Friday, December 30, 2005

Rowdy passenger dumped on island

LONDON, England (CNN) -- A rowdy air passenger was cast away on a remote Atlantic island after abusing crew and other travelers aboard a holiday flight from the UK to the Spanish Canary Islands.

The pilot of the Monarch Airlines flight made an unscheduled stop at the Portuguese island of Porto Santo off the coast of West Africa when the man became abusive after being refused more alcohol, newspapers reported.

The flight from Manchester to Tenerife, with more than 200 passengers onboard, finally arrived four hours late following the unscheduled stop.

The unnamed 53-year-old was charged with disruptive behavior after police escorted him from the plane, the Daily Mirror said.

In a statement, Monarch said the passenger had become "disruptive and abusive towards staff onboard."

"Despite repeated attempts by Monarch staff to calm the individual, the passenger's behavior did not improve and the decision was taken to divert to Porto Santo where the passenger was removed."

Porto Santo, a volcanic island that is just 16 kilometers (10 miles) long and home to around 5,000 people, is connected to the larger island resort of Madeira by a two-hour ferry ride. The Mirror said that the man had flown onto Tenerife via Madeira after spending the night on the island.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Pope Joan

The story is as enduring as it is dubious: A millennium or so ago in Rome, the pope was riding in a procession when suddenly she–that's right, she–went into labor and had a baby.

Nonsense? Europeans in the Middle Ages didn't think so. The story of a pope named Joan, writes historian J.N.D. Kelly in his Oxford Dictionary of Popes, "was accepted without question in Catholic circles for centuries." Only after the Reformation, when Protestants used the story to poke fun at Roman Catholics, did the Vatican begin to deny that one of its Holy Fathers had become an unholy mother.

The tale faded in the 17th century but never died. While most Americans apparently have never heard of the story, it continues to fascinate people in Europe. In the last three years, 2 million Germans–and about 100,000 Americans–have bought copies of Pope Joan, a historical novel by Donna Woolfolk Cross, a New York writer who suggests that a 400-year clerical coverup kept her hero from being recognized as one of history's most famous women. Legions of Americans likely will become believers, too, if Hollywood's Harry Ufland, producer of The Last Temptation of Christ and Snow Falling on Cedars, shoots the Pope Joan movie he hopes to make next year.

During the Middle Ages, many versions of the "popess" affair appeared. Most accounts came from friars compiling church histories, though the Vatican later would argue that Protestant forgers tinkered with the text. A few medieval chronicles said Joan's great deception occurred in the 10th or 11th century. The report that gained the widest acceptance, written in 1265 by a Dominican friar from Poland named Martin of Troppau, set the unblessed event in the ninth century.

Papal momma. According to most versions, spectators watched in horror as the pope, trying to mount a horse, went into labor and gave birth to a son. Moments later, some reports said, the crowd tied her feet to the horse's tail, then stoned her to death as she was dragged along a street. Still other records showed her banished to a convent and living in penance as her son rose to become a bishop.

The female pope reportedly was born in Germany of English missionary parents and grew up unusually bright in an era when learned women were considered unnatural and dangerous. To break the glass ceiling, it was said, she pretended to be male. At 12, she was taken in masculine attire to Athens by a "learned man," a monk described as her teacher and lover.

Disguised in the sexless garb of a cleric, she "made such progress in various sciences," Martin of Troppau wrote, "that there was nobody equal to her." Eventually, it was said, she became a cardinal in Rome, where her knowledge of the scriptures led to her election as Pope John Anglicus. Martin of Troppau's account had her ruling male-dominated Christendom from 855 till 858, specifically two years, seven months, and four days. Her original name, according to some, was Agnes. Others called her Gilberta and Jutta. Many years after she died–assuming she ever lived–scribes began calling her Joan, the feminine form of John.

Ezra Klein: Trust, But Verify

Trust, But Verify

Man, this is some insanely bad polling:

Should the National Security Agency be allowed to intercept telephone conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living in the United States?
Yes 64%
No 23%

And I mean bad in both senses of the word. First, as John notes, these are bad numbers. I sure as hell think the NSA should listen in on suspected terrorists! Anyone going to make the contrarian case against it?

Good. So what's with the 24% against? You're telling me more folks support universal health care than the ability to spy on terrorists? No wonder we need to spy on ourselves -- we're a bunch of al-Qaeda sympathizers!

But beyond the weird numbers, this question is just bizarre (or, to use the right word, biased). It's like gauging support for Bush's tax cuts by asking "Should the President lower your tax burden while stimulating the economy, encouraging growth, and reducing the deficit?" The question is so utopian as to be nonsensical.

There is a question that needs to be asked, though, and it's answer would be illuminating. And despite what the rightwing spinmeisters are trying to argue, it's the only question in this case:

"Should the National Security Agency be allowed to secretly spy on Americans without any oversight?"

Or, alternately:

"Do you believe the NSA should be able to listen in on your phone calls and read your e-mails without oversight, probable cause, or a warrant?"

Those, and their permutations, are the only questions that deserve polling. There's no doubt the NSA should -- nay, must! -- tap the phones of suspected terrorists. The only issue is whether they are an agency unbound, freed from all judicial oversight and/or congressional constraint. Administration apparatchiks will try to twist it into a referendum on the president's authority to tap phones in the War on Terror. It's not. It's a referendum on whether any President should ever be trusted with the tools and authority of a totalitarian dictator.

Ronald Reagan used to love the phrase "trust, but verify." These days, I'm warming to it as well. Of course, Reagan was speaking of the Soviet Union, where dictators roamed, spied, and tortured unchecked. What a shame that it's become so applicable here at home.

Update: Minipundit has some ideas for future Rasmussen polls."

NSA Web Site Places 'Cookies' on Computers

Yahoo! News: "NEW YORK - The National Security Agency's Internet site has been placing files on visitors' computers that can track their Web surfing activity despite strict federal rules banning most of them.
These files, known as 'cookies,' disappeared after a privacy activist complained and The Associated Press made inquiries this week, and agency officials acknowledged Wednesday they had made a mistake. Nonetheless, the issue raises questions about privacy at a spy agency already on the defensive amid reports of a secretive eavesdropping program in the United States.
'Considering the surveillance power the NSA has, cookies are not exactly a major concern,' said Ari Schwartz, associate director at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a privacy advocacy group in Washington, D.C. 'But it does show a general lack of understanding about privacy rules when they are not even following the government's very basic rules for Web privacy.'
Until Tuesday, the NSA site created two cookie files that do not expire until 2035 - likely beyond the life of any computer in use today."

Monday, December 26, 2005

Mirror, mirror: I still don't get it

World Science: "Despite dealing with mirrors every day, most of us still don’t get how they work, a study has found.
Venus at Her Mirror by Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velazquez (1599-1660). Despite being one of the most admired images in art history, the optics of the mirror portrayal make little sense. If we saw her face in the mirror, as above, she would be looking at our face.
It’s not just that people don’t grasp the complexities of how the atoms in the mirror bounce light back at us. It’s worse: many of us don’t even get basic facts about roughly which direction the light will reflect in, the study concluded.
Marco Bertamini, a psychologist at the University of Liverpool, U.K., conducted experiments by covering a mirror on a wall. He invited participants to walk on a line alongside the mirror, and asked them to guess at which point at would be able to see their reflection.
Results showed that people believe they can see themselves even they are level with the near edge of the mirror, he reported. That’s wrong: you must be directly in front of the mirror to see yourself, because light bounces off a mirror at the same angle it hits. That’s the basic fact about mirror reflections."

