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Blame Game


Get Better

Cognitive Degeneration

Deepak Chopra

America prides itself on its uncivil liberties as well as its civil ones. The fabled melting pot was always a boiling cauldron of differences. We’ve learned to live at the boil as no other society has. But the dark side of our uncivil liberty is violence. Inflammatory and vitriolic words are a form of violence. In many wisdom traditions, speech that is imbued with compassion and love is used as a form of healing. It’s time for us to pause and reflect. Our society today has the unmistakable symptoms of inflammatory disease with violence and hostility at home and war abroad. How long can we live with this sickness? Do we want our children to grow up in an environment that nurtures their joy and creativity or one that suffocates their soul? Can we start our healing process with civil speech while maintaining our civil liberties?


Baby Boomers Officially Senior Citizens

New Years Mission of Discovery

Elisabetta Canalis and George Clooney relaxed on the beach in Mexico, Zoe Saldana hit the slopes in Aspen, and Rihanna soaked up the sun in Barbados. See pictures of stars’ glamorous winter vacations.

Gallery: Stars on Vacation

Article - Stars on Holiday

Trending 2011

Americas Holiday Card

Gorgeous Photo Perfectly Captures Homesick Soldier Overseas

Some pictures say a thousand words. Some say more. A soldier overseas with a beautiful girlfriend or wife and a flair for the artistic has, with a simple image, captured the immense feelings of homesickness that he and every other serviceman or woman feels. The photo, taken in a first-person perspective (the camera must be in the crock of his neck), shows only the gloved, dirty hands of a soldier holding a photo of he and a woman, dressed up for what appears to be a marine ball or something similar. It was posted on Reddit with the simple headline “Always thinking of my lady.”

The photo was uploaded by Redditor dbzchuck who explains in the comments that the photographer and soldier is a “friend of a friend” and that he will make sure to forward all the well-wishes on to him. So, if you’d like to thank the young man for his service, you can do so over on Reddit.

On that note, may we send our fondest wishes to the young man, the young woman, and everyone else who has been separated from those they love this holiday season so that our nation can be defended. May you all return home soon.

Merry Christmas Choir

They do more than is known on any gravestone.

Fabulous Medicine

A red ribbon hangs in advance of World AIDS Day on the front of the White House in Washington

German researchers report possible HIV infection cure


The company said Monday that a third party was able to get past security measures and see into a database of its customer information that included e-mail, phone numbers, addresses, birthdates and other specifics that they provided when signing up for online promotions or other subscriptions to its websites.

WikiLeaks Loyalists Hack MasterCard: The Future of Active Protests


These boots keep on walkin in Afghanistan

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Rafael Aguilera, right, with the Nevada Agribusiness Development Team from 4th Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, patrols a street in Pul-e-Alam, Logar province, Afghanistan, near Forward Operating Base Shank Dec. 2, 2010. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Donald Watkins/Released)

Diplomatic Catastrophe`

Outrageous Injustice

Wikileaks and the El-Masri case: Innocent CIA torture victim more than just a leaked cable


Attitude of Gratitude

“America by Heart”


Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway’s new romance, Love & Other Drugs, is arguably the sexiest movie of the year. Throughout the R-rated comedic drama (in theaters Nov. 24), they reveal nearly every inch of their enviably toned bodies. So it makes sense that their photo shoot for this week’s cover of EW would be equally steamy. In fact, the duo’s flesh-baring photo session was so sensual that we decided to put out three separate covers.

Photographer James White, who shot Gyllenhaal and Hathaway in New York, says the costars had an easy rapport. “I thought they’d be a little more tense about it than they were, but it was surprisingly low-key.” he says. “I guess after making a movie like that with each other, it’s not too big of a deal.”


360 Million Dollar Sales in 24 Hours

Activision Blizzard has revealed its highly-anticipated Call of Duty Black Ops game has earned $360 million in retail sales in its first 24 hours of sales alone. This makes the generally well-reviewed game — whose debut beat out out sales of previous COD installation Modern Warfare 2 by 16% — one of the most lucrative launches of any game in history at a time when overall stores sales of games are in a slump.

According to the WSJ, Call of Duty: Black Ops is expected to be one of the videogame industry’s largest selling titles for the coming holiday season. WSJ’s Nick Wingfield reports in the following video:

The Buzzz

First-of-its-kind social media strategy

Know what you guys are thinking: ‘Hey, it’s the guy from Twitter,'” joked Conan O’Brien, before launching into a mock-impression of his Internet fans. “Why am I doing that!” he began laughing. “Those people saved my ass! Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.”

Indeed, a strong Internet following fed Conan, who debuted his new show last night on TBS, very well. Bolstered by his almost 2 million Twitter followers, a first-of-its-kind social media strategy, and an innovative digital team, Conan soared on the late-night scene with huge ratings, besting both David Letterman and arch-nemesis Jay Leno with 4.2 million viewers. What’s more, in the coveted 18-49 demo–the same demo that’s probably watching his YouTube videos and checking in for his Foursquare badges–Conan drew a massive 3.3 million adults.

“Conan’s audience has been very vocal online, and he clearly made a smooth transition from Twitter to TBS,” said Steve Koonin, president of Turner Entertainment Networks. A writer for Nikki Finke’s Deadline Hollywood echoed that sentiment, calling Team Coco’s digital strategy a “brilliant launch campaign that incorporated social media better than I’ve ever seen.”

As for Conan, he will continue to focus on social media to keep his ratings high.

The Buzzz


Republicans thundered into the majority in the House of Representatives Tuesday night, making historic gains by a proportion not seen in more than 70 years.

The party so far has won more than 60 seats, with about 65 net gains projected by the time all ballots are counted — far more than the party needed to seize the majority. Democrats, with the help of a victory by Majority Leader Harry Reid, held the Senate by a narrow margin but suffered several big losses in an election that just about put Republicans on equal footing with the president’s party.

House Republican Leader John Boehner, speaking briefly to reporters Wednesday morning alongside his deputy, Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., claimed a “mandate” to cut the size of government and urged President Obama to respect the will of the voters and “change course.”

He said the American people want a climate that will promote job growth as well as a more accountable, smaller federal government. He also said his party needs to “lay the groundwork” for repealing the “monstrosity” health care law, with the eventual goal of replacing it — an unlikely prospect as long as Obama is in the White House.

“It’s pretty clear that the Obama-Pelosi agenda’s being rejected by the American people,” Boehner said. “I think it’s a mandate for Washington to reduce the size of government.”


Tea Parties are billed as a people’s movement. But they wouldn’t exist without the help of deep-pocketed billionaires.

WIN or LOSE, the Tea Party movement will come away from elections triumphant, having injected into the Republican Party a group of candidates pledged to the dismantling of government and wed to the religious right.

Of the movement’s dozen favored candidates for U.S. Senate, all are anti-abortion, and five oppose it even in cases of rape and incest. Among their number are Colorado’s Ken Buck, who has compared homosexuality to alcoholism, and Nevada’s Sharron Angle, who wants to demolish both the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency. Major GOP players, from political strategist Karl Rove to former Bush speechwriter David Frum, have fretted publicly over Tea Party extremism, with Frum complaining of the movement’s “paranoid delusions.”

But it has now become clear that these Tea Party “outsiders” are all part of an inside game, a battle for control of the Republican party.

Though billed as a people’s movement, the Tea Party wouldn’t exist without a gusher of cash from oil billionaire David H. Koch and the vast media empire of Rupert Murdoch. Many of the small donations to Tea Party candidates have been cultivated by either Fox News Channel

Taken together, Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks (another far-right political group seeded by the Kochs) and Murdoch’s News Corp, owner of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, form the corporate headquarters of a conglomerate one might call Tea Party, Inc. This is the syndicate that funds the organizing, crafts the messages, and channels the rage of conservative Americans at their falling fortunes into an oppositional force to President Obama and to any government solution to the current economic calamity.

