Saturday, June 11, 2005

Downing Street Memo Hits Page 1 of Washington Post Sunday

Soviet-Style Security Poster May be Hoax

This striking poster in the Maryland commuter rail system has been getting a lot of attention. The full message:
MARC Marshals
Report any unusual activities or packages to the nearest conductor.
Watch, Ride, and Report
The somewhat ominous message and a style reminiscent of Soviet propaganda have put many people off.
Stygius says he thinks it's a joke, but a good one, pointing out incongruous details like the tie blowing in the wind, and the fact that there are no "MARC Marshals" -- MARC uses the Maryland Transit Administration Police. On the other hand, a commenter suggests that the poster is essentially deputizing all of us as "MARC Marshals." I've seen an anonymous commenter claim at one site that he/she saw at a Metro stop (Rockville) in the DC area; I haven't seen it anywhere yet, but even if I had, that might just mean a particularly clever, multiple poster prank.
Why a prank? Long story short: the site where people are finding this picture, "", isn't an official Maryland railways (MARC, etcetera) web site.* Instead, it appears to belong to some railroad photography enthusiasts. The home page shows one of the photographers ("the mysterious KC ... fine art printer of long standing") hiding behind a camera in a train compartment with the above poster in the background. A final detail seems to fit the "prank" story as well: the home page photo image file name is kim_sneaky-574x402.jpg.**

Coverage of "Downing Street Memo"

I searched for the term "Downing Street Memo" at major TV news outlets. I found a grand total of 11. Most of these 11 are primarily about other stories. -- McLir

ABC News: 3

Bush, Blair say progress on African debt relief

... The two leaders, close allies on the Iraq war, were united in rejecting the so-called Downing Street memo of July 2002 in which a British intelligence official ...

News Story: UN Alert As Nuclear Plans Go Missing

... Dismiss 'Fixed' Iraq Report US President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have challenged the so-called "Downing Street memo," which said ...

The Note: The Note for America

... of the New York Times leads her news-of-day piece on Bush and Blair with the joint denial of the "fixed" intelligence accusation in the Downing Street memo. ...

CBS News: 1

John Kerry: The New Al Gore | June 10, 2005 15:00:04

Now out of the presidential candidate limelight, John Kerry is busy trying to stay in any light possible. The Weekly Standard follows the Senator's next chapter as he defends his election loss and probes Iraq memos.

CNN: 1

Bush: Iraq war plans memo wrong (06.07.2005)
President George W. Bush said Tuesday that there was "nothing farther from the truth" than allegations in a British government memorandum that his administration had decided to go to war in Iraq months before he took his case to the American people.

Fox News: 4

Graffiti Wall - Friday, June 10, 2005 - Add your comment to the wall....

Raw Data: Bush, Blair Presser - Tuesday, June 07, 2005 - Text of President Bush's press conference Thursday, as transcribed by CQ Transcripts:...

Divide and Conquer? - Friday, June 03, 2005 - What did you miss if you missed "FOX & Friends" on Friday? Well, first we learned that no one really knows what will happen with the...

Downing Street Memo Mostly Ignored in U.S. - Wednesday, June 01, 2005 - WASHINGTON — A British government memo that critics say proves the Bush administration manipulated evidence about weapons of mass...

NBC: 0

0 Search Results for "downing street memo"

NewsHour: 2

Online NewsHour: Analysts Discuss Blair Visit, Dean Comments ...
... JIM LEHRER: Mark, also the Downing Street memo came up. MARK SHIELDS: Can I, I
disagree --. JIM LEHRER: You can disagree with Rich, go ahead. ...

Online NewsHour: Tony Blair Discusses US Aid to Africa, the EU ...
... But we didn't feel it right to proceed with our referendum whilst this uncertainty
is there. Downing Street Memo, British Involvement in Iraq. ...

Gannon Says He's Not Gosch

"This is one of the things that came to my attention as being the most ridiculous things because of the conspiracy that had developed around my connection to something that I have never heard of before," Gannon says.

Department of Transportation Rules Against Secret Shipments of Depleted Uranium Munitions by the Department of Defense

The Department of Transportation (DOT) recently announced its intent to end a special exemption, DOT-E 9649, which allows for the secret shipment of radioactive or "depleted uranium" munitions by the Department of Defense. The DOT Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (HMS) announced plans to phase out the exemption in the next year for new radioactive munitions and in the next two years for munitions already manufactured before transitioning to full compliance with hazardous materials regulations. The special exemption was created in 1986 and has been renewed every two years since. The highly toxic, radioactive ammunition, also known as "depleted uranium" or DU, has been used in recent Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The shipments occur on a daily basis throughout the U.S., on our highways, railways, and waterways.

eBay: Toast Burnt with Image of Abe Vigoda

1,001 lonely adults who talk to telemarketers during dinner and still have land-based phone lines have determined that Bush isn't doing so well


EFF: Fighting Infringement on Campus Peer-to-Peer Networks

With entertainment companies now suing thousands of college students for using the high-speed Internet2 network for filesharing, universities are under more pressure than ever to address the problem of copyright infringement on campus networks. In doing so, they must balance academic freedom with attempts to reduce infringement. To address the issue, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today released a white paper exploring solutions. Entitled "When Push Comes to Shove: A Hype-Free Guide to Evaluating Technical Solutions to Copyright on Campus," the paper examines the benefits and drawbacks of several systems designed to combat infringement on university networks.
"The music and movie industries want schools to spy on their students and ban whole categories of computer programs from the learning environment," said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. "But there are ways to reduce infringement without undermining education and research. This paper explains what they are."

Former Lobbyist and Global Warming Document Editor Leaves White House Post

Philip Cooney, who was chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, left Friday, two days after it was revealed that he had edited administration reports on climate change in 2002 and 2003.
His departure was "completely unrelated" to the disclosure, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

GOP Senator Tells Editors' Group Gitmo Ought to Go

"It's become an icon for bad stories and at some point you wonder the cost-benefit ratio," Martinez said Friday. "How much do you get out of having that facility there? Is it serving all the purposes you thought it would serve when initially you began it, or can this be done some other way a little better?"
Martinez, who served in President Bush's first cabinet and is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made his comments after Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden's suggested that the prison in Cuba be shut down.

US finds possible 2nd case of mad cow disease

The government refused to disclose any information about the suspect animal's origin or where it was slaughtered. "It was getting up in age. It was a beef breed," said John Clifford, chief veterinarian for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
It is not unusual to have conflicting test results for BSE, cattle experts said.
The USDA said the suspect animal tested positive for BSE in a rapid, preliminary test in November. When it was retested with more sophisticated technology, it was found free of the disease.
But USDA's Inspector General earlier this week asked department scientists to retest the suspect animal, and two others, using yet a third kind of technology known as the "Western blot" test. That test showed the beef animal was infected with the brain-wasting ailment, Johanns said.

Campuses warn of cuts in research

Years of increases in federal research spending are coming to a halt, and top universities like MIT fear they will have to make cutbacks in cherished projects.
The cuts will be felt most sharply by schools where the research emphasis is on the physical sciences as opposed to medicine. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which is among those schools, projects that its federal funding will be flat or down in the coming year. An MIT nuclear fusion reaction experiment funded by the Department of Energy is one project expected to take an immediate hit: It would run for 12 weeks next year, down from 17 weeks this year.
''That whole ability to have a good idea and get funding for it and pursue it is in our DNA," said Alice Gast, vice president for research and associate provost at MIT. Gast said she worries that the flattening budget and other changes in the research environment could stymie technology innovation at leading academic centers.

Few Terror Convictions in Cases Since 9/11

Flanked by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, Bush said that "federal terrorism investigations have resulted in charges against more than 400 suspects, and more than half of those charged have been convicted."
Those statistics have been used repeatedly by Bush and other administration officials, including Gonzales and his predecessor, John D. Ashcroft, to characterize the government's efforts against terrorism.
But the numbers are misleading at best.
An analysis of the Justice Department's list of terrorism prosecutions by The Washington Post shows that 39 people -- not 200 -- have been convicted of crimes related to terrorism or national security.
Most of the others were convicted of relatively minor crimes such as making false statements and violating immigration law -- and had nothing to do with terrorism, the analysis shows. Overall, the median sentence was just 11 months.

