Thursday, August 18, 2005

Thought for the Day

"If the things we believe in are different than the things we do, there can be no true happiness." --- Dana Telford

Quote provided courtesy of...

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

HIV/AIDS, Human Rights, and the Global Fund

Over 40 million people around the world are living with HIV today. According to UNAIDS, 3.1 million people died of AIDS-related diseases and 4.9 million people were newly infected with HIV in 2004. Some 15 million children under age 18 have lost one or both parents to AIDS, the vast majority in sub-Saharan Africa.

The AIDS pandemic is a human rights crisis. Systemic abuses of the right to be free from discrimination, the right to prevention, treatment and care, the right to physical and mental integrity, and the right to freely receive and impart information not only exacerbate the spread of AIDS, but also fuel a cycle whereby those living with HIV/AIDS are subjected to further human rights abuses on account of their status.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria represents an unparalleled opportunity to mobilize financial resources to tackle the global AIDS pandemic and to ensure that this is done in a coordinated and effective manner.

Launched in January 2002, the Global Fund has committed $3 billion in 128 countries. However, the fund faces a continuing budget shortfall. The world’s wealthiest governments have not contributed an amount on par with the size of their economies.

For the fiscal year 2006, the Global Fund requested the U.S. government contribute $930 million to sustain current projects, continue successful programs beyond their initial two-year funding period, and finance new and necessary grants. The U.S. government initially pledged only $200 million.

Update: On July 20, 2005, the Senate approved a fiscal year 2006 foreign aid appropriations bill that includes a $500 million U.S. contribution to the Global Fund. Earlier in July, an additional $100 million U.S. contribution was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee in the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, which now waits on the Senate legislative calendar. This brings the total U.S. contribution to the Global Fund on the Senate side to $600 million, $200 more than was requested by the House of Representatives and President Bush. Final approvals of these bills are pending, and debate within the House could bring substantial cuts to the Senate’s increased contribution.

»Learn More: Amnesty International and the Fight Against HIV/AIDS: Questions and Answers

»Get Involved: AIUSA's Health and Human Rights Network

»Full Coverage: HIV/AIDS and Human Rights

Monday, August 15, 2005

Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

... forwarded by John P. Thanks John & Fred for sharing this information

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Hi John,

This is some good information to tuck away somewhere in case you ever need it. This originally came from the OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) but I have amended it to make it relevant to Americans, Canadians and Brits . . .


Read this and make a copy for your files in case you need to refer to it someday. Maybe we should all take some of his advice.

A corporate attorney sent the following out to the employees in his company.

  1. The next time you order cheques have only your initials (instead of first name) and last name put on them. If someone takes your Chequebook, they will not know if you sign your cheque with just your Initials or your first name, but your bank will know how you sign your cheques.
  2. Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Instead, put "PHOTO ID REQUIRED".
  3. When you are writing cheques to pay on your credit card accounts, DO NOT put the complete account number on the "For" line. Instead, just put the last four numbers. The credit card company knows the rest of the number and anyone who might be handling your cheque as it passes through all the cheque processing channels won't have access to it.
  4. Put your work phone # on your cheques instead of your home phone. If you have a PO Box use that instead of your home address. If you do not have a PO Box, use your work address.
  5. Never have your SIN# printed on your cheques. (DUH!) You can add it if it is necessary. But if you have it printed, anyone can get it.
  6. Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine. Do both sides of each license, credit card, etc. You will know what you had in your wallet and all of the account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel. Keep the photocopy in a safe place. I also carry a photocopy of my passport when travelling either here or abroad. We've all heard horror stories about fraud that's committed on us in stealing a name, address, SIN, credit cards.

Unfortunately, I, an attorney, have firsthand knowledge because my wallet was stolen last month. Within a week, the thieve(s) ordered an expensive monthly cell phone package, applied for a VISA credit card, had a creditline approved to buy a Gateway computer, received a PIN number from DMV to change my driving record information online, and more. But here's some critical information to limit the damage in case this happens to you or someone you know:
  • We have been told we should cancel our credit cards immediately. But the key is having the toll free numbers and your card numbers handy so you know whom to call. Keep those where you can find them.
  • File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where your credit cards, etc. were stolen. This proves to credit providers you were diligent, and this is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one). But here's what is perhaps most important of all:
  • Call the national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Insurance Number (Social Security Number). I had never heard of doing that until advised by a bank that called to tell me an application for credit was made over the Internet in my name. The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen, and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit.

