Feb 18, 2008

Clinton Can't Explain Obama's Wins

Feb 18, 2008
The Clinton campaign has been busy inventing new reasons for why Barack Obama keeps winning state after state. "One of the hilarious side-effects of every Obama victory is the spin from Clinton quarters and its surrogates and supporters explaining why said victories 'don't matter,'" Markos Moulitsas blogged this week.

Either the state has a caucus, or too many black people, or too many affluent people, or too many independent voters, or too many red staters. If only the Clintons had the perfect electoral map.

If only.

If only the Clintons had a coherent explanation for why Obama has so thoroughly out-organized and out-hussled them across the country in February. After all, there was no reason why Hillary Clinton, after spending eight years in the White House and amassing a hefty war chest of money and incumbency in the Senate, couldn't have won caucus states, or red states, or states with large African-American communities. The front-runner is supposed to win these places. If Obama had lost eight states in a row, his candidacy most certainly would have been toast.

Obama has opened up a small lead in pledged delegates, 1,078 to 969 according to MSNBC, but the race is still miraculously close. Clinton may very well win Ohio and Texas and capture the nomination as the third reincarnation of the Comeback Kid.

But step back for a minute. How did Clinton even get to the point where March 4 was do or die? Exactly what happened to all those states in between? Did the tide turn when Missouri flipped into Obama's column in the wee hours of Super Tuesday? After a draw was declared that Wednesday, her campaign has been mired in a seemingly endless draught.

The situation is more dire for Clinton than her supporters would have one believe. Her candidacy is on the verge of impending collapse. It goes beyond replacing one or two campaign managers. Obama is consolidating his base and bringing in new voters, while Clinton is hanging on by a mere thread.

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Feb 16, 2008

Top 10 Hottest 2007 'Good-Luck' Symbols

Feb 16, 2008

With the beginning of a New Year looming, many are already searching for ways to make it better than 2006.

After giving up on New Year's resolutions that fall short by noon on Jan. 1, Americans now alter their one-day improvement plans to include the charmed life of the Lucky.


An ever larger number of us extend the better-life time line, across the entire coming 365 days. By taking a page from the rest of the world, Americans are, like never before, turning to the power of Luck.


It has long been a tradition to rely on Scottish New Year celebrations dating back to ancient pagan times. Hogmanay is a tradition that includes fireworks and torch-lit processions, believed to be good luck, shortbread or whisky, after midnight chimes, everyone sings "Auld Lang Syne."

6. NUMBER 13

Usokae Japan has the Bullfinch Exchange Festival in Dazaifu, Fukuoka Prefecture. "Good Luck" gilded wood bullfinches, mixed among many plain ones, are sought after by the throngs as priests of the Dazaifu Shrine pass them out in the dim light of a small bonfire. (Bullfinch - two groups of passerine birds).

People who seek better luck for the next year exchange their old wooden carved bullfinch, called Uso, for the luckier new year's model.


Native American children of all ages prize the Medicine Wheel as Good Luck. Native basic colors, Red, Yellow, Black, and White. It has a plus-sign (+) center frame representing all nations, unity.

It's a major player when Indian families smoke themselves at a New Year ceremony. The family elder, ideally grandfather, places a container of hot coals in the center of the family.

Then the elder sprinkles (round) cedar from his medicine bag on the coal to create dark smoke. With an eagle-feather fan he forces smoke over his family as he prays in the tribe's traditional language, often "Otoemissouria". This is to cleanse the family of all bad, allowing them to let go of the past, move on to make the best life possible.

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U.S. Training Team Makes a Large Impact on Iraqi Army

SAMARRA, Iraq (July 8, 2006)-When the deployment is complete, and the troops have the time to stop and reflect, they will have a year of accomplishments to look back upon.

Soldiers of the Military Training Team and Iraqi Army soldiers pose together for a photo outside of Samarra, Iraq during Operation Swarmer.
U.S. Army Photo: Sgt. Waine D. Haley, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Det.
Every unit and every service member involved in Operation Iraqi Freedom is playing an important role in turning the tide of the insurgency, especially a group of small units with a unique "hands on" training approach.

The 3rd Special Troops Battalion's Military Integrated Training Team attached to the 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, at Forward Operating Base Brassfield-Mora, can be very proud of their accomplishments in training and mentoring the Iraqi soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Brigade, 4th Iraqi Army Division.

This MiTT is training and mentoring more than 600 Iraqi soldiers at nearby Forward Operating Base Seven. Over time, the Iraqis have been taking on more and more security responsibilities with less involvement of Coalition Forces.

The MiTT's goal is to promote the methods and tactics that have helped the U.S. Army over the last 200 years to the Iraqi Army leadership. Capt. Thomas Swint, team leader for the Brassfield-Mora MiTT team, liked the MiTT team training concept from the beginning.

"I saw the thing and I loved it... this improves their security forces," said Swint.

The concept of training Iraq's army is simple: teach them so they can better take care of themselves and protect themselves from the insurgency.

Iraqi Army soldiers watch as one of their officers practices "checking for bleeding" during a first-aid class conducted by the Military Integrated Training Team's medic, Spc. Clint Radcliffe.
U.S. Army Photo: Spc. Cassandra Groce, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Det.
The Soldiers from the MiTT were chosen because they are experts in their field. Each American Soldier is paired up with an Iraqi soldier with a similar job. Sgt. 1st Class Michael Wright, communications section chief, works closely with the personnel who are responsible for maintaining the radios and computers on FOB Seven.

Wright said language and culture were his two biggest obstacles, but they have been overcome with time. He also keeps his job and his time overseas in their proper perspectives, as a good non-commissioned officer should do.

"Everyday, I see these guys before they go to bed, and I see them the next day and do the same thing until everybody gets home. I just want to make sure everyone is 'good-to-go,'" said Wright.

Wright is not the only person on the MiTT who wanted to make sure everything and everyone was "good-to-go." Sgt. 1st Class David Brackett is the team's operations NCO and taught the Iraqi soldiers marksmanship. Because of the team's daily interactions with the IA soldiers of FOB Seven, friendships have formed. Brackett and the rest of his team continue to mourn the loss of one Iraqi soldier, Lt. Ahab, who made quite an impact on them because he was such a "go-getter." Ahab died at the hands of a suicide bomber.

Brackett said the Iraqi soldiers are actually in more danger from anti-Iraqi forces than Coalition Forces Soldiers are. The reason has to do with logistics.

"They go out [on patrols] in little Nissan pick-up trucks that have no protection and get 'IED-ed' left and right just like we do," said Brackett. "When we get 'IED-ed' [we are protected by our armor]; when they get hit, two people get killed right off the bat."

The Iraqi Army soldiers face many challenges that are not faced by U.S. Soldiers. Stateside, U.S. Soldiers can go to work in their uniform with little fear that someone will want to hurt them or their families. Swint said the Iraqi soldiers have to worry about being seen and they will usually change into their uniform once they reach the camp.

"The Iraqi Army as a whole is new. It took us 200 years to get our army where it is today and a lot of people expect the Iraqi Army to get there overnight," said Brackett.
Everyone on the team believes that a solid noncommissioned officer corps is what makes the U.S. Army great, but the NCO is still a new concept to Iraqis.

Members of the Military Training Team pose in front of the "The MiTT Pit," an outdoor room they use for training and meetings.
U.S. Army Photo: Spc. William Jones, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Det.
According to the MiTT, the Iraqi officers make all the decisions and the rest of the IA soldiers will simply wait until they are told to move. But, the team said that is slowly beginning to change and everyone is getting more involved.

The Iraqi soldiers are now involved in almost all strategic operations designed to seek out and detain insurgents. Earlier this year during Operation Swarmer, Iraqis and Coalition Forces stood side by side on the helicopters as they went to assault the objective. The success of the Iraqi Army in these operations is in no small part due to the training they have received from Brassfield-Mora's MiTT and other MiTTs in the area.

"Every one of them is braver than you and me, and they don't get to demonstrate how proud they are to be in the military, because someone will kill him or his family," said Swint.

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Snake Bites and Scorpion Stings

KIRKUK, Iraq - Being aware of one's surroundings is a skill Soldiers constantly maintain and seek to improve. However, one potential hazard for troops in Northern Iraq may be easily missed. And it is right under their feet.

Temperatures in Iraq are rising steadily, and with the heat come more wildlife sharing land - and living space - with their human counterparts. One type of critter that Iraq has no shortage of is reptiles. Many Soldiers have probably seen the small yellow lizards climbing walls or scurrying along walkways. These harmless dune geckos are a common sight throughout much of the Middle East - but not all desert-dwelling reptiles are so benign.

