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By Raymond Hernandez

WASHINGTON -- After years of fierce lobbying and debate, Congress approved a bill on Wednesday to cover the cost of medical care for rescue workers and others who became sick from toxic fumes, dust and smoke after the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.

The $4.3 billion bill cleared its biggest hurdle early in the afternoon when the Senate unexpectedly approved it just 12 days after Republican senators had blocked a more expensive House version from coming to the floor of the Senate for a vote.

In recent days, Republican senators had been under fire for their opposition to the legislation.

Click for the full story. )



WELL, IT'S ABOUT TIME. This is an awesome follow-up to a previous post on this community regarding the matter. Anthony Weiner, I hope you're not angry anymore. :)
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[personal profile] mistersandman
I once attended a speech given by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who I am told speaks flawless English, but prefers to use Russian when on official business for patriotic reasons. Not the same with his counterpart, Prime Minister Vladmir Putin, who recently-and extemporaneously-sang in English for a charity fundraiser in St. Petersburg. English language media mogul Russia Today brings us the full video of Putin singing 'Blueberry Hill.'

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[personal profile] mistersandman

BRUSSELS - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Pakistan on Thursday to ensure wealthy Pakistanis contribute to helping the country overcome the devastation caused by this summer's floods.

Some have estimated that flood recovery will cost tens of billions — a mammoth sum for a country that has relied on international loans. Aid groups have struggled to raise funds for the country because the disaster unfolded relatively slowly and the number killed remained low compared to other major disasters such as the Haiti earthquake.

"It is absolutely unacceptable for those with means in Pakistan not to be doing their fair share to help their own people while taxpayers in Europe, the United States and other contributing countries are all chipping in," Clinton said after meeting with Baroness Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign and security affairs chief.

Saying "the international community can only do so much," she urged the government in Islamabad to "take immediate and substantial action to mobilize its own resources" for the immense task of reconstructing schools, health clinics, bridges, thousands of kilometres of roads and repair new irrigation systems.

Her plea for more action from Islamabad came a day before an international conference is to hear from Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the Pakistani foreign minister, about his government's long-term economic and other reforms.

The "Friends of Democratic Pakistan" meeting in Brussels brings together 26 nations and international institutions. Established in late 2008, it enables Pakistan to regularly brief the international community on its security and economic challenges, which are acute and directly linked to the instability of neighbouring Afghanistan and its own struggles with Islamic insurgents.

Earlier Thursday, Qureshi told the European Parliament in Brussels that economic aid is key "if you want to help us fight extremism."

"When we are stable we will be able to address the issues of poverty. When we are economically stable we will be able to invest in the sectors that have been ignored in the past, like health and education," he said.

To date, the EU and its 27 member states have contributed nearly $450 million toward flood relief and recovery efforts. The EU has also extended trade benefits to Pakistan. The US has provided $388 million in aid so far and another $75 million in logistical and other support.

Donor nations have warned Pakistan that they cannot foot the entire recovery and reconstruction bill, which some have estimated could surpass $40 billion. U.S. officials have urged Pakistan to improve its tax collection to aid its long-term rebuilding.

After meeting with Ashton, Clinton insisted much remains to be done.

"The progress (the EU and the US) have made together toward fostering stability and prosperity in Pakistan is threatened by the catastrophic damage caused by the floods," she said.

Both she and Ashton stressed their commitment to help Pakistan rebuild itself, adding that a stable Pakistan is essential to the fight against terrorism and the security of Americans and Europeans. The U.S. government warned Americans earlier this month of new terror risks in Europe and focus fell on Pakistan, where U.S. drones have struck suspected al-Qaida targets and where Pakistani officials said eight German militants were killed.

The floods began in late July during unusually heavy monsoon rains, eventually covering one-fifth of the country and affecting some 20 million of its 175 million people. Nearly 2,000 people died, while millions were left homeless, according to the United Nations.

Dozens of bridges were washed away, while more than 1.9 million homes were damaged or destroyed. Around 5.9 million acres of farmland were damaged, a severe blow to agriculture, the most important pillar of Pakistan's economy.



This isn't even a question of tax rates.  Many industrialists and landowners use their government positions to avoid paying taxes entirely in Pakistan. 

It's one thing to offer a helping hand after an enormous tragedy.  It's another thing to build a country from the ground up.  Pakistan borders Afghanistan, you would think they'd know better than to trust the United States with something like this.

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[personal profile] treesahquiche



Evidently, the only person in all of Western news media that Premier Wen Jiabao will talk to is Fareed Zakaria. I don't blame him; there are few people in news media in general -- whether it be Eastern or Western -- that are capable of presenting an interview in a way as thoughtful, impartial, objective, and non-judgmental as Dr. Zakaria.

