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.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

This Blog is a Vampire

Sent to Draaaaaaain, Also, Avoid Mirrors

Saturn Watch
Yet more science from Saturn and its many moons. This time, it's Tethys, which may have had a liquid ocean once.

Tethys is a mid-sized satellite with a density close to that of pure ice.

But a large valley system visible today must have formed when the crust was being heated and under great strain.

The team thinks that tidal heating, followed by cooling which froze Tethys' ocean, could have formed the giant Ithaca Chasma rift.
Basically, I guess Tethys is a big snowball now, but once, it was a snowball with a yummy liquid center.

Source: The BBC

Our Own Giant Chasm
Also known as the Grand Canyon, is under threat from mining interests.
Flagstaff, Arizona - One of the great natural wonders of the world - the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River - is threatened by uranium exploration. Three conservation groups filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging the approval of up to 39 new uranium drilling sites within a few miles of Grand Canyon National Park.

In December, the Kaibab National Forest granted British firm Vane Minerals approval to conduct exploratory uranium drilling on national forest lands along the park's southern boundary with no public hearing and no environmental review. It is the first of five such projects slated for the area.

"Grand Canyon simply isn't the place for uranium development," said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the plaintiff groups. "Our national treasures deserve better than the calamity of an adjacent industrial zone."

Filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, and Grand Canyon Trust, the lawsuit claims that the U.S. Forest Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act and two other laws when it approved the uranium exploration using a "categorical exclusion," the least rigorous analysis available to the agency.

The lawsuit claims that the Forest Service failed to consider the controversy surrounding uranium development, the significance of its proximity to the Grand Canyon, the overall cumulative impacts of four other future uranium exploration projects and the potential opening of Denison Corporation's Canyon Mine - all located in the same area.
Seriously folks. We only have one Grand Canyon. Can't you guys mine somewhere else?


Source: Truthout

Speaking of Nukes...
We seem to have a bit of a corporate betrayal of national security on our hands.
A US company and the Indian head of an international firm have admitted to violating laws on export of weapons technology and nuclear power testing equipment to India, the US Justice Department said Thursday.

Decade-long US sanctions over illegal Indian nuclear tests prohibit US-based companies from exporting certain goods and services to India.

Parthasarathy Sudarshan, the Indian CEO of Cirrus Electronics with offices in the United States, Singapore and India, pleaded guilty in Washington Thursday to a charge of shipping restricted weapons technology to the Indian government.

He admitted exporting controlled microprocessors and electronic components to Indian state entities involved in developing ballistic missiles, space launch vehicles and fighter jets.


In the second case, Minnesota company MTS Systems Corp. was fined 400,000 dollars after it pleaded guilty Wednesday in connection with submitting false US export license applications over proposed shipments to India, the Justice Department said.

The company admitted to two misdemeanor counts of "false certification or writing" by omitting critical information linked to test equipment for nuclear-power plants.

"In this case, the omission clearly was an attempt to disguise the end-use of testing structural components of nuclear-power plants," said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Enforcement Darryl Jackson.
The CEO in the first case faces probation and a fine; the second company gets just a fine.

Amazing how seriously the Bush administration takes this issue, isn't it?

Source: Raw Story

Back to Space
ABC has some trivia about life in space and how, err, disgusting it really is.
Laundry: Astronauts never worry about doing laundry -- there is simply no way to wash clothes in space; water and resources are too scarce. So for 12 days, or however long the mission runs, they wear the same clothes over and over. Their T-shirts, socks and underwear have a special silver thread lining that absorbs odor and keeps items wearable longer. NASA recycles the astronauts' clothes for other missions, including the underwear.
There's other stuff too, seriously. Not just underwear triva.

Source: ABC News

Beery Science
So a Czech scientist crunched the numbers and it seems that the more beer you drink the less successful a scientist you are.
What is it that turns one scientist into more of a Darwin and another into more of a dud?

After years of argument over the roles of factors like genius, sex and dumb luck, a new study shows that something entirely unexpected and considerably sudsier may be at play in determining the success or failure of scientists — beer.

According to the study, published in February in Oikos, a highly respected scientific journal, the more beer a scientist drinks, the less likely the scientist is to publish a paper or to have a paper cited by another researcher, a measure of a paper’s quality and importance.

The results were not, however, a matter of a few scientists having had too many brews to be able to stumble back to the lab. Publication did not simply drop off among the heaviest drinkers. Instead, scientific performance steadily declined with increasing beer consumption across the board, from scientists who primly sip at two or three beers over a year to the sort who average knocking back more than two a day.
This is a tragic discovery indeed. Though there is an alternative explanation.
More important, as Dr. Grim pointed out, the study documents a correlation between beer drinking and scientific performance without explaining any correlation. That leaves open the possibility that it is not beer drinking that causes poor scientific performance, but just the opposite.

Or, as Dr. Mike Webster, an ornithologist and a beer enthusiast at Washington State University in Pullman, said, maybe “those with poor publication records are drowning their sorrows.”
Take that, lousy, depressed scientists.

Source: The New York Times

Virtual H2O
No, it's not in a videogame.
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - A scientist who developed a way to calculate how much water is used in the production of anything from a cup of coffee to a hamburger was awarded the 2008 Stockholm Water Prize on Wednesday.

Professor John Anthony Allan of the University of London in Britain won the award for introducing the concept of "virtual water," a calculation method that has changed the nature of trade policy and research.


"Behind that morning cup of coffee, there are 140 liters of water that was consumed to grow, produce, package and ship the beans."

That is about as much water as a person in England uses on average for all daily drinking and household needs.

"For a single hamburger, an estimated 2,400 liters of water are needed. In the USA, the average person consumes nearly 7,000 liters of virtual water every day." It said that was more than three times the average consumption of a Chinese person.
It makes me thirsty just to read that.

Source: Raw Story

Plasma Cooling
You can cool stuff with superheated plasma. Huh.
Boffins in the US have developed a microchip fan with no moving parts that operates silently and generates enough wind to cool a laptop computer..

The solid-state fan, developed with support from the US National Science Foundation (NSF), is touted as the most powerful and energy efficient fan of its size.

The device produces three times the flow rate of a typical small mechanical fan and is one-fourth the size.

RSD5 is the culmination of six years of research by Dan Schlitz and Vishal Singhal of Thorrn Micro Technologies when they were NSF-supported graduate students at Purdue University.


He explained that RSD5 incorporates a series of live wires that generate a micro-scale plasma (an ion-rich gas that has free electrons that conduct electricity).

The wires lie within uncharged conducting plates that are contoured into half-cylindrical shapes to partially envelop the wires.

Within the intense electric field that results, ions push neutral air molecules from the wire to the plate, generating a wind. The phenomenon is called corona wind.
Even more surprising, something useful came out of Purdue.


Source: iTnews Australia

Project West Ford
From Tom Morris, mad scientist, came a link or two about a mad science project from the early space age.
Project West Ford (also known as Westford Needles and Project Needles) was a test carried out by Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory on behalf of the United States military in 1961 and 1963 to create a ring of copper dipole antennas (2cm long needles) in orbit which would allow global radio communication. After a failed first attempt in 1961 (the needles failed to disperse), the project was eventually successful with the 1963 launch, with radio transmissions carried by the man-made ring. However, the technology was ultimately shelved, partially due to the development of the modern communications satellite and partially due to protests from other scientists.[1] The needles were placed in orbits between 3500 and 3800 km high at 96 and 87 degree inclinations and contributed to Earth's orbital debris.[2] British radio astronomers, together with optical astronomers and the Royal Astronomical Society, protested this action.[3][4] The international protest resulted in a consultation provision included in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.[3] As of 2006 several clumps of the needles are still in orbit,[5][6] and occasionally re-entering.[7]
Yeah, throw a huge number of needles into orbit. That couldn't possibly cause a problem.
The project itself was a virtually unqualified success. Though the first launch ended in failure, the second launch went without a hitch on May 10th, 1963. Inside the West Ford spacecraft, the needles were packed densely together in blocks made of a napthalene gel that would rapidly evaporate in space. This entire package of needles weighed only 20 kg. After being released, the hundreds of millions of copper needles gradually spread throughout their entire orbit over a period of two months. The final donut-shaped cloud was 15 km wide and 30 km thick and encircled the globe at an altitude of 3700 km.


Because of the great distance between the tiny needles, the West Ford belt was visible only in the first few days after launch when the spacing was much smaller. A denser belt intended for permanent communications would probably not have been visible except by very powerful optical telescopes. But, at radio and microwave frequencies, the final dipole clouds may have become scars on the night sky, forever obscuring the universe beyond.


Most of the West Ford dipoles re-entered Earth's atmosphere sometime around 1970, according to theoretical and observational evidence. The needles slowly drifted down to the Earth's surface, unscathed by re-entry because of their size. Some consideration was given to recovering one or more of the dipoles in order to learn more about the space environment. Calculations showed that as many as five dipoles would have landed per square kilometer in the high Arctic. But the exceptional cost of recovering these tiny needles from the haystack of billions of tons of Arctic snow killed off any practical attempts at recovery. Back in space, the failed 1971 1961 spacecraft and some larger clumps of the 1973 1963 dipoles remain in orbit like so many other pieces of space junk, silently carrying the long-dead hopes of this nearly forgotten experiment.
It's truly amazing the stupid things people can come up with. A ring of trash around the earth? Yeah, let's do that!

Source: Wikipedia
Damn Interesting

Evil of the Morning
Some truly evil people are working on a way to use blue LEDs to generate a color of light that resets your biological clock to think it's morning, and then put them inside cars.

The idea is to make people less sleepy while driving.

Those of us who are naturally sleepy in the morning, or who just don't want bright blue light in their eyes, are boned, I guess.

Source: Slashdot

More Water News
Good thing that guy came up with virtual water, so we can find out just how doomed we are.
By 2025, fully a third of the planet's growing population could find itself scavenging for safe drinking water, the United Nations has warned ahead of World Water Day on Saturday.

More than two million people in developing countries -- the vast majority children -- die every year from diseases associated with unsanitary water.

There are a number of interlocking causes for this scourge.

Global economic growth, population pressures and the rise of mega-cities have all driven water use to record levels.

Mexico City, Jakarta and Bangkok, to name a few, have underground water sources -- some of them nonrenewable -- depleting at alarming rates.


"In the coming decades, water scarcity may be a watchword that prompts action ranging from wholesale population migration to war, unless new ways to supply clean water are found," comment a team of researchers in a review of water purification technology published Thursday in the British journal Nature.

But even as scientists and governments look for ways to satisfy a thirsty world, another threat looms on the horizon: global warming.

