Friday, May 30, 2008

White House issues climate report 4 years late


WASHINGTON - Under a court order and four years late, the White House Thursday produced what it called a science-based "one-stop shop" of specific threats to the United States from man-made global warming.

While the report has no new science in it, it pulls together different U.S. studies and localizes international reports into one comprehensive document required by law. The 271-page report is notable because it is something the Bush administration has fought in the past.

Andrew Weaver, a Canadian climate scientist who was not involved in the effort, called it "a litany of bad news in store for the U.S."

And biologist Thomas Lovejoy, one of the scientists who reviewed the report for the federal government, said: "It basically says the America we've known we can no longer count on. It's a pretty dramatic picture of all kinds of change rippling through natural systems across the country. And all of that has implications for people."

White House associate science director Sharon Hays, in a teleconference with reporters, declined to characterize the findings as bad, but said it is an issue the administration takes seriously. She said the report was comprehensive and "communicates what the scientists are telling us."

That includes:

• Increased heat deaths and deaths from climate-worsened smog. In Los Angeles alone yearly heat fatalities could increase by more than 1,000 by 2080, and the Midwest and Northeast are most vulnerable to increased heat deaths.

• Worsening water shortages for agriculture and urban users. From California to New York, lack of water will be an issue.

• A need for billions of dollars in more power plants (one major cause of global warming gases) to cool a hotter country. The report says summer cooling will mean Seattle's energy consumption would increase by 146 percent with the warming that could come by the end of the century.

• More death and damage from wildfires, hurricanes and other natural disasters and extreme weather. In the last three decades, wildfire season in the West has increased by 78 days.

• Increased insect infestations and food- and waterborne microbes and diseases. Insect and pathogen outbreaks to the forests are causing $1.5 billion in annual losses.

"Finally, climate change is very likely to accentuate the disparities already evident in the American health care system," the report said. "Many of the expected health effects are likely to fall disproportionately on the poor, the elderly, the disabled and the uninsured."

The report was required by a 1990 law which says that every four years the government must produce a comprehensive science assessment of global warming. It had not been done since 2000.

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Uncontacted tribe photographed near Brazil-Peru border

Uncontacted Indians in Brazil seen from the air, May 2008 Uncontacted Indians in Brazil seen from the air, May 2008
© Gleison Miranda/FUNAI

Members of one of the world's last uncontacted tribes have been spotted and photographed from the air near the Brazil-Peru border. The photos were taken during several flights over one of the remotest parts of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil's Acre state.

'We did the overflight to show their houses, to show they are there, to show they exist,' said uncontacted tribes expert José Carlos dos Reis Meirelles Júnior. Meirelles works for FUNAI, the Brazilian government's Indian affairs department. 'This is very important because there are some who doubt their existence.'

Meirelles says that the group's numbers are increasing. But other uncontacted groups in the region, whose homes have been photographed from the air, are in severe danger from illegal logging in Peru. Logging is driving uncontacted tribes over the border and could lead to conflict with the estimated five hundred uncontacted Indians already living on the Brazilian side.

'What is happening in this region [of Peru] is a monumental crime against the natural world, the tribes, the fauna and is further testimony to the complete irrationality with which we, the 'civilised' ones, treat the world,' said Meirelles.

There are more than one hundred uncontacted tribes worldwide, with more than half living in either Brazil or Peru. All are in grave danger of being forced off their land, killed and decimated by new diseases. Survival has launched an urgent campaign to get their land protected, and a unique film narrated by actress Julie Christie.

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Make Way for Superfrog

Picture of frog claw

The sharp, clawlike bones of certain African frogs pierce through their own skin as a novel and dramatic form of defense.

Credit: David C. Blackburn


By Lauren Cahoon

X-Men fans rejoice: Wolverine has come to life, as a frog. When the comic book warrior faces a fight, metallic blades spring forth from his hand. A new study concludes that certain African frogs are similarly equipped, having sharp, claw-shaped bones that pierce through their own fingertips when the animal is threatened.

More than 100 years ago, scientists observed the mysterious bony appendages in museum specimens of the Arthroleptidae frog family, but they had no idea what to make of them. Some speculated that the protrusions were an artifact of the preservation process. Harvard University biologists David Blackburn decided to solve the mystery once and for all after having the frequent misfortune of being injured by the amphibians while doing field research in Cameroon. "The frogs will start kicking and drag these claws against your skin," he says. "I've gotten bloody scratches from them many a time."

Due to strict government regulations on removing live animals from Cameroon, Blackburn's team had to do their anatomical studies on preserved museum specimens. In addition to the talon-shaped finger bones others had seen, the researchers found a small bony nodule nestled in the tissue just beyond the frog's fingertip. When sheathed, each claw is anchored to the nodule with tough strands of collagen, but, as Blackburn had discovered firsthand, when the frog is grabbed or attacked, the frog breaks the nodule connection and forces its sharpened bones through the skin.

