Yoda's World

MARCH 16, 2009

Poll: Majority of Americans want to end Bush Tax cuts for the rich
Michele Bachmann
Complaints filed with IRS on Hannity and North charity
GOP Unemployed "insignificant"
GOP to President Obama, its our way or nothing at all
Tea Party death threats mimic Muslim Terrorists
Guns at New Mexico teabaggers tea party
Dick Cheney no longer a chickenhawk, now just a chicken
The GOP purity and purge test
Limbaugh the most influential conservative in America
It smells like socialism
Right wing media always giddy when America loses
Glenn Beck: The body on the side of the road
The House on "C" Street
The top 20 Truths about Ronald Reagan
EFCA-Employee Free Choice Act
An Invention that Could Change the Internet for Ever

Sixth anniversary of Iraq war: Veterans reflect on service

By Corina Curry / Rockford Register Star

Former U.S. Marine Kurt Thingvold, home after a tour in Iraq, did something unexpected his first Fourth of July back stateside: He took cover under the kitchen table.

As fireworks banged and crashed outside his parents’ Rockford home, the 23-year-old dived under the table, yelling “incoming fire.”

At first his mother, Fran Thingvold, tried reasoning with him.

“It’s cherry bombs,” she said. “It’s just kids.”

It was no use. Her son wouldn’t come out from under the table.

So Thingvold did what any mother would do. She crawled under the table and wrapped her arms around her only child as he shook and cried.

Thursday marks the sixth anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, 4,260 members of the U.S. military have been killed in the war.

Eleven Rock River Valley families are among those whose loved ones were killed as part of war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Many died as the result of roadside bombings, or improvised explosive devices as the military calls them, used by insurgents to wage war against U.S. military convoys.

Thousands more, like Thingvold, have returned to their homes and families physically injured or suffering psychological scars that affect them to this day.

They bring home stories, too. Stories of violence and fear, and those of pride and hope.

Worries about withdrawal
President Barack Obama announced Feb. 27 that all military troops would be removed from Iraq by the end of 2011.

The plan is to pull most combat forces out of the country by August 2010. Between 35,000 and 50,000 troops will remain, mainly providing advice and support to the Iraqi government. The U.S. then will refocus its efforts on fighting al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Forces in Afghanistan will increase from about 30,000 to 55,000.

It’s news that worries Emily McKiski, the sister of 21-year-old Adam McKiski of Rockford, who died Aug. 7, 2008, in Iraq. He was on his second tour of duty as a Marine.

Emily McKiski, 27, said it’s sad to think of the war reaching its six-year mark, but equally troubling to think of what’s to come in Afghanistan.

“It’s scary that Afghanistan is getting worse,” McKiski said. “It could be back to ground zero with Afghanistan.”

She worries about troops leaving Iraq before the time is right.

“The impression I get is that the Marines want to complete their mission,” McKiski said. “If we’re not going to finish what we started, I don’t think my brother would appreciate that. ... If it comes too soon, then what was the point? What did my brother die for?”

‘Scary as hell’
Thingvold, a 2004 East High graduate, admits he was just a baby when he joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 2005. He was an 18-year-old kid who wanted to prove himself. He served in Iraq from October 2006 to April 2007. He completed his service with the Marines earlier this year.

“If I was going to be doing something with my life, it might as well be something worthwhile,” Thingvold said of his decision to enlist. “What better reason than to protect the people I love and the country I love?”

The six months in the Iraqi desert changed Thingvold, he said, from a kid out of high school to a young man. He was assigned with a lot of older Marines who looked out for him. He watched one of them die in an explosion while performing traffic control.

“Just being over there was scary as hell,” Thingvold said. “I was in a couple firefights. You have bullets flying by you. It was war.”

At home, his mother, Fran, said she was afraid to watch the news. Communication where Thingvold was stationed wasn’t the best. He had limited access to mail, phone and e-mail. He had to rely on his mom to send things like toothbrushes.

“There was no place to buy anything,” he said. “People lived in dirt huts and were afraid to come outside.”

Readjusting not easy

Will Stelma, 24, of Rockford did his last stint in the war with the U.S. Air Force in June 2008.

