Friday, February 04, 2005

Barred From Bush's North Dakota Speech

The Fargo Forum reported that a city commissioner, a liberal radio producer, a deputy Democratic campaign manager and a number of university professors were among more than 40 area residents who were barred from attending the Bush event. Their names were on a list supplied to workers at two ticket distribution sites.
The "Bush blacklist" is "frightening," Tom Athans, chief executive of Democracy Radio, said after learning that a producer for the liberal "Ed Schultz Show" was among those barred. "To blacklist a local citizen because he produces a radio program at odds with the political agenda of the White House is dangerous for democracy."

Closest Flyby of Large Asteroid to be Naked-Eye Visible

The 2029 event will be the closest brush by a good-sized asteroid known to occur. The rock will pass Earth inside the orbits of some satellites. No other asteroid has ever been clearly visible to the unaided eye.
The asteroid is roughly estimated to be a little more than 1,000 feet (320 meters) wide.
The rock, catalogued as 2004 MN4, was discovered last June. It was seen again in December, and for a time scientists said it had the highest odds of hitting Earth ever given to a space rock. Subsequent observations refined the future path and eliminated those odds for the 2029 flyby. It won't hit the Moon, either.

A Bloggers' Code of Ethics

Some bloggers recently have been debating what, if any, ethics the Weblog community should follow. Since not all bloggers are journalists and the Weblog form is more casual, they argue they shouldn't be expected to follow the same ethics codes journalists are. But responsible bloggers should recognize that they are publishing words publicly, and therefore have certain ethical obligations to their readers, the people they write about, and society in general. has created a model Bloggers' Code of Ethics, by modifying the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics for the Weblog world. These are just guidelines -- in the end it is up to individual bloggers to choose their own best practices. follows this code and urges other Weblogs to adopt this one or similar practices.

Raising Ceiling on Payroll Taxes Could Solve SS "Crisis"

Some Republicans have even gone so far as to suggest the one approach Mr. Bush did not mention in his speech, raising the ceiling on income subject to payroll taxes, which is now about $90,000 a year. The idea appeals to some politicians because only about 6 percent of Americans earn more than $90,000 a year. Imposing Social Security taxes on incomes of up to $200,000 would come close to eliminating the entire deficit.
Mr. Bush has adamantly opposed any increase in payroll taxes. At least for the moment, that idea is off the table.
[You'll need to scroll to the very end of the article]

Inkjet Sushi

[T]he sushi made by Mr. Cantu, the 28-year-old executive chef at Moto in Chicago, often contains no fish. It is prepared on a Canon i560 inkjet printer rather than a cutting board. He prints images of maki on pieces of edible paper made of soybeans and cornstarch, using organic, food-based inks of his own concoction. He then flavors the back of the paper, which is ordinarily used to put images onto birthday cakes, with powdered soy and seaweed seasonings.
...Sometimes he seasons the menus to taste like the main courses. Recently, he used dehydrated squash and sour cream powders to match a soup entree. He also prepares edible photographs flavored to fit a theme: an image of a cow, for example, might taste like filet mignon. [thanks to Michael K]

Tetris on a Highrise

Arcade is an interactive light installation. Using your mobile phone, you can become a part of the event at any time.
Tetris is one of the most popular computer games of the last 20 years. Since its invention in 1985 it has found its way on almost any computer system and game console in one form or the other.
With Arcade you can play Tetris with your mobile phone - on a playground 3370 m2 in size.
Whoever stands in front of Bibliothèque nationale de France can connect himself with the building by dialing +33 (1) 44 24 73 50. The current show will be interrupted and the text "TETRIS" announces that the game can begin.

Blast Wall Art in Iraq

The Reuters news agency's building has a pattern of flowers and Iraqi flags, and next door has some attempts at what seems to be vaguely-remembered Picassos.

Blast wall art

And the BBC's house? Well I have to say, it is impressive.

A professor of fine art was called in, I was told, and he produced, over many weeks, an elaborate tribute to the ancient history of his people across the fortifications of our building.

Angular, bearded Assyrian heads mingle with Sumerian ziggurats, Babylonian chariots and visions of rulers and wars long past - perhaps an aide-memoire that this country has been through difficult times before. And survived.

South Korean Government to Address Anti-Corporate Sentiment

The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy (MOCIE) will place priority on easing anti-corporate sentiment this year.
"To boost corporate investment in facilities, we will make efforts to eliminate the public’s hostility toward corporations and bolster confidence in enterprises this year,’’ Commerce-Industry-Energy Minister Lee Hee-beom stressed.
His remark came at a meeting that was organized by the Korea Productivity Center with about 300 domestic business leaders in attendance.
Lee pointed out, "The government has recognized that anti-corporate sentiment of Korean citizens has reached an alarming level, having a negative impact on corporate investment sentiment.’’
...For this end, the ministry will fully support initiatives driven by the Corporate Love Council.

NIH reveals open-access policy

The policy requests that authors whose research was funded by the NIH submit copies of their papers to the agency's National Library of Medicine after they are accepted for publication. The papers will then be placed in an online archive. Authors can decide when the papers are made available to the public, but the NIH would like this to happen as soon as possible, and in any case within 12 months of publication.
Scientists who have been pushing for more open access to research findings have praised the policy, which comes into effect on 2 May. "This is a significant and positive step and I'm glad we have the policy written down," says Harold Varmus, president of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

The Painful Truth

The Iraq war is a new kind of hell, with more survivors - but more maimed, shattered limbs - than ever. A revolution in battlefield medicine is helping them conquer the pain.

Feinstein Gathering Co-Sponsors for Bill to Abolish Electoral College

The Electoral College has been described by critics as confusing, complicated, alienating, diversionary, unnecessary, undemocratic, and moreover, as hypocritical to the fundamental principles of American governance, which has otherwise been a global leader in democracy.
"A President can be elected without receiving the most popular votes - this is the fundamental flaw of our electoral system," Senator Feinstein said during a press statement on January 6, 2005, the day of the Electoral College certification of George W. Bush.
"It has happened four times in our history and there have been close calls in 22 other presidential elections. It will happen again and again unless we change the system," the Senator continued.

Big investors turn up the heat on carbon

143 prominent institutional investors have demanded more information on the greenhouse gas emissions of 500 of the world's largest quoted corporations. United under the banner of the Carbon Disclosure Project, these investors have requested the emissions-related information to help them make sound investment decisions.
These investors include big names such as ABN Amro Asset Management, BNP Paribas Asset Management, Generation Investment Management, Merrill Lynch Investment Managers and Morley Fund Management.
In total they account for funds worth around $20 trillion.
As part of this request, companies have been asked to fill in questionnaires on a range on issues such as carbon dioxide emissions, energy costs, use of energy-efficient technology and supply chain management.