This bizarre skeletal feature is found in only 12 species within the Arthroleptidae family, Blackburn's team reports online this week in Biology Letters. Why some members of this family developed such a dramatic form of defense is still a mystery, though the researchers speculate that because amphibians have a remarkable flair for regeneration, the African frogs may heal up afterward, just like Wolverine.

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No on Nunn

There has been talk about former Sen. Sam Nunn (Dixiecrat-GA) as a possible VP for Obama. Most of the speculation revolves around Nunn's experience as a former Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, something that would fend off criticism from the Military McCainiacs.

But as Wayne Besen points out in his column, never mind that Nunn is a conservative Dem, he's an anti-gay Dem.

In April, the conservative southern Democrat articulated his reasons for backing Obama:

"Demonizing the opposition, oversimplifying the issues, and dumbing down the political debate prevent our country from coming together to make tough decisions and tackle our biggest challenges," said Nunn.

This statement was curious, considering Nunn's crass conduct during the fierce 1993 "gays in the military" battle. Instead of leading in a contemplative manner, Nunn exploited his position of power to cheapen the national dialogue and dumb down the debate - the opposite of what he now says he stands for. This "statesman" brazenly exploited every last negative anti-gay stereotype for political gain and temporarily derailed Bill Clinton's nascent presidency in the process. Nunn's grandstanding was an unforgivable act of bigotry and betrayal and helped set back the GLBT movement for years.

More below the fold.

One of the stunts Nunn pulled back in the day was a little field trip with the MSM to a submarine to show them how close it was in those quarters, telegraphing the message that predatory ho-mo-sexuals were going to jump their fellow submariners for some Satanic nookey.

In a flash, Nunn lowered the tenor of the debate and created visions of promiscuous, unpatriotic gays and lesbians transforming our Navy into a hapless fleet of Sodomy Subs. All people wanted to talk about after this monstrosity was bunk beds.

If Obama's LGBT and LGBT-supportive staffers and supporters have any clout, they need to inform their guy that Nunn is simply unacceptable. His positions are not in keeping with change or progress—we don't need to court the bigot vote with Nunn on the ticket. I'd love to see Nunn come out and do a Bob Barr and say he was wrong for what he did during the Clinton administration, but I won't hold my breath.

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War spending furthers al-Qaida goal of undermining U.S. economy


As the Congress takes up the latest Bush administration "supplemental" appropriation of another $160 billion for the war in Iraq, the impact of the war on families has been enormous. Montana now has the highest number per capita of killed or wounded in the country - 26.09 per 100,000 population - and a total of 250 deaths or injuries as of May 10.

In fact, the Congress should consider whether the funding - almost a trillion dollars to date - helps al-Qaida more than us. The question of whom the war funding actually helps and its draining of our own needs should be a major issue in the June 3 Montana primary.

In his audio addresses, Osama bin Laden has underscored the importance of hitting economic targets, threatening the United States with financial ruin. Bleeding the U.S. economy is an explicitly stated and oft-repeated aim of al-Qaida. In 2004, soon after the war began, bin Laden stated clearly: "The Mujahedeen have finally forced Bush to have recourse to an emergency budget in order to continue the fight in Afghanistan and Iraq, which indicates the success of the plan to exhaust (them) to the point of bankruptcy, God willing." Bin Laden emphasized the economic nature of the targets chosen in New York City for the Sept. 11 attacks, proclaiming it to be "very important to concentrate on striking the American economy by every possible means."

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Iraqis claim Marines are pushing Christianity in Fallujah

Marines handing out coins with a Gospel verse

U.S. Marines are handing out this coin, imprinted with a Gospel verse, to Fallujah residents.

By Jamal Naji and Leila Fadel

FALLUJAH, Iraq — At the western entrance to the Iraqi city of Fallujah Tuesday, Muamar Anad handed his residence badge to the U.S. Marines guarding the city. They checked to be sure that he was a city resident, and when they were done, Anad said, a Marine slipped a coin out of his pocket and put it in his hand.

Out of fear, he accepted it, Anad said. When he was inside the city, the college student said, he looked at one side of the coin. "Where will you spend eternity?" it asked.

He flipped it over, and on the other side it read, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16."

"They are trying to convert us to Christianity," said Anad, a Sunni Muslim like most residents of this city in Anbar province. At home, he told his story, and his relatives echoed their disapproval: They'd been given the coins, too, he said.

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The terrorists won

McCain’s about-face on Yucca

By Jon Ralston

"I would seek to establish an international repository for spent nuclear fuel that could collect and safely store materials overseas that might otherwise be reprocessed to acquire bomb-grade materials. It is even possible that such an international center could make it unnecessary to open the proposed spent nuclear fuel storage facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada."

