Saturday, May 07, 2005

Ovarian Cells Yield Human Eggs

Scientists in Tennessee have scraped stem cells from the surface of five women's ovaries and coaxed the cells to become human eggs.
The work, which was published in Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, could extend a woman's fertility for a decade or more if future experiments show that the eggs are capable of becoming fertilized. The five women who volunteered for the study ranged in age from 39 to 52.
Women who want to postpone pregnancy until later in life could potentially freeze some of these cells, called ovarian surface epithelium cells, for later use. And women who thought it was too late for children could have a second chance to conceive their own genetically related child.

What's On Jesus' iPod?

Craigslist Looks to Community Journalism

Newmark hopes to develop a pool of "talented amateurs" who could investigate scandals, cover politics and promote the most important and credible stories. Articles would be published on Internet sites ranging from Craigslist to individual Web logs, or blogs. gets more than 4 million classified ads and 1 million forums postings each month, and Newmark -- who no longer runs it but remains one of three board members -- is often blamed for decimating classified advertising revenue at regional newspapers. But he says he has no desire to steal readers from mainstream media.
But he believes the reason why newspapers are losing circulation is that too many traditional journalists are willing to quote politicians and business executives even if they're blatantly lying -- merely for the sake of perceived objectivity. He'd prefer an "open source" model of journalism where legions of volunteers act as writers, assignment editors, and fact checkers to challenge mainstream journalists.
"People are looking for attitude and guts in reporting -- not full-on gonzo journalism, but hey, tell us what you think," said Newmark, who described himself as having Whig values -- strong on defense, fiscally conservative, but socially liberal.
"Maybe Hunter Thompson had it right," Newmark said...

NPR: Debating America's Christian Character

In recent years, religious conservatives have been fighting the culture wars with new assertiveness. Many observers see a widespread nostalgia for America's early days, when most of the founders were Protestant and, some religious conservatives believe, Christian principles reigned.
As president of a group called Wall Builders, David Barton is at the forefront of the Christian heritage movement. He says with few exceptions, the founders spoke openly of their protestant Christian faith and many, including John Adams, Benjamin Rush and John Jay, wrote that American freedom was based on Christian principles.
Robert George, a political scientist at Princeton University, disagrees with this overtly Protestant reading of history. But he says this movement is tapping into an expanding sentiment across America, a longing for a culturally simpler time. Americans radically disagree on fundamental questions of life, abortion, euthanasia and even the definition of marriage.
"At a time when we have a lack of consensus on something as fundamental as marriage, are we surprised that people want to look back toward our founding principles for guidance?" George says. "It's when fundamental questions are being argued that people want to say, 'What kind of people are we? Where do we come from?'"

Web Extra: What the Founding Fathers Had to Say
Is the United States a Christian nation? Some Christian conservatives say yes, arguing that the Founding Fathers were guided by their faith. Opponents argue that the nation's founders sought to prevent the domination of Christianity in the public arena. Below, a look at some of the historical writings cited by the two sides in the debate

NPR: Religious Schools Train Lawyers for Culture Wars

Naomi Schaefer Riley is a journalist and adjunct fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a policy think tank that promotes the role of religion in domestic and foreign policy issues. Riley has written for the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, The New York Times and many other publications. In her new book God on the Quad, she explores the rise of religious colleges in America. She talked to NPR's Tal Barak about what she learned

Reported Cases Of Sexual Assault In Military Increase

Military criminal organizations in 2004 received 1,700 reports of alleged cases of sexual assault, which includes rape, nonconsensual sodomy, indecent assault as well as attempts to commit those offenses.
In 1,275 of the reported cases, service members were alleged victims -- an increase of 25 percent over the number determined by a Pentagon task force in 2003, and 41 percent over the 2002 figure. The overall 2004 figure also included 425 cases in which service members allegedly assaulted or attempted to assault civilians -- a category not included in earlier years' totals.

Victim advocates said the increase could mean that incidents of sexual assault are actually rising in the military, as larger numbers of servicewomen are mobilized for today's conflicts, or that more victims are coming forward to report the assaults -- or a combination of both.

Sibel Edmond's Case Rejected for Appeal

The decision, by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, effectively ends the suit by the translator, Sibel Edmonds.
Her lawyer said, however, that she planned to take the case to the Supreme Court.
Ms. Edmonds, a contract linguist for the bureau for about six months, translating material in Azerbaijani, Farsi and Turkish, was trying to revive the lawsuit she filed after being was fired in 2002.
She had repeatedly complained that bureau linguists produced slipshod and incomplete translations of important terrorism intelligence before and after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. She also accused a linguist in the Washington field office of blocking the translation of material that involved acquaintances who had come under suspicion and said the bureau had allowed diplomatic concerns to affect the translation of important intelligence.
Ms. Edmonds's suit was dismissed in July after Attorney General John Ashcroft invoked a rarely used power and declared that the case fell under "state secret" privilege.
The judge who issued that ruling, Reggie B. Walton of Federal District Court, said he was satisfied with government statements that the suit could expose intelligence-gathering methods and disrupt diplomatic relations.

Bloggers' Conference Emphasizes Reporting

Bloggers -- those Internet-based writers without rules -- are fighting back against criticism that their work is unreliable, libelous or just poorly done. More than 300 bloggers came to town Friday for a two-day conference that was heavy on teaching techniques used by journalists in what bloggers term "the mainstream media." One class taught students how to access and analyze government statistics.
Conference organizer Bill Hobbs called blogging "citizen journalism."

"If freedom of the press belongs to those who have the press, then blogging expands ownership of the press," Hobbs said.

Right now, more than 8 million people write blogs, said Bob Cox, president of the Media Bloggers Association. Blogs, short for Web logs, are running commentaries on whatever their authors are interested in. Content often focuses on politics or media criticism and usually includes feedback from readers.

Gay Groups Assail Sperm Bank Rule

A new Food and Drug Administration regulation scheduled to go into effect this month calls on sperm banks to reject anonymous donations from men who have been sexually active with other men within five years -- an effort to screen out potential carriers of the AIDS virus.
With a May 25 implementation day approaching, the long-debated regulation is being attacked as unscientific and bigoted by some gay groups that say the new rule stigmatizes gay men.

In a Reverse, Microsoft Says It Supports Gay Rights Bill

Microsoft, faced with unrelenting criticism from employees and gay rights groups over its decision to abandon support of a gay rights bill in Washington state, reversed course again yesterday and announced that it was now in support of the bill.
Steve Ballmer, the company's chief executive, announced the reversal in an e-mail message sent to 35,000 employees in the United States. "After looking at the question from all sides, I've concluded that diversity in the workplace is such an important issue for our business that it should be included in our legislative agenda," Mr. Ballmer said.

Lab's Errors Force Review of 150 DNA Cases

A sharply critical independent audit found Friday that Virginia's nationally recognized central crime laboratory had botched DNA tests in a leading capital murder case. The findings prompted Gov. Mark Warner to order a review of the lab's handling of testing in 150 other cases as well.
Among the auditors' eight recommendations, all of which were accepted by Mr. Warner, were that the governor restrict the work of the lab's chief DNA scientist, Jeffrey Ban; review 40 cases that Mr. Ban has handled in recent years, along with a sample totaling 110 additional cases; and develop procedures to insulate the lab from any outside political pressures.
Experts said the findings could lead to a re-examination of scores of past prosecutions, including those involving some of the nearly two dozen inmates on Virginia's death row, and might also throw into turmoil many current prosecutions in which the lab's work helped identify or rule out suspects.

Ex-C.I.A. Official Says Bolton Interfered

John R. Bolton's effort in 2002 to oust a top Central Intelligence Agency analyst from his post in a dispute over Cuba represented a troubling breach of the line between policy makers and intelligence, the agency's former deputy director has told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, according to a transcript of the exchange.
The ex-official, John E. McLaughlin, who spent 32 years in the C.I.A., said the episode was "the only time I had ever heard of such a request" from a policy maker, that a C.I.A. officer or analyst be transferred.
The analyst, Fulton Armstrong, was the national intelligence officer for Latin America and had clashed with Mr. Bolton's office about a speech that Mr. Armstrong thought overstated the extent of Cuba's weapons programs.

Members say church ousts Kerry supporters

Nine members of a local church had their membership revoked and 40 others left in protest after tension over political views recently came to a head, church members say.
About 20 members of the 400-member East Waynesville Baptist Church voted the nine members out at a recent deacon meeting, which turned into an impromptu business meeting, according to congregants.
Chan Chandler, pastor of East Waynesville Baptist, had been exhorting his congregation since October to support his political views or leave, said Selma Morris, a 30-year member of the church.
“He preached a sermon on abortion and homosexuality, then said if anyone there was planning on voting for John Kerry, they should leave,” she said. “That’s the first time I’ve ever heard something like that. Ministers are supposed to bring people in.”