Rising sea levels are already forcing salt water into aquifers beneath megadeltas that are home to tens of millions, and changing weather patterns are set to intensify droughts in large swathes of Africa, southern Europe and Asia, according to UN's Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC).


Experts and policy makers point to three broad categories of initiatives to ease the shortage of clean, drinkable water, especially in the world's poorest regions: sanitation, purification, and water management.

"Poor sanitation combines with a lack of safe drinking water and inadequate hygiene to contribute to the terrible global death toll," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said earlier this month.

"Every 20 seconds, a child dies as a result of the abysmal sanitation conditions endured by some 2.6 billion people globally," he said in launching the International Year of Sanitation.

Less than half the households in major Asian cities are connected to sewers, which means that tonnes of raw sewage runs into rivers and oceans, according to the UN.

In Latin America and Africa that figure drops to 40 and 20 percent, respectively.

While governments attempt to improve sanitation infrastructure, scientists are developing new technology to purify the water available, said Mark Shannon, a professor at the University of Illinois and Director of the US government funded Center of Advanced Materials for the Purification of Water with Systems.

"Desalination with reverse osmosis is already the largest single growth area in terms of new water supplies," he told AFP in an interview.

New techniques of reverse osmosis use membranes with nanometer-size pores to filter out salt and other contaminants from water, and could for the first time pave the way for industrial-scale use.

Micro-filters are also used to decontaminate bodies of water increasingly laced with pesticides, arsenic, heavy metals, nitrates and pharmaceutical derivatives.


With worldwide food production set to expand 50 percent by 2030, scientists are also developing genetically modified grain plants that consume less water and can withstand harsh conditions.

Researchers in the US, for example, have developed genetically engineered rice with a higher tolerance for drought, salt and low temperatures, the three main causes of crop failure.
Expect a lot of resistance to the GM crop ideas from whackos, naturally. Though drought resistance is one of the things you have to be careful of in GM plants, to be fair. It provides a serious evolutionary advantage over plants that don't have it, so if you have a GM crop that can interbreed with a wild relative, you might end up with drought resistant superweeds via transgene escape.

The most obvious solution to that is to avoid planting GM crops near their wild relatives, of course.

Most food plants are not that great as evolutionary products, spending so much energy producing huge, and often sterile or semi-sterile fruits, so there's less risk of wild GM foods themselves running amok by far.

Source: Raw Story

Methane AND Water News
This time from far away.
An organic chemical that could be an indicator of extraterrestrial life has been identified on a distant planet.

Observations from the Hubble Space Telescope have shown that the atmosphere of a planet called HD 189733b contains methane, which can be a precursor of life or generated by living organisms.

HD 189733b is too hot to be anything but barren, and its methane must therefore come from a nonliving source, but the successful identification of the “marker” chemical gives scientists confidence that they may make similar discoveries on planets that are capable of supporting life.


The Hubble observations of HD 189733b have also confirmed that the planet, which lies 63 light years from Earth in the constellation Vulpecula (“the little fox”), has water vapour in its atmosphere.

The chemical signature of water was first picked up last year by the same team, using the Spitzer Space Telescope, which observes in the infra-red spectrum. “With this latest observation there is no question whether there is water or not,” Dr Swain said. “Water is present.”
Ahh, science. Lovely.

Source: The Times Online

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Various News, Including Evil Tom Morris


The Evil Empire
So my friend Tom is up to no good, forging an evil radio empire.

After 10 years of uncertainty and hard work, "the time has come," said former Radiate FM General Manager Brennan Forsyth.

Radiate FM, the FIU student radio station, installed its translator on top of the Marine Biology building and began transmitting through its new signal, 96.9 FM on Feb. 28.


The translator, which sits 40 feet above the Marine Biology building, will broadcast within a 10 to 15 mile radius of BBC. Penton and the station's student engineer, Tom Morris, spent four days on top of the roof of the building, working in the rain and cold last week, and finished the transmitter on Feb. 28.

"We braved quite a wind chill up there. It was absolutely freezing by South Florida standards, anyone from up north would have laughed at us," Morris said.


Morris, who was heavily involved with installing the translator, is already looking to the future and even thinking about expanding the station more.

"If the FCC opened up translator applications again, I would love to get a translator up on the Pines Center," Morris said. If there's free spot on the dial, I'll do it."

From its inception 21 years ago, Morris' ambitious dream may not seem that far-fetched.

"Two years ago, we didn't even hear our radio station on either campus; now you can pick it up as far as the Key Largo," Jaross said.
We must stop this cancerous spread before it reaches actual civilization.

Tom Morris must DIE

Source: The Beacon (FIU Newspaper) Also, the URL for this site is WAY TOO LONG.

The Doors... Sorta
Actually a terrifying cover of Riders on the Storm. A very unfortunate cover.

Source: I Am TRex

Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum sonatur.

"Whatever is said in Latin, sounds profound."

Source: The BBC (Other phrases available at this site too)

5 Dollar Gas
Granted, it's an anomaly. As yet.
James Willman seems to be a nice enough guy: polite, good-humored and hard-working, pumping gas seven days a week at the Amerigo Gas Station in the tiny Big Sur town of Gorda, about 35 miles north of Cambria.

But at least once a day, Willman said, someone pulls in and starts cursing him.

“They say all kinds of stuff—‘You ought to be shot,’ or ‘Where’s your mask?’ ” Willman said. “I’m like, ‘Hey, I just work here.’ ”

The reason for consumer hostility is that the station is serving up what might be the costliest gas in the land.

This week, as crude oil flirted with $110 a barrel and gasoline prices surged nationwide, a gallon of regular at Amerigo was going for $5.20.
See this is a tiny town with a tiny gas station that has to run a diesel generator all day for power, so they gouge. Party because they have to, partly because, well, they can.

It's the American way.

Source: San Luis Obispo County

Spidey in the Attic
Cool picture.

Turnip Bomb
I swear, Indiana exists as a cautionary tale.
Terror came to Fort Wayne, Indiana, late last week as a suspicious package arrived at the offices of a local law firm in a move that seemed to presage a deadly bomb outrage slaughter campaign.

After a tense operation by robot and human bomb-disposal operatives, however, it was discovered that the infernal device was in fact - in the judgement of the local bomb squad - a potentially exploding turnip.

The threatening vegetable was despatched in a "bluish gift bag" contained within a box slightly smaller than a baseball, according to Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette reporter Abby Slutsky.


"I'm now on constant alert against this and other rooted vegetables," said Fort Wayne lawyer Mark GiaQuinta, to whom the package was addressed.

He theorised that the explosive-esque yet nourishing gift had been sent to him by a disgruntled individual against whom GiaQuinta had acted in court. This person, described by the attorney as "volatile", had perhaps been trying to send the message "you can't get blood from a turnip".
The man thinks he's funny, but he called in the bomb squad because someone left him a gift.

He's a serious paranoid whacko.

Source: The Register

Speaking of Bombs
Here's a nifty page on the disarming of a bomb in the Falklands via the awesome sounding 'Double Baldrick' manuever.

Source: South Atlatic Remote Territories Media Association

Get Bent
This lady needs psychological help, badly.
ASHLAND, Ky. (WSAZ) -- A mother says the straws she bought for her three-year-old daughter were shaped like a male sex organ.

Andrea Bailey says she went shopping at the Ashland Wal-Mart on Thursday, February 28th, and bought a package of fun straws for her three 3-year-old daughter, Ashlynn.

Bailey says Ashlynn came in and used one shaped like a heart. A couple others in the package, though, were shaped like something different.

“There are two of them that are shaped like the male private area,” said Bailey. “I called Wal-Mart and they very rude with me about it. They acted like I was lying, like I was making it all up. You know, I would never make something up like that, especially about my little girl. But, that's just how they treated me and it’s just not right.”
Ahh, conservative, paranoid scolds.

Is there nothing they cannot ruin?

This woman probably gets upset at missiles, speedboats and launches of the space shuttle too.


Source: (check it out for yourself if you like)

Swastika Update
So once again, we have a controversy over a building whose wings form a swastika from the air.

DECATUR, Ala. (AP) -- From the ground, the Wesley Acres Methodist retirement home looks like any other building. But fly over in an airplane, and the outline is unmistakable: It's one big swastika.

Prompted by complaints from a Jewish activist, the agency that owns the government-funded building is planning to alter its shape to disguise the Nazi symbol. The move comes just a few years after a $1 million design modification meant to quiet similar complaints from a U.S. senator.
Naturally, the shape of the building is the sole, overriding concern here.
"The difficulty is there are a limited number of options for fixing a building that has been there for some time," said Mike Giles, counsel for the Methodist Homes Corp. of Alabama and Northwest Florida. "We have to come up with a way to fix an appearance that we want solved and not hurt our residents."

Wesley Acres provides government-subsidized housing for 117 low-income people ages 62 and above. Most have no reason to suspect their hallways take on a sinister shape.

The one-story building, designed in the mid-1970s and completed in 1980, underwent a $1 million alteration in 2001 with funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development following complaints by Democratic Sen. Howell Heflin, who has since died. But the addition of two wings did little to hide the offensive shape, and in some ways accentuates it.

Options for the new renovations include the addition of covered porches or other outdoor areas.

The latest push to rid the landscape of the broken cross shape follows complaints from Avrahaum Segol, the same Israeli-American researcher who last fall helped publicize a swastika-shaped barracks at Naval Base Coronado in San Diego. The Navy said it would spend about $600,000 to alter the building, which opened in the 1960s, but the work has not yet been done.
It's the same guy? The same guy made the complaints?

Is this all he does?
The latest push to rid the landscape of the broken cross shape follows complaints from Avrahaum Segol, the same Israeli-American researcher who last fall helped publicize a swastika-shaped barracks at Naval Base Coronado in San Diego. The Navy said it would spend about $600,000 to alter the building, which opened in the 1960s, but the work has not yet been done.

Segol calls the Alabama retirement home a "sister swastika" to the building in California and says they were both part of a tangled, government-funded conspiracy to honor Nazis.

Segol claims the swastika shape of Wesley Acres in Decatur pays homage to the German scientists who came to nearby Huntsville after World War II and designed the rockets that put Americans on the moon.

Methodist Homes' Giles said Segol's conspiracy claims are ridiculous. The building was originally designed to be much larger, he said, and cutbacks resulted in a shape that resembled the four-armed swastika used as the symbol of German Nazis during World War II.

"It was certainly not intentional," Giles said.
IT IS! IT'S ALL HE DOES! He looks for reasons to get upset from Google Earth!
The shape of the retirement center is evident in satellite photos available on the Internet. But it is located in a residential section in a city with few tall buildings, and many in Decatur have no idea Wesley Acres resembles a swastika.

