"In Italy everyone thinks they're the coach of the national soccer team. Now, we have a nation of 60 million art critics."
- UMBERTO BROCCOLI, head of Rome's Cultural Heritage Department, on a bronze sculpture of Pope John Paul II that was unveiled at the city's Termini train station last week and has provoked outrage to the point that a city commission has been named to rule on its fate
Is anyone really surprised about this "revelation?"
"You may think you understand how the Patriot Act allows the government to spy on its citizens. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) says it’s worse than you’ve heard.
Congress is set to reauthorize three controversial provisions of the surveillance law as early as Thursday. But Wyden says that what Congress will renew is a mere fig leaf for a far broader legal interpretation of the Patriot Act that the government keeps to itself — entirely in secret. Worse, there are hints that the government uses this secret interpretation to gather what one Patriot-watcher calls a “dragnet” for massive amounts of information on private citizens; the government portrays its data-collection efforts much differently."
"This is the story of how my husband's circumcision saved my life.
It's a personal story, but let it also serve as a public health rebuttal to the proposed ban on male circumcision that will be on the San Francisco ballot this November.
San Francisco's ballot initiative would prohibit circumcision on all males under the age of 18. It would allow no religious exemptions, and it apparently gives no regard to the numerous studies demonstrating that male circumcision can substantially reduce—by more than 50%—the transmission of the HIV virus during sex."
"Peter, my husband, was born with hemophilia, best known as the disease of Victorian royals...As a result of one such clotting factor transfusion prior to 1985, Peter became HIV-positive."
"I remember reading the earliest news stories about AIDS, a mysterious new blood-borne disease, and freezing with the intuitive knowledge that whatever was borne through the blood could be borne into Peter's blood—and, by accident, perhaps mine, too. Since we were trying to get me pregnant, we had stopped using any birth control. How innocent it seems in retrospect that even when I suffered our second lost pregnancy in 1984, Peter had gamely whispered in my ear, "Don't worry. I'll knock you up again."
But we had no chance. Soon thereafter, it was confirmed that the very blood products that had helped save and heal and improve the lives of so many hemophiliacs also had the power to infect them with AIDS. As for sex—as they say in Brooklyn, fuggedaboutit. In politer terms, Peter's hematologists advised us to cease and desist getting pregnant again. Our mutual, sad assumption in the months that ensued: Not only had our love not produced a baby, but it may well have doomed me, too.
And then our very own HIV test results—his and hers—arrived. Peter was positive. I was negative. How had it happened that I never became HIV-positive myself?
It wasn't until recently that we knew: He was circumcised. Actually, I should say, now I know. Peter died in 1999.
But here is the reason I am alive today: In the same way that circumcision vastly diminishes the chance of infecting women with the human papillomavirus that causes cervical cancer, studies suggest that circumcision also helps guard against the transmission of the HIV virus. In both cases, cells on the inside of the male foreskin are implicated in spreading the virus. But if the foreskin is removed, a source of infection is also removed.
So there you have it: My husband's circumcision saved my life."
"If pregnancy were a musical composition, finding out whether you're having a boy or a girl would be the coda. Indeed, "Do you know what you're having?" is probably the question lobbed most frequently at pregnant women, right up there with, "When are you due?" So news that a Canadian couple is raising their third child "genderless" in what amounts to a grand social experiment has set parental tongues a-wagging."
"Yet Kathy Witterick and her husband, David Stocker, have kept their baby Storm's gender a secret. The only people who know are one family friend and Storm's older brothers, Jazz, 5, and Kio, 2. (Not surprisingly, the two midwives who delivered Storm on New Year's Day are in the know as well.)"
"Although they're confident that they're giving their child the gift of freedom from social norms, others are not as certain. Some have worried about Storm being bullied or teased, and friends fretted the couple was using their baby to fulfill their own ideological longings."
"While it's certainly an intriguing undertaking, the amount of effort that must go into keeping Storm's gender identity under wraps — the constant questions from strangers, the endless explanations — makes me want to curl up and take a nap. His parents have got to be hypervigilant since no one but them can change Storm's diaper. That means no help from grandparents, no relief courtesy of babysitters.
It also feels wrong to ask Storm's older brothers to keep such a sophisticated secret. There's no way they can truly understand why their parents are doing what they're doing. Little kids are notorious blabbermouths; if they've truly been able to keep their baby brother/sister's gender on the down-low, their parents must spend an inordinate amount of time reinforcing the importance of doing so. And for what?"
""In Defense of Flogging" isn't a joke, a satire or a thought experiment. Peter Moskos, a former Baltimore cop who's now a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, seriously wants to reintroduce corporal punishment in the United States.
