Friday, November 19, 2004

*Petition for Independent Testing of E-voting Machines

Dear Election Official:
I believe that election integrity is the foundation of democracy, and that the transparent investigation of election problems is imperative.
I believe that the public has the right to an honest discourse on the performance of its voting technologies, and that knowledge of about their performance is a prerequisite for that conversation.
I believe that truly independent security professionals and academic researchers should be not only allowed to examine election technologies, but required to publish their findings.
For these reasons, I urge you to allow independent, non-ITA testing of the voting machines used in your county during the 2004 presidential election.

US Military 'still failing to protect journalists in Iraq'

This isn't the first time allegations of mistreatment of journalists have been levelled at the US troops. Nor is it the second and the military has even admitted to killing an Arab journalist and some are questioning if the US military wants to kill journalists? The list of dead journalists and another list from, continues to grow. And, because I'd not seen if before and don't recall seeing it here before, the Iraq Body Count database (the civilian death toll) and here it is, all on one big page. [from]

League of Women Voters calls for Full Investigation of 2004 Election

"The League of Women Voters is deeply concerned about voting irregularities in the 2004 election. The appropriate officials must fully investigate these concerns through open and public processes. Election officials should look into problems quickly and thoroughly and fix what proves to be wrong. Transparency and a willingness to look into potential problems will strengthen voter confidence and ultimately improve our electoral system.

Powell's information on Iranian missiles based on single unvetted source

Outgoing US Secretary of State Colin Powell's announcement earlier this week that Iran could be developing nuclear-capable missiles was based on an "unvetted, single source," The Washington Post said.
The intelligence, which two US officials said had not been verified, could be significant if true but an embarrassment if not, reminiscent of Powell's February 2003 UN speech about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, which was based on dubious intelligence and which so far has proved untrue. The officials told the daily the intelligence was stamped "No Foreign," meaning it was not to be shared even with US allies, although they said US President George W. Bush shared portions of it with British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, last week.

GOP looking to repeal food labeling law

Telling consumers where their meat, fruit and vegetables came from seemed such a good idea to U.S. ranchers and farmers in competition with imports that Congress two years ago ordered the food industry to do it. But meatpackers and food processors fought the law from the start, and newly emboldened Republicans now plan to repeal it before Thanksgiving.
As part of the 2002 farm bill, country-of-origin labeling was supposed to have gone into effect this fall. Congress last year postponed it until 2006. Now, House Republicans are trying to wipe it off the books as part of a spending bill they plan to finish this month.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Sierra Club Fights Drilling Under Parks

The environmental group filed the suit here, asking for an immediate injunction to reverse the rule change, which it said was done without public input. It also asks that the drilling be stopped. The lawsuit names Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton and Fran Mainella, the director of the National Park Service, as defendants.
The Park Service denied the allegation. "That is so untrue,'' said Carol McCoy, a Park Service spokeswoman based in Denver. "There has been no change from the Bush administration, from the Clinton administration. Nothing has been done outside the public process."
The Sierra Club contended that a rule change affects 14 national parks that have privately owned minerals beneath them.
Oil and gas producers can drill at an angle to reach privately owned minerals from private land adjacent to a park.
The Sierra Club said that since late 2001 the Park Service has allowed directional drilling without impact analyses. The environmental studies required of drilling companies have also been reduced, said Brandt Mannchen, chairman of the Sierra Club's chapter in Texas.

Scientists get their own Google

Imagine searching the Internet and being able to restrict your results to academic texts. Today Google launched a free search engine that aims to do just that. Google Scholar searches only journal articles, theses, books, preprints, and technical reports across any area of research. A test version of the search engine is available at, so you can try it out. In a search for the phrase "human genome", for example, a normal Google web search throws back 450,000 or so hits, with genome centres and databases and other websites ranked top.

Fight Club, Calvin and Hobbes

In the film Fight Club, the real name of the protagonist (Ed Norton’s character) is never revealed. Many believe the reason behind this anonymity is to give "Jack" more of an everyman quality. Do not be deceived. "Jack" is really Calvin from the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. It’s true. Norton portrays the grown-up version of Calvin, while Brad Pitt plays his imaginary pal, Hobbes, reincarnated as Tyler Durden.

