Friday, December 03, 2004

Friday 5:00pm Announcement: U.S. to send 12,000 more troops to Iraq

The force will grow from 138,000 today to about 150,000 by mid-January, the Pentagon said Wednesday.
Extra troops are needed to bolster security before the national elections scheduled for Jan. 30. The increase in troop strength also underscores the fact that, despite enormous effort and cost, American commanders have yet to train and equip enough Iraqis for security duty.

Best of 2004

The lists are just staring to come in. This page will quintuple in size by the end of the year, so c'mon back later. Please email me if you find one that I'm missing.
[Haven't seen Rod's annual list yet. -McLir]

Open Source Video

ANTs Not Television
ANT helps you download and watch video published on the Internet.
ANT allows you to organize and manage video playlists
ANT is a video aggregator that allows you to subscribe to RSS 2.0 feeds with video enclosures
ANT seeks to build opensource software tools to enable an emergent, grassroots, bottom-up, video distribution network based on exisiting technology such as weblogs and RSS.
ANT is about FREE VIDEO -- not free as in price, but free as in freedom.

'WSJ' Reporter Farnaz Fassihi Going Back to Baghdad

Farnaz Fassihi, the Wall Street Journal reporter whose private e-mail to friends lamented the dangers of reporting in Iraq and criticized the Bush administration's war policy, is returning to her war beat next week for the first time since her missive sparked a controversy in October. Reports that she was being punished by her newspaper for the e-mail were apparently false. Her e-mail brought her unexpected attention, raised issues about whether reporters covering Iraq were telling the whole story, prompted some introspection in journalism circles, and led a variety of news outlets to confirm her dour outlook (last link is a reprinted NYT article). Previously discussed here. [from]

Human Eggs 'fertilised' without sperm

The team from Wales College of Medicine at Cardiff University say this could provide a more ethically acceptable way of creating 'embryonic' stem cells.
The 'embryos' do not contain any paternal chromosomes, so could not develop into a baby.
The process, described in New Scientist, uses an enzyme found in sperm to prompt the egg to divide.

Torture Can Be Used to Detain U.S. Enemies

U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon asked if a detention would be illegal if it were based solely on evidence gathered by torture, because "torture is illegal. We all know that."
Boyle replied that if the military's combatant status review tribunals (or CSRTs) "determine that evidence of questionable provenance were reliable, nothing in the due process clause (of the Constitution) prohibits them from relying on it."

US review rekindles cold fusion debate

The findings, which were released on 1 December by the US Department of Energy, rekindle a 15-year-old debate over whether nuclear fusion can occur at room temperature.According to the report, the panel was "split approximately evenly" on the question of whether cold experiments were actually producing power in the form of heat. But members agreed that there is not enough evidence to prove that cold fusion has occurred, and they complained that much of the published work was poorly documented.

US review rekindles cold fusion debate

The findings, which were released on 1 December by the US Department of Energy, rekindle a 15-year-old debate over whether nuclear fusion can occur at room temperature.According to the report, the panel was "split approximately evenly" on the question of whether cold experiments were actually producing power in the form of heat. But members agreed that there is not enough evidence to prove that cold fusion has occurred, and they complained that much of the published work was poorly documented.

Is the US Using Napalm? No. Is the US Using 'Fuel-Gel Mixture'? Yes.

The Pentagon no longer officially uses the brand-name 'Napalm', but a similar sticky, inflammable substance known as 'fuel-gel mixture', contained in weapons called Mark-77 fire bombs, was dropped on Iraqi troops near the Iraq-Kuwait border at the start of the war.
"I can confirm that Mark-77 fire bombs were used in that general area," Colonel Mike Daily of the US Marine Corps said.

On Saturday, Labor MPs have demanded that British Prime Minister confront the Commons over the use of the deadly gas in Fallujah.
Halifax Labor MP Alice Mahon said: "I am calling on Mr. Blair to make an emergency statement to the Commons to explain why this is happening. It begs the question: 'Did we know about this hideous weapon's use in Iraq?'"

Kerry Campaign Joins Ohio Recount

In another development, Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., sent a letter to Blackwell asking for his assistance in a House Judiciary Committee Democratic staff investigation of "election irregularities." That probe would be in addition to one sought by the Government Accountability Office.
Complaints received by congressional Democrats include disparities in vote totals for Democrats on the same ballot; too few voting machines in urban, Democrat-leaning precincts; and organized campaigns directing voters to the wrong polling place.
Blackwell's office is working with the GAO and "would be happy to fill in the gaps of information from the GAO and what Congressman Conyers is requesting," spokesman Carlo LoParo said. He said a review of media reports would answer many of Conyers' questions.

New York's HIV Experiment.

Need test subjects for your highly experimental, possibly lethal drugs but don't want to deal with consent issues? Don't worry, New York City's Association for Children's Services has got you covered! Just ask GlaxoSmithKline about its continuing antiretroviral drug trials. Not only does the ACS provide it and other pharmaceutical companies with high-quality HIV-positive orphans and foster children, but it administers the drugs to them as well! Kids not willing to take the pills? The ACS will stick peg-tubes in their stomachs. Foster parents refusing to give kids the drugs? The ACS will charge them with abuse and put the kids somewhere else. Wondering about Tuskegee comparisons or how the combination of side-effects like diarrhea and swollen joints with no evidence of benefits fits into a cost-benefit analysis? Why? This is the ACS! They can do whatever they want. [from]

Dow Accepts Responsibility for Bhopal Disaster

Dow Chemical Co, in a major policy reversal, is accepting full responsibility for the 1984 Bhopal disaster in India, a company spokesman said on Friday.
"Today I am very, very happy to announce that today, for the first time Dow is accepting full responsibility for the Bhopal catastrophe," company spokesman Jude Finisterra told BBC World television. "This is a momentous occasion."
"We have a $12 billion plan to finally at long last fully compensate the victims including the 120,000 who may need medical care for their entire lives and to fully and swiftly remediate the Bhopal plant site."
More than 3,500 died after lethal gas escaped from a chemical plant in the central Indian city of Bhopal. The factory was owned by Union Carbide, now a subsidiary of Dow Chemical.
"We have resolved to liquidate Union Carbide, this nightmare for the world and this headache for Dow and use the $12 billion to provide more than $500 per victim, which is all that they've seen," Finisterra said, speaking on the 20th anniversary of the disaster.