Kurdistan Viper produces hemotoxic venom which destroys blood cells, causes tissue damage and can cause internal hemorrhaging in bite victims
Photo: Spc. Anna-Marie Hizer, 133rd MPAD

Kurdistan Viper

One critter that has been found on Forward Operating Base Warrior is the Kurdistan Viper. This snake produces hemotoxic venom which destroys blood cells, causes tissue damage and can cause internal hemorrhaging in bite victims. In addition, Saw-Scaled Vipers, another serpent found across Iraq, have been spotted on the FOB. These vipers are considered the most toxic of the group and present the greatest potential for severe tissue damage and hemorrhage.

Of course, as with most snakes, they will try to escape human contact without having to use their venom - which not only kills prey, but also aids in digestion. But in some circumstances, when the animal feels cornered or threatened, it will strike.

"Prevention is the best cure," said Army Maj. Ken Brooks, physician's assistant, Special Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division. "Use common sense; don't put your hands in places that could house a snake."

In addition, Brooks said one surefire way to attract snakes to living quarters is having food lying around.

"Food attracts [rodents]," he said, "vermin attract snakes."
If snakes are not enough, Iraq also boasts a collection of deadly scorpions.

death stalker scorpion
Death Stalker Scorpion, perhaps the most toxic type of scorpion sting on earth
Photo: Spc. Anna-Marie Hizer, 133rd MPAD

Death Stalker Scorpion

Death Stalker Scorpions, perhaps the most toxic type of scorpions on earth, along with Fat-Tailed Scorpions, roam the Iraqi desert, usually preying on insects and small lizards.
However, these invertebrates occasionally show up in human habitats.

"You leave your boots on the ground, your clothing on the ground [they want to get where it's cool]," said Air Force Maj. Armando Rosales, Public Health Officer, 506th Expeditionary Medical Squadron. "Make sure you shake everything out and check ... and watch where you're stepping."

In addition to snakes and scorpions, the Middle East is home to another bug - one that is infamous among service members and is also highly misunderstood.

camel spider picture
Camel Spiders are not dangerous to humans and pose no threat to camels, either.
Photo: Spc. Anna-Marie Hizer, 133rd MPAD

Camel Spiders

Camel Spiders have spawned many rumors within the military over decades of service in the Middle East. However, the majority of these stories are untrue. Camel Spiders, which are not actually spiders at all, belong to the family Solifugae. They are not dangerous to humans and pose no threat to camels, either. Their bite can be painful, due to the animal's large chelicerae, which are used to crush and chew smaller arthropods such as spiders and scorpions, but they have no 'paralytic venom,' as some rumors suggest.

Both Rosales and Brooks agree that the chance of being bitten or stung is slim; however, service members should be aware of where they are walking and where they place their hands.

Additionally, Brooks noted personnel should walk to showers and latrines in full shoes - not flip-flops or sandals.

Another risk some people take is actively playing with dangerous animals. Making scorpions fight or trying to make a viper the company mascot is not only against regulations, but could also lead to serious injury.

Not all Iraq's reptiles are venomous. But to play it safe, Rosales said people should leave any ectothermic or arthropod critters alone. If an individual does happen to find the wrong end of a scorpion or snake, the first thing to remember is to remain calm. Panicking increases heart rate, which speeds up the circulation of venom through the system.

Next the person should try and ice the site and bandage it. But, as Rosario warns, do not attempt to treat the bite yourself.

"You definitely don't want to do any home remedies Like cutting the wound open and sucking out the venom," he said. "" A home remedy can do more harm than good, by envenomating both individuals.

He also said the victim or a buddy should try to identify the animal or bug. This way, medical personnel can have a better idea of how to treat the bite, and what, if any, antivenin is needed.

So while scorpions, snakes and camel spiders or other spider do not pose the daily threat troops are used to in the desert, everyone should be aware of what is out there, especially things that could lurk in an overturned boot.

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UNESCO Chief Speaks Out Against Murders of Iraqi and Pakistani Journalists

The head of the United Nations agency mandated to defend press freedom today condemned the recent killings of journalists in Iraq and Pakistan.

Hisham Mijawet Hamdan, 27, was kidnapped on 10 February while shopping for office supplies in a Baghdad market and was tortured before being executed. His body was discovered by police on 12 February.

The murder of Mr. Hamdan, who worked for the fortnightly Internet publication Al-Siyassa wal-Karar, demonstrates "once again the dangers that journalists face every day when working in Iraq," Ko�chiro Matsuura, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization , said in a statement.

"While these professional men and women deserve to be praised for their bravery, further measures also need to be taken to ensure their safety."

The Association of Young Journalists, which counted Mr. Hamdan as a member, said he had of late been active in the group's campaign aiding families of journalists killed in the violence-ridden country and may have become a target after appearing on television regarding his work assisting survivors.

Meanwhile, Pakistani journalist Abdus Samad Chishti Mujahid was gunned down in Quetta, which is close to the South Asian nation's border with Afghanistan and is the capital of Baluchistan province, on 9 February.

"The intimidation and murder of journalists constitutes a crime not only against the individuals targeted, but also against the whole society," Mr. Matsuura noted in a separate statement.

The slain journalist, 55, was a photographer and columnist for the Urdu-language weekly Akhbar-e-Jehan. After being shot by an unknown assailant while coming out of his home with his wife, he died at the hospital.

Mr. Matsuura appealed to Pakistani authorities to bring the perpetrators of "this despicable attack on the fundamental human right of freedom of expression" to justice.

The Baluchistan Liberation Army, a separatist organization, has reportedly claimed responsibility for the murder, which has been condemned by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and the Baluchistan Union of Journalists.

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Illegal Aliens Cause Global Warming!

As most people know, Michael Chertoff is the part-time head of U.S. Homeland Security. His real job and vocational passion is functioning as the anti-Christ, a role more consistent with his temperament and appearance.

Because of Chertoff's split responsibilities, homeland security has been neglected and short- changed, especially when it comes to illegal aliens.

Whether by design as a result of Dubya Bush's insanity, or by coincidence because of Dubya Bush's stupidity, the result has been devastating.

Fact is, up until now our federal government has encouraged third-world peasants to invade America in record numbers. That, despite the crippling impact of illegal immigration on America's economy, security, crime rates, security, and culture.

Senor~ Bush has received plenty of help in making America a safe haven for invading Latinos. That help has been forthcoming from liberals who see illegal aliens as "undocumented Democrats," and from RINOs always looking to scare up a bountiful supply of slave labor for big business.

Given the unholy alliance between Bush, Democrats, and corrupt RINOs, solving the illegal alien crisis has been next to impossible--- until now.

However, Michael Chertoff may have inadvertently, and no doubt reluctantly, provided the most powerful argument to date against illegal aliens in a statement several months ago.

Chertoff did so when he said, "Illegal migrants really degrade the environment," in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.


In essence, Chertoff was declaring that "Brown degrades green," at least when it comes to illegal aliens.

As everyone knows, the environment and green are the Holy Grail of the Democrat party.

Nothing is more important than the environment.

Protecting labor unions and a woman's right to murder innocent children, retreating from Iraq, condemning George Bush, making gay marriage legal, raising taxes, etc., all pale in comparison to the importance of the environment in the diseased liberal brain.

Which means that patriotic Americans dedicated to ending the invasion of America by third world peasants have been gifted with a simple, yet wonderful, solution by Dr. Chertoff.

Namely, link illegal aliens to global warming!

Do that and then step aside as the likes of Al Gore and Nancy Pelosi lead scores of millions of green-eyed nut cases into battle against barrios, Home Depot outlets, Day Laborer centers and other squatting places favored by illegal aliens.

Do that and watch Deportations Now! become the number one mantra on the lips of liberals from Maine to San Diego

At that happy day, those of us who oppose illegal aliens for patriotic and common sense reasons, will gratefully thank God for green and all other forms of environmental craziness!

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Want to Increase Popularity of Your Site or Blog?

Use MP3 to SWF Converter to Voice It!

Hoo Technologies announces the release of version 2.4 of MP3 to SWF Converter, a utility for creating sound accompaniment for your website or blog. The program allows you to make a streaming SWF file (Adobe Flash Movie) by transferring from available audio or recording it via microphone.

Nowadays, e-commerce requires using each and every possible competitive edge to reach success. It goes without saying that sites with well-suited accompanying sound and voice can attract a greater amount of customers leading to more sales. Bloggers willing to raise popularity of their web diaries should also take advantage of audible blogs. MP3 to SWF Converter will help to make your web site or blog talk and play music.

MP3 to SWF Converter works in two ways: converting a file to SWF or recording SWF via microphone. If you have a certain tune you want to be played on your site, then simply select it, define the parameters of an output file and the job is done. Even large audio files can be converted to small-sized SWF files by adjusting such parameters as sample frequency, bit rate, and channels. Additionally, MP3 to SWF Converter supports not only MP3 but also two other currently popular formats: WAV and AU.

