TSA agents being poisoned by their uniforms?

(try not to scratch…try not to scratch…!)

The new blue uniforms issued to Transportation Security Administration officers at hundreds of airports nationwide may have a snazzy look, but they have become a major irritant for some of those employees.

The new uniforms are causing rashes and other irritations among transportation security officers who screen passengers at airports, according to the union representing the workers.

“We’re hearing from hundreds of TSOs that this is an issue,” said Emily Ryan, a spokeswoman for the American Federation of Government Employees. Most of the complaints have been for skin rashes, but they have also included runny or bloody noses, lightheadeness, red eyes, and swollen and cracked lips, union officials say.

The union blames formaldehyde, which is a chemical byproduct of the permanent-press finish applied by clothing manufacturers to prevent mildew and stains.

So, now, you not only get to deal with ignorance and foolishness, you might be questioned by someone with a rash on their crotch, as well. Cripes!

Church of England offers up a prayer for the unemployed

The Church of England has published a prayer to help comfort Britons who lose their jobs in the financial crisis.

“Hear me as I cry out in confusion, help me to think clearly, and calm my soul,” says the “Prayer On Being Made Redundant.”

The church, part of the global Anglican church, also offered a prayer for those who keep their jobs but suffer stress and feelings of guilt when colleagues are fired.

“Who will be next? How will I cope with the increased pressure of work?” asks the “Prayer For Those Remaining In The Workplace.”

As many as 600,000 Britons could lose their jobs this year, a report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development forecast last month.

I remarked the other day about too much tea softening your brain. Too much religion flushes intelligence from your brain altogether.

The sport of the samurai lives on

Daylife/AP Photo by Itsuo Inouye

It is about as far from the Olympic sport of archery as it can get. The bow is taller than the person shooting it and, to the uninitiated, it appears lopsided and unbalanced. There are no sights and no high-tech stabilizers.

And it is done on horseback, at upward of 65 kilometers per hour, or 40 miles per hour. It’s called yabusame, and it is the sport of the samurai.

Each year, archers in feudal shooting gear climb on their decorated mounts for a lively competition on the beach of Zushi, a town just south of Tokyo, galloping in the sand as thousands of onlookers cheer and shout. The first competition was held here in 1199.

The scene is like something out of a movie by the great Akira Kurosawa. Banners flap in the ocean wind, marking the beginning and end of the shooting runway. Little boys in bright robes and black hats scamper about collecting the arrows and the debris from the wooden or clay targets destroyed by each hit…

“When people think of the samurai, they don’t realize that in the old days, archery was more important in battle than swords,” said Hisashi Yoshimi, one of the featured shooters at the beach competition. “Archers didn’t shoot at targets close up. They kept a distance and fired upward so that the arrows would rain down on advancing troops.”

Yoshimi said that the tradition was reflected in the longbows, which are better suited for long-range attacks on a general area rather than picking off single adversaries.

“The bows haven’t really been adapted for this kind of shooting, because there is a big part of the sport that is spiritual, rather than practical,” he said. “That’s a lot of its appeal.”

I’d love to see a contemporary match between Japanese Samurai and Mongolian horsemen. For that matter, throw in some English bowmen with clothyard arrows. Could be a hell of a match.

Israelis kill 42 at U.N. school

There are too many photos of women and children murdered by Israel. I can’t bear to put another one here.

Israeli shelling killed more than 40 Palestinians Tuesday at a U.N. school where civilians had taken shelter, medical officials said, in carnage likely to boost international pressure on Israel to halt a Gaza invasion…

People cut down by shrapnel lay in pools of blood in the street. Witnesses said two shells exploded outside the school, killing at least 42 civilians and wounding dozens among people who had taken refuge there and residents of nearby buildings.

It took the Palestinian death toll in 11 days of violence to over 600 and prompted U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to break his silence on the offensive, to say the loss of life among civilians was “a source of deep concern” for him…

No, I don’t expect any progressive change from the new Democrat administration – when it come to Israel. Whichever right-wing cabal is in power in Israel will call the tune. American politicians will dance, dance, dance.

A senior U.N. official in Gaza said 350 people had been sheltering at the Fakhora school and the United Nations regularly gave the Israeli army exact geographical coordinates of its facilities to try to keep them safe from attack…

In a separate attack earlier in the day, three Palestinians were killed in an air strike on another school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

Once again, the criminal massacre of Jews by Nazis a half-century ago is supposed to counter the jackboot politics of Israeli Lebensraum.

It’s just as likely that the Israeli military deliberately targeted the facility because of its ties to the United Nations.

Lottery ‘misprints’ cost man $135,000

You can easily see the pain in Thomas Noftall’s eyes.

“They’re going to take away my dream. They’re going to take it all away,” the 27-year-old said yesterday, staring at what he feels are $135,000 in winning scratch tickets the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. won’t reward him for.

I’ve gone from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in the past few days.”

A regular lottery player, Noftall had his world turned upside down on New Year’s Eve when he won huge denominations on four separate Fruit Smash scratch cards.

One card, he said from the basement apartment he shares with his wife and 21-month-old son, paid the top prize of $75,000.

Three other cards uncovered huge winnings, too, paying another $60,000 between them.

“I’m thinking, I have a house. I can make my family upstairs happy. I can make my wife happy,” he said…

Despite his initial contact with a claims representative who assured him he would be paid, Noftall has since been told the tickets were a “printing error” and he’s not likely to see any cash.

So now, the steelworker father…wonders if he’ll ever see the money to help those close to him.

Sounds pretty trashy to me. If you don’t put quality control in place to assure the sale of legitimate lottery tickets, the state should assume the responsibility of paying for the mistake.

