December 6, 2008

Remember When Amsterdam Was Fun?

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) — Amsterdam unveiled plans Saturday to shutter up to half of its famed brothels and marijuana cafes as part of a major cleanup of its ancient city center.

The city says it wants to drive organized crime out of the neighborhood, and is targeting businesses that "generate criminality," including prostitution, gambling parlors, "smart shops" that sell herbal treatments, head shops and "coffee shops" where marijuana is sold openly.

"By reduction and zoning of these kinds of functions, we will be able to manage better and tackle the criminal infrastructure," the city said in a statement.

It said it would also reduce a number of business it sees as related to the "decay" of the center, including peep shows, sex shows, sex shops, mini supermarkets, massage parlors and souvenir shops.

The city said there were too many of these and it believes some are used for money-laundering by drug dealers and the human traffickers who supply many of the city's prostitutes.

Under the plan announced Saturday, Amsterdam will spend euro30-euro40 million ($38-$51 million) to bring hotels, restaurants, cultural organizations and boutiques to the center. It will also build new underground parking areas for cars and bikes and may use some of the vacated buildings to ease a housing shortage.

Amsterdam already had plans to close many brothels and said last month it might close some coffee shops throughout the city, but the plans announced Saturday go much further.

The city said it would offer retraining to prostitutes and coffee shop employees who will lose their jobs as a result of the plan.

Prostitution, which has spread into several areas of the center, will be allowed only in two areas — notably De Wallen ("The Walls"), a web of streets and alleys around the city's medieval retaining dam walls. The area has been a center of prostitution since before the city's golden shipping age in the 1600s.

Prostitution was legalized in the Netherlands in 2000, formalizing a long-standing tolerance policy.

Marijuana is technically illegal in the Netherlands, but prosecutors won't press charges for possession of small amounts and the coffee shops are able to sell it openly.

Maybe Bush Should Pardon O.J. Simpson

From Lee Stranahan | 23/6:

President Bush, I realize that I may not have much pull with you right now but it seems that without Karl Rove around, you're kind of lost and sad. I saw your statement on the White House lawn today about the huge unemployment numbers and you looked like you wanted to dig a hole in the Rose Garden and climb right in. So you need advice and I'm here for you, man.

I'd like to urge you to pardon O.J. Simpson as soon as possible.

Here's my thinking, such as it is: If you pardon O.J., the media will go into 24/7 freak out mode from now until the inauguration. We'll have experts on law and celebrity news and politics and sports all playing tag team like it's an information iron cage match. We just need a way to work the weather in there and it's a full employment plan for cable news.

Mostly importantly,......

Sarah Palin: What is Priceless


  • Neiman Marcus shopping spree $75,062.63
  • A day at Saks Fifth Avenue $41,850.72

Being Sarah Palin's Fashion stylist................................priceless

Obama's Vacation Will Surely Be Criticized


For whatever reason the right-wing bloggers criticize Barack Obama for any and everything he does. Well I'm sure they will have something to say when that socialist son of bitch takes a vacation after running his fancy commie campaign.

The nerve of that selfish SOB! When everybody else is struggling, he has the nerve to go on vacation in a fancy foreign country, Hawaii. If he was a real president, he would go straight to the White House without a break and try to be some sort of a leader, if he can.

But no! He is just going to lay he pasty white body out in the sand of his fancy foreign Muslim loving Hawaii.

Bring back you birth certificate while you there in Africa you arrogant prick!

That sound about right?

Rice Warns Pakistan to Act, or Else


SLAMABAD: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has told Pakistan that there is "irrefutable evidence" of involvement of elements in this
country in the Mumbai terror attacks and it had no option but to act urgently "otherwise, the US will act." ( Watch )

Rice, who travelled here after a visit to India earlier this week, "pushed" the Pakistani leaders to move against the perpetrators of the terror strikes.

The clear message was conveyed by her to Pakistan's top leadership during her brief stopover here on Thursday, diplomatic sources said.

Rice said that there was "irrefutable evidence" of the involvement of Pakistani elements in the Mumbai attacks, the sources said.

In India, Rice was shown the extensive evidence gathered by investigators to prove the linkages between the Mumbai attackers and Pakistan-based elements, especially the banned Lashker-e-Toiba terror group, they said.

The sources said Rice, during her interactions with President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, made it clear that Pakistan needs to act effectively to bring the perpetrators to justice. She warned that the "US will act if Pakistan did not".

Rice also told Pakistan that it "needs to act urgently and effectively to avert a strong international response". She said that Pakistan's response needs to be "effective and focused" and that India was thinking on "similar lines", the Dawn newspaper said.

December 5, 2008

I Know it's Tradition and All But.......

...Couldn't they just get a real black person to play Zwarte Piet (Black Pete)

Students from the Netherlands International School in Jakarta take turns receiving gifts from Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) and his helpers Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) on Friday. In Holland, St. Nicholas Eve is celebrated every Dec. 5 with a handing out of gifts to good children.

Auto Bailout Deal Reached?


D
emocratic leaders in Congress struck a last-minute deal with the White House late Friday on a rescue plan for the U.S. auto industry, bringing a breakthrough to two days of frustration among auto executives, congressmen and the public.

"There is a deal with Dem leaders" and the White House, a senior Democratic aide said late Friday night after a day in which the 'Big Three' automaker executives testified before the House Financial Services Committee.

Details were.....

Woman Responsible for Border Security Arrested for Hiring Illegal Alien

By DENISE LAVOIE Associated Press Writer

BOSTON — A top Homeland Security official in Boston was accused Friday of repeatedly hiring illegal immigrants to clean her home, even warning one not to leave the country "'cause once you leave, you will never be back."

Lorraine Henderson, the regional director of Homeland Security, Customs, and Border Protection, was arrested Friday at her home in Salem. She was charged with harboring an illegal alien and ordered released on $25,000 unsecured bond during an initial appearance in federal court. She was expected to appear in federal court in Boston later Friday on a charge of harboring an illegal alien.

If convicted, Henderson faces up to 10 years in prison. She declined to comment after her court appearance.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office said Henderson has been placed on paid administrative leave, pending a decision next week on whether she will be suspended without pay.

Ted Woo, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, said Henderson has worked for the agency formerly known as U.S. Customs Services for 33 years. She has been the Boston Area Port Director for five years, he said.