Women Working, 1870 - 1930

Women Working, 1870 - 1930 provides access to digitized historical, manuscript, and image resources selected from Harvard's library and museum collections. This collection explores women's roles in the US economy between the Civil War and the Great Depression. Working conditions, conditions in the home, costs of living, recreation, health and hygiene, conduct of life, policies and regulations governing the workplace, and social issues are all well documented. The collection will contain more than 2,200 books and pamphlets, 1,000 photographs and 10,000 pages from manuscript collections.

Greenpeace: Silex Uranium Enrichment

[PDF] All attempts to prevent the spread of nuclear technologies have failed. If Silex is fully developed it is, to say the least, highly likely that eventually the technology could be used for the production of fissile materials for use in nuclear weapons. Countries interested in setting up clandestine programs to produce highly enriched uranium for use in nuclear weapons will find Silex an attractive technology.
The Australian government’s support of this technology undermines its stated commitment to nuclear non-proliferation. Furthermore, conducting this research in a nuclear facility that the public is told is mainly engaged in medical research is hypocritical.
This report should be widely read, particularly by politicians and diplomats. It is essential reading for those interested in nuclear disarmament issues, international politics, international relations and strategic studies.

*Federation of American Scientists: "Flying Blind: The Rise, Fall, and Possible Resurrection of Science Policy Advice in the United States"

[PDF] The need for effective science and technology advice continues to increase
while the infrastructure for providing such help is in a state of
crisis. The President and the Congress are constantly confronted with
decisions about new medical technologies, advanced weapon systems, wireless
communication regulation, and other matters that hinge on technical facts.
While technical analysis is almost never sufficient to make wise choices, absent
competent, timely, targeted scientific and technical analysis, these decisions will
depend on unchallenged assertions by special interests and ideologues. Programs
are likely to be poorly designed and subject to costly mistakes. Even worse, lacking
competent advice, the nation may fail to act on problems until they are costly
and difficult to solve or fail to seize important opportunities to achieve public
objectives in security, education, health care, the environment, or other critical
This report develops options for improving the fundamental structures of
science and technology advice based on examination of two cases where science
and technology advice did not serve the nation well, interviews with many of
the key figures in science and technology advice for Congress and the administration,
and a review of recent literature.
Is Anyone Listening?
The strongest and most consistent statement emerging from these sources is
that if the Congress or the President doesn’t want objective scientific advice, no
institutional solution can fix the problem. There is no way to force the President
to meet with science advisors or to force Congress to base legislation on careful
scientific analysis. This report is designed to help a new administration
or a new Congress interested in strengthening science and technology support
to craft effective institutions. The recommendations are built with the clear
understanding that technical advice must be combined with many other issues
in shaping practical and effective policy. But the core assumption is that the
principals involved are anxious to at least get the advice of technical experts
before making a decision.
The proposals all assume that one goal of the reforms will be to create institutions
that can endure and be effective through radical changes in national political
priorities. Many of the options are designed to contribute to public debate
and public understanding of technical issues making it more difficult for
political leaders to ignore the issues.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Roger Ebert: Movies and Battling Cancer

I supply this information not as a medical bulletin, but as an entry into considering the way movies work for me and perhaps a lot of other people. Even during treatment in Seattle, I was able to attend screenings, catch movies in theaters and write 20 reviews. One night I went to the local Landmark theater and saw Jean Gabin in "Touchez Pas au Grisbi" and found it so extraordinary, it went into my Great Movies series. Some of my friends and editors said they were impressed that I continued to see movies and file reviews even during the more difficult days of January and February. I tried to explain that it would have been harder not to.

The magic that makes Google tick

Over four billion Web pages, each an average of 10KB, all fully indexed.
Up to 2,000 PCs in a cluster.
Over 30 clusters.
104 interface languages including Klingon and Tagalog.
One petabyte of data in a cluster -- so much that hard disk error rates of 10-15 begin to be a real issue.
Sustained transfer rates of 2Gbps in a cluster.
An expectation that two machines will fail every day in each of the larger clusters.
No complete system failure since February 2000.

The Christmas Story 20" Leg Desk Lamp is Out of Stock

It's a major award! This is a desk lamp sized version of the "leg lamp" from the holiday classic "A Christmas Story"! Measures 20" tall, a definite conversation piece year-round! Lights 3 ways - the leg, the bulb under the shade or BOTH!Packed carefully because it's "Frag-il-ay" (that's italian) Click here for all of our A Christmas Story stuff!

Terrific Photos Submitted for 2005 Calendar

New Female Sex Drug Raises Safety Concerns

Procter & Gamble is seeking FDA approval to sell the testosterone patch Intrinsa, the first such product to treat a condition that affects up to 3 million surgically menopausal American women.
Clinical trials showed that women using Intrinsa had only modest improvements to their sex lives. Women who applied the patch to their abdomen twice weekly had one more "satisfying sexual event" per four weeks, compared with a placebo.

Former Bush Campaign Official Indicted

In 2002, six phone lines run by the Democrats and the Manchester firefighters union were tied up for 1 1/2 hours by 800 computer-generated hang-up calls. Federal prosecutors said Tobin and other Republicans had hired a company to make the calls to disrupt the organizations' get-out-the-vote efforts.
Tobin was charged with conspiracy to commit telephone harassment and aiding and abetting. He could get up to five years in prison.
At the time of the jamming, Tobin was Northeast political director for the Republican Senatorial Committee, which works to elect Republicans to the Senate.

Human activity implicated in Europe's 2003 heat wave

A half-degree rise in average expected temperature increases the probability that a given summer will be extremely hot. "The mean moves and the whole distribution moves with it," explains Stott.
He and his colleagues calculate that human influences doubled the likelihood of the 2003 heat wave. Their results appear in this week's Nature1.
According to Christoph Schär, who conducts climate research at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland, this is the first time that a study has worked out how global warming has affected the risk of a particular event.

