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30 November 2011

You got hosed, and the Fed and the Big Banks fought to keep it secret from you / They're laughing all the way to the bank

Every penny which the US Federal Reserve Bank loaned secretly to these giant private-sector for-profit "too-big-to-fail" banks is US taxpayer money -- and yet when Bloomberg News sought the amounts and details of these secret loans under the Freedom of Information Act, the Fed claimed, all the way to the US Supreme Court, that it had the right to keep these massive cut-rate cash loans secret from the American public.

It's your money. It's none of your fucking business whom the Federal Reserve Board gives it to, and under what circumstances.

Who the fuck are you, a taxpayer? Who gives a shit? The Fed works for the giant banks.


Bloomberg News 
financial/investment-oriented newswire USA
Tuesday 29 November 2011

Banks made billion$
on secret Federal
Reserve loans
by Bob Ivry, Bradley Keoun, Phil Kuntz

The Federal Reserve [USA central bank] and the big banks fought for more than two years to keep details of the largest bailout in U.S. history a secret. 

Now, the rest of the world can see what it was missing.

The Fed didn't tell anyone which banks were in trouble so deep they required emergency loans of a combined U$1,200,000,000,000 [U$1.2 trillion] on 5 December 2008, their single neediest day.

Bankers didn't mention that they took tens of billions of dollars at the same time they were assuring investors their firms were healthy. And no one calculated until now that banks reaped an estimated U$13,000,000,000 of income by taking advantage of the Fed's below-market interest rates, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its January issue.

Saved by the 2007-2010 bailout, bankers lobbied against government regulations, a job made easier by the Fed, which never disclosed the details of the rescue to lawmakers even as Congress doled out more money and debated new rules aimed at preventing the next collapse.

While Fed officials say that almost all the loans were repaid without losses, details that emerge from 29,000 pages of Fed documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and central bank records of more than 21,000 transactions suggest taxpayers paid a price beyond dollars as the secret funding helped preserve a broken status quo and enabled the biggest banks to grow even bigger.

Dwarfed TARP loans

The size of the bailout came to light after Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, won a court battle against the Fed and a group of the biggest banks called Clearing House Association LLC. The amount of money the central bank parceled out dwarfed the Treasury Department's better-known $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.

Few people were aware of this, partly because bankers didn't disclose the extent of their borrowing.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon told shareholders in March 2010 that his bank used the Fed's Term Auction Facility "at the request of the Federal Reserve to help motivate others to use the system."

He didn't say that the bank's total TAF borrowings were almost twice its cash holdings or that its peak borrowing of $48,000,000,000 came more than a year after the program's creation.

On Nov. 26, 2008, Bank of America's then-CEO Kenneth Lewis wrote to shareholders that he headed "one of the strongest and most stable major banks in the world." He didn't say that Bank of America owed the Fed $86,000,000,000 that day. Bank of America's borrowing peaked at $91,400,000,000 in February 2009.

Spokesmen for JPMorgan and Bank of America declined to comment.
Shoring up banks

The Fed, headed by Chairman Ben Bernanke, has been lending money to banks since just after its founding in 1913. Starting in August 2007, when confidence in banks began to wane, it created a variety of ways to bolster the financial system with cash or easily traded securities.

By the end of 2008, the central bank had established or expanded 11 lending facilities catering to financial firms that couldn't get short-term loans from their usual sources.

"Supporting financial-market stability in times of extreme market stress is a core function of central banks," said William English, director of the Fed's Division of Monetary Affairs. "Our lending programs served to prevent a collapse of the financial system and to keep credit flowing to American families and businesses."

The central bank initially released lending data in aggregate form only. Who borrowed and how much were kept from public view.

The six biggest U.S. banks, which received $160 billion of TARP funds, borrowed as much as $460 billion from the Fed, measured by peak daily debt. Morgan Stanley was the top borrower with a peak of $107,000,000,000 on 28 September 2009.

That was eight days after then-CEO John Mack said the firm was "in the strongest possible position." Mark Lake, a spokesman for the bank, declined to comment.

With the help of the Fed's secret loans, America's largest financial firms got bigger during the crisis. Part of the boost came from a hidden subsidy -- the Fed's below-market interest rates. The subsidy can be estimated using a figure banks call "net interest margin."

It's the difference between what they earn on loans and investments and their borrowing cost. To calculate how much banks stood to make, Bloomberg multiplied their tax-adjusted net interest margins by their average Fed debt during the time they took emergency loans.

The 190 firms for which data were available would have produced income of $13,000,000,000, assuming all of the bailout funds were invested at the margins reported, the data show. Citigroup Inc. would have taken in the most, with $1,800,000,000 .

Assets grew
Total assets held by the six biggest U.S. banks increased 39 percent to $9.5 trillion on 30 September 2011, from $6.8 trillion on the same day in 2006, according to Fed data.

The big six -- JPMorgan, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley -- took 63 percent of the Fed's emergency-loan money as measured by peak daily borrowing, the data show.

