Saturday, April 02, 2005

Gel interface

The GelForce, engineered at the University of Tokyo, is a transparent deformable gel that measures the distribution of the magnitude and direction of force. The sensor is composed of a transparent elastic body, two layers of blue and red markers, and a CCD camera. Deformations of the surface -when pressed with finger, for instance- are then calculated in real time.


One of the goals of the project is to develop a finger-shaped sensor for robotic hands allowing robots to perform fine manipulation tasks just as humans do.
For robots? Why should they have all the fun?
Mind-blowing video. [from]

Montana House Condemns Patriot Act

Montana lawmakers overwhelmingly passed what its sponsor called the nation's most strongly worded criticism of the federal Patriot Act on Friday, uniting politicians of all stripes.
The resolution, which already galloped through the Senate and passed the House 88-12 Friday, must survive a final vote before it officially passes.
...The resolution, which does not carry the weight of a law but expresses the Legislature's opinion, encourages Montana law enforcement agencies not to participate in investigations authorized under the Patriot Act that violate Montanans' constitutional rights. It requests all libraries in the state to post a sign warning citizens that under the Patriot Act, federal agents may force librarians to turn over a record of books a person has checked out and never inform that citizen of the request.
The resolution asks Montana's attorney general to review any state intelligence information and destroy it if is not tied directly to suspected criminals. It also asks the attorney general to find out how many Montanans have been arrested under the Patriot Act and how many people have been subject to so-called "sneak and peaks," or government searches of a person's property without the person's knowledge.

'Broad conspiracy' behind nun's killing in Brazil

A Brazilian congressional panel investigating the murder of a revered American nun has found evidence that a broader conspiracy between loggers, ranchers and officials is behind a wave of violence against peasant farmers and environmental activists in the Amazon state of Para.
A senate panel concluded that four people arrested for the murder of Sister Dorothy Stang are merely the most visible elements in an intricate chain of interests whose use of violence has given them almost unbridled power in a notoriously lawless region.
Stang, who was born in Ohio, was a naturalised Brazilian who had spent the past 23 years protecting the rainforest and promoting sustainable development projects among peasant farmers as an alternative to the predatory exploitation of natural resources.

US vigilantes begin border stake-out

Hundreds of anti-immigrant activists were gathering in Tombstone, Arizona, yesterday to begin a month-long unofficial patrol of the border with Mexico. To greet them, hundreds of immigrants' rights activists planned to travel to the desert of Arizona from across the southern US.
And caught in the middle, are the thousands of undocumented immigrants who try to cross the border from Mexico each day, and the hundreds of US government border patrol agents who try to stop them.
"It's a dangerous place down there," says TJ Bonner, the president of the 10,000 member Border Patrol Council, which represents the agency's officers. "It's the wild west reincarnated."
The Minuteman Project, which is organising the volunteer patrols, is being run from the offices of the Tombstone Tumbleweed newspaper. Many of the volunteers are expected to be armed. They will wear improvised uniforms and be equipped with everything from shortwave radios to nightsights to a small fleet of light aircraft.

Report Fails to Jibe with Reality

The Presidential Commission on intelligence reported:

"Finally, we closely examined the possibility that intelligence analysts were pressured by policymakers to change their judgments about Iraq’s nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs. The analysts who worked Iraqi weapons issues universally agreed that in no instance did political pressure cause them to skew or alter any of their analytical judgments. That said, it is hard to deny the conclusion that intelligence analysts worked in an environment that did not encourage skepticism about the conventional wisdom."

This directly contradicts years-old public information. This is from Mother Jone's article about whistleblower Karen Kwiatkowski from the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans.

"Though Feith, in that briefing, described Wurmser's unit [within the Office of Special Plans] as an innocent project, "a global exercise" that was not meant to put pressure on other intelligence agencies or create skewed intelligence to fit preconceived policy notions, many other sources assert that it did exactly that. That the White House and the Pentagon put enormous pressure on the CIA to go along with its version of events has been widely reported, highlighted by visits to CIA headquarters by Vice President Cheney and Lewis Libby, his chief of staff. Led by Perle, the neocons seethed with contempt for the CIA. The CIA's analysis, said Perle, "isn't worth the paper it's printed on." Standing in a crowded hallway during an AEI event, Perle added, "The CIA is status quo oriented. They don't want to take risks.""

Iraq War - blame it on that crazy guy named "Curveball"

A presidential commission issued a scathing report on Thursday about U.S. intelligence on weapons of mass destruction that said the Bush administration relied on unsubstantiated intelligence from an Iraqi chemical engineer code-named "Curveball" that Iraq had mobile biological weapons labs.
...A now-retired division chief from the CIA's clandestine unit told the presidential commission that Tenet called him at about midnight on the day before Powell's speech and during the conversation he told the CIA chief that there were problems with some of the foreign intelligence.
The division chief, who was not named, said Tenet was dismissive, that his reply in effect was "yeah, yeah" and that he was "exhausted," according to the commission report. The division chief said he was surprised when he heard Powell's speech to find the Curveball information was included.
Tenet on Friday said he called the CIA division chief in late afternoon or early evening but the phone call had nothing to do with Iraqi mobile biological weapons labs. "I have absolutely no recollection of the division chief saying anything to me with regard to problems with the foreign reporting," Tenet said.
He said the presidential commission's report was the first time he heard that the CIA division chief was told by a German liaison in September or October 2002 that the Iraqi source was considered "crazy," had a nervous breakdown and may be a fabricator.

4/1: EU Seeks Politically Correct Place Names

The German commissioner, Arlo Pilof, the architect of the 2006 Race and Gender Equality Imposition Code (conformity), an amendment to existing rules, said: "We believe many names do not conform, and we started with Scotland because it is the worst of the culprits with offensive names such as Skinflats, near Grangemouth."
However, he promised the Scottish Executive could apply for grants of up to €43.6 million (£28 million) to facilitate change.
That was dismissed yesterday by the Scottish Chambers of Commerce as a "drop in the ocean". A spokesman said: "Changing stationery and business cards could cost that alone."
The commissioners in Brussels have demanded "race and gender-sensitive" names found for towns such as Motherwell, Blackburn, Helensburgh, Fort William, Campbeltown, Peterhead, Lewis and Fraserburgh be changed.

Missouri: Farmers Take Stand Against Biotech Rice

The food industry and environmentalists joined Missouri rice growers this week in their fight to prevent a California company from sowing genetically modified rice in the Missouri Bootheel.
Unlike most genetically modified crops, this rice wouldn't be destined for dinner tables but for pharmaceutical companies, which would make drugs from proteins engineered into the grain. Farmers worry that the drug-bound rice would commingle with their edible crops - worth some $100 million each year - and make them difficult to sell.
"Those people came into Missouri through the back door and cut a deal before we even knew anything was going on," said Sonny Matin, a rice farmer in Bernie, Mo. "This is a political thing with a lot of money involved."

NASA Starts Planning to Retire Space Shuttle

Within a year or so, Mr. Kostelnik said, NASA will have to start the shuttle retirement process in earnest, moving toward canceling contracts for shuttle-related supplies, decommissioning some sites and redirecting or eliminating some of the work force.
"Transitioning these resources is a very complex problem," he said. He added that after reviewing assets and work needs, NASA should begin within a year to terminate some contracts for items like the shuttle's external fuel tank and start planning how to mothball equipment and structures used by the shuttle.
It would be premature to end shuttle activities until NASA determines how many more shuttle flights are needed to complete the space station and how many flights can be made each year before the planned end of the program in 2010, Mr. Kostelnik said.

E-Mails Reveal Fraud in Nuclear Site Study

Government employees studying whether Yucca Mountain in Nevada would be a suitable place to bury nuclear waste acknowledged in e-mail messages to each other that they had made up details about how they had done their research in order to appear to meet quality standards, according to some of the messages made public on Friday.
Some of the frank exchanges included instructions to erase them. The Energy Department, which is trying to open a waste repository at the mountain, 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, disclosed the existence of the e-mail messages two weeks ago. On Friday, a subcommittee of the House Committee on Government Reform released dozens of pages of the messages.

Illinois Pharmacies Ordered to Provide Birth Control

With a growing number of reports of pharmacists around the country refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control and emergency contraception, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich on Friday filed a rule requiring Illinois pharmacies to accept and dispense all such prescriptions promptly.
"Our regulation says that if a woman goes to a pharmacy with a prescription for birth control, the pharmacy or the pharmacist is not allowed to discriminate or to choose who he sells it to or who he doesn't sell it to," Mr. Blagojevich, a Democrat, said. "No delays. No hassles. No lectures."

