Saturday, May 14, 2005

NPR: Reliving the MOVE Bombing

Twenty years ago, Philadelphia's Osage Avenue was the site of a stunning use of force by city police. After a long standoff, police dropped a bomb on the headquarters of a radical group called MOVE, sparking a fire that gutted a neighborhood and left 11 people dead. Five were children.
MOVE was a radical cult-like group that preached revolution, advocating a return to nature and a society without government, police or technology. The group took up residence on Osage Avenue, a quiet tree-lined street of tidy row houses. Except for the MOVE house. The windows and doors of 6221 Osage Ave. were barricaded with plywood. The group hoarded weapons, built a giant wooden bunker on the roof and used a bullhorn to scream obscenities all hours of the night.
Frustrated neighbors turned to city officials for help. On the morning of May 13, 1985, dozens of Philadelphia police, fire fighters and city officials amassed around the MOVE house to force the group out. A standoff ensued, as MOVE members bunkered down inside the house exchanged gunfire with police outside. At 5:30 that evening, a Philadelphia police helicopter dropped a bomb onto the roof of the house in an effort to drive MOVE members out.

The questions reporters don't ask

If I seem to be picking on the White House press corps, it is because -- unlike most journalists -- their work is out there for all of us to see on television and then review more carefully in transcript form.
And once again, they presented a dispiriting litany of self-defeating questions, the usual suspects that represent a kind of interviewing recidivism identified by John Sawatsky, a Canadian journalist and interviewing specialist who now works as ESPN's interviewing coach. Among the repeat offenders in the lineup of questions posed to President Bush...

Development Costs Push Game Developers Toward "Hollywood" System

Warren Spector, who's been developing games for more than 25 years, has mixed feelings about the eagerly anticipated Xbox and PlayStation game systems.
The erstwhile studio director of Ion Storm, responsible for titles ranging from "Wing Commander" to "Deus Ex," thinks the new video game systems will be a player's paradise. With high-definition graphics, incredibly fast processors and surround sound, the experience will be leaps and bounds beyond anything console gamers have seen before.
But with that will come consequences. Spector and other developers are worried that the game industry will become ever more like Hollywood, with huge budgets, huge productions and lots of sequels, dominated by the few big companies who can afford to produce a top-shelf title.
"Once hardware guys give us the capability to do something spectacular, someone's going to spend the money to do something spectacular," Spector said. "The quality bar is going to be raised. Someone is going to spend $20 million or $30 million or $40 million, and the rest of us who don't have deep pockets like that are going to have to find some way to compete."

Handheld Devices Changing Classroom Dynamics

Students call them clickers -- handheld devices that let them respond instantly to a professor's question. The whole class can see results on an overhead readout and some say they increase student participation in discussions.
...Professor Ross Cheit put it to the students in his Ethics and Public Policy class at Brown University: Are you morally obliged to report cheating if you know about it? The room began to hum, but no one so much as raised a hand.
Still, within 90 seconds, Cheit had roughly 150 student responses displayed on an overhead screen, plotted as a multicolored bar graph -- 64 percent said yes, 35 percent, no.

Audience With the Podfather

Last week, Sirius Satellite Radio kicked off a new podcast show hosted and curated by Curry.
Available to paid subscribers of the satellite radio network, the daily four-hour show will feature Curry's hand-picked favorite podcasts.
Wired News spoke to the radio Renaissance man by phone from his home in Guilford, England.

Afghan 'pipe dream' draws closer to reality

"This pipeline is an opportunity for Afghanistan, and we would like to keep Afghanistan a place that is open and attractive for foreign investment," says Sediq. "The foreign investment rate of return is 17.5 percent, based on the assumptions that the gas reserves in Turkmenistan are enough and the consumption rate in Pakistan remains high. Only security of the pipeline is left, and the government of Afghanistan is capable of providing security."
It wasn't so long ago that the pipeline was thought to be dead. Taliban attacks in the south appeared to be on the increase, and other sources of energy, such as Iran or Qatar, were more attractive. But growing Pakistani demand, increased Afghan stability, and higher energy prices for Turkmenistan have made the pipeline increasingly feasible. This week, President Hamid Karzai told donor countries the project was a top priority - on a par with the war on terror and opium eradication.

Cuba wants 'terrorist suspect' returned from US

US President George W. Bush has said on more than one occasion during the war on terrorism that "those who harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves." ABCNews reports that this statement will be put to the test by a case involving Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban who sneaked into the US recently seeking political asylum.
The New York Times reported Monday that the Cuban government accuses Mr. Posada of being involved with the bombing of a Cuban passenger jet in 1976. Posada has also admitted to "plotting attacks that damaged tourist spots in Havana and killed an Italian visitor there in 1997," and he is also wanted in Venezuela on terrorism charges.
...The privately run, George Washington University based National Security Archives details Posada's extensive career as a CIA- and FBI-trained operative. The Archives reports that Posada had been imprisoned in Venezuela for the '76 bombing, but escaped in '85, when he went to El Salvador "where he worked, using the alias 'Ramon Medina,' on the illegal contra resupply program being run by Lt. Col. Oliver North in the Reagan National Security Council."
The Archives also reports that although Posada has been in the US for at least six weeks, the FBI has "has indicated it is not actively searching for him." Posada's lawyer continues to say his client denies all involvement with the bombing.

Oklahoma House Passes Gay Book Ban

The measure does not have the power of law but calls on Oklahoma libraries to "confine homosexually themed books and other age-inappropriate material to areas exclusively for adult access and distribution."
It passed, 81-3 and now will be distributed to library boards across the state.
The resolution's sponsor, Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City) said that the vote shows public libraries that they must aware of the "values that our state upholds".

As Many as 200 Killed in Uzbekistan

Human rights groups said as many as 200 people may have been killed, and local activists said troops removed scores of bodies from the city center early Saturday morning.
The violence was triggered by the prosecution of 23 prominent local businessmen on charges of religious extremism, part of a wider and much-resented government crackdown in this largely Muslim country on all forms of Islam that are not sanctioned by the state. Thousands of people have been swept into government jails where human rights groups say they are subject to torture.
The government began moving additional troops and equipment into the city Saturday, which is now effectively sealed off as roads into the city are blocked. A number of foreign journalists were detained and expelled from the city Saturday; Uzbek state television is providing almost no independent information on events in Andijan and elsewhere in the country.

King of Jordan to pardon Ahmed Chalabi over $300m bank fraud

King Abdullah of Jordan has agreed to pardon Ahmed Chalabi, the controversial Iraqi political leader, who was sentenced to 22 years in prison for fraud after his bank collapsed with $300m (£160m) in missing deposits in 1989.

Legislators Scramble to Reassure Constituents after Base Closings Announced

From California to Connecticut, politicians scrambled to contain the fallout from the Pentagon's blueprint for the first round of base closings in a decade. Critics sought to hold lawmakers accountable for campaign promises they had made to constituents, while lawmakers boarded planes to visit bases and offer reassurances that they planned to keep up the fight.

Financial Assets of Bush, Cheney Disclosed

The president reported having at least $4.95 million in Treasury notes, $750,000 in certificates of deposit, and $217,000 in checking and money-market accounts.

BTW: Al Franken is willing to pay ten cents on the dollar for Treasury notes, despite Bush's claim that they are "just IOUs... stacked in a filing cabinet."
So far, Franken has no takers.

Witness Clears Abu Ghraib Guard of Some Abuse

A prosecution witness called in the court-martial of an Army reservist who is charged in the Abu Ghraib scandal said Friday that it was he, not the defendant, who had handed electrical wires to a hooded Iraqi forced to stand on a box for an hour.
The witness, testifying under cross-examination, also said he had never seen the defendant, Specialist Sabrina Harman, participate in that episode, in which the prisoner was told he would be electrocuted if he fell off the box, or several other instances of mistreatment attributed to her by prosecutors.

Democrat Plans a Social Security Bill

The lawmaker, Representative Robert Wexler of Florida. said on Friday: "I have the largest amount of Social Security recipients of any Democrat anywhere in the country. My allegiance to seniors is greater than my allegiance to the Democratic Party."
The proposed legislation, which Mr. Wexler plans to outline on Monday in Florida, calls for a 6 percent tax on all income above the current $90,000 cap. Three percent would be paid by workers and 3 percent paid by their employers.
The measure would not require any cut in scheduled benefits or any increase in the retirement age, and it does not provide for private accounts.

