Friday, January 07, 2005

Some Answers to the GLAT (Google Labs Aptitude Test) SPOILER

2. Write a haiku describing possible methods for predicting search traffic seasonality.
3. 1
1 1
2 1
1 2 1 1
1 1 1 2 2 1
What's the next line?
10. On an infinite, two-dimensional, rectangular lattice of 1-ohm resistors, what is the resistance between two nodes that are a knight's move away?
12. In your opinion, what is the most beautiful math equation ever derived?

If you want to figure these out yourself, here you go: 1, 2, 3 4.

Internation Phonetic Alphabet With Audo

The following interactive charts of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) were designed by Eric Armstrong of York University, Toronto, Canada; and voiced by Paul Meier, of the University of Kansas, USA. They are provided as an aid to students of dialects and phonetics. If you are studying dialects with Paul Meier Dialect Services books or booklets, and want to hear one of the "signature sounds" in isolation, or in comparison with other sounds, you may do so using the charts here. Vowels, consonants, ingressives, suprasegmentals, intonation, diacritics, ejectives, implosives, diphthongs, and clicks are demonstrated. Clicking one of the charts below will link you to a Flash animation. (Get Flashplayer free.) Some of the files are quite large and may take some time to load with a dial-up connection, while others are smaller and will load more quickly.
The latest version of the IPA Alphabet was published in 1993 (updated in 1996) by the International Phonetic Association.

Carbon trading grows into new year

Activity on the international carbon-trading market has grown following the launch of the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme on 1 January. The volume of trading had already doubled in both November and December 2004.
The idea of a carbon market is to allow industrial organizations such as power companies and factories to buy and sell the right to emit greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

General warns Pentagon of 'broken' reserve forces

The US general who commands the army's reserve forces has warned the Pentagon that his units are now unable to meet their mission requirements in Iraq and Afghanistan and are "rapidly degenerating into a 'broken' force".
In a bluntly worded memo to the army's chief of staff on December 20, first disclosed this week by the Baltimore Sun newspaper, Lt Gen James Helmly said Pentagon policies governing the deployment of reservists were "dysfunctional" and were "eroding daily" his ability to create an effective force.
Although a majority of forces deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan are active duty soldiers, more than a third have been drawn from the reserves and national guard, frequently for tours that have lasted a year or more. The heavy use has hurt recruitment for both the reserves and national guard, even as the active military has seen relatively stable re-enlistment.
Despite the heavy use of reserves in active duty, Lt Gen Helmly's memo did not request additional manpower; instead, it criticised restrictive policies that prevented him from managing, training and mobilising his units more effectively.

No Sympathetic Pundit Left Behind

Seeking to build support among black families for its education reform law, the Bush administration paid a prominent black pundit $240,000 to promote the law on his nationally syndicated television show and to urge other black journalists to do the same.
The campaign, part of an effort to promote No Child Left Behind (NCLB), required commentator Armstrong Williams "to regularly comment on NCLB during the course of his broadcasts," and to interview Education Secretary Rod Paige for TV and radio spots that aired during the show in 2004.
Williams said Thursday he understands that critics could find the arrangement unethical, but "I wanted to do it because it's something I believe in."

Census Lists Rename Bevis Lake to "Butthead Lake"

Bevis Lake, a 5.7-acre body of water in a forested area about 25 miles northeast of Seattle, is now appearing in Bureau records with a different name: Butthead Lake.
...Someone at the Census Bureau must have gotten bored and made a joke out of naming the lake, said Ken Brown, a land surveyor with the state Department of Natural Resources.
"It's got to be," he said.

A Wal-Mart worker fired for showing a photo of himself wearing only a sack.

A 65-year-old Wal-Mart greeter has been fired for greeting customers with a computer-generated photograph of himself wearing nothing but a Wal-Mart sack.Dean Wooten was fired in September from his job as a greeter at the Muscatine Wal-Mart store where he had worked for seven years, state records show. He was accused of greeting customers with a picture of himself in which he appeared to be naked except for the carefully placed sack.Wooten allegedly told customers that Wal-Mart was cutting back on expenses and that the sack represented the new employee uniform.
After some customers complained, a supervisor told Wooten not to display the picture. Five days later, after more customers complained, Wooten admitted he had brought the picture back to work and had been showing it again to customers. He was fired that day.

Time: 10 Things We Learned About Blogs

Bloggers Get Scoops Too
After book editor Russ Kick read that the U.S. military was clamping down on press photos of coffins coming back from Iraq, he didn't just pen an angry rant on his blog, the Memory Hole. He filed a Freedom of Information Act request—and embarrassingly for the Pentagon, was mailed a CD from the Air Force with 361 coffin snaps, which he promptly posted. The national press, which hadn't thought to ask whether the military had pictures, beat a path to Kick's door.
...Anyone Can Do It
Blogs wouldn't be such a democratic medium if they weren't so easy to set up. The most popular service, Blogger, owned by Google, boasts features like push-button photoblogging. Microsoft has launched a trial version of its own blogging service.

Discovering the Genetics of HIV-Resistance

A gene that partly explains people's different susceptibility to HIV has been identified by US scientists. The discovery may help doctors tailor treatment to patients' genetic make-up.
Researchers know that certain people are naturally resistant to HIV. Some people develop full-blown AIDS several months after infection by the virus, whereas others remain disease-free for decades.
Differences in a gene called CCL3L1 may underlie some of this resistance, say Sunil Ahuja of the University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, and his colleagues. They report in Science that individuals carrying extra copies of this gene are less likely to contract HIV or to progress to full-blown AIDS1.

Global Warming Inspires Arctic Land-Grab

At stake, in what could be the last great territorial land-grab, is the promise of untold mineral riches that has prompted an increasing number of governments to throw tens of millions of pounds at scientific and military missions in a bid to get ahead.
These days the Vikings do not come in long ships. The Danish navy sent HDMS Vaedderen, a 3500-tonne frigate with a reinforced hull, into the disputed channel that forms the maritime border between Canada and Greenland, the world's largest island and a semi-independent Danish territory, and more importantly, only 804km south of the North Pole.
And the elite Sirius Patrol, a contingent of specially trained Arctic soldiers, completed a hazardous patrol to the north-east shore of Greenland. The success of the Vaedderen and Sirius missions in proving their ability to operate so far north has given Denmark the confidence to stake its claim to the North Pole.

*Tin Soldier

"In April 2004," writes Mariah Blake, "a former U.S. Special Forces soldier named Jonathan Keith Idema started shopping a sizzling story to the media. He claimed terrorists in Afghanistan planned to use bomb-laden taxicabs to kill key U.S. and Afghan officials, and that he himself intended to thwart the attack. ... By late June, he claimed to have captured the plotters, and started trying to clinch a deal with television networks by offering them 'direct access' to one of the terrorists who, he said, had agreed to tell all." His story unraveled after the Afghan police "raided his headquarters and discovered eight prisoners, some of them tethered to chairs in a back room, which was littered with bloody cloth. The men later told reporters that they had been starved, beaten, doused with scalding water, and forced to languish for days in their own feces. Afghan authorities determined that none of the detainees had links to terrorism and set them free." It turns out that this isn't the first time that Idema has sold colorful and deceptive stories about terrorism to the mass media. In January 2002, CBS broadcast sensational footage, quite likely staged by Idema, which purported to show an Al Qaeda training camp in action. "Idema also served as an expert military commentator on Fox News ... And he fielded hundreds of interviews with major newspapers, television networks, and radio stations. ... He claimed to have uncovered a plot to assassinate Bill Clinton; that bin Laden was dead, and that the Taliban was poisoning the food that the United States was air-dropping to feed hungry Afghans. ... Idema’s career as a media personality reached its peak during the final breathless weeks of the run-up to the war in Iraq. Much of the information he provided during that period echoed the Bush administration’s hotly contested rationale for war. ... Few in the media questioned Idema’s claims, much to the alarm of some who knew him." [from]

Journalists petition FCC to challenge Fox-13 license renewal

The 98-page petition to deny the station's pending license renewal presents the Federal Communications Commission with support for the claim that the licensee is not operating in the public interest and "lacks the good character to do so."
The challenge stems from what the reporters describe as a year-long experience working at the station where they resisted their managers who, they allege, repeatedly ordered them to distort a series of news reports about the secret use of an artificial hormone injected in dairy cattle throughout Florida and nationally.
The petition also charges WTVT violated federal rules about keeping viewer complaints and comments on file. The reporters say no communication regarding the dispute over the hormone story was found in the files even though there were several examples of letters that should have been there, they said.
"The public interest is by law the primary obligation of every broadcaster who uses our public airwaves to make their corporate fortune, especially when broadcasting the news," said Akre in a release.
for background see and

*Abu Graib Abuses Continued Months After Scandal Broke

Sexual and physical abuse of Iraqi prisoners continued at least three months after the Abu Ghraib scandal was revealed, according to accounts by alleged victims published in the latest issue of Vanity Fair magazine.
Vanity Fair writer Donovan Webster, in a report on 60 hours of interviews he conducted with 10 former detainees including a 15-year-old boy, quoted several accounts of mistreatment that included Iraqi prisoners being sexually assaulted by American soldiers or being hooded, beaten, subjected to electric shock and kept in cages or crates.
One man said he was hung naked from handcuffs in a frigid room while soldiers threw buckets of ice water on him.
Webster added that several of the people he interviewed said their mistreatment took place in July, three months after the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal broke in late April.

US island base given warning prior to tsunami

A spokesman for the US national weather service confirmed to the Guardian that the Hawaii centre, part of America's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) had alerted the Diego Garcia base. He did not know if American military personnel at the base alerted anyone else in the region to the danger.
According to the base website: "Personnel on board Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean are safe following the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that had devastating effects on south-east Asia. Facilities and operations were not affected." An NOAA log shows that the US Pacific Command, including Diego Garcia, was given a specific warning about the tsunami some two and three quarter hours after the earthquake. This was shortly after the tsunami had struck Sri Lanka and well after it hit Indonesia and Thailand. It gave Diego Garcia advance warning of about an hour.

Doctors aided in detainee abuse, says New England Journal of Medicine

U.S. Army doctors violated the Geneva Conventions by helping intelligence officers carry out abusive interrogations at military detention centers, perhaps participating in torture, according to a report in today's edition of the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.
Medical personnel helped tailor interrogations to the physical and mental conditions of individual detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the report claims. It says that medical workers gave interrogators access to patient medical files and that psychiatrists and other physicians collaborated with interrogators and guards who in turn deprived detainees of sleep, restricted them to diets of bread and water, and exposed them to extremes of heat and cold.
"Clearly, the medical personnel who helped to develop and execute aggressive counter-resistance plans thereby breached the laws of war," says the four-page article.
"The conclusion that doctors participated in torture is premature, but there is probable cause for suspecting it."

Using Markets to Predict Disease Spread

Remember the near panic about flu shots not being available this year? Today the company that makes a flu nasal spray vaccine says it's selling only about a third of what it expected to this winter. Flu-mist had ramped up its production to meet a potential flu crisis - one that hasn't materialized so far. There's a new tool that might have helped the folks at Flu-mist. Some researchers at the University of Iowa College of Business are trying to improve our ability to predict flu outbreaks - by using a model some of you might be familiar with. From WOI in Ames, Iowa, Joyce Russell reports. Listen to this story

Monsanto Fined for Bribery over GE Cotton

Monsanto Co. affiliates made more than $700,000 in illicit payments to Indonesian government officials between 1997 and 2002, according to documents filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Washington.
The agribusiness and biotech-seed company, based in Creve Coeur, said it will pay $1.5 million in fines and submit to independent monitoring for three years in order to settle related charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department.

Bush Aide Argues for Social Security Cuts

A White House e-mail argues the case for cutting Social Security benefits promised in the future and says support must be built for investment accounts by convincing the public the system is "heading for an iceberg."
Calling President Bush's effort "one of the most important conservative undertakings of modern times," Karl Rove deputy Peter Wehner says in the e-mail that "the Social Security battle is one we can win." Doing so would advance the idea of limited government and could transform the nation's political landscape, he said.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the e-mail was sent Monday to "opinion leaders" to lay out "the challenges we face and the importance of seizing this opportunity to strengthen Social Security for our children and grandchildren and provide them with some ownership over their retirement savings."
Democrats think the White House e-mail "shows the strategy is to instill panic," said Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee.
In the e-mail, Wehner, director of White House Strategic Initiatives, urged cuts in future promised benefits as the best approach to overhaul the system to private investment accounts. Failure to make the cuts would cause "short-term economic consequences," he wrote.

GAO Says Illegal Bush Administration Ads "Constitute Covert Propaganda"

For the second time, the Government Accountability Office "scolded the Bush administration for distributing phony prepackaged news reports," or video news releases. The VNRs were produced by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, featured former reporter Mike Morris, and were aired, at least in part, on 300 news shows. The GAO's Susan Poling said, "What is objectionable ... is the fact the viewer has no idea their tax dollars are being used to write and produce this video." A spokesperson for the Drug Control office, which paid $155,000 for the VNRs, said, "Our lawyers disagree with the GAO," but the office would avoid the "appearance of a problem" by ending the practice. The GAO earlier faulted the administration for VNRs promoting the new Medicare law. [from]

CNN Lets 'Crossfire' Host Carlson Go

CNN will probably fold "Crossfire" into its other programming, perhaps as an occasional segment on the daytime show "Inside Politics," said Jonathan Klein, who was appointed in late November as chief executive of CNN's U.S. network.
Klein on Wednesday told Carlson, one of the four "Crossfire" hosts, that CNN would not be offering him a new contract. Carlson has reportedly been talking with MSNBC about a prime-time opening replacing Deborah Norville.
Carlson did not immediately return a call to his cell phone for comment.
The bow-tied wearing conservative pundit got into a public tussle last fall with comic Jon Stewart, who has been critical of cable political programs that devolve into shoutfests.
"I guess I come down more firmly in the Jon Stewart camp," Klein told The Associated Press.

The Interior World of Richard Avedon

Buddhist Monks and Death

Death is not news to Buddhist monks. The minute observation and contemplation of corpses is a standard Buddhist practice to increase awareness of the transitory nature of all things (including you, gentle reader.) This friendly attitude toward what is hidden away in most of the "civilized" world has prepared monks in the tsunami-stricken nations to deal with the task of cremating thousands of dead bodies. Preparing for the inevitable turns out to be a useful tool for facing the unthinkable. [via a fine new site called The Buddhist Channel].

Bush Administration Documents on Interrogation

The following is a summary of White House, Pentagon and Justice Department documents about interrogation policies. The documents were released by the Bush administration on June 22.

Virginia State Bill Would Criminalize not Reporting Miscarriages

Miscarry in Virginia? Call the police or go to jail. John Cosgrove, Delegate for the 78th district of Virginia has introduced a bill to criminalize not reporting a miscarriage to the police within 12 hours of the miscarriage. via Chez Miscarriage [from]

2003 Recipients of Federal Faith-Based Funding

At the beginning of 2005, for the first time ever, the White House released details about who receives money under the "faith-based" grant program. The Associated Press was given a state-by-state list of recipients, which they presented as a clickable map of the US that leads to 52 separate Acrobat files [here]. For ease of reference, The Memory Hole is presenting this previously unavailable data in HTML format (below) and as a single, consolidated Acrobat file [here].
The Associated Press notes the following regarding this list:
• These are organizations that the Bush administration believes to be faith-based. Some of these organizations dispute that characterization.
• Consult individual agencies for descriptions of various programs.
• State files include abbreviations for some departments: HUD is Housing and Urban Development, HHS is Health and Human Services and Educ. Dept. is Education.
Source: White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives

New Army Regulations on Spelling

The U.S. Army is moving to get its orthographic house in order,with a newly updated regulation that provides instruction on theproper way to abbreviate, capitalize and spell Army terms.See Army Regulation 25-52, "Authorized Abbreviations, BrevityCodes, and Acronyms," updated January 4, 2005 [from Secrecy News]

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Aerial shots reveal extent of tsunami devastation

These photographs were captured by a range of Earth-observation satellites including IKONOS, SPOT 2, SPOT 5 and RADARSAT-1, and by the Indian National Remote Sensing Agency. The pairs of images show devastated regions before and after the tsunami.

Will Eisner, a Pioneer of Comic Books, Dies at 87

His seriousness helped bring mainstream attention to works like Art Spiegelman's "Maus" and Marjane Satrapi's "Persepolis." As Mr. Couch put it: "He drew on everything from Theodore Dreiser to the Talmud. He brought American literary naturalism to the comics. And he kept publishing these books until everybody woke up and said, 'Wow, these are books! This is an art form! We should take this seriously!' "
Art Spiegelman called Mr. Eisner, "a giant, a pioneer, a dynamo."
In an interview on, Michael Chabon noted that Joe, one of the heroes of his novel "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay," shares some features with Mr. Eisner. "Right from the beginning, he saw comics as art. He didn't have any compunction about it. He wasn't apologetic. He didn't have that 'yeah, sorry, I draw comics' kind of attitude that almost every other artist at the time did."
Mr. Eisner wrote two books on comic art, "Comic and Sequential Art" (1985) and "Graphic Storytelling" (1996). Recently, Dark Horse Press published Mr. Eisner's "Last Day in Vietnam," a collection of the military battle stories he wrote in Korea and Vietnam. In 2000, DC Comics started publishing "The Spirit Archives," a multivolume edition of the full run of the comic. And this spring W.W. Norton will release Mr. Eisner's last work, a graphic history titled "The Plot: The Secret Story of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion." [thanks to Sharon]

Music Industry Must Respect Privacy of Filesharers

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision today that will stop entertainment corporations from gaining access to the names of people using peer-to-peer (P2P) networks unless the companies file lawsuits against them and furnish actual evidence of copyright infringement.

Scientific American: Fast Food Linked to Obesity, Diabetes

Scientists writing in the current issue of the Lancet report that study participants who visited fast food restaurants twice a week or more gained 10 more pounds and experienced double the increase in insulin resistance compared to subjects who indulged less than once a week. "While there have been many discussions about fast food's effects on obesity, this appears to be the first scientific, comprehensive long-term study to show a strong connection between fast-food consumption, obesity, and risk for type 2 diabetes," comments study co-author Mark Pereira of the University of Minnesota.

FDA's Lead Attorney Helping Corporations Get Out of Lawsuits

From Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY):
Daniel Troy, Chief Counsel of the Food and Drug Administration, is taking the counsel's office in a wholly unprecedented direction, repeatedly interceding in civil suits on behalf of drug and medical device manufacturers that were accused of harming patients who had used their products. In doing so, Troy has worked in cooperation with the manufacturers, ignoring serious conflicts of interests. The FDA has attempted to mislead Congressman Hinchey in his efforts to look onto this matter.

On the Media: The Invisibility of Radio Editing

JOHN SOLOMON: Ironically, television is usually seen as the news medium with artifice, while radio is viewed as more authentic. NPR's Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin believes trust in television news has declined in part because viewers see it as over-produced entertainment. Is it possible that the fact listeners are unaware of how much production is involved has helped retain their trust in NPR News? NPR's Executive Producer for Training Jonathan Kern is overseeing a year-long project on news standards, which will likely result in the network providing listeners with more information on production techniques. But he doesn't see much utility for the public in adding transparency for transparency's sake. Audio

Ten preliminary reasons why the Bush vote does not compute, and why Congress must investigate rather than certify the Electoral College

1. More than 106,000 Ohio ballots remain uncounted...
2. Most uncounted ballots come from regions and precincts where Kerry was strongest...
3. Of the 147,000 combined provisional and absentee ballots counted by hand after Election Day, Kerry received 54.46 percent of the vote...
4. Turnout inconsistencies reveal tens of thousands of Kerry votes were not simply recorded...
5. Many certified turnout results in key regions throughout the state are simply not plausible, and all work to the advantage of Bush...
6. Due to computer flaws and vote shifting, there were numerous reports across Ohio of extremely troublesome electronic errors during the voting process and in the counting...
7. In Miami County, two sets of results were submitted to state officials...
8. Democratic voters were apparently targeted with provisional ballots...
9. Ohio's Election Day exit poll was more credible than the certified result, according to intense statistical analysis...
10. The Ohio recount wasn’t random or comprehensive and may have involved serious illegalities.

Laser Wielder Faces Big Penalties

The feds use the Patriot Act to charge a New Jersey man who allegedly admits flashing a green light beam at overhead aircraft. The FBI says there's no terror connection, but the man faces a 25-year prison sentence and fines of up to $500,000.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Top Ten War Profiteers of 2004

In June, the Pentagon's Program Management Office in Iraq awarded a $293 million contract to coordinate security operations among thousands of private contractors to Aegis, a UK firm whose founder was once investigated for illegal arms smuggling.
An inquiry by the British parliament into Sandline, Aegis head Tim Spicer's former firm, determined that the company had shipped guns to Sierra Leone in 1998 in violation of a UN arms embargo. Sandline's position was that it had approval from the British government, although British ministers were cleared by the inquiry. Spicer resigned from Sandline in 2000 and incorporated Aegis in 2002.
The Aegis contract has stirred up considerable controversy, even in the shadowy world of private military contractors. A protest by rival bidder Dyncorp - whose bid was deemed unacceptable by the Army - was dismissed by the General Accountability Offfice, which concluded that Dyncorp "lacked standing to challenge the integrity of the awardee (Aegis)." Spicer's defendants point out that there is no provision in contract law to deny a contract based on a bidder's "colorful" past.
Critics say that's just the problem. U.S. and international law have failed to address the role of PMCs in Iraq, resulting in a near-total lack of accountability that epitomizes what's wrong with the corporate takeover of Iraq.
"Who gives the orders? Where do contractors fit in the chain of command? Who is responsible if things go wrong?" Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) asks.
Not only do PMCs fall outside the Military Code of Justice but, thanks to another order passed by Paul Bremer (CPA order #17), it's not clear that they could be prosecuted under Iraq's own laws. That's because the order grants foreign contractors, including private security firms, full immunity from Iraq's laws, even if they injure or kill an innocent party.


The 2005 Edge Question has generated many eye-opening responses from a "who's who" of third culture scientists and science-minded thinkers. The 119 contributions comprise a document of 60,000 words.
...This year there's a focus on consciousness, on knowing, on ideas of truth and proof. If pushed to generalize, I would say it is a commentary on how we are dealing with the idea of certainty.
We are in the age of "searchculture", in which Google and other search engines are leading us into a future rich with an abundance of correct answers along with an accompanying naïve sense of certainty. In the future, we will be able to answer the question, but will we be bright enough to ask it?

The Center for the Study of Political Graphics

This has some very cool virtual exhibits, including Graphics of the International Labor Movement and Earth, Wind and Solar - International Ecology Posters. [from]

Sumatran quake sped up Earth's rotation

The change was caused by a shift of mass towards the planet's centre, as the Indian Ocean's heavy tectonic plate lurched underneath Indonesia's one, say researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. This caused the globe to rotate faster, in the same way that a spinning figure-skater accelerates by tucking in her arms.The blast literally rocked the world on its axis, add Richard Gross and his NASA colleagues. They estimate that Earth now tilts by an extra 2.5 centimetres in the wake of the jolt.

Richard Berman claims to help the average consumer. In fact, he works for corporate America.

Last spring, when the anti-fast-food documentary Super Size Me began opening in American theaters, an opinion writer named Richard Berman swung into action. He cranked out a scathing op-ed for the Chicago Sun-Times that blasted the film for "serving up a flawed premise: that we're powerless to stop Big Food from turning us into a nation of fatties."
When legendary TV chef Julia Child died a few months later, Berman saw another opportunity. He wrote a piece for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that used her death as an occasion to debunk the idea that soft drinks are linked to diabetes.
And last month, when a Cleveland hospital garnered national attention for trying to evict its in-house McDonald's, Berman was invited on CNN to critique the move. "I don't see anything wrong with giving people choices," he observed mildly.
Why did these mainstream media outlets air Berman's opinions on such pressing health issues? Is he a doctor? A nutritionist? A health-policy wonk? None of the above. He's a Washington lobbyist.
...Berman's strategy turns on a simple rhetorical gimmick: By employing the language of consumer freedom, he protects his client industries by demonizing (and, hopefully, discrediting) their critics -- all apparently in service of the hapless consumer. Berman has been explicit about his approach. "Our offensive strategy is to shoot the messenger," he once told Chain Leader Magazine, a trade publication for restaurant chains (whose readership presumably doesn't include too many ordinary consumers). "We've got to attack [activists'] credibility as spokespersons."

Jesse Jackson: Senators should object to Ohio vote

This Thursday in Washington Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the senior minority member of the House Judiciary Committee, will formally object to the counting of the Ohio electoral vote in the 2004 presidential election. If any senator joins him, the counting of the vote is suspended and the House and the Senate must convene separately to hear the objections filed, and to vote on whether to accept them.
The grounds for the objections are clear: The irregularities in the Ohio vote and vote count are widespread and blatant. If the Ohio election were held in the Ukraine, it would not have been certified by the international community.
In Ohio, the gulf between exit polls and counted votes is vast and glaring. Blatant discrimination in the distribution of voting machines ensured long lines in inner-city and working-class precincts that favored John Kerry, while the exurban districts that favored President Bush had no similar problems.

Christian Leaders Disturbed by Gonzales Nomination (Open Letter)

Dear Mr. Gonzales,
We, the undersigned religious leaders, greet your nomination to be Attorney General of the United States with grave concern.
As a self-professed evangelical Christian, you surely know that all people are created in the image of God. You see it as a moral imperative to treat each human being with reverence and dignity. We invite you to affirm with us that we are all are made in the image of God every human being. We invite you to acknowledge that no legal category created by mere mortals can revoke that status. You understand that torture — the deliberate effort to undermine human dignity — is a grave sin and affront to God. You would not deny that the systemic use of torture on prisoners at Abu Ghraib was fundamentally immoral, as is the deliberate rendering of any detainee to authorities likely to commit torture.
We urge you to declare that any attempt to undermine international standards on torture, renditions, or habeas corpus is not only wrong but sinful. We are concerned that as White House counsel you have shown a troubling disregard for international laws against torture, for the legal rights of suspected "enemy combatants," and for the adverse consequences your decisions have had at home and abroad.

Bush Asks Judge to Toss Ohio Election Suit

President Bush's re-election campaign asked the chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court on Monday to throw out a challenge of the election in this swing state, saying the case resembles "a poorly drafted script for a late night conspiracy-theory movie."
The court filing was made as the Rev. Jesse Jackson held a rally before hundreds of people in Columbus to support the challenge and urge the U.S. Senate to debate Ohio's results on Thursday when Congress is in joint session for the official tally of the electoral votes.
Thirty-seven Ohio voters who filed the challenge are asking Chief Justice Thomas Moyer to set aside the election results. Some of the voters are suspicious of Bush's victory over Sen. John Kerry, while others say hours-long waits in heavily black neighborhoods caused voters to leave in frustration without casting a ballot.

Citizens Lobby Boxer to Contest 2004 Election Results

Concerned citizens and civic organizations will present thousands of voter petitions to U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif) at her San Francisco office during a public press conference and rally on Monday, January 3, 12 noon. They will urge Boxer to challenge the results of the 2004 presidential election at a joint session on January 6, 2005, when Congress meets to ratify the vote. Key organization leaders will personally present the petitions to Boxer's deputy at a meeting inside her office. Rev. Jesse Jackson will also lead a rally that day to challenge the vote in Columbus, Ohio.