UK climate meeting calls for action

"Major investment" is needed to help people mitigate and adapt to global warming. So say the 200 top climate scientists, and a handful of economists and politicians, assembled this week at Britain's Met Office.
It is clear that the risks of climate change are more serious than was thought a few years ago, the scientists say.
Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change, a meeting organized by the UK government and the Exeter-based Met Office, attempted to assess the current and future state of climate change, and how to avert it.

Poland: Secret Communist-Era Files Leaked Online

Poles have flooded websites to view a list of names taken from communist-era files made public for the first time since the fall of Communism, searching for mentions of family members.
Amid warnings that the record of a certain name on the files may not mean the person was an informer or a spy, the list - first distributed by a journalist to colleagues at the weekend - became the most searched item on the Web.

Story of Man Peeing out of Avalanche Does Not Hold Water

The story has so far proved difficult to verify because its attributions have been vague (e.g., "correspondents in Bratislava"), and it evidently originated in a part of the world (the Slovak Republic) where information sources are more difficult to track down (particularly because the language is unfamiliar to most westerners).
However, a correspondent who works for a Slovak news agency informed us that not only has the avalanche story (or any news story about an avalanche) not appeared in the news media there, but the very same tale (of Czech origin, told about an unnamed man caught in the Austrian Alps) was circulating in that country as an e-mail joke even before the heavy snows described in the article occurred.

Baby Got Book

[WMV file]
I like big Bibles I can not lie,
You Christian brothers can't deny,
When a girl walks in with a KJV
And a bookmark in proverbs, You get stoked.

It got a name engraved,
you know this girl has been saved
It looks like one of those large ones,
With plenty of space in the margins,
Oh baby, I want to read it with you,
Because your Bible has got pictures,
My minister tried to console me,
But the book you've got makes me so Holy.

Who was the Iraqi Woman in the balcony? Updated info.

Safia Taleb Al Souhail was recognized by President Bush's SOTU address with this introduction: "Eleven years ago, Safia's father was assassinated by Saddam's intelligence service. Three days ago in Baghdad, Safia was finally able to vote for the leaders of her country -- and we are honored that she is with us tonight." This year's chairwarmer is an interesting person for the President to have chosen to highlight in his speech. Especially considering how much work she's done for the neocon movement, the fact that she hadn't lived in Iraq for 30 years, was an American-placed a member of the Iraqi interim government, and the fact that she's the new Iraqi ambassador to Egypt. You may also remember that she was paraded in front of us back in 2002 as justification for going after Saddam. , It's interesting to note that her sister blames the US for her father's death, saying that the CIA sold him out because they needed Saddam in power at that point. Shades of the incubator story, no? More research ongoing at KOS. [from MetaFilter]

UK climate meeting calls for action

"Major investment" is needed to help people mitigate and adapt to global warming. So say the 200 top climate scientists, and a handful of economists and politicians, assembled this week at Britain's Met Office.
It is clear that the risks of climate change are more serious than was thought a few years ago, the scientists say.
Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change, a meeting organized by the UK government and the Exeter-based Met Office, attempted to assess the current and future state of climate change, and how to avert it.
Many concluded that it is impossible to define "dangerous" climate change, as impacts vary wildly from place to place. Regardless, others hoped that one message would be clear.

State of the Union Parsing Tool

Interesting text visualization device.

Documents: U.S. condoned Iraq oil smuggling

Documents obtained by CNN reveal the United States knew about, and even condoned, embargo-breaking oil sales by Saddam Hussein's regime, and did so to shore up alliances with Iraq's neighbors.
The oil trade with countries such as Turkey and Jordan appears to have been an open secret inside the U.S. government and the United Nations for years.
The unclassified State Department documents sent to congressional committees with oversight of U.S. foreign policy divulge that the United States deemed such sales to be in the "national interest," even though they generated billions of dollars in unmonitored revenue for Saddam's regime.

Just Say "No!" to the Chicago Car Show

Hundreds of performance artists and bike builders will pedal from Daley Plaza on Saturday, February 12, at 12 noon to the Auto Show Entrance at McCormick Place to carry out a peaceful Car Show Shutdown Festival.
The Car Show Shutdown festivities will include:
- Unveiling and test driving of sporty, safe and super-efficient vehicles of tomorrow.
- A live performance by the Chicago Car Alarm Symphony.
- Levitation and exorcism of McCormick Place by a pastor from Church of Christ Without Cars.
- Oversized Puppet Parade depicting auto industry titans. [thanks to Michael B.]

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Iraq American Style

Elections on the US model? Now that the voting is done, questions are starting to arise . . . Sunni Moslems in Kirkuk had an exemption from the boycott of the vote. But of 38 designated polling centres in the Hawija district, only 19 actually opened, and the electoral commission had only sent 50,000 ballots to the district, even though more than 100,000 voters were on the rolls. Of course, things like that happen often in places new to voting, like Ohio. But wait, there’s more! Kurdish Christians were not able to vote when balloting materials arrived inexplicably late, and Iraq's interim president said a shortage of ballots at some polling places may have kept tens of thousands from voting. There’s been a lot of news about suspicious elections all over the world during the last few years. How can we restore our faith in the democratic process?

Midwest's First Wintertime Dirty Air Alert

Soot pollution trapped over much of the urban Midwest led Illinois officials Wednesday to issue their first-ever wintertime alert for dirty air, and they cautioned the health warnings could last through the weekend.
Environmental officials from Minnesota to Pennsylvania are advising senior citizens and people with respiratory ailments to limit their outdoor activities because rising levels of soot can trigger a variety of complications. Even healthy adults and children are cautioned against heavy physical activity outdoors.
Though sunny skies and light winds promise a relatively balmy day Thursday, the same weather conditions are preventing microscopic forms of air pollution from dispersing in the atmosphere.
Soot alerts are a recent addition to a nationwide warning system for dirty air. Smog warnings have become routine in summer, when ozone hovers over Chicago and other urban areas.

Congress Balks at Hubble Repairs

Should NASA spend $2 billion to fix and upgrade the space telescope, possibly leading to images even more amazing than those the orbiting device has sent back already? Lawmakers eye a cheap alternative: letting the aging Hubble plunge into the sea.

