Saturday, June 04, 2005

Every issue of The Scotsman from 1817 to 1950

The Scotsman, one of the world's best newspapers, now provides its first 133 years online. -- McLir

Air Force Academy Leader Admits Religious Intolerance at School

"As a commander, I know I have problems in my cadet wing," the superintendent, Lt. Gen. John Rosa Jr., said at a meeting of the executive committee of the group, the Anti-Defamation League. "I have issues in my staff, and I have issues in my faculty - and that's my whole organization."
He said he had admonished the academy's No. 2 commander, Brig. Gen. Johnny Weida, a born-again Christian, for sending an e-mail message promoting the National Day of Prayer. "We sat down and said, 'This is not right,' and he acknowledged that," General Rosa said, adding that there had been other incidents that crossed the line. "Perception is reality. We don't have respect."
The academy has been under investigation because of complaints that evangelical Christians have harassed cadets who do not share their faith. Some cadets have complained of anti-Semitic slurs, and one of the top chaplains at the school claims she was fired because she criticized what she saw as proselytizing at the academy, near Colorado Springs.

Concerns Arise at A.C.L.U. Over Document Shredding

Janet Linde, who oversaw the A.C.L.U.'s archives for over a decade until she resigned last month, raised concerns in e-mail messages and memorandums for over two years that officials' use of shredders in their offices made a mockery of the organization's policy to supervise document destruction and created potential legal risks.
"It has been shown in many legal cases over the years, including the Enron case, that if a company has an established and documented shredding program they will not be liable if documents at issue in a lawsuit are found to have been destroyed," Ms. Linde wrote in a 2003 memo. "If, however, the means for unauthorized shredding is present in the office we cannot say that we have made a good faith effort to monitor and document our records disposal process."

Bush Maintains Opposition to Doubling Aid for Africa

As host of the meeting, Mr. Blair set the agenda, and he argued during his successful campaign for a third term in office that the world's richest nations had to make a $25 billion increase in support for Africa. But Mr. Bush has been cool to the idea from the start and has resisted making new aid commitments.
Asked Wednesday about the issue, Mr. Bush said, "It doesn't fit our budgetary process."
Meeting the South African president, Thabo Mbeki, in the Oval Office on Wednesday morning, Mr. Bush also renewed his administration's declaration, first made by Colin L. Powell when he was secretary of state, that genocide was taking place in the Darfur region of Sudan.
Mr. Bush has said almost nothing about Darfur this year, and several human rights groups have criticized him for paying too little attention to the issue. But on Wednesday he noted that the deputy secretary of state, Robert B. Zoellick, was on his way to the region for his second trip.

Maj. General Forced into Retirement at Reduced Rank after Contradicting Rumsfeld

Riggs was blunt and outspoken on a number of issues and publicly contradicted Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld by arguing that the Army was overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan and needed more troops.
"They all went bat s- - when that happened," recalled retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay M. Garner, a one-time Pentagon adviser who ran reconstruction efforts in Iraq in the spring of 2003. "The military part of [the defense secretary's office] has been politicized. If [officers] disagree, they are ostracized and their reputations are ruined."
A senior officer's loss of a star is a punishment seldom used, and then usually for the most serious offenses, such as dereliction of duty or command failures, adultery or misuse of government funds or equipment.
Over the past several decades, generals and admirals faced with far more serious official findings - scandals at the Navy's Tailhook Convention, the Air Force Academy and Abu Ghraib prison, for example - have continued in their careers or retired with no loss of rank.

Amnesty Answers Bush

To the [New York Times] Editor:
President Bush's characterization of Amnesty International's criticisms of United States human rights abuses as "absurd" is ironic (news article, June 1).
If our reports are so "absurd," why did the administration repeatedly cite our findings about Saddam Hussein before the Iraq war? Why does it welcome our criticisms of Cuba, China and North Korea? And why does it cite our research in its own annual human rights reports?
No amount of spin can erase the myriad human rights abuses committed by United States officials in the "war on terror." The United States cannot simultaneously claim that it "promotes freedom around the world" while detaining tens of thousands at Guantánamo Bay, Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and in Iraq and other locations without charge or trial and allowing those civilian and military officials responsible for orchestrating a systematic policy of torture to escape accountability.
Instead of attacking us, President Bush should insist upon a truly thorough, independent investigation of those who tried to circumvent global prohibitions on torture, and he should open all detention centers to scrutiny by independent human rights groups.
Only then will the world be able to judge whether it is Amnesty International or the president whose perspective deserves to be called "absurd."
William F. Schulz
Exec. Dir., Amnesty International
New York, June 1, 2005

Nixon's Secretary of State on Deep Throat

WATKINS: OK. Secretary Eagleburger, this is the million dollar question. I mean, folks have been waiting for three decades to know who Deep Throat was or is. Is Mark Felt, in your opinion, Deep Throat?
EAGLEBURGER: Probably.
WATKINS: Do you think he's Deep Throat?
EAGLEBURGER: Probably. You know, President Nixon once suspected him. I'm surprised he didn't end up dead somewhere because of that.

AP Probe on Bolton Finds Disturbing Links to Iraq War

John R. Bolton, the embattled nominee to the United Nations, flew to Europe in 2002 to confront the head of a global arms-control agency and demand he resign, then orchestrated the firing of the unwilling diplomat in a move a U.N. tribunal has since judged unlawful, officials told the Associated Press. But there's more: links to the Iraqi WMD scandal and the 'Downing Street Memo.'

Kazaa File-Sharing Pioneer Turns to Free Internet Phones

About 70 miles from the U.S. border that he will not cross, Niklas Zennstrom is pondering which gets him more excited: making life miserable for entrenched monopoly businesses or making money doing it.
The answer is both, and two of the world's largest industries haven't been the same since he went to work. Neither has the Internet.
In co-creating the file-sharing software Kazaa in 2000, Zennstrom helped fuel an online revolution that music labels and motion picture studios say threatens their existence. Sued by the entertainment industry even though he sold Kazaa in 2002, Zennstrom avoids the United States as his lawyers seek to remove him from the case.
Now, the 39-year-old Swede, whom few consumers have ever heard of, is aiming the same technology at something even bigger: telephone calls.

A Hard Truth to Portray

There are positions open for slaves at the Bratton plantation. Applicants must be willing to pick cotton, drink the master's liquor, gossip, sing spirituals, mourn the dead. The job is unpaid. Starts immediately.
Since last summer, when four African American "living history" volunteers raised complaints about scripts they were asked to read, managers at Historic Brattonsville, a museum and historic site, have been coping with the most awkward of personnel issues.
First, the interpreters who played the slave bride and groom left, complaining that their characters were mindlessly happy. The man who played Watt, the Bratton family's most loyal slave, was dismissed after ad-libbing a dark, drunken soliloquy at the Christmas Candlelight Tour.
The interpreter who plays the slave Big Jim is on a six-month "hiatus," unsure whether he can find common ground with management but talking about "systemic changes." The four have criticized the museum recently in local newspapers.

Africa Seeks More Positive Spin on Its 'Brand'

It's not easy to market a vast continent of more than 50 nations as a desirable, upbeat sort of place when at any time there might be war breaking out, hunger, people dying of AIDS and malaria, others struggling in poverty, and entrenched government corruption.
But African leaders and businessmen meeting here for an economic summit this week took on the challenge of how to promote a positive "brand Africa." Many argued that the continent's real problems were not death, disease and criminality but the international journalists who wrote about them without noting African successes.

Buried Near the Bottom of the National Briefing Page...

President Bush is returning $4,000 in campaign contributions from an Ohio coin dealer who is the subject of state and federal investigations, the White House said. The coin dealer, Tom Noe, is under investigation for his handling of $55 million that the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation gave him to invest in rare coins. Mr. Noe's lawyer has said that $10 million to $12 million is missing.(AP)

Design for Dreaming

Design for Dreaming might be the goofiest industrial film ever made. In it, a woman dreams that a masked stranger floats her to an auto show to see the gleaming General Motors product line for 1956. Lovely! For some reason, she's then transported a space-age kitchen to make a cake. Then she performs a rhythmic "dance to the future" which I'm sure had Bob Fosse quaking in his boots. More cars follow. In the end, Mr. Mask whisks her away to a barren, futuristic highway. My heart belongs to the pixie-haired lead actress and how she reacts to everything. Mystery Science Theater 3000 did a mock-up of this short, but the regular version housed at The Prelinger Archives is almost as hilarous. [from Scrubbles.net]

Appeals Court Overrules Va. Late-Term Abortion Ban

The panel wrote that its decision was based on U.S. Supreme Court decisions and noted that its obligation was to that precedent. Citing a previous decision, the panel wrote: "But even if 'abortion [is] offensive to our most basic principles of morality . . . that cannot control our decision,' for our obligation is to apply the Supreme Court's definition of personal liberty, 'not to mandate our own moral code.' "
...The 4th Circuit is generally regarded as the nation's most conservative appellate court, but yesterday's decision was written by Judge M. Blane Michael and joined by Judge Diana Gribbon Motz -- both appointees of President Bill Clinton, a Democrat. Judge Paul V. Niemeyer, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush, dissented.
...In his dissent, Niemeyer said the majority's decision "is a bold new law that, in essence, constitutionalizes infanticide of a most gruesome nature."
Niemeyer accused the majority of basing its decision on "the color of political ideology" and said the ruling "amounts to a momentous step in disconnecting our law from accepted moral norms."