— John McCain, 5/27/08

If a man told you for years that he didn't love you, essentially had no regard for you at all, and then suddenly, when he needed you, told you he adored you, would you fall for it?

As John McCain, alighting in Reno today, tries to woo Nevada voters, he is hoping for the kind of short-term memory loss Christopher Nolan wrote about and filmed in "Memento." If Nevadans keep forgetting what he has said and done before, McCain might actually be able to convince voters here that his love for the state has simply been well-hidden. Very well-hidden.

Voters everywhere are used to being treated like ingenuous dumbbells by politicians trolling for their votes. But not since George W. Bush declined all interviews on the subject and uttered his "sound science" mantra has a White House hopeful so obviously taken the state for a bunch of rubes.

McCain made his comments in Denver as part of a larger speech on nuclear power the day before he is scheduled to be in Northern Nevada, which is either one of the largest coincidences in the history of politics or a calculated strategy to help him win a pivotal swing state. (Not that he needs to be right on Yucca Mountain, which will probably factor into few Nevadans' decisions in November, if history is any guide. Just ask the president.)

McCain's proposal would seem more sincere if only he hadn't been so sincerely committed to the dump — and been so unabashed and frank about his support. But on the eve of his trip to Reno and on the eve of a general election in which Nevada could well be critical, the Straight Talk Express took a detour from its planned stop at Yucca Mountain.

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Photos of chicken forming in egg



Here's one photo of a series of about 20 photos showing a chicken developing in an egg. Before I saw these photos I had always thought that the yolk turned into a chicken, but it looks like the chicken forms outside of the yolk and absorbs the yolk as it develops.


Is a boy from a Malawi orphanage better off with Madonna?

What happened
A court in Malawi has approved the adoption of David Banda, a native of the country, by pop star Madonna and her husband, film director Guy Ritchie. The adoption proceedings began in October 2006, when Madonna first met David at an orphanage—his mother died of an AIDs-related illness and his father couldn't care for him. Critics have accused Malawi's government of skirting adoption laws concerning non-residents and pandering to celebrities. (BBC News)

What the commentators said
Congratulations to Madonna and her new son, said celebrity blogger Perez Hilton. Yes, the adoption has been very controversial, but in the end, even Johane Banda—the boy's father—wanted Madonna to have custody. Also, Malawi's AIDS epidemic has left over 1 million children without parents—Madonna is providing much-needed care for this child.

Who says this is what's best for the child? said the conservative blog Vanishing American. "Adopting a child from a Third World country is the thing to do in certain sets," but "children in cross-racial adoptions tend to have identity issues." Madonna has proven herself as a "quintessential liberal" who believes that "the other races are incapable of taking care of themselves," so they need "constant infusions of money and other aid from us in order to survive."

Have a heart, said Gina Serpe in E! Online. "The Ritchies have been caring for David, who turns 3 in November, in their London home since October 2006." The court had to "humor" a humanitarian group screaming about how this adoption is against the law and "opens the door to less well-intentioned foreigners to adopt" from the African nation, but this child has "finally, at long last," been given the right to stay with his new family.

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Hemp for Vermont Bill Becomes Law

VH Alert header

Hemp for Vermont Bill Becomes Law
State Wants Federal Permission for Farmers to Grow Hemp

MONTPELIER, Vermont (May 30, 2008) — Vote Hemp, a grassroots advocacy organization working to give farmers the right to grow non-drug industrial hemp, is extremely pleased that Vermont Governor Jim Douglas allowed H.267, the Hemp for Vermont Bill, to become law without his signature yesterday afternoon. The bill overwhelmingly passed both the House (126 to 9) and the Senate (25 to 1). The new law sets up a state-regulated program for farmers to grow non-drug industrial hemp, which is used in a wide variety of products, including nutritious foods, cosmetics, body care, clothing, tree-free paper, auto parts, building materials and much more. Learn more about industrial hemp at the Vote Hemp Web site.

Smart and effective grassroots organizing by Vote Hemp and the Vermont-based advocacy group Rural Vermont mobilized farmers and local businesses, many of which pledged to buy their hemp raw materials in-state if they have the opportunity. Rural Vermont Director Amy Shollenberger says that "the Hemp for Vermont bill is another step toward legalizing this important crop for farmers. The United States is the only industrialized nation in the world that doesn't allow this crop to be grown. Looking at the Canadian experience, hemp provides a good return for the farmer. It's a high-yield crop and a great crop to mix in with corn."

Vermont grows an average of 90,000 acres of corn per year, a small amount compared to Midwest states; however, the need for a good rotation crop exists nationwide. From candle makers to dairymen to retailers, Vermont voters strongly support hemp farming. Admittedly a niche market now, hemp is becoming more common in stores and products across the country every day. Over the past ten years, farmers in Canada have grown an average of 16,500 acres of hemp per year, primarily for use in food products. In Vermont, the interest in hemp includes for use in food products, as well as in quality and affordable animal bedding for the state's estimated 140,000 cows.

