January 24th, 2011
By Jim Meyers
Top-rated talk radio host Rush Limbaugh on Friday questioned why new Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie has not gotten support from the White House in his efforts to resolve the doubts of so-called “birthers” about Barack Obama’s place of birth.
Limbaugh also says he finds it “stunning” that Abercrombie still can’t prove Obama was born in Hawaii as he maintains.
Abercrombie has stated that he wants to put to rest assertions that Obama may not have been born in the United States and therefore is not eligible to serve as president, assertions fueled by Obama’s lack of a hospital-generated birth certificate.
But Limbaugh noted that Abercrombie now says “a hospital generated birth certificate for Obama may not exist within the vital records maintained by the Hawaii Department of Health. He said efforts were still being made to track down definitive vital records that would prove Obama was born in Hawaii.
“Remember, he started out, the whole reason for doing this, was to get it off the table so it wasn’t an election issue for 2014.
“But he’s done the exact opposite now. How many of us could get away with saying, ‘Yeah, there’s a little notation somewhere there in the archives, but we can’t find the birth certificate.’”
Limbaugh compared Abercrombie’s vow to demonstrate Obama’s Hawaii birth before he knew he could produce the birth certificate to a lawyer granting immunity to someone before knowing what the person was going to say.
Regarding Obama’s supposed Hawaii birth, “they still can’t prove it,” Limbaugh said.
“It is stunning to me. The governor of Hawaii vowed when he took office that he would do his best to end the debate over Obama’s birth, which began in 2008 during the presidential campaign.
“Where’s the president on this? Where’s the president’s vow to end the debate over his birth. We’re going on four years on this. It keeps intensifying.
“Where’s Obama? Where’s the White House? Is this guy flying alone? Neil Abercrombie on his own on this? So much of this is difficult to fathom, to believe.”
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January 24th, 2011
By Lee Ross
Just one day before President Obama’s State of the Union address, it’s still not clear whether Chief Justice John Roberts will attend or, like high court colleague Justice Samuel Alito, skip the event.
The recent uptick in collegiality from lawmakers on Capitol Hill in the run-up to Tuesday’s speech contrasts sharply with the lingering controversy from last year’s speech in which President Obama rebuked the justices over a campaign finance decision. If Roberts decides not to attend, it would be his first absence at a State the Union Speech since joining the court in 2005.
Roberts’s decision -- or that of any other justice for that matter -- wouldn’t normally be an issue but for the instant uproar that resulted from last year’s address and the observations he and some of his colleagues have made over the last 12 months about the celebrated but often hyper-partisan evening.
An official with the University of Hawaii Law School confirms to FOX News that Alito, who was a significant part of the controversy last year, will be with students in Honolulu all week and therefore will not attend Tuesday night’s speech. It will be the first time he will not show.
“To the extent the State of the Union has degenerated into a political pep rally, I’m not sure why we’re there,” Roberts said last March. But the escalated calls for bipartisan civility on Capitol Hill might argue against Roberts sending his regrets.
Another factor that could play into his decision is U.S. District Judge John Roll’s murder during the Tucson shooting rampage. Roberts is the highest-ranking member of the federal judiciary and has twice publically noted Roll’s death, offering high praise for Roll’s service. It will almost certainly be acknowledged by President Obama Tuesday night.
"If I were advising, I would say, ‘man up and go,’" said Linda Greenhouse, a former Supreme Court reporter and Knight Journalist in Residence at Yale University.
"Objectively, he's completely correct," she said about Roberts’s assertion. Greenhouse noted that justices have for many years expressed concerns about attending the speech. “As Justice Alito learned, to his dismay, you can't react like an ordinary human being without becoming the news."
The controversy from President Obama’s 2010 annual message to Congress came in two parts.
First, some people objected to the substance and setting of the president’s direct critique of the court’s 5-4 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, a high-profile decision giving corporations and labor unions the right to spend unlimited amounts of money on political speech.
“With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests -- including foreign corporations -- to spend without limit in our elections,” Obama said with six members of the court, including Roberts and Alito, seated just a few feet in front of him. “I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities.”
It was Alito’s reaction to the president’s remarks, caught on camera, that fueled the resulting firestorm. He shook his head and appeared to mouth the words “not true” as the Democrats in the House chamber cheered.
“For many years the more senior members of the Supreme Court, Justice [John Paul] Stevens before he retired, Justice [Antonin] Scalia, stopped the practice of attending State of the Union addresses because they have become very political events and very awkward for the justices,” Alito told a group at the Manhattan Institute in October. “We have to sit there like the proverbial potted plant most of the time. And we're not allowed to applaud--and those of us who are more disciplined refrain from manifesting any emotion or opinion whatsoever.”
Indeed, the State of the Union has often produced the odd visual juxtaposition of a House chamber full of lawmakers standing and applauding while the justices remain seated and expressionless.
"I don't go because it has become so partisan," Justice Clarence Thomas said to students in Florida last year just days after the State of the Union speech, which he did not attend. "And it's very uncomfortable for a judge to sit there. There's a lot that you don't hear on TV: the catcalls, the whooping and hollering and under-the-breath comments. One of the consequences is now the court becomes part of the conversation, if you want to call it that, in the speeches. It's just an example of why I don't go."