In case you want to create a speech, for example, voice customers' reviews on your product, record product instructions or make a voiced blog, MP3 to SWF Converter will also come in handy. Using a simple home microphone you can create a clear SWF sound. You can adjust the same parameters as in conversion to create the sound that will accurately suit your needs.

Besides creating streaming SWF that will launch instantly, you can create event sounds. Also the software supports batch conversion for dealing with a large amount of files. What's more, instead of a bare SWF file, the software can help you to create a sound with a shell SWF player that avoids slow web page loading for large SWF files. MP3 to SWF Converter comes with a choice of customizable player templates. You can also select the players' button color at your favor.

If you want to boost customers' confidence in your site and in your product or want to enhance the popularity of your blog, then MP3 to SWF Converter will be of much help.

Try out the evaluation version right now at http://www.hootech.com/mp3_to_swf_converter.

Pricing and Availability MP3 to SWF Converter runs under all versions of Microsoft Windows and costs $39.95 (USD) for a single-user license. Licensed customers are entitled to the fully-functional version of the product, free technical support and free upgrades. Further information on MP3 to SWF Converter, as well as a free trial copy is available free of charge from http://www.hootech.com.

About Hoo Technologies

The company was founded in 2003 and specializes in the development of multimedia products. For more information, please visit the company's site at http://www.hootech.com.

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Feb 15, 2008

is Google snatch a scam or not?

Feb 15, 2008
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Top 8 Products With Online Fraud Attempts For Valentines

With Valentine's Day Online Spending Up 8.48%, Fraud Up Too

According to Retail Decisions, U.S. fraudsters are attempting to buy gifts online for their loved ones. They're more romantic than UK fraudsters who only buy for themselves,

Top Products, Online Fraud Attempts

It turns out that online fraudsters are smart enough to realise giftcards can be the easiest to steal and sell, closely followed by gold and diamonds. There were two surprising items in the list. They may be spotty youth that need facial care and they have bad breath.
  1. Gift Cards - $134, a increase of 72% per purchase than a genuine purchaser
  2. Lancome - Facial Care
  3. Tommy Hilfiger - Men's Wear -(button down and sweaters - all colors)
  4. 14K Diamonds Earrings
  5. Rose Blue 14K Stud Earring
  6. Dooney & Bourke Bags -(Bucket Bag) (expensive ladies day bag - classic style)
  7. Coach Handbags - (designer ladies day bag)
  8. Sonicare Toothbrush - (electric toothbrush - to have fresh breath for Valentines)

Retail Decisions (ReD) is a payment card issuer and world leader in card fraud prevention and payment processing. They monitored real-time online shopping data February 1-11, 2008 for global blue chip retail clients to track consumer buying patterns and fraud activity associated with Valentine's Day 2008. ReD retail clients include Wal-Mart, Macy's, Bloomingdales and Tesco.

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Imaging101 Offers Better Than Free Software

How many business expenditures give companies a return on investment (ROI) or payback of 300% or more, consistently, each month? Would you spend $1.00 if you knew -- without a doubt -- it would help you save $4.00? Without a "catch." Would this not be better than "free" software?

Imaging101 clearly understands the fears raised by economic uncertainty like the one we face in today's markets. So it has devised a plan to help ease the pain of deciding on digitizing documents by offering a "Better than free Software" (BtfS) payment method. With this payment methodology, companies have a very low initial investment and small monthly payments. This allows the organization to achieve a return on investment immediately ... and have a consistently positive Net Present Value ... while maintaining internal control of its digital assets. No need to sign personally. No complicated contracts.

Industry research reports by major independent consulting organizations -- Gartner, IDC, Rheinner Group, etc. -- have consistently demonstrated the dramatic benefits and financial returns of digitizing paper documents and managing electronic documents (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, PDF's, etc).

The savings a company receives immediately after implementing the Imaging101 solution surpasses the tiny monthly investment. This means that, even in the first month, the investment pays for itself. Here is an extremely simplistic example ... taking into account only the time saved by 10 employees ... not having to get off their desks to find, shuffle and deliver paper documents.

    10 employees x 1 hour per day     =  10 hours per day saved
10 hours per day @ $15 per hour = $150 per day saved
20 days per month x $150 per day = $3,000 Saved each month!

The first month installation and configuration fee for this 10 employee solution would be $2,000 and then, just eleven (11) easy payments of $799 each. Think about it ... this is merely 27% ... barely over one fourth (1/4th) of the monthly savings. The more employees a company has, the more dramatic the savings.

This extremely simplistic example does not take into account the time saved in printing, photocopying, sending faxes, placing clients and vendors on hold, having to call back vendors and clients because the information is not at your finger tips, long distance charges, paper costs, ink/toner/developer costs and many other soft and hard costs.

Imaging101 provides a complimentary ROI calculation spreadsheet to provide companies with a more accurate view of their true savings.

Imaging101 is also a proud supporter of American Forests tree planting projects and contribute a percentage of each installation to replanting trees across America.

See how soon your company can start saving money and becoming more effective and productive. Visit http://www.imaging101.com or call (954) 659- 3101 to learn more or to sign up for an upcoming Webinar.

Mike Russo, Imaging101, Inc.
Phone: 305-798-1107
eMail info@imaging101.com,
Web http://www.imaging101.com

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McCain Myth Buster Day 3: John McCain and Veterans' Health Care

After casting himself as a "Maverick" in 2000, the new John McCain is walking in lockstep with President Bush, pandering to the right wing of the Republican Party, and embracing the ideology he once denounced. On the campaign trail McCain has callously abandoned many of his previously held positions, even contradicted himself, in a blatant attempt to remake himself into a candidate Republicans can accept in 2008. So just who is the real John McCain? The Democratic National Committee will present a daily fact aimed at exposing the man behind the myth.

Today's McCain Myth: John McCain can be trusted to stand up for veterans and military families.

Throughout this campaign, John McCain has relied on the support of fellow veterans and promised to make veterans' health care his "top domestic priority." [Associated Press, 12/12/07] In reality, John McCain has consistently put his campaign ahead of veterans and military families by pandering to the right wing of his Party on tax cuts.

Faced with a choice between joining Democrats in trying to increase funding for veterans and military families by eliminating some of President Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy, John McCain chose to cozy up to conservatives by preserving the tax cuts he once opposed. Putting his campaign ahead of our veterans, McCain voted against Democratic efforts to improve care at veterans' hospitals, provide mental health services to soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse problems, and prevent veterans and military families from paying higher fees and co-payments for medical services.

With the one-year anniversary of the revelations of the shameful conditions at military hospitals like Walter Reed coming on Monday, can America's veterans and military families really afford another four years of a Republican President who puts politics and his party ahead of our nation's veterans and wounded warriors?

McCain & Veterans' Health Care

McCain Has Repeatedly Voted Against Increasing Funding for Veterans Healthcare to Keep Tax Cuts for the Rich. John McCain has repeatedly voted to keep intact tax cuts for the rich, rather than provide American veterans with adequate healthcare funding. McCain has repeatedly voted against amendments in the Senate that would have added funding for healthcare services, but eliminated tax cuts for the wealthy. Funding would have covered such important services as improving care at veterans' hospitals, providing mental health services to soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse problems. [2006 Senate Vote #7, 2/2/06; 2005 Senate Vote #343, 11/17/05; 2003 Senate Vote #74, 3/21/03]

2006: McCain Voted Against Eliminating Increased Fees And Co-Payments For Veterans Health Care Program By Closing Corporate Tax Loopholes. In 2006, McCain voted against the Kerry amendment that would eliminate increased fees and co-payments for veterans in the TRICARE health care program by raising the discretionary spending limit by approximately $10 billion. The provisions would have been fully offset by eliminating creating corporate tax breaks. [2006 Senate Vote #67, 3/16/2006]

McCain Stood Out in Opposing Veterans' Healthcare Funding. McCain was one of only 13 Republicans to vote against an amendment that added over $400 million for inpatient and outpatient care for veterans. [2006 Senate Vote #98, 4/26/06]

McCain Puts Politics Over Vets; Would Rather Be Out Campaigning Than Supporting Our Troops. McCain missed an important vote this year that supported the funding of the troops inIraq and guaranteed them adequate medical care upon returning home. [2007 Senate Vote #76, 3/15/07]

Paid for and authorized by the Democratic National Committee, http://www.democrats.org.

This communication is not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

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Happy Valentine's Day from Uncle Sam?

ust in time for the Valentine's Day festivities, President Bush has signed legislation to "stimulate" the economy by returning money to its rightful owners, i.e., those who earned the money in the first place!

All told, the bill could cost the federal government in excess of $160 billion dollars.

