Saturday, April 16, 2005

DeLay seeks congressional review of Schiavo case

The House Judiciary Committee could seek to impeach those judges, but that seems highly unlikely as even many of DeLay's fellow Republicans have voiced opposition to that option.
DeLay, a Texas Republican, declined to say if he believed any of the judges should be impeached but told his weekly news conference, "I've asked the Judiciary Committee to look at the case and the actions of the federal judiciary and make their recommendations."
Recommendations could include legislation on the jurisdiction of federal courts in "right-to-die" cases or, as a likely first step, a hearing on how the courts handled Schiavo. The Florida woman, who suffered severe brain damage 15 years ago, died last month following the court-ordered removal of her feeding tube amid a bitter family dispute.

FCC Among 2005 Muzzle Award Winners

The Federal Communications Commission and the motion-picture rating board are among the 2005 winners of the Jefferson Muzzle awards, given for perceived squelching of free expression.
The FCC was recognized for ``substantially escalating sanctions for broadcasting 'indecent' material over radio and television airwaves but doing little to define such material,'' according to the Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression.

Other ``muzzles'' announced Tuesday in the 14th annual awards include the Democratic and Republican national parties for allowing authorities to curb protests during the 2004 presidential race; the Virginia House of Delegates for passing a bill criminalizing low-riding pants; and the U.S. Marshals Service for confiscating and erasing journalists' audio recordings of a speech by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Each year, the awards mark the April 13 birthday of Thomas Jefferson, the nation's third president and First Amendment advocate.

Chernobyl 19 Years Later

Today the town that once hosted 47,000 citizens is a ghostly space of empty buildings and roads invaded by advancing flora.
The houses, libraries, schools, and sports and recreational centers in what was a model of socialist urbanization built in the seventies, have since the disaster seen only looters, scientists, and a few adventurous tourists.

Entering the local school presents the visitor with a spine-chilling scenery of desks, open books, rotten pianos and gas masks scattered over a floor that looks ready to give in. This school, like the buildings surrounding it, has remained untouched for almost two decades.
[Previously at Synaptic Junction:]
Ghost Town Toby Stone writes of this site: "this site is a photojournal of a young russian woman's motorcycle trip through what is left of the town & area surrounding chernobyl. it takes a while to read in it's entirety; but it is eloquent & moving in a way rarely encountered." Thanks to Mint Rahaman for the link.

EU Nations to Ban Suspected GMO Corn Imports

European Union nations voted Friday to ban U.S. shipments of suspect corn gluten animal feed unless the bloc has full assurance that the imports are free of genetically modified corn.
The move could affect millions of dollars' worth of corn gluten exports. The dispute centers on a batch of Bt10 genetically modified corn that Swiss agrochemicals company Syngenta inadvertently sold in the United States and exported to Europe without approval.
U.S. shipments of corn gluten feed to the EU totaled 347 million euros ($450 million) last year.

Climate change wreaking havoc with seasons

Climate change is playing havoc with the timing of the seasons and could drastically alter the landscape, according to one of the most comprehensive studies of its kind.
...The findings were submitted to scientists at the UK Phenology Network by hundreds of paid observers across the country and have been combined with environmental data over three centuries. The study is bound to intensify calls for tighter controls on environmental pollution linked to climate change.
The report, published yesterday in the BBC Wildlife Magazine, provides startling evidence of how nature is reacting to rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns. Authors of the report have calculated that spring starts around six days earlier for every 1C temperature rise but not all species are affected in the same way.

Erasing debts in bankruptcy to get harder

The overhaul is intended to make it more difficult for consumers to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 7, which allows debtors to erase their debts after they sell some of their assets. It will set up a new "means test" that will send more debtors into Chapter 13, forcing them into court-ordered payment plans. People with incomes above a state's median income who could pay at least $6,000 over five years would be expected to make payments.
Last year, nearly 1.6 million Americans filed for bankruptcy, including 17,076 in Minnesota. The new law could affect between 30,000 and 210,000 bankruptcy filers a year, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute.
Republican leaders were jubilant after eight years of failed attempts to change the law. It's expected to take effect six months after its enactment.
...Critics cited a study done by Harvard University in February which found that half of all personal bankruptcies are the result of medical bills.

Bush Administration Decides to Stop Publishing Annual Reports on International Terrorism

The State Department decided to stop publishing an annual report on international terrorism after the government's top terrorism center concluded that there were more terrorist attacks in 2004 than in any year since 1985, the first year the publication covered.
Several U.S. officials defended the abrupt decision, saying the methodology the National Counterterrorism Center used to generate statistics for the report may have been faulty, such as the inclusion of incidents that may not have been terrorism.
Last year, the number of incidents in 2003 was undercounted, forcing a revision of the report, "Patterns of Global Terrorism."
But other current and former officials charged that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's office ordered "Patterns of Global Terrorism" eliminated several weeks ago because the 2004 statistics raised disturbing questions about the Bush's administration's frequent claims of progress in the war against terrorism.
"Instead of dealing with the facts and dealing with them in an intelligent fashion, they try to hide their facts from the American public," charged Larry C. Johnson, a former CIA analyst and State Department terrorism expert who first disclosed the decision to eliminate the report in The Counterterrorism Blog, an online journal.
[Previous editions of "Patterns of Global Terrorism." From]

Intolerable Beauty — Portraits of American Mass Consumption

Container Yard #2, Seattle 2004
Chris Jordan’s large-format color photographs recently were exhibited at the Paul Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles. The Yossi Milo Gallery in New York will feature this body of work in a solo exhibition in September/October. In conjunction with these two shows, Chris has self-published a catalog featuring eighteen images from this project.

Scalia Confronts Protesters at NYU

Scalia visited NYU to receive an honor from the members of the NYU Annual Survey of American Law , which is dedicating their 2005 issue to Scalia.
Scalia is the subject of controversy for his dissenting opinion in Lawrence v. Texas, in which he criticized the decision to overturn a law that criminalized sodomy. While on the court he voted for the right to desecrate the American flag, and against the right to abortion and the right to engage in homosexual sex.
Prior to the dedication ceremony, Scalia met with law students for a Q-and-A session in Tishman Hall. The Q-and-A had limited seating - the audience was chosen randomly from students who RSVPed - and was closed to the press, though the discussion was simulcast on a projector across the hall.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Bush closing IRS assistance centers

Attracted by radio announcements, TV ads and word of mouth, more than 3,000 people have sought out free filing help this tax season at the nonprofit Total Community Action center.
Such volunteer sites may well find more traffic under a Bush administration plan to close up to a fourth of the Internal Revenue Service's 400 taxpayer assistance centers.
Total Community Action expects to help 4,000 people at its 11 centers by the April 15 filing deadline. Virtually everyone who comes through the door gets a tax refund, money that the anti-poverty center urges people to put toward savings, tuition or a home.

India's Statement at WIPO

Excerpt: The real "development" imperative is ensuring that the interest of Intellectual Property owners is not secured at the expense of the users of IP, of consumers at large, and of public policy in general. The proposal therefore seeks to incorporate int international IP law and practice, what developing countries have been demanding since TRIPS was forced on them in 1994.
The primary rationale for Intellectual Property protection is, first and foremost, to promote societal development by encouraging technological innovation. The legal monopoly granted to IP owners is an exceptional departure from the general principle of competitive markets as the best guarantee for securing the interest of society. The rationale for the exception is not that extraction of monopoly profits by the innovator is, of and in itself, good for society and so needs to be promoted. Rather, that properly controlled, such a monopoly, by providing an incentive for innovation, might produce sufficient benefits for society to compensate for the immediate loss to consumers as a result of the existence of a monopoly market instead of a competitive market. Monopoly rights, then, granted to IP holders is a special incentive that needs to be carefully calibrated by each country, in the light of its own circumstances, taking into account the overall costs and benefits of such protection.

Blaming the Aggrieved - Gays and AIDS

William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, asserted that "[t]he gay community has yet to apologize to straight people for all the damage that they have done" and denounced gays for "asking for more rights" while allegedly "acting so morally delinquent."
From the April 11 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country:

DONOHUE: Look, look, there's a new strain of HIV available in New York City. It's because of gay men. All right? All the talk about condoms --
RACHEL MADDOW (guest and Air America radio host): Or virology.
DONOHUE: The fact of the matter is it's due to the behavioral recklessness of gay men in New York City, that they're endangering the lives of everybody. So, you want to talk about the Catholic Church intervening in other people's lives? The gay community has yet to apologize to straight people for all the damage that they have done -- for contaminating the blood supply in New York City and around the country. And I find it amazing that, when people are acting so morally delinquent, that they're asking for more rights at the same time.
It seems to me that gay people in this country should apologize to the rest of the people, the way the pope has apologized to other people, and practice sexual reticence. Practice restraint, and you won't have the problem. It's entirely a result of behavioral recklessness that we have this disease [HIV/AIDS]. And it's a politically correct disease, isn't it?

Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich - and Cheat Everybody Else

[T]wo decades after the promise that lowering tax rates and reducing regulation would benefit everyone, the income gains were flowing straight up to the top of the income ladder. Even the derisive description by critics captured in the phrase "trickle-down economics" was not proving out. At the bottom there was less money for food, shelter and clothing. Four out of five Americans were making less or were no better off in 2000 than in 1970.
People in the middle class and even those making more than 95 percent of their fellow Americans were working harder than ever and going nowhere fast. For those on the ninetieth rung of the ladder, average income in 2000 was $90,271, which, after adjusting for inflation, was a one-fourth increase from the $72,320 in 1970. In real terms incomes for those on the ninetieth rung rose at less than 1 percent per year, which was far less than the rate of growth in the economy.
Those at the ninetieth rung saw their incomes rise at an annual average of less than $600 per year, compared to about $4,600 annually at the ninety-ninth rung and more than $672,000 annually for the top group, those 13,400 super-rich families.
[The first chapter is available at]

Senate Votes to Ban Video News Releases

The Senate passed a measure Thursday that would stop government agencies from using taxpayer funds to disguise video press releases as real news, putting the brakes on a product Democrats call propaganda. President Bush cautioned that some responsibility for full disclosure rests with news outlets.
"It's deceptive to the American people if it's not disclosed," Bush told the American Society of Newspaper Editors on Thursday. "But it's incumbent upon people who use them to say, 'This news clip was produced by the federal government.'"
Under it, taxpayer funds would be prohibited from being used for prepackaged news stories unless those stories contain "clear notification within the text or audio of the prepackaged news" that discloses it was prepared or funded by a federal agency.

Armstrong Williams Investigation Not Interviewing White House Staff

A senior House Democrat said Thursday that the Bush administration is shielding current and former White House officials from being interviewed in an investigation into the Education Department's hiring of commentator Armstrong Williams.
But White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the department's inspector general, who is investigating, lacks the authority to interview White House staff.
Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., said the inspector general, Jack Higgins, told him that he is being barred from interviewing current and former White House staffers who may have knowledge of the $240,000 contract the department had with Williams. It called for Williams to promote the No Child Left Behind education program.

U.S. Bill Would Help Women Get Birth Control

Addressing the growing controversy over U.S. pharmacists who refuse to dispense birth control or emergency contraceptives, several lawmakers on Thursday unveiled a bill that would require pharmacies to fill all prescriptions.
Led by New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg and New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney, both Democrats, the bill would require all pharmacies to fill prescriptions including birth control pills and the so-called morning after pill. The bill applies to pharmacies, not to an individual pharmacist.
"We are here to tell the right-wing that enough is absolutely enough," Maloney told supporters near the Capitol.
Lautenberg said that if pharmacies fill prescriptions for Viagra, a drug that treats erectile dysfunction, they should sell prescription contraceptives as well.
Their legislation, however, would face steep obstacles in the Republican-controlled Congress.

How Profit Became King

The here-and-now hot topic in newspapers these days is, as Richard Reeves has put it, "the future of journalism -- if any." Will Craigslist and Monster crush the industry's classified advertising cash cow? Is the blogosphere the leading edge of a mass exodus to reading news online and in non-traditional formats? Are news-aggregators poised to strip-mine expensive-to-produce content out of economically challenged papers?
Worthy questions all. But the companion story of how newspapers may have weakened themselves by weakening their commitment to news and public service remains highly relevant. It was not so very long ago -- the 1970s and 1980s -- that a high-minded commitment to quality and business success seemed entirely compatible. The Knight-Ridder chain was exemplary back then, a coast-to-coast enterprise that grew and prospered and consistently produced first-rate journalism.

A Dirty Little Footnote to the Energy Bill

The bill, which won easy approval from the House Energy and Commerce Committee late Wednesday, includes a waiver that would protect the chemical makers, which are some of the biggest oil giants in the United States, from all MTBE liability lawsuits filed since September 2003.
The House majority leader, Tom DeLay, and Representative Joe L. Barton, who heads the Energy and Commerce Committee, are staunch supporters of the waiver. Both are Republicans from Texas, where more than a dozen MTBE manufacturers are based.
While the protection is expected to survive a House floor vote later this month, the big fight looms in the Senate, which blocked passage in 2003 largely because of the waiver.
Mr. Barton said an energy bill, even one containing the controversial waiver, has a better chance of passing this time because of Congress's frustration with gasoline prices. But the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee seems no more inclined to support MTBE protection now. "For a lot of senators this is a deal-breaker issue that would prompt them to vote down again an energy bill that they would otherwise support," said Marnie Funk, the committee spokeswoman. [thanks to Sharon]

Execution by injection far from painless

Execution by lethal injection may not be the painless procedure most Americans assume, say researchers from Florida and Virginia.
They examined post-mortem blood levels of anaesthetic and believe that prisoners may have been capable of feeling pain in almost 90% of cases and may have actually been conscious when they were put to death in over 40% of cases.
Since 1976, when the death penalty was reinstated in the US, 788 people have been killed by lethal injection. The procedure typically involves the injection of three substances: first, sodium thiopental to induce anaesthesia, followed by pancuronium bromide to relax muscles, and finally potassium chloride to stop the heart.
But doctors and nurses are prohibited by healthcare professionals’ ethical guidelines from participating in or assisting with executions, and the technicians involved have no specific training in administering anaesthetics.

'Minority Report' interface created for US military

The system under development at Raytheon lets users don a pair of reflective gloves and manipulate images projected on a panoramic screen. A mounted camera keeps track of hand movements and a computer interprets gestures. "Your hand becomes a Swiss Army knife," says Underkoffler.
Raytheon plans to offer the technology as a way to sort through large amounts of satellite imagery and intelligence data. But the technology might also have non-military applications, says Stephen Brewster, who is also developing gesture-based computer interfaces at the University of Glasgow, UK.
"I think this is a very good idea," Brewster told New Scientist. "Hand gestures, unlike a mouse or pointer, work really well when data is represented on wall-sized displays, for example."

Frist Set to Use Religious Stage on Judicial Issue

As the Senate heads toward a showdown over the rules governing judicial confirmations, Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, has agreed to join a handful of prominent Christian conservatives in a telecast portraying Democrats as "against people of faith" for blocking President Bush's nominees.
Fliers for the telecast, organized by the Family Research Council and scheduled to originate at a Kentucky megachurch the evening of April 24, call the day "Justice Sunday" and depict a young man holding a Bible in one hand and a gavel in the other. The flier does not name participants, but under the heading "the filibuster against people of faith," it reads: "The filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias, and it is now being used against people of faith."

Beware of toxic blogs

Toxic blogs are been used to distribute malware and keyloggers, censorware firm Websense warns. Websense Security Labs said it has discovered "hundreds of instances" of blogs involved in the storage and delivery of harmful code this year. Anti-virus firms question why Websense has singled out blogs as a particular security risk but Websense does come up with at least one concrete example of the trick having been used in anger.
According to Websense, blogs can be attractive vehicles for hackers for several reasons — blogs offer large amounts of free storage, they rarely require any identity authentication to post information, and most blog hosting facilities do not provide antivirus protection for posted files.
In some cases, the culprits create a blog on a legitimate host site, post viral code or keylogging software to the page, and attract traffic to the toxic blog by sending a link through spam email or instant messaging (IM) to potential victims. Alternatively the blog can be used as a storage location from which PCs infected with Trojans "phone home" to get updated attack code.

Indecency Wars

News that the powerful chairman of the House Judiciary Committee wants to move indecency enforcement out of the hands of the Federal Communications Commission and start arresting broadcasters on criminal charges for indecency infractions is just the latest example of the aggressive bipartisan one-upmanship that's unfolding in Washington as politicians jockey for position over who can crack down harder, and with more imagination, against indecency on radio and television.
Public and legislative discussion of the indecency issue used to be limited almost exclusively to election-year cycles, but that tradition has been broken as momentum builds to institute the most radical FCC reforms in U.S. broadcast history. And unlike the last headline-making FCC debate -- over the contentious issue of media consolidation -- the current commission seems unified in its pursuit of those reforms, worrying activists who fear they skirt too close to censorship and would give politicians unprecedented control over the content of our culture.

US Officials Engaged in Mad Cow Coverup: Former Official

The claim by Lester Friedlander, a former USDA inspector fired in 1995, came as the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) aired video Wednesday of a cow stricken by the deadly illness that they say belonged to a US herd and was taken in 1997.
US officials have denied all the charges.

Three cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) have been discovered in Canada since 2003, prompting the United States, Japan and a number of other nations to ban or restrict imports of Canadian beef products and cattle.

The scare cost Canadian beef farmers billions of dollars.

