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 29, 2008

Political Stuff

Dirty Politics

Those Nefarious Gays!
Hilariously stupid legislator Sally Kern has a bone to pick with rich gay people.

"Where are the social conservative billionaires?" asks embattled Oklahoma House Rep. Sally Kern. "We've got some, but they don't give money the way the gay philanthropists are giving their money."

Additional audio obtained by PageOneQ of the recent controversial speech by Rep. Kern gives more detail to her criticisms of the "gay agenda," especially on a political level: the lawmaker specifically targets four philanthropists, who cumulatively contribute tens of millions of dollars a year to LGBT causes and political campaigns.

Rep. Kern has been under fire since portions of the speech calling homosexuality a larger threat than terrorism, and the "death knell" for the United States, were released by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund earlier this month. The legislator has stood by her statements, refusing to apologize, and has since retained legal counsel.
No doubt she's afraid of the evil gay lawyers.

Source: Page One Q

Texas Is Another Country
No, seriously. They don't have to obey international treaties signed by the United States.
Texas can ignore President Bush and an international court in refusing to reopen the case of a Mexican on death row for rape and murder, the Supreme Court said Tuesday.

The court said Bush exceeded his authority when he tried to intervene on behalf of Jose Ernesto Medellin, facing the death penalty for killing two teenagers nearly 15 years ago.

The Constitution "allows the president to execute the laws, not make them," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in a rebuke of the president in a case that mixed presidential power, international relations and the death penalty.

Justice Stephen Breyer, in dissent, said the decision calls into question U.S. obligations under international treaties and makes it "more difficult to negotiate new ones."

By a 6-3 vote, the court said Texas does not have to give a new hearing to death row prisoner Jose Ernesto Medellin, a former Houston gang member who is now 33.

The president was in the unusual position of siding with Medellin, a Mexican citizen whom police prevented from consulting with Mexican diplomats, as provided by international treaty.

An international court ruled in 2004 that the convictions of Medellin and 50 other Mexicans on death row around the United States violated the 1963 Vienna Convention, which provides that people arrested abroad should have access to their home country's consular officials. The International Court of Justice, also known as the world court, said the Mexican prisoners should have new court hearings to determine whether the violation affected their cases.


Roberts, in the unfamiliar role of limiting presidential power, said the international court decision cannot be forced upon the states.

The president may not "establish binding rules of decision that pre-empt contrary state law," Roberts said. Neither does the treaty, by itself, require individual states to take action, he said.

Breyer, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter, said the international court judgment should be enforced. "The nation may well break its word even though the president seeks to live up to that word," he said.
Hah. That's an odd situation, Bush trying to live up to his word.

Source: Raw Story

Brrr, Frosty
So Hillary Clinton is cozying up to Richard Mellon Scaife, the scumbag who basically created Whitewater.
It caught my eye as a flash on Brit Hume a few moments ago, but here is a photo from Hillary Clinton's visit today to the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. In this picture, she is seen talking to none other than Richard Mellon Scaife, the owner of the paper and the man who once said that the death of Vincent Foster was the "Rosetta stone" of the Bill Clinton administration. (He also funded the so-called "Arkansas Project" at The American Spectator.)
I hate to say it, but this proves she pretty much WILL do anything to win.

Source: The Corner on National Review Online (I know, I know. the NRO? Still, who better than scum to carry this story?)

Everyone should have known this would happen.
DENVER - A gun belonging to the pilot of a US Airways plane discharged as the aircraft was on approach to land in North Carolina over the weekend, the first time a weapon issued under a federal program to arm pilots was fired, authorities said Monday.

The "accidental discharge" Saturday aboard Flight 1536 from Denver to Charlotte did not pose a danger to the aircraft or the 124 passengers, two pilots and three flight attendants aboard, said Greg Alter of the Federal Air Marshal Service.

"We know that there was never any danger to the aircraft or to the occupants on board,"

Alter said.
They're smoking something if they think that a gun, going off in the cockpit of a plane, posed no threat to the plane. If the bullet had struck something vital, everyone on board could have DIED.

This is just ridiculous. Guns don't just 'go off'. Well, except for that WWII Japanese service pistol. They go off because the people who have them don't properly engage the safety, keep the gun secure from shocks and vibrations, etc.

I'm not inherently opposed to the idea of armed security on flights; the air marshals, for example. But I never liked this pilot-gun iniative, for a simple reason that should be obvious now: having guns in the hands of a random group of American pilots, without proper training and oversight, in a critical, very vulnerable-to-ballistic-shrapnel location, is monumentally dumb. Just like your average homeowner is far more likely to shoot their kids than a burglar (both because intruders are relatively rare and because the average homeowner is a moron), a pilot is far more likely to plug their avionics than a hijacker.

The least they could do is issue the pilots those frangible or bismuth rounds that can't penetrate very far into anything vital.

Source: AZ Central

I don't know how to feel about this, though it certainly explains why Obama's so big on tax returns being released.
Democrat Barack Obama gave nearly a quarter of a million dollars to charity last year as he entered the presidential race, significantly more than during the nine previous years combined.

The Illinois senator has yet to release his 2007 tax return. His campaign said Tuesday it will be made public by Tax Day, April 15, while at the same time disclosing that Obama gave $240,000 to charity last year.

From 1998 through 2006, Obama donated a total of $150,892 to charity.

Obama posted his 2000 to 2006 returns on his campaign Web site Tuesday to pressure rival Hillary Rodham Clinton to do the same. His campaign repeatedly has criticized Clinton for failing to release tax returns for the years since she and her husband left the White House in 2001.

Clinton, campaigning in Pennsylvania, said she hoped to release the returns "within the next week."
Hehe. On the one hand, he gave a bunch to charity. On the other hand, he only did it when he was about to run for public office.

Then again, he had just come into a chunk of change.
The Obamas' income increased dramatically in the past decade.

Obama and his wife, Michelle, earned $181,507 to $272,759 each year from 1998-2004.

Their income jumped to $1.6 million in 2005, Obama's first year in the Senate, with the rerelease of his first book, "Dreams from My Father." They made nearly $1 million in 2006, half of it from his second book, "The Audacity of Hope."

The Obamas' charitable giving also increased with their newfound wealth.

From 1998-2004, they gave between $1,050-$3,400 each year. In 2005, they gave $77,315, including donations to literacy and anti-poverty campaigns and their church. In 2006, they gave $60,307 to charity.
So I'm not sure how to interpet this. I'm sure Obama fans see it as a big plus though.

Source: Raw Story

Ha! Suck It, Fundies!
Thank you Wisconsin.
WAUSAU, Wis. - A state appeals court upheld sanctions Tuesday against a pharmacist who refused to dispense birth control pills to a woman and wouldn't transfer her prescription elsewhere.

The 3rd District Court of Appeals ruled that the punishment the state Pharmacy Examining Board handed down against pharmacist Neil Noesen did not violate his state constitutional rights, specifically his "right of conscience" to religiously oppose birth control.

"Noesen abandoned even the steps necessary to perform in a minimally competent manner under any standard of care," the three-judge panel said. The decision upheld a ruling by Barron County Circuit Judge James Babler.
This asshole tried to hold a woman's prescription hostage so she couldn't receive medicine legally prescribed by her doctor because he has some whacko religious objections.

He deserves everything he gets and more.
According to court records, Noesen was working as a substitute pharmacist at a Menomonie Kmart in 2002 when a University of Wisconsin-Stout student sought to refill her birth control prescription.

Noesen testified he advised the woman of his objection to the use of contraception and refused to fill the prescription or tell her how or where she could get it refilled.

The woman was able to get the prescription filled two days later but missed the first dose of the medication, court records said. She filed a complaint with the state Department of Regulation and Licensing.

Noesen, 34, of St. Paul, Minn., told regulators that he is a devout Roman Catholic and refused to refill the prescription or release it to another pharmacy because he didn't want to commit a sin by "impairing the fertility of a human being."

The Pharmacy Examining Board ruled in 2005 that Noesen failed to carry out his professional responsibility to get the woman's prescription to someone else if he wouldn't fill it himself.

The board reprimanded Noesen and ordered him to attend ethics classes. He was allowed to keep his license as long as he informs all future employers in writing that he won't dispense birth control pills and outlines steps he will take to make sure a patient has access to medication.

The board also found Noesen liable for the cost of the proceedings against him — about $20,000 — but the appeals court ordered the board to reconsider that decision.

Larry Dupuis, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, which like Planned Parenthood participated in the appeal, said the ruling struck the proper balance between patients' and pharmacists' rights.

A pharmacy should accommodate its pharmacists' religious beliefs but it can't leave "a patient high and dry," Dupuis said.

Noesen said the discipline "critically devastated" his business as a traveling pharmacist because some pharmacies refused to hire him and he lost his liability insurance, court records said.
Oh no, someone call the WAAAAAHmbulance! Poor baby!

Find another job, you religious tool.

What the hell is a traveling pharmacist anyway? I thought those went out with the snake oil wagons.

Apparently not.

Source: Raw Story

Iraq Go Boom
Seriously, this was inevitable.
A new civil war is threatening to explode in Iraq as American-backed Iraqi government forces fight Shia militiamen for control of Basra and parts of Baghdad.

Heavy fighting engulfed Iraq's two largest cities and spread to other towns yesterday as the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, gave fighters of the Mehdi Army, led by the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, 72 hours to surrender their weapons.

The gun battles between soldiers and militiamen, who are all Shia Muslims, show that Iraq's majority Shia community – which replaced Saddam Hussein's Sunni regime – is splitting apart for the first time.

Mr Sadr's followers believe the government is trying to eliminate them before elections in southern Iraq later this year, which they are expected to win.
Ahh, freedom has come to Iraq. The freedom to murder your political enemies with the army!

It's worth noting that the current Iraqi government under Maliki has close ties to Iran, and Sadr's people don't. So we're supporting the hostile takeover, or further takeover, of Iraq by.. Iran.

Heckuva job, Proconsul Petraeus!

Source: The Independent

Time to Call in... THE LEAGUE
Sadly, not the Justice League, that would be sweet, Batman and all. No, the League that brought us World War I.
MONTEREY, Calif. -- In McCain’s first major policy address since locking up the GOP nomination this morning, his campaign did its best to make its candidate look presidential. Using two teleprompters on the wings of the podium, McCain delivered a 30-minute speech that showed how a potential McCain presidency would try to change the shape of U.S. foreign policy.

Two new ideas came out of McCain’s speech, both focusing on shoring up relations with the country’s democratic allies.

“We have to strengthen our global alliances as the core of a new global compact -- a League of Democracies -- that can harness the vast influence of the more than one hundred democratic nations around the world to advance our values and defend our shared interests,” McCain said, reading from prepared texts.
Yes, we can't win at the UN, so we should start our OWN UN.

With blackjack! And hookers!

You know what, forget the UN!

Source: MSNBC

Siegelman, the man railroaded into prison by Karl Rove, is out on bail at last!
UPDATE: Judge releases ex-Alabama Gov. on bond pending appeal
A federal appeals court approved the release of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman on bond Thursday while he appeals his convictions in a corruption case.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the former governor had raised "substantial questions of fact and law" in challenging his conviction.

The once-popular Democrat began serving a sentence of more than seven years in June on his conviction on six bribery-related counts and one obstruction count. He has been serving the sentence at a federal prison in Oakdale, La.
Grit your teeth, Bush. This one is going to sting.