Friday, May 06, 2005

Eighty-eight members of Congress call on Bush for answers on secret Iraq plan

"The London Times reports that the British government and the United States government had secretly agreed to attack Iraq in 2002, before authorization was sought for such an attack in Congress, and had discussed creating pretextual justifications for doing so."
"The Times reports, based on a newly discovered document, that in 2002 British Prime Minister Tony Blair chaired a meeting in which he expressed his support for "regime change" through the use of force in Iraq and was warned by the nation's top lawyer that such an action would be illegal," he adds. "Blair also discussed the need for America to "create" conditions to justify the war."
The members say they are seeking an inquiry.
"This should not be allowed to fall down the memory hole during wall-to-wall coverage of the Michael Jackson trial and a runaway bride," he remarks. "To prevent that from occuring, I am circulating the following letter among my House colleagues and asking them to sign on to it."

Pentagon moves to sell Pakistan anti-ship missiles

The Pentagon notified congress on Friday of a proposed sale to Pakistan of 40 air-launched and 20 ground-launched Harpoon Block II anti-ship missiles and related materials valued at up to $180 million (95 million pounds).
Pakistan, a key ally in the U.S.-declared war on terrorism, plans to use the equipment to modernize its existing Harpoon missile capability, the announcement said.
The Pakistani Navy already has AGM-84 Block I air/surface/subsurface launch capability, it said.
"The modernization will enhance Pakistan's legitimate self-defense capability," the Pentagon told congress, which has 30 days to move to block any such government-to-government arms sale.
The sale would not affect the basic military balance in the region, the notice said.

Joe Conason: Leaked Memo Puts Lie to Pre-War Rhetoric

Are Americans so jaded about the deceptions perpetrated by our own government to lead us into war in Iraq that we are no longer interested in fresh and damning evidence of those lies? Or are the editors and producers who oversee the American news industry simply too timid to report that proof on the evening broadcasts and front pages?
There is a "smoking memo" that confirms the worst assumptions about the Bush administration's Iraq policy, but although that memo generated huge pre-election headlines in Britain, its existence has hardly been mentioned here.
When Bush signed the congressional resolution authorizing the use of military force against Iraq on Oct. 16, 2002 -- three months after the Downing Street memorandum -- he didn't say that military action was "inevitable." Instead, the president assured Americans and the world that he still hoped war could be avoided.
"I have not ordered the use of force. I hope the use of force will not become necessary," he said at a press conference. "Hopefully this can be done peacefully. Hopefully we can do this without any military action." He promised that he had "carefully weighed the human cost of every option before us" and that if the United States went into battle, it would be "as a last resort."

In the months that followed, as we now know, the president and his aides grossly exaggerated, and in some instances falsified, the intelligence concerning the Iraqi regime's supposed weapons of mass destruction and alleged ties to the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. Defenders of his policy have since insisted that he too was misled with bad information, provided by U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies.

But "C" heard something very different from Blair's allies in Washington.

According to him, Bush, determined to oust Saddam, planned to "justify" a preventive war by tying the terrorist threat to Iraq's WMD arsenal -- and manipulating the intelligence to fit his policy instead of determining the policy based on the facts.

The 2002 Memo

C [Sir Richard Dearlove] reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

British memo indicates Bush made intelligence fit Iraq policy

"There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable," the MI-6 chief said at the meeting, according to the memo. "Bush wanted to remove Saddam through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD," weapons of mass destruction.
The memo said "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
No weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq since the U.S. invasion in March 2003.
The White House has repeatedly denied accusations made by several top foreign officials that it manipulated intelligence estimates to justify an invasion of Iraq.
It has instead pointed to the conclusions of two studies, one by the Senate Intelligence Committee and one by a presidentially appointed panel, that cite serious failures by the CIA and other agencies in judging Saddam's weapons programs.
The principal U.S. intelligence analysis, called a National Intelligence Estimate, wasn't completed until October 2002, well after the United States and United Kingdom had apparently decided military force should be used to overthrow Saddam's regime.
The newly disclosed memo, which was first reported by the Sunday Times of London, hasn't been disavowed by the British government. A spokesman for the British Embassy in Washington referred queries to another official, who didn't return calls for comment on Thursday.
A former senior U.S. official called it "an absolutely accurate description of what transpired" during the senior British intelligence officer's visit to Washington. He spoke on condition of anonymity.
A White House official said the administration wouldn't comment on leaked British documents.

Peace Groups March Against Depleted Uranium Storage

Community watchdog and peace organizations are planning a 3.7-mile march and rally Saturday to Naval Magazine Indian Island.
The event starts Saturday at noon at H.J. Carroll County Park on state Highway 19 in Chimacum and will continue to South Indian Island County Parks, off Flagler Road, state Highway 116.
``Our focus is health and safety of our communities -- Port Hadlock, Kala Point, Port Townsend and Marrowstone Island,'' said David Jenkins, a member of Port Townsend Depleted Uranium Study Team, sponsoring week's events.
``We are concerned that these communities are less than two miles away from the Magazine.''
Jenkins and his group have been conducting monthly workshops for the past two years, pondering the risks of possible depleted uranium and its effects on nearby residents.

US Propaganda for Foreign Audiences

While U.S. propaganda for foreign audiences is nothing new, questions of how to promote U.S. policy and polish the U.S. image persist. Radio Sawa, a U.S. supported radio channel broadcast in the Middle East, combines Arabic and Western pop music with news written by Voice of America staff. "It’s tough to independently assess Sawa content from afar, but program summaries and interview transcripts from the State Department help," the Columbia Journalism Review's Corey Pein writes. "Sometimes, the questions asked by Sawa correspondents are more revealing than the answers:
  • "Can you please state what is our stated policy towards the fence that the Israelis are building right now?
  • "What is the U.S. going to do, in order to swipe away this illusion and this fear of the Arabs and the Iraqis of something called the 'U.S. occupation,' which is not really what the U.S. is doing in Iraq?
"Iraqis accustomed to road checkpoints and house-by-house raids may not easily be convinced that they are living through an 'illusion' of occupation. And whatever 'our' policy is, 'fence' is a loaded term for the concrete wall snaking through Israel and Palestine," Pein writes.

Doctors Discouraging Push for Cancer Screenings

"The celebrity endorsement oversimplifies what is a complex decision that has pluses and minuses and no obvious answer," said Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, a co-author of the paper and an internist at the Department of Veterans Affairs medical center in White River Junction, Vermont. "But the celebrity endorsement makes it seem as if it were a no-brainer."
Counterintuitive as it may sound, it's sometimes better not to find out about cancer, the researchers said. Some cancers are likely to resolve themselves without treatment, and some patients may be likely to die of another ailment before cancer becomes an issue. A third reason for patients to be wary of cancer screenings is that the risk of false positives seems to increase with more screenings.

Word's Open-Source Competition

The latest version of the free OpenOffice suite promises to be a strong competitor to Microsoft Office. It's still in beta, but it's already a good alternative -- and you can't argue with the price.
OpenOffice is the fruit of a collaboration between Sun Microsystems and volunteer programmers around the world. Sun bought a German company in 1999 to get office software to bundle with its computers but figured that it wasn't going to make big bucks selling the software to a wider market because of Microsoft's grip. So it released portions of the code to the public.
[I use OpenOffice. My review: It does the same job as Microsoft Office with fewer annoyances. And it's free. -- McLir]

Plan B: Ignore the Science?

It's science versus politics once again in the widening fight over the "morning after" pill known as Plan B, with medical researchers this week citing studies showing the drug does not induce abortions, as is commonly thought.
Abortion politics have repeatedly haunted discussions of so-called emergency contraception such as Plan B. It's often referred to in news stories and by anti-abortion groups as an abortion pill, and pro-life advocates have unleashed a campaign against it in the United States that has reverberated through the ranks of the Federal Drug Administration and more than a dozen state legislatures.

Court Nixes FCC's 'Broadcast Flag'

In a blow to the entertainment industry, a federal appeals court on Friday found that federal regulators overstepped their authority by requiring consumer-electronics manufacturers to help restrict digital home recording.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reversed a Federal Communications Commission order that required makers of consumer-electronics devices capable of receiving broadcast digital TV signals to recognize a "broadcast flag," which is code that allows content owners to place limits on redistribution of digital content streams. The rule was to apply to devices manufactured on or after July 1, 2005.

Saturday is Free Comic Book Day!

And here's a shout-out to Dearborn's own Green Brain Comics!

Wexler Blasts Democrats for Not Taking a Stand on Real ID

Excerpt: Today, Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL) voted against the emergency supplemental appropriations conference report (H.R. 1268), which passed the House by a vote of 368 to 58. This bill included a provision sponsored by Congressman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) known as the REAL ID Act, which would institute controversial immigration changes. REAL ID removes the right of judicial review – including habeas corpus – for people fleeing persecution, undermines the privacy rights of even native-born Americans, burdens the states with complex and unfunded ID requirements, makes it harder for battered women to hide from their abusers, scapegoats the immigrant community and does nothing to address the actual problem of border security and enforcement in the United States.
The Republican leadership shamelessly chose to bundle important aid with controversial new legislation forcing members of Congress to thoughtlessly consent to REAL ID in order to support tsunami assistance, increased funding for military personnel – including increased military death gratuities and life insurance benefits for active duty troops.
...“While I am heartened that 57 of my colleagues joined me in opposing REAL ID, I am baffled that so many Democrats caved in to the parliamentary tricks of the Republican leadership. Though I have come to expect as much from Republicans, by supporting the conference report in spite of the REAL ID poison pill, Democrats have abandoned our core values and failed to stand up for the rights to privacy, fair treatment under the law and freedom from persecution upon which our country was founded. It is tragic irony on the very anniversary of Yom HaShoa, the day we remember the horrors of the Holocaust, we are shutting the door to victims of persecution. We all support strengthened border security. We all support our brave military. And we all would like to help the victims of the devastating tsunami. However, to vote for REAL ID, without even an honest debate on the issue, is insulting to Americans, who sent us here to represent them. We were not elected to rubber stamp anything just because we support part of it,” Wexler said.