"Vermont's federal delegation can now take this law to the U.S. Congress and call for a fix to this problem of farmers missing out on a very useful and profitable crop," comments Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp. "North Dakota farmers who want to grow hemp per state law are currently appealing their lawsuit in the federal courts. The real question is whether these hemp-friendly state congressional delegations feel compelled to act," adds Steenstra.

Rural Vermont's Shollenberger states that "the Vermont law is significant for two reasons. First, no other state until now has followed North Dakota's lead by creating real-world regulations for farmers to grow industrial hemp. Second, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont is Chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary, as well as a member of the Committee on Agriculture — relevant committees that could consider legislation. We also have a friend at the USDA in new Secretary Ed Schaffer who signed North Dakota's hemp bill as Governor. I plan to visit Washington, DC and try to figure out what Congress and the Administration intend to do."

Vote Hemp, Inc.
Adam Eidinger
Communications Director
phone: 202-744-2671

Tom Murphy
National Outreach Coordinator
phone: 207-542-4998

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Please contact us for large or wholesale quantities.


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McCain's Medical Problems

Conyers to DEA: Back off

DEA vs. CA

from: Bonnie Goldstein

Since 1996, California laws have permitted citizens to use marijuana "for medical purposes." But the drug remains illegal under federal law, and the Drug Enforcement Agency regularly shuts down cannabis dispensaries in the state. Last month John Conyers Jr., chairman of the House judiciary committee, wrote DEA Acting Administrator Michele Leonhart (see below and on the following two pages) questioning the "dramatically intensified … frequency of paramilitary-style enforcement raids" on authorized users and suppliers. Conyers asked for an accounting of the agency's costs for these measures against "individuals who suffer from severe or chronic illness" and for its rationale for threatening landlords of licensed dispensaries with "arrest and forfeiture of their property." Meanwhile, the California State Legislature is considering a measure that would allow state and local law enforcement agencies to refuse cooperation with the DEA.

Barack Obama's presidential campaign told the San Francisco Chronicle last week that if elected president, Obama would curb federal enforcement on state medical marijuana suppliers.

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The Costanza Energy Policy: 25 Ways to Drive Oil to $150

On last night's Kudlow & Co., I discussed how absurd US energy policy is.

The United States is heavily  dependent on fossil fuels (>80%), most of which come from places we would rather not send our money to. We consume 26% of the world's energy, with only 3% of the world's known oil reserves.

It turns out that for the past 3 decades, we've had a George Costanza Energy policy -- every decision we have made as a country has worked to drive energy prices higher. Had we made the opposite decisions, Crude Oil prices would be much lower than they are today ($130.17 as I type this).   

What follows is a list of energy-related policies of the United States. On many of these, I have no opinion -- but I wanted to list as many as I could to demonstrate why Oil is where it is

US Policies with an impact on Energy:   

1. Limited areas available for offshore drilling;

2. Stopped the rise of CAFE standards for automobiles;

3. Restricted nuclear power generation of Electrical;

4. Federal Reserve policies since 2001 led to a very weak US dollar (raising Oil prices);

5. Energy conservation policies? None

6. Iraq and Afghanistan wars contributing to Middle East tensions

7. No major United States funding for R&D on energy;

8. Kept CAFE standards for light trucks/SUVs much lower than autos;

9. Failed to raise efficiency standards for appliances for decades;

10. Provided no tax incentives for consumer purchases of hybrid automobiles;

11. Suburban Sprawl: Americans, on average, live further from where they work than Europeans do;

12. Mass transit system not a high priority;

13. Allowed tax credits for residential solar power to expire;

14. No special capital gains treatment for VC investment

15. Ridiculous corn ethanol policy helped drive food prices higher also;

16. Amongst the lowest gasoline taxes in the developed world;

17. No special capital gains tax treatment for clean energy technology development;

18. Created a tax incentive (ADCS) that encouraged purchases of large inefficient vehicles;

19. Game changing breakthroughs over the past decades in solar, battery, or energy generation technologies? None

20. Exempted light trucks, SUVs, and pickups from gas-guzzler tax;

21. Discouraged clean coal, including gas liquification from coal;

22. Limited (or non-existent) state tax incentives for building energy efficient homes;

23. Failed to aggressively promote compact fluorescent light bulb;

24. Limited hydro-electric power generation;

25. Aggressive tax incentives for battery technology development? None

26. Failed to aggressively promote efficiency improvements for residential energy use, transmission of power, or consumption;

27. No new oil refineries built in the USA over the past 25 years.


And that's just off the top of my head.

