Wednesday, June 11, 2008

BBC uncovers lost Iraq billions

By Jane Corbin

A BBC investigation estimates that around $23bn (£11.75bn) may have been lost, stolen or just not properly accounted for in Iraq.

For the first time, the extent to which some private contractors have profited from the conflict and rebuilding has been researched by the BBC's Panorama using US and Iraqi government sources.

A US gagging order is preventing discussion of the allegations.

The order applies to 70 court cases against some of the top US companies.

War profiteering

While George Bush remains in the White House, it is unlikely the gagging orders will be lifted.

To date, no major US contractor faces trial for fraud or mismanagement in Iraq.

The president's Democratic opponents are keeping up the pressure over war profiteering in Iraq.

Henry Waxman who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said: "The money that's gone into waste, fraud and abuse under these contracts is just so outrageous, its egregious.

"It may well turn out to be the largest war profiteering in history."

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U.S. could face glitch in TV converter box program

By Peter Kaplan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. officials are facing a potential glitch in a program designed to help television viewers make the switch to digital TV next year. 

A Commerce Department official told House lawmakers that more money might be needed to mail out all the $40 government coupons that will be available to subsidize converter boxes that some TV owners will need for the February 2009 switchover.

Bernadette McGuire-Rivera, associate director of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, said at a hearing that it was possible the agency "would have to get more money, basically to buy more stamps to send out coupons."

"This sounds like it could be a big problem here," Rep. Edward Markey, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, said at the hearing before the panel.

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Question for Fox News: Do you think any of these people might be terrorists?

Commenting on Barack and Michelle Obama's on-stage "fist bump" before the start of a June 3 speech by Barack Obama, host E.D. Hill previewed a segment on the June 6 edition of Fox News' America's Pulse by saying, "A fist bump? A pound? A terrorist fist jab? The gesture everyone seems to interpret differently."

An Internet search for terms "fist bump," "pound," "dap," and "bumping fists" has revealed images of numerous athletes, celebrities, and politicians performing the same social gesticulation. Does Fox think any of the following might be terrorists?

Fist Bump Example 1

Fist Bump Example 2

Fist Bump Example 3

Fist Bump Example 4

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Calif. high school paper threatened after flag-burning photo

REDDING, Calif. -- A high school principal in Northern California said he will eliminate the student newspaper after it published a front-page photo of a student burning an American flag.

Shasta High School Principal Milan Woollard said the latest issue of the student-run Volcano was embarrassing.

"The paper's done," Woollard told the Record Searchlight newspaper of Redding. "There is not going to be a school newspaper next year."

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John McCain's War on Beer

Prices Leap for Corn and Crude Oil

Chris Flood, writing on Friday at the Financial Times Online, reported that, "Torrential rain across parts of the Midwest pushed US corn prices to record levels on Friday, prompting concerns about the outlook for this year's harvest.

"In Chicago, CBOT July corn jumped 20¾ cents to a record $6.63¼ a bushel, taking gains for this year so far to 45.6 per cent."

The FT article added that, "One trader estimated that about 4m acres of corn and up to 19m acres of soyabeans for this year's harvest have yet to be planted.

"CBOT July soyabeans rose 40 cents to $14.88 a bushel, up 24.1 per cent this year.

"Further rain is expected ahead of a key update from the US Department of Agriculture on Tuesday."

Similarly, Associated Press writer Stevenson Jacobs reported on Friday that, "Corn futures shot up to a record for a second day Friday, driven higher by heavy rain in Midwestern states, a slumping dollar and skyrocketing crude oil prices.

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Fred Hiatt’s Concubine Speaks. You Listen.

by Sadly, No!
Anne Applebaum
ABOVE: Anne Applebaum is concerned for Obama

Republicans have started wracking their brains for clever ways to say, without appearing racist, that Obama's skin color is a reason not to vote for him. Not so long ago we had Tony Blankley saying that not voting for someone because of their skin color wasn't bigotry or racism, it was "demographic consciousness." Now the loathsome Anne Applebaum, a distinguished member of the WaPo editorial board, hits it out of the park with this column where she argues that people shouldn't vote for Obama because some foreigners are racist.

