Friday, March 25, 2005

Florida Senate Passes "Make My Day" Bill

The Florida Senate passed a bill 38-0 Wednesday that removes the legal expectation that a person should back down or run away in face of a serious threat. They can open fire without fear of criminal charges or civil liability.
The bill also enshrines the castle doctrine, or the right to defend a home against an intruder, in state law. It extends the castle doctrine to the automobile so drivers can shoot carjackers.
Proponents, including the National Rifle Association, said the bill is needed to balance a trend in the courts that has favored the criminal over the victim. Opponents worry about the unintended consequences.
Arthur Hayhoe of the Florida Coalition to Stop Gun Violence calls it the "Shoot first, ask questions later" bill.
"It's going to turn the street into a shooting gallery," he said.
The only debate about the bill was whether to continue to require a person to retreat if attacked in public. It is a principle that's taught in the classes required for carrying a concealed gun permit.

Wrong, Wrong and Wrong: Math Guides Are Recalled

Some answers in the guide were wrong. Other questions suffered from odd wording, the incorrect notation of exponents and sloppy diagrams. Besides the math mistakes, there were problems with grammar and spelling. For instance, the word "fourth" was misspelled on the cover of the fourth-grade manual.

Representative Cynthia McKinney Grills Rumsfeld On Dyncorp Sex Rings, Missing Pentagon Trillions & 9/11 Wargames

Rumseld and Myers forced to shuffle uncomfortably and fumble for words as McKinney gets in their face about three issues seldom mentioned in official circles. [thanks to Kathy]

MSNBC Banner for Schiavo Case

Update [2005-3-24 12:43:24 by DavidNYC]: Our so-called liberal media at MSNBC provided the following banner (since removed) for this story:

And yet, despite the obscene bias with which this story has been treated in the media, every poll shows significant majorities disapproving of how the Republicans have behaved here.

(Via ThinkProgress.)

Craig's List: FOR SALE/BARTER: My body in Persistent Vegetative State... - $2

Dear loved-ones,
I make the following statement in a sound state of mind and of my own volition:
If I am rendered comatose and determined to be in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) for a period longer than one month and if no imminent cure is forthcoming, I do not wish to be kept alive by artificial means including but not limited to nourishment, hydration, etc.
If, due to the absurd political state of affairs in this country, my persistent vegetative state and impending unplugging can be parlayed into some sort of political leverage, I wholly endorse using my predicament in whatever way possible for the purposes of passing legislation favorable to my general political and ethical outlook. Here is a list of top-tier causes I support and will continue to support, both while in my PVS and after my eventual death.

Report for Congress: Public Relations and Propaganda - Restrictions on Executive Agency Activities


GAO: Circular Letter on Prepackaged News Stories

The current publicity or propaganda prohibition states: "No part of any appropriation contained in this or any other Act shall be used for publicity or propaganda purposes within the United States not heretofore authorized by the Congress." Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005, Pub. L. No. 108-447, div. G, title II, 624, 118 Stat. 2809, 3278 (Dec. 8, 2004). (The language of the prohibition has remained virtually unchanged since 1951.)

In two cases this past year, the agencies commissioned and distributed prepackaged news stories and introductory scripts about their activities that were designed to be indistinguishable from news stories produced by private news broadcasters. B303495, Jan. 4, 2005; B302710, May19, 2004. In neither case did the agency include any statement or other indication in its news stories that disclosed to the television viewing audience, the target of the purported news stories, that the agency wrote and produced those news stories. In other words, television-viewing audiences did not know that stories they watched on television news programs about the government were, in fact, prepared by the government . We concluded that those prepackaged news stories violated the publicity or propaganda prohibition. [3]
While agencies generally have the right to disseminate information about their policies and activities, agencies may not use appropriated funds to produce or distribute prepackaged news stories intended to be viewed by television audiences that conceal or do not clearly identify for the television viewing audience that the agency was the source of those materials. It is not enough that the contents of an agency's communication may be unobjectionable. Neither is it enough for an agency to identify itself to the broadcasting organization as the source of the prepackaged news story.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

New space prizes target space elevators

Space elevators - a futuristic idea in which space is accessed via long tethers with the power needed being transmitted on beams of light - are the target of two new cash prizes, sponsored by NASA.
The prizes, announced on Wednesday evening, are the first in a series called "Centennial Challenges", modelled on the $10 million X Prize recently awarded to the first privately developed spacecraft. Winning teams will receive $50,000 in 2005 for either building the strongest strand of material or for using light to power a wireless robot up a cable.

Readers Balance Compassion With Privacy When Considering Disturbing Images

Readers and journalists alike struggled to balance compassion and family privacy with a broader need for information. They saw value in unflinching descriptions of wartime brutality, but no one wanted to become a tool for terrorist propaganda.
Some of the shared values weren't abstract at all: How do I explain this picture to my kids?
Opinions were collected by the Associated Press Managing Editors National Credibility Roundtables Project, which involved more than 2,400 readers and 400 journalists who viewed five photographs, then decided where (or if) the images should be published. Subjects included tsunami victims, American soldiers and violence in the war in Iraq. In most cases, a majority believed the picture ought to be published somewhere in the newspaper, if not on the front page.
"Report the news as it happens and don't try to soft-pedal everything," said Wally Rayl of Cheyenne, Wyo. "How can people react appropriately to any given situation if they don't have all the facts; or if the facts are altered because someone thinks life is too graphic for us to deal with? ... Not being able to face reality is a major problem in our society today."

Kyrgyz government blog crackdown update

Boing Boing reader Paul says,
This is regarding the article you posted today on Kyrgyz .gov hijacking news websites. The article stated that there is a lack of foreign correspondents (true) and public access to the internet. As far as I know the Kyrgyz government has been progressive with public internet access and when I was there a year and half ago they had modern computers running XP with available peripheral devices such as scanners in the post office of nearly every town (including small towns of a few thousand people).
For recent pictures "on the ground" pictures from the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society see
here, blog photos here, Muslim Uzbekistan (AP/Reuters) photos here.
The best Kyrgyz blog would probably be: , also
For Peace Corps blogs: ,,,,

And a plug for a good friend who keeps me up-to-date from slightly less volatile Azerbaijan (Caustic Commentary From The Caucasus) -

Previously on Boing Boing -- Report: Kyrgyzstan government hijacking news websites

Record sales up, P2P sales up -- RIAA's story doesn't add up

According to the RIAA, CD sales are increasing. Now, the RIAA also says that P2P destroys music sales, so it follows that if they're selling more CDs there must be less P2P, right? Uh, no -- file-sharing is up, too (so CD sales should be falling right?).
So is it possible that CD sales and P2P are decoupled (as all the quantitative, independent research indicates), and that the downturn in CD sales is better laid at the feed of bad business, a bad economy, fewer albums and more things competing for entertainment dollars (cough games cough Internet cough).
The number of CDs and other music products shipped from record labels to retail merchants rose 2 percent last year, to 814 million units, the first annual increase in five years, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.

PIPA: The Federal Budget - The Public's Priorities

[PDF] When presented most of the major items in the discretionary federal budget and given the opportunity to modify it, Americans make some dramatic changes. The largest cut by far is to defense spending, which is reduced by nearly one-third, followed by spending on Iraq and Afghanistan, transportation and justice. The largest increases are to reductions in the deficit, various forms of social spending and spending on the environment.
...Modest support for increasing economic and humanitarian aid appears to be greatly influenced by the fact that most respondents did not believe that the amount presented in the budget exercise was the full amount. Asked to estimate the actual amount, respondents gave estimates far in excess of the presented amount, and also proposed an amount much higher than the presented amount. Among the small minority whose estimates of spending on economic and humanitarian aid even roughly approached the actual amount, two thirds favored increasing it.
In addition to favoring cutting spending to reduce the deficit, a large majority favors rolling back the recent tax cuts for people with high incomes. A plurality also opposes making the tax cuts permanent. Among the two-thirds that perceive the US has a large deficit, support for reducing the deficit is significantly higher on all measures than it is among those who believe there is no deficit, or that it is small.
Perceptions of Budgetary Trends A majority is aware that the Administration’s proposed budget increases spending on defense. There is not majority awareness that the proposed budget cuts spending on education and the environment, though nearly half of Democrats are aware of this.
Report of Findings
Press Release

How to Defy Gravity in Ten Easy Steps

Step 1. Get an empty room. (This party happened at a fortuitous time: i was just about to move into a new single, and the previous occupant had moved out, leaving me with a completely empty room to work with. And in the co-ops, you can do whatever you want to your room. I love living in a co-op!) More... [thanks to Colin]

The Economist: George Bush's economic team still looks weak

There are two growing suspicions about Mr Bush's approach to economic policy. The first is that he sees it mainly as a question of salesmanship. Showing an admirable faith in markets, the president seems to think that economic policy will basically run itself; what you need is a bit of pizzazz to sell the president's reforms. Hence, the White House's enthusiasm for Carlos Gutierrez, the new commerce secretary, who made his fortune selling breakfast cereal at Kellogg.
The second suspicion is that loyalty is more important than knowledge. That was Mr O'Neill's problem: he said that more tax cuts were a bad idea. Larry Lindsey, Mr Bush's bumptious first chairman of the National Economic Council, was pushed out soon after he made the impolitic (but pretty accurate) point that the Iraq war could cost $200 billion.