F.B.I. Questions Journalists in Military Secrets Inquiry

Last week, federal prosecutors charged Mr. [Lawrence] Franklin with disclosing highly classified defense information about potential attacks on American forces in Iraq. The affidavit that accompanied the charges hinted that journalists might fall under scrutiny in the case. It said Mr. Franklin "knowingly disclosed, without authorization, classified U.S. government information to a foreign official and members of the media."
In addition, the complaint charged Mr. Franklin with one count of passing the information to two Americans who were not identified in the government's papers. But government officials confirmed that the men were former staff members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group with close ties to the Bush administration.
Neither of the men, Steven Rosen, formerly director of foreign policy issues, or Keith Weissman, formerly senior Middle East analyst, has been charged. Abbe Lowell, a lawyer for Mr. Rosen, has said his client never received any classified documents from Mr. Franklin. Mr. Weissman's lawyer, John N. Nassikas, has not discussed the case.

From SourceWatch: Lawrence (Larry) Franklin is an analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency who works in the office of Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith. He reports directly to Feith's deputy, William Luti and specializes in Iranian policy issues.
...On August 29th 2004, it was reported that Franklin is under investigation for allegedly spying for the state of Israel [4] [5] [6]. According to an article in Haaretz, Franklin is not Jewish himself [7]
Franklin allegedley offered highly classified draft documents regarding the United States policy towards Iran to two members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The two AIPAC Iran analysts, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, have retained a well known criminal defense attorney, Abbe Lowell, for counsel.[8]

On September 1, 2004, the New York Times reported that Rosen, along with fellow AIPAC employee Keith Weissman had been questioned regarding their involvement in an espionage case. Larry Franklin, a Middle East analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency was alleged to have passed classified information about Iran to Rosen and Weissman, who in turn are accused of relaying the information to the government of Israel.

Air Force Chaplain Says She Was Fired for Being Critical

The academy chaplain, Capt. MeLinda Morton said she had disagreed with her boss, the academy's chief chaplain, Col. Michael Whittington, after a critical report by a team from the Yale Divinity School was released to the press in April. The report, dated July 2004, had found that some academy chaplains were insensitive to the religious diversity of the cadets.
Captain Morton said her boss asked her to denounce the report and defend the academy, but she told him she agreed with it, and pointed out that she had helped write it. She said that about two weeks later, on May 4, she received an e-mail message from Colonel Whittington dismissing her from her position as his administrative assistant, or "executive officer." However, she remains a chaplain, retains her rank and earns the same salary.

Old Foes Soften to New Reactors

Their numbers are still small, but they represent growing cracks in what had been a virtually solid wall of opposition to nuclear power among most mainstream environmental groups. In the past few months, articles in publications like Technology Review, published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Wired magazine have openly espoused nuclear power, angering other environmental advocates who maintain an unyielding stance against it.
Stewart Brand, a founder of the Whole Earth Catalog and the author of "Environmental Heresies," an article in the May issue of Technology Review, explained the shift as a direct consequence of the growing anxiety about global warming and its links to the use of fossil fuel.
"It's not that something new and important and good had happened with nuclear, it's that something new and important and bad has happened with climate change," Mr. Brand said in an interview.

Planet search postponed to fund Hubble rescue

NASA will delay two ambitious missions to search for extrasolar planets in order to fund a shuttle mission to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope, agency chief Mike Griffin told a US Senate subcommittee on Thursday.
Griffin, who has held his post for just a month, also announced plans to reorganise the agency's management structure and suggested changes to the construction schedule of the International Space Station.

Former Saudi charity head to sue Rice in U.S. court

The former head of Saudi Arabia's Al-Haramain charity said on Saturday he was filing a lawsuit in the United States against senior officials including
Condoleezza Rice for putting him on a U.N. terrorist blacklist.
Saudi Arabia shut down Al-Haramain Foundation last October, four months after Aqil al-Aqil's name was placed on the U.N. list of suspects linked to al Qaeda,
Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, former rulers of
Afghanistan, after a U.S. request.
Washington said the charity's international branches provided "financial, material and logistical" support to Saudi-born bin Laden's network, a charge Aqil repeatedly denied.
"Since my opponent is the American administration, which is working on the principle of 'guilty until proven innocent', then the way to clear my name is through the American judiciary," Aqil said in a statement.

51 House members call on Gonzales to appoint special counsel on alleged U.S. 'war crimes'

Dear Mr. Attorney General:
We are writing to request that you appoint a special counsel to investigate whether high-ranking officials within the Bush Administration violated the War Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. 2441, or the Anti-Torture Act, 18 U.S.C. 2340 by allowing the use of torture techniques banned by domestic and international law at recognized and secret detention sites in Iraq, Afghanistan Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.
...As you know, under Department of Justice regulations, the Attorney General must appoint a special counsel when (1) a "criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted," (2) the investigation "by a United States Attorney Office or litigating Division of the Department of Justice would present a conflict of interest for the Department," and (3) "it would be in the public interest to appoint an outside Special Counsel to assume responsibility for the matter."1 In the present case, all three requirements have been met.

Gynecologist expects to be off panel

"I will no longer be on the advisory committee after June 30," Hager said. He indicated the decision was made before the allegations surfaced.
In a story in The Nation magazine, Hager's former wife accused the doctor of sexually abusing her during their 32-year marriage. The couple divorced in 2002.
Yesterday, Hager, who was appointed by the Bush administration to the FDA's Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee, questioned the motives of his ex-wife and the liberal monthly. He said the article -- which includes graphic details about their sex life together -- was "not based on all of the facts."
"As I said before, the allegations as stated do not reveal all of the information and therefore they're incomplete and not true," the obstetrician-gynecologist said.

Lucy in the Sky with Shatner

Navy Judge Finds War Protest Reasonable

"I think that the government has successfully proved that any service member has reasonable cause to believe that the wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq were illegal."
-- Lt. Cmdr. Robert Klant, presiding at Pablo Paredes' court-martial

...I testified at Pablo's court-martial as a defense expert on the legality of the war in Iraq, and the commission of war crimes by US forces. My testimony corroborated the reasonableness of Pablo's beliefs. I told the judge that the war violates the United Nations Charter, which forbids the use of force, unless carried out in self-defense or with the approval of the Security Council, neither of which obtained before Bush invaded Iraq. I also said that torture and inhuman treatment, which have been documented in Iraqi prisons, constitute grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, and are considered war crimes under the US War Crimes Statute. The United States has ratified both the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions, making them part of the supreme law of the land under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.

I noted that the Uniform Code of Military Justice requires that all military personnel obey lawful orders. Article 92 of the UCMJ says, "A general order or regulation is lawful unless it is contrary to the Constitution, the laws of the United States...." Both the Nuremberg Principles and the Army Field Manual create a duty to disobey unlawful orders. Article 509 of Field Manual 27-10, codifying another Nuremberg Principle, specifies that "following superior orders" is not a defense to the commission of war crimes, unless the accused "did not know and could not reasonably have been expected to know that the act ordered was unlawful."

Anakin Dynamite

An awkward apprentice struggles with older Jedis, school elections and idiots!

Friday, May 13, 2005

Frank Zappa's 1983 Proposal for Distributing Music

Excerpt: Ordinary phonograph record merchandising as it exists today is a stupid process which concerns itself essentially with pieces of plastic, wrapped in pieces of cardboard.
These objects, in quantity, are heavy and expensive to ship. The manufacturing process is complicated and crude. Quality control for the stamping of the discs is an exercise in futility. The system is subject to pilferage (as, in some instances, pressing 'over-runs' have been initiated, with the quantity pressed above the amount of the legitimate order removed from the premises and sold on the black market).
Dissatisfied customers routinely return records because they are warped and will not play.
Large numbers of people are employed in the field of 'record promotion' . . . these salaries are, for the most part, a waste of money.
New digital technology may eventually solve the warpage problem and provide the consumer with better quality sound in the form of Compact Discs [C.D.'s]. They are smaller, contain more music, and would, presumably cost less to ship . . . but, they are much more expensive to buy and manufacture. To reproduce them, the consumer needs to purchase a digital device to replace his old hi-fi equipment (in the $700 price range).

Air Force Academy Whistleblower Fired

A top Air Force Academy chaplain said Thursday she was fired for speaking up about anti-Semitism and other reports of religious intolerance among cadets and staff, including allegations that evangelical Christians wield too much influence.
Capt. Melinda Morton said she was fired last week by her boss, Col. Michael Whittington, after he pressured her to deny a professor's account of a religious service for new cadets last year.
Both chaplains had been scheduled to leave the school this year, with Whittington, the chief chaplain, retiring and Morton, his executive officer, scheduled for an overseas assignment. She called that an excuse to get rid of her.

