didn’t like, Obama stood with the people of Libya and helped them overthrow Qaddaffi; he supported the people in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen as they replaced long time corrupt regimes. He aided the people of South Sudan in there breakaway from the genocidal practicing Sudanese regime. And, he ordered the strike that killed Osama Bin Laden despite the fact that he was hiding out in the territory of an ostensible ally.

The two Presidential tickets also represent completely different attitudes toward the cultural changes that have occurred in this nation since the 1950's. Obama worked with Congress to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Obama signed the Ledbetter Act to begin the march to equal pay for equal work for women (Romney is still considering his position on that three year old law). Obama has exercised the powers of the chief executive of our nation to present automatic deportation of young Latino and other immigrant students brought to this country illegally by their parents who know and love no other country that ours. Obama has stood firm in support of women’s rights to make their own reproductive health choices. As for Romney-Ryan well you know Father Knows Best - the limited federal government or the fifty state nations should regulate not Wall Street or business but the private lives of its citizens. The tea party controlled Republican party has become a part of reaction that seeks to end planned parenthood; outlaw all abortions even in the case of rape, incest of the life of the mother; put gays back in the closet; and force all young Latino’s to self-deport.

The President encapsulated his opponents' philosophy when he declared that the Republicans want to the return to the foreign policy of the 1980's, the social policies of the 1950's and the economic policies of the 1920's. And Vice President Biden summed it up best when he said that because Obama was President “General Motors is Alive and Bin Laden is Dead”.

You don’t have to like Obama or dislike Romney to make your choice on November 6th. You have to ask what kind of America you want to see in twenty five years and vote accordingly. If you want an America were all feel that they have a shot at the American Dream; where children can get the education that their ability entitles them to; where men and women can get decent paying jobs; where seniors don’t have to worry about the cost of their health care and whether the stock market has decimated their private pension funds because they have social security insurance; and where this country enters a century of peace because it leads by the rightness of its values not the might of its weaponry; then your choice is clear - VOTE OBAMA-BIDEN. Reject the Republican Romney-Ryan Radical Reactionaries - Embrace the Positive Changes for Equality Occurring in America - VOTE FOR THE FUTURE.

AMERICA - Hurricane Sandy's Aftermath

"Sandy Aftermath Affects Millions in New York and Along New Jersey's Coast" PBS Newshour 10/30/2012


SUMMARY: The brunt of Hurricane Sandy's powerful winds, surf and rain hit the New Jersey coastline and the nation's most populous city. NewsHour examines the situation in New York and in the greater Northeast region, where schools and public transportation closed down, flights were canceled and an estimated 6.2 million people lost power.

JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): The giant storm named Sandy left a growing toll today. Officials reported at least 40 people killed and $20 billion or more in damage. The nation's most populous city and its surroundings were at the epicenter.

New York was a city in shock today, even deserted in places, after a night of fear, fire and flood. A record storm surge of 13 feet poured into parts of Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens as Sandy hit. The rush of water closed major commuter tunnels linking Manhattan with other boroughs, contributing to the worst damage to the subway system in its 108 years.

ELECTIONS - Should the 'Electoral College' Go?

"Sick of Hearing About “Swing States”? Blame the Electoral College" PBS Newshour 10/29/2012

Hundreds of millions of Americans will cast their ballots this November, and while many might think they're voting for Barack Obama or Mitt Romney on Election Day — they're not. Presidents are elected not by national popular vote but by a 225-year-old constitutional compromise called the Electoral College.

Created in 1787 to balance power between small and large states, the Electoral College has had a profound effect on presidential elections, leading candidates to focus on so-called battleground states instead of winning over the most total voters.

When the founding fathers were drafting the U.S. Constitution, there were two competing ideas on how to elect the president. One group said Congress should do it; the other said it should be a national vote of eligible citizens. The compromise became part of the second article of the Constitution, although the words "Electoral College" were not included.

So when voters cast their ballots, they're actually selecting electors who will then pick the president and vice-president.

Electoral College by the numbers

In total, there are 538 Electoral College members: states are allotted a vote for each of their two senators, each House representative (depends on population), plus three votes for the District of Columbia. The electors never gather together. They meet in their respective state capitals on the "first Monday after the second Wednesday in December" to symbolically carry out the vote.

The most important number on Election Day is 270 - the number of electoral votes needed to gain a majority and become president.

The popular vote is not important on the national level, but it is at the state level. In nearly every state, it’s “winner take all”: the candidate who gets the most votes wins all of that state’s electors. (Maine and Nebraska use a tiered system and sometimes split their votes.)

If no candidate gets at least 270 electoral votes, the election goes to the newly elected House of Representatives. Each state delegation in the House gets one vote, and a candidate must win a majority of the states to be elected president.

If the Electoral College vote came out to a tie, then the newly elected House would meet again in January and take a vote to see who they prefer to be the president. If the House can't pick a president by the time the Senate then meets, the Senate would choose the vice president who would become the president.

Swing States, Battleground States

Each campaign divides the map into states firmly Republican (“red”), firmly Democrat (“blue”), and swing states. These swings states can be further divided into “leaning” or “battleground” states, which are just too close to call.

The list of tossup states that will decide the outcome of the 2012 presidential election includes Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin, with a combined 110 electoral votes at stake. This list is updated day to day as states swing from leaning to battleground and back again.

Both major party campaigns spend almost all of their time and money on battleground states.

Should the Electoral College go?

Critics of the system argue that it privileges the voters of certain states.

For example, Wyoming, the least-populated state, gets 3 votes, giving it one Electoral College vote per 172,000 people, while California, the largest state, has 55 votes, making it one vote per 655,000 people. Plus, voters in tossup Ohio matter much more than those in Democratic New York or Republican Kansas.

In addition, it is possible for a candidate to get the most votes overall and still lose the election as happened in 1876, 1888 and 2000.

While many proposed constitutional amendments have been written to adopt a direct popular vote instead of the indirect Electoral College system, none have successfully made it through both chambers of Congress.

My answer to the question above.... YES!

Will this happen (the Electoral College go)? Not likely, it is too much in the interest of members of the House and Senate, and their parties, to keep the status quo. Think on that the next time you hear one of these politicos claim they care about voters.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

MEDIA - 'Street Art' via Google Maps

"Photographer Puts New Spin on 'Street' Art Using Google Maps" PBS Newshour 10/29/2012


SUMMARY: Photographer Doug Rickard sees artistic possibility in the images of people captured in the photographic drive-bys that make up Google Street View. He has traveled thousands of virtual miles, looking for potential photographs in Google's maps that have more than just utilitarian purpose. KQED's Scott Shafer reports.

AMERICA - Author on 'Revitalized American Democracy'

"Author Bill Ivey Argues for Rediscovering Values at Heart of American Ideal" PBS Newshour 10/29/2012


JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): Now, as this divisive and closely fought presidential election sprints to a close, a new book argues the country needs a revived progressive vision. The book is "Handmaking America: A Back-to-Basics Pathway to a Revitalized American Democracy."

The author is Bill Ivey, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts in the Clinton administration. He's now director of Vanderbilt University's U.S.-China-Center for Education and Culture.

Jeffrey Brown recently sat down with him.

POLITICS - Tailored Political Ads

"How Campaigns Amass Your Personal Information to Deliver Tailored Political Ads" PBS Newshour 10/29/2012


SUMMARY: Political advertisers now have unprecedented access to online browsing data, and the presidential campaigns are using gathered information to slice and dice the electorate and engage with voters on issues that are most relevant to their lives. Hari Sreenivasan reports in collaboration with Frontline, Marketplace and ProPublica.

HARI SREENIVASAN (Newshour): That's me at home surrounded by my digital devices. Like many of you, I'm spending more of my time online. It's how I stay connected. It's where I get my news and entertainment. And TV? I still watch it, but on my own schedule. And like much of America, I have spent the last few months being inundated by political advertising. Seems like no matter where I go, there they are.

