Saturday, June 25, 2005

Bipartisan Outrage over Rove Comments

During a June 22 speech before the New York Conservative Party, Rove stated: "Conservatives saw the savagery of 9-11 and the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9-11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers."
In response to Rove's comments, Families of September 11 issued a statement that called the comments "divisive," "offensive" and "not welcome":

As families whose relatives were victims of the 9/11 terror attacks, we believe it is an outrage that any Democrat, any Republican, any conservative or any liberal, stakes a "high ground" position based upon the September 11th death and destruction. Doing so assumes that all those who died and their loved ones would agree. In truth, some would and some would not. By definition the conduct is divisive and, because it is intended to be self-serving and politicizes 9/11, it is offensive.
We are calling on Karl Rove to resist his temptations and stop trying to reap political gain in the tragic misfortune of others. His comments are not welcome.

The Web's Largest Collection of Cliches, Euphamisms, Sayings and Figures of Speech

Commentary: The Art of 'Manufacturing Uncertainty'

To many scientists and policymakers in Washington, the revelation this month that Philip Cooney, chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, had rewritten a federal report to magnify the level of uncertainty on climate change came as no surprise. Uncertainty is easily manipulated, and Cooney — a former lobbyist with the American Petroleum Institute, one of the nation's leading manufacturers of scientific uncertainty — was highly familiar with its uses.
...By definition, uncertainties abound in our work; there's nothing to be done about that. Our public health and environmental protection programs will not be effective if absolute proof is required before we act. The best available evidence must be sufficient. Otherwise, we'll sit on our hands and do nothing.
Of course, this is often exactly what industry wants. That's why it has mastered the art of manufacturing uncertainty, of demanding often impossible proof over common-sense precaution in the realm of public health.
The tobacco industry led the way. For 50 years, cigarette manufacturers employed a stable of scientists willing to assert (sometimes under oath) that there was no conclusive evidence that cigarettes cause lung cancer, or that nicotine is addictive. An official at Brown & Williamson, a cigarette maker now owned by R.J. Reynolds, once noted in a memo: "Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the mind of the general public."

Cost of DU Cleanup Increases

The cost to remove depleted uranium drums from the Starmet site will cost $3.1 million more than expected, according to the Department of Environmental Protection.
Crews must remove 3,700 drums of depleted uranium buried at the 46-acre Main Street site, where Nuclear Metals, Inc. once manufactured uranium-tipped bullets.
Because of the increase, the total cost to remove the barrels will hit $8.3 million, according to DEP spokesman Joe Ferson.
The Army agreed to pay for the removal of the drums as part of a settlement reached last year with DEP and the state attorney general's office.

Activists Pressure Department of Transportation to Label Depleted Uranium as "Radioactive"

After 18 months of intense lobbying, environmentalist and peace activists around the nation, including the Port Townsend Depleted Uranium Study Team, persuaded the U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of Hazardous Material to recommend a change. The agency is recommending the Department of Defense be required to label trucks carrying radioactive depleted uranium ammunition as "radioactive."
It's not a done deal yet, but emergency responders and activists are encouraged.
"The victory is a subtle shade of gray," said PT DUST member Doug Milholland. "But it's heartening to know we live in a democracy where some levers of power are connected to real people."

The Books of Edward Tufte

Energy Secretary: "the days of easily accessible oil are coming to a close"

Having more, and better, information about reserves would also clarify some of the challenges we will be facing in developing future petroleum reserves. We believe that the days of easily accessible oil are coming to a close. That is already the case for the lower 48 in the United States. Increasingly, the global oil demand will have to be met by developing petroleum resources that involve serious technical, and often political, challenges.
The technical challenges, of course, include drilling in deep waters and other harder-to-reach, frontier regions as well as enhanced oil recovery technologies such as CO2 injection and thermal processes. All of which means that such projects will be more capital intensive, have higher risks, and require greater lead times. These are difficult circumstances in and of themselves. But the challenges are multiplied several times over when compounded by political or regulatory uncertainty.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Feds Raid Medical Pot Supplier in California

Federal officials on Thursday said raids on pot clubs here were the first step in uncovering a major international drug operation.
U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan said agents raided three pot clubs that operated as fronts for marijuana and Ecstasy trafficking. He warned that federal drug laws would be strictly enforced even in cities tolerant of medical marijuana.
"We're empathetic to the ill and to the sick; however we cannot disregard federal law," Drug Enforcement Administration agent Javier Pena said.

Bush Asks the Christian Legal Society for Supreme Court Recommendations

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said again yesterday that "there's no vacancy that exists at this point."
However, the Christian Legal Society has been asked to provide its recommendations for a replacement for Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, 80, who has thyroid cancer. The group complied.
The spokesman acknowledged yesterday that the White House has "made preparations to be ready in case someone does leave the Supreme Court." The court's summer session ends Thursday, and there is rampant speculation that Chief Justice Rehnquist will announce as early as Monday that he is stepping down.

600 more reserves called up for Iraq

A further 600 reservists are to be called up to support British military operations for Iraq, the government announced yesterday.
The call-up means that more than 10,000 part-time service personnel will have been deployed in Iraq since the invasion in March 2003.

US acknowledges torture at Guantanamo; in Iraq, Afghanistan - UN

Washington has, for the first time, acknowledged to the United Nations that prisoners have been tortured at US detention centres in Guantanamo Bay, as well as Afghanistan and Iraq, a UN source said.
The acknowledgement was made in a report submitted to the UN Committee against Torture, said a member of the ten-person panel, speaking on on condition of anonymity.
'They are no longer trying to duck this and have respected their obligation to inform the UN,' the Committee member said.
'They they will have to explain themselves (to the Committee). Nothing should be kept in the dark,' he said.
UN sources said this is the first time the world body has received such a frank statement on torture from US authorities.

Krugmnan: The War President

The United States will soon have to start reducing force levels in Iraq, or risk seeing the volunteer Army collapse. Yet the administration and its supporters have effectively prevented any adult discussion of the need to get out.
On one side, the people who sold this war, unable to face up to the fact that their fantasies of a splendid little war have led to disaster, are still peddling illusions: the insurgency is in its "last throes," says Dick Cheney. On the other, they still have moderates and even liberals intimidated: anyone who suggests that the United States will have to settle for something that falls far short of victory is accused of being unpatriotic.
We need to deprive these people of their ability to mislead and intimidate. And the best way to do that is to make it clear that the people who led us to war on false pretenses have no credibility, and no right to lecture the rest of us about patriotism.

To serve man

I don't recall anyone mentioning that the University of Colorado's cafeteria, the Alferd Packer Grill, was named after a cannibal when I took the CU campus tour in the summer of '97. I would learn this information on the third day of my first semester at the school, reading a historical plaque on the UMC wall while scarfing down sesame chicken and lo mein noodles. Prior to that, I'd figured Alferd Packer to be a former university president or football star or something—not Colorado's most notorious connoisseur of human cadavers. [thanks, Mint]

Brick Journal

A quarterly publication that will focus on the Adult Fan of LEGO (AFOL) community.

Satellite Photos Show Dislocation of 200,000 in Zimbabwe

Before I start my post on Alan Greenspan's testimonial about China and all that first a very emotional comment on the escalating situation in Zimbabwe. There is a dictator who rigged the elections and who has now made some 2 million people homeless by razing their makeshift shelters with bulldozers in a campaign that started about a month ago.

2002: President Bush Outlines Iraqi Threat

The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Saddam Hussein has held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, a group he calls his "nuclear mujahideen" -- his nuclear holy warriors. Satellite photographs reveal that Iraq is rebuilding facilities at sites that have been part of its nuclear program in the past. Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.
If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy, or steal an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year. And if we allow that to happen, a terrible line would be crossed. Saddam Hussein would be in a position to blackmail anyone who opposes his aggression. He would be in a position to dominate the Middle East. He would be in a position to threaten America. And Saddam Hussein would be in a position to pass nuclear technology to terrorists.
Some citizens wonder, after 11 years of living with this problem, why do we need to confront it now? And there's a reason. We've experienced the horror of September the 11th. We have seen that those who hate America are willing to crash airplanes into buildings full of innocent people. Our enemies would be no less willing, in fact, they would be eager, to use biological or chemical, or a nuclear weapon.
Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud. As President Kennedy said in October of 1962, "Neither the United States of America, nor the world community of nations can tolerate deliberate deception and offensive threats on the part of any nation, large or small. We no longer live in a world," he said, "where only the actual firing of weapons represents a sufficient challenge to a nations security to constitute maximum peril."