CJR: $674 Million to Africa is Actually a Slight of Hand

In the aftermath of this week's get-together between Tony Blair and President Bush, it was widely reported (by the AP, Forbes, and USA Today, among others) that Bush had pledged an additional $674 million to famine-stricken African nations. Only a handful of reporters pointed out that there was nothing additional about the money at all: the president was merely releasing funds that had already been approved by Congress earlier this year. But when it comes to aid issues, this type of budgetary sleight-of-hand dazzles the media all too often.
The Boston Globe, for instance, noted on Wednesday: "Bush also criticized 'big talkers' who speak of doing more for Africa, but who have not given as much as the United States, which has dramatically increased aid to Africa since 2000, and now gives roughly twice as much as any other donor."
Well, that's one way of putting it. The U.S. may be the biggest donor in dollar terms, but proportionally speaking, it's one of the stingiest. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, American aid represents about 0.1 of GDP -- that's one-tenth of one percent -- making the U.S. the least-generous developed country around. Outside the U.S., this is a frequently-reported fact; but here, a 2001 University of Maryland poll found, most Americans believe that their government lavishes 24 percent of the federal budget on poor nations.

Author Interviews by Don Swaim

Listen to the voices of many of the best writers of the English language. These uncut, behind-the-scenes interviews were the foundation of Don Swaim's long-running CBS Radio show, Book Beat.
Wired for Books is proud to make these important recordings publicly available in their entirety for the first time.
Includes: Douglas Adams, Isaac Asimov, Margaret Atwood, Roy Blount Jr., Ray Bradbury, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Erica Jong, Elmore Leonard, Doris Lessing, Barry Lopez, Toni Morrison, Richard Nixon, Joyce Carol Oates, Marge Piercy, Anne Rice, Fred Rogers, Oliver Sachs, John Sayles, Gloria Steinem, Art Spiegelman, Clifford Stoll, Paul Theroux, Calvin Trillin, John Updike, Gore Vidal, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Elie Wiesel, and many dozens more.

'Spiderman' Scales Hong Kong Skyscraper

A Frenchman who calls himself "Spiderman" scaled a 62-story skyscraper in Hong Kong using only his bare hands on Saturday.
Alain Robert scrambled up the Cheung Kong Center in about an hour to find police waiting for him at the top.
They checked his passport but did not arrest him, even though he had not sought permission to climb the building.
"I slipped only once," he said. "On a scale of one to 10 in terms of difficulty, this would be a five. I really enjoyed the ascent."

Eric Alterman: A Very Short History of Neoconservatism

In any case all of these distinctions tend to miss the point. The conservative's ideological attack on 'liberal elite culture' in the early seventies arose from what they considered uncomfortable changes the country was undergoing. Like the vulgar Marxists a number of them had once been, the Right-Wingers saw an unspoken conspiracy ruling American political and cultural life in which everyone and everything was connected to everyone and everything else.
It was a kind of bargain-basement Hegelianism: The entire of American culture was moved as if guided by a single dialectical spirit. Harvard and Yale, feminism and taxes, school prayer and Soviet power, abortion and pornography, Communist revolution and gay rights: All of these social ills and more stemmed from the same source of political/cultural malaise, namely the post-Vietnam victory of the "New Class" and the "permissive" culture it had foisted upon the nation.

Don't Link to Bogus "Jackson Suicide" Email

A British anti-virus firm announced Friday hackers are breaking into computers by sending emails claiming Michael Jackson has tried to kill himself.
According to security software specialists at Sophos, the email contains the subject heading, "Re: Suicidal attempt." When opened, the body specifies, " "Last night, while in his Neverland Ranch, Michael Jackson has made a suicidal attempt."
Readers are prompted to click on a link that will direct them to a website with the full story. When the link is clicked, the site indicates it is too busy. In actuality, malicious code is being installed into the browser's computer.

New Computer Language Uses Graphics Processor for FAST Calculations

New software enabling scientists to perform mind-boggling mathematical calculations and see the results rendered almost instantly on their screens has been released by US researchers.
The Scout programming language, developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in California, US, lets scientists run complex calculations on a computer's graphics processing unit (GPU) instead of its central processing unit (CPU).
In tests, the graphics processor was able to perform certain types of calculation 12 times faster than a single CPU.
Graphics processors generate smooth and realistic three-dimensional imagery by performing rapid calculations on visual data. And the latest graphics chips rival CPUs for raw processing power, thanks to consumer demand for hardware powerful enough to support the latest 3D computer games.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Contractors Deny They Shot at Marines, Allege Mistreatment

U.S. Marines and employees of a contractor working for the military in Iraq offer sharply contrasting versions of a recent incident in which Marines in Fallujah detained 19 of the company's employees for three days after saying the contractors fired at them.
The contractors say they did not, and some now allege that the Marines abused them during their confinement.

The Millionaires Who Interpret the Constitution

The annual disclosures, released Friday, painted a picture of a prosperous group on the nation's highest court, with at least six of the nine justices holding more than $1 million in assets: Justices O'Connor, Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia, David H. Souter and John Paul Stevens.
None of the justices reported receiving gifts, although three of them - Justices Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Anthony M. Kennedy - received more than $20,000 in side money for limited teaching duty at law schools. Two others, Justice O'Connor and Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, picked up thousands more in book royalties.
The financial holdings that justices report include gifts and earnings, as well as some details of reimbursements they receive for travel. They do not include their homes and some other accounts.
Justice Souter was also among the richest of the justices, with holdings of about $5 million to $25 million, due in part to stock that benefited from a bank merger in his home state, New Hampshire.

Government Is Checking Possible Case of Mad Cow

The government is checking a possible case of mad cow disease in the United States in an animal previously cleared of being infected, the Agriculture Department said Friday.
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said that additional tests were needed to confirm the disease and that the animal had not entered the food supply.
One case of mad cow disease has been confirmed in the United States, in a dairy cow in Washington State in December 2003. Since then, preliminary tests have indicated the existence of the disease in three cows, but further testing had ruled out mad cow disease.

New Tack Against Illegal Immigrants: Trespassing Charges

The novel legal strategy has made a minor celebrity of W. Garrett Chamberlain. The 36-year-old police chief hops to his feet and deposits a pile of letters on his desk, from Alaskans and Californians, Border Patrol agents and soldiers in Iraq, all applauding his initiative. Fox News commentators have called, too, seeking his views on national immigration policy.
...So another shot is fired in the often-testy debate over U.S. immigration policies and border security, a battle fraught with political and ethnic anxieties. Already, another police chief, Richard E. Gendron in nearby Hudson, N.H., has followed suit. A few days ago, Gendron brought trespassing charges against two illegal immigrants from Mexico after his officers stopped a van with a broken headlight. Several police chiefs in New Hampshire have suggested that they might pursue such tactics in the future.

Panel Faults Tactics in Rush to Install Antimissile System

An outside panel chartered by the Pentagon has concluded that the rush to deploy a national antimissile system last year led to shortfalls in quality controls and engineering procedures that could have better assured the system would work, according to the panel's final report.
Bent on meeting President Bush's deadline to install the first elements of the system by the end of 2004, Pentagon officials put schedule ahead of performance, the report says. Among risky shortcuts that were taken, the panel says, were insufficient ground tests of key components, a lack of specifications and standards, and a tendency to postpone resolution of nettlesome issues.

Bush Taps Admiral as Chief Of Counterterrorism Center

President Bush yesterday nominated retired Vice Adm. John Redd, who served as executive director of the presidential commission on intelligence, to run the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean, Va., and called on Congress to renew the USA Patriot Act to help law enforcement officials such as Redd hunt and capture terrorists.

NASA Chief to Oust 20 Senior Officials

Administrator Michael D. Griffin has decided to replace about 20 senior space agency officials by mid-August in the first stage of a broad agency shake-up. The departures include the two leaders of the human spaceflight program, which is making final preparations to fly the space shuttle for the first time in more than two years.
Senior NASA officials and congressional and aerospace industry sources said yesterday that Griffin wants to clear away entrenched bureaucracy, and build a less political and more scientifically oriented team to implement President Bush's plan to return humans to the moon by 2020 and eventually send them to Mars.

Gallup: Public Confidence in Newspapers, TV News Falls to All-Time Low

Public trust in newspapers and television news continued to decline in Gallup's annual survey of "public confidence in major institutions" in the United States, reaching an all-time low this year.
Those having a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in newspapers dipped from 30% to 28% in one year, the same total for television. The previous low for newspapers was 29% in 1994. Since 2000, confidence in newspapers has declined from 37% to 28%, and TV from 36% to 28%, according to the poll.
However, some other institutions fared far worse this year, suggesting a broad level of distrust, cynicism or malaise.
Confidence in the presidency plunged from 52% to 44%, with Congress and the criminal-justice system also suffering 8% drops. Confidence in the U.S. Supreme Court fell from 46% to 41%. The 22% confidence rating for Congress is its lowest in eight years, and self-identified Republicans have only a slightly more positive view of the institution than do Democrats.