Riley Considering Sumo Wrestlers for Shaq's Workouts

AOL News: "MIAMI (Dec. 26) - Shaquille O'Neal laughed at the idea: diaper-clad men of
gargantuan size summoned as battering rams to make the NBA's most imposing big
man even better.
Don't laugh, Shaq. It might happen.
Coach Pat Riley is talking about adding extra bulk - and he means real
tonnage - to Miami Heat practices.
Riley's idea? Sumo wrestlers.
'We're going to bring them in and have them lean on him and lean on him and
we're not going to let him just back them in,' Riley said. 'And then he's
going to have to take 100 jump hooks and 100 turnaround jumpers.'
In Riley's eyes, there isn't much difference between sumo wrestling and the
way teams defend his 7-foot-1, 340-pound center. Matches between sumotoris
dressed in mawashis - diapers, in the vernacular of the uninformed - typically
last 10 to 15 seconds, with two massive men pushing and shoving, trying to
knock the other from a circular area.
Defending Shaq is essentially the same concept.
'The only ways for teams to keep Shaquille from getting good position is to
hold him and to grab him,' Heat center Alonzo Mourning said."

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Lover gives stranger $15,000 ring

BBC NEWS: "A disappointed lover in the US has left a $15,000 (8,500 pounds) diamond engagement ring in a stranger's unlocked car, accompanied by a heartfelt message.
'Hopefully this will land in the hands of someone you love, for my love is gone now,' read the note.
The car's owner, from Westborough, 48km (30 miles) west of Boston, told police about his find after having it valued.
'This appears to be random, but we don't really know,' police Lt Paul Donnelly told local media.
The three diamond white gold ring enclosed in a box with a white bow was placed in the car which was parked at the train station in Westborough, Massachusetts.
The anonymous message read: 'Merry Christmas. Thank you for leaving your car door unlocked. Instead of stealing your car I gave you a present.
'Hopefully this will land in the hands of someone you love, for my love is gone now. Merry Christmas to you.'"

Happy Birthdays...

Happy Birthday Jesus, the Thief, and to me!
The Thief is officially a year old, and we've had over 1200 posts in that time! Woohoo! We love knowledge!! Thanks everybody!
I'm turning 23, and wanted to say to whomever of my friends who may read this, I will be celebrating this Tuesday at the Green Mill (greenmilljazz.com).
As for Jesus, he's turning 2005. Or is it 2006? Wow. I should figure that out before I send him a card.

All in all, another year older, another year wiser.
Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Wiretaps said to sift all overseas contacts

The Boston Globe: "
Vast US effort seen on eavesdropping
WASHINGTON -- The National Security Agency, in carrying out President Bush's order to intercept the international phone calls and e-mails of Americans suspected of links to Al Qaeda, has probably been using computers to monitor all other Americans' international communications as well, according to specialists familiar with the workings of the NSA.
The Bush administration and the NSA have declined to provide details about the program the president authorized in 2001, but specialists said the agency serves as a vast data collection and sorting operation. It captures reams of data from satellites, fiberoptic lines, and Internet switching stations, and then uses a computer to check for names, numbers, and words that have been identified as suspicious.
''The whole idea of the NSA is intercepting huge streams of communications, taking in 2 million pieces of communications an hour,' said James Bamford, the author of two books on the NSA, who was the first to reveal the inner workings of the secret agency.
''They have a capacity to listen to every overseas phone call,' said Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University, which has obtained documents about the NSA using Freedom of Information Act requests.
The NSA's system of monitoring e-mails and phone calls to check for search terms has been used for decades overseas, where the Constitution's prohibition on unreasonable searches does not apply, declassified records have shown."

Student asked to change out of kilt seeks dress code change

"JACKSON, Missouri (AP) -- Nathan Warmack wanted to honor his heritage by wearing a Scottish kilt to his high school dance. Then a principal told him to change into a pair of pants.What began with a few yards of tartan has sparked an international debate about freedom, symbols and cultural dress. More than 1,600 people have signed an Internet petition seeking an apology for the high school senior.Scots in the United States are assembling a traditional ensemble they hope the student will wear to the prom, and his family is trying to change the school's dress code policy.'It's a kilt. It's going to turn heads, but I never believed it would have become what it is,' Warmack said."

New name cooked up for 'roo meat

"SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Does the idea of tossing a kangaroo steak on the grill upset you? How about a tender cut of australus?A food magazine's hunt for a new name for kangaroo meat -- aimed at putting a spring in the step of efforts to sell the product -- has a winner, media reported Tuesday.More than 2,700 people from 41 nations entered the Sydney-based Food Companion International magazine competition to rename meat derived from one of Australia's best-loved and most-recognizable animals.Before settling on australus, judges skipped over suggestions including 'kangarly,' 'maroo,' and 'kangasaurus.'Millions of kangaroos are culled each year, to prevent them eating crops and to supply meat -- but most of the kangaroo cuts go to pet food suppliers and only a small percentage is sold for human consumption.Australia's kangaroo population fluctuates depending on weather conditions, but is estimated at up to 50 million -- more than double the country's human population."

CNN.com - Short glasses hold stronger drinks, study says - Dec 23, 2005

"ALBANY, New York (AP) -- Here's a new tip to help curb drinking over the holidays: Ask for your scotch-and-soda in a highball glass.That's because people tend to unwittingly pour more alcohol into short, wide glasses compared to tall, skinny ones -- meaning two cocktails from a squat tumbler might actually pack the punch of 2 1/2 drinks.The phenomenon is so pervasive even experienced bartenders do it, according to a study being published Friday in the BMJ, formerly the British Medical Journal.'People say, 'Oh, the bartender knows what he's doing.' Well, the bartender does know what he's doing in a lot of cases, but he falls victim to these illusions,' said lead author Brian Wansink, a Cornell University marketing professor."

Italy warrants for 22 purported CIA operatives

An Italian judge has issued European arrest warrants for 22 purported CIA agents alleged to have kidnapped an Egyptian-born Muslim cleric in Milan in 2003, a prosecutor said Friday.The warrants make it legal for the 22 to be arrested in any of the European Union's member nations.Prosecutor Armando Spataro said the warrants were issued December 20.The 22 were already facing arrest warrants in Italy, and are considered fugitives.Prosecutors have asked Justice Minister Roberto Castelli to call on the United States to extradite the 22. Castelli has not done so, and has said he needs more information about the allegations.The case revolves around the alleged abduction of Osama Nasr Mostafa Hassan, also known as Abu Omar, in February 2003. At the time of his disappearance, Milan prosecutors were investigating him for alleged links to terrorism.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Squires of Surveillance

New York Times: "Dick and Rummy are holed up in the den of Rummy's Chesapeake Bay retreat, Mount Misery, pawing through sheafs of transcripts of wiretapped telephone conversations, hunting for inside dope.
Chinook helicopters patrol the skies above the red-brick waterfront mansion. Rummy loves the take-no-prisoners lineage of his $1.5 million getaway, built in the 19th century by Edward Covey, an evil slave owner. Winter weekends by a crackling fire are cozy and conspiratorial, now that the two men have nearby spreads in St. Michaels, Md. These squires of surveillance while away their evenings sipping from goblets of Glenlivet and perusing the illegally bugged phone conversations of any American they please. Getting in the holiday spirit, they're mining data to revise their naughty and nice lists. 'Check this one out, Dick,' Rummy says excitedly. 'I've been reading Jennifer Aniston's conversations for the last six months now, and I gotta say, I don't get what she sees in this guy Vince Vaughn. 'Wedding Crashers' was funny. They shot that here in this village, you know. But I don't trust the guy. No way he's going to give up lap dancers and be true. I just don't want to see Jen get hurt again.' Dick grunts. He's deeply absorbed in the classified reports on the F.B.I. infiltration of a Vegan Community Project and a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals protest against llama fur. He's ruminating over a naked picture of Pamela Anderson emblazoned with the PETA slogan, 'I'd rather go naked than wear fur.'"