Combined, the six spent $29,400,000 on lobbying in 2010, a 33 percent increase from 2006, according to Lobbying by the American Bankers Association, a trade organization, increased at about the same rate, reported.

Lobbyists argued that bigger banks are more stable, better able to serve large companies and more competitive internationally, and breaking them up would cause "long-term damage to the U.S. economy," according to a November 2009 letter to Congress from the Financial Services Forum, an advocacy group made up of the CEOs of 20 of the largest financial firms.

Then-Sen. Ted Kaufman, D-Del., countered that some banks are so big that their failure could trigger a chain reaction in the financial system.

So-called too-big-to-fail banks have an advantage over smaller firms: Their borrowing costs are lower because lenders believe the government won't let them go under. The perceived safety net creates what economists call moral hazard -- the belief that bankers will take greater risks because they'll enjoy any profits while shifting losses to taxpayers.
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26 November 2011

This is not a PizzaQ / Ceci n'est pas une PizzaQ

Cliquez dans la fiche.

last nuclear waste train from France to Germany generates physical, political heat

Click image to enlarge.

After the Fukushima nuclear plant accident in Japan, Angela Merkel guided Germany to end nuclear power generation within a few years. But those nuclear power facilities that remain still require activities associated with the nuclear fuel cycle, including the transport by rail of nuclear waste to reprocessing facilities in France, and then the return trip to Germany to store the waste.

These infrared (heat) images of CASTOR nuclear material containers were taken by Greenpeace recently of a nuclear waste transport train on its way back from France to Germany. The whole "point" of nuclear power is that fissile material -- uranium and plutonium -- generates heat, which boils water, which spins turbines. Even after the fuel rods are spent and reprocessed, the fissile material remains quite hot -- in the case of some isotopes, for many thousands of years. Governments and international agencies must design policies, facilities, and transport systems (land and sea) to take into account the chemical and physical behavior of these materials for millennia.

In parliamentary elections a few days ago, Greenpeace made its strongest showing in 20 years, and has emerged as the third party which will have the power to approve or block the next federal ruling coalitions. DE Greenpeace has also broadened its focus beyond environmental concerns to economic policy reform as the EuroZone experiences major difficulties with the economies of several of its member nations.

As Germany sunsets its nuclear program, France leads the world in reliance on nuclear power generation. In free market nations, calculating the cost per kilowatt of nuclear power generation rarely, if ever, takes into account the cost of police and military protection against political protests. 


Deutsche Welle (television)
Saturday 26 November 2011

German protesters rally
against nuclear waste train

[photo:] Police carry away an anti-nuclear protester. There were clashes between protesters and riot police
A train carrying radioactive atomic waste from France has entered Germany despite efforts by anti-nuclear protesters to block the transport. The train is headed to a storage site which activists say is unsafe.

A train carrying 150 tons of reprocessed nuclear waste from northern France arrived in the northern German state of Lower Saxony on Saturday after meeting with protests and clashes along the way.

The train, on its way to a storage facility in northern Germany, was delayed by anti-nuclear protesters for more than 24 hours on the French side of border.

Several protests took place as the train made its progress through Germany. On one occasion, 200 activists occupied the rails to block the train's further progress. Police reported that they had cleared the tracks in a "largely peaceful" manner, although several arrests were made.

Jochen Stay, a spokesman for the anti-nuclear group "Ausgestrahlt" (Irradiated), told public television that there would be more attempts to block the train as it neared its destination in Gorleben, northeastern Germany.

"There will of course be action taken to block it when it approaches," he said from Dannenberg, some 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Gorleben, where the waste will be stored. "People will block the tracks and the roads," he warned.

"But we do not want this to escalate. We want the police to act sensibly and appropriately with people."

Fierce protests

[photo:] A policeman in riot gear covered in paint. Police were the targets of bottles and paint bombs in Lower Saxony.

A total of 19,000 police officers have been deployed to secure the "Castor" (Cask for Storage and Transport Of Radioactive material) transport carrying 11 containers of nuclear waste.

Protests began near the train’s destination, the temporary storage facility at Gorleben, long before the train had even crossed into Germany.

On Thursday evening, and again in the early hours of Saturday morning, police used a water cannon to break up a camp of hundreds of protesters who were blocking a crossing, throwing rocks, paint bombs and small fireworks in the town of Wendland in the northern German state of Lower Saxony.

There were several other, peaceful protests in the states of Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate, and along other possible routes for the Castor train.

Last delivery

This shipment of German nuclear waste reprocessed in France is to be the last of its kind, due to the German government's decision to phase out its use of atomic energy following the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power station earlier this year.

A train carrying 11 castor containers of nuclear wasteThe train crossed the border near Saarbrücken

German Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to shut down eight of Germany's nuclear power plants in the wake of  the Fukushima disaster, and later said all its remaining nuclear capacity would be taken off the grid by 2022.

Starting in 2012, no German nuclear waste will be sent to France for reprocessing, with the waste simply being stockpiled instead. Nuclear waste reprocessing extracts reusable elements like plutonium and uranium, but does not reduce the radioactivity of the waste.