Religious Leaders Urge Congress to Declare That U.S. presence in Iraq is Not Open-ended

Excerpt: In the midst of this turmoil and tragedy, surely we can all agree that the United States does not intend to remain in Iraq indefinitely or establish permanent military bases.
While the situation in Iraq remains volatile and the possibilities of a Western-style democracy appear increasingly remote, President Bush has repeatedly stated that the U.S. has no plans to stay in Iraq.
Therefore, now is an important time for the Congress to go on record with a declaration that it is the policy of the United States not to remain in Iraq. Such a declaration requires no timetable -- it simply establishes that the official policy of our nation is to eventually depart from Iraq.

Federal Panel Backs Texas Redistricting

A three-judge federal court panel Thursday rejected legal challenges to the 2003 congressional redistricting plan that helped lead to a Republican majority in Texas' delegation in Washington.
Democrats and minority interests had challenged the plan, claiming that it was unconstitutional and produced illegal gerrymandering manipulating voting districts to give one party an unfair advantage. They also argued that it bamboozled thousands of minority Texans out of their voting rights.

Shifting Terrorism Charges

The first version of the affidavit released to media organizations Tuesday by the Department of Justice in Washington said potential terrorist targets included hospitals and stores and contained names of key individuals and statements about the international origins of "hundreds" of participants in alleged Al Qaeda terrorist training camps inside Pakistan.
Those details — among the most alarming in the case — were widely reported in the press but then deleted in the final version filed with the federal court in Sacramento on Tuesday.
Federal prosecutors blamed the problem on confusion inside the bureaucracy as different versions circulated between federal offices.
"An unfortunate oversight due to miscommunication," said Justice spokesman Bryan Sierra.

Blogging Out of Straight Camp

"If I do come out straight I'll be so mentally unstable and depressed it wont matter.. I'll be back in therapy again. This is not good--" Teenage boy comes out to parents, sent to straight camp. Refuge, located in Memphis, TN, is a division of Love in Action, Intl, a program created to treat "addictions" like homosexuality. Run by John Smid, parents can ship their kids there in hopes that particular brand of Jesus will cure The Gay. The program's rules are . . . interesting. Kids may be placed in virtual isolation at any time (not allowed to communicate with others except in writing, and only when "absolutely necessary"), must be accompanied by a parent at all times when off-campus (even to the restroom), and undergo a "False Image" search every morning to ensure they are not carrying any articles that may interfere with their "affirmed gender identity". Not that we're supposed to know any of this--the rules are sent to the parents with the note to keep them from the child.
The boy is inside the program now. A protest is being held outside the facility--Cherry Blossom Special covers it here. [from]

Sensenbrenner Cuts Off Testimony on PATRIOT Act

Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., chairman of the panel, abruptly gaveled the meeting to an end and walked out, followed by other Republicans. Sensenbrenner declared that much of the testimony, which veered into debate over the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, was irrelevant.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., protested, raising his voice as his microphone went off, came back on, and went off again.
"We are not besmirching the honor of the United States, we are trying to uphold it," he said.
Democrats asked for the hearing, the 11th the committee has held on the act since April, saying past hearings had been too slanted toward witnesses who supported the law. The four witnesses were from groups, including Amnesty International USA and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, that have questioned the constitutionality of some aspects of the act, which allows law enforcement greater authority to investigate suspected terrorists.
Nadler said Sensenbrenner, one of the authors of the Patriot Act, was "rather rude, cutting everybody off in mid-sentence with an attitude of total hostility."

Evolution Resources From the National Academies

This Web page is designed to provide easy access to books, position statements, and additional resources on evolution education and research. These materials have been produced by the National Academies and other sources. The site will be updated and expanded periodically.

NYC: Push to lower voter age to 16

City Councilwoman Gale Brewer (D-Manhattan) agrees, and intends to launch an uphill crusade to lower the voting age in New York City.
"Sixteen-year-olds are mentally and emotionally capable of voting and are eager to do so, unlike many of their elders," Brewer said in a letter to her Council colleagues advising them that she will introduce a bill today to lower the voting age from 18 to 16 for municipal elections.
Brewer's bill is being spurred by a group called Future Voters of America, which has chapters in about a dozen high schools throughout the city.

Death Row Inmates Award Scholarships To Victims Of Crimes

Students from around the country are receiving scholarships from an unlikely source, death row inmates from around the country.
The inmates have launched a program in an effort to foster reconciliation between death row inmates and family members of murder victims.
The inmates have created a bi-monthly publication called 'Compassion'. All proceeds go to a scholarship fund for family members of murder victims.

Corporate pension funds and their defaults

Companies’ failure to keep their pension promises, experts say, is killing the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, (PBGC) a federal corporation launched in 1974 to insure pension benefits for the nearly 44 million US workers and retirees covered by the plans today.
After being hit hard in 2003 with $9.4 billion in unfunded pension commitments by the struggling steel industry, the PBGC’s obligations currently exceed its assets by $23.3 billion.
And earlier this month, a federal bankruptcy judge cleared the way for United to dump its $10 billion under funded plan on the PBGC, with many workers set to lose as much as half of their allotted pension, creating the largest such default in US history.

CJR: Journalists vs. Doctored Science

Blogger Chris Mooney credits journalists for sticking it to Scott McClellan in the wake of the publication of "internal White House documents that show that a White House official that was formerly a lobbyist for the oil industry has doctored and edited administration scientific reports in ways that consistently emphasize supposed uncertainties about global warming -- uncertainties that the vast consensus of science doesn't think are that severe," as one reporter put it to McClellan.
Mooney, who specializes in science reporting, just wishes he had a way to feed the gaggle the right questions, since they weren't familiar enough with the issues to pin down the evasive McClellan. This morning, Mooney printed the transcript of the exchange, inserting his comments along the way.

Photoshopped Escher Images (93 entries)

Base Ball

Big business urges G8 global warming action

Business representatives of companies including Toyota, BP and Ford, met Tony Blair, UK prime minister, to discuss climate change. Mr Blair has made the issue one of two priorities, along with Africa, for the G8 summit under the UK's chairmanship in Scotland in July.
Steve Lennon, chair of the environment and energy commission of the International Chamber of Commerce, which represents companies in 130 countries, said: “We see a global system of emissions trading as inevitable.”

Psychological warfare effort to be outsourced

The U.S. Special Operations Command has hired three firms to produce newspaper stories, television broadcasts and Web sites to spread American propaganda overseas.
The Tampa-based military headquarters, which oversees commandos and psychological warfare, may spend up to $100 million for the media campaign in the next five years.

"Creatures are out there that can control brains." [pdf]

The women "spent more money on clothes and were consistently rated as more attractive", but were "less trustworthy and had more relationships with men". The men become "less well groomed undesirable loners who were more willing to fight". All "are at greater risk of being involved in car accidents". Why? Something has its tentacles in their brains. They probably got it from that cuddly old species, the domestic cat, which the parasite infects by making infected rats "almost taunt" the cats into eating them.
Parasites in the brain alter their host's behavior. It's not just video game fiction. Various multi-host parasites make their living by making their hosts less ambulatory and less willing to explore, by castrating them and making them less cautious of predators, or by forcing their hosts to stay out all night so as to be eaten in the morning. These parasites offer yet another example of how stupidly clever evolution can be, and raise questions about how free "free will" really is. []

Citigroup to Pay $2 Billion in Enron Lawsuit

The class-action settlement is the biggest in the long-running Enron debacle and one of the largest in corporate history, though less than the $2.58 billion Citigroup agreed to pay WorldCom Inc. investors in 2004.
Analysts said the agreement with Citigroup, the world's largest financial services company, could prompt settlements from other banks facing claims for their roles in Enron's December 2001 collapse.

Spitzer Loses Against Bank of America

A former Bank of America Corp. broker on Thursday was found not guilty of making mutual fund trades after the stock market had closed, a rare blow to New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's campaign against Wall Street misdeeds.
In New York State Supreme Court, a 12-member jury acquitted Ted Sihpol of 29 counts of larceny, securities fraud and falsifying business records after six days of deliberations. The jury deadlocked on four other counts, causing Justice James Yates to declare a mistrial on those charges.
Sihpol, 37, was the only former Bank of America employee criminally charged in Spitzer's sweeping investigation of the mutual fund industry and the first from any firm to go to trial. The Charlotte bank dismissed him shortly after the probe became public in September 2003.

Florida: Teens to be pulled over for good driving

As part of a new program, deputies will be pulling over teens for safe driving and rewarding them with free movie theater and movie rental certificates.

US General: 'Good and honest' Iraqis fighting US forces

A senior US military chief has admitted "good, honest" Iraqis are fighting American forces.
Major General Joseph Taluto said he could understand why some ordinary people would take up arms against the US military because "they're offended by our presence".
In an interview with Gulf News, he said: "If a good, honest person feels having all these Humvees driving on the road, having us moving people out of the way, having us patrol the streets, having car bombs going off, you can understand how they could [want to fight us]."

