Thursday, November 30, 2006

War in Headlines

100 Killed in Iraq Violence
Bush’s summit with Maliki comes amid unrelenting violence in Iraq. At least one hundred and two people were killed Wednesday, including two US troops

Iraq Study Group to Call for Phased Iraq Pullback, Iran-Syria Talks
The bi-partisan Iraq Study Group has agreed to call for a gradual pullback of US troops from Iraq and to open negotiations with Iran and Syria. The report is expected next week.

Advisor: Saudi Arabia Will Intervene in Iraq if US Withdraws
An advisor to the Saudi Arabian government has declared Saudi Arabia will intervene in Iraq to protect the Sunni community if the United States withdraws

UN Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland: "The UN is still not living up to its sworn ability to protect. Too many millions of people in Darfur, Chad, Central African republic are living in utter fear. Too many people in Iraq, Afghanistan or the Palestinian territories as well."
Egeland is the UN’s top humanitarian official.

The U.S. government has agreed to pay two million dollars and apologize to Brandon Mayfield. Mayfield is the Muslim attorney in Oregon jailed two years ago after the FBI mistakenly tied him to the Madrid train bombings.

A German citizen who suffered torture after being kidnapped by the CIA is in the United States to appeal the dismissal of his lawsuit against the US government. Three years ago, Khaled el-Masri was seized along the Serbian-Macedonian border and then flown to Afghanistan where he was tortured inside a secret prison. He was released without charge after five months.
"I went on hunger strike for 37 days and I was force fed thereafter, and then thereafter I was taken to Albania and in the middle of the night I was just dumped in a forest. To this day, I don't know why they did this to me, I don't know why they arrested me in the first place, I don't know why they released me. I do not know."

Pictures of the Day 12/1

The Deccan Queen train burns after it was set afire by protestors demonstrating against the desecration of a statue, one of India's prominent freedom fighters and a leader of low-caste people, in Ulhasnagar, India, on Nov 30. Low-caste groups protesting the desecration of their leader's statue burned train cars, buses and clashed with police at several places in western India, in violence that left at least two people dead and 40 injured, police said.

People gather for the opening of the first Starbucks coffee shop in Brazil in Sao Paulo on Thursday.

Urban Cactus

"Rotterdam's Urban Cactus housing project (UCX Architects) uses ingenious staggered terraces to make huge, sunny spaces, and a building profile that seems to have been parachuted in from 1945's future.
"They placed the 98 residential units on 19 floors, using the pattern of outdoor spaces to determine the overall appearance of the project."

"The slightly irregular pattern alternates these outdoor spaces to create what are in effect double-height spaces. Each unit then receives more sunlight than a typical stacked composition."

An Ancient Computer Surprises Scientists

They said their findings showed that the inscriptions related to lunar-solar motions and the gears were a mechanical representation of the irregularities of the Moon%u2019s orbital course across the sky, as theorized by the astronomer Hipparchos. They established the date of the mechanism at 150-100 B.C...

Historians of technology think the instrument is technically more complex than any known device for at least a millennium afterward.

The mechanism, presumably used in preparing calendars for seasons of planting and harvesting and fixing religious festivals, had at least 30, possibly 37, hand-cut bronze gear-wheels, the researchers reported. An ingenious pin-and-slot device connecting two gear-wheels induced variations in the representation of lunar motions according to the Hipparchos model of the Moon%u2019s elliptical orbit around Earth."

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

AP: Feds collect giant rats in Florida - Yahoo! News

As the rising sun danced across Florida's coastal waters, government workers in shorts and T-shirts knelt in a grassy island field and plucked wriggling rats from traps laid the night before. These weren't just any rats. They were 3-pound, 35-inch-long African behemoths. They squirmed as the workers, wearing protective gloves, removed green radio collars that had been tracking the rodents' movements. All 18 of the animals were carted away for research.
Darin Carroll kept a watchful eye on that dawn mission at Florida's Grassy Key Island. Carroll is no ordinary G-man. He's a disease hunter determined to stop the next outbreak.
Carroll works for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and for three years he has painstakingly tracked the journey of Gambian rats from their African homeland, through the exotic pet trade, and to U.S. homes.
His quest is to prove what many scientists suspect: that African rodents imported as pets caused a monkeypox outbreak in the Midwest in 2003 that sickened dozens of adults and children with a virus related to smallpox. Scientists suspect Gambian rats may play a role"

Welcome to goComics Web Site featuring Ann Telnaes - Online Comics, Editorial Cartoons, Email Comics, Political Cartoons


Monday, November 27, 2006 The Saturday Cartoons

Subdivision Bans Wreath With Peace Sign

AOL News"DENVER (Nov. 27) - A homeowners association in southwestern Colorado has threatened to fine a resident $25 a day until she removes a Christmas wreath with a peace sign that some say is an anti-Iraq war protest or a symbol of Satan.
Homeowners association president Bob Kearns ordered the five architectural control committee members to require the wreath's removal. When they refused, concluding it was merely a seasonal symbol, Kearns fired them."

What American Accent Do You Have?

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The South
The Inland North
The Northeast
North Central
The West
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

Sunday, November 26, 2006

ng to Gifts That Keep On Giving

For Debbie Frazier, every day is a dog day. She scoops poop for a living -- and makes a killing doing it.

Frazier's business, called Poop Busters, specializes in low-tech removal of dog waste. She's been cleaning yards in and around Albuquerque for the better part of 22 years. "It's hard to beat. You're outside petting dogs all day," she told the Albuquerque Tribune. Frazier estimates that she makes more than $100,000 a year, but she said it's working with the animals that makes her happy. "Dogs are a gift from God," she said.

"Dogs are a gift from God," says Poop Busters entrepreneur Debbie Frazier, shown with some canine clients. Frazier says she makes a six-figure income scooping doggie do in Albuquerque. (By Erin Fredrichs -- Albuquerque Tribune)

And their droppings are generating a lot of dough for people willing to do the dirty work. The poop-scooping industry has proved profitable around the country, with some large-scale operations claiming revenues in the hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. The Association of Professional Animal Waste Specialists today boasts 127 members nationwide.

Frazier said when her son was younger he used to joke about her business. Now he plans to take it over when she retires. "I don't care who makes fun of me," she told the Tribune. "I laugh all the way to the bank."

