Monday, December 31, 2007

FEATURE: Health Insurance, What is Reasonable?

A true story regarding America’s healthcare system. There is a range I see: the poor with no health coverage, working class with employee based insurance, and the wealthy possessing access to necessary in addition to elective, cosmetic procedures. Conservatives state that families should use their own resources in health care. I do not agree but let us entertain this view for this true circumstance. Paying monthly premiums for health insurance is an expression of such a resource. I ask then what role then do insurance companies have to deny coverage for a life extending procedure. What is reasonable? Should the government play a role in assuring insurance holders and patient rights? If and precisely in this true case a family (or individual) has health insurance but are denied claim to a procedure improving the quality of or the extension of life, there is fact supporting drastic changes in America’s profit driven health car system. -A.T. Brooks

“Every presidential candidate whose health plan rewards the health insurance companies by giving them more business via mandates needs to rethink that approach.

The lawyer for California teen Nataline Sarkisyan charged today that the only reason Cigna Health Care officials changed their minds and approved a liver transplant for the desperate girl was they knew it was too late and they wouldn't have to pay for it.

Sarkisyan, 17, died Thursday just hours after Cigna reversed its decision and approved the procedure it had previously described as "too experimental…and unproven." Now the Sarkisyan family hopes manslaughter or murder charges will be pressed.
Their lawyer, Mark Geragos, says he will refer the case to prosecutors for possible criminal charges against the insurer, Cigna HealthCare.

"All of the doctors there unanimously agreed that she needed and should have that liver transplant. And the only entity, if you will, who said no to that in the middle of that medical decision, was some piece of garbage who decided that making a couple of dollars, or saving them a couple of dollars, was worth more than the 65% chance over six months that she would survive," said Geragos.

I've been locked with my own battle with Blue Shield over what is really a minor (still unresolved) health issue, those who need far more expensive care as they fight for their lives are in far worse shape, and people are dying as a result.
A system that replaces the judgement of doctors for that of accountants is inherently broken and must be scrapped.

These Cigna execs should be charged with manslaughter or the murder of Nataline, while a more comprehensive solution to the nation's health care crisis must ensure that a for-profit health care system be scrapped for one that puts the health of the people first.
Every presidential candidate whose health plan rewards the health insurance companies by giving them more business via mandates needs to rethink that approach.

The lawyer for California teen Nataline Sarkisyan charged today that the only reason Cigna Health Care officials changed their minds and approved a liver transplant for the desperate girl was they knew it was too late and they wouldn't have to pay for it.

Sarkisyan, 17, died Thursday just hours after Cigna reversed its decision and approved the procedure it had previously described as "too experimental…and unproven." Now the Sarkisyan family hopes manslaughter or murder charges will be pressed.
Their lawyer, Mark Geragos, says he will refer the case to prosecutors for possible criminal charges against the insurer, Cigna HealthCare.

"All of the doctors there unanimously agreed that she needed and should have that liver transplant. And the only entity, if you will, who said no to that in the middle of that medical decision, was some piece of garbage who decided that making a couple of dollars, or saving them a couple of dollars, was worth more than the 65% chance over six months that she would survive," said Geragos.

I've been locked with my own battle with Blue Shield over what is really a minor (still unresolved) health issue, those who need far more expensive care as they fight for their lives are in far worse shape, and people are dying as a result.
A system that replaces the judgement of doctors for that of accountants is inherently broken and must be scrapped.

These Cigna execs should be charged with manslaughter or the murder of Nataline, while a more comprehensive solution to the nation's health care crisis must ensure that a for-profit health care system be scrapped for one that puts the health of the people first. (daily kos)”

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto Assassinated

Did Musharraf allow this to happen? Will Bhutto’s assassination be the last fallen domino which shatters efforts to spread democracy in Islamic nations?

