Saturday, October 10, 2009

Corzine Uses Ad Blitz to Close Christie Gap

The Republican candidate for governor of New Jersey is losing his grip on a race that once seemed his to lose.

Chris Christie, a 47-year-old former U.S. attorney, had a 10-point lead in polls over Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine as of early September. New Jersey, a state recently hit with a big public-corruption probe and sagging under a heavy tax burden and high unemployment, seemed primed to elect a Republican with a reputation as a crime fighter.

New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, left, greets GOP challenger Chris Christie, right, before their debate last week. Independent candidate Chris Daggett looks on.

But in recent weeks, a torrent of negative advertising from the Corzine camp has stung Mr. Christie and put the Republican on the defensive.

One of the ad campaigns zeroed in on women's health. Mr. Christie had suggested that to get more people insured, insurance companies should be allowed to offer stripped-down policies, freeing them from mandates that certain tests and procedures be covered. A Corzine ad accused Mr. Christie of wanting to allow insurance plans that wouldn't cover mammograms, setting off further ad battles.

"A lot of soft supporters of Chris Christie are asking a lot of hard questions, such as...'What are these candidates going to do about my most important concerns?' " said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. "They are coming up with answers they don't like or they don't see the answers.... As much as they may be unhappy with the current administration, that's not enough to kick him out."

The Corzine camp also appeared question whether Mr. Christie was, literally, fit for office. A voiceover in one TV ad says: "Christie threw his weight around as U.S. attorney and got off easy." Footage shows Mr. Christie climbing out of a vehicle, showing his girth.

Sean Darcy, a Corzine spokesman, said "nothing was deliberate." The governor's campaign "has no interest in Christie's appearance," he said.

The Full Story

Obama's Gates Trainwreck

By Earl Ofari Hutchinson

The stock basketball one liner came to mind when I heard President Obama utter his now infamous “acting stupid” line referring to the cuffing of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates. The star player takes a wild shot and the livid coach screams “no,” “no” “no” and then when the improbable happens and the ball swishes through the net, the coach’s livid “no,” “no,” “no” instantly becomes a fist in the air shaking “yes,” “yes,” “yes.”

My response was the same only in reverse. I said an instant and visceral fist shaking “yes,” “yes,” “yes” to Obama’s Gates quip. After all, the president spoke boldly and unhesitatingly on the always contentious, divisive and painful issue of racial profiling. But then just as quickly I said “no,” “no,” “no.” No, not because I didn’t think it was the right thing to do, and no not because I didn’t think he didn’t have the right to give an opinion, and it was just that an opinion on a touchy issue.

All presidents weigh in with their personal views, opinions, and thoughts, no matter how ill informed at unscripted White House press conferences, and in countless network TV interviews on every subject under the sun. And certainly I didn’t say no because Obama shouldn’t toss racial matters and racial profiling out on the nation’s table. No apology necessary for that. The no, was because I knew that Obama would take a monster hit for piping up on a racial case that’s a ticking time bomb that could explode in his face. President’s can and do recover from ill chosen words on emotion charged issues.

In this case, though, his words came at the worst possible time; a time when the president needs to squeeze and squeeze hard every ounce of the considerable personal and political capital that he’s painstakingly built up over the past few months to get an ever growing number of push back Democrats, dogged obstructionist Republicans, and the recalcitrant powerhouse trio of insurers, medical professionals, and pharmaceuticals who flatly oppose or are waffling on Obama’s public option component of health care reform. This is the centerpiece of the reform package, without it reform is a meaningless exercise in political gamesmanship.

Two new presidential approval polls from Rasmussen and Zogby, confirmed my “no,” “no,” “no” shout. The Rasmussen is an absolute number’s nightmare for Obama. His disapproval rating has soared to nearly 40 percent among voters. Those that strongly approve of his performance sunk to 29 percent. That wasn’t the worst of the bad news. A bare 25 percent of voters thought his answer was good. More than 60 sixty percent thought it was fair or lousy. Even more ominous was the voter breakdown. The crack in Obama’s hitherto impregnable black vote support was glaring. Nearly 30 percent of black voters broke ranks with Obama on his Gates’ answer.

Among Obama’s two other huge breakthrough groups, independents, and young voters, the blowback was even more disastrous. Nearly 70 percent of Independents and nearly 50 percent of young persons rated his answer “fair” or “poor.”

This is just the opening that the usual suspect Obama foes need to pound the president, and by extension his policies on health care, the stimulus, on foreign policy overtures. All are suddenly back in play and in question as set hit pieces for the Obama mashers; but especially health care reform. The issue is no longer the standard knock that it is too costly and a gross case of too much government interference in health care. Obama is now anti-police and an out of the closet race inflamer whose judgment can’t and shouldn’t be trusted on the crucial issue of health care reform.