AMERICA - Hurricane Sandy

"Hurricane Sandy Hits East Coast, Expected to Affect 50 Million-Plus Americans" PBS Newshour 10/29/2012


SUMMARY: Over 50 million Americans brace for heavy flooding, blizzard conditions, wind gusts of up to 90 miles per hour and resulting power outages and evacuations, as Hurricane Sandy approaches the East Coast. NewsHour talks to National Hurricane Center's James Franklin and Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

Monday, October 29, 2012

MEDIA - Novel, Crime and Jurisdiction on Reservations

"New Erdrich Novel Deals With Crime and Jurisdiction on North Dakota Reservation" PBS Newshour 10/26/2012


JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): ..... a woman is attacked and the life of her 13-year-old son, Joe, is altered forever, along with his family. That's the dramatic outline of the new novel "The Round House" by Louise Erdrich, which has been nominated for a National Book Award.

The story is set on a Native American reservation in North Dakota, and it explores clashes of culture and law between tribal and state jurisdictions in investigating a crime.

I talked with Louise Erdrich recently and asked her first how she came to write the book.

SYRIA - Looting of Ancient Aleppo Heritage

"Syrian Civil War Threatens Destruction, Looting of Ancient Aleppo Heritage" PBS Newshour 10/25/2012


SUMMARY: Until recently, Aleppo, Syria was a vibrant destination, attracting tourists to its famous souk, an eight-mile marketplace, and to the Citadel, one of the oldest castles in the world. But as violence has increased, the city's ancient and cultural landmarks are the next casualties of the Syrian Civil War. Jeffrey Brown reports.

JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): As the conflict in Syria rages on, the death toll climbs. More than 34,000 people have been killed in the violence that began in March of last year. More than 350,000 refugees have left the country. A million more have been displaced from their homes in Syria. It's a human tragedy on an immense and horrifying scale, but it's also becoming clear that the battle between Syrian government forces and the rebel Free Syrian Army is taking another kind of toll on the country's rich and historic cultural heritage.

A center of that heritage: Aleppo, Syria's largest city, now a scene of destruction that we report nearly every night. But less known is this. Aleppo is considered perhaps the oldest continuously inhabited human settlement in the world, home to numerous civilizations layered on top of one another, including Hittites, Assyrians, Arabs, Mongols and Ottomans, that reach back to the beginning of recorded time.

AMERICA - Why So Much 'Red Ink'

"'Red Ink' in the Federal Budget: Understanding Why the U.S. Has So Much Debt" PBS Newshour 10/25/2012


PAUL SOLMAN (Newshour): You have heard the numbers before, federal budget, $3.6 trillion, deficit $1 trillion, debt $16 trillion. But where do all the trillions actually go? Anything we can do about them?

The Wall Street Journal's David Wessel has written a primer, "Red Ink," to itemize and explain. So we asked Wessel to take us on a D.C. budget tour to give us the hard truths and hard answers, starting on Capitol Hill.

OK, this may be a little hokey, but we're in the House Budget Committee room. I'm sitting in the chairman's seat. And since I ask questions on behalf of the American public, I ask you, the expert on the budget, what do we need to know about it?

DAVID WESSEL, The Wall Street Journal: You know, one of the reasons I did the book was because of the times I have sat in this room and heard Democrats and Republicans argue about the budget. And you would never know if you were an outsider listening what were they talking about, because it would be impossible for all the things they say to be true.

HISTORY - Fragile 1878 Recording Recovered

"Digital Technology Helps Researchers Hear Earliest Recordings Better" PBS Newshour 10/25/2012


RAY SUAREZ (Newshour): The sound is just 78 seconds long. It features a cornet solo and a man reciting nursery rhymes, including "Mary Had a Little Lamb." Experts say they have reproduced the sound of the oldest playable recording of an American voice and the first captured musical performance.

It's a recording made in 1878 on a small sheet of tinfoil, then placed on the cylinder of a phonograph invented by Thomas Edison. A hand crank turned a stylus that moved on the foil, recording sound. The foil was donated years ago to a museum in Schenectady, New York, but its significance wasn't appreciated until this summer, when it was brought to researchers in Berkeley.

The foil was so fragile it could not be touched. Instead, it was scanned by computer to read the grooves in the foil and create a program to recreate the original sound; 134 years later, it's a little indistinct, a little hard to make out.

ELECTION 2012 - President Obama Endorsement From New York Times

"Barack Obama for Re-election" Editorial, New York Times 10/27/2012


The economy is slowly recovering from the 2008 meltdown, and the country could suffer another recession if the wrong policies take hold. The United States is embroiled in unstable regions that could easily explode into full-blown disaster. An ideological assault from the right has started to undermine the vital health reform law passed in 2010. Those forces are eroding women’s access to health care, and their right to control their lives. Nearly 50 years after passage of the Civil Rights Act, all Americans’ rights are cheapened by the right wing’s determination to deny marriage benefits to a selected group of us. Astonishingly, even the very right to vote is being challenged.

That is the context for the Nov. 6 election, and as stark as it is, the choice is just as clear.

President Obama has shown a firm commitment to using government to help foster growth. He has formed sensible budget policies that are not dedicated to protecting the powerful, and has worked to save the social safety net to protect the powerless. Mr. Obama has impressive achievements despite the implacable wall of refusal erected by Congressional Republicans so intent on stopping him that they risked pushing the nation into depression, held its credit rating hostage, and hobbled economic recovery.

Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, has gotten this far with a guile that allows him to say whatever he thinks an audience wants to hear. But he has tied himself to the ultraconservative forces that control the Republican Party and embraced their policies, including reckless budget cuts and 30-year-old, discredited trickle-down ideas. Voters may still be confused about Mr. Romney’s true identity, but they know the Republican Party, and a Romney administration would reflect its agenda. Mr. Romney’s choice of Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate says volumes about that.

We have criticized individual policy choices that Mr. Obama has made over the last four years, and have been impatient with his unwillingness to throw himself into the political fight. But he has shaken off the hesitancy that cost him the first debate, and he approaches the election clearly ready for the partisan battles that would follow his victory.

We are confident he would challenge the Republicans in the “fiscal cliff” battle even if it meant calling their bluff, letting the Bush tax cuts expire and forcing them to confront the budget sequester they created. Electing Mr. Romney would eliminate any hope of deficit reduction that included increased revenues.

In the poisonous atmosphere of this campaign, it may be easy to overlook Mr. Obama’s many important achievements, including carrying out the economic stimulus, saving the auto industry, improving fuel efficiency standards, and making two very fine Supreme Court appointments.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

MARS - Man on Mars, A Threat?

If all goes according to plan, the first Mars One astronauts will touch down on the Red Planet in 2023

"Manned Mars missions could threaten Red Planet life" by Mike Wall (, Fox News 10/25/2012

Humanity has long dreamed of putting boots on Mars, but those boots have the potential to stomp all over any lifeforms that may exist on the Red Planet.

A seething, swarming mass of 100 trillion microbes will accompany every astronaut who lands on Mars. This diverse "microbiome" has evolved with humans for eons and provides a number of services, from helping people digest their food to keeping pathogenic bacteria at bay.

While these microbes are intimately tied to humans, many of them will jump ship if transported to the Martian surface — with unknown consequences for a planet that may or may not host life of its own.

"We have the responsibility to Mars, I think — even if it's just Martian microbes — not to kill them by the act of detecting them," Cynthia Phillips of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute said at the SETICon 2 meeting in June in Santa Clara, Calif.

"If you have human astronauts there," Phillips added, "there's no way to sterilize them. They're spewing out thousands of microbes every second. So it's a real problem."

Location, location, location

Space agencies around the world are already thinking about ways to minimize the contamination risks posed by manned Mars missions, even though the first footsteps on the Red Planet are perhaps decades away.

In fact, they already have a set of guidelines to follow — a rough protocol drawn up in 2008 by the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), which is part of the International Council for Science. The top priority of the COSPAR policy is to protect Earth from any possible "back contamination" from Mars, but it aims to help protect the Red Planet from Earth life as well.

