Monday, August 31, 2009

Educated Black women less likely to marry, study says

- Black women have made great gains in higher education and employment, yet the gains may have come at the cost of marriage and family, according to a recent study by researchers at Yale University.

Natalie Nitsche and Hannah Brueckner of Yale found that Black women born after 1950 were twice as likely as White women to not have married by age 45. They were also twice as likely to be divorced, widowed or separated.

The authors reviewed U.S. Census data dating back to the 1970s on race, gender, education, marriage and fertility. Their findings were presented at the 104th annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in San Francisco earlier this month.

“Highly educated Black women have increasingly fewer options when it comes to potential mates,” Brueckner said in a statement. “They are less likely than Black men to marry outside their race and, compared to Whites and Black men, they are less likely to marry a college-educated spouse.”

The initial findings of the study did not surprise Audrey Chapman, a radio show host who has written on the subject of Black relationships and has a show on Howard University’s WHUR station on the topic.

“I can make it quite simple, there are not as many educated Black men as Black women,” Chapman told the AFRO. “There are more Black men in jail than at a university. Statistics have shown that during the freshman year at college, there are 100 Black females compared to 88 Black males.”

“By the time the senior year comes around, there are only 49 Black males to every 100 Black females,” Chapman said. “Black women are having trouble looking for Black men of equal status in their lives.”

The study found that Black women with postgraduate educations born between 1956 and 1960, first gave birth at a median age of 34 years old. That age is about the same as White women in the same demographic, the study said.

But, according to the study, once White women reached their 30s, many more of them give birth, often more than once, while Black women did not. Statistics showed that the rate of childlessness among Black women of that age rose from 30 percent for those born between 1950 and 1955, to 45 percent for those born between 1956 and 1960.

Beyond the personal interests of individual women, the trend is significant because “in terms of American society, this is one additional obstacle” to the broadening of the Black middle class, Brueckner said.

“Fewer highly educated Black people having children means that they cannot pass on those advantages and knowledge,” she said.

While Dr. Denise Wright, a practicing D.C. psychologist, does not dispute the findings, she said that the data must be looked at in a broader context.

“The disparity between educated Black women and Black men in general is inherent in the society we live in,” said Wright. “Black men have to deal with such issues as the constant threat of incarceration, the work availability disparity between Black women and Black men and the end of the agrarian society, where the man was supposed to be the sole provider of the family and a welfare system that does not encourage family building. Those are things that have held Black men back and yet promoted Black women who want to educate themselves.”

Wright said that finding a mate is more than just “numbers and statistics.”

“The key in any relationship is personal chemistry and you have to look at the person’s heart, regardless of what status society has imposed on them,” she said.

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Black Woman Wins Mayorship in Italian Province

By a slim margin of just 38 votes, a Black woman has become mayor of a small town in northern Italy.

Sandy Cane, 48, won the election earlier this summer and will govern the town of Valceresio, population 5,300, which borders Varesotto and the Swiss confederation of Ticino. She will serve a five-year term.

A member of the anti-immigrant Northern League party, Cane was born in Springfield, Mass., the daughter of an African-American soldier and Italian mother who emigrated to northern France. Described as the voice of Italy’s right-wing party, she said she was happy about the election and that she threw her hat into race out of her love for the city of Viggiu.

“I became a candidate because I love Viggiu,” Cane was quoted as saying. “For me, it is fantastic. It is my city.”

Meanwhile, according to the Christian Science Monitor, Cane—who squared off in an election held concurrently with the European Parliament vote—is being lauded as “Italy’s Obama.”

She has been compared to the American president for her dark curly hair and her skin tone, both prominent in his genetic makeup, the Monitor reported. The two were also reportedly born in the same year.

But that’s just as far as the similarities go: for example, Cane stands firmly against immigration. She has said that she would not hesitate to round up the town’s illegal residents and deport them.

Naomi Campbell attacks companies for 'dropping' black models in recession

Never afraid of speaking her mind, Naomi Campbell has accused the advertising business of using the recession as an excuse to drop black models.

Naomi Campbell who is a friend of Nelson Mandela, has won support from Bruce Oldfield, the designer of the wedding dress worn by Samantha Cameron, the wife of the Tory leader Photo: Getty Images

The 39-year-old supermodel, who is a close friend of Sarah Brown, the Prime Minister's wife, claims that major companies are refusing to use non-white women to promote their products.

"This year, we have gone back all the way that we had advanced," she says. "I don't see any black woman, or of any other race, in big advertising campaigns."

Campbell, who was born in London to a mother of Caribbean descent, refers to the publication last year of a special edition of Italian Vogue dedicated to non-white models.

"That made some noise, but, unfortunately, we are the same as before," she says. "People, in the panic of the recession, don't dare to put a girl of colour in their campaign, full stop. Nor of any other race. It's a shame. It's very sad."

The model, who is a friend of Nelson Mandela, has won support from Bruce Oldfield, the designer of the wedding dress worn by Samantha Cameron, the wife of the Tory leader.

"It's absolutely true that black models will be not as popular for advertising companies and magazine covers as white girls," the designer tells Mandrake. "In a recession, it's probably doubly difficult for black girls to get a booking."

Oldfield is thought to be the son of a Jamaican boxer, but never knew his natural parents and grew up in an orphanage. "In this climate, things are worse, but it is compounding a problem that already exists," he adds. "Cover editors are going to choose white over black. Naomi is not far off the mark."

In 1988, Campbell appeared on the cover of French Vogue as its first black cover girl after Yves St Laurent, her late friend and mentor, threatened to withdraw all of his advertising from the magazine following its refusal to place Campbell, or any black model, on its
front page. She also became the first black model to appear on the cover of British Vogue.

Earlier this year, she described the fashion industry as "racist". In a magazine interview, she was quoted as saying "You know, the American president may be black, but, as a black woman, I am still an exception in this business. I always have to work harder to be treated equally."

In June, she attended the Glastonbury music festival with Gordon Brown's wife, Sarah. The pair were promoting the Million Mums charity, which aims to help prevent women from dying needlessly in pregnancy and childbirth.

African-American male teachers try to be role models

Several point to their own mentors from childhood as examples.
By Matt Soergel

Mandarin Middle Assistant Principal Dwayne Thomas (left) reacts as Brian Baham tells him he will start college today. Sunday was a day of prayer for black male teachers.

At a church service Sunday to honor African-American male teachers, the talk turned to the mentors who had made a difference in the lives of some black educators.

For George Maxey, the new principal at Raines High School, it was John Fox, a white teacher who inspired him in third grade, when Maxey lived in a housing project in Brooklyn, N.Y.

For Julius Paden, principal at private Lighthouse Christian School, it was the late Bernard Wilkes, basketball coach at Ribault High School for 30 years.

For Dwayne Thomas, assistant principal at Mandarin Middle School, it was Bud Hicks, who worked as a custodian at his school in Detroit.

The custodian encouraged Thomas, the son of a single mother, to go to school and keep up his grades. He took him to a Detroit Red Wings game. He nicknamed him "Slick" because he tried to slide out of work.

Then he got Thomas a job as a student custodian, working alongside him. "He told me, 'You've got to work hard, and stop being slick,'" said Thomas. "'Take pride in the work that you do.'"

Thomas, 48, still keeps in touch with Hicks. "The kind of person Bud Hicks was to me, that's what I want to be for some young male or female," he said.

Thomas was at Greater Macedonia Baptist Church on Englewood Avenue West for what was billed as A Day of Prayer for Education and Educators in the African-American Community.

Thomas came to teaching five years ago after careers in the Navy and the corporate world. It's a challenge and a reward, he said, especially when trying to be a positive male role model for students who don't have many. "We're trying to be the teacher, the father, the uncle, the friend," he said.

Maxey, from Raines, said teachers need to challenge students to be better. "Children want structure, they want a place where they fit in, they want something that's bigger than them. School can be that," he said.

Paden, from Lighthouse Christian, said teachers are role models in ways big and small. "When I walk in front of them, I don't say, 'Put your shirt in your pants,' and then have my shirt hanging out my pants," he said. "I've got to walk the walk before I can talk the talk."

Rangel Failed to Disclose More Income and Assets, Forms Show

Representative Charles B. Rangel failed to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in income and assets on his financial disclosure forms for 2002 through 2006, including tens of thousands of dollars in rental income from a Harlem brownstone he sold in 2004, according to records filed this month with the clerk of the House of Representatives.

Doug Mills/The New York Times
Charles B. Rangel is facing two House investigations.

Rangel Failed to Disclose $500,000 in Assets for ’07 (August 26, 2009)
Times Topics: Charles B. RangelMr. Rangel, who is facing investigations by two House subcommittees into his personal finances and fund-raising, filed amended financial disclosure forms on Aug. 12 acknowledging that he had omitted an array of assets, business transactions and sources of income. They include a Merrill Lynch Global account valued between $250,000 and $500,000; tens of thousands of dollars in municipal bonds; and $30,000 to $100,000 in rent from a multifamily brownstone building he owned on West 132nd Street.

