Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Lesbians live in fear of 'corrective rape'

LESBIANS in South Africa are being dragged off the street and raped to "correct" them, it has been claimed.
Sky News has found evidence of widespread abuse against the lesbian community, resulting in a new trend of so-called "corrective rape."

In the the township of Khayelitsha on the outskirts of Cape Town, a group of women said they live in fear for their lives. All of them claim to know someone who has been violently dragged off the street and raped because she had come out as a lesbian.

"We live in a society firstly that sees women as always having to be subservient to men, but it is even worse when you come out as a lesbian, and a butch lesbian at that. There is always that threat that you are going to be raped so you can become a 'real' woman," says Funeka Solidaat.

..Ms Funeka said she had been attacked on two occasions; on the second she was raped. She said the men covered their faces with ski masks and that she had been repeatedly threatened with rape in the township.

But what shocked her even more was the attitude of the police. "I told them I needed help because I'd been raped and I was just a laughing stock, " she said. The police did not even finish taking her statement.

At a safe house in Khayelitsha township a group of women talked. Desire Dudu said she had come out as a lesbian, but warned you risk your life in South Africa if you make your sexuality clear.

In Soweto, South Africa's biggest township, one man roared with laughter as he said lesbians should be whipped. "There is no mention of lesbians in the Bible," he said.

His friends also approved of lesbians being raped to "correct" them and to "teach them a lesson."

They added "women should behave like women" and this was a way of "teaching" them.

Although there is a progressive post-apartheid black middle class in South Africa, views like this are said to be reflective of the masses.

Campaigners say although South Africa has a wide-ranging constitution, attitudes need to change within the police and the Government if lesbians are ever going to be able to live safely and openly within the townships.

The townships have always been the voice of black South Africans, but the lesbian community is a section of society which considers itself ostracized and abused in a country which struggled hard to define itself as a land of equality.

Secret Service Memo Details 91 Security Breaches

Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan testifies before last week's House Homeland Security Committee hearing. (AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — An internal Secret Service document reveals that last month's gate crashing incident at a White House state dinner was one of 91 security breaches since 1980.

The 2003 report was used for training purposes, and helped agents evaluate security procedures and improve their response to breaches, Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan said. A breach can range from a White House fence jumper to a fame-seeking Virginia couple making their way inside a state dinner without an invitation, he said.

Tareq and Michaele Salahi were not on the guest list for the Nov. 24 dinner and had not been cleared by the Secret Service for admission into the White House. Despite that, they were allowed in, shook hands with President Barack Obama, and had their picture taken with Vice President Joe Biden.

While testifying before Congress last week, Secret Service director Mark Sullivan said normal security protocols were not followed during the dinner. Three officers have since been put on administrative leave.

The gate crashing was among 10 security breaches since 2001, Donovan said. Eight have happened off White House grounds.

An official who had access to the report said most but not all of the 91 breaches involved the president. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the report. The document was first reported in The Washington Post.

Buffett moves closer to wrapping up Burlington Northern deal

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. said Monday that the Federal Trade Commission ended a review of its proposed $26.3 billion acquisition of railroad operator Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., moving the deal a step closer to completion.

Berkshire and BNSF said they continue to expect the deal to close in the first quarter of next year.

Burlington Northern has major operations in the Kansas City area, where it maintains a large rail hub and a training center at Johnson County Community College. The company also is planning to devleop a freight centerI near Gardner, Kan.

In early November, Berkshire agreed to pay $100 per share in cash and stock for the 77.4 percent of BNSF shares that it didn’t already own. The purchase would be the largest ever for Buffett’s holding company, which is based in Omaha.

Burlington Northern owns BNSF Railway Co., which operates 32,000 miles of track in 28 states and two Canadian provinces. It is a major hauler of grain, coal and consumer products.

Berkshire built its stake in Burlington Northern, which is based in Fort Worth, over the past two years before announcing plans to buy the entire company.

Berkshire has scheduled a special meeting in Omaha on Jan. 20 where shareholders will be asked to approve a 50-for-1 split of Berkshire’s Class B stock to complete the BNSF deal.