The COSPAR guidelines — which NASA and the European Space Agency, among others, are committed to follow — advise steering clear of gullies, possible geothermal sites and other "special regions" on the Red Planet where Earth life might be able to survive and proliferate.

"It is understood that when humans go to Mars, there will be a release of microbes from the human habitats and from the humans themselves, and also that humans will inevitably be exposed to Mars materials," said Cassie Conley, NASA's planetary protection officer.

"So the humans are only able to go to places where we expect that the Mars environment will be quite lethal to any Earth organisms that get released," Conley told, adding that various locations near the Martian equator might qualify.

The COSPAR guidelines further stipulate that humans cannot explore a Martian locale that has not been visited and vetted by a robot first. This robotic scout could arrive on a precursor mission, or it may be a component of the human mission itself.

No numbers yet

COSPAR's guidelines dictate just how clean robotic explorers of Mars and other alien worlds need to be. For example, NASA's Curiosity rover — which landed on Mars Aug. 5 to determine whether the planet has ever been capable of supporting microbial life — was allowed to carry a total of no more than 300,000 bacterial spores on any surface that could allow transfer to the Martian environment.

Such numerical targets don't exist yet for manned missions, but they probably will someday, Conley said.

"I'm sure that we will have more numerical information in the future, but partly we need to base that on our understanding of what kinds of hardware might be going," Conley said. "We also need to have a better understanding of the Mars environment itself."

Curiosity's two-year mission should be a big help in this latter regard, Conley added. The rover is studying its Gale Crater landing site with 10 science instruments, including gear designed to detect underground water ice and another tool that measures high-energy radiation at the planet's surface.

A Mars sample-return mission also would be a highly desirable precursor, Conley said. And this is indeed a key priority for NASA, which is evaluating several different strategies for getting pristine pieces of Mars into scientists' hands on Earth.

The space agency may reveal its chosen sample-return path in February, after the White House releases its federal budget request for fiscal year 2014, officials have said.

Private companies playing by the rules

NASA is thinking very seriously about how to send humans to Mars safely and responsibly, having been charged by President Barack Obama in 2010 to get astronauts to the vicinity of the Red Planet by the mid-2030s.

But government space agencies aren't the only entities planning out manned Mars missions. Elon Musk, founder and CEO of the private spaceflight firm SpaceX, has said he hopes to fly astronauts to the Red Planet within 10 or 15 years.

And the Dutch company Mars One aims to land four people on Mars in 2023, as the first step toward establishing a permanent colony. Mars One plans to pay for its ambitious activities by staging a reality-show media event around them — a sort of interplanetary "Big Brother."

Conley said such private efforts are likely to follow the COSPAR guidelines, too. Under the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, countries are responsible for the space activities of companies registered within their borders, so the U.S. and Dutch governments have a strong interest in making sure SpaceX and Mars One play by the rules.

After all, neither nation would want to be taken to international court on charges of contaminating another planet.

And the companies may want to do the right thing anyway. For example, SpaceX has already initiated planetary protection discussions with NASA regarding its manned Mars ambitions, Conley said.

"It's the environmentally responsible thing to do," Conley said. "If you want to be a good citizen of the solar system, you do the planetary protection requirements, just like you pick up the litter and you don't spread your pollution all over the countryside."

SAN DIEGO - Adolescent Girl's 1998 Stabbing Case Retrial

This is home-town news....

"Tuite to be retried in Crowe slaying" by John Wilkens, San Diego Union-Tribune 10/24/2012

Opening another chapter in one of San Diego County’s longest-running and most controversial legal dramas, the state Attorney General’s Office said Wednesday it will retry Richard Tuite for the 1998 killing of Stephanie Crowe.

Tuite was convicted in 2004 of stabbing the 12-year-old Escondido girl in her bedroom and sentenced to 13 years in prison for voluntary manslaughter. His conviction was overturned last year by a federal appeals court, which ruled his trial was unfair because a judge limited defense cross-examination of a prosecution witness.

During a brief hearing in San Diego Superior Court, Jim Dutton, supervising deputy attorney general, told Judge Timothy Walsh that prosecutors decided to retry the case rather than release Tuite, a San Diego native with a long history of mental illness and drug abuse.

Outside court, Dutton, one of the prosecutors in the first trial, cited two reasons for the decision: “The gravity of the crime and public safety.”

Steve Crowe, Stephanie’s father, said in a phone interview from Oregon, where most of the family lives, “If we have to rehash this whole thing again, so be it. We’d much rather have him convicted of the crime again than have no one convicted and have the case be unsolved forever as far as San Diego is concerned.”

Tuite, 43, who is being held without bail, stood silently during Wednesday’s hearing. He has regrown the long hair and full beard he had around the time of the killing, a sharp contrast to the clean-shaven, preppy look he sported during his trial. His attorney, Brad Patton, said Tuite maintains his innocence and welcomes another trial.

“There’s no question that someone else did it,” Patton said.

The question of who did it has riveted the county for 14 years. Citing a lack of forced entry at the house, Escondido police concluded it was an inside job by Stephanie’s 14-year-old brother, Michael, and two of his high school friends, Joshua Treadway and Aaron Houser. They were charged with murder after confessing during long interrogations that multiple judicial authorities have subsequently criticized as illegally coercive.

The case against the trio collapsed in 1999 when DNA testing found drops of Stephanie’s blood on a red shirt Tuite was wearing the night of the slaying. The transient was seen roaming the Crowe neighborhood, banging on doors, looking in windows and asking for a woman named Tracy who used to live in the area. Police interviewed him briefly the next day and confiscated his clothes before dismissing him as a bungling prowler.

Sheriff’s detectives took over the investigation and in 2002 the state attorney general charged Tuite with the murder, which they said was fueled by his “obsession” with Tracy. The trial lasted three months. Jurors heard from almost 170 witnesses and reviewed evidence that included Stephanie’s blood found on a second shirt Tuite was wearing.

The jury that convicted him cited DNA as the most compelling evidence, rejecting defense claims that the blood got on Tuite’s clothing through inadvertent police contamination. Their deliberations took eight days as at least one juror was troubled by the lack of any hair or fingerprints tying Tuite to the crime scene.

Patton said he will again argue contamination to counter the blood evidence. He also said he will point the finger again at the teens originally charged in the case, even though the first jury immediately dismissed that theory when they began their deliberations.

Michael Crowe is 29 now, married with a child and attending college in Oregon. Last year, his family won a $7.25 million settlement against various law enforcement officials. Earlier this year, in an attempt to fully clear his name, he got a rare finding of “factual innocence” from a Superior Court judge.

Treadway, also 29, was included in the finding, and although Houser was not part of the hearing, lawyers said the ruling applies to him, too. He turns 30 on Friday. All three testified in the first trial.

Patton said the “factual innocence” ruling will have no bearing on Tuite’s new trial.

Attorneys are due back in court Nov. 2 to set a trial date and discuss bail. Patton said he will ask for bail, although he also said his client has no money to pay for it.

In the new trial, the most serious charge Tuite faces is voluntary manslaughter because the first jury acquitted him of murder, concluding that he lacked the necessary premeditation or malice. If he is convicted again, he would be returned to prison until February 2017, according to Dutton, the prosecutor.

Patton, however, said he believes once good-behavior credits are calculated, Tuite is already at or near the end of his sentence.

Because of Tuite’s mental-health history — he’s been diagnosed with schizophrenia — Patton asked the court to make sure he gets examined in jail by a doctor and receives his medication.

Tuite’s sister, Kerri, who has long maintained her brother is innocent, attended Wednesday’s hearing but declined to speak with reporters.

SPACE - Latest Soyuz Docking

"Russian Soyuz rocket docks at space station" by PETER LEONARD (AP), USA Today 10/25/2012

A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying three astronauts and a consignment of fish successfully docked Thursday with the International Space Station after a two-day voyage.

The arrival of NASA astronaut Kevin Ford and Russians Oleg Novitsky and Yevgeny Tarelkin on Thursday brings the crew at the orbiting outpost to six.

