‘Bubble-Blowing’ Galaxy Photographed

PARIS, Sept. 29 (UPI) — A distant galaxy that appears to be blowing bubbles has been captured in images from the Hubble Space Telescope, European astronomers said.

The galaxy — dubbed Holmberg II — features intricate glowing shells of gas created by the energetic lifecycles of many generations of stars, a release from the European Space Agency said Thursday.

Holmberg II has both dense star-forming regions and extensive barren areas with less material stretching across thousands of light years.

It has neither the spiral arms typical of galaxies like the Milky Way nor the dense nucleus of an elliptical galaxy, which makes it, gravitationally speaking, a gentle haven where fragile structures such as the observed bubbles can hold their shape, astronomers said.

The colorful image combines visible and near-infrared exposures taken by Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys, they reported.

Bahrain condemned for harsh sentences

LONDON, Sept. 30 (UPI) — Jail sentences given to healthcare workers in Bahrain appear to be disproportionate to the charges brought against them, London said.

A group of Bahraini doctors and nurses were given prison sentences ranging from 5-15 years for spreading “stories and lies” and for trying to topple the regime. All of those sentenced to prison had worked at the Salmaniya medical complex in Manama, which was raided by Bahraini security forces in March as part of a crackdown on a Shiite uprising in the country.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague, in a statement, said his government was “deeply concerned” by the sentences and the death penalty imposed on opposition leaders in the country.

“These sentences appear disproportionate to the charges brought,” he said. “These are worrying developments that could undermine the Bahraini government’s moves towards dialogue and the reform needed for long-term stability in Bahrain.”

Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, in a statement, said the penalties handed down to civilians in a military court were troubling.

“We call on the government to ensure that every detained person is charged with a recognizable criminal offense and has enough time to prepare a defense case,” he said.

Bahrain was rapped for its response to a Shiite uprising against the minority Sunni leadership early this year. The kingdom had pledged to move forward with reforms, however.

Both Sudans should work on human rights

GENEVA, Switzerland, Sept. 30 (UPI) — The U.N. Human Rights Council called on both Sudanese governments to work on human rights issues, while paying special attention to border clashes.

The council, during meetings in Geneva, addressed a series of resolutions concerning technical assistance and capacity building for the recently independent South Sudan. The council, in its readout of the meeting, called on Juba to cooperate more with the United Nations on human rights issues.

Hilde Johnson, U.N. special envoy to Sudan and head of the U.N. mission there, told delegates this week in Juba that, with ethnic clashes erupting in parts of the country, a comprehensive effort was needed to maintain stability. U.N. peacekeepers had deployed to Jonglei state to defuse tensions.

In terms of Sudan, the council commended Khartoum for working with the international community on human rights issues but stressed clashes in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states must end.

Abdel Rahman Dhirar, the Sudanese envoy to the United Nations, expressed concern that Sudan was unjustly singled out, which he said wasn’t helping the human rights situation in Sudan.

South Sudan became an independent country in July as part of a 2005 peace agreement. Oil revenue and border clashes are problematic, however, and allegations of ethnic killings have been lodged against both sides.

Obama Echoes Carter Speech: America’s Soft

Many people have compared the Barack Obama Presidency to that of President Jimmy Carter over the past few years; Obama has now made a statement that seems to echo Carter.

Obama said to a Florida television station, “This is a great, great country that had gotten a little soft and we didn’t have that same competitive edge that we needed over the last couple of decades.”

Obama’s solution to American “softness” is to “get back on track” by passing his $447 billion jobs bill immediately. While he was critical in his speech, the President did compliment America’s youths and said that the country will recover from economic troubles with the help of education and innovative thinking with the help of the government.

According to The Daily Caller, Obama’s speech echoes the sentiment of a Carter speech given in July 1979 that declared, “…in a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption.” The speech, though never including the term, became known by many Americans as the “malaise speech.” Carter’s solution to “get back on track” during a time when the country was plagued by rising energy costs and massive inflation was to find a solution to the energy crises through new sources of fuel.

Obama Loses Favor With Wall Street

The Los Angeles Times reported on Friday that President Barack Obama has lost favor with many big-name Wall Street campaign contributors that were major money-makers in his 2008 Presidential bid.

