Monthly Archives: October 2011

On This Day…

Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (1917-1984...

Image via Wikipedia

In 1984, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated near her residence by two Sikh security guards.

Leave a comment

Filed under On This Day, World

Georgia University Requires Employees to Sign Anti-Gay Pledge

Rainbow flag flapping in the wind with blue sk...

Image via Wikipedia

A Baptist university in Georgia is requiring all its employees to sign a “personal lifestyle statement” rejecting homosexuality.

According to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Shorter University issued the statement on October 26. It requires signers to affirm four principles, one of which is “I reject as acceptable all sexual activity not in agreement with the Bible, including, but not limited to, premarital sex, adultery, and homosexuality.” Employees must also agree not to drink alcohol in public, or to drink anywhere within six hours of a university function.

All employees have to sign, and Shorter president Don Dowless has confirmed that those who don’t will likely be fired.

At least one of the college’s 200 employees privately identifies as gay and told the Georgia Voice (anonymously) that the new policy could result in persecution: “We now will live in fear that someone who doesn’t like us personally or someone who has had a bad day will report that we’ve been drinking or that we are suspected of being gay.”

Alumni, students, and former faculty have launched a petition protesting the new lifestyle statement, and a protest is planned for November.

Via Jezebel.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sick Sad World

Ohio Anti-Union Law Will Bring Voters to the Polls

The collective bargaining rights that sent public employees to the Wisconsin statehouse in droves last spring will now send Ohio voters to the polls this fall.

At issue is a law, known as Senate Bill 5, that eliminates public employees’ right to collectively bargain or strike. It also requires public workers pay at least 15% of their health insurance premiums and at least 10% of their salary to their pensions. If the ‘no’ votes prevail on the ballot initiative, known as Issue 2, Senate Bill 5 will be overturned.

The latest Quinnipiac University poll shows 57% of Ohio voters support repealing the law.

The unpopular ballot initiative has proved less than a boon for Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. The Republican front-runner stumbled this week over his support for the collective bargaining limits, saying Tuesday at a campaign stop in Ohio that he was “not speaking about the particular ballot issues, those are up to the people of Ohio.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Romney clarified that he was “110 percent” supportive of Governor John Kasich’s attempt to cut budget deficits by scaling back collective bargaining rights.


Filed under Politics

Militias Terrorize Former Gaddafi Supporters

More than 100 militia brigades from Misrata have operated outside any official duty since Tripoli fell in August.  Militia members have engaged in torture, pursued enemies all over the country, and shot people in detention.

Bullet shells litter a besieged street of Misrata (Photo courtesy of the Huffington Post)

The militias are preventing the entire displaced town of Tawergha from returning home.  The militias believe Tawergha was sympathetic to Gaddafi and provided him support. In western Libya, anti-Gaddafi militias have looted and burned the homes and schools of groups that supported the deposed dictator.

Other militias are looting property as compensation for damages suffered during the war.

The recent execution of fifty-three pro-Gaddafi supporters at a hotel in Sirte was under the control of the Misrata militias. It was a Misrata militia that captured and killed Gaddafi while he was in their custody.  Details of how and why his death occurred are still unknown.

The Misratans have made it clear they detest anyone who supported Gaddafi.

Misrata withstood a two-month siege from Qaddafi’s forces with attacks that left 1,000 of its citizens dead. The city now is a shell of its former self.

The militia is focusing its anger on Tawergha, a town south of Misrata.  Residents from Tawergha took up arms to fight for Gaddafi.  The Misratans claim these volunteers are guilty of raping and pillaging, though they have yet to produce any evidence.

Most Tawerghans fled their town as Misratan fighters advanced on it in mid-August.  Witnesses and victims have provided accounts of the Misratan militias shooting and wounding unarmed Tawerghans and torturing detainees, in a few cases to death.

In Hun, located 250 miles from Misrata, Benghazi militias are protecting 4,000 Tawerghan refugees.  The Misratans are hunting the Tawerghans all over the country.

Representatives of the National Transitional Council (NTC) have issued statements, agreeing with the Misrata militias, saying that no Tawerghans should return home.

The plan of not allowing refugees to return home is not limited to Tawerghans.  The Misratans have made it clear that any group that supported Gaddafi will not be tolerated.

Human Rights Watch has called the forced resettlement and abuses of the refugees a crime against humanity.

The NTC says it plans to open investigations into any post-war abuses, but it has yet to respond directly to the allegations of the crimes committed by the militias.

