Saturday, May 28, 2005

Towns Opposing Unregulated GMO Use

"Close to 100 New England towns have passed resolutions opposing the unregulated use of GMOs (genetically modified organisms); nearly a quarter of these have called for local moratoria on the planting of GMO seeds. In 2004, three California counties, Mendocino, Trinity and Marin, passed ordinances banning the raising of genetically engineered crops and livestock." In response, "fifteen states recently have introduced legislation removing local control of plants and seeds. Eleven of these states have already passed the provisions into law." The move to deny local control over food was launched at a May 2004 American Legislative Exchange Council forum, where industry groups proposed a "Biotechnology state uniformity resolution." Previously, the tobacco industry used a similar approach. A Philip Morris employee explained, "By introducing preemptive statewide legislation, we can shift the battle away from the community level back to the state legislatures where we are on stronger ground."

After 'Toledo Blade' Probe of Rare-Coin Fund, Ohio Official Resigns

The director of Ohio's workers compensation bureau is resigning amid a growing scandal over millions of dollars missing from a rare-coin investment fund, Gov. Bob Taft said Friday.
Neither workers comp Administrator James Conrad nor any member of his staff told the governor about the state's investment in coins, Taft said. When questions were raised in April, agency officials told Taft the investment was profitable and safe.
State officials had said Thursday they plan to sue coin dealer Tom Noe and seek criminal charges after his attorney told them that about $10 million of the state's $55 million investment in rare coins is missing.
A consultant had originally alerted the bureau a few months ago that coins worth an estimated $400,000 had vanished.

Hunter S. Thompson to be Shot from Cannon

Big Picture
of Gonzo

Organizers of a memorial for Hunter S. Thompson plan to erect a 150-foot structure -- courtesy of actor Johnny Depp -- to shoot the gonzo journalist's ashes onto his Colorado ranch.
Friends and acquaintances gathered Thursday to discuss the Aug. 20 invitation-only service, which will be six months after Thompson shot himself in his Woody Creek home.

Thomas Friedman Urges a Reading of Foreign Press, Then 'Shut Down' Guantanamo

Hurling a kind of challenge at the U.S. press, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman today urged Americans who support the ongoing operations at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility to read what the foreign press has to say about it. Then Amnesty International’s depiction of Guantanamo this week as America’s “gulag” doesn’t seem farfetched at all.
Noting that 100 prisoners have died there, not likely from heart attacks, Friedman--a strong supporter of the war on terror and the Iraq invasion--concluded with this advice about Guantanamo: “Shut it down. Just shut it down... I am convinced that more Americans are dying and will die if we keep the Gitmo prison open than if we shut it down.”

Constitutional Lawyer Calls for Bush Impeachment in Light of Memo

The recent release of the Downing Street Memo provides new and compelling evidence that the President of the United States has been actively engaged in a conspiracy to deceive and mislead the United States Congress and the American people about the basis for going to war against Iraq. If true, such conduct constitutes a High Crime under Article II, Section 4 of the United States Constitution: “The President, Vice President, and all civil officers of the United States shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
In light of the emergence of the Downing Street Memo, Members of Congress should introduce a Resolution of Inquiry directing the House Judiciary Committee to launch a formal investigation into whether sufficient grounds exist for the House of Representatives to exercise its constitutional power to impeach George W. Bush, President of the United States.

'Peace offer' suspends BBC strike

Broadcasting unions have called off a 48-hour strike by BBC staff to give members time to consider what they describe as "a new peace offer".
The two parties held talks through the night at conciliation service Acas to avert Tuesday and Wednesday's strike.

Microsoft Deletes Ralph Reed

The company is ending its relationship with the choirboy-lobbyist, but its ties to others in the seemingly infinite loop of the Republican lobbying scandal are deep—in D.C. and Seattle.

IRS Closing 68 Taxpayer Assistance Centers

The Internal Revenue Service announced plans Friday to close 68 taxpayer assistance centers and shift more customer service to telephone help lines and volunteer programs.
...To meet the expected cut to its customer service budget, the IRS also plans to reduce toll-free telephone assistance from 15 hours to 12 hours a day. Everson said taxpayers will notice no difference in waiting times.

U.S. general assails 'shrill' Guantanamo criticism

The general responsible for the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, said on Friday Amnesty International's "shrill" criticism of the detention of foreign terrorism suspects was uninformed.
U.S. Army Gen. John Craddock, head of Miami-based Southern Command, added that he did not expect a military inquiry into whether U.S. personnel at the jail had mishandled the Koran would show more than the five cases acknowledged on Thursday.

Dems Pushing for Torture Investigation

In a release Friday, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), ranking member on the House Committee for Government Reform, introduced legislation to create a committee to investigate prisoner abuse.
The move appears to have broad backing from all sides of the Democratic House caucus, including the Democrats' liberal and moderate leaders in the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD).
The move to introduce legislation to create a select committee on abuse comes in the wake of a federal judge's ruling Friday that Americans must be allowed to see Abu Ghraib photographs.

Shut bases could get nuclear waste

Closed military bases could become repositories for nuclear waste under a little-noticed section of a spending bill that was passed by the House this week, exacerbating the fears of local lawmakers who are fighting the scheduled closure of four of New England's biggest bases.
The energy and water bill from the House Appropriations Committee includes $15.5 million for reprocessing of nuclear waste from power plants and construction of an interim nuclear waste dump. The legislation does not specify where that dump would be. But the Appropriations Committee report, which explains the bill, suggests that mothballed military bases be considered as potential sites for the waste.
Lawmakers said the idea adds to the pain of a region that faces the loss of 14,500 jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars if the recommendations by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission are adopted.

U.S. Set to Test Missile Defenses Aboard Airlines

The tests are being financed by the Department of Homeland Security, which has been directed by Congress to move rapidly to take technology designed for military aircraft and adapt it so it can protect the nation's 6,800 commercial jets. It has so far invested $120 million in the testing effort, which is expected to last through next year.
Yet even before the tests begin, some members of Congress, and several prominent aviation and terrorism experts, are questioning whether the rush to deploy this expensive new antiterrorism system makes sense.
Homeland Security officials have repeatedly cautioned that no credible evidence exists of a planned missile attack in the United States. But there is near unanimity among national security experts and lawmakers that because of the relatively low price and small size of the missiles, as well as the large number available on the black market, they represent a legitimate domestic threat.

Time: 100 Best Films

Minnesota court takes dim view of encryption

Technophobia? or ignorance? or mendacity? A Minnesota appeals court has ruled that the presence of encryption software on a computer may be viewed as evidence of criminal intent. The specific crime here aside, why is encryption - and by extension privacy - viewed as something seedy?

Helen vs Scott 5/25/05

MR. McCLELLAN: That's all I have to update at this moment. And with that, I'll be glad to go to your questions.
Q The other day -- in fact, this week, you said that we, the United States, is in Afghanistan and Iraq by invitation. Would you like to correct that incredible distortion of American history --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, we are -- that's where we currently --
Q -- in view of your credibility is already mired? How can you say that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Helen, I think everyone in this room knows that you're taking that comment out of context. There are two democratically-elected governments in Iraq and --
Q We're we invited into Iraq?
MR. McCLELLAN: There are two democratically-elected governments now in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we are there at their invitation. They are sovereign governments, and we are there today --
Q You mean if they had asked us out, that we would have left?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, Helen, I'm talking about today. We are there at their invitation. They are sovereign governments --
Q I'm talking about today, too.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- and we are doing all we can to train and equip their security forces so that they can provide for their own security as they move forward on a free and democratic future.
Q Did we invade those countries?
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Steve.
Q Is Prime Minister Abbas doing enough to crack down on terror?

Friday, May 27, 2005


You are invited to anonymously contribute your secrets to PostSecret. Each secret can be a regret, hope, funny experience, unseen kindness, fantasy, belief, fear, betrayal, erotic desire, feeling, confession, or childhood humiliation. Reveal anything - as long as it is true and you have never shared it with anyone before.
Create your own 4-inch by 6-inch postcards out of any mailable material. But please only put one secret on a card. If you want to share two or more secrets, use multiple postcards.

Disparity of Story Coverage on Cable News

The findings of a Congressional Research Service analysis I requested indicate that high profile competitors have emerged, and they are not just on for a half an hour, they are on 24 hours a day. Perhaps you have heard of them: they are called CNN, MSNBC and the Fox News Network.
On the last day of April, a Saturday morning, I awoke to alarming cable news. It seems that Jennifer Wilbanks, a Georgia woman, had disappeared on the eve of her wedding. According to the pundits on the cable news channel, she was very likely a victim of foul play. Maybe, they wondered, it was her fiance. It was on CNN, Fox and MSNBC. It must have been terribly important.
In the meantime, a story was breaking in Great Britain. A top secret British memo had been leaked to the Sunday London Times. The memo, comprising the minutes of a July 2002 meeting between Prime Minister Tony Blair and top government officials, in which they described recent conversations with their counterparts in the United States.
[Read the report PDF]

Violence may be a 'socially infectious disease'

Witnessing gun violence can double the likelihood of a teenager committing serious violence in the following two years, suggests a new study by US researchers.
Although a connection between exposure to violence and violent behaviour has been previously suggested, it is difficult to show a direct causal link. But this study claims to have isolated the independent contribution made by actually witnessing gun violence by comparing over 1500 teenagers with a similar likelihood of being exposed to violence.