According to the article, Wall Street campaign contributors appear to favor Republican Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts Governor and businessman held a sold-out breakfast fundraiser at the exclusive Essex House hotel Tuesday and before that had breakfast with one of the biggest names on Wall Street, JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon.

According to the article, even with the support of big-name financial tycoon Warren Buffet, Obama has had trouble selling $10,000 a plate spots at fundraisers in New York City’s financial hub.

Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, said Romney’s efforts to win over the finance industry are not a surprise, according to the report.

“It’s no surprise that the Romney campaign is raising money from Wall Street by saying they want to repeal consumer protections and allow Wall Street to write its own rules,” he told the Times.

Obama has also taken steps to improve relations with financial leaders. Last January, he hired a JPMorgan executive, William Daley, to be his chief of staff. The President has also invited top financial executives to the White House for conversations about the economy.

Tymoshenko may face fines, not jail

KIEV, Ukraine, Sept. 30 (UPI) — Kiev may consider scrapping criminal punishment for opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko in favor of a payment of damages, a lawmaker said.

Tymoshenko, a former prime minister is on trial on charges that she abused her power in connection with a 2009 natural gas deal with Russia. Western leaders said they believe the charges against the opposition leader are politically motivated.

Lawmakers are considering a bill presented this week by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych that would ban jail terms for authorities charged with economic crimes.

“The main condition for the scrapping of criminal punishment stipulated in this article should be the payment of damages caused to the state — particularly, to (gas company) Naftogaz — as well as the payment of all taxes to the state budget,” Dmitriy Shentsev, deputy director of the pro-Yanukovych Party of Regions, was quoted by the National News Agency of Ukraine as saying.

Yanukovych is in Poland meeting with European leaders in an effort to establish partnership agreements with the European Union.

Prosecutors this week had called for fines and a seven-year prison term for Tymoshenko.

The Tymoshenko trial resumes Oct. 11. The Ukrainian news agency said that’s when a verdict is expected.

Analysts: Don’t overstate Awlaki’s death

SANAA, Yemen, Sept. 30 (UPI) — The reported death of al-Qaida ideologue Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen is a blow to his group but the true threat isn’t an ideological one, analysis suggests.

Tribal sources inside Yemen confirmed to al-Arabiya that U.S.-born Awlaki was killed in an airstrike Friday between two provinces in the country known to be sympathetic to al-Qaida.

Awlaki was the key spokesman and ideologue for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemeni franchise of al-Qaida.

Awlaki is accused of being the ideological mind behind the Fort Hood, Texas, shooting rampage in 2009 and several other terrorist plots, including a series of schemes targeting international airfreight carriers last year.

The Yemeni cleric was placed on Washington’s hit list after the Fort Hood shooting and attempts to down a passenger plane over Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009.

Despite the kill-or-capture order, Stratfor, a private intelligence company in Texas, said his reported slaying shouldn’t be overstated.

“AQAP’s ideological and physical battle against the West will continue whether he is dead or not,” its analysis stated.

Stratfor emphasizes that Awlaki isn’t in charge of AQAP, though its leader, Nasir al-Wahayshi, has placed considerable emphasis on communicating a message of jihad.

“But AQAP does not just operate on the ideological battlefield,” the analysis stressed.

British Foreign Minister William Hague, in a statement posted through his Twitter account, said the reported death was a blow to AQAP but added that pressure on al-Qaida and its allies must continue.

Awlaki was previously reported dead in December 2009 and again in May.

London calls on Syrian opposition to unite

LONDON, Sept. 30 (UPI) — Syrian opposition groups need to unite to define their shared vision of a democratic future, the British foreign minister said from London.

British Foreign Minister William Hague met in London with Syrian opposition leaders Catherine el-Talli and Bassam Ishak, who were forced into exile by the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Hague said, in a statement following his meeting, the opposition movement would gain by a display of coordination.

“It is now vital for the many groups that form the Syrian opposition to unite and work together to define a shared vision for the future of Syria,” he said. “We urge them to continue to ensure that their protests are peaceful, to renounce sectarianism, and to work toward a Syria where the political system is inclusive, representative and adheres to international human rights standards.”

