Friday, December 17, 2004

Iraqi's File Suit Against Rumsfeld in Germany

The Pentagon expressed concern Monday over a criminal complaint filed in Germany against US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other officials over the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, warning that "frivolous lawsuits" could affect the broader US-German relationship.
The complaint was filed in Berlin November 30 by the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and Berlin's Republican Lawyers' Association on behalf of four Iraqis who were alleged to have been mistreated by US soldiers. [from]

Australia accepts Iraqi refugees from Nauru

Australia has accepted a group of Iraqi refugees from Nauru after a recent review found their home country not conducive to return. The UN refugee agency has welcomed this move, and urged the Canberra government to grant complementary protection to the rest of the group until the situation improves in Iraq.

For background on Nauru, listen to this great story from This American Life

Top Science Stories of the Year

The conclusive discovery by a pair of wheeled robots that Mars once had vast pools of water and possibly could have harbored life was chosen by the editors of the journal Science as the most important scientific achievement of 2004.
NASA's two Mars rovers, Opportunity and Spirit, landed on the Red Planet early in 2004 and have since found clear and conclusive evidence that Mars was drenched with water at some time in its history.

Unit's vehicles all had armor within day of soldier's query

The generals said it was part of routine, pre-deployment preparations in Kuwait before the unit proceeded into Iraq.
''When the question was asked, 20 vehicles remained to be up-armored at that point,'' Speakes said at a Pentagon briefing. ''We completed those 20 vehicles in the next day. ... In other words, we completed all the armoring within 24 hours of the time the question was asked.''

Margaret Atwood to be on Studio 360 this Weekend

Kurt Andersen talks with novelist Margaret Atwood about how biology grabs headlines -- and the imagination of artists. They discuss Atwood’s childhood among scientists, and her most recent novel, Oryx and Crake, in which biotech runs amok with catastrophic consequences.
The daughter of an entomologist, Margaret Atwood grew up in the woods of Canada. She is the author of more than 25 books of fiction, poetry, and essays, including The Handmaid's Tale, Alias Grace, and The Blind Assassin, which won the Booker Prize.
Includes interview with Richard Dawkins

U.S. and Russian Nuclear Missiles are Still on Hair-Trigger Alert

"The security of both nations should not be dependent on the heroic act or good judgment of a single individual," said Sam Nunn, the former senator from Georgia.
Long active in anti-proliferation efforts such as the Nuclear Threat Initiative, Nunn is leading a campaign to persuade U.S. and Russian leaders to take their thousands of strategic nuclear warheads off hair-trigger alert, a status that remains in effect more than a decade after the Cold War ended.

Pentagon Proposes Loosening Its Environmental Policy

A draft of the proposal, which would replace a 1996 directive, eliminates the Pentagon's vow to "display environmental security leadership within DOD activities worldwide." It stresses, instead, the "national defense mission."
The new proposal replaces a list of concrete responsibilities with vague guidance to the military about how to prevent pollution and guarantee compliance with federal and international laws.

*Wikipedia: 2004 U.S. presidential election controversy, exit polls

After the 2004 U.S. presidential election there were allegations of data irregularities and systematic flaws which may have affected the outcome of both the presidential and local elections. Unofficial results currently indicate a victory by George W. Bush over John Kerry. Allegations range from significant exit poll and other data irregularities potentially characteristic of fraud, to complaints voting was not conducted equally for all citizens, for example, uneven voting machine distribution which might lead to long voting lines and disenfranchisement.

*Climate change hits bottom line

The WMO reported that the average temperature of the world's surface for 2004 was expected to be 0.44C higher than the mean for the period 1961-1990, making it the fourth hottest year since 1861, just behind 2003, but still well below the all-time record year of 1998.
And this year has been the most expensive ever for the insurance industry in terms of payouts for damage from natural disasters such as hurricanes and typhoons.
Climate change: The evidence and future predictions
At-a-glance According to preliminary figures

*Bush Uses Contradictory Economic Projections To Support Agenda

Throughout a two-day conference on the economy, President Bush and his allies extolled the virtues of his tax cuts and "pro-growth" policies, which they said have lifted the nation from recession and propelled it well above its international economic competitors. If Washington adheres to the path of fiscal restraint while following the president's tax prescriptions, it was suggested, policymakers could secure powerful economic growth far into the future.
Yet when the subject turned to the nation's legal or Social Security systems, the picture grew suddenly dark. Frivolous lawsuits have hobbled America's businesses and have put them at the mercy of their enlightened overseas competition, administration officials said. As for federal entitlements, a rising tide of retiring baby boomers will inevitably slow economic growth and bankrupt Social Security.