Friday, April 01, 2005

On The Media Talks About Air America at First Anniversary

On March 31st, 2004, with Democratic drumbeater Al Franken behind the microphone, the openly abrasive, unabashedly liberal Air America Radio was born. Advertised as an antidote to just about everything else on the dial, the network's inaugural year was one of turbulent staff shakeups and near economic collapse - all captured intimately on hundreds of hours of tape and distilled into the new HBO documentary Left of the Dial. Filmmaker Patrick Farrelly tells Brooke how Air America survived, and CEO Danny Goldberg talks about its future.
OTM's Previous Coverage of Liberal Talk Radio
--January 10, 2003
--April 2, 2004
--October 1, 2004

Whistle Run Dry

When federal employees blow the whistle on corruption, incompetence, or other abuses of power, they are entitled to protection from retribution by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. But according to several watchdog groups, the OSC has been behaving more like a dead letter office than an ally in exposing government wrongdoing. Bob is joined by one of the complainants, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility executive director Jeff Ruch. He also hears from Special Counsel Scott Bloch, who sees things from a very different perspective.

Inappropriate Toys for Children

4/1: Diebold, Choicepoint Partner to Offer Innovative Voting Technology

Diebold Election Systems and Choicepoint, Inc., today announced a joint venture that could revolutionize the voting market. The concept is simple: combine Diebold's demonstrated expertise in voting systems with Choicepoint's superior data-mining techniques to produce PredictaVote(TM) - the first 100 percent voter-free, predictive voting system.
"The beauty of this approach is that it is self-correcting," explained Choicepoint CEO Derrick Sithe. "If someone wants to increase the chances that his or her vote will be counted correctly, the voter simply needs to open up more of his or her life to our data-collection methods. Apply for more credit cards. Register for more grocery loyalty cards. Purchase more subscriptions. Fill out more warranty cards. Compare that to today's paperless e-voting machines, where voters have no way to determine whether votes are accurately counted. There's really no comparison."
Even more impressive than its accuracy is its cost- effectiveness, say company spokespersons. PredictaVote caps a decade of innovation and strategic thinking at Diebold, explained Diebold President and CEO Ollie O'Sell. "Elections have historically been ridiculously expensive undertakings. Who's to blame? Quite simply: the voter. Accounting for everything from allowing employees time off to vote to ensuring the accuracy and security of the machines, elections drain an average of $12 billion from the American economy every year in the form of manufacturing costs and lost productivity. With PredictaVote, all of these problems go away with the voter."

Joint US-UK cover-up alleged over GM maize

The whereabouts of 170,000 tonnes of contaminated GM maize and its possible import into the UK has caused an international investigation and claims of a cover-up on both sides of the Atlantic.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) first put out a statement saying the contamination was "on a small scale" but later retracted it, instead saying the maize was unlikely to have got into food but might have been fed to cattle.
The maize is not licensed to be grown in Europe and contains a GM antibiotic-resistant marker of a type scientists have advised the EU to phase out. It is theoretically possible for bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics as a result of contact with the marker genes - although the company which developed the maize, Syngenta, denies it.
The row intensified yesterday because it was realised that the US administration had known of the contamination since December, but did not notify Britain until late last month when an article in Nature revealed the problem.

Report says one Iraqi defector singlehandedly corrupted prewar weapons estimates

Prewar claims by the United States that Iraq was producing biological weapons were based almost entirely on accounts from a defector who was described as "crazy" by his intelligence handlers and a "congenital liar" by his friends.
The defector, code-named "Curveball," spoke with alarming specificity about Iraq's alleged biological weapons programs and fleet of mobile labs. But postwar investigations showed that he wasn't even in the country at times when he claimed to have taken part in illicit weapons work.
Despite persistent doubts about his credibility, Curveball's claims were included in the Bush administration's case for war without so much as a caveat. And when CIA analysts argued after the war that the agency needed to admit it had been duped, they were forced out of their jobs.
The disclosures about Curveball and the extensive role he played in corrupting U.S. intelligence estimates on Iraq were included in a devastating report released Thursday by a commission established by President Bush to evaluate U.S. intelligence on weapons of mass destruction.
The 601-page document is a sweeping assessment of U.S. intelligence failures that identifies breakdowns in dozens of cases involving multiple countries and terrorist organizations.

Analysis Points to Election 'Corruption'

There's a one-in-959,000 chance that exit polls could have been so wrong in predicting the outcome of the 2004 presidential election, according to a statistical analysis released Thursday.
Exit polls in the November election showed Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., winning by 3 percent, but President George W. Bush won the vote count by 2.5 percent.
The explanation for the discrepancy that was offered by the exit polling firm -- that Kerry voters were more likely to participate in the exit polling -- is an ``implausible theory,'' according to the report issued Thursday by US Count Votes, a group that claims it's made up of about two dozen statisticians.
Twelve -- including a Case Western Reserve University mathematics instructor -- signed the report.
Instead, the data support the idea that ``corruption of the vote count occurred more freely in districts that were overwhelmingly Bush strongholds.''
The report dismisses chance and inaccurate exit polling as the reasons for their discrepancy with the results.
They found that the one hypothesis that can't be ruled out is inaccurate election results.

4/1: Google Gulp

At Google our mission is to organize the world's information and make it useful and accessible to our users. But any piece of information's usefulness derives, to a depressing degree, from the cognitive ability of the user who's using it. That's why we're pleased to announce Google Gulp (BETA)™ with Auto-Drink™ (LIMITED RELEASE), a line of "smart drinks" designed to maximize your surfing efficiency by making you more intelligent, and less thirsty.

1. How does Google Gulp work?
Well, to comprehend the long version of this answer, you'd need a PhD (from Stanford, natch). The short version is, our brains process data by sending electrical impulses called neurotransmitters between billions of neurons via axons running between synapses, much the way buses travel between stations, or MP3 files travel between felonious suburban teenagers. The molecular compound that fuels Google Gulp speeds up this process by, among various startling feats of neurochemical legerdemain, limiting the activity of the enzyme monoamine oxidase. You think faster – and feel better.

What's more, through our patented real-time DNA-scanning process, Auto-Drink™, Google Gulp is actually able to "take a picture" of your genetic profile, reconfigure its molecular composition on the fly, and subtly alter your brain's intricate mosaic of axonial patterns in order to facilitate even faster cognitive processing.

2. Wait – you're saying Auto-Drink™ changes my brain chemistry?

Um, yeah – but for the better.

3. Isn't that kind of dangerous?

Well, none of the lab rats who've been pounding this stuff for the past eight months have keeled over yet, which we find fairly reassuring. At any rate, you should be aware that by popping the seal on the twist-off Gulp cap, you send a wireless signal to Google's servers indicating your irrevocable acceptance of the Google Gulp Terms and Conditions, which do include the possibility, however remote, of hideous genetic mutation resulting from your consumption of this product. We're pretty sure you won't die, though.

4. What if I don't want to use Auto-Drink™?

No problem – simply turn off Auto-Drink™ on your Google Gulp preferences page. [more]

UN Rights Expert Charges US Using Food Access as Military Tactic

"The situation of the right to food in Iraq is of serious concern," the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler, said in a report to the UN human rights commission.
The report also highlighted "widespread concerns about the continued lack of access to clean drinking water" and allegations by British campaigners that water sources were deliberately cut off by coalition forces.

"Those are the allegations, but what is proven is that at Fallujah, denial, the blockade imposed on food and the destruction of water reservoirs was used as weapon of war," Ziegler told journalists.

He insisted that the practice was a "clear violation" of the Geneva Conventions and delivered a firm condemnation of any attempt to deny food or water supplies.

Professor's sudden dismissal stuns students

Pluss said he was "removed" from his classroom duties when he received a brief phone call at 5:30 p.m. from the department chairman who, he said, told him he was being released "for the convenience of the university" the following day. "I was stolen away in the night," he said. Pluss reported that he will be paid his salary through the end of this semester. He also said he will retire from "the academic world" and devote himself to the cause of the White Aryan Race Nation.
The professor speculated that he was dismissed because of his work with the National Socialist Movement on the internet, adding that the university "followed the typical Jewish, lawyerly, Hebrew line." He suggested that a "watchdog group" may have alerted FDU about his activities beyond the classroom.
During one segment of the conversation, Pluss said the university did not want adverse publicity while its Division 1 basketball team was in the NCAA playoffs. He said the players are "n--- to the core" and "sit in the back of my class with CDs and earphones" listening to "ghastly rap music."
[Discussion at DailyKos.]

Government Abstinence Site Draws Ire

An array of advocacy groups are calling on the federal government to take down one of its new Web sites, saying it presents biased and inaccurate advice to parents on how to talk to their children about sex.
The site — — stresses the promotion of abstinence.
Emphasizing abstinence is fine, said the groups, but the government also should stress the need for contraception if sexual relations do occur.
"There's this misconception that giving young people negative information about contraception will encourage them not to have sexual intercourse, when all it will do is encourage them not to have contraception, so the strategy backfires," Monica Rodriguez, an official at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, said Thursday.