Germany's anti-nuclear movement is considered one of Europe's strongest. Protesters oppose the transport on several grounds, saying it poses a threat to residents and the environment near the train's path in the event of an accident or an attack.

They also say such transports draw attention to what they see as atomic energy's biggest unsolved problem: the disposal of waste. The waste being transported to the site at Gorleben will remain potentially hazardous for thousands of years.

A delaying action

A year ago, at the height of a furious debate over nuclear power in Germany, tens of thousands turned out to protest against the shipment, managing to delay the train by a whole day.

An estimated 50,000 opponents of nuclear power staged a series of demonstrations along the route of an earlier transport, delaying the delivery of the radioactive waste by almost two days. Arrests and allegations of excessive police force brought the issue more strongly into the public consciousness.

Anti-nuclear organizations have said they expect around 20,000 people to join the protests against this year’s delivery.

On Saturday morning, the train was stopped again for less than an hour near Friedland, just across the state border of Lower Saxony from Hesse, where 100 demonstrators squatting on the rails had to be removed by police, news agency dpa reported.

Authors: Richard Connor, Stuart Tiffen (AFP, dapd, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Sonia Phalnikar

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CASTOR (nuclear waste)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
CASTOR (cask for storage and transport of radioactive material) is a trademarked brand of dry casks used to store spent nuclear fuel (a type of nuclear waste). CASTORs are manufactured by GNS, a German provider of nuclear services.

23 November 2011

wedding notice! Sonia Jacobs, 64, Peter Pringle, 73

Click photo to enlarge.

The New York Times
Friday 18 November 2011

by Vincent M. Mallozzi

MOST married couples will tell you that the things they hold in common helped cement their relationships. For Sonia Jacobs, 64, and Peter Pringle, 73, married in New York last Sunday, common ground was the decade and a half each had served on death row before their convictions were overturned for the murders that they steadfastly maintained they did not commit.

“We have each lived a nightmare,” Ms. Jacobs, in a gold dress and matching pearls, whispered to a friend minutes before marrying Mr. Pringle, his snow-white beard aglow against the backdrop of a black suit and matching bow tie. “Now it’s time to live our fairy tale.”

Once upon a darker time, Ms. Jacobs and her second husband began serving death sentences for two murders in Florida. She entered solitary confinement inside Broward Correctional Institution as a “28-year-old vegetarian hippie,” she said, and exited prison as “a 45-year-old orphan, widow and grandmother.”

Ms. Jacobs, known as Sunny, was born in Queens. She was living in Los Angeles in 1998 when she first encountered Mr. Pringle in Galway, Ireland, at an Amnesty International event she had spoken at that April.

Mr. Pringle said he remembered being riveted as she reeled out the story of how a February 1976 car trip she had taken with Jesse Tafero, her second husband, landed the couple on death row. Behind the wheel, she said, was Walter Norman Rhodes Jr. (who had befriended Mr. Tafero during an earlier prison stint for both men). He was giving the couple a ride from Miami to the home of friends in West Palm Beach, Fla. Also in the car was Christina, the couple’s 10-month-old daughter and Eric, Ms. Jacobs’s 9-year-old son from her first marriage.

At a rest stop off Interstate 95 in Broward County, a state trooper and his friend, a Canadian constable, pulled alongside their vehicle for a routine stop, which ended in a blaze of gunfire.

Both officers were killed.

Ms. Jacobs, who said that she and the children had been asleep in the backseat, contended that it was Mr. Rhodes who shot the two officers and then forced all of them, at gunpoint, to participate in his attempted getaway.

“Jesse and I were stunned, and my son actually slipped in the pool of blood,” Ms. Jacobs said. “At that point, we were hostages.”

A short time later, the police captured all three suspects and charged them with murder. Mr. Rhodes, who testified against the couple, plea-bargained with authorities, reducing his sentence to life.

Mr. Tafero and Ms. Jacobs (her case further damaged by a cellmate who said that she had overheard Ms. Jacobs confess) were sentenced to death.

In 1981, Ms. Jacobs won an appeal and the Florida Supreme Court changed her sentence from death to life in prison. But her spirits were dealt a blow in July 1982 when her parents, who were raising her two children, died in the crash of Pan Am Flight 759 in Kenner, La.

“It was the most devastating time in my entire life,” said Ms. Jacobs, who wears her mother’s wedding ring, which was salvaged in the wreckage.

Her children were cast into the foster care system, but Ms. Jacobs still had her husband, with whom she exchanged prison letters.

“Anything he touched, or that he wrote on, or that he licked with his tongue, I was keeping,” she said. “I existed on those letters.”

But on May 4, 1990, with Ms. Jacobs still in prison, Mr. Tafero was put to death in a Florida electric chair.

“The world had become a place I didn’t know anymore,” she said.

Nevertheless she continued to fight for her release, which came in 1992, nearly 17 years after her arrest, when her conviction was overturned on appeal. (Along the way the jailhouse informant recanted and Mr. Rhodes confessed to murdering the two officers.)

