Blackwater thugs finally convicted of killing Iraqi civilians

Blackwater and Bush

Three security guards working for the private US contractor Blackwater have been found guilty of the manslaughter of a group of unarmed civilians at a crowded Baghdad traffic junction in one of the darkest incidents of the Iraq war.

A fourth, Nicholas Slatten, was found guilty of one charge of first-degree murder. All face the likelihood of lengthy prison sentences after unanimous verdicts on separate weapons charges related to the incident.

The Nisour Square massacre in 2007 left 17 people dead and 20 seriously injured after the guards working for the US State Department fired heavy machine guns and grenade launchers from their armoured convoy in the mistaken belief they were under attack by insurgents.

But attempts to prosecute the guards have previously foundered because of a series of legal mistakes by US officials, and the case had attracted widespread attention in Iraq as a symbol of apparent American immunity.

Now, after a 10-week trial and 28 days of deliberation, a jury in Washington has found three of the men – Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard – guilty of a total of 13 charges of voluntary manslaughter and a total of 17 charges of attempted manslaughter.

The fourth defendant, Slatten, who was alleged to have been first to open fire, was found guilty of a separate charge of first-degree murder. Slough, Liberty and Heard were found guilty of using firearms in relation to a crime of violence, a charge which can alone carry up to a 30-year mandatory sentence…

Federal prosecutor Anthony Asuncion said: “These men took something that did not belong to them: the lives of 14 human beings. They were turned into bloody bullet-riddled corpses at the hands of these men.”

“It must have seemed like the apocalypse was here,” said Asuncion in his closing argument, as he described how many were shot in the back, at long range, or blown up by powerful grenades used by the US contractors.

“There was not a single dead insurgent on the scene,” claimed the prosecutor. “None of these people were armed.”

Sounds like the qualities sought after by your local police department – guaranteeing these gangsters a job when they return to the States. That’s not just a smartass remark. It’s already part of the process of turning our local PD’s into military police.

RTFA for all the details. Personally, I think the GUARDIAN is too kind referring to “a series of legal mistakes by US officials”. Because never in over a half-century of civil rights activism have I ever seen any American officials make “legal mistakes” on behalf of someone poor, Black, working class.

The 14 victims killed by the Blackwater guards on trial were listed as Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia’y, Mahassin Mohssen Kadhum Al-Khazali, Osama Fadhil Abbas, Ali Mohammed Hafedh Abdul Razzaq, Mohamed Abbas Mahmoud, Qasim Mohamed Abbas Mahmoud, Sa’adi Ali Abbas Alkarkh, Mushtaq Karim Abd Al-Razzaq, Ghaniyah Hassan Ali, Ibrahim Abid Ayash, Hamoud Sa’eed Abttan, Uday Ismail Ibrahiem, Mahdi Sahib Nasir and Ali Khalil Abdul Hussein.

Someone in the United States ought to remember their names.

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2014 IgNobel Prizes awarded


Some of my favorites:

NEUROSCIENCE PRIZE [CHINA, CANADA]: Jiangang Liu, Jun Li, Lu Feng, Ling Li, Jie Tian, and Kang Lee, for trying to understand what happens in the brains of people who see the face of Jesus in a piece of toast.

REFERENCE: “Seeing Jesus in Toast: Neural and Behavioral Correlates of Face Pareidolia,” Jiangang Liu, Jun Li, Lu Feng, Ling Li, Jie Tian, Kang Lee, Cortex, vol. 53, April 2014, Pages 60–77. The authors are at School of Computer and Information Technology, Beijing Jiaotong University, Xidian University, the Institute of Automation Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China, and the University of Toronto, Canada…

PUBLIC HEALTH PRIZE [CZECH REPUBLIC, JAPAN, USA, INDIA]: Jaroslav Flegr, Jan Havlíček and Jitka Hanušova-Lindova, and to David Hanauer, Naren Ramakrishnan, Lisa Seyfried, for investigating whether it is mentally hazardous for a human being to own a cat…

REFERENCE: “Changes in personality profile of young women with latent toxoplasmosis,” Jaroslav Flegr and Jan Havlicek, Folia Parasitologica, vol. 46, 1999, pp. 22-28…