Don't laugh: He makes a convincing case. From the straightforward question he begins with -- "Given the choice between five years in prison and 10 brutal lashes, which would you choose?" -- he had my attention.
Moskos isn't a sadist or a fetishist. In fact, he finds flogging distasteful. (He describes the physical effects in graphic detail: "skin is literally ripped from the body," etc.)
But he's far more outraged by the American penal system, which incarcerates the largest total number (2.3 million) and the largest per capita proportion (750 per 100,000) of prisoners of any country in the world. When the U.S. has criticized China on human-rights issues, Beijing has had the satisfaction of pointing to these figures in response."
"With sales of its Lap-Band weight-loss device declining, Allergan Inc. has its eyes on a new set of potential customers — overweight teenagers."
"But many doctors and health experts are concerned that there are not enough data about the Lap-Band's long-term safety and effectiveness, something that would be particularly relevant when considering the device for children."
"A recent European study found that many adult Lap-Band patients had "relatively poor long-term outcomes" and required additional surgeries to have the devices removed or replaced. Allergan took issue with that study, saying it was based on too small a pool of patients and that the device has been improved in recent years."
"The defense attorney for a Florida mother charged with killing her 2-year-old daughter made a shocking claim Tuesday, telling a courtroom that the toddler drowned in a swimming pool and that her grandparents covered up the accident.
Defense attorney Jose Baez said Tuesday in opening statements that 25-year-old Casey Anthony loved her daughter and was a good mother."
"May 21 came and went like any other day, much to the dismay of Harold Camping, the evangelical broadcaster who predicted the world’s end on that date. “The world is now under judgement,” said the 89-year-old evangelist. His newest expiration date for the world? October 21. Don’t worry. Speakeasy predicts you’ll still be around to wear Harold Camping masks for Halloween."
"The 5-4 decision authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, a California native, is a wholesale acceptance of a ruling by a special three-judge panel tasked with resolving chronic overcrowding in the state's penal system. The February 2009 decision orders California to reduce its prison population that has at times run nearly double its capacity. Approximately 37,000 to 46,000 inmates will have to be released in order for the state to comply with the ruling."
"Critics of California's prison system contend the cells are so overrun with inmates that proper care has been obliterated. Kennedy cites examples of prisoners with mental or physical health needs having to wait months for inadequate care. He cites one example of an inmate who was held for nearly 24 hours in a cage and standing in a pool of his own urine. Others died while seeking medical attention that was seemingly delayed because of the backlog of cases."
"Justice Antonin Scalia fired away in a dissent joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, calling the ruling a judicial travesty. "Today the court affirms what is perhaps the most radical injunction issued by a court in our nation's history: an order requiring California to release the staggering number of 46,000 convicted criminals."
Scalia, who read part of his dissent from the bench, expressed concern that the ruling upholds the idea that judges can institute their policy preferences in place of elected lawmakers and that the reach of the decision is simply too broad."
What happened to separation between government and religion????
"A controversial, anti-gay pastor was invited by Rep. Ernie Leidiger, a Republican from Mayer, Minn., to start Friday morning's session with a prayer at the Minnesota House, drawing anger and criticism from both sides of the aisle, MyFox9.com reports.
Bradlee Dean ended his prayer saying, "It's not about the Baptists, not about the Catholics alone, or the Lutherans, or the Evangelicals, or any other denomination, but rather the head of the denomination, and his name is Jesus, as every president up until 2008 has acknowledged and we pray it in Jesus' name."
House Majority Leader Kurt Zellers took responsibility and immediately apologized after Dean's opening prayer, calling for a restart, asking the regular House chaplain to say another prayer."
"President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus. He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace."
-- MITT ROMNEY, former Massachusetts governor and possible presidential candidate, after the President's speech about U.S. policy in the Middle East; Obama called for the 1967 Israeli-Palestinian borders to be upheld
"Spanish director Pedro Almodovar's latest thriller, "The Skin I Live In," had filmgoers fleeing the theater Thursday night at its gala premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, due to some aggressively violent and disturbing content.
The film, which stars Antonio Banderas and budding actress Spanish actress Elena Anaya, focuses on a mad but brilliant surgeon (Banderas) who kidnaps a man who raped his daughter. The doctor's daughter killed herself from the grief and it drives him to take very drastic measures. This is where it gets complicated and disturbing.
Banderas then gives the rapist a sex change and transplants his deceased daughter's face onto his body."