Tofu mends broken bones and teeth

The de-fatted soybean curd would act like polyfiller to fill in defects.
It has the added advantage of encouraging new bone to grow as it biodegrades and releases natural anti-inflammatory agents.
Inventor Dr Matteo Santin of Brighton University has teamed up with experts from the University of Naples and WessexBio to develop the material.

Sony Attacks Blogger for Jeopardy Ken Jennings Spoilers

Things may be a little quieter around here in the short term as I deal with some stuff going on in the real world. One of the reasons for the silence is that my legal difficulties with Sony about the whole Ken Jennings thing have yet to be resolved. I can't say too much about it (soon perhaps), but it sure has had a chilling effect on my enthusiasm for continuing to maintain As an individual weblogger with relatively limited financial and legal resources, I worry about whether I can continue to post things (legal or not) that may upset large companies and result in lawsuits that they can afford and I cannot. The NY Times can risk upsetting large companies in the course of their journalistic duties because they are a large company themselves, they know their rights, and they have a dedicated legal team to deal with stuff like this. In the current legal climate, it may be that the whole "are blogs journalism?" debate is moot until bloggers have access to a level of legal resources similar to what large companies have. I'm certainly thinking very seriously about whether I can keep this site going in this kind of environment.

False data found in abstinence program

Many American youngsters participating in federally funded, abstinence-only programs have been taught over the past three years that abortion can lead to sterility and suicide, that half the gay male teenagers in the United States have tested positive for the AIDS virus, and that touching a person's genitals ``can result in pregnancy,'' a congressional staff analysis has found.
...The report concluded that two of the curricula were accurate, but the 11 others, used by 69 organizations in 25 states, contain unproved claims, subjective conclusions or outright falsehoods regarding reproductive health, gender traits and when life begins. In some cases, Waxman said, the factual issues were limited to occasional misinterpretations of publicly available data; in others, the materials pervasively presented subjective opinions as scientific fact.
Among the misconceptions Waxman's investigators cited:
• A 43-day-old fetus is a ``thinking person.''
• HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, can be spread via sweat and tears.
• Condoms fail to prevent HIV transmission as often as 31 percent of the time in heterosexual intercourse.
One curriculum, called ``Me, My World, My Future,'' teaches that women who have an abortion ``are more prone to suicide'' and that up to 10 percent of them become sterile. This contradicts the 2001 edition of a standard obstetrics textbook that says fertility is not affected by elective abortion, the Waxman report said.
``I have no objection talking about abstinence as a sure-fire way to prevent unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases,'' Waxman said. But ``I don't think we ought to lie to our children about science. Something is seriously wrong when federal tax dollars are being used to mislead kids about basic health facts.''
Condoms, used properly and consistently, fail less than 3 percent of the time, federal researchers say, and it is unknown how many gay teenagers are HIV-positive.

From Guernica to Fallujah

"It's difficult to believe that in this day and age, when people are blogging, emailing and communicating at the speed of light, a whole city is being destroyed and genocide is being committed - and the whole world is aware and silent. Darfur, Americans? Take a look at what you've done in Fallujah."- Female Iraqi blogger Riverbend

The Fallujah offensive has virtually disappeared from the news cycle. But history - if written by Iraqis - may well enshrine it as the new Guernica. Paraphrasing Jean-Paul Sartre memorably writing about the Algerian War (1956-62), after Fallujah no two Americans shall meet without a corpse lying between them: the up to 500,000 victims of the sanctions in the 1990s, according to United Nations experts; the up to 100,000 victims since the beginning of the invasion of Iraq, according to the British medical paper The Lancet; and at least 6,000 victims, and counting, in Fallujah, according to the Iraqi Red Crescent.

Pentagon Propaganda Shop Lives On

The Pentagon in 2002 was forced to shutter its controversial Office of Strategic Influence (OSI) when it became known that the office planned to plant false news stories in the media. But now officials say that much of its mission, including using misinformation in the Iraq war and the war on terrorism, has been taken over by other offices within the government, the Los Angeles Times reported today.
“Some of the ongoing efforts include having U.S. military spokesmen play a greater role in psychological operations in Iraq, as well as planting information with sources used by Arabic TV channels such as Al Jazeera to help influence the portrayal of the United States,” the Times revealed.
It cited an incident on Oct. 14 when a Marine spokesman announced, via CNN, the start of the Fallujah offensive, which did not actually happen for another three weeks. The idea was to see in advance how the insurgents would respond. The Times referred to this as just one of the “psy-op” episodes so far.

Recount Sought in N.M. Presidential Election

Green and Libertarian Party presidential candidates are seeking a statewide recount of ballots in New Mexico's presidential contest that President Bush won by a 5,988-vote margin. Green Party nominee David Cobb and Libertarian candidate Michael Badnarik want a recount in all precincts and a recheck of voting machines to ensure an accurate count of presidential ballots, said Blair Bobier, a spokesman for the Cobb campaign.

Nevada Judge Dismisses Vote Fraud Case

The plaintiffs, who described themselves as concerned citizens, had asked the judge to schedule a hearing so they could prove their claims of voter registration fraud and malfunctioning voting machines.
The judge, Peter Breen of Washoe County District Court, said in dismissing the case that they could not show that the outcome of the election would change if it went forward

"No Child Left Behind" Enforces School's Providing Student Information to Military Recruiters

"There, buried deep within the law's 670 pages, is a provision requiring public secondary schools to provide military recruiters not only with access to facilities, but also with contact information for every student -- or face a cutoff of all federal aid."

Any Soldier

Any Soldier is a site that aims to let you contact any random US Soldier in a pen-pal email or postcard kind of style, which is kind of cool if you don't know anyone over there. Recently they've gone and added Treat Any Soldier, a way to send a care package to any random US Soldier serving in Iraq.

