Friday, July 25, 2008

Where your gas money is going


The Palm Islands in Dubai.  New Dutch dredging technology was used to create these massive man made islands.  They are the largest artificial islands in the world and can be seen from space.  Three of these Palms will be made with the last one being the largest of them all.

Felons Seeking Bush Pardon Near a Record

by: Charlie Savage

President Bush attends a turkey-pardoning ceremony on Thanksgiving in 2006. In the next few months, the Bush administration will decide whether to grant pre-emptive pardons to officials involved in questionable "counterterrorism" practices, to ensure that those officials will not be vulnerable to prosecution under future administrations. (Photo:

    Washington - Felons are asking President Bush for pardons and commutations at historic levels as he nears his final months in office, a time when many other presidents have granted a flurry of clemency requests.

    Among the petitioners is Michael Milken, the billionaire former junk bond king turned philanthropist, who is seeking a pardon for his 1990 conviction for securities fraud, the Justice Department said. Mr. Milken sought a pardon eight years ago from President Bill Clinton, and submitted a new petition in June.

    In addition, prominent federal inmates are asking Mr. Bush to commute their sentences. Among them are Randy Cunningham, the former Republican congressman from California; Edwin W. Edwards, a former Democratic governor of Louisiana; John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban; and Marion Jones, the former Olympic sprinter.

    The requests are adding to a backlog of nearly 2,300 pending petitions, most from "ordinary people who committed garden-variety crimes," said Margaret Colgate Love, a clemency lawyer.

Russia contemplates using Cuba to refuel nuclear bombers

 Russia denies reports in Kremlin mouthpiece
· Talk highlights Russian anger at US missile defence
A Russian Tupolev-160 bomber during a combat training flight near the Engels air force base in the Saratov region of Russia, about 700 km (450 miles) southeast of Moscow

A Russian Tupolev-160 bomber during a combat training flight near the Engels air force base in the Saratov region of Russia, about 700 km (450 miles) southeast of Moscow. Photograph: AP

Russia is considering the use of bases in Cuba for its nuclear bombers, in a move that revives memories of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, according to reports in a Russian newspaper.

Russian military sources said that Moscow is contemplating using Cuba as a refuelling base for its nuclear-bomb carrying aircraft. The move would be in retaliation for the Bush administration's plan to site a missile defence shield in Europe.

Russia objects vehemently to the Pentagon's plan. It says the US's proposed system in Poland and the Czech republic – which formally agreed a deal with Washington last week – poses a direct threat to Russia and its security.

According to a report in Monday's Izvestiya newspaper - which closely reflects Kremlin thinking - Russia now wants to use Cuba as a base for its long-range Tu-160 and Tu-95 strategic nuclear bombers. Citing a "highly-placed military source", the paper said discussions had taken place.

Is Afghanistan a Narco-State?

John Moore/Getty Images


A crop in Helmand Province in 2006. An unlikely coalition of corrupt Afghan officials, timorous Europeans, blinkered Pentagon officers and the Taliban has made poppy cultivation stubbornly resistant to eradication.

On March 1, 2006, I met Hamid Karzai for the first time. It was a clear, crisp day in Kabul. The Afghan president joined President and Mrs. Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Ambassador Ronald Neumann to dedicate the new United States Embassy. He thanked the American people for all they had done for Afghanistan. I was a senior counternarcotics official recently arrived in a country that supplied 90 percent of the world's heroin. I took to heart Karzai's strong statements against the Afghan drug trade. That was my first mistake.

Over the next two years I would discover how deeply the Afghan government was involved in protecting the opium trade — by shielding it from American-designed policies. While it is true that Karzai's Taliban enemies finance themselves from the drug trade, so do many of his supporters. At the same time, some of our NATO allies have resisted the anti-opium offensive, as has our own Defense Department, which tends to see counternarcotics as other people's business to be settled once the war-fighting is over. The trouble is that the fighting is unlikely to end as long as the Taliban can finance themselves through drugs — and as long as the Kabul government is dependent on opium to sustain its own hold on power.