Much of the international community has called on Assad to step down because of his regime’s response to an uprising that is threatening to turn violent. Nearly 3,000 people have died at the hands of Syrian forces since the uprising began in March.

Robert Ford, the U.S. ambassador to Syria, was assaulted Thursday by regime supporters as he tried to meet with an opposition leader inside the country.

“We condemn this unwarranted attack in the strongest possible terms,” said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during a news conference with her Nigerian counterpart. “Ambassador Ford and his aides were conducting normal embassy business and this attempt to intimidate our diplomats through violence is wholly unjustified.”

U.N. wants calms ahead of Liberian vote

MONROVIA, Liberia, Sept. 30 (UPI) — The U.N. envoy to Liberia said, that with two weeks before elections, the Liberian people should do their part to make sure the poll is conducted peacefully.

Liberia is gearing up for national elections in October, the second vote since the end of the civil war and the first to be organized by Liberians.

Ellen Margrethe Loj, U.N. special envoy for Liberia, said the country should seize the opportunity to show it can secure gains made since the end of the civil war.

Loj, during a news conference, said last month’s peaceful constitutional referendum was reason for hope but all Liberians needed to work to move the country in a peaceful direction.

“I call on all political leaders not to incite violence. I call on all Liberians not to resort to violence,” she said. “And I call on all Liberians, political candidates as well as supporters to peacefully accept the election results.”

Liberians head to the polls Oct. 11 for parliamentary and presidential elections.

Liberian Vice President Joseph Boakai told the U.N. General Assembly that “every action” was being taken to ensure the elections are free and fair.

The United Nations has deployed peacekeepers in Liberia since 2003 to preserve a cease-fire that ended a bloody civil war. The conflict killed at least 150,000 people and another 850,000 fled to neighboring countries.

Ew-Rwandan ministers jailed for genocide

ARUSHA, Tanzania, Sept. 30 (UPI) — An international tribunal investigating the Rwandan genocide announced the sentencing Friday of two former ministers to 30 years for genocide.

The trial chamber at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, in Tanzania, sentenced Justin Mugenzi and Prosper Mugiraneza each to 30 years in prison for conspiracy to commit genocide and direct and public incitement to commit genocide.

The sentencing of the two former ministers came 12 years after their arrest. A judge in the tribunal said earlier their sentences should be reduced by five years because of the length of the trial, which started in 2003.

Mugenzi served as the Rwandan Commerce minister until his arrest. Mugiraneza was the minister of Civil Service when he was captured in Cameroon in 1999.

Two other officials, Casimir Bizimungu and Jerome-Clement Bicamumpaka, were acquitted and ordered released because of lack of evidence, the tribunal stated.

All of the Rwanda officials denied the charges. They were accused of, in official meetings and public speeches, advocating the slaughter of the minority Tutsi ethnic community.

An estimated 800,000 people were killed, most of whom were Tutsi, during 100 days in 1994 in Rwanda.

Palestinians courting U.N. for backing

RAMALLAH, West Bank, Sept. 30 (UPI) — The Palestinian foreign minister said his government was in talks with members of the U.N. Security Council for more support for U.N. membership.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Maliki said, during a news conference in the West Bank, that his government was pressing for a key ninth vote at the Security Council for its bid for full membership at the United Nations.

The Palestinian government has observer status and full membership is part of a statehood initiative launched last week by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Nine votes are needed for approval and Maliki had said his government wasn’t satisfied with the level of support it had now, Bloomberg News reports.

The European Parliament, in a resolution passed Thursday, said lawmakers viewed the Palestinian bid for statehood as legitimate.

The Security Council announced Wednesday that it referred an application for full membership submitted by Palestinian authorities to a U.N. committee tasked with vetting new members.

Washington said it would veto any move for Palestinian statehood at the U.N. Security Council, pushing direct talks with Israel as the best course of action. The United States is a key member in the so-called Quartet, which includes the United Nations, Russia and the European Union, overseeing the Middle East peace process.

The Seeds Of Perpetual War

There is no better example of the folly of United States foreign policy of the last 10 years than what is currently going on in Pakistan and Libya.