Reform Ohio Now

Join Our Campaign to Reform Ohio's Election Laws!
Outdated and unfair laws are threatening the legitimacy of our election process in Ohio. Partisan politics should not take precedence in how we vote.
We need an independent, non-political group in charge of elections. Reform Ohio Now is a non-partisan group working to put reform legislation on the ballot for voters this November.
To make this happen, we need to gather 450,000 signatures from Ohio voters by
August 1, 2005. Your involvement is crucial so please volunteer to gather signatures by filling out the form below. Also, please consider giving a donation to our campaign.

Terrorist link to copyright piracy alleged

Even though Stedman's evidence is circumstantial, his testimony comes as Congress is expected to consider new copyright legislation this year. An invocation of terrorism, the trump card of modern American politics, could ease the passage of the next major expansion of copyright powers.

Rape Therapist Awaits Arrest for Not Revealing Client's Records

Colorado Springs therapist Jennifer Bier freely spent her Sunday morning at church.
But she knew the sanctuary found within the walls of Rocky Mountain Calvary Church couldn't keep U.S. authorities armed with an arrest warrant away forever.
Late last week a military judge ordered Bier arrested for failing to disclose confidential files pertaining to her sessions with a former Air Force cadet who alleges she was raped by a cadet commander in 2000.
..."I think it's just appalling that this order places me and, to a larger extent, other therapists in the position of having to choose between serving our clients ethically or protecting ourselves," Bier said.
Faced with such a choice, Bier said, she doesn't believe adequate therapy can be carried out.

Anti-Gay US Groups Try To Seize Control Of Canadian Political Party

Conservative Christian groups have grabbed control of nearly a dozen Conservative Party ridings across Canada and vow they will ensure the party adheres to a strict right wing agenda including an end to same-sex marriage.
Candidates with close ties the Canadian branches of groups including Focus on the Family and other American evangelical groups have won party nominations in three provinces: Four in British Columbia, three in Nova Scotia, and one in Ontario. The groups also have succeeded in having their members win votes to become riding association presidents elsewhere in the country.
And they say that it is only the beginning.
The Globe and Mail reports that the groups are preparing to put up candidates for Conservative Party nominations in other regions as the country prepares for an election late this year or early in 2006.

The Old Late Friday Media Trick: Pentagon Admits Koran Abuse

The findings, released after normal business hours Friday evening, are among the results of an investigation last month by Brig. Gen. Jay Hood, the commander of the detention center in Cuba, that was triggered by a Newsweek magazine report--later retracted--that a U.S. soldier had flushed one Guantanamo Bay detainee's Quran down a toilet.

NGOs: The 'World's New Superpower' Seeks 'Better World'

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's characterization of civil society as ''the world's new superpower'' reverberated through the corridors of McGill University here this week as 350-plus representatives of international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) met to hatch strategies to prod world governments on crucial political, social, and economic issues that plague the world's poorer nations.
''After decades of undemocratic and ineffective global governance on key global issues -- ranging from development and environment to human rights, trade, and security -- now is the time to privilege and highlight the visions and views of civil society leaders around the world,'' said James Riker of the University of Maryland, USA.
Playing an important role in this new vision for a better global society should be the estimated 40,000 international NGOs who comprise today's civil society, he said.

How One Tasing Unfolded in Boynton Beach

The Aug. 6, 2004 incident began as a normal traffic stop but took an ominous turn when the driver refused to get out of her SUV. It ended with a Boynton Beach Police officer hitting the 22-year-old woman twice with his Taser during her arrest.

Planet destruction shown in UN atlas

An atlas of satellite photographs published by the UN environmental agency has exposed the physical damage wrought by the growing human population, including deforestation, retreating icecaps, dried seas, sprawling cities and pollution.
UNEP said the book, One Planet, Many People, gives a clear illustration of major environmental changes that develop gradually over years without being immediately noticed on the ground.
The comparative photographs from space include the emergence of greenhouses for industrial scale farming in Almeria, southern Spain that have turned about 400 square kilometres of fields and valleys dotted with villages into a solid grey and white patchwork between 1974 to 2004.
They also show the shrinkage of the Arctic icecap as well as glaciers in the Himalayas, European Alps and South America's Andes, while a swathe of virgin Amazonian rainforest in Brazil turns from solid green in 1975 to stripes of white 25 years later due to logging.

Separated at Birth? Bret Schundler and Howard Dean

Jack Abramoff and Grover Norquist Billing Clients for Face Time with G.W. Bush

Four months after he took the oath of office in 2001, President George W. Bush was the attraction, and the White House the venue, for a fundraiser organized by the alleged perpetrator of the largest billing fraud in the history of corporate lobbying. In May 2001, Jack Abramoff’s lobbying client book was worth $4.1 million in annual billing for the Greenberg Traurig law firm. He was a friend of Bush advisor Karl Rove. He was a Bush “Pioneer,” delivering at least $100,000 in bundled contributions to the 2000 campaign. He had just concluded his work on the Bush Transition Team as an advisor to the Department of the Interior. He had sent his personal assistant Susan Ralston to the White House to work as Rove’s personal assistant. He was a close friend, advisor, and high-dollar fundraiser for the most powerful man in Congress, Tom DeLay. Abramoff was so closely tied to the Bush Administration that he could, and did, charge two of his clients $25,000 for a White House lunch date and a meeting with the President. From the same two clients he took to the White House in May 2001, Abramoff also obtained $2.5 million in contributions for a non-profit foundation he and his wife operated.

Coin dealer contributions went to Schwarzenegger

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger won't return $10,000 in contributions he received from a coin dealer at the center of an Ohio investment scandal, a spokesman said Friday.
Coin dealer Thomas Noe gave the money last year to a Schwarzenegger fund that supports the Republican governor's legislative priorities, such as limiting state borrowing to balance the budget.
Ohio's Inspector General is investigating Noe's investment of $50 million in state money in rare coins, while federal authorities are investigating whether Noe bypassed election laws in donations to Bush.

US lowers recruiting standards in army numbers crisis

The US military has stopped battalion commanders from dismissing new recruits for drug abuse, alcohol, poor fitness and pregnancy in an attempt to halt the rising attrition rate in an army under growing strain as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
An internal memo sent to senior commanders said the growing dropout rate was "a matter of great concern" in an army at war. It told officers: "We need your concerted effort to reverse the negative trend. By reducing attrition 1%, we can save up to 3,000 initial-term soldiers. That's 3,000 more soldiers in our formations."

Key Baghdad electricity station completed

The 100-million-dollar project took about 10 months to complete and employed up to 600 mostly Iraqi workers at its peak, the statement said Saturday.
"Reliable electric service is high on any Baghdad residents wish list," the military noted, adding, "Its really gratifying to see a big project like Al Ameen come to completion."

Florida vote machines vulnerable to manipulation

All it takes is the right access.
Get that, and an election worker could manipulate voting results in the computers that read paper ballots - without leaving any digital fingerprints.
That was the verdict after Leon County Elections Supervisor Ion Sancho invited a team of researchers to look for holes in election software.
The group wasn't able to crack the Diebold system from outside the office. But, at the computer itself, they changed vote tallies, completely unrecorded.
...Black Box Voting, the non-profit that ran the test and published a report on the Internet, pointed to the findings as proof of an elections system clearly vulnerable to corruption. [...since well before the election.]

Friday, June 03, 2005

Counterterrorism Center Awaits Presidential Action

The nation's primary agency for analyzing terrorist threats and planning counterterrorism operations at home and abroad is waiting for President Bush to name its director and settle whether that person will report directly to the president or go through Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte.
The legislation that established the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) requires the organization to begin operations by June 17. The center was established last fall under a presidential executive order.

How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Perchlorate

A study used to determine "safe" levels of the rocket-fuel chemical perchlorate in drinking water is coming under increasing scrutiny. Perchlorate "can impair thyroid function and result in neurological impairment of fetuses and babies, metabolic disorders and other problems." The study - funded with $310,250 from perchlorate manufacturers and users Lockheed Martin, Kerr-McGee, Aerojet and Boeing, and submitted on behalf of the Perchlorate Study Group - was used to support Defense Department arguments for a 200 parts per billion limit. But independent analyses of the study's data by the Environmental Protection Agency and health officials in California, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maine suggest that perchlorate affects thyroid function at lower levels, especially in "fetuses, infants and people with impaired thyroids." The study, as originally published, did not disclose that three of seven people exposed to "safe" perchlorate levels for two weeks exhibited significant changes in thyroid function.