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Michael Jackson birthday party hosted by Spike Lee in New York

Fans celebrate King of Pop's 51st birthday at an event in Brooklyn organised by film-maker

Comedian Tracy Morgan, left, dances as the director Spike Lee looks on during a birthday party for Michael Jackson. Photograph: Jason DeCrow/AP

Michael Jackson's 51st birthday was celebrated yesterday with a party in New York hosted by the director Spike Lee. Thousands of people braved the rain in Prospect Park in Brooklyn where Lee, who worked with Jackson on the music video They Don't Care About Us, had organised the free event to celebrate the life and music of the King of Pop.

Even through the sea of umbrellas and raincoats, tributes to Jackson were evident, from posters to commemorative badges and white gloves. The crowd, a mix of ages and races, sang Jackson's greatest hits from Bad to Dirty Diana, with music provided by DJ Spinna.

Some fans had hobbled to the event on crutches, others brought fold-up seats with them, but most were up on their feet dancing. They did the moonwalk and performed his iconic poses.

A few children dressed up as the cast of The Wiz, the 1978 film featuring Jackson and Diana Ross.

Jackson fan Patricia Brown, from the Bronx, was dressed in a black-and-white suit with bow-tie, holding a sign that declared: I'm the Off the Wall Michael, from 1978.

"I love Michael so much, I've been grieving, but his birthday is a day of celebration," she said.

Lee – who grew up on Jackson's music and said in a recent interview with The Root, an online magazine, "we're of the same era ... I wanted my Afro to be perfectly round like Michael's" – spent the afternoon on stage, wearing a Jackson tribute T-shirt and leading the singing.

Lee was joined by the Rev Al Sharpton, who began his speech saying: "Fifty-one years ago today, history changed."

He paid tribute to Jackson for defying "social and musical odds" and breaking barriers. Sharpton then paid his respects to Ted Kennedy, whose funeral also took place yesterday, calling the senator a trailblazer. Sharpton also asked the crowd to remember the victims of hurricane Katrina, on the fourth anniversary of the disaster.

After the sombre speech, the music came back on and the celebrations continued. The Way You Make Me Feel blasted over the speakers, with fans singing along to lyrics played on a big screen in the park. One of the fans, Diana Bourne, who grew up in Brooklyn, said: "I was born in the same year as Michael, so I had to come out and celebrate. I love him so much.

"At moments I have been teary-eyed but this is a great day. His music transcends age, race, everything. All over the world people love him and his music.

"He was phenomenal, there will be never be anybody like him."

BLOOD FOR OIL-- Lockerbie Bomber al-Megrahi Was Released For Oil

On 21 December 1988, the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 crashed as a result of a terrorist bomb. 270 people were killed in the bombing including 169 Americans.

The British government decided it was in their best interest to release Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi free for oil contracts with Libya.
The Times Online reported:

The British government decided it was “in the overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom” to make Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, eligible for return to Libya, leaked ministerial letters reveal.

Gordon Brown’s government made the decision after discussions between Libya and BP over a multi-million-pound oil exploration deal had hit difficulties. These were resolved soon afterwards.

The letters were sent two years ago by Jack Straw, the justice secretary, to Kenny MacAskill, his counterpart in Scotland, who has been widely criticised for taking the formal decision to permit Megrahi’s release.

The correspondence makes it plain that the key decision to include Megrahi in a deal with Libya to allow prisoners to return home was, in fact, taken in London for British national interests.

Edward Davey, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, said: “This is the strongest evidence yet that the British government has been involved for a long time in talks over al-Megrahi in which commercial considerations have been central to their thinking.”

China: Stocks Going into Free Fall Mode

FN: The Chinese growth miracle has morphed into an easy credit mirage. After both credit creation and stock prices went parabolic the last two months, Chinese authorities ordered their banks to "tighten". Since most of the credit was flowing straight into stocks, the bid disappeared.

China’s Stocks Slump Most Since June 2008, Cap Monthly Loss: "China’s stocks plunged, with the Shanghai Composite Index falling the most since June 2008 and entering a bear market, on concern a slowdown in lending growth may derail a recovery in the world’s third-largest economy.

The benchmark index tumbled 6.7 percent to 2,667.75, capping its biggest monthly loss since October. The gauge has slumped 23 percent from its 15-month high on Aug. 4 and is the worst performer this month among 89 benchmark indexes tracked by Bloomberg globally.

“The local market bears are convinced that tightening is already underway,” said Howard Wang, head of the Greater China team at JF Asset Management, which oversees $50 billion. Only “a very strong set of macro numbers in August” or “stronger statements from central authorities” would change this trend, Wang said.

At least 150 stocks on the 898-member index dropped by the daily 10 percent limit. Industrial Bank Co. and Aluminum Corp. of China Ltd. tumbled by the permitted cap after Caijing magazine reported new loan growth this month may be almost half that of July. Lower profits dragged Baoshan Iron & Steel Co., the nation’s biggest steelmaker, and China Southern Airlines Co. down at least 7 percent."

Hoover and the Great Depression, redux

By Steven Horwitz

I develop a theory of labor market failure for the Great Depression based on Hoover's industrial labor program that provided industry with protection from unions in return for keeping nominal wages fixed. I find that the theory accounts for much of the depth of the Depression and for the asymmetry of the depression across sectors. The theory also can reconcile why deflation and low levels of nominal spending apparently had such large real effects during the 1930s, but not during other periods of significant deflation.

Not surprisingly, he's taking a beating in the left-oriented press (see an example from Salon here) from those who simply cannot imagine that Hoover was anything but Rush Limbaugh's spiritual ancestor. The fact that Hoover might have been a significant interventionist, many of whose policies foreshadowed the New Deal, is one their brains simply cannot accept, no matter how much evidence there is. Of course, the fact that Rothbard and Vedder/Gallaway have hammered this point before is not discussed at all.

I have a piece in the next issue of Econ Journal Watch that provides a detailed critique of this AER piece on Hoover and Roosevelt, as well more generally offering a counter-narrative of whole 1929-45 period integrating a bunch of different research. I'll certainly post a link here when it's out, but I did want to include this bit of it as a counter to the Myth of Hoover the Laissez-Fairist:

Eggertsson’s portrayal of Hoover as dogmatically committed to a balanced budget and small government is utterly at odds with Hoover’s personal history and stated beliefs, as well as the actual policies he put into place while president. Hoover’s first major role in government was as head of the Food Administration upon the US entry into World War I in 1917. He leapt into that job with great energy, having long believed that government can and should play a large role in the economy. In 1912, he had supported Teddy Roosevelt and the Progressives for the presidency, and was touted by many, including Franklin Roosevelt, as a potential Democratic presidential candidate in the 1920s. He was a registered Republican, however, and in 1921 accepted a position as Secretary of Commerce under President Harding, a job that he retained through most of the 1920s.

Hoover vowed to turn what was one of the lowest-profile departments of the federal government into a more visible one, specifically by increased interaction with businesses and involvement in economic policy. Donald Stabile (1986) has characterized his views as a desire to “transform the structure of the US economy from one of laissez-faire to one of voluntary cooperation” (819). In her book Herbert Hoover: Forgotten Progressive, Joan Hoff Wilson (1975, 68) summarizes Hoover’s economic views this way:

Where the classical economists like Adam Smith had argued for uncontrolled competition between independent economic units guided only by the invisible hand of supply and demand, he talked about voluntary national economic planning arising from cooperation between business interests and the government… Instead of negative government action in times of depression, he advocated the expansion of public works, avoidance of wage cuts, increased rather than decreased production—measures that would expand rather than contract purchasing power.

When paired with his long-standing antipathy to free trade (65-66), this was hardly the program of a “limited government” or “laissez-faire” dogmatist. Other ideas he championed around this time included “increased inheritance taxes, public dams, and, significantly, government regulation of the stock market” (Rothbard 2008 [1963], 188).

As early as the 1920-21 recession, Hoover was becoming famous for convening conferences with business leaders as a way to use the power of government to generate what he saw as desirable “cooperation” as opposed to individualistic competition. In contrast to Harding’s much more genuine commitment to laissez-faire during that recession, Hoover quickly got busy organizing conferences and relief efforts and exhorting businessmen and the public to bring that spirit of “mobilization” and “spontaneous cooperation” experienced during the war to peacetime economic reconstruction. At one conference on unemployment in September of 1921, Harding opened with remarks committing him to keeping the federal government out of such issues, and yet Hoover followed by expounding the need to “do something.” The conference leaders, with Hoover’s approval, coalesced around a call for more “government planning to combat depressions and to bolster the idea of public works as a depression remedy” (Rothbard 2008 [1963], 192). Historian David Kennedy (1999, 48) describes Hoover’s activism this way: “No previous administration had moved so purposefully and so creatively in the face of an economic downturn. Hoover had definitively made the point that government should not stand by idly when confronted with economic difficulty” (see also Vedder and Gallaway 1993, 67-68).