The Squires of Surveillance

New York Times: "Dick and Rummy are holed up in the den of Rummy's Chesapeake Bay retreat, Mount Misery, pawing through sheafs of transcripts of wiretapped telephone conversations, hunting for inside dope.
Chinook helicopters patrol the skies above the red-brick waterfront mansion. Rummy loves the take-no-prisoners lineage of his $1.5 million getaway, built in the 19th century by Edward Covey, an evil slave owner. Winter weekends by a crackling fire are cozy and conspiratorial, now that the two men have nearby spreads in St. Michaels, Md. These squires of surveillance while away their evenings sipping from goblets of Glenlivet and perusing the illegally bugged phone conversations of any American they please. Getting in the holiday spirit, they're mining data to revise their naughty and nice lists. 'Check this one out, Dick,' Rummy says excitedly. 'I've been reading Jennifer Aniston's conversations for the last six months now, and I gotta say, I don't get what she sees in this guy Vince Vaughn. 'Wedding Crashers' was funny. They shot that here in this village, you know. But I don't trust the guy. No way he's going to give up lap dancers and be true. I just don't want to see Jen get hurt again.' Dick grunts. He's deeply absorbed in the classified reports on the F.B.I. infiltration of a Vegan Community Project and a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals protest against llama fur. He's ruminating over a naked picture of Pamela Anderson emblazoned with the PETA slogan, 'I'd rather go naked than wear fur.'"

The Economist: The Story of Man

Modern Darwinism paints a more flattering portrait of humanity than traditionalists might suppose




IN THOSE parts of the planet that might once have been described as “Christendom”, this week marks the season of peace on Earth and goodwill towards men. A nice idea in a world more usually thought of as seasoned by the survival of the fittest. But goodwill and collaboration are as much part of the human condition as ill-will and competition. And that was a puzzle to 19th-century disciples of Charles Darwin, such as Herbert Spencer.

It was Spencer, an early contributor to The Economist, who invented that poisoned phrase, “survival of the fittest”. He originally applied it to the winnowing of firms in the harsh winds of high-Victorian capitalism, but when Darwin's masterwork, “On the Origin of Species”, was published, he quickly saw the parallel with natural selection and transferred his bon mot to the process of evolution. As a result, he became one of the band of philosophers known as social Darwinists. Capitalists all, they took what they thought were the lessons of Darwin's book and applied them to human society. Their hard-hearted conclusion, of which a 17th-century religious puritan might have been proud, was that people got what they deserved—albeit that the criterion of desert was genetic, rather than moral. The fittest not only survived, but prospered. Moreover, the social Darwinists thought that measures to help the poor were wasted, since such people were obviously unfit and thus doomed to sink.

Well, lookie here. According to the WaPo, guess who is negotiating a plea deal, just in time for lumps of coal in a whole lot of GOP stockings?

Former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, facing trial on fraud charges Jan. 9 in Florida, is negotiating a possible deal with the Justice Department, in which he would agree to plead guilty and cooperate in the wide-ranging political corruption investigation focused on his dealings with members of Congress and executive branch officials, people familiar with the talks said last night.Abramoff would provide testimony about numerous members of Congress and their staffs if he and the Justice Department reach an agreement, the sources said. Negotiations have been ongoing for several months, people knowledgeable about the discussions said, but pressure is mounting because of the pending trial.Let's see. By my count, that makes Scanlon and Kidan already plead and flipped, and Abramoff with a hook in his mouth so big that everything looks like it will be spilling out shortly.All of this is putting a damper on the merriment of Christmas the holidays for the GOP establishment, according to the NYTimes.What began as a limited inquiry into $82 million of Indian casino lobbying by Mr. Abramoff and his closest partner, Michael Scanlon, has broadened into a far-reaching corruption investigation of mainly Republican lawmakers and aides suspected of accepting favors in exchange for legislative work. Prominent party officials, including the former House majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, are under scrutiny involving trips and other gifts from Mr. Abramoff and his clients. The case has shaken the Republican establishment, with the threat of testimony from Mr. Abramoff, once a ubiquitous and well-connected Republican star, sowing anxiety throughout the party ranks.Sucks when everyone is rushing to plant a knife in someone's else's back before one lands in their own, doesn't it? And it isn't just lawmakers in the crosshairs on this -- it's also current and former staffers and what prosecutors are calling "the wives' club." Oh yeah, it's a merry one alright.Here's a question, though, why is this leaking to so many news services all at once? In the WaPo story, Abramoff's counsel refuses to comment on rumors that his financial situation has become precarious, due to the expenses of criminal defense on multiple fronts at once. Is Jackie Boy asking for some sheckels in exchange for...well, for silence? Or is that just a coinky-dink? Hmmm....Speaking of sheckels, the AP has a doozy of a report on The Lifestyles of the Bought and Paid For, featuring our favorite GOP poster boy, Tommy DeLay. Whew -- the Hammer is not going to be pleased about this one.Public documents reviewed by The Associated Press tell the story: at least 48 visits to golf clubs and resorts with lush fairways; 100 flights aboard company planes; 200 stays at hotels, many world-class; and 500 meals at restaurants, some averaging nearly $200 for a dinner for two. Instead of his personal expense, the meals and trips for DeLay and his associates were paid with donations collected by the campaign committees, political action committees and children's charity the Texas Republican created during his rise to the top of Congress.Did they say children's charity? Tom DeLay was paying for his lavish lifestyle with children's charity money? That doesn't sound like the spirit of giving, now does it? But it does sound like a fiduciary responsibility problem, let alone a big issue for his upcoming re-election bid. Hmmmm...money laundering felony indictment, possible bribery and stealing from needy children? That sound you hear is someone's poll numbers dropping. And the House GOP is still holding his leadership post open? Is it me, or are you also sensing that Tommy Boy knows where a whole lot of skeletens are buried, and he won't be going down without a fight. Oh man. I really have been a good girl this year."Hello, schadenfreude hotline? I need an emergency 24 pack, with an eggnog chaser."">firedoglake: 12/01/2005 - 12/31/2005: "Well, lookie here. According to the WaPo, guess who is negotiating a plea deal, just in time for lumps of coal in a whole lot of GOP stockings?Former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, facing trial on fraud charges Jan. 9 in Florida, is negotiating a possible deal with the Justice Department, in which he would agree to plead guilty and cooperate in the wide-ranging political corruption investigation focused on his dealings with members of Congress and executive branch officials, people familiar with the talks said last night.Abramoff would provide testimony about numerous members of Congress and their staffs if he and the Justice Department reach an agreement, the sources said. Negotiations have been ongoing for several months, people knowledgeable about the discussions said, but pressure is mounting because of the pending trial.Let's see. By my count, that makes Scanlon and Kidan already plead and flipped, and Abramoff with a hook in his mouth so big that everything looks like it will be spilling out shortly.All of this is putting a damper on the merriment of Christmas the holidays for the GOP establishment, according to the NYTimes.What began as a limited inquiry into $82 million of Indian casino lobbying by Mr. Abramoff and his closest partner, Michael Scanlon, has broadened into a far-reaching corruption investigation of mainly Republican lawmakers and aides suspected of accepting favors in exchange for legislative work. Prominent party officials, including the former House majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, are under scrutiny involving trips and other gifts from Mr. Abramoff and his clients. The case has shaken the Republican establishment, with the threat of testimony from Mr. Abramoff, once a ubiquitous and well-connected Republican star, sowing anxiety throughout the party ranks.Sucks when everyone is rushing to plant a knife in someone's else's back before one lands in their own, doesn't it? And it isn't just lawmakers in the crosshairs on this -- it's also current and former staffers and what prosecutors are calling 'the wives' club.' Oh yeah, it's a merry one alright.Here's a question, though, why is this leaking to so many news services all at once? In the WaPo story, Abramoff's counsel refuses to comment on rumors that his financial situation has become precarious, due to the expenses of criminal defense on multiple fronts at once. Is Jackie Boy asking for some sheckels in exchange for...well, for silence? Or is that just a coinky-dink? Hmmm....Speaking of sheckels, the AP has a doozy of a report on The Lifestyles of the Bought and Paid For, featuring our favorite GOP poster boy, Tommy DeLay. Whew -- the Hammer is not going to be pleased about this one.Public documents reviewed by The Associated Press tell the story: at least 48 visits to golf clubs and resorts with lush fairways; 100 flights aboard company planes; 200 stays at hotels, many world-class; and 500 meals at restaurants, some averaging nearly $200 for a dinner for two. Instead of his personal expense, the meals and trips for DeLay and his associates were paid with donations collected by the campaign committees, political action committees and children's charity the Texas Republican created during his rise to the top of Congress.Did they say children's charity? Tom DeLay was paying for his lavish lifestyle with children's charity money? That doesn't sound like the spirit of giving, now does it? But it does sound like a fiduciary responsibility problem, let alone a big issue for his upcoming re-election bid. Hmmmm...money laundering felony indictment, possible bribery and stealing from needy children? That sound you hear is someone's poll numbers dropping. And the House GOP is still holding his leadership post open? Is it me, or are you also sensing that Tommy Boy knows where a whole lot of skeletens are buried, and he won't be going down without a fight. Oh man. I really have been a good girl this year.'Hello, schadenfreude hotline? I need an emergency 24 pack, with an eggnog chaser.'"

