Monday, October 19, 2009

Gas bags in the news

Steve Breen - San Diego Union-Tribune

Who's Next?


Lessons from the Long War and a Blowback World
By Tom Engelhardt

Is it too early -- or already too late -- to begin drawing lessons from "the Long War"? That phrase, coined in 2002 and, by 2005, being championed by Centcom Commander General John Abizaid, was meant to be a catchier name for George W. Bush's "Global War on Terror." That was back in the days when inside-the-Beltway types were still dreaming about a global Pax Americana and its domestic partner, a Pax Republicana, and imagining that both, once firmly established, might last forever.

"The Long War" merely exchanged the shock-'n'-awe geographical breadth of the President Bush's chosen moniker ("global") for a shock-'n'-awe time span. Our all-out, no-holds-barred struggle against evil-doers would be nothing short of generational as well as planetary. From Abizaid's point of view, perhaps a little in-office surgical operation on the nomenclature of Bush's war was, in any case, in order at a time when the Iraq War was going disastrously badly and the Afghan one was starting to look more than a little peaked as well. It was like saying: Forget that "mission accomplished" sprint to victory in 2003 and keep your eyes on the prize. We're in it for the long slog.

When Bush officials and Pentagon brass used "the long war" -- a phrase that never gained much traction outside administration circles and admiring think tanks -- they were (being Americans) predicting the future, not commenting on the past. In their view, the fight against the Islamist terrorists and assorted bad guys who wanted to get their hands on weapons of mass destruction and truly bloody the American nose would be decades long.

And of that past? In the American tradition, they were Fordian (as in Henry) in their contempt for most history. If it didn't involve Winston Churchill, or the U.S. occupying Germany or Japan successfully after World War II, or thrashing the Soviet Union in the Cold War, it was largely discardable bunk. And who cared, since we had arrived at a moment of destiny when the greatest country in the world had at its beck and call the greatest, most technologically advanced military of all time. That was what mattered, and the future -- momentary pratfalls aside -- would surely be ours, as long as we Americans were willing to buckle down and fund an eternal fight for it.

Arm and Regret

With the arrival of the Obama administration, "the Long War," like "the Global War on Terror," has largely fallen into disuse (even as the wars that went with it continue). Like all administrations, Obama's, too, prefers to think of itself as beginning at Year Zero and, as the new president emphasized more than once, looking forward, not backwards, at least when it came to the CIA, the Bush Justice Department, and torture practices.

Perhaps, however, the Long War shouldn't be consigned to the dust bin of history just yet. It might still have its uses, if we were to do the un-American thing and look backward, not forward.

As we call a contentious era in European history the Hundred Years' War, so our war in "the Greater Middle East" has already gone on for 30 years, give or take a few. If you wanted to date its exact beginning you might consider choosing President Ronald Reagan's brief, disastrous invasion of Lebanon in 1983, the occasion for the first suicide truck bombings of the modern American era. (As Mike Davis has written, "Indeed, the suicide truck bombs that devastated the U.S. embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 prevailed -- at least in a geopolitical sense -- over the combined firepower of the fighter-bombers and battleships of the U.S. Sixth Fleet and forced the Reagan administration to retreat from Lebanon.")

An even more reasonable date, however, might be July 3, 1979, when, at the behest of national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter signed "the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul." In other words, six months before the actual Soviet invasion of Afghanistan began, the U.S. threw its support to the mujahideen, the Afghan anti-Soviet fundamentalist jihadists.

A fascination with Polaroid photographs

By Francis Hodgson

Marc Quinn's 'Untitled' (2008)
Marc Quinn's 'Untitled' (2008)

When the great Hungarian photographer André Kertész lost his wife Elizabeth to cancer in 1977, he suffered a period of intense withdrawal close to a breakdown. For some time he remained in his apartment, just north of Washington Square Park, in New York, and repeatedly photographed many of the objects that he associated with her. By chance (and by the agency of Graham Nash, the great collector of photographs) the Polaroid Corporation gave him one of their SX-70 cameras, and that is the instrument that Kertész used to help him through his pain.