Via Impunity Watch.

1 Comment

Filed under World

Herman Cain Settled a Case (or Two or More) for Sexual Harassment

Herman Cain

Image via Wikipedia

Last evening, Politico published a report that reveals that Herman Cain was accused of inappropriate sexual behavior by at least two female employees when he was head of the National Restaurant Association in the late 1990s. Both women, whose names haven’t been released, signed agreements with the group that gave them financial settlements in return for leaving the association and agreeing not to talk about the circumstances of their departure. Politico has pieced together the nature of the allegations:

The sources – which include the recollections of close associates and other documentation – describe episodes that left the women upset and offended. These incidents include conversations allegedly filled with innuendo or personal questions of a sexually suggestive nature, taking place at hotels during conferences, at other officially sanctioned restaurant association events and at the association’s offices. There were also descriptions of physical gestures that were not overtly sexual but that made women who experienced or witnessed them uncomfortable and that they regarded as improper in a professional relationship.

One woman is said to have received an “unwanted sexual advance” from Cain at a hotel where an association event was held. Other anonymous sources say they were troubled by the effort to keep the women quiet and not addressing the allegations.

Mr. Cain’s response to the allegations has been as eloquent as you’d expect. First, his campaign ignored Politico’s request for comment for four days. Then, his spokesman J.D. Gordon said:

These are old and tired allegations that never stood up to the facts … This was settled amicably among all parties many years ago, and dredging this up now is merely part of a smear campaign meant to discredit a true patriot who is shaking up the political status quo.

Later, Mr. Gordon amended the statement, saying he meant the matter was “resolved,” not “settled” in a legal sense. This week, he told Politico that Mr. Cain was “vaguely familiar” with the situation.

When a Politico reporter approached Mr. Cain on the sidewalk, he avoided answering the questions, saying he has “had thousands of people working for me” throughout the years and couldn’t comment “until I see some facts or some concrete evidence.”

He was then asked, “Have you ever been accused, sir, in your life of harassment by a woman?”

He breathed audibly, glared at the reporter and stayed silent for several seconds. After the question was repeated three times, he responded by asking the reporter, “Have you ever been accused of sexual harassment?”

Well deflected, Mr. Cain! Well deflected.


Filed under Politics, Stupid Is As Stupid Does

American and Canadian Scout Organizations Did Not Report Scout Leader who Molested Boys

History of the Boy Scouts of America

Image via Wikipedia

Scout leader Rick Turley allegedly molested at least fifteen children, most of whom he met through American and Canadian Scouting beginning in the 1970s.

Boy Scouts of America officials did not call police after he admitted molesting three boys. Mr. Turley then returned to his home country, where he signed on with Scouts Canada and continued his abuses.

Now fifty-eight, Mr. Turley says he is surprised at how often he got away with it.

Mr. Turley is one of more than 5,000 suspected child molesters named in confidential files kept by the Boy Scouts of America.

1 Comment

Filed under Sick Sad World, World

Tea Party Group Calls for Michele Bachmann to Quit

Official photo of Congresswoman Michele Bachma...

Image via Wikipedia

Since winning the Iowa Straw Poll, Representative Michele Bachmann‘s poll numbers have dwindled to the single digits. Now, a Tea Party group is publicly accusing the Minnesotan of being an unserious candidate and trying to ride her Tea Party credentials to book sales and calling for her to quit the race.

A Tea Party group that calls itself American Majority would prefer for Rep. Bachmann to step back and leave the race to viable contenders.

The group’s president, Ned Ryun, issued a statement calling for her to quit and accusing her of being nary more than a loose cannon concerned with promoting her book that’s coming out next month.

As her poll numbers fall, the group worries she’ll stray from the Tea Party’s economic message and start talking abortion and gays, which draws attention away from the fact that Tea Partiers hate to pay taxes.

Rep. Bachmann’s camp thinks the group wants her out because Ryun supports Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Her campaign manager responded,

The strength of the Tea Party is all individual’s opinions are valued but the no single leader speaks for it. Mr. Ryun, who supports Texas Gov. Rick Perry, is entitled to his own opinion. And that’s exactly what he is expressing. Michele Bachmann enjoys strong support from Americans across party lines and that certainly includes the Tea Party. She will continue to be a strong advocate for the values and principles reflected by the Tea Party as works toward a victory in the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses as she seeks to win the Republican nomination.