Novitsky gently slotted the Soyuz craft into the Russian Poisk research module around 410 kilometers (255 miles) above southern Ukraine around six minutes ahead of the scheduled 1235 GMT (8:35 a.m. EDT) arrival.

The trio blasted off Tuesday from a Russian-leased facility in the southern Kazakhstan town of Baikonur.

Incoming cargo includes 32 guppy-like fish that will be used to test how conditions in space impact on living organisms.

Akihiko Hoshide, an astronaut with Japan's JAXA space agency, spent early Thursday morning preparing an aquarium on the Japanese experiment module called "Kibo," or Hope.

"The importance of these very small fishes is that they have bones and muscles just like human beings," Hoshide told NASA TV earlier this year before the start of his mission. "What we're trying to do is have them stay in space for a longer duration and then bring them down to look at their bone structure and muscles."

The hardy Medaka fish, which can grow up to four centimeters (1.6 inches), are considered particularly suitable for the study as they have transparent bodies that enable scrutiny of their internal organs.

A spacewalk by Hoshide and U.S. astronaut Suni Williams to repair an ammonia leak from the station's temperature control system is planned for next Thursday.

NASA says ammonia is pumped through the station's system to keep electronics and other equipment cool.

Another task in the frenetic workload over the incoming crew's first week in orbit will be the unberthing Sunday of a commercial Dragon cargo vehicle.

The capsule loaded with completed scientific experiments will splash down in the afternoon in the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of Baja California.

The growing capabilities of private space vehicle companies have boosted hopes that NASA will be able to focus increasingly on more ambitious exploration projects.

Earlier this month, California-based SpaceX successfully delivered supplies to the space station on Dragon, the first official shipment under a $1.6 billion contract with NASA. It calls for 12 such shipments.

Cygnus, the first cargo vehicle to the station from Orbital Sciences Corp., of Dulles, Virginia, is scheduled for December.

ELECTION 2012 - The Fight for the U.S. Senate

"Some Senate Candidates Race Toward Photo-Finish Elections in Fight for Majority" PBS Newshour 10/24/2012


GWEN IFILL (Newshour): The presidential race is not the only campaign working its way toward a photo finish this year. In competitive contests from East to West, the race for the Senate has turned out to be tight, expensive and slippery.

In Arizona, Democrat and former surgeon general Richard Carmona is running neck and neck with Republican Congressman Jeff Flake.

In Connecticut, former wrestling executive Linda McMahon, a Republican, is battling Democratic Congressman Chris Murphy.

In Indiana, Republican Richard Mourdock, who defeated incumbent Senator Richard Lugar in the primary, is in a fight to the finish with Democratic Congressman Joe Donnelly.

And in North Dakota, former state Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp is staring down Republican freshman Congressman Rick Berg.

The outcome in these and a handful of other races, including in Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, Virginia and Wisconsin, could easily determine who controls the Senate and the president's agenda come January.

Here to walk us through the stakes are Shira Toeplitz of Roll Call newspaper, who joins us in the midst of a Rust Belt reporting tour, and Nathan Gonzales, who keeps track of Senate races for The Rothenberg Political Report.

ELECTION 2012 - Missing In Action, Housing Foreclosures

"Housing and the Foreclosure Crisis Are Missing From the Campaign Conversation" PBS Newshour 10/24/2012


JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): And we turn to another kind of look at the election. We call it Missing Issues, important topics on the American agenda that neither candidate is spending much time discussing.

Tonight, our subject is housing.

It was the housing bubble that helped lead to the financial crisis in 2008 and has continued to drag on the national economy.

There's been better news recently as the housing sector has shown new signs of life. Just today, a new report found sales of new homes rose 5.7 percent in September. That's the best pace since April of 2010, and continues an upward trend in recent months. And the average price of new homes has risen more than 14 percent in the last year.

But big problems remain. More than 20 percent of U.S. homeowners are underwater on their mortgages, meaning they owe more than the value of their home, and some 950,000 homes are in the process of being foreclosed on currently.

Last October, Mitt Romney took a largely hands-off approach to the problem.

MITT ROMNEY (R): Don't try and stop the foreclosure process. Let it run it's course and hit the bottom.

JEFFREY BROWN: But by January, the Republican hopeful was quoted by The New York Times as saying, "The idea that somehow this is going to cure itself, all by itself, is unreal."

MIDDLE EAST - Saudi Arabia's History and Future

"Shifting Sands for Saudi Arabia's Future: A Peek Inside the Closed Kingdom" PBS Newshour 10/24/2012


GWEN IFILL (Newshour): ..... an inside look at the shrouded kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The country seemed an oasis of calm during the turbulent Arab spring, but that stability is shifting.

Within the last decade, there have been a number of terrorist attacks, including one in 2003, when suicide bombers struck a compound housing foreigners, killing nine Americans.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Karen Elliott House has covered Saudi Arabia for 30 years, often getting rare access to a vast spectrum of its society.

Judy Woodruff talked with her recently about her new book, "On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines and Future."

HEALTH - Can Medical Centers Learn From Auto Manufacturer?

"Rooting Out Waste in Health Care by Taking Cue From Toyota Assembly Lines" PBS Newshour 10/24/2012


SUMMARY: When the Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle was losing money for the first time in its history, CEO Dr. Gary Kaplan turned to an unlikely place for help: giant automaker Toyota. Health correspondent Betty Ann Bowser reports on the hospital's success in lowering costs and improving health outcomes.

JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): And now a question you might not have pondered before: What can a medical center learn from an auto manufacturer?

NewsHour health correspondent Betty Ann Bowser has the answer.

OPINION - Election 2012 Final Presidential Debate

On the Foreign Policy Presidential debate......

The Rachel Maddow Show
MSNBC 10/23/2012
Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

MEDIA - Philip Glass Revival, 'Einstein on the Beach'

"Collage of Sound, 'Furniture' of Imagination: Philip Glass Classic Gets Revival" PBS Newshour 10/23/2012


SUMMARY: On the occasion of a new world tour revival of his breakthrough, abstract 1976 opera "Einstein on the Beach," composer Philip Glass talks to Jeffrey Brown about his love of classical music, his own genre-bending work and finding success in the music world.

POLITICS - Economic Threat of Sequestration

"Congressional Sequestration Squabble Has Local Economic Resonance in Virginia" PBS Newshour 10/23/2012


SUMMARY: In the latest installment in our Battleground Dispatches series, Cathy Lewis of WHRO in Hampton Roads, Va., looks at how concern over sequestration is playing out as a local voting issue. Gwen Ifill talks to Roll Call's Steve Dennis and Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy about how congress is working on facing its budget negotiations.

GWEN IFILL (Newshour): Another topic raised last night (final Presidential debate): the cost of slashing the federal government. Congress agreed to deep across-the-board cuts known as sequestration as part of a deal to raise the nation's borrowing capacity.

But President Obama said those cuts, which would kick in January 1, are avoidable.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: First of all, the sequester is not something that I have proposed. It is something that Congress has proposed. It will not happen.

The budget that we are talking about is not reducing our military spending. It is maintaining it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It is up to Congress in the lame-duck session after the election to resolve the issue of sequestration. But the prospect of those cuts, in particular for defense, has some voters worried, especially those who live in Southeastern Virginia.

That area, with its large military population, is focused on how the cuts would affect the local economy.

Our story comes from Cathy Lewis of WHRO in Hampton Roads and is part of our new collaboration with public media partners across the country. We're bringing you reports from areas that will likely dictate the outcome of the election in a series we call Battleground Dispatches.

COMMENT: "It is up to Congress in the lame-duck session after the election to resolve the issue of sequestration." Don't hold your breath, especially if President Obama wins. The Republican No-Governance Party in the House will continue their extremest stance.

ELECTION 2012 - Another Fact-Check of Final Presidential Debate

"From 'Apology Tour' to Bayonets: Fact-Checking the Debate on Foreign Policy" PBS Newshour 10/23/2012


SUMMARY: Margaret Warner fact-checks different debate highlights, including Mitt Romney's characterization of President Obama's early overseas trips, what the candidates said about their opponent's and their own defense spending proposals, and the ideal scope and size of the Navy.

