4 fracking Republicans aid jobless benefits extension – maybe

A measure to restore jobless benefits for hundreds of thousands of Americans cleared a procedural hurdle in the U.S. Senate on Monday as lawmakers returned to work after a two-week break.

By a vote of 60-34, the Democratic-controlled Senate voted to begin debate on a measure to extend jobless benefits for another month, which had lapsed amid partisan bickering. A final vote is expected later in the week.

With the unemployment rate at 9.7 percent, some 6.1 million Americans rely on jobless benefits to help them pay the bills as they look for work.

Those benefits expired for more than 200,000 Americans last week after Republican Senator Tom Coburn prevented a vote shortly before Congress left town…

Democrats said the program qualified as emergency spending amid the worst recession in 70 years, and thus did not need to be offset by tax increases or spending cuts elsewhere.

Four Republicans joined 56 Democrats to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to take up legislation in the Senate.

Jobless benefits normally expire after six months but Congress has extended the program several times during a slump marked by unusually high levels of long-term joblessness.

More than 40 percent of the unemployed have been out of work longer than six months, according to the Labor Department.

COBRA healthcare subsidies for the unemployed and a federal flood-insurance program also have been disrupted. Doctors who treat patients under the Medicare health insurance program for the elderly and disabled also could see their pay slashed.

Anyone out of a job who ever votes for a Republican must be demented!

Meanwhile, a final vote is still needed and the Republicans who helped move the bill may yet return to march in lockstep towards the Dark Ages.

Drug violence in Honduras grows

Suspected drug hitmen killed nine people in Tegucigalpa in one of the deadliest attacks in Honduras since Mexican drug kingpins escalated their war over smuggling routes.

Masked men with automatic weapons opened fire in the street in a poor area of the Honduran capital on Saturday night and then burst into two houses, killing seven men and two women, police said. Several bodies lay in the street, oozing blood, police said.

“These deaths were provoked by territorial disputes between drug traffickers,” Tegucigalpa’s police chief Mario Chamorro told reporters.

Since last year, drug violence has been rising in Honduras, a key transit route for Colombian cocaine heading to the United States, as powerful Mexican cartels fight over smuggling corridors through Mexico and Central America.

Some 1,600 people died in drug violence in Honduras in 2009. Honduran authorities say Mexico’s top trafficker, Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman, is trying to crush rivals from the ruthless Gulf cartel from northeastern Mexico who are also fighting for control in Central America.

Corrupt coppers, corrupt politicians and local officials make a home for drug gangs just about anywhere they wish. As long as money counts for more than human lives, criminals really don’t spend much time worrying about their business.

Guard runs grandson through security x-ray machine

A security officer at the Valencia County District Courthouse is in big trouble after putting a small boy on the conveyer belt and scanning him through the X-ray machine.

Like all X-ray machines at courthouses, the machine at the courthouse is meant for scanning briefcases, purses, and preventing weapons from getting inside. But last week it was used as a dangerous stunt to impress a 9-year-old boy.

“He had the child lay on the conveyer belt and had him go through the X-ray machine to show him his internal organs.” Says Deputy Chris Trujillo, Public Information Officer for the Valencia County Sheriff’s Office.

Trujillo says once the boy was inside the machine, the security officer snapped a picture of the X-ray image and showed it to the boy…

But the security officer did not do the stunt for just some random boy strolling through the courthouse. Trujillo says it was the officer’s grandson – he decided to show the boy how the machine worked and what the boy’s internal organs looked like…

Parents who have learned about the incident in Valencia County are in disbelief that any adult would do that to a child, knowing the dangers of exposure to radiation.

No charges have been filed, yet. Probably a couple guys already standing in line for the security officer’s job, though.

You’re born a copy but die an original

The older we get, the more different we become. This is the conclusion of a study that followed people from their 70th to their 90th year of life.

‘Old people are usually thought of as a rather homogenous group – they are considered to be ill, lonely and unable to take care of themselves. But the truth is that the differences among people grow with age,’ says Bo G Eriksson, University of Gothenburg.