Christian Coalition Plots To Strip Federal Courts Of Their Authority To Hear Church-State Cases

U.S. Rep. John Hostettler (R-Ind.) ... flirted with open defiance of the courts, pointing out that federal judges have limited power to enforce their decisions.
“When the courts make unconstitutional decisions, we should not enforce them,” he told attendees. “Federal courts have no army or navy…. The court can opine, decide, talk about, sing, whatever it wants to do. We’re not saying they can’t do that. At the end of the day, we’re saying the court can’t enforce its opinions.”

ACLU wants to know who's in FBI 'spy files'

Chicago Police officers infiltrated five protest groups in 2002. The investigations came after a court ruling expanded the department's intelligence-gathering powers.
Undercover officers were assigned to attend meetings, rallies and fund-raisers of the American Friends Service Committee and four other anti-war groups. Police targeted the groups because protesters were threatening to disrupt the Trans-Atlantic Business Dialogue, a meeting of international business leaders held in Chicago in 2002.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Computer Program Reconstructs DNA of Ancient Mammal Ancestor

They first fed it information about a section of the genome called the CFTR locus of a variety of species, including the pig, horse, cat, dog, bat, mouse, rabbit, gorilla, chimpanzee and humans. The program then looked for changes in both individual nucleotides and sequences of DNA that were inserted or deleted. Eventually they arrived at a reconstruction of the CFTR locus of the mother of all placental mammals. By running the program over and over, the team was able to test the accuracy of the DNA reconstruction and determined that it was about 98 percent. Comparisons with genetic information from species not initially used, such as the opossum, confirmed the high rate of accuracy.


A "friend of the court" brief filed by several library, journalist,and public interest organizations proposes a new middle ground forachieving resolution of the continuing dispute over access torecords of Vice President Cheney's secret Energy Task Force.That case is pending in federal appeals court in the D.C. District.See this news release from the National Security Archive with a linkto the amici curiae brief filed November 30. [from Secrecy News]

"Tag, You're It"

How do you get to Nashville's famed Bluebird Cafe, the launch pad of dozens of country music's biggest stars? If you're Bob Garfield - and you're trying to make it big in country music in less than 36 hours - "practice, practice" is not an option. Luckily, Bob has chutzpah, and a brilliant song, just waiting for a record exec to bite. Join Bob as he tries to pen the next country music hit. [Click on the audio link, you'll want to hear this one. Hilarious. -Mclir]

Perchlorate in Lettuce

Just how the rocket-fuel chemical perchlorate ended up in Salinas Valley lettuce -- and whether it poses any health risks -- remained a mystery Tuesday to local and state officials.
"We don't really understand where it is coming from," said Bob Roach, assistant Monterey County agricultural commissioner. "It's not believed to be present in our water, although I can't find any data that confirms that."
In a survey of lettuce, milk and bottled water in 19 states across the country, the Food and Drug Administration found low levels of the chemical in nearly all of the lettuce and milk samples tested between December 2003 and August. Only one bottled water sample tested showed any presence of perchlorate.
In analyzing green leaf, iceberg, red leaf and romaine lettuce from the Salinas Valley, the FDA found levels between 1 part per billion (ppb) -- about one drop of water in a swimming pool -- to 29.6 ppb of perchlorate.

LAWs instructions for starting criminal procedures against Bush

Today in Vancouver, Lawyers Against the War filed torture charges against George W. Bush under the Canadian Criminal Code. The charges were laid by Gail Davidson, co-chair of Lawyers against the War--LAW, under provisions enacted pursuant to the U.N. Torture Convention, ratified by both Canada and the United States. The charges concern the well known abuses of prisoners held by US Armed Forces in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. The charges were accepted by the Justice of the Peace and referred for a hearing to decide whether Bush should be required to appear for trial. The Attorney General of Canada's consent is required within eight days for proceedings to continue, and the question of Bush's diplomatic immunity will have to be resolved by the court.

38.445738 microseconds

Does relativity have any practical significance? In fact, relativity had to be taken into account by the designers of the Global Positioning System. The GPS satellites are affected both by special relativity (since the satellites are moving, clocks aboard them appear to run slower as seen from the ground), and by general relativity (since the satellites are farther away from the mass of the earth, clocks appear to run faster as seen from the ground). The net effect of both is that clocks aboard GPS satellites would gain 38 microseconds per day relative to the ground, if relativistic effects were not corrected for--a figure which can be confirmed by using Google calculator.

U2 vs. Negativland IPod "special edition"

Totally Unauthorized, but your purchase will help Downhill Battle , and thus, will end the major label monopoly and build a better, fairer music industry. If you are not the high-bidder, you can always make your own by stopping here and here . [from]

LSD Reports From the US Military

The Memory Hole has received three Army reports on experiments involving LSD. (The documents date from the 1960s and 1970s.) Two are posted below, and the other will follow.
In our FOIA request, we also asked for several other similar reports, which are currently being reviewed for release. We'll post them as they become available. [from]

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Price of a Gallon

Everyone complains when the price of gasoline goes up, but it remains one of the cheapest liquids available for sale. Here are 47 liquids and their prices, in order, from cheapest to most expensive.

Feds propose database to track all college and university students

A proposal by the federal government to create a vast new database of enrollment records on all college and university students is raising concerns that the move will erode the privacy rights of students.
Until now, universities have provided individual student information to the federal government only in connection with federally financed student aid. Otherwise, colleges and universities submit information about overall enrollment, graduation, prices and financial aid without identifying particular students.
For the first time, however, colleges and universities would have to give the federal government data on all students individually, whether or not they received financial assistance, with their Social Security numbers.

Brain imaging could spot liars

Lying activates tell-tale areas of the brain that can be tracked using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), according to scientists who believe the technique could replace traditional lie detectors.
Conventional detectors, or polygraphs, are extremely controversial. Proponents of the polygraph argue that it measures the body's physiological responses to stress induced by lying. Trained operators can supposedly match spikes in respiration, blood pressure and sweating with false answers.

