Saturday, July 30, 2005

US Army Chemical Corps Documents

In 1951, the Army's Chemical Corps summarized its mission: "The present day mission of the Chemical Corps...includes responsibility for the defensive and offensive aspects of biological and chemical warfare, the latter comprising incendiary and smoke activities as well as those of gas; and the defensive aspects of radiological warfare. The Chemical Corps develops, manufactures, procures and supplies material pertaining to these types of warfare, and provides technical supervision of the training of the Army within those fields." — "Summary History of the Chemical Corps" (October 1951), pages 2-3
Now that it's illegal for the US to develop or possess biological or chemical weapons for offensive purposes, the Corps' mission is all about defense (except for smoke and flame weapons, which still can be developed and used). But the documents we'll be posting here are from the days when the US had an openly admitted, offensive chem/bioweapons program.

UK government orders alcohol makers to only use unattractive, unsexy people in ads

Drinks companies have been ordered to hire paunchy, balding men for advertisements to meet new rules forbidding any link between women’s drinking and sex. Watchdogs have issued a list of undesirable male characteristics that advertisers must abide by in order to comply with tougher rules designed to separate alcohol from sexual success.
Lambrini, the popular sparkling drink, is the first to suffer. Its manufacturers have complained after watchdogs rejected its latest campaign because it depicted women flirting with a man who was deemed too attractive.

Pixies Videos

The Pixies: rare video & interviews, plus images & video from the 2004 reunion tour [from]

The Human Chimera Prohibition Act of 2005

On March 17, Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), introduced S. 659, the Human Chimera Prohibition Act of 2005. The bill would prohibit any person from creating, or attempting to create a human chimera. A "human chimera" is broadly defined to include various methods of mixing non-human cells into human embryos. The bill includes both civil and criminal penalties. S. 659 has no cosponsors and was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Nation: Profile of Bernie Sanders

Even if he were not a socialist, and even if he were not an independent who eschews most of the trappings of contemporary partisan politics--including those of a Democratic Party he sees as dramatically too centrist, too cautious and too unfocused to counter the country's drift to the right--the enthusiasm Sanders inspires would be remarkable. That he attracts the support he does with what are generally portrayed as career-crushing liabilities in American politics has made his Senate campaign the subject of a good deal of fascination among progressives looking for a successful model in an era when too many Democrats seem to think the only way to win is by trimming their sails. When the question of the moment is, What's the matter with Kansas? it's no surprise that Democrats want to know how Sanders wins tough races in an overwhelmingly rural state by drawing the enthusiastic support of precisely the sort of white working-class voters Democrats have had such a hard time hanging on to in recent elections.
Unfortunately, Sanders is not peddling easy fixes. What he has to teach is not a new scheme for organizing a campaign or raising money. There's no Bernie Sanders gimmick. Rather, Sanders offers confirmation of a fundamental reality that too many progressive pols have forgotten: An ideologically muscular message delivered in a manner that crosses lines of class, region and partisanship is still the best strategy. "Bernie earned people's trust over a long period of time by taking strong stands and sticking to them," says Peter Freyne, a columnist for Burlington's weekly newspaper, Seven Days. "There's a connection between what the politician says and what the politician does. And it's always there. The consistency of where he's coming from and who he's looking out for has been there since I started covering him in 1981."
There is nothing cautious about Sanders's politics: He opposes the war in Iraq, he is an outspoken critic of the Patriot Act, he condemns corporations and he maintains a lonely faith that government really can do a lot of things--like guarantee healthcare for all--better than the private sector. Nor is there anything smooth or prepackaged or focus-group tested about the way he communicates.

New Calls for Coalition Forces to Count Iraqi Casualties

''The adamant refusal of the U.S.A. and its partner countries to keep count of Iraqi deaths is a stance that renders farcical the Geneva Conventions' principle that invading forces have a duty to make every effort to protect civilian lives,'' said an editorial in this week's issue of The Lancet, released late Thursday. ''How can the coalition attest that it respects this obligation if it refuses to collect data to prove it?'
''The U.S.-led Coalition that instigated the war claims to have acted on behalf of the Iraqi people,'' The Lancet added. ''At the very least, Iraq's beleaguered citizens deserve to be told the true price--in numbers of lost human lives--they have paid for a conflict undertaken in their names.''

The journal cited the work of Iraq Body Count (IBC), a British-U.S. non-profit group that last week reported that 24,865 civilians had died in the two years since the war in Iraq began in March 2003. The IBC database, from which data for the dossier were drawn, lists only those deaths reported by two or more news agencies, The Lancet said.

Up to Half of Ocean Species in Fishing Grounds Lost to Overfishing

Half of all sea fish species have disappeared from the major fishing grounds of the world, according to a study that shows how ocean life has declined rapidly in the past 50 years.
The dramatic fall in the diversity of fish is blamed on overfishing rather than pollution or climate change, the scientists behind the study said yesterday.
The study, which examined fishing logbooks dating back to the 1950s, also found that the size of ocean "hot spots", which were traditionally rich in a diverse array of fish species, had shrunk significantly over the same period.

NYTimes Columnist Friedman Calls for Blacklist of People Who Say Iraq War is Causing Terrorism

Friedman's July 22 column proposed that the State Department, in order to "shine a spotlight on hate speech wherever it appears," create a quarterly "War of Ideas Report, which would focus on those religious leaders and writers who are inciting violence against others." But Friedman said the governmental speech monitoring should go beyond those who actually advocate violence, and also include what former State Department spokesperson Jamie Rubin calls "excuse makers." Friedman wrote:
After every major terrorist incident, the excuse makers come out to tell us why imperialism, Zionism, colonialism or Iraq explains why the terrorists acted. These excuse makers are just one notch less despicable than the terrorists and also deserve to be exposed. When you live in an open society like London, where anyone with a grievance can publish an article, run for office or start a political movement, the notion that blowing up a busload of innocent civilians in response to Iraq is somehow "understandable" is outrageous. "It erases the distinction between legitimate dissent and terrorism," Mr. Rubin said, "and an open society needs to maintain a clear wall between them."

The "despicable" idea that there may be a connection between acts of terrorism and particular policies by Western countries is one that is widely held by the citizens of those countries. Asked by the CNN/Gallup poll on July 7, "Do you think the terrorists attacked London today mostly because Great Britain supports the United States in the war in Iraq?" 56 percent of Americans agreed. In a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll (7/7-10/05), 54 percent said "the war with Iraq has made the U.S....less safe from terrorism." Since they see a connection between Iraq and terrorism, a majority of Americans are what Friedman calls "excuse makers" who "deserve to be exposed."

One-sided stories, by GOP decree

As I wrote earlier this morning, Roll Call's Lauren Whittington wrote a story about the GOP's negative ad campaign against Sen. Byrd.
What's particularly egregious about the Roll Call piece is that her Republican source demanded Whittington not talk to any other sources and she agreed, a gross violation of standard journalistic practices. Furthermore, Whittington failed to disclose that arrangement in the story, which ended up being a one-sided affair at the insistence of the Republicans. Whittington essentially wrote a GOP press release for them in a journalistic publication.
On April 5, 2005, the NY Times made the same mistake. They had to apologize for it.

"We Regard Falluja As a Large Prison"

"They are killing one or two of us everyday," says an Iraqi soldier at one of the checkpoints into the city, a claim confirmed by local doctors.
I have heard Iraqis make comparisons between their occupation and the Israeli occupation of Palestine, but it wasn't until I saw families walking through the kilometer-long checkpoint, from a parking lot outside Falluja to one on the other side, that it seemed apt. Once inside, seeing the life continuing amidst the rubble, it was harder still to ignore the physical similarities.
...Back at the hospital, Ahmed says he expects the fighting to continue. "Even civilian people will change to be fighters," he says. "We regard Falluja as a large prison." (People in Falluja will not talk directly about fighting, though all indications are that the new attacks are homegrown.)
The Iraqi army in Falluja, who don't mind telling a journalist that they are all from cities in the south, don't seem particularly thrilled to be here. (When the US tried recruiting Fallujis to fight in Falluja, they turned their guns on the US or turned them over to the guerillas.)
...I approach some of the Marines on a base inside the city, to try and find out what life is like for them. They say there is no one at the base who can speak on the record, but I pause for a minute and chat, not terribly excited about walking back outside into the thick dust and, potentially, a line of fire. They ask why I have come, I am the first journalist they have seen in four months.
"No one wants to talk about Falluja," says one of the Marines.

Hollywood Plots End of Film Reels

I filed this story for Wired News about an announcement from Hollywood's six major studios that they have agreed on technical specs for digital distribution and display of movies. Digital Cinema Initiatives, the group founded in 2002 to bring studios, theater owners and tech manufacturers together in planning an industrywide shift to digital cinema, released version 1.0 of its requirements and specifications yesterday.
Here's the doc -- PDF Link. out of all 175 pages, nearly half are devoted to antipiracy measures.

