Barack Obama, the Secret Service, and the plane full of grass

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

A pair of F-16s were scrambled to divert a Cessna aircraft after it entered the airspace of Marine One, the military helicopter ferrying the American president during a trip to California.

The small plane was forced to land at Long Beach airport, just south of Los Angeles at around 11am, where it was met by police.

A search of the aircraft uncovered 640 ounces of cannabis, the Associated Press reported, a motherlode worth around $160,000.

The unfortunate pilot and at least one passenger were handed to over to local police after being interviewed by US federal agents. The pilot has not been identified and it is not known whether they have been charged with any crime.

What do you think?

The US Secret service said Mr Obama was never in any danger during the incident.

Not even a contact high. American presidents never inhale.

The president was on the West Coast for a string of fundraising events ahead of November’s election…

…and a speech at Boeing Aircraft, today, on rebuilding America’s manufacturing business especially technology. Pretty good speech actually. Unlike Republican candidates for his job he doesn’t think this requires more tax breaks for wealthy corporations.

Thinktank phonies accused of lying about taxes just as they lie about climate change

The Heartland Institute, the libertarian thinktank whose project to undermine science lessons for schoolchildren was exposed this week, faces new scrutiny of its finances – including its donors and tax status.

The Guardian has learned of a whistleblower complaint to the Internal Revenue Service about Heartland’s 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status…

The unauthorised release of internal documents indicated Heartland had received $14 million over several years from a single anonymous donor as well as tobacco and liquor companies and corporations pledged to social responsibility, including the General Motors Foundation.

The release of the donors’ list led a number of environmental organisations to demand GM, which gave $30,000, and Microsoft, which gave $59,908 in free software, to sever their ties with a thinktank that has a core mission of discrediting climate science…

Others are focusing on Heartland’s support from the tobacco industry as well as major health and pharmaceutical companies for a thinktank which has opposed smoking bans and healthcare reform.

John Mashey, a retired computer scientist and Silicon Valley executive, said he filed a complaint to the IRS this week that said Heartland’s public relations and lobbying efforts violated its non-profit status. Mashey said he sent off his audit, the product of three months’ research, just a few hours before the unauthorised release of the Heartland documents.

Mashey said in a telephone interview that the complaint looked at the activities of Heartland and two other organisations that have been prominent in misinforming the public about climate change, the Science and Environmental Policy Project, run by Fred Singer, and the Centre for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, run by Craig Idso. Both men were funded by Heartland, with Idso receiving $11,600 per month and Singer $5,500 a month, according to the 2012 budget…

I believe there was a massive abuse of 501c(3),” Mashey said. “My extensive study of these thinktanks showed numerous specific actions that violated the rules – such as that their work is supposed to be factually based. Such as there was a whole lot of behaviour that sure looked like lobbying and sending money to foreign organisations that are not charities.”

Mashey later published his audit of Heartland finances in Desmogblog, which was the first outlet to run the trove of Heartland documents.

Overdue. Creeps like this violate federal law on non-profit status all the time when they serve as a lobbying front for corporations with a vested interest in Heartland’s comments – whether that be climate, tobacco or fronting for pharmaceutical companies.

Mexico’s President begs the United States — No more weapons!

Sign made from 3 tons of crushed guns

Mexico’s president called on U.S. officials to stop gun trafficking across the border Thursday, saying the move would be the best thing Americans could do to stop brutal drug violence.

“The criminals have become more and more vicious in their eagerness to spark fear and anxiety in society,” President Felipe Calderon said. “One of the main factors that allows criminals to strengthen themselves is the unlimited access to high-powered weapons, which are sold freely, and also indiscriminately, in the United States of America.

Speaking in Ciudad Juarez, the border city across from El Paso, Texas, that has become Mexico’s murder capital, Calderon said a dramatic increase in violence in Mexico was directly connected with the 2004 expiration of the U.S. assault weapons ban…

Calderon stood in front of a massive new sign, constructed with tons of decommissioned arms. “NO MORE WEAPONS,” the sign said — in English. Americans on the other side of the border are the intended audience, Calderon said…

Out of 140,000 weapons Mexican authorities have seized since Calderon declared a crackdown on cartels at the beginning of his presidency, 84,000 were high-powered assault weapons, Calderon said.

More than 47,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence in Mexico since December 2006, according to government statistics.

Calderon’s plea for Americans to reduce drug consumption is laughable, of course. We have been a society based on mood-altering chemical dependency for decades. It starts with cigarettes and coffee, marches on through beer and hard liquor into prescription goodies all too easily accessible through your friendly family doctor. Symptomatic treatment is the watchword of America’s pharmaceutical industry.

Can we modify such dependencies? Of course. Many advocate a healthier lifestyle – in the face of politicians and flunkies who say pizza is a vegetable and sex education is a sin. We have to get past the profit cronies to even begin to have a voice in this land.

Meanwhile, there’s nothing wrong with symptomatic solutions to drug gangsters across the border, drug gangsters who leak their wars and profiteering across that border every hour of the day. Who stands in the way? Right-wing plutocrats in the arms industry and their flunkies in the NRA and both wings of political hacks – for a start. Even the mildest attempts to police guns trafficked across the border are shut down by sophistry and campaign dollars, lobbying and coercion.

$6 Trillion of fake U.S. Bonds seized in Mafia plot to buy plutonium

Similar bonds seized in arrest in 2009 at Malpensa Airport in Milan

Italian anti-mafia prosecutors said they seized a record $6 trillion of allegedly fake U.S. Treasury bonds, an amount that’s almost half of the U.S.’s public debt.

