Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What happened to global warming?

This headline may come as a bit of a surprise, so too might that fact that the warmest year recorded globally was not in 2008 or 2007, but in 1998.

But it is true. For the last 11 years we have not observed any increase in global temperatures.

And our climate models did not forecast it, even though man-made carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be responsible for warming our planet, has continued to rise.

So what on Earth is going on?

Climate change sceptics, who passionately and consistently argue that man's influence on our climate is overstated, say they saw it coming.

They argue that there are natural cycles, over which we have no control, that dictate how warm the planet is. But what is the evidence for this?

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Geithner to Blame for AIG Bonuses: Report

Most of the blame for American International Group's(AIG Quote) payment of hefty bonuses can be placed on Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

This was the statement made by Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general for the government's troubled asset relief program, during Congressional testimony on Wednesday.

Geithner said he did not learn until March about the $1.75 billion in bonuses and other compensation promised to AIG employees. But Barofsky's report shows officials at the New York Fed learned of the payments in November. AIG has been berated for its grandiose spending habits; most notably how much it pays its employees. That criticism is presumably about to get louder.

The flailing insurer paid more than $168 million to anywhere from 300 to 400 employees in its financial products unit -- including an assistant in a kitchen -- between December 2008 and March 2009, Barofsky said. This was after AIG received its massive bailout loan from the government.

Indeed, one of the most entertaining aspects of the report is that $7,700 retention bonus the kitchen assistant received. Senior executives raked in $4 million.
On Tuesday, the Obama administration's Pay czar Kenneth Feinberg said AIG must reduce the $198 million in scheduled retention payments, but did not reveal by how much.
Barofsky said that the Treasury did not understand AIG's pay structure when it gave the insurer the loans last fall.

Children in Prison: Locked-up forever

It seems that our child criminals are the worst in the world. Why else would the U.S. be the only country in the United Nations that voted against abolishing life imprisonment (without parole) for children and teens?

It can't be argued that we have the most effective, rehabilitative prison system. If anything, the opposite holds true, especially when compared with progressive European prison systems, which aren't without their flaws and seem to operate in less violent societies.

According to a new report produced by the Equal Justice Initiative (a non-profit group dedicated to helping prisoners denied fair treatment by the system), American prisons are home to 73 inmates locked up for life for crimes they committed when they were 13 or 14. Bump that age limit up three years and we have 2,225 prisoners locked up for the rest of their lives for crimes they committed when they were 17 or younger.

These crimes aren't minor -- and the nature of our violent culture is an entirely different story -- but some of the children confess under duress or, worse yet, are developmentally disabled. They languish in lockdown, without hope.

But are they proof that these children can't be rehabilitated, that they can't benefit from help and that they are beyond redemption?

Worse yet, the report indicates that few of these cases are ever reviewed and that the majority of these children don't have any legal representation.

Article 10 of The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states, in part, "Accused juvenile persons shall be separated from adults and brought as speedily as possible for adjudication," and, "The penitentiary system shall comprise treatment of prisoners the essential aim of which shall be their reformation and social rehabilitation. Juvenile offenders shall be segregated from adults and be accorded treatment appropriate to their age and legal status."

EJI isn't calling for these offenders simply to be released. What they're calling for -- and in the name of all that is civilized, we agree -- is that these cases be reviewed and sentences reconsidered. After all, chances are that children who commit serious crimes have themselves been victims or at the very least, witnesses to similar horrors.

A society that gives up on its youngest has run out of ideas and given up all hope. Reforming our system of dealing with juvenile offenders would prove that we are not such a culture.

by Seattle Post-Intelligencer Editorial

Brandon Jacobs is frustrated

Maybe New York just doesn't know what to do with a drama-free, 5-0 football team that hasn't been tested in three weeks.

But the relative struggles of starting running back Brandon Jacobs is receiving a lot of attention. Jacobs admits he's getting frustrated with his play and the criticism he's hearing because of his 3.55 yards per carry average this year despite a soft schedule of late.

"I'm just being patient and trying not to get frustrated," Jacobs said. "Frustration is very close up on me, I'm going to be honest, I'm going to tell you that."

There have been suggestions that Jacobs hasn't hit the hole as hard as previous years, but I haven't noticed that consistently when watching Giants games. The holes may not be as big as previous years.