Not Just A Last Resort?

Early last summer, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld approved a top secret "Interim Global Strike Alert Order" directing the military to assume and maintain readiness to attack hostile countries that are developing weapons of mass destruction, specifically Iran and North Korea.
Two months later, Lt. Gen. Bruce Carlson, commander of the 8th Air Force, told a reporter that his fleet of B-2 and B-52 bombers had changed its way of operating so that it could be ready to carry out such missions. "We're now at the point where we are essentially on alert," Carlson said in an interview with the Shreveport (La.) Times. "We have the capacity to plan and execute global strikes." Carlson said his forces were the U.S. Strategic Command's "focal point for global strike" and could execute an attack "in half a day or less."
In the secret world of military planning, global strike has become the term of art to describe a specific preemptive attack. When military officials refer to global strike, they stress its conventional elements. Surprisingly, however, global strike also includes a nuclear option, which runs counter to traditional U.S. notions about the defensive role of nuclear weapons.

UN Nuclear Treaty Review Ending in Failure, Japanese Envoy Says

The U.S. called for amendments to the treaty to block the development of nuclear weapons by Iran and North Korea, or a determination to refer those issues to the UN Security Council. Delegations led by Egypt and Iran demanded assurances of the nuclear powers that they wouldn't attack non-nuclear nations, and that they would ratify the proposed test ban treaty.
Neither side compromised and the delegates didn't adopt an agenda until May 11 or refer key issues to committees until May 19, leaving too little time for agreements.
``This appears to be the most acute failure in the treaty's history,'' Thomas Graham, a U.S. envoy to disarmament talks under Democratic U.S. President Bill Clinton told reporters at the UN yesterday. ``It comes at a time when the treaty is under heavy pressure, weaker than it has ever been because of the Iranian and North Korean situations, and will have an effect on keeping the regime going.''

Newsweek Was Right - Pentagon Confirms Koran Incidents

Pentagon officials said yesterday that investigators have identified five incidents of military guards and an interrogator "mishandling" the Koran at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but characterized the episodes as minor and said most occurred before specific rules on the treatment of Muslim holy items were issued.

Public Entitled to See Abu Ghraib Photos, Judge Says

A federal judge has told the government it will have to release additional pictures of detainee abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, civil rights lawyers said.
Judge Alvin Hellerstein, finding the public has a right to see the pictures, told the government Thursday he will sign an order requiring it to release them to the American Civil Liberties Union, the lawyers said., now a real non-profit, needs advice

[Calling all co-op and non-profit wonks... -- McLir]
Here are just some of the questions we have to consider:
* How big should the board of directors be?
* What should the makeup of the board be? For instance, should be it all students? Students and alumni? Others? What ratios/percentages? Should we have a student majority? A student-or-alumni majority?
* Who should we ask to serve on the board?
* Should we have an advisory board? Who should we ask to sit on that?
* Should board members be volunteers, or should we try to remunerate them?
* Officers: what are the roles/titles? (e.g. “treasurer”) What do we need? Who are they?
* Funding: what do we need it for? Where do we get it?

'Japan soldiers' found in jungle

Japanese officials are investigating claims that two men living in jungle in the Philippines are Japanese soldiers left behind after World War II.
The pair, in their 80s, were reportedly found on southern Mindanao island.
The men were expected to travel to meet Japanese officials on Friday, but have yet to make contact.
The claim drew comparisons with the 1974 case of Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda, who was found in the Philippines jungle unaware the war had ended.

"And the 'Soldier Kicking Asshat of the Month' award goes to..."

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R - San Diego), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, who stripped a bipartisan-approved amendment out of the defense budget which would have given America's 1.1 million reservists the ability to pay $75 a month / $233 per family for healthcare insurance. Hunter claimed that the extra cost would blow the DoD's budget. The cost? About $770 million a year over five years... approximately .0018% of the yearly defense budget, or about 2/3rds the cost of a single stealth bomber. [from]

Click and Clack Brothers Pulled from Paper After Complaints from Auto Dealers

The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk has dropped a popular syndicated car column that was the subject of complaints by local auto dealers.
It's "Click and Clack Talk Cars" by Tom and Ray Magliozzi, who appear in more than 300 newspapers via King Features Syndicate.
...Carpenter confirmed the cancellation, and said several local auto dealers -- and he himself -- had been bothered by the "irreverent" car column at the times it "went over the top" during the past couple of years. "Sometimes it's very funny, and sometimes it isn't," said Carpenter.

CONPLAN 8022 - US Operational Plans for Preemptive Nuclear War

Under the cloak of secrecy imparted by use of military code names, the American administration has been taking a big - and dangerous - step that will lead to the transformation of the nuclear bomb into a legitimate weapon for waging war.
Ever since the terror attack of September 11, 2001, the Bush administration has gradually done away with all the nuclear brakes that characterized American policy during the Cold War. No longer are nuclear bombs considered "the weapon of last resort." No longer is the nuclear bomb the ultimate means of deterrence against nuclear powers, which the United States would never be the first to employ.
In the era of a single, ruthless superpower, whose leadership intends to shape the world according to its own forceful world view, nuclear weapons have become a attractive instrument for waging wars, even against enemies that do not possess nuclear arms.
Remember the code name "CONPLAN 8022." Last week, the Washington Post reported that this unintelligible nickname masks a military program whose implementation could drag the world into nuclear war.
CONPLAN 8022 is a series of operational plans prepared by Startcom, the U.S. Army's Strategic Command, which calls for preemptive nuclear strikes against Iran and North Korea. One of the plan's major components is the use of nuclear weapons to destroy the underground facilities where North Korea and Iran are developing their nuclear weapons. The standard ordnance deployed by the Americans is not capable of destroying these facilities.

Harper's: Soldiers of Christ - Inside America's most powerful megachurch

In Pastor Ted’s book Dog Training, Fly Fishing, & Sharing Christ in the 21st Century, he describes the church he thinks good Christians want. “I want my finances in order, my kids trained, and my wife to love life. I want good friends who are a delight and who provide protection for my family and me should life become difficult someday . . . I don’t want surprises, scandals, or secrets . . . I want stability and, at the same time, steady, forward movement. I want the church to help me live life well, not exhaust me with endless ‘worthwhile’ projects.” By “worthwhile projects” Ted means building funds and soup kitchens alike. It’s not that he opposes these; it’s just that he is sick of hearing about them and believes that other Christians are, too. He knows that for Christianity to prosper in the free market, it needs more than “moral values”—it needs customer value.
New Lifers, Pastor Ted writes with evident pride, “like the benefits, risks, and maybe above all, the excitement of a free-market society.” They like the stimulation of a new brand. “Have you ever switched your toothpaste brand, just for the fun of it?” Pastor Ted asks. Admit it, he insists. All the way home, you felt a “secret little thrill,” as excited questions ran through your mind: “Will it make my teeth whiter? My breath fresher?” This is the sensation Ted wants pastors to bring to the Christian experience. He believes it is time “to harness the forces of free-market capitalism in our ministry.” Once a pastor does that, his flock can start organizing itself according to each member’s abilities and tastes.
Which brings us back to “Order.” Key to the growth of evangelicalism during the last twenty years has been a social structure of “cell groups” that allows churches to grow endlessly while maintaining orthodoxy in their ranks. New Life, for instance, has 1,300 cell groups, or “small groups,” as Pastor Ted prefers to call them. Such a structure is not native to Colorado Springs; in fact, most evangelicals attribute it to Pastor Paul Cho, of South Korea, who has built a congregation of 750,000 using the cell-group structure. American megachurches that have adopted the cell model unaltered have had only partial success.
Pastor Ted’s insight was in adapting this system for the affluence of the United States. South Korea, he notes, is on the “front lines” in the war against communism, “so they needed a strong chain-of-command system.” But not so Americans. “Free-market globalization” has made us so free, he realized, that an American cell-group system could be mature enough to function just like a market. One of Pastor Ted’s favorite books is Thomas Friedman’s The Lexus and the Olive Tree, which is now required reading for the hundreds of pastors under Ted’s spiritual authority across the country. From Friedman, Pastor Ted says he learned that everything, including spirituality, can be understood as a commodity. And unregulated trade, he concluded, was the key to achieving worldly freedom.

What is Delay Crying About This Week?

