Tuesday, October 21, 2008


1. The polls may be wrong. This is an unprecedented election. No one knows how racism may affect what voters tell pollsters—or what they do in the voting booth. And the polls are narrowing anyway. In the last few days, John McCain has gained ground in most national polls, as his campaign has gone even more negative.

2. Dirty tricks. Republicans are already illegally purging voters from the rolls in some states. They're whipping up hysteria over ACORN to justify more challenges to new voters. Misleading flyers about the voting process have started appearing in black neighborhoods. And of course, many counties still use unsecure voting machines.

3. October surprise. In politics, 15 days is a long time. The next McCain smear could dominate the news for a week. There could be a crisis with Iran, or Bin Laden could release another tape, or worse.

4. Those who forget history... In 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote after trailing by seven points in the final days of the race. In 1980, Reagan was eight points down in the polls in late October and came back to win. Races can shift—fast!

5. Landslide. Even with Barack Obama in the White House, passing universal health care and a new clean-energy policy is going to be hard. Insurance, drug and oil companies will fight us every step of the way. We need the kind of landslide that will give Barack a huge mandate.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Election 2008: Mid October Analysis

Will Barrack Obama win? What would happen if the Bradley Effect plays a significant role in this election? This is a discrepancy between voter opinion polls and election outcomes in American political campaigns. The theory of the Bradley effect is that the inaccurate polls have been skewed by the phenomenon of social desirability bias. Specifically, some white voters give inaccurate polling responses for fear that, by stating their true preference, they will open themselves to criticism of racial motivation. The reluctance to give accurate polling answers has sometimes extended to post-election exit polls as well.

How ironic that John McCain’s best strategy is based of Obama’s primary mantra of hope. Hope the Bradley Effect has skewed polling significantly enough to error on the side of John McCain. In the past however we have seen with victories of President George W. Bush that a well-built political machine can overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. This is to the advantage of Barrack Obama who has put together the most disciplined political ground force seen in my life time.

Obama Puts Money and Manpower in Florida

The caption is of Barack Obama speaking in Florida (with FAMU Marching Band).

"By Indira A.R. Lakshmanan

Oct. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Barack Obama's campaign is pouring $39 million into Florida and sending some of its most senior people there in a bid to win the 27 electoral votes of a state that has voted Republican in the last two presidential elections.

Florida is considered a must-win state for Republican candidate John McCain, and polls show the race is close, less than three weeks before Election Day.

``There's an opening we see in Florida, and we like our chances,'' Temo Figueroa, national Latino vote director for Obama, an Illinois Democrat, said in an interview. Hispanics represent 14 percent of the electorate in Florida, making them a key to victory in this battleground state.
Paul Tewes, who directed Obama's victory in Iowa's caucuses in January, has relocated to Florida for the duration of the campaign. Tewes left the Democratic National Committee, where he coordinated efforts with the Obama camp.

Obama's deputy national campaign manager, Steve Hildebrand, has been in Florida since last week, and Figueroa will join him this weekend.

Florida has 415,000 newly registered Democrats, about 50,000 more than newly registered Republicans, according to estimates based on the secretary of state's data. Tewes, Figueroa and Hildebrand want to ensure the new Democrats make it to the voting booths on Nov. 4.

``The polling trends have been going our way for the last month,'' Figueroa said.
A CNN/Time poll conducted in Florida from Oct. 11-14 has Obama leading McCain 51 percent to 46 percent. A Fox/Rasmussen poll on Oct. 12 found an identical spread.
Twice the Ads
Obama is running twice as many television advertisements and three times as many radio ads as McCain in Spanish-language media in Florida, Figueroa said.

``You're going to see lots of Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Joe Biden and Jill Biden on the ground in Florida'' for the remainder of the campaign, he said. ``If we win Florida, Barack Obama is president. There's no way for John McCain to win without Florida.''
Mike DuHaime, McCain's national political director, said the Arizona senator's campaign is vigorously contesting the state.

Voters in the coming days ``are going to see a lot of Governor Sarah Palin, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Senator Joe Lieberman and other prominent surrogates,'' he said.
McCain himself is scheduled to address rallies tomorrow in Miami and Melbourne.
Absentee Ballots

DuHaime said the campaign's TV and radio ads, direct-mail efforts and get-out-the-vote drives in Florida will carry a price-tag in the ``tens of millions'' of dollars, although he declined to be more specific.

He also said 218,000 more Republicans than Democrats so far have requested absentee ballots, which he said is a promising sign for McCain's hopes of carrying Florida.
Cuban-Americans, a reliably Republican voting bloc in South Florida, are among those likely to vote for McCain.

Still, Figueroa said Obama has openings with the growing number of Puerto Ricans in Orlando and Tampa, and with other new immigrants in South Florida who have largely registered and voted for Democrats.

This is the first election year that Cuban-Americans are no longer the majority of Hispanic registered voters in Florida, according to state figures.

``People in Florida are worried about their jobs, their pensions, their mortgages, they get angry every time they gas up,'' Figueroa said. ``We're going to fight like hell for every vote.'' "

Alaska Beluga whales endangered

"The depleted population of beluga whales that swim off the coast of Alaska's largest city was listed as endangered on Friday by the federal government.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it has determined that belugas in Cook Inlet, the channel that flows from Anchorage to the Gulf of Alaska, are at risk of extinction and deserving of strict protections under the Endangered Species Act.
The population, which fell to a low of 278 in 2005 from 653 in 1994, has yet to rebound from a period of over-harvesting by the region's Native hunters, officials said.
Hunting of Cook Inlet belugas largely ceased in 1999, but the population continues to struggle, officials said.

"In spite of protections already in place, Cook Inlet beluga whales are not recovering," James Balsinger, acting assistant administrator for NOAA's Fisheries Service, said in a statement.
Environmentalists hailed the listing decision, but criticized the time it took to materialize.
"This ends the debate about whether the beluga should be protected under the Endangered Species Act, and starts the critically important process of actually working to recover the species and protect its habitat," Brendan Cummings, oceans program director for the Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement.

"Hopefully the State of Alaska will now work toward protecting the beluga rather than, as with the polar bear, denying the science and suing to overturn the listing."
The endangered listing comes despite objections from Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican candidate for vice president. At the urging of the Palin administration, NOAA delayed a listing decision that had been expected in April so that it could conduct one additional summer population survey.

Various industry groups have also fought the listing, which they fear will hamper Cook Inlet oil and gas development, cargo shipping, commercial fishing and major construction projects.
The beluga population of Cook Inlet is among five beluga populations in Alaska waters."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

American vs. Japanese - Gas Mileage Comparison

Talking heads like Rush Limbaugh whom assert lies such as environmentalist and fuel economy standards harm the automobile industry could do more good by sticking the facts. If Japan can build it why then not America now! Bottom line Toyota has surpassed American Automobile makers in sales because of its practical approach to the reality of what drivers today need. American automobile makes on the other hand are loyal to gas inefficient SUV that are simply unaffordable. On a personal note being a musician I need more space to transport my instrument. Thinking the Toyota Matrix would be good on gas and is big enough. Comments welcome. Peace.

For years and years it was considered un-American to buy a car or truck that wasn’t manufactured by one of the major American manufacturers. Whether it was Ford, General Motors or Dodge, you’d better have had one of these vehicles parked in your driveway, or you weren’t doing your civic duty.

Right around the 1973 gas and energy crisis, and again during the 1979 energy crisis, it suddenly became okay to buy foreign cars - especially Japanese cars - because of their remarkably better fuel economy as well as their increased life span.

