So what are YOUR plans for the weekend?
Open thread below...
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So what are YOUR plans for the weekend?
Open thread below...
President Barack Obama has thrown the switch, bathing the National Christmas Tree in lights and giving an otherwise dreary day in the nation's capital a festive and seasonal spirit.
As he and his family flipped the switch to light the National Christmas Tree Thursday night, President Barack Obama said he hopes the tree lasts longer than its predecessor, which died after just a year.
"Our tree has been having a hard time recently. This is our third one in as many years," Obama said, noting that a tree that stood near the White House for more than three decades was lost in a storm early last year. Its replacement didn't take hold.
"It just goes to show, nobody's job is safe here in Washington," Obama joked.
One month after winning re-election, Obama said he is optimistic about the latest tree, a 28-foot blue spruce that was transplanted just days before Hurricane Sandy and made it through the storm seemingly unharmed.
As soon as the tree burst into color, singing diva Aretha Franklin took to the stage for a spirited version of "Joy to the World."
The first lady read "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," taking turns with a Sesame Street Muppet named Abby.
The National Christmas Tree ablaze with white lights and stars, Obama joined the singers on stage in a singalong version of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" before heading home, a short motorcade ride away.
"War on Christmas," indeed.
With wire reports
After democracy came, they tore down the prison where freedom fighters were held and used the bricks to build the nation's first Constitutional Court.
Visitors to South Africa are often struck by the depth and breadth of that country's affection for Nelson Mandela. I still have the newspaper I bought at a supermarket checkout counter there on the day of Mandela's planned release from the hospital. The headline uses Mandela's clan name and reads, "Madiba expected to return home today."
20 years ago it would have been unthinkable to imagine kind words about an ANC leader, much less the use of an African clan name, in a supermarket tabloid. Times change.
But Nelson Mandela wasn't a "personality" politician. He was the leader of a movement and a model for the world. We'll be learning from his example long after the eulogies have ended.
Mandela the Teacher
Not long after his release from prison, Mandela made a cameo appearance in Spike Lee's film biography of Malcolm X. As the film ends he reads Malcolm X's words to a room full of schoolchildren:
"We declare our right on this Earth: to be a man, to be a human being, to be given the rights of a human being, to be respected as a human being; in this society, on this Earth, on this day which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary."
Mandela was making a strong political statement by reading those words to American film audiences in 1992, while he was still negotiating a transition plan with the apartheid government. (Today it may be a strong political statement to portray a schoolteacher for American audiences, given the coordinated political assault now underway against public schools and those who teach there.)
Nelson Mandela had, and has, much to teach the rest of the world - about courage, about idealism, about leadership. His speeches to activists around the world, especially those who helped in the struggle against apartheid, often ended with words that would also be appropriate for a teacher addressing his students."We respect you," Mandela would say, "we admire you, and above all we love you."
Mandela the Fighter
Outside the Magistrates Court in Johannesburg stands a statue of young Nelson Mandela as a boxer. The sculpture is based on a 1953 photograph of Mandela sparring on a rooftop with a professional boxer named Jerry Moloi.
This would never happen here, because the U.S. is special and no corporation would ever risk a major catastrophe just to shave a couple of bucks off their costs:
(Reuters) - Storage tanks at the Fukushima nuclear plant like one that spilled almost 80,000 gallons of radioactive water this year were built in part by workers illegally hired in one of the poorest corners of Japan, say labor regulators and some of those involved in the work.
"Even if we didn't agree with how things were being done, we had to keep quiet and work fast," said Yoshitatsu Uechi, 48, a mechanic and former bus driver, who was one of a crew of 17 workers recruited in Okinawa and sent to Fukushima in June 2012 - among the thousands of workers from across Japan who have put together the emergency water tanks and stabilized the plant after three reactor meltdowns that were triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The Okinawa crew was recruited by Token Kogyo, an unregistered broker, and passed on to work at the Fukushima plant under the direction of Tec, a larger contractor which reported to construction firm Taisei Corp, records show. That practice of having workers hired by a broker but managed by another contractor is banned under Japanese law to protect workers from having their wages skimmed and to clarify who is responsible for their safety.