"Will Americans vote for a black man?" I've been asked this question by foreigners of various origins a dozen — or maybe three dozen — times since the U.S. presidential campaign began for real in January. … Which means that it is time to turn this rather offensive question around: Will foreigners accept a black American president? I realize that this, too, may seem like a rather offensive question.

Well, yes it is an offensive question, Anne. And a completely dumb-assed one too, since it seems to suggest that if Obama is elected, the Elysée Palace and the Kremlin will overlook the fact that he's the leader of one of the world's great superpowers and instead start worrying about whether he'll steal the silverware if he's invited to a state dinner.

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In the mid-70's, when Bill Bradley was a star forward for the New York Knicks, he went with his teammates Phil Jackson and Willis Reed to run a basketball clinic at the Oglala Sioux Indian reservation at Pine Ridge, S. D. There he learned the bitter history of the millions of acres of Sioux lands in South Dakota, stolen a century earlier, where now the faces of Presidents are carved into the granite of Mount Rushmore.

In the mid-70's, when Bill Bradley was a star forward for the New York Knicks, he went with his teammates Phil Jackson and Willis Reed to run a basketball clinic at the Oglala Sioux Indian reservation at Pine Ridge, S. D. There he learned the bitter history of the millions of acres of Sioux lands in South Dakota, stolen a century earlier, where now the faces of Presidents are carved into the granite of Mount Rushmore. He said then that if he was ever in a position to do it, he would get the land back for them.

A few years later, in 1978, Mr. Bradley was elected to the United States Senate from New Jersey. And today he announced he would try to make good on his promise by reintroducing legislation to restore to the Sioux 1.3 million acres of Black Hills land that the courts have determined were illegally wrested by President Grant under threat of starvation. 'The Heart of Everything'

''Bill Bradley came there and we all met him when he was a basketball player,'' recalled Charlotte A. Black Elk, a member of the Oglala Sioux, who is also secretary of the Black Hills Steering Committee, an organization of the eight recognized tribes of the original Sioux Nation. ''All the visitors would be taken over to meet my grandmother, Emma Plenty Wolf Hollow Horn, who was 96.''

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Former Bush Donors: Still Hesitant About Backing McCain

John McCain may be the presumed Republican presidential nominee, but he's still not connecting with a critical group of donors the way President Bush did during his 2004 re-election campaign.

The extensive network of partisan supporters that helped President Bush break fundraising records on his way to two terms in office has, for an array of reasons, yet to rally around the Arizona senator.

According to a Congressional Quarterly analysis, only about 5,000 of the 62,800 donors who gave the maximum contribution of $2,000 to Bush — roughly 8 percent — had given to McCain as of April 30.

Although the general election is still months away, the hesitancy on the part of former Bush donors may point to larger fundraising challenges for McCain. So far, he has been out-raised by his Democratic counterparts, tallying only $101 million in receipts through the end of April compared to $272 million for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama , the presumed Democratic nominee. The huge fundraising gap represents a monumental switch from the past two presidential elections, when Bush enjoyed a significant fundraising edge over his Democratic opponents. At this stage of the campaign in 2004, the president had raised nearly $204 million.

"It's early, but there are troubling signs that he's not getting financial support from significant numbers of Republicans," said Jan Baran, a campaign finance attorney with Wiley Rein and a former counsel to the Republican National Committee.

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Abramoff's White House "Fruit"


Despite administration denials, superlobbyist-turned-felon Jack Abramoff did have political traction in the White House, according to a damning draft report released Monday by Rep. Henry Waxman's (D-Calif.) House government oversight committee. Among the findings: Before he was disgraced, Abramoff provided gifts and meals to White House officials, met with President George W. Bush at least six times, and influenced a State Department dismissal and a presidential political endorsement.