By the time I was advised to do this, almost two weeks after the theft, all the damage had been done. There are records of all the credit checks initiated by the thieves' purchases, none of which I knew about before placing the alert. Since then, no additional damage has been done, and the thieves threw my wallet away. This weekend (someone turned it in). It seems to have stopped them dead in their tracks.

Now, here are the numbers you always need to contact when your wallet, etc. has been stolen. In Canada, call Equifax and TransUnion, in the United States call Equifax, Experian and TransUnion and in the U.K. call Equifax.


888-766-0008 or 800-525-6285
0870 010 2091




We pass along jokes on the Internet; we pass along just about everything but if you are willing to pass this information along, it could really help someone that you care about.

Kindest regards,
Fred Glendening
Toronto, Canada

Tuesday, August 9, 2005

10 reasons to take control of your spending

By Steve Bucci •

Dear Readers,

Each week I get questions from people who need debt advice. Taking control of spending is absolutely necessary if you want to avoid problem debt. So here's my list of the top 10 debt-causing attitudes.

You might want to take control of your spending in 2005 if:

10. You never met a credit card you didn't like. Debt is a four-letter word and is what you get when you use credit cards to extend your income. Stop charging now and make a commitment to begin living on your current income.

9. You are impulsive by nature and think that using your credit card makes you appear more attractive. I actually knew a lady who bought one slipper because it was on sale. If you have things you a.) Didn't know you bought; b.) Haven't ever used; and/or c.) Hid afterwards because you knew you shouldn't have purchased them in the first place, you need to curb those impulse buys and you will be surprised how much money you will save.

8. Your retirement plan is to work until you die. Many people currently retired did so because they were too ill to work, became disabled or as a result of other unplanned life events. Begin saving for retirement now. You will be old before you know it and may want to retire to a lifestyle of your choosing rather than the only one you can afford.

7. You run out of money before you run out of week. If you find yourself taking a payday loan to purchase groceries or to pay your mortgage late again, it's time to take action. Staying within your income allows you the freedom to stop worrying about bills and begin to plan for and realize a great financial future.

6. You don't know how much you owe or don't care. Get out all those statements and add up the damage. It might be just the shock you need to take control and stop overspending. Once you know the total, come up with a plan to pay it off as quickly as possible.

5. You buy things you didn't know existed before you saw them on television but now desperately need. Without some type of spending plan, you are more likely to let others decide for you what you buy. Do you really want advertisers making buying decisions for you? Come up with short and long term financial goals and then incorporate them into a simple spending plan.

4. You never worry about money because your partner does enough for you both. Take a walk down to the local family court and you will see what can happen to otherwise happy couples when spending is out of control. A spending plan is not a recipe for a happy marriage or partnership, but it certainly gives you one less thing about which to argue, which also happens to be the largest cause of divorce.

3. You have never saved a penny in your life. It is difficult to save money for emergencies when we are spending with abandon. A savings cushion of three to six months' of living expenses is an important financial tool. Also, don't forget to save for big-ticket items and periodic expenses such as holidays, home repairs and summer vacations.

2. You don't know if you will have a job tomorrow. Retiring from a company after working there for 30 years is less and less likely. The reality is that a person can expect to change jobs and even careers four or five times in his/her working life. Gaps in employment are virtually assured. Gaps in bills to pay are not.

1. You know more about erectile dysfunction than money management. The popular media does not sell money management like it does other less important products. Heck if you can take control of a receding hairline and ED, you can take control of your money!! Start with a spending plan, get expenses in line with income and pay yourself first.

Good luck and Happy New Year!

The Debt Adviser, Steve Bucci, is the president of Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Southern New England. Visit CCCS for additional debt advice or click here to ask a debt question.

