Friday, March 04, 2005

Judge Tentatively Rules Bloggers Cannot Keep Sources Secret

In a case with implications for the freedom to blog, a San Jose judge tentatively ruled Thursday that Apple Computer can force three online publishers to surrender the names of confidential sources who disclosed information about the company's upcoming products.
Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg refused to extend to the Web sites a protection that shields journalists from revealing the names of unidentified sources or turning over unpublished material.

BIOS - Biological Innovation for Open Society

a new initiative of CAMBIA to extend the metaphor and concepts of Open Source to biotechnology and other forms of innovation in biology.
Biological Innovation includes activities as diverse as plant breeding, agriculture, nutrition, biology research, ecosystem and natural resource management, biofermentation, public health and medicine.

Are Blogs to Blame?

Tom Regan, Associate Editor of the Christian Science monitor wrote an interesting piece referencing the latest findings of the Feb 2005 Harris Poll showing that more and more Americans (64%) *still* think that Saddam Hussein had strong links to Al-Qaida. Tom's piece proposes that too many Americans are getting their "news" from sources -- including blogs -- that are tainted with right-wing opinion. Tom proposes that blogs share a large responsibility for confusing readers and blurring the lines between news and opinion. On this same topic, last week Editorial Cartoonist Ted Rall wrote an Op/Ed piece last week on blogs that primarily talks about the dangers of the right-wing blogger "lynch mob." Does the sphere of right-wing blogs far outweigh the sphere of influence of left-wing blogs? And is this something that is worrisome? Are blogs a danger to further polarizing public opinion? What do you think? [from]

Vietnamese war victims of Agent Orange poisoning sue US chemical companies

In the lawsuit filed this week, it was alleged that up to four million Vietnamese suffered persistent respiratory and reproductive problems as a result of being contaminated by Agent Orange. They are seeking compensation that could run to billions of dollars from 30 companies, such as Dow Chemical and Monsanto. One of the plaintiffs, Dr Phan Thi Phi Phi, told the court in New York she had worked in an area that was heavily sprayed with the defoliant and suffered four miscarriages during the early 1970s. "We did not know what happened to us, what was the cause of it, so we were very sad because we had so many miscarriages and we could not have children," she said.
US forces routinely sprayed the defoliant to clear areas of jungle where they believed Communist forces were hiding, and to destroy their crops.

Obit: Peter Zvi Malkin Is Dead; Captured Adolf Eichmann

Peter Zvi Malkin, a former Israeli intelligence agent who in 1960 captured Adolf Eichmann in Argentina, and who afterward captured him again and again on paper in his second career as a painter and writer, died on Tuesday in a rehabilitation facility in Manhattan. He was believed to be 77, and he had homes in Manhattan and Tel Aviv.
...A Mossad agent for 27 years, Mr. Malkin was the author of a memoir, "Eichmann in My Hands" (Warner, 1990). Written with Harry Stein, it chronicles Mossad's pursuit and capture of Eichmann, an architect of the Final Solution, the systematic Nazi program to exterminate Jews.
A master of disguises, Mr. Malkin often posed as an itinerant painter during intelligence-gathering missions. Repelled and fascinated by Eichmann during the time he spent guarding him in Argentina, he began surreptitiously sketching his portrait. Eichmann was later spirited out of the country by Mossad to stand trial in Israel; he was convicted of crimes against humanity and other charges and executed in 1962. [thanks to Sharon]

Channel One Recruiting Children Into Military

The US government is placing recruiting advertisements on Channel One. For those who are not familiar with Channel One, it is:

"a twelve-minute television news program targeted to teenagers and distributed via satellite to over 12,000 middle and high schools across the United States each school day morning. This represents an audience of over eight million students, with thousands of other schools currently on a waiting list to receive the program. Channel One became, almost from its inception, a highly controversial educational program offering, primarily because two minutes of each program are devoted to advertising." (Channel One: U.S. Proprietary Programming Service)
Between the use of the primary school educational channel, and virtually unfettered access to schools and information under the vaunted No Child Left Behind Act, recruiting children is like capturing fish in a barrel. Channel One is shown in many schools and there are certainly incentives for schools to become "Channel One Schools." If schools sign a contract with Channel One, they get a slew of video and computer equipment (for as long as they keep the contract). This raises the issue that Channel One would be more likely to find a niche in public rather than private schools, and economically distressed rather than affluent schools. [thanks to Donna]

DHS Requiring Immigrants to Wear Ankle Monitors

The Department of Homeland Security is experimenting with a controversial new method to keep better track of immigrants who are applying to remain in the United States. It is requiring aliens in eight cities to wear electronic monitors 24 hours a day.
The ankle bracelets are the same monitors that some rapists and other convicted criminals have to wear on parole. But the government's pilot project is putting monitors on aliens who have never been accused of a crime.
So far, the Department of Homeland Security has put electronic monitors on more than 1,700 immigrants. Victor Cerda, director of Detention and Removal Operations at Homeland Security, says the anklets will help prevent tens of thousands of immigrants who are ordered to leave the country each year from "absconding" -- going into hiding to avoid deportation.

Trade-Off: Vaccine Maker Profits - Autism

In 2000, the FDA determined that infants were receiving much more mercury than was considered safe under EPA guidelines. A twelve-to-fourteen month old child, receiving the mandated vaccines under the Immunization Schedule, often received four to six shots during one doctor visit. Consequently over time, the child would be injected with as much as 40 times the amount of mercury considered safe.
Twenty years ago, autism only affected one in 10,000 children. However, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, by January 2004, the incidence of autism rose to one in every 166 children. The Autism Autoimmunity Project reports that the disorder strikes 1 in 150 (or 1 in 68 families) today.
...Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) has introduced Senate Bill 3, which would immunize drug companies from all liability for vaccine-related autism caused by mercury poisoning.
"The fact that President Bush stated before the election that mercury should be removed childhood vaccines means he believes thimerosal could, in fact, cause harm. If the President ... supports the removal of mercury from childhood vaccines, then surely he cannot support legislation that protects drug companies from accountability for the injuries caused by mercury," said Shelley Reynolds, President of Unlocking Autism.
SafeMinds is a leading autism advocacy organization fighting to ban mercury from all medicines and to promote treatment research for those who have already been injured.
On Feb 28, 2005, SafeMinds announced its opposition to the bill HR 650, "The Vaccine Accessibility for Children and Seniors Act of 2005." The group maintains that the title of the bill is deceptive in that it imposes barriers to legal remedies for the vaccine-injured.

Bogus mercury "facts"

A new report (pdf) by Reps. Richard Pombo (R-CA) and Jim Gibbons (R-NV) about mercury deposits, entitled "Mercury in Perspective: Fact and Fiction About the Debate Over Mercury," would have been more aptly titled if the word "fact" had simply been stricken out. Both Chris Mooney and Amanda Griscom Little dissect the Pombo/Gibbons report, which tries to convince readers that mercury actually poses little harm to humans, despite the countless medical and scientific studies saying otherwise. The report comes just as the EPA is set to finalize its new mercury policy by March 15.

Press Coverage of Darfur Crisis Increases, Raises 'Genocide' Charge

The wires, especially Reuters, have continued to break news from the region on nearly a daily basis, but daily newspapers are also continuing to regularly cover Sudan, with many stories lately probing the genocide question.
Coverage includes a Los Angeles Times story today about a videotaped interview with Sudanese militia leader Musa Hilal, in which he denies involvement in violence against Darfur denizens. The Associated Press reported the same story Wednesday. An AP story today looks at proposed additional U.S. spending on the war in Iraq and in Afghanistan at the expense of many programs, including food aid to Darfur. [see next]

Former Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Blasts Condi

I know it seems improbable to your divinely guided master in the White House that mere mortals might disagree with participating in a missile-defence system that has failed in its last three tests, even though the tests themselves were carefully rigged to show results.
But, gosh, we folks above the 49th parallel are somewhat cautious types who can't quite see laying down billions of dollars in a three-dud poker game.
As our erstwhile Prairie-born and bred (and therefore prudent) finance minister pointed out in presenting his recent budget, we've had eight years of balanced or surplus financial accounts. If we're going to spend money, Mr. Goodale added, it will be on day-care and health programs, and even on more foreign aid and improved defence.
Sure, that doesn't match the gargantuan, multi-billion-dollar deficits that your government blithely runs up fighting a "liberation war" in Iraq, laying out more than half of all weapons expenditures in the world, and giving massive tax breaks to the top one per cent of your population while cutting food programs for poor children.
Just chalk that up to a different sense of priorities about what a national government's role should be when there isn't a prevailing mood of manifest destiny. Coming to Ottawa might also expose you to a parliamentary system that has a thing called question period every day, where those in the executive are held accountable by an opposition for their actions, and where demands for public debate on important topics such a missile defence can be made openly.
...Your boss did not avail himself of a similar opportunity to visit our House of Commons during his visit, fearing, it seems, that there might be some signs of dissent. He preferred to issue his diktat on missile defence in front of a highly controlled, pre-selected audience.
Such control-freak antics may work in the virtual one-party state that now prevails in Washington. But in Canada we have a residual belief that politicians should be subject to a few checks and balances, an idea that your country once espoused before the days of empire.
If you want to have us consider your proposals and positions, present them in a proper way, through serious discussion across the table in our cabinet room, as your previous president did when he visited Ottawa. And don't embarrass our prime minister by lobbing a verbal missile at him while he sits on a public stage, with no chance to respond.