The entire video is about forty minutes long, but it is more than worth it. The interview with Premier Wen is interspersed in relevant segments throughout the broadcast.

The main topic, of course, was economics. What does Premier Wen think about the way the US handled the financial crisis? How does the US stimulus package compare with China's stimulus program, which Premier Wen engineered? What is Premier Wen's take on and deconstruction of the trade and currency imbalance between the US and China?

I thought the segments where Dr. Zakaria directly and frankly asked Premier Wen about censorship in China -- especially Internet censorship -- were interesting, but not very enlightening as far as Premier Wen's answers went; he did some major waffling.

I wish I could have listened to Premier Wen without the voiceover translation. I much prefer subtitles when it comes to these things. Much of the nuance of his rhetoric in the original Chinese may have been lost in translation, since Chinese is one of those finicky languages with turns of phrase for oddly specific things.
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[personal profile] mistersandman

WASHINGTON — American scientists deliberately infected prisoners and patients in a mental hospital in Guatemala with syphilis 60 years ago, a recently unearthed experiment that prompted U.S. officials to apologize Friday and declare outrage over "such reprehensible research."

The discovery dredges up past wrongs in the name of science — like the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study in this country that has long dampened minority participation in medical research — and could complicate ongoing studies overseas that depend on cooperation from some of the world's poorest countries to tackle tough-to-treat diseases.

Uncovering it gives "us all a chance to look at this and — even as we are appalled at what was done — to redouble our efforts to make sure something like this could never happen again," said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.

The NIH-funded experiment, which ran from 1946 to 1948, was uncovered by a Wellesley College medical historian. It apparently was conducted to test if penicillin, then relatively new, could prevent some sexually transmitted infections. The study came up with no useful information and was hidden for decades.

Click for full article )

Awful human rights violations in the name of science: Not just for Hitler!

mistersandman: How would you feel if you had to put on a really stupid hat? (comical hat)
[personal profile] mistersandman
Given the building consensus that shackling pregnant women is not only unnecessary--the vast majority are in prison for non-violent crimes in the first place--but degrading to say the least, it was a shock to find out this morning that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill passed by the California Legislature to end shackling of pregnant women in his state.

Read more... )
When this issue last came up, it was under happier circumstances. I had hoped that out of all the male politicians in America today, Schwarzenegger would be one most sympathetic to reproductive rights, but perhaps you shouldn't believe everything you see on TV?  His veto message is such bullshit, too.  Fortunately, they'll be able to overturn this no problem.


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[personal profile] treesahquiche
JHABUA, India -- Inside the drab district hospital, where dogs patter down the corridors, sniffing for food, Ratan Bhuria's children are curled together in the malnutrition ward, hovering at the edge of starvation. His daughter, Nani, is 4 and weighs 20 pounds. His son, Jogdiya, is 2 and weighs only eight.

Landless and illiterate, drowned by debt, Mr. Bhuria and his ailing children have staggered into the hospital ward after falling through India's social safety net. They should receive subsidized government food and cooking fuel. They do not. The older children should be enrolled in school and receiving a free daily lunch. They are not. And they are hardly alone: India's eight poorest states have more people in poverty -- an estimated 421 million -- than Africa's 26 poorest nations, one study recently reported.

Click for the full story. )

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[personal profile] treesahquiche
By Anthony Weiner

Last week I got angry on the floor of the House. In this age of cable and YouTube, millions of people evidently saw the one-minute-plus clip. But there has been relatively little focus on why the substantive debate that sparked it matters.

Republicans are douchebags, no one is surprised. )

Anthony Weiner is a member of the House of Representatives from Queens and Brooklyn.


I thought that I had already plumbed the depths to which conservatives in the United States could sink, but apparently I was wrong! 9/11 -- the tragic attack that brought everyone together as a nation, the event which every Republican politician paid lip service to in order to send us overseas to a war that is exponentially increasing our national deficit with each passing day -- is apparently no longer a legitimate concern for the Republican Party. The people who died at the hands of hostile enemies and the people who are dying of the toxic exposure and stress injuries they suffered while tirelessly working to aid the rescue effort are apparently no worthier of regard than a speck of lint on the suits of Republicans.

Yes, people die everyday of unsafe work conditions, inadequate healthcare, not being able to afford the cost of living, and gross neglect. But they shouldn't. Not Americans, anyway, and definitely not -- especially not -- American heroes. If we don't take care of the brave and selfless people who saved our country when they're in need now, then we shouldn't expect anyone to come running when it comes time to face our next great crisis.