It remains a fascinating question why the proponents of the New Deal can't see in Hoover the precursor of so much of what the New Deal gave us. His call for maintaining nominal wages in the face of price deflation was a belief he'd held for at least a decade prior to the onset of the Great Depression. That is the Hoover that Americans voted for in 1928! Of course, what the Hoover-Roosevelt policies gave us was mostly disastrous, but to deny the fairly straightforward facts of what Hoover believed and what he did seems to me to be the worst sort of dogmatic "head in the sand"ism. Note that the citations here are not just to free market types. David Kennedy is a liberal and that book won a Pulitzer. Stablile and Wilson are, again, just historians doing their job. Wilson's book and its title are particularly telling here as she lays out the case for her title very clearly. It's not "free market" ideology to argue Hoover was an interventionist; it's good history.

What's even funnier is how the commenters at the Salon piece linked above accuse Ohanian of being a lousy historian and of New Deal critics of ignoring the facts, etc., while stubbornly clinging to an utterly false view of Hoover.

Physicians, heal thyselves.

UFC 102 Fighter Salaries: Nogueira and Couture Top Earners

Headliners Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Randy Couture were the top earners at Saturday’s UFC 102 event in Portland, according to figures released by the Oregon State Athletic Commission.

Nougiera, who defeated Couture by unanimous decision in the evening’s main event, earned $400,000 for the victory, while Couture received $250,000 in the loss.

The disclosed payroll for the pay-per-view event was $1,285,000.

The disclosed fighter salaries for UFC 102 were:

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira ($400,000 – includes $150,000 bonus) def. Randy Couture ($250,000)

Thiago Silva ($58,000 – $29,000 win bonus) def. Keith Jardine ($55,000)

Jake Rosholt ($26,000 – $13,000 win bonus) def. Chris Leben ($30,000)

Nate Marquardt ($80,000 – $40,000 win bonus) def. Demian Maia ($28,000)

Brandon Vera ($70,0000 – $35,000 win bonus) def. Krzysztof Soszynski ($8,000)

Aaron Simpson ($18,000 – $9,000 win bonus) def. Ed Herman ($24,000)

Gabriel Gonzaga ($120,000 – $60,000 win bonus) def. Chris Tuchscherer ($10,000)

Mike Russow ($20,000 – $10,000 win bonus) def. Justin McCully ($15,000)

Todd Duffee ($10,000 – $5,000 win bonus) def. Tim Hague ($7,000)

Mark Munoz ($24,000 – $12,000 win bonus) def. Nick Catone ($5,000)

Evan Dunham ($14,000 – $7,000 win bonus) def. Marcus Aurelio ($13,000)

Remember, the salaries listed above are simply the figures the UFC is required to report to the OSAC, which exclude deductions for items such as taxes, licenses, and insurance, as well as additional payments, such as sponsorships, bonuses, and pay-per-view revenue.

For example, Nogueira and Couture, along with main card winners Nate Marquardt and Jake Rosholt, each took home an extra $60,000 “fight night” bonus for their performances on the card.

Brian Jones’ Death a Murder?

After 40 years, guitarist Brian Jones‘ death will be re-examined pending newly uncovered information.

Jones, a founding member of The Rolling Stones (and, to a far-lesser extent, a founding member of the 27 Club), was found dead at the bottom of a swimming pool at Cotchford Farm in East Sussex, England on July 3rd, 1969. Though murder was heavily suspected at the time, Sussex police originally recorded a verdict of “death by misadventure,” barring any concrete evidence. After over four decades and constant speculation, the same police have just been given fresh information that may point to foul play in Jones’ death.

Though police intend to review these documents carefully, a full-on investigation has yet to be launched. “These papers will be examined by Sussex Police, but it is too early to comment at this time as to what the outcome will be,” said a spokesman for the Sussex police.

Obama’s communist green job czar

Van Jones is one of the most prominent radicals in America. When he was younger he was a black panther, later he became a radical leninist who joined organizations that wanted to cause a communist revolution in America thereby overthrowing the capitalist system.

Even though Jones is clearly a radical, he was recently appointed one of the most powerful men in America when President Barack Obama appointed Jones his ‘green jobs czar.’

Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement (STORM), the revolutionary group formed by self-described “communist” and “rowdy black nationalist” Van Jones, held a vigil in Oakland, California, “mourning the victims of U.S. imperialism around the world” on the night after Sept. 11, 2001.

The reason this is important is because Van Jones is now President Obama’s green jobs czar. He does not appear to have distanced himself from his past communist activities and is now part of the Obama administration’s push to turn Sept. 11 into a National Day of Service focused on the promotion of the radical environmentalist agenda.

Jones’ STORM group published a revolutionary manifesto after the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01. In this manifesto, the group blames the United States government, not extremist Muslims, for the attack. The US brought these attacks upon itself, STORM said, by its imperialist and bigoted policies.

And now a prominent member of this leninist group is Obama’s green jobs czar. A man you’d protect your children against has become one of the most powerful and influential men in the most powerful country on earth.

It’s possibly only in Obama’s America.

Surprise! Ridge backpedals on pressure to raise terror alert level

Tom Ridge's book, "The Test of Our Times," comes out Tuesday and recounts his days as head of Homeland Security.
By Mimi Hall
Former Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge, speaking for the first time about accusations made in his new book, says he did not mean to suggest that other top Bush administration officials were playing politics with the nation's security before the 2004 presidential election.

"I'm not second-guessing my colleagues," Ridge said in an interview about The Test of Our Times, which comes out Tuesday and recounts his experiences as head of the nation's homeland security efforts in the first several years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

In the book, Ridge portrays his fledgling department as playing second fiddle to other Cabinet-level heavyweights. As secretary, he says he was never invited to participate in National Security Council meetings, he was left out of the information loop by the FBI and his proposal to establish Homeland Security offices in major cities such as New Orleans were rejected.

His most explosive accusation: that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Attorney General John Ashcroft pressed him to raise the national threat level after Osama bin Laden released a videotape criticizing President Bush shortly before Election Day 2004. Ridge writes he rejected raising the level because bin Laden had released nearly 20 such tapes since 9/11 and the latest contained nothing suggesting an imminent threat.

Noting that Bush's approval ratings typically went up when the threat level was raised, Ridge writes that Ashcroft and Rumsfeld pushed to elevate it during a "vigorous" discussion.

"Ashcroft strongly urged an increase in the threat level, and was supported by Rumsfeld," he writes. "There was absolutely no support for that position within our department. None. I wondered, 'Is this about security or politics?' "

Although he prevailed and the threat level was not elevated, Ridge writes that the episode reinforced his decision to resign. He did so weeks after the election.

Last week, when word got out about Ridge's accusations, Rumsfeld's spokesman Keith Urbahn issued a statement calling them "nonsense."

Now, Ridge says he did not mean to suggest he was pressured to raise the threat level, and he is not accusing anyone of trying to boost Bush in the polls. "I was never pressured," Ridge said.

The former secretary and Pennsylvania governor, who now heads a security consulting firm called Ridge Global, also said in the interview that:
He and his immediate successor, Michael Chertoff, recently were asked to speak with a panel considering changes to the color-coded threat advisory system for new Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

He is "dumbfounded" that the government still has no way to track foreign visitors who don't leave the country when their visas expire, noting that two of the 9/11 hijackers were in the country on expired visas.

Government officials and members of Congress rarely discuss homeland security issues and have "lost the sense of urgency" about protecting the nation from terrorist attacks. Because of the economy and growing budget deficits, he also is worried about funding for future efforts to tighten security.

Bad Boys III Possibly Coming for You

With Michael Bay off making giant robot movies, Will Smith solidifying himself as one of the most bankable movie stars on Earth, and Martin Lawrence, well… still acting, it would be understandable if there was never a third installment in the Bad Boys series. However, by way of The Hollywood Reporter, comes news that not only has Columbia started to develop a Bad Boys 3 but has already signed a screenwriter to it.

Columbia has hired Peter Craig to write the Bad Boys 3 script - Craig doesn’t have any completed screenplays out there yet (he has three in development, including Cowboy Bebop), but according to Wikipedia he’s a published author of “darkly comic novels of imploding father-son relationships.” The hope is to have a script which will reunite director Michael Bay, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and stars, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.

However, at this stage, even with a writer on-board, the project is still in the early stages and no deal has been made with any of the four main players from the first two to come back for another. Pretty much with all of them (except maybe Lawrence), there comes an expensive price tag attached. As stated, Smith is about the only true bankable movie star in the business (his last 8 movies have all surpassed the $100 million mark), and by now Bay is used to getting huge paychecks and collecting percentages of money from toy merchandising.

However, if you look at the money the first two movies made, I don’t think the studio should be that worried: The first one cost $19 million to make, and made over $140 million at the worldwide box office; the second one’s budget ballooned to a whopping $130 million (I guess the boys wanted bigger toys to play with), but still ending up making over $270 million worldwide. I’m sure if Bay were to come back he’d want a similarly high budget to play with (after all, he’s used to those giant fighting robots that cost a small country’s wealth to put on screen).

Big question, though: Is there still enough interest in Bad Boys to make a third installment worth the while? I’d actually guess that yeah, there probably is. With two (really) popular films to play off of, and the audience-drawing Smith as one of the leads (that’s presuming he comes back), I don’t think a Bad Boys 3 would have much trouble filling the seats.

