Archive for June 27th, 2008

ABC’s 20/20 followed up on their previous report on transgender children, a truly unbiased and fascinating account of a realm of sexuality that is both misunderstood and not talked about. The ladies at “The View” discuss transgender issues, much to the shi-grin of co-host Sherri Shepherd.

more about ““The View” on Transgender Children“, posted with vodpod

Here’s a very brief clip of the trailer for the upcoming 22nd installment in the James Bond film franchise, Quantum of Solace. The film is described as a direct continuation of Casino Royale.

more about “007: Quantum of Solace Sneak Peak“, posted with vodpod

Democratic presidential candidate Obama

Telegraph: Senator Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, is to fly to Britain next month as part of an ambitious foreign trip that will also take him to war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as to France and Germany.

Only skeleton details of Mr Obama’s trip have been agreed but an announcement of an outline programme is expected over the weekend.

“You will be hearing something very soon,” a senior Obama aide told The Telegraph.

During Mr Obama’s visit to Britain, likely to take place around the middle of July, he will call on Gordon Brown and, if time permits, David Cameron, the Conservative leader.

A fundraising event to attract campaign donations from wealthy Americans is also understood to be under consideration.

A recent Telegraph poll showed that Mr Obama is overwhelmingly preferred to Mr McCain in Britain and Europe.

Three times as many Britons said they would vote for him as those who indicated they would back Mr McCain, if able to cast a vote in the US election.

But Democratic strategists are concerned that scenes of “Obamamania” in Europe could damage the candidate back home.

In 2004, John Kerry, the Democratic nominee, was mocked for “looking French” while in 2000, George W Bush turned his relative lack of foreign travel into a political asset.

Mr Obama, 46, has not been to Iraq since 2004, a fact that his opponent John McCain, 71, the presumptive Republican nominee and a regular visitor to Baghdad, points out frequently.

His extensive foreign trip – unusual at the height of a presidential campaign – is designed to burnish his comparatively thin foreign policy credentials.

The Illinois senator met Mr Brown for the first time in April at the British Embassy, when the Prime Minister also received calls from Mr McCain and Hillary Clinton, who was them still battling for the Democratic nomination.

Mr Obama has visited Downing Street once briefly during a congressional trip.

On a previous trip to Britain in 1996, he was a guest at the wedding of his half-sister Auma, who has since moved back to Kenya, in Bracknell and went his brother-in-law’s stag night in Wokingham.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has already invited Mr Obama to visit the Elysee Palace and Downing Street aides are understood to be pushing for him to stop in London before Paris as a signal that he considers Britain to be America’s pre-eminent ally.

Seriously, Terry McAuliffe is completely insane.

more about “Terry McAuliffe Loves Barack Obama“, posted with vodpod

PageOneQ: Army Sergeant Darren Manzella, profiled on 60 Minutes, has been let go under the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

Manzella has been twice deployed to Iraq since his enlistment in 2002. Military awards he has received during his service include the Combat Medical Badge. He also received the Barry Winchell Courage Award at the 16th Annual SLDN National Dinner in March of 2008.

“My sexual orientation certainly didn’t make a difference when I treated injuries and saved lives in the streets of Baghdad,” Manzella told SLDN. “It shouldn’t be a factor in allowing me to continue to serve.”

The 30-year-old told CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl in December 2007 that despite the policy, which mandates discharge of a servicemembers who are discovered to be gay, he served openly with the blessing of his colleagues and superiors. After receiving anonymous e-mails advising him to “turn down the flame,” Manzella turned to a commanding officer for help and came out to him in the process. Ultimately, after an investigation, “no evidence of homosexuality” was found, despite video and photographs of Manzella with his partner, and he was told to return to work.

“The discharge of battle-tested, talented service members like Sergeant Manzella weakens our military in a time of war,” said SLDN Communications Director Adam Ebbin. “National security requires that Congress lift the ban on gays in the military and allow commanders to judge troops on their qualifications, not their sexuality.”

