Saturday, November 12, 2005

Energize America -- A Democratic Blueprint (Third Draft) at Daily Kos

This is the third draft of a proposed Democratic energy plan. It's been a month now since Jerome a Paris put together the first draft of a comprehensive Democratic energy strategy, and a couple of weeks since the second draft came courtesy of Meteor Blades. But the real power behind the plan comes from the all the people who have provided critique, support, and suggestions.
If two brains are better than one, then thirty thousand plus brains of DailyKos beat the stuffing out of the handful of heads usually involved in drafting policy. This plan has enjoyed great support here at kos, and the hundreds of comments have brought new ideas, fresh perspectives, more... energy. Even the name of the plan, Energize America, comes from suggestions made in the comments.
Today, we're back with the latest draft. Not the final draft, but the latest. And your brain is needed again.

Google offers Silicon Valley home free wireless Internet

Google's proposal to "unwire the city" will be considered by the Mountain View city council on Tuesday, according to Ellis Berns, manager of economic development in the town where Google has its headquarters.
"Right now, we can't see a downside," Berns told AFP. "It seems like a pretty positive deal for the city."
Berns said his staff studied Google's offer and will recommend it be accepted by city council members. If the deal is accepted, Google will turn all of Mountain View into an Internet "hot spot" by June 2006, Ellis said.

"We do not torture"

Well, I guess that settles that.
"We do not torture," President Bush said on Monday. Never mind all those torture pictures from Abu Ghraib. Never mind all those torture stories from Guantanamo Bay. Never mind the 2002 Justice Department memo that sought to justify torture. Never mind reports of U.S. officials sending detainees to other countries for torture. Never mind Dick Cheney lobbying to exempt the CIA from rules prohibiting torture.
"We do not torture," said the president. And that's that, right? I mean, if you can't believe the Bush administration, who can you believe? No torture. Period, end of sentence.
But . . . What does it say to you that the claim even has to be made?

Brian Eno is selling lots of gear

It's Vemia auction time again. It's a kind of cool private eBay for music geeks. Brian Eno is selling off his beloved (and battered) DX-7, which was presumably used to compose the Microsoft Sound, among one or two other pieces of music. He's also selling a Prophet VS, Jellinghaus DX-7 Programmer and a couple of Mackie Mixers. The DX7 is already at almost £2,000. Other delights include Tim Simenon (Bomb The Bass) selling his 303 and a load of other gear. The auction ends on the 12th November. The Vemia Website is still an absolute nightmare to use and navigate (try to ignore the javascript faults and popups), but it's well worth the effort. There was even a EMS Synthi with a starting bid of £20, but it's already up to £1660...
UPDATE: At the other end of the credibility scale, an ebay seller called alunsworth is selling a load of synths from Stock Aitken and Waterman's PWL studios on eBay UK. And they're quite cool - an Oberheim Expander(#7365368541) and an EDP Wasp (#7365373635), amongst others.

The Blue Ball Machine

[caution, loud Danny Elfman music]

Methodist Bishops Repent Iraq War 'Complicity'

Ninety-five bishops from President Bush's church said Thursday they repent their "complicity" in the "unjust and immoral" invasion and occupation of Iraq.
"In the face of the United States administration's rush toward military action based on misleading information, too many of us were silent," said a statement of conscience signed by more than half of the 164 retired and active United Methodist bishops worldwide.
President Bush is a member of the United Methodist Church, according to various published biographies. The White House did not return a request for comment on the bishops' statement.
Although United Methodist leadership has opposed the Iraq war in the past, this is the first time that individual bishops have confessed to a personal failure to publicly challenge the buildup to the war.

Whitehouse Aligning Reporters for Attacks on War Critics

"Top White House officials say they're developing a 'campaign-style' strategy in response to increasing Democratic allegations that the Bush administration twisted intelligence to make its case for war," reports Dana Bash. Speaking on condition of anonymity, White House officials outlined a strategy that "has not yet become public and will play out over several weeks through presidential speeches, close coordination with Republicans on Capitol Hill and a stepped-up effort by the Republican National Committee." Liz Barrett at CJR Daily finds it noteworthy that the administration is telegraphing its strategy to reporters who are dutifully writing it down. Put another way, she says, this amounts to saying, "I, along with my colleagues in the press, have been used in the past to preview assorted White House public relations plans and talking points. And I'm told -- and I'm telling you -- that I and my colleagues in the press will be similarly used in the near future."

Asterisks Dot White House's Iraq Argument

President Bush and his national security adviser have answered critics of the Iraq war in recent days with a two-pronged argument: that Congress saw the same intelligence the administration did before the war, and that independent commissions have determined that the administration did not misrepresent the intelligence.
Neither assertion is wholly accurate.
The administration's overarching point is true: Intelligence agencies overwhelmingly believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and very few members of Congress from either party were skeptical about this belief before the war began in 2003. Indeed, top lawmakers in both parties were emphatic and certain in their public statements.
But Bush and his aides had access to much more voluminous intelligence information than did lawmakers, who were dependent on the administration to provide the material. And the commissions cited by officials, though concluding that the administration did not pressure intelligence analysts to change their conclusions, were not authorized to determine whether the administration exaggerated or distorted those conclusions.