The more charitable don’t go that far, but instead firmly declare that the presidential honeymoon is officially over. The only good news is that Obama’s popularity outside the U.S. is still off the charts. But foreigners can’t vote for or elect the congresspersons and senators who make and decide major policy decisions, health care reform being front and center the most pressing.

Even Obama’s still high personal popularity ratings don’t mean much. Popular ratings are just that, over-hyped numbers that measure a president's likeability, not his leadership effectiveness.

The true test for a president and how the public rates him is the quality of his leadership. A foreign crisis, a souring economy, out of control partisan battles with Congress, fights with major labor and industry groups, and prolonged military adventures are the things that inflict mortal wounds on presidents. The same is true for real or perceived gaffes, slips, and shoot from the lip comments.

President Obama spoke from the heart and said what needed to be said about the thorny issue of racial profiling. Again, no apology needed for that. He just said it in the wrong case and at the wrong time. Gates was the trainwreck waiting to happen, in other words, “no,” “no,” “no.”

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His weekly radio show, “The Hutchinson Report” can be heard on weekly in Los Angeles at 9:30 AM Fridays on KTYM Radio 1460 AM and live streamed nationally on

Derrion Albert Tragedy is a Civil Rights Call to Action

hicago, IL ( - The senseless death of 16 year-old honor student, Derrion Albert is a shocking snapshot into the epidemic of youth and gang-related violence that plagues Chicago's school children. The fatal beating was captured and broadcast worldwide and elicited a response not only from Chicago's citizens but also from the Obama Administration.

"Derrion was laid to rest on Saturday -- another promising life prematurely extinguished while enrolled in an educational system that I fear discriminates against African-American children. The Fatherhood Educational Institute (FEI) advocates a Civil Rights Call to Action to reduce youth violence, strengthen student programs and to encourage a community overwatch to curb and eventually eliminate gang violence," said Dr. Karl Schmitt (FEI Advisor).

In the wake of the fatal beating, President Obama is sending Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan to Chicago on Wednesday, to address students and the community on school violence. However, it is beyond the time for words, urgent action including the creation of youth afterschool programs are immediately needed.

"While this tragedy is in the forefront of national news, it is Chicago's opportunity to consciously re-shape the fabric of our community through anti-gang legislation with the help of President Obama - who was a steadfast community organizer on the very Chicago streets we are speaking of right now," said Attorney Jeffery Leving (President Emeritus of FEI -- "We need to act as a community before we lose an entire generation of children," said Leving.

FEI also supports Rev. Jesse Jackson's demands for safe passage to and from school.

"We must not allow the loss of Derrion to become yet another statistic. Inner-city violence is killing our children and profoundly scarring the lives of those who do survive childhood. This is not a legacy we can tolerate. Our organization is aggressively pursuing interventions designed to protect and prepare children from these dangers," said Dr. Schmitt.

All students from all communities deserve an equal and safe education.


Prisons vs. Education: What's Wrong With This Picture

According to the "Philadelphia Inquirer" newspaper Pennsylvania intends to build four new prisons for 800 million dollars. Did you know that it also takes $50,000 a year to house a prisoner? Reading this was upsetting because it was so easy to build four new prisons. Governor Rendell had spent 3 months trying to get the state budget passed because he refused to put education on the chopping block. The State of Pennsylvania could educate 5 children rather than put one man or women in prison. It seems like our country's priorities are all twisted. Other countries are investing in education and they are experiencing expansion while America is in a state of decline.

Pennsylvania was not the only state to assess its commitment to education. Students in California and other states are experiencing overcrowded classes and bus services have been cut. Students don't vote so they are an easy target for budget cuts. The majority of children in the United States need a better education than they are experiencing right know. Filling prisons is not the solution to our problem. Too many prisoners are high school drop out. In fact they need an education if they are to change their circumstances and not return to prison after they are released.

When is this country going to face the reality that a major solution to our economic crisis is right in our own communities? There are children who need access to better instruction and they need parents who are not in a prison cell. Too many grandparents are raising children because they have no choice. It is difficult for grandparents to provide the resources and guidance that growing teenagers need. Parents need to play an active role in their child's education at all K12 levels.

Expanding prisons is not the solution to the economic crisis. A prison my generate jobs but it does not compare to what a well educated entrepreneur can do. We need to choose business development and job creation in areas where jobs have been depleted. Why not build new schools with modern technology that will lead to more sophisticated instruction and students who are prepared to succeed in college. Many of the schools in Philadelphia are over 50 years old and the maintenance expenses are unreasonable. These old buildings are not the best places for students to learn.