2002: President Signs Iraq Resolution

Excerpt: With this resolution, Congress has now authorized the use of force. I have not ordered the use of force. I hope the use of force will not become necessary. Yet, confronting the threat posed by Iraq is necessary, by whatever means that requires. Either the Iraqi regime will give up its weapons of mass destruction, or, for the sake of peace, the United States will lead a global coalition to disarm that regime. If any doubt our nation's resolve, our determination, they would be unwise to test it.
The Iraqi regime is a serious and growing threat to peace. On the commands of a dictator, the regime is armed with biological and chemical weapons, possesses ballistic missiles, promotes international terror and seeks nuclear weapons. The same dictator has a history of mass murder, striking other nations without warning; of intense hatred for America; and of contempt for the demands of the civilized world.
If Iraq gains even greater destructive power, nations in the Middle East would face blackmail, intimidation or attack. Chaos in that region would be felt in Europe and beyond. And Iraq's combination of weapons of mass destruction and ties to terrorist groups and ballistic missiles would threaten the peace and security of many nations. Those who choose to live in denial may eventually be forced to live in fear.

85% Against Draft - Record High

With military recruitment shortfalls reaching a near-crisis, a new Gallup poll suggests further troubles, as far fewer American adults express support for their children enlisting. Gallup also has found that Americans opposed the return of the military draft by overwhleming numbers, with 85% against it, the highest level ever.
In what it calls a “significant decline,” Gallup found that by a bare majority, of 51% to 48%, parents would support a decision by one of their children to join the military. This is down from 66% positive to 29% negative in 1999.
Surprisngly, there is only slight difference among parents who have served in the military and those who have not. Just 56% of the veterans would support a decision to join the milltairy

No Cuts for Public Broadcasting but Former RNC Chair Named President

The House of Representatives voted Thursday to restore $100 million in proposed cuts to public television and radio, softening a measure that public broadcasters had warned could cripple small stations.
Even as the vote gave solace to public television and radio officials, the board of the nonprofit Corporation for Public Broadcasting tapped a former Republican Party co-chairwoman to lead the agency, alarming Democrats who contend an ideological takeover of public broadcasting is underway.

China's Bid to Buy Unocal Riles Congress

Political fears of China's economic might intensified yesterday following China's unsolicited bid to take over a U.S. oil company, with lawmakers from both political parties warning that Congress will take retaliatory action against Chinese trade practices if the Bush administration fails to respond.
Under a barrage of questions, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and Treasury Secretary John W. Snow warned the Senate Finance Committee against punitive legislation that could trigger a trade war and ultimately harm the U.S. economy.
"Resorting to isolationist trade policies would be ineffective, disruptive to markets and damaging to America's special role as the world's leading advocate for open markets," Snow said.

Italian Judge Names 13 in Abduction Tied to C.I.A.

An Italian judge ordered the arrests of 13 people in the purported CIA abduction of an imam, who then was sent to Egypt, the Milan prosecutor's office said Friday. An Italian official said earlier the 13 were CIA officers involved in U.S. anti-terrorism efforts.
The 13 are suspected of seizing Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, known as Abu Omar, on the streets of Milan on Feb. 17, 2003, and sending him to Egypt, where he reportedly was tortured, Milan prosecutor Manlio Claudio Minale said in a statement.
The U.S. Embassy in Rome and the CIA in Washington declined to comment.
The prosecutor's statement did not name any of the suspects or mention the CIA by name, but an Italian official familiar with the investigation confirmed newspaper reports Friday that the suspects were working for the CIA.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Judge Rules in Favor of Salmon

A Federal appeals court decided on Tuesday to uphold an earlier decision requiring the operators of five federal dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers to release spills of water to help young salmon on their journey towards the Pacific.
The salmon runs have been blocked by the five dams, which generate hydro-electric power. It is estimated that about half of the salmon that attempt the journey down the Snake River in eastern Washington State towards the ocean in the early summer are lost because of the dams.
The federal agency that runs the dams, the Bonneville Power Authority, had opposed the spills, arguing that they would cost $67m (£37m) in lost generation capacity.

Iraq Creating New Breed of Jihadists, says CIA

The war in Iraq is creating a new breed of Islamic jihadists who could go on to destabilize other countries, according to a CIA report.
The CIA believes Iraq to be potentially worse than Afghanistan, which produced thousands of jihadists in the 1980s and 1990s. Many of the recruits to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida had fought in Afghanistan.
The sobering caution came as a senior British anti-terrorism source warned that those trained in terror techniques in Iraq could use their newly-acquired skills in Britain at the end of the war.
The CIA report, completed last month, remains classified. But a CIA source yesterday confirmed that its broad conclusions, disclosed by the New York Times yesterday, were accurate.
The concern expressed in the CIA report contrasts with the optimism of US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld two years ago when he welcomed the prospect of Iraq as a magnet for jihadists.

Bill to Notify Parents Before Giving Minors Contraceptives

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Rep. Todd Akin (R-Miss.) on Tuesday introduced legislation (S 1279, HR 3011) in both the Senate and House that would require federally funded health clinics to notify the parents of any minors seeking contraception at least five days before dispensing the contraception, the Oklahoman reports. The legislation -- known as the Parents Right to Know Act -- would not require clinics to obtain parental consent. The legislation would apply to all clinics nationwide that receive federal family planning funding, according to the Oklahoman (Helm, Oklahoman, 6/22). Supporters of the measures say such legislation would keep parents involved in their teens' lives, but opponents of the bills say requiring parental notification could discourage young women from seeking reproductive health care and put them at risk for unplanned pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases (Bansal,, 6/22). The legislation would affect about 4,400 health clinics that provide reproductive health services to about five million low-income and uninsured women throughout the United States. Such clinics received about $286 million in federal funds in fiscal year 2005 (Gannett/Spokane Spokesman-Review, 6/22)

Nashville Cops Targeting Gays

Since the fall of 2004, officers at the Hermitage Police Precinct have been quietly conducting a sting operation exclusively targeting gay men. Nobody there denies that. The precinct's crime suppression unit, which operates as a mini vice squad, has been working with at least one confidential informant who has been infiltrating gay chat rooms, contacting users and seeing if they're interested in exchanging drugs and cash for sex. Later, they'll lead their targets to a local apartment or hotel room where Metro police lie in wait. No informants are working straight chat rooms with the same purpose.
Sometimes the targets of the CI will be uninterested in even hearing about illegal activity and will click off the instant message window. But then the informant, who many describe as remarkably persistent, will again contact his target and resume a conversation about sex and drugs. Typically, CIs are rather shady individuals who employ a working knowledge of the criminal underworld, from drug rings to prostitution. The police enlist their help and reward them with petty cash or a favorable resolution to their current legal problems.

Bionic Arm Gives RIC Patient New Hope

"What we did is take the four major nerves that used to go down his arm and transferred them to his chest muscle," said Dr. Todd Kuiken.
Now, Sullivan can think about bending his arm or closing his hand and electrodes in his chest pick up those impulses and activate his highly experimental robotic arm.
"It's almost automatic," he said. "It's not as good as what I had before, but it is the best so far."
The transplanted nerves do more than just drive the arm, Wojciechowski said. They also carry sensations.
Kuiken and Sullivan demonstrated how a touch to various areas of the patient's chest will trigger sensation, which Sullivan feels is coming from his mechanical arm.
RIC doctors are currently experimenting with devices that let Sullivan feel what his prosthetic hand touches, as well.

US 'stalling UN Guantanamo visit'

Investigators from the United Nations have accused the US of stalling over their repeated requests to visit detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
The UN says it has evidence that torture has taken at the prison amid reports that 520 inmates have had mental breakdowns.
The UN said for over a year there had been no response to its requests to check on the condition of detainees.
The Department of Defense told BBC News the UN request is being considered.

Veterans Affairs faces $1 billion shortfall

The shortage came to light during a routine budget review. Lawmakers said they are still gathering details, but it appears health care for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and poor budget forecasting contributed to the problem.
Several Democrats urged the Bush administration to push immediately for an emergency spending bill to fill this year's $1 billion deficit and prevent the VA from raiding other operations to pay for health care.

Spyware Propogator DoubleClick Angry at Ad Blocking

The end of free Internet content will come when Web browsers start blocking online advertisements by default, a DoubleClick executive has warned.
Bennie Smith, the online advertising network's privacy chief, told ZDNet Australia the popularity of tools like Adblock -- an extension to the Mozilla Firefox browser -- which makes blocking online ads simple was tied to "a negative vibe against advertising in general".
However, only the online arena is able to easily produce and widely distribute such tools, he added.
He said if a similar tool could be produced for newspapers, it would not be accepted by consumers.
"You'd go to your local corner shop and buy the daily paper, and you'd have these large holes where the ads were.
"You'd somehow feel like your 25 cents had not gotten full value," he said.
...If enough people started blocking ads, Smith warned that publishers would start charging for content.
"In an offline world, what would happen in that case is that the 25c newspaper would cost $5," he said. censored by Justice Dept.