Congress plans to reintroduce RU-486 suspension

Congress plans to reintroduce RU-486 suspension. After only three deaths in an estimated 360,000 uses, the GOP-led Congress plans to reintroduce a bill to "temporarily suspend" sales of RU-486 so it can be more thoroughly investigated. With a maternal death rate in the US of 12 per 100,000, RU-486 is about 13-14 times safer than a full term pregancy. Of course, the solution is simple: suspend all pregnancies for a year so we can more fully evaluate their safety. [from]

Why We Lie: The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and the Unconscious Mind

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Dishonesty is pervasive. And that's often a good thing, because the world would collapse under the weight of too much honesty, says David Livingstone Smith, co-founder and director of the University of New England's Institute for Cognitive Science and Evolutionary Psychology. "As a species, we are so well practiced in the art of deception that it comes to us almost as naturally and effortlessly as breathing," he writes. In fact, the best liars usually don't know they're lying, Smith points out.
Smith decided to seek the truth in Why We Lie: The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and the Unconscious Mind (St. Martin's). Yet despite his investigation into deceit, Smith still considers himself a bad liar. "I really dislike lying intentionally," he admits. "It makes me feel bad." Nonetheless, he confesses to lying in this interview.

Evidence Humans Settled North America 50,000 Years Ago

That would make the settlement more than twice the age of other known human settlements in North America.
If true, scientists said, the findings would rewrite theories of when and how man first came to the continent.
Plant material at USC's Topper archaeological site in Allendale County has been radiocarbon dated to approximately 50,000 years ago and may be older, said Albert Goodyear, a USC archaeologist in charge of the project.

Europe Surpassing US in Economy and Freedoms

Yes, "Old Europe," to borrow Donald Rumsfeld's famous quip, is back, and it's looking pretty spry for its age. As Americans are finally beginning to notice, Europeans (or most of them, anyway) have reconstituted themselves into an enormous transnational superstate of 25 nations, 455 million people and an $11 trillion economy. This is, of course, the European Union, and its aims have become much broader and deeper than the stuff you've probably heard about, like allowing citizens to drive from Seville to Sicily without a passport, or to use the same anonymous-looking currency to buy a pint of Guinness in Cork and a glass of ouzo in Crete.

I am serious. And don't call me Shirley.

The American Film Institute, striving ever harder for relevancy, announces their latest movie list: 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes, to be shown in June. Here's the list of 400 nominees [PDF]. What was unjustly left out? Let the debates begin!

Orwellian new Copyright Bill HR2391 would criminalize skipping commercials, destroy Fair Use

The United States Senate is about to pass a new copyright bill that would turn everyday Americans into criminals. This report is not a joke: it's about HR2391, the intellectual property protection act. Keep reading to learn how your consumer rights are under intense attack, and then forward this to your friends to help spread the word. Because if this bill isn't stopped, you could technically be thrown in prison for burning an audio CD and copying the files to your favorite MP3 player.
See also:,1283,65704,00.html
The bill lumps together several pending copyright bills including HR4077, the Piracy Deterrence and Education Act, which would criminally punish a person who "infringes a copyright by ... offering for distribution to the public by electronic means, with reckless disregard of the risk of further infringement." Critics charge the vague language could apply to a person who uses the popular Apple iTunes music-sharing application.
The bill would also permit people to use technology to skip objectionable content -- like a gory or sexually explicit scene -- in films, a right that consumers already have. However, under the proposed language, viewers would not be allowed to use software or devices to skip commericals or promotional announcements "that would otherwise be performed or displayed before, during or after the performance of the motion picture," like the previews on a DVD. The proposed law also includes language from the Pirate Act (S2237), which would permit the Justice Department to file civil lawsuits against alleged copyright infringers.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Transformers Break Dancing

Stifled by the Menopause Industry

"From oral contraceptives to estrogen therapy, Barbara Seaman has been exposing pharmaceutical industry cover-ups of drug health risks for 30 years," writes Linda Nathan. In response, pharmaceutical companies have exerted influence to get her fired from three different women's magazines -- Ladies Home Journal, Family Circle, and Hadassah -- where she wrote columns criticizing their products. Now vindicated by new evidence of the dangers of estrogen replacement therapy, she has gotten good reviews for her new book on the topic, titled The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women: Exploding the Estrogen Myth.

