The leader of the powerful Lebanese Shiite Muslim movement Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, on Monday denied that his group possessed chemical weapons."We don't have chemical weapons and we cannot use them for reasons linked to the Sharia and for humanitarian reasons," Nasrallah said in an interview with Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen channel, which champions Hezbollah's cause.
During the Passover Seder, we fill a cup for Elijah the Prophet and place the cup before an empty chair leaving the door open for him, in the hope that he arrive and lead us to salvation.During the Succot holiday, we invite different Biblical icons into our Succot. Their lack of physical attendance serves as motivation to analyze our lives in the hopes of living more righteously the rest of the year.Clint Eastwood, by invoking the concept of an "empty chair" in a political framework, reminded us all of the need to seriously examine and reflect on the past four tough years weighted down by political battles largely lost; relationships frayed; allies abandoned and promises broken.Americans will have to consider whether or not Obama is competent enough to lead America and the free world for another four years. Obama, with a mountain of evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, regards himself as a success over the past four years. Romney regards himself as a man who has a job to do.The best line at the Republican National convention was spoken by Mitt Romney; "President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. My promise...is to help you and your family." In one bold swoop we were able to differentiate between Obama's cocky, irrelevant and unabated narcissism and Romney's instinctive modesty and ability to genuinely connect to Main St, USA.
"The evidence does not suggest marked health benefits from consuming organic vs. conventional foods," a research team led by two Stanford University scholars writes in the Annals of Internal Medicine.Specifically, they report that studies conducted to date do not contain "strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods."The researchers do conclude that "consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria." But, they add, even those benefits come with an asterisk.A research team led by two Stanford-affiliated MDs, Dena Bravata and Crystal Smith-Spangler, analyzed 237 studies examining the benefits of organic foods. Such foods are usually grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, or the routine use of antibiotics or growth hormones.Only a handful of the studies examined the effects of organic or conventional diets on groups of people. The vast majority--223--compared the levels of either nutrients or contaminants in organic and conventionally grown varieties of various foods."Of the nutrients evaluated, only one comparison--the phosphorous content of produce--demonstrated the superiority of organic foods," the researchers write. They did not find this particularly impressive, given that "near-total starvation is needed to produce dietary phosphorous deficiency."
As Election Day approaches, President Obama is sharing a few important things about himself. He has mentioned more than once in recent weeks that he cooks "a really mean chili." He has impressive musical pitch, he told an Iowa audience. He is "a surprisingly good pool player," he informed an interviewer -- not to mention (though he does) a doodler of unusual skill.All in all, he joked at a recent New York fund-raiser with several famous basketball players in attendance, "it is very rare that I come to an event where I'm like the fifth or sixth most interesting person." [...]Even by the standards of the political world, Mr. Obama's obsession with virtuosity and proving himself the best are remarkable, those close to him say. [...]But even those loyal to Mr. Obama say that his quest for excellence can bleed into cockiness and that he tends to overestimate his capabilities.
Unemployment could translate into greater leisure for all. Lower consumption could translate into reclaiming life from money, reskilling, reconnecting, sharing.Central banks could play a role in this transition. For example, what if quantitative easing were combined with debt forgiveness? The banks get bailout after bailout - what about the rest of us? The Fed could purchase student loans, mortgages or consumer debt and, by fiat, reduce interest rates on those loans to zero, or even reduce principal. That would liberate millions from the debt chase, while freeing up purchasing power for those who are truly underconsuming.