What is doing about the regulation?
* We have joined with other companies to legally challenge its enactment
* We're fighting for your civil liberties and are opposing undue government interference in individual expression
* We're fighting against regulations such as this because we know they have a disproportionate effect on historically isolated groups, such as the LGBT community

Families press CIA to release Sept. 11 report

The report by the Central Intelligence Agency's inspector general, which is said to be in its final stages, is expected to be sent in classified form to CIA Director Porter Goss and then to the intelligence oversight committees in Congress later this summer, officials said.
But victims' relatives, whose lobbying overcame President Bush's initial resistance to the creation of the Sept. 11 commission, say they intend to step up public pressure on the CIA to release the report publicly.
"There's information in there that's supposed to really name some names and finally go for some accountability," said widow Lorie Van Auken of the group known as the Sept. 11 Advocates, a driving force behind creation of the bipartisan commission that investigated the attacks.
"Accountability would be fabulous because right now nobody's being held accountable for anything anywhere in this entire government," she said in an interview.

Tenn. investigates ex-gay camp - Teen's blog leads to outcry, charges of abuse at unlicensed facility

The state of Tennessee has begun an investigation in response to allegations of child abuse at Love in Action, a Memphis facility that advertises homosexual conversion therapy for adolescents, according to the state department of health.
K. Daniele Edwards, a spokesperson for Child Services at the Tennessee Department of Health, confirmed an investigation is underway but declined to comment on the details. She noted that she presumes the Love in Action program would require licensing by the state.
Love in Action is not licensed by the Tennessee Departments of Health, Mental Health, Human Services, Child Services or Education, according to Rachel Lassiter of Gov. Phil Bredesen's communications office.
Refuge, Love in Action's program for adolescents, became the focus of public concern earlier this month after a Bartlett, Tenn., teen who uses the blogger name Zach, posted online entries that say his parents had responded to his coming out as gay by sending him to a religious institution to be converted to heterosexuality.

Snopes: Farmer expresses dissatisfaction with crop prices by carving a message in his grain field.



Biofeedback through video helps returning troops fight post-traumatic stress disorder

"I've been doing psychotherapy for PTSD for 20 years, and my therapy has never been as effective as it is now, within the virtual reality environment," says Frey's doctor, Navy psychologist James Spira.
The virtual war, created at the Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California, uses elements of Full Spectrum Warrior, a video game originally developed as an Army combat training tool.
Psychologists working with the military say soldiers suffering from post- traumatic stress disorder may be more amenable to such a treatment approach rather than traditional psychotherapy, often seen as too warm and fuzzy for the military's macho culture.

U.S. doctors linked to POW `torture'

Medical records compiled by doctors caring for prisoners at the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay are being tapped to design more effective interrogation techniques, says an explosive new report.Doctors, nurses and medics caring for the approximately 600 prisoners at the U.S. naval base in Cuba are required to provide health information to military and CIA interrogators, according to the report in the respected New England Journal of Medicine.

Republican candidate calls Bush Admin 'Nazis,' quits party

A candidate for North Carolina Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court has announced on her campaign's blog that she is leaving the Republican Party and denounced the Bush administration's policy on troop withdrawal from Iraq. Rachel Lea Hunter, a Republican and a candidate for Chief Justice, likens Bush’s administration to the “Nazis” and says that all who disagree with the administration are being branded as “traitors”.
Hunter is an attorney in Durham, NC with the firm of Browne, Flebotte, Wilson, Horn & Webb. Hunter’s web page says she offers pre-paid legal services. Hunter ran unsuccessfully in 2004 for the North Carolina Appeals Court. She recently announced her intent to run for the Supreme Court.

Climate Scientists vs WSJ

We are disappointed that the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has chosen to yet again distort the science behind human-caused climate change and global warming in their recent editorial "Kyoto By Degrees" (6/21/05) (subscription required).
Last week, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and 10 other leading world bodies expressed the consensus view that "there is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring" and that "It is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities". And just last week, USA Today editorialized that "not only is the science in, it is also overwhelming".
It is puzzling then that the WSJ editors could claim that "the scientific case....looks weaker all the time".
While we resist commenting on policy matters (e.g. the relative merits of the Kyoto Protocol or the various bills before the US Senate), we will staunchly defend the science against distortions and misrepresentations, be they intentional or not. In this spirit, we respond here to the scientifically inaccurate or incorrect assertions made in the editorial.

Southern Baptists Call for Investigation of Public Schools

The Southern Baptist Convention on Wednesday passed a resolution urging parents and churches to investigate whether their community schools promote homosexuality.
“Homosexual activists and their allies are devoting substantial resources and using political power to promote the acceptance among schoolchildren of homosexuality as a morally legitimate lifestyle,” says the resolution, compiled from two resolutions submitted by individuals prior to the June 21-22 SBC annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn.
Describing public schools as “an effective gateway to children’s hearts and minds,” the statement urges parents and churches to “research and monitor the entertainment and educational influences on their children.”

Fast-Tracking Nuclear Energy

In "the first time a president has stepped inside a nuclear plant since Jimmy Carter rushed to Three Mile Island in 1979 to calm public fears," George Bush visited Maryland's Calvert Cliffs plant to promote "a new era of nuclear power." Part of the president's plan is to subsidize new plants. "Three consortiums of utilities are getting $539 million in taxpayer subsidies ... to seek nuclear construction licenses." The Senate energy bill would provide a further $10.1 billion to the nuclear industry, according to Public Citizen. Another sign of nuclear resurgence, writes the Los Angeles Times, is decreased opportunities for public input. "Under the old system, a nuclear utility first had to apply for a construction license and then seek a separate operating license after completing the plant. It gave protesters two chances to tie up a utility. Now, a single license is granted at the beginning."

Reporters Press McClellan on Secret CIA Report on Iraq

Q Just following up on that question, you said at the outset of that, the terrorists have made it a central front in the war on terrorism. I thought it was a central front in the war on terrorism before we invaded.
MR. McCLELLAN: It is. It's part of the war on terrorism, yes.
Q It was.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, it is.
Q It is now --
Q Was it prior to --
MR. McCLELLAN: Both. It's part of the war on terrorism, David.

The lies of Ken Tomlinson

Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, the Republican chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), faces growing criticism from supporters of public radio and public television who argue that his leadership has compromised CPB's charter to protect public broadcasting against political interference. Sixteen U.S. senators have called on President Bush to remove Tomlinson as head of CPB, charging that Tomlinson "seriously undermines the credibility and mission of public television." In the wake of a May 2 New York Times article detailing the controversy surrounding Tomlinson, he has repeatedly defended himself against allegations that he has exerted political pressure on CPB. But new documents, along with increased scrutiny of his actions, have proved several of Tomlinson's prior statements false.

Supreme Court Rules Cities May Seize Homes for Private Development

A divided Supreme Court ruled Thursday that local governments may seize people's homes and businesses against their will for private development in a decision anxiously awaited in communities where economic growth often is at war with individual property rights.
The 5-4 ruling — assailed by dissenting Justice Sandra Day O'Connor as handing "disproportionate influence and power" to the well-heeled in America — was a defeat for Connecticut residents whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. They had argued that cities have no right to take their land except for projects with a clear public use, such as roads or schools, or to revitalize blighted areas.
As a result, cities now have wide power to bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes in order to generate tax revenue.

Halliburton Awarded New $1 Billion Military Contract

Halliburton Co. won a contract potentially worth more than $1 billion to support U.S. troops in the Balkans and other areas in Europe.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contract was awarded to Halliburton subsidiary KBR despite ongoing allegations of overbilling by the unit, the largest U.S. contractor in Iraq. Halliburton has consistently denied wrongdoing.

Study: More Companies Terminate Pensions

About 11 percent of the big companies offering traditional pensions terminated their plans or froze accrual of new benefits to workers, according to a study by consulting firm Watson Wyatt Worldwide, released Wednesday. That is up from 2003, when 7 percent of the nation's 1,000 largest companies capped pension plans.
That trend, long in the making, has continued into this year, most notably with UAL Corp.'s United Airlines defaulting on its severely underfunded pension plans. Whether it continues could hinge on how lawmakers resolve a number of difficult questions swirling around pensions, experts say.

Pentagon begins building teen database for recruiting

The Defense Department began working yesterday with a private marketing firm to create a database of high school students ages 16 to 18 and all college students to help the military identify potential recruits in a time of dwindling enlistment in some branches.
The program is provoking a furor among privacy advocates. The new database will include personal information including birth dates, Social Security numbers, e-mail addresses, grade-point averages, ethnicity and what subjects the students are studying.
The data will be managed by BeNow Inc. of Wakefield, Mass., one of many marketing firms that use computers to analyze large amounts of data to target potential customers based on their personal profiles and habits.