Colorado Soldier Founds Anti-War Group

Sgt. Kelly Dougherty went to Iraq in 2003, doubting that the war was just.
She returned in 2004, certain it was wrong, and co-founded Iraq Veterans Against the War.
"People say you are a traitor. People say you are unpatriotic," said Dougherty, 27, about her anti-war work. "We are doing this because we feel strongly about America.
"I really appreciate America, but we are capable of doing some very bad things."
Dougherty was stationed near Nazaria in southern Iraq for 10 months with the Colorado National Guard's 220th Military Police Co. She saw action but never fired her weapon.
Dougherty said the thousands of innocent civilians who have been killed and the broken American promises about repairing water, electricity and sewage systems convinced her the troops should come home.

U.N. Blasts Practice of Outsourcing Torture

Six countries -- the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Sweden and Kyrgyzstan -- have been singled out for violating international human rights conventions by deporting terrorist suspects to countries such as Egypt, Syria, Algeria and Uzbekistan, where they may have been tortured.
The charges, which come at a time when the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is accused of running secret detention centers overseas, have been catalogued in a 15-page U.N. report presented to the 191-member General Assembly by Manfred Nowak, a special rapporteur on torture.

Ex-Powell Aide Suggests Pre-War Memo Was Kept From Bush

A former top official in the Bush administration is suggesting that a White House memo outlining the need for hundreds of thousands of troops for the Iraq invasion was kept from the president. Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as chief of staff to then-secretary of state Colin Powell during President Bush's first term, said in a November 7 speech that the National Security Council had prepared a pre-war memo recommending that hundreds of thousands of troops and other security personnel were needed. “I don't know if the president saw it,” Wilkerson told the audience of military officers and international lawyers, who had gathered at the military for a conference on on international humanitarian law. In response to a follow-up question after his speech, Wilkerson, a retired U.S. army colonel, said he believed that then-national security advisor Condoleezza Rice or her deputy, Stephen Hadley, had blocked the memo, but he acknowledged that he had no clear evidence. In the end, about 135,000 U.S. troops were sent - a decision that critics said has hurt America's ability to defeat the insurgency in Iraq and has led to increased American casualties. In July 2003, USA Today reported the existence of the NSC memo, which examined the level of troops in peacekeeping operations and concluded that some 500,000 troops would need to be deployed to Iraq.

Lemur Species Named After John Cleese

Researchers from the University of Zurich have named a newly discovered species of lemur - one of the most primitive and endangered primates in the world - after the British comedian in honor of his work with the animal.
The avahi cleesei, which weights less than two pounds and eats leaves, was discovered in Western Madagascar in 1990 by a team led by anthropologist Urs Thalmann and his colleague Thomas Geissman of Zurich University.
The name is a tribute to Cleese's promotion of the plight of lemurs in the movie "Fierce Creatures" and documentary "Operation Lemur with John Cleese," the university said in a statement. A lemur even appears next to Cleese on his Web site.

Public Trust and the Secret at the Heart of the New Voting Machines

Dark Source: Public Trust and the Secret at the Heart of the New Voting Machines.
Dark Source shows the inner workings of a commercial electronic voting machine, the Diebold AccuVote-TS™ touch-screen voting terminal that has recently been adopted in many U.S. states. This type of voting machine is called a "Direct Recording Electronic" machine which means that it records votes electronically in its memory, counts them, then transmits the result to a central election management system (whose software is also provided by Diebold). Dark Source presents over 2,000 pages of software code, a printout of 49,609 lines of C++ that constitute version 4.3.1 of the AccuVote-TS™ source code. A systematic study of this material could demonstrate how votes are recorded, tabulated, stored, kept secure, and reported by this machine.
Calling its source code a trade secret, Diebold has asserted its proprietary interest in protecting its intellectual property. Therefore in Dark Source the code, obtained freely over the internet following a 2002 security failure at Diebold, has been blacked out to comply with trade secrecy laws.
What is on display is not the forbidden source code, but rather the state of affairs in which we find ourselves today, one in which the critical infrastructure of democracy in the United States is becoming privately owned, and being private, is also being made secret.
By the uber-talented Ear Studio.

Friday, November 11, 2005

House Leaders Postpone Vote on Budget Bill

Despite making major concessions to moderate Republicans, House leaders failed to win enough converts to the budget plan and surrendered in midafternoon. Leading Republicans said they would try again next week to find a bare majority for more than $50 billion in spending cuts and policy changes.