Vote Count Protests Blast Media Silence: By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR

A small but vocal group of demonstrators rallied for an hour in front of the KGO-TV offices in San Francisco on Monday morning, protesting what they called “media silence on 2004 election irregularities.” Demonstrators later marched to the San Francisco offices of United States Senator Barbara Boxer where organizers met with Boxer’s staff.
Among the rally speakers was Berkeley City Councilmember-elect Max Anderson, who blasted President George W. Bush as a “thief,” saying “we need to go to Washington and make a citizens’ arrest to put that two-time loser out of office.”
Anderson likened the movement to investigate election irregularities to Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement of the ‘60s. “Just like then, we’re going to have to throw ourselves into the machine and stop its gears,” he said.

Torture victims slam Chile payout

Four groups representing torture victims of General Augusto Pinochet's military government in Chile have rejected a proposed compensation deal.
...However, the publication of the new report on the internet detailing abuses committed between 1973 and 1990 was a positive step, she said.
"It's very special for us, who were kept anonymous for almost 31 years, that the state admits that we were tortured. It's a first act of reparation, little by little it begins to be a healing process," she added.

Election commission: Voting problems widespread

Mountainous stacks of unopened absentee ballots cluttered South Florida election centers. Sixty-year-old voting machines jammed, forcing New Yorkers to stand in lines three blocks long. Punch-card machines went unused in Ohio because poll workers didn't know how to plug them in.
The four members of the new U.S. Election Assistance Commission met Tuesday to compare horror stories while acting as federal observers in the Nov. 2 election. America is lucky that President Bush was re-elected by a 3 million-vote margin, they said, or the nation would again be wracked by election uncertainty.
"The margin was enough that the glitches were not important," concluded commission Chairman DeForest Soaries. "The bad news is, we still don't live up to the expectations that democracy demands."

More Ohio voting questions raised

Several new voting concerns surfaced yesterday as lawyers combed totals from the Nov. 2 presidential election.
An Akron man filed a complaint with the Summit County Board of Elections saying he "witnessed election judges telling potential voters that they could cast a provisional ballot at any table or precinct and if they did so, it would be counted."
Neil F. Schoenwetter Jr. was a volunteer election challenger for the Democratic Party on Nov. 2 at Copley High School, where six precincts voted.
Congress’ investigative agency, responding to complaints from Ohio and elsewhere, has begun to look into the vote count, including the handling of provisional ballots and malfunctions of voting machines.
The Government Accountability Office usually begins investigations at the request of Congress, but the agency’s head, Comptroller General David Walker, said the GAO acted on its own because of ballot-counting complaints.

People for the American Way sues to have Ohio provisional ballots counted

The county had the most provisionals in the state at 24,472, of which about 33 percent, or 8,099 ballots, were rejected, mostly because there was no voter registration record for the people who cast them.
People for the American Way Foundation wants the county board of elections to hand check the rejected provisionals against voter registration cards, instead of computerized lists compiled from the cards.
"The electronic lists are not complete lists. There are mistakes," said Vicky Beasley, attorney for People for the American Way Foundation.
The lawsuit also seeks to give voters the chance to have their provisional ballots counted if they cast ballots in the wrong precinct without being directed to the correct precinct.

Black Farmers vs USDA

It's been five years since the U.S. district judge approved the settlement in a class-action lawsuit by black farmers alleging discrimination by the USDA in handling of loans.
But some lawmakers fear a glaring miscarriage of justice if the implementation of the settlement is not revised - in a way that could cost taxpayers millions more.
The lawmakers are disturbed by reports that Atchison and more than 66,000 other black farmers did not get even a chance at qualifying for compensation because they were considered to have filed too late.
see also Black Farmers Challenge Government Settlement [NPR]

Libel Case Could Chill Speech Online

Last week the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California (ACLU) filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a case that could undermine a federal statute protecting the free speech of bloggers, Internet service providers, and other individuals who use the Internet to post content written by others. The case in question is a libel suit filed against women's health advocate Illena Rosenthal after she posted a controversial opinion piece on a Usenet news group. The piece was written not by Rosenthal, but by Tim Bolen, a critic of plaintiff Terry Polevoy.
In their brief, EFF and the ACLU argue that Section 230 of the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 protects Internet publishers from being held liable for allegedly harmful comments written by others. Similar attempts to eliminate the protections created by Section 230 have almost universally been rejected, until a California Court of Appeals radically reinterpreted the statute to allow lawsuits against non-authors. The case is being reviewed by the California Supreme Court.

NYTimes Wins Dismissal on Anthrax Libel Suit

A federal judge has dismissed a libel suit brought against The New York Times by bioterrorism expert Steven Hatfill, who claimed the newspaper falsely insinuated he was responsible for the deadly anthrax attacks in 2001.
U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton also dismissed Hatfill's lawsuit against Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who wrote several columns in 2002 on the FBI's handling of the anthrax investigation.

McCain Releases Internal Air Force Email on Boeing Tanker Scam

In an unusually vigorous and confrontational display of congressional oversight, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) last week described how U.S. Air Force officials and the Boeing Corporation colluded on a contract to supply aerial-refueling tanker aircraft that would have cost taxpayers unnecessary billions of dollars.
Sen. McCain placed in the Congressional Record a series of internal Air Force email messages and other records of a sort that is hardly ever seen in public, including embarrassingly explicit efforts to manipulate press coverage of the proposed tanker lease deal.
These records "raise serious questions about the undue influence that industry exerts on procurement decisions in the Pentagon," Sen. McCain said.

PAC Will Lobby for Consumer Side of Copyright Issues

"Copyright is supposed to be a balance in the Constitution," said David Alpert, president of IPac, which launched about a month before the 2004 election. "The government should not be in the business of preventing technology changes just because some companies are afraid it might hurt their existing business models."
IPac pledges to support candidates and elected officials who fight for a balance in copyright law: The group will support those who advocate for laws that will pay creators without limiting political expression, innovation or research and education, and back laws that foster new creativity. The group says it believes that intellectual property laws should be clear so technologists can innovate without being sued.

IAEA Accepts Nuclear Vow by Iranians

In a defeat for the Bush administration, the 35-country ruling board of the International Atomic Energy Agency passed a mildly worded resolution on Monday welcoming Iran's total freeze on a sensitive part of its nuclear program.
The resolution, passed by consensus without a vote, removes the possibility that the group will drag Iran before the United Nations Security Council for possible censure or even sanctions.

