Thursday, December 11, 2008

Legislator's Gifts

Blagojevich calls Obama mother****er


Rod Blagojevich said that the consultants (Advisor B and another consultant are believed to be on the call at that time) are telling him that he has to "suck it up" for two years and do nothing and give this "motherf***er [the President-elect] his senator. F*** him. For nothing? F*** him." Rod Blagojevich states that he will put "[Senate Candidate 4]" in the Senate "before I just give F***ing [Senate Candidate 1] a F***ing Senate seat and I don't get anything." (Senate Candidate 4 is a Deputy Governor of the State of Illinois). Rod Blagojevich stated that he needs to find a way to take the "financial stress" off of his family and that his wife is as qualified or more qualified than another specifically named individual to sit on corporate boards. According to Rod Blagojevich, "the immediate challenge [is] how do we take some of the financial pressure off of our family." Later in the phone call, Rod Blagojevich stated that absent getting something back, Rod Blagojevich will not pick Senate Candidate 1.

John Harris re-stated Rod Blagojevich's thoughts that they should ask the President-elect for something for Rod Blagojevich's financial security as well as maintain his political viability. Harris said they could work out a three-way deal with SEIU and the President- elect where SEIU could help the President-elect with Rod Blagojevich's appointment of Senate Candidate 1 to the vacant Senate seat, Rod Blagojevich would obtain a position as the National Director of the Change to Win campaign, and SEIU would get something favorable from the President-elect in the future.

Patti Blagojevich: Hold up that f***ing Cubs s***
During the call, Rod Blagojevich's wife can be heard in the background telling Rod Blagojevich to tell Deputy Governor A "to hold up that f***ing Cubs s***. . . f*** them." Rod Blagojevich asked Deputy Governor A what he thinks of his wife's idea. Deputy Governor A stated that there is a part of what Rod Blagojevich's wife said that he "agree[s] with." Deputy Governor A told Rod Blagojevich that Tribune Owner will say that he does not have anything to do with the editorials, "but I would tell him, look, if you want to get your Cubs thing done get rid of this Tribune." Later, Rod Blagojevich's wife got on the phone and, during the continuing discussion of the critical Tribune editorials, stated that Tribune Owner can "just fire" the writers because Tribune Owner owns the Tribune. Rod Blagojevich's wife stated that if Tribune Owner's papers were hurting his business, Tribune Owner would do something about the editorial board. Rod Blagojevich then got back on the phone. Rod Blagojevich told Deputy Governor A to put together the articles in the Tribune that are on the topic of removing Rod Blagojevich from office and they will then have someone, like JOHN HARRIS, go to Tribune Owner and say, "We've got some decisions to make now." Rod Blagojevich said that "someone should say, 'get rid of those people.'"

Obama may be stuck with anti-pot crusading GOP US Attorney

Chong prosecutor dares Obama to fire her

by Nick Juliano

If someone were to make a list of all the things a federal prosecutor could spend his or her time on to distract from fighting the war on terror, organized crime and other top Justice Department priorities, that list would mirror Mary Beth Buchanan's most touted accomplishments during her previous seven years as a US Attorney.

Now the Bush-appointee -- who spent $12 million to put that oh-so-notorious kingpin Tommy Chong behind bars for nine months -- has been struck with another bout of headline-grabbing obstinance. Buchanan says she won't step down once President-elect Obama takes office next month.

"It doesn't serve justice for all the U.S. attorneys to submit their resignations all at one time," she told a local paper last week, adding, "I am open to considering further service to the United States."

The defiant posture and break with tradition could complicate Obama's attempt to put his own mark on a Justice Department that has seen its reputation sullied over the last eight years. Some speculate Buchanan is essentially daring the president-elect to fire her.

Buchanan's prosecution of Chong, which was profiled in a 2006 documentary, was by no means her only unorthodox crusade against relatively harmless transgressors. She also pursued the first federal obscenity case in two decades, against a pornography producer, and she's pursued public corruption charges against outspoken Democrats.