The terrorist organization du jour, the Haqqani network, is an arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, according to Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He told Congress last week that Haqqani, with ISI support, conducted a truck bomb attack that wounded more than 70 U.S. and NATO troops on Sept. 11 and an assault on the U.S. embassy in Kabul two days later, along with other attacks.

The ISI is part of the Pakistani government — a government that receives $1.5 billion in U.S. aid each year.

In Libya, U.S. and NATO forces have supported the overthrow of the Moammar Gadhafi regime by elements of the al-Qaida network we are supposedly trying to destroy in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia.

Sadly, most of contenders for the GOP nomination have expressed support of our current foreign policy — a policy that rewards with cash and military aid those who are shooting at our troops.

Does that sound like a policy designed to bring about an end to military engagements? Does it sound like a policy designed to make the citizens of other countries embrace America?

Not to me. To me, that sounds like the perpetual war of the warfare state.

Big Tobacco Knowingly Dosed Smokers With Radiation For Decades

A University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) study of big tobacco intercompany documents released in a 1998 legal settlement — the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement — shows that tobacco companies tried to keep information discovered in 1959 about radioactive substances in their products quiet for decades.

“The documents show that the industry was well aware of the presence of a radioactive substance in tobacco as early as 1959,” the authors write. “Furthermore, the industry was not only cognizant of the potential ‘cancerous growth’ in the lungs of regular smokers, but also did quantitative radiobiological calculations to estimate the long-term lung radiation absorption dose of ionizing alpha particles emitted from cigarette smoke.”

The study says that tobacco company research identified the radioactive substance as polonium-210 in 1969. The isotope can be found in all foreign and domestic cigarette brands as a byproduct of tobacco crop development.

The tobacco industry has not only been aware of the isotope since 1959, but has also known of two processes by which it can be eliminated, says the study.  One technique, developed in 1980 and called acid washing, was found to be highly effective in removing the isotope from tobacco plants, where it forms a water-insoluble complex with the sticky, hair-like structures called trichomes that cover the leaves. The tobacco industry allegedly shunned the process because it was also shown to have an impact on the levels of the content of nicotine in tobacco, the drug which keeps smokers hooked.

“The industry was concerned that the acid media would ionize the nicotine, making it more difficult to be absorbed into the brains of smokers and depriving them of that instant nicotine rush that fuels their addiction,” said one researcher.

The study comes out just two years after 2009 passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which grants the U.S. Food and Drug Administration broad authority to regulate and remove harmful substances besides nicotine from tobacco products. The study’s authors hope that their research will be taken into account by the FDA as it attempts to regulate tobacco safety.

Massachusetts Man Arrested In Terror Plot

The FBI arrested a Massachusetts man on Wednesday who allegedly planned to build small remote controlled airplanes armed with explosives and fly them into the Pentagon and other government buildings.

Rezwan Ferdaus, a 26-year-old physics graduate of Northeastern University in Boston who lived in the basement of his parents’ home in Ashland, Mass., began planning to commit violent jihad against the United States in early 2010 after viewing radical Web sites and videos, according to The Washington Post.

The U.S.-born citizen of South Asian background traveled to Washington last May to conduct surveillance for his plan to launch three small GPS-guided aircraft from East Potomac Park: two against the Pentagon and one against the Capitol, according to a detailed plan he gave to the FBI. He planned to follow up the drone-like attacks with two teams of three machine gun-wielding attackers that were intended to cause chaos in the streets.

Ferdaus relayed his plan to FBI agents who he believed were al-Qaida operatives working within U.S. borders. The agents provided him with money to purchase remote-controlled planes and also helped him acquire what he believed to be C-4 plastic explosives. He had already purchased one remote-controlled aircraft (a small-scale model of the F-86 Sabre, a Cold War-era U.S. fighter jet), according to reports. Agents said that the man was presented with multiple opportunities to back out of his plan in conversations with his would-be collaborators.

Ferdaus also supplied the undercover agents with seven mobile phones that he modified to act as electrical switches for improvised explosive devices in Iraq. When they falsely told him that his creations had been used to kill U.S. troops, the man “appeared gratified,” according to reports.