As part of his doctoral thesis, Eriksson studied participants of the extensive and unique so-called H-70 study, which is based on a group of randomly selected individuals born in 1901 and 1902 who were followed closely over their entire lifetimes. Eriksson’s study focuses on the period from their 70th to their 90th year of life. It turns out that people become more and more different as they age.

‘The perception of old people having similar interests, values and lifestyles can lead to age discrimination. However, I found that, as people age, these stereotypes become more and more untrue,’ says Eriksson.

Eriksson also studied differences in causes of death with increasing age, and again found indications of possible age discrimination.
Eriksson explored how social conditions can affect longevity, and found four mechanisms at work. The first two relate to creation of social facts.

Examples of social facts include promises and agreements that strengthen the identities of individuals. The third mechanism relates to how a person builds and maintains self esteem by successfully responding to challenges. The fourth mechanism consists of everyday conversations, which decrease anxiety and offer support in everyday decision making, improves attention and gives the brain and the memory a healthy workout.

Eriksson concludes that the sum of these mechanisms – each operating in a positive fashion – “contribute to increased everyday activity – which has some beneficial physical effects”.

I hope.

Turnaround of India state could be a model – for a lot of places


Students in Patna

For decades the sprawling state of Bihar, flat and scorching as a griddle, was something between a punch line and a cautionary tale, the exact opposite of the high-tech, rapidly growing, rising global power India has sought to become.

Criminals could count on the police for protection, not prosecution. Highwaymen ruled the shredded roads and kidnapping was one of the state’s most profitable businesses. Violence raged between Muslims and Hindus, between upper castes and lower castes. Its economy, peopled by impoverished subsistence farmers struggling through alternating floods and droughts, shriveled. Its government, led by politicians who used divisive identity politics to entrench their rule, was so corrupt that it required a newly coined phrase: the Jungle Raj.

The name captured everything that was wrong with the old India — a combustible mix of crime, corruption and caste politics in a state crucible that stifled economic growth.

Sounds like the Southern Republican Leadership Conference.

So when Bihar announced earlier this year that it had notched an 11 percent average growth rate for the last five years, making it the second fastest-growing economy in the country, the news was greeted as a sign that even India’s most intractable corners of backwardness and misery were being transformed.

If even Bihar can change, then anywhere in India can change,” said Shaibal Gupta of the Asian Development Research Institute, an independent think tank here. “With good governance, good policy and law and order anything is possible…”

Lydia Polgreen concludes that Bihar is a textbook case of how leadership determines development. Mostly, I agree.

There are parallel developments in other states in the Asian world – especially China. After all, the two nations started the modern world after World War 2 in roughly the same dire straits, fighting off reactionary rulers – foreign and domestic. The two nations have had to rebuild and then build anew atop one economy devastated by war and another by colonial rule.

Both have similar tasks to complete, especially corruption. India still labors under the divisive cloud of religious conflict – a minor task in China by comparison.

RTFA. The news looks good. Especially from Bihar.

Southern Republicans competing to be top bigot!


The original Tea Party in action

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has been receiving significant attention this week for the fact that he has issued recognized April 2010 as Confederate History Month, but didn’t include any mention of slavery in his proclamation. He explained that he didn’t include a reference because slavery wasn’t one of the “most significant” aspects of the conflict between the states.

However, McDonnell isn’t the only Southern governor to honor the Confederacy while omitting any mention of slavery — he joins Georgia and Mississippi…

In 2009, the Georgia General Assembly approved Senate Bill No. 27, signed by Governor Sonny Perdue, officially designating April permanently as Confederate History and Heritage Month

Georgia’s Governor Sonny Perdue, Mississippi’s Governor Haley Barbour and Virginia’s Governor Robert F. McDonnell have all signed a proclamation designating April as Confederate History and Heritage Month for 2010.

Barbour’s 2009 proclamation…has no slavery mention, and we received no response from Barbour’s office to our request for a copy of the 2010 proclamation. Perdue’s office also didn’t respond to our request for an official copy of their 2010 proclamation.

You can bet their tame teabaggers will get word round about governors defending the flag.