Syndicator of Bill O Reilly column nastygrams blog for linking

Stay Free! Daily sez:
The company that syndicates Bill O'Reilly's newspaper column has sent a cease and desist to the blog Newshound for merely linking to an O'Reilly column! On Stay Free! Daily, we're encouraging other blogs to link to the offending O'Reilly column.
Here is an excerpt from O'Reilley's Stupid Column: "
So I am teed off at Buster the bunny because this is all his fault. The guy went up to Vermont to get some syrup and got stuck in a huge jam. Buster should absolutely stay out of sexual politics. It's OK to be happy, Buster, just don't be gay."

Krugman: Greenspan's Partisan Stances

Does anyone still take Mr. Greenspan's pose as a nonpartisan font of wisdom seriously?
When Mr. Greenspan made his contorted argument for tax cuts back in 2001, his reputation made it hard for many observers to admit the obvious: he was mainly looking for some way to do the Bush administration a political favor. But there's no reason to be taken in by his equally weak, contorted argument against reversing those cuts today.
To put Mr. Greenspan's game of fiscal three-card monte in perspective, remember that the push for Social Security privatization is only part of the right's strategy for dismantling the New Deal and the Great Society. The other big piece of that strategy is the use of tax cuts to "starve the beast."
Until the 1970's conservatives tended to be open about their disdain for Social Security and Medicare. But honesty was bad politics, because voters value those programs.
So conservative intellectuals proposed a bait-and-switch strategy: First, advocate tax cuts, using whatever tactics you think may work - supply-side economics, inflated budget projections, whatever. Then use the resulting deficits to argue for slashing government spending.

Hunter S. Thompsons Last Writted Word: "counselor"

According to a sheriff's report, the author's body was found in a chair by his kitchen table, on which a typewriter had been placed and a page of writing paper had been lined up with the word "counselor" typed at its centre.
The significance of the writer's last word was unclear yesterday. It could have been the beginning of a letter addressed to a lawyer (one of the American uses of the word counsellor, along with therapist or adviser), he may have been describing himself, or he might simply have wished to confound those looking for neat explanations for his suicide - an echo of Rosebud, the central character's last word in the film Citizen Kane.
One possible clue is the paper it was written on - headed stationery of the Fourth Amendment Foundation, an organisation he had just set up to defend privacy rights against the threat of unwarranted search and seizure by the authorities.

OPTRUTH: Vermont Voters Ask Congress to Bring Natl. Guard Home

It's hard to get far in Vermont without running into someone with a sister, brother, cousin or co-worker deployed in Iraq. The tiny, leafy-green New England state is not what most would consider a hotbed of military families, but the opposite is true. More Vermonters have been deployed to Iraq per-capita than any other state in the nation, and what's more, Vermont owns the dubious distinction of having suffered the most casualties per-capita, with seven active-duty service members and four Guard members killed in Iraq as of mid-February. If that doesn't seem like a very big number, remember that there are fewer than 700,000 people in Vermont. It's tough to blame them for getting frustrated.

James Baker: U.S. Must Address Global Warming

Former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, a close ally of the Bush family, broke ranks with the Bush administration Thursday and called for the United States to get serious about global warming.
Baker, in a speech to an audience that included a number of oil company executives, said "orderly" change to alternative energy was needed.
..."When you have energy companies like Shell and British Petroleum, both of which are perhaps represented in this room, saying there is a problem with excess carbon dioxide emission, I think we ought to listen," Baker said.

Republicans Plan Diverting Darfu and Tsunami Aid to Military Spending

Top Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday proposed slashing foreign aid and increasing the defense spending that President Bush asked for in an $81 billion emergency spending plan for Iraq and Afghanistan.
The plan would add $1.8 billion to Bush's request to support troops in Iraq and Afghanistan with equipment such as radios, trucks and body armor but would trim funds for reconstruction in Afghanistan, debt relief for tsunami-hit countries, international peacekeeping missions and for war allies.

US backing down in abortion battle at UN

The US has strongly hinted that it will drop its controversial demand to add anti-abortion language to a UN declaration on women's rights.
The issue has dominated a UN conference reviewing the declaration adopted at the 1995 women's conference in Beijing.

The US has been criticised by European and other delegates over its demand for an amendment stating specifically that abortion was not a human right.

Drug Makers Are Still Giving Gifts to Doctors, F.D.A. Official Says

Three years after the drug industry said it would stop showering doctors with expensive gifts, a top federal drug official told a Senate panel on Thursday that such marketing efforts continued.
The official, Dr. Janet Woodcock, acting deputy commissioner for operations of the Food and Drug Administration, said during a break in the hearing that drug companies still invited doctors on cruises and to resorts in exotic places, all free.
The F.D.A. has no jurisdiction to police such efforts, she said.
Dr. Woodcock appeared on the second day of Senate hearings into her agency's oversight of drug safety.
The drug industry has long spent billions of dollars annually - far more than it spends on research - trying to persuade doctors to prescribe its pills.
While it is illegal for drug makers to pay physicians directly for prescriptions, they once routinely offered free dinners, gasoline and even Christmas trees to doctors willing to listen to their sales pitches.Drug sales representatives also once passed out tickets to Broadway shows and professional sporting events to doctors who favored their products.

Boy's Cancer Prompts FDA to Halt Gene Therapy

The Food and Drug Administration has suspended several U.S. gene therapy experiments after learning that a third child who underwent treatment in France has developed cancer as a result, a development that has cast a pall over the struggling research field.
Adding to the gloom, researchers are due to report today that a monkey has died of cancer caused by a gene therapy experiment six years ago. That suggests the treatments may carry long-term as well as near-term risks, said scientists who will be discussing the issue at an FDA meeting.

Reps. Conyers, Slaughter, Thompson, Rangel and Waxman Author Resolution of Inquiry on GannonGate

The Ranking Members for House Committees on Rules, Judiciary, Government Reform, Homeland Security and Ways and Means have authored a Resolution of Inquiry, which would require the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security to turn over all documentation regarding James Guckert's (AKA Jeff Gannon) regular access to the White House.
The resolution comes on the heels of repeated requests by Rep. Louise Slaughter and Rep. John Conyers that the White House and the Department of Homeland Security, which has jurisdiction over the Secret Service, turn over any and all materials related to the GannonGate issue. To date, the White House, the Secret Service, The Department of Homeland Security, and the Justice Department have all failed to respond to such requests.

10,000 Neonatal Deaths Could Be Averted Everyday if Funding Targeted Poor, Say Researchers

Three million newborns who die each year could be saved with low-tech and low-cost measures but are condemned because funding and research is devoted to high-tech solutions used almost exclusively by the rich, an international study said Thursday.
Every year, four million babies die in the first month of life, according to research announced Thursday and being published by the international medical journal The Lancet. That amounts to more than 10,000 neonatal deaths per day.

''Virtually all (99 percent) occur in low- and middle-income countries, yet most research, publications, and funding focus on high-tech care for the one percent of deaths that occur in rich countries,'' the study said.