As she told her story in Galway that day, she noticed that a man sitting in the room began to cry. “I was blown away by the horror of what had happened to her,” Mr. Pringle said. “I knew I had to speak to her.”

They were eventually introduced, and Mr. Pringle, who had served a long stretch in Portlaoise Prison in Ireland, offered Ms. Jacobs a ride to her next day’s speaking engagement, a five-hour drive to Quark, Ireland.

She agreed, and then Mr. Pringle made her a more unusual offer. He invited her for a swim in Galway Bay, which she accepted.

“The sea has such a cleansing power about it,” he said to her.

As they crossed the Shannon River the next morning, Mr. Pringle revealed to Ms. Jacob that he, too, was once sentenced to death, and that he, too, had cleansed himself in the waters of Galway Bay, in May 1995, after serving a 15-year prison term.

“At that moment, I knew that the universe had put us together for a reason,” Ms. Jacobs said.

He said that he had been 41 and the divorced father of four when, in July 1980, he was accused of being one of three men who had murdered two police officers following a bank robbery in Ballaghaderreen, Ireland.

He continued telling her that after his conviction he had been sentenced to be hanged. (At the time, killing a police officer in Ireland was a capital crime, though Ireland has since abolished the death penalty.)

His lawyers won a stay of his original Dec. 19, 1980, execution, which was then reset for June 8, 1981.

His hanging was only weeks away when, on May 27, 1981, Ireland’s president commuted Mr. Pringle’s sentence to 40 years without parole.

Mr. Pringle, who is originally from Dublin and dropped out of school when he was 13, decided to serve as his own counsel.

“I became something of a jailhouse lawyer,” he said. Mr. Pringle was eventually able to prove that an interrogating officer had written down his alleged confession before any interrogation had actually taken place. He said that in May 1995, “the case was quashed by the court of criminal appeal on the grounds that my conviction was unsafe and unsatisfactory.”

At the end of her Irish journey, Ms. Jacobs returned to Los Angeles but made an effort to remain long-distance friends with Mr. Pringle, whom she said she found to be “a very honorable man.”

Six months passed before Mr. Pringle invited her back, this time to give a talk during a local concert he arranged in Galway. “During that visit, we fell in love,” she said.

“We didn’t just share a past, we had a vision for a future,” said Ms. Jacobs, who has since spoken at schools, churches and other places across the United States and over a dozen other countries, alongside Mr. Pringle, on human rights and abolishing the death penalty.

“Sure, Peter and I were also physically attracted to one another, but it was deeper than that,” she said. “You know what happens to attractive, it becomes wrinkled and fat.”

In December 2001, she left Los Angeles to live with him in what he described as “a seaside cottage at the end of the road, by the sea, where we grow our own vegetables.”

“Sunny teaches yoga, I live on a pension,” Mr. Pringle said. “We have two hens, two ducks and eight goats. We both milk the goats and Sunny makes cheese. It’s really a nice, simple life.”

Ms. Jacobs re-established contact with her children and a granddaughter, who have scattered to Nevada and Australia; Mr. Pringle reconnected with his brood, who all live in Ireland.

He said, however, that the past could not and would not be forgotten. “We will always feel each other’s pain,” he said.

Nearly a year after Ms. Jacobs moved to Ireland, her story, along with those of five other wrongfully convicted death row inmates, became “The Exonerated,” a play put on by the nonprofit theater Culture Project that had its Off Broadway debut in October 2002.

Ms. Jacobs was first portrayed by Jill Clayburgh, and 28 actresses have since played the role of Ms. Jacobs, a list that includes Mia Farrow, Lynn Redgrave, Susan Sarandon, Kathleen Turner, Brooke Shields, Marlo Thomas and Amy Irving.

None of the couple’s children attended Ms. Jacobs’s and Mr. Pringle’s Nov. 13 wedding at Guastavino’s restaurant in Manhattan. (“My mom and Peter’s lives have been a very rocky road,” the bride’s son wrote in an e-mail. “I am overjoyed to see them both so happy together.”)

Ms. Shields, Ms. Thomas and Ms. Irving, however, were front and center.

“Playing Sunny was so claustrophobic for me,” Ms. Shields said, her eyes welling with tears, “You felt her powerlessness, this was a woman in the wrong place at the wrong time, the same for Peter.

“But despite everything they have been through, they are not bitter or jaded, they never closed their hearts. They are two people who are at peace with themselves and with the world. They could not have been more fated and meant to be with one another.”

As Ms. Jacobs and Mr. Pringle exchanged wedding vows and Irish Claddagh rings before Robin E. Cofer, a Hindu priest, the three actresses, all holding hands, inched closer to Ms. Jacobs.

When Ms. Jacobs was asked, “Will thou love, honor and cherish him, do thou so declare?” the actresses replied on cue: “We do.”

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22 November 2011

How can I be stupider? What news media should I plug into to know less?

Click on Fox News Channel to know less.

Fairleigh Dickinson University is New Jersey's largest private institution [of higher education] with 12,000+ students. The institution has two main campuses located in New Jersey: the College at Florham in Madison ... and the Metropolitan Campus located close to New York City ...

The following is a university press release describing the results of a political science poll conducted by FDU.


Monday 21 November 2011


According to the latest results from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind Poll, some news sources make us less likely to know what’s going on in the world. In the most recent study, the poll asked New Jerseyans about current events at home and abroad, and from what sources -- if any -- they get their information. The conclusion:

Sunday morning news shows do the most to help people learn about current events, while some outlets, especially Fox News, lead people to be even less informed than those who say they don’t watch any news at all.

Among other topics, New Jerseyans were asked about the outcome of the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East this past year. While 53% of New Jerseyans know that Egyptians were successful in overthrowing the government of Hosni Mubarak, 21% say that the uprisings were unsuccessful, and 26% admit they don’t know.

Also, 48% know that the Syrian uprising has thus far been unsuccessful, while 36% say they don’t know, and 16% say the Syrians have already toppled their government.

But the real finding is that the results depend on what media sources people turn to for their news. For example, people who watch Fox News, the most popular of the 24-hour
cable news networks, are 18-points less likely to know that Egyptians overthrew their government than those who watch no news at all (after controlling for other news
sources, partisanship, education and other demographic factors). Fox News watchers are also 6-points less likely to know that Syrians have not yet overthrown their government than those who watch no news.

"Because of the controls for partisanship, we know these results are not just driven by
Republicans or other groups being more likely to watch Fox News," said Dan Cassino, a
professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson and an analyst for the PublicMind
Poll. "Rather, the results show us that there is something about watching Fox News that
leads people to do worse on these questions than those who don’t watch any news at

By contrast, some media sources have a positive effect on political knowledge. For example, people who report reading a national newspaper like The New York Times or USA Today are 12-points more likely to know that Egyptians have overthrown their government than those who have not looked at any news source. And those who listen to the non-profit NPR radio network are 11-points more likely to know the outcome of the revolt against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. 

However, the best informed respondents are those that watched Sunday morning news programs: leading to a 16-point increase in the likelihood of knowing what happened in Egypt and an 8-point increase in the likelihood of knowing what happened in Syria.

"Sunday morning news shows tend to spend a lot more time on a single issue than other
news broadcasts, and they are less likely to degenerate into people shouting at each
," said Cassino. "Viewers pick up more information from this sort of calm discussion
than from other formats. Unfortunately, these shows have a much smaller audience than
the shouters."

New Jerseyans are not necessarily more likely to be knowledgeable about domestic politics than international events. Just 47% are able to identify the Occupy Wall Street protesters as predominantly Democratic: 11 % think they are Republicans. Viewers of cable news on MSNBC are the most likely to think the protestors are Republicans.

Watching the left-leaning MSNBC news channel is associated with a 10-point increase in the likelihood of misidentifying the protesters.

Exposure to Sunday morning news shows helps respondents on this question: seeing these programs leads to an 11-point increase in the likelihood of getting the answer right. Listening to NPR also helps, but the biggest aid to answering correctly is The Daily Show with Jon Stewart [broadcast by the Comedy Central cable network], which leads to a 6-point decrease in identifying the protestors as Republicans, and a 12-point increase in the likelihood of giving the correct answer.

"Jon Stewart has not spent a lot of time on some of these issues," said Cassino. "But the results show that when he does talk about something, his viewers pick up a lot more information than they would from other news sources."

Only 55% of New Jerseyans are able to name correctly either Mitt Romney or Herman Cain as the Republican candidates most recently leading in the polls, with 37 % saying that Romney is ahead, and 18% saying that Cain is. Watching Fox News didn't help or hurt respondents on this question. MSNBC, however, helped: Watching MSNBC was associated with a 10-point increase in identifying Romney as the leader, and a 5-point
drop in the likelihood of identifying Cain compared to those who got no exposure to
news at all.

"Given the amount of time and effort the media spent covering these candidates, the fact that only about half of the public can name one of the front-runners is embarrassing," said Cassino. "The fact that Fox News, the preferred media outlet for many of the candidates, doesn't do better in informing viewers is very surprising."

Those who listen to talk radio are the most likely to answer the question correctly. People who tune in to that generally conservative format are 17-points more likely to say that Herman Cain is at the top, and 15-points more likely to be able to name either of the leaders.

"The amount of time spent on an issue, and the depth to which it's discussed, makes a difference," said Cassino. "Whatever its flaws may be, talk radio has spent a lot of time
talking about the nomination, and the basic facts seem to have gotten through."

The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 612 adults statewide was underwritten by WFDU-FM Radio and conducted by telephone using both landlines and cell phones from Oct. 17 through Oct. 23, 2011, and has a margin of error of +/-3.5 percentage points.


For more details of the Fairleigh Dickinson poll:

20 November 2011

30 years later, top Khmer Rouge leaders stand trial for genocide

The Associated Press
(USA newswire)
Sunday 20 November 2011

Top Khmer Rouge leaders'
trial opens in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- Three top Khmer Rouge leaders accused of orchestrating Cambodia's "killing fields" went on trial Monday before a U.N.-backed tribunal more than 30 years after some of the 20th century's worst atrocities.