Celebrity military records go public

From the likes of McQueen to Clark Gable to Joe Louis, the U.S. military has a long history of taking celebrities into its ranks, usually with happy results. Jimmy Stewart, after all, enlisted right after Pearl Harbor and went on to fly 20 combat missions as a command pilot in World War II.
Sometimes, the brass must have wondered whether the famous names were worth the trouble.
When Elvis enlisted in 1957 at the height of his teen-frenzy popularity, a storm of letters swept over Washington. Fans such as Lawrence Grickson and his wife pleaded with first lady Mamie Eisenhower to make the Army return Elvis to the stage.

Pentagon Takes Over the Release of Recruiting Statistics

The Army and Marine Corps, as they struggle with recruiting shortfalls, will no longer announce their monthly recruiting numbers at the beginning of each month.
Instead, the Defense Department will approve the release of recruiting statistics for all four services.
Normally, each service releases its monthly statistics at the beginning of each month, but a spokesman for Marine Corps Recruiting Command said on Wednesday that he was no longer authorized to do so.

House panel pushes defunding of public broadcasting

A House subcommittee voted yesterday to sharply reduce the federal government's financial support for public broadcasting, including eliminating taxpayer funds that help underwrite such popular children's educational programs as "Sesame Street," "Reading Rainbow," "Arthur" and "Postcards From Buster."
In addition, the subcommittee acted to eliminate within two years all federal money for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting -- which passes federal funds to public broadcasters -- starting with a 25 percent reduction in CPB's budget for next year, from $400 million to $300 million.
In all, the cuts would represent the most drastic cutback of public broadcasting since Congress created the nonprofit CPB in 1967. The CPB funds are particularly important for small TV and radio stations and account for about 15 percent of the public broadcasting industry's total revenue.

Government lawyers asked witnesses to soften testimony

Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said the Justice Department's lead trial lawyer called him May 9 to say her superiors wanted him to scale back the recommendations he had made in written testimony. They sought to remove his suggestions for a ban on tobacco company methods of marketing to young people before Myers took the stand. Myers said he refused to do so.
A second witness, scientific expert Michael Eriksen, also departed from recommendations in his earlier written testimony, court documents show. Eriksen declined to comment, but four separate sources familiar with the case said Justice Department lawyers had asked him to do so.
The two men were called by the government as part of its lawsuit, which contends that the nation's largest tobacco companies engaged in a 50-year conspiracy to defraud the public about the dangers and addictiveness of smoking.

US in talks with Iraqi insurgents

American diplomats and army commanders have held indirect talks with insurgents in Iraq, the first officially sanctioned contact between the two sides in two years of violence.
A US embassy official in Baghdad said efforts were under way to "engage" elements of the resistance in an apparent softening of the Bush administration's opposition to negotiations.
"In order to achieve stability and [an] end to the insurgency and stop Iraqis from being killed in large numbers, the insurgency has to be addressed," the official told reporters.

Reid: No documents, no Bolton

Senate Democrats will not allow a vote on President Bush's choice for U.N. ambassador unless the White House hands over records of communications intercepts Bolton sought from the secretive National Security Agency, Minority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday.
"You can't ignore the Senate. We've told them what we've wanted. The ball is in his court," Reid, D-Nevada, told CNN. "If they want John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations, give us this information. If they don't, there will be no Bolton."

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Police: Man Not Beaten for Whistleblowing

An attack on a Los Alamos nuclear lab auditor outside a bar was unrelated to his status as a whistleblower, authorities said Thursday, calling into question the man's allegation that he was beaten to ensure his silence.
Tommy Hook, 52, suffered a broken jaw, a herniated disc and missing teeth in the attack outside the Cheeks nightclub in Santa Fe early Sunday. He has said the beating was carried out by thugs intent on keeping him from talking about alleged financial irregularities at the nuclear lab.
But investigators disputed that account Thursday, saying the attack occurred after Hook's car struck a pedestrian while leaving the club.

Lawmakers want probe in charge White House doctored climate change reports

Two senior US lawmakers called for a congressional probe into charges the White House altered government documents to cast doubt on the generally-accepted scientific consensus about the causes and effects of global warming.
..."We request that the Government Accountability Office investigate the extent to which White House officials and political appointees at federal agencies have interfered with federally funded science on global warming," said Kerry and Waxman.
"Unfortunately, the incidents reported by the Times are simply the latest in a pattern of interference with climate science by the Bush Administration," the Democratic lawmakers said.

A Review of the FBI's Handling of Intelligence Information Related to the September 11 Attacks

[PDF - Redacted] In sum, we found individual and systemiic failings in the FBI's handling of information regarding the Hazmi andMihdhar matter. The FBI had at least five opportunJities to learn about their presence in the United States and to seek to find them before September 11,2001. Much of the cause for these lost opportunities involved systemic problems. We found information sharing problems be_veen the CIA and the FBI and systemic problems within the FBI related to counterterrorism investigations. The systemic problems included inadequate oversight and guidance provided to.FBI detailees at the CIA, the FBI employees' lack of understanding of CIA procedures, the inconsistent documentation of intelligence information received informally by the FBI, the lack of priority given to counterterrorism investigations by the FBI before September 11, and the effect of the wall on FBI criminal investigations.

Winsconsin: Shawano County town errors in Bush vote tally

A clerical error gave President Bush 100 extra votes in last fall’s presidential election in a town of fewer than 800 people.
Shawano County told the state Elections Board of the error Wednesday. The town of Herman originally said 366 votes went to Bush in November, instead of the correct 266, county clerk Rosemary Bohm said.
“Errors happen sometime,” she said.

Animal activists on trial under terrorism law

The defendants are accused of disrupting the business of Huntingdon Life Sciences, or HLS, a UK-based firm with operations in New Jersey that uses animals to test drugs, with the aim of driving it out of business.
U.S. Attorney Charles McKenna told the court the defendants crossed the line on freedom of speech rights and were not content to get their message across by peaceful and legal means.
"They wanted results immediately and at whatever costs," McKenna told the court.
The activists harassed employees of HLS and other companies that did business with it, published their names and addresses on its Web site, threatened their families, and in some cases overturned their cars, according to the indictment.
They are also accused of using mass e-mail to shut down the computer systems of some companies.
Prosecutors charged the six and their organization called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, with violating the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, which was amended in 2002 to include the crime of "animal enterprise terrorism."
Animal enterprise terrorism carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The activists also face charges of conspiracy and interstate stalking, which carry $250,000 fines each.

Abuse Cost for Catholic Dioceses Tops $1B

And the figure is guaranteed to rise, probably by tens of millions of dollars, because hundreds more claims are pending.
Dioceses around the country have spent at least $1.06 billion on settlements with victims, verdicts, legal fees, counseling and other expenses since 1950, the AP found. A $120 million compensation fund announced last week by the Diocese of Covington, Ky., pushed the figure past the billion-dollar mark.
A large share of the costs — at least $378 million — have been incurred in just the past three years, when the crisis erupted in the Boston Archdiocese and spread nationwide.

War swells US army divorce rate

The number of US army officers getting divorced has soared in the past few years, the Pentagon says, a trend blamed on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2004 the rate of divorce was more than three times as high as in 2002, figures showed.
"The stressors are extreme in the officer corps, especially when we're at war," an army spokeswoman said.

House Judiciary Democrats to hold hearings on Downing Street minutes

The hearings, which will be held next Thursday, will bring renewed attention to what is being called the "Downing Street memo," actually official minutes of a secret 2002 meeting.
Conyers office has revealed that they will introduce new documents that corroborate the Downing Street Memo at the hearings June 16.
...Among those scheduled to testify are Joe Wilson, former ambassador and weapons of mass destruction expert; Ray McGovern, a 27-year CIA analyst, used to do presidential daily briefings for Ronald Reagan; Cindy Sheehan, a mother who lost her son in Iraq combat; and John Bonifaz, the Boston constitutional lawyer who has called for a resolution of inquiry into what he sees as impeachable offenses in the president's false pretenses for war.

Protesting Journalists Arrested in Nepal

Police arrested 53 journalists Wednesday as they protested press restrictions in this Himalayan nation where the king seized absolute power earlier this year, a media rights group said.

Chicago Declares 'Roger Ebert Day'

July 12 will be "Roger Ebert Day" in Chicago, the City Council declared in a proclamation honoring the Chicago Sun-Times movie critic.
Presiding over the council Wednesday, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley said, "I move the adoption of the resolution with a thumb's up."
A plaque honoring Ebert will be placed under the Chicago Theater marquee made famous from the opening of the old "Untouchables" TV show.
"You may have a Walk of Fame in Hollywood, but everyday you truly represent what is best of the Chicago skyline and what is best of our great history," Daley told Ebert during the council meeting. Later this summer, Ebert will get a star on the famed Hollywood Boulevard sidewalk.