Burlington Northern shares rose 17 cents to $98.83 in afternoon trading. Berkshire’s Class B shares rose $12 to $3,332.

Bernanke Calls U.S. Recovery 'Fragile'

As he seeks re-election for another term as Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke has been telling the Economic Club of Washington that the US recovery remains fragile. He pointed out that US employment levels are likely to remain at elevated levels for some time to come. Re-employment of workers laid off during a recession always lags behind recovery – this is likely to be even more pronounced if the recovery is less than robust. Similarly, he has repeated the Fed’s policy that interest rates must remain low “for an extended period of time”. This will do little to help the strength of the US Dollar in international trading. His comments have been attributed to the reversal of the recent rally (since 27 November) of the Dollar against the Euro.

Bernanke gave no hints as to when the stimulus package may start to be withdrawn. This will be a cardinal sign that US authorities believe that the worst of the economic crisis is over. US President Barack Obama has suggested that financial provisions made under the Troubled Asset Relief Progam (TARP) and not required, may be used to reduce the US deficit and to stimulate employment. Some $200B less than projected was required to bail out the financial sector. The US deficit is a staggering $1.4T and the current unemployment level is hovering around the 10% mark.
The Bank of Japan has announced that its latest stimulus package will cost $81B. The latest round of support is designed to prevent the economy from sliding back into recession. Japan came out of a year long recession in Q2 this year and remained in growth in Q3. However, with a high Yen; high unemployment and price deflation, confidence is in short supply right now.

Domestic Violence Charge Dropped Against Bebe Winans

Famed gospel singer Bebe Winans is breathing easy today after having a domestic violence charge dropped against him.

A judge in Nashville dismissed a misdemeanor domestic violence charge against him after determining that the singer had seen a counselor as court ordered.

The 47-year-old was accused of pushing his wife to the ground after having an argument.

He released a statement Monday expressing his relief saying,

“To be exonerated of all charges shows the power of trusting in God, and is a wonderful Christmas gift for me and my children."

Winans was recently dropped from an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show for the impending charge.

Earth in 'hottest decade on record'

The earth is suffering its hottest decade on record, according to the UN's weather agency on the second day of climate talks in Copenhagen.

Warning that 2009 was also the fifth warmest year since records began, the World Meteorogical Organisation report may add to mounting pressure on policital leaders to accept the changes needed to reduce emissions and slow global warming.

Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organisation, said the decade to 2009 is "very likely to be the warmest on record, warmer than the 1990s, which were in turn warmer than the 1980s".

Speaking in the Danish capital on Tuesday, Jarraud added that the year 2009 would probably rank as the fifth warmest since accurate records were started in 1850.

According to Nasa, the US space agency, the other warmest years since 1850, when records began, have been 2005, 1998, 2007 and 2006.

The data was released as negotiators at the two-week summit worked to craft a global deal to tackle climate change.

US emissions move

The Copenhagen talks, under the banner of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), are aimed at outlining an agreement that sets down pledges by major emitters of greenhouse gases to curb pollution.

On Monday the US government boosted talks by saying it would start to regulate carbon dioxide as a dangerous pollutant.

The move means Barack Obama, the US president, can sidestep congress to order cuts in emissions.

The announcement by the US Environmental Protection Agency (Epa) was clearly timed to build momentum towards an agreement at the international conference on climate change.

Environmentalists hailed Monday's announcement and welcomed the timing, saying it will help the US president convince delegates at the Copenhagen conference that the US is serious about addressing the problem.

The conference is also hoping to set down the principles of long-term financing to help wean poor countries off high-carbon technology and bolster their defences against climate change.

Once ratified, the accord would take effect from 2013.

Delegates said the next few days would see countries lay out their positions before some 110 world leaders, including Obama, China's Wen Jiabao and India's Manmohan Singh, arrive for the climax.

Bryant Gumbel Recovering From Lung Cancer Surgery

HBO Real Sports anchor wants to return to his golf game.

Bryant Gumbel's been a hot search so far this week, as he revealed on Live! with Regis and Kelly Monday morning that he recently underwent surgery to remove a malignant tumor in his lung.