From the Wired article:
Representatives of Hollywood's top movie studios say they have agreed on technical specifications that will make it easier to distribute and display movies digitally.
Digital Cinema Initiatives, the industry consortium created in 2002 to unite studios, theater owners and tech manufacturers in planning the shift to digital, released version 1.0 of its requirements and specifications for digital cinema Wednesday.
...Studios spent more than $631 million in 2003 on film prints for the North American market alone, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. Subtracting reels from that equation could reduce total distribution costs by as much as 90 percent, according to U.K. digital cinema analyst Patrick von Sychowski. Add in costs for overseas distribution and exhibition, and the move from prints to digital files could mean an eventual annual savings of up to $900 million.

Collection of Bizarre Public Signs

10,000 Superballs Down SF Street

sem says: It's not photoshop! It was yesterday on Leavenworth & Union for a Sony commercial. They did it 4 times. Also, they covered all the sewer drains, had nets at the bottom of the hill to catch them, and also about 50 people that went through all the bushes to collect them...

Self Assembling Zombie Flash Mob in SF

12 episodes of Radar Men From the Moon

Inforgraphics Job at Wired

as an avid reader of Wired Magazine, I was glad to help them out when they kindly asked me to post the following announcement: 'Wired Magazine is looking for the most talented information graphics designer out there. The ideal candidate will be able to conceptualize infographics from scratch, translate raw data into high-impact spreads, and work hand-in-hand with researchers, designers and illustrators. If you are the next Edward Tufte and would like to know more about this job please send an email to Subject line: infographics.' [from]

FDA Bans Baytril in Poultry

The Food and Drug Administration is banning the use of Bayer Corp.'s Baytril in chickens, fearing the practice poses health risks for humans. The agency's veterinary medicine division had first sought its removal in 2000.
It's the first time the agency has ended the use of an animal drug because of fears that it could lead to antibiotic-resistant pathogens in humans.
The FDA's standard is that food from animals that have taken a particular drug must carry a "reasonable certainty of no harm," and the agency didn't feel that poultry treated with Baytril met that standard, an FDA spokesman said.
"Scientific data ... showed that the use of (Baytril) in poultry caused resistance to emerge in Campylobacter, a bacterium that causes foodborne illness. Chickens and turkeys normally harbor Campylobacter in their digestive tracts without causing poultry to become ill," the agency said in a statement.

Bust of Constantine Found in Rome Sewer

Archaeologists found the 60cm (2ft) head while clearing an ancient drainage system in the ruins of the Roman Forum.
Eugenio La Rocca, superintendent of Rome's artefacts, described the head as a rare find and said it was possible it had been used to clear a blocked sewer.
Constantine, who reigned from 306 to 337, is known for ending persecution of Christians and founding Constantinople.
Although most of his subjects remained pagans, he is credited with helping to establish Europe's Christian roots by proclaiming religious freedom.

US asked to leave Uzbek air base

Uzbekistan has reportedly given the US six months to move out of a key base used for operations in Afghanistan.
The notice to leave Karshi-Khanabad air base, known as K2, was given to the US embassy in the Uzbek capital on Friday.
A Pentagon spokesman said the US was "evaluating the note to see exactly what it means".
Uzbekistan has been an ally of the US in Central Asia, but correspondents say relations were strained over the bloody suppression of a protest in May.

Bolton Not Truthful, 36 Senators Charge in Opposing Appointment

In a letter to Mr. Bush, the senators cited the disclosure on Thursday that Mr. Bolton had been interviewed by the State Department's inspector general in an investigation of intelligence failures related to Iraq, even though he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in March that he had not been involved in any such inquiry.
Mr. Bolton "did not recall this interview" when he assured the committee that he had not been questioned by any investigators, according to a letter sent Friday from the State Department to Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., the ranking Democrat on the foreign relations panel.
The letter from the senators, all Democrats except for the Senate's sole independent, who usually votes with them, was the latest escalation of the battle over Mr. Bolton.

Federal Judge Rules Against PATRIOT Act

A federal judge has ruled that some provisions of the U.S. Patriot Act dealing with foreign terrorist organizations remain too vague to be understood by a person of average intelligence and are therefore unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins found that Congress failed to remedy all the problems she defined in a 2004 ruling that struck down key provisions of the act. Her decision was handed down Thursday and released Friday.
"Even as amended, the statute fails to identify the prohibited conduct in a manner that persons of ordinary intelligence can reasonably understand," the ruling said.

Whistle-Blower Faces FBI Probe

The FBI is investigating a computer security researcher for criminal conduct after he revealed that critical routers supporting the internet and many networks have a serious software flaw that could allow someone to crash or take control of them.
Mike Lynn, a former researcher at Internet Security Systems, or ISS, said he was tipped off late Thursday night that the FBI was investigating him for violating trade secrets belonging to his former employer.
Lynn resigned from ISS Wednesday morning after his company and Cisco threatened to sue him if he spoke at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas about a serious vulnerability he found while reverse-engineering the operating system in Cisco routers. He said he conducted the reverse-engineering at the request of his company, which was concerned that Cisco wasn't being forthright about a recent fix it had made to its operating system.
Lynn spoke anyway, discussing the flaw in Cisco IOS, the operating system that runs on Cisco routers, which are responsible for transferring data over much of the internet and private networks.
Although Lynn demonstrated for the audience what hackers could do to a router if they exploited the flaw, he did not reveal technical details that would allow anyone to exploit the bug without doing the same research he did to discover it.
See also, from BoingBoing, Michael Lynn's controversial Cisco security presentation.
Here's a PDF that purports to be Michael Lynn's presentation on Cisco's critical vulnerabilities ("The Holy Grail: Cisco IOS Shellcode And Exploitation Techniques"), delivered at last week's Black Hat conference. Lynn's employer, ISS, wouldn't let him deliver the talk (they'd been leant on by Cisco), so Lynn quit his job, walked onstage and delivered it anyway. (See yesterday's post and Scheneier's take for more). 1.9MB PDF Link

Another Day - Living and working in Mahmudiyah, Iraq.

Ok, it's now official. On every Tuesday and Friday the chow hall will be serving lunch. So far it's only been hotdogs and hamburgers, but not too bad. The best thing about our chow hall is the fruit. I don't know where they get it or how they always manage to get fresh produce everyday, but it's great. I only wish they could get Georgia peaches instead of the California ones, BIG difference in taste.
I've been playing with the Google Earth program, I can almost see the window to Randy's apartment. I can actually see the little sidewalk in front that he walks on everyday to go to his car. He calculated out how far we are from one another; approximately 6,891.93 miles (give or take a few feet). Wow, that's far. Guess I can't swim that after all, oh well.
Yesterday we had a RPG attack on the FOB. It was around 9pm or so and landed about 300 meters or so outside of one of the gates. I slept right through it, everyone else said it woke them up it was so loud. Maybe I'm getting used to bombs after all. No one was hurt during the attack and I have no idea if they caught the guys who did it.
After work yesterday I came back to a sweltering hot tent, the air-conditioning wasn't working AGAIN. Every other day or so this happens, it's so annoying because no one else's air goes out, just ours. So I ended up hanging out at the PX for the 2 hours before chow. I talked politics and money with one of my buddies there. For a moment I almost felt like I was back at school again. I miss Agnes Scott College.
SPC Lauren Schreck

Friday, July 29, 2005

Stephen Collins Foster

In the pantheon of American popular music, Pennsylvanian Stephen Collins Foster (1826-1864) is a muse to all followers. He penned: "Oh, Susanna"; "My Old Kentucky Home"; "Old Folks at Home" ('Way Down Upon the Swanee River') and "Camptown Races" among a legacy of over 200 songs. Foster contributed greatly to the rise in popularity of the minstrel shows, displaying a humanitarian attitude towards blacks in his 'plantation songs', despite only visiting the south once briefly on his honeymoon. Copyright being what it was in those days, he made not much more than $9000 in his lifetime from publishing royalties. He died a pauper in New York following a head injury and was found with just 38c and a scrap of paper in his pocket book that read: "Dear friends and gentle hearts". His sketch book of songs was recently digitized and is hosted by the University of Pittsburgh. []

Big Brother Nixes Happy Hour

It is a regular pastime for co-workers to chat during a coffee break, at a union hall, or over a beer about workplace issues, good grilling recipes, and celebrity gossip. Yet a recent ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) allows employers to ban off-duty fraternizing among co-workers, severely weakening the rights of free association and speech, and violating basic standards of privacy for America's workers.

Journalist with Heart Condition Discovers the Commercialism of Medicine

For more than 25 years, Minnesotans have turned on WCCO-TV and turned to Don Shelby, anchor and investigative reporter. Off the air, locals know that Shelby is an active rock climber, canoeist and sports enthusiast. So when Shelby was suddenly hit by two strokes in 2004, it was big local news.
Doctors discovered that Shelby had a hole between the upper chambers of his heart –- a hole that exists in infants, but which normally closes. Blood clots that normally are filtered by the lungs jumped through the hole in Shelby's heart and went to his brain, causing the strokes. So last summer Shelby began planning with his doctor a procedure to patch the hole with an experimental device. He reflected on these events in an in-depth interview with me.
Shelby said he saw better than ever before how commercial interests in the health care industry try to influence television news –- often successfully. His doctor reported to Shelby, "You're causing quite a stir. I've heard from several companies and they all want their device in you." A number of companies eventually made offers to Shelby, clearly interested in promoting the fact that this well-known anchorman used their device. One offered a free device, another a discounted device, and a third offered a free trip to Europe to have the procedure done there if his insurance wouldn't pay for it here.