APME Study: Nationwide, Newspapers Frown on Anonymous Sourcing

The use of anonymous sources -- people who give reporters information only on condition that their identities not be divulged -- has been much in the news recently, notably in a case that prompted a Newsweek magazine retraction. The issue came up again last week with the disclosure that Deep Throat, The Washington Post's legendary Watergate source, had been an FBI official.
The Associated Press and the Associated Press Managing Editors association decided to jointly survey American newspapers to find out what their practices are. The project, believed to be the most comprehensive of its kind conducted in recent years, drew replies from 419 publications -- about 28 percent of the nation's 1,450 daily newspapers.
Editors at 103 papers, nearly all of them in small and mid-size markets, said they do not ever permit reporters to cite anonymous sources in their articles.
Newspapers that do allow use of unnamed sources include those based in large cities and operating bureaus overseas or in Washington, where requests by sources for anonymity occur often. Most of these papers say they have formal policies intended to minimize the reliance on anonymity.

Fresh Air: The White Stripes

Guitarist and vocalist Jack White and drummer Meg White make up the band the White Stripes. The duo hails from Detroit. Their long-anticipated new album is Get Behind Me Satan. The first track, "Blue Orchid," was a hit before the album was even released.
Reviewers have written glowingly about the record, lauding its modern take on blues-punk guitar and a folk-rock sensibility. The Stripes' fixation on vintage equipment and time-tested techniques is also evident.
[Link inlcudes audio of interview and three tracks from new album.]

From 2002: Slavery alive in Florida agriculture industry

Federal Anti-Municipal Wi-Fi Bill Introduced

A Texas Congressman has introduced a bill that impose a nationwide prohibition on municipally-sponsored networks.
Dubbed by the Author, Representative Pet Sessions (R-Texas) [big SBC recipient], the Preserving Innovation in Telecom Act of 2005, the bill prohibits state and local governments from providing any telecommunications or information service that is "substantially similar" to services provided by private companies.
The bill, HR 2726, is similar to a host of state bills pushed by telecommunications companies aimed at fending off municipally-run wireless networks. Some of those bills, most recently one in Texas, have been stalled in state legislatures. [from]

Pfizer Executive Says Company Shut Off E-Mail, Phone Over His Public Endorsements of Drug Imports

A Pfizer Inc. executive said his employer's campaign to freeze him out because of his public support for importing cheaper drugs from abroad intensified after his appearance Sunday on the CBS show "60 Minutes."
Dr. Peter Rost, a Pfizer vice president of marketing, said he found on Monday that he could no longer use his corporate e-mail account or cell phone. Rost said the e-mail was restored on Tuesday after media calls to Pfizer asking about Rost's employment status.
Rost added that late last year his two supervisors told him that he no longer reported to them but refused to identify his new boss.

Photo Essay — Fallujah: An Unnatural Disaster

Read the entire report, Fallujah: An Unnatural Disaster

Journalists Find Chemical Plants Insecure

A May 22 New York Times editorial reported on these gaping security holes surrounding chemical plants that use large quantities of the most hazardous substances.
Unfortunately, the example used by the Times is neither the first one nor an isolated case. The Working Group on Community Right-to-Know, an OMB Watch project, has compiled nearly 20 similar news stories from across the country detailing more than 60 instances of chemical plant security failing to keep out uninvited reporters, thieves and security test personnel.
Despite these examples, the chemical industry continues to oppose any federal legislation for chemical plant security and risk reduction, maintaining instead that companies can best ensure the public safety if left alone.

The Onion: Bush Lifts Ban on Vigilantism

"Groups of dedicated citizens who band together for a common cause—be it rounding up car thieves or castigating suspicious loiterers—strengthen and reinforce the social order," Bush said at a White House press conference. "I've never supported government intrusion in people's lives; I've always put more faith in the private sector. So I say, what the heck! Let's give vigilantism a go and see how things shake out. Why not?"

Melting permafrost pulls plug on Arctic lakes

Thousands of Arctic lakes are disappearing as a result of global warming. The normally frozen soil, or permafrost, that makes the lake beds watertight is thawing, allowing the water to drain away. The loss of these lakes could endanger native plants and animals, as well as many species of migratory birds that breed and nest around them. It could also threaten the livelihood of people who use the lakes for hunting and fishing.
The Arctic is warming faster than any other region on Earth. Normally its ice sheets reflect much of the sunlight that falls on them back into space, but they are receding and exposing the land and sea underneath. The darker land and sea absorb more light than ice and so heat up even more, causing the ice to melt still faster.

Confirmed Judicial Nominee Believes Liberalism Leads to Slavery

Janice Rogers Brown, the African-American daughter of Alabama sharecroppers who was confirmed Wednesday to the federal appeals court here, often invokes slavery in describing what she sees as the perils of liberalism.
"In the heyday of liberal democracy, all roads lead to slavery," she has warned in speeches. Society and the courts have turned away from the founders' emphasis on personal responsibility, she has argued, toward a culture of government regulation and dependency that threatens fundamental freedoms.
"We no longer find slavery abhorrent," she told the conservative Federalist Society a few years ago. "We embrace it." She explained in another speech, "If we can invoke no ultimate limits on the power of government, a democracy is inevitably transformed into a kleptocracy - a license to steal, a warrant for oppression."

Ohio GOP Scandal Spreading

The $215 million loss - coupled with a failed $50 million rare-coin investment with Tom Noe, a prominent Republican campaign contributor - have given Democrats political ammunition against the GOP, which has dominated state government for years.
Democrats such as Miss Kaptur and U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown of Lorain say the latest scandals mirror problems in Washington and even call into question the results of the 2004 presidential election.

Congress Moves to Cut U.N. Funding in Half

In a move virtually certain to add to strains between the U.S. Congress and the United Nations, the International Relations Committee (HIRC) of the House of Representatives Wednesday approved a sweeping bill that, if passed into law, will require Washington to withhold up to half of assessed U.S. contributions to the world body unless it implements specific reforms.
Among other ”reforms,” The United Nations Reform Act of 2005, which is expected to be approved on the House floor next week, would also require the U.N. to fund most of its programs through voluntary contributions, rather than mandatory dues from its 191 member-states, and enable Washington to pick and choose those programs it wished to fund.
It would also require the U.N. to set up a number of new oversight boards to investigate the U.N. bureaucracy and specific agencies, as well as adopt new rules that would bar alleged human rights violators from serving the U.N. Human Rights Commission.
And it would withhold U.S. support for new or expanded U.N. peacekeeping operations until specific reforms are implemented.

UN alert as nuclear plans go missing

Electronic drawings that give comprehensive details of how to build and test equipment essential for making nuclear bombs have vanished and could be put up for sale on the international black market, according to UN investigators.
The blueprints, running to hundreds of pages, show how to make centrifuges for enriching uranium. In addition, the investigators have been unable to trace key components for uranium centrifuge rigs and fear that drawings for a nuclear warhead have been secreted away and could be for sale.

U.S.-led forces in Iraq hold 6,000 prisoners -UN

Thousands of people are detained in Iraq without due process in apparent violation of international law, the United Nations said on Wednesday, adding that 6,000 of the country's 10,000 prisoners were in the hands of the U.S. military.
In Iraq, "one of the major human rights challenges remains the detention of thousands of persons without due process," Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a report to the 15-nation U.N. Security Council.

Texas governor suggests gay veterans should leave state

Texas Gov. Rick Perry suggested that gay veterans unhappy with the proposed anti-gay constitutional amendment should move elsewhere.
"I'm going to say Texas has made a decision on marriage and if there's a state with more lenient views than Texas, then maybe that's where they should live," the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Perry said Sunday.
Perry's comments were in response to a question during a news conference about what he would tell gay war veterans returning from Iraq.
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a group for gays in the military, today joined calls by the Lesbian & Gay Rights Lobby of Texas for Perry to apologize.

Front-Runner for Public Broadcast Agency Job Is Former GOP Chair

A former co-chairman of the Republican National Committee is the leading candidate to take over the agency that funds public broadcasting, sparking new concerns among broadcasters about conservative influence over National Public Radio and Public Broadcasting Service programming.
Patricia de Stacy Harrison, a high-ranking official at the State Department, is one of two candidates for the top job at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and is the favored candidate of the CPB's chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, according to people close to the search. The CPB is a congressionally chartered agency that directs taxpayer funds to PBS, NPR and hundreds of radio and TV stations.