As part of her duties as port director, Henderson is responsible for stopping illegal immigrants from entering the country through all air and sea international ports in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. She also commands 190 armed and uniformed border protection officers.

"For any member of Customs and Border Protection to allegedly compromise their authority, and the security of our international ports of entry _ violating the same immigration laws that they are charged with upholding _ is unconscionable," U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan said in a statement.

According to an eight-page affidavit, Henderson employed a Brazilian housekeeper who was an illeagal immigrant for several years, paying her between $75 and $80 per visit, less than a legal cleaning service costs. She also allegedly hired two other illegal immigrants when the woman took time off to have a baby, even after a fellow agent warned her what she was doing was against the law.

The affidavit states that in 2004, Henderson recommended her housekeeper to a fellow officer, who learned the next year that the woman was in the country illegally after paying thousands of dollars to enter the U.S. over the Mexican border.

The officer told the housekeeper she couldn't work for her and confronted Henderson during a ride home in 2006, telling her it was illegal to continue to employ the woman. According to the affidavit, Henderson told the officer she was never home when the woman cleaned and communicated with her only by note or telephone _ not in person.

Two years later, the officer learned Henderson was still employing the housekeeper and reported Henderson to a supervisor, the affidavit states.

The housekeeper was then interviewed by a Customs agent and agreed to wear a wire and record calls to Henderson. During one meeting in September, the woman told Henderson she'd come to the U.S. without a visa and just stayed, according to the affidavit.

Henderson warned, "Wow, wow, if you leave they won't let you back ... you can't leave, don't leave ... 'cause once you leave you will never be back," according to the affidavit.

The woman cleaned Henderson's home three times after that meeting.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John McNeil would not comment after the court hearing on the immigration status of the three illegal immigrants who are witnesses against Henderson, or say whether they were in custody.

Teacher Apologizes for Slavery Experiment

I being a multi-cultural person (Jamaican, Scottish, Native American and African American phew!), believe we have gotten to sensitive and cry foul way to often. Although what may not offend me, may offend someone else.

Take in point the New York teacher who was trying to show her students what it was like to be a slave. How does she go about doing that? She uses two black female students as the slaves, and proceeds to tie them up to simulate shackles, has them crawl under desks as if it were tight slave quarters in a ship.

I myself would not have a problem with this, if I as a parent would have been informed and given permission for my child to bound and treated like a slave. This teacher obviously did not think about what she was going to do before executing her history lesson.

Felon, Ted Stevens Wants a New Trial


|Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens asked a judge Friday to give him a new trial or throw out his felony conviction, saying his trial had many "deficiencies."

Stevens, 85, the Senate's longest-serving Republican, was convicted on seven felony counts of lying on Senate financial disclosure documents to hide hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and home renovations from Alaska businessman Bill Allen, founder of oil services company VECO.

The senator, who won't be sentenced until early 2009, has said he will appeal the conviction. He lost his Senate seat to Democrat Mark Begich, the mayor of Anchorage, in the November election.

In court papers, Stevens alleges a multitude of problems with his conviction, including complaints about the jurors, Justice Department prosecutors and the trial judge's decisions.

"When the government proffers false evidence and withholds key exculpatory evidence; when improper hearsay evidence forms the linchpin of the government's case; when the indictment conceals the nature of the charges and the government then emphasizes uncharged conduct; and when jurors lie to the court and opine that 'all politicians are guilty,' the defendant has not received a fair trial," lawyers said in court papers. They said Stevens' trial "suffered from these and many other deficiencies."

It was not known when U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan would rule.

Sullivan already has scheduled a Jan. 15 hearing on one of the trial witnesses' claim that he lied while on the stand, something the Justice Department has denied.

WATCH: The Day in 100 Seconds

I'm glad O.J. finally got what he deserves.

Mum is the Word from Supreme Court on Obama Birth Case


from Frank James at the Swamp:

No announcement today from the Supreme Court about whether it will hear what I call the Obama-isn't-a-natural-born-citizen-so-he-can't-be-president lawsuit, officially known as Donofrio v. Wells.

As I wrote yesterday, Justice Clarence Thomas had the case listed for the justices' Friday conference where the court's members, among other orders of business, decided what cases to hear arguments on.

Donofrio wasn't announced as one of the two cases the court decided to take. Scotusblog has details on the cases.

I'm told by a Supreme Court watcher that the lack of an announcement doesn't mean the court definitely won't hear Donofrio although he thinks it's safe to say its unlikely the court won't hear the case. The full orders aren't due until Monday.

So we'll just have to stay tuned.

Overwight Dog Frozen to Sidewalk Lives


(another fat dog)


SHEBOYGAN, Wis. (AP) — A dog weighing more than 120 pounds survived being frozen to a sidewalk overnight, probably because he was insulated by layers of fat, authorities said.

The Sheboygan County Humane Society says the "morbidly obese" dog, an aging border collie mix named Jiffy, froze to the sidewalk when he was left out overnight Wednesday. Shelter manager Carey Payne says few dogs could survive the single-digit temperatures, and it was probably the fat that made the difference.

Jiffy's 59-year-old owner was arrested Thursday morning on suspicion of animal neglect, Sheboygan Police Lt. Tim Eirich said. She told police she tried to get the dog inside but couldn't, and instead checked on him every few hours.

The dog is 11 or 12 years old, Eirich said. Shelter workers poured warm water over Jiffy's back end to unstick him from the sidewalk, Payne said, and it was too soon to say whether he suffered any long-term effects.

Moms Headed to GITMO to Face Killers of Their Sons


|Associated Press Writer

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The mothers of two men killed in the Sept. 11 attacks are traveling to Guantanamo Bay this weekend hoping to look into the eyes of the man who says he is responsible for the worst terrorist strike on U.S. soil.

The two will be among those present next week as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the attacks' self-professed mastermind, and four co-defendants appear in one of the final sessions of war-crimes tribunals under outgoing President George W. Bush at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba.

"I hope they stare us in the face and we stare back," said Maureen Santora, whose firefighter son Christopher was killed at the World Trade Center. "I want these folks to know it wasn't just two towers they knocked down. They have altered our lives permanently."