As stated, although no agreements or deals have been made by Bay, Smith, Lawrence or Bruckheimer, all of them have expressed past interest in doing another Bad Boys. One quote from Bruckheimer said that towards the end of the shoot for the second film, both Smith and Lawrence were already ready to sign up for another one because they were having so much fun. Another quote from Smith at the 2008 MTV Movie Awards said that he’s got an idea for a story for the third movie, but that Bay is now, “too expensive… way too expensive.”

Have you looked in the mirror, lately, Mr. Smith?!…

I enjoyed the first two Bad Boys for what they were. They have some great action sequences (the one on the freeway in the second one is exhilarating), and Smith and Lawrence are fun to watch together. But I never held them in that high regard, and IMO are pretty throwaway (I say they could be classified as guilty pleasures) and I don’t really find myself wanting to revisit them. However, I’d give a third one a shot, if only for another dose of car chases and explosions with Smith and Lawrence leading - or rather, chasing after - the chaos once more.

What do you think about a Bad Boys 3? Are you all for it or is your reaction, “Aw, hell naw!”?

Jenna Bush Joins the Today Show

NBC's Today show has hired Jenna Bush Hager as a new correspondent.

The 27-year-old teacher and daughter of George W. Bush will contribute once a month with stories on issues like education to TV top-rated morning news show.

Jenna Bush said she has always wanted to be a teacher and a writer, and has already authored two books. But she was intrigued by the idea of getting into TV.

"It wasn't something I'd always dreamed to do," she said. "But one of the most important things in life is to be open-minded and to be open-minded for change."

Jenna will essentially work two part-time jobs as a correspondent for Today and in her school, where she will be a reading coordinator this year.

She was on the morning news program two years ago to promote her book about an HIV-infected single mother, Ana's Story: A Journey of Hope, and it went so well that Hager's short interview was stretched to nearly a half hour.

She and her mother, Laura Bush, also co-hosted an hour of Today about the time their picture book came out. She "just sort of popped to us as a natural presence, comfortable" on the air, said executive producer Jim Bell.

"I think she can handle it," he said. "I think she knows something about pressure and being under scrutiny. When she came here, she knocked it out of the park."

Jenna, who married Henry Hager last year, will work out of NBC's Washington bureau.

"I hope to focus on what I'm passionate about because I think I'd do them best job on them urban education, women and children's issues and literacy," she said.

While not as exciting as Melissa Rycroft joining the staff of Good Morning America, we're happy for Jenna and her newest career endeavor.

Disney To Acquire Marvel Entertainment For $4 Billion

The Walt Disney Company has agreed to acquire Marvel Entertainment in a stock and cash transaction, the companies announced this morning. Under the terms of the agreement and based on last week’s closing price of Disney, Marvel shareholders would receive a total of $30 per share in cash plus approximately 0.745 Disney shares for each Marvel share they own.

Based on the closing price of Disney stock on Friday, August 28, the total transaction value is $50 per Marvel share or approximately $4 billion.

Under the deal, which has been approved by the boards of both companies, Disney will acquire ownership of Marvel including its portfolio of over 5,000 Marvel characters. That portfolio includes many familiar names like Iron Man, Spider-Man, X-Men, Captain America, Fantastic Four and Thor.

Says Disney CEO Robert A. Iger in a statement: “We believe that adding Marvel to Disney’s unique portfolio of brands provides significant opportunities for long-term growth and value creation.”

Ike Perlmutter, Marvel’s CEO, added: “Disney is the perfect home for Marvel’s fantastic library of characters given its proven ability to expand content creation and licensing businesses. This is an unparalleled opportunity for Marvel to build upon its vibrant brand and character properties by accessing Disney’s tremendous global organization and infrastructure around the world.”

Mr. Perlmutter will oversee the Marvel properties, and will work directly with Disney’s global lines of business to build and further integrate Marvel’s properties.

Marvel stock is surging following the news, up 10+ points at the time of writing (+27%), while Disney’s is down a little (-0,5%).

How to Donate to the Jaycee Dugard Trust Fund

The kidnapping of Jaycee Lee Dugard took place on June 10, 1991. Dugard was abducted from a school bus stop, which was within sight of her home in South Lake Tahoe, California. She was abducted at the age of 11 and was reported missing for over 18 years. On August 26, 2009, Dugard appeared in the office of her alleged kidnapper's parole officer in California, and on August 27, 2009 her true identity was confirmed.

Law enforcement officers believe that Dugard was kept in a concealed area behind Phillip Garrido's house in Antioch, California, where she had remained for 18 years. Dugard had become pregnant at age 14, and conceived two daughters during this time. She had reportedly told a neighbor that she was their older sister. Phillip Craig Garrido, 58, and his wife Nancy Garrido, 55, of Antioch, California were arrested for kidnapping and other charges.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

PREVIEW: 'Michael Jackson, King Of Pop' Comic Book

Back in June, we told you about Bluewater Productions' plans to publish the comic book biography "Tribute: Michael Jackson, King Of Pop." Now, we have your first look at the comic, which will chronicle the entertainer's life and many contributions to music and pop culture.

Click on the image below for a five-page preview of "Tribute: Michael Jackson, King Of Pop," which hits shelves in October and features a wraparound cover and forward by Giuseppe Mazzola, a member of "The Official Michael Jackson Fan Club" and a personal friend of the musician. Wey-Yuih Loh ("Political Power: Colin Powell") and Giovanni Timpano ("Vincent Price Presents") will write and illustrate the book, respectively.

According to Bluewater president Darren G. Davis, "Tribute" will be a 24-page comic that will also include a "special section we are working on with Golden Apple Comics, the store Michael Jackson shopped at for the last 20 years."

As frequent readers know, Jackson was no stranger to the world of comics. Along with a collection of comics and comic book movie memorabilia that would have even the most jaded fan drooling, Jackson almost became the owner of Marvel Comics back in the '90s in a partnership with Stan Lee.

Lee explained how their relationship began and how close they actually came to buying Marvel

Fresh Fighting Erupts in Burma

Fresh fighting broke out early Saturday in northeastern Burma after days of clashes between government troops and ethnic rebels.

Thousands of people have fled to the border town of Nansan in China's Yunnan province this month to escape clashes in Kokang in Burma's Shan state, following the deployment of government troops in the area.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says up to 30,000 people have fled into China.

The Chinese Red Cross told the Chinese Daily newspaper that one person was killed and several were injured Friday when someone threw a bomb across the Chinese border.

China has called on Burma to maintain stability in the border region and urged more measures to protect the security and legal rights of Chinese citizens there.

War in Darfur is finished, claims UN commander

Nigerian general suggests only one rebel group is still capable of military attacks

By Daniel Howden, Africa Correspondent

The six-year war in Darfur is effectively over, according to the United Nations military commander in the region. The conflict that has cost 300,000 lives, according to UN estimates, and displaced up to 2.7 million people has ended, General Martin Luther Agwai said yesterday.

"As of today, I would not say there is a war going on in Darfur," the outgoing head of the joint UN-African Union mission told reporters in the Sudanese capital Khartoum. "Militarily there is not much. What you have is security issues more now. Banditry, localised issues, people trying to resolve issues over water and land at a local level. But real war as such, I think we are over that."

However, the Nigerian general's comments drew an angry response from Western campaigners and some Sudan observers. One regional analyst, Gill Lusk, said the remarks were unhelpful because they could lead people to believe that Darfur's problems had been solved. "There has been a large decline in fighting in Darfur, and that is undoubtedly a good thing for the people," she told the BBC. "But it is the government that turns the tap on and off – they can restart the violence whenever they want."

At the height of the war in 2005, Arab Janjaweed militias were raiding African villages, burning, killing and raping civilians. In some cases, villages were bombed by government planes disguised as humanitarian flights. The scale of the atrocities provoked an international outcry and accusations of genocide against the Arab-led government in Khartoum.

It also resulted in the International Criminal Court issuing an arrest warrant this year for Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, the first time a serving president has been indicted for war crimes. Khartoum has denied charges of genocide, estimates casualties at 10,000 and maintains that the hundreds of thousands of Darfuris living in refugee camps should return home.

General Agwai said the underlying causes of the conflict, and many of the rebel groups, remained in place but he said only one of them – the Justice and Equality Movement – was in a position to launch military strikes. "Because of the fragmentation of the rebel groups, I do not see any major thing that can take place," the commander added.

Fouad Hikmat, a regional analyst with the International Crisis Group, said the absence of war did not amount to peace. "We do not have peace in Darfur. There is no violence but it is not peace. All of the underlying causes of conflict in the region remain. There is a sort of ceasefire but the violence could return very quickly."

The Darfur conflict began in 2003 when several non-Arab groups took up arms against Khartoum, complaining at lack of representation and deliberate neglect of the region. The Bashir government has sought to portray the fighting as tribal rivalries over land and water. Attempts at reaching a negotiated settlement have failed.

America's special envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration, said in June there were only the "remnants of a genocide" in Darfur.

GOP blasts Idaho candidate's 'Obama tags' comment

The list of Idaho Republicans condemning a GOP gubernatorial candidate's comments about buying a license to hunt President Barack Obama grew Friday, as party leaders worried the incident would reflect badly on the state.