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Art Made of Fat, Velvet Liberace and the Discovery of Bone

JF Ptak Science Books LLC   Post #100

In the world of found book objects, few I think are as deeply removed and as deeply obscure as the work by Otto F. Fleiss called White Art in the Meat Food Business.  A Practical Handbook for Butcher, Pork Stores, Restaurants, Hotels and Delicatessens on How to Make Lasting and Transferable White Art Decorations out of Bacon Fat Back for Window Displays, Ornaments on Meat Food Cold Buffets and for Exhibits and Advertising Purposes.  Enrich yourself with Personal Knowledge. 


If the title of this book could itself be described in terms of food, I think that I'd have to call it a (warm) Slim Jim Egg Frosty with a crust of French fries, baked.  Or something like that.  If the exhaustive, exhausting title didn't stop you in your tracks, though, the slim pamphlet holds some indelible, indigestible, eyebrow-burning, flat-out remarkable images.  Working your way through this pamphlet is as much fun as stringing together dirty diapers:  you can enjoy instructions on how to make a vase of roses out of strips of fat, or produce the reverse (?!) portrait of Santa Claus in slabs of fat, or marvel at the photos of Mr. Fleiss' "first prize" (?) 200-pound fat sculpture of a cathedral done entirely in slips and chunks and strips of fat.  (We are told of  Fleiss' "Master Piece" that  "the church is still in existence, having become petrified".  (What a magnificent image is this, the petrified church (made of fat).)

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Xavier Rosset, 300 days alone on an island

French explorer and adventurer Xavier Rosset is about to embark on a 300 day trip to live alone on a remote tropical island in the South Pacific. His adventures will be filmed and used for a 52 minute documentary.

Xavier's only luggage will be a Swiss army knife, machete video camera and a solar panel for charging the camera. He will spend 10 months alone on an island to develop another way of life through an exciting adventure, a return to the elemental sources. Xavier will survive alone on an island without human interference and without polluting emissions.

The ambition of this documentary is to make a reflection on our lifestyle, our current system and our relationship to nature. And the most important thing is to put the dream and emotion at the heart of adventure natural.

He will find timber to build a shelter, feed on the rudimentary fishing, plants and the harvesting of rainwater to survive.

The philosophy of this adventure is quite different than the existing issues which are aimed competition and the elimination of participants through a system of testing and votes. The primary motivation of this documentary is to draw attention to our planet, on our perception of the world around us and different ways to preserve the future.

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Gay marriage is here, but so is the apocalypse

by Mark Morford

The good news: Gas is racing merrily past 4 bucks a gallon, and oil is skipping over a previously unheard-of $130 a barrel and Big Oil execs are snorting like pigs in diamond-crusted mud, and hence people are quickly rethinking their transportive ways, driving less and dumping the land yacht in favor of more Priuses and Mini Coopers and Smart cars, as ultraefficient auto technology suddenly becomes very attractive.

Positive side effects: Bike sales are way up, as are roller skates and electric skateboards and walking shoes and SPF face lotion and hats and sidewalks and strolling amiably through the neighborhood instead of driving, waving casually to the neighbors and saying hi and suddenly noticing all manner of amazing detail, all the flower beds and stoops and architectural curiosities of the city you never really noticed before because you were too busy racing the stoplight to get to Ikea. Just imagine all the happy socioeconomic shifting when gas hits 6, 7, 8 bucks a gallon. Mmm, uncomfortable market-forced behavioral adjustments. It's the American way.

The bad news: Market-forced behavioral adjustments are a bitch. Driving less, walking more, caring about small cars? It's almost unnatural. What's more, it's a shift brought not by any deep concern for the environment but by the fact that it costs $125 to fill the damn Explorer and suddenly you're asking, wait a second: tank of gas or new couch? Tank of gas or case of wine and the mortgage payment? Damn it, we're Americans. We hate thoughtful restraint.

The good news: Gay marriage now legal in California by astonishing (Republican) Supreme Court decree, thus confounding and infuriating and yet secretly titillating the religious right and sending shock waves through the culture as notions of love and marriage get slapped and pinched and urged to finally move a few steps forward because, well, it's about damn time. Bonus: Economy smiles, wedding and divorce industries cheer, lots of delightful social awkwardness as everyone tries to figure out who's the husband and who's the wife.

The bad news: Locusts, plague, apocalypse, people suddenly demanding they be allowed to marry their dog, a lamp, a large wheel of Muenster cheese.

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Wanted Dead or Alive

Give my stimulus check to the rich

Bush has favored the wealthy throughout his administration; why stop now?

By Barbara Garson

Dear President Bush and Laura,

My husband and I have an economic disagreement that has turned personal. We think you can help us. We filed a joint tax return and are expecting a $1,200 check under your plan to jump-start the economy. Here's the problem: My husband wants to spend the money; I want to send it back.