Other Tea Party groups haven’t called for Bachmann’s resignation. Most major groups have yet to throw their support behind one candidate, even though it’s pretty obvious that Michele Bachmann will not be the Republican party’s 2012 Presidential nominee.

Meanwhile, Rep. Bachmann’s still out there campaigning. On Thursday, she lamented the moral hazard of providing debt relief to student loan holders:

There is a morality in keeping our financial promises, and I don’t think we should push that off onto the taxpayer. The individual needs to repay and be responsible for repaying their student loan debt.

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics

Republicans vs. Science: Drilling Edition

Cover of "Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less...

Cover via Amazon

After the nation’s largest offshore oil spill and a series of pipeline breaks, Republican Presidential candidates are still pushing an aggressive policy of oil and gas drilling.

This time around, the calls for more drilling sometimes run into another conservative ideal: preserving wild places for future generations. The millions of gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico last year and the crude that flowed into Montana’s Yellowstone River and Michigan’s Kalamazoo River put a spotlight on the risks of energy production.

Nearly every Republican White House contender has a plan to harness the nation’s resources to create employment by opening up vast areas to drilling.

Texas Governor Rick Perry says we are sitting “on a treasure trove of energy in this country.”

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has said “we’re an energy-rich nation that’s acting like an energy-poor nation.”

Since former House Speaker Newt Gingrich published his book Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less, he has touted more drilling in Alaska and the West.

Some of the ideas sound like they’re inherited directly from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 Vice Presidential nominee who popularized “drill, baby, drill.” At the party’s national convention that year, Palin told the crowd, “We need American energy resources, brought to you by American ingenuity and produced by American workers.”

Gov. Perry, announcing his jobs plan in Pittsburgh, said, “The quickest way to give our economy a shot in the arm is to deploy American ingenuity to tap American energy.”

Gov. Romney thinks the country can drill off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann says she would consider drilling in the Florida Everglades. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who wants to open up the Arctic to drilling, has accused President Barack Obama of putting caribou ahead of “something good for our country and our economy.” Businessman Herman Cain believes the idea that high energy consumption and conservation are at odds is a myth.

Voters will face a choice next year on the ballot between the Republican nominee and Pres. Obama, who has taken a cautious approach to expanding oil and gas production, so cautious that critics accuse him of locking up resources. His administration gave BP the go-ahead to drill a new deepwater well in the Gulf of Mexico, the company’s first since its spill last year. The administration also has granted other companies deepwater permits.

Gov. Romney said the spill provided Pres. Obama “political cover” for policies to limit drilling. Gov. Perry called the spill “just an act of God” that could not have been prevented.

Investigations by the federal government and the companies involved blame faulty decisions for the blowout that killed eleven and sent more than 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

In an interview, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar defended the administration’s approach:

I don’t think we should be drilling anywhere and everywhere, and I think those who propose it are wrong. Drilling for oil in Everglades is not going to resolve the energy challenges we face as a country. What we need to do is to have a broad energy portfolio … that does include oil and gas, but it has to be done in the right places and it has to be done with the right kind of review and the right kind of regulatory oversight.

Even in the Republican Party, not everyone shares the view of the primary contenders. After Rep. Bachmann’s comment on the Everglades, Rep. Allen West (R-FL), sent her a letter arguing that “the Everglades represents one of the most cherished treasures of the United States, and should be off limits for exploration of any kind of natural energy resource.”

Conservation-minded Republicans have invoked Pres. Ronald Reagan and Sen. Barry Goldwater in arguing for the protection of natural resources.

William K. Reilly, the top environmental official under President George H.W. Bush, has warned about the risks of a spill in waters off Alaska.

Via HuffPo.

Leave a comment

Filed under Economy, Environment, National, Politics, Science Schmience

Death Row Exoneree Pleas for DNA Testing for Hank Skinner

Kirk Bloodsworth was exonerated by DNA testing in 1993 after spending eight years in Maryland prison, two on death row, for a crime he did not commit. Mr. Bloodsworth was the first exoneree in a capital conviction in the United States. Below, he writes a passionate plea to Texas officials to test the DNA in the case of Hank Skinner:

Test the DNA. That is the simple request of Hank Skinner to Texas officials before they carry out his execution, which is scheduled for November 9. I do not know if Mr. Skinner is innocent or guilty — but I do know firsthand the critical importance of DNA testing. Nearly twenty years ago, I became the first person in the United States exonerated from death row when post-conviction DNA testing proved my innocence.

