Friday Cat Blogging
moar funny pictures
A place for a tired old woman to try to figure things out so that the world makes a bit of sense.
Labels: The Military
Crucifixes signify that a person is Christian. They adorn the neck of the religious. Some of those crosses though come from the sweat of Chinese slaving away in factories. Those crosses have more than the blood of Jesus on them.
“Jesus, take pity on me! I’m going to die of exhaustion.”
According to a press release from the National Labor Committee, crucifixes are being made under "horrific sweatshop conditions" In China.
Factory workers at the Junxingye factory in China are forced to work seven days a week for 14 hours a day to manufacture crosses that will be shipped to the United States.
Before shipments leave for the US, labourers are often forced to work shifts lasting up to 25 hours. Workers routinely work more than 100 hours a week, 51 of those hours are overtime. The legal limit of China's work hour rules are exceeded by 514 per cent. The majority of the workers at this factory are young women (some as young as 15) who can go months before they see a day off.
Workers who make the cross necklaces are paid a measly 26.5 cents an hour, less than half of the legal minimum wage. Workers are paid $10.61 a week but deductions take large portions to pay for their company dorm room and food. When the final tally is made, workers see about $3.70 a week. Those working a 91-hour week get a bit more at $30.61. That's only 43 per cent of the $70.71 they legally should be getting.
Labels: Iraq War
The butterfly's common name will be the Minerva owl butterfly, named after the late Margery Minerva Blythe Kitzmiller of Ohio.
While the bidder's name was not disclosed, the payment was made on behalf of Kitzmiller's grandchildren. The butterfly's scientific name will be Opsiphanes blythekitzmillerae.
The 4-inch butterfly is brown, white and black and lives in Sonora, a Mexican state bordering Arizona. Proceeds from the auction will go toward further research of Mexican butterflies.
Beverly Sensbach, director of development for the museum, said Kitzmiller's grandchildren wanted to honor her through the name of a beautiful butterfly because she was "an extremely creative person who wrote poetry, played piano and sang."
Saudi Arabia and Libya, both considered allies by the United States in its fight against terrorism, were the source of about 60 percent of the foreign fighters who came to Iraq in the past year to serve as suicide bombers or to facilitate other attacks, according to senior American military officials.
Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency said Friday that his country could suspend uranium enrichment if the United States and Western Europe agreed to acknowledge that its nuclear program was peaceful.
But Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh said there was a "serious confidence gap" between his country and the United States and Western Europe and that he saw little point in trying to "build confidence" with an American administration that had none in his country.
"We don't trust the United States," he told McClatchy Newspapers after the IAEA Board of Governors finished its latest round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. "We could suspend nuclear enrichment. We did it before for two and half years. But it wasn't enough then, and wouldn't be enough now. We will not suspend enrichment again because there is no end to what the United States will demand."
Diplomats said Soltanieh's remarks reflected what he'd been saying in private. "Iran is willing to deal," one said. "But they've made it clear there would have to be a quid pro quo, and they don't believe that's possible." The diplomats said they couldn't be quoted by name because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Experts and diplomats say the Bush administration may have boxed itself in by taking the issue to the U.N. Security Council. Iran reacted by shutting off information about its nuclear activities two years ago, and the administration said it would seek harsher sanctions and refused to rule out military action. Russia and China, however — both with veto power on the Security Council — have been critical of further sanctions.
Labels: Humane Treatment of Animals
The flashy Laila Tower office building in this wealthy oil capital is a world away from the mean streets of Baghdad. But the U.S. government says they are linked by a web of fraud and bribery that stole millions of dollars provided by American taxpayers to support U.S. combat troops in Iraq.
The U.S. military and prosecutors have launched 83 criminal investigations into alleged contract fraud, including a total of $15 million in bribes.
It was the apparent suicide of an Army major in Baghdad a year ago that brought them to the 15th floor of the Laila Tower. There, overlooking the Persian Gulf, is the firm run by American George H. Lee and his family, a small part of that huge web.
None of the Lees has been charged with any crime. But the Army suspended them from doing business with the U.S. government, and a federal judge in Huntsville, Ala., upheld the order in August, as a military investigation into their case continues.
The case of Lee, a 64-year-old former Army supply clerk from Pennsylvania, provides rare insight into how fraud was able to occur, in part by exploiting the chaos in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It also shows the flaws in the U.S. system of bids between private contractors and the U.S. military officers who doled out billions of dollars in contracts since 2003, often with little oversight.
Kuwait's close-knit expatriate community also played a role, in a place where business is traditionally done away from the glare of public scrutiny.
"Bribery and kickbacks are common with big projects," said Ali al-Nemash of the Kuwait Transparency Society, a private organization that seeks to combat graft and corruption. "They call it 'gifts,' but it is bribery."
Teams of U.S. investigators are reviewing a sample of about 6,000 U.S. military contracts worth $2.8 billion that were awarded by a single Army office at Camp Arifjan, a huge logistics and supply base about 40 miles south of the Laila Tower.
The U.S. has publicly identified only some of the companies and individuals linked to the alleged bribery and fraud. The Army cited the need to protect "the integrity of the ongoing investigation" in refusing a request by The Associated Press for an interview at Camp Arifjan.
Davis' children are seeking to reverse a government order seizing their mother's bank accounts, which were frozen one day before she was found dead of a gunshot wound in Baghdad.
She and others may have fallen into what Rep. Ike Skelton, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, referred to as a "culture of corruption" at Camp Arifjan, where about a dozen people gave out contracts worth tens of millions of dollars.