Bush Questions Bush's New Requirement of Passports at Canadian Border

President Bush said yesterday that he was surprised by his administration's plans to require U.S. citizens to show a passport when reentering the country from Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean, and he ordered an administration review of whether the entry rules should be relaxed.
The changed policy, in the planning stages for months and announced April 5, is aimed at preventing terrorists from entering the country by exploiting what U.S. officials believe is today's overly permissive policy. In most cases, U.S. citizens must show only driver's licenses to reenter from Mexico and Canada. The new rules also will require Mexicans and Canadians to present a passport or another official document to enter this country.
"When I first read that in the newspaper about the need to have passports, particularly the day crossings that take place, about a million for instance in the state of Texas, I said, 'What's going on here?' "
[At least he's reading the paper now. Are there any other Bush policies we should get Bush to read?]

Those Most in Favor Have Least at Stake, Says Report

Chief executive officers (CEOs) of U.S. investment firms supporting Social Security's partial privatization effectively pay into the system for only a few days a year because those payments are capped and most financial industry CEOs get paid enough to enable them to reach the limit in the first few days of January, said a new report from the groups United For a Fair Economy (UFE) and Institute for America's Future.
By contrast, they said, ''the average 'Joe' taxpayer pays an effective rate that is more than 201 times the effective rate of the average CEO in this group.''
That is because average taxpayers contribute all year long, paying Social Security taxes on their entire annual earnings without ever reaching the annual cap of $87,900, according to the report, ''Taxpayers for a Day: The Most to Gain, the Least to Lose (.pdf).''

MIT Prank - Computer-Generated Nonsense Accepted for Scientific Conference

Jeremy Stribling said Thursday that he and two fellow MIT graduate students questioned the standards of some academic conferences, so they wrote a computer program to generate research papers complete with "context-free grammar," charts and diagrams.
The trio submitted two of the randomly assembled papers to the World Multi-Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics (WMSCI), scheduled to be held July 10-13 in Orlando, Florida.
To their surprise, one of the papers -- "Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy"[PDF] -- was accepted for presentation.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Tragedy of Today’s Gays - transcript of speech by Larry Kramer

Almost 60 million people whom we live and work with every day think we are immoral. “Moral values” was top of many lists of why people supported George Bush. Not Iraq. Not the economy. Not terrorism. “Moral values.” In case you need a translation that means us. It is hard to stand up to so much hate. Which of course is just the way they want it. Please know that a huge portion of the population of the United States hates us. I don’t mean dislike. I mean hate. You may not choose to call it hate, but I do. Not only because they refuse us certain marital rights but because they have also elected a congress that is overflowing with men and women who refuse us just about every other right to exist as well. “Moral values” is really a misnomer; it means just the reverse. It means they think we are immoral. And that we’re dangerous and contaminated. How do you like being called immoral by some 60 million people? This is not just anti-gay. This is what Doug Ireland calls “homo hate” on the grandest scale. How do we stand up to 60 million people who have found a voice and a President who declares he has a mandate?
...In 1971, Lewis Powell, a Richmond lawyer who called himself a centrist, was secretly commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Congress to write a confidential plan on how to take back America for the survival of the free enterprise system. Not democracy. Free enterprise. Barry Goldwater had lost, Nixon was about to implode, Vietnam had sucked the nation’s soul dry, the cabal saw their world unraveling. They saw the women’s movement, black civil rights. student war protests, the cold war. They saw the world as they knew it coming to an end. (We are not the first to feel our world crumbling and becoming powerless.)
This is what Lewis Powell wrote:
“Survival lies in organization, in careful long range planning, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing only available through joint effort and in the political power available only through united action.”
This was the birth of what is now called the vast right wing conspiracy. It is known as the Powell Manifesto. You can google Lewis Powell (not the one who helped to assassinate Lincoln) and read it in its entirety.
Under the supervision of some of the richest families in America, that plan has been followed faithfully since 1971 and it has resulted in these past years of horror and the reelection of George Bush. Nine families and their foundations, all under the insistent goading of Joseph Coors, have financed much of this. The Bradley Foundation. The Smith Richardson Foundation. Four Scaife Family Foundations, The John M. Olin Foundation. The Castle Rock (or Coors) Foundation. Three Koch Family Foundations. The Earhart Foundation. The JM Foundation. The McKenna Foundation. From 1985 to 2001 alone they contributed $650 million to this conservative message campaign. They have helped to launch and gain financing for networks of newspapers and magazines. They have seen to it that hundreds of the most powerful think tanks have appeared, including the Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institute, the American Enterprise, Cato, Manhattan, Hudson Institutes, and many more. There are now in place an ever growing number of well-funded student organizations at many colleges. There are legal advocacy foundations, such as the Center For Individual Rights and Judicial Watch. There are Leadership Institutes and Action Institutes and Institutes on Religion and Public Policy and Religion and Democracy. There is a heavily visible media participation: Fox Television and Pat Robertson and Oliver North and Radio America and the Washington Times and Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, to name but a very few, including the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal.
For the preparation of this manifesto, Lewis Powell was rewarded by Richard Nixon with a seat on the Supreme Court, where among other things he voted against gays in Bowers v. Hardwick, and against Black people in Bakke v. University of California.
It is vital for us to realize that this plan was written in 1971. The people it was written for did not go off then to a disco, or to the Pines or into therapy, or into drugs. They took this plan and they have executed it religiously every day and night for the next thirty-five years initially with some 400 million dollars and always from then until now with unending hours of backbreaking, grinding, unglamorous work, of civic engagements county by county across the entire expanse of America. They took the richest and most liberal nation in the history of civilization and turned it hard right into a classist, racist, homophobic imperial army of pirates. 30% of America now self-identify as conservative or extremely conservative. When Lewis Powell wrote his Manifesto that figure was less than 10%.

Bush, Congress Hide True Costs of Permanent Tax Cuts

The first simulation assumes current tax policy would remain unchanged — or that tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003 would expire as scheduled. Under this simulation, the tax cuts include all provisions except the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). In the simulation, the AMT would have all of its parameters indexed to inflation and the exemption currently in place would be extended permanently. The second simulation assumes all of the tax cuts from 2001 and 2003 would be extended permanently, including the AMT.
CBO found that under the first tax policy, revenues would slowly climb back to 20 percent of gross domestic product by 2015 from their historically low levels of approximately 16 percent of GDP today. Under the second simulation, it would take until 2050 for revenues to grow to 20 percent of GDP. The difference between these two options, according to the CBO, is an enormous amount of debt for the American people.

The Debt To the Penny

Current           Amount
04/13/2005 $7,792,607,796,216.29

04/12/2005 $7,795,110,560,106.07
04/11/2005 $7,789,624,073,188.04
04/08/2005 $7,789,330,877,191.02
04/07/2005 $7,788,009,463,759.88
04/06/2005 $7,782,421,898,856.14
04/05/2005 $7,782,816,546,352.29
04/04/2005 $7,780,782,448,066.81
04/01/2005 $7,783,719,222,961.24

Transcript of Alfred Hitchcock Trailers

Rear Window

The Unitarian Jihad Strikes in San Francisco

Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States. We are Unitarian Jihad. There is only God, unless there is more than one God. The vote of our God subcommittee is 10-8 in favor of one God, with two abstentions. Brother Flaming Sword of Moderation noted the possibility of there being no God at all, and his objection was noted with love by the secretary.
Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States! Too long has your attention been waylaid by the bright baubles of extremist thought. Too long have fundamentalist yahoos of all religions (except Buddhism -- 14-5 vote, no abstentions, fundamentalism subcommittee) made your head hurt. Too long have you been buffeted by angry people who think that God talks to them. You have a right to your moderation! You have the power to be calm! We will use the IED of truth to explode the SUV of dogmatic expression!
People of the United States, why is everyone yelling at you??? Whatever happened to ... you know, everything? Why is the news dominated by nutballs saying that the Ten Commandments have to be tattooed inside the eyelids of every American, or that Allah has told them to kill Americans in order to rid the world of Satan, or that Yahweh has instructed them to go live wherever they feel like, or that Shiva thinks bombing mosques is a great idea? Sister Immaculate Dagger of Peace notes for the record that we mean no disrespect to Jews, Muslims, Christians or Hindus. Referred back to the committee of the whole for further discussion.
We are Unitarian Jihad. We are everywhere. We have not been born again, nor have we sworn a blood oath. We do not think that God cares what we read, what we eat or whom we sleep with. Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity notes for the record that he does not have a moral code but is nevertheless a good person, and Unexalted Leader Garrote of Forgiveness stipulates that Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity is a good person, and this is to be reflected in the minutes.