Source: Raw Story

Bear Market
So, after a deal approving the sale of his company for 2 dollars a share, the CEO of Bear-Stearns himself cashes out at 10.

Yeah, he was obviously really gung-ho over that bailout deal.
Bear Stearns Cos. Chairman James Cayne on Thursday sold his holdings in the embattled investment bank ahead of its expected acquisition by JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Cayne sold 5.66 million shares for exactly $10.84 a share for $61.3 million. However, it was not known if those shares were dumped into the open market or if Cayne sold them to another party.

A spokesman for Bear Stearns would not comment on the sale.
I wouldn't comment either. It just makes you look bad.

Source: Raw Story

I Hate Spelling Guantanamo
The actual prison is of course a blight on humanity.
The stories of the Uyghurs in Guantánamo -- Muslims from the oppressed Xinjiang province of China, formerly known as East Turkistan -- have long demonstrated chronic injustice on the part of the US authorities to those who know of them, although they have only sporadically registered on the media's radar.

Numbering 22 men in total, three were picked up randomly in Afghanistan, another was caught crossing the Pakistani border disguised in a burka, while the other 18 were seized together by opportunistic Pakistani villagers, after fleeing Afghanistan in the wake of the US-led invasion in October 2001, and sold to US forces for a bounty, as was common at the time. A leaflet dropped by US planes offered enterprising villagers and soldiers "millions of dollars for helping the anti-Taliban force catch al-Qaeda and Taliban murderers."

These 18 men, who had fled their homeland because of persecution, in search of a new life, or in the hope of gaining some sort of training to enable them to fight back against their oppressors, had been living together in a small, run-down hamlet in Afghanistan's Tora Bora mountains, mending the settlement's ruined buildings, and occasionally training on their only weapon, a aging AK-47.

After the US-led invasion, they were targeted in a US bombing raid, in which several men died. The survivors then made their way across the mountains to the Pakistani border, where they were first welcomed by the villagers, and then betrayed by them. In US custody, they attracted attention because of their supposed insights into the workings of the Chinese government, but it was apparent from early on that they had not been involved with either the Taliban or al-Qaeda, and that there was no reason to hold them.

Unfortunately for the Uyghurs, however, the declaration of their innocence only prefaced further problems, as they joined one of Guantánamo's least enviable groups: cleared prisoners who, because of international treaties, cannot be returned to their home countries for fear that they will be subjected to torture, or worse. The US government had obligingly declared those opposed to Chinese rule in Xinjiang province as "terrorists," in order to secure support for the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and had even allowed -- or invited -- Chinese interrogators to question the men in Guantánamo, but when it came to returning them to China they refused to do so.
So basically, we're in bed with China on their brutal oppression of ethnic peoples (like the poor Tibetans), but we also are screwing over other innocent people who had the misfortune of being cashed in for the bounty and committed no other crime.


Source: The Huffington Post

Can She Do Anything Right?
More adventures of the worst Secretary of State since... well, the last one, really. That fake anthrax UN speech goes down as one of the worst moments in the history of US foreign policy.
Speaking to a group of journalists yesterday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice admitted that she didn’t think the war in Iraq would be as “this tough“:

Looking back on the last five years and the war in Iraq, Rice admitted: “I thought it would be tough, but I didn’t think it would be this tough.” She added, “It’s a society that’s only now beginning to emerge.”


– “What we didn’t know was how truly broken the society was,” she said. Although Saddam Hussein’s regime was mostly to blame for that, she said that U.N. sanctions contributed as well, because as a result of them, “agriculture is virtually dead in Iraq.”

Apparently, the “shock and awe” bombing campaign had little responsibility for “breaking” Iraqi society. Blaming Iraqis for the continued violence in Iraq is a fairly common strategy for those who advocated for the invasion of Iraq and are now trying to distance themselves from the disaster that ensued.
When all else fails, blame the victim!

Source: Think Progress

Another Murderer Walks Free
Heckuva job, military justice system.
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Military prosecutors dropped all charges on Friday against a U.S. Marine accused of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault in the 2005 shooting deaths of two dozen unarmed Iraqi civilians at Haditha.

The charges against Lance Cpl. Stephen B. Tatum, 26, were dismissed "in order to continue to pursue the truth seeking process into the Haditha incident," the Marines said in a statement.

Word of the development came as jury selection was about to begin in Tatum's court-martial on charges of involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and aggravated assault at the Camp Pendleton Marine base in California.

A Marine spokesman declined to elaborate on the decision, which was not announced in open court.


Tatum was one of eight Marines charged in the November 19, 2005, killing of 24 men, women and children at Haditha that triggered international condemnation of U.S. forces and he faced 19 years in prison if convicted on all on all charges.

Iraqi witnesses say angry Marines massacred unarmed civilians after a popular comrade, Lance Cpl. Miguel "TJ" Terrazas, was ripped in half by a roadside bomb. Defense attorneys maintain that the civilians were killed during a pitched battle with insurgents in and around Haditha.

Prosecutors have dropped charges against four other Marines in the case.


In previous hearings, Marines have testified that Tatum, who originally faced more serious charges of unpremeditated murder and negligent homicide, was among those who "cleared" two Iraqi houses after the roadside bombing, resulting in 19 deaths.

Another Marine testified Tatum told him to shoot a group of Iraqi women and children he found on a bed in a closed room. That Marine said he walked away but saw Tatum return and heard a loud noise, possibly gunfire or a grenade.
Who cares how many witnesses testified that they saw him murder helpless women and children?

They were just brown people!

Source: Raw Story

Oh, Eliot
Heh, the shorthand I used for this section, 'oheliot', looks like an Ancient Greek name.

This is sort of a tragedy in that sense, I suppose... hubris and all that.

Oh yeah, the story.
A prosecutor says former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer angrily ordered an aide to smear a political rival — something Spitzer denies.

Albany County District Attorney P. David Soares says Spitzer cursed at former aide Darren Dopp and told him to release records that could embarrass Senate Republican leader Joseph Bruno.

But Soares says it doesn't appear Spitzer broke any laws. This is the second time the prosecutor has reviewed the case.
Ahh, New York politics. They're just wonderfully entertaining.

Source: Raw Story

An Apt Comparison
From elected President Al Gore.
Former Vice President Al Gore is about to launch a major advertising campaign to raise awareness of global warming and will appear on 60 Minutes this Sunday to promote it.

In a brief teaser for the interview aired by CBS, Leslie Stahl says to Gore, "There's still a lot of skepticism about whether global warming is man-made."

"I don't think there's a lot," Gore replies. "You're talking about Dick Cheney?"

"I think those people are in such a tiny, tiny minority now with their point of view," Gore continues. "They're almost like the ones who still believe that the Moon landing was staged in a movie lot in Arizona and those who believe the world is flat."
Man, Gore is better and better. He would have made a great President in 2000; now, he would be unto a God.

Source: Raw Story

Who knew the House of Lords could be useful?
Britain must radically change its immigration policy and end immediately the deportation of failed asylum-seekers who fear persecution in Iran, a group of leading peers will tell the Government today.

The call for a moratorium on asylum removals is a direct response to the plight of Mehdi Kazemi, a gay Iranian teenager facing execution if he returns to Iran, whose case has been taken up by The Independent.

In a letter written to this newspaper, 17 members of the House of Lords say the case of Mr Kazemi demonstrates a change of policy is now the "only moral course" for the Government to follow.

And in a stark warning on capital punishment in Iran, the Lords report that, in January alone, more than 30 prisoners were executed for a range of offences deemed criminal by the Middle East state.
Go antiquated authority figures!

Source: The Independent

TSA: Protecting You From Piercings
They literally have nothing better to do.
LOS ANGELES - A Texas woman who said she was forced to remove a nipple ring with pliers in order to board an airplane called Thursday for an apology by federal security agents and a civil rights investigation.

"I wouldn't wish this experience upon anyone," Mandi Hamlin said at a news conference. "My experience with TSA was a nightmare I had to endure. No one deserves to be treated this way."

Hamlin, 37, said she was trying to board a flight from Lubbock to Dallas on Feb. 24 when she was scanned by a Transportation Security Administration agent after passing through a larger metal detector without problems.

The female TSA agent used a handheld detector that beeped when it passed in front of Hamlin's chest, the Dallas-area resident said.

Hamlin said she told the woman she was wearing nipple piercings. The women then called over her male colleagues, one of whom said she would have to remove the jewelry, Hamlin said.

Hamlin said she could not remove them and asked whether she could instead display her pierced breasts in private to the female agent. But several other male officers told her she could not board her flight until the jewelry was out, she said.

She was taken behind a curtain and managed to remove one bar-shaped piercing but had trouble with the second, a ring.

"Still crying, she informed the TSA officer that she could not remove it without the help of pliers, and the officer gave a pair to her," said Hamlin's attorney, Gloria Allred, reading from a letter she sent Thursday to the director of the TSA's Office of Civil Rights and Liberties.

Hamlin said she heard male TSA agents snickering as she took out the ring. She was scanned again and was allowed to board even though she still was wearing a belly button ring.
They were supposed to offer her a patdown search, it turns out, but the jerks wouldn't have been entertained enough by that.

This is what happens when you give scum authority, folks. They act on it.

(And no, I'm not saying all TSA agents are scum. Though the spate of recent news suggests a high proportion. I'm saying THESE ones are scum.)

Source: AZ Central

Judge Moron
So an idiot judge in Pennsylvania has decided that he's tired of all them there Spanish speakin' criminals.
HARRISBURG, Pa. - The next time they appear in Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr.'s Luzerne County, Pa., courtroom, four young Hazleton men who ran afoul of the law had best know their ABCs.

Learning English is a central part of the sentence that Olszewski imposed on the Spanish-speaking men, who earlier this week pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a robbery in May in Hazleton, about 100 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

The unusual sentence requires that the four, ranging in age from 17 to 22, return to his court a year from now to take an English test and show that they can speak and write the language. If they fail, the men will have to serve the full two years of the four-to-24-month sentence that Olszewski imposed.

The judge said the ruling was not meant as punishment.

"There's no way young kids can be hurt by knowing how to read and write the English language," Olszewski was quoted as saying in Thursday's Times Leader in Wilkes-Barre, which first reported the story.

"It's a means to helping them get a better education, getting a better job. Period," the judge added.
To anyone, anywhere, who thinks that this isn't racist crap, answer me this: has a judge ever assigned anyone AP math classes as a condition to avoid jail?

They too would help you with education and job searches.

Oh wait, no. Because it's not being mathematically illiterate that Americans hate; it's not speaking English.

Source: AZ Central



Werewolf Book
I have no idea why this caught my eye, but it did, so I'll file it here for the time being.

A book about werewolves or something. I forget how I got here.

Source: (Sharp Teeth)

Pretty Good

OKLAHOMA CITY - Four months after he was declared brain dead and doctors were about to remove his organs for transplant, Zach Dunlap says he feels "pretty good."

Dunlap was pronounced dead Nov. 19 at United Regional Healthcare System in Wichita Falls, Texas, after he was injured in an all-terrain vehicle accident. His family approved having his organs harvested.

As family members were paying their last respects, he moved his foot and hand. He reacted to a pocketknife scraped across his foot and to pressure applied under a fingernail. After 48 days in the hospital, he was allowed to return home, where he continues to work on his
This is a weird story, because they did a brain scan and he had no blood flow up there.

So, huh. Spontaneous brain recovery. We should experiment on this guy, find out what the mechanism is.