A Terrorist Comes Home to Roost

The sudden and untimely arrival on U.S. territory of a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) asset and admitted terrorist, Luis Posada Carriles, poses an embarrassing challenge to the credibility of the Bush administration's war on terrorism.
Posada, who in an interview with the New York Times seven years ago admitted to organising a wave of bombings in Cuba in 1997 that killed an Italian tourist and injured 11 others, is best known as the prime suspect in the bombing of a Cubana Airlines flight shortly after it took off from Barbados in October 1976.
The incident, in which all 73 crew members and passengers including teenaged members of Cuba's national fencing team were killed, was the first confirmed mid-air terrorist bombing of a commercial airliner.
Then-President George Bush in 1990 pardoned Orlando Bosch, another Cuban exile opposed to President Fidel Castro and implicated in the plot, overruling a strong U.S. Justice Department opinion that called for Bosch's deportation.
Posada, who also worked for the operation supplying ''Contra'' rebels in Central America in the mid-1980s until the Iran-Contra scandal broke open with the downing of one of its planes, was also convicted of conspiring to assassinate Castro during a 2000 visit to Panama. A Panamanian court sentenced him to eight years in prison in 2004 but he was unexpectedly pardoned by outgoing President Mireya Moscosa last September and flew to Honduras.

No Jail Time for Sailor's Refusal to Board Ship

After hours of charged testimony, the brevity and dispassion of a judge's sentence for Petty Officer 3rd Class Pablo Paredes left those in the courtroom slightly shocked yesterday.
Reduction to the lowest rank. Two months' restriction to the 32nd Street Naval Station. Three months of hard labor, but no jail time. Court adjourned.
"I'm so confused," said Victor Paredes, who flew in from New Jersey to be with his son during the court-martial. "I don't know what it means."
It means, in part, that Paredes won't be jailed for refusing to board the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard when it left San Diego for the Persian Gulf in December with 3,000 sailors and Marines. Paredes has maintained that the war in Iraq is unethical.

CO Republican State Treasurer Steps Down to Go to Iraq

He said he'd like to return to the state treasurer post when he returns, possibly in March 2006.
"This was an extremely difficult decision for me," Coffman said in a news release. "I had to choose between whether to continue serving Colorado as the State Treasurer or serving the nation by returning to the Marine Corps and going to Iraq."
Coffman will go to Iraq as a major in the Marines. He will be in civil affairs, helping Iraqi public officials move forward with their government.
"I know my skills and training are needed in Iraq," Coffman said. "I can make a positive difference and help bring democracy and stability to the people of Iraq."

Demise of a Hard-Fighting Squad - Marines Who Survived Ambush Are Killed, Wounded in Blast

Among the four Marines killed and 10 wounded when an explosive device erupted under their Amtrac on Wednesday were the last battle-ready members of a squad that four days earlier had battled foreign fighters holed up in a house in the town of Ubaydi. In that fight, two squad members were killed and five were wounded.
In 96 hours of fighting and ambushes in far western Iraq, the squad had ceased to be.

Torture's Dirty Secret: It Works

This is torture's true purpose: to terrorize--not only the people in Guantánamo's cages and Syria's isolation cells but also, and more important, the broader community that hears about these abuses. Torture is a machine designed to break the will to resist--the individual prisoner's will and the collective will.
This is not a controversial claim. In 2001 the US NGO Physicians for Human Rights published a manual on treating torture survivors that noted: "perpetrators often attempt to justify their acts of torture and ill treatment by the need to gather information. Such conceptualizations obscure the purpose of torture....The aim of torture is to dehumanize the victim, break his/her will, and at the same time, set horrific examples for those who come in contact with the victim. In this way, torture can break or damage the will and coherence of entire communities."

Dr. Hager's Family Values

For Hager, ...moral and ethical issues all appear to revolve around sex: In both his medical practice and his advisory role at the FDA, his ardent evangelical piety anchors his staunch opposition to emergency contraception, abortion and premarital sex. Through his six books--which include such titles as Stress and the Woman's Body and As Jesus Cared for Women, self-help tomes that interweave syrupy Christian spirituality with paternalistic advice on women's health and relationships--he has established himself as a leading conservative Christian voice on women's health and sexuality.
And because of his warm relationship with the Bush Administration, Hager has had the opportunity to see his ideas influence federal policy. In December 2003 the FDA advisory committee of which he is a member was asked to consider whether emergency contraception, known as Plan B, should be made available over the counter. Over Hager's dissent, the committee voted overwhelmingly to approve the change. But the FDA rejected its recommendation, a highly unusual and controversial decision in which Hager, The Nation has learned, played a key role. Hager's reappointment to the committee, which does not require Congressional approval, is expected this June, but Bush's nomination of Dr. Lester Crawford as FDA director has been bogged down in controversy over the issue of emergency contraception.
...According to Davis, Hager's public moralizing on sexual matters clashed with his deplorable treatment of her during their marriage. Davis alleges that between 1995 and their divorce in 2002, Hager repeatedly sodomized her without her consent. Several sources on and off the record confirmed that she had told them it was the sexual and emotional abuse within their marriage that eventually forced her out. "I probably wouldn't have objected so much, or felt it was so abusive if he had just wanted normal [vaginal] sex all the time," she explained to me. "But it was the painful, invasive, totally nonconsensual nature of the [anal] sex that was so horrible."

GOP Starts Multiple Investigations of UN

The United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, is fighting for his job in the face of an increasing campaign by Republican congressmen who have launched a series of investigations into the Iraqi oil-for-food scandal.
Mr Annan is facing three separate congressional investigations into oil-for-food and a UN security council source said a further four are pending.
George Bush's Republican party is hostile towards the UN in general but Mr Annan in particular, especially after he last year declared that the war in Iraq was illegal.

World Ecological Debt

Western societies seem intent on maintaining standards of living with unsustainable consumption rates. The resultant world ecological debt has caused climate changes that arguably have greatest impact on the world's poorest nations. World Wildlife Fund-UK reviews the prospects for sustainable consumption while a Canadian academic group releases a paper identifying the top 10 areas in nanotechnology that could help reduce 3rd world poverty. [from]

No Need to Notify Commander in Chief

On the day after more than 30,000 people -- including the vice president, the first lady, and a former first lady -- were evacuated from their offices or homes in Washington, D.C., but the president, who was biking in Maryland was not notified until the threat passed, reporters grilled Press Secretary Scott McClellan at his daily briefing.
For those who might have missed it on TV -- that is, nearly everyone -- here are some choice excerpts, as McClellan continually refers to "protocols" and reporters essentially ask, "Wouldn't most men like to know when their home is evacuated and their wife is hustled to a secure bunker?" They also wonder about the small matter of the president being commander in chief and the capital, theoretically, coming under attack.
Some reporters also suggested that the off-kilter Cessna had come much closer to the White House than McClellan's claim yesterday of three miles.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

America's unheralded water cleanup

Visitors to Longdale Park in urban Atlanta may enjoy the little meandering stream that winds its tree-shaded way through the park without ever a clue that it used to be a buried metal pipe. That restoration - or "daylighting" - of Longdale's rotting, subterranean conduit is a modest environmental success story. It is also part of a far broader push to restore degraded rivers and streams nationwide, an effort whose enormous scope is only now being revealed by researchers who were shocked at its size.
With little fanfare, counties, states, and the federal government have collectively spent an estimated $14 billion or more - at least $1 billion a year since 1990 - to restore rivers and streams to their natural condition, not including dollars spent on Goliath restoration projects like the Everglades. Ironically, the move to clean up America's unheralded rivers comes at a time when the condition of the nation's waterways overall is starting to deteriorate.

Does the Real ID act contain a Constitution-busting Trojan horse?

Opponents of the concept of judicial review appeal to an obscure and cryptic article of the Constitution, the (in)famous Article 3, Section 2 (A3S2 for short), which states:

In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.

That last sentence is the kicker, because it looks for all the world like language that would enable Congress to wave a magic A3S2 wand over any piece of legislation no matter how outrageous and have it be completely exempt from review by the courts. The implications for the system of checks and balances if Congress actually invokes this provision are about as profound as it gets, which is why no Congress in American history has ever opted to open that particular can of worms... until now.
You can read more on the tinfoil hat implications of this here if you're interested, but I'll sum it up for you: Congress has crafted a completely unprecedented provision that guts the principle of judicial review by granting the DHS secretary complete and total immunity from the courts when it comes to the construction of "barriers and roads" in this one specific geographical region, and they've buried this provision inside a national ID card act which is itself attached to a large military appropriations bill that no Congressperson in their right mind would vote against (money for the troops and all that).

National ID Battle Continues

The National Governors Association is threatening lawsuits to fight the legislation. And some states are threatening to ignore the legislation because they say it will cost up to $700 million for states to comply and will place a heavy burden on Department of Motor Vehicles workers.
A spokeswoman for the governors' association did not return calls for comment. But Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Republican, told the Associated Press this week that "if more than half of the governors agree we're not going down without a fight on this, Congress will have to consider changing" the rules.
In the meantime, mobilization against the legislation is also occurring on the citizen front. Civil liberties activist Bill Scannell, who launched a website this week to protest the legislation, said that visitors to his site sent more than 20,000 faxes to senators within 24 hours.
"One by one (senators) got up and said, 'This is a real stinker but you've got a gun to our heads so we've got to vote for it,'" Scannell said. "This is an incredibly sleazy way to push something that pushes the very nature and foundations of our democracy."