John Cusack: On Bush, the Dems, Jon Stewart, Hunter Thompson, Bill Moyers, and King (not Don)

Bush 2. How depressing, corrupt, unlawful and tragically absurd the administration's world view actually low the moral bar has been lowered...and (though I know I'm capable of intellectually lazy notions of collective guilt) how complicit our silence as citizens is...Nixon, a true fiend, looks like a paragon of virtue next to the criminally incompetent robber barons now raiding the present and future.
But where are the Dems? American foreign policy is in chaos. We are now left in the surreal position of having to condemn American-sponsored torture as official policy while a deranged President Bush orders his staff to attend ethics briefings -- a "refresher course" -- from the White House counsel. The very idea of America is in chaos and this chaos has created a vacuum.

Rep. Davis threatens subpoenas for White House and Harriet Miers

House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis (R-Va.) yesterday threatened to subpoena three members of the Bush Cabinet and White House counsel Harriet Miers if they do not comply with document requests issued by his select committee on Hurricane Katrina response.
During a committee hearing yesterday, Davis decried the failure of White House officials to release e-mails and other communication records related to the hurricane and its aftermath. Davis set a hard deadline of Nov. 18 for all federal agencies to comply with his requests.
“If documents aren’t produced by that date, I’m ready to proceed with subpoenas,” Davis said.

President Relies on Forged Letter in Today's Speech

U.S. State Department admits to use of white phosphorus in Fallujah

In response to video released by Italian television of the use of white phosphorous in Fallujah, and a U.S. Army trade article that specifically cites the use of white phosphorus for "lethal missions", the U.S. State Department has released the following update to their previous denial:
"White phosphorous shells, which produce smoke, were used in Fallujah not for illumination but for screening purposes, i.e., obscuring troop movements and, according to an article, "The Fight for Fallujah," in the March-April 2005 issue of Field Artillery magazine, "as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes …."
The article states that U.S. forces used white phosphorous rounds to flush out enemy fighters so that they could then be killed with high explosive rounds."
But in the Battle Book of the US Army Command and General Staff College, Section 5-11 (b4), it also states: It is against the law of land warfare to employ WP against personnel targets. [from]

Harold Lloyd, at long last, on DVD!

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a stunt man and my hero was Harold Lloyd.
Buffalo's PBS station, channel 17, aired Harold Lloyd shorts on Friday nights. He played an everyman in spectacular peril.
He did his own stunts. Most famous is his hanging off a clock face in Safety Last. It's a great image. But the entirety of Safety Last shows some amazing stunts as Harold Lloyd, in real life, climbs a building. The story behind the climb is also very funny -- he's covering for a buddy who wants to be a human fly. He had an incredible gift for comic timing, storytelling, putting together a sight gag, and he performed absolutely amazing stunts.
In his day, Harold Lloyd was more successful than Charlie Caplin and Buster Keaton and produced more film than the two others combined. Lloyd's enormous popularity made him the richest entertainer in Hollywood. But he has not enjoyed the kind of renaissance of other screen icons.
The Harold Lloyd estate has been extremely cautious about distributing his material. Since the 70's it has been almost impossible to find any Harold Lloyd films at all.
This is finally changing.

A DVD set, The Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection, is a three-volume set with 29 of his best features and shorts (he did hundreds).
Bob Mondello has an excellent review of the collection on All Things Considered.

Charlie Chaplin's style is like ballet.
Buster Keaton's style is like dour, funny poetry.
Harold Lloyd's style is like the best Warner Brothers cartoons -- hero prevails in a dangerous world of construction sites, cars and precariously high places.
Harold Lloyd is mostly unknown today. I hope his long-overdue appreciation will follow the release of this DVD set.
-- McLir

Professor thinks bombs, not planes, toppled WTC

The physics of 9/11 — including how fast and symmetrically one of the World Trade Center buildings fell — prove that official explanations of the collapses are wrong, says a Brigham Young University physics professor.
In fact, it's likely that there were "pre-positioned explosives" in all three buildings at ground zero, says Steven E. Jones.
In a paper posted online Tuesday and accepted for peer-reviewed publication next year, Jones adds his voice to those of previous skeptics, including the authors of the Web site, whose research Jones quotes. Jones' article can be found at

Pat Robertson Plays Toady to God's Protection Racket

Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson warned residents of a rural Pennsylvania town Thursday that disaster may strike there because they "voted God out of your city" by ousting school board members who favored teaching intelligent design.
All eight Dover, Pa., school board members up for re-election were defeated Tuesday after trying to introduce "intelligent design" - the belief that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by a higher power - as an alternative to the theory of evolution.
"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God. You just rejected him from your city," Robertson said on the Christian Broadcasting Network's "700 Club."

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Veterans Day Outrage: Conservatives End 55-Year-Old Practice of Hearings for Vet Groups

On Tuesday — three days before Veterans Day — House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Steve Buyer (R-IN) announced that for the first time in at least 55 years, “veterans service organizations will no longer have the opportunity to present testimony before a joint hearing of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees.”

Toxicity in Iraq

The UN Environment Program has trained Iraqi specialists in detoxification, but says any clean-up could cost up to $40m (£23m).
Chemical spills, unsecured hazardous material and widespread pollution by depleted uranium are among the issues.
Without clean-up, heavy metals can poison ground water, causing illness.
The Unep has examined five sites as part of its training efforts, and is concerned by the results.
"There are hundreds, probably thousands of other sites with the need of assessment," said Mural Thummarukudy, Unep's manager in Iraq, who appealed for donations.