"Overview of the Army's Chemical and Biological Materiel Program" 1973 Document Now Declassified

Abstract: "This briefing delineates Edgewood Arsenal's capabilities and its role as one of the Army's centers for science and technology. It presents a broad picture of the chemical commodity management center's mission and cites significant action areas." Keywords: "Therapy; Prophylaxis; Smoke; Immunology; Riot control; Chemical warfare; Biological defense; Chemical agents; Demilitarization, Vegetation control; Protection, individual; Protection, collective; Chemical detection, Biological detection; Incapacitating munitions; Decontamination, Binary ammunitions; Flame incendiary; Pollution abatement"

Court Briefings from MGM v. Grokster

The Supreme Court's landmark decision in Sony Corporation of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc. (a.k.a. the "Sony Betamax ruling") held that a distributor cannot held liable for users' infringement so long as the tool is capable of substantial noninfringing uses. In MGM v. Grokster, the Ninth Circuit found that P2P file-sharing software is capable of, and is in fact being used for, noninfringing uses. Relying on the Betamax precedent, the court ruled that the distributors of Grokster and Morpheus software cannot be held liable for users' copyright violations. The plaintiffs appealed, and in December 2004 the Supreme Court granted certiorari.

"The copyright law principles set out in the Sony Betamax case have served innovators, copyright industries, and the public well for 20 years," said Fred von Lohmann, EFF's senior intellectual property attorney. "We at EFF look forward to the Supreme Court reaffirming the applicability of Betamax in the 21st century."

For more about what's at stake in the case, see:

Press Conference Audio

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Dean says Democrats 'not going to concede the South'

Last week, he was in Kansas, which has voted Republican in every presidential race since 1964. Mississippi has gone Republican in every presidential race since 1980, and Democratic presidential nominees rarely campaign in the state. Dean said he'll go to Tennessee soon.
"The way we're going to win elections in this country is not to become Republican lite. The way we're going to win elections in this country is to stand up for what we believe in," Dean said.
Speaking at the $75-a-plate Mississippi Democratic Party dinner, Dean criticized the national debt and said: "You cannot trust Republicans with your taxpayer dollars."
He prayed for American troops, saying even those who had criticized the war in Iraq should support soldiers and their families. He also said the Democratic Party should reach out to evangelical Christians and the party has room for people with divergent views on abortion.
"I want to reach out to people who are worried about values," Dean said. "We are going to embrace pro-life Democrats because pro-life Democrats care about kids after they're born, not just before they're born."

American Politics and "Anxious Masculinity"

Stephen J. Ducat: It's a culture based on male domination and a culture in which most things feminine tend to be devalued, even if they are secretly envied. In such a culture, the most important thing about being a man is not being a woman. This powerful adult male imperative to be unlike females and to repudiate anything that smacks of maternal care taking is played out just as powerfully in politics as it is in personal life. In fact, political contests among men are in many ways the ultimate battles for masculine supremacy. This makes disavowing the feminine in oneself and projecting it onto one's opponent to be especially important. This femiphobia--this male fear of being feminine--operates unconsciously in many men as a very powerful determinant of their political behavior. Also, this femiphobia constitutes a very significant motive for fundamentalist terrorism.

The Supreme Court picks through the rubble of its Ten Commandments jurisprudence.

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment provides that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." That ban has been interpreted to sweep in state and local governments as well. The disaster-on-stilts the court has used to determine whether such an establishment has taken place is known as the "Lemon test," vomited forth upon the land in a 1971 case called Lemon v. Kurtzman. That test asked whether the government's conduct had: (i) a secular purpose; (ii) a principal or primary effect that neither enhances nor inhibits religion; and (iii) did not foster excessive entanglement with religion. Subsequent courts have dealt with Lemon either by modifying its various prongs (as Justice Sandra Day O'Connor did in a 1984 crèche case called Lynch v. Donnelly), manipulating it to produce desired outcomes, or ignoring the test altogether. At least six of the sitting justices have openly questioned the utility of the Lemon test. But of the alternative tests, nothing has so far proved more workable. As a result, the court spends the morning sorting among the rubble of discarded tests—all smashed up like Moses' tablets—and deconstructing hopelessly narrow, fact-specific old case law.

US Blocking UN Support for Needle Exchange to Stop HIV/AIDS

U.S. efforts to force the United Nations to withdraw support for needle exchange programs endanger global efforts to prevent the spread of HIV, a group of AIDS organizations, human rights groups, scientific researchers and policy analysts from 56 countries said today. The groups urged the United Nations to stand firm at a crucial international policy meeting on narcotic drugs to be held next week in Vienna.
“Silencing the United Nations on needle exchange is deadly diplomacy,” said Jonathan Cohen of Human Rights Watch’s HIV/AIDS Program, one of the signatories of an open letter released today to urge delegates of the U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs not to capitulate to U.S. pressure. “The United States should be encouraging proven HIV prevention strategies, not attacking them.”
The United States, which is the only country in the world to explicitly ban use of federal funds for needle exchange, has recently intensified pressure on the United Nations to stop promotion of this HIV-prevention strategy. Following a meeting with an assistant secretary in the U.S. State Department last November, the head of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) promised in a widely circulated letter to be “even more vigilant” in reviewing all electronic and printed documents for references to “harm reduction,” a term used for syringe exchange and other measures that seek to protect the health of drug users. A senior staff member at UNODC later emailed other employees to “ensure that references to harm reduction and needle/syringe exchange are avoided in UNODC documents, publications and statements.”

Frank Luntz GOP Playbook Now Online: No Downloads, Searchable Text

I can't stress enough the importance of reading this document. It is absolutely amazing how politicos co-opted so much of our language and led us down the path to THEIR agenda.
Unfortunately, the monstrous PDF file previously available for download made that a 'challenging' endeavor. Thus, I thought it was very important to bring to everybody's attention the existence of an online, readable, searchable, text version of Frank Luntz’s Playbook. It is a masterpiece of manipulation and an historic political document. [from MetaFilter]

Cod Stocks Down More Than 90 Percent Since 1850s

Using daily fishing logs from the 1850s--which recorded the number of fish caught, their size and their location--together with a population modeling program, Andrew A. Rosenberg of the University of New Hampshire and his colleagues reconstructed the total biomass of cod that existed in the area at the time. The team calculated that there were 1.26 million metric tons of the fish on the Scotian Shelf in 1852, compared with less than 50,000 total metric tons--and just 3,000 metric tons from adult fish--today. "Despite stringent regulations for the last six to 10 years and a slight rebuilding of fish stocks, the best estimate of adult cod biomass on the Scotian Shelf today comprises a mere 38 percent of the catch brought home by 43 Beverly schooners in 1855," the scientists report.

Beyond Cures, Breakthroughs, and News Releases: Ideas for Covering Health & Medicine

We live in a time when there are multiple conflicts of interest when it comes to spreading health news and information. Among government, the drug and medical device industry, academic researchers, academic institutions and medical journals, there are many competing interests at play. The editor of the journal The Lancet recently said that the relationship between the drug industry and medical journals is "somewhere between symbiotic and parasitic." Journalists who are not aware of these conflicts, and who don't investigate them as a routine part of story research and interviewing, are not doing their job.
There is a troubling trend toward commercialism in health news, especially in television news. Single-source stories, in which commercial vested interests go unchallenged, dominate. Many TV stations refer viewers to links on the station's Web site. But those links may take users directly to commercial Web sites of those who are pitching products.
Is this journalism? TV journalists report on their own Lasik surgery, on their own CT scans, on their own use of wrinkle creams. Costs and evidence are generally not discussed. The Baltimore Sun in 2002 blasted two local TV stations for "an alarming parade of commercial tie-ins." Several stations across the country have sponsorship agreements with local medical centers that allow the institutions to place their content on the air.
Journalists who only report on medical breakthroughs or on the latest news releases from medical journals are not reflecting an accurate picture of the current health care system.
There must be a balance between stories about new therapies or technologies in medicine and stories about the cost, quality and evidence behind such new ideas. Journalists must tackle more stories about health policy: Medicare, Medicaid, the uninsured, rationing, retirees' benefits, resource allocation, chronic illness, and the cost and safety of prescription drugs. Journalists who concentrate on new ideas without covering questions of cost, evidence, quality and access may be contributing to the health care cost crisis.

No Bankruptcy Protection for Troops

From Bloomberg News:

"U.S. Senate Republicans blocked an effort by Democrats to shield military personnel from changes to bankruptcy law that would force more debtors to repay their creditors.

The Senate voted 58-38 today to defeat the amendment, one of dozens that Democrats said they will introduce this week to shield senior citizens, debtors with medical bills, and others from the rewrite of bankruptcy law, which is backed by credit-card companies such as JPMorgan Chase & Co. and MBNA Corp."