BBC In pictures: Villagers' Barefoot College

These pictures were taken by villagers from the Indian state of Rajasthan. Most were illiterate, untrained in photography using simple cameras lent or given to them.
They highlight the work of the innovative Barefoot College in the village of Tilonia. The emphasis is on villagers searching out traditional and new ways of bettering their lives. [thanks, Sharon]

Americans face stricter ID checks

From driver's licenses, to passports, to plane tickets, the paperwork necessary to enter and move about America may soon be subject to more restrictive rules - all in the name of homeland security.
In some cases (licenses) the paperwork may be difficult to get. In others (passports) it may have to be proffered more often. These changes, added together, may have the biggest effect on Americans' routines of any made for security's sake since the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001.
But the driver's licenses might not be the only thing that will soon take more documents to obtain. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has announced that it will require airlines to ask for passengers' full names and birth dates when selling tickets.
Ticket-buyers won't actually be required to provide this information. But if they don't, there will be a much better chance of their being pulled aside for extra security checks before being allowed to board.
The change should help keep people from being confused with others who have the same or a similar name and are on terrorist watch lists, said TSA officials. It will also help them implement Secure Flight, a computerized passenger screening program set to enter tests this August.
In addition to all this, new rules proposed by the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security would eventually require Americans returning from nearby destinations, such as Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean, to proffer their passports upon reentry. Previously, returning from these destinations did not require such documentation.
Under the rules - which are now in a comment phase, and have yet to be adopted - US travelers coming from the Caribbean and Panama would need passports beginning next January 1. A similar requirement for return from Canada and Mexico would be phased in over subsequent years.

Your Identity, Open to All

A search for personal data on -- one of the most comprehensive personal-data search engines on the net -- tends to elicit one of two reactions from first-timers: terror or curiosity. Which reaction often depends on whether you are searching for someone else's data, or your own.
ZabaSearch queries return a wealth of info sometimes dating back more than 10 years: residential addresses, phone numbers both listed and unlisted, birth year, even satellite photos of people's homes.
ZabaSearch isn't the first or only such service online. Yahoo's free People Search, for example, returns names, telephone numbers and addresses. But the information is nothing more than what's been available for years in the White Pages.
Far more personal information is available from data brokers, including aliases, bankruptcy records and tax liens. That access typically requires a fee, however, which has always been a barrier to the casual snooper.
But ZabaSearch makes it easier than ever to find comprehensive personal information on anyone.
ZabaSearch may give away some data for free, but it charges for additional information -- like background checks and criminal history reports, which may or may not be accurate. The company also plans to sell ads and other services on the search site, much like Google or Yahoo.
Launched in February, the site has emerged during a period of heightened sensitivity about data privacy and identity theft, now among the fastest-growing crimes in America. Numerous security breaches involving personal records have occurred in recent months. Earlier this week, media giant Time Warner admitted it lost the social security numbers of 600,000 employees. Other incidents of bungling or virtual burglary have compromised hundreds of thousands of personal records held by ChoicePoint, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Lexis-Nexis, among others.

Musical Stories on Bob Dylan

KEXP presents a series of stories on the musical life of Bob Dylan. Told by Dylan’s friends, scholars and fans, "Honest With Me" features firsthand accounts from Joan Baez, Al Kooper, Izzy Young and the Band’s Robbie Robertson.

Ann Coulter Heckler Speaks Out

I'm writing this in response to the spectacle that occurred in the LBJ Library on Tuesday, May 3rd, 2005, when Ann Coulter, a diabolical, ignorant, but nevertheless charismatic right-wing pundit, came to speak at the University of Texas at Austin. Ms. Coulter--yes, Ms, I'd personally think such a vocal female conservative would be making Bubba a meat loaf instead of addressing a politically-minded collegiate audience, but whatever--is the author of relentlessly mendacious anti-liberal books, such as Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right and Treason: Liberal Treachery From the Cold War to the War on Terrorism. She's famous for having an ass that stores so many lies it makes clown-car designers envious. Like her or not (and if you do, I'm surprised you can read) she's a Big F***ing Deal.
The title of the Daily Texan front-page story covering Ms. Coulter's speech was "Arrest Made at Coulter Speech." You could also have caught it on CBS or in the Austin-American Statesman. The general idea is that some jackass made a scene, and Ann Coulter was also there.I am Ajai Raj, and I am a jackass.

FAQ: How Real ID Act will affect you

Over at, Declan McCullagh files this FAQ about the Real ID act, which passed in the House yesterday.
What's all the fuss with the Real ID Act about?
President Bush is expected to sign an $82 billion military spending bill soon that will, in part, create electronically readable federal ID cards for Americans. The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the package--which includes the Real ID Act--on Thursday.

What does that mean for me?
If you live or work in the United States, you'll need a federally approved ID card to travel on an airplane, open a bank account, collect Social Security payments, or take advantage of nearly any government service starting three years from now. Practically speaking, your driver's license likely will have to be reissued to meet federal standards.

What's new: President Bush is expected to sign an $82 billion military spending bill soon that will, in part, create electronically readable federal ID cards for Americans.
Bottom line: The Real ID Act hands the Department of Homeland Security the power to set federal ID standards and determine whether state drivers' licenses and other cards pass muster.

Link. Much more background at politech, including: House approves Real ID Act; one Democrat's objections

"Louie Louie" Ban Lifted

How to End the War

The central question we need to answer is this: What were the real reasons for the Bush administration’s invasion and occupation of Iraq?
When we identify why we really went to war—not the cover reasons or the rebranded reasons, freedom and democracy, but the real reasons—then we can become more effective anti-war activists. The most effective and strategic way to stop this occupation and prevent future wars is to deny the people who wage these wars their spoils—to make war unprofitable. And we can’t do that unless we effectively identify the goals of war.
When I was in Iraq a year ago trying to answer that question, one of the most effective ways I found to do that was to follow the bulldozers and construction machinery. I was in Iraq to research the so-called reconstruction. And what struck me most was the absence of reconstruction machinery, of cranes and bulldozers, in downtown Baghdad. I expected to see reconstruction all over the place.
I saw bulldozers in military bases. I saw bulldozers in the Green Zone, where a huge amount of construction was going on, building up Bechtel’s headquarters and getting the new U.S. embassy ready. There was also a ton of construction going on at all of the U.S. military bases. But, on the streets of Baghdad, the former ministry buildings are absolutely untouched. They hadn’t even cleared away the rubble, let alone started the reconstruction process.

Bush overturns logging, road ban in forests

The Bush administration yesterday overturned one of the most significant land conservation measures of the Clinton presidency: a ban on road building, logging and development on 58.5 million acres of national forests. The move could open large areas of pristine land to industry.
The "roadless rule" affects 31 percent of all national forestland, mostly in Alaska and the West - an area about one-third the size of Texas.
President Clinton put the far-reaching land-conservation initiative in place during the final days of his administration.
Though 38 states have some areas of national forests without roads, 97 percent of the land at issue is in 12 Western states. The U.S. Forest Service manages about 191 million acres of forests and grasslands. The new rule gives governors 18 months to propose to the Agriculture Department which national forestland should be left untouched and which should be opened for other uses
If governors propose no changes in the way the national forests in their states are currently used, or their proposals for changes are rejected by Washington, roadless areas could be opened immediately for development unless specifically protected by 10-year forest plans.

In Kansas, Darwinism Goes on Trial Once More

In the first of three daylong hearings being referred to here as a direct descendant of the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial in Tennessee, a parade of Ph.D.'s testified Thursday about the flaws they saw in mainstream science's explanation of the origins of life. It was one part biology lesson, one part political theater, and the biggest stage yet for the emerging movement known as intelligent design, which posits that life's complexity cannot be explained without a supernatural creator.
Darwin's defenders are refusing to testify at the hearings, which were called by the State Board of Education's conservative majority. But their lawyer forcefully cross-examined the other side's experts, pushing them to acknowledge that nothing in the current standards prevented discussion of challenges to evolution, and peppering them with queries both profound and personal.
"Do the standards state anywhere that science, evolution, is in any way in conflict with belief in God?" the lawyer, Pedro Irigonegaray, asked William S. Harris, a chemist who helped write the proposed changes.
When a later witness, Jonathan Wells, said he enjoyed being in the minority on such a controversial topic, Mr. Irigonegaray retorted, "More than being right?"