U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo said former elk rancher Rex Rammell's comment at a Twin Falls GOP merits an apology, U.S. Sen. Jim Risch disavowed him from the Republican Party, and Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter called Rammell's comment "reckless and inflammatory."

Rammell is among those running in the 2010 Idaho GOP primary against incumbent Otter.

On Tuesday, a GOP rally attendee shouted a question about "Obama tags" during discussion of Idaho's upcoming wolf hunt, where hunters must purchase $11.50 wolf tags.

Rammell responded, "The Obama tags? We'd buy some of those."

In a statement Friday, Crapo said, "Rex Rammell's comments are in very poor taste and should not have been said. Remarks like these should not even be made jokingly. He should apologize for those remarks and for the perception they may have created."

Otter said Friday afternoon that there was no place for Rammell's comments in Idaho, which he said damages confidence in the political process and those who serve the public.

"As governor, as an Idaho Republican and as a citizen of our state, I reject and condemn this kind of rhetoric," he said.

Rammell, a longshot GOP candidate who as an independent garnered just 5.4 percent of the vote in his unsuccessful 2008 U.S. Senate run against Risch, has refused to apologize and said he doesn't advocate assassinating Obama.

"Anyone who understands the law knows I was just joking, because Idaho has no jurisdiction to issue hunting tags in Washington D.C.," he said.

Rammell isn't the first Rexburg resident who has drawn attention for making an anti-Obama comment.

Last November, second- and third-grade students on a school bus there chanted "Assassinate Obama" after his election, prompting the mayor of this eastern Idaho town to publicly apologize.

U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson also criticized Rammell's comments, which he said weren't a true reflection of Idaho residents' hearts.

"It is absolutely irresponsible to say such inflammatory things, especially for someone who seeks to be a leader in Idaho," Simpson said. "I know our great state is filled with people who do not share Rex Rammell's views and we should not let isolated situations dictate how our state is perceived."

Risch has tangled with Rammell before, in 2006.

That summer, more than 100 elk from Rammell's ranch near Rexburg escaped into the wilds, prompting Risch, then Idaho's governor, to order an emergency hunt to prevent the spread of disease or interbreeding with wild elk herds near Yellowstone National Park.

Rammell's political run two years later against Risch for U.S. Senate — a race Rammell contested as an independent — was seen largely as an attempt to settle a personal grudge.

On Friday, Risch disowned Rammell as a GOP colleague.

"Everyone needs to remember the last time Rex Rammell ran for public office, he said, 'I'm not really a Republican.' He then filed as an independent," Risch said in a telephone interview from Lewiston, Idaho. "I agree with him. He's not a Republican. We all have our disagreements with the president, sometimes deep disagreements. But the man is the president of the United States and deserves to be treated as such."

SAT scores still low for African-American youth

More minorities are taking the SAT, but test scores for black students remain lowest among racial and ethnic groups, according to data released this week by the College Board.

Black students scored at least 72 points behind the overall average in critical reading, mathematics and writing.

"No one is disputing the fact that black and Hispanic students score much lower than white students do," said Andy Jacob, spokesman for the New York City Department of Education. "In the past, a lot of black and Hispanic kids were not taking [the SAT] at all and I don't think anyone wants to go back to those days."

Education advocates say more minority test takers is a positive first step but more is needed to fix the disparity in test scores.

"[More students taking the test] is not the end of the road," said Kim Sweet, execuitve director of the Advocacy for Children of New York. "It is still about how well the students are doing on the test and where they're going after. All of us in education need to work harder in making that happen."

Serena Williams seeks 12th major title at US Open

In one breath, Serena Williams says she considers herself the favorite at the U.S. Open.

In the next, she says she doesn't want to be touted as the woman to beat at the year's last Grand Slam tournament, which begins Monday.

At one point, Williams says she has no target number for major titles. At another point, she says she really was hoping to surpass Monica Seles' nine major singles championships — and now that Williams has 11, she wants to catch Billie Jean King's career count of 12.

"I used to never look at numbers. But the more I get, the more numbers I look at," Williams said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I want to get back to where I don't look at numbers."

Perhaps Williams is simply saying the first thing that comes to mind. Perhaps she's really not sure how she feels. Or perhaps she's working on her acting chops during interviews and news conferences.

This much is clear: There have been two very different tennis players who have shown up under the name "Serena Williams" the past 12 months.

Check out these statistics dating to the start of the 2008 U.S. Open:

_Grand Slam Tournament Serena Williams is 25-1, for a .962 winning percentage, with three titles at the past four major championships, including a year ago at Flushing Meadows; she is 9-1 against top-10 players at majors in that span.

_Lesser Tournament Serena Williams is 21-11 (plus one walkover), for a .656 winning percentage, with zero titles at her past 12 nonmajor events; she is 3-5 against top-10 players at nonmajors in that span.

The contrast in numbers is far less pronounced for older sister Venus, but she, too, tends to play her best on the sport's biggest stages. Venus ranks second to Serena among active women with seven major titles.

"The Williams sisters just take it to another level when they are playing the Slams," observed Martina Navratilova, who won 18 Grand Slam singles titles.

"The Williams sisters look at it as an opportunity," added Navratilova, part of Tennis Channel's announcing team at the U.S. Open. "They don't put that much pressure on themselves when they play the other tournaments. It's sort of like warmups."

Compare that to someone such as Dinara Safina, who is No. 1 in the WTA rankings and seeded No. 1 at the U.S. Open, ahead of No. 2 Serena Williams and No. 3 Venus Williams. Safina is 0-3 in Grand Slam finals over her career; she has, however, won three other titles in 2009.

Ask the younger Williams about the key to defending her championship at Flushing Meadows and she insists that she can't allow any shred of pressure to creep into her thoughts.

"I have to be really relaxed. Last year, I was super relaxed, and super calm. I just enjoyed every moment," she said. "That's where I need to be again."

Williams certainly knows what it takes to succeed at major tournaments, but there have been dips in performance at those events, too. For a while, she drew criticism for spending too much time pursuing outside interests and not enough time honing her game.

On the other hand, Williams' forays into fashion and acting helped turn her into something of a brand. She is not merely a sports star; she is a celebrity.

That's why she was invited to unveil a wax figure of herself Thursday at Madame Tussauds New York. That's why she was asked to make a guest appearance on Shaquille O'Neal's reality TV show. That's why she has an autobiography coming out next week. That's why she has nearly 1 million followers on Twitter.

That said, Williams is at her best — and is as good as it gets — when she has a racket in her hand, particularly at Grand Slam tournaments these days.

"I'm happy where I'm at, and I feel like I have several hundred more years to play," said Williams, who turns 28 in September. "Hopefully I'll win more."

Police Chief Tells NAACP Officer Was Wrong

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati's police chief says he expects to see the final internal affairs report on the tasing of a city councilman's daughter sometime Friday.

Celeste Thomas, 26, daughter of Councilman Cecil Thomas, was shot with a taser gun and arrested Sunday during a traffic stop.

Addressing a meeting of the NAACP at Southern Baptists Church in Avondale Thursday night, Chief Tom Streicher said the officer used unnecessary and excessive force because Thomas was not physically resisting arrest.

"There's not a criminal charge of assaulting a police officer, menacing a police officer, or resisting arrest," says Streicher. "And those are the charges that should be there that would support that use of force. Where's the charge? If it's not there, then I've got to ask the question, 'Then why did you use the taser?'"

Chief Streicher said the cruiser-cam video and witness statements from the arrest of Celeste Thomas, indicate she may have been interfering with officers arresting the man driving her car, but she was not physically resisting.

"If a person is on their knees, hands in the air asking, 'What did I do?’ – are they resisting arrest or are they posing a threat? I would have to say no,” said Streicher.

Our calls to the Fraternal Order of Police went unanswered Thursday night. But the story here on announcing the chief's meeting with the NAACP drew more than 130 comments, most of them angry the chief was not standing behind Officer Plummer.

The chief said, "The crowd is pretty happy in here. But read my e-mail. I got some hate mail over this, 'don't support your officers, blah, blah.' Well I do support the officers, I do support the department, I do support the community, but above all I support my oath of office. I don;t make decisions to make people happy. I make decisions to do the right thing."

Supporters of Officer Plummer were planning a protest at City Hall Saturday.

The chief suspended Officer Plummer's police powers, stripping him of his badge, gun, and placing him on desk duty pending the outcome of the internal investigation.

Meanwhile, Chief Streicher says, if he isn't happy with the report and its recommendations, he'll send it back.

Federal Reserve Threatens Economic Disaster If Forced to Reveal Secrets

The Federal Reserve has come out swinging at the judge who ruled in favor of Bloomberg News and their Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request.

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Reserve asked a federal judge not to enforce her order that it reveal the names of the banks that have participated in its emergency lending programs and the sums they received, saying such disclosure would threaten the companies and the economy.

The central bank filed its request on Wednesday, two days after Chief Judge Loretta Preska of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan ruled in favor of Bloomberg News, which had sought information under the federal Freedom of Information Act. [...]