Taxpayers Pay Settlements For Capital Hill Worker Disputes

On Thursday, the Office of Compliance (OOC) released a report that shows the number of discrimination and harassment claims on Capitol Hill have doubled in the past five years. Taxpayers have footed the bill for hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlements.

The State of the Congressional Workplace report indicated 168 claims were filed in fiscal 2010,compared to 87 in 2006. Fifty-seven of the claims made last year were based on race, while 41 claims involved age, 34 involved gender and 28 involved disabilities, the report read.

“The OOC has felt the impact of a substantial increase in discrimination, harassment, and retaliation cases over the past 5 fiscal years. The OOC dispute resolution program in fiscal year 2010 saw an increase in formal requests for confidential counseling and mediations, compared to five fiscal years ago. Also in comparison, there was an increase in discrimination, harassment, and retaliation claims. These cases are becoming more complex and sophisticated, often with multiple allegations of discrimination, discovery disputes, and issues relating to the OOC’s rules and procedures,” said a statement from OOC Executive Director Tamara Chrisler.

Since 1997, taxpayers have footed the bill for more than $13.2 million in cases resolved by the OOC. The highest number of claims filed involved terms and conditions violations, hostile work environments, harassment and discipline issues.





Hispanics Very Important In 2012 Race

Media reports indicate that both Democrats and Republicans are scrambling to become sweethearts among growing numbers of Hispanic voters in key electoral States.

President Barack Obama’s popularity among many white voters has dropped, and he faces more contention among blacks than at any time during his Presidency. Therefore, it has become increasingly important for his Administration to address the Hispanic populations of States like Florida and Nevada.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Florida, the nation’s largest Presidential swing state, has a voting-age Hispanic population that grew by nearly 250,000 people between 2008 and 2010. By contrast, the voting-age white population grew by only 30,400. Similar trends held true in Nevada and New Mexico where the number of Hispanics eligible to vote grew at nearly twice the rate of white voters.

Many people speculate that Obama’s attempt to attract more Hispanic voters is directly related to his Administration’s stance against strong immigration laws being passed in many States that some consider discriminatory and as harmful to legal Hispanic residents as they are to their illegal counterparts.

The GOP has also sought to gain rapport with Hispanic voters and have a number of conservative Hispanic politicians in the party to aid in the process. In November of 2010, Republicans elected three young conservative Hispanic Republicans: Marco Rubio easily won a Senate seat in Florida, Susana Martínez was elected Governor of New Mexico and Brian Sandoval was elected Governor of Nevada.



Don’t Print More Money

Leave the printing presses alone! Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has come out in favor of what no rational person would ever endorse: printing valueless money to cover indebtedness. Here are his exact words: “The United States can pay any debt it has because we can always print money to do that. So there is zero probability of default.” Gee, I can remember when the money maestro said the best way to protect our currency was to back it with gold. I still like that solution.

Another really bad idea. The New York Times, which loves to be described as “the most influential newspaper in the world” (I prefer “all the news that’s fit to tint”) has a terrible solution for our debt crisis: Do away with any limits. Yep, an editorial in the grey eminence actually read, “Instead of raising the debt ceiling every few years, it’s time to eliminate this dangerous game once and for all. … The debt limit should ideally be dispensed with, but, at a minimum, it can no longer be held for ransom.”

Governor Christie rejects subsidies for this unreality show. I’ve liked New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ever since he stood up to the teachers unions there. But earlier this week, my esteem climbed even higher, when I heard he had blocked a $420,000 tax credit for the so-called reality show “Jersey Shore.” The New York Times reported: “Christie said he was ‘duty-bound’ to see that taxpayers were ‘not footing a $420,000 bill for a project which does nothing more than perpetuate misconceptions about the state and its citizens.’” Good for him.

Let’s give them our seat. Thanks to the alert reader who sent me the best solution I’ve seen about giving the Palestinian Authority a seat in the United Nations. He didn’t bother pointing out that the U.N. has no authority to create nations. He merely suggested that we give them a seat: our seat. I like it. Get the U.S. out of the U.N. — and the U.N. out of the U.S.

–Chip Wood

America’s Favorite Ponzi Scheme

Who talked Rick Perry into grabbing the third rail of American politics?

