Tuesday, May 12, 2009

USA Sitcom Map


Would You Pay A Journalist To Report The News You Want To Read?

by Robin Wauters

I'm not asking if you would pay for press coverage as a business if it were possible, I'm asking you if you would ever do it as an individual, when you think there's something that's been underreported or even downright unreported to date and you want to see that situation changed. If you were looking for a story to be told that you consider to be missing from the news coverage already out there, would you be inclined to take out your wallet, and maybe even rally your friends, family and peers to do the same in order to be able to pay a reporter to do the fieldwork on your behalf?

Because that's exactly what the foundation of Global For Me's business model bestows.

Here's how it works: you suggest a story to be investigated on the GFM website, and donate personally or together with others until you have the necessary funds to effectively have the company find and hire a journalist for you to - and I'm quoting from the website here - "go to briefings, press conferences, request interviews or door stop reluctant interviewees on your behalf." Examples given on the homepage include politicans and local authorities but also 'celebrities' and 'anybody else'. In my opinion, that sounds more like hiring a private detective, but maybe I'm missing something here.

Could this model ever work?

In theory, it doesn't sound all that bad. Communities are formed around a given topic and its members, aided by peer pressure and the use of social networking services, jointly decide what exactly should be investigated, a reporter does his or her job and gets paid the standard rate for it, Global For Me keeps a commission and the audience gets the news and/or answers to certain questions it was longing to be looked into delivered right at their virtual doorsteps. Everyone wins, right?

In practice though, I'm not convinced it will work. The service would have to receive a heap of traction before the model gets even remotely viable enough for the journalists that would take on work through the service as well as for Global For Me. I'm also inclined to believe people would fund certain investigations to have a reporter discover what they want to see discovered, and that more often than not the end result will not live up to their expectations. And since there's isn't a publisher / editor to act as gatekeeper, who would they turn to to complain about possible bias or sloppy reporting? And looking at it from a different perspective, who's to say freelance journalists - even if involuntarily - at some point wouldn't start reporting stories the way the original commissioners (and the ones paying the bill) would want to see them reported?


Duke Energy to Build up to 400 'Mini' Solar Power Plants

Charlotte, NC, USA: Duke Energy will build between 100 and 400 electricity-generating mini solar power plants throughout North Carolina over the next two years in one of the first large-scale initiatives of its kind in the U.S., CEO Jim Rogers said today.

"Solar and wind are both going to be key parts of our strategy going forward," Rogers told reporters following the company's annual meeting.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission on Wednesday issued a decision allowing Duke Energy to proceed with its $50-million proposal to install solar panels on the roofs and grounds of homes, schools, office buildings, shopping malls, warehouses and industrial plants, starting later this year.

Collectively, the solar sites will generate enough electricity to power 1,300 homes. The electricity will flow directly from the solar sites to the electrical grid that serves all customers.

Duke Energy's solar initiative will be among the nation's first and largest demonstrations of distributed generation, in which electricity is produced at numerous micro generating sites rather than at a large, centralized, traditional power plant.

"We are redefining our boundaries. We're looking ahead and we're looking around the corner," Rogers told shareholders attending the meeting. "We believe the future is a low-carbon world. The 21st century mission of our company is to decarbonize our energy supply and provide universal access to energy efficiency."

Duke Energy will own and maintain the solar panels during their expected 25-year lifespan. The company also will own the electricity generated.

It will pay a rental fee to property owners who host the panels for use of their roofs or land, based on the size of the installation and amount of electricity generated at any given site.


All we do now to save salmon could mean nothing


Fish that spawn in the south and in the summer will die first as the world warms. Idaho's high-elevation runs may offer one of the best chances the species has.

Global warming challenges some of the long-held values that have driven the environmental movement in the West. In articles throughout the year, the Statesman will explore these dilemmas.

The Pacific Northwest has spent two decades retooling dams, rebuilding damaged watersheds and restoring stream flows to keep salmon from disappearing.

The United States has invested billions in the effort - $350 million in 2004 alone - by far the most money spent on any endangered species.