Biometric passports are 'a tall order'

Plans to begin issuing biometric passports next year may fail because the technology isn't good enough, experts have warned.Governments are racing to get the systems up and running before October 2005, a deadline imposed by the US Congress.
In 2002, Congress stated that if countries wished to stay in the US visa waiver scheme they would have to start issuing biometric passports.

Cult Leader's Attempt at Resurrection End Prosaically

Four members of a religious cult that believes in resurrection and eternal life are under investigation for burying their leader alive by sealing him in an underground room and pouring concrete over the entrance.
...Police uncovered yesterday the decomposed body of a 54-year-old man, thought to be the head of the cult. The remains were found in the basement of a social welfare office in Yongin, Gyeonggi province. According to Gyeonggi police, Mr. Song, the cult's leader, is thought to have died several years ago. He was found lying in bed by police. There were no external injuries, so police said they believe he died of starvation.

ClearChannel Subsidiary SFX Buys 85% of Elvis Estate

As well as running Graceland, Presley's home in Memphis, Tennessee, Sillerman will own his name and likeness, the rights to his photographs and revenue from his music, TV shows and films such as "Jailhouse Rock."
The title to Graceland and its surrounding property, including most of Presley's personal effects, will remain with Lisa Marie Presley. Graceland's visitor complex and "Heartbreak Hotel" across the street will be sold.

S. Dali + 3 Marxes

From Marx-Out-Of-Print, "a tribute to The Marx Brothers with full reproductions of books and articles from magazines and other publications that are now 'out of print' and hard to find." Dali was a huge fan of Harpo and once gave him a harp strung with barbed wire. He also wrote a script for the Marx Brothers, which was deemed "too surreal." [from]

People v. John Perry Barlow

If you haven't read it, please start by reading John Perry Barlow's account of the history of People v. John Perry Barlow, because I don't want to tell the whole story that gave rise to that case here. You would do much better to start off with Barlow's own account, not least because of its account of how John Gilmore bailed him out of jail. (You might also want to see Barlow's collection of legal documents, some of which are alluded to below.)
On Wednesday I went to Superior Court for the hearing on John Perry's motion to suppress. The defense claimed that the search at the airport in 2003 was not "reasonable" and therefore that evidence obtained from it should not be admitted. The Superior Court of California, County of San Mateo, is accustomed to dealing with cases that arose at the San Francisco Airport, but it's not particularly used to constitutional challenges to aviation screening procedures, nor to having multiple camera crews turn out for a single pre-trial evidentiary hearing in a misdemeanor drug possession case.

Eskimo Global Warming Suit Against US Just Tip of Legal Iceberg

The plan by the Inuit people of the Arctic to seek a ruling from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights against the United States "for causing global warming and its devastating impacts" is just the tip of the iceberg of planned legal action by a host of different environmental organizations and state attorneys general.
A number of legal filings and complaints are being readied as green groups turn to the courts to seek redress against countries -- chiefly the U.S. -- and companies that environmental activists believe are causing catastrophic global warming.

Proof of Ohio Election Fraud Exposed

Move over "election irregularities", say hello to "recount irregularites". Hot on the heels of Blackwell's about face on his promise to let the recount proceed unmolested, and a Karen-Silkwood-esque attack on the "recount activist" who broke that story, comes even more damaging allegations concerning the central tabulators. The Kerry-Edwards campaign is nominally on the case, and the NY Times is finally picking up the story. Is American democracy hanging by a thread? [from]

US to forgive Iraq’s 4 billion-dollar debt

The administration of US President George W. Bush will agree to write off Iraq’s debts to Washington of 4.1 billion dollars, racked up during the regime of Saddam Hussein.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell, Treasury Secretary John Snow and Iraq’s Finance Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, according to a State Department statement Thursday, will sign the debt write-off accord in Washington on Friday.