Ethically of course. But maybe he has a mutant gene we could utilize.

Source: AZ Central

Saddam Insane
So it turns out that Saddam never did try to kill Bush's dad. That was, err, a lie, to make the Kuwaitis look good.
Now skepticism is newly enveloping allegations of an Iraqi plot to assassinate former President George H.W. Bush during a trip to Kuwait in 1993. Newsweek's Michael Isikoff reports that the same Pentagon report that has essentially disproved an Iraq-al Qaeda link also calls into question the 1993 plot that spurred former President Bill Clinton to launch a Tomahawk cruise-missle strike against Saddam's Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS). Isikoff writes:

The review, conducted for the Pentagon's Joint Forces Command, combed through 600,000 pages of Iraqi intelligence documents seized after the fall of Baghdad, as well as thousands of hours of audio- and videotapes of Saddam's conversations with his ministers and top aides. The study found that the IIS kept remarkably detailed records of virtually every operation it planned, including plots to assassinate Iraqi exiles and to supply explosives and booby-trapped suitcases to Iraqi embassies. But the Pentagon researchers found no documents that referred to a plan to kill Bush. The absence was conspicuous because researchers, aware of its potential significance, were looking for such evidence. "It was surprising," said one source familiar with the preparation of the report (who under Pentagon ground rules was not permitted to speak on the record). Given how much the Iraqis did document, "you would have thought there would have been some veiled reference to something about [the plot]."


On May 27, 1993, the Boston Globe obtained a CIA report that questioned Kuwait's claims of the Iraqi plot to assassinate Bush (via Nexis):
A classified US intelligence analysis has concluded that Kuwait may have "cooked the books" on an alleged plot to assassinate former President Bush while he was in Kuwait last month. [...] At least one administration official has expressed the fear that President Clinton, under heavy criticism for his indecision over issues like Bosnia, may be tempted to hit at Iraq to prove his willingness to undertake resolute action. The report notes that some of the evidence definitely points to Iraqi involvement. The explosive devices captured by the Kuwaitis, for example, match those used by Iraqi intelligence in other terrorist operations. But the report says it was unable to corroborate the Kuwaiti assertion that the plot was aimed at Bush.

In November 1993, the New Yorker's tenacious investigative reporter Seymour Hersh reported, "[M]y own investigations have uncovered circumstantial evidence, at least as compelling as the [Clinton] Administration's, that suggests that the American government's case against Iraq—as it has been outlined in public, anyway—is seriously flawed."
This is why Seymour Hersh should be taken seriously. He's an amazing reporter.

Source: Raw Story

Capitol Police
The stalwart Capitol police, famous for not giving breathalyzer tests to drunk congresspeople who hit objects with their cars, have also failed to find a bomb that a crazy man brought with him in his car when he went to, err, thin the herd at the Supreme Court. With a sword and a shotgun.
Authorities revealed Tuesday that a man carrying a loaded shotgun was arrested in January near the U.S. Capitol, and explosives left in his truck nearby went undetected for three weeks.

According to an indictment filed in District of Columbia Superior Court, Michael Gorbey, 38, of Rapidan, Va., faces charges of planning to set off a bomb. He also is accused of making or transporting an explosive device with the intent of using it against people or property and multiple firearms charges.

Gorbey allegedly tried to manufacture a "weapon of mass destruction, that is, an explosive device capable of causing multiple deaths or serious bodily injuries to multiple persons, or massive destruction of property," according to the indictment.

He was arrested Jan. 18 for carrying the shotgun and a sword outside the Capitol. Gorbey told police he was headed to an appointment at the Supreme Court. No one was injured in the incident, which caused gridlock for hours on Capitol Hill.

U.S. Capitol Police discovered the explosive device three weeks later when they returned with a search warrant to check the truck, which was in a government parking lot.

Source: Raw Story

So a transgender woman (undergoing procedures to be more like a man), has decided to have a child.

This is a bit odd, but didn't make a huge impression on me when I read the story.

My subconscious, however, always eager to find new sources of terror, gave me a nightmare where I was pregnant.

Uggh. Gods.

Source: The Daily Telegraph

Revoltin' Development
It's a bad pun, because, well, you'll see.

Apparently the Department of Transportation is running a 1 billion dollar lottery that will be divided up amongst the worst traffic hells in the country.

This has led Miami to worsen its traffic intentionally to try and get the gold. Perverse incentives, anyone?

(See, this is a revolting situation about urban development, and... yeah)

Sources: Tom Morris

Dumbest Game Ideas
A list of 30 questionable game ideas, or in some cases, game marketing.

I love the game where you kill mutated, fireball spitting camels.

Source: Crave at CNET

Nazi Loot
Stephen Colbert may be on the trail of Nazi Gold, but a London museum has struck Nazi Painting.
Britain's National Gallery announced Thursday that new research has disclosed that a painting in its collection, "Cupid Complaining to Venus," by the German Renaissance artist Lucas Cranach the Elder, was once part of Hitler's private collection.

"We've never had anything like this before," said museum spokesman Thomas Almeroth-Williams. "It's incredibly rare."
I have to say, what an awesome name. 'Cranach'. The Elder no less, which strongly implies that it was passed on.

Basically, Hitler got this painting through as yet undetermined means, and it was 'given' to a war correspondent, who brought it back to the US, then sold it, and thus it ended up back in the art world.

What an odd story.


Source: The Washington Post

Dr. Pepper and Axl Rose
So the Dr. Pepper people have made an offer to Axl Rose: release his vaporware album 'Chinese Democracy' in 08, and everyone in America gets a free can of Dr. Pepper.
"Tired of a world in which Americans idolize wannabe singers and musicals about high schoolers pass as rock 'n roll music, Dr Pepper is encouraging (ok, begging) Axl Rose to finally release his 17-year-in-the-making belabored masterpiece, Chinese Democracy, in 2008," it said in a release on Wednesday.

"In an unprecedented show of solidarity with Axl, everyone in America, except estranged G N'R guitarists Slash and Buckethead, will receive a free can of Dr Pepper if the album ships some time -- anytime! -- in 2008."
Ok, almost everyone.

Apparently Rose didn't know this was in the works.

So... yeah. I have no clue what this is about. Maybe they're betting he won't get it out, and thus it's totally free PR.

Source: Raw Story

A new book by a Reg correspondent is out, talking about the emerging use and abuse of sniffer police dogs in the good old UK.

Interesting topic, though the excerpt makes it sound as much about her as about the issue.

Source: The Register

So the US awarded a 200+ million dollar defense contract to supply ammunition to Afghan soldiers to some guy operating, essentially, out of his garage.

Big surprise, he screwed it up.
A defense contractor reportedly led by a 22-year-old has been suspended from doing business with the US government for allegedly supplying Afghan security forces with old Chinese-made munitions, officials said Thursday.


Using Chinese-made ammunition violated the terms of the contract, the notice of suspension said.

In January, investigators inspected munitions stored at a bunker in Afghanistan and found that 14 of 15 containers of 7.62-caliber ammunition supplied by AEY Inc. were manufactured in China, the army memo said.


Diveroli, it said, was 19 years old when he became president of AEY Inc in 2005 and began bidding on an array US government munition contracts.

The army placed orders for more than 223 million dollars worth of munitions with AEY between March and December of 2007.

The Times said that since winning the contract in January 2007, the company has provided ammunition that is more than 40 years old and in decomposing packaging.
Ahh, the Pentagon. Just when they thought the super expensive wrench and toilet seat scandals of the 90s were behind them, they handed a few hundred million bucks to a con artist.


Source: Raw Story

I had no idea this sort of thing actually happens.
HIGHLAND, Ind. (AP) -- A 77-year-old woman used her car to drive off a large dog that was attacking a mail carrier, saving the woman from more bite wounds.

Joan Michniewicz was backing out of her driveway when she heard Danielle Lawrence, 28, scream on Monday afternoon. Michniewicz drove at the mixed-breed dog and then yelled for Lawrence to jump in her car.

"I'm so lucky," said Lawrence, who has been on the job less than two months. "If she hadn't come, I would have been tore up worse than I was."

Lawrence suffered several bite wounds before Michniewicz arrived. The dog had pushed open a backyard gate and attacked her while she was walking up to a mailbox.
Ok, so I suppose that's a bit of an exaggeration. Still, considering the stereotype, how often do you really hear about mail carriers and dogs?

Source: The Associated Press

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Gamma Ray Burst

Won't Turn You Into the Hulk

So the brightest object, more or less, ever observed gives even more hope that perhaps a giant hypernova will wipe out the human race.

"A gamma ray burst detected on March 19 by NASA's Swift satellite has set a new record for the most distant object that could be seen with the naked eye. The burst had a measured redshift of 0.94, meaning the explosion took place 7.5 billion years ago. The optical afterglow from heated gas was 2.5 million times more luminous than the most luminous supernova ever recorded, making it the most intrinsically bright object ever observed by humans in the universe. The previous most distant object visible to the naked eye is the nearby galaxy M33, a relatively short 2.9 million light years from Earth."
Yeah! Take that, puny inhabited worlds in its path!

It gets even better.
The explosion of a star halfway across the universe was so huge it set a record for the most distant object that could be seen on Earth by the naked eye.

The aging star, in a previously unknown galaxy, exploded in a gamma ray burst 7.5 billion light years away, its light finally reaching Earth early Wednesday.

The gamma rays were detected by NASA's Swift satellite at 2:12 a.m. "We'd never seen one before so bright and at such a distance," NASA's Neil Gehrels said. It was bright enough to be seen with the naked eye.


The 7.5 billion light years away far eclipses the previous naked eye record of 2.5 million light years. One light year is 5.9 trillion miles.

"This is roughly halfway to the edge of the universe," Burrows said.

Before it exploded, the star was about 40 times bigger than our sun. The explosion vaporized any planet nearby, Gehrels said.
Come on, Eta Carinae/Pinwheel Nebula star...

Finally, though there aren't any pictures of the explosion itself, NASA has some snaps of the afterglow.

Ahh, impending doom is so pretty.

Sources: Slashdot
Raw Story

Mini-Entertainment Post


Raining McCain
Some people have been taking this as a joke, but I feel it's all to likely to be for real.

Either way, a surreal, stupefyingly bad-until-it's-hilarious Youtube campaign video for St. John McCain.


Source: Matthew Yglesias

Stripper Funeral
At least I know what my brother-in-law's funeral will be like.

A MAN hired a stripper to perform at the funeral of his father - who happened to have a fondness for gentlemen's clubs, according to reports from Taiwan.
Taiwanese newspaper the United Daily News reported that Cai Jinlai had been promised a stripper for his funeral if he lived to 100.
Ted, time to rewrite your will.

Source: The Daily Telegraph

Horton Hears the Horror
The hand-puppet that you'd get if you crossed Apocalypse Now with Horton Hears a Who.

Ever wonder what 29k dollars worth of cursing looks like?

Look no further.
GMAC Bank is suing mortgage company HTFC for selling improperly secured loans, which lead to the hilariously blue and aggressive deposition from HTFC CEO Aron Wider. Wider dropped the f-bomb 73 times, frustrating the opposing counsel's attempts to get him to answer difficult questions like "Where are you currently employed?" Some of the more colorful and creative expletives from the testimony of Mr. Wider, who, according to his company website, serves as company Coprorate Information [sic], CEO / Senior Underwriter, and Radio Engineer, inside...
Q: My question is where are you currently employed.
A: I' m not. I just told [you] I work for free.
Q: OK. You're not employed by the HTFC Corporation?
A: Hit That Fuckin' Clown. That's what it means. notes that the classy Mr. Wider got hit by a $29, 000 sanction for his performance, despite his lawyer's claim that his abusive language was caused by an anxiety disorder.
There's more of course.