Denial Of Water to Iraqi Cities

Water supplies to Tall Afar, Samarra and Fallujah have been cut off during US attacks in the past two months, affecting up to 750,000 civilians. This appears to form part of a deliberate US policy of denying water to the residents of cities under attack. If so, it has been adopted without a public debate, and without consulting Coalition partners. It is a serious breach of international humanitarian law, and is deepening Iraqi opposition to the United States, other Coalition members, and the Iraqi interim government.

Texas schools scrap 'cross-dressing' day

A homecoming tradition in which boys dress like girls and vice versa in a tiny Texas school district won't be held Wednesday after a parent complained about what she regarded as the event's homosexual overtones.
As a substitute for "TWIRP Day," the schools ranging from elementary to senior high decided to hold "Camo Day" - with black boots and Army camouflage to be worn by everyone who wants to participate.

Texas Officials Wary of Plan to Hunt by Internet

A controversial Web site,, already offers target practice with a .22 caliber rifle and could soon let hunters shoot at deer, antelope and wild pigs, site creator John Underwood said on Tuesday.
Texas officials are not quite sure what to make of Underwood's Web site, but may tweak existing laws to make sure Internet hunting does not get out of hand.
"This is the first one I've seen," said Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wildlife director Mike Berger. "The current state statutes don't cover this sort of thing."

England: Government to Curb Marketing to Children

His public health White Paper, expected this week, will warn that if the industry does not police itself, the Government will legislate to make it illegal to advertise junk food when children are watching.
The White Paper will be the biggest shake-up in public health for years as the Government turns its attention from treating the sick to preventing illness. Smoking will be another main target while there will also be new warnings on binge drinking and unprotected sex.


Jon Ronson knew from his investigation into US military intelligence that top brass had adopted some strange practices. Jamal al-Harith, the Briton released from Guantánamo in the spring, confirmed it: here, in our second extract from Ronson's revealing new book, he describes the discordant sounds and apparently random music played to him during all-day interrogation sessions, and four psychological warfare experts give their reaction

Threat of Extinction Plagues More Than 15,000 Species

According to this year's Red List of Threatened Species, compiled by the World Conservation Union (IUCN), a total of 15,589 species are currently at risk for extinction, with more than 3,330 new threatened plants and animals added to the roll since last year. As it stands now, one in three amphibians, one in four mammals and one in eight birds stand to disappear permanently. [Scientific American]

NASA plane smashes speed record

NASA's experimental hypersonic jet plane flew at nearly ten times the speed of sound yesterday, breaking its own speed record set earlier this year.The unmanned X-43A aircraft used a supersonic combustion ramjet (scramjet) to reach speeds of roughly 11,000 kilometres per hour, flying under its own power for about 20 seconds.

Companies sue retirees to cut health benefits

Many companies have already cut back company-paid health-care coverage for retirees from their salaried staffs. But until recently, employers generally were barred from touching unionized retirees' benefits because they are spelled out in labor contracts. Now, some are taking aggressive steps to pare those benefits as well, including going to court.
In the past two years, employers have sued union retirees across the country. In the suits, they ask judges to rule that no matter what labor contracts say, they have a right to change the benefits. Some companies also argue that contract references to "lifetime" coverage don't mean the lifetime of the retirees, but the life of the labor contract. Since the contracts expired many years ago, the promises, they say, have expired too.

Nader Calls for New Hampshire Recount

A vote recount in New Hampshire on Thursday could shed light on anomalies with election results in that state, voting activists say. And if the recount finds problems with voting machines there, it could open the way for recounts in other states, such as Florida.
Presidential candidate Ralph Nader requested the recount, which will include only a small percentage of voting districts in the state where anomalies appeared in the election results. New Hampshire uses a combination of traditional paper ballots and optical-scan machines -- where voters mark a paper ballot with a pen before officials scan it through an electronic infrared reader. The anomalies occurred mostly in districts that used optical-scan machines.

Mass decoding planned for flu strains

As part of the effort to thwart a global flu pandemic, US scientists have announced a scheme to determine the genetic sequence of many thousands of strains of influenza. Researchers already glean invaluable information about the flu virus from its genetic material, for example, what makes one strain more virulent than another. But such data have largely been based on scraps of genetic sequence from only a few strains.