The lyrical close-ups of little artefacts that resulted are among the most evocative photographs there are. Photographed against the very same window through which Kertész had timidly peered 20 and more years before to make his famous views of Washington Square from above, the Polaroids are dense with compression. One little glass figure, photographed again and again, clearly stands for Elizabeth herself, its head angled in a tender bow, its translucency enriched by complicated reflections which seem to inhabit it as memories of her inhabited the photographer.

André Kertész's 'Self-portrait, May 6 1979'
André Kertész's 'Self-portrait, May 6 1979'
Some of Kertész's Polaroids of the late 1970s and early 1980s are among the unchallenged masterpieces of photography. In spite of their small size, these are very big photographs. Focused as if seen through tear-filled eyes, they are in lovely weak colours – jewels of gentle melancholy.

Polaroid is obsolete technology now (the use-by date on the last batch of Polaroid film was October 9 of this year) but it was once all the rage. The selling point was that it was film which could be developed instantly, in the days before digital imaging. Polaroid was a direct positive process, the most successful one by far since the daguerreotype. Everything in between had been a variant of the negative-positive process deriving from William Fox Talbot. The corollary of Polaroid's immediacy was that each print was unique – no negative meant no reprinting. (Sophisticated users were able to get into various Polaroid transfer processes, but the heart of the process was the single, unrepeatable immediate image.) So those lovely Kertész studies are not in any edition – they are like sketches or oil paintings as opposed to bronzes or lithographs.

Obama vs Insurance: Pillow fights

by Fight2Win

Obama and the health insurance companies are pillow fighting. Ready to concede, the Democrats are already saying the ya-hoo attended townhalls have stopped them from passing through legislation, what about the townhalls against the war(s)? This fight is stopping because it never really was meant to win. Just another pillow fight with big business. The media wants us to believe that there is some sort of mass movement out there that is opposed to any sort of health care that is not run by the private sector.

The media wants us to believe that there is some sort of mass movement out there that is opposed to any sort of health care that is not run by the private sector. All sorts of horror stories are being circulated to convince working people that any infringement by the public sector in to the health care business will mean the end of the world as we know it. A mish-mash of right wing elements, hired thugs, provocateurs and some genuinely confused people have been dragged in to the limelight to show how unpopular any sort of government type health care program is among the masses.

It seems that the American people love insurance companies so much that the hapless Democrats will be forced to drop their idea of a government run insurance alternative to the big private concerns in order to "keep them honest". "Some members of the public", writes today's Wall Street Journal, "interpret" this effort as "a push to drive private insurers from the market place." But insurance companies are hated by the American people and by workers in particular. What members of the public are they talking about?

What the debate is really about is state intervention in the very lucrative and profitable health care business. It is most importantly a squabble between sections of the capitalist class over private vs public. When the economic crisis hit, the severity of it shook them up real bad. Certain unpopular measures were taken; capitalism was saved from itself by massive infusions of public money. The US has allotted some $11 trillion to bail out their system. Their government now owns or is part owner of major sectors of the economy from Insurance companies to housing, banks and Auto. The battle over this health care issue and particularly the idea of a rival public insurance company is a line in the sand for some of them.

When the Wall Street Journal talks of "some people" being concerned about private insurance companies being driven from the market place it is talking about their colleagues who profit handsomely from the health industry.

The Democrats are giving the impression that the opposition against them is too great, that the town hall opposition too contentious. Are we supposed to believe these few town hall meetings and a Republican Party whose future was uncertain not many months ago are standing in the way of the Democrat's efforts to create a public insurer?

One woman I spoke to this morning said that the Democrats have "no backbone.". But that is not the issue. The Capitalist class has two parties in this country, the Republicans and the Democrats. The people that are concerned are members of their own class and it is to them they are responding when and if they make any concessions on issues that might benefit working people.