Lots of job openings at the Treasury epartment

Deputy Secretary Vacant
Deputy Chief of Staff Vacant
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Microeconomic Analysis Vacant
Director, Office of Critical Infrastructure Protection and Compliance Policy Vacant
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Federal Finance Vacant
Inter-American Development Bank Alternate U.S. Executive Director Vacant
Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy Vacant
International Tax Counsel Vacant
Benefits Tax Counsel Vacant
Assistant Secretary (Intelligence and Analysis) Vacant

Florida Considering College Censorship Bill - aims to control ‘leftist’ profs

House Bill 837 (which can be viewed here)
Republicans on the House Choice and Innovation Committee voted along party lines Tuesday to pass a bill that aims to stamp out “leftist totalitarianism” by “dictator professors” in the classrooms of Florida’s universities.
The Academic Freedom Bill of Rights, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, passed 8-to-2 despite strenuous objections from the only two Democrats on the committee.
The bill has two more committees to pass before it can be considered by the full House.
While promoting the bill Tuesday, Baxley said a university education should be more than “one biased view by the professor, who as a dictator controls the classroom,” as part of “a misuse of their platform to indoctrinate the next generation with their own views.”
The bill sets a statewide standard that students cannot be punished for professing beliefs with which their professors disagree. Professors would also be advised to teach alternative “serious academic theories” that may disagree with their personal views.
According to a legislative staff analysis of the bill, the law would give students who think their beliefs are not being respected legal standing to sue professors and universities.
Students who believe their professor is singling them out for “public ridicule” – for instance, when professors use the Socratic method to force students to explain their theories in class – would also be given the right to sue.
“Some professors say, ‘Evolution is a fact. I don’t want to hear about Intelligent Design (a creationist theory), and if you don’t like it, there’s the door,’” Baxley said, citing one example when he thought a student should sue. [via]

Interview with Gore Vidal

Well, let us say that the old American republic is well and truly dead. The institutions that we thought were eternal proved not to be. And that goes for the three departments of government, and it also goes for the Bill of Rights. So we're in uncharted territory. We're governed by public relations. Very little information gets to the people, thanks to the corruption and/or ineptitude of the media. Just look at this bankruptcy thing that went through--everybody in debt to credit cards, which is apparently 90 percent of the country, is in deep trouble. So the people are uninformed about what's being done in their name.
And that's really why we are in Iraq. Iraq is a symptom, not a cause. It's a symptom of the passion we have for oil, which is a declining resource in the world. Alternatives can be found, but they will not be found as long as there's one drop of oil or natural gas to be extracted from other nations, preferably by force by the current junta in charge of our affairs. Iraq will end with our defeat.

Protesters oust Kyrgyz government

The opposition in Kyrgyzstan says it has taken control of the capital, Bishkek, after overrunning the president's palace.
Protesters confronted supporters of President Askar Akayev before flooding into government offices.

A prominent Kyrgyz opposition leader, Felix Kulov, made a televised appeal for calm after being freed from jail.

Demonstrations were stepped up after recent parliamentary elections, which the opposition said were rigged.

An unconfirmed report by Interfax news agency said Mr Akayev and his family have left Bishkek by helicopter.

Kyrgyzstan's Supreme Court has annulled February's controversial elections and recognised the former parliament as the legitimate legislature, Russia's Itar-Tass news agency quoted court chairman, Kurmanbek Osmonov, as saying.

Flashmob Opera to Perform Faust

Presented by Patrick O’Connell, the opera opera features well known arias and choruses from popular operas and includes music by Bizet, Handel, Mozart, Offenbach, Verdi and Wagner, mixed alongside contemporary classics, sung by opera singers, local choirs (Cantamus and the Sheffield Teachers' Operatic Society), flashmobbers and flashdancers.
The performance is based on a scenario by Stephen Powell with specially written English lyrics by Tony Bicat.
See also

Academic Freedom - Columbia Chief Tackles Dispute Over Professors

Faced with complaints that Columbia University has tolerated anti-Semitism and intimidation in its Middle East studies classes, Columbia's president said last night that academic freedom has some limits when it comes to the classroom and the broader educational experience.
"We should not elevate our autonomy as individual faculty members above every other value," the president, Lee C. Bollinger, said in a speech to the Association of the Bar of the City of New York.
Professors, he said, have a responsibility "to resist the allure of certitude, the temptation to use the podium as an ideological platform, to indoctrinate a captive audience, to play favorites with the like-minded and silence the others."
Arguing that the health and vigor of universities rests on their scholarly professionalism, Mr. Bollinger said that when there are lapses, they should not be "accepted without consequences."
His remarks came as Columbia awaits the report of an internal committee set up to investigate charges by some pro-Israeli students that they had been intimidated in classes by pro-Palestinian professors in the department of Middle Eastern and Asian languages and cultures and outside the classroom as well. They also said that this occurred for several years and that Columbia had not taken their charges seriously.

Turn your wok into a 2.4GHz parabolic dish WiFi repeater

Make 2.4GHz parabolic mesh dishes from cheap but sturdy Chinese cookware scoops & a USB WiFi adaptor !
The largest (300mm diam)shows 15-18dB gain (enough for a LOS range extension to 3-5km), costs ~US$5 &
comes with a user friendly bamboo handle that suits WLAN fieldwork- if you can handle the curious stares! [from]

The God Racket, From DeMille to DeLay

As DeMille readied his costly Paramount production for release a half-century ago, he seized on an ingenious publicity scheme. In partnership with the Fraternal Order of Eagles, a nationwide association of civic-minded clubs founded by theater owners, he sponsored the construction of several thousand Ten Commandments monuments throughout the country to hype his product. The Pharaoh himself - that would be Yul Brynner - participated in the gala unveiling of the Milwaukee slab. Heston did the same in North Dakota. Bizarrely enough, all these years later, it is another of these DeMille-inspired granite monuments, on the grounds of the Texas Capitol in Austin, that is a focus of the Ten Commandments case that the United States Supreme Court heard this month.
We must wait for the court's ruling on whether the relics of a Hollywood relic breach the separation of church and state. Either way, it's clear that one principle, so firmly upheld by DeMille, has remained inviolate no matter what the courts have to say: American moguls, snake-oil salesmen and politicians looking to score riches or power will stop at little if they feel it is in their interests to exploit God to achieve those ends. While sometimes God racketeers are guilty of the relatively minor sin of bad taste - witness the crucifixion-nail jewelry licensed by Mel Gibson - sometimes we get the demagoguery of Father Coughlin or the big-time cons of Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker.
The religio-hucksterism surrounding the Schiavo case makes DeMille's Hollywood crusades look like amateur night. This circus is the latest and most egregious in a series of cultural shocks that have followed Election Day 2004, when a fateful exit poll question on "moral values" ignited a take-no-prisoners political grab by moral zealots. During the commercial interruptions on "The Ten Commandments" last weekend, viewers could surf over to the cable news networks and find a Bible-thumping show as only Washington could conceive it. Congress was floating such scenarios as staging a meeting in Ms. Schiavo's hospital room or, alternatively, subpoenaing her, her husband and her doctors to a hearing in Washington. All in the name of faith.

Fanboy's awesome They Might Be Giants video

[Flash] Shawn sez, "Dave Logan is a high school senior who just finished his latest animation, which is a music video for They Might Be Giants' excellent song 'Bloodmobile.' This is a really excellent video, and I hope we can all appreciate a good science song. I think this is pretty in-fringe-ified, but I imagine it's just a matter of time before it's available on the Giants' site. What's the status of student work and fair use anyway?" [from]

Yahoo's Creative Commons Search Engine

This Yahoo! Search service finds content across the Web that has a Creative Commons license. While most stuff you find on the web has a full copyright, this search helps you find content published by authors that want you to share or reuse it, under certain conditions. Learn more...