Moyers Discusses Iraq, President Bush, Poetry

"[Bush] doesn't seem to exhibit the imagination to put himself on the other side of the American frame of reference," Moyers said. "I struggle with this question, 'How is it you can be well-loved, well-taught, well-churched and still be so unaware of the experiences of other people?'"
In addition to criticizing the current administration's foreign policy, Moyers said the trend among many politicians to rely on ideologies - such as religious fundamentalism - would keep governments disconnected from their constituents, and is a threat to American democracy.

The coming crackdown on blogging

Bradley Smith says that the freewheeling days of political blogging and online punditry are over.
In just a few months, he warns, bloggers and news organizations could risk the wrath of the federal government if they improperly link to a campaign's Web site. Even forwarding a political candidate's press release to a mailing list, depending on the details, could be punished by fines.
Smith should know. He's one of the six commissioners at the Federal Election Commission, which is beginning the perilous process of extending a controversial 2002 campaign finance law to the Internet.
In 2002, the FEC exempted the Internet by a 4-2 vote, but U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly last fall overturned that decision. "The commission's exclusion of Internet communications from the coordinated communications regulation severely undermines" the campaign finance law's purposes, Kollar-Kotelly wrote.
Smith and the other two Republican commissioners wanted to appeal the Internet-related sections. But because they couldn't get the three Democrats to go along with them, what Smith describes as a "bizarre" regulatory process now is under way.
CNET spoke with Smith about the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, better known as the McCain-Feingold law, and its forthcoming extrusion onto the Internet.

Soldier "Death Benefits" M.I.A.

Last month, the Bush administration announced that, in the Pentagon's 2006 budget, there would a big bump in the so-called "death benefit" for military families. If a soldier was killed in war, administration officials promised, his loved ones would get a $100,000 lump sum -- up from just $12,420 -- plus an extra $150,000 in life insurance payouts. It seemed like a great idea. Everybody cheered.
But then, something curious happened. Or rather, didn't happen. The Pentagon never included the money for a bigger death benefit in its budget. So now, the Army has gone to Congress, asking for an extra $348 million to keep the administration's word.
The money is part is a larger, $4.8 billion package of Army "FY06 Shortfalls and Requested Legislative Authorities" -- programs that the service's chiefs felt should have received more money from the Pentagon budgeteers. Every year, the Army, Navy, and Air Force appeal directly to Congress to infuse these programs with more cash. This year's Army list also includes $443 million for more M16s and other small arms and $227 million for night vision equipment, Inside Defense notes.
Now, maybe the death benefit lack this year was just a simple oversight on the Pentagon's part. Maybe the Defense Department's PR machine spun a little faster than its financial wheels could turn. But given the cynical games the Pentagon has been playing with soldiers' paychecks -- holding them hostage, essentially, as a back-door way to inflate military spending -- I'm inclined to believe the worst.
: Inside Defense has a full list of all of the services' "unfunded requirements."

US Demand to Restrict Abortion Causes Outcry at UN Meeting

A US attempt to insert language restricting abortion rights into documents prepared by a conference marking the 10th anniversary of a meeting in Beijing has sparked a determined response from European delegates as well as representatives of non-governmental organizations.
More than 150 such groups taking part in the conference that is examining the status of women a decade after the Beijing conference issued a statement Tuesday condemning the proposed US amendment.
"The purpose of this Session of the Commission on the Status of Women - the UN body charged specifically with advancing the status of women - is to reaffirm the Beijing Platform for Action, not to move backward or undermine it," the statement said.
"We, representatives of civil society organizations from all regions of the world, celebrate the historic achievement for women's human rights that the Platform represents," the document continued. "We strongly applaud the statement by Secretary General Kofi Annan that the Platform adopted in 1995 was 'a giant step forward' and that gender equality is critical to the development and peace of every nation', and we affirm his call for specific targeted actions to realize women's rights in ALL areas.
"In this light, we urge government delegations to oppose unequivocally the amendment to the Draft Declaration proposed by the United States. Let's affirm the Platform fully and move forward!" the signatories urged.

Spider-Man's Greatest Bible Stories

Bono v Proust: Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Delays US Distribution of Proust Translations

Only the first four volumes of the new translation—from Swann's Way through Sodom and Gomorrah—are available here. For this we have Sonny Bono to blame. Just before he died in 1998, the congressman sponsored a bill to extend the term of copyright by 20 years: According to the Sonny Bono Copyright Act, passed later that year, rights would expire 95, rather than 75, years after an artist's death. Since Proust died in 1922, only those four volumes first published during his lifetime had passed into the American public domain by the time the Bono Act became law. It will therefore be at least 2018 before readers in the United States can find the final three installments of the new translation (The Prisoner and The Fugitive, and Time Regained) in their local bookstores.

China Takes Tit-For-Tat Swipe at U.S. on Rights

The State Department accused China in its annual human rights report on Monday of using the global war against terrorism to crack down on peaceful opponents of its rule in Muslim Xinjiang and of committing persistent rights abuses in 2004.
China's State Council, or cabinet, issued its own report for the sixth year in a row, citing atrocities by U.S. troops against Iraqi prisoners of war which "exposed the dark side" of the human rights record of the United States.
"The scandal shocked ... humanity and was condemned by the international community," said the report, carried by the official Xinhua news agency.
Ironically, the United States posed as the "world human rights police" while keeping silent on its own misdeeds, it said. Iraqi prisoners of war at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were kept naked, stacked on top of each other, forced to engage in sex acts, struck by American jailers and photographed.
The report made no mention of President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld condemning the abuses and then Secretary of State Colin Powell apologising to the victims.

Vermonters Pass Iraq Resolutions

The state that leads the nation with the highest per capita death rate in Iraq was also the first to hold a popular referendum on the war when 46 of 53 towns this week passed intensely personal resolutions on the deployment of National Guard troops in Iraq.
“My partner is in Mississippi right now for training and then on the way to Iraq,” said Robyn Jenks at her Putney town meeting. With a national proposal to extend the length of National Guard deployment, she said, Putney’s resolution, which passed unanimously by voice vote, was “a place to start.”
Although the measures varied from town to town, most called on Vermont’s congressional delegation to urge Congress to limit federal control over state National Guard units; they asked the Legislature to investigate the deployment of Vermont troops, and to examine the impact of their deployment on the ability of the Guard to safeguard Vermont.
Organizers want the Legislature to form independent commissions to look at how many police officers, firefighters and teachers, for example, have been taken from communities to serve. They also want the Legislature to determine whether Vermont is still safe: With roughly half its Guard abroad, they wonder if the state would be adequately staffed in a natural disaster, or worse.

New York Public Library Digital Gallery

NYPL Digital Gallery provides access to over 275,000 images digitized from primary sources and printed rarities in the collections of The New York Public Library, including illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints and photographs, illustrated books, printed ephemera, and more.

Heads roll at Veterans Administration - Mushrooming depleted uranium (DU) scandal blamed

Preventive Psychiatry E-Newsletter charged Monday that the reason Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi stepped down earlier this month was the growing scandal surrounding the use of uranium munitions in the Iraq War.
Writing in Preventive Psychiatry E-Newsletter No. 169, Arthur N. Bernklau, executive director of Veterans for Constitutional Law in New York, stated, “The real reason for Mr. Principi’s departure was really never given, however a special report published by eminent scientist Leuren Moret 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.”
He added, “Out of the 580,400 soldiers who served in GW1 (the first Gulf War), of them, 11,000 are now dead! By the year 2000, there were 325,000 on Permanent Medical Disability. This astounding number of ‘Disabled Vets’ means that a decade later, 56% of those soldiers who served have some form of permanent medical problems!” The disability rate for the wars of the last century was 5 percent; it was higher, 10 percent, in Viet Nam.

Wolfowitz in line to lead World Bank

Wolfowitz, the deputy US defence secretary and a chief architect of the Iraq war, was being mooted last night as a leading candidate to become the 10th president of the World Bank.
Part of the so-called "neo-con" inner circle at the White House, Mr Wolfowitz, 61, is said by Washington insiders to be on the shortlist to replace James Wolfensohn, who is due to step down at the end of May from the agency dedicated to relieving global poverty.
A military analyst in the Reagan administration, Mr Wolfowitz became a leading light in the Project for the New American Century, a think-tank which espoused a fresh US foreign policy with regard to Iraq and other "potential aggressor states", dismissing containment in favour of "pre-emption."

Free Software Foundation tears MPAA a new one in Grokster brief

The Free Software Foundation and New Yorkers for Fair Use have filed a brief in Grokster, EFF's Supreme Court case to establish the legality of P2P networks. Eben Moglen, the author of the brief, really lights into the RIAA and MPAA -- he's a fantastic writer:
At the heart of Petitioners' argument is an arrogant and unreasonable claim--even if made to the legislature empowered to determine such a general issue of social policy--that the Internet must be designed for the convenience of their business model, and to the extent that its design reflects other concerns, the Internet should be illegal.