FDA to ban sperm donations from homosexuals

Claims the rate of HIV among gay men is statistically high enough to warrant the exclusion. Gay community suggests discrimination. See also: Gay blood ban (in effect since 1985). [from]

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Safety Stops Draw Doubts

"I've got some serious constitutional issues with that," Davis said as she sat in her idling Acura at the checkpoint at Kansas Avenue and Shepherd Street NW in the Petworth neighborhood. "I feel like it's a violation of my rights. It's a slippery slope to Big Brother."
The details about Davis and the stop will be fed into the database, which is linked to a computer that includes arrest records and mug shots of criminals. The database allows a detective, for example, to enter into the computer the description of a car that fled a crime scene in hopes of finding a match from a traffic checkpoint.
The city's practice of recording information at traffic safety checkpoints on violators and law-abiding motorists alike -- and sometimes their passengers -- has garnered little attention since police began entering such data into a computer in 2002. Few, if any, of the more than 100 people pulled over almost nightly at the five or six checkpoints in high-crime areas realize that their names and whereabouts will end up in the database.
Arthur Spitzer, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area, said he was unaware of the practice but said it sounded like "an abuse."
"They're not entitled to force you to cooperate with them to gather personal information without probable cause," he said.
Others see it differently.
"It's not incriminating in any way. It doesn't hurt [motorists'] reputation; it's not public information," said D.C. police Inspector Kevin Keegan, who heads the two units that target high-crime areas and conduct the vast majority of traffic safety checkpoint stops. "We're not trying to violate someone's civil rights."

New Rule to Open National Forest to Roads

The Bush administration, in one of its biggest decisions on environmental issues, moved Thursday to open up nearly a third of all remote national forest lands to road building, logging and other commercial ventures.
The 58.5 million acres involved, mainly in Alaska and in western states, had been put off limits to development by former President Clinton, eight days before he left office in January 2001.
Robert Vandermark, director of the Heritage Forests Campaign
Under existing local forest management plans, some 34.3 million acres of these pristine woodlands could be opened to road construction. That would be the first step in allowing logging, mining and other industry and wider recreational uses of the land. Under proposed rules, new management plans have to be written for the other 24.2 million acres before road building can commence.
Governors have 18 months to submit petitions to the U.S. Forest Service, challenging either the old plan to stop development, or calling for new plans to allow it.

Clearing smog has led to 'global brightening'

New data show that after years of getting smoggier, our skies have become clearer since about 1990. And one effect has been to allow more solar radiation to reach the surface of the Earth.
The phenomenon known as “global dimming” has gone into reverse, according to research by Martin Wild at the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science in Zurich, Switzerland, and been replaced by “global brightening” (Science. vol 308, p 847). “There is no longer a dimming to counteract the greenhouse effect,” he told New Scientist.
Climate scientists say there have been two critical influences on global air temperatures in the past half-century. First, rising atmospheric concentrations of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide have warmed the Earth, by preventing more of the heat that reaches the Earth’s surface from escaping back into space.
But a parallel increase in smog particles has shaded the planet, partly offsetting the warming. Past studies have shown an increase in average aerosol particle levels in the atmosphere between 1960 and 1990 that were sufficient to reduce solar radiation reaching the Earth’s surface by about 5%.
The net effect of these two conflicting influences has been a warming of almost 0.5°C since 1960. But the rising levels of aerosols have led to concern that they might be masking greater underlying warming. And now the mask appears to be coming off.

Would You Like to Join the Revolution?

[Hilarious audio from Morning Sedition]

How to Shrink Coins With a Lots of Electrons

Dutch court refuses to throw Bush in jail

A court in The Hague turned down a demand by a dozen plaintiffs who wanted to force the Dutch government to arrest US President George W. Bush when he visits the Netherlands Saturday, the judgement made public said.
Bush will be in the south of the Netherlands this weekend to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.
The plaintiffs, mostly left-wing organisations and activists, accused Bush of "numerous grave violations of the Geneva Conventions". They also said the president is responsible for the deaths of civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq and Washington's refusal to recognize the International Criminal Court (ICC), the world's first permanent war crimes court.
In the judgement, dated on Tuesday, the court said that the case was political and that the demands "could have far-reaching consequences for US-Dutch relations".

Band Banned From Performing 'Louie Louie'

"Unintelligible at any speed." No, not Ralph Nader mumbling, but the lyrics to "Louie Louie," in the FBI's humble assessment more than 40 years ago. Nevertheless, this week a Michigan school superintendent banned a middle school marching band from playing the song... even without anyone singing the lyrics. [from]
This link and this link offer some of the best covers of the song.
This link provides excerpts from the FBI's investigation.
And here is the Straight Dope on the lyrics:
"Louie Louie, me gotta go. Louie Louie, me gotta go. A fine little girl, she wait for me. Me catch the ship across the sea. I sailed the ship all alone. I never think I'll make it home. Louie Louie, me gotta go . Three nights and days we sailed the sea. Me think of girl constantly. On the ship, I dream she there. I smell the rose in her hair. Louie Louie, me gotta go. Me see Jamaican moon above. It won't be long me see me love. Me take her in my arms and then I tell her I never leave again. Louie Louie, me gotta go." (By Richard Berry. Copyright 1957-1963 by Limax Music Inc.)

Bootleg Browser

The Bootleg Browser. Links to live shows from almost 350 artists. []
Thanks for the XTC!

Todays Weather: Zoned Out

We are experiencing sub-90 IQ's across the metro area, with smatterings of blank stares and marble-mouthed speech. Avoid operating heavy machinery, walking backwards and multi-tasking.

Real ID Act Included in the Must-Pass Emergency Spending Bill for Iraq and Tsunami Relief

Stop the REAL ID Act!
Earlier this year, the US House of Representatives passed the REAL ID Act, bringing us a giant step closer to a "national ID." The REAL ID Act would establish a vast national database of ID holders, where even a small percentage of errors would cause major social disruption. The ID would essentially be an internal passport that would be shown before accessing planes, trains, national parks, and court houses - an irresistible target for forgers and identity thieves. It would also divert resources from security measures that could actually work. And in calling for the use of "common machine-readable technology," the REAL ID Act paves the way for the federal government to force every state to put radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips into their ID cards.
The Senate needs to be reminded that such proposals have always been rejected for good reason: our privacy and civil liberties are at the core of what it means to be an American citizen, and they shouldn't be traded for what amounts to security theater. Tell your senators to reject the REAL ID Act! More Info: Statement of Senator Durbin on the REAL ID Act

Text of Bill HR 1268

US Forest Service Looking to Replace Spokespeople with PR Firms

The U.S. Forest Service announced that it is weighing replacement of 100 of its public information staff with private public relations firms, according to agency documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The move is motivated by pressure from the Bush White House to put more federal jobs out to bid by private contractors in order to “increase the cost-effectiveness of Forest Service work.”
According to agency memos, 100 of the agency’s 700 public affairs officers, public affairs specialists, writers, editors, graphic artists, illustrators and audio visual specialists will be reviewed by June 30 to determine whether the positions would be subject to bid by private firms. The agency plans to make decisions this fall and contractors could be in place by January.
Hundreds of other positions throughout the agency may be subject to similar bidding in 2006. In 2004, citing cost overruns and potential side effects, Congress severely restricted the Bush Administration efforts to outsource Forest Service and National Park Service jobs. Those restrictions, however, lapsed this past October and now the Bush Administration is again pushing its “Competitive Sourcing” initiative.
The U.S. Forest Service "is weighing replacement of 100 of its public information staff with private public relations firms," according to documents obtained by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. The move is in response to "pressure from the Bush White House to put more federal jobs out to bid by private contractors in order to 'increase the cost-effectiveness of Forest Service work.'" By June 30, the agency will review 100 of its 700 public affairs, communications and graphics positions, to determine whether they should be outsourced. PEER's Jeff Ruch warned, "Civil servants are under a legal obligation to tell the public the truth while PR firms specialize in shading it." Last year, the Forest Service's PR contract with OneWorld Communications was criticized for, among other things, brochures deemed "very misleading" by environmental groups that promoted increased logging in the Sierra Nevada.

Spectacular Photographs of Sandstorm in Iraq

Cloned pet ban rejected

Sacramento -- State lawmakers Tuesday turned away a bill that could have brought a first-in-the-nation ban on pet cloning, moved less by a host of scientific and ethical arguments than by photos of wide-eyed, copy-cat kittens.
The 4-2 vote against the bill with four abstentions by members of Assembly Business and Professions Committee on AB1428 by Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys, came after a brief discussion that touched on everything from free enterprise to mad science -- all triggered largely by a pioneering Bay Area firm's willingness to replicate pet owners' favorite cat or dog.

Bush Administration Tries to Intimidate AFL-CIO over Social Security

In a letter on Tuesday to the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the Department of Labor said it was "very concerned" that pension plans might be spending workers' money to "advocate a particular result in the current Social Security debate."
The Labor Department also warned the federation that pension plans could be violating their fiduciary responsibilities by suggesting that they might take their investment business away from Wall Street firms that support Mr. Bush's plans.
The department did not cite any specific instances and it stopped short of any formal accusations. But the letter came after a well-orchestrated campaign by the A.F.L.-C.I.O. to criticize investment firms that appeared to be supporting Mr. Bush's proposal for private investment accounts. "A fiduciary may never increase a plan's expenses, sacrifice the security of promised benefits, or reduce the return on plan assets, in order to promote its views on Social Security or any other broad policy issue," the letter said.
Damon Silvers, associate general counsel for the A.F.L.-C.I.O., described the warning as mostly a matter of "tone" rather than substance, and said union officials agreed with the Labor Department's main principles about fiduciary responsibility.

