Friday, May 23, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

Susan Orr flees Washington: Last October, President Bush appointed Susan Orr to oversee federal family planning programs at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Orr, who previously directed HHS child welfare programs, was touted by the administration as “highly qualified.” But after less than a year on the job, Orr has resigned. From the beginning, Orr was controversial, with her strongest credentials seemingly being her support for failed abstinence-only policies. Lawmakers immediately wrote to HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt and urged him to reconsider the appointment. Before joining HHS, Orr served as senior director for marriage and family care at the conservative Family Research Council (FRC) and was an adjunct professor at Pat Robertson’s Regent University. ...A look at her past record: In a 2001, Orr embraced a Bush administration proposal to “stop requiring all health insurance plans for federal employees” to cover a broad range of birth control. “We’re quite pleased, because fertility is not a disease,” said Orr. and Orr authored a paper in 2000 titled, “Real Women Stay Married.” In it she wrote that women should “think about focusing our eyes, not upon ourselves, but upon the families we form through marriage.”

The banality of this statement is breathtaking In a conference call about conditions at Guantanamo with bloggers who catapult the propaganda, Rear Admiral Mark Buzby played it up like it is some kind of vacation resort, and denied that prisoners are held in solitary confinement. Wingnut extraordinairre lapped it up like a hungry hound. Following Buzby's description, he gushed "That's like having a single apartment in a fraternity house," to which Buzby replied "Pretty much." Uh huh. Sure. If it really was a fraternity, the chapter would lose its charter and get kicked off campus for hazing.

MSNBC should hire him immediately Barry Nolan, the reporter for Boston television station CN8 who protested the local Emmy bestowed upon Faux News blowhard and former Boston anchorman Bill O'Rielly has been terminated after a two week unpaid suspension. Prior to the awards ceremony on May 10, Nolan sent our emails to colleagues encouraging them to protest the decision to honor O'Reilly to the board of governors - if they shared his opinion - and let them know that “this is an appalling choice for an honor.” Nolan had harsh words for O'Reilly - “He’s delusional. He’s a man that mangles the facts.” Nolan was stopped by security from putting fliers on the tables with O'Reilly quotes and three pages of the sexual harassment lawsuit that was filed by his former producer and settled out of court. When the O'Reilly award was announced, the audience booed.

Trolls wanted! The Mc$ame campaign is actively recruiting internet trolls. "Help spread the word about John McCain on news and blog sites. Your efforts to help get the message out about John McCain's policies and plan for the future is one of the most valuable things you can do for this campaign. You know why John McCain should be the next President of the United States and we need you to tell others why." They are awarding points to their recruits based on confirmed comments, so I guess we are all going to be busy moderating our comment threads and banning trolls for the foreseeable future - maybe someone should set up a clearing house of IP numbers so we can preemptively ban trolls who land on other sites before they have a chance to foul our threads?

Moles wanted! The FBI is actively recruiting people to show up at Vegan potlucks and other places that persons liable to protest the upcoming republican national convention in the twin cities, going so far as to offer compensation if information they garner leads to an arrest. “This is all part of a larger government effort to quell political dissent,” says Jordan Kushner, an attorney who represents defendants whose constitutional liberties have been infringed. “The Joint Terrorism Task Force is another example of using the buzzword ‘terrorism’ as a basis to clamp down on people’s freedoms and push forward a more authoritarian government.”

Wildlife refuges are underfunded by 43% One in three of America's national wildlife refuges operates without a single staff member, and while the system needs 820 full-time enforcement officers, it currently employs only 180, making each officer responsible for 555,000 acres. Two million acres have been lost to invasive species, and unfunded "mission critical" projects are on hold, due to a $115 million dollar funding shortfall.

Vandals take a hammer to Stonehenge: Vandals used a hammer and screwdriver to vandalise the Stonehenge ancient monument, the first such incident for decades, officials said Thursday. The night-time attack by two men last week involved the central megalith in the 5,000-year-old ring of standing stones, with English Heritage saying the vandals could have been looking for a souvenir. A chip of stone about the size of a large coin was removed, while a 2.5-inch long scratch was left on the Heel Stone, at the centre of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, near Salisbury. "Thanks to the vigilance and quick action of the security team at Stonehenge, very minimal damage was caused," said a spokeswoman for English Heritage. "A tiny chip was taken from the north side of the Heel Stone with a screwdriver and hammer, but as soon as the two men were spotted by security guards they escaped over the fence and drove off.

Evidence of further meddling in species classification decisions uncovered in California Investigators told a House panel that political tinkering by Bush hack and former Interior Department official Julie MacDonald to restrict species protections was more widespread than previously thought. "Her fingerprints have been all over countless decisions," said Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. There is more to the story than just Cruella DeVille not caring about native fauna - she is a property owner in the Sacramento Valley and strong species protections could have adversely affected her property values and imposed land-use restrictions. Instead of recusing herself, as ethics would dictate, she meddled to restrict the protections and protect her own assets. This is called conflict of interests. MacDonald was not invited to testify and McClatchy was unable to reach her for comment, but it would seem that the House panel was not interested in wasting any time hearing what she has to say, they know what she will say because they know her work.

No surprises here
Officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs denounced practically all of Senator Patty Murray's bill on improving womens health care services from the VA, including requirements that mental health providers be given special training on helping female victims of sexual trauma perpetrated against female soldiers by their fellow service members, PTSD (and PTSD resulting from sexual assault), and day care for veterans seeking VA care. The VA did express support for a provision that would require every VA med center have at least one full-time employee that would act as a sort of ombudsman for women and would require the departments Advisory Committee on Women Veterans to include women who recently separated from service. Murray gave the VA partial marks, for recognizing that problems exist, but demerits for resisting taking decisive actions to solve them. She was particularly upset by the "we don't have the money" argument. "That irritates me," she said. "I almost come out of my chair when I hear that. If they need more money, then they should ask for it."

Have you ever heard of a drive-thru mastectomy? 65% of the 125,000 women who have mastectomies in the United States every year receive less than 24 hours of hospitalization. "Mandatory drive-through mastectomies is an unconscionable practice that can endanger patients' recovery and lead to unnecessary complications," says Dr. Marisa Weiss, a leading breast oncologist and Founder and President of, in an open letter to Congress today [Thursday] as the "Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act," H.R. 758, was discussed in a House subcommittee hearing. The decision on how long a patient will be in the hospital is best left to patients and doctors and reducing it to a business transaction is heinous.

Model camps in Burma, set up for show If the military junta applied half the effort to actually providing aid to cyclone victims that they apply to projecting the image that they are providing aid, the needy would be served. The show camps are the response to heavy international pressure, the junta has embarked on a campaign to show itself as responsive and open to aid as China has been in the wake of the Sichuan earthquake. On Thursday, the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, arrived in Myanmar, as United Nations officials said that, nearly three weeks after the cyclone that left 134,000 dead or missing, they were finally seeing some small improvement.

NOAA has released this years hurricane forecast
and predict six to nine Atlantic hurricanes this season. "It may very well be a busy season,'' said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad Lautenbacher, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. ``Everyone needs to have a plan and be ready if a hurricane warning is issued. It only takes one hurricane to make it a bad season.'' Gerry Bell, the lead Atlantic hurricane forecaster for NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, warned that his outlook should serve as a general guide and does not indicate when and where a hurricane might strike.

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