After Operation Pipe Dreams -- the sting aimed at Chong and other pot paraphernalia providers -- Buchanan went after the manufacturer of devises like the Whizzinator and other products aimed at helping people beat drug tests. This operation (coincidentally, we're sure) led to federal agents raiding the distributor of documentary a/k/a Tommy Chong and confiscating several thousand DVD copies of the film.

Libertarians and drug war critics note that law enforcement agencies -- whether they be federal, state or local -- can always find a better use of their time and money than cracking down on harmless pot smokers or porn peddlers.

Please resign, Bush tells political appointees

by John Byrne

The White House has a message for its political appointees: Go home.

White House chief of Staff Joshua Bolten sent a memo Dec. 1 to all of President Bush's political appointees asking them to tender their resignation effective Jan. 20 -- the day President-Elect Barack Obama is sworn into office.

"To provide the President-elect maximum flexibility in assembling his Administration, and consistent with past practice, President Bush is requesting letters of resignation from all non-career appointees except Inspectors General and those individuals that hold termed positions," Bolten writes.

"Non-career Senior Executive Service and Schedule C appointees at independent and regulatory agencies headed by termed appointees" are also excepted.

Should they not be sure what to write, Bolten gives appointees a sample letter.

"Dear Mr. President," it reads, "I hereby tender my resignation as (title). I anticipate that my last day of service will be January 20,2009, and I understand that you will act on this offer no later than noon, January 20, 2009."

"Sincerely, Name and title."

An Elegy for Us

by Julia M. Klein
In the late 1980s, I lived on Pittsburgh's Grandview Avenue, with its vista of the city's three rivers and dramatic skyline. But my office window looked out on a more desolate urban landscape: the South Side, where the steel mills had closed and displaced steelworkers lived in tiny homes that hugged the hillside.

Death of the Newspaper WriterI think of those jobless workers now as I read about the crescendo of buyouts and layoffs in my own profession. Between the accelerating flight of readers and advertisers to the Web and the deepening recession, is the death of ink-on-paper newspapers imminent? Or is it, in Mark Twain's inimitable phrase, greatly exaggerated? 

It certainly feels like the end of days. Most commentators are busy preparing their funeral orations. Some worry about the fate of democracy; others insist that journalism's core civic and watchdog functions will survive on the Web. Not much attention has been paid, however, to those whose jobs face extinction.

One day in the mid-1990s, I remember sitting in the office of then-Philadelphia Inquirer editor Maxwell E.P. King, preparing to discuss my future at the paper. Another editor popped in to exult over a lucrative split in the stock of corporate parent Knight Ridder.  When he was gone, I turned to Max, the grandson of legendary book editor Maxwell Perkins. "It's a dying profession," I said, with my customary tact. Max looked appalled.

Our leaders, even the most gifted of them, failed us; they refused to see what lay ahead. At best, they were practicing denial. The Internet? Not a threat, they said, but an opportunity; giving away our content online would serve to reinforce our brand, to woo new print readers. Did they truly believe that? Another former editor told me recently that he remembers saying the words and knowing they were lies.

At the end of 2000, after 17 years on staff, I took a buyout from the newspaper. It was a painful decision, but by then the trends were clear, and many of us were bailing out.

Now on sale at Craigslist

Witness against Omar Khadr withdrawn


TORONTO — The American government has withdrawn a witness against Omar Khadr in an effort to hide evidence of its mistreatment of the Canadian during his detention at Guantanamo Bay, his Pentagon-appointed lawyer says.

The special agent had been slated to testify at Mr. Khadr's war-crimes trial next month about a self-incriminating statement the prisoner gave in December 2004.

Mr. Khadr's legal team maintains the statement was coerced and wanted to question the U.S. Defence Department agent about the statement.

Lt.-Cmdr. Bill Kuebler, who is defending Mr. Khadr before a military commission, said the government is trying to cut off defence probing of his abuse by U.S. authorities.

"It's a shocking concession by the government that effectively (says) the things that Omar relates about his mistreatment in 2003 and 2004 are true, otherwise they wouldn't be seeking to side-step the issue by withdrawing this witness," Lt.-Cmdr. Kuebler said from Washington.