Documentary on Depleted Uranium Playing in Queens

A new documentary put out by the People’s Video Network, “Poison Dust,” accuses the defense department of a similar crime with respect to depleted uranium exposure—willful ignorance.
The movie will screen in Sunnyside at All Saint’s Church at 43-12 46th Street on Tuesday, April 19th at 7 p.m. After the screening, the film’s editor, Sue Harris and Raymond Ramos, a veteran from Springfield Gardens interviewed in the film, will speak and take questions.
“We’ve known about the cancer-producing and death-producing qualities of depleted uranium since the 1850s,” Harris said. She accuses the United States government of hiding the facts related to the harmfulness of this substance because the weapons it produces are so effective. “It’s just not cost-effective to be open about this.”
Is depleted uranium the Agent Orange of this generation of soldiers? “Poison Dust” seems to think so. Uranium is an extremely heavy metal, making it ideal for munitions casings as it can pierce very heavy armor. It is also radioactive.
When a uranium shell punches through another metal, like a tank, the casing vaporizes into dust. It is this dust that critics say is harming soldiers, their families and exposed civilians. Soldiers interviewed in the film report being covered in dust from morning until night, even shaking it out of their beds in the morning.
They complain of symptoms from headaches to swelling to chronic fatigue. One Bronx soldier’s daughter, conceived shortly after his return, has a severely deformed hand from a birth defect. He was convinced of the involvement of depleted uranium when he saw photographs of similar deformities in Iraqi children.

Correction and Update on: "Scott Ritter: Iran Attack Planned for June"

Scott Ritter speaking on the Randi Rhodes Show [show from 4-13-05 MP3, second half hour] explained how he was widely misquoted.
This is quite an interview. Scott Ritter is the former Chief Weapons Inspector for Iraq and one of the only voices saying Iraq had no WMD's during the build-up to war.
Now the correction:
He did not say that Bush was planning an attack on Iran in June -- he has no access to that kind of information.
He did, however, explain that last year, Bush signed off on a plan to create readiness for an air strike against Iran in June of 2005. According to the plan, we will be able to change our military posture toward Iran.

IAEA on Iran [Feb 16,2005]: IAEA Head Disputes Claims on Iran Arms

The head of the U.N. agency responsible for investigating Iran's nuclear program said Tuesday that there had been no discoveries in the last six months to substantiate claims that the Islamic state is secretly working toward building a nuclear bomb.
In a wide-ranging interview with four U.S. newspapers, Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency also described White House policies on Iran and North Korea as inconsistent. Without greater U.S. participation in diplomacy, ElBaradei said, confrontation could increase.

GOP Flak Front Offers Opening Salvo for Drumming Up an Iranian War

This spectacularly alarmist propaganda comes to us courtesy of a site registered to Robert Hahn, Executive Director of the AEI-Brookings Joint Center and a Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. But the registration fails to mention any institutions.
It is based on a book by Dr. Jerome R. Corsi, who lied to us via Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

According to the site:
The IFF is made up of American and Iranian scholars, professionals, philanthropists and human rights advocates who have joined together to support the rights of the Iranian people.
The IFF was incorporated February 3, 2005 in Delaware and began activities on February 15. The IFF offices are located at:
1211 Connecticut Ave., NW
Suite 300
Washington, DC 20006
You can also contact us at

The FEC Project: Background On What's Going On

After the much-visited Mike Krempasky post yesterday about the Reid Proposal and much heat but little light, I wanted to take a minute to explain what's going on here. In order:

  • When McCain-Feingold was passed, it didn't really mention the internet at all. So in 2002, as part of their gap-filling function, the FEC passed regulations defining "public communication" (as in, that which the FEC would regulate generally) as "a communication by means of any broadcast, cable or satellite communication, newspaper, magazine, outdoor advertising facility, mass mailing or telephone bank to the general public, or any other form of general public political advertising. The term public communication shall not include communications over the Internet."

  • Under that regulation, Internet communications, no matter how closely they would be coordinated with political parties or a candidate's campaign, could not be considered "coordinated" under the FEC's regulations.

  • Moreover, under the existing state of regulations, websites not owned by campaigns had no obligation to disclose when campaigns had paid for content.

  • Reps. Shays and Meehan believed that this absence of regulation undermined the intent of campaign finance reform, so they sued the FEC to overturn the regulation as violative of Congress' intent. Last fall, they won, as Judge Kollar-Kotelly held that exempting the internet from regulation would subvert the Act. She ordered the FEC to pass new regulations to cover it. [more]

FCC orders third party video sources to be shown

Responding to criticism over government videos being packaged as TV news reports, federal regulators reminded broadcasters Wednesday of rules requiring them to identify the source of such material.
Those rules "are grounded in the principle that listeners and viewers are entitled to know who seeks to persuade them" with TV programming, the Federal Communications Commission said in a public notice to broadcast licensees and cable operators.
Tens of thousands of people have asked the FCC to investigate the failure of broadcasters to disclose the source of the government videos, said Commissioner Michael Copps, adding that his agency should investigate each case.
The FCC is soliciting comments on the decades-old sponsorship identification rules and may seek to clarify them further.
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy was criticized last year for a series of videos in which a narrator, sometimes identified as "Karen Ryan," said she was "reporting" on the office's activities. Separately, the Health and Human Services Department's Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services produced video news releases, also narrated by "Karen Ryan," touting changes to Medicare.

DOJ - Any Destructive Device May be a WMD

Almost any explosive device or weapon may be considered a "weapon of mass destruction" according to the Department of Justice.
The Department announced on Tuesday that three British nationals had been indicted in New York for conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction, among other charges.

At a press briefing on the indictment, an alert reporter asked Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey exactly which "weapons of mass destruction" the individuals had conspired to use. "Is there any implication in the use of that term that there was a biological or a chemical or a radiological element to the plan?" the reporter inquired.
"We have not alleged that," Mr. Comey replied. But, he added, "a weapon of mass destruction in our world goes beyond that and includes improvised explosive devices." See (thanks to S): This is an unconventional use of the term "weapon of mass destruction" that further relaxes its already expansive definition, which encompasses everything from thermonuclear explosives to willful releases of toxic chemicals.
If improvised explosive devices also count as WMD, then not only did Saddam Hussein possess abundant quantities of WMD, but two years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, so do the Iraqi insurgents who are using them to kill American soldiers almost every day.
On closer inspection, however, Mr. Comey's all-encompassing usage appears to have a basis in statute.
According to 18 U.S.C. 2332a, which is cited in the latest indictment, a "weapon of mass destruction" includes "any destructive device." That in turn is defined in 18 U.S.C. 921 to include almost any type of weapon that is not "generally recognized as particularly suitable for sporting purposes."

Beer, Rice and Human DNA

In a surprise move, Anheuser-Busch has gone up against some of the biotech firms that would like to grow genetically-modified (GM) rice containing human DNA. The biotech firm that grows it says that their rice contains synthetic human genes which the company hopes to harvest and refine for use in medicines to fight diarrhea and dehydration.
Anheuser-Busch's concerns are not with the science of biotech, but rather the risk of crop-contamination, as has happened with farmers not only in the U.S. and Canada, but all over the world. The USDA has issued rice-tweakers Ventria Bioscience and 300 other biopharmers permission to plant various augmented plants around the country since 1995, but Anheuser-Busch is the first large corporation to threaten a boycott - unusual, because poultry and beef stock (PDF) are fed this kind of thing every day, and have been for the past 20 years. I guess the Budweiser brewers just don't want to see 'dead people' in their suds...
On the flip-side of this occurrence, the response of the anti-stem cell activists has been nothing short of sensory-deprivation. Shouldn't six-packs, cornfields and Porky be given the same human rights as the unborn?
Also related: Contaminated: The New Science of Food (quicktime movie) [from]

Troops Still not Well Armored

Though the Army says all of its 35,000 vehicles on the roads of Iraq now have some sort of armor, 11,700 of them are protected with nothing more than crudely cut sheets of steel - inadequate by the Army's own standards, according to figures released April 8.
The Army intends to replace that armor, but the Pentagon says that job won't be done for five months. And the Army said April 8 that combat commanders have now requested 4,000 more armored humvees and trucks.

Oregon Supreme Court Invalidates 3,000 Same-Sex Marriages

The Oregon Supreme Court on Thursday invalidated the marriages of 3,000 same-sex couples and refused to decide whether gays and lesbians should have the same rights and benefits as married couples.
The decision was a victory for social conservatives who backed Measure 36, the 2004 initiative that defined marriage as being between one man and one woman.
Gay rights advocates can file a new lawsuit to seek to obtain equal benefits, but the process could take several years.
The ruling also removes any pressure from the 2005 Legislature to act.
Read the full decision.

Pulling the plug on science?

For decades, American scientists have unlocked nature's secrets, generated an enormous number of patents, and earned a string of Nobel Prizes.
These days, however, pride of accomplishment is mingling with angst as Washington contemplates research cuts on everything from space weather to high-energy physics. The concern? The United States unwittingly may be positioning itself for a long, steady decline in basic research - a key engine for economic growth - at a time when competitors from Europe and Asia are hot on America's heels.

Why did Bolton Access NSA-Intercepts of American Officials?