The Lessons of Emmett Till

Emmett Till was a black teenager from Chicago. He went to Mississippi in 1955 to visit relatives. He came home in a coffin.
His funeral made him a historic reference.
Emmett's mother insisted that the body be brought back to Chicago and be given a public viewing. His horribly disfigured body went on public display. Mourners looked upon a body bloated by several days in the river, a skull split open by either a gunshot or an ax.
People fainted at the sight. But they remembered. They remembered both Emmett and the senseless way he died. So what could a reporter possibly say that would be new?
A lot.

Images from the Visual Revolution

Think back with me to a small sampling of the many historic moments captured in those iconic images that are seared in our memories.

FDR and Stalin and Churchill at the summit; people with tears in their eyes standing by the railroad tracks as the train carried the body of President Roosevelt from Georgia to Washington; the Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima; General MacArthur wading in the water as he returns to the Philippines as promised; a sailor kissing a woman in Times Square on VJ Day; a naked child running from the napalm attack in Vietnam; a police chief shooting a man in the head, also in Vietnam; or the picture of people fighting to get on the last helicopter leaving that country.
Khrushchev banging his shoe on the table at the United Nations, or the shot of Adlai Stevenson sitting with his legs crossed showing a big hole in the sole of his shoe; Khrushchev and President Nixon in the kitchen; President Kennedy's assassination in Dallas, or Lee Harvey Oswald being killed by Jack Ruby, or LBJ being sworn in on Air Force One with a bloodied Jacqueline Kennedy at his side; little John Kennedy saluting his father's coffin; an Ambassador Hotel busboy kneeling over a fatally wounded Bobby Kennedy; Dr. King leading the march in Selma; Bull Connor turning the dogs loose against the marchers; the faces of four children killed in a Birmingham church; tens of thousands gathered in Washington to hear "I Have a Dream"; the fallen body of Dr. King at a Memphis motel; George Wallace standing in the door of an Alabama school. [more]

"The Sound on the Page": An Interview with Ben Yagoda

Re-reading "The Sound on the Page" this summer rekindled the same excitement I first felt in college when Oliver Nickerson S.J., a brilliant and demanding English professor, showed how careful reading could reveal the mysteries of literature. In the same accessible fashion, Yagoda combines erudite and often witty analysis, examples of stylistic excellence and infelicities and most important, candid testimony from more than 40 interviews the author conducted with acknowledged stylists whose platforms range from the newspaper humor column (Dave Barry), magazines (Susan Orlean), the novel (Michael Chabon), online writing (Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist James Lileks) and even Supreme Court decisions (Justice Stephen Breyer).
Yagoda is a practical scholar and reflective practitioner interested in cracking the code of memorable writing. His previous books include biographies of a literary tradition ("About Town: The New Yorker and the World It Made") and a legendary humorist ("Will Rogers: A Biography").

Citizen arrested for asking to see the Diebold computer in action, counting votes

Jim March, a member of the Black Box Voting board of directors,
was arrested Tuesday evening for trying to observe the Diebold
central tabulator (vote tallying machine) as the votes were being
counted in San Diego's mayoral election (July 26).
(- online discussion: http:/ -)
...During the tallying of the election, the Diebold computer
was positioned too far away for citizens to read the screen.
Citizens could not watch error messages, or even perceive
significant anomalies or malfunctions.
Unable to see the screen, March went into the office where the
tabulator was housed. Two deputies followed him and escorted
him out.
According to Hamilton: "He was not belligerent, not at all.
After he went inside the tabulator room he came [was escorted]
out and he said clearly 'I'm not resisting.' They handcuffed
him, took him out of the building. They put him in a squad car.
They're going to take him to the police station, book him and
take him to jail," said Hamilton. "He's getting charged with a
felony, 'interfering with an election official.'"

Kim Jong-Il, the cunning linguist

Ok, so the guys a nut, no argument there. But Kim Jong-Il may well have put together one of the hottest, sexiest, political (communist) screeds I’ve ever heard. So will the rallying cry for the next revolution be “Orgasms for All!”?
Check out this totally cool flash presentation of the text set to the sounds of Nina Simone by the folks at Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries.
Thanks to Amanda over at WFMU’s Beware of the Blog for a kick ass post. [from]

Glox News

Nature: Climate pact panned as diversionary tactic

On 28 July, Australia, China, India, South Korea, Japan and the United States announced that they had signed an independent pact to help tackle climate change. But experts have criticized them for not adopting targets for emission reductions.
The Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, which promotes using new technologies to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, has been worked out in secret by the parties involved, so its announcement has come as something of a surprise.
Climate-policy experts say that although the aims of the pact are worthwhile, it contains no new financial commitments or targets. Australia and the United States are the only two developed nations not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, and experts say the pact is likely to be used by them to deflect pressure to accept future versions of the protocol.

New Discovery of Planetoid and Moon Beyond Pluto

In recent years astronomers have spotted several Kuiper-belt planetoids, including ones named Quaoar and Varuna; the latest has been nicknamed Santa. Philosophical debates continue about how large such objects have to be before we call them 'planets' rather than simple lumps of rock.

Super Bad, Super Black (Part 1)

28 Classic Blaxploitation radio ads. 28 more to come.
01 Cleopatra Jones.mp3
02 Coffy.mp3
03 Black Caesar.mp3
04 The Human Tornado .mp3
05 Shaft.mp3
06 The Mack.mp3
07 Trouble Man.mp3
08 Truck Turner.mp3
09 Slaughter.mp3
10 Black Mama, White Mama.mp3
11 Superfly TNT.mp3
12 J. D.'s Revenge.mp3
13 Amazing Grace.mp3
14 Blacula.mp3
15 Book Of Numbers.mp3
16 Black Shampoo.mp3
17 Slaughter's Big Rip-Off.mp3
18 Bucktown.mp3
19 Blackgunn .mp3
20. Claudine.mp3
21 Cornbread, Earl And Me.mp3
22 Dr. Black And Mr. Hyde.mp3
23 Five On The Black Hand Side 1.mp3
24 Friday Foster.mp3
25 Ghetto Freaks.mp3
26 Hell Up In Harlem.mp3
27 Lady Sings The Blues.mp3
28 Legend Of Nigger Charlie .mp3

Objecting Soldier Gets 15 Months in Prison

Benderman was acquitted of desertion but convicted of the lesser charge of missing movement, meaning he skipped his Jan. 8 deployment flight. He could have received five years in prison if convicted of desertion.
Along with his prison sentence, Benderman will receive a dishonorable discharge and have his rank reduced to private.

California Rejects Diebold Voting Machines

After possibly the most extensive testing ever on a voting system, California has rejected Diebold's flagship electronic voting machine because of printer jams and screen freezes, sending local elections officials scrambling for other means of voting.
"There was a failure rate of about 10 percent, and that's not good enough for the voters of California and not good enough for me," said Secretary of State Bruce McPherson.
If the machines had been used in an actual election, the result could have been frustrated poll workers and long lines for thousands of voters, said elections officials and voter advocates on Thursday.

Chaucer's tales become rap songs

A rap artist has translated some of the best known works of poet Geoffrey Chaucer into hip-hop to make them appeal to schoolchildren.
Canadian Baba Brinkman wants modern teenagers to warm to the 14th-century Canterbury Tales.
He is to tour English schools with his versions of the Pardoner's Tale, Miller's Tale and Wife of Bath's Tale.
Some of Chaucer's original bawdier language had to be "toned down" for his young audience.

Bolton "Didn't Recall" He Was Interviewed for an Investigation

John Bolton, President Bush's nominee for U.N. ambassador, neglected to tell Congress he had been interviewed in a government investigation into faulty prewar intelligence that Iraq was seeking nuclear materials in Africa, the State Department said.
Democratic senators said the admission should forestall Bush from using his authority to give Bolton a temporary appointment to the U.N. post, without Senate confirmation, when the Senate goes on vacation in August.
Bolton was interviewed by the State Department inspector general in 2003 as part of a joint investigation with the CIA into prewar Iraqi attempts to buy nuclear materials from Niger, State Department spokesman Noel Clay said Thursday.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Did Bolton Lie About Being Subject of Investigation?

John Bolton, President Bush's nominee for U.N. ambassador, mistakenly told Congress he had not been interviewed or testified in any investigation over the past five years, the State Department said Thursday.
Bolton was interviewed by the State Department inspector general in 2003 as part of a joint investigation with the Central Intelligence Agency into prewar Iraqi attempts to buy nuclear materials from Niger, State Department spokesman Noel Clay said.
The admission came hours after another State Department official said Bolton had correctly answered a Senate questionnaire when he wrote that he has not testified to a grand jury or been interviewed by investigators in any inquiry over the past five years.
The reversal followed persistent Democratic attempts to question Bolton's veracity just days before Bush may use his authority to make him
United Nations ambassador after Congress adjourns for its summer recess. For months, Democrats have prevented the Senate from confirming the fiery conservative to the post.