Fast 3D city model generation

Engineers at Berkeley have found a way to map a city very quickly, recording every window and doorway of the urban battlefield in an accurate 3D model.
The "virtualised reality" technique is similar to building a virtual reality model, but the process is automated and much faster.
Virtualised reality scans the urban landscape using lasers and digital cameras mounted on a truck or plane. A laser measures distances to objects such as lamp posts and building facades, while the camera takes 2D photos. Another laser calculates the movement of the truck and checks its position against data collected from the aerial laser.
A computer combines these data to create the 3D model of the area. The researchers recently created a model of downtown Berkeley in just 4½ hours - 26 minutes of driving plus 4 hours of data processing.
The first user will probably be the US army, but in the future car-hire companies or cellphone providers could use it to transmit up-to-date 3D maps to their customers to help them navigate through unfamiliar cities. Emergency workers could use the models to figure out the best way to respond to disasters. Urban planners could look at a series of models collected over time to see how the layout of their city has evolved.
The Berkeley team is also working on a 4D modelling system, which would record anything from a boxing match to a ballet performance as a moving 3D model that the viewer could manipulate in virtual space.
Via New Scientist.

U.S. Officials Suspected of Embezzlement in Iraq

The U.S. government has opened a criminal inquiry into suspected embezzlement by officials who failed to account for almost $100 million they disbursed for Iraqi reconstruction projects, federal investigators said Wednesday.
Auditors have been unable to fully document how the money was allocated to Iraqi workers by a small group of officials working from a U.S. outpost in Hillah, according to an audit report released Wednesday by Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.
The auditors found "significant" problems in the Hillah office, including one case in which an official fired for mishandling funds was allowed to continue disbursing money nearly a month after his termination.
The case is the first time U.S. government officials have been investigated for a suspected major corruption scheme involving the Iraq reconstruction. The rebuilding effort has been marred by allegations against Iraqis as well as contractors from the United States and elsewhere.
The reconstruction funds that were examined came from seized assets of the former regime of Saddam Hussein and from Iraqi oil revenue, not from U.S. taxpayer money.
A few other U.S. officials in Iraq have drawn the scrutiny of investigators for smaller incidents, though none have been charged. In the cases now under investigation, the report notes questionable accounting practices by several officers involving millions of dollars over a 16-month period ending in October.

Bullying Search Engine Optimization, Inc uses legal threats to silence critics

Phillip Lenssen blogged some material about a "Search Engine Optimizer" (a company that helps web-developers inflate their rankings with search-engines) called Search Engine Optimization, Inc. The service had all but vanished from Google's database, and Phillip, a commentator on this industry, noted that this boded poorly for the company, indicating that they'd probably done something wrong to incur the wrath of Google (the "Google Death Penalty"), which meant that they ended up looking totally incompentent: not only couldn't they improve your site's PageRank, they couldn't get themselves ranked on Google.
The company responded with a threatening, bogus Cease-and-Desist letter telling Phillip that he had to take his page down or face legal action. Never mind that Phillip's post contained nothing actionable, he couldn't afford a lawsuit and poof, these bullies were able to censor their critics off the Internet.
Here's the stuff that they believe gives them grounds to sue Phillip. I think you'll agree that this is about as bogus a claim as we can imagine...

New Pain Machine for Crowd Control

Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ is being awarded a $7.5 million cost-plus award-fee contract to design, fabricate, test rapidly field and support a fixed Active Denial System (ADS) referred to as System 2 and ADS2.
Active Denial Technology exploits the body's natural defense mechanism that induces pain as a warning to help protect it from injury. It uses a transmitter producing energy at a frequency of 95Ghz and an antenna to direct a focused, invisible beam to a subject at the speed of light and penetrate the skin to a depth of less than 1/64 of an inch. This produces an escalating heating sensation that becomes intolerable in seconds, and forces the subject to flee. The sensation immediately ceases when the individual moves out of the beam or when the system operator turns it off. Despite this sensation, the beam does not cause injury because of the shallow penetration depth of energy at this wavelength and the low energy levels used.

No Buisness - Latest from Negativland

Good Hello!
Here are two new tracks from the forthcoming full length Negativland CD/book project, "NO BUSINESS."
The "NO BUSINESS" project will come in a fancy shmancy die-cut sleeve package with a 14,000 word essay (in lovely 56-page book form), a computer-playable video, and 37 minutes of audio that are all about, and examples of, Negativland's current take on issues of file-sharing, downloading, appropriation, and the supposed collapse of the music business, circa 2005. We're looking at the ways things have changed in the last decade and the ways things have stayed the same. And yes, it's going to be funny. Really.
While the completed project wont be available from us for a number of months, we felt that these two tracks, both made from 100% appropriated material, were so timely in their content that we wanted to get them out right to you away....enjoy!
"No Business" (4:48) Streaming Direct Download
"Downloading" (9:51) Streaming Direct Download
Release date is May 26, 2005.

No Court-Martial in Iraq Mosque Shooting

A Marine corporal who was videotaped shooting an apparently injured and unarmed Iraqi in a Fallujah mosque last year will not face a court-martial, the Marine Corps announced Wednesday.
A review of the evidence showed the Marine's actions were "consistent with the established rules of engagement and the law of armed conflict," Maj. Gen. Richard F. Natonski, commanding general of the 1st Marine Division, said in a statement.
The corporal was not identified in the two-page statement issued by Camp Pendleton, the headquarters of the expeditionary force north of San Diego.
In sworn statements, the corporal said he shot three insurgents in self-defense in the mosque Nov. 13, believing they posed a threat to him and his fellow Marines, the statement said. Autopsy results showed that all three died of multiple wounds from gunshots fired from the corporal's M-16.
One of the shootings was recorded by Kevin Sites, an NBC cameraman embedded with the Marines, and the dramatic footage prompted outrage among Iraqis and an immediate investigation by the Marine Corps.

Brazil rejects US HIV funds over prostitution rule

Brazil has become the first country to turn down grants totalling $40 million from the USA, in a protest against Bush government policies refusing money to organisations that support sex workers and gay men or needle exchanges for drug users.
The $40m was the bulk of a $48m grant which was due to run till 2008.
...[T]he deal fell apart when they refused to include a written clause condemning prostitution.
Brazil’s anti-HIV programme is seen as a model for the developing world.
It has kept its HIV rate down to about 0.6%, when it was widely expected to be at least double that by 2005, due to a combination of free anti-HIV drugs for everyone who needs them, widespread condom distribution and dealing in an open and accepting way with prostitutes, gay men and drug users.
Prostitution is legal in Brazil and the age of consent for everyone regardless of sexuality is 14.
“We can’t control HIV with principles that are…theological and fundamentalist,” said Pedro Chequer, Director of Brazil’s AIDS programme.

Champion of Justice, Kikaida-01!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Counteracting Critical Viewpoints - From Report on Non-Lethal Weapons

Over lunch on the first day of the conference a representative from the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defence for Public Affairs discussed strategies to counteract critical viewpoints of the non-lethal weapons programme in the media. She encouraged those present to keep repeating a positive message particularly when there was a negative story published, and not to shy away from commenting. If there was negative coverage about an important programme that could be derailed by the general public or congress then they would ‘really go after them’, she said. She indicated that officials would give increased information access to ‘bread and butter military journalists’ as opposed to the ‘60 minutes type journalists’ in return for more positive coverage. She also advocated a strategy of targeting military analysts working for various news media and getting them on message. She admitted, however, that they ‘still don’t know how to handle the bloggers’. [my emphasis]

New York City foster home accused of unethical AIDS drug trials

In December, a BBC report aired interviews with children claiming that when new treatments made them sick, they were force-fed the drugs. The report also showed foster parents who said their children were taken away when they stopped giving them the drugs.
The charges focus on the Incarnation Children's Center (ICC) in Manhattan. From the early 1990s through 2002, about 60 HIV-positive children at the center took part in dozens of national clinical trials run by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center and other area hospitals.
The ICC denies the allegations. "Of course some kids were reluctant, as kids are, to take their medicine," says Gerald McKelvey, a spokesperson for the ICC. But children were never force-fed, McKelvey says.
The trials were approved by the Pediatric AIDS Clinical Trials Group (PACTG), a self-governing network that sets standards for care of HIV-infected children and is supported by the US National Institutes of Health. Some trials were sponsored by drug companies, including Genentech, Bristol-Myers Squibb and GlaxoSmithKline.
The accusations were first published by Liam Scheff, a freelance journalist who does not believe that HIV causes AIDS. In his report, Scheff wrote, "If we don't know how HIV works, or if it makes anyone sick, then it's unethical to treat any HIV-positive person with potentially fatal pharmaceuticals."
In rare cases, the city took children away from foster parents who refused to give them the drugs, says McKelvey. According to a written statement from Columbia University, the drugs' side effects were never serious enough to warrant discontinuing treatment.
Most researchers agree that pediatric drugs should be tested in children because children react to diseases and drugs differently than adults do. Under federal law, parents have the right to decide how to balance the promise of new treatments with any adverse affects, and can pull a child out of a trial at any time.
But for foster children, whose legal guardian is a city or state agency, informed consent is more complicated. In the early 1990s, New York City's Department of Health had the power to enroll these children in drug trials. That power now belongs to the city's Administration for Children's Services.
One patient advocacy group, the Alliance for Human Research Protection, says the city has violated federal regulations by not requiring separate consent for each child. The group is calling for a moratorium on using foster children in phase 1 and 2 trials.