Ever since, it seems that American auto manufacturers have been playing catch up, and lately, it seems the distance in popularity between Japanese and American cars is as large as it has ever been. This is probably linked to the fact that as gas prices have dramatically increased, foreign car manufactures - especially Japanese cars - have introduced a myriad of gas saving measures, with the most popular being hybrid technologies.
All that being said, I wanted to see how vast the difference in gas mileage really is between the top five most fuel efficient American cars vs. the top five most fuel efficient Japanese cars:

Top 5 Most Fuel Efficient American Cars:
Ford Escape Hybrid - 36 mpg city / 31 mpg highway
Chevy Aveo - 26 mpg city / 35 mpg highway
Ford Focus - 26 mpg city / 34 mpg highway
Chevy Cobalt - 25 mpg city / 34 mpg highway
Ford Fusion - 24 mpg city / 32 mpg highway

Top 5 Most Fuel Efficient Japanese Cars:
Honda Insight - 60 mpg city / 66 mpg highway
Toyota Prius - 60 mpg city / 51 mpg highway
Honda Civic Hybrid - 49 mpg city / 51 highway
Toyota Corolla - 32 mpg city / 41 mpg highway
Toyota Matrix - 30 mpg city / 36 mpg highway

After doing some math, I figured the average of the top five American cars gets 27.4 mpg in the city and 33.2 mpg on the highway, while the average of the top five Japanese cars get 46.2 mpg in the city and 49 mpg on the highway. This equates to 68% better gas mileage in the city and 48% better gas mileage on the highway for Japanese cars.

The most obvious cause for the difference is due to the fact there are three hybrid cars included on the Japanese list while there is only one hybrid car on the American list.

While gas mileage certainly isn’t the only indicator as to why certain cars sell better than others, I don’t think you can discount the fact Japanese cars tend to get much better gas mileage than their American counterparts when looking at the dramatic rise in sales of Japanese cars vs. an equally dramatic fall in the sales of American cars.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Report: Bush misused Iraq intelligence

By Randall Mikkelsen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush and his top policymakers misstated Saddam Hussein's links to terrorism and ignored doubts among intelligence agencies about Iraq's arms programs as they made a case for war, the Senate intelligence committee reported on Thursday.

The report shows an administration that "led the nation to war on false premises," said the committee's Democratic Chairman, Sen. John Rockefeller of West Virginia. Several Republicans on the committee protested its findings as a "partisan exercise."

The committee studied major speeches by Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other officials in advance of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, and compared key assertions with intelligence available at the time.

Statements that Iraq had a partnership with al Qaeda were wrong and unsupported by intelligence, the report said.

It said that Bush's and Cheney's assertions that Saddam was prepared to arm terrorist groups with weapons of mass destruction for attacks on the United States contradicted available intelligence.

Such assertions had a strong resonance with a U.S. public, still reeling after al Qaeda's September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Polls showed that many Americans believed Iraq played a role in the attacks, even long after Bush acknowledged in September 2003 that there was no evidence Saddam was involved.

The report also said administration prewar statements on Iraq's weapons programs were backed up in most cases by available U.S. intelligence, but officials failed to reflect internal debate over those findings, which proved wrong."

Ford to cut white-collar expenses by 15 percent

"DETROIT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co said on Thursday it will cut expenses for its white-collar work force by 15 percent over the next two months through job cuts, attrition and other actions.

The cuts, telegraphed by Ford in May, when it warned it would not meet its long-standing goal of returning to profitability in 2009, will come as the automaker adjusts to a deeper-than-expected slump in U.S. vehicle sales, led by declines in sales of pickup trucks and SUVs.

"We told employees today we are going to cut salaried work force-related expenses by 15 percent and complete the actions by August 1," said Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans.
"This does include reductions in headcount and contract jobs, attrition and consolidation of positions," she said.

Ford, the No. 2 U.S. automaker, has about 24,300 salaried workers in North America. It warned employees in May that cuts in production would force a reduction in its salaried and hourly work force.
Salaried workers who are dismissed will be offered standard company severance packages. Ford does not disclose details of the packages.
The automaker plans to offer buyouts to union-represented hourly workers at plants where the company has excess capacity due to declining demand for specific vehicles such as trucks and SUVs.

More than 38,000 United Auto Workers union-represented workers have left Ford through buyout programs, including about 4,200 who accepted offers that wrapped up in early 2008.
Ford executives have said the sharp rise in U.S. gas prices above $3.50 per gallon triggered a permanent shift in demand to cars and crossovers and away from larger vehicles.
The company has been shifting production plans toward smaller vehicles, including introducing a Fiesta subcompact in North America in 2010 that will be built in Mexico.
(Reporting by Soyoung Kim and David Bailey, editing by Gerald E. McCormick/Jeffrey Benkoe)"

Supreme Court Backs Rights for Terror Detainees

"The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that foreign terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have a constitutional right to challenge their detention in U.S. civilian courts.

In a 5-4 ruling, the court also said the Bush administration's system for classifying detainees as enemy combatants does not meet basic legal standards.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, said, "The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times." He was joined by the court's four more liberal justices, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and John Paul Stevens.
This is the third time the justices have told President Bush that his plan for handling foreign terrorists violates the Constitution. This time, the president had Congress on his side. In 2006, the Republican-controlled Congress passed a law called the Military Commissions Act. It closed the courthouse doors to Guantanamo detainees and set up a new system for terrorism trials at the camp in Cuba.
The Supreme Court now says the 2006 law unconstitutionally suspended habeas corpus — a prisoner's right to challenge his detention. The ruling overturns a lower court decision that said the law was constitutional.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia each wrote a dissent on behalf of the court's more conservative bloc, which includes Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas. Roberts criticized his fellow justices for striking down what he called "the most generous set of procedural protections ever afforded aliens detained by this country as enemy combatants." Scalia wrote that the majority opinion "will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed."
Congressional Democrats and human-rights groups hailed the decision. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy called the ruling "a stinging rebuke of the Bush administration's flawed detention policies." Vincent Warren, director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents many Guantanamo detainees, said, "The Supreme Court has finally brought an end to one of our nation's most egregious injustices."
On Thursday, President Bush said, "We'll abide by the court's decision. That doesn't mean I have to agree with it."

The ruling could resuscitate several court cases that have been on hold pending the high court's decision. There are nearly 200 Guantanamo detainee cases on the docket of the District Court in Washington, D.C. Those cases include claims from detainees who argue that they are being unlawfully held at the prison camp, that they are innocent, or that they were tortured during interrogations.

Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., said the court's judges will meet in the coming days to decide how to proceed. "I expect we'll call in the lawyers from both sides to see what suggestions they have for how we can approach our task most effectively and efficiently," Lamberth said.

It is not clear what impact the ruling will have on the eventual fate of detainees. President Bush and presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain have all said they support shutting down Guantanamo, but there is no clear consensus on where the detainees should go. In the past, some were released without charge. Others were transferred to foreign countries. About 270 men captured in Afghanistan and Iraq are currently at the prison camp. Some have been there for more than six years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report."

Rise corruption at Mexico border

"SAN DIEGO, May 27 (UPI) -- U.S. Homeland Security (OTCBB:HSCC) officials are concerned that the growing ranks of the Border Patrol will lead to a coinciding increase in corruption.
The New York Times (NYSE:NYT) said Tuesday that the fears of individual agents working for smuggling rings has led the Department of Homeland Security to reconstitute the internal affairs unit of the Customs and Border Protection agency, and to begin subjecting recruits to lie-detector exams.

"If you can get a corrupt inspector, you have the keys to the kingdom," said FBI Agent Andrew Black, who supervises a task force focused on border corruption in the San Diego area.
The Times said increased security along the border has made it more likely that Mexican gangs will pay off a U.S. agent or even have a mole get a job with the agency.
The Times said the number of internal affairs investigations along the entire Mexican border grew from 31 in 2003 to 79 last year.

Earlier this month, a rookie border agent was arrested for allegedly carrying drugs and illegal immigrants through the San Diego border crossing. He was allegedly conspiring with his uncle. "

Day as a Hindu Monk

"There's not much traffic on First Avenue in lower Manhattan at 5:15 a.m. But in the building between a darkened tattoo shop and electronic store, a light shines bright from the second floor.
Inside is the New York City headquarters of the Interfaith League, a Hare Krishna group. A visitor is greeted with a blast of sights and sounds: Thirteen men and one woman are twirling and dancing, playing cymbals and drums and chanting Hindu tunes. Hare Krishna monks are in orange or white robes. Civilians are in business suits or jeans. They all face an altar adorned with flowers and statues of the supreme Hindu God, Krishna, and his female counterpart, Radha.
A little over an hour later, a 35-year-old monk named Gadadhara Pandit Dasa blows into a conch shell and pours a water offering. This marks the half-way point in this three-hour morning worship service, a daily celebration.

