Communications black out shuts down web and phones in Egypt

A sort of undeclared electronic curfew has descended on Egypt as the government of authoritarian ruler (dictator is such an ugly word) Hosni Mubarak has rushed to shut down any form of communication that can allow pro-democracy protesters, activists, and commentators to communicate among themselves or to other citizens.

CNN: Reports say Egypt Web shutdown is coordinated, extensive

Here’s the website of an anti-censorship project from Harvard University which attempts to track censorship of websites around the world: www.Herdict.org

From the Washington Post: US warns against blocking social media, elevates Internet freedom policies A choice tidbit from that article:

The State Department is currently working on plans to spend $30 million on Internet freedom projects, including software that enables activists to break through firewalls imposed by oppressive governments.

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New meta-research suggests many — maybe most — medical research studies are wrong

A disturbing finding emerged from the meta-research overseen by Dr. John P.A. Ioannidis, new chief of Stanford University’s Prevention Research Center: many, perhaps most medical research studies released in the modern era are incomplete, outdated, heavily spun, and often just plain wrong. In addition, he found that while studies that seem to demonstrate the effectiveness of potentially profitable treatments are rushed to publication, studies that find that such treatments are not effective are ‘back-drawered’ — sometimes for many years — in the hope that further study will reverse those findings and vindicate the drugs — and even when they don’t, the delays mean continuing profits for the companies paying for the research and delaying its publication.

Newsweek: Why Almost Everything You Hear About Medicine Is Wrong

Tea Party budget proposals from Paul and Bachmann

Tea Party stars Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. Michelle Bachmann have offered up sketches of how they would cut US federal spending, with Paul appearing to give a little more detail than Bachmann.

Neither would make an real attempt to tackle the real debt growth problems of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, or the huge defense budget. These sectors account for a whopping 80% of  federal spending.

Instead, the Tea Party favorites went after much smaller expenditures that are favorite targets of the far right: education, administration of justice, consumer and environmental protection, Wall Street reform and investor safeguards, and nation’s system of national parks and forests. Those favorite right wing targets don’t account for much — less than a fifth of federal spending — so the proposed cuts have to be eviscerating in order to make even a dent.

CNN’s Money quotes one economist:

“Oh my god. That’s just crazy,” said Isabel Sawhill, an economist who studies fiscal issues at the Brookings Institution. “Really that is wacko.”

What a Tea Party budget looks like

Hackers selling illegal access to military, gov, and educational ‘secure’ sites

As reported in Business Insider, drawn from reports on blogs by security outfit Impervia and Krebs on Security, hackers have set up what looks very much like a typical online storefront to sell access to government, militray, and educational records at various instituions — including root access to sites (full PWN, if you will). It doesn’t take Paypal or credit cards but does take payments in the virtual currency, Liberty Reserve.

More: http://www.businessinsider.com/hackers-sell-access-to-government-military-and-university-websites-2011-1

Health care repeal not working out as well as GOP expected…

In a withering analysis and commentary on the GOP’s show vote on health care repeal, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson lays out the uncomfortable facts that the Republican Party would like to wish away.

Noting that GOP operatives had crowed that scared Democrats would defect to vote in droves for health care reform repeal but that only three Democrats voted for repeal — and they were all Blue Dogs who had been opposed to the bill from the git go — Robinson goes on to offer this (I’ve added bold for emphasis):

The unimpressive vote came at a moment when “the will of the people” on health care is coming into sharper focus. Most polls that offer a simple binary choice – do you like the “Obamacare” law or not – show that the reforms remain narrowly unpopular. Yet a significant fraction of those who are unhappy complain not that the reform law went too far but that it didn’t go far enough. I think of these people as the “public option” crowd.

A recent Associated Press poll found that 41 percent of those surveyed opposed the reform law and 40 percent supported it. But when asked what Congress should do, 43 percent said the law should be modified so that it does more to change the health-care system. Another 19 percent said it should be left as it is.

More troubling for the GOP, the AP poll found that just 26 percent of respondents wanted Congress to repeal the reform law completely.

Robinson goes on to skewer GOP claims that the reform bill would be bad for the economy.

The CBO, which “scores” the impact of proposed legislation, calculated that the health-reform law will reduce federal deficits by at least $143 billion through 2019. Confronted with the fact that repeal would deepen the nation’s fiscal woes, Republicans simply claimed the CBO estimate to be rubbish. Who cares what the CBO says, anyway?

Er, um, Republicans care, at least when it’s convenient. Delving into the CBO’s analysis, they unearthed a finding that they proclaimed as definitive: The reform law would eliminate 650,000 jobs. Hence “Job-Killing” in the repeal bill’s title.

One problem, though: The CBO analysis contains no such figure. It’s an extrapolation of a rough estimate of an anticipated effect that no reasonable person would describe as “job-killing.” What the budget office actually said is that there are people who would like to withdraw from the workforce – sometimes because of a chronic medical condition – but who feel compelled to continue working so they can keep their health insurance. Once the reforms take effect, these individuals will have new options. That’s where the “lost” jobs supposedly come from.

More: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/20/AR2011012003890.html

Alabama Governor apologizes

Cut back to Fox News…

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – It took more than two days for Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley to apologize for controversial remarks he made during a Martin Luther King day speech in which he condemned the beliefs of non-Christians.
[…]
On Wednesday afternoon, Bentley issued a public apology: “If anyone from other religions felt disenfranchised by the language, I want to say I am sorry. I am sorry if I offended anyone in any way.”

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/01/19/alabama-governor-apologizes-controversial-mlk-speech

New Alabama governor says only Christians are his ‘brothers and sisters’

The newly sworn in Republican governor of Alabama lost no time in making it clear that he had limited sympathies for non-Christians, only 3 days after his inauguration.

“There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit. But if you have been adopted in God’s family like I have, and like you have, if you’re a Christian and if you’re saved, and the Holy Spirit lives within you just like the Holy Spirit lives within me, then you know what that makes? It makes you and me brothers. And it makes you and me brother and sister.”

But that wasn’t enough, according to Fox News:

Bentley was sworn in shortly before he spoke at the church where the late civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was once a pastor. According to The Birmingham News, during his speech he said it was important for Alabamians to ”love and care for each other.” He also told the crowd he is color blind. But just minutes later, he went on to say if they don’t have the same ‘daddy’ then they are not brothers and sisters.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/01/19/alabama-gov-christians-brothers-sisters/#ixzz1BVuTDTi9