The Situation (one video, multiple takes)

Are News Economics Leading to False News?

"The culprit behind the recurring clusters of plagiarism and fabrication scandals isn’t just irresponsible youth or a few bad apples or the temptations of the Internet," writes Lori Robertson, managing editor of the American Journalism Review. "It may be the newsroom culture itself. ... Many news organizations are demanding more bang for fewer bucks, as budgets are trimmed, training and mentoring are nixed, time for long, heady talks on attribution is nonexistent." And journalism has become "a profession that is viewed more and more like a business and not—as it so lovingly was post-Watergate—as a vital part of a functioning democracy."

Kenyan waits for Bill Clinton's answer on offer of 40 goats, 20 cows to marry daughter

A Kenyan city councilman says he offered Bill Clinton 40 goats and 20 cows for his daughter's hand in marriage five years ago. He's still awaiting an answer.
Godwin Kipkemoi Chepkurgor wrote Clinton asking for Chelsea's hand in 2000 when Clinton visited Kenya, Chepkurgor told the East African Standard newspaper.
Chepkurgor, 36, vowed to remain single until he gets an answer to his proposal to marry Chelsea, 25.

dKos: Frist Pulls Defense Spending Bill In Face of Republican Anti-Torture Amendments

Simply amazing. In the face of a series of amendments by Republican Senators McCain, Warner and Graham that would have instituted new rules against torture, as well as other Republican-backed attempts to strengthen veterans benefits and delay base closures until after the Iraq War, Bill Frist has simply pulled the entire $450 billion defense bill from the Senate floor. Funding the troops now won't be reconsidered until after the summer recess.
From the Washington Times, of all places, since it humors me greatly to cite them...

Balancing Point

The Hindi word "kul" means both "tomorrow" and "yesterday."
Is this "Koyaanisqatsi" meets "Memento"?
Is this "eastern spirituality" meets the "Give it Away" video by the Chili Peppers?
In any case, it's fine video.

Paper that Can Store Imagery Without a Power High Tech Paper Stores and Shares Information

Similar to Flash memory, the display integrates a non-volatile data memory function that is able to continuously display the same image without being connected to a power supply. Electricity is only needed when users want to change the displayed content. According to Fujitsu, the material used enables high-resolution and "vivid color" images that are unaffected even when the screen is bent.
Fujitsu did not provide any details about the screen, but said the new technology consumes only 1/100 to 1/10,000 the energy of conventional display technologies. Possible applications for the paper could be advertising and information displays, restaurant menus, operating manuals or even digital photo frames that typically require a continuous power supply today.

Thompson, dems seeks information around Downing Street memo

North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson is among a group of congressional representatives demanding answers on whether the Bush administration manipulated intelligence to make a war with Iraq seem inevitable.
Thompson, a Democrat from St. Helena, signed a letter dated June 30 that was sent to the heads of four congressional committees.
"We are writing to request that your committees hold hearings to investigate reports of a pre-war deal between the United Kingdom and the United States and evidence that pre-war intelligence was intentionally manipulated," the letter reads. "On May 1, 2005, the Sunday London Times published a leaked document with the minutes of a secret meeting from highly placed sources inside the British government."

Shot Brazilian in UK reportedly did not wear bulky jacket

Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian shot dead in the head, was not wearing a heavy jacket that might have concealed a bomb, and did not jump the ticket barrier when challenged by armed plainclothes police, his cousin said yesterday.
Speaking at a press conference after a meeting with the Metropolitan police, Vivien Figueiredo, 22, said that the first reports of how her 27-year-old cousin had come to be killed in mistake for a suicide bomber on Friday at Stockwell tube station were wrong.
"He used a travel card," she said. "He had no bulky jacket, he was wearing a jeans jacket. But even if he was wearing a bulky jacket that wouldn't be an excuse to kill him."

Dems Introduce 25% Porn Excise Tax

More than a week after news of its existence leaked, a bill seeking a 25 percent excise tax on adult entertainment purchased online and the imposition of mandatory, “certified” age verification of adult website visitors was introduced Wednesday by nine Democratic Senators. Concurrently, two members of the U.S. House of Representatives introduced companion legislation there.

Bush's Own Kyoto-Style Pact

The Bush administration, which is pushing alternatives to the Kyoto treaty on global warming, unveiled a six-nation pact on Wednesday that promotes the use of technology to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The deal between the United States, Japan, Australia, China, India and South Korea will build on existing bilateral agreements on technology sharing. It includes no Kyoto-style caps on emissions.
President Bush said in a statement the Asia-Pacific partnership, which will be formally introduced in the Laotion capital Vientiane, would address global warming while promoting economic development.
But environmentalists criticized it as an attempt by Washington to create a distraction ahead of U.N. talks in November in Montreal that will focus on how to widen Kyoto to include developing nations after 2012.
The approach of looking to technology for solutions to global warming was emphasized by Bush at the Group of Eight summit in Scotland when he called for a "post-Kyoto era."

The United States, which creates the biggest share of greenhouse emissions, and Australia are the only developed nations outside Kyoto. But Japan, China, India and South Korea have ratified Kyoto, which demands cuts in greenhouse emissions by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012.

Former CIA officer sues to publish Bin Laden book

The CIA is squelching publication of a new book detailing events leading up to Osama bin Laden's escape from his Tora Bora mountain stronghold during the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, says a former CIA officer who led much of the fighting.
In a story he says he resigned from the agency to tell, Gary Berntsen recounts the attacks he coordinated at the peak of the fighting in eastern Afghanistan in late 2001, including how U.S. commanders knew bin Laden was in the rugged mountains near the Pakistani border and the al-Qaeda leader's much-discussed getaway.
Berntsen claims in a federal court lawsuit that the CIA is over-classifying his manuscript and has repeatedly missed deadlines written into its own regulations to review his book. His attorney, Roy Krieger, said he delivered papers to the U.S. District Court in Washington after hours Wednesday.
The CIA declined to comment because the suit had not yet been filed officially.

Ohio Stonewalling on Coingate Documents?

In the two weeks since the Ohio Supreme Court ordered the state to make public the records of rare-coin funds managed by Tom Noe for the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, only three of an estimated 120 boxes of documents have been released.
Because of the slow pace of handing over the records, The Blade asked the Supreme Court yesterday to find the bureau and the two coin funds in contempt of court and requested that a receiver be appointed to take custody of the records.

High School Physics: What Happens When You Seal a Container (Like a Train Tanker) After Filling It With Steam

Foreign Policy: The State of Nature

What if we can't afford to save the world? An interesting debate between Sierra Club’s Carl Pope and the outspoken Bjørn Lomborg. (The “saving the world” bit might seem like hyperbole, but the really interesting question this debate sparks for me is this: Hypothetically, if it really came down to it, would anyone be willing to save the world for free? And if not, what does that imply about our values system and personal priorities? What does it say about the practical utility and limitations of monetary-based economic systems? [from]

What Everyone Should Know About Blog Depression

below you will find a 6 page pamphlet meant as a public service to help educate bloggers about this growing problem. feel free to download the complete pdf and disseminate this work to those you know and love. otherwise click each to see the larger version. “the more you know...”

Visualization of the Shuttle's 15,000 Hits Causing Damage of at Least One Inch in Diameter

Click on image to enlarge.

'Chicago Tribune' Managing Editor Vows to Shield Reporter

Chicago Tribune Managing Editor James O'Shea said Thursday that if reporter Colleen Mastony is subpoenaed in the murder trial of six hunters in Wisconsin, the paper will do everything in its power to shield her from testifying. "This is our job, to get the story," O'Shea tells E&P. "Journalists are under attack almost universally, so it's probably more important today to defend what we view is our obligation to sources."

The Fatwa Against Terrorism from Muslim Scholars in the US and Canada

The fatwa comes from the 18-member Fiqh Council of North America, the group of Islamic scholars that decides judicial issues for Muslims.
Text of the Fatwa:
The Fiqh Council of North America wishes to reaffirm Islam's absolute condemnation of terrorism and religious extremism.
Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism. Targeting civilians' life and property through suicide bombings or any other method of attack is haram – or forbidden - and those who commit these barbaric acts are criminals, not "martyrs."
The Qur'an, Islam's revealed text, states: "Whoever kills a person [unjustly]…it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind." (Qur'an, 5:32)
Prophet Muhammad said there is no excuse for committing unjust acts: "Do not be people without minds of your own, saying that if others treat you well you will treat them well, and that if they do wrong you will do wrong to them. Instead, accustom yourselves to do good if people do good and not to do wrong (even) if they do evil." (Al-Tirmidhi)
God mandates moderation in faith and in all aspects of life when He states in the Qur'an: "We made you to be a community of the middle way, so that (with the example of your lives) you might bear witness to the truth before all mankind." (Qur'an, 2:143)
In another verse, God explains our duties as human beings when he says: "Let there arise from among you a band of people who invite to righteousness, and enjoin good and forbid evil." (Qur'an, 3:104)
Islam teaches us to act in a caring manner to all of God's creation. The Prophet Muhammad, who is described in the Qur'an as "a mercy to the worlds" said: "All creation is the family of God, and the person most beloved by God (is the one) who is kind and caring toward His family."
In the light of the teachings of the Qur'an and Sunnah we clearly and strongly state:
1. All acts of terrorism targeting civilians are haram (forbidden) in Islam.
2. It is haram for a Muslim to cooperate with any individual or group that is involved in any act of terrorism or violence.
3. It is the civic and religious duty of Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement authorities to protect the lives of all civilians.
We issue this fatwa following the guidance of our scripture, the Qur'an, and the teachings of our Prophet Muhammad – peace be upon him. We urge all people to resolve all conflicts in just and peaceful manners.
We pray for the defeat of extremism and terrorism. We pray for the safety and security of our country, the United States, and its people. We pray for the safety and security of all inhabitants of our planet. We pray that interfaith harmony and cooperation prevail both in the United States and all around the globe.