"It corroborates or confirms that . . . this kid was absolutely traumatized and mistreated by U.S. government authorities and now the U.S. government is trying to continue to cover that up."

Marine Maj. Jeff Groharing, who is prosecuting Mr. Khadr, confirmed the withdrawal of the witness but did not offer an explanation.

Why the U.S. Military Is in Shambles

Our bloated, declining military structure is the result of a bought-off Congress and a Pentagon distracted by bureaucratic agendas.

Coinciding with the arrival of Obama and his deputies in Washington, the Center for Defense Information is releasing America's Defense Meltdown -- Pentagon Reform for President Obama and the New Congress, a primer on what is wrong with our defense system written by men with long and honorable experience in the bowels of the military services and Pentagon bureaucracy. The book's editor, Winslow Wheeler, is familiar to readers of this site for his acrid and knowledgeable commentaries on the defense establishment. CounterPuncher Andrew Cockburn interviews him about the book and its message.

Andrew Cockburn: You say in your preface that "the vast majority, perhaps even all, of Congress, the general officer corps of the armed forces, top management of American defense manufacturers, prominent members of Washington's think tank community and nationally recognized 'defense journalists' will hate this book." Why is that? 

Winslow Wheeler: The conventional wisdom amongst the elite in Washington is that they have done a pretty good job of taking care of our national defense, that things may be a little expensive but we have the best armed forces in the world, perhaps even in history, and we do the best for our troops by giving them the world's most sophisticated equipment which is, of course, the most effective. We have, so the elite asserts, demonstrated our ability by knocking off Saddam Hussein's forces twice and are in general a model to the rest of the world on how to build equipment and provide for forces. That's all crap. None of it is true. None of it stands up to scrutiny.

Let's tick through it. First of all, we now have the largest defense budget in inflation-adjusted dollars since the end of World War Two. That has bought the smallest military establishment we have had since the end of World War Two. We now have fewer navy combat ships and submarines, fewer combat aircraft and fewer army fighting units than we have had at any point since the end of World War Two. Our major items of equipment are on average older than at any time during this period. Key elements of our fighting forces are badly trained. In other words we're getting less for more. People point to the two wars against Saddam Hussein. His armed forces were pitifully incompetent and even against them in both the 1991 and 2003 gulf wars we demonstrated serious deficiencies while overestimating how good we were. 

Cockburn: But is the U.S. likely to be facing anyone better in the near future?

Wheeler: Apparently we are right now. In Afghanistan things are going south, rapidly. In Iraq people seem to think the surge saved things, but far more important than the so-called surge in reducing American casualties has been the purchase of Sunni co-operation with hefty bribes and the ceasefire that was brokered not by us but by Iran to get Muqtada al-Sadr's forces to sit on the sidelines. Time after time we read in the press about how American air units have killed civilians, how American ground units have killed civilians. We have a huge technological edge against these opponents and yet they are able not just to survive against us but fight us all too effectively.

 Cockburn: What brought the U.S. to this sorry state of affairs?

Wheeler: The fundamental reason, I believe, is that we are not interested in what works best in combat. Instead, our defense structure in Washington is interested in other things. In Congress they're interested in jobs and campaign contributions. In the Pentagon they're interested in various political and bureaucratic agendas. They're not paying attention to the lessons of combat history. A bloated, declining military structure is the result.

The best films of 2008... and there were a lot of them

by Roger Ebert

In these hard times, you deserve two "best films" lists for the price of one. It is therefore with joy that I list the 20 best films of 2008, in alphabetical order. I am violating the age-old custom that film critics announce the year's 10 best films, but after years of such lists, I've had it. A best films list should be a celebration of wonderful films, not a chopping process. And 2008 was a great year for movies, even if many of them didn't receive wide distribution.

Look at my 20 titles, and you tell me which 10 you would cut. Nor can I select one to stand above the others, or decide which should be No. 7 and which No. 8. I can't evaluate films that way. Nobody can, although we all pretend to. A "best films" list, certainly. But of exactly 10, in marching order? These 20 stood out for me, and I treasure them all. If it had been 19 or 21, that would have been OK. If you must have a Top 10 List, find a coin in your pocket. Heads, the odd-numbered movies are your 10. Tails, the even-numbered.