Petitioners' view of what constitutes the foundation of copyright law in the digital age is as notable for its carefully-assumed air of technical naivete as for the audacity with which it identifies their financial interest with the purpose of the entire legal regime.

Despite petitioners' apocalyptic rhetoric, this case follows a familiar pattern in the history of copyright: incumbent rights-holders have often objected to new technologies of distribution that force innovation on the understandably reluctant monopolist.

PDF Link (via Copyfight)

Word of mouth 'winner for books'

When reporters ask me why I give away the full text of my novels online, for free, the day they're available in shops, I tell 'em: "It's about word of mouth. My readers have large social circles of friends whom they never see face to face. Books like Sisters of Ya Ya Sisterhoood became a success because one friend went to another friend and handed her a copy of the book, saying, 'You must read this, it changed my life.' I want to give my readers the same ability, so I have to give them a form of the book that they can 'hand' to their friends over the Internet. Even if it displaces some sales, the most valuable thing an author can get is a personal recommendation, it's the thing that is most likely to sell more copies of my books."
Now a study has concluded the same thing: the thing that made The Da Vinci Code, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night and Memoirs of a Geisha into best-sellers was word-of-mouth: not advertising, not cover design, not marketing. Friends telling friends about the book. [from]

The Worst Album Covers Ever

New Studies Point to Crisis Among U.S. Black Men

A batch of new studies suggesting that black males in the United States are falling ever further behind other groups in health, education and employment has ignited a debate within the black community about who is to blame and what can be done.
"There's a major discussion within the community about what we need to do about black males," said Peter Groff, a Colorado state senator and director of the Center for African American Policy at the University of Denver.

Maximum pain is aim of new US weapon

The US military is funding development of a weapon that delivers a bout of excruciating pain from up to 2 kilometres away. Intended for use against rioters, it is meant to leave victims unharmed. But pain researchers are furious that work aimed at controlling pain has been used to develop a weapon. And they fear that the technology will be used for torture.
"I am deeply concerned about the ethical aspects of this research," says Andrew Rice, a consultant in pain medicine at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London, UK. "Even if the use of temporary severe pain can be justified as a restraining measure, which I do not believe it can, the long-term physical and psychological effects are unknown."
The research came to light in documents unearthed by the Sunshine Project, an organisation based in Texas and in Hamburg, Germany, that exposes biological weapons research. The papers were released under the US's Freedom of Information Act.
One document, a research contract between the Office of Naval Research and the University of Florida in Gainsville, US, is entitled "Sensory consequences of electromagnetic pulses emitted by laser induced plasmas".

Ozone decline stuns scientists

Solar flares and frigid temperatures are believed to be working with human chemicals to eat away at the protective ozone layer above the North Pole, surprising scientists who have been looking for evidence that the planet's ozone layer is healing.
The ozone layer protects Earth from dangerous ultraviolet radiation, which can cause skin cancer.
Last winter, Arctic ozone declined more precipitously than ever in the upper atmosphere, probably because of violent storms on the sun's surface, one team reports today in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Licensing Keeps TV Shows Off DVD

For many TV shows, costs to license the original music for DVD are prohibitively high, so rights owners replace the music with cheaper tunes, much to the irritation of avid fans. And some shows, like WKRP, which is full of music, will probably never make it to DVD because of high licensing costs.
"The indication from the studios is that we may never see (WKRP in Cincinnati) because of all the music that would have to be licensed," said David Lambert, news director of, a clearinghouse of information on TV shows released on DVD. "As the DJ spins the record as he's talking to Loni Anderson, if there is music playing even for a couple of seconds, then the people producing the DVDs would have to license it."

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The KGB spy's guide to London

A 1930s KGB spy's guide to London has been discovered in a bundle of MI5 files released to the National Archives.
The handbook was apparently seized by the Germans from a Russian agent captured in Paris during WWII. Later it fell into the hands of MI5 (the domestic security service).

Proposed Law on Bankruptcy Has Loophole for Millionaires

The loophole involves the use of so-called asset protection trusts. For years, wealthy people looking to keep their money out of the reach of domestic creditors have set up these trusts offshore. But since 1997, lawmakers in five states - Alaska, Delaware, Nevada, Rhode Island and Utah - have passed legislation exempting assets held domestically in such trusts from the federal bankruptcy code. People who want to establish trusts do not have to reside the five states; they need only set their trust up through an institution in one of them.
"If the bankruptcy legislation currently being rushed through the Senate gets enacted, debtors won't need to buy houses in Florida or Texas to keep their millions," said Elena Marty-Nelson, a law professor at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., referring to generous homestead exemptions in those states. "The millionaire's loophole that is the result of these trusts needs to be closed."

Book Review: The New Hows and Whys of Global Eavesdropping

Remember chatter? After 9/11, it was all over the news. For months, snatches of cellphone conversations in Karachi or Tora Bora routinely made the front page. Television newscasters could chill the blood instantly by reporting on "increased levels of chatter" somewhere in the ether. But what exactly was it? Who was picking it up, and how were they making sense of it? Patrick Radden Keefe does his best to answer these questions and demystify a very mysterious subject in "Chatter," a beginner's guide to the world of electronic espionage and the work of the National Security Agency, responsible for communications security and signals intelligence, or "sigint." In a series of semiautonomous chapters, he describes Echelon, the vast electronic intelligence-gathering system operated by the United States and its English-speaking allies; surveys the current technology of global eavesdropping; and tries to sort out the vexed issue of privacy rights versus security demands in a world at war with terrorism. [from]

High Court Rules Ex-Spies Cannot Sue CIA

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that former Soviet-bloc spies could not sue the CIA for allegedly backing out on a pledge of lifetime support in return for espionage services.
A former high-ranking diplomat and his wife, identified in court filings only as John and Jane Doe, had argued that the CIA should not be immune from lawsuits alleging a breach of a spy contract.
But in an unanimous opinion by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, the court said a 130-year-old Supreme Court ruling dictated that former spies could not sue because of the secret nature of spy pacts, which are made with the understanding that "the lips of the other were to be forever sealed."

Scientists Blast Bioterror Boondoggle

Researchers have been quietly complaining for years about the gigantic piles of cash being burned on bioterror defense -- while threats like tuberculosis, which kill millions every year, are given short shrift.

Finally, these microbiologists are starting to get organized, and speak out in public. From the Times:

More than 700 scientists sent a petition on Monday to the director of the National Institutes of Health protesting what they said was the shift of tens of millions of dollars in federal research money since 2001 away from pathogens that cause major public health problems to obscure germs the government fears might be used in a bioterrorist attack.

The scientists, including two Nobel Prize winners and a biologist who is to receive the National Medal of Science from President Bush in March, say grants for research on the bacteria that cause anthrax and five other diseases that are rare or nonexistent in the United States have increased fifteenfold since 2001. Over the same period, grants to study bacteria not associated with bioterrorism, including those causing diseases like tuberculosis and syphilis, have decreased 27 percent, the petition said...

signers of the petition insisted that the government was making poor trade-offs. "These projects obviously take money away from basic research in the United States," said Sidney Altman, a molecular biologist at Yale who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1989. He said that while a risk of bioterrorist attack existed, he considered it "a very minor factor" among all the threats faced by the nation. "There's no question that microbiology has suffered" by the focus on obscure organisms, Dr. Altman said.

Text Version of Luntz Playbook Now Online

So the Frank Luntz Republican Playbook is in our hands and everybody wants to peel through the pages to discover the inner workings of the right-wing propaganda machine.
Unfortunately, you currently have to battle debilitating file downloads and software requirements to read it.
Fortunately, we are here to help make your life easier -- to access, to search, to read and to excerpt the GOP’s strategic tome.
As a part of our 'Framing Project', over the following days, we are creating a text version of the currently available image document. It will be completely searchable -- and browser accessible in a handful of posts organized and permanently referenced on our main 'Framing Project' page.
No more half-hour downloads, retyping excerpts, ‘download errors’, Acrobat Readers, cumbersome searches, or unzip software necessary.
Of course it takes time for this process to unfold... so let’s get started. Below is Luntz's complete INTRODUCTION -- the first of 10 sections in the playbook.