The two mothers, separated from the al-Qaida chieftain by only a glass partition, want to size up an unrepentant defendant prone to anti-U.S. outbursts in the courtroom.

"I'd like to take the measure of the man and his buddies, his ugly lieutenants, and see what kind of a man brags about planning the ugly events of Sept. 11, 2001," said Alice Hoagland, of Redwood Estates, California. Her son, Mark Bingham, is believed to be one of the passengers who fought hijackers on the United flight that crashed that day in rural Pennsylvania.

Santora, a 63-year-old retired educator from Long Island City, New York, said she will scrutinize the men's behavior and mannerisms for clues to their motives. "Why does somebody have so much hate in their heart?" she said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Santora and Hoagland were invited to Guantanamo through a new Pentagon lottery system. Five victims' relatives are now selected to observe each tribunal session along with one other family member of their choice. In the past, the Pentagon said family members could not attend because it was too difficult logistically to accommodate all who wanted to.

Hoagland, a 59-year-old writer and speaker, said she hopes the defendants are spared the death penalty so they can "live out their miserable lives in prison."

"I think they have demonstrated the very worst of humanity. They have much to do in the way of redemption," she told the AP.

The family members will watch the proceedings from a gallery at the rear of the cavernous, high-security courtroom and will not be allowed to address the defendants.

Relatives of about 30 other victims, mainly firefighters, have given Santora memorial cards that she plans to bring into court "to know their spirit is with us." She is traveling to Guantanamo with her husband, Alexander, a retired deputy fire chief in New York.

Santora likes to think how her son, a history buff, would feel about her representing the victims at such a historic event.

"It would have pleased him greatly," she said.

The 10 spectators, chosen from a pool of about 100 applicants, will join prosecutors, defense lawyers and journalists for a flight Sunday from Andrews Air Force Base near Washington to the base at the southeastern tip of Cuba.

A pretrial hearing also is scheduled Friday for Omar Khadr, a Toronto-born detainee accused of lobbing a grenade that killed an American soldier in Afghanistan. His trial is slated for late January.

But the election of Barack Obama has raised doubt over whether any more trials will be held at the U.S. base in Cuba. The president-elect has pledged to close the military prison, though he has not yet revealed how he will handle the specially designed tribunal system, which critics say lacks legitimacy because of political interference and rules that allow coerced and hearsay evidence.

Human rights groups have called for Obama to move the prosecutions to U.S. federal courts.

"Justice for the 9/11 victims would be better served by having fundamental due process assured in the federal system," said Sahr MuhammedAlly, a New York-based lawyer with Human Rights First.

The U.S. has said it needed special military tribunals to protect classified evidence and its methods of gathering evidence in the war on terror.

On Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion seeking to prohibit the government from cutting off audio feeds when a prisoner testifies about past interrogations during commission proceedings at Guantanamo's war court.

Military prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Mohammed and his co-defendants on charges that they organized the attacks that killed 2,973 people in New York and Washington. The hearings next week will include arguments on several motions challenging the fairness of the tribunals.

The trial is not expected to start before Bush leaves office.

Jewish settlers in Hebron shoot Palestinian men




The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem has released graphic video footage showing settlers fighting with Palestinians in Hebron and shooting two men at close range in the hours after a settler house was evacuated by police yesterday.

The film, recorded by a Palestinian resident in Hebron, shows settlers attacking his house, which was in a valley close to the three-storey building where dozens of settlers were evicted by Israeli riot police. In the hours after the eviction, Jewish settlers rioted in Hebron, throwing stones at police and Palestinians and setting fire to Palestinian trees and attacking Palestinian homes. Most of the violence took place between the evicted house and the nearby hardline Jewish settlement of Kirya Arba.

The footage shows a settler firing a handgun and injuring two Palestinians, Hosni Abu Se'ifan, 40, who was hit in the chest and is now in a stable condition in hospital, and his father, Abd al-Hai Abu Se'ifan, 65, who was hurt in the arm. Others from the family then overpower the gunman until armed Israeli security guards from the Kiryat Arba settlement arrive and shoot several rounds over the heads of the Palestinians. The Abu Se'ifan family have frequently been targeted by settlers in the past.

B'Tselem handed the video to......

Pakistan Hit by Deadly Blast


At least 20 people have been killed and 70 injured in a suspected car bombing in the north-western Pakistani city of Peshawar, police say.

The blast hit a heavily populated area outside a Shia mosque near the central Kissa Khwani bazaar.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack.

Recent violence in north-west Pakistan has included sectarian clashes as well as fighting between the army and Islamist militants.

The attack in Peshawar ripped through the bazaar, where people were shopping ahead of the Muslim festival of Eid.

Women and children are believed to be among those killed, and a number of people were said to be trapped under rubble.

"It shook the entire area like ....

GQ Names Chicago "City of the Year"


My....... kind of town Chicago is! Well I do have a sense of pride for my city. I lived in the city of Chicago all my life, and am happy to see this city finally getting the attention it deserves. I am happy GQ magazine gave Chicago the "city of the year" award.

It took getting Barack Obama getting elected president of the United States for us to get a little spotlight.

China Tells U.S. "Stop Fu@king Up the World's Markets"

JOE McDONALD| Associated Press

BEIJING — China is urging Washington to rein in debt-fueled spending and stabilize its economy in high-level talks on their commercial relations, reflecting Beijing's growing economic assertiveness.

Speaking at the opening of the Strategic Economic Dialogue, Vice Premier Wang Qishan appealed Thursday to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and other U.S. officials to take steps to calm the global financial crisis and protect Beijing's U.S. investments. China's central bank governor said U.S. financial excesses were to blame for the crisis.

"The important reasons for the U.S. financial crisis include excessive consumption and high leverage," said Gov. Zhou Xiaochuan, according to Jin Qi, a central bank official who briefed reporters. "The United States should speed up domestic adjustment, raise its savings rate and reduce its trade and fiscal deficits."

The unusually pointed Chinese comments reflected the close links between the world's biggest and fourth-biggest economies and the global significance of their ability to maintain steady trade relations.

Paulson said engagement between China and the United States has helped in managing the crisis. Officials said both sides stressed the importance of cooperation to combat a potential rise in trade protectionism.

The two-day meeting, due to wrap up Friday, was not expected to produce breakthroughs on trade or other sensitive issues. The two sides signed a pact Thursday to cooperate in financing for projects to improve energy efficiency.