Like you, we believe that the government should not fiddle with the economy. We know that you only yielded under pressure to this so-called stimulus. My husband says you've managed to make it the most free-market stimulus possible. Rather than make a centralized, socialistic decision to repair bridges or some such thing, you have allowed each of us to design our own individual stimulus package. My husband is for exercising the right to democratic spending that you have preserved for him by buying a wood chipper.

I would like to exercise my choice by sending the check back to the Internal Revenue Service so that it can redirect the money to someone in a much higher tax bracket. Those are the people who invest their money to create jobs for the rest of us. I wholeheartedly support your view that people with money should get more money.

We are gratified that you have been true to that philosophy throughout your administration. If the results have not produced the universal prosperity we expected, that is only because you were stopped before you could transfer all the money to the rich.

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Anti-kid modifications to public steps


Over on the always-excellent Architectures of Control in Design blog, Dan Lockton takes special note of an ugly little bit of anti-kid-ism brewing in Sutton, Surrey: the local council, in the name of "cater[ing] for all sections of the local community," is planning to revise a set of steps where kids gather to, you know, sit and talk to each other and hang out in public. The ensuing discussion is, as Dan notes, "a microcosm of the attitudes, assumptions, prejudices and paranoia that define modern Britain's schizophrenic attitude to its 'young people'."

Explaining the need for the changes, St Helier Councillor David Callaghan said: "At the moment the steps are like ready-made seats so changes will be made to make the area less attractive to young people...

[Adrian Short responds:] One thing young people and older people have in common is a desire to be left alone to do their own thing, provided that they are not causing trouble to others. People like Emma and her friends are not. They do not want to be told that they can go to one place but not another. They do not want to be cajoled, corralled and organised by the state — they get enough of that at school. They certainly do not want to be disadvantaged as a group because those in charge — you — are unable to deal appropriately with a tiny minority of troublemakers in their midst.


In-flight surveillance could foil terrorists in the sky

by Michael Reilly

CCTV cameras are bringing more and more public places under surveillance – and passenger aircraft could be next.

A prototype European system uses multiple cameras and "Big Brother" software to try and automatically detect terrorists or other dangers caused by passengers.

The European Union's Security of Aircraft in the Future European Environment (SAFEE) project uses a camera in every passenger's seat, with six wide-angle cameras to survey the aisles. Software then analyses the footage to detect developing terrorist activity or "air-rage" incidents, by tracking passengers' facial expressions.

The system performed well in tests this January that simulated terrorist and unruly passenger behaviour scenarios in a fake Airbus A380 fuselage, say the researchers that built it.

Systems to analyse CCTV footage – for example, to detect violence (with video) or alert CCTV operators to unusual events – have been designed before. But the SAFEE software must cope with the particularly challenging environment of a full aircraft cabin.

Threat indicators

As crew and passengers move around they often obscure one another, causing a risk the computer will lose track of some of the hundreds of people it must monitor. To get around this, the software constantly matches views of people from different cameras to track their movements.

"It looks for running in the cabin, standing near the cockpit for long periods of time, and other predetermined indicators that suggest a developing threat," says James Ferryman of the University of Reading, UK, one of the system's developers.

Other behaviours could include a person nervously touching their face, or sweating excessively. One such behaviour won't trigger the system to alert the crew, only certain combinations of them.

Ferryman is not ready to reveal specifically which behaviours were most likely to trigger the system. Much of the computer's ability to detect threats relies on sensitive information gleaned from security analysts in the intelligence community, he tells New Scientist.

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Victories For Equal Rights

May 30, 2008
by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, Ali Frick, and Benjamin Armbruster

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Victories For Equal Rights

Earlier this month, the California Supreme Court, "striking down two state laws that had limited marriages to unions between a man and a woman," ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. The 4-3 decision makes California the second state, after Massachusetts, to allow same-sex marriage. The AP reported yesterday that "California officials are telling county clerks that they can start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on June 17." In another victory for equal rights advocates, New York Governor David Paterson (D) this week "instructed state agencies -- including those governing insurance and health care -- to immediately change policies and regulations to recognize gay marriages." Paterson called it "a strong step toward marriage equality." Once civil marriages are available in California and Massachusetts and recognized in New York, "marriage equality will reach around 60 million Americans," noted gay rights activist Andrew Sullivan. When asked to explain the reasoning behind the decision, California Chief Justice Ronald George, a Republican, said, "I think there are times when doing the right thing means not playing it safe."