Source: The Consumerist

Music of the Washers
Tom Morris explores the world of hidden washer features.

Source: Youtube

Odd Anime
This has to be one of the strangest anime titles I've ever heard of, though it does serve to demonstrate the sheer range that Japanese animation has compared to American shows with regard to topics.
Baby and Me (Aka-chan to Boku)

Takuya would normally be an average 12-year-old kid, going to 6th grade and playing soccer with his friends, like he was only a short time ago. But tragedy struck his family a few months ago, and his mother, taking his baby brother Minoru for a walk in a stroller, was hit by a truck and killed. (Minoru wasn't hurt.)

Things have been rough since then. His father works hard to keep food on the table, and can't always be there for his son as he struggles to put the pieces back together. Takuya's days now consist of school, dashing off to day care to pick up Minoru, and trying to juggle caring for a toddler with homework and housekeeping. By the time night comes he's often passed out in exhaustion.
Yes, a long running animated tv series about... a kid who has to raise his kid brother.

It doesn't sound like my cup of tea, but man, compared to things over here, where it's either Disney or the latest toy promotion...

Source: Anime News Network

Ancient Anime
Two new 90 year old animated film shorts have been found in Japan, lingering in an antique shop of all places.
Yoshiro Irie, a researcher at Tokyo's National Film Center, has announced that two of the oldest Japanese animated films were discovered in an antique shop in Osaka in central Japan. In 1917, anime pioneer Junichi Kouchi released the two-minute "Nakamura Katana" silent short about a samurai's foolish purchase of a dull-edged sword. Fellow animator Seitaro Kitayama released "Urashima Taro," an adaptation of a folk tale about a fisherman traveling to an underwater world on a turtle, in 1918.
Man that's old.

Yes, that is my contribution to this discussion. "Man that's old". Get over it.

Source: Anime News Network

Bare BONES Site
See, because Bones is the name of the animation studio, and.... ok fine. At any rate, the people behind Full Metal Alchemist and Eureka Seven have a new show slated, and... judging by the art, it may be about killer molestor bugs, or... I have no clue. Honestly.
The Bones animation studio has pre-launched the official Japanese website for Bōnen no Xamdou — thus confirming the latest project from the animators of Fullmetal Alchemist and Eureka Seven. The website's underlying source indicates that Sony Music is hosting the actual website. Sony Music and Bones collaborated on Fullmetal Alchemist and Eureka Seven. The website promises that more details will be announced on April 10.
Yeah. What's worse is that the character in the art looks like the last male character lead, from Eureka Seven, only now a girl.

Which is just weird.

Sources: Anime News Network
Bonen no Xamdou


Damn it Blogger. So I accidentally clicked the 'Flag Blog' button on The Rude Pundit's blog.

Until today I didn't even know what that was for. So I tried to unflag it, only that doesn't seem to work. Every time I view his blog page, it says I flagged it.

Really, they should require a confirmation for that thing.

Sci-Tech Megapost

From Robots to Chocolate. No Chocolate Robots Though.

From the good folks at DARPA (motto: Nothing's Too Crazy!) comes the latest public-private partnership to create our inevitable overthrow by robots: Big Dog!

BigDog is the alpha male of the Boston Dynamics family of robots. It is a quadruped robot that walks, runs, and climbs on rough terrain and carries heavy loads. BigDog is powered by a gasoline engine that drives a hydraulic actuation system. BigDog's legs are articulated like an animal’s, and have compliant elements that absorb shock and recycle energy from one step to the next. BigDog is the size of a large dog or small mule, measuring 1 meter long, 0.7 meters tall and 75 kg weight.

BigDog has an on-board computer that controls locomotion, servos the legs and handles a wide variety of sensors. BigDog’s control system manages the dynamics of its behavior to keep it balanced, steer, navigate, and regulate energetics as conditions vary. Sensors for locomotion include joint position, joint force, ground contact, ground load, a laser gyroscope, and a stereo vision system. Other sensors focus on the internal state of BigDog, monitoring the hydraulic pressure, oil temperature, engine temperature, rpm, battery charge and others.

In separate trials, BigDog runs at 4 mph, climbs slopes up to 35 degrees, walks across rubble, and carries a 340 lb load.

BigDog is being developed by Boston Dynamics with the goal of creating robots that have rough-terrain mobility that can take them anywhere on Earth that people and animals can go. The program is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA).
That's the advertising bumph. Surprisingly human and not exactly trying to sell you anything.

Then again, they already have their one and only client, and DARPA has deep pockets. Check out the video:

Sources: Boston Dymanics

Junk Mail
Oh, Post Office! You and I were getting along so well, with my Netflixes and cheap shipping on packages! Why must you forsake me?
Chris Pearson, a state legislator in Vermont, had a sense that the people were with him when he proposed a bill last November to allow residents to block junk mail.

He got media attention, radio interview requests and e-mails from constituents eager to stop the credit card offers, furniture catalogues and store fliers that increasingly clog their mailboxes.

Then came the pushback from the postmasters, who told Pearson and other lawmakers that "standard" mail, the post office's name for junk mail, has become the lifeblood of the U.S. Postal Service and that jobs depend on it.

"The post office and the business groups are pretty well-organized," said Pearson, whose bill remains in a committee and has not been scheduled for a vote.

Barred by law from lobbying, the Postal Service is nonetheless trying to make its case before a growing number of state legislatures that are weighing bills to create Do Not Mail registries, which are similar to the popular National Do Not Call Registry.

The agency has printed 3,000 "information packets" about the economic value of standard mail, with specific data for each of the 18 states that have considered a Do Not Mail Registry. It has dispatched postmasters to testify before legislative committees around the country.

"The Postal Service has come in and clobbered legislators," said Todd Paglia, executive director of ForestEthics, an environmental group that has collected 289,000 signatures on an online petition to Congress that calls for a National Do Not Mail Registry. "It's really a people-versus-special interest kind of battle."

The Postal Service is working closely with the Direct Marketing Association, the trade group that represents retailers and the printing industry, in its new campaign -- Mail Moves America -- which is designed to quash the Do Not Mail initiatives.

So far, their efforts appear effective. None of the states where Do Not Mail legislation has been introduced since 2007 has approved a law. And no similar legislation is pending in Congress.
Come on, people! Junk mail is clearly abusive, though not as bad by an order of magnitude compared with phone spam or even email spam.

You guys do such great work with packages and netflix-type applications. Don't go evil for a few bucks now.

Seriously, there's a real diminishing return here. Netflix already wants to move to all-internet based movie viewing, with no physical dvds being shipped. I use their Instant Viewer service a lot. People like me, if annoyed enough, will drop entire mediums for convenience; I don't use my landline phone for anything these days. I pay my bills online, do my banking online, never send or receive letters of consequence. I could easily move to an entirely mail-free existence, and I'm sure that a lot of other people will as well, if junk mail becomes an email or phone scale problem.

This is shooting yourself in the foot.

Source: The Washington Post

Yes Wii Can!
The Onion reports on the latest scourge caused by videogames: Effeminate Violence.
WASHINGTON—Concerned parents are again blasting the Nintendo Wii for an incident of effeminate violence following a 13-year-old boy's limp-wristed attack on three of his classmates at a Cleveland-area middle school Tuesday.


"These games are a prissy little menace to our society," said Linda Roberts, 35, a mother of three and founder of the group Parents Against Wii, which is suing Nintendo for $52 million in damages from two recent swattings. "One of these days, the red marks on our children's arms might not just go away after five minutes."
THINK OF THE... yeah, you get the idea.

This does explain the continuing sissification of my Wii owning brother in law though.

Source: The Onion

From the Desk of Tom Morris
A racist radio tube ad!

Skynet gets ever closer.
Yesterday SMD loaded UT1 (Ultra Trencher 1), a remote controlled submersible robot (ROV), on to a ship for delivery to CTC Marine Projects. The pounds 10m machine will be the world's largest ROV which is capable of self propelling and supporting its own weight in water.

Weighing 50 tonnes and the size of small house, it is designed to bury largediameter oil and gas pipelines laid on the ocean floor.

It does this by "flying" down up to a mile deep below the surface using powerful propellers.

It then lands over the pipeline and deploys a pair of "jet swords" either side of the pipe which inject high pressure water to "fluidise" the surface. Burying the pipelines protects them from fishing, shipwrecks and natural currents. This enables oil and gas to be safely transported from the offshore fields to land to provide secure energy supplies.
So basically this is designed to prevent the sort of 'accidents' that led to all those internet outages recently, by sending a giant robot down to bury the pipes.


Source: redOrbit

Today when I got up I found a red light on my digital cable box under the MSGS heading. I've never seen one there before so I was wondering what was going on. Normally when a previously quiet piece of hardware suddenly pipes up with a message, it's something like 'I've got a bad part, please call Service Department' or 'I require a firmware upgrade, please follow these instructions'. You know, important stuff.

No, no, not this time. See, we used to have Insight, and they got bought by Comcast. Who are now using the hardware messages inbox on my cable box to spam me about Wrestlemania.


In light of that abuse, this story is even more... ominous is the wrong word, because it's just TV. Annoying?
cayenne8 sends us to for a blog posting reporting from the Digital Living Room conference earlier this week. Gerard Kunkel, Comcast's senior VP of user experience, stated that the cable company is experimenting with different camera technologies built into its devices so it can know who's in your living room. Cameras in the set-top boxes, while apparently not using facial recognition software, can still somehow figure out who is in the room, and customize user preferences for cable (favorite channels, etc.). While this sounds 'handy,' it also sounds a bit like the TV sets in 1984. I am sure, of course, that Comcast wouldn't tap into this for any reason, nor let the authorities tap into this to watch inside your home in real time without a warrant or anything."
Yeah. I'm not going to allow any such thing in my house, thanks. Electrical tape is our friend (as the first response on the site indicates).

Source: Slashdot

Giant Chocolate Castle
The roommate will want to move to Croatia now.
A Croatian man claimed Saturday that he has built the biggest castle made of chocolate after working for 24 hours on his candy construction in a central Zagreb square, national television reported.

The three-meter (10 feet) high construction with six-by-two-meter base was made of chocolate bars from a local producer Kras.


Some 100,000 chocolate bars were used to build the castle, which weighs 10 tonnes.

Source: Raw Story

Some sick individual is creating 'real life' Simspons using CG.

The horror. The Homer.

Medicine is learning to make your body parts regrow. This is a good thing.
Three years ago, Lee Spievack sliced off the tip of his finger in the propeller of a hobby shop airplane.

What happened next, Andrews reports, propelled him into the future of medicine. Spievack's brother, Alan, a medical research scientist, sent him a special powder and told him to sprinkle it on the wound.

"I powdered it on until it was covered," Spievack recalled.

To his astonishment, every bit of his fingertip grew back.

"Your finger grew back," Andrews asked Spievack, "flesh, blood, vessels and nail?"

"Four weeks," he answered.


Emerging from an everyday ink jet printer is the heart of a mouse. Mouse heart cells go into the ink cartridge and are then sprayed down in a heart shaped pattern layer by layer.
The article goes on to mention work on artificial throats, heart surgery using stem cells, etc.