Speaking earlier as Paulson listened, Wang appealed to Washington to "take the necessary measures to stabilize the economy and financial markets, as well as to guarantee the safety of China's assets and investments in the United States."

Wang did not elaborate, but Beijing owns $585 billion in Treasury debt that has helped to finance U.S. budget deficits and its holdings of other U.S. assets are growing. But the weak dollar and financial turmoil have fueled Chinese anxiety about such investments.

Wang also said Beijing wants to see progress in reforms of international financial institutions _ a reference to its desire for a bigger role in the International Monetary Fund and other bodies.

U.S. officials said China promised more currency reforms. Washington and other trading partners say China's yuan is kept undervalued, giving its exporters an unfair price advantage and adding to its trade surplus. Some American lawmakers are calling for punitive action against Beijing.

"The Chinese continued to reinforce to us that they were committed to continued reform, and by that I mean continued appreciation (of the yuan) over time," said an American official who briefed reporters on condition he not be identified further.

The yuan has risen 20 percent against the dollar since Beijing cut its peg to the dollar in July 2005. But it has fallen this week in government-controlled trading _ including a nearly 1 percent decline Monday, its biggest one-day drop in three years _ in what analysts suggested was a message from Beijing to go easy on the issue.

The yuan's drop Monday also might have been meant as a warning to President-elect Barack Obama, that talks will be more effective than confrontation, said Frank F.X. Gong, chief Asia economist for JP Morgan Securities Ltd. Obama has yet to say whether he will continue the dialogue. Some analysts have speculated that Obama and the U.S. Congress will take a harder line on China.

China's economic growth is expected to slow this year to about 9 percent, down from last year's 11.9 percent. Communist leaders worry about rising job losses and possible unrest.

Beijing is launching a 4 trillion yuan ($586 billion) stimulus package meant to revive slowing growth through heavy spending on construction and other projects.

Democratic Leaders Play Bully to the White House


Henry Paulson and George Bush created a monster with these bailout plans. After giving away the house to companies like AIG who continued to spend money frivolously on corporate parties and bonuses, the government has been playing tough parents with the big three automakers.

Now it looks like the democratic leaders are trying to force the White House to give some of the money from the 700 Billion to GM, Ford and Chrysler.

I do not think that is such a good idea, especially after seeing how many Americans are dead set against it.

I don't like the bailouts at all, but then again what other solution do we have?

December 4, 2008

Democrats Want the Man With no Power to do Something

By JIM KUHNHENN | Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats are growing impatient with President-elect Barack Obama's refusal to inject himself in the major economic crises confronting the country. Obama has sidestepped some policy questions by saying there is only one president at a time. But the dodge is wearing thin. "He's going to have to be more assertive than he's been," House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., told consumer advocates Thursday.

Frank, who has been dealing with both the bailout of the financial industry and a proposed rescue of Detroit automakers, said Obama needs to play a more significant role on economic issues.

"At a time of great crisis with mortgage foreclosures and autos, he says we only have one president at a time," Frank said. "I'm afraid that overstates the number of presidents we have. He's got to remedy that situation."

Obama has maintained one of the most public images of any president-elect. He has held half a dozen press conferences, where he has entertained question after question about the economy, the mortgage crisis, and the flailing auto industry. He called for passage of extended unemployment benefits — which has passed — and even a stimulus package if possible before Jan. 20. But he has stayed away from trying to dictate remedies for the toughest problems Congress is confronting: the auto industry's troubles and how to spend the $700 billion bailout.

Frank's remarks came as the Bush administration considers whether it needs the second half of the $700 billion of the Troubled Asset Relief Program aimed at helping the financial sector before Obama takes office on Jan. 20.

An Obama official said the Bush administration reached out to the transition team about tapping into the money. The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks, said Obama's transition team urged the administration to talk to bipartisan congressional leaders and assemble a meeting between the White House and Congress. The official said the Obama team offered to participate in a bipartisan meeting if it would be helpful.

Earlier this week, Obama was asked whether he worried that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson might begin spending the next installment of the money before he assumes the presidency. Obama demurred.

"Until Secretary Paulson indicates publicly that he's drawing down the second tranche, the second half of the TARP money, it would be speculation on my part to suggest that that money's going to be used up," he told reporters at a Chicago news conference Wednesday.

Obama did stress that a significant component of the fund should be used to reduce the number of foreclosures. But he did not specify a particular remedy.

He also declined to take a stand in a debate over the source of money for an auto loan package. The dispute has divided Democrats and hindered progress on assistance for the industry. At issue is whether to take money from the $700 billion designated for the financial sector or to take it from a previously approved loan aimed at manufacturing more energy efficient cars.

"I think it's premature to get into that issue," Obama said at the conference.

Presidents-elect typically spend the transition period assembling their cabinets, their White House staff and preparing to take the reins of power. But this transition is occurring at an extraordinary time, with bad economic news mounting by the day and with one of the country's major industries begging for a hand to keep from collapsing.

Two Democratic senators involved in trying to salvage the auto companies have said Obama could help move the process along and should become more engaged.

"The Obama team has to step up," Sen. Christopher Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and one of the lead negotiators, said Nov. 21 in Hartford, Conn. "In the minds of the people, this is the Obama administration. I don't think we can wait until January 20."

Two days later, Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, a point man in helping his state's main industry, called on Obama to help resolve the dispute over money for the auto loan package.

"It would be very helpful if the president-elect would become more involved in resolving the issue over the source of the funds," he said. "I want him to offer his assistance. He is a person who can really bring people together."

Frank, shrewd and quick-witted, also poked fun at Obama's calls for a "post-partisan" governing environment in Washington. Frank predicted that regulatory legislation aimed at preventing abuses related to subprime mortgages and credit cards stood a much better chance next year, when Democrats have greater majorities in the House and Senate.

"It is a grave mistake to assume that parties are irrelevant to this process," he said. "My one difference with the president-elect, about whom I am very enthusiastic, is when he talks about being post-partisan.

"Having lived with this very right wing Republican group that runs the House most of the time, the notion of trying to deal with them as if we could be post-partisan gives me post-partisan depression," Frank said.