U.N. experts say they have reliable accounts of torture at Guantanamo

U.N. human rights experts said Thursday they have reliable accounts of detainees being tortured at the U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The experts also said Washington had not responded to their latest request to check on the conditions of terror suspects at the facility in eastern Cuba. That request was made in April.
U.S. officials so far have allowed only the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit Guantanamo detainees. The U.N. human rights investigators have been trying to visit since 2002.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Yes, He Thinks About Iraq Every Day, But Right Now, He's Pushing to Ban Gay Marriage

Reviving a major plank of his re-election campaign, President Bush called for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage Tuesday.
The president’s address to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention — the fourth year in a row he has spoken to the conservative evangelical gathering — was crafted to rally the social religious conservatives who make up a crucial part of Bush’s governing coalition. He restated his commitment to issues dear to conservatives’ hearts, notably his opposition to same-sex marriage, abortion and research on human embryonic stem cells — a stance he calls the “culture of life.”

North Korea: No nuclear weapons if U.S. treats nation as friend

North Korea said Wednesday it would not need nuclear weapons if the United States treated it like a friend, as the isolated nation joined South Korea for high-level reconciliation talks.
The bilateral meeting was shadowed by the international standoff over the North's nuclear ambitions.
"If the United States treats the North in a friendly manner, we will possess not one nuclear weapon," the North Korean delegation said, according to Kim Chun-shick, spokesman for the South Koreans.

Canada: Campaign to give army deserters refuge persists

"There's huge public support for these war resisters in Canada," Siksay said.
Joshua Key is one of dozens of U.S. soldiers who fled their army to seek refuge in Canada. After an eight-month tour in Iraq, Key said he couldn't face a return trip.
When asked whether that's not just part of the job, Key told Canada AM his Iraq tour wasn't exactly what he enlisted for.
"Everybody has a false interpretation that battle's supposed to be fought with tanks or between soldier and soldier," Key said, describing his frustration fighting a more amorphous enemy.
"It's just like you don't know what who it's going to be from one day to the next. You can't get rid of the whole population."

Chicago Tribune Columnist Causes Controversy Over Presidential Election Fraud Story

Robert Koehler likes to ask tough questions and tackle issues ignored by the press. When he asked if the 2004 Presidential election was stolen, it created a rift in the Chicago Tribune newsroom, providing an example about the sad state of media affairs existing today.

ntolerance can't survive if we don't condone it

The members of the Hillsborough County Commission who voted this past week to kick Gay Pride Week out of the public libraries do not consider themselves to be the bad guys. So screaming at them will not change their ways.
What will change their ways is for folks to be disappointed with them, and for their friends and neighbors to tell them so. That is how the world changes.
It's how we white people changed.
I was born at the end of the 1950s. In the place and the time that I grew up, it was socially acceptable for white people to be openly racist. Lots of people said N-this and N-that to each other.
Even today, open racism still exists. But in our culture it generally is not acceptable. And although part of that change came from protests and marches and laws, an essential part of the change was that racism had to become shameful among white people, and in the way they dealt with each other.
The same has to happen among straight people regarding our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters - and they are our brothers and sisters, and our children, and even our parents.

Tom Monaghan Builds a Town - A Catholic "Utopia" of Christian Laissez-Faire Economics

Bold talk... but the most dramatic part of Monaghan's speech is yet to come. Ave Maria won't be just a university, he continues. It will also be a new town, built from scratch, in which the wickedness of the world will be kept at bay. "We've already had about 3500 people inquire on our Web site about buying a home there -- you know, they're all Catholic," Monaghan says excitedly. "We're going to control all the commercial real estate, so there's not going to be any pornography sold in this town. We're controlling the cable system. The pharmacies are not going to be able to sell condoms or dispense contraceptives." A private chapel will be located within walking distance of each home. At the stunning church in the center of town, Mass will be said hourly, seven days a week, from 6 a.m. on. "So," Monaghan concludes, with just a hint of understatement, "it'll be a unique town." As he exits the stage, the applause is thunderous.

Humvee Vulnerabilities Raise Doubts

Even the most heavily armored Humvees may be inadequate to protect U.S. troops from ever-changing insurgent tactics, the Marine Corps' second-ranking general told lawmakers Tuesday. New vehicle designs, however, would take years to develop.
The House Armed Services Committee questioned Gen. William Nyland, assistant commandant of the Marines, about how long it has taken to get armored Humvees into the field. Nyland said hundreds of new armored Humvees and armor kits to upgrade standard Humvees have been put to use or are en route to Iraq.

Marine units found to lack equipment

Marine Corps units fighting in some of the most dangerous terrain in Iraq don't have enough weapons, communications gear, or properly outfitted vehicles, according to an investigation by the Marine Corps' inspector general provided to Congress yesterday.
The report, obtained by the Globe, says the estimated 30,000 Marines in Iraq need twice as many heavy machine guns, more fully protected armored vehicles, and more communications equipment to operate in a region the size of Utah.
The Marine Corps leadership has ''understated" the amount and types of ground equipment it needs, according to the investigation, concluding that all of its fighting units in Iraq ''require ground equipment that exceeds" their current supplies, ''particularly in mobility, engineering, communications, and heavy weapons."
Complaints of equipment shortages in Iraq, including lack of adequate vehicle armor, have plagued the Pentagon for months, but most of the reported shortages have been found in the Army, which makes up the bulk of the American occupation force.
The analysis of the Marines' battle readiness, however, shows that the Corps is lacking key equipment needed to stabilize Al Anbar province in western Iraq. The province is where some of the bloodiest fighting has occurred in recent months between American-led coalition forces and Iraqi insurgents aided by foreign fighters who have slipped across the border.

Lawmakers, Including Republicans, Criticize Pentagon on Disputed Billing by Halliburton

Republicans joined longtime Democratic critics in Congress on Tuesday to berate the Pentagon for withholding information about the Halliburton Corporation's disputed billing under a $2.5 billion contract for Iraqi oil site repairs and fuel imports.
Saying the Pentagon is acting as if "it has something to hide," Representative Christopher Shays, Republican of Connecticut, said at a hearing that he would support issuing a subpoena to the Pentagon next week if the administration did not provide long-requested documents relating to the contract, which was awarded to Halliburton in early 2003 without competition.

Rand: NGOs, Networks, and Future Social Evolution

The information revolution favors the rise of network forms of organization, so much so that a coming age of networks will transform how societies are structured and interact. ...In the years ahead, the [environmental] movement's strength (and sometimes its weakness) will continue to be asserted through social network-based wars against unresponsive, misbehaving, or misguided corporate and governmental actors. …Ageing contentions that “the government” or “the market” is the solution to environmental or other particular public policy issues will give way to new ideas that “the network” is the optimal solution. The rise of network form of organization and strategy will drive long-range social evolution in radical new directions.

David Ronfelt’s explorations of information and society are based on a framework of societal evolution involving tribes, institutions, markets and networks. Modes of conflict with participants networked (as opposed to hierarchically structured) are called netwars. Many of the recent domestic and international terrorism conflicts are being fought as netwars. The civil society approach to politics and diplomacy in the network age may hinge on noopolitik, a strategy of information. [from]

Huge table gives food for thought

The Writer, by Giancarlo Neri
A table and chair the size of a house have been captivating visitors to north London's Hampstead Heath.

The 30ft (9m) sculpture, The Writer, will be on Parliament Hill for four months before returning to Italy.

The tribute to the loneliness of writing is meant to inspire visitors to the heath, which has associations with writers Keats and Coleridge.

Wiki Reviews Guantanamo Docs

A group of volunteers has begun using collaborative wiki software to expedite the process of perusing thousands of pages of complex documents related to detainees held by the U.S. government at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
The group, which has coalesced through the influential liberal blog, Daily Kos, has taken it upon itself to vet documents about Gitmo detainees the American Civil Liberties Union received as a result of a 2003 Freedom of Information Act request. The organization has been slow to review the documents itself due to a lack of manpower.
Earlier this month, Susan Hu, a Daily Kos contributor, commenced the project, in which she and several co-organizers oversee volunteers who have agreed to review a manageable portion of the ACLU documents.
So far, at least 80 people have signed up, each taking responsibility for a specific set of documents and for publicly posting the results of their review. Together, volunteers hope they can make it through the more than 4,000 pages received by the ACLU and root out even the smallest signs of government misconduct which, without this project, they feel might otherwise go undiscovered.

Contra Costa supervisors to pay a $1 fine for using bureaucratic lingo

[U]nder a new policy unanimously adopted Tuesday, bureaucratic acronyms like EIR, LAFCO, ABAG and RFP will be verboten in the board chambers in Martinez, not just from the supervisors' podium but also in all written materials for board meetings.
"We throw them around all the time,'' said Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond, who proposed making Contra Costa the first county in California to adopt the anti-acronym stand. Politicians and bureaucrats there now must use phrases instead -- environmental impact report, the Local Agency Formation Commission, the Association of Bay Area Governments and Request for Proposals.