CONSERVATIVE REACTION: Conservatives are up in arms in response to the New York and California developments. In California, right-wing groups are attempting to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November stating, "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." Organizations will reportedly spend between $10 and $15 million on the initiative. "The initiative will be asking voters to do two disruptive things: change the state constitution and retroactively impugn these already-existing marriages," Sullivan said. Other reactions to the California ruling were even more extreme, such as from the far-right Campaign for Children and Families, who compared the county clerks issuing same-sex marriage licenses to Nazis during the Holocaust. The New York Times reports today that "opponents of same-sex unions were pondering a range of legal and legislative challenges" to Paterson's directive, including a potential lawsuit "from citizens groups." New York Senate majority leader Joseph Bruno (R) "said he would be consulting with lawyers to study constitutional questions raised by Mr. Paterson's directive, suggesting that legal action was a possibility."

A common right-wing response to the California gay marriage ruling is that the justices defied public opinion in ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. "It's outrageous that the court has overturned not only the historic definition of marriage, but the clear will of the people of California," said Family Research Council's Tony Perkins, for example. Several prominent conservatives also launched similar attacks. Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO), former Massachussets governor Mitt Romney, and Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL), falsely claimed the California ruling came from "unelected judges." But the justices were  "confirmed by the public" after being appointed and "also come before voters at the end of their 12-year terms." In fact, each of the seven justices involved in the ruling were approved by overwhelming margins. A Field poll released this week "found that in recent decades, a growing number of Californians have approved allowing same-sex couples to marry, with 51 percent of those polled now approving, up from 44 percent in 2006 and 30 percent in 1985." The poll is the "first ever majority for same-sex marriage in a California poll," Sullivan noted. Beyond the increasingly popular support for marriage equality, courts have an obligation to protect fundamental rights like marriage for historically unpopular minorities.

BENEFITS OF EQUAL RIGHTS: Earlier this week, Schwarzenegger suggested California's economy could grow because of the gay marriage ruling. "I hope that California's economy is booming because everyone is going to come here and get married," he said. The San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau expects a tourism boom this summer, and its website now "promotes a gay travel section" and explains that same-sex couples are "officially allowed to marry in the state of California." In a landmark decision in 2004, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruling made the state the first to legalize same-sex marriage. A 2006 report from the Williams Institute noted that "gay workers who receive domestic-partnership benefits are more comfortable in their work environment and far happier -- and more productive -- than employees who do not receive them." Furthermore, a report from the University of Massachusetts predicted that the Massachusetts marriage ruling could bring over $150 million in new spending in the state within a year. Furthermore, "if same-sex marriages increase general spending, the state will receive higher sales tax revenues as well," the report noted. "Workers who have an unmarried domestic partner are doubly burdened: Their employers typically do not provide coverage for domestic partners; and even when partners are covered, the partner's coverage is taxed as income to the employee,"  the Center for American Progress and Williams Institute noted in December.


FIFA, the world's governing body for soccer, "abruptly lifted the suspension of Iraq's soccer association on Thursday, easing concerns that Iraq's team, a rare symbol of national unity, would be banned from the 2010 World Cup." The organization suspended the team earlier this week after the Iraqi government disbanded Iraq's Olympic Committee.


MINNESOTA: "Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) vetoed a bill that would have deferred some foreclosure sales in the state for up to a year."

ENVIRONMENT: "The number of people who live in coastal areas that are most vulnerable to wind and water has fallen slightly since 2000."

ECONOMY: Transit agencies across the country are paying 44 percent more for fuel this year than last year.


"I think his editor wrote a lot of it."
-- Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer on former White House press secretary Scott McClellan's new tell-all book, 5/28/08


"These are very much the views that I hold today after looking back and reflecting on things and learning from it."
-- McClellan, 5/29/08 | contact us | unsubscribe | archives

Judicial Watch Update: JW Launches FEC Complaint against Pelosi and Gore

May 30, 2008

From the Desk of Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:

Judicial Watch Asks FEC to Investigate House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Al Gore Group for Violating Campaign Finance Laws

This week Judicial Watch filed a formal complaint with the FEC against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection concerning a television advertising campaign that apparently violates federal campaign finance laws.

The "We Campaign" television ads featuring Pelosi and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich are part of a project funded by the Alliance for Climate Protection, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded by former Vice President Al Gore. (We also filed a formal complaint with the Internal Revenue Service as well.)

So how does this television campaign run afoul of campaign finance laws?

Our complaint details how this commercial represents both an in-kind contribution to the Pelosi campaign and a campaign contribution by the Alliance because Speaker Pelosi is a candidate for Congress and the commercial has run within 90 days of her June 3 primary.

Now, according to the FEC, "When an individual or political committee pays for a communication that is coordinated with a candidate or party committee, the communication is considered an in-kind contribution to that candidate or party committee and is subject to the limits, prohibitions and reporting requirements of the federal campaign finance law." (Judicial Watch's complaint details the various ways in which the ad meets the legal definition of a "coordinated communication.")

A press release about the "We Campaign" indicates that the Pelosi advertisement was scheduled to "run nationally on network and cable channels" - which presumably would have included Pelosi's San Francisco, California district. Overall, it has been reported that the commercial "has run about 300 times on national cable networks such as Fox News and CNN," since its debut on April 18, 2008.