In case you don’t recognize the phrase, “the third rail” refers to any criticism of the Social Security system or any suggestions on ways to improve it by anyone running for public office anywhere in the United States.

It’s called the third rail because, just like a subway line, touching it usually proves fatal.

In the book Perry published last year, which he called Fed Up!, the Texas Governor referred to Social Security as “a Ponzi scheme.” Nobody made much of a fuss about it at the time. Outside of Texas, who cares what the Governor there says?

But now that Perry has taken the top spot in the Republican race for the White House, the poor guy is really getting pounded for it — and for a bunch of other “crazy, right-wing” sentiments he expressed there as well. Or at least so saith The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Oh, and lest we forget, also so saith Mitt Romney, who just happened to be the front-runner  in the race for the Republican nomination before that upstart Texan entered the race. Romney isn’t content to make sure Perry touches that third rail. He wants to make him ride it like some hapless tourist on the bucking bronco at Mickey Gilley’s place.

I confess, I haven’t read Fed Up!. But I have read a ton of condemnations of what’s in it. And guess what? I agree with Perry’s arguments.

What about you?

Ruth Marcus, one of the less rabid liberals who writes for The Washington Post, told her readers that the book “makes George Bush look like George McGovern.” That’s all the typical Post reader had to read to accept that the Texas Governor is an irresponsible wild man.

What did Marcus find so horrifying? His most egregious sin, she wrote, is that he would repeal the 16th amendment. That’s the one that foisted a progressive income tax on this country in 1913, something that had been ruled unConstitutional for the previous 130 years. Yes, the United States government existed and managed to pay all of its bills without an income tax for more than 130 years.

Knowing how her inside-the-Beltway readers would react (there isn’t a single government giveaway they aren’t convinced deserves more of your money), she wrote, “Raise your hand if you believe, as Perry suggests, that it is wrong to ask the wealthiest to pay a greater share of their income than the poor.”

Remember, this is what passes at the Post for intelligent, fair-minded commentary.

Next on her horror list is that Perry “lambastes the 17th Amendment.” This is the one that “instituted direct election of senators” in each state. Perry rightly says that taking this responsibility from State Legislatures was a “blow to the ability of states to exert influence on the federal government.” Can anyone quarrel with that or argue that this country is better off because of it?

After condemning Perry for his concern about Social Security and other New Deal programs, Marcus goes for the jugular. Here’s how she presents Perry’s most outrageous opinion:

As much as he dislikes the New Deal, Perry is even less happy about the Great Society, suggesting that programs such as Medicare are unconstitutional. “From housing to public television, from the environment to art, from education to medical care, from public transportation to food, and beyond, Washington took greater control of powers that were conspicuously missing from Article 1 of the Constitution,” he writes.

From where I sit, that’s one of the most moderate descriptions I’ve read this year of what Big Nanny government has been doing for most of my life. But to Marcus and her Beltway banditos, they are nothing short of heresy. She went absolutely ballistic, declaring, “Whoa! These are not mainstream Republican views.”

They aren’t? They are actually pretty moderate, compared to what I hear every day from Republican friends and neighbors. Do you think it’s possible the folks in Washington are out of touch with mainstream America?

Don’t get me wrong; all of this fake controversy still hasn’t made me Perry’s biggest fan. I’m concerned about many of his past actions and attitudes. This is the guy who was Al Gore’s campaign manager in Texas in 1988. That shows a lack of discernment that I find very worrisome.

Having said that, hearing Romney denounce the guy as a flippier flip-flopper is a hoot. Talk about a pot calling the kettle black. I, for one, am glad to see both candidates taking off the gloves and starting to duke it out. This country is desperate for some bold, manly leadership. So far, the closest we’ve come to it is Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann.

Ah, well, political contests do seem to bring out the craziness in a bunch of people. One of the shockers I heard last week is that the Barack Obama campaign expects to raise — and spend — more than $1 billion.

Remember, every single penny of that gigantic sum will go into smearing Obama’s Republican opponent, whoever that may be. And it will go toward promoting socialism at home and internationalism abroad. That’s a lot of money to spend on taking us down the wrong road.