An episode of NBC's pulled-from-the-headlines police show Law & Order: Criminal Intent got a bit too realistic for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay when a fictional detective quipped that the lawmaker may have inspired the murder of a judge.
In a snippet of dialogue in the Wednesday night TV drama, a wisecracking detective, investigating the murder of a black judge, says, "Maybe we should put out an APB (all points bulletin) for somebody in a Tom DeLay T-shirt."
That triggered a heated letter from DeLay, accusing NBC of reckless and irresponsible behavior.
The context for the remark was DeLay's comment during the recent struggle over the fate of brain-damaged Florida woman Terry Schiavo, in which DeLay said, "This loss happened because our legal system did not protect the people who need protection most, and that will change. The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior."
For DeLay, what he called the abuse of his name by NBC was more evidence that America's media are out of control.

Google Sightseeing

I have no idea what this is. I can’t find anything similar on any google map referenced sites. It doesn’t show up on terraserver and I live nearby so I know there are no towers in that area. It has the same shadow as ground objects and when you zoom out it appears to be too small to be something really close to the satellite.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

OPTRUTH: 3 Ways to Support the Troops

Regardless of your ideological persuasion, regardless of your personal beliefs, one of the items on this list should be a viable option for you. Just do it.

NPR Broadcasts Recorded Narratives from Soldiers in Iraq

All this week, NPR's All Things Considered is running recorded narratives from Soldiers in Iraq describing their experiences in their own words. The segment is part of ATC's larger program called "The Span of War", which seeks to tell the story of this war from as many viewpoints and angles as possible. If you haven't heard any of their coverage yet, listen to it here.

Abortions rising under Bush? Not true. How that false claim came to be -and lives on.

This claim is false. It's based on an an opinion piece that used data from only 16 states. A study by the Alan Guttmacher Institute of 43 states found that abortions have actually decreased. Update, May 26: The author of the original claim now concedes that the Guttmacher study is "significantly better" than his own.

Feds Enforce 2004 Law for Schools to Teach Constitution on September 17ths

The Constitution long has ensured that Congress can’t tell schools what to teach. But that’s no longer the case for at least one topic — the Constitution itself.
The Education Department outlined Tuesday how it plans to enforce a little-known provision that Congress passed in 2004: Every school and college that receives federal money must teach about the Constitution on Sept. 17, the day the document was adopted in 1787.
Schools can determine what kind of educational program they want, but they must hold one every year on the now-named “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.” And if Sept. 17 falls on a weekend or holiday, schools must schedule a program immediately before or after that date.
Historically, the federal government has avoided dictating what or when anything must be taught because those powers rest with the states under the 10th Amendment. The Education Department’s Web site even underlines that point, saying matters such as the development of curricula and the setting of course requirements fall outside federal authority.

Vigilante Hackers Target Phishing Sites

Angered by the growing number of Internet scams, online "vigilantes" have started to take justice into their own hands by hacking into suspected fraud sites and defacing them.
These hackers have targeted fake websites set up to resemble the sites of banks or financial institutions in recent weeks, and have inserted new pages or messages. Some say "Warning - This was a Scam Site," or "This Bank Was Fraudulent and Is Now Removed."
The efforts by the self-proclaimed "hero hackers" come amid a surge in online schemes known as "phishing" in which victims are lured to fake websites to get passwords or other personal data.

Product Placement in Schwarzenegger Political Ad Funds Future Campaign

The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) called on Schwarzenegger to return the quarter-million dollars he received from companies featured in the ad, and for the corporations to pay the market value of the advertising to the state because it is improper for the governor to use public office to sell corporate products.
The TV ad, released in May, features Schwarzenegger talking to people in a lunchroom, and places Pepsi and Arrowhead Water in prominent spots next to the governor for one-third of the ad.
Donors connected to Pepsi Co. and Arrowhead Water's parent company, Nestle, gave the governor a total of $279,800 in campaign contributions. Also recognizable on-screen are Ruffles, Sun Chips, Cheetos and a SoBe Beverage, all brands owned by Pepsi.
View the ad at

Interactive Primer on American Interrogation

So much of what passes for online journalism -- this site included -- is really just old-fashioned newspaper or magazine reporting, ported from the page to the screen. And the few lame attempts by the mainstream press to break out of those formats usually leave readers panting for the old stand-bys.
"interactive primer on American interrogation," however, is different. By breaking a large, messy, complex issue into digestible online bites, Phil Carter and friends succeed in educating readers on the torture debate better than any TV show or magazine article or blog post I've seen so far.
Every major player in the American interrogation scandals is profiled. All the legal justifications for torture are called out. Each of the big techniques for getting a suspect to talk is outlined. But despite the motherlode of information, Slate's feature isn't in the slightest bit overwhelming.
If you've largely tuned out the torture issue since those awful Abu Ghraib pictures surfaced last year, it's time to click here.

Only on Fox: On-screen graphic asked why "Democrats hate" Bush judicial nominee

An on-screen graphic appearing on the May 18 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes featured a picture of Janice Rogers Brown, one of President Bush's judicial nominees blocked by Democrats, accompanied by the question: "Why do Democrats hate this woman?"
In fact, Senate Democrats have not indicated any hatred for Brown, but have instead detailed extensive and substantive reasons for their opposition to her nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Database Hackers Reveal Tactics

Three young hackers under investigation for unlawfully accessing personal information on thousands of people in a LexisNexis database have characterized their act as a cyberjoyride that got out of hand.
The hackers, ages 16, 19 and 20, spoke with Wired News by phone Monday and said that in January and February they accessed LexisNexis data -- which included the Social Security number, birth date, home address and driver's license number of numerous celebrities and hacker friends -- to claim bragging rights, rather than to steal identities or sell the information to identity thieves, as some published reports have stated.

U.S. Jacks Torrent Site

Acting on detailed information provided by the motion picture industry, federal agents descended on administrators and users of a popular pirate-friendly file-sharing site Wednesday in what the government is calling the first criminal law enforcement action against BitTorrent users.
FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, agents executed 10 search warrants in nine states in a strike on, a free, members-only BitTorrent aggregator hosted in the Netherlands. On Wednesday, visitors to the site were redirected to a new government-hosted page with a stern warning about the penalties for internet piracy: "Individuals involved in the operation and use of the Elite Torrents network are under investigation for criminal copyright infringement."

Pakistan: U.S. Citizens Tortured, Held Illegally FBI Participated in Interrogations

U.S. FBI agents operating in Pakistan repeatedly interrogated and threatened two U.S. citizens of Pakistani origin who were unlawfully detained and subjected to torture by the Pakistani security services, Human Rights Watch said today.
The brothers Zain Afzal and Kashan Afzal were abducted from their home in Karachi at about 2 a.m. on August 13, 2004. They were released on April 22, 2005 without having been charged.
During eight months of illegal detention, Zain Afzaland Kashan Afzal were routinely tortured by Pakistani authorities to extract confessions of involvement in terrorist activities. During this period, FBI agents questioned the brothers on at least six occasions. The FBI agents did not intervene to end the torture, insist that the Pakistani government comply with a court order to produce the men in court, or provide consular facilities normally offered to detained U.S. citizens. Instead, they threatened the men with being sent to the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay if they did not confess to involvement in terrorism.
Human Rights Watch's information is based on extensive and separate interviews with the two brothers since their release and other sources.

Real ID Rebellion Blog

Soldier Pleads Guilty to Assault in Beating Death of Afghan Prisoner; Gets 3-Month Sentence

Cammack was sentenced Friday during a court-martial at Fort Bliss. He will be demoted to private, fined more than $3,200 and given a bad-conduct discharge.
"I have come to realize what I did was wrong," Cammack said.
Cammack, a member of the Army Reserve's 377th Military Police Company in Cincinnati, said he was angry when he struck the prisoner, Mullah Habibullah, twice in the thigh with his knee. The prisoner had allegedly spit on his chest.
The technique isn't supposed to be used unless a guard's life is in danger, but soldiers have testified it was used regularly with the knowledge of officers. Cammack told the judge that he didn't feel threatened by the prisoner.
Habibullah died of a pulmonary embolism apparently caused by blood clots formed in his legs from the beatings, according to a 2004 military report.

Pro-Gay Newspaper Column Costs W.Va. Minister His Pulpit

The congregation of Davis Memorial Presbyterian Church in Elkins, W.Va., has voted to fire its minister after he wrote a column for the local daily, the Inter-Mountain, supporting gay rights.
"Gay and lesbian Christians are no different than the rest of us," the Rev. Jeff Falter wrote in a Feb. 26 article. "They deserve full equality in the church and in society, for they are my brothers and sisters, people for whom Christ died."
The newspaper has a daily circulation of almost 12,000.
That message led members to vote 100-72 on Sunday to request that the Presbytery of West Virginia dismiss Falter effective next Wednesday.

Detroit Newspaper Exec Defends Selling Page One to Advertiser

Detroit Newspapers claims its unusual move to turn Page One into an advertisement has been fairly well received, according to Henry S. Ford, vice president of market development for the agency.
Detroit Newspapers, which oversees the joint operating agreement between Knight Ridder's Detroit Free Press and Gannett's The Detroit News, sold the entire front page of both papers to Marshall Field's on Wednesday, triggering some protests from readers.