While the draft report does not allege that Abramoff influenced any decision taken by President Bush himself, the latest revelations seem to confirm the conclusions of an earlier oversight committee report sketching out Abramoff's influence in the White House. The first report, issued in September 2006, used billing records and emails from Abramoff's firm as its main sources of information. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino subsequently attacked the first report for being based on "fraudulent" records, and then-White House spokesman Tony Snow claimed Abramoff "got nothing" from his efforts at 1600 Pennsylvania.

Instead of giving up in the face of the administration's attacks on the committee's first report, Rep. Waxman requested the White House's own information about its contacts with the superlobbyist. The White House's own records confirmed what Tony Snow had denied: Abramoff often got what he wanted from the White House, even when what Abramoff wanted went against the advice of the president's own party. In the new report, the committee hammers the administration for allowing its representatives to initially mischaracterize Abramoff's relationship with the White House: "the White House failed to conduct even the most basic internal investigation of the White House relationship with Mr. Abramoff before making public statements characterizing the connection between Mr. Abramoff and the White House."

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Senate GOP blocks windfall taxes on Big Oil


WASHINGTON - Saved by Senate Republicans, big oil companies dodged an attempt Tuesday to slap them with a windfall profits tax and take away billions of dollars in tax breaks in response to the record gasoline prices that have the nation fuming.

GOP senators shoved aside the Democratic proposal, arguing that punishing Big Oil won't do a thing to lower the $4-a-gallon-price of gasoline that is sending economic waves across the country. High prices at the pump are threatening everything from summer vacations to Meals on Wheels deliveries to the elderly.

The Democratic energy package would have imposed a 25 percent tax on any "unreasonable" profits of the five largest U.S. oil companies, which together made $36 billion during the first three months of the year. It also would have given the government more power to address oil market speculation, opened the way for antitrust actions against countries belonging to the OPEC oil cartel, and made energy price gouging a federal crime.