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Down in the dumps

Chicago Tribune: "Wearing a jean jacket with a patch that reads 'Rat Patrol' on the back, 20-year-old Casey Cherry vanishes into a blue Dumpster a few blocks from the intersection of Diversey Parkway and Sheridan Road.
Within seconds, he is knee-deep in bags of trash.
After a few minutes of digging, he 'recovers' a plastic bag of slightly bruised celery. Another trash bag contains a plastic bowl of beef stew.
'Nah, not taking this,' mutters Cherry, who is a vegetarian. About 10 feet away, a man stops snow blowing a parking lot.
'Excuse me, I'm just curious,' stammers the snow-blowing stranger, pointing at Cherry. 'He is not homeless, huh?' No, he's not. Actually, Cherry has a job and lives nearby in a Lincoln Park apartment.
Cherry Dumpster dives because he is a 'freegan,' a term that combines 'free' and 'vegan' to describe a group of people (typically Socialists) who oppose waste. Cherry is an aspiring vegan, who says he has a weakness for cheese. Instead of shopping at stores, many freegans dive in Dumpsters for groceries, clothes, books, discarded bikes and even computers. Some 'alley shop' for discarded furniture. Many live in co-ops, squat in abandoned buildings and work at least part time to cover unavoidable expenses, says Adam Weissman, a spokesman for the freegan.info project out of New York.
Like Cherry, most freegans are vegetarians or vegans, but there are no hard and fast rules for this lifestyle, according to Weissman. He estimates there are at least 1,500 practicing freegans worldwide, based on the number of members on the 'Dumpster diving' pages of meetup.com."

Monday, December 19, 2005

Eminem Music Allegedly Used As U.S. Torture Device

KCRA.com: "KABUL, Afghanistan -- A human rights group is alleging the United States operated a secret prison near Afghanistan's capital as recently as last year.The group claims that music by Eminem and Dr. Dre were used as instruments of torture. New York-based Human Rights Watch has issued a report saying the United States operated a secret prison in Afghanistan and tortured detainees. The report quoted an Ethiopian-born detainee as saying he was kept in a pitch-black prison and forced to listen to Eminem and Dr. Dre's rap music for 20 days before the music was replaced by 'horrible ghost laughter and Halloween sounds.' The report said detainees at the facility -- known as 'Dark Prison' -- were deprived of sleep, chained to walls and forced to listen to loud music in total darkness for days."

Defective Zamboni sends 7 to hospitals

Chicago Tribune: "A defective Zamboni ice-smoothing machine at a suburban ice-skating rink is blamed for a weekend incident that sent seven people to hospitals with apparent carbon monoxide poisoning.
The last of the victims was released from hospitals Sunday night after the incident during a high school hockey game at the Barrington Ice Arena, at 28205 W. Commercial Ave. in the northwest suburb, authorities said.
About 60 people were evacuated from the facility shortly before 11 p.m. Saturday during a game between the Cary-Grove and Lake Zurich High School hockey teams.
Coaches for the teams suspended the game after their players complained of worsening exhaustion, headaches, and nausea. The victims were pale, with at least one passing out and another vomiting, officials said.
Carbon monoxide testing equipment of the Barrington Fire Department detected high levels of the toxic gas in the facility, officials said. Fire Lt. Michael Brown said the fumes apparently came from a propane-fueled Zamboni machine."

firedoglake: 12/01/2005 - 12/31/2005



A play in honor of the performances this morning by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his many appearances on the talking head circuit (Today Show, CNN, MSNBC, etc., etc.).

JIMMINY: Why bother going around the FISA law anyway? You could already do an emergency wiretap or surveillance at any time, and get a judge to okay it after the fact. You had everything you needed with the FISA laws. What were you spying on that you didn't want the FISA courts to know about?

GONZALES: You wound me, Jimminy. This was necessary for national security. Don't you want this nation to be safe? Have a gumdrop.

JIMMINY: Stop trying to divert me with gumdrops. Let's get down to the real business. What authority did you rely on in order to justify spying on Americans without a warrant, as required by the Fourth Amendment in the Bill of Rights and numerous criminal laws and FISA?

GONZALES: Well, Congress gave us the authority in the 2001 Afghanistan resolution.

JIMMINY: No, they didn't. There is no provision for eavesdropping or any other increased domestic surveillance in the resolution that I could find when I re-read it this morning in preparation for this interview.

GONZALES: Oh, it contains provisions. And they trump the 1978 FISA laws. Trust me on this.

JIMMINY: I'm sorry, but I see no specific legal authorization in the 2001 Afghan war resolution as passed by Congress. Wouldn't you say this is more an illegal maneuver by the President, who took advantage of the spirit of bipartisanship that existed in the Congress after 9/11 to increase his power? Oh, and that shirt looks lovely with your complexion. A truly good choice by someone on your staff. Kudos.

GONZALES: Oh, did you hear me say the Afghanistan resolution? You should look into the hearing problem. What I said was that the right to do this is inherent in the war powers of the executive as vested in the Constitution. Yeah, that's the ticket.

*buzzer sound*

JIMMINY: Um. No. That's also wrong.

GONZALES: Look, over there. It's a candy bar!

JIMMINY: What? Where? Oh, stop that. Seriously, Alberto, what's your authority for this?

GONZALES: Have I mentioned that the President is Commander in Chief? Yeah, that's the ticket. It's inherent in his military powers as commander.

JIMMINY: So, you are saying the President has the authority to command military forces to take action against citizens in our own country, without following the laws of our nation, whenever he pleases? That's your justification?

GONZALES: Yeah, that's it. That's the ticket.

JIMMINY: What about posse comitatus?

GONZALES: We don't use that kind of language in this White House.