The armies of angry white people with their “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, the actual grassroots activists, are not the agents of the Tea Party revolt, but its end users, enriching the Tea Party’s corporate owners just as you and I enrich Google through our clicks

The Big Money and Powerful Elites Behind the Right-Wings Latest Uprising

Angry America

Barack Obama and the United States are both doing a little better than Americans seem to believe

Consider the main reason why Americans are angry: the economy. The slow pace of job re-creation is primarily the result of consumers and companies trying to rebuild their finances. Balance-sheet recessions always take time to recover from. Mr Obama is guilty of promising that the pain would be over sooner than was ever likely. But he did not cause the bust, and he deserves more credit than he is getting for steering America clear of a much worse fate, especially considering the constraints of a political system designed to make big changes difficult. He was right to go for a big, bold and immediate stimulus plan. He has been right to resist, with minor exceptions, calls for a wave of protectionism. He is guilty of having no credible medium-term plan to reduce the deficit. But then nor do the Republicans; and it was they, after all, who oversaw the tax cuts, the entry into two wars and the financial collapse that are the source of most of America’s gigantic deficit.

U.S. Hunts For Bombmaker Ibrahim al-Asiri

A Saudi Believed Behind UPS and FedEx Bombs Sent From Yemen

The full force of the U.S. is now targeted on Ibrahim al-Asiri, the young Saudi bombmaker believed to be behind the two bombs found Friday in UPS and FedEx packages bound from Yemen to Chicago.

Asiri, 28, also said to have been behind last year’s attempted Christmas bombing of Northwest flight 253, continues to outmatch billions of dollars in airport security equipment and presents a clear and present danger. “We need to find him,” said John Brennan, President Obama’s top antiterrorism advisor. American officials now concede that Asiri’s two latest bombs would have made it onto flights to the U.S. but for the Saudi intelligence service providing the parcel tracking numbers. Said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, “We were able to identify by where they were emanating from and package number, where they were located.” The bombs were cleverly disguised inside Hewlett-Packard printers being shipped along with clothes, books and a tourist souvenir. Asiri packed the toner cartridge with explosives and added the circuit board of a cell phone–something that did not stand out in state of the art cargo screening.

The American economy is a “fiscal train wreck” waiting to happen that risks ushering in a period of stagnation featured by minimal growth, high unemployment and deflationary pressure, U.S. economist Nouriel Roubini wrote on Friday.

In a commentary for the Financial Times, Roubini — one of the first economists to predict the housing crash in the United States and known as ‘Dr Doom’ for his pessimistic forecasts — said fiscal and monetary stimulus had prevented another depression.

But he said that further quantitative easing likely to be announced by the Federal Reserve next Wednesday will have little effect on U.S. growth in 2011, “so fiscal policy should be doing some of the lifting to prevent a double dip recession,” he said.

He said the U.S. remains on an “unsustainable fiscal course” and the likely make-up of Congress after elections next Tuesday, in which the Republicans look set for strong gains, virtually takes fiscal reform off the agenda.

“The risk … is that something on the fiscal side will snap … The trigger could be a debt rollover crisis in a major U.S. state government,” he wrote.

“The worst of the coming fiscal train wreck will be prevented by the Fed’s easing. But the risk is (Obama) … will then preside over … a Japanese style stagnation, where growth is barely positive, and deflationary pressures and high unemployment linger.”


Almost four in ten Americans think there is a good chance that a third party candidate will win one of the next three presidential elections


A Rasmussen poll released Monday shows that 38 percent of Americans think it is at least somewhat likely that a candidate not from one of the two major political parties will be elected to the White House by 2020. Eleven percent of those polled said it is “very likely” that a third party candidate will be elected president in the next ten years. That is comparable to the 13 percent who completely ruled out the possibility.

The same poll also showed that 43 percent of Americans believe that “neither party in Congress is the party of the American people.” While half of the respondents disagreed that a third party is needed to adequately represent the electorate, 38 percent of respondents believe a third party is necessary.

According to the poll, 49 percent of unaffiliated voters think a third party is needed, and 51 percent agree that neither the GOP nor the Democratic Party is “the party of the American people.” A plurality of Republicans feel the same way, while Democrats mostly do not.

Three things to stop the gangs: better police in Mexico, stricter gun laws in America and legal pot in California

THERE have been gunfights outside the American school and a big private university. The mayors of two suburbs have been murdered. And a grenade has been thrown at Saturday evening strollers in a square, injuring 12. All this has happened since August not in Kabul or Baghdad but in Monterrey in northern Mexico (see article). The latest battleground in a multilateral war between drug-trafficking gangs and the authorities, Monterrey is not a dusty outpost. It is one of the biggest industrial cities of North America, a couple of hours’ drive from Texas and home to some of Mexico’s leading companies.

The maelstrom of drug-related violence that is engulfing Mexico has produced exaggerated, sometimes xenophobic, alarm in parts of the United States. The response in Mexico City has, until recently, been defensive denial.

Both reactions are wrong. The violence, in which at least 28,000 people have been killed since 2006, reflects a double failure of public policy: decades of neglect of the basic institutions of the rule of law in Mexico, and a failed approach to drug consumption (plus lax gun laws) in the United States. These mistakes have helped to create the world’s most powerful organised-crime syndicates. Reforms in both countries could help tame them.

ake Mexico first. For much of the long rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party until 2000, the goal of policing was political control rather than crime prevention or detection, and the judiciary acted as a rubber stamp. In these conditions the drug gangs thrived. With increasing urgency the past three Mexican presidents have tried to tackle the mobsters, but have found they lacked the tools for the job. Thus, on taking over as president in 2006, Felipe Calderón turned to the army as a stopgap, sending thousands of troops onto the streets of northern cities. Only now, and with painful slowness, are the elements of a broader strategy falling into place. The new federal police force is growing, but it remains too small. Belatedly, the government has realised that it needs to pursue more active social policies to ensure that young men do not see the drug business as their only career option.

Perhaps the best news is that the mayhem in Monterrey has at last forced Mexico’s politicians and business leaders to face up to the gravity of the threat. Mr Calderón sent a constitutional amendment to Congress this month that would consolidate more than 1,600 local police bodies into 32 reformed and strengthened state forces. It now stands a decent chance of being swiftly approved. Even then, Mexico’s long to-do list includes regaining control of local prisons and local courts.

In all this Mexico is not getting the right kind of help from the United States. Weak law enforcement in Mexico has helped the drug gangs to grow, but their power owes everything to proximity to the world’s largest retail market for illegal drugs. Recent American administrations have at least moved on from the finger-pointing of the past to an acceptance of shared responsibility. But the results are patchy. The Mérida Initiative, a $1.4 billion anti-drug programme for Mexico, is lazily modelled on Plan Colombia. It includes a lot of helicopters and hardware of the kind Colombia needed to fight FARC narcoguerrillas, when what Mexico really needs is far more support with police training and intelligence-gathering.

Mexico would be even better served if the United States renewed a ban on the sale of assault weapons that lapsed in 2004. Sadly, this looks unlikely to happen. Yet since 2006 alone, Mexican authorities have seized 55,000 of these weapons of war. That is enough to equip many NATO armies—and most were bought legally in American gunshops.

The potential of pot

So permissive when it comes to lethal weapons, the United States remains steadfast in its commitment to the prohibition of drugs, in the face of all the evidence that this policy fails to curb their consumption while creating vast profits for organised crime. It is welcome that California is now debating before a referendum on November 2nd, whether to legalise marijuana (see article). This newspaper would vote for the proposition, because we believe that drug addiction, like alcoholism and tobacco consumption, is properly a matter of public health rather than the criminal law.

If California votes in favour of legalisation, Mexico would be wise to follow suit (the bottom would anyway fall out of its marijuana business). The drug gangs would still be left with more lucrative cocaine and methamphetamines. But it would become easier to defeat them. And Mexicans should make no mistake: they must be defeated.


WikiLeaks’ Biggest Document Dump Yet


(Oct. 23) — It’s happening again … only bigger.  The whistle-blower website WikiLeaks  released  nearly 400,000 pages worth of classified U.S. Army documents on the war in Iraq,

A perspective for consideration:

At the bottom of most classified documents produced by the US government, tens of thousands every day, there appears in small print an indication, to those who understand the nomenclature, as to when that document is to be automatically declassified.  Even where such markings are missing, there is an expectation that the document’s contents will eventually be revealed.  Depending upon the classification level and type of document, it could be released in as few as 10 years, or remain sequestered for as many as 50.