Public Relations and Propaganda: Restrictions on Executive Agency Activities

[PDF] Recently, a number of promotional and public outreach actions by executive
branch agencies have provoked controversy. Some salient examples follow below.
• The Department of Education hired Armstrong Williams, a television commentator and syndicated columnist, to promote the No Child Left Behind Act on his television program.
• The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) launched a high profile public relations campaign (DTV — Get It!) to encourage consumers to purchase digital television sets. As part of this effort, former Chairman Michael K. Powell appeared on Monday Night Football, and the FCC created a website [] that promotes digital television (DTV) and includes hyperlinks to the websites of a number of large corporations with significant financial
interests in DTV.
• As part of a $1 million public education campaign, the Environmental Protection Agency hired a public relations firm to produce a public service announcement (PSA) urging home owners
to help reduce pollution. The PSA, which came in video format, spoofed one man’s effort to reduce pollution by decreasing the quantity of gasoline required to run his automobile. The video told viewers that a home “can cause twice the green house gases of a car,” and directed consumers to a webpage, available online at [] that listed energy-efficient household appliances; it did not provide information on the varying levels of emissions produced by different automobiles.
• In early April 2004, the Internal Revenue Service issued four press releases to remind taxpayers of the looming filing deadline. The press releases also included a policy assertion — “America has a choice: It can continue to grow the economy and create new jobs as
the president’s policies are doing, or it can raise taxes on American families and small businesses, hurting economic recovery and future job creation.”
• The Forest Service hired a public relations firm to produce a brochure which promoted increased logging in the Sierra Nevada forest. The brochure argued that the forest had grown too dense and that tree removal was a tool in the “campaign against catastrophic
wildfires” that would be beneficial to the forest and its fauna. The brochure included photographs that purported to show that the forest had become overgrown in the past century. However, the photograph showing low forest density in 1909 was taken after the
forest had been logged.
• The Social Security Administration (SSA) has reportedly drawn up a “strategic communications plan” that urges SSA employees to disseminate the message that “Social Security’s long-term financing problems are serious and need to be addressed soon” through
speeches, public events, and mass media, and by other means. emissions produced by different automobiles.

Snope Debunks Super Bowl Myths

Over the last few decades football's championship game, the Super Bowl, has surpassed baseball's World Series as America's premiere sporting event. In fact, the Super Bowl has now transcended its status as a mere athletic contest to become a great national celebration on a par with many of our political and state holidays. A two-week build-up of massive media coverage leads into a day of partying, overeating, drinking, wagering, and the (anti-)climax of a football game itself. As we should expect, an event of such tremendous national importance has engendered its own unique set of legends, legends that express a number of our national values. Anthropologist Alan Dundes has noted that "Super Bowl legends usually involve numbers and a sense of enormity. The idea of big numbers, of being bigger than other people, is very American."

Nano bridge builds logic

The researchers have devised a nanoscale mechanical switch that works by rapidly creating and destroying a minuscule metal bridge between a pair of wires positioned just one nanometer apart. A nanometer is one millionth of a millimeter, or the span of 10 hydrogen atoms.
The researchers' device, dubbed the quantized conductance atomic switch, could one day be used to form electronic circuits and memory devices, and could be manufactured on silicon computer chips, said Hasegawa.
Because the switches are so tiny, they operate in the realm of quantum physics, which opens the possibility of using the switch to make a multi-bit memory device, according to Hasegawa. In the realm of atoms and subatomic particles, the rules of physics are different from the everyday world. Unlike that of larger switches, the electrical conductance through the researchers' tiny switch is quantized, meaning it increases or decreases by discrete amounts. A pair of the switches can represent as many as 16 values, or 4 bits, according to Hasegawa.

Chronology of Dead Scientists

Dozens of unusual deaths among microbiologists and virologists, 2001-2005.


On Friday January 28, officers of the National Social Security Council, which represents workers of the Social Security Administration (SSA), testified before the Democratic Senate Policy Committee regarding reports in the media that employees have been instructed to hype negative projections for Social Security and to promote privatizing Social Security.

Union testimony exposed ways in which SSA employees were instructed to promote the idea that Social Security is in a crisis and that private investment accounts are the solution to this financial situation. The testimony suggests that SSA may have violated federal law prohibiting agencies from using funds for propaganda purposes unless those funds are specifically designated for such use by act of Congress. Additionally, the testimony refuted recent White House assertions and a statement that SSA employees are now required to read, on behalf of Social Security Commissioner Jo Anne B. Barnhart, in the event that they are questioned about the recent media reports.

"Previously, our employees had shared information with the public about Social Security's financial condition, but had never been encouraged to support any particular 'reform' proposal. In fact, they were always expected to remain neutral on political and legislative matters," testified Steve Kofahl, regional vice president of the Council and president of AFGE Local 3937.

Using Microwaves to End High Speed Car Chases

"If you put approximately 10 or 15 kilovolts per meter on a target for a few seconds, you should be able to bring it to a halt," Tatoian said.
Most cars built in the United States since 1982 have some type of on-board microprocessor. Today, the processors are advanced enough to control functions such as fuel injection and GPS equipment.
Eureka Aerospace's High Power Electromagnetic System consists of a series of wires arranged in a 5-foot-by-4-foot rectangular array. The interference is emitted in a conical shape outward from the device.

McCain Calls for New Limits on Money to Political Groups

Mr. McCain and others sponsoring the legislation say they are determined to stop such spending before the 2006 Congressional elections get under way. While the bill contains numerous regulations, some quite complex, its overriding goal is to stop donations like the $24 million that the financier George Soros contributed last year to defeat President Bush.
Without such regulations, supporters of the new bill argue, the groups will have a corrosive effect on the system by becoming a permanent channel for unlimited contributions.
"It could make a mockery of campaign finance reform," Mr. McCain, an Arizona Republican, said in an interview. "I think it would be incredibly damaging."
The legislation is part of a series of measures that the proponents say will protect the integrity of the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, which got its first test in last year's races. There is also a federal court case brought by lawmakers that seeks to regulate 527 groups.
Though the bill's prospects are uncertain, it has drawn early backing in unusual places.

Donors to DeLay Fund Put on Ethics Panel

Two donors to U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Tom DeLay's defense fund were named on Wednesday to the House ethics committee, which twice last year admonished the Texas Republican.
In a shake-up of the bipartisan panel that critics called part of a purge and a "shutdown" of ethics enforcement, Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican, also replaced the ethics chairman, Joel Hefley, a Colorado Republican, with Washington state Republican Doc Hastings, who was already on the panel.

DEA Says No Records on Gary Webb

In response to FOIA request 05-0378-F from me (Russ Kick), the Drug Enforcement Administration has said it can find no records on the late investigative reporter Gary Webb. Specifically, their response letter stated: "A review of DEA indices indicates that the DEA has located no records which are responsive to your request."

DEA response letter [JPG format]

Gary Webb, RIP


U.S. Invokes Secrets Privilege in Torture Lawsuit

The Justice Department has again asserted ”state secrets privilege” in seeking to dismiss a lawsuit by Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen who was detained in the United States in 2002 and sent against his will to Syria, where he says he was tortured until his release a year later.
The privilege was invoked ”in order to protect the intelligence, foreign policy and national security interests of the United States,” wrote Acting Attorney-General James B. Comey in legal papers filed in the Eastern District of New York.

”Litigating... plaintiff's complaint would necessitate disclosure of classified information,” according to Comey, including disclosure of the basis for detaining him in the first place, the basis for refusing to deport him to Canada as he had requested, and the basis for sending him to Syria. He was never charged with any crime.