Cities Compete in Hipness Battle to Attract Young

ATLANTA, Nov. 24 — Some cities will do anything they can think of to keep young people from fleeing to a hipper town.

Employees at the Wieden & Kennedy advertising agency, top, at a company basketball game. Below, Nicole Andren assays her shot options.
In Lansing, Mich., partiers can ease from bar to bar on the new Entertainment Express trolley, part of the state’s Cool Cities Initiative. In Portland, Ore., employees at an advertising firm can watch indie rock concerts at lunch and play “bump,” an abbreviated form of basketball, every afternoon.

And in Memphis, employers pay for recruits to be matched with hip young professionals in a sort of corporate Big Brothers program. A new biosciences research park is under construction — not in the suburbs, but downtown, just blocks from the nightlife of Beale Street.

These measures reflect a hard demographic reality: Baby boomers are retiring and the number of young adults is declining. By 2012, the work force will be losing more than two workers for every one it gains.

Cities have long competed over job growth, struggling to revive their downtowns and improve their image. But the latest population trends have forced them to fight for college-educated 25- to 34-year-olds, a demographic group increasingly viewed as the key to an economic future.

Mobile but not flighty, fresh but technologically savvy, “the young and restless,” as demographers call them, are at their most desirable age, particularly because their chances of relocating drop precipitously when they turn 35. Cities that do not attract them now will be hurting in a decade.

“It’s a zero-sum game,” said William H. Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution, noting that one city’s gain can only be another’s loss. “These are rare and desirable people.”

They are people who, demographers say, are likely to choose a location before finding a job. They like downtown living, public transportation and plenty of entertainment options. They view diversity and tolerance as marks of sophistication.

The problem for cities, says Richard Florida, a public policy professor at George Mason University who has written about what he calls “the creative class,” is that those cities that already have a significant share of the young and restless are in the best position to attract more.

“There are a dozen places, at best, that are becoming magnets for these people,” Mr. Florida said.

That disparity was evident in a report released this week by the Metropolitan Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, which showed Atlanta leading the pack among big cities, while other metro areas, like Philadelphia, hemorrhaged young people from 1990 to 2000. (In this competition, surveys that make a city look good are a favorite opening salvo.)

In that decade, the Atlanta study said, the number of 25- to-34-year-olds with four-year college degrees in the city increased by 46 percent, placing Atlanta in the top five metropolitan areas in terms of growth rate, and a close second to San Francisco in terms of overall numbers. Charlotte, N.C., also outperformed Atlanta, with a growth rate of 57 percent, the second highest in the country after Las Vegas.

Woman's body found behind bookcase

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NEW PORT RICHEY, Florida (AP) -- A woman's body was found wedged upside-down behind a bookcase in the home she shared with relatives who had spent nearly two weeks looking for her.

A spokesman for the Pasco County Sheriff's Office said Mariesa Weber's death was not suspicious. Family members said they believe she fell over as she tried to adjust the plug of a television behind the bookshelf.

Weber, 38, came home October 28 and greeted her mother, then wasn't seen again. Her family thought she had been kidnapped and contacted authorities. Family members scoured her room for clues but found nothing, although they did notice a strange smell.

On Nov. 9, Weber's sister went into her bedroom and looked behind a bookcase, where she saw the woman's foot. Using a flashlight, the family saw Weber was wedged upside-down behind the unit.

"I'm sleeping in the same house as her for 11 days, looking for her," her mother, Connie Weber, told the St. Petersburg Times. "And she's right in the bedroom."

Both Weber and her sister previously had adjusted the television plug by standing on a bureau next to the shelf and leaning over the top. Her family believes Weber, who was 5-foot-3 and barely 100 pounds, may have fallen headfirst into the space.

"She's a little thing," her mother said. "And the bookcase is 6 feet tall and solid. And she couldn't get out."

The sheriff's office said Weber appeared to have died because she was unable to breathe in the position she was in.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Soccer players eye Cup glory -- with their ears

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) -- It's no ordinary World Cup: the soccer ball sounds like the clatter of a rattlesnake's tail, fans are barred from cheering too loudly and the sidelines are clear plastic walls meant to keep the players in-bounds.

Save for the goalkeepers, all of the athletes are legally blind.

Welcome to the fourth World Championships of Soccer for the Blind.

Every four years, players compete for Cup glory in an eight-nation tournament drawing hundreds, not millions, of fans to a game without the noisy hype of media and merchandising. Yet even in sightless soccer, the rivalries are fierce.

Brazil drubbed France 4-1 on Friday as the tournament opened on a cement court less than half the size of an ordinary soccer field.

Grass would mute the telltale sound of the ball and scrambling feet -- radar-like clues to blind players moving at breakneck speed.

Over and over, players shout "Voy! Voy!" -- Spanish for "I'm going! going!" -- as they signal their position.

Agile and fleet, they chased a leather soccer ball that looks like any other, save the sound of ball bearings rattling in four metal "sound chambers" inside

Friday, November 24, 2006

A gift list for...passive aggressives

Chaos Theory:
"Some suggestions:
A beautiful piece of
clothing that is either several sizes too big if the recipient is thin
(implying that the person looks fatter than they are) or several sizes
too small if the recipient is overweight. If the latter, perhaps write
in the card insinuating that the recipient should aspire to fit into it.

A gift certificate for an hour in a sensory deprivation tank for someone with claustrophobia

The DVD of Charlotte's Web for someone with arachnophobia

A baker's dozen of their favorite cookies for someone with triskaidekaphobia

A gift certificate to the local mall for someone with� agoraphobia

For intimate partners to give each other (unrequested) household tools. Darling, I knew you wanted a blender.

Bride's magazine subscription for your sister who desperately wants to
find a man, and/or just broke up wth one, and/or can't get him to

One year my aunt and uncle got me a supersoaker without getting my
little brother one. The next year, my parents got my cousin a slingshot.

I had a rabidly homophobic acquaintence that had a big birthday party.
Some friends and I bought him a nice tee-shirt, from the International
Male catalogue, and had it delivered to his home. This simple act
placed him on many a GLB mailing list."

Chilean boy born with fetus in his stomach

SANTIAGO, Chile - A boy has been born in Chile with a fetus in his stomach in what doctors said was a rare case of "fetus in fetu" in which one twin becomes trapped inside another during pregnancy and continues to grow inside it.