"I just can't think of a better way to start the day," he says, grinning. "It's such a devotional activity, so deeply moving for the soul, that the rest of your day is much more clear, because you've nourished the mind and soul from the morning."
Searching for Answers
Pandit – whose name means "saint"— sits cross-legged on the hardwood floor of this urban temple. He begins to chant the Hare Krishna mantra. He explains that repeating the names for Krishna is a spiritual event of sorts, allowing God to enter his soul.
"Our focus is on the sound vibration itself, because we know that sound is an incredibly powerful tool," he later explains. "It can cause avalanches, and sound, through music, can move our emotions in all different directions. The same with spiritual sound. When I'm calling out to Krishna, saying the Hare Krishna mantra — Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Hare Hare — Krishna is actually present there."
Pandit grew up in an observant Hindu family. He was an only child. They moved from India to California when he was 7, and as his father's business fortunes ebbed and flowed, he began asking existential questions.
In his early 20s, Pandit moved to Bulgaria to help his father with his import-export business. Unable to speak the language, he had few friends. He spent evenings alone and lonely, and one night, began reading the sacred Hindu text, the Bhagavad Gita.
"That's when it really took off for me," he recalls, "because for the first time in my spiritual life, I was being given answers."
Beyond Material Wealth
Pandit found solace in Hare Krishna explanations for Hindu beliefs: why life fluctuates (it's karma, because you reap what you sow); why reincarnation occurs (because one life may not be enough to pay off past debts); why Hinduism has thousands of gods (because Krishna is the supreme God, and lesser gods help run creation).
When Pandit returned from Bulgaria, he began studying with a monk. Then he moved in — temporarily, he thought.
"I was taking it one step at a time, one month at a time," Pandit says. "And at some point, after maybe a year or so, I said, maybe this is something I should consider. And now it's eight years later."
Pandit says initially, the questions haunted him: Can I live this way the rest of my life without income or savings for old age, fitting all my possessions in a locker? Yet he found that the material deprivations paled next to the wealth in his spiritual life and his friendships.
"I really don't feel like I'm missing anything," he says. "The deepest thing any human being looks for is relationships. That's where we get the most joy. And there's no shortage of relationships for me here."
The monks eat together, wake up together and worship together. "We spend more time together than most couples and families do," Pandit says.
Drawn to Monastic Life
By mid-morning, eight monks, ages 21 to 48, have gathered for spiritual reading and discussion. A long, narrow room serves as dining room, living room and bedroom for the men. They sleep on the hardwood floor and store their sleeping bags in lockers with all their other possessions: coat, sweaters, robes, laptop computers.
At this moment, they're each peering into their laptops, reading the Bhagavad Gita online. The day's reading concerns the pain of leaving all for the higher love for Krishna.
But why enter a monastery?
Matthew Hall, who left his Protestant family in Houston three years ago, says he was looking for peace, love and satisfaction — something that eluded his friends with good jobs and money.
"They end up with a bunch of bills, stress, a whole bunch of anxieties," Hall says. "People weren't truly satisfied. And so I figured, why should I put any endeavor in material prosperity? Let me just find a monastery and dedicate my life to spirituality, because this is what's giving me happiness."
Life in Close Quarters
Of course, it can be trying living in such close quarters. And Ari Weiss, a Jew just testing the waters of monastic life, says it can be equally trying for the monks' families.
"One of the hardest things for me is having my parents on the periphery thinking, 'Is my son a fanatic?'" he said, laughing nervously. "They love me so much, but at the same time, this question is in their mind."
His parents, of course, remember the Hare Krishna monks of the '60s and '70s, who danced in the city streets and gave away carnations at airports. Pandit says while there are about 100,000 Hare Krishna followers in the U.S., there aren't enough monks to do that now: Their ranks dwindled as young devotees traded their robes and sleeping bags for families, houses and jobs.
Generally, Pandit takes a nap in the morning. But not today: He's on lunch duty. The special today: A traditional Indian stew called kichiri, with butternut squash, broccoli, green peas and potatoes. Hare Krishnas don't eat meat.
Pandit says the way he cooks reflects his faith, right down to honoring — rather than eating — those he says are also children of God.
"If we're trying to love [God] but simultaneously causing harm and violence to his children, he's not going to be all that pleased," Pandit says. "'OK, you love my two-legged children, what about my four-legged ones?'"
Engaging the World
Nine monks and a few visitors sit in a line, cross-legged on the floor of the all-purpose room. Pandit ladles stew into their bowls. Pandit says every monk knows how to cook, clean, play musical instruments and sing. But for Hare Krishnas, he says, the most important worship is done outside, by engaging the world.
"Some people may think that a monk is somewhat reclusive — kind of isolated, in a bubble, meditating all day. But it's quite the opposite. I'm on the computer, e-mailing. I'm driving, using cell phones and using Facebook. I have my own Web site."
Facebook, he notes, is "great for connecting to college students." And that is where Pandit's calling lies: He is the first Hindu chaplain at Columbia University and New York University.
At 4:30 p.m., Pandit and fellow monk Dave Jenkins run through their checklist: rolling pins, pots and pans, flour, vegetarian stew, side dishes – everything they'll need to teach some 50 Columbia students how to cook a vegetarian meal, as Pandit does every Tuesday night.
Students begin streaming in around 6:45 p.m. — some Hindu, most not.
"Someone gave me a flyer that said, free vegetarian food, and he was obviously Hindu," says Sanali Phatak. "I was like 'Indian food! I'm going to this.'"
Cooking with Consciousness
Phatak is getting her master's at Columbia Teachers College. The first-generation Indian-American has grown close to Pandit. She attends his Bhagavad Gita study groups on Friday afternoons and says he helps her understand her faith.
"In most traditional Hindu households, you don't want to ask too racy questions," she said with a laugh, adding, "You know, 'Why is drinking looked down upon?' Your parents are like, 'Oh, drinking is just bad.' But what's the more spiritual reason for that?"
Mukund Sanghi, another regular, says his engineering background made him skeptical of his family's Hindu faith. But Pandit's rational arguments have drawn him back.
"There is a reason behind whatever he says, and it sounds so much more sane," Sanghi says. "It's practical, and yes, I can listen to him, I can talk to him. It will always be a new learning experience."
With a critical mass of about 50 students, Pandit announces that they're going to make samosas — deep-fried vegetable turnovers — and the crowd lets out a whoop. He banters with the students, commenting that one student's samosa resembles the state of California or that another's looks a little greasy. The lesson ends, but before the students can eat, they must listen to five minutes of Hindu philosophy:
"Food absorbs consciousness," he says to the polite crowd, "so when you're eating, you can ask yourself, 'Whose consciousness am I eating today?'"
Pandit knows most of these students will not convert to Hinduism. Still, he hopes to give them tools as they head into a world of achievement, stress and possible burnout.
"Prozac is not going to be the solution," Pandit says. "It's going to be spirituality. It's going to be meditation. It's going to be practice of yoga. And it's going to be connecting with God and our inner self."
At least that's what he hopes. And it's why Pandit will arrive home at 11 at night, crawl into his sleeping bag and get up at 4 the next morning for another day of worship."

Muslims Increasingly Turn to Polygamy

"Polygamy in the U.S. is not limited to remote enclaves in the West or breakaway sects once affiliated with the Mormon Church. Several scholars say it's growing among black Muslims in the inner city — and particularly in Philadelphia, which is known for its large orthodox black Muslim community.