Conservative Judge Blasts Terri's Law

A popular epithet directed by some members of society, including some members of Congress, toward the judiciary involves the denunciation of "activist judges." Generally, the definition of an "activist judge" is one who decides the outcome of a controversy before him according to personal conviction, even one sincerely held, as opposed to the dictates of the law as constrained by legal precedent and, ultimately, our Constitution. In resolving the Schiavo controversy it is my judgment that, despite sincere and altruistic motivation, the legislative and executive branches of our government have acted in a manner demonstrably at odds with our Founding Fathers’ blueprint for the governance of a free people — our Constitution. Since I have sworn, as have they, to uphold and defend that Covenant, I must respectfully concur in the denial of the request for rehearing en banc. I conclude that Pub. L.109-3 (“the Act”) is unconstitutional and, therefore, this court and the district court are without jurisdiction in this case under that 1 special Act and should refuse to exercise any jurisdiction that we may otherwise have in this case...
Section 2 of the Act provides that the district court: (1) shall engage in "de novo" review of Mrs. Schiavo’s constitutional and federal claims; (2) shall not consider whether these claims were previously "raised, considered, or decided in State court proceedings"; (3) shall not engage in "abstention in favor of State court proceedings"; and (4) shall not decide the case on the basis of "whether remedies available in the State courts have been exhausted." Pub. L. 109-3, § 2. Because these provisions constitute legislative dictation of how a federal court should exercise its judicial functions (known as a "rule of decision"), the Act invades the province of the judiciary and violates the separation of powers principle.
An act of Congress violates separation of powers if it requires federal courts to exercise their Article III power "in a manner repugnant to the text, structure, and traditions of Article III." Plaut v. Spendthrift Farm, Inc., 514 U.S. 211, 218, 115 S. Ct. 1447, 1452 (1995). By setting a particular standard of review in the district court, Section 2 of the Act purports to direct a federal court in an area traditionally left to the federal court to decide. See Fla. Progress Corp. v. Comm’r, 348 F.3d 954, 959 (11th Cir. 2004) (noting that the standard of review is for the court to determine). In fact, the establishment of a standard of review often dictates the rule of decision in a case, which is beyond Congress’s constitutional power. See United States v. Klein, 80 U.S. 128, 146 (1871) (noting that Congress may not prescribe a "rule of decision" for a particular case). In addition, "the separation-of-powers doctrine requires that a branch not impair another in the performance of its constitutional duties." Loving v. United States, 517 U.S. 748, 757, 116 S. Ct. 1737, 1743 (1996). By denying federal courts the ability to exercise abstention or inquire as to exhaustion or waiver under State law, the Act robs federal courts of judicial doctrines long-established for the conduct of prudential decisionmaking...
The separation of powers implicit in our constitutional design was created "to assure, as nearly as possible, that each branch of government would confine itself to its assigned responsibility." INS, 462 U.S. at 951, 103 S. Ct. at 2784. But when the fervor of political passions moves the Executive and the Legislative branches to act in ways inimical to basic constitutional principles, it is the duty of the judiciary to intervene. If sacrifices to the independence of the judiciary are permitted today, precedent is established for the constitutional transgressions of tomorrow. See New York, 505 U.S. at 187, 112 S. Ct. at 2434. Accordingly, we must conscientiously guard the independence of our judiciary and safeguard the Constitution, even in the face of the unfathomable human tragedy that has befallen Mrs. Schiavo and her family and the recent events related to her plight which have troubled the consciences of many. Realizing this duty, I conclude that Pub. L. 109-3 is an unconstitutional infringement on core tenets underlying our constitutional system. Had Congress or the Florida legislature, in their legislative capacities, been able to constitutionally amend applicable law, we would have been constrained to apply that law. See Robertson v. Seattle Audobon Soc'y, 503 U.S. 429, 441, 112 S. Ct. 1407, 1414 (1992). By opting to pass Pub. L. 109-3 instead, however, Congress chose to overstep constitutional boundaries into the province of the judiciary. Such an Act cannot be countenanced. Moreover, we are bound by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine not to exercise any other jurisdictional bases to override a final state judgment. Should the citizens of Florida determine that its law should be changed, it should be done legislatively. Were the courts to change the law, as the petitioners and Congress invite us to do, an "activist judge" criticism would be valid.
[Read the full court's denial [PDF text, includes concurrences and dissent] of the petition for an expedited rehearing. AP has more. from Jurist]

Passport Chip Criticism Grows

Business travel groups, security experts and privacy advocates are looking to derail a government plan to insert remotely readable chips in American passports, calling the chips homing devices for high-tech muggers, identity thieves and even terrorists.
But the U.S. State Department, which plans to start issuing the new passports to citizens later this year, says its critics are overstating the risks. Officials say that the chips will cut down on passport forgery, improve security and speed up border crossings.

FEC Eyes Bloggers' Political Ties

On March 23, the FEC issued revised draft rules (.pdf) outlining which internet communications would be subject to campaign-finance law. The FEC had originally issued rules that exempted all internet communications from its overall definition of "public communication" that can trigger the application of federal election rules.
But Reps. Martin Meehan (D-Massachusetts) and Christopher Shays (R-Connecticut) sued to scrap those regulations on the grounds they didn't go far enough. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia then ordered the FEC to take another crack at it.
The FEC's revised draft rules exempt internet communications except for paid advertisements.
...The FEC has, however, proposed requiring disclaimers of any political affiliation in e-mails that reach more than 500 recipients in "substantially similar communications." But that mass e-mail rule would only apply when the e-mail addresses in question were purchased from a third party -- so bloggers who send out e-mails to subscribers would presumably remain unaffected.
Also unclear is whether all bloggers should be included in the current "media exemption," which exempts the traditional news media from the FEC's contribution and expenditure rules.


Top stories ranked by word.

General signals decision on Iraq troop pull-out

A top US general on Wednesday said the Pentagon could begin large withdrawals of troops from Iraq as long as the level of violence in the country remained low until national elections, scheduled for the end of the year.
Lieutenant General Lance Smith of the US air force, deputy commander of Central Command, which oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is the latest senior military commander to signal that the Pentagon is closer to a decision to bring troops home.
Donald Rumsfeld, defence secretary, has consistently argued that generals “on the ground in Iraq” will decide when they can reduce troop numbers.

General signals decision on Iraq troop pull-out

A top US general on Wednesday said the Pentagon could begin large withdrawals of troops from Iraq as long as the level of violence in the country remained low until national elections, scheduled for the end of the year.
Lieutenant General Lance Smith of the US air force, deputy commander of Central Command, which oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is the latest senior military commander to signal that the Pentagon is closer to a decision to bring troops home.
Donald Rumsfeld, defence secretary, has consistently argued that generals “on the ground in Iraq” will decide when they can reduce troop numbers.

Maureen Dowd: Intelligence failures preceding Iraq war no laughing matter

As necessity is the mother of invention, political pressure was the father of conveniently botched intelligence.
Dick Cheney and the neocons at the Pentagon started with the conclusion they wanted, then massaged and manipulated the intelligence to back up their wishful thinking.
As The New Republic reported, Cheney lurked at the CIA in the summer of 2002, an intimidating presence for young analysts. And Douglas Feith set up the Office of Special Plans at the Pentagon as a shadow intelligence agency to manufacture propaganda bolstering the administration's case.
The Office of Special Plans turned to the con man Ahmad Chalabi to come up with the evidence they needed. The Iraqi National Congress obliged with information that has now been debunked as exaggerated or fabricated. One gem was the hard- drinking relative of a Chalabi aide, a secret source code- named Curveball, who claimed to verify the mobile weapons labs.
Cheney and his Gestapo Office, as Colin Powell called it, then shoehorned all their meshugas about Saddam Hussein's aluminum tubes, weapons labs, drones and Qaida links into Powell's U.N. speech.

4/1: Lava lamp. A really big lava lamp ...

[Audio from Marketplace] Paris has the Eiffel Tower. St. Louis has the Arch. And about 150 miles east of Seattle's Space Needle, boosters in a forlorn rural town are pinning their hopes on the arrival of a giant lava lamp. Correspondent Tom Banse reports from Soap Lake, Washington.

Some pharmacists say no to filling birth-control prescriptions

"More and more pharmacists are becoming aware of their right to conscientiously refuse to pass objectionable medications across the counter. We are on the very front edge of a wave that's going to break not too far down the line."
An increasing number of clashes are occurring. Pharmacists often risk dismissal or other disciplinary action to stand up for their beliefs, while shaken teenage girls and women desperately call their doctors, frequently late at night, after being turned away by sometimes-lecturing men and women in white coats.
"There are pharmacists who will only give birth-control pills to a woman if she's married. There are pharmacists who mistakenly believe contraception is a form of abortion and refuse to [dispense] it to anyone," said Adam Sonfield of the Alan Guttmacher Institute in New York, which tracks reproductive issues. "There are even cases of pharmacists holding prescriptions hostage, where they won't even transfer it to another pharmacy when time is of the essence."