I have composed a separate list of the year's five best documentaries. They also may be described as "one of the year's best." And this year's Special Jury Award goes to Guy Maddin's "My Winnipeg," which stands between truth and fiction, using the materials of the documentary to create a film completely preposterous and deeply true. Another of "the year's best."

Jimmyron Ross in "Ballast"

"Ballast" A deep silence has fallen upon a Mississippi Delta family after the death of a husband and brother. Old wounds remain unhealed. The man's son shuttles uneasily between two homes, trying to open communication by the wrong means. The debut cast is deeply convincing, and writer-director Lance Hammer observes them with intense empathy. No, it's not a film about poor folks on the Delta; they own a nice little business, but are paralyzed by loneliness. At the end, we think, yes, that is what would happen, and it would happen exactly like that.

"The Band's Visit" A police ceremonial band from Egypt, in Israel for a cultural exchange, ends up in a desert town far from anywhere and is taken on mercy by the bored, cynical residents. A long night's journey marked with comedy, human nature, and bittersweet reality. Richly entertaining, with sympathetic performances by Sasson Gabai as the bandleader and Ronit Elkabetz as the owner of a local cafe. Written and directed by Eran Kolirin. Was at Ebertfest 2008.

"Che" The epic journey of a 20th century icon, the Argentinian physician who became a comrade of Fidel Castro in the Cuban Revolu- tion and then moved to South America to support revolution there. Benicio del Toro is persuasive as the fiercely ethical firebrand, in a film that includes unusual and unfamiliar chapters in Che's life. Steven Soderbergh's film is 257 minutes long, but far from boring. (Opens Jan. 16)

"Chop Shop" (Alejandro Polanco)

"Chop Shop" The great emerging American director Ramin Bahrani finds a story worthy of "City of God" in a no-man's land in the shadow of Shea Stadium, where a young boy and his sister support themselves in a sprawling, off-the-books auto repair and scrap district. Alejandro Polanco and Isamar Gonzales seem to live their roles, in a masterpiece that intimately knows its world, its people and their survival tactics. It will be featured at Ebertfest 2009.

"The Dark Knight" The best of all the Batmans, Christopher Nolan's haunted film leaps beyond its origins and becomes an engrossing tragedy. The "comic book movie" has at last reclaimed its deep archetypal currents. With a performance by Heath Ledger as the Joker that will surely win an Oscar, a Batman (Christian Bale) who is tortured by moral puzzles and a district attorney (Aaron Eckhart) forced to make impossible choices.

"Doubt" (Meryl Streep & Amy Adams).

"Doubt" A Catholic grade school is ruled by the grim perfectionist Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep), whose draconian rule is challenged by Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman). A young nun (Amy Adams) is caught between them, as the film shows how assumptions can be doubted, and doubted again. Viola Davis, as the mother of the school's only black student, has one significant scene, but it is long, crucial and heartbreaking. Davis goes face to face with Streep with astonishing conviction and creates reasons for doubt that may be more important than deciding the truth. John Patrick Shanley directed and adapted his Tony Award-winning play. (Opens Friday)

"The Fall" Tarsem's film is a mad folly, an extravagant visual orgy, a free fall from reality into uncharted realms. A wounded stunt-man, circa 1914, tells a story to a 4-year-old girl, and we see how she imagines it. It has vast romantic images so stunning, I had to check twice, three times, to be sure the film actually claims to have absolutely no computer-generated imagery. None? What about the Labyrinth of Despair, with no exit? The intersecting walls of zig-zagging staircases? The man who emerges from the burning tree? Filmed over four years in 28 countries. It will be at Ebertfest 2009.