The Floating Logos Project

'Floating Logos' is a working title for this project. The images are inspired by signs perched high atop very tall poles in order for people to view them from a very long distance. The poles are digitally removed from the image in order to give the illusion that the signs are disconnected from the ground as they ominously float above us.

Frank Rich: 2004 - The Year of 'The Passion'

Yet if you watch the news and listen to certain politicians, especially since Election Day, you'll hear an ever-growing drumbeat that Christianity is under siege in America. Like Mr. Gibson, the international movie star who portrayed himself as a powerless martyr to a shadowy anti- Christian conspiracy in the run-up to the release of "The Passion," his fellow travelers on the right detect a sinister plot — of secularists, "secular Jews" and "elites" — out to destroy the religion followed by more than four out of every five Americans.
In the latest and most bizarre twist on this theme, even Christmas is now said to be a target of the anti-Christian mob. "Are we going to abolish the word Christmas?" asked Newt Gingrich, warning that "it absolutely can happen here." Among those courageously leading the fight to save the holiday from its enemies is Bill O'Reilly, who has taken to calling the Anti-Defamation League "an extremist group" and put the threat this way: "Remember, more than 90 percent of American homes celebrate Christmas. But the small minority that is trying to impose its will on the majority is so vicious, so dishonest — and has to be dealt with." [thanks to Sharon]

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

"Snapshot" of an electron orbital

Chemistry is all about how electrons move around. Every reaction shifts fuzzy, quantum clouds of electrons from one place to another. So a technique unveiled today, which takes pictures of these clouds, could revolutionize our understanding of the molecules that surround us.
..."The ability to observe a molecular orbital really caught a lot of people by surprise," says David Villeneuve, a physicist from the National Research Council of Canada's Steacie Institute for Molecular Sciences in Ottawa. Villeneuve was part of the Canadian and Japanese collaboration that invented the method, described in this week's Nature1. "An approximate take on quantum mechanics tells you that you can't directly observe an orbital, yet we have," he says.
The imaging technique uses extremely short laser pulses to briefly ionize an electron away from a molecule of nitrogen, which is simply two nitrogen atoms stuck together. As they spring back, the electrons emit light that can interfere with the laser pulse in different ways depending on the electron's position and where the laser pulse hit the molecule.

ACLU Reveals Widespread Torture in Iraq

U.S. Navy documents released today by the American Civil Liberties Union reveal that abuse and even torture of detainees by U.S. Marines in Iraq was widespread. One Navy criminal investigator sent an e-mail in June 2004 describing his Iraq caseload "exploding" with "high visibility cases."
"Day after day, new stories of torture are coming to light, and we need to know how these abuses were allowed to happen," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. "This kind of widespread abuse could not have taken place without a leadership failure of the highest order."

Several Factors Contributed to 'Lost' Voters in Ohio

Electoral problems prevented many thousands of Ohioans from voting on Nov. 2. In Columbus, bipartisan estimates say that 5,000 to 15,000 frustrated voters turned away without casting ballots. It is unlikely that such "lost" voters would have changed the election result -- Ohio tipped to President Bush by a 118,000-vote margin and cemented his electoral college majority.
But similar problems occurred across the state and fueled protest marches and demands for a recount. The foul-ups appeared particularly acute in Democratic-leaning districts, according to interviews with voters, poll workers, election observers and election board and party officials, as well as an examination of precinct voting patterns in several cities.

Telemarketers won't have access to cellular database

There's been plenty of confusion -- and a lot of misinformation -- in recent days as an e-mail works its way around the Internet warning people about a directory of cell phone numbers that will be released to telemarketers on Jan. 1.
Just so you know: The e-mail information is absolutely false.
What's true: A Portland, Ore., company called Qsent will start compiling cell phone numbers for a 411 directory system Jan. 1.
But telemarketers will not have access to the database of cell phone numbers. There is no deadline to register your number on the federal government's do-not-call list. And your name and number will not be added to the database unless you want it to be -- and even then, it won't be listed in a book anywhere and certainly won't be handed over to telemarketers, said Greg Keene, chief privacy officer for Qsent.

New York Art Shuttered After Bush Monkey Portrait

A portrait of President Bush using monkeys to form his image led to the closure of a New York art exhibition over the weekend and anguished protests on Monday over freedom of expression. "Bush Monkeys," a small acrylic on canvas by Chris Savido, created the stir at the Chelsea Market public space, leading the market's managers to close down the 60-piece show that was scheduled to stay up for the next month.
The show featured art from the upcoming issue of Animal Magazine, a quarterly publication featuring emerging artists.
"We had tons of people, like more than 2,000 people show up for the opening on Thursday night," said show organizer Bucky Turco. "Then this manager saw the piece and the guy just kind of flipped out. 'The show is over. Get this work down or I'm gonna arrest you,' he said. It's been kind of wild."

Saudis Advertising the Virtues of Life in Jail

Infamous for the alleged abuses and torture carried out within its walls, the Saudi prison system is hardly the cradle of restorative justice.
During a month-long amnesty earlier this year, when some of the country's most wanted men were told they would not face the death penalty, only four militants turned themselves in.
However, in a new attempt to entice the hunted out of hiding, the authorities this week launched a charm offensive, enlisting the apparently willing help of inmates.
A number of jailed terror suspects appeared on national television promoting prison life, with one - on the list of 26 most-wanted Saudis - saying it was better than being at home.
"I swear to God, they (jailers) are nicer than our parents," said Othman Hadi Al Maqboul al-Amri, who surrendered in June under the royal amnesty.
"We heard things about abuse and persecution that could or could not be believed," another prisoner, Abdul-Rahman al-Ahmari, said on the documentary from al-Hayer reform penitentiary, outside Riyadh. "But I found al-Hayer totally different."

Biotech Critic Denied Tenure at UC Berkeley

Dr. Ignacio Chapela, whose research revealed contamination of native Mexican corn with genetically engineered DNA, taught his last class at University of California, Berkeley. Chapela was denied tenure at Berkeley, despite "overwhelming support from his own department and from his academic peers," GM Watch founder Jonathan Matthews writes. Chapela had also been a critic of a $25 million research deal between UC Berkeley and the Swiss biotechnology company Novartis (now Syngenta). Chapela supporters believe he is being retaliated against for his criticism of the biotech industry. SpinWatch's Andy Rowell and Matthews exposed how Monsanto's Internet PR company, Bivings Group, was at the very heart of the campaign to vilify Chapela and his research.

Hollywood Wants BitTorrent Dead

In the United States and the United Kingdom, the Motion Picture Association of America, the main lobbying arm of U.S. film studios, filed civil lawsuits against more than 100 operators of BitTorrent "tracker" servers that point to locations where digital files of movies, music and other content can be found.
The MPAA also targeted operators of servers for the eDonkey and Direct Connect networks. The group's actions include criminal complaints and cease-and-desist orders issued to ISPs on four continents. Acting in cooperation with the MPAA, French law enforcement authorities took related action Monday, and actions by authorities in Finland and the Netherlands followed Tuesday.

Mystery of 'chirping' pyramid decoded

A theory that the ancient Mayans built their pyramids to act as giant resonators to produce strange and evocative echoes has been supported by a team of Belgian scientists.
Nico Declercq of Ghent University and his colleagues have shown how sound waves ricocheting around the tiered steps of the El Castillo pyramid, at the Mayan ruin of Chichén Itzá near Cancún in Mexico, create sounds that mimic the chirp of a bird and the patter of raindrops1.
The bird-call effect, which resembles the warble of the Mexican quetzal bird, a sacred animal in Mayan culture, was first recognized by California-based acoustic engineer David Lubman in 1998. The 'chirp' can be triggered by a handclap made at the base of the staircase.

The Flying Colors 2005 Calendar

I just put together a calendar for my place of work -- featuring our ragtag band of screenprinting and embroidery workers.

Optimized for easy printing!
Full of special days!
Featuring the employees of Flying Colors and their amazing stories!

Get your copy now!

-- McLir

LEGO Logic Gates

I have now designed working NOT, OR, NOR, AND, and NAND gates. Using two NAND gates I have produced a NAND gate latch or Flip-FLop. The natural follow on from these is clocked logic, full-adders and ultimately a genuine "computer" device.

"Intelligent Design" in the Classroom

"The lawsuits are coming," school board member Angie Yingling said. "It's like being on the Titanic. Everyone seems to see the iceberg, but no one is steering away." The ACLU sued the Dover (Pennsylvania) Area School District today to prevent the district from enacting their recent controversial decision to teach "intelligent design" in the classroom. [from]

Finnish police raid BitTorrent site, arrest 34

The Motion Picture Ass. of America (MPAA) today announced (PDF ( that it is pursuing civil actions against hundreds of server operators of BitTorrent, eDonkey and DirectConnect P2P file-swapping networks, in its war on internet movie piracy.
In addition, the MPAA is co-operating in criminal investigations with police in Finland, the Netherlands and France, so it is reasonable to infer that reports of raids in more European countries are likely to surface shortly.

It's a Wonderful Life in 30 seconds, re-enacted by bunnies

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Top 248 Ways to Annoy People!

...#53. Finish all your sentences with the words, "in accordance with prophecy."
...#102. Never break eye contact.
...#142. Wear your cap backwards and say "Yo, wazzup?" a lot.

20 Amazing Facts About Voting in the USA

U.S. government moves to muzzle dissident voices

In an apparent reversal of decades of U.S. practice, recent federal Office of Foreign Assets Control regulations bar American companies from publishing works by dissident writers in countries under sanction unless they first obtain U.S. government approval.
The restriction, condemned by critics as a violation of the First Amendment, means that books and other works banned by some totalitarian regimes cannot be published freely in the United States, a country that prides itself as the international beacon of free expression.

Newborn Almost Taken Away Because both Parents are Blind. Blind People Across the Internet Come to Aid and Kick Butt

When little Rivaldo was born Friday morning, Marco and Adelina Zepeda asked a Sequoia Hospital nurse to arrange for someone to visit their Redwood City apartment over the weekend to visually check on the baby's progress.
After observing the nervous father struggling to diaper the infant, a social worker convinced Marco Zepeda to sign a form authorizing child protective services to take temporary custody of the baby if the couple could not care for him properly.
"This is after 48 hours of no sleep. This was not presented in Mr. Zepeda's native language, and it was not presented in an accessible format, such as Braille," said Margie Donovan of the California Council of the Blind.

Monday, December 13, 2004

The Scope and Variety of Print News Stories on Potential Election Fraud in US

For example:
Some Still Questioning Ohio Vote Count
Protesters pushing for vote recount
Zogby Defense: 'My Polling Was Very, Very Good'
How Dare New York Times Ignore Congressional Hearings on Election Fraud
Startling new revelations highlight rare Congressional hearings on Ohio vote
New Ohio voter transcripts
The One-Two Punch of Racism: Whitewashing the Voter Fraud Issue
Protest calls for election investigation
Protesters say election anomalies ignored
Still not quite the coverage Paris Hilton's dog received.

More Questions for Florida

Many questions have been raised about [Clint] Curtis, the 46-year-old programmer, who said he doesn't know if anyone ever placed the prototype code on voting machines. But this hasn't stopped frustrated voters and bloggers from seizing his story. Daily Kos mentioned the allegations, and Brad Friedman of The Brad Blog has written extensively about them.
Staff members for Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan) met with Curtis last week to discuss the election allegations. Representatives for Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Florida) inquired about other allegations from Curtis that his former company spied on NASA.
The FBI in Tallahassee, Florida, has set up a meeting with Curtis, and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, said it was trying to corroborate his claims about possible election fraud and NASA spying.

Construction of world's tallest tower to begin

The construction of what will be the world's tallest building is set to begin in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The building contract was awarded to a consortium led by the South Korean Samsung Corporation on Thursday.
The Burj Dubai tower will stand 800 metres tall - just 5 metres shy of half a mile - once completed in 2008. That will be nearly 300 metres taller than the tallest floored building in the world today, the Taipei Tower in Taiwan.

Blog Trolling Iraq?

Joseph Mailander of the Martini Republic weblog wonders if the U.S. government is "blog trolling" in Iraq: "touting the 'right' messengers with a mix of above-board, official recognition and below-board, ideology-based, sustained pump-priming, to generate a following for propagandistic messengers far beyond their natural level of interest." IraqTheModel, featuring two brothers in Baghdad, has become popular to the point that the brothers are touring the U.S., meeting President Bush and other prominent pro-war figures. "Contrast all this to the young woman computer systems analyst in Baghdad, Riverbend, who is in her views closer to the Iraqi opinion polls, especially with regard to Sunni Arabs, but who is not being feted in Washington, DC," notes Juan Cole. He adds, "The phenomenon of blog trolling, and frankly of blog agents provocateurs secretly working for a particular group or goal and deliberately attempting to spread disinformation, is likely to grow in importance." [from]

Bush Administration wins Doublespeak Award

President George W. Bush, for the second year in a row, has set a high standard for his team by the inspired invention of the phrase "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities" (1) to describe what has yet to be seen. Further he has made clear the principle of democratic discussion: "[A]s you know, these are open forums, you're able to come and listen to what I have to say." (2) Bush also won for his creative use of language in public statements regarding the reasons why the United States needed to pursue war against Iraq—for unsubstantiated statements, for the lack of evidentiary support, and for the purported manipulation of intelligence data.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s description of the widespread torture at Abu Ghraib as "the excesses of human nature that humanity suffers" (3) was brilliantly mind-befuddling. The Secretary is well served by a Pentagon that erased terms like the Vietnam era "body bag" which became "human remains pouches" during the Gulf War and is now known as "transfer tubes," (4) the transfer of which are to be kept from media sight.
The Justice Department also deserves mention for its ingenious contributions to the cause of helping us not confront the shame of our government fostering torture. Jay S. Bybee, head of the Office of Legal Counsel, advised that, in order to be considered torture, the pain inflicted on a prisoner "must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death." Leaving aside the problem of how to quantitatively measure human pain in this way, the memo advised that international laws against torture "may be unconstitutional if applied to interrogation" conducted against suspected terrorists.

Seed company won't sell genetically- engineered squash seeds in Vermont

Seedway, Inc., based in Hall, NY, which markets commercial agricultural seeds across the eastern United States, notified the Agency of Agriculture in a Nov. 19 letter that, “Whereas Vermont is the only state which requires special labeling for genetically engineered seed, our Management has elected not to offer for sale any such vegetable products to growers in the State of Vermont. ”

Rumsfeld lied about armor production

Former Republican congressman Matt Salmon of Arizona, a spokesman for ArmorWorks in Tempe, Ariz., said his company will finish a $30 million contract with the Pentagon this month to make 1,500 armor kits for Humvees. “We are at 50% capacity, and we could do a lot more,” he said. “They are aware of it.”
Armor Holdings of Jacksonville told the Army last month it could add armor to as many as 550 trucks a month, up from 450, said Robert Mecredy of its aerospace and defense group. “We're prepared to build 50 to 100 vehicles more per month,” he said.

Pentagon Covers Up Missile Defense Fraud At MIT

MIT president Charles M. Vest, whose last day is Sunday, released a statement yesterday saying that even though MIT's panel of investigators all have "appropriate security clearances," they have been denied access to the necessary material.
"Without that access, the investigation cannot be conducted," Vest said in the statement he issued in response to questions from MIT's student newspaper, The Tech. "We continue to seek the approval needed so that the investigation can proceed."

How Dangerous Is Depleted Uranium?

The Army values munitions manufactured from depleted uranium because, when fused with metal alloys, they are considered the most effective warhead for penetrating enemy tanks. Also, because depleted uranium is twice as dense as lead, the Army uses DU as armor plating.
Once a depleted-uranium round strikes its target, the projectile begins to burn on impact, creating tiny particles of radioactive U-238. Winds can transport this radioactive dust many miles, potentially contaminating the air that innocent humans breathe.
This inhalation may cause lung cancer, kidney damage, cancers of bones and skin, as well as birth defects and chemical poisoning.

