Monday, May 19, 2008

The Grapes of W

Multinationals make billions in profit out of growing global food crisis

Speculators blamed for driving up price of basic foods as 100 million face severe hunger

By Geoffrey Lean


Market shoppers in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, one of the countries that is experiencing acute food shortages and rising costs

Giant agribusinesses are enjoying soaring earnings and profits out of the world food crisis which is driving millions of people towards starvation, The Independent on Sunday can reveal. And speculation is helping to drive the prices of basic foodstuffs out of the reach of the hungry.

The prices of wheat, corn and rice have soared over the past year driving the world's poor – who already spend about 80 per cent of their income on food – into hunger and destitution.

The World Bank says that 100 million more people are facing severe hunger. Yet some of the world's richest food companies are making record profits. Monsanto last month reported that its net income for the three months up to the end of February this year had more than doubled over the same period in 2007, from $543m (£275m) to $1.12bn. Its profits increased from $1.44bn to $2.22bn.

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Webb: Bush Would Be First President In History To Veto Benefits For Vets

On NBC's "Meet the Press" this morning, Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) discussed his 21st Century GI Bill, which would dramatically expand educational benefits for returning veterans. President Bush, however, has vowed to veto the bill. Webb blasted Bush for this unprecedented action:

No president in history has vetoed a benefits bill for those who served. … The Republican party is on the block here, to clearly demonstrate that they value military service or suffer the consequences of losing the support of people who've served. … The president has a choice here to show how much he values military service.

Watch it:

The Pentagon has suggested that Webb's bill is too generous in conferring benefits to soldiers after "only" two years of service. However, as Webb pointed out, soldiers would still have to finish their enlistment term. What's more, as a recent CBO report showed, any loss in reenlistment rates is entirely made up for by increased military recruits.

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The Real John McCain

Immigration Raid Jars a Small Town

Critics Say Employers Should Be Targeted

Buses brought arrested workers from Postville to the National Cattle Congress grounds in Waterloo, Iowa, last week.
Buses brought arrested workers from Postville to the National Cattle Congress grounds in Waterloo, Iowa, last week.
(By Spencer S. Hsu -- The Washington Post)

Detainees head to a court at the National Cattle Congress grounds on Wednesday. The raid led to criminal charges for 306 of the workers.

Detainees head to a court at the National Cattle Congress grounds on Wednesday. The raid led to criminal charges for 306 of the workers. (By Matthew Putney -- Waterloo Courier Via Associated Press)

By Spencer S. Hsu

POSTVILLE, Iowa -- Antonio Escobedo ran to get his wife Monday when he saw a helicopter circling overhead and immigration agents approaching the meatpacking plant where they both work. The couple hid for hours inside the plant before obtaining refuge in the pews and hall at St. Bridget's Catholic Church, where hundreds of other Guatemalan and Mexican families gathered, hoping to avoid arrest.

"I like my job. I like my work. I like it here in Iowa," said Escobedo, 38, an illegal immigrant from Yescas, Mexico, who has raised his three children for 11 years in Postville. "Are they mad because I'm working?"

Monday's raid on the Agriprocessors plant, in which 389 immigrants were arrested and many held at a cattle exhibit hall, was the Bush administration's largest crackdown on illegal workers at a single site. It has upended this tree-lined community, which calls itself "Hometown to the World." Half of the school system's 600 students were absent Tuesday, including 90 percent of Hispanic children, because their parents were arrested or in hiding.

Current and former officials of the Department of Homeland Security say its raid on the largest employer in northeast Iowa reflects the administration's decision to put pressure on companies with large numbers of illegal immigrant workers, particularly in the meat industry. But its disruptive impact on the nation's largest supplier of kosher beef and on the surrounding community has provoked renewed criticism that the administration is disproportionately targeting workers instead of employers, and that the resulting turmoil is worse than the underlying crimes.

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Big GOP losses in Congress likely, even if McCain wins

By Steven Thomma and Margaret Talev

WASHINGTON — Whoever wins the presidency this November, it's all but a slam dunk they'll be working with a Democratic Congress. And it probably will be a stronger Democratic majority with more votes than it has today.

Even normally optimistic Republicans conceded in recent days that the landscape is stacked against them after losing their third special House of Representatives election in a row, all in what had been safe Republican districts.