Saturday, August 6, 2005

How radical Islamists see the world

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
Chinese general & military strategist (~400 BC)
If  your inbox is anything like mine you have at least a dozen emails from individuals who are extremely concerned about attacks by Islamic extremists.  The messages may range from expressions of security concerns to calls for racial profiling.  Here is an article that you may want to share and encourage the recipients to read in its entirety.  plk
Special briefing: How radical Islamists see the world |

By Dan Murphy and Howard LaFranchi | Staff writers of The Christian Science Monitor
from the August 02, 2005 edition -

Read the article in its entirety at:


In this article the Monitor examines the origins of Islamic terrorism and how it is evolving now.

What is Al Qaeda today compared to five years ago?

In some ways it is less like the Al Qaeda of 2001 than like the Al Qaeda of the mid-1990s, before it was able to build up organizationally with a base of operations in Afghanistan.   It is best understood as a radical ideology loosely inspiring a disparate and very decentralized set of localized Islamist extremist organizations.  For some terrorism experts, Al Qaeda as an organization simply no longer exists.  Its Afghan training and indoctrination sites are gone.
Key leaders have been killed or captured, or are on the run.  Yet Al Qaeda as an ideology of global confrontation and jihad, "struggle" or "holy war," still exists.  "That is why I speak of 'Al Qaedaism' as more of a factor today than Al Qaeda," says Magnus Ranstorp of the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

Who are Al Qaeda's leaders?

Osama bin Laden, still at large, founded the organization in 1988, along with Mohammed Atef (aka Abu Hafs al-Masri), an Egyptian who was killed in a US airstrike in Afghanistan.  The group has a shura, or consultative council, the composition of which is unknown.  But some of the people "most wanted" for organizing operations under Al Qaeda's name or ideology, such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, are not believed to be part of any centralized leadership.

Are they still organizing operations?

The Al Qaeda leadership may maintain some command-and-control capability from suspected locations in or near Pakistan - despite Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's recent declaration about a smashed Al Qaeda.   One possible example: In a tape released June 17 by the Arab television network Al Jazeera, Al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri called for revenge against Britain for allying with the US.   Some experts believe such tapes are directives to proceed with an operation.   In any case, the London bombings soon followed.

What do the militants want?

For Islamist militants, the long-term objective is an Islamic superstate, or caliphate.  Narrower objectives include the end of the state of Israel and toppling secular Middle Eastern regimes like Egypt's.  It is an article of faith that the US and all secular Western states stand in their way, and weakening those states is seen as positive for all their objectives.

Who is their main enemy?

The global jihad has long named two types of targets: the "near enemy" (Israel or secular Arab regimes) and the "far enemy" - America and its allies. 
Zawahiri was always more interested in the "near enemy" that stood in the way of an Islamic state in his homeland, Egypt.   Bin Laden was more interested in the "far enemy," because he felt success could not be achieved closer to home until US financial and military backing for these regimes was eroded.   When Zawahiri merged his Egyptian Islamic Jihad with Al Qaeda in 1998, the two trends were brought together. 

What Is their ideal society?

They want a society that applies the Koran literally and adheres to the social practices that prevailed at the time of the prophet Muhammad.    It would not be democratic in any modern sense, though there are provisions for shura, or consultation - generally interpreted to mean the leader should take advice from trusted community members.   In their interpretation of Islam, women and men have defined roles, and women generally have fewer rights.   Their views stem from the Salafi movement within Islam's Sunni sect, the religion's largest.   For a Salafi adherent, interpretation of the Koran stops 1,300 years ago, with Muhammad, his companions, and the three generations that followed them.  

What about Wahhabi thinking - is that behind Al Qaeda?

While many in the West use the term Wahhabi, practitioners of this Sunni school reject the notion that they belong to any particular sect.   To their thinking, they are simply following the true path of Islam.   They are Salafi followers of Mohammed ibn abd al-Wahhab, an 18th century Arabian preacher. 
Although the vast majority of Salafis are not involved in violence, almost all attacks linked to Al Qaeda have been carried out by people under the Salafi umbrella.  The House of Saud helped this school become Saudi Arabia's dominant interpretation of Islam.  Many Saudis refuse to view Osama bin Laden as a Wahhabi, rejecting his thirst for overthrowing the Saudi regime.  Wahhabis are supremely intolerant of Shiites, seeing practices such as the veneration of historic Imams Hussein and Ali as a breach of monotheism.

What are the roots of violent jihad?