REFERENCE: “Describing the Relationship between Cat Bites and Human Depression Using Data from an Electronic Health Record,” David Hanauer, Naren Ramakrishnan, Lisa Seyfried, PLoS ONE, vol. 8, no. 8, 2013, e70585. WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Jaroslav Flegr, David Hanauer, Naren Ramakrishnan…

ECONOMICS PRIZE [ITALY]: ISTAT — the Italian government’s National Institute of Statistics, for proudly taking the lead in fulfilling the European Union mandate for each country to increase the official size of its national economy by including revenues from prostitution, illegal drug sales, smuggling, and all other unlawful financial transactions between willing participants.

REFERENCE: “Cambia il Sistema europeo dei conti nazionali e regionali – Sec2010″, ISTAT, 2014…

A good time was had by all…

Thanks, Mike

Here’s one Democrat I vote for

First, the video. Someone caught Allen Weh in his “47% moment” – thinking he’s only talking to his peers, his buddies in the millionaires club, he lets out how he really feels about low-income working folks.

Yes, he’s a miserable low-life prick Republican. Former head of the New Mexico Republican Party, BTW – just so you know who that party represents.

Second, I’m not especially a fan of the Democrat Party either. Nationally or here in New Mexico. They’re running a generational candidate for governor from one of the old NM Democrat families. He ain’t worth crap. But, the Dems have a minimal tradition of fighting to maintain what has been won in the past for working class families in New Mexico. I can count on that much. And that’s way more than anyone can expect from our royal Republicans.

Tom Udall is different. He maintains his family tradition of fighting for the environment, all classes of working folks – from young to old geezers like me. I particularly like his stand – introducing a call every session of Congress – to rid Congress of the crap procedures they maintain like filibusters, etc. which are as anti-democratic as possible. He voted against Bush’s War. He opposed the VietNam War.

Good enough for me.

As for whoever caught this schmuck, Allen Weh, telling the truth for once in his life about his elitist politics? Thank you, whoever you are.

Malaysia investigates public dog petting

I want to touch a dog
No one was struck down by lightning

Islamic authorities in Malaysia are conducting an investigation into a controversial “dog patting” event aimed at removing the stigma regarding the animal in the multi-ethnic Muslim-majority country.

The event, titled “I want to touch a dog” and held in a park on the outskirts of the capital Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, encouraged patting dogs, widely considered to be unclean in Islam, and reportedly drew hundreds of Muslims, raising the ire of religious leaders.

Islamic authorities said they would investigate the event, while a Muslim leader, Nooh Gadut, said it was an attempt to insult clerics…

The organiser, Syed Azmi Alhabshi, who is a Muslim, had said his intention was to help people overcome their fear of dogs and promote compassion towards animals.

Many Malaysians posted positive comments about the event on social media…

Muslims who took part in the event last Sunday performed in a special washing ritual at the end of the event.

The Southeast Asian country generally practises a moderate brand of Islam, but conservative views have gained increasing traction in recent years, with minorities complaining of what they see as Islamisation.

Theocracy is bad enough – in and of itself. It allows no respect for freedom of thought. In particular, the freedom to be perfectly satisfied with material reality as the foundation for philosophy, politics, economics and social life. Education eventually restricts superstition to the ignorant.

Malaysia is joining other nations like Turkey, run by hypocrites, saying one thing about liberty for citizens while gradually imposing theocracy. No more desirable in Asia than in the United States. Fundamentalists of one flavor or another always seem to think they have a cellphone connection with whichever deity they think makes them special – and the rest of us folk should just sit back and obey.

The sillier aspects of most are as concerned with food and pets as they are about stopping equal opportunities for human beings. They deserve opposition – especially from believers who want to bring their beliefs more in line with the time we live in – rather than in the distant past.

Cripes – Republicans have a war on wedding dresses!

The GOP’s increasingly sad attempts to court the votes of American women remind me of that love-struck guy who just can’t take the hint. He wants your attention, even after you tell him you’re not interested, and you’re not interested because of just how weird he is about women. He tries everything, from arguing that his bad behavior is actually good for you to getting his girl friends (who really should know better) to talk him up. He even hires a relationship counselor.