MoveOn Joins Downing Street Petition Drive - Seeking Half Million Signatures

"Today, I am pleased to announce that, one of the pioneers in internet activism has joined our drive to demonstrate that the stonewalling of the White House on the Downing Street Minutes will not stand. We deserve answers and we deserve them now," Conyers said in a statement.
"Given Moveon's involvement, I think we can go for half a million signatures, don't you?"
MoveOn's link.

DeLay Investigator Tied to Lobbyist

The lawmaker who will head a House inquiry into trips that lobbyist Jack Abramoff arranged for Tom DeLay has his own links to the lobbyist.
At one point, Abramoff touted Rep. Doc Hastings' relationship with his firm in a pitch to a prospective client.
As chairman of the House ethics committee, Hastings, R-Wash., could play a big role in determining DeLay's future. DeLay, the House majority leader, has asked the panel to review his travels, which include trips arranged by Abramoff while the lobbyist worked for the Seattle-based Preston Gates firm.

Ethics Committee Delayed over DeLay

A dispute between the parties has shut down the House ethics committee for the second time this year, and lawmakers said that it could be months -- and perhaps next year -- before the panel will decide whether to examine the activities of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) or others accused of violating restrictions on lobbying and travel.
DeLay has retained Richard Cullen of Richmond, a former U.S. attorney and Virginia attorney general, to represent him in dealings with the ethics committee and, if necessary, the Justice Department.

Bush Administration Defends Former Oil Industry Advocate Who Changed Climate Reports

The Bush administration said Wednesday that changes made in government reports on global warming by a former oil industry advocate were part of a normal interagency review and did not violate a pledge to base environmental policy on sound science.
"The facts point out that our reports are based on the best scientific knowledge and they're based on the inputs of scientists," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.

Oil Lobbyist Becomes White House Climate Science Editor

In a lengthy memo Rick S. Piltz, a former senior associate in the Climate Change Science Program, revealed that U.S. government climate research reports had been edited by a White House official, Philip A. Cooney, to emphasize doubts about climate change. According to Piltz's memo Cooney, a former "climate team leader" and lobbyist with the American Petroleum Institute, changed one 2002 document to "create an enhanced sense of scientific uncertainty about climate change and its implications." In March this year Piltz resigned and subsequently contacted the Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower protection organization. A white House spokeswoman, Michele St. Martin, told the New York Times that Cooney would not be available to speak to reporters. "He's not a cleared spokesman," she said. Myron Ebell from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a corporate-funded think tank, defended the editing as necessary for "consistency."

"Simpsons" Movie in Pre-Production

The Simpsons movie is off the drawing board and in preproduction.
"You know what? We've just done the table read for The Simpsons movie, so although we've been promoting that we're going to do it, now we're actually doing it and are in production," Nancy Cartwright, who gives voice to Bart Simpson, told BBC Radio 1 this week.

Smile for the Google 3D mapping truck

Google plans to use trucks equipped with lasers and digital photographic equipment to create a realistic 3D online version of San Francisco, and eventually other major US cities.
The move would trump Amazon's A9 service, which offers two-dimensional photos of buildings on US city streets.
The trucks would drive along every San Francisco street using the lasers to measure the dimensions of buildings, to create a 3D framework onto which digital photos can be mapped. This would complement the mostly top-down view of San Francisco available through Google's Keyhole satellite photo application.
The goal is to create similar 3D online versions of other cities in the US and overseas.

Nixon's conversations with Deep Throat as MP3 torrent

This ZIP file contains three MP3s of conversations from the Nixon Tapes involving FBI official Mark Felt, who was recently unmasked as 'Deep Throat.'
- a May 1972 phone call between Nixon and Felt on the attempted assassination of George Wallace

- an October 1972 conversation in which Bob Haldeman tells Nixon that Felt is responsible for the FBI leaks

- an April 1973 phone call in which Nixon rejects the suggestion that Felt be named Acting Director of the FBI

These materials are reproduced from with the permission of the National Security Archive. For more information on the Nixon Tapes, go
For more torrents of government documents, go here.
PRODIGEM torrent details page.
Torrent Link

China Orders All Web Sites, Blogs to Register or Be Shut Down

Commercial publishers and advertisers can face fines of up to 1 million yuan ($120,000) for failing to register, according to documents posted on the Web site of the Ministry of Information Industry.
Private, noncommercial bloggers or Web sites must register the complete identity of the person responsible for the site, it said. The ministry, which has set a June 30 deadline for compliance, said 74 percent of all sites had already registered.
"The Internet has profited many people but it also has brought many problems, such as sex, violence and feudal superstitions and other harmful information that has seriously poisoned people's spirits," the MII Web site said in explaining the rules, which were quietly introduced in March.

E&P Confab Kicks Off With Panel on Blogs and Journalism

The panel, moderated by E&P Editor Greg Mitchell, featured of three executives from the mainstream: Joshua Jennings Moss, managing editor of; Jeff Pelline, editor of CNET; and the Spokesman-Review's Sands -- along with one not-so-mainstream executive, Nick Denton, publisher of Gawker Media, the company behind such popular blogs as Gawker, Wonkette, and Defamer.
"The media needs to be more aggressive, because bloggers are coming at us," said Moss of Fox News. "Bloggers are aggressive, and the mainstream media needs to be more aggressive back."
Denton, the lightning rod on the panel, seemed perplexed by the notion that blogs are at war with traditional media. "I don't understand why newspapers are so scared," he said. "It's been presented as a battle to the death, like Israel and Palestine. But it's more like the United States and Canada." While he thinks blogs and traditional media can work together, he doesn't think newspapers should dive in with their own blog offerings: "I don't think traditional media does blogs very well."

Between Iraq and a safe place

"If I smell like I lived here in America, I’m dead. No question about it," the Iraq native says.
Yousif, 30, is among about 600 Iraqi Christians living in the Detroit area who are facing deportation to their war-torn homeland. Yousif came to this country five years ago seeking refuge from the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. By that point, Iraq’s minority Christian population — Chaldeans and Assyrians who speak the ancient Aramaic language — and other non-Arabs had suffered for decades under a program known as "Arabization." Many were forced from their homes and relocated; others had to change their names as part of an attempt to undermine their cultural identity.
Yousif says he sustained an even harsher fate, claiming he was tortured by government agents after initially refusing to join Saddam’s ruling Ba’ath Party. He fled shortly afterward, and was smuggled through Turkey and South America before entering this country illegally in 2000. He’s been seeking asylum here ever since.
Now, with Hussein sitting in a jail cell and a new government elected, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is trying to deport Yousif and other Iraqi Christians seeking asylum. There are no figures indicating how many such people nationwide are being affected.

Old South racism lives in Texas town

On a cool September night in 2003, they drove the 42-year-old mentally retarded black man to a cow pasture where a crowd of white youths was having a party. They got Johnson drunk, they made him dance, they jeered at him with racial epithets.
Then, according to court testimony, one of Johnson's assailants punched him in the face, knocking him out cold. They tossed his unconscious body into the back of a pickup and dumped him by the side of a dirt road, on top of a mound of stinging fire ants.
Johnson, who family members say functioned at the level of a 12-year-old before the attack, was in a coma for a week. He suffered a brain hemorrhage that slurred his speech, weakened his legs and deprived him of his ability to take care of himself. His body was covered with hundreds of painful ant bites.
Today he lives on public assistance, confined to a nursing home in nearby Texarkana, where his family fears he will have to remain for the rest of his life.
The four young white men convicted of various charges in the incident are confined in the county jail, but not for long. A judge last month sentenced three of the four to terms of 30 days in jail, and the fourth to 60 days.
Even that, however, was more than the jurors who heard two of the cases thought appropriate: They acquitted the defendants of the most serious charges and recommended no jail time at all.

Tulsa zoo to feature creationism display

The vote came after more than two hours of public comment from a standing-room-only crowd.
Zoo employees, religious leaders and others spoke in opposition, saying religion shouldn't be part of the taxpayer-funded scientific institution.
But those who favored the creationist exhibit, including Mayor Bill LaFortune, argued that the zoo already displayed religious items, including the statue of the Hindu god, Ganesh, outside the elephant exhibit and a marble globe inscribed with an American Indian saying: "The earth is our mother. The sky is our father."

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Texas Man Gets Life Sentence for Performing "Back Alley" Abortion

A 19-year-old accused of causing his teenage girlfriend to miscarry two fetuses by stepping on her stomach was convicted Monday of two counts of murder.
Gerardo Flores received an automatic life sentence because prosecutors did not seek the death penalty, which was available under the state's 2003 fetus protection law.
Erica Basoria, 17, acknowledged asking Flores to help end her pregnancy; she could not be prosecuted because of her legal right to abortion.
The defense contended that Basoria punched herself while Flores was stepping on her, making it impossible to tell who caused the miscarriage.