No one knows exactly how many people live in polygamous families in the U.S. Estimates from academics researching the issue range from 50,000 to 100,000 people.
Take Zaki and Mecca, who have been married for nearly 12 years. In their late 20s, they live in the Philadelphia suburbs, have a 5-year-old son and own a real estate business.
Zaki also has something else: a second wife.
Two years ago, Mecca told her husband she wanted to study Arabic in the Middle East, which would mean a lot of time away from home. (NPR is not using any full names in this story because some of those we interviewed could be prosecuted for bigamy.)
"We were talking about it," Mecca recalls, "and the first thing that came to my mind was, 'I'm going to have to find you another wife!'"
Zaki was game. After all, he had been raised in a polygamous home in Philadelphia. Like many black Muslims, his father subscribed to an orthodox view of Islam that allows a man to marry several women. Zaki says he loved having seven siblings and four mothers, especially at dinnertime.
"I would find out who's making what that particular night. I know that this mom makes barbequed chicken better than my other mom makes fried chicken, so I'm going with the barbequed chicken tonight. Things of that nature," he says with a laugh.
Unlike Zaki, Mecca was raised by a single mother and converted from Southern Baptist to Muslim when she was 16.
Finding Another Wife
When it came to finding a second wife, Zaki said he had no one in mind, and he asked Mecca to conduct the search.
"You know, he gave me the baton, and I took it and ran with it," Mecca says.
Mecca launched a nationwide search. She found candidates by word of mouth. She scoured the Internet. Eventually, she interviewed about a dozen women.
"I had to make sure that she'd be the right fit — not just for my husband, but for our whole family," Mecca says.
But the ultimate match was right under their noses: 20-year-old Aminah, who was a friend of Zaki's younger sister. Aminah knew Mecca was looking for a second wife but thought she was too young. That is, until one night after a dinner party when Mecca pulled her aside. Mecca asked Aminah if she would consider marrying Zaki.
"And I said, 'That's funny, because I was thinking the same thing,'" Aminah says.
Zaki was the last to know the identity of the final candidate to be his bride. He could have vetoed the choice, of course, but he was delighted.
In October 2007, he and Aminah married in a religious, not civil, ceremony. Many polygamous marriages are conducted in secret and are not legally binding because state laws prohibit them.
Aminah recalls that Mecca helped prepare the wedding feast.
Aminah, who's finishing college, lives in an apartment a few miles away from Mecca's house. Zaki moves between homes on alternating nights. But every week after Friday prayers, they get together as a family.
"It can be a variety of things," Zaki says. "Going to a nice restaurant, catching a movie, going bowling, maybe seeing a concert. All kind of things."
"I always call it family date night, because it's one big date," Mecca says. "We just chill. I always look forward to it. We always have a ball, laughing, goofing around."
Treating Each Wife Equally
On a recent day, Zaki's attention is on Aminah. Riding the elevator to her penthouse apartment, he explains that it's Aminah's 21st birthday and he's taking her to New York to see a Broadway show.
"She has no idea what she's going to do today," he whispers. And so while Zaki's second wife is changing for a surprise trip, his first wife is getting the train tickets and making the arrangements.
"See, you got to work as a unit or it's very inconvenient otherwise," he laughs.
As Zaki hurries Aminah along, he says he will do something equivalent for Mecca on her birthday. Islam requires that the husband treat each wife equally. Zaki explains that doesn't mean he gives them the same things. For example, Mecca likes jewelry but Aminah doesn't.
But, he says, "If I upgrade one, then I have to upgrade the other. But the upgrade may not be the same because you have two different women with two different tastes."
They've worked out a system. Even still, why would a woman want to share her husband?
"Well, I'm looking at it more as a spiritual perspective," Mecca says. "Zaki is a blessing — just like everything else. He is a loan from God, is the way I look at it. And in my religion, if he's able and capable to [marry another wife], I wouldn't want to hold him back. So, why not?"
She acknowledges that there have been "a few bumps in the road." But she hasn't once second-guessed sharing Zaki with Aminah.
As Mecca speaks, Aminah nods in agreement.
"I might have certain feelings when my husband walks out the door and I haven't seen him all day, but I know his responsibility is not only to me. And the respect I have for my co-wife, all that plays a role in how I handle my emotions," Aminah says.
'Two, Three, Four'
Zaki believes ultimately, polygamy is good for society — especially in the inner city, where intact families are rare and many kids grow up without their fathers.
"There are a lot of blessings in it because you're helping legitimize and build a family that's rooted in values and commitment. And the children that come out of those types of relationships only become a benefit to society at large."
Many orthodox Muslims agree. You can find them on Fridays at a mosque in South Philadelphia.
The congregation that has gathered in a slim townhouse is largely African-American. The rules are orthodox, and the prayers (if not the sermon) are in classical Arabic.
Abdullah, the imam, has conducted religious ceremonies for a dozen polygamous marriages.
Abdullah says polygamy in Islam dates back to the 7th century, when battles were killing off Muslim men and leaving widows and children unprotected.
As a result, Abdullah says, the Koran specifies that a man can marry "women of your choice: two, three, four, and if you fear you cannot be just, then marry one."
"And so, a lot of scholars look at it sequentially," he says. "Two is optimum, then three, then four, then as a last resort, one!"
A Shortage of Men
And while polygamy may seem like a man's paradise, Abdullah says, often an unmarried woman initiates it.
"Sometimes a woman may be interested in a man, but he's off limits. That's not the case in Islam. Does he have four wives? No? Then he's still available."
That's how Abdullah met his second wife. A divorcee, she heard Abdullah preach a few sermons and approached his wife to ask if he would be interested in a second wife. Soon she married Abdullah and now the imam cares for two families — with 13 children and another on the way.
The single women at the mosque say polygamy is a fact of life. But it's not their first choice.
"Every woman has a preference to be the sole wife," says Aliya, echoing the sentiments of the others. Aliya is a 28-year-old single woman who is finishing up a master's degree. She says that South Philadelphia in the 21st century is a little like Arabia in the 7th century. There is a dearth of men to marry.
"We're dealing with brothers who are incarcerated — that is, unavailable," she says. "And then unfortunately, you have the AIDS and HIV crisis, where HIV has struck the African-American community disproportionately to others. So when you look at it that way, there is a shortage."
Shaheed's Story
With this numerical advantage, some men collect wives for the sex. But some men also marry out of altruism. Consider 43-year-old Shaheed, who is married to Alieah.
Fourteen years ago, his friend died. The friend's wife, Nadirah, was 30 and expecting her third child. That brought her to Shaheed's attention.
"When we came to the grave site — I remember it as if it were yesterday — what stuck out was that her demeanor was so calm," Shaheed says.
Nadirah is an elegant, contained woman. After becoming a widow, she decided the only way she would marry again was as a second wife.
"At that point in my life, I was used to being alone," she says, running her household as she liked, "as opposed to constantly being with someone and attending to someone else's needs."
She accepted Shaheed's proposal. But she quickly saw the tricky relationship was not with Shaheed. It was with his wife.
"We met, and we had dinner, and we had lunch and we went out and shopped and did different things at that point. As the marriage got closer, I think she was more apprehensive and more unnerved by the pending situation."
"I remember me telling him, 'Please don't go,'" Alieah says. "He's like 'What do you mean? The wedding is today, you're telling me not to go today?' I'm like, 'Just don't go!'"
Alieah, who is 40, says she considered Shaheed's commitment to a widow "noble." Afterward, however, she considered divorce. She eventually decided she did not want to start over. After two years of misery, Alieah says, she had a spiritual epiphany.
"I literally just got up one morning and said [to God], 'OK, this is what you want me to do. I'm going to handle it in a civil manner, and I'm going to do X, Y, Z about it,'" Alieah says. "And from that point on, it was the strangest thing, because it never bothered me anymore. I never even thought about it."
The family began to operate like a well-oiled machine and a model of polygamy in their Muslim community. Shaheed runs his own security company. Alieah teaches first grade, and Nadirah home-schools some of the family's 10 children.
"We really depend on each other," says Nadirah, who considers Alieah a friend.
What About the Heart?
There are benefits to polygamy for the wives, Nadirah says.
"She could fill something that even a husband couldn't fill. It was a cross between a sister and a friend and a co-worker," she says. "You have a cushion or a help that you didn't have before."
At first, the two families lived in separate homes. Now Shaheed, his two wives and nine of his 10 children live in one house. Each wife has a bedroom on a separate floor, but everything else is communal, including cooking and eating. Shaheed says it's not easy to treat his two very different wives equally, but he tries.
"I'm not going to be overly affectionate with this one as opposed to this one out in the open," he explains.
And what about controlling his heart when it comes to these two women?
"That's something that you can't really control," he says. "But materially, you want to do that as adequately as possible."
For her part, Alieah is philosophical about love.
"You cannot blame someone for where their heart lies."
Did she have a sense of whether her husband was falling for someone else?
She pauses.
"It really didn't matter," she eventually answers. "I just knew he had someone else in his life, and it wasn't me."
Alieah says polygamy isn't easy for either wife, though she believes it is harder on the first.
"The second wife is receiving something, where a first wife will feel that something is being taken away from her," she says. "I mean, I'm devoted to you for my whole life, but you're only devoted to half of my life."
Alieah's youngest child is 4 years old. Her oldest — a 17-year-old daughter — says she's had a happy childhood in a polygamous family. But she hopes she won't have to share her husband with anyone else."