It's time to make education a priority in every state. If we continue to fill our prisons with perfectly healthy young men and women we are becoming our own worst enemy. There is a tremendous amount of talent that is sitting in a cell and wasting away. Changing a young person's potential to end up in prison starts at birth. Children need to develop an early passion for reading and learning. Parents can be a major part of the solution. The future is within our grasp and we need to say no to prisons and yes to education.

Dr. Stephen Jones is an education coach and author of Seven Secrets of How to Study, Parent's Ultimate Education Guide and the Ultimate Scholarship Guide. For more information about Dr. Jones and his work, please visit

Marlon Wayans May Star in Richard Pryor Biopic

Marlon Wayans is in serious talks to star as one of the world's iconic comics in the biopic "Richard Pryor: Is it Something I Said." If Wayans lands the part it could arguably be the role of his life. The film, according to, has already been written and will be directed by "Dreamgirls" mastermind Bill Condon. Prior to the film's move to Sony Pictures, Eddie Murphy had been attached to play the role, but he's since dropped out over disagreements with the film's original studio, Paramount Pictures.

Known for his jokester roles, Wayans surprised critics with a dramatic turn in 1993's "Requiem for a Dream." And insiders reveal to that Wayans went hard for the role, wowing the producers with a 13-minute test where he "transforms into Pryor." Viewers can expect the film to explore Pryor's struggle with drugs and his controversial approach to comedy.—ZH

BeBe & CeCe end 15-year hiatus with chart-topper

If the exuberant audience reaction to BeBe & CeCe Winans' recent live performance on Steve Harvey's syndicated radio morning show is any indication, the gospel duo still has the touch.

And with the single "Close to You" notching its fourth week at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Gospel Songs chart (and reaching No. 11 on Adult R&B), the welcome mat is primed for the pair's aptly titled new album, "Still."

Released October 6, "Still" is BeBe & CeCe's first album in 15 years. It also doubles as the first project on the siblings' independent label, B&C Records, in association with Malaco Records. Signed to Capitol in the late '80s, BeBe & CeCe -- members of Detroit's legendary gospel family the Winans -- logged several gospel and R&B crossover hits ("Lost Without You," "Addictive Love," "I'll Take You There"), gold albums (including "Heaven") and a host of awards.

Taking a break from their collaboration, the pair pursued successful solo careers. By the time the idea of reuniting crossed their minds, 15 years had elapsed.

"We didn't sit down and say, 'We're coming back in 15 years,'" BeBe says with a laugh. "This wasn't planned."

CeCe adds, "By the time we finally got everything (the label and album) done, we realized how long it had been."

While the industry has changed radically since 1994, the duo's natural chemistry remains intact. Working with longtime producer Keith Thomas and others including Warryn Campbell, Percy Bady and Mario Winans, the intent was, in CeCe's words, "to be who we are but also current, to gain new fans."

The pair followed its tried-and-true formula: heartfelt spiritual songs about life that can stand the test of time. In fact, BeBe wrote "Close to You" several years ago.

"When I put it away, I said then that if we did another album, this would be the first single," BeBe recalls. A second single, "Grace," is being promoted to gospel radio.

A national tour is being planned for 2010.

"Our intention has always been to record the best music we can," BeBe says. "After that, we sit back and watch what God does."

African nuns tell Vatican they want more influence

African nuns told a Vatican meeting Friday they want more of a say in running the Catholic Church on the continent, saying they have special talents and shouldn't be left to clean churches and mend vestments.

Women also have an important role to play in forging reconciliation in Africa's many tribal and ethnic conflicts — the main focus of the 3-week-long Vatican meeting on Africa, said Sister Pauline Odia Bukasa of Congo.

"We, your mothers and religious sisters, ask you — our fathers and bishops in this church-family — to promote the dignity of women," she said, requesting in particular greater emphasis on educating young girls.

Sister Felicia Harry of Ghana was more blunt, saying African nuns didn't want to usurp priests' powers but wanted to be part of the church's decision-making process.

"As well as teach catechism to children, decorate parish churches, clean, mend and sew vestments, we religious women in Africa would like to be part of various parish councils," she said, according to a summary of her remarks to the closed meeting.

The role of women in the church has been a recurring topic of discussion among the 300 prelates at the meeting, which is hearing testimony from bishops around the continent about their particular problems and advice from colleagues and Vatican officials on how to deal with them.

