Religious nutballs would kill healthcare rather than permit choice

Members of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice will hold a news conference calling on the Senate to alter language in the House bill that places explicit restrictions on federal funding for abortion.

“Our health care system should be inclusive and respectful of diverse religious beliefs and decisions regarding childbearing,” the group said in a statement. “A health care system that serves all persons with dignity and equality will include comprehensive reproductive health services…”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops pushed successfully to amend the House bill to prohibit abortion coverage in a government-run health insurance plan, as well as in private plans that accept anyone using government subsidies to buy insurance coverage.

“Health care reform must not be misused as an opportunity to restrict women’s access to reproductive health services,” 90 House Democrats opposed to the amended abortion language wrote in a letter to President Obama last week.

In an example of the complicated politics of the issue, all but one of the House Democrats who signed the letter had voted to pass the overall health care bill even though it contained the amendment they opposed. Their strategy now is to work with Obama and Senate Democrats to prevent inclusion of the language of the amendment from a final health care bill.

Anti-abortion Senate Democrats say they will seek strict funding restrictions for abortion when the Senate debates its own version of the bill in coming weeks.

These single-issue Senators are the sort who really don’t care about passage of healthcare reform under any circumstances. Presented with an opportunity to play kissy-kissy with reactionaries who hate the idea of women making choices about their own reproduction – and prove their worth to the lobbyist bankroll for insurance and hospital corporations – these clowns are so excited they can hardly keep from messing their drawers.

That American voters in general have always been pro-choice doesn’t matter much to politicians who would rather follow the money – than lead the electorate.

U.S. Army orders bridges made of recycled plastic

Axion International Holdings has won a $957,000 contract to provide the U.S. Army with two bridges made from a thermoplastic composite and recycled plastic.

The two bridges, which are replacing old wooden ones, will be constructed at Fort Eustis in Virginia from a proprietary Recycled Structural Composite (RSC) developed by Axion in conjunction with scientists at Rutgers University.

The railroad cross-ties will be made entirely of a plastic composed of recycled materials from both consumer and industrial plastic waste…

The location is significant. Fort Eustis is home to the U.S. Army Transportation Corps, the branch of the Army responsible for coordinating the movement of personnel and cargo. The Fort Eustis motto is Einstein’s famous quote “Nothing happens, until something moves.” It’s also the location of the U.S. Army Transportation Museum.

But this is not the first military bridge to be made out of plastic by Axion for the military. The Army has previously built plastic bridges for Fort Bragg and Camp Mackall in North Carolina using materials and structural design that allowed for a bearing load of 73 tons for tracked vehicles and 88 tons for cars and trucks. To demonstrate its strength a 70-ton M1A1 Abrams tank was driven across the bridge at its official unveiling in September.

The Pentagon moves forward into the realm of common sense, recycling, 21st Century design.

Skeptics, of course, will stick with coal-fired locomotives and other objects and ideology suitable only for theme parks.

Republicans heading for a bloodbath in Florida

The Republican fratricide in the Nov. 3 special election in upstate New York may prove just an opening round of an even more spectacular bloodbath in Florida in 2010.

In New York, Republican feuding lost the party a seat in the House of Representatives. At stake in Florida is not only a senatorship — but very possibly Republican hopes for 2012 as well.

The battle in Florida pits Gov. Charlie Crist against former Speaker of the Florida House Marco Rubio. Both men claim to be conservative, pro-life, tax cutters. On the issues, they would seem to agree far more than they disagree.

But on one issue they have disagreed passionately: President Obama’s fiscal stimulus. Squeezed by his state’s desperate fiscal condition, Crist endorsed and campaigned for the Obama stimulus. Inspired by his conservative ideology, Rubio opposed stimulus.

Now Rubio is the darling of conservatives nationwide. Just this week it was announced that he would give the keynote address at next year’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. He has been profiled on the cover of National Review, endorsed by the Club for Growth, and feted by radio talk show hosts.

Crist — who as recently as 2008 topped the libertarian Cato Institute’s list of favorite governors — has been consigned to pariah status…

Continue reading

Silver Arrows return to Formula One

German car giant Mercedes has bought the Brawn Formula 1 team in a move that is likely to see Jenson Button join McLaren as Lewis Hamilton’s team-mate.

Mercedes will buy 75% of Brawn in partnership with an Abu Dhabi investment company but will continue as McLaren’s engine partner until 2015. Brawn, who won both world titles in their debut season in 2009, will be rebranded as Mercedes Grand Prix.

Nico Rosberg will be their lead driver, with Nick Heidfeld his likely partner. Fellow German Timo Glock, who drove for Toyota last season, is also a possibility.

“We are talking (with Button) and that’s why we cannot announce the driver line-up,” said Norbert Haug on Monday. “We have to accept that speculation takes place, but that’s the name of the game.”

But he added: “This will be an international team – Mercedes-Benz is a global player.