ATC: Role of the Fatwa in Modern Islam

Robert Siegel talks with Reza Aslan, author of No God but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam. Aslan talks about the significance of the fatwa against terrorist attacks on civilians by the Fiqh Council of North America. He explains what a fatwa is, and who can issue one.

Sen. Kennedy on Government Accountability

Congressional Record: July 27, 2005 (Senate)
Excerpt: We need to return to our core values of openness and accountability. The facts we know so far about torture and other abuses, about indefinite detention, have already become recruiting tools for terrorists. But if we act now to uphold our principles, we can end the outrage, we can end the coverups, and hold officials accountable at the highest levels. We need to disavow the abuses and harsh techniques. We need to ensure our actions do not become an excuse for our enemies to
torture American troops when they are captured in the future or to attack innocent Americans in any part of the world.
The reports of abuse also undermine our own security efforts at home. The vast majority of Muslim Americans and Arab Americans are willing to help identify potential terrorists, help prevent charitable donations from being misused, and act as eyes and ears of a community uniquely capable of identifying potential threats. When the reports of abuses go unanswered, they undermine the community's willingness to provide that assistance. It is impossible for many Muslim Americans and Arab Americans to be persuaded to help against such threats if they feel their own religious beliefs have been targeted.
The reality is our safety and security depend on accountability. It is not enough to pretend that problem does not exist, but that is how the President has responded to the flow of reports about abuses. Contrary to the protests of the administration, we do not have the answers we need. So far, we have had 12 separate so-called investigations of allegations, but not a single report has adequately examined the role that civilian authorities have played in crafting the policies that led to our missteps. Twelve investigations and counting, and the coverup continues.

Former Miami City Official Kills Himself in 'Miami Herald' Lobby

A former city commissioner arraigned four days ago on corruption charges shot himself in the lobby of The Miami Herald building Wednesday after asking to see a columnist, the newspaper reported on its Web site. He later died, according to the Herald.
The Herald said Arthur E. Teele Jr., a Republican, shot himself in the mouth shortly after 6 p.m. He was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital. He shot himself after asking a security guard if he could see columnist Jim DeFede, the newspaper said.
"He said to tell DeFede to tell his wife he loves her," the security guard told the Herald.
The Herald fired columnist DeFede later Wednesday because he tape-recorded a phone conversation with Teele without his knowledge, which is illegal in Florida. Publisher Jesus Díaz, Jr. said that The Herald had no choice but to dismiss DeFede because his conduct was potentially a felony crime and unethical.

Salaries of private security guards in Iraq as much as $33,000 per month

A nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) report issued Thursday reveals that the U.S. is spending as much as $33,000 per private security contractor per month -- some $396,000 per year on individual guards...
The report, entitled Rebuilding Iraq: Actions Needed to Improve Use of Private Security Providers, examined contractors hired directly by federal agencies to provide security in Iraq, as well as security subcontractors hired by other contractors to protect their personnel and reconstruction projects, and is viewable in PDF format here.

FBI is 8,000 Hours Behind on Translating Tapes

The FBI is falling further behind in translating intercepted communications from terrorist suspects, leading to a backlog of unreviewed tapes that has doubled in the past year to more than 8,000 hours, the Justice Department's inspector general disclosed yesterday.
The backlog has surged despite efforts by the FBI to hire more Arabic-language and other translators, because the bureau is collecting much more counterterrorism data than it used to, Inspector General Glenn Fine said. In some cases, the FBI is failing to translate highest-priority intercepts within 24 hours, despite a bureau policy mandating that deadline.

Electron Band Structure In Germanium, My Ass

Abstract: The exponential dependence of resistivity on temperature in germanium is found to be a great big lie. My careful theoretical modeling and painstaking experimentation reveal 1) that my equipment is crap, as are all the available texts on the subject and 2) that this whole exercise was a complete waste of my time.
Results: Check this shit out (Fig. 1). That's bonafide, 100%-real data, my friends. I took it myself over the course of two weeks. And this was not a leisurely two weeks, either; I busted my ass day and night in order to provide you with nothing but the best data possible. Now, let's look a bit more closely at this data, remembering that it is absolutely first-rate. Do you see the exponential dependence? I sure don't. I see a bunch of crap.
Christ, this was such a waste of my time.
Banking on my hopes that whoever grades this will just look at the pictures, I drew an exponential through my noise. I believe the apparent legitimacy is enhanced by the fact that I used a complicated computer program to make the fit. I understand this is the same process by which the top quark was discovered.
Conclusion: Going into physics was the biggest mistake of my life. I should've declared CS. I still wouldn't have any women, but at least I'd be rolling in cash.

Bob Herbert: Oil and Blood

The Bush administration has no plans to bring the troops home from this misguided war, which has taken a fearful toll in lives and injuries while at the same time weakening the military, damaging the international reputation of the United States, serving as a world-class recruiting tool for terrorist groups and blowing a hole the size of Baghdad in Washington's budget.
...What has so often gotten lost in all the talk about terror and weapons of mass destruction is the fact that for so many of the most influential members of the Bush administration, the obsessive desire to invade Iraq preceded the Sept. 11 attacks. It preceded the Bush administration. The neoconservatives were beating the war drums on Iraq as far back as the late 1990's.
Iraq was supposed to be a first step. Iran was also in the neoconservatives' sights. The neocons envisaged U.S. control of the region (and its oil), to be followed inevitably by the realization of their ultimate dream, a global American empire. Of course it sounds like madness, which is why we should have been paying closer attention from the beginning.
...The point here is that the invasion of Iraq was part of a much larger, long-term policy that had to do with the U.S. imposing its will, militarily when necessary, throughout the Middle East and beyond. The war has gone badly, and the viciousness of the Iraq insurgency has put the torch to the idea of further pre-emptive adventures by the Bush administration.
But dreams of empire die hard. American G.I.'s are dug into Iraq, and the bases have been built for a long stay. The war may be going badly, but the primary consideration is that there is still a tremendous amount of oil at stake, the second-largest reserves on the planet. And neocon fantasies aside, the global competition for the planet's finite oil reserves intensifies by the hour.

E.P.A. Holds Back Report on Car Fuel Efficiency - On Eve of Passage of Energy Bill

With Congress poised for a final vote on the energy bill, the Environmental Protection Agency made an 11th-hour decision Tuesday to delay the planned release of an annual report on fuel economy.
But a copy of the report, embargoed for publication Wednesday, was sent to The New York Times by a member of the E.P.A. communications staff just minutes before the decision was made to delay it until next week. The contents of the report show that loopholes in American fuel economy regulations have allowed automakers to produce cars and trucks that are significantly less fuel-efficient, on average, than they were in the late 1980's.
Releasing the report this week would have been inopportune for the Bush administration, its critics said, because it would have come on the eve of a final vote in Congress on energy legislation six years in the making. The bill, as it stands, largely ignores auto mileage regulations.
..."Something's fishy when the Bush administration delays a report showing no improvement in fuel economy until after passage of their energy bill, which fails to improve fuel economy," said Daniel Becker, the Sierra Club's top global warming strategist. "It's disturbing that despite high gas prices, an oil war and growing concern about global warming pollution, most automakers are failing to improve fuel economy."
...Some of what the report says reaffirms what has long been known. Leaps in engine technology over the last couple of decades have been mostly used to make cars faster, not more fuel-efficient, and the rise of sport utility vehicles and S.U.V.-like pickup trucks has actually sapped efficiency. The average 2004 model car or truck got 20.8 miles per gallon, about 6 percent less than the 22.1 m.p.g. of the average new vehicle sold in the late 1980's, according to the report.

Taliban Working with Pakistan?

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf joined the Bush administration's war on terrorism and publicly turned against the Taliban immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks. But Afghan officials allege that Taliban and allied fighters who fled to Pakistan after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001 are learning new, more lethal tactics from the Pakistani military at numerous training bases.
"Pakistan is lying," said Lt. Sayed Anwar, acting head of Afghanistan's counter-terrorism department. "We have very correct reports from their areas. We have our intelligence agents inside Pakistan's border as well.
"If Pakistan tells the truth, the problems will stop in Afghanistan. They say they are friends of Americans, and yet they order these people to kill Americans."