"RAWALPINDI, Pakistan December 27, 2007, 10:00 a.m. ET · Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated Thursday in a suicide attack that also killed at least 20 others at a campaign rally, aides said.
The death of the 54-year-old charismatic former prime minister threw the campaign for the Jan. 8 parliamentary elections into chaos and created fears of mass protests and violence across the nuclear-armed nation, an important U.S. ally in the war on terrorism.
The attacker struck just minutes after Bhutto addressed thousands of supporters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, 8 miles south of Islamabad. She was shot in the neck and chest by the attacker, who then blew himself up, said Rehman Malik, Bhutto's security adviser.
At least 20 others were killed in the attack.
Bhutto was rushed to the hospital and taken into emergency surgery.
"At 6:16 p.m., she expired," said Wasif Ali Khan, a member of Bhutto's party who was at Rawalpindi General Hospital.
"The surgeons confirmed that she has been martyred," Bhutto's lawyer Babar Awan said.
Bhutto's supporters at the hospital exploded in anger, smashing the glass door at the main entrance of the emergency unit. Others burst into tears. One man with a flag of Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party tied around his head was beating his chest.
No one claimed responsibility for the attack. But some of Bhutto's supporters at the hospital began chanting, "Killer, Killer, Musharraf," referring to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, Bhutto's main political opponent. A few began stoning cars outside.
"We repeatedly informed the government to provide her proper security and appropriate equipment including jammers, but they paid no heed to our requests," Malik said.
Nawaz Sharif, another former premier and opposition leader, arrived at the hospital and sat silently next to Bhutto's body.
Hours earlier, four people were killed at a rally for Sharif when his supporters clashed with backers of Musharraf near Rawalpindi.
Bhutto's death will leave a void at the top of her party, the largest political group in the country, as it heads into the parliamentary elections. It also fueled fears that the crucial vote could descend into violence.
Pakistan is considered a vital U.S. ally in the fight against al-Qaida and other Islamic extremists including the Taliban. Osama bin Laden and his inner circle are believed to be hiding in lawless northwest Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan.
In Washington, the State Department condemned the attack.
"It demonstrates that there are still those in Pakistan who want to subvert reconciliation and efforts to advance democracy," deputy spokesman Tom Casey said.
The United States has for months been encouraging Musharraf to reach an accommodation with the opposition, particularly Bhutto, who was seen as having a wide base of support in Pakistan. Her party had been widely expected to do well in next month's elections.
Educated at Harvard and Oxford universities, Bhutto served twice as Pakistan's prime minister between 1988 and 1996. Her father, who also served as prime minister, was executed in 1979 two years after his ouster in a military coup.
Bhutto had returned to Pakistan from an eight-year exile on Oct. 18. On the same day, she narrowly escaped injury when her homecoming parade in Karachi was targeted in a suicide attack that killed more than 140 people.
At the scene of Thursday's bombing, an Associated Press reporter saw body parts and flesh scattered at the back gate of the Liaqat Bagh park, where Bhutto had spoken. He counted about 20 bodies, including police, and could see many other wounded people.
Party supporter Chaudry Mohammed Nazir said two gunshots rang out when Bhutto's vehicle pulled into the main street. Then there was a big blast next to her car.
Police cordoned off the street with white and red tape, and rescuers rushed to put victims in ambulances as people wailed nearby.
The clothing of some victims was shredded and people put party flags over their bodies. Police caps and shoes littered the asphalt.
Hundreds of riot police had manned security checkpoints around the venue. It was Bhutto's first public meeting in Rawalpindi since she came back to the country.
In November, Bhutto had also planned a rally in the city, but Musharraf forced her to cancel it, citing security fears.
In recent weeks, suicide bombers have repeatedly targeted security forces in Rawalpindi, where Musharraf stays and the Pakistan army has its headquarters."

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

What They Said in 2000

Politicians say lots of things in their campaign speeches. You expect them to give a list of reasons why they would be better than their opponent. So, when George W. Bush became the Republican nominee for President in 2000, it was not surprising that he would declare in his acceptance speech all the ways that he would be a better President than Al Gore. No, the surprising part is how ironically things turned out.

