All purpose vertically integrated publishing empire for cynicism, hopelessness and misanthropy. Mild nausea is common when using this product. Other symptoms may include, but are not limited to: dizzyness, headache, homicidal rage and yellow discharge. Rarely, users may begin to hear voices urging them to kill. If this occurs, discontinue use and seek psychiatric attention. Do not read when pregnant or nursing; the author thinks that's gross.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Random News

General Purpose

So there's a story on 60 Minutes about how a man spent 26 years in prison because a couple of lawyers couldn't reveal that their client had confessed to the crime he was convicted of. Oops.

(CBS) This is a story about an innocent man who has been in prison for 26 years while two attorneys who knew he was innocent stayed silent. They did so because they felt they had no choice.

Alton Logan was convicted of killing a security guard at a McDonald's in Chicago in 1982. Police arrested him after a tip and got three eyewitnesses to identify him. Logan, his mother and brother all testified he was at home asleep when the murder occurred. But a jury found him guilty of first degree murder.

Now new evidence reveals that Logan did not commit that murder. But as correspondent Bob Simon reports, the evidence was not new to those two attorneys, who knew it all along but say they couldn't speak out until now.
This is one of those situations that just sucks. On the one hand, it really sucks for this poor guy; it also would suck if your lawyer had to rat you out because the po-po were after someone else.

Really there should be a system in cases like this where the lawyers could come forward in private to a judge and their testimony used to exonerate innocent person A without implicating their client B.

But that would probably be pretty rife with issues itself.

Tricky and ugly mess.

Source: CBS News

Still a craphole.

This time, they went from a customs system that inspected nothing, to one that inspects everything, and is so slow that a lot of the food that people send to Haiti to help out ends up rotting in the dock.
CAP-HAITIEN, Haiti -- While millions of Haitians go hungry, containers full of food are stacking up in the nation's ports because of government red tape -- leaving tons of beans, rice and other staples to rot under a sweltering sun or be devoured by vermin.

A government attempt to clean up a corrupt port system that has helped make Haiti a major conduit for Colombian cocaine has added new layers of bureaucracy -- and led to backlogs so severe they are being felt 600 miles away in Miami, where cargo shipments to Haiti are almost at a standstill
Geez what a mess.

Source: Detroit Free Press

Meanwhile, In the Part of Latin America That Works
War averted.
SANTO DOMINGO (Reuters) - The presidents of Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela ended a border dispute on Friday with a summit handshake after a week of regional diplomacy in the face of hostile rhetoric and troop buildups.

"And with this ... this incident that has caused so much damage (is) resolved," leftist Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said before standing up and shaking hands with his U.S.-backed conservative Colombian counterpart, Alvaro Uribe.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who had blamed the United States for the crisis as he sent tanks to the border with Colombia, joined in shaking Uribe's hand and applauded loudly and smiled.

The dispute erupted last Saturday when Colombia raided inside Ecuador to kill a rebel leader. It resolution brought the summit to a surprise ending after bitter exchanges, including Correa calling Uribe a liar.

The accord came after Uribe apologized to Correa under pressure from governments across the region, which worked to prevent the crisis escalating into Latin America's first armed conflict among states in more than a decade.
Aww, they could have had a costly and pointless war that only enriches defense contractors!

What are these people thinking?

Source: Raw Story

He's an Obamaniac
So it's been noted that US Weekly and Rolling Stone, owned by the same company, have been rather, err, fawning in their Obama coverage.
Hillary Rodham Clinton is a fashion victim, but Barack Obama? Oh, he’s a good dancer, a cool dad, a regular guy who likes ice cream and chili, and who happens to be a pal of Bono and George Clooney even though he isn’t impressed by celebrity.

At least, that’s the view from Us Weekly. [...]
Ahh, isn't that sweet. He's such a great guy. It must be true, it's in print and they're paragons of unbiased virtue.

Or... hmm... wait a minute.
So with Mrs. Clinton’s campaign complaining that she gets grilled by the media and he gets hero worship, is Us Weekly’s treatment a case of media bias? [...]

Us Weekly is owned by Wenner Media, publisher of Rolling Stone, which published a profile of Mr. Obama last year but has not had an article about Mrs. Clinton in this campaign. Jann S. Wenner, the company’s chairman, and Rolling Stone opposed the Iraq war, and people close to Mr. Wenner say he soured on Mrs. Clinton when she voted to authorize the war.
Aha, they're sucking up to the boss!

An American tradition. But the boss is still a paragon of virtue and full disclosure, right?
Not only did he sour on her, he sweetened Obama's campaign war-chest wish cash infusions. What the Times omitted was mention of Wenner's $3,000 in donations to Obama in 2007:

primary 10/24/07

primary 05/08/07

Clinton and her team of media advisers aren't likely to see any favorable coverage on her in any of Wenner's publications in the near future. And the Times would have made a stronger argument for bias from US Weekly's owner, if it had reported on Wenner's FEC files.

Source: Petrelis Files

And They Say Golf Isn't For Elitist Jerks
Pro golfer Tripp Isenhour said it was a "one-in-a-million" golf shot that killed a protected hawk and that he was only trying to scare the bird he now faces criminal charges for killing.


Investigators say Isenhour got upset because the hawk's loud chirps interrupted the filming of his instructional video. He was charged Wednesday in Orange County Circuit Court with animal cruelty and killing a migratory bird, charges that carry a combined 14 months in jail and $1,500 in fines.


Prosecutors say the 39-year-old player took several shots at the hawk, first driving to it in a golf cart after the bird interrupted filming from 300 yards away. When the bird later landed within 75 yards, Isenhour's shots got closer until he eventually hit and killed the hawk. It fell to the ground bleeding from both nostrils, witnesses told the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Now that the guy's in trouble, of course, he claims it was an accident.

Sure. He accidentally drove after the bird and accidentally hit balls at it until it was killed.


Source: Raw Story

Get your mind out of the gutter, btw.
Analysis Earlier this month, word got out that Microsoft was funding its own intellectual property rights curriculum in schools.

The reaction was understandably negative.

The basis of Redmond's pitch was a small survey they sponsored where nearly half of the kids polled said they were unfamiliar with the rules and guidelines of using copyrighted media. Microsoft figured tots would be less inclined to steal someone's IP if they knew about the alleged consequences.

A lot of digital ink was used to slam Microsoft's scheme. People need Redmond telling them about IP rules like they need Pavorotti schooling them about a well-balanced diet.
Yeah, I don't need a convicted monopolist and serial privacy violator to teach me about the law, thanks.

Speaking of, how's that EU business going? Still not good, eh?
Nofsinger said Microsoft has been a "middle of the road" client. Redmond has reviewed everything Topics has done for the curriculum, but has not been "overbearing."

"We want our curriculum to be what the clients want it to be — but with the realities of what teachers will be looking for and perceive as a benefit for their students," said Nofsinger. "Teachers will smell a crass marketing ploy from a mile away."
Yes, they do smell them. And like flies, they swarm. Witness Channel One, the huge propaganda network beamed into most of the public schools in America.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is dropping bits of curriculum onto 'tweens via the social networking site Much of the material such as "testimonial videos" were supplied by Topics, although the site has been developed and is maintained by Microsoft's publicity firm, DDB.

This side of the program in particular was ripe for criticism. To be fair, its development team was tasked with challenging marching orders to make lobbying intellectual property minutia "cool" to the saggy-panted youth of America.

The hope is for classrooms to use the site as an additional resource for the teachings. Here, tots can submit their own personal anecdotes about intellectual rights. It also includes a rudimentary music program for children to create beats — and then formulate their own "rules" about how it can be used.

But tots should read the fine print:

(By uploading material to MyBytes, the user is granting Microsoft and its affiliated companies and sublicensees permission to use the submission in connection with any Microsoft service including rights to: copy, distribute, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, reproduce, edit, translate and reformat the submission; to publish the user's name in connection with the submission; and sublicense such rights to any supplier of the service.

No compensation will be paid for use of a submission.)
That's right; in their campaign to protect IP rights, they knowingly market a site to minors, then trick them into giving away THEIR IP to Microsoft for free.

With the TOS in mind, just a click away are contextually humorous quotes from musicians, artists and writers who flourish under intellectual property restrictions.

"All the artist really has is the intellectual property which results from years of aesthetic struggle and dedication," wrote abstract painter Herb Jackson for the site's Viewpoints section. "If that work is to be reproduced and disseminated, it should be with the artist's control and he/she should be materially rewarded so that process can continue. It is in society's best interest to honor the intellectual wealth that artists create and sustain it."

(User license agreements notwithstanding.)