Vindication for the Bush Critique

"As the response to former White House press secretary Scott McClellan's new book enters its second week, the focus has shifted to the messenger rather than his message.
McClellan is a flawed vessel for any serious communication. From behind the podium, he made a mockery of the press and the public's right to know, most notably by repeating non-responsive and sometimes ludicrous talking points. He has yet to persuasively explain his change of heart. And his insistence that self-deception rather than a conscious disregard for the truth was behind what he now describes as the White House's consistent lack of candor is spectacularly self-serving.
But the significance of McClellan's book is that his detailed recounting of what he saw from the inside vindicates pretty much all the central pillars of the Bush critique that have been chronicled here and elsewhere for many years now. Among them:
* That Bush and his top aides manipulated the country into embarking upon an unnecessary war on false pretenses;
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* That Bush is an incurious man, happily protected from dissenting views inside the White House's bubble of self-delusion;
* That Karl Rove's huge influence on the Bush White House erased any distinction between policy and politics, so governing became about achieving partisan goals, not the common good;
* That Vice President Cheney manipulates the levers of power;
* That all those people who denied White House involvement in the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity were either lying or had been lied to;
* That the mainstream media were complicit enablers of the Bush White House and that its members didn't understand how badly they were being played.
By coming back again and again to the CIA leak story, McClellan also validates a key theme of the Bush critique: That the Plame case was a microcosm of much that was wrong with the way the Bush White House did business.
No one could have predicted that the Plame case would play such a central role in McClellan's personal conversion to Bush critic. But his eventual recognition that Rove and then-vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby had flatly lied to him when they denied any involvement in the leak, along with his sudden realization that Bush and Cheney declassified secrets when it was politically convenient, were evidently two major factors. (A third was his unceremonious firing by Chief of Staff Josh Bolten.)
McClellan's revelation that on Oct. 4, 2003, Bush and Cheney directed him to vouch for Libby's innocence once again raises the question of how the president and particularly the vice president have been able to avoid any kind of public accountability. McClellan even raises the possibility, repeatedly hinted at by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, that Cheney directed Libby to disclose Plame's identity. "

Miracle Fruit

CARRIE DASHOW dropped a large dollop of lemon sorbet into a glass of Guinness, stirred, drank and proclaimed that it tasted like a “chocolate shake.”
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Joe Fornabaio for The New York Times
HOW’S IT DO THAT? Franz Aliquo, who calls himself Supreme Commander, right, supplied miracle berries grown by Curtis Mozie, left, to party-goers in Long Island City, Queens, last weekend.

Joe Fornabaio for The New York Times
Those who attended sampled the red berries then tasted foods, including cheese, beer and brussels sprouts, finding the flavors transformed. Beer can taste like chocolate, lemons like candy. Mr. Aliquo says he holds the parties to “turn on a bunch of people’s taste buds.”
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Joe Fornabaio for The New York Times
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Joe Fornabaio for The New York Times

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Nearby, Yuka Yoneda tilted her head back as her boyfriend, Albert Yuen, drizzled Tabasco sauce onto her tongue. She swallowed and considered the flavor: “Doughnut glaze, hot doughnut glaze!”
They were among 40 or so people who were tasting under the influence of a small red berry called miracle fruit at a rooftop party in Long Island City, Queens, last Friday night. The berry rewires the way the palate perceives sour flavors for an hour or so, rendering lemons as sweet as candy.
The host was Franz Aliquo, 32, a lawyer who styles himself Supreme Commander (Supreme for short) when he’s presiding over what he calls “flavor tripping parties.” Mr. Aliquo greeted new arrivals and took their $15 entrance fees. In return, he handed each one a single berry from his jacket pocket.
“You pop it in your mouth and scrape the pulp off the seed, swirl it around and hold it in your mouth for about a minute,” he said. “Then you’re ready to go.” He ushered his guests to a table piled with citrus wedges, cheeses, Brussels sprouts, mustard, vinegars, pickles, dark beers, strawberries and cheap tequila, which Mr. Aliquo promised would now taste like top-shelf Patrón.
The miracle fruit, Synsepalum dulcificum, is native to West Africa and has been known to Westerners since the 18th century. The cause of the reaction is a protein called miraculin, which binds with the taste buds and acts as a sweetness inducer when it comes in contact with acids, according to a scientist who has studied the fruit, Linda Bartoshuk at the University of Florida’s Center for Smell and Taste. Dr. Bartoshuk said she did not know of any dangers associated with eating miracle fruit.
During the 1970s, a ruling by the Food and Drug Administration dashed hopes that an extract of miraculin could be sold as a sugar substitute. In the absence of any plausible commercial application, the miracle fruit has acquired a bit of a cult following.
Sina Najafi, editor in chief of the art magazine Cabinet, has featured miracle fruits at some of the publication’s events. At a party in London last October, the fruit, he said, “had people testifying like some baptismal thing.”
The berries were passed out last week at a reading of “The Fruit Hunters,” a new book by Adam Leith Gollner with a chapter about miracle fruit.
Bartenders have been experimenting with the fruit as well. Don Lee, a beverage director at the East Village bar Please Don’t Tell, has been making miracle fruit cocktails on his own time, but the bar probably won’t offer them anytime soon. The fruit is highly perishable and expensive — a single berry goes for $2 or more.
Lance J. Mayhew developed a series of drink recipes with miracle fruit foams and extracts for a recent issue of the cocktail magazine Imbibe and may create others for Beaker & Flask, a restaurant opening later this year in Portland, Ore.
He cautioned that not everyone enjoys the berry’s long-lasting effects. Despite warnings, he said, one woman became irate after drinking one of his cocktails. He said, “She was, like, ‘What did you do to my mouth?’ ”
Mr. Aliquo issues his own warnings. “It will make all wine taste like Manischewitz,” he said. And already sweet foods like candy can become cloying.
He said that he had learned about miracle fruit while searching ethnobotany Web sites for foods he could make for a diabetic friend.
The party last week was his sixth “flavor tripping” event. He hopes to put on a much larger, more expensive affair in June. Although he does sell the berries on his blog, www.flavortripping.wordpress.com, Mr. Aliquo maintains that he isn’t in it for the money. (He said he made about $100 on Friday.) Rather, he said, he does it to “turn on a bunch of people’s taste buds.”
He believes that the best way to encounter the fruit is in a group. “You need other people to benchmark the experience,” he said. At his first party, a small gathering at his apartment in January, guests murmured with delight as they tasted citrus wedges and goat cheese. Then things got trippy.
“You kept hearing ‘oh, oh, oh,’ ” he said, and then the guests became “literally like wild animals, tearing apart everything on the table.”
“It was like no holds barred in terms of what people would try to eat, so they opened my fridge and started downing Tabasco and maple syrup,” he said.
Many of the guests last week found the party through a posting at www.tThrillist.com. Mr. Aliquo sent invitations to a list of contacts he has been gathering since he and a friend began organizing StreetWars, a popular urban assassination game using water guns.
One woman wanted to see Mr. Aliquo eat a berry before she tried one. “What, you don’t trust me?” he said.
She replied, “Well, I just met you.”
Another guest said, “But you met him on the Internet, so it’s safe.”
The fruits are available by special order from specialty suppliers in New York, including Baldor Specialty Foods and S. Katzman Produce. Katzman sells the berries for about $2.50 a piece, and has been offering them to chefs.
Mr. Aliquo gets his miracle fruit from Curtis Mozie, 64, a Florida grower who sells thousands of the berries each year through his Web site, www.miraclefruitman.com. (A freezer pack of 30 berries costs about $90 with overnight shipping.) Mr. Mozie, who was in New York for Mr. Gollner’s reading, stopped by the flavor-tripping party.
Mr. Mozie listed his favorite miracle fruit pairings, which included green mangoes and raw aloe. “I like oysters with some lemon juice,” he said. “Usually you just swallow them, but I just chew like it was chewing gum.”
A large group of guests reached its own consensus: limes were candied, vinegar resembled apple juice, goat cheese tasted like cheesecake on the tongue and goat cheese on the throat. Bananas were just bananas.
For all the excitement it inspires, the miracle fruit does not make much of an impression on its own. It has a mildly sweet tang, with firm pulp surrounding an edible, but bitter, seed. Mr. Aliquo said it reminded him of a less flavorful cranberry. “It’s not something I’d just want to eat,” he said.