Look at some of the things W said when he got the GOP nomination in 2000:

  • We have seen a steady erosion of American power and an unsteady exercise of American influence. Our military is low on parts, pay and morale. If called on by the commander-in-chief today, two entire divisions of the Army would have to report, "Not ready for duty, sir." This administration had its moment, they had their chance, they have not led. We will.
  • Our generation has a chance to reclaim some essential values, to show we have grown up before we grow old. But when the moment for leadership came, this administration did not teach our children, it disillusioned them. They had their chance. They have not led. We will.
  • A generation shaped by Vietnam must remember the lessons of Vietnam: When America uses force in the world, the cause must be just, the goal must be clear, and the victory must be overwhelming.
  • I believe in tolerance, not in spite of my faith, but because of it. I believe in a God who calls us not to judge our neighbors but to love them.
  • That background may lack the polish of Washington. Then again, I don't have a lot of things that come with Washington. I don't have enemies to fight. I have no stake in the bitter arguments of the last few years. I want to change the tone of Washington to one of civility and respect.
  • After all of the shouting and all of the scandal, after all the bitterness and broken faith, we can begin again.
  • So when I put my hand on the Bible, I will swear to not only uphold the laws of our land, I will swear to uphold the honor and dignity of the office to which I have been elected, so help me God.
And there was also this ironic observation by Dick Cheney when he accepted the Republican nomination for Vice-President in 2000:
  • In Washington today, politics has become war by other means, an endless onslaught of accusation.

Considering these words after 7 years of their mis-administration, I have to give them their due. Heckuva job, Dick and W! Mission Accomplished!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Clinton's Power

I usually agree with Lou Dobbs but on the matter who will be the next president of the USA his flopping in the wind is inconsistent. Hilary Clinton is without question the strongest candidate for president our nation has seen in decades. She has survived continuous attacks by the conservative establishment. She is also right for America at this time. Fact is fact which leads me to know that America in 2008 is not yet ready to put Barrack H. Obama in the White House. This is precisely why the right wing machine has literally called off criticism of him if not outright campaigning on his behalf. Republicans whom I currently oppose to govern are clearly conscious of this: the same America that elected George W. Bush twice will never put an African American named Barrack H. Obama during war times behind the Oval Office.

“Friday, December 14, 2007 – Lou DobbsTonight: A remarkable turn of events in the race for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations. Sen. Hillary Clinton has tumbled from a commanding lead in several early primary states being tied—and in some polls trailing—rival Sen. Barack Obama. On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee has surged from polling around 3 percent in July to the high 20s now. What’s going on? We’ll have all the latest from around the country.”

Spy, Spy on your phone.

There is an evolving issue surrounding the corporation of telecommunications companies in spying in on American’s phone records. Frankly, let the people know what went on. Please Contact Congress with your opinion.

“Last month, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill that did not include retroactive immunity. Immunity would let telecommunication companies who broke the law helping the Bush Administration spy on Americans off the hook.

Now, Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic Majority Leader, is using procedural tricks to make this bill irrelevant by bringing the Intelligence Committee's version of the same bill to the Senate floor instead. What's the big difference? This version of the bill includes retroactive immunity for telecommunication companies.”

Does AP have an agenda?

Certain media outlets are certainly out stepping their role in informing the public of news in addition to presenting agendas in an attempt to guide and create news where there is none.

For example this is the opening sentence in a recent news story “By MELINDA DESLATTE of the Associated Press.

BATON ROUGE, La. - Two students were found shot to death in a home invasion at a Louisiana State University apartment, and officials decided to keep the campus open Friday while police searched for three suspects. “ DESLATTE instead of reporting the story, immediately renders a judgment call upon the decision of officials. Personally I would like to hear the news not second guesses by unqualified reporters during an involving situation.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Black Voters Prefer Clinton

According to a new study, Hillary Clinton has a slight edge over Barack Obama in the eyes of black voters.

Farai Chideya talks with David Bositis, senior policy analyst at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which released the study.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Scientists Develop Life-Extending Compounds

The scientists who discovered resveratrol, a substance in red wine that extends the lives of mice, say they've developed three drugs that work the same way, but much more powerfully. The most potent of the three controls blood sugar; it is also believed to fight other diseases of aging.
Sales of red wine took a big jump last year after researchers at Harvard published a study on resveratrol. The study showed that large doses of resveratrol helped obese mice live as long as regular mice. The substance also let the mice run longer on a treadmill. And it seemed to prevent a range of diseases associated with aging.