"A large segment of the American public doesn't have confidence in the Republican Party," said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., the party's chief political operative for House races.

"It should be a really good Democratic year in both chambers," said Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the Rothenberg Political Report. He's one of the three most authoritative nonpartisan voices on congressional races, along with Charles Cook of the Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato, the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

They all predict that Democrats will add to their majorities in the House by six to 20 seats and in the Senate by two to five seats.

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Annie Oakley And Barack Obama

U.S.-trained forces reportedly helping Mexican cartels


WASHINGTON — As many as 200 U.S.-trained Mexican security personnel have defected to drug cartels to carry out killings on both sides of the border and as far north as Dallas, Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble, told Congress on Wednesday.

The renegade members of Mexico's elite counter-narcotics teams trained at Fort Benning, Ga., have switched sides, contributing to a wave of violence that has claimed some 6,000 victims over the past 30 months, including prominent law enforcement leaders, the Houston-area Republican told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The slaughter has gained urgency amid high-profile assassinations of law officers in Mexico since May 1, claiming six senior officers, five of them with the federal police.

Poe held aloft a dramatic, poster-board-size photograph that he said showed guerrilla-style commandos crossing into the United States.

He said the Department of Homeland Security had documented "over 250 incursions by suspected military forces" into the United States over the past decade.

"I was surprised to hear that the United States has trained Mexican forces and some of those have deserted and become the reason for these attacks," Poe said.

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Republicans Put On Endangered Species List

WASHINGTON (IWR Satire) - After three special Congressional election losses in a row, Interior Secretary "Dirty" Dirk Kempthorne announced that he was placing all Republicans on the Endangered Species List.  Kempthorne also started a series of legal actions to prevent any more Special elections from being held that could possibly lower the GOP numbers any further.  "The president really doesn't give a rat's ass about the environment, global warming or some damn bird like the bald eagle, but when his crony buddies are in danger of extinction, all bets are off," said an enraged Kempthorne to reporters.

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Is the Creative Internet Just About Dead?

By Annalee Newitz

Annalee Newitz A couple of weeks ago I went to the annual Maker Faire in San Mateo, an event where people from all over the world gather for a giant DIY technology show-and-tell extravaganza. There are robots, kinetic sculptures, rockets, remote-controlled battleship contests, music-controlled light shows, home electronics kits, ill-advised science experiments (like the Mentos-Diet Coke explosions), and even a barn full of people who make their own clothing, pillows, bags, and more. Basically, it's a weekend celebration of how human freedom combined with technology creates a pleasing but cacophonous symphony of coolness.

And yet the Maker Faire takes place against a backdrop of increasing constraints on our freedom to innovate with technology, as Oxford University researcher Jonathan Zittrain points out in his latest book, The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It (Yale University Press). After spending several years investigating the social and political rules that govern the Internet -- and spearheading the Net censorship tracking project OpenNet Initiative -- Zittrain looks back on the Net's development and predicts a dystopian future. What's chilling is that his dystopia is already coming to pass.

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A mother who fought to the end

After her daughter, Sarah, took a fatal overdose in prison, Pauline Campbell, who died yesterday, became a tireless campaigner against the deaths of women in custody. Julie Bindel pays tribute to a woman who was driven by a passion for justice

Pauline Campbell: a tireless campaigner. Photograph: Graham Turner

Pauline Campbell: a tireless campaigner. Photograph: Graham Turner

Pauline Campbell, who was found dead yesterday morning, put the deaths of women in prison on the map. A formidable and tireless campaigner, she had personal experience of deaths in custody. Just over five years ago, her much-loved daughter Sarah, 18, died of a drug overdose at Styal prison. Campbell's body was discovered close to her daughter's grave in Oakhills cemetery in Malpas, Cheshire. As we went to press, it was not clear whether she had killed herself or died of other causes, but it looks bleak.

Sarah died after swallowing 100 sleeping tablets at HMP Styal, on the first night of her three-year sentence. She was Campbell's only child; indeed, her only family member.