But a new threat is more devastating than the gill nets that sent dozens of salmon runs into extinction. It is more deadly than the hydroelectric turbines that still kill millions of migrating smelts. In fact, it raises doubts about whether salmon will survive in the Northern Pacific at all.

Climate change already has made rivers warmer and spring runoff earlier, disrupting the life cycle of the fish that are an icon of the region.

No matter what actions the world takes to reduce greenhouse gases, river temperatures in more than half of the lower-elevation watersheds may exceed 70 degrees by 2040 - too hot for salmon.

"The only salmon that are going to survive the century mark are the ones in the large populations in the higher elevations that are still going to have snow and cold water," said Jim Martin, a former chief of fisheries for the state of Oregon.

But even these runs and those as far north as Alaska would be threatened if the world does not reduce gases like carbon dioxide over the next 50 years.


Blacks Must Confront Their Homophobia

Other Views

by Leonard Pitts Jr.

''The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.''
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

That's for Marion Barry, who seems to need the reminder.

The former mayor and current city councilman of Washington, D.C. is a longtime supporter of gay rights. So observers were stunned last week when a bill committing the city to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere passed the council on a vote of 12-1.

The ''one'' was Barry.

Wait, it gets worse. Barry said his position hasn't changed but warned that the council needs to move slowly on this issue. ''All hell is going to break loose,'' Barry said. ''We may have a civil war. The black community is just adamant against this.'' Indeed, after the vote, a group of black ministers reportedly ''stormed'' the hallway outside the council chambers, vowing political reprisals.

The Washington Post quotes Barry as saying he voted as he did because ''I am representing my constituents.'' He reminded reporters that ``98 percent of my constituents are black, and we don't have but a handful of openly gay residents.''

That's a lot of words to say what he could have said in three: I punked out.

There's something to be said for representing one's constituents. But there is more to be said for leading them. Barry's failure to understand the difference is galling in light of the fact that he was once a leader in the civil-rights movement.

One wonders how differently that movement might have turned out had white people such as Clifford Durr, Viola Liuzzo, Ralph McGill, Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and Lyndon Johnson allowed themselves to be cowed by the angry voices of white men and women saying, ''All hell is going to break loose.'' For that matter, how much longer might the long night of slavery have lasted had white people like Elijah Lovejoy, William Lloyd Garrison, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Lucretia Mott and Thaddeus Stevens bowed to the fact that the white community was ''just adamant'' against freedom.

One wonders, too, whether those black ministers in the hall see their mirror image in generations of white ministers who have used the Bible to condone the evil of slavery (''Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters.'') and the fiction of African-American inferiority (the ''curse'' of Ham).

At day's end, though, the great tragedy here is neither historical amnesia nor moral cowardice. No, the tragedy is embodied in Barry's description of African Americans as a people for whom open homosexuality is rare. That description is, unfortunately, too accurate -- not simply for black Washington, but for black America. We are a socially conservative people.

And our conservatism is, quite literally, killing us.


Martians Learn about the Free Market from the Oil Industry


Here's another great cartoon we found on archive.org when we were researching corporatism propaganda for Life Inc. In Destination Earth, sponsored by the American Petroleum Industry in 1956, Martian dissidents learn that oil and competition are the two things that make America great.

In spite of its unfaltering market bias (or maybe because of it) the film is still quite an entertainingly assembled piece of work.


The Bush Administration Homicides

by John Sifton

For five years as a researcher for Human Rights Watch and reporter, John Sifton helped investigate homicides resulting from the Bush administration's torture policy. His findings include:

• An estimated 100 detainees have died during interrogations, some who were clearly tortured to death.

• The Bush Justice Department failed to investigate and prosecute alleged murders even when the CIA inspector general referred a case.

• Sifton's request for specific information on cases was rebuffed by the Bush Justice Department, though it was "familiar with the cases."

• Attorney General Eric Holder must now decide whether to investigate and prosecute homicides, not just cases of torture.