At the end of the 1960s, with cities burning in race riots, campuses in an uproar, and a miserably unwinnable war grinding through the poisoned jungles of Indochina, an American fear of losing the titanic struggle with communism was perhaps understandable. Only the farsighted saw the importance of the contrast between American elections and the ruthless swagger of the Red Army's tanks crushing the Prague Spring of 1968. At the end of the 1970s, with American diplomats held hostage in Tehran, a Soviet puppet ruling Afghanistan, and glib talk of Soviet troops soon washing their feet in the Indian Ocean, Americans waiting in line for gasoline hardly felt like winners. Yet at the end of the 1980s, what a surprise! The Cold War was over and the good guys had won.Naturally, there were many explanations for this, from President Ronald Reagan's resolve to Mikhail Gorbachev's decency; from American industrial prowess to Soviet inefficiency. The most cogent reason was that the United States back in the late 1940s had crafted a bipartisan grand strategy for the Cold War that proved to be both durable and successful. It forged a tripartite economic alliance of Europe, North America, and Japan, backed up by various regional treaty organizations such as NATO, and counted on scientists, inventors, business leaders, and a prosperous and educated work force to deliver both guns and butter for itself and its allies. State spending on defense and science would keep unemployment at bay while Social Security would ensure that the siren songs of communism had little to offer the increasingly comfortable workers of the West. And while the West waited for its wealth and technologies to attain overwhelming superiority, its troops, missiles, and nuclear deterrent would contain Soviet and Chinese hopes of expansion.It worked. The Soviet Union collapsed, and the Chinese leadership drew the appropriate lessons. (The Chinese view was that by starting with glasnost and political reform, and ducking the challenge of economic reform, Gorbachev had gotten the dynamics of change the wrong way round.) But by the end of 1991, the Democrat who would win the next year's New Hampshire primary (Senator Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts) had a catchy new campaign slogan: "The Cold War is over--and Japan won." With the country in a mild recession and mega-rich Japanese investors buying up landmarks such as Manhattan's Rockefeller Center and California's Pebble Beach golf course, Tsongas's theme touched a national chord. But the Japanese economy has barely grown since, while America's gross domestic product has almost doubled.There are, of course, serious reasons for concern about the state of the American economy, society, and body politic today. But remember, the United States is like the weather in Ireland; if you don't like it, just wait a few minutes and it's sure to shift. This is a country that has been defined by its openness to change and innovation, and the search for the latest and the new has transformed the country's productivity and potential. This openness, in effect, was America's secret weapon that won both World War II and the Cold War. We tend to forget that the Soviet Union fulfilled Nikita Khrushchev's pledge in 1961 to outproduce the United States in steel, coal, cement, and fertilizer within 20 years. But by 1981 the United States was pioneering a new kind of economy, based on plastics, silicon, and transistors, while the Soviet Union lumbered on building its mighty edifice of obsolescence.This is the essence of America that the doom mongers tend to forget.
Gov. Deval Patrick kicked off his high-profile convention tour with a sharp punch at GOP nominee Mitt Romney, calling him a politically expedient flip-flopper without any core beliefs."He's not a moderate or a conservative, he's an opportunist," Patrick told Virginia delegates at a breakfast here.
On July 24, 2010, Strode received an unexpected inquiry from Jennifer Straughan, the Missoula race director, who asked him to look at a photograph of a runner wearing bib No. 759. It was Litton. "There is some question as to whether he was seen along the course," Straughan wrote. "He finished in a time similar to you so theoretically you would have noticed him."While Strode had been immersed in what he'd assumed was his own private Kip Litton obsession, the official timer at Missoula had been contacted by his counterpart at the Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon, in Deadwood, South Dakota, where Litton had turned up the previous month. Photographs taken in Deadwood showed him crossing the starting line fifth from last and finishing in 2:55:50, putting him first in his age group and in third place over all. The fourth-place finisher protested: he'd been running third at the halfway mark and said that no one had passed him after that, an assertion bolstered by the fact that most of the remaining course was a trail only six feet wide. Litton had registered a half-marathon split, and the Deadwood timer was skeptical of the protest against him--"I was trying to prove Litton was legit," he told me--but he changed his mind after determining that Litton had, improbably, run the second half eleven minutes faster than the first. In addition, he found photographs of Litton only at the start and the end of the course. Deadwood disqualified Litton, and Straughan followed suit in Missoula.Strode, who in a later Web post described his mind-set as "sucked in, fascinated and pissed off," broadened his investigation. He sent an e-mail to Richard Rodriguez, who on the Web site of the West Wyoming Marathon was identified as its race director; Litton had a listed winning time there of 2:56:12."I'm writing to ask about the winner of your marathon a few weeks ago, Kip Litton," Strode wrote. "He was recently disqualified from the Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon for cheating (not running the whole course). . . . I don't know the guy--I just hate cheating in running. I wonder whether he may have had a legitimate performance at your race or whether he may also have cheated in Wyoming."Two days later, Strode received a response: "Wow, that's quite a scenario! It would have been very unlikely for the same thing to have happened at our race, as there were only 30 participants and the lead 2 runners ran almost the entire race together. I have not received any complaints. I will keep my ears open though. If there is an update, send it my way. Take care, Richard."Strode began to wonder if his suspicions were misplaced, but he kept investigating. At the Providence Marathon, in Rhode Island, where Litton had finished first in his age group, photographs showed him wearing shoes and shorts at the end of the course that were different from those he was wearing at the beginning. (A costume change at Deadwood had involved shoes, a hat, and a T-shirt.) In the Delaware Marathon, Litton had finished first in his age group. After being prompted by Strode, the race's director, Wayne Kursh, found that, among the finishers, Litton alone had failed to register split times. On an out-and-back portion of the course, Kursh had taken photographs of the top runners at the turnaround point--but Litton was not among them. He also failed to find images of Litton elsewhere on the course.Kursh had a blog, and on August 6, 2010, he posted a blind item about Litton titled "Another Rosie Ruiz?"--a reference to the scammer who was briefly heralded as the winner of the women's division of the 1980 Boston Marathon, before it was determined that she'd jumped onto the course less than a mile from the finish. Kursh wrote in a follow-up that he had been exchanging concerns with other race directors, adding, "I smell a rat."In an e-mail exchange initiated by Kursh, Litton claimed that photographs of him would be hard to find, because his shirt had covered his racing bib. He added, "Wasn't there a timing mat at the turnaround?" Kursh ultimately decided to disqualify him, explaining, "From your comment here it is pretty obvious that you have NO idea where the timing mats were on route. They definitely were not at this turn-around point."On occasions when Litton responded to such pointed challenges, he never did so in a hostile or nakedly defensive manner. After a disqualification, he simply deleted the result and the recap from his Web site, as if he had never registered for the race. His default demeanor was equable mystification.