Source: CBS News

Another day, another scientific breakthrough opposed by Protestants and Catholics alike. Somebody shoot me.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Researchers who used cloned embryonic stem cells to treat Parkinson's disease in mice said on Sunday they worked better than other cells.

The researchers were trying to prove that it is possible to make embryonic stem cells using cloning technology and use them to provide a tailor-made treatment.


Tabar and his team first created a Parkinson's-like disease in mice using chemicals to destroy their brain cells.

They took ordinary cells from the tails of the mice, transferred the nuclei from them into hollowed-out mouse eggs cells, and made clones of the mice. This process is called somatic cell nuclear transfer, or "therapeutic cloning."

The cloned embryos were harvested for their stem cells after a few days. The researchers grew these in the lab and coaxed them into becoming the so-called dopaminergic brains cells that are lost in Parkinson's.

They put these into the brains of the injured mice. These mice got better, Tabar said.

No one has done this before. "It's incredibly hard and it involves a series of inefficient steps," Tabar said.


Some people oppose using cloning technology to make human embryonic stem cells, or to creating human embryos for this purpose. It is also difficult to obtain human egg cells.
Of course, some people also think that if you create a human clone it will lack a 'soul' and be, I dunno, Damien.

In which case, what's the problem with using it for parts? Not a lot of consistency there.

Source: Raw Story

Oak Island
Some kind of whacky hidden piratey treasure pit.

Ok, so it doesn't say anything about pirates. Still, who else buries treasure on the beach?


Source: Active Mind

Satellite Radio
So Sirius and XM are going ahead with their merger plans. The Justice Department approved the merger on anti-trust grounds, which makes sense, as these are US corporations and subject to anti-trust laws. But the next part is interesting: the FCC has to approve it as well.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sirius Satellite Radio's $4.59 billion purchase of rival XM Satellite Radio was given antitrust clearance on Monday as the Justice Department concluded consumers have many alternatives, including mobile phones and personal audio players.

The deal, announced in February 2007, would combine the only two providers of satellite radio in the United States and is still being reviewed by the Federal Communications Commission.


The FCC must determine whether the XM-Sirius is in the public interest, and whether to enforce its 1997 order barring either satellite radio company from acquiring the other.

A source at the FCC said FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has yet to make a proposal either approving or opposing the XM-Sirius combination, but has asked the agency's staff to draft documents for different possible outcomes.
What I want to know is, why does the FCC get any say at all? Granted, there are ground-based repeaters for satellite radio to improve performance in cities, but aside from that, these are SATELLITE BASED signals. The FCC has no authority over space. If they want to regulate the repeaters on the ground as if they were terrestrial radio stations, fine; but the overall business is in UN regulated territory.

I emphasize: The United States DOES NOT OWN SPACE.

Source: Raw Story

Thanks a Lot, El Presidente
So our man-child in chief's asinine plan to build a MOON BASE(tm) has resulted in NASA running out of money for actual science.
Scientists plan to put one of the twin Mars rovers to sleep and limit the activities of the other robot to fulfill a NASA order to cut $4 million from the program's budget, mission team members said Monday.

The news comes amid belt-tightening at NASA headquarters, which is under pressure to cover cost overruns of a flagship Mars mission to land a Hummer-sized rover on the Red Planet next year.

The solar-powered rovers Spirit and Opportunity have dazzled scientists and the public with findings of geologic evidence that water once flowed at or near the surface of Mars long ago.

Both rovers were originally planned for three-month missions at a cost of $820 million, but are now in their fourth year of exploration. It costs NASA about $20 million annually to keep the rovers running.

The latest directive from NASA to cut $4 million means Spirit will be forced into hibernation in the coming weeks, said principal investigator Steve Squyres of Cornell University.

"It's very demoralizing for the team," Squyres said.
That's ok though, because in 20 years, we'll have... nothing. Nothing at all to show for this. Because there's no reason to build a base on the moon, and no practical way to do it.


Source: Raw Story

Message from 1986
Now if only we could send one back warning them about Dan Quayle.
Merle Brandell and his black lab Slapsey were beachcombing along the Bering Sea when he spied a plastic bottle among the Japanese glass floats he often finds along the shore of his tiny Alaskan fishing village.

He walked over and saw an envelope tucked inside. After slicing the bottle open, Brandell found a message from an elementary school student in a suburb of Seattle. The fact that the letter traveled 1,735 miles without any help from the U.S. postal service is unusual, but that's only the beginning of the mystery.

About 21 years passed between the time Emily Hwaung put the message in a soda bottle and Merle Brandell picked it up on the beach.
The article notes the changing attitudes toward these school projects; today, dumping a ton of plastic bottles in the ocean would be seen as, err, littering, and the letter attached to the bottle offers to send the recipient a picture of the little girl who wrote the it.


Source: Raw Story

Holy Bat-Tastrophe!
Not a funny story, actually.
Al Hicks was standing outside an old mine in the Adirondacks, the largest bat hibernaculum, or winter resting place, in New York State.

It was broad daylight in the middle of winter, and bats flew out of the mine about one a minute. Some had fallen to the ground where they flailed around on the snow like tiny wind-broken umbrellas, using the thumbs at the top joint of their wings to gain their balance.

All would be dead by nightfall. Mr. Hicks, a mammal specialist with the state’s Environmental Conservation Department, said: “Bats don’t fly in the daytime, and bats don’t fly in the winter. Every bat you see out here is a ‘dead bat flying,’ so to speak.”

They have plenty of company. In what is one of the worst calamities to hit bat populations in the United States, on average 90 percent of the hibernating bats in four caves and mines in New York have died since last winter.

Wildlife biologists fear a significant die-off in about 15 caves and mines in New York, as well as at sites in Massachusetts and Vermont. Whatever is killing the bats leaves them unusually thin and, in some cases, dotted with a white fungus. Bat experts fear that what they call White Nose Syndrome may spell doom for several species that keep insect pests under control.

Researchers have yet to determine whether the bats are being killed by a virus, bacteria, toxin, environmental hazard, metabolic disorder or fungus. Some have been found with pneumonia, but that and the fungus are believed to be secondary symptoms.

“This is probably one of the strangest and most puzzling problems we have had with bats,” said Paul Cryan, a bat ecologist with the United States Geological Survey. “It’s really startling that we’ve not come up with a smoking gun yet.”
So a mystery disease is wiping out bats in New York. They're hoping to keep it from spreading, but...

Uggh. We need every ally we can get against mosquitos, damn it!

Source: The New York Times

Programmer Painting
So the first programmer in the world was a woman, which I did not know, by the name of Ada Lovelace, or formally, Ada Byron, Countless of Lovelace. She's something of an icon in computing circles, and there was even a character named after her in Narbonic (which I need to finish some time). The US military named a programming language after her, and Microsoft uses her image for some promotional materials.

It turns out that her image is known to the modern world from a painting. Well, a copy of a painting. The original portrait had been lost... until now.

It was assumed that the original portrait had been lost forever, until a Canadian antique dealer put the original framed watercolor sketch on eBay. The posting would have faded into oblivion if it wasn’t for US Army Master Sergeant Robert McLaughlin.

Currently posted at the United States Embassy in dusty and remote Tajikistan, McLaughlin frequently searches eBay for Ada Lovelace-related items. In a weekly ritual, partly to keep sane and mainly to keep in touch with friends, he sends the results to “Valkyrie”, a friend in Texas. “Ada is Valkyrie’s heroine,” he told us.

The find sparked a flurry of emails, Skype messages and phone calls between fellow computer geeks, historians and antique dealers who tried to authenticate the drawing. Experts soon agreed that the portrait was done in the 1820s when Ada was approximately four-years-old. McLaughlin bid for the portrait and put in another bid with the last moments of bidding. Who would have thought that Army anti-sniper training would be so relevant to eBay bidding these days?

McLaughlin took early leave to pick up the sketch in Southern California. He and Valkyrie met us at a top-secret location (cough Starbucks cough) in Redlands, CA to show off the frame and authenticity letter. Cradling the frame like a baby, Valkyrie joked, “She looks pretty good for being so old.”
So there you have it. The first programmer's surviving portrait ends up for sale and rediscovery via the power of the interwebs.

It's fitting, in an odd way.

Source: TG Daily

The Pentagon has announced that it mistakenly shipped non-nuclear ballistic missile components to Taiwan from a U.S. Air Force base in Wyoming.

It said the items have been returned to the United States.

At a Pentagon news conference, Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne said the misshipped items were four nose cone assemblies for ICBMs. He also said they were delivered to Taiwan in March 2005 and had been sent instead of helicopter batteries that had been ordered by Taiwan.


Ryan Henry, the No. 2 policy official in the office of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, said President Bush was notified of the mistake and the actions to recover the items. Henry called the mistake "disconcerting" and intolerable. He said the Chinese government has been notified of the error.

Henry said an examination of the site in Taiwan where the components had been stored after delivery indicated that they had not been tampered with. He said the components were "quite dated," as part of a system designed in the 1960s.
I won't rant about 'how could you mistake a nosecone for a helicopter battery'; I'm an adult, I know that one big crate with a barcode on it looks much the same as another, and you don't check everything that goes out through your shipping department.

Still, you'd think that there'd be some sort of flag on parts for a NUCLEAR WEAPON DELIVERY SYSTEM. Even on the barcode sticker. Maybe, say, a big, red dot?

That'd be nice.

Source: Raw Story

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Ultra Post

Very Large

So the man responsible for investigating fraud in the Pentagon in the Bush administration is going to jail.

For fraud.

March 19 (Bloomberg) -- Richard T. Race, the Pentagon inspector general's chief investigator of procurement fraud and official misconduct, quit his job and pleaded guilty last month to violating U.S. banking laws.

The previously unpublicized case was filed Feb. 26 in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, according to court papers. Race, 61, admitted he made cash deposits at the Pentagon's credit union on three straight days in March 2007 that were designed to evade laws that track large currency transactions. The government seized the total of $20,000 in deposits as part of the plea deal.

Race, who will be sentenced May 2, faces as long as five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He voluntarily retired Feb. 16, the inspector general's office said in a statement.
The whole situation seems fishy to me. Why are they going after a man this hard for a simple structuring case? For that matter, why did he go to this trouble?
He told a credit union teller that he had sold a car for $20,000 and reported that on his tax returns, according to court papers. Race told the teller he was making three separate deposits -- two for $9,000 and one for $2,000 -- that were ``to avoid generating a report to the government, which he believed could result in tax being assessed twice on the same sale,'' the papers said.

Race pleaded guilty to one count of structuring cash transactions to evade reporting requirements. Federal law requires that banks tell the Treasury Department about any single-day deposit of at least $10,000.
It makes no sense. Something else is going on here. I bet the car sale was cover for a bribe of some sort, the way he received money for services rendered. Either that, or a complete fiction cover story.

Source: Bloomberg

Osama Bin Loser is up to his old tricks again.
In a new audio message purportedly from Osama Bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader threatens the EU over the re-printing of a cartoon offensive to Muslims.

The voice on it says the cartoon, re-published recently in all major Danish newspapers, was part of a crusade involving Pope Benedict XVI.

The drawing, first published in 2005, depicts the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban.
Hehe. Awww, a cartoon makes him mad.

Actually, the article suggests he doesn't give a damn. It's just a good way to remain 'relevant', hip with today's younger, trendier bomb throwers.

Or something like that.