Monday, June 23, 2008

T. Kennedy, Jr. on cancer recovery

"By Adele Slaughter, Spotlight Health, with medical adviser Stephen A. Shoop, M.D.
As a healthcare attorney, Ted Kennedy, Jr. is a passionate advocate for cancer patients and people with disabilities. Kennedy is particularly dedicated to this work because he knows the anguish of surviving cancer intimately — 30 years ago he lost his leg to a type of bone cancer called osteogenic sarcoma.

"I remember the emotional isolation I experienced, losing my hair, and dealing with that as a seventh grader," says Kennedy. "No one ever asked me how I was doing, or thought that my mental attitude would have an impact on how I approached the challenges I faced. Even though my parents found the best, most brilliant doctors that existed at the time to treat the cancer in my body, no one really ever addressed how I was doing emotionally."

With Kennedy's help, The Wellness Community (TWC) launched Virtual Wellness Community, sponsored by Amgen. VWC is a place on the internet where cancer patients can join professionally moderated support groups. Kennedy remains passionate about the message that no one has to face cancer and the process of recovery without emotional support.
"I didn't know any other kids that had this kind of cancer," says Kennedy, who serves on the board of TWC. "It was a rare type of bone cancer. What I found helpful at the time was my parents identified a ski camp for kids who had lost a leg. I wanted to learn how to ski on one ski. I said to myself 'If they can do it, I can do it too.' A lot of times it's not what people say, it is simply that they show up, sit in a seat, are a source of strength, and provide the power of example."
Recently, TWC celebrated 20 years of providing free emotional support, education, and hope for people with cancer and their families.

"We're having a luncheon to celebrate the 20th year of The Wellness Community," says Kennedy. "It's interesting because I am right across the street from where I was diagnosed with cancer and lost my leg in 1973 — just a stone's throw away."

"Osteogenic sarcoma or osteosarcoma, is the primary tumor of bone cells, it arises from the cells that form bone," explains Stuart E. Siegel, Director of the Children's Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases, Children's Hospital Los Angeles. "The other tumor that commonly occurs in children is Ewing's sarcoma. About 7% of childhood cancers are bone cancers. Of those, Ewing's comprises 2.3% while 4.6% is osteosarcoma."

Approximately 12,500 children from birth to 21 years-old are diagnosed with cancer in the US every year. About 600 youngsters will develop osteosarcoma.
"It can occur in any bone and most commonly occurs in long bones and is in the legs and arms, but any bone can develop the tumor," says Siegel, who is also a professor of pediatrics at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine. "The usual symptoms that bring tumors to the attention of doctors are pain, a lump, or abnormality in the bone. Some patients actually present with a fracture and an x-ray is taken. Generally, the break is through the tumor which is discovered through the x-ray."

"I was 12 years old and noticed a pain in my leg and insisted that I have it looked at," says Kennedy. "The first doctor that I saw told me to soak my leg in Epsom salt and come back in a month."

"Obviously the pain didn't go away, and I came back and they did a quick biopsy and determined it was cancer," adds Kennedy. "I lost my leg the very next day and went through two years of chemotherapy."

Once diagnosed, the principles of treatment for children with bone cancer are similar.
"Today, treatment begins with chemotherapy since the cancer often gets into the muscles and the bone. We want to de-bulk the tumor before we take it out," says Siegel. "Once the tumor shrinks down in about two to three weeks we remove it. Then after about 12 weeks of chemotherapy we perform a 'limb salvage' procedure. We are able to remove the parts of the bone involved in the tumor and place advanced metal prostheses or cadaver bones to preserve the leg or the arm and its function. After surgery, additional chemotherapy is required for about nine to 18 months."

The vast majority of patients, about 80%, experience remission. Today, almost 70% of patients with osteosarcoma are long-term survivors and appear to be cured of the disease.

"There are 8.5 million cancer survivors in the US today," says Mitch Golant psychologist and vice-president of research and development of TWC. "With the new treatments available, there will be more and more survivors and the need for support will increase dramatically."
Addressing the growing population of people living with cancer as a chronic disease, TWC has 22 facilities in the United States and two Wellness Communities overseas. Last year they served over 25,000 people living with cancer.

"Because of my personal experience," says Kennedy. "I know that patients who are more involved and have their questions answered feel more positively about their course of treatment and are less likely to get stressed out or depressed. It is so important for patients to ask a lot of questions and educate themselves about the different treatment options."
"We were founded on the Patient Active concept," says Kim Thiboldeaux, president and CEO of TWC. "This concept says that patients who participate in their recovery and are empowered by working with their physician will improve the quality of their life. The data show that the three most common things people with cancer face are a loss of control, isolation, and a loss of hope. Our programs combat those things."

In a study conducted by TWC, University of California San Francisco, and Stanford, 65 women were recruited to look at the efficacy of online support groups. The women were suffering from breast cancer and two-thirds were from rural areas. These women showed a decrease in depression and anxiety, and an increase in their knowledge about the disease and zest for life. Using the results of that study, TCW launched an online community last February.
In addition to professionally moderated, online groups in a secure site, patients can download information about the following:
mind / body programs
nutritional guidance
educational and research information

With communities like TWC and advocates like Kennedy, there is critical support for those living with cancer.

"Cancer had an enormous impact on how I approach my everyday life," says Kennedy. "It sensitized me to a lot of issues for people facing cancer and not just the psychosocial issues but the legal issues as well. That is why I'm a health advocate. I also learned to pay attention to my body, not in a hypochondriac way, but to listen to what my body tells me. I think anyone who has faced a life-threatening disease really has a chance to reflect on his or her life. For me, I am incredibly grateful for everything today.""

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Chuck Hagel for Vice President

A U.S. senator, corporate executive, and veteran affairs secretary not to mention being an independent republican Chuck Hagel is the best choice to fill any voids voters may see in Barack Obama. Checks & Balance Blog officially supports Senator Chuck Hagel (NE) as Obama’s Vice- Presidential pick

American Racism Emerges

The White Stuff

In Tampa Bay during the week that Barrack Obama wins the Democratic presidential nomination a local group which claims heritage in the old confederacy, which lost the Civil War, began flying its flag above a major Hillsborough County throughway. White voters nationally also are reluctant to support Oabama solely based on racial prejudice even though doing so is a better choice for their economic & political interest. The solution in my opinion is for the revitalize Democratic Party machine to ignore courting these small minorities of whites and focus on turning out votes in its the base, not putting aside one state. It is time for change in America.

"Even as he closes in on the Democratic nomination for the presidency, Sen. Barack Obama is facing lingering problems winning the support of white voters--including some in his own party. In a new NEWSWEEK Poll of registered voters, Obama trails presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain 40 percent to 52 percent among whites. Sen. Hillary Clinton, Obama's challenger for the Democratic nomination, also trails McCain among white voters but by a smaller margin, 44 percent to 48 percent. (For the complete results, click here).