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Republican Offenders

Abramoff, Jack
Adams, Tom
Adams, Jim
Aiken, Steve
Alishtari, Abdul Tawala Ibn Ali
Allen, Bob
Allen, Claude
Allen, Bill
Alonos, Miram
Anderson, Tom
Ankeney, Randal David
Aragoncillo, Leandro
Atchison, John David R.
Bakker, Jim
Barclay, Bruce
Barnes, Martin G.
Barter, Merrill Robert
Beaird, John
Bena, Parker J.
Beres, Lou
Beverage, Sam
Bird, Calvin
Bland, Wilton Frederick
Blessing, Louis
Bloom, Philip H.
Blundell, Brian
Bobrick, Bill
Boggio, Scott
Botes, Stephan
Boylan, Joe
Brady, Kevin
Brock, Darrell
Broderick, Thomas
Brooks, Howard L
Brown, Shawn
Bryan, John
Bundy, Ted
Burcham, Tom
Burghoff, Matthew
Burt, John Allen
Butler, John
Cagle, Charles "Chig"
Cappelli, Angelo
Carona, Deborah
Carona, Michael S.
Carpenter, Jared
Carroll, Cherie
Casamento, Ricahard
Casseday, Randall
Childers, W.D.
Childs, Keola
Cianci, Vincent
Clark, Donald Ross
Coan, Kevin
Collins, John J.
Colyandro, John
Condos, James
Constantine, Lee
Cooper, Nathan
Corrigan, Larry
Cortelyou, Scott Eller
Coughlin ,Paul
Coutretsis, Andrea
Craig, Larry
Cramer, Carey Lee
Crawford, Lester
Cunningham, Randy "Duke"
Curtin, John R.
Dasen Sr., Richard A.
Davis, Ronnie
Davison, Pat
DeLay, Tom
Delgaudio, Richard A.
DeShon, Ronnie Gene
Dibble, Peter
Dickens, Joshua
Disponett, Dave
Doolittle, John
Doyle, Dan
Doyle, Victoria
Doyle, Brian J.
Druce, Thomas
Druen, Dan
Elizondo, Nicholas
Ellef ,Peter
Elliott, Matthew Joseph
Ellis, James
Fabian, Alan
Fawell, Scott
Federici, Italia
Fields, Vincent
Fleischman, Donald
Fletcher, Earnie
Floren, Livvy
Flory, Michael
Floyd, Larry Dale
Foggo, Kyle "Dusty"
Fossella, Vito J.
Fox., Galen
Franklin, Larry
Frankum, Eddie
Gallagher, Dennis
Gardner, Richard
Garofalo, Dave
Gillin, William
Giordano, Philip
Glavin, Matthew
Gosek, John
Goyette, Richard R.
Graves, David
Grethen, Mark A.
Griles, J. Steven
Groe, Trish
Habay, Jeffrey
Hamilton Jr., John J.
Hansen, Shaun
Harbin, Ben
Harding, Russell
Harris, Mark
Hazlette, Tim
Healy, Chris
Heaton, William
Heldreth, Howard Scott
Hicks, Brian
Hiller, Bradley R.
Hintz, Mike
Hoffman, Debra V.
Holland, Robert
Hooks Sr., Michael
Hopfengardner, Bruce D.
Horsley, Neal
Houchen, Pamela J.
Hughes, J. Marshall
Hurley, Steven M.
Iadanza, Richard
Matricarid, Edmund III
Isenhour, James K.
James, Rayfield
Janklow, Bill
Jensen, Scott
Jones, Jody
Juliano, Richard
Kaelin, Jeffrey
Kauffman, Allen D.
Kelty, Matt
Kerik, Bernie
Kidan, Adam
Kimmerling, Earl "Butch"
King, Lawrence E. "Larry" Jr.
Klaudt, Ted
Kline, Ronald C.
Kohring, Vic
Kontogiannis, Thomas
Kott, Pete
Krusee, Mike
Lambert, James R.
Law, David
Lay ,Michael Aaron
Leonard, Richard
Leung, Katrina
Libby, I. Lewis "Scooter"
Limbaugh, Rush
Linnen, Stephen
Loeper Jr., F. Joseph
Looper, Byran "Low Tax"
Loren-Maltese, Betty
Lukens, Donald "Buz"
Luongo, Gerald J.
Malloy, Patrick G.
Malone, Lance
Martin, Hayes
Mathes Jr., James R.
Matricardi, Edmund III
Matthews, Jon
McCurnin, Joseph
McGee, Charles
McGuire, Patrick Lee
Meadows, Cory
Merla, John
Michael, John
Mixon, Michael
Monteleone Jr., Joseph
Morency, Nicholas
Murgatroyd, Dick
Murphy Jr., Glenn
Nash, James J.
Neal, Rebecca
Newton, Chris
Ney, Bob
Nielsen, Jeffrey
Nighbert, Bill
Nixon Jr., Kenneth E.
Noe, Bernadette
Noe, Thomas
Noonan, Thomas J.
Novak, Lawrence
Nugent, Johnny
O'Grady, Raymond
Oleen, Lana
Owens, Leonard Ray
Palughi, Anthony J.
Parker, Brent
Patti, Jeffrey
Pazuhanich, Mark
Privette, Coy
Prokos, Alexandra
Pugh, Edward
Rader, Dennis L.
Randall, Tom
Randall, Jeffrey Kyle
Rathmann, Rolf
Ravenel, Thomas
Raymond, Allen
Regola, Robert
Renzi, Rick
Rice, Steve
Ringo, Robert R.
RoBold, Warren
Rosen, Steve
Rowland, John
Rudy, Tony
Russell, Beverly
Ryan, George
Safavian, David Hossein
Scanlon, Michael
Scannapieco, Matthew V.
Schepp, Brent
Schofield, Robert T.
Schrenko, Linda
Scott, Randy
Seidensticker, Mark
Shaner, Matt
Shortridge, Tom
Siljander, Mark Deli
Skandalakis, Mitch
Skiles, Paul
Slocum, William
Smeltzer Jr., Fred C.
Smith, Rick
Stanley, Roger "The Hog"
Stillwell, Roger
Stockman, David
Stroupe Jr, Wade
Stumbo, Bobby
Sumrow, Ray
Swartz, David
Symington, Fife
Taff, Adam
Taft, Bob
Tanonaka, Dalton
Tate, Mark
Tebano, Armando
Teele, Arthur
Temple, Merle
Thompson, Joe
Thompson, Donald
Thomson, Gary Russell
Tobin, James
Treffinger, James
Tristano, Michael
Turbyfill, Basil
Van Vleet, Rick D.
Vanderwall, Robin
Velella, Guy J.
Vellanoweth, Robert
Volz, Neil
Wade, Mitchell
Walker, Derek
Warner, Larry
Weissmann, Keith
Weldon ,Terance
Westberg, Craig
Westlake, John E. "Jack"
Westmoreland, Keith
Weyhrauch, Bruce
White, C. Stephen
Wilkes ,Brent
Williams, Robin
Wilson, Bob
Zachares, Mark
Zimmerman, Al