Dramatic Change in West Antarctic Ice Could Produce 16ft Rise in Sea Levels

British scientists have discovered a new threat to the world which may be a result of global warming. Researchers from the Cambridge-based British Antarctic Survey (BAS) have discovered that a massive Antarctic ice sheet previously assumed to be stable may be starting to disintegrate, a conference on climate change heard yesterday. Its collapse would raise sea levels around the earth by more than 16 feet.
BAS staff are carrying out urgent measurements of the remote points in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) where they have found ice to be flowing into the sea at the enormous rate of 250 cubic kilometers a year, a discharge alone that is raising global sea levels by a fifth of a millimeter a year.

Global Warming: Scientists Reveal Timetable

As present world temperatures are already 0.7C above the pre-industrial level, the process is well under way. In the near future - the next 25 years - as the temperature climbs to the 1C mark, some specialized ecosystems will start to feel stress, such as the tropical highland forests of Queensland, which contain a large number of Australia's endemic plant species, and the succulent karoo plant region of South Africa. In some developing countries, food production will start to decline, water shortage problems will worsen and there will be net losses in GDP.
It is when the temperature moves up to 2C above the pre-industrial level, expected in the middle of this century - within the lifetime of many people alive today - that serious effects start to come thick and fast, studies suggest.
Substantial losses of Arctic sea ice will threaten species such as polar bears and walruses, while in tropical regions "bleaching" of coral reefs will become more frequent - when the animals that live in the coral are forced out by high temperatures and the reef may die. Mediterranean regions will be hit by more forest fires and insect pests, while in regions of the US such as the Rockies, rivers may become too warm for trout and salmon.
In South Africa, the Fynbos, the world's most remarkable floral kingdom which has more than 8,000 endemic wild flowers, will start to lose its species, as will alpine areas from Europe to Australia; the broad-leaved forests of China will start to die. The numbers at risk from hunger will increase and another billion and a half people will face water shortages, and GDP losses in some developing countries will become significant.
But when the temperature moves up to the 3C level, expected in the early part of the second half of the century, these effects will become critical. There is likely to be irreversible damage to the Amazon rainforest, leading to its collapse, and the complete destruction of coral reefs is likely to be widespread.
The alpine flora of Europe, Australia and New Zealand will probably disappear completely, with increasing numbers of extinctions of other plant species. There will be severe losses of China's broadleaved forests, and in South Africa the flora of the Succulent Karoo will be destroyed, and the flora of the Fynbos will be hugely damaged.
There will be a rapid increase in populations exposed to hunger, with up to 5.5 billion people living in regions with large losses in crop production, while another 3 billion people will have increased risk of water shortages.
Above the 3C raised level, which may be after 2070, the effects will be catastrophic: the Arctic sea ice will disappear, and species such as polar bears and walruses may disappear with it, while the main prey species of Arctic carnivores, such as wolves, Arctic foxes and the collared lemming, will have gone from 80 per cent of their range, critically endangering predators.
In human terms there is likely to be catastrophe too, with water stress becoming even worse, and whole regions becoming unsuitable for producing food, while there will be substantial impacts on global GDP.

Defense contractors demand royalties on model plane and tank kits

For over half a century, kits have been sold that enable military history buffs to assemble scale models of military ships, aircraft and vehicles. But that era is coming to an end, as the manufacturers of the original equipment, especially aircraft, are demanding high royalties (up to $40 per kit) from the kit makers. Since most of these kits sell in small quantities (10-20,000) and are priced at $15-30 (for plastic kits, wooden ones are about twice as much), tacking on the royalty just prices the kit out of the market. Popular land vehicles, which would sell a lot of kits, are missing as well. The new U.S. Army Stryker armored vehicles are not available because of royalty requirements. Even World War II aircraft kits are being hit with royalty demands. [from]

Chunk of Universe's Missing Matter Found

Received wisdom holds that dark matter and dark energy make up 95 percent of the universe, and ordinary matter, or baryons--the subatomic particles the forms planets, stars and the like--account for the remainder. The problem is, the luminous matter detected with the aid of optical telescopes has amounted to a mere 10 percent of the expected ordinary matter, and the baryons inferred by other means bring that total to only 50 percent.
New findings are helping to bridge this gap between prediction and observation. In a paper published today in the journal Nature, scientists report having identified the probable source of the rest of this missing matter. Data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory, it appears, indicate that the lost baryons may be swimming in diffuse rivers of gas in the intergalactic medium too hot to see with an optical telescope.

US Asks Saudi Arabia to Either File Charges Against an American Citizen or Set Him Free

The State Department has asked Saudi Arabia to either indict a U.S. citizen it is holding on suspicion of terrorist activities or allow the Justice Department to return him to the United States.
The move represents a victory for the parents and supporters of Ahmed Abu Ali, 23, of Falls Church, who has been held without charges in Saudi Arabia since June 2003.

Elliott Abrams appointed as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor

In his capacity as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy, Mr. Abrams will assist Mr. Hadley in work on the promotion of democracy and human rights, and will provide oversight to the NSC's directorate of Democracy, Human Rights, and International Organization Affairs and its directorate of Near East and North African Affairs. Working with Secretary Rice and Mr. Hadley, he will maintain his involvement in Israeli/Palestinian affairs.

From SourceWatch:

Elliott Abrams, a graduate of Harvard (69; 73), is considered to be a "neo-con". He was appointed to the National Security Council by George Walker Bush. He served as Assistant Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan.

Abrams is a signatory of the January 26, 1998, Project for the New American Century (PNAC Letter ( sent to President William Jefferson Clinton.[1] (

He is associated with the Committee on U.S. Interests in the Middle East and has ties to the Hudson Institute and the Center for Security Policy (CSP). Abrams was heavily involved in the Iran-Contra scandal.

In 1991, Abrams was indicted by the Iran-Contra special prosecutor for giving false testimony before Congress in 1987 about his role in illicitly raising money for the Nicaraguan Contras. He pleaded guilty to two lesser offenses of withholding information to Congress in order to avoid a trial and a possible jail term.

He was pardoned by President George H.W. Bush along with a number of other Iran-Contra defendants on Christmas night 1992.

Federal judge in New York orders CIA to disclose prisoner records

A federal judge on Wednesday ordered the CIA to comply with the Freedom of Information Act and turn over records concerning the treatment of prisoners in Iraq to watchdog groups.
"Congress has set the laws, and it is the duty of executive agencies to comply with them," U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein wrote.
It was the second time in six months that the judge suggested the government was impeding the American Civil Liberties Union's quest to monitor government actions in the war on terrorism.