Ghana Bishop Matthew Kwasi Gyamfi said the Vatican needed to address a particular issue that many African priests face concerning polygamous marriages: A woman who married a man who then took other wives isn't allowed to receive certain sacraments because she is in a marriage that the church cannot bless.

He said when the women have walked away from such marriages without the consent of their husbands, "the church has been cited for injustice, insecurity, breaking up families, fomenting disunity and destroying social cohesion," he told the synod in asking for some special exemptions from Rome so such women can participate fully in the sacramental life of the church.

In addition to the role of women, the synod has addressed issues that are increasingly of concern to the broader church: how to deal with the rapid spread of Islam and Pentecostal churches, which are increasingly drawing away many Catholics.

Bishop Alfred Adewale Martins of Nigeria said it seemed the aggressive proselytizing of many neo-Pentecostal communities "aims at bringing down the Catholic Church both in her influence as well as in the number of her faithful."

"This intention is captured in the way some of them refer to the Catholic Church as the dead church," he said, urging the Vatican to reach out in particular to young professional Africans who are increasingly targeted by the new churches.

While such problems are universal, a purely African problem has also been raised: tribal and ethnic conflicts within the African church hierarchy.

Bishop Albert Vanbuel of the Central African Republic said recent months have seen increasingly bitter divisions between priests, bishops and laymen fueled by tribal and ethnic divisions.

"Our church is called on to show a witness ... of reconciliation, justice and peace, and above all of communion," he said.

Do black congressmen still represent black interests?

All eyes are on Rep. Charlie Rangel again this week as finger-pointing Republicans continue to pursue punishing him for ethics violations. Rangel's own financial shortcomings landed him in this situation. His very own, and well-deserved Ways and Means Committee chairmanship, is at stake. But in a world where perception reins supreme, Rangel's financial woes may likely have far-reaching and negative implications not only for him, but the people he first came to Congress to represent.

Congressman William Clay, Sr. once claimed, "Black people have no permanent friends, no permanent enemies, just permanent interests." As a fellow founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), this statement characterized not only Congressman Rangel's political beliefs, but defined his fundamental mission: to represent the underrepresented political interests of black Americans.

But things have changed. Rangel co-founded the CBC with thirteen members in 1971; today, they boast a membership of forty-two. The number of black elected officials at every level of office has increased six-fold during this time and more than ten-fold in some states, according to the last count by the Joint Center of Political and Economic Studies. Once an anomaly, black faces are now relatively commonplace throughout the country's legislative corridors. Normal. Ordinary. Typical. This is supposed to be a good thing, right? A measure of racial progress to be sure?

The problem, though - as some see it - is that when they were few, folks like Rangel were black politicians - politicians whose mission was shaped by their fidelity to the racial group to which they belonged. Now that they are many, some say they have become nothing more than politicians who just so happen to be black, placing their own, personal and primarily financial interests above those to be served. Some would say that the black interests of 1971 have taken a backseat to the personal interests of individual black congressmen and women of this millennium.

For instance, almost one-third of CBC members were considered "underachievers" or "derelict" in a 2006 report by the Black Congressional Monitor, a progressive interest group which tracks the legislative initiatives of black congressmen and women. From stash-of-cash-in-my-fridge William Jefferson, to former Congressman Al Wynn, Bobby Rush and others once criticized for selling their votes to the powerful telecommunications lobby, the group castigated many on the CBC's roster for putting their own interests first. The best interests of their black constituents or civil rights causes came second, they claimed.

The accuracy of such a report is only one thing to consider. More importantly, we must consider the fact that there is a growing perception that today's black politicians aren't the democratic defenders of the race many once saw them as.

This is one of the primary reasons that Congressman Rangel's recent financial mishaps may end up costing more than just one man's position or reputation. Rangel's taxing forgetfulness, alongside media reports framing Rangel's actions as a triumphant escape from ethical accountability, simply reinforces the notion that today's black representatives don't work for black Americans, they work for themselves. But the implications of Rangel's actions and the circumstances surrounding them may reach even farther.

Once there is widespread perception that black representatives are no different than typical politicians, it's only a hop, skip and a jump to the conclusion that black politicians no longer serve the purpose they once did of safeguarding black interests. Add to this the fact that over the past decade or so, many black politicians who rely on white voters' support have gone out of their way to make the case that they can represent whites' interests, despite the fact that they are black. There is, of course, no forgetting the obvious: that a majority of the nation gave a giant stamp of approval to the principal these black politicians were pushing when we elected Barack Obama President of the United States.