Source: BBC News

Hep Cat
So the investigation into the Chinese heparin that's sickened a bunch of people continues.
A modified form of a cheap and widely used dietary supplement sold to relieve joint pain was identified as the contaminant found in tainted and at times lethal heparin produced in China for American patients, Food and Drug Administration officials said yesterday.

Agency officials said they were investigating whether the compound, chemically modified chondroitin sulfate, was intentionally added to cut costs and boost profits or was mixed in by mistake. In either case, they said, it was not part of the prescribed manufacturing process.

"This is a biological compound that is not found in nature," said Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "At this point, it's still to be determined if it was introduced intentionally or by accident."

The announcement drew an immediate and worried response from members of Congress and drug experts, who said the tainted heparin is a sign of a much larger problem.

"I have no doubt that there are other contaminated or counterfeit drugs like heparin coming into the country, because there's really no system in place to stop them," said William Hubbard, a top official at the FDA until 2005 and part of a consumer and industry group lobbying -- so far unsuccessfully -- to get more resources for the agency to address the dangers of foreign-made drugs.
Ahh, the Bush administration. Making you less safe since January 2001.

Source: The Washington Post

Limits at Fox?
It would seem that some of the tools working for Fox News have ethical limits after all. Who knew?
Veteran journalist Chris Wallace admonished Fox & Friends over their characterization of a comment in which Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white person."

"I love you guys, but I want to take you to task if I may respectfully for a moment," Wallace began. "I have been watching the show..., and it seems to me that two hours of Obama-bashing on this 'typical white person' remark is somewhat excessive, and frankly, I think you're somewhat distorting what Obama had to say."

As the F&F hosts began grinning and shifting around in their seats, Wallace continued, "What he said was, 'The point I was making was not that my [grandmother] harbors any racial animosity--she doesn't--but she is a typical white person...,'" which is where you generally have clipped it."

As co-host Steve Doocy denied the charge, Wallace continued, "But what he went on to say is, '...who, if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn't know, there's a reaction that's been bred into our experiences that don't go away and that sometimes comes out in the wrong way, and that's just the nature of race in our society.'"

Added Wallace, "I'm not saying that's the most felicitous remark that anybody ever made, but I think it's a little more complicated than we've been portraying."
Meanwhile, as Wallace was forced to take his own network to task on air, another host was driven to walk off the set in protest.
This morning on "Fox and Friends," Brian Kilmeade walked off the set after a dispute with his co-hosts Gretchen Carlson (she who celebrates deadly floods) and Steve Doocy over Obama's comment that his grandmother is a "typical white person." Kilmeade argued that the remark needed to be taken in context and eventually got so fed up with his co-hosts that he walked off set.

Still, they'll always have Bill-O, to express his astonishment that black people can sit down to a meal without gunfire.

Sources: Raw Story
The Huffington Post

Ignorance is Bliss
For rapper DMX, at any rate. (reformatted to make it easier to distinguish questions and answers in this format)
Q-Are you following the presidential race?
Not at all.

Q-You’re not? You know there’s a Black guy running, Barack Obama and then there’s Hillary Clinton.
His name is Barack?!

Q-Barack Obama, yeah.

What the fuck is a Barack?! Barack Obama. Where he from, Africa?

Q-Yeah, his dad is from Kenya.
Barack Obama?

What the fuck?! That ain’t no fuckin’ name, yo. That ain’t that nigga’s name. You can’t be serious. Barack Obama. Get the fuck outta here.

Q-You’re telling me you haven’t heard about him before.
I ain’t really paying much attention.

Q-I mean, it’s pretty big if a Black…
Wow, Barack! The nigga’s name is Barack. Barack? Nigga named Barack Obama. What the fuck, man?! Is he serious? That ain’t his fuckin’ name. Ima tell this nigga when I see him, “Stop that bullshit. Stop that bullshit” [laughs] “That ain’t your fuckin’ name.” Your momma ain’t name you no damn Barack.

Q-So you’re not following the race. You can’t vote right?

Q-Is that why you’re not following it?
No, because it’s just—it doesn’t matter. They’re gonna do what they’re gonna do. It doesn’t really make a difference. These are the last years.

Q-But it would be pretty big if we had a first Black president. That would be huge.
I mean, I guess…. What, they gon’ give a dog a bone? There you go. Ooh, we have a Black president now. They should’ve done that shit a long time ago, we wouldn’t be in the fuckin’ position we in now. With world war coming up right now. They done fucked this shit up then give it to the Black people, “Here you take it. Take my mess.”

Q-Right, exactly.
It’s all a fuckin’ setup. It’s all a setup. All fuckin’ bullshit. All bullshit. I don’t give a fuck about none of that.

Q-We could have a female president also, Hillary Clinton.
I mean, either way it doesn’t matter. I don’t care. No one person is directly affected by which president, you know, so what does it matter.

Q-Yeah, but the country is.
I guess. The president is a puppet anyway. The president don’t make no damn decisions.

Q-The president…they don’t have that much authority basically?
Nah, never.

Q-But Bush pretty much…
You think Bush is making fuckin’ decisions?

Q-He did, yeah, he fucked up the country.
He act like he making decisions. He could barely speak! He could barely fuckin’ speak!
Can’t be serious. He ain’t making no damn decisions.

Q-Well Barack has a good chance of winning so that might be something.
Good for him, good for him.
Right, because the PRESIDENT doesn't have any power.

Wow. Lol. What a moron. El Presidente and his handlers have killed between 350k-1 million people in Iraq, but they don't affect anything.

Sure. Sure.

Now, given that this man is an ignorant tool, should I take the obvious cheap shot?

Sure I will!
Q-There’s talk of a new album for you. When’s that coming out, like what’s up with that? Can you tell me what stage you’re at as far as recording?
Well, I’m bout to start working on the gospel album.

QW-Yeah, the gospel album. It’s like a double album right?
It’s two different albums. Two albums, separate albums. I got a couple more tracks to do on it and that’s done. It’s the first time anybody did anything like this—two separate albums on the same day.

Q-What made you want to release a gospel album now?
I’ve done gospel songs on every album. I figured I’d just dedicate a whole album to it.
Religion and ignorance, religion and ignorance. I don't even need to make jokes here anymore!


Nuke Cat
Uncovering the terrifying story of a NUCLEAR CAT.
The unsettling thing about living in a surveillance society isn't just that you're being watched. It's that you have no idea.

That's what struck me about a story told last week by a border agent at a meeting of 200 San Juan Islanders. He was there to explain why the federal government is doing citizenship checks on domestic ferry runs.But near the end, while trying to convince the skeptical audience that the point is to root out terrorists, not fish for wrongdoing among the citizenry, deputy chief Joe Giuliano let loose with a tale straight out of "Dr. Strangelove."

It turns out the feds have been monitoring Interstate 5 for nuclear "dirty bombs." They do it with radiation detectors so sensitive it led to the following incident.

"Vehicle goes by at 70 miles per hour," Giuliano told the crowd. "Agent is in the median, a good 80 feet away from the traffic. Signal went off and identified an isotope [in the passing car]."

The agent raced after the car, pulling it over not far from the monitoring spot (near the Bow-Edison exit, 18 miles south of Bellingham). The agent questioned the driver, then did a cursory search of the car, Giuliano said.

Did he find a nuke?

"Turned out to be a cat with cancer that had undergone a radiological treatment three days earlier," Giuliano said.
Now that they've caught this veterinary menace, the DHS can rest easy.

Seriously, wow. Talk about a useless toy. Imagine all the cancer patients fresh from their radiation treatments at the hospital who are going to end up stopped, searched and humiliated over this.

Big Brother can do no wrong though, naturally.

Source: The Seattle Times

Show Us Your Papers
We really are living in a Proto-Soviet state here.
WASHINGTON — Millions of residents of three states will soon face tougher and longer screening at airport checkpoints if their governors defy a federal law requiring new, more-secure driver's licenses.

Maine, New Hampshire and South Carolina have until March 31 to say whether they plan to comply with the law, which they say is costly and will inconvenience residents by forcing them to get new licenses.

If the states don't comply, the Homeland Security Department will bar travelers from using those state's licenses and ID cards to board airplanes starting May 11.

"We are not bluffing," department spokeswoman Amy Kudwa said.

Some fear massive confusion and delays at the 15 airports in the three states. Passengers showing unacceptable licenses will be pulled aside for additional screening, possibly including pat-downs.
So in other words, if your state doesn't comply with the new State Security Apparatus' demand for a National ID card, they'll randomly pat-down search and harass you if you try to travel.

Ahh, isn't Democracy grand?

Source: USA Today

Bridges and the GOP
Yet another thing they can't get right.
ld photos of the Interstate 35W bridge show two steel connecting plates were visibly bent as early as 2003 — four years before the span collapsed into the Mississippi River, killing 13 people.

Minnesota Department of Transportation officials declined to say when the state first knew about the bending in the pieces of steel, called gusset plates.

Two photos, part of a report issued earlier this month by the National Transportation Safety Board, reveal slight bends in gusset plates that hold beams together at two separate connecting points. The plates are in areas believed to be among the first points of failure when the span collapsed.


The two photos are believed to have been taken by URS Inc., a San Francisco consulting firm the state hired to examine the bridge from 2003 to 2007.

"URS and the state have both got a lot of explaining to do as far as why (the bending) was not observed, and if it was observed, why that was not immediately investigated," James Schwebel, an attorney representing a group of victims, told the AP on Sunday. "How could it possibly have been missed?"


Since the bridge's construction during the 1960s, the state highway department had increased weight on the bridge by adding a layer of concrete to the deck in 1977 and by installing concrete barriers in 1998. And the NTSB said last week that, at the time of the collapse, more than 191 tons of construction material had been piled over the bridge's weakest areas.
Republicans and government do not mix.

Source: Raw Story

Diplomacy in the Bush Era
Seems to consist of threats and espionage.
On March 14, 2003, less than one week before the eventual invasion, Chile hosted a meeting of diplomats from the six undecided governments to discuss its proposal. But U.S. ambassador John D. Negroponte and then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell moved quickly to quash the initiative, warning their governments that the effort was viewed as "an unfriendly act" designed to isolate the United States. The diplomats received calls from their governments ordering them to "leave the meeting immediately," Muñoz writes.

Muñoz said subsequent ties remained tense at the United Nations, where the United States sought support for resolutions authorizing the occupation of Iraq. He said that small countries met privately in a secure room at the German mission that was impervious to eavesdropping. "It reminded me of a submarine or a giant safe," Muñoz said in an interview.

The United States, he added, expressed "its displeasure" to the German government every time they held a meeting in the secure room. "They couldn't listen to what was going on."
Ahh. Nothing like bugging the UN and harassing member countries.

Any wonder the whole world hates us now?

Source: Raw Story

Well well well. Turns out the Spitzer investigation really was shady after all.
In the 1970s, he was on the payroll of Richard Nixon's now-infamous Committee to Reelect the President. In the 1980s, he helped George Bush Sr. trounce Michael Dukakis by floating a racially charged ad about the Democratic governor's role in furloughing a black inmate. And in 2000, he organized the so-called "Brooks Brothers" riot, forcing the shutdown of a recount in Miami-Dade County, Florida, that may have turned the election to George W. Bush.

Last November, his lawyer wrote a letter to the FBI. In it, GOP political operative Roger Stone's attorney, Paul Rolf alleged that New York Governor Eliot Spitzer "used the services of high-priced call girls" while in Florida, basing his information on a "social contact."

The letter, dated Nov. 19, said Stone gleaned the information from "a social contact in an adult themed club."