[I]n our politically correct, feel-good, be-happy time we are shielded from - and underestimate - the dark side of laughter that was better known to the ancients. If you think laughter is benign, be aware that laughter is present during the worst atrocities, from murder, rape and pillage in antiquity to the present. Laughter has been present at the entertainments of public executions and torture. On street corners around the world, laughing at the wrong person or at the wrong time can get you killed. The publication of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad by a Danish newspaper triggered calls for the death of the cartoonists and a worldwide murderous rampage that left many dead and injured. Although radical Islam is most in the news, all monotheistic religions ruthlessly suppress humorous challenges to their spiritual franchise. The killers at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, were laughing as they strolled through classrooms murdering their classmates. Laughter accompanies ethnic violence and insult, from Kosovo to Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.Laughing with brings the pleasure of acceptance, in-group feeling, and bonding. But laughing at is jeering and ridicule, targeting outsiders who look or act differently, pounding down the nail that sticks up, shaping them up, or driving them away.
Over the next decade, we are likely to see a shift in health insurance in the U.S.: So-called defined-contribution plans will gradually take over the market, shifting the residual risk of incurring high health-care costs from employers to workers. [...]The movement toward defined-contribution plans for health insurance is, in some ways, similar to the one that occurred for pensions, as Kenneth L. Sperling and Oren M. Shapira explained in an article earlier this year. The pension shift occurred in a series of stages: First, the traditional defined-benefit plan was redesigned. Then a hybrid approach was introduced (the cash- balance plan). Finally, defined-benefit plans were frozen.The change in health insurance is already well under way in coverage for retirees. In the early 1990s, in response to accounting changes and rising costs, companies began to re- evaluate retiree health plans, and some capped the amount they were willing to pay at a multiple of existing costs. Over time, as those limits were reached, most companies declined to raise them, thereby effectively creating defined-contribution retiree health-insurance plans, with the company's contribution set by the cap. Exchanges have been created to allow retirees to use these employer contributions to purchase their own health insurance.For current workers, the precursor to a defined- contribution approach is the "consumer-driven" health plan. This typically has higher deductibles and co-payments than a traditional plan has, and it is often tied to a health savings account. It typically still provides generous insurance for catastrophic cases.The share of workers enrolled in such plans remains quite low but is expanding rapidly. A recent survey of large companies found that, in 2012, almost three-quarters will offer consumer- driven health-insurance plans.The natural next step will be for employers to strictly limit their health-insurance contributions to a set amount of money that workers could use to buy insurance. Companies will thus eliminate their exposure to unexpectedly high health-care costs.