The former Today reporter, 61, was guest hosting Live! on Monday when he made the announcement to the audience...but surrounding the operation, his goal was to keep the matter very private. "We had told a few people, we told my family, obviously," Gumbel said. "I even kept it from my staff at Real Sports."

How serious was it? Well, cancer's cancer -- it's never a good thing. But Gumbel said, "I'm okay for the time being." He also revealed the next step: he'll see his surgeon again next week. He said, "I'm hoping they greenlight me to play golf again," he said.

Meanwhile golf god Tiger Woods just wants his life back. Read about the speculations that his mother-in-law Barbro Holmberg, in from Sweden, was hospitalized for a heart attack early Tuesday morning. And Tiger's hospitalization November 27? We just learned he was admitted for a drug overdose and apparent suicide attempt.

And speaking of golf-lovers like Bryant Gumbel and Tiger Woods...did SNL take their Tiger Woods golf club-beating spoof too far on Saturday?

Bomb Blasts Across Pakistan Kill More Than 70 Since Monday

Reports say one damaged building belongs to the country's main spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence.

Pakistani officials say since Monday, more than 70 people have died in bombings across the country. In the latest attack, police say a bomb blast near an intelligence office in the central city of Multan killed at least 12 people and severely damaged several buildings.

Police officials in Multan say at least two armed militants drove a vehicle loaded with about 1,000 kilograms of explosives into a complex housing an office of the country's ISI spy agency.

Officials say the militants blew themselves up after security forces stopped them from driving closer to the ISI office. The force of the explosion ripped the facades off several houses in the area.

Retired Brigadier-General Mahmood Shah is the former security chief for Pakistan's tribal regions. He tells VOA he believes the attack is the work of Punjabi militants, who used to train with the Pakistani Taliban in their South Waziristan stronghold.

"All these elements who were training there, who were stationed there, are out of the place and could be acting independently," he said.

He says security forces should become stricter in how they check individuals and search vehicles for explosives.

Late Monday, twin explosions struck a busy market in the eastern city of Lahore, killing nearly 50 people, mostly women and children.

Earlier in the northwestern city of Peshawar, a suicide bomber exploded outside a courthouse, killing 10 people.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but officials are blaming Taliban militants.

Since the Pakistani military launched operations against them near the Afghan border in mid-October, most of the militant attacks have targeted security forces, including the country's separate army and naval headquarters.

Militant attacks across Pakistan have killed more than 500 people in the past two months.

121 Killed In Baghdad Bombings

The beginning of the end of the US presence in Iraq is providing us with a bit of a preview of what we can expect. Baghdad bombings:

A series of devastating car bombings rocked Baghdad on Tuesday, killing at least 121 people and wounding hundreds more, according to preliminary accounts by witnesses, the police and hospital officials. Five bombs in all, including at least three suicide attacks, struck near a college, a court complex in western Baghdad, a mosque and a market and a neighborhood near the Interior Ministry in what appeared to be a coordinated assault on the capital.

[. . .] The attacks came as Iraq’s Presidency Council announced a date — March 6 — for the country’s long-delayed parliamentary elections. [. . .] Many victims linked the attacks to the protracted political jockeying over holding the election, which was originally scheduled for January. “Are we cursed?” yelled a young woman near the mosque that was struck in Qahira, in northeast Baghdad. She had burns over her arms and legs. “When will we be finished with this election issue?”

(Emphasis supplied.) Of course elections are not the issue. Power is. The struggle between Sunni and Shia, and different factions of Sunni and Shia, will continue long after the US is gone.

That is Iraq's future.

Virgin Galactic reveals SpaceShip Two

Sir Richard Branson officially revealed the SpaceShip Two which will be able to ship two pilots and six wealthy people into space! The passengers will be able to experience 5 minutes of weightlessness while Sir Branson watches in his billion dollar office laughing it up as he profits off people’s childhood dreams. The plane still has to go through regulation procedures like bribing the inspectors but I’m pretty sure Sir Branson will get this off by 2010.