"The governor has paid literally tens of thousands of dollars for these services," Rolf wrote. "It is Mr. Stone's understanding that the governor paid not with credit cards or cash but through some pre-arranged transfer."

It continued, including particular detail -- Stone's lawyer wrote that the governor hadn't taken off his calf-length socks "during the sex act."

It's unclear whether Stone's letter sparked the investigation: court papers say the investigation began "in or about October 2007."


The missive's timing -- in November -- was preceded by contact from the FBI. The Miami Herald, which first reported on Stone's lawyer's letter, said the letter was written in response to contact from federal investigators.

"His lawyer wrote the letter containing the call-girl allegations after FBI agents had asked to speak to Stone, though he says the FBI did not specify why he was contacted," Herald reporter Amy Driscoll wrote Friday.

Subsequent reports shed little light on why the FBI sought to speak to Stone before the letter was sent. The Times speculated that the bureau might have wanted to talk to Stone about a threatening message he allegedly left for Spitzer's father, which resulted in his being fired by New York's top Senate Republican.
So it looks like the FBI may have whitewashed a political hit-job on Spitzer.

Of course, Stone wasn't wrong; the Governor really WAS seeing prostitutes.

Still, they probably figured a hollywood story about Honest, Hard-Working Agents Uncovering Corruption would sell better than 'Longtime Hack Takes Down Longtime Sleaze'.

Source: Raw Story

The Austin-American Statesman has an interview with James Yee, the former Army chaplain at Guantanamo who got too uppity defending his charges and as a result was arrested for, err, treason.

After harassing him for 76 days of sensory deprivation and confinement, along with a quarter million in legal bills, they let him go with an honorable discharge.

It's the 'softly, softly' approach, in the Bush administration.
One year after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. Army Chaplain James Yee — a converted Muslim, born and raised in America — was sent to the Guantánamo Bay detention facility with the assignment of a lifetime. His job: to minister to the prisoners there, in service to the United States.

It was harrowing work.

"We say that the war on terror is not a war against Islam, but that's not how it felt most days at Guantánamo," Yee writes in "For God and Country: Faith and Patriotism Under Fire," his 2006 memoir. The environment at Guantánamo "excused, if not encouraged, open hostility toward Islam."

By almost every measure, Yee's tour at Guantánamo was a nightmare, offending his sensibilities as an American and a Muslim. For 10 months, from November 2002 to September 2003, Yee says, he bore witness to man's inhumanity to man as the Guantánamo prisoners were systematically beaten and humiliated by U.S. military police and interrogators.

Yee says he was horrified to see "religion used as a weapon" against Guantánamo detainees — as prisoners told him of detainees being forced to bow down in the middle of a satanic circle in an interrogation room and profess that Satan was their god, not Allah. Detainees were mocked during prayer and taunted or teased sexually by American women while chained. At first, Yee thought it an act of compassion that Guantánamo detainees were allowed to keep a Quran in their cells. But the detainees begged Yee to have them taken away, he says, for American MPs took such delight in mishandling the books or breaking their bindings during random searches.

"I was not willing to silently stand by and watch U.S. soldiers abuse the Quran, mock people's religion, and strip men of their dignity — even if those men were prisoners," wrote Yee, who became an in-house human rights advocate for the detainees. "It was my job to stop those behaviors — it was my duty, even, since the day I took my oath as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army."
And that's just the introduction.

The whole thing's worth a read. Man's inhumanity to man indeed.

Source: The Austin-American Statesman

This is How You Do It
In light of China's Tibet crackdown (which I need to write up here at some point) and their continued oppression of, well, everyone, the decision to host the Olympics there was a bit dicey.

Fortunately for the Chinese government, the Olympics people have been very accomodating with their own repression of civil rights and free speech, to try and quell protests against the Chinese government before the games reach Chinese soil, aka 'Base', where protestors can be quietly thrown in a dark hole forever.

How's that working out?
Protests against China's rights record and crackdown in Tibet disrupted ceremonies on Monday to light the Olympic flame for the Beijing Games.

Three French men from a media rights group breached tight security around Ancient Olympia to unfurl a flag demanding a boycott of the Olympics. Later 10 Tibetan activists staged their own protest in the town's main street before they were detained or chased by police.


Three members of Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders -- RSF) staged the first protest as the chief Chinese Olympics organiser, Liu Qi, who is Beijing's communist party chief, made a speech before the flame was lit.

One man unfurled a flag declaring "Boycott the country that tramples on human rights." Another tried to grab the microphone from Liu and shouted "freedom! freedom!" in front of Rogge and other top officials were sat.

Security officers quickly dragged all three away. Greek police had imposed heavy security, including armed police watching down on the site from nearby hills.

Greek state television cut its live broadcast away from the protesters. China's state broadcaster also quickly changed and did not mention the demonstrators.

Actors in ancient Greek costume then carried out the traditional ceremony, lighting the torch using a parabolic mirror to focus the sun's rays.

But as dignatories dispersed, about 10 Tibetan activists, covered in red paint, marched out of a hotel in Olympia and lay down in the town's central street, shouting slogans against China's rule in Tibet. At least two were detained by police and the rest ran away.

"I think it's always sad when there are protests, but they were not violent and that's the most important thing," IOC president Rogge told reporters after the first incident.
Yes, Democracy is such a sad thing, isn't it Rogge?

Go suck a goat.
Speaking before the ceremony, Rogge said that "the major political leaders don't want a boycott." He added: "There is no momentum for a boycott."

"Bush doesn't want a boycott, Sarkozy doesn't want a boycott, Brown doesn't want a boycott," Rogge said, referring to US President George W. Bush, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

But he acknowledged that the torch relay across 20 countries - and Mount Everest and Tibet - might be hijacked.

"Of course it's a concern," he said. "I would hope that potential protesters will understand that public opinion would not want the torch relay painted by political protests. It would be counterproductive."
Aww, your pointless little spectacle might be marred by that silly quest for human rights and freedom.

A crackdown on anti-Chinese protests in Tibet, which exiled Tibetans say have left at least 130 dead, has overshadowed the buildup to the Games.

Various rights groups have drawn up plans aiming to galvanise opposition to China's record on Tibet, Darfur, human rights, religious freedom and other issues in the run-up to the Beijing Games.

The Falungong group is running a rival torch relay to highlight the plight of its followers in China, who it says are subject to brutal persecution.

Dream for Darfur, an organisation set up to pressure China into helping end the bloodshed in the western Sudanese region, is planning protests along the torch relay route.

Thai environmental activist Narisa Chakrabongse, chosen to carry the Olympic torch when it crosses Thailand next month, has declined in protest against Beijing's crackdown.
Yes, there's no momentum for a boycott at all.

Except amongst much of the free world.

Source: Raw Story

El Presidente and the POWs
So El Presidente has found yet another new way to screw over veterans groups.
The facts:
In the first Gulf War, 17 American prisoners of war, held by Saddam Hussein's Iraq, were viciously tortured while in captivity.
On April 4, 2002, the former prisoners filed suit in federal court, seeking remuneration for their ordeal. They had sought to avoid litigation by offering to arbitrate their claims before an international tribunal. Iraq refused.
The United States State Department served process on Iraq; in July 2003, a Federal District Court ruled in favor of the American troops.
The court found that "there must be a premium on protecting POWs because POWs are uniquely disadvantaged and deterring torture of POWs should be of highest priority."
The Bush administration intervened to absolve Iraq of responsibility for torturing the American POWs. The President blocked the POWs from collecting on their judgment.
For over four years the POWs have tried, again and again, to meet with the administration in an effort to come to some kind of resolution. Their efforts have been futile. The administration has didn't even bother to refuse the POW’s humble entreaties... Each and every attempt by the POWs to meet with the administration has been callously and unforgivably ignored. Their letters go unanswered.
During Alberto Gonzalez's confirmation hearings, the issue was raised. He promised to consider meeting with the POWs. The POWs contacted him. He refused to meet.
The Federal District Court urged the government to settle. Several Congress members wrote letters to the administration on the POW’s behalf. The Senate voted unanimously (even the Republicans!!) to urge the administration to work out a solution. Every single effort has been ignored.
The administration won't stand up for the POWs, but they are making every effort to reconcile the claims of foreign corporations that took losses as a result of the Iraq War.
The latest war funding authorization included a provision that would have provided for the POWs. On Christmas Day 2007, George W. Bush announced his attention to veto the bill.
Congress bent to the President's will and passed a new war funding bill without the POW provision.
Seriously, what the hell? We could have easily paid for the POW's suit out of the Trillion Dollar Waste Fund that is Iraq. We did destroy the government that had them tortured; we could assume its debt here without any logical contradiction. It's not like Saddam can pay up; we sort of killed him in a ghoulish hanging.

Source: Daily Kos

JP Morgan and Bear-Stearns Cont.
So when the Fed bailed out JP Morgan's takeover of Bear-Stearns, it was with the understanding that, you know, SOMEONE had to take the blame for this colossal fuckup. That group of someones ended up being the shareholders at Bear, who were going to get one-fifteenth of its worth. A third of the shareholders at Bear are employees, so a lot of people were losing, well, everything. Though they were the same people who sold a pack of lies to cities that now have to lay off teachers and such, so I can't feel too badly for the hucksters.

But, then of course, once the 30 Billion in taxpayer money goes through, why, the bailout gets sweeter and the pay cut for Bear isn't as bad as, well, it was supposed to be.
JPMorgan Chase was in talks on Sunday night for a deal that would quintuple its offer for Bear Stearns, the beleaguered investment bank, in an effort to pacify angry Bear shareholders, according to people involved in the negotiations.

The sweetened offer is intended to win over stockholders who vowed to fight the original fire-sale deal, struck only a week ago at the behest of the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department.

Under the terms being discussed, JPMorgan would pay $10 a share in stock for Bear, up from its initial offer of $2 a share — a figure that represented a mere one-fifteenth of Bear’s going market price.

The Fed, which must approve any new deal, was balking at the new offer price on Sunday night after several days of frantic, secret negotiations, these people said. As a result, it was still possible the renegotiated deal might be postponed or collapse entirely, said these people, who were granted anonymity because of their confidentiality agreements.

If the Fed were to reject the new proposal, it could set off a furor among shareholders of both firms that the government was preventing them from making a fair deal.

In an unusual move, Bear’s board was seeking to authorize the sale of 39.5 percent of the firm to JPMorgan in an effort to move closer to majority shareholder approval. Under state law in Delaware, where the companies are incorporated, a company can sell up to 40 percent without shareholder approval.

The renegotiation, which would set a sale price of more than $1 billion, comes after a tumultuous week on Wall Street and in Washington because of the near collapse of Bear and the hastily devised deal to save it.

While the initial agreement appeared to have defused the financial crisis of confidence that undid Bear, the initial terms of the deal — and the government’s controversial role in reaching them — drew criticism from those who say the takeover amounts to a government bailout of Bear, a firm at the center of the mortgage meltdown.

A new deal could raise even more questions about the Fed’s involvement in the negotiations. As part of the original deal, the Fed guaranteed to take on $30 billion of Bear’s most toxic assets. The central bank also directed JPMorgan to pay no more than $2 a share for Bear to assure that it would not appear that the Bear shareholders were being rescued, according to people involved in the negotiations.

In television interviews last week, the Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., who has been closely involved in the negotiations, sought to portray the agreement not as a rescue effort but as a way to provide stability for the entire financial markets.