“We definitely do not want to have a pure German team. It’s an international team and we want to have the best drivers in the car.”

RTFA for all the silly season gossip. It’s the time of the year for drivers to play musical chairs. We get the added benefit of new players in terms of new teams + new money scattered here and there.

GM will start loan repayments 6 years ahead of schedule

Production version of the GM/Chevy Volt

Almost 90 days after coming out of bankruptcy, General Motors is showing signs of getting healthy and moving closer to getting back in the black.

And there’s no doubt, the “new” GM is doing far better than the old GM:

  • Cash flow was positive $3.3 Billion
  • Structural costs dropped $6.7 Billion
  • Starting next month, GM will repay $1.2 Billion of its $8.1 Billion in loans to the U.S. And Canadian governments
  • All encouraging signs. But critics will point out some other troubling signs at GM.

    GM lost $261 Million before special charges

  • The company will have negative cash flow in the fourth quarter due to a number of factors, including the loan repayment.
  • All of which brings up the question: How much has really changed at GM?

    Actually, quite a bit.

  • The company’s global market share is up slightly to a total of 11.9 %.
  • In the U.S., consideration of General Motors vehicles is picking up.
  • China, which has become the #1 market in the world for auto sales, GM is not only holding the top position, it’s in position to grow with that market.
  • The company moves quicker, and with more purpose than a year ago as it was sliding towards bankruptcy.
  • So what should we take away from GM’s third quarter financial results?

    This company is definitely in better shape than it was before bankruptcy and is better position to get back in the black as auto sales pick up. In other words, it’s steady progress. Not spectacular, but steady.

    Beancounters are happy – I’m happy. Doesn’t mean I’ll stop offering advice; but, who listens to me, eh?

    Prostitute, Belle du Jour, reveals herself as research scientist

    The secret life of Dr Brooke Magnanti, an obscure research scientist, is revealed…as she unmasks herself as the writer behind the pseudonym Belle de Jour.

    Her identity has been one of the great literary mysteries of the decade after the publication of bestselling books about her secret life as a prostitute.

    Magnanti is a respected specialist in developmental neurotoxicology and cancer epidemiology in a hospital research group in Bristol. Six years ago, in the final stages of her PhD thesis, she ran out of money and turned to prostitution through a London escort agency, charging £300 an hour. Already an experienced science blogger, she began writing about her experiences in a web diary that was adapted into books and a television drama starring Billie Piper.

    There has been huge speculation about Belle’s real identity, including a theory that she was a well-known author because of the quality of her writing. The blog and books were also criticised for suggesting prostitution could be glamorous. Last week Magnanti contacted one of Belle’s sternest critics, India Knight, the Sunday Times columnist, saying she wanted to reveal her identity.

    The scientist, a petite 34-year-old, has no regrets about her 14 months as a prostitute. “I’ve felt worse about my writing than I ever have about sex for money,” she said. Anonymity had become “no fun”, however: “I couldn’t even go to my own book launch party.”

    Until last week, not even her agent knew her real name. A month ago she revealed her secret to her colleagues at the Bristol Initiative for Research of Child Health, who were “amazingly kind and supportive”. She was preparing to tell her parents this weekend…

    Her future lies in medical science, but she also has a literary streak. She has been writing a novel, and the Belle blog will “continue for a bit — I’d like her to have happy ending”.

    RTFA. Western moralists – religionists mostly – are still in a flap because she chose to earn an income from the sex trade for a spell.

    And maybe it’s s good sign that one of Rupert Murdoch’s favorite conservative newspaper properties still demonstrates the freedom to deal with liberated lives and individual choices beyond the 19th Century.

    Illegal immigrants avoiding trial by choosing deportation?

    Hundreds of defendants awaiting trial for violent crimes in Dallas County have been deported by federal immigration officials and then set free in their home countries.

    The practice goes back to at least 1991 and includes the release of murder, kidnapping and child rape suspects. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say they’re required to deport illegal immigrants quickly but are now in talks with local agencies who are trying to resolve the problem.

    Across Texas and the nation, defendants post bail and are immediately taken to immigration facilities, where they volunteer to be deported. Just how often this happens isn’t clear…

    Those who post bail and agree to then be sent home are taking advantage of the system to escape justice, said Terri Moore, top assistant to District Attorney Craig Watkins…

    An investigator with the Dallas County district attorney’s office found nearly 1,000 illegal immigrants who were not tried for crimes they were accused of. He said most were deported by immigration officials before they could stand trial. But many were never arrested. The cases go back to 1991 and don’t include all cases in the DA’s office.

    Murder 128

    Attempted murder 18

    Manslaughter 16

    Negligent homicide 3

    Child abuse 409

    Sexual assault 54

    Aggravated assault 307

    Aggravated robbery, kidnapping, other 49

    I suppose if I ask – no one knows how many return after a while?