The Art of War

A beautiful British National Archives online exhibit of propaganda illustrations, posters, and films (Dance, Nazis! Dance!) by the Ministry of Information during World War II. Related: more posters, and Alfred Hitchcock also did propaganda films. [from MetaFilter.com]

The New Yorker: Three Part Series on Global Warming

Part I: The Climate of Man
Part II: The Curse of Akkad
Part III: What Can be Done?

Arctic Warming Is Drying Up Lakes, Study Finds

An accelerating Arctic warming trend over the past quarter of a century has dramatically dried up more than a thousand large lakes in Siberia, probably because the permafrost beneath them has begun to thaw, according to a paper to be published today in the journal Science.
Comparing satellite images made in the early 1970s to those from recent years, a team of U.S. scientists determined that the number of large lakes in a vast 200,000-square-mile region of Russia's Siberia diminished by about 11%, from 10,882 to 9,712.

The Nation: Pre-War Bombing of Iraq

It was a huge air assault: Approximately 100 US and British planes flew from Kuwait into Iraqi airspace. At least seven types of aircraft were part of this massive operation, including US F-15 Strike Eagles and Royal Air Force Tornado ground-attack planes. They dropped precision-guided munitions on Saddam Hussein's major western air-defense facility, clearing the path for Special Forces helicopters that lay in wait in Jordan. Earlier attacks had been carried out against Iraqi command and control centers, radar detection systems, Revolutionary Guard units, communication centers and mobile air-defense systems. The Pentagon's goal was clear: Destroy Iraq's ability to resist. This was war.
But there was a catch: The war hadn't started yet, at least not officially. This was September 2002--a month before Congress had voted to give President Bush the authority he used to invade Iraq, two months before the United Nations brought the matter to a vote and more than six months before "shock and awe" officially began.
At the time, the Bush Administration publicly played down the extent of the air strikes, claiming the United States was just defending the so-called no-fly zones. But new information that has come out in response to the Downing Street memo reveals that, by this time, the war was already a foregone conclusion and attacks were no less than the undeclared beginning of the invasion of Iraq.

The Adventures of Action Item!

Marketplace: Think Tanks

Think tanks have become a growth industry. A handful existed a few decades ago. Now there are hundreds of these non-profit institutions. The marriage of multi-millions in private money and once-unorthodox ideas packs a powerful punch. President Bush has adopted domestic policies nurtured in think tanks from private social security accounts to fundamental tax reform. Marketplace explores what donors believe they get for their money, how ideas are bankrolled and promoted, and the thin line between think tank educational efforts and outright lobbying, as well as new efforts to reform the system.
You can listen to this series online, or hear extended interviews with some of the sources in those stories.
One of our stories traces how influential think tanks and their donors promoted the repeal of the estate tax. We've included an interactive timeline that traces think tanks, trade and other lobbying groups, the media, and lawmakers in promoting or opposing the repeal movement. At the end of the timeline, please feel free to "vote" on whether you think the estate tax should be repealed.
In addition, we've posted the bios of Marketplace commentators. And we've included links for how to research some of their think tank affiliations.

FBI Tapped Talks About Possible Secrets

In July 2004, a Defense Department analyst and a senior official from an influential pro-Israel lobbying group met at the Pentagon City mall in Arlington. Amid the stores and shoppers, the analyst warned that Iranian agents were planning attacks against American soldiers and Israeli agents in Iraq, sources familiar with the meeting said.
Alarmed, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee official, Keith Weissman, left the mall and went to the office of colleague Steve Rosen. The two men then relayed the information to the Israeli Embassy in Washington and a reporter for The Washington Post.
What the AIPAC officials did not know, the sources said, was that the FBI was listening in -- to both the meeting and their subsequent phone calls -- and that the Pentagon analyst, Lawrence Franklin, was cooperating in an investigation of whether classified U.S. information was being passed on to the government of Israel.

Conyers reaches, extends signature goal; creates tip line

The office of Representative John Conyers (D-MI) believes it has surpassed its stated goal of 100,000 signatures requesting an investigation into the Downing Street Memo, minutes of a British Prime Minister's meeting on July 23, 2002.
"Right now, we are going through signatures to verify the number," said Danielle Brown, Conyers' spokesperson. Brown currently puts the number of signers at an, "estimated 110,000 and growing." With Conyers' web site receiving about 5,000 unique visitors every 4 to 5 hours, the Congressman has made his revised goal 250,000 signatures.
Conyers also hopes to attract prospective whistleblowers through a new tips line on the Democrats' House Judiciary web page. "There remain many unanswered questions regarding President Bush's lead up to the Iraq war that suggest a serious abuse of power," Conyers stated in a press release. "I am hopeful there are people who have leads and information that will bring us closer to the truth.

US criticizes Gulf allies on human trafficking

The United States criticized four Gulf Arab allies as among the world's worst offenders in permitting human trafficking on Friday in a rebuke Washington hopes will promote improved human rights in the Middle East.
The State Department downgraded Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to the lowest level of compliance in a report that evaluates countries' efforts in fighting the trafficking of roughly 800,000 people forced into servitude or the sex trade every year.
Victims in the region were mostly from Asia and were generally forced to be domestic servants and laborers but also included women prostitutes and boy camel jockeys as young as three, according to the annual report.

New Yorker: Cartoon Caption Contest

One-fifth of Earth's bird species in danger

More than a fifth of the planet's bird species face extinction as humans venture further into their habitats and introduce alien predators, an environmental group said on Wednesday.
While there have been some success stories of species that reappeared or recovered, the overall situation of the world's birds is worsening, BirdLife International said in its annual assessment of the feathered fauna.
"The total number (of bird species) considered to be threatened with extinction is now 1,212, which when combined with the number of near threatened species gives a total of exactly 2,000 species in trouble -- more than a fifth of the planet's remaining 9,775 species," BirdLife said.

Richard Dawkins: Creationism - God's gift to the ignorant

Science feeds on mystery. As my colleague Matt Ridley has put it: “Most scientists are bored by what they have already discovered. It is ignorance that drives them on.” Science mines ignorance. Mystery — that which we don’t yet know; that which we don’t yet understand — is the mother lode that scientists seek out. Mystics exult in mystery and want it to stay mysterious. Scientists exult in mystery for a very different reason: it gives them something to do.
Admissions of ignorance and mystification are vital to good science. It is therefore galling, to say the least, when enemies of science turn those constructive admissions around and abuse them for political advantage. Worse, it threatens the enterprise of science itself. This is exactly the effect that creationism or “intelligent design theory” (ID) is having, especially because its propagandists are slick, superficially plausible and, above all, well financed. ID, by the way, is not a new form of creationism. It simply is creationism disguised, for political reasons, under a new name.
It isn’t even safe for a scientist to express temporary doubt as a rhetorical device before going on to dispel it.

Bush Alters Pentagon Line of Succession

Who would act as President Bush's defense secretary if Pentagon chief Donald H. Rumsfeld were to resign, become disabled, die or be temporarily absent due to an overseas trip, such as on the one he began Thursday? For years the answer was, quite naturally, the deputy defense secretary.
But the answer had to change Thursday because of a simple, inconvenient fact: There is no deputy defense secretary.
There is, however, a Navy secretary.
That post is held by Gordon England, who also happens to be Bush's nominee to replace Paul Wolfowitz as deputy defense secretary. But England's nomination has been stalled for weeks due to a dispute over whether England must buy insurance on the pension he earned before joining the government.

The Killing and Starvation in Darfur is Worsening

In what may be the worst human rights tragedy of our time, nearly a half-million state-sanctioned murders have occurred and continue as you read this. New reports of armed officers gang raping and torturing children (some as young as four!) simply cannot be ignored. It is time for all of us as people of faith to lift our voices to demand that President Bush take firm and decisive leadership to stop the killing.
We wish that were all, but it isn't. The violence has driven people from their farms, livestock and crops have been destroyed, created a massive famine. Those who have not been killed by the government-sponsored Janaweed militia are in danger of dying of starvation and disease. Most of them are children.

Appoggiatura

Leaning note; grace note; note of embellishment usually one step above (sometimes, though seldom, it is one step below) the main note. Before an even or unaltered note, the appoggiatura generally receives its face value, that is one-half the value of the note that follows; before a dotted note it receives more than its face value, that is to say that it should be given two-thirds of the value of the following note. If the note is of the same pitch as the principal note of the appoggiatura, the grace note receives the entire value of its principal note, but is carried to the next note with strong portamento.
See also non-harmonic note.

Redundant Complexity: A Critical Analysis of Intelligent Design in Biochemistry

Abstract.
Biological systems exhibit complexity at all levels of organization. It has recently been argued by Michael Behe that at the biochemical level a type of complexity exists -- irreducible complexity -- that cannot possibly have arisen as the result of natural, evolutionary processes, and must instead be the product of (supernatural) intelligent design. Recent work on self-organizing chemical reactions calls into question Behe's analysis of the origins of biochemical complexity. His central interpretative metaphor for biochemical complexity, that of the well-designed mousetrap that ceases to function if critical parts are absent, is undermined by the observation that typical biochemical systems exhibit considerable redundancy and overlap of function. Real biochemical systems, we argue, manifest redundant complexity - a characteristic result of evolutionary processes. (We would like to thank George Gale for helpful comments, as well as the anonymous referees for Philosophy of Science.)