In concert with other factors, on one hand Rangel's financial woes erode the perception of legitimacy regarding the special representative function of black representatives in today's legislative landscape. On the other, we've seen the transformation of the black politician from a mere local, race-constrained representative, to one who could be president. Together, these realities seem to powerfully undermine the underlying principle - that blacks can best, and therefore should, represent other blacks.- behind using racial gerrymandering as a tool to increase black representation.

Republicans have opposed the practice of drawing seats to secure the adequate numerical representation of blacks and other people of color for years. But the most recent debates questioning the principle behind the practice have taken place among Democrats. One was the fight that erupted in 2006, when Brooklyn City Councilman David Yassky ran for retiring Congressman Major Owens' seat (one of the original gerrymandered safe black districts). The other began in the same year when Steve Cohen- a White Jewish man - successfully challenged a number of black hopefuls for the Tennessee congressional seat vacated by Harold Ford, Jr. The same debate, over the same seat, continues at this moment as a new black prospect - former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton - seeks to correct what he sees as the district's racial wrongs.

In the mounting debate over and undermining of the principle of racial gerrymandering, Republicans will likely see a golden opportunity to justify diluting the concentrations of blacks and other minorities in the looming redistricting battles soon to occur as we approach the end of the decade. This would be a blow to the principle of equal representation, as some of us interpret it.

One would have to make a giant leap to say that Congressman Rangel's actions will directly affect this consequence. But the fact that his actions may contribute to it in some small way should give him and other black members of Congress pause, at long enough to realize: be careful when you claim to - quite literally - represent the race, because you might do so in ways you never intended.

Netflix CEO predicts DVD has two years of life left

If Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is to be believed, DVD is preparing to go the way of the VHS cassette.

According to Yahoo’s Today in Tech, Mr. Hastings said that DVD will remain the primary delivery format for movies for the next two years at his company which currently boasts 11 million customers. He did not, however, say if it would be Blu-ray or streaming movies that would replace the aging format.

Seeing as Blu-ray still only has about 10 percent market penetration at this time, and Netflix is continuing to invest in its streaming technology, it seems likely that Mr. Hastings was referring to streaming becoming the dominant delivery format. This isn’t to say that DVD will just disappear over night as he sees the format holding on in some way for another decade or so past 2012. This is a reversal of previous statements Mr. Hastings has given where he saw DVD remaining Netflix’s primary focus through as late as 2018.

If the CEO was discussing streaming as the primary delivery format in the near future, you have to wonder if he knows something about the United States broadband plans that is not yet common knowledge. The fairly low penetration of the necessary broadband speeds has been seen as a barrier to streaming movie delivery gaining wide acceptance in the USA. The Obama administration has said getting broadband speeds to every home has been a priority for the President since the campaign trail, but it is expected to take some time roll out.

The second biggest barrier had been the ease with which consumers could watch streaming videos on devices other than their computers, but the company has been working diligently at changing that for some time now. With interfaces for the service now on devices such as the Xbox 360, the Roku box and even being built into some TV sets, once broadband speeds become more prevalent in this country, Mr. Hastings’ predictions will probably come true.

Disturbing explosives case: Family ran a day care with bomb-making material and neo-Nazi lit in the back

Fox News' Trace Gallagher got all excited Thursday reporting some news out of California:

Gallagher: We're told that a man has been injured in an explosion. Reportedly he injured his hand. Now here's the key: You'd think a guy injuring his hand in an explosion -- this is in Lake Elsinore, which is about 45 miles northeast of San Diego -- the man apparently was handling explosives including, ah, triacetone triperoxide. The FBI is now involved in this. This is the same type of explosive that Najibulah Zazi is accused of trying to build. It is highly unstable and highly powerful. And remember those chemicals that Najibulah Zazi is accused of having? They're still missing. So now in San Diego, or just north of San Diego, someone blows up his hand, using similar chemicals in a powerful, highly unstable bomb. The FBI is now on it. We'll bring you more information on that as it comes in here to the Live Desk. This could be key.

Yep, they were hoping it would be part of their favorite new storyline about radical Islamists hiding out in American suburbs and preparing to strike with a fresh round of terrorist acts.

But then the next day, Jane Skinner had the follow-up on Happening Now: It had nothing to do with Najibullah Zazi or his terrorist cells. This was a project undertaken by a young white man, working out of the garage of his mother's place there in Lake Elsinore.

Oh, and his mother's place was a licensed day-care facility. So while Mom was taking care of a houseful of kids, Junior was in the garage whipping up a fresh batch of bombs. From the L.A. Times:

Benjamin Kuzelka allegedly was making an explosive device when it accidentally detonated about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, deputies said. He suffered an injury to one hand. About 20 minutes later, deputies said, he showed up at a local hospital saying that he had accidentally shot himself with a gun.