[A[ turning point came after the 2010 midterm elections. Obama had promised, during his campaign, to build a politics of consensus rather than of partisan conflict, but that approach wasn't working against an increasingly right-wing Republican Party set on his defeat. Pollsters deemed Obama the most polarizing President in history, and he was rejected in 2010, much as Clinton had been in 1994. Meanwhile, the approval ratings for Clinton, who was focussed on international projects, had soared. The balance of power in the relationship began to shift as the Administration saw that enlisting Clinton might solve more than one problem.In December, Obama negotiated a compromise tax deal with Republicans--a two-year extension of all the Bush-era tax cuts in return for some economic stimulus--that many House Democrats deplored. Liberals complained about the deal, much as Obama had criticized Clinton before 2008. What had happened to boldness? On December 10th, Clinton met alone with Obama in the Oval Office for seventy minutes, one of their longest sessions to date. Afterward, they sauntered into the briefing room, surprising reporters. Clinton gave a forceful defense of the tax deal, which helped quell the liberal uprising.By early 2011, the White House was turning its attention to reëlection. Jim Messina, the deputy chief of staff, moved to Chicago to manage the campaign, and he took charge of the Clinton account. Messina hadn't worked for Obama during the Democratic primaries in 2008 and had no interest in the old conflicts. "Jim Messina just cares about getting two hundred and seventy electoral votes--period," the knowledgeable Democrat said. "And he knows Bill Clinton helps him along that path. He doesn't care what he said in South Carolina in 2008."Clinton, Messina told me, is one of the few people who can make the case for Obama among voters who still haven't made up their minds. "They're looking at this through an economic framework, and he's going to be incredibly important to that discussion," Messina said. "He's now effective with almost every demographic. I mean, he's in the sixties now"--meaning that more than sixty per cent of Americans view him favorably. "The current two political figures in America who have those numbers are Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama."In November, not long after the round of golf, Messina and Axelrod made a pilgrimage to Clinton's Harlem office. Messina brought a PowerPoint slide show and briefed the former President on campaign strategy. At the time, the Obama team was alternating between two arguments about Romney. One presented him as an inveterate flip-flopper, the other as a right-wing ideologue who would return the country to a pre-New Deal dystopia. Clinton advised them to stick with the second argument. It would help with fund-raising, he said; liberal donors would be more motivated to fight a fierce conservative. If they defined Romney as a flip-flopper, undecided voters might think that he could return to his moderate roots once he was in office. "They tried to do this to me, the flip-flopper thing," Clinton said, according to someone in the room. "It just doesn't work." He told the Obama aides that voters never held the flip-flopper attacks against him because they felt that he would simply do what was right.After Clinton agreed to appear at several fund-raisers, Obama turned him into a leading character in his stump speech. "All we're asking is that we go back to the same tax rates that we paid under Bill Clinton," Obama said in Boone, Iowa, recently, using a line that he repeats in most campaign speeches these days. "And you know what? That was a time when our economy created nearly twenty-three million new jobs, the biggest budget surplus in history, and millionaires did pretty good, too."Obama had found a way to capitalize on an unusual political development. In an effort to sell deficit reduction, many Republicans have been extolling the former President's legacy. Even Mitt Romney has presented Clinton as a responsible centrist and a champion of welfare reform, unlike Obama. "Almost a generation ago, Bill Clinton announced that the era of big government was over," Romney said earlier this year, trying to magnify divisions between the two Presidents. "President Obama tucked away the Clinton doctrine in his large drawer of discarded ideas, along with transparency and bipartisanship. It's enough to make you wonder if maybe it was a personal beef with the Clintons, but really it runs much deeper."
Men aren't angels.[H]is greatest battle concerned the founding of King's College, later Columbia, which New York's Anglicans (including the De Lanceys) wanted to establish as a sectarian institution with a royal charter. Their plan opened an old wound: in a colony only 10 percent Anglican, only the city's two Dutch churches and the Anglican Trinity Church had royal-charter protection, and Trinity alone received all the money from a 1693 tax imposed to support Protestant ministers, not specifically Episcopal ones. Now the Anglicans wanted to set up their own college with money raised from lotteries that the Assembly had authorized for the general "Advancement of Learning," with a faculty to be paid from the colony-wide excise tax. "It is a standing Maxim of English Liberty, 'that no Man shall be taxed, but with his own Consent,' " Livingston wrote. The "Money hitherto collected is public Money," the Reflector observed of the college. "When the Community is taxed, it ought to be for the Defence, or Emolument of the Whole: Can it, therefore, be supposed, that all shall contribute for the Uses, the ignominious Uses of a few?"Moreover, as he surveyed the colonial colleges, most looked like the Yale he remembered, places less of education than of indoctrination--literally, for they were training prospective clergymen in the doctrines of their sect. But much college teaching is bound to be indoctrination, forming as well as informing, with powerful consequences. "The Principles or Doctrines implanted in the Minds of Youth," Livingston