Amputee Soldiers to be Returned to Battle

Besides treadmills and stationary bikes, the $10 million Military Amputee Training Center will have weapons simulators, a climbing and rappelling wall and military vehicle simulators to help soldiers adapt their prosthetics to driving tanks and trucks.
``Our guys and gals, they don't want to just walk household distances, they want to be able to return to running, they want to be able to return to duty,'' Lt. Col. Jeff Gambel, clinical chief of the amputee clinic, said Friday at a groundbreaking ceremony.

*Another round of misery for the children of Iraq

A limited post-war nutritional assessment carried out by UNICEF in Baghdad found that acute malnutrition has nearly doubled compared with before the war. That assessment also found that seven out of 10 children suffered from various degrees of diarrhea, which leads to a loss of nutrients and often to death if not properly treated.
Hundreds of thousands of tons of raw sewage are still pumped into the Tigris and Euphrates rivers every day. Because water-cleaning chemicals have been looted or destroyed, the quality of water being pumped into homes is extremely poor and leads to more-frequent illness and malnutrition among children. The collapse of the water and sewage systems is probably the cause of an outbreak of a virulent form of hepatitis that is particularly lethal to pregnant women. It is estimated that 270,000 children born after the war have had none of their required immunizations and routine immunization services were all but disrupted. In addition, the existing stock of vaccines became useless as a result of the destruction of the vaccines' refrigeration system.

Bush to avoid Parliament, will travel to Halifax; no desire to be 'booed'

President George W. Bush will avoid a potentially hostile reception in Parliament and travel to Halifax next week to give a speech after his first official trip to Ottawa, White House sources say.

China cuts Treasury holdings, says report

China has cut the size of its U.S. Treasury bond holdings in its foreign exchange reserves to $180 billion to avoid losses from a weakening dollar, according to a published report.A report in the Shanghai-based China Business News cited Yu Yongding, a member of the monetary policy committee under the central bank, according to AFX-Asia.The report did not say how much of a reduction in Treasury debt the cut represented. The central bank normally does not disclose the composition of its foreign exchange holdings. [from]

OpTruth: Families Endure Private War

Mike Dorning, writer for the Chicago Tribune, has written an excellent piece called "Families Endure Private War," on the struggle of returning vets to adjust to life at home. [registration required] Here's an excerpt:
There were welcoming banners and cheering families that brilliant sunny Southern California morning when the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment arrived home in September after seven harrowing months of roadside bombs, mortar barrages and sniper attacks mounted by a roiling Iraqi insurgency.
But their return from war has been more complex than the familiar television images of hugs and kisses on the tarmac or homecomings portrayed in Hollywood movies. In the two months since the men--and in this combat battalion, they are all men--returned to their wives, loved ones and families, there also have been shouting matches in the kitchen and tears in the bedroom.
The sad fact about this article is that no one will read it, and worse no one will take action to remedy the situation.
...40% of America still believes there are WMDs in Iraq, and that Saddam Hussein attacked us on 9/11, why wouldn't they believe that our soldiers, veterans and military families are getting everything that they need?

Famous Trials

The amazing Famous Trials website, compiled as a labor of love by University of Missouri law professor Douglas Linder, is a motherlode of information on historically significant trails, ranging from Galileo to the Amistad to Lenny Bruce. It features not only official transcripts, but also equally intriguing details such as a map of the railroad cars in the Scottsboro Boys trial, Klan documents from the Mississippi Burning case, and opinion polls related to the My Lai courts martial. [from]

Appeals court rules colleges can bar military recruiters

In a major victory for NYU, a federal appeals court struck down the Solomon amendment yesterday, asserting that schools have a First Amendment right to obstruct military recruiters from campus without risking the loss of federal funding. Reversing a lower court's ruling, a three-judge panel of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia voted 2-to-1 to immediately suspend the law, which had punished colleges and universities that closed their doors to recruiters in protest of the military's ban on gays.
The ruling is a boon for the NYU School of Law, a member of the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, the lead plaintiff. The court said the Solomon amendment is a violation of free speech because it unfairly mandated that the law schools help disseminate a message with which they disagree.

Red Cross Finds Detainee Abuse in Guantánamo "Tantamount to Torture"

The team of humanitarian workers, which included experienced medical personnel, also asserted that some doctors and other medical workers at Guantánamo were participating in planning for interrogations, in what the report called "a flagrant violation of medical ethics."
Doctors and medical personnel conveyed information about prisoners' mental health and vulnerabilities to interrogators, the report said, sometimes directly, but usually through a group called the Behavioral Science Consultation Team, or B.S.C.T. The team, known informally as Biscuit, is composed of psychologists and psychological workers who advise the interrogators, the report said.

2004 Winners of the Ig® Nobel Prize

MEDICINE "The Effect of Country Music on Suicide."
PHYSICS "Coordination Modes in the Multisegmental Dynamics of Hula Hooping,"
PUBLIC HEALTH the scientific validity of the Five-Second Rule
CHEMISTRY a transparent form of water, which for precautionary reasons has been made unavailable to consumers.
ENGINEERING patenting the combover (U.S. Patent #4,022,227
LITERATUREThe American Nudist Research Library
PSYCHOLOGY demonstrating that when people pay close attention to something, it's all too easy to overlook anything else -- even a woman in a gorilla suit.
ECONOMICS outsourcing prayers to India.
PEACE for inventing karaoke, thereby providing an entirely new way for people to learn to tolerate each other.
BIOLOGY for showing that herrings apparently communicate by farting.