Ibn Taymiyah, a 13th century scholar, is an intellectual forerunner of the modern Salafis.   Appearing in an era when crusaders remained in the Middle East, he advocated a muscular approach to Islam that called on believers to fight infidel invaders.   The foundation of Israel was seen by most Muslims, of all strains, as a hostile act that undermined Islam.   For Salafis it was a call to jihad, to regain the land and holy places they felt had been usurped.
He and his followers were enraged and humiliated that a US-led coalition repelled Hussein and that US troops were then stationed in Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest places.

What does the Koran say about violence against civilians?

As with most religions, it is a question of where emphasis is placed. The Koran has fairly clear injunctions against murder, including "Whoever slays a human being, unless it be for murder or for spreading corruption on earth, it shall be as though he had slain all mankind" (5:32). Suicide is warned against even more strongly: "Do not kill yourselves ... whoever does so, in transgression and wrongfully, we shall roast in a fire" (4:29). Warfare in certain circumstances is condoned, even urged, just as in the Old Testament, but there are limits. "Fight in the cause of God against those who fight against you, but do not transgress limits. God loves not transgressors" (2:190) and "let there be no hostility, except to those who practice oppression" (2:193).

In the most widespread interpretations, such verses bar both attacks on civilians and suicide attacks, while allowing Muslims to fight against those who directly attack them. But how does one define the meaning of "those who practice oppression" or "spreading corruption on earth" or even "those who fight against you?" It is here that the minority of Islamist radicals who attack civilians find their wiggle room.

Read the article in its entirety at:

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


Thursday, August 4, 2005

First Foreign Policy Index Released

Public Agenda Alert -- Aug. 3, 2005
* First Confidence in U.S. Foreign Policy Index Released
The American public sees the web of issues surrounding relations with the Islamic world as the fundamental foreign policy problem facing the nation, but they have little idea what to do about it.  So far, public thinking is a disquieting mix of high anxiety, growing uncertainly about current policy, and virtually no consensus about what else the country might do.
These and other findings are part of the new Public Agenda Confidence in U.S. Foreign Policy Index.  To be issued regularly by Public Agenda in cooperation with Foreign Affairs, the index is designed to explore the public's long-term judgments and beliefs about America's role in the world.  Supported with funding from the Ford Foundation, the index covers more than 25 different issues through more than 80 different survey questions.
We found the public's concerns are dominated by issues that all lead back to the central theme of Islam and the West: the Iraq war, the global war on terrorism, and the public image of the United States abroad.  Even before the London bombings, these worries rose without prompting in both our survey and focus groups. But there is confusion and contradiction when the public is asked about possible strategies for dealing with the Muslim world.
The index also reveals several foreign policy issues that have attracted less attention from leadership elites, but that the public cares about deeply.  The problems of illegal immigration and protecting American jobs in a global economy resonate strongly with the public.  Three quarters of the public give the U.S. a "C" grade or worse in protecting our borders from illegal immigration, with nearly one-quarter giving an "F." Half of Americans give the country a "D" or "F" grade on protecting American jobs from going overseas (and three in 10 chose "F.")
About half the public (49 percent) says there are "too many things worrying and disappointing" them about relations with the rest of the world, compared to 40 percent who say the United States is "generally doing the right things."
Three-quarters of Americans worry about losing trust and friendship abroad and about a growing hatred of the United States in Muslim countries (40 percent worry a lot). When asked how the rest of the world sees the United States, nearly two-thirds said the world has a negative view and fully one in 10 (the largest single group) actually used the words "bully" or "bullying" unprompted to describe how America is viewed from abroad.
Yet even as people say it, there is reason to believe they do not accept it.   The public believes strongly in the United States as a force for humanitarian good. Fully 83 percent gave the U.S. an "A" or "B" for helping other countries during natural disasters, by far the highest grade in the survey. Half give the U.S. "A" and "B" grades for helping to create democracy overseas.
Copyright (c) 2005 Public Agenda Public Agenda
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Spendthrift nation |

A very interesting article.   Are most Americans spendthrifts brainwashed by Madison Avenue and trying to keep up with the Jones.   OR   Are the majority of people just barely making ends meet and therefore have nothing left to save.  plk

Spendthrift nation

By Alexandra Marks and Ron Scherer | Staff writers of The Christian Science Monitor

from the August 03, 2005 edition -
NEW YORK - Americans have stopped saving for a rainy day.