AMERICA - The Stagnation of Our 'Standard of Living'

"Standard of Living Is in the Shadows as Election Issue" by DAVID LEONHARDT, New York Times 10/23/2012


Taxes and government spending. Health care. Immigration. Financial regulation.

They are the issues that have dominated the political debate in recent years and have played a prominent role in this presidential campaign. But in many ways they have obscured what is arguably the nation’s biggest challenge: breaking out of a decade of income stagnation that has afflicted the middle class and the poor and exacerbated inequality.

Many of the bedrock assumptions of American culture — about work, progress, fairness and optimism — are being shaken as successive generations worry about the prospect of declining living standards. No question, perhaps, is more central to the country’s global standing than whether the economy will perform better on that score in the future than it has in the recent past.

The question has helped create a volatile period in American politics, with Democrats gaining large victories in 2006 and 2008, only to have Republicans return the favor in 2010. This year, economic anxiety, especially in industrial battlegrounds like Ohio, is driving the campaign strategies of both President Obama and Mitt Romney.

The causes of income stagnation are varied and lack the political simplicity of calls to bring down the deficit or avert another Wall Street meltdown. They cannot be quickly remedied through legislation from Washington. The biggest causes, according to interviews with economists over the last several months, are not the issues that dominate the political debate.

At the top of the list are the digital revolution, which has allowed machines to replace many forms of human labor, and the modern wave of globalization, which has allowed millions of low-wage workers around the world to begin competing with Americans.

Not much further down the list is education, probably the country’s most diffuse, localized area of government policy. As skill levels have become even more important for prosperity, the United States has lost its once-large global lead in educational attainment.

Some of the disconnect between the economy’s problems and the solutions offered by Washington stem from the nature of the current political debate. The presidential campaign has been more focused on Bain Capital and an “apology tour” than on the challenges created by globalization and automation.

But economists and other analysts also point to the scale of the problem. No other rich country — not Japan, not any nation in Europe — has figured out exactly how to respond to the challenges. “The whole notion of the American dream,” said Frank Levy, an M.I.T. economist, “described a mass upward mobility that is just a lot harder to achieve right now.”

For the first time since the Great Depression, median family income has fallen substantially over an entire decade. Income grew slowly through most of the last decade, except at the top of the distribution, before falling sharply when the financial crisis began.

By last year, family income was 8 percent lower than it had been 11 years earlier, at its peak in 2000, according to inflation-adjusted numbers from the Census Bureau. On average in 11-year periods in the decades just after World War II, inflation-adjusted median income rose by almost 30 percent.

Matching the growth rates of the postwar period — when the country was poorer, when harsh discrimination against women and minorities was receding and when the rest of the world was weaker — is probably impossible. Yet there is still a vast difference, both economically and politically, between incomes that are rising modestly and not at all.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

ELECTION 2012 - Final Presidential Debate

"False Claims in Final Debate" by Brooks Jackson, Eugene Kiely, Lori Robertson, Robert Farley, D’Angelo Gore, and Ben Finley; 10/23/2012


Obama, Romney take turns twisting the facts in Florida on foreign policy


In the third and final Obama-Romney debate, the candidates again contradicted each other, while each offered incorrect or twisted factual claims.
  • President Obama erred when he accused Mitt Romney of saying during the 2008 campaign that “we should ask Pakistan for permission” before going into that country to kill or capture terrorists. What Romney said was that he’d “keep our options quiet.”
  • Obama wrongly accused Romney of not telling the truth when Romney said “you and I agreed” some U.S. troops should be left in Iraq. In fact, the president tried and failed to negotiate an agreement to keep 3,000 to 4,000 support troops there; Romney said he would have left 10,000 to 30,000.
  • Obama said unemployment among military veterans is lower than for the general population. That’s true for veterans generally but not for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
  • Romney was wrong when he repeated a claim that our “Navy is smaller now than any time since 1917.” Actually, there are slightly more ships active now than at the low point under President George W. Bush.
  • Obama claimed the record would back him up when he accused Romney of opposing any federal “help” or “assistance” for troubled automakers. In fact, the record shows Romney supported federal loan guarantees.
  • Romney repeated his claim that the president undertook “an apology tour … criticizing America” after Obama became president. Obama called that “probably the biggest whopper that’s been told” during the entire campaign. And in fact, our own analysis, and that of other fact-checkers, found no “apology” in the president’s speeches.
  • Romney claimed credit for top scores by Massachusetts grade-schoolers while he was governor. But they tested at the top, or near it, before Romney took office.
  • Obama wrongly claimed Romney called Russia the “biggest geopolitical threat facing America.” Actually, Romney called Russia a “foe” and not a “threat.” He said “the greatest threat that the world faces is a nuclear Iran.”
  • Romney said the federal debt to “other people” is $16 trillion, which isn’t correct. The debt owed to the public is $11 trillion, and the figure he gave includes money the government owes to itself.
  • Romney claimed terrorism wasn’t mentioned in any presidential debate in 2000. Actually, Al Gore made one brief mention.
One issue on which the two men no longer seem to disagree is pulling out all U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Romney had previously criticized the president for setting a date, and later modified his position to say he agreed with the president’s timeline but would be guided by military commanders and events “on the ground.” This time, he dropped all qualifiers and said flatly, “[W]hen I’m president, we’ll make sure we bring our troops out by the end of 2014.”

Full article contains Analysis and Sources.

Full Debate (1:32:50)

"Shields and Brooks Post-Debate: Obama, Romney Fail to Distinguish Policy Visions"
PBS Newshour 10/22/2012

Monday, October 22, 2012

CUTE FILE - It's a Dog's Life

From a family friend.

OPINION - George McGovern

"Shields and Brooks Debrief on the Town Hall Debate, George McGovern's Legacy" PBS Newshour 10/19/2012

Excerpt on McGovern

JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): All right, last couple minutes, and I wanted to save a little time to talk about George McGovern. He's in hospice care. His family has put out a statement that he is no longer responsive. He's at the end stages of his life, was the statement.

Mark, your thoughts.

MARK SHIELDS, syndicated columnist: Well, I should acknowledge that I was an admirer of George McGovern. And I worked in his 1972 campaign. But I think what's misunderstood about George McGovern -- and to define him by that loss is to really be unfair.

He went off to war as a 22-year-old from South Dakota. He flew the B-24, which is a big lumbering four-engine craft. It was vulnerable to German aircraft. He did 35 combat missions.

And Stephen Ambrose, the poet laureate of American military heroes, said George McGovern was as great a patriot as he ever knew, that he had the trust, confidence and love of his crew. And his acts of courage were just enormous.

And I think that we owe him an enormous debt. Stephen Ambrose said, I just want to show you that don't have to be a hawk to be a great patriot. And George McGovern was that. He was a great patriot.

He devoted his energies and time to feeding the hungry and to trying to stop the United States from two wars we shouldn't have gone into, Vietnam and Iraq.

And I just think he should be remembered for that leadership, rather than just the 1972 race.

DAVID BROOKS, New York Times columnist: Yes.

And some of the descriptions of the planes he brought back home after they had been shot up were incredible descriptions of things he did. He was an incredibly decent man throughout his Senate and even the presidential runs, just incredibly nice.

If I could make a cheap political point, he wrote a piece in 1992 for The Wall Street Journal. After he retired, he bought a B&B, a bed and breakfast, in Connecticut, Stratford, Conn.

And he wrote a piece saying, you know, if I had been a small businessperson before I was in the Senate, I would understand what a pain all these regulations are.


DAVID BROOKS: And he said, I would have been a better senator if I understand what happens when you are trying to live under all this.

So that is maybe a political point.

JEFFREY BROWN: But is there a political legacy that either pro or against -- reacting against still or that comes down to liberalism today?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I would say a lot of the people he brought into the party in 1972 went on to reshape the Democratic Party to this day. And...