Arms Fiascoes Lead to Alarm Inside Pentagon

[A]fter years of failing to control cost overruns, the most powerful officials at the Pentagon are becoming increasingly alarmed that the machinery for building weapons is breaking down under its own weight.
"Something's wrong with the system," Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld recently told Congress.
The Pentagon has more than 80 major new weapons systems under development, which is "a lot more programs than we can afford," a senior Air Force official, Blaise J. Durante, said. Their combined cost, already $300 billion over budget, is $1.47 trillion and climbing.

US scientists pile on pressure over climate change

US scientists have increased the pressure on George Bush and other world leaders to tackle climate change by signing a joint statement calling on G8 nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The statement, from the science academies of the G8 countries, says the scientific evidence on climate change is now clear enough to compel their leaders to take action.
It says: "There is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring. It is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities...
"The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action. It is vital that all nations identify cost-effective steps that they can take now, to contribute to substantial and long-term reduction in net global greenhouse gas emissions."
The statement has been issued ahead of the G8 summit in Gleneagles in July. It follows months of negotiations between the UK's Royal Society, which published it yesterday, and the other academies.

U.S. Limits Prosecutions Under Privacy Law

The Justice Department has decided that most health care employees can't be prosecuted for stealing personal data under a privacy law intended to protect medical information.
The ruling could jeopardize the lone conviction obtained under medical privacy rules that took effect in 2003 and could stop federal prosecutors from pursuing some of the more than 13,000 complaints that have been filed alleging violations of those rules.

White House sought advice from Exxon on Kyoto stance

President's George Bush's decision not to sign the United States up to the Kyoto global warming treaty was partly a result of pressure from ExxonMobil, the world's most powerful oil company, and other industries, according to US State Department papers seen by the Guardian.
The documents, which emerged as Tony Blair visited the White House for discussions on climate change before next month's G8 meeting, reinforce widely-held suspicions of how close the company is to the administration and its role in helping to formulate US policy.
In briefing papers given before meetings to the US under-secretary of state, Paula Dobriansky, between 2001 and 2004, the administration is found thanking Exxon executives for the company's "active involvement" in helping to determine climate change policy, and also seeking its advice on what climate change policies the company might find acceptable.
Other papers suggest that Ms Dobriansky should sound out Exxon executives and other anti-Kyoto business groups on potential alternatives to Kyoto.

25% of Americans mentally ill, says government-sponsored study

"We lead the world in a lot of good things, but we're also leaders in this one particular domain that we'd rather not be," said Ronald Kessler, the Harvard professor of health care policy who led the effort, called the National Comorbidity Survey Replication.
The exhaustive government-sponsored effort, based on in-depth interviews with more than 9,000 randomly selected Americans, finds that the prevalence of U.S. mental illness has remained roughly flat in the past decade -- a possible glimmer of hope given that previous decades had suggested the rates were gradually rising.
[Kessler has written numerous books about the Federal government including the glowing portrayal of G.W. Bush, "A Matter of Character." This is a good story to track. It will likely be used to support Bush's dubious TeenScreen program. -- McLir]

In terrorism fight, government finds a surprising ally: FedEx

FedEx has opened the international portion of its databases, including credit-card details, to government officials. It has created a police force recognized by the state of Tennessee that works alongside the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The company has rolled out radiation detectors at overseas facilities to detect dirty bombs and donated an airplane to federal researchers looking for a defense against shoulder-fired missiles.
Moreover, the company is encouraging its 250,000 employees to be spotters of would-be terrorists. It is setting up a system designed to send reports of suspicious activities directly to the Department of Homeland Security via a special computer link.

WorldNet: Bush urged 'Never apologize' to Muslims - Cue from John Wayne Movie

Some members of the Bush administration have taken a cue from a classic John Wayne Western and are advising their boss to take the film's advice – "Never apologize" – when dealing with Muslims, reports geopolitical analysts Jack Wheeler.
In a column on his intelligence website, To the Point, Wheeler explains Wayne's "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon," made in 1948, though lesser known than many of the star's films, includes what's been called one of the top 100 movie quotes of all time.

What Was the Largest Man-Made Explosion Before the Atomic Bomb?

Thursday, December 6, 1917, dawned bright and clear in Halifax. World War I raged in Europe, and the port city was busy with the movement of war ships carrying troops, relief supplies and munitions.
Around eight that morning, the Belgian relief ship Imo left its mooring in Bedford Basin and headed for open sea. At about the same time, the French ship Mont Blanc was heading up the harbour to moor, awaiting a convoy to accompany her across the Atlantic. A convoy was essential; this small, barely seaworthy vessel was carrying a full cargo of explosives. Stored in the holds, or simply stacked on deck, were 35 tons of benzol, 300 rounds of ammunition, 10 tons of gun cotton, 2,300 tons of picric acid (used in explosives), and 400,000 pounds of TNT. More... [thanks, Al]

Using Social Networking to Explore Enron Emails

This project attempts to take the first steps toward such an exploratory data environment for e-mail corpora, using the Enron e-mail corpus as a motivating data set. The interface--currently named "enronic"--unifies information visualization techniques with various algorithms for processing the e-mail corpus, including social network inference, message categorization, and community analysis. Though still in a developmental phase, enronic shows promise as a platform for more tightly coupling manual and automated data analysis.

Study: ChoicePoint and Acxiom Woeful Error Rates

This study examined the quality of data provided by ChoicePoint and Acxiom, two of the largest consumer data brokers in the United States, as well as their responsiveness to consumer requests – and found significant areas of concern in both areas.
100% of the reports given out by ChoicePoint had at least one error in them. Error rates for basic biographical data (including information people had to submit in order to receive their reports) fared almost as badly: Acxiom had an error rate of 67% and ChoicePoint had an error rate of 73%. In other words, the majority of participants had at least one such significant error in their reported biographical data from each data broker.

Beethoven's Symphonies Free from the BBC

Download all nine of Beethoven's symphonies here the day after they are broadcast. All the symphonies are performed by BBC Philharmonic, conducted by Gianandrea Noseda.

Downloads icon Download Symphony 1 (29 MB)
Downloads icon Download Symphony 2
Downloads icon Download Symphony 3 (51 MB)
Downloads icon Download Symphony 4
Downloads icon Download Symphony 5

Bush Responds to Downing Street Memo

BUSH: Well, you know, I read, kind of, the characterizations of the memo, particularly when they dropped it out in the middle of his race. I'm not sure who "they dropped it out" is, but I'm not suggesting that you all dropped it out there. (LAUGHTER) And somebody said, "Well, you know, we had made up our mind to go to use military force to deal with Saddam."
There's nothing farther from the truth. My conversations with the prime minister was how could we do this peacefully, what could we do. And this meeting, evidently it took place in London, happened before we even went to the United Nations -- or I went to the United Nations. And so it's -- look, both of us didn't want to use our military.
Nobody wants to commit military into combat. That's the last option. The consequences of committing the military are very difficult. You know, one of the hardest things I do as the president is to try to comfort families who've lost a loved one in combat.
It's the last option that the president must have, and it's the last option I know my friend had as well. And so we worked hard to see if we could figure how to do this peacefully, to put a united front up to Saddam Hussein, so the world speaks. And he ignored the world. Remember, 1441 passed the Security Council unanimously. He made the decision. And the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power.

What Did Bush Decide and When Did He Decide It?

The Downing Street Memo reported that in a July 23, 2002 meeting between Prime Minister Blair and his war cabinet, attendees of the meeting discussed the fact that President Bush had already made up his mind to attack Iraq. According to the minutes of the meeting:

“There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action.”

Yet, as the record below proves, President Bush claimed over and over after July 23rd until the war began that he had not made up his mind.
Bush: “Of course, I haven’t made up my mind we’re going to war with Iraq.” [10/1/02]
More quotes.

Justice Department Drastically Reduces Penalties Against Tobacco in Closing Arguments for Landmark Case

Justice Department lawyer Stephen D. Brody shocked tobacco company representatives and anti-tobacco activists by announcing that the government will not seek the $130 billion that a government expert had testified was necessary to fund smoking-cessation programs. Instead, Brody said, the Justice Department will ask tobacco companies to pay $10 billion over five years to help millions of Americans quit smoking.
Before it was cut, the cessation program was the most significant financial penalty still available to the government as part of its litigation, which had been the largest civil racketeering and conspiracy case in U.S. history. The government contended that six tobacco companies engaged in a 50-year conspiracy to defraud and addict smokers and then conceal the dangers of cigarettes.
"We were very surprised," said Dan Webb, lawyer for Altria Group's Philip Morris USA and the coordinating attorney in the case. "They've gone down from $130 billion to $10 billion with absolutely no explanation. It's clear the government hasn't thought through what it's doing."