It wasn't supposed to be like this.

Shell Revives Age Old Lime To Oceans Project In A Bid To Combat Global Warming

It's been a while since the last big to-do about adding limestone to the planet's oceanic waters, but researchers sponsored by oil company Shell are saying that they've found the ultimate solution this time.

Adding limestone extracts to the surface of the planet's oceans will dramatically lower the emission of CO2 into the atmosphere. This is because adding lime to seawater creates an increase in alkalinity, which in turn improves the water's ability to scrub the air clean of carbon.

As early as the 1990s scientists have been working on similar plans. But most projects ran into trouble because the logistics of getting masses of limestone to certain locations was calculated to generate even more CO2. Various other problems were also cited, including the costs of actually extracting lime from limestone.

But the Shell sponsored feasibility study, recently reported in Chemistry & Industry magazine is promising. The project's coordinator, Gilles Bertherin, cites potentially massive ecological benefits from adding limestone to the waters. "Adding calcium hydroxide to seawater will also mitigate the effects of ocean acidification, so it should have a positive impact on the marine environment," according to Bertherin. Corven, as a management consultant, calculated that by using local means wherever possible, the plan is going to be feasible.

John McCain, please log on

The crusty ol' Repub says he has no clue how to use a computer. Isn't that cute?

You know what's funny and cute and just a little bit sad? Wacky old pre-industrial war-hungry guys admitting they don't know a computer from a microwave oven, a hyperlink from a heart med, can't turn on one of those newfangled PC things if his life depended on it and/or he wanted to see what his weird tattooed bi-curious grandson is posting on his MySpace home docking station whateveryoucallit. Adorable!

Cuter still is when said wisecrackin' curmudgeon admits he depends on the wife to show him how it all works, to log on and open a browser and check e-mail and describe what it all might mean out there in Interweb Cybertown, as you get the distinct feeling the old guy has no idea what makes it go and believes all this crazy gizmongery is for troublemakin' whippersnappers anyway, as he pines for the days of teletype machines and prop aeroplanes. Charming!

Or, you know, maybe not. Because you know what's depressing and just a bit beyond sad? A serious presidential candidate — that is to say, yours — who thinks it's harmless that he's actually one of those guys, who admits he's a complete Luddite when it comes to computers and, by extension, most every aspect of modern multimedia and technology, except perhaps the exact specs of the nuke required to annihilate Iran and/or take out a big pile of "gooks."

See, word has gotten out. Your boy John McCain says has no clue how to work a computer. He's an admitted tech illiterate, couldn't Google his way out of a DailyKos to save his Yahoo.

But here's the disturbing part: This confession of ignorance apparently bothers him and his campaign not at all, as they apparently believe any sort of tech know-how isn't really required to run our deeply busted-up ship of state, that you need no real firsthand experience with the most definitive technology of the past 100 years to make decisions that affect the entire planet. Go figure.

So then, the valid question: Is it a big deal? Should you care? Because McCain's I'm-just-a-clueless-old-guy comment has caused a bit a stir, with anyone with a functioning DSL line calling it a bit of an embarrassment, a bit like running for captain of the swim team while admitting all you know how to do is splash around in the bathtub. Gosh, Senator, don't you think you need just a passing understanding of the culture in which you live to qualify you to oversee the damnable place? Doesn't it help?

Maybe not. Maybe McCain's apologists are right, the POTUS really doesn't need to have a working knowledge of what hundreds of millions of people use every day to live, work, communicate, shop and blog and breed and porn and tube and book. Hell, just look at President Bush — still giggles every time Laura plugs in the air popcorn popper, has an Irish drinking song as a ringtone, enjoys a working grasp of the English language that borders on infantile. Really, who says a president has to be even modestly versed in the culture of his or her day? Or even passably competent?

But then, that's not really the point, is it? The point, of course, is about social interconnection. It's about understanding the basic workings of one of the most powerful, fundamental engines of modern society, its staggering impact and consequence and reach. To not use or comprehend computers and the Net in 2008 is to basically confess to your own cultural irrelevance.