MIT: On the Effectiveness of Aluminium Foil Helmets - An Empirical Study

Among a fringe community of paranoids, aluminum helmets serve as the protective measure of choice against invasive radio signals. We investigate the efficacy of three aluminum helmet designs on a sample group of four individuals. Using a $250,000 network analyser, we find that although on average all helmets attenuate invasive radio frequencies in either directions (either emanating from an outside source, or emanating from the cranium of the subject), certain frequencies are in fact greatly amplified. These amplified frequencies coincide with radio bands reserved for government use according to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). Statistical evidence suggests the use of helmets may in fact enhance the government's invasive abilities. We theorize that the government may in fact have started the helmet craze for this reason.

Judith Miller Agrees to Leave the New York Times

The New York Times and Judith Miller, a veteran reporter for the paper, reached an agreement yesterday that ended her 28-year career at the newspaper and capped more than two weeks of negotiations.

Lobbyist Sought $9 Million to Set Bush Meeting

The lobbyist Jack Abramoff asked for $9 million in 2003 from the president of a West African nation to arrange a meeting with President Bush and directed his fees to a Maryland company now under federal scrutiny, according to newly disclosed documents.
The African leader, President Omar Bongo of Gabon, met with President Bush in the Oval Office on May 26, 2004, 10 months after Mr. Abramoff made the offer. There has been no evidence in the public record that Mr. Abramoff had any role in organizing the meeting or that he received any money or had a signed contract with Gabon.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Military Verified Use of White Phosphorus in Fallujah in March

A March '05 publication by the US Army confirms that US soldiers used white phosphorus offensively in the Battle of Fallujah. This directly contradicts statements made by the U.S. Department of Defense and by the US State Department. [from Altercation]

"WP proved to be an effective and versatile munition. We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE. We fired “shake and bake” missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out.
Hexachloroethane Zinc (HC) Smoke and Precision-Guided Munitions. We could have used these munitions. We used improved WP for screening missions when HC smoke would have been more effective and saved our WP for lethal missions." [via]

Unconscious Herding Behavior as the Psychological Basis of Financial Market Trends and Patterns [PDF]

Human herding behavior results from impulsive mental activity in individuals responding to signals from the behavior of others. Impulsive thought originates in the basal ganglia and limbic system. In emotionally charged situations, the limbic system’s impulses are typically faster than rational reflection performed by the neocortex. Experiments with a small number of naïve individuals as well as statistics reflecting the behavior of large groups of financial professionals provide evidence of herding behavior. Herding behavior, while appropriate in some primitive life-threatening situations, is inappropriate and counterproductive to success in financial situations. Unconscious impulses that evolved in order to attain positive values and avoid negative values spur herding behavior, making rational independence extremely difficult to exercise in group settings. A negative feedback loop develops because stress increases impulsive mental activity, and impulsive mental activity in financial situations, by inducing failure, increases stress. The interaction of many minds in a collective setting produces super-organic behavior that is patterned according to the survival-related functions of the primitive portions of the brain. As long as the human mind comprises the triune construction and its functions, patterns of herding behavior will remain immutable.

Shining [MOV]

Heartwarming [mock] movie trailer showing how the power of love can bring a family together. Starring Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall with a special appearance by Scatman Crothers. Charming, simply charming.
The actual trailer is pretty good too.

Powell told senator he'd reveal details about case for war in Iraq after both left office, sources say

Several days prior to his UN presentation, then-Secretary Powell had a private conversation with Sen. Biden, sources familiar with the Secretary's account say.
During this conversation, Biden reiterated much of what he had said during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s hearing on the evidence as presented by Powell deputy Richard Armitage. According to sources, Biden expressed his concerns to Powell about the reliability of the evidence, and encouraged the Secretary to speak only about intelligence that he was sure of.
“Mr. Secretary, tell them what you know,” Biden said, according to those familiar with the conversation.
“…When we are both out of office for two years, I will tell you what is going on here,” they say Powell replied.

Can the C.I.A. legally kill a prisoner?

After September 11th, the Justice Department fashioned secret legal guidelines that appear to indemnify C.I.A. officials who perform aggressive, even violent interrogations outside the United States. Techniques such as waterboarding—the near-drowning of a suspect—have been implicitly authorized by an Administration that feels that such methods may be necessary to win the war on terrorism. (In 2001, Vice-President Dick Cheney, in an interview on “Meet the Press,” said that the government might have to go to “the dark side” in handling terrorist suspects, adding, “It’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal.”) The harsh treatment of Jamadi and other prisoners in C.I.A. custody, however, has inspired an emotional debate in Washington, raising questions about what limits should be placed on agency officials who interrogate foreign terrorist suspects outside U.S. territory.