Teaching Darwin splits Pennsylvania town

"Darwin's theory is a theory ... not a fact," the school board declared in their statement to the teachers. "Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view," said the report.
The command landed in the sprawling, red-brick Dover high school like a bomb. Biology teachers refused to read it, while around 15 students walked out in protest.
"Reading it sends the message that it is a legitimate scientific idea or theory," said Jen Miller, a biology teacher who is also a church-goer and daughter of a minister.

Mother Jones Interviews the Yes Men

MJ: How did you become the Yes Men?
Mike: I founded the Barbie Liberation Organization. Just before Christmas of '93, we bought a bunch of Teen Talk Barbie dolls and talking G.I. Joes, switched their voice boxes, and then snuck them back into stores. When people opened them on Christmas Day, they found Barbies saying things like, "Dead men tell no lies." And coming out of the G.I. Joes were things like, "I love to shop with you!"—which was kind of shocking coming out of a G.I. Joe. It should have been just as shocking coming out of a Barbie.
Andy: I was a programmer, and I inserted these kissing boys into a video game; 80,000 copies got shipped to store shelves, and it became a big media brouhaha. It became obvious that this was an interesting way to get media attention for causes.
Mike: Back in 1999, we were working on a project called, which was a website where people could meet and work on anticorporate activist projects. Through one of the fake websites that Andy had set up——we got an invitation to attend a trade conference as the World Trade Organization. When that happened, we split off and formed the Yes Men.

OSS 1943 Personality Profile of Hitler Released

Cover, Foreword and Contents.
Section 1. Summary of the Entire Memorandum.
Section 2. HITLER THE MAN - NOTES FOR A CASE HISTORY by W.H.D. Vernon (the best available short outline of Hitler's personality).
Section 3. (Summary, Part A) Detailed Analysis of Hitler's Personality (written especially for psychologists, psychiatrists).
Section 4. (Summary, Part B) Predictions of Hitler's Behavior in the Coming Future.
Section 5. (Summary, Part C) Suggestions for the Treatment of Hitler, Now and After Germany's Surrender.
Section 6. (Summary, Part D) Suggestions for the Treatment of Germany.

The Missing Abu Graib Images

The images, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Congress, depict "acts that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel, and inhuman." After Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) viewed some of them in a classified briefing, he testified that his "stomach gave out." NBC News reported that they show "American soldiers beating one prisoner almost to death, apparently raping a female prisoner, acting inappropriately with a dead body, and taping Iraqi guards raping young boys." Everyone who saw the photographs and videos seemed to shudder openly when contemplating what the reaction would be when they eventually were made public.
But they never were. After the first batch of Abu Ghraib images shocked the world on April 28, 2004, becoming instantly iconic—a hooded prisoner standing atop a box with electrodes attatched to his hands, Pfc. Lynndie England dragging a naked prisoner by a leash, England and Spc. Charles Graner giving a grinning thumbs-up behind a stack of human meat—no substantial second round ever came, either from Abu Ghraib or any of the other locations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay where abuses have been alleged. ABC News broadcast two new photos from the notorious Iraq prison on May 19, The Washington Post printed a half-dozen on May 20 and three more on June 10, and that was it.
"It refutes the glib claim that everything leaks sooner or later," says the Federation of American Scientists' Steven Aftergood, who makes his living finding and publishing little-known government information and fighting against state secrecy. "While there may be classified information in the papers almost every day, there's a lot more classified information that never makes it into the public domain."

The George W Bush Singers

[thanks to Donna]

ACLU seeks Sanchez investigation

The ACLU said a newly released memo sent by Lt. Gen Ricardo Sanchez flatly contradicts his sworn testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in which he denied authorizing highly coercive interrogation methods of detainees.
Although The Washington Post first disclosed its existence, the memorandum at issue was withheld from public release by the Defense Department under national security grounds, the ACLU said. The ACLU obtained a physical copy of the memo under an ongoing Freedom of Information Act lawsuit and released a copy Tuesday.
The September 2003 memo was signed by Sanchez and laid out specific interrogation techniques Iraq. The ACLU said the techniques included sleep "management," the inducement of fear at two levels of severity, loud music and sensory agitation and the use of canine units to "exploit Arab fear of dogs."

The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction

[PDF of full text with no mention of the Office of Special Plans]

UN Monitor: War on Iraq Has Doubled Malnutrition Among Iraqi Children

Acute malnutrition rates among Iraqi children under five rose late last year to 7.7 per cent from four per cent after the ouster of President Saddam Hussein in April 2003, said Jean Ziegler, the UN Human Rights Commission's special expert on the right to food.
Malnutrition, which is exacerbated by a lack of clean water and inadequate sanitation, is a major child-killer in poor countries. Children who manage to survive are usually physically and mentally impaired for the rest of their lives and more vulnerable to disease.

Acute malnutrition signifies a child is actually wasting away.

Biometric Lock Defeated by Stealing Owner's Finger

Police in Malaysia are hunting for members of a violent gang who chopped off a car owner's finger to get round the vehicle's hi-tech security system.
The car, a Mercedes S-class, was protected by a fingerprint recognition system.

Accountant K Kumaran's ordeal began when he was run down by four men in a small car as he was about to get into his Mercedes in a Kuala Lumpur suburb.

The gang, armed with long machetes, demanded the keys to his car.

4/1: Boring Boring

Ingenious wallmod allows items to be stored on vertical surfaces

 Wallmod This guy (warning: site has no pop-ups) modded the wall over his bed with several shelves -- three, to be exact. The lack of visible shelf brackets is very futuristic (although brackets can give a shelf a cool steampunky look). If you want to try it yourself, step-by-step instructions are here. Sweet! Link (Thanks, Francis!)

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

DARPA Looks to Automated Linguists

t's not Kirk and Spock's universal translator. Not quite. But the Pentagon is looking to for researchers to build a software set "with the goal of eliminating the need for linguists and analysts and automatically providing relevant, distilled, actionable information."
Global Autonomous Language Exploitation, or GALE, is a project of -- who else? -- Defense Department mad science division Darpa. And the idea, according to Darpa's call for proposals, is to "develop and apply computer software technologies to absorb, analyze and interpret huge volumes of speech and text in multiple languages."
The result won't necessarily be a "natural language" dialogue between man and interpreting machine. But, if GALE works as planned, it will deliver "consolidated information in easy-to-understand forms to military personnel and monolingual English-speaking analysts in response to direct or implicit requests."
The American military is still struggling to fill its ranks with Arabic speakers, three-and-a-half years after 9/11. Language training for enlisted men and junior officers is minimal. And the technological solutions to the problem -- like the hand-held Phraselator and Interact systems -- really only work for the most monosyllabic of conversations.
What Darpa wants instead are a trio of software tools for soldiers and spooks:

• A transcription engine that produces English transcripts [from foreign speech] with 95% accuracy
• A translation engine producing English text [from foreign prose] with 95% accuracy
• A distillation engine able to fill knowledge bases with key facts and to deliver useful information as proficiently as humans can.

Surveillance of gossip to check disease spread

Public-health experts are poised to exploit an unlikely weapon in the war against bird flu and other fatal diseases. They want to expand a worldwide system for eavesdropping on rumours.
Listening to gossip may sound like a flimsy means of spotting potentially devastating microbes and viruses. But the World Health Organization (WHO) already uses 'rumour surveillance' to monitor online media for early signs of epidemics, including ebola, cholera and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
A study published this month is one of the first to show that this type of scrutiny actually works. Epidemiologist Gina Samaan of the WHO's Western Pacific Regional Office in Manila and her colleagues examined whether a 2004 effort to detect rumours of bird flu helped combat the disease as it whipped through poultry flocks in Asia.
Of 40 rumours from websites, newspapers, e-mails and experts, nine were found to be true, and several prompted action that may have helped to stem the disease's spread, the researchers report in Emerging Infectious Diseases1. For example, initial reports of duck deaths in China were later confirmed to be avian influenza, and prompted over 40 countries to ban imports of poultry from China.

Heavy metal takes on heavy metals

Slave to the Metal Foundation is a portal for heavy metal music fans and the music industry to raise awareness and provide funds to those organizations and individuals that fight against the misuse of heavy metals (i.e. depleted uranium, mercury and lead) and who are rising in outrage over other misanthropic and genocidal initiatives such as the forceful administration to our soldiers of the untested and unapproved Anthrax Vaccine (See: ,
Commented ANTHRAX drummer Charlie Benante: "Every fan of heavy metal music has the chance right now to support our troops as ANTHRAX partners with Slave to the Metal Foundation to provide an opportunity for the most affected generation to make a difference and bring public awareness to the dangers of the Anthrax Vaccine."