ABC News: We're Not Interested in Covering the Iraq War

Why do Americans think journalism is a complete and total joke? Maybe because news organizations treat the most serious, somber news as a a complete and total joke. Just look at this from ABC News's "The Note" today:
"Brides gotta run, planes gotta stray, and cable news networks gotta find a way to fill a lot of programming hours as cheaply as possible...We say with all the genuine apolitical and non-partisan human concern that we can muster that the death and carnage in Iraq is truly staggering. And/but we are sort of resigned to the Notion that it simply isn't going to break through to American news organizations, or, for the most part, Americans...What is hands down the biggest story every day in the world will get almost no coverage."
Let me reiterate how unbelievable this actually is: A MAJOR AMERICAN MEDIA OUTLET HAS NOW DECLARED THAT THEY SIMPLY ARE NOT INTERESTED IN LETTING THE CARNAGE IN IRAQ "BREAK THROUGH" IN THEIR NEWS COVERAGE - AS IF IT IS SIMPLY NOT NEWSWORTHY. You can just imagine the pathetic newsroom attitude: we don't cover cats getting stuck in trees, we don't birthday parties at the local McDonalds, and we don't cover America's multi-billion dollar war in the Mideast.
Sorry America, the insulated, out-of-touch, Washington media is simply uninterested in providing any real coverage about the war. Because remember, the media has to be "very deferential" because "no one want[s] to get into an argument with the president at this very serious time."
Truly nauseating.
UPDATE: One thing to consider, in the interest of absolute fairness. ABC's The Note wasn't necessarily claiming THEY didn't take the Iraq War seriously "because it's hard." They were letting it be known that they thought the media as a whole won't take it seriously (which, granted, is still a troubling indictment coming from people in the media itself who do, in fact, know the thinking, and who do establish conventional wisdom for other reporters). That said, ABC itself has taken the war as seriously as the rest of them, and is, in general, no worse than the rest of them (in fact, in certain respects it has been better). But that doesn't undermine the overall point, which is not to target one network, but to try to let the media in general know that an attitude of complacency in the future toward the quagmire in Iraq is unacceptable. Let's hope they get the message that we are watching - and expecting more.

Federal judge strikes down gay ban in Nebraska

A judge's decision to throw out Nebraska's ban on gay marriage was barely an hour old before the cry went up for a national prohibition on same-sex marriage.
The decision Thursday to overturn Nebraska's same-sex marriage ban - adopted overwhelmingly by voters in 2000 - was a first in the nation by a federal judge.
U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon of Omaha said the ban went far beyond gay marriage and deprived gays and lesbians of basic rights, including the right to participate in the political process.
He also said the ban known as Initiative 416 was motivated, in part, by an "irrational fear" of and "animus" toward homosexuals.
Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning promised to appeal the ruling, noting that 70 percent of Nebraska voters favored of the ban.

Wal-Mart's Nazi book-burning ad offends Arizona veterans

Campaign ads bankrolled by Wal-Mart and depicting a Nazi-era book burning are offensive and backhanded, say some Flagstaff citizens and veterans.
Backers contend they are a justified reminder of the need to protect freedoms.
The newspaper ads contend that Proposition 100's restrictions on big-box retailers are an infringement of constitutional freedoms. The message has been conveyed through a blurred photo of a Nazi book-burning taken from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum archives and a close-up of a person's mouth covered with tape.

Air Force Chaplain Tells of Academy Proselytizing

A chaplain at the Air Force Academy has described a "systemic and pervasive" problem of religious proselytizing at the academy and says a religious tolerance program she helped create to deal with the problem was watered down after it was shown to officers, including the major general who is the Air Force's chief chaplain.
The academy chaplain, Capt. MeLinda Morton, 48, spoke publicly for the first time as an Air Force task force arrived at the academy in Colorado Springs on Tuesday to investigate accusations that officers, staff members and senior cadets inappropriately used their positions to push their evangelical Christian beliefs on Air Force cadets.
The academy began developing the tolerance program, called Respecting the Spiritual Values of all People, or R.S.V.P., in response to a survey it took last year. The survey found that more than half of the cadets said they had heard derogatory religious comments or jokes at the academy.
For more than a year, the Air Force has been struggling to respond to accusations from some alumni, staff members and cadets that evangelical Christians in leadership positions at the academy were creating a discriminatory climate. Air Force officials say the task force they dispatched this week shows that they are taking the accusations seriously. The investigators are to make a preliminary report on May 23.

KY: An act relating to in vitro fertilization.

Representative Lonnie Napier has a great idea! IVF requires eggs to be harvested from a woman, combined with a man's sperm outside of the woman's body, then putting several embryos back in hopes of getting one to implant and grow, resulting in a baby. Rep. Napier, being strongly pro-life and opposed to IVF, thinks the way to solve this is to fertilize only one egg at a time. And to violate this new law would be a class D felony in Kentucky, punishable with 1-5 years in prison. [from]

Join the Army for just fifteen months!

Visit exciting foriegn lands! Now with "ultra-lite" benefits!
(Warning: Requires an additional two years of service in the Army Reserve / National Guard, may contain additional deployments overseas, stop-loss, 4 1/2 years in the inactive reserve, and possible devil's bargains.) [from]

No Place Like Home

Midlothian mom looking to raise money for the school band discovers the local TXI cement plant is draining millions from the Texas school system. This while getting paid burning hazardous waste in their back yard. When she seeks to right these wrongs she finds that the environmental regulators include lobbyist for TXI, and their House representative, Joe Barton, cares more about "economic development" than her kids. [from]

2 Brits nabbed with $3 trillion in fake US fed notes

Philippines: The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Thursday said it has arrested two British nationals with $3 trillion fake US federal bank notes in their possession, DZMM reported.
NBI Director Reynaldo Wycoco identified the suspects as Paul Edward John Flavell and Sam Beany. The two listed their address as Unit 305 CEO Apartments in Jupiter Street, Makati City.
The suspects were not physically present during the press conference called by Wycoco at the NBI office in Taft Avenue, Manila. Only the suspects' photographs were shown to reporters.
Wycoco said NBI agents have also launched a manhunt for two other British nationals involved in the syndicate.
...The tip was about a shipment consigned to two foreigners, which was pending at the company warehouse.
The forwarder said the cargo was bound for Zurich, Switzerland.

Majority of Americans Say Sharing Common-Sense Information Makes Them Smarter and More Successful

Underscoring the importance of sharing practical information, eight of 10 Americans claim that exchanging common-sense information with others makes them smarter, and 68 percent believe it even makes them more successful. Indeed, a new national survey on common sense and sharing commissioned by SCOTT® Tissue and Towels finds that 99 percent consider common sense important to their everyday lives.
While Americans think common sense is important, they don't realize it can be developed. In fact, 40 percent don't believe it can be learned, and only one-in-five Americans thinks people are born with it. But Robert J. Sternberg, IBM Professor of Psychology and Education and Professor of Management at Yale University and an expert on practical intelligence, differs strongly with that view. He contends that common sense is a life skill that can be learned and improved, especially by sharing ideas and information with others.

TV as Tracking Device

"If you're inside a building, a GPS receiver cannot find you. But a $40 radio chip from Rosum Corporation will do it, with the help of TV signals," notes Roland Piquepaille. The CIA-backed start-up says TV signals are 10,000 times stronger than the ones from GPS, according to the Mercury News:
Rosum founder James Spilker, one of the original architects of the GPS satellite... realized a synchronization feature in digital and analog television signals could be used for other purposes than to lock the vertical hold for older TVs.
The engineers created a radio receiver chip that could zero in on the TV signal and get the synchronization information. Using precision timing, they figure out how far a TV signal travels before it is picked up by a device equipped with Rosum chips. Next, they compare the measurements against other data that they collect with their own listening stations and then finally calculate the device's position. The Rosum engineers call this process "multilateration," which is akin to navigational triangulation...
Rosum's vice president of engineering, Greg Flammel, says tests of the technology show it can track someone in the basement floor of the San Francisco Public Library. It also found a person in the heart of San Francisco's financial district...
Rosum is best used with a GPS system, mainly because TV signals don't reach into places such as the Nevada desert or the middle of the ocean. The technology also isn't useful for tracking someone vertically. So it can locate a person in an office tower but can't determine what floor they're on unless the building is ringed with a set of Rosum antennas.