Manzella was the first active duty servicemember serving in a war zone to speak with the media. It has been estimated that over 500 individuals serve openly in the United States military despite “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” suggesting selective enforcement of, and perhaps distaste for, the policy, and an unwillingness to sacrifice needed personnel.

AP: The gray cooling tower crumbled behind billowing dust clouds in seconds Friday, reducing the structure at North Korea’s nuclear reactor into a pile of rubble. It was a choreographed show by the communist regime meant to affirm an intention to stop making atomic bombs.

From a distance, smiling diplomats from the United States and other nations snapped photos of the blast that destroyed part of the heart of the North’s nuclear weapons program.

“As you all saw, the cooling tower is no longer there,” said Sung Kim, the U.S. State Department’s top expert on the Koreas who attended the demolition. “This is a very important step in the disablement process, and I think it puts us in a good position to move into the next phase.”

The 60-foot-tall cooling tower at the Yongbyon nuclear center had been the most visible symbol of the North’s nuclear program and a focus for U.S. satellite surveillance. Steam spewing from the tower meant that the North’s main nuclear reactor was operating to make plutonium.

Just before detonation, red warning flares were fired into the clear sky. At 5:10 p.m. (4:10 a.m. EDT), an explosion at the base of the tower sent it collapsing into a cloud of dust and smoke that blew over grassy fields along a small river.

After the explosion, the site was littered by broken columns of reinforced concrete and other shattered pieces of the tower shown in video of the site by international video news agency Associated Press Television News.

The tower’s destruction was not mentioned by the North’s media or shown on state TV broadcasts.

Ri Yong Ho, director of safeguards at North Korea’s Academy of Atomic Energy Research, was the most senior Pyongyang official present and shook hands with Kim after the blast.

“The demolition of the cooling tower is proof that the six-party talks have proceeded a step further,” Ri said, referring to the nuclear disarmament negotiations.

Blowing up the tower was intended to demonstrate North Korea’s commitment to forgo atomic weapons ambitions that culminated with its first nuclear test detonation in 2006.

Its destruction came in response to U.S. concessions announced Thursday to remove Pyongyang from terrorism and sanctions blacklists after the North delivered a long-awaited declaration of its nuclear programs.

North Korea praised Washington’s moves to lift sanctions but also urged the U.S. to completely abandon its “hostile policy” against the regime.

“The measure taken by the U.S. to lift the major sanctions … should lead to totally withdrawing its hostile policy toward the (North) in all fields in the future,” Pyongyang’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement, carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

“Only then can the denuclearization process make smooth progress,” it said.

The tower, designed to carry off waste heat to the atmosphere, is a key part of the North’s five-megawatt atomic reactor. But its destruction carries little practical meaning because the plutonium-making reactor has already been largely disabled so it cannot be restarted easily.

Still, the demolition offered the most dramatic moment yet in the disarmament negotiations—involving North and South Korea, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia—that have dragged on for more than five years and suffered repeated deadlocks and delays.

“It is important to get North Korea out of the plutonium business, but that will not be the end of the story,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in Kyoto, Japan, on the sidelines of a meeting of the Group of Eight industrialized countries.

South Korean nuclear negotiator Kim Sook told reporters in Seoul that the disabling process would take several more months to complete, and that countries at the negotiations were discussing when to convene the next round of disarmament talks.

North Korea’s declaration does not address its alleged uranium enrichment program or suspicions of its nuclear proliferation to other countries, such as Syria.

The declaration, which was delivered six months later than the country promised and has not yet been released publicly, is said to only give the overall figure for how much plutonium was produced at Yongbyon—but no details of bombs that may have been made.

Experts believe North Korea has produced up to 110 pounds of weapons-grade plutonium, enough for as many as 10 nuclear bombs.