We should remember at the Democratic National Convention, all the thieves and parasites that Obama claimed he was opposed to were there. "Donors Still Paying For Access." was the headline in the Financial Times article covering the event. Private donations of more than $112 million paid for 80% of the convention costs and all the big shots were in attendance and at the parties. JP Morgan threw a big party in honor of women governors, Billy Tauzin, a former congressman and head of the pharmaceutical lobbying group PhRMA was there as were others from AT&T, the recording industry and more. The big corporate donors even had special access to Obama's speech.

The Democrats are not weak; its not a matter of backbone and it is not a matter of them betraying workers, they were never on our side.

Rebranding America


A FEW years ago, I accepted a Golden Globe award by barking out an expletive.
One imagines President Obama did the same when he heard about his Nobel, and not out of excitement.

When Mr. Obama takes the stage at Oslo City Hall this December, he won't be the first sitting president to receive the peace prize, but he might be the most controversial. There's a sense in some quarters of these not-so-United States that Norway, Europe and the World haven't a clue about the real President Obama; instead, they fixate on a fantasy version of the president, a projection of what they hope and wish he is, and what they wish America to be.

Well, I happen to be European, and I can project with the best of them. So here's why I think the virtual Obama is the real Obama, and why I think the man might deserve the hype. It starts with a quotation from a speech he gave at the United Nations last month:

"We will support the Millennium Development Goals, and approach next year's summit with a global plan to make them a reality. And we will set our sights on the eradication of extreme poverty in our time."

They're not my words, they're your president's. If they're not familiar, it's because they didn't make many headlines. But for me, these 36 words are why I believe Mr. Obama could well be a force for peace and prosperity — if the words signal action.

The millennium goals, for those of you who don't know, are a persistent nag of a noble, global compact. They're a set of commitments we all made nine years ago whose goal is to halve extreme poverty by 2015. Barack Obama wasn't there in 2000, but he's there now. Indeed he's gone further — all the way, in fact. Halve it, he says, then end it.

Many have spoken about the need for a rebranding of America. Rebrand, restart, reboot. In my view these 36 words, alongside the administration's approach to fighting nuclear proliferation and climate change, improving relations in the Middle East and, by the way, creating jobs and providing health care at home, are rebranding in action.

These new steps — and those 36 words — remind the world that America is not just a country but an idea, a great idea about opportunity for all and responsibility to your fellow man.

Barack Obama costume idea

The Race Card, Football and Me

My critics would have you believe no conservative meets NFL 'standards.'


LimbaughDavid Checketts, an investor and owner of sports teams, approached me in late May about investing in the St. Louis Rams football franchise. As a football fan, I was intrigued. I invited him to my home where we discussed it further. Even after informing him that some people might try to make an issue of my participation, Mr. Checketts said he didn't much care. I accepted his offer.

It didn't take long before my name was selectively leaked to the media as part of the Checketts investment group. Shortly thereafter, the media elicited comments from the likes of Al Sharpton. In 1998 Mr. Sharpton was found guilty of defamation and ordered to pay $65,000 for falsely accusing a New York prosecutor of rape in the 1987 Tawana Brawley case. He also played a leading role in the 1991 Crown Heights riot (he called neighborhood Jews "diamond merchants") and 1995 Freddie's Fashion Mart riot.

Not to be outdone, Jesse Jackson, whose history includes anti-Semitic speech (in 1984 he referred to Jews as "Hymies" and to New York City as "Hymietown" in a Washington Post interview) chimed in. He found me unfit to be associated with the NFL. I was too divisive and worse. I was accused of once supporting slavery and having praised Martin Luther King Jr.'s murderer, James Earl Ray.

Next came writers in the sports world, like the Washington Post's Michael Wilbon. He wrote this gem earlier this week: "I'm not going to try and give specific examples of things Limbaugh has said over the years because I screwed up already doing that, repeating a quote attributed to Limbaugh (about slavery) which he has told me he simply did not say and does not reflect his feelings. I take him at his word. . . . "

Mr. Wilbon wasn't alone. Numerous sportswriters, CNN, MSNBC, among others, falsely attributed to me statements I had never made. Their sources, as best I can tell, were Wikipedia and each other. But the Wikipedia post was based on a fabrication printed in a book that also lacked any citation to an actual source.