"His injuries were inconsistent with a gunshot wound and doctors called the police," said Deputy Melissa Nieburger, a Sheriff's Department spokeswoman.

Deputies went to the Kuzelka home on a cul-de-sac in the 30500 block of Audelo Street. Property records list Rebecca Kuzelka as the sole owner of the house, which was built in 1983.

Inside the home, Nieburger said, deputies found materials used to make explosives, as well as a sophisticated indoor marijuana growing room.

Authorities did not say how many marijuana plants allegedly were found in the home or disclose the type of explosive materials that were uncovered. A law enforcement source told The Times that substances found at the home were similar to acetone peroxide, or TATP, the same type of powerful explosive used in the 2007 London subway terrorist bombings. There was no evidence that the Lake Elsinore incident was related to terrorism, the source said.

Nieburger said deputies had not determined how many children Rebecca Kuzelka cared for at her home. No children were present at the time of the explosion, authorities said.

And that wasn't all. According to a couple of local reports:

Nazi paraphenalia was also found inside the home.

Everyone's mum about the possibility that the explosives were connected to terrorist activity. But with that kind of background and given the nature of TATP manufacture -- it tends to be a project only for people serious about blowing things up -- that shouldn't be ruled out.

All of which puts some perspective on Gallagher's speculation of the day before. Yes, it was connected to terrorism -- just not the kind of terrorism he was thinking about.

Which likewise underscores the nature of the terrorist beast: He's not always a brown-skinned guy from another country. Sometimes he's the strange right-wing white family that lives next door. But then, Fox never concerns itself with that kind of terrorism.

76 U.S. Children Have Died From H1N1 Swine Flu

Healthday News reports that the CDC has announced that 76 children have died from the H1N1 swine flu.

Over the last three years, deaths among children from the regular seasonal flu ranged from 46 to 88, Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said during an afternoon press conference.

"So we have already had 76 children dying from the 2009 H1N1 virus, and it's only the beginning of October," she said. "We are seeing more illness, more hospitalizations and more deaths each week from the flu. Virtually all the virus circulating right now is the H1N1 2009 virus."

About 30 percent of the children who died had chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy, Schuchat said.

Hopefully, parents will let their children get swine flu shots. A recent poll found that over 1/3 of parents don't want to vaccinate their children because they are afaraid of side effects from the vaccine or because they think the swine flu is mild. Parents should keep in mind that the H1N1 swine flu can be deadly and it is hitting children and young adults more severely than seniors. There are also many parents who are ready to vaccinate their children but the long-awaited shots are not available yet.

Benchmarked Crudely – Oil Soon to be Priced in Non-Dollars

n the most profound financial change in recent Middle East history, Gulf Arabs are planning – along with China, Russia, Japan and France – to end dollar dealings for oil, moving instead to a basket of currencies including the Japanese yen and Chinese yuan, the euro, gold and a new, unified currency planned for nations in the Gulf Co-operation Council, including Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Qatar.

Secret meetings have already been held by finance ministers and central bank governors in Russia, China, Japan and Brazil to work on the scheme, which will mean that oil will no longer be priced in dollars.

The plans [were] confirmed to The Independent by both Gulf Arab and Chinese banking sources in Hong Kong.

These plans to unseat the now fickle US dollar as the benchmark currency for trading in petroleum will considerably reduce demand for the US dollar and, hence, lower its value. That will reduce the price of US exports, but it will make oil, among many imported commodities, more expensive, presumably for rather a long time. Given our tattered "safety net" and unwillingness to tax the wealthy or regulate big bidness, that may have a disproportionate impact on the poor and middle classes.

I can’t imagine what factors might have set these countries to worrying about the long term value of the dollar. Unless it has something to do with our unrestrained financial system that values asset-less creatures of investment bank super-computers as AAA investments; budget deficits that would make St. Ronnie squirm; crumbling infrastructure; manufacturing CEO’s who relocate their jobs to China faster than they pay themselves bonuses; and a public health system that leaves as many citizens untreated as there are citizens in most European countries and whose holes make it a threat to containment of global pandemics.

As a wild guess, background issues that could have influenced this decision might include the US treatment of the Middle East, two wars and noises for a third, a military that refuses to rein in generals that tout their "crusade" against Islam (not to mention a ham-tongued former president who implied the same), and racially-based visitor and visa policies that discriminate against all but a few largely white Western European countries.

This is a coordinated move, and US criticism and ire may focus publicly on Arab producing states, but everyone’s eyes will be on China. It holds the largest dollar reserves outside the US, is our prime economic partner and competitor, and is likely to be the greatest buyer of oil over the next century.