"Radio Free Ohio" - Clear Channel Set Up Anti-Clear Channel Pirate Radio Station

The station was outed by someone at WOXY, who looked up the Radio Free domain name and saw that it was owned by Clear Channel in San Antonio.
I supposed this isn't all that surprising coming from the company that pioneered the art of making generic, nationally produced newscasts sound as if they're local.

BitTorrent crackdown underway: Raids by FBI, Customs

Acting Assistant Attorney General John C. Richter of the Criminal Division, Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement Michael J. Garcia, and Assistant Director Louis M. Reigel of the FBI's Cyber Division today announced the first criminal enforcement action targeting individuals committing
copyright infringement on peer-to-peer (P2P) networks using cutting edge file-sharing technology known as BitTorrent.
This morning, agents of the FBI and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) executed 10 search warrants across the United States against leading members of a technologically sophisticated P2P network known as Elite Torrents. Employing technology known as BitTorrent, the Elite Torrents network attracted more than 133,000 members and, in the last four months, allegedly facilitated the illegal distribution of more than 17,800 titles - including movies and software - which were downloaded 2.1 million times.
See also: Federal police's new tactic: Seizing control of domain names
More at

Double triumph in stem cell quest

[A] team headed by Yuri Verlinsky of the Reproductive Genetics Institute, based in Chicago, claims to have produced patient-matched embryonic stem cells without resorting to therapeutic cloning. "It would be a much better approach," he says.
Verlinsky says he has already created 10 embryonic stem cell (ESC) lines using his new "stembrid" technique. Unlike therapeutic cloning, it uses existing ESCs instead of human eggs, and so would be much cheaper and easier. What's more, because no embryos are destroyed, it would bypass many ethical issues.

Exposure to pesticides can cause Parkinson's

The more pesticide you are exposed to, the higher your risk of developing the disease, say investigators who have studied almost 3000 people in five European countries. The results reinforce the need for amateur gardeners and farmers alike to wear protective equipment when spraying pesticides, the team concludes.

Coalition of citizen groups seek formal inquiry into whether Bush acted illegally in push for Iraq war

A coalition of activist groups running the gamut of social and political issues will ask Congress to file a Resolution of Inquiry, the first necessary legal step to determine whether President Bush has committed impeachable offenses in misleading the country about his decision to go to war in Iraq, RAW STORY has learned.
The formal Resolution of Inquiry request, written by Boston constitutional attorney John C. Bonifaz, cites the Downing Street Memo and issues surrounding the planning and execution of the Iraq war. A resolution of inquiry would force relevant House committees to vote on the record as to whether to support an investigation.

Texas PAC Official Violated Ethics Law

A Texas judge said Thursday that the treasurer of a political fundraising committee organized by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) violated the state's election law by failing to report $684,507 in contributions from corporations and other donors in 2002.
The civil court ruling is the first to sustain complaints by Democrats that improper acts underpinned a Texas political victory engineered by DeLay and his advisors, which had the effect of cementing Republican control of the House of Representatives.

Seal Officer's Trial Gives Glimpse of C.I.A.'s Role in Abuse

"We kind of evolved the system for handling detainees while we were over there," said Petty Officer Jerrod Holferty, a platoon member.
Two Navy lawyers said the Seal teams were briefed before leaving the United States and upon arriving in Iraq on the need to handle detainees humanely. But there have been several suggestions during the trial that the involvement of C.I.A. or other American intelligence personnel appeared to contribute to the harsh treatment of some detainees by members of the Seals.
C.I.A. personnel accompanied the platoon on capture missions, and at least one member of the platoon, Dan Cerrillo, testified that he roughed up a detainee before questioning on orders from an interrogator.

GOP tilts power to president

Republicans have already changed how the business of government gets done, in ways both profound and lasting.
The campaign to prevent the Senate filibuster of the president's judicial nominations was simply the latest and most public example of similar transformations in Congress and the executive branch stretching back a decade. The common theme is to consolidate influence in a small circle of Republicans and to marginalize dissenting voices that would try to impede a conservative agenda.
House Republicans, for instance, discarded the seniority system and limited the independence and prerogatives of committee chairmen. The result is a chamber effectively run by a handful of GOP leaders. At the White House, Bush has tightened the reins on Cabinet members, centralizing the most important decisions among a tight group of West Wing loyalists. With the strong encouragement of Vice President Cheney, he has also moved to expand the amount of executive branch information that can be legally shielded from Congress, the courts and the public.
Now, the White House and Congress are setting their sights on how to make the judiciary more deferential to the conservative cause -- as illustrated by the filibuster debate and recent threats by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) and others to more vigorously oversee the courts.

Eric Alterman's Testimony on Media Bias

For the past five decades, Republican politicians, writers, television pundits and think tanks have been remarkably successful at convincing the American people of a "liberal bias" in the media. Using the very same media outlets that they complain don't give their cause a fair shake to lodge their complaints, they know that slamming the other side is little more than a way to get their own ideas across, while drowning out opposing voices. Some have even admitted as much. During the 1992 presidential race, Rich Bond, then chair of the Republican Party, outlined the right's game plan, saying that "There is some strategy to it [bashing the 'liberal' media]. If you watch any great coach, what they try to do is 'work the refs.' Maybe the ref will cut you a little slack on the next one."
Even William Kristol, undoubtedly the most influential Republican/neoconservative writer and publisher in America today, is on record as saying that the "liberal media" canard is often used by conservatives as an excuse to cover up for conservative failures. Despite this, Kristol's magazine, The Weekly Standard, joins its colleagues in the conservative media in trotting out the liberal bias canard virtually every chance it gets.

US terror laws 'creating a new generation of the disappeared'

The United States is condoning torture and abuse in the name of the war on terror, setting up a latter-day Gulag and creating a new generation of the "disappeared", according to Amnesty International.
A report from the human rights group accuses governments from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe of systematic and often brutal erosion of civil rights.
But its most scathing criticism is directed at the US, for using the 11 September attacks as an excuse to ignore international law, and for creating a network of supplicant nations to "sub-contract" illegal detention and mistreatment.

Nuclear Proliferation and the Terrorist Threat - Excellent Coverage from NPR

Nuclear terrorism: Most experts agree this is the greatest threat from nuclear weapons today. Many experts emphasize deterring nations that might share nuclear weapons with terrorists. If terrorism is the higher priority, then thinking about nuclear weapons and nuclear strategies begins to change quickly. By Mike Shuster

Give Rumsfeld the Pinochet Treatment, Says U.S. Amnesty Chief

If the administration of President George W. Bush fails to conduct a truly independent investigation of U.S. abuses against detainees in Iraq and elsewhere, foreign governments should investigate and prosecute those senior officials who bear responsibility for them, the head of the U.S. chapter of Amnesty International said here Wednesday.
Speaking at the release of Amnesty's annual report, William Schulz charged that Washington has become ''a leading purveyor and practitioner'' of torture and ill-treatment and that senior officials should face prosecution by other governments for violations of the Geneva Conventions and the U.N. Convention Against Torture.
Among those officials, Schulz named Bush, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Undersecretary of Defence for Policy Douglas Feith, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director George Tenet, and senior officers at U.S. detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Abu Ghraib, Iraq.
''If the U.S. government continues to shirk its responsibility, Amnesty International calls on foreign governments to uphold their obligations under international law by investigating all senior U.S. officials involved in the torture scandal,'' said Schulz, who added that violations of the torture convention, which has been ratified by the United States and some 138 other countries, can be prosecuted in any jurisdiction.

Advertainment Reigns

Product placements on television shows are booming, with this year's market expected to total $4.2 billion. "Advertisers pay as much as $2 million an episode to get their products featured on NBC's 'The Apprentice,'" reports the Los Angeles Times. At the TV industry's annual sales drive, actor Amanda Bynes of WB's "What I Like About You" said of her show's characters, "This season we found out, like, they eat Pringles and use Herbal Essence shampoo. Next season, we hope to find out what cellphones they're using and what cars they drive." Other recent product placements include a couple on Fox's "The O.C." looking at, a character on ABC's "Desperate Housewives" working for Buick LaCrosse, and contestants on CBS' "Survivor:Palau" using Home Depot tools. The Federal Communications Commission's Jonathan Adelstein said the current standard of listing paid sponsorships in the show's closing credits is inadequate disclosure.

Bush Proudly Repeats "Propaganda" to Pre-Selected Audience

From transcript: "See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda." (Applause.)

11 steps to a better brain

It doesn't matter how brainy you are or how much education you've had - you can still improve and expand your mind. Boosting your mental faculties doesn't have to mean studying hard or becoming a reclusive book worm. There are lots of tricks, techniques and habits, as well as changes to your lifestyle, diet and behaviour that can help you flex your grey matter and get the best out of your brain cells. And here are 11 of them.

