Saturday, August 06, 2005

Homeland Security to conduct gas tests in NYC Midtown, subways

The simulation, which will use colorless, odorless and harmless "tracer" gases, follows a smaller effort in March that focused on the Madison Square Garden area. This time, a team of more than 150 researchers and volunteers working on the Urban Dispersion Program's second field study will fan out over a much larger section of midtown, ranging from 37th to 59th streets and from 10th to Third avenues, and including stations along the Broadway subway line and other lines in the area.

"Don't You Look at Me": Residents May Not Affront Bush with Their Gaze During Vacation

Paper Models of Actual Spacecrafts

  • Soyuz-U rocket (Soyuz TMA capsule launcher);
  • Soyuz TMA capsule (Odissea mission);
  • Progress M logistic capsule;
  • Space Shuttles Endeavour and Atlantis;
  • International Space Station (2001 configuration).

Blogger: Halliburton Secretly Doing Business with Key Member of Iran’s Nuclear Team

Scandal-plagued Halliburton, the oil services company once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney was secretly working with one of Iran’s top nuclear program officials on natural gas related projects and, allegedly, selling the officials' oil development company key components for a nuclear reactor, according to Halliburton sources with intimate knowledge into both companies’ business dealings.
Just last week a National Security Council report said Iran was a decade away from acquiring a nuclear bomb. That time frame could arguably have been significantly longer if Halliburton, whose miltary unit just reported a 284 percent increase in its second quarter profits due to its Iraq reconstruction contracts, was not actively providing the Iranian government with the financial means to build a nuclear weapon.

The military trains people to withstand interrogation. Are those methods being misused at Guantánamo? [PDF]

According to a passage in Vice-Admiral Church’s report that is unclassified but has not been released to the public, in December, 2002, Dr. Michael Gelles, the chief psychologist at the N.C.I.S., spoke with Alberto J.Mora,the Navy’s general counsel, saying that, in his professional opinion,“abusive techniques” and “coercive psychological procedures” were being used on Qahtani at Guantánamo. Gelles warned of a phenomenon known as “force drift,” in which interrogators encountering resistance begin to lose the ability to restrain themselves.
In July, 2004, Mora wrote a memo to Church’s investigative team, in which he encounted his discussion with Gelles.He said that he had found the tactics he had read about in the Qahtani interrogation logs to be “unlawful and unworthy of the military services.” Mora argued that these practices “threaten the entire military
commission process.” According to the Church report, an N.C.I.S. official subsequently said that if the abusive practices continued “N.C.I.S. would have to
consider whether to remain co-located” in Guantánamo. According to a recent ABC News report, in January, 2003, Mora also told William J. Haynes, the Pentagon’s general counsel, that “the use of coercive techniques” could expose both interrogators and their administrators to criminal prosecution.

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Venezuela signs arms deal with China

Venezuela’s defence minister has signed a deal to buy Chinese radar systems, the latest in a series of military purchases by the government of President Hugo Chavez.
The Chinese-made long range surveillance radars will be used by Venezuela’s air force, defence officials said yesterday.

Lynda Carter Remembers the Lore of Wonder Woman

"I don't do exploitative Wonder Woman things. I have been careful with her. I like her, and I think she's fantastic for women, and I think she's fantastic for the gay community, and she was great for young guys seeing a beautiful, strong woman."
...Carter has the costume, too -- the skimpy star-spangled blue shorts and red bustier emblazoned with a golden eagle that accentuated her cleavage. But displaying the costume, she says, would just be a bit too much.
"Maybe when I'm really old," she says. "In another five years."

Carter clearly has a few good years left in her, and a self-deprecating tone marks many of her reflections. She is "kind of shocked" at the level of interest in her since last month's release of "Sky High" and yesterday's opening of "The Dukes of Hazzard," which was directed by Jay Chandrasekhar, who also worked with Carter in the 2001 comedy "Super Troopers."

For a terrific interview of the stunt woman from the 70's TV show, check out "
Jeannie Epper, the Real 'Wonder Woman'" from All thing Considered.

US prepares to return more Guantanamo detainees

The United States government is in negotiations that could see almost 70 per cent of detainees transferred from Guantanamo Bay to three countries in the Middle East.
A deal has been struck to transfer most of the 110 Afghan terror suspects to the "exclusive custody and control" of the Afghanistan government.
Similar deals are in the pipeline with authorities in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, a Pentagon spokesman said.
Matt Waxman, the deputy assistant secretary of defence for detainee affairs, stressed the plan was not to shut down Guantanamo.

Justice Dept. Stonewalling on Roberts Papers

The Justice Department refused yesterday to turn over documents about Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. that Senate Democrats have demanded, escalating the most serious conflict in a confirmation process that has been more placid than either side had predicted.
The attorney general's office said in four-page letters to each of the eight Democrats on the Judiciary Committee that it is "simply contrary to the public interest" to release certain records from Roberts's service in the solicitor general's office, which argues cases before the Supreme Court on behalf of the executive branch.

Atlanta marches honor Voting Rights Act as sunset clause nears

Thousands of demonstrators streamed down Martin Luther King Jr. Drive chanting, singing and marching on Saturday in support of extending the 40-year-old Voting Rights Act.
Organizers hope the “Keep the Vote Alive” march will pressure Congress and President Bush to extend key provisions of the landmark law, which expires in 2007.
“Forty years later, we’re still marching for the right to vote,” said U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who participated in the civil rights struggles that helped secure passage of the law in 1965. “Don’t give up, don’t give in. Keep the faith, keep your eyes on the prize.”
...Civil rights groups fear conservatives will try to modify two key provisions of the law. One requires nine states, mostly in the South, to get federal approval before changing voting rules. The other requires election officials to provide voting material in the native language of immigrant voters who don’t speak English.
Activists also used the rally to protest Georgia’s recently passed voter identification law, which critics call the most restrictive in the country.
If that bill is approved by the Department of Justice, Jackson warned on Friday, it could “spread like a virus” to other states. Rainbow/PUSH is among a list of objectors that have urged the Department of Justice not to approve the law.

Charles Babbage's War Against Street Musicians

Lady Lovelace wrote that Babbage hated music. He tolerated its more exquisite forms, but abhorred it as practiced on the street. "Those whose minds are entirely unoccupied", he wrote with some seriousness in Observations of Street Nuisances in 1864, "receive [street music] with satisfaction, as filling up the vacuum of time". He calculated that 25% of his working power had been destroyed by street nuisances, many of them intentional. Letters to the Times and the eventual enforcement of "Babbage's Act", which would squelch street nuisances, made him the target of ridicule.
The public tormented him with an unending parade of fiddlers, Punch-and-Judys, stilt-walkers, fanatic psalmists, and tub-thumpers. Some neighbors hired musicians to play outside his windows. Others willfully annoyed him with worn-out or damaged wind instruments. Placards were hung in local shops, abusing him. During one 80-day period Babbage counted 165 nuisances. One brass band played for five hours, with only a brief intermission. Another blew a penny tin whistle out his window toward Babbage's garden for a half and hour daily, for "many months".

Hiroshima Marks Atomic Bomb Anniversary

It has now been 60 years since the awesome terror of nuclear weapons was revealed to the world. Whether the decision to use such a fearsome weapon was right or wrong is still being debated. Much of that debate now centers around the intercepts of Japanese communications under the Ultra [British code name] or Magic [US code name] program and whether Japan was ready to surrender under acceptable terms. Some of these intercepts can be read here and here. [thanks, Tom P. Text and links from]

Cell Phones Track Your Location

I din't know that until I heard this news on the arrest of a London bombing suspect:
The 27-year-old Briton who was arrested in Rome on Friday and accused of planting a bomb on a British subway had entered Britain using fake documents and an alias, the authorities say. He managed to escape the country on the Eurostar, although grainy photos of him plastered the walls of the train station.
Yet the police swiftly tracked his escape, for the most mundane of reasons — he did not turn off his cell phone.
..."If your phone is on, they know exactly where you are," said Paul Sagawa, an analyst with Sanford Bernstein, an investment research company in New York City.
This feature was announced in early 2001. The FCC now requires it for 911 services.
Today, this feature is being marketed to parents who want to track their children.
One Security Tech Blogger is not impressed.
This is worrisome from a number of angles: government surveillance, corporate surveillance for marketing purposes, criminal surveillance.
...We're building an infrastructure of surveillance as a side effect of the convenience of carrying our cell phones everywhere.

Reporters: Court must order release of Ghraib photos

A coalition of 14 media organizations and public interest groups organized by The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press have filed a friend-of-the-court brief in U.S. District Court in New York urging the release of Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse photos...
The photographs, which have been seen by New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh, are alleged to contain photographs of U.S. servicemembers involved in raping detainees, possibly underage. The Bush Administration has successfully blocked their release, first saying they needed time to anonymize those engaged in illicit behavior, and then seeking a permanent block, arguing the photos could endanger troops and civilians overseas.

Judge in Miami Rejects Miranda Warning Used by Homeland Security

A federal judge ruled unconstitutional a Miranda rights warning that Homeland Security agents used to interrogate drug-smuggling suspects, prompting the agency to make sure a legally sufficient warning is used nationwide.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Lurana Snow ruled that statements made by four men accused of smuggling cocaine aboard a cruise ship could not be introduced in court because the Miranda warning failed to spell out that they could have an attorney present during - not just before - interrogation by authorities.
"From a legal standpoint, the warnings on the Homeland Security form are ambiguous, at best," Snow said in her 16-page decision.
The ruling was issued July 26 but not made public until Friday by defense attorney Ellis Rubin, who brought successful challenges to similar flaws in police Miranda warnings in Broward County.

Who is the Number 1 Otaku [Nerd] in Japan?

This morning more than half a million self-declared nerds across Japan will be locked in their rooms, frenziedly racking their brains over an examination posing 100 of the most obscure questions imaginable.
If they don’t know, for example, precisely how many more people attended the Tokyo Comiket Manga (comic strip) convention in 2002 than in 2001, they are unlikely to make it past the first section.
Each nerd will be completely alone in this mental endeavour. Internet chatrooms and cyber cafés will be empty. There will be no conferring and the winner will take the greatest pop-culture prize of all — being officially recognised as Japan’s biggest geek, or otaku.

Presbyterian Church Threatens Divestment from Companies Supplying Israel

The Presbyterian Church U.S.A. announced Friday that it would press four American corporations to stop providing military equipment and technology to Israel for use in the occupation of the Palestinian territories, and that if the companies did not comply, the church would take a vote to divest its stock in them.
The companies - Caterpillar, Motorola, ITT Industries and United Technologies - were selected from a list of several dozen possibilities by a church investment committee that met Friday in Seattle. The Presbyterians accused these companies of selling helicopters, cellphones, night vision equipment and other items Israel uses to enforce its occupation.
In an effort to appear even-handed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the church committee also included Citigroup on its list of targets, alleging it had a connection to a bank accused of having a role in funneling money from Islamic charities to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. The church said it included Citigroup because it was mentioned in an article in The Wall Street Journal.
A spokeswoman for Citigroup called the church's assertion "an outrage," a reaction echoed at several of the other corporations.

C.I.A. Leak Case Recalls Texas Incident in '92 Race

In 1992 in an incident well known in Texas, Mr. Rove was fired from the state campaign to re-elect the first President Bush on suspicions that Mr. Rove had leaked damaging information to Mr. Novak about Robert Mosbacher Jr., the campaign manager and the son of a former commerce secretary.
Since then, Mr. Rove and Mr. Novak have denied that Mr. Rove was the source, even as Mr. Mosbacher, who no longer talks on the record about the incident, has never changed his original assertion that Mr. Rove was the culprit.
"It's history," Mr. Mosbacher said last week in a brief telephone interview. "I commented on it at the time, and I have nothing to add."
But the episode, part of the bad-boy lore of Mr. Rove, is a telling chapter in the 20-year friendship between the presidential adviser and the columnist. The story of that relationship, a bond of mutual self-interest of a kind that is long familiar in Washington, does not answer the question of who might have leaked the identity of the C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson, to reporters, potentially a crime.
But it does give a clue to Mr. Rove's frequent and complimentary mentions over the years in Mr. Novak's column, and to the importance of Mr. Rove and Mr. Novak to each other's ambitions.

Friday, August 05, 2005

British, U.S. lied about justification for pre-war Iraq airstrikes

The minutes of a meeting of Tony Blair’s Iraq war cabinet on July 23, 2003, leaked to the London Sunday Times, record Hoon as saying “the US had begun spikes of activity to put pressure on the regime.”
UK ministers have since insisted that the stepped up attacks, which began in May 2002, were a direct result of Iraqi attempts to shoot down allied aircraft and were not, as Hoon suggested, an attempt to provoke a response that would give the allies an excuse for war.
But figures released last month by the British Ministry of Defense show that in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, with American officials predicting moves to oust Saddam Hussein, Iraq dramatically scaled back its attacks on allied aircraft.
During the first seven months of 2001 the allies recorded 370 “provocations” by the Iraqi military against allied aircraft. But in the seven months between October 2001 and May 2002 when the allies stepped up their attacks, there were just 32. The complete figures are available here, on the parliament's website.

Famous People as Goofy Kids

Krugman: Design for Confusion

There are several reasons why fake research is so effective. One is that nonscientists sometimes find it hard to tell the difference between research and advocacy — if it’s got numbers and charts in it, doesn’t that make it science?
Even when reporters do know the difference, the conventions of he-said-she-said journalism get in the way of conveying that knowledge to readers. I once joked that if President Bush said that the Earth was flat, the headlines of news articles would read, "Opinions Differ on Shape of the Earth." The headlines on many articles about the intelligent design controversy come pretty close.
Finally, the self-policing nature of science — scientific truth is determined by peer review, not public opinion — can be exploited by skilled purveyors of cultural resentment. Do virtually all biologists agree that Darwin was right? Well, that just shows that they’re elitists who think they’re smarter than the rest of us.
Which brings us, finally, to intelligent design. Some of America’s most powerful politicians have a deep hatred for Darwinism. Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, blamed the theory of evolution for the Columbine school shootings. But sheer political power hasn’t been enough to get creationism into the school curriculum. The theory of evolution has overwhelming scientific support, and the country isn’t ready — yet — to teach religious doctrine in public schools.
But what if creationists do to evolutionary theory what corporate interests did to global warming: create a widespread impression that the scientific consensus has shaky foundations? [thanks, Tom P]

Pentagon Report on Contractors in Iraq [PDF]

Only 24 pages but dense with difinitive information on a touchy subject.
Subsections include:
  • Sanctions Available to be Imposed on Contractors
  • Disciplinary and Criminal Actions Brought Against Contractors
  • Legal Status of Security Contractors after Transfer of Sovereign Power in Iraq
  • Casualty and Fatality Figures for Contractors Supporting Deployed Forces and Reconstruction Efforts in Iraq
  • Hostile Fire and Other Incidents of Note

What to Do If You Have a Proposal for the Unified Field Theory?

I would like to give some guidelines for people who have thoughtfully pondered the question of the meaning of space-time.
1) Try to summarize the main idea or theme in a single paragraph. As Einstein once said, unless a theory has a simple underlying picture that the layman can understand, the theory is probably worthless. I will try to answer those proposals which are short and succinct, but I simply do not have time for proposals where the main idea is spread over many pages.
2) If you have a serious proposal for a new physical theory, submit it to a physics journal, just as Physical Review D or Nuclear Physics B. There, it will get the referee and serious attention that it deserves.
3) Remember that your theory will receive more credibility if your theory builds on top of previous theories, rather than making claims like “Einstein was wrong! ” For example, our current understanding of the quantum theory and relativity, although incomplete, still gives us a framework for which we have not seen any experimental deviation.

Steven Vincent's NY Times Op-Ed

An Iraqi police lieutenant, who for obvious reasons asked to remain anonymous, confirmed to me the widespread rumors that a few police officers are perpetrating many of the hundreds of assassinations - mostly of former Baath Party members - that take place in Basra each month. He told me that there is even a sort of "death car": a white Toyota Mark II that glides through the city streets, carrying off-duty police officers in the pay of extremist religious groups to their next assignment.

Creationism rift opens within The Vatican

A deep rift has opened within the Catholic church over the theory of evolution and its compatibility with the Christian faith.
The Vatican’s chief astronomer, George Coyne, has rebuffed controversial comments made by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn in The New York Times on 7 July that evolution is incompatible with a belief in God.
“The waters have again been darkened” writes Coyne in the latest issue of the UK Catholic weekly, The Tablet. His article follows another flare-up in the debate, when US president George W Bush commented on Monday that schools should teach children about “intelligent design”.

Novak Remained on TV for Years After Outing Agent, but Now is Suspended for Bullshit

A CNN spokeswoman, Edie Emery, called Novak's behavior "inexcusable and unacceptable." Novak apologized to CNN, and CNN was apologizing to viewers, she said.

EFF Urges Appeals Court to Find Secret Subpoena Power Unconstitutional

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, joined by several civil liberties organizations and online service providers, filed a friend-of-the-court brief yesterday in the case of Doe v. Gonzales arguing that National Security Letters (NSLs) are unconstitutional. NSLs are secret subpoenas for communications logs, issued directly by the FBI without any judicial oversight. These secret subpoenas allow the FBI to demand that online service providers produce records of where their customers go on the Web, as well as what they read and with whom they exchange email. The FBI can even issue NSLs for information about people who haven't committed any crimes.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

"State Secrets Privilege" Upheld by Court in Anti-Discrimination Suit against CIA

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals today affirmed the dismissal of Jeffrey Sterling’s discrimination lawsuit against the Central Intelligence Agency (“CIA”) based on the Government’s invocation of the state secrets privilege. Sterling had served as an Operations Officer with the CIA in its Near East and South Asia Division from 1993-2001. In light of then DCI George Tenet’s request for dismissal on national security grounds, the Fourth Circuit reaffirmed a now widely held position that courts “are neither authorized nor qualified to inquire further” and examine the veracity of the reasons set forth in a Department head’s declaration. This decision reflects an increasing trend of federal courts to give the Executive Branch carte blanche when it comes to national security civil cases, and sends a message to individuals working within the intelligence community that they surrender significant inherent legal rights due to their employment.

Action: Reclaim Radio - Support Low Power FM

The FCC established LPFM to "create opportunities for new voices on the airwaves" and to support programming "responsive to local community needs and interests." LPFM refers to 10 to 100 watt, nonprofit radio stations with a reach of only a few miles. Because LPFM stations are noncommercial and reach a small broadcast area, they hold great promise to offer truly community-driven and locally oriented programming.

The FCC is now modifying the original rules adopted in 2000 and seeking public comments about the control of LPFM stations, their licensing rules, and protecting LPFM signals from interference.
Click here to learn more about LPFM

Court Documents Show Contradictory Claims on IndyMedia Servers

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) last week won a motion allowing it to access sealed court documents about the mysterious disappearance of two web servers used to host news websites for Indymedia, a global collective of Independent Media Centers (IMCs) and thousands of journalists. After six months of secret litigation, EFF obtained a copy of the federal court order that resulted in the October 2004 handover of copies of Indymedia servers to the government by Indymedia's web host. That handover resulted in the silencing of more than 20 news websites and radio feeds for nearly a week.
However, the unsealed documents reveal that the government never officially demanded the computer servers -- the subpoena to Rackspace only requested server log files. This contradicts previous statements by the web host that it took the servers offline because the government had demanded the hardware. The documents also contradict Rackspace's claim that it had been ordered by the court not to discuss publicly the government's demand. It cannot be determined from the unsealed documents whether or not the government informally pressured Rackspace to turn over the servers.

EFF: FBI’s "National Security Letters" Threaten Online Speech and Privacy

Prenatal Exposure to Famine Tied to Increased Schizophrenia Risk

The results of a new study bolster the theory that the effects of such a famine will be even more far-reaching than is initially apparent. According to a report published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, children born during a food crisis have an increased risk of developing schizophrenia later in life.

John Roberts' Senate Statement Posted (but not by the Senate)

The Michigan eLibrary has posted the 67-page Statement of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary. According to the librarian who posted this document, the Committee says that it doesn't intend to post the statement on the Web. Hats off to the MeL for doing the Committee's work for it and keeping us informed.
Statement of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. to U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary

Robot catcher grabs high speed projectiles

The robot does not even need a catching mitt. It resembles a single metallic claw, with just three fingers instead of the human complement of five. An array of 32 by 48 individual photo detectors in its “palm”, tracks a ball's trajectory at high speed. And a series of specialised image processing circuits recognise this movement almost instantly.
An approaching ball triggers the robot's three fingers into action. Actuators embedded in each joint use a burst of high current to move through 180 degrees in less than one tenth of a second. This enables the machine to snatch the ball in the split second it takes to arrive.

Nuclear Bunker Busters: What’s the Damage?

The Federation of American Scientists has created two tools to estimate the destructive impact of a nuclear “bunker buster” bomb. The blast-effects calculator illustrates the immediate destruction that occurs in the moments following a detonation. Specify bomb yield and location, and the calculator produces a blast diagram superimposed over a satellite image of the selected city. Use the fallout calculator to trace the four-day radiation pattern that results from the initial blast. You can specify wind speed and direction for a given location.

Blast Effects Calculator

Fallout Calculator

Patent system's problems defy easy solutions

In the early 1800s, the U.S. patent office was housed at a converted hotel in Washington, D.C., and when applications were approved, a clerk would ride the agency's pony across town to get the president's signature on them.
Reliance on the horse was a sign of the "primitive state of the country and of the patent office at the time, where the quickest way to deliver messages around the city of Washington was by a boy on a pony," according to "The Patent Office Pony," by Kenneth W. Dobyns. He also writes that in 1835, the office issued 757 patents.
If only things had stayed so simple. In fiscal 2004, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office approved about half of the 376,810 applications it received, according to preliminary data, and it expects a flood of new activity this year. Although the office has raised application fees and hired new examiners, by many accounts the agency is struggling with its workload.

Growing Asian demand for energy could alter US strategy

China and other nations have launched a concerted push to secure access to oil and natural gas, and the United States must consider how to respond.
It's probably too strong to call it a pipeline-and-tanker version of a global arms race - in fact, that's precisely what many world leaders hope to avoid.
But in an era of rising oil prices and burgeoning demand for fuel, the issues of energy and national security appear increasingly linked.
...Up to now, the US has relied largely on oil markets to divvy up resources. Its focus is on promoting an expanding and smooth-running global energy market. China is deploying government wealth - fed by its large trade surplus - to back the expansion of firms like CNOOC.
"To support their economic growth countries like China and India are aggressively moving to secure new energy streams," says David Phillips, an energy expert at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. "The US needs to have a comprehensive energy strategy, which is part of our overall national-security strategy."

Interview - Router Flaw Is a Ticking Bomb

Now facing an FBI investigation -- and sudden celebrity status in the tech world -- Lynn discusses the events leading up to this week's disclosure, and what he thinks it means for the security of the internet in an exclusive interview with Wired News.

Paper Fibers Better than Holograms, New Laser Tech May Prove

The detection process makes use of the optical phenomenon known as laser speckle. Light coming from a focused laser is coherent, or in phase, but when it strikes a microscopically rough surface like a piece of paper, the light is scattered, producing a pattern of light and dark "speckles." The scanner's photodetectors digitize and record this pattern.
According to Cowburn's research, as published July 28 in the journal Nature, the unique speckle pattern of a sheet of paper remains recognizable even after crunching the paper into a ball, soaking it in water, baking it at 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit) for 30 minutes, scrubbing it with an abrasive cleaning pad or scribbling over it with a big black marker.
A cross-correlation algorithm that assesses the degree of similarity between the base-line scan and the new scan allows the paper's identity to be verified. The odds of two pieces of paper having similar patterns are greater than 10 to the 100th power to one.

FBI Flight Plans Hit Turbulence

An FBI proposal to shoehorn a sweeping and sophisticated internet wiretapping capability into emerging in-flight broadband services would be illegal, unconstitutional and costly to implement, a civil liberties group is arguing.
The Washington, D.C. organization, Center for Democracy and Technology, or CDT, says it will file comments Wednesday with the FCC opposing an FBI request to force satellite-based broadband service providers to equip their in-air networks with a rapid-wiretapping capability. It would let government spooks begin sniffing any passenger's internet traffic within 10 minutes of obtaining court authorization.

Wired: The Blogs of War

"Never before has a war been so immediately documented, never before have sentiments from the front scurried their way to the home front with such ease and precision. Here I sit, in the desert, staring daily at the electric fence, the deep trenches and the concertina wire that separates the border of Iraq and Kuwait, and write home and upload my daily reflections and opinions on the war and my circumstances here, as well as some of the pictures I have taken along the way. It is amazing, and empowering, and yet the question remains, should I as a lower enlisted soldier have such power to express my opinion and broadcast to the world a singular soldier's point of view? To those outside the uniform who have never lived the military life, the question may seem absurd, and yet, as an example of what exists even in the small following of readers I have here, the implications of thought expressed by soldiers daily could be explosive."

Mortuary sex horror shocks health officials

Western Cape police are investigating an allegation of sex with a corpse at Salt River Mortuary, and the amputation and theft of a foot from another body.
And a reliable mortuary source said the sexual assault on a young male was "just the tip of the iceberg" and "several more young male corpses have been violated".
Two "crime against a body" cases linked to the state mortuary have been opened at Woodstock police station.
The alarm was raised after police staff at the Durham Road mortuary found that the body of a young suicide victim had been sodomised last month.

91 Years Ago Today: England Declares War on Germany

CJR: The Legacy of "Silent Spring"

When the manuscript of Silent Spring was serialized in The New Yorker in June 1962, Carson was demonized. Chemical companies, and even some of her fellow scientists, attacked her data and interpretations, lambasted her credentials, called her hysterical and one-sided, and pressured her publisher, Houghton Mifflin, to withdraw Silent Spring. Monsanto went so far as to publish a parody of Silent Spring, called The Desolate Year, in which famine, disease, and insects take over the world after pesticides have been banned.
Carson is still the target of countless critiques. “DDT killed bald eagles because of its persistence in the environment. Silent Spring is now killing African children because of its persistence in the public mind,” Tina Rosenberg wrote last year in a piece about malaria in The New York Times Magazine called “What the World Needs Now Is DDT.” It’s true that Silent Spring failed to describe the benefits of pesticides in fighting malaria, which is spread by mosquitoes, and in protecting food crops from destructive pests. Perhaps Carson believed that everyone acknowledged the benefits while ignoring the risks. Her goal, after all, was action, not contemplation.

NY Times "Filtered" Presidential Visit to Disasterous National Scout Jamboree

"Through the generations, scouts have made America a stronger and better nation," Mr. Bush proclaimed.
"Thousands of scouts have shown the highest form of patriotism by going on to wear the uniform of the United States," he said.

The truncated story in the Times' late edition was even more spare -- four brief paragraphs, the longest one a mere seven lines.
So what did you miss if that's all you read?
Oh, not much -- four electrocutions, one death from a heart attack and 300 scouts felled by heat exhaustion!
By contrast, let's take a look at the Associated Press, which gets to the heart of the story and all its awful, imperfect details right away:

Succeeding on his third try to visit them, President Bush comforted thousands of Boy Scouts yesterday at a national jamboree marred by the electrocutions of four leaders, the death of a volunteer, and the stifling heat that sickened 300.

Senator: Don't grant immunity to witnesses over CIA leak

"As you know, Congress has the power to grant immunity to witnesses who appear before its committees. However we must be mindful of the warning delivered by Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh at the end of his seven-year investigation into the Iran-Contra affair. His investigation was hampered, and the convictions of Oliver North and John Poindexter overturned on appeal, due to immunity granted by Congress in exchange for testimony before Iran-contra committees. Walsh advised that Congress should think carefully before granting immunity, and be cognizant that “if it wants to compel testimony by granting immunity, it has to realize that the odds are very strong that it’s going to kill any resulting criminal prosecution.”

1/3 of Bush Judicial Nominees in Federalist Society

On its face, the Federalist Society is just another think tank in a town awash with them. But critics see something more - a well-oiled juggernaut out to remake the courts in the image of Robert Bork, the Supreme Court nominee rejected by the Senate in 1987, who predicted that a new generation, "often associated with the Federalist Society," would transform the legal profession:
"It may take 10 years, it may take 20 years for the second wave to crest, but crest it will, and it will sweep the elegant, erudite, pretentious and toxic detritus of nonoriginalism out to sea," he said in a 1987 speech. Judge Bork now cochairs the society's Board of Visitors with Sen. Orrin Hatch of Nevada, a member and former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"Twenty years later, the organization designed to carry forward Bork's jurisprudence is trying to get access to the top courts in the country," says Alfred Ross, president and founder of the Institute for Democracy Studies (IDS) in New York. "It's extremely dangerous."

Does Judith Miller Deserve an Award? No.

The board of The American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) has voted unanimously to not endorse an earlier decision to give a Conscience in Media award to jailed New York Times reporter Judith Miller, E&P has learned.
The group's First Amendment committee had narrowly voted to give Miller the prize for her dedication to protecting sources, but the full board has now voted to not accept that decision, based on its opinion that her entire career, and even her current actions in the Plame/CIA leak case, cast doubt on her credentials for this award.

Nominee Roberts omits stint with cosmetics group

Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts failed to include his lobbying of Bush administration officials on behalf of the cosmetics industry in 2001 in his Senate questionnaire released yesterday.
The omission is notable because the Senate asked for a list of all of his lobbying, and his work for the Cosmetics, Toiletries and Fragrance Association resulted in the controversial suspension of stricter rules for labeling sunscreen products.

China Plans Re-Forestation

China plans to have a quarter of the country covered by forest within 15 years as it tries to repair the damage loggers have done to fuel the runaway economy, state media said Monday.
The State Forestry Administration said forest coverage will reach 23 percent in the next 10 to 15 years, an increase of five percent.
"The increase in forests will outpace what the country consumed or lost during the growth of its economy," administration director Zhou Shengxian was quoted as saying by the China Daily.

Nominee Roberts helped on gay-rights case

Supreme Court nominee John Roberts worked behind the scenes for a coalition of gay-rights activists, and his legal expertise helped them persuade the Supreme Court to issue a landmark 1996 ruling protecting people against discrimination because of their sexual orientation.
Then a lawyer specializing in appellate work, the conservative Roberts helped represent the gay activists as part of his law firm's pro bono work. While he did not write the legal briefs or argue the case before the Supreme Court, he was instrumental in reviewing the filings and preparing oral arguments, according to several lawyers involved in the case.

Nanotube-Laser Treatment a New Light on Treating Cancer

The scientists placed a solution of carbon nanotubes -- synthetic rods that are only half the width of a DNA molecule -- under an infrared laser beam. The laser beam heated the carbon nanotube solution to about 158 degrees Fahrenheit within two minutes.
When nanotubes were placed inside cells and radiated by the laser beam, the cells were quickly destroyed by the heat. However, cells that did not contain any nanotubes were not affected by the laser beam.
"An interesting property of carbon nanotubes is that they absorb near-infrared light waves, which are slightly longer than visible rays of light and pass harmlessly through our cells," study co-author Hongjie Dai, associate professor of chemistry at Stanford, said in a prepared statement.

Lawmakers Accepting Illegal Donations According to Center for Public Integrity

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid are among five lawmakers who accepted donations to their legal expense funds—in apparent violation of congressional ethics rules—from registered lobbyists and foreign agents, according to a study by the Center for Public Integrity.
The Center's analysis of the legal expense funds maintained by eight sitting members of Congress revealed that in addition to DeLay and Reid, those receiving questionable donations included Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. Those five legislators collectively received donations from 12 lobbyists, the Center found.
Legal expense funds are designed to defray costs related to a variety of proceedings, including ethics, civil and criminal matters. Both House and Senate rules forbid any "contribution or other payment by a registered lobbyist or an agent of a foreign principal to a legal expense fund." This prohibition is similar to one that bars lobbyists and foreign agents from paying for lawmakers' travel.
...Congressional Rules:
Both the Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives on Gifts and Travel and the Standing Rules of the Senate prohibit any "contribution or other payment by a registered lobbyist or an agent of a foreign principal to a legal expense fund established for the benefit of a Member, officer, or employee.

OMB Watch Challenges New Rules Change for EPA

Each year, power plants draw in more than 70 trillion gallons of water for cooling and in the process destroy trillions of aquatic organisms, from plankton to fish and their eggs to sea turtles. These facilities can reduce deaths by more than 90 percent by switching to a “closed-cycle” cooling process.
Although EPA is required by the Clean Water Act to require these cooling water intake structures to use the “best technology available to minimize adverse environmental impact,” OMB forced EPA to develop a rule using a completely different standard that emphasized keeping costs down for the corporate special interests such as Cinergy, Edison Electric, and Public Service Electric & Gas that lobbied OMB for weaker rules.
Instead of requiring the largest facilities in the most ecologically sensitive areas to meet standards that the new technology would allow and that EPA originally proposed, EPA adopted less protective measures. EPA failed to require closed-cycle cooling at the largest and most harmful plants and allowed industry to lobby state agencies for even weaker guidelines for specific facilities.

Secret Memo Warned that Practice of Rendition would Lead to Prosecution

An FBI agent warned superiors in a memo three years ago that U.S. officials who discussed plans to ship terror suspects to foreign nations that practice torture could be prosecuted for conspiring to violate U.S. law, according to a copy of the memo obtained by NEWSWEEK. The strongly worded memo, written by an FBI supervisor then assigned to Guantanamo, is the latest in a series of documents that have recently surfaced reflecting unease among some government lawyers and FBI agents over tactics being used in the war on terror. This memo appears to be the first that directly questions the legal premises of the Bush administration policy of "extraordinary rendition"—a secret program under which terror suspects are transferred to foreign countries that have been widely criticized for practicing torture.

None Dare Call It Stolen - Ohio, the Election, and America's Servile Press

There was unequal placement of voting machines. County boards of elections were ordered to reject all Ohio voter-registration forms not printed on white, uncoated paper of not less than 80 lb. text weight. Access was limited to provisional ballots. "Caging"was used to challenge 35,000 individuals who did not sign for registered letters sent to new voters. There was restriction of media from covering the election and conducting exit polls. There was a prearranged FBI terrorist attack warning in Warren County which kept reporters from observing a post-election ballot-counting. There was restriction of foreign monitors from "watching the opening of the polling places, the counting of the ballots, and, in some cases, the election itself. Numerous statistical anomalies all deducted votes from Kerry. In Cuyahoga and Franklin Counties, "the arrows on the absentee ballots were not properly aligned with their respective punch holes, so that countless votes were miscast." In Mercer County, 4000 votes were mysteriously not in the final count. In Lucas County a polling place never opened because no one had the key. In Hamilton County, many absentee voters could not vote for Kerry because his name was not on the ballot. In Mahoning County 25 electronic machines changed Kerry votes to Bush. Dirty tricks told voters to go to false polling places; that Democrats were to vote on November 3; volunteers offered to take absentee ballots to the election office; voters were challenged to prove eligibility to vote. The "Texas Strike Force" (25 people registered at a Franklin County Holiday Inn, paid by the Republican Party) threatened targeted people from a pay phone, if they voted. Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell created rules for the Ohio recount (requested by the Green and Libertarian Parties) which would prevent "countywide hand recounts by any means necessary." The end result was "the Ohio vote was never properly recounted, as required by Ohio law." On December 13, 2004, it was reported by Deputy Director of Hocking County Elections Sherole Eaton, that a Triad GSI employee had changed the computer that operated the tabulating machine, and had "advised election officials how to manipulate voting machinery to ensure that [the] preliminary hand recount matched the machine count." This same Triad employee said he worked on machines in Lorain, Muskingum, Clark, Harrison, and Guernsey counties.
The piece on which this summary is based was originally published in Harper's. Mark Crispin Miller is a professor at New York University, a political/media commentator, and author of his latest book, Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the Election of 2004, and Why They Will Keep Doing It Unless We Stop Them, which will be published by Basic Books this October.

Pro-Israel lobbyists charged in spying case

A federal grand jury indicted two former officials of the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC Thursday on charges they received classified national defense information from a Pentagon analyst, court documents show.
The indictment charges Steven Rosen, the former foreign policy director for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, with receiving classified information from analyst Lawrence Franklin and helping Franklin pass on written classified information.
AIPAC's former senior Middle East analyst, Keith Weissman, also was charged with receiving classified information.

ACLU Urges Supreme Court to Review Case of FBI Whistleblower

The American Civil Liberties Union today urged the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower court's dismissal of the case of Sibel Edmonds, a former FBI translator who was fired in retaliation for reporting security breaches and possible espionage within the Bureau. Lower courts dismissed the case when former Attorney General John Ashcroft invoked the rarely used "state secrets" privilege.
The Court created the so-called state secrets privilege more than 50 years ago but has not considered it since. The need for clarification of the doctrine is acute, the ACLU said, because the government is increasingly using the privilege to cover up its own wrongdoing and to keep legitimate cases out of court.
"Edmonds' case is not an isolated incident," said ACLU Associate Legal Director Ann Beeson. "The federal government is routinely retaliating against government employees who uncover weaknesses in our ability to prevent terrorist attacks or protect public safety."

Former Ambassador Urges U.S. Officials To Leak More Memos

The former ambassador to Afghanistan, Ann Wright, called on U.S. federal employees to leak more secret memos on the lead-up to the war in Iraq like Downing Street memos uncovered by the British press this last May.
“It seems like the British government is leaking like a sieve. We need to get our own U.S. government colleagues to be leaking like a sieve,” said Wright, who gave up her career in the foreign service because she disagreed with the U.S. invasion of Iraq. “We need more documents — certainly not documents that are really going to jeopardize the security of the United States — but documents that show the sequence of events within our own government.”
Wright said that many federal employees disagree with the policies of the current administration but stay involved for a host of reasons, one of which more often than not is that they have mouths to feed. A closer look of the major U.S. newspapers, however, shows that those discouraged officials inside the government are sending signals of hope to the American people, she said.

Clinton: More Blacks Should be in Washington Press Corps

"You get different and better questions if the people asking the questions represent America and the world," Clinton said. "Every one of us filters the world through the prism of our own experience. The press corps should look like the country they are reporting to."

Knight Ridder, Gannett, MediaNews Strike Blockbuster Deal

Knight Ridder, Gannett, and MediaNews Group announced a series of transactions Wednesday resulting in the sale of Knight Ridder's newspaper interests in Detroit to Gannett and MediaNews Group, and the reorganization of the Detroit Newspaper Agency into the Detroit Newspaper Partnership, L.P. Knight Ridder and Gannett have also agreed to exchange newspapers in Florida, Washington, and Idaho.

Terrorism Online

Neil Doyle, an author who studies the way terrorists use the internet, says they've developed an effective propaganda machine that can't easily be stopped. Among other uses, they post gruesome videos celebrating terrorist attacks. "Quite often these films come out within hours of the attacks taking place," Doyle says. "And yeah, they hot foot it back to upload the video to the Internet, and it gets beamed and broadcasted to essentially millions of people around the world." One suspect in the recent London bombings is running a "virtual online Jihad training camp. And it's a complete indoctrination course. And you can effectively become a terrorist by distance learning." Shutting down the sites is almost impossible because as soon as it gets taken down, it pops up again at a new location. "it almost becomes a matter of whacking the mole or chasing our own tail if we pursue that as our principal method," says internet security expert Michael Vatis.

Very Important Article About Sibel Edmonds Leaked from Next Month's Vanity Fair

MUST READ! This profile of FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds explains -- in alarming detail -- the manipulation of wiretap translations. Edmonds' story is possible evidence of Turkish spies in Washington and bribes of prominent government officials including Dennis Hastert.
This is leaked from next month's issue of Vanity Fair magazine.

Environmental damage on Earth seen from shuttle

"Sometimes you can see how there is erosion, and you can see how there is deforestation. It's very widespread in some parts of the world," Collins said in a conversation from space with Japanese officials in Tokyo, including Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Documents Track Ohio Funds to Noe Companies

From the first days of Ohio’s $50 million rare-coin investment, money flowed to coin dealers across the country and into the personal business accounts of Tom Noe.
With the first $25 million, Mr. Noe quickly invested money into real estate and his associates’ coin businesses, and he brokered multimillion dollar coin deals that made the state little money but that allowed him to unload his coins for hundreds of thousands to the state, according to rare-coin records released yesterday by the state.
At the center of the millions in deals was Rare Coin Enterprises LLC, the company Mr. Noe created and infused with $2 million nine days after he received the first $25 million in rare-coin money from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.
With the first cash from the state, Mr. Noe created Capital Coin Fund Limited, but that rare-coin face of the state would remain behind the scenes, intentionally.

Antarctic ice shelf collapse

The collapse of a huge ice shelf in Antarctica in 2002 has no precedent in the past 11,000 years, a study that points the finger at global warming says.
Measuring some 3,250 square kilometres in area and 220 metres thick, the Larsen B iceshelf broke away from the eastern Antarctic Peninsula in 2002, eventually disintegrating into giant icebergs.
By chance, a US-led team of geologists had gathered a rich harvest of data around the iceshelf just before the spectacular collapse, including six cores that had been drilled into marine sediment.
The cores contain the remains of plankton and algae embedded in layers of minerals, and their radiocarbon and oxygen isotopes provide clues about ice cover and climate change over the millennia.

Slain Writer Was Investigating Graft

The 49-year-old former arts writer was abducted Tuesday night from a downtown Basra street along with Nour al Khal, an Iraqi woman who was his longtime assistant and interpreter. Vincent's body was discovered before dawn, hands bound and shot five times; Khal is being treated for multiple gunshot wounds in a Basra hospital.
Dozens of foreign journalists have been abducted or killed in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion to oust President Saddam Hussein. But Vincent's death has new, disturbing implications; he may not have been killed because he was an American or a journalist. He may have been targeted because he was uncovering alleged corruption and influence-peddling in the city's political, security and religious leadership.
Multiple witnesses attest that Vincent and Khal were abducted by men who appeared to be driving police vehicles.
One witness, who refused to give his name, said he recognized one of the abductors as an Interior Ministry employee.
"The man also recognized me, after I saluted him," the witness said. "He said to me: 'Do not interfere! It is our duty.' "

Feds Search La. Dem Congressman's Homes

Jefferson, a Democrat, said in a statement he was cooperating fully, though he said he did not know "the extent or precise nature of this investigation."
Federal agents searched Jefferson's homes in Washington, D.C., and New Orleans.
"As it is a criminal investigation we will not be able to comment any further," said Bryan Sierra, a Justice Department spokesman.
Jefferson, 58, represents a district comprising mostly the heart of New Orleans.

US challenged over 'secret jails'

Two Yemeni men claim they were held in secret, underground US jails for more than 18 months without being charged, Amnesty International has said.
The human rights group has called on the US to reveal details of the alleged secret detention of suspects abroad.
Amnesty fears the case is part of a "much broader picture" in which the US holds prisoners at secret locations.

Third military commission prosecutor quits "rigged" Gitmo trials

In emails to their commanding officers, all three said they couldn't continue in a process they considered unjust.
Captain Wolf didn't return calls, but her departure and the reasons for it were confirmed by two sources linked to the office of military commissions, one opposed to the process, and one supporter.
The ABC has been able to speak to an Air Force judge advocate general, who was closely involved with the commissions for a year-and-a-half, including during the prosecutors' revolt.
The JAG declined to be identified or recorded, but he agrees with the Pentagon's assessment that there was a communication breakdown in the office.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

How They Might Be Giants Instruct Us on How to Handle Federal Court Nominees

I love They Might Be Giants and I am not a fan of Bush. But this link gets into some very hairy over-interpretation. Enjoy. -- McLir

After 10-Year Hiatus, Pentagon Eyes New Landmine

The George W. Bush administration may soon resume production of antipersonnel land mines in a move that is at odds with both the international community and previous U.S. policy on the weapons, says a leading human rights organization.
In December of this year, the Pentagon will decide whether or not to begin producing a new type of antipersonnel land mine called a ”Spider”. The first of these mines would then be scheduled to roll out in early 2007.
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the funds for Spider's production are already earmarked, as the Pentagon has requested 1.3 billion dollars for the mine system, as well as for another mine called the Intelligent Munitions System, which is expected to be fully running by 2008.
A new report by the HRW issued Wednesday notes these weapons that kill and maim an estimated 500 people, mostly civilians, each week. The group called on the Bush administration to halt all research and development on all types of these widely-banned weapons.
”With very few exceptions, nearly every nation has endorsed the goal of a global ban on all antipersonnel mines at some point in the future,” the HRW report says. ”Such acts (by the U.S.) would clearly be against the trend of the emerging international consensus against any possession or use of antipersonnel mines.”

National Science Teachers Association Responds to Bush

"It is simply not fair to present pseudoscience to students in the science
classroom," said NSTA President Mike Padilla. "Nonscientific viewpoints have
little value in increasing students' knowledge of the natural world."

How Britain helped Israel get the bomb

Documents uncovered by Newsnight in the British National Archives show how, in 1958, Britain agreed to sell Israel 20 tonnes of heavy water, a vital ingredient for the production of plutonium at Israel's top secret Dimona nuclear reactor in the Negev desert.
Robert McNamara, President Kennedy's Defence Secretary, has told Newsnight he is "astonished" at the revelation that Britain kept this secret from America.
In Wednesday's programme, Newsnight reveals how British officials decided it would be "over-zealous" to impose safeguards on the Israelis, and chose not to insist that Israel only use the heavy water for peaceful purposes.

How Does Roberts Interpret the "Everything Clause"

Known more formally as the Commerce Clause, it's been used to justify countless federal laws covering everything from civil rights to endangered species.
For many conservatives, the clause has long been a sore point. They believe Congress and the courts have interpreted it too broadly, leading to sweeping federal regulations that the Founding Fathers never intended.
Democrats and liberal groups say Roberts' opinion in a quirky case involving California toads suggests he sides with the conservatives, has a narrow view of the clause and would strike down many federal laws.
"That theory could substantially cut back Congress' power," said Elliot Mincberg, vice president and legal director of the liberal group People for the American Way. "It could mean significantly limiting the ability of Congress to pass laws protecting civil rights, safety and the environment - and throwing out laws that already do that."

Ecstacy to Treat Parkinson's?

The authors tested a number of drugs at various doses and found that in addition to L-DOPA-related treatments, drugs related to amphetamine were effective in ameliorating muscle rigidity, tremor, and impaired movement in these mice. Most effective was methylenedioxymethamphetamine HCl (MDMA), commonly known as ecstasy. It has been shown that amphetamines can trigger release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine and cause sudden bursts in neurotransmission, leading to a feeling of alertness, increased muscular activity, and reduced fatigue. This study, however, shows that treating mice with MDMA does not increase dopamine levels; furthermore, treating the mice with drugs related to serotonin or norepinephrine did not ameliorate the disease's symptoms. These results suggest that MDMA likely acts through a pathway unrelated to these common neurotransmitters.

$5 if you saw a movie plugged by Sony's fictional critic

Michael sez, "Following a class action suit, Sony Pictures is obliged to refund $5 to any cinemagoers who went to see Hollow Man, Vertical Limit, A Knight's Tale, The Animal or The Patriot at the cinema, as they might have been influenced by quotations on the poster attributed to the fictional film critic 'David Manning.'" 40K PDF Link

Ethics groups' ire about Republicans becomes frustration with Democrats

No ethics complaint has been filed against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), whose lobbyist-funded junkets became talk of the town after spreads in the New York Times and the Washington Post.
Nor has a complaint been lodged against Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA), whose house was recently raided by the FBI, or Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), who enjoyed a trip to a Scottish casino and floated a $100 bet alongside a gambling lobbyist to win some $32,000.
Ney’s press secretary said the congressman had been “lucky.”
Ethics groups on both sides agree. Their ire, which previously was focused largely on Republicans, has turned on Democrats; they say the party has failed to marry rhetoric with action. Democrats maintain they’ve worked to fix a “broken” ethics committee and are watching to see where the committee goes before taking action.

US journalist shot dead in Iraq

A US freelance reporter, Steven Vincent, has been shot dead by unknown gunmen in Basra, southern Iraq, police have said.
Mr Vincent was abducted with his female Iraqi translator at gun point by men in a police car on Tuesday.
His bullet-riddled body was found on the side of a highway south of the city a few hours later.
He had been writing a book about the city, where insurgents have recently stepped up their attacks.

Before the War, CIA Reportedly Trained a Team of Iraqis to Aid U.S.

Before the war in Iraq began, the CIA recruited and trained an Iraqi paramilitary group, code-named the Scorpions, to foment rebellion, conduct sabotage, and help CIA paramilitaries who entered Baghdad and other cities target buildings and individuals, according to three current and former intelligence officials with knowledge of the unit.
The CIA spent millions of dollars on the Scorpions, whose existence has not been previously disclosed, even giving them former Soviet Hind helicopters. But most of the unit's prewar missions -- spray-painting graffiti on walls; cutting electricity; "sowing confusion," as one said -- were delayed or canceled because of poor training or planning, said officials briefed on the unit. The speed of the invasion negated the need for most of their missions, others said.
After Baghdad fell, the CIA used the Scorpions to try to infiltrate the insurgency, to help out in interrogations, and, from time to time, to do "the dirty work," as one intelligence official put it.

German Language Simplifies According to New Rules

Most German traditionalists are reluctantly switching over to new German spelling rules that came into effect this week, designed to modernize and simplify the language.
...More than six years ago, a special committee revised spelling rules in an attempt to rid the language of many of its quirks and make it more logical.
Germany, Austria and Switzerland have been in transition since then, with both sets of spelling rules in use.
Under the new system, extremely long compound words have been broken up, comma rules have been simplified, and in many cases a double-S replaces the old letter sign for the sound, which resembles a capital B.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Recruiters to Teach High Schoolers

Two high schools in Federal Way will debut Air Force courses this fall. Students as young as 14 will wear uniforms, march in drills with decommissioned guns and get schooled in military history, customs and technology.
Course materials are mostly created by the Air Force, and the classes taught by retired officers. Costs will be split between the Air Force and the school district.

Do Dolphins Name One Another?

Academics at St Andrews University's sea mammal unit used sophisticated listening devices to record sounds made by dolphins and then tested these out by playing them back to the animals. They discovered that dolphins use "recognition signals" which are "almost as versatile as human names".

Troops Living Off-Base Face Pay Cut

Untold numbers of servicemembers residing off base will see their next paycheck shrink by as much as $250 -- and many of them may not even know the blow is coming.
Disbursing shops at several 1st Marine Division and 1st Force Service Support Group battalions surveyed over the past week said they learned only recently about the elimination of "geographic rate protection" under the Basic Allowance for Housing.

Iraqis who are considered vital to building democracy, are increasingly being killed by U.S. troops

U.S. officials have repeatedly declined requests to disclose the number of civilians killed in such incidents. Police in Baghdad say they have received reports that U.S. forces killed 33 unarmed civilians and injured 45 in the capital between May 1 and July 12 — an average of nearly one fatality every two days. This does not include incidents that occurred elsewhere in the country or were not reported to the police.
The continued shooting of civilians is fueling a growing dislike of the United States and undermining efforts to convince the public that American soldiers are here to help. The victims have included doctors, journalists, a professor — the kind of people the U.S. is counting on to help build an open and democratic society.
"Of course the shootings will increase support for the opposition," said Farraji, 49, who was named a police general with U.S. approval. "The hatred of the Americans has increased. I myself hate them."

Halliburton announces 284 percent increase in war profits

Halliburton announced on Friday that its KBR division, responsible for carrying out Pentagon contracts, experienced a 284 percent increase in operating profits during the second quarter of this year.
The increase in profits was primarily due to the Pentagon's payment of "award fees" for what military officials call "good" or "very good" work done by KBR in the Middle East for America's taxpayers and the troops.
Despite the scandals that plague KBR's military contracts, the Pentagon awarded $70 million in "award" fees to the company, along with four ratings of "excellent" and two ratings of "very good" for the troop logistics work under the Army's LOGCAP contract.

The US Quietly Pushing to End "Leap Seconds"

Word of the U.S. proposal, made secretly to a United Nations body, began leaking to scientists earlier this month. The plan would simplify the world's timekeeping by making each day last exactly 24 hours. Right now, that's not always the case.
Because the moon's gravity has been slowing down the Earth, it takes slightly longer than 24 hours for the world to rotate completely on its axis. The difference is tiny, but every few years a group that helps regulate global timekeeping, the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, tells governments, telecom companies, satellite operators and others to add in an extra second to all clocks to keep them in sync. The adjustment is made on New Year's Eve or the last day of June.
But adding these ad hoc "leap seconds" -- the last one was tacked on in 1998 -- can be a big hassle for computers operating with software programs that never allowed for a 61-second minute, leading to glitches when the extra second passes. "It's a huge deal," said John Yuzdepski, an executive at Symmetricom Inc., of San Jose, Calif., which makes ultraprecise clocks for telecommunications, space and military use.
On Jan. 1, 1996, the addition of a leap second made computers at Associated Press Radio crash and start broadcasting the wrong taped programs. In 1997, the Russian global positioning system, known as Glonass, was broken for 20 hours after a transmission to the country's satellites to add a leap second went awry. And in 2003, a leap-second bug made GPS receivers from Motorola Inc. briefly show customers the time as half past 62 o'clock.

Ohio Prosecutor Extorting First Amendment

Stop writing and we’ll reduce your charges, an Ohio prosecutor has told an editor, in essence now publicly admitting that the criminal charges lodged against the website writer are direct retaliation for his exercise of First Amendment rights.
That’s illegal.
Less than two weeks ago, Daniel Kasaris, special prosecutor against two critics of public officials in northern Ohio, stated publicly that the duo’s website which often levels caustic charges against public officials, especially judges, and focuses on alleged governmental wrongdoing, was not a factor in the arrests of the pair.
But now he says if the website editor stops writing for the site, he’ll reduce the felony charges he brought against him to a misdemeanor.

Abu Ghraib Dog Tactics Came From Guantanamo

Military interrogators at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq learned about the use of military working dogs to intimidate detainees from a team of interrogators dispatched from the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to court testimony yesterday.
One interrogation analyst also testified that sleep deprivation and forced nudity -- which were used in Cuba on high-value detainees -- later were approved tactics at Abu Ghraib. Another soldier said that interrogators would regularly pass instructions to have dog handlers and military police "scare up" detainees as part of interrogation plans, part of an approved approach that relied on exploiting the fear of dogs.

Pentagon bans use of anonymous quotes in press releases

The memo, which was made public Tuesday, said, "The use of anonymous quotations in a Department of Defense press statement is prohibited."
Any statements that included comments by third parties must identify them and have their permission to use them, it said.

Book: Hendrix Used Gay Ruse to Avoid 'Nam

Jimi Hendrix might have stayed in the Army. He might have been sent to Vietnam. Instead, he pretended he was gay. And with that, he was discharged from the 101st Airborne in 1962, launching a musical career that would redefine the guitar, leave other rock heroes of the day speechless and culminate with his headlining performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Woodstock in 1969.
Hendrix's subterfuge, contained in his military medical records, is revealed for the first time in Charles R. Cross' new biography, "Room Full of Mirrors." Publicly, Hendrix always claimed he was discharged after breaking his ankle on a parachute jump, but his medical records do not mention such an injury.

Japan declares US trade war

Japan will impose its first-ever retaliatory trade sanctions against the US on 15 goods including steel over a controversial US anti-dumping law, the trade ministry said today.
Japan is the latest major US trading partner to impose sanctions to protest the US anti-dumping law.
The Japanese tariffs, set at 15 per cent from September 1, are in line with similar moves by Canada and the European Union against the so-called Byrd Amendment.
The law enacted in 2000 redistributes US levies on dumping -- the selling of items abroad at lower prices than in the domestic market -- to the US companies that complained. Critics says this puts exporters to the United States at a disadvantage.

Study: Electronic Record Costs May Soar

President Bush's proposal to create a national network of electronic health records could cost more than $200 billion initially to build and operate, researchers said Monday.
The health care industry itself, based on current estimates, will cover less than 20 percent of that amount.
"These findings suggest that policy initiatives are needed if we are to close this gap," said a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

'Coingate' wife Noe tried to disrupt vote

Bernadette Noe, who served dual roles as chairman for the Lucas County Republican Party and the Lucas County Board of Elections, sent twelve “partisans” into a warehouse on Election Day, according a memo authored by Ohio’s Director of Campaign Finance Richard Weghorst who was present at the time.
The assertion is part of a comprehensive investigation prepared for Ohio Republican Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell regarding reports of irregularities in Lucas County. The report found gross failures on the part of Ms. Noe’s board in preparation for and administration of November’s election. (Read the memo in PDF)

FT: World turning its back on Brand America

The US is increasingly viewed as a "culture-free zone" inhabited by arrogant and unfriendly people, according to study of 25 countries' brand reputations.
The findings, published online today, will add to concerns that anti-Americanism is hurting companies whose products are considered to be distinctly "American".
The Anholt-GMI Nation Brands Index found that although US foreign policy remained a key driver of hostility, dissatisfaction with the world's sole superpower might run deeper.
"The US is still recognised as a leading place to do business, the home of desirable brands and popular culture," said Simon Anholt, author of the survey. "But its governance, its cultural heritage and its people are no longer widely respected or admired by the world."
[So which nation has the most esteemed brand? Australia.]

Top cloning experts gather in South Korea for clandestine test

Top cloning experts from Britain, South Korea and the United States working on ways to use stem cells to treat incurable diseases gathered here to kick-off a week-long secret experiment.
The scientists were led by South Korea's Hwang Woo-Suk, Gerald Schatten of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and the creator of the cloned sheep Dolly, Professor Ian Wilmut of Scotland's Roslin Institute.
They would not say what the experiment would be about, but said it was expected to be over early next week.
Schatten however told journalists it would be a scientific "milestone" and indicated it could be aimed at combining achievements made in cloning and stem cell research to develop ways to treat incurable diseases.

Petition Against Wal-Mart

We, the undersigned, demand that Wal-Mart:
- Stop encouraging Wal-Mart personnel to spy on suspected pro-union coworkers and get rid of your anti-union hotline.
- Stop spending money on anti-union activities, including your "People Division," an on-call unionbusting army which responds to the 'threat' of unions in your stores.
- Stop closing stores or departments where your employees have decided to form a union.

Cheney Orders STRATCOM To Prepare Contingency Nuclear Attack Plan Against Iran

A number of political observers and activists today sounded ‘a red alert’ after reports surfaced this week Vice President Dick Cheney directly ordered Strategic Command (STRATCOM) to make contingency plans for a nuclear strike against Iran in the aftermath of another ‘9/11 type attack' on America.
Cheney’s orders first surfaced in an article by Philip Geraldi in the Aug 1, 2005, issue of The American Conservative. Geraldi was unavailable for comment, but excerpts of the article went on to say:
"Vice President Cheney's office has specifically told the Pentagon that the military should be prepared for an attack on Iran in the immediate aftermath of "another 9-11." That's "not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States," notes Geraldi’s article.

Grover Norquist as Rove's Doorkeeper

"Speaking of phones and doorkeepers, it's widely understood that to have real influence in Washington, one must be on good terms, not so much with Cabinet secretaries, as with White House secretaries--that is, the assistants who sit in the outer offices of the president's senior advisors. As with much else in this town, uber-lobbyist/anti-tax activist Grover Norquist seems to understand this rule as well as anybody. Norquist had a deal with Susan Ralston, who until recently was the assistant to Karl Rove. An unnamed Republican lobbyist recently told "Susan took a message for Rove, and then called Grover to ask if she should put the caller through to Rove. If Grover didn't approve, your call didn't go through."
How did Norquist attain such influence over Ralston? Flowers every Friday? Redskins tickets? The answer, actually, is what the White House ethics lawyers call a "preexisting relationship." Ralston had formerly worked for lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a close friend of Norquist's and a top fundraiser for House majority whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

Censorship of the Hiroshima Bombing

The main reason it was classified was...because of the horror, the devastation. US military crews and Japanese newsreel teams shot color and black & white footage of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the atomic bombs were dropped. The newsreel footage was suppressed for 25 years; the US military footage was hidden until the early 1980s, and has never been fully aired. Some of the newsreel footage "might have disappeared forever if the Japanese filmmakers had not hidden one print from the Americans in a ceiling." This August 6 and 7 the Sundance channel is showing Original Child Bomb (review, QuickTime trailer), a documentary that combines the newsreel and military footage. The title is inspired by Thomas Merton's poem.
Lieutenant Daniel McGovern, a filmmaker for the United States Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS), and Akira Iwasaki, the chief producer of one of the Japanese film crews, used some of the footage in the documentary The Effects of the Atomic Bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (This page has links to many of the memos from the late 1940s about classifaction of the footage.) McGovern was instrumental in preserving the US military footage and secrely made a print of the Japanese newsreel footage that ended up being the only surviving copy. [from]

Ten Most Harmful Government Programs [Check this out, it simply nutty]

Medicare and Social Security rate toward the top of the list. But the number one most harmful government program is... the Internal Revenue Code!

Bush: Intelligent Design Should Be Taught in Schools

During a round-table interview with reporters from five Texas newspapers, Bush declined to go into detail on his personal views of the origin of life. But he said students should learn about both theories, Knight Ridder Newspapers reported.
"I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought," Bush said. "You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes."
The theory of intelligent design says life on earth is too complex to have developed through evolution, implying that a higher power must have had a hand in creation.
[Bush's statement on education is in stark contrast to the policy on teaching how condoms work.]

200 Neat Tricks for Odd Tasks

1. Remove a broken key from a lock.
Put some super glue on broken off part, insert, hold a few seconds and pull.
2. Remove a broken light bulb.
Stick a bar of soap into jagged edges, use soap as handle.
3. Remove a stubborn screw.
Heat with a soldering iron for a few seconds first.

DHS Concentrating on Gangs

Federal authorities arrested 582 alleged gang members over a two-week period, officials said Monday, targeting an estimated 80 violent groups they say have spawned street crimes across the country.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff called the gangs "a threat to our homeland security and ... a very urgent law enforcement priority."

China Drops Unocal Bid

China’s CNOOC Ltd. said Tuesday it has withdrawn its $18.5 billion cash offer for Unocal Corp., stating it considered raising its bid, and “would have done so but for the political environment in the U.S.”
CNOOC’s withdrawal frees the way for Chevron Corp. to clinch its $17.4 billion bid for El Segundo, Calif.-based Unocal.

Alleged bomb plotter claims two and a half years of interrogation under US and UK supervision in 'ghost prisons' abroad

In an statement given to his newly appointed lawyer, Mohammed has given an account of how he was tortured for more than two years after being questioned by US and British officials who he believes were from the FBI and MI6. As well as being beaten and subjected to loud music for long periods, he claims his genitals were sliced with scalpels.
He alleges that in Morocco he was shown photos of people he knew from a west London mosque, and was asked about information he was told was supplied by MI5. One interrogator, he says, was a woman who said she was Canadian.
Drawing on his notes, Mohammed's lawyer has compiled a 28-page diary of his torture. This has been declassified by the Pentagon, and extracts are published in the Guardian today.

Iran Is Judged 10 Years From Nuclear Bomb - Intel Condradicts Bush Statements

A major U.S. intelligence review has projected that Iran is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon, roughly doubling the previous estimate of five years, according to government sources with firsthand knowledge of the new analysis.
The carefully hedged assessments, which represent consensus among U.S. intelligence agencies, contrast with forceful public statements by the White House. Administration officials have asserted, but have not offered proof, that Tehran is moving determinedly toward a nuclear arsenal. The new estimate could provide more time for diplomacy with Iran over its nuclear ambitions. President Bush has said that he wants the crisis resolved diplomatically but that "all options are on the table."
The new National Intelligence Estimate includes what the intelligence community views as credible indicators that Iran's military is conducting clandestine work. But the sources said there is no information linking those projects directly to a nuclear weapons program. What is clear is that Iran, mostly through its energy program, is acquiring and mastering technologies that could be diverted to bombmaking.

Monday, August 01, 2005

"2004 Darwin Awards" Email Mostly Bogus

Contrary to belief, there is no panel of distinguished judges weighing each potential Darwin Award entry then sagely reaching agreement as to which deserves an official accolade. Darwin Awards e-mails have been circulating on the Internet at least since May 1991, with the earliest e-mails and newsgroups posts of this nature setting before posterity inventive works of fiction that had been labeled by their authors as true accounts of actual deaths. Years after the term "Darwin Award" was being used in connection with text descriptions of deaths by misadventure, a number of web sites sprung up to archive the variety of Darwin Award tales then in circulation. Those sites not only collected the fictional offerings then making the online rounds but also on their own dug up numerous true accounts of death by stupidity, thus building a vast body of such tales, some true and some not. While other sites have since faded into obscurity, one has emerged as the clear winner:, a site owned and maintained by Wendy Northcutt. Ms. Northcutt has since authored three highly successful books based on her site. does its best to separate the wheat from the chaff, identifying for its readers which of its stories are factual and which are not. The various "Annual Darwin Awards" e-mails (such as the one which is the topic of this article) do not originate with; they are put together by unknown persons.
Of the seven gruesome accounts given in the "Darwin Awards 2004" e-mail, six fail to check out, but one is real. The lone entry that stands up to scrutiny is the sorry tale of a Reston, Virginia, man who foolishly taped a selection of store-bought bungee cords together, then used them to bungee jump off a 70-foot railroad trestle.

US Nukes Present Obstacle at 6-Party Talks

[S]ince the start of the Bush Administration the US has, together with Iraq, classified North Korea as a country of "chronic military concern" in its nuclear posture review (NPR). As if to back that up the Bush Administration has pursued the development of small nuclear warheads that could be used to target underground North Korean facilities, while at the same time it has developed something called "Conplan 8022," which outlines the use of nuclear arms against the North in time of conflict. There is considerable merit to the North's claims that there is an American nuclear threat.
That leads to reason to believe the North will demand something is done about the nuclear threat against it, including a negative security assurance. It will bring up instances where it has been fooled by the US in the past and demand legally binding assurances. The Bush Administration, however, has strengthened America's nuclear hegemony and said it could use nuclear arms against a biochemical attack, so it will not be accommodating to such demands.
Demands by the US that the North take the first step by giving up its nuclear program and the North's demand that the US take action on the nuclear threat as one of the corresponding actions it needs to take in response will probably make finding agreement difficult.

Spy's Notes on Iraqi Aims Were Shelved, Suit Says

The Central Intelligence Agency was told by an informant in the spring of 2001 that Iraq had abandoned a major element of its nuclear weapons program, but the agency did not share the information with other agencies or with senior policy makers, a former C.I.A. officer has charged.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court here in December, the former C.I.A. officer, whose name remains secret, said that the informant told him that Iraq's uranium enrichment program had ended years earlier and that centrifuge components from the scuttled program were available for examination and even purchase.
The officer, an employee at the agency for more than 20 years, including several years in a clandestine unit assigned to gather intelligence related to illicit weapons, was fired in 2004.

Hurricanes Intensified by Global Warming

Hurricanes are becoming more destructive in part due to the effects of global warming, according to research published online Sunday in the journal Nature.
Kerry A. Emanuel, an MIT professor of meteorology, reviewed about five decades of hurricane and typhoon data, and found that both the duration and wind speeds of the storms had increased by 50%.
"When hurricanes do strike in the future, they will, on average, have much greater intensity, hitting harder and lasting longer," Emanuel noted.
The increased intensity will "substantially increase hurricane-related losses along populated coastlines, hitting people hardest not as previously thought in the tropics but in the middle and high latitudes," he said.

Leaked emails claim Guantanamo trials rigged

Leaked emails from two former prosecutors claim the military commissions set up to try detainees at Guantanamo Bay are rigged, fraudulent, and thin on evidence against the accused.
Two emails, which have been obtained by the ABC, were sent to supervisors in the Office of Military Commissions in March of last year - three months before Australian detainee David Hicks was charged and five months before his trial began.
The first email is from prosecutor Major Robert Preston to his supervisor.
Maj Preston writes that the process is perpetrating a fraud on the American people, and that the cases being pursued are marginal.
"I consider the insistence on pressing ahead with cases that would be marginal even if properly prepared to be a severe threat to the reputation of the military justice system and even a fraud on the American people," Maj Preston wrote.
"Surely they don't expect that this fairly half-arsed effort is all that we have been able to put together after all this time."

Court Nominee Was Part of Legal Team Seeking to Shift Course on Civil Rights Laws

In the early 1980s, a young intellectual lawyer named John G. Roberts Jr. was part of the vanguard of a conservative political revolution in civil rights, advocating new legal theories and helping enforce the Reagan administration's effort to curtail the use of courts to remedy racial and sexual discrimination.
Just 26 when he joined the Justice Department as a special assistant to Attorney General William French Smith, Roberts was almost immediately entrusted to counsel senior department officials on such incendiary matters of the day as school desegregation, voting rules and government antidotes to bias in housing and hiring.

Carter: Guantanamo Detentions Disgraceful

Carter also criticized the U.S.-led war in Iraq as "unnecessary and unjust."
"I think what's going on in Guantanamo Bay and other places is a disgrace to the U.S.A.," he told a news conference at the Baptist World Alliance's centenary conference in Birmingham, England. "I wouldn't say it's the cause of terrorism, but it has given impetus and excuses to potential terrorists to lash out at our country and justify their despicable acts."
Carter said, however, that terrorist acts could not be justified, and that while Guantanamo "may be an aggravating factor ... it's not the basis of terrorism."

American Base In Israel

Many have written asking me about the Barry Chamish Report of the American Base here in Israel. Barry and I went there today and I can tell you that it is there. In fact, it isn’t even being hidden, but how would they hide such a thing anyway. What they are doing is saying it is a storage facility and the US is building it for Israel. But let me tell you that makes absolutely no sense. I don’t know how many buildings are already constructed or what they are for but we can make some good guesses. Look at these for example... [thanks, Kathy]

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Children in US Iraq Jails as Young as 10 - Allegations of Rape and Torture

It was early last October that Kasim Mehaddi Hilas says he witnessed the rape of a boy prisoner aged about 15 in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. “The kid was hurting very bad and they covered all the doors with sheets,” he said in a statement given to investigators probing prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib. “Then, when I heard the screaming I climbed the door … and I saw [the soldier’s name is deleted] who was wearing a military uniform.” Hilas, who was himself threatened with being sexually assaulted in Abu Graib, then describes in horrific detail how the soldier raped “the little kid”.
In another witness statement, passed to the Sunday Herald, former prisoner Thaar Salman Dawod said: “[I saw] two boys naked and they were cuffed together face to face and [a US soldier] was beating them and a group of guards were watching and taking pictures and there was three female soldiers laughing at the prisoners. The prisoners, two of them, were young.”
It’s not certain exactly how many children are being held by coalition forces in Iraq, but a Sunday Herald investigation suggests there are up to 107. Their names are not known, nor is where they are being kept, how long they will be held or what has happened to them during their detention.