"I get the ball, I get in there, I'm supposed to run smack dead into somebody and I get criticized if I don't do that," Jacobs said on ESPN Radio in New York this week.

"Right now my stats aren't very good, and people want to know why. Well that's why. I have the ability to make plays with my feet, but when I try to, it's the worst thing, I'm scum of the Earth when I do that, so I go ahead and do what I can do."

Jacobs clearly hears the comparisons that are being made to Ahmad Bradshaw, the team's backup who leads the team in rushing yards despite 42 fewer carries and leads the league in yards per carry.

"Ahmad is more, he can bounce around in those little creaks and cracks that he gets and make a lot of big plays," Jacobs said. "Do I have the ability to do that? Yes. But if I try to, I'm wrong if I try to make plays like that because I'm 265, 275 pound, I'm not supposed to be doing that. Hit it up in there, go in and hit somebody, that's what people want to see me do. If I don't do it, I get criticized, if I do do it, I get criticized. I can't win."

Even teammate Antonio Pierce said recently Bradshaw has turned into "one of the more complete backs in the National Football League."

Jacobs, who isn't great on passing downs, doesn't fit as easily as Bradshaw in New York's suddenly explosive passing attack. But the Giants are still fourth in the league in rushing yards, and seem unlikely to give Bradshaw the starting job because of his size.

Having rabbit ears isn't the best trait for a star in New York, but Jacobs' frustration is a sign that he's passionate about turning things around.

If this is the biggest problem or controversy the Giants can come up with, they are doing pretty well.

Posted by Gregg Rosenthal

Singer Leona Lewis slapped during UK book signing

LONDON — A spokesman for Leona Lewis says the singer has been hit by a young man at a book signing session at a central London store. Stuart Bell said Lewis was signing autographs and posing for photographs Wednesday when a man from the line came up and hit her. He was immediately led away by security guards and later arrested by police.

Bell said Lewis has gone to see a doctor as a precaution. Lewis shot to fame after winning the "X-Factor" reality show

London's Metropolitan police said in a statement that a 29-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of assault and is being held in custody.

More Troops Needed, Says Afghan Diplomat

Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States has called for President Obama to adopt a clear counterinsurgency strategy for his country, and to back it up with the deployment of additional troops. In an interview with VOA's Gary Thomas, he says the intelligence agencies of neighboring Pakistan were involved in the recent attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul.

Ambassador Said Jawad told VOA sending additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan would be viewed in Kabul as what he calls a clear commitment to success against the resurgent Taliban.

"We need space and room to train additional Afghan forces, and the current strength and composition of the Afghan and international forces are not adequate to confront the existing challenges," he said. "We do need additional troops, certainly. Afghans would like to see the enemy defeated, which is terrorism and extremism. They don't want to see the friends of Afghanistan being doubtful about their mission and resolution."

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I'm on Team Zahara!

Sometimes when I read posts on gossip blogs about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's children, I'm left feeling lost and alone in the universe.

Am I the only one? The only black woman in the world who doesn't feel inflamed with rage when I see baby Zahara's unstyled hair?

When I see this little girl, it makes me flash back to myself at that age. Strong willed, outspoken, and quick to say no when my mom tried to tame my tresses.

Small wonder I got a dose of kiddie hair relaxer at age 7 -- I didn't exactly make myself easy to handle.

When I see Baby Z -- and the same goes for her sister, Shiloh -- I see two happy, loved, very independent-minded little girls, and an indulgent mother who allows them to express their own style.

I don't see what Allison Samuels, the author of Newsweek's latest foray into the oft-thorny world of black hair, describes as "the politics of uncombed hair."

The article takes on a thunderous vitriol at times:

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Jackson escorts kids to school after beating death

CHICAGO — After an honor student's brutal beating, the Rev. Jesse Jackson is joining parents in escorting a group of students who attend a high school on Chicago's South Side.

Jackson rode with students on a bus to Christian Fenger Academy High School on Tuesday.

He says the plan is to ensure students' safe arrival and to highlight how long it takes the students to ride the several miles from Altgeld Gardens public housing to Fenger.

Tensions between students from Altgeld and those from the neighborhood surrounding Fenger are blamed for the Sept. 24 beating death of 16-year-old Derrion Albert.

A cell phone video shows Albert curled up on the sidewalk as fellow teens kick him and hit him with splintered railroad ties. The Obama administration has called Albert's death a call to action.