Texas Students Tracked with RFID

Hoping to prevent the loss of a child through kidnapping or more innocent circumstances, a few schools have begun monitoring student arrivals and departures using technology similar to that used to track livestock and pallets of retail shipments.
Here in a growing middle- and working-class suburb just north of Houston, the effort is undergoing its most ambitious test. The Spring Independent School District is equipping 28,000 students with ID badges containing computer chips that are read when the students get on and off school buses. The information is fed automatically by wireless phone to the police and school administrators.

I-69 Name Change a Hoax

An apparent Internet hoax is creating quite a stir at the office of Indiana 8th District Congressman John Hostettler. Angry callers have been responding to an article on the Internet claiming Hostettler had been convinced by religious groups, to propose changing the name of interstate 69 to a "more moral" sounding number. Hostettler spokesperson Michael Jahr says there is absolutely no truth to the story and calls the web site in question satirical in nature.
That web site is The Hoosier Gazette, which has been responsible for a number of news hoaxes over the past few months, including some that were picked up and re-broadcast or printed by national news organizations.

Remove National ID Provisions

PDF of ad in Washington Times:
A federally standardized driver’s license is a National Identification Card. Linking this new generation
of licenses to a national database, as is allowed under the proposals you are considering, gives the
government unfettered access to personal information about virtually everyone in America.
Coupled with technology already on the market, this card would allow the government to
constantly monitor everyone with a driver’s license or identification card.

Spin Watch

A new European organization, Spinwatch, has been launched to inform "journalists and the general public about the behind-the-scenes interests that influence - and occasionally create - the news." Co-founder David Miller "says the lies of non-existent weapons of mass destruction, and the general lack of questioning in the mainstream media, inspired him to take action," reports the Guardian. "Miller wants to recreate U.S. corporate bugbear PR Watch for a UK and European audience." Spinwatch's launch coincides with "a conference on government spin and corporate deception at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow."

Conservatives rail against MSNBC's Olbermann for reporting election irregularities

Olbermann's emphasis during Countdown with Keith Olbermann on voting irregularities has been part of a critique of what he has called the "Rube Goldberg voting process of ours" -- as well as a criticism of the major media outlets' failure to report on the irregularities.
In her November 11 nationally syndicated column, right-wing pundit Ann Coulter falsely asserted that Olbermann has been "peddling the theory that Bush stole the election" and referred to "Olbermann's idiotic conspiracy theory." A November 14 column by associate editor Bill Steigerwald in the conservative Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (owned by right-wing financier Richard Mellon Scaife) claimed Olbermann "really made a Dan Rather of himself" by focusing a segment of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann on allegations of voter fraud.

Scans of Monks' Brains Show Meditation Alters Structure, Functioning

In a striking difference between novices and monks, the latter showed a dramatic increase in high-frequency brain activity called gamma waves during compassion meditation. Thought to be the signature of neuronal activity that knits together far-flung brain circuits, gamma waves underlie higher mental activity such as consciousness. The novice meditators "showed a slight increase in gamma activity, but most monks showed extremely large increases of a sort that has never been reported before in the neuroscience literature," says Prof. Davidson, suggesting that mental training can bring the brain to a greater level of consciousness.

The Autodidact Project

"Ironic Detachment as an Escape from Routine" by Christopher Lasch
Compared to What by Eugene McDaniels as performed by Les McCann
What Is Cynical Reason? Peter Sloterdijk Explains
Rainer Maria Rilke on Being and the Transitory
Albert Einstein on Intellectuals and the Masses, Specialization and the Division of Labor, and the Quality of Life
T.W. Adorno on Zen Buddhism
Temporarily Humboldt County and
Pondering the Spirit World with Seinfeld
--just a taste of The Autodidact Project by Ralph Dumain [from MetaFilter]

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Right-wing moralists launch censor war

“ABC crossed the line by airing at least 20 ‘f’ words and 12 ‘s’ words during prime-time viewing hours!,” says the evangelical group American Family Association, which claims it has 2.3 million members and is one of the groups leading the revamped charge against “immorality”. “We believe ABC should have aired their salute to heroes without violating broadcast decency laws,” it said.
Each TV station could face a fine of £18,000 if found to have aired “indecent” material. Under long-standing guide lines, profanity is banned from 6am to 10pm on America’s publicly owned broadcast channels, but not on cable channels.
“It would clearly have been our preference to run the movie,” says Ray Cole, president of Citadel Communications, which owns three of the stations. “We think it is a patriotic, artistic tribute to our fighting forces.”

