Articles by imkaan

Elizabeth Flock writes in Washington Post

If you were watching the Oscars … you would have seen an ad that said only one percent of the money the Humane Society of the United States raises from the public goes to local, hands-on pet shelters. The ad was financed by a Web site called

But are the reports genuine?

Both Web sites that released the reports are part of the Center for Consumer Freedom, an NGO founded by Richard Berman, a Washington D.C., lawyer, public relations executive, and lobbyist. Berman runs at least 20 others pro-business non-profit Web sites, including, and Berman has long come under fire by activists who say his NGOs are “front groups” used to lobby for corporate interests. A site called is entirely devoted to investigating Berman and the studies his groups has released.

Via the Telegraph:

Scores of black-clad female “ninja” fighters whose ages range from 5 to 56 are just a handful of 3,000 women in Iran who are being trained as lethal warriors at a school in Tehran. “We train women to have strength and ability. We have to do everything in our power to protect our homeland,” said Akbar Faraji, who runs the school. One of the fighters who has been training for over 13 years said, “Our aim is for Iranian women to be strengthened and if a problem arises, we will definitely declare our readiness to defend our Islamic homeland.”

Dirk DigglerVia WashPo:

The “Contraband” actor, who was actually scheduled to be on one of the planes that crashed, said:

If I was on that plane with my kids, it wouldn’t have went down like it did. There would have been a lot of blood in that first-class cabin and then me saying, ‘OK, we’re going to land somewhere safely, don’t worry.’

Now you may be thinking, as I did, “This quote must have been taken out of context!” Nope, not really.

Kim Jong-ilReports David Chance and Jack Kim of Reuters:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il died of a heart attack while on a train trip, state media reported on Monday, sparking immediate concern over who is in control of the reclusive state and its nuclear program.

A tearful television announcer dressed in black said the 69-year old had died on Saturday of physical and mental over-work on his way to give “field guidance” — a reference to advice dispensed by the “Dear Leader” on his trips to factories, farms and military bases.

Kim Jong-un, Kim Jong-il’s youngest son, was named by North Korea’s official news agency KCNA as the “great successor” to his father, which lauded him as “the outstanding leader of our party, army and people.”

SamsaraAllie Shah writes in the Star Tribune:

It’s morning time and a little boy with a shaved head and a face shaped like the moon chants a Tibetan prayer.

His high-pitched voice echoes inside the Columbia Heights bedroom that his father has transformed into a lavish prayer room. In here, the 4-year-old forsakes his cartoons and toys to study scripture and learn to pray the Buddhist way.

Big for his age, he looks bigger still perched on an ornate chair draped in crimson and saffron robes. “Only for lamas,” explains his father, Dorje Tsegyal, sitting cross-legged on the floor at his son’s feet.

Jalue Dorjee, you see, is believed to be no ordinary boy.

Book O fMormonReports the AP via Google News:

US financial regulators charged a father and son in Utah state with operating a $220 million property investment Ponzi scheme which targeted fellow members of the Mormon church.

The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Wendell Jacobson and his son Allen Jacobson, of Fountain Green in central Utah, with selling shares in their purported real estate business and using the funds from some investors to pay returns promised to others.

It said that since 2008 the two had solicited investments into their business of ostensibly buying, rehabilitating and then renting out properties.

They appeared to use the memberships in the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints — the Mormon church — “to make connections and win over the trust of prospective investors,” the SEC said.

Securities in their businesses were sold to investors without registering with the SEC as required by law.

Emily Wagster Pettus reports in the AP via Boston Globe:

JACKSON, Miss.— Mississippi voters Tuesday defeated a ballot initiative that would have declared life begins at fertilization, a proposal that supporters sought in the Bible Belt state as a way to prompt a legal challenge to abortion rights nationwide.

The so-called “personhood” initiative was rejected by more than 55 percent of voters, falling far short of the threshold needed for it to be enacted. If it had passed, it was virtually assured of drawing legal challenges because it conflicts with the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a legal right to abortion. Supporters of the initiative wanted to provoke a lawsuit to challenge the landmark ruling.

The measure divided the medical and religious communities and caused some of the most ardent abortion opponents, including Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, to waver with their support.

Via Press TV:

U.S. Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro says the U.S. and the Israeli regime are set to hold their ‘largest and most significant’ joint military maneuvers without offering details about the time and location of the war games.

More than 5,000 U.S. and Israeli forces will take part in the war drills, said Shapiro, in a Saturday speech at the Israeli-sponsored think tank, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). He reportedly did not mention a specific time and location for what observers have described as part of the new U.S.-led publicity campaign aimed at raising the threat level against Iran.

The joint military maneuver will simulate Israel’s ballistic missile system and will allow Washington to ‘learn from’ Tel Aviv’s experience in warfare, the senior American official added.

Angry GodVia Eric Allen Bell:

Once upon a time a very, very angry man named “god” created the world, got pissed off at everybody and killed them all with a flood, except for his buddy Noah and his 2 live crew.

Later God decided everyone is so lame that he chose his “chosen people” to give a plot of real estate to while telling everyone else to fuck off, ordered some ethnic cleansings to clear out the area and so forth.

Still finding nearly all people to be unbearable (and who can blame him, really?) this god person decided, out of the kindness of his heart, to send his only son to be brutally tortured and savagely murdered so that he won’t have to send us all into a lake of hell fire for all eternity …

Biblical Literalism has been used against civil rights, female equality or moral fortitude, now it is used by some in an often violent campaign against homosexuality, in contradiction to the ultimate virtue of what it means be one who follows God.