"These plans will change the face of international financial transactions," one Chinese banker said. "America and Britain must be very worried. You will know how worried by the thunder of denials this news will generate."

I’ll leave it to our resident economists to comment about what this coordinated move away from the dollar really means, both for our long term economic outlook and for our short term "jobless" recovery. The UK’s Independent took note of one reaction the last time an Arab state priced its oil in a non-dollar currency:

Iran announced late last month that its foreign currency reserves would henceforth be held in euros rather than dollars. Bankers remember, of course, what happened to the last Middle East oil producer to sell its oil in euros rather than dollars. A few months after Saddam Hussein trumpeted his decision, the Americans and British invaded Iraq.

How obtuse. Everyone knows our invasion of Iraq – and the incessant Village rumblings that we do "the same" to Iran (whatever that is; they must think we achieved victory) – knows that we did so to enhance the world’s freedom from fear and to maintain the purity of our precious bodily fluids. It had nothing whatever to do with oil.

Gosselin: '09 Chiefs Looking Like '89 Cowboys

Dallas Morning News reporter Rick Gosselin is one of the most respected journalists around the NFL so we usually take note of what he says. He penned an article looking at the similarities between the '09 Kansas City Chiefs and the '89 Dallas Cowboys.

He writes, "Remember the 1989 Cowboys? All the pain and suffering in the stands? All the losses on the field?

"There's an encore performance in Kansas City this fall."

The similarities: New GM, head coach, quarterback, offensive and defensive systems and a losing record.

20 years ago, Jerry Jones entered the NFL owners' landscape and hired a man by the name of Jimmy Johnson. Like the current version of the Chiefs, the losing was plentiful. Those Cowboys lost their first eight games en route to a 1-15 record. Not exactly what you wanted to hear, right?

The free agent workouts and signings were a weekly tradition. 64 different Cowboys suited up and 36 of them started. Similarly, the Chiefs have had 54 different players suit up with 31 starters.

Gosselin continues, "Like Jimmy Johnson, Pioli believes he has his quarterback in place in Cassel. That's the key piece. His presence should accelerate the building process. Now Pioli needs to surround Cassel with some playmakers and upgrade the blocking front, as Johnson did for Aikman."

The Cowboys had a handful of future Pro Bowlers on the team and found a few more in the Herschel Walker fleecing trade. The Chiefs don't have the beneficiary of an extra eight draft picks but, as Gosselin points out, the key is having a plan and sticking with it.

Like Todd Haley and Scott Pioli, Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones went through a rough patch in year one but eventually they turned it around.

"The Cowboys survived," writes Gosselin, "and so will the Chiefs."

Fidel Castro Praises Obama's Nobel Win

In a column published today in Cuba's state-run media, Former Cuban President Fidel Castro praised the Nobel committee's controversial decision to award this year's prize to Barack Obama, sort of, saying "Many will say that he still hasn't earned the right to receive such distinction. We prefer to see in the decision, more than a prize for the president of the United States, a criticism of the genocidal policies that not a few presidents of that country have followed." He then went on to criticize the U.S. for policies on global warming, among other things.

No. 14 Penn St. shuts down FCS' E. Illinois, 52-3

The offense scored easily, the defense dominated the line of scrimmage and some young backups even got to play.

It all went according to plan Saturday for No. 14 Penn State in a 52-3 rout of lower-division Eastern Illinois.

Daryll Clark threw for three touchdowns and ran for another, Jared Odrick led a menacing defense with two sacks and linebacker Navorro Bowman returned a fumble 91 yards for a touchdown in the Nittany Lions' most complete performance of the season.

"We're not anywhere near as good as where we have to be, but we think we are a better football team than three or four weeks ago," coach Joe Paterno said. "We played with a little more poise."

The game was well in hand in the first half, when Penn State (5-1) scored 28 points the final 7:27 of the second quarter. Clark threw his TDs on three straight drives, including a 51-yarder to Chaz Powell down the right seam, to give Penn State a 24-0 lead with 4:33 left in the half.

Later, Eastern Illinois (4-2) pieced together a nice drive deep into Penn State territory, but Ollie Ogbu sacked Jake Christensen and forced a fumble. The loose ball bounced into Bowman's hands at the 9, and he rumbled untouched down the right sideline into the end zone — nearly slipping at the 25 — for a 38-0 lead at halftime.

By that time, the biggest question left was when would Paterno insert touted freshman backup quarterback Kevin Newsome into the game.