Louisiana Fattest State in the Nation


It's all Paula Dean's fault. That damn woman can cook! She's got everybody in the South eating that good home cooking. Louisiana overtook Mississippi for the top spot for fatness.

I do wonder why the south is so overweight vs. the rest of the country. I mean it's hot, humid and there's plenty of places to walk to and lots of farming to do.

I can tell you, even though Paula is over twenty-five years my senior, I would marry her in a heartbeat for the cooking.

P.S. (I know she is from Georgia, just so you know)

WATCH: The Day in 100 Seconds

Ice Cold Glass of Putrefied Remains Served to U.S. Troops



A former technician who worked for contracting company KBR in Iraq has filed a class-action lawsuit saying the company “exposed everyone at Joint Base Balad in Iraq to unsafe water, food and hazardous fumes from the burn pit there.” Joshua Eller’s suit includes particularly disturbing charges about KBR’s indifference to proper sanatization and the disposal of human remains:

The lawsuit also accuses KBR of shipping ice in mortuary trucks that “still had traces of body fluids and putrefied remains in them when they were loaded with ice. This ice was served to U.S. forces.”

Neo-Nazis in Germany Get Stylish



By Rachel Nolan in Berlin

Shaved heads, bomber jackets, black boots with white shoelaces -- it used to be easy to spot a neo-Nazi. But young far-right extremists are wearing more stylish and more coded clothes.

Lilian Engelmann never thought she would see neo-Nazis on her block. The young art curator works in a gallery in the trendy district of Mitte, a neighborhood in central Berlin. Her neighbors include an international cinema, designer hat store, Vietnamese restaurant and -- as of last February -- a store called Tönsberg, which sells clothing popular among right-wing extremists.

"By coming here, the neo-Nazis tried to come into the center of society," Engelmann told SPIEGEL ONLINE. Once local residents and shopowners learned that Tönsberg planned to sell the clothing brand Thor Steinar, they organized against the store. The group led by Engelmann and other shopowners called itself the "Mitte Initiative Against the Far Right," and mounted regular protests.

Neo-Nazis are a.......

$1250 Dollars, the Price for Human Life

(AP) MUMBAI, India — The only gunman captured during the terror attack on Mumbai says he was promised that his impoverished family would get $1,250 if he died fighting for militant Islam, security officials said Wednesday.

The captive, 21-year-old Ajmal Amir Kasab, is from Faridkot village in the Punjab region of Pakistan, according to the two Indian officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss details gleaned during a week of interrogation.

Kasab was arrested hours after the three-day rampage began the night of Nov. 26. Photographs of the young man walking calmly through Mumbai's main train station — assault rifle in hand — have made him a symbol of the attacks that killed 171 people, including 26 foreigners.

India has blamed the banned Pakistan-based extremist group Lashkar-e-Taiba for the carnage. But in an interview on CNN's "Larry King Live," Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, expressed skepticism that the man in custody is a Pakistani citizen.

According to the Indian security officials, Kasab was a day laborer, like one of his brothers, before joining Lashkar. He recounted being told that if he was "shaheed" — or "martyred" — his family would receive 100,000 Pakistani rupees, or about $1,250, they said.

Kasab said that he and the nine gunmen killed during the attack were hand-picked for the Mumbai rampage after intensive Lashkar training, the officials said.

He told police that after landing by boat in Mumbai, the attackers split into two-man teams. Kasab and another gunman, Ismail Khan, took a taxi from the waterfront to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, where they killed 54 people before fleeing. They planted a bomb under the driver's seat of their taxi that exploded later, apparently so it would divert police during the attacks.

Kasab also said the team brought in bombs to be placed outside the entrances of the two luxury hotels that were attacked — timed to explode four hours and 57 minutes after they were set — and were intended to kill the police that the militants believed would surround the buildings.

Two bombs outside the Taj Mahal hotel were defused by police. A third bomb, at the Oberoi hotel, was set off by police in a controlled explosion.

Kasab also said the gunmen took amphetamines to stay alert during the attacks, the security officials said.

Harry Reid Comment Blown Out of Proportion


I am not a fan of Harry Reid by any means. I think he is way to partisan, and loves to stir up trouble.

But this comment about being able to smell the tourists joke in my opinion is no biggie.

Tourists that come to Washington are from everywhere. He is not specifying a specific group of people.

It's called a joke. It's hot as hell and humid in the summer, what's the big deal. We as a people get way to sensitive.

I being a minority know that way to many of us go over board about everything. Lighten up people.

Christmas Cheer! AT&T to Cut 12,000 Jobs Starting This Month


NEW YORK (AP) -- AT&T Inc. joined the recession's parade of layoffs Thursday by announcing plans to cut 12,000 jobs, about 4 percent of its work force.

The Dallas-based telecommunications company - the nation's largest - said the job cuts will take place in December and throughout 2009. The company also plans to reduce capital spending next year.

Spokesman Walt Sharp said the layoffs will be "across the company and across the country," but would not specify what departments and cities would be most affected. These layoffs come on top of 4,600 jobs the company said in April it would eliminate.

The new cuts come as AT&T finds itself pulled by two currents at once. Not only is the recession leading businesses and consumers to curtail spending, but a long-term trend in the telecom industry is also at play: AT&T, which provides local phone coverage in California, Texas and 20 other states, has been seeing many customers defect from landline phones to wireless services. In the last quarter, AT&T basic voice lines in service dropped 11 percent.

Reflecting that shift, the company noted Thursday that even as it slashes some jobs, it would still be hiring in 2009 in parts of the business that offer cell phone service and broadband Internet access. AT&T, whose shares are down about 30 percent this year - while the Dow Jones industrial average is off 35 percent - remains profitable, and benefits from being the sole U.S. wireless carrier for Apple Inc.'s popular iPhone.

AT&T plans to take a charge of about $600 million in the fourth quarter to pay for severance costs. The company noted that many of its non-management employees have guaranteed jobs because of union contracts. All affected workers will receive severance "in accordance with management policies or union agreements," the company said.

Its shares were down 2.5 percent in pre-market trading, at $28.35.

Israel Planning to Attack Iran Without U.S. Consent


The IDF is drawing up options for a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities that do not include coordination with the United States, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

While its preference is to coordinate with the US, defense officials have said Israel is preparing a wide range of options for such an operation.