A simple fact is being overlooked in the Bush-era torture scandal: the number of cases in which detainees have been tortured to death. Abuse did not only involve the high-profile cases of smashing detainees into plywood barriers ("walling"), confinement in coffin-like boxes with insects, sleep deprivation, cold, and waterboarding. To date approximately 100 detainees, including CIA-held detainees, have died during U.S. interrogations, and some are known to have been tortured to death.

The bottom line is that many detainee homicides in Iraq and Afghanistan were the direct result of approval and orders from the highest levels of government, and that high officials in the government are accomplices.

A review of homicide cases, however, shows that few detainee deaths have been properly investigated. Many were not investigated at all. And no official investigation has looked into the connection between detainee deaths and the interrogation policies promulgated by the Bush administration.

Yet an important report by the Senate Armed Services Committee, declassified in April 2009, explains in clear terms how Bush-era interrogation techniques, including torture, once authorized for CIA high-value detainees, were promulgated to Guantánamo, Iraq, and Afghanistan, where (as reporter Jason Leopold recently noted at The Public Record) the policies have led to homicides.


The U.S. Army's Telepathy Battle Command

A declassified FY 1999 Army budget estimate submitted to Congress in February 1998 indicates that, more than 10 years ago, the U.S. Army was planning to group all of its telepathy operations into a single Telepathy Battle Command. See the PDF at this link: http://www.asafm.army.mil/budget/fybm/fy99/rforms/vol3.pdf

Volume 3 Page 1197 lists the budget for Project D985 - Concepts Evaluation 0f Materiel - and indicates among its FY 1997 Accomplishments a simple, one-line project designated "Telepathy Battle Command." No fooling. The Army was testing out the concept of a Telepathy Battle Command.

There was no reason for the U.S. Army to test the concept of a "telepathy battle command" if it had not already tested or fielded telepathic weapons themselves. At the very least, this line item of the 1998 budget indicates that the U.S. Army takes the threat of telepathic battle and telepathic weapon systems seriously. They certainly were throwing serious money at it.
For more on how the U.S. Army has organized its conventional "Battle Command" system, see this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Army_Battle_Command_System

Is There An Active and Operational Telepathy Battle Command?

If the U.S. Army has built an active and operational Telepathy Battle Command center, it may be part of the Army's strategic "Command Post of the Future" (CPOF) system. However, CPOF places a greater emphasis on computers and digital imagery than "exotic" systems like telepathy. For more on CPOF, see:

Paul Smith's book Reading The Enemy's Mind and Jon Ronson's book The Men Who Stare At Goats both suggest that the DoD runs its telepathy programs through the Defense Intelligence Agency and Army INSCOM (Intelligence and Security Command). Both Army INSCOM and the National Security Agency are located at Ft. Meade, MD, which makes that town the most likely "hub" location.

It is also possible that elements of an Army "Telepathy Battle Command" have been placed at highly classified "black" facilities near Ft. Bragg, NC, headquarters of the Army Special Operations Command and home of the Army's Psychological Operations Directorate.

Bush May Haunt Republicans for Generations


Gallup has some fascinating data out, based on more than 120,000 interviews they've completed over the past four months, on the way that partisan identification breaks down by age:

Democrats, somewhat unsurprisingly, have the largest partisan ID advantage among Gen Y'ers, followed by among Baby Boomers. Republicans do relatively well (although are still at a net disadvantage) among Generation X'ers.

What's interesting, though, is what happens when we look at not these abstract generational categories, but rather at the following question: who was President when you turned 18? As annotated in the chart below, the popularity -- or lack thereof -- of the President when the voter turned 18 would seem to have a lot of explanatory power for how their politics turned out later on:

Partisan ID Gap, Based on Identity of President When Voter Turned 18

It's become common knowledge that the younger generation is highly predisposed toward Democrats. (Actually, that's not quite right -- they're more predisposed against Republicans than they are toward Democrats -- but the net effects on their voting behavior are probably about the same.) What's more remarkable, though, is how sharp the increase in the partisan ID gap becomes at about age 25. People aged 26-34 are pretty Democratic, put people aged 18-25 are really Democratic.