In 1985, I was convicted and sentenced to death in Maryland for a crime I did not commit. I spent eight years in prison, two of those on death row, before I obtained the testing that led to my exoneration.

DNA testing not only proved my innocence. Ten years after I was released from prison, DNA helped identify the true person who committed the tragic murder of a young girl for which I had faced execution. That person confessed and is serving life in prison.

The only reason my name was cleared, and the right man brought to justice, is because prosecutors agreed to test the evidence. I am living proof that when scientific evidence is available, there is simply no excuse to refuse testing.

Texas officials have senselessly fought against DNA testing in Mr. Skinner’s case for over a decade. Mr. Skinner came within one hour of execution last year before the U.S. Supreme Court intervened. He now faces execution again despite the State’s continuing to vehemently block testing of key pieces of never-tested DNA evidence.

Such testing could resolve the doubts that persist in Mr. Skinner’s case. For example, a man’s windbreaker was found next to the body of Mr. Skinner’s girlfriend Twila Busby, who was tragically murdered along with her two sons. Untested DNA evidence on the windbreaker includes blood spatter, human hairs, and perspiration stains. Investigation after Mr. Skinner was sent to Death Row revealed that another suspect had stalked Ms. Busby at a party on the night of the murder and left the party shortly after she did.

It would be indefensible for Texas to execute Mr. Skinner without taking the simple step of testing the DNA evidence. Over a dozen former prosecutors, judges and law enforcement and current and former Texas elected officials have called on state officials, including the Gray County District Attorney, the Texas Attorney General and Governor Rick Perry, to conduct the DNA testing. The State ought to heed these calls and do everything possible to be sure they have convicted the right person, particularly when it comes to death penalty cases.

Since my exoneration, I have worked to ensure that no defendants are denied the critical testing that saved my life. That is why I helped champion a federal law in 2004 to provide funds for post-conviction DNA testing.

Just this year, Texas lawmakers similarly recognized the vital importance of DNA testing. In May, the Texas Legislature passed a law expanding access to post-conviction DNA testing. The new law is designed for cases like Mr. Skinner’s, where available DNA evidence has never been tested. Testing reliable scientific evidence can provide certainty and help maintain confidence in the criminal justice system.

The State has absolutely nothing to lose by putting off Mr. Skinner’s upcoming execution to allow these tests to be conducted. Whether DNA proves Mr. Skinner’s guilt or innocence, Texas officials should not be afraid of seeking the truth.

DNA allowed the mistakes in my case to be caught in time. Texas must test the evidence in Mr. Skinner’s case before it is too late.



Filed under Crime and Punishment, Science

Discrimination Case against Wal-Mart Refiled in California

A protest in Utah against Wal-Mart

Image via Wikipedia

On Thursday, four months after the Supreme Court tossed out their class-action lawsuit, lawyers representing women claiming that Wal-Mart discriminated against them filed a new lawsuit that narrowed their claims to the California stores of the chain.

The lawyers promised an “armada” of other lawsuits making discrimination claims in other regions of the country. “The case we are starting today is the first of many,” said Brad Seligman, one of the lead plaintiff lawyers.

In rejecting the earlier lawsuit, the Supreme Court found that the plaintiffs, who sought back pay for 1.5 million women nationwide, failed to prove that the legal and factual issues involving those women had enough in common to be examined as a single class.

The new suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, contends that discriminatory practices on pay and promotion affected 90,000 women employed at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores in California and neighboring states.

Wal-Mart dismissed the lawsuit as more of the same.

In its June ruling in Dukes v. Wal-Mart, the Supreme Court did not decide whether Wal-Mart discriminated against women. Instead, the Court concluded the suit did not satisfy requirements that the people in the class had questions of law or fact in common.

Joseph M. Sellers, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, said the new lawsuit was tailored to discuss the Supreme Court’s concerns.

The lawsuit describes Wal-Mart’s California region being governed by a “good old boy philosophy” where job opportunities were passed along word-of-mouth, usually to men. One California regional vice president, for instance, suggested that women did not seek management positions because of their “family commitments,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit suggests that such attitudes were pervasive company wide.

The origins of the suit date to 1999, when Stephanie Odle was fired after complaining that she was discriminated against because of her sex. She discovered that a male employee with the same job and less experience was making $23,000 a year more than she was.


Filed under Sidebar