According to David Sinclair, the lead researcher, there was one snag for those looking to uncork a bottle of Pinot Noir to stay young.
"You would need to drink about 1,000 bottles of red wine to get the amount of resveratrol in your body to even have a chance of seeing those benefits," he said.

So Sinclair and a team of researchers have been searching for something like resveratrol, but more powerful.

They came up with three contenders and published a study of the compounds' effects in this week's issue of the journal Nature. All three were tested in rodents. Sinclair said they triggered the same set of chemical reactions in cells – the same chemical pathway – as resveratrol did.
"The best one in this paper is 1,000 times better at activating this anti-aging pathway than resveratrol is, which is great news," he said. "It means that we can potentially have a small pill that would treat many of the diseases of the Western world."

The list could include maladies such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer's and heart disease.

The new compounds are the property of Sirtris, a company that Sinclair helped start. Unlike with resveratrol, which occurs naturally and is sold as a dietary supplement, Sirtris will need FDA approval to market the compounds.

"We're moving away from this molecule in red wine toward real drug discovery, pharmaceutical and rational drug design that most of the drugs we take these days come from," Sinclair said.
And drugs have to be approved to treat a specific disease. So the new study took the most potent new compound and studied its effect on mice and rats with diabetes.

The researchers found that it controlled blood sugar as well as a widely used diabetes drug.

Sinclair believes the compound also will work against other diseases of aging, including cancer.
Less sure is Dr. Randall Holcombe, the chief of hematology and oncology at the University of California-Irvine. He did an experiment comparing pure resveratrol to a powder made from grapes. The goal was to reduce the risk of colon cancer.

"We actually found that the grape powder was more effective than pure resveratrol," Holcombe said, "and that suggested that resveratrol is more active in combination with other compounds such as grapes than it is all by itself."

Holcombe says that raises the possibility that Sinclair's super-resveratrol compounds, by themselves, won't do much to prevent cancer.
Despite the lingering questions, Steven Helfand of Brown University says the research based on resveratrol does seem awfully promising.
"The surprising thing really is how well this molecule has worked so far," Helfand said. He added that he has mixed feelings about the research moving away from dietary supplements and toward more traditional drug development.

On the plus side, he said, the need for FDA approval ensures that any new products will get rigorous testing.
"I think the public should be pleased in that sense. The correct experiments will be done and the correct scrutiny will be given to these compounds," Helfand said. "They will now be scrutinized much more so than they were before."

The downside, Helfand said, is that any product to emerge from this research probably won't be cheap.

David Sinclair said that so far, his company has had no trouble raising money, despite the risk that no drug may ever emerge from the tests.
"The payoff is huge," Sinclair said. "Even diabetes in itself is roughly a $10 billion worldwide market. Some say even higher. And that's just one disease."

Sinclair said the first major studies of resveratrol used on people won't be published until next year. Human studies of the newer, more powerful compounds are even further off."

Monday, December 03, 2007

Our Ahab-In-Chief

How like Captain Ahab is our Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush. Ignoring all counsel, all protests, and all misadventures, he drives on, obsessed with the quest of his White Whale.

What is his White Whale? He calls it “Terror”. It’s not a specific terrorist group. It is “Terror”. His pursuit of it is a “Global War”. For when “Terror” burned the World Trade Center it figuratively scarred his face and chewed on his leg. Now it must be hunted down and slain, regardless of the cost to our Ship of State and to the lives of those who depend upon it.

And there have been costs, dear costs:

  • Thousands of our soldiers have lost their lives, and thousands more have grievous wounds.
  • Hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians have been killed, injured, and forced to flee their homes.
  • Our military has been ground down, to the point that its readiness has been compromised.
  • Our financial future has been gambled, to the point that our currency is worth less and less.
  • The price of oil has skyrocketed, and remains at the mercy of mostly hostile foreign powers.

For all of this, his “Terror” has not been eliminated. So our Ahab-in-Chief insists we stay the course. He demands continued funding, its use to be subject to his whim. He demands respect for his captaincy, to the sacrifice of all restraint and reason, even though he has shown poor judgment time and again. It’s not “defeatist” to say this will lead to ruin. It is prophecy based on bitter experience.