Bush Flips Off the Press [video]

Military's Opposition to White House Torture Memos

Senior military lawyers lodged vigorous and detailed dissents in early 2003 as an administration legal task force concluded that President Bush had authority as commander in chief to order harsh interrogations of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, newly disclosed documents show.
Despite the military lawyers' warnings, the task force concluded that military interrogators and their commanders would be immune from prosecution for torture under federal and international law because of the special character of the fight against terrorism.
In memorandums written by several senior uniformed lawyers in each of the military services as the legal review was under way, they had urged a sharply different view and also warned that the position eventually adopted by the task force could endanger American service members.

British Request Fails to Stop ABC Report on Bomb Investigation

The British police asked ABC News on Tuesday to withhold a report showing images of what were said to be unexploded bombs found in a car used by the July 7 bombers and of the inside of a subway train mangled in the attacks, a network official said yesterday.
But on its "World News Tonight" program on Tuesday, ABC went ahead with the report, which said the attacks might have been part of a wider plot, said the official, Jon Banner, executive producer of "World News Tonight." He said the account was cut from the program when it was broadcast later in Britain by the BBC.
The Metropolitan Police sent an e-mail message yesterday that asked news organizations "in the strongest possible terms" not to replay the images "because they may prejudice both the ongoing investigation and any future prosecutions." The police called the images "unauthorized."

Judge's Eloquent Satement at Sentencing of Ahmed Ressam

Okay. Let me say a few things. First of all, it will come as no surprise to anybody that this sentencing is one that I have struggled with a great deal, more than any other sentencing that I've had in the 24 years I've been on the bench.
I've done my very best to arrive at a period of confinement that appropriately recognizes the severity of the intended offense, but also recognizes the practicalities of the parties' positions before trial and the cooperation of Mr. Ressam, even though it did terminate prematurely.
The message I would hope to convey in today's sentencing is two-fold: First, that we have the resolve in this country to deal with the subject of terrorism and people who engage in it should be prepared to sacrifice a major portion of their life in confinement.
Secondly, though, I would like to convey the message that our system works. We did not need to use a secret military tribunal, or detain the defendant indefinitely as an enemy combatant, or deny him the right to counsel, or invoke any proceedings beyond those guaranteed by or contrary to the United States Constitution.
I would suggest that the message to the world from today's sentencing is that our courts have not abandoned our commitment to the ideals that set our nation apart. We can deal with the threats to our national security without denying the accused fundamental constitutional protections.
Despite the fact that Mr. Ressam is not an American citizen and despite the fact that he entered this country intent upon killing American citizens, he received an effective, vigorous defense, and the opportunity to have his guilt or innocence determined by a jury of 12 ordinary citizens.
Most importantly, all of this occurred in the sunlight of a public trial. There were no secret proceedings, no indefinite detention, no denial of counsel.
The tragedy of September 11th shook our sense of security and made us realize that we, too, are vulnerable to acts of terrorism. Unfortunately, some believe that this threat renders our Constitution obsolete. This is a Constitution for which men and women have died and continue to die and which has made us a model among nations. If that view is allowed to prevail, the terrorists will have won.
It is my sworn duty, and as long as there is breath in my body I'll perform it, to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.
We will be in recess.

More US mad cow mistakes raise credibility concerns

The USDA is now investigating a possible third U.S. case of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), in an animal at least 12 years old.
A brain sample from the suspect cow was taken by a local veterinarian in April but was not tested by the USDA until last week. That delay was because the veterinarian "simply forgot" to submit it, the USDA said.
The sample was frozen, a violation of USDA guidelines, and the veterinarian also mistakenly used a preservative that limits the type of mad cow tests that can now be conducted.

Iraq has descended into chaos way beyond West's worst-case scenario

The suicide bombing campaign in Iraq is unique. Never before have so many fanatical young Muslims been willing to kill themselves trying to destroy those they see as their enemies. On a single day in Baghdad this month 12 bombers blew themselves up. There have been more than 500 suicide attacks in Iraq during the past year.
...A soon-to-be-published investigation of 300 young Saudis caught and interrogated by Saudi intelligence on their way to Iraq to fight or blow themselves up shows that very few had any previous contact with al-Qaeda or any other terror organisation before 2003. The invasion of Iraq made them decide to die.
Some 36 Saudis who did blow themselves up in Iraq did so for similar reasons, according to the same study commissioned by the Saudi government and carried out by US-trained Saudi researcher Nawaf Obaid, who was given permission to speak to Saudi intelligence officers. A separate Israeli study of 154 foreign fighters in Iraq, carried out by the Global Research in International Affairs Centre in Israel, also concluded that almost all had been radicalised by Iraq alone.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Wall Street Journal understated MTBE leaks, health risks

As fuel additives, MTBE and ethanol are considered "oxygenates," because they raise the oxygen content of gasoline, allowing it to burn more cleanly and efficiently. Since 1992, MTBE has been used in higher concentrations in gasoline, in accordance with 1990 Clean Air Act amendments calling for higher oxygenate content in gasoline to reduce harmful vehicle emissions; as the Journal noted, most fuel companies have used MTBE instead of ethanol because it is less expensive to produce.
Numerous MTBE leaks -- primarily from underground gasoline tanks -- have contaminated drinking water supplies across the nation. The EPA has cited MTBE's effect on water quality as a reason to "significantly reduce or eliminate MTBE" as a fuel additive. The Journal criticized the 2005 Energy Policy Act as a "subsidy-fest that will raise gasoline prices in more places than it reduces them," but defended language written into the House version of the bill providing MTBE producers liability protection, and questioned the merit of lawsuits filed against them.

Lawmakers Get To K Street Via Capitol Hill

"Election to Congress used to be an end in itself. Now, for nearly half of federal lawmakers, it is a steppingstone to a second career: lobbying," the Washington Post reports. According to a new study by, a project of the liberal group Public Citizen, 43 percent of Congressional members who have left office since 1998 have registered to lobby. “The revolving door is spinning faster than ever,” said Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “When nearly half the lawmakers in Congress use their position to move into a job that pays so handsomely, it’s time to change the system.”

Prison Policy Initiative

The Prison Policy Initiative conducts research and advocacy on incarceration policy. Some interesting data include the proliferation of prisons in the US over the last century, disenfranchisement of potential black voters, global incarceration rates and percentage of US population under control of the criminal justice system. [from]

The Yurica: Ship of State Is Sinking, Who is on the Lord’s Side?

Labels, even when they are of our own making are sometimes meaningless. There are people who call themselves “Christian” who are really ravenous wolves. There are those who call themselves “Black Sheep” who exhibit more kindness and love than a thousand on the pews on any given Sunday morning. Spiritually developed people, regardless of what they call themselves, actually bow down to Truth, to something higher than their own egos or will. So it is not surprising to find atheists and agnostics, and people of many faiths sharing deep rooted moral values which include a love for others, a desire and a need to search for truth, humility and courage that quickens the heart and makes one proud to be standing with such beautiful people.

More torture reports - Electrocution on tape

"They did a pretty good job on them," one soldier said.
The use of a stun gun to abuse one detainee — a man who had been handcuffed and blindfolded — was captured on videotape, one soldier said. A soldier happened upon the tape while using the computer, a member of the battalion said.
Separately, the first sergeant of another of the battalion's companies has been relieved of duty after being accused of mistreating an Iraqi detainee, military officials said. The sergeant's identity could not be confirmed.
Sources within the battalion said the sergeant is accused of shooting a water heater during an interrogation, then turning to an Iraqi detainee and saying: "You're next." The sergeant then held his pistol to the man's head, moved it a few inches to the side and fired, sources said.

Consumers Union Calls on USDA to Release Data on Cattle Rested for Mad-Cow

Consumers Union is raising serious questions about the credibility of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) expanded voluntary mad-cow surveillance program and is asking the agency to release details on the more than 400,000 cattle tested. In a letter sent to Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today, the group cited serious deficiencies uncovered by the Office of Inspector General in the earlier years of the program.
Consumers Union specifically requested data on:
* The geographic location of sampled cattle (including the state where the cow was born, raised, and slaughtered)
* The age of the cattle tested (CU currently supports testing of all cattle above 20 months)
* The disease/high-risk status of the cattle (for example, did they show symptoms of central nervous system disease, which are common symptoms of mad cow.

Union of Concerned Scientists: National Energy Bill a Dirty and Dangerous Failure

"For the third time in four years, Congress is on the brink of passing an energy bill that will pollute our air and water while costing the average consumer more money," said Alden Meyer, Director of Strategy and Policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists. "This bill does virtually nothing to relieve the twin energy burdens on energy consumers -- high gasoline prices and high home energy costs - and adds insult to injury by jeopardizing the security of every American."
The House conferees ignored overwhelming evidence that renewable energy will save consumers money and stripped the renewable electricity standard (also known as a renewable portfolio standard) from the final bill. The renewable standard, which passed the Senate with bi-partisan support, would have required major electric companies to gradually increase sales of electricity from wind, solar, and other renewable sources from two percent today to about 10 percent by 2020.