JIMMINY: Well, thank you for being here, Alberto. Up next: How to decorate Christmas holiday erm...presents with gold painted pine cones and other woodland finds. Oooooh, now that's a segment.

And later, the Preznit will be holding a press conference around 10:30 am ET. Should be a lovely morning of dodge and weave.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

They Wouldn't Lie to Us, Would They?

by Molly Ivins
�AUSTIN, Texas - As one on the liberal side of the chorus of moaners about the decline of civility in politics, I feel a certain responsibility when earnest, spaniel-eyed conservatives like David Brooks peer at us hopefully and say, 'Well, yes, there was certainly a lot of misinformation about WMD before the war in Iraq, but ... you don't think they, he, actually lied do you?'


Draw I deep the breath of patience. I factor in the long and awful history of politics and truth, add the immutable nature of pols %u2014 fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly %u2014 and compare Tonkin Gulf, Watergate and Iran-Contra with the piddly Curveball and Niger uranium. I prepare to respond like a reasonable person %u2014 'Of course not actually lie, per se, in the strict sense' %u2014 and then I listen to another speech about Iraq by either the president or the vice president and find myself screaming, 'Dammit, when will they quit lying?'

Civility is fine. On the other hand, sanity has its claims, as well.

I have been listening with great attention to the series of speeches President Bush has lately given on his newly revealed 'Plan for Victory.' Of course I was pleased to learn we have a plan for a victory, which consists, it turns out, of announcing: 'We cannot and will not leave Iraq until victory is achieved. ... We will settle for nothing less than complete victory.'

Unfortunately, the White House claims it produced this once supposedly secret plan in 2003, when it is actually a public-relations paper written less than six months ago, which is pretty much the way things go credibility-wise these days. It has long been clear that this administration thinks it can spin reality to a blue-bellied fare-thee-well, but isn't it a tad late for this?

Of course, it's an awkward time to be a doom-and-gloomer, too. Who wants to remind everyone this isn't working just when all those brave Iraqis just risked their lives to vote again? Democracy is a grand thing. Unfortunately, a vote has never yet created an operative military brigade.

Bush claimed in his Naval Academy speech that 80 Iraqi army and police battalions are fighting alongside American units, while another 40 are taking the lead in fighting. But last summer, military leaders told Congress that three of the 115 Iraqi battalions are capable of fighting without U.S. help, and in October Gen. George Casey, the American commander in Iraq, lowered that to one.

Of course all Texans are raised on the 'Never retreat, never surrender' model, but it does ring just a little hollow when the administration's own plans for a draw-down of troops are dominating the news.

So as not to completely abandon my colleagues still yearning for civility, I point out that Bush and even Cheney are making progress. For one thing, they now acknowledge reconstruction is not going entirely smoothly, a refreshing degree of candor.

Also, Bush now acknowledges we are fighting more than just terrorists. In fact, most of the people we're fighting are themselves Iraqis who don't like us being there. The fact that their government has asked us to leave is still politely passed over. This has already cost us $277 billion, with at least another $100 billion to come.


It does seem a little silly, though, to call for 'complete victory' without acknowledging that the war itself is not going well. The number of attacks on American and Iraqi troops per day grows steadily worse. Rep. Jack Murtha, who is very close to the military, says insurgent incidents over the past year have increased from 150 per week to over 700 per week.

Bush's claims on reconstruction are likewise mind-boggling. It's not 'fits and starts' %u2014 there are rampant overcharges, corruption, lack of oversight %u2014 it is a zoo. At least $8 billion the United States provided Iraq's Coalition Provisional Authority is unaccounted for, and Halliburton alone has already been accused of $1.4 billion in unreasonable and unsupported charges."

A Challenge for Bill O'Reilly - New York Times

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Let us all pray for Bill O'Reilly.
Let us pray that Mr. O'Reilly will understand that the Christmas spirit isn't about hectoring people to say 'Merry Christmas,' rather than 'Happy Holidays,' but about helping the needy.
Let us pray that Mr. O'Reilly will use his huge audience and considerable media savvy to save lives and fight genocide, instead of to vilify those he disagrees with. Let him find inspiration in Jesus, rather than in the Assyrians.
Finally, let's pray that Mr. O'Reilly and other money-changers in the temple will donate the funds they raise exploiting Christmas - covering the nonexistent 'War on Christmas' rakes in viewers and advertising - to feed the hungry and house the homeless.
Amen.
Alas, not all prayers can be answered. Fox News Channel's crusade against infidels who prefer generic expressions like 'Happy Holidays' included 58 separate segments in just a five-day period.
After I suggested in last Sunday's column that a better way to honor the season might be to stand up to genocide in Darfur (a calamity that Mr. O'Reilly has ignored), Mr. O'Reilly denounced me on his show as a 'left-wing ideologue.' Bless you, Mr. O'Reilly, and Merry Christmas to you, too!
Later in the show, Mr. O'Reilly described us print journalists in general as 'a bunch of vicious S.O.B.'s.' Bless you again, Mr. O'Reilly; I'll pray harder for the Christmas spirit to soften your pugnacious soul.
Look, I put up a 'Christmas tree,' rather than a 'holiday tree,' and I'm sure Mr. O'Reilly is right that political correctness leads to absurd contortions this time of year. But when you've seen what real war does, you don't lightly use the word to describe disagreements about Christmas greetings. And does it really make sense to offer 58 segments on political correctness and zero on genocide?
Perhaps I'm particularly sensitive to religious hypocrites because I've spent a chunk of time abroad watching Muslim versions of Mr. O'Reilly - demagogic table-thumpers who exploit public religiosity as a cynical ploy to gain attention and money. And I always tell moderate Muslims that they need to stand up to blustery blowhards - so today, I'm taking my own advice.
Like the fundamentalist Islamic preachers, Mr. O'Reilly is a talented showman, and my sense is that his ranting is a calculated performance. The couple of times I've been on his show, he was mild mannered and amiable until the camera light went on - and then he burst into aggrieved indignation, because he knew it made good theater.
If Mr. O'Reilly wants to find a Christmas cause, he should invite guests from Catholic Relief Services, World Vision or the National Association of Evangelicals - among the many faith-based organizations that are doing heroic work battling everything from river blindness to sex trafficking. Indeed, the real victims of Mr. O'Reilly are the authentic religious conservatives, because some viewers falsely assume that ill-informed bombast characterizes the entire religious right.
(I'm tempted to think that Mr. O'Reilly is actually a liberal plant, meant to discredit conservatives. Think about it. Who would be a better plant than a self-righteous bully in the style of Father Coughlin or Joe McCarthy? What better way to caricature the right than by having Mr. O'Reilly urge on air that the staff of Air America be imprisoned: 'Dissent, fine; undermining, you're a traitor. Got it? So, all those clowns over at the liberal radio network, we could incarcerate them immediately. Will you have that done, please? Send over the F.B.I. and just put them in chains, because they, you know, they're undermining everything.')
Some authentic religious conservatives are embarrassed by television phonies. Cal Thomas, the conservative Christian columnist, warned: 'The effort by some cable TV hosts and ministers to force commercial establishments into wishing everyone a 'Merry Christmas' might be more objectionable to the One who is the reason for the season than the 'Happy Holidays' mantra required by some store managers.'
So I have a challenge for Mr. O'Reilly: If you really want to defend traditional values, then come with me on a trip to Darfur. I'll introduce you to mothers who have had their babies clubbed to death in front of them, to teenage girls who have been gang-raped and then mutilated - and to the government-armed thugs who do these things.
You'll have to leave your studio, Bill. You'll encounter pure evil. If you're like me, you'll be scared. If you try to bully some of the goons in Darfur, they'll just hack your head off. But you'll also meet some genuine conservative Christians - aid workers who live the Gospel instead of sputtering about it - and you'll finally be using your talents for an important cause.
So, Bill, what'll it be? Will you dare travel to a real war against Christmas values, in which the victims aren't offended shoppers but terrified children thrown on bonfires? I'm waiting to hear."