Source: The Register

A Word for Tobacco Haters

Pink PR
So a woman looking for PR to promote Breast Cancer Awareness (and, not coincidentally, her upcoming line of pet fur dyes), has dyed her poodle pink.

Then the city of Boulder, Colorado, right on cue, fined her for dying her pet, thus giving her free national press so that she can avoid paying advertisers.

Great job stopping this plan in the bud, Boulder!

Source: Denver

What Manga Was He Reading?
There's a sad story out of Seattle that got me to wondering.
According to KOMO-TV, the ABC affiliate in Seattle, Washington, 10-year-old Codey Porter died at 3:35 p.m PST today. The boy was hospitalized on Saturday after suffering respiratory failure when he was buried, headfirst, in a sandbox. He had reportedly asked his playmates to bury him in order to recreate the attacks used by the fictional ninja from the Naruto anime's fictional Village Hidden in the Sand.

Porter had been resuscitated with CPR and taken to an Everett hospital and later transferred to the Children's Hospital in Seattle where he died.
Ok, I've read 28 volumes of Naruto now, something on the order of 3000 pages. Nowhere in that do I recall the sand manipulating ninja Gaara sticking his head in the sand.

Gaara is, for those who are unaware, a character from Naruto who has the power to psionically control and manipulate sand, as well as types of rock that can be made into sand. He often creates a variety of shields made of sand to protect himself, usually in the form of a sphere about 20 feet across, or a thin second skin over his body that acts like armor.

He doesn't ever, though, stick his head in the sand, that I recall.

So, not to be too crass, but.. before anyone starts blaming Naruto, you might blame reading comprehension.

Or, you know, a lack of parental supervision.

Source: Anime News Network





Source: DC Comics

So Zimbabwe, famous for its current and rather dictatorial President's plan to take all the white land from white farmers and hand it over to untrained groups of black collectivists who, err, aren't actually any good at, or necessarily even in favor of, farming as a career.

How's that working out?
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — President Robert Mugabe, campaigning for upcoming elections, has signed a new law requiring foreign- and white-owned businesses to hand over 51% control of their operations to blacks, state media reported Sunday.

Cranking up his campaign theme of "economic empowerment" in the impoverished African nation, Mugabe also unveiled plans to distribute tractors, generators, gasoline and cattle to black farmers who have resettled on white-owned land seized by the government since 2000.


Since the government began ordering the seizure of white-owned farms in 2000, production of food and agricultural exports has slumped drastically. Zimbabwe has the world's highest official rate of inflation: 100,500%.

One-third of the nation's 12 million people received emergency food aid in January, U.N. food agencies said. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization predicted shortfalls in local harvests in coming weeks and said just 10% of fertilizer needed in the last planting season is available to farmers.

Since December, the Central Bank has spent at least $43 million to import corn, Zimbabwe's staple food, from neighboring countries, bank Gov. Gideon Gono said Saturday.
So, about how you'd expect then.


Source: USA Today

Carry On
On the one hand, I like it, on the other hand, I don't want to die in prison.

Ladies and gentlemen; the laptop bag that looks like it has a gun inside!

Source: boingboing

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Science, Mostly Spacey

To Infinity, Beyond, Etc

Ring Around the Rhea
So it seems that one of Saturn's many moons has its own ring system.

Which, at this rate, probably hides a yet smaller moon.

With ITS own ring system.

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Cassini spacecraft has found evidence of material orbiting Rhea, Saturn's second largest moon. This is the first time rings may have been found around a moon.

A broad debris disk and at least one ring appear to have been detected by a suite of six instruments on Cassini specifically designed to study the atmospheres and particles around Saturn and its moons.
Sadly, no pictures.
Evidence for a debris disk in addition to this tenuous dust cloud came from a gradual drop on either side of Rhea in the number of electrons detected by two of Cassini's instruments. Material near Rhea appeared to be shielding Cassini from the usual rain of electrons. Cassini's Magnetospheric Imaging Instrument detected sharp, brief drops in electrons on both sides of the moon, suggesting the presence of rings within the disk of debris. The rings of Uranus were found in a similar fashion, by NASA's Kuiper Airborne Observatory in 1977, when light from a star blinked on and off as it passed behind Uranus' rings.


These ring findings make Rhea a prime candidate for further study. Initial observations by the imaging team when Rhea was near the sun in the sky did not detect dust near the moon remotely. Additional observations are planned to look for the larger particles.
Stupid nearly invisible rings.


Source: Cassini-Huygens (NASA)

So the UK is looking to cut its radio astronomy program after spending a bunch of money to upgrade it.

And here I thought heavy drinking was DOWN in Britain.
"MERLIN, the UK's only radio astronomy facility, is facing closure following the results of a Programmatic Review carried out by the Science and Technology Facilities Council, the results of which were announced on Monday. The review placed MERLIN and the upgraded telescope e-MERLIN, due to go online later this year following an investment of £8M, in the low-priority category under serious threat of funding cuts. The upgraded array of telescopes, situated across the UK, will be 30 times more sensitive than the current array and will be a unique facility for observing distant objects and helping us understand the universe. If these cuts go ahead however, not only MERLIN but the entire Observatory including the iconic Lovell telescope, based at Jodrell Bank in Cheshire, will be under threat of closure."
Just spend a bit less on football hooliganism and you'll be set!

Source: Slashdot

Grand Canyon
Though I dislike that name, I mean, Mars has a much more impressive canyon.

Anyway, turns out ours took a lot longer to make than previously thought.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Gazing into the majestic Grand Canyon, awe-struck visitors inevitably ask: "How old is it?" Far older than generally thought, says new evidence that scientists culled from caves lining the canyon's red limestone cliffs.

The Grand Canyon often is referred to as about 6 million years old — but its western half actually began to open at least 17 million years ago, a University of New Mexico team reports Friday in the journal Science.
Basically, the Grand Canyon is actually a series of canyons that merged over time, and one set is far older than the other. Appearances can be deceiving, and all that.

Source: The Associated Press

David Brin Is a Moron
Can there be any other explanation for a man who thinks the complete death of privacy is a good thing?
When I write and speak about privacy, I am regularly confronted with the mutual disclosure argument. Explained in books like David Brin's The Transparent Society, the argument goes something like this: In a world of ubiquitous surveillance, you'll know all about me, but I will also know all about you. The government will be watching us, but we'll also be watching the government. This is different than before, but it's not automatically worse. And because I know your secrets, you can't use my secrets as a weapon against me.

This might not be everybody's idea of utopia -- and it certainly doesn't address the inherent value of privacy -- but this theory has a glossy appeal, and could easily be mistaken for a way out of the problem of technology's continuing erosion of privacy. Except it doesn't work, because it ignores the crucial dissimilarity of power.

You cannot evaluate the value of privacy and disclosure unless you account for the relative power levels of the discloser and the disclosee.

If I disclose information to you, your power with respect to me increases. One way to address this power imbalance is for you to similarly disclose information to me. We both have less privacy, but the balance of power is maintained. But this mechanism fails utterly if you and I have different power levels to begin with.

An example will make this clearer. You're stopped by a police officer, who demands to see identification. Divulging your identity will give the officer enormous power over you: He or she can search police databases using the information on your ID; he or she can create a police record attached to your name; he or she can put you on this or that secret terrorist watch list. Asking to see the officer's ID in return gives you no comparable power over him or her. The power imbalance is too great, and mutual disclosure does not make it OK.

You can think of your existing power as the exponent in an equation that determines the value, to you, of more information. The more power you have, the more additional power you derive from the new data.
Thank you, Bruce Schneier, for giving even more evidence that techno-utopians like Brin are just as stupid as the regular kind.

Source: Wired

Verne Would Have Wanted It Shot Out Of a Cannon
So the ESA is covering for us a bit when we step down our shuttles (with no working replacement near readiness).
Crews have been manning the International Space Station continuously since late 2000, and in all that time there have really only been three ways to get supplies from Earth to orbit. They can go up in the space shuttle’s cargo hold, they can be packed into an unmanned Russian “Progress” re-supply ship, or they can be squeezed in with passengers on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

That is, until now. If all goes as planned, a new European supply ship called the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) is set to launch on Saturday night atop an Ariane 5 rocket from the Ariane Launch Complex Number 3 in Kourou, French Guiana.

Christened “Jules Verne,” this unmanned spacecraft will be the first of five ATV’s launched to the ISS at a rate of one every year and a half or so.

It is designed to deliver more than 8 tons of cargo to the ISS — everything from food and drinking water to air, propellants and scientific equipment.
Not people though. Looks like they still get to ride a Russian Soyuz up.


Two articles on a new camera technology that sees in the so-called T-Ray spectrum, which is a section of the EM band between infrared and microwaves.