Church deacon, soccer coach, father -- bank robbery suspect

CNN) -- Bruce Windsor is known as many things: church deacon, soccer coach, father of four. But facing potential financial problems, he's now known as something else: suspected bank robber.

Bruce Windsor listens Friday as a judge tells him he faces kidnapping and robbery charges.

Bruce Windsor listens Friday as a judge tells him he faces kidnapping and robbery charges.

Police say the 43-year-old owner of a real estate company walked into the Carolina First Bank in Greenville, South Carolina, late Thursday with a mask and a handgun.

In court documents filed Friday, police said he forced two bank employees into an office at gunpoint and demanded money. Police arrived minutes later with the suspect still inside, touching off a tense 90-minute standoff before he released the hostages and surrendered.

His actions were "out of character" for a man who has never been in trouble with the law before, friends and relatives said. His tearful sister, defending him as he stood before a judge, said, "He must have just snapped under the pressure."

In his initial appearance for a bond hearing, Windsor was in an orange jail jumpsuit, shackled and with his hands cuffed. In a quiet voice, he answered "yes, sir" as the judge explained the charges to him: two counts of kidnapping, one count of robbery and two counts of pointing firearms at a person, charges that could carry more than 30 years in prison if convicted.

A police detective told the judge Windsor said he had been experiencing financial problems. But police spokesman Cpl. Jason Rampey told CNN they could not yet say for certain whether money problems were the motive for the alleged robbery.

His attorney said in court Windsor had been married for 16 years and was the father of four children. Reports say the oldest is 11. Attorney Sidney Mitchell told the judge he was "a model citizen up until yesterday,' and we've obviously got a lot of talking to do with him," Rampey said.



The American Press on Suicide Watch

by Frank Rich

IF you wanted to pick the moment when the American news business went on suicide watch, it was almost exactly three years ago. That's when Stephen Colbert, appearing at the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner, delivered a monologue accusing his hosts of being stenographers who had, in essence, let the Bush White House get away with murder (or at least the war in Iraq). To prove the point, the partying journalists in the Washington Hilton ballroom could be seen (courtesy of C-Span) fawning over government potentates — in some cases the very "sources" who had fed all those fictional sightings of Saddam Hussein's W.M.D.

Colbert's routine did not kill. The Washington Post reported that it "fell flat." The Times initially did not even mention it. But to the Beltway's bafflement, Colbert's riff went viral overnight, ultimately to have a marathon run as the most popular video on iTunes. The cultural disconnect between the journalism establishment and the public it aspires to serve could not have been more vividly dramatized.

The bad news about the news business has accelerated ever since. Newspaper circulations and revenues are in free fall. Legendary brands from The Los Angeles Times to The Philadelphia Inquirer are teetering. The New York Times Company threatened to close The Boston Globe if its employees didn't make substantial sacrifices in salaries and benefits. Other papers have died. The reporting ranks on network and local news alike are shriveling. You know it's bad when the Senate is moved, as it was last week, to weigh in with hearings on "The Future of Journalism."


If Moses had GPS

Chicken Frogs flown from Montserrat to flee deadly fungus


SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Scientists are airlifting dozens of one of the world's largest frogs off of Montserrat island to save them from a deadly fungus devastating their dwindling habitat.

The dense forest of the tiny British Caribbean territory is the last remaining stronghold of the endangered mountain chicken frog, a 2-pound, frying pan-size amphibian that got its name because locals say its meat tastes like — you guessed it — chicken.

Once eaten as a delicacy, the frog was hunted and much of its habitat on Montserrat was destroyed by the temperamental Soufriere Hills volcano. Now experts fear a virulent fungus could decimate the few thousand frogs they estimate survive.

"Its impact has been catastrophic," Andrew Cunningham, senior scientist with the Zoological Society of London, said of the Chytridiomycosis fungus. "The mountain chicken frog has been virtually wiped out."