Doctors carried out a scan on the boy's mother shortly before she gave birth on Nov. 15 in the southern city of Temuco and noticed the 4-inch-long fetus inside the boy's abdomen.

It had limbs and a partially developed spinal cord but no head and stood no chance of survival, doctors said.

Leaked Drug Company Memo: Santorum Loss "Creates A Big Hole We Will Need To Fill"..."We Now Have Fewer Allies In The Senate"

A post-election e-mail to executives at the drug company GlaxoSmithKline details just how tough. "We now have fewer allies in the Senate," says the internal memo, obtained by The Washington Post. "Thus, there is greater risk over the next two years that bad amendments will be offered to pending legislation." The company's primary concerns are bills that would allow more imported drugs and would force price competition for drugs bought under Medicare.

The defeat of Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) "creates a big hole we will need to fill," the e-mail says. Sen.-elect Jon Tester (D-Mont.) "is expected to be a problem," it says, and the elevation to the Senate of Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) "will strengthen his ability to challenge us

Leaked Drug Company Memo: Santorum Loss "Creates A Big Hole We Will Need To Fill"..."We Now Have Fewer Allies In The Senate"

A post-election e-mail to executives at the drug company GlaxoSmithKline details just how tough. "We now have fewer allies in the Senate," says the internal memo, obtained by The Washington Post. "Thus, there is greater risk over the next two years that bad amendments will be offered to pending legislation." The company's primary concerns are bills that would allow more imported drugs and would force price competition for drugs bought under Medicare.

The defeat of Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) "creates a big hole we will need to fill," the e-mail says. Sen.-elect Jon Tester (D-Mont.) "is expected to be a problem," it says, and the elevation to the Senate of Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) "will strengthen his ability to challenge us

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Tammy Duckworth named head of Veterans Affairs for Illinois

by Joe in DC - 11/21/2006 04:32:00 PM
One of the biggest outrages of the 2006 cycle was when the Veterans of Foreign Wars endorsed Veteran Tammy Duckworth's opponent. Duckworth lost both of her legs in Iraq. Her opponent never served in the military. Although she lost, Duckworth was a class act throughout the campaign and after. Now, she's got a new job - still serving:Iraq war veteran and failed congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth has a new mission: directing the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs, Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced Tuesday.Leading the agency was a logical next step following a losing bid to replace retiring Republican Rep. Henry Hyde, said Duckworth, a Democrat and former Army helicopter pilot who lost her legs after a rocket-propelled grenade attack north of Baghdad.'As a soldier I fought for my country, and now I thank Governor Blagojevich for giving me the opportunity to fight for my fellow Illinois veterans,' Duckworth said in a news release.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Joseph A. Palermo: Maureen Dowd Has Already Started Trashing Pelosi | The Huffington Post

Maybe she wants another Pulitzer Prize, (like the one she was awarded after savaging Bill and Hillary Clinton for years); or maybe she wants to prove that she is 'balanced' and not part of the dreaded 'Liberal Media'; but for whatever reason, Maureen Dowd, who commands column inches in The New York Times that Katha Pollitt or Barbara Ehrenreich could only dream of, has officially set her tone for what her commentary on Nancy Pelosi will be for the next two years. The first woman Speaker of the House has not even assumed power yet and Ms. Dowd has already labeled the 66-year-old politician: 'girlishly churlish.'

Writes Dowd: 'the first female speaker of the House flail[ed] around in her first big week in such a lame way. It reminded you of just how idiotic Democrats can act sometimes.' She then goes on to posit that the only reason Pelosi had endorsed John Murtha to be the Majority Leader was because, in Dowd's own portrayal of the little, childlike voice in Pelosi's head: 'John Murtha's my friend. He's been nice to me. I don't like Steny [Hoyer]. He did something a long time ago that I'm never, ever going to tell you. And I'm the boss of you. So vote for John.
An influential New York Times columnist, who purports to have "feminist" sensibilities, depicts Nancy Pelosi, who is about to assume the highest position a woman has ever achieved in United States history -- third in line for the presidency -- as a petulant little child? If David Brooks or John Tierny did the same thing they'd be rightly denounced as sexists. But Dowd, hiding behind her "femininity" gets to trash Pelosi in sexist terms without fear of being called on it.

Dowd is wrong. Pelosi did not endorse Murtha for "girlish" personal reasons; she endorsed him because he had been the first senior House Democrat to show the courage to call for pulling our troops out of Iraq over a year ago, a time when few others dared to take a stand. The midterm elections of 2006 were a referendum on the war in Iraq, and Murtha campaigned vigorously around the country for winning Democrats on that issue. Having Murtha in the high-profile position of Majority Leader in the new Congress would give added visibility to the anti-war wing of the party, and could help end the bloodbath. In her mocking commentary, Ms. Dowd does not even mention the Iraq war or Murtha's role in being the first to call for a "phased redeployment." Instead, she belittles Pelosi by claiming that only personal considerations entered into her decision to back Murtha.

Maureen Dowd should ask herself why she chooses to portray a powerful woman with liberal credentials as nothing more than an air-brained character from a chick lit novel. When she ascribes highly personalized motives for a powerful woman's political decisions, Dowd diminishes women in power generally, and sets back feminism in a more serious way than a thousand sexist jabs hurled by right-wing men about botox injections or face lifts.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Did this cat breed with a dog?

Daily Mail: "This is Mimi, the first cat to give birth to puppies, her owner claims.
Brazilian Cassia Aparecida de Souza, 18, says three of the cat%u2019s six offspring,
which were born three months after Mimi mated with a neighbour%u2019s dog, have canine traits.
A geneticist from the Passo Fundo University plans to take blood samples from the animals to verify the claim"

Community responds to Taser use in Powell

Daily Bruin: "An incident late Tuesday night in which a UCLA student was stunned at least four times with a Taser has left the UCLA community questioning whether the university police officers' use of force was an appropriate response to the situation.
Mostafa Tabatabainejad, a UCLA student, was repeatedly stunned with a Taser and then taken into custody when he did not exit the CLICC Lab in Powell Library in a timely manner. Community Service Officers had asked Tabatabainejad to leave after he failed to produce his BruinCard during a random check at around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday.
UCPD Assistant Chief of Police Jeff Young said the checks are a standard procedure in the library after 11 p.m.
'Because of the safety of the students we limit the use after 11 to just students, staff and faculty,' Young said.
Young said the CSOs on duty in the library at the time went to get UCPD officers when Tabatabainejad did not immediately leave, and UCPD officers resorted to use of the Taser when Tabatabainejad did not do as he was told.
A six-minute video showed Tabatabainejad audibly screaming in pain as he was stunned several times with a Taser, each time for three to five seconds. He was told repeatedly to stand up and stop fighting, and was told that if he did not do so he would 'get Tased again.'
Click the Play button to begin playing the clip.This video requires the free QuickTime plug-in.Download this video directly to your computer.Tabatabainejad was also stunned with the Taser when he was already handcuffed, said Carlos Zaragoza, a third-year English and history student who witnessed the incident.
'(He was) no possible danger to any of the police,' Zaragoza said. '(He was) getting shocked and Tasered as he was handcuffed.'