First, we have the abuse of privacy, courtesy of our Orwellian friends across the pond.
LONDON (Reuters) - A British company has developed a camera that can detect weapons, drugs or explosives hidden under people's clothes from up to 25 meters away in what could be a breakthrough for the security industry.

The T5000 camera, created by a company called ThruVision, uses what it calls "passive imaging technology" to identify objects by the natural electromagnetic rays -- known as Terahertz or T-rays -- that they emit.

The high-powered camera can detect hidden objects from up to 80 feet away and is effective even when people are moving. It does not reveal physical body details and the screening is harmless, the company says.


"The ability to see both metallic and non-metallic items on people out to 25 meters is certainly a key capability that will enhance any comprehensive security system."


The technology works on the basis that all people and objects emit low levels of electromagnetic radiation. Terahertz rays lie somewhere between infrared and microwaves on the electromagnetic spectrum and travel through clouds and walls.

Depending on the material, the signature of the wave is different, so that explosives can be distinguished from a block of clay and cocaine is different from a bag of flour.
I hope nobody in England ever likes to carry something embarassing on their person, or wear the 'wrong' kind of underwear.

Then we have the scientifically useful, non-evil application, which has apparently been puttering around unnoticed for half a decade.
The technique employs a little-studied but ubiquitous radiation. Detecting T-rays allows a camera to effectively see through smoke, walls and even clothing or bandages.

Low frequency versions of terahertz waves are known as millimeter waves, and they behave much like radio waves. At higher frequencies, the terahertz waves straddle the border between radio and optical emissions. The technology is sometimes referred to as quasi-optics.

Similar but less sensitive technology is already used to examine sea-surface temperatures from satellites. A future T-ray observatory might study the tails of comets, experts say, and the frequency could also shed new light on the early universe and how the first galaxies formed.

Source: Raw Story

All Hail Our New Robot Overlord
Its name is Dextre, and it has two giant arms to kill, err, hug, you with.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- Astronauts bound for orbit this week will dabble in science fiction, assembling a "monstrous" two-armed space station robot that will rise like Frankenstein from its transport bed.

Putting together Dextre, the robot, will be one of the main jobs for the seven Endeavour astronauts, who are scheduled to blast off in the wee hours of Tuesday, less than three weeks after the last shuttle flight.


With 11-foot arms, a shoulder span of nearly 8 feet and a height of 12 feet, the Canadian Space Agency's Dextre - short for dexterous and pronounced like Dexter - is more than a little intimidating, at least for astronaut Garrett Reisman.

"Now I wouldn't go as far to say that we're worried it's going to go run amok and take over the space station or turn evil or anything because we all know how it's operated and it doesn't have a lot of its own intelligence," Reisman told The Associated Press last week.

"But I'll tell you something ... He's enormous and to see him with his giant arms, it is a little scary. It's a little monstrous, it is."

Err, it's microgravity.


Source: Wired

Science Picatures
Apparently there's an award for the best ones, now.

Number 7 is my favorite, personally.

Source: The Guardian

Conservatives Update

Republicans and Other Jerks

Wireless Wiretaps Plus
So it turns out that the Feds have a backdoor into absolutely everything about you on one of the larger wireless carriers *cough* *cough* Verizon *cough*.

Every single customer, call, both contents and origin/destination, billing records, personal information, all of it.

Not one warrant.

Source: Wired

Court is the Only Way
Legal jeopardy is simply the only way to make a Republican do their job.

Responding to a lawsuit by Michigan and eight other states, the Bush administration is reconsidering its policy on mercury emissions from cement plants, which critics say allows too much air pollution.

Whether the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency changes the rules will depend on test results of technology that could reduce the emissions, spokesman Dale Kemery said Thursday.

But an environmental law firm that has battled the EPA for a decade over the matter said the agency promised in a court filing last month to set standards it previously had resisted.

"They've turned 180 degrees," said James Pew, attorney for Earthjustice, based in Washington, D.C.

Mercury comes from raw materials used to make cement — such as limestone, clay, sand and iron ore — and from fuels such as coal that fire the kilns where the ingredients are baked. Mercury is a neurotoxin linked to learning disabilities and is most dangerous to fetuses and young children, usually by eating fish contaminated through environmental exposure.

The agency in December 2006 set limits on mercury and hydrocarbon emissions from cement kilns built after Dec. 2, 2005. But for kilns built earlier, the EPA imposed lesser requirements.

The states sued in February 2007, saying the federal Clean Air Act requires mercury emission limits for all plants, not just new ones. Earthjustice, which had sued the EPA three previous times over cement kiln mercury, filed a separate case on behalf of several activist groups.
Activist groups and nine states. Nine states that are sick and tired of mercury poisoned kids.
The nine states include Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania

Source: Raw Story

What, Israel Again?
The little country that could demonstrates that it won't just stand by and let the US get all the bad press.
In Jerusalem, more ultra-Orthodox Jews, or Harediim, are leaving their cloistered neighborhoods for cheaper housing in the suburbs. In one suburb, that has led to rising tensions and sporadic violence with their modern Orthodox and secular neighbors.
Religious fanatics! Is there anything they can't ruin?
A small group of ultra-Orthodox extremists has been intimidating fellow Jews who they deem to be not kosher or modest enough, or who don't keep the Sabbath the way they want them to.

One resident of the sprawling, quiet suburb of Ramat Beit Shemesh, a half-hour outside of Jerusalem, is Solly Wahlbe, an ultra-Orthodox Jew who spends his days studying the Torah.

In an outdoor shopping area near a local supermarket, the slight 18-year-old says he approves of the big signs posted everywhere around by his fellow ultra-Orthodox, which implore women to dress modestly.

Women wearing jeans or pants, Wahlbe says, are a distraction to what he calls "the focused, settled minds" of the Harediim.

"When dealing with this issue of Torah, your mind has to be much more settled and can't be jumping around to all sorts of different planets and all sorts of different fantasies and thoughts that might come up on a teenager's head," he says.

Or, he says softly, "into the head of a married man. ... We're not trying to change people," he says, "but they must respect our way of life."
They're not trying to change people. They just can't control themselves because they've been brought up in a goddamned cult, and thus they want to force everyone to agree with them or else get stoned to death.
The problem is that Wahlbe is in a public shopping center in a mixed suburb where Harediim make up a little more than a quarter of the population. A minority of ultra-Orthodox have tried to impose "respect" using rocks, fists and intimidation.
Oh yeah. This is going to end well.
Dr. Hahvah is a modern Orthodox woman who dresses modestly, keeps kosher and observes the Sabbath. One day driving home, she saw that someone had put up a sign in her neighborhood that read "Don't pass here unless you dress modestly."

"I find that offensive," she says. "I don't think that anybody should impose dress codes on the public."

When she tried to haul the sign down, some ultra-Orthodox pelted her and her car with rocks. Dr. Hahvah, who asked that her full name not be used, went to the local police, but she says they did nothing.

"It's very hard. I know the people who attacked me and when their families come to see me as a doctor and I can't say anything or do anything because it's unprofessional," she says.

That rock attack was hardly an isolated incident. People driving on the Sabbath have been bombarded with rocks. Earlier this year in Beit Shemesh, a young Haredi woman was sitting next an Israeli soldier on a public bus when ultra-Orthodox men assaulted both of them and forced the woman off the bus. Men and women, they said, should be segregated. Later, an ultra-Orthodox man who stood up to the zealots within his own community was himself brutally beaten. He said it was like a pogrom.
Hehe. Silly religious idealists. You thought getting your own country to play with would end the violence and hate? Haven't any of you read Durkheim? Society is DEFINED by its outsiders. In the absence of real ones, imaginary outsiders are always invented.

But what will the powerful government, with its legal monopoly on violence, do about this problem?
"One of the problems with this group of violent fanatics, I would call them, is that they don't know how to handle when they have a disagreement," says Shalom Lerner, the deputy mayor of Beit Shemesh.


"Culturally, it's a big change for them," he says. "This is the first time these group of peoples are moving out of Jerusalem, out of Mea Shariim. They're not used to seeing a woman in pants, they're not used to seeing a woman with uncovered hair, and they find it very hard to adjust."

Lerner, an observant, modern Orthodox, says Beit Shemesh leaders said enough is enough after some businesses received mafia-like threats to put up modesty signs — or else. Then a family whose television was allegedly visible through a window got a threatening letter demanding they cover it up or face attack. Lerner says the town made it clear to the ultra-Orthodox that there will be big legal, financial and political costs if the threats, bullying and violence continue.