U.S. cities set up their own wireless networks

A number of U.S. cities are becoming giant wireless "hot spots" where Internet users will be able to log on from the beach or a bus stop, a trend that is triggering a fierce backlash from telecom and cable giants.
"We look at this as another utility just like water, sewer, parks and recreation, that our communities should have," said St. Cloud, Florida, Mayor Glen Sangiovanni, who hopes to provide free wireless service to the entire city by the fall.
At a conference this week, officials from dozens of local governments compared notes, listened to pitches from vendors and discussed ways to counter the lobbying of telecommunications giants that have sought to block them at the state level.
Free or discounted wireless service can spur economic development, improve police patrols and other city services and encourage Internet use in poorer neighborhoods, they said.
Slightly more than 100 U.S. cities -- as big as Philadelphia and as small as Nantucket, Massachusetts -- are setting up wireless networks now. Conference organizer Daniel Aghion said close to 1,000 local governments worldwide have plans in the works.

Pentagon probes tales of forced prayer at U.S. Air Force Academy

The Pentagon will investigate the U.S. Air Force Academy after cadets complained that they were ordered to pray and told they'd go to hell if they didn't preach the word of God.
Michael L. Dominguez, acting secretary of the U.S. air force, announced Tuesday that a task force will visit the Colorado Springs, Colo., campus of the academy after 55 cases of religious intolerance were uncovered through internal surveys.
Dominguez said senior commanders will be put under review to see if they "enhance or detract from a climate that respects ... the free exercise of religion."
Among the complaints:
  • A professor who required cadets to pray before taking a test.
  • A chaplain who warned anyone not spreading the word of God would "burn in the fires of hell."
  • A coach who hung a banner in the locker room declaring: "I Am a Member of Team Jesus Christ."
  • The academy's second-in-command, Brig.-Gen. Johnny Weida, sent an e-mail to cadets: "The Lord is in control. He has a plan for ... every one of us."

Body to Be Exhumed in 1955 Racial Killing

A half century after the murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till shocked a nation and galvanized the civil rights movement, his body will be exhumed as authorities attempt to determine who killed him, the FBI said Wednesday.
Till's body, buried in a cemetery in the Chicago suburb of Alsip, will be exhumed within the next few weeks for an autopsy, said Deborah Madden, spokeswoman for the FBI office in Jackson, Miss.
The Justice Department announced plans last year to reopen the Till investigation, citing several pieces of information that included a documentary by New York filmmaker Keith Beauchamp.
Interview with filmmaker Keith Beauchamp. PBS's The Murder of Emmett Till from American Experience.

Republicans Deliberately Misrepresenting Dem Amendments to Abortion Bill

[NPR Audio] Democrat J. Nadler offered an amendment that would have allowed grandparents and adult siblings to accompany a minor to another state for an abortion.
Instead, the committee's documents reported, "Mr. Nadler offered an amendment to provide sexual predators and exemption from the provisions of the bill if they are adult siblings or grandparents."

US Military and Iraqi Casualty Statistics

U.S. and British government officials often declare insistently that the war against Iraq was "worth it," despite the failure to discover weapons of mass destruction, because the tyranny of Saddam Hussein has been brought to an end.
But it is difficult to support this conclusion with a cost-benefit analysis because the costs, which continue to be paid, are often not reported and may be unknown. In particular, "the Department of Defense does not publicly release numbers on Iraqi civilian deaths, Iraqi security forces deaths, or medical evacuations of U.S. military personnel outside of Iraq," as noted in a new report from the Congressional Research Service. The CRS report therefore presents a range of estimates, of varying degrees of reliability, to help fill that information void. See "U.S. Military and Iraqi Casualty Statistics: Additional Numbers and Explanations," April 26, 2005:

Congress earmarked $20 million for Iraqi civilians who suffered losses as a result of the Iraq war in the final House-Senate conference agreement on emergency supplemental appropriations for FY 2005 (H.R. 1268, section 2108).
That financial assistance is to be designated the "Marla Ruzicka Iraqi War Victims Fund," in memory of aid worker Marla Ruzicka who died in a car bomb attack on April 16 and who "inspired the creation of this program and a similar program in Afghanistan," the conference report stated.

The US Civil War as a Theological War: Confederate Christian Nationalism and the League of the South

Formed in Alabama in 1994, the League of the South is a nationalist organization that advocates secession from the United States of America and the establishment of a fifteen-state Confederate States of America (CSA) – four states more than seceded during the US Civil War (1861–1865), the additional states being Oklahoma, Missouri, Kentucky, and Maryland (Southern Patriot). With over ten thousand members, the League professes a commitment to constructing this new CSA based on a reading of Christianity and the Bible that can be identified as “Christian nationalist.” This position is centred upon what we identify as the theological war thesis, an assessment that interprets the nineteenth-century CSA to be an orthodox Christian nation and understands the 1861–1865 US Civil War to have been a theological war over the future of American religiosity fought between devout Confederate and heretical Union states. In turn, this reasoning leads to claims that the “stars and bars” battle flag and other Confederate icons are Christian symbols and the assertion that opposition to them equates to a rejection of Christianity.
Utilizing original publications by nineteenth-century Presbyterians and Internet postings by the League of the South as the resources for our analysis, our explication will examine the roots and development of the theological war thesis. We argue that the theological war thesis originated in texts by theologians who between them contended that the Confederacy comprised an orthodox Christian nation, at times intertwining this religious viewpoint with, amongst other things, defences of slavery, denunciations of public education and mass schooling, and proposals to maintain a hierarchical and unequal society. There is not space to examine every publication in this chronology and tradition, although as other authors have pointed out, interpretations of Christianity and its connection to the Civil War and Biblical justifications for slavery are numerous

Japan Plans to Withdraw Troops From Iraq in December

Japan will withdraw its 550 soldiers from their non-combat mission in Iraq in December, according to a media report Wednesday.
Tokyo will notify other countries participating in the peacekeeping mission in Iraq as early as September and then shift its contribution to financial assistance, Kyodo News agency said, quoting sources it did not identify.

Several American allies - including Ukraine, the Netherlands and Spain - have started pulling their troops from Iraq, and Poland has said it will withdraw its soldiers by year's end unless the U.N. Security Council renewed their mandate.

ABC Changes Rules For Focus On The Family

"Focus on the Family is clearly a religious organization," the Rev. Robert Chase, director of the UCC's communication ministry, told United Church News. "Here's yet another illustration of how a particular narrow agenda makes up the rules as they go along, while another religious viewpoint cannot even purchase time on the people's airwaves to proclaim an all-inclusive message."
In December and March, the three major networks denied a purchasing request by the Cleveland-based UCC. NBC and CBS rejected the UCC's 30-second ads as "too controversial." ABC, however, sidestepped the fray by maintaining that it has a blanket policy against all religious advertising.
"Why are the network executives so willing to bow to this narrow agenda of the religious right?" Chase told United Church News. "Why is one religious viewpoint continually accommodated by the network elites?"

City of DC May Get Representation

In what many experts consider the best opportunity in years for Washington to gain voting rights in Congress, Representative Thomas M. Davis III, Republican of Virginia, introduced legislation on Tuesday that would give District of Columbia residents a seat in the House of Representatives.
The bill tries to break the political inertia and partisan squabbling that has stalled Washington voting rights for two centuries by giving Utah, a Republican bastion, an additional House seat to balance the seat for Washington, which is overwhelmingly Democratic.
Supporters of the measure, including the city's Democratic mayor and most of its Democratic-dominated council, hailed it as a pragmatic compromise, saying they would prefer full Congressional representation, two seats in the Senate as well as one in the House, but were prepared to push Mr. Davis's bill as a first step.

Iraqi press under attack from authorities in Iraq

A photographer for a Baghdad newspaper says Iraqi police beat and detained him for snapping pictures of long lines at gas stations. A reporter for another local paper received an invitation from Iraqi police to cover their graduation ceremony and ended up receiving death threats from the recruits. A local TV reporter says she's lost count of how many times Iraqi authorities have confiscated her cameras and smashed her tapes.
All these cases are under investigation by the Iraqi Association to Defend Journalists, a union that formed amid a chilling new trend of alleged arrests, beatings and intimidation of Iraqi reporters at the hands of Iraqi security forces. Reporters Without Borders, an international watchdog group for press freedom, tracked the arrests of five Iraqi journalists within a two-week period and issued a statement on April 26 asking authorities "to be more discerning and restrained and not carry out hasty and arbitrary arrests."

