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Mike Luckovich: Stampede

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

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Church Blasted for Controversial Appointment

Just one more indication of the social irrelevance and moral bankruptcy of organized religion.

One controversy is apparently not enough for the Catholic Church. In addition to ire over his decision to rehabilitate a Holocaust-denying bishop, Pope Benedict XVI has now raised hackles by promoting a priest who welcomed Hurricane Katrina as "divine retribution" for New Orleans' permissive ways.

By Spiegel Online

Another week, another public relations disaster for the Catholic Church. While the furor continues swirling around the pope's decision to reinstate an ultra-conservative bishop who denies the Holocaust, the Vatican has once again raised hackles by promoting a controversial pastor to be a bishop in Austria.

On Saturday Rome announced that Rev. Gerhard Maria Wagner would be auxiliary bishop in Linz, the capital of Upper Austria, a decision that has angered many within the Austrian church and beyond. The priest has a knack for inappropriate comments, writing back in 2005 in a parish newsletter that Hurricane Katrina was an act of "divine retribution" for New Orleans' permissive ways. "This was not the sinking of any city but that of a people's dream city with the 'best brothels and prettiest prostitutes,'" he wrote.

The same man warned children in 2001 against reading J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books because the tales of a boy wizard were "spreading Satanism." Then in 2004 Wagner said that it was no coincidence that the Tsunami disaster had occurred at Christmas, inferring that it was punishment for "rich Western tourists" who had fled to "poor Thailand."

News of his planned ordination on March 22 has unleashed a storm of criticism from other Austrian clergy, with many complaining that the selection process was made without consulting them. Hans Padinger, spokesman for the Upper Austrian priests' council, told the Oberoesterreichische Rundschau newspaper he was "not very pleased" by the appointment while Franz Wild, a parish priest in Traun, said that he was "appalled" by the news. "I hope it's clear to the church that we're living in the 21st century and that it also has to live there," he told the ORF channel....(Click for remainder).

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Watching Bill Clinton work his magic at Davos

His rock-star status among world leaders, at a time when America's reputation is in tatters, shows the former president is a major asset to Barack Obama.

By Joe Conason
Salon.com


Feb. 2, 2009 | Given our current realities, it might be easy to dismiss the networking hive of corporate, media and philanthropic leaders who gather annually in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum. Accustomed to flattering themselves and each other as benevolent masters of the globalizing world, they now confront an unprecedented crisis -- actually a conglomeration of crises -- that has diminished their financial worth and moral credibility.

What roused the global elitists from their glum torpor was the opportunity to lay blame for the economic catastrophe that has befallen the world. There was one obvious target: the United States of America, whose stupid and criminal bankers have inflicted so much harm on the whole of humanity. It is an undeniable fact that the Russian and Chinese leaders explored with great relish at every opportunity.

Into this hostile territory rode Bill Clinton, the lone American to whom anyone at Davos might actually listen as he attempted to uphold the name of his country. (Presumably too busy for international confabs as they try to organize their administration and save the country, the Obama White House sent nobody except presidential aide Valerie Jarrett, who didn't make much of an impression.)...(Click for remainder).

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The L.A. Times, Obama & Renditions

By Glenn Greenwald
Salon.com


Other commitments prevented me from writing today (in particular, I finalized the proposal and outline for my next book, an event that prompts great joyousness). But numerous people have emailed all day, and otherwise expressed concern, about this Los Angeles Times article from yesterday that claims -- citing anonymous "current and former U.S. intelligence officials" -- that the Obama administration has preserved and continued the Bush administration's "rendition" program that created so much (justifiable) outrage around the world.

The L.A. Times article is wildly exaggerated and plainly inaccurate. Harper's Scott Horton and The Washington Monthly's Hilzoy have typically thorough explanations as to why that is the case. Anyone with any doubts should read both of their commentaries. Suffice to say, the objections to the Bush "extraordinary rendition" program were that "rendered" individuals were abducted and then either (a) sent to countries where they would likely be tortured and/or (b) disappeared into secret U.S. camps ("black sites") or sent to Guantanamo and accorded no legal process of any kind. There is absolutely nothing to suggest that Obama will continue any of that and, as Hilzoy documents, there is ample basis to believe he will not. Unfortunately, I don't have the time today to dissect the Times' claims in detail, but Horton and Hilzoy both say virtually everything that should be said on the topic....(Click for remainder).

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Ok, this can't be good. Who do we have to thank for this? Many would say that Kim Jung-Ill is to blame. Certainly to some extent, but I would place the lion's share of the blame squarely on the shoulders of George Bush. Over the past eight years "Man or Monkey" has taken a "my way, or the highway" approach to North Korea. Clearly that was never going to work, any 8th grade junior high student could have told him that. But "Too Stupid to Eat a Pretzel" knew best, right?

Pyongyang appears to prepare its longest range intercontinental ballistic missile test-launch amid growing tensions in the Korean peninsula.

By Press TV

South Korea's Yonhap news agency qouted on Tuesday unnamed government sources as saying that the North had been moving equipment used in the launch of its Taepodong-2 missile.

A train carrying a large object had left a factory and was headed to the site of a newly constructed launch pad on the North's west coast, Yonhap quoted an unnamed Seoul government official as saying.

"The object is suspected as being a Taepodong-2," he said.