In September, Okinawa labor regulators sanctioned Token Kogyo after investigating a complaint by Uechi and concluding the broker improperly sent workers to Fukushima, said an official with knowledge of the order, which was not made public. The official said Token Kogyo did not have the required license to dispatch workers. Japan's labor laws also prohibit third-party brokers from sending workers to construction jobs like the tank assembly where the Okinawa crew was employed. The sanction is a written order to improve business practice.
At Fukushima, the workers from Okinawa were told by a Tec supervisor to lie to the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co, and say they were employed by Tec, according to Uechi, three other workers, employment documents and a recording of a workplace briefing reviewed by Reuters.
I knew the Kochs were pouring money into 2012, but even I didn't expect it to amount to what it did. According to Open Secrets, Koch-funded organizations represented one-quarter of the dark money spent in 2012. That's one-quarter of all dark money, not just conservative funding.
In 2012 alone, $301 million poured into this system -- $196 million of which was given, in the form of grants, to dark money groups that engaged in federal electioneering. The network includes such well-known groups as Americans for Prosperity, 60 Plus and Americans for Job Security -- copiously funded 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations and 501(c)(6) trade associations, none of which are required to disclose their donors to the public. Some of the entities in the web are simply way stations for cash that is doled out to other, more politically active groups in the system.
On the other side of the ledger, political spending reported by this system's members to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) came to $170 million in 2012. The Center for Responsive Politics estimates that roughly $86 million of that -- or more than one-fourth of all dark money spending reported in 2012 -- came in the form of grants from other Koch-linked groups.
The aggregation here is important, because Open Secrets didn't just focus on groups accountable to the FEC, but pulled in the money trail from all of the related so-called "non-partisan" nonprofit organizations who operate under the guise of being a think tank or policy shop.
Remember this next time someone starts whining about IRS persecution. The only abuse of the system here is on the part of billionaires, not government agencies.
Fox News editor Adam Shaw is quite cross with Pope Francis. In fact he's so incensed that he equated Pope Francis' popularity with that of President-elect Barack Obama, and not in a very nice way.
Pope Francis is undergoing a popularity surge comparable to the way Barack Obama was greeted by the world in 2008. And just as President Obama has been a disappointment for America, Pope Francis will prove a disaster for the Catholic Church.
My fellow Catholics should be suspicious when bastions of anti-Catholicism in the left-wing media are in love with him.
Just like President Obama loved apologizing for America, Pope Francis likes to apologize for the Catholic Church, thinking that the Church is at its best when it is passive and not offending anyone’s sensibilities.
In his interviews with those in the left-wing media he seeks to impress, Francis has said that the Church needs to stop being ‘obsessed’ with abortion and gay marriage, and instead of seeking to convert people, “we need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us.”
This softly-softly approach of not making a fuss has been tried before, and failed. The Second Vatican Council of the 1960’s aimed to “open the windows” of the Church to the modern world by doing just this.
The result was the Catholic version of New Coke. Across the West where the effects were felt, seminaries and convents emptied, church attendance plummeted, and adherence to Church doctrine diminished.
John Paul II and Benedict XVI worked hard to turn this trend around, but now Pope Francis wants the bad old days to resume.
Shaw is actually calling Pope Francis a Catholic apologist to the left like conservatives called President Obama an American apologist to the Muslim brotherhood. This man is very sick and angry. Where's the outrage from the religious right over all these nasty comments that are erupting from conservatives like Rush Limbaugh, Stuart Varney and many others? Bill O'Reilly has been pretty mute on the topic of pope bashing and he's never stopped trashing liberals if he thought they were being unkind to Catholics. Where's Bill Donohue of the Catholic League? Remember when Donohue's group attacked a Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan as being anti-Catholic which resulted in them having to leave the Edwards campaign? Howard Kurtz was all over that story.