So it’s hard not to see the Republican party’s latest round of midterm campaign ads – part of a $1m dollar effort to reach young voters with “culturally relevant” messages – as the last-ditch, desperate effort of a long-ago-dumped delusional loser. Playing off the TLC reality show about wedding gowns, Say Yes to the Dress, the College Republican National Committee (CRNC) put out videos on Wednesday comparing the way a woman votes to how she picks a wedding dress. Because ladies like clothes, right? Wedding clothes especially.

The CRNC released six videos for six different candidates; the one about Florida governor Rick Scott, who is obsessed with not letting women have abortions, has been getting most of the attention. They all feature the same young woman shopping for a wedding dress with her mother and some friends. The savvy young woman wants to vote for the Republican dress, but her out-of-touch mom wants her to go with the Democrat dress, Charlie Crist. It’s incredibly offensive, to be sure – as if women can only understand politics, or voting, if you dress them up in reality TV – but it’s sort of difficult to be outraged while you’re busy laughing at how pathetic these Republican get-out-the-vote ads have become…

If Republicans want their “woman problem” to go away, they need to stop being such a problem for women. Stop the ongoing attacks on our bodies and health. Stop the stupid comments about rape. Stop questioning our ability to cast a vote. Actually … just stop.

Jessica Valenti’s column is straight to the point. And we can’t lay the blame exclusively at the feet of ancient old farts whose knowledge of sex and life were learned watching “Father Knows Best” on black-and-white TV. Though you’d think so.

Republican ideology, reticence to look outside the pews of old-fashioned white guys dead and gone for decades, fear of learning, fear of accepting new folks into the fold of royalist thought – limits any message of change they might bring to voters. An attitude apparently shared by every collegiate male voice in that party. Even if the change they want marches backwards instead of facing the future, they haven’t the courage or even cunning to lose the suits they’ve been wearing since the days of Herbert Hoover..

Sugary soft drinks linked to accelerated aging

Consumption of sugary soda drinks such as cola and lemonade may be linked to accelerated DNA ageing, say researchers who have studied the impact of the drinks in more than 5,000 people.

High-sugar fizzy drinks have been under fire from campaigners for contributing to obesity and type-2 diabetes, but this is the first study to suggest a link with ageing. The researchers found that people who reported drinking a 350ml bottle of fizzy drink per day had DNA changes typical of cells 4.6 years older.

Yes, this sort of sugar consumption shortens your life much as smoking.

The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, asked 5,309 healthy adults aged between 20 and 65 about their consumption of fizzy drinks and examined the DNA from each participant’s white blood cells.

The team found that telomeres – protective DNA caps on the end of chromosomes – were shorter in people who reported habitually drinking more fizzy drinks.

Telomeres are repetitive sections at the end of chromosomes that get shorter each time cells divide. They act as a kind of genetic ticking clock and in the past have been associated with human lifespan as well as the development of some forms of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Other studies have suggested a link between telomere length and lifestyle factors such as smoking and psychological stress.

Prof Elissa Epel, of UCSF, stressed that the study only showed an association and did not prove that sugary drink consumption caused cell ageing. If high soda consumption was to blame, it may be due to the huge rush of sugars into the blood after a drink, leading to oxidative stress and inflammation – “the perfect storm for degrading telomeres,” said Epel.

Next in line for study – a tighter focus on sugar. Overdue as far as I’m concerned.

Thanks, Mike

More physical activity improved school performance

The scientists…at the Centre for Brain Repair and Rehabilitation at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, have tested the hypothesis that increased physical activity stimulates learning and improves school performance.

In the study, published in the scientific periodical “Journal of School Health,” 408 twelve-year-olds in the Gothenburg region were given two hours of extra play and motion activities per week, in collaboration with a local sports club. This was approximately twice the normal amount of curricular physical activity.

The effect of the intervention was evaluated by comparing the achievement of national learning goals by the children four years before and five years after its implementation. The results were compared to control groups in three schools that did not receive extra physical activity.

The results are clear, according to the scientists: A larger proportion on students in the intervention school did achieve the national learning goals in all subjects examined — Swedish, English and mathematics compared to the control groups.