Rally to focus on election fraud claims

Civil rights leaders, social scientists, elected officials and local activists will rally tomorrow afternoon for a federal investigation into allegations of fraud in the November presidential election.
The House Judiciary Committee reported after the election that it received some 57,000 complaints about voting problems on election day, ranging from a shortage of voting machines to glitches with electronic vote casting machines. The U.S. Government Accountability Office has launched an investigation into the complaints.
Rally organizers said the sheer volume of complaints warrants a Congressional investigation into possible election tampering and points to the need for a massive overhaul of the country's voting system. They said they hope Congress looks into the complaints before it accepts the decision of the Electoral College.

Reflections on the 2004 Election - Interview with Ralph Nader

Nader: "You know, if 75,000 votes switched in Ohio, people would be asking how Karl Rove messed up the election. It wasn't that Kerry should have won against Bush, it's that he should have landslided Bush. This is a President with a terrible record, complete indifference, lack of care for American workers, patients, consumers, environment, a tax system that the biggest oligarch couldn't have dreamed up better, the illegal war and quagmire in Iraq, and just on and on. And Kerry never took advantage of it. In fact, it's hard to remember in the last year whether Kerry laid a glove on Bush. "

Professor Sues CIA for President's Daily Briefs

Represented by the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine and by the National Security Archive of George Washington University, Vietnam expert Berman is challenging the CIA's "blanket policy" of refusing to release any PDBs, even historic or innocuous ones that risk no damage to national security.
"The 9/11 Commission had to fight tooth and nail to get excerpts from PDBs about the threat from bin Ladin," commented Professor Berman, the author of three books on the Vietnam War. "But ten PDBs from the Johnson era came out before the CIA imposed its stonewall policy. Together, these releases prove that the PDBs should be reviewed and declassified like any other records, not set aside in a permanently closed vault."

Iraqi insurgents now outnumber coalition forces

IRAQ’S rapidly swelling insurgency numbers 200,000 fighters and active supporters and outnumbers the United States-led coalition forces, the head of the country’s intelligence service said yesterday.
The number is far higher than the US military has so far admitted and paints a much grimmer picture of the challenge facing the Iraqi authorities and their British and American backers as elections loom in four weeks.
“I think the resistance is bigger than the US military in Iraq. I think the resistance is more than 200,000 people,” General Muhammad Abdullah Shahwani, director of Iraq’s new intelligence services, said.

New California Privacy Protections

Californians entered the new year with the assurance their cell phone numbers cannot be automatically added to the 411 database, the ability to sue spammers and the comfort of knowing rental car companies cannot track their travels, thanks to a spate of privacy-enhancing laws that went into effect Jan. 1.
Those outside California's borders may benefit as well.

FOIA Eyes Only

"Over the past month, the biggest scoops in the news business have come from ... an organization that's not in the news business," writes Eric Umansky. "Using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the American Civil Liberties Union has uncovered thousands of government documents detailing torture of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay." So how did the ACLU beat the nation's top news organizations to the punch? To begin with, it bothered to file a FOIA request. The only news organization to do so was the Washington Post. For another thing, the government has been stalling on the requests it has received. The Post is still waiting for a response to the request it filed last spring, and the ACLU only got its documents because it took the government to court and won (something that none of the newspapers did). "But even that has been just a partial victory," Umansky notes. "The Pentagon has held onto many documents - 'There are far more documents that haven't been released than have," says the ACLU's Jameel Jaffer - and the CIA insists that it doesn't even need to confirm whether the requested documents exist, let alone release them. Even in the memos and e-mails that have been let loose, there's a generous use of whiteout. One series of e-mails from the Defense Department has the subject header, 're: potential torture involving Iraqi detainees.' The whole thread adds up to four pages, and with the exception of the subject headers, all are now blank."

Thanks for the (False) Memories: the 2004 Falsies Awards

This year marks the beginning of a new tradition for the Center for Media and Democracy. To remember the people and players responsible for polluting our information environment, we are issuing a new year-end prize that we call the "Falsies Awards." The top ten finalists will each receive a million bucks worth of free coupons, a lifetime supply of non-fattening ice cream, an expenses-paid vacation in Fallujah, and our promise to respect them in the morning.

New lawmaker proposes death certificates for all abortions

A new member of the Montana House is sponsoring a bill that would require death certificates to be filed for all abortions that occur in the state.
But abortion rights advocates called Rep.-elect Roger Koopman's bill "mean-spirited" and predicted it will be defeated.
Koopman, a Bozeman Republican elected to the House in November, said he is introducing the measure because he believes women who choose to get an abortion should be made aware of the consequences.

Paul Kurtz: Is America a Post-democratic Society?