Now going off topic, if the queen’s life is threatened, she would have to call in her knights right? Sir Elton John, Sir Ian McKellan, and Sir Richard Branson. I think Branson can use his money to persuade and to put it in a sack. Could be a nifty weapon. It has to be filled with Ben Franks rather than Washingtons though because Branson is filthy rich and it probably gives him the strength of two men. John and McKellan’s ability though is to entertain and love men. I don’t think an invading nomadic army wants music, performing arts, and man love. If they are, well John and McKellan might do the job.

Mistrial Declared for NJ Blogger

This week, a federal judge declared a mistrial in the case of New Jersey blogger Hal Turner, who was charged in June with threatening to kill several federal judges via his blog postings where he also posted addresses, photos, maps and other identifying information about them.

The mistrial was declared after jurors said they were hopelessly deadlocked. A retrial was set for March 1, 2010.

Ohio to execute convicted killer using new single injection method

Kenneth Biros is to be put to death today using a new single injection method. The new method was developed after the botched execution of Romell Broom in September.

I post this not to get in to any big debate about the death penalty. I’m against it. I understand this to be a minority position and accept that. It makes me sad that we as a society take this position, but it is what it is.

I wanted to highlight this to point out the sheer hypocrisy among those who would comment on stories like Broom and Biros with comments like “kill the bastard”, “eye for an eye”, and “it’s about time. we should have used a .22″.

These are the same types of people who jump up and down about Sharia Law and stories from Pakistan where a person who throws acid on someone is sentenced to have acid thrown into his eyes as punishment.

It doesn’t make us any better than they and it lessens us overall. I can’t imagine a single family member walking out after having viewed the death of another human being feeling good about it. If they do, there is a deeper emptiness than they wanted to admit.

Safe Drinking Water Act violated and ignored for millions

by Chris in Paris

After watching the Bush administration ignore countless other laws that negatively impacted people and the environment, it's not much of a surprise. As the article says, this is yet another health care issue. The cost of treating Americans for illnesses related to the environment is too often overlooked. NY Times:

That law requires communities to deliver safe tap water to local residents. But since 2004, the water provided to more than 49 million people has contained illegal concentrations of chemicals like arsenic or radioactive substances like uranium, as well as dangerous bacteria often found in sewage.

Regulators were informed of each of those violations as they occurred. But regulatory records show that fewer than 6 percent of the water systems that broke the law were ever fined or punished by state or federal officials, including those at the Environmental Protection Agency, which has ultimate responsibility for enforcing standards.

Studies indicate that drinking water contaminants are linked to millions of instances of illness within the United States each year.

Obama: 47 pct approval, new Gallup low

by Mark Silva

President Barack Obama's job approval in the Gallup Poll's daily tracking survey today -- 47 percent -- marks a new low for the president's job ratings.

Obama's approval has fallen below 50 percent in recent Gallup tracking, and had reached a low of 48 percentage points before today's newest report, the average of surveys taken over the past three days.

"Any slight bump in support Obama received coincident with his new Afghanistan policy proved to be very short-lived, as his approval rating returned to below the majority level by the weekend, and slipped further to 47 percent in Dec. 4-6 polling,'' Gallup's Jeffrey Jones reports.

"Afghanistan is just one of many high-profile issues with which the president is dealing, Jones notes. "Immediate public reaction to his new Afghanistan policy showed 51 [percemt in favor and 40 perccent opposed, according to a Dec. 2 USA Today/Gallup poll....

"Additionally, in recent days Obama has been ramping up his focus on finding ways to create jobs for out-of-work Americans, and is planning a major speech on Tuesday outlining his ideas for spurring job creation. In late November, Gallup found slight majorities of Americans disapproving of the way Obama was handling job creation and the economy more generally.''

So far in December, Obama has averaged 50 percent job approval in the Gallup tracking, which measured the president's public approval rating at 69 percent days after inauguration.

Gallup reports today: "That is similar to the (first) December averages for Ronald Reagan (49 percent) and Bill Clinton (53 percent), who also took office when the economy was struggling."

(President Barack Obama pictured above speaking of the economy today in the Oval Office, during a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Obama spoke of smaller than expected losses in the financial market bailouts and how some of the money could be used to spur job creation. Photo by Jewel Samad / AFP / Getty Images.)