Shaw is saying that the new Pope will destroy the Catholic church and I'd say attacking the a sitting Pope like this has been unheard of since the religious right took over the GOP.
Okay, so you’re not going to believe this, so here’s the link.
There’s a 51 year old guy named Doug Sedenquist who lives in Michigan. Doug got arrested because it’s a felony not to put down the rifle you have pointing at yourself in your pickup truck, even if you are a major proponent of open carry. He had a court date set on this case but he had to miss it.
Wanna know why?
Because he was back in jail for extortion, stalking and possession of a drug chemically similar to a controlled substance.
Dude, some lawyer is getting a new Beemer thanks to you.
And why did I want to tell you this story?
Doug is the former vice chairman of the Delta County GOP, and is now a Tea Party activist and hosts a radio show.
Yeah, that stuff can drive you crazy. And that’s a fact.
This is why we can't have nice things. While the media has long pushed the idea that Jeb Bush is the smart one in the family, he often disproves that theory. Just recently, he posted the following on Twitter:
"Why would our President close our Embassy to the Vatican? Hopefully, it is not retribution for Catholic organizations opposing Obamacare."
Jeb apparently got the notion from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, actual GOP party leaders who seem devoted to lying...
“The media is reporting that President Obama plans to close the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican. This is just the latest anti-religion pursuit of this administration, a slap in the face to Catholic-Americans around the country that weakens America’s position as a global leader. Sign the Petition telling President Obama to leave the American Embassy at the Vatican.”
– petition campaign by the National Republican Senatorial Committee
No, President Obama is not "closing America's embassy to the Vatican." Last week, the State Department announced it was moving its freestanding Vatican embassy to a compound shared with the U.S. Embassy in Italy and the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. On a call with reporters, a senior State Department official said the purpose for the move was to save money and increase security.
According to Think Progress, the plans for the embassy move actually started under none other than Jeb's brother, George W. Bush, whose administration purchased the buildings adjacent to the U.S. Embassy to Italy.
There are no embassies for any country in Vatican City itself, and Obama is not diminishing U.S. diplomatic relations with the Holy See in any way.
The State Department says the move, which will actually occur in 2015, will save $1.4 million per year and allow for greater security.
Not that the facts will stop Republicans from attempting to create "Vatican-Gate."
Nelson Mandela's long walk from apartheid prisoner to South African president remade a country and inspired the world. Mandela died peacefully at home in Johannesburg aged 95 after spending months in critical condition following treatment for a lung…
Back in 2011, I put my tin foil hat on and suggested that perhaps ALEC was promoting coordinated attacks on unions, schools, and health care across the nation. At the time, there was certainly a sense that they were, but no hard evidence.
Hard evidence has now arrived in the form of a revealing and rage-inducing set of documents published in The Guardian on Thursday.
Conservative groups across the US are planning a coordinated assault against public sector rights and services in the key areas of education, healthcare, income tax, workers' compensation and the environment,documents obtained by the Guardian reveal.
The strategy for the state-level organisations, which describe themselves as "free-market think tanks", includes proposals from six different states for cuts in public sector pensions, campaigns to reduce the wages of government workers and eliminate income taxes, school voucher schemes to counter public education, opposition to Medicaid, and a campaign against regional efforts to combat greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.
The policy goals are contained in a set of funding proposals obtained by the Guardian. The proposals were co-ordinated by the State Policy Network, an alliance of groups that act as incubators of conservative strategy at state level.
The documents contain 40 funding proposals from 34 states, providing a blueprint for the conservative agenda in 2014. In partnership with the Texas Observer and the Portland Press Herald in Maine, the Guardian is publishing SPN's summary of all the proposals to give readers and news outlets full and fair access to state-by-state conservative plans that could have significant impact throughout the US, and to allow the public to reach its own conclusions about whether these activities comply with the spirit of non-profit tax-exempt charities.