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Ten Reasons Congress Must Investigate Bush Administration Crimes

by Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith
Few elections in history have provided so clear a mandate. As the New York Times put it, Democrats were largely elected on the promise to act as a strong check on [Bushs] administration. [1] But the first response of the new Congressional leadership has been to proclaim a new era of civility and seek accommodation with the very people who need to be held accountable for war crimes and subversion of the Constitution.
Democratic strategists who argue for this kind of bipartisanship maintain that the American people want their political leaders to address the problems of the future, not pursue recriminations about the past. They therefore oppose the kind of penetrating investigation that a White House strategist told Time would lead to a cataclysmic fight to the death [2] if Democrats start issuing subpoenas. If such peace at any price Democrats prevail, the result will be a catastrophe not only for the Democratic party but for American democracy.
Establishing accountability will require a thorough investigation of the actions of the Bush administration and, if they have included crimes or abuses, ensuring that these are properly addressed by Congress and the courts. The purpose of such action is not to play gotcha based on hearsay and newspaper clippings. Investigation, exposure, and even prosecution or select committee proceedings, should they become necessary, are primarily means for reestablishing the rule of law. But such investigations may be blocked by the Democratic leadership unless American citizens and progressive Democrats in particular demand them. Here are ten reasons why they should:
1. The US faces a constitutional crisis that goes far beyond either partisan politics or isolated acts of wrongdoing. The Bush administration has tried to replace the constitutional rule of law with the power of the Executive branch to disregard both the laws established by the Legislative branch and the judgments of the Judicial branch. It has cloaked this power grab with a mantle of secrecy. Only by demonstrating the power of Congress to know what the Executive branch does can even the possibility of constitutional checks and balances be restored. The prerequisite for oversight is the right to know. Unless Congress successfully asserts that right, the Executives usurpation of power will be permanent and unlimited. KEEP READING

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Air guitar T-shirt rocks for real

BBC: "Australian scientists have created a T-shirt that allows air guitarists to play real music - without resorting to a real guitar.
The T-shirt has motion sensors built into its elbows that pick up movements and relay them wirelessly to a computer which interprets them as guitar riffs.
One arm is interpreted as picking chords while the other strums.
The 'wearable instrument shirt' is adaptable to both right and left-handed would-be rock stars.
'It's an easy-to-use, virtual instrument that allows real-time music-making - even by players without significant musical or computing skills,' said the research team leader, Richard Helmer.
'It allows you to jump around and the sound generated is just like an original mp3.'
Dr Helmer, an engineer from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (Csiro) in Belmont, Australia, added that there was a serious side to the 'wearable instrument shirt'.
The researcher said similar sensors could be used in the future to reproduce a person in a virtual world so they could get feedback on their actions and improve their sporting techniques.
The T-shirt is the product of a collaboration by researchers specialising in computing, music and textile manufacture.
'The technology, which is adaptable to almost any kind of apparel, takes clothing beyond its traditional role of protection and fashion into the realms of entertainment,' said the Csiro engineer.
By customising the software, the team has also tailored the technology to make an air tambourine and a percussion instrument called an air guiro."

A Liberal's Pledge to Disheartened Conservatives Michael Moore

To My Conservative Brothers and Sisters,
I know you are dismayed and disheartened at the results of last week's election. You're worried that the country is heading toward a very bad place you don't want it to go. Your 12-year Republican Revolution has ended with so much yet to do, so many promises left unfulfilled. You are in a funk, and I understand.
Well, cheer up, my friends! Do not despair. I have good news for you. I, and the millions of others who are now in charge with our Democratic Congress, have a pledge we would like to make to you, a list of promises that we offer you because we value you as our fellow Americans. You deserve to know what we plan to do with our newfound power -- and, to be specific, what we will do to you and for you.
Thus, here is our Liberal's Pledge to Disheartened Conservatives:
Dear Conservatives and Republicans,
I, and my fellow signatories, hereby make these promises to you:
1. We will always respect you for your conservative beliefs. We will never, ever, call you 'unpatriotic' simply because you disagree with us. In fact, we encourage you to dissent and disagree with us."

Monday, November 13, 2006

Get a virtual life

If the virtual world of Second Life has a Mt. Olympus, the place where gods flex their power and influence, it's here at parent company Linden Lab.
That makes Linden Lab Chief Executive Officer Philip Rosedale a Zeus-like figure. From an open, cubicle-free office near Telegraph Hill, Rosedale oversees 1.4 million 'residents' of Second Life's 3-D, online world of commerce, information and social networking.
And Second Life could be headed for Next Big Thing status.
Think of it as MySpace meets 'The Matrix,' where players create alternative reality versions of themselves and then live out their new, digital lives online amid 26,000 virtual acres of islands, casinos, shopping districts, libraries and universities. They make and visit friends, have sex and get married. They can build a house, test drive a car or buy virtual goods for actual money.
Residents craft elaborate 'avatars'--or animated alter egos--and spend Linden dollars (L$257 = $1 U.S.) to outfit themselves with wings, designer outfits and associated bling.
Hundreds of thousands of real dollars are spent every day, including $605,000 in one 24-hour period over the past weekend. Entrepreneurs with virtual shops earn real money designing software, clothes and buildings for Second Life clients."