Giles said any changes to the building must be relatively inexpensive since the agency lacks money for an elaborate solution. Planners are considering modifications, he said, "so that from the air it takes your eye away from what was originally there."
Yes, the low-income housing people have to spend money that would otherwise be available to shelter poor old folks to install shrubbery because some idiot with a computer and time on his hands is all atwitter.

I hate conspiracy theorists.

Source: The Associated Press

So a Woman With a Grenade Walks Into a Police Station..
At least it wasn't in Indiana.
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) - The police department was briefly evacuated after a woman decided she should bring in a hand grenade she found.

The unidentified woman handed it to an officer Thursday after finding it while cleaning out a relative's belongings. The officer immediately took it outside the building and police cleared the building until the bomb squad took it away and detonated it about an hour later.

The grenade appeared to be live.

"When we countercharged it, it went boom," bomb squad supervisor Lt. James Brandon told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

Source: My Way News

I Hate Schools
They always have to make themselves look dumb.
A 15-year-old girl who stopped an out-of-control school bus she was riding on was handed a Saturday detention instead because she was skipping school.

Marina High School student Amanda Rouse was on a bus with 40 elementary school students Wednesday morning when the driver fell out of her seat after a turn and hit her head.

Rouse jumped up and applied the brakes, bringing the bus to a halt after striking two parked cars. No one was injured.

She said had asked the bus driver for a ride because she felt sick at school.
Of course, idiots like this don't help matters.
"She is in trouble with school because she made the wrong decision," said Rouse's grandmother, Sally Correll. "But I can't help but believe that she was where God wanted her to be."
Yes, God wanted her to play hooky to avoid an accident.

Why didn't he just make the bus driver better at their job?

Source: AZ Central

See My Vest
Well, ok, not mine.

Not yet.
A vest that enables video gamers to feel the impact when their characters are shot in-game is raising fears that young people are being desensitized to violence.

The 3rdSpace gaming vest, invented by a Seattle surgeon, includes eight air pistons over vital spots and may be the most sophisticated offering yet in a series of such devices that have been intended to enhance the sensory experience of gaming.

Gamers' reactions have ranged from mildly interested to highly enthusiastic, but anti-gun campaigners in Britain, where the device has recently become available, are alarmed. One activist told Channel 4 News that people keep asking her "Why are our kids out in the street killing each other on a weekly basis?" and warned that it's because "We feed them a diet of violence."
Please...please shut the hell up.







I do sort of wonder about the long-term health effects of having air pistons hitting you in the chest though.

Source: Raw Story


More Whackos and Weird Stuff

Kind of Odd
So, if the head of a major criminal investigation closes the case and then ends up very mysteriously dead, wouldn't that ring alarm bells for you?

A city police chief who led an investigation into charges that Britain cooperated with secret CIA flights to transport terrorism suspects without formal proceedings has been found dead, his deputy said Tuesday.

Manchester Chief Constable Michael Todd, 50, was found dead in Snowdonia, about 240 miles northwest of London, Deputy Chief Constable Dave Whatton said. He had been missing since going out for a walk Monday during his day off.

Whatton said the body, which was found Tuesday afternoon, had not yet been formally identified but he believed it was Todd.


The association gave him the task of looking into accusations that Britain allowed the CIA to use the country's airports to fly terrorism suspects to other countries without any extradition hearings, a clandestine procedure known as "extraordinary rendition."

Todd's investigation concluded last June that there was no evidence to back the claim. Last month, however, Britain admitted one of its remote outposts in the Indian Ocean had twice been used by the United States as a refueling stop for the secret transfer of two terrorism suspects.
The guy was either inept, corrupt or incredibly gullible, as everyone and their brother knew we'd used British airspace for these torture flights.

So I wonder what happened here. A guy wanders off, ends up dead in some godforsaken backwater far from home... was he being offed because he didn't do a good enough coverup? By some angry victim of torture upset about the whitewash? To shut him up?

Or did he honestly wander off to die?

Sources: Raw Story

Planes, Trains and.. Err, Just Planes Actually
So McCain has another lobbyist scandal brewing on the back burner.
European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. and Northop Grumman Corp. were awarded a $35 billion Pentagon contract last month to build new Air Force tankers, instead of Boeing Co., and the Seattle-based company is formally challenging the agreement.

Boeing's complaint asks the Government Accountability Office to make sure the EADS contract is fair. McCain pushed for EADS to get the contract, and his campaign employs three former EADS lobbyists, although there is no specific evidence of impropriety, according to ABC.

"Mr. Clean has a bunch of lobbyists that work for a company that won that contract," House Democratic Caucus chairman Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., told the network. "Some people claim the way the specs were written, it was all but certain that the company that his campaign lobbyists worked for couldn't but get that contract."
From everything I read, Boeing's claims about their plane being better are nonsense, and the better project really did win out here.

Still, that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with why McCain would get involved; from the Iseman thing, we know his relationships with lobbyists are very cozy indeed.

Source: Raw Story

Stifle that Free Speech!
So Congress isn't too keen on letting people discuss how the credit companies have ruined their lives.
What if you held a hearing, but the people who were most directly affected by the proposals were barred from speaking? That's what happened yesterday.

The Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions of the House Committee on Financial Services held hearings on credit cards. Congresswoman Maloney (D-NY) has sponsored a bill with 82 coauthors that would outlaw some of the worst credit card tricks and traps. The card issuers were there in full force--complete with an army of lobbyists to pack the audience. The professors--Katie Porter, Adam Levitin, Larry Ausubel and I--were there to try to give the other side.

Our panel was supposed to be the second panel. The first panel was four regular people who wanted to give first-hand information about their experiences with their credit cards. While the reps from Cap One, Chase and Bank of America went on for hours about their customer friendly policies and how much value they provided free to consumers, the people who had different stories were never allowed to utter a single word.

The people who had been invited to testify had flown in from around the country with their credit card bills in hand, only to learn that they couldn't talk unless they would sign a waiver that would permit the credit card companies to make public anything they wanted to tell about their financial records, their credit histories, their purchases, and so on. The Republicans and Democrats had worked out a deal "to be fair to the credit card lenders." These people couldn't say anything unless they were willing to let the credit card companies strip them naked in public.

So that's where it stood when Congressman Bachus (R-AL) roared into the hearing about three and a half hours after the hearing started. It seems that someone in the press had made some critical statement about the deal, and he was furious. He kept talking about how it wasn't fair that someone could say something and there wouldn't be any way for the credit card companies to say whether it was true or not. Fair is fair, he kept insisting.
Of course, as the article later notes, the credit card companies didn't have to provide any of THEIR data/dirty laundry to testify about their supposed 'facts'.

Funny how that double standard works.

Source: TPM Cafe

Oh, Dana...
Dana Peroxide on why she's not qualified to do her job. Direct quote:
Some of the terms I just don’t know, I haven’t grown up knowing. The type of missiles that are out there: patriots and scuds and cruise missiles and tomahawk missiles. And I think that men just by osmosis understand all of these things, and they’re things that I really have to work at — to know the difference between a carrier and a destroyer, and what it means when one of those is being launched to a certain area.
It isn't osmosis, Dana, it's having functional grey matter and being able to read.

Lots of us have to do it for our work. You should give it a try.

Source: Think Progress

Polling Data
So there've been some polls conducted of Iraqis on the eve of the fifth anniversary of our catastrophic invasion.

Geez. It's been that long? I remember being in class during the invasion. Now I feel old.
LONDON (AFP) - More than two-thirds of Iraqis believe US-led coalition forces should leave, according to a poll conducted for British television ahead of the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion.

The ORB/Channel 4 News survey suggested that 70 percent thought multinational forces should withdraw.

Yet some 40 percent of the 4,000 people surveyed said they wanted the United States to play a bigger role in rebuilding Iraq and 36 percent wanted more British involvement.
So they hate us, but like our money.

Good to know. But why so glum about the occupation?
A quarter of those surveyed said they had lost a family member to murder. In Baghdad, that figure rose to nearly half (45 percent).

Some 81 percent had suffered power cuts and 43 percent had experienced drinking water shortages. In the last month, more than a quarter (28 percent) had been short of food.
Oh, that's why.

Still, oddly, they're largely optimistic about the future, with 45% claiming to be satisfied with the pace of change.

I just can't fathom that kind of optimism.

Source: Raw Story

Bill Kristol, Are You Ever Right?
Jon Stewart as always has this guy pegged.
In his New York Times column today, Bill Kristol asserted that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) “was in fact in the pews” when pastor Jeremiah Wright blamed the “arrogance” of the “United States of White America” for much of the world’s suffering. As Marc Ambinder pointed out, this claim was false; Obama was on his way to campaign in Miami. Kristol has now printed a (misspelled) correction in the online version of his column:

"In this column, I cite a report that Sen. Obama had attended services at Trinity Church on July 22, 2007. The Obama camapaign [sic] has provided information showing that Sen. Obama did not attend Trinity that day. I regret the error."

This is the second time that Kristol has had to issue a correction to his NYT column since it began in early January.
The first correction was a misattributed quote; this is far worse, a complete fabrication based on no evidence whatsoever, which Keith Olbermann thinks he got from Newsmax, some right wing loony 'news' site.

The Times really needs to can him for this.

Source: Think Progress

Advertising Hook
So there's a Senatorial candidate, Steve Novick, who is playing up some slightly unusual things about himself in his advertising.

For one thing, he's very short (4'9"). For another, he's missing his left hand, and has a hook prosthesis.

So the man is selling a custom beer as a fundraising tool... "Left Hook Lager".


Source: Steve Novick for Senate (Left Hook Lager)

Trickery On Our Side
For a change, Harry Reid is using parliamentary tricks in our favor.

Long story short, he's arranged it such that the Republicans can't stop a vote on the no-telecom-immunity version of the already egregious warrant-free wiretap bill.

They'll have to filibuster the actual thing.

Or Reid can cave to them again, I guess. He's rather unreliable.

Source: Daily Kos

Wall Street
So Wall Street is more or less in full panic mode now, brought low by their own stupidity and greed.

Big surprise.
Pushed to the brink of collapse by the mortgage crisis, Bear Stearns Cos. agreed -- after prodding by the federal government -- to be sold to J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. for the fire-sale price of $2 a share in stock, or about $236 million.

Bear Stearns had a stock-market value of about $3.5 billion as of Friday -- and was worth $20 billion in January 2007. But the crisis of confidence that swept the firm and fueled a customer exodus in recent days left Bear Stearns with a horrible choice: sell the firm -- at any price -- to a big bank willing to assume its trading obligations or file for bankruptcy.

