September 9, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 12:40 PM


Controversial plan to split up Afghanistan (BRIAN BRADY, JONATHAN OWEN,  SUNDAY 09 SEPTEMBER 2012, The Independent)

Afghanistan could be carved into eight separate "kingdoms" - with some of them potentially ruled by the Taliban - according to a controversial plan under discussion in London and Washington.

Code-named "Plan C", the radical blueprint for the future of Afghanistan sets out reforms that would relegate President Hamid Karzai to a figurehead role.

Devised by the Conservative MP and Foreign Office aide Tobias Ellwood, it warns that the country faces a "bleak" future when it is left to fend for itself. Mr Ellwood claims that a "regionalised" state under a powerful new prime minister would tackle the weak government, tribal disputes and corruption which many fear could plunge Afghanistan into chaos when the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) withdraws at the end of 2014.

Posted by orrinj at 12:36 PM


Tutu: Bush, Blair should face trial at the Hague (DAVID STRINGER, 9/02/12, Associated Press)

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu called Sunday for Tony Blair and George Bush to face prosecution at the International Criminal Court for their role in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq

Tutu, the retired Anglican Church's archbishop of South Africa, wrote in an op-ed piece for The Observer newspaper that the ex-leaders of Britain and the United States should be made to "answer for their actions."

The Iraq war "has destabilized and polarized the world to a greater extent than any other conflict in history," wrote Tutu, who was awarded the Nobel prize in 1984.

"Those responsible for this suffering and loss of life should be treading the same path as some of their African and Asian peers who have been made to answer for their actions in the Hague," he added.

Why shouldn't Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu be tried alongside them for destabilizing South Africa?  The only possible answer, of course, is that he believes black South Africans deserved self-governance but Iraqi Shi'a and Kurds don't. Advocating for the stability of totalitarian dictatorships is simply evil.

Posted by orrinj at 11:33 AM


Dying child touched life of Lions' Stephen Tulloch (Dave Birkett, 9/07/12, Detroit Free Press)

He was on crutches, barely ambulatory and just back from Pensacola, Fla., where Dr. James Andrews had performed arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. So when Stephen Tulloch saw his publicist, Sherrie Handrinos, at his door one Wednesday in May, his first instinct was to shoo her away.

Handrinos picked up Tulloch from the airport a day earlier, and on the way home they talked about the upcoming charity softball tournament he was hosting with Lions teammate Nate Burleson.

The city of Dearborn, where the tournament was being held, had reached out and wondered: Would it be possible for a boy suffering from a rare form of brain cancer, 9-year-old Ryan Kennedy, to throw out the first pitch at the game?

Of course, Tulloch said. But then Handrinos talked to Kennedy's mother, and it became clear Kennedy wouldn't make it 3 1/2 weeks to the game.

So Handrinos rushed to tell Tulloch how urgent the situation was, and Tulloch agreed. He hobbled to his car and made the hour-long drive to Independence Township, one leg elevated the entire way.

When he got to Kennedy's quad-level home, Tulloch hopped up three flights of stairs, plopped down on the bed next to him and spent the next 2 hours playing video games, talking life, football and cancer with Kennedy and his family.
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Posted by orrinj at 10:29 AM


Romney says he likes parts of 'Obamacare'  (AP, 9/09/12)

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, who promised early in his campaign to repeal President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, says he would keep several important parts of the overhaul.

"Of course there are a number of things that I like in health care reform that I'm going to put in place," he said in an interview broadcast Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." ''One is to make sure that those with pre-existing conditions can get coverage."

Obama 'happy to work' with GOP to strike budget deal, to a point (Sean Sullivan, September 9, 2012, Washington Post)

"I'm, you know, more than happy to work with the Republicans," Obama told CBS News's Scott Pelley in an interview set to air on Sunday. "And what I've said is in reducing our deficits, we can make sure that we cut two-and-a-half dollars for every dollar of increased revenue."

Posted by orrinj at 9:02 AM


Chicago Teachers May Strike, Teach Political Lesson (BECKY VEVEA, 9/09/12, NPR)

Twenty five thousand Chicago teachers are planning to walk off the job Monday if they don't have a contract by midnight Sunday. As the Democrats look to unions to help them get out the vote, a strike by Chicago teachers might just put a crimp in those plans. [...]