I never said I supported slavery and I never praised James Earl Ray. How sick would that be? Just as sick as those who would use such outrageous slanders against me or anyone else who never even thought such things. Mr. Wilbon refuses to take responsibility for his poison pen, writing instead that he will take my word that I did not make these statements; others, like Rick Sanchez of CNN, essentially used the same sleight-of-hand.

The sports media elicited comments from a handful of players, none of whom I can recall ever meeting. Among other things, at least one said he would never play for a team I was involved in given my racial views. My racial views? You mean, my belief in a colorblind society where every individual is treated as a precious human being without regard to his race? Where football players should earn as much as they can and keep as much as they can, regardless of race? Those controversial racial views?

Monty Python and the cardboard cut-out: all six members reunited in New York

Michael Palin, cardboard cutout of Graham Chapman,Terry Gilliam, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, Carol Cleveland Monty Python 40th anniversary event at the Ziegfeld Theatre
Michael Palin, cardboard cutout of Graham Chapman, Terry Gilliam,
John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Carol Cleveland

Their waistlines have expanded along with the alimony payments, but 40 years after their television debut, the surviving members of the Monty Python crew were reunited on stage.

John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin exchanged cheerful insults at the New York event, during which they were honoured with a Bafta Special Award.

Graham Chapman did not allow a small thing such as being dead stop him from taking part. A cardboard cut-out of the comedian, who died in 1989, took a seat alongside his fellow Pythons.

He even took a question or two from the audience at the Ziegfield Theatre. That was until Cleese abruptly ejected him from the stage in favour of Carol Cleveland, Python's regular female contributor.

Cleese, 69, has launched a new tour titled How To Finance Your Divorce, after the split from his wife, Alyce Faye Eichelberger, which has cost him £12 million.

But the Fawlty Towers star demonstrated that he is not afraid to mention the war. During a lull in the audience question-and-answer session, Cleese reminisced: "What about that very, very funny thing that happened at Auschwitz?"

This prompted an anecdote about a Python tour of Germany. They arrived at a concentration camp for a private tour only to find it was closed, prompting Chapman to suggest: "Tell them we're Jewish."

The Jack Herer Initiative

by J. Craig Canada

I don't want to f___ing give the United States govern-
ment one f___ing dollar of taxes. I think that they should
go to f___ing jail for getting you and me and 20 million
people getting arrested for pot. It is the safest thing you
can do in the universe. And that is what we are going to
do in California. Okay? Come over to my booth,
over there, and I will see you next time.

The Emperor of Hemp: The Jack Herer Story  - Hulu

Jack Herer, also known as The Emperor of Hemp, suffered a stroke shortly after speaking at Hempstalk in Portland, Oregon on 12 Sep 09. 

Paul Stanford wrote on Facebook that he collapsed of a heart attack three minutes after giving the speech in the video on the right.  Mr. Herer previously suffered a heart attack in 2000, also in Oregon, which left him partially paralyzed and from which he had continued to recover.

Various sources report it took twenty to twenty-five minutes for an ambulance to arrive and that he was without oxygen for that period of time.

There were at least three reports that Mr. Herer died 18 Sep 09, but these have been found to be false.  The reports were issued by CelebStoner, The Drug Policy Alliance (, and (John English, Michael Stone).  These articles have now disappeared from the internet.

On 20 Sep 09 it was reported Jack began coming out of the coma the previous day and that his eyes had momentarily opened several times and he was incessantly yawning.  Hopefully, he will be able to tell us himself that reports of his death were greatly exaggerated.

Mr. Herer ended his speech at Hempstalk with a passionate denunciation of taxing marijuana.  It seems obvious this was in response to the filing of initiatives to tax marijuana in California and Oregon, and the attendant media frenzy over the past couple of months.