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Oh Religion... God Love It

Video Clip

Surprise ! 'Crossfire' co-host Novak exits CNN for Fox News

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Robert Novak, whose syndicated column sparked the CIA leak case and who stormed off a CNN set earlier this year, will join Fox News Channel as a contributor.

Novak, 74, and the network mutually decided not to renew his contract the ends Dec. 31. Fox News Channel confirmed Friday that he would be a contributor to the network beginning in January.

Once one of the most recognizable faces at CNN and one of the few conservative voices there, Novak had fallen out of favor with CNN brass in recent years with his style and the pundit-debate format of shows like "Crossfire" and "The Capital Gang," which he executive produced.

Novak bore the brunt of a sustained assault by "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart, who had been turned off by Novak's still-undetermined role in the Valerie Plame-CIA leak case that led to the jailing of New York Times reporter Judith Miller and the indictment of administration aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. But he wasn't there when Stewart appeared on "Crossfire" and accused the show of "hurting America."

The show was later canceled, as was "Capital Gang." But Novak's departure from CNN was stormy nonetheless. He had been off the air since early August, when he walked off a CNN set during a live interview after uttering an obscenity. He served a suspension and apologized but never returned to CNN.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Prez Carter ponders the paranormal

New York Daily News: "As President, Jimmy Carter may not have consulted an astrologer to decide the details of his schedule - a la Nancy Reagan directing her husband's busy days.
But Ronald Reagan's predecessor did once employ a woman in a trance to locate a downed government plane in Africa.
'We had a plane go down in the Central African Republic. A twin-engine plane. Small plane. And we couldn't find it,' the 81-year-old 39th President reveals to GQ magazine's Wil S. Hylton. 'So we oriented satellites that were going around the Earth every 90 minutes to fly over that spot where we thought it might be and take photographs. We couldn't find it.'
Carter continues: 'The director of the CIA came and told me that he had contacted a woman in California who claimed to have supernatural capabilities. And she went into a trance and she wrote down latitudes and longitudes, and we sent our satellite over that latitude and longitude, and there was the plane.'"

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Bush Secretly Lifted Some Limits on Spying in U.S. After 9/11, Officials Say

New York Times: "WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 - Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.
Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible 'dirty numbers' linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.
The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval represents a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches.
'This is really a sea change,' said a former senior official who specializes in national security law. 'It's almost a mainstay of this country that the N.S.A. only does foreign searches.'
Nearly a dozen current and former officials, who were granted anonymity because of the classified nature of the program, discussed it with reporters for The New York Times because of their concerns about the operation's legality and oversight."

Is Global Warming Killing the Polar Bears?

WSJ: "It may be the latest evidence of global warming: Polar bears are drowning.
Scientists for the first time have documented multiple deaths of polar bears off Alaska, where they likely drowned after swimming long distances in the ocean amid the melting of the Arctic ice shelf. The bears spend most of their time hunting and raising their young on ice floes.
In a quarter-century of aerial surveys of the Alaskan coastline before 2004, researchers from the U.S. Minerals Management Service said they typically spotted a lone polar bear swimming in the ocean far from ice about once every two years. Polar-bear drownings were so rare that they have never been documented in the surveys.
But in September 2004, when the polar ice cap had retreated a record 160 miles north of the northern coast of Alaska, researchers counted 10 polar bears swimming as far as 60 miles offshore. Polar bears can swim long distances but have evolved to mainly swim between sheets of ice, scientists say.
The researchers returned to the vicinity a few days after a fierce storm and found four dead bears floating in the water. 'Extrapolation of survey data suggests that on the order of 40 bears may have been swimming and that many of those probably drowned as a result of rough seas caused by high winds,' the researchers say in a report set to be released today.
While the government researchers won't speculate on why a climate change is taking place in the Arctic, environmentalists unconnected to the survey say U.S. policies emphasizing oil and gas development are exacerbating global warming, which is accelerating the melting of the ice. 'For anyone who has wondered how global warming and reduced sea ice will affect polar bears, the answer is simple -- they die,' said Richard Steiner, a marine-biology professor at the University of Alaska."

Herald.com | 12/15/2005 | New tests fuel doubts about vote machines

Herald.com | 12/15/2005 | New tests fuel doubts about vote machines: "TALLAHASSEE - A political operative with hacking skills could alter the results of any election on Diebold-made voting machines -- and possibly other new voting systems in Florida -- according to the state capital's election supervisor, who said Diebold software has failed repeated tests.
Ion Sancho, Leon County's election chief, said tests by two computer experts, completed this week, showed that an insider could surreptitiously change vote results and the number of ballots cast on Diebold's optical-scan machines.
After receiving county commission approval Tuesday, Sancho scrapped Diebold's system for one made by Elections Systems and Software, the same provider used by Miami-Dade and Broward counties. The difference between the systems: Sancho's machines use a fill-in-the-blank paper ballot that allows for after-the-fact manual recounts, while Broward and Miami-Dade use ATM-like touchscreens that leave no paper trail.
''That's kind of scary. If there's no paper trail, you have to rely solely on electronic results. And now we know that they can be manipulated under the right conditions, without a person even leaving a fingerprint,'' said Sancho, who once headed the state's elections supervisors association.
The Leon County test results are likely to further fuel suspicions that the new electronic voting systems in Florida, in place since the 2002 elections, are susceptible to manipulation.
When the debate hit fever pitch before last year's presidential election, many conservatives said questions about the machinery were a liberal ploy to undermine confidence in the voting system.
Elections chiefs in Broward and Miami-Dade said Wednesday they have good security and are not particularly concerned -- though both have had ''glitches'' that have been tough to explain.
Sancho agrees that good security is key, but said he's not sure he won't also have problems with the $1.3 million ES&S system, which he'll also test."

National Security Archive 20th Anniversary: Celebrating 20 Years of Keeping Government Honest

"It has to be said: there has been nothing in our time like the
Bush Administration's obsession with secrecy. This may seem self-serving
coming from someone who worked for two previous presidents who were
no paragons of openness. But I am only one of legions who have reached
this conclusion. See the recent pair of articles by the independent
journalist, Michael Massing, in The New York Review of Books.
He concludes, 'The Bush Administration has restricted access
to public documents as no other before it.' And he backs this
up with evidence. For example, a recent report on government secrecy
by the watchdog group, OpenTheGovernment.org, says the Feds classified
a record 15.6 million new documents in fiscal year 2004, an increase
of 81% over the year before the terrorist attacks on September 11,
2001. What's more, 64% of Federal Advisory Committee meetings in
2004 were completely closed to the public. No wonder the public
knows so little about how this administration has deliberately ignored
or distorted reputable scientific research to advance its political
agenda and the wishes of its corporate patrons. I'm talking about
the suppression of that EPA report questioning aspects of the White
House Clear Skies Act; research censorship at the departments of
health and human services, interior and agriculture; the elimination
of qualified scientists from advisory committees on kids and lead
poisoning, reproductive health, and drug abuse; the distortion of
scientific knowledge on emergency contraception; the manipulation
of the scientific process involving the Endangered Species Act;
and the internal sabotage of government scientific reports on global
warming
It's an old story: the greater the secrecy, the deeper the corruption.