I applaud Representative Weiner for standing up to this bullshit and not being afraid to be angry about it.
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[personal profile] mistersandman
A drunken coal worker in northern China killed a customer and then went on a rampage killing 10 other people and injuring a dozen more, officials and state media said on Monday.

Read more... )Source

Is this immediately political? Not really. But I think this is a fascinating story to look at through a political lens.

The Chinese Communist Party tends not to let stories like this get out to prevent copycat attacks or more broadly, to give the illusion of a "harmonious society." Is this a victory for free speech? What makes this story different from the estimated 200 similar stories of violence that go unreported every year?

My personal theory is that this story illustrates the "evils of drink." I can't find a source right now, but I believe I have heard that the CCP is disatisfied with the amount of alcoholism in China. This may be a good place for the Chinese government to introduce new legislation that restricts the number of vendors who can sell alcohol or similar reforms.

Obviously, over-drinking isn't the only issue at hand. People don't go on killing sprees just because they've had too much to drink. When violent tragedies occur, too many people say 'I didn't see this coming,' but there are always warning signs. I have a feeling that conditions at Shenxing mine were not optimal for either the physical or mental health of its workers. What was the nature of the relationship between Mr. Li and the 'customer' that spurred this murderous rampage? What channels exist (if any) that could have settled this dispute peacefully?

Alas, we may never know.
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[personal profile] treesahquiche
At a time when the prospects for immigration overhaul seem most dim, supporters have unleashed a secret weapon: a group of influential evangelical Christian leaders.

Normally on the opposite side of political issues backed by the Obama White House, these leaders are aligning with the president to support an overhaul that would include some path to legalization for illegal immigrants already here. They are preaching from pulpits, conducting conference calls with pastors and testifying in Washington -- as they did last Wednesday.

"I am a Christian and I am a conservative and I am a Republican, in that order," said Matthew D. Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, a conservative religious law firm. "There is very little I agree with regarding President Barack Obama. On the other hand, I'm not going to let politicized rhetoric or party affiliation trump my values, and if he's right on this issue, I will support him on this issue."

I was all optimistic about this, but really, it just goes downhill from here. )


I don't know how to feel about this. I'd like to see comprehensive immigration reform happen, but I don't think I could work alongside evangelicals -- who are anti-choice and anti-LGBT rights, and thus anti-women's rights -- to make it happen. They're just so hypocritical! "We are pro-family, unless of course your family isn't a conventional heteronormative nuclear family, in which case we'll just leave you to rot." How can they pick and choose like that on an issue that impacts so many people's lives?

Also, since when did the Arizona law have "overwhelming public support" amongst people who weren't bigots with strong ties to the KKK? Do racists suddenly love brown people when they realize that it's a couple hundred thousand more votes in their pockets if they play nice?
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[personal profile] mistersandman

When she became a mother, her body was shackled. She gave birth to her son with her ankles shackled to the hospital bed. Arnita remained shackled as she held her son for the first time and while she nursed him. Like Arnita, most mothers behind bars are restrained during labor, delivery and post-delivery as a matter of routine practice in our nation's jails and prisons.

Shawanna Nelson, who was also shackled during labor, brought a lawsuit against the Arkansas Department of Corrections for cruel and unusual punishment. Thanks to her courage and the common sense of a panel of judges, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that the shackling of prisoners during labor is unconstitutional.

Read more... )

By Malika Saada Saar, Founder and Executive Director of the Rebecca Project for Human Rights, a national policy and advocacy organization for vulnerable families.
This story is almost a year old, I'm posting it because it's a lot more interesting than any I could find reporting the news that Ed Rendell signed a bill that forbids this practice in Pennsylvania.  As it stands, there are still 43 states that allow this barbaric practice.   If you do not live in Vermont, Washington, California, Illinois, New York, New Mexico, or Texas, please contact your local representative.

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[personal profile] treesahquiche
(Trigger warning: semi-graphic depiction of abortion, mention of violent physical and sexual assault)

Dr. X is a physician at a community health center and a medical school faculty member in the Midwest. Health Affairs does not normally publish articles under pseudonyms, but given recent murders of abortion providers and other violent attacks against them, we decided not to publish the physician's real name out of concern for her personal safety. As always, we welcome Narrative Matters essays from varying perspectives.

"This is a clinic where they kill babies!" A woman in a black beret stopped me as I entered an abortion clinic. Pamphlets in hand, she asked me with concern, "Are you pregnant? Do you need help?"

I wasn't pregnant. I was on my way to work.

I went to medical school to promote life. I defined that loosely: I wanted to do what I could to keep individuals healthy so we could be part of loving families and build healthy communities, supporting each other and enjoying being alive. While I was in medical school, a friend became pregnant after date rape, and I supported her through an abortion.