John R. Bolton, nominated to be the next ambassador to the United Nations, used his position as a senior State Department official to obtain details about intercepted communications involving other American officials that were monitored by the National Security Agency, according to Mr. Bolton's own account.
The identities of American officials whose communications are intercepted are usually closely protected by law, and not included even in classified intelligence reports. Access to the names may be authorized by the N.S.A. only in response to special requests, and these are not common, particularly from policy makers.
Testifying Monday to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Bolton acknowledged that he had made such requests "on a couple of occasions, maybe a few more." Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, has requested that Mr. Bolton explain each request, Democratic Congressional officials said.
Mr. Bolton told the committee that his only motivation had been "to better understand" a summary of an intercepted conversation, saying that on some occasions, "it's important to find out who is saying what to whom."
A former senior intelligence official said it was uncommon but not unheard of for a senior government official to request such information. "Access is not granted lightly and circulation of such data is very restricted," this former official said. The official said such requests were approved only when learning the name was crucial to understanding the intelligence gathered.


Following wearable computing guru Steve Mann into a downtown Seattle shopping mall, about two dozen conference attendees, some of them armed with handheld cameras, snapped photos of smoked-glass ceiling domes in Nordstrom and Gap stores, which may or may not have contained cameras.
Companies have been known to install empty camera domes to save money while giving the impression of surveillance.
The idea of surveillance that's powerful even if it's not actually present was in line with the theme of this year's CFP conference -- the Panopticon. The Panopticon was a model prison envisioned by philosopher Jeremy Bentham that used a smoked-glass oval guard tower to induce discipline and good behavior in prisoners who could never be certain if they were being watched.
Mann, a University of Toronto professor who helped found MIT Media Lab's Wearable Computing Project, has made it a mission to make people more aware of the surveillance around them -- in the form of cameras concealed in store smoke detectors, smoked-glass domes, illuminated door exit signs and even stuffed animals sitting on store shelf displays -- by engaging in what he calls "equiveillance through sousveillance."
The opposite of surveillance -- French for watching from above -- sousveillance refers to watching from below, essentially from beneath the eye in the sky. It's the equivalent of keeping an eye on the eye.
With that in mind, Mann conducted his tour with conference participants to see how those conducting surveillance would respond to being monitored.

S. 678: Online Freedom of Speech Act

[PDF] To amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to exclude communications over the Internet from the definition of public communication.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
Paragraph (22) of section 301 of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (2 U.S.C. 431(22)) is amended by adding at the end the following new sentence: ‘‘Such term shall not include communications over the Internet.’’.

Influencing the IRS

When average Americans need help with their federal income taxes, they hire an accountant or buy a computer program to ensure that they don't miss out on any deductions. But when corporate giants like Detroit-based DTE Energy want to save millions, they turn to Washington, D.C., lobbyists.
...DTE Energy is not alone. Nearly 500 companies and organizations have reported lobbying the IRS between 1998 and 2004, putting the nation's revenue collector among the top 30 most frequently lobbied federal agencies, according to a study of federal lobbying records by the Center for Public Integrity. In fact, more companies and organizations reported lobbying the IRS than the Navy, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the President of the United States combined.
Indeed, among the top 250 companies and organizations that have spent the most money lobbying the federal government, one in three has lobbied the IRS.
Some of the biggest groups in Washington, D.C., —such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Gaming Association and even the AFL-CIO—have pressed their case to the IRS either through their own in-house lobbyists or by hiring specialists who have ties to the agency or the congressional panels that oversee it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Diebold Voting System Can be Hacked

In mid-February, Black Box Voting, together with computer experts and videographers, under the supervision of appropriate officials, proved that a real Diebold system can be hacked.
This was not theoretical or a "potential" vulnerability. Votes were hacked on a real system in a real location using the actual setup used on Election Day, Nov. 2, 2004.
In October, Black Box Voting published an article on this Web site about remote access into the Diebold system. After examining the Diebold software and related internal e-mails, local security professionals were able to demonstrate a hack into a simulated system.
In February, we were allowed to try various hacking techniques into a real election system. To our surprise, the method used in our October simulation did not work.
However, another method did work. The hack that did work was unsophisticated enough that many high school students would be able to achieve it. This hack altered the election by 100,000 votes, leaving no trace at all in the central tabulator program. It did not appear in any audit log. The hack could have been executed in the November 2004 election by just one person.
This hack stunned the officials who were observing the test. It calls into question the results of as many as 40 million votes in 30 states. We are awaiting the response of the House Judiciary Committee to this new development for their investigation.

DeLay apologizes for rhetoric in Schiavo case

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay apologized Wednesday for an "inartful" remark about judges after Terri Schiavo's death. But he refused to comment on ethics allegations against him.
DeLay met with reporters after a barrage of negative news stories that caused several prominent Republicans, including former House speaker Newt Gingrich and Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, to urge DeLay to answer his accusers. The Texas Republican said he would answer questions only about the legislative agenda.
DeLay did express regret for saying, after the death of Schiavo, that the judges who refused to reinsert the brain-damaged woman's feeding tube would one day "answer for their behavior."
Democrats have criticized DeLay's remark, which Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said could incite violence against judges.
"I said something in an inartful way. I am sorry I said it that way," DeLay said.
He said he favors an independent judiciary but made it plain that he does not intend to give up congressional efforts to rein in "activist" judges.

Another "Anti-Gay" Republican Comes Out of the Closet

Another republican, Sen. Paul Koering, comes out of the closet after voting yes for an amendment setting out to legally define marriage in Minnesota. Meanwhile other Minnesotan senators, like Michelle Bachmann (R), are finding one way or another to land themselves in scandal, one of which was getting caught hiding in the bushes behind a rally contesting the anti-marriage amendmant. And yes, here are the pictures to prove it. (Anonymous login available for articles) [from]

Conservatives near lock on US courts

Republican appointees now constitute a majority of judges on 10 of the nation's 13 federal appeals courts. As few as three more lifetime appointments on key courts would tip the balance in favor of GOP appointees on all but one appeals court - the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
The confrontation over judges heats up Thursday with the Senate Judiciary Committee expected to send a second appeals court candidate to the full Senate for a possible vote. The process is being closely watched because if either nomination triggers a filibuster, it could provide the vehicle for Republican senators to launch the so-called nuclear option, which would squelch filibusters.

US already moving toward a flat tax

Billionaires are paying not much more taxes, proportionately, than those Americans who are merely prosperous.
It's a sign that, even without the formal adoption of a so-called "flat tax," America's tax system is getting flatter.
...If the Bush tax cuts are made permanent by Congress, by 2010 billionaires and millionaires will be paying a smaller percentage of their income in federal taxes than those in the upper middle class, according to a calculation by Brian Roach, an economist at Tufts University, in Medford, Mass.
In his second term, Bush has identified further tax reform as a top goal. This could include a push for a flat tax, one in which all income groups are asked to pay the same rate.

DOD Audits: Halliburton Overcharges Top $212 Million

Last month, Rep. Waxman disclosed that Defense Department auditors found $108 million in fuel-related overcharges by Halliburton for work in Iraq under Task Order 5, one of several Halliburton task orders for the importation of fuel into Iraq (LINK). Rep. Waxman also revealed that although Halliburton was paid in significant part from Iraqi oil proceeds in the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI), the Administration — acting at Halliburton’s request — concealed these overcharges from the international auditors charged by the United Nations with monitoring the expenditures from the DFI (LINK).

Classified "Black" Spending Reaches $28 Billion, 19% of Defense Spending

[PDF]Classified or “black” programs appear to account for about $28.0 billion, or 19
percent, of the acquisition funding included in the fiscal year (FY) 2006
Department of Defense (DoD) budget request (see Table). This total includes
$14.2 billion in procurement funding and $13.7 billion in research and
development (R&D) funding. These figures represent 18 percent and 20
percent, respectively, of the total funding requested for procurement and R&D.
Among other things, this analysis finds that:
- In real (inflation-adjusted) terms the $28.0 billion FY 2006 request
includes more classified acquisition funding than any other defense
budget since FY 1988, near the end of the Cold War, when DoD received
$19.7 billion ($29.4 billion in FY 2006 dollars) for these programs.
- Classified acquisition funding has nearly doubled in real terms since FY
1995, when funding for these programs reached its post-Cold War low.
- Since FY 1995, funding for classified acquisition programs has increased
at a substantially faster rate than has funding for acquisition programs
overall, which has grown by about 60 percent in real terms.

US mercenaries spill blood over Afghan opium

It was the first day of Afghanistan's new opium eradication programme and the quiet town of Maiwand in Kandahar province had been chosen for action.
Hundreds of Afghan eradicators under the command of American private security contractors were going to head into the fields around the town and destroy the beautiful red and white blooms days before they could be harvested for their narcotic sap.
But instead of the peaceful, model operation that was promised as an example to demonstrate the Kabul government's serious intentions, Maiwand and its surrounding villages exploded into violence in what could be a foretaste of resistance to Western-backed efforts to bring Afghanistan's opium industry under control.
By the end of yesterday four government soldiers had been wounded by gunfire from farmers, American security contractors were said to be sheltering behind razor wire in a protected camp, and Afghan police and counter-narcotics forces had fought fierce battles which local people said left five dead. Plans to eradicate poppies were temporarily shelved in the area as political bigwigs shuttled to and fro trying to ease tensions and broker some kind of deal with the angry opium farmers.