Leading Nonprofits Take Stand Against Business Method Patents

The Nonprofit Innovation Alliance (NIA) today announced that four of the nation's most prominent nonprofits - United Way of America, the American Diabetes Association, Network for Good and Electronic Frontier Foundation - have joined the growing movement against business method patents to help promote ongoing access by America's nonprofit organizations to innovative technology.
"As nonprofits recognize the threat posed by business method patent abuse, there is growing support for collective action to protect technology access for America's charities," said Shabbir Safdar, Acting Secretary of the Nonprofit Innovation Alliance. "The fact that the United Way of America, American Diabetes Association, Network for Good and Electronic Frontier Foundation have pledged their support for the NIA sends a strong message: business method patents are bad for the nonprofit sector and should be eliminated."

Dubious doctor touted as Nobel Prize nominee by Hannity, Scarborough

Fox News host Sean Hannity and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough both promoted Dr. William Hammesfahr's false claim that he is a Nobel Prize nominee.
Hammesfahr, a Florida neurologist disciplined in 2003 by the Florida Board of Medicine who claims he can help Terri Schiavo, testified during an October 2002 court hearing on the Schiavo case that his claim to be a Nobel nominee is based on a letter written by Rep. Mike Bilirakis (R-FL) recommending him for the prize. But Bilirakis is not qualified to make a valid nomination under the Nobel rules.
According to the process posted on the Nobel Prize website, the Nobel Assembly sends out invitations to approximately 3,000 people who are allowed to propose candidates. The 3,000 are "mainly members of the Nobel Assembly, previous prize winners, and a selection of professors at universities around the world."

News Leaders Debate: Building Audience with Blogs

Inspired by Poynter's recent Web + 10 seminar, I've been wondering how media organizations could use community-based or grassroots journalism to build audience. I've been asking myself and others: Whose stories are untold using conventional reporting methods? Whose voices are we leaving out of traditional newspapers and newscasts? Who feels alienated by media coverage of their lives?
So, I wrote a piece raising these questions and looking at how weblogs could be used to bridge some gaps between audience and media. Before publication, we sent the piece to editors and news directors, with some questions, so that we could publish their thoughts along with mine. Click here to read my full piece. Click below to read the responses we received from newsroom leaders.
Ed Trauschke, News Director, WESH
...Weblogs are not grassroots journalism. Journalism has highly regarded ethical standards. >Read full response
Peggy Phillip, News Director, WMC-TV
It's no secret I'm a fan of blogging. I recently added "comments" to my own blog ... so far, it's been more of a conversation. >Read full response
Neil Brown, Executive Editor, St. Petersburg Times
...We should revisit the traditional views of what constitutes ... a "correspondent."
>Read full response
Janet Weaver, Executive Editor, Tampa Tribune
The issue of audience and diversity of voices is at the core of everything we are thinking about and talking about. >Read full response

FEC Considers Restricting Online Political Activities

"We are almost certainly going to move from an environment in which the Internet was per se not regulated to where it is going to be regulated in some part," said FEC Commissioner David M. Mason, a Republican. "That shift has huge significance because it means that people who are conducting political activity on the Internet are suddenly going to have to worry about or at least be conscious of certain legal distinctions and lines they didn't used to have to worry about."
Which people, what activities and where those lines should be drawn, though, have yet to be determined. The rise of the Internet as a political tool, the variety of ways in which it can be used to promote a campaign and the fact that most federal election laws were written long before the Internet became a household word have combined to present the agency's commissioners with plenty of knotty legal questions to consider.

U.S. Living Will Registry

Electronically stores advance directives, and makes them available to health care providers 24 hours/day via secure internet or telephone facsimile... a free service, by the way. Be sure to check out the state-by-state list of Advance Directive Forms. See also, the American Bar Associations information for advanced medical directives. [from]

BBC Say 'Fake Journalists' Will Not Be Used Again

Responding to complaints about the use of 'fake journalists' paid for by the MoD, the BBC Controller of Editorial Policy, Stephen Whittle, has acknowledged that their use was 'not ideal' and 'will not happen again'.
Spinwatch had revealed that the BBC had broadcast a report in November 2004 which had been provided by the British Forces Broadcasting Service. This is a propaganda service for the armed forces run by the Services Sound and Vision Corporation which is entirely funded by the Ministry of Defence (Read the original story Here or Here)
Whittle, the most senior editor in the BBC also notes that the report supplied by the BFBS to the BBC for no charge, an indication that this was not a normal contractual arrangement.

Fischer's Iceland Citizenship Final, May Exit Japan

Former world chess champion Bobby Fischer's Icelandic citizenship has been finalized and his supporters hope he can fly to Iceland this week, ending a lengthy detention in Japan and avoiding deportation to the United States.
Fischer -- wanted in the United States for violating sanctions against former Yugoslavia by playing a chess match there in 1992 -- has been detained in Japan since July, when he was arrested for traveling on what U.S. officials said was an invalid passport.
Iceland's parliament had granted Fischer, 62, citizenship on Monday, opening the door for the fugitive American to settle in the tiny North Atlantic republic where he won the world title in 1972 in a classic Cold War encounter with Soviet champion Boris Spassky, a victory that made him something of a hero in Iceland.

Rock'em Sock'em Robots

Rockem_sockem_robotsAnother Marvin Glass Studios creation. The original is still being made. Here's a funny knock-off called "Raving Bonkers". And here's the new Digital version (I hope Marvin Glass's kids are getting royalties but I doubt it).
Available on this dvd.
Rock'em Sock'em
I remember a more 60's/70's version of this. It was in color and the tagline was "You knocked my block off!". Anyone else remember that one?

Alien Planets Show Themselves for First Time

Using the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope and careful timing, teams studying two planets were able to distinguish the glow of the planets' infrared radiation from the overwhelming glare of their parent stars. Both planets are so-called hot Jupiters, massive bodies circling their stars in tight, blowtorching orbits and probably unfit for the kind of life found on Earth.
Until now, astronomers could infer the existence and some properties of these and other so-called exoplanets only by indirect means. They said directly measuring light from the planets was a major step in the quest to understand what alien planets are made of, because different molecules in the atmosphere absorb infrared light in characteristic ways and allow scientists to compare these alien planets to those in the solar system. Ultimately, astronomers would like to know if Earth, with its ability to evolve and support life, is unique or common in the universe.
 Media Images Ssc2005-09B Small[via]

Wanted: Communism, Hypnotism And The Beatles

Beatlescommies-1 Last year, Mark posted this amazing cover art from a religious tract published in 1965. (Click the image for a better view.) If you have a copy of this pamphlet that you'd be willing to part with, please let me know. It's for a good cause. I promise. ; ) Please drop an email to david(at) Thanks!

Kyrgyzstan government hijacks newspaper websites

Apparently the government in Kyrgyzstan has hijacked opposition newspapers sites and are now pointing their URL to government friendly news sites.
It is still a mystery what is going on in Kyrgyzstan. The newspapers in the country are nearly all government controlled or friendly towards the government in such a way that they can not be trusted when covering the ongoing dispute between the opposition and the newly elected government.
The situation gets more blurred by the lack of foreign correspondents and public access to the Internet in Kyrgyzstan. This means no bloggers or eyewitness.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005 posted misleading graph showing poll results on Schiavo case

In presenting the results of a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, used a visually distorted graph* that falsely conveyed the impression that Democrats far outnumber Republicans and Independents in thinking the Florida state court was right to order Terri Schiavo's feeding tube removed. In fact, a majority of all three groups agrees with the court's decision, and the gap between Democrats on one hand and Republicans and Independents on the other is within the poll's margin of error.

According to the poll, conducted March 18-20, when asked if they "agree[d] with the court's decision to have the feeding tube removed," 62 percent of Democratic respondents agreed, compared to 54 percent of Republicans, and 54 percent of Independents. But these results were displayed along a very narrow scale of 10 percentage points, and thus appeared to show a large gap between Democrats and Republicans/Independents:

The Onion: EPA To Drop 'E,' 'P' From Name

Days after unveiling new power-plant pollution regulations that rely on an industry-favored market-trading approach to cutting mercury emissions, EPA Acting Administrator Stephen Johnson announced that the agency will remove the "E" and "P" from its name. "We're not really 'environmental' anymore, and we certainly aren't 'protecting' anything," Johnson said. "'The Agency' is a name that reflects our current agenda and encapsulates our new function as a government-funded body devoted to handling documents, scheduling meetings, and fielding phone calls." The change comes on the heels of the Department of Health and Human Services' January decision to shorten its name to the Department of Services.