Three initiatives have been filed with the Attorney General and a bill is in the legislature that would tax and regulate marijuana in California.  Additionally, there is a move in Oregon to equate marijuana with alcohol and tax it accordingly.

Mr. Herer is not alone in his opposition to the taxation of medical marijuana.  Dennis Peron and Ed Rosenthal have publicly expressed similar sentiments.  Just last week Dennis Peron announced on Facebook he had been fired by Oaksterdamn U for giving a talk in which he stated his opposition to their initiative proposing to tax, regulate, license, administer, and police marijuana without limitation.

It is curious to note that in the major media blizzard extolling the financial prospects of marijuana, no one has bothered to ask these pioneers and founders of the movement what they think.  Certainly, none have quoted them.  All have been completely ignored.  As of this writing, a Google search of the news for the past month on - "Jack Herer" tax - returns one hit, which appears to be in Moroccan.  The word "tax" appears in the phrase "the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937".

In other words, so far no one seems to think what may have been Jack Herer's last words is important.

Mr. Herer attempted to get his own marijuana legalization initiative on the California ballot in 2008.  Evidently, he was not able to get the signatures to qualify the measure.  This, most likely, was because only volunteers were used to gather signatures.

Oakland has four dispensaries that each pay $30,000 per year to be licensed by the city to dispense medical marijuana.  These dispensaries are the proponents of The Regulate, Control, and Tax Cannabis 2010 Act (ROT 2010).  The argument can be made that these four dispensaries, which together grossed $18 million in 2007 and $21 million in 2008, are paying $120,000 per year to protect their monopoly on the distribution of medical marijuana in the City of Oakland.

Measure F, sponsored by The Oakland Gang of Four, raised the tax the sick and dying pay for medicine from $1.20 per $1,000 (0.12%) to $18.00 per $1,000 (1.80%).  This is equal to the tax on alcohol and will raise the amount of tax the sick and dying pay for medicine in Oakland well over a quarter of a million dollars, from about $25,000 to about $378,000.  To many, this appears to be a sell-out of the medical marijuana movement. 

Additionally, they intend to spend a million dollars on a signature drive to get their tax, regulate, license, administer, and police marijuana "without limitation" initiative on the ballot in 2010.  In other words, The Oakland Gang of Four intends to spend well over $1,500,000 of the money patients paid for medicine to protect their monopoly in Oakland, to prohibit commercial licensing in jurisdictions that do not tax, and to exhort the cities, counties, and state to tax, regulate, license, administer, and police marijuana "without limitation".

Jack Herer's initiative, titled The California Cannabis Hemp & Health Initiative, appears to be far superior to any of the measures purporting to legalize marijuana likely to come before the people of California.

It begins not with a long-winded and superfluous list of whereases, intents, and purposes, but with the actual legal language of §11362.6 to be added to the Health & Safety Code.

Subsection 1 of the proposed §11362.6 states:

No person, individual, or corporate entity shall be arrested or prosecuted, be denied any right or privilege, nor be subject to any criminal or civil penalties for the possession, cultivation, transportation, distribution, or consumption of cannabis hemp marijuana

Subsection 2 of the proposed §11362.6 consists of definitions.  These contain language specifically legalizing industrial hemp, recreational marijuana, and medical marijuana (or cannabis).  It is to be noted that the definition of "cannabis hemp medical preparations" specifies "mental conditions".

"Mental conditions not limited to bipolar, depression, attention deficit disorder, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, shall be conditions considered for medical use."

Subsection 3 of the proposed §11362.6 prohibits "any special zoning requirement, licensing fee, or tax that is excessive, discriminatory, or prohibitive."

Subsection 4 of the proposed §11362.6 restores "cannabis hemp medicinal preparations" to "the list of available medicines in California" and specifically exempts "prescribed cannabis hemp medical preparations" from any tax.  It also prohibits any professional hearing or licensing review of physicians for "recommending or approving medical use of cannabis hemp marijuana".