A Textbook Case of Intolerance

Changing the world one schoolbook at a time.

Because they are so clearly designed for the convenience of large testing companies, I had always assumed that multiple-choice tests, the bane of any fourth grader's existence, were a quintessentially American phenomenon. But apparently I was wrong. According to a report put out by the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom last week, it seems that Saudi Arabians find them useful, too. Here, for example, is a multiple-choice question that appears in a recent edition of a Saudi fourth-grade textbook, Monotheism and Jurisprudence, in a section that attempts to teach children to distinguish "true" from "false" belief in god:

Q. Is belief true in the following instances:
a) A man prays but hates those who are virtuous.
b) A man professes that there is no deity other than God but loves the unbelievers.
c) A man worships God alone, loves the believers, and hates the unbelievers.

The correct answer, of course, is c). According to the Wahhabi imams who wrote this textbook, it isn't enough just to worship god or just to love other believers—it is important to hate unbelievers as well. By the same token, b) is also wrong. Even a man who worships god cannot be said to have "true belief" if he loves unbelievers.

Supply-Side Education

The Chronicle of Higher Education
The Chronicle Review


What explains the growing gap in wages?

In a 1996 television interview that was partly shot in an elementary-school computer lab, Laura D'Andrea Tyson, who was then chair of Bill Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers, tried to explain rising inequality in America.

"In the early 1970s," Tyson said, "a college graduate earned something like 45 percent more than a high-school graduate. Today a college graduate earns 84 percent more than a high-school graduate. What's happened is the technology has increased the demands for higher skills."

Computers did it. Among both Democrats and Republicans, that is one of the most frequently cited explanations for the post-1975 spike in American wage inequality. As the story goes, information technology has transformed almost every job, increasing employers' thirst for workers with advanced skills and college credentials. In the lingo of economists, this is "skills-biased technological change."

But that story is at best a half-truth, according to a new book by two professors of economics at Harvard University. The authors, Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz, don't deny that American employers' demand for skills has been rising. But they say that that demand has been rising at a roughly constant rate for the last century. Contrary to popular belief, they argue, the personal computer and the Internet have not caused a sharp leap in employers' demand for skill.

So if demand doesn't explain the recent rise in inequality, what does? Look to the supply side of the equation, Goldin and Katz say: America simply isn't educating its citizens the way it used to.

Val Kilmer proclaims himself 3rd best Batman of all-time

News Groper: These Blogs Are Not Real

July 24th, 2008

Batman fever swept the world and here on News Groper, we had not one, but four Batman-related posts. The best of the batch? Val Kilmer's "Christian Bale's arrest catapults me to 3rd best Batman." Read that and these other great posts...

Val Kilmer


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.
Copyright © 2008 News Groper LLC. All rights reserved.


Torn apart by war, kept apart by suspicion
children, her father and a grandchild to join them in the United States. But their immigration is being held up because officials suspect her daughters of helping terrorist groups. Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff

Losi Grodya works two jobs, has a driver's license, is working on a community college degree and is readying to take her U.S. citizenship exam.

Despite all she has accomplished since settling in Lexington as a refugee from her native Democratic Republic of Congo nearly six years ago, she feels helpless when she talks on the phone with her daughters. Their home has been a Rwandan refugee camp for the past four years.

"They ask me when they are coming. Why is it taking so long? They tell me since I am in America, I must be able to do something to get them to come, but I've tried everything I can," Grodya said. "I just want them to come here so we can all be together again. ... But I can't even do that."

Her daughters, who as of late January were approved by U.S. officials to join her in Lexington as refugees, have seen their cases caught up in a post-9/11 provision in the Patriot Act that bars people from entering the United States if suspected of aiding a terrorist group.

Known as the material support bar, the law was also at the center of a high-profile case in April in which a Transylvania University student faced deportation to his native Sudan. Authorities said that because Lino Nakwa was kidnapped as a 12-year-old and spent a month in the training camp of a rebel group considered terrorists by the U.S. government, he was ineligible for a green card.