The Christian Paradox - How a faithful nation gets Jesus wrong

Only 40 percent of Americans can name more than four of the Ten Commandments, and a scant half can cite any of the four authors of the Gospels. Twelve percent believe Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. This failure to recall the specifics of our Christian heritage may be further evidence of our nation’s educational decline, but it probably doesn’t matter all that much in spiritual or political terms. Here is a statistic that does matter: Three quarters of Americans believe the Bible teaches that “God helps those who help themselves.” That is, three out of four Americans believe that this uber-American idea, a notion at the core of our current individualist politics and culture, which was in fact uttered by Ben Franklin, actually appears in Holy Scripture. The thing is, not only is Franklin’s wisdom not biblical; it’s counter-biblical. Few ideas could be further from the gospel message, with its radical summons to love of neighbor. On this essential matter, most Americans—most American Christians—are simply wrong, as if 75 percent of American scientists believed that Newton proved gravity causes apples to fly up.
Asking Christians what Christ taught isn’t a trick. When we say we are a Christian nation—and, overwhelmingly, we do—it means something. People who go to church absorb lessons there and make real decisions based on those lessons; increasingly, these lessons inform their politics. (One poll found that 11 percent of U.S. churchgoers were urged by their clergy to vote in a particular way in the 2004 election, up from 6 percent in 2000.) When George Bush says that Jesus Christ is his favorite philosopher, he may or may not be sincere, but he is reflecting the sincere beliefs of the vast majority of Americans.
And therein is the paradox. America is simultaneously the most professedly Christian of the developed nations and the least Christian in its behavior. That paradox—more important, perhaps, than the much touted ability of French women to stay thin on a diet of chocolate and cheese—illuminates the hollow at the core of our boastful, careening culture.

Despite $2 Billion Spent, Residents say Baghdad is Crumbling

Over 18 months, American officials spent almost $2 billion to revive the capital ravaged by war and neglect, according to Army Gen. William G. Webster, who heads the 30,000 U.S. and foreign troops and 15,000 Iraqi soldiers known collectively as Task Force Baghdad. But the money goes for long-term projects that yield few visible results and for security to protect the construction sites from sabotage.
As a result, Iraqis have seen scant evidence of improvement in their homes, streets or neighborhoods. They blame American and Iraqi government corruption.
"We thank God that the air we breathe is not in the hands of the government. Otherwise they would have cut it off for a few hours each day," said Nadeem Haki, 39, an electric-goods shop owner in the upscale Karrada district in the east of the capital.

Iraq Wants Quick Withdrawal of U.S. Troops

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said at a joint news conference with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that the time has arrived to plan a coordinated transition from American to Iraqi military control throughout the country.

Prosecutor In CIA Leak Case Casting A Wide Net

The special prosecutor in the CIA leak probe has interviewed a wider range of administration officials than was previously known, part of an effort to determine whether anyone broke laws during a White House effort two years ago to discredit allegations that President Bush used faulty intelligence to justify the Iraq war, according to several officials familiar with the case.
Prosecutors have questioned former CIA director George J. Tenet and deputy director John E. McLaughlin, former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow, State Department officials, and even a stranger who approached columnist Robert D. Novak on the street.
In doing so, special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has asked not only about how CIA operative Valerie Plame's name was leaked but also how the administration went about shifting responsibility from the White House to the CIA for having included 16 words in the 2003 State of the Union address about Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium from Africa, an assertion that was later disputed.

Mothers on their Soldier Sons

Three mothers on their soldier sons, on issues that the media ignores and the Bush Administration doesn't want you to read about. By Lisa Gill, Lietta Ruger, and Cindy Sheehan

Oil industry awash in record levels of cash

When major oil companies report their quarterly profits next week, they're once again expected to post record numbers. With crude trading around $60 a barrel, the oil industry is enjoying one of the biggest windfalls in its history. But as the industry looks for places to put that cash, it's finding it harder and harder to put funds to work finding new deposits of oil and natural gas.
By just about any measure, the past three years have produced one of the biggest cash gushers in the oil industry’s history. Since January of 2002, the price of crude has tripled, leaving oil producers awash in profits. During that period, the top 10 major public oil companies have sold some $1.5 trillion worth of crude, pocketing profits of more than $125 billion.

Syrian troops 'fired on by US forces'

The Foreign Ministry told heads of diplomatic missions in Damascus in a letter obtained by Reuters that Syrian border troops had been subject to attacks "not only by infiltrators and smugglers but by the Iraqi and American forces".
"The border clashes amounted to about 100 armed clashes, some of which were carried out by American soldiers who opened fire arbitrarily at those present behind the dirt rampart due to loss of self control," said the ministry.
The US military in Iraq has launched several operations against insurgents near the border in the past few months but has not reported any cross-border fire.

The Iran War Buildup

There is no evidence that President Bush has already made the decision to attack Iran if Tehran proceeds with uranium-enrichment activities viewed in Washington as precursors to the manufacture of nuclear munitions. Top Administration officials are known to have argued in favor of military action if Tehran goes ahead with these plans--a step considered more likely with the recent election of arch-conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iran's president--but Bush, so far as is known, has not yet made up his mind in the matter. One thing does appear certain, however: Bush has given the Defense Department approval to develop scenarios for such an attack and to undertake various preliminary actions. As was the case in 2002 regarding Iraq, the building blocks for an attack in Iran are beginning to be put into place.
We may never know exactly when President Bush made up his mind to invade Iraq--some analysts say the die was cast as early as November 2001; others claim it was not until October 2002--but whatever the case, it is beyond dispute that planning for the invasion was well advanced in July 2002, when British intelligence officials visited Washington and issued what has come to be known as the Downing Street memo, informing Prime Minister Tony Blair that war was nearly inevitable.
What these officials undoubtedly discovered--as was being reported in certain newspapers at the time--was that senior officers of the US Central Command (CENTCOM) in Tampa, Florida, had already been developing detailed scenarios for an invasion of Iraq and that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had been deeply involved in these preparations. On July 5, 2002, for example, the New York Times revealed that "an American military planning document calls for air, land, and sea-based forces to attack Iraq from three directions--the north, south, and west." Further details of this document and other blueprints for war appeared in the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. At the same time, moreover, the Pentagon reportedly stepped up its aerial and electronic surveillance of military forces in Iraq.

Man Keeping Amputated Foot in Bucket on Porch

Ezekiel Rubottom now has his left foot back exactly where he wants it -- in a bucket on the front porch. Police in Kansas have returned the amputated foot to him after seizing it during the weekend to check out just how it got there.
The 21-year-old man's foot was amputated three weeks ago after a series of medical problems, and he started keeping it in a five-gallon bucket filled with formaldehyde.
It came to the attention of police after a call from a parent whose child reported seeing the severed foot. Officers who went to the home late Saturday night found the foot, and some of Rubottom's friends, but no sign of Rubottom himself.
...After a friend picked up the bucket at a hardware store, Rubottom added several objects as well as the severed foot -- including a porcelain horse and can of beer -- to make what he called "a collage of myself." He also cut off two of the toes, saying he was considering giving them to friends.
On Monday, police returned the foot to Rubottom after taking him to the hospital, where he signed a release allowing them to see his medical records.
"It's cool. It's all good," said Rubottom. "Now I've got my foot back. That's all I wanted.

Would a Permanent Renewal of the Voting Rights Act be a Trojan Horse?

Key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act are set to expire soon, but staunch supporters warned Tuesday that a permanent extension could reverse many of the law's gains for minorities.
Some lawmakers may try to make permanent certain provisions that expire in 2007 in an attempt to torpedo the act, said Theodore Shaw, director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Legal Defense Fund. Although Shaw acknowledged a permanent or nationwide approach may seem wise, he called it a "Trojan horse."
"If they are permanent, it is a trap," Shaw said. "They will be struck down as illegal and unconstitutional."
One part of the act set to expire is the provision that states with a history of racial discrimination - mostly in the South - must get federal government approval before changing their voting laws or district lines. Shaw said judges might decide Congress can't separate jurisdictions based on race issues without an occasional review of whether that separation remains necessary.