U.S. seeking 58 bases in Iraq, Shiite lawmakers say

By Leila Fadel

BAGHDAD -Iraqi lawmakers say the United States is demanding 58 bases as part of a proposed "status of forces" agreement that will allow U.S. troops to remain in the country indefinitely.

Leading members of the two ruling Shiite parties said in a series of interviews the Iraqi government rejected this proposal along with another U.S. demand that would have effectively handed over to the United States the power to determine if a hostile act from another country is aggression against Iraq. Lawmakers said they fear this power would drag Iraq into a war between the United States and Iran.

"The points that were put forth by the Americans were more abominable than the occupation," said Jalal al Din al Saghir, a leading lawmaker from the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. "We were occupied by order of the Security Council," he said, referring to the 2004 Resolution mandating a U.S. military occupation in Iraq at the head of an international coalition. "But now we are being asked to sign for our own occupation. That is why we have absolutely refused all that we have seen so far."

Other conditions sought by the United States include control over Iraqi air space up to 30,000 feet and immunity from prosecution for U.S. troops and private military contractors. The agreement would run indefinitely but be subject to cancellation with two years notice from either side, lawmakers said.

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Glued Geographic

by Geoffrey A. Fowler

National Geographic magazine dedicated its May issue to China, but some in China had trouble reading it — because pages had been glued together.


The May 2008 issue of National Geographic met with the glue sticks of China's censors (Photo by Sky Canaves)

Readers of the 5,000 copies of the English-language edition distributed in China have reported that pages 44 and 45, which show a map of China, were stuck together. These pages didn't make the often-censored slip-up of treating Taiwan as a separate country, but the concern might have been labeling several borders disputed with Pakistan and India. Another map, on pages 126 and 127, showing the distribution of China's ethnic minorities, was also glued, perhaps because of recent sensitivities over the country's Tibetan population.

Pages 100 and 101, which feature controversial artwork, as well as pages 128 and 129, on dissent, were also censored, presumably for more obvious reasons.

Beth Foster, the magazine's director of communications, says, "It appears that someone connected with local magazine distribution in Asia glued together a few pages of the May English-language issues of National Geographic magazine that were shipped into China. We have not gotten to the bottom of the specifics of this isolated activity, but we have had no communication from or with the Chinese government about this matter."

Calls to China's General Administration of Press and Publication were not answered on Wednesday.

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Get a Free Copy of Everywhere, the Travel Magazine Produced by Telstar Logistics (and You)


Longtime readers of this Internet weblog probably know that Telstar Logistics is a fake company that masquerades a vast multinational conglomorate.  But just as you might imagine, fake companies don't put bread on the table. So without getting too deep into the intricacies of our corporate governance, suffice to say that Telstar Logistics is actually a real business that merely pretends to be a fake company masquerading as a sprawling conglomerate. Got that? We even have a business license to prove it.