But do they taste like chicken?

Scientists find 200 new frog species in Madagascar

PORT LOUIS (Reuters) – Scientists have found more than 200 new species of frogs in Madagascar but a political crisis is hurting conservation of the Indian Ocean island's unique wildlife, a study shows.

The discovery, which almost doubles the number of known amphibians in Madagascar, illustrates an underestimation of the natural riches that have helped spawn a $390-million-a-year tourism industry.

However, months of instability culminating in a change of government after street protests, have compromised gains in conservation.

"The political instability is allowing the cutting of the forest within national parks, generating a lot of uncertainty about the future of the planned network of protected areas," David Vieites, researcher at the Spanish National Natural Sciences Museum, said in a statement.

The world's fourth-largest island, known for exotic creatures such as the ring-tailed lemur and poisonous frogs, is a biodiversity hotspot.

More than 80 percent of the mammals in Madagascar are found nowhere else, while all but one of the 217 previously known species of amphibian are believed by scientists to be native.

"People think that we know which plant and animal species live on this planet," team member Miguel Vences, professor at the Technical University of Braunschweig, said in the statement.

"But the centuries of discoveries has only just begun -- the majority of life forms on Earth is still awaiting scientific recognition."



Living Rock: Massive Monuments Sculpted In Situ

The Giant Buddha, Leshan

China has many a Buddha dotted throughout its extraordinary landscapes but the Giant Buddha of Leshan is unique in that it was carved directly out of the cliff face - just look at the people at the feet of the statue.  The sculpture, which is seventy one meters (or over three hundred feet) tall dwarfs the tourists that flock to see it.  It is positioned so that it faces Mount Emei and stands at the meeting place of three rivers.  Although the Government of China has promised a restoration program, the statue has suffered from the effects of pollution, particularly over the last twenty years. Fortunately, the statue was not damaged in the Sichuan earthquake of 2008.

The Church of Saint George, Lalibela

Lalibela in Ethiopia is the home of eleven churches, hewn from the rock.  The most famous is that of Saint George, which was built in the thirteenth century.  As demonstrable a point as you can get that Africa was not the 'dark continent' many suppose until the arrival of Europeans, it shows that technology there was virtually on a par with that of the western world.  The site is a UNESCO world heritage center and has often been referred to as the eighth wonder of the world.   Its dimensions - 25 times 25 times 30 give it is rectangular shape.

Somapura Mahavihara, Parhapur

Bangladesh has a long and vibrant history and is dotted with religious sites that simply take the breath away.  Among them is the Somapura Mahavihara, which was a Buddhist monastery (otherwise known as a vihara).  It is thought that it was carved at the end of the eight century CE.  The site covers twenty seven acres and was an important academic center for people of three religions (showing that we can all get along when we have to, surely).   You could think of it as a kind of contemplative university.  Monks from as far afield as Tibet regularly visited it in its heyday.

Crazy Horse Memorial, South Dakota

Although the USA is a comparative newcomer to massive sculptures which have been carved in situ, Mount Rushmore is among the most famous statues in the world and will no doubt withstand the millennia as it was designed to do.  When finished, however, the Crazy Horse Memorial should be the largest sculpture in the world and stand over one hundred and seventy two meters (that's five hundred and sixty three feet).  In other words, it will be almost ten times taller than each of the Presidents' heads at Rushmore.  Started in 1948, it remains unfinished and there is no date which has been fixed for its completion either.  The face, however, was completed in 1998.

Naqsh-e Rustam, Persepolis

Iran is not exactly out of bounds to western tourists but is not as such in the top fifty destinations.  This is a shame as the country holds some astonishing archaeological secrets.  One of these is the Naqsh-e Rustam, dating from the sixth century BCE.  They are all carved at great heights and the technology and manpower needed for such tasks must have been unimaginable then as they are still astonishing today.  They are known as the Persian Crosses by local people as the facades are carved in such a shape.  The center of each of the crosses leads to a small chamber where the king would have been laid in a sarcophagus.