Smithsonian Distances Itself From Controversial Film

The controversy over the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History's decision to allow a documentary based on "intelligent design" -- the theory that life is so meticulously complex that a divine intelligence must have designed it -- to be played at one of its theaters ended in compromise yesterday: The film will be shown, but the screening fee required by the museum (in this case, $16,000) won't be accepted and the museum will withdraw its customary co-sponsorship.
"We have determined that the content of the film is not consistent with the mission of the Smithsonian Institution's scientific research," said a museum statement. The film, "The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe," is based on a book by Iowa State University astronomy professor Guillermo Gonzalez. Opponents say it and other arguments for intelligent design are creationism in disguise.
"They are trying to borrow from the scientific community by using words like 'quantum' and looking at the age of the Earth," writes James Randi. He's founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation, which financially supports research or efforts that dispel paranormal or supernatural claims. "They are trying to get scientific validity by doing faux scientific research."

Tampa protest draws attention to memo

"Did you get the memo?" read the fliers.
"Air the truth!" said a poster held by retired Air Force Lt. Col. Joseph F. Bohren, outside the WTVT-Ch. 13 studios with about 10 others.
They were there because of what has become known as the "Downing Street Memo," minutes from a meeting between Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top advisers on July 23, 2002, at No. 10 Downing St., published May 1 by the Sunday Times of London . The minutes indicate that the United States and Britain had agreed to invade Iraq by the summer of 2002 - months before President George W. Bush asked Congress for permission to engage in military action.
The minutes, written by Matthew Rycroft, aide to British Foreign Policy Adviser David Manning, also suggest that U.S. officials deliberately manipulated intelligence to justify the war.
"If what's in these minutes is accurate, and we have been given no reason to doubt that, then it would appear that the president has committed high crimes, specifically lying to the American public and Congress and engaging in a conspiracy with his administration," said David Dawson, a Washington organizer for the Web site AfterDowningStreet.org, which has reproduced the memo.

Judge Orders Army to Release Photos, Video from Abu Ghraib

A judge has ordered the government to release four videos from Abu Ghraib prison and dozens of photographs from the same collection as photos that touched off the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal a year ago.
The federal judge issued the order late Wednesday requiring the Army to release the material to the American Civil Liberties Union to comply with the Freedom of Information Act.
The ACLU said the material would show that the abuse was "more than the actions of a few rogue soldiers."
Judge Alvin Hellerstein said the 144 pictures and videos can be turned over in redacted form to protect the victims' identities. He gave the Army one month to release them.

Bush Opposing African Debt Relief

The UK Chancellor Gordon Brown has put foward a bold plan to tackle poverty in Africa ahead of the G8 Summit of rich countries in Scotland next month.
But the plan is facing opposition in the US - and particularly from President George W Bush.
Mr Bush said on Wednesday that a key part of the plan did not fit with the US budget process.

Woman Against Suffrage Seeks High Office in Kansas

A state senator who once said that giving women the vote was a symptom of weakness in the American family now wants to be Kansas' top elections official.
..."I think the 19th Amendment, while it's not an evil in and of itself, is a symptom of something I don't approve of," she said at the time. "The 19th Amendment is around because men weren't doing their jobs, and I think that's sad. I believe the man should be the head of the family. The woman should be the heart of the family."

Ohio governors' ex-aide linked to campaign probe

H. Douglas Talbott, a former top aide to two Ohio governors, told federal authorities that Republican coin dealer Tom Noe persuaded him to contribute $2,000 to President Bush's re-election campaign - then reimbursed him for the donation, The Plain Dealer has learned.

Short Cuts Around Banned Beef

The Wall Street Journal obtained a memo showing that, "five months after Canada disclosed its first case of mad-cow disease in May 2003, a U.S. Agriculture Department agency made unpublicized policy changes that helped the U.S. meat industry gain access to more beef products from Canada, despite safety concerns." Then-deputy administrator of USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (and current administrator) Ron DeHaven sent the memo, which warned that the "significant change" would increase "the possibility that higher risk product may be imported." In related news, the World Organization of Animal Health relaxed its standards for countries' mad cow disease status, "allowing for a lifting of bans on U.S. and European Union meat." And in Britain, three young mad cows represent "the first time three cases born after 1996 have been linked to one farm." The cases are significant, since Britain banned all mammalian protein from cattle feed in 1996.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Bosnia-Herzegovina Investigating DU Poisoning

BiH needs to establish an expert team that would work on establishing the level of depleted uranium radiation and its affect on the health of humans, vegetation and animals.
This was stated on Thursday at a meeting of members of the BiH House of Representatives’ Commission responsible for investigating the level of depleted uranium radiation and its affect on the health of BiH citizens with representatives of relevant institutions in this field.
They stressed that the state parliament should provide funds for the work of that expert team, as well as that NATO and the International Atomic Energy Agency should be consulted on this issue.

Schwarzenegger Vows Attack on Global Warming

Vowing to lead the world's response to global warming, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday announced a series of ambitious targets for cutting California's greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80% over the next half-century, but provided few details on how the state could achieve such dramatic reductions.
In a speech before hundreds of business and environmental leaders at the United Nations World Environment Day conference in San Francisco, Schwarzenegger signed an executive order that outlined bold goals for slashing industrial releases of carbon dioxide and the other heat-trapping gases that climate scientists now link to rising temperatures and sea levels.
"As of today, California is going to be the leader in the fight against global warming," Schwarzenegger said, adding, "I say the debate is over. We know the science, we see the threat, and the time for action is now."

Rheingold: Technologies of Cooperation

Just as the digital computer can be any machine you can program it to be and the Internet turns every desktop into a printing press, broadcasting station, community or market, the mobile Internet's unique capability is the power it gives people and machines to organize collective action.
Together with my colleagues Andrea Saveri and Kathi Vian, I've put together a report (PDF) and visual map of technologies of cooperation for publication by our sponsor, the Institute for the Future. Taken together with Mobile and Open: A Manifesto, this report and accompanying graphic map are offered as resources to the developers, designers, entrepreneurs, manufacturers, operators, service providers and activists who seek to use these new tools to alleviate suffering, create wealth, educate, liberate, create and inform.
Although we report about technologies, the power of these tools derives from the social practices they amplify -- specifically the ways people, machines and institutions can cooperate. These emerging digital technologies present new opportunities to change the way people work together to solve problems and generate wealth. Central to this class of cooperation-amplifying technologies are eight key clusters, each with distinctive contributions to scientific, economic, social and political forms of collective action:

Police scramble to draw up plans to deal with protesters after Geldof's march plea

Authorities in Scotland were being forced to draw up contingency plans in response to Sir Bob Geldof's call for a million protesters to "descend on Edinburgh" for a mass rally to coincide with the G8 summit.
Ministers and senior police officers expressed alarm yesterday after they appeared to have been taken by surprise by the scale of the protest on 6 July.

Amnesty Defends 'Gulag' Statement, Urges Guantanamo Access

A verbal feud between Amnesty International and Washington has escalated since Amnesty last week compared the prison at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the brutal Soviet system of forced labor camps where millions of prisoners died.
President Bush dismissed as "absurd" the Amnesty report, which also said the United States was responsible for an upsurge in global human rights violations, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called the description "reprehensible."
"The administration's response has been that our report is absurd, that our allegations have no basis, and our answer is very simple: if that is so, open up these detention centers, allow us and others to visit them," Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Zubaida Khan told a news conference.
"Transparency is the best antidote to misinformation and incorrect facts," said Khan, who is here to meet with Japanese officials.

No Laughing Matter: Mr. Hussein's Underpants

Will showing Saddam Hussein in his underpants help our cause in the Middle East? Not among the culture that invented chivalry, to wit, the Arab culture, and believes you must treat your enemy with honour. Not among the Red Cross, who thinks it a breach of the Geneva Convention. Not among European editorialists to whom images of naked people being tormented and killed, in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, bring thoughts of the Holocaust. Not among those civil libertarians who value trial by jury, the right to a lawyer and a pay phone, and release on bail before one's day in court. To all of these it shows barbarism, a conquering army of ignorant rednecks out of control.

UN Environment Programme to train Iraqis in measuring depleted uranium

With depleted uranium being a contaminant in Iraq, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said today it will train Iraqi scientists and other nuclear experts in measuring the material and try to answer questions left hanging after it conducted studies in the post-conflict Balkans and in Kuwait.

Women's groups to press Wal-Mart on pay parity

The National Council of Women's Organizations said on Tuesday it would introduce a resolution at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. shareholder meeting to make the company offer equal pay for equal work regardless of gender.
..."The resolution ... focuses on potential discriminatory practices against women and minorities in Wal-Mart distribution of stock options and in awarding of restricted stock to employees," the NCWO said in a statement.
"This resolution allows Wal-Mart to do the right thing -- release information on stock option and restricted stock awards by gender and race to let the public know how these valuable forms of compensation are divided among employees."
The NCWO is a coalition of more than 200 organizations that collectively represent more than 10 million women.