Administration Borrows more from Foreign Nations than Previous 42 Presidents Combined

Throughout the first 224 years (1776-2000) of our nation's history, 42 U.S. presidents borrowed a combined $1.01 trillion from foreign governments and financial institutions according to the U.S. Treasury Department. In the past four years alone (2001-2005), the Bush Administration has borrowed a staggering $1.05 trillion.
"The seriousness of this rapid and increasing financial vulnerability of our country can hardly be overstated," said Rep. John Tanner (D-TN), a leader of the Blue Dog Coalition and member of the House Ways and Means Committee. "The financial mismanagement of our country by the Bush Administration should be of concern to all Americans, regardless of political persuasion."

Meet the New Interrogators: Lockheed Martin

Known in the intelligence community as "97 Echoes" (97E is the official classification number for the interrogator course taught at military colleges including Fort Huachuca, Arizona), these contractors will work side-by-side with military interrogators conducting question-and-answer sessions using 17 officially sanctioned techniques, ranging from "love of comrades" to "fear up harsh." Their subjects will be the tens of thousands of men thrown into United States-run military jails on suspicion of links to terrorism.
The rules that govern all interrogators, both contract and military, are currently open to broad interpretation. Today there is much legal wrangling about where to draw the line between harsh treatment and torture. An amendment to the latest military spending bill introduced by Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, explicitly bars the use of torture on anyone in Unites States custody. His amendment was recently approved by a 90 to 9 votes in the United States Senate and is currently being negotiated in "conference" by both Houses of Congress this week before going to President Bush. McCain is fighting off Vice President Dick Cheney's suggestion that Central Intelligence Agency counter-terrorism agents working overseas be exempted from the torture ban.

'Katrina Cough' Floats Around

large number of people along the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts are developing a condition that some have dubbed "Katrina cough," believed to be linked to mold and dust circulating after Hurricane Katrina.

New improved napalm "melts the body right down to the bone"

In the jargon of American soldiers, it is called "Willy Pete." The technical name is white phosphorus. Its designated purpose, in theory, is to illuminate enemy positions in the dark. In practice, it has been used as a chemical weapon in the rebel city of Fallujah. And not only against enemy combatants and guerrillas, but also against un-armed civilians.
The American military is responsible for a massacre using unconventional weapons, the same charge for which Saddam Hussein stands accused. An investigation by RAI News 24, the all-news channel, has pulled the veil from one of the most carefully concealed secrets from the front in the entire US war in Iraq.

McClellen on US Torture Policy

Q I'd like you to clear up, once and for all, the ambiguity about torture. Can we get a straight answer? The President says we don't do torture, but Cheney --
MR. McCLELLAN: That's about as straight as it can be.
Q Yes, but Cheney has gone to the Senate and asked for an exemption on --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, he has not. Are you claiming he's asked for an exemption on torture? No, that's --
Q He did not ask for that?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- that is inaccurate.
Q Are you denying everything that came from the Hill, in terms of torture?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, you're mischaracterizing things. And I'm not going to get into discussions we have --
Q Can you give me a straight answer for once?
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me give it to you, just like the President has. We do not torture. He does not condone torture and he would never --

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

50 Greatest Independent Films

Is Donnie Darko better than Run Lola Run?
Let the arguments begin.

GOP closer to breaking up left-leaning 9th Circuit appeals court

Republican lawmakers have tried for decades to split the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, sometimes called the "Nutty Ninth" by its detractors.
Each time, the nation's largest and most controversial court had done something to tweak a conservative nerve, with rulings on fishing rights in Alaska, timber harvesting in the Northwest or death sentences in California.

Sonic Booms

Well, whadya know. No sooner do we start blabbing about sonic booms as less-lethal weapons than we find two related stories in the hubbub of the headlines.
First, there's this Times of London article about "a luxury cruise ship" which was "attack[ed] by Somali pirates armed with rocket-propelled grenades yesterday as it rounded the Horn of Africa." Luckily, no one was hurt. The reason why:

The liner used a sonic blaster to foil the pirates. Developed by American forces to deter small boats from attacking warships, the non-lethal weapon sends out high-powered air vibrations that blow assailants off their feet. The equipment, about the size of a satellite dish, is rigged to the side of the ship.

Yarrr! Next, Aviation Week tells us that two teams are about to present their designs for supersonic aircraft that don't boom quite as bad.

Poll: Libby Indictment Hits Major Nerve

...79%, said the indictment of former Cheney aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby on perjury and other charges is important to the nation, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.
Pew noted that in September 1998, 65% said President Clinton's lies under oath were important. Clinton was impeached over his handling of an affair with Monica Lewinsky, but was acquitted by the Senate on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.

Common drug may cure learning disability in humans

Neurobiologist Alcino Silva and colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles, US, tried a commonly prescribed cholesterol-lowering statin drug – called lovastatin – on adult mice with the NF1 mutation. In a series of experiments to test their cognitive functions, the team showed that the drug reversed the learning disabilities and brought the cognitive functions of the mice up to normal levels.