Wal-Mart Tries to Grow a Pair by Liza Featherstone

Wal-Mart is famous for trying to circumvent local zoning regulations, but in Dunkirk, Maryland, the retailer got particularly creative. The small hamlet had a rule against stores larger than 75,000 feet--so the company proposed to build two Wal-Mart stores side by side. Fortunately, this bit of Amelia Bedelia literalism was emphatically rejected by a community outcry, and Wal-Mart backed down last week.
Meanwhile, also in Maryland, small-time whore Governor Ehrlich has, as expected, vetoed a bill to force Wal-Mart to provide decent health insurance to workers. Wake Up Wal-Mart has a letter you can send him, politely letting him know you think he is a putz (sorry, tell him you're disappointed): More importantly, since Democrats are threatening to override the veto, if you live in Maryland: call, write or visit your state representatives and make sure they do the right thing!

Randi Rhodes Statement on State of the Media

First: Political litmus tests are as common in my business as they are in yours.
If you are a conservative there is room on the dial, in the news rooms and on the cable channels for you, (provided you have the right hair, jewelry and stylist) If you are a liberal, and your life's dream was to report news, anchor news or be an investigative journalist, you will see, day after day, your stories censored, edited, or just killed. Corporate and government interference in reporting the news can also affect journalists who have no particular political agenda. They simply report the facts as they find them. If these facts are inconvenient or unflattering to the Republican Majority Party agenda they can be accused of being an accessory to murder, unpatriotic or fired.
Just this past week the White House decided to call Newsweek Magazine an accessory to murder for printing a story of Koran abuse that the ICRC has clearly documented for more than three years, in three separate countries. Cuba, Afghanistan and Iraq.
News is essential for a vibrant participatory Democracy to continue to work and serve all who are lucky enough to be naturalized or born here. Unfortunately the forces at work are dumbing down the citizens AND IT IS BY DESIGN. How can anyone explain to a sane viewer that on the second day of Republicans and Democrats battling out the way the Senate will advise and consent to judicial nominees, the lead story on ABC World News Tonight was Star Wars bootlegging. On the second day of Republicans invoking something called the "Nuclear Option" -- So named because the fallout would be so devastating to democracy as we know it , the lead story on Fox News was two missing kids in Idaho. Michael Jackson, the Runaway Bride were also lead and sometimes the only story reported on various NEWS Channels. Aren’t we a Nation at war?

Video Clips from Media Forum


Congressman John Conyers, Jr., Opening Statement
Al Franken, Air America Radio
David Brock, Media Matters for America
Randi Rhodes, Air America Radio
Joe Madison, Radio One
Justin Webb, BBC
Eric Alterman, Center for American Progress

BBC Ignores Evidence of War Crimes

You, and Paul Wood, appear to be unaware of the fact that US marines have, in fact, already +admitted+ that they have used an upgraded version of napalm. A weapon which uses kerosene rather than petrol was deployed when dozens of bombs were dropped near bridges over the Saddam Canal and the Tigris river, south of Baghdad. Andrew Buncombe reported in the Independent on Sunday:
"'We napalmed both those bridge approaches,' said Colonel James Alles, commander of Marine Air Group 11.
"'Unfortunately there were people there... you could see them in the cockpit video. They were Iraqi soldiers. It's no great way to die. The generals love napalm. It has a big psychological effect.'" (Buncombe, 'US admits it used napalm bombs in Iraq,' Independent on Sunday, August 10, 2003)
Allegations about the use of weapons that have "melted" people have appeared in the US press. For example, the Washington Post reported that: "Some artillery guns fired white phosphorous rounds that create a screen of fire that cannot be extinguished with water. Insurgents reported being attacked with a substance that melted their skin." (Jackie Spinner, Karl Vick and Omar Fekeiki, 'U.S. Forces Battle Into Heart of Fallujah,' Washington Post, November 10, 2004)
Why has the alleged use of such weapons, reported in major press outlets, not been covered by the BBC?

Accelerator Used to Reveal Lost Archimedes Textx

A particle accelerator is being used to reveal the long-lost writings of the Greek mathematician Archimedes, work hidden for centuries after a Christian monk wrote over it in the Middle Ages.
Highly focused X-rays produced at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center were used last week to begin deciphering the parts of the 174-page text that have not yet been revealed. The X-rays cause iron in the hidden ink to glow.
"One of the delightful things is we don't know what it's going to say," said William Noel, head of the Archimedes Palimpsest project at the Walters Art Gallery.
Scholars believe the treatise was copied by a scribe in the 10th century from Archimedes' original Greek scrolls, written in the third century B.C.
It was erased about 200 years later by a monk who reused the parchment for a prayer book, creating a twice-used parchment book known as a "palimpsest." In the 12th century, parchment — scraped and dried animal skins — was rare and costly, and Archimedes' works were in less demand.

House Debates Iraq Pullout, 128 Members Vote Yes

The House of Representatives voted down a measure, by a 128 to 300 vote, that called on President Bush to devise a plan for a withdrawal from Iraq. It came in the form of an amendment to the $491 billion budget for the Pentagon that was passed on Wednesday night.
But the withdrawal amendment marks the first time that Congress has officially voted and debated legislation that deals with a withdrawal.
"No, it won't pass today, but it will give us a chance to talk about it," said Representative Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), the sponsor of the amendment. "It's an opportunity for members of Congress who are frustrated that our troops are being killed for a war that wasn't necessary in the first place and that there is no plan in sight to bring them home."

The hidden history of the United Nations

The history told about the defeat of Nazism and the founding of the United Nations in the 1940s has become distorted. A false view of the past is being used today to shape how we think about our future. The military power of the victorious wartime allies is offered as a model for running the world, while the UN’s supposed utopianism is seen as ineffective and irrelevant.
This is a travesty of the facts (see the boxed timeline). We are taught that the UN began with the signing of the Charter in 1945. In fact, that agreement was the culmination of a complex military and political effort that began in 1941. Understanding the UN’s wartime origins provides a powerful and much-needed reminder that the UN is not some liberal accessory but was created out of hard, realistic political necessity.

Oiling The Wheels Of Fake News

In a column for Digital Producer magazine, Steven Klapow recounts that a producer of video news releases for an oil company was under strict instructions to avoid including images, including on B-roll footage, that may not look good for the sponsoring company. "We have to avoid any shots that can be taken out of context," the producer said. The sort of shots that could cause problems, Klapow wrote, includes "steam emitting from a refinery could be perceived or described as smoke" and "any dirty areas in shots that are captured at filling stations." The producers of fake news are opposing the on-screen disclosure of the sponsors of corporate videos.

Caspian Pipeline Opens

Only 42 inches wide, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan was supposed to alter global oil markets forever. The 1,000-mile project has transformed the geopolitics of the Caucasus and its impact is now being felt in the vastness of central Asia.
Output is supposed to reach one million barrels a day - more than 1 per cent of world production - from an underground reserve that could hold as many as 220 billion barrels.
Its architects and investors claimed the pipeline would shore up energy supplies in the US and Europe for 50 years, protecting our gas-guzzling way of life and easing our reliance on the House of Saud.
The goal of the ambitious project, which makes its tortuous way from the Caspian in Azerbaijan, through Georgia to the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, is to ease the reliance of the West on the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) and bring cheaper fuel to our filling stations. The pipe threads its way through the region in a seemingly modest private corridor only 50 yards wide but nothing has been allowed to stand in its way. From forests to labour laws and endangered species to democracy protesters: all have given way to the costliest and most significant pipeline ever built.

Baghdad lockdown ordered in bid to stop bombers

Tens of thousands of Iraqi security personnel are to form a tight cordon around Baghdad involving hundreds of checkpoints in a bid to stem a spate of deadly car bombings, Defence Minister Saadun al-Dulaimi told reporters.

Cross Burnings in Durham, NC

Three large crosses were burned in separate incidents across Durham Wednesday night, the first time in recent memory that one of the South's most notorious symbols of racial hatred has been seen in the city.
Yellow fliers with Ku Klux Klan sayings were found at one of the cross burnings.
The Durham Police Department is investigating the burnings. After the third one was reported, the department ordered that any suspicious cargo truck or large pickup truck be stopped.

Judge: Parents can't teach pagan beliefs

Thomas Jones and Tammie Bristol, both Wiccans, divorced in 2004. Likely they disagree about much, but not which religion they wish to teach their son. Too bad for them, then, that a Marion County Superior Court judge included a provision in their divorce decree which bans them from exposing their child to "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals". Neither parent requested this; in fact, both vehemently objected, yet the judge refused to remove it. I guess them there activist judges are a threat to freedom of religion after all - but I doubt that the Judeo-Christian Council for Constitutional Restoration will be going after this guy. Funny; he's right up their alley. [from]

Civil Rights Agency Closings, Cuts Decried

Mired in a deep budget crisis, the commission will shutter the Denver office and another in Kansas City, Kan., in October, laying off six people.
The move will force anyone with a federal civil rights complaint in those districts to seek help in the commission's Chicago office. The Denver office covers Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado, while the Kansas City office oversees complaints in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri.

There are few state and local civil rights commissions with adequate staff, and lawsuits are expensive, civil rights advocates say.