Friday, November 10, 2006

Charges Sought Against Rumsfeld Over Prison Abuse -- Page 1

A lawsuit in Germany will seek a criminal prosecution of the outgoing Defense Secretary and other U.S. officials for their alleged role in abuses at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo By ADAM ZAGORIN
Just days after his resignation, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is about to face more repercussions for his involvement in the troubled wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. New legal documents, to be filed next week with Germany's top prosecutor, will seek a criminal investigation and prosecution of Rumsfeld, along with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former CIA director George Tenet and other senior U.S. civilian and military officers, for their alleged roles in abuses committed at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The plaintiffs in the case include 11 Iraqis who were prisoners at Abu Ghraib, as well as Mohammad al-Qahtani, a Saudi held at Guantanamo, whom the U.S. has identified as the so-called '20th hijacker' and a would-be participant in the 9/11 hijackings. As TIME first reported in June 2005, Qahtani underwent a 'special interrogation plan,' personally approved by Rumsfeld, which the U.S. says produced valuable intelligence. But to obtain it, according to the log of his interrogation and government reports, Qahtani was subjected to forced nudity, sexual humiliation, religious humiliation, prolonged stress positions, sleep deprivation and other controversial interrogation techniques.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs say that one of the witnesses who will testify on their behalf is former Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the one-time commander of all U.S. military prisons in Iraq. Karpinski %u2014 who the lawyers say will be in Germany next week to publicly address her accusations in the case %u2014 has issued a written statement to accompany the legal filing, which says, in part: 'It was clear the knowledge and responsibility [for what happened at Abu Ghraib] goes all the way to the top of the chain of command to the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld .
A spokesperson for the Pentagon told TIME there would be no comment since the case has not yet been filed."

Humiliated frat boys sue 'Borat' - Yahoo! News

SANTA MONICA, Calif. - Two fraternity boys want to make lawsuit against 'Borat' over their drunken appearance in the hit movie.
The legal action filed Thursday on their behalf claims they were duped into appearing in the spoof documentary 'Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,' in which they made racist and sexist comments on camera.
The young men 'engaged in behavior that they otherwise would not have engaged in,' the lawsuit says."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Eric Alterman: 31,591,495 Strong | The Huffington Post

If you're keeping track at home, using Senate numbers only, Democrats' 31,591,495 votes equals 55 percent of the vote. (House voting totals don't work because so many incumbents run unopposed.) So at last count, the country is, by rough-perhaps-but-the-most-accurate-count-we-have 55 percent Democratic and 45 percent Republican. Say what you will, but dammit, this is not a 'conservative' country -- at least not in the nutty way that our contemporary right-wingers use the word.

The Blog | Bill Maher: Republicans = Scientologists | The Huffington Post

One of the tenets of Scientology is that anyone who criticizes the religion is fair game for any and all kinds of retribution. You can file lawsuits against them, you can harass them, you can spread lies about them, and it's OK because the critic is fundamentally evil.

This is the same reason Republicans have no problem running push polls, or handing out leaflets with false accusations, or calling Dems and telling them that their polling place has been changed... all this dishonest, sleazy stuff is OK because it's in the service of a greater good.

I'm not saying Dems don't indulge in vote shenanigans from time to time, but it's never on the same level. And when the Democrats do win, the impetus isn't to work with them, it's to destroy them - that was how Bill Clinton was received.

For a good chunk of the GOP base, the Democrats are literally in league with the Devil, so any means of keeping them out of power is legitimate.

In fact, this attitude is only a matter of degrees away from the belief radical Muslims have that any wrong perpetrated against the 'infidels' is justified.

This also ties into the so-called father of neo-conservatism, the philosopher Leo Strauss, who argued that the only way to stop liberalism from ruining society was for the elites (a.k.a his neocon followers) to exploit myths (religion) or create new myths (the Islamic Menace) that will unite the hoi polloi in an orgy of nationalistic fervor. Sounds like fascism? Yup. But an interesting feature of Straussism is that the elites don't care if the myths they are exploiting are actually true; that's irrelevant as long as they're effective. Which is why we get Karl Rove talking about the Christian 'nut-jobs,' and the Kerry-hates-the-troops nonsense from last week. All those Republicans parroting the talking point re Kerry knew it was bullshit but they didn't care because it was an effective myth."

The days of fear are over. US politics is interesting again | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited

Belligerent, ill-conceived interventionism has come to an end. For level-headed Americans it was a good day
Simon JenkinsThursday November 9, 2006The Guardian
The ugly American mark two is dead. Overnight six years of glib European identification of 'American' with rightwing fantasism is over. The gun-toting, pre-Darwinian Bushite, the tomahawk-wielding, Halliburton-loving, Beltway neocon calling abortion murder and torturing Arabs as 'Islamofascists' has been laid to rest, and by a decision of the American people. Another McCarthy raised its head over the western horizon and has been slapped down. It is a good day for level-headed Americans.

Dana Milbank - The Thumpees Try Their Luck at the Blame Game -

President Bush had many explanations for what he called the 'thumping' his party took on Tuesday, but the most creative was the notion that his chief strategist, Karl Rove, had spent too much time reading books.'I obviously was working harder on the campaign than he was,' the president said at yesterday's East Room news conference. The reporters laughed. The Architect, who had challenged Bush to a reading contest, wore a sheepish grin and stared at his lap.True, Rove will have to surrender his 'genius' credentials after the GOP lost the House and apparently the Senate. But the recriminations weren't stopping at Rove's door. The president, who started his appearance with an admission that 'I share a large part of the responsibility,' went on to blame everybody else.He blamed corruption: 'People want their congressmen to be honest and ethical, so in some races that was the primary factor.'He blamed Mark Foley, whose name remained on the Florida ballot: 'People couldn't vote directly for the Republican candidate.'He blamed ballot rules. 'You could have the greatest positions in the world . . . but to try to get to win on a write-in is really hard to do.'He blamed Democratic organization: 'I'm sure Iraq had something to do with the voters' mind, but so did a very strong turnout mechanism.'He blamed bad luck: 'If you look at race by race, it was close.'Implicitly, of course, he blamed Donald Rumsfeld, by firing him as defense secretary in favor of the 'fresh perspective' of Robert Gates.And, not least, he blamed the uncomprehending voters: 'I thought when it was all said and done, the American people would understand the importance of taxes and the importance of security. But the people have spoken, and now it's time for us to move on.'The president's performance fit neatly into yesterday's version of the post-election ritual in Washington: The winning side gloated, and the losing side pointed fingers every which way."