U.S. Energy Industry's Lobbying Pays Off With $11.6 Bln in Aid

Oil and utility companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. and Southern Co. spent $367 million over the last two years pushing the U.S. Congress to pass energy legislation. For many, the money was a good investment: lawmakers are poised to pass a measure providing about $11.6 billion in taxpayer subsidies.
House and Senate negotiators approved compromise legislation yesterday and President George W. Bush, who has been seeking an energy bill since the start of his first term, will have it on his desk by July 29, Senator Charles Grassley said. Supporters said the measure, the Energy Policy Act, would help secure energy supplies and ultimately lead to lower fuel prices.
The legislation includes subsidies for oil and gas exploration that benefit companies such as Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil, which contributed $935,266 to federal candidates for the 2004 elections, more than any other oil company. Southern, which contributed $1.1 million to candidates in 2004, more than any other utility, won repeal of a 1935 law prohibiting utility holding companies from using revenue from customers to subsidize non-regulated businesses.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


Marketocracy is a free, handy site where you can practice building your own stock portfolio.
MOFQX is a moderately successful mutual fund driven entirely by the top 100 performers out of some 37,000 Marketocracy members. With market-beating returns and an innovative method, some think that the fund might be a great idea--perhaps the wisdom of crowds made manifest--but others are less bullish. []

Stock Market Planetarium

An immersive visualization, projected in a dome space, in which real-time stock market activity is represented as the night sky, full of stars that glow as trading takes place on particular stocks. each traded company is represented by a slowly drifting star, which is gravitationally attracted to other stars with similar stock price histories. over time, the stars clot together & drift into slowly changing constellations, nebulae & clusters, so that different industries naturally start to emerge as galaxies. [|via]

New FCC head seeks to quietly gut independent DSL carriers

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has circulated a proposal that would eliminate the requirement of phone companies to lease their phone lines to competitors, effectively cutting the throat of independent DSL carriers such as Covad, and their customers, such as EarthLink, AT&T, Concentric, AOL, and Sprint. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 gave Baby Bells the right to sell long distance service in exchange for opening up their networks to the public. Now the Bush administration are poised to undo this, killing a multibillion dollar industry, and giving monopoly control back to the Baby Bells, who aren't quite so small anymore, thanks to corporate mergers. If you like having all the broadband choices you currently have, you may want to contact the FCC commissioners, toot sweet. [from]

New Synaptic Junction Weekly is Now Posted

John Roberts History on Church/State Separations Test

Roberts has consistently advocated abandonment of the “Lemon test,” which the Supreme Court has applied in Establishment Clause cases for more than thirty years. ( See SG Brief in Lee v. Weisman , 505 U.S. 577 (1992), at 5) The Lemon test forbids government officials from acting with a religious agenda, endorsing religion, or excessively entangling government and religion. Five of the current Justices including Justice O'Connor continue to support the Lemon test; four do not. See McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky , No. 03-1693 (June 27, 2005). Roberts advocates replacement of the Lemon test with the more permissive “coercion” test. ( See SG Brief in Lee , at 8), a test that Justice O'Connor has said runs contrary to “settled law” ( Lee , 505 U.S. at 618).

Navy Hired PRFirm to Sway Puerto Rican Elections

The Navy hired a communications firm for $1.6 million in 2001 in an apparent attempt to influence the outcome of a vote on whether part of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques would continue to serve as a bombing range, according to documents obtained by a watchdog group.
Judicial Watch obtained the material under the Freedom of Information Act and provided them to The Associated Press.
According to the documents, the Navy's Fleet and Industrial Supply Center in Norfolk, Va., initially contracted with the Rendon Group of Washington for advice on "dissemination of accurate information" regarding the referendum of Vieques residents on whether to keep part of the island as a training range.
It later modified the contract to have Rendon "conduct public outreach to build grassroots support" for Navy training during vote. The contract value also went from an initial value of $200,000 to $1.6 million after two modifications.

London mayor blames west for creating conditions for terrorism

London Mayor Ken Livingstone Wednesday blamed Western foreign policy in the Middle East for creating the conditions for terrorist attacks such as the 7/7 bombings in the British capital.
Livingstone suggested that Western interventions to maintain control of oil supplies in Arab countries, dating back nearly a century, had produced terrorist organizations, including Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
"If at the end of the First World War we had done what we promised the Arabs, which was to let them be free and have their own governments, and kept out of Arab affairs, and just bought their oil, rather than feeling we had to control the flow of oil, I suspect this wouldn't have arisen," he told the BBC.

Shari'ah law in Iraq: women alarmed at prospect of rights erosion, UNIFEM says

Iraqi women are extremely concerned that the national assembly committee drafting the country's new constitution is curbing women's rights, established under the interim constitution and prior national laws, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) reported on Friday.
"As the committee continues in its drafting process, women are becoming increasingly alarmed at what they see as a curtailing of their rights," UNIFEM said in a press statement.
Of particular concern to Iraqi women activists and civil society groups was a chapter of the constitution on duties and rights, which now refers to Shari'ah (Islamic law) as the "main source" for legislation in the new constitution, the UN body said.
In the earlier interim constitution, Shari'ah was referred to as an important source of legislation, rather than the main source.

GOP candidate calls for impeachment of Bush

Ford may dump 30% of North American jobs

The struggling Ford Motor Co may shed up to 30 per cent of its white-collar workforce in North America as part of a corporate recovery plan, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
The business newspaper said some ford employees had been told that 10,500 managerial positions from the current total of about 35,000 could go 'over the next few years' in a bid to keep a lid on payroll costs.
Ford, which on Tuesday reported a 19 per cent sump in second-quarter net earnings, has already announced the elimination of 2,700 white-collar jobs in North America.
Those cuts would contribute to the 30-per cent reduction goal, the newspaper quoted people familiar with the proposals as saying.

Congress Report: TSA Broke Privacy Laws

he Transportation Security Administration violated privacy protections by secretly collecting personal information on at least 250,000 people, congressional investigators said Friday.
The Government Accountability Office sent a letter to Congress saying the collection violated the Privacy Act, which prohibits the government from compiling information on people without their knowledge.
The information was collected as the agency tested a program, now called Secure Flight, to conduct computerized checks of airline passengers against terrorist watch lists.

Number of missing children treated like state secret

The Justice Department for years has violated an act of Congress by refusing to reveal how many lost, runaway and kidnapped children have been reported to the FBI, a policy that has turned America's missing youth into a state secret.
The FBI says such information is confidential.
Advocates for missing children complain that the government's refusal to report the number of cases has allowed many police departments to escape public notice when they violate the reporting standards set by Congress in its landmark National Child Search Assistance Act of 1990.

PATRIOT Act challenged in court

Mayfield is challenging the constitutionality of the Patriot Act and another federal law used by agents to secretly search his Aloha home and office in connection with the Madrid terrorist attacks last year.
Mayfield believes he was targeted because of his Muslim faith. His lawyers want to interview federal officials and obtain documents to learn how the FBI mistakenly connected Mayfield to a fingerprint found at the bombing scene. Mayfield was arrested as a material witness and jailed for two weeks before the FBI conceded the mistake and apologized.
Meanwhile, the government has asked the judge to dismiss Mayfield's challenge of the Patriot Act and to dismiss from the lawsuit the individual fingerprint analysts who made the identification.

US teen gets prison for making 'terrorist threat'

A teenager convicted of plotting to kill fellow students was sentenced to prison on Thursday in what the prosecution called the first case to apply U.S. anti-terrorism laws to threats of school violence.
Andrew Osantowski, 18, of suburban Detroit, will serve at least 4 1/2 years in prison...
Last month, a Macomb County jury convicted Osantowski of "making a terrorist threat" after he wrote messages on the Internet about the possibility of killing students at his Chippewa Valley High School.
Osantowski was also found guilty of possessing a firearm while committing a felony and using a computer to make a terrorist threat.

Bush creates high-level anti-piracy post

San Diego: Armed Agents Shut Down Pirate Radio Station

The U.S. Attorney's Office declined comment yesterday; no one from the FCC returned phone calls seeking comment.
Free Radio, which had illegally broadcast for three years out of the private residence on Bancroft Street, could also be heard on a legal Internet simulcast at
The station was not streaming on the Internet yesterday afternoon.
The FCC has said it investigates underground stations if it receives enough complaints from commercial broadcasters or the public that the illegal signal is interfering with legitimate transmissions.
Operators of Free Radio, if convicted, could face a one-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine for operating an unlicensed outlet.

Myths and Realities About the Patriot Act - ACLU

Here are some Myths about the Patriot Act and links to the Reality:
• There Have Been No Patriot Act "Abuses"
• It Updated Law Enforcement Tools

• It Uses Existing Tools to Track Terrorists

• It Brought Uniformity to Government Agencies
• It Improves Communication Between Agencies

• The New Powers Have Lead to Arrests
• They're Not Using My Library Information
• The Patriot Act Has Judicial Oversight

• Critics Misunderstand "Material Witness"

• Critics Want to Appeal the Patriot Act

• The Patriot Act Is Constitutional

ISP Blocks Union Web Site

Telus has blocked access to a union-run website, claiming it posted confidential information and was attempting to harass and intimidate workers by publishing their pictures.
The Voices for Change site, operated by members of the Telecommunications Workers Union, has been effectively closed to all customers with or accounts.
Internet users who subscribe to other service providers can still browse the site.
"They're restricting our members' free speech," said Mimi Williams, who said she was offended both as a customer and as an elected representative of TWU Local 207.

AfterDowningStreet.Org Says Comcast Censored Emails

We didn't know it, but for the past week, anyone using Comcast has been unable to receive any Email with "" in the body of the Email. That has included every Email from me, since that was in my signature at the bottom of every Email I sent. And it included any Email linking people to any information about the upcoming events.
From the flood this evening of Emails saying "Oh, so that's why I haven't heard anything from you guys lately," it seems clear that we would have significantly more events organized by now for the 23rd if not for this block by Comcast.
Disturbingly, Comcast did not notify us of this block. It took us a number of days to nail down Comcast as the cause of the problems, and then more days, working with Comcast's abuse department to identify exactly what was going on. We'd reached that point by Thursday, but Comcast was slow to fix the problem.