But the day he remembers most from his six-year tour of duty was Dec. 25, 2007. The Machesney Park native was working at the airport in Kuwait that day. He helped load 34 coffins on and off planes.

“That was a rough day,” Stelma said. “I’ll never forget it.”

Stelma said he usually served six months of the year in the United States somewhere and the other six months in or near Iraq working police and security. He said he was inspired by the attacks on the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, to join the military.

“I wanted to get out on my own and get a sense of my own accomplishments,” Stelma said. “I got to serve my country, and they’d help pay for college when I was done.”

Adjusting to life after the war hasn’t been that easy for Stelma. Today, he’s struggling to obtain a state grant for college tuition to cover what the GI Bill won’t. He’s having a tough time finding a job, too. He doesn’t have a lot of work experience to put down on his application besides being in the Air Force for six years.

“It went from high school to the military,” said Stelma, who is studying to becoming a veterinarian technician. “I never worked in an office or store or anything like that.”

Constant fears

For Michelle Kosak of Roscoe, worries over the safety of her husband, Mike, are constant.

Mike Kosak, 39, is a sergeant in the Illinois Army National Guard. He joined in 2001 and is stationed in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The couple have four children ages 1 to 15. The husband and wife are able to speak to each other almost every day, but the conversations do little to ease Michelle’s fears.

“I think I’m in the shoes of a lot of military husbands and wives,” she said. “It takes a toll on the family. It takes a toll on the children. Younger kids don’t understand why dad can’t be home. I just pray every day he comes home safe.”

Being a working mom who’s now in charge of the entire household has been a challenge, Kosak said. She’s trying to reduce her hours at work to part time so she has more time to take care for her family.

“I get very stressed and overwhelmed,” she said. “On top of that I’m worrying about him getting hurt or not coming home.”

Good stories

Retired Sgt. First Class Dan Michels of Rockton served in the army in Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and again in Operation Iraqi Freedom from September 2004 to September 2005.

After working on the front lines during the 1991 invasion as a fire-support specialist and in an operation center in Mosul in 2004 and 2005, Michels, a veteran of 20-plus years, has a unique perspective on the war.

“One thing I’d like to tell people is what you hear in the media is not necessarily what is going on over there on a daily basis. For every negative story that you read, there are probably 25 good stories that never see the light of day,” Michels said. “Our unit would deliver school supplies and medical equipment to schools and hospitals. We worked with Iraqi government helping them rebuild their police force. We delivered generators to neighborhoods so they could have electricity. We helped them install sewer and water.”

Dangers were everywhere, Michels said, and mostly when traveling. He came under attack when he was going from one base to another. A sniper once took a shot at him. He found a dead soldier when he first arrived on the scene after a mortar attack.

“I try not to let it affect me,” Michels said. “I still remember it. Sometimes I dream about it, but I try not to let it be a major roadblock in my life. I try to keep in mind I chose that. It was the life I chose.”


Rants and Raves

By: David Phillips

March 16, 2009

Yoda’s World



Insurance giant AIG to pay $165 million in bonuses


Why didn’t Congress put a provision in all of the various bailout Bills that would end bonuses for CEO’s and their executives?


In the rush to finish, they simply left it out of the Bill...A simple mistake, after all Congress isn't perfect. Geez, they were in such a rush, that they even forgot to put wording in the Bill that would allow Congress to track where the money was being spent. And then after a few weeks went by Congress asked for an accounting of where all the tax payer dollars went, and the financial institutions said: Accounting? What accounting, you didn't say we needed any stinkin accounting.


So much to do, and so little time. God made the earth in 6 days and rested on the 7th according to the bible, Congress says, "We can beat that".


But why doesn’t the government have the authority to block those bonuses? A funny thing happened on the way to the forum, Congress did get the wording into the latest TARP money and other bailouts for these Holy sites of Dead Presidents, remember when Obama said that CEO's and executives would be limited to ONLY $500,000 and that until these holy sites repay the tax payers there will be NO bonuses?  Well the CEO's said OK no more bonuses. Now they will get “performance Pay" in place of a bonus. A rose by any other name.