Traveling on the Abramoff Plan

At least 123 of Washington's top lobbyists occupy the same ethical gray area now threatening to bring down high-profile influence peddler Jack Abramoff, according to a new study by the Center for Public Integrity, American Public Media and Medill News Service.
Like Abramoff, these registered lobbyists sit on the governing boards of non-profit organizations called 501(c)(3)s, which get their name from the section of the tax code under which they are authorized. As board members, these lobbyists can help set policies for the groups and are privy to inside information about the non-profits — including their sponsorship of congressional travel.

US e-voting proponents say no to paper trails

A debate raged on Tuesday in the US Senate over whether electronic ballots should be backed by paper copies, as new evidence emerges supporting the performance of electronic voting machines.
Currently paper trails are mandatory in just 22 of the 50 US states, but a bill now being reviewed by the Senate would force the entire nation to adopt them.
The argument centres upon which voting technology is best at simultaneously preventing inaccuracies, fraud, technical glitches and confusion and making voting accessible to the disabled, all without incurring excessive expense.

$2.4 billion in $100 bills to Baghdad

It weighed 28 tons and took up as much room as 74 washing machines. It was $2.4 billion in $100 bills, and Baghdad needed it ASAP.
The initial request from U.S. officials in charge of Iraq required the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to decide whether it could open its vault on a Sunday, a day banks aren't usually open.
"Just when you think you've seen it all," read one e-mail from an exasperated Fed official.
"Pocket change," said another e-mail.
Then, when the shipment date changed, officials had to scramble to line up U.S. Air Force C-130 cargo planes to hold the money. They did, and the $2,401,600,000 was delivered to Baghdad on June 22, 2004.
It was the largest one-time cash transfer in the history of the New York Fed.

Propaganda's War on Human Rights

British public relations consultant Liz Harrop, who specializes in "public awareness activity for human rights campaigning organisations and humanitarian projects," has written a report that analyzes the relationship between war propaganda and human rights, focusing on the U.S. and British governments in relation to the Iraqi rabbit hole. "States wage war in the name of peace and democracy," she writes. "Yet war propaganda can violate human rights and undermine the democratic principles it seeks to champion. Despite this it is rarely acknowledged, by the media, governments, or even anti-war campaigners, that war propaganda is illegal under international human rights law. ... As a point of optimism, although war propaganda diminishes human rights, so respect for human rights can diminish the effects of war propaganda. Accurate and timely human rights investigations can dispel the propaganda and rumours which fan the flames of conflict."

The Junk Food Lobby Wins Again

On Tuesday, Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell vetoed what would have been the nation's strongest school-based nutrition law. With one stroke of the pen, she put to rest an extremely contentious three-year battle to rid Connecticut schools of soda and junk food.
Similar scenarios are being played out in state capitals all over the nation, where high-paid lobbyists of multi-national corporations such as Coca-Cola are swooping in to foil the efforts of local nutrition advocates, educators. With rising rates of childhood obesity and diabetes, state legislatures have become a major battleground over the sale of junk food in public schools.

Scoial Security Opened Files to FBI

The Social Security Administration has relaxed its privacy restrictions and searched thousands of its files at the request of the F.B.I. as part of terrorism investigations since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, newly disclosed records and interviews show.
The privacy policy typically bans the sharing of such confidential information, which includes home addresses, medical information and other personal data. But senior officials at the Social Security agency agreed to an "ad hoc" policy that authorized the release of information to the bureau for investigations related to Sept. 11 because officials saw a "life-threatening" emergency, internal memorandums say.

Sibel Edmonds: Where Is Accountability?

Over four years ago, more than four months prior to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, in April 2001, a long-term FBI informant/asset who had been providing the bureau with information since 1990 provided two FBI agents and a translator with specific information regarding a terrorist attack being planned by Osama bin Laden. This asset/informant was previously a high-level intelligence officer in Iran in charge of intelligence from Afghanistan. Through his contacts in Afghanistan he received information that: (1) Osama bin Laden was planning a major terrorist attack in the United States targeting four or five major cities; (2) the attack was going to involve airplanes; (3) some of the individuals in charge of carrying out this attack were already in place in the United States; and (4) the attack was going to be carried out soon, in a few months. The agents who received this information reported it to their superior, Special Agent in Charge of Counterterrorism Thomas Frields, at the FBI Washington field office, by filing "302" forms, and the translator, Mr. Behrooz Sarshar, translated and documented this information. No action was taken by Frields, and after 9/11 the agents and the translators were told to keep quiet regarding this issue.

Dear Kansas: Why stop at "Intelligent Design?" What about Spaghetti Monsters?

I am writing you with much concern after I read of your hearing to decide whether the alternative theory of Intelligent Design to be taught along with the theory of Evolution. I think we can all agree that it is important for students to hear multiple viewpoints so they can choose for themselves the theory that makes the most sense to them. I am concerned, however, that students will only hear one theory of Intelligent Design..
Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him.
It is for this reason that I’m writing you today, to formally request that this alternative theory be taught in your schools, along with the other two theories. In fact, I will go so far as to say, if you do not agree to do this, we will be forced to proceed with legal action. I’m sure you see where we are coming from. If the Intelligent Design theory is not based on faith, but instead another scientific theory, as is claimed, then you must also allow our theory to be taught, as it is also based on science, not on faith. [via]

Senate allows U.S. to sue OPEC for oil price-fixing

The U.S. Senate voted on Tuesday to allow the U.S. government to sue the OPEC oil cartel on antitrust grounds in an outcry against crude oil prices that are fast approaching the $60 a barrel mark.
The measure, added to wide-sweeping energy legislation by a voice vote, would give authority to the Department of Justice or Federal Trade Commission to sue the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Bush Pushes for More Nuclear Plants in US

Bush is promoting nuclear power as a way to take the pressure off fossil fuels — oil, natural gas and coal.
"It's time for this country to start building nuclear power plants again," said Bush, who noted that while the U.S. gets 20 percent of its electricity from nuclear reactors, France meets 78 percent of its electricity needs with nuclear power.

Bush spurned secret 2002 N. Korea overture

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il attempted to engage President Bush directly on the nuclear weapons issue three years ago but the administration spurned the overture, two American experts on Asia said on Wednesday.
Writing in the Washington Post, former U.S. ambassador to South Korea Donald Gregg and former journalist Don Oberdorfer expressed concern that Kim's November 2002 initiative was never pursued and urged Bush to respond positively to his current overture, made last week.
When Bush took office in 2001, U.S. officials estimated Pyongyang had fuel for one or two nuclear weapons. Now, that estimate is up to at least half a dozen and, the authors said, "many believe their claim to have fabricated the weapons themselves."

POV: The Education of Shelby Knox

A self-described "good Southern Baptist girl," 15-year-old Shelby Knox of Lubbock, Texas has pledged abstinence until marriage. But she becomes an unlikely advocate for comprehensive sex ed when she finds that Lubbock, where high schools teach abstinence as the only safe sex, has some of the highest rates of teen pregnancy and STDs in the state. | Read the synopsis »

Streaming 80's Music

I was in the mood for some 80's music and found this. Just what I was looking for. In the past couple hours, they played Talking Heads "And She Was," Siouxie & The Banshees "Dear Prudence," XTC "Science Friction," Squeeze "Tempted," the Smiths "Let Me Get What I Want" and Negativland "Announcement." -- McLir

U-2 Spy Plane Crashes in Asia

The pilot of a U.S. Air Force U-2 spy plane has died in a crash while returning to a base in southwest Asia, the military said Wednesday.
The cause of Tuesday night's crash was under investigation, U.S. Central Command said in a statement. The pilot was flying a mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, it added.
The military did not immediately release the location or circumstances of the crash. Officials also withheld the name of the pilot pending notification of relatives.

More Delays of Armor for Troops

Two top Marine Corps officers acknowledged Tuesday that they waited two months to issue a contract for armor kits to protect the undersides of Humvees after promising to do so earlier this year.
Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, Gen. William L. Nyland, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, and Brig. Gen. William D. Catto, the chief of Marine Corps Systems Command, attributed the delay to a "lack of leadership." They assured the committee that all Humvees and military trucks that the Marines used in Iraq would be adequately protected by December.

Jack Kilby Dies at 81

Jack Kilby , inventor of the monolithic integrated circuit (microchip) at Texas Instruments in 1958, died Monday. His vision lives on through the Kilby International Awards and Kilby Laureates "who symbolize the power of the individual creative mind to change the world, forever." [from]

New Synaptic Junction Weekly is Now Posted

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Solar Sail Will be Visible

2056: The Onion's 300th Anniversary Issue

Zimbabwe begins destroying vegetable gardens

Zimbabwe police have extended a demolition campaign targeting the homes and livelihoods of the urban poor to the vegetable gardens they rely on for food, saying the crops planted on vacant lots are damaging the environment.
President Robert Mugabe was quoted Tuesday as saying concern about the campaign was misplaced and agreeing to allow in a UN observer.
The crackdown on urban farming - at a time of food shortages in Zimbabwe - is the latest escalation in the government's monthlong Operation Murambatsvina, or Drive Out Trash, which has seen police torch the shacks of poor city dwellers, arrest street vendors and demolish their kiosks.