I submit that American democracy is endangered because of (1) the growth of an entrenched plutocracy with enormous wealth and power; (2) the emergence of global mega-corporations allied with the military-industrial-technological complex; (3) the virtual domination of the media of communication by media mega-corporations (a media-ocracy); and (4) the danger that we are becoming a quasi-theocracy: one nation under God while unbelief is considered un-American.
We need to ask: are we already in a post-democratic stage? Is it still possible to stem this tide and restore American democracy? In my optimistic mood, my response in the short- and mid-run is “Yes, we can,” but we face enormous political battles. In the long run, we need to embark upon a New Enlightenment, defending reason, science, free inquiry, and nonreligious ethical alternatives—if there is still time to do so.
In my pessimistic mood, I recognize yet another source of danger to democratic institutions. It is virtually impossible for any one nation-state (democratic or nondemocratic) to solve its economic, cultural, social, and environmental problems alone. Neither France nor Germany, China nor Brazil, Britain nor the United States is capable of dealing with these problems in isolation from their impact on others in the world. For the problems we face are planetary in scope.

Park Service Sticks With Book Giving a Biblical Explanation of the Grand Canyon

The Bush Administration has decided that it will stand by its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah’s flood rather than by geologic forces, according to internal documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
Despite telling members of Congress and the public that the legality and appropriateness of the National Park Service offering a creationist book for sale at Grand Canyon museums and bookstores was “under review at the national level by several offices,” no such review took place, according to materials obtained by PEER under the Freedom of Information Act. Instead, the real agency position was expressed by NPS spokesperson Elaine Sevy as quoted in the Baptist Press News:
“Now that the book has become quite popular, we don’t want to remove it.”

Infrasonic Symphony

Intrigued by reports of tsunami-avoidance behavior in Sri Lankan wildlife? Science News offers a timely antidote to simplistic mumbo-jumbo about the "mythical power" of animal earthquake detection with a detailed look at the latest research into low-frequency sound. The Elephant Listening Project is particularly interested in elephant rumblings that produce Rayleigh waves. "Mammals, birds, insects, and spiders can detect Rayleigh waves," notes The Explainer. "Most can feel the movement in their bodies, although some, like snakes and salamanders, put their ears to the ground in order to perceive it." [from]

The Ethics of Deep Self-Modification

What will happen when machines gain the ability to modify their own psychology? Do we have a responsibility to step in? What happens when we have the ability to modify ourselves? Philosopher Peter Suber has dedicated himself to issues of self-modification... not just in psychology, but also in constitutional law. Small wonder that this is the guy who invented Nomic. His site is littered with great stuff; he now is primarily involved with the open access movement. Check out his open access primer and blog. [from]

Economist: US Heading Toward Class-Based Society

A growing body of evidence suggests that the meritocratic ideal is in trouble in America. Income inequality is growing to levels not seen since the Gilded Age, around the 1880s. But social mobility is not increasing at anything like the same pace: would-be Horatio Algers are finding it no easier to climb from rags to riches, while the children of the privileged have a greater chance of staying at the top of the social heap. The United States risks calcifying into a European-style class-based society.

Virginia's Sentencing Checklist

The State of Virginia has provided judges with a checklist to determine whether or not nonviolent offenders should go to jail. 40 year old woman with a job and husband = no jail. 21 YO man without job or wife = see you in 3-5. Here are the official guidelines (pdf) for sex offenders with a detailed explanation of the process. [from]

Rep. Senator Says Lifetime Terror Detentions 'Bad Idea'

A reported U.S. plan to keep some suspected terrorists imprisoned for a lifetime even if the government lacks evidence to charge them in courts was swiftly condemned on Sunday as a "bad idea" by a leading Republican senator.
The Pentagon and the CIA have asked the White House to decide on a more permanent approach for those it was unwilling to set free or turn over to U.S. or foreign courts, the Washington Post said in a report that cited intelligence, defense and diplomatic officials.
Some detentions could potentially last a lifetime, the newspaper said.

Gonzales Nomination Draws Military Criticism

A dozen high-ranking retired military officers took the unusual step yesterday of signing a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee expressing "deep concern" over the nomination of White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales as attorney general, marking a rare military foray into the debate over a civilian post.
The group includes retired Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The officers are one of several groups to separately urge the Senate to sharply question Gonzales during a confirmation hearing Thursday about his role in shaping legal policies on torture and interrogation methods.

Fresh Details Emerge on Harsh Methods at Guantánamo

Interviews with former intelligence officers and interrogators provided new details and confirmed earlier accounts of inmates being shackled for hours and left to soil themselves while exposed to blaring music or the insistent meowing of a cat-food commercial. In addition, some may have been forcibly given enemas as punishment.
While all the detainees were threatened with harsh tactics if they did not cooperate, about one in six were eventually subjected to those procedures, one former interrogator estimated. The interrogator said that when new interrogators arrived they were told they had great flexibility in extracting information from detainees because the Geneva Conventions did not apply at the base.