The Nation: Franklin, Under FBI Investigation, a Long-Time Neo-Con Operative

For a nondescript, middle-aged former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, Pentagon Iran desk officer Larry Franklin had the habit of showing up at critical and murky junctures of recent history. He was part of the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, which provided much-disputed intelligence on Iraq; he courted controversial Iraqi exile politician Ahmad Chalabi, who contributed much of that hyped and misleading Iraq intelligence; and he participated with a Pentagon colleague and former Iran/contra arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar in a controversial December 2001 meeting in Rome--which, in a clear violation of US government protocol, was kept secret from the CIA and the State Department.
In all these endeavors, Franklin, 58, was hardly acting as a lone wolf. Rather, he was wired into a small network of like-minded Iran and Iraq hawks who lobbied fiercely inside and outside the Bush Administration for their policy positions, often in furious opposition to moderate bureaucrats in the State Department and the CIA. Because of their connections and status, the hawks were often successful in short-circuiting standard bureaucratic procedures and getting the attention of the White House. When the news first broke last summer that the FBI was investigating an alleged "Israeli mole" in the Pentagon--inaccurate, as it turned out--the chief suspect, Franklin, was portrayed as just one of 1,300 employees toiling anonymously under outgoing Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith. In fact, Franklin was the Pentagon's top Iran desk officer.
See also: There's more to the AIPAC spy scandal than 'mishandling' classified information

Activist Aims to Scare Officials Into Protecting Personal Data

Betty (but call her BJ) Ostergren, a feisty 56-year-old from just north of Richmond, is driven to make important people angry. She puts their Social Security numbers on her Web site, or links to where they can be found.
It's not that she wants CIA Director Porter J. Goss, former secretary of state Colin L. Powell, or Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to be victims of identity theft, as were millions of Americans in the past year. Ostergren is on a crusade to scare and shame public officials into doing something about how easy it is to get sensitive personal data.
Data brokers such as ChoicePoint Inc. and LexisNexis Group have been attractive targets for identity thieves because they are giant buyers and sellers of personal data on millions of people.
But as federal and state lawmakers try to keep sensitive information from falling into criminal hands, they face a difficult dilemma: The information typically originates from records gathered and stored by public agencies, available for anyone to see in courthouses and government buildings around the country.
What's more, local governments have in recent years rushed to put these records online.
A wealth of documents -- including marriage and divorce records, property deeds, and military discharge papers -- containing Social Security numbers, dates of birth and other sensitive information is accessible from any computer anywhere. Many of the online records are images of original documents, which also display people's signatures.

NY Review of Books: The Secret Way to War - A Close Look at the Downing Street Memo

It was October 16, 2002, and the United States Congress had just voted to authorize the President to go to war against Iraq. When George W. Bush came before members of his Cabinet and Congress gathered in the East Room of the White House and addressed the American people, he was in a somber mood befitting a leader speaking frankly to free citizens about the gravest decision their country could make.
The 107th Congress, the President said, had just become "one of the few called by history to authorize military action to defend our country and the cause of peace." But, he hastened to add, no one should assume that war was inevitable. Though "Congress has now authorized the use of force," the President said emphatically, "I have not ordered the use of force. I hope the use of force will not become necessary." The President went on:
"Our goal is to fully and finally remove a real threat to world peace and to America. Hopefully this can be done peacefully. Hopefully we can do this without any military action. Yet, if Iraq is to avoid military action by the international community, it has the obligation to prove compliance with all the world's demands. It's the obligation of Iraq."
Iraq, the President said, still had the power to prevent war by "declaring and destroying all its weapons of mass destruction"—but if Iraq did not declare and destroy those weapons, the President warned, the United States would "go into battle, as a last resort."
It is safe to say that, at the time, it surprised almost no one when the Iraqis answered the President's demand by repeating their claim that in fact there were no weapons of mass destruction. As we now know, the Iraqis had in fact destroyed these weapons, probably years before George W. Bush's ultimatum: "the Iraqis"—in the words of chief US weapons inspector David Kay—"were telling the truth."
As Americans watch their young men and women fighting in the third year of a bloody counterinsurgency war in Iraq—a war that has now killed more than 1,600 Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis—they are left to ponder "the unanswered question" of what would have happened if the United Nations weapons inspectors had been allowed—as all the major powers except the United Kingdom had urged they should be—to complete their work. What would have happened if the UN weapons inspectors had been allowed to prove, before the US went "into battle," what David Kay and his colleagues finally proved afterward?

U.S. 'Thumbs Its Nose' at Rights, Amnesty Says

In coordinated broadsides from London and Washington, Amnesty International accused the Bush administration on Wednesday of condoning "atrocious" human rights violations, thereby diminishing its moral authority and setting a global example encouraging abuse by other nations.
In a string of accusations introducing the organization's annual report in London, Irene Khan, Amnesty's secretary general, listed the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and the so-called rendition of prisoners to countries known to practice torture as evidence that the United States "thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights."
Defending its human rights record as "leading the way," the White House dismissed the accusations as ridiculous and unfounded.
..."When the U.S. government calls upon foreign leaders to bring to justice those who commit or authorize human rights violations in their own countries, why should those foreign leaders listen?" Dr. Schulz said. "And if the U.S. government does not abide by the same standards of justice, what shred of moral authority will we retain to pressure other governments to diminish abuses?

Guantánamo Prisoners Told FBI of Koran Desecration in 2002, New Documents Reveal

In the documents released today, one detainee informs his FBI interviewers that using the Koran "as a reprisal or as an incentive for cooperation has failed," and that the only result would be "the damage caused to the reputation of the United States once what had occurred was released to the world." While another detainee acknowledged that there might be "a legitimate need to search the book for hidden items," he objected to the abusive manner in which the searches were conducted.
"The United States government’s own documents show that it has known of numerous allegations of Koran desecration for a significant period of time," said Amrit Singh, an attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. "Its failure to address these allegations in a timely manner raises grave questions regarding the extent to which such desecration was authorized by high-ranking U.S. officials in the first place."

Plastic "Package" Closes Highway

A key highway though Florida was closed after a driver spotted what looked like a pipe bomb under an overpass.
Fearing terrorists were trying to blow up the structure, police closed Interstate 75 for an hour.
But on closer inspection police found that the 'device' was actually a foot-long plastic penis.
"Someone took construction-grade plastic, moulded it into a penis and wrapped it with duct tape," said Lee County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Charles Ferrante. [thanks, Kathy]

New Leads In The Johnny Gosch Case

Rothstein is a former New York City police detective, now a private investigator working the case for Johnny's mother, Noreen. And within the last couple weeks, Rothstein has uncovered new evidence linking Johnny's kidnapping to child prostitution. "It basically came down to one thing and one thing only. You know, it was money. These kids were being grabbed to satisfy the malignant, twisted, you know, evil depravity of very powerful individuals who have the money," he says. [thank, Kathy]

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Vets at retirement home file suit against Rumsfeld for cuts

Residents of a historic retirement home for war veterans filed a class-action lawsuit Tuesday against Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, asserting that the Pentagon chief has imposed excessive and illegal cutbacks in on-site medical and dental services.
The suit was filed in federal court on behalf of the nearly 1,000 residents at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, one of two such institutions managed by the Defense Department.

PBS Chief Rejects Liberal Bias Allegations

The president of the Public Broadcasting Service on Tuesday rejected criticism by conservatives that public TV is guilty of liberal bias, and she offered a strong defense of PBS' Bill Moyers, a target of right-wing wrath.
"PBS does not belong to any one political party," Pat Mitchell said.
Mitchell's remarks at the National Press Club follow the disclosure that Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, the Republican chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, hired a consultant to keep track of guests' political views on a program hosted by Moyers, who was White House press secretary during the Johnson administration.
"The facts do not support the case he makes" for political bias, Mitchell said of Tomlinson. Surveys show that the overwhelming majority of the public does not perceive bias in public broadcasting, she said.
The CPB gets appropriations from Congress for public broadcasting and is supposed to shield PBS from political influence. About 15 percent of PBS' budget is federal money.

McClellan Backs Away from Claims that 'Newsweek' Story Cost Afghan Lives

At a White House press briefing Monday, Press Secretary Scott McClellan, pressed by reporters and with Afghan President Karzai in disagreement, retreated on claims that Newsweek's retracted story on Koran abuse cost lives in Afghanistan.
He also claimed that he had never said it did, even though a check of transcripts disputes that. On May 16, for example, he said, "people have lost their lives." On May 17, he said, "People did lose their lives," and, "People lost their lives" due to the Newsweek report.

Lizz Winstead Suing Air America Radio

Former Air America morning show host Lizz Winstead is suing the network, claiming she was fired, then stiffed out of nearly $300,000, according to the New York Post.
Winstead claims that she’s owed $200,000 of her $250,00 annual salary, plus $83,333 in severance pay, $14,423.08 in unused vacation time and $5,960.55 that she says the network pocketed from her on-air ads for the Vermont Teddy Bear Company.
Winstead was fired by Air America on March 4, according to the paper. The show she co-hosted with Rachel Maddow and Chuck D, “Unfiltered,” remained on-air until March 31.