Australia: Biometric Passports win "Most Invasive Technology" at the Big Brother Awards

Who is watching Big Brother? Last week, the Australian Privacy Foundation held its annual Big Brother Awards, with biometric passports winning the prestigious "Orwell" for the most invasive technology (other countries' Big Brother Awards here). Not long before, Privacy International and the Electronic Privacy Information Center released their 7th Annual Survey on the state of privacy in sixty countries, claiming that threats to personal privacy have reached a level that is dangerous to fundamental human rights. Are we edging closer to Room 101? [from]

Unions call homeland security directive unconstitutional

DHS issued the directive last May to restrict the dissemination of a broad range of material designated as sensitive but unclassified. The department also has required employees and contractors hired since May to sign a nondisclosure agreement stating they will not disclose certain information without proper authorization, including material labeled as sensitive but unclassified.
The unions sent letters on Nov. 23 to DHS Secretary Tom Ridge and General Counsel Joe Whitley demanding that the department immediately withdraw the directive and stop making workers sign the nondisclosure agreement. The unions said they "will have no choice but to pursue appropriate legal action" if the department does not take the requested steps.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Passports to Carry RFID

The Bush Administration spurned warnings by privacy and security experts and foreign governments when pushing new remotely readable biometric passports, according to State Department documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union. Because of the U.S. action, passports issued to Americans in coming years will contain Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips that will broadcast all the personal information on a passport to anyone who comes within range with an RFID reader.

Supreme Court Rejects Gay Marriage Law Challenge

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a challenge to the only state that allows gay marriages, declining to hear an appeal aimed at overturning the Massachusetts law that prompted a national debate on the legality and morality of same-sex unions.
The decision ended the legal fight over a 4-3 Massachusetts high court ruling last November giving gay couples the right to marry. But both sides say the U.S. Supreme Court's unwillingness to intervene means there will be more fights in courts and legislatures around the country.

Have you seen It has plot summaries, still photos [.jpg], sound clips [.wav], and most amusingly, videos [.mpg]. Here is the full list. [from]

Web Won't Let Government Hide

For starters, there's Google's little-known government specific search engine. Those proficient with crafting search terms can find Attorney General John Ashcroft's office number, gee-whiz nanotechnology movies and NASA's Microgravity Man comic strip. One can even find homeland security alerts about truck bombs (PDF) and the intelligence needs of the FBI.
Another trove of information is George Washington University's National Security Archive, which contains thousands of documents acquired through patient Freedom of Information Act requests. And there's CoolGov, a blog devoted to ferreting out quirky tidbits such as videos of airline crashes.
Those interested in the nitty-gritty of how and why the government hides information can subscribe to Stephen Aftergood's Secrecy News listserv, which is part of his work as the director of Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy.

Trial to Unmask Kazaa Owners

representing the major record labels will name the secretive owners of Sharman Networks, the makers of the Kazaa peer-to-peer software, during a trial in Australia's federal court that began this week.
A music industry insider told Wired News that the investigation of Sharman -- based in Australia but registered in the tax haven of Vanuatu -- has revealed its true owners. The music industry will allege Nikki Hemming, the CEO of Sharman, and Kevin Bermeister, the CEO of Brilliant Digital Entertainment and Altnet, own and control the company.

One third of CPA's Halliburton-guarded items missing

A third or more of the government property Halliburton Co. was paid to manage for the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq could not be located by auditors, investigative reports to Congress show.
Halliburton's KBR subsidiary ''did not effectively manage government property'' and auditors could not locate hundreds of CPA items worth millions of dollars in Iraq and Kuwait this summer and fall, Inspector General Stuart W. Bowen reported to Congress.

Prison general Geoffrey Miller promoted

The two-star Army general who ran the U.S. military prison for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and later took over the U.S. military prison system in Iraq has been reassigned to a senior staff job in the Pentagon.
...In August 2003, Miller was sent to Iraq to provide advice on the screening of detainees, their interrogations and the collection of intelligence. Among his recommendations was that military police be actively involved in ``setting the conditions'' for successful interrogations.
The prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib that exploded into an international scandal in the spring of 2004 took place mainly in October and November 2003, shortly after Miller's visit. He has not been blamed for the abuse, directly or indirectly.


On The Interview this week, the Canadian writer Naomi Klein talks to Owen Bennett-Jones about what's happened to the protestors who just five years ago wreaked havoc on trade talks from Seattle to Prague. She explains where she sees globalisation now and why most of her latest writing is about Iraq.

Jesse Jackson: Ohio Prez Vote 'Not Yet Decided'

The Rev. Jesse Jackson has joined the move by the Kerry campaign and state Democratic Party officials to press for a recount in Ohio, telling supporters that the race there "has not yet been [decided] because of so many irregularities 26 days after the election."
Jackson said in a telephone interview that he was organizing "a kind of statewide sharing of experiences" that would mobilize citizens and result in "collective state action," according to the Cincinnati Post.
"We are pulling people together from around the state," he explained.

Concerned Oragonians Push For Presidential Election Fraud Probe

"We believe exit polls in the Ukraine, but we don't believe exit polls in the U.S.," said Tim Ream. "What is that telling us?" Ream was one of the speakers at a meeting Monday night in the Medford Public Library attended by about 75 people from Southern Oregon who want the federal government as well as state governments to investigate occurrences they say indicate widespread fraud in the 2004 U.S. presidential election.

420+ of 435 U.S. House seats locked into a party due to gerrymandering

Fewer and fewer congressional races are being contested because of the political influence over the drawing of those districts in the state legislatures.
It used to be that having 50 competitive races in the 435-member U.S. House of Representatives was low, but that number has now fallen into the low teens, noted Colleen Shogun, associate professor of government and politics at George Mason University.

Saudis, Enron money helped pay for US rigged election

The leak about the money and the rigged election apparently came from technicians who were promised to be paid a certain amount for their work but the Bush campaign interlocutors reneged and some of the technicians are revealing the nature of the vote rigging program.
There have been media reports from around the country concerning the locking down of precincts while votes were being tallied. In one unprecedented action in Warren County, Ohio, election officials locked down the facility where votes were being counted. The officials said this was in response to a Level 10 high-threat terrorist warning being issued by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI for Warren County. George Bush won 72 percent of the vote in Warren County, much larger than his percentage of victory statewide.