Alex Budarin

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Permanently in Iraq‏

Have you seen the headlines? President Bush is quietly negotiating an agreement with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to keep our troops there indefinitely--an agreement that could include permanent bases and a massive military presence for years!1 Bush is trying to tie the hands of the next administration to keep us in Iraq for the foreseeable future.2
This is a pivotal moment—the agreement is still in the planning stages and if we don't act now, we could be stuck in Iraq for decades.

It's critical to push Democrats into opposing this. Right now, President Bush's troop reduction plan has fooled some people into thinking we're headed toward an exit in Iraq—but this move makes it clear he's literally committing the U.S. to a war with no end. It's an extreme policy and Congress can stop it—but whether they do depends on how loud we are.

Can you sign the petition demanding that Congress act to stop the president from committing to a massive military presence in Iraq for decades? We'll deliver your comments to your representatives by the end of the week—there's no time to waste. Clicking here will add your name:

Are National Democrats blowing off Florida?

"Florida Democrats are being boycotted by their party's presidential candidates, leaving many voters in the nation’s largest swing state feeling alienated. "

"Orlando -- On the final Friday of a parched and quarrelsome October, Florida Democrats were bumping around a hallway in Disney's faux-elegant Yacht and Beach Club Resort on the opening night of their state convention, perusing campaign items for sale (three Hillary buttons for $5!), sussing out the evening's schedule ("The progressives are supposed to be having a party, but where are they?") and, mostly, grousing about the conspicuous absence of presidential candidates.

"This whole thing here is a joke," said John Taylor, a hulking schoolteacher from Jacksonville wearing the tallest, most bodacious Chef Boyardee-style, star-spangled red-white-and-blue hat you ever saw. "How stupid the Democrats are -- we're shooting ourselves in the foot!" Taylor angrily recalled some of the Republicans' tactics for suppressing the Democratic vote in 2000 and 2004. "They stole two elections, and now we've been working six years to make sure that don't happen again. And the Democrats screw us!"

"Forget that," his friend said. "You're beating a dead horse. I blame the candidates. You've got, what, ten or eleven of them? And not one of them shows up here?"

It's rumored that Mike Gravel will be in town tomorrow, I note (and he did appear, at the convention and an antiwar rally). "If he's here, that's where my vote is going," said the friend.
Not Taylor's. "I'm going to have to resign from the Duval [County] Democratic Party" -- he serves on its executive committee -- "just so that I can vote for somebody else. I'm going to vote Libertarian, probably. Or I might cross over and vote for Huckabee. My wife will kill me. She's the treasurer of the Duval Democratic Party! She retired from her job to work full time, for no money, for the Democrats. And I'm the man in the hat! But why not? What difference does it make? The Democrats don't care about us in Florida."

"I think it sucks," says Bob Matherne, a bearded middle-aged fellow in a Kucinich shirt. Matherne's been registering LGBT voters in Sarasota for months now, but daily headlines featuring the war between national and Florida Democrats have made it tough. "People don't understand the situation -- and neither do I, really. They're asking for clarification: 'What's going on? The Republicans aren't being penalized for the early primary. Why are we being penalized? Why would Democrats do this, already knowing about Florida's problems with voting?'"

Florida Democrats can surely be excused for feeling a wee bit put-upon -- and confused. Across town just the weekend before, 5,000 Florida Republicans had been dined, wined and wooed by their presidential candidates at a lavish event culminating in a debate aired on Fox. Meanwhile, Florida Democrats -- who'd planned to trump the Republican weekend with their own presidential extravaganza -- found themselves in the bizarre position of being boycotted by their candidates.

This strange saga began innocuously enough. Fearing likely attempts by big states like Michigan and Florida to disrupt the parties' primary calendars with early dates in 2008, Republicans and Democrats ruled at their 2004 conventions that states trying to butt in before Iowa and New Hampshire would lose half their delegates. The Republicans left it there. The Democrats decided to try and fix things. The Democratic National Committee's rules committee was tasked with bringing order to the chaotic primaries. Twelve states applied for two additional early primary slots, which were awarded earlier this year to South Carolina and Nevada. Democrats in other states could not vote before February 5.