White House Wants NY 9/11 Funds Back

New York has yet to spend $125 million for workers injured in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and their aftermath. Tired of waiting, the federal government wants the money back.
New York lawmakers are trying to hold on to the funds ahead of a House committee meeting next week to consider reclaiming the money as the Bush administration has proposed for the budget year that begins Oct. 1.
Twenty-one lawmakers from the state, including Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles Schumer, want the White House to redirect the money toward health programs for ground zero workers affected with long-term lung problems that might not appear for years.
So far, the administration has resisted.

Ted Turner: CNN Becoming "Pervert of the Day" Network

Turner, an outspoken media mogul who started CNN in 1980 but no longer controls the network, said he envisioned CNN as a place where rapes and murders that dominated local news wouldn't be emphasized, but he's seeing too much of that "trivial news" on the network he created, now second in ratings to Fox News Channel.
"I would like to see us to return to a little more international coverage on the domestic feed and a little more environmental coverage, and, maybe, maybe a little less of the pervert of the day," he said in a speech to CNN employees outside the old Atlanta mansion where the network first aired.

Newspaper breaking a strike by publishing online

The Globe and Mail, a Canadian newspaper, missed its delivery this morning due to a strike. The paper retaliated by publishing today's edition online. Chris sez, "Think about that - web access to newspapers is sufficiently common that a paper can expect that its online version is a reasonable substitute for the paper version - and that its customers will find this out without having to read it in the paper."
That's interesting, but what's more interesting to me is that the Internet is being used to break a strike.
The Globe and Mail is advising customers in Toronto and parts of Ontario that some morning deliveries of the newspaper will be delayed or prevented due to a labour protest which has occurred overnight at the Transcontinental printing plant in Mississauga where the newspaper is printed...
The entire contents of Thursday's Globe are freely available on-line including columnists and other content normally available only to on-line subscribers.

Interview with Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall started working with chimpanzees in 1960. She became director of the Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve in western Tanzania in 1967. All her research was conducted there, and her books include In the Shadow of Man (1971), The Chimpanzees of Gombe (1986), and The Ten Trusts: What we must do to care for the animals we love (2002)

CIA Trainees Operating Through University Anthropology Programs

Undergraduates taking part in the scholarship programme must not reveal their funding source and are expected to attend military intelligence summer camps.
Dr Gledhill said: "If we are writing about sensitive areas, we anonymise place names and, often, people. If research enables people to identify human beings, there is no guarantee that nothing harmful is going to happen.
"There is also the suspicion factor. If people on the ground in foreign countries get the idea that some anthropologists work for the CIA, then they are not going to feel like being very friendly."
The $4m (£2.2m) Pat Roberts scholarships were launched in the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks to improve US intelligence gathering.

Woodward: How Mark Felt Became 'Deep Throat'

Comedian Baits Anti-Gay Phone Company

Starting in late December I began to get phone calls from what I thought was a phone company (United American Technologies) trying to get me to switch from my phone company to a Christian one that didn’t support gay marriage and pornography. It was so weird and creepy that I decided to record them. There are three calls. It turns out that they are from a non-profit that works with United American Technologies and calls people on their behalf. UAT then donates money to them. I think this non-profit stopped making these calls, but UAT still has many other organizations making the calls for them I believe. Though they claimed to donate 10% of their profits to ministries I think the money actually went into an Oklahoma Republican political campaign, but some of it may go to Churches and ministries, I’m not sure. The whole thing is confusing and spooky. But enjoy the calls. You can also read this article from the New York Sun for more information.
Anti Gay Phone Company I
Anti Gay Phone Company II
Anti Gay Phone Company III

The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition

In a report released today, Dr. Jeffrey Miron, visiting professor of economics at Harvard University, estimates that replacing marijuana prohibition with a system of taxation and regulation similar to that used for alcoholic beverages would produce combined savings and tax revenues of between $10 billion and $14 billion per year. In response, a group of more than 500 distinguished economists -- led by Nobel Prize-winner Dr. Milton Friedman -- released an open letter to President Bush and other public officials calling for "an open and honest debate about marijuana prohibition," adding, "We believe such a debate will favor a regime in which marijuana is legal but taxed and regulated like other goods."

In the Future, Everyone Will be Hitler for 15 Minutes

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

"Christian" form of Government? - How the Bible and the Constitution can be Rewritten

In the June 2005 issue of "Enjoying Everyday Life," published by Joyce Meyer Ministries, Joyce's husband Dave writes an article titled "We the People" where he expresses his opinion about the heritage of the American Constitution.
You can check out the article I'm referring to by visiting this link.
I would encourage those interested in these issues to take a moment and read the article, and if you feel so inclined, write an email to Dave and let him know what you think.

Billboard Tells Children that Santa is a Tool of Consumerism

It is a sight to make the average toddler weep with horror: a billboard not only stating categorically that Santa Claus does not exist, but also condemning him as a tool of consumerism.
But following an initial ban, the poster -- the work of a Scottish art student -- was unveiled in Glasgow on Friday.
The 20 by 10 foot (six by three metre) outdoor billboard contains slogans including "Stop Lying To Your Children About Santa Claus" and "Santa Gives More To Rich Kids Than Poor Kids".
Darren Cullen, a 22-year-old student at the Glasgow School of Art designed the poster as the culmination of a four-year course in art and advertising.

Rev. Who Denied God Exists Back in Pulpit

A Danish Lutheran minister who publicly denied the existence of God said Sunday he was glad to be back in the pulpit, but refused to speak about the case that led to his brief suspension last year.
..."It was great, great," Grosboell said after the service, but refused to speak to reporters about the case, which he described in his sermon as "nonsense."

WWII stragglers story 'a hoax'

The mediator who tried to arrange a meeting with two alleged Japanese soldiers supposedly hiding in the Philippines since World War II has confirmed the story is a hoax, a media report said Wednesday.
The unidentified 58-year-old Japanese man, a trader who first reported the men's existence, told the national Yomiuri newspaper that he had met the two alleged soldiers in the mountains on Mindanao island and found they were not Japanese.
Neither of the men could answer when asked where they were born and to which military unit they belonged, the mediator was quoted as saying in the Yomiuri.

Patriot Pastors

What's wrong with this picture?
Amember of my church gave to me a copy of the Ohio Restoration Project. This project is led by so-called Christians who have a plan for Ohio. The project will target 2,000 pastors throughout the state to become "patriot pastors." These patriot pastors will be briefed on a specific political agenda and asked to submit names of their parishioners in order to increase a database to 300,000 names. These pastors will be asked to place voter guides in their church pews.
Ken Blackwell, Ohio's secretary of state and a governor hopeful, is named throughout the document. Blackwell will be featured on 30-second radio ads promoting this group's agenda and supporting the "Ohio for Jesus" rally set for the spring of 2006. At the end of the document are the words, "America has a mission to share a living savior with a dying world."
Here's the plan itself. It is a blatant effort to politicize Ohio ministries on behalf of conservative causes.

Supreme Court Rules in Prison Religion Case

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Tuesday that a new federal law requiring prison officials to meet inmates' religious needs is a permissible accommodation of religion that does not violate the separation of church and state.
The court rejected arguments by Ohio officials that the law, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, violated the Constitution by elevating religion above all other reasons a prisoner might seek special privileges.
The state had said that by requiring prison officials to cater to the demands of adherents of Satanist or white-supremacist religions, the law would result in attracting new followers to these sects, to the detriment of prison security.
The five Ohio inmates who brought the case belong to nonmainstream religions, including one, Asatru, that preaches that the white race needs to use violence and terrorism to prevail over the "mud races."

Planned Parenthood Is Told to Show Children's Files

Planned Parenthood of Indiana has to show state investigators the medical records of some of its youngest patients, a judge ruled on Tuesday. The judge rejected the organization's contention that disclosing such records could have a chilling effect on patients across the state.
Since March, Attorney General Steve Carter has been seeking the records of more than 80 patients younger than 14, saying his Medicaid fraud unit is trying to determine whether children have been neglected because molesting incidents were not reported to the authorities as required. Under Indiana law, anyone under 14 who is sexually active is considered a victim of sexual abuse, and health providers are required to report such cases to the state authorities.
In his ruling, Judge Kenneth H. Johnson of Marion Superior Court denied the Planned Parenthood request for a preliminary injunction against Mr. Carter's office, which has obtained parts of 8 patients' records and is seeking the records of 76 others.
"The great public interest in the reporting, investigation and prosecution of child abuse trumps even the patient's interest in privileged communication with her physician, because in the end, both the patient and the state are benefited by the disclosure," Judge Johnson wrote in a 23-page decision.