"It is an international island in the midst of the American capital, a sharp-elbowed place ruled by alpha male economists. The days are long, and employees are regularly pressed together for weeks on end during overseas “missions.” It is a climate in which romances often flourish — and lines are sometimes crossed. Enlarge This Image
Some women avoid wearing skirts for fear of attracting unwanted attention. Others trade whispered tips about overly forward bosses. A 2008 internal review found few restraints on the conduct of senior managers, concluding that “the absence of public ethics scandals seems to be more a consequence of luck than good planning and action.”
"The winners were announced today for a new fellowship that has sparked heated debate in academic circles for questioning the value of higher education and suggesting that some entrepreneurial students may be better off leaving college.
Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal, will pay each of the 24 winners of his Thiel Fellowship $100,000 not to attend college for two years and to develop business ideas instead.
The fellows, all 20 years old or younger, will leave institutions including Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Stanford University, to work with a network of more than 100 Silicon Valley mentors and further develop their ideas in areas such as biotechnology, education, and energy."
"On Saturday, the world prepared - or in our case, completely ignored - for the impending Doomsday as foretold by Harold, who claimed he knew it to be so from the Holy Book. Seeing as we're still writing this post and you're still reading it, we gather the Rapture was more or less a bust. Harold's wife says he's "flabbergasted" that the apocalypse didn’t happen, but what he really should feel is shame over causing such hysteria in his followers, many of which went to extremes to avoid the impending doom.
One elderly man in Taiwan reportedly killed himself just days before the Rapture, fearing that the recent earthquakes and tsunamis were warning signs and that he wouldn't make it. So, rather than wait and see, he threw himself out of building and died on impact. Another horror story comes from right here in California, where a woman named Lyn Benedetto not only tried to take her own life ahead of the Rapture, but also the lives of her two daughters. She was so fearful that her 11 and 14-year-old girls would suffer during the apocalypse, she allegedly forced her daughters to lie on a bed and then cut their throats with a box cutter. The police arrived just in time to save them, thankfully, but Lyn was arrested and the girls were rushed to the hospital.
There are many more reports just like this, equally as disturbing and heartbreaking, from around the world of people who genuinely believed this man and his doomsday prophecy. Hopefully, people will take some time to reconsider his credibility and take no heed to his claims that NOW we're all going to perish on Oct. 21. No more innocent lives need to be lost to his crazed man's claims."
"After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, many new, young U.S. voters favored the Republican Party, a shift that has persisted for years, according to a new study.
Researchers looked at whether the act of registering for a political party today can affect future politics by causing enduring support for that party. The results clearly show that the decision to register with a political party can have effects that last for years, perhaps for a lifetime.
“Our research shows that party strategists should focus on winning over voters when they are young,” says Sharun Mukand, a professor at the University of Warwick. “However our findings have important implications for the political arena and for public policies. Policies may persist simply because support for a party endures.
“In particular, if voters are unwilling to shift political allegiance in response to new, politically relevant information, then policies out of tune with changing times may live on.”
The researchers examined the political affiliations of a group of first-time voters in California who registered to vote when they became eligible at age 18. Because of slight differences in their birthdates, these voters registered just before and just after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
The analysis showed that two basically identical groups of people take up markedly different political agendas. Voters with birthdays in September were more likely to register as Republicans than voters with birthdays in August—by more than two percentage points.
The political affiliation of these voters persisted through to the year 2008—with those born in September consistently remaining two percent more likely to be Republican. This was true even for those voters who moved and, thus, had to change their registration."
"The families have become close, sharing confidences and grief as their children, some now young adults, come to terms with a poisoned future — a lifetime of medications, anxiety and enduring stigma in a traditional Muslim society where their conditions remain cloaked in shame."
"These are the families of more than 400 youngsters, from infants to teenagers, who were infected in the late 1990s with HIV, the AIDS virus, at Benghazi's public pediatric hospital. At last count, 62 had died.
The children ranged in age from a few months to 14 years when they were infected during 1997 and '98. Most did not receive blood transfusions, according to doctors and families, but were injected with medications or intravenous fluids, usually for bronchial ailments and other non-life-threatening conditions."
"In a case permeated by a dictator's intrigues and international outrage, Libyan prosecutors alleged that five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor deliberately infected the children as part of a nefarious conspiracy that turned caregivers into child-killers. European experts who studied the evidence cited less sinister reasons as the likely cause: poor hygiene and the reuse of syringes.
The six medical workers were convicted and sentenced to death by firing squad after what the West widely regarded as show trials. But a deal was ultimately struck with the European Union and the six were extradited to Bulgaria in 2007 and freed.