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Rolling Stone: Heads up: a thunderbolt is about to rip into the blanket of bland we call summer movies. The Dark Knight, director Christopher Nolan’s absolute stunner of a follow-up to 2005’s Batman Begins, is a potent provocation decked out as a comic-book movie. Feverish action? Check. Dazzling spectacle? Check. Devilish fun? Check. But Nolan is just warming up. There’s something raw and elemental at work in this artfully imagined universe. Striking out from his Batman origin story, Nolan cuts through to a deeper dimension. Huh? Wha? How can a conflicted guy in a bat suit and a villain with a cracked, painted-on clown smile speak to the essentials of the human condition? Just hang on for a shock to the system. The Dark Knight creates a place where good and evil — expected to do battle — decide instead to get it on and dance. “I don’t want to kill you,” Heath Ledger’s psycho Joker tells Christian Bale’s stalwart Batman. “You complete me.” Don’t buy the tease. He means it. CONTINUE READING

Politico: Obama’s advance staff is very good at the visuals, and the Unity event is flawless on TV.

Even better: It’s dominating the news cycle without making any news.

And that’s one of the key things Hillary (and Bill) bring to Obama: Whenever he wants to deliver some unadulterated message to the American people, he just needs to drag one of them up on stage beside him and wait for the cameras.

Ironically, the reason the Clinton-Obama pairing is so compelling is largely because of the — vastly overplayed — notion that there’s some question of whether the Clintons really support him, whether they’ll show up, whether you’ll be able to see their fingers crossed when they’re talking. It offers an odd-couple dynamic, and a reason to tune in, for what you’re seeing today: “It’s fitting that we meet in a place called Unity.”

Obama had warm praise for her and seemed to go off his prepared remarks in a couple of places.

“She rocks. She rocks. That’s the point I’m trying to make,” he said in response to a shout from the crowd. Later, he said, “I still don’t know how she does it in heels.”

Scientists say it's a 50-50 bet that the thin Arctic sea ice will completely melt away at the geographic North Pole.

The North Pole may be briefly ice-free by September as global warming melts away Arctic sea ice, according to scientists from the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.

“We kind of have an informal betting pool going around in our center and that betting pool is ‘does the North Pole melt out this summer?’ and it may well,” said the center’s senior research scientist Mark Serreze.

It’s a 50-50 bet that the thin Arctic sea ice, which was frozen last autumn, will completely melt away at the geographic North Pole, Serreze said.

The ice retreated to a record level in September when the Northwest Passage — the sea route through the Arctic Ocean — opened up briefly for the first time in recorded history.

“What we’ve seen through the past few decades is the Arctic sea ice cover is becoming thinner and thinner as the system warms up,” Serreze said.

Specific weather patterns will determine whether the North Pole’s ice cover melts completely this summer, he said

Politics1: Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton hold their first unity event on Friday in — fittingly — Unity, New Hampshire. Also, conservative columnist Robert Novak reports that former Secretary of State Colin Powell is poised to break with GOP and endorse Obama for President some time this summer. Meanwhile, here are the latest independent polls from swing states:

COLORADO (Quinnipiac University): Obama – 49%, McCain – 44%.
MICHIGAN (Quinnipiac University): Obama – 48%, McCain – 42%.
MINNESOTA (Quinnipiac University): Obama – 54%, McCain – 37%.

MISSISSIPPI (Rasmussen): McCain 50%, Obama – 44%.
TENNESSEE (Rasmussen): McCain 51%, Obama – 36%.

TEXAS (Texas Lyceum): McCain – 43%, Obama – 38%.
WISCONSIN (Quinnipiac University): Obama – 52%, McCain – 39%.

U.S. SENATE:

COLORADO (Quinnipiac University): Mark Udall (D) – 48%, Bob Schaffer (R) – 38%.
MINNESOTA (Quinnipiac University): Norm Coleman (R) – 51%, Al Franken (D) – 41%.
MISSISSIPPI – REGULAR ELECTION (Rasmussen): Thad Cochran (R) – 59%, Erik Fleming (D) – 32%.
MISSISSIPPI – SPECIAL ELECTION (Rasmussen): Roger Wicker (R) – 48%, Ronnie Musgrove (D) – 47%.
NEW JERSEY (Fairleigh Dickinson University): Frank Lautenberg (D) – 48%, Dick Zimmer (R) – 28%.
TEXAS (Texas Lyceum): John Cornyn (R) – 38%, Rick Noriega (D) – 36%.