Something Phony About Fake News

During a video news release (VNR) producers' roundtable discussion, Medialink's Larry Moskowitz suggested that "what The New York Times" and members of Congress "found venal" were VNR voice-overs, the scripted audio mimicking reporters' narration. So Medialink is "formulating a plan to advise government to not use a voice-over." Roundtable participants opposed on-screen disclosure, which the Truth in Broadcasting Act would require for government VNRs. "It's meant to create a question that it's not reporting," complained West Glen Communications' Stan Zeitlin. "It says that there's something phony about it, something that's not quite right." Alan Weiss Productions' Alan Weiss said "another production company" had used actors for supposedly unsolicited "people on the street" interviews. Weiss decried such "slanted" VNRs, satellite media tours and B-roll video footage, but added, "What's neat about our country is that there's no censorship. ... We are journalists if we're supplying videos to a journalistic organization."

Free Credit Reports - For People Living in Most States

Be sure to read the Privacy Policy first.

FEC treads into sticky web of political blogs

Draft rules from the Federal Election Commission, which enforces campaign finance laws, would require that paid political advertisements on the Internet declare who funded the ad, as television spots do.
Similar disclaimers would be placed on political Web sites, as well as on e-mails sent to people on purchased lists containing more than 500 addresses. The FEC also is considering whether to require Web loggers, called bloggers, to disclose whether they get money from a campaign committee or a candidate and to reveal whether they are being paid to write about certain candidates or solicit contributions on their behalf.
These rules would not affect citizens who don't take money from political action committees or parties.

G. Gordon Liddy calls Deep Throat "Unethical"

Aides to the late president Richard Nixon have said that former FBI deputy director Mark Felt, unmasked as the anonymous Watergate source known as "Deep Throat," had breached professional ethics by leaking information.
G. Gordon Liddy, a Nixon operative who engineered the 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Campaign headquarters in the Watergate building in Washington, and served four and a half years in jail for it, said Wednesday that Felt "violated the ethics of the law enforcement profession."

Top Israeli news anchor attacks Palestine occupation

The revered anchor of Israel's Channel One news programme for more than three decades has caused controversy by making a personalised documentary in which he concludes that Jewish settlements are endangering the country and that the occupation of Palestinian land is a crime.
"Since 1967, we have been brutal conquerors, occupiers, suppressing another people," Haim Yavin, who was a founder of Channel One and once its chief editor, says in the programme.
Even before the five-part series opened last night, settler leaders were calling for the 72-year-old, known as "Mr Television", to be sacked, because they said he was no longer objective.
The documentary would be sensitive in Israel at any time, but particularly now in the weeks before the government plans to remove thousands of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip and a small part of the West Bank.

'World' Bodies Under Fire for Serving the Few, Not the Many

The world's multilateral institutions -- which preside over the political and economic destinies of more than six billion people -- have come under heavy fire at a meeting of 350-plus representatives of civil society and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) here.
The United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and World Trade Organization (WTO) were criticized as lacking transparency and accountability and practicing political elitism and decision-making dictated by the rich and powerful.

Rajesh Tandon, chair of the board of the Montreal International Forum (also known by its French initials, FIM), singled out the United States, France, and Britain -- three veto-wielding permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- for what he termed their political double standards.

''Those who pretend to be champions of democracy at the national level are the practicing enemies of democracy at the global level,'' Tandon told IPS.

Rise of the Creative Class followed by the Flight of the Creative Class

Following up on The Rise of the Creative Class (2002), Florida argues that if America continues to make it harder for some of the world's most talented students and workers to come here, they'll go to other countries eager to tap into their creative capabilities—as will American citizens fed up with what they view as an increasingly repressive environment. He argues that the loss of even a few geniuses can have tremendous impact, adding that the "overblown" economic threat posed by large nations such as China and India obscures all the little blows inflicted upon the U.S. by Canada, Scandinavia, New Zealand and other countries with more open political climates. Florida lays his case out well and devotes a significant portion of this polemical analysis to defending his earlier book's argument regarding "technology, talent, and tolerance" (i.e. that together, they generate economic clout, so the U.S. should be more progressive on gay rights and government spending). He does so because that book contains what he sees as the way out of the dilemma—a new American society that can "tap the full creative capabilities of every human being." Even when he drills down to less panoramic vistas, however, Florida remains an astute observer of what makes economic communities tick, and he's sure to generate just as much public debate on this new twist on brain drain. [from MetaFilter.com]

How to do the Star Wars trilogy in 58 minutes

Without the use of props - or any other actors - Mr. Ross sings John Williams's theme music, mimes the crawling yellow text at the beginning of each episode, replicates the sound effects of whooshing X-Wing Starfighters, and impersonates all the characters, even minor ones such as Admiral Akbar, the tunic-wearing squid-like creature that makes Jabba the Hut look like a pretty boy. Improbable as it may sound, Ross accomplishes the whole thing in 58 minutes.

Advertisers Tap Brain Science

"The hope in neuromarketing is that there's some process in the brain that is a better predictor of whether people will actually buy things than what we already have," said Colin Camerer, professor of business economics at the California Institute of Technology.
Over the past several years, American and German neuroscientists have been using functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, brain scans to observe what happens in the brain when people evaluate things like beer, cars and politicians.
The latest big finding came from neuroeconomists, who study how people make decisions about everything from buying a lottery ticket to deciding whether to avoid sitting next to a creepy guy on the bus. Earlier this month, Stanford University researchers reported that they've pinpointed the parts of the brain that handle two major parts of a choice -- figuring out how nifty something is and then calculating how likely it is that you'll get it.
The study, published in the May 11 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, was designed to analyze different parts of the decision-making process. Researchers told subjects to press a button quickly when they saw a target on a screen. Before the target appeared, the subjects were told how much they might win during that round, from nothing to $5.

The Birth of the Synthesizer

Moog (rhymes with vogue) sold his first synthesizer, the Moog, in 1965. In the 40 years since, these musical instruments -- and, Moog will tell you, they are musical instruments -- have changed contemporary music.
Just how that happened is the subject of Moog, a new documentary by Hans Fjellestad being released on DVD this week.
The film holds a number of revelations. For one, the early Moogs were big. And manifestly complicated.
In one scene, Keith Emerson (from Emerson, Lake and Palmer) jams on an original Moog. It looks like a prop from a 1950s sci-fi film -- a bulky cabinet covered with a gnarly mess of wires, tubes and knobs.

GOP Seeks Power to Restructure Entire Federal Government

As [OMBWatch] reported earlier, House Government Reform chair Tom Davis has vowed that a top priority for this Congress will be giving the White House the power to fast-track through Congress recommendations for restructuring the federal government. Now Inside EPA is reporting that Davis's office is drafting legislation to grant the White House power to develop restructuring plans that would be fast-tracked through Congress without the possibility of amendment. A source has told Inside EPA that Davis is awaiting the White House's imminent proposals for results and sunset commissions, which may include some version of fast-track reorganization authority.
Meanwhile, other lawmakers are proceeding with their own versions of commissions to reorganize government. As we reported earlier this month, one senator, probably Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), slipped into the budget resolution a "sense of the Senate" provision endorsing the concept of a results commission. Brownback is reportedly coordinating with Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) to develop a new proposal that combines elements of each member's proposals in past Congresses for results and sunset commissions respectively. Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS) has jumped on the bandwagon by reintroducing the Commission on the Accountability and Review of Federal Agencies Act, a version of the results commission concept. The CARFA Act would link performance data, such as the simplistic reviews currently carried out in the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) assessments, with recommendations to consolidate or eliminate federal agencies. (See more about the CARFA Act.)

DeLay Promises Funding for Moon and Mars

NASA's new administrator and Texas Republican Rep. Tom DeLay (news, bio, voting record) said Tuesday the space agency will have the necessary funding to implement President Bush's vision to send astronauts back to the moon and to Mars.
"We have the money to do good things," said Michael Griffin, who has visited at least seven of NASA's centers since he was appointed in April. During a two-day visit at the home of human spaceflight, he spoke with astronauts, flight directors and other top administrators.

Why Doesn't Uncle Sam Want These Troops?

Perhaps because even wounded heroes get discharged for being gay, like Sgt. Robert Stout. When don't ask, don't tell is costing the military valuable talent and more than a quarter-billion dollars, veterans, partners and the at least 63% of the public are calling for the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'. [from MetaFilter.com]

Geldof announces Live 8 acts

Madonna, U2 and Coldplay will be among the star acts at the Live 8 concert in London to raise awareness about global poverty, organiser Bob Geldof said on Tuesday.
Elton John, Robbie Williams, Scissor Sisters and Joss Stone were also named in the line up for the July 2nd concert.

Gitmo Detainees Say They Were Sold - Up to $25K

Bounties ranged from $3,000 to $25,000, the detainees testified during military tribunals, according to transcripts the U.S. government gave The Associated Press to comply with a Freedom of Information lawsuit.
A former CIA intelligence officer who helped lead the search for Osama bin Laden told AP the accounts sounded legitimate because U.S. allies regularly got money to help catch Taliban and al-Qaida fighters. Gary Schroen said he took a suitcase of $3 million in cash into Afghanistan himself to help supply and win over warlords to fight for U.S. Special Forces.