That created a sticky situation for Florida Democrats when, to nobody's surprise, the Republican-controlled state legislature passed a law in May scheduling the state's primary for January 29. (In most states, primary dates are set by the parties.) The primary date was wrapped up in a bill mandating a paper trail for the 2008 election -- a popular measure the minority Democrats could not afford to oppose. Besides, the loss of delegates was largely a toothless penalty, since according to precedent the Democrats' eventual presidential nominee controls the seating of delegates -- and surely wouldn't alienate folks from the nation's largest swing state by turning them away.

But the DNC did not leave it there. In August the rules committee voted to strip all the state's delegates unless Florida came up with an alternative to the January 29 voting. "I understand Florida's dilemma," DNC rules committee member Donna Brazile told me later. "But this is not about states' rights; this is about a process we're trying to keep some control over." Two weeks after the DNC vote, Democratic chairs in the "First Four" primary states jacked up the ante with their notorious "four-state pledge" demanding the candidates focus exclusively on them. The signees -- including John Edwards, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton -- agreed to do no campaigning in Florida or any other state that might try to jump the gun. And under party rules, "campaigning" means just about everything: e-mail messages; calls to voters; TV, radio or newspaper ads; rallies; hiring campaign workers; holding press conferences. The only thing Democrats are allowed to do in Florida -- where folks have been complaining for years, with some justification, about being used as an ATM for the party -- is fundraise.

As Florida Democrats bayed in protest, DNC chair Howard Dean salted their wounds by opining that their votes "essentially won't count." Almost overnight, the unsavory reputation Florida Republicans had earned during the riotous Gore v. Bush 2000 recount battle was relegated to ancient history, and the Republicans' sagging hopes of carrying Florida -- where Democrats scored big in the 2006 midterms -- were suddenly sky-high. "The Democrats like to talk about Republicans disenfranchising black voters in Florida," state GOP chair Jim Greer shouted happily at a Black Republicans soiree. "How many delegates will the Democrats be sending from Florida to their national convention? Zero!""

World AIDS Day: A Challenge to 'Speak Life'‏

Source: God's Politics Blog

"On Dec. 1, the world commemorates World AIDS Day, a day in which we pause and remember the 25 million lives lost to the deadly epidemic. The day also challenges us to redouble our efforts to show greater solidarity with the estimated 33 million people worldwide living with HIV. The day's slogan is "Stop AIDS: Keep the Promise". This is a direct appeal to governments, policy makers, and regional health authorities to ensure that they meet the litany of targets in the fight against HIV and AIDS - especially the promise agreed to at the 2005 G8 Summit of universal access to HIV treatment, care, support, and prevention services by 2010. The 2007 theme of "leadership" highlights the stark reality that without a revolution in political will the epidemic will continue to outpace even our best response.

Dec. 1 represents a day for remembering the 2.1 million people that lost their lives this year due to this preventable and treatable disease. While we are starting to win victories in increasing access to treatment we are still losing the war to prevent new infections. Reports still show an alarming concentration of infections in the southern third of Africa, with nations such as Swaziland and Botswana reporting as many as one in four adults infected with HIV. Even closer to home, statistics released last week in Washington, D.C., reveal a state of emergency in which one in 20 residents is HIV positive - with 80 percent of cases among black men, women, and adolescents. The report shatters the common myth that AIDS is predominantly a gay disease, as 37.4 percent of newly reported cases were due to heterosexual contact. Behind these sobering statistics are real lives, real families, and real people made in the image of God.

We can give thanks to the degree to which Christians, including evangelicals, have now embraced AIDS as an urgent and legitimate cause. This weekend Pastor Rick Warren is convening thousands of faith leaders from across the country and world for his annual Summit on AIDS and the Church. I applaud his leadership in shining a spotlight on the indispensable role of the church in the fight against AIDS. However, past conferences have often shied away from the political nature of this epidemic and failed to deliver a clear call for political action to address the systemic injustices that so often fuel it. We can celebrate major advances in global treatment due in large part to increased funding through the President's Emergency AIDS Plan and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. Still, only 20 percent of people in need in the developing world currently have access. Thanks in large part to activism through the 2008 Stop AIDS campaign, all three leading Democratic Presidential candidates have agreed to a bold campaign promise to increase President Bush's pledge of $30 billion for AIDS prevention and treatment over the next five years to a figure more commensurate with the global need of $50 billion. Now we must pressure the Republican candidates to follow suit.