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Protesting Iraq war, a Chicago man sets self on fire and dies.

"On Saturday the Sun-Times ran a small item about a man who had set himself on fire during rush hour Friday morning near the Ohio Street exit on the Kennedy. His identity has still not been officially determined, but members of the local jazz and improvised music community say they are certain it was Malachi Ritscher, a longtime supporter of the scene. Bruno Johnson, who owns the free-jazz label Okka Disk, received a package yesterday from Ritscher that included a will, keys to his home, and instructions about what should be done with his belongings. Johnson, a former Chicagoan who now lives in Milwaukee, began making calls. Police are still awaiting the results of dental tests, but Johnson says an officer told one of Ritscher's sisters that all evidence pointed to the body being his; his car was found nearby and he hadn't shown up for work since Thursday. "

The link is to a website Mr. Ritscher managed, and a post containing his obituary which he wrote himself. It's very moving - sad, inspiring, and very human. This is something that will stick with me for a long time, so I knew I had to pass his story and message on.

Robert Scheer: Gates Has Some Explaining to Do

The abrupt replacement of Donald Rumsfeld with former CIA Director Robert Gates is a Hail Mary pass designed to provide President Bush a face-saving exist from the deepening quagmire of Iraq. Gates, as Bush noted in his Nov. 8 press conference, is a member of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq survey group, which will present a plan next week that the President is certain to seize upon as his only available life preserver.
Like James Baker, Gates is a reliable member of the team of veterans from the George Herbert Walker Bush years, which has been doubtful about the plan to invade Iraq ever since it was a gleam in the eyes of Rumsfeld. Gates%u2019 ascendancy clearly suggests that the neoconservatives have been tossed into the ashcan of history.
Gates, however, has baggage of his own carried over from his involvement in the Iran-Contra affair, which derailed his confirmation as CIA Director in 1987. (He was later confirmed in 1991) Gates will have to explain anew his connections with the people who secretly sold arms to Iran then and now defined as a major terrorist enemy of the US and who then used those funds to overthrow the Sandinista-run government in Nicaragua. After all, the leader of the Sandinista government, Daniel Ortega, was just elected president of his country in a free election. Iran, by contrast, is now vying with North Korea for the status of the worlds most threatening rogue nation. Just why Gates thought it wise to supply the Iranian Ayatollahs with arms remains a pressing question."

Nelsons son arrested after election party - Politics -

ORLANDO, Fla. - The son of Sen. Bill Nelson was arrested early Wednesday after allegedly pushing an officer in a confrontation hours after he had taken the stage at his father's re-election party.Charles William Nelson, 30, was charged with battery on a law enforcement officer, disorderly intoxication and resisting arrest.According to a police report, an officer approached Nelson when he saw a woman slumped on the ground next to him, apparently passed out. The officer said Nelson smelled strongly of alcohol, his speech was slurred and he had poor balance.
The report quoted the younger Nelson as saying the woman, identified as Kimberly Baxter, was fine. It did not say what their relationship was.Police say Nelson tried to pick her up and drag her away, dropping her when the officer instructed him to put her down. The report said the senator's son attempted to push the officer away, then was pepper-sprayed for two to three seconds and handcuffed.A police spokeswoman did not immediately return a call seeking additional detail Wednesday. A spokesman for the senator, Dan McLaughlin, said Nelson was released from custody.Nelson lives in Washington and is a Medicaid/Medicare consultant. The senator, a Democrat, issued a statement saying he and his wife didn't know all the facts but 'love our son and support him.'In Tuesday's election, the elder Nelson handily rebuffed a challenge from Republican Rep. Katherine Harris, who played a key role in the 2000 presidential election as Florida's secretary of state."

Meet the new boss

The freshman class (only those races definitely decided):Arizona's 5th: Harry Mitchell (D) 51 percent, J.D. Hayworth (R) 46 percentCalifornia's 11th: Jerry McNerney (D) 53 percent, Richard Pombo (R) 47 percentConnecticut's 5th: Chris Murphy (D) 56 percent, Nancy Johnson (R) 44 percentFlorida's 22nd: Ron Klein (D) 51 percent, Clay Shaw (R) 47 percentIndiana's 2nd: Joe Donnelly (D) 54 percent, Chris Chocola (R) 46 percentIndiana's 8th: Brad Ellsworth (D) 61 percent, John Hostettler (R) 39 percentIndiana's 9th: Baron Hill (D) 49 percent, Mike Sodrel (R) 46 percentIowa's 2nd: Dave Loebsack (D) 51 percent, Jim Leach (R) 49 percentKansas' 2nd: Nancy Boyda (D) 51 percent, Jim Ryun (R) 47 percentKentucky's 3rd: John Yarmuth (D) 51 percent, Anne Northup (R) 48 percentMinnesota's 1st: Tim Walz (D) 53 percent, Gil Gutknecht (R) 47 percentNew Hampshire's 1st: Carol Shea-Porter (D) 51 percent, Jeb Bradley (R) 49 percentNew Hampshire's 2nd: Paul Hodes (D) 53 percent, Charles Bass (R) 45 percentNew York's 19th: John Hall (D) 51 percent, Sue Kelly (R) 49 percentNew York's 20th: Kirsten Gillibrand (D) 53 percent, John Sweeney (R) 47 percentNorth Carolina's 11th: Heath Shuler (D) 54 percent, Charles Taylor (R) 46 percentPennsylvania's 4th: Jason Altmire (D) 52 percent, Melissa Hart (R) 48 percentPennsylvania's 7th: Joe Sestak (D) 56 percent, Curt Weldon (R) 44 percentPennsylvania's 10th: Chris Carney (D) 53 percent, Don Sherwood (R) 47 percentGOP open seats lost:Arizona's 8th: Gabrielle Giffords (D) 54 percent, Randy Graf (R) 42 percentFlorida's 16th: Tim Mahoney (D) 49 percent, Mark Foley/Joe Negron (R) 48 percentColorado's 7th: Ed Perlmutter (D) 55 percent, Rick O'Donnell (R) 42 percentIowa's 1st: Bruce Braley (D) 55 percent, Mike Whalen (R) 43 percentNew York's 24th: Michael Arcuri (D) 54 percent, Ray Meier (R) 45 percentOhio's 18th: Zack Space (D) 62 percent, Joy Padgett (R) 38 percentTexas' 22nd: Nick Lampson (D) 52 percent, Shelley Sekula-Gibbs (R) 42 percentWisconsin's 8th: Steve Kagen (D) 51 percent, John Gard (R) 49 percent"