Sarah's life had been beset by problems, just like the vast majority of women in prison. When she was four, her father walked out, leaving her with what Campbell described to me as "an intense feeling of loss". Much of Sarah's childhood was blighted by sexual abuse, at the hands of a distant relative. After being raped when she was 15, Sarah became clinically depressed, and turned to heroin to numb the pain. It was when trying to harass a man in the street for money to buy drugs that the course of Sarah's life took an even worse turn. The elderly man suffered a heart attack and died on the spot. Sarah was convicted of manslaughter.

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My space

If we really want to explore space, maybe we should sell it off to the highest bidders

By Drake Bennett

IF THE PAST few years have taught us anything, it is to not underestimate the intoxicating allure of property. Real estate, it turns out, brings out the adventurer in all of us.

It's unsurprising, then, that a few enterprising thinkers are hoping to harness that power in a more exotic neighborhood: space.

No one, of course, owns space - not even the relatively tiny portion of it within humankind's reach. While the space race may have been kicked off by Cold War politics, its rhetoric has always been fastidiously communal, eschewing talk of ownership. "We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people," President Kennedy intoned in a famous 1962 speech laying out the rationale for putting a man on the moon.

In other words, while exploring space has been a race, a mission, and an adventure, it has never been a business.

Recently, however, there's been growing interest in changing that. In the small community of people who think seriously about space exploration, a few are arguing that exporting the idea of private property into space is exactly what we need to do to launch a bold new space race.

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Employer sanctions law criticized

Only 15 percent of state's firms using E-Verify system

Tucson Citizen


Fewer than 15 percent of Arizona employers - about 20,000 - have signed up to use the federal government's E-Verify system to check whether a new employee's name matches the employee's Social Security number, according to the Immigration Policy Center.

The center is a division of the American Immigration Law Foundation in Washington, D.C.

The new Arizona law went into effect Jan. 1 and it punishes employers who knowingly hire workers who are not authorized by the federal government to work in the United States.

Violators can have their business license suspended or revoked under the law.

A report just released by the policy center said that "given the small number, it's not yet possible to make definitive statements about the impact that E-Verify will have on employers in general."

However, it says "innocent" Arizona workers have "limited opportunities" to clear up problems with their records because of the location and business hours of government offices, which close at 4 p.m.

It points out there is one U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Tucson. It does not accept walk-ins and appointments must be made online.

Because of errors in the computerized E-Verify system, which uses a Social Security Administration database, "approximately 10 percent of naturalized U.S. citizens are told they are not authorized to work."

The report asserts that Arizona could lose "as much as $10 billion" because "there are not enough workers in Arizona to take the jobs abandoned by immigrant workers."

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A User's Guide to the Polygraph Exam

by Daniel B. Young

There are many examples throughout history of authorities attempting to detect deception. One of my favorites is that of certain priests in India circa 1500 B.C. A donkey's tail was covered with carbon residue from an oil lamp and placed in a dark room. The suspects were sent into the room and told that pulling the "magic" donkey's tail would reveal the liar. When the suspects came out, the priests examined their hands. Those with clean hands had not touched the donkey's tail. It was assumed that this was due to their fear of their guilt being discovered, proving they were liars. A nice theory with some psychological validity, but what if the guilty man had grabbed the donkey's tail to keep from falling in the dark or an innocent man simply couldn't find the tail in the dark? This probably would not have saved the innocent man – the test was just too convenient for the authorities.

In 1915 a Harvard professor named William Moulton Marston developed an instrument he termed a lie detector; it was a prototype polygraph based on blood pressure measurement alone. Four other men, John Larson, Leonarde Keeler, John Reid, and Fred Inbau, over decades, further developed the polygraph machine and the accompanying interrogation techniques into the modern polygraph test. Mr. Marston is not well known for his part in the development of the polygraph. But he did achieve fame in another area. He was the creator of the comic book character Wonder Woman who had a magic lasso that, when wound around a person, would force him to tell only the truth. As you will see there have been times when the magic lasso would have been preferable to the polygraph machine.

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Modesto medical-marijuana operators convicted in federal case

by Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writer

(05-16) 11:07 PDT FRESNO -- Two Modesto men are facing mandatory 20-year prison sentences after being convicted of running a medical-marijuana operation that federal prosecutors labeled a criminal enterprise, authorities said today.