Obama is about to shoot himself in the foot, he and the Pentagon are kicking around the idea of charging wounded Vets for health care. As an American, just the fact that they would consider this pisses me off, and as a Vet it pisses me off even more. If Obama really wants to serve as President for just one term, this is the way for him to do it. Link


At the moment I haven’t seen this anywhere on TV except the Fox Noise Channel, but CNN and everyone else online have covered it and Obama needs to nip this in the bud ASAP.


You may have not heard, but Ron Silver died over this past weekend, he was 62 and died from esophageal cancer. Silver was both a political activist in the Republican Party as well as an actor. Silver is probably best remembered for his recurring role on The West Wing, where he played a political strategist.


This past week New Mexico abolished the Death Penalty, and since I am against the death penalty I find this to be very good news. But I am not sure that the reasons behind the New Mexico legislatures vote to do away with it have anything to with morals. You see it is well known that it is cheaper to lock some scum bag up for life than it is to put him or her to death. And since the economy has been tanking everywhere and States have been tightening their budgets they may just have felt that it was the economical thing to do as opposed to the moral thing to do. But either way in my opinion, it’s a good thing. Now New Mexico and those who are sitting in their prisons on death row are waiting to see if Governor Bill Richardson will sign the measure or veto it.


The Death penalty is currently  law in 36 of our States, but 10 other states are also considering to either abolish the death penalty in their States or to suspend it, again because of the economic times our country is currently facing. One would think that with all the religion in our Nation, the last thing politicians would be in a rush for would be Death.


And finally, I recently learned that Bill Maher and Ann Coulter were hot for each other back in 1994 and getting it on. They say that politics makes for strange bedfellows, and in this case truer words have never been spoken.


Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)

By: Joe Davenport

March 16, 2009

For Yoda’s World


Well it is underway at last, the debate of the Employee Free Choice Act.  So why is it that this is the most feared thing since the sit down strikes of the 1930's?




Pure and simple this tool shifts power away from the employer and into the hands of workers who wish to form a union.


"Workers who wish to form a union" is the key here.  Despite what you might hear or read most union organizing is not the result of a group of "union bosses" sitting around a table and picking targets, that is called 'strategic organizing and is about 1/4 of all actions.


The rest of the time a phone rings or an e-mail pops up from a worker somewhere who thinks a union would be a good idea at Whateverco's plant in Whereverville.  Perhaps they were bullied, or insulted, or told if they didn't come in at 5pm on Thanksgiving they were fired whatever.


The union they call assigns an organizer (or a team if it's a big group).  Then it's off to Whereverville to find out if there really could be a union at the whatever plant.  The organizer meets with the person or group that dropped the dime and starts learning about the plant and the workers.  That small group becomes an organizing committee led and trained by the staffer.


Very quietly the committee builds enough interest to start the card process.  Then comes the race with the boss a "blitz" where the committee tries to sit down with every potential member and find out if they are willing to help organize, or wear a button at work when the time comes or just sign the card if they want the union to piss off.


If all goes well the current law says the union can ask for "card check “from the boss.  Well the boss almost always calls for an election-even if 87 of his 100 workers signed cards saying yes give me a union.  This where it gets sticky.


The boss will use every tactic he can think of to undercut union support: he might fire organizers, or even hold required meetings where he'll threaten to close the plant, and say the union won't do anything at all except collect dues, as well as remind them that we're a family here and they are not part of the family. (Now all that except the last one is against the law but).


The changes under EFCA are that the WORKERS are the ones who ask for an election if they don't want card check.  If the boss fires a worker for trying to organize, it'll cost him triple what the worker loses in pay (currently you only get what you would have made minus any unemployment or pay from another job).


The biggest change is that there would be only 6 months to negotiate a first contract, which is key, because most failed unions happen trying to get that first agreement, the boss stalls and stalls and the dues come out and the workers get pissed off and call it quits. Under EFCA any issues left after 6 months would go to arbitration.


Some in the labor movement feel these changes will double union membership, which would put the percentage of workers in a union at about 20 percent; the zenith of union density was only 35% in the 1950's.