World’s most sensitive scales weigh a zeptogram

The world’s most sensitive scales can now detect a cluster of xenon atoms a billion, trillion times lighter than a gram. A zeptogram (10-21)g) is roughly the mass of a single protein molecule and its detection has set a new record.
The feat opens up the prospect of future devices that could identify single molecules by weight, providing a sensor of extreme sensitivity that would be valuable in medical and environmental testing.
The key to the scales is a small blade that vibrates in a magnetic field, generating a voltage in an attached wire. When atoms or molecules are placed on its surface, they weigh it down, lower the vibration frequency and change the voltage.

Bush will continue "covert propaganda"

Regarding the VNRs, Pres. Bush said the government's practice of sending ”packaged news stories” to local television stations was legal and he has no plans to cease it.
His defense of the packages, which are designed to look like television news segments, came after the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a Congressional watchdog agency, called them a form of covert propaganda.
The administration responded that, ”Executive Branch agencies are not bound by GAO's legal advice” but should be guided by the views of the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel, part of the executive branch.
GAO said that publications that are ”misleading as to their origin and reasonably constitute 'propaganda' within the common understanding of that term.” Its definition of propaganda includes ”covert attempts to mold opinion through the undisclosed use of third parties.”
Last week, two influential media advocacy groups, Free Press and the Center for Media and Democracy, filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging Chairman Kevin J. Martin to investigate broadcasters who distribute government-sponsored news reports without identifying their source.

Report Clears Kofi Annan of Corruption Allegations

But the 90-page report criticized Annan for failing to fully investigate a potential conflict of interest concerning his son, Kojo Annan, and Cotecna the Swiss company that employed the younger man.
It also details far closer connections between Kofi Annan and Cotecna officials than have been disclosed previously, and raises unanswered questions about why Annan's ''chef de cabinet" directed that ''documents of potential relevance" to the investigation be shredded just one day after the Security Council established the independent inquiry.
The report reserves its harshest language for Kojo Annan, who, it says, used his political connections to explore oil contracts in Iraq and lied to investigators about hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments from Cotecna. The payments were made years after he told his father that he left the company.
According to the report, Kojo Annan charged Cotecna thousands of dollars in consultant's fees for trips he made to see his own father, including one charge of $17,000 for a six-day trip to Abuja, Nigeria -- ''during my father's visit," according to the invoice -- and a 15-day trip to the UN General Assembly in September 1998, during which he stayed at his father's home.

The Long Emergency

No combination of alternative fuels will allow us to run American life the way we have been used to running it, or even a substantial fraction of it. The wonders of steady technological progress achieved through the reign of cheap oil have lulled us into a kind of Jiminy Cricket syndrome, leading many Americans to believe that anything we wish for hard enough will come true. These days, even people who ought to know better are wishing ardently for a seamless transition from fossil fuels to their putative replacements.
The widely touted "hydrogen economy" is a particularly cruel hoax. We are not going to replace the U.S. automobile and truck fleet with vehicles run on fuel cells. For one thing, the current generation of fuel cells is largely designed to run on hydrogen obtained from natural gas. The other way to get hydrogen in the quantities wished for would be electrolysis of water using power from hundreds of nuclear plants. Apart from the dim prospect of our building that many nuclear plants soon enough, there are also numerous severe problems with hydrogen's nature as an element that present forbidding obstacles to its use as a replacement for oil and gas, especially in storage and transport.
Wishful notions about rescuing our way of life with "renewables" are also unrealistic. Solar-electric systems and wind turbines face not only the enormous problem of scale but the fact that the components require substantial amounts of energy to manufacture and the probability that they can't be manufactured at all without the underlying support platform of a fossil-fuel economy. We will surely use solar and wind technology to generate some electricity for a period ahead but probably at a very local and small scale.
The upshot of all this is that we are entering a historical period of potentially great instability, turbulence and hardship. Obviously, geopolitical maneuvering around the world's richest energy regions has already led to war and promises more international military conflict. Since the Middle East contains two-thirds of the world's remaining oil supplies, the U.S. has attempted desperately to stabilize the region by, in effect, opening a big police station in Iraq. The intent was not just to secure Iraq's oil but to modify and influence the behavior of neighboring states around the Persian Gulf, especially Iran and Saudi Arabia. The results have been far from entirely positive, and our future prospects in that part of the world are not something we can feel altogether confident about. [thanks to Donna]

Case Allegedly Shows U.S. Practice of Secret Arrests

Some of the cases that have come to light in recent months have included allegations that the CIA turned suspects over to countries where they were interrogated and brutally tortured. Critics say the cases paint a pattern of CIA agents outsourcing torture to foreign governments, including Egypt, Syria and Jordan. The Bush administration denies those charges.
Hila's case, which traces one man's circuitous route to Guantanamo, is different. His disappearance appears to be an example of a foreign government turning over a detainee to the Americans after a brief period of interrogation. Hila's letters indicate that he was arrested by the Egyptians, and that he had spent at most three months in their custody before being turned over to the Americans.
A Human Rights Watch report released Tuesday called Hila's case a "reverse rendition," charging that "Hila was essentially kidnapped off the streets of Cairo and then 'disappeared' in U.S. custody."

Nine States Sue Gov't Over Mercury Rules

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., said the reductions announced earlier this month by the Environmental Protection Agency, do not go far enough to satisfy Clear Air Act requirements.
The reductions aim to cut mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants by nearly half within 15 years, but opponents say the plan provides an out for the worst polluters by allowing them to trade "pollution credits" with cleaner plants.

"EPA's emissions trading plan will allow some power plants to actually increase mercury emissions, creating hot spots of mercury deposition and threatening communities," said Attorney General Peter Harvey of New Jersey, lead plaintiff in the case. "It's an anti-human health position. The EPA is putting private profit ahead of public health, and it's a mistake."

Bush talks trash about U.S. bonds

In this instance, the bogus threat conjured by Mr. Bush and his conservative supporters is the U.S. government’s abandonment of its commitment to generations of workers who paid taxes into the Social Security system. They tell us that the system is going bankrupt, that the system is "flat broke" -- by which they mean that the bonds held by the Social Security trust fund are worthless. The catch phrase they use is "worthless I.O.U.’s."
This is an argument that can be convincing only to someone who has no idea how government is financed every day -- which is to say, someone who doesn’t know that governments subsist on borrowing, just like corporations and families, and they always have. The scale is different, but the principle remains the same. If Treasury bonds are indeed "worthless," then the government itself must be on the verge of collapse.

Neurologist Cranford confronted Scarborough, MSNBC daytime anchor: "[Y]ou're asking me if a CAT scan was done? How could you possibly be so stupid?"

SCARBOROUGH: Now, the question on everybody's mind tonight is this: How is Terri Schiavo doing? You know, it's been 10 days. She is starting her 11th day now without food and water. Let's go back to Pinellas Park [Florida], where Lisa Daniels [MSNBC daytime anchor] is standing by -- Lisa.

DANIELS: Well, Joe, at this point, we are going to delve into the medical aspect of the story. I want to bring in Dr. Ronald Cranford. He's a neurologist at Hennepin Medical Center in Minneapolis. And, Doctor, before we continue, I want our viewers to understand what your role was in the legal case. I understand that Michael Schiavo and his team asked you to examine his wife. Is that correct?

CRANFORD: Yes. Yes, they did.

DANIELS: And from my understanding, I just want to be accurate, you examined Terri Schiavo for about 45 minutes. Is that right?

CRANFORD: I think 42 minutes, but 45 is fine, sure.

DANIELS: All right. Well, we want to be accurate here. What was your conclusion at the end of --


CRANFORD: Wait a minute. You are not accurate on a lot of things here. You're saying a lot of -- she's not starving to death. Do you understand that? She is dehydrating to death.

DANIELS: Well, why do you say that? Tell us how you came to that conclusion?


CRANFORD: Can I tell you why? Because I have done this 25 to 50 times. I don't know how many times Joe has done it, but I've done it 25 to 50 times in similar situations. And they die within 10 to 14 days.

Michigan Preparing To Let Doctors Refuse To Treat Gays

Doctors or other health care providers could not be disciplined or sued if they refuse to treat gay patients under legislation passed Wednesday by the Michigan House.
The bill allows health care workers to refuse service to anyone on moral, ethical or religious grounds.
The Republican dominated House passed the measure as dozens of Catholics looked on from the gallery. The Michigan Catholic Conference, which pushed for the bills, hosted a legislative day for Catholics on Wednesday at the state Capitol.
The bills now go the Senate, which also is controlled by Republicans.
The Conscientious Objector Policy Act would allow health care providers to assert their objection within 24 hours of when they receive notice of a patient or procedure with which they don't agree. However, it would prohibit emergency treatment to be refused.