PNAC Calls for More Troops in Iraq

The United States military is too small for the responsibilities we are asking it to assume. Those responsibilities are real and important. They are not going away. The United States will not and should not become less engaged in the world in the years to come. But our national security, global peace and stability, and the defense and promotion of freedom in the post-9/11 world require a larger military force than we have today. The administration has unfortunately resisted increasing our ground forces to the size needed to meet today's (and tomorrow's) missions and challenges.
So we [the Project for the New American Century] write to ask you and your colleagues in the legislative branch to take the steps necessary to increase substantially the size of the active duty Army and Marine Corps. While estimates vary about just how large an increase is required, and Congress will make its own determination as to size and structure, it is our judgment that we should aim for an increase in the active duty Army and Marine Corps, together, of at least 25,000 troops each year over the next several years.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Generic AIDS treatment wins FDA approval

It’s rare to hear good news about AIDS. This week, however, South Africa’s largest pharmaceutical company, Aspen Pharmacare, became the first to get the thumbs up from the Food and Drug Administration for a generic AIDS regimen.

...The U.S. government decided it couldn’t make other countries swallow what it wouldn’t give to its own citizens, and cheaper generic medicines that meet FDA safety standards can only help the U.S. anti-AIDS budget go further, says Stavros Nicolaou, Aspen’s senior executive in strategic trade.

Bush to Propose Elimination of Federal Subsidy for Amtrak

The president's budget for the fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1 will propose eliminating operating subsidies for Amtrak, administration officials said on Tuesday evening.The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because, they said, they were not supposed to give out details of the budget before it was presented on Monday. The decision regarding Amtrak was first reported by the Reuters news agency.
In each of the last few years, the Bush administration's budget for Amtrak has been smaller than what the railroad said it needed to survive, and Congress then raised the amount.

"How would you like to pay - credit card or fingerprint?"

One supermarket has given its customers the choice of paying by fingerprint at its shop in the state of Washington - and found customers surprisingly willing to give the finger instead of payment at the checkout.
US chain Thriftway introduced the PayByTouch system in its shop in the Seattle area in 2002 and now sees thousands of transactions a month using the payment method.

CIA Officially Disavows Prewar Assessment of Iraqi Weapons

In a formal acknowledgment of the obvious, the CIA has issued a classified report revising its prewar assessments on Iraq and concluding that Baghdad abandoned its chemical weapons programs in 1991, according to intelligence officials familiar with the document.
The report marks the first time the CIA officially has disavowed its prewar judgments, and is one in a "series" of updated assessments the agency is producing as part of a belated effort to correct its record on Iraq's alleged weapons programs, officials said.

Climate Change Already Here, Conference Told

Evidence is growing that global warming is already starting to disrupt the world's delicately-balanced climate system, and the damage will reverberate for generations, a top science conference was told.
"There is no longer any doubt that the Earth's climate is changing," conference chairman Dennis Tirpak said Tuesday.
"Globally, nine of the past 10 years have been the warmest since records began in 1861," he said. "Rising greenhouse gases are affecting rainfall patterns and the global water cycle."
Tirpak singled out the heatwave that gripped western Europe in 2003 as an example. Europe's worst natural disaster in 50 years killed as many as 30,000 people and inflicted an estimated 30 billion dollars (23 billion euros) in damage.

The real sultan of spin

[John] Rendon likes to call himself an "information warrior" and a "perception manager" except that doesn't really explain anything. I can tell you what he's done, however. Remember the liberation of Kuwait in the first Gulf War, when victorious US troops rolled into the capital to be greeted by hundreds of Kuwaitis waving small American flags? Ever wonder how the people of Kuwait City, after being held hostage for seven long and painful months, were able to get hold of their Stars and Stripes? That was Rendon. Over the past 20 years the Rendon Group has been involved in American military interventions all over the world, from South America (Colombia, Argentina) and Central America (Panama) to the Caribbean (Haiti), the Middle East (Iraq), Africa (Zimbabwe) and Europe (Kosovo).

Jeff Gannon, Mystery Reporter

Meet Jeff Gannon, White House Correspondent for the conservative Talon News Service. Jeff has become known for asking ridiculously leading questions and for writing news stories containing pure Republican boilerplate. Some people think something weird is going on here. You see, Talon News Service is not so much a news organization as it is a branch of conservative advocacy group GOPUSA. Then there's the fact that Jeff Gannon is a pseudonym - not a big deal, except that the White House press office has apparently broken with tradition and allowed him to register with them as his pseudonym. Who is this guy? Why does he have White House press credentials? And how did he apparently get hold of a secret intelligence document concerning the Plame affair? Inquiring liberals want to know, and several blogs -- including Daily Kos -- are trying to figure it all out. [from]

Nepal is shut off from the world as King seizes power in 'coup'

Armoured military vehicles with mounted machineguns patrolled the streets of Kathmandu. Former government leaders were placed under house arrest, communications were cut and almost all international flights cancelled.
Sher Bahadur Deuba, the deposed Prime Minister, denounced the King’s actions as a coup, accusing him of exploiting the intensifying Maoist insurgency to snatch power in a violation of the constitution.
It is the second time in three years that King Gyanendra has dismissed his Government. “It is an anti-democratic step and we strongly denounce this act,” Mr Deuba said in a statement to journalists who gathered outside his house after soldiers surrounded it and prevented anyone from entering. “This step has thrown the country into a grave crisis.” KING Gyanendra threw Nepal into political crisis yesterday when he sacked the Government, declared a state of emergency and took over control of the country.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

'Zero intelligence' trading closely mimics stock market

A model that assumes stock market traders have zero intelligence has been found to mimic the behaviour of the London Stock Exchange very closely.
However, the surprising result does not mean traders are actually just buying and selling at random, say researchers. Instead, it suggests that the movement of markets depend less on the strategic behaviour of traders and more on the structure and constraints of the trading system itself.
The research, led by J Doyne Farmer and his colleagues at the Santa Fe Institute, New Mexico, US, say the finding could be used to identify ways to lower volatility in the stock markets and reduce transaction costs, both of which would benefit small investors and perhaps bigger investors too.
A spokesperson for the London Stock Exchange says: "It's an interesting bit of work that mirrors things we're looking at ourselves."

Car RFID Tags Cracked

Matthew Green is part of a team that has announced that it has cracked the security behind the “immobilizer” systems used in many modern vehicles, and created by Texas Instruments. The immobilization systems reduce car theft by only starting a vehicle when it recognizes a tiny chip in the car key. They are in use by Ford, Toyota and Nissan.
Texas Instruments executive Tony Sabetti denies that cracking the vehicles is possible, saying that they “have been fraud-free and are likely to remain fraud-free."
However the researchers disagree. In a demonstration, the researchers were able to stand next to someone holding a valid key for just 1-2 seconds, about an hour of number crunching and then the car was completely theirs for the taking.
The implications of the Hopkins finding go beyond stealing cars.
The security technology is widely used for everything from highway tools to credit cards and inventory tracking.

Radio Spectrum Sale Draws $1 Billion in Bids

Mobile phone carriers and entrepreneurs bid nearly $1 billion yesterday on the first day of a government auction of radio spectrum, the airwaves that carry wireless data and phone traffic.
The auction, for 242 licenses in big and small markets across the country, is scheduled to continue this morning, with 31 of the 35 bidders that were initially eligible still participating, according to the Federal Communications Commission, the regulatory agency that is overseeing the auction.