Documents specifically requested by outside parties under the Freedom of Information Act, of course, are eventually reviewed and often selectively declassified in even less time.  But virtually every properly-classified document in US government hands carries within it the reminder that no secret can or should last forever, there is no justification for it to remain in darkness.

We would do well to remember that as we focus on the much-anticipated and much-ballyhooed release of the second installment of what we might call the WikiLeaks Trove.  This time the release involves nearly 400,000 classified military documents detailing US military activities and events in Iraq over a five-year period from 2004 to 2009, hailed as the largest single leak of classified military documents in history.

For public-spirited observers, there are at least two things to consider: The significance of the documents themselves, and the significance of their release.

In any such assessment, it should be noted that at this point, we are largely forced to rely on the initial, partial analyses provided by a few news organizations, including Al Jazeera, which were granted pre-release access to these documents.  For a deeper understanding we will have to await a more exhaustive review – if any have the energy to perform it.

As with the previous WikiLeaks release of over 90,000 documents concerning Afghanistan, the sheer overwhelming volume of detailed information contained in this latest windfall has its own fascination.  Stalin is alleged to have said that: “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.”  For those with no direct experience of the bloody mayhem which has characterized much of Iraq for long periods since the US invasion, daily accounts of mass-casualty incidents overwhelm the capacity to grasp or to feel.  A single report, however, of a seemingly needless death at a Coalition checkpoint, even in the antiseptic prose of a hurriedly-prepared military report, has the capacity to focus the mind on the horror, the tragedy, and the brutal capriciousness that have characterized this struggle, and indeed all wars.

That said, and again much like the Afghan release, the overall outlines of the story these documents reveal include few surprises – the efforts of some to suggest otherwise notwithstanding.  Indeed, the greatest potential harm in the release of these documents is not in the documents themselves, but in the tendentious interpretations being provided by some.

Much, for example, is made of the fact that the US military did indeed compile counts of civilian deaths in Iraq, despite former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s claimed refusal to do so in 2003, and the military’s demurrals over the reliability of its numbers since.  In fact, however, this is no great revelation: The fact that the military has been providing rough estimates of civilian deaths to Congress, at the latter’s insistence, since 2005 is well-known.  The military has never considered its methodology to be comprehensive, though, and has cautioned Congress that their estimates are mere “signposts,“ and not definitive.

The latest release from WikiLeaks, above all else, concentrates the mind on the horrors and chaotic disorder of military conflict [EPA]

Part of the reason for both the incompleteness of their counts and their reluctance to discuss them is another fact being overlooked by some, and that is that the vast majority of the 66,000 Iraqi civilian deaths estimated in the leaked documents to have occurred were the result of Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence, and did not involve US or Coalition forces. While many may lay ultimate responsibility for the vicious Sunni-Shi’a “sectarian-cleansing” that occurred in greater Baghdad, and the mass-casualty terrorist bombings of Al Qa’ida in Iraq, for example, at the feet of the Americans for having overthrown Saddam and thus having released these pent-up forces in the first place, that  is a very different argument, and one often left vague.

Similarly, the fact that significant numbers of Iraqi civilians were killed through “escalation of force” incidents at US/Coalition checkpoints and as a result of contact with US convoys is hardly new. The figure of 681 civilians killed in such incidents is both striking and disturbing, but simply underscores the fact that manning checkpoints with conventional troops ill-equipped by training and doctrine to perform what are essentially police duties, in the midst of a population they ill-understand and with which they generally cannot communicate effectively, and in an environment characterized by constant suicide bombings and vehicle-borne explosive attacks in which every civilian is viewed as a potentially deadly enemy, taken together, is a prescription for a slow-rolling disaster.

Given that some 14,000 escalation-of-force incidents occurred across Iraq during this period, the wonder is that there were not more mistaken killings. The fact is, however, that circumstances have been as much a culprit as the claimed “brutality” of the US “occupiers.” While that may not absolve the US military of its responsibility for these deaths, the initial accounts I have seen are largely devoid of thoughtful analysis as to how and why they have occurred.

Perhaps most disturbingly, there are the claims that while newly-empowered Iraqi security forces of all stripes routinely engaged in torture and mistreatment of detainees, US forces “were not allowed to intervene” to stop them, thus making them accessories to abuse. These, too, are highly misleading assertions, and deserve a much more rigorous analysis. In fact, the documents in question seem to substantiate that in those rare instances where US military personnel encountered Iraqi counterparts actively engaged in prisoner abuse, they did indeed intervene to stop it. The question, then, would be what to do next.

In the vast majority of the roughly 1,300 incidents catalogued in the documents, US personnel saw not torture, but evidence of torture: Detainees with obvious marks of abuse, the presence of torture instruments, or credible complaints of abuse by the detainees themselves, for example. In such instances, the protocol was for US forces to report such indications in their own chain of command, and to leave it to their superiors to raise such issues with Iraqi officials whose formal responsibility it was to investigate such reports.

It seems disingenuous to me to suggest that the fact that few such investigations were ever conducted is the fault of the Americans. There is more than a little irony in the fact that it is precisely those who are most likely to characterize the US military presence in Iraq as an unwanted military occupation, trampling on the sovereign rights of Iraqis, who in this instance suggest that US military personnel should have behaved like colonialists. In dealing with an Iraqi system in which abuses by security forces were rampant at all levels, what were US forces to do, practically speaking? Should they have taken over every suspect police station? Should they have indicted and tried those suspected of prisoner abuse? In whose courts?

Finally, there is the question of the impact of the release of the documents per se, quite apart from what any of them reveal. That is very difficult to assess, without having much greater familiarity with the documents than I can command. In any case, it surely is not conducive to morale or good order for those charged with writing clear and truthful reports to live with the nagging fear that what they write is liable to be revealed publicly in a manner designed to provide ammunition to ones detractors, or in a way which could expose friendly elements to risk.

By and large, the harm to legitimate interests lies in the sensitive details such leaks reveal. In this case, I think it is generally fair to say that the harm, such as it is, lies not in the details, but in the aggregate picture these documents provide. That suggests to me a generally low degree of potential harm. I strongly suspect that there would be a point in the relatively near future when such documents, doubtless with some exceptions, could be properly turned over to historians and others to provide a dispassionate look at the reality of the US engagement in Iraq.

Whoever was responsible for turning these documents over to WikiLeaks has clearly advanced that process, and done so illegitimately. In the context of the rapidly changing US role and mission in Iraq, however, it is likely that these revelations will do little lasting harm, beyond that caused by the events which they describe.

Chinese New Deal for the United States

How to prevent a trade war: The U.S. needs infrastructure, China’s got cash. Put the two together!

A finance professor at Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management who has been writing cogently about the Chinese economy for years, thinks he has a way to avoid the coming trade war between the U.S. and China: A New Deal for the U.S., paid for and implemented directly by the Chinese.

The U.S. sorely needs tons of infrastructure upgrades. China has tons of cash — not to mention experience in getting big infrastructural projects up and running.

So why not have China do it directly? Let China engage in a massive rebuilding of U.S. infrastructure — it can build airports, highways, dams, and railways — which would raise investment levels enough keep the U.S. trade deficit high in a way that benefits the U.S. and China.

Of course China would also have the right to charge for the use of these projects so that it can earn a positive return on its investment. The return doesn’t even need to be high — just better than the return it gets on its huge expansion in investment in China, which I suspect is negative for the country as a whole….

As long as it earns more than it earns on its USG bond holdings, it will be better off economically even without considering the immense advantage of keeping the U.S. trade deficit high for the eight to ten years China is going to need to rebalance its economy away from its toxic over-reliance for growth on the trade surplus and economically non-viable investment.

Sounds more like a new Marshall Plan for the U.S. rather than a New Deal, but that’s just semantics. Massive infrastructure spending by China in the U.S. would create jobs and help boost demand for Chinese imports, possibly giving China the breathing room it needs to make the transition to an economy primarily driven by domestic demand instead of export prowess.

