Monday, December 15, 2008



Frederic Dicker, NY Post -
A prominent New York Democratic congressman publicly questioned Caroline Kennedy's credentials to replace Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, saying she's no more qualified to hold office than Jennifer Lopez.
Rep. Gary Ackerman of Queens, a 25-year veteran of Congress, declared in a radio interview: "I don't know what Caroline Kennedy's qualifications are." "Except that she has name recognition, but so does J.Lo," Ackerman continued on Steve Malzberg's radio show on WOR. "I wouldn't make J.Lo the senator unless she proved she had great qualifications, but we haven't seen them yet.". . . Ackerman also joked that he had taken himself out of the running for the Senate in a way that appeared to highlight Kennedy's lack of statewide experience. He said he wouldn't want to replace Clinton "because I don't do Utica, and that's a qualification for the job." A Marist College poll Tuesday showed that Kennedy, who lives in Manhattan, has her weakest support for a potential Senate race among upstate voters.


Idled farm workers are searching for food in the nation's most prolific agricultural region, where a double blow of drought and a court-ordered cutback of water supplies has caused hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. [California's] most dire water shortage in three decades is expected to erase more than 55,000 jobs across the fertile San Joaquin Valley by summer and drive up food prices across the nation, university economists predict. "People being thrown out of work are the ones who can least afford it," said Richard Howitt, a professor of agriculture economics at the University of California-Davis, who estimates that $1.6 billion in agriculture-related wages across the valley will be lost in the coming months because of dwindling water. Already the wage losses have hit businesses that are the backbone of the small farm communities that sustain nearly a quarter of the nation's agriculture production.


Washington Post -
Immigration and civil liberties groups condemned a new U.S. government policy to collect DNA samples from all non-citizens detained by authorities and all people arrested for federal crimes. The new Justice Department rule. . . dramatically expands a federal law enforcement database of genetic identifiers, which is now limited to storing information about convicted criminals and arrestees from 13 states. . . U.S. officials said that probable cause that a person has committed a crime or indications that he is an illegal immigrant subject to removal from the country are appropriate standards for collecting DNA. But Barry Steinhardt, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's technology and liberty project, said the change "turns the presumption of innocence on its head."
Charles H. Kuck, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the U.S. rule "casts civilly detained immigrants as criminals, requiring them to submit to DNA testing even in cases where there is no suggestion of any criminal violation."



PR Watch -
The Society of Professional Journalists has issued a statement strongly criticizing the National Broadcasting Corporation for its continued use of retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey as an on-air military analyst, while failing to disclose McCaffrey's multiple conflicts of interest that were recently detailed in the New York Times. "When the retired general offers his insight on the air for NBC, CNBC and MSNBC, viewers are left with the impression he is an objective observer, a former military man speaking from the depths of his experience," it states. "What the networks have failed to tell viewers is that McCaffrey has a financial interest in the war." . . . Writing for the Columbia Journalism Review, Charles Kaiser asks if there is "any limit to the shamelessness of NBC News," which "has never once disclosed any of McCaffrey's multiple conflicts of interest on the air. . . McCaffrey is the living embodiment of all the worst aspects of entrenched Washington corruption -- a man who shares with scores of other retired officers a huge financial interest in having America conduct its wars for as long as possible."

Word is that Detroit newspapers may cut home delivery to three times a week.


Malaysia Sun - The Vatican's chief spokesman has said that the Roman Catholic Church believes homosexuality must not be considered a crime, but added that initiatives aimed at putting all forms of sexual orientation on the same level are wrong. Father Federico Lombardi was commenting on controversy triggered by the Holy See's decision to oppose a proposal by France, backed by the 27-nation European Union, for a United Nations resolution calling governments to decriminalize homosexuality. Lombardi said the Vatican opposed all forms of discrimination, but he added that the proposal, if accepted, could end up making the Catholic Church, which opposes granting marriage rights to homosexuals, guilty of infringing human rights. . . Homosexuality is currently punishable by law in more than 85 countries. It is punishable by death in a number of them, including Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen.


NY Times - Ridership on the city's sprawling public transportation system increased about 9 percent from 2003 to 2007. "What you see is that for the first time since at least World War II, all of the growth in travel in the city has been absorbed by non-auto modes, primarily by mass transit," said Bruce Schaller, New York's deputy transportation commissioner for planning and sustainability, who wrote the study. . . Mr. Schaller said that vehicle trips citywide peaked in 1999 and then leveled off, with a dip in 2001 as a result of the terror attack on the World Trade Center. The overall trend has been largely stable traffic volumes across the city from 1999 through 2007. In contrast, during the years when the economy was most buoyant, from 2003 to 2007, transit ridership soared, increasing about 9 percent during those years, according to the city study. The difference is even greater when the focus is on the core commercial district of Manhattan, south of 60th Street. From 2003 to 2007, the study found, traffic entering that area fell by 3 percent. During the same period, transit ridership into the same zone rose 12 percent.


LA Times -
Bill Ritter Jr. was not the first governor of Colorado to declare the first Thursday in May as a day of prayer. But he was the first to attend a celebration of the National Day of Prayer at the state Capitol, joining a crowd of several hundred Christians in 2007. His appearance at the event caught the attention of a Wisconsin-based atheist group, which has mounted a campaign its leaders hope will dissuade him and other governors from participating again. The Freedom From Religion Foundation has filed a lawsuit in state court, seeking to stop the governor from issuing any proclamations it says endorse a particular religion and send a message to nonreligious residents "that they are expected to believe in God.". . . "Everybody has become too comfortable with this interaction of religion and government. Sometimes someone needs to push back," said David Habecker, 63, one of the lawsuit's plaintiffs and a member of the foundation.

ABP - South Carolinians who want to advertise their Christian faith on their car tags won't get to anytime soon, according to a Dec. 11 ruling by a federal judge. In a preliminary injunction, United States District Judge Cameron McGowan Currie ordered state officials to halt production, sales, advertising and distribution of the new license plates. The tags feature a cross superimposed on a stylized stained-glass window and the inscription "I Believe" above the tag number and the name of the state. In a five-page order, Currie said she issued the injunction because federal courts would likely find the law that created the plates a gross violation of the Constitution's ban on government establishment of religion.


Thanks to Jorn Barger, Charles Everett, Scott Langill, Chris Harris, Doug Ireland, Larry Bensky, HT Moses and Jim McCusker whose recent communiques have had some effect - subtle, corrective, moderating, enlightening or enabling - on what you read here over the past week.


The South El Monte city council has ordered its mayor to leave city hall by 11 pm. South El Monte is east of LA, The mayor, who says she needs to work late to get everything done, calls the new rule petty.




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