USA Today dethroned by Wall Street Journal as largest circulation paper in the U.S.

USA Today has for some time been acknowledged as the largest circulation newspaper in the USA; not any more. According to a story in Advertising Age, the Wall Street Journal has overtaken it.
The WSJ reports its Audit Bureau of Circulations data shows average paid circulation of 2.02 million over the 6 months ending in September, up from 2.01 million in the same period a year before. USA Today's circ is 1.88 million, down from 2.3 million.
USA Today's shrinkage is attributed to a price hike and to the lower occupancy rates in U.S. hotels where the paper is distributed to guests.

Record pay on Wall Street as unemployment rises

Americans won't be happy to learn that Wall Street salaries may be higher this year than they were before the current recession began:

Major U.S. banks and securities firms are on pace to pay their employees about $140 billion this year -- a record high that shows compensation is rebounding despite regulatory scrutiny of Wall Street's pay culture.

Workers at 23 top investment banks, hedge funds, asset managers and stock and commodities exchanges can expect to earn even more than they did the peak year of 2007, according to an analysis of securities filings for the first half of 2009 and revenue estimates through year-end by The Wall Street Journal.

Ian Welsh wrote a depressing post at Open Left yesterday:

All they did was throw cash at the problem, without dealing with the underlying issues, which is why they didn't manage (as Jerome points out) to kickstart ANY net private spending. They didn't break up major banks. They didn't allow bankruptcy judges to rewrite mortgages. Their mortgage program kept hardly anyone in the house. And their money for financial firms did not increase lending by one cent. [...]

This is going to be the wost "recovery" of your lifetime, unless you're in the financial sector at a relatively high level. Bank profits have recovered but ordinary people are not, in a generation, going to see a full recovery from this clusterfuck - employment will not recover to pre-recession levels before the next recession, and I don't expect it to recover after that recession either.

At this point, in fact, I am expecting this to turn into a double dip recession--this "recovery" will not have any significant legs.

Continuing George Bush's Wall Street bailout policy will prove to be a costly mistake for President Obama. Watch the Huffington Post Investigative Fund's interview with Neil Barofsky, who "monitors a dozen separate bailout-related programs that now account for nearly $3 trillion in financial commitments." Among other things, his research has confirmed that the bailout did not increase lending to the business sector.

The T.O.-To-Chicago-Bears Rumor That Won’t Die

And so Twitter’s takeover of the human race begins like this. It started as a simple comment by Adam Schefter on Tuesday morning, as he casually typed in ESPN’s Rumors Central section that, hey dude, wouldn’t it be cool if Terrell Owens were a Chicago Bear? Schefter was just pretty much thinking out loud, listing a few reasons why such a trade would make sense.

He may as well have been thinking that scientists could use fossil DNA to bring back dinosaurs to fight for us in Afghanistan. It has just as much basis in reality as the Owens-to-Bears rumor. But Twitter often doesn’t deal in reality.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Twitter can take an idle rumor and jump-start it into the world’s consciousness. Twitter wants Terrell Owens to be a Chicago Bear. Just look at Google trends right now, where “Terrell Owens traded to Bears” is the No. 12-most popular search, and climbing.

And people are reacting. Can Twitter actually will a rumor into existence?
That’s a frightening thought. Twitter users are absolutely going nuts with this Owens-to-Bears notion today. Some are taking it as gospel, checking the Bears’ site hourly for No. 81 T.O. jerseys. Some are having fun with it:

Miami Dolphins may add Fergie as a limited partner

Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross could be adding Fergie as his next limited partner in the team.

NFL owners meeting in Boston this week approved Fergie as a potential owner in the team, but the Dolphins have yet to complete a deal with the Black Eyed Peas' singer.

“The owners did approve Fergie’s application for ownership today but there is nothing more to announce at this time as a formal agreement has not been completed,” Dolphins owner Steve Ross said via e-mail.

Fergie’s on tour in Australia, so don’t expect a formal announcement until she’s returned. Fergie and the Black Eyed Peas already have a marketing partnership with the Dolphins – that’s why you see all those promotional messages from band members on the scoreboard during home games at Land Shark Stadium.