So it’s about power in the work place AND power in elected offices.


Joe Davenport is a member of and sometime Volunteer Member Organizer for AFSCME local 1488 Seattle


Press did Not Cover the GOP Stimulus Plan, says GOP Leader

By: David Phillips

March 16, 2009

Yoda’s World



Over the last few months the only two stimulus ideas that everyone heard from the GOP as an alternative to the Democratic Party’s stimulus plans were: Tax cuts or Do nothing.


House minority whip Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) was pissed that the Main Stream Media (MSM) never reported the real GOP plan to stimulate the economy and was tired of hearing from the MSM that they were the “Party of No”. So while Cantor was on Meet the Press this past Sunday, he wanted to set the record straight.


Cantor told Meet the Press moderator David Gregory "Republicans will have a plan, we had a stimulus plan. You know, part of the problem with being in the minority, David, is that sometimes your colleagues in the press don't want to cover the ideas that the minority has," said Cantor. "We had a plan on the stimulus; it was tailored to small business tax relief."


Wow, we haven’t heard that idea before, “Tax cuts for small business”, how could the MSM of missed that? Wait, they didn’t. So who is Cantor listening to in the MSM for his News? Obviously no one, what is obvious is that Cantor doesn’t listen to anyone except GOP talking points and the comedian Rush Limbaugh the unofficial defacto fatso of the GOP.


Well it just so happens that the $787 billion stimulus plan that was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama last month had those very same tax cuts for small business as well as tax cuts for the middle class. I remember President Obama saying in a press conference after he signed the Bill that maybe the GOP was upset with him that he came up with the tax cuts for small businesses and that the GOP was now unable to take the credit. So now Cantor goes on TV and says we had a plan we wanted tax cuts for small businesses.


President Obama during the campaign for President talked about his tax cuts over and over again, so where in the hell does Cantor get off saying that the GOP had a plan for a stimulus package that the MSM never talked about? It is clear to everyone that the “Party of No” had no plan other than to be obstructionists and say no.


The GOP has put up a wall, so now they can keep running into it, head first as far as I’m concerned.


Report: 1 in 50 U.S. Children Face Homelessness


One in 50 children is homeless in the United States every year, according to a report released Tuesday.

The report, by the National Center on Family Homelessness, analyzed data from 2005-06 and found that more than 1.5 million children were without a home.

"These numbers will grow as home foreclosures continue to rise," Ellen Bassuk, president of the center, said in a statement.

The study ranked states on their performance in four areas: the extent of child homelessness, the risk for it, child well-being and the state's policy and planning efforts.

The states that fared the poorest were Texas, Georgia, Arkansas, New Mexico and Louisiana.

Connecticut, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Rhode Island and North Dakota performed the best.

Homeless children have poor health, emotional problems and low graduation rates, the study found.

"The consequences to our society will play out for decades," Bassuk said. "As we bail out the rest of our nation, it is also time to come to their aid."

The report offers recommendations such as improved support to ensure that children's schooling is not interrupted when they lose their homes, and services to address the trauma of homelessness.

Other highlights in the report, "America's Youngest Outcasts: State Report Card on Child Homelessness:"

• 42 percent of homeless children are younger than 6.

• African-American and Native American children are disproportionately represented.

• More than 1 in 7 homeless children have moderate to severe health conditions, such as asthma.

• Approximately 1.16 million of homeless children today will not graduate from high school.

The Rock Obama...SNL...Very Funny


Bernie Madoff and the circus come to town

BY Joe Kemp, Christina Boyle, Barry Paddock and Larry Mcshane Daily News


Media and curious pedestrians swarm entrance to Manhattan Federal Court where Bernie Madoff pleaded guilty to $65 billion Ponzi scheme.

The first day of the rest of Bernard Madoff's life began with a shouted insult outside his $7 million penthouse - and ended with cheers as he left for the jailhouse.

"Give him the electric chair!" yelled a passing motorist as Madoff permanently exited the high life Thursday, leaving his posh duplex at 6:45 a.m. for a Manhattan courtroom.