The Art of Manufactured News

For viewers, discerning real news from pitches has never been harder. Sometimes the paid “newscasts” are authentic reports sponsored by a client. Other times, they’re corporate videos disguised as newscasts. Medialink has made buys for the latter on Rainbow Networks’ AMC and Fuse channels, among others, and for General Motors Corp., Siemens AG and Philips. One of its competitors, News Broadcast Network (NBN), a New York-based company that distributes conventional VNRs and corporate B-rolls, buys remnant time on cable networks and on stations in small TV markets, as well as on radio stations.
The rewards can be enormous: Recently, NBN distributed a “Super Bowl” package to stations nationwide featuring replays of ads that ran during the game. The package included expert commentary from NFL execs, an ad reporter at USA Today and Ed Lubars, the chief creative officer of BBDO, the ad agency that created the most Super Bowl spots. NBN estimates that the VNR, which generally costs tens of thousands of dollars, generated 950 broadcasts reaching 74.5 million viewers, a number that approaches the 86 million viewers reached by the original Super Bowl telecast.
The advertisers sponsoring the VNR, including Pizza Hut, Visa and Degree deodorant, got residual mileage, paid nothing to produce the spot, which was recycled from their own B-roll material, and paid only thousands of dollars to distribute it.

NASA: Development of Nuclear Reactors for Space Electric Power Applications

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) and to conduct scoping for the research and development activities associated with nuclear fission reactors to produce electrical power for potential use in space on future NASA exploration missions.

Two-thirds of world's resources 'used up'

The study contains what its authors call "a stark warning" for the entire world. The wetlands, forests, savannahs, estuaries, coastal fisheries and other habitats that recycle air, water and nutrients for all living creatures are being irretrievably damaged. In effect, one species is now a hazard to the other 10 million or so on the planet, and to itself.
"Human activity is putting such a strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted," it says.
The report, prepared in Washington under the supervision of a board chaired by Robert Watson, the British-born chief scientist at the World Bank and a former scientific adviser to the White House, will be launched today at the Royal Society in London. It warns that:
· Because of human demand for food, fresh water, timber, fibre and fuel, more land has been claimed for agriculture in the last 60 years than in the 18th and 19th centuries combined.
· An estimated 24% of the Earth's land surface is now cultivated.
· Water withdrawals from lakes and rivers has doubled in the last 40 years. Humans now use between 40% and 50% of all available freshwater running off the land.
· At least a quarter of all fish stocks are overharvested. In some areas, the catch is now less than a hundredth of that before industrial fishing.
· Since 1980, about 35% of mangroves have been lost, 20% of the world's coral reefs have been destroyed and another 20% badly degraded.
· Deforestation and other changes could increase the risks of malaria and cholera, and open the way for new and so far unknown disease to emerge.

Sanchez Perjury Proof ? That depends on the meaning of "never"

Mainstream media once again caught with pants down as blogger citizen-journalist notes apparent perjury by Gen. Sanchez during testimony before the US Congress concerning whether he authorized torture or not. The Globe and Mail noticed the ACLU release of a FOIA-obtained memo showing that Sanchez did in fact authorize torture, but the implication of perjury seems to have escaped MSM notice, to be pointed out by a blogger Metafilter's own citizen journalist Mark Kraft, who declares : "Sanchez is clearly guilty of perjury, and should face the wrath of Congress... and the Senate should determine the guilt of his boss, Donald Rumsfeld, while they're at it."
The case all hinges on the meaning of the word "never" which - rumor holds - is much more flexible in Sanchez' native "Never-never Land" where - as with the rumored numerous Eskimo terms for different kinds of snow - denizens of that realm have many different meanings for "never", some of which in fact mean "sometimes" or "occasionally"

Sony ordered to pay $90.7 mil. in patent infringement suit

The U.S. District Court in Oakland, California, has ordered Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. and its U.S. unit to pay $90.7 million in damages to Immersion Corp. for patent infringement over controllers used with PlayStation game consoles.
In the ruling handed down Thursday, the federal court also ordered Sony Computer Entertainment and Sony Entertainment America Inc. to stop selling the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 game consoles using Dualshock controllers as well as more than 40 game software products. (Kyodo News)

Suppressing free speech at Bush events - by three people who were expelled

After allowing taxpayers to finance his privatization events (let's call them what they really are after all,) and after using the White House communications apparatus to set them up, Bush is privatizing the ticket distribution and security staffing at his events to the Republican Party. The losers are not just taxpayers, but anyone who values the First Amendment. Under the banner of a "private event" the Republican Party is excluding citizens from seeing their president because of the lone sin of expressing the wrong idea on a bumper sticker or t-shirt. The question for Americans is - will we allow our freedom to be privatized?

A Few Notes from the Grokster Argument

The big issue that the Justices were wrestling with, it seemed to me, is what the standard ought to be for deciding whether services like Grokster can be secondarily liable for their users’ copyright infringement. The Justices did not sound especially satisfied with either MGM’s or the government’s answers to this question. MGM’s view was and is a little odd; their argument to the Court was that the legality of a technology should turn upon the type of business model the developer of that technology adopts to distribute it. On this view, Sony is off the hook because Sony is not a company that is primarily in the business of copyright infringement. But Grokster should be held accountable because they intentionally founded a business based expressly on encouraging infringement of copyright. It does not matter, in MGM’s view, whether the infringing use of Grokster’s system constitutes 90% or 10% of the total: because its whole business plan is geared around using the promise of infringing content to lure customers, it should be liable.

Animal Rights Groups and Ecology Militants Make DHS Terrorist List, Right-Wing Vigilantes Omitted

According to the list — part of a draft planning document obtained by CQ Homeland Security — between now and 2011 DHS expects to contend primarily with adversaries such as al Qaeda and other foreign entities affiliated with the Islamic Jihad movement, as well as domestic radical Islamist groups.
It also lists left-wing domestic groups, such as the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), as terrorist threats, but it does not mention anti-government groups, white supremacists and other radical right-wing movements, which have staged numerous terrorist attacks that have killed scores of Americans. Recent attacks on cars, businesses and property in Virginia, Oregon and California have been attributed to ELF.
DHS did not respond to repeated requests for comment or confirmation of the document’s authenticity.

UK Lawmakers Accuse U.S. of Grave Rights Violations

"We conclude that United States personnel appear to have committed grave violations of human rights of persons held in detention in various facilities in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and Afghanistan," the committee wrote in its influential annual report on human rights.
"We recommend that the government make it clear to the United States administration, both in public and private, that such treatment of detainees is unacceptable."
The committee said it was "surprising and unsettling" that the government had twice failed to answer whether London receives information extracted under torture by a third country.

U.S. deserter denied refugee status

An American war dodger who fled the U.S. military because he believed the invasion of Iraq was criminal has lost his bid for refugee status in Canada in a case closely watched on both sides of the border.
In a written ruling released Thursday, the Immigration and Refugee Board said Jeremy Hinzman had not made a convincing argument that he faced persecution or cruel and unusual punishment in the United States.

Report: TSA misled public on passenger data

The Transportation Security Administration misled the public about its role in obtaining personal information about 12 million airline passengers to test a new computerized system that screens for terrorists, according to a government investigation.
The report, released Friday by Homeland Security Department Acting Inspector General Richard Skinner, said the agency misinformed individuals, the press and Congress in 2003 and 2004. It stopped short of saying TSA lied.

Bush's end-of-life decisions unequal

Just last week in Texas a 6-month-old baby died when doctors removed a breathing tube against a mother's wishes. State law in Texas has given hospital ethics boards the power to determine when doctors may suspend life-sustaining care, regardless of an individual's stated desires or a family's beliefs. In taking this decision away from the family and putting it in the hands of hospital administrators, the Texas legislature made the unambiguous statement that state government did not support an absolute right to life.
Gov. George W. Bush signed this bill into law in 1999.

'Fox Blocker' Inventor

Kimery figures he's sold about 100 of the little silver bits of metal that screw into the back of most televisions, allowing people to filter Fox News from their sets, since its August debut.
The Tulsa, Okla., resident also has received thousands of e-mails, both angry and complimentary — as well as a few death threats.
"Apparently the making of terroristic threats against those who don't share your views is a high art form among a certain core audience," said Kimery, 45.
Formerly a registered Republican, even a precinct captain, Kimery became an independent in the 1990s when he said the state party stopped taking input from its everyday members.

Is it Pentagon policy to target reporters?

[UnknownNews Reviews stories from the past four years.]

Pentagon Will Not Try 17 G.I.'s Implicated in Prisoners' Deaths

Despite recommendations by Army investigators, commanders have decided not to prosecute 17 American soldiers implicated in the deaths of three prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004, according to a new accounting released Friday by the Army.
Investigators had recommended that all 17 soldiers be charged in the cases, according to the accounting by the Army Criminal Investigation Command. The charges included murder, conspiracy and negligent homicide. While none of the 17 will face any prosecution, one received a letter of reprimand and another was discharged after the investigations.