Instead, they are living paycheck to paycheck, depending on credit cards to get them through emergencies, and hoping that the rising value of their homes will give them a retirement nest egg.

This personal economic chasm is showing up in the national savings rate, which has been declining for years.

Tuesday, the Commerce Department reported that the personal savings rate fell to zero in June, the lowest since a one-month buying binge in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

The United States is on track to record a savings rate for the year below 1 percent, which would be the lowest since the depths of the Great Depression, when the rate turned negative.

The nation's paucity of savings is raising alarms from the Federal Reserve to consumer watchdogs who worry that the nation is counting on foreign savings to maintain a spendthrift lifestyle.

Some groups are cranking up advertising campaigns to try to remind Americans that they don't need to participate in every sale.

And there are now high-level suggestions that the tax system needs to be changed to encourage savings instead of spending.

"In two generations it seems that we've lost the culture and habit of savings," says Nancy Register, of the Consumer Federation of America.

"There's so much marketing pressure to spend and buy and have instant gratification.

And if you can't buy it now, put it on your credit card."

Last week, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan warned that the low savings rate is impairing the nation's long-term economic prospects.

An improved savings rate would provide investment money for businesses, which would create jobs, he said.

Though Americans' savings are falling, their net worth is rising in large part because of soaring home prices and some improvement in the stock market, economists say.

People spend 6 percent of all housing market gains and 2 percent of their stock market gains, says Anthony Chan of JPMorgan Asset Management in Columbus, Ohio.

"When you have massive capital gains, you get people spending more, pushing the savings rate down," he says.

In fact, other analysts contend the situation may not be as dire as the official statistics indicate.

That's because when the Commerce Department calculates the savings rate, it doesn't include things like capital gains and investments in pension plans.

Currently, there are about $12 trillion dollars in various structured retirement accounts that are not included in the savings rate, says Dallas Salisbury, president and chief executive officer of the Employee Benefit Research Institute in Washington.

"Let's assume that you bought a home and you held it for some number of years and you had a large capital gain.

That capital gain would not be calculated as savings and the taxes would be counted as an expense," says Mr. Salisbury.

"So, even though you may look at it as though you have more savings than before, the Commerce Department does not."

For those 25 to 34 years old, the percentage without a rainy day fund jumped to 55 percent.

One of those is Chris Campbell, a New York actress, who says she's got, "nothing, zip, zero" in the bank.

For example, last month, the automobile companies offered buyers the option to purchase a new car at an "employee discount rate."

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


Environmental damage on Earth seen from shuttle!

Sadly most people will not read this story and many who do will not care. Those of us who do care about the environment are labeled "tree-huggers". And cultural beliefs like those of the Native Americans that espouse living in harmony with nature are considered primitive. Hmmmm!

Environmental damage on Earth seen from shuttle on Yahoo! News

Commander Eileen Collins said astronauts on shuttle Discovery had seen widespread environmental destruction on Earth and warned on Thursday that greater care was needed to protect natural resources.

Her comments came as NASA pondered whether to send astronauts out on an extra spacewalk to repair additional heat-protection damage on the first shuttle mission since the 2003 Columbia disaster.

"Sometimes you can see how there is erosion, and you can see how there is deforestation.

It's very widespread in some parts of the world," Collins said in a conversation from space with Japanese officials in Tokyo, including Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

"We would like to see, from the astronauts' point of view, people take good care of the Earth and replace the resources that have been used," said Collins, who was standing with Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi in front of a Japanese flag and holding a colorful fan.

Collins, flying her fourth shuttle mission, said the view from space made clear that Earth's atmosphere must be protected, too.

"The atmosphere almost looks like an eggshell on an egg, it's so very thin," she said.

"We know that we don't have much air, we need to protect what we have."

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer

EPA Scientists Critical Of Leadership

EPA Scientists Critical Of Leadership

WASHINGTON - August 1 - There is a growing disconnect between scientists and managers within the research arm of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to internal surveys released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

Lack of trust, communication and shared vision is beginning to threaten the nation's largest scientific organization dedicated to studying human health and the environment.

EPA's Office of Research and Development consists of three national laboratories, four national centers, and two offices located in 14 facilities around the country employing approximately 2,000 scientists.