The bonds were found hidden in makeshift compartments of three safety deposit boxes in Zurich, the prosecutors from the southern city of Potenza said in an e-mailed statement. The Italian authorities arrested eight people in connection with the probe, dubbed “Operation Vulcanica,” the prosecutors said.

The U.S. embassy in Rome has examined the securities dated 1934, which had a nominal value of $1 billion apiece, they said in the statement…

The financial fraud uncovered by the Italian prosecutors in Potenza includes two checks issued through HSBC Holdings Plc in London for $325,000 – checks that weren’t backed by available funds, the prosecutors said.

As part of the probe, fake bonds for $2 billion were also seized in Rome. The individuals involved were planning to buy plutonium from Nigerian sources, according to phone conversations monitored by the police…

Most of the early reports this morning don’t have anymore information than this. No doubt there will be updates coming from Italian authorities. A helluva a counterfeiting plot. The cunning bit is that counterfeiting old securities reduces the requirement to meet contemporary anti-counterfeiting technology.

What I’d like to hear more about is what the frack were these gangsters planning on doing with plutonium? Is the Mafia getting ready to build their own nuclear weapons?

Doctors “firing” families from their practice who refuse vaccination

Doctor Allan LeReau

Pediatricians fed up with parents who refuse to vaccinate their children out of concern it can cause autism or other problems increasingly are “firing” such families from their practices, raising questions about a doctor’s responsibility to these patients.

Medical associations don’t recommend such patient bans, but the practice appears to be growing, according to vaccine researchers…

In a study of Connecticut pediatricians published last year, some 30% of 133 doctors said they had asked a family to leave their practice for vaccine refusal, and a recent survey of 909 Midwestern pediatricians found that 21% reported discharging families for the same reason…

Most pediatricians consider preventing disease through vaccines a primary goal of their job. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and AAP issue an annual recommended vaccination schedule, but some parents ask if their child’s immunizations can be pushed back or skipped altogether, pediatricians say.

It’s hard to imagine an outbreak of smallpox today. But for centuries the deadly virus wiped out entire populations. WSJ’s Christina Tsuei reports on how the discovery of vaccines (with the help of cows) eradicated the disease and led to the prevention of many other diseases.

While rates for several key inoculations in young children rose between 2009 and 2010, according to the CDC, lower immunization rates have been blamed as a factor in U.S. outbreaks of whooping cough and measles in recent years.

Parents often voice concerns about autism or that their child’s immune system may be overwhelmed by too many vaccines at once…Numerous studies since have dispelled these concerns among scientists. Rather, scientists say, it is more likely that autism symptoms begin showing up around the same age children are vaccinated…

But, parents whose primary source of medical knowledge is Mr. Stupid and Greedy who’s selling the latest spooky cure-all tome aren’t about to listen to their doctor.

Continue reading

UK equality chief, Trevor Phillips, says that Christians aren’t above the law – even if they feel it’s their right!

Christians who want to be exempt from equality legislation are like Muslims trying to impose sharia on Britain, Trevor Phillips, the human rights watchdog, has declared.

Religious rules should end “at the door of the temple” and give way to the “public law” laid down by Parliament, the chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said. He argued that Roman Catholic adoption agencies and other faith groups providing public services must choose between their religion and obeying the law when their beliefs conflict with the will of the state.

Mr Phillips singled out the adoption agencies that fought a long legal battle to avoid being forced to accept homosexual couples under equality laws. Last year, following a High Court case, the Charity Commission ruled against an exemption for Catholic Care, an adoption agency operating in Leeds.

Speaking at a debate in London on diverse societies, Mr Phillips backed the new laws, which led to the closure of all Catholic adoption agencies in England. “You can’t say because we decide we’re different then we need a different set of laws,” he said, in comments reported by The Tablet, the Catholic newspaper.

“To me there’s nothing different in principle with a Catholic adoption agency, or indeed Methodist adoption agency, saying the rules in our community are different and therefore the law shouldn’t apply to us. Why not then say sharia can be applied to different parts of the country? It doesn’t work.”

He added that religious groups should be free to follow their own rules within their own settings but not outside. “Once you start to provide public services that have to be run under public rules, for example child protection, then it has to go with public law,” he said.
“Institutions have to make a decision whether they want to do that or they don’t want to do that…”

Mr Phillips has been outspoken in his defence of human rights law even when they conflict with religious beliefs.

He has accused some Christian groups of being more militant than Muslims. During the debate, he praised both the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches for their work in inner cities, particularly through faith schools, but accused some religious groups of growing intolerance.

“There is something rather odd that is happening amongst what I call the righteous brigade, that is people of good will and so on,” Mr Phillips said. “And that is that if you don’t agree 100 per cent with them and excoriate people who have a different point of view actually somehow you are joining a bad bunch of people.”

Keith Porteous Wood, director of the National Secular Society, said Mr Phillips was “absolutely right…If society has decided that it wants to ensure by law that every citizen of this country has equal rights, then there cannot be endless exemptions for religious bodies or anyone else,” he said.

There is no such thing as partial equality, and every time an exemption is made, someone else’s rights are compromised.”

Sound familiar? Except that Trevor Phillips has more backbone than Barack Obama when it comes to confronting civil rights, the validity of civil law over religious belief in a constitutional democracy. Confronting sharia-style precepts, Muslim or Catholic or whichever fundamentalist source requires the courage to maintain constitutional protections via civil law. Maybe he’ll be invited sometime to drop in and give lessons at the White House.

But, don’t hold your breath waiting.