Beer Giant Says it Won't Buy Rice from States That Grow GM Crops

Anheuser-Busch Cos., the nation's No. 1 buyer of rice as well as its largest brewer, says it won't buy rice from Missouri if genetically modified, drug-making crops are allowed to be grown in the state.
The St. Louis-based beer giant, which says it is concerned about possible contamination, is the latest company to express concern over plans by Ventria Biosciences to grow 200 acres of rice engineered to produce human proteins that can make drugs.
Biotechnology firms have been seeking federal approval for outdoor plantings, often called "biopharming," because the idea is to lower drug- making costs by using plants to grow medications.
Other food companies, environmentalists and farmers have said they fear genetically altered rice could cross-pollinate with other food crops, introducing the foreign genes into the regular food chain.
Last month, Arkansas-based Riceland Foods Inc., the world's largest rice miller and marketer, asked federal regulators to deny a permit for Ventria's project, saying Riceland's customers don't want to risk buying genetically modified rice.
Anheuser-Busch is believed to be the first major company to threaten a boycott over the issue, according to comments filed last month with the Agriculture Department.

Concerns raised about 1997 U.S. mad cow tests

The United States did not properly analyze two suspected cases of mad cow disease in 1997, years before it showed up in Canada and devastated this country's beef industry, a CBC News investigation suggests.
Dr. Masuo Doi, the U.S. Department of Agriculture veterinarian who initially investigated both 1997 cases, says he is haunted by fears that the right tests were not done and that his own department did not properly investigate whether the cow had BSE.
Doi is now retired and speaking for the first time about his concerns.
"I don't want to carry on off to my retirement," he told CBC's Investigative Unit. "I want to hand it over to someone to continue, to find out. I think it's very, very important ...
"How many did we miss?"
Doi's concerns are echoed by Dr. Karl Langheindrich, the chief scientist at a U.S. Department of Agriculture lab in Athens, Ga., that ran the early tests on one of the cows.
Documents obtained by CBC show that the samples tested by the department did not contain parts of the animal's brain critical for an accurate diagnosis.

DeLay Urges GOP to Blame Dems Over Ethics

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, hoping to hold support among fellow Republicans, urged GOP senators Tuesday to blame Democrats if asked about his ethics controversy and accused the news media of twisting supportive comments so they sounded like criticism.
Officials said DeLay recommended that senators respond to questions by saying Democrats have no agenda other than partisanship, and are attacking him to prevent Republicans from accomplishing their legislative program. One Republican said the Texan referred to a ``mammoth operation'' funded by Democratic supporters and designed to destroy him as a symbol of the Republican majority.

States take clean-air measures into their own hands

Prominent Republicans are among those lawmakers pushing legislation that would start US reduction of greenhouse gases in line with the international Kyoto treaty. In federal court, a dozen states seek to force the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce heat-trapping greenhouse gases. Shareholder groups are pressuring corporations to consider the implications of climate change. And from coast to coast, states and communities - on their own and in groups - are implementing plans to "think globally, act locally" on climate change by regulating transportation, power generation, and energy use.
As a presidential candidate in 2000, George W. Bush promised that he would deal with carbon dioxide as a pollutant related to climate change. Once elected, and after hearing complaints from industry sources involved with crafting the administration's energy policy, he reversed that position and ordered the EPA to interpret the Clean Air Act as if it didn't apply to carbon dioxide.

Pork in Emergency Military Spending Bill

As the Senate began to debate President Bush's request for more than $80 billion in supplemental military spending on Monday, senators seized a chance to pack pet projects into an unstoppable bill, adding provisions dealing with oil drilling, forest services, a new baseball stadium for Washington and economic assistance to Palestinians.
On Monday night, others were seeking to incorporate changes to immigration laws as well.
Senator Thad Cochran, the Mississippi Republican who is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, called the draft "a straightforward bill" that "meets the needs of our fighting forces overseas" and "addresses emergency requirements here at home."
His own addition to the spending bill was a measure giving Mississippi control of the mineral rights and the ability to permit certain drilling below the Gulf Islands National Seashore in the Gulf of Mexico. Some environmental groups have opposed the measure.
..."It is just horrifying," said James Carifano, senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group. "It's only a couple of million here and a couple of million there, but it takes a couple of million to buy body armor for our troops, and we didn't do it because we couldn't afford it."

Discover the Network - Roger Ebert and Mohammed Atta, partners in crime - Oooo, Scary

David Horowitz has lived a rich, and contradictory, life. He once contributed to seminal leftist magazine Ramparts and hired for the Black Panthers, but then bitterly split with his leftist friends and reinvented himself as a conservative who may be the leading scourge of left-leaning professors nationwide. His crusade to make liberal "indoctrination" by professors a statutory offense has seized the backing of Republican lawmakers and the imaginations of campus followers. Recently, Horowitz launched a new Web site,, to catalog and expose his enemies on the left.
When I called to interview him for Salon, listed on his site as an "apparatchik far-left" publication practically in league with Islamists, the former Salon columnist was strangely eager to appease me. Famous for breathing fire in public before admiring College Republicans, he scampered when I confronted him about his site's claims, even promising to rewrite some of them.
Purportedly a serious counterbalance to liberal sites that track conservatives, Horowitz's online "Guide to the Political Left" lays out what he considers the extensive connections between liberals and terrorists.

Acrobat 7 Can Track Downloads

Unexpected Features in Acrobat 7: A company called Remote Approach offers a feature to PDF authors to allow them to track the dissemination of their documents. Linux Weekly News reports, "After doing a little research, we found that Adobe's Reader was connecting to each time we opened the document." [from]

BBC Archive Available for Mixing, Ripping, Mashing... if you live in the UK

Project FAQs

What's the big deal?
What is this licence I hear so much about?
Why can't I use material from the Creative Archive overseas?
Will the Creative Archive use DRM?
Will I be able to get old Dr Who episodes?
I heard that Creative Archive will be using P2P technology. Isn't that illegal?
Where's the content for me to download?

Why is the RIAA is Targeting Internet2 Users?

The RIAA press release is careful to call Internet2 a "specialized" network, but many press stories have depicted it a private network, separate from the main Internet. In fact, Internet2 is not really a separate network. It's more like a set of express lanes for the Internet, built so that network traffic between Internet2 member institutions can go faster.
(The Washington Post article gets this point seriously wrong, calling Internet2 "a faster version of the Web", and saying that "more and more college students have moved off the Web to trade music on Internet2, a separate network ...".)
...Given all of this, my guess is that the RIAA is pushing the Internet2 angle mostly for policial and public relations reasons. By painting Internet2 as a separate network, the RIAA can imply that the transfer of infringing files over Internet2 is a new kind of problem requiring new regulation. And by painting Internet2 as a centrally-managed entity, the RIAA can imply that it is more regulable than the rest of the Internet.

H. R. 5244 - Comprehensive Assistance for Veterans Exposed to Traumatic Stressors Act of 2004

To improve programs for the identification and treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in veterans and members of the Armed Forces, and for other purposes. [via]

The Nation: "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith" Conference

The threatening tenor of the conference speakers was a calculated tactic. As Gary Cass, the director of Rev. D. James Kennedy's lobbying front, the Center for Reclaiming America, explained, they are arousing the anger of their base in order to harness it politically. The rising tide of threats against judges "is understandable," Cass told me, "but we have to take the opportunity to channel that into a constitutional solution."
Cass's "solution" is the "Constitution Restoration Act," a bill relentlessly promoted during the conference that authorizes Congress to impeach judges who fail to abide by "the standard of good behavior" required by the Constitution. If they refuse to acknowledge "God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government," or rely in any way on international law in their rulings, judges also invite impeachment. In essence, the bill would turn judges' gavels into mere instruments of "The Hammer," Tom DeLay, and Christian-right cadres.
Conference speakers framed the Constitution Restoration Act in pseudo-populist terms--the only means of controlling a branch of government hijacked by a haughty liberal aristocracy against the will of the American people. As Michael Schwartz remarked during a panel discussion, "The Supreme Court says we have the right to kill babies and the right to commit buggery. They say the people have no right to express themselves, that the people have no right to make laws. Until we have a court that reflects a majority," Schwartz continued, his voice rising steadily, "it is a sick and sad joke that we have a Constitution here."
The right wing claims that judges should reflect majority opinion. But what is the majority opinion? After DeLay and Senate majority leader Bill Frist passed special bills ordering federal courts to consider the reinsertion of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube, according to a Gallup poll, Congress's public approval rating sank to 37 percent, lower than at any time since shortly after Republicans impeached President Bill Clinton. Meanwhile, 66 percent of respondents to a March 23 CBS News poll thought Schiavo's feeding tube should be removed. The notion that the Christian right's agenda is playing well in Peoria must be accepted on faith alone.