And since the government does not happen to have an extra $160 billion laying about, just where in the hell did W and the gang get the dough for this latest canard?

The way Americans always fund things they cannot afford--by charging it!

So add another $160 billion to the federal debt and to W's tarnished legacy as a "true conservative."

In order to get all that money back into the hands of those who earned it, W and the gang will have to spend billions more (of our money) to process the rebate checks.

Add another $10 billion or so to the federal debt and to W's "worst president in history" legacy.

Counting the interest that will have to be paid on the money borrowed to send us back our own money, the net effect of all these shenanigans will ultimately be an increase in taxes, especially if the Democrats conquer Washington, D.C. in November.

The only good news is that the rebate checks will not arrive until around April 1--just in time for April Fool's Day!

Digg This Up Please !

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The 5 Most Successful People-Powered News Sites - and 30 Failures

Last week, a review of the top five people-powered or community news websites generated a lot of interest and questions about other players in that space. We review some of the players and find the top sites are well ahead of the pack while many others have already failed. Here is an updated analysis after undertaking extra research.

Digg inspired a lot of competition. But are any of these sites successful?

There are literally hundreds of digg-like sites that have jumped on the people-powered news bandwagon. Yet, my analysis shows almost all have failed to achieve critical mass, and many have already closed up shop. That said, a few do appear to be on their way to success.

Which are the most successful people-powered news sites?

#1 Digg
#2 Reddit
#3 Care2 News Network
#4 Shoutwire
#5 Netscape

This analysis is based on the average number of votes the stories have on the front page, along with the number of votes for the most popular stories for the past month. Digg is the clear leader, with Reddit showing some impressive numbers as well. The one that will probably surprise a lot of people is Care2. They launched their version of Digg for progressive / green news back in January.

Time to market seems to be one of the keys to success here - particularly for Digg and Reddit. Care2 wasn't the third to launch (maybe the fourth?), but they had the advantage of being an existing community of six million activists. They also have a clear niche (progressive news) which Shoutwire lacks.

There's been a lot of talk that it only takes a relatively small number of super users to get one of these sites going, but clearly that's not enough to be successful. It's not clear yet what a site needs to achieve critical mass in this space, but based on my observations over the past several months the top 5 all appear to be growing (with the exception perhaps of Shoutwire) while the rest of the competition appear to be steady or declining.

I'm sure Netscape will do well given their existing traffic, but so far they seem to be running a distant fifth place in the race. They appear to get a relatively high number of comments though, which is an indication of a successful news community (and perhaps a result of their Anchors-as-facilitators strategy?)

I suspect there will be a few other successful niche news sites that will make it, but the general take away seems to be that the game is over - you either need to be one of the first to market and/or have a lot of traffic to make it sustainable. This part of the Web 2.0 bubble has already popped.

Pligg / Meneame. The list below contains another 50+ sites that are dead or nearly so - and most appear to be using Pligg / Meneame or something similar. These are open source systems, based on Digg. Memeame was first, in Spanish and Pligg used their code base and then split off on its own path. I have contributed a small amount of code to Pligg and experimented with it myself. It's interesting to see that all of the top 5 rolled their own app. I'm not sure whether that indicates sites need to use a more custom solution to be successful, or if it's just another reflection that time to market was key (Netscape excepted).

Here's some data to back up my analysis (data from: Tue, PM, Aug 22, 2006)

Average number of front page votes (for top 20 stories) of the day:
#1 Digg 447
#2 Reddit 157
#3 Care2 51
#4 Shoutwire 40
#5 Netscape 21

Median number of homepage votes (for top 20 stories):
#1 Digg 392
#2 Reddit 139
#3 Care2 44
#4 Shoutwire 36
#5 Netscape 18

Additional sites among the top 25 and average number of votes for top 20 Front Page stories:
#6 Videosift 14
#7 Fantacular 14
#8 Videobomb 11
#9 QoolSqool 10
#10 InboxNews 9
#11 Crankk 8
#12 Hugg 8
#13 Dzone 7
#14 EatMyHamster 6
#15 Blog Memes 5
#16 PopCurrent 5
#17 Nooz 5
#18 DissectMedicine 4
#19 meme-stream 4
#20 Livelocker 3
#21 topkix 3
#22 Humdigg 3
#23 ByteMyCode 2
#24 autospies 2
#25 iTalkNews 2

Other people powered news sites that appear to be dead or nearly so:
CC Hits
HR Salad

There are a number of other sites that no longer even exist, which would have made the "dead list" even longer, but the above is grim enough to demonstrate the perils of trying to be a me-too site. Many of these sites have some activity, but it seems to be mostly from the owner of the website. To make it in any meaningful way, they need a compelling story to tell and some fanatical belivers to participate and spread the word.

Note that I didn't rely on Alexa because of the webmaster bias (which would penalize a non-techie site like Care2) and for certain sites it's hard to determine where the traffic is actually going (such as Netscape).

Velocity of stories hitting the front page matters too, but based on my observations there doesn't appear to be a huge difference between the top five sites, though stories appear to stay on Shoutwire the longest, and Digg the shortest time. My analysis therefore probably somewhat under-represents the lead that Digg has over the other services. Note that some of the sites listed above as "dead" actually show some high vote counts on their front pages, but the stories appear to have been sitting there for weeks or longer.

The other compounding challenge in analyzing the numbers is that it's possible to down-vote on Reddit and some others, but it's highly unlikely that would push it past Digg for the top slot or make much of a difference in the other rankings.

I didn't include other models in this analysis, such as newsvine or machine-powered-aggregators given the obvious differences in approach and the higher costs of entry versus a fully community powered model.

I also didn't include the grand-daddy of them all, Slashdot, because moderators select the stories, not members. Although Slashdot doesn't have votes, it has comments. An average of 133 comments per story, against Digg's average of 80 comments and 447 diggs per story, at the time of writing.

I couldn't draw any conclusions from this because it is easier to digg a story than to comment on it, there is no easy way to tell the number of unique commenters and digg has many more stories per day than slashdot. All I can say is they are both popular sites, each with their own niche audience and a different enough model and vibe, fans and foes - that they will likely continue along their separate paths, unaffected by each other. Digg definitely has the capacity for much more growth because it appeals to a much wider audience, while slashdot is almost exclusively for nerds.

This space definitely needs to be watched. It will be interesting to see how the top five fare over the next few months and to see activity in the the 5 to 25 space. Care2, with its green niche and a large membership, and Netscape with its big name and big following could be contenders. It will be especially instructive to see what Netscape can do, because they had a very late start. I know of one big audience player considering an entry to the market early next year, so if they learn the right lessons, there could be more shake-ups coming.

No matter what brands enter the people-powered news arena, Digg is by far the clear leader and it will take much more than a "me too" application to even get close to them. Paticipation is the key.

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European Union plans biometrics database

The International Herald Tribune reports ‘EU plans to require biometrics of all non-European visitors

The plans - arguably the biggest shake-up of border management in Europe since the creation of an internal travel zone - would apply to citizens of the United States and all other countries that now enjoy visa-free status.

We in Ireland know the debacle created by the electronic voting system. This current trend of consuming every last bit of private information about a person, whether it comes from governments or social networking websites, which extend so far as to their very biological nature, is a disturbing one to say the least. Just imagine if the database holding the biometrics of all europeans, and non-european visitors, was operated as successfully as the electronic voting system in Ireland.

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Anonymous respond to IrishGeeks

AnonymousAs mentioned previously, we endeavour to cover the Anonymous vs Church of Scientology events with a balanced but informed position. To this end, we contacted the Anonymous group to get their side of the story. Here we present Anonymous’ side of the debate…

The content of the email is presented here in its entirety:


We’re sorry that’s it’s taken us almost three days to get back to you.
It wasn’t our intention to avoid an interview with IrishGeeks.com,
we’re afraid your email simply got lost in the shuffle - a combination
of our assumption that it had been dealt with previously along with
the other press queries, and the fact our more PR-focused members were
occupied dealing with established mainstream media. We do, however,
welcome your blog’s coverage! We’ll try to answer your questions now.
While an attempt has been made tonight to write this collaboratively,
reflecting the disparate views of Anonymous, due to the late hour the
email itself was compiled by an individual, who is, at present, rather

On 2/7/08, press@irishgeeks.com <press@irishgeeks.com> wrote:
> Hi,
> Im contacting you as editor of IrishGeeks.com regarding the protest
> against Scientology that is schedueled for this sunday, 10th Feb.
> We’re planning on covering the event, blogger style, with two cameras
> (video and still), in addition to an article on our website, and would
> like to get in touch to find get your side of the story.
> Of particular interest:
> * your motives for this protest.