Of course, it will never happen, as Pettis acknowledges.

Muddled Chinese public opinion will be furious that desperately poor China is investing in rich America, even though the overall returns will be better and the cost of China’s adjustment will be much lower. Muddled American opinion will be furious that America is “selling out” to China. Bumptious politicians in both countries will completely fail to get the underlying economics of the trade, and they will never allow it to happen. But it is still a pretty good idea.

American officials are looking into allegations that mortgage lenders acted illegally when they foreclosed on hundreds of thousands of homeowners. The accusation is that firms signed off on home foreclosures, without going through the correct procedures. The banks could be in hot water if the investigation uncovers criminal acts or that top executives were aware of the robo-signing.

The United States and other nations say they are commited to a greener future.  That commitment has been helped in recent years with millions of dollars of investment in cleaner fuels technology – and as VOA’s Rebecca Ward reports – the investment seems to be paying off.

The first human embryonic stem cell trial in the world

After years of animal trials, the first human has been injected with cells from human embryonic stem cells, according to Geron Corporation, the company which is sponsoring the controversial study.

“This is the first human embryonic stem cell trial in the world,” Geron CEO Dr. Thomas Okarma tells CNN.

Geron is releasing very few details about the patient, but will say that the first person to receive cells derived from human embryonic stem cells was enrolled in the FDA-approved clinical trial at the Shepherd Center, a spinal cord and brain injury rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. This person was injected with the cells on Friday.

The FDA first approved this clinical trial in January 2009, but later required further research before the study could proceed. The FDA gave final approval in July of this year. This allowed the company to begin searching for the first patients who might qualify for this phase 1 clinical trial, which means scientists are trying to determine the safety of introducing these cells into a human.

To be eligible, patients have to have suffered what’s called a complete thoracic spinal cord injury, which means no movement below the chest. While patients can still move their arms and breathe on their own, they are complete paraplegics; they have no bowel or bladder control and can’t move their legs, Okarma explains.

The injury to the spinal cord would have to have occurred between the third and tenth thoracic vertebrae and the patient has to be injected with the stem cell therapy, called GRNOPC1, within seven to 14 days after the injury. “At the time of the injection, they [the cells] are programmed to make a new spinal cord – they insulate the damage [to the spinal cord],” says Okarma. The cells work just like they would if they were in the womb and building a spine in a fetus, Okarma explains.

Embryonic stem cells are only four to five days old and have the ability to turn into any cell in the body. But the cells that the patient receives aren’t pure human embryonic stem cells anymore. The cells in the GRNOPC1 therapy have been coaxed into becoming early myelinated glial cells, a type of cell that insulates nerve cells.

“For every cell we inject, they become six to 10 cells in a few months,” says Okarma. These cells can still divide some but will not become any type of cell other than glial cells, he explains.

The Geron CEO likens what these cells are doing to repairing a large electrical cable. If the outer layer is damaged and the wire is exposed, it causes a short-circuit and the cable doesn’t work anymore. In the case of a spinal cord injury, these new stem-cell derived glial cells creep in between all the fibers and rewrap the nerve with myelin, which is like patching the cable. The goal is to permanently repair the damage that caused the paralysis from the spinal cord injury.

“We’re not treating symptoms here – we’re permanently regenerating tissue,” says Okarma.

He adds that the goal of this stem cell therapy is to shift the outcome for someone who has just suffered a serious spinal cord injury, and go from a place where there’s no hope for improvement to a situation where they can respond to physical therapy. “If we could do that, this would be a spectacular result,” Okarma says.

The purpose of the clinical trial at this stage is to determine safety – to determine that there are no bad side effects or rejection caused by the therapy. Only eight to 10 patients are approved to be in the safety phase of this clinical trial, and patients with new spinal cord injuries are expected to be enrolled at about seven sites in the United States. Besides the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Northwestern Medicine in Chicago, Illinois, also is recruiting patients.

The cells that are being injected into the patients are a product derived from stem cells that were harvested from leftover embryos from fertility clinics. Because this process destroys the embryo, this type of research has been very controversial. Consequently federal funding of this type of research has been equally controversial. However, Okarma has previously told CNN that “zero federal funds” were used for their human embryonic stem cell product.

States gang up to stop foreclosures as documents show forgeries of original papers

Could a national moratorium on foreclosures be around the corner? A group of as many as 40 states’ attorneys general is forming a coalition to push for an investigation into the mortgage industry on Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reports. The news follows a series of allegations that major banks—including Bank of America, the country’s largest—have included fraudulent documents as part of foreclosure agreements. “I think the mortgage-servicing firms need to understand that they face real exposure now,” said Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray. The Obama administration, meanwhile, has declined what would be a populist stance of supporting the moratorium.

Space tourism rocket SpaceShipTwo achieved its first solo glide flight Sunday, marking another step in the company’s eventual plans to fly paying passengers.

SpaceShipTwo was carried aloft by its mothership to an altitude of 45,000 feet and released over the Mojave Desert. After the separation, SpaceShipTwo, manned by two pilots, flew freely for 11 minutes before landing at an airport runway followed by the mothership.

The entire test flight lasted about 25 minutes.

“It flew beautifully,” said Virgin Galactic chief executive George Whitesides.

The six-passenger SpaceShipTwo is undergoing rigorous testing before it can carry tourists to space. In the latest test, SpaceShipTwo did not fire its rocket engine to climb to space.

Until now, SpaceShipTwo has flown attached to the wing of its special jet-powered mothership dubbed WhiteKnightTwo. Sunday was the first time the spaceship flew on its own.

“It’s a very big deal,” Virgin president Sir Richard Branson told The Associated Press. “There are a number of big deals on the way to getting commercial space travel becoming a reality. This was a very big step. We now know that the spaceship glides. We know it can be dropped safely from the mothership and we know it can land safely. That’s three big ticks.”

SpaceShipTwo will make a series of additional glide flights before rocketing to space.

“The next big step will be the rocket tests actually on the spacecraft itself,” Branson said. “We’ve obviously have done thousands of rocket tests on the ground, the next big test is in the air. We’ll be doing gentle rocket tests in the air, ultimately culminating into taking the spaceship into space.”

Tickets to ride aboard SpaceShipTwo cost $200,000. Some 370 customers have plunked down deposits totaling $50 million, according to Virgin Galactic. Commercial flights will fly out of New Mexico where a spaceport is under construction. Officials from Virgin Galactic and other dignitaries will gather at the spaceport Oct. 22 for an event commemorating the finished runway

These Are Our Demands

Congressmen want YouTube CEO to ban terrorist propaganda videos

YOUTUBE has become a veritable clearinghouse for any and every video imaginable — from the gross, to the poignant, to the hilarious, it’s all there. But despite its mainstream appeal, YouTube also has become an outlet for jihadi propaganda and violent proselytizing.

Hoping to stifle the spread of radicalism, four congressmen have sent a letter to YouTube Chief Executive Chad Hurley asking why it is that the site has continued to allow terrorists to post videos.

“Taking advantage of the very freedoms they wish to limit in the vast domain

of the internet, they spread an ideology that seeks to radicalize and indoctrinate vulnerable people. In short, it preaches that America is the devil, the Americans themselves are bent on the destruction of Islam and that a violent response is required by all true believers,” Texas Republican Rep. Ted Poe, California Republican Rep. Edward Royce, Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Illinios Rep. Donald Manzullo wrote to Hurley.

According to the four members, one of the most frequently featured jihadist on YouTube, with about 1,910 videos, is Anwar-Al-Awlaki — the imam credited with inspiring the 2007 attempted attack at Fort Dix, the 2009 Fort Hood Massacre and the failed 2009 Christmas day airplane bomb.