The latest survey had a 66% response rate.

While overall morale remains high, survey results show increasing doubts about the "competence" and trustworthiness of ORD leadership.

In the 2003 survey --Scientists' trust in leadership declines markedly at each step higher up in the chain-of-command, with 38% of staff scientists reporting distrust of laboratory managers versus only 23% who expressed trust.

"These survey results are the early warning signs of a scientific organization drifting toward dysfunction," stated PEER Program Director Rebecca Roose, noting that during the Bush administration, EPA has been plagued by reports of political suppression of scientific results on issues ranging from global warming to asbestos to mercury regulation.

"Thus far, ORD has chosen to mask problems by initiating an aggressive PR campaign."

The survey results also echo the findings from EPA's Science Advisory Board, which warned in a draft report this April that the agency is no longer funding a credible public health research program.

For example, EPA is falling behind on emerging issues such as intercontinental pollution transport and nanotechnology.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


Our Socialized Energy System

Our Socialized Energy System

Patrick Doherty

July 29, 2005

Ok, so let me get this straight. Our energy system is 96 percent dependent on coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear; coal and oil are the main drivers of climate change; nuclear energy is the main contributor to WMD proliferation; natural gas terminals are prime terrorist targets and we're building more near cities; the oil industry has not built a new refinery for 30 years but energy companies, like Exxon, are reporting record profits—and Congress just gave all four industries close to $15 billion in subsidies.

Now, I'm the first one to acknowledge that it is the government that allows markets to function properly. Government enforces contracts. Government establishes measures, harmonizes standards, and provides essential market infrastructure, like roads, communications spectrum and ports. Government also ensures that the processes of commerce do not impose costs on people who are not primary parties to commercial transactions.

That last point is essential and yet has been twisted and distorted over the last 50 years. America's zoning laws emerged out of progressive activism at the turn of the century, when early industrial factories were massive sources of pollution and it was essential to separate residential areas from industrial areas. The same applied to power plants and fuel refineries. Given the technology of the day, keeping these massive pollution sources away from residential areas was important.

But today, advanced technology, the failures of suburbia, rising global energy demand and climate change have systematically undermined the logic that supports our energy system. Nevertheless, Congress just spent $15 billion on reinforcing that system and the results will be bad for our economy, our ecosystem, and our security.

Look at power generation. If our national interest is to reduce energy consumption, increase quality of life and provide sustainable, well-paying jobs, we should be decentralizing our power grid, not building massive new coal and nuclear plants. Decentralized power generation would reduce transmission load on our fragile grid, allow incremental, on-demand capacity increases with the latest and most efficient technology, would create an enormous market in high-tech generation and power management equipment, and reduce our vulnerability to disruption by distributing our generation assets.

Instead, we just opened the door to massive subsidies for nuclear energy. Nuclear power plants are so expensive that a normal market will not invest in them, so they need government subsidies. They are so dangerous normal insurance companies will not take on the risk, so they need government-guaranteed insurance. And they are so much of a risk to local communities that they need the federal government to force through permits on local governments. All that, and because these new plants will be far from their customers, more than 30 percent of the power they generate will be lost in transmission. Subsidized, inefficient and hazardous.

And then there is the provision in the energy bill that stipulates that only the first 60,000 hybrids from any one company will receive a tax break from the government. Now remember, government is supposed to ensure that the commercial or personal activity of one person does not impose costs on others. Hybrid engines, by reducing emissions and energy imports, do this marvelously. This new provision, however, reverses that. The government should be encouraging as many people as possible to drive hybrid cars, but instead Congress just capped the number of tax breaks, and therefore capped the market, at 60,000 units. It is absurd.

Taken together, these two examples resemble most the folly of centralized economic planning that sank the Soviet Union 15 years ago. Government involvement in the energy marketplace is now more about preserving the energy status quo for as long as possible. Unfortunately for taxpayers, consumers and citizens, that means that instead of gradual, market-led adaptation of our energy markets, we will have to wait until a major economic shock hits.

Think of it as yet another economic bubble. But this one is filled with gasoline.