Anonymous’ original motives were the Church of Scientology’s attempts
to restrict information and freedom of expression. The most infamous
example of this recently was Scientology’s intimidation of video
websites to remove some embarrassing footage of Tom Crusie taken from
an indoctrination video of theirs. From here, our campaign grew
exponentially, due to Anonymous’ research into the organisation’s
crimes and human rights abuses.

The Church has been convicted in Greece, Italy, France, Spain,
Germany, USA and other countries for kidnapping, fraud, criminal
association, interfering with witnesses, establishing an illegal
organization and numerous other criminal acts. It has been implicated
in several deaths due to neglect or malice, such as Lisa McPherson’s
reported death in the custody of the Church, whose anniversary this
protest commemorates. Controversial policies it espouses include
forced abortions and brainwashing. It has historically attempted to
silence and harass its opponents, as in Operation Freakout, a church
campaign targeting Paulette Cooper, author of The Scandal of

At its core, the organisation exists to exploit the vulnerability of
innocent people by changing exorbitant fees for services and
counselling, as it costs nearly $100,000 to learn its basic beliefs.
They have a front group operating here in Ireland called the Citizens
Commission on Human Rights which campaigns against psychiatry and
psychology, saying that “psychiatrists ruin lives and undermine
society at huge cost” and that each of “ADHD, bipolar disorder,
depression or schizoprenia” is an “invented psychiatric disorder”.
There have been many controversial episodes here, including
psychological abuse and intimidation (Mary Johnson) and the
disappearance of members (e.g. Odhran Fortune, Tony Phelan)

> * whether this protest was endorsed by anyone, particularly what the
> gardí response has been thus far.

No, not as such. Anonymous is at its heart a grassroots movement.
Globally, the only endorsement we have sought and found has been from
innocents harmed by the organisation, and from some prominent
anti-Scientology campaigners.

The Gardaí have been informed and will be present today. They are
happy with our arrangements for a peaceful protest.

> * what outcome is expected from the demonstration.

As a collective of individuals, we each have our own personal
expectations and aspirations, which, when combined with the fact that
our campaign is in a state of constant flux, makes it difficult to
come to a consensus as to an expected outcome. One basic aspiration is
that the public will be informed of the Church of Scientology’s
transgressions, and warned of its dangers.

> * preliminary research shows only one mention of the Dublin protest -
> on pressreleaseireland.com, what if any other websites or forms of
> media have been use to ’spread the word’.

Yes, we have also posted press releases to Indymedia Ireland,
NowPublic and PRLog. Our initial campaign made use YouTube videos,
collaborative wikis, and sites like Digg, Reddit and StumbleUpon. Much
of our message was spread informally, from the simple use of emails
and posts on on-line discussion boards, to physical posters and
flyers. One member’s attempt to email prominent Irish bloggers was
felt to be spam and abandoned. Our first newspaper report was in
Wednesday’s edition of Metro Ireland, but this was drawn exclusively
from our press release. Tomorrow (today’s) Sunday Tribune may feature
the article into which we’ve had the most input.

In terms of radio, we’ve had live interviews on The Spin on SPIN 1038,
and The Last Word on Today FM. We were due to have a debate live on
air on Newstalk, but this was cancelled due to the director of the
Church of Scientology pulling out. Their spokesperson also pulled out
of the Today FM interview. (At one stage there was also an East Coast
FM interview proposed) We have also made provisional arrangements for
at least one post-protest radio interview tomorrow.

> * what your expectations, or projections for attendance will be. and
> the response you expect from the Churche of Scientology.

We’re afraid to say that, again, we honestly don’t know, as there are
simply too many unknown quantities to take into account. We estimate
over 100.

We are also unsure as to the response to expect from the Church. From
checking Indymedia this morning, we can see that fake news reports of
violence at the Australian protests have been posted and subsequently
removed. Regardless of their response here, at this juncture, our
intention is primarily to enlighten the Irish public as a whole.


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Feb 13, 2008

Top Hezbollah operative is killed in Syria

Feb 13, 2008

BEIRUT: A senior Hezbollah military commander, one of the world's most wanted men for his alleged links to a string of bombings, hijackings and kidnappings during the 1980s and 1990s, has been killed, Hezbollah said Wednesday. The Shiite group accused Israel of orchestrating the killing.

Security officials in Lebanon said the man, Imad Mughniyeh, who was believed to be behind attacks in 1983 on the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut and the terrorist hijacking of a TWA jetliner in 1985, died in a car bomb in Damascus on Tuesday night. His organization may have also been involved in the bombing of the Khobar Towers military residence in Saudi Arabia in 1996, in which 17 Americans were killed.

"With pride and honor we announce that a great Jihadi leader has joined the procession of martyrs in the Islamic resistance," said a statement read on Hezbollah's Al Manar television station. "The martyr was killed at the hands of the Israeli Zionists."

Israel officially distanced itself from the killing and, without specifically naming Mughniyeh, said it was looking into the attack in Syria. But some former Israeli security officials did not hide their satisfaction at Mughniyeh's assassination.

Dani Yatom, a Labor lawmaker and former chief of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, called Mughniyeh's death "a great achievement for the free world in its fight on terror." At one point, Mughniyeh had a U.S. price tag on his head of $25 million.

U.S. officials assert that Mughniyeh was behind the bombings in Beirut in 1983. A car bomb at the U.S. Embassy in April that year killed 63 people, including 17 Americans, while a truck bomb in October at a Marine compound killed 241 American troops.

The United States have also asserted Mughniyeh was behind the torture and murder of William Buckley, the CIA station chief in Beirut, in 1984; the kidnapping and murder of Lieutenant Colonel William Richard Higgins of the Marines, who was on peacekeeping duty in Lebanon in 1988; and, through the Islamic Jihad Organization, the seizure of Western hostages in Beirut during the 1980s.

Mughniyeh is also wanted for the hijacking in June 1985 of a TWA flight. During the hijacking, an American was killed and 39 Americans were held hostage for 17 days. It is the only terrorist action for which he has been indicted in the United States.

In a statement, the office of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel said: "Israel rejects the attempt by terrorist elements to ascribe to it any involvement whatsoever in this incident." Gideon Ezra, a minister from the governing Kadima party and former deputy chief of the Shin Bet internal intelligence agency, told Israel Radio on Wednesday that many countries had an interest in killing Mughniyeh but that "Israel, too, was hurt by him, more than other countries in recent years."

Ezra said, "Of course I don't know who killed him, but whoever did should be congratulated." According to witnesses, the bombing of the car took place just after 10:30 p.m. Monday in Tantheem Kafer Souseh, an upscale neighborhood of Damascus, close to an Iranian school and a police station.

The car, believed to be a black sport-utility vehicle, was badly damaged in the attack, "like a shredded metal can," according to Housham Nasaiseh, who works in a candy shop nearby and arrived at the scene a few minutes after the explosion. At least nine other cars were damaged.

By Wednesday morning, the destroyed car had been towed away, the scene had been cleared and the only signs of the attack were a black mark on the ground and damage to nearby buildings.

As well as being described as an archterrorist with strong links to Iran, Mughniyeh was believed in Israel to be a master of disguises who may have undergone several rounds of plastic surgery in order to evade capture.

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Patarkatsishvili, a Georgian opposition leader, dies suddenly in Britain

MOSCOW: Arkadi "Badri" Patarkatsishvili, the exiled Georgian oligarch and opposition politician who had accused the pro-Western Georgian government of tilting toward autocracy and corruption, died unexpectedly at his home outside London, the authorities said.

Patarkatsishvili had been accused in Georgia of plotting a coup against President Mikheil Saakashvili, and faced criminal charges at the time of his death.

His friends at first said he appeared to have suffered a heart attack Tuesday night. But intrigue followed Patarkatsishvili in death as it had in life, and the British police said an autopsy would be required to be certain of the cause of death.

Boris Berezovksy, the exiled Russian oligarch and bitter foe of President Vladimir Putin of Russia, indirectly suggested the possibility of foul play, although there was no publicly known evidence as yet that pointed to that. Berezovksy was Patarkatsishvili's long-time business partner.

"I have lost my closest friend," Berezovsky said in a statement. He added, "I shall make no further comment on the circumstances of Badri's death. I shall wait for the authorities to complete their investigation."

Patarkatsishvili, 52, had long been one of Georgia's most public citizens, amassing a fortune after the fall of the Soviet Union and facing accusations at home and in Russia of corruption and white-collar crime on a monumental scale.

But by using his own money and his editorial influence at Imedi TV, a television station he owned in Georgia, he became a prominent and influential opposition leader, and even in exile emerged as a foil to Saakashvili and his government.

Saakashvili, who rose to power in a bloodless revolution in 2003, has cast himself as a democrat who is pushing post-Soviet Georgia toward the West. He had closely aligned himself with the United States.