Transforming Guam is an ambitious task – and a waste of money!

Daylife/AP Photo by Airman 1st Class Courtney Witt

Sprawling toward the horizon in every direction, Andersen Air Force Base is surprisingly quiet, leaving the impression of a big, empty parking lot. For now, anyway.

Over the next six years, nearly 25,000 U.S. marines, soldiers, family members and civilian Defense Department employees are to descend on the tiny Pacific island of Guam, transforming the sleepy tropical outpost into a hub of the U.S. military in the Pacific…

Guam’s transformation will cost at least $15 billion – with Japan footing more than $6 billion of the bill – and put some of the U.S. military’s highest-profile assets within the fences of a vastly improved network of bases.

The newcomers will find an island already peppered with strip malls, fast-food franchises and high-rise hotels serving Japanese tourists who want a closer-to-home version of Hawaii. The plans for the base are fueling a fresh boom in construction and real estate that Guam hopes will accelerate its prosperity.

Here’s local politicians showing how ready they are to profit from this: “The shift of marines may cause problems,” an editor wrote, but “transportation should get better. Our nightclubs should get better. So should our restaurants and movie theaters. It all should trigger an advancement in the social scene on Guam. This is a new era, and we’ve got to move forward.”

The buildup plan, to be carried out by 2014, represents a major realignment of U.S. forces in the Pacific:

Work your way through all the details – then, reflect upon the fact that this is still a leftover from Cold War planning, Cold War logistics, the imperial mindset of Cheney and Bush, the profit schemes of our military-industrial complex.

Consider [1] not only whether or not this scale serves a useful purpose in the 21st Century; but [2] play at being a Congressional beancounter for a little while. Sustaining an American soldier stationed abroad is a 6-figure task. Buying all the hardware requested to keep Pentagon Playboys in heat costs trillions of dollars. Think of what we might restore to our national budget if we stopped marching around as the cops of the world?

Parents didn’t report boy missing – for a decade – WTF!

Adam Herrman in 1999

Authorities in Kansas are looking for a boy who disappeared about a decade ago, but was not reported missing until a few weeks ago.

“We don’t know what happened to Adam Herrman past ’99, when he was last seen,” Butler County Sheriff Craig Murphy said at a news conference in El Dorado. “Is he alive, is he dead? That one I can’t answer because we don’t know,” he added.

Adam was 11 or 12 when he was last seen, Murphy said. At the time, he was living in a mobile home park in Towanda, a small town in southern Kansas, with his adoptive parents, Doug and Valerie Herrman. The couple did not report him missing, Murphy said.

A few weeks ago, a person notified Sedgwick County Exploited and Missing Children’s Unit of a “concern” regarding Adam, Murphy said…

“They feel very guilty” about not doing that, he said in a telephone interview. The couple told him the boy had run away frequently, he said, and they believed him to be either with his biological parents or homeless.

Although the Herrmans did not report him missing, “they were very worried about him,” he said.

Well, that’s good enough, I guess. For some.

Prosecutors Want Madoff’s Bail Revoked

Madoff on the way back to his penthouse after a court hearing
Daylife/AP Photo by Kathy Willens

The disgraced financier Bernard L. Madoff tried to hide at least $1 million in watches and jewelry from government investigators and should have his bail revoked and sent to jail immediately, federal prosecutors told a judge.

The newly aggressive stance by prosecutors appeared to mark a serious deterioration in relations between the government and Mr. Madoff, who confessed to a large Ponzi scheme last month and had seemed to be cooperating with investigators trying to unravel the scheme. In an interview Monday evening, a lawyer for Mr. Madoff backed away from earlier statements that Mr. Madoff was helping investigators. At a hearing in federal court on Monday afternoon, assistant United States attorney Marc O. Litt said in late December Mr. Madoff had mailed packages of valuables to his sons, his brother and his friends. By sending the packages, Mr. Madoff violated the terms of his bail agreement, which barred him from disposing of any assets, Mr. Litt said…

Last week, Mr. Madoff’s sons, Andrew and Mark, received three packages, containing valuable jewelry and watches, as well as inexpensive items like cufflinks and mittens, according to a person briefed on the contents of the packages. Within a few minutes of receiving the packages, Mr. Madoff’s sons called the law firm of Paul, Weiss, which is representing them, to tell them about the packages, this person said.

Lawyers for Paul, Weiss then informed prosecutors of the packages and offered to pass them to the government. Prosecutors accepted the offer.

Continue reading

Bush library donors to remain secret

Donors to President George W. Bush’s presidential library probably will remain a mystery, said the foundation overseeing fundraising.

Mark Langdale, who heads the George W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation, said that’s the way some donors want it. “It’s our decision not to disclose who the donors are,” he said.

The foundation will oversee construction of the library, museum and public policy institute at the Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas. The group had raised less than $3 million when the latest tax reports were filed in August. That’s far short of its $300 million goal, but foundation officials said fundraising will pick up significantly after Bush leaves office Jan. 20.

Of course. You don’t get the payoff until after the crime.

Bush officials have said the president would not accept foreign donations while in office. Both Clinton and Bush’s father had the same policy but accepted large gifts from foreigners after leaving the White House…

“Clearly, we’re in tough economic headwinds, so it’s going to be a harder climb than it would have been a year ago,” Langdale said.

But he said the foundation expects to meet its fundraising goal by autumn of 2010, the planned groundbreaking date.

I think – regardless of the payoff requirements – a certain number of highly-placed corporate execs would be embarrassed to have it known they kicked in for Numbnuts.