Scalia was even more stinging in his critique.
"It is a juvenile spectacle, and I resent being called upon to give it dignity, Justice Scalia told the Federalist Society in November. “It's really not appropriate for the justices to be there."
But the court is hardly unanimous on the matter. Justice Stephen Breyer has only missed one State of the Union address since joining the court in 1994. He recently told “FOX News Sunday” host Chris Wallace that he’ll be there again Tuesday night.
“I think it's very, very, very important -- very important -- for us to show up at that State of the Union, because people today, as you know, are more and more visual,” Breyer said. “I'd like them to read, but they are visual. And what they see in front of them in that State of the Union is the federal government, every part -- the president, the Congress, the cabinet, the military, and I would like them to see the judges, too, because federal judges are also part of that government. And I want to be there.”
When asked about Roberts’s concern about silent justices being surrounded by raucous politicians Breyer, a former Senate staffer said, “that's his opinion. He says what he thinks. And I say what I think. And what I think is what I said. I'll be there next year.”
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias says Breyer has a “peculiar fascination" with the interaction of the government’s branches. Last week Breyer spoke to a bipartisan group of members and staff from the House Judiciary Committee about how to better work with each other. The visit was organized by Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas.
“I like Democrats on the committee personally, but I think there are ways for us to find common ground despite the strong feelings on a lot of issues,” Smith told a reporter for The Hill newspaper. A committee spokeswoman said Breyer’s appearance was well-received but refused to comment when asked if Smith thought the justices should attend Tuesday night’s speech.
As of late Friday, a court spokeswoman couldn’t confirm the attendance plans for any of the justices. There is no requirement for any of the justices to attend, and none attended in 2000.
"Given what the chief said about Judge Roll, he may be obligated to be there," Tobias observed.
January 24th, 2011
Google has announced that it is fixing flaws in its algorithm that allows search results to be spammed, while also planning to weaken the search-ability of websites referred to as ”content farms.” Matt Cutts, head of Google’s anti-spam team, writes:
As “pure webspam” has decreased over time, attention has shifted instead to “content farms,” which are sites with shallow or low-quality content. In 2010, we launched two major algorithmic changes focused on low-quality sites. Nonetheless, we hear the feedback from the web loud and clear: people are asking for even stronger action on content farms and sites that consist primarily of spammy or low-quality content. (my emphasis)
The only clear reference from Google about problems occurring from “content farms” in regards to spamming search results is from China: “Last year Google faced a rash of webspam on Chinese domains in our index. Some spammers were purchasing large amounts of cheap .cn domains and stuffing them with misspellings and porn phrases.” They claim this scheme led to “irrelevant” search results.
Yet, their goal seems to be to weaken what has been referred to as “news aggregating” websites as “one change that primarily affects sites that copy others’ content and sites with low levels of original content.” This clearly describes many sites that present alternative news. However, plenty of alternative news sites and blogs have original material which they freely share, in part or in full, purely to support one another in disseminating the truth. This is of key importance to spread information in the absence of government or foundation funding, as enjoyed by much of the mainstream media. It is also a counter to censorship, so that a free market of ideas can flourish where people can investigate facts for themselves, rather than have opinions dictated from a limited number of sources.
According to a recent cheerleading article by TechCrunch, content farms indeed include websites that post any duplicate content word-for-word, “Now, finally, it sounds like they’re going to do more to take on sites that just repurpose content from other sites (hopefully including the countless sites that repost TechCrunch articles verbatim).”
What’s odd is that everyone knows that original content already carries far more weight with Google algorithms than re-posted content. Additionally, backlinks from well-ranked relevant sites is also a huge factor in building a strong Google page rank, besides driving traffic to the source. Therefore, it would stand to reason that websites like TechCrunch should be overjoyed when other relevant sites post their content, as long as it is sourced with a hyperlink. Alexa ranks TechCrunch at 305 on the entire Internet, no doubt due to their 36,374 links that Alexa recognizes. Without allowing the sharing of their original content, this level of achievement would be impossible under the current Google algorithm....
January 24th, 2011
By Amie Ferris-Rotman
(Reuters) - At least 31 people were killed and more than 100 injured on Monday in a suicide bombing at Russia's biggest airport, Russian news agencies reported.
Russia's ruble-dominated stock market MICEX fell by nearly two percent following the blast, which ripped through the baggage claim area at Moscow's Domodedovo airport at 1332 GMT.
Smoke wafted out of the baggage claim area and people were seen running out of the emergency exits at the airport, local media reported.
Initial casualty figures were contradictory with ITAR-TASS saying about 20 people had been killed. A spokeswoman for prosecutors put the number of casualties at about 20.
Moscow suffered its worst attack in six years in March 2010 when two female suicide bombers from Russia's volatile Dagestan region set off explosives in the metro, killing 40 people.
The Kremlin is struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency in the mainly Muslim North Caucasus, and rebels have repeatedly vowed they will take their battle to the Russian heartland.
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(Writing by Amie Ferris-Rotman, editing by Guy Faulconbridge, Steve Gutterman and Mark Heinrich)
January 23rd, 2011