MARK SHIELDS: Bill Clinton among them.

DAVID BROOKS: Exactly, and Gary Hart and other people.

And, so, I think he had a huge legacy within that -- within the party.


You would agree?


No, I would agree. I mean, he proved that you could be peaceful and a patriot at the same time, and that the two weren't in any way mutually exclusive.

WALL STREET - 'Bull By the Horns' Crisis Insider's Look

"Former Regulator Bair Recounts Behind the Scenes of Financial Crisis, Bailouts" PBS Newshour 10/19/2012


MARGARET WARNER (Newshour): Now, a new book by a former insider takes a critical look at the government's actions during and after the financial crisis. The fallout from the crisis and those decisions is still reverberating on the campaign trail this fall.

Sheila Bair was a key player as head of the FDIC, one of the nation's chief bank regulators. She worked with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, and former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, before stepping down last year.

Her new book is called "Bull By the Horns."

Judy Woodruff sat down with Bair yesterday.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Sheila Bair, welcome.

SHEILA BAIR, former chair, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation: Thank you for having me. Nice to be here.

JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): So let's just -- just to get some background out of the way, who and what do you think is responsible for the financial collapse of 2008?

SHEILA BAIR: Oh, there's plenty of blame to go around.

I think at the end of the day, it was greed. It was just greed that was unchecked by government and government regulators. This idea that this is all caused because the government wanted poor people to have mortgages, that's just not true.

I think expanding access to homeownership for low-income people was a rationalization, but it was not a driver. A lot of people were making a lot of money, making a lot of irresponsible loans to frankly the vulnerable parts of our population that didn't understand these mortgages to begin with, and regulators didn't step in to stop it.

AFRICA - Secessionist Movement in Kenya

"Mombasa Rising? Secessionist Movement Grows on Kenya's Coast" by News Desk, PBS Newshour 10/19/2012

Kenya's Coast Province boasts of wealth of opportunity -- pristine beaches, deluxe hotels, a major port and an oil refinery -- but for locals in the picturesque city of Mombasa, it's hardly a paradise. Years of land grabbing and cronyism have made them squatters on their own ancestral lands. Increasing numbers of residents feel they can only gain a stake in the region's wealth by seeking autonomy from the federal government, but a new Kenyan Constitution going into effect next year squelches that. As Kenya gears up for its 2013 presidential elections, hundreds of thousands of local residents plan to boycott.

According to Human Rights Watch, the vast majority of Coast Province's nearly 2.5 million residents support a secessionist organization known as the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC). The group claims treaties dating back to the end of colonization and the start of Kenyan independence would allow them to become self-governing in 2013. While the MRC's Christian and Muslim leaders say their mission is peaceful, the movement appears to be splintering. As the Kenyan government cracks down on MRC activities, some of the region's most vulnerable residents are turning to violence.

HEALTH - Freezing Human Eggs, Update

"Freezing Human Eggs for In Vitro Fertilization No Longer Experimental Procedure" PBS Newshour 10/19/2012


SUMMARY: Freezing eggs for infertility treatments is no longer considered 'experimental,' meaning that more insurance plans can cover the procedure. Margaret Warner talks to Shady Grove Fertility Center's Dr. Eric Widra and Center for Genetics and Society's Marcy Darnovsky for two differing views on the medical and ethical implications.

MARGARET WARNER (Newshour): We turn to new guidelines and questions surrounding freezing eggs to treat infertility.

Doctors started freezing and then thawing eggs for in vitro fertilization, or IVF, years ago, but in very few cases, and the procedure has been considered experimental.

Today, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine shifted its position, saying the process shouldn't be labeled experimental any longer. It said babies born from frozen eggs are as healthy as those from fresh eggs. But the committee said the procedure should be limited in its use.

It's estimated there have only been about 1,000 births from frozen eggs, compared to nearly five million babies born through traditional IVF.

We look at what's changed and the thicket of questions it raises now with Dr Eric Widra. He co-chaired the committee that made the recommendation change. He's with the Shady GroveFertilityCenter.

And Marcy Darnovsky is the associate executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society in Berkeley, Calif.

LEBANON - Beirut Bomb Tie to Syria's Civil War?

"Blast in Beirut Is Seen as an Extension of Syria’s War" by ANNE BARNARD, New York Times 10/19/2012


A powerful bomb devastated a Christian neighborhood of this capital city of Lebanon on Friday, killing an intelligence official long viewed as an enemy by neighboring Syria and unnerving a nation as Syria’s sectarian-fueled civil war spills beyond its borders and threatens to engulf the region.

The blast, which sheared the faces off buildings, killed at least eight people, wounded 80 and transformed a quiet tree-lined street into a scene reminiscent of Lebanon’s long civil war, threatened to worsen sectarian tensions. By nightfall, black smoke from burning tires ignited by angry men choked the streets of a few neighborhoods in the city, which has struggled to preserve a peace between its many sects, including Sunni, Shiite, Christian and Druse.

Within hours of the attack, the Lebanese authorities announced that the dead included the intelligence chief of the country’s internal security service, Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan, instantly spurring accusations that the Syrian government had assassinated him for recently uncovering what the authorities said was a Syrian plot to provoke unrest in Lebanon.

“They wanted to get him, and they got him,” said Paul Salem, a regional analyst with the Carnegie Middle East Center.

But if the attack was targeted, the blast was most certainly not. The force of the explosion left elderly residents fleeing their wrecked homes in bloodied pajamas and spewed charred metal as far as two blocks. Residents rushed to help each other amid the debris, burning car wreckage and a macabre scene of victims in blood-soaked shirts.

It was the first large-scale bombing in the country since 2008 and was the most provocative violence here linked to the Syrian conflict since it began 19 months ago.

The attack struck a heavy blow to a security service that had asserted Lebanon’s fragile sovereignty by claiming to catch Syria red-handed in a plan to destabilize its neighbor, which Syria has long dominated. It threatened to inflame sectarian tensions by eliminating General Hassan, a Sunni Muslim known for his close ties to fellow Sunni politicians who support the Syrian uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. General Hassan was viewed by Syrian opposition activists as an ally and protector.

Imad Salamey, a political science professor at Lebanese American University, blamed Mr. Assad’s government and said that the attack seemed intended to show that Syria has the ability to destabilize Lebanon and threaten to embroil the region in chaos.

The Syrian government issued a statement condemning the bombing, quoting the information minister, Omran al-Zoubi, as saying, “These sort of terrorist, cowardly attacks are unjustifiable wherever they occur.”

"Syrian Crisis Inflames Lebanon-Syria Tensions as Lebanese Blame Assad for Bomb"
PBS Newshour 10/19/2012

COMMENT: If this assertion is true things are looking bad for the region.

AMERICA - Do We Still Need the Boy Scouts?

"Scouting goes through a rough patch" by Thom Patterson, CNN 10/22/2012

Disappointment, anger, disgust.

Words like these are echoing throughout social media about a national icon: The Boy Scouts of America.

To put it mildly, Scouting is going through a rough patch.

In July, the BSA national headquarters clarified its ban on gays and lesbians -- leaving it in place and triggering a national movement by hundreds of former Eagle Scouts to renounce their rank and return their treasured medals.

And then this week, the so-called "perversion files" were publicly released, naming more than 1,000 suspected child sex abusers since the mid-1960s with links to Scouting.

All this has people asking questions: What's going on here? Is Scouting in trouble? Is it even relevant anymore?

Although membership has remained steady at 2.7 million youths, many parents are taking a hard look at the organization -- especially its ban on gays, lesbians, atheists and agnostics, says former Eagle Scout Burke Stansbury, an online activist.

"Some of the aspects of Scouting morality I find is sort of old school -- like they're stuck in the 1950s."

It's become more acceptable, he says, for people to be atheist and agnostic and still be considered moral in our society. Also, "attitudes around homosexuality have changed a lot in the last few decades, and the Boy Scouts' moral code hasn't kept up with those changes."