"It is always better to coordinate," one top Defense Ministry official explained last week. "But we are also preparing options that do not include coordination."

Israeli officials have said it would be difficult, but not impossible, to launch a strike against Iran without receiving codes from the US Air Force, which controls Iraqi airspace. Israel also asked for the codes in 1991 during the First Gulf War, but the US refused.

"There are a wide range of...

The Big Three Try it Again Today

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. automakers are returning to Congress for high-stakes hearings they hope will persuade skeptical lawmakers to save their troubled industry with $34 billion in emergency aid, but a top Senate Democrat wants to hand their problem to the Federal Reserve.

Two weeks after a botched attempt on Capitol Hill, repentant leaders of General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC were appealing to the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday with three separate survival plans that include massive restructuring, the ditching of corporate jets and vows by CEOs to work for $1 a year.

But they could expect a chilly reception on Capitol Hill. Even a top Democrat in charge of evaluating their aid requests made it clear he was eager to avoid voting on a bailout. Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, wrote to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Wednesday asking the central bank chief whether there was anything stopping him from using his considerable lending authority to help the automakers.

And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said it was up to the Bush administration to unilaterally rescue the Big Three with loans drawn from the $700 billion Wall Street rescue fund, since Congress was still unwilling to do so. "I just don't think we have the votes to do that now," he told The Associated Press.

Dodd's committee was hearing testimony on the companies' plans from GM CEO Rick Wagoner, Ford CEO Alan Mulally, Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli, UAW president Ron Gettelfinger and the head of the Government Accountability Office. The House Financial Services Committee was to hold a similar session on Friday.

Automakers were trying to make the case that the billions in loans would be a bridge to survival and profitability.

In the streets outside the Capitol, all three companies were showcasing their futuristic, green models in hopes of counteracting their image as purveyors of gas-guzzling SUVs. Wagoner planned to drive to the hearing in a test version of the Chevrolet Volt, an extended-range electric vehicle expected to go on sale in 2010.

Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the hearings would help determine whether Congress would consider a massive aid package for the industry in a special session next week. Critics say the companies have been poorly managed and failed to show they won't be back for another government rescue.

The Big Three are struggling to stay afloat heading into 2009 during an economic recession, a steep decline in sales and a tight credit market. The three companies burned through nearly $18 billion in cash reserves during the last quarter.

Chrysler said it needed $7 billion by year's end to keep operating. GM asked for an immediate $4 billion as the first installment of a $12 billion loan, plus a $6 billion line of credit to use if economic conditions deteriorate. Both said in plans submitted to Congress that they could drag the entire industry down if they fail. Ford requested a $9 billion "standby line of credit" in case one of its Detroit competitors fails.

Wagoner and Mulally both say said they'll work for $1 a year - a move Chrysler's Nardelli has already made - if their firms accept government loans. All three plans envision the government getting a stake in the auto companies that would allow taxpayers to share in future gains if they recover.

In Detroit, the United Auto Workers union said it would delay the three companies' payments to a multibillion-dollar, union-run health care trust and essentially end a jobs bank program in which laid-off workers are paid most of their salaries. They also decided to let the Detroit leadership begin renegotiating elements of landmark contracts signed last year, a move that could lead to wage concessions.

The companies, union officials and car dealers were lobbying feverishly for the loans, arguing that the collapse of one or more of the Detroit carmakers would throttle the already weakened U.S. economy and jeopardize the nation's manufacturing sector.

Yet the bailout remains unpopular with the public. Sixty-one percent oppose providing the auto companies with billions in federal assistance, according to a CNN-Opinion Research Corp. poll released on Wednesday. Fifty-three percent said it would not help the country's economy.

The auto executives were roundly criticized for taking corporate jets to the hearings last month and this time made the 520-mile trip to Washington aboard hybrid cars. Underscoring the different approach, Wagoner and GM officials ate lunch Wednesday at Quiznos at a Pennsylvania rest stop along the way.

Afghan Intelligence Office Attacked

A suicide bomber has detonated explosives in front of Afghanistan's intelligence headquarters in southeast Khost province.

Eight men disguised as army soldiers reportedly attacked the base after the bomber blew himself up on Thursday morning.

US forces moved quickly to seal the area as helicopters circled over head.

Taher Khan Sabarai, the deputy governor of Khost, told Al Jazeera that some people had been killed but said he did not have details.

A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the assault in a phone call to Al Jazeera.

The spokesman said the Taliban was targeting....

Conspiracy Theories: For Liberals it's JFK, for Conservatives it's Obama's Birthplace





It's funny for about a month after I first watched JFK, I admit, I was all into the conspiracy thing. I read articles and watched documentaries. I knew either the government, Castro or the mob had something to do with his death.

Then I realized how crazy the whole thing sounded and came to the conclusion that I could go on and on, but would only drive myself crazy.

Move forward to this year. Radio and blogging conservatives have been on a insane campaign to unmask the conspiracy that Obama is not a U.S. citizen. I am not sure who started this but whoever they are, they created a monster.

I have never seen so many so called intelligent people buy into, and continue on this path of insanity.

Think about, the state of Hawaii, Obama's family, the Federal Election Committee,the country where he was actually born in, now the Supreme Court, the entire spy agency of our government (because you know they would know beyond a reasonable doubt and they are conservatives under Bush) and Obama himself would all have to be hiding this. That's a lot of people.

The conservative media asks, "Why don't you just produce the birth certificate?".
You know why, because he doesn't have to.

I would do the same thing. The FEC is the only organization that gets that privilege, by law.

With that said, happy hunting conservative media. I'm not even a liberal either.

Definition of insanity....



Give up all bad qualities in you, banish the ego and develop the spirit of surrender. You will then experience Bliss.”



Security Alert at Indian Airports


MUMBAI: Deccan Mujahidden, an organization claiming to be involved in Mumbai attacks, has now threatened to attack three Indian airports, according to Indian media.

Indian media said that following this threat received through e-mail, security has been made high alert at the airports of Bangalore, Delhi and Chennai.

Referring Indian officials, Indian media said that the e-mail was sent from Saudi Arabia and the Russian internet server has been used for sending this e-mail.

In the e-mail, the responsibility of the Mumbai attacks has once again been accepted and this has been said that the airports of Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai would be made target between December 3 and 7.