Bolton documents contain classified company names

The information that the White House has refused to provide Congress for its review into the nomination of John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations includes the names of companies mentioned in intelligence reports on commerce with China and other countries covered by export restrictions, according to officials briefed on the matter.
See also: Bush Hints He Will Withhold Other Papers on Bolton

More On Clear Channel's Pirate Station - Stealth Promotional Campaign

"Once we determined we were going to change the format, we tried to get into the mindset of people who would listen to this new station," said Dan Lankford, vice president and market manager for Clear Channel in Akron. That mindset may involve a suspicion of Clear Channel itself, which has used loosened rules on media ownership to build a radio empire.
That Clear Channel owned the www.radiofreeohioorg Web site was revealed on www.stayfreemagazine.org, a magazine and blog about advertising and popular culture. Stay Free's editor, Carrie McLaren, said that she had learned the information from someone who had seen it on an Akron Web site. "In a way it's the heart of the problem with Clear Channel," Ms. McLaren said of the manifesto. " 'We're this huge corporation and we do everything to fake being local.' "

The Ayatollah of Holy Rollers - Profile of Rousas J. Rushdoony

Death by stoning for atheists, adulterers, and practicing male homosexuals.
Stoning - or possibly burning at the stake - for atheists, heretics, religious apostates, followers of other religions who proselytize, unmarried females who are unchaste, incorrigible juvenile delinquents, and children who curse or strike their parents.
And, oh yes, death to witches, Satanists, and those who commit blasphemy.
Does this sound like a radical Islamist nightmare, a replay of Afghanistan under the Taliban?
Welcome to the United States of America as Christian Reconstructionists hope to run it. Not as a democracy, which they see as secular heresy. But as a reconstructed Christian nation, complete with biblically sanctioned flogging and slavery.
The Bible rules, OK? And, in its name, a small elect of true believers are now seeking capital-D Dominion over every aspects of our government, laws, education, and personal lives.

Snopes: The Unsolvable Math Problem

Claim: Student mistakes examples of unsolvable math problems for homework assignment and solves them.
Status: True.

New Synaptic Junction Weekly is Now Posted

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Bush Calls Human Rights Report 'Absurd'

"It's an absurd allegation. The United States is a country that promotes freedom around the world," Bush said of the Amnesty International report that compared Guantanamo to a Soviet-era gulag.
In a Rose Garden news conference, Bush defiantly stood by his domestic policy agenda while defending his actions abroad. He repeatedly pledged to press ahead — "The president has got to push, he's got to keep leading" — despite mounting criticism.

Is the FBI Spying on You? - ACLU

The ACLU has launched a nationwide effort to expose and prevent FBI spying on people and groups simply for speaking out or practicing their faith. As a first step, the ACLU and its affiliates have filed Freedom of Information Act requests in more than a dozen states. Although the FBI has refused to turn over most of the files, we have obtained evidence (pdf) that confirms the FBI and local police, working through Joint Terrorism Task Forces, are spying on political, environmental, anti-war and faith-based groups. We think the public deserves to know who is being investigated and why. We have sued (pdf) the FBI and the Department of Justice to get those answers.

Heroin addiction gene identified and blocked

Scientists have not only identified a critical gene involved in heroin addiction relapse, but they have also successfully blocked it, eliminating cravings for the drug.
The study was conducted on heroin-addicted rats. But the researchers now think that, within a few years, better treatments will become available to human heroin users who cannot quit due to insidious cycles of relapse.

Costs of Secrecy Skyrocket

Executive branch agencies spent an unprecedented $7.2 billion to secure classified information last year, according to a new report from the Information Security Oversight Office. This was an 11 percent increase over the preceding year. http://www.fas.org/sgp/isoo/2004costs.pdf

GOP Hid Wilderness Drilling Approval In War Supplemental

Tucked away in the 96-page emergency military spending bill signed by President Bush this month are four paragraphs that give energy companies the right to explore for oil and gas inside a sprawling national park.
The amendment written by Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) codifies Mississippi's claim to mineral rights under federal lands and allows drilling for natural gas under the Gulf Islands National Seashore — a thin necklace of barrier islands that drapes the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico.

Mark Felt Claims to be Deep Throat

W. Mark Felt, former assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has agreed to come public in an upcoming article [PDF] in Vanity Fair.

Nader on Impeachment

The impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, under Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, should be part of mainstream political discourse.
Minutes from a summer 2002 meeting involving British Prime Minister Tony Blair reveal that the Bush administration was ''fixing" the intelligence to justify invading Iraq. US intelligence used to justify the war demonstrates repeatedly the truth of the meeting minutes -- evidence was thin and needed fixing.
President Clinton was impeached for perjury about his sexual relationships. Comparing Clinton's misbehavior to a destructive and costly war occupation launched in March 2003 under false pretenses in violation of domestic and international law certainly merits introduction of an impeachment resolution.

Supreme Court Overturns Arthur Andersen Conviction

In a unanimous opinion, justices said the former Big Five accounting firm's June 2002 conviction was improper. It said the jury instructions at trial were too vague and broad for jurors to determine correctly whether Andersen obstructed justice.
"The jury instructions here were flawed in important respects," Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote for the court.

Life is short in online news

Are you reading this more than a day and a half after it was posted on Nature's news site? If so, it's a fair bet that either you've unearthed it from an archive or the article is unusually popular.
A team of scientists from Hungary and the United States has found that the majority of online news items have a lifetime of just 36 hours. As reporters have always suspected, yesterday's news is stale, and the day before's news is invisible.

Bottle message saves lost vessel

Costa Rican officials say 86 shipwrecked migrants have been rescued after fishermen found a message in a bottle they had thrown overboard.
...The bottle, and the SOS message it contained, was found by local fishermen who alerted the park wardens, the only inhabitants of the island, a world heritage site.
[I'm not sure I'm buying this story, I post guardedly. -- McLir]

Two Americans Charged With Helping al Qaeda

Two American citizens facing a terrorism charge - one a doctor and the other a self-described martial arts expert - became enthusiastic followers of al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden before their arrests, according to court papers released Monday.
Dr. Rafiq Abdus Sabir, 50, of Boca Raton, Fla., and Tarik Shah, 42, of New York, who also claimed to be a jazz musician, were arrested Friday on a charge they conspired to provide material support to al-Qaida, an FBI agent said.
If convicted, each could face a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000.

U.S. Forest Service Suspends Whistleblower

The U.S. Forest Service has suspended an agency official who complained that some of its managers ignored environmental laws and rules for the spraying of pesticides and weed-killers on forests.
Doug Parker, assistant director of forestry and forest health for the agency's Southwestern Region, is accused of failing to follow a direct order to train and certify employees each month in the use of the chemicals.

Analysts in WMD miscue given performance awards over 3 years

Two Army analysts whose work has been cited as part of a key intelligence failure on Iraq — the claim that aluminum tubes sought by Baghdad were probably meant for nuclear weapons — have received job performance awards in each of the past three years, officials said.

Goals Reached, Donor on Right Closes Up Shop

Without it, the Federalist Society might not exist, nor its network of 35,000 conservative lawyers. Economic analysis might hold less sway in American courts. The premier idea factories of the right, from the Hoover Institution to the Heritage Foundation, would have lost millions of dollars in core support. And some classics of the conservative canon would have lost their financier, including Allan Bloom's lament of academic decline and Charles Murray's attacks on welfare.
Part Medici, part venture capitalist, the John M. Olin Foundation has spent three decades financing the intellectual rise of the right and exciting the envy of the left. Now the foundation is closing its doors. In telling the organization to spend his money within a generation, John M. Olin, a Midwestern ammunition and chemical magnate, sought to maximize his fortune's influence and keep it from falling into hostile - that is, liberal - hands.

From SourceWatch:

In 2001, the Foundation expended $20,482,961 to fund right-wing think tanks including the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Brookings Institution, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, the Hudson Institute, the Independent Women's Forum, the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University, the Manhattan Institute for Public Policy Research, and the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). "The Foundation also gives large sums of money to promote conservative programs in the country's most prestigious colleges and universities."[3] [4] [5]
The Foundation is financed by the Olin chemical and munitions fortune with assets estimated at $90 million, $3 million of which goes to conservative advocacy groups. The Foundation "supported right-wing causes for many years but became more focused on grantmaking after William E. Simon took over as president in 1977." Simon, who had been chosen to lead the Foundation by Olin, was followed by Michael Joyce, who left Olin in 1985 to lead the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. He has since returned to be Olin's president.[6]

C.I.A. Expanding Terror Battle Under Guise of Charter Flights

While posing as a private charter outfit - "aircraft rental with pilot" is the listing in Dun and Bradstreet - Aero Contractors is in fact a major domestic hub of the Central Intelligence Agency's secret air service. The company was founded in 1979 by a legendary C.I.A. officer and chief pilot for Air America, the agency's Vietnam-era air company, and it appears to be controlled by the agency, according to former employees.
Behind a surprisingly thin cover of rural hideaways, front companies and shell corporations that share officers who appear to exist only on paper, the C.I.A. has rapidly expanded its air operations since 2001 as it has pursued and questioned terrorism suspects around the world.