The $65 billion swindler, stepping out of a silver SUV for his last walk as a free man, waded through the courthouse trailed by a three-ring circus of worldwide media, vengeance-seeking investors and random demonstrators.

It was "Britney Spears and her circus act - that and a Tupperware party," one federal marshal said of the horde of reporters besieging the courthouse.

Dozens of camera crews gathered outside, while photographers shimmied up a junglegym in a nearby park to grab better shots of the silver-haired crook.

Devastated investors came from as far as California, arriving at the courthouse before sunrise to ensure they would get a glimpse of Madoff before he went to die behind bars.

Others turned out just to share in the spectacle.

Howard Patricof came from New Jersey to recite an anti-Madoff poem, toting the investor's picture beneath the words, "I love stealing money."

Barbara Dweck stood nearby with both hands covered in red paint - the symbolic blood of hundreds of wiped-out investors. "He's a bad guy," Dweck said.

Nobody flung rocks at Madoff as he zipped inside the courthouse, although one duped investor wasn't averse to the biblical punishment.

"I'd stone him to death," said DeWitt Baker, 84, whose wife lost more than $1 million with Madoff.

In Madoff's tony East Side neighborhood, local residents were glad to see the Ponzi scammer get his just deserts after three months of fine dining under house arrest. "It's justice," said Valerie Mulligan, 55, whose aunt lost all her savings to Madoff. "He shouldn't be up in a penthouse with what he did to everybody."

Free Market Baloney

The Leadership of the GOP

Steele Speaks his Own Mind Again, The GOP Says Shut Up

By: David Phillips

March 16, 2009

Yoda’s World


Last week Lisa Depaulo of GQ Magazine interviewed RNC Chairman Michael Steele and when Mr. Steele was asked if he supports a women’s right to choose an abortion, Mr. Steele said “absolutely”.  


By now one would think that Mr. Steele would realize that he is not supposed to say what he thinks, but only what the GOP party thinks. Because every time Mr. Steele speaks his mind, others in his party tell him to shut up.


The following day Mr. Steele was again forced to release a statement that was counter to his beliefs and in line with the GOP ideology.


If you recall a week earlier Mr. Steele spoke his mind about Rush Limbaugh saying that he was “Incendiary” and just and “Entertainer”, words that upset Limbaugh which caused the radio personality to trash Mr. Steele on his show and a within an a hour after Limbaugh got off the air, Steele called him to apologize.


GQ correspondent lisa depaulo interviews RNC Chariman Michael Steele



How much of your pro-life stance, for you, is informed not just by your Catholic faith but by the fact that you were adopted?

Oh, a lot. Absolutely. I see the power of life in that—I mean, and the power of choice! The thing to keep in mind about it… Uh, you know, I think as a country we get off on these misguided conversations that throw around terms that really misrepresent truth.


Explain that.

The choice issue cuts two ways. You can choose life, or you can choose abortion. You know, my mother chose life. So, you know, I think the power of the argument of choice boils down to stating a case for one or the other.


Are you saying you think women have the right to choose abortion?

Yeah. I mean, again, I think that’s an individual choice.


You do?

Yeah. Absolutely.

Who Lead's the Republican Party?


Banks To Taxpayers: Drop Dead!
By Madeleine Begun Kane

Where’s your money? You’ve no right to know.
Banks account for your dough? Ho! Ho! Ho!
We are rich and white collar —
Won’t help if you holler.
Go pester a unionized co!

Climate Denial Crock of the Week- "It's cold. So there's no Climate Change"


Cheney, Bush Strongly Disagreed on Libby
By Scott Wilson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 16, 2009

Former vice president Richard B. Cheney said yesterday that he strongly disagreed with President Bush's decision not to pardon I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, saying his former chief of staff had been left "hanging in the wind."

"I think he's an innocent man who deserves a pardon," Cheney said on CNN's "State of the Union," in what the cable news program billed as his first television interview since leaving office in January.

Libby, Cheney's top adviser, was the only Bush administration official to face criminal charges in the case surrounding the exposure of Valerie Plame Wilson as a CIA operative in 2003.