Intergalactic attraction creates bumper star crop

Hundreds of new stars are igniting in the wake of intense gravitational interactions between four galaxies, new observations reveal.
The four galaxies – called Robert's Quartet – lie about 160 million light years from Earth in the southern constellation Phoenix. They are crowded into a space just 150,000 light years across – only 1.5 times the width of our galaxy, the Milky Way.

Smoking doubles risk of post-traumatic stress

Smokers are twice as likely to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder than non-smokers , according to a study of twin soldiers.
It is estimated that after experiencing severe trauma, about one-third of people go on to suffer PTSD, a mental illness characterised by anxiety, flashbacks and panic attacks.

History's Worst Software Bugs

Coding errors spark explosions, cripple interplanetary probes -- even kill people. Here are our picks for the 10 worst bugs ever. (The judging wasn't easy.) First of a three-part series.

The Legacy of Hygiene Films

Last month, Ted Peshak passed away. You might not recognize the name, but if you came of age just after World War II, there's a good chance you're familiar with one of his "hygiene films." The ten-minute black and white films, often screened in classrooms, illustrated the dangers of shyness and the virtues of soap and water. Brooke discusses Peshak's legacy with Ken Smith, author of the oral history Mental Hygiene.

BBC Arabesque

The BBC World Service has announced plans to close ten of its foreign language services, almost all of them in Eastern Europe, in order to start an Arabic TV service in the Middle East. Is the move purely a response to marketplace considerations? Or are there other factors at work too? Bob puts the question to Jerry Timmins, who runs the organization's operations for Africa and the Middle East.

Investigator Brutally Attacked

Emilia DiSanto, chief investigator for committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), arrived at her suburban Virginia home after work Wednesday about 6:30 p.m. As she was unloading belongings from her car, a 6-foot-1-inch white man dressed in black struck her repeatedly with an unidentified object believed to be a baseball bat.
...After she screamed to her family inside the house, the assailant fled. DiSanto was transported to Inova Fair Oaks Hospital, where she was treated for significant upper-body injuries. Nine staples were needed to close her head wound.No evidence has surfaced that definitively points to DiSanto’s work on the Finance Committee as the trigger for the attack, but sources say there are a number of clues that suggest it could be.
The assailant was trying to hide his identity, wearing a hood and black gloves. He also did not make any demands before attacking the 49-year-old staffer. A working assumption among investigators is that he was waiting for her to arrive home.
Sources say acts of violence in DiSanto’s neighborhood are rare.
Grassley is known for his aggressive oversight of the public and private sector. Over the past year, he has scrutinized healthcare fraud, organ-donation procedures used by hospitals, drug-safety matters and the use of nonprofit groups related to former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Another Leak Probe? GOP Calls for Investigation into 'Wash Post' Scoop on CIA 'Black Sites'

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert on Tuesday called for a congressional investigation into who told Washington Post reporter Dana Priest about previously undisclosed CIA interrogation centers.
On Nov. 2, Priest's report on the so-called "black sites" -- which she describes as a "covert prison system set up by the CIA nearly four years ago" to interrogate some of the most important al Qaeda captives -- drew worldwide interest and focused attention on the Bush administration's anti-terror strategy.

"...we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home."

Last night I saw "Good Night, And Good Luck" about Edward R. Murrow's televised battle of words with Senator Joe McCarthy. A very spare, intense but deeply humanistic movie. Terrific performances. But the greates strength of the film is Murrow's own words.
See the movie. Until then here are a couple links to Murrow transcripts:
Murrow's Speech to the RTNDA Convention: ...Our history will be what we make it. And if there are any historians about fifty or a hundred years from now, and there should be preserved the kinescopes for one week of all three networks, they will there find recorded in black and white, or color, evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live. I invite your attention to the television schedules of all networks between the hours of 8 and 11 p.m., Eastern Time. Here you will find only fleeting and spasmodic reference to the fact that this nation is in mortal danger. There are, it is true, occasional informative programs presented in that intellectual ghetto on Sunday afternoons. But during the daily peak viewing periods, television in the main insulates us from the realities of the world in which we live. If this state of affairs continues, we may alter an advertising slogan to read: LOOK NOW, PAY LATER.
For surely we shall pay for using this most powerful instrument of communication to insulate the citizenry from the hard and demanding realities which must be faced if we are to survive. I mean the word survive literally.
A Report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy: ...No one familiar with the history of this country can deny that congressional committees are useful. It is necessary to investigate before legislating, but the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one and the junior Senator from Wisconsin has stepped over it repeatedly. His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between internal and the external threats of Communism. We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men -- not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.
This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy's methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home...

IRS Probing Over 100 Tax-Exempt Organizations

The IRS threat to revoke the tax-exempt status of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena because of an antiwar sermon there during the 2004 presidential election is part of a larger, controversial federal investigation of political activity at churches and nonprofit groups.
Over the last year, the Internal Revenue Service has looked at more than 100 tax-exempt organizations across the country for allegations of promoting — either explicitly or implicitly — candidates on both ends of the political spectrum, according to the IRS. None have lost their nonprofit status, though investigations continue into about 60 of those.
The IRS denies any political motivation behind the initiative it started last year. The Treasury Department's inspector general found in February that there was some mismanagement of the investigations but no indication of them being used as a political cudgel to silence critics of the Bush administration.