All that is by way of saying that for the last few months, Telstar Logistics has been working in collaboration with 8020 Publishing to produce Everywhere, a new travel magazine that combines the dynamism and diversity of the Interweb with the richness and physicality of a glossy print publication.

In plain English, Everywhere is a travel magazine that's created from articles and photographs contributed by members of the online community at The community votes on their favorite contributions, then Telstar Logistics fleet management officer Todd Lappin (who also moonlights as the editor-in-chief of Everywhere) curates the best of the best to produce an inspiring travel magazine that looks fabulous on your coffee table or personal jet. Published contributors receive $100 and a free one-year subscription.

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The Future of Copyright

by Rasmus Fleischer

How relevant is it to declare oneself to be "for" or "against" copyright? Neither the stabilization nor the abolition of the copyright system seems within reach. All we see is a seemingly endless assembly line of new extensions to the law being proposed and enacted. The most recent is the proposed "Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement" (ACTA) [1], to be tabled at next month's G8 meeting in Tokyo, including a clause known as the "Pirate Bay killer" that would force countries to criminalize services that may facilitate copyright infringement, even if not for profit. This is just one example of how copyright law is mutating into something qualitatively different than what it has been in previous centuries.

A very condensed version of copyright history could look like this: texts (1800), works (1900), tools (2000). Originally the law was designed to regulate the use of one machine only: the printing press. It concerned the reproduction of texts, printed matter, without interfering with their subsequent uses. Roughly around 1900, however, copyright law was drastically extended to cover works, independent of any specific medium. This opened up the field for collective rights management organizations, which since have been setting fixed prices on performance and broadcasting licenses. Under their direction, very specific copyright customs developed for each new medium: cinema, gramophone, radio, and so forth. This differentiation was undermined by the emergence of the Internet, and since about the year 2000 copyright law has been pushed in a new direction, regulating access to tools in a way much more arbitrary than anyone in the pre-digital age could have imagined.

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Time travel back to 1000 A.D.: Survival tips

Londenio, a loyal MR reader, asks:

I wanted to ask for survival tips in case I am unexpectedly transported to a random location in Europe (say for instance current France/Benelux/Germany) in the year 1000 AD (plus or minus 200 years). I assume that such transportation would leave me with what I am wearing, what I know, and nothing else. Any advice would help.

I hope you have an expensive gold wedding band but otherwise start off by keeping your mouth shut.  Find someone who will take care of you for a few days or weeks and then look for employment in the local church.  Your marginal product is quite low, even once you have learned the local language.  You might think that knowing economics, or perhaps quantum mechanics, will do you some good but in reality people won't even think your jokes are funny.  Even if you can prove Euler's Theorem from memory no one will understand your notation.  I hope you have a strong back and an up to date smallpox vaccination.

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Scientists find monkeys who know how to fish


BANGKOK, Thailand - Long-tailed macaque monkeys have a reputation for knowing how to find food — whether it be grabbing fruit from jungle trees or snatching a banana from a startled tourist. Now, researchers say they have discovered groups of the silver-haired monkeys in Indonesia that fish.

Groups of long-tailed macaques were observed four times over the past eight years scooping up small fish with their hands and eating them along rivers in East Kalimantan and North Sumatra provinces, according to researchers from The Nature Conservancy and the Great Ape Trust.

The species had been known to eat fruit and forage for crabs and insects, but never before fish from rivers.

"It's exciting that after such a long time you see new behavior," said Erik Meijaard, one of the authors of a study on fishing macaques that appeared in last month's International Journal of Primatology. "It's an indication of how little we know about the species."

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Lou Reed: Waiting for the man

Lou Reed's live version of Berlin, now a film, is hailed as his masterpiece. So, is he any easier to interview? Not really...

Lou Reed

Click here to watch the Berlin trailer

To anybody unfamiliar with the stratagems that Lou Reed regularly adopts to unsettle journalists, the scene unfolding in this chic Greenwich Village restaurant would seem pretty weird. Even I, a veteran of four previous encounters with one of rock's most truculent interviewees - and hence no stranger to his bleak stares, sudden interruptions and blank refusals to answer this or that - am confused.