Besides, this has been said that planes from these airports may be hijacked .

Indian officials said that they are also understanding that this threat was an effort to divert attention from the original target of terrorism.

Japan Rocked by 6.1 Mag Earthquake

(AP)TOKYO — A 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of northern Japan on Thursday, the Meteorological Agency said. There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.

The quake hit Thursday morning off the coast of Miyagi, about 180 miles north of Tokyo, the agency said. It struck at a depth of about six miles.

The agency said there was no danger of a tsunami from the earthquake.

Masakazu Murakami, an official in charge of disaster management in Miyagi, said the quake caused no damage to utilities such as water, electricity, gas and telephone lines.

"I was in the office when the quake hit this morning. But I did not feel any tremors," Murakami said.

A police official in Miyagi said authorities there had not received any reports of damage or casualties. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, citing department policy.

Japan is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries.

The most recent major quake in Japan killed more than 6,400 people in the western port city of Kobe in January 1995.

Experts believe Tokyo has a 90 percent chance of being hit by a major quake over the next 50 years.

December 3, 2008

WATCH: The Day in 100 Seconds

There Goes the Neighborhood: the Bushes are Moving to Dallas


Antonio Business Journal reports:

First Lady Laura Bush and President George W. Bush are moving back to Dallas when the president’s term expires in January, the Associated Press is reporting.

The AP says the first lady’s press secretary confirmed Wednesday that the couple are purchasing a home in Dallas.

Neither Laura Bush nor her press secretary elaborated on the home’s exact location. The First Lady previously told CNN the couple would spend their weekdays in Dallas and the weekends at their ranch in Crawford — a small town outside of Waco that has gained national recognition due to George Bush’s numerous visits to the ranch during his presidency.

MSNBC's Tamron Hall vs Old Man Alderman


Somebody's got a crush on MSNBC's Tamron Hall....... or he is about to have a stroke. His lip quivers the whole interview. Either way Ms. Hall was a little taken back by the guy, and had this look of confusion on her face. She looked like she could not wait for this interview to be over. It was kinda funny.


video

Fox News Finally Gets a Hit at Obama's Press Conference Today


President elect Barack Obama had another conference today, to announce Bill Richardson as Commerce Secretary. Surprise, surprise Fox News was called on for the first time since Obama was elected. Now they are batting like 1 for 6 I believe.

Wendell Goler, Fox News's reporter, asked a two part question of sorts,

The question:

What would Obama's reaction be if Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Jr. dipped into the second half of the $700 billion bailout funds even before Obama is sworn in?

And Goler's light-hearted question directed to Richardson: "What happened to the beard?"
Obama's response:

"I'm going to answer this question about the beard. I think it was mistake for him to get rid of it. I thought that whole western rugged look was really working for him. For some reason, maybe because it was scratchy when he kissed his wife, he was forced to get rid of it. But we're deeply disappointed with the loss of the beard."

A beard might have also given Obama's cabinet more of that "team of rivals" look though Richardson would have let his facial hair grow out quite a bit longer to get that Old Testament prophet look that was sported by a few of Abraham Lincoln's cabinet members and the 16th president himself.

As for the bailout money, Obama said he would reserve judgment until Paulson said publicly that he would draw down the second half of the money and that Congress would have to approve spending that money anyway.


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Dump as Much Coal Into the Water as You Like

WASHINGTON — The White House on Tuesday approved a final rule that will make it easier for coal companies to dump rock and dirt from mountaintop mining operations into nearby streams and valleys.

The rule is one of the most contentious of all the regulations emerging from the White House in President Bush’s last weeks in office.

James L. Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, confirmed in an interview that the rule had been approved by the White House Office of Management and Budget. That clears the way for publication in the Federal Register, the last stage in the rule-making process.

Stephen L. Johnson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, concurred in the rule, first proposed nearly five years ago by the Interior Department, which regulates coal mining.

In a letter to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, dated Tuesday, Mr. Johnson said the rule had been revised to protect fish, wildlife and streams.

Mining activities must comply with water quality standards established by the federal government and the states, Mr. Johnson said.

But a coalition of environmental groups said the rule would accelerate “the destruction of mountains, forests and streams throughout Appalachia.”

Edward C. Hopkins, a policy analyst at.....

Blackwater + Pirates = Death......It's About Time!


Private security firm Blackwater Worldwide began holding meetings in London on Tuesday with potential clients for a new business venture -- protection from pirates.

The Moyock, N.C., firm, which has grown rapidly through State Department security work in Iraq, has been courting shippers and insurance firms about protecting ships in pirate-infested waters. It's meeting with more than a dozen firms this week and hopes to drum up its first contract.

There have been almost 100 attempts this year to seize ships off East Africa, fewer than half of which were successful, according to the U.S. Navy. On Nov. 30, two skiffs harassed an Oceania Cruises Inc. ship passing through the Gulf of Aden. Eight shots were fired at the cruise liner, which evaded the boats, according to the Miami-based company.

A chemical tanker in......

Riots in Hebron, Clash Between Settlers and Israeli Gov.


Jewish settlers in the West Bank city of Hebron have been involved in further clashes with Israeli security forces and local Palestinians.

Tensions worsened overnight as Israel declared a "closed military area" around a large building occupied by the settlers.

Israeli forces then barred Jews from entering Hebron's Palestinian section.

The violence began two days ago amid rumours that settlers were about to be evicted from the four-storey house.

Jewish supporters have joined the settlers as they refuse to leave the house, in defiance of a court order.

Continue....

December 2, 2008

Jailer: "Vote for Mccain, Get Out of Jail"


A Denton city jailer will likely be suspended for two days without pay after telling a detainee on Election Day that he would be released if he voted for John McCain, Denton police authorities said.

The city’s police department recommended that Chris Saunier be suspended, but the city’s human resources department still needs to officially approve the penalty, said Capt Lenn Carter, a Denton police spokesman.


Continue....

Conservatives Won Something This Year......Yeah!



ATLANTA (AP) -- Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss handed the GOP a firewall against Democrats eager to flex their newfound political muscle in Washington, winning a bruising runoff battle Tuesday night that had captured the national limelight.

Chambliss' victory thwarted Democrats' hopes of winning a 60 seat filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. It came after a bitter monthlong runoff against Democrat Jim Martin that drew political luminaries from both parties to the state and flooded the airwaves with fresh attack ads weeks after campaigns elsewhere had ended.