Feds: Wal-Mart Execs Knew Workers Illegal

A pair of senior Wal-Mart executives knew cleaning contractors were hiring illegal immigrants, many of whom were housed in crowded conditions and sometimes slept in the backs of stores, according to a federal agency's affidavit.

Lawyer for a Saddam Co-Defendant Slain

Adel al-Zubeidi, who represented defendant Taha Yassin Ramadan, was killed and another lawyer was injured in an ambush in the Adil neighborhood, according to lawyer Khamis al-Obeidi.
Last month, Saadoun al-Janabi, lawyer for co-defendant Awad al-Bandar, was abducted from his office by 10 masked gunmen. His body was found hours later on a sidewalk near a mosque in eastern Baghdad.

Official Reveals Budget for U.S. Intelligence

In an apparent slip, a top American intelligence official has revealed at a public conference what has long been secret: the amount of money the United States spends on its spy agencies.
At an intelligence conference in San Antonio last week, Mary Margaret Graham, a 27-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency and now the deputy director of national intelligence for collection, said the annual intelligence budget was $44 billion.

U.S. severs most contacts with Syria

The United States has cut off nearly all contact with the Syrian government as the Bush administration steps up a campaign to weaken and isolate President Bashar Assad's government, according to U.S. and Syrian officials.
The United States has halted high-level diplomatic meetings, limited military coordination on Syria's border with Iraq and ended dialogue with Syria's Finance Ministry on amending its banking laws to block terrorist financing. In recent months, as distrust between the two countries widened, the United States also declined a proposal from Syria to revive intelligence cooperation with Syria, according to Syria's ambassador to the United States, Imad Moustapha, and a U.S. official.
The new era of hostility flows from U.S. frustration at what it considers Syria's failure to effectively control its border with Iraq and continued support for radical Palestinian groups that threaten the chances of peace in Israel.

RAI Italian News: US Use Of Chemical Weapons On Iraqi Civilians

La strage nascosta (italian language) Today Rainews 24 part of RAI Television (Italian possible equivalent of PBS) broadcasted on a satellite channel a short documentary concerning the conquest of Falluja city. The documentary presents many images and allegations suggesting that U.S. army probably used White Phosphorous on the city during the offensive of 8 November 2004 with devastating consequences on civilians and insurgents. The substance is used on battlefield for purposes including production of dense smoke (M156) and also for incendiary purposes.(Warning, disturbing pictures of dead people). Direct link goes to documentary, English audio WMV link here. NSFW, extremely graphic, and very disturbing. Previous reference [1] here on Meta. [from]
See also Daily Kos

Monday, November 07, 2005

Vatican Sides with Darwin

Since July, when Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna wrote an essay in The New York Times that seemed to support intelligent design, we’ve reported on how the Catholic Church has struggled to clarify its views on evolution vis-à-vis intelligent design. Last month we reported Schönborn’s climb-down, and now comes news from the Vatican itself that evolution, when defined in anti-materialistic terms, has its full support. Nicole Winfield of the Associated Press reports:

A Vatican cardinal said yesterday that the faithful should listen to what secular modern science has to offer, and warned that religion risks turning into ''fundamentalism" if it ignores scientific reason.
Cardinal Paul Poupard, a Frenchman who heads the Pontifical Council for Culture, made the comments at a news conference on a project to help end the ''mutual prejudice" between religion and science that has been an issue for the Roman Catholic Church, and that is part of the evolution debate in the United States.

Antiwar Sermon Brings IRS Warning

The Internal Revenue Service has warned one of Southern California's largest and most liberal churches that it is at risk of losing its tax-exempt status because of an antiwar sermon two days before the 2004 presidential election.
Rector J. Edwin Bacon of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena told many congregants during morning services Sunday that a guest sermon by the church's former rector, the Rev. George F. Regas, on Oct. 31, 2004, had prompted a letter from the IRS.
In his sermon, Regas, who from the pulpit opposed both the Vietnam War and 1991's Gulf War, imagined Jesus participating in a political debate with then-candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry. Regas said that "good people of profound faith" could vote for either man, and did not tell parishioners whom to support.
But he criticized the war in Iraq, saying that Jesus would have told Bush, "Mr. President, your doctrine of preemptive war is a failed doctrine. Forcibly changing the regime of an enemy that posed no imminent threat has led to disaster."

Afghan editor sentenced for blasphemy over women's rights

Ali Mohaqiq Nasab, who edits Haqooq-i-Zan (‘Women's Rights’) magazine, was sentenced on Saturday for articles propagating equality between the sexes and questioning harsh punishments – like death by stoning – reserved for Muslims who convert away from their faith.
The sentence was imposed on the recommendation of the Ulama Council in Afghanistan, a group of senior Islamic clerics. They declared that it was necessary to thwart ‘apostasy’
The case is causing a particular political storm because President Hamid Karzai’s own adviser on religious affairs filed the complaint against Nasab.