He ended up scoring, too, on a 9-yard run up the middle in the fourth quarter to make it 52-3. It was the highest point total for Penn State since a 61-10 blowout of Coastal Carolina to open the 2008 season.

The Nittany Lions gained a season-high 553 yards.

The outcome wasn't that unexpected, especially since Eastern Illinois plays in the Football Championship Subdivision.

Otherwise, the biggest goal for the banged-up Nittany Lions was to avoid any more injuries with Big Ten play resuming next week with a visit from Minnesota.

Penn State played without star linebacker Sean Lee (left knee) for a third straight week, and right tackle Nerraw McCormack sat out with a right ankle injury.

It didn't really matter — Penn State still had too much talent to overwhelm the Panthers.

Christensen, a transfer from Iowa who played at Beaver Stadium in 2007, was harassed all afternoon by Odrick and his defensive linemates. He finished 13 of 25 for 137 yards and one interception, and was harassed much of the day by Odrick and his defensive linemates.

Clark was 13 of 19 for 234 yards with one interception to go with his three scores. Clark also opened the scoring with a TD plunge from a yard out.

Eastern Illinois' only score came on a 43-yard field goal by Austin Signor in the third quarter.

Eagles no match for No. 5 Hokies, 48-14

Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Williams and No. 5 Virginia Tech's swarming defense made sure the Hokies' regular season losing streak against Boston College ended.

Taylor threw two early touchdown passes, Williams ran for 159 yards and a TD and the Hokies rolled 48-14 against the Eagles on Saturday.

The victory ended a three-game regular season skid by Virginia Tech (5-1, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) against Boston College (4-2, 2-2).

The Eagles' 25-year-old freshman quarterback, David Shinskie, had said he welcomed the chance to play at sold-out Lane Stadium, but that didn't last long. He was hit the second time he dropped back and finished the first half 0-for-9 with two interceptions and his team trailing 34-0.

At halftime, Virginia Tech had 293 yards, and the Eagles had 3.

The first pass Shinskie threw that was caught was pulled in by Virginia Tech's Rashad Carmichael, and the cornerback returned in 22 yards for a TD that made it 31-0.

Boston College's initial first down came in the third quarter, and Shinskie's first completion came a few plays later, followed quickly by a false start penalty and a sack for a loss of 9 yards.

Williams, the ACC's top rusher, got the Hokies off quickly, carrying on five straight plays for 46 yards on the opening drive, leading to Matt Waldron's 31-yard field goal.

Taylor took over next time, hitting Williams with a 23-yard pass over the middle on third-and-8. Three plays later, on third-and-19, Taylor scrambled behind the line, broke an ankle tackle, then found Danny Coale wide open in the end zone.

Williams set up the next score with a 31-yard run and scored on the next play, and after Boston College benched its whole offense for one series, leading to another punt, the Hokies took over at the Eagles 41. Taylor hit Jarrett Boykin in the end zone on the next play.

It was 24-0 after just over 18 minutes and the Hokies didn't let up.

The Eagles scored with 10:55 left when Michael Marscovetra hit Colin Larmond Jr. with a 48-yard TD pass against backup defenders.

Virginia Tech scored again when Ju-Ju Clayton hit Marcus Davis for an 80-yard touchdown pass on the next play. David Wilson added a 1-yard dive for the Hokies' final touchdown, and Marscovetra hit Lars Anderson on a short TD pass with 33 seconds to go.

Gunmen Take Hostages in Attack on Pakistani Army Headquarters

Pakistani military officials say gunmen attacked the army's headquarters in Rawalpindi Saturday near the capital, killing six troops. Security forces have killed four of the attackers. Four others have taken up to 15 people hostage. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Pakistani military initially said it had the situation under control about an hour after gunmen, disguised in military uniforms, attacked a checkpoint at midday outside the heavily guarded headquarters.

But then military officials said some of the attackers had escaped into a security office building and were holding troops hostage.

Pakistani army spokesman, Major General Athar Abbas, said security forces are working to free the hostages. "The building is surrounded by the security forces and whatever happens and whatever the details of the operation (are), (they) will only be shared after the operation is conducted," he said.

Authorities have continued to block roads in the area.

Earlier in the day, at least three helicopters circled overhead as ambulances rushed to the scene. Occasional gunfire rang out in the area.

On Monday, a suicide bomber disguised in a paramilitary uniform attacked a U.N. office in nearby Islamabad, and on Friday, a suspected suicide car-bomber killed some 50 people in Peshawar.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the U.N. bombing and threatened to target other international organizations and Pakistani government and military locations.

In response to the attacks, Pakistani leaders have vowed to start a new offensive against militants in the country's tribal regions along the Afghan border.