Luke Anthony Scarmazzo, 28, and Ricardo Ruiz Montes, 28, were convicted by a federal jury Fresno on Thursday of conducting a continuing criminal enterprise, growing marijuana and possessing marijuana with the intent to distribute.

The conviction for running a criminal enterprise carries a mandatory sentence of at least 20 years. U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger is to sentence both men Aug. 4.

Federal officials said the case sends a message to marijuana growers and dealers who believe they are shielded from prosecution under the California law legalizing medical marijuana use.

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The Battle for America Has Begun - Strategic Forecasts

By Richard C Cook

This article contains several forecasts, including the possible start of a major war with unforeseeable consequences, if the U.S. should happen to attack Iran . Of course it is in the nature of forecasts to be speculative. There are also forecasts that are intended to serve as warnings and thereby contribute to preventing the events under analysis from ever taking place.

The world's financial elite, long having made their homes in the metropolises of Western Europe, also with a major branch in New York City , may be the party that is really behind what could be an attempt to start World War III by pitting the U.S. against the Asiatic land powers, most notably Russia 

The elite have long viewed control of the vast resource-rich Asian continent as the key to control of the world, with the fulcrum of domination being the oil-rich Middle East . Such a war could begin if the U.S. and Britain follow through by attacking Iran on the heels of the Afghan and Iraq  wars and recent military deployments to the Persian Gulf region.

The attack may be nuclear, egged on by neocon extremists in the U.S. and their counterparts in Israel , who may simultaneously carry the attack to Lebanon and Syria . (See Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, "Beating the Drums of a Broader Middle East War," Global Research, May 7, 2008.) These events are closely tied to the U.S. economic recession now underway and the 2008 presidential election.

What is unique about this analysis is the author's contention that the U.S. is being used unwittingly by the European-based financial powers for their own purposes. They know that the U.S. economy is bankrupt, because they have made it so through a quarter century of financial manipulations that have destroyed our manufacturing base and left us horrendously in debt.

Now they have suckered us into the last thing we need—a major Asian land war that threatens to bring Russia and perhaps China into the fray. But that's all right, because once we have exhausted ourselves and courted nuclear retaliation, Europe, which is uniting under the European Union, will likely be left standing, as will Israel .
Note that Israel was created by and owes its primary allegiance to the European financiers, especially those in London , even though the U.S. has been its primary arms supplier and enabler since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. If the financiers, aided by Israel , can instigate a major war to get rid of Russia , along with the U.S. , as world powers, they will have accomplished their aim. 

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by Philippe Sands

Over the past five years the name Mohammed Al-Qahtani - Detainee 063 at Guantanamo - has been indelibly associated with the Bush Administration's efforts to justify extreme measures in the 'war on terror.' This Saudi national was apprehended in Afghanistan in late 2001 and taken to Guantanamo in early 2002, included in a group labelled as the "worst of the worst." His identity got a full airing in June 2004, as the Administration struggled to contain the fallout from the Abu Ghraib pictures. Alleged to be the 20th hijacker, the Administration pinned on this man its justification for the abandonment of a longstanding prohibition on the use of cruelty by the military.

On June 22nd 2004, two of the Administration's most senior lawyers - White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and Defense Department General Counsel Jim Haynes - stood before the world's media and laid out the official story to explain the move to aggressive interrogation: it occurred as a result of a bottom-up request from an aggressive combatant commander at Guantanamo; it was implemented within the law and on the basis of careful legal advice; and it produced useful and important results. Al Qahtani was living proof that coercion worked. Gonzales and Haynes stood alongside Daniel Dell'Orto (who has recently been appointed as Acting General Counsel at DoD, following Haynes' move to Chevron, where he now works as lawyer) as he introduced Al Qahtani as the man who explained the move to abuse: a person in whom the Pentagon had "a considerable interest," who had "been trained to resist our interrogation techniques" and, most significantly, who gave up important information when subjected to new techniques authorised by Rumsfeld on December 2nd 2002. This included information on Jose Padilla (the alleged "dirty bomber") and Richard Reid (the shoe bomber). The message was unambiguous: Al Qahtani was a bad man, aggressive interrogation works.