1 2 3 4...

This regular feature on public radio's Marketplace has an opening theme that just cracks me up. I'm linking to this for the song. But keep listening to hear huggy-bear Grover Norquist lick his chops at our one-party American future. -ed.

World's strongest acid created

The world's strongest acid, at least a million times more potent than concentrated sulphuric acid, has been made in a lab in California. Perhaps confusingly, it is also one of the least corrosive.
The compound, called a carborane acid, is the first 'superacid' that can be stored in a bottle, say its creators. The previous record-holder, fluorosulphuric acid, is so corrosive that it would eat straight through the glass.

FDA Criticized on Abortion Pill Safety

"How many more deaths is it going to take before the FDA takes action to remove this drug from the market?" said Monty Patterson, 51, of Livermore, Calif.
His 18-year-old daughter, Holly, died on Sept. 17, 2003, of septic shock caused by inflammation of the uterus. The teen took RU-486 on Sept. 10 to terminate an unplanned pregnancy, Patterson said.
At least two other American women who took the pill in the United States died, although the FDA says it is unclear if their deaths were directly related to the pill's use.

Angry FBI Informant Torches Himself at White House

A man who set himself afire near the White House was upset with the way he was being treated as an FBI informant, specifically complaining to The Washington Post about his inability to return to Yemen to visit his ill wife.
Mohamed Alanssi, 52, arrived at the White House gate just before 2 p.m. Monday with a letter addressed to President Bush. After talking briefly with uniformed Secret Service officers, he pulled a lighter from his pocket and set his clothing ablaze.
Although the officers, who had been alerted by the Post, acted quickly to extinguish the flames, emergency medical technicians said he suffered burns on his hands, neck and face.

Adopt an ex-laboratory monkey

The BUAV is delighted to announce a unique and wonderful opportunity for you to adopt an ex-laboratory animal.
You can now adopt one of fifty delightful Macaque monkeys who have been rescued by the BUAV from a testing laboratory in Thailand.
The BUAV's supporters will remember the monkey's sad predicament back in 2002, when we discovered them during a tour of Asia in which we were making presentations on non-animal testing techniques.

Computer use link to eye disease

Heavy computer use could be linked to glaucoma, especially among those who are short-sighted, fear researchers.
Glaucoma is caused by increased fluid pressure within the eye compressing the nerves at the back, which can lead to blindness if not treated.
The findings, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, are based on 10,000 Japanese workers.

Former G.I.'s, Ordered to War, Fight Not to Go

The Army has encountered resistance from more than 2,000 former soldiers it has ordered back to military work, complicating its efforts to fill gaps in the regular troops.
Many of these former soldiers - some of whom say they have not trained, held a gun, worn a uniform or even gone for a jog in years - object to being sent to Iraq and Afghanistan now, after they thought they were through with life on active duty.
They are seeking exemptions, filing court cases or simply failing to report for duty, moves that will be watched closely by approximately 110,000 other members of the Individual Ready Reserve, a corps of soldiers who are no longer on active duty but still are eligible for call-up.

Time's Person of the Year: Bloggers?

For 2004, I cannot think of a single person or persons that had a greater influence on society than the bloggers. Let's remind them by making our voice heard. If you think about American politics, media, business - no one, no one had a greater influence for better or worse than the bloggers. Not Osama Bin Laden. Not Sadaam Hussein. Not John Kerry. No one. The bloggers absolutely deserve to be this year's People of the Year. If you agree, then make your voice heard. Send an email to the editors of TIME and explain why the bloggers deserve to be this year's choice. Alternately, leave a comment on this post and I will forward this link with my email.

Ex-DAFB commander says troops used as guinea pigs

A former Dover Air Force Base commander says military officials used his troops as guinea pigs in illegal medical experiments under the government's controversial anthrax vaccination program.
After some of his troops in their 20s and 30s began developing arthritis, neurological problems, memory loss and incapacitating migraine headaches, Col. Felix Grieder took a drastic step. In 1999, he halted the vaccination program in Dover, a move he said ended his military career. The decorated Air Force colonel has spent the past five years trying to discover the truth about the vaccine program in Dover, where he commanded 4,000 troops.