Judge Nil Nonn declared the trial open Monday and read the names of the three senior Khmer Rouge leaders who are defendants in the tribunal in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.

The charges against the surviving inner circle of the communist movement -- all now in their 80s -- include crimes against humanity, genocide, religious persecution, homicide and torture stemming from their 1975-79 reign of terror.

An estimated 1,700,000 people died of execution, starvation, exhaustion or lack of medical care as a result of the Khmer Rouge's radical policies, which essentially turned all of Cambodia into a forced labor camp as the movement attempted to create a pure agrarian socialist society. Intellectuals, entrepreneurs and anyone considered [opposed to the Khmer Rouge order] were imprisoned, tortured and often executed.

On Sunday, relatives of the victims wept as they chanted and burned incense near a glass case filled with skulls at Choeung Ek Genocide Center, a memorial built in a Phnom Penh field where the Khmer Rouge staged mass executions.

"I want to remind the victims and ask them to push this trial to find justice for those who were killed by the Khmer Rouges regime," 80-year-old Chum Mey, one of the only two survivors from the notorious S-21 prison, said at Sunday's ceremony.

Tribunal spokesman Huy Vannak called the proceedings beginning Monday "the most important trial in the world" because of the seniority of those involved.

"It sends a message that the trial, which survivors have been waiting more than three decades for, finally begins," he said.

The defendants, who sat side by side with their lawyers, are 85-year-old Nuon Chea, the Khmer Rouge's chief ideologist and the No. 2 leader behind the late Pol Pot; 80-year-old Khieu Samphan, an ex-head of state; and 86-year-old Ieng Sary, the former foreign minister.

A fourth defendant, 79-year-old Ieng Thirith, was ruled unfit to stand trial last week because she has Alzheimer's disease. She is Ieng Sary's wife and served as the regime's minister for social affairs.

The regime's supreme leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998 in Cambodia's jungles while a prisoner of his own comrades, who after being toppled from power fought a guerrilla war that did not fully end in the late 1990s.

The U.N.-backed tribunal, which was established in 2006, has tried just one case, convicting Kaing Guek Eav, the former head of the regime's notorious S-21 prison, last July and sentencing him to 35 years in prison for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other offenses.

That case was seen as much simpler than the current case, which covers a much broader range of activities and because Kaing Guek Eav confessed to his crimes. Those going on trial Monday have steadfastly maintained their innocence. The prison chief was also far lower in the regime's leadership ranks than the current defendants.

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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15 November 2011

PizzaQ! Gauche au droit, Who the heck are these Holy Guys? (Because -- blow me down! -- they're NOT The Apostles!)

Click on Cathedral-Basilica to enlarge.

Like a bolt from the blue, a few weeks ago I got an e-mail from the University of Toronto Press asking permission to use the above photo in an upcoming high-class coffee-table book (and its e-book avatar), which will be published (Good Lord willin' and the crik don't rise) this coming Spring entitled "Religions of Canadians."

In 2008 I trekked to Montreal on a train, stayed a night or two in the hotel above the big train station, and then hopped the 23-hour train to Halifax.

By total accident, this was the view out my hotel room window.

It's a Roman Catholic Cathedral, so those guys on the roof are The Apostles, right?

Who the heck else could they be? The Toronto Bluejays? The Rockettes dancing an Easter pageant? Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs?

I never gave it a second thought.

Until today.

I had suggested that the editor also identify and credit the sculptor, and she did.

Well, blow me down and knock me over with a feather! They're NOT The Apostles!

* * *

Hiya A***** --

Your identification of the sculptor led me to surf

and discover that the statues are NOT the Apostles, but are

À la cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde (Montréal)

    Saint Antoine de Padoue et l'Enfant-Jésus (1898)
    Saint Vincent de Paul et un enfant trouvé (1893)
    Saint Hyacinthe tenant une statuette de la Vierge (1899)
    Saint Thomas d'Aquin (1900)
    Saint Paul (1898)
    Saint Jean l'Évangéliste (1893)
    Saint Jacques-le-Majeur (1892)
    Saint Joseph et l'Enfant-Jésus (1899)
    Saint Jean Baptiste (1899)
    Saint Patrice (1899)
    Saint Ignace d'Antioche (1893)
    Saint Charles Borromée (1899)
    Saint François d'Assise (1898)

(I found no indication of left-right order, of who is which.)

This headache at the altar of accuracy now belongs to you and T******* F**. In my defense, I was just a camera-toting tourist passing through, and woefully ignorant of hagiography to boot.


* * *

Which brings us to today's PizzaQ -- 13 slices of French-bread Pizza.

Using your (hopefully superior) knowledge of the Christian and Roman Catholic Saints, can you identify these statues correctly, from left to right? (Gauche au droit, I guess.)

That's cheating, and it's very possible they won't know for sure. The most recent statue went up in 1900, and 111 years is a lot of time to forget which saint is which. 