"If it's a school they want, the school will be the last one to get allocation," he says. "It won't be where they want. We won't give them any financial help. If they want to be tough, we'll be tough."
Paperwork! Holding that up will solve everything!
Last summer, community members started a group that's trying to narrow the religious and cultural divide through dialogue. Organizers say they have made some progress, but both sides acknowledge the goal of the dialogue, in the end, is not wider integration but a kind of peaceful segregation.

"If they want to be the way they want [and] we want to be the way we want, we can't put them together," says David, a 25-year-old ultra-Orthodox who studies Torah full time, "because it's two different things — it's two different worlds."
He's 25 and he wants to segregate the nation and spend the rest of his life studying a single book written by crazy people a few thousand years ago.

Seriously. There's no long-term peaceful coexistence with these people. They either have to adapt, or eventually they'll rise up like our South did in the Civil War, and you'll have to crush them. Don't say I didn't warn you, Israel.

Source: NPR

I Always Thought Heavy Drinking Led to Republicans
Though I was more inclined to believe it was Fetal Alcohol Syndrome than adult drunkenness that actually caused the disorder.
A Minnesota state senator has withdrawn a bill which would have extended drinking hours at local bars during the Republican National Convention next summer.

The legislation would have changed the closing time from 2 am to 4 am for bars in the seven-county Minneapolis-St. Paul area between Aug. 29 and Sep. 8.

Legislator Linda Scheid gave up her effort following just an hour of debate in the state legislature, after she found that the police had concerns that it would affect all bars, not just those near the convention.
Republicans love to hold their conventions where they're just not wanted. First New York, where the cops had to install a fascist police state to create a quasi-Disneyland part of the city for the GOP, now Minneapolis, where, apparently, the Republicans need a steady supply of hard liquor just to stand all the liberal, functional government and tolerance.

Jerks. Go back to the inbred South already.

Source: Raw Story

Conservatives are looking to ban another drug now, because the state-corporate monopoly on your brain tissue needs more protection.
On Web sites touting the mind-blowing powers of Salvia divinorum, come-ons to buy the hallucinogenic herb are accompanied by warnings: "Time is running out!" and "stock up while you still can."

That's because salvia is being targeted by lawmakers concerned that the inexpensive and easy-to-obtain plant could become the next marijuana. Eight states have already placed restrictions on salvia, and 16 others, including Florida, are considering a ban or have previously.

"As soon as we make one drug illegal, kids start looking around for other drugs they can buy legally. This is just the next one," said Florida state Rep. Mary Brandenburg, who has introduced a bill to make possession of salvia a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
Ahh, Prohibition. Is there any social ill it can't turn into an epidemic of greed, corruption and violence?
Mike Strain, Louisiana's Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner and former legislator, helped his state in 2005 become the first to make salvia illegal, along with a number of other plants. He said the response has been largely positive.

"I got some hostile e-mails from people who sold these products," Strain said. "You don't make everybody happy when you outlaw drugs. You save one child and it's worth it."

Among those who believe the commotion over the drug is overblown is Rick Doblin of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a nonprofit group that does research on psychedelic drugs and whose goal is to develop psychedelics and marijuana into prescription medication.

"I think the move to criminalize is a misguided response to a very minimal problem," Doblin said.

Doblin said salvia isn't "a party drug," "tastes terrible" and is "not going to be extremely popular." He disputes the fact teens are its main users and says older users are more likely.

"It's a minor drug in the world of psychedelics," he said.
Yes, people are really going to get in line for a short-lasting, terrible tasting mild hallucinogen. Woe betide us if they do, as well.

Meanwhile, tobacco, which has killed millions of Americans? Legal. Alcohol? Legal. Yes, if you like killing yourself or your brain, we have two and only two options available. You even have to consume them the way WE, I mean the government, tell you (witness the efforts to ban alcohol inhalers, which make it cheaper to get drunk and thus cut down on the profit margin).

Not that I'm advocating banning tobacco or alcohol. Just noting the inherent hypocrisy here.

Source: Raw Story

Surrounded by Jerks!
So it seems it isn't safe to walk the corridors of school without the threat of being accosted on all sides by jerks.
LANCASTER, Pa. - The family of a middle school student who was given detention for wearing a T-shirt bearing the image of a gun has filed a federal freedom of speech lawsuit against the school district.

Donald Miller III, 14, went to Penn Manor High School in December wearing a T-shirt he said was intended to honor his uncle, a U.S. Army soldier fighting in Iraq.

The shirt bears the image of a military sidearm and on the front pocket says "Volunteer Homeland Security." On the back, over another image of the weapon, are the words "Special issue Resident Lifetime License - United States Terrorist Hunting Permit - Permit No. 91101 - Gun Owner - No Bag Limit."
Isn't that cute? He thinks being a gun owner and remembering the date a terror attack happened makes him a licensed vigilante!

Normally I am vehemently opposed to this t-shirt banning nonsense, but this one actually implies that the kid will murder people, with a gun (bag limit, anyone?) and get away with it, so I could see it frightening, say, some poor brown student who already gets the hell harassed out of him for having a 'funny sounding' name.

Let's see if the school can overgeneralize this one racist, jingoistic misbehavior into a sea of troubles, though.
But an attorney for the school district said school must create a safe environment for students in the post-Columbine era, and bringing even the image of a gun to school violates the district's policy.

"There's a much higher level of sensitivity these days," Penn Manor attorney Kevin French said. "But it's based on reality."

The lawsuit was filed in January. A federal judge will hold a conference on the case March 31.
That poor judge. He'll be up late many a night, with only a bottle of Scotch to comfort him, trying to find a way to rule that doesn't let the morons win. Either side.

Our thoughts are with you, good sir or madam.

Source: AZ Central

Monday, March 10, 2008

American Power Abroad

America Has a Foreign Policy?

Torture (Oops!)
So there are still countries that can't stomach torture, and they're backing away from the United States like it's a leper over our admission that we, err, pour waterinto peoples' lungs for sport, or whatever reason they give this weeek.

Copeland said the Canadian government's decision to drop claims about Harkat and Charkaoui that came from the CIA's interrogations of Abu Zubaydah indicates "the government of Canada, or at least the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, has concluded that everything that came from Abu Zubaydah was obtained by torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment."

Asked why the statements from Zubaydah had been dropped from the dossiers against Harkat and Charkaoui, Bernard Beckhoff, a spokesman for Canada's public safety ministry, which oversees CSIS, said he could not comment on developments in either case because they are both still before the courts. But he then added, pointedly: "The CSIS director has stated publicly that torture is morally repugnant and not particularly reliable. CSIS does not knowingly use information which has been obtained through torture."
That's right, Canada is throwing out all the evidence we gave them that we got through torturing Zubaydah. Because they still pretend to have souls up there.

Meanwhile, look at all the great evidence they have left after they toss out the stuff we obtained from a guy under duress. Almost makes you wonder if it was all made up, doesn't it?
At least part of the case against the Canadian suspects was derived from the CIA-supplied statements of Zubaydah, the suspected Al Qaeda logistics chief who was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 and became the first high-value detainee subjected to waterboarding. A Canadian government dossier filed with the courts after Harkat's arrest, for example, stated that "a foreign agency" (an apparent reference to the CIA) "advised the Service [CSIS] in March 2003 that Abu Zubaida [sic] was able to identify the respondent [Harkat] by his physical description, including that he operated a guest house in Peshawar, Pakistan in the mid 1990s for mujahadeen travelling to Chechnya."

But last month, the CSIS filed a revised version of the dossier on Harkat as part of its case to deport the suspect. The new version deleted the detailed information from "the foreign agency" about Abu Zubaydah's identification of Harkat. Instead, in the new dossier, dated Feb. 22, 2008, the CSIS said simply that, "Based on its investigation, the Service concludes that HARKAT [sic] has associated with Abu Zubaydah [sic], one of [Osama] bin Laden's top lieutenants since the early 1990s." A footnote in the dossier attributes this information to news articles from the British press and to a counter terrorism newsletter published by a Chicago think tank.
I've done far better research for 2 page busywork papers for freshman classwork as an undergrad. This is shamefully ridiculous.

Source: Newsweek

So a Rupert Murdoch propaganda outfit in Australia has been water-carrying for the Aussie government, saying that a man we tortured the crap out of was lying about it. (By 'We' I mean the Bush axis of various puppet states and what's left of America).

Apparently you can get away with it too, by nitpicking the precise details of how a person was abused.
A judge ruled Friday that claims by a former Guantanamo Bay inmate that he was tortured could not be fully believed because his testimony was inconsistent and may have been exaggerated to try to help him win a defamation lawsuit.

But Mamdouh Habib almost certainly was mistreated during his three years of detention without trial in four countries after being arrested in Pakistan in late 2001, during which he suffered extreme stress and trauma, the judge found.