$2 million found lying in city street

A package left by an armored truck on an Indianapolis street is hit by a passing car, sending $20 bills into the air



Image: Evan Agostini / AP Photo

This Twitter-happy celebrity couple has been dedicated members of Team Obama and the Democratic Party from day one, and will be using their tech savvy at the conference: Kutcher will be a panelist and Moore a guest for “Democracy and Voice:

Technology For Citizen Empowerment and Human Rights.” They produced tongue-in-cheek viral videosappearances at colleges across the country in an attempt to galvanize the youth vote for Obama. Their pièce de résistance was a celebrity-packed video, directed and edited by Moore, that featured over 50 of Hollywood’s biggest stars pledgingThe Demi and Ashton Foundation (DNA), whose mission is to help raise awareness about and eventually bring an end to human trafficking. “There’s an assumption that this one man is going to take on his new job full-time and somehow wave a magic wand of change, and I don’t believe that to be true,” Ashton told Reuters. “I think that we have to be the leaders, and that’s not celebrities—I think that we as citizens have to be leaders of the movement that we want to create.” for in late 2008 touting the then-Illinois senator’s presidential bid and made several to vote Obama for president. The couple have also co-founded


Critics are calling it Citizen Kane, but in the tech heartland of Northern California, geeks are saying “Meh” to the Facebook movie. Nicole LaPorte reports.


Deep down, The Social Network is a fashion film, with the Facebook founder giving us a new sartorial standard for success in the Internet age, says Rebecca Dana.


Jesse Eisenberg talks to The Daily Beast about identifying with Mark Zuckerberg, living in Chelsea, and why he doesn’t have a Facebook page.


Lloyd Grove talks to The Social Network writer about empathizing with Mark Zuckerberg—and the art of creating a new personality from scratch.


A source close to the Facebook CEO says that the timing of his massive contribution to Newark’s public schools has nothing to do with the release of an unflattering film.

Anger Unlikely to Decide the Midterms

Self-described ‘angry voters’ are not more likely to vote, and more good news for Democrats

Anger is dominating the current political conversation—especially if you’re an older, whiter, economically anxious voter who dislikes President Barack Obama and tends to prefer Republicans to Democrats. But according to the new NEWSWEEK Poll, there’s little reason to believe that anger alone will be the determining factor in November’s midterm elections.

Self-described “angry” voters fit a rather predictable political and demographic profile. The survey found that only 14 percent are Democrats. The rest are either Republicans (52 percent) or independents (29 percent), with 42 percent of the angry voters declaring themselves Tea Party supporters. For the midterms, angry voters favor Republican candidates over their Democratic rivals, 73 percent to 19 percent. Three quarters want the GOP to win control of Congress. More than seven in 10 specifically describe themselves as angry with Obama and congressional Democrats, and a full 60 percent see their vote in November as a vote against the president. Compared with voters in general, angry voters are 21 percent more likely to say they’re worried about their economic future. They are 10 percent whiter than voters in general and 7 percent less likely to be under 30.

NEWSWEEK Poll’s most revealing finding is that despite months of media coverage insisting that voters are “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore,” anger is unlikely to decide this year’s elections. For starters, self-described angry voters constitute only 23 percent of the electorate, and there’s no reason to believe that they’re more likely to cast ballots in November than their calmer peers. Why? Because the percentage of angry voters who say they will definitely vote in the midterms is statistically indistinguishable from the overall percentage of voters who say the same thing (84 percent vs. 81 percent). In fact, majorities of voters say they would not be more likely to vote for candidates who express anger at Washington incumbents (60 percent), Wall Street bankers (52 percent), the illegal-immigration problem (53 percent), the Gulf of Mexico oil spill (65 percent), or health-care reform (55 percent).  Fifty-three percent of voters see Obama’s unemotional approach to politics—his “coolness”—as a positive, versus only 39 percent who don’t.

Anger isn’t the only factor that’s been overhyped in the run-up to Election Day. The president, for example, appears to be a neutral force rather than a negative one. His approval rating stands at 48 percent, roughly where it has remained since January of this year, and far better than where George W. Bush stood before the 2006 midterms (33 percent) or where Bill Clinton stood in 1994 (36 percent). Meanwhile, the percentage of voters who say they will be voting for Obama in November’s congressional elections (29 percent) is statistically identical to the percentage who say they will be voting against him (30 percent). Voters dissatisfied with the country’s current course are more likely to place “a lot” of blame on Bush (39 percent) than on his successor (32 percent).

Another factor that has garnered a lot of potentially unwarranted attention is “the issues.” Simply put, in the NEWSWEEK Poll, voters said they trust Democrats more than Republicans to handle pretty much every problem currently facing the country: Afghanistan (by 6 points), health care (by 12), immigration (by 2, though that figure is within the margin of error), Social Security (by 14), unemployment (by 12), financial reform (by 14), energy (by 19), and education (by 19). Voters even prefer Democrats to Republicans on federal spending (by 4 points), taxes (by 5), and the economy (by 10)—the GOP’s core concerns. The only area where Republicans outpoll Democrats is the issue of terrorism, where they lead by a 6-point margin.

Still, voters are split on which party should control Congress after November—44 percent went for Republicans, 46 percent for Democrats—and most experts are predicting sizable Republican gains in both the House and the Senate. So if not anger, the president, or the issues, what will be the deciding factor in the 2010 midterm elections? According to the NEWSWEEK Poll, the condition of the economy, and the inability of anyone in Washington to improve it, is by far the most important force at play in this year’s congressional campaigns.

Donald Duck Meets Glenn Beck in Right Wing Radio

The best bit is the end, where he discovers that Beck is a hack and gets fed up with the fearmongering.

This video perfectly captures how I feel about Beck. He starts by telling you what you want to hear, whips your emotions into a frenzy of fear, then leaves you high and dry with no solutions. Then he goes home to count the money he’s making off your gullibility.

Donald Duck is known for being a bit of a hothead, and unlike his Scottish uncle Scrooge, he’s never been shown to be especially wealthy. (Presumably, if he had more money, he could afford some pants.) Thus, it makes a kind of sense that Donald would gravitate toward Glenn Beck’s everyman-friendly radio rhetoric. In a mashup cartoon by new-media blogger Jonathan McIntosh, Donald finds himself unemployed, facing homelessness, and battling the specter of a trigger-happy pollo in a sombrero. But Beck’s voice is there to show him the way.

Andrew Sullivan urges viewers to “watch till the very end. It helps make a little sense of why the GOP’s incoherent populist claptrap may be beginning to backfire a little.” Meanwhile, Gawker’s Max Read isn’t surprised to see Donald embracing Tea Party principles, since “he’s angry, inarticulate, and white.”

NASA Ending Space Shuttle Missions After 30 Years Of Flights

The US Space Shuttle Discovery is set to lift off from Florida on November 1 for a mission to the International Space Station. It will be one of the final missions for the shuttle; NASA is ending the program and will retire its remaining fleet of the reusable spacecraft next year. Our correspondent has more on how the US space agency is charting a new course for future human space exploration.

Since the early 1980’s, the space shuttle has been carrying astronauts and cargo into space. Four-time shuttle Astronaut Charles Bolden is head of the US space agency.

“It is quite emotional just thinking about coming to the end of the shuttle era however it is absolutely the right thing to do,” said Bolden.

NASA is ending its space shuttle program next year and taking the next step in manned space flight. The space agency plans to spend billions of dollars to encourage the development of commercial human spaceflight vehicles. It also wants to invest in advanced space propulsion technology. But so far, efforts to build the new generation of spacecraft and rockets have run into technical problems and substantial cost overruns. Without the shuttle, NASA will have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to buy transport flights to the International Space Station on Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

President Obama calls the current plan unsustainable and has outlined his own vision for future space flights.

“We will start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history,” said President Obama. “By the mid 2030’s I believe we can send humans to orbit [the planet] Mars and return them safely to earth and a landing on Mars will follow.”

In order to achieve the goal of a Mars flight, the Obama administration has proposed funding cuts for plans to send astronauts back to the moon by 2020. It will also scale back other human space programs resulting in job losses for thousands of NASA workers. Bolden says it has been a difficult year.

“To people who are working on these programs this is like a death,” he said. “Everybody needs to understand and we need to give them time to grieve and then we need to give them time to recover.”

NASA now wants to direct millions of dollars towards private companies like Boeing to develop so called “space taxis” that could take tourists for short space flights by 2015. NASA Administrator Bolden says helping private companies provide inexpensive transport services is a proper path for the agency to take.