But by Patarkatsishvili's telling, Georgia's young president was an arrogant and impulsive neophyte who squandered the revolution's potential by crushing opposition politicians, succumbing to corruption and turning the police against crowds of demonstrators last November in Tbilisi, the capital.

In that episode, the police used rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannons and batons on thousands of unarmed demonstrators. Saakashvili declared a state of emergency and masked police officers ransacked the Imedi TV station - a deep setback to Georgia's effort to portray itself as a modernizing state.

Patarkatsishvili said that the crackdown was evidence that Saakashvili had not only failed to fulfill his promises, but had become covetous of power and placed himself beyond the checks and balances of a truly democratic government.

He also suggested that Saakashvili had prepared in advance for a confrontation with the public, at the expense of investing in social programs or public works.

"Now we know what he has spent our citizens' money on," he told The New York Times, after seeing the formidable roll-out of new police equipment used against the demonstrators, many of whom were poor.

Patarkatsishvili ran unsuccessfully for president in elections in January, but his own credibility was undercut by audiotapes that appeared to show him plotting to overthrow the government by offering to pay a Georgian law enforcement official to organize a coup.

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Hillary Clinton taking aim at Texas and Ohio

NEW YORK: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and her advisers, increasingly convinced that she has been boxed into a must-win position in the Ohio and Texas primaries on March 4, have begun reassuring anxious donors and superdelegates that the nomination is not slipping away from her, aides said.

Clinton, who already on Tuesday was campaigning in Texas - though contests in Wisconsin and Hawaii were only a week away - held a buck-up-the-troops conference call with donors, superdelegates and other supporters Monday; several said afterward that she had sounded tired and a little down, but determined about Ohio and Texas.

They also said they believed recent losses might jeopardize her competitiveness in those states.

"She has to win both Ohio and Texas comfortably, or she's out," said one superdelegate who has endorsed Clinton, and who spoke on condition of anonymity to share a candid assessment. "The campaign is starting to come to terms with that." Campaign advisers, also speaking privately in order to speak plainly, confirmed this view.

Primaries were being held Tuesday in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, and Clinton's rival, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, has shown strength in all three.

While Clinton is banking on a strong showing March 4, Obama has been concentrating on the near-term primaries, hoping to fashion a string of victories.

Several Clinton superdelegates, whose votes could help decide the nomination, say they have been wavering in the face of Obama's momentum after victories in the state of Washington, Nebraska, Louisiana and Maine last weekend.

Some said that they, like the hundreds of uncommitted superdelegates still at stake, might ultimately "go with the flow," in the words of one, and support the candidate who appears to show the most strength in the coming primaries.

Asked Tuesday about the March 4 contests, Obama said he was focused on the day's primaries.

"It's very early," he said while campaigning in Washington with Mayor Adrian Fenty, like him a rising young Democrat with a white mother and a black father. "We haven't even gotten through this yet."

On the Republican side, Senator John McCain was back on the Senate floor Tuesday, where he received a warm welcome even from some erstwhile critics. Senator Thad Cochran, a Mississippi Republican who recently said the thought of McCain as the party's nominee sent a chill down his spine, gave the Arizonan a smile and a hug, The Associated Press reported.

Though McCain holds an almost insurmountable lead in delegates, he was hoping in the Tuesday primaries to stop the progress of his last major opponent, Mike Huckabee.

The Clinton team, for its part, has been trying to shift the spotlight off their candidate's short-term challenges and focus instead on "the long run," in the words of her senior strategist, Mark Penn.

"She has consistently shown an electoral resiliency in difficult situations that have made her a winner," Penn said. "Senator Obama has in fact never had a serious Republican challenger."

Superdelegates are Democratic Party leaders and elected officials, and their votes could decide the nomination if neither candidate wins enough delegates to clinch a victory.

As polls show Obama gaining strength in Wisconsin and Hawaii, advisers, donors and superdelegates said they were ready for a possible Obama sweep of the other contests in February.

Some donors also expressed concern about a widening money imbalance: Obama fund-raisers say he is taking in roughly $1 million a day, while Clinton fund-raisers say she is taking in about half of that. Clinton's aides say that the campaign was virtually broke as of the Feb. 5 primaries, but that finances have stabilized.

"Clearly, things have not been going as great as they were with her victories on Super Tuesday, and we can't wait to get to March 4," said Alan Patricof, one of Clinton's national finance chairmen.

Clinton will campaign in Wisconsin, an adviser said, but the bulk of her time will be devoted to campaigning in Ohio, Texas and a bit in Rhode Island.

While Clinton's advisers and allies emphasize that she has the time and the financial resources to regroup, they say she will have to take more significant steps to shore up her candidacy beyond the staff shakeup she engineered Sunday, when she replaced her campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle, with another veteran adviser, Maggie Williams.

Campaign advisers said they expected Williams to bring new energy to the campaign team and to encourage Clinton to show more spunk and determination on the campaign trail. They do not expect the candidate's political message to change appreciably.

Clinton will deploy her husband, former President Bill Clinton, in the March 4 states, particularly Ohio.

But some Clinton donors and superdelegates worry that strategic decisions by the campaign, like a reliance on the contested votes in Florida and Michigan eventually being counted, show faulty thinking.

"Obama has momentum that has to be stopped by March 4," said a Democrat who is both a Clinton superdelegate and major donor, and who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Still, Hassan Nemazee, a national finance chairman for Clinton, pointed to the campaign's announcement that Clinton had raised $10 million online so far this month.

"I predict for you we will have our best single fund-raising month in February, and that's significant," he said.

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2 boys, 2 sides, 2 beds in an Israeli hospital ward

TEL HASHOMER, Israel: Two small boys lay sedated in a hospital ward in this Tel Aviv suburb on Tuesday, unaware of each other or of the growing commotion around them.

One was Osher Twito, 8, an Israeli boy from the town of Sderot, was seriously wounded Saturday by shrapnel from a rocket fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza. The other was Yakoub Natil, almost 7, a Palestinian who was brought here three weeks ago from Gaza City after he was badly hurt by shrapnel from an Israeli Air Force strike on Jan. 18.

Sderot is less than two miles from the Gaza border, making it a prime target for the crude and inaccurate rockets that have killed 13 Israelis over the past seven years. Now Osher and Yakoub lie in booths across from each other a few paces apart in the pediatric intensive care department of the Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer.

Here, the conflict's pain has been compressed into an improbable intimacy. There is pathos. "The Palestinian boy on one side, Osher on the other — it's something that gets to your heart," said Prof. Gideon Paret, the director of the department.

But there is anger and repudiation as well, and the proximity of the two boys has not brought reconciliation. Osher's parents, Iris and Rafi Twito, are outraged at the thought of comparing the boys' cases. They refuse to allow them to be photographed together.

"The Palestinians aim to hurt our sons and rejoice at their injuries," they said in a statement issued Tuesday, "while neither we, nor our army, intended to hurt them."

The statement, relayed through a hospital spokeswoman, continued: "The State of Israel took the decision to treat the boy," meaning Yakoub. "That is its right. We protest the fact that he is lying here by our son and his brother." Osher's older brother Rami, 19, is being treated in another wing of the same hospital.

Many major hospitals in Israel regularly treat Palestinians and are no strangers to such mixed feelings or incongruous scenes. Here at Sheba, the anomalies are cast in sharper relief.

This was a military hospital from 1948, when Israel fought its war of independence, until 1953. It has since operated as a civilian hospital that works in special cooperation with the army, treating many of its soldiers and charged with educating its medical corps.

"It's like a theater of the absurd," said Prof. Zeev Rotstein, the chief executive officer and director of the hospital. "You have army doctors in white gowns alongside Palestinian doctors who are being trained, at the same time treating Israeli casualties of terrorist attacks and Palestinians who may have been hurt in army actions."

Yakoub was hurt when Israel bombed an empty, half-ruined Palestinian Interior Ministry building that had been used by Hamas. He was at a wedding party with his family next door. The army said that it had meant to hit the ministry building and that the raid was a response to days of increased rocket fire, mostly aimed at Sderot.

Osher and Rami were hit in the street. They had gone out to buy a birthday present for their father when the rocket crashed down.

Yakoub's grandmother, Amira Natil, 52, was at the boy's bedside on Tuesday. She and Yakoub came here with Israeli permission three days after the airstrike from the more basic hospital Al Shifa in Gaza City. "Thank Allah, the lord of the universe," Amira Natil said, kissing her hand and placing it on her brow in a gesture of religious reverence.

Amira Natil had not met Osher's parents and was speaking shortly before they issued their statement, unaware of its contents. About the Israeli boy, she said: "They are children. Haram," using an Arabic word that denotes something shameful, forbidden or taboo.