Habib told the court he had been beaten and electrocuted by his captors while he was in Pakistan and Egypt, kept drugged and shackled, had his fingers broken, and was sexually molested.

He claimed that Australian officials were present during parts of his ordeal.

Habib said that while at Guantanamo he was regularly beaten before interrogation sessions, kept shackled and often naked, and had his cell sprayed with pepper spray.

In his ruling, McClellan said he could not accept a lot of Habib's evidence because it was inconsistent with previous statements he had made. The judge also found Habib was "prone to exaggerate," and "evasive" when pressed on details.

"I have no difficulty in accepting that the experiences which Mr. Habib suffered were traumatic" and were an "extraordinarily stressful experience," McClellan said.

"I also have little doubt that from time to time he was mistreated," he said, citing electric shocks, kicks and the use of hot and cold water as included in the likely abuse.
Oh, is that all? Water torture and electrocution? Pfft. What a whiner!

Source: Raw Story

Operation Merlin
It seems the CIA has been doing their usual bangup job overseas.
The Bush administration is prolonging the hunting season against journalists. The latest victim is James Risen, The New York Times reporter for national security and intelligence affairs. About three months ago, a federal grand jury issued a subpoena against him, ordering Risen to give evidence in court. A heavy blackout has been imposed on the affair, with the only hint being that it has to do with sensitive matters of "national security."

But conversations with several sources who are familiar with the affair indicate that Risen has been asked to testify as part of an investigation aimed at revealing who leaked apparently confidential information about the planning of secret Central Intelligence Agency and Mossad missions concerning Iran's nuclear program.

Risen included this information in his book, "State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration," which was published in 2006. In the book, he discusses a number of ideas which he says were thought up jointly by CIA and Mossad operatives to sabotage Iran's nuclear capabilities.

One of these ideas was to build electromagnetic devices, smuggling them inside Iran to sabotage electricity lines leading to the country's central nuclear sites. According to the plan, the operation was supposed to cause a series of chain reactions which would damage extremely powerful short circuits in the electrical supply that would have led to failures of the super computers of Iran's nuclear sites.

According to the book, the Mossad planners proposed that they would be responsible for getting the electromagnetic facilities into Iran with the aid of their agents in Iran. However, a series of technical problems prevented the plan's execution.
Right, right. Magic EMP bombs will be snuck into Iran!

Nevermind the physics, we can power them with pixie dust!

Naturally, it doesn't stop there.
Another of the book's important revelations, which made the administration's blood boil about James Risen, appeared in a chapter describing what was known as Operation Merlin, the code name for another CIA operation supposed to penetrate the heart of Iran's nuclear activity, collect information about it and eventually disrupt it.

Operation Merlin

The CIA counter proliferation department hired a Soviet nuclear engineer who had previously, in the 1990s, defected to the United States and revealed secrets from the Soviet Union's nuclear program. His speciality was in the field of what is called weaponization, the final stage of assembling a nuclear bomb.

The scientist was equipped with blueprints for assembling a nuclear bomb in which, without his knowledge, false drawings and information blueprints were planted about a nuclear warhead that was supposedly manufactured in the Soviet Union. The plan's details had been fabricated by CIA experts, and so while they appeared authentic, they had no engineering or technological value.

The intention was to fool the scientist and send him to make contact with the Iranians to whom he would offer his services and blueprints. The American plot was aimed at getting the Iranians to invest a great deal of effort in studying the plans and to attempt to assemble a faulty warhead. But when the time came, they would not have a nuclear bomb but rather a dud.

However, Operation Merlin, which was so creative and original, failed because of CIA bungled planning. The false information inserted into the blueprints were too obvious and too easily detected and the Russian engineer discovered them. As planned, he made contact with the Iranian delegation to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna and handed over to them, also as planned, the blueprints.

But contrary to the CIA's intention, he added a letter to the blueprints in which he pointed out the mistakes. He did not do this with ill intent or out of a desire to disrupt the operation and harm his operators. On the contrary, he did so out of a deep sense of mission and in order to satisfy his American operators. He hoped that in this way he would simply increase the Iranians' trust in him and encourage them to make contact with him for the good, of course, of his American operators.

The result was disastrous. Not only did the CIA fail to prevent the Iranians in their efforts to enhance their nuclear program, this operation may also have made it possible for them to get their hands on a plan for assembling a nuclear warhead.
So the CIA thought they could fool an ex-Soviet expert on nuclear weapon assembly by fudging the details on some paperwork and sending him overseas without his knowledge. Nevermind that the man risked his life to betray the USSR when the KGB would have moved heaven and earth to rub him out; we can't trust him.


Thank you CIA, for giving Iran the bomb know-how!

Source: Haaretz

Bush Torture
El Presidente sure loves him some depravity.
WASHINGTON — Despite Congressional efforts to force a change in course, President Bush further cemented his legacy of establishing strong executive powers Saturday, giving the Central Intelligence Agency broad latitude to use harsh interrogation techniques against suspected terrorists that are prohibited by the military and law enforcement agencies.

Mr. Bush vetoed a bill that would have explicitly prohibited the agency from using such interrogation methods, which include waterboarding, a technique that suffocates a restrained prisoner and has been the subject of intense criticism at home and abroad.
So *this* is what it feels like to live in a dying empire that will resort to anything no matter how sickening in an attempt, however feeble, to hold onto power for a few more years.

Huh. No wonder the Soviets drank so much.

Source: Firedoglake (from NYTimes)

KBR Brand Poison Water
So the former subsidiary of Halliburtion, KBR, that landed all those juicy no-bid contracts, has been caught screwing over American soldiers.

WASHINGTON: Dozens of U.S. troops in Iraq fell sick at bases using "unmonitored and potentially unsafe" water supplied by the military and a contractor once owned by Vice President Dick Cheney's former company, the Pentagon's internal watchdog says.

A report obtained by The Associated Press said soldiers experienced skin abscesses, cellulitis, skin infections, diarrhea and other illnesses after using discolored, smelly water for personal hygiene and laundry at five U.S. military sites in Iraq.

The Defense Department's inspector general's report, which could be released as early as Monday, found water quality problems between March 2004 and February 2006 at three sites run by contractor KBR Inc., and between January 2004 and December 2006 at two military-operated locations.

It was impossible to link the dirty water definitively to all the illnesses, according to the report. But it said KBR's water quality "was not maintained in accordance with field water sanitary standards" and the military-run sites "were not performing all required quality control tests."


The inspector general's study confirmed AP reports on the contaminated water in early 2006 and provided additional details on the scope of the problem at the Iraq bases. In January that year, interviews and internal company documents disclosed the problems at Ar Ramadi and showed that KBR employees could not get the company to inform base residents.

Halliburton Co., then KBR's parent company, disputed the allegations even though they were made by its own employees and documented in company e-mails. In March 2006, the AP obtained an internal Halliburton report that, in one instance, the company missed contamination that could have caused "mass sickness or death" at Ar Ramadi.

The report said the event at Ar Ramadi could have been prevented if KBR's reverse osmosis units on the site had been assembled, instead of relying on the military's water production facilities.


Medical records for troops at Camp Q-West indicated 38 cases of illnesses commonly attributed to problem water. These include skin abscesses, cellulitis, skin infections and diarrhea. Doctors diagnosed 24 of the cases in January and February 2006, the same period when medical officials warned of a rise in bacterial infections at the base.

In addition, military medical records — tied to no particular base in Iraq — showed 26 cases of food and waterborne diseases, including hepatitis, giardiasis and typhoid fever.
Ahh, Republicans sure know how to support the troops.

I mean, do you know how hard it is to give people typhoid these days?

Source: International Herald Tribune

Here's that policy statement I was looking for at the start of this entry!

Knew I had it around here somewhere.

Source: Glumbert

Sunday, March 9, 2008

McCain Update


Oldie but Goodie
So, just how big of a jerk is John McCain?

Well, he thinks it's appropriate for a US Senator to tell disparaging jokes about a teenage girl. From way back in 1998:

Earlier this month, at a Republican Senate fund-raiser, McCain told a downright nasty joke making fun of Janet Reno, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton.


"Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly?
Because her father is Janet Reno."
Ahh, McCain. Vintage McCain. Loony McCain.


Hothead McCain
John McCain is known for his willingness to engage reporters on all matter of issues, so some scribes on his campaign plane were taken aback Friday when the Republican presidential candidate appeared to lose his cool when talking to a New York Times correspondent.

Elisabeth Bumiller asked McCain about a meeting he had with then-presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004 about becoming the Democrat's running mate. McCain had just mentioned to a town hall meeting in Atlanta that he and Kerry "had that conversation," but he turned down the offer to share the ticket.