CS Monitor: In 3 of 4 cases, Supreme Court nominee Alito voted on the side of abortion rights

• A 1991 challenge to a Pennsylvania law requiring married women to notify their husbands before seeking an abortion. The court struck down the restriction. Alito dissented.
• A 1995 challenge to a Pennsylvania law that required women seeking to use Medicaid funds to abort a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest to report the incident to law enforcement officials and identify the offender. Alito provided the decisive vote striking down the abortion restriction.
• A 1997 challenge to a New Jersey law that prevents parents from suing for damages on behalf of the wrongful death of a fetus. Alito ruled that the Constitution does not afford protection to the unborn.
• A 2000 challenge to New Jersey's ban on so-called partial-birth abortions. Alito struck down the law based on a recent Supreme Court decision.
Analysts are divided over the meaning of Alito's votes and his various writings while on the bench.
"I don't think these cases tell us anything about whether he would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade or not," says James Bopp, general counsel for National Right to Life. "Nor do they tell us whether he supports pro-life as a value."

When Cleaner Air Is a Biblical Obligation

With increasing vigor, evangelical groups that are part of the base of conservative support for leading Republicans are campaigning for laws that would reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which scientists have linked with global warming.
In the latest effort, the National Association of Evangelicals, a nonprofit organization that includes 45,000 churches serving 30 million people across the country, is circulating among its leaders the draft of a policy statement that would encourage lawmakers to pass legislation creating mandatory controls for carbon emissions.
Environmentalists rely on empirical evidence as their rationale for Congressional action, and many evangelicals further believe that protecting the planet from human activities that cause global warming is a values issue that fulfills Biblical teachings asking humans to be good stewards of the earth.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Religious Group Offers Cash Prizes to Reporters Who Quote Scripture

God's word must be quoted directly from the Bible.
Such quotations must be acknowledged as coming from the Bible.
Biblical quotations must be taken from an accepted and popular edition of the Bible, such as the New International Version, The Living Bible, the King James, or the Revised Standard Version.
The article must present the biblical position on an issue as relevant, timely and deserving of thoughtful consideration.
Examples of issues for consideration, but not limited to these, are family life, divorce, value trends, media and entertainment character, pornography, political morality, U.S. National interests, abortion, religion and addiction to drugs and alcohol. The biblical impact on individual character and outlook are also appropriate issues.
The need for obedience through biblical truth should be evident

Rick Moranis Has put out an ablum: The Agoraphobic Cowboy

Big Companies Fear Google Because it is Informative

In Google, Wal-Mart sees both a technology pioneer and the seed of a threat, said Mr. Breyer, who is also a partner in a venture capital firm. The worry is that by making information available everywhere, Google might soon be able to tell Wal-Mart shoppers if better bargains are available nearby.
Wal-Mart is scarcely alone in its concern. As Google increasingly becomes the starting point for finding information and buying products and services, companies that even a year ago did not see themselves as competing with Google are beginning to view the company with some angst - mixed with admiration.
Google's recent moves have stirred concern in industries from book publishing to telecommunications. Businesses already feeling the Google effect include advertising, software and the news media. Apart from retailing, Google's disruptive presence may soon be felt in real estate and auto sales.

McCain vows to add torture ban to all major Senate legislation

Girding for a potential fight with the Bush administration, supporters of a ban on torturing prisoners of war by U.S. interrogators threatened Friday to include the prohibition in nearly every bill the Senate considers until it becomes law.
The no-torture wording, which proponents say is supported by majorities in both houses of Congress, was included last month in the Senate's version of a defense spending bill. The measure's final form is being negotiated with the House, and the White House is pushing for either a rewording or deletion of the torture ban.

DFBI Domestic Surveillance Requests Up 10,000%

The FBI now issues more than 30,000 national security letters a year, according to government sources, a hundredfold increase over historic norms. The letters -- one of which can be used to sweep up the records of many people -- are extending the bureau's reach as never before into the telephone calls, correspondence and financial lives of ordinary Americans.
Issued by FBI field supervisors, national security letters do not need the imprimatur of a prosecutor, grand jury or judge. They receive no review after the fact by the Justice Department or Congress. The executive branch maintains only statistics, which are incomplete and confined to classified reports. The Bush administration defeated legislation and a lawsuit to require a public accounting, and has offered no example in which the use of a national security letter helped disrupt a terrorist plot.
The burgeoning use of national security letters coincides with an unannounced decision to deposit all the information they yield into government data banks -- and to share those private records widely, in the federal government and beyond. In late 2003, the Bush administration reversed a long-standing policy requiring agents to destroy their files on innocent American citizens, companies and residents when investigations closed. Late last month, President Bush signed Executive Order 13388, expanding access to those files for "state, local and tribal" governments and for "appropriate private sector entities," which are not defined.