In the contract battle between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Teachers Union, the two sides are furiously campaigning for public opinion as the city braces for the first teacher strike since 1987.

Emanuel is pushing for big changes: a longer school day and year, a new system for evaluating teachers and a whole new way to pay teachers. At the Democratic National Convention last week, he defended many of his reforms.

"For the first time in a decade, [students are] getting a very rigorous academic standard," he said. "For the first time, we're getting five new high schools all dedicated to science, technology, engineering and math. Six thousand more kids are going to magnet schools. We're making major changes."

Chicago can save a ton of money and impose all the rules it wants by just firing them when they walk out.

Posted by orrinj at 8:55 AM


Inside story of Obama's struggle to keep Congress from controlling outcome of debt ceiling crisis (Bob Woodward, 9/09/12, Washington Post)

Boehner said he believed that he and the others -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi -- had a plan. He told Obama: We think we can work this out. Give us a little more time. We'll come back to you. We are not going to negotiate this with you.

Obama objected, saying that he couldn't be left out of the process. "I've got to sign this bill," he reminded the leaders as they sat in the Cabinet Room off the Oval Office.

"Mr. President," Boehner challenged, "as I read the Constitution, the Congress writes the laws. You get to decide if you want to sign them."

Reid, the most powerful Democrat on Capitol Hill, spoke up. The congressional leaders want to speak privately, he said. Give us some time.

This was it. Congress was taking over. The leaders were asking the president to leave the meeting he had called in the White House.

Fine, Obama said. Talk. Knock yourselves out. There is no pride of authorship here, just do it -- if you can.

How did it feel, I asked the president in an interview on July 11, 2012, to be voted off the island in his own house? [...]

Around 10 p.m., Obama called Boehner, who was at dinner with friends.

I am not going to sign a bill that requires me to deal with the debt ceiling a second time before the election, the president told him. He was furious.

"Listen," Boehner said he told Obama, "I understand it. All right? But you're not going to have a choice. We've got an agreement."

The speaker recalled, "He was moaning and groaning and whining and demanding . . . threatening. . . . He was pretty desperate." 

It's our House, not his.
Posted by orrinj at 8:48 AM


The Magic Is Gone (ROSS DOUTHAT, 9/09/12, NY Times)

THE Obama era in American politics began almost exactly eight years ago in Boston, when a youthful Senate candidate's soaring speech to the Democratic National Convention stole the show from the actual Democratic nominee.

It ended, to all intents and purposes, last Thursday night in Charlotte, when a weary-seeming incumbent delivered perhaps the fourth-best major address at his own convention -- a plodding, hectoring speech that tacitly acknowledged that this White House is out of ideas, out of options and no longer the master of its fate.

The end of an era does not necessarily mean the end of a presidency. Barack Obama is still beloved by his supporters and regarded sympathetically by many swing voters. His Republican rival is a flawed candidate running an overcautious campaign. The memories of the Bush presidency's failures are still fresh enough to make even a stumbling Democratic administration seem as if it might be the lesser of two evils.

But a re-elected Obama will be a permanently diminished Obama, with no magic left in his public persona and no mandate save to stay the current economic course. He may win the necessary electoral votes in November, but come February he will already essentially be a lame duck.

...that he'd just sign the budget plan Boehner and McConnell hand him.
Posted by orrinj at 8:45 AM

Grilled poundcake (Leah Eskin, 9/09/12, Chicago Tribune)

1 prepared poundcake, sliced into 1-inch thick slices
4 ripe peaches, peeled and halved
4 ripe apricots, peeled and halved
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons dark rum
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Build or spark a medium-hot fire. Brush fruit halves with butter. Grill over direct heat until nicely tattooed but not falling apart, about 30 seconds per side.

Slice fruit into wedges. Tumble into a bowl along with any juices. Add rum and brown sugar; toss gently.

Grill cake slices until just toasty, about 15 seconds per side.

Set cake slices on cake plates or in shallow bowls. Heap on fruit and juices. Enjoy.