Bumiller noted that McCain denied speaking to Kerry at the time, citing a May 2004 Times article. The candidate appeared to grow agitated, although he never raised his voice. Fox News broadcast video of the exchange.

"Everybody knows that I had a private conversation. ... There’s no living American in Washington" who doesn't know, McCain said.


It appears Bumiller was asking about this Times article from May 15, 2004:
Asked if Senator Kerry had made such an offer, Mr. McCain said no without hesitation. But asked if the two men had ever discussed it, even casually, he paused for a moment.

"No," he said finally. "We really haven't."
So were you lying then, Senator, or now? Or did this mystical conversation come up later? If so, why the pause? Why the qualification? Did you 'really' discuss it, or not?

McCain doesn't like being caught in a lie. Pity it happens so often.

Source: Raw Story

Perhaps there was more than being caught in a simple lie to irk McCain about his anecdote going South, however.
Jonathan Singer: There's a story in The Hill, I think on Tuesday, by Bob Cusack on the front page of the paper talking about how John McCain's people -- John Weaver -- had approached Tom Daschle and a New York Congressman, I don't remember his name, about switching parties. And I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about what your discussions were with him in 2004, how far it went, who approached whom... if there was any "there" there.

John Kerry: I don't know all the details of it. I know that Tom, from a conversation with him, was in conversation with a number of Republicans back then. It doesn't surprise me completely because his people similarly approached me to engage in a discussion about his potentially being on the ticket as Vice President. So his people were active -- let's put it that way.
So, basically, Kerry didn't approach him, he approached Kerry, and he wasn't just angling for the VP slot, he wanted to jump ship.

To run against El Presidente. As a Democrat.


This is your nominee, Republican Party! Suck it down!

Source: Hullabaloo

So McCain still refuses to denounce OR reject his Hagee endorsement, the rabid anti-Catholic who calls that particular church 'The Great Whore', amongst other things.

His supporters think it's perfectly ok, however, to take the endorsement of a loon if it helps him over the top.

McCain meanwhile is trying to have his cake and eat it too.
Republican presidential candidate John McCain on Friday repudiated any views of a prominent televangelist who endorsed him last month "if they are anti-Catholic or offensive to Catholics."

McCain has come under fire since televangelist John Hagee endorsed him on Feb. 27, but until Friday his response had been tepid. The Arizona senator merely said he doesn't agree with everyone who endorses him. He said Friday he had been hearing from Catholics who find Hagee's comments offensive.
IF they're offensive?


Yeesh, come on man. Get a damned clue.

Of course, after almost kinda sorta disagreeing with Hagee, he signs up to go to an even nuttier group's conference.
Sen. John McCain, in his post-victory debut before the conservative movement's top donors and leaders, will address the Council for National Policy's annual winter meeting here today.

His remarks at the event, which has always been closed to the public and will have only a partial accommodation of the press this year for the first time, could turn out to be his make-or-break pitch for support from some of the right's most influential critics of his past positions and policies.
But, you ask me, 'Who's in the Council for National Policy?' Glad you asked, random non-existent reader.
Some well-known figures affiliated with the CNP include Rev. Jerry Falwell, anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly and the Rev. Pat Robertson. But its the lesser-known CNP mainstays that are more indicative of the organization's politics. They include:

Richard Shoff, a former Ku Klux Klan leader in Indiana.
John McGoff, an ardent supporter of the former apartheid South African regime.
R.J. Rushdoony, the theological leader of America's "Christian Reconstruction" movement, which advocates that Christian fundamentalists take "dominion" over America by abolishing democracy and instituting Old Testament Law. Rushdoony's Reconstructionalists believe that "homosexuals . . . adulterers , blasphemers, astrologers and others will be executed," along with disobedient children.
Reed Larson, head of anti-union National Right to Work Committee.
Don Wildmon, TV censorship activist and accused anti-Semite.
Lieutenant-Colonel Oliver North, Major General John K. Singlaub and other principals from the Iran-Contra Scandal.
Klansmen, theocrats, dominionists, bigots, thugs and traitors!

What an august and learned body. Thank you, Senator McCain.

Source: Hullabaloo

Chalabi and McCain
Whenever I read the name Chalabi, I can't help but think of Challah, the delicious and oh-so-kosher bread.

Which is a bit odd when you think about it, Chalabi being an agent of the Iranian government, itself a theocratic bunch of nuts. Though supposedly, the Jewish population in Iran gets along relatively fine.

What the hell was I talking about? Oh, right.
Ahmed Chalabi, former deputy prime minister of Iraq, is the subject of a new biography that reportedly reveals some shocking new examples of Chalabi's scandalous role in US foreign policy.

Considered by some to be a neo-con "darling," Chalabi is best known for his role in pushing questionable evidence in the run-up to the US invasion of Iraq, including since-debunked claims dealing with biological weapons laboratories from the Iraqi defector code-named "Curveball."
Yes yes, he's a jerk, but what else is new?
Among the revelations disclosed in the biography by Emmy award-winning journalist Aram Roston, The Man Who Pushed America to War: The Extraordinary Life, Adventures and Obsessions of Ahmad Chalabi, are that Chalabi "helped arrange meetings with the Iraqi oil minister for American oilmen like Bush fundraiser Albert Huddleston."

Chalabi also reportedly "misled a team of reporters from ABC News and British publications by arranging interviews with 'Saddam's Mistress,' Parisoula Lampsos, who peddled countless lies about a meeting between Hussein and Osama Bin Laden" and was initially backed by Sen. John McCain, "one of the first patrons of Chalabi's grand-sounding International Committee for a Free Iraq when it was founded in 1991."

Regarding McCain, Roston adds that he was "Chalabi's favored candidate in the 2000 election since Chalabi knew that he would be able to free up the $97 million in military aid plus millions pushed through in Congress and earmarked for Chalabi's exile group, the Iraqi National Congress."
I see.... so Chalabi, who gamed the US into an unwinnable war on behalf of his Iranian paymasters, was also backed by St. John McCain!

Ahh, the things you learn, the things you learn.

Source: Raw Story

Melanoma On the Body Politic
So McCain is being secretive about his health these days, which is an odd turn of events for him.
"Along with his signature bright white hair, the most striking aspects of Senator John McCain’s physical appearance are his puffy left cheek and the scar that runs down the back of his neck," writes Lawrence K. Altman M.D. in Sunday's Times. "The marks are cosmetic reminders of the melanoma surgery he underwent in August 2000. Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, sometimes tells audiences that he has 'more scars than Frankenstein.'"


"In 1999, during Mr. McCain’s first race for president, he gave the public an extraordinary look at his medical history — 1,500 pages of medical and psychiatric records that were amassed as part of a United States Navy project to gauge the health of former prisoners of war," Altman writes. "This reporter, who is a physician, interviewed the senator’s doctors in 1999 with his permission."

Altman complains that now it's a different matter.

"But this time around, Mr. McCain has yet to make his full medical records or his physicians available to reporters," writes Altman. "At least three times since March 2007, campaign officials have told The New York Times that they would provide the detailed information about his current state of health, but they have not done so. The campaign now says it expects to release the information in April."
In April, long after he'd been sure to secure the GOP nomination.


Of course, who doesn't want a lying*, adulterous**, corrupt***, gullible****, sickly old man***** for President?


*The Kerry thing if you like, but if not, then take his lies about meeting with lobbyist Iseman while she had business before his committee.

**No, not the lobbyist. His first wife, whom he cheated on with the woman he's currently married to, before dumping her for the younger model.

***Private meetings with tv magnates while they ask your committee for special favors? Sounds corrupt to me.

****Getting taken for a ride by Chalabi and his tour company of fabulists should disqualify you forever from positions of power.

******He's 72, older than Reagan was when he got into office, and his cancer status is uncertain. His mental health is also pretty dubious, as this little campaign kerfluffle on the plane shows. I mean, why bring up this old story unless you want to talk about it? Did he forget he tried to change parties and run as Kerry's VP?

Source: Raw Story

War on Cursing and Other Randomess

Also, 'Cuss' Isn't a Word, You Ignorant Half-Wits

So there's a town in California that really, really wants to feel my wrath, assuming I ever get any.

What the @$%#? This community on the edge of Los Angeles has become a cuss-free zone.

So if you're headed to South Pasadena this week, be sure to turn down the volume on that Snoop Dogg CD, and, if the little old lady from Pasadena cuts you off in traffic, don't even think about flipping her the bird.