AIDS tests our faith as well as our humanity. Applying Matthew 25 to the contemporary age of AIDS, I believe God will also ask us "when I was living with HIV, did you love me, care for me, and use your prophetic voice to help stop the epidemic?"

The gospel music artist Donald Lawrence came out with a song last year titled "I Speak Life." As Christians we must speak life by loving and supporting people around us living with the virus. We can speak life by using our voices to challenge Congress and the Bush administration to make good on their promises to achieve universal access to treatment by the year 2010. We can speak life by breaking down the walls of stigma in our churches and communities, raising awareness, and encouraging testing. We can speak life by addressing the underlying injustices and issues that so often fuel the crisis of AIDS, including intravenous drug use, poverty, sexual violence, promiscuity, and infidelity.

An old African American Spiritual says it best:
Sometimes I feel discouraged, and think my work's in vain. But then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again. There is balm in Gilead to heal the wounded soul. There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul.

Adam Taylor is director of campaigns and organizing for Sojourners. "

Clinton - Summit on AIDS and the Church‏

Presidential contender was only candidate to speak at international AIDS summit.

By MARTIN WISCKOLThe Orange County Register

LAKE FOREST – Many evangelical Christians have taken issue with Hillary Clinton for promoting abortion rights, gay rights and teen condom use, but you wouldn't have known it from the standing ovation that greeted her at Saddleback Church on Thursday afternoon.
Although all leading presidential candidates were invited, Clinton was the only one to show up for the annual Global Summit on AIDS and the Church. She delivered a bipartisan message that emphasized the role of the church in addressing AIDS.

"Twenty five years ago when people – mostly young gay men – started dying of an unnamed disease, we didn't talk about it in church," she said. "We've come a long way. Not only can we talk about AIDS in church, but churches can lead the way."

The three-day event leading up to World AIDS Day on Saturday is part of Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren's global assault on the disease, with an approach that claims churches worldwide as the most capable network to address the problem.
Besides praising the efforts of Warren and his wife, Kay, Clinton acknowledged the efforts of the current administration.

"I will build … on the leadership President and Mrs. Bush have shown," she said. She has vowed, if elected, to double AIDS spending to $50 billion – a statement that drew applause this afternoon. Clinton also received a standing ovation when she finished her 30-minute speech.
Many in the audience remain opposed to candidates who favor abortion rights.
"From a theological point of view, it's very difficult to embrace abortion," said the Rev. Claude Terry, a 57-year-old Baptist minister from Modesto.

Then there were others who not only found common ground when it came to addressing AIDs, but also found Clinton to be an attractive candidate.

"Those partisan issues have no place when you're addressing a pandemic," said Mission Viejo's Christine Stevens, a 63-year-old Saddleback Church member – and a Republican considering voting for Clinton. "She understands the magnitude of the problem and what it will take to address it. I was very impressed by her."

Banks Pay the Price for Risky Mortgage Bets

Opinion holds banks culpable for the current lending predicament of the United States. A common theme found throughout business where the main objective is profit without regard for what fees are reasonable, complicated stipulations, variable rate changes in addition to added cost to the costumer are the root causes. To articulate my view but in layman terms: banks charging excessive fees in addition to increasing rates to garner unreasonable profits is damaging the economy nationwide. The situation we have are two economically static industries (those producing a product where consumers have modest choices therefore lacking significant ability to control pricing through supply and demand i.e. gasoline and housing) simultaneously are seeking excessive profits removing fluidity of money and overall consumer buying power. The solution is for Business leaders to reel in their pricing models. This is the most practical action.

"Major banks are suffering enormous losses on investments tied to home mortgages. For years, Wall Street made handsome returns betting on mortgage-backed securities. But those securities are opaque and contain risks that investors were either unwilling or unable to recognize."