Subsection 5 of the proposed §11362.6 prohibits the requirement of any "permit, license, or tax" for the "non-commercial cultivation, transportation, distribution, or consumption of cannabis hemp."  It also prohibits testing for "inactive and/or inert cannabis metabolites" for employment or insurance or "intoxication".  In other words, not only does it define cannabis as an "euphoric" as opposed to an "intoxicant", but it specifies that evidence of cannabis use may not be used to establish charges of "intoxication" but instead such charges must be based on evidence of impairment. 

Compare this to Oregon's Cannabis Tax Act, which defines cannabis as an "intoxicant" and therefore equates it to alcohol.  A search of the Oregon Revised Statutes shows 2 hits for "intoxicant" and 26 for "intoxicated".

Subsection 6 of the proposed §11362.6 declares the use of cannabis hemp for religious purposes an inalienable right protected by the state and federal constitutions.

Section II of The Jack Herer Initiative would "repeal, delete, and expunge any and all provisions that conflict with the provisions of this initiative."

Enactment of this initiative shall include: amnesty, immediate release from prison, jail, parole, and probation, and clearing, expungement, and deletion of all criminal records for all persons currently charged with, or convicted of any non-violent cannabis hemp marijuana offenses included in this initiative which are hereby no longer illegal in the State of California. People who fall within this category that triggered an original sentence are included within this provision.

Section III of The Jack Herer Initiative authorizes the legislature to enact measures to regulate commercial marijuana.  It sets a limit of $1,000 on any "license or permit fee required by the state" for "commercial production, distribution, or use" and requires sufficient community outlets shall be licensed to provide reasonable commercial access to persons of legal age.  Compare this to Oaksterdamn U's proposal, which stipulates cities and counties must tax marijuana in order to license "concessionary establishments", and prohibits commercial sales and distribution in cities and counties that do not pass such a tax.

This section also authorizes taxing "commercial" sales, so long as "no excise tax or combination of excise taxes shall exceed $10.00 per ounce."

The only flaw found in the California Cannabis Hemp & Health Initiative is the title.

It should be called The Jack Herer Initiative.

The suggested deadline to file an initiative with the California Attorney General is this Friday, September 25, 2009.  Filing an initiative requires a $200 application fee.  Then the Attorney General has about 30 days to prepare an official summary.  Once the official summary is filed the proponents have 150 days to gather the signatures to qualify for the ballot.

I can think of no more fitting legacy for the Emperor of Hemp than to get The Jack Herer Initiative And Act on the California ballot in 2010, and to pass it.

On 19 Sep 09 The Salem-News reported that to help with financial expenses, donations are accepted at all US Bank branches, make your deposit to: JACK HERER DONATION FUND. For more information, email

Revenge of the Drones

NAF logo
An Analysis of Drone Strikes in Pakistan

As a result of the unprecedented 41 drone strikes into Pakistan authorized by the Obama administration, aimed at Taliban and al Qaeda networks based there, about a half-dozen leaders of militant organizations have been killed--including two heads of Uzbek terrorist groups allied with al Qaeda, and Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban--in addition to hundreds of lower-level militants and civilians, according to our analysis.[1]

The number of civilian deaths caused by the drones is an important issue because in the charged political atmosphere of today's Pakistan, where anti-Americanism is rampant, the drone program is a particular cause of anger among those who see it as an infringement on Pakistan's sovereignty. A Gallup poll in August found that only 9 percent of Pakistanis favored the strikes, while two-thirds opposed them.

An important factor in the controversy over the drones is the widespread perception that they kill large numbers of Pakistani civilians. Some commentators have asserted that the overwhelming majority of casualties are civilians. Amir Mir, a leading Pakistani journalist, wrote in The News in April that since January 2006, American drone attacks had killed "687 innocent Pakistani civilians." A month later, a similar claim was made in the New York Times by counterinsurgency experts David Kilcullen and Andrew Exum, who wrote that drone strikes had "killed some 700 civilians. This is 50 civilians for every militant killed, a hit rate of 2 percent." In other words, in their analysis, 98 percent of those killed in drone attacks were civilians. Kilcullen and Exum advocated a moratorium on the strikes because of the "public outrage" they arouse.