Around that time, I attended a talk at the medical school by the journalist Jack Hitt. He discussed "Who Will Do Abortions Here?" -- his powerful, eye-opening New York Times article from 1998 about the threat to legalized abortion in the United States because of the lack of providers.

Then, as now, the number of abortion providers was dwindling. The number went from 2,680 providers in 1985 to 1,787 in 2005, the latest year for which statistics are available. Hitt described the upcoming retirement of the generation of obstetrician/gynecologists (OB/GYNs) who had watched women bleed to death from botched abortions and had responded to those tragedies by staffing clinics when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in its 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade.

But no new generation of abortion providers was being trained, Hitt told us. When teaching hospitals merged with religious hospitals where abortions were banned, abortions were no longer done -- or taught -- at the teaching institutions. Other programs began to make abortion training optional: OB/GYN or family medicine residents who wanted the training needed to add it to their already heavy loads of required courses. Threats to the lives of abortion providers and their families dissuaded some practitioners from providing these services, even though they were trained to perform them and the procedure is legal. More than half of all abortion practitioners were past retirement age, Hitt said. One elderly practitioner flew his own plane to reach women in four states -- he was the sole abortion provider in North Dakota -- despite regular death threats.

There are now an estimated 1.5 million abortions each year in the United States, making it the most common surgical procedure. Yet there are fewer and fewer abortion providers available. One-quarter of women needing abortions must travel more than fifty miles for the procedure; 6 percent must travel to another state. During my medical training, I saw many women with an unwanted pregnancy, and I witnessed wide variation in the options that doctors offered patients in that situation.

Click for the full essay. )


Reposted from this community's LiveJournal counterpart.

This is an issue that's extremely important to me, not only because I'm a feminist. Even though I grew up after Roe v. Wade, I know too well what the consequences of not having access to safe and legal abortions are. My grandmother was a prenatal surgeon who was relocated by the Chinese government to a labor camp during the Cultural Revolution; my mother worked in one of the largest hospitals in Shanghai (the one where I was born in) and, as a pharmacist and clinician, assisted in several medical abortions. After immigrating to the United States, my life would have been very different if, while my family was still struggling to make ends meet as strangers in a strange land, my mother did not have access to a safe, legal, and affordable abortion.

It makes me very sad that a woman's right to choose is even an issue for political debate in this country, which touts itself as the land of the free and home of the brave.
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[personal profile] mistersandman

It's a story that's received virtually no coverage in the Western media, but thousands of South Africans held a march in Durban today to protest against the government's massive spending on the World Cup. They were joined by hundreds of stewards caught up in the ongoing dispute over low wages, which saw riot police break up a demonstration with tear gas and percussive grenades on Sunday, and which has now spread to five of the ten South African World Cup stadiums. From the Mail & Guardian, a South African paper:

"Get out Fifa mafia!" chanted the crowds in a Durban park, their ranks swelled by stewards who were involved in clashes with riot police on Monday after protests over their wages.

Monday's protests triggered walkouts by other stewards, which have led South Africa's police to take control at the World Cup stadiums in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg and Durban.

Ever since it was awarded the staging rights, South Africa's government has faced accusations it should not be spending hundreds of millions of dollars on stadiums when about 40% of the population lives on less than $2 a day.

Spending on the World Cup has cost South Africa around $4.3 billion, a significantly higher figure than was estimated in their initial bid, and due to a variety of factors, early hopes of a financial windfall for the country have largely been dashed. Ticket sales to foreigners have been slower than expected, and FIFA, thanks to the concessions it demands from any country that wants to host the tournament, is apparently paying no taxes on the event. FIFA expects its own World Cup profits to approach $3 billion from television rights alone.

In the meantime, the South African government has asked its citizens to use less electricity to ensure a smooth power supply for the World Cup.

"We urge our communities and the public at large to continuously reduce their consumption of electricity, and thus ensure that Eskom and other role-players are able to keep the lights on,” Energy Minister Dipuo Peters said.

The minister expressed satisfaction that the stadia hosting the games have not experienced any electricity disruption so far.

Image: Getty Images

Irony behind the cut! )

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[personal profile] xdawnfirex

There has been a small outbreak of “zombism” in London due to mutation of the H1N1 virus into new strain: H1Z1.

Similar to a scare originally found in Cambodia back in 2005, victims of a new strain of the swine flu virus H1N1 have been reported in London.

After death, this virus is able to restart the heart of it’s victim for up to two hours after the initial demise of the person where the individual behaves in extremely violent ways from what is believe to be a combination of brain damage and a chemical released into blood during “resurrection.”

I honestly cannot figure out if this is a satire or not. )



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