“The commercial space industry will be a very vital part of NASA going forward it means we are going to change the way we acquire services to get us into to space to get humans to space,” said Bolden. “If it works well there’s a good possibility that people could go to space even if it’s just for a few seconds.”

“NASA is clearly at a cross road right now,” said Mark Lewis. “Big decisions are being made that will affect its future for not only years to come but perhaps for decades to come.”

Mark Lewis is an aerospace engineering professor at the University of Maryland. He says NASA’s plan to rely entirely on the commercial space industry to transport humans and supplies into orbit could be a setback for the space agency.

“I think it is very important that as we start to look at new opportunities opening up space for new commercial sectors it is also important that we not lose the ability that we have worked so hard to build,” he said.

Howard McCurdy, a space analyst at American University, says NASA’s funding for commercial rockets and spacecraft will free up the agency to do the kind of technology development needed for deep space exploration.

“The most significant changes we are going to see is that the United States and its international partners for the first time in some 35 years are going to get out of low-earth orbit and get back to the business exploring the inner solar system,” said McCurdy.

As NASA charts a new course for future space flight some analysts wonder if its long term goals can be reached. They maintain much depends on who wins the budget battle between the White House and lawmakers over how much to invest in the commercial space industry, versus how much NASA needs to jump-start its missions to explore the far reaches of space.

Tony Curtis, who starred in “Some Like it Hot” and “Spartacus,” has died aged 85. “My father leaves behind a legacy of great performances,” said daughter Jamie Lee Curtis


* He starred in more than 150 major motion pictures

* Curtis was married six times and is the father of actress Jamie Lee Curtis

* He was nominated for an Oscar for 1958’s “The Defiant Ones”

“My father leaves behind a legacy of great performances in movies and in his paintings and assemblages,” actress Jamie Lee Curtis said in a statement Thursday. “He leaves behind children and their families who loved him and respected him and a wife and in-laws who were devoted to him. He also leaves behind fans all over the world. He will be greatly missed.”

Curtis starred in more than 150 motion pictures and was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in 1958’s “The Defiant Ones” with Sidney Poitier.

Curtis also is known for his roles in the 1959 movie “Some Like it Hot” with Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon and “Spartacus” in 1960 with Kirk Douglas. He also played the lead role in “The Boston Strangler,” released in 1968.

urtis recalled last year how he landed the plum role in “Some Like it Hot”, his most memorable part.

“I got in it because (director) Billy Wilder … said at that time, ‘I want the handsomest kid in town,’ and they picked me,” Curtis told CNN iReporter Chris Morrow. “Well, that was a great compliment.”

Curtis also recalled what it was like starring with Monroe, whom he said he dated for about four months in 1949 or 1950.

“We had a wonderful time together,” he said. “We were both very young and hoping to get in the movies.”

Born in New York City in 1925 as Bernard Schwartz, Curtis grew up poor in the Bronx as his family struggled through the Great Depression. He took the name Tony Curtis in the late 1940s, when he started his film career.

He was married six times, most notably to film star Janet Leigh.

With his long eyelashes, lustrous shock of wavy black hair and New York accent, Curtis cut a colorful swath through the Hollywood of the 1950s and ’60s, marrying three times in two decades and appearing in more than 60 films and TV programs.

He starred opposite Leigh, his first wife, in 1953’s “Houdini,” playing the title role of magician Harry Houdini. Other major roles soon followed, including “Trapeze” in 1956 and “The Sweet Smell of Success” in 1957.

“Tony even made it seem natural for a Norseman to have a New York accent in The Vikings (1958),” said his official biography. “But it was in 1958 when Curtis and Sidney Poitier starred in Stanley Kramer’s social drama The Defiant Ones (1959) which earned both men Academy Award nominations and was among the most acclaimed and profitable films of the year.”

Another huge hit came in 1959, playing opposite Cary Grant in “Operation Petticoat.”

Curtis once said that his biggest regret was not winning an Oscar, but other awards found their way to him.

He received a lifetime achievement award from the Italian Oscars in May 1996, his website says, and in March 1995 was honored with the Chevalier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres for his work in films and his original art works. Curtis also was honored by the USA Film Festival and the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

The actor worked with some of film’s biggest directors, including Blake Edwards, Stanley Kubrick, Elia Kazan, Vincente Minnelli and Nicolas Roeg.

Curtis served in the Navy during World War II and, upon his release, used the GI educational program to study drama, his biography said.

“He first gained attention in a Greenwich Village stage production of ‘Golden Boy,’ and was quickly offered a contract by Universal Pictures.” the bio says.

“His screen debut had him dancing with Yvonne de Carlo in ‘Criss Cross.’ His few seconds on screen were enough to generate thousands of fan letters to the handsome young man. Universal had the fastest rising star in Hollywood and one of the most enduring prolific actors of modern times.”

Curtis led a turbulent life off-screen, divorcing five times. Of the six children he had with three wives, a son died in 1994 from a reported heroin overdose.

Curtis admitted he battled drugs and alcohol abuse during the 1970s and 1980s and sought treatment at the famous Betty Ford Center in 1984.

In later years, Curtis began painting and was known particularly for his portraits.

But it was for his long and varied movie career and his larger-than-life personality that Curtis will be remembered.

“It’s a sad day for the entertainment world,” family attorney Eli Blumenfield said. “Tony was one of few remaining Hollywood icons. He led a good life, fathered six wonderful children and he was always proud of them. He will be sorely missed.”

Corporate America’s complaints about the president keep getting louder

Speculation that Barack Obama will appoint a businessman to a senior job in his administration reached fever pitch this week, after the White House announced that Larry Summers, the president’s principal economic adviser, will soon step down. It is hard to find an American boss nowadays with a good word to say about the current administration, and the absence of anyone with a business background in Mr Obama’s inner circle is invariably mentioned as a reason why. The perception in corporate America that the president is actively anti-business, or at the very least doesn’t “get it”, has started to “have a psychological effect on how firms invest”, notes one well-informed insider, who used to see this as a “seven out of ten problem” but now rates it as a ten.

Discontent that started as mostly private grumbling not long after Mr Obama entered the White House has recently gone public. Ivan Seidenberg, the chief executive of Verizon, a telecoms giant, used a recent speech in Washington, DC, to accuse the president of creating an “increasingly hostile environment for investment and job creation”, claiming that the administration’s regulatory expansion into “every sector of economic life” is making it “harder to raise capital and create new businesses.” Jeff Immelt, the boss of GE, has said that the administration is not in sync with entrepreneurs. The US Chamber of Commerce, a business lobby, has complained that the Obama administration has “vilified industries”.

And so it goes on. The Business Roundtable, another influential trade association, has published a 49-page list of current policies which, it claims, inhibit economic growth. Last month Dan Loeb, a hedge-fund manager who is famous for writing intemperate letters to company bosses, circulated a letter accusing Mr Obama of, in effect, undermining free-market capitalism and the rule of law. What stings most is that Mr Loeb is a former classmate of the president’s and was a big donor to his election campaign.

Reboot America! The Daily Beast Innovators Summit

At our Innovators Summit in New Orleans, we bring together Gen. Stanley McChrystal and 300 world-class influencers to brainstorm about getting America out of the blues.

Reboot America! That’s the mantra of the first-annual Daily Beast Innovators Summit, taking place from Oct. 21 to 23 in New Orleans, the city that, in fighting back from devastation, has become a laboratory for reinvention.

With 14 million Americans out of work, and the economy still barely moving, it is clear we need new ideas more than bitter exchanges and partisan antics. We’ll brainstorm with some of the brightest, most original minds from the worlds of business, culture, media, government, and social innovation to suggest new ways to lift us out of the economic glums.

by Tina Brown 

Tina BrownTina Brown is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast.

Article - Brown Reboot America - McChrystal General Stanley McChrystal, a featured speaker at the summit, will address the importance of leadership, driving change, and revitalizing group participation. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite / AP Photo) At our Innovators Summit in New Orleans, we bring together Gen. Stanley McChrystal and 300 world-class influencers to brainstorm about getting America out of the blues.

