Sex Strike Over Neapolitan Fireworks

From the wet blankets at BBC News:

Naples sex strike over fireworks

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

New Year’s Eve could prove to be something of a damp squib for some men in the Italian city of Naples.

Hundreds of Neapolitan women have pledged to go without sex unless their men promise to refrain from setting off dangerous illegal fireworks.

Local authorities are backing the women and have sent out text messages urging the men to "make love, not explosions".

The women say it is the only way to persuade their partners that they are serious about their concerns.

"Setting off illegal fireworks isn’t celebrating, it’s dangerous," Carolina Staiano, a founder of the campaign, told La Stampa newspaper.

She told women that if their man did not understand the dangers they should "take action and make him sleep on the sofa".



Blagojevich Pick Tied To Unions And Mafia

From a five year old “Union Corruption Update” by the National Legal and Policy Center:

Mob-Infested Chicago Local Suggests Ex-AG as Temporary Supervisor

February 3, 2003

Reeling from the expulsion of three organized crime members from its hierarchy, the new president of a Chicago Laborers union has asked that a frmr. state attny. general be appointed to oversee the union. But with Roland Burris having been a character witness for a Teamster expelled from office for associating with organized crime, it remains an open question whether Burris will be approved.

Last January, the "in-house judge" of the Laborers’ Intl. Union of N. Amer. permanently barred three relatives from holding office in Local 1001. Based on the testimony of law enforcement officials, frmr. mob associates, and informants under witness protection, Peter F.



Jobless Rate Down More Than Expected

From those (endlessly surprised) economic mavens at Reuters:

Jobless claims drop by much more than expected

Wed Dec 31, 2008

By Alister Bull

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The number of U.S. workers filing new claims for jobless benefits slumped 94,000 last week, government data on Wednesday showed, but seasonal factors were likely behind this unexpectedly large decline with the labor market remaining very soft.

Initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits fell to a seasonally adjusted 492,000 in the week ended Dec 27 from an unrevised 586,000 the prior week, the Labor Department said. It was the lowest reading for initial claims since the week ended November 1, 2008, and the steepest decline since 1992

A Labor Department official said the timing of the year-end holidays and volatility in factors used to seasonal adjust the data was likely to blame for the large decline in initial weekly claims, and he warned this situation could persist for several more weeks.



NYT Says Caroline Is Cerebral And Wry

From (a suddenly chastised) New York Times:

In this Nov. 7, 2007 file photo, Caroline Kennedy autographs a copy of her book, ‘A Family Christmas,’ during a book signing at the JFK Library in Boston.

For Kennedy, Self-Promotion Is Unfamiliar


Published: December 30, 2008

In her bid to be appointed the next senator from New York, Caroline Kennedy has zigzagged across the state and talked with dozens of officials and community leaders. She has aired views on topics from the Iraq war to the auto industry bailout and submitted to a round of press interviews.

But after a lifetime of being wooed by others — to speak at events, to write books, to lend her aura of celebrity and glamour to this or that cause — it seems clear that Ms.



Obama’s Online Trolls Stay On The Job

From a delighted Associated Press:

This undated image provided by President-elect Barack Obama’s website shows the front page of the website.

Obama online supporters key to pushing his agenda

Tue Dec 30, 2008


HONOLULU – President-elect Barack Obama’s top asset in pushing his agenda will not be his Cabinet secretaries or aides, but rather his online network.

Obama’s political e-mail list tops 13 million names, a digital force that the incoming White House can tap to push for his legislation, tamp down critics or bolster popular support. It’s also a way for Obama to reach into every state, every city, and every neighborhood.

A study released Tuesday found that a quarter of Obama voters said they would continue to work online to support the new administration.



Blago Names Black Atty To Obama Seat

From Chicago’s local news outlet, WGN-9:

Then Governor-elect Rod Blagojevich introduces his board of advisors, including Roland Burris (to the governor’s left) in November 2002.

Blagojevich to name Burris to Senate

December 30, 2008

Gov. Rod Blagojevich is expected today to name former Illinois Atty. Gen. Roland Burris to replace President-elect Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate.

The action comes despite warnings by Democratic Senate leaders that they would not seat anyone appointed by the disgraced governor who faces criminal charges of trying to sell the post, sources familiar with the decision said.

Shortly after Obama’s Nov. 4 victory, Burris made known his interest in an appointment to the Senate but was never seriously considered, according to Blagojevich insiders. But in the days following Blagojevich’s arrest, and despite questions over the taint of a Senate appointment, Burris stepped up his efforts to win the governor’s support.



‘Jena 6’ Attacker Mychal Bell Shoots Himself

From those straight-shooters at CNN:

Mychal Bell, right, one of the Jena Six, hugs Rev. Al Sharpton after leaving the LaSalle Parish Courthouse in Jena, La., Thursday, Sept. 27, 2007.

‘Jena 6’ figure shoots himself

(CNN) — A teenager whose arrest in a racially charged assault case drew thousands of protesters to his rural Louisiana hometown was in a hospital early Tuesday after a shooting that his lawyer said was accidental.

Mychal Bell was cleaning a gun when it accidentally discharged, shooting him in the shoulder, his attorney, Carol Powell-Lexing, told CNN. He had surgery Monday night at a hospital in Monroe, Louisiana, and has not yet been able to talk, she said.

Monroe police Sgt. Cassandra Wooten said the wound was not life-threatening.