Monkeys pay for sexy pics

A US study has shown that rhesus macaques will pay to look at images of powerful or sexually interesting fellows.
...Male monkeys will 'pay' in fruit juice to look at a picture of a socially dominant monkey or a female's hindquarters. In the wild, the animals help their fitness by monitoring what their leaders are doing, and which females are sexually receptive.

U.S. infant death rate climbs for first time in 40 years

The U.S. infant mortality rate has increased for the first time in more than 40 years, primarily because more women gave birth to tiny babies who didn't survive, a federal report said yesterday.
Early data for 2003 suggests that this trend may not be continuing, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).
Researchers, however, said more studies are needed to understand why so many more tiny babies are being born but not living long.

[Before this, the US ranked 41st, ahead of Taiwan and Croatia; and behind the Faroe Islands and Guam.]

U.S. Judge: Guantanamo Tribunals Unconstitutional

In a setback for the Bush administration, U.S. District Judge Joyce Hens Green also ruled the prisoners at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba have constitutional protections under the law.
"The court concludes that the petitioners have stated valid claims under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and that the procedures implemented by the government to confirm that the petitioners are 'enemy combatants' subject to indefinite detention violate the petitioners' rights to due process of law," Green wrote.
More than 540 suspects are being held at Guantanamo after being detained during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and in other operations in the U.S. "war against terrorism." They are al Qaeda suspects and accused Taliban fighters.

4 Networks Reject Ad Opposing Bush on Lawsuits

An advocacy group, USAction, said on Monday that four television networks had turned down its request to run an advertisement opposing President Bush's effort to clamp down on medical malpractice lawsuits.
The group wanted to run the spots just before Mr. Bush's State of the Union address on Wednesday. But networks said the advertisement violated their standards for advertising on controversial issues.
The NBC Universal Television Network, owned by General Electric, told the group, "We are sorry that we cannot accept your ad based on our network policy regarding controversial issue advertising."
As a general rule, the policy says, "time will not be sold on NBC Network facilities for the presentation of views on controversial issues." The policy does not apply to candidates for public office in election years.
ABC, CBS and the Fox Broadcasting Company said they had also turned down the advertisement.

Insurance broker to pay $850m to settle bid-rigging charges

Eliot Spitzer on Monday set out the likely terms of a far-reaching reform of the US insurance industry, as he unveiled a $850m settlement with Marsh & McLennan, the sector's biggest broker.
In a novel agreement, Marsh & McLennan agreed to changes its business practices and to set aside money to compensate clients that had been charged excessive premiums.

Texas Court Orders Voting Examiners' Meetings Opened to Public

A Texas court ruled today that state voting examiners may no longer bar the public from their meetings. In the case, ACLU of Texas v. Connor, the plaintiffs argued that the Texas Open Meetings Act should apply to meetings of the voting examiners. These meetings are used to decide what kinds of electronic voting machines will be used in upcoming elections. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) was co-counsel in the case.
"The court rightly rejected Texas' policy of shutting the public out of the processes for selecting voting technologies. The need for public trust in our election systems cannot be overstated, and this is a terrific step forward for the voters of Texas," said EFF Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman.

'Bunker buster' may return

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sent a memo last month to then-Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham saying next year's budget should include funds to resume study of building an earth-penetrating nuclear weapon designed to destroy hardened underground targets.
An Energy Department official said Monday that $10.3 million to restart that study is expected to be included in the Bush administration's budget, which is to be released next week.
...The program has been restricted each year by Senate and House members who have argued that even studying the potential for such a new nuclear weapon undermines Washington's attempts to limit other countries from developing their own nuclear arsenals.

Computer System Credited With Saving Would-Be Drowning Victim

The Sceaux pool was equipped with Vision IQ's Poseidon system, which is designed to alert lifeguards to swimmers in distress. Vision IQ says that an otherwise healthy man (who has not been identified) was swimming laps when he felt faint. In moments, he was at the bottom of the deep pool. In photos taken by the Poseidon, swimmers can be seen nearby, apparently unaware of the situation.
The company says it took its system 10 seconds to assess the situation and sound an alert. In another image, someone can be seen lifting the man off the floor of the pool. He was resuscitated and, according to Vision IQ, has recovered completely.

U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote

September 3, 1967:
United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting.
According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong.
....A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson's policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam. The election was the culmination of a constitutional development that began in January, 1966, to which President Johnson gave his personal commitment when he met Premier Ky and General Thieu, the chief of state, in Honolulu in February.
The purpose of the voting was to give legitimacy to the Saigon Government, which has been founded only on coups and power plays since November, 1963, when President Ngo Dinh Deim was overthrown by a military junta.

I know, I know, this doesn't mean Iraq is Vietnam. But you have to admit, this story is pretty spooky.Kevin Drum

Full article posted here.

Freedom of Information Comes at a $372,799 Cost

A Washington public interest group's attempt to discover the extent to which the government has sought to hide legal proceedings involving immigrant detainees since Sept. 11 has been stymied by a huge, upfront tab for research.
People for the American Way Foundation has been told it must pay nearly $400,000 before the Department of Justice will process its Freedom of Information Act request. The general counsel for the group, which hopes to publish a public report about government secrecy efforts against hundreds of unidentified detainees, called the unusually large fee requirement "outrageous."
"The government should not be able to levy that kind of fee as a precondition for getting information," said Elliot Mincberg. "We regularly file these requests against not only the Department of Justice but other federal agencies, and we've never had a situation like this before. It's hard to reach any other conclusion than they're stonewalling."

C.I.A. Said to Rebuff Congress on Nazi Files

The Central Intelligence Agency is refusing to provide hundreds of thousands of pages of documents sought by a government working group under a 1998 law that requires full disclosure of classified records related to Nazi war criminals, say Congressional officials from both parties.
Under the law, the C.I.A. has already provided more than 1.2 million pages of documents, the vast majority of them from the archives of its World War II predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services. Many documents have been declassified, and some made public last year showed a closer relationship between the United States government and Nazi war criminals than had previously been understood, including the C.I.A.'s recruitment of war criminal suspects or Nazi collaborators.
For nearly three years, the C.I.A. has interpreted the 1998 law narrowly and rebuffed requests for additional records, say Congressional officials and some members of the working group, who also contend that that stance seems to violate the law.

GOP: "Saving Social Security: A Guide to Social Security Reform"

Raw Story has acquired a copy of Saving Social Security: A Guide to Social Security Reform, printed by the House and Senate Republican Conferences as a guide for Senators and Representatives to market private accounts for the Social Security system.
The document is filled with suggestions for communicating with constituents such as, "Talk in simple language: Your audience doesn't understand financial jargon," and "Offer an alternate reality." The first several pages of the 103-page document are posted here.
The playbook, first reported on by Raw Story, has been subsequently reproduced by various liberal weblogs. View the entire document in PDF format here (2mb).