Lobbyists push their agendas with the GAO, FEC and OGE

When it comes to lobbying in Washington, ChevronTexaco Corp. knows how to distribute its energy. The petroleum powerhouse is a high-profile fixture on Capitol Hill, spending millions to curry legislative favor. The company's hired guns routinely seek to influence regulations at the Department of Energy, rulemakings at the Environmental Protection Agency—and even independent investigations at the Government Accountability Office.

But ChevronTexaco is hardly unique. The GAO has launched thousands of inquiries into government programs during the past six years. During that time nearly 300 companies and organizations have sought to influence those investigations, according to a study of federal lobbying records by the Center for Public Integrity.
In fact, many of the federal offices responsible for overseeing the integrity of American democracy are among the more than 200 agencies lobbied during the past six years—agencies such as the Federal Election Commission, the Office of Government Ethics and the GAO, which serves as the investigative arm of Congress.
"So many lobbyists cover so many issues, it is not surprising to find them popping up almost everywhere," said lobbying expert Burdett Loomis. Lobbying these oversight agencies, he added, may be a "more indirect" way of influencing government, but it can still be quite effective.

Funding the Culture Wars: Philanthropy, Church and State

[PDF] Hidden amid the conservative foundation grants to well-known right-wing think tanks, such as the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute, were donations to overtly religious organizations with political aspirations. Organizations like Toward Tradition, the Family Research Council and James Dobson’s Focus on the Family received approximately 10 percent of the grant monies studied in Axis to promote what has come to be popularly known as “traditional family values.” This “Culture War” and its issue battlefields of abortion, school prayer, public displays of the Ten Commandments, stem-cell research and most recently same-sex marriage are all issues with which conservative foundations engage.
This relatively large level of foundation support for religious conservatism raises substantial questions about philanthropy, politics and religion. To further explore these connections and issues, NCRP decided to expand its research on conservative philanthropy to the more specialized area of foundations that support Christian evangelism—with an emphasis on grantees that either directly or indirectly attempt to impact public policy. In looking at the magnitude and variety of grantmaking within this subsector of philanthropy, knowledge of the successful strategies applied by conservative grantmakers can be expanded. But equally important is the desire to examine the larger issues related to church and state, and how philanthropy factors into the equation.

Feds Probing Alleged Mad Cow Cover-up

Federal investigators are looking into allegations by a former U.S. Agriculture Department inspector that the agency sought to cover up cases of mad cow disease, United Press International has learned.
Lester Friedlander, a former USDA veterinarian, told UPI he was questioned recently by two representatives from the USDA's Office of Inspector General who were investigating statements he made before Canada's Parliament in April.
"I told them I think there's a cover-up," said Friedlander, a 10-year veteran of the USDA who received official praise and recognition for outstanding performance during his tenure with the agency.

Congress to force agencies to identify video news

Congressional negotiators have agreed to bar government agencies for one year from issuing video news releases that do not clearly identify themselves as the source, Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd said on Tuesday.
Senate and House negotiators agreed to include the measure in an emergency spending bill banning the use of taxpayer dollars for producing the releases, which often resemble news segments, unless they include a written or audible notice.
"It is simply not right for administration departments and agencies to try to snooker the American people, producing propaganda and passing it off as legitimate news," the West Virginia lawmaker said in a statement.

Sex predators tracked on satellite

Convicted sexual predators will be imprisoned or tracked by satellite for the rest of their lives under a new law signed by Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
The state law, prompted by the recent murders of two young girls, requires sentences of 25 years to life in prison for sexual predators convicted of molesting children less than 12 years of age.
Convicts serving less than life would wear a tracking device linked to global positioning systems until their deaths.
...The law also bolsters registration requirements, requires satellite tracking of existing offenders until their probation period is over, and makes it a felony to harbour a sexual offender.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

New Synaptic Junction Weekly is Now Posted

Rev. Moon's First Year as Messiah Since Coronated by Congress

For those who missed this last year
...Rev. Sun Myung Moon was crowned in a Congressional ceremony. In his acceptance speech, Moon claimed that Hitler and Stalin pronounced him (Moon) "none other than humanity's Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent."
Now we all know Hitler and Stalin have a bad rap, but it's okay because, as Moon explained, Moon reformed them with his blessing during a visit to the spirit world.
Don't believe me? Click here.
Moon's Earthly Mission can be monitored regularly at the blog Where in Washington D.C. is Sun Myung Moon?

Joint Chiefs of Staff Draft Recommends Preemptive Nuclear Attacks

The U.S. military is considering allowing regional combatant commanders to request presidential approval for pre-emptive nuclear strikes against possible attacks with weapons of mass destruction on the United States or its allies, according to a draft nuclear operations paper.
The March 15 paper, drafted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is titled "Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations,"[PDF] providing "guidelines for the joint employment of forces in nuclear operations . . . for the employment of U.S. nuclear forces, command and control relationships, and weapons effect considerations."
"There are numerous nonstate organizations (terrorist, criminal) and about 30 nations with WMD programs, including many regional states," the paper says in recommending that commanders in the Pacific and other theaters be given an option of pre-emptive strikes against "rogue" states and terrorists and "request presidential approval for use of nuclear weapons" under set conditions.
The paper identifies nuclear, biological and chemical weapons as requiring pre-emptive strikes to prevent their use.
Allowing pre-emptive nuclear strikes against possible biological and chemical attacks would effectively contradict a "negative security assurance" policy declared 10 years ago by the Clinton administration during an international conference to review the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Creating a treaty committing nuclear powers not to use nuclear weapons against countries without nuclear weapons remains one of the most contentious issues for the 35-year-old NPT regime.
A Pentagon official said the paper "is still a draft which has to be finalized" but indicated that it is aimed at guiding "cross-spectrum" combatant commanders how to jointly carry out operations based on the Nuclear Posture Review report adopted three years ago by the Bush administration.

Witness in Marine Case Taken Off Stand

A key witness in the case against a Marine officer accused of murdering two Iraqi civilians was abruptly taken off the stand Wednesday on suspicion of violating orders on giving interviews about the case.
Marine Sgt. Daniel Coburn was testifying at a hearing in the case against 2nd Lt. Ilario Pantano when the investigating officer, Maj. Mark E. Winn, read him his rights and told him he was suspected of violating orders from superior officers.
Coburn left the courtroom after requesting a lawyer.
Defense lawyers had complained Coburn had given interviews about the case to ABC News, the Daily News of New York and New York magazine even after being ordered not to do so.
"I knew that this was going to happen," defense attorney Charles Gittins said after the hearing ended. "I've been lying in wait for that for weeks."

Surveillance Drones Tested on Americans

An official said yesterday the battery-powered spy plane was launched as a test run and that he's not sure whether the agency will buy the craft — but the results were good.
"I liked what I saw," said Lt. Chris Becker, the agency's commander of homeland security and intelligence. "A tactical operations team member could readily carry it in the trunk of his patrol car and assemble it in just minutes."
Susan Goering, executive director of the ACLU of Maryland, said devices such as CyberBug are an intrusion on a citizen's civil rights.
..."The concern is, obviously, a privacy issue, but also that the constitutional right to assemble is being chilled," Miss Goering said. "We are fast approaching the time when the government will be monitoring our every move."
She also said the issue is of special concern when citizens rally against the government.
"Dissent in this country is the lifeblood of democracy," Miss Goering said. "If someone is attending an event that's [anti-government], they should be able to do so without fear the government will retaliate in some manner."
[Note the Washington Times' ham-handed abbreviation in the brackets above. What were her actual words? She clearly did not say "anti-government" or they would have just printed it. I guess those Moonies at the Times know best. -- McLir]

How Bush Pushed Gasoline Prices Sky High

On March 5, 2003, Senator Carl Levin, the Ranking Minority Member of the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, released a report prepared by the minority staff that reveals why gasoline prices soared under the Bush administration. It has to do with the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserves (SPR) and some odd decisions by the Department of Energy (DOE) after consulting with White House officials.
According to the Senate Report, the Bush administration added forty million barrels of oil to the nation’s reserves in 2002. That wouldn’t be a problem in and of it self. But the purchases represented an extreme change in energy policy; they were made in a strong market, with a tight supply of oil, which increased demand, which in turn pushed up the gasoline prices to their highest levels in twelve years.
The Senate report said in a one-month period in mid 2002 the Bush administration purchases caused crude oil prices to soar, raising the cost of heating oil by 13%, jet fuel by 10% and diesel fuel by 8%. The bottom line was the Bush policy change cost citizens between $500 million and $1 billion.
When crude oil jumps from $20 a barrel to $30, the Senate report says, the costs to U.S. taxpayers are an additional $1 million per day. “Over three months, the additional cost of filling the SPR approached $100 million,” which will ultimately be borne by U.S. taxpayers.
Why did Bush do it? For one thing, he was advised to do it. It has to do with the secret National Energy Policy advisory group headed by Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney has steadfastly refused to release the names of those who advised the administration on energy matters. However, according to an article published in the Sunday Herald in Scotland (October 6, 2002), by Neil Mackay, it was former Secretary of State, James Baker who personally carried an advisory report to Cheney in April of 2001. Assembled at the James A. Baker Institute for Public Policy of Rice University, the task force consisted of oil and energy executives. The report, Strategic Energy Policy Challenges for the 21st Century is referred to simply as the “Baker Report” or “report” below.