The Terror Watch List's Tangle

The goal was to be a master database pooling information on terror suspects. The result: A litany of technical glitches and red-tape follies
The National Security Agency intercepts a vague communication about terrorist activity on U.S. soil. An analyst in the National Counterterrorism Center in Virginia takes that information, and using data from several other agencies, identifies a U.S.-based suspect and passes the info to the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center (TSC).
A few days later, the suspected terrorist -- missing until now -- happens to be pulled over for speeding in Maryland. The state trooper runs his name through the TSC's master terror watch-list database, and the man's name, photo, and fingerprints come up. Bingo, a potential catastrophe is averted.
At least that's what government officials hope will be able to happen -- some day. But computer incompatibilities, slow interagency negotiations, and formidable data-crunching challenges are hindering the coordination of U.S. intelligence data. While it has made progress, the TSC says it doesn't know when it will finish consolidating information from a dozen different criminal databases into a master "terrorist watch list" database that can be checked by state and local police, border agents, airport workers, and others.

Stun Gun Study Suspect

The makers of Taser electrical weapons have always maintained that their stun guns are 100% safe. The families of the 100 or so people who've died since 1999 after getting shocked tend to have a different point of view. So the Justice Department decided to fund an academic study, to finally figure out whether the Tasers were really "non-lethal" or not.
But the report's authors seem to have already made up their minds. One of the key advisers on the half-million dollar effort has been moonlighting as a paid consultant for the stun gun manufacturer, USA Today reveals. And the professor leading the study wrote, before his research got underway, that "Tasers do not kill."
Robert Stratbucker, a physician from Omaha, is among four paid advisers to a two-year study that is being launched by John Webster, a professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Wisconsin. Webster's application to the Justice Department for a research grant last fall cited Stratbucker as an adviser, but it did not mention that Stratbucker... has worked with Taser as the Arizona company has touted its stun guns... Taser, whose Web site lists Stratbucker as the company's medical director [he even has a e-mail address -- ed.] , has cited his research in promoting its stun guns...

Stratbucker's presence is "a potential conflict of interest," said Hubert Williams, president of the Police Foundation, a think tank here that researches law enforcement issues and wants federal money to do its own stun-gun study. "We wouldn't do it."

THERE'S MORE: Slate's today touted the Stratbucker connection as a USA Today "scoop." But Taser's hometown paper, the Arizona Republic, was on the doctor's case back in January.

Experts: Iraq verges on civil war

With security experts reporting that no major road in the country was safe to travel, some Iraq specialists speculated that the Sunni insurgency was effectively encircling the capital and trying to cut it off from the north, south and west, where there are entrenched Sunni communities. East of Baghdad is a mostly unpopulated desert bordering on Iran.
"It's just political rhetoric to say we are not in a civil war. We've been in a civil war for a long time," said Pat Lang, the former top Middle East intelligence official at the Pentagon.
Other experts said Iraq is on the verge of a full-scale civil war with civilians on both sides being slaughtered. Incidents in the past two weeks south of Baghdad, with apparently retaliatory killings of Sunni and Shia civilians, point in that direction, they say.

Panel Sends Bolton Nomination to Senate without Support

A divided Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday sent the nomination of John Bolton to be U.N. ambassador to the full Senate. But it took the rare step of refusing to endorse the blunt-speaking conservative.
The move kept the contentious nomination alive, leaving its fate in the hands of the GOP-run Senate. By not recommending that senators approve Bolton's nomination, the committee delivered a slap at President Bush in one of the first big battles of his second term.
"It doesn't appear that Mr. Bolton has the confidence of the majority of this committee," said Sen. Joseph Biden (news, bio, voting record) of Delaware, the senior Democrat on the panel. "And I would suggest that it may be worth the president's interest to take note of that."

The "Junkman" Judgeth

One of PR Watch's "usual suspects," Steven J. Milloy, managed to get himself invited to be a judge for the 2004 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Journalism Awards: Online Category. Milloy, who calls himself "The Junkman," is an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, a commentator for, and the creator of He earns his living attacking scientific research and public health activism that goes against the interests of industry. While Milloy claims the judgeship on his website, the AAAS does not list Milloy as a judge in last year’s competition. "According to AAAS spokesperson Ginger Pinholster, Milloy was invited to be a judge but quickly notified the other panelists that he had conflicts of interest due to his affiliation with the Cato Institute, [a] libertarian think tank," journalist Paul Thacker writes. "'It was just kind of a snafu, and he had a nice lunch on us,' she said in a phone message. 'We've already dealt with it. This is a sponsored, nonprofit program, and I just want it to go away.' 'This is somewhat like discovering that Karl Rove [President Bush's chief political adviser] was a judge in a contest for political journalism,' says Seth Borenstein, a national correspondent who covers the environment, science, and health for the Washington, D.C., bureau of Knight Ridder."

HHS revises 'birds and bees' Web site

The federal government has changed its Web site advising parents how to talk to their children about sex after several groups said it presented biased and inaccurate information.
The site received about 5 million hits in its first month of operation. In recent days, the section on sexual orientation was changed to address some of the concerns voiced by the gay rights community.
For example, the term "alternative lifestyle" was replaced with "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender lifestyle," which addressed the concern that the Bush administration was labeling sexual orientation as choice.
In addition, the portion telling parents of gay children to consider seeing a family therapist who shares their values was changed to say "counselors and other health professionals may be helpful to both teens and parents when addressing difficult issues."

Dozens of Closed Military Bases are on EPA's Superfund List of Worst Toxic Waste Sites

Thirty-four military bases shut down since 1988 are on the Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund list of worst toxic waste sites -- most of them for at least 15 years -- and not one is completely cleaned up.
As the latest base-closing commission begins its work, an examination by The Associated Press shows EPA concerned with incomplete pollution cleanups at more than 100 Defense Department facilities. Other military-related cleanups are being led solely by states.
Of the $23.3 billion in costs from four previous rounds of base closures and realignments, the Pentagon has spent $8.3 billion so far on pollution cleanups and other compliance with environmental laws, congressional investigators say. EPA officials say it will be at least a decade before many are completed -- at a cost the government estimates will reach an additional $3.6 billion.

Terror Suspects Sent to Egypt by the Dozens, Panel Reports

The United States and other countries have forcibly sent dozens of terror suspects to Egypt, according to a report released Wednesday by Human Rights Watch. The rights group and the State Department have both said Egypt regularly uses extreme interrogation methods on detainees.
The group said it had documented 63 cases since 1994 in which suspected Islamic militants were sent to Egypt for detention and interrogation. The figures do not include people seized after the attacks of September 2001 who were sent mainly by Middle East countries and American intelligence authorities.
The report said the total number sent to Egypt since the Sept. 11 attacks could be as high as 200 people. American officials have not disputed that people have been sent to countries where detainees are subjected to extreme interrogation tactics but have denied that anyone had been sent to another country for the purpose of torture. Among other countries to which the United States has sent detainees are Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Syria.

U.S. Army confronts misconduct by its recruiters

The U.S. Army has ordered a one-day suspension this month of its recruiting efforts, already made difficult by the Iraq war, to confront incidents of misconduct by its recruiters.
The incidents included a Texas recruiter threatening a man with arrest if he did not show up at a recruiting station for an interview and Colorado recruiters telling a high school student how to get a phony diploma from a nonexistent school, Army officials said.
On May 20, all 7,545 recruiters at 1,700 recruiting stations nationwide will be counseled by Army officials about what is permitted and what is not in the effort to coax people to enlist, officials said.
Army Recruiting Command spokesman Douglas Smith said the Army was investigating 480 allegations of improper conduct by Army recruiters in fiscal 2005, which began Oct. 1. The Army looked into 473 such allegations in all of 2000, 643 in 2001, 745 in 2002, 955 in 2003 and 957 in 2004, Smith said.

Court-Martial Set for Sailor Turned Anti-War Activist Who Refused to Board Ship to Persian Gulf

A Bronx-born Navy sailor turned anti-war activist plans to argue that he was following his military training and his conscience when he refused to board his ship in December.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Pablo Paredes faces charges of unauthorized absence and missing movement at his special court-martial Wednesday. He has pleaded not guilty.
...While his shipmates bid farewell to loved ones, Paredes told reporters he did not want to be part of a war he views as both illegal and immoral. He says his military training has taught him to avoid what he views as a war crime.
"The war is the real crime here, and that's what I want to get across," Paredes said. Navy prosecutors, however, have blocked Paredes' plans to put the war on trial during the court-martial, he said.
Defense attorney Jeremy Warren said Paredes has passed up deals that would have minimized his punishment in exchange for a guilty plea.
"He's not backing down from what he did or why he did it," Warren said.