Study: No Child Left Behind Slowing Academic Growth in Non-Urban Schools

In both reading and math, the study determined, test scores have gone up somewhat, as each class of students outdoes its predecessors. But within grades, students have made less academic progress during the school year than they did before No Child Left Behind went into effect in 2002, the researchers said.
That finding casts doubt on whether schools can meet the law's mandate that all students be academically proficient by 2014. In fact, to realize the goal of universal proficiency, the study said, students will have to make as much as three times the progress they are currently making.
The study was conducted by the Northwest Evaluation Association, which develops tests for about 1,500 school districts in 43 states. To complete it, the group drew upon its test data for more than 320,000 students in 23 states, a sample that it calls "broad but not nationally representative," in part because the biggest cities, not being Northwest clients, were not included.

The Elimination of the Estate Tax

In 1992, when heirs to the Mars Inc. fortune joined a few other wealthy families to hire the law firm Patton Boggs LLP to lobby for estate tax repeal, the joke on K Street was that few Washington sightseers had paid so much for a fruitless tour of the Capitol.
Today, the House is expected to vote to permanently repeal the estate tax, moving the Mars candy, Gallo wine and Campbell soup fortunes one step closer to a goal that once seemed quixotic at best: ending all taxation on inheritances.
..."For almost a century, the estate tax affected only the richest 1 or 2 percent of citizens, encouraged charity, and placed no burden on the vast majority of Americans," they wrote. "A law that constituted the blandest kind of common sense for most of the twentieth century was transformed, in the space of little more than a decade, into the supposed enemy of hardworking citizens all over this country."
The secret of the repeal movement's success has been its appeal to principle over economics. While repeal opponents bellowed that only the richest of the rich would ever pay the estate tax, proponents appealed to Americans' sense of fairness, that individuals have the natural right to pass on their wealth to their children.
The most recent Internal Revenue Service data back opponents' claims. In 2001, out of 2,363,100 total adult deaths, only 49,911 -- 2.1 percent -- had estates large enough to be hit by the estate tax. That was down from 2.3 percent in 1999. The value of the taxed estates in 2001 averaged nearly $2.7 million.

Former Colleague Says Bolton Abused Power at State Department

The State Department's former intelligence chief yesterday described John R. Bolton, President Bush's nominee for ambassador to the United Nations, as a "bully" who abused his authority and power, intimidated intelligence analysts, and damaged the integrity of the agency.
Bolton's behavior "brings real question to my mind about his suitability for high office," said Carl W. Ford Jr. He told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is considering Bolton's nomination, that he is a loyal Republican, a staunch supporter of Bush and a "huge fan" of Vice President Cheney. "I'm as conservative as John Bolton is," Ford said. "But the fact is that the collateral damage and the personal hurt that he causes is not worth the price that had to be paid."

Justice Department Withholding Patriot Act Activities from Congress

A senior Republican lawmaker expressed frustration Tuesday with the Justice Department's failure at a closed-door briefing to provide information about its use of the sweeping antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act.
The lawmaker, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who leads the Judiciary Committee, said he and others in the Senate sought details from senior intelligence officials at the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation about their demands for records and their use of roving wiretaps, secret search warrants and other provisions in the law.
Although the Justice Department last week released batches of newly declassified data about the use of the law, officials indicated that the most sensitive information would have to be delivered to members of Congress through classified meetings.
"This closed-door briefing was for specifics," Mr. Specter said after emerging from the session on Tuesday. "They didn't have specifics."
Mr. Specter said that with many questions about whether the law has impinged on due process and civil rights, Congressional officials "want to see exactly what they're doing and where the justification is."

Energy Bill: DeLay Pushing to Protect MTBE Makers from Liability

Embattled House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is being challenged by Democrats on one of his top priorities -- protecting makers of the gasoline additive MTBE from liability lawsuits, an issue that blocked energy legislation two years ago.
A draft Republican energy bill would protect MTBE makers, including several major oil and refinery companies in Texas, from lawsuits that contend the manufacturers knew the additive would contaminate drinking water, but pushed to have it widely used anyway.
DeLay, joined by Rep. Joe Barton, a fellow Texas Republican, has been the primary force behind the MTBE provision. It cleared the House two years ago, but prompted such an uproar in the Senate that it scuttled a massive energy bill that was nearing approval.
Democrats said they will try on Wednesday to strip the MTBE provision from a revised energy bill being worked on by Barton's Energy and Commerce Committee. Supporters of the measure said they are confident they can beat back the challenge.

Opponents of MTBE note that as an ether, MTBE has a chemical attraction to the water molecule and increases the solubility of other, harmful components of gasoline. Because of this, MTBE often ends up in drinking water, especially in cases where oil storage tanks leak near populated areas, and may make contamination by other compounds more likely. MTBE biodegrades very slowly, remaining in water for decades or more. The oil industry did not test MTBE for its effects on human health before approving it as an additive, as the EPA did not require such tests.
Advocates of MTBE use, such as the oil industry, contend that there are no harmful effects of MTBE in humans. They note that there are no reported cases of a person becoming sick from MTBE in drinking water. Although MTBE has been labelled a "potential human carcinogen" by the Environmental Protection Agency, no carcinogenic properties have been confirmed. Advocates also say that gasoline manufacturers have been forced to add MTBE to gasoline by law.

UFCW Accuses WalMart of Bribery to Stop Unions

The union said its complaint, filed on Tuesday, asks the NLRB to "aggressively investigate whether Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart bribed employees to suppress worker support for union representation."
The complaint comes after The Wall Street Journal reported last week that former Wal-Mart Vice Chairman Tom Coughlin may have used undocumented expense payments to pay for anti-union activities, including paying union staffers to tell him of pro-union workers in stores.
"Wal-Mart's actions seemingly involved the criminal misappropriation of company funds to create an illegal anti-union slush fund," the union said in a statement.

GOP Reject $2 Billion for Veterans Hospitals

Republicans on Tuesday beat back a Democratic attempt to provide almost $2 billion in additional health care funding for veterans, rejecting claims that Veterans Affairs hospitals are in crisis.
The proposal was part of an $80.6 billion emergency spending bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other costs. The bill would give President Bush slightly less than the $82 billion he sought. It is also less than the $81.4 billion approved by the House.
The Senate's Republican leaders hoped to have the bill approved by the end of the week and ready for Bush's signature by the end of the month. But the timing of the bill has become uncertain, with Senate leaders dealing with stacks of amendments and a possible battle over immigration restrictions.

The Onion: Cost of Living Now Outweighs Benfits

"This is sobering news," said study director Jack Farness. "For the first time, we have statistical evidence of what we've suspected for the past 40 years: Life really isn't worth living."
To arrive at their conclusions, study directors first identified the average yearly costs and benefits of life. Tangible benefits such as median income ($43,000) were weighed against such tangible costs as home-ownership ($18,000). Next, scientists assigned a financial value to intangibles such as finding inner peace ($15,000), establishing emotional closeness with family members ($3,000), and brief moments of joy ($5 each). Taken together, the study results indicate that "it is unwise to go on living."

Pandemic-causing 'Asian flu' accidentally released

The virus that caused the 1957 “Asian flu” pandemic has been accidentally released by a lab in the US, and sent all over the world in test kits which scientists are now scrambling to destroy.
There are fears the virus could escape the labs, as the mistake was discovered after the virus escaped from a kit at a high-containment lab in Canada. Such an escape could spread worldwide, as demonstrated in Russia in the 1970s.

The Eye Ball R1 for a 360-degree view of the crime scene

The Eye Ball R1, a wireless camera and microphone in a baseball-sized casing, can be tossed into a crime scene to give police watching a TV screen embedded in a handheld a 360-degree view of what the bad guys are up to.


The Buzztracker software has been mining Google News (only English-language news sources) for over a year and keeping track of relationships between geographic locations mentioned in articles and draw maps that actually seem to reflect the "buzz" of the day. You can also dig down into the articles from which the maps were generated, add it to your website and get the RSS feed.

NASA Scientists speculate that a star explosion may have caused the Ordovician extinction 450 million years ago

The scientists calculated that gamma-ray radiation from a relatively nearby star explosion, hitting the Earth for only ten seconds, could deplete up to half of the atmosphere's protective ozone layer. Recovery could take at least five years. With the ozone layer damaged, ultraviolet radiation from the Sun could kill much of the life on land and near the surface of oceans and lakes, and disrupt the food chain.