She is the wife of Joseph C. Wilson IV, who criticized the Bush administration for what he said was a deliberate misrepresentation of Saddam Hussein's ambitions to build a nuclear weapon in order to justify the 2003 Iraq invasion.

In the run-up to the war, Wilson, a former ambassador in Africa, was sent to Niger by the CIA to investigate claims that Hussein had sought to buy weapons-grade uranium. He concluded that the assertion was unfounded.

Anonymous officials sought to discredit Wilson's findings by claiming his selection for the assignment was based on nepotism, exposing his wife's identity in the process. The leak, which appeared in a newspaper column, represented for many critics of the war the lengths to which the Bush administration would go to protect its Iraq policy.

Libby, who was involved in conceiving and defending the administration's Iraq policy, was convicted in March 2007 on two counts of perjury and one count each of lying to FBI agents and obstructing a federal investigation. He received a 30-month prison sentence and a $250,000 fine.

Four months later Bush commuted the prison sentence, leaving Libby, a prominent Washington lawyer for years, to face the fine and two years' probation. In a statement at the time, Bush characterized Libby's punishment as "harsh," calling his professional reputation "forever damaged."

Cheney and other conservatives urged Bush to issue Libby a pardon, which amounts to a full exoneration. But Libby was not included in the more than two dozen that Bush handed out in December in a final round of pardons, an often controversial end-of-term tradition.

"It was one of the moments that occurred in the administration where we had fundamental difference of opinion," Cheney said in the CNN interview. "I believe firmly that Scooter was unjustly accused and prosecuted and deserved a pardon, and the president disagreed with that."

Cheney said he still speaks to Bush after having "traveled a long way together in eight years and two presidential campaigns. That built a very solid, lasting relationship."

But he added: "I was clearly not happy that we, in effect, left Scooter sort of hanging in the wind, which I didn't think was appropriate."

Rob Saliterman, the former president's spokesman, declined yesterday to comment directly on Cheney's interview. He referred instead to Bush's Jan. 20 farewell remarks, during he Bush called Cheney a "great vice president."



The Killers - All These Things That I've Done - UK Version


Iraqis 'More Upbeat About Future'

Violence and insecurity are no longer the main concern of most Iraqis, for the first time since the 2003 US-led invasion, an opinion poll suggests.

It says Iraqis are much more hopeful about the future and are increasingly pre-occupied with more conventional worries like the economy and jobs.

But Iraqis remain unhappy about the role foreign powers play in their country, notably Iran, the US and UK.

The survey was carried out for the BBC, ABC News and NHK in February.

A total of 2,228 Iraqis were questioned across all 18 provinces. The margin of error is 2.5%.


The poll is the sixth in a series of surveys stretching back to March 2004 and shows a marked overall improvement in perceptions, the BBC's Adam Mynott says.

Its findings show striking shifts in opinion since the last poll in March 2008.

On security, 85% of all respondents described the current situation as very good or quite good - up 23% on a year ago:

a total of 52% say security has improved over the last year, up 16% on March 2008

    * only 8% say it is worse - against 26% last year
    * 59% feel safe in their neighbourhoods, up 22% from 37% last time.


Far Right Joins Israel Coalition

Israel's Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu has signed a coalition deal with the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party, officials say.

Under the agreement, Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman would become foreign minister, said officials from Mr Netanyahu's Likud party.

He is a strong supporter of the Israeli settler movement and opposes exchanging land for peace with the Palestinians.

Likud still needs support from other parties to form majority in parliament.

Yisrael Beiteinu would get five other cabinet posts, including internal security, infrastructure, tourism, and the integration of new immigrants.

Mr Netanyahu has also been seeking the support of the centrist Kadima party but earlier talks ended without agreement.

Kadima leader Tzipi Livni has said her party would be "a responsible opposition".

Kadima supports the formation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, which is opposed by Likud.

Mr Netanyahu has a deadline of 3 April to form a government in the wake of elections in February.


A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining, but wants it back the minute it begins to rain...Mark Twain


Safety Council Urges Ban on Cell Phone Use While Driving
By Tom Watkins

The National Safety Council called  for a nationwide ban on cell phone use while driving, a prohibition opposed by the industry.