Monday, January 31, 2005

Heads Roll At The Veterans Administration: Mushrooming Depleted Uranium (DU) Scandal Blamed

The Preventive Psychiatry E-Newsletter today charged that the reason Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi stepped down earlier this month was the growing scandal surrounding the use of uranium munitions (DU) in the Iraq War.

Writing in the Preventive Psychiatry E-Newsletter # 169, Arthur N. Bernklau, Executive Director of the Veterans For Constitutional Law Center in New York, stated that "The real reason for Mr. Principi’s departure was really never given, however a special report published by eminent scientist Leuren Moret’s naming depleted uranium as the definitive cause of the ‘Gulf War Syndrome’ has fed a growing scandal about the continued use of uranium munitions by the US Military.”

Bernklau continued "This malady [from uranium munitions], that thousands of our military have suffered and died from, has finally been identified as the cause of this sickness, eliminating the guessing. The terrible truth is now being revealed."

Report: PR spending doubled under Bush

The administration spent at least $88 million in fiscal 2004 on contracts with major public relations firms, the analysis found, compared with $37 million in 2001, Bush's first year in office. In all, the administration spent $250 million on public relations contracts during its first term, compared with $128 million spent for President Clinton between 1997 and 2000. The analysis did not examine what the Clinton administration spent during its first term.
The top-spending agency during the past four years, at $94 million, was the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The biggest federal public relations contractor in that period was Ketchum, with $97 million.
"While not all public relations spending is illegal or inappropriate, this rapid rise in public relations contracts at a time of growing budget deficits raises questions about the priorities of the administration," said the report by the Democratic staff of the House Government Reform Committee.

The Stop Government Propaganda Act

"In response to continued revelations of government-funded 'journalism' - ranging from the purported video news releases put out by the drug czar's office and the Department of Health and Human Services to the recently uncovered payments to columnists Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher, who flacked administration programs - Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) will introduce a bill, The Stop Government Propaganda Act, in the Senate next week," reports Brian Orloff.

FBI Expanding Intelligence-Gathering in US

The FBI is significantly expanding its intelligence-gathering activities in the U.S., including stepped-up efforts to collect and report intelligence on foreign figures and governments, a function that long has been principally the CIA's domain, intelligence and congressional sources said Thursday.
The bureau in December launched discussions with top CIA officials to rewrite the two-decade-old ground rules covering how the agencies conduct their intelligence efforts in the U.S. and abroad. That effort reflects an acceleration of the FBI's foreign-intelligence collection efforts in the U.S. in recent months, as well as the desire of top bureau officials to assert what they view as their legal duty to track CIA activities in the U.S. and coordinate with the agency's operations.

Audit: $9 Billion Unaccounted for in Iraq

Bremer complained the report "assumes that Western-style budgeting and accounting procedures could be immediately and fully implemented in the midst of a war."
The inspector general said the occupying agency disbursed $8.8 billion to Iraqi ministries "without assurance the moneys were properly accounted for."

Ohio recount volunteers allege electoral tampering, legal violations and possible fraud

Serious new election tampering allegations have emerged from an Ohio county, where witnesses allege that stickers were placed on presidential election ballots, RAW STORY has learned.
Several volunteer workers in the Ohio recount in Clermont County, Ohio have prepared affidavits alleging serious tampering, violations of state and federal law and possible fraud. They name the Republican chief of Clermont’s Board of Elections Daniel Bare and the head of the Clermont Democratic Party Priscilla O’Donnell as complicit in these acts.
These volunteers, observing the recount on behalf of the Greens, Libertarians and Democrats, assert that during the Dec. 14, 2004 hand recount they noticed stickers covering the Kerry/Edwards oval, whereas the Bush/Cheney oval seemed to be “colored in.”

Man peed way out of avalanche

A Slovak man trapped in his car under an avalanche freed himself by drinking 60 bottles of beer and urinating on the snow to melt it.
Rescue teams found Richard Kral drunk and staggering along a mountain path four days after his Audi car was buried in the Slovak Tatra mountains.

Department of Edumacation Clarifies Position on Gay Cartoon Characters


Department of Edumacation Clarifies Position on Gay Cartoon Characters
and introduces new edumacational initiative

January 31, 2005

Recent controversies over gay cartoon characters require us to clarify our position. In response to these events, we are also introducing a new program, the “La-La-La!” program, designed to promote new edumacational values to our nation’s children.

As you may have heard, a cartoon on Public Television is attempting to depict a family of bunnies where both parents are female. Clearly, they are using public money in a non-inflammatory representation of homosexuality. This can only serve to confuse children.

Some of you might ask, “Wait a minute, government officials talk about gays all the time. Aren’t my tax dollars already going into talking about gays?”

Well, yes. But there is a difference. That cartoon had the audacity to show gays as healthy, happy and caring parents. We have determined that gays must only exist as objects of controversy.

We can only imagine that they have chosen the gay lifestyle in order to frighten us and to destroy Western Civilization with their gayness.

We are now attempting to cut funding for Public Television because
1) they did not show gays in their proper role as targets of persecution, and
2) Public Television is a form of socialism started by Lyndon Johnson, who was a left-wing communist sympathizer.

We are also launching a new initiative, the “La-La-La!” program.

The proper role of edumacation is not to expose children to ideas that are unfamiliar and scary. We are in the business of reinforcing what they already think, in keeping with the teachings of Jesus and Santy Claus.

Teachers are now required to instruct students in the following technique:

Whenever you hear something strange or odd or in conflict with your world view, cover your ears, close your eyes and chant “La-La-La-La-La…” until the offending message goes away.

Teachers who fail to instruct students in this technique will endanger Federal funding for their schools. Strict enforcement will be necessary because
1) Public education is a form of socialism and
2) It was started by Horace Mann, who was an anarchist.

To be clear, the Department of Edumacation is not promoting an ideology. We are only one part of a larger public relations effort to divide the country culturally. When governmental power becomes highly centralized, scapegoats are necessary in order to control the public discourse and divert the anxieties of the masses away from the powerful and toward the weak.

We do not officially hate gays. They have merely made themselves convenient targets with their gay pride parades and their flamboyant dancing. After gays are sufficiently demonized, we will move on the college professors and other members of the intellectual elite.

The Department of Edumacation will not hate anyone. However, other participants in this PR effort (email groups, talk radio, pundits) will amplify the messages as they see fit.

The Department of Edumacation is only helping reinforce a network of beliefs and values in the minds of consumers.

Isn’t that, after all, what edumacation really is?

Isn’t it?


This is not actually a Dept. of Ed. Press release. It is satire. Get it? Also, I’m a straight guy (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I do, however, have family members and friends who are gay. Their gayness does not hurt me. What’s more, they are kind, decent, require love like anyone else and are being treated like second-class citizens for political reasons.

And that ticks me off.