House Drops Effort to Put New Limits on Women in Combat

Pentagon and Army officials had complained that the language in the previous amendment threatened to restrict too much of the military's flexibility in assigning women to support units in time of war, given the time required to pass legislation on any changes.
Under Pentagon policy dating to 1994, women may not serve in direct ground combat units smaller than brigades, given that smaller units traditionally had greater contact with the enemy. Ground combat units are defined as infantry, armor, Special Forces, field artillery and combat engineers.
Women may hold positions in service, support and transportation units that fulfill such missions as medical care, supply and maintenance for combat units. Given the combat environment in Iraq or Afghanistan, where there is no secure rear area and frontlines constantly shift, these support and service units routinely come under attack.

Google hires neo-con headbanger

The company that prides itself on "Doing No Evil" isn't taking any chances with its latest executive appointment. Dan Senor, the company's new Global Communications and Strategy VP, has a CV guaranteed to have Register columnist Otto Z Stern firing a celebratory fusillade skywards from his compound in New Mexico.
A former Senior Associate at the Carlyle Group, Senor was briefly Scott McLellan's deputy as White House spokesman before becoming head of the the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq's information department. The White House web site bills him as Senior Advisor to Presidential Envoy L. Paul Bremer III. Fox News hired Senor as a panelist in February. While in Iraq Senor showed his loyalty by going jogging in a Bush-Cheney '04 tracksuit.
Not everyone is impressed.
"I have come to associate his triangular, brush-cut head with an unceasing stream of bullshit. He's Ari Fleischer without the charm," writes one grump. "Hiring this guy is a repulsive move."

See also: Google Searches for, Finds Top Level Execs in D.C.

Dan Senor profile from

4 External links

Interview with John Conyers

Amnesty: Gitmo "the Gulag of Our Time"

Amnesty International branded the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay a human rights failure Wednesday, calling it "the gulag of our time" as it released a report that offers stinging criticism of the United States and its detention centers around the world.
The 308-page report accused the United States of shirking its responsibility to set the bar for human rights protections and said Washington has instead created a new lexicon for abuse and torture. Amnesty International called for the camp to be closed.
"Attempts to dilute the absolute ban on torture through new policies and quasi-management speak, such as 'environmental manipulation, stress positions and sensory manipulation,' was one of the most damaging assaults on global values," the annual report said.
Some 540 prisoners from about 40 countries are being held at the U.S. detention center in Cuba. More than 200 others have been released, though some have been jailed in their countries; many have been held for three years without charge.

Fake Local News - Just Read the Script

Back when Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of the Christ" was arousing passions nationwide, a promotion packet arrived at local public radio station KAZU. It contained the usual: fliers and posters, glowing reviews.
It also contained a transcript of questions an enterprising reporter might want to ask Jim Caviezel, the movie's star, should the opportunity arise.
Of course, the chances Caviezel would drop by KAZU's studio in Pacific Grove were negligible at best. But no matter. The packet contained a CD of Caviezel-recorded answers to questions in the transcript.
"The transcript would say, 'Hi, Jim, how are you?'" recalled Bernhard Drax, who was news director at KAZU at the time. "And on the CD, Jim would say, 'I'm fine. It's good to be here.'"
The upshot? A local reporter could read the questions, splice in Caviezel's answers from the CD and play the result on the air as if the "interview" had really happened.

BP to Screen News on Entire Energy Industry

Both financial services powerhouse Morgan Stanley and global energy powerhouse British Petroleum, two giants of their respective industries, recently “informed print publications that its ads must be automatically pulled from any edition containing ‘objectionable editorial coverage.’” In the case of British Petroleum, ad-accepting publications are now required to “inform BP in advance of any news text or visuals they plan to publish that directly mention the company, a competitor or the oil-and-energy industry.” These are not empty threats. As one veteran of the magazine industry put it, “magazines are not in the financial position today to buck rules from advertisers.”
The timing of their decisions is no coincidence. A recent settlement against Morgan Stanley has splayed the firm’s name over the front pages of finance papers. Just today, another top investment banker announced his departure, “adding to the exodus of executive departures that has plagued the firm over the last seven weeks.” Unlike Morgan Stanley, British Petroleum hasn’t had a large amount of press coverage lately but some issues on the horizon – like the House and Senate energy bills (and the undue influence of industry lobbyists) – have caught the attention of everyone in the energy industry. Corporations in general are suiting up to fight back against corporate oversight, particularly the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
The power that these firms are trying to wield is an affront to free press, one of the democratic ideals that we should all hold in the highest esteem. If their actions don’t generate good news, then they should fix their company not the news.

Medical Journals Are an Extension of the Marketing Arm of Pharmaceutical Companies

“Journals have devolved into information laundering operations for the pharmaceutical industry”, wrote Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet, in March 2004 [1]. In the same year, Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, lambasted the industry for becoming “primarily a marketing machine” and co-opting “every institution that might stand in its way” [2]. Medical journals were conspicuously absent from her list of co-opted institutions, but she and Horton are not the only editors who have become increasingly queasy about the power and influence of the industry. Jerry Kassirer, another former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, argues that the industry has deflected the moral compasses of many physicians [3], and the editors of PLoS Medicine have declared that they will not become “part of the cycle of dependency…between journals and the pharmaceutical industry” [4]. Something is clearly up.
The Problem: Less to Do with Advertising, More to Do with Sponsored Trials

The most conspicuous example of medical journals' dependence on the pharmaceutical industry is the substantial income from advertising, but this is, I suggest, the least corrupting form of dependence. The advertisements may often be misleading [5,6] and the profits worth millions, but the advertisements are there for all to see and criticise. Doctors may not be as uninfluenced by the advertisements as they would like to believe, but in every sphere, the public is used to discounting the claims of advertisers.

Labouring Under Illusions

Britain's Channel 4 documentary "Undercover in New Labour" includes footage from "a reporter wearing hidden cameras who volunteered to work on the party's election campaign and ended up being drafted to work at its national PR headquarters." The documentary shows Labour staff using "party supporters in key professions from medicine and the law to the armed forces and the police, who were prepared to appear on TV and in the papers and lie through their teeth that their support for this or that policy was entirely unsolicited," writes Mark Borkowski. But "is singling out New Labour for criticism reasonable," Borkowski asks, when astroturfing "has been going on for decades in business, especially among the oil, pharmaceutical and tobacco industries?" Undercover reporters were placed with Britain's three main political parties, "but it was decided the strongest story was the way the Labour campaign was run," an anonymous source told the Guardian.

Street Crime at 5:00 - Contributing to Racism?

Jerry Kang argued in the Harvard Law Review this spring, is one of the engines driving lingering racism in the United States. So counterproductive is local broadcast news, he says, that it is time the FCC stopped using the number of hours a station devotes to local news as evidence of the station's contribution to the ''public interest," which has traditionally been a requirement for a broadcast license. (The FCC does not have quotas on how much news must be produced. But Kang points out that the FCC defended its controversial decision in 2003 to loosen ownership rules governing who can own stations on the grounds that the new arrangements would lead to more hours of local news programming.)

U.S. Funded Al Hurra Looks For Good News In Iraq

With a yearly budget of over $40 million, Al Hurra, a U.S. supported TV channel for the "Arab World," is "one of the US government's most expensive public diplomacy efforts yet," reports MediaCorp News, a Singapore-based media group. Since its launch in February 2004, most news stories about the 24-hour Arabic-language satellite station report that the channel is viewed as little more than U.S. propaganda in the form of news and entertainment. Al Hurra's credibility as an independent news outlet is challenged by the German magazine Der Spiegel's report that the station's "50 staff members in Iraq have been instructed to be on the lookout for signs of improvement. 'If the power comes back on in a part of the city, we see this as being more newsworthy than reporting that the power is out someplace else,' says one employee."

Pay-for-Praise Comes Under Scrutiny

Jonathan Adelstein of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission called "for an investigation of experts who tout products on television without disclosing payments from the manufacturers." The Wall Street Journal and Washington Post have reported on "technology and other experts who are paid tens of thousands of dollars by such companies as Sony, Apple and Hewlett-Packard" and who have praised those companies' products "on NBC's 'Today' show, other network programs and during 'satellite tours' of local TV stations." Such payola violates federal law and could result in fines of up to $10,000 for repeat offenders. "It's very deceptive to pretend to be an objective expert when in fact you're shilling for some private company," said Adelstein.