"Studies show that driving while talking on a cell phone is extremely dangerous and puts drivers at a four times greater risk of a crash," said Janet Froetscher, the council's president and CEO, in a news release, referring to a 1997 New England Journal of Medicine examination of hospital records.

"Driving drunk is also dangerous and against the law. When our friends have been drinking, we take the car keys away. It's time to take the cell phone away," Froetscher said.

Though six states have enacted laws banning the use of hand-held cell phones in cars, no state has a total ban on cell phone-use while driving, the NSC said.

The council cited research from the University of Utah that says hands-free devices do not make safe the practice of talking on the phone while driving.

The council also cited a 2003 study from the Harvard Center of Risk Analysis that estimates cell-phone use at the wheel contributes each year to 6 percent of crashes, resulting in 330,000 injuries, 12,000 of them serious and 2,600 of them fatal.

It put the estimated annual financial cost of cell-phone-related crashes at $43 billion.

The council's news release did not mention that the study's authors calculated the value of the telephone calls made while driving and concluded that "the value of preventing crashes caused by cell-phone use while driving is approximately equal to the value of the calls that would be eliminated by a ban."

NSC spokesman John Ulczycki was unswayed. "We understand that economists want to measure the value of things in different ways," he said in a telephone interview. "We think this is a significant contributor to injuries and deaths."



Republicans are attacking Barack Obama because he now wants to negotiate directly with the Taliban. Obama responded, “Hey, right now I’d rather deal with the Taliban than with Republicans.”- Jimmy Fallon

"A new poll indicates that Americans are now less religious than ever before. But I think people are more religious now because all you have to do is take a look at your 401(k) and you start shouting, 'Oh, God! Oh God!'" -- David Letterman

"Well, earlier this week, President Obama took on the teachers union by saying he wants merit pay for teachers and to fire the ones who do not perform well. That is pretty bold. A Democrat taking on the unions? That's like Rush Limbaugh going after the donut manufacturers." -- Jay Leno

"You know, we could all use a little pick-me-up these days. Our economy is in tough shape. But while it's hard to be poor, right now it's even harder to have a lot of money. The Obama administration is planning to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans! Now, if you wear a monocle, it probably just popped out of your eye in shock. But don't worry, some of us aren't taking this lying down [on screen: Fox News reports that Obama is 'declaring a war on success']. Exactly! Why should the productive members of society be forced to bail out the deadbeats? If this were an actual boat, they're the ones we'd be eating." --Stephen Colbert

"The judge sent Madoff  straight to jail. He said do not pass go, do not collect $200. Although Madoff said, 'I could turn that $200 into $400.'" -- Craig Ferguson

"They may have to put him in a cell that separates him from the general population because this guy is really hated. He's like Osama bin Laden, O.J. Simpson and Rush Limbaugh rolled into one person." -- Craig Ferguson

"Madoff's victims thought they were making nice, safe investments. Now I'm certainly not blaming them, but maybe they should've been tipped off by the guy's name. 'Made-off.' That's like giving your money to a guy called 'Steve Criminal.'" -- Craig Ferguson

"I got kind of a moral dilemma here. Do you think, and be honest about this, do you think it's too soon for me to hit on Bernie Madoff's wife?" -- David Letterman

"Bernie and his wife Ruth want to keep $69 million. They said that's not money they swindled. That's just money they had laying around. That's money they saved by switching to Geico." -- David Letterman

"People are now saying that the recession we're in turning perhaps to a depression is not as bad as the one they went through in 1929. So what we're going through now, not as bad as 1929. And I said hey, come on, give us a chance. We can make it worse." -- David Letterman

Letterman: Top Ten Ways The GOP Can Become More Hip (VIDEO)


This Week in God!!!

Belief and the Brain's 'God spot'

Scientists say they have located the parts of the brain that control religious faith. And the research proves, they contend, that belief in a higher power is an evolutionary asset that helps human survival. Steve Connor reports

A belief in God is deeply embedded in the human brain, which is programmed for religious experiences, according to a study that analyses why religion is a universal human feature that has encompassed all cultures throughout history.