The story of the Twito brothers has particularly moved Israelis, in large part because of their youth. Osher, described by his family as a keen soccer player, has had his left leg amputated from the knee down. The doctors are still battling to save his right leg. Rami suffered damage to his legs, too. Both boys were transferred to Sheba on Sunday from Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon, a city north of Gaza that has come under rocket fire.

Yakoub was wounded in both legs and his spine. He suffered renal failure but is said by the hospital staff to be getting better. "This is the best day he's had," his grandmother said.

It is not clear who will pay for Yakoub's treatment. "To date we are treating him without any financial commitment from the Palestinian authorities or anyone else," said Ulrike Haen, a spokeswoman for Sheba.

In similar cases, she said, money has come from the Israeli Ministry of Defense; or from the Peres Center for Peace, a nonprofit organization founded in 1996 by Shimon Peres, the current president of Israel; or from the Palestinian Authority, with supplements from the hospital.

Since Hamas took control of Gaza last June after a brief but bloody factional war, the issue of Gaza residents' access to medical treatment in Israel has become increasingly charged. Israel refuses all dealings with Hamas, whose charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, and has recently blockaded the area in response to the intensified rocket fire.

In an article published in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Tuesday, Ahmed Youssef, an adviser to the Hamas government in Gaza, wrote that "30 people have died in the last month for lack of medical care brought on by the embargo."

According to recent statistics from the Israeli Coordination and Liaison Administration, more than 7,000 permits were issued for Palestinian patients from Gaza in 2007, along with nearly 8,000 permits for their escorts, representing a 50 percent increase over 2006. Shadi Yassin, a spokesman for the Coordination and Liaison Administration, said Tuesday that medical patients were still leaving Gaza every day to receive treatment in Israel.

But Yakoub is the exception, not the rule. "We know of others who can't get out and die there," said Professor Rotstein of Sheba's pediatric intensive care department. "It is so complicated now."

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U.S. mortgage crisis spreads beyond subprime loans

NEW YORK: The U.S. credit crisis is no longer just a subprime mortgage problem.

As the world's largest economy grapples with the worst housing slump in two decades, people with good credit histories are falling behind on house payments, auto loans and credit cards at an accelerating pace.

The problem, spurred by a sharp decline in home prices and a clampdown on loans by banks, poses a new a threat to the housing market and weakening economy, which some specialists say is in a recession or headed for one.

The Bush administration, scrambling to keep the U.S. economy from skidding too sharply, on Tuesday released a plan to help qualified homeowners in distress hang on to their homes.

The initiative was announced as Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor, offered to reinsure the municipal bond portfolios of three troubled bond guarantors, a move that, together with the Bush plan, bouyed Wall Street investors searching for any good news about the troubled mortgage market.

But Buffett's offer, already rejected by one of the companies, would do little to alleviate the problems they are facing on the guarantees they have made to investors who hold securities backed by mortgages, consumer loans and other assets. (Page 11)

Until recently, people with prime credit histories, who tend to pay their bills on time and manage their finances well, were viewed as a bulwark against strains posed to the U.S. economy by rising defaults among borrowers with blemished, or subprime, credit.

"This collapse in housing value is sucking in all borrowers," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com.

Like subprime mortgages, many prime loans made in recent years allowed borrowers to pay less initially and face higher adjustable payments a few years later. As long as home prices were rising, borrowers on these terms could refinance their loans or sell their properties to pay off their mortgages.

Although the rise in prime delinquencies is less severe than the one in the subprime market, with prices falling and lenders clamping down, homeowners with solid credit are starting to come under the same financial stress as those with subprime credit.

"Subprime was a symptom of the problem," said James Keegan, a bond portfolio manager at American Century Investments, a mutual fund company. "The problem was, we had a debt or credit bubble."

The bursting of that bubble has led to steep losses across the financial industry. American International Group said Monday that auditors found it might have understated losses on complex financial instruments linked to mortgages and corporate loans.

The turmoil is also stirring fears that some hedge funds may run into trouble.

At the end of September, nearly 4 percent of prime mortgages were past due or in foreclosure, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. That was the highest rate since the group started tracking prime and subprime mortgages separately in 1998.

The delinquency and foreclosure rate for all mortgages, 7.3 percent, is higher than at any time since the group started tracking that data in 1979, largely as a result of the surge in subprime lending during the past few years.

Personal bankruptcy filings, which fell significantly after a 2005 law made it harder to wipe out debts in bankruptcy, are also starting to inch up.

An example of the spreading credit crisis is Don Doyle, a computer engineer at Lockheed Martin who makes a six-figure income and had a stellar credit score in 2004, when he refinanced his home in northern California to take cash out to pay for his daughter's college tuition.

Doyle, 52, is now worried that he will have to file for bankruptcy because he cannot afford to make the higher, variable payments on his mortgage, and he cannot sell his home for more than his $740,000 mortgage.

During the past few years, his mortgage rate rose as high as 7.5 percent, up from an original 3.8 percent, but he managed to negotiate it down to 5.6 percent, where it is now. That new rate, however, is set to rise in the next few months.

"The whole plan was to get out" before his rate reset, he said. "Now, I am caught. I can't sell my house. I'm having a hard time refinancing. I've avoided bankruptcy for months, trying to pull this out of my savings."

The program announced Tuesday by the Bush administration, crafted by six of the largest U.S. lenders, would offer both prime and subprime borrowers who are more than three months behind with their payments the chance to halt foreclosure proceedings for 30 days and work out new loan terms.

Bank of America, Citigroup, Countrywide Financial, JPMorgan Chase, Washington Mutual and Wells Fargo will contact homeowners who are 90 or more days overdue on monthly mortgage payments to work out a way to make the mortgage more affordable.

In a conference call with analysts in December, Kenneth Lewis, the chief executive of Bank of America, said more borrowers appeared to be giving up on their homes as prices fell, noting a "change in social attitudes toward default."

The default rate for prime mortgages is still far lower than for subprime loans, about 24 percent of which are delinquent or in foreclosure. Some economists note that slightly more than a third of American homeowners have paid off their mortgages completely. This group is generally more affluent and contributes more to consumer spending and the economy relative to its size.

Unlike subprime borrowers, who tend to have lower incomes and fewer assets, prime borrowers have greater means to restructure their debts if they lose their jobs or encounter other financial challenges. The recent reductions in short-term interest rates by the Federal Reserve should also help by reducing the reset rate for adjustable-rate loans.

Economists say the rate cuts and the stimulus package are unlikely to make a significant dent in Americans' large debts, because banks have tightened lending standards, and expected rebates from the government will not cover most house payments.

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Obama and McCain sweep 3 primaries

WASHINGTON: Senator Barack Obama rolled to victory by big margins in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia on Tuesday, extending his winning streak over Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to eight Democratic nominating contests.

The outcome provided him his first chance to assert that the Democratic race, which had seemed to be heading into a protracted standoff, is beginning to break in his direction. And it left Clinton facing weeks in which she has few opportunities for the kind of victory that would alter the race in her favor after a string of defeats notable not just for their number but also their magnitude.

In Tuesday's contests, Obama showed impressive strength among not only the groups that have backed him in earlier contests — blacks, younger voters, the affluent and self-described independents — but also among older voters, women and lower-income people, the core of Clinton's support up to now, according to exit polls. Obama also won majorities of white men and Hispanic voters in Virginia, though not in Maryland.

On the Republican side, Senator John McCain won in Virginia over Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, all but eliminating any threat that Huckabee might have posed to McCain's status as his party's all but certain nominee.

Huckabee got a boost from conservative and evangelical Christian voters in the state, but not enough to overcome McCain's vote among moderates and non-evangelical Christians. McCain also prevailed in Maryland and the District of Columbia, and turned his attention to attacks on the Democrats.

McCain said his Democratic opponents "promise a new approach to governing, but offer only the policies of a political orthodoxy that insists the solution to government's failures is to simply make it bigger."

He also said of Huckabee, "He certainly keeps things interesting maybe a little too interesting at times tonight, I must confess."

In all, 168 pledged delegates were at stake for the Democrats and 116 for the Republicans. The Democrats will divide delegates proportionally to the candidates' vote statewide and at the congressional level while the Republican races were winner-take-all.

Obama's victories gave him a lead over Clinton among pledged delegates, according to preliminary counts by the Obama campaign and some news organizations. Obama aides calculate that he also leads in delegate counts that include so-called superdelegates, the party officers and elected officials who control 20 percent of the total delegates to the Democratic convention.

Clinton's campaign has suffered in recent weeks from overspending and internal upheaval, including the demotion of the campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle, late last week and the resignation Tuesday of the deputy campaign manager, Mike Henry.