Minnesota - where a recount is under way - now remains the only unresolved Senate contest in the country. But the stakes there are significantly lower now that Georgia has put a 60-seat Democratic supermajority out of reach.

With 92 percent of the precincts reporting, Chambliss captured 58 percent to Martin's 42 percent. Chambliss' win is a rare bright spot for Republicans in a year where they lost the White House as well as seats in the House and the Senate.

Chambliss portrayed his win as an encouraging sign for Republicans looking to regroup as they head into the next election cycle.

"I'm excited to be the first race that leads us into the 2010 campaign because it'll be a tough fight," Chambliss said at a victory party in Cobb County.

Martin called Chambliss to concede before 10 p.m., then emerged to tell supporters as his voice cracked: "For me and my family and campaign team and all of you this is a sad moment."

Chambliss' mantra on the runoff campaign trail was simple: His re-election was critical to prevent Democrats in Washington from having a blank check. Chambliss, 65, had angered some conservatives with his vote for the $700 billion bailout of the financial services industry and his early support in 2007 for the guest worker provision in President Bush's immigration bill. But fearful of unchecked Democratic dominance, some came back into the GOP fold Tuesday

Martin made the economy the centerpiece of his bid, casting himself as a champion for the neglected middle class. He also linked himself at every opportunity to Barack Obama and his message of change. The Democratic president elect was a no show on the campaign trail in Georgia but did record a radio ad and automated phone calls for Martin.

In the end, Martin, a 63-year-old former state lawmaker from Atlanta, wasn't able to get Obama voters back to the polls in large enough numbers to overcome the Republican advantage in Georgia, which has become an increasingly a reliable red state since 2002.

Turnout was light throughout the state Tuesday. A spokesman for Secretary of State Karen Handel predicted between 18 and 20 percent of the state's 5.75 million registered voters would cast ballots - far less than the 65 percent who voted in last month's general election.

The runoff between the former University of Georgia fraternity brothers was necessary after a three-way general election prevented any of the candidates from getting the necessary 50 percent.

Chambliss came to the Senate in 2002 after defeating Democratic Sen. Max Cleland in a campaign that infuriated Democrats. Chambliss ran a TV ad that questioned Cleland's commitment to national security and flashed a photo of Osama bin Laden. Cleland is a triple amputee wounded in the Vietnam War.

He was a loyal supporter of President Bush and, as a freshman, rose to become chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. the former agriculture lawyer from Moultrie has been the ranking Republican on the panel since Democrats won control of the Senate.

Some 3.7 million people cast ballots in this year's general election, and both sides have since tried to keep voters' attention with a barrage of ads and visits by political heavy-hitters.

Former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore both stumped for Martin.

Several ex-Republican presidential candidates made appearances for Chambliss, including GOP nominee John McCain, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Chambliss brought in Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, McCain's vice presidential pick, as his closer. She headlined four rallies for Chambliss across the state Monday that drew thousands of party faithful.

NATO & Russia Have Makeup Sex

(AFP) NATO agreed Tuesday to gradually resume high-level talks with Russia, which were frozen over the August conflict in the Caucasus, and to deepen ties with former Soviet states Georgia and Ukraine.

NATO foreign ministers, meeting in Brussels, decided on a return to informal meetings of the so-called NATO-Russia Council, despite concern that Moscow is still not respecting a ceasefire that ended its brief war with Georgia.

"The allies agreed on a conditional and graduated re-engagement with Russia," NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told reporters at alliance headquarters.

He said that he has been "mandated by the foreign ministers as I see fit, and of course if the other party would agree, to see what political contacts will be possible, can be possible."

He added that the NATO-Russia Council will meet on an informal basis "to re-engage and to have discussions on the issues on which we will agree and, I would also like to add, on the issues on which we disagree."

Scheffer later told AFP that the informal meeting of the 26 NATO allies with Russia would take place at the level of ambassadors.

NATO's European allies, led by France and Germany, are keen to resume contacts with Russia, which is a major supplier of European natural gas and oil.

But the United States has remained wary of rewarding Moscow after its behaviour in Georgia, which is strongly backed by Washington.

"I don't think that this is in any way business as usual," warned US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, taking part in her last NATO meeting before a change in US administration on January 20.

"This isn't an issue of isolating Russia but it is an issue of what kinds of contacts are appropriate. I think this is a completely appropriate thing for the alliance to do," she said.

The council meetings were suspended in September, after the conflict between Russia and Georgia over breakaway South Ossetia, which Moscow has now recognised as independent along with another separatist region, Abkhazia.

But in a move that could anger Russia, the 26 NATO allies agreed to deepen cooperation with Georgia and Ukraine and strengthen two bodies in which their reforms directed at membership can be conducted.

"NATO will provide further assistance to both countries in implementing needed reforms as they progress, at least, towards NATO membership," Scheffer said.

"We are going to beef up the NATO-Ukraine Commission, beef up the NATO-Georgia Commission," he said. "NATO will maximise, strengthen, its advice and assistance for those reform efforts" in the two commissions.

He also insisted that Georgia and Ukraine "will one day become members, if they so wish."

Georgia and Ukraine had been striving to win membership action plan (MAP) status, which has in the last decade been the final stepping stone toward joining the world's biggest alliance.

But a bloc of around half a dozen European countries, led by Germany believes that the two former Soviet states are not ready for such a step.

The United States has proposed that the two be allowed to continue to advance reforms through the respective NATO-Georgia and NATO-Ukraine Commissions, but Berlin insists that the MAP process be respected.

To join NATO, Georgia and Ukraine must complete political, democratic and military reforms, as well as have good relations with their neighbours. Their citizens should also be in favour of their candidacies.

Scheffer said that the decision to boost the two commissions would in no way "prejudice" the MAP process and whether that would have to be adhered to for the two hopefuls to join.

"MAP has not evaporated this afternoon," he underlined.

The question for Georgia -- and to a lesser extent Ukraine -- remains how to sell anything other than MAP to citizens who have come to identify the term as synonymous with their future in NATO.

Georgian Prime Minister Grigol Mgaloblishvili said Monday that he had met a man in the mountains of his country who had named his new born son, Map.

 

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