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Carter: Close down Guantanamo

In addition to closing Guantanamo Bay and two dozen other secret detention facilities, the former president said the United States needs to make sure no detainees are held incommunicado and that they all be told the charges against them.
His other recommendations included that the U.S. stop transferring detainees to foreign countries where torture has been reported and that an independent commission be created to investigate where terrorism suspects are held in U.S. custody.
Carter also said the United States should reaffirm its commitment to due process and to international law and assure that the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners and the Convention Against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment, including during interrogations, are enforced.

Bush Administration Edited Global Warming Report

A White House official who once led the oil industry's fight against limits on greenhouse gases has repeatedly edited government climate reports in ways that play down links between such emissions and global warming, according to internal documents.
In handwritten notes on drafts of several reports issued in 2002 and 2003, the official, Philip A. Cooney, removed or adjusted descriptions of climate research that government scientists and their supervisors, including some senior Bush administration officials, had already approved.
Mr. Cooney is chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the office that helps devise and promote administration policies on environmental issues. Before coming to the White House in 2001, he was the "climate team leader" and a lobbyist at the American Petroleum Institute, the largest trade group representing the interests of the oil industry. A lawyer with a bachelor's degree in economics, he has no scientific training.
The documents were obtained by The New York Times from the Government Accountability Project, a nonprofit legal-assistance group for government whistle-blowers. The project is representing Rick S. Piltz, who resigned in March after a decade working in the office that coordinates government climate research and issued the documents that Mr. Cooney edited.
Link to images of hand-edited documents.

Absurd Hysteria over Internet Porn

Internet pornography is the new crack cocaine, leading to addiction, misogyny, pedophilia, boob jobs and erectile dysfunction, according to clinicians and researchers testifying before a Senate committee Thursday.
Witnesses before the Senate Commerce Committee's Science, Technology and Space Subcommittee spared no superlative in their description of the negative effects of pornography.
Mary Anne Layden, co-director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Cognitive Therapy, called porn the "most concerning thing to psychological health that I know of existing today."
[Does Mary Anne know there is a war going on?]

New Synaptic Junction Weekly is Now Posted

Animal rights activists face trial under terror law

New Jersey is using an anti-terrorism law for the first time to try six animal rights activists charged with harassing and vandalizing a company that made use of animals to test its drugs.
Prosecutors say the activists, who will stand trial next week, used threats, intimidation and cyber attacks against employees of Huntingdon Life Sciences, a British company with operations in East Millstone, New Jersey, with the intention of driving it out of business.
The six, members of a group called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), are charged under the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, amended in 2002 to include "animal enterprise terrorism," which outlaws disrupting firms like Huntingdon.
If convicted, the group and its accused members face a maximum $250,000 fine and three years in prison.

Enough To Make You SAIC

Last week it was announced that the crucial $581 million overhaul of the FBI’s computer system hit a major snag: it doesn’t work. Called “Virtual Case File,” the software was intended to aid in coordinating the agency’s antiterrorism measures, but “the bureau is so convinced that [it] will not work” that it has already started preparing to reopen the bidding process for new contractors to design new software. The software was designed by the Science Applications International Corp (SAIC), which will pocket a cool $100 million, even thought their software was a bust. Here’s a little more about this company, which in 2003 pulled in $5.4 billion in government revenue.
...Although SAIC paid their executives in Iraq $273 an hour and security officers up to $1000 a day, they paid the Iraqis they hired as news anchors as little as $60 a month. When the Iraqis pointed out that wasn’t even enough to pay for decent clothes to wear on air, SAIC agreed to pay to dress them…but only from the waist up.
...The Players:
Adm. William Owens, former SAIC president and CEO, became an influential member of Sec. Rumsfeld’s Defense Policy Board
Christopher Henry, former senior vice president at SAIC, became a key aide to Douglas Feith, who was in charge of supervising contract work done by SAIC in Iraq.
Gen. Wayne Downing, SAIC board member, became the chief counterterrorism expert at the National Security Council. Also a lobbyist for disgraced Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress, he was a vocal advocate for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Quantum cryptography network gets wireless link

The world's first quantum encryption computer network has been expanded to include a wireless link that uses quantum communications codes.
Most modern cryptography rests upon the difficulty of solving very complex mathematical problems used to encrypt data. This makes it theoretically vulnerable to being hacked using dramatic mathematical or computing breakthroughs. By contrast, quantum cryptography near guarantees communications security, using quirks of quantum physics to thwart eavesdropping attempts.

Lobbyists Decry Entitlement Culture in D.C.

An alleged sense of entitlement among some lawmakers and aides is raising hackles on K Street.
Speaking to The Hill on condition of anonymity, more than a dozen lobbyists said there are some on Capitol Hill who actively solicit lunches, drinks and other favors from K Street and seem to regard it as their personal expense account.
“The arrogance that brought Republicans into power is arrogance that will take them out of power, and that’s what you see more of on the Hill,” said a former GOP aide-turned-corporate lobbyist.

The Politics of Open Source Adoption

This wiki is an invitation to collaborate on a real-time history and analysis of the politics of open source software adoption. The Social Science Research Council is pleased to offer a first version of this account—POSA 1.0. For our purposes, understanding the ‘politics of adoption’ means stepping back from the task of explaining or justifying Free and/or Open Source Software (F/OSS) in order to ask how increasingly canonical explanations and justifications are mobilized in different political contexts. POSA 1.0 tries to map the different kinds of political and institutional venues in which F/OSS adoption is at stake. It tries to understand important institutional actors within those venues, and the ways in which arguments for and against F/OSS are framed and advanced. It seeks to clarify the different opportunities and constraints facing F/OSS adoption in different sectors and parts of the world. It is an inevitably partial account that--we hope--can be extended and deepened by other participants in these processes. We would like your help in preparing POSA 2.0

David Byrne on what phonograms mean and will mean

Today in David Byrne's journal, a long, amazing meditation on the history of the experience of music, from the birth of the phonogram and the fear that it would end music forever, to the phonogram's death in the face of Internet copying and the fear that music will end forever -- all from the point of view of one of my all-time heros, a giant of music, composition and performance.
Record collectors and consumers often view music as something that is inseparable from the object on which it resides. But if the digital world has taught us anything, it is that the musical information on CDs is anything but inseparable. The two things come apart quite easily, making the value of the delivery object fairly questionable.
So when music as a product, as a consumable object, is subverted and undermined by technology and by its own success, then maybe we have come full circle. Maybe if music is no longer seen as an object, but as pure information, data, sound waves, then the object becomes at best a mere delivery device, and we're back to viewing music as an experience, albeit still one that other people produce.

Emails Show Defese/Boeing Contact was a "Bailout"

"We all know that this is a bailout for Boeing," Ronald G. Garant, an official of the Pentagon comptroller's office, said in a message to two others in his office and then-Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Wayne A. Schroeder. "Why don't we just bite the bullet," he asked, and handle the acquisition like the procurement of a 1970s-era aircraft -- by squeezing the manufacturer to provide a better tanker at a decent cost?
"We didn't need those aircraft either, but we didn't screw the taxpayer in the process," Garant added, referring to widespread sentiment at the Pentagon that the proposed lease of Boeing 767s would cost too much for a plane with serious shortcomings.

GM Plans to Cut 25,000 U.S. Jobs by 2008

Speaking to shareholders at GM's 97th annual shareholder meeting in Delaware, Chairman and Chief Executive Rick Wagoner said the capacity and job cuts should generate annual savings of roughly $2.5 billion. GM now employs 111,000 hourly workers in the United States.

Sen. Kennedy speaks out on Downing Street Memo

The contents of the Downing Street Minutes confirm that the Bush Administration was determined to go to war in Iraq, regardless of whether there was any credible justification for doing so. The Administration distorted and misrepresented the intelligence in its attempt to link Saddam Hussein with the terrorists of 9/11 and Osama bin Laden, and with weapons of mass destruction that Iraq did not have.
In addition, the Downing Street Minutes also confirm what has long been obvious – that the timing of the war was linked to the 2002 Congressional elections, and that the Administration’s planning for post-war Iraq was incompetent in all its aspects. The current continuing crisis is a direct result of that incompetence.

Prison Riot at Abu Graib

Dozens of Iraqi prisoners rioted against guards in the United States-run Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad and pelted them with stones, the American military said on Tuesday.
The incident started when one prisoner tried to escape under cover of darkness on Sunday night, aided by a violent sandstorm.
The escapee was recaptured by guards, the army said, "after which prisoners in various parts of the prison started to throw stones onto portable light generators and at prison guards".