"At the end of the day, what Bear Stearns was looking at was either taking $2 a share or going bust," said one person involved in the negotiations. "Those were the only options."
Of course, with a Republican in the White House, the taxpayers have to foot the bill.
To help facilitate the deal, the Federal Reserve is taking the extraordinary step of providing as much as $30 billion in financing for Bear Stearns's less-liquid assets, such as mortgage securities that the firm has been unable to sell, in what is believed to be the largest Fed advance on record to a single company. Fed officials wouldn't describe the exact financing terms or assets involved. But if those assets decline in value, the Fed would bear any loss, not J.P. Morgan.
Oh goodie! We're screwed! J.P. Morgan just got a 30 billion dollar check for imaginary mortgage properties!
Simultaneously with the announcement of Bear Stearns's sale, the Fed took the extraordinary measure of allowing securities firms to borrow from the central bank under terms normally reserved for regulated banks. People close to Bear Stearns were bitter about the move, saying that had the Fed acted earlier, the firm could potentially have survived by borrowing directly from the Fed and using its troubled securities as collateral.

The deal already is prompting howls of protest from Bear Stearns shareholders, since the New York company last week indicated that its book value was still close to its reported level of about $84 share at the end of the fiscal year. "Why is this better for shareholders of Bear Stearns than a Chapter 11 filing?" one Bear shareholder asked J.P. Morgan executives in a conference call last night.
A third of Bear-Stearns stock is held by its employees, who got royally shafted here. If they weren't in turn royally shafting the American, hell, Global public, I'd feel sorry for them.
Late yesterday, some Bear Stearns employees and shareholders were grumbling about the deal. If the feeling is widespread it could emerge as a potential obstacle to the completion of the deal because Bear Stearns employees own about a third of the company's shares.

"I've got to think we can get more in a liquidation, I'm not selling my shares, this price is dramatically less than the book value Alan Schwartz told us the company is worth," said a midlevel Bear Stearns executive. "The building is worth $8 a share."
Waaaah, we got caught in our own trap!

There is this little bit of hilarity; Bear Stearns has apparently long had a lazy overseer at the helm, who spends more time on card games than keeping his company afloat.
James Cayne, Bear Stearns's chairman, who had been participating in a bridge tournament when the crisis unfolded, returned to New York on Saturday and participated in the negotiations, said one person familiar with the discussions.


Source: The Wall Street Journal

Where Else Have I Heard of J.P. Morgan Lately?
Oh yeah, a whistleblower leaked documents detailing a scheme of theirs to help the ultra-rich evade insider trading laws!
A confidential memo obtained by Wikileaks shows that not only has the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission created an insider trading loophole big enough to drive a truck through, but that Wall Street is taking full advantage of it, establishing 'how-to' programs and even client service divisions to help well-heeled clients circumvent insider trading regulations.

Most of us think of insider trading as illegal. It allows those with inside knowledge to tilt the playing field, with the small investors invariably losing to the privileged few. Unfortunately for the small investor, the big boys get to play by different rules, and it has all been made legal, thanks to the SEC.

In 2000 the SEC promulgated Rule 10b5-1. The new Rule was designed to address the confusion caused by a series of court decisions that had left investors uncertain about what constitutes insider trading. Rule 10b5-1 was designed to "clarify" what constitutes illegal insider trading.

But top Wall Street houses were not to be deterred from advantaging their big clients at the expense of their small ones. Wall Street firms like JP Morgan found loopholes in Rule 10b5-1 that allowed them to continue trading on inside information "legally." Indeed, JP Morgan has gone so far as to set up an entire 'selling program' within its Securities division to help their clients profit from the loophole.
This is a scheme that only seems clever to douchebags who hate playing fair.
Here's how it works:

1. An insider client transfers all or a portion of their company stock into a JP Morgan Securities Inc. brokerage account.

2. The insider then develops, in conjunction with the 10b5-1 team, a 'phased, pre-planned sales program to be executed at either market or

specified prices'.

3. Depending on the information available to the insider (but not the public), the insider can decide whether to execute the sale or not.
See, they didn't say 'SELL', they said 'EXECUTE'.

That makes all the difference.


Source: Wikileaks


Mid-Week Update

Sting Operation
Three Panel Soul had a comic mentioning the scientific experiment that led to the confirmation of the cause of Irukandji syndrome, a really nasty reaction to the toxin of certain tiny jellyfish.

In 1964, Dr. Jack Barnes confirmed the cause of the syndrome to be due to a small box jelly, the Irukandji jellyfish (Carukia barnesi). In order to prove that the jellyfish was the cause of the syndrome, he captured one and deliberately stung himself, his son, and a local lifeguard, and observed the symptoms[3] It is suspected that other Cubozoa can cause Irukandji syndrome,[4] but only seven jellyfish have been positively identified (C. barnesi, Alatina cf. mordens, Carybdea alata, Malo maxima, Carybdea xaymacana, an as-yet unnamed ‘fire jelly’, and 1 other unnamed species).[5][1]
That's right. He used himself, his son, and a lifeguard as guinea pigs, hoping to induce a syndrome that had cropped up recently in a few coastal communities.

He had to know, however, that if he was successful...
Most stings occur during the summer wet season in December-January. The sting itself is often barely noticed, but the symptoms gradually become more intense in the following 5 to 120 minutes (30 minutes on average). Irukandji syndrome includes an array of systemic symptoms including severe headache, backache, muscle pains, chest and abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, sweating, anxiety, hypertension, and pulmonary edema.[3][9] Symptoms generally abate in 4 to 30 hours, but may take up to a week to resolve completely.[4]


Similarly to other box jellyfish, first aid consists of flushing the area with vinegar to neutralize the tentacle stinging apparatus. There is no antivenom; treatment is largely supportive, with analgesia being the mainstay of management. Antihistamines may be of benefit for pain relief,[10] but most cases require intravenous opioid analgesia. Fentanyl or morphine are usually chosen. Pethidine (aka meperidine in U.S. (Demerol)) should be avoided, as large doses are often required for pain relief and in this situation significant adverse effects from the pethidine metabolite norpethidine may occur.[11]
That's right; it's so painful that opiates are necessary. He had to know this going in.

It gets better; it is, in fact, one of the most painful things you can suffer and LIVE.
The severity of the pain from an Irukandji jellyfish sting is apparent in the 2005 Discovery Channel documentary Killer Jellyfish on Carukia barnesi, when two Australian researchers (Jamie Seymour and Teresa Carrette) are stung. Even under the "maximum dose of morphine" Teresa remarked that she "wished she could rip her skin off", and is later seen writhing uncontrollably from the pain while lying on her hospital bed. In one scene, Teresa's feet are shown contorting and digging into the bed - when the camera moves back, we see Teresa rubbing her face, her body is contorting in agony, and her legs are rapidly sliding and kicking around on the bed. Jamie, at his worst, is also seen writhing in pain, curled up in a ball and barely able to speak. Jamie said he wished that he was stung by Chironex fleckeri instead since "the pain goes away in 20 minutes or you die".

Another recent program that aired on the Discovery Channel entitled Stings, Fangs and Spines featured a 20 minute spot on Irukandji Syndrome. In the segment, a young Australian woman was stung and developed a severe case of Irukandji syndrome. In a testament to the severity of pain involved, a re-enactment (featuring the actual victim portraying herself) shows her screaming and violently thrashing around on the hospital bed in an almost convulsive state, for the bulk of the segment. She later commented that this unbearable pain lasted for hours, and added that "I didn't think it was possible for anyone to endure that level of pain without turning into a vegetable".
Yet this Barnes guy subjected his son to it.

What a whacko.

Source: Wikipedia
Google Books
(detailed story of the experiment in question)
Three Panel Soul (hilarious comic)

Stubborn Robots
So Dextre has been behaving a bit badly.
Dextre is officially called the Canadian Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator. It is supposed to be moved around the outside of the ISS on the end of a massive articulated arm, Canadarm2, which has already been fitted to the space station. The mighty tonne-and-a-half robot has two 11-foot arms of its own, video cams, lights, and "three robotic tools" with which it can "perform delicate human-scale tasks", it says here (pdf, p54).

This will allow maintenance and so on to be done without time-consuming, potentially dangerous spacewalking by human astronauts.

At present, unfortunately, Dextre doesn't work.

"Initial attempts to route power to Dextre were not successful Thursday," according to NASA, and the partly-assembled Dextre has been "temporarily parked on the station's truss".

The plan is to grapple the recalcitrant robot with the Canadarm2 later today. "With Dextre grappled to the arm, the cabling path that is believed to be causing communications interference will not be in the loop", apparently, and "it is expected that normal communications will then be established."

Spacegoing veterinarian Linnehan and his fellow shuttle specialist Michael Foreman will perform a further spacewalk tomorrow to fully sort Dextre out.

Dextre didn't even want to get out of the shuttle at first.

Still, we always have engineering to get us out of our messes... with violence.
HOUSTON, Texas (AP) -- Two spacewalking astronauts attached 11-foot arms to the international space station's huge new robot Sunday, preparing the giant machine for its handyman job on the orbital outpost.

The Canadian-built robot, named Dextre, will stand 12 feet and have a mass of 3,400 pounds when it's fully assembled. It is designed to assist spacewalking astronauts and possibly someday take over some of the tougher chores, like lugging around big replacement parts.

The already challenging outing turned grueling as Richard Linnehan and fellow spacewalker Michael Foreman struggled to release one of the robot's arms from the transport bed where it had been latched down for launch.

Two of the bolts wouldn't budge, even when the astronauts banged on them and yanked as hard as they could. They had to use a pry bar to get it out.

The other arm came out much more smoothly and quickly, paving the way for Linnehan to pull up Dextre's body 60 degrees, like Frankenstein rising from his bed. That was the ideal position for plugging in Dextre's gangly arms to its shoulders.

Fortunately, it seems that things are under control.
Astronauts have assembled a massive robot handyman called Dextre that will carry out much of the maintenance work at the International Space Station.

Richard Linnehan and Robert Behnken succeeded in putting together the gangly humanoid robot with 11ft arms during a seven-hour spacewalk that finished earlier today - by chance, the 43rd anniversary of the first spacewalk.

Later, after they have slept, the astronauts will move Dextre by remote control to its new home on the side of an American space laboratory called Destiny.
Take that, stubborn, Canadian robot.
Mission Control praised Linnehan and Behnken for their work, though they hit a snag when a suitcase-sized science experiment refused to hook itself on to the side of Columbus, the newly arrived European space laboratory.
Is NASA buying their stuff from Best Buy now? Yeesh.

Source: The Register
The Times Online

So the Chinook salmon run in California has been badly depleted. Nobody is quite sure why, but it's pretty serious.
Federal fisheries managers took the first step Friday toward imposing what could be the strictest limits ever on West Coast salmon fishing amid a collapse of the central California chinook salmon fishery.