ACLU Sues Donald Rimsfeld Over Torture Policies

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Illinois on behalf of eight men who were subject to torture and abuse at the hands of U.S. forces under Secretary Rumsfeld's command. The groups charged Secretary Rumsfeld with violations of the U.S. Constitution and international law prohibiting torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.

`Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2005'

`(i) The voting system shall produce or require the use of an individual voter-verified paper record of the voter's vote that shall be made available for inspection and verification by the voter before the voter's vote is cast. For purposes of this clause, examples of such a record include a paper ballot prepared by the voter for the purpose of being read by an optical scanner, a paper ballot prepared by the voter to be mailed to an election official (whether from a domestic or overseas location), a paper ballot created through the use of a ballot marking device, or a paper print-out of the voter's vote produced by a touch screen or other electronic voting machine, so long as in each case the record permits the voter to verify the record in accordance with this subparagraph.
`(ii) The voting system shall provide the voter with an opportunity to correct any error made by the system in the voter-verified paper record before the permanent voter-verified paper record is preserved in accordance with subparagraph (B)(i).
`(iii) The voting system shall not preserve the voter-verifiable paper records in any manner that makes it possible to associate a voter with the record of the voter's vote...'

U.S. plans to deploy missiles over Canada without Canadian permission

U.S. plans to deploy missiles over Canada without Canadian permission

The Top 100 Gadgets of All Time

Senator: Decency Rules Should Apply to Pay TV, Radio

"Cable is a much greater violator in the indecency area," the Alaska Republican told the National Association of Broadcasters, which represents most local television and radio affiliates. "I think we have the same power to deal with cable as over-the-air" broadcasters.
"There has to be some standard of decency," he said. But he also cautioned that "No one wants censorship."
Stevens told reporters afterward that he would push legislation to apply the standards to cable TV and satellite radio and television. It could become part of a pending bill to boost fines on broadcasters who violate indecency restrictions or of an effort to overhaul U.S. communications laws.

US Rejected over 1000 Whistleblower Cases

The U.S. Special Counsel has dismissed more than 1,000 whistleblower cases in the past year, according to a letter from the Bush-appointed Special Counsel released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The Special Counsel appears to have taken action in very few, if any, of these cases and has yet to represent a single whistleblower in an employment case.
In a letter dated February 14, 2005 and addressed to U.S. Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), Special Counsel Scott Bloch defends his stormy 13 months in office by pointing to a sharp drop in backlogged whistleblower cases.
“Everyone agrees that backlogs and delays are bad but they are not as bad as simply dumping the cases altogether,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that this letter is the first account that Bloch has released of his tenure and that his office’s report for FY 2004, which ended in October, is overdue. “If the Office of Special Counsel under Scott Bloch is not helping whistleblowers then there is no reason for the office to continue to exist.”
According to the figures released by Bloch, in the past year the Office of Special Counsel—
- Dismissed or otherwise disposed of 600 whistleblower disclosures where civil servants have reported waste, fraud, threats to public safety and violations of law. Bloch has yet to announce a single case where he has ordered an investigation into the employee’s charges. Bloch says that 100 disclosures are still pending; and
- Made 470 claims of retaliation disappear. In not one of these cases did Bloch’s office affirmatively represent a whistleblower to obtain relief before the civil service court system, called the Merit Systems Protection Board. Bloch says that another 30 retaliation cases remain in the backlog.

Kansas Attorney General Demands Women's Abortion Records

He is seeking the women's names, sexual history and medical details, saying he wants to investigate possible child rape or illegal abortions.
But the clinics involved accuse Mr Kline, an abortion opponent, of trying to launch a "secret inquisition".
They say he is "fishing" rather than investigating a specific crime and want the state Supreme Court to intervene.
Mr Kline began the inquiry in October but it only became public when the clinics filed an appeal against a court order to hand over the records.

Adware maker joins federal privacy board

The Department of Homeland Security has named Claria, an adware maker that online publishers once dubbed a "parasite," to a federal privacy advisory board.
..."This committee will provide the department with important recommendations on how to further the department's mission while protecting the privacy of personally identifiable information of citizens and visitors of the United States," Nuala O'Connor Kelly, the department's chief privacy officer, said in a statement.

Clear Channel Has $4.67 Bln Loss on Asset Writedown

Clear Channel's loss reflects the diminishing value of radio as listeners and advertisers turn to media such as the Internet and satellite radio. Viacom Inc., the No. 2 U.S. radio company, wrote down its station assets yesterday. Both companies failed to increase revenue from radio stations in the quarter as national advertising grew 9 percent in 2004.

Helen Thomas has a question

U.S. plans to deploy missiles over

The U.S. is on the wrong, wrong track. This is difficult for Canadians. We cannot disengage geographically. We do not wish to disengage economically.
Most Canadians have American friends. A considerable number have American relatives. In spite of all the talk in fashionable circles about Canada's deplorable anti-Americanism, I suspect few here wish the U.S. ill.
But sometimes, when your friends go nuts, you have to quietly but politely draw back. Advise them to seek professional help; offer any practical assistance you can.
But don't encourage their frenzy. It will not help. It will only make them worse.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Mozilla warns of security holes, updates Firefox

The organization released Firefox 1.0.1, which fixes 17 security flaws in the popular Web browser. The most serious flaws could allow an attacker to gain full control over a victim's PC, The Mozilla Foundation said in a statement. Firefox 1.0 was released in November and has since been downloaded more than 27 million times.
Firefox 1.0.1 also includes several fixes to guard against spoofing of Web addresses and the security indicator on Web sites. These vulnerabilities could be exploited for phishing scams, which typically use spam e-mail messages to drive people towards fraudulent Web pages that look like legitimate e-commerce sites. Several security vulnerabilities in Firefox and the Mozilla Suite of Internet software put users of the open-source products at risk of hacker attacks, The Mozilla Foundation warned this week.

White House Correspondents Want No Role in Credentialing

The White House Correspondents Association announced Monday that it would not seek changes to the White House press-credentialing process, despite complaints from several members that controversial former reporter James Guckert had been able to gain the same access as any other reporter for two years.
Ron Hutcheson, WHCA president and a Knight Ridder White House correspondent, said the decision occurred during Monday's meeting of the WHCA board. It was the first such meeting of the board since Guckert, who uses the name Jeff Gannon, drew attention with his partisan questions and questionable past.
"The board felt like none of us were happy about Gannon being in the briefing room, but we all view it as the price we pay for a system that favors inclusion over keeping someone out," Hutcheson told E&P. "While not perfect, [the current system] is geared toward letting people in."

What was that smell? Gas company not sure

Source of Chicago's really bad smell still a mystery. Indiana looking skyward, whistling. [From]

Remarkable Photos from Swiss Ice Storm

Countries reject global mercury treaty

At the beginning of the meeting, which was held from 21 to 25 February, representatives from European countries promoted the idea of a treaty to ban the export of mercury completely. But the United States championed the development of voluntary partnerships to help countries improve their mercury management.
Its approach left environmental campaigners unimpressed. "The United States was proposing only soft measures that did not include concrete actions," says Elena Lymberidi of the non-governmental European Environmental Bureau.

Washington Post Editorial: Secret Legal ARGUMENTS

ATTORNEYS FOR the Justice Department appeared before a federal judge in Washington this month and asked him to dismiss a lawsuit over the detention of a U.S. citizen, basing their request not merely on secret evidence but also on secret legal arguments. The government contends that the legal theory by which it would defend its behavior should be immune from debate in court. This position is alien to the history and premise of Anglo-American jurisprudence, which assumes that opposing lawyers will challenge one another's arguments.

Pentagon Budget Blackmail

Give us more money, or soldiers aren't going to get paid. That's the cynical game the Pentagon's leadership has been playing with the Army's budget in recent months. And now, it's crunch time.
Since the fall, Rumsfeld & Co. have been dipping into the Army's day-to-day funds -- like money for soldiers' paychecks -- and then daring Congress not to make up the difference with a second, "supplemental" pile of cash.
The tab comes due this Spring, Defense Daily reports. The Army needs $41 billion of that supplemental kitty by then, or else it is going to go broke, without cash left to pay G.I.s.

Spin from the Social Security Administration

More than 4,000 pages of "documents relating to the communications strategy of the Social Security Administration," reveal that the SSA "has markedly changed its communications to the public over the last four years," reports the Democratic staff of the U.S. House Committee on Government Reform. "While estimates of Social Security's long-term solvency have improved over the last four years, the [SSA's] rhetoric has moved in the opposite direction." Previously described as a program that keeps seniors "out of poverty" and is in "no immediate crisis," Social Security is now portrayed as an "unsustainable," "underfinanced" program that "must change." The differences "reflect a growing politicization of the [SSA]" and raise "questions about [its] political independence," states the report.