A few weeks later, the 9/11 Commission Report described Al Qahtani as a "candidate hijacker," explaining the circumstances in which he was denied entry to the US in August 2001. The narrative persisted, and Al Qahtani's name was frequently wheeled out in defence of the Administration's actions. In his efforts to secure appointment to the federal bench, in July 2006 Jim Haynes relied on him to fend off attacks - unsuccessfully, as it turned out - to justify his role in recommending to Secretary Rumsfeld techniques of interrogation that violated Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. He was "the 20th hijacker," Haynes told the Senate Judiciary Committee and a man who had shown "considerable skill in resisting established techniques". Further, he had provided "significant additional information" as a result of the abusive interrogation. No ambiguity there.

A few weeks ago, on February 11th 2008, the Department of Defense announced that Al Qahtani would join five others in facing a military commission on various criminal charges, including murder, attacking civilians and terrorism. The death penalty would be sought. The allegations were thin on detail and - strikingly - made no reference to any information obtained after the new techniques were used. The announcement was consistent with what, by then, I had already been told: the abusive interrogation of Al Qahtani produced nothing of value.

The Administration raised the stakes on Al Qahtani. He was presented as the kind of uniquely dangerous person for whom the programme of detention and interrogation was designed, proof that the established rules were quaint and obsolete, that new rules and techniques were needed, and that they worked.

Then, earlier this week, the Administration dropped a jaw-dropping bombshell: the charges against Al Qahtani were dropped. Proceedings against five other would continue, but the Pentagon official in charge of war crimes cases declined to authorise charges against Al Qahtani. What happened?

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Prayer Rugs Go High Tech

Digital Prayer Rug & Newspapers


Aboulsaadat hopes to work on the invention so that people of all faiths could use it in their religious activities. (Toronto Star Photo)

CAIRO — Using modern technology to serve Muslims better perform their religious rituals, a fourth-year PhD computer science student has designed a high-tech prayer rug equipped with sensors, lights and a Qur'an display screen.

"It will increase their understanding of the scriptures and the quality of the prayer," inventor Wael Aboulsaadat told the Toronto Star on Thursday, May 15.

Aboulsaadat, studying for his PhD at the University of Toronto's computer science department, has designed a prayer rug with built-in sensors that can detect the worshipper's posture.

If the user makes an error, such as missing or adding a step in the prayer sequence, the sensors will vibrate in alert.

Aboulsaadat says the vibration is a subtle way to help correct the error without breaking the performer's concentration.

"It's important not to interrupt flow, because that interrupts the focus of prayer."

Muslims pray five times a day, with each prayer made of a series of postures and movements, each set of which is called a rak'ah.

The eRug also has a notification mode that alerts the user to next prayer times and important religious holidays.

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All the President's Nazis (Real and Imagined): An Open Letter to Bush

Larisa AlexandrovnaDear Mr. Bush,

Your speech on the Knesset floor today was not only a disgrace; it was nothing short of treachery. Worse still, your exploitation of the Holocaust in a country carved out of the wounds of that very crime, in order to strike a low blow at American citizens whose politics differs from your own is unforgivable and unpardonable. Let me remind you, Mr. Bush, of your words today:

"Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along," Bush said at Israel's 60th anniversary celebration in Jerusalem.

"We have heard this foolish delusion before," Bush said in remarks to Israel's parliament, the Knesset. "As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: 'Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.' We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."

Well Mr. Bush, the only thing this comment lacked was a mirror and some historical facts. You want to discuss the crimes of Nazis against my family and millions of other families in Europe during World War II? Let me revive a favorite phrase of yours: Bring. It. On!

The All-American Nazi

Your family's fortune is built on the bones of the very people butchered by the Nazis, my family and the families of those in the Knesset who applauded you today:

WASHINGTON -- President Bush's grandfather was a director of a bank seized by the federal government because of its ties to a German industrialist who helped bankroll Adolf Hitler's rise to power, government documents show.

Prescott Bush was one of seven directors of Union Banking Corp. (search), a New York investment bank owned by a bank controlled by the Thyssen family, according to recently declassified National Archives documents reviewed by The Associated Press.

Fritz Thyssen was an early financial supporter of Hitler, whose Nazi party Thyssen believed was preferable to communism.