State records show Bush re-election concerns played part in FEMA aid

As the second hurricane in less than a month bore down on Florida last fall, a federal consultant predicted a "huge mess" that could reflect poorly on President Bush and suggested that his re-election staff be brought in to minimize any political liability, records show.
Two weeks later, a Florida official summarizing the hurricane response wrote that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was handing out housing assistance "to everyone who needs it without asking for much information of any kind."
The records are contained in hundreds of pages of Gov. Jeb Bush's storm-related e-mails initially requested by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel Oct. 13.
The governor's office finally released the documents Friday, after threat of a lawsuit by the newspaper.

Bush: U.S. to Sell F-16s to Pakistan

Pakistan initially wants to buy about two dozen aircraft, but Bush administration officials said there would be no limits on how many it could eventually purchase. The administration tried to balance the sale by announcing simultaneously that it would allow U.S. firms the right to provide India the next generation of sophisticated, multirole combat aircraft, including upgraded F-16 and F-18 warplanes, as well as develop broader cooperation in military command and control, early-warning detection, and missile defense systems.

Fort Bragg Officer's Hiccups, Death A Mystery

The family of a Fort Bragg officer recently back from Iraq said Capt. Terrance Wright seemed to hiccup almost constantly for weeks before he died earlier this month.
The Army said Wright died of an unknown illness shortly after returning from Iraq in February. His body was found in a Fayetteville motel room on March 2.
Wright's mother, Sandra Wright, and an aunt, Karen Wright, said Wright had been a healthy 33-year-old before he deployed to Iraq in November. It was his second tour in Iraq.

Hyundai Helped Fund North Korean Uranium Program: Expert

Larry A. Niksch of the Congressional Research Service (CRS), who regularly publishes reports on North Korea and the Korea-U.S. relationship, said in his Feb. 22 report Hyundai funds went into accelerating North Korea's secret HEU development program. He said the money Hyundai gave Pyongyang accounted for at least 30 percent of North Korea's foreign currency earnings between 1999 and 2000.
According to a CIA estimate, it was between this time and 2001 that North Korea accelerated its HEU program, he said. He added it was at that time that the North went shopping for supplies and parts from abroad for the program, and its HEU program went from the research and development stage to procuring and installing equipment capable of producing weapons.
But Niksch said the conclusion about the ultimate use of Hyundai's money was not the CIA's but his own, based on strong circumstantial evidence.
The report said Hyundai's funds went straight into the Korean Workers Party's Bureau 39 reportedly managed by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Bureau 39 has been in charge of obtaining parts and supplies for the country's weapons of mass destruction program. Hyundai is said to have paid North Korea an estimated US$600 million for its Geumgang Mountains tourism project and two other business projects in the North, as well as US$500 million in under-the-table remittances, between 1999 and 2003.
Niksch first fingered Hyundai for covert transactions with the

Florida: TV reporter earned money from state

At the same time one of Florida's most visible television reporters brought the news to viewers around the state, he earned hundreds of thousands of dollars on the side from the government agencies he covered.
Mike Vasilinda, a 30-year veteran of the Tallahassee press corps, does public relations work and provides film editing services to more than a dozen state agencies.
His Tallahassee company, Mike Vasilinda Productions Inc., has earned more than $100,000 over the past four years through contracts with Gov. Jeb Bush's office, the Secretary of State, the Department of Education and other government entities that are routinely part of Vasilinda's stories.
Vasilinda also was paid to work on campaign ads for at least one politician and to create a promotional movie for Leon County. One of his biggest state contracts was a 1996 deal that paid nearly $900,000 to air the weekly drawing for the Florida Lottery.

ndustry Aims to Defeat Discount Drug Initiatives

Facing pressure from many states to provide cheaper prescription drugs, the pharmaceutical industry has launched its most aggressive counterattack in California, where the issue is threatening to explode on the ballot as early as this fall.
The industry already has raised an unprecedented $8.6 million to defeat a ballot initiative being readied by Health Access California, an Oakland-based nonprofit, even before the authors have gathered enough signatures to qualify it for the next election.
The Health Access measure would compel drug makers to offer discounts to 6 million to 10 million Californians — making a substantial dent in the industry's profits and offering what it considers an unwelcome model for other states to follow.
The companies are treating that approach, which is paralleled by Democratic legislation pending in the state Assembly, as far graver than last year's press to allow the importation of Canadian drugs.

Confusing Medicare Applications Sent to Low-Income Americans

The Bush administration said Monday that it had sent the first of some 20 million applications to low-income people who might qualify for financial assistance with Medicare's new prescription drug benefit.
But lawyers and other advocates for low-income people said the form was so complex that they expected fewer than 5 percent of the people to respond.
...One section of the new form asks people to distinguish between the face value and the cash value of life insurance. "Do you or your spouse (if married and living together) own life insurance policies with a total face value of $1,500 or more?" the form asks. "If the answer for either you or your spouse is yes, how much money would you get if you turned in your insurance policies for cash right now?"
Another question asks people how much money they receive from friends and relatives to help pay for food, shelter and utilities.
Administration officials said they needed such information to decide whether a person's income and assets were low enough to qualify for extra assistance.

Blog Tracking for Journalists

As the number of weblogs -- and their influence -- continues to grow, it's becoming increasingly important for journalists to keep an eye on them.
A free new tool, PubSub (, can help you monitor the blogosphere chatter and other online information in real time. PubSub scans more than 9 million weblogs, more than 50,000 Internet newsgroups, and all SEC (EDGAR) filings. In the coming months, the company plans to add more data streams.
PubSub can help journalists find new sources, anecdotes, trends, and more. For an idea of the types of things PubSub can help you monitor, check out the links on this page of sample subscriptions:

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

"...God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government."

The re-introduction of this bill on March 3rd seemed to have been hardly noticed. It was first brought up last year by Senator Richard Shelby, Rep. Robert Aderholt, and Roy "Ten Commandments" Moore. I wonder if section 201 of the CRA will affect Article VI, Sect. 2. (born of, the 2004 thread (s)) [from]

Stem Cells From Hair Follicles Can Change into Neurons, Study Shows

Much of the controversy surrounding research on stem cells hinges on the source of the cells--particularly whether they come from embryonic sources or adult ones. Now research published online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides new insight into the abilities of stem cells taken from hair follicles. The results indicate that these adult stem cells can develop into neurons.
Inside a hair follicle is a small bulge that houses stem cells. As hair follicles cycle through growth and rest periods, these stem cells periodically differentiate into new follicle cells. Yasuyuki Amoh of AntiCancer, Inc. and his colleagues isolated stem cells from the whiskers of mice and tested their ability to become more sophisticated cell types. The researchers cultured the cells and after one week discovered that they had changed into neurons and two other cell types--known as astrocytes and oligodendrocytes--that are associated with neurons. According to the report, when left for longer periods lasting weeks or months, the stem cells could differentiate into a variety of cell types, including skin and muscle cells.

US draws up list of unstable countries which may lead to intervention

US intelligence services are drawing up a secret watch-list of 25 countries in which instability might lead to US intervention, according to officials in charge of a new office set up to co-ordinate planning for nation-building and conflict prevention.
The list will be composed and revised every six months by the National Intelligence Council, which collates intelligence for strategic planning, according to Carlos Pascual, head of the newly formed office of reconstruction and stabilisation.
The new State Department office amounts to recognition by the Bush administration that it needs to get better at nation-building, a concept it once scorned as social work disguised as foreign policy, following its failures in Iraq.
But advisers say its small budget $17m requested from Congress this year and $124m in fiscal 2006 reflects a lack of commitment. They say the administration remains divided about the merits of nation-building and the international institutions that do it.

Environmentalists and National Security Officials Team Up Against Gas Guzzlers

A group of former national security officials Monday took up the cause of weaning U.S. drivers from their oil addiction -- normally the realm of environmental groups -- and asked the Bush administration to spend $1 billion on lighter, more fuel-efficient automobiles.
Retail U.S. gasoline prices now averaging above $2 a gallon make U.S. reliance on foreign suppliers like Venezuela and Saudi Arabia a looming national security crisis, a group of 31 national security officials said in a letter to President Bush.
"This really constitutes a national security crisis in the making," said letter signer Frank Gaffney, head of the Center for Security Policy, a thinktank, and a former Defense Department official under former President Reagan.
Other signers included Robert McFarlane, Reagan's national security advisor, and James Woolsey, Central Intelligence Agency director under President Clinton.
In an uncharacteristic move, the security experts sought input from groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council, which have long lobbied for more fuel-efficient cars.