This is the administration that has illegally produced phony television
news stories with fake reporters about Medicare and government anti-drug
programs, then distributed them to local TV stations around the
country. In several markets, they aired on the six o'clock news
with nary a mention that they were propaganda bought and paid for
with your tax dollars.
This is the administration that paid almost a quarter of a million
dollars for rightwing commentator Armstrong Williams to talk up
its No-Child-Left-Behind education program and bankrolled two other
conservative columnists to shill for programs promoting the President's
marriage initiative.
This is the administration that tacitly allowed inside the White
House a phony journalist under the non-de-plume of Jeff Gannon to
file Republican press releases as legitimate news stories and to
ask President Bush planted questions to which he could respond with
preconceived answers.
And this is the administration that has paid over one hundred million
dollars to plant stories in Iraqi newspapers and disguise the source,
while banning TV cameras at the return of caskets from Iraq as well
as prohibiting the publication of photographs of those caskets -
a restriction that was lifted only following a request through the
Freedom of Information Act.
Ah, FOIA. Obsessed with secrecy, Bush and Cheney have made the
Freedom of Information Act their number one target, more fervently
pursued for elimination than Osama Bin Laden. No sooner had he come
to office than George W. Bush set out to eviscerate both FOIA and
the Presidential Records Act. He has been determined to protect
his father's secrets when the first Bush was Vice President and
then President -
as well as his own. Call it Bush Omerta."

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Swiping goes high-tech in bar-code scam

DenverPost.com
: "Boulder - Jonathan Baldino might be off the 'nice' list.
Police say Baldino used homemade bar codes to buy electronic gadgets at prices far below any legitimate discount. The 19-year-old is facing three counts of being naughty - one of them a Class 5 felony.
Baldino was detained by Target security Wednesday after he purchased a $150 iPod with a bar-code label of $4.99.
Baldino, a freshman electrical-engineering student at the University of Colorado, told police that he made phony bar codes from real bar codes taken from inexpensive merchandise, then glued those bar codes on to big-ticket items at Target, according to the police report.
Baldino's alleged holiday caper actually worked - once."

Bush can settle CIA leak riddle, Novak says

Newspaper columnist Robert Novak is still not naming his source in the Valerie Plame affair, but he says he is pretty sure the name is no mystery to President Bush."I'm confident the president knows who the source is," Novak told a luncheon audience at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh on Tuesday. "I'd be amazed if he doesn't.""So I say, 'Don't bug me. Don't bug Bob Woodward. Bug the president as to whether he should reveal who the source is.' "It was Novak who first revealed that Plame, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, worked for the CIA. Wilson had angered the Bush administration when he accused it of twisting intelligence to exaggerate the Iraqi threat before the war.
Disclosing the identity of a CIA agent is illegal; the disclosure set off a furor in Washington, resulting in an ongoing investigation by a special prosecutor and the indictment and resignation of Lewis Libby, the chief aide to Vice President Dick Cheney.Woodward, a Washington Post editor, recently disclosed that he, too, had been told by an administration figure about Plame's secret identity -- probably, he said, by the same source who told Novak.Novak said his role in the Plame affair "snowballed out of proportion" as a result of a "campaign by the left."But he also blamed "extremely bad management of the issue by the White House. Once you give an issue to a special prosecutor, you lose control of it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Women go to bed for space science

BBC NEWS: "Twelve women have spent two months in bed with their feet higher than their head - all in the name of science.
Designed to recreate the effects of weightlessness, the experiment was run by the European Space Agency in France.
The women, volunteers from Switzerland, Scotland, Finland and France, had to carry out all daily activities in their bed, tilted back at a six degree angle.
Now back on their feet for final tests, the women said they were proud to have helped future female cosmonauts.
The ESA hopes the results of the study will help scientists anticipate the medical problems that may arise as space missions go further and last longer.
The women underwent more than 180 tests and were kept under constant video scrutiny before being allowed out of bed on 30 November.
They were split into three groups, one fed a special diet, one asked to carry out certain muscular exercises and the other used as a control group."

US Supreme Court Denies Williams' petition


The US Supreme Court declined to stay the execution of Stanley "Tookie" Williams, a California gang leader turned anti-violence activist, a court official said.The ruling means that lawyers representing Williams have now exhausted all legal avenues to save his life.
Williams has been supported by a star-studded list of celebrities and campaigners who say the once-feared gang leader should be spared because of his activism.

Earlier in the day, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger refused to grant Williams clemency, saying "the facts do not justify overturning the jury's verdict or the decisions of the courts in this case."
Schwarzenegger agonized for three days over his decision after a meeting with Williams' lawyers and prosecutors.
"Clemency cases are always difficult and this one is no exception," Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

"After studying the evidence, searching the history, listening to the arguments and wrestling with the profound consequences, I could find no justification for granting clemency."
Williams has been supported by a star-studded list of celebrities and campaigners who say the once-feared gang leader should be spared because of his activism.

Monday, December 12, 2005

European Union Deal Secretly Let In U.S. Flights


A previously unpublished document shows that the European Union secretly agreed in 2003 to let the United States use transit facilities on European soil to transport "criminals."

The revelation supports U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's strong suggestion last week that so-called 'rendition' flights were undertaken with the approval of other governments, despite denials by European officials."

Miss Rice denied at the start of the trip that suspects were transported to be tortured but said that, in certain circumstances, "the local government can make the sovereign choice to cooperate in" the transfer of a terror suspect to a third country.

Now, newly disclosed details of confidential talks held in Athens on Jan. 22, 2003, show that EU officials agreed to give the United States access to facilities -- presumably airports. The minutes show that the war on terrorism was discussed at the meeting, but all references to the agreement were deleted from the record before it was published.

Now... Self Deleting Text Messages

Staellium UK has come up with a 'self-destruct' text messaging service, that allows for sending a message with the knowledge that the message will delete itself as soon as the recipient has read it.

This 'Mission: Impossible' style innovation, dubbed 'Stealth Text', promises to delete text within 40 seconds of being read."

Battle on beach as mob vows to defend 'Aussie way of life'