Probe of Scrutiny on PBS Is Urged

Two Democratic congressmen called Wednesday for an investigation into recent activities by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, suggesting that efforts by the Republican chairman of the private nonprofit to put more conservative programs on PBS might violate federal law.
In a letter released Wednesday evening, Reps. David Obey of Wisconsin and John D. Dingell of Michigan asked CPB Inspector General Kenneth A. Konz to investigate the contracting, hiring and policies of the corporation, which distributes federal funds to public television stations. Both are ranking Democrats on committees that have oversight of public television.

Kids' book on evolution stirs censorship debate

With its lavish illustrations of colorful, cuddly critters, "Our Family Tree" looks like the kind of book kids keep by their bedside to read again and again.
But when its St. Paul author, Lisa Westberg Peters, planned to talk about the book in classroom appearances today and Friday at a Monticello, Minn., elementary school, educators got cold feet.
"Our Family Tree" focuses on evolution, the scientific explanation for human origins that some believe contradicts biblical teachings. Peters' appearances, which were to focus on helping kids learn how to write, were canceled.
"It's a cute book. There's nothing wrong with it. We just don't need that kind of debate," said Brad Sanderson, principal at Pinewood Elementary.

Security Whistleblowers Demand End to Retaliation

Fifty current and former employees of U.S. national security agencies are demanding that Congress end government retaliation against those who expose national security blunders.
Leaders of the new group, known as the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC), have stepped up their efforts to win protection since testifying late last month before Congressional committees in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.
They called on congress to take action to permit whistleblowers to sue government retaliators in their personal and official capacities and to bring suit against agencies for failure to rectify misdeeds by employees or provide sufficient safeguards against whistleblower retaliation.
The group is led by Sibel Edmonds, who has been trying to sue the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for firing her in 2002 after she blew the whistle on agency employees. Edmonds said she was fired from her job as a wiretap translator because she told superiors she suspected a co-worker was leaking information to targets of an ongoing FBI probe. The FBI said it fired her because she committed security violations and disrupted the office.
''In recent years the number of national security whistleblowers has grown exponentially, so has the level of retaliation and harassment against these whistleblowers by the government,'' Edmonds testified.

Indignation Grows in U.S. Over British Prewar Documents

[I]in the United States, where the reports at first received scant attention, there has been growing indignation among critics of the Bush White House, who say the documents help prove that the leaders made a secret decision to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein nearly a year before launching their attack, shaped intelligence to that aim and never seriously intended to avert the war through diplomacy.
The documents, obtained by Michael Smith, a defense specialist writing for the Sunday Times of London, include a memo of the minutes of a meeting July 23, 2002, between Blair and his intelligence and military chiefs; a briefing paper for that meeting and a Foreign Office legal opinion prepared before an April 2002 summit between Blair and Bush in Texas.

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Sex.... Education

Rockville, Maryland has become the epicenter of America’s culture wars. Parents in the area largely support a new sex education curriculum. National conservative religious / political groups oppose these local efforts to educate children about sexual issues. The fault lines are everywhere. The outside political groups are angry, for example, that teenagers would be taught to use condoms and that homosexuality would be presented in a positive light. The program has been suspended by a court order until the curriculum can be further studied. reports on the reaction from parents
Chuck Currie Blog has much more.

Representative Bernie Sanders on Government Oversight of Cable and Satellite

These effects have already been seen on broadcast television. Given the looser rules governing cable and satellite, the change to paid programming will be even more drastic under FCC oversight. Controversial or cutting-edge shows will become increasingly rare as programmers become more and more limited in the types of topics they are willing to explore and the kinds of guests they will invite.
Sadly, this is not the only effort currently under way by the right to determine what material is appropriate for the American public to see, hear and read. The effort to censor cable becomes even more ominous when viewed as part of the larger attempt by the Bush administration and its allies to limit public discussion of minority opinions.
In recent years, the Republican leadership has used unprecedented measures to crush dissent in Congress. During the recent passage of the Bankruptcy Bill, for example, no opposition amendments were allowed on the floor of the House-effectively silencing public debate of the bill.
Perhaps the most blatant example of intolerance for dissenting viewpoints, however, comes from Bush himself, who is currently traveling the country holding "town meetings" on his Social Security privatization plan. Despite the fact that these ostensibly public meetings are paid for by taxpayers, American citizens who disagree with Bush are not allowed to attend.
It is in this context of an overall attack on dissenting opinions that the effort to censor cable and satellite TV becomes truly frightening. This is not simply about cleaning up offensive content; it is about the extreme right wing pushing to limit the free exchange of ideas. The time has come for all Americans who love freedom to let the government know that they don't want Uncle turning into Big Brother.

Copyright Office Seeks Advice on "Orphan Works"

The Copyright Office is examining issues raised by “orphan works,” i.e., copyrighted works whose owners are difficult or even impossible to locate. Concerns have been raised that the uncertainty surrounding ownership of such works might needlessly discourage subsequent creators and users from incorporating such works in new creative efforts, or from making such works available to the public.
The Office has solicited written comments from all interested parties. The Office has asked specifically whether there are compelling concerns raised by orphan works that merit a legislative, regulatory or other solution, and if so, what type of solution could effectively address these concerns without conflicting with the legitimate interests of authors and right holders.
The deadline for initial comments and reply comments has passed. Initial comments have been posted here. Reply comments received have been posted here. Please report any errors or broken links to
Read the Federal Register Notice summarizing issues raised by orphan works.

Orphan Works reply comments

Gavin sez, "The U.S. Copyright Office has posted the reply comments to their orphan works inquiry. Here are the direct links to some big names:"

Letters of Richard Feynman

Nobel physicist Richard Feynman wrote hundreds of inspiring letters, often to strangers. Below, his daughter Michelle Feynman introduces an edited selection - published here for the first time

Lawless Iraq is 'key drug route'

Drug smugglers exploiting internal chaos in Iraq have turned the country into a transit route for Afghan heroin, an influential drug agency says.
High levels of insurgent violence and porous borders have drawn traffickers to Iraq, according to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB).
The board says Jordan has seized large quantities of drugs on the Iraq border.
Authorities in Afghanistan say their drug problem is so severe the country's existence could be threatened.
Drugs are transported through Iraq and into Jordan, where they are moved onto traditional trafficking routes into Europe.

IRAQ: Doctors warn of increasing deformities in newborn babies

Doctors in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, have reported a significant increase in deformities among newborn babies.
Health officials and scientists said this could be due to radiation passed through mothers following years of conflict in the country.
The most affected regions are in the south of the country, particularly Basra and Najaf, according to experts. Weaponry used during the Gulf war in 1991 contained depleted uranium, which could be a primary source for the increase, scientists in Baghdad said.

What Is Depleted Uranium?

The Lone Star Iconoclast [in Crawford TX] last week conducted a test by asking 20 Texans, representing all walks of life and from different territories of the state, “What are your views on depleted uranium?”
Nineteen had no clue what the interviewer was talking about.
One offered, “Isn’t that the stuff that’s hauled away from nuclear power plants?”
None knew that depleted uranium (DU) is radioactive material being used in military ammunition and none knew that the U.S. military is utilizing weapons to launch these nuclear DU projectiles in Iraq.
Likewise, not one of the queried Texans was aware that DU poses significant health threats not only to Iraqis, but to Americans as well, for the radioactivity spreads from continent to continent through the atmosphere and is brought home through soldiers to their families and associates.
Uranium is one of the heaviest elements found in nature and increases in radioactivity as it decays. After enriched uranium which is to be used for nuclear fuel is extracted from natural uranium, the leftover nuclear waste, commonly known as depleted uranium, is stored in steel cylinders for public protection.
Depleted uranium is heavy, cheap, abundant, and is provided free of charge to arms manufacturers as a way of disposing of the material.
DU rounds are used in a variety of high intensity weapons and is used in a variety of forms. Since the projectiles are so powerful, the DU gets hot and oxides into aerosol-like particles that can be less than 10 microns or smaller than a white blood cell and are, therefore, easily inhalable.
According to a study conducted by Iliya Pesic in a paper entitled “Depleted Uranium — Ethics of the Silver Bullet” , there are serious long-term effects of DU in Iraq.
“In regions heavily hit by DU, studies have shown that numerous civilians have extensive problems with their immune systems, malignant cancers (such as ludicrously high leukemia rates), heart problems, and bizarre abnormal birth defects (such as children born without eyes, ears, tongue, etc.). In some regions, leukemia has become one of the main forms of cancer-related death.”
Pesic continues, “Contaminated agriculture and water supplies help spread the DU dust which continues to hurt people in diferent regions where DU ammo was not used.”
Pesic notes that veterans and civilians exposed to DU have experienced extensive irreversible damage to kidney and partial kidney failure. “Cancers related to one’s blood, bone, and immune system become common. There are also various other biological effects claimed from DU, such as chronic fatigue, respiratory problems, heart problems, digestive organ damage (e.g. liver failure and severe rectal bleeding), etc.”
On the same subject, The Iconoclast is publishing an editorial encouraging the Texas Legislature to provide DU testing for soldiers who are returning from overseas, so that if problems exist, they can be addressed.