We were scheduled to meet at 12.30 to talk, over lunch, about Lou Reed's Berlin, a concert movie directed by his friend, the artist and film director Julian Schnabel, which opens in UK art-house cinemas in July. After various phone messages to the effect that "Lou is running late", at 3 o'clock a middle-aged stranger walks up to my table, introduces himself as Reed's manager and leads me over to another table on the terrace outside, where he and his client are tucking into their tagliatelle starters. Reed looks up briefly, mumbles something and resumes his conversation with the manager.

Perched beside them, cradling the glass of mineral water that has kept me company for the past 2½ hours, I soon realise that there will be no lunch for me today, and possibly no proper interview, either. What is the old goat playing at?

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Average Income Rose by $73,000 for Households in the Top 1%, Only $20 for Those in Bottom 90%

By Aviva Aron-Dine

Economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez recently issued an updated version of their groundbreaking data series on income inequality in the United States. The data, which are based on Internal Revenue Service (IRS) files, are unique because they provide detailed information on income gains at the top of the income scale, extend back to 1913, and provide the first detailed look at the distribution of income in 2006.

The new data show:

  • Between 2005 and 2006, the average income (before taxes) of the top 1 percent of households increased by $73,000 (or 7 percent), after adjusting for inflation, while the average income of the bottom 90 percent of households increased by just $20 (or 0.1 percent).  (In 2006, the top 1 percent of households were those with incomes above about $375,000.)

  • 2006 marked the fourth straight year in which income gains at the top outpaced those among the rest of the population.  Since 2002, the average income of the top 1 percent of households has risen 44 percent, or $335,000, after adjusting for inflation.  The average income of the bottom 90 percent of households has risen about 3 percent, or about $1,000.  (See Table 1.)

  • As a result, the share of the nation's income flowing to the top 1 percent has increased sharply, rising from 15.8 percent in 2002 to 20.3 percent in 2006.  Not since 1928, just before the Great Depression, has the top 1 percent held such a large share of the nation's income.  (See Figure 1.)  In 2000, at the peak of the 1990s boom, the top 1 percent received 19.3 percent of total income in the nation.

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When Ahmadinejad Speaks, Everyone Says Shut Up

Wittenburg Door
by John Bloom

The ayatollahs told Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to stop talking theology because he's not qualified for ijtihad, which is the independent reasoning necessary for interpreting Islam for the people.

ahmadinejadAhmadinejad stepped over the line when he started receiving direct messages from the Imam Mahdi, or Hidden Imam, who appeared to die in the 8th century but actually went into "occultation" in the spiritual realm, with his body waiting in a cave somewhere (the location varies, but Ahmadinejad says it's near Qum) so that he can return as the Islamic messiah, reigning with Jesus to fight the anti-Christ and seeking vengeance for the massacre of Husayn's army at Karbala in 680. (Islamic end times theology is almost as bizarre as Tim LaHaye's.) At any rate, the Hidden Imam has been sending messages lately, according to Ahmadinejad, directing the policies of the current Iranian government. This went far beyond Ahmadinejad's previous remarks about wanting to "hasten the emergence" of the Imam and made all the ayatollahs pucker as one in their hidden places.

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DHS spends millions on bus kill-switches to stop Osama bin Laden from reenacting the movie "Speed"


Bus services across America are spending a fortune on driver-side kill-switches for busses that have been hijacked by terrorists that can stop them or slow them to five miles per hour. This is to stop terrorist from ramming busses into buildings.

So now, I suppose, terrorists will have to content themselves with activating the kill-switch signals to make every bus on every freeway in America slam to a stop all at once, causing massive fatalities and snarling the nation's traffic in a weeks-long, gory jam.

Nice one, movie-plot-fighters!