“Immediate release of these documents will cause irreparable harm to these institutions and to the board’s ability to effectively manage the current, and any future, financial crisis,” the central bank argued.

It added that the public interest favors a delay, citing a potential for “significant harms that could befall not only private companies, but the economy as a whole” if the information were disclosed. [...]

And a group of banks that make up the Clearing House Association LLC has sent a request to the judge urging her to reconsider her ruling.

The Clearing House Association LLC, which represents banks, in a separate filing supported the Fed’s call for a delay. It said speculation that banks’ liquidity is drying up could cause runs on deposits, and trading partners to demand collateral.

“Survival can depend on the ephemeral nature of public confidence,” Clearing House general counsel Norman Nelson wrote. “Experience in the banking industry has shown that when customers and market participants hear negative rumors about a bank, negative consequences inevitably flow.”

The Clearing House said its members include ABN Amro Holding NV, Bank of America Corp (BAC.N), Bank of New York Mellon Corp (BK.N), Citigroup Inc (C.N), Deutsche Bank AG (DBKGn.DE), HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA.L), JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N), UBS AG (UBSN.VX), U.S. Bancorp (USB.N) and Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N).

I guess judge Loretta Preska has received ‘the phone call’ telling her to back down. Today the judge has issued a stay to the order she issued just two days ago in order to allow the Federal Reserve time to put together an appeal. The judge has stayed the order until September 30th to appeal the Freedom of Information Act ruling.

It is tax payer money that is in question here and ‘we’ want to know how it is being used. The Federal Reserve continues to play games and is fighting every request to disclose anything about how the public funds are being used. Ron Pauls HR 1207 bill to audit the Fed will probably end up in the ‘do not call’ registry very soon as well.

Transparency? ha ha ha

Failed Banks and the Deposit Insurance Fund

As a companion to the August 28 Problem Bank List (unofficial), below is a list of failed banks since Jan 2007.

The FDIC released the Q2 Quarterly Banking Profile this week. The report showed that the Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) balance had fallen to $10.4 billion or 0.22% of insured deposits.

Click on graph for larger image in new window.

The graph shows the cumulative estimated losses to the FDIC Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) and the quarterly assets of the DIF (as reported by the FDIC). Note that the FDIC takes reserves against future losses in the DIF, and collects fees and special assessments - so you can't just subtract estimated losses from assets to determine the assets remaining in the DIF.

The cumulative estimated losses for the DIF are now over $40 billion.

In this Dick Bove interview with CNNMoney, the interviewer Poppy Harlow said:

"When we look at that list though - we don't get the names from the FDIC obviously - only about 13% of the bank on that list actually end up failing".
The 13% number is historically accurate, but that is over the entire cycle - and this down cycle will probably be worse than most. So during this down period, the percentage will probably be much higher. As far as the names of the banks on the "list", most of them are on the Unofficial Problem Bank list.

The FDIC closed three more banks on Friday, and that brings the total FDIC bank failures to 84 in 2009.

Obama: No turf wars, red tape in Katrina recovery

President Barack Obama marked the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on Saturday by pledging to make sure that turf wars and red tape don't slow the pace of the continuing recovery.

He also said he would visit New Orleans by years' end.

In his weekly radio and Internet address, the president noted that the Bush administration's response to the killer storm raised questions among people in the U.S. about whether the government "could fulfill its responsibility to respond in a crisis."

He said he wanted to ensure "that the legacy of a terrible storm is a country that is safer and more prepared for the challenges that may come."

Since taking office, Obama has sent 11 members of the Cabinet to the region to inspect progress and to hear local ideas on how to speed up repairs.

"Our approach is simple: Government must keep its responsibility to the people, so that Americans have the opportunity to take responsibility for their future," Obama said in his address, released during his vacation on Martha's Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts.

Katrina struck the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, 2005, killing more than 1,600 people in Louisiana and Mississippi and leaving behind more than $40 billion in property damage. Hurricane Rita followed almost a month later, with billions of dollars in additional damage and at least 11 more deaths.

Obama acknowledged that recovery has not come at an acceptable pace.

"I have also made it clear that we will not tolerate red tape that stands in the way of progress or the waste that can drive up the bill," said Obama. "Government must be a partner — not an opponent — in getting things done."

As a candidate, he promised during a speech at Tulane University in February 2008 to help the city hire police officers, repair schools, improve public transit, finish rebuilding the levee system and offer financial incentives to attract teachers, businesses and medical professionals.

Obama's disaster relief chief, Craig Fugate, has been cited by Gulf Coast officials and Obama administration officials alike for breaking through the gridlock that has delayed recovery.

Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., recently said he had a lot of respect for Fugate and his team. "There is a sense of momentum and a desire to get things done," he said of the career emergency official.

In half a year, Obama's team says it has cleared at least 75 projects that were in dispute, including libraries, schools and university buildings.

Even so, many towns remain broken, littered with boarded-up houses and overgrown vacant lots. Hundreds of projects — including critical needs such as sewer lines, fire stations and a hospital — are entangled in the bureaucracy or federal-local disputes over who should pick up the tab.

"No more turf wars," Obama said. "All of us need to move forward together, because there is much more work to be done," he said.

Bucs name Leftwich starting QB

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have named Byron Leftwich their starting quarterback for the regular season opener, September 13 against Dallas.

Leftwich, who was signed to a two-year contract in the offseason, was tabbed as the starter over Luke McCown after a battle during training camp and the preseason.

"Byron did something a little bit more special as far as what he can do off the play-action pass, getting the ball down the field," said Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris. "Some of those things came more natural to him."

Leftwich spent the 2008 season with Pittsburgh, performing as the backup to Ben Roethlisberger after Charlie Batch was shelved with a broken right collarbone.

The Marshall product appeared in five games for the Super Bowl champion Steelers, completing 21-of-36 passes for 303 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Leftwich, the seventh overall pick of the 2003 NFL Draft, was 24-20 as a starter in four injury-plagued seasons in Jacksonville. The 29-year-old quarterback was released by the Jaguars before the 2007 campaign, and signed with the Atlanta Falcons, where he played just three games while throwing for 279 yards on 32-of-58 passing.

In 54 career games, Leftwich has thrown for 9,624 yards with 54 TDs and 38 interceptions.

McCown will serve as Leftwich's backup with rookie Josh Freeman slated in the No. 3 role.

"Luke did a great job competing," said Morris. "He was a competitor. He took chances and had some success doing it, but we thought Leftwich was the better guy."

The Bucs made some roster moves Saturday. They released defensive end Jarriett Buie, defensive back DeAngelo Willingham and guard Julius Wilson, also waived wide receiver Kelly Campbell.

DJ AM - His Tragic Return To Drugs Proved Deadly

An autopsy got underway Saturday afternoon to determine the exact cause of DJ AM's death -- but with cops already leaking the news that a crack pipe and numerous prescription drugs were found in the apartment, there's little doubt that pharmaceutics played a role in the disc jockey's tragic demise.

The sight of his body being removed from the Manhattan building Friday night was shocking enough to his family and friends but few if any were prepared for the idea that he'd fallen back into drugs.

Click Here For More Photos.

As recently as August 25, DJ AM was proudly talking to friends about his 11 years of sobriety, has learned. Then he broke up with girlfriend Hayley Wood. The American Apparel model, 23, reportedly was the one who ended the affair and DJ AM took the break-up hard. AM, whose real name was Adam Goldstein, and Wood began dating last December.

He was discovered dead in his $2 million apartment in Manhattan's SoHo District at 5:23 PM. Concerned that AM hadn't shown up for a flight to Las Vegas, two friends had gone to his home and when they couldn't get a response, called 911. Police broke in and found AM's lifeless body on his bed.

It's been almost a year since the AM and good pal Travis Barker were in a plane crash that cost the lives of four others. AM suffered Survivor's Guilt from the episode and was in chronic pain from his injuries -- possible other contributing factors to his return to drugs.

Karzai widens lead in Afghan election race

KABUL — President Hamid Karzai widened his lead over his main challenger in election returns released Saturday, creeping toward the 50 percent mark that would enable him to avoid a run-off in the divisive presidential contest.

Karzai's top challenger Abdullah Abdullah stepped up his fraud charges, raising doubts whether the former foreign minister's followers would accept the incumbent if he wins in the first round.

Accusations of fraud in the Aug. 20 vote have poured into the Electoral Complaint Commission, which must investigate the allegations before final results can be announced.

Fraud allegations from Abdullah and other presidential candidates as well as low turnout in the violent south could strip the election of legitimacy, not only among Afghans but also among the United States and its international partners that have staked their Afghan policies on support for a credible government.

A widely accepted Afghan government is one of the pillars of President Barack Obama's strategy to turn the tide of the Taliban insurgency. The election controversy has boiled over at a time of rising U.S. and NATO casualties, undermining support for the war in the U.S., Britain and other countries with troops here.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown paid a surprise visit Saturday to British troops in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province, hoping to counter critics who accuse his government of failing to support Britain's mission here. A British Marine was killed by a bomb in Helmand on the day of the prime minister's visit, the Ministry of Defense said in London.