Reports the AP via CBS News: Georgia executed Troy Davis on Wednesday night for the murder of an off-duty police officer, a crime he denied committing right to the end as supporters…

Via Reuters:

For those facing a run of bad luck and wanting to start things over, one Thai temple has an unusual solution: “rehearse” death with a mock funeral, including lying down in a coffin.

Pram Manee temple in Nakorn Nayok province, 107 km northeast of Bangkok, holds two of the rituals every day: at exactly 9:09 a.m. and 1:09 p.m., since the number nine is believed by Thais to bring good luck.

Participants in a recent ritual stood in front of their designated coffins, holding flowers and praying for bad luck to go away, then asked to receive good luck.

All had paid 180 baht ($6) for the flowers, a white sheet and “merit set” — a collection of necessities sometimes including toothpaste, toothbrushes and food — to be offered to monks, and the promise of a better life …

The author of this document, one Anders Behring Breikviks, has confessed. Blake Hounshell writes on Foreign Policy: I have just finished reading through what appears to be the 1,518-page manifesto and handbook…

Don't Ask, Don't TellViola Gienger reports on Bloomberg:

Top Pentagon officials will announce tomorrow their decision to certify lifting the ban on gays serving openly in the armed forces, two defense officials said.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are ready to certify that the armed forces are fully prepared for the change and that it won’t harm military readiness, said the officials who weren’t authorized to discuss the decision before the announcement.

President Barack Obama signed legislation into law in December that would repeal the prohibition, called “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” 60 days after the Defense Department drafts a plan for putting the new regulations in place and Obama and Pentagon officials certify that the shift wouldn’t harm recruitment, retention or readiness.

Obama is scheduled to meet with Panetta and Mullen tomorrow afternoon.

NY MarriageReid J. Epstein writes in the Politico:

Striking what advocates believe is a historic victory for gay rights, the New York state senate Friday approved same-sex marriage, bringing New York a promised governor’s signature away from being the sixth and largest state to allow gays and lesbians to marry.

The 33–29 vote is an enormous victory for first-year Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who pledged during last fall’s campaign to push for gay marriage. It comes after an intense public and private lobbying campaign from a wide cast of politicians, celebrities and athletes, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former President Bill Clinton.

Cuomo, whose two daughters attended the vote in the senate gallery, is expected to sign the bill. The bill will become law 30 days after Cuomo signs it, and when it does, it will double the population of Americans for whom same-sex marriage is legal.

Via the Huffington Post:

The number of children living apart from their fathers has more than doubled in the last fifty years, from 11 percent in 1960 to 27 percent in 2010.

That’s one of the key findings from a new report on fatherhood in the United the States that was released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends project — just in time for Father’s Day.

The findings paint a grim picture of many fathers’ lack of involvement in their children’s lives, using data from over 10,000 people to determine the percentage of “absent” or “non-resident” fathers in America, which the report defines as those who do not live with their children.

A decline in marriage rates may be partially to blame. In 1960, 72 percent of the adult population was married; that share had dropped to 52 percent by 2008. Eighty seven percent of children ages 17 and younger were living with two married parents in 1960 compared with 64 percent in 2008.

According to the report’s co-author Gretchen Livingston, an increase in divorce rates over the last half-century may also play a role.

Saudi Arabia Driving BanJason Burke writes in the Guardian:

At just after 10 o’clock on Friday morning Maha al-Qahtani swapped places with her husband, Mohammed, and took the wheel of the family car.

For the next 50 minutes, she drove through the Saudi capital, along the six-lane King Fahd Road, through Cairo Square, down the upmarket Olaya Street with its shopping malls, Starbucks, Apple store and boutiques.

“No one tried to stop us. No one even looked,” the 39-year-old civil servant said. “We drove past police cars but had no trouble.”

In fact, the biggest problem for Qahtani was her husband sitting next to her in the family Hummer. “He kept telling me to slow down or speed up. He was very fussy,” she said.

This is Saudi Arabia, the only country in the world that bans women from driving motor vehicles.

IsraelHamed Aleaziz writes in Mother Jones:

Since Google launched its Google Earth feature in 2005, the company has become a worldwide leader in providing high-resolution satellite imagery. In 2010, Google Earth allowed the world to see the extent of the destruction in post-earthquake Haiti. This year, Google released similar images after Japan’s deadly tsunami and earthquake. With just one click, Google can bring the world—and a better understanding of far-away events—to your computer.

There is one entire country, however, that Google Earth won’t show you: Israel.

That’s because, in 1997, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act, one section of which is titled, “Prohibition on collection and release of detailed satellite imagery relating to Israel.” The amendment, known as the Kyl-Bingaman Amendment, calls for a federal agency, the NOAA’s Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs, to regulate the dissemination of zoomed-in images of Israel.

Flag of FranceVive la France! Wait, what? David Case writes on globalpost:

Here’s a story that illustrates the chasm between how France and America handle men, women and rape.

The French elite are outraged over what they see as American vulgarities surrounding the treatment of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former IMF chief and putative 2012 presidential frontrunner, accused of raping a 32-year-old Sofitel chambermaid in Manhattan last weekend.

Among the “barbaric” American practices under critique by Parisians: showing photos of the accused in handcuffs; marching him through a scrum of photographers on the way to court; and pillorying him tabloid style — the NY Post called him “a horny toad,” for example. As GlobalPost has reported, French law restricts some media coverage of alleged perpetrators prior to conviction, including publication of images showing the accused in handcuffs, to preserve the dignity of the innocent.