Florida Democratic Party faces IRS lien; $900,000 shortage

Broke and without enough money in the bank to pay its bills after the end of the month, the Florida Democratic Party has now been slapped with a lien by the Internal Revenue Service for failing to pay payroll and Social Security taxes in 2003.
The state party's budget and finance committee voted Tuesday to ask for a new audit to account for more than $900,000 it believes somehow disappeared from the books during the 2003-2004 calendar years when the party was led by Scott Maddox, who is now seeking its nomination for governor.

Bush to Baptists: More Public Support of Churches, More Opposition to Stem Cells

President Bush on Tuesday told the Southern Baptist Convention a compassionate society would rely more on religious groups to provide social services and oppose expanded embryonic stem cell research.
Bush renewed his call for Congress to pass a law that would allow religious groups with federal contracts to consider questions of faith when making employment decisions. With such legislation long stalled, the president has bypassed Congress and made more money available to such groups through executive orders and regulations.
"Congress needs to pass charitable choice legislation to forever guarantee equal treatment for our faith-based organizations when they compete for federal funds," Bush told the Baptists meeting in Nashville, Tenn., via satellite.
Quoting the hymn "Great Is Thy Faithfulness," Bush said, "Thy compassions, they fail not."

Common virus kills cancer, study finds

A common virus that is harmless to people can destroy cancerous cells in the body and might be developed into a new cancer therapy, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday.
The virus, called adeno-associated virus type 2, or AAV-2, infects an estimated 80 percent of the population.
"Our results suggest that adeno-associated virus type 2, which infects the majority of the population but has no known ill effects, kills multiple types of cancer cells yet has no effect on healthy cells," said Craig Meyers, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the Penn State College of Medicine in Pennsylvania.
"We believe that AAV-2 recognizes that the cancer cells are abnormal and destroys them. This suggests that AAV-2 has great potential to be developed as an anti-cancer agent," Meyers said in a statement.

Republican lawmaker retracts controversial comment

Bush Rejects Detainee Abuse Commission

The White House on Tuesday rejected the proposed creation of an independent commission to investigate abuses of detainees held at the U.S. military prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the Pentagon has launched 10 major investigations into allegations of abuse, and that system was working well.
"People are being held to account," he said. "And we think that's the way to go about this."
McClellan said the Defense Department would continue to investigate any new allegations. And he noted that the Pentagon has appointed outsiders to some of its investigations.

ACLU Says Bush Is Restricting Science

The American Civil Liberties Union charged Tuesday that the Bush administration is placing science under siege by overzealously tightening restrictions on information, individuals and technology in the name of homeland security.
The administration "has sought to impose growing restrictions on the free flow of scientific information, unreasonable barriers on the use of scientific materials and increased monitoring of and restrictions on foreign university students," the ACLU said.

Lions rescued kidnapped girl, say police

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - Police say three lions rescued a 12-year-old girl kidnapped by men who wanted to force her into marriage, chasing off her abductors and guarding her until police and relatives tracked her down in a remote corner of Ethiopia.
The men had held the girl for seven days, repeatedly beating her, before the lions chased them away and guarded her for half a day before her family and police found her, Sergeant Wondimu Wedajo said Tuesday by telephone from the provincial capital of Bita Genet, about 560km west of the capital, Addis Ababa.
"They stood guard until we found her and then they just left her like a gift and went back into the forest," Wondimu said, adding he did not know whether the lions were male or female.

Contract that spawned Guantanamo prisons awarded to Halliburton during Cheney's tenure as CEO

The contract, which allocated funds for “emergency construction capabilities” at “worldwide locations,” authorized the Defense Department to award Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root any number of specific naval construction deals abroad.
Pegged at an “estimated maximum” of $75 million in 2000, the deal mushroomed to $136 million by 2004. Some $58 million was dedicated to detention centers at Guantanamo Bay alone, with another $30 million in a second contract.
Specific contracts for the Guantanamo facilities were not inked until February of 2002. Cheney served as chief executive of the company from 1995 until July 2000, leaving shortly thereafter to join the Bush campaign.

55 Optical Illusions & Visual Phenomena

Dems Called Anti-Christian for Proposal to Curb Religious Harassment at Air Force Academy

Business on the floor of the House was halted for 45 minutes yesterday after Rep. John N. Hostettler (R-Ind.) accused Democrats of "denigrating and demonizing Christians," prompting a furious protest from across the aisle.
The House was debating a Democratic amendment to the annual defense appropriations bill that would have required the Air Force Academy to develop a plan for preventing "coercive and abusive religious proselytizing."
Hostettler, speaking against the amendment, asserted that "the long war on Christianity in America continues today on the floor of the House of Representatives" and "continues unabated with aid and comfort to those who would eradicate any vestige of our Christian heritage being supplied by the usual suspects, the Democrats."

Polar Bears and Caribou Guarding Telescope

Scientists wanting a glimpse of data on the universe’s earliest stars and galaxies from a telescope first had to deal with caribou and polar bears at the landing site in the Canadian Arctic.
“The secret of our universe’s beginnings was being protected by caribou and polar bears,” said John Kageorge, communications manager for engineering firm Amec.
“As it turns out, the scientists needed to go back with a rifle to protect themselves.”
The telescope, named BLAST for Balloon-Borne Large Aperture Submillimetre Telescope, was launched by a giant balloon in northern Sweden on June 11 and floated about 40 km in the upper atmosphere for four days before being dropped by parachute back to earth.

Iraqi Lawmakers Call for Foreign Troops to Withdraw

Iraqi lawmakers from across the political spectrum called for the withdrawal of foreign forces from their country in a letter released to the media June 19.
The move comes as U.S. President George W. Bush is under increasing domestic pressure to set a timetable for the pullout of American forces in the face of an increasing death toll at the hands of insurgents.
Eighty-two Shiite, Kurdish, Sunni Arab, Christian and communist deputies made the call in a letter sent by Falah Hassan Shanshal of the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), the largest group in parliament, to speaker Hajem al-Hassani.
Some of those who signed urged that a detailed timetable be established for the withdrawal.

Maine: Bill would force mentally ill to take their meds

The mental health community is divided over a proposed new law that would require some people with mental illness to take prescribed psychiatric medications or face involuntary admission to a state hospital.
The initiative, known as "community commitment," had all-but-unanimous bipartisan support in both the House and Senate during the recently adjourned legislative session, but has been held over for reconsideration because it would draw about $600,000 over the next two years from the state's bare-bones General Fund.

Your ISP as Net watchdog

The U.S. Department of Justice is quietly shopping around the explosive idea of requiring Internet service providers to retain records of their customers' online activities.
Data retention rules could permit police to obtain records of e-mail chatter, Web browsing or chat-room activity months after Internet providers ordinarily would have deleted the logs--that is, if logs were ever kept in the first place. No U.S. law currently mandates that such logs be kept.
In theory, at least, data retention could permit successful criminal and terrorism prosecutions that otherwise would have failed because of insufficient evidence. But privacy worries and questions about the practicality of assembling massive databases of customer behavior have caused a similar proposal to stall in Europe and could engender stiff opposition domestically.

More than 1,200 who had anthrax vaccine now sick

More than 1,200 military personnel who received the anthrax vaccine before going to Iraq have developed serious illnesses, according to an Army report released last month, though local military officials contend the shots still are safe and necessary.
Since 1991 and the first Gulf War, the Defense Department has required service members to be immunized against such childhood diseases as Typhoid and Hepatitis A as well as against biological agents such as anthrax, when deploying to Korea or the Middle East.
But with Army officials reporting 1,200 illnesses and several thousand more queries about potential side effects, the Defense Department has started allowing troops deploying overseas to opt out of receiving the anthrax vaccine without penalty, according to the Army and Air Force.

Israel May Use Sound Weapon on Settlers

Israel is considering using an unusual new weapon against Jewish settlers who resist this summer's Gaza Strip evacuation - a device that emits penetrating bursts of sound that leaves targets reeling with dizziness and nausea.
Security forces could employ the weapon to overcome resistance without resorting to force, their paramount aim. But experts warn that the effects of prolonged exposure are unknown.
The army employed the new device, which it dubbed "The Scream," at a recent violent demonstration by Palestinians and Jewish sympathizers against Israel's West Bank separation barrier.

