Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Ablogistan Senator Ted Kennedy, who suffers from a life-threatening brain tumor that requires daily treatment, has now officially voted more times in the last few months than John McCain. And Kennedy's only voted once since being diagnosed on May 20. . . McCain? He hasn't showed up to vote since April 8, missing a total of 76 votes. . . Here's the attendance record for the 110th Congress according to the Washington Post's database: John McCain: Missed 374 votes (61.8% of total) Barack Obama: Missed 263 votes (43.5% of total). . . Missing a few votes when you're running for president is understandable. But at some point you have to at least attempt to do the job you were elected to do.

Dalai Lama: "If you have a Green Party - I want to join."

Ray Massey, Daily Mail, UK A Tory council plans to pull L400,000 out of a speed camera project, claiming the devices are a 'blatant tax on the motorist'. Swindon Borough Council in Wiltshire wants to spend the money on local safety measures, such as vehicle-activated speed signs. Its proposal is believed to be the first time a council has publicly accused the government of installing speed cameras to make money rather than prevent accidents. Swindon speed camera already out of action.

Gawker - The Associated Press' Washington bureau chief, Ron Fournier, has been pissing various people off with his "accountability journalism" since he was installed in May. His bitter former boss at AP trashed his credentials to Politico, and influential website Talking Points Memo wondered if he wasn't responsible for the AP's "atrocious campaign coverage this year." Fournier has said his new approach, which involves taking more pointed stands within news articles, is driven by an in-depth examination of the facts, while critics say it is simply biased, advocacy journalism dressed up in new clothes. Fournier has had the backing of top AP brass in New York, but that may soon change, given the following recap of a 2004 email from Fournier to then-White House senior advisor Karl Rove, published on TPM: "Karl Rove exchanged e-mails about Pat Tillman with Associated Press reporter Ron Fournier, under the subject line "H-E-R-O." In response to Mr. Fournier's e-mail, Mr. Rove asked, 'How does our country continue to produce men and women like this,' to which Mr. Fournier replied, 'The Lord creates men and women like this all over the world. But only the great and free countries allow them to flourish. Keep up the fight.' Fournier isn't trying to explain how telling the White House's main political adviser to "keep up the fight" keeps his journalism unbiased. Instead he said he's kind of sorry, even though he obviously isn't, at all: "I was an AP political reporter at the time of the 2004 e-mail exchange, and was interacting with a source, a top aide to the president, in the course of following an important and compelling story. I regret the breezy nature of the correspondence."

McClatchy The U.S. government is blocking the American Civil Liberties Union from paying attorneys representing suspected terrorists held here, insisting that the ACLU must first receive a license from the U.S. Treasury Department before making the payments. ACLU director Anthony Romero accused the Bush administration of "obstruction of justice" by delaying approval of the license, which the government argues is required under U.S. law because the beneficiaries of the lawyers' services are foreign terrorists. "Now the government is stonewalling again by not allowing Americans' private dollars to be paid to American lawyers to defend civil liberties,'' Romero said. Treasury Department spokesman John Rankin declined to comment on the showdown with the ACLU, citing privacy policies.

News, Australia A divided US appeals court has ruled an Arizona school violated the constitutional rights of a 13-year-old student by conducting a strip search for ibuprofen. Suspecting that a student had violated a policy against prescription or over-the-counter drugs without permission, public school officials in Safford, Arizona, ordered a search of Savana Redding. A school nurse had her remove her clothes, including her bra, and shake her underwear to see if Ms Redding was hiding anything. The 2003 search, prompted by a tip from another girl, did not find ibuprofen, which is found in common medications like Advil and Motrin to treat pain like cramps and headaches. . . "Directing a 13-year-old girl to remove her clothes, partially revealing her breasts and pelvic area, for allegedly possessing ibuprofen, an infraction that poses an imminent danger to no one, and which could be handled by keeping her in the principal's office until a parent arrived or simply sending her home, was excessively intrusive," Justice Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote for the majority.