Sharon urges Bush to pressure Iran on nuclear program

Spreading photographs of Iranian nuclear sites over a lunch table at the Bush ranch in Texas on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon urged President Bush to step up pressure on Iran to give up all elements of its nuclear program, according to senior U.S. and Israeli officials.
Sharon said Israeli intelligence showed that Iran was near "a point of no return," according to the officials. Sharon gave no indication that Israel was preparing to act alone to attack Iranian nuclear facilities, a prospect that Vice President Dick Cheney, who was at the lunch, raised publicly three months ago.
In a conversation that lasted for more than an hour, however, Sharon argued that European nations now negotiating with Iran were softening their position and were willing to allow Iran to hold on to technology to enrich uranium.
U.S. officials said the evidence that Sharon presented, which included aerial photographs of some Iranian sites, was neither startling nor new to Bush. But they said the prime minister was clearly pressuring Bush not to allow the European negotiations with Iran to drag on.

Aljazeera: Israel Claims Photos Show Iran Nuclear Weapons SIte

Ariel Sharon’s military adviser General Yoav Gallan has reportedly handed Bush documents and aerial photos of Iranian nuclear installations during the Israeli prime minister’s Monday meeting with the U.S. President George W. Bush, Israeli public radio reported on Tuesday.
Gallan, who accompanied Sharon in his summit with Bush at his Texas ranch, presented the photos together with information the Israeli intelligence services gathered on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programme, the Israeli radio added, without mentioning how the photos were taken. It just said that the images showed that the Iranian nuclear programme was at a “very advanced” stage.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

False Signatures Aided Fannie Mae Bonuses, Falcon Says

Fannie Mae employees falsified signatures on accounting transactions that helped the company meet earnings targets for 1998, a "manipulation" that triggered multimillion-dollar bonuses for top executives, a federal regulator said yesterday.
Armando Falcon Jr., director of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, said the entries were related to the movement of $200 million in expenses from 1998 to later periods. The result of the changes was an increase in Fannie Mae's 1998 earnings per share and the release of a $27.1 million bonus pool for senior executives.

Bush Seeks to Overturn Army Panel Ruling

At the heart of the legal battle is the fact that President Bush has declared international treaty protections do not apply to Salim Ahmed Hamdan and all others deemed by the U.S. government to be linked to al-Qaida.
The judge's decision five months ago halted the trial of Hamdan, who joined forces with Osama bin Laden in 1996, the government says, serving as his personal driver and delivering weapons and ammunition to al-Qaida.
Hamdan's lawyers say he is an innocent civilian who was not part of al-Qaida and whose only crime was working for a very bad employer. A driver and mechanic with a fourth-grade education, Hamdan left his home country of Yemen to find a better job, his lawyers say, and he was captured by bounty hunters in Afghanistan, sold to the Americans and shipped to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Now Hamdan would be barred from part of his trial, while the government presents classified evidence that only his attorneys would be allowed to see. The government says national security necessitates the step, leading to the judge's ruling that the Bush administration's military commissions are unlawful.

RIAA Sues 400+ College Students

The students from 18 different universities around the nation were using the high-speed Internet2 research network to trade copyrighted music, according to officials. The organization plans to file the lawsuits Wednesday.
The music industry organization said it also has evidence of copyright infringement at another 140 schools in 41 states. Officials said letters have been sent to each of those schools alerting them to the illegal activities.
"This next generation of the Internet is an extraordinarily exciting tool for researchers, technologists and many others with valuable legitimate uses," Cary Sherman, RIAA president, said in a statement. "Yet, we cannot let this high-speed network become a zone of lawlessness where the normal rules don't apply."
Internet2 is a consortium of more than 300 U.S. universities, businesses and the government to develop and deploy advanced networking applications and technologies, such as IPv6 and multicasting.

PTSD and Civilian Deaths

"I was in the infantry; my job was to fight," Jones said. "We had a lot of casualties. I had to pick up several of my friends piece by piece. I had to kill women, children, old men - everyone."
Since returning back to civilian life, he was diagnosed with PTSD. Getting help from the Marion VA, however, has been difficult he said. Jones refuses to take medications for his condition, but the wait to see a VA counselor can take up to three months.
"I haven't had a chance for therapy," Jones said.
Jones said most all of his buddies are also experiencing the same struggles.
According to a study published in July 2004 in the New England Journal of Medicine, one in five veterans is returning home from the Middle East with PTSD. A report released in September by the Government Accountability Office estimates the VA is treating up to 244,000 patients suffering with PTSD. Officials at six of the seven VA facilities visited by the GAO reported they may not be able to meet the increased demand for PTSD services caused by the war in Iraq.

CNN's New Boss: Progressives "Don't Get Too Worked up About Anything"

Over the years, media owners and editors have come up with different explanations for the lack of left or progressive voices across the media landscape. We're told those ideas are unpopular with the public, for example, or that leftists aren't as engaging or likeable as, say, Sean Hannity.
The new CNN President Jonathan Klein offered another theory during an appearance on PBS's Charlie Rose Show on March 25: Progressives aren't angry enough. When Rose asked if there could ever be a successful progressive version of Fox News Channel, Klein thought not. He explained that while Fox was tapping into a brand of "mostly angry white men" conservatism, "a quote/unquote, 'progressive' or liberal network probably couldn't reach the same sort of an audience, because liberals tend to like to sample a lot of opinions. They pride themselves on that. And you know, they don't get too worked up about anything. And they're pretty morally relativistic. And so, you know, they allow for a lot of that stuff."
Does Klein really think progressives don't get too worked up about anything? If he does, that might be because he's watching too much CNN, where centrists are often booked to stand in for bona fide progressives. (See "I'm Not a Leftist, But I Play One on TV,"Extra!, 9-10/04.)

OTM: Philadelphia Seeks Wireless Internet for Whole City

If all goes according to plan, the summer of 2006 will see Philadelphia launch the United States' first city entirely accessible to wireless internet. The service will blanket Philadelphia's 135 miles, so that any Philadelphian will be able to get on line, and with the costs subsidized, the mayor says every citizen will be able to afford it. The city first decided to take on the project when it found internet providers ignoring low income neighborhoods, and those same internet providers have tried to block the plan, by legally challenging the city's right to make wireless internet access just another public utility. Dianah Neff is the chief information officer for the City of Philadelphia.

Over 1 Million Troops Fought Since 9/11

Three and a half years have passed since U.S. bombs started falling in Afghanistan, and ever since then, the U.S. military has been engaged in combat overseas. What most Americans are probably unaware of, however, is just how many American soldiers have been deployed. Well over 1 million U.S. troops have fought in the wars since Sept. 11, 2001, according to Pentagon data released to Salon. As of Jan. 31, 2005, the exact figure was 1,048,884, approximately one-third the number of troops ever stationed in or around Vietnam during 15 years of that conflict.
More surprising is the number of troops who have gone to war since 9/11, come back home, and then were redeployed to the battle zone. Of all the troops ever sent to Iraq or Afghanistan, one-third have gone more than once, according to the Pentagon. In the regular Army, 63 percent of the soldiers have been to war at least one time, and almost 40 percent of those soldiers have gone back. The highest rate of first-time deployments belongs to the Marine Corps Reserve: Almost 90 percent have fought.
The data sheds new light on how all-consuming the post-9/11 wars have been for the U.S. military, and suggests a particular strain on U.S. ground forces. An increasing number of military experts believe those forces -- the Army and Marines -- are months away from being overtaxed to the point of serious dysfunction. The situation in Iraq must continue to stabilize. If it doesn't, and the Bush administration continues to both reject the idea of a draft and rebuff efforts to permanently increase the size of the Army and Marines, U.S. ground forces will break down to a point not seen since just after Vietnam.

The Portable People Meter (Sure Looks Strange to Me)

According to a story in this Sunday's New York Times magazine, Nielsen's competitor, Arbitron, will soon be testing a brand new audience measurement device called the Portable People Meter. It's a plastic box the size of a pager that volunteers will wear throughout their waking hours and that will eventually record virtually all their media consumption. Jon Gertner, who wrote the Times story, says the small box is putting big smiles on the faces of advertisers who, of course, largely determine what gets produced on television in the first place. Traditional Nielsen data, says Gertner, has simply not kept up with the ever-expanding TV universe.
...JON GERTNER: The engineers at Arbitron began with a couple of military contractors and some other academic advisors to look at this idea called psychoacoustic masking. Psychoacoustic masking places an electronic digital code just beneath the frequency of the sound we hear. The engineers at Arbitron hope that, by getting every channel, whether it be television or radio, in the country, to code their broadcasts with this kind of digital repeating code, their portable people meter could then pick up the code. The CEO of Arbitron believes that eventually all media with sound will be encoded. That includes DVDs, video games, supermarket muzak, anything you can think of, really.

OTM: Branded News - New and Improved VNR's

"Well, basically, a VNR or video news release was just like a press release. It was a well put together PR message, you know, highly produced by a VNR company that was distributed to stations, and they chose whether to air it or not or air it in its entirety or not. What's going on now is these companies are actually going out and securing time, actually buying the time, to make sure that message runs intact, exactly the way the marketer or the corporation intended it. And most importantly, they can plan and buy the audiences they want, much like Madison Avenue can, and they can actually figure out what demographic, what type of person, consumes this media and they can control it."