The Sacramento River chinook run is usually one of the most plentiful on the West Coast, providing the bulk of the fish caught by commercial trollers off California and Oregon.

But this year's returns — even with no fishing allowed — are expected to reach less than half the council's goal for spawning a new generation. It marks the third straight year of declines, and the outlook for next year is no better.

After years of declining salmon runs, few fishermen rely solely on salmon for a living.


In most years, about 90 percent of wild chinook salmon caught off the California coast originate in the Sacramento River and its tributaries.

Only about 90,000 adult salmon returned to the Sacramento River and its tributaries to spawn last year, the second lowest number on record and well below the government's conservation goals, according to federal fishery regulators. That's down from 277,000 in 2006 and a record high of 804,000 in 2002.

Biologists predict this year's salmon returns could be even lower because the number of returning young male fish, known as "jacks," hit an all-time low last year. Only about 2,000 of them were recorded, which is far below the 40,000 counted in a typical year.


Marine scientists blame an unusual weather pattern that triggered a collapse of the marine food web in 2005, the year most of this year's returning adults were entering the ocean as juveniles.

Fishermen, environmental groups and American Indians largely blame the salmon's troubles on poor water quality and water diversions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
So who's right? Maybe all of them.
Fishermen think the Sacramento River was mismanaged in 2005, when this year’s fish first migrated downriver. Perhaps, they say, federal and state water managers drained too much water or drained at the wrong time to serve the state’s powerful agricultural interests and cities in arid Southern California. The fishermen think the fish were left susceptible to disease, or to predators, or to being sucked into diversion pumps and left to die in irrigation canals.

But federal and state fishery managers and biologists point to the highly unusual ocean conditions in 2005, which may have left the fingerling salmon with little or none of the rich nourishment provided by the normal upwelling currents near the shore.


So what happened? As Dave Bitts, a fisherman based in Eureka in Northern California, sees it, the variables are simple. “To survive, there are two things a salmon needs,” he said. “To eat. And not to be eaten.”

Fragmentary evidence about salmon mortality in the Sacramento River in recent years, as well as more robust but still inconclusive data about ocean conditions in 2005, indicates that the fall Chinook smolts, or baby fish, of 2005 may have lost out on both counts. But biologists, fishermen and fishery managers all emphasize that no one yet knows anything for sure.

Bill Petersen, an oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s research center in Newport, Ore., said other stocks of anadromous Pacific fish — those that migrate from freshwater to saltwater and back — had been anemic this year, leading him to suspect ocean changes.

After studying changes in the once-predictable pattern of the Northern Pacific climate, Mr. Petersen found that in 2005 the currents that rise from the deeper ocean, bringing with them nutrients like phytoplankton and krill, were out of sync. “Upwelling usually starts in April and goes until September,” he said. “In 2005, it didn’t start until July.”

Mr. Petersen’s hypothesis about the salmon is that “the fish that went to sea in 2005 died a few weeks after getting to the ocean” because there was nothing to eat. A couple of years earlier, when the oceans were in a cold-weather cycle, the opposite happened — the upwelling was very rich. The smolts of that year were later part of the largest run of fall Chinook ever recorded.

But, Mr. Petersen added, many factors may have contributed to the loss of this season’s fish.

Bruce MacFarlane, another NOAA researcher who is based in Santa Cruz, has started a three-year experiment tagging young salmon — though not from the fall Chinook run — to determine how many of those released from the large Coleman hatchery, 335 miles from the Sacramento River’s mouth, make it to the Golden Gate Bridge. According to the first year’s data, only 4 of 200 reached the bridge.

Mr. MacFarlane said it was possible that a diversion dam on the upper part of the river, around Redding and Red Bluff, created calm and deep waters that are “a haven for predators,” particularly the pike minnow.

Farther downstream, he said, young salmon may fall prey to striped bass. There are also tens of thousands of pipes, large and small, attached to pumping stations that divert water.
The Feds claim that they're dealing with the diversions, but of course, we know how well water policy is handled out west, so it's a dubious claim to stake.

Hopefully they can bounce back next year.

Source: Raw Story
The New York Times

Borg Bugs, Bats
DARPA is up to their usual lightning-and-cackling no good.
DARPA (the Pentagon asylum for usefully-insane scientists) is apparently making progress with its plan to build cyborg infiltrator machines wearing living creatures like fleshy cloaks.

Lest anyone think that this is a story about California politics, however, one should note that thus far DARPA and its associated groups are working with moths rather than immense Austrian bodybuilders.

Flight International reports that engineering boffin Robert Michelson - perhaps most famous for his "Entomopter" synthimuscle-flapper insectoid Martian mini-bot plan - gave an update on the DARPA programme at a joint US-Indian miniflybot conference on Friday.

Encouragingly - for those who find the cyborg concept appealing, anyway - it seems DARPA has found that it is indeed possible to pull out the middle of a suitable creature, throw all the entrails in the bin, and slip a mechanoid core into the resulting freed-up space. The machine's fleshy cloak will even go on to show good tissue growth afterwards, at least in the case of Manduca moths.
Ewwwww. Spy moths.

It gets better; there's a rival project of SPY BATS. Robots, fortunately, not mutilated mammals.
The University of Michigan (UM) is pleased to announce that it has been awarded $10m by the US Army to carry out research leading to a "six-inch robotic spy plane modelled after a bat", which would "gather data from sights, sounds and" - worryingly - "smells".

The university has used the army cash to found a Centre for Objective Microelectronics and Biomimetic Advanced Technology, or COM-BAT - a clear case of Media Targeted Acronym Related Titling, or Media-TART syndrome.

Source: The Register
The Register

Golden Eggs
Some boffins in genetic engineering work have devised chickens that lay eggs containing vast quantities of valuable drugs without harm to the birds.

Forget about the elaborate creations of master chocolatiers. The genetically modified brown eggs produced by a flock of designer hens at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh are the biotechnological equivalent of a Fabergé.

Several generations of Isa Brown hens - a prolific egg-laying French cross between Rhode Island Red and Rhode Island White - have been bred from "founder birds" that were genetically altered by Dr Helen Sang and her team to contain human genes.

Each gene provides the recipe for the production of a corresponding human protein. In the Roslin Institute hens the human protein is found only in their eggs, reducing the risk of harm to the hens themselves.

The egg proteins are rich in expensive drugs that can fight cancer and other diseases, with each egg containing enough medicine to treat a handful of patients each year.


They used a virus called equine infectious anaemia lentivirus, which infects horses, to insert the human genes into chicken embryos in newly laid eggs, by creating a chimera - a blend of GM and normal cells.

Crucially, some of the sperm cells in the resulting chimeric cockerels carried the new gene for the human protein, and passed on the implanted gene to their daughters.

These hens also contain the human gene in every cell of their bodies. The team controls precisely where the gene is used for protein production in the birds, to ensure that the potent biotech drugs do not affect the birds themselves.

The gene is tagged on to part of the hen's gene for ovalbumin, the major protein in the white part of its eggs.

Because this gene is only used in egg white, the protein drug does not harm the birds.


The Roslin team has hatched several drugs this way: miR24, a monoclonal antibody with potential for treating malignant melanoma; the antiviral drug human interferon b-1a; and beta interferon, used to treat multiple sclerosis.

The institute is also about to publish research showing that it has around 20 birds that can make even higher levels of alpha interferon, about a gram per litre of egg white, to treat hepatitis C.
This is why I really hate all those anti-GM fanatics.

No, we don't have to trust Monsanto with our souls. But we shouldn't throw away a whole, and very promising, field of study just because 'Nature' didn't intend for something.

Nature sucks. Give me an army of drug chickens any day.

Source: The Telegraph

Institutional Failures

Bush Politics
(I shouldn't do this, but for the squeamish, there's a bit of graphic detail on the tortures done by our allies in this article.

It's sort of our responsibility to at least acknowledge the horrible stuff we do, but I'll bow to tender sensibilities this once and issue a warning.)

Vanity Fair has a great article up about how Bush's mishandling of the Palestinian situation led to an election that wasn't in our national interest, a civil war our appointed faction couldn't win, and the complete collapse of the Palestinian state, including a terrible humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

The Al Deira Hotel, in Gaza City, is a haven of calm in a land beset by poverty, fear, and violence. In the middle of December 2007, I sit in the hotel’s airy restaurant, its windows open to the Mediterranean, and listen to a slight, bearded man named Mazen Asad abu Dan describe the suffering he endured 11 months before at the hands of his fellow Palestinians. Abu Dan, 28, is a member of Hamas, the Iranian-backed Islamist organization that has been designated a terrorist group by the United States, but I have a good reason for taking him at his word: I’ve seen the video.

It shows abu Dan kneeling, his hands bound behind his back, and screaming as his captors pummel him with a black iron rod. “I lost all the skin on my back from the beatings,” he says. “Instead of medicine, they poured perfume on my wounds. It felt as if they had taken a sword to my injuries.”

On January 26, 2007, abu Dan, a student at the Islamic University of Gaza, had gone to a local cemetery with his father and five others to erect a headstone for his grandmother. When they arrived, however, they found themselves surrounded by 30 armed men from Hamas’s rival, Fatah, the party of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. “They took us to a house in north Gaza,” abu Dan says. “They covered our eyes and took us to a room on the sixth floor.”

The video reveals a bare room with white walls and a black-and-white tiled floor, where abu Dan’s father is forced to sit and listen to his son’s shrieks of pain. Afterward, abu Dan says, he and two of the others were driven to a market square. “They told us they were going to kill us. They made us sit on the ground.” He rolls up the legs of his trousers to display the circular scars that are evidence of what happened next: “They shot our knees and feet—five bullets each. I spent four months in a wheelchair.”

Abu Dan had no way of knowing it, but his tormentors had a secret ally: the administration of President George W. Bush.
First up, we decided to force the Fatah party government of Palestine to hold elections... for some reason that's hard to fathom.
In a speech in the White House Rose Garden on June 24, 2002, President Bush announced that American policy in the Middle East was turning in a fundamentally new direction.

Arafat was still in power at the time, and many in the U.S. and Israel blamed him for wrecking Clinton’s micro-managed peace efforts by launching the second intifada—a renewed revolt, begun in 2000, in which more than 1,000 Israelis and 4,500 Palestinians had died. Bush said he wanted to give Palestinians the chance to choose new leaders, ones who were not “compromised by terror.” In place of Arafat’s all-powerful presidency, Bush said, “the Palestinian parliament should have the full authority of a legislative body.”

Arafat died in November 2004, and Abbas, his replacement as Fatah leader, was elected president in January 2005. Elections for the Palestinian parliament, known officially as the Legislative Council, were originally set for July 2005, but later postponed by Abbas until January 2006.