Fergie also sported a pink Dolphins jersey and recorded a public service message (see video below) for the NFL’s “Crucial Catch” breast cancer screening campaign in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The addition of Fergie would continue to spice up the already crowded orange carpet crowd that makes up Ross’ ownership group.


Capt. Lou Albano Passes

World Wrestling Entertainment was saddened to learn of the passing of one of the company’s most popular and charismatic legends, “Captain Lou Albano.” WWE extends its deepest condolences to the Albano family.

“Captain Lou” was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996. He performed for WWE from 1983 to 1996. Albano began his storied career with Vincent J. McMahon in the 1960’s as one half of “The Sicilians” tag team with his partner, Tony Altimore. He will be greatly missed by the WWE and his fans.

Barack and Michelle Obama Dolls

A few months ago there was a huge controversy when toymaker TY created beanies of Sasha and Malia, which had a resemblance to the Obama girls. The White House soon condemned Ty for producing the dolls. Now, I guess it's okay to have Barry and Michelle dolls with jointed arms. It's just so pathetic.

Jailbreak toys (how appropriate) claim these are must have toys for the holiday season. Please! I just beg to differ. This may provide two maybe three minutes of play time for any kid this holiday season before they move onto something else. Oh, that's right, I forgot the kids in the public school systems who have been brainwashed with songs of Obama. It may provide 5 minutes.

Jailbreak says, "'If there's one person in America who has captured the public's imagination even more than Barack Obama, it's his wife Michelle."

Obviously, the toys highlight Michelle's arms, but I find the position of Barack's finger to be most interesting. Notice it's pointing. How appropriate. That way years from now, when everything is still a mess, Barry can still point to George W. Bush for all of the problems.

The Christie Fade

This Quinnipiac poll is the latest to show Republican candidate Chris Christie faltering in his campaign for governor of New Jersey. Christie, who’d risen as high as 47 percent in the poll, is down to 41 percent, one point ahead of Gov. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.). And more ominously, Corzine’s favorable rating has risen to a high of 40 percent while Christie’s has fallen to a low of 38 percent. (Corzine still has higher negatives.) A 30-point Christie lead among independents has become a nine-point lead.

Unless Christie reverses the momentum — totally possible, but not the sort of luck Republicans have had in New Jersey since their last statewide win in 1997 — this sets up a possibly disappointing election day for Republicans in three weeks. The New Jersey gubernatorial election is one of five major elections, the others being a gubernatorial race in Virginia, special elections for Congress in New York and California, and a referendum on gay marriage in Maine.

If Republicans and conservatives sweep those elections, it would bolster their case that the country is ready for new leadership in 2010. If they lose a few of them, especially the New Jersey and New York races, they will have failed to match what they did in 1993, when they took advantage of anger at President Bill Clinton and swept the off-year races. If they lose the New York race, the House Republican Conference will actually end the year smaller than it began the year. But if Democrats win those races, expect to hear many conservatives and Tea Party activists argue that the GOP blew the elections by not nominating more conservative candidates.

“Zero tolerance”: Good policy, or needless limit on discretion?

The news came out this morning that Zachary Christie, a 6-year-old Delaware first-grader, is back to school. He made news by bringing a small pocketknife with a fork and a spoon to his school. His mother didn’t know he did it. He didn’t know he shouldn’t have done it. He just wanted to bring his cool new camping tool to school to eat his lunch.

He had faced 45 days of suspension from his school, and enrollment in an alternative school for troublemakers, after violating the school district’s “zero tolerance” policy on bringing weapons to school. According to today’s story about the case, the “Christina School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to reduce the punishment for kindergartners and first-graders who take weapons to school or commit violent offenses to a suspension ranging from three to five days.”

The board used its discretion to change the rules based on the circumstances of this case. So the zero tolerance policy wasn’t, really, zero tolerance. Is that so wrong?

Obviously, nobody thinks weapons should be allowed in schools. The punishment for that should be harsh. Obviously, it would have been nice if Zachary’s mom knew he was bringing it and could have prevented it. But a strict reliance on that belief could only come from someone who has never had a 6-year-old kid. Be as vigilant as you want; something is going to slip past your notice.

So it seems to me the right decision was made here.

But do you agree? If not, why? Can you ever imagine a time when the circumstances would make a zero tolerance policy useless? Don’t we have sayings like “that’s the exception that proves the rule” or “rules were made to be broken”?