Meanwhile, Japanese Sankei Shimbun new agency said It would take North Korea at least a month or two to actually launch a Taepodong-2.

The developments come after North Korea said it would not dismantle its nuclear facilities unless South Korea's nuclear establishments and arms deals are inspected.

A spokesman for the North's General Chief of Staff said Monday that "denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula does not only mean Pyongyang's disarmament, but should also include verification of nuclear facilities in South Korea," the state's official KRT TV reported....(Click for remainder).

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The Mormon Cult Tries to Hide Prop. 8 Funding

By Fred Karger
Huffington Post


Late last Friday, January 30th, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints filled a Major Donor Report with the California Secretary of State listing $189,903.58 in non-momentary expenditures on behalf of Protectmarriage.com -- Yes on Prop 8. The Mormon Church finally admitted directly spending a huge sum of money as part of its monumental effort to end same-sex marriage in California.

The Church waited until 5:00 pm on Friday, one business day ahead of the required filing date of February 2nd, to turn in its first report detailing at least some of its involvement in the Prop 8 campaign. This was clearly timed by the Mormon Church and its attorneys to try and stay out of the media's eye. This is an age old political trick, dumping bad news late Friday afternoon, but one that has not gone undetected.

The Mormon Church has repeatedly lied about its involvement in California's Prop 8. Don Eaton, a Mormon Church spokesman, told KGO Television (ABC) in November, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints put zero money in this [the passage of Prop. 8]."

Up until Election Day, November 4th, the Mormon Church had only filed one non-monetary contribution, and that was reported just 4 days before the election for a mere $2,078.97. As founder of Californians Against Hate , this prompted me to file a sworn complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). Karger hoped that an investigation by the FPPC would determine exactly how much money was really spent by the Salt Lake City based Church on behalf of the Yes on 8 campaign....(Click for remainder).

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Dr. Gupta...Um, not so much

By James Floyd, M.D.
Huffington Post


When word leaked out that neurosurgeon and CNN journalist Sanjay Gupta was up for the Surgeon General post, many said he was a natural to be the government's top spokesperson on public health issues and a major player in crafting and selling President Obama's plan for health care reform.

In fact, Gupta would be a disastrous pick. His misleading coverage of important public health issues and sloppy evaluation of scientific evidence, as outlined below, would make him an ineffective and dangerous choice:

1) First consider Gupta's extensive coverage of autism, in which Gupta gave inappropriate credibility to those who believe that vaccines cause autism, thereby supporting controversy around the issue.

There is no controversy. Every major clinical trial and epidemiologic study conducted to examine this issue has failed to show any link, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Institute of Medicine, and the Centers for Disease Control all state clearly that there is no evidence for one. Instead of using his platform as a prominent journalist and physician to firmly dispel this harmful myth, Gupta made a good story out of it. There is a growing movement of parents who choose not to vaccinate their infants and young children against deadly diseases. As a result, outbreaks of measles, mumps, and pertussis are on the rise. The next Surgeon General needs to settle this issue in the eyes of the public.

2) Both Obama and the Surgeon General's likely boss, Tom Daschle, have highlighted the need for restraint from the use of unproven or unnecessary tests and procedures in an effort to reduce health care costs. However, several of Gupta's recommendations for screening tests are not based on sound evidence and depart radically from accepted norms....(Click for remainder).

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Mormon Legislators Introduce Raft of Right-Wing Bills in Wyoming

By Kyle
Right Wing Watch


Ever since the passage of Prop 8 in California during the November election, there has been an effort underway to figure out just how much money the Mormon Church dumped into the effort. For weeks, the Church denied giving more than a few thousand dollars but last week, facing an investigation by California’s Fair Political Practices Commission, the church reported nearly $190,000 in contributions.

On a related note, just last week AU reported on the influence that the Mormon Church has over the Utah legislature and now it looks like it might be expanding its reach into neighboring Wyoming, as the Casper Star-Tribune reports:
Mormons comprise more than 10 percent of the membership of the Wyoming Legislature, yet Mormon lawmakers are not known for voting as a bloc or working together to promote legislation.

That may be changing.

Mormons are taking a higher profile this session in promoting bills linked to controversial social issues including assisted suicide, gay marriage and abortion.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are the primary sponsors of bills dealing with all three topics, and a cadre of about eight LDS lawmakers have teamed up as the original co-sponsors of six related bills.
(Click for remainder).

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Holder Is Confirmed as Attorney General

By Neil A. Lewis
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — The Senate voted overwhelmingly Monday evening to confirm Eric H. Holder Jr. to be the new attorney general of the United States. The vote was 75 to 21, with all the votes against the nomination coming from Republicans.

At one time, Republicans indicated that they wanted to give Mr. Holder a rough confirmation ride to signal their political viability at a time when Democrats control the White House and both houses of Congress.

But the effort never gained much traction. Senator Patrick J. Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, noted Monday that his panel had voted to approve the Holder nomination by 17 to 2, with most Republicans voting in favor.

“That strong, bipartisan vote in favor was a statement that members from both sides of the aisle recognize that Mr. Holder has the character, integrity and independence to be Attorney General,” said Mr. Leahy, a Vermont Democrat. “It is a statement that we all want to restore the integrity and competence of the Justice Department and to restore another critical component — the American people’s confidence in federal law enforcement.”...(Click for remainder).

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