Both Harrimans and Bush were partners in the New York investment firm of Brown Brothers, Harriman and Co., which handled the financial transactions of the bank as well as other financial dealings with several other companies linked to Bank voor Handel that were confiscated by the U.S. government during World War II.

Union Banking was seized by the government in October 1942 under the Trading with the Enemy Act.

Oh, but there is much more too:

The two Holocaust survivors suing the US government and the Bush family for a total of $40bn in compensation claim both materially benefited from Auschwitz slave labour during the second world war, Kurt Julius Goldstein, 87, and Peter Gingold, 85, began a class action in America in 2001, but the case was thrown out by Judge Rosemary Collier on the grounds that the government cannot be held liable under the principle of "state sovereignty".

I cannot think of one Democrat who can boast this kind of lineage. Can you? No, I don't think so. But you can lie brazenly and attack a sitting US Senator on foreign soil by comparing him to Nazi sympathizers? Let us continue down memory lane to help those who applaud you understand just what it is they are celebrating.

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RUN FROM THE CURE - The Rick Simpson Story

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How to Set Up a Pirate Radio Station

From Wired How-To Wiki

Photo by  believekevin on Flickr

Photo by believekevin on Flickr

Ah, Christian Slater. In 1990 you hijacked your local airwaves (and our hearts) in Pump Up The Volume. Now thanks to the free flow of information on the web, anyone can start their own pirate radio station. Here's all you need to become your city's favorite underground shock jock.

A Word on Legality Issues

Depending on where you are in the world, there are a few different things that make pirate broadcasts illegal. The cardinal sin stateside (as far as the FCC is concerned) is broadcasting on unlicensed radio spectrum. Although the FCC is often a buzzkill, in many ways its rules regarding pirate broadcasts make sense. If a high powered transmitter lands in the hands of a reckless amateur, all sorts of havoc can be wreaked on local radio communication. This can not only cause problems in the public safety sector (fire, police, emergency services), but it's also likely to disrupt the transmissions of legit broadcasters who actually paid for their chunk of licensed spectrum.

Also, there's the issue of royalties. Setting up your own "All 'Aqualung,' All the Time" station might sound great, but if your transmission is located it's likely that the record industry will want a piece of the action. Depending on how flagrant the offense, pirate broadcasters can be hit with a combination of back royalties and fines -- and that's on top of financial beating the FCC dishes out. Naturally, we wouldn't condone illegal conduct of this type, but we imagine that this information might be useful for hobbyists.

Yes. Hobbyists.

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Sick_monkey_2BY DAN OLMSTED

The first research project to examine effects of the total vaccine load received by children in the 1990s has found autism-like signs and symptoms in infant monkeys vaccinated the same way. The study's principal investigator, Laura Hewitson from the University of Pittsburgh, reports developmental delays, behavior problems and brain changes in macaque monkeys that mimic "certain neurological abnormalities of autism."

The findings are being reported Friday and Saturday at a major international autism conference in London.

Although couched in scientific language, Hewitson's findings are explosive. They suggest, for the first time, that our closest animal cousins develop characteristics of autism when subjected to the same immunizations – such as the MMR shot -- and vaccine formulations – such as the mercury preservative thimerosal -- that American children received when autism diagnoses exploded in the 1990s.

The first publicly reported results of this research project come in both oral and poster presentations on Friday and Saturday at the International Meeting For Autism Research in London. Poster presentations must go through a form of peer review before they are presented at the conference; the papers have not yet appeared in a scientific journal.

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Analysis: Bush team battered by courts on environment

By Chris Bowman

Federal courts appear to have done what relentless green lobbying could not in more than seven years: rein in what critics call a de facto deregulation of the environment by President Bush's administration.

The courts by and large have rejected Bush's bid to significantly rewrite America's bedrock conservation laws, particularly the Clean Air Act.

The latest rejection came last week when a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a halt to three proposed logging projects in the northern Sierra. The ruling repudiated the administration's approach to forest management: selling large trees to loggers to finance removal of smaller trees in the name of fire protection.

One Country’s Table Scraps, Another Country’s Meal

Bill Marsh and Kari Haskell/The New York Times; Photograph by Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Into the Trash It Goes The food an American family throws away each month. View full graphic.