Sandinista Official Says U.S. Is Meddling

Two decades after the United States backed a civil war against Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista government, a top Sandinista official said Tuesday Washington is meddling again, leveling accusations against party leader Daniel Ortega to try to prevent him from returning to the presidency.
Tomas Borge, the former interior minister who is currently No. 2 in the Sandinista Party, said the United States is using a complaint about surface-to-air missiles left over from the war to try to derail a bid by Ortega to retake the presidency in elections next year.

EFF Files for Appeal in Apple / Blogger Suit

EFF today filed a petition for appeal [PDF] in Apple v. Does, arguing that the central issue in the case is not "the merits of Apple's trade secret claim nor even the potential liability of these non-Party reporters should Apple ever sue them (it has not). Rather, the question is only whether Apple may ride roughshod over the reporter's privilege and the reporter's shield in its eagerness to obtain evidence."
In other words, can Apple do an end-run around the California reporter's shield and the journalist's privilege under the federal First Amendment by forcing a third party (in this instance, Jason O' Grady's ISP) to divulge a reporter's confidential sources? If so, can it do so without first exhausting all other means of securing the information?
Remember, these reporters did not steal any information from Apple, bribe any Apple employees, or break any non-disclosure agreement. They are not defendants in any criminal action, and no criminal investigation is underway. Yet the trial court applied the consitutional reporter's privilege as though this were a criminal case. It even compared these journalists to "fences" in stolen goods.

Recent congressional activity on secrecy and intelligence

Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) introduced the "Restore FOIA Act" to narrow the FOIA exemption previously enacted for "critical infrastructure information."
Senators Leahy and Cornyn (R-TX) introduced the "Faster FOIA Act" that would establish a Commission to investigate ways to expedite the processing of FOIA requests.
Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) introduced a baffling bill to exempt livestock identification information collected by the Department of Agriculture from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.
Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV) introduced a bill that would make past employment in Air America, and other former CIA front companies, count for civil service retirement purposes.
Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee introduced a resolution calling for a new multi-level security clearance system that would facilitate the hiring of linguists and cultural experts in U.S. intelligence agencies.

Administration Kept Mum About Unapproved Modified Corn Sold

The federal government kept it secret for three months that genetically modified corn seed was sold accidentally to some U.S. farms for four years and may have gotten into the American food supply.
The accidental use of unapproved seed became public when the scientific journal Nature published a story about it Tuesday.
The corn seed was probably safe. America's food supply and plant and animal stocks weren't harmed and remain safe to eat, according to officials of the seed company and the federal government.

But the government's secrecy about the mistake - one affecting the public food supply - raises serious concerns, according to independent experts.

Republicans Have Deserted Their Core Principles, Critics Say

Barry Goldwater said in 1964, "I fear Washington and centralized government more than I do Moscow." Ronald Reagan said in 1975, "The basis of conservatism is a desire for less governmental interference, or less centralized authority." And Newt Gingrich vowed in 1994 that a Republican Congress would hasten "the end of government that is too big, too intrusive."
But today, as evidenced by the Republican Congress' intervention in the Terry Schiavo case, it's clear that the traditional conservative credo no longer guides the GOP. The core mission has radically changed during the Bush era. "Small government" and "state's rights" are out; wielding federal power to advance moral issues at the local level is in.
The GOP's federal action over the weekend, which took the case away from the local judge in Florida (a southern Baptist and Republican) who had ruled that Schiavo should be allowed to die in accordance with state law and previous state court rulings, is merely the latest manifestation of the new party credo. And there is currently a vociferous debate, within conservative circles, over whether this historic shift is a victory for morality - or a betrayal of the movement.

US launches probe into sales of unapproved transgenic corn

Syngenta admits 150 square kilometres accidentally sown with wrong seeds.
A strain of genetically modified corn that does not have regulatory approval has been distributed by accident over the past four years, Nature has learned.

Syngenta, one of the world's largest agricultural biotechnology companies, revealed the mistake to US regulators at the end of last year. Although the crop is believed to be safe, the fact that it was sold for years by accident raises serious questions about how carefully biotechnology firms are controlling their activities, critics say.
The corn (maize) was modified with a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which is inserted into the crop to act as a pesticide. Syngenta has approval to sell a variety of the transgenic crop called Bt11, which has been used successfully for many years in the United States and elsewhere. The strain has been approved for consumption in the European Union, for example, and may be one of the first food crops approved for cultivation there.
But between 2001 and 2004, Syngenta inadvertently produced and distributed several hundred tonnes of Bt10 corn - a different genetic modification that has not been approved.

CA: 3 big unions sue over governor's video promos

Three of the state's most prominent labor unions filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to stop the Schwarzenegger administration from distributing news-like video segments it has produced to promote its agenda.
The California Labor Federation, the California Nurses Association and a division of the Service Employees International Union claim the segments produced by the state labor and health agencies violate the state's law against using government resources to produce propaganda promoting its policy positions.

Diverse Groups Fight Patriot Act Reauthorization

Conservative and liberal groups normally at each other's throats over the direction of government are finding common cause in wanting to gut major provisions of the government's premier anti-terrorism law.
The American Civil Liberties Union, the American Conservative Union, Americans for Tax Reform and the Free Congress Foundation are among several groups that formed a coalition - Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances - to lobby Congress to repeal three key provisions of the USA Patriot Act.
Having people from all sides of the political spectrum working together will keep politicians from calling Patriot Act opponents un-American or willing to help terrorists, which happened during the original debate over the law, the groups said.

EPA Chided for Disregarding Study of Benefits from Mercury Curbs

The Environmental Protection Agency's decision to ignore researchers' analysis of possible health benefits from reducing mercury pollution from power plants was criticized Tuesday by Democrats in Congress.
"Why is the EPA suppressing the evidence that mercury pollution can be controlled better and faster?" asked Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.
EPA officials said the study by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis wasn't submitted until Feb. 22, more than a month after the deadline the agency set for considering new data. The agency published its new regulations on mercury pollution from power plants on March 15.
The agency had received an overview of the Harvard study in early January, but it didn't include the authors' responses to peer reviewers' comments or all of the final numbers, said James Hammitt, a co-author of the study and director of the Harvard center.

Study proves growing GM crops has negative impact on wildlife

A MAJOR study has confirmed growing genetically modified crops can harm wildlife.
Government-commissioned scientists compared GM winter-sown oilseed rape with a conventional version of the crop, and found that fewer broad leaved weeds and their seeds were present in fields where the GM herbicide-tolerant oilseed rape was grown. Flowers of such weeds are important as food for insects, while the seeds are a major source of sustenance for farmland birds.
The study, published yesterday, found fewer bees and butterflies in the GM crop compared with the conventional oilseed rape.
More grass weeds and some soil insects were discovered in the GM fields but could not make up for loss of the broad-leaved weeds.
The latest results come after the last of four major farm-scale trials into the potential impact of growing GM crops commercially in the UK. Results for the three other crops, spring-sown oilseed rape, beet and maize, were published in October, with the first two crops also shown to be harmful to wildlife.
The work was conducted by an independent consortium of research institutes and overseen by a scientific steering committee chaired by Professor Chris Pollock.

Scientists may use mammoth cells for cloning

A group of Russian and Japanese scientists hope to clone mammoths from the animal’s remains by using elephant egg cells.
The multimillion-dollar project between Russia and Japan to examine the beast is intended to find out why mammoths became extinct in the Ice Age.
“The sad fact that mammoths became extinct is telling an important thing to us,” said Alexander K Akimov, vice-president of the Sakha region in the Russian Federation, which owns the animal.
“We have to cherish the Earth and we should not forget about fostering all kinds of lives.”



Ann Arbor 80's Skate Punks

Local Chaos. In the early 1980's, Ann Arbor, Michigan had a small, but thriving hardcore/skate scene. At the time, the scene was documented in a 'zine called Local Chaos by a guy named Wes and his friends. But the 80's faded, as did the scene and the 'zine, and only the memories were left.
Then, a couple of years ago, Wes created a site dedicated to Local Chaos, and the scene of yore. In the wake of the site going live, several of the bands have gotten back together and even played some live shows. If you've ever wondered what the bald youth of 80's hardcore would look like playing at 40, then check out the music page for current photos, and video clips, of legendary locals like Ground Zero, The State, and arguably Ann Arbor's longest-running punk act, The Cult Heroes. The sCrapbook features a trove of old interviews, photos, and odds and ends. This is a great look back at the Ann Arbor hardcore/skate scene in the 80's.
Punk's not dead!