Outrage at Presidential Lies

"There has to be a functional trust by reporters of the person they're covering. [The president] lies knowing that you know he's lying. It's brutal and it subjugates the person who's being lied to. I resent deeply being constantly lied to." – Hardball's Chris Matthews
"The deep and searing violation took place when he not only lied to the country, but co-opted his friends and lied to them." – Reagan/Clinton adviser David Gergen
"What is troubling is the deceit, the failure to own up to it. Before this is over the truth must be told." – Sen. Joe Lieberman (who hasn't owned up to his own pre-war role pushing Bush administration lies about Iraq)
"The judgment is harsher in Washington. We don't like being lied to." - Washington Post columnist David Broder
"When you lie to the country, you are using your authority to undermine the presidency." – Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin
[No they weren't talking about a war. They were talking about a BJ.]

Blog Politics in Iran

Hossein Derakhshan is on tour. In the past few years, he has become the public face of Iran's beleaguered bloggers, more than a dozen of whom have been arrested for their politics. The crackdown has stifled Iran's exploding Web culture, and Derakhshan is making a swing along the Eastern Seaboard to drum up support for the bloggers back home.
...Derakhshan missed writing for an Iranian audience, so in 2001 he set out to create a weblog that could reach his old column's readers. He figured out a way to combine Unicode and Blogger.com's free tools to handle Persian characters. Suddenly, blogging in Persian was as simple as it is in English. His site - written in both Farsi and English - covers everything from Iranian campaign tactics to the synth stylings of French musician Jean Michel Jarre. At its height in February, his blog received 35,000 pageviews a day.
The Unicode breakthrough helped ignite massive growth in Internet readership in Iran. "There were all these journalists who didn't have a venue, and all these readers who missed the reformist papers." By last year, 5 million Iranians were using the Internet in the nation of 69 million, and an estimated 100,000 blogs.

Copyright law prevents aliens from listening to The Beatles

2007 marks the 30th anniversary of the launch of the Voyager I and II spacecraft to study the outer solor system. Voyager I made news earlier in the week when it passed through a zone scientists call the termination shock region and into the vastness of interstellar space.
Both spacecraft also are carrying a golden phonograph record containing photos, sounds, and music meant to represent the people of Earth.
I’m reading “Murmurs of Earth”, Carl Sagan’s account of the how and why of the musical selections included on the records.
...What really floored me, though, was this little admission from page 19:

We wanted to send “Here Comes The Sun” by the Beatles, and all four Beatles gave their approval. But the Beatles did not own the copyright, and the legal status of the piece seemed too murky to risk.

Depeted Uranium Bill Introduced Into Congress

Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA), a medical doctor, on May 17 introduced legislation with 21 original co-sponsors in the House of Representatives that calls for medical and scientific studies on the health and environmental impacts from the U.S. Military’s use of depleted uranium (DU) munitions in combat zones, including Iraq. The McDermott bill also calls for cleanup and mitigation of sites in the U.S. contaminated by DU.
“The need is urgent and imperative for full, fair and impartial studies,” McDermott said. “We may be endangering the health and lives of U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians. All we’ve gotten so far from the Pentagon are assurances. We need facts backed by science. We don’t have that today.”
Because of its density, the military uses DU as a protective shield around tanks, and in munitions like armor piercing bullets and tank shells. DU tends to spontaneously ignite upon impact, disintegrating into a micro-fine residue that hangs suspended in the air where it can be inhaled and falls to the ground to leach into the soil.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Condi Plays Dumb on Downing Street Memo

QUESTION: [...] And if I could then ask both of you to comment on the very well-publicized British memo that was leaked to the Times of London, or to the London Times. Madame Secretary --
SECRETARY RICE: Which one is that? Andrea, which one is that?
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: Which one is that?
QUESTION: On Iraq. That came out about 10 days ago, 12 days ago. Are you not aware of this memo?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, a lot of them are, unfortunately, out. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: In particular, this memo -- and I can quote -- said that the intelligence -- and this was a memo that was leaked from the minutes of a meeting that took place in July of 2002 with Tony Blair --
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, that one. Okay. Got it. Okay.

English priest stops Amazon logging giants in their tracks

A mild-looking, bespectacled Catholic priest, born in Portsmouth, educated at Oxford and now working in the Peruvian rainforest, is behind an important victory for local people over the logging companies laying waste to large stretches of Amazonia.
A year ago Father Paul McAuley, now 57, helped some 70 of his parishioners in the little settlement of Mazan, on one of the Amazon's main tributaries, to seek an injunction to protect large swathes of rainforest, containing valuable tropical timber. Last week a court in Iquitos, the capital of Peruvian Amazonia, ordered a halt to the government's sale of 40-year leases of forest land for only 22p ($40 USD) an acre.

Long Jailings Anger Iraqis

A year after the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal erupted, Iraqi anger has flared anew over the growing numbers of detainees held without charge at the notorious detention center and another prison in the south.
In the battle against the insurgency, U.S. military sweeps net many guerrillas, but also thousands of people whose offenses are nonexistent, minor or impossible to prove. They are often held for months, only to be released without explanation.
The population of long-term detainees at Abu Ghraib and the larger Camp Bucca, near Basra, has nearly doubled since August and now tops 10,000. With a large operation by Iraqi security forces underway in Baghdad, that number could rise.

Facing Chaos, Iraqi Doctors Are Quitting

The letter came to this city's main cardiac hospital late last month. It was unsigned and handwritten, but its message was clear: It threatened the hospital's top doctors and warned them to leave their jobs immediately.
No one knows who sent the letter, but the relentless violence here is often baffling. Four of the hospital's top surgeons stopped going to work. So did six senior cardiologists. Some left the country.
It was far from an isolated incident.

In Rising Numbers, Lawyers Head for Guantánamo Bay

In the last few months, the small commercial air service to the naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has been carrying people the military authorities had hoped would never be allowed there: American lawyers.
And they have been arriving in increasing numbers, providing more than a third of about 530 remaining detainees with representation in federal court. Despite considerable obstacles and expenses, other lawyers are lining up to challenge the government's detention of people the military has called enemy combatants and possible terrorists.
A meeting earlier this month in New York City at the law firm Clifford Chance drew dozens of new volunteer lawyers who attended lectures from other lawyers who have been through the rigorous process of getting the government to allow them access to Guantánamo.

Easy check fraud technique draws scrutiny

It would be music to any non-profit organization’s ears: an unexpected $1,000 donation. But the offer came with dirty strings attached, and the surprise donation to California-based Urban Age Institute was hardly a gift at all. Instead, it placed the organization right in the middle of an extensive — but elegantly simple — worldwide scam.
Within days, $10,000 worth of checks were written against the non-profit's accounts and cashed by a woman in Georgia. She in turn wired money to Nigeria. The incident left the organization's leaders wondering: Is it that easy to raid anyone's checking account? The answer, according to banking experts interviewed for this story, is yes.

US Trained Uzbek Troops

The U.S. government has trained and equipped Uzbek troops and police - the same forces who opened fire without warning on some 2,000 demonstrators this month in this eastern city. Now international groups are urging Washington to reconsider its aid and involvement.
President Islam Karimov has rejected calls for an independent inquiry into the crackdown. The government claims 173 were killed, including 36 troops. But human rights groups allege that hundreds died when on May 13 Uzbek forces fired on demonstrators who seized government buildings and freed a jail in anger over the prosecution of 23 businessmen for alleged Islamic extremism.

A Revolution in American Nuclear Policy

A metaphorical "nuclear option"—the cutoff of debate in the Senate on judicial nominees—has just been defused, but a literal nuclear option, called "global strike," has been created in its place. In a shocking innovation in American nuclear policy, recently disclosed in the Washington Post by military analyst William Arkin, the administration has created and placed on continuous high alert a force whereby the president can launch a pinpoint strike, including a nuclear strike, anywhere on earth with a few hours' notice. The senatorial "nuclear option" was covered extensively, but somehow this actual nuclear option—a "full-spectrum" capability (in the words of the presidential order) with "precision kinetic" (nuclear and conventional) and "non-kinetic" (elements of space and information operations)—was almost entirely ignored.

GOP Responds to DeLay Tantrum with Fresh New Tantrums

Roll Call obtained a set of talking points issued by House GOP Conference Vice Chairman Jack Kingston (Ga.). In response to a Law and Order episode featuring a police officer who declared “Maybe we should put out an APB for somebody in a Tom DeLay T-shirt,” the House GOP aimed at House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).
Kingston, Akers reveals, "has been out on the TV circuit blaring outrage. Kingston instructed members who serve on the House GOP message team to “repeat that this was a PERSONAL swipe at Tom DeLay during sweeps week.” In a memo to his message folks, Kingston gave four talking points, telling Members to stay on message that “L&O” finished “dead last” in sweeps week, is biased and liberal, and, in what he called 'outrageous and over-the-top,' associated DeLay with a 'racist, anti-semitic judge killer.'"