McKinney, Aid To Hamas Turned Back

From those champions of peace at Al Jazeera:

Former U.S. congresswoman Cynthia McKinney is seen in front of boat before setting sail with boxes of medical supplies aboard, for Gaza from the Cypriot port of Larnaca, Cyprus, Monday, Dec. 29, 2008.

Israeli vessel hits Gaza-bound boat

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A small boat, damaged as it tried to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, has arrived in the Lebanese port of Tyre.

The Dignity started taking on water after it was hit by an Israeli naval vessel as it approached the Israeli coast with its cargo of medical aid.

The Free Gaza Movement, which organised the attempt to reach the territory , said their boat was "rammed" and shots were fired when at least four Israeli vessels confronted them in international waters.



Obama Kin Will Just Be Human Interest

From a very understanding Politico:

Obamas may come out of woodwork

By: Daniel Libit
December 29, 2008

Just days before the election, the media focused briefly on the news that Barack Obama’s paternal aunt was living illegally in public housing in Boston.

While the story didn’t get much traction, it offered a glimpse of things to come: With the spotlight shining so hard on the next president, distant family members are likely to get caught up in the glare…

The Obama family tree, by contrast, is a veritable ancestral Banyan, with roots and branches extending to four continents. There are many half-siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles. That means there may be many stories to tell—but also many possible sources of heartburn

Without prompting, the media took up its own fascinations with Auma Obama, the president-elect’s Kenyan born half-sister, who is now a social worker in Britain, and George Hussein Onyango Obama, a half-brother who was discovered, by Italian Vanity Fair, to be living the hutted life on the edge of Nairobi.



Reuters: A Mortgage Meltdown Tragedy

From those shameless heart-wringers at Reuters:

How one family’s mortgage is linked to meltdown

By Daniel Trotta Daniel Trotta – Mon Dec 29

HAMPTON BAYS, New York (Reuters) – Cynthia Goldrick’s daughter is in and out of the hospital for brain surgery, her mother has Stage 4 lung cancer and her father has moved into a home for the elderly.

So when the Goldrick family’s adjustable rate mortgage reset while husband Patrick was off work for a job-related injury, it eliminated the thin margin between their income and the mortgage payment and put them on the road to foreclosure

The Goldricks took out a $375,000 mortgage in 2005, when they refinanced a previous mortgage on their 1,800-square-foot (167-square-meter) house in semirural Hampton Bays, some 90 miles east of New York city.



What, No Taxpayer Bailout For The Arts?

A timely editorial from a terribly concerned Washington Post:

No Bailout for the Arts?

By Michael Kaiser
Monday, December 29, 2008; Page A15

While government bailouts are being offered or considered for financial institutions, the auto industry, homeowners, and so many other needy and worthy sectors, one group is quickly and rather quietly falling apart: our nation’s arts organizations. In the past few months, dozens of opera companies, theater companies, dance organizations, museums and symphonies have either closed or suffered major cash crises.

As someone who has made a career out of fixing troubled organizations, I know that the problems faced by arts groups are often related to poor management and governance. I also know that the difficulty in improving productivity in the arts is a central cause of our financial challenges: It takes as much time to play Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony today as it did when the piece was composed, and the same number of actors are required for "Hamlet" as when Shakespeare wrote the play more than 400 years ago.



Caroline’s 366 Acre Estate Worth $50M

From from the inimitable New York Post:

In this file photo of  May 20, 2004, Caroline Kennedy laughs at a joke by New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein, left, during a visit to Public School 11 in New York. 



December 29, 2008

Forget Chappaqua.

This amazing Martha’s Vineyard spread will be the next home-away-from-the-Beltway for New York’s junior senator if Caroline Kennedy is tapped to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The 366-acre estate – worth at least $50 million – just underwent a major renovation and rezoning that will keep it the exclusive province of Kennedy, 51.

It’s also the spot where she got her first call to public service, six years before she launched her campaign for Hillary Clinton’s soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat.



With War Now Won, Networks Leave Iraq

Buried in the back pages of the “Media & Advertising” section of the New York Times:

Richard Engel, a top correspondent for NBC, is rotating in and out of Baghdad.

TV News Winds Down Operations on Iraq War

Published: December 28, 2008

Quietly, as the United States presidential election and its aftermath have dominated the news, America’s three broadcast network news divisions have stopped sending full-time correspondents to Iraq.

“The war has gone on longer than a lot of news organizations’ ability or appetite to cover it,” said Jane Arraf, a former Baghdad bureau chief for CNN who has remained in Iraq as a contract reporter for The Christian Science Monitor.

Joseph Angotti, a former vice president of NBC News, said he could not recall any other time when all three major broadcast networks lacked correspondents in an active war zone that involved United States forces.



Egyptians Fire On Fleeing Palestinians

From a confused Associated Press:

Egyptian border police look at the smoke rising during an Israeli air strike that hit along the Egyptian border with Gaza seen from the Egyptian border crossing in Rafah, Egypt Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008.

EQYPT – Border guard killed in clashes with Palestinians

Published: Monday | December 29, 2008

Palestinians breached the border fence with Egypt in several places and hundreds crossed, prompting clashes with Egyptian security that left one border guard dead, said an Egyptian security official.

Palestinian gunmen and border guards traded fire and an Egyptian major was shot twice in the stomach and killed, said the security official.

Palestinians breached the border in four places along its nine-mile (14 kilometres) length, allowing hundreds of residents to pour into Egypt.



Caroline In Her Own, You Know, Words

From the Associated Press, via YouTube:

Mrs. Schlossberg is almost as articulate as the Anointed One off teleprompter.



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