Reboot America! That’s the mantra of the first-annual Daily Beast Innovators Summit, taking place from Oct. 21 to 23 in New Orleans, the city that, in fighting back from devastation, has become a laboratory for reinvention.

With 14 million Americans out of work, and the economy still barely moving, it is clear we need new ideas more than bitter exchanges and partisan antics. We’ll brainstorm with some of the brightest, most original minds from the worlds of business, culture, media, government, and social innovation to suggest new ways to lift us out of the economic glums.

What should we change about the way we work and think and research and invest? How do we foster a business environment where new entrepreneurs can flourish and small businesses can flower? What policies should we put in place that would bring to full bloom our strengths, our muscle, our flair, our genius, and our resilience as a country? What should we learn from others’ mistakes?

The Daily Beast’s summit will share new ideas, proposed solutions and hard experience, with live streaming and interactive discussion on this site.

Article - Brown Reboot America - Landrieu New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite / AP Photo) Over two and a half days, at the great meeting space Mardi Gras World on the Mississippi River, we’ll share new ideas, proposed solutions, and hard experience—and report on all in live streaming, commentary and interactive discussion on this site. A gift for self-examination is part of America’s vigor as a nation, and The Daily Beast’s summit will be a venue for it.

We will ask former Afghanistan forces commander and retired four-star Gen. Stanley McChrystal what he’s learned about leadership in the face of life or death military challenges. We are grateful that H-P has partnered with us as the summit’s founding sponsor, thanks to chief marketing officer Michael Mendenhall. HBO also brings support, at the generous instigation of co-president Richard Plepler; he joins us in conversation with filmmaker and documentarian Spike Lee and David Simon, creator of Treme and The Wire.

Article - Brown Reboot America - Moyo Dambisa Moyo (Photo: Helen Jones) Mayor Mitch Landrieu, New Orleans’ visionary new leader, will host our opening night celebration on the banks of the Mississippi at Mardi Gras World. He says that post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans has been an incubator for innovation and an effective model for social change. The city he is serving with such dynamism is a source of inspiration to us all. Undaunted by the devastation of Katrina and the debacle of the BP oil spill, the Big Easy has battled back, sustained by its rich culture, entrepreneurial flair, and social energy. It is now marching forward again with a Super Bowl champion football team.

• Get America Back to Work! Daily Beast ManifestoEducational think tank The Thomas B. Fordham Institute recently pronounced New Orleans the most reform-minded city in America. You will meet some of the city’s exciting young faces at The Daily Beast summit, and others brought to us by the third of our co-hosts, Cheryl Dorsey’s Echoing Green, the organization that invests in and supports outstanding emerging innovators working on new solutions to combat society’s toughest problems. For the still-assembling lineup of participants you will hear from, see the list below.

Article - Brown Reboot America - Noonan Peggy Noonan (Photo: Meet the Press via Getty Images) Meanwhile, please note our choice of the verb “reboot.” We aren’t saying “rebuild” or “remake” or “reconstruct” America. For all its many problems today—political, economic, educational, and social—America is still, emphatically, the world’s leading economy, the world’s security scaffolding, and the greatest magnet for immigration. There’s a reason why people the world over want to live here, be they Guatemalans or Greeks, Haitians or Hungarians, Bangladeshis or Brits like my husband and me. And it’s the very same reason why America is admired and emulated everywhere in the world, even in these hellishly trying times. America is synonymous with opportunity.

Article - Brown Reboot America - Lee Spike Lee (Photo: Patrick Semansky / AP Photo) As we head for our second anniversary in October, The Daily Beast too is alive with optimism. A startup ourselves, in 23 months we’ve amassed five million unique users a month, won six main industry awards, and find ourselves on Time magazine’s 50 Best Websites list as “a triple threat: a trendsetter, an insightful and analytical clearinghouse of events and ideas, and… quite the time saver.” In the coming weeks, we will continue to update you on the program of our summit. Start a dialogue with some of our great panelists, and with us at The Daily Beast. We want to  hear about your bright ideas. Follow Reboot America on Facebook and Twitter, and tweet about it using the hashtag #RebootUSA.

Article - Brown Reboot America - Mendenhall H-P chief marketing officer Michael Mendenhall (Photo: Andreas Rentz / Getty Images for Hubert Burda Media) You will also hear from: Ken Auletta, Sheila Bair, Peter Beinart, Sir Richard Branson, Steven Brill, James Carville, Robin Chase, Silas K. F. Chou, Barry Diller, Jack Dorsey, Sir Harold Evans, Sergio Fajardo, Niall Ferguson, John Fetterman, Harold Ford Jr., Theodore Forstmann, Leslie Gelb, Bianna Golodryga, Robert Hormats, Glenn Hutchins, Walter Isaacson, John Kao, David Kennedy, Vinod Khosla, David Kirkpatrick, Joel Klein, Marc Koska, Ron Meyer, Dambisa Moyo, David Neeleman, Peggy Noonan, Peter Orszag, Maureen Orth, Pete Peterson, Wendell Pierce, Sam Pitroda, Michael Polsky, Michelle Rhee, Connie Rice, Shane Robison, Nouriel Roubini, Neeraj Roy, Bob Schieffer, Lori Senecal, Dan Senor, Ralph Simon, Joseph Stiglitz, Tarun Tejpal, Gillian Tett, Frances Townsend, Diane von Furstenberg, Jochen Zeitz, and many more. We thank in advance this cross section of public spirited Americans who give freely of their time and experience.

Survey: Americans don’t know much about religion –

Many respondents could not correctly give the most basic tenets of their own faiths

a new survey of Americans’ knowledge of religion found that atheists

agnostics, Jews and Mormons outperformed Protestants and Roman Catholics in answering questions about major religions, while many respondents could not correctly give the most basic tenets of their own faiths.

Forty-five percent of Roman Catholics who participated in the study didn’t know that, according to church teaching, the bread and wine used in Holy Communion is not just a symbol, but becomes the body and blood of Christ

More than half of Protestants could not identify Martin Luther as the person who inspired the Protestant Reformation.

And about four in 10 Jews did not know that Maimonides, one of the greatest rabbis and intellectuals in history, was Jewish.

The survey released Tuesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life aimed to test a broad range of religious knowledge, including understanding of the Bible, core teachings of different faiths and major figures in religious history. The U.S. is one of the most religious countries in the developed world, especially compared to largely secular Western Europe, but faith leaders and educators have long lamented that Americans still know relatively little about religion.

Atheists and agnostics scored highest, with an average of 21 correct answers, while Jews and Mormons followed with about 20 accurate responses. Protestants overall averaged 16 correct answers, while Catholics followed with a score of about 15.

Not surprisingly, those who said they attended worship at least once a week and considered religion important in their lives often performed better on the overall survey. However, level of education was the best predictor of religious knowledge. The top-performing groups on the survey still came out ahead even when controlling for how much schooling they had completed.

On questions about Christianity, Mormons scored the highest, with an average of about eight correct answers out of 12, followed by white evangelicals, with an average of just over seven correct answers. Jews, along with atheists and agnostics, knew the most about other faiths, such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism. Less than half of Americans know that the Dalai Lama is Buddhist, and less than four in 10 know that Vishnu and Shiva are part of Hinduism.

The study also found that many Americans don’t understand constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools. While a majority know that public school teachers cannot lead classes in prayer, less than a quarter know that the U.S. Supreme Court has clearly stated that teachers can read from the Bible as an example of literature.

Republicans Rising on College Campuses

Today Dooley, a sophomore at George Washington University, in Washington D.C., is active in the College Republicans and prefers the label “conservative independent.”

According to a Pew Research Center study, Dooley is not alone.

The study, which analyzed voter registration among young voters, said more 18- to 29-year-olds are identifying themselves as Republicans, while fewer are registering with the Democratic Party.

Dooley campaigned heavily for Barack Obama in the 2008 election. Now he spends his time volunteering for Tim Cahill, an independent candidate for Massachusetts governor running on a fiscally conservative platform, making calls to voters and performing social media tasks.