Agence France Presse French authorities ordered the temporary closure of a nuclear treatment plant in a popular tourist region of southern France after a uranium leak polluted the local water supply. But site operator Socatri, a subsidiary of French nuclear giant Areva, said it would permanently shut down the facility at the Tricastin nuclear plant in Provence as part of a previously-planned upgrade. France's ASN nuclear safety authority cited a "series of faults and human negligence that is not acceptable" when it ordered the closure following an inspection at the plant ursday. Residents in the Vaucluse region have been told not to drink water or eat fish from nearby rivers since the leak in which 75 kilogram (165 pounds) of untreated liquid uranium spilled into the ground. Swimming and water sports were also forbidden as was irrigation of crops with the contaminated water.

ABC - Researchers observed 50 kids aged 1 to 3 at play in a room for an hour: half the time was television-free, and half the time the TV show "Jeopardy" was playing on a television in the room. Although the children in the room while the TV was on glanced up only occasionally, the researchers saw clear signs that the children had trouble concentrating. . . During the television-free time, Anderson and his colleagues observed standard psychological testing signs that the toddlers were focused and learning. "The child gets an intent look on their face, they lean into the toy, their extraneous body movements decrease," Anderson says. "When they're in that state, they're much more likely to be learning." But when "Jeopardy" came on, Anderson and his colleagues saw different behavior. The children played for half as long as they played without background television, and they were visibly less calm. "You actually can see sometimes more aimless behavior, walking around like they're not quite sure what they're going to do next," Anderson says.

Daily Telegraph, UK America's professional Father Christmases have been plunged into civil war amid accusations of profiteering, unethical behaviour and even Claus-on-Claus violence. . . Organizers of the annual convention in Kansas of the Amalgamated Order of Real-Bearded Santas, fear it will be disrupted by splitters from rival groups such as the Fraternal Order and the Red Suit Society. The trouble started last year with a row on the board of the Amalgamated Santas, a 700-member group which was set up in 1994 by 10 Santas doing a television commercial in Hollywood. Tim Connaghan, the organisation's chief, was forced out after a rival board member, Nick Trolli, accused him of unethical behaviour by acting as a booking agent for 200 members hired for Christmas events and taking a $25,000 consultancy free from a film company. Mr Trolli took over but he also proved controversial, expelling some 20 members for offences that included maligning fellow Santas on Elf Net. In January, one of the banned members tried to gatecrash an Amalgamated Santas board meeting in California.. . . The fracas prompted another ousted board member, Tom Hartsfield, to shut down the group's website in protest. "They threatened me with the FBI, and called me a thief and a terrorist," he told the Wall Street Journal. Leaders of the group deny the charge.

Conor L. Sanchez, Los Angeles Times With helium costs skyrocketing and supply shortages developing, the balloon industry has struggled for more than a year to compete as worldwide demand for the gas has, well, ballooned. Adding to the turmoil is a bill in the California Legislature that would ban helium-filled foil representations of birthday cakes, Hello Kitty and the like. Foil balloons - made from a tough polyester film known as Mylar or some other metalized material - are accused of causing hundreds of power outages each year in California by short-circuiting power lines they encounter during escape attempts. For entrepreneurs such as Amanda Armstrong, a balloon ban in combination with higher costs could stick a pin in their business. "It will hurt my sales, if not put me under," said Armstrong, who runs a balloon decorating business called Top Hat Balloon Werks from her home in Mission Viejo, servicing weddings, birthday parties, quinceaneras and other celebrations. The balloon designer, who can tick off the aesthetic and profit characteristics of various gas-filled creations, said metallic balloons accounted for about half of her $175,000 in annual sales.

Overheard in DC: Guy to another guy: "Dude, she's way out of your league. She's in the major's and you're a tee-ball coach with questionable photos on your computer."

News, Australia, headline - Mormons make missionary position clear


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