Dahlan says he warned his friends in the Bush administration that Fatah still wasn’t ready for elections in January. Decades of self-preservationist rule by Arafat had turned the party into a symbol of corruption and inefficiency—a perception Hamas found it easy to exploit. Splits within Fatah weakened its position further: in many places, a single Hamas candidate ran against several from Fatah.

“Everyone was against the elections,” Dahlan says. Everyone except Bush. “Bush decided, ‘I need an election. I want elections in the Palestinian Authority.’ Everyone is following him in the American administration, and everyone is nagging Abbas, telling him, ‘The president wants elections.’ Fine. For what purpose?”

The elections went forward as scheduled. On January 25, Hamas won 56 percent of the seats in the Legislative Council.

Few inside the U.S. administration had predicted the result, and there was no contingency plan to deal with it. “I’ve asked why nobody saw it coming,” Condoleezza Rice told reporters. “I don’t know anyone who wasn’t caught off guard by Hamas’s strong showing.”

“Everyone blamed everyone else,” says an official with the Department of Defense. “We sat there in the Pentagon and said, ‘Who the fuck recommended this?’ ”
Since that went so well, we pushed for a known, err, torturer and strongman, hated by his rather long list of victims, to take control when Abbas, the Palestinian President, didn't move fast enough to crush his elected rivals. This was an interesting decision.

Weeks passed with no sign that Abbas was ready to do America’s bidding. Finally, another official was sent to Ramallah. Jake Walles, the consul general in Jerusalem, is a career foreign-service officer with many years’ experience in the Middle East. His purpose was to deliver a barely varnished ultimatum to the Palestinian president.

We know what Walles said because a copy was left behind, apparently by accident, of the “talking points” memo prepared for him by the State Department. The document has been authenticated by U.S. and Palestinian officials.

The memo left no doubt as to what kind of action the U.S. was seeking: “Hamas should be given a clear choice, with a clear deadline: … they either accept a new government that meets the Quartet principles, or they reject it The consequences of Hamas’ decision should also be clear: If Hamas does not agree within the prescribed time, you should make clear your intention to declare a state of emergency and form an emergency government explicitly committed to that platform.”

Walles and Abbas both knew what to expect from Hamas if these instructions were followed: rebellion and bloodshed. For that reason, the memo states, the U.S. was already working to strengthen Fatah’s security forces. “If you act along these lines, we will support you both materially and politically,” the script said. “We will be there to support you.”

Abbas was also encouraged to “strengthen [his] team” to include “credible figures of strong standing in the international community.” Among those the U.S. wanted brought in, says an official who knew of the policy, was Muhammad Dahlan.
Dahlan's forces quickly moved to institute a reign of terror including what sounds like fairly ritualistic maiming with guns.
Fatah’s vulnerability was a source of grave concern to Dahlan. “I made a lot of activities to give Hamas the impression that we were still strong and we had the capacity to face them,” he says. “But I knew in my heart it wasn’t true.” He had no official security position at the time, but he belonged to parliament and retained the loyalty of Fatah members in Gaza. “I used my image, my power.” Dahlan says he told Abbas that “Gaza needs only a decision for Hamas to take over.” To prevent that from happening, Dahlan waged “very clever warfare” for many months.

According to several alleged victims, one of the tactics this “warfare” entailed was to kidnap and torture members of Hamas’s Executive Force. (Dahlan denies Fatah used such tactics, but admits “mistakes” were made.) Abdul Karim al-Jasser, a strapping man of 25, says he was the first such victim. “It was on October 16, still Ramadan,” he says. “I was on my way to my sister’s house for iftar. Four guys stopped me, two of them with guns. They forced me to accompany them to the home of Aman abu Jidyan,” a Fatah leader close to Dahlan. (Abu Jidyan would be killed in the June uprising.)

The first phase of torture was straightforward enough, al-Jasser says: he was stripped naked, bound, blindfolded, and beaten with wooden poles and plastic pipes. “They put a piece of cloth in my mouth to stop me screaming.” His interrogators forced him to answer contradictory accusations: one minute they said that he had collaborated with Israel, the next that he had fired Qassam rockets against it.

But the worst was yet to come. “They brought an iron bar,” al-Jasser says, his voice suddenly hesitant. We are speaking inside his home in Gaza, which is experiencing one of its frequent power outages. He points to the propane-gas lamp that lights the room. “They put the bar in the flame of a lamp like this. When it was red, they took the covering off my eyes. Then they pressed it against my skin. That was the last thing I remember.”

When he came to, he was still in the room where he had been tortured. A few hours later, the Fatah men handed him over to Hamas, and he was taken to the hospital. “I could see the shock in the eyes of the doctors who entered the room,” he says. He shows me photos of purple third-degree burns wrapped like towels around his thighs and much of his lower torso. “The doctors told me that if I had been thin, not chubby, I would have died. But I wasn’t alone. That same night that I was released, abu Jidyan’s men fired five bullets into the legs of one of my relatives. We were in the same ward in the hospital.”
I honestly do wonder what's with the five bullets thing. Seems like some sort of numerical fetish.

Finally, we took a rather dubious series of steps to try and stage a coup against the legitimately elected, if, you know, terrorist, Palestinian government.
A State Department official adds, “Those in charge of implementing the policy were saying, ‘Do whatever it takes. We have to be in a position for Fatah to defeat Hamas militarily, and only Muhammad Dahlan has the guile and the muscle to do this.’ The expectation was that this was where it would end up—with a military showdown.” There were, this official says, two “parallel programs”—the overt one, which the administration took to Congress, “and a covert one, not only to buy arms but to pay the salaries of security personnel.”

In essence, the program was simple. According to State Department officials, beginning in the latter part of 2006, Rice initiated several rounds of phone calls and personal meetings with leaders of four Arab nations—Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. She asked them to bolster Fatah by providing military training and by pledging funds to buy its forces lethal weapons. The money was to be paid directly into accounts controlled by President Abbas.

The scheme bore some resemblance to the Iran-contra scandal, in which members of Ronald Reagan’s administration sold arms to Iran, an enemy of the U.S. The money was used to fund the contra rebels in Nicaragua, in violation of a congressional ban. Some of the money for the contras, like that for Fatah, was furnished by Arab allies as a result of U.S. lobbying.


Legal or not, arms shipments soon began to take place. In late December 2006, four Egyptian trucks passed through an Israeli-controlled crossing into Gaza, where their contents were handed over to Fatah. These included 2,000 Egyptian-made automatic rifles, 20,000 ammunition clips, and two million bullets. News of the shipment leaked, and Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, an Israeli Cabinet member, said on Israeli radio that the guns and ammunition would give Abbas “the ability to cope with those organizations which are trying to ruin everything”—namely, Hamas.

Avi Dichter points out that all weapons shipments had to be approved by Israel, which was understandably hesitant to allow state-of-the-art arms into Gaza. “One thing’s for sure, we weren’t talking about heavy weapons,” says a State Department official. “It was small arms, light machine guns, ammunition.”
Of course, when things went south, we upped the ante yet again.
The Bush administration’s goals for Plan B were elaborated in a document titled “An Action Plan for the Palestinian Presidency.” This action plan went through several drafts and was developed by the U.S., the Palestinians, and the government of Jordan. Sources agree, however, that it originated in the State Department.

The early drafts stressed the need for bolstering Fatah’s forces in order to “deter” Hamas. The “desired outcome” was to give Abbas “the capability to take the required strategic political decisions … such as dismissing the cabinet, establishing an emergency cabinet.”

The drafts called for increasing the “level and capacity” of 15,000 of Fatah’s existing security personnel while adding 4,700 troops in seven new “highly trained battalions on strong policing.” The plan also promised to arrange “specialized training abroad,” in Jordan and Egypt, and pledged to “provide the security personnel with the necessary equipment and arms to carry out their missions.”

A detailed budget put the total cost for salaries, training, and “the needed security equipment, lethal and non-lethal,” at $1.27 billion over five years. The plan states: “The costs and overall budget were developed jointly with General Dayton’s team and the Palestinian technical team for reform”—a unit established by Dahlan and led by his friend and policy aide Bassil Jaber. Jaber confirms that the document is an accurate summary of the work he and his colleagues did with Dayton. “The plan was to create a security establishment that could protect and strengthen a peaceful Palestinian state living side by side with Israel,” he says.

The final draft of the Action Plan was drawn up in Ramallah by officials of the Palestinian Authority. This version was identical to the earlier drafts in all meaningful ways but one: it presented the plan as if it had been the Palestinians’ idea. It also said the security proposals had been “approved by President Mahmoud Abbas after being discussed and agreed [to] by General Dayton’s team.”

On April 30, 2007, a portion of one early draft was leaked to a Jordanian newspaper, Al-Majd. The secret was out. From Hamas’s perspective, the Action Plan could amount to only one thing: a blueprint for a U.S.-backed Fatah coup.


In mid-May, with Dahlan still absent, a new element was added to Gaza’s toxic mix when 500 Fatah National Security Forces recruits arrived, fresh from training in Egypt and equipped with new weapons and vehicles. “They had been on a crash course for 45 days,” Dahlan says. “The idea was that we needed them to go in dressed well, equipped well, and that might create the impression of new authority.” Their presence was immediately noticed, not only by Hamas but by staff from Western aid agencies. “They had new rifles with telescopic sights, and they were wearing black flak jackets,” says a frequent visitor from Northern Europe. “They were quite a contrast to the usual scruffy lot.”


On June 7, there was another damaging leak, when the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Abbas and Dayton had asked Israel to authorize the biggest Egyptian arms shipment yet—to include dozens of armored cars, hundreds of armor-piercing rockets, thousands of hand grenades, and millions of rounds of ammunition. A few days later, just before the next batch of Fatah recruits was due to leave for training in Egypt, the coup began in earnest.
So how long did our puppet coup government last?

Five days.


Ahh, Bush. Such a great strategeric leader.

Read the full article for a great picture of the ego and idiocy of the neoconservatives, especially a very petulant, petty, small-minded Condi Rice, who seems to have been determined to put five rounds of her own in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Fascinating, and horrible, stuff.

Source: Vanity Fair

(The title of this post comes from a quote by John Bolton, who says something about this fiasco representing an institutional failure in the article. If Bolton, who thinks nuking Iran is a swell idea, is smart enough to see the flaws in your plan, you're cooked, seriously.

Monday, March 17, 2008

St. Patrick's Day News

Ridding Your Country of Non-Existent Snakes Since.... Whenever

Catholic News
First up, we have the Pope irritating me.

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI says an immortality pill might not be such a good thing.

During a homily in a church near St. Peter's Square on Sunday, the pontiff was reflecting on the goals of science and wondering whether a pill against death would be a good discovery.