Minnesota Democrat becomes first Muslim to win seat in Congress - iht,america,US Election Muslim - Americas - International Herald Tribune

MINNEAPOLIS: Democrat Keith Ellison was elected as the nation's first Muslim member of Congress on Tuesday, easily winning a Minneapolis-area district Republicans had not carried since 1962.
Ellison, who is black, is also Minnesota's first nonwhite representative in Washington. He said those things were only of secondary importance.
'I think the most important thing about this race is we tried to pull people together on things we all share, things that are important to everyone. We all need peace, and this Iraq policy is dangerous to our country,' said Ellison, who has called for immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Ellison said his campaign united labor, minority communities, peace activists. 'We were able to bring in Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists,' he said. 'We brought in everybody.'
Ellison focused on issues that resonate in the urban, liberal-leaning 5th District in Minneapolis. By favoring gay rights and legal abortion, Ellison cut a path away from many Muslims."

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Neurocience of Praying in Tongues?

The passionate, sometimes rhythmic, language-like patter that pours forth from religious people who 'speak in tongues' reflects a state of mental possession, many of them say. Now they have some neuroscience to back them up. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania took brain images of five women while they spoke in tongues and found that their frontal lobes ,the thinking, willful part of the brain through which people control what they do,were relatively quiet, as were the language centers. ... The women were not in blind trances, and it was unclear which region was driving the behavior...

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Democrats' best slogan: "Bush lost the war" : "He also lowered Paris Hilton's taxes and botched the job of finding Osama. A few last talking points to help the party win back Congress.

By Bill Maher

New Rule: Controlling Congress is for closers. Listen up, Democrats, it's as simple as ABC: Always Be Closing. First prize? Controlling congressional committees, with subpoena power. Second prize: set of steak knives. Third prize? You're fired.
The election is four days away, and I'm through dicking around with you. Here are your talking points:
1) When they say, 'Democrats will raise taxes,' you say, 'We have to, because some asshole spent all the money in the world cutting Paris Hilton's taxes and not killing Osama bin Laden.' In just six years the national debt has doubled. You can't keep spending money you don't take in, that's not even elementary economics, that's just called 'Don't be Michael Jackson.'
2) When they say, 'The terrorists want the Democrats to win,' you say, 'Are you insane? George Bush has been a terrorist's wet dream, and nonpartisan commissions have confirmed that he's a recruiter's dream: theirs, not ours. And, he has exhausted our military without coming away with a win, the worst of both worlds.' Bush inflames radical hatred against America and then runs on offering to protect us from it. It's like a guy throwing shit on you and then selling you relief from the flies.
3) When they say, 'Cut and Run' or 'Defeatocrat,' you say, 'Bush lost the war -- period.' All this nonsense about 'the violence is getting worse because they're trying to influence our election.' No, it's getting worse because you drew up the postwar plans on the back of a cocktail napkin at Applebee's. And of course Democrats want to win, but that's impossible now that you've ethnically cleansed the place by making it unlivable, just like you did with New Orleans.
4) When they say that actual combat veterans like John Kerry are 'denigrating' the troops, you say, 'You're completely full of shit.' Remember when Al Gore caught all that flak for sighing and moaning during that debate? Yeah, don't do that. Just say, 'You're full of shit.'
If I was a troop, the support I would want back home would mainly come in the form of people pressuring Washington to get me out of this pointless nightmare. That's how I would feel supported.
So when they say, 'Democrats are obstructionists,' you say, 'You're welcome.' Because with a bad administration that has bad ideas, obstruction is a good thing, just as it's a good thing to obstruct a drunk from getting his car keys. I would be happy to frame the debate as a fight between the Obstructionists and the Enablers. There's your talking point: 'Vote Republican, and you vote to enable George Bush to keep ruling as an emperor.' A retarded, child emperor, but an emperor.
Democrats, you've got two days to get out there and close. It's not about slogans this time. Although when it comes to slogans, accept no other from your opponent except this one: 'The Republican Party: We're Sorry.'"

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Breaking with long-standing tradition, Condi is campaigning

Hey, it's not like she's got anything else to do like, say, Iraq. The world is such a secure place under the brilliant leadership of Bush's foreign policy team. But Condi is breaking the tradition that the Secretary of State avoids partisan politics: Two weeks before crucial midterm elections that could tip the balance of power in Congress, Rice has been on a media blitz that appears aimed mainly at conservative media outlets, particularly radio talk shows. Secretary of state is traditionally a nonpartisan position, and Rice's media itinerary differs sharply from the practice of her predecessors during election campaigns, according to State Department records.Rice has given nine interviews on radio, starting with three appearances on Oct. 24 during 'Radio Day,' when 42 radio hosts, most of them conservatives, were invited to the White House to spread the administration's message to President Bush's political base. This is just another example of the Bush team putting politics over policy. Condi is campaigning instead of dealing with all the major problems created by her boss. They have no plan for Iraq, it's all just politics to the Bush team."

Friday, November 03, 2006

Who is Ted Haggart?

Ted Haggart has meetings with George W. Bush weekly! No kidding.

Says,"Science is for 'crazy pagan hippies."

Advised Bush on judicial appointments and steel tariffs.

He made frequent visits to the White House and was included in a select group of religious leaders briefed on the administration's agenda during a weekly teleconference with White House staff, to "feel the evangelical pulse," he's said.
Separation of Church and State?