Dooley said his political ideology shifted over the past year. Turned off by what he calls Obama’s “glossy ideals” and “lack of concrete policies,” he said the economy has forced him to reconsider his politics.

Afghan Women Need Us

Katie Couric, Zainab Salbi, and other attendees at a dinner held during the Clinton Global Initiative made an impassioned plea for an Afghan peace deal that does not abandon its women.

At a star-filled dinner around the Clinton Global Initiative celebrating the importance of women’s economic empowerment around the world, fears about the future of Afghan women occupied the glittering ballroom.

Nearly 10 years after the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan, women are fighting to be heard in talks with the Taliban that will decide their future. Guaranteeing that women’s voices are represented, in full and with more than symbolic attention, is critical to creating any kind of a just peace in the long-troubled country.

Since my first trip to Afghanistan five years ago, I have seen women make great strides for themselves amid daunting setbacks, most of them stemming from security. Today, just as the world is scaling back its goals for Afghanistan, Afghan women are scaling up their own ambitions, entering every field from business to the Army to politics. Making sure these women are not abandoned to a deal that comes at the cost of their rights is critical not only to building a durable peace, but also to strengthening U.S. interests.

Those who know the country and the strength of its women are now speaking out passionately on the issue.

“There is simply no way we can talk about a stable Afghanistan and an Afghanistan that has a lasting peace if it does not have the protection and the inclusion and the full participation of women in all of the peace-building processes,” said Zainab Salbi, founder and CEO of Women for Women International, which provides jobs and skills training to women in Afghanistan. “It is in our interest that we have them at the negotiating table in every single part of the decision-making to ensure that we are building a stable and peaceful Afghanistan.”

At the dinner, CBS News anchor Katie Couric took to the microphone to express her concerns and share the fears she heard from women during her recent visit to the country.

“I just spent three days in Afghanistan,” she told the audience of more than 100 women’s empowerment leaders, advocates, and activists hosted by Goldman Sachs’ 10000 Women program, including the World Bank’s Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, model and activist Christy Turlington Burns, and The Daily Beast’s Tina Brown. “And I am really worried about what happens to these women. Will the nations of the world allow the newfound rights of girls and women to become a casualty of a brokered peace?”

“The call for action for American women is to ensure that our Afghan sisters are included in whatever political negotiation is happening in Afghanistan,” Salbi said.

U.S. officials agree it is critical that they do not. But they acknowledge they are facing a tough battle to win over the American public, particularly as the Democratic Party’s leftward flank has been outspoken about its reservations concerning the war. U.S. Ambassador for Global Women’s Affairs Melanne Verveer and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have been out front and outspoken about having women at the negotiating table. But it is not an easy fight.

And they could use the public’s help.

“The call for action for American women is to ensure that our Afghan sisters are included in whatever political negotiation is happening in Afghanistan,” Salbi said. “We are not negotiating on their behalf; what we want is for them to be negotiating. No women, no peace.”

A black family may occupy its most important residence, but Washington DC’s African American population is in decline.

The demographic data from the 2010 census starts to come in, it will show a startling trend – cities that have long been the African American capitals of the US are undergoing drastic change. On the south side of Chicago, in New York’s Harlem, across New Orleans and in Washington DC, the black population is in rapid decline.

The numbers are particularly startling in Washington, DC – a city that was once so thoroughly black it gained the name “Chocolate City”. In 1970, blacks made up over 70 per cent of the district’s population. Things have changed. In this decade, over 27,000 blacks left the city, and around 40,000 whites moved in. Today, African Americans represent less than 54 per cent of the population and demographers predict they will be a minority in the next five to 10 years.

The most common explanation for the displacement is gentrification, and the rising cost of living that comes with the new, generally white, population.

“There’s evidence everywhere you go in DC that DC is becoming richer and whiter,” says Sabiyha Prince, an anthropology professor at American University.

Even as a black family occupies the most important residence in DC for the first time in history, “Chocolate City” is having an identity crisis.

Al Jazeera goes to the neighbourhoods of the nation’s capital where long time black Washingtonians question their future in a city with centuries of rich African American past.

There goes the neighbourhood airs from Tuesday, September 28, 2010 at the following times GMT: Tuesday: 0600, 1930; Wednesday: 1430; Thursday: 0030; Friday: 0830; Saturday: 2330.

5 Best of the best  September Columns


Jonah Goldberg on Colbert and ‘Ironic Rot’ While pop culture and political discourse have been steeped in irony for decades, The Los Angeles Times columnist contends that Stephen Colbert testifying to the House subcommittee on immigration “in character” stepped over the line with an “excruciatingly inappropriate spectacle.” Goldberg isn’t even sure who the faux-conservative host is parodying anymore: “O’Reilly doesn’t talk like that. Nor does Sean Hannity or any of the usual targets Colbert’s supposed to be lampooning.” The Comedy Central host “reduced the topic to a black-and-white issue in which people on the other side are fools or bigots worthy of cheap mockery,” concludes the columnist. “I thought the whole point of Colbert was to stand against that sort of thing by making fun of it, not by doing it.”


Roger Cohen on the ‘New American Normal’ The United States appears to have descended into a sort of political and economic tribalism, writes The New York Times columnist, who notes a particularly striking anecdote conveyed to him by a retired Wall Street executive. At the bank where this executive was employed, the board decided to fire 5 percent of the workforce rather rather than cut bonuses 25 percent for the executives. This sort of “fragmentation” has now become particularly acute during an age where there are no more investors on Wall Street (only “traders”) and where the top one percent of American families have doubled their share of the national income to twenty percent. While it may not be much, Cohen argues that “ending the tax cuts for the rich is a minimum signal for a divided land, a statement that the two Americas are acquainted with each other.”


Jonathan Holslag on China’s ‘Muscle-Flexing’ Last week’s showdown with Japan over the custody of a Chinese fisherman indicates to The Financial Times columnist that “China’s apparent assertiveness remains more an expression of weakness than of strength”–particularly since it seems the new aggression is motivated by economic necessity, China expanding in response to “decreasing stocks of blue fin tuna” and access to oil and water. When the nation “bullies” its way into neighbors’ markets to suit its insatiable economic needs, this inflames the tension between China and the rest of Asia, turning the rising power into a “trapped giant.” Holslag explains: “In such a climate, distrust could turn into a self-fulfilling prophesy, because it weakens the position of moderate leaders, stirs mutual fear of aggression and, above all, strengthens the belief that shifts in the balance of power inevitably lead to greater global rivalry.”


Bret Stephens on What Ahmadinejad Knows The Wall Street Journal columnist believes the Iranian president’s inflammatory speech at the UN last week–replete with 9/11 conspiracy theories–was a finely-honed piece of political theater. Ahmadinejad realizes that “the more outrageous his remarks, the more grateful the West [will] be for whatever crumbs of reasonableness Iran might scatter on the table.” He seeks “to overcome the limitations imposed on Iran by its culture, geography, religion and sect…to become the champion of radical anti-Americans everywhere.” He knows his conspiracy theories will offend, and that’s why he deploys them. It’s not the people turning off their television sets in disgust Ahmadinejad is speaking to. It’s the lonely, the isolated, and the angry around the world whom his words target. His language paints “politics as a revolt against empiricism, logic, utility, pragmatism.” Ahmadinejad is merely manipulating the “proverbial rage against the machine.”


David Brooks on Where California Went Wrong It seems difficult to imagine now, but from 1911 to 1970, California was a model for how state government should be run, writes The New York Times columnist. Thanks to a string of strong governors who were “pro-market and pro-business, but also progressive reformers,” the state was able to undertake massive public works projects, improve living standards, and build a first-rate state university system. The political climate in Sacramento during these years was genial and bipartisan. Brooks blames both parties for the state’s fall from glory. On the left, there were shiftless unions and militant environmentalists “hostile to suburbia, skeptical of capitalism and eager to impose greater regulations and costs on small businesses.” On the right, conservatives failed to recognize the importance of the public sector in the state’s rise and “became unwilling to think creatively about using government to promote prosperity.” As it stands now, argues Brooks, the entire Golden State is crying out for a “restoration and a modernization of what California once had.”