Private bus companies have received millions of dollars from the Department of Homeland Security for the security systems. It costs $1,500 to equip each bus, with $50-per-bus monthly maintenance costs.

Gray Line double-decker tourist buses and Coach USA have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal funds to install 3,000 devices. After receiving a $124,000 federal grant, DeCamp Bus Lines is installing the device on its 80 commuter buses, which travel routes from northern New Jersey to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown.

New Jersey Transit is currently in the process of equipping all of its roughly 3,000 buses with the technology. NJ Transit Chief of Police Joseph Bober said: "This enhanced technology helps us protect our bus drivers and customers. It's another proactive tool to protect our property, employees and customers."

Link (via Schneier)

Articles of Impeachment

Dennis Kucinich -

Articles of Impeachment

Dear Friend:

Under circumstances that can best be described as "suspicious," the website was crippled early this morning a few hours after Congressman Dennis Kucinich introduced 35 extensively documented Articles of Impeachment against President George W. Bush.

Until we can restore the website and implement additional security measures, you can find the full list and detailed Articles at

If you would like to show your support for the Congressman's efforts, please go to to offer your comments and provide us with contact information so that we can continue to keep you informed.

Thank you
Committee to Re-Elect Congressman Kucinich

Paid for by the Re-Elect Congressman Kucinich Committee

PO Box 110475 | Cleveland | OH | 44111 | 216-252-9000

The U.S. Has No Remaining Grain Reserves

 Tri State Observer, Milford, PA

WASHINGTON - Larry Matlack, President of the American Agriculture Movement (AAM), has raised concerns over the issue of U.S. grain reserves after it was announced that the sale of 18.37 million bushels of wheat from USDA's Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust.

"According to the May 1, 2008 CCC inventory report there are only 24.1 million bushels of wheat in inventory, so after this sale there will be only 2.7 million bushels of wheat left the entire CCC inventory," warned Matlack. "Our concern is not that we are using the remainder of our strategic grain reserves for humanitarian relief. AAM fully supports the action and all humanitarian food relief. Our concern is that the U.S. has nothing else in our emergency food pantry. There is no cheese, no butter, no dry milk powder, no grains or anything else left in reserve. The only thing left in the entire CCC inventory will be 2.7 million bushels of wheat which is about enough wheat to make 1⁄2 of a loaf of bread for each of the 300 million people in America."

The CCC is a federal government-owned and operated entity that was created to stabilize, support, and protect farm income and prices. CCC is also supposed to maintain balanced and adequate supplies of agricultural commodities and aids in their orderly distribution.

"This lack of emergency preparedness is the fault of the 1996 farm bill which eliminated the government's grain reserves as well as the Farmer Owned Reserve (FOR)," explained Matlack. "We had hoped to reinstate the FOR and a Strategic Energy Grain Reserve in the new farm bill, but the politics of food defeated our efforts. As farmers it is our calling and purpose in life to feed our families, our communities, our nation and a good part of the world, but we need better planning and coordination if we are to meet that purpose. AAM pledges to continue our work for better farm policy which includes an FOR and a Strategic Energy Grain Reserve."

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We Got Your Lotus Position Right Here

Wittenburg Door
by John Bloom


The Dalai Lama is getting dissed everywhere he goes now. He had a big rally at the Brandenburg Gate, but the Germans were obviously not pleased that he was in the country. When he spent 11 days traipsing around England, nobody answered the door at 10 Downing Street. Meanwhile, those inscrutable Chinese cut off access to Mount Kailash in the Himalayas, where thousands of Hindus journey every summer to get close to Lord Shiva. Somebody should brief the Politburo: he's a Buddhist, not a Hindu. Don't be mean when you tell them, though. China demanded an apology from CNN when a commentator said after the Tibet riots that China's leadership is "basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they've been for the last 50 years." Here's the punch line, though: CNN apologized! Here's the better punch line: when China said the apology was insufficient, CNN apologized again with a better apology! CNN's president is named Jim Walton, and Jim apparently didn't play enough dodgeball in junior high.

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