The disturbing episode in a country where HIV infection was virtually unknown remains one of the period's great medical mysteries, and a collective affront in this eastern Libyan city where mistrust of Moammar Kadafi has always been high.
Today, with Kadafi's regime ousted from the east, at least for now, there is hope that some kind of truth may finally emerge, even as freedom from Kadafi has brought a new peril: a shortage of crucial medications because of interrupted shipments from Europe."
"After years of self-analysis with no end to this growing sense that I'm actually beginning to re-closet myself, the only explanation I can come up with is that I got tired of the well-meaning, never-ending follow-up questions. Yes, I said wife. Yes, as in woman. Yes, we're married. No, it isn't legal. Mostly our families accept us, but some of them are assholes. To go, please. Can I have an extra ketchup? I used to dream about the day I could wear my marriage like an ever-waving rainbow-hued flag. Now, I just want to pick out a gift for my wife without having to give every salesperson within hearing range a legal, religious and familial history of our various attempts at formalizing our relationship. I used to feel a great sense of pride in what I perceived as my responsibility to bring open gayness into as many people's lives as possible. The longer I live, the more I feel I've taken upon myself a task of Sisyphean proportions."
"A Saudi Arabian woman — at the center of a social media campaign protesting a ban against female drivers — has been re-arrested after posting a video on the Internet of herself driving.
Manal al-Sherif, a 32-year-old woman who launched an Internet campaign against the Saudi ban on female drivers, posted a video clip (below) of herself driving through the city of Khobar last week. On Saturday, religious police arrested al-Sherif, an information technology expert at oil firm Saudi Aramco.
As the Associated Press reports, she was released after signing a pledge to no longer drive. But authorities seized al-Sherif again at dawn on Sunday. She was accused of “violating public order” and is currently being held for five days as authorities investigate the case. Her brother, Mohammed al-Sherif — who was in the car as she drove — has also been detained."
This theme park actually sounds interesting, and I would pay to experience it. However, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution stipulates for the separation of church and state. That does not seem to be the case in this Biblical theme park project.
"A Bible-belt state hoping to land a biblical theme park that includes a full-size replica of Noah's Ark approved tax incentives Thursday to help pay for it.
The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority voted unanimously to grant more than $40 million in tax rebates for the $172 million project that's otherwise being financed by a group of unidentified private investors.
"This was the last real hurdle for us as far as I'm concerned," said Mike Zovath, co-founder of the Answers in Genesis ministry that previously built the Creation Museum in Kentucky. The latest project would will include a replica of the Tower of Babel, a first century village, theaters, lecture halls, retail shops, restaurants, a petting zoo and live animal shows featuring giraffes and elephants."
For the record, I'm a proponent of school vouchers -- not because I don't believe in the public education system but because vouchers -- which allows parents to have more control over where to send their kids to school, whether at a public or private institution -- makes administrators and educators more accountable. In other words, vouchers infuse a healthy level of competition among education systems, forcing schools to improve in order to attract student (aka customers). The best schools attract more students. The worst schools go out of business.
Apparently, this article disagrees and -- in my opinion -- twists the debate into one between rich and poor. The voucher system -- where implemented -- is democratic. It allows parents -- no matter their economic status -- to be in charge.
Here's an excerpt from the article:
"This rapid expansion of voucher programs — which undermine and undercut public education by funnelling taxpayer money to private schools — is remarkable. After all, vouchers have been unpopular with the American public. Between 1966 and 2000, vouchers were put up for a vote in states 25 times, and voters rejected the program 24 of those times.
Yet if one looks behind the curtain — at the foundations, non-profits, Political Action Committees (PAC) — into the workings of the voucher movement, it’s apparent why it has gained strength in recent years. A tight-knit group of right-wing millionaires and billionaires, bankers, industrialists, lobby shops, and hardcore ideologues has been plotting this war on public education, quietly setting up front group after front group to promote the idea that the only way to save public education is to destroy it — disguising their movement with the innocent-sounding moniker of “school choice.”
"Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in front of President Obama and the media, explicitly rejected the president's call for a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders.
Sitting beside Obama following a private Oval Office meeting, the visiting prime minister said Friday that he values the president's efforts to advance the peace process and intends to work with him. But he said the president's call for Israel to pull back to the borders that existed before the Six-Day War is not tenable.
"We can't go back to those indefensible lines. ... I discussed this with the president," Netanyahu said.
The meeting marked an especially tense moment for the two heads of state. The U.S.-Israeli relationship has endured several tests since Obama took office, and the president's endorsement of a key Palestinian statehood demand in his major address on Middle East policy Thursday was no exception."
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