Among voters overall, however, Obama fares better, tying McCain 46 percent to 46 percent in a hypothetical match-up. (That's down slightly, within the margin of error, from the last NEWSWEEK Poll, conducted in late April, in which Obama led McCain 47 percent to 44 percent). In that contest, he is boosted by a strong showing among nonwhites, leading McCain 68 percent to 25 percent (Clinton leads McCain 65 percent to 25 percent among nonwhites). But even this result shows some of the electoral challenges facing Obama in a year when Democrats generally appear to hold an electoral advantage--boasting a 15 point advantage in generic party identification over Republicans, 53 percent to 38 percent. Clinton fares slightly better against McCain: 48 percent to 44 percent (within the margin of error). She enjoys this slight edge even though Obama leads Clinton 50 percent to 42 percent as the choice of registered Democrats for the party's nomination. Clinton's white support is unusually high: at a comparable point in the 2004 election, Democratic nominee John Kerry received the support of 36 percent of white voters, compared to George W. Bush's 48 percent, and in June of 2000, Bush led Al Gore 48 percent to 39 percent.

Obama's race may well explain his difficulty in winning over white voters. In the NEWSWEEK Poll, participants were asked to answer questions on a variety of race-related topics including racial preferences, interracial marriage, attitudes toward social welfare and general attitudes toward African-Americans. Respondents were grouped according to their answers on a "Racial Resentment Index." Among white Democrats with a low Racial Resentment Index rating, Obama beat McCain in a hypothetical match-up 78 percent to 17 percent. That is virtually identical to Clinton's margin in the category, 79 percent to 13 percent. But among white Democrats with high scores on the Racial Resentment Index, the picture was very different: Obama led McCain by only 18 points (51 to 33) while Clinton maintained a much larger 59-point lead (78 to 18).Who exactly are these high Racial Resentment Index voters? A majority, 61 percent, have less than a four-year college education, many are older (44 percent were over the age of 60 compared to just 18 percent under the age of 40) and nearly half (46 percent) live in the South.

Confusion over Obama's religious background may also be hindering his ability to attract white support. Asked to name Obama's faith, 58 percent of participants said Christian (the correct answer), compared with 11 percent who answered Muslim, 22 percent who did not know and 9 percent who said something else. Obama's name could be contributing to the confusion; 18 percent of white Democratic voters say they judge the Illinois senator less favorably because of his name, compared to only 4 percent of white Democrats who say it makes them judge Obama more favorably."

Barack’s Bounce

Obama's 15-point lead over McCain.

"Barack finally has his bounce. For weeks many political experts and pollsters have been wondering why the race between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain had stayed so tight, even after the Illinois senator wrested the nomination from Hillary Clinton. With numbers consistently showing rock-bottom approval ratings for President Bush and a large majority of Americans unhappy with the country's direction, the opposing-party candidate should, in the normal course, have attracted more disaffected voters. Now it looks as if Obama is doing just that. A new NEWSWEEK Poll shows that he has a substantial double-digit lead, 51 percent to 36 percent, over McCain among registered voters nationwide.

In the previous NEWSWEEK Poll, completed in late May when Clinton was still fighting him hard for the Democratic nomination, Obama managed no better than a 46 percent tie with McCain. But as pollster Larry Hugick points out, that may have had a lot to do with all the mutual mudslinging going on between the two Democrats. By contrast, in recent weeks Clinton has not only endorsed Obama but has made plans to campaign with him. "They were in a pitched battle, and that's going to impact things. Now that we've gotten away from that period, this is the kind of bounce they've been talking about," said Hugick.

The latest numbers on voter dissatisfaction suggest that Obama may enjoy more than one bounce. The new poll finds that only 14 percent of Americans say they are satisfied with the direction of the country. That matches the previous low point on this measure recorded in June 1992, when a brief recession contributed to Bill Clinton's victory over Bush's father, incumbent George H.W. Bush. Overall, voters see Obama as the preferred agent of "change" by a margin of 51 percent to 27 percent. Younger voters, in particular, are more likely to see Obama that way: those 18 to 39 favor the Illinois senator by 66 percent to 27 percent. The two candidates are statistically tied among older voters.
Obama's current lead also reflects the large party-identification advantage the Democrats now enjoy—55 percent of all voters call themselves Democrats or say they lean toward the party while just 36 percent call themselves Republicans or lean that way. Even as McCain seeks to gain voters by distancing himself from the unpopular Bush and emphasizing his maverick image, he is suffering from the GOP's poor reputation among many voters. Still, history provides hope for the GOP. Hugick points out that in May 1988 when the primaries ended, Democrat Michael Dukakis enjoyed a 54 percent to 38 percent lead over George H.W. Bush. But Bush wound up winning handily. "Those results should give people pause," Hugick says, saying that a substantial number of voters, about 5 percent, have also moved into the undecided column. A significant improvement in the economy, or continued advances in Iraq—an issue McCain has identified with strongly as the senator who championed the "surge" first—could alter the Republican's fortunes.

For now, however, Obama is running much stronger at this point in the race than his two most recent Democratic predecessors, Sen. John Kerry and Vice President Al Gore, who both failed in their bids to win the White House. In a July 2004 NEWSWEEK Poll, Kerry led Bush by only 6 points (51 percent to 45 percent). In June 2000, Gore was in a dead heat with Bush (45 percent to 45 percent)—which is essentially where he ended up when that razor-thin election was finally decided.

Most other national polls have shown Obama with a 4 to 5 point lead over McCain so far. Random statistical error can explain some of the difference in poll results. The NEWSWEEK survey of 1,010 adults nationwide on June 18 and 19, 2008, has a margin of error of 4 points. But the latest evidence of his gaining ground goes well beyond that margin."

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Gas Rant

Increases in domestic oil production as advocated by President G.W. and Republican John McCain as a solution to prices at the pump is disingenuous. Prices at the pump are a direct result of corporate price fixing. This is fact as evident when the price of a barrel of crude oil decreases prices at the pump continue to rise, in addition to actual increases in crude oil prices resulting in heavier increase at the pump. The level of supply of oil is adequate globally as stated by those within the industry.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Friend of God

Who am I? “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (john 15:13). I am a friend of God.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Bio-fuels fuel Food Crisis

The United States especially have the power to shape the outcome of this international food crisis by waging a war to increase biofuels consumption simultaneous without cutting production of food crops.

“World leaders are meeting Tuesday in Rome to tackle the problem that is pushing an estimated 100 million people into hunger: soaring food prices.”

Source: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=91098056

Clinton’ (s) Last Campaign

"I predict Hillary Clinton will suspend her presidential campaign by June 6, 2008.

President Bill Clinton’s recent remarks are a clear foreshadow of news to come.

Bill Clinton said Monday that "this may be the last day I'm ever invovled in a campaign of this kind."

Cheney disregards America's will

On the Iraq War, Vice President Cheney disregards will of American people.

"ABC’s Good Morning America aired an interview with Vice President Cheney on the war. During the segment, Cheney flatly told White House correspondent Martha Raddatz that he doesn’t care about the American public’s views on the war:

CHENEY: On the security front, I think there’s a general consensus that we’ve made major progress, that the surge has worked. That’s been a major success.

RADDATZ: Two-third of Americans say it’s not worth fighting.


RADDATZ So? You don’t care what the American people think?

CHENEY: No. I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls."

Source: http://thinkprogress.org/2008/03/19/cheney-poll-iraq/

Ahmadinejad: Oil, prices artificial

Tue Jun 03 14:44:42 UTC 2008
"ROME (Reuters) - The global market is "full of oil" and rising crude prices are being artificially driven by forces trying to further their geopolitical aims, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday.
"While the growth of consumption is lower than that of production and the market is full of oil, prices continue to rise and this situation is completely manipulated," Ahmadinejad said in his address to a U.N. food summit in Rome.
Without naming countries, the Iranian leader said "hidden and unhidden hands are at work to control the prices mendaciously to pursue their political and economic aims."
He said the goal of "powerful and international capitalists" was to keep the price of oil and energy "artificially high" in part to justify new explorations in the North Pole and the deep seas.
In an apparent reference to the United States, he said the international community should have a mechanism to force "the bullying powers to resort to peace and amity instead of occupation and warmongering...."
(Reporting by Robin Pomeroy)"

Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/email/idUSL0380762720080603

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Chile Volcano At Critical Stage

Chile’s Chaitén volcano. The plume of ash is thought to generate enough static electricity to cause what is called a “dirty thunderstorm” in the same way that colliding ice particles provide the juice for regular thunderstorms.