Thus far, apparently, neither Speaker Pelosi's campaign nor Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection is prepared to follow the law and properly report the contribution.

The bottom line: This commercial clearly represents an illegal multi-million dollar contribution from Al Gore's organization to Nancy Pelosi's campaign and is absolutely prohibited by law.

Nancy Pelosi and Al Gore may want to the save the world, but they still have to follow federal law. The FEC and the IRS ought to act quickly. I will be sure to keep you posted on what, if anything, these agencies do.

(We've been quite active in trying to get campaign finance laws enforced this election year. We filed an FEC complaint against Hillary on April 14 for her apparently illegal Elton John fundraiser. And then, ten days later, we filed a separate complaint against John McCain for a fundraiser held in London that may have also had illegal foreign support.)

Until next week…

Tom Fitton

Judicial Watch is a non-partisan, educational foundation organized under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue code. Judicial Watch is dedicated to fighting government and judicial corruption and promoting a return to ethics and morality in our nation's public life. To make a tax-deductible contribution in support of our efforts, click here.

Norman Finkelstein and the Future of Israeli Democracy

by Mark A. LeVine

[Mr. LeVine is professor of modern Middle Eastern history, culture, and Islamic studies at the University of California, Irvine, and author of the forthcoming books: Heavy Metal Islam: Rock Religion and the Struggle for the Soul of Islam (Random House/Three Rivers Press, July 8, 2008), and An Impossible Peace: Oslo and the Burdens of History (Zed Books, in press).]

It was ironic, yet quite sad to hear that Norman Finkelstein was denied entry to Israel earlier this week and banned from visiting the country for ten years, after being accused by Israeli security officials of being a "security threat."

Ironic because fifteen years ago I had what at the time seemed like the misfortune of having Finkelstein be the second reader for my Masters Thesis at New York University, whose topic was precisely the evolution of the discourse of security in Zionist thought and policy. I remember how proud I was when I turned in my first draft, and I remember even more strongly how disheartened I was when I received his comments—which were likely longer than the thesis itself, and completely rejected the basic premise of my arguments, and pointed to a vast literature on the history of the Zionist Labor and Revisionist movements that I had not read. It was not a pleasant experience, and I spent much of the summer reading instead of hanging out at Fire Island with friends, but there was no doubt that the final draft of the thesis was a far better exploration of the meaning of security in Zionism and Israeli political discourse than the first draft I turned in.

And not because it was "anti-Zionist" or "anti-Israel," as it was neither. Rather, it was a far more comprehensively and accurately researched argument that better captured the historical grounding of the ideas I was studying.

The whole notion of Finkelstein being a "security threat" is utter nonsense, as his views on Zionism are positively mainstream and do not in any way threaten the idea of Israel as a Jewish state. He is as a matter of fact one of the few so-called "radical" scholars who is explicitly not anti-Zionist. Yes, he can be harshly critical of Israeli policies, and his willingness to elaborate at length on the minutiae of Israeli policies in the Occupied Territories and how they violate international law and norms no doubt annoys the Israeli government as much as it does the organized Jewish community leadership in the US (many of whom would no doubt be happy if he were refused entry back into the US on similar grounds, and had to move to Canada).

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Love jokes are in the air

News Groper: These Blogs Are Not Real

May 29th, 2008

George Clooney is single which got us thinking about romance humor. "A relationship is very much like going to a restaurant with friends. You order what you want, then when you see what the other person has, you wish you had ordered that." Did you enjoy that joke? No? Well it's a good thing we don't get our jokes from joke books. Here are some better ones:

R. Kelly


The News Groper Editors

News Groper is a network of fake parody blogs.
Address: News Groper LLC, 18 Bridge St., Suite 2E, Brooklyn, NY 11201, USA.

The best advice I ever got

8 of 25

Sam Palmisano

Chairman and CEO, IBM

Sam PalmisanoSome of the best advice I ever received was unspoken. Over the course of my IBM career I've observed many CEOs, heads of state, and others in positions of great authority. I've noticed that some of the most effective leaders don't make themselves the center of attention. They are respectful. They listen. This is an appealing personal quality, but it's also an effective leadership attribute. Their selflessness makes the people around them comfortable. People open up, speak up, contribute. They give those leaders their very best. When it comes to specific advice, the best was from a former boss, who told me, "Don't view your career as a linear progression." He advised me to take horizontal rather than vertical steps: to try out situations that are unstructured, to learn different ways of working, and to get outside of headquarters and experience different cultures. I've applied this advice many times - most notably, taking a decidedly unstructured job at IBM Japan and then joining the fledgling IBM services business. After those experiences, I had the confidence that I could manage pretty much anything.

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