Here's how mainstream the idea of gay and lesbian Scouts has become: both President Obama and Mitt Romney support it. Obama, in fact, serves as honorary BSA president, a tradition held by every commander in chief since the group was founded.

Eventually, the Boy Scouts will have to change, Stansbury says, or else the organization will become socially irrelevant.

The group is standing at a key moment in its survival, says Stansbury. If it fails to "get with the modern times" within the next decade, "alternative youth organizations will appear that are more inclusive and based on equality."

The majority of Scouts agree with the policy, the BSA said in July. But "no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society."

Scouting offers to teach members skills in "character building" and making good "moral choices," says BSA spokesman Deron Smith. But he also says it's important to separate "the discussion of larger societal issues" from the operation of Scouting. "The state of Scouting is very strong."

'Living your values'

The idea is sometimes referred to as "living your values" -- in other words, interacting only with organizations and businesses that match your morals and ethics.

"People with young kids are trying to live their lives more in accordance with their beliefs and their values," says Stansbury. It's hard, he says, to participate in something like the Boy Scouts and everyday question your own integrity.

In protest, Stansbury sent his Eagle medal back to Scout headquarters a few months ago, along with hundreds of other ex-Scouts.

Boy Scout policies and procedures evolve over time, says Smith. For example, the child sex abuse concerns decades ago spurred the BSA to implement strict screening, education and prevention policies that continue today and represent a "gold standard" for protecting kids, Smith says.

Boy Scout Zach Plante of Menlo Park, California, doesn't like the ban on atheists or gays and lesbians. But he loves Scouting.

So the 16-year-old basically looks the other way, he says, along with the rest of Troop 222. "In my troop I don't know of any particular Scouts that are gay or atheist, but I know that our troop wouldn't necessarily kick a Scout out of the troop for being gay or atheist."

Zach's dad, psychology professor Tom Plante, doesn't see any conflict between his support for Scouting and his opposition to the bans. Plante says he does his best to live his values and to make changes where he can. "But at the end of the day we're not going to agree 100% with all the policies and procedures of every organization that we're a part of -- whether it's Scouts or the United States government or churches or companies."

Ryan Andreson's troop wasn't so understanding. When Andreson, who lives in Moraga, California, was denied his Eagle rank because he's gay, he mounted a campaign that gained national attention. Part of that campaign included collecting hundreds of thousands of signatures on a petition for local Scout officials. So far, Andreson is still waiting to get his Eagle.

What if Scouting disappeared? You'd likely see more than $206,000,000 worth of yearly services and charity fundraising provided by Scout groups disappear, according to BSA.

Religious ties

Many critics who accuse the Scouts of failing to change with the times blame BSA's deep connections to organized religion. Approximately 70% of Scout troops are affiliated with some kind of church or religious group, says Smith.

Among the biggest backers are the Catholic Church and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, according to BSA. In 2011, Mormon-backed Cub Scout and Boy Scout units accounted for more than 420,000 of all Scouts nationwide, while more than 200,000 other scouts were members of units affiliated with the Catholic Church.

Links with religious groups are "definitely part of our longstanding tradition," says Smith. "Our policies and procedures and everything that we are is definitely reflected by our membership and our charter organization partners."

Those affiliations over the years have resulted in a complicated political maze that's difficult to navigate when it comes to change, Stansbury suggests. "Oh yeah -- the Catholic and Mormon churches have a lot of influence on the Boy Scouts, especially the leadership of the Boy Scouts," he says. "I certainly believe that's a big part of why the Boy Scouts have stubbornly held onto this policy.

"It would be a much better organization, not having those people involved. But it's not going to go away immediately."

There's also dissent among leaders inside Scouting -- although many keep a low profile. One Scout leader, who asked to remain anonymous because he fears losing his position, posted comments on a private online message board for Eagle alums.

If the U.S. military can accept openly gay and lesbian troops, he asked, why can't the Boy Scouts of America? "Every day I question my personal integrity for choosing to stay involved with a discriminatory organization."

So -- does America still need the Boy Scouts? Is it still culturally relevant as it enters its second century of service? Will the BSA make it to 200 years?

Friday, October 19, 2012


Note that there's a clip about the Cuban Missile Crisis.

"New Collection Listens in on President Kennedy's Secret White House Tapes" PBS Newshour 10/18/2012


MARGARET WARNER (Newshour): ...... a treasure trove of presidential recordings. Richard Nixon may have had the most famous secret taping system in the White House, but his wasn't the first.

In 1962, John F. Kennedy installed his own, capturing conversations with his advisers, world leaders, former presidents, and even with his family. He began taping just before the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union went up to the brink of nuclear war.

This week marks the 50th anniversary of that standoff. Tense conversations from those 13 days are among the transcripts and CDs in the new book "Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy."

Ted Widmer, director and the librarian of BrownUniversity, sorted through the material and annotated it. Gwen Ifill recently sat down with him.

News Release, JFK Presidential Library
"JFK Library Releases Remaining Presidential Recordings"
(tape download from site, right side-bar)

ELECTION 2012 - Social Media - Updated

"Daily Download: Social Media and Mobile Devices Key to Viewer Debate Digestion" PBS Newshour 10/18/2012


SUMMARY: A third of adult viewers under 40 who watched the second presidential debate were "double screening," meaning they both watched the debate and used an additional form of digital media. Ray Suarez talks to the Daily Download's Lauren Ashburn and Howard Kurtz about the "binders full of women" meme and politicized search terms.

SECURITY - Cyber Attacks on U.S. Banks

"Could the U.S. Face 'Cyber Pearl Harbor'? Protecting Banks from Hacker Attacks" PBS Newshour 10/18/2012


MARGARET WARNER (Newshour): We turn to a new cyber campaign against American banking giants and growing worries about what they might foreshadow. It began late last month and continues to this day.

Two more U.S. banks are the latest targets in the spate of cyber-hits on American financial institutions. This week, Capital One and BB&T suffered disruptions on their websites, leaving customers without access to their accounts.

A group calling itself the Qassam Cyber Fighters claimed responsibility and said the attacks are retaliation for an anti-Muslim video. But some U.S. officials, like Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, blame the recent uptick of attacks on Iran and its elite security force.

He spoke last month on C-SPAN.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN, I-Conn.: I think that this was done by Iran and the Quds Force, which has its own developing cyber-attack capacity, and I believe it was a response to the increasingly strong economic sanctions.

MARGARET WARNER: Also blamed on Iran, recent hits on Saudi Arabia's state oil company, Aramco and Qatar's natural gas producer, RasGas, that disabled 30,000 computers entirely.

And Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned last week that the threat to America's vital infrastructure throughout is rising.

COMMENT: Reminder, computers make doing things faster and easier for EVERYONE. Legitimate users and criminals. We will always be playing catch-up with cyber criminals in the context of being online.

EDUCATION - College, More Debt and Fewer Jobs

"More Debt, Fewer Jobs: How the Candidates Plan to Solve Rising Costs of College" PBS Newshour 10/18/2012


JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): There was fresh evidence today of just how expensive college has become and how fast student debt is piling up. It came in the latest look at the bill that comes due once diplomas are handed out.

The numbers are more daunting than ever for newly minted college graduates. Data released today shows two-thirds of the class of 2011 had loan debt that averaged $26,600. That was up 5 percent from the previous year. The Institute for College Access and Success, based in California, surveyed more than 1,000 public and private nonprofit four-year colleges.

It also cited studies showing that more than one-third of recent graduates have jobs that do not require a college degree at all.

COMMENT: While the situation is bad the context is 'we' have become spoiled in our expectations from the 'good 'ol days.' Not only in expecting good jobs right out of college, but in the context of our economy in whole.

IMHO what we are seeing today is more in line with reality. The days of boom and quick satisfaction are gone, and it is NOT the fault of government. We have been on a cocaine-high since the end of WWII and we are now paying for our binge.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

CALIFORNIA - I Just Voted Today 10/18/2012

I'm a California voter and permanently registered as Non-Affiliated (aka nonpartisan) absentee voter.