A very different picture was presented earlier this month by the Long War Journal, an American blog that closely tracks terrorist groups, in particular al Qaeda and the Taliban. Bill Roggio, the editor of Long War Journal, concluded that according to his close analysis of the drone strikes, only 10 percent of those killed were civilians.

Our analysis suggests quite different conclusions than those of either Kilcullen and Exum or the Long War Journal.

But first, a word on our methodology. Our analysis of the drone campaign is based only on accounts from reliable media organizations with substantial reporting capabilities in Pakistan. We restricted our analysis to reports in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, accounts by major news services and networks--the Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse, CNN, and the BBC--and reports in the leading English-language newspapers in Pakistan--The Daily Times, Dawn, and The News--as well as those from Geo TV, the largest independent Pakistani television network. (Links to all those individual reports can be found in Appendix 1 of this paper.)

The news organizations we relied upon collectively for our data cover the drone strikes as accurately and aggressively as possible. And though we don't pretend that our study is accurate down to the last civilian death in every drone strike, we posit that our research has generated some quite reliable data on the number of militant leaders killed, a fairly good estimate of the number of lower-level militants killed, and a reliable sense of the real civilian death rate.

Since 2006, our analysis indicates, 82 U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan have killed between 750 and 1,000 people. Among them were about 20 leaders of al Qaeda, the Taliban, and allied groups, all of whom have been killed since January 2008. (A list of their names, as well as links to stories about the drone strikes that targeted them, can be found in Appendix 1.)

It is not possible to differentiate precisely between militant and civilian casualties because the militants live among the population and don't wear uniforms, and because the militants have the incentive to claim that all the casualties were civilians, while government sources tend to claim the opposite. However, of those killed in drone attacks from 2006 through mid-October 2009, between 500 and 700 were described in reliable press reports as militants, or some 66 to 68 percent.

Based on our count of the estimated number of militants killed, the real total of civilian deaths since 2006 appears to be in the range of 250 to 320, or between 31 and 33 percent.

Los Angeles Prepares for Clash Over Marijuana


LOS ANGELES — There are more marijuana stores here than public schools. Signs emblazoned with cannabis plants or green crosses sit next to dry cleaners, gas stations and restaurants.

A grower in a house in Berkeley, Calif., who said he could grow three crops a year, each worth about $40,000.

The dispensaries range from Hollywood-day-spa fabulous to shoddy-looking storefronts with hand-painted billboards. Absolute Herbal Pain Solutions, Grateful Meds, Farmacopeia Organica.

Cannabis advocates claim that more than 800 dispensaries have sprouted here since 2002; some law enforcement officials say it is closer to 1,000. Whatever the real number, everyone agrees it is too high.

And so this, too, is taken for granted: Crackdowns on cannabis clubs will soon come in this city, which has more dispensaries than any other.

For the first time, law enforcement officials in Los Angeles have vowed to prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries that turn a profit, with police officials saying they expect to conduct raids. Their efforts are widely seen as a campaign to sway the City Council into adopting strict regulations after two years of debate.

It appears to be working. Carmen A. Trutanich, the newly elected city attorney, recently persuaded the Council to put aside a proposed ordinance negotiated with medical marijuana supporters for one drafted by his office. The new proposal calls for dispensaries to have renewable permits, submit to criminal record checks, register the names of members with the police and operate on a nonprofit basis. If enacted, it is likely to result in the closing of hundreds of marijuana dispensaries.

Breaking: Obama Admin. Announces New Marijuana Policy

This is coming off the AP right now and is really good news...

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration will not seek to arrest medical marijuana users and suppliers as long as they conform to state laws, under new policy guidelines to be sent to federal prosecutors Monday.

All I can say is: it's about time!

So as you probably know, a number of states have laws on the books allowing medical marijuana. However, the Federal DEA has ignored the state's wishes and there's been a general jurisdictional headache.