40th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act

Voting Rights Act: The Fight Continues
Lindsay Claiborn

August 02, 2005

The Voting Rights Act is hitting the big 4-0 this week. In celebration, a number of organizations are raising awareness of the significance of the act—and its vulnerability if Congress doesn't act soon. Portions of the act are up for renewal in 2007.  After the debacle in Ohio and other states during last year's elections—where numerous incidents of discrimination were found—the battle to extend the VRA is especially timely.

Rev. Jesse Jackson explained the urgency behind the push to reauthorize the VRA in a recent article about the upcoming march to commemorate the VRA:

"So there is a need to establish a new record of evidence to document for Congress the continued need for the Voting Rights Act enforcement provisions, and to set forth the history of racial discrimination in voting since the 1982 reauthorization."

Lots of events are planned to rally support for VRA. Marches are taking place down South.

Saturday, August 6, 2005: Atlanta, Georgia
                   Keep The Vote Alive!, Pro-Democracy March & Rally sponsored by the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition

Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Is Supporting CAFTA An Act of Betraying the American Worker?

by Jonathan Tasini,
Why organized labor should hold politicians accountable for betraying workers at home and abroad.

Read the entire article at:
Jonathan Tasini is president of the Economic Future Group and writes his "Working In America" columns for on an occasional basis.
His blog Working Life chronicles the labor movement and other issues affecting American workers.


The 15 so-called Democrats who voted for the Central American Free Trade Agreement must pay a heavy price for turning their backs on labor: None of them should receive a dime from labor unions and each one should face a labor-backed primary challenger next year.

And the recruitment of good candidates should start now.

If the CAFTA 15 do not suffer the political consequences for their vote, labor will look weak and the march of so-called "free trade" will continue.

In 1993, after a small group of Democrats defected to support the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), unions threatened to get even.

The message this sent to each elected representative was that labor would make a lot of noise but eventually the waters would grow calm---and no one suffered for casting a vote that hurt workers here and abroad.

And so, as each trade vote loomed, Democrats could contemplate wandering off the reservation, either to protect campaign contributions from large corporate donors or to extort some promise from supporters of so-called "free trade" to build a highway, fund a pet project or place a federal research center in a wavering politician's district.

The arguments against taking down the CAFTA 15 go something like this: Trade is only one policy arena and labor can't pillory politicians just for voting wrong on CAFTA; doing so would tar labor with the dreaded "single-issue" constituency label.

According to this line of thinking, many union members care about a broader set of issues; they need politicians who will vote right on other issues, even if those same politicians stray here and there on a vote or two.

And, some would argue, trade only hurts a particular slice of the unionized workforce.

Finally, going after Democrats in "swing" districts makes it harder to take back the Congress from Republicans.

Here's the fallacy with that political pragmatism.

Trade is not just a single issue.

So-called "free trade" is shaping the economy, here and abroad---it is the central issue upon which other economic policy issues revolve.

To overlook a politician's vote on trade means turning a blind eye to the legislative tool most responsible for shifting the power of self-determination from the hands of citizens to the corporate boardrooms of global capitalism.

Compared to a decade ago, a broader segment of unions and their leaders are starting to see how so-called "free trade" hurts them.

A July 25th letter to the House Democratic leadership raising concerns about possible Democratic defections on CAFTA was organized by none other than Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters who was the most visible early supporter of John Kerry.

He could have argued that his members aren't directly touched by CAFTA---you can't get firefighters from another country to put out the fire in your house here.

But to his credit, Schaitberger sees this as a huge fight, hitting his members hard as deals like CAFTA help push down wages and benefits throughout the economy.

I am not unsympathetic to the political calculation of the balance of power in Washington.

If labor had taken out one or two Democrats who voted for NAFTA more than a decade ago, I suspect that the CAFTA 15 might have numbered two or three---or maybe none.

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African Reality After Live8

First, let me say it's good to be back after a long hiatus.   So much has happened in the world that it's hard to know where to begin.   I guess there's no better place to start than discussing Africa -- the birthplace on mankind.    The following is truly a thought provoking article.  I  hope you'll have a moment to read it in its entirety.    plk
Africa does not experience nationhood as outsiders expect. Its borders and structures were imposed from outside, its politics are winner-takes-all and its rulers do not connect with the ruled. Richard Dowden says that the best way the west can help Africans is probably not by giving money but by taking the time to understand all this - and there is not much sign of that happening.
Read the entire article on

“Seek ye first the political Kingdom!”  aid Kwame Nkrumah, the prophet of African independence and Ghana's first leader when it became independent in 1957.