There will be no Hillary Clinton around this time, forcing him to spend most of his time, attention and money winning the nomination. I think it’s safe to say he’s got a lock on it this time. So look for a really nasty campaign once it really gets going. A lot of folks who feed at the public trough are desperately afraid that their good times might come to an end.

All of which brings me back to Perry’s description of Social Security as a Ponzi scheme. In the sense that it requires taking money from new contributors today to pay off retirees whose own contributions were spent years and decades ago, of course he’s absolutely right.

But considering that Charles Ponzi’s financial ruse was entirely voluntary, it depended on the greed and gullibility of its participants to make it work and Ponzi wasn’t able to use the threat of force to extract a single dime from his participants, I suggest that Perry owes Ponzi an apology. In his wildest fantasies, Ponzi couldn’t do as much damage to American independence and self-reliance as Social Security has done.

What’s even worse, however, is how demagogues and power-seekers have used this issue to frighten and mislead a huge number of American voters. Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and their minions know they can count on the vast majority of their followers to be “too damned dumb,” as one politician put it, to understand how they are betraying the trust they have been given.

Yes, we probably owe Ponzi an apology. He was never this despicable or this greedy. But, oh, how his successors have learned from his example.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood   

Student Punished For ‘Bless You’

VACAVILLE, Calif., Sept. 29 (UPI) — A California high school teacher who reduced a student’s grade for saying “bless you” to another student who sneezed said the punishment was about disruption.

Steve Cuckovich, health teacher at Will C. Wood High School in Vacaville, said he knocked 25 points off a student’s grade for saying “bless you,” but the punishment had nothing to do with religious beliefs, KXTL-TV, Sacramento, reported Thursday.

“It’s got to do with an interruption of class time,” Cuckovich said.

“The blessing doesn’t really make sense anymore,” he said. “When you sneeze in the old days, they thought you were dispelling evil spirits out of your body. So they were saying, ‘God bless you,’ for getting rid of evil spirits. But today, what you’re doing doesn’t really make any sense anymore.”

Principal Cliff DeGraw said he has spoken with Cuckovich and the teacher now understands the punishment was inappropriate.

“He realizes there’s better ways to do that. We don’t condone that type of punishment,” DeGraw said.



Man Shoots Self On First Date

CHARLOTTE, N.C., Sept. 29 (UPI) — Police in North Carolina said a couple’s first date was interrupted when a man accidentally shot himself in a parking garage.

Charlotte police said the couple returned to the man’s car after eating Tuesday at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse on Fairview Road and the man’s gun, which was in the car, somehow went off and shot the man, The Charlotte Observer reported Wednesday.

His date was not injured and he was treated at Carolinas Medical Center for a non-life-threatening leg wound.

WCNC-TV, Charlotte, said police have ruled the shooting accidental and are trying to determine how the gun went off.

Radio Station Offers ‘Win A Baby’ Contest

OTTAWA, Sept. 29 (UPI) — A Canadian radio station is running a “Win a Baby” contest, with the winner getting three free in vitro fertilization treatments.

The prize offered by CIHT-FM, a hip hop radio station that goes by the moniker Hot 89.9, is worth at least $35,000, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported Wednesday.

One expert on infertility, Jan Silverman, says the contest highlights the issue of couples not being able to afford fertility treatments but has reservations about way the station is going about it.

“I certainly dislike the commodification of babies, turning babies into products,” Silverman said. “However, I am pleased that it brings attention to the plight, to the expense that infertile couples that require IVF must go through to have a baby.”

Five finalists will be culled from those who enter the contest and tell their personal stories on air. Listeners will then vote online before a panel of judges selects the winner, the CBC said.

Tiger Removed From Egyptian Home

NEW CAIRO, Egypt, Sept. 29 (UPI) — Authorities in Egypt said a tiger was confiscated from a man who allegedly allowed the animal to roam freely in his yard.

The New Cairo Police Department and the General Department for Environmental Police said the tiger was taken from a Saudi man living in the Rehab development after complaints from neighbors about the wild animal, al-Masry al-Youm reported Thursday.

The tiger was anesthetized and taken to the Giza Zoo.

Police said the case has been referred to prosecutors.