So now we know: Ted Haggard, evangelical overlord and leader of upwards of 30 million happy homophobes and nervous Bush supporters, a man who says he calls Dubya once a week to, presumably, talk about God and gays and sin and cattle and sex and milkshakes and who knows what the hell else, we now know Pastor Ted most definitely did not probably well OK maybe I mean obviously we all know he did but he's denying it anyway even though it couldn't be more obvious, Ted did not have lots and lots of gay sex with a big handsome burly gay prostitute for three years, and oh yes also got massages and snorted lots of meth and by the way he had quite a deliciously good time of it, too. This is what absolutely did not happen, OK? Even though you know it did. Shhh.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Seafood Population Depleted by 2048, Study Finds -

The world will run out of seafood by 2048 if steep declines in marine species continue at current rates, according to a study released today by an international group of ecologists and economists.The paper, published in the journal Science, concludes that overfishing, pollution, and other environmental factors are wiping out important species across the globe, hampering the ocean's ability to produce seafood, filter nutrients and resist the spread of disease.
The world will run out of seafood by 2048 if steep declines in marine species continue at current rates, according to a study released today by an international group of ecologists and economists.We really see the end of the line now,' said lead author Boris Worm, a marine biologist at Canada's Dalhousie University. 'It's within our lifetime. Our children will see a world without seafood if we don't change things.'The 14 researchers from Canada, Panama, Sweden and the United States spent four years analyzing all the available data on fish populations and ocean ecosystems to reach their conclusion. They found that by 2003 -- the last year for which data on global commercial fish catches is available -- 29 percent of all fished species had collapsed, and that the rate of population collapses has accelerated in recent years."

Stanley Crouch: What Obama isn't: black like me

If Barack Obama makes it all the way to becoming the Democratic nominee for President in 2008, a feat he says he may attempt, a much more complex understanding of the difference between color and ethnic identity will be upon us for the very first time.
Back in 2004, Alan Keyes made this point quite often. Keyes was the black Republican carpetbagger chosen by the elephants to run against Obama for the U.S. Senate seat from Illinois. The choice of Keyes was either a Republican version of affirmative action or an example of just how dumb the party believes black voters to be, since it was obvious that Keyes came from the Southeast, not the Midwest.

That race was never much of a contest, but one fascinating subplot was how Keyes was unable to draw a meaningful distinction between himself as a black American and Obama as an African-American. After all, Obama's mother is of white U.S. stock. His father is a black Kenyan. Other than color, Obama did not - does not - share a heritage with the majority of black Americans, who are descendants of plantation slaves.

Of course, the idea that one would be a better or a worse representative of black Americans depending upon his or her culture or ethnic group is clearly absurd. Even slavery itself initially came under fire from white Christians - the first of whom to separate themselves from the institution were Quakers. The majority of the Union troops were white, and so were those who have brought about the most important civil rights legislation.

Why then do we still have such a simple-minded conception of black and white - and how does it color the way we see Obama? The naive ideas coming out of Pan-Africanism are at the root of the confusion. When Pan-African ideas began to take shape in the 19th century, all black people, regardless of where in the world they lived, suffered and shared a common body of injustices. Europe, after all, had colonized much of the black world, and the United States had enslaved people of African descent for nearly 250 years.

Suffice it to say: This is no longer the case.

So when black Americans refer to Obama as "one of us," I do not know what they are talking about. In his new book, "The Audacity of Hope," Obama makes it clear that, while he has experienced some light versions of typical racial stereotypes, he cannot claim those problems as his own - nor has he lived the life of a black American.

Will this matter in the end? Probably not. Obama is being greeted with the same kind of public affection that Colin Powell had when he seemed ready to knock Bill Clinton out of the Oval Office. For many reasons, most of them personal, Powell did not become the first black American to be a serious presidential contender.

I doubt Obama will share Powell's fate, but if he throws his hat in the ring, he will have to run as the son of a white woman and an African immigrant. If we then end up with him as our first black President, he will have come into the White House through a side door - which might, at this point, be the only one that's open.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

After the Storm, Students Left Alone and Angry - New York Times

NEW ORLEANS, Oct. 31 John McDonogh High School has at least 25 security guards, at the entrance, up the stairs and outside classes. The school has a metal detector, four police officers and four police cruisers on the sidewalk.
In the last six weeks, students at McDonogh, the largest functioning high school here, have assaulted guards, a teacher and a police officer. A guard and a teacher were beaten so badly that they were hospitalized. The surge hints at a far-reaching phenomenon after Hurricane Katrina, educators here say. Teenagers in the city are living alone or with older siblings or relatives, separated by hundreds of miles from their displaced parents. Dozens of McDonogh students fend largely for themselves, school officials say. They are here on their own, Wanda Daliet, a science teacher, said. They are raising themselves. And they are angry. The principal, Donald Jackson, estimated that up to a fifth of the 775 students live without parents. Basically, they are raising themselves, because there is no authority figure in the home, Mr. Jackson said. If I call for a parent because Im having an issue, I may be getting an aunt, who may be at the oldest 20, 21. What type of governance, what type of structure is in the home, if this is the living conditions? In a second-floor cosmetology class, two of the six girls said their parents were elsewhere. I dont get to talk to her as much as I want, one girl, Tiffany Mansion, 16, said as she looked down.
Her mother is in Little Rock, Ark.
In the lunchroom, a shy 18-year-old who was asked whom he went home to in the evenings, said: “Nobody. Myself.”
His parents are in Baton Rouge.
Mr. Jackson said many parents whom he had spoken to were in Baton Rouge, Houston or elsewhere. “That’s the question that’s buzzing in everybody’s heads,” the McDonogh curriculum coordinator, Toyia Washington Kendrick, said. “How could you leave your kids here, that are school-age kids, unattended?”
The answer is as various as the fragmented social structure, which the hurricane a year ago made even more complicated. Some students describe families barely functional even before the storm. Others say pressing economic necessity has kept parents away.
Rachelle Harrell was living in Houston, working as a medical assistant and trying to pay off a $1,300 electricity bill in New Orleans. But she yielded to her son Justin and his cousin Kiante, both 16, and sent them back to New Orleans on a Greyhound bus while she stayed in Texas.
The decision anguished Ms. Harrell, 36, even though Justin was being picked on in Houston and yearned to return to McDonogh. Justin; his sister, Eboni Gay, 18; and Kiante set up housekeeping in Ms. Harrell’s old house in the Algiers neighborhood. A monthly check from his mother and a job at a fast-food restaurant helped make ends meet.
Ms. Harrell anticipated the inevitable question.
“ ‘Why are your children at home, and you’re in Texas?’ ” she asked. “Well, I’m trying to get home. It’s just crazy. But my kids know my situation. When school started, I had to work a couple of more weeks, because I had that light bill.
“It’s like, ‘Oh my God, is everything O.K.?’ I couldn’t even sleep at night. O.K. Lord, if anything happens, I’m going to be seen as such a bad mama, and I’m a hundred miles from home.