White House Wants Suicide Law Blocked

The Bush administration asked the Supreme Court on Tuesday to block the nation's only law allowing doctors to help terminally ill patients die more quickly.
The appeal from Attorney General John Ashcroft had been expected since May, when a lower court ruled the federal government could not punish Oregon doctors who prescribed lethal doses of federally controlled drugs.

Tanks Deployed at LA War Protest

At 7:50 PM two armored tanks showed up at an anti-war protest in front of the federal building in Westwood. The tanks circled the block twice, the second time parking themselves in the street and directly in front of the area where most of the protesters were gathered. Enraged, some of the people attempted to block the tanks, but police quickly cleared the street. The people continued to protest the presence of the tanks, but about ten minutes the tanks drove off. It is unclear as to why the tanks were deployed to this location. Uploaded here is video from the event.

Media Black Out on Vote Fraud Allegations

The "mainstream" media has fallen down on the job by failing to cover efforts since November 2 to ensure that all votes in the presidential election are accurately counted. The conclusion by John Kerry that an investigation could not possibly reverse the election may quite possibly have been premature. But the question that both activists and the media should be asking is not whether there was enough fraud and errors to decide the election, nor even whether there was more than is usual, but whether there was any fraud or errors, where the problems occurred, how they can be prevented in the future, and -- in particular -- whether new kinds of fraud were permitted by new technologies and by the privatization of our election process.

Bush's 'Incredible' Vote Tallies

George W. Bush’s vote tallies, especially in the key state of Florida, are so statistically stunning that they border on the unbelievable.
While it’s extraordinary for a candidate to get a vote total that exceeds his party’s registration in any voting jurisdiction – because of non-voters – Bush racked up more votes than registered Republicans in 47 out of 67 counties in Florida. In 15 of those counties, his vote total more than doubled the number of registered Republicans and in four counties, Bush more than tripled the number.
Statewide, Bush earned about 20,000 more votes than registered Republicans.

GOP Wants to End Exit Polls

RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie wants to eliminate exit polls because he says they're not accurate, implying that the final vote was unquestionably correct.
GOP Wants News Organizations to Abandon Exit Polls (subscription req'd)By Doug Halonen,
After early exit polls in Tuesday's election inaccurately suggested that Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry would trounce President Bush, Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie is recommending that major news organizations pull the plug on the prognostications.
In remarks Thursday at the National Press Club, Mr. Gillespie said he is among those who were stunned by exit poll reports, which leaked widely on the Internet. "I would encourage the media to abandon exit surveys on Election Day and do what we do in the political profession -- look at the precincts and the turnout, see who's turning out to vote," Mr. Gillespie said. "Don't build a model that you try to, you know, build your own thoughts into of what you expect it to be."

430,000 poor and disabled people dropped from Medicaid in Tennessee

The governor announced plans Wednesday to dissolve Tennessee's expanded Medicaid system and drop 430,000 poor and disabled people from the rolls of the health-care program that has been devouring a large chunk of the state budget.Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen said Tennessee will instead return to a cheaper, more basic Medicaid program.The move followed months of legal wrangling over the TennCare program, whose $7.8 billion price tag was projected to mushroom in coming years.

Yale Law School Dean : "I might have been an unwitting accessory to fraud"

We should have had trained observers - computer scientists, not lawyers! - verifying the integrity of polling data from machine upload through the tabulation of countywide and statewide results. Somehow we neglected the most vulnerable step in the vote-counting process, leaving a gaping hole for error and fraud, casting in doubt the validity of election results in many states.So what is to be done now? My client conceded the race on the belief that the results were clear. The results are anything but clear, however, and American democratic legitimacy requires an honest reappraisal of the events in Florida and around the country. Three members of Congress have already requested that the General Accounting Office conduct an investigation into the troubling reports of problems with voting machines. The mainstream press must immediately realize that this issue rises above partisanship and demands attention. The time is now for voters from all states that used electronic voting machines to request an audit of results and a manual recount of ballots if possible.