Bush Administration's Latest Internets Problem

A plaintive Loop reminder: Whenever you've got a nifty campaign on an issue, and you've picked the appropriately catchy theme, please, please remember to snatch up all related Internet domain names.
The Bush administration has a fine slogan -- "Strengthening Social Security" -- and a Web site,, that links to the Treasury Department and lauds the administration's arguments in favor of changes. The site hails the "60 Stops in 60 Days" tour supporting the administration and lists all of the top officials flying around the country to build support for this. (Only 40 days left.)
And sure enough, as night follows day, up pops, a parody site put up by "New Yorkers United to Protect Social Security." It looks much like the real one, but it attacks President Bush's "vision to dismantle and destroy Social Security" and accuses him of "fear-mongering."
If you want updates from the famed 60-60 tour and click on that link, you get a sign-up form to fight the tour group and then a picture of people opposing Bush's changes, including a beefy-looking guy named " Charles, 52, Staten Island," who says: "If my Representative votes to privatize Social Security, fuhgeddaboutit."

[for more information, see]

Whitehouse Fighting Compensation to Tortured POW's

Bush administration lawyers urged the Supreme Court on Tuesday to dismiss a lawsuit against Iraq brought by U.S. pilots and soldiers who were captured and tortured by Saddam Hussein's regime during the Persian Gulf War of 1991, saying the president believed it could hurt the rebuilding effort in Iraq.
Courts must defer to the president's determination that a nearly $1-billion damage award won by the former prisoners of war "would seriously undermine funding for the essential tasks of the new Iraqi government," Paul D. Clement, acting U.S. solicitor general, told the justices.
The reaction to the former POWs' case, due to be acted on by the high court next month, has rankled some military and veterans groups. They say the administration is turning its back on those who fought in the Gulf War.
The 17 former POWs and their families sued Iraq under a 1996 law that opened the courthouse door to claims against terrorist states that practice torture, bombings and hijackings. They said they had been beaten, starved and subjected to electric shocks when they were held as prisoners by the Iraqis. Some emerged with broken bones as well as psychological injuries that have yet to heal.

Israeli Whistleblower Vanunu Charged With Violating Restrictions

On the afternoon of March 17, Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli nuclear whistleblower who spent 18 years in prison for exposing Israel's secret nuclear program, was served with official notice, that he is to be brought to trial for speaking to the international media. Vanunu, receiving sanctuary at St. George's Cathedral in East Jerusalem since his release from prison last April, has been charged with violating the restrictions that were imposed against him upon his release from prison.
The restrictions, based on the British Mandate State of Emergency Regulations of 1945, prohibit Vanunu from making any contact with foreign nationals, speaking to the media, leaving Israel, coming within 300 meters of a foreign embassy or international borders and even changing his place of residence without approval from Israeli security agencies. Vanunu is also charged of "attempting to leave the country," for his bid to attend Christmas Eve Mass in Bethlehem, in December 2004. Vanunu is not being charged with any security breaches or divulging information concerning Israel's nuclear program, rather, simply for the fact that he granted interviews to international media.

The Flawed Report on Dan Rather

CBS did rush to make inadequately verified allegations public and it was slow in responding to criticism. The report’s conclusions on the other points are not, however, persuasive. Surprisingly, the panel was unable to conclude whether the documents are forgeries or not. If the documents are not forgeries, what is the reason for the report? The answer is: to criticize the newsgathering practices of CBS, whether the documents are authentic or not. As such, the report is less than fully credible.

Lost in the commotion over the authenticity of the documents is that the underlying facts of Rather’s 60 Minutes report are substantially true. Bush did not take the physical exam required of all pilots; his superiors gave him the benefit of any doubt; he did receive special treatment and Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Killian, Bush’s commanding officer, was unhappy with the loss of ANG’s investment in him when Bush informed Killian he was leaving for Alabama. Before the broadcast, Mary Mapes, the CBS producer of the program, confirmed the facts in the documents with retired Major General Bobby Hodges, who had been Killian’s superior in the ANG. Later Hodges told the panel he did not think the documents were authentic, but did not disagree that the facts were substantially correct.

Canadian equal marriage groups up against US-backed giants

Financial reports available on-line show that the Canadian arm of Focus On The Family (FOTF), based in Langley, BC, received a total of $1.6 million since 2000 from its Colorado-based head office. The Catholic men’s group The Knights Of Columbus’ international headquarters in New Haven, Connecticut provided $80,000 to print postcards sent to MPs denouncing the legislation.
“The Canadian media is being carpet-bombed by advertising,” says Alex Munter of Canadians For Equal Marriage. “We have no idea how much US money is flowing across the border and most of it is quite shadowy.”

N.C. Cities Looking to Sue the Curious

North Carolina cities and other government agencies are pursuing the authority to sue citizens who ask to see public records.
Lawyers for local governments and the University of North Carolina are talking about pushing for a new state law.
That law would allow pre-emptive lawsuits against citizens, news organizations and private companies to clarify the law when there is a dispute about providing records or opening meetings.

North Carolina confronts its history of forced sterilization

Now North Carolina is pondering ways to make amends to ...thousands of others sterilized as part of the eugenics (or "good breeding") movement that began nationally in the early 20th century and continued into the 1970s. The state offered a public apology two years ago. Now lawmakers are debating ways to make reparations to those robbed of the chance to be parents. More than 30 other states had eugenics programs during the last century; they were ruled constitutional in Buck v. Bell, a 1924 Supreme Court decision that is still the law of the land. Roughly 70,000 Americans in all were sterilized before the notion fell out of favor, becoming linked in the public's mind to Hitler's Germany after World War II. But North Carolina is the first to appoint a panel to study what to do now for its victims, from health care and counseling to financial reparations. The state is also considering addressing the shameful practice—finally halted in 1974—in its classrooms. "Some people have tried to pretend it never happened," says North Carolina State Rep. Larry Womble, a reparations activist. "It's painful to remember."

Christian Book in Public School Does Not Pass Smell Test

A fifth-grader's family is suing the Cumberland County school system because her teacher used a Christian text that preached creationism and encouraged children to proselytize for Jesus.
The suit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Raleigh, says that a teacher at Sunnyside Elementary School in Fayetteville assigned students readings that included the lesson "Scents Make Sense."
"God's word tells us about a kind of odor only Christians have ...," the lesson read. "Christians carry forth the fragrance of Christ wherever they go by the way they live; that is, they remind people of Him.
"Could someone find Christ by the scent trail you are leaving behind you?"A fifth-grader's family is suing the Cumberland County school system because her teacher used a Christian text that preached creationism and encouraged children to proselytize for Jesus.

Questioning Police Lineups

Mistaken identification by eyewitnesses was a factor in nearly 90 percent of the nation's first 70 convictions overturned by DNA testing, according to the New York-based Innocence Project, which works to free the wrongly convicted.

Faced with that alarming data, Virginia is working to become one of the first states to keep more innocent people out of prison by scrapping the traditional lineup. Mistaken identifications in Virginia have helped convict six of eight defendants later cleared by DNA.

Revealed: Israel plans strike on Iranian nuclear plant

Israeli forces have used a mock-up of Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment plant in the desert to practise destroying it. Their tactics include raids by Israel’s elite Shaldag (Kingfisher) commando unit and airstrikes by F-15 jets from 69 Squadron, using bunker-busting bombs to penetrate underground facilities.
The plans have been discussed with American officials who are said to have indicated provisionally that they would not stand in Israel’s way if all international efforts to halt Iranian nuclear projects failed.

Document: Bin Laden evaded U.S. forces

A commander for Osama bin Laden during Afghanistan's war with the Soviet Union who helped the al-Qaida leader escape American forces at Tora Bora is being held by U.S. authorities, a government document says.
The document represents the first definitive statement from the Pentagon that bin Laden, the mastermind of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was at Tora Bora and evaded his pursuers.
President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney asserted during the presidential election that commanders did not know whether bin Laden was at Tora Bora when U.S. and allied Afghan forces attacked there in December 2001. They dismissed assertions by Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, that the military had missed a chance to capture or kill bin Laden while al-Qaida made a last stand in the mountainous area along the Pakistan border.
The document, provided to The Associated Press in response to a Freedom of Information request, says the detainee held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, "assisted in the escape of Osama bin Laden from Tora Bora." While not identified by name or nationality, he is described as being "associated with" al-Qaida and having called for a holy war against the United States.

US Considering Permanent Bases in Afghanistan, General Says

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Richard Myers told reporters in Kabul that the United States enjoys good relations in Afghanistan and Central Asia. He said he will soon make a recommendation to President Bush about building permanent U.S. bases in Afghanistan.
"At this point we are in discussions with the Afghan government in terms of our long-term relationship, remembering that for the moment, the coalition has work to do here, the United States has work to do here, and that is where our focus is right now," he said.