His advice has been followed diligently by every politically ambitious African man ever since.

The few who got to the top of Africa's greasy political pole -- no woman has yet made it -- have seized it and held on tight, usually until pushed off by force.

Africa's winner-takes-all politics lie at the heart of everything that has gone wrong with the continent.

It is the reason why it has fallen behind the rest of the world economically, the reason for its wars and poverty.

Its roots go back to the creation of African states themselves, the lines drawn on maps by the European colonial powers at the end of the 19th century.

The process eventually produced fifty-three states overlaying some 10,000 pre-existing societies and political entities.

It has three big tribes and more than 400 ethnic groups, yet its people have to elect one president and one government.

By comparison, imagine a Europe whose larger tribes (Germans, French, British) and twenty-five European Union states were united by force (not referendum); where the French are Muslim, the Germans Catholic, the British Protestant; where the only source of income (oil) is under German control; and where, if anyone mentions putting their own people first or forming an alliance with another ethnic group, they are accused of being "tribalist" and endangering the future of the state.

African states, with a few exceptions, have no common understanding or experience of nationhood.

Their flags, national anthems, and identities were created by outsiders.

Patriotism, in the good sense of positive loyalty to one's country and fellow citizens, is in short supply.

If you want power, you play the ethnic card or smear your religious rivals.

When you achieve power, you bring your own people into government -- and even more important, into the army.

The state treasury becomes your private bank account.

When you run for election the entire state structure and all its officials are at your disposal.

If anyone inside the continent says anything you accuse them of interfering in internal affairs.

If anyone outside Africa criticises you, you accuse them of racism and neo-colonialism.

It's a simple formula, one that has worked brilliantly for Robert Mugabe and many others.

Those new to Africa are often struck by a contrast: how individualistic and cynical African politicians are, and how communal and hopeful most African citizens are.

Between rulers and ruled, there seems to be little connection or even shared values.

The result is a dysfunctional political culture.

Botswana has been coup-free and relatively corruption-free.

The presidency has passed through three safe pairs of hands.

Tanzania remains virtually a one-party state but the recent election of a new presidential candidate by the ruling CCM party was as democratic as it gets.

Ghana and Senegal have both changed governments through elections.

None of these states are free from problems of regional or ethnic discontent; Botswana with the San Bushmen, Tanzania with Zanzibar and Senegal and Ghana with minorities that feel excluded.

Uganda under Yoweri Museveni was the darling of aid-giving governments for years, to the extent that aid supplied more than half its budget.

A report commissioned by the World Bank found that it has turned into a corrupt one-party state and recommends that direct budget support to Uganda be stopped.

In Kenya, the corrupt old regime of Daniel arap Moi was replaced in December 2002 through the stunning electoral victory of an opposition alliance led by Mwai Kibaki.

Two years on, Kenya seems to have become even more corrupt than before; the resignation of its anti-corruption chief, John Githongo, in February 2005 is symptomatic of the problem.

Then there are the big holes on the map; Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria itself -- all ruled in great parts by local barons and warlords and where there is no democracy despite, in Nigeria's case at least, elections.

This overall picture makes the prospect of turning Africa around with aid and debt relief seem at best problematic, at worst a pipedream.

Uganda illustrates the terrible dilemma facing those who wish to help Africans improve their lives.

To punish Museveni by cutting aid could mean hurting millions of Ugandans who are beginning at last to see real change.

The country is so dependent on aid that dropping it would risk destroying the economic gains it has made in recent years.

This aid-agency-driven agenda -- on prominent display at the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland -- creates the illusion that the hungry African child the NGOs use in their fundraising propaganda can be directly reached by individual donors' money.

First, the west can fight to end two kinds of subsidies -- the agricultural subsidies for farmers in Europe, America and Japan that keep world prices low and squeeze African commodities out of the global market, and the export subsidies that allow cheap food to be dumped in Africa, destroying African markets.

Britain has resisted signing the United Nations Convention on Corruption and British companies are fighting regulations that would make them responsible for corrupt practices by their agents as well as their own staff.

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