“You can express it that two hours of extra physical education each week doubled the odds that a pupil achieves the national learning goals. We did not see a corresponding improvement in the control schools, where the pupils did not receive extra physical activity — rather the contrary, a deterioration,” says scientist and neurologist Thomas Linden at the Sahlgrenska Academy.

“Our hope is that planners and policy-makers will take our results into consideration,” says Lina Bunketorp Käll the researcher and project leader of the study.

Guess what? In Sweden that might actually happen.

In a parallel effort, a planned 5-story elementary school was changed to a 4-story school as built. Instead the building was constructed around an atrium for exercise and dance with running tracks on the rooftop. In China.

What motivates Texas’ voter ID law? Supreme Court Justice says — racism

As one might expect, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had no difficulty putting her finger on the point of Texas’ voter ID law: it’s openly racist.

Ginsburg’s colleagues voted 6-3 to allow the Texas law to remain in effect for the upcoming election. But as she observed in a scathing dissent issued Saturday, the measure may prevent more than 600,000 registered voters, or 4.5% of the total, from voting in person for lack of accepted identification. “A sharply disproportionate percentage of those voters are African-American or Hispanic,” she wrote.

The law’s intent is “purposely discriminatory,” Ginsburg concluded. Citing the U.S. District Court ruling that declared the Texas law unconstitutional, she observed that since 2000, Texas has become a majority-minority state. That gave its Legislature and governor “an evident motive to ‘gain partisan advantage by suppressing'” the votes of blacks and Latinos.

Is there any better testament to the bankruptcy of Republican political ideas than the party’s consistent effort to win elections by limiting the vote?…

Like all the Republican-governed states using this ploy to stop folks from voting, Texas turned up two cases that it to court. Time and again these states waste taxpayer dollar$ trying to prove their patent-leather lies.

Here in New Mexico, our Republican Secretary of state wasted hundreds of thousands of dollar$ trying to prove “widespread fraud” as preamble to forcing a law as criminal as the Texas variety. At the end she found a dozen people improperly registered and a couple who thought they were supposed to vote. And tried. And were turned away.

End of story. Meanwhile, crooks masquerading as constitutional experts run this crap through the Supreme Court as progress because right-wing bigots say we are a post-racial society. I would gladly start believing in some sillyass deity if these turds were struck by lightning for their lies.

Thanks, Mike

Oppenheimer’s reputation repaired by unredacted security records


Oppenheimer with a socialist who wouldn’t be allowed into the country, today

The release of unredacted transcripts of secret government hearings held in 1954 by the Atomic Energy Commission produced headlines last week as the disclosures reaffirmed the once-questioned loyalty of Los Alamos Manhattan Project mastermind J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Many are asking why it took six decades to release the previously secret sections, other than that the now-restored portions tended to exonerate Oppenheimer. One expert says there was no classified information in the redactions.

All questions of security in the United States are regulated by paranoid idiots.

In a monumental fall from grace, Oppenheimer went from the man who harnessed the power of the atom for the bombs that ended World War II to losing his security clearance after the AEC hearings amid accusations that this chain-smoking American eccentric was a Soviet spy.

The hearings were held against the backdrop of 1950s red-scare America, fueled by factors including the fact that Oppenheimer’s brother and wife had been communists, and his lack of enthusiasm for building the more powerful hydrogen or “Super” bomb.

RTFA. The JOURNAL isn’t quite as much of a PITA as some. They don’t require registration; but, you must answer one or more survey questions which earns them relevant baksheesh I guess.

Cold War hysteria fit perfectly into the reactionary politics of the American establishment post-WW2. Oppenheimer, with a scientist’s objectivity and reliance on observable and verifiable fact did not. Our politicians would rather reject talent than admit their foolishness. Which is why government transparency is a contradiction in terms.

His earnestness about trying to build peace – alienated him from hawkish thugs like Edward Teller who wanted more and bigger bombs every week [and got them] – sealed the deal. No pleas for peace in imperial ideology.

I was lucky enough to meet Dr. Oppenheimer a couple of times. He was just part of the audience at discussions about working to promote peace at forums sponsored by the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy.