Friday, October 07, 2005

Forest Service fires official who complained about pesticide use

Parker, who has not spoken publicly about his case, worked for the agency for nearly four decades and said he was proud to wear the Forest Service uniform.
"The whole reason behind this is I reported some significant pesticide misuse problems to the regional forester and they don't want to have controls over this process," he told the AP. "They want to be pesticide cowboys and go out there and do what they want to do without consideration of compliance with their own policies, regulations and environmental laws."
Parker filed a whistleblower complaint earlier this year that pointed to what he called a "systemic problem" when it comes to proper pesticide use across several forests in New Mexico and Arizona.
He accused some managers of not preparing environmental risk assessments and failing to get approval from agency officials who have the authority to make decisions about pesticides.

Investors Sue Murdoch Over News Corp. 'Poison Pill'

A group of institutional investors from Australia, Europe and the U.S. filed suit in Delaware Chancery Court Friday against Rupert Murdoch, his son Lachlan Murdoch and others, seeking to block News Corp. from extending the so-called "poison pill" to thwart hostile takeovers.
On Aug. 11, News Corp announced it was renewing the poison pill provision for another two years beginning Nov. 8. Corporations adopt poison pills to defend against hostile takeovers. Typically, a takeover attempt can trigger provisions such as the issuance of new preferred shares that carry severe redemption requirements that have the effect of diluting the value of some shareholder's stakes and increasing the cost of a takeover.
The investors say the Murdochs broke "an express promise" made to shareholders earlier this year when News Corp. was negotiating to reincorporate from Australia to Delaware. According to the complaint, the shareholders agreed to the reincorporation largely because the Murdochs promised that no poison pills would be put into effect for more than 12 months without express shareholder approval.

'National Journal': Rove Told Bush He Did Not Leak to Reporters in Plame Case

The plot continued to thicken this afternoon in the Plamegate scandal, as veteran investigative reporter Murray Waas wrote in the National Journal online that Karl Rove had “personally assured President Bush in the early fall of 2003 that he had not disclosed to anyone in the press that Valerie Plame, the wife of an administration critic, was a CIA employee, according to legal sources with firsthand knowledge of the accounts that both Rove and Bush independently provided to federal prosecutors.”

Connecticut Civil Unions Bill Becomes Law

Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell wasted no time Wednesday signing a bill creating civil unions in the state less than an hour after it passed its final hurdle in the legislature.
The bill gives same-sex couples many of the rights of marriage.
The House voted 85-63 last week after a clause was added defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. (story) The addition of the marriage clause had been set by Rell as a requirement before she would agree to sign it.
The Senate version of the bill sailed through that body on a 27-9 vote a week earlier (story) but without the marriage definition.
Today, the Senate approved the inclusion of the definition to the cheers of supporters in the public gallery.

9/11 Military Whistleblower Faces Charges

An officer who has claimed that a classified military unit identified four Sept. 11 hijackers before the 2001 attacks is facing Pentagon accusations of breaking numerous rules, charges his lawyer says are aimed at hurting his credibility.
The alleged infractions by Army Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, 42, include obtaining a service medal under false pretenses, improperly flashing military identification while drunk and stealing pens, according to paperwork from the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency shown by his attorney to The Associated Press.
Shaffer was one of the first to publicly link Sept. 11 leader Mohamed Atta to the unit code-named Able Danger. Shaffer was one of five witnesses the Pentagon ordered not to appear Sept. 21 before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

State Gov's: Pentagon Not the Answer to Disasters

There is almost no support among the nation's governors for President Bush's suggestion that the Pentagon could take the lead in responding to catastrophic natural disasters, a USA TODAY survey has found.
Of the 38 governors who responded to a request for reaction to Bush's comments, only two backed the idea: Republicans Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota.
Half the state chief executives said they were opposed or had reservations, including Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother. Eleven wanted more details before taking a position, and 12 did not respond.
Most governors who opposed the suggestion said they would resist any effort by Washington to usurp state control of disaster relief, even in a devastating event like Hurricane Katrina, in which more than 1,100 people died.

Christian Conservatives Oppose Pap Vaccine Which May Prevent Cancer

There's great news for women: Merck's new HPV vaccine, Gardasil, has been shown to be 100% effective in preventing the two most common strains of HPV, the human papilloma virus, which is known to cause cervical cancer. These two strains are thought to be responsible for about 70% of cervical cancer cases. Cervical cancer kills an estimated 300,000 women per year, 4,000 of those in the United States. Merck hopes to improve the vaccine to make it effective against up to 87% of cervical cancer cases.
To be fully effective, the vaccine must be given to girls and women before they become sexually active (or at least before they are ever exposed to HPV).
To all reasonable people, this is fantastic news. Reducing cervical canecr rates by 87% ( or even just 70%) is phenomenal. We live in a world full of unreasonable people, however, and some actually oppose this breakthrough preventative measure.
For example, Abstinence & Marriage Education Partnership executive director Scott Phelps complains [bugmenot], "Sexually transmitted diseases in the United States will not be contained by injecting vaccines into pre-adolescents in anticipation of promiscuous behavior." It doesn't take a microbiologist to spot the problems in Phelps's statement. First, it's certainly possible to contract HPV without promiscuous behaviour. Many people carry HPV without even knowing it. Infants can be born carrying HPV. Secondly, this statement is provably false. Maybe Phelps doesn't understand what "100% effective vaccine" means, but it will, by definition, necessarily contain at least these two strains of HPV if it is administered. Such is the nature of a vaccine.
The Family Research Council is concerned that vaccinating against HPV might encourage kids to have sex. This is probably a legitimate concern-- I know that when I got a tetanus vaccine, the first thing I wanted to do was to run out and play on rusty manure-spreading farm equipment in an effort to get as many puncture wounds as possible. The FRC position presumes that sex is dirty and wrong; after all, you didn't see them complaining about the relatively new chicken pox or flu vaccines.

Big Mammals Evolved Thanks to More Oxygen

A newly compiled comprehensive record of Earth’s atmospheric oxygen shows a large peak 50 million years ago. The abundance of oxygen, which came on the heels of the dinosaur decline, could have fueled not only the evolution of giant, placental mammals such as the 10-foot sloth but also large-brained creatures, including humans.
The data come from deep-sea sediment cores dating to 205 million years ago that contain inorganic carbon-rich minerals as well as the organic remains of single celled marine phytoplankton. These organisms generated oxygen through photosynthesis and in the process, left behind a chemical signature by changing the ratio of the two stable isotopes of carbon--carbon 13 and carbon 12--in the sediments.

Media reports on Frist stock sale investigation largely omit company's history of fraud

Out of hundreds of newspaper stories on Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's (R-TN) stock sale currently under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Justice Department, only a handful have noted that, in December 2002, HCA Inc. -- the company whose stock Frist sold off before share prices dropped sharply -- agreed to pay the government $1.7 billion in fines and penalties related to 14 counts of defrauding Medicare and Medicaid. HCA Inc. is the for-profit hospital chain founded by Frist's father. The total in penalties is the largest settlement ever recovered by the federal government in a health care fraud case, although many observers -- including a prominent Republican senator -- criticized the Bush administration's withholding of information in the case and aired concerns that the government may not have been adequately compensated.

Nestlé Defies Boycotters and 'Ethical Shoppers' by Launching its own Fair Trade Coffee Brand

Britain's most boycotted company, Nestlé, will attempt to claim the moral high ground today in the battle for "ethical shopping" by becoming the first multi-national to launch a Fair-Trade coffee.
In a link with the Fair Trade Foundation, the Swiss food firm announced it will become the first of the big four coffee roasters to agree a "fair price" for farmers who are put into poverty by a glut of coffee on international markets.

Abramoff Investigation Extends Into Justice Department

The ranking Democrats on three House committees called Thursday for an outside investigator to determine why a prosecutor in Guam was demoted in 2002 after opening a criminal investigation of Jack Abramoff, the Washington lobbyist now at the center of a federal corruption investigation.
The Democrats said in a letter to the Justice Department that an outside investigator was needed to determine if the prosecutor, Frederick A. Black, the acting United States attorney on Guam, was demoted as a result of "political manipulation of Justice Department officials" by Mr. Abramoff, a major Republican fund-raiser.

WTO Pressure: US set to reconsider agricultural subsidies

While Mr Johanns did not go into details in a speech to an agribusiness lunch, he suggested that the administration would push for a different emphasis in the upcoming farm bill, away from subsidies for selected commodities and towards environmental programmes and income support for smaller farmers.
Such a move could help shield farm programmes from legal challenge in the World Trade Organisation, which has declared some aspects of the US support for its cotton farmers to be illegal.
Domestic subsidies that are not linked to production are harder to challenge and will be subject to fewer cuts under the current Doha round of WTO trade talks.

Half A Million Hurricane Victims Still Need Housing: FEMA Director

At a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, acting director David Paulison said that of all the challenges presented by the devastating twin hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the most difficult is housing.
"In Florida last year, we had four hurricanes and we housed more people than ever in the history of FEMA in the government, which is between 15,000 and 20,000 people," he said.
"We have to house now between 400,000 and maybe 600,000 people, so it's just incomprehensible what we have to deal with," said Paulison, who said people displaced by the storm remain holed up in a variety of situations, including mobile homes, cruise ships, hotels, motels and trailers."

DeLay, Blunt Traded Secret Donations

Tom DeLay deliberately raised more money than he needed to throw parties at the 2000 presidential convention, then diverted some of the excess funds to longtime ally Roy Blunt through a series of donations that benefited both men's causes.
When the financial carousel stopped, DeLay's private charity, the consulting firm that employed DeLay's wife and the Missouri campaign of Blunt's son all ended up with money, according to campaign documents reviewed by The Associated Press.

ACLU Sues Over Conditions at La. Jail

A civil rights group filed court papers Thursday demanding access to the New Orleans city jail to investigate allegations that inmates were abandoned for days after Hurricane Katrina, without food or drinking water, in chest-high floodwaters with floating corpses.
It took three days to evacuate more than 6,000 inmates from the lockup after the storm hit Aug. 29, prison authorities have said. The prisoners are now being held at 38 state and local lockups around Louisiana.

Red Cross: says hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay "serious"

"During our recent 10-day visit we were able to visit the infirmary, see the detainees and speak with them as well as the American authorities," she added.
A spokesman for the Guantanamo prison operation, Lieutenant-Colonel Jeremy Martin, said on Thursday that 28 prisoners were on hunger strike, meaning they had missed nine consecutive meals, and that 22 were being force-fed.
"All the detainees are clinically stable and will continue to receive nutrition and fluids as needed," Martin said by e-mail.
The ICRC backs a 1975 Tokyo declaration by the World Medical Association stating that doctors should not take party in force-feeding but keep prisoners informed of the sometimes irreversible consequences of their hunger strike, Notari said.
Amnesty International and human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, a lawyer representing some 40 detainees, said on Thursday that U.S. authorities were keeping 21 alive by forcing food into their stomachs through tubes pushed up their noses.
The prisoners were on the 56th day of their strike and were shackled to their beds 24 hours a day to stop them removing the tubes, Stafford Smith said.
Force-feeding is not banned under international law, but the World Medical Association declaration, endorsed by the American Medical Association, sets guidelines for doctors involved in hunger strikes and says they should not participate in force-feeding.

Images from the Real War

These are the raw images of Iraq, taken by American soldiers. Besides the underbelly of war they reveal a quintessentially American aesthetic: tourist snapshots, boys toting beers and smoking cigars, notes taped to slumbering soldiers’ backsides, mohawks on fire. They reveal a fascination with brutality and death: charred corpses, severed limbs, and an American soldier whose face has been blown in so far that his brain is exposed.
Some are intimate and at once quotidian. Scores of photographs document the dull hallways of palaces, gaudy jewelry, even crystal chandeliers. Dozens display helicopters hovering in bare blue skies and silhouetted against rich, pumpkin-colored sunsets. A palatial, empty room is festooned with the sign “GOD BLESS TASK FORCE IRON HORSE.” In another, a GI looks stolidly into the distance, his helmet hugged against his chest, vaunts the caption, “yes, yes i am a sexy man-beast.”
These images are collected at, an online library dedicated to photographs taken and captioned by American soldiers who have served in Iraq. The site was created by an American expatriate and computer programmer, Mark, who spoke to RAW STORY on the condition his full name not be used.

[Article does not contain images but the links do. Be forwarned. I agree with those that believe that -- while there is something pornagraphic in the casual taglines to the mutilation and death -- these images and words represent a TRUE aspect of warfare and its perversity. -- McLir]

Nerdy Scientists and Pushy Americans Destroy Myths of Cultural Stereotypes

Polite Canadians and genteel British carefully consider the results, while the French sniff haughtily at the very idea. ...just kidding.

Excerpt: An international group led by Antonio Terracciano and Robert McCrae at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) surveyed more than 40,000 adults from 49 cultures. Participants were questioned about how neurotic, extraverted, open, agreeable, and conscientious typical members of their own culture are. This data was then compared with participants’ assessments of their own personalities and those of other specific people they had observed.
The researchers found that there was no correlation between perceived cultural characteristics and the actual traits rated for real people.
In contrast, previous studies that have shown that some gender stereotypes, such as the idea that women are warmer and men are more assertive, do reflect real trends.
In many cases, cultures had overly harsh views of themselves. “The Swiss believe that they are closed-off to new experiences,” says Antonio Terracciano. “But in fact they are the most open culture to new ideas in art and music.”

Ig Nobel Prize Winners Announced

Literature: Internet scammers from Nigeria.
Peace: Scientists measuring the response of a locust's brain cell's response to "Star Wars."
Economics: Inventors of robotic alarm clock that eludes waking persons.
Fluid Dynamics: Scientists studying the pressure of feces within penguins.
[much more]

Cranberry and oregano make seafood safer to eat

While both plants are known to contain phenolic compounds with antimicrobial activity, Shetty had a hunch that they might be more effective when used in combination. He found that using a 50:50 mixture to coat cod fillets and shrimps infected with V. parahaemolyticus was far more effective at killing the bugs than either of the compounds on its own - probably because they disrupt different parts of the bacterial cell. Lowering the pH with a dash of lactic acid made the concoction even more effective (Innovative Food Science and Emerging Technologies, vol 6, p 453).

O'Reilly endorsed assassinating Syrian leader if he "doesn't help us out"

On the October 3 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly called for the assassination of Syria's leader, Bashar al-Assad, if Assad does not help promote stability in the Middle East by maintaining Iraq's borders. O'Reilly claimed that "we could take his life, and we should take his life if he doesn't help us out." O'Reilly was responding to Fox News contributor Gen. Wesley Clark's suggestion that the United States use diplomacy to bolster regional support for the Iraq war among uncooperative neighbors.

"Stand-Your-Ground Law" New Reason to Avoid Florida

A new Florida law that kicks in today is getting national attention but drawing yawns from its supporters at home who say little will change.
Deadly force can be used without fear of prosecution if victims fear for life and limb. No longer must Floridians make efforts to avoid or escape danger before using deadly force.
It's called the stand-your-ground law, and it was passed by the Legislature in April - at the behest of the National Rifle Association - and signed enthusiastically by Gov. Jeb Bush the same month.
Now, as it's becoming law, gun-control advocates are launching a campaign to inform visitors and others of what it considers a dangerous situation.
...The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is buying newspaper ads and handing out fliers in at least one Florida airport.
Among the fliers suggestions: "Do not argue unnecessarily with local people."

Congress Seeks to Slash Food Aid for Poor

Under orders to whittle agriculture spending by $3 billion, Republicans in Congress propose to slash food programs for the poor by $574 million and subsidies and conservation programs by $1 billion each, The Associated Press has learned.
The plan by Senate Agriculture Committee chairman Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., would reduce farmers' payments by 2.5 percent across the board, slashing spending by $1.145 billion over five years. That's half the 5 percent the Bush administration sought earlier this year.
The $574 million cut in food stamps would come from restricting access to this benefit for certain families that receive other government assistance. The restriction would shut an estimated 300,000 people out of the program.

Bush Nominates Actor Ron Silver to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the United States Institute of Peace

Graph of Monthly Crude Oil Prices 1946-2005

Includes bot nominal and inflation adjusted prices.

Zod in 2008

Vote for your ruler
When I first came to your planet and demanded your homes, property and very lives, I didn't know you were already doing so, willingly, with your own government. I can win no tribute from a bankrupted nation populated by feeble flag-waving plebians. In 2008 I shall restore your dignity and make you servants worthy of my rule. This new government shall become a tool of my oppression. Instead of hidden agendas and waffling policies, I offer you direct candor and brutal certainty. I only ask for your tribute, your lives, and your vote.
-- General Zod
Your Future President and Eternal Ruler

In Shift, FEMA Will Seek Bids for Gulf Work

The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency told a Senate panel on Thursday that the agency would seek new bids on $400 million worth of contracts that had originally been awarded with no competition in the Hurricane Katrina recovery effort.
In announcing the move, R. David Paulison, the agency's acting director, responded to sharp criticism after FEMA suspended normal contracting rules in the frantic first days of trying to help storm victims and rebuild the Gulf Coast.
The contracts up for bidding - worth up to $100 million each - were awarded to four giant firms specializing in construction, engineering and consulting, said Nicol Andrews, an agency spokeswoman. The businesses have long records of work for the federal government, and some have executives or lobbyists with close ties to the Bush administration.

Gay men can be Catholic priests if celibate

The Vatican will allow gay men into the priesthood if they can show they have been celibate for at least three years, leading Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported on Friday.
But it said the Vatican will ban men who "publicly manifest their homosexuality" or show an "overwhelming attraction" to homosexual culture "even if it is only intellectually."

Gay men can be Catholic priests if celibate

The Vatican will allow gay men into the priesthood if they can show they have been celibate for at least three years, leading Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported on Friday.
But it said the Vatican will ban men who "publicly manifest their homosexuality" or show an "overwhelming attraction" to homosexual culture "even if it is only intellectually."

IAEA, ElBaradei Share Nobel Peace Prize

Mohamed ElBaradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency that he heads won the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for their efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.
ElBaradei, a 63-year-old lawyer from Egypt, has led the U.N. nuclear agency as it grappled with the crisis in Iraq and the ongoing efforts to prevent North Korea and Iran from acquiring nuclear arms.
The Nobel committee said ElBaradei and the IAEA should be recognized for addressing one of the greatest dangers facing the world.
``At a time when the threat of nuclear arms is again increasing, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to underline that this threat must be met through the broadest possible international cooperation. This principle finds its clearest expression today in the work of the IAEA and its director general.''

The Right Reverend Dr. Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter II

aka Reverend Ike, is, today, perhaps best known for being name-checked in the title song of Parliament's third album, but he's been around for a long time, preaching the gospel of "Thinkonomics," a get-rich-quick scheme rooted in the Holy Scripture. The Rev. makes no apologies for the opulence of his Harlem church, or for his many multicolored Rolls Royces; no one walks so perilously the fine line between fraud and holy man as he. Hear audio and see video (.wmv) of some of Ike's sermons and decide for yourself. [from]

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Torture Advocate Nominated to Deputy Attorney General

President Bush has nominated a top architect of the federal government's torture policies to fill the number two position at the Justice Department. Former White House lawyer Timothy Flanigan has been nominated to be Deputy Attorney General. His nomination is now before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
As deputy to then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, Flanigan advised on the development of policies that removed protections for torture and abuse, paving the way for the abuses at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and elsewhere.
Many are calling for an independent counsel to investigate allegations of torture and abuse of federal detainees.

Telcoms Spending Millions Lobbying States

Telecommunications companies spent $56.8 million on political contributions over six years and a minimum of $77.8 million on lobbying over two years in an attempt to curry favor with elected officials in the states, according to a new Center for Public Integrity analysis.
Large regional telephone companies and cable television operators are spending millions in the hope that legislative success at the state level will translate into similar success in Washington, D.C., as Congress debates a major rewrite of federal telecommunications laws this fall.

Miers's Feminist Lecture Series

In the late 1990s, as a member of the advisory board for Southern Methodist University's law school, Ms. Miers pushed for the creation of an endowed lecture series in women's studies named for Louise B. Raggio, one of the first women to rise to prominence in the Texas legal community. A strong advocate for women, Ms. Raggio helped persuade state lawmakers to revise Texas laws to give women new rights over property and in the event of divorce.
...A feminist icon, Gloria Steinem, delivered the series's first lecture, in 1998. In the following two years, the speakers were Patricia S. Schroeder, the former Democratic congresswoman widely associated with women's causes, and Susan Faludi, the author of Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women (1991). Ann W. Richards, the Democrat whom George W. Bush unseated as governor of Texas in 1994, delivered the lecture in 2003.

Fall of the Rovean empire?

For 30 years, beginning with the Nixon presidency, advanced under Reagan, stalled with the elder Bush, a new political economy struggled to be born. The idea was pure and simple: centralization of power in the hands of the Republican Party would ensure that it never lost it again. Under George W. Bush, this new system reached its apotheosis. It is a radically novel social, political and economic formation that deserves study alongside capitalism and socialism. Neither Adam Smith nor Vladimir Lenin captures its essence, though it has far more elements of Leninist democratic-centralism than Smithian free markets. Some have referred to this model as crony capitalism; others compare the waste, extravagance and greed to the Gilded Age. Call it 21st century Republicanism.
At its heart the system is plagued by corruption, an often unpleasant peripheral expense that greases its wheels. But now multiple scandals engulfing Republicans -- from suspended House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff to White House political overlord Karl Rove -- threaten to upend the system. Because it is organized by politics it can be undone by politics. Politics has been the greatest strength of Republicanism, but it has become its greatest vulnerability.
The party runs the state. Politics drives economics. Important party officials are also economic operators. They thrive off their connections and rise in the party apparatus as a result of their self-enrichment. The past three chairmen of the Republican National Committee have all been Washington lobbyists.
An oligarchy atop the party allocates favors. Behind the ideological slogans about the "free market" and "liberty," the oligarchy creates oligopolies. Businesses must pay to play. They must kick back contributions to the party, hire its key people and support its program. Only if they give do they receive tax breaks, loosening of regulations and helpful treatment from government professionals.

The EPA is failing to protect the Gulf Coast's homebound citizens from Katrina's poisons

An umbrella of environmental laws, including the Superfund law, gives the Environmental Protection Agency considerable authority -- and in some cases the responsibility -- to ensure messes get cleaned up right. And the mess in southern Louisiana, as EPA administrator Stephen L. Johnson himself admits, is "the largest natural disaster we've faced."
But Louisiana environmentalists, who for decades have battled oil companies and government agencies to improve the human and natural health of their polluted state, say EPA's tests are insufficient and its health warnings inadequate. "They read like 'Hints From Heloise,'" says Rick Hind, legislative director of the Greenpeace Toxics Campaign. National critics stress that EPA failed to comprehend the pollution that arose after the fall of the Twin Towers on 9/11 and may be repeating the same mistakes in the Gulf Coast.

CIA Will Not Punish for 9/11 Failures

To date, no CIA employee has been fired or otherwise punished for Sept. 11-related failures. Goss' decision makes it increasingly unlikely that any U.S. official will be held accountable for what has been called the worst intelligence failure in the nation's history.

Information Stored into Slowed Laser Light

The scientists slowed the laser light pulse from 300,000 kilometers per second to just several hundred meters per second, allowing them to capture the pulse for about a second.
"What we've done here is create a quantum memory," said Dr. Matthew Sellars of the Laser Physics Centre at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia.
Slowing down light allows scientists to map information onto it. The information is then transferred from the light to the crystal, Sellars said. Then when the scientists release the light, the information is transferred back onto the beam.
"Digital information can be expressed with pulses of light," Sellars said. "If we can store the light pulses for a very long time, we have a memory that operates on a quantum scale."
To slow down the light, the researchers used a silicate crystal doped with a rare-earth element called praseodymium. Laser light pulses fired at the crystal are normally absorbed and don't pass through, Sellars said. But when a secondary laser was directed at the crystal, it became transparent, allowing light from the first laser to move through.

"Spychips" Sees an RFID Conspiracy

A new book by privacy advocates makes the case that corporations and government agencies are in collusion to put tiny radio transmitters on nearly everything we buy. Companies say it's about providing thought leadership, not the Mark of the Beast.
Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre hope to become the twin Erin Brockoviches of RFID, by revealing the threat posed by the radio tag replacements for barcode labels.
...Albrecht and McIntyre make a staggering accusation in Spychips: that Philips, Procter and Gamble, Gillette, NCR and IBM are conspiring with each other and the federal government to follow individual consumers everywhere, using embedded radio tags planted in their clothing and belongings.

Quake Prediction Gets Shake-Up

Researchers in Sweden claim to have developed a new computer model for predicting earthquakes that correctly -- retroactively -- forecast the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami that killed 275,000 people.
Using five years of seismological data from the region including records of 624 quakes, researchers from the Swedish Defense Research Agency, or FOI, studied the enormous stress created by the Indian Plate as it grinds into the Australasian Plate near the island of Sumatra.

Korea's U-city

Public recycling bins that use RFID to credit recyclers every time they toss in a bottle; pressure-sensitive floors in the homes of older people that can detect a fall and contact help; phones that store health records and can be used to pay for prescriptions.
In New Songdo City, a "ubiquitous city" being built in South Korea, all major information systems (residential, medical, business, governmental, etc.) share data, and computers are to be built into the houses, streets and office buildings.
When completed in 2014, the city's infrastructure will be a test bed for new technologies, and the city itself will exemplify a digital way of life, the "U-life." It starts with a resident's smart-card house key. "The same key can be used to get on the subway, pay a parking meter, see a movie, borrow a free public bicycle and so on. It'll be anonymous, won't be linked to your identity, and if lost you can quickly cancel the card and reset your door locks," aid John Kim who leads the U-city planning.

Qwiki: Wiki for Quantum Mechanics

2005 Nobel Prize in Physics awarded to Quantum Opticians! In particular, to Roy Glauber "for his contribution to the quantum theory of optical coherence" and to John Hall and Ted Hänsch "for their contributions to the development of laser-based precision spectroscopy, including the optical frequency comb technique". Read more at the Swedes' site.

Book thrown at proponents of Intelligent Design

"Devastating" early drafts of a controversial book recommended as reading at a US high school reveal how the word “creationism” had been later swapped for “intelligent design”, a landmark US trial scrutinising the teaching of ID heard on Wednesday.
The early drafts of the book Of Pandas and People, was used as evidence to link the book to creationism, which it is illegal to teach in US schools.
“ID proponents have said for years that they are not creationists,” says Nick Matzke of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, California, which is advising 11 parents who are suing the school board of Dover High School in Pennsylvania for incorporating ID into the science curriculum. “This proves beyond a doubt that this is simply a new name for creationism.”

Micro-organisms may be turned into nano-circuitry

Micro-organisms commonly found floating in oceans might someday be reborn as components in incredibly complex computer circuits.
The single-celled algae, called diatoms, live in water and assemble a shell, or frustule, of silica by converting nutrients and light. They can adopt an incredible diversity of shapes – from simple geometric structures like triangles and squares to extremely complex 3D constructs with thousands of individual pores.
...Sandhage and his collaborators have so far devised a handful of ways to convert the silica encasing diatoms into other materials, some of which could prove electronically useful, such as titanium dioxide, which readily conducts electricity.
The researchers also outline two ways to alter the chemical structure of diatoms. The first is to modify the silica with a gaseous metal at temperatures up to 900°C – a method used to convert diatom shells into magnesium oxide and titanium dioxide structures. The second entails coating the micro-organisms with a solution and then dissolving the silica underneath. This has been used to create structures in zirconium. By combining the two techniques, the researchers were able to make nano-structures of barium titanate.

End of the Enlightenment

With new, radical religious movements on the rise globally, why is so much of the world bent on rejecting reason?
Across the world, millions of people feel threatened. They sense a dangerous enemy at the gates, committed to values and beliefs they fear and despise, and ready to impose its alien ideology on their government, their life and their children's futures.
Is that a threat you recognise? If so, then you know how religious fundamentalists feel. To them, the secular world of the early 21st century is a threat to all they hold most dear. In response, increasing numbers are joining militant religious groups and living, voting and battling for their beliefs. Like it or not, they already outnumber the secular rationalists whose thinking underpins today's western urban societies. And their numbers are growing by the day. What will that mean for the world as the 21st century unfolds?

White House Denies BBC Report of President Saying God Ordered Attacks on Iraq, Afghanistan

The White House this afternoon denied, and called “absurd,” a report on the British BBC today that President Bush had once said that God instructed him to attack Afghanistan and Iraq.
The BBC program, “Elusive Peace: Israel and the Arab,” features interviews with top Palestinian officials who claim that in a meeting in June 2003, Bush said, “I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, 'George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.' And I did, and then God would tell me, 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq …" And I did. And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, 'Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East.' And by God I'm gonna do it.'"
Asked by reporters about this today, Press Secretary Scott McClellan said, “That's absurd. He never made such remarks.”
Pressed further, McClellan said he was not at that 2003 meeting, but added, “I've been in many meetings with the President with world leaders where he's talked about this…. I checked into that report and I stand by what I just said.”

Key Ruling Backs Blog and Web Rights

The Delaware Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed a lower court decision that had required an Internet service provider to disclose the identity of an anonymous blogger who targeted a local elected official on a newspaper site. It was hailed nationally as the first state ruling in such a case.
The justices said a Superior Court judge should have required Smyrna town councilman Patrick Cahill to make a stronger case that he and his had been defamed before ordering Comcast Cable Communications to disclose the identities of four anonymous posters to a blog site operated by Independent Newspapers Inc., publisher of the Delaware State News.
"The decision of the Supreme Court helps provide protection for anonymous bloggers and anonymous speakers in general from lawsuits which have little or no merit and are filed solely to intimidate the speaker or suppress the speech," said David Finger, a Wilmington attorney representing John Doe No. 1.

Anti-Torture Policy Passes Senate Overwhelmingly Despite Bush Threat of Veto

Defying the White House, the Senate overwhelmingly agreed Wednesday to regulate the detention, interrogation and treatment of prisoners held by the American military.
The measure ignited a fierce debate among many Senate Republicans and the White House, which threatened to veto a $440 billion military spending bill if the detention amendment was tacked on, saying it would bind the president's hands in wartime. Nonetheless, the measure passed, 90 to 9, with 46 Republicans, including Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, joining 43 Democrats and one independent in favor.
Today, the White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said that President Bush will likely veto the defense budget if the amendment remains part of the spending bill.
"We have put out a Statement of Administration Policy saying that his advisors would recommend that he vetoes it if it contains such language," said Mr. McClellan.

Hastings says ethics panel won't investigate indicted DeLay

Rep. Doc Hastings, the Washington state Republican who chairs the House ethics committee, touched off a political controversy this week with statements supporting embattled Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas.
Hastings told the Yakima Herald-Republic that his committee would not investigate a 15-month-old complaint about DeLay's role in alleged illegal campaign contributions in Texas.
Such an investigation would duplicate the work of the Texas district attorney who obtained indictments against DeLay over the fund-raising issue, Hastings said. "We don't have the resources," he added.

Clinton: Iraq "looks like a quagmire"

Former President Bill Clinton says Iraq "looks like a quagmire," and estimates "the odds are not great of our prevailing there."
But, speaking for an interview that appears in the November issue of Ladies Home Journal, Clinton qualified his quagmire remark by saying, "It's not Vietnam."

US may be forced to relinquish control of the internet to a coalition of governments

Old allies in world politics, representatives from the UK and US sat just feet away from each other, but all looked straight ahead as Hendon explained the EU had decided to end the US government's unilateral control of the internet and put in place a new body that would now run this revolutionary communications medium.
The issue of who should control the net had proved an extremely divisive issue, and for 11 days the world's governments traded blows. For the vast majority of people who use the internet, the only real concern is getting on it. But with the internet now essential to countries' basic infrastructure - Brazil relies on it for 90% of its tax collection - the question of who has control has become critical.
And the unwelcome answer for many is that it is the US government. In the early days, an enlightened Department of Commerce (DoC) pushed and funded expansion of the internet. And when it became global, it created a private company, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) to run it.
But the DoC retained overall control, and in June stated what many had always feared: that it would retain indefinite control of the internet's foundation - its "root servers", which act as the basic directory for the whole internet.
A number of countries represented in Geneva, including Brazil, China, Cuba, Iran and several African states, insisted the US give up control, but it refused. The meeting "was going nowhere", Hendon says, and so the EU took a bold step and proposed two stark changes: a new forum that would decide public policy, and a "cooperation model" comprising governments that would be in overall charge.

Hurricanes Destroyed 109 Oil Platforms

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed 109 oil platforms and five drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, but only a small portion of production will be lost for good, the US government said Tuesday.
Rita accounted for most of the damage in a region that ordinarily produces nearly one-third of US crude oil imports, Interior Secretary Gale Norton said in presenting a preliminary assessment report.

Measure Set For Passage Friday Would Weaken Pollution Laws, Experts Say

A House bill ostensibly aimed at easing the nation's energy crisis would dramatically weaken pollution laws by relaxing environmental standards on both oil refineries and aging power plants, several clean-air experts said.
The GOP's Gasoline for America's Security (GAS) Act -- which is expected to pass the House tomorrow -- would ease permitting rules for oil refineries, instruct the president to designate new refinery sites on at least three retired military bases and relax air pollution controls on thousands of industrial facilities across the country.

Ex-White House Aide Indicted in Abramoff Case

David H. Safavian, former chief of White House procurement policy, was indicted yesterday on five counts of lying about his dealings with former Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff and impeding a Senate investigation of him.
The indictment accuses Safavian, who previously served as former chief of staff for the General Services Administration, of falsely telling GSA officials that Abramoff had no dealings with the agency at a time in 2002, the government alleges, that Abramoff was seeking to obtain use of two GSA properties with Safavian's assistance.

Most Money Going Outside Storm's Path

Companies outside the three states most affected by Hurricane Katrina have received more than 90 percent of the money from prime federal contracts for recovery and reconstruction of the Gulf Coast, according to an analysis of available government data.
The analysis by The Washington Post takes into account only the first wave of federal contracts, those that had been entered in detail into government databases as of yesterday. Together they are valued at more than $2 billion. Congress has allocated more than $60 billion for the recovery effort, and the ultimate total is expected to rise far higher.

Catholic Church says not to take Bible literally

The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has published a teaching document instructing the faithful that some parts of the Bible are not actually true.
The Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland are warning their five million worshippers, as well as any others drawn to the study of scripture, that they should not expect “total accuracy” from the Bible.
“We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision,” they say in The Gift of Scripture.

Bush wants authority to order military quarantine of Americans

President Bush, increasingly concerned about a possible avian flu pandemic, revealed yesterday that any part of the country where the virus breaks out could likely be quarantined and that he is considering using the military to enforce it.
"The best way to deal with a pandemic is to isolate it and keep it isolated in the region in which it begins," he said during a wide-ranging Rose Garden news conference.
The president was asked if his recent talk of giving the military the lead in responding to large natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and other catastrophes was in part the result of his concerns that state and local personnel aren't up to the task of a flu outbreak.
"Yes," he replied.

AOL Time-Warner Censors Alex Jones Websites

Has Time Warner's ISP, Road Runner, blocked access to all of Alex Jones' flagship websites across the entire United States or is this a wider Internet blackout issue?
We were first alerted to this problem early this morning when several locals in Austin reported that they were unable to access, or Prison
Austin Time Warner had previously shut down access to our websites on a whim, claiming they were 'hate material' but in all cases had quickly restored them after receiving complaints.

Florida city considers eminent domain

Florida's Riviera Beach is a poor, predominantly black, coastal community that intends to revitalize its economy by using eminent domain, if necessary, to displace about 6,000 local residents and build a billion-dollar waterfront yachting and housing complex.

ACLU of PA Blogging Intelligent Design Trial

Forrest Coverage

Here are a few tidbits to tide you over until we can get transcripts from Barbara Forrest's testimony. She's on the stand again this morning.

Good coverage of yesterday's proceedings from the York Daily Record today.

Yet another funny column from Mike Agento, this one on the attempts of the defense attorney to question Forrest on whether she's a "card-carrying member" of the ACLU and the ACLU's stance on child pornography (yup, that's really what he asked).

Transcript from Friday afternoon, which included testimony from John Haught, a Georgetown University theology professor.

We promise to get the transcripts for Forrest's testimony up as soon as we receive them!

Downhill Battle Labs: One "poorly paid" coder vs. the powers that be.

[N]onprofit Downhill Battle, having spun off the Participatory Culture Foundation/DTV TV Project ( "DTV is a new, free and open-source platform for internet television and video." ) has many other open source projects underway. DownHill Battle Labs projects include "Local Ink": "Enter your zip code, write a letter, and send it to the op-ed pages of newspapers in your area, and/or your representatives in Congress.", "Battle Cart": " cart for small operations. The catalog and the cart sit on the same screen....With a PayPal account, you can start selling things on a website in just a few minutes." Blog Torrent ( see: Metafilter 37204) a P2P Legal Defense Fund, and a Local Wi-Fi filesharing package. And more. [from]

Espionage Case Breaches the White House

Both the FBI and CIA are calling it the first case of espionage in the White House in modern history.
Officials tell ABC News the alleged spy worked undetected at the White House for almost three years. Leandro Aragoncillo, 46, was a U.S. Marine most recently assigned to the staff of Vice President Dick Cheney.
"I don't know of a case where the vetting broke down before and resulted in a spy being in the White House," said Richard Clarke, a former White House advisor who is now an ABC News consultant.
Federal investigators say Aragoncillo, a naturalized citizen from the Philippines, used his top secret clearance to steal classified intelligence documents from White House computers.

God told me to invade Iraq, Bush tells Palestinian ministers

President George W. Bush told Palestinian ministers that God had told him to invade Afghanistan and Iraq - and create a Palestinian State, a new BBC series reveals.
In Elusive Peace: Israel and the Arabs, a major three-part series on BBC TWO (at 9.00pm on Monday 10, Monday 17 and Monday 24 October), Abu Mazen, Palestinian Prime Minister, and Nabil Shaath, his Foreign Minister, describe their first meeting with President Bush in June 2003.
Nabil Shaath says: "President Bush said to all of us: 'I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, "George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan." And I did, and then God would tell me, "George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq …" And I did. And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, "Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East." And by God I'm gonna do it.'"

World Bank: Environmental Damage Killing Millions

Almost a fifth of all ill health in poor countries and millions of deaths can be attributed to environmental factors, including climate change and pollution, according to a report from the World Bank.
Unsafe water, poor sanitation and hygiene as well as indoor and outdoor air pollution are all said to be killing people and preventing economic development. In addition, says the bank, increasing soil pollution, pesticides, hazardous waste and chemicals in food are significantly affecting health and economies.
More controversially, the report, released yesterday in New York, links cancers to environmental conditions and says global warming has a major impact on health. "For almost all forms of cancer, the risk of contracting this disease can be reduced if physical environments are safe for human habitation and food items are safe for consumption," says the report.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

All the Mad Magazine Covers Free! (Cheap)

Mad #188 Jan. 1977
The Moronic Woman (TV Satire)
No Wonder We're All Screwed Up!
A Mad History of Medicine
Dave Berg -- The Lighter Side of Consumers
Don Martin -- Early One Morning on a Desert Island, One Day Five Thousand Years Ago, Late One Afternoon Last January
What's the Story...?
Year-End Family Greeting Letters We'd Like to See
Christmas Carols for the 1976 Holiday Season
The Mad Clearance Catalogue of Unwanted Articles, Features, Gimmicks, and Premises
Paul Peter Porges -- The Tennis Set
The Bad Mouth Bears (Movie Satire)
The Misery Breaks (Movie Satire)
Pay As You Go! - The Practice of Modern Medicine

Running on Fumes

Is gasoline a Giffen Good?
This very well written essay from the Nation magazine shows how rising gas prices threaten exurban communities.

Excerpt: Kerr now changes her own oil and tries, as best she can from reading a few car maintenance books, to give her Explorer its tuneups. "I can't afford to go downtown to have someone else do it for me," she explains. "I've thought about selling some of my stuff. I have some antique radios from my grandmother. I've been putting that off for a year now. I can't fill my tank. I haven't been able to fill my tank in a year or two. I do $20 here, $20 there. I do without food to get gas, pretty much regularly. There's never any breakfast. Nobody eats breakfast in my house. My mom feeds me lunch after she gets off work. Maybe two times a week we go without dinner. Eat nothing. My boss was nice enough to let me cash in some vacation time last month, so I had enough to buy some groceries."
In a nutshell, Kerr's experience shows up the fallacy of the laissez-faire notion that free-floating prices alone are a fair way to regulate consumption of a scarce commodity like gasoline. While higher prices might stop some tourists from driving up to Castle Crags and might curtail the discretionary gas use of the middle classes, as long as people live in regions like Siskiyou County and commute to far-away jobs in places that are hard, if not impossible, to reach by public transportation, these people are going to need gas. And as long as they need gas simply to continue working, they are going to do whatever it takes--short-changing themselves on food and medicine, charging the gas on credit cards, deferring car repairs or upgrades to better, more fuel-efficient vehicles--to keep their tanks full. After all, entire communities and lifestyles and job choices and consumption patterns have been crafted over the better part of a century on the basis of cheap and plentiful gasoline. Suddenly change the equation without offering any government relief and, even though gas remains cheaper per gallon than in much of the rest of the world, the relative difference will prove disastrous. Dismantling VA

The Senator's aide chuckled rather loudly and said, "What VA? By the time this administration is done there won't be a VA." Our conversation had begun with a discussion of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA's) healthcare budget, and quickly came down to a single, simple point. VA is being dismantled.
Three reasons why the administration would want to dismantle VA immediately come to mind:
VA is a large-scale, publicly funded healthcare system that works:
VA works so well it has been used as a model to push the case for nationalized healthcare; something that strikes fear in the heart of every Republican.
Recent studies by the Rand Corporation and the University of Michigan, working with UCLA, prove the point that VA is efficient and provides healthcare that meets the highest standards. If it can work for millions of veterans, it can work for millions of Americans. That concept is antithetical to current administration thinking.
In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina we learned that VA was the ONLY healthcare organization that managed to save ALL patient records. This is because VA uses a computerized system that was backed-up on a regional level and put back online in a matter of hours. Now that system is under attack by Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs . Rep. Buyer wants to eliminate regional control of the system under the guise of saving money.
VA is ripe for privatization:
And that spells profits for private corporations. The latest move in this direction happened last week on Capitol Hill where the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs approved S. 1182 (see Sec. 10) which would spend money from VA's healthcare budget to study outsourcing jobs of VA healthcare workers. The study, with VA healthcare funds going to private consultants, could cost over $140 million and lead to the loss of up to 36,000 VA jobs. Democrats opposed it, but Republicans pushed it through.
VA is part of BIG government:
And that's something this administration abhors. GOP strategist Grover Norquist says he wants the government shrunk down so he can �drown it in the bathtub.� The problem with this is that smaller government means fewer services as well as the much-touted lower taxes. And the jobs that are spared are outsourced and cost more to maintain because private corporations have to build in a profit margin. [more]

'10th planet' Xena has moon companion dubbed (wait for it...) Gabrielle

The astronomers who in July announced the discovery of a "10th planet" in our Solar System say the object has a moon.
The new development comes as a result of observations made with the Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawaii.
Michael Brown, from the California Institute of Technology, US, says the find will help his team make a better determination of the new planet's mass.
Currently, the planet has been dubbed Xena; the moon will be called Gabrielle until official names are agreed.

Cronkite on Journalism and Democracy

"We [as a nation] are not educated well enough to perform the necessary act of intelligently selecting our leaders," Cronkite, 88, said during a day of speeches and interviews Tuesday at USC's Annenberg School for Communication, where he helped present the biannual Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism.
Cronkite issued a call-to-arms for fellow journalists — primarily broadcast — to pressure "our employers, those who are more concerned with profits than they are with performance," to replace the current roundups of celebrity profiles and personal health and finance pieces with "the news of the day."
"If we fail at that," Cronkite said, "our democracy, our republic, I think, is in serious danger."

CDC locks up flu data

Amid growing concerns that avian influenza will develop into a deadly pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is under fire by some in the scientific community for hoarding data crucial for vaccine development. The allegations come as CDC has issued new and controversial rules on what data, documents and other information it will — and will not — share with the public.
Open government advocates are critical of the CDC's "Information Security" manual, the 34-page document that gives officials 19 categories to shield data from public scrutiny without obtaining a "secret" classification.

Commerce Department tells National Weather Service media contacts must be pre-approved

The Department of Commerce has issued a blanket media policy to employees of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), requiring that all requests for contact from national media be first approved by the Department, RAW STORY has learned.
According to a leaked Sept. 29 email memo sent out to NOAA staff, including employees of the National Weather Service (NWS) -- both of which are under the Department of Commerce -- employees must collect information from reporters and forward it to the Department.

Gore on the Threat to American Democracy

The news divisions - which used to be seen as serving a public interest and were subsidized by the rest of the network - are now seen as profit centers designed to generate revenue and, more importantly, to advance the larger agenda of the corporation of which they are a small part. They have fewer reporters, fewer stories, smaller budgets, less travel, fewer bureaus, less independent judgment, more vulnerability to influence by management, and more dependence on government sources and canned public relations hand-outs. This tragedy is compounded by the ironic fact that this generation of journalists is the best trained and most highly skilled in the history of their profession. But they are usually not allowed to do the job they have been trained to do.
The present executive branch has made it a practice to try and control and intimidate news organizations: from PBS to CBS to Newsweek. They placed a former male escort in the White House press pool to pose as a reporter - and then called upon him to give the president a hand at crucial moments. They paid actors to make make phony video press releases and paid cash to some reporters who were willing to take it in return for positive stories. And every day they unleash squadrons of digital brownshirts to harass and hector any journalist who is critical of the President. [via]

U.S. general in Iraq: Growing disconnect with Washington

"I don't know if I have the moral authority to send troops into combat anymore," a senior American general recently told United Press International.
He knows what his power means -- that on his word hundreds or thousands of young men would step into danger.
"I'm no longer sure I can look (a soldier or a Marine) in the eye and say: 'This is something worth dying for.'"
He doesn't mean Iraq. There are plenty of bad people here to fight, and plenty of innocents worth protecting.
His moral crisis was that he had been to Washington, D.C.
He had been asked politically loaded questions from both sides of aisle about the war, each questioner seeking ammunition to use for their own political ends.

Are computers counterproductive to a child's development?

Wittenberg University education professor and former computer teacher Lowell Monke thinks so, and has written a provocative essay arguing that, among other things, computers render children "less animated and less capable of appreciating what it means to be alive, what it means to belong in the world as a biological, social being," and "teach children a manipulative way of engaging the world.” His polemic is partially supported by evidence (.pdf academic paper; BBC gloss here) indicating that, above a certain threshold, computer use is correlated with lower test scores. The latest salvo in the continuing debate over education and the culture of simulation. [from]

The complete unexpurgated scripts of the original Monty Python TV series

Bush Considers Military Role in Flu Fight

President Bush, increasingly concerned about a possible avian flu pandemic, revealed Tuesday that any part of the country where the virus breaks out could likely be quarantined and that he is considering using the military to enforce it.
"The best way to deal with a pandemic is to isolate it and keep it isolated in the region in which it begins," he said during a wide- ranging Rose Garden news conference.

Indiana bill would limit reproduction procedures for gays, singles

An interim legislative committee is considering a bill that would prohibit gays, lesbians and single people in Indiana from using medical science to assist them in having a child.
Sen. Patricia Miller (R-Indianapolis) said state law does not have regulations on assisted reproduction and should have similar requirements to adoption in Indiana.
"If were going to try to put Indiana on the map, I wouldn't go this route," said Betty Cockrum, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana. "It feels pretty chilling. It is governmental intrusion into a very private part of our lives."
Miller acknowledged that the legislation would be "enormously controversial."

Salvation Army Allowed to Discriminate on Religious Beliefs

A federal court in New York has ruled that the Salvation Army may hire and fire employees according to their religious beliefs -- even though it receives most of its money for social services from the government. The ruling earlier this week is considered a major court victory for the Bush administration.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

ACLU Seeks Information on the Fate of 6,500 New Orleans Prisoners

Citing eyewitness reports of locked prisoners being abandoned to drown in their cells in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the American Civil Liberties Union today demanded access to the relocated prisoners it represents under a longstanding class-action lawsuit over prison conditions.

The Web Effect: New Tally Reveals True Newspaper Reach

Top gainers from the Web: The Boston Globe picks up 9%; The Austin American-Statesman and The San Diego Union-Tribune gain roughly 8% each; the San Antonio Express-News, Hartford Courant, Salt Lake Tribune, Las Vegas Journal, and The Arizona Daily Star each gain about seven points.

U.S. Soldiers Lightly Punished for Iraqi Abuses, Reports Dayton Paper

Charges against U.S. Army soldiers in Iraq accused of crimes against Iraqis are dismissed or withdrawn at a higher rate than charges in which the victims are fellow soldiers or civilian military employees, a newspaper reported.
An analysis by the Dayton Daily News of previously undisclosed records from the Army Court-Martial Management Information System database found that 226 U.S. soldiers were charged with offenses between the first deployments in March 2003 and Jan. 1, 2005.
Of the 1,038 separate charges, fewer than one in 10 involved crimes against Iraqis. Virtually all of the rest involved crimes against other soldiers, property drug or alcohol offenses, and violations of military rules, the Daily News said.

MIT's New Paint Brush

I/O Brush is a new drawing tool to explore colors, textures, and movements found in everyday materials by "picking up" and drawing with them. I/O Brush looks like a regular physical paintbrush but has a small video camera with lights and touch sensors embedded inside. Outside of the drawing canvas, the brush can pick up color, texture, and movement of a brushed surface. On the canvas, artists can draw with the special "ink" they just picked up from their immediate environment.
MOV showing it in action.

New Office Slang

404 - Someone who is clueless. From the Web error message, “404 Not Found,” which means the document requested couldn’t be located. “Don’t bother asking John. He’s 404.”
Adminisphere - The rarified organizational layers above the rank and file that makes decisions that are often profoundly inappropriate or irrelevant.
Alpha Geek - The most knowledgeable, technically proficient person in an office or work group. “I dunno, ask Rick. He’s our alpha geek.”
Assmosis - The process by which some people seem to absorb success and advancement by kissing up to the boss rather than working hard.
Batmobiling - putting up emotional shields. Refers to the retracting armor that covers the Batmobile as in “she started talking marriage and he started batmobiling”
Beepilepsy - The brief siezure people sometimes suffer when their beepers go off, especially in vibrator mode. Characterized by physical spasms, goofy facial expressions, and stopping speech in mid-sentence.

Web Ring of Troop Blogs

Bill Would Give Cover to Pentagon Spies in U.S.

Pentagon intelligence operatives would be allowed to collect information from U.S. citizens without revealing their status as government spies under legislation approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee and publicly released this week.
The bill would end a long-standing requirement that military intelligence officers disclose their government ties when approaching an American citizen in the United States — a law designed to protect Americans from domestic intelligence activities by the Defense Department.
The provision is one of several sections of the legislation that would roll back privacy-related protections as part of an effort to improve the ability of U.S. intelligence agencies to detect and prevent domestic terrorist plots. Another provision would make it easier for U.S. spy agencies to gain access to sensitive government records on citizens that are generally prohibited from being disseminated under privacy laws.
The changes are part of an intelligence authorization bill that calls for what officials described as a significant increase in funding for U.S. spy agencies; it would shift money away from controversial spy satellite programs that many lawmakers consider outdated and unnecessary.

Search For Bodies Ends in New Orleans

The search for Katrina victims ended in Louisiana with a death toll substantially less than the 10,000 victims some officials feared. A private company [Kenyon International] hired by the state to remove bodies was on call if any others were found. The toll Tuesday stood at 972, eight more than Monday, the state health department said. Mississippi's death toll remained at 221.

Kenyon International Worldwide Disaster Management "a wholly owned subsidiary of SCI Corp., 'the largest provider of funeral, cremation, and cemetery services in North America.' SCI Corp is owned by major Bush contributor and friend Robert L. Waltrip, who was at the center of the scandal known as 'Funeralgate." Thanks to News Hounds.

Americans, German win nobel prize for physics.

They won for for their contributions to the development of laser-based precision spectroscopy, including the optical frequency comb technique, which among other thing allows them to measure the speed of light to such accuracy that it is now used as the definition for the meter, see if the laws of physics were the same at the beginning of time, and make gps satellites work much better. [from]

Netizen Soldiers: Marines Using Craigslist To Attract Recruits

At a time when the U.S. military is struggling to meet recruiting goals, Marine recruiters on Long Island are turning to the popular Craiglist Web site to boost flagging recrutiment efforts, WCBS 880's Mike Xirinachs reports.
The site operators are taking the new development in stride.
"We're an open site, available to anyone acting honestly," said site founder Craig Newmark told WCBS in reply to an e-mail seeking comment.
"It's also important to support the troops, particularly when the White House undermines them by actions such as reducing their health benefits," he noted.

Public Broadcasting and "Language: A Key Mechanism of Control"

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is now headed by Republican fundraisers Cheryl Halpern and Gay Hart Gaines. CPB vice chair Gaines was a charter member of GOPAC, a group most notably associated with Newt Gingrich's 1994 House takeover. The Nation's David Corn recently reviewed a 1990 GOPAC memo titled "Language: A Key Mechanism of Control" that lists words to use to talk up GOP vision - ''caring," "freedom" and "prosperity" - and to trash Democrats - "corrupt," "intolerant" and "traitors." "This is to say that Gay Hart Gaines ... was a leading official of an outfit that advised Republican candidates to brand Democrats 'traitors,'" Corn writes. "Of course, advocates and party funders have the right to be as partisan (and rhetorically extreme) as they wish. But the CPB is an entity that is supposed to oversee journalistic endeavors. Should a supporter of party propagandists be in charge of overseeing the journalism of PBS and NPR?" [from]

Monday, October 03, 2005

Preregistration for Draft at Virginia DMV

All males are required to register for Selective Service when they turn 18 so that if the draft is reinstated there will be a ready pool of draftees. So why is a 15-year-old facing this issue at the DMV? Why is the parent of a 15-year-old involved in something that the young man will be required by law to do when he turns 18? And, most disturbing, why does a 15-year-old lose the privilege to drive when the beliefs of the parent are contrary to Virginia law?
In The Roanoke Times article ("Couple challenge Va. law on registering for draft," Aug. 30 news story), Andrew Snyder Beattie said that he intends to register for the Selective Service when he turns 18. It is his mother who is a conscientious objector and, because of her religious and moral beliefs, will not sign her 15-year-old son up for Selective Service. But then, why should she? Why should anyone have to "preregister" a child for something he will take care of himself when he reaches the age of 18?

Species are Dying Out Faster Than We Have Dared Recognize, Scientists Will Warn This Week

It is a phenomenon that frightens the native people that live around the Arctic. Many fear their children will never know the polar bear. "The ice is moving further and further north," said Charlie Johnson, 64, an Alaskan Nupiak from Nome, in the state's far west. "In the Bering Sea the ice leaves earlier and earlier. On the north slope, the ice is retreating as far as 300 or 400 miles offshore."
Last year, hunters found half a dozen bears that had drowned about 200 miles north of Barrow, on Alaska's northern coast. "It seems they had tried to swim for shore ... A polar bear might be able to swim 100 miles but not 400."
His alarming testimony, given at a conference on global warming and native communities held in the Alaskan capital, Anchorage, last week, is just one story of the many changes happening across the globe. Climate change threatens the survival of thousands of species - a threat unparalleled since the last ice age, which ended some 10,000 years ago.
The vast majority, scientists will warn this week, are migratory animals - sperm whales, polar bears, gazelles, garden birds and turtles - whose survival depends on the intricate web of habitats, food supplies and weather conditions which, for some species, can stretch for 6,500 miles. Every link of that chain is slowly but perceptibly altering.

Torture of Iraqis was for 'Stress Relief', Say US Soldiers

FOR the first time, American soldiers who personally tortured Iraqi prisoners have come forward to give testimony to human rights organisations about crimes they committed.
Three soldiers - a captain and two sergeants - from the 82nd Airborne Division stationed at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Mercury near Fallujah in Iraq have told Human Rights Watch how prisoners were tortured both as a form of stress relief and as a way of breaking them for interrogation sessions.

Convicted US Soldier Says 'Worse Things' Have Happened at Abu Ghraib

A US soldier convicted of humiliating and abusing Iraqi prisoners said in an interview she knew of "worse things" happening at Abu Ghraib and insisted military commanders were fully aware of what was going on in Iraq's infamous jail.
The comments, made by Private First Class Lynndie England in her first post-court marshal interview, contradicted assertions by top Pentagon officials that a small group of out-of-control soldiers were responsible for abuse at Abu Ghraib, and that however repulsive that mistreatment was, it did not amount to torture.

Iraq War Delayed Katrina Relief Effort, Inquiry Finds

Relief efforts to combat Hurricane Katrina suffered near catastrophic failures due to endemic corruption, divisions within the military and troop shortages caused by the Iraq war, an official American inquiry into the disaster has revealed.
The confidential report, which has been seen by The Independent, details how funds for flood control were diverted to other projects, desperately needed National Guards were stuck in Iraq and how military personnel had to "sneak off post" to help with relief efforts because their commander had refused permission.
The shortcomings in dealing with Katrina have rocked George Bush's administration. Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has resigned from his post and polls show that a majority of Americans feel the President showed inadequate leadership.
The report was commissioned by the Office of Secretary of Defence as an "independent and critical review" of what went so wrong. In a hard-hitting analysis, it says: "The US military has long planned for war on two fronts. This is as close as we have come to [that] reality since the Second World War; the results have been disastrous."

OSHA's Lost Workday Injury and Illness Database

The Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has for several years tracked lost work day injury and illness (LWDII) rates at about 80,000 worksites in selected high-hazard industries across the country. OSHA kept secret its LWDII database, claiming that the data are confidential. Reporter David Barstow of the New York Times, seeking the names and rates of the most injury- and illness-prone worksites, requested the data under the Freedom of Information Act in October 2002. His request was rejected, and when his appeal was also turned down, he sued for the release of the data in mid-2003.
As a preemptive move, in February 2004 OSHA released a list of the workplaces with the highest rates, but the list didn't contain the rates themselves. That list can be found on The Memory Hole here.
In August 2004, a federal judge ruled that OSHA had to release the names and rates. Eventually the agency did so. (Some background on the case is found in court papers here.)
The complete data - for the years 1996 through 2002 - were obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request and are presented at [The Memory Hole].

Military Defends Shooting of Knight Ridder Reporter in Iraq

The U.S. military investigation of the June 24 shooting death of Yasser Salihee, a Knight Ridder Iraqi correspondent, has confirmed that he was killed by an American soldier and then left dead in his car -- but concluded that the killing was necessary.
Salihee, 30, a doctor and Knight Ridder correspondent, was on his way to get gasoline for his car to take his daughter to the swimming pool, on his day off.
The report concluded the shooting was justified because the soldiers thought Salihee could have been a suicide bomber or attempting to run them over as he approached an intersection in Baghdad.

Louisiana Ecological Harm Called Unprecedented

The environmental damage from hurricanes Katrina and Rita is unparalleled in its scope and variety, scientists say, with massive oil spills blanketing marshes, sediment smothering vast fishing grounds, and millions of gallons of raw sewage scattered in New Orleans and along the 400-mile Louisiana coast.
The catastrophe extends from the heart of the Big Easy, where streets, sidewalks, and floors are coated with a thick mud mixed with human waste, to the fringe of protective marshland, sugarcane fields, and citrus groves along the Gulf Coast that are beginning to die from the sea's salty surge. Thousands of acres seem to have been swallowed forever by the ocean.
"This is an unprecedented event in terms of devastation and scale," said Harry Roberts, director of the Louisiana State University's Coastal Studies Institute. He says it will take time to fully evaluate the storms' impact. "It's not like a spill on a river or a beach; you have small channels, canals, towns, levees. Everything here is complicated . . . and it's not a simple environment to assess damage in."

Monitors Find Significant Fraud in Afghan Elections

Election officials and observers said Sunday that with 80 percent of the ballots counted in Afghanistan's national and provincial elections, they had found significant incidents of fraud.
Whole districts have come under suspicion for ballot box stuffing and proxy voting, said Peter Erben, the chief of the United Nations-assisted Joint Election Management Board. He said ballot boxes from 4 percent of the 26,000 polling places - about 1,000 stations - had been set aside for investigation on suspicion of fraud and other irregularities.

Report: Offshore Wind Energy Could Potentially Double US Electricity Production

The U.S. DOE estimates that more than 900,000 megawatts of wind generation capacity, an amount roughly equivalent to the total current installed U.S. electrical capacity, exists within 50 miles off our coasts. The winds over deep waters off the New England coast are among the strongest anywhere in the United States.
"Tapping into offshore wind energy, a free fuel source that is not impacted by fluctuating prices or volatile fuel import schedules, can offer long-term competitive electricity costs," said Jim Lyons, GE Chief Research Engineer. "At the same time, it will provide the U.S. with a means to add additional renewable energy into the Nation’s electricity mix. Further technology development will be key to this effort, particularly in deep waters where conditions are beyond the reach of current technology. The Framework recognizes the need for a cost-effective evolution from today’s near-shore, shallow water sites to the future’s more remote, deeper water facilities."

Yahoo-Backed Alliance to Open Web Library

Internet powerhouse Yahoo Inc. is setting out to build a vast online library of copyrighted books that pleases publishers — something rival Google Inc. hasn't been able to achieve.
The Open Content Alliance, a project that Yahoo is backing with several other partners, plans to provide digital versions of books, academic papers, video and audio. Much of the material will consist of copyrighted material voluntarily submitted by publishers and authors, said David Mandelbrot, Yahoo's vice president of search content.
Other participants in the alliance announced Monday include Adobe Systems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., the Internet Archive, O'Reilly Media Inc., the University of California and the University of Toronto.

New Supreme Court nominee's ties to Bush's National Guard scandal

Bush's Texas gubenatorial campaign in 1998 (when he was starting to eye the White House) actually paid Miers $19,000 to run an internal pre-emptive probe of the potential scandal. Not long after, a since-settled lawsuit alleged that the Texas Lottery Commission -- while chaired by Bush appointee Miers -- played a role in a multi-million dollar cover-up of the scandal.

US finds rabbit fever bacteria during war protest weekend

Small amounts of bacteria that cause "rabbit fever" were found on Washington's National Mall last weekend as thousands of protesters marched against the Iraq War, U.S. health authorities said on Saturday.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said several government environmental air monitors in the Mall area detected low levels of Francisella tularensis bacteria that cause tularemia, commonly known as rabbit fever, on September 24-25.
Public health agencies had no reports of any related human or animal illnesses caused by the bacteria.
... Rabbit fever cannot be passed from person to person and can be effectively treated with readily available medicines, the CDC said. Symptoms usually appear 3 to 5 days after exposure, but in rare cases can take up to 2 weeks.
Symptoms of the disease, which an infected person would have begun experiencing no earlier than on Monday, include: sudden fever, chills, headaches, conjunctivitis, diarrhea, muscle aches, joint pain, dry cough and progressive weakness.

Phone Survey Reveals Disappointment with Do Not Call Registry

Two years after the National Do Not Call Registry took effect — and with more than 100 million numbers enrolled — dinner-time conversations still are being interrupted by telemarketing calls.
Regulators say the system is working, but a recent random survey (by telephone) by the Customer Care Alliance, a Virginia-based consortium of three customer-relations consultants, found that 51 percent of registered consumers say they’re still getting calls they think the list is supposed to block.
Lois Greisman, the Federal Trade Commission official in charge of the registry, says the agency receives a “steady flow” of between 1,000 and 2,000 complaints about telemarketers every day.
Yet to date, there have been remarkably few fines issued by federal regulators.
Despite one million reports of violations, the FTC has filed only 14 lawsuits and levied only four fines. The Federal Communications Commission, which jointly administers the program with the FTC, has issued warnings but only two fines.

Prospect Magazine: Vote for top 100 intellectuals

Another year, another list of top 100 intellectuals of our time from Prospect Magazine and with Foreign Policy. Self-confessedly anglocentric, but with an effort "to include thinkers from outside the west", it raises the perennial 'where are the women' question (now in good company with 'where are the scientists') and sanctions the decline of: the left, France, Europe, psychology, psychiatry and philosophy. The ever present Germaine Greer says "these lists are always so right-wing" and her inclusion is "absurd and completely unjustifiable". You can vote your 5 favourites and suggest other names. [from]

✙ ☪ ◊?

The addition of a third protective symbol (fourth, if you count this happy lion) will allow the Magen David Adom of Israel to join the Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies after over 50 years. It might look odd, but a lot of other symbols we take for granted have interesting recent origins. ☮ was designed in 1958. ☣ was created by Dow in 1966. ☢ first appeared as a doodle in the 1940s. The symbols of the planets have many origins, but here on earth, the origins of ☺ remain so convoluted that it might take a fictional "symbologist" to sort it all out.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Complaints that White House blocking health care aid to victims

With Gulf Coast governors pressing for action, Senate Finance Committee members complained Wednesday that the Bush administration is blocking a bipartisan $9 billion health care package for hundreds of thousands of evacuees from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
"We've got people with needs today," Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco said. She was joined by Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, who testified via a teleconference hookup, in urging quick action on the legislation.

Soldiers still waiting for armor reimbursements

Nearly a year after Congress demanded action, the Pentagon has still failed to figure out a way to reimburse soldiers for body armor and equipment they purchased to better protect themselves while serving in Iraq.

Unusual Word Meanings from Around the World

Small sample:
A dealer in stolen cats.

BUZ-BAZ Ancient Persian
A showman who makes a goat and monkey dance together.

Someone who co-ordinates a group of clappers.

An assistant lighthouse keeper.

The fight by a cameraman to get a better vantage point.

GRILAGEM Brazilian Portuguese
The practice of putting a live cricket into a box of newly faked documents, until the insect's excrement makes the paper look convincingly old.

New Albert Brooks Film "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World" Under Fire for Title

Sony Pictures, the studio that made "European Gigolo," has refused to release "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World," an inspired new film by Albert Brooks about a comedian — Brooks, playing himself — who is recruited by the U.S. government to go to India and Pakistan to find out what makes Muslims laugh.
The movie makes fun of comedians' neurotic neediness and State Department ineffectuality, but seems to steer clear of anything that would insult Muslims. Still, in a June 30 letter to Brooks, Sony chairman Michael Lynton said that he wouldn't release the film unless Brooks changed the title. Lynton wrote: "I do believe that recent incidents have dramatically changed the landscape that we live in and that this, among other things, warrants changing the title of the film." Sony insiders say Lynton was alarmed by the violent reaction in the Muslim world to Newsweek's May 9 story, since retracted, about a Koran being flushed down the toilet by interrogators at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay.
Brooks' movie, financed by producer Steve Bing, has now found a new home at Warner Independent Pictures, which plans to release it early next year. Warner Indy chief Mark Gill says he had no problems with the title. "How often do you get a laugh simply from the title of a movie?" Gill told me. "We saw the movie, and it was clear that Albert makes fun of himself and America, not anybody else."

Top Officials Told to Testify in Muslims' Suit

A federal judge in Brooklyn ruled yesterday that former Attorney General John Ashcroft, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other top government officials will have to answer questions under oath in a lawsuit that accuses them of personally conspiring to violate the rights of Muslim immigrants held in a federal detention center in Brooklyn after 9/11.

Bush Administration Appeals Abortion Decision

Since the so-called Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act was signed into law by President Bush in 2003, it has been successfully challenged in three states — California, New York and Nebraska — as being unconstitutional, and never enforced. Now, US Solicitor General Paul Clement, has filed an appeal of the ruling in the Nebraska case, Gonzales v. Carhart, which could reach the US Supreme Court as early as next spring.

FBI to get veto power over PC software?

The Federal Communications Commission thinks you have the right to use software on your computer only if the FBI approves.
No, really. In an obscure "policy" document [PDF] released around 9 p.m. ET last Friday, the FCC announced this remarkable decision.
According to the three-page document, to preserve the openness that characterizes today's Internet, "consumers are entitled to run applications and use services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement." Read the last seven words again.

Woman arrested over Menezes leak

A woman has been arrested over the leak of findings about the fatal police shooting of Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes on the Tube, it has emerged.
The 43-year-old was arrested at one of a number of London addresses searched.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) leak prompted claims police had covered up details of the shooting at Stockwell station in July.
No details were given on the grounds for Wednesday's arrest. The woman was later released on police bail.

Judge Orders Release of Abu Ghraib Photos

A federal judge Thursday ordered the release of dozens more pictures of prisoners being abused at Abu Ghraib, rejecting government arguments that the images would provoke terrorists and incite violence against U.S. troops in Iraq.
U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein said that terrorists "do not need pretexts for their barbarism" and that suppressing the pictures would amount to submitting to blackmail.
"Our nation does not surrender to blackmail, and fear of blackmail is not a legally sufficient argument to prevent us from performing a statutory command. Indeed, the freedoms that we champion are as important to our success in Iraq and Afghanistan as the guns and missiles with which our troops are armed," he said.
Hellerstein ordered the release of 74 pictures and three videotapes from the Abu Ghraib prison, potentially opening the military up to more embarrassment from a scandal that stirred outrage around the world last year when photos of 2003 abuse became public.

Where has all the money gone?

The ‘financial irregularities’ described in audit reports carried out by agencies of the American government and auditors working for the international community collectively give a detailed insight into the mentality of the American occupation authorities and the way they operated, handing out truckloads of dollars for which neither they nor the recipients felt any need to be accountable. The auditors have so far referred more than a hundred contracts, involving billions of dollars paid to American personnel and corporations, for investigation and possible criminal prosecution. They have also discovered that $8.8 billion that passed through the new Iraqi government ministries in Baghdad while Bremer was in charge is unaccounted for, with little prospect of finding out where it went. A further $3.4 billion earmarked by Congress for Iraqi development has since been siphoned off to finance ‘security’.

Undeclared Civil War In Iraq

Behind the blood and chaos of the insurgents' bombs, there is an undeclared civil war already underway in Iraq, between the Sunni minority who ruled this country under Saddam and the Shiite majority.
CBS News correspondent Lara Logan reports there is a secret, ruthless cleansing of the country's towns and cities. Bodies — blindfolded, bound and executed — just appear, like the rotting corpses of 36 Sunni men that turned up in a dry riverbed south of Baghdad.
CBS News traced 16 of those men to a single street in a Baghdad suburb, where family members showed CBS News how the killers forced their way into their homes in the middle of the night and dragged away their sons and fathers.

Rita Evacuees Can't Believe They're Being Housed In Jail

As busloads of Texans rolled into Dallas, few knew the struggles they had faced to get there.
"We was on the road, we could not stop to use the bathroom. When we did, we had to go in the woods," one evacuee said.
Most of the evacuees are from Beaumont, Texas, but said there was little compassion for their circumstance along the way.
"Everybody's store was closed down. They wouldn't give us gas for the buses, they pulled shotguns on us. We didn't have no food. We had to hang out the windows to get water," Debra Smith said.
It was 72 hours before they hit Canton, Texas, and some hospitality. They were told they were bound for Dallas and nicer accommodations.
"We in a jail house," Smith said.
She is in jail with barefoot toddlers, newborns and the elderly.
It's shelter with space at a minimum. A place to rest, find some clothes, get a hot meal, and shower -- all things Bobby Johnson considers blessings.
"The storm was so devastating, it could have destroyed our lives as well as it did our property," Johnson said.
Smith said she's grateful for life. She just wishes she were living somewhere else.

All Gulf oil output shut down

The Minerals Management Service reports that all oil production in the Gulf of Mexico has temporarily ceased.
MMS says its survey indicated that 100 percent of oil production in the Gulf is shut down as well as more than 80 percent of natural gas production.
The Gulf supplies 29 percent of the nation's oil and 21 percent of the gas.

Brown Lies Under Oath to Congress

Here’s Brown under questioning by Rep. Steve Buyer:

BUYER: So I’d like to know why did the president’s federal emergency assistance declaration of August 27th not include the parishes of Orleans, Jefferson and Plaquemines?
BROWN: …[I]f a governor does not request a particular county or a particular parish, that’s not included in the request.
BUYER: All right.
Orleans Parish is New Orleans. I was listening to my colleague, Mr. Jefferson’s, questions about when they talked about, you know, they asked for this assistance for three days and then president responded the very next day, not the day that it was made — the request — but the governor of Louisiana actually excluded New Orleans from the president’s federal emergency assistance declaration?
BROWN: Again, Congressman, we looked at the request.The governors make the request by…
BUYER: Let me ask this. Since you went through the exercise in Pam, was that not shocking to you that the governor would excluded New Orleans from the declaration?
BUYER: When that request came in excluding these three parishes, did you question it?
BROWN: We questioned it. But I made the decision that we were going to go ahead and move assets in regardless because we have the ability to add those parishes…

In fact, Blanco requested the President to declare a disaster in “all the southeastern parishes,” which includes Orleans, Jefferson and Plaquemines. See the request for yourself HERE.