Grocery bills are rising through the roof. Food banks are running short of donations. And food shortages are causing sporadic riots in poor countries through the world.
You'd never know it if you saw what was ending up in your landfill. As it turns out, Americans waste an astounding amount of food — an estimated 27 percent of the food available for consumption, according to a government study — and it happens at the supermarket, in restaurants and cafeterias and in your very own kitchen. It works out to about a pound of food every day for every American.

Grocery stores discard products because of spoilage or minor cosmetic blemishes. Restaurants throw away what they don't use. And consumers toss out everything from bananas that have turned brown to last week's Chinese leftovers. In 1997, in one of the few studies of food waste, the Department of Agriculture estimated that two years before, 96.4 billion pounds of the 356 billion pounds of edible food in the United States was never eaten. Fresh produce, milk, grain products and sweeteners made up two-thirds of the waste. An update is under way.

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Going Postal

"Freedom of the press is limited to those who own one." – A.J. Liebling

Ben Scott had better things to do than listen to a bunch of little magazines rant about their unreasonable postage bills. As the policy director of Free Press, a group that specialized in fighting media concentration, he and 10 co-workers in Washington were wrapped up in defending internet accessibility. But in late February 2007, Scott's phone started buzzing with accusations from panicked publishers of small-circulation magazines. The United States Postal Service, they said, was hammering the last nail in the coffin of independent publishing.

Periodicals with circulations of fewer than 250,000 (some with much fewer—even in the hundreds) had just discovered that the rates they paid the USPS for postage were about to skyrocket, and they had only eight business days to dispute the proposed increase. While these independent publishers had expected the rates to rise, they believed it would be by about 12 percent, which had been the USPS' own suggestion. However, during an arduous 10 months of hearings on postal rates in 2006, during which the small-magazine community was conspicuously absent, the stakes changed dramatically.

Instead of a simple markup, the entire rate system was overhauled, imposing a cost-based structure on a branch of government originally established to provide a public good, one that the Founding Fathers deemed vital to our democratic society. The Postal System was built on the premise of promoting the free flow of ideas by giving preferential treatment to their most common method of conveyance: the printed pages of periodicals.

Of particular concern to Free Press was the discovery that the biggest force behind the formula by which rates were to be increased was none other than Time Warner, the largest magazine publisher in the United States, which had been working overtime to influence the outcome of the hearings.

At the receiving end of Time Warner's proposal was the Postal Regulatory (formerly Rate) Commission, the independent board of overseers responsible for holding the rate hearings. The new suggested rate system changed from a flat rate per pound, like a stamp for a first-class letter that costs the same no matter how far the letter travels within the United States, to a new piece-by-piece rate, like determining how much the stamp should cost based on how difficult it would be to deliver the letter. The new formula was so complex that most publishers could not initially give Scott exact numbers for their anticipated rate increases, but they knew enough to fear for their continued existence. When the dust settled and the facts came out, the average increase for all of Time Warner's 127 titles was 10 percent; rate increases for most small-circulation magazines were two or three times that, and in some cases, more than five times as much.

Journals of opinion, the idea-laden niche that has hewed closest to the Founding Fathers' conception of the kind of periodicals whose availability would benefit our fledgling democracy, collected rate-increase data among themselves as soon as they had hard figures. American Conservative, a biweekly magazine with a circulation of 13,000, faced an increase of 58 percent. Eagle Publishing, producer of Human Events, paid the USPS an additional $211,000 in 2007. Jack Fowler, publisher of National Review, was so incensed that he co-authored an editorial in The Los Angeles Times with Teresa Stack, president of The Nation, denouncing the rate hikes. Like National Review, its strange bedfellow The Nation faced an additional $500,000 on its 2007 postal bill. The New Republic and The New York Review of Books each faced increases in excess of 15 percent. Recently Alan Chin, general manager of The New Republic, said the extra postage costs forced them to tighten belts across the budget and seriously consider switching to lighter paper stock.

For Free Press and the coalition of small political magazines, the issue extended beyond paper and percentages, beyond the survival of a few dozen journals of opinion and even beyond the futures of several thousand small-circulation publications. What was most in danger of going bankrupt was the circulation of ideas, information and opinions, which the old preferential rates for periodicals intended to promote.

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