Parkinsons Drug Alleged to Cause Compulsive Behavior

At least 230 North Americans, including two unnamed Michiganders, have contacted lawyers in California and Ontario about joining class actions that allege Mirapex caused them to gamble, have sex, shop and eat compulsively.
"Gambling, shopping, sexual and eating, those are the biggest four, but there's a slew of other ones," said Daniel Kodam, a California lawyer, about the compulsive behaviors reported. He represents plaintiffs in a U.S. lawsuit against the drug companies Pfizer Inc. in New York and Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc. in Ingelheim, Germany. "People have become compulsive about knitting and painting their homes. We have people who have painted their homes 10 or 15 times over in the course of two months. ... And these are people with no history of this type of behavior."

Feds skipped key mad cow disease test in 2004 case

Cattle Still Being Fed Slaughterhouse Waste

American cattle are eating chicken litter, cattle blood and restaurant leftovers that could help transmit mad cow disease, gaps in the US defense against the disease that the Bush administration promised almost 18 months ago to close.
"Once the cameras were turned off, and the media coverage dissipated, then it's been business as usual: no real reform, just keep feeding slaughterhouse waste," said John Stauber, an activist and co-author of Mad Cow USA: Could the Nightmare Happen Here?
"The entire US policy is designed to protect the livestock industry's access to slaughterhouse waste as cheap feed," he said.
The government is now investigating another possible case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease, in the US.

GOP Committee Targets International Red Cross

Senate Republicans are calling on the Bush administration to reassess U.S. financial support for the International Committee of the Red Cross, charging that the group is using American funds to lobby against U.S. interests.
The Senate Republican Policy Committee, which advances the views of the GOP Senate majority, said in a report that the international humanitarian organization had "lost its way" and veered from the impartiality on which its reputation was based. The Republican policy group titled its report: "Are American Interests Being Disserved by the International Committee of the Red Cross?"
The congressional criticism follows reports by the Swiss-based group that have faulted U.S. treatment of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A spokeswoman at its Geneva headquarters said the organization was reviewing the report and would not comment, in accordance with its policy of keeping its dealings with governments confidential.

FBI Chief Won't Mandate Terror Expertise

FBI Director Robert Mueller says he doesn't believe his counterterrorism supervisors need to have a background in Arabic, the Middle East or international issues.
''Let me tell you that we want to develop that within the bureau, but making that an absolute requirement -- if you do not have it you would be precluded from advancing in counterterrorism -- no,'' Mueller testified recently in an employment lawsuit.
Mueller described his own expertise in Middle Eastern terrorism as having been ''relatively limited'' when he took over the FBI a week before the Sept. 11 attacks.

House OKs $45B Emergency Funding for Wars

The House of Representatives voted Monday to advance the Pentagon another $45 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as it passed a $409-billion defense spending bill.
The House approved the emergency "bridge fund," which would bring costs of the U.S. military operations to more than $300 billion.

Singers Off-Key on Debt-Relief

The British journalist George Monbiot warns the dangers of the upcoming G8 summit in Scotland are not that the public protests will be dangerous, "but that they will be far too polite. Let me be more precise. The danger is that we will follow the agenda set by Bono and Bob Geldof." While Monbiot acknowledges the pair are "genuinely committed to the cause of poverty reduction" and have raised money and awareness in support of it, Monbiot points to the singers' response to the G7 finance ministers' debt-relief package for the world's poorest countries. "Anyone with a grasp of development politics who had read and understood the ministers' statement could see that the conditions it contains - enforced liberalisation and privatisation - are as onerous as the debts it relieves. But Bob Geldof praised it as 'a victory for the millions of people in the campaigns around the world' and Bono pronounced it 'a little piece of history'. Like many of those who have been trying to highlight the harm done by such conditions - especially the African campaigners I know - I feel betrayed by these statements. Bono and Geldof have made our job more difficult," Monbiot writes.

The Logic of Diversity

"A new book, The Wisdom of Crowds [..:] by The New Yorker columnist James Surowiecki, has recently popularized the idea that groups can, in some ways, be smarter than their members, which is superficially similar to Page's results. While Surowiecki gives many examples of what one might call collective cognition, where groups out-perform isolated individuals, he really has only one explanation for this phenomenon, based on one of his examples: jelly beans [...] averaging together many independent, unbiased guesses gives a result that is probably closer to the truth than any one guess. While true — it's the central limit theorem of statistics — it's far from being the only way in which diversity can be beneficial in problem solving." [from] Wiki

A Wiki repository of corporate information. Still in its infancy, it aims to applaud eco-friendly companies and document the failings of others. Funded almost entirely by hip-hopper Sage Francis of Non-Prophets and Anticon fame, it is no surprise Clear Channel is currently featured on the front page. Hopefully the Wiki format will keep it somewhat balanced as it grows. [from]

Sartre at 100

Today would have been philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre's 100th birthday. Despite renewed interest in him in France, there is some question as to what the legacy of this man is - whether as author, philosopher, playwright, or communist. He was noted for radical views on freedom both in the philosophical and political senses, less so for his recipes. What does he mean today? [from]

Geldof hails Bush's commitment to Africa

Live 8 organiser Bob Geldof claimed yesterday that George Bush had done more for Africa than any other US president.
Geldof said he had recently defended Bush on the issue in France. "They refuse to accept, because of their political ideology, that he has actually done more than any American president for Africa," he told Time magazine. "But it's empirically so."

Monday, June 20, 2005

Painting May Hold Clue to Lost da Vinci Work

"Cerca, trova" — seek and you shall find — says a tantalizing five-century-old message painted on a fresco in the council hall of Florence's Palazzo Vecchio.
Researchers now believe these cryptic words could be a clue to the location of a long-lost Leonardo da Vinci painting and are pressing local authorities to allow them to search for the masterpiece of Renaissance art.
Maurizio Seracini, an Italian art researcher, first noticed the message during a survey of the hall 30 years ago, but his team lacked the technology then to see what lay behind Giorgio Vasari's 16th-century fresco, "Battle of Marciano in the Chiana Valley."
However, radar and X-ray scans conducted between 2002 and 2003 have detected a cavity behind the section of wall the message was painted on, which Seracini believes may conceal Leonardo's unfinished mural painting, the "Battle of Anghiari."
Considered one of Leonardo's greatest works, the mural is known today through the Tuscan master's preparatory studies and copies made by other artists.
"At the time, this was considered the masterpiece of masterpieces," Seracini told the Associated Press. Recovering it "would be like discovering a new Mona Lisa or a new Last Supper."

Bush Defends Secret Detentions

President Bush on Monday defended the U.S. treatment of detainees and said the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks should stay in secret custody because he could provide valuable information to help protect Americans and Europeans.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, regarded by U.S. officials as the brains behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, has been held at an undisclosed location since he was captured in Pakistan in March 2003.
..."And at some point in time he will be dealt with, but right now we think it's best that he be kept in custody," Bush said. "We want to learn as much as we can in this new kind of war about the intention, and about the methods, about how these people operate."

Terror war still short on linguists

The effort to produce more speakers of Arabic and other languages of the Islamic world is needed because many Americans fluent in these languages have difficulty getting security clearances if they have relatives in the region. Producing a "homegrown" speaker of Arabic, with its different alphabet and many dialects, can take 10 years, says professor John Walbridge of the University of Indiana, "if you apply yourself." (Related story: Muslim world isn't big with U.S. students)
No government agency coordinates this effort, and there are no readily available statistics on how many students get federal money intended to produce more speakers of Arabic, Urdu and other strategic languages and more experts on the Islamic world.

U.S. spending on Iraq may soon surpass Korean War budget

Lawmakers in the United States were scheduled to vote on Monday to approve $45 billion US in additional funding for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, making the recent Middle East foray more expensive than the entire Korean War.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Congress has approved $350 billion, mostly for combat and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The amount, which includes $82 billion approved last month, is equal to the total amount in today's dollars spent on the Korean conflict from 1950-53.
More than 54,000 U.S. troops were killed and 103,000 wounded in that conflict when the U.S.-led United Nations force pushed back a North Korean invasion into South Korea.
Monday's bill before the House of Representatives would give the Pentagon a total of $364 billion, about a three per cent increase, for its operations for the 2006 budget year that begins Oct. 1.

Intelligent Design: Phase III of the Wedge Strategy

In 1997, someone leaked a public relations strategy for the promotion of the Intelligent Design metaphysical argument.
From Wikipedia:
The strategy outlines a public relations campaign meant to sway the opinion of the public, popular media, funding agencies, and the scientific community in order that they should effect an "overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies". The Wedge document discusses at length the means of achieving these goals, which are scientific research, writing, publishing, conferences, seminars, speaking appearances, debates, media appearances and other public square activities.
There are three "wedge projects" referred in the strategy as three phases:
  • Phase I: Scientific Research, Writing & Publicity,
  • Phase II: Publicity & Opinion-making, and
  • Phase III: Cultural Confrontation & Renewal.
Each of these phases is designed to reach a governing goal of the Wedge Strategy
  • To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies.
  • To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.
Now that we are in Phase III, it's worth going back to the original document and see how successful it has been so far.