Not that police will slap cuffs on you and haul your sorry, er, butt off to jail in light of the proclamation passed Wednesday by the City Council. But you could be shamed into better behavior by the unsettling glares of residents who take their reputation for civility seriously.
Define 'better'. Is it better to use the non-word 'cuss' than to curse, an integral part of the English language since before there WAS a proper English language?

What kind of numbskull would think that this intrusion, meaningless as it is, of government into private speech is a good idea? What sort of slope-foreheaded nitwit would waste public time and money with this tripe? What kind of inbred, demi-human, chromosomally deficient mental defective?

Oh, this one.
"That's one of the purposes of this," Mayor Michael Cacciotti said of his city's proclamation designating the first week of March as No Cussing Week. "It provides us a reminder to be more civil, to elevate the level of discourse."

The proclamation will be in effect until Friday, and then the first week of every March hereafter.
Ahh, public officials.

Sometimes they make you long for a brutal autocracy, just to teach people the value of liberty.

Speaking of people who need time to learn, we have a whole slew of these whackos. The leader in South Pasadena, in particular, should pay more attention in school.
South Pasadena, a tranquil city of tree-shaded cottages at the base of a mountain range eight miles north of downtown Los Angeles, isn't the first to try to rein in potty mouths. Earlier this year, the St. Louis suburb of St. Charles, Mo., proposed banning swearing in bars. Last year, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons called for an industrywide ban on racially and sexually charged epithets.

But what's different about the latest push to stop saying in public the words that Jane Fonda and Diane Keaton recently discovered we still can't say on television is that it was proposed by a 14-year-old boy.

"My mom and dad always taught me good morals, good values, and not cussing was one of them," said McKay Hatch, the founder of South Pasadena High School's No Cussing Club, during a recent break between study hall and tennis practice.

"I've cussed before, I'm not gonna lie to you," Hatch quickly added. "But I try not to cuss any more."
I'm not gonna lie to you, kid. You're a goddamned retard.
He was in junior high school when he became fed up with all the blue language around him.

He understood why his friends use foul language: "They just want to fit in like everybody else and they don't know how. They figure if they cuss maybe it's an easy way to do that."

But it wasn't for him.

"I finally told my friends, `I don't cuss.' And I said, `If you want to hang out with me, you don't cuss.'"

It took a couple of years, but enough friends finally came around that Hatch formed a 50-member club, handed out fliers and called the group's first meeting, held June 1.

Nine months later, the No Cussing Club has a Web site, claims a membership of 10,000 and boasts chapters in several states and countries. Hatch considers his greatest achievement, though, to be getting his hometown of 25,000 to become a cuss-free zone.

Cacciotti, the mayor, isn't surprised that South Pasadena started the movement. He noted that the city broke off from its much bigger neighbor 120 years ago when residents unhappy with the saloon trade in downtown Pasadena voted 85-25 to go their own way.
This is how temperance movements start, folks. Some kid with no friends starts a movement for other kids with no friends and no lives and the next thing you know, the Mob's running Chicago because the rest of us aren't legally allowed to have a good time.
For his part, Hatch hopes his No Cussing Club will lead to cuss-free zones in other cities. He believes it could be a quality-of-life issue, and that there may be less violence if people behave better.

"You have to start with the little things," he said.
Yep. Prohibition typically brings about a reduction in violence. That's why prohibiting alcohol lead to the Golden Age, and the War on Drugs brought about the earthly nirvana we see today.

Oh, wait a second.


Source: Raw Story

Oh God, Here We Go
So the governmental body that pays out damages to people injured by vaccines has cut a check to one girl's family, after a vaccine apparently triggered a pre-existing metabolic condition and ruined her brain.

Autism anti-vaccine fanatics start raving in 3, 2, 1...
Government health officials have conceded that childhood vaccines worsened a rare, underlying disorder that ultimately led to autism-like symptoms in a Georgia girl, and that she should be paid from a federal vaccine-injury fund.

Medical and legal experts say the narrow wording and circumstances probably make the case an exception — not a precedent for thousands of other pending claims.

The government "has not conceded that vaccines cause autism," said Linda Renzi, the lawyer representing federal officials, who have consistently maintained that childhood shots are safe.
Oh, it doesn't matter what the FACTS are, Renzi. They'll say you did anyway.
Studies repeatedly have discounted any link between thimerosal and autism, but legal challenges continue. The issue even cropped up in the presidential campaign, with Republican John McCain asserting on Friday that "there's strong evidence" autism is connected to the preservative.

The girl has a disorder involving her mitochondria, the energy factories of cells. The disorder — which can be present at birth from an inherited gene or acquired later in life — impairs cells' ability to use nutrients, and often causes problems in brain functioning. It can lead to delays in walking and talking.

Federal officials say the law bars them from discussing the case or releasing documents without the family's permission. However, The Associated Press obtained a copy of the concession by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services officials.

According to the document, five vaccines the girl received on one day in 2000 aggravated her mitochondrial condition, predisposing her to metabolic problems that manifested as worsening brain function "with features of autism spectrum disorder." In the 1990s, the definition of autism was expanded to take in a group of milder, related conditions, which are known as autism spectrum disorders.
So the girl had some crippling condition with her mitochondria, and vaccines that are harmless to healthy people triggered them to malfunction.

Tragic. But that doesn't make the vaccines the cause of autism unless all autistic kids have this exceedingly rare condition, and even then, they're not really the cause, any more than sugar causes diabetic comas; rather, it TRIGGERS a malfunctioning system that's already in place.
The Health Resources and Services Administration, which is in charge of the fund, said: "HRSA has maintained and continues to maintain the position that vaccines do not cause autism."

A Portuguese study suggested that 7 percent of autistic children might also have the mitochondrial disorder, versus one in 5,000 people — or 0.02 percent — in the general population, said Dr. Marvin Natowicz, a Cleveland Clinic geneticist.
So what this really says is that, maybe, 7% of autistic kids aren't really autistic; they have a mitochondiral disorder. And perhaps, MAYBE, vaccines contribute to that disorder worsening.


The other 93%? Completely unrelated.

This is why disease definitions getting overly broad can be such a nuisance.
Reported cases of autism have been rising in the U.S., even after thimerosal was removed from most childhood vaccines. However, some experts believe the rise is due to an expansion of the definition of autism and related conditions, and a desire to diagnose children so they qualify for special services and aid.
Enough said.

Source: Raw Story

And With Strange Aeons, Even Death May Die
This story's been around a lot the last week, but for posterity:
BORDEAUX, France (Reuters) - The mayor of a village in southwest France has threatened residents with severe punishment if they die, because there is no room left in the overcrowded cemetery to bury them.

In an ordinance posted in the council offices, Mayor Gerard Lalanne told the 260 residents of the village of Sarpourenx that "all persons not having a plot in the cemetery and wishing to be buried in Sarpourenx are forbidden from dying in the parish."

It added: "Offenders will be severely punished."
The really sad thing is, this officially ends the old legal riddle, 'What is the only crime for which there is no punishment?'. Until now, suicide worked as the answer.

But thanks to a small town in France, there's an exception.

Source: Yahoo News

Eat Circuitry
Nom nom.

Death of English Culture
Yes, that greatest symbol of England is under attack.

No, not the Queen.
According to the British Beer and Pubs Association, 27 pubs a week closed in 2007 – seven times faster than the previous year and 14 times faster than 2005. This means that four pubs a day are closing.

The figures have been released a week before The Budget. The Government has run out of money, and the pub industry is anxious that the Government does not put up beer taxes. "Beer sales in pubs – the backbone of the trade – are now at their lowest level since the Great Depression of the 1930s," says the BBPA. "

Apparently white wine and health consciousness are doing what the Gerrys could not.
Pubs without the room to provide an attractive outside areas for smokers, and those that are not big on food have faced particular difficulties. The move towards spirits and wine has hit the beery pub. Research shows that there has been a marked trend in the rise of "pre-loading", where drinkers, young adults mostly, buy booze from a shop and down it at home before groggily wandering off to a pub or bar, thereby spending less money on binge drinking.

But perhaps the clincher is that we seem to be drinking less overall, not just in pubs but everywhere from the park bench to the House of Commons. Although the Office for National Statistics cannot be sure that people are being truthful about how much they say they drink, it thinks alcohol consumption peaked in 2000 and has fallen every year since. According to the BBPA, average consumption is down 15 per cent on 2000.
What a sad, sad state of affairs.
What is the Government doing?

With heavy drinking placing a burden on the police and hospitals, there is no early prospect of a "save our pubs" campaign from Downing Street.
Curse you, Governmental Inaction!

It's time to promote heavy beer drinking once more!

Source: The Independent

A message sent to all Defense Department bases and installations around the country late last week told officials to not allow the popular mapping Web site from taking panoramic views inside the facilities.