After a letter-writing campaign and intervention by Kentucky elected officials in Washington, Nakwa's case is waiting to be reviewed by Michael Chertoff, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

After months of delay, Grodya learned last week that her daughters are suspected of providing material support to a terrorist group. But she doesn't know precisely what they are suspected of doing.

U.S. Rushes to Change Workplace Toxin Rules

By Carol D. Leonnig

Political appointees at the Department of Labor are moving with unusual speed to push through in the final months of the Bush administration a rule making it tougher to regulate workers' on-the-job exposure to chemicals and toxins.

The agency did not disclose the proposal, as required, in public notices of regulatory plans that it filed in December and May. Instead, Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao's intention to push for the rule first surfaced on July 7, when the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) posted on its Web site that it was reviewing the proposal, identified only by its nine-word title.

The text of the proposed rule has not been made public, but according to sources briefed on the change and to an early draft obtained by The Washington Post, it would call for reexamining the methods used to measure risks posed by workplace exposure to toxins. The change would address long-standing complaints from businesses that the government overestimates the risk posed by job exposure to chemicals.

The rule would also require the agency to take an extra step before setting new limits on chemicals in the workplace by allowing an additional round of challenges to agency risk assessments.

CBS edits McCain gaffe from interview, provides fake answer for viewers to cover for McCain

by John Aravosis

This one is hard to even explain, it's so bizarre. McCain, looking just awful on camera, made yet another major gaffe about national security policy, on CBS. So what did Katie Couric do? She aired the interview with McCain, aired the question that led to the gaffe, and then inserted an "answer" to the question that wasn't the real gaffe-filled answer - it was something McCain said in a total other part of the interview. It's absolutely astounding how far the corporate media is willing to go in order to defend John McCain. And seriously, take a good look at McCain in this video, I was kind of shocked by his appearance - he doesn't look well at all.


Beyond Sicko


Because this was happening a short taxi ride from the White House, I half expected someone from Dick Cheney's office to burst in at any moment, grab the microphone and proclaim the conference kaput, dissolved like an inconvenient parliament.

"I think this may be the best day of my life," Dr. Julie Gerberding, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said at the opening of the 2008 Leaders-to-Leaders Conference she convened the other week, along with the country's state and county public health officials. The agenda: To build a bottom-up coalition to change how America deals with health, to shift our focus from health care to healthiness and to the bigger social factors that determine our national healthiness.

Over two days, I heard so many encouraging ideas from the conference stage that didn't reflexively demonize public policy-making as nanny-statism that, well, as I said, the whole thing left me looking nervously over my shoulder for political-correctness enforcers from The Cato Institute or The Heritage Foundation.

As one speaker after another pointed out, America today ranks first among industrial nations in terms of how much we spend on health care, but last in terms of how healthy we are as a country. Pick any national metric of healthiness -- life expectancy, infant mortality, birth weight, chronic diseases incidence -- and America's comparative performance is in the cellar. It's true even when you adjust for European populations' relative homogeneity: if you only count white Americans, we are still the low man on the healthiness totem pole.

Obama, The Prince Of Bait-And-Switch

John Pilger describes the denigration of the of civilian casualties in colonial wars, and the anointing of Barack Obama, as he tours the battlefields, sounding more and more like George W. Bush.


By John Pilger

On 12 July, The Times devoted two pages to Afghanistan. It was mostly a complaint about the heat. The reporter, Magnus Linklater, described in detail his discomfort and how he had needed to be sprayed with iced water. He also described the "high drama" and "meticulously practised routine" of evacuating another overheated journalist. For her US Marine rescuers, wrote Linklater, "saving a life took precedence over [their] security". Alongside this was a report whose final paragraph offered the only mention that "47 civilians, most of them women and children, were killed when a US aircraft bombed a wedding party in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday".