They probably won't let you ask the Archbishop directly. And if they let you, he will probably insist you chat en francaise/Quebecois.

So this PizzaQ is really a test of how expert you are at Christian hagiography. For those who didn't snore or read Green Lantern comic books through Sunday School or Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, there should be lots of little clues in the statues to identify each one. That's always been the deal with Christian art -- it's filled with signs and symbols and tipoffs to know who's who.

I already screwed up this Holy Rooftop Lineup ignorantly and badly, so surely there exists a spiritually educated reader who can do better than I did. 

And 13 slices of French Bread Pizza is not chopped liver!

12 November 2011

2 postage stamps commemorate Veterans Day 2011 / Vleeptron's Random Thoughts on Veterans Day

Click postage stamps to enlarge.

Thank you for serving.

Bring back the draft immediately.

Share the risk. If the sons of the decision-making elite are subject to a no-loopholes draft, presidents and Congress will not be so War Whacky and Jingo Silly.

Stop playing War Poker with Other Peoples' Chips.

If these wars are so fucking vital to national security, why aren't we selling War Bonds or Victory Bonds so civilians can show how much they support the wars?

Explain how the US military will succeed where the Soviet military failed in Afghanistan.

THE THANKS OF A GRATEFUL NATION: Why is unemployment for US military veterans so astonishingly worse than the national unemployment rate?


Once in khaki suits
Gee we looked swell
Full of that Yankee Doodly Dum
Half a million boots went slogging through hell
I was the kid with the drum
Hey, don't you remember? 
They called me Al
It was Al all the time
Hey, don't you remember?
I'm your pal
Brother, can you spare a dime?

09 November 2011

How Pennsylvania State University can fix the child sex assault scandal associated with Penn State's wonderful football program

Somewhat to my astonishment, throughout the Penn State football child-sex-assault scandal which has filled USA newspapers and television, no one has whispered one word about the obvious solution and resolution.

A state university whose top officials tolerate and cover up a pedophile's dozen years of sexually assaulting 10-year-old boys in the football locker room showers should stop playing football. Forever. 

Or maybe for the next four years. (A temporary ban on college football is called "the death penalty" in college football circles.) 

Just enough time so that every student who chose to attend Penn State for its fantastic football program will have graduated and moved on -- to more foot-shooting clueless brain-dead stupidity, or perhaps to a slightly wiser life that actually involves academic achievement -- which (I was always told) was The Mission and Sole Purpose of an accredited university.

Not football. Football is not why we have colleges and universities. Particularly taxpayer-paid public colleges and universities.

(Please Leave A Comment if you disagree, and tell Vleeptron about your college's amazing athletic programs. Rah Rah Sis Boom Bah.)

College football's winningest coach Joe Paterno announced today that he's retiring at the end of this season (Penn State has about 4 more games to play). 

Paterno, 84, apparently Did The Right Thing (slightly) when, many years ago, he passed on a complaint he'd received that assistant defensive coach Jerry Sandusky had sexually assaulted a 10-year-old boy in the football shower room to higher university officials. 

But he never followed up to see what the university did about an eye-witness account of his assistant coach sexually abusing a 10-year-old boy in the football shower.

(The university, including the university police department, did absolutely nothing. The two university officials actually lied to a state grand jury and denied knowing anything about the incident. They, and Sandusky, have been arrested this week.)

So here's my solution:

Penn State should stop playing football. Immediately. Forfeit the last games of the season. Get out of the College Football Business.

(And it's big business, worth millions and millions of dollars annually through television broadcast contracts).

Well, as my coaches always told us:

Team Sports 
Builds Character.

And, as it turns out, sexually assaulting 10 year old boys in the locker room shower is a component of Character.

08 November 2011

PizzaQ! What's it say?

Give Vleeptron a reasonable English gist of this text and uhhh you win 6 slices with pesto sauce and avacado and shitake mushrooms.



"הדיון על תקיפה מחזק את אירן"

רגע לפני פרסום הדוח החדש של הסוכנות הבינלאומית לאנרגיה אטומית, הצפוי לקבוע רשמית כי אירן מנסה לפתח נשק גרעיני, מנסה שר החוץ הגרמני לקרר את הרוחות. "אני מזהיר מפני הצפת הרעיון של אופציות צבאיות", אמר השר גידו וסטרוולה בראיון לעיתון מקומי, "יש דיונים.. שמחזקים את המנהיגות האירנית במקום להחליש אותה"

סוכנויות הידיעות | חדשות 2 | פורסם 07/11/11 22:58
אחמדינג'אד וחמנאי. מחוזקים? (צילום: AP)
אחמדינג'אד וחמנאי. מחוזקים?
צילום׃  AP
דיון ציבורי אודות תקיפה באירן הוא מסוכן והוא מחזק את המשטר בטהרן יותר מאשר מחליש אותו – כך מזהיר היום שר החוץ הגרמני בראיון לעיתון מקומי.