KBR spent millions getting $82,100 worth of LPG into Iraq

In the latest revelation about the company's oft-criticized performance in Iraq, a Pentagon audit report disclosed Monday showed Halliburton subsidiary KBR spent $82,100 to buy liquefied petroleum gas, better-known as LPG, in Kuwait and then 335 times that number to transport the fuel into violence-ridden Iraq.
Pentagon auditors combing through the company's books were mystified by this charge.
"It is illogical that it would cost $27,514,833 to deliver $82,100 in LPG fuel," officials from the Defense Contract Audit Agency noted in the report.

US troops shoot Iraqi general dead: police

The deputy commander of the Iraqi army in western Al-Anbar province was shot dead by US troops at a checkpoint Tuesday night, a police officer said.
"The US forces opened fire at 8:00 pm on Brigadier General Ismail Swayed al-Obeid, who had left his base in Baghdadi to head home," police Captain Amin al-Hitti said.
"They spotted him on the road after the curfew, which goes into effect at 6pm," the officer said in Baghdadi, 185 kilometres west of the capital.
No immediate reaction was available from the US military.

U.S. misled allies about nuclear export

In an effort to increase pressure on North Korea, the Bush administration told its Asian allies in briefings earlier this year that Pyongyang had exported nuclear material to Libya. That was a significant new charge, the first allegation that North Korea was helping to create a new nuclear weapons state.
But that is not what U.S. intelligence reported, according to two officials with detailed knowledge of the transaction. North Korea, according to the intelligence, had supplied uranium hexafluoride -- which can be enriched to weapons-grade uranium -- to Pakistan. It was Pakistan, a key U.S. ally with its own nuclear arsenal, that sold the material to Libya. The U.S. government had no evidence, the officials said, that North Korea knew of the second transaction.

Fannie Mae Sees More Red

Fannie Mae told the agency that it could be forced to wipe another $2.4 billion in profit off its books as it works to fix accounting problems that were identified by its regulator, the Federal Office of Housing Enterprise Oversight, in February. The agency questioned whether certain commitments it made to buy or sell mortgages were really derivatives under an accounting rule known as FAS 149, and whether they qualified for derivative-hedge accounting.

US frees Iraqi kidnappers so they can spy on insurgents

US intelligence and military police officers in Iraq are routinely freeing dangerous criminals in return for a promise to spy on insurgents, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.
In one case where the IoS has seen documents, police rescued a doctor after a gun battle with his kidnappers and arrested two of the kidnap gang, who made full confessions. But US military police took over custody of the two men and let them go. The doctor had to flee to Egypt after being threatened by the gang.

Brazil May Seek to Break AIDS Drug Patents

Called "voluntary licensing," the policy is aimed at allowing government laboratories or Brazilian pharmaceutical manufacturers under government contract to produce generic versions of the drugs.
"To guarantee the sustainability of our (AIDS) program, we need to produce these drugs ourselves," Jarbas Barbosa, a high-ranking official with Brazil's health ministry, told Dow Jones Newswires in an interview Tuesday. "Even with recent price reductions that we obtained from drug producers, the total cost of retroviral (anti-AIDS) drugs is growing in an unbearable way."

Europeans probe CIA role in kidnappings

The Italian probe is one of three official investigations that have surfaced in the past year into renditions believed to have taken place in Western Europe. Although the CIA usually carries out the operations with the help or blessing of friendly local intelligence agencies, law enforcement authorities in Italy, Germany and Sweden are examining whether U.S. agents may have broken local laws by detaining terrorist suspects on European soil and subjecting them to abuse or maltreatment.
The CIA has kept details of rendition cases a closely guarded secret, but has defended the controversial practice as an effective and legal way to prevent terrorism. Intelligence officials have testified that they have relied on the tactic with greater frequency since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Direct marketers learn neuroscience

Susan Greenfield's whirlwind trip through the powerful and unprecedented influence that new technologies will have on our minds, and those of our customers, created a highly charged audience at the annual IDM lecture.
...She proceeded to deduce that to engage the consumer of the future a brand must activate a maximal number of "meaningful" pre-existing associations by accessing novel combinations under conditions that minimise distraction.
She then made the "Eureka!" link. To engage the customer, brands need to create an experience of creativity, to engender a feeling of individuality.
The Oxford University neuroscientist professor, who holds no fewer than 25 honorary degrees, then further opened the eyes of the leaders of the direct marketing industry to how this could be done by looking again at how our brain develops and makes connections.
Specifically, she looked at the roots of creativity in the brain, where an abnormally small neuronal network triggers larger ones both in itself and others.

EFF: Countdown to the Grokster Argument

A Betamax-protected device every (week)day until March 29
Ever since the Betamax ruling in 1984, inventors have been free to create new copying technologies as long as they are capable of substantial noninfringing (legal) uses. But by the end of this year, all that could change. In MGM v. Grokster, Hollywood and the recording industry are asking for the power to sue out of existence any technology that appears to be a threat, even if it passes the Betamax test. That puts at risk any copying technology that Betamax currently protects as well as any new technologies Hollywood doesn't like.
To raise awareness about what's at stake in the Grokster case, EFF is profiling one Betamax-protected gadget every weekday until the oral arguments before the Supreme Court on March 29. Some of these examples are in fun, some more serious, but all represent general-purpose technologies that can be used for both infringing and noninfringing purposes. Check them out and pass the word along.

Justice Redacted Memo on Detainees

U.S. law enforcement agents working at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, concluded that controversial interrogation practices used there by the Defense Department produced intelligence information that was "suspect at best," an FBI agent told a superior in a memo in May last year.
But the Justice Department, which reviewed the memo for national security secrets before releasing it to a civil liberties group in December, redacted the FBI agent's conclusion.
The department, acting after the Defense Department expressed its own views on which portions of the letter should be redacted, also blacked out a separate assertion in the memo that military interrogation practices could undermine future military trials for terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay.
It also withheld a statement by the memo's author that Justice Department criminal division officials were so concerned about the military interrogation practices that they took their complaints to the office of the Pentagon's chief attorney, William J. Haynes II, whom President Bush has nominated to become a federal appellate judge.

EPA Distorted Mercury Research to Industry's Benefit

When the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled a rule last week to limit mercury emissions from U.S. power plants, officials emphasized that the controls could not be more aggressive because the cost to industry already far exceeded the public health payoff.
What they did not reveal is that a Harvard University study paid for by the EPA, co-authored by an EPA scientist and peer-reviewed by two other EPA scientists had reached the opposite conclusion.
...The Harvard study concluded that mercury controls similar to those the EPA proposed could save nearly $5 billion a year through reduced neurological and cardiac harm. Last Tuesday, however, officials said the health benefits were worth no more than $50 million a year while the cost to industry would be $750 million a year.

Owner sees Satan on turtle that survived fire

“The marking on the shell was like the devil wanted us to know he was down there,” Bryan Dora said. “To me, it’s too coincidental that the only thing to come out unscathed would have this image on it.”
The palm-sized red-eared slider turtle, named Lucky, was the only animal to survive a fire last October at Dora’s A-Dora-ble Pet Shop in nearby Frankfort, about 40 miles northwest of Indianapolis.
Dora and others can spot lips, eyes, a goatee, shoulders and a pair of pointy horns on Lucky’s back.
The image was not visible before the fire and Dora speculates the intense heat might have caused the shell’s color to change. The turtle is healthy and there was no change in its behavior, he said.
Dora has produced a DVD of the turtle’s survival story and the pet shop’s history, including footage of the fire. He titled the DVD, “The Pet Shop Story of Lucky the Turtle.”
[to quote Kent Jones, "Because that's how Satan does things."]

Pentagon Won't Reopen Probe into Possible Abuse of Iraqi Reporters

The Pentagon has refused to reopen an investigation into allegations by three Iraqis working for Reuters that they were abused and mistreated by U.S. forces, saying it stood by an initial probe exonerating American troops.
Reuters says the investigation, during which none of the three was interviewed, was inadequate and should be reopened.
Lawrence Di Rita, special assistant to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, said Central Command and Pentagon lawyers had reviewed the military's initial investigation.
"The investigation was found to be sufficient, and no basis was found to reopen it," Di Rita said in a letter dated March 7 and received by Reuters this week.
"It is unfortunate that Reuters remains dissatisfied with the action taken in regard to the incident," Di Rita said.