Scientists searching for the neural "God spot", which is supposed to control religious belief, believe that there is not just one but several areas of the brain that form the biological foundations of religious belief.

The researchers said their findings support the idea that the brain has evolved to be sensitive to any form of belief that improves the chances of survival, which could explain why a belief in God and the supernatural became so widespread in human evolutionary history.

"Religious belief and behaviour are a hallmark of human life, with no accepted animal equivalent, and found in all cultures," said Professor Jordan Grafman, from the US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, near Washington. "Our results are unique in demonstrating that specific components of religious belief are mediated by well-known brain networks, and they support contemporary psychological theories that ground religious belief within evolutionary-adaptive cognitive functions."

Scientists are divided on whether religious belief has a biological basis. Some evolutionary theorists have suggested that Darwinian natural selection may have put a premium on individuals if they were able to use religious belief to survive hardships that may have overwhelmed those with no religious convictions. Others have suggested that religious belief is a side effect of a wider trait in the human brain to search for coherent beliefs about the outside world. Religion and the belief in God, they argue, are just a manifestation of this intrinsic, biological phenomenon that makes the human brain so intelligent and adaptable.

The latest study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, involved analysing the brains of volunteers, who had been asked to think about religious and moral problems and questions. For the analysis, the researchers used a functional magnetic-resonance imaging machine, which can identify the most energetically-active regions of the brain.

They found that people of different religious persuasions and beliefs, as well as atheists, all tended to use the same electrical circuits in the brain to solve a perceived moral conundrum – and the same circuits were used when religiously-inclined people dealt with issues related to God.

The study found that several areas of the brain are involved in religious belief, one within the frontal lobes of the cortex – which are unique to humans – and another in the more evolutionary-ancient regions deeper inside the brain, which humans share with apes and other primates, Professor Grafman said.

"There is nothing unique about religious belief in these brain structures. Religion doesn't have a 'God spot' as such, instead it's embedded in a whole range of other belief systems in the brain that we use everyday," Professor Grafman said.

The search for the God spot has in the past led scientists to many different regions of the brain. An early contender was the brain's temporal lobe, a large section of the brain that sits over each ear, because temporal-lobe epileptics suffering seizures in these regions frequently report having intense religious experiences. One of the principal exponents of this idea was Vilayanur Ramachandran, from the University of California, San Diego, who asked several of his patients with temporal-lobe epilepsy to listen to a mixture of religious, sexual and neutral words while measuring their levels of arousal and emotional reactions. Religious words elicited an unusually high response in these patients.

This work was followed by a study where scientists tried to stimulate the temporal lobes with a rotating magnetic field produced by a "God helmet". Michael Persinger, from Laurentian University in Ontario, found that he could artificially create the experience of religious feelings – the helmet's wearer reports being in the presence of a spirit or having a profound feeling of cosmic bliss.

Dr Persinger said that about eight in every 10 volunteers report quasi-religious feelings when wearing his helmet. However, when Professor Richard Dawkins, an evolutionist and renowned atheist, wore it during the making of a BBC documentary, he famously failed to find God, saying that the helmet only affected his breathing and his limbs.

Other studies of people taking part in Buddhist meditation suggested the parietal lobes at the upper back region of the brain were involved in controlling religious belief, in particular the mystical elements that gave people a feeling of being on a higher plane during prayer.

Andrew Newberg, from the University of Pennsylvania, injected radioactive isotope into Buddhists at the point at which they achieved meditative nirvana. Using a special camera, he captured the distribution of the tracer in the brain, which led the researchers to identify the parietal lobes as playing a key role during this transcendental state.

Professor Grafman was more interested in how people coped with everyday moral and religious questions. He said that the latest study, published today, suggests the brain is inherently sensitive to believing in almost anything if there are grounds for doing so, but when there is a mystery about something, the same neural machinery is co-opted in the formulation of religious belief.

"When we have incomplete knowledge of the world around us, it offers us the opportunities to believe in God. When we don't have a scientific explanation for something, we tend to rely on supernatural explanations," said Professor Grafman, who believes in God. "Maybe obeying supernatural forces that we had no knowledge of made it easier for religious forms of belief to emerge."




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