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Berlusconi’s referendum defeat: beginning of the end?

Posted on June 13th, 2011 at 20:39 by John Sinteur in category: News


Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s flamboyant prime minister, is usually reluctant to admit defeat. But once it became clear that the majority of Italian citizens defied his exhortations not to vote and weighed in on four national referendums, he waxed philosophical: “In respect to the people’s will, we shall say goodbye to nuclear energy,” he told news agencies. “This means we’ll have to put more effort on renewable [energy sources].”

But many observers see the beginning of the end for Mr. Berlusconi in both the large turnout and voters’ rejection of trial immunity for government ministers – a measure introduced last year that granted Berlusconi de-facto immunity from prosecution. The embattled leader is currently facing three corruption trials and one for allegedly having sex with an underage prostitute.

“The countdown for Berlusconi has begun,” argues Paolo Franchi, a political analyst for Il Corriere della Sera, Italy’s major newspaper. “Only 20 days ago I wouldn’t have said so, but it seems now clear that this government is in a severe crisis,” adds Mr. Franchi.

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  1. He finally got the Italian public really, really cross, after robbing them blind for years. We do live in interesting times.

  2. A few corrections.
    To be fair, Berlusconi never said not to vote. He said he would not vote, but that every voter could choose by himself if voting or not. Of course, the government got a bad blow, since over half of Italy population (95% of the 57% of the voters) was against three of its most important projects.

    While on the article the quotes are correct, they have been quickly superseded: members of the government said things ranging from “The vote confirmed the government line” to “We will go ahead despite the vote”. In many cases, laughter ensued.

    Berlusconi fall has begun way more than 20 days ago. He got a sound beating at the local administrative elections (where he was running as a list leader in Milan, since it is allowed to opt out after being elected): in Milan he got less than 20% of votes. That is a big deal, since it demolish his pretence to be the “chosen by the majority”.

One law for us, another for you

Posted on June 13th, 2011 at 20:26 by John Sinteur in category: News


The California state Senate voted 28-8 Wednesday to exempt itself from the pointless gun-control laws that apply to the rest of the populace. Legislators apparently think they alone are worthy to pack heat on the streets for personal protection, and the masses ought to wait until the police arrive.

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TSA Considering Banning Photography Of Checkpoints

Posted on June 13th, 2011 at 19:17 by Paul Jay in category: News


The Transportation Security Administration is considering changing its policy on photographing security checkpoints after several videos depicting questionable incidents between passengers and TSA screeners were posted on Youtube.

News of the possible changes in policy was posted Friday on the TSA Blog, the same blog that posted that it is permissible to photograph checkpoints, even though most screeners act as if it has always been illegal.

The reason it is considering changing its policy stems from a Youtube video that was recorded in Phoenix when a woman opted-out of the metal detectors and chose to get patted down by a TSA screener.

The woman began yelling hysterically that she had been molested by the screener.

Meanwhile, the woman’s son was recording the incident and continued to do so, even though several TSA screeners told him he was breaking the law.

It is impossible to tell whether the woman was molested in the video, but it’s clear that the TSA screeners were creating their own laws in dealing with the videographer –  as they’ve done so many times before.

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Iraq: Missing Iraq money may have been stolen, auditors say

Posted on June 13th, 2011 at 18:47 by John Sinteur in category: No shit, sherlock


Pentagon officials determined that one giant C-130 Hercules cargo plane could carry $2.4 billion in shrink-wrapped bricks of $100 bills. They sent an initial full planeload of cash, followed by 20 other flights to Iraq by May 2004 in a $12-billion haul that U.S. officials believe to be the biggest international cash airlift of all time.

This month, the Pentagon and the Iraqi government are finally closing the books on the program that handled all those Benjamins. But despite years of audits and investigations, U.S. Defense officials still cannot say what happened to $6.6 billion in cash

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  1. Remind me which high up generals have been held responsible for this?

  2. Bribes – totally untraceable. It wasn’t stolen, but was parceled out to … whoever the US government though could help us the most. Corruption at its finest.