©© 2005 McLir

Shroud of Turin 'up to 3,000 years old'

The Turin Shroud, believed by some to be Christ's burial cloth, is much older than previously thought, a new study has found.
Research published in the scientific journal, Thermochimica Acta, has reignited the debate over the Shroud's origins, suggesting it is between 1,300 and 3,000 years old.

Virtual Reality Used to Treat Post-Traumatic Stress

This is no video game, nor is it a training device. Rizzo and colleagues are developing a psychological tool to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, by bringing soldiers back to the scenes that still haunt them. A similar simulation is in the works for victims of the World Trade Center attacks.
PTSD treatment, the newest frontier in the intersection between virtual reality and mental health, is one of the hot topics this week at the 13th annual Medicine Meets Virtual Reality conference, which began Wednesday in Long Beach, California. Rizzo and others will explore plans to expand virtual reality's role in mental health by adding more elements like touch and the ability to interact with simulations. "The driving vision is a holodeck," Rizzo said. "If you look at the holodeck, and all the things people do in Star Trek, that's what we'd like to be able to do."

Activists Urge Free Open-Source Software

Activists at a leftist gathering where Microsoft is viewed as a corporate bogeyman urged developing nations Saturday to leap into the information age with free open-source software.John Barlow, a lyricist for the Grateful Dead, told a gathering inside a packed warehouse that poor nations can't solve their problems unless they stop paying expensive software licensing fees.
Open source software includes programs that are not controlled by a single company. The software can be developed by anyone, with few restrictions. The best known such software is the Linux operating system, which can be downloaded free from the Internet.

Errol Morris' Web Site

Hannah Höch

one of the great queer female artists of the 20th century and one of the brilliant minds behind the Berlin DaDa Movement. One of the pioneers of photomontage, Höch's work is still among the best in the medium even today. [from]

Fair Use and "Digital Environmentalism"

Some of the most significant changes in intellectual property law took place in the Copyright Act of 1976, after which it was no longer required to register one's work in order to protect it. Anything "fixed in a tangible medium"—e-mail messages, those doodles in the margins of this magazine—automatically became copyrighted. Recent laws—like the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which increased protection of copyrighted material on the Internet, and the Sonny Bono Act—have elevated intellectual property's status to such a degree that many courts and corporations often treat it in virtually the same way as they do physical property.
This is a category mistake, and one explicitly forbidden according to Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, which gives Congress the authority to "promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.'' Unlike Europe, whose laws center on the "moral rights" of the author to control his creation, American copyright law has always had the strictly utilitarian goal of providing just enough incentive for someone to create. Copyright is a bargain: The government grants a limited right to profit from your intellectual property in exchange for your agreement to give the public limited access to it during that period (such as the "fair use" right of a teacher to make class copies of an essay), and, eventually, for it to lapse into the public domain.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Animal-Human Hybrids Spark Controversy

Chinese scientists at the Shanghai Second Medical University in 2003 successfully fused human cells with rabbit eggs. The embryos were reportedly the first human-animal chimeras successfully created. They were allowed to develop for several days in a laboratory dish before the scientists destroyed the embryos to harvest their stem cells.
In Minnesota last year researchers at the Mayo Clinic created pigs with human blood flowing through their bodies.
And at Stanford University in California an experiment might be done later this year to create mice with human brains.
Scientists feel that, the more humanlike the animal, the better research model it makes for testing drugs or possibly growing "spare parts," such as livers, to transplant into humans.

US Provocation and Surveillance of Iran

The U.S. Air Force is playing a dangerous game of cat and mouse with Iran's ayatollahs, flying American combat aircraft into Iranian airspace in an attempt to lure Tehran into turning on air defense radars, thus allowing U.S. pilots to grid the system for use in future targeting data, administration officials said.
..."These Iranian air defense positions are not just being observed, they're being 'templated,'" an administration official said, explaining that the flights are part of a U.S. effort to develop "an electronic order of battle for Iran" in case of actual conflict.

Britons detained in Guantanamo Bay are freed without charge by anti-terror police

The four Britons who returned from Guantanamo Bay on Tuesday after being held captive for almost three years were released without charge last night after being held by police for just under 28 hours.

Isolation, breakdowns and mysterious injections

One of the four men who returned to Britain yesterday after three years in Guantánamo Bay allegedly suffered a series of mental breakdowns and was repeatedly injected with an unknown substance by his US captors.
A lawyer for Feroz Abbasi made the allegations as he and three other Muslim men arrived in Britain aboard an RAF plane, only to be arrested by anti-terrorism officers who took them to a top security police station for questioning.
Mr Abbasi is alleged to have been kept in isolation for 18 months and was left so traumatised that he suffered hallucinations and panic attacks.

Seymour Hersh Interview

Seymour Hersh: You know, we all deal in “macro” in Washington. On the macro, we're hopeless. We're nowhere. The press is nowhere. The Congress is nowhere. The military is nowhere. Every four-star General I know is saying, “Who is going to tell them we have no clothes?” Nobody is going to do it. Everybody is afraid to tell Rumsfeld anything. That's just the way it is. It's a system built on fear.
It's not lack of integrity, it's more profound than that. Because there is individual integrity. It's a system that's completely been taken over -- by cultists.
Anyway, what's going to happen, I think, as the casualties mount and these stories get around, and the mothers see the cost and the fathers see the cost, as the kids come home. And the wounded ones come back, and there's wards that you will never hear about. That's wards -- you know about the terrible catastrophic injuries, but you don't know about the vegetables. There's ward after ward of vegetables because the brain injuries are so enormous. As you maybe read last week, there was a new study in one of the medical journals that the number of survivors are greater with catastrophic injuries because of their better medical treatment and the better armor they have. So you get more extreme injuries to extremities. [from]

Swiss court green-lights Holocaust lawsuit against IBM

The Swiss Supreme Court has ruled a suit brought by a Gypsy rights group against computer giant IBM (IBM.N: Quote, Profile, Research) for allegedly helping Nazi slaughter can be heard in Geneva, a lawyer for the group said on Thursday.
Lawyer Henri-Philippe Sambuc said that the court had rejected an appeal by IBM, which had its European headquarters in Geneva during the war, against an earlier decision by a lower court that the case could go ahead in the Swiss city. [from]

US Wants Darfur War Crimes Tried Outside of ICC

Ambassador Pierre-Richard Prosper said the U.S. doesn't want to refer cases to the International Criminal Court, which is being formed in The Hague and is investigating allegations of crimes in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The U.S., which hasn't ratified the 1998 treaty that created the court, believes it doesn't have adequate safeguards to protect Americans from politically motivated prosecutions.
The U.S. effort to create a new court modeled after tribunals in Rwanda and Yugoslavia will be a ``tough sell,'' according to Ambassador Lauro Baja of the Philippines, a Security Council member. Envoys from council members Algeria, Argentina, Greece and Russia said they thought the ICC should handle any cases involving the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.