Slaughters on this scale are common, and mostly unknown to the British public. I interviewed a woman who had lost eight members of her family, including six children. A 500lb US Mk82 bomb was dropped on her mud, stone and straw house. There was no "enemy" nearby. I interviewed a headmaster whose house disappeared in a fireball caused by another "precision" bomb. Inside were nine people – his wife, his four sons, his brother and his wife, and his sister and her husband. Neither of these mass murders was news. As Harold Pinter wrote of such crimes: "Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest."

A total of 64 civilians were bombed to death while The Times man was discomforted. Most were guests at the wedding party. Wedding parties are a "coalition" speciality. At least four of them have been obliterated – at Mazar and in Khost, Uruzgan and Nangarhar provinces. Many of the details, including the names of victims, have been compiled by a New Hampshire professor, Marc Herold, whose Afghan Victim Memorial Project is a meticulous work of journalism that shames those who are paid to keep the record straight and report almost everything about the Afghan War through the public relations facilities of the British and American military.

The US and its allies are dropping record numbers of bombs on Afghanistan. This is not news. In the first half of this year, 1,853 bombs were dropped: more than all the bombs of 2006 and most of 2007. "The most frequently used bombs," the Air Force Times reports, "are the 500lb and 2,000lb satellite-guided..." Without this one-sided onslaught, the resurgence of the Taliban, it is clear, might not have happened. Even Hamid Karzai, America's and Britain's puppet, has said so. The presence and the aggression of foreigners have all but united a resistance that now includes former warlords once on the CIA's payroll.

The scandal of this would be headline news, were it not for what George W Bush's former spokesman Scott McClellan has called "complicit enablers" – journalists who serve as little more than official amplifiers. Having declared Afghanistan a "good war", the complicit enablers are now anointing Barack Obama as he tours the bloodfests in Afghanistan and Iraq. What they never say is that Obama is a bomber.

In the New York Times on 14 July, in an article spun to appear as if he is ending the war in Iraq, Obama demanded more war in Afghanistan and, in effect, an invasion of Pakistan. He wants more combat troops, more helicopters, more bombs. Bush may be on his way out, but the Republicans have built an ideological machine that transcends the loss of electoral power – because their collaborators are, as the American writer Mike Whitney put it succinctly, "bait-and-switch" Democrats, of whom Obama is the prince.

Those who write of Obama that "when it comes to international affairs, he will be a huge improvement on Bush" demonstrate the same wilful naivety that backed the bait-and-switch of Bill Clinton – and Tony Blair. Of Blair, wrote the late Hugo Young in 1997, "ideology has surrendered entirely to 'values'... there are no sacred cows [and] no fossilised limits to the ground over which the mind might range in search of a better Britain..."

Eleven years and five wars later, at least a million people lie dead. Barack Obama is the American Blair. That he is a smooth operator and a black man is irrelevant. He is of an enduring, rampant system whose drum majors and cheer squads never see, or want to see, the consequences of 500lb bombs dropped unerringly on mud, stone and straw houses.

Army to Shoot Live Pigs for Medical Drill

AOL News 


HONOLULU (July 18) -The Army says it's critical to saving the lives of wounded soldiers. Animal-rights activists call the training cruel and outdated.
Despite opposition by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Army is moving forward with its plan to shoot live pigs and treat their gunshot wounds in a medical trauma exercise Friday at Schofield Barracks for soldiers headed to Iraq.
Maj. Derrick Cheng, spokesman for the 25th Infantry Division, said the training is being conducted under a U.S. Department of Agriculture license and the careful supervision of veterinarians and a military Animal Care and Use Committee.
"It's to teach Army personnel how to manage critically injured patients within the first few hours of their injury," Cheng said.
The soldiers are learning emergency lifesaving skills needed on the battlefield when there are no medics, doctors or facility nearby, he said.
PETA, however, said there are more advanced and humane options available, including high-tech human simulators. In a letter, PETA urged the Army to end all use of animals, "as the overwhelming majority of North American medical schools have already done."
"Shooting and maiming pigs is outdated as Civil War rifles," said Kathy Guillermo, director of PETA's Laboratory Investigations Department.