wrote, "pass from the Memory and Understanding to the heart, and at length become a second Nature." In time, they "appear on the Bench, at the Bar, in the Pulpit, and in the Senate, and unavoidably affect our civil and religious Principles." Therefore, instead of indoctrinating students with sectarian dogma, why not infuse them with "public Spirit and Love of their Country," with "Honour and Probity," and with "Zeal for Liberty," which will "make them more extensively serviceable to the Common-Wealth?"Since the college will be so critical for the future of all New Yorkers, why not have it publicly chartered, funded, and controlled by the people's elected representatives in the Assembly? Since its graduates will in due course "fill all the Offices of the Government," public oversight will allay fears that any one sect will gain control and teach "Doctrines destructive of the Privileges of human Nature." After all, "as we are split into so great a Variety of Opinions and Professions; had each Individual his Share in the Government of the Academy, the Jealousy of all Parties combating each other, would inevitably produce a perfect Freedom for each particular Party." And to ensure further that the college won't be "a Nursery of Animosity, Dissention and Disorder," it should admit students "of all Protestant Denominations, upon a perfect Parity as to Privileges." Madison paraphrased Livingston's idea that sect countering sect protects liberty in his great Federalist 10: while a "religious sect, may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the confederacy," he wrote, "the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger" that any one faction can tyrannize over the rest.Of all possible sectarian colleges, an Anglican one would be the worst, Livingston passionately believed, since the Church of England's 39 Articles, which the Reflector gently satirized, curb freedom of thought. "Let not the Seat of Literature, the Abode of the Muses, and the Nurse of Science; be transformed into a Cloister of Bigots, an Habitation of Superstition, a Nursery of ghostly Tyranny," Livingston pleaded. And he was deadly serious in his fear of tyranny, for he thought that High-Church Anglicans resented the Glorious Revolution of 1688--with its strictly limited monarchy, its 1689 Bill of Rights, and its Act of Toleration of Protestant dissenters--and believed instead in the divine right of kings. Only six years before the Reflector began, the Stuart pretender, Bonnie Prince Charlie, had tried to restore divine right before being routed on Culloden Moor, and he still had partisans among the Tories.The college opened as an Episcopal institution in July 1754, with seven students meeting in the Trinity Church vestry. A 1756 deal split the lottery money between the college and a quarantine center for crewmen of infected ships--"between the two pest houses," William Smith, Sr., scoffed--and the college didn't shake off the stigma that the Reflector had placed on it until after the Revolution.At its heart, the college debate was political, and it led Livingston to set forth his deepest political beliefs, the first public exposition of Lockean social-contract theory in the colonies, complete with Locke's insistence on the right to resist and depose a monarch. Journalistic and unsystematic, his half-dozen essays on the subject add up to a coherent argument that provided the Revolution's key justification. Untangled, it runs like this.Before there was any government, nature made men free and equal and endowed them with rights. Yet people voluntarily "consented to resign that Freedom and Equality" and put themselves under "the Government and Controul of" a ruler, as "a Remedy for the Inconveniences that sprang from a State of Nature, in which . . . the Weak were a perpetual Prey to the Powerful." To "preserve to every Individual, the undisturbed Enjoyment of his Acquisitions, and the Security of his Person," men "entered into Society" and appointed magistrates or kings "to decide Controversies," investing them "with the total Power of all the Constituents, subject to the Rules and Regulations agreed upon by the original Compact, for the Good of the Community."This was a choice of the lesser of two evils, for "Government, at best, is a Burden, tho' a necessary one. Had Man been wise from his Creation, he . . . might have enjoyed the gifts of a liberal Nature, unmolested, unrestrained. It is the Depravity of Mankind that has necessarily introduced Government; and so great is this Depravity, that without it, we could scarcely subsist," wrote Livingston, more strongly influenced by Thomas Hobbes's vision of the State of Nature as a war of all against all than even Locke was. To guard against man's inborn tendency to invade the "Person or Fortune" of his neighbor, he wrote, echoing Hobbes's understanding of psychology, we "have ceded a Part of our original Freedom, to secure to us the rest."For Livingston, the point of this account of government's origin was that it clearly marked the limits of royal power. "Communities were formed not for the Advantage of one Man," he insisted, "but for the Good of the whole Body." Since subjects gave their king power only to defend them "in the peaceable Possession of their Rights, by punishing the Invader," only "what is injurious to the Society, or some particular Member of it, can be the proper Object of civil Punishment; because, nothing else falls within the Design of forming the Society."
JD McPherson's "big break" came when he introduced himself to producer and bassist Jimmy Sutton of The Four Charms via MySpace. After receiving several of McPherson's demos, Sutton immediately recognized his talent, and the Oklahoma native moved to Chicago to begin recording with Sutton. The pair released a music video for "North Side Gal," which became a viral hit.
When he stopped by The Current studios in July for a performance, he had just finished traveling through 3 countries in 5 days. JD McPherson visited the MPR booth to talk with Mary Lucia and play some tunes for the crowd.