I've been an absentee voter since my U.S. Navy days. It IS a much easier and BETTER way to vote.
  • No rushing to the polls before they close
  • When I was working (before retirement) no having to leave early, or take a day off, to vote
  • All my voting materials, including the ballot, arrive weeks in advance of election day
  • Have plenty of time to research candidates and issues in the comfort of my home, in my case, via computer

I believe that voting is not JUST a right, but an obligation. We cannot have a Democratic Republic unless we have an engaged voters. Voters that actually vote. It saddens me when I see poor voter participation when compared to other countries. Consider that ballots contain local issues and candidates that effect voters in their back yard.

I as an individual will not get everything I would like to see, voted for, but we voters are not dictators who can dictate government policies. What our vote dose at the basic level is let everyone know our opinion and desires for government. At the second level, if what we individuals want match what the majority of other citizens want, we succeed in getting our wishes.

Note the 'basic level' consequence of voting. Especially in the computer age and social media it brought us, then add polls, our fellow citizens have an opportunity to see what we think even if our issues do not go our way.

In this regard, nonpartisan polls that have asked the same questions over several years (if not decades) can be especially informative as to trends on political issues. To let us know what our fellow citizens really are thinking.

HEALTH - Genetically Modified Foods, Risky

"Genetically-Modified Organisms or GMOs: What Are You Really Eating?" by Caroline J. Cederquist M.D., Huffington Post 10/17/2012

As a medical professional, my life's work has been devoted to improving the lives of others by helping them improve their diets, lose weight and correct their metabolism. I have been appalled in the past weeks as I have watched what I will call "Big Ag" crank up their political machine and throw millions of dollars into attack ads and propaganda against California's Proposition 37.

The proposed law, which would require mandatory labeling of genetically-engineered food, has come under increasing fire as of late. In the past weeks alone, a coalition of the biggest stakeholders in the agricultural industry has raised more than $34.6 million dollars to defeat the proposition. The question that all Americans, not just Californians, must ask is: "Why?"

Who Wants to Know About GMO?

You might be shocked to learn that a national CBS News poll around that 87 percent of Americans favor labeling GM ingredients in their food. You might also be intrigued to learn that no less than 61 nations have some form of GM food labeling requirements on the books. The entire EU has required such labeling since 1997.

This begs the question: What could be so terrible about telling the American people whether the product they are about to purchase contains genetically-modified organisms? How on earth, as the Anti-Prop 37 folks claim, could the simple act of labeling these GM products result in higher food costs? There is a simple answer to this question: People may stop buying products made with GMOs.

"But wait! How can you support a measure that would raise food prices?" they say. Again, the answer is relatively simple. The scare tactics being employed by the Anti-Prop 37 crowd assume that California would be going it alone in the effort to label GM foods. While the context of Prop 37 includes only California, 20 more state legislatures across the nation have taken up the issue and currently have pending GM labeling legislation. While the opponents of this movement would like you to think it's just the crazy Californians that are "up to it again," this is simply not the case.

While Prop 37 is a California issue, labeling the GMOs present in our food supply is not. This is an issue that deserves national attention. It's time to take this movement out of California, and all other states, for that matter, and take decisive action at the federal level.

What Are GMOs Anyway?

As a medical doctor, I'd like to take a moment to provide you with some background on GMOs and why they really do matter. To do this, let me first properly define exactly what genetically-modified organisms actually are. At least one of the most common GMOs -- corn, soybeans, rice, and tomatoes -- are found in nearly every food that most of us eat these days.

Many people with whom I have "the GMO conversation" are unfortunately completely unaware of the methods used to modify formerly naturally-occurring organisms into something entirely different and hardly natural. The World Health Organization defines GMOs as "organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in such a way that does not occur naturally." Excerpts from the American Association of Environmental Medicine's website provide a startling glimpse into the creation of today's Frankenstein GM crops:

"This technology is also referred to as 'genetic engineering,' 'biotechnology,' or 'recombinant DNA technology' and consists of randomly inserting genetic fragments of DNA from one organism to another, usually from a different species. For example, an artificial combination of genes that includes a gene to produce the pesticide Cry1Ab protein (commonly known as Bt toxin), originally found in Bacillus thuringiensis, is inserted in to the DNA of corn randomly."

I am not sure about you, but I am not at all comfortable with the notion of bacterial DNA being inserted into my food without my knowledge or consent -- not as a medical professional or a mother.

Are They Safe?

An often-dismissed argument in the battle over labeling GM products is the simple, yet extremely consequential, question of whether or not these modified "Frankenfoods" are safe for human consumption. The powerful agricultural lobby will tell you that these foods are safe because of their "substantial equivalence" to the original, natural, version.

But just how equivalent are they? A recent peer-reviewed study published in the respected Food and Chemical Toxicology Journal titled "Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize" studied the effects of a particular GM seed and the pesticide it has been engineered to withstand when introduced into the food supply of laboratory rats. The findings, though controversial, should be enough to require mandatory labeling of GM products until further long-term studies can be conducted.

Essentially, the scientists in charge of the study found that the rats whose diet consisted of the GM corn and its companion pesticide suffered much higher rates of tumors and early death than those in the control group who received a normal rat diet. To be fair, the study has come under scrutiny for its methodology. However, the findings are extremely troubling. With even the tiniest shred of evidence that animals whose diets consist of GMOs have a higher rate of cancer and premature death rates higher than that of their regularly-fed peers, action must be taken.

Lack of Long-Term Human Study

After reading the paragraph above, you might dismiss some of the findings discussed due to the backlash the study has received from the scientific community. While the strictest measures of scientific methodology and precision may write this study off as flawed, I see the underlying value that it holds, flawed or otherwise. This is not the only animal study to show similar high rates of cancer and early death linked to GM feed. In truth, it is just one of quite a few.

What detractors from this study and the labeling of GMOs fail to grasp is that these studies show an increased risk of harmful complications from consuming genetically-modified food. Yes, the complications are in animals, and as everyone knows, these animals are not humans. This fact, however, is not enough to write them off as inconsequential. In fact, their findings point to yet another flaw in the "trust us" mentality that "Big Ag" expects the American consumer to willingly follow: the lack of credible, non-biased studies showing the effects of the consumption of GM products on a person's health over time.

These "Frankenfoods" have only become a major part of our food supply in the past decade. That's 16 years that Americans have been unknowingly consuming foods that may be detrimental to their overall health and well-being. While "Big Ag" asks the mothers of America to simply "trust us, everything will be okay," this answer is not okay with me. You see, as a board-certified bariatric physician and expert in metabolism, I understand the details of how foods interact with the body. As a mother of four, I also understand that my example will shape the future that I leave for my children.

The Responsible Path Forward

Finally, there is an interesting aspect of the argument over labeling GM products that is centered upon our individual right to guide our own lives and make our own choices. When it comes to the most basic of human needs, the food that we eat should be our choice, and ours alone. Simply put, there is no place for "Big Ag" at my dinner table.

At present, I know of no laws that allow a company to mandate what people must eat. Yet, in not labeling GM products, manufacturers using GM ingredients are essentially doing just that. Without the knowledge that a particular item contains GM ingredients, a consumer cannot reasonably be expected to be able to differentiate on their own. Further, since I've seen data showing that 88 percent of all corn grown in the United States is genetically modified, the choices of non-GMO are becoming increasingly restricted. It should be noted, again, that corn is found in nearly every processed food found at your local grocery store.

In sum, I would like to pose the following question: How does obscuring the truth from consumers promote the right to choose what we put in our bodies or our ability to control the food that we consume? As is often the case in the argument over GM labeling, it does no such thing. In fact, the deliberate attempt to hide crucial information pertaining to the integrity and wholesomeness of our food supply is something that should provoke outrage from medical professionals and mothers nationwide.

Do you truly believe that the controversy over labeling GMOs is about your best interests as a consumer, or the bottom line of the companies most invested in the business of tampering with your food?

COMMENT: This issue is what California Prop 37 attempts to address.