A Scientific Perspective
Interview with Leuren Moret, Geo-Scientist
A Military Perspective
Interview with Dr. Doug Rokke, Ph.D, former Director of the U.S. Army Depleted Uranium Project
A Survivor’s Perpsective
Interview with Melissa Sterry, Gulf War Veteran who is surviving the effects of depleted uranium

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Journalist , home from Iraq, urges Americans to search for truth, freedom

Home From Iraq: photojournalist Molly Bingham was detained in 2003 by Iraqi security forces and held in Abu Ghraib prison from March 25 to April 2, 2003. Eighteen days after her release, she returned to Iraq to pursue stories for The New York Times, The Guardian of London and others. Taking a short break during the summer of 2003, Bingham had the idea of working on a story to explore who was involved in the nascent resistance that was becoming apparent throughout Iraq. In August 2003, Bingham returned with British journalist Steve Connors and spent the next 10 months reporting the story of the Iraqi resistance. Her account was published in Vanity Fair magazine in July 2004; Connors shot a documentary film on the subject. This experience has led Bingham to seriously question the values and responsibilities of the press. [from]
Excerpt: To seek to understand and represent to an American audience the reasons behind the Iraqi opposition is practically treasonous.
Every one of the people involved in the resistance that we spoke to held us individually responsible for their security. If something happened to them -- never mind that they were legitimate targets for the U.S. military -- they would blame us. And kill us. We soon learned that they had the U.S. bases so well watched that we had to abandon our idea of working on the U.S. side of the story -- that is, discovering what the soldiers really thought about who might be attacking them. There were so many journalists working with the American soldiers that we believed that that story would be well told. More practically, if we were seen by the Iraqis going in and out of the American bases, we would be tagged immediately as spies, informants and most likely be killed.
As terrifying as that was to manage and work through, there was another fear that was just as bad. What if the American military or intelligence found out what we were working on? Would they tail us and round up the people we met? Would they kick down our door late one night, rifle through all our stuff and arrest us for "collaborating with the enemy?" Bear in mind that there are no real laws in Iraq. At the time that we were working, the American military was the law, and it seemed to me that they were pretty much making it up as they went along. I was pretty sure that if they wanted to "disappear" us, rough us up or even send us for an all expenses paid vacation in Guantánamo for suspected al-Qaida connections, they could do so with very little, or even no recourse on our part.
I could go into a long litany of the ways in which the American military has treated journalists in Iraq. Recent actions indicate that the U.S. military will detain and/or kill any journalist who happens to be caught covering the Iraqi side of the militant resistance, and indeed a number of journalists have been killed by U.S. troops while working in Iraq. This behavior at the moment seems to be limited to journalists who also happen to be Arabs, or Arab-looking, but that is only a tangential story to what I'm telling you about here.

Picture power: Vietnam napalm attack

Vietnamese photographer Nick Ut describes the day in June 1972 when he photographed a nine-year-old girl, Kim Phuc, fleeing her village after a napalm attack - a picture that won him a Pulitzer prize.

Sgt. in Iraq Responds to Halliburton Award

I was reading the news when I came upon this!. It is an article about how the defense contracting company Halliburton has received $72 million dollars in BONUSES for it's work in Iraq. So when you wonder where all that money we send to Iraq is going lets just make sure we are on the same page. This money given to Halliburton is in addition to the money it makes for its defense contract in Iraq. WHY IS ALL THIS MONEY GOING TO GIANT US CORPORATIONS? Shouldn't it be going to Iraqi businesses to help rebuild their devastated economy and war torn land? Why do the BIG MONEY people of the United States get to smear our good name and continue to prosper when the Iraqi people who have had suffered many many civilian casualties and other numerous hardships continue to get the short end of the stick? I just hope that someone decides that enough is enough. Either invest that money we had set aside in a good way for the Iraqis or give it to someone who will!

Destroying the Life and Career of a Valued Physician-Scientist Who Tried to Protect Us from Plague: Was It Really Necessary?

Dr. Thomas C. Butler, the distinguished physician and specialist in infectious disease who was sentenced to prison last year for improperly transporting medical samples, is the subject of an extraordinary profile in the latest issue of the medical journal Clinical Infectious Disease.
"Thomas Campbell Butler, at 63 years of age, is completing the first year of a 2-year sentence in federal prison, following an investigation and trial that was initiated after he voluntarily reported that he believed vials containing Yersinia pestis were missing from his laboratory at Texas Tech University," the article begins.
"We take this opportunity to remind the infectious diseases community of the plight of our esteemed colleague, whose career and family have, as a result of his efforts to protect us from infection by this organism, paid a price from which they will never recover."
Dr. Butler is credited with having saved literally millions of lives in developing countries through his pioneering work on oral hydration as a treatment for diarrheal diseases. [from Secrecy News]

Meet the Press: Transcript for May 8

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Black gave you specific instructions on what he wanted you to bring home.
MR. SCHROEN: That's true. He did ask that once we got bin Laden and killed him, that we send his head back in a cardboard box on dry ice so that he could take it down and show the president.
MR. RUSSERT: Where would you find the dry ice in Afghanistan?

Fact Check: Ads from both sides twist facts about judicial nominees

Millions are being spent on rival ads supporting and opposing two of President Bush's most controversial judicial selections. Neither ad is completely accurate.
An ad by the pro-Bush group Progress for America implies that Texas judge Priscilla Owen has been endorsed by a newspaper that actually says she's biased in favor of large corporations and "often contorts her rulings" to conform with her conservative outlook.
A rival ad by the liberal People for the American Way quotes Texas judge Janice Rogers Brown as saying seniors "are cannibalizing their grandchildren," without making clear she was speaking metaphorically of debt being passed on to future generations by entitlement programs.

Miller, Cooper Ask Supremes to Hear Appeal in Plame Case

The Supreme Court has been asked to throw out contempt orders against two journalists who refused to reveal sources in the leak of an undercover CIA officer's identity.
Lawyers for Time magazine's Matthew Cooper and The New York Times' Judith Miller want the justices to clarify protections reporters have in keeping sources confidential. Cooper's appeal was filed Tuesday; Miller's was made Monday.
The Supreme Court ends a nine-month term next month and could not consider the cases before next fall.

Why Won't the Washington Post Cover the Leaked 2002 Memo?

In his weekly column, Washington Post ombudsman Michael Getler reported without comment that readers had criticized the newspaper for ignoring a leaked British memo on the Iraq war published in the British Sunday Times.
Getler's failure to offer a judgment about the Post's editorial decision is remarkable, not only because he regularly responds in his column to reader criticisms, but because of the explosive content of the memo. The memo indicates that Britain's intelligence minister reported after a trip to the United States that President Bush had decided to go to war in Iraq in the summer of 2002, and "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around" the decision that had already been made. In contrast to the U.S. media, U.K. news outlets devoted considerable coverage to the memo, and its disclosure reportedly had a significant impact on the Labour Party's loss of seats in the House of Commons.
Yet Getler simply reported that he had received reader complaints and moved on.
The Post referenced the memo only twice prior to Getler's column: in the May 5 edition of Tina Brown's syndicated column -- which appeared in the paper's Style section -- and in a May 6 article recapping Blair's re-election.
By the end of the week, readers had criticized the Post for this glaring lack of coverage. Perhaps Getler decided that because the Post's coverage was in line with much of the U.S. media, which largely ignored the memo, the Post's failure did not merit his comment.

Filibuster Frist Protest Continues

Why filibuster?
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Class of '74, is preparing to change Senate rules to prevent a Democratic filibuster of judicial nominees. This "Nuclear Option" would end the institutional role of the Senate as a deliberative body that respects minority views, and judicial nominations could be approved without even the minimal degree of mainstream acceptability that had previously been necessary. The implications for the federal judiciary, and the nation, are tremendous: the next round of appointees to sail through will no doubt be extremists ideologically committed to dismantling post-1937 constitutional jurisprudence (meaning no EPA, no FDA, no corporate liability, no healthcare or social welfare programs - ever).

To protest this destructive move, members of the Princeton University community have come together to hold a non-stop "filibuster" outside the Frist Campus Center (a building sponsored by Senator Frist's family).