Figures released Saturday show Karzai with 46.2 percent of the votes against Abdullah's 31.4 percent. The results are based on 35 percent of the country's polling stations, meaning the percentages could still change dramatically.

Few results have been announced from northern Balkh province, where Abdullah was expected to run strong, and from some southern Pashto-speaking provinces where Karzai draws his support.

Karzai's aides appeared confident that the president would score a first-round victory and avoid a run-off, which would probably be held in October if needed.

By contrast, Abdullah has been stepping up his charges, telling Italy's RAI television that Karzai was responsible for "state-crafted, massive election fraud."

Abdullah's drumbeat of allegations appear aimed in part at the United States and its allies, which would face some hard choices if a substantial number of fraud complaints are found to be true.

"If we allow he who robbed the votes of this country to move forward, we would give the Afghan people a future that they do not want to see, and I think this goes also for the international community," Abdullah said in the Italian interview.

Abdullah said he would keep his protests "within the confines of the law."

"But the fact is that the foundations of this country have been damaged by this fraud, throwing it open to all kinds of consequences, including instability," he added. "It is true that the Taliban are the first threat to this country, but an illegitimate government would be the second."

International officials — including Obama, the top U.N. official in Afghanistan and the European Commission — were quick to congratulate Afghans for pulling off the vote in the face of Taliban threats and violence.

But the massive fraud allegations that have surfaced since then have cast a dark shadow over the process, and some officials are withholding judgment on whether the election was credible.

Senior officials from 27 countries — including special U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke — are to meet in Paris on Wednesday to discuss Afghanistan, and the disputed election is likely to dominate the agenda.

During his visit with British forces, Brown promised to provide more equipment to help his soldiers cope with Taliban roadside bombs, the major threat to NATO forces. More than 200 British soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since the war began in 2001 — more than Britain lost in the Iraq conflict.

"Let me pay tribute to the courage, bravery, professionalism and patriotism of our forces," Brown told the troops at the British base in Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province. "I think our forces have shown extraordinary courage during this period. They know the reason why we are here and that is our security at home depends on a stable Afghanistan, no return of the Taliban, and no role for al-Qaida in the running of Afghanistan."

Brown called for speeding up the training of Afghan forces so they can play a bigger role in fighting the Taliban.

Britain has about 9,000 troops in Afghanistan, compared with more than 60,000 Americans. Obama ordered about 21,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan this year, raising the total international force to more than 100,000.

A Principled and Pragmatic Approach to Healthcare Reform

On 8/13/09, Paul Begala's Washington Post article titled Progress Over Perfection made the case that our country needs the "right blend of principle and pragmatism" and we ought not to prefer "glorious defeat to an incremental victory." The primary issue, imo, is how to take an approach stressed by John in the past, i.e., (1) define what we have to (ought to, should, must) do in order for our healthcare reform strategy be judged as principled and, at the same time, (2) define what we can do in order for it to be judged as pragmatic. Following is how I see it.

To be principled, we ought to ensure that our strategy be guided by empathy ("putting yourself in others' shoes" to understand what they are going through) and compassion (caring what others are going through and doing what we reasonably can do to help those in distress). Failure to do so makes the strategy inhumane, fosters civil unrest, and causes cognitive dissonance that is often resolved by heartless, selfish, ignorant rationalizations (e.g., blaming the victim or believing that you are somehow more worthy than those less fortunate). As I have written in my blog, many humans are short on empathy and compassion, and our pathologically mutated form of capitalism breeds this disgusting tendency. When it comes to healthcare reform, a humanely principled strategy, therefore, means giving all Americans ready access to affordable top quality (high value, cost effective) care. Hence, we must have some sort of universal coverage and the means to continually improve the quality and lower the cost of treating persons with biomedical and psychological problems, as well as enabling people to take good care of themselves to prevent and effectively manage those problems.

To be pragmatic, we ought to find fair and effective ways to pay for the tactics aimed at realizing the two main objectives of a principled strategy: (1) providing universal coverage and (2) continually improving care effectiveness and efficiency leading to ever-better and more affordable approaches to care. The methods for financing these tactics must be sustainable over the long term, and there must be ample reliable oversight and transparency to assure no one is gaming the system for their own unprincipled selfish gains at other expense. These requirements are not easy to satisfy, especially since our society tends to focus on short-sighted, quick-fix solutions that are short on empathy and compassion for the public good, and also fail to promote self discipline and personal responsibility & accountability. This points to the need for substantial governmental reform aimed at minimizing lobbyists' influence, quid pro quo favors to party benefactors, operational inefficiencies, etc.

Some of the major healthcare reform tactics being discussed include the public option vs. co-ops, tort reform, and price gouging by pharmaceutical companies. These tactics are all important considerations for a healthcare reform strategy, but they do not explicitly address how they will help achieve the two main objectives of a principled strategy, i.e., prevent healthcare costs from continuously rising and promote ever-greater care quality. That is, these tactics fail to explain how they will to bring ever-increasing value (cost-effectiveness) to the consumer. As a result, it doesn't matter if the government (public option) or private insurers (co-ops) provides insurance coverage, malpractice insurance expenditures drops, and costs medication prices drop because expenditures will continue to climb and quality will not show much improvement unless we can answer these two unaddressed questions:

What is the most cost-effective ways to prevent, diagnose, treat and manage health problems for each person?

How can healthcare providers and consumers be enabled and encouraged to make decisions and take actions that implement those cost-effective ways of avoiding, understanding, and treating/managing health problems?
Answering these two questions requires that we focus extensively on (a) implementing coordinated international scientific research, (b) disseminating ever-evolving evidence-based guidelines emerging from that research, and (c) incentivizing everyone to act accordingly. Any strategy that fails to include the methods and means for achieving these tactics cannot possibly answer to the two questions above, which means it is an inferior unsustainable solution that is neither principled nor pragmatic because:

Consumers will never know how to take care of themselves in the most effective and least costly manner. This ignorance leaves all sorts of opportunities for the promulgation of ineffective and overly expensive self-management approaches.

Healthcare clinicians/providers will never know how to take care of their patients effectively for the least cost. This leaves all sorts of opportunities for ineffective and overly expensive testing/diagnostic and treatment procedures to promulgate due to widespread ignorance. The result is continuing escalation of costs due to over-treatment and over-testing; prescriptions for new and costly procedures, medications and medical devices that offer insignificant gains compared lower cost alternatives; gaming the system through fraudulent and unethical practices aimed at personal financial gains; etc.

The best way to curb malpractice expenditures has less to do with tort reform and more to do with (a) giving everyone the information they need to know the most cost-effective way to diagnose and treat each particular patient and (b) promoting clinicians' competence and willingness to deliver such cost effective care.

The best way to curb prices charged by pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers, and for consumers not to overpay, is for widespread cost-effectiveness and comparative-effectiveness research to be done, including post-market surveillance.
As far as the public option versus co-ops is concerned, I suggest that if co-ops can provide high-value care via affordable coverage for everyone in a way that cost the taxpayer less than a comparable public option plan, then we don't need the public option. I reject arguments by the insurance industry that they are better able to manage universal coverage because they have more experience and patient data by which to make decisions since the data they have are "claims/administrative" data, which is grossly inadequate for answering the two questions above; what's needed are comprehensive clinical outcomes data (see this link). Nevertheless, the problem is that it is impossible to validly determine if co-ops are superior unless the public plan is also implemented, so we can compare the two.

Here's an idea: Since it will take some time to establish and initiate a public plan, how about starting by instituting a nation-wide co-op system immediately and having it run for a year while the public plan is being created. The cost, quality, and access data depicting the co-op's performance would be analyzed at the end of the year, the results would be made transparent o the public, and this information would serve as a baseline by which to rate the performance of the public plan and subsequent versions of the co-op system. I suppose we can start by estimating the cost of the public option by extrapolating expansion of the current Medicare system, and then compare it to the co-op option supported by government subsidies. Anyway, both options must include the price of implementing the necessary cost-effectiveness research and incentives, as well as providing a justifiable game plan about how it will all be done in a sustainable way. In addition, there must be transparency of cost and quality for both options, so consumers can make an informed decision. No matter the method used, there must be a valid way to clearly compare the two options.

Lots of details to be worked out, of which cost of coverage is only one factor. Other factors required for continuous increase in the value (cost-effectiveness) of care to the consumer--in addition to the need for universal coverage, knowledge of cost-effectiveness, incentives for delivering high-value care, tort reform, and cost controls on pharmaceuticals—include the need for (a) care coordination (e.g., through patient-centered medical homes), (b) well-care/sick-care integration, (c) serious consideration of complementary and alternative (CAM) approaches to care in addition to conventional Western allopathic approaches, (d) serious consideration of the mind-body connection, and (e) development and use of next-generation health information technology that provides clinical decision support through implementation of patient-centered cognitive support methods.

Being overly focused on the immediate cost and management of universal coverage, without a balanced focus on the urgent need to continuously increase care value to the consumer, will never result in a better healthcare system and, most likely, will cause further deterioration of care quality and substantial rise of costs over time!