If you agree that the right decision was made, can you imagine a situation, a crime so horrible, that “zero tolerance” would be the right approach? Can you imagine completely removing the discretion of the rule-makers from the individual circumstances of a case?

By Kurt Greenbaum

Michael Jackson's kids will co-star in Jackson family reality show

By Vicki Hyman/The Star-Ledger

Michael Jackson's three children will appear in an upcoming A&E reality series about Jackson's brothers, even though Jackson's sister Rebbie, who reportedly has been the primary caregiver for Prince, Paris and Blanket, feels her late brother would "spin in his grave if he knew his kids would be on this show," a source tells Us Weekly.

The series has been in the works since well before Jackson's death in June, and was originally going to focus on the Jackson brothers -- Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Randy -- as they recorded a new album and prepped for a tour. But there wasn't much interest in the project until after Michael died. Funny that.

The new series will also follow the family as it grapples with Jackson's death, including footage of the three children whom Michael fiercely protected from the prying cameras during his lifetime. Rebbie has refused to be in the series, and mom Katherine, the legal guardian of the three kids "is just going along with things," according to the source.

Executive producer Jodi Gomes tells Us Weekly that the family will come off well in "The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty," set to air in December. "They've done a great job opening up about losing a brother." Well, presumably they're getting paid handsomely to do so, so spare us the high praise.


Maria Shriver Cell Phone Driving Slip-Up

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger promises there will be “swift action” taken after TMZ rovers snapped California First Lady Maria Shriver violating state law by driving while holding her cell phone….

On Tuesday, Shriver, 54, was caught chatting on her cell phone while driving, an illegal move based on a legislation her husband signed into law last year. A statue that took effect in 2008 requires California drivers to use a handsfree device while behind the wheel.

The truth behind Obama's Nobel Peace Prize

Avi Davis and Christian Whiton of the American Freedom Alliance explain what's really behind President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize, and why Americans shouldn't be happy about it.
The reality is that the President’s policies have made long-term peace in the world less likely. Prolonged international negotiations with Iran, which started not with Mr. Obama but in fact have gone on throughout the decade, have actually given the Tehran regime time to improve its nuclear and missile capabilities while wars are fought through proxies in Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Similarly, the rhetorical and real concessions the Obama Administration has made to Moscow have yet to yield anything tangible in return other than modest verbal praise. The price paid for this volte face recently rose with the betrayal of two friendly governments—those of Poland and the Czech Republic – countries that had made the unpopular decision to host missile defense facilities at America’s earlier request. They must now be content with an expanded future missile threat from Iran, and also an emboldened Russian neighbor. It can’t be too far from the thoughts of the Polish and Czech leadership that just last year Russia invaded a country it borders. Skeptics are right to wonder how any of this contributes to long-term peace and security.

Perhaps the Nobel Committee’s most unjustified claim is that because of President Obama, “[d]emocracy and human rights are to be strengthened.” This is not even a claim typically made by the President’s most ardent supporters. Indeed, the unapologetic promotion of human rights and democracy that has had a place in a long succession of U.S. administrations has been disavowed by the Obama Administration. Secretary of State Clinton spelled out the rationale for this in her inaugural trip to China in February: “Our pressing on [human rights] issues can’t interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis.” Just this week the President refused to see the Dalai Lama during his visit to Washington, the first time in eighteen years the renowned human rights advocate has not been received by a president. The President also refused to support pro-democracy protesters in Iran after the June elections there. Whether one advocates or opposes these policies, it is hard to believe that one can strengthen human rights and democracy while ignoring those actually fighting for them.

What then was the Nobel Committee’s criteria, if not quantifiable achievements for peace? Unfortunately, a look at more recent Nobel Prize recipients shows a bias toward trendy political causes and icons.


Any true gauge of the reasons for this Award must necessarily produce some very disturbing truths: The Norwegian parliamentarians awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama because they feel he is one of them. His unwillingness to prosecute a vigorous American foreign policy; his apparent absence of belief in American exceptionalism and his penchant for apologizing for American actions abroad, all seem very much in keeping with a Euro-centric view of the world. For this crowd he is the ultimate un-George Bush, less jingoistic, more calm in temperament and much more likely to act in the pacific, multicultural and appeasement vein they so appreciate.
posted by Carl in Jerusalem