Georgia: Doctors Must Read Script Before Performing Abortions

[The law] stipulates that women considering an abortion should receive accurate and adequate information 24 hours in advance of the procedure. This information is to include the medical risks of the procedure, probable gestational age of the unborn child, medical risks of carrying the child to term, medical assistance available for prenatal care, childbirth, and neonatal care, and that the father is liable for child support. The bill also seeks to protect minors by requiring that an unemancipated minor be accompanied by a parent or guardian, who must show proper identification and state that they are the lawful parent or guardian. Parents or guardians must also receive notice 24 hours before an abortion is performed.

'Grenade' thrown at Bush

A POSSIBLE hand grenade was reportedly thrown toward a stage in Georgia where US President George W. Bush was giving a speech today, but the device was taken away by a Georgian security officer, the US Secret Service said.
"After the president departed the country of Georgia we were notified by host country authorities of a report that during the president's speech in Tbilisi a device described as a possible hand grenade was thrown within 100 feet (30m) of the stage," said Secret Service spokesman Jonathan Cherry.
... Citing a US official, the network said the grenade's safety pin had been removed.
Mr Bush was speaking before tens of thousands of cheering Georgians in Tbilisi's Freedom Square when the incident occurred.

Halliburton Awarded $72.2 Million for its Fine Performance ...Yes, THAT Halliburton

For its work in supporting the U.S. Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Halliburton Co. has been awarded $72.2 million in performance bonuses.
In its Pentagon review, the reconstruction and support company scored 88 percent of a possible $82.3 million bonus, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
Under Halliburton's contract, it receives an automatic 1 percent profit margin and can get an additional 2 percent bonus, depending on how well it meets military expectations.

Ridge: Threat Levels Adjusted Based on Flimsy Evidence

The Bush administration periodically put the USA on high alert for terrorist attacks even though then-Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge argued there was only flimsy evidence to justify raising the threat level, Ridge now says.
Ridge, who resigned Feb. 1, said Tuesday that he often disagreed with administration officials who wanted to elevate the threat level to orange, or "high" risk of terrorist attack, but was overruled.
..."More often than not we were the least inclined to raise it," Ridge told reporters. "Sometimes we disagreed with the intelligence assessment. Sometimes we thought even if the intelligence was good, you don't necessarily put the country on (alert). ... There were times when some people were really aggressive about raising it, and we said, 'For that?' "

US real wages fall at fastest rate in 14 years

Stingy pay rises mean many Americans will have to work longer hours to keep up with the cost of living, and they could ultimately undermine consumer spending and economic growth.
Many economists believe that in spite of the unexpectedly large rise in job creation of 274,000 in April, the uneven revival in the labour market since the 2001 recession has made it hard for workers to negotiate real improvements in living standards.
Even after last month's bumper gain in employment, there are 22,000 fewer private sector jobs than when the recession began in March 2001, a 0.02 per cent fall. At the same point in the recovery from the recession of the early 1990s, private sector employment was up 4.7 per cent.

National Parks Director Says "Whole Parks" May Be Outsourced

The National Park Service is now considering contracting out the entire operations of three national parks, according to a memo from NPS Director Fran Mainella released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Previously, the National Park Service looked to outsource certain types of jobs, such as maintenance, among several parks but is now looking at park units in their entirety for future bids by private firms.
The three parks under review are Boston National Historical Park, San Juan Island National Historic Site (in Washington state) and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Altogether, these three parks employ 312 NPS employees on a full-time basis.
In an April 15, 2005 memo, NPS Director Fran Mainella cited these three parks as the subject of "preliminary [competitive sourcing] planning efforts for FY 2005. We will be reviewing whole parks to achieve the most efficient operations possible."
"We have now reached the point where Disney or Bally's Resorts can bid on entire national park operations with almost no public debate on whether that is appropriate," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "Why stop at individual parks, why not auction off the whole national park system to the lowest bidder?"

Agriculture Dept. paid journalist for favorable stories

A third federal agency has admitted it paid a journalist to write favorable stories about its work.
Documents released by the Agriculture Department show it paid a freelance writer $9,375 in 2003 to "research and write articles for hunting and fishing magazines describing the benefits of NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) programs."
Three articles by the writer, Dave Smith, appeared late last year in two magazines aimed at hunting and fishing enthusiasts: Outdoor Oklahoma, published by that state's Department of Wildlife Conservation, and Washington-Oregon Game & Fish, published by Primedia.

OMBWatch: Senate Vote Gives Homeland Security Power to Waive All Law In Construction of Border Fences and Roads

In passing the Iraq War Supplemental today, the Senate also gave the Secretary of Homeland Security the power to waive any and all law in the course of building roads and barriers along the U.S. borders -- without limit and with no checks and balances. The measure is part of the "REAL ID Act of 2005," the controversial immigration bill attached by the House as a rider to the Iraq war supplemental.
The consequence of this decision is that Congress has given one man a license to waive any law, for any reason or for no reason at all. Michael Chertoff, the Secretary of Homeland Security, now has the power to simply waive away laws that protect the environment, safeguard public health, ensure consumer and workplace safety, prevent unfair business practices, and ban discrimination -- at his sole and unreviewable discretion.
There is too much at stake to grant any government officials the power to waive all law. Immediately at stake, of course, are current environmental protections in the vicinity of the borders, but even more is at stake. These fences and roads will not build themselves -- they must be put in place by workers, who could lose all their workplace safety protections as well as their rights to collective bargaining or even overtime pay. This new power comes completely without limit; every law, from child labor to ethical contracting, can now be waived.

North Korea Says It Has Removed Nuclear Rods From Reactor

North Korea said today that it has removed 8,000 spent fuel rods from a nuclear reactor, a step that could provide the communist state with more plutonium for nuclear weapons.
"The D.P.R.K. has successfully finished the unloading of 8,000 spent fuel rods from the 5 MW pilot nuclear plant in the shortest period," North Korea's Foreign Ministry said in a statement, according to the reclusive nation's official news service, Korean Central News Agency.
On Feb. 10, North Korea, or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, for the first time declared that it possesses nuclear weapons.

Bill Would Hold Game Makers Accountable For Players' Actions

House Bill 2178 proposes to hold the makers and sellers of violent video games liable if someone under 17 years old commits a crime, due in any part, to playing the game.
Supporters of the bill, like Bill Hanson with the Washington Police and Sheriff's Association, say "kids" are getting the games, and they're becoming desensitized.

Pew: Beyond Red vs. Blue

The typology study's finding of significant cleavages within parties not only runs counter to the widespread impression of a nation increasingly divided into two unified camps, but also raises questions about political alignments in the future. In particular, the study suggests that if the political agenda turns away from issues of defense and security, prospects for party unity could weaken significantly. As the following chapters detail, numerous opportunities exist for building coalitions across party lines on many issues currently facing the nation ­ coalitions that, in many cases, include some strange political bedfellows. Overall, there are many more shades to the American political landscape than just the red and blue dividing the Electoral College maps last Nov. 2.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

If it Ain't Broke, Don't Privatize it!

And the winner of the Bush in 30 Years contest is..."If it ain't broke, don't privatize it!" by Andy Menconi of San Francisco, California. Both the panel of judges and MoveOn members picked it as their favorite!
"If it ain't broke, don't privatize it!" could reach millions of people who are making up their minds about Social Security privatization.

Senate Approves REAL ID with $82 Billion Supplemental Bill

The measure requires states to start issuing more uniform driver's licenses and verify the citizenship or legal status of people getting them. It also toughens asylum laws, authorizes the completion of a fence across the California-Mexican border and provides money to hire more border security agents. The House had included most of the provisions in its version of the bill. The Senate did not but agreed during negotiations to go along with the House.

Pastor Accused of Running Out Dems Quits

A Baptist preacher accused of running out nine congregants who refused to support President Bush resigned Tuesday.
"I am resigning with gratitude in my heart for all of you," the Rev. Chan Chandler said as he left a closed-door meeting at East Waynesville Baptist Church.
Congregants of the 100-member church in western North Carolina have said that Chandler endorsed Bush from the pulpit during last year's presidential campaign and said that anyone who planned to vote for Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry needed to "repent or resign."
The church members said he continued to preach about politics after Bush won re-election, culminating with a church gathering last week in which the nine members said they were ousted.

Fake News as Free Speech

PR Week reports on the video news release industry's response to Senator Byrd's one-year measure and the Truth in Broadcasting Act, both of which require disclaimers for pre-packaged "news" segments. The CEO of D S Simon Productions believes "the temporary amendment was preferable to the permanent ban because it is tied to specific spending." The CEO of Medialink said of the Truth in Broadcasting Act, "I think this is a law written by people not in the broadcasting or PR business," and warned that the legislation "could limit free speech." The president of the Radio-Television News Directors Association called the legislation "unnecessary," since the "accepted standard is to clearly identify material from outside sources." She also said that "government regulation of news content" would be "unprecedented and unconstitutional."