"Frost/Nixon" The story of a duel between a crafty man and a persistent one. How many remember that the "lightweight" British interviewer David Frost was the one who finally persuaded Richard Nixon to say he had committed crimes in connection with Watergate and let his country down? With his own money riding on the interviews, Frost (Michael Sheen) is desperate after Nixon finesses him in the early sessions, but he pries away at Nixon's need to confess. Frank Langella is uncanny as RMN. Ron Howard directs mercilessly. (Opens Friday)

"Frozen River" Melissa Leo should be nominated for her performance. She plays an hourly employee in a discount store, struggling to support two kids and a run-down trailer after her husband deserts her with their savings. After making an unlikely alliance with a Mohawk woman (Misty Upham) who was stealing her car, she finds herself a human trafficker, driving Chinese across the ice into the United States. A spellbinding thriller, yes, but even more a portrait of economic struggle in desperate times. Written and directed by Courtney Hunt. It will be at Ebertfest 2009.

"Happy-Go-Lucky" Here's another nominee for best actress -- Sally Hawkins, playing a cheerful schoolteacher who seems improbably upbeat until we win a glimpse into her soul. No, she's not secretly depressed. She's genuinely happy, but that hasn't made her stupid or afraid. Mike Leigh's uncanny ability to find drama in ordinary lives is used with genius, as the teacher encounters a driving instructor (Eddie Marsan) as negative as she is positive. Not a feel-good movie. Not at all. But strangely inspiring.

Robert Downey Jr. in "Iron Man."
"Iron Man" Like "Spider-Man 2" and "The Dark Knight," another leap forward for the superhero movie. Robert Downey Jr. and director Jon Favreau reinvent Tony Stark as a conflicted, driven genius who has a certain plausibility, even when inundated by special effects. So successful are they that in the climactic rooftop battle between two towering men of steel, we know we're looking almost entirely at CGI, and yet the creatures embody character and emotion. Downey hit bottom, as everyone knows. Now he has triumphantly returned.

"Milk" Sean Penn, one of our greatest actors, locks up an Oscar nomination with his performance as Harvey Milk, the first self-identified gay elected to U.S. public office. At age 40, Milk was determined to do "something different" with his life. He's open to change. We see how the everyday experiences of this gay man politicize him, and how his instincts allow him to become a charismatic leader, while always acknowledging the sexuality that society had taught him to conceal. One of the year's most moving films.

"Rachel Getting Married" After seeing this film, people told me, "I wanted to attend that wedding" or "I wish I'd been there." It's that involving. Jonathan Demme doesn't lock down one central plot, but considers the ceremony as a wedding of close and distant family, old and new friends, many races, many ages, many lifestyles, all joined amid joyous homemade music. His camera is so observant, we feel like a guest really does feel. Rosemarie DeWitt as Rachel and Anne Hathaway as her sister generate tricky sibling tension.

"The Reader" A drama taking place mostly within the mind of a postwar German who has an affair at 14 with a woman he later discovers is a war criminal. Her own secret is so shameful, she would rather face any sentence than reveal it. The film addresses the moral confusion felt in those who came after the Holocaust but whose lives were painfully twisted by it. Directed by Stephen Daldry, with David Kross as the younger protagonist, and Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes as the older ones. (Opening Dec. 25)

"Revolutionary Road" (Leonardo DiCaprio & Kate Winslet).

"Revolutionary Road" The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit and his wife find hell in the suburbs. Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, in two of the best performances of the year, play a young married couple who lose their dreams in the American corporate world and its assigned roles. Sam Mendes reads minds when words aren't enough, and has every detail right -- including the chain-smoking by those who find it a tiny consolation in inconsolable lives. (Opens Jan. 2)

"Shotgun Stories" You'll have to search for it, but worth it. In a "dead-ass town," three brothers find themselves in a feud with their four half-brothers. It's told like a revenge tragedy, but the hero doesn't believe the future is written by the past. Written and directed by Jeff Nichols, it avoids the obvious and shows a deep understanding of the lives and minds of ordinary young people in a skirmish of the class war. The dialogue rings true, the camera is deeply observant. The film was the audience favorite at Ebertfest 2008.