Army Captains Critique Iraq War

“Enough of this bumper-sticker patriotism. Do something about it or stop wasting my time.”Elizabeth Bostwick, ex-U.S. Army captain

"A dozen former U.S. Army captains wrote a column for The Washington Post last month entitled "The Real Iraq We Knew" in which they set out to describe the war they had experienced, instead of the one generals and politicians had described.

The officers' words have stirred controversy, with some critics calling them traitors. But that hasn't stopped them from speaking out.

In the op-ed piece, published on the fifth anniversary of the authorization of military force in Iraq, the 12 captains wrote that they had "seen the corruption and the sectarian division."
"We understand what it's like to be stretched too thin. And we know when it's time to get out," they said.

"Captain is a unique position in the Army because you are really a cog at the center of it all," said Jason Blindauer, a veteran of five years in the Army, including three deployments to Iraq. "As we used to say, you can see the asses of the generals and the faces of the privates."
But a $35,000 retention bonus could not keep these captains in, even though at the outset they had been deeply committed to the military.

"There is no job that I ever wanted to do other than being a military officer," Blindauer said. "As far as the prospect of going to war with Iraq, I was excited about it. I was a young infantry officer with the opportunity to go to war."

Jeff Bouldin served in the Army for four years and in Iraq for 14 months. Like most of the 12 captains, he initially supported the invasion, but gradually became disillusioned with the leaders in charge of the war.

"The tactics we used and the overall goals in every province I served in had no semblance to any military logic that I had ever known," he said.

Then there was the prospect of repeated deployments without much time in between for family.
"I had a young family," Bouldin said. "I had a son who was 24 months old and I had seen him for four months of his entire life."

Blindauer and Bouldin are talking in Elizabeth Bostwick's Dallas apartment. Bostwick spent four years in the Army.

"I believed in my mission and beyond that I tried not to think about it," Bostwick said.
She said she tried not to think beyond her own security mission with the Military Police. Even though she comes from a military family, she wasn't gung-ho about the war.
"Knowing that the preponderance of your peer group is home shopping, having stable relationships not interrupted by deployments … it's disheartening," Bostwick said. "You're saying enough of this bumper-sticker patriotism. Do something about it or stop wasting my time."

To the group of 12, doing something about it means signing up to serve, and they suggest that a draft may be necessary. Jason Blindauer quotes German military philosopher Carl von Clausewitz, saying a country has to have both the strength of means and the strength of will to win a war.

"We don't have a military large enough to conduct the long-duration, low-intensity wars, and we haven't harnessed the collective will of the American people. So what good is it?" Blindauer said.
Luis Montalvan, who currently resides in Brooklyn, N.Y., joined the Army when he was 17 and stayed in for 17 years. He did two tours in Iraq. Montalvan angrily disagrees with the many bloggers who say the 12 captains ignore the apparent success of the recent troop surge.
"What has the government of Iraq done? It has done nothing, so it doesn't matter how many tactical successes you have if you're not having any strategic successes."

Montalvan says the 12 have no political agenda; most are independents. The captains believe that current American strategy is simply arming and training Sunni and Shite militias for a future civil war. Montalvan, who worked closely with Iraqis on both his deployments, said he is disgusted with the level of corruption he witnessed. Even worse, he said, is American inaction in the face of it.

"There is still no Iraqi-American anticorruption action plan. This corruption is feeding, sustaining the sectarian divide."

On his first tour in Iraq in 2003, Montalvan worked on the Iraq-Syrian border with only 40 soldiers trying to watch over a major foreign entry point where corruption ruled. At one point things got nasty.

"Some men tried to assassinate me in December of '03 and they nearly succeeded," he said. "They were wielding knives and hand grenades, and I was injured. One of them was killed and the other was severely wounded but he staggered off."

Montalvan said he is "not altogether comfortable talking about it." He says it's something he's dealing with and will "probably deal with for sometime."
Some bloggers have called the 12 cowards and traitors.

"For those people who would rather thump their chests and say that these people don't know anything or that these people are cowards or anything along those lines, they can go to hell," he said.

When the interview was over, Montalvan went into his bathroom and got sick. He apologized, saying it may have been side effects of medications he was taking. But his friends said it was more likely the result of reliving painful events in Iraq."