Mobile phones for kids raise concerns

Researchers have speculated for more than 10 years that the electromagnetic radiation emitted from cell phones may damage DNA and cause benign brain tumors, said Henry Lai, a bioengineering professor at the University of Washington.
...Several research studies have pointed to the potential impacts of long-term absorption of cell phone-emitted radiation but little of the research has focused on the children.
Lai said he was concerned about the impact on children because young skulls are thinner and the growing brain may be more susceptible to radiation.
He also said that because brain tumors usually take 30-40 years to develop, children who use cell phones from their teen years onward would have a longer period of time to see a cumulative impact.

World Water Day: EU Urged to Stop Privatization

About 1.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water, and 2.4 billion people to sanitation.
Approximately 5 percent of the world's water is run by the private sector but 95 percent of that is by European companies.
But the group of NGOs says the "water privatization wave" during the last decade has "proven a failed experiment."
"Concrete experiences in developing countries have shown that multinational water corporations are ill-equipped to deliver clean and affordable water to the poor. Private sector investment has not brought the expected financing for water and sanitation for the poor," they say in the letter.
"We believe that faced by experiences of what works combined with the failure of the global private sector, the time has come to refocus the global water debate to the key question: how to improve and expand public water delivery around the world?"

GOP Talking Points on Terri Schiavo

S. 529, The Incapacitated Person's Legal Protection Act

Teri (sic) Schiavo is subject to an order that her feeding tubes will be disconnected on March 18, 2005 at 1p.m.

The Senate needs to act this week, before the Budget Act is pending business, or Terri's family will not have a remedy in federal court.

This is an important moral issue and the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue.

This is a great political issue, because Senator Nelson of Florida has already refused to become a cosponsor and this is a tough issue for Democrats.

The bill is very limited and defines custody as "those parties authorized or directed by a court order to withdraw or withhold food, fluids, or medical treatment."

There is an exemption for a proceeding "which no party disputes, and the court finds, that the incapacitated person while having capacity, had executed a written advance directive valid under applicably law that clearly authorized the withholding or or (sic) withdrawl (sic) of food and fluids or medical treatment in the applicable circumstances."

Incapacitated persons are defined as those "presently incapable of making relevant decisions concerning the provision, withholding or withdrawl (sic) of food fluids or medical treatment under applicable state law."

This legislation ensures that individuals like Terri Schiavo are guaranteed the same legal protections as convicted murderers like Ted Bundy.

Army Raises Enlistment Age for Reservists to 39

The U.S. Army, stung by recruiting shortfalls caused by the Iraq war, has raised the maximum age for new recruits for the part-time Army Reserve and National Guard by five years to 39, officials said on Monday.
The Army said the move, a three-year experiment, will add about 22 million people to the pool of those eligible to serve, from about 60 million now. Physical standards will not be relaxed for older recruits, who the Army said were valued for their maturity and patriotism.

Negroponte and Honduras

The selection of Negroponte for the new post of national intelligence director has focused renewed attention on the question of how much he knew about the Honduran military's involvement in nearly 200 unsolved kidnappings during the 1980s, and what he did about it. The subject has dogged him in the past, and Democratic staff members said it is likely to be revisited when the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence holds nomination hearings, tentatively scheduled for April 12.
A review of hundreds of declassified State Department and CIA documents suggests that Negroponte was preoccupied with "managing perceptions" about a country that had become a key U.S. ally in a decade-long campaign to stop the spread of communism in Central America. The documents show that he sought to depict Honduras in a generally positive light in annual human rights reports to Congress, and played down allegations of government abuse.

Transgenic crops take another knock

Commercial use of some genetically modified crops could alter the balance of weed species that thrive on British farmland. Such a shift could harm bees and butterflies, warn researchers.
The crops are engineered to resist a particular herbicide, which hits broad-leafed weeds harder than grassy varieties. Bees and butterflies suffer because they prefer the former type of weed.
The scientists add that this would have a knock-on effect on animals higher up the food chain. "If this crop were commercialized we'd be concerned about the implications for birds such as sparrows and bullfinches," says David Gibbons, a conservationist from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and a member of the committee that oversaw the experiment.

Declassified NSA Documents

Some of the documents that appear for the first time in this update shed additional light on the history of NSA. They concern the NSA's participation in the space reconnaissance program (Document 3), NSA's success in deciphering Soviet communications in the 1960s (Document 4), the efficacy of NSA activities in the late mid-to-late 1960s (Document 5), and Israel's attack on the USS Liberty during the 1967 war (Document 10). Others provide new insight on NSA's assessment of key issues in the new century (Document 21, Document 23), on NSA's attempts to adapt to the changing world and communications environment, (Document 22), on the agency's regression to old policies with regard to organizational secrecy (Document 26a, Document 26b), and on NSA activities before and after the events of 9/11 (Document 25).

Declassified NSA Documents

Some of the documents that appear for the first time in this update shed additional light on the history of NSA. They concern the NSA's participation in the space reconnaissance program (Document 3), NSA's success in deciphering Soviet communications in the 1960s (Document 4), the efficacy of NSA activities in the late mid-to-late 1960s (Document 5), and Israel's attack on the USS Liberty during the 1967 war (Document 10). Others provide new insight on NSA's assessment of key issues in the new century (Document 21, Document 23), on NSA's attempts to adapt to the changing world and communications environment, (Document 22), on the agency's regression to old policies with regard to organizational secrecy (Document 26a, Document 26b), and on NSA activities before and after the events of 9/11 (Document 25).

Declassified NSA Documents

Some of the documents that appear for the first time in this update shed additional light on the history of NSA. They concern the NSA's participation in the space reconnaissance program (Document 3), NSA's success in deciphering Soviet communications in the 1960s (Document 4), the efficacy of NSA activities in the late mid-to-late 1960s (Document 5), and Israel's attack on the USS Liberty during the 1967 war (Document 10). Others provide new insight on NSA's assessment of key issues in the new century (Document 21, Document 23), on NSA's attempts to adapt to the changing world and communications environment, (Document 22), on the agency's regression to old policies with regard to organizational secrecy (Document 26a, Document 26b), and on NSA activities before and after the events of 9/11 (Document 25).

Stiglitz warns of violence if Wolfowitz goes to World Bank

Joseph Stiglitz, the former chief economist of the World Bank and one of the world's most influential economic thinkers, has launched a savage attack on US plans to appoint Paul Wolfowitz as the World Bank's new president.
..."The World Bank will once again become a hate figure. This could bring street protests and violence across the developing world." He described President Bush's determination to appoint his deputy defence secretary to the important post as "either an act of provocation or an act so insensitive as to look like provocation". Wolfowitz is widely regarded as the creator of the policy that led to the US war in Iraq.

Nonprofits Charge Bovernemtn Intimidation

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is locked in a standoff with the Internal Revenue Service, preferring to risk its tax exemption rather than hand over documents for an I.R.S. review that the civil rights group contends is politically motivated.
While it is rare for an organization to defy the I.R.S. openly, the N.A.A.C.P. is not the only group that believes it is being made a government target for its positions on issues.
Roughly a dozen nonprofit organizations have publicly contended that government agencies and Congressional offices have used reviews, audits, investigations, law enforcement actions and the threat of a loss of federal money to discourage them from activities and advocacy that in any way challenge government policies, and nonprofit leaders say more are complaining quietly.

"In previous administrations, there's been the occasional instance of what might appear to be retaliation, but when it started happening in a serial way, it began to look like a pattern to us," said Kay Guinane, counsel for the nonprofit advocacy project of OMB Watch, a government watchdog group that has published two reports on the issue.

Global darkness shortage poses health and sanity risk

"A number of health and environmental problems are due to a loss of darkness," says Dr David Crawford, executive director of the International Dark-Sky Association, a group that campaigns against light pollution. "And it will get worse as we creep -- or rush -- to a 24/7 world. All of life, all of it, has evolved with a day/night cycle -- the circadian rhythm. It's essential to good health. Many studies are now showing that those who go without a true day/night cycle are adversely impacting their immune systems, and that's not good."

Monday, March 21, 2005

Surprising Results from Search for Quark-Gluon Plasma

"We expected to bring the nuclear liquid to a boil and produce a steam of quark-gluon plasma," said John Cramer from the University of Washington. "Instead, the boiler seems to be blowing up in our faces."
The explosive result, which goes by the name of the HBT puzzle, may call into question what RHIC is making in its high-speed collisions, or it might mean the theory needs retuning.