"A Chilean official warned Friday that a seven-mile column of ash that spirals from an erupting volcano in Patagonia could collapse, devastating the area।
Luis Lara, a government geologist, said the soaring column is at a critical stage. A sudden collapse would shroud vast areas with hot gas, ash and molten rock and kill anything in its way.Authorities have evacuated thousands of people from the immediate vicinity of Chaiten volcano, 760 miles south of the capital city of Santiago. The volcano began erupting eight days ago for the first time in thousands of years.
Volcanic ash also hung over towns on the Argentine side of the border. American and United airlines canceled all flights to Buenos Aires Thursday night because of the damage that the ash can cause to planes' engines.
Experts said the volcano could erupt again at any time, and it may continue spewing ash for months or years। "

Must Florida pay for felled citrus trees?

"FORT LAUDERDALE - A jury is set to begin deliberations Monday in a case that could cost the Florida Department of Agriculture tens of millions of dollars for cutting down backyard citrus trees over the objections of homeowners.

At issue in the three-week trial is how much compensation the state should pay to 58,225 Broward County residents who lost 133,720 orange, grapefruit, tangerine, lemon, and lime trees in a controversial program aimed at preventing the spread of citrus canker disease.
The case is being closely watched because it is the first of five class-action lawsuits seeking full compensation from the state government for its canker eradication program. More than 577,000 backyard citrus trees were destroyed from 2000 to 2006 in Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Lee, and Orange counties, although the trees were never determined to have the canker disease.
Instead, state officials ordered that every citrus tree within a 1,900-foot radius of a confirmed diseased tree be cut down and removed. Residents received a $100 payment for the first tree cut, and $55 for each additional citrus tree destroyed.

The state justified the expansive eradication zone as a precaution to bring the canker outbreak under control before it spread to the 65 million trees in Florida's commercial citrus groves.
Homeowners fought the action in court, complaining that their beloved backyard citrus trees were being destroyed without any proof that the trees were, in fact, diseased.

In February, Circuit Judge Ronald Rothschild rejected the Department of Agriculture's defense that it was using the government's police powers to protect the state's food supply from a public nuisance. The judge said the state has the power to remove diseased trees, but that the Florida constitution requires the government to pay "full compensation" when healthy trees are removed as part of the program.

A jury was empaneled to decide how much compensation would be full compensation for the destroyed trees.

Agriculture Department lawyer Wesley Parsons told the jurors in closing arguments on Friday that residents should receive "zero" compensation because their trees were exposed to canker and had no value. "The trees within the 1,900-foot-radius were doomed," he said, because it was only a matter of time before they, too, would become diseased.

Mr. Parsons likened the spread of citrus canker to the spread of wildfire. Trees in the path of the flames have no value, he said. "A menace is approaching. It is not only going to debilitate the tree in the backyard, it is also going to debilitate other trees in the neighborhood," he told the jurors.
Nancy LaVista, a West Palm Beach lawyer for the residents, told the jury that the state had no evidence that the destroyed trees were infected. "If they truly believed those trees were infected a new arc would be drawn at 1,900 feet," she said. "

Less About 'Sick,' More About 'Normal'

"If you had died 50 years ago, your body would have stood a pretty good chance of serving science. In the 1960s, autopsy rates at US hospitals exceeded 50 percent. Pathologists weren't necessarily looking for what killed people — they were taking advantage of the fact that a body was available and ready for inspection. There was still much to learn about normal human biology, the thinking went, so every corpse was an educational opportunity.

These days, autopsy rates have fallen below 10 percent, a decline that's symptomatic of a larger deficiency. Medicine has become all about finding a problem — a tumor, a heart attack, a failing kidney — and deploying advanced treatment technologies. In the process, we seem to have given up on measuring and tracking what constitutes normal. That's an alarming — and potentially dangerous — trend.

What's normal matters because we're entering a new era of health care, one in which we look not for causes of illness but for risks. It's called predictive medicine, and its primary tool is the screening test. A good screening test should provide a range of results, distinguishing between a condition within normal parameters — which doesn't require intervention — and an anomaly, which demands it. That's how most blood tests work, for instance. But for all sorts of conditions, there's often no definition of normal. In heart disease, for example, CT screening tests can spot abnormalities in arterial plaque — but no research exists on whether that information is actually predictive of heart disease or stroke. "We need to know normal variation," says Pat Brown, a professor of biochemistry at Stanford University School of Medicine. "It's really underappreciated as a part of science." In too many areas, Brown argues, we're too quick to jump at any blip without understanding whether it's a true red alert or just normal background noise.

Consider prostate cancer. Right now, about two-thirds of men diagnosed with the disease get treated with surgery or radiation (both of which carry a significant risk of impotence or incontinence). But in February, researchers at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey found that 80 percent of men over age 66 with detectable prostate cancer who do nothing (so-called watchful waiting) will likely die of something else. In other words, most of those who get treatment — and could be impotent as a result — should have gone without it. "We're way overtreating the disease," says Peter Nelson, an oncologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. "Really, you only want to know about the ones that are potentially fatal."

Ironically, this problem is brought on by technology. Imaging and scanning tools are now so good at peering inside our bodies, they've surpassed our capacity to interpret the results. Many findings are what doctors call "incidentalomas," smudges that look like cancer but turn out — often after surgery — to be benign. Though new detection technologies like proteomics have made great progress in associating particular biomarkers with certain cancers or diseases, we still don't know how often those same markers turn up in nondisease situations.

It seems like it would be easy just to step back and survey the broad picture. But research costs money, and studying what's normal is generally considered trivial, dismissed as mere butterfly collecting. At the National Institutes for Health, for instance, all grants are given a "priority score," an indication of a project's novelty, originality, and "scientific merit." Normal need not apply.

But in these data-rich days, studying what's normal could be a project of startling originality and merit. With petabytes of storage and ample processing power at hand, there's an opportunity to create a sort of Normal Human Project — a macro understanding of human biology on a micro scale. Or, as Stanford's Brown describes it, a "comprehensive, quantitative molecular and cellular characterization of the normal human.'" That may sound daunting, but complementary projects are already under way. Seattle's Allen Institute for Brain Science, having completed a 3-D model of the mouse brain in 2006, is now aiming to model the human brain in its normal state. Even postmortem examinations are coming back into vogue, via high-volume autopsy centers, which can add their results to resources like Johns Hopkins' online autopsy database.

The annals of medicine are full of tidy explanations of how the body works, from Dr. Atkins all the way back to Hippocrates. Inevitably, though, someone comes along and shows that there's a little more to it. It would be wise, as Brown suggests, "to accept the fact that we don't know a tremendous amount about things we think we know. We could learn some humility." That, however, may be asking too much of science.
Deputy editor Thomas Goetz (thomas@wired.com) wrote about personal genomics in issue 15.12."

Florida lawmakers end yearly session

"Published: May 3, 2008 at 5:55 PMTALLAHASSEE, Fla., May 3 (UPI) --

Florida legislators closed their yearly session by passing a penny-pinching budget and making health insurance plans for autistic children, officials said.Despite the tight budget, lawmakers also managed to make health insurance plans for working citizens living in poverty and small businesses, The Miami Herald reported.''Some great things happened today. Historic things happened today,'' Gov. Charlie Crist said of the Friday session.With an all-time high $4 billion in budget cutbacks and a stalling economy looming this year, lawmakers reportedly had to leave behind some high-priority proposals, including a sales-tax holiday and a central Florida rail line.It is reported that public education saw the most severe cutbacks -- $2.3 billion -- while increased funds were given to private schools in the form of vouchers. ''There are corpses strewn about the Capitol. This year there is no money to grease the wheels," Fort Lauderdale Rep. Jack Seiler said."