In the view of the pope, the world would be full of old people and there would be no more space for the young. The 80-year-old pontiff says it's better not to hope for biological life that can be made to last forever.
Look, Benny, just because YOU couldn't get your job until someone was old enough to die of natural, or pillow-over-the-face-almost-natural causes, that doesn't mean the rest of us are so eager to live in a death-based society.

If people want to develop longevity medications, you can just, you know, not take them. Don't be such a jerk.

Source: USA Today

On a related note, the Church listed new sins recently. Sadly, forcing other people to die because of your religion isn't on there.
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Thou shall not pollute the Earth. Thou shall beware genetic manipulation. Modern times bring with them modern sins. So the Vatican has told the faithful that they should be aware of "new" sins such as causing environmental blight.

The guidance came at the weekend when Archbishop Gianfranco Girotti, the Vatican's number two man in the sometimes murky area of sins and penance, spoke of modern evils.

Asked what he believed were today's "new sins," he told the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano that the greatest danger zone for the modern soul was the largely uncharted world of bioethics.

"(Within bioethics) there are areas where we absolutely must denounce some violations of the fundamental rights of human nature through experiments and genetic manipulation whose outcome is difficult to predict and control," he said.

The Vatican opposes stem cell research that involves destruction of embryos and has warned against the prospect of human cloning.
Ahh, here we are.

Not only must people die, they should die of horrible genetic disorders, because, err, somewhere an embryo that was going to be tossed out anyway was used to find the cure.


Give it a rest. Why must we put up with these luddite attitudes?

Oh, but, pollution and environmental damage are on the list too! Which would do a lot of good, if, err, most of the pollution and eco-damage didn't come from overpopulation, which the Church is opposed to preventing.


Source: Reuters

Sick Political News
Namely, the stories I missed out on mocking while I was so sick.

Really, it was a bang-up week for idiocy. First you had the Spitzer thing, where the famed anti-corruption prosecutor was, in fact, a long-time patron of illegal prostitution, a crime he had sent others to jail for.
New York governor Eliot Spitzer has spent as much as $80,000 on sex with prostitutes over the past ten years, according to a late-night report in the New York Post Tuesday.


The Washington Post, meanwhile, reports Wednesday that federal authorities have identified at least eight different instances where Spitzer engaged the Emperor's Club prostitution ring.

Spitzer also "traveled as far as Florida" for call-girl trysts, the NY Post said.


Source: Raw Story

Now, without getting, err, into the story too much, it's worth noting that there has been a lot of hand-wringing on the Left online, about how Spitzer was caught, whether his suspicious financial transactions were only looked at because he was a Democrat, etc.

The best analysis I've seen suggests that banks are really, really eager not to be the next source of financing for another WTC attack, so anything the SLIGHTEST bit flaky, they report.

This overreaction leads to a lot of people who do semi-suspicious things being flagged. From there, with his big political profile on a shady list, the Justice Department seems to have handed it off to their political integrity people, thinking perhaps he was bribing someone.

Regardless of whether they went digging on Spitzer because he's Spitzer, or because of random occurrences, he deserved to be caught. He was a hypocrite, a liar, and worse, stupid. He'd prosecuted just this sort of crime himself, he knew how risky these wire transfers were, and he did it anyway.

We have enough stupid people in power, thanks.

Speaking of Stupid, we had Geraldine 'Who? Oh, that Woman Who Sorta Almost Kinda Became Vice-President of Bizarro World USA' Ferraro shooting her racist mouth off about Barack Obama this week.
"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position," she continued. "And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept." Ferraro does not buy the notion of Obama as the great reconciler.

"I was reading an article that said young Republicans are out there campaigning for Obama because they believe he's going to be able to put an end to partisanship," Ferraro said, clearly annoyed. "Dear God! Anyone that has worked in the Congress knows that for over 200 years this country has had partisanship - that's the way our country is."
See, why couldn't she have stuck with the second bit? That part's absolutely true. There's no such thing as post-partisan politics in America, not yet anyway. Obama needs to grow up if he thinks he can unify the two parties.

But, err.... yeah. She had already kind of hung out her white linens to dry, hadn't she, by that point. Of course, she cleared up any misconceptions that she had spoken poorly later.
Ferraro, who was Walter Mondale's vice presidential running mate, said Wednesday that her remarks were not racist and had been taken out of context.

"I was talking about historic candidacies and what I started off by saying (was that) if you go back to 1984 and look at my historic candidacy, which I had just talked about all these things, in 1984 if my name was Gerard Ferraro instead of Geraldine Ferraro, I would have never been chosen as a vice presidential candidate," Ferraro said on ABC's "Good Morning America." "It had nothing to do with my qualification."

Ferraro said she has a 40-year history of opposing discrimination of all kinds, including race, and that she was outraged at criticism of her remarks by David Axelrod, Obama's chief media strategist, because he knows her and her record.

"David Axelrod, his campaign manager, has chose to spin this as a racist comment because every time anybody makes a comment about race who is white — he did it with Bill Clinton, he was successful; he did it with (Pennsylvania governor and Clinton supporter) Ed Rendell, he was less successful; and he is certainly not going to be successful with me," Ferraro told CBS' "The Early Show." "He should have called me up ... He knows I'm not racist."
See, she's not racist, because, although she meant precisely what she said, it doesn't count, because Obama's campaign manager has, err, said that she said exactly what... she said.


Then of course, she has a history of this sort of thing.
April 15, 1988, Washington Post:

And former representative Geraldine A. Ferraro (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that because of his "radical" views, "if Jesse Jackson were not black, he wouldn't be in the race."

Asked about this at a campaign stop in Buffalo, Jackson at first seemed ready to pounce fiercely on his critics. But then he stopped, took a breath, and said quietly, "Millions of Americans have a point of view different from" Ferraro's.

Discussing the same point in Washington, Jackson said, "We campaigned across the South . . . without a single catcall or boo. It was not until we got North to New York that we began to hear this from Koch, President Reagan and then Mrs. Ferraro . . . . Some people are making hysteria while I'm making history."
Jesse Jackson handled that with serious class. Talk about composure.

Ferraro, on the other hand, is a jerk. Let us all be glad we're rid of her.

Sources: The Daily Breeze
Yahoo News
The Daily Kos

Gay Teen Faces Death Sentence
I'm honestly not sure what the UK is thinking here.
A gay teenager who claims he faces the death penalty in Iran after his boyfriend was executed there two years ago has spoken of his anger and disappointment at losing his legal battle against deportation.

Mehdi Kazemi, 19, who sought sanctuary in Britain in 2005 when he discovered that his partner had been hanged in Tehran for engaging in homosexual acts, is expected to be returned to Iran in the next few weeks.

Mr Kazemi fled to Holland from Britain last year after the Home Office rejected his claim for asylum. But yesterday, a Dutch court ruled that he should be sent back to Britain after refusing to consider his claim for asylum.

Speaking from an immigration detention centre in Rotterdam, Mr Kazemi told his uncle, a British citizen, that he was "very, very angry" at the decision, which will see him returned to Britain within 72 hours.

He believed he would have had a much better chance of protection from deportation to Iran in Holland, according to his uncle. But yesterday, Holland's highest administrative court rejected his lawyers' arguments that the UK asylum and immigration system did not take proper account of international conventions that uphold the rights of refugees.

Mr Kazemi arrived in London as a student in 2004, after which his boyfriend was arrested by Iranian police, charged with sodomy and hanged. In a telephone conversation with his father in Tehran, Mr Kazemi was told that, before the execution in April 2006, his boyfriend had been questioned about sexual relations he had with other men and under interrogation had named Mr Kazemi as his partner.
In what world does this not constitute a serious asylum claim? They murdered his boyfriend for being gay, after a no doubt prolonged torture session. If you send him back after his public asylum hearing, where he repeatedly admitted to what are, in Iran, capital crimes, THEY WILL KILL HIM.


Honestly. This is just shameful.
Mr Kazemi's father has also told him that if the state doesn't kill him, he will. "His father is very angry but his mother still loves him. She is extremely worried for him but she is in a very difficult position. In Iran, mothers don't stop loving their children because they are gay."

Mr Kazemi's only hope now is that the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith will exercise her discretion and intervene in his case, or that either the European Court of Human Rights or the European Court of Justice agree to consider the wider implications of gay Iranian asylum-seekers. Mr Kazemi's case is be debated by the European Parliament tomorrow.

Last night, his case was taken up by Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, who wrote to Ms Smith to urge the Government to end the return of all gay asylum-seekers to Iran. "It seems absolutely clear that any gay or lesbian person sent back to Iran is at risk of their lives," he said. "Such returns must be stopped."

Jean Lambert, a Green Party MEP for London, who has signed an appeal to the European Commission and the prime ministers of the UK and the Netherlands regarding the Kazemi case, said: "The law is clear that no one should be returned to a country where their life would be in danger and it seems that Mr Kazemi has a very strong case for asylum."

Omar Kuddus of Gay Asylum UK added: "This is a bitter defeat and the deportation back to Iran must be stopped at any cost."
If they send him back, he'll be killed, and then what? Are we really, as Westerners, so terrified of immigrants that we'd rather they be killed than live down the street?


Source: The Independent

That Wacky Putin
Always up to mischief.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday came up with a novel -- and old -- solution to corrupt officials, news agencies reported: chop off their hands.

"It would be good to cut off the hand, as they used to in the Middle Ages," Putin was quoted as saying by ITAR-TASS and other national news agencies during a meeting with parliamentary leaders.


According to the Russian prosecutor's office, bribes amount to 240 billion dollars (156 billion euros) a year in Russia.
Putin, of course, is the man who hands all the important jobs to his friends and is rumored to have billions hidden away in Switzerland, embezzled from public works.

Pot, kettle, missing hand.

Source: Raw Story

Isn't a Religious President Great?
Who needs reality, when you have Bush?
Speaking Tuesday to the National Religious Broadcasters' convention, President Bush declared the decision to "remove" Saddam Hussein in 2003 the "right decision at this point in my presidency, and it will forever be the right decision.”


“The effects of a free Iraq and a free Afghanistan will reach beyond the borders of those two countries,” Bush said. “It will show others what’s possible. And we undertake this work because we believe that every human being bears the image of our maker. That’s why we’re doing this. No one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave.”

He lauded the broadcasters for "standing up" for "our values," and pledged to veto the "fairness doctrine," which would enjoin radio stations to give even time to opposing views.
Because requiring people who use the PUBLIC AIRWAVES to demonstrate basic honesty would be, you know, horrible.