Circumventing the Senate, White House May Make Bolton a Recess Appointment

President George W. Bush may give John Bolton a temporary appointment as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations if Senate Democrats continue to stall a vote on his nomination, Republican Senator Jon Kyl said today.
``It's really critical we get John Bolton confirmed,'' Kyl of Arizona, chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, said in an interview. ``If we can't get him confirmed, my guess is he'll be appointed with a recess appointment.'' That would put Bolton in the position until the Congress adjourns late next year.
Bush, at a news conference today with the leaders of the European Union, refused to say whether he's considering a recess appointment. ``I think Mr. Bolton should get an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor,'' Bush said in response to a question.

Documents Related to and Confirming the Downing Street Memo

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw Memo
PDF scanned document
Plain text transcription
March 25, 2002 memo from Jack Straw (UK Foreign Secretary) to Tony Blair in preparation for Blair’s visit to Bush’s Crawford ranch, covering Iraq-al Qaida linkage, legality of invasion, weapons inspectors and post-war considerations.
British Foreign Office Political Director Peter Ricketts Letter
PDF scanned document
Plain text transcription
March 22, 2002 memo from Peter Ricketts (Political Director, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office) to Jack Straw (UK Foreign Secretary) providing Ricketts’ advice for the Prime Minister on issues of the threat posed by Iraq, connections to al Qaida, post-war considerations and working with the UN.
British Ambassador Christopher Meyer Letter
PDF scanned document
Plain text transcription
March 18, 2002 memo from Christopher Meyer (UK ambassador to the US) to David Manning (UK Foreign Policy Advisor) recounting Meyer’s meeting with Paul Wolfowitz (US Deputy Secretary of Defense).
Chief Foreign Policy Advisor David Manning Memo
PDF scanned document
Plain text transcription
March 14, 2002 memo from David Manning (UK Foreign Policy Advisor) to Tony Blair recounting Manning’s meetings with his US counterpart Condoleeza Rice (National Security Advisor), and advising Blair for his upcoming visit to Bush’s Crawford ranch.
Iraq Options
PDF scanned document
March 8, 2002 memo from Overseas and Defence Secretariat Cabinet Office outlining military options for implementing regime change.
Iraq: Legal Background
PDF scanned document
Plain text transcription
March 8, 2002 memo from UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (office of Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary) to Tony Blair advising him on the legality of the use of force against Iraq.
Cabinet Office briefing paper: Conditions for military action
The Times of London, June 12, 2005
Plain text transcription
July 22, 2002 briefing paper, generated for participants for the secret meeting of Blair’s inner circle on July 23, 2002, says that since regime change was illegal it was “necessary to create the conditions” which would make it legal.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office legal advice
The Times of London, June 19, 2005
Plain text transcription
This is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office legal advice appended as Annex A to the Cabinet Office briefing paper on Iraq of July 21, 2002. This advice was originally written in March 2002..
Goldsmith Legal Opinion
The Guardian, April 28, 2005
PDF scanned document
March 7, 2003 formerly confidential paper detailing British Attorney General Lord Goldsmith's advice on the legality of the Iraq war. The government had previously resisted all attempts to secure its release.
Wilmshurst resignation letter (uncensored version)
BBC, March 24, 2005
March 18, 2003 minute from Elizabeth Wilmshurst, Deputy Legal Adviser to the Foreign Office, to Michael Wood (The Legal Adviser), copied to the Private Secretary, the Private Secretary to the Permanent Under-Secretary, Alan Charlton (Director Personnel) and Andrew Patrick (Press Office). Wilmshurst resigned in March 2003 because she did not believe the war with Iraq was legal. Her letter was released by the Foreign Office to the BBC News website under the Freedom of Information Act.

"Press line" document regarding Wilmshurst resignation
Foreign and Commonwealth Office pdf link
March 18, 2003 press line document regarding Foreign Office deputy legal adviser, Elizabeth Wilmshurst's resignation after 20 years’ service on the point of whether military action in Iraq without proper UN security council authorisation was lawful under international law.

Non-Signing Senators Respond to Anti-Lynching Apology

“I don’t feel I should apologize for the passage of or the failure to pass any legislation by the U.S. Senate. But I deplore and regret that lynchings occurred and that those committing them were not punished,” [Thad Cochran (R-Miss.)] said in a statement last week.
In an interview with his state’s largest paper, the Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, he pointedly noted that the paper had not apologized for its 50 years of editorials in support of segregation.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who, like Cochran, would have voted “aye” if there had been a roll call vote on the matter, said that there were better ways to handle the issue, such as pushing forward-looking legislative issues rather than apologizing for previous inactions.
“The best way for the United States Senate to condemn lynching is to get to work on legislation that would offer African Americans and other Americans better access to good schools, quality health care and decent jobs,” he said in a statement inserted into the Congressional Record.
Rarely has a nonbinding Senate resolution with such broad bipartisan support turned into a touchstone for controversy after its passage by a voice vote. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and liberal activists have made it an issue by accusing Republicans of not supporting the measure aggressively enough.

Non-Signing Senators Respond to Anti-Lynching Apology

“I don’t feel I should apologize for the passage of or the failure to pass any legislation by the U.S. Senate. But I deplore and regret that lynchings occurred and that those committing them were not punished,” [Thad Cochran (R-Miss.)] said in a statement last week.
In an interview with his state’s largest paper, the Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, he pointedly noted that the paper had not apologized for its 50 years of editorials in support of segregation.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who, like Cochran, would have voted “aye” if there had been a roll call vote on the matter, said that there were better ways to handle the issue, such as pushing forward-looking legislative issues rather than apologizing for previous inactions.
“The best way for the United States Senate to condemn lynching is to get to work on legislation that would offer African Americans and other Americans better access to good schools, quality health care and decent jobs,” he said in a statement inserted into the Congressional Record.
Rarely has a nonbinding Senate resolution with such broad bipartisan support turned into a touchstone for controversy after its passage by a voice vote. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and liberal activists have made it an issue by accusing Republicans of not supporting the measure aggressively enough.

Officers Urging Soldiers to Call Home for Supplies

Marine Pfc. Jeremy Tod, 19, called home with news that his superiors were urging him and fellow Marines to buy special military equipment, including flak jackets with armor plating, to enhance the prospects of their survival. The message was that such purchases were to be made by Marines with their own money.
"He said they strongly suggested he get this equipment because when they get to Iraq they will wish they had," Tod said. Total estimated cost: $600.

Fake Documents Got Workers Into Nuke Plant

Sixteen foreign-born construction workers with phony immigration documents were able to enter a nuclear weapons plant in eastern Tennessee because of lax security controls, a federal report said Monday.
Controls at the Y-12 weapons plant have since been tightened and there was no evidence the workers had access to any sensitive documents, said the National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees nuclear weapons facilities for the Department of Energy.

CIA Loses Bid to Control International Agents

A key Pentagon ally in the U.S. Congress defeated a legislative attempt to guarantee the CIA control of all U.S. secret agents overseas, congressional aides said on Monday.
In the latest turf battle involving post-Sept. 11 reforms, the top Republican and Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives intelligence committee agreed to drop language from a proposed bill that would have put CIA Director Porter Goss in charge of human intelligence, aides said.

Some of what Happens in the Brain During Orgasm

New research indicates parts of the brain that govern fear and anxiety are switched off when a woman is having an orgasm but remain active if she is faking.
In the first study to map brain function during orgasm, scientists from the Netherlands also found that as a woman climaxes, an area of the brain governing emotional control is largely deactivated.
...For women, the scanner measured brain activity at rest, while they faked an orgasm, while their partners stimulated their clitoris and while they experienced orgasm.
Holstege said he had trouble getting reliable results from the study on men because the scanner needs activities lasting at least two minutes and the men's climaxes didn't last that long. However, the scans did show activation of reward centers in the brain for men, but not for women.
Holstege said his results on women were more clear.
...The most striking results were seen in the parts of the brain that shut down, or deactivated. Deactivation was visible in the amygdala, a part of the brain thought to be involved in the neurobiology of fear and anxiety.
[Images of rocket lift-off and Michael Jordan slam-dunking, yet to be confirmed - McLir]

Coke to Examine Overseas Labor Practices

The Coca-Cola Co. says it is willing to examine its labor and business practices in India and Colombia to keep $1.3 million worth of contracts with the University of Michigan.
The university decided Friday that it would renew contracts with the world's biggest beverage company only on a conditional basis until the company performs an independent audit and puts a corrective plan in place, said Frank Stafford, chairman of the school's Vendor Code of Conduct Dispute Review Board.
Atlanta-based Coca-Cola has for years faced questions about its labor practices abroad, and college students have levied some of the most vocal complaints. The company has repeatedly denied allegations of environmental and human rights abuses, but officials said they would look into the matter.