Former Chief Weapons Inspector: The Oil-For-Food 'Scandal' is a Cynical Smokescreen

The oil-for-food programme implemented by the United Nations from 1996 until 2003 as the "greatest scandal in the history of the UN". But this posturing is nothing more than a hypocritical charade, designed to shift attention away from the debacle of George Bush's self-made quagmire in Iraq, and legitimise the invasion of Iraq by using Iraqi corruption, and not the now-missing weapons of mass destruction, as the excuse.

Pentagon Weighs Use of Deception in a Broad Arena

The Pentagon is engaged in bitter, high-level debate over how far it can and should go in managing or manipulating information to influence opinion abroad, senior Defense Department civilians and military officers say.
Such missions, if approved, could take the deceptive techniques endorsed for use on the battlefield to confuse an adversary and adopt them for covert propaganda campaigns aimed at neutral and even allied nations.
Critics of the proposals say such deceptive missions could shatter the Pentagon's credibility, leaving the American public and a world audience skeptical of anything the Defense Department and military say - a repeat of the credibility gap that roiled America during the Vietnam War.


They are delicious, or at least they used to be. First came ethylene ripening and monoculture which turned them into tasteless red baseballs, and taste was't the only problem. Then came this year's hurricanes which decimated the crops, driving prices up. And now, just when you think you've found a really tasty variant on the market with the wonderfully appropriate name of UglyRipe, the state growers board goes and bans them for being too ugly. If you agree that this sucks go and tell the guys in charge. [from]

Gary Webb, Pulitzer-winning journalist, found dead

Investigative journalist Gary Webb found dead of an apparent suicide. Webb is known for his Dark Alliance series, linking the CIA to drug trafficking. As you can imagine, not everyone responded well to his work, especially his employer. An interview with Webb can be found here.
Gary Webb: I look like an idiot up here with all these mikes, the CIA agents are probably behind one or the other... [laughter from the audience]. - Jan 16, 1999 [from]

Webb was found Friday morning at his home in Sacramento County, dead of an apparent suicide. Moving-company workers called authorities after discovering a note posted on his front door that read, "Please do not enter. Call 911 and ask for an ambulance." Webb died of a gunshot wound to the head, according to the Sacramento County coroner's office. He is survived by two sons and a daughter.

Venezuela: Chavez Enacts New Restrictions on Media

A new media law that came into force this week in Venezuela has caused widespread concern among Venezuelan and international human rights and press freedom organizations. Ostensibly aimed at protecting children from violent or sexual content in radio and television broadcasts, the law gives the government broad discretionary powers to fine and even close down broadcasters.
Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez has long had a difficult relationship with the country's independent media, most of which is fiercely opposed to his government.
Matters worsened after a coup attempt in April 2002, during which the president took opposition TV stations off the air, and the media censored the views and actions of the supporters who restored him to power.

Debate over Religion in California School

A controversy over religion in public schools is raging in Cupertino, Calif. A fifth-grade teacher there claims school officials have muzzled him when he tries to teach his students about the role Christianity played in the American Revolution. Many parents in the community feel he's overstepped his bounds. NPR's Elaine Korry reports.

Touch-screen errors led to loss of 4,400 ballots - New Vote Called

The votes were lost because the touch-screen system could store only 3,000 votes that day, far fewer than the 10,000 the machines should be able to handle, according to the manufacturer, UniLect Corp. in Dublin, Calif.
Poll workers didn't immediately see that the machine had begun displaying a notice that said it couldn't accept any more votes, Cordle said. The machines don't produce paper copies of the ballots. "As a compromise, we agreed to allow those whose vote was not counted last time to vote, [as well as] anybody who didn't vote last time," Cordle said. "It's a very unusual ruling, and each [candidate] has 10 days to appeal it in court. It may get changed if they do."
The January election will cost the county $20,000, Cordle said, adding that it will use the same machines used in November but will allow only 3,000 votes per machine.