“Let me say that the Bear Stearns situation has been very painful for the Bear Stearns shareholders,” Mr. Paulson said on Monday on the NBC “Today” show, referring to the $2 a share price. “So I don’t think that they think that they’ve been bailed out here.”

If the price is increased, however, some critics could have more ammunition to complain that taxpayers are helping to bail out a Wall Street firm that should be responsible for its own risky behavior. That is one reason the Fed was hesitant on Sunday night to approve the transaction at $10 a share, people briefed on the talks said.
Gee, I wonder why people would think that, given that Bear was trading at like 5 bucks a share when this deal was negotiated.

Once again, the public pays, the private sector gains. Privatize profits, socialize losses.


Source: The New York Times

This is Not the Way to Do It
So the website for an upcoming film criticizing the Quran has been pulled by its provider.
A Web site where a Dutch lawmaker was promoting an upcoming film that criticizes the Quran has been suspended by its U.S. hosting service.

The site had shown Geert Wilders' film's title, "Fitna," the words "Coming Soon" and an image of a gilded Quran. Now it shows a note that the company is investigating whether the site violates the firm's terms of service.

Wilders has not described the 15-minute movie, due to be released by March 31, in detail but has said it will underscore his view that Islam's holy book is "fascist."

Dutch officials fear the movie could spark violent protests in Muslim countries, similar to those two years ago after the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper.

Wilders said he would release his movie on the Internet after television stations refused to air it.

"In this situation with the dialogue that's happening throughout the world we've made the choice to suspend the site as of last night," said Susan Wade, spokeswoman for Network Solutions. "This site is suspended so people can't see the content right now but the customer still has access to their site. They can make whatever changes are necessary as we complete our investigation."


Network Solutions' terms of service contain a sweeping prohibition against "objectionable material of any kind or nature."

A Dutch court will hear a complaint lodged by Muslim groups seeking to bar Wilders from releasing the film March 28, but there is no legal barrier preventing Wilders from releasing his film before then.
Look, I can see pulling hate sites that advocate violence, though the White Power people seem to have no trouble finding hosts. But this? This is just a crank exercising his free speech, and you're yanking his site because you don't want to make waves.

That is a jackass thing to do.

As for the Dutch government? Blocking a film whose point of view you don't like? For shame, for even considering it. For shame.

Source: Raw Story

It's Pat!
Pat Buchanan, a regular on MSNBC, made the following remarks recently.
Barack says we need to have a conversation about race in America.

Fair enough. But this time, it has to be a two-way conversation. White America needs to be heard from, not just lectured to.

This time, the Silent Majority needs to have its convictions, grievances and demands heard. And among them are these:

First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.

Wright ought to go down on his knees and thank God he is an American.

Second, no people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans. Untold trillions have been spent since the '60s on welfare, food stamps, rent supplements, Section 8 housing, Pell grants, student loans, legal services, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and poverty programs designed to bring the African-American community into the mainstream.

Governments, businesses and colleges have engaged in discrimination against white folks - with affirmative action, contract set-asides and quotas -- to advance black applicants over white applicants.

Churches, foundations, civic groups, schools and individuals all over America have donated time and money to support soup kitchens, adult education, day care, retirement and nursing homes for blacks.

We hear the grievances. Where is the gratitude?

Barack talks about new “ladders of opportunity” for blacks.

Let him go to Altoona and Johnstown, and ask the white kids in Catholic schools how many were visited lately by Ivy League recruiters handing out scholarships for “deserving” white kids.

Is white America really responsible for the fact that the crime and incarceration rates for African-Americans are seven times those of white America? Is it really white America’s fault that illegitimacy in the African-American community has hit 70 percent and the black dropout rate from high schools in some cities has reached 50 percent?

Is that the fault of white America or, first and foremost, a failure of the black community itself?

As for racism, its ugliest manifestation is in interracial crime, and especially interracial crimes of violence. Is Barack Obama aware that while white criminals choose black victims 3 percent of the time, black criminals choose white victims 45 percent of the time?

Is Barack aware that black-on-white rapes are 100 times more common than the reverse, that black-on-white robberies were 139 times as common in the first three years of this decade as the reverse?

We have all heard ad nauseam from the Rev. Al about Tawana Brawley, the Duke rape case and Jena. And all turned out to be hoaxes. But about the epidemic of black assaults on whites that are real, we hear nothing.

Sorry, Barack, some of us have heard it all before, about 40 years and 40 trillion tax dollars ago.
Give me a break. Seriously. Black people should be GRATEFUL for slavery? White people have it so much harder than blacks?

I'd love to know where he gets his statistics on crime. I don't ever recall seeing uniform stats on the racial characteristics of criminals and their victims, but there is no way, just no way that his lunacy on rapes and robberies are correct. It's absurd. For one thing, there's no way to collect stats like that on rape; 85% or more of rapes go unreported. Rape statistics are a shadowy netherworld in CJUS reporting; there's no way to accurately gauge demographics from the slim percentage of victims who come forward.

I plan to look into this a bit more in depth later, but wow.

Also, Jena was a hoax? Excuse me? So those were fake nooses in that tree? That was fake violence against black students? That was not the mayor of town who sided with the Klan over civil rights protestors?

Give me a damn break. This man is a thug.

Source: African American (Black) Opinion

So the other night on Countdown we watched Richardson's endorsement of Obama and the interview he gave on the subject, and I noticed he had a shiny new beard. I commented to my roommate on how sharp said beard looked, and lamented that my own is so terrible. We both observed that Hispanic men can often grow really nice facial hair, and thought that was a good thing, and good for Richardson, since he apparently likes said beard.

Who knew that some people would take this grooming decision and turn it from a very minor racial plus to some kind of radical statement in their heads.
Summary: While discussing on Fox News' The Live Desk New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson's endorsement of Sen. Barack Obama, Philadelphia radio host Dom Giordano said of Richardson's beard: "I don't know if it's playing into the ethnic card, or whatever." Host Martha MacCallum stated, "[Richardson] said, you know, 'It's hard for me,' he said to me once, 'people don't even know I'm Hispanic,' " and then asked, "So is that part of what he is ... cultivating here?" Giordano replied, "I think so."
Or, he could just be growing a beard. He looks better with one; so did Lincoln.

Nobody accuses Lincoln of trying to pander to white beard wearers; everyone just accepts it as a personal choice.


Source: Media Matters

While we're on the subject of racist assholes, we have Lou Dobbs.
Summary: Lou Dobbs introduced the March 21 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight by announcing: "Tonight, Senator [Barack] Obama wins the endorsement of the nation's only Hispanic governor, Bill Richardson. Is Obama pandering to ethnocentric special interests again? We'll have complete coverage." The subsequent report included no discussion of whether Obama is "pandering to ethnocentric special interests."
Because all those wetbacks stick together! He's only governor of a major state because he's a lousy border hopping member of the Reconquista!

God, someone get this hack off the air, please.

Source: Media Matters

Halliburton Once Again
This time they were poisoning people en masse.
Hallburton subsidiary KBR told employees at a water injection plant in Iraq a sand-like substance scattered around the plant was just a "mild irritant," workers recall.

It turns out to be sodium dichromate -- a highly toxic chemical which can lead to cancer even with limited exposure.

Now nine Americans are suing KBR, according to a report in Tuesday's Boston Globe. They say they spent 2 1/2 months covered in the substance as they rushed to get the plant online, a key component in Iraq's oil infrastructure.

"Many of the 22 Americans and 100-plus Iraqis began to complain of nosebleeds, ulcers, and shortness of breath," the Globe's Farah Stockman writes. "Within weeks, nearly 60 percent exhibited symptoms of exposure, according to the minutes of a meeting of project managers from KBR, the Houston-based construction company in charge of the repairs."

According to Oxford University, sodium dichromate is a "NTP human carcinogen and IARC human Group I carcinogen. Inhalation, ingestion or skin absorption are harmful, and may be fatal. Exposure may cause cancer."

A material safety data sheet at Fisher Scientific says chronic exposure may lead to ulcers, asthma, cancer and infertiliy.
Ahh, Halliburton. They are scum.
The workers, however, face a daunting task in court. Under a World War II-era law, KBR isn't obliged to pay damages unless workers can prove the exposure was malicious.

But KBR isn't out of the woods. Because the company hired the workers through subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands to avoid paying Social Security and Medicare taxes, the workers' lawyers say they shouldn't be protected as a federal contractor.

"KBR's lawyers argued in a legal brief that the workers should be considered employees of KBR because they were part of a corporate subsidiary that was working on a KBR team," Stockman writes. "The company's spokeswoman, Heather Browne, pointed out that the company's projects in Iraq take place in a 'dangerous, unpredictable environment,' but said the firm maintains an 'unwavering commitment to safety.'"


The workers say KBR's managers discouraged them from raising safety concerns.

"What was done to us, I believe, it's criminal," Danny Langford , a motor specialist from Texas who worked in the most contaminated room in the facility, told the Globe. "I think it was deliberate. They wanted this six month job - get you in, get you out, and send you on your way, and 10 years later you start dying of cancer."
Sounds like a plan!

So what is this stuff anyway?
Sodium dichromate is the chemical compound with the formula Na2Cr2O7. Usually, however, the salt is handled as its dihydrate Na2Cr2O7·2H2O. Its chemistry, appearance, and behaviour are very similar to those of the more widely encountered potassium dichromate. This chemical is around twenty times more soluble in water than the potassium salt (49 g/L at 0 °C) and its equivalent weight is also lower, which is often desirable.[1]



Like all hexavalent chromium compounds, sodium dichromate is considered hazardous, possibly carcinogenic.
Hexavalent chromium, where have I heard of that before...
Hexavalent chromium is the substance against which Erin Brockovich campaigned. It was found in drinking water in the Southern California town of Hinkley. Chromium(VI) is carcinogenic in groundwater,[5] and the 0.58 ppm in the groundwater in Hinkley exceeded the Maximum Contaminant Level of 0.10 ppm currently set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.[6] A similar case was discovered in 2007 in Asopos River, near Oinofyta, Greece and Brockovich is again focusing on it. [7]
Oh right! It's that really nasty stuff from the movie that gives you all sorts of cancer and eats you alive.


In an organism's cells, hexavalent chromium undergoes reduction, first to metastable pentavalent chromium, then to trivalent chromium. Trivalent chromium binds to proteins and creates haptens which trigger immune system reaction. Once developed, chrome sensitivity becomes fairly persistent; in such cases, even contact with chromate-dyed textiles or wearing of chromate-tanned leather shoes can cause or exacerbate contact dermatitis.

Hexavalent chromium compounds are genotoxic carcinogens. Chronic inhalation of hexavalent chromium compounds increases risk of lung cancer (lungs are especially vulnerable, followed by fine capillaries in kidneys and intestine).


Researchers have recently reported discovering that vitamin C reacts inside human lung cells with chromium(VI), causing massive DNA damage. Low doses of chromium(VI), combined with vitamin C, produce up to 15 times as many chromosomal breaks and up to 10 times more mutations, compared with cells lacking vitamin C. Outside cells, vitamin C actually protects against the cellular damage caused by hexavalent chromium.[4]
(genotoxic == alters DNA in a bad way)

So you get massive amounts of genetic mutation, cancer, and damage to your digestive tract, lungs and brain.

Thanks Halliburton!

Sources: Raw Story
Wikipedia (Hexavalent Chromium)
Wikipedia (Sodium Dichromate)