Attorney General Holder announced earlier this year that states' laws should be respected on this. But there hasn't been any formal policy change... until now!

Two Justice Department officials described the new policy to The Associated Press, saying prosecutors will be told it is not a good use of their time to arrest people who use or provide medical marijuana in strict compliance with state laws.


A 3-page memo spelling out the policy is expected to be sent Monday to federal prosecutors in the 14 states, and also to top officials at the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The memo, the officials said, emphasizes that prosecutors have wide discretion in choosing which cases to pursue, and says it is not a good use of federal manpower to prosecute those who are without a doubt in compliance with state law.

Advocates Say Being a Woman Is Not a 'Pre-Existing Condition'

Incisive Media's

by Tresa Baldas

Is having a uterus a pre-existing condition?

The insurance companies seem to think so, says the National Women's Law Center, an advocacy group for women's legal rights that is on a mission to end unfair insurance company practices toward women. And it believes it's making some headway.

Over the weekend, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a new state law that bans gender rating, which is the practice of charging women higher insurance rates than men for the same services.

And on Thursday, Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women's Law Center, took the group's fight to Capitol Hill, testifying before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee about how insurance companies treat women unfairly and why any health care reform package must address this problem.

"Across health insurance markets, discriminatory industry practices put fair and affordable coverage out of reach for far too many women," Greenberger testified on Oct. 15. "We have heard repeatedly from predominately female businesses that have learned that their health insurance premiums are higher because of the gender of their employees."

The cornerstone of Greenberger's arguments is 2008 study in which her group looked at women's experiences in the health insurance market. It found:

• Women are charged as much as 48 percent more than men for health insurance.

• Of the more than 3,500 plans studied, 60 percent did not cover maternity care.

• Women are regularly denied coverage for "pre-existing conditions," which can include pregnancy or a previous C-section.

• In eight states and the District of Columbia, insurers are allowed to use a woman's status as a survivor of domestic violence to deny her health insurance.

Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans, a trade group representing 1,300 plans, also testified at the Senate hearing. She conceded that the current system is flawed in addressing the coverage needs of women, but said that the industry is "strongly committed to meeting the health care needs of women" and wants to eliminate rating based on gender and health status.

"Our proposals directly confront the reality that the individual health insurance market…needs to be fundamentally overhauled," said Ignagni.

Collider gearing up for bizarre test

by Dennis Overbye

More than a year after an explosion of sparks, soot and frigid helium shut it down, the world's biggest and most expensive physics experiment, known as the Large Hadron Collider, is poised to start up again. In December, if all goes well, protons will start smashing together in an underground racetrack outside Geneva in a search for forces and particles that reigned during the first trillionth of a second of the Big Bang.

Then it will be time to test one of the most bizarre and revolutionary theories in science. I'm not talking about extra dimensions of space-time, dark matter or even black holes that eat the Earth. No, I'm talking about the notion that the troubled collider is being sabotaged by its own future. A pair of otherwise distinguished physicists have suggested that the hypothesized Higgs boson, which physicists hope to produce with the collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one, like a time traveler who goes back in time to kill his grandfather.

Holger Bech Nielsen of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, and Masao Ninomiya of the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics in Kyoto, Japan, put this idea forward in a series of papers with such titles as "Test of Effect From Future in Large Hadron Collider: a Proposal" and "Search for Future Influence From LHC," posted on the physics Web site in the last year and a half.

According to the so-called Standard Model that rules almost all physics, the Higgs is responsible for imbuing other elementary particles with mass.

"It must be our prediction that all Higgs-producing machines shall have bad luck," Nielsen said in an e-mail message. In an unpublished essay, Nielsen said of the theory, "Well, one could even almost say that we have a model for God." It is their guess, he went on, "that He rather hates Higgs particles, and attempts to avoid them."

This malign influence from the future, they argue, could explain why the U.S. Superconducting Supercollider, also designed to find the Higgs, was canceled in 1993 after billions of dollars had already been spent, an event so unlikely that Nielsen calls it an "anti-miracle."

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