Introduction: Learning from 2004... Winning in 2006

So how does a President with a national job approval rating hovering at 50% an
economy that lost more than a million jobs over his four years in office, a war that his cost more than a thousand American lives and counting, $50 a barrel for oil, and a national mood that is downright sour still secure more than enough votes to win re-election? And what does it portend for the Republican Party in 2006?
The answer? Credibility. George W. Bush had it. John Kerry did not.
The components of the Bush victory and Kerry defeat all boil down to a single candidate attribute that the President had in abundance but was AWOL from the Kerry campaign- "says what he means and means what he says." In every state and national survey we conducted in 2004, no desired presidential attribute ever scored higher, and nowhere was Bush stronger and Kerry weaker. In every focus group I moderated, voters would plead for candidates who spoke from the heart and not from some speechwriter's notes.
And nowhere does the image of straight talk matter more than in areas of security national security, economic security and personal security. John Kerry had had two full years to articulate a concise position on terrorism, the economy, and issues involving values He couldn't do it. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney did it every single day.
Even during the three Presidential debates, the Massachusetts Senator gave answers that left uncommitted voters in my focus groups both contused and mystified. His critique of the current Administration's failures clearly did political damage, but the electorate could not define exactly what he would do differently. What Kerry did not realize was that referencing "a vlan " roughly two dozen times over 90-minutes is different than actually having one In a post-1/11 world, voters simply could not elect a President whose position on the nation's most salient issues were unknown, even to himself.
George W. Bush won because 9/11 had truly changed America and because he accurately reflected America's resolve that the War on Terror has to be won. Not waged Won Voters concluded that while John Kerry could adequately manage a terrorist attack, it was President Bush who was more likely to prevent one.
Two key campaign events enhanced Bush's role as America's Defender and Kerry weak and/or indecisive. The first was the Swift Boat ads. In my focus groups, Kerry's convention performance was effective enough to change a few minds. But the blizzard of TV ads unleashed by the group of Vietnam vets blanketed the airwaves in swing states and undid whatever benefit the convention provided. True, the Swift Boat veterans never fully convinced voters that Kerry "betrayed" his country in wartime, but they did raise nagging and unresolved doubts about Kerry's character and judgment at the very moment that voters had begun to make up their minds.

The second key event was the Republican convention itself. Swing voters swung to Bush because of a powerfully delivered convention speech that was the right balance of domestic agenda and national security, and because he effectively communicated that he was truly a man on an unyielding mission. They heard a President who heard them, understood their concerns addressed their fears, and made them feel safer and more secure in their homes and in their country.
The President stormed out of New York with a double-digit lead that helped him survive the first debate and sustained him through Election Day. It also helped that he had the best communication team of this era in his corner.
Sure, the Democrats have clung to a desperate belief that Bush won because he waged a campaign of fear. The exact opposite was the case. Americans turned to him precisely because they saw him as the antidote to that fear.
The results on Election Day illustrated an essential principle of electoral success- it is no longer enough to say no. Voters need someone who will say yes. John Kerry became a symbol for voters opposed to the President's policies and procedures, but not much else. Conversely George W. Bush became the vehicle for those who wanted an affirmative, proactive, preventative approach to homeland security. Americans will tell you that it was Bush, not Kerry who offered the hope that personal security could be restored. And in this election, hope won.
When it came to the war on terror, Americans knew where their President stood and exactly what he believed. They simply did not share the same level of confidence in John Kerry. The events and aftermath of 9/11 may not have changed everything, but it certainly changed the outcome of the 2004 presidential race.
In the end, hope won.
Turning toward 2006, it has often been said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. That is excellent advice for the Republican Party, whose electoral position is eerily reminiscent of 1986 - when the GOP dropped seats in the House and lost control of the U.S. Senate m the sixth year of Ronald Reagan's presidency. The surprising electoral collapse crippled the Republican legislative agenda for nearly a decade - until the Contract with America reversed the Republicans' misfortune in 1994.
You cannot permit history to repeat itself. By carefully examining what happened the last time the GOP had an incumbent President at the sixth year of his presidency, it will hopefully serve as thejirst step in preventing a similar catastrophe.
Here then are the seven reasons why the Republicans did so poorly - and the Democrats did so well. In 2006, you will need to do things differently if you wish to deflect the infamous "sixth year itch."
1) The 1980 election brought in weak Republican candidates that were finally swept ont in 1986.
Strategy: Acknowledge the complexity of your district and the challenges you face should the political climate turn sour. Too often Members in close elections acknowledge their electoral weakness after the election but don't address it until it is too late. If you received less than 57% of the vote, your campaign should begin today: a 20-month effort that includes fundraising, voter contact, message development and grassroots operations. And all of it should be measured on a monthly basis.
2) Republicans stayed home.
Strategy; Pick out issues that matter to the base and HOLD some of them until the second year of the Congress. This is very important. Republicans will want to go to THEIR people with THEIR legislation 30-days before Election Day when it is still fresh and newsworthy. Rather than rushing to pass all the good stuff in 2005, you need to keep at least one major item that can be voted on by Congress and signed by the President in the waning days of 2006.
3) There was no national theme. Local politics dominated the election Similarly, there was no presidential "bounce." President Reagan campaigned hard to help keep Republican control of the U.S. Senate about as aggressively as George W. Bush did in 2002. However, by the sixth year of his term, Reagan was only able to achieve a 3-point bounce when he visited a state and it dissipated within a week.
Strategy: Do not depend on a popular president to bring home the votes. House and Senate Republicans must establish their own identity in advance. People have different reasons for casting votes in Congressional elections than in a presidential contest. "Getting things done for America" is exactly what they want from the next Congress, and that's why it should be at least a sub theme of your efforts.
4) Democrats fielded unusually strong candidates.
Strategy; Assume that your opponent will be the toughest you'll face in your political career - and start planning your response accordingly. Complacency is perhaps the biggest threat to an incumbent's re-election hopes.
5) The gender gap was a chasm. Republicans won a barely tolerable 52% of the male vote and a disastrous 42% among women. In fact, it took eight years - 1994 - until the collapse among women was fully addressed. When asked why they abandoned tile GOP, the Number One complaint was the tone: too harsh.
Strategy; Republicans need to cultivate the so-called security mom with a legislative and communication agenda targeted directly to them. Bush did better among women, particularly younger married women, than any GOP candidate since 1988 because of security concerns. Security will keep these women voting Republican if they are addressed directly and personally. And since women value time over money, your strategy should include your successful efforts to promote legislation that in some way provides women more free time.
6) Republicans stayed in Washington while the Democrats beat them up at home. The Democrat strategy was to emphasize face-to-face contact and contrast that with the "out-of-touch Washington insiders." Republicans, stuck in DC, were dependent on paid media to get their message out - and it didn't work.
Strategy; Go home, Stay home. This is one of the most important lessons not just of 1986 but of the last ten years as well. The earlier and more often you get home to campaign, the better off you are. Every day you stay in DC after Octoberlst,the more vulnerable you are.
7) The 1986 vote was a much older vote.
Strategy: Republicans MUST do a better job communicating Social Security reform in 2005-06 than they did the prescription drug benefit in 2003-04.
One final thought...
I was in high school when Ronald Reagan was elected. Throughout his first term, he did a lot to change the course of America, yet I still remember thinking of all he could have done if he had a Republican House to match a Republican Senate. That was my dream, but I, like millions of Americans knew that a House majority was impossible.
Today, as I complete this document, Republicans are more firmly in control than at any time in my lifetime, with a courageous President, a solid House and a new class of reformer Senators ready to make real fundamental change. And I am reminded of the political chant so commonly repeated in the 1960s...
If not us, who? If not now, when?
Now is me time. This is the place. You are the people. And these are the words.
Frank Luntz

Setting the Context and Tone

Symbols of America are as important as words. From the Statae of Liberty to the Lincoln Memorial to the American Bald Eagle, what you show can be as important as what you say. Use symbols to help convey your agenda more powerfully.

Talk about the principles of democracy and justice and explain how they fit into your policies. The public is ready for a philosophical discussion if you link philosophy to their day-to-day concerns.

It's time for the GOP to tackle and own the principle of fairness. Define fairness as "equality of opportunity."