בעוד הדיון בשאלת התקיפה באירן נמשך ברחבי העולם, לקראת פרסום הדוח החדש של הסוכנות הבינלאומית לאנרגיה אטומית שצפוי לקבוע כי נמצאו הוכחות לתכנין גרעין לשימוש צבאי, מגיעה התבטאות רשמית בנושא דווקא מבעלת בריתה הקרובה של ישראל באירופה.

שר החוץ הגרמני. מקרר את הרוחות (צילום: רויטרס)
שר החוץ הגרמני. מקרר את הרוחות
צילום׃  רויטרס
"אני מזהיר מפני הצפת הרעיון של אופציות צבאיות", אמר השר גידו וסטרוולה בראיון לעיתון "המבורגר אבנבלאט". "יש דיונים.. שמחזקים את המנהיגות האירנית במקום להחליש אותה".

עם זאת, שר החוץ הגרמני הדגיש כי אם אירן לא תשתף פעולה, "הקהילה הבינלאומית לא תחזור ל'עסקים כרגיל'. לאירן יש את הזכות להשתמש באנרגיה גרעינית למטרות אזרחיות, אך גם את החובה שלא לעשות זאת לצרכים צבאיים". בכיר ברוסיה: "לא נזיל דמעה אם אירן תותקף"
בהתבטאות נדירה המנוגדת לעמדה הפומבית של מוסקבה כלפי הקהילה הבינלאומית, אמר בכיר רוסי כי "לא נזיל דמעה אם אתרי הגרעין של אירן יותקפו" והוסיף כי "ישראל לא תאפשר לאירן להשיג נשק גרעיני". את הדברים אמר הדיפלומט הרוסי לאחד מראשי מדינות אירופה לשעבר, והמידע הגיע לגורמים בירושלים.
- פרסומת -
כלפי חוץ רוסיה מתנגדת להטלת סנקציות על אירן ומקפידה להתבטא באופן מתון בנושא האירני, אך על פי ההערכות, העמדה המפתיעה של הבכיר הרוסי נובעת מאינטרסים רוסים הקשורים לנפט ולתוכנית הגרעין האירנית ביום שאחרי תקיפה. תקיפת מתקני הגרעין באירן תעלה את מחירי הנפט בעולם ורוסיה שהינה יצרנית נפט גדולה בעצמה, תרוויח מכך. בנוסף, אירן תהיה תלויה ברוסיה בהיבט של רכישת חלקים וחלפים לתוכנית גרעין ביום שאחרי ההפצצה. דוח הסוכנות לאנרגיה אטומית שיתפרסם בהמשך השבוע צפוי להיות החמור מכולם ולקבוע כי בניגוד להצהרותיה, אירן מנסה לפתח נשק גרעיני לצרכים צבאיים.
רוצים לקבל עדכונים נוספים? הצטרפו לחדשות 2 בפייסבוק
חדשות 2
תגובות (12 תגובות ב-8 דיונים)
חמנאי שם כובע שטריימל לראשו?
* משמרות הצניעות מול משמרות המהפכה  08/11/11 | 10:19
האטם מביא שלום!!!ראה רוסיה סין ארהב ועוד והשכל!!!!
* מיכאל הכהן  08/11/11 | 05:42
מה יש לך?!
* אלמונית  08/11/11 | 16:09
יאלה תקיפה באירן ומהר!!!
* דודי  08/11/11 | 00:32
כן ברור
* ישראלי  08/11/11 | 03:52
תכלס...מסכנים האזרחים שלא רוצים את אחמדי...
* הם ניסו לעשות מהפכה אבל לא עזרו להם  07/11/11 | 23:35
שיקח ה' את המדינה הזאת כבר
* עדן  07/11/11 | 23:34
לקבוע לך תור?
* פסיכולוג  07/11/11 | 23:59
* אבי  08/11/11 | 01:22
ושוב תודה לידיעות אחרונות. העיתון נגד המדינה
* דניאל איש חמודות  07/11/11 | 23:30
אילאיל סמל יצורה אפתית ומתנשאת עם רגשי נחיתות
* וכוח שעלה יותר מדי לראש.  07/11/11 | 23:30
זה לא אירן זה רק שתי הקופים מהתמונה למעלה
* אחד לפוני  07/11/11 | 23:23

מקרא: = תגובה ללא תוכן   = תגובה עם תוכן   

07 November 2011

Eid-al-Adha Mubarak -- a Blessed Eid-al-Adha, a wonderful Hajj -- greetings from Vleeptron!

Well of course certainly you should click on the Hajj 
at the Kaaba in Mecca.

If you went on the Hajj and saw the Kaaba -- hey, leave a comment! How was it? What did your heart feel?

02 November 2011

now we have 5 cats

Click kittens to enlarge.

Our friend rescued a mother cat who had just given birth to a litter of six kittens, and gave us these two: Daisy Mae and William. Unfortunately the veterinarian noticed that Daisy Mae had testicles, so we quickly changed her name to Spike so the kitten would not grow up with psychological ambiguities and confusions about its gender.

Now the household has five cats: Benedict Spinoza Cat, Stewart Wallace Darnley Cat, and Mimi the screaming paranoid shelter rescue cat.