Media desperately trying to ignore

Hopefully you've heard that Bev Harris ( is conducting a massive Freedom of Information Act request to jurisdictions across the country regarding the 2004 election and use of electronic voting machines. Bev Harris is investigating the possibility of fraud by conducting the simple audits that juridictions should have conducted on their own.
But you wouldn't know this from the mainstream media. Last week, the media tried to get away with disparaging the mere suggestion of possible fraud as an Internet "conspiracy theory" -- e.g. the Nov. 8 CBS News story Blogging As Typing, Not Journalism and the page 2 Washington Post story of Nov. 11 Latest Conspiracy Theory -- Kerry Won -- Hits the Ether.
These stories painted a broad brush and notably ignored and the methodical investigation being performed by Bev Harris. This ignoring of could be explained by Bev Harris' Nov. 8 interview on the radio show Democracy Now!:
I have also been told from sources that I have inside the media that are fairly high up that particularly in TV, there's been -- there is now a lockdown on this story. It is officially and from an executive producer level, let's move on time. And I am very concerned about that, because it looks like we're going to have to go to places like BBC, to get the real story out.

Quietly released Pentagon report contains major criticisms of administration.

Late on the Wednesday afternoon before the Thanksgiving holiday, the US Defense Department released a report by the Defense Science Board that is highly critical of the administration's efforts in the war on terror and in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
'Muslims do not hate our freedom, but rather they hate our policies [the report says]. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the long-standing, even increasing, support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan and the Gulf states. Thus, when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy.'The Pentagon released the study after The New York Times ran a story about the report in its Wednesday editions.

Scientists propose conservation parks on Mars

"It is the right of every person to stand and stare across the beautiful barrenness and desolation of the Martian surface without having to endure the eyesore of pieces of crashed spacecraft scattered across the landscape," they write in the latest edition of Space Policy.

Amnesty International: 20 Years Later, Bhopal Disaster and Aftermath a Huge Violation of Human Rights

Around 100,000 people are still suffering "chronic and debilitating illnesses" Amnesty said, noting that even 20 years later, many have yet to receive adequate compensation or medical treatment.
"Today, 20 years after the disastrous gas leak at Bhopal, tens of thousands of people are still suffering the after-effects," Amnesty said in an 82-page report titled "Clouds of injustice".
"Despite the determined efforts of survivors to secure justice, the large numbers affected have received inadequate compensation and medical assistance," the organisation said.
"People already living in poverty face health problems that are shortening their lives and affecting their ability to work.
"The site has not been cleaned up so toxic wastes continue to pollute the water which the surrounding communities rely on," it said.

CIA Quietly Funding Chat Room Espionage

In April 2003, the CIA agreed to fund a series of research projects that the documents indicate were intended to create "new capabilities to combat terrorism through advanced technology." One of those projects is research at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., devoted to automated monitoring and profiling of the behavior of chat-room users.

Korean Scientists Succeed in Stem Cell Therapy

A team of Korean researchers claimed Thursday they had performed a miracle by enabling a patient, who could not even stand up for the last 19 years, to walk with stem cell therapy.
During a press conference, the scientists said they had last month transplanted multi-potent stem cells from umbilical cord blood to the 37-year-old female patient suffering from a spinal cord injury and she can now walk on her own.

David Byrne's Online Journal

Malu and I went to see The Incredibles, the new Pixar film about disgruntled retired superheroes. I laughed and cried, as I do at lots of animated movies. I wonder if I get more emotionally involved in animated characters than in films using real actors? Other than Spielberg movies that deliberately work the sentimental buttons it's much easier to identify with drawings than with real people. Maybe this isn't strange. Maybe the fact that they're drawings makes them more ambiguous, more universal, and easier to identify with. Well, it's true with lots of other things- things that use metaphor, allegory and poetic ambiguity are generally more powerful emotionally than straight narrative.

"Buy Nothing Day" Activists Arrested

They were dressed in Santa hats and white T-shirts printed with the words "NOTHING - What you've been looking for." The back of the shirts read: "Ask me about NOTHING."
Buy Nothing Day began 13 years ago a way for people to engage in symbolic protest against the "frantic consumer binge" by refusing to shop for 24 hours, according to Adbusters Media Foundation, a Vancouver, British Columbia-based organization that sponsors the event.

Warner Bros. Cartoons Filmography And Title Card Gallery

Drug maker urges group to lobby FDA on testosterone for women

The major household products manufacturer Procter & Gamble recently sought support from an international medical society, which it sponsors, asking the group to get involved in a regulatory hearing assessing the company's experimental testosterone patch.
No peer reviewed data on the testosterone patch have been published, but it has been granted a fast track review by the US Food and Drug Administration and will be publicly debated by an advisory panel next week. The patch is the first drug to be assessed for a controversial condition called hypoactive sexual desire disorder.
["HSDD" sounds like another ailment defined by a marketing department. -McLir]

Contracts Keep Drug Research Out of Reach

Now, faced with growing safety questions, the researchers had been trying for months to gather all the test data about those and similar drugs to see if they had missed a pattern not apparent in any single trial.
But they could get only pieces of that information.
Some drug companies refused to turn over data to the group, even though these researchers had helped come up with it, the researchers recalled. In other cases, they could not freely share their own data with colleagues who had not worked on a test. The reason, they said, was that medical schools, in agreeing to run the tests, had signed agreements with the drug makers that kept the data confidential.


On Monday, a squad of around 15 independent bloggers will begin inserting mentions of Marqui's hosted communications management services into their blogs for money.
The bloggers will get $800 a month to mention Marqui with a link once a week in their blogs and post its emblem on a page. They'll get an additional $50 per qualified sales lead they send to Marqui.
"We hit on the idea of [connecting with] heavily read, influential bloggers who create public discussion groups and get feedback," said Stephen King, Marqui CEO. "But there are no mechanisms for them to make money. So we came up with idea of paying them."

Q&A With Richard Dawkins

Bush Seeks Money for Abstinence Education

Congress last weekend included more than $131 million for abstinence programs in a $388 billion spending bill, an increase of $30 million but about $100 million less than Bush requested. Meanwhile, a national evaluation of abstinence programs has been delayed, with a final report not expected until 2006.
Ten state evaluations, compiled by a group that opposes abstinence-only education, showed little change in teens' behavior since the start of abstinence programs in 1997.