When you speak of American ownership, be sure to frame it with the lens of opportunity. Ownership is limited, but THE OPPORTUNITY OF OWNERSHIP is limitless and the very definition of the American Dream.

People want politicians who will humanize, personalize and individualize their policies, as well as politicians who talk about "the next generation."

It is perfectly acceptable, if not imperative, that you address this values debate. And yes, it is FAMILY VALUES that Americans want and expect to see in you and in your policies.

Express the the day-to-day concerns of your constituents on a local/neighborhood level. No doubt you do, but you have to both show this and talk about it.

You need to be FOR something, rather than just AGAINST something.

Talk about "a more effective government" rather than no government, as well as a renewed focus on "goals and results, not partisanship or politics,"

Start and end with ACCOUNTABILITY. It matters most.

Growth, Prosperity & Restoring Economic Opportunity

The War on Terror is inextricably linked with our Economy. We still talk about 9-11 every day, but rarely in the context of the effect on the economy. To talk effectively about the recession and our strong economic recovery, you have to talk about the impact of the war on terror.

Empathize. I've said this many times, but it's still so hard for business leaders and PARTICULARLY when talking about the economic recovery. Remember, this is an issue that strikes at Americans' hearts as much as it does their wallets. Too often Republicans offer emotionally shallow economic principles. Show them you care.

Don't Assert An Economic Recovery, Prove It. Ask any American whether they personally feel as though our economy is back to normal, and maybe 3 out of 10 will say yes. Unfortunately, too many in Washington don't seem to agree and gleefully trot out the latest numbers, facts, and figures to show why. To voters, an economic recovery isn't found in a pie chart, it's found in their checking book. Don't make this mistake by asserting that the recovery is here. Always talk about "an economy that continues to grow and the new jobs that are being created every day."

Have a LONG-TERM PLAN. Rather than asserting a good economy, you must still talk about the pandemic issues that it faces and your solutions to them. No matter how good the economy gets, Americans will still believe that it could be better. In their hearts they always believe there is more opportunity to instill and inefficiency to wring out.

Don't talk about Tax Cuts, talk ahout Tax Hikes. Do not be too quick to cite the tax cuts for the economy's improvement. It is rarely believed, even among your most fervent supporters. Instead, link potential tax increases to their negative economic repercussiom and you will get a much more positive reaction. The difference between these two is truly amazing. Americans oppose tax hikes even more than they support tax cuts.

Everyone must benefit - particularty HARDWORKING, OVERBURDENED AMERICAN TAXPAYERS. The public is looking for inclusive policies that lift up all economic boats. In this outsourcing debate, it really is essential that you make a commitment that all Americans will be helped by your efforts. That's why, when talking about the economy, you need to address personally the people who make it happen.

It's not about jobs. It's about CAREERS. Job training and lifelong learning is at the core of ai policy of long-term, sustained, genuine economic success. Job training and lifelong learning is at the core of the American Dream - the opportunity to grow a job into a career and the opportunity to grow a career into a business of your own. So even though you want to talk about creating jobs, you then want to add " that every American will have the career of their choice."

American prosperity depends on INNOVATION and AMERICAN PRODUCTIVITY. Americans have never been accused of being a humble people. So use this to your — advantage - this country likes to think of themselves as hardworkers able to compete and win against any other country in the world. Tapping this spirit encourages voter alignment with a conservative solution to outsourcing.

The root cause of outsourcing is the inhospitable business climate in the US. And the best way to address this problem is found in reducing taxation, regulation, and litigation, which allows innovation and education to bring more jobs into America.

THE OPPORTUNITY OF OWNERSHIP. President's innovative Ownership Society message. Ownership in itself is perceived as being beyond the means of some Americans, but all Americans appreciate and value the opportunity of someday owning a home, owning a business, and owning their retirement savings - all essential components of the American Dream. Ownership means control - and getting control of their lives is an essential component of our day-to-day quality of life.

THE WORDS AND LANGUAGE OF PROSPERTY: Economic (In)security; Economic Isolationism; Innovation; A Level Playing Field; Compete & Win; Trade Enforcement; Fighting for the American Worker; A Balanced, Common Sense Approach; Tax Fairness; Tax Simplification; Simplify & Streamline Regulations; Lawsuit Abuse Reform; Greedy Personal Injury Lawyers; Energy Independence; Diversity and Self-Sufficiency; A Smart, Flexible, Efficient, Effective Workforce; Real World Solutions to Real World Problems; We Can Do Better

International Trade: Promoting America's Competitiveness

It's "INTERNATIONAL" trade, NOT "foreign" trade or "global" trade. For many reasons unrelated to this issue, the word "foreign" conjures up very negative images. Since Americans are more "pro-international" than they are "pro-foreign" or "pro-global" (globalization is a particularly frightening term to many Americans), we suggest you accept this terminology. INTERNATIONAL trade is favored over FOREIGN trade by 68% of Americans.

"A level playing field" is what Americans want, expect and demand from international trade. This is the only issue we have studied where the process is as important as the result. The level playing field concept is what Americans believe is the fundamental principle behind trade expansion and new trade agreement. This is how we currently define "free and fair trade."

Jobs are what Americans most want from international trade. Even though most companies and many in the Administration make the case for cheaper products and more choices, in the current economic climate, what matters most is the number of jobs created by trade and/or jobs lost because of it. If you are a proponent of greater trade, you will need to use employment facts/statistics to prove that trade yields a net positive number of jobs. A majority of Americans are still not sure.

Appeal to America's greatness. Americans love being told we're the best, that we're number one. We will do anything—ANYTHING—to remain number one, and will oppose anything that undermines that superiority. It is essential in any discussion of trade to declare that we are "the greatest economic power in the world" and that "we will remain the greatest economic power in the world only so long as we continue to do business with other nations."

When it comes to competition, WINNING is the only acceptable outcome. Other than the Germans, we are probably the most competitive population on the globe, and we take economic competition just as seriously as sports or politics. As long as Americans believe we can and will win in the global markets, they will want to play. However, winning is not defined by "balance of payments" or by "trade deficit figures." The public does not care about how many foreign products are sold in America. Winning is determined by our ability to get our products into foreign markets and keep our economy healthy. And those who oppose international trade should be called "defeatists" for they have given up on our products and our workers without even a fight.

The overarching trade objective is "ENHANCEMENT." Americans are skeptical of "trade expansion" because they're not really sure whether our companies, products and employees are truly benefiting from additional trade, and "promotion" also fails to address the perceived systematic shortcomings. Enhancement is about the quality of the agreements, not just the quantity - and that's exactly what Americans want to see.

"Fairness" is the strongest weapon in the anti-trade arsenal. The primary reason why about a third of the population (and the percentage is growing) opposes free trade is because they think our competitors are not competing fairly. That's why the "fairness" component must be a part of any communication strategy-talking about putting U.S. businesses "on an even footing" or "guaranteeing a level playing field" or about fair trade, NOT just free trade" is essential to winning the trade argument.

The best financial statistic: expanding international trade is the equivalent of a $1,300 to $2,000 tax cut for the average American family. Americans like to save money, particularly those who shop at Target, Wal-Mart and the other stores most likely to offer foreign-made products. The problem is, while consumers see the benefits every day - right in their own wallets and pocketbooks - of less expensive imported products, they do not recognize why prices are cheaper and selection greater. You need to explain it better by making a DIRECT connection through the statistic above.

High-wage jobs, highly-skilled workers and high-tech products are more important than trade deficit numbers. We asked Americans whether a country that has low-wage jobs, low-skilled workers, and produces labor-intensive products but has a large trade surplus is better off than a country that has high-wage jobs, highly-skilled workers, and high-tech products but a large trade deficit. The answer was a resounding NO for two reasons. First, many people confuse the trade deficit with the budget deficit ("they're all just numbers... big numbers") and their eyes glaze over. Second, most Americans truly would rather live in a high-wage, highly-skilled, high-tech country. So don't forget to name the many foreign companies that have opened facilities that employ significant numbers of Americans (Honda, Toyota, and BMW manufacturing plants, for example).

Don't forget American farmers. No profession's members care more about selling American products abroad than do American fanners, because no one has more at stake, in fact, if we are to save the farm economy, it is essential that we expand markets abroad to American agricultural products. Let farmers know you are fighting for them in the capitals of Europe and Asia, not just in Washington.

Don't talk like economists, Words like "protectionist," "capitalist, " and "isolationist" turn the average voter off. In this case, I am sorry to say that emotion beats intellect. All your facts must ring true, but they should be couched in terms that appeal to our hearts as well as our heads.