D.C. Bureau Chiefs Launch Push to End Off-the-Record and Background-Only Briefings

"We'd like to make a more concerted effort among the media during the month of May to raise objections as soon as background briefings are scheduled by any government official, whether at the White House, other executive agencies or the Hill," the e-mail said, in part. "Please ask your reporters to raise objections beforehand in hopes of convincing the official to go public -- ask them to explain why the briefing has to be on background. If that doesn't work, object again at the top of the briefing -- at least those objections will be part of the transcript. The broadcast networks will also press for briefings to be open to camera and sound."
The e-mail went to more than 40 D.C. bureau chiefs. Those who signed the e-mail were: Susan Page of USA Today, Clark Hoyt of Knight Ridder, Andy Alexander of Cox Newspapers, Robin Sproul of ABC News, Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times, Philip Taubman of The New York Times, and Sandy Johnson of Associated Press.

Chemicals in Food Containers Linked to Prostate Problems in Developing Mice

Fetal exposure to man-made chemicals found in oral contraceptives and some food containers can cause male mice to develop deformities in their prostate and bladder, a new study has found. The results indicate that the cellular changes could predispose the prostate to disease in adulthood.

Pentagon: Iraq and Afghanistan Wars Draing US Ability to Protect Itself

Strains imposed by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have made it far more difficult for the U.S. military to beat back any future act of aggression, launch a preemptive strike or intervene to prevent conflict in another part of the world, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a classified analysis sent to Congress on Monday.
In a sober assessment of the Pentagon's reduced ability to deal with global threats, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers said that the American military was at greater risk this year than last of being unable to properly execute the missions it needed to prepare for around the globe. The assessment states that the military is at "significant risk" of being unable to prevail against enemies abroad in the manner that Pentagon war plans mandate.
Pentagon officials stressed that the bottom line of the risk assessment, which the military sends to Congress each year, is that the United States still would be able to win any war the president asked the Pentagon to fight — although it might take longer and require more troops and other resources than the Pentagon's various contingency plans have called for.
"The assessment is that we would succeed, but there would be higher casualties and more collateral damage," said one senior defense official. "We would have to win uglier."

EMP Scaremongering Over Iran - Debunked

For years, a group of right-wing defense policy makers have been warning about the dangers of an EMP assault. Their "latest evidence," according to Internet tinhat-factory World NetDaily: a Tehran "military journal" article that "publicly considered the idea of launching an electromagnetic pulse attack as the key to defeating the world's lone superpower."
Aha! Exclaimed Peter Pry, with Congress' Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack. "We cannot rule out that Iran, the world's leading sponsor of international terrorism might provide terrorists with the means to executive an EMP attack against the United States."
Maybe so. I mean, what can be categorically ruled out these days? Oh, there is one thing we can say for sure, Bouphonia observes: That "journal" article doesn't prove a damn thing.

First and foremost, [the journal article] contains no discussion of an EMP attack against the United States.

For that matter, it contains no discussion of an EMP attack against anyone.

In fact, it contains no mention of nuclear weapons whatsoever.

Yes, friends, you heard me correctly. This eight-year-old article, which a gaggle of "defense experts" is currently presenting as evidence for Iran's intention to launch an EMP attack using nuclear weapons, does not discuss the use of nuclear weapons, and does not discuss EMP attacks. Not once.

Curses! Foiled again! [from]

Protesters march against Nepal's king in Kathmandu, demanding democracy

Thousands of protesters marched through Nepal's capital on Sunday to demand the restoration of democracy in one of the biggest shows of opposition strength since King Gyanendra seized absolute power three months ago.
In two union-organized rallies that also were intended to commemorate the May Day workers' holiday, demonstrators carried placards calling for an end to the king's direct rule.
Gyanendra on Saturday lifted a state of emergency that had given police unlimited power, but he retained direct rule.
The demonstrators, carrying red flags and chanting "We want democracy, down with autocracy," stayed away from restricted areas around the king's palace and government offices.

Tyrants' Lobbyist, "Lept to His Death"

Washington is a city of advocates and image enhancers, but only a few have staked their reputations as representatives of despots, dictators and human rights violators. For von Kloberg, the job was a social exercise as well as an all-consuming effort. As he wooed potential clients, he often highlighted his own bad press. There was a lot.
Epithets abounded. The authors of "Washington Babylon," a muckraking book about powerbrokers, wrote: "Even within the amoral world of Washington lobbying, [he] stands out for handling clients that no one else will touch." Washingtonian magazine once named him one of the city's top 50 "hired guns."
By far the most outrageous and lasting public impression of von Kloberg came from a notorious "sting" operation by Spy magazine. For a story the satirical journal titled "Washington's Most Shameless Lobbyist," a staff writer posed as a Nazi sympathizer whose causes included halting immigration to the "fatherland" and calling for the German annexation of Poland.
According to the magazine, von Kloberg expressed sympathy for the fake client -- and her $1 million offer. And then he was drubbed in print. Shortly afterward, he showed up at the opening of Spy's Washington office with a first-aid kit and sported a trench helmet, "so I can take the flak," he announced.

Florida ends fight against abortion for 13-yr-old

Florida dropped its fight on Tuesday to prevent a 13-year-old girl in state care from having an abortion in a case that marked the state's second recent foray into controversial personal rights issues.
Weeks after it unsuccessfully tried to intervene in the bitter dispute over the fate of a brain-damaged woman, Terri Schiavo, the state's Department of Children & Families said it would not appeal a ruling from a Palm Beach state court allowing the teenager to have an abortion.
"There will be no further appeals and we will respectfully comply with the court's decision," DCF District Manager Marilyn Munoz said in a written statement.

Air Abramoff Treats DeLay and Dems

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's office says a U.S. territorial government was supposed to pay for travel by two of his staff aides to the Pacific island. Two Democratic congressmen filed disclosure forms saying a nonprofit group paid their expenses to the same place.
They all were at least partially wrong, according to lobbying firm records obtained by The Associated Press. The expenses were paid initially by lobbyist Jack Abramoff or his former firm, despite House rules prohibiting lobbyists from paying for the travel of lawmakers or their aides.
It's not clear to this day whether the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands partially or fully reimbursed Abramoff or the Preston Gates law and lobbying firm that hired him. The nonprofit group says it never paid a dime.
DeLay's aides traveled to the islands in December 1996. Democratic Reps. James Clyburn of South Carolina and Bennie Thompson of Mississippi went there in January 1997.

New Tactic In Evolution Debate

Nearly 30 years of teaching evolution in Kansas has taught Brad Williamson to expect resistance, but even this veteran of the trenches now has his work cut out for him when students raise their hands.
That's because critics of Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection are equipping families with books, DVDs, and a list of "10 questions to ask your biology teacher."
The intent is to plant seeds of doubt in the minds of students as to the veracity of Darwin's theory of evolution.
The result is a climate that makes biology class tougher to teach. Some teachers say class time is now wasted on questions that are not science-based. Others say the increasingly charged atmosphere has simply forced them to work harder to find ways to skirt controversy.

Some of the questions:
- The origins of life. Why do textbooks claim that the 1953 Miller-Urey experiment shows how life's building blocks may have formed on Earth - when conditions on the early Earth were probably nothing like those used in the experiment, and the origin of life remains a mystery?
- Darwin's tree of life. Why don't textbooks discuss the "Cambrian explosion," in which all major animal groups appear together in the fossil record fully formed instead of branching from a common ancestor - thus contradicting the evolutionary tree of life?
- Vertebrate embryos. Why do textbooks use drawings of similarities in vertebrate embryos as evidence for common ancestry - even though biologists have known for over a century that vertebrate embryos are not most similar in their early stages, and the drawings are faked?
- The archaeopteryx. Why do textbooks portray this fossil as the missing link between dinosaurs and modern birds - even though modern birds are probably not descended from it, and its supposed ancestors do not appear until millions of years after it?
- Peppered moths. Why do textbooks use pictures of peppered moths camouflaged on tree trunks as evidence for natural selection - when biologists have known since the 1980s that the moths don't normally rest on tree trunks, and all the pictures have been staged?
- Darwin's finches. Why do textbooks claim that beak changes in Galapagos finches during a severe drought can explain the origin of species by natural selection - even though the changes were reversed after the drought ended, and no net evolution occurred?
- Mutant fruit flies. Why do textbooks use fruit flies with an extra pair of wings as evidence that DNA mutations can supply raw materials for evolution - even though the extra wings have no muscles and these disabled mutants cannot survive outside the laboratory?
- Human origins. Why are artists' drawings of apelike humans used to justify materialistic claims that we are just animals and our existence is a mere accident - when fossil experts cannot even agree on who our supposed ancestors were or what they looked like?
- Evolution as a fact. Why are students told that Darwin's theory of evolution is a scientific fact - even though many of its claims are based on misrepresentations of the facts?

[Actually, I could see a teacher giving very good answers to these, so long as the students understand the questions they are asking. -- McLir]