The Battle Over the Digital Spectrum

The spectrum is far more lucrative today than anyone dreamed possible back in 1927, when the federal government began regulating use of the spectrum by handing out licenses to radio broadcasters to transmit their signals. And because of the airwaves' immense value, the battle for control of the frequencies that make up the spectrum has been a premier influence-peddling bonanza in Washington.
From the beginning, the key combatant has been the National Association of Broadcasters, which organized itself into a lobby in the 1920s, even before the Federal Communications Commission was formed in 1934. For more than 75 years, the NAB has been fighting to help the broadcasting industry hold on to its slice of the spectrum -- the frequencies TV and radio stations use for their broadcasts -- in the face of demands from competing technologies and rival industries, and even public safety concerns.
In the 1980s, when the FCC appeared ready to reallocate some of the spectrum for public safety, the NAB persuaded Congress to block the commission and hold off the change because, the broadcasters said, they needed the spectrum to develop high-definition television. Yet soon thereafter, the broadcasters abandoned HDTV, and it nearly died.
Although HDTV finally seems ready to fulfill its promise, broadcasters continue to fight to keep control of nearly all of the best frequencies. Facing threats from cable and other rivals, broadcasters gain enormous leverage over their competitors by controlling valuable frequencies.

Harpers: The religious right and the right to die

the alarms raised in America’s ongoing right-to-die debate have always been characterized by a curious selectivity. You will notice, for example, how the fear of playing God operates exclusively on one side of the medical playground. Thus to help a patient end his or her life “prematurely” is playing God, while extending it in ways and under conditions that no God lacking horns and a cloven hoof could ever have intended is the mandate of “our Judeo-Christian heritage” and the Hippocratic oath. Let someone like Dr. Thompson step out of bounds to honor the spirit of his patient’s advance directives, and we will be told that he is eroding respect for the medical profession. But in cases involving a medical professional who blatantly ignores such directives, we are reminded that doctors don’t always have time to review patient files while making difficult decisions. They’re not God, after all.
When former Attorney General John Ashcroft thrice challenged the Oregon Death with Dignity law, threatening to prosecute participating physicians under DEA regulations (a threat that now stands at the bench of the Supreme Court), nobody mentioned the dangerous course toward theocratic despotism—or rather some did mention it, though their voices were effectively drowned out by larger moral concerns, such as those occasioned by the sight of Janet Jackson’s breast or a gay groom’s boutonniere.
When the Vatican issued its 2004 statement against the removal of feeding tubes from vegetative patients, a development that has even conservative ethicists and devout Catholic physicians slapping their foreheads in disbelief, few commentators spoke about returning to a day, no farther back than the 1970s, when a dying patient who begged not to be intubated would have her wrists tied like those of a condemned witch so that she could not pull the instruments of salvation from her body. Instead we are told that time will be required “to reflect upon the ruling”—time that translates in concrete human terms to a slow and horrible death.

New Material - Super-Atoms

Time to revise the periodic table? Maybe we should, now that we have a new class of chemical building blocks called superatoms—atomic clusters that behave like individual atoms. Motivated by evidence that electrons in groups of aluminum atoms might form closed “shells,” physicists A. Welford Castleman Jr. at Pennsylvania State University and Shiv N. Khanna at Virginia Commonwealth University began searching for stable configurations of these atoms. “We thought if we could figure out some way of taking advantage of this, maybe we could make some new materials,” says Castleman. “Then we found a few magic numbers.”
To create the clusters, Castleman and his colleagues used a process called laser vaporization. A high-energy laser coaxed “seeds” from an aluminum rod into merging by trapping them in a pressurized stream of helium gas. The most interesting result so far is an assemblage of 13 aluminum atoms (plus an extra electron) that could be used to supercharge rocket fuel. Aluminum boosts a fuel’s thrust, but it also degrades quickly in the presence of oxygen, making it difficult to store. The atom cluster, on the other hand, is immune to oxidation. “We found that it did not react at all with oxygen,” says Castleman.

More anti-Beatles agitprop

More fabulous cover art from another anti-Beatles religious pamphlet penned by David Noebel, author of such insightful works of music/culture criticism as Communism, Hypnotism, and The Beatles (1965), The Marxist Minstrels: A Handbook on Communist Subversion of Music (1974), and The Legacy of John Lennon: Charming or Harming A Generation? (1982). Click image for a better view.

David Byrne launches internet radio station

Musician and artist David Byrne, known most widely as co-founder of the Talking Heads, has just launched an internet radio station that streams the music he digs. I spoke with Mr. Byrne earlier today about the project for NPR's "Day to Day." Part of the interview will be included in a segment airing on the show tomorrow about filesharing and cultural change.
Link to Radio David Byrne. It's also available via iTunes in the "Eclectic" category.

Agents readied in case 'legal window' opened

Gov. Jeb Bush on Wednesday asked Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents in Clearwater to stand ready to seize Terri Schiavo should a "legal window of opportunity come," an FDLE spokesman said Friday.
An attorney for Michael Schiavo said his legal team was informed that officials from FDLE and the Department of Children and Families were en route to take the brain-damaged woman from her Pinellas Park hospice to Morton Plant Hospital Wednesday, so they went to Pinellas Circuit Judge George Greer, who ordered the state officials to stay away.
Bush spokeswoman Alia Faraj denied Friday that Bush ever intended to act without judicial approval.
"There was no plan," she said. "We were working through the legal process. We were hopeful that the new information would raise enough doubt to give her another opportunity."

Krugman: What's Going On?

Everyone knows about the attempt to circumvent the courts through "Terri's law." But there has been little national exposure for a Miami Herald report that Jeb Bush sent state law enforcement agents to seize Terri Schiavo from the hospice - a plan called off when local police said they would enforce the judge's order that she remain there.
And the future seems all too likely to bring more intimidation in the name of God and more political intervention that undermines the rule of law.
The religious right is already having a big impact on education: 31 percent of teachers surveyed by the National Science Teachers Association feel pressured to present creationism-related material in the classroom.
But medical care is the cutting edge of extremism.
Yesterday The Washington Post reported on the growing number of pharmacists who, on religious grounds, refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control or morning-after pills. These pharmacists talk of personal belief; but the effect is to undermine laws that make these drugs available. And let me make a prediction: soon, wherever the religious right is strong, many pharmacists will be pressured into denying women legal drugs.
And it won't stop there. There is a nationwide trend toward "conscience" or "refusal" legislation. Laws in Illinois and Mississippi already allow doctors and other health providers to deny virtually any procedure to any patient. Again, think of how such laws expose doctors to pressure and intimidation.
But the big step by extremists will be an attempt to eliminate the filibuster, so that the courts can be packed with judges less committed to upholding the law than Mr. Greer.
We can't count on restraint from people like Mr. DeLay, who believes that he's on a mission to bring a "biblical worldview" to American politics, and that God brought him a brain-damaged patient to help him with that mission.

From her perspective, it was just opening fire by a tank

Giuliana Sgrena, the freed Italian journalist who was shot at by American troops upon her release, sets the record straight: there was no checkpoint, she was on a secure VIP road that runs directly from the Green Zone to the Baghdad airport, and her car was shot at from behind. Transcript, audio, and video of an interview with Naomi Klein, who talked to Sgrena in Rome. [from]

Sentence Overturned Because Jurers Used Bible Passages

Ruling that juries cannot turn to the Bible for advice during deliberations, a divided Colorado Supreme Court threw out the death penalty for a convicted murderer because jurors discussed verses from Scripture.
In a 3-2 vote on Monday, justices ordered Robert Harlan to serve life without parole for kidnapping Rhonda Maloney and raping her at gunpoint for two hours before fatally shooting her.
...Defense attorney Kathleen Lord, arguing before the state Supreme Court last month, said the jurors had gone outside the law. ``They went to the Bible to find out God's position on capital punishment,'' she said.
Prosecutors countered, saying jurors should be allowed to refer to the Bible or other religious texts during deliberations.
Monday's ruling said the Bible and other religious writings are considered ``codes of law by many'' in Colorado. But noting that it takes a unanimous jury to impose a death sentence here, the court said ``at least one juror in this case could have been influenced by these authoritative passages ... when he or she may otherwise have voted for a life sentence.''

Let's all take scripture literally, shall we?

Sentence Overturned Because Jurers Used Bible Passages

Ruling that juries cannot turn to the Bible for advice during deliberations, a divided Colorado Supreme Court threw out the death penalty for a convicted murderer because jurors discussed verses from Scripture.
In a 3-2 vote on Monday, justices ordered Robert Harlan to serve life without parole for kidnapping Rhonda Maloney and raping her at gunpoint for two hours before fatally shooting her.
...Defense attorney Kathleen Lord, arguing before the state Supreme Court last month, said the jurors had gone outside the law. ``They went to the Bible to find out God's position on capital punishment,'' she said.
Prosecutors countered, saying jurors should be allowed to refer to the Bible or other religious texts during deliberations.
Monday's ruling said the Bible and other religious writings are considered ``codes of law by many'' in Colorado. But noting that it takes a unanimous jury to impose a death sentence here, the court said ``at least one juror in this case could have been influenced by these authoritative passages ... when he or she may otherwise have voted for a life sentence.''

Let's all take scripture literally, shall we?