I conclude, therefore, that we certainly do need a principled and pragmatic approach to healthcare reform. Unfortunately, the current debate in our country is grossly imbalanced as we focus on ways to pay for and administer universal coverage, without due consideration for how we will pay for and administer ways to continually increase value to the consumer in ways that reduce healthcare expenditures and improve care quality over the long haul. The bottom line: I contend that the ONLY principled and pragmatic way to minimize cost while maximizing care quality (i.e., optimizing cost-effectiveness/value) is by assuring everyone get all the personalized care they need—and only the care they need—which is delivered in the most efficient and effect way possible. We are literally in the dark ages, however, when it comes having such evidence-based knowledge! This means that we much commit the resources necessary to (a) obtain and evolve such knowledge through international collaboration focused on ongoing clinical outcomes research, and (b) use such knowledge to support the decisions and actions taken by clinicians and consumers. This should be a top priority equal in importance to universal coverage!

Gulf Coast Still Struggling Four Years After Hurricane Katrina

The widespread devastation from Hurricane Katrina still leaves its mark across the Gulf Coast four years after the massive storm came ashore, killing nearly 2,000 people in the process. Many of those killed were never recovered, but my thoughts and prayers go out to them, their families, and their friends.

The storm completely changed entire cities and communities up and down the Gulf Coast. The devastation was total in many areas, and widespread flooding, particularly around New Orleans caused total devastation around the low-lying areas. Commemorations of the hurricane are taking place up and down the Gulf Coast and around New Orleans.

The slow pace of recovery has long been a sore point, and President Obama vows to speed the recovery, particularly around New Orleans:

Mr. Obama said he had coordinated the recovery effort across federal agencies and state and local governments. “No more turf wars,” he said.

“I have also made it clear that we will not tolerate red tape that stands in the way of progress, or the waste that can drive up the bill,” Mr. Obama said, adding, “Government must be a partner, not an opponent, in getting things done.”

He said his administration had put in place dispute-settlement programs in an effort to speed up the recovery.

In addition, he said, the government had freed up hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance that had not been distributed.

“As we rebuild and recover, we must also learn the lessons of Katrina, so that our nation is more protected and resilient in the face of disaster,” Mr. Obama said.

“That means continuing to rebuild hundreds of miles of levees and floodwalls around New Orleans,” Mr. Obama said, “and working to strengthen the wetlands and barrier islands that are the Gulf Coast’s first line of defense.”
Those levees are still not quite up to snuff.

In fact, nationally, levees are in poor shape because of design and/or construction defects such as those protecting New Orleans, threatening millions of Americans. For all the talk about improving infrastructure, levee and waterworks that protect millions of Americans is undercapitalized. Why this is the case is simply a matter of priorities. Politicians would rather unveil new construction projects than the tedium of constant attention that levees and other water protection projects require.

Then there's the issue of levee reconstruction, which has been hampered by natural conditions, including salty soil that inhibits growth of grass that stabilizes the surface of the levees that prevent erosion. The Army Corps was supposed to rebuild a section in Plaquimines Parish, but they didn't even think to test for salt content. They've missed reconstruction deadlines as a result, putting lives in danger.

Pumping stations that are supposed to divert water away from New Orleans aren't up to snuff either. There are questions about the costly system, and that hundreds of millions of dollars could have been saved using proven technologies.
Citing the corps' $430 million plan to replace the hydraulic pumps by 2012, just five years after they were installed, the special counsel concludes that a "proven" direct-drive pump design would have been less prone to corrosion and breakdowns. Based on an independent engineering review, the counsel says direct-drive pumps could have been purchased "more quickly, more reliably and without planning for pump … replacement."

Hydraulic pumps are powered by pressurized oil. Direct-drive pumps use solid drive shafts.

The findings, previously unreported, were sent to President Obama on June 12.

The investigation confirms "serious allegations about the reliability of the pumping equipment" that were raised in a 2007 whistle-blower complaint by corps engineer Maria Garzino, the letter says. The findings raise concerns about whether a major storm could overwhelm rebuilt flood controls that the corps has set up in New Orleans since Katrina hit four years ago this week.

The corps declined to comment, but corps officials previously have disputed the concerns raised by Garzino, who was a supervisor on the pump project.

"There are still questions about the contracting, design and safety of these critical pump stations," Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said about the special counsel's report. The corps must "demonstrate that these structures are indeed safe and will function properly," Landrieu said.

The special counsel's findings are the latest turn in a long debate over the pumps.

The Defense Department's inspector general has reviewed Garzino's concerns twice and ruled each time that the pumps, though not tested as well as they could have been, were a reasonable choice and should provide adequate protection until they're replaced with a more permanent system. Each time, the special counsel, an independent office that investigates whistle-blower complaints, has disputed the Pentagon's conclusions.

It must be restated once again that the disaster in New Orleans was the result of the failure of the levees that were supposed to protect against storm surges. Hurricane Katrina made a glancing blow against New Orleans, hitting further to the East, and the city escaped the damage from the storm as it passed. It was when the backside of the storm forced water back into the various drainage canals that the levees failed - primarily because they were inadequate to the task and improperly designed and constructed. The majority of those killed, and the tremendous damage in New Orleans resulted from the failure of the protection system put in place by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Hot Air also has additional coverage of the anniversary of the landfall along the Gulf Coast, and how much of what people know about happened is wrong.

Jaycee Lee Dugard’s Kidnapper Found While Proselytizing

Over the past couple days, you may have heard the story of Jaycee Lee Dugard, the woman who was abducted at the age of 11 and kept in captivity for 18 years. During that time, she was raped and gave birth to two children (one child was born was Dugard was only 14).

The kidnapper is Phillip Garrido, a 58-year-old and registered sex offender.

While so much of the story is disturbing, what’s particularly relevant to me is how Garrido was caught after all this time:

The case broke after Garrido was spotted Tuesday with two children as he tried to enter the University of California, Berkeley, campus to hand out religious literature. Officers said he was acting suspiciously toward the children. They questioned him and did a background check, determined that he was a parolee and informed his parole officer.

People who knew Garrido said he became increasingly fanatic about his religious beliefs in recent years, sometimes breaking out into song and claiming that God spoke to him through a box.

In April 2008, Garrido registered a corporation called Gods Desire at his home address, according to the California Secretary of State. During recent visits to the showroom, Garrido would talk about quitting the printing business to preach full time and gave the impression he was setting up a church, Allen said.

As reader Stacey writes:

I don’t know what religion has to do with this, if anything, but the fact that this man was proselytizing while keeping a human caged up in his backyard says something bad.

Was this man mentally unstable? No clue. He clearly had issues.

But his non-criminal actions are no different than so many other people — people who want to set up a church, who believe God speaks to them, who proselytize… if you want to call him delusional or crazy because of these things, then you’d be saying that about most religious people, too.

How is someone that deeply religious capable of doing something so awful? Shouldn’t there be some sort of cognitive dissonance going on? I know we all can point to examples of religious people doing evil things (e.g. The Crusades, Hitler, etc.) but this guy is different. He’s someone’s neighbor.

What do religious people say when they hear about this story? It makes no sense to say he wasn’t truly faithful when all the facts point to him being devoutly religious. How do they distance themselves from Garrido’s criminal behavior while believing many of the same things he does?

One thing is clear from this story: Having religious belief does not make you a better, more moral, kinder person than those us without religion.

Obama: Kennedy was 'soul of the Democratic Party'

BOSTON — President Barack Obama has saluted Sen. Edward Kennedy for surmounting pain and suffering to become a family patriarch and personification of American legislator.

Eulogizing the 77-year-old Kennedy, who died Tuesday, Obama called the senator "the soul of the Democratic Party" and said that in his personal life, he lived up the expectations as "the heir to a weighty legacy."

Obama led some 1,500 people, including three former presidents, at a funeral Mass for Kennedy at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basicala in Kennedy's beloved Boston. He said the senator handled life's challenges with a "spirit of resilience and good humor."

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

BOSTON (AP) — President Barack Obama led the nation and a church filled with mourners Saturday in remembering "the greatest legislator of our time," celebrating the indelible impact of Edward M. Kennedy over a 47-year Senate career and his role as patriarch of America's most famous family during tragedy and triumph.

Delivering an emotional, simple eulogy for Kennedy that capped a two-hour Roman Catholic funeral Mass, Obama employed humor, his own experiences and timeless anecdotes to memorialize the senator, who died Tuesday at 77 after battling brain cancer for more than a year. The country may have viewed him as "heir to a weighty legacy," Obama said, but he was playfully known by the youngest Kennedys less grandly: as the big cheese, "The Grand Fromage."

"Ted Kennedy's life's work was not to champion those with wealth or power or special connections," Obama said. "It was to give a voice to those who were not heard; to add a rung to the ladder of opportunity, to make real the dream of our founding."

The president said that "though it is Ted Kennedy's historic body of achievements we will remember, it is his giving heart that we will miss."

The service drew to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica three of the four living former presidents, dozens of Kennedy relatives, pews full of current and former members of Congress and hundreds of others affected by the senator in ways large and small. No fewer than seven priests, 11 pallbearers and 29 honorary pallbearers took part. Mournful performances came from tenor Placido Domingo and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.