Michael Kucharek, spokesman for U.S. Northern Command, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the decision was made after crews were allowed access to at least one base. He said military officials were concerned that allowing the 360-degree, street-level video could provide sensitive information to potential adversaries and endanger base personnel.

His comments came just a few days after published reports suggested that protesters used Google Earth to help plot their access to the roof of the Parliament building in London.

Yeah. You guys didn't see this coming?

Source: Raw Story

No Heat, No Justice
The hiliarious tale of what happens when getting design accolades for a building matters more than anything else.
Thomas Mayne’s new George H.W. Bush Federal Building now looms over midtown San Francisco. While people have sharply divergent reactions to its unique exterior design -- I happen to like it -- the verdict on the structure’s function as a office space for federal employees is nearly unanimous: it is a disaster.

Not that architectural critics care. Bedazzled by unusual design features and its focus on energy conservation, reviews of Mayne’s latest work seem to ignore whether it fulfills its functional role as a federal office building.

Based on what I have been told, it clearly does not.

The first fact about the building that may cause surprise is its lack of air conditioning or heat. According to Mayne, “a bike rack and air conditioning get you the same point. I’d much rather see BTU and CO2 requirements and let the professional community solve the problem.”

I apparently lack sufficient understanding of green technology, as it does not seem that a bike rack would “get you to the same point” in terms of keeping workers cool. In the real world on the 15th floor of the Federal Building, workers seek to relieve the heat by opening windows, which not only sends papers flying, but, depending on their proximity to the opening, makes creating a stable temperature for all workers near impossible.

When I spoke with a Labor Department worker at the building (who noted that she is encountering the type of bad work conditions that her agency is supposed to enforce against), she confirmed what might have been an urban legend: that some employees must use umbrellas to keep the sun out of their cubicles.

The lack of internal climate controls has left some workers too cold and others too hot. A happy medium has proved elusive. And while the managers’ offices do have heat and air conditioning -- a two-tiered approach fitting in a building named for Bush -- the “green” design apparently has messed with the effectiveness of these systems, leaving these top staff as physically uncomfortable as the line workers.
So you see, they knew it would suck. They just thought that the peons could in turn suck it up.

Riiiiight. Only managers need to have a comfortable work environment!
According to my source, architect Mayne has stated that federal office workers do not get enough exercise. To address this, he installed elevators in the building that only stop at every third floor. This requires employees to walk up or down one or two flights of metal stairs.

Persons with physical disabilities who cannot use stairs can use a separate elevator that stops at every floor. The foreseeable result is that employees seeking to avoid stairs use the disabled access elevator, leaving this car crammed with people and making the ride to the top extremely slow.

I am told that when the freight elevator is out of service, deliveries must use the disabled access elevator. It seems only a matter of time until a disabled worker sues the General Services Administration for providing inadequate disabled elevator access in the building.
Yes, that's right. He intentionally broke the elevators. To force people to use the stairs.

Instead of course, they use the elevator for the handicapped. Screwing them over royally.

I'm not sure why this idiot thinks that people should be getting their daily exercise in suits and ties in the stairwells at work anyway. That's hardly ideal clothing or timing.

Source: Beyond Chron

Poor little China feels bullied by all those non-violent Tibetan Buddhists. Again.
BEIJING (Reuters) - China's top official in Tibet on Friday accused the Himalayan region's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, of seeking to sabotage the Beijing Olympics.

The Dalai Lama, who fled to India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Communist rule, told Britain's ITV network in January that during the Games Tibet supporters should protest peacefully in China against Beijing's rule.


Zhang's lieutenant, Qiangba Puncog, the top government official in Tibet, said the activities of the Dalai Lama "clique were the main factors of instability in Tibet."

"They will not succeed. We are fully prepared and have full confidence. We will definitely ensure the Olympics and Olympic-related events in Tibet proceed smoothly," Qiangba Puncog said, apparently referring to the Tibet leg of the Olympic torch relay that is due to scale Mount Everest.


Critics say China continues to repress Tibetans' religious aspirations, especially their veneration for the Dalai Lama, who won Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. Periodic rioting by monks has been brutally crushed.
Also, a neologism, or odd translation, out of China:
"The Beijing Olympics is the focus of world attention and the people are exalted ... but even a grand gathering like this, he is engaging in sabotage and threatening to cause trouble," Zhang Qingli, Communist Party boss of Tibet, said without elaborating.

"How can this not be called engaging in splittism?" Zhang told a news conference on the sidelines of parliament when asked by Reuters why China will not believe the Dalai Lama does not advocate independence and what he needs to do to convince China.
Easy. That's not a word. It's hard to be accused of something that doesn't exist.

Do you mean 'agitation'? 'Disruption'? 'Anarchy'? 'Chaos'? 'Insurgency'? Or perhaps the grand bugaboo of our times, 'terrorism'?

Source: Raw Story

Pirate Day
Speaking of the Beijing Olympics, it turns out that they stole content for their website from a Flash game designer.
Flash game theft is nothing new. I’m actually quite used to having my games taken without my permission, and without receiving compensation. The difference here is that this is not some crappy no-name portal. This is The Olympics.

I’d also like to point out that this is not just a clone of my game. They didn’t see my game and set out to make a similar game. They actually stole my game. I’ll say it again:
The Olympics stole my game.
They downloaded the swf file from my site, decompiled it, swapped out the little guy for the Fuwa characters, took my name off of it and republished it as their own. I can tell this is what happened because they are still using some of my original art from Snow Day (the clouds and the ice cube are exactly the same). I also took the liberty of decompiling their game and actually found it still contains the sound files from Snow Day, even though they aren’t being used in the Olympic version. It even still has the splash sound effect from The Lake (I used the engine from The Lake to make Snow Day and must have forgot to delete this file).


The Beijing Olympic Committee has also not been lenient with copyright infringers. Back in October the director of the State Intellectual Property Office, Tian Lipu, pledged to prevent Olympic piracy. Indeed, the Olympic web site even has a page set up where you can report infringement of intellectual property rights. Evidently, they are slightly less concerned when The Olympics infringes on the rights of others.
Well, duh. It's the Chinese government after all.

On the other hand, they HATE to be embarassed, especially in relation to the Olympics. They'll throw someone under the bus for sure if this story catches on. Maybe even execute them.

Of course, it may or may not be someone who was even involved.

Source: The Pencil Farm

So, under the odious DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act), you can mail out so-called 'Takedown Notices' to anyone you suspect of infringing your copyright, and they have to take down the offending content or they're in trouble.

Of course, these notices are very, very frequently abused to harass critics and stifle Fair Use of copywritten materials.

Sometimes though, it just gets bizarre.
It's cyber war! Lawyers representing the Air Force's elite electronic warriors have sent YouTube a DMCA takedown notice demanding the removal of the 30-second spot the Air Force created to promote its nascent Cyber Command. We'd uploaded the video to share with THREAT LEVEL readers.

How quickly alliances shift in the murky new world of Cyberarmageddon. It was just last month that the Air Force sent us the ad, and thanked THREAT LEVEL for agreeing to run it. The spot shows earnest airmen deftly thwarting a hacker attack on the Pentagon using Minority Report-type touch-and-drag screens. I'm certain hundreds, if not thousands, of geeks have already enlisted as a result of our patriotic shilling for the Air Force.

Now, though, it seems we're just another cyber enemy to be squashed like so many Chinese DDoSers or unsanctioned blogs. Was it something I said?

But Air Force marketing chief Keith Lebling, who sent us the spot in the first place, says any intellectual property claim should have gone through his office, and none did.

U.S. Government works aren't even copyrightable. YouTube doesn't know that -- presumably because it has no lawyers -- and it's taken down the video. A spokeswoman said in an e-mail that the Google-owned service has no choice but to comply with DMCA notices. That's not quite right, though. YouTube has no legal obligation to remove non-infringing content.

The right hand literally does not know what the left is doing.
Update: YouTube has sent along the DMCA notice (.pdf). It's signed by Meredith Pikser, an attorney with international law firm Reed Smith LLP, on behalf of the Air Force.

Kurt Opsahl at EFF notes that, notwithstanding Pikster's sworn statement, the Air Force website promoting the video contains this language in its privacy policy: "Information presented on the Air Force Recruiting website is considered public information and may be distributed or copied."
So, there you have it. Bizarrely, an ad that the Air Force sent out to media outlets, thanked them for putting up on Youtube and discussing, has now been the subject of an anti-infringement campaign, unauthorized, that it isn't even legally eligible for, and even if it had been, they already waived any rights to it in writing on their website.

Yeah. Wow.

Source: Wired (Threat Level)