"Slumdog Millionaire" Danny Boyle's improbable union of quiz-show suspense and the harrowing life of a Mumbai orphan. Growing from a garbage pit scavenger to the potential winner of a fortune, his hero uses his wits and survival instinct to struggle against crushing handicaps. A film that finds exuberance despite the tragedy it also gives full weight to. The locations breathe with authenticity.

"Synecdoche, New York" The year's most endlessly debated film. Screenwriter Charles Kaufman ("Adaptation," "Being John Malkovich"), in his directing debut, stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as a theater director mired in a long-running rehearsal that may be life itself. Much controversy about the identities and even genders of some of the characters, in a film that should never be seen unless you've already seen it at least once.

"W." To general surprise, Oliver Stone's biography of George W. Bush is empathetic and understanding, perhaps because Stone himself is a blueblood Ivy League graduate who could never quite win his father's approval. Josh Brolin gives a nuanced portrayal that seems based on the known facts, showing the president as subservient to Vice President Cheney and haunted by old demons.


"WALL-E" The best science-fiction movie in years was an animated family film. WALL-E is a solar-powered trash compacting robot, left behind to clean up the waste after Man flees into orbit. Hugely entertaining, wonderfully well drawn, and, if you think about it, merciless in its critique of a global consumer culture that obsesses on intake and disregards the consequences of output.

Attacking Alzheimer's with Red Wine and Marijuana


Two new studies point to a wonderful way to ward off Alzheimer's disease and other forms of age-related memory loss.

By Tom Jacobs

Two new studies suggest that substances usually associated with dulling the mind -- marijuana and red wine -- may help ward off Alzheimer's disease and other forms of age-related memory loss. Their addition comes as another study dethrones folk remedy ginkgo biloba as proof against the disease.

At a November meeting of the Society of Neuroscience in Washington, D.C., researchers from Ohio State University reported that THC, the main psychoactive substance in the cannabis plant, may reduce inflammation in the brain and even stimulate the formation of new brain cells.

Meanwhile, in the Nov. 21 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, neurologist David Teplow of the University of California, Los Angeles reported that polyphenols -- naturally occurring components of red wine -- block the formation of proteins that build the toxic plaques thought to destroy brain cells. In addition, these substances can reduce the toxicity of existing plaques, thus reducing cognitive deterioration.

Together, the studies suggest scientists are gaining a clearer understanding of the mechanics of memory deterioration and discovering some promising approaches to prevention.

Previous research has suggested that polyphenols -- which are found in high concentrations in tea, nuts and berries, as well as cabernets and merlots -- may inhibit or prevent the buildup of toxic fibers in the brain. These fibers, which are primarily composed of two specific proteins, form the plaques that have long been associated with Alzheimer's disease.

UCLA's Teplow and his colleagues monitored how these proteins folded up and stuck to each other to produce aggregates that killed nerve cells in mice. They then treated the proteins with a polyphenol compound extracted from grape seeds. They discovered the polyphenols blocked the formation of the toxic aggregates.

"What we found is pretty straightforward," Teplow declared. "If the amyloid beta proteins can't assemble, toxic aggregates can't form, and, thus, there is no toxicity." If this also proves true in human brains, it means administration of the compound to Alzheimer's patients could "prevent disease development and also ameliorate existing disease," he said. Human clinical trials are upcoming.

Booze or Drugs, Prohibition Makes No Sense

by Froma Harrop

America ended Prohibition 75 years ago this week. The ban on the sale of alcohol unleashed a crime wave, as gangsters fought over the illicit booze trade. It sure didn't stop drinking. People turned to speakeasies and bathtub gin for their daily cocktail.

Prohibition — and the violence, corruption and health hazards that followed — lives on in its modern version, the so-called War on Drugs. Former law-enforcement officers gathered in Washington to draw the parallels. Their group, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), has called for nothing less than the legalization of drugs.

And before you say, "We can't do that," hear the officers out. They have an answer for every objection.

Doesn't the War on Drugs take narcotics off the street, raising their price beyond most Americans' means?

Obviously not. The retail price of cocaine is now about half what it was in 1990. When the value of something goes up, more people go into the business.