Monday, November 15, 2004

U.S. Pension Insurance: Deficits Doubled

The federal pension insurance program, already struggling with the biggest deficit in its history, said today that the situation had worsened further still, with the old record deficit doubling over the last fiscal year, to $23.3 billion.
Much of the past fiscal year's big losses were the result of pension failures in the airline industry. United Airlines recently announced that it would terminate all four of its pension plans as part of its efforts to cut costs and emerge from bankruptcy. Taking over United's pensions alone will cost the agency an estimated $6.3 billion.

Cream Reuniting

Vintage rock trio Cream will reunite for a string of shows next year at London's Royal Albert Hall, sources tell The group -- guitarist/vocalist Eric Clapton, drummer Ginger Baker and bassist Jack Bruce -- played its final shows at Albert Hall before splintering in November 1968. Cream has not performed together since its 1993 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

School Talent Show Draws Secret Service

Parents and students say they are outraged and offended by a proposed band name and song scheduled for a high school talent show in Boulder this evening, but members of the band, named Coalition of the Willing, said the whole thing is being blown out of proportion.
The students told ABC News affiliate KMGH-TV in Denver they are performing Bob Dylan's song "Masters of War" during the Boulder High School Talent Exposé because they are Dylan fans. They said they want to express their views and show off their musical abilities.
...The 1963 song ends with the lyrics: "You might say that I'm young. You might say I'm unlearned, but there's one thing I know, though I'm younger than you, even Jesus would never forgive what you do … And I hope that you die and your death'll come soon. I will follow your casket in the pale afternoon. And I'll watch while you're lowered down to your deathbed. And I'll stand o'er your grave 'til I'm sure that you're dead."

‘Intelligent design’ voted in at Pennsylvania school

The change passed by a six-to-three margin after a heated discussion by the board and a dozen members of the community.
During the Oct. 4 board meeting, Langione asked Nilsen if teachers would be required to teach “intelligent design,” after he allowed 50 copies of the book “Of Pandas and People,” published by the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, to be used in science classrooms as reference books.
“No,” replied Nilsen at the time. “A teacher can, but is not required.”
But during Monday’s meeting, district biology teacher Jen Miller said the new curriculum wording implies that she will be required to teach “intelligent design.” [thanks to John]

Lesbian couples raise well-adjusted teenagers

Teenagers raised by lesbian mothers show no developmental differences compared to those brought up by heterosexual parents, according to the first large national study in the US.
Previous research has focused mainly on younger children and found no significant disparities in child welfare between same-sex and heterosexual families.

Airlines Ordered to Expose Passenger Data

Homeland security officials accidentally revealed on Friday that the Transportation Security Administration will soon officially order America's airlines to turn over a month of passenger data to test a new passenger screening system.
The final rule (.pdf) ordering the airlines to provide data on all June 2004 domestic flights will be issued formally on Monday by the Transportation Security Administration. The airlines must comply by Nov. 23.

Shatner Performs "Rocket Man"

William Shatner's electrifying live performance from 1978.

*Nine US states defy Bush with carbon trading plan

Individual US states are putting together a system to cap and trade greenhouse gas emissions, despite the Bush administration's opposition to the Kyoto protocol on global warming.
The regional-level initiative, led by the Governor of New York state, George Pataki, aims to be able to announce the details of a scheme by April. Nine north-eastern and mid-Atlantic states are taking part, with other states and some Canadian provinces involved as "observers" in the process.
The scheme could even link up with the emissions controls and trading system being established by the European Union next year, allowing emission allowances to be traded across the Atlantic. It is understood that informal talks have taken place between environmental officials of the US states and their European Commission counterparts.

A Usenet news group has claimed that Lexmark is installing spyware on its customers' computers

Allegations have been swirling around an online newsgroup this week that printer manufacturer Lexmark has been installing spyware on its customers' computers.
Reports on the comp.periphs.printers Usenet newsgroup claim that Lexmark has been planting spyware on its customers' PCs in the form of undocumented software that monitors the use of its printers and silently reports back to a Lexmark-owned company Web site.

The Army's long arm

Because he was discharged well after his prior reserve obligation had passed, the Army laid no further claim to him, until someone in St. Louis ignored those zeroes and went hunting for a fresh body to fill a manpower shortage that grows more painful with every Iraqi sunset.