People seem to conflate the Fairness Doctrine with losing the First Amendment; it's not the same thing. Radio stations, and tv, and so forth, use the public airwaves, the spectrum that belongs to all of us collectively. They enjoy this privilege because they're supposed to be providing us a service. Why can't we require them to not be propaganda mills or hotbeds of lies and deceit in exchange? If you want to peddle crap to idiots, you're free to print books, make speeches, etc. But the radio spectrum doesn't belong to any one individual; it's a public good and should be allocated accordingly.

Back to the story, though, I love how we have a delusional man-child in office who will never admit a mistake, let alone learn from it.

Thank goodness!

Source: Raw Story

More Religious Values
Here's another example of where the much vaunted Compassionate Conservatism gets you.
The White House has indicated it will not remove a loophole quietly inserted into a budget rule which allows contractors abroad to keep silent if they observe fraud or abuse on US government contracts.

The proposed rule, put forth by the White House Office of Management and Budget last year, exempts all companies who do work overseas from a new regulation requiring US contractors to report waste, fraud or abuse they encounter while doing work for the government.

More than $100 billion in contracts have been awarded for work in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last five years.

"This sends the message that if you're going to do waste, fraud and abuse, don't do it at home, do it abroad," Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) told the Washington Post in Thursday's papers. "This was slipped in at the last minute. . . . It's obviously something you can't justify in any way, and there's no answer to why you'd allow this to occur abroad any more than you'd allow it to occur domestically. There is a question as to how and why the change was made, and we don't know the answer."
That's right, Bush's OMB slipped in a new rule that will make it legal for KBR and Halliburton to steal from your pockets as long as it happens in Iraq.

Even the Bush Justice Department opposes the exemption, which was slipped into the proposed rule last November. No one has come forward to admit the insertion.

"The exemption has riled the Justice Department, which opposes limiting the rule to domestic contracts," the Post wrote. "And the loophole has led members of Congress to call for an investigation amid concerns that someone inserted the exemption as a favor to the contracting lobby that has major interests because of the ongoing wars."
Nah, no one in the Bush administration could be corrupt.

It's unheard of.

Source: Raw Story

Getting Our Money's Worth
Not to fear though, because at least we're getting our stolen money's worth in Iraq.

Proconsul Petraeus, Who We Must Never Question, on the Bush/McCain Surge:

Iraqi leaders have failed to take advantage of a reduction in violence to make adequate progress toward resolving their political differences, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said Thursday.

Did you get that? Failed.

Petraeus, who is preparing to testify to Congress next month on the Iraq war, said in an interview that "no one" in the U.S. and Iraqi governments "feels that there has been sufficient progress by any means in the area of national reconciliation," or in the provision of basic public services.
Wow. Failure. What a surprise.
Just as a reminder, here's Bush 14 months ago:

I've made it clear to the Prime Minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people -- and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people. Now is the time to act.

Since that speech, 1034 Americans have been killed in Iraq.

Enough said.

Source: Firedoglake

At Least He Cares, Right?
I mean, surely he realizes what he's asking of the military and what's left of the American public spirit, right?
If further proof were needed that President Bush resides in a dream world, he settled the issue on Thursday definitively.

Speaking by videoconference with U.S. military and civilian personnel in Afghanistan about the challenges posed by war, corruption, and the poppy trade, the president unleashed this comment:

I must say, I'm a little envious. If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed. It must be exciting for you … in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You're really making history, and thanks.
This sequence is starting to depress even me.

The sad thing is, I could go on like this all day.

Source: Slate

And So I Will
Ok, just for one more article. This time, it's a big NYTimes piece on how the momentous and horrible decision to disband the Iraqi army was made. This is the single biggest mistake of the whole war; it put 300k or so armed men on the street with technical know-how, explosives stolen from their bases and a big chip on their collective shoulders.

Gee, I wonder what could have gone wrong.
BAGHDAD — When President Bush convened a meeting of his National Security Council on May 22, 2003, his special envoy in Iraq made a statement that caught many of the participants by surprise. In a video presentation from Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer III informed the president and his aides that he was about to issue an order formally dissolving Iraq’s Army.

The decree was issued the next day.

The broad outlines of the decision are now widely known, defended by proponents as necessary to ensure that Saddam Hussein’s influence did not outlive his ouster from power.

But with the fifth anniversary of the start of the war approaching, some participants have provided in interviews their first detailed, on-the-record accounts of a decision that is widely seen as one of the most momentous and contentious of the war, assailed by critics as all but ensuring that American forces would face a growing insurgency led by embittered Sunnis who led much of the army.

The account that emerges from those interviews, and from access to previously unpublished documents, makes clear that Mr. Bremer’s decree reversed an earlier plan — one that would have relied on the Iraqi military to help secure and rebuild the country, and had been approved at a White House meeting that Mr. Bush convened just 10 weeks earlier.
Yes, that's right. Bremer overrode the existing plans to use the Iraqi army to secure the country and rebuild it, so our troops wouldn't have to.

But, you ask, why? Why would you do such a thing?

God only knows.
The interviews show that while Mr. Bush endorsed Mr. Bremer’s plan in the May 22 meeting, the decision was made without thorough consultations within government, and without the counsel of the secretary of state or the senior American commander in Iraq, said the commander, Lt. Gen. David D. McKiernan. The decree by Mr. Bremer, who is known as Jerry, prompted bitter infighting within the government and the military, with recriminations continuing to this day.

Colin L. Powell, the secretary of state and a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he was never asked for advice, and was in Paris when the May 22 meeting was held.

Mr. Powell, who views the decree as a major blunder, later asked Condoleezza Rice, who was serving as Mr. Bush’s national security adviser, for an explanation.

“I talked to Rice and said, ‘Condi, what happened?’ ” he recalled. “And her reaction was: ‘I was surprised too, but it is a decision that has been made and the president is standing behind Jerry’s decision. Jerry is the guy on the ground.’ And there was no further debate about it.”
So the NSC didn't know, the State Department didn't know, the military on the ground in Iraq -- didn't know.

Oh but it gets better.
When Mr. Bush convened his top national security aides before the March 2003 invasion, he was presented with a clear American plan on what to do with the Iraqi armed forces. American commanders and Jay Garner, the retired lieutenant general who served as the first American administrator in Iraq, planned to use the Iraqi military to help protect the country and as a national reconstruction force.

The plan was outlined in a PowerPoint presentation that Douglas J. Feith, a senior aide to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, gave at a National Security Council meeting that Mr. Bush convened on March 12, eight days before the invasion began. Republican Guard units, the forces deemed most loyal to Mr. Hussein, were to be disarmed, detained and dismantled.

But the rest of the army would be retained. Three to five of the divisions would be used to form the “nucleus” of a new Iraqi Army, according to a copy of the PowerPoint slide, which was obtained by The New York Times. Other Iraqi troops would be used as a reconstruction force to rebuild the nation.

The presentation also carried a caution about the risks of dismissing the army in the early months of an American occupation in a nation racked by high unemployment: “Cannot immediately demobilize 250K-300K personnel and put on the street.”
No kidding you can't.

So there was a far better plan in place, and Bremer decided to overrule it on his own initiative. Probably thought he'd come out looking really, really good at his job.

Not so much though.
Though Mr. Bremer was the senior civilian official in Iraq, General McKiernan, the senior American military commander at the time, had a very different view on how to raise a new Iraqi military.

American commanders had hoped that Iraqi units would stay in their deployment areas and surrender en masse instead of running away. While Mr. Bremer argued that desertions meant that the Iraqi Army had disbanded, General McKiernan believed it could be re-established by recalling the soldiers as well as some generals and senior officers who commanded them.

“We knew they had either gone home or come out of uniform,” said General McKiernan, who was in charge of the land forces during the invasion and was recently chosen to lead the NATO force in Afghanistan. “The idea was to bring in the Iraqi soldiers and their officers, put them on a roster and sort out the bad guys as we went.”

At the Central Command, Lt. Gen. John P. Abizaid, who served as the deputy commander, had a similar view. He told associates that Arab armies were traditionally large to keep angry young men off the street and under the supervision of the government. For General Abizaid, a three-division force was a good starting point, but he wanted to expand the force to as close to 10 divisions as possible.
Bremer argues to this day that, because the Iraqi army fled rather than standing still in the desert, that he just HAD to dismantle the whole thing and, err, leave the country in anarchy.

He didn't even try to establish order using Iraqi forces; I guess it would have been less profitable for Halliburton or something.

So of course, now we're at the Blame Game phase of any Bush screwup. This time, the Blame is supposed to fall, again, on the military, for not implementing Dear Leader's plans well enough
As Mr. Bremer and Mr. Slocombe began to prepare their decree, one important question raised by the Pentagon was whether General McKiernan was on board. Mr. Slocombe assigned the task of determining General McKiernan’s position to Col. Greg Gardner, an Army officer on his staff who has since retired from the military.

Mr. Bremer’s headquarters was in the Green Zone in central Baghdad, while General McKiernan’s was at a base near the Baghdad airport several miles away. Colonel Gardner said that there were problems with telephone communications but that he finally reached a member of General McKiernan’s staff who told him that the general accepted the decree.

“I got the impression that Lieutenant General McKiernan was not all that keen about the course of action,” Colonel Gardner said, “but was clearly told that he did endorse the draft.” Colonel Gardner added that he could not recall the name of the staff officer he spoke with.

General McKiernan, however, asserted that he neither reviewed nor backed the decree. “I never saw that order and never concurred,” he said. “That is absolutely false.”

Lt. Gen. J. D. Thurman, who serves as the Army’s chief operations officer and was the top operations officer for General McKiernan at the time, had a similar recollection. “We did not get a chance to make a comment,” he said in an e-mail message. “Not sure they wanted to hear what we had to say.”
You or anyone else, General.

Finally, from within the military, we see a sensible reaction to this mess.
The May 23 decree did not put an end to the behind-the-scenes debate. Several weeks later, in a meeting with Mr. Bremer and Colonel Agoglia, Mr. Slocombe outlined a plan to methodically build a new Iraqi military. There would be three divisions over two years — some 40,000 troops. The force would be focused on external threats. No officers who had served at the rank of colonel and above in the former army would be recruited.

Colonel Agoglia, who was serving in Baghdad as a representative for the Central Command, recalled in an interview that he was taken aback by the small scale of the force. The American military was facing an array of security problems in Iraq, and Central Command planners, he said, wanted to recall three divisions every 90 days until the force reached a projected strength of 9 or 10 divisions.

“Does General Franks know this?” Colonel Agoglia said he demanded. Mr. Slocombe responded that the approach he had presented had been approved by the secretary of defense, according to Colonel Agoglia. Colonel Agoglia said he uttered an expletive and was asked by Mr. Bremer to leave the room. He promptly called General Abizaid’s office to complain that the civilians’ plan would produce too little, too late.
Expletive indeed.

Source: The New York Times