  3. Rumsfeld Admits to Unaccounted, Missing 2.3 Trillion Dollars

‘The Weinerlogues’

Posted on June 13th, 2011 at 17:26 by John Sinteur in category: News


If ever a series of missives demanded a dramatic reading, it’s the back and forth between Anthony Weiner and Las Vegas blackjack dealer Lisa Weiss. And since Bill Maher is on HBO, he doesn’t have to worry about pesky bleeps getting in the way of the rhetorical fireworks. With a little help from Jane Lynch as the voice of Weiss, Maher brings the power of Weiner’s words to marvelous life with "The Weinerlogues."

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  1. ROFLMAO! Weiner – living up (or down) to his name! Gotta wonder how many similar scenarios there are with GOP congresspeople…

  2. An American politician comes clean?

When Food Kills

Posted on June 13th, 2011 at 12:56 by John Sinteur in category: News


The deaths of 31 people in Europe from a little-known strain of E. coli have raised alarms worldwide, but we shouldn’t be surprised. Our food often betrays us.


Perhaps the most disgraceful aspect of our agricultural system — I say this as an Oregon farmboy who once raised sheep, cattle and hogs — is the way antibiotics are recklessly stuffed into healthy animals to make them grow faster.

The Food and Drug Administration reported recently that 80 percent of antibiotics in the United States go to livestock, not humans. And 90 percent of the livestock antibiotics are administered in their food or water, typically to healthy animals to keep them from getting sick when they are confined in squalid and crowded conditions.

The single state of North Carolina uses more antibiotics for livestock than the entire United States uses for humans.

This cavalier use of low-level antibiotics creates a perfect breeding ground for antibiotic-resistant pathogens. The upshot is that ailments can become pretty much untreatable.

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  1. The E. coli outbreak in Europe has been traced to an ‘organic’ farm…

U.S. can’t justify its drug war spending, reports say

Posted on June 13th, 2011 at 1:45 by Paul Jay in category: News


As drug cartels wreak murderous havoc fromMexico to Panama, the Obamaadministration is unable to show that the billions of dollars spent in the war on drugs have significantly stemmed the flow of illegal narcotics into the United States, according to two government reports and outside experts.

The reports specifically criticize the government’s growing use of U.S. contractors, which were paid more than $3 billion to train local prosecutors and police, help eradicate fields of coca, operate surveillance equipment and otherwise battle the widening drug trade in Latin America over the last five years.

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  1. Will we see the end of this Prohibition soon? Cynically, I have to say I doubt it.

  2. I am hopeful that cannabis will become legal in California and Colorado in 2012. If that happens, and things go alright for a couple years, and the states collect substantial tax revenues from sales, and save massive interdiction, prosecution, and incarceration costs, it could start the ball rolling. I think it will have to happen incrementally, and Cali and Colo seem like two of the best chances to bust a progressive move.

Is The N.S.A. Whistleblower Case Falling Apart?

Posted on June 13th, 2011 at 1:05 by Paul Jay in category: News


The government’s espionage case against Thomas Drake, a former National Security Agency employee, appears to be crumbling, with prosecutors offering Drake a plea bargain involving vastly reduced charges.

Sources close to the case, which I wrote about for The New Yorker, say that the government has been scrambling to find a way to avoid the trial now scheduled for next Monday in the federal court in Baltimore. At the moment, Drake faces ten felony charges, and if convicted could serve thirty-five years in prison. But in heated discussions, the government has offered Drake the possibility of pleading to a misdemeanor, with no jail time. He would have to agree, however, that he willfully retained classified national-security materials, taken while he worked at the N.S.A. Drake, who has consistently denied that he misappropriated any classified material, has so far refused even the vastly reduced plea offer from the government—apparently to the frustration of both his defense lawyers and the prosecutors. Drake is refusing, so far, to plead guilty to any wrongdoing, arguing that it is a lie, and he won’t compromise the truth. (Laura Sweeney, a Justice Department spokesman, said she couldn’t comment on the developments because the case is pending.)

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  1. Shame on Obama who campaigned for more transparency in government and has done just the opposite. Slightly off topic, but I think it is another example of why the US needs a true multiparty system.