Bill Maher Talks Back

First, I had never heard of Congressman Bachus before this. Now lots of people have heard of him. You're welcome, Congressman, glad I could help get your Q rating up.
By the way, are we sure he's really a Congressman? Maybe he's just a guy with a fax machine. You know how fact checking goes these days.
I could go on and on, but this is too ridiculous, so I'll just say this: I'm not a congressman, I'm a comedian. There's nothing I can really do to help or hurt our troops (although anyone who's watched my shows or read my books in the last twelve years knows I'm a pretty ardent supporter of the military).
But a congressman, there's someone who can actually DO SOMETHING to help our troops. In fact, a case could be made that it's a lot more treasonous for someone in his position to be wasting his time yelling at a comedian. Shouldn't he be training his outrage at such problems as troops not having enough armor? Wouldn't that ACTUALLY support our troops more? And citizens of this country who claim to support our troops should write this man and tell him GET BACK TO WORK! DO SOMETHING THAT ACTUALLY COULD MAKE A DIFFERENCE TO SOLDIERS IN IRAQ!
And by the way, these "comments" were part of a longer, scripted comedy piece in the modest proposal tradition [clich here and scroll to New Rules]. I can see why administration supporters would want to deflect attention away from the gist of the piece, which was this: now that we can't meet our recruiting goals, maybe it's the people who were so gung ho for this war to begin with who should step up and go fight it. But of course it's always easier to distract people.
Finally, I would direct the Congressman to chapter 3 of my book "When You Ride Alone, You Ride with bin Laden." The accompanying poster shows a soldier, a cop, a fireman, and a teacher, and says, "We Say They're Our Heroes...But We Pay Them Like Chumps."

Maybe that's something else he could look into when he gets done with me.

The Amnesty International 2005 Report

This annual report describes the current human rights situation in each country around the world. The BBC cover it well with a special PDF enabling you to look up the report on any country. CNN give more limited coverage, without including a link to the full report. [from]

Bush Accused of Complacency, Double-Dealing on Darfur

Nine months after his administration first declared that ongoing violence in Darfur constituted ''genocide,'' U.S. President George W. Bush was urged by some 80 human rights and religious groups and prominent individuals here Tuesday to do more to protect innocent civilians in Sudan's western Darfur region.
In a letter to the White House, the activists called specifically for Washington to submit a resolution at the U.N. Security Council authorising an African Union (AU) mission there to use force to protect civilians. It also called for the administration to mobilise a ''robust international force'' to augment the AU mission.
Such a force should include troops, financial and logistical support from countries outside Africa, presumably including the United States, according to the letter, which was written by the advocacy group Africa Action and signed by the leaders of the American Jewish World Service, the Coalition for International Justice, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), and the National Council of Churches USA, among many others, as well as seven members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).

"Freedom Fries" Legislator Now Against the War

Walter Jones, the Republican congressman for North Carolina who was also the brains behind french toast becoming freedom toast in Capitol Hill restaurants, told a local newspaper the US went to war "with no justification".
...Although he voted for the war, he has since become one of its most vociferous opponents on Capitol Hill, where the hallway outside his office is lined with photographs of the "faces of the fallen".
"If we were given misinformation intentionally by people in this administration, to commit the authority to send boys, and in some instances girls, to go into Iraq, that is wrong," he told the newspaper. "Congress must be told the truth."

Report: US Arms Sales Increase Tensions and Aid Oppressive Regimes

Perhaps no single policy is more at odds with President Bush’s pledge to "end tyranny in our world" than the United States’ role as the world’s leading arms exporting nation. Although arms sales are often justified on the basis of their purported benefits, from securing access to overseas military facilities to rewarding coalition allies in conflicts such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, these alleged benefits often come at a high price. All too often, U.S. arms transfers end up fueling conflict, arming human rights abusers, or falling into the hands of U.S. adversaries. As in the case of recent decisions to provide new F-16 fighter planes to Pakistan, while pledging comparable high-tech military hardware to its rival India, U.S. arms sometimes go to both sides in long brewing conflicts, ratcheting up tensions and giving both sides better firepower with which to threaten each other. Far from serving as a force for security and stability, U.S. weapons sales frequently serve to empower unstable, undemocratic regimes to the detriment of U.S. and global security.
...In 2003, more than half of the top 25 recipients of U.S. arms transfers in the developing world (13 of 25) were defined as undemocratic by the U.S. State Department’s Human Rights Report: in the sense that "citizens do not have the right to change their own government" or that right was seriously abridged. These 13 nations received over $2.7 billion in U.S. arms transfers under the Foreign Military Sales and Commercial Sales programs in 2003, with the top recipients including Saudi Arabia ($1.1 billion), Egypt ($1.0 billion), Kuwait ($153 million), the United Arab Emirates ($110 million) and Uzbekistan ($33 million).
When countries designated by the State Department’s Human Rights Report to have poor human rights records or serious patterns of abuse are factored in, 20 of the top 25 U.S. arms clients in the developing world in 2003-- a full 80%-- were either undemocratic regimes or governments with records of major human rights abuses.

Pentagon report to portray China as emerging rival

The report has generated controversy in the Bush administration because of earlier drafts that concerned National Security Council officials by painting what they saw as an overly antagonistic picture of China, according to two people with knowledge of the report.
There were also concerns that the report could complicate US efforts to work with China to encourage North Korea to return to the negotiating table over its nuclear programme.
Late on Tuesday a senior government official said the controversy did not concern content but only its “presentation”.
He said it was important to emphasise that the report presented a “range of outcomes” that could materialise along with China's economic growth.
President George W. Bush came to office in 2001 calling China a “strategic competitor” rather than a “strategic partner”, the term favoured by the Clinton administration.

Amnesty Calls U.S. Torture Policy Worst Assault On Human Rights

Washington’s attempt to “weaken the absolute ban on torture“ was the most damaging assault on fundamental human values over the past year, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.
In its annual report the London-based watchdog said human rights across the world have been eroded as governments use the language of freedom and justice to pursue policies of fear and insecurity, taking their cue from the US-led war on terror.
The human rights monitor said that America's treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and Afghanistan had entrenched the practice of arbitrary and indefinite detention in violation of international law.

Google's books online under fire

A US publishing organisation has accused Google of breaching copyright rules through a plan to put university libraries online.
The organisation, representing American publishers of academic journals and scholarly books, claims the project has financially troubling consequences.
It believes it could undermine sales of works publishers own the rights to and it has written to Google to say so.

International Institute of Strategic Studies: Peace in Iraq 'will take at least five years to impose'

The thinktank's report said that Iraq had become a valuable recruiting ground for al-Qaida, and Iraqi forces were nowhere near close to matching the insurgency.
John Chipman, IISS director, said the Iraqi security forces faced a "huge task" and the continuing ability of the insurgents to inflict mass casualties "must cast doubt on US plans to redeploy American troops and eventually reduce their numbers".
Insurgents have killed 600 Iraqis since the new government was formed. The IISS report said: "Best estimates suggest that it will take up to five years to create anything close to an effective indigenous force able to impose and guarantee order across the country."

'Nightline' to Honor 'The Fallen'

One year since honoring the American service men and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, Ted Koppel and ABC News "Nightline" will again pay tribute to the fallen by devoting an extended broadcast to reading the names and showing the photographs of more than 900 service members who have been killed in those countries over the last year.
Titled "The Fallen," the special "Nightline" broadcast will air Memorial Day, Monday, May 30, 2005, at 11:35 p.m. ET on the ABC Television Network. ABC News Radio will air excerpts of the program.

Official Says Law Doesn't Cover Gays

Special counsel Scott J. Bloch told a Senate panel yesterday that he lacks the legal authority to enforce the Bush administration's ban on discrimination against federal employees based on sexual orientation.
If a federal manager fires, reassigns or takes some other action against an employee simply because that employee is gay, there is nothing in federal law that would permit the Office of Special Counsel to protect the worker, Bloch testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs subcommittee on oversight of government management, the federal workforce and the District of Columbia.
"We are limited by our enforcement statutes as Congress gives them," Bloch said, responding to a question from Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.). "The courts have specifically rejected sexual orientation as a class protection."

Trust us to decide our role in the Army, female servicemembers in Iraq say

If Pvt. Roxana Figueroa had her way, the Army would open up all jobs — from infantry on up — to women, and leave it up to women to decide where they want to serve.
“If women want to, and can make it, I think they should be able to serve in combat,” said the 20-year-old, deployed to Iraq with the 94th Engineer Battalion based in Vilseck, Germany.
At a minimum, women should be able to serve in combat support units, and she opposes a congressional proposal that would ban women from such roles.

Study: Journos, Public Hold Divergent Views on Media

A major survey released Tuesday by the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center shows that the public and working journalists have sharply different views about press freedom, bias in news, and journalists' rights.
While many often charge the media with bias, nearly half of non-journalists polled said they believed partisan journalism was a good thing. Journalists disagreed with them on this point.
The non-journalists charge news organizations with often getting their facts wrong and more than half say the government should limit press freedoms at times, according to the national survey conducted for the Annenberg Center.
But journalists surveyed in the same study -- including reporters, editors, TV producers, and owners -- sharply disagreed with the public on those issues and many others, defending the quality of their work and strenuously opposing government controls.
As in most previous surveys of journalists, a high number called themselves politically "moderate" (49%), with 31% describing themselves as "liberal" and just 9% as "conservative."