In some Dallas junior high schools, kids can buy two hits of "cheese" — a mix of Tylenol PM and heroin — for $5, Terry Nelson, a former U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officer, told me. Lunch costs more.

Wouldn't legalizing drugs create new users? Not necessarily. LEAP wants drugs to be regulated like alcohol and cigarettes. Regulations are why it's harder to buy alcohol or cigarettes in many schoolyards than drugs. By regulating the purity and strength of drugs, they become less deadly.

Isn't drug addiction a scourge that tears families apart? Yes, it is, and so are arrests and incarceration and criminal records for kids caught smoking pot behind the bleachers. There are 2.1 million people in federal, state and local prisons, 1.7 million of them for non-violent drug offenses.

Removing the stigma of drug use lets addicts come out into the open for treatment.We have treatments for alcoholism, but we don't ban alcohol.

LEAP's members want to legalize drugs because they're tired of being shot at in a war they can't win. They're tired of making new business for dealers every time they arrest a competitor. They're are tired of busting people in the streets of America's cities over an ounce of cocaine, while the Andean region produces over 1,000 tons of it a year. They're tired of enriching terrorists.

The transition

It's official: Men really are the weaker sex


Evolution is being distorted by pollution, which damages genitals and the ability to father offspring, says new study.

by Geoffrey Lean

The male gender is in danger, with incalculable consequences for both humans and wildlife, startling scientific research from around the world reveals.

The research – to be detailed tomorrow in the most comprehensive report yet published – shows that a host of common chemicals is feminising males of every class of vertebrate animals, from fish to mammals, including people.

Backed by some of the world's leading scientists, who say that it "waves a red flag" for humanity and shows that evolution itself is being disrupted, the report comes out at a particularly sensitive time for ministers. On Wednesday, Britain will lead opposition to proposed new European controls on pesticides, many of which have been found to have "gender-bending" effects.

It also follows hard on the heels of new American research which shows that baby boys born to women exposed to widespread chemicals in pregnancy are born with smaller penises and feminised genitals.

"This research shows that the basic male tool kit is under threat," says Gwynne Lyons, a former government adviser on the health effects of chemicals, who wrote the report.

Wildlife and people have been exposed to more than 100,000 new chemicals in recent years, and the European Commission has admitted that 99 per cent of them are not adequately regulated. There is not even proper safety information on 85 per cent of them.

Many have been identified as "endocrine disrupters" – or gender-benders – because they interfere with hormones. These include phthalates, used in food wrapping, cosmetics and baby powders among other applications; flame retardants in furniture and electrical goods; PCBs, a now banned group of substances still widespread in food and the environment; and many pesticides.

The report – published by the charity CHEMTrust and drawing on more than 250 scientific studies from around the world – concentrates mainly on wildlife, identifying effects in species ranging from the polar bears of the Arctic to the eland of the South African plains, and from whales in the depths of the oceans to high-flying falcons and eagles.

It concludes: "Males of species from each of the main classes of vertebrate animals (including bony fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals) have been affected by chemicals in the environment.

Frankie the feline exposed as the cat burglar stealing toys from his neighbours' homes

By Daily Mail Reporter

A real-life cat burglar has left his owner feeling less than purr-fect - by swiping dozens of  cuddly toys from nearby homes.

Frankie the tom cat has got his claws into 35 teddies and soft toys in the last year.

Owner Julie Bishop believes the two-year-old feline is sneaking into her neighbours' homes.

He drags each one of his finds through the catflap before depositing them on the same spot in the living room.

All mine: Frankie the cat with his collection of stolen toys

Julie, 52, said: 'Frankie looks very pleased with himself when he comes in with these presents.

'He's been going out of the house and coming back with all these toys for pretty much as long as he's been allowed out.

'They're all soft toys for cats I think. About 15 of them are all the same leopard. He doesn't really play with them. He dumps them down and goes out looking for something else.'

In the past year alone Frankie's haul has included teddy bears, leopards and a giant squeaky beefburger.

Now Julie has plastered her home town of Swindon  with posters to try and trace the rightful owners.

Good dogs bad dogs