The NY Public Library's Digital Gallery

Officially launched on March 3rd, the NYPL DIgital Gallery is presently offering 275,000 images (stored on a 57-terabyte, a thousand billion bytes of data, network of servers) for public perusal and free personal use ("...individual private study, scholarship and research..."). Most of the contents of the Gallery is in the public domain, and if you can obtain your own reproduction of any image you find here, you can probably use it as you see fit.
The digitized copies on the NYPL website, however, are protected by copyright, and the Library charges a usage fee if an image is used in any "nonprofit or commercial publication, broadcast, web site, exhibition, promotional material, etc" contexts. (It's also possible - for a fee - to order high resolution digital files or hard copy prints of most images through the website.)

Why Logic Often Takes A Backseat

Neuroeconomics, while still regarded skeptically by mainstream economists, could be the next big thing in the field. It promises to put economics on a firmer footing by describing people as they really are, not as some oversimplified mathematical model would have them be. Eventually it could help economists design incentives that gently guide people toward making decisions that are in their long-term best interests in everything from labor negotiations to diets to 401(k) plans. Says Harvard University economist David I. Laibson, another leading researcher: "To understand the real foundations of our behavior and our choices, we need to get inside the black box."

Australia Sends DU Team to Iraq

A TEAM of Australian experts will travel to Iraq's Al-Muthanna province to find and remove depleted uranium munitions potentially hazardous to the 450 Diggers being sent there.
During a live fire exercise yesterday on the second anniversary of the Iraq war, task group commander Lt-Col Roger Noble said the depleted uranium war waste threat was low, but he was taking no chances.
"There will be an Australian hazardous materials survey done right at the beginning," Lt-Col Noble said during the exercise involving troops and armoured vehicles from the army's Darwin-based 2nd Cavalry Regiment and 5/7 Battalion.
"A team will come in and identify any potential threat."

Study: Gov't. Agencies Discriminate Against NYC's Ethnic Press

On the federal level, reporters called the Department of Homeland Security, the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Affairs, and the Department of Justice unhelpful in providing information. U.S. senators and congressmen were seen as accessible.

Mathematician untangles legendary problem

The strange numerical relationships Ramanujan discovered, now called the three Ramanujan "congruences," mystified scores of number theorists. During the Second World War, one mathematician and physicist named Freeman Dyson began to search for more elementary ways to prove Ramanujan's congruences. He developed a tool, called a "rank," that allowed him to split partitions of whole numbers into numerical groups of equal sizes. The idea worked with 5 and 7 but did not extend to 11. Dyson postulated that there must be a mathematical tool--what he jokingly called a "crank"--that could apply to all three congruences.
Mahlburg found that instead of dividing numbers into equal groups, such as putting the number 115 into five equal groups of 23 (which are not multiples of 5), the partition congruence idea still holds if numbers are broken down differently. In other words, 115 could also break down as 25, 25, 25, 10 and 30. Since each part is a multiple of 5, it follows that the sum of the parts is also a multiple of 5. Mahlburg shows the idea extends to every prime number.

CRS Report for Congress: Creating a National Framework for Cybersecurity

[PDF] Even before the terrorist attacks of September 2001, concerns had been rising among security experts about the vulnerabilities to attack of computer systems and associated infrastructure. Yet, despite increasing attention from federal and state governments and international organizations, the defense against attacks on these systems has appeared to be generally fragmented and varying widely in effectiveness. Concerns have grown that what is needed is a national cybersecurity framework — a coordinated, coherent set of public- and private-sector efforts required to ensure an acceptable level of cybersecurity for the nation.

GOP Governors Cut State Workers' Rights

Republican governors in a few spots across the country are angering state employees by removing one of organized labor's strongest tools - the right to collective bargaining.
Governors in three states who've taken the step say it's about making government more efficient or being fair to non-union workers. Critics say it's political payback for labor's traditional support of Democrats and part of a wider shift to undermine workers in favor of big business.

Aerial photos could track home projects

New technology soon could let government officials look right into your back yard to see your new deck - and then check whether you filed the proper permits.
Genesee County officials are considering using Pictometry Visual Intelligence, a new, ultra-detailed data and aerial photograph system that can show a picture from up to 12 different angles and lets users combine the pictures with all sorts of material - even a tool to measure how big that deck is.
"What we tell our customers is, with this system you can see everywhere, measure anything and plan everything that you want to plan," said Dante Pennacchia, senior vice president of marketing and sales for Pictometry International Corp.

President Ronald Reagan $50 Bill Act (Introduced in House)

To require the Secretary of the Treasury to redesign the face of $50 Federal reserve notes so as to include a likeness of President Ronald Wilson Reagan, and for other purposes.

Annan Calls for Bold Changes to U.N.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged world leaders Monday to implement the boldest changes to the United Nations in its 60-year history by expanding the size of the Security Council, tackling conflicts and terrorism, and strengthening protections for human rights.
One of the major proposals in the package [PDF] calls for a new Human Rights Council as a major U.N. organ - possibly on a par with the Security Council - to replace the Geneva-based Commission on Human Rights. That panel has long faced criticism for allowing the worst-offending countries to use their membership to protect one another from condemnation.
"The creation of the council would accord human rights a more authoritative position," and put it on the same level as security and development, Annan said.
Annan also called for an expansion of the U.N. Security Council to reflect the global realities today, but he left the details to the General Assembly. He urged its members to decide on a plan before the September summit, preferably by consensus, but if that's impossible by a vote.

Fake Cable Labeled Writer a Spy for Iraq

Someone has gone to a great deal of trouble to produce a document accusing journalist and activist William Arkin of serving as a spy for Saddam Hussein.
The Pentagon says the supposed Defense Intelligence Agency cable is a forgery. Arkin says it's "chilling" and is demanding an investigation. The NBC News military analyst says he became aware of the bogus document when a Washington Times reporter called about the spying allegation and sent him a copy.
In a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Arkin said: "I am extremely concerned that someone familiar with Defense Department classified reporting has forged this document and given it to the press in the hope that it would be reported as genuine. Such an action raises deeply troubling questions about the integrity of the department's processes and raises the possibility of an organized effort to intimidate me as a journalist."

Wal-Mart Escapes Criminal Charges in Case

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. escaped criminal charges but agreed Friday to pay $11 million, a record fine in a civil immigration case, to end a federal probe into its use of illegal immigrants to clean floors at stores in 21 states.
A dozen contractors who actually hired the laborers for work inside stores for the world's largest retailer agreed to plead guilty to criminal immigration charges and together pay an additional $4 million in fines.

Don't deposit Wolfowitz with us, plead World Bank workers

Washington's nomination of Paul Wolfowitz as the World Bank's next president has triggered an outcry among the bank's staff, who have demanded the right to have a say in his confirmation, it emerged yesterday.
The staff association has met the bank's executives to voice its concerns after it was swamped with complaints from employees over the selection of Mr Wolfowitz, the US deputy defence secretary and one of the architects of the Iraq war.

US National Military Strategy released

Two years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon has formally included in key strategic plans provisions for launching preemptive strikes against nations thought to pose a threat to the United States.
The doctrine also now stipulates that the U.S. will use "active deterrence" in concert with its allies "if we can" but could act unilaterally otherwise, Defense officials said.
...In some cases, respected global organizations seem to be viewed with suspicion. In describing the vulnerabilities of the United States, the document uses strong language to list international bodies — such as the International Court of Justice, created under a treaty that the United States has declined to sign — alongside terrorists.
"Our strength as a nation-state will continue to be challenged by those who employ a strategy of the weak using international [forums], judicial processes and terrorism," the document states.

MI6 chief told Blair: Americans ‘fixed’ case for Iraq war to suit policy

The Head of MI6 told Tony Blair that the case for war against Iraq was being “fixed” by the Americans to suit the policy, according to a BBC documentary that will reignite its battle with the government.
Blair followed the US lead by failing to reveal publicly doubts about the quality of intelligence that he had requested to support the case for war, the programme claims.
Sir Richard Dearlove, head of MI6, briefed Blair and a select group of ministers on America’s determination to press ahead with the war nine months before hostilities began.
After attending a briefing in Washington, he told the meeting that war was “inevitable”. Dearlove said “the facts and intelligence” were being “fixed round the policy” by George W Bush’s administration.

Evolution Debate hits IMAX

The fight over evolution has reached the big, big screen.
Several Imax theaters, including some in science museums, are refusing to show movies that mention the subject - or the Big Bang or the geology of the earth - fearing protests from people who object to films that contradict biblical descriptions of the origin of Earth and its creatures.
The number of theaters rejecting such films is small, people in the industry say - perhaps a dozen or fewer, most in the South. But because only a few dozen Imax theaters routinely show science documentaries, the decisions of a few can have a big impact on a film's bottom line - or a producer's decision to make a documentary in the first place.