TO MANY who follow the news, especially more skeptical readers, the annual presidential statements and speeches around Thanksgiving are just so much boilerplate, about as worthy of serious attention as those hokey presidential turkey-pardonings. But in a speech this week in Charles City, Va., President Bush had some useful things to say regarding the national day of thanks, calling it a time to "pay tribute to all Americans who serve a cause larger than themselves," including troops abroad and heroes at home, such as a Virginia Tech professor who died protecting students from a deranged gunman last spring.
Thanksgiving began as an austere occasion among settlers of a single, uniform faith who were grateful simply for having survived in the New World.
Habits, ideas and mores can change, not always for the better. In the coming year, as in the past, the people and those who want to lead them will be tested yet again as to how well we are maintaining the public spirit in which a just democracy can flourish. The outcome will have a lot to do with how thankful we can be next year on this day.
Intense negotiations are underway on Capitol Hill to take up CAFE standards, renewable energy and tax incentives for clean energy development in separate votes. This is encouraging news, and we urge House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to come to an agreement. Washington must pass legislation that finally shows the world it is ready to take on climate change in a significant and meaningful way.
Labels: Free Press
LAST month, officials of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development were carried out of a Dallas courthouse on the shoulders of jubilant friends and relatives after a federal jury largely vindicated them of charges of providing material support to the terrorist group Hamas.
The victory -- the jury acquitted or hung on all charges -- is in many ways a hollow one. Since December 2001, when the Holy Land Foundation was deemed a "specially designated global terrorist" by the Bush administration, the foundation's assets have been frozen by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Control. The criminal case has no impact on the freeze. The legal and moral incongruity of the organization's situation highlights the problems inherent in the International Emergency Economic Powers Act -- a statute that was once used exclusively to penalize hostile foreign countries but that was expanded during the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to target groups and individuals believed to be supporters of terrorist groups.
In a criminal procedure, such as the trial of the Holy Land officials, prosecutors must provide evidence, and defendants can challenge that evidence or present their own. Only if a jury is convinced beyond a reasonable doubt will the defendants be convicted and punished.
Under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the process is turned on its head.
Labels: 110th Congress
Last year was the worst year for civilian casualties since the fall of the country's cruel Taliban regime, and 2007 is shaping up to be even worse.
The most alarming point: As of July, more civilians had died as a result of NATO, U.S. and Afghan government firepower than had died due to the Taliban.
According to U.N. figures, 314 civilians were killed by international and Afghan government forces in the first six months of this year, while 279 civilians were killed by the insurgents.
So why on Earth are the NATO and U.S. forces and their Afghan allies killing more civilians than the Taliban? One explanation can be found in the relatively low number of Western boots on the ground. Afghanistan, which is 1 1/2 times the size of Iraq and has a somewhat larger population, has only about 50,000 U.S. and NATO soldiers stationed on its soil. By contrast, more than 170,000 U.S. troops are now in Iraq. So the West has to rely far more heavily on airstrikes in Afghanistan, which inevitably exact a higher toll in civilian casualties.
Indeed, the Associated Press found that U.S. and NATO forces launched more than 1,000 airstrikes in Afghanistan in the first six months of 2007 alone -- four times as many airstrikes as U.S. forces carried out in Iraq during that period.
The collateral damage here goes beyond even the tragic loss of life. A September report by the United Nations concluded that Western airstrikes are among the principal motivations for suicide attackers in Afghanistan. Sure enough, suicide attacks in the country rose sevenfold from 2005 to 2006, to an alarming 123 attacks, and are already up by around 70 percent this year -- at the same time that pro-government forces are killing more Afghan civilians than are their Taliban foes.
Lead researcher Dr. Sean McAllister said: "Right now we have a limited range of options in treating aggressive forms of cancer. "Those treatments, such as chemotherapy, can be effective but they can also be extremely toxic and difficult for patients.
"This compound offers the hope of a non-toxic therapy that could achieve the same results without any of the painful side effects."
Dr Joanna Owens of Cancer Research UK said: "This research is at a very early stage. "The findings will need to be followed up with clinical trials in humans to see if the CBD is safe, and whether the beneficial effects can be replicated.
"Several cancer drugs based on plant chemicals are already used widely, such as vincristine - which is derived from a type of flower called Madagascar Periwinkle and is used to treat breast and lung cancer. It will be interesting to see whether CBD will join them."
Maria Leadbeater of Breast Cancer Care said: "Many people experience side-effects while having chemotherapy, such as nausea and an increased risk of infection, which can take both a physical and emotional toll.
"Any drug that has fewer side-effects will, of course, be of great interest."
In 1964, Myanmar introduced an annual gem auction, and starting in 1992 the sale was held twice a year. In more recent times, a special third auction has been held each year.
The government has taken other steps to increase earnings, including an effort to cut smuggling. The country's New Gemstone Law, enacted in 1995, allows people in Myanmar to mine, produce, transport and sell finished gems and jewelry at home and abroad — as long as they pay tax, which smugglers don't.
Dealers in Bangkok estimate the generals earn at least $60 million annually from gems, but some say the amount could be as high as 10 times that.
Whatever the figure, a growing number of dealers want to deny the junta any windfall from rubies.
But imposing sanctions will be fraught with problems, particularly since as many as 90 percent of the world's rubies come from Myanmar. Most go to the United States, Europe and Japan.
Labels: Health Care