Obama, looking ahead to the next contest, was in Madison, Wisconsin, when the results came in. In remarks to a boisterous rally, he did not mention Clinton by name. But over loud applause he declared, "We also know that at this moment the cynics can no longer say our hope is false. We have now won east and west, north and south, and across the heartland of this country we love."

Clinton essentially conceded the three contests Tuesday morning by leaving Washington to campaign in Texas. She scheduled four days of appearances in Wisconsin, which holds its primary next Tuesday, but where Obama already has a significant ground operation and is spending heavily on advertising. Hawaii, where Obama largely grew up, also holds its nominating caucuses next Tuesday. But the Clinton campaign's major efforts will be in Texas and Ohio, which vote on March 5. Rhode Island and Vermont also hold primaries that day.

Clinton's advisers say she will focus on winning over voters in Ohio and Texas to halt Obama's growing momentum and to try to stay close in the count of pledged delegates. The Clinton campaign hopes that Ohio, with large numbers of lower-income and older voters, and Texas, with a large Latino electorate, will serve as a seawall against the Obama surge. The Clinton campaign is also looking to Pennsylvania, which votes on April 22, to provide another big-state victory and to stay competitive in the delegate chase.

"We are going to sweep across Texas in the next three weeks bringing our message about what we need in America, the kind of president we need on Day One to be commander in chief and turn the economy around," Clinton said at a rally in El Paso Tuesday night, making no reference to her losses back East. "I'm tested. I'm ready. Let's make it happen."

But in the meantime, Obama will have a chance to begin convincing his party that his series of convincing wins in the last week represents a turning point in the campaign and that now is the time for Democrats to begin rallying around him as the strongest candidate to take back the White House.

Turnout was brisk in all three jurisdictions, with long lines at polling stations but few serious problems reported. Bill O'Field, spokesman for the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics said that turnout had surpassed previous primaries and some precincts ran out of paper ballots but that voting was never halted because the stations had electronic voting machines as well.

In Maryland, polls stayed open an extra 90 minutes, until 9:30 p.m., because of bad road conditions caused by sleet and freezing rain.

Three in 10 voters in Tuesday's Republican primary in Virginia described themselves as very conservative, and two-thirds of them supported Huckabee. And six in 10 evangelical Christians, who accounted for nearly half of Republican voters here, backed Huckabee.

McCain, for his part, had an edge among voters who said they were "somewhat" conservative, as well as broad support among moderates and non-evangelical Christians.

But the exit poll further underscored some of McCain's potential vulnerabilities among conservatives going forward. Half of all Republican voters in Virginia said his positions on the issues were not conservative enough. And while 7 in 10 conservative voters said they would be satisfied if McCain wins the nomination, fewer than four in 10 of them would be "very" satisfied.

Obama's strength in Virginia and Maryland crossed a range of demographic groups, according to exit polls conducted by Edison/Mitofsky for the National Election Pool. He received support from voters across all income and education levels, as well as across political ideologies, from those who described themselves as liberal, moderate and conservative Democrats. And independents, who were allowed to vote in Virginia's Democratic primary and accounted for 2 in 10 voters there, supported Obama two to one over Clinton.

Clinton received the support of a majority of white women voting in Virginia and Maryland, but Obama countered with overwhelming support among black voters, men and women alike. Among white men, Obama won a majority in Virginia and ran close to Clinton in Maryland.

The two Democratic candidates roughly split the white vote in the two states, while Obama was backed by nearly 90 percent of black voters.

More than six in ten men in both states supported Obama, as did a majority of women, big changes from numbers in earlier primaries.

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Feb 12, 2008

Obama's Wave Fails to Sink Extraordinary Foe

Feb 12, 2008

After storming five presidential-nominating contests over the weekend, Sen. Barack Obama is favored to take three more primaries today and two later this month -- a potential 10-contest run that will give him wins in nearly half the states compared with Sen. Hillary Clinton's total of just 10 wins since voting began in Iowa.

In another year, against another candidate, Illinois's Sen. Obama might be on the verge of nabbing the Democratic nomination. A few Democratic strategists, and some Republicans, think he is almost there now. But Sen. Clinton is no average candidate, and party rules give the New York senator enough convention delegates to weather February's squalls until contests in March.

[Barack Obama]

The campaign's calculation about the March 4 races in big states Texas and Ohio has elevated them to must-win status for Sen. Clinton, said Democratic strategists. She leads in state polls, but that has been true in other states where Sen. Obama came from behind to win. And he is pushing hard; flush with funds, the Obama campaign begins statewide television advertising today in both Texas and Ohio, promoting his health-care plans.

He has momentum and money, and the potential for a month of good news that will further stoke both. Meanwhile, Sen. Clinton recently loaned her campaign $5 million to goad others to give, and, in a further take-charge signal to discouraged donors, replaced longtime campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle and put out a net for additional new political hands to right the ship.

Today, Sen. Obama is favored to win the "Potomac Primary" in neighboring Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. A week later come caucuses in his childhood home of Hawaii and a primary in Wisconsin, a state historically receptive to reformist candidates like Sen. Obama, and one familiar with the candidate from nearby Chicago.

"I think he's just about put it away," said Joe Trippi, former senior strategist to John Edwards, the former North Carolina senator who abandoned his own presidential campaign last month. "He doesn't have it yet. But all the momentum, all the victories are on his side." Sen. Clinton, he added, has "got to do something, and replacing Patti isn't enough."

[Hillary Clinton]

Stumping yesterday in Maryland, Sen. Clinton dismissed a reporter's remark that hers didn't look like a winning campaign. "Well, to the contrary, I think it exactly is," she said, noting big-state victories in last week's Super Tuesday sweepstakes, including in California and New York. "I am absolutely looking to Ohio and Texas because we know those are states that represent the broad electorate in this country." Her $5 million loan had spawned twice that in donations in the past six days, she added.

Sen. Obama, however, raised $32 million in January -- a record for either party -- and could well raise as much this month, campaign advisers said. While her crowds remain large and enthusiastic, his are bigger, filling small arenas.

For Republican strategists and leaders, facing divisions over presumptive nominee John McCain, the Arizona senator, and demoralized over President Bush's and the party's unpopularity, the potency of both Democrats' candidacies is both fearsome and impressive.

"The Obama wave is unlike anything I have seen during my career. It would have totally swamped any traditional candidate," said Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducts The Wall Street Journal/NBC News polls with Democratic pollster Peter Hart. "The fact that Clinton is still standing and breaking even is actually a remarkable statement about how unique a candidate she is and what an exceptionally strong candidate."

Though Sen. Obama has won far more states, he and Sen. Clinton are roughly equal in delegates, with more than 1,000 apiece toward the 2,025 needed for the nomination at the August convention in Denver. Under party rules, all states must allocate delegates proportionately to each candidate's vote in primaries or caucuses, though states' formulas vary.


Sen. Obama's campaign said he has 84 more "pledged" delegates, which are those won in the state contests, after his weekend wins in the Louisiana primary and caucuses in Nebraska, Washington state, the Virgin Islands and Maine -- the last an upset. Sen. Clinton's campaign figures she has a dozen more delegates than her rival, counting her advantage among the "superdelegates" -- party leaders, governors and members of Congress -- who have committed.

The Clinton campaign had anticipated the post-Super Tuesday February losses -- though not the two-to-one margins of victory in several -- and early on sought to manage expectations. In late January, Clinton advisers insisted that beyond Super Tuesday, on Feb. 5, the next meaningful contests were in Texas and Ohio in March -- effectively playing down the expected string of Obama victories for most of February.

"Apparently they have an 11-month calendar over there that's missing the month of February," Obama strategist David Axelrod said yesterday. "At some point this becomes a matter of math. We are building a lead among pledged delegates. And as we look at the rest of the states, the question is: Can they even that up?"

In managing expectations for February, the Clinton campaign has taken the risk of raising them for March 4. "If they lose Texas, it's bad," Mr. Trippi said.

The Clinton campaign banks on support there from Hispanic voters; about six out of 10 have given Sen. Clinton support in other states with significant Hispanic populations. But Texas holds a complicated combination of a primary and caucuses. Sen. Obama has won most caucuses to date, reflecting his grass-roots appeal as the fresh-faced change candidate, especially among younger voters who have the time and inclination to volunteer for the get-out-the-vote operations so necessary to time-consuming caucuses.

As for the Texas primary, delegates are allocated to the winners in each of 31 state Senate districts, with more delegates in districts with better records of Democratic turnout. Consequently, some districts with heavily black populations, which have overwhelmingly favored Sen. Obama, have more delegates at stake than those in mostly Hispanic districts, where voter participation is relatively low.

"We expected this would be a very difficult period for us," said Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson. But, he added, "We believe next month is going to be a better month than it will be for him." Then, Mr. Wolfson predicted, the two would continue battling for delegates "on through the spring and likely to Denver."

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