"They basically told me that my Marine Corps time doesn't count as military service," Pistorius said. Faced with a threat of AWOL charges, and worried that a spotless military record was about to be stained, Pistorius headed last month to Camp McGrady in South Carolina.

"The first thing they did was thank us for showing up," Pistorius said. "They had 150 that were supposed to show up and about 75 did. Of those 75 maybe only 40 or 50 are medically fit."

Dubya The Movie

Starring the only man who can play the role.

Do Blogs Change the News?

Blogs have drawn attention to political stories that more established media outlets then report on, and exposed flawed journalism by those same newspapers and television news programs. But some at the gathering said they face a near-constant struggle to establish the credibility enjoyed by professionals.
"Things get picked up by bloggers that take awhile to get picked up by the mainstream media," said Mark Glaser, a columnist for the Online Journalism Review who writes about web logs. "Bloggers have to start from scratch in building trust."

American Express suing card companies over antitrust violations

American Express Co., the travel and financial services giant, said Monday it was suing Visa and MasterCard over anticompetitive business practices.
The way for the lawsuit was cleared by the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 4, when it issued a final ruling in an antitrust case brought by the Justice Department, which accused the two biggest card associations in America, Visa USA Inc. and MasterCard International Inc., of restraining competition.

Amnesty International: Rules of War Broken in Falluja Assault

The London-based group, which gave examples of what it said were breaches of the rules by both U.S. troops and insurgents, demanded that all violations be investigated and those responsible brought to justice.
Not only had the attacking U.S. and Iraqi troops failed to take the necessary steps to ensure that non-combatants did not come under fire, but insurgents had also abused flags of truce and fired indiscriminately.

EFF Urges FCC Not to Mandate Surveillance Regime on Internet

Earlier this week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) objecting to the agency's plan to expand the reach of a law that forces communications service providers to build surveillance backdoors into their networks.
The Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), passed in 1994, forced telephone companies to redesign their network architectures to make wiretapping easier. It expressly did not regulate data traveling over the Internet. But earlier this year, law enforcement agencies petitioned the FCC to expand CALEA's reach to cover broadband providers so that it would be easier for law enforcement to tap Internet "phone calls" via Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) applications such as Vonage, as well as online "conversations" using various kinds of instant messaging (IM) programs like AOL Instant Messenger (AIM).

White House calls for CIA purge

‘‘The agency is being purged on instructions from the White House,’’ said a former senior CIA official. ‘‘Goss was given get rid of those soft leakers and liberal Democrats. The CIA is looked on by the White House as a hotbed of liberals and people who have been obstructing the president’s agenda.’’

Christ's Entry Into Washington 2008

A painting by Joel Pelletier featuring a cast of 121 contemporary characters and a theme of fundamentalism on the march. The work is modeled after Christ's Entry Into Brussels 1899, a mural by James Ensor.

Major bugs found in Diebold vote systems

Computer Science Professor Avi Rubin of John Hopkins University analyzed Diebold's 47,609 lines of code and found it uses an encryption key that was hacked in 1997 and no longer is used in secure programs.
Rubin said Diebold has said it repaired the security flaws in subsequent programs, but that the company has not produced the code for analysis.
Diebold did return a call for comment.
The Digital Encryption Standard 56-bit encryption key used can be unlocked by a key embedded in all the source code, meaning all Diebold machines would respond to the same key.
Rubin, his graduate students and a colleague from Rice University found other bugs, that the administrator's PIN code was "1111" and that one programmer had inserted, "This is just a hack for now."

Snopes: Red State / Blue State IQ Chart is Bogus

The chart's creator claimed to have been inspired by the book IQ and the Wealth of Nations and to have drawn his IQ data from the Ravens APM, but — save for the average income per state numbers, which were valid but outdated figures taken from the 1994 World Almanac — the chart was completely bogus. (The Ravens Advanced Progressive Matrices is not really a general intelligence test, nor do its publishers offer state-by-state test results data.) Nonetheless, a number of news publications (including the staid Economist) were taken in by the hoax — some mistakenly citing the information as having come from the book IQ and the Wealth of Nations, or even IQ and the Wealth of States — and published portions of the chart, and discussed it as if it were valid. (A similar hoax about presidential IQs produced similar media-fooling results back in 2001.)