After weeks of tension, attack on two lifeguards by Lebanese youths triggers race riot
TENSIONS between young white gangs and youths of mainly Middle Eastern origin erupted on one of Australia's most popular beaches yesterday in what police condemned as a racially motivated rally driven by a mob mentality.
Thousands of people, many chanting racial slurs, were engaged in running battles on Cronulla Beach in Sydney's southern suburbs.
NI_MPU('middle');At least 13 people were hurt, including five police, and 12 were arrested during the clashes, which followed a week of mounting anger over an attack on two lifeguards who were beaten up by a gang of Lebanese youths.
Furious locals, many wielding empty beer bottles and waving Australian flags, shouted anti-Middle Eastern slogans as they marched across the sand, on which was written %u201C100 per cent Aussie pride%u201D.
One white teenager had the words %u201CWe grew up here, you flew here%u201D painted across his back. As the crowd moved along the beach and foreshore, one man on the back of a truck shouted: %u201CNo more Lebs [Lebanese]%u201D, a chant picked up by the group around him. Others carried Australian flags and dressed in Australian sports shirts.
Up to 150 police officers were drafted in to cope with the 5,000-strong crowd, many of whom roamed the beach and side streets in vigilante fashion.
Two girls of Middle Eastern appearance were pushed to the ground and pelted with bottles as police tried to rescue them.
By mid-afternoon word spread that a Lebanese gang was arriving at the nearby railway station. Some members of the mob jumped on a train where they looked for anybody of vaguely Middle Eastern appearance. They found two men whom they began to beat before police intervened with batons and formed a human chain around the station.
In a separate incident, two paramedics were injured as they tried to rescue a group of Lebanese youths who had sought sanctuary in the Cronulla Surf Lifesaving club.
The mob smashed windows and kicked at doors, while others stomped on police vehicles and parked cars. Officers fought back with pepper spray and batons, bringing a semblance of calm to the area by late afternoon.
Last night, violence flared in at least six Sydney suburbs in retaliation for the Cronulla clashes. In nearby Brighton-le-Sands, an Australian flag was reported to have been taken off a building and burnt.
The violent clashes followed weeks of rising racial tension in the beachside suburb, which is popular with thousands of Middle Eastern families from Sydney%u2019s mainly ethnic outer areas at the weekend. Locals have accused some of them, particularly visiting Lebanese youths, of being disrespectful to white women and other beachgoers.
Following the attacks on the volunteer lifeguards, a mobile telephone text campaign started, backed up by frenzied discussions on weblogs, calling on Cronulla locals to rally to protect their beach.
In response, a text campaign urged youths from western Sydney to be at Cronulla on Sunday to protect their friends. All week police and politicians had been calling for calm.
Yesterday, Islamic leaders blamed the trouble on influential talk radio hosts who had whipped up racial tensions in the wake of last weekend%u2019s attack on the lifesavers, who epitomise Australia%u2019s white traditions and Anglo-Saxon roots.">World news from The Times and the Sunday Times - Times Online: "TENSIONS between young white gangs and youths of mainly Middle Eastern origin erupted on one of Australia%u2019s most popular beaches yesterday in what police condemned as a racially motivated rally driven by a mob mentality.
Thousands of people, many chanting racial slurs, were engaged in running battles on Cronulla Beach in Sydney%u2019s southern suburbs.
NI_MPU('middle');At least 13 people were hurt, including five police, and 12 were arrested during the clashes, which followed a week of mounting anger over an attack on two lifeguards who were beaten up by a gang of Lebanese youths.
Furious locals, many wielding empty beer bottles and waving Australian flags, shouted anti-Middle Eastern slogans as they marched across the sand, on which was written %u201C100 per cent Aussie pride%u201D.
One white teenager had the words %u201CWe grew up here, you flew here%u201D painted across his back. As the crowd moved along the beach and foreshore, one man on the back of a truck shouted: %u201CNo more Lebs [Lebanese]%u201D, a chant picked up by the group around him. Others carried Australian flags and dressed in Australian sports shirts.
Up to 150 police officers were drafted in to cope with the 5,000-strong crowd, many of whom roamed the beach and side streets in vigilante fashion.
Two girls of Middle Eastern appearance were pushed to the ground and pelted with bottles as police tried to rescue them.
By mid-afternoon word spread that a Lebanese gang was arriving at the nearby railway station. Some members of the mob jumped on a train where they looked for anybody of vaguely Middle Eastern appearance. They found two men whom they began to beat before police intervened with batons and formed a human chain around the station.
In a separate incident, two paramedics were injured as they tried to rescue a group of Lebanese youths who had sought sanctuary in the Cronulla Surf Lifesaving club.
The mob smashed windows and kicked at doors, while others stomped on police vehicles and parked cars. Officers fought back with pepper spray and batons, bringing a semblance of calm to the area by late afternoon.
Last night, violence flared in at least six Sydney suburbs in retaliation for the Cronulla clashes. In nearby Brighton-le-Sands, an Australian flag was reported to have been taken off a building and burnt.
The violent clashes followed weeks of rising racial tension in the beachside suburb, which is popular with thousands of Middle Eastern families from Sydney%u2019s mainly ethnic outer areas at the weekend. Locals have accused some of them, particularly visiting Lebanese youths, of being disrespectful to white women and other beachgoers.
Following the attacks on the volunteer lifeguards, a mobile telephone text campaign started, backed up by frenzied discussions on weblogs, calling on Cronulla locals to rally to protect their beach.
In response, a text campaign urged youths from western Sydney to be at Cronulla on Sunday to protect their friends. All week police and politicians had been calling for calm.
Yesterday, Islamic leaders blamed the trouble on influential talk radio hosts who had whipped up racial tensions in the wake of last weekend%u2019s attack on the lifesavers, who epitomise Australia%u2019s white traditions and Anglo-Saxon roots."

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Chile's Bachelet takes early lead

BBC NEWS: "The woman expected to become Chile's first female leader has a strong lead in early presidential election results, the government says.
Michelle Bachelet, 54, has won nearly 45% of the vote, based on the first 12.7% counted, officials said.
If she fails to win more than 50% overall, she will face her nearest challenger in a run-off due next month.
Voters are also choosing all 120 members of the lower house of parliament and 20 out of 38 senators.
The BBC's Daniel Schweimler in Santiago says that after their long years of military rule, Chileans take their democracy seriously and turnout appears to have been high. Shopping centres and cinemas were closed. There were no sporting, cultural or public events and the sale of alcohol was forbidden."

The Consequences of Cuts

WaPo: "DAGENHAM, England -- The boy's name was Tony. But he liked to call himself 'Alfredo' just because. He baked banana bread. He daydreamed so often that his teachers worried. His mom would catch him kneeling by his bed praying, but he never talked about it. That was his secret. And his bike -- oh, did he love that bike. On Christmas morning in 2000, he hopped on it for the first time, teetered and chirped in delight, 'Whoohey!'That moment they still have. It's on home video. Tony's mom and dad don't watch it much anymore, not since July 17, 2001. That's the day Tony severely cut the tip of his right index finger on the chain of the bike. He was supposed to get stitched up. It was supposed to be routine. Except by the next morning, Tony was dead at the age of 9.
The cause of Tony Clowes's death was 'irreversible cerebral anoxia,' oxygen starvation of the brain, according to hospital records. His parents believe their son was the victim of cost cutting.The hospital where Tony was to undergo minor surgery had reused oxygen tubes designated as single-use devices, according to police, government investigators and a coroner's jury. Asleep on the pre-operating room table, Tony could not breathe because the cap of another device had accidentally lodged itself inside his oxygen tube. A nurse had found that reused tube stuffed in the back of a hospital drawer.New, the oxygen tube cost less than $2. Used, it cost the hospital pennies.Although British regulators strongly discouraged the practice, Broomfield Hospital, where Tony was treated, acknowledged then that it was reusing single-use devices against the recommendation of the devices' manufacturers. Hospital officials declined to comment for this article.Since Tony's death, Britain has cracked down on the reuse of single-use medical instruments. But the practice has flourished in other parts of the globe, driven by cash-strapped hospitals' need to find savings. While France bans the reuse of single-use devices, it has taken hold in Germany. Hospitals in China are also reusing single-use devices with little oversight. And it is becoming increasingly common in the United States, where the practice originated, and is condoned by government regulators despite periodic reports of patient injuries."

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Live Tracking of Mobile Phones Prompts Court Fights on Privacy

By MATT RICHTEL
Most Americans carry cellphones, but many may not know that government agencies can track their movements through the signals emanating from the handset.

In recent years, law enforcement officials have turned to cellular technology as a tool for easily and secretly monitoring the movements of suspects as they occur. But this kind of surveillance - which investigators have been able to conduct with easily obtained court orders - has now come under tougher legal scrutiny.

In the last four months, three federal judges have denied prosecutors the right to get cellphone tracking information from wireless companies without first showing "probable cause" to believe that a crime has been or is being committed. That is the same standard applied to requests for search warrants.

Record Drought Cripples Life Along the Amazon - New York Times

By LARRY ROHTER

Published: December 11, 2005
MANAQUIRI, Brazil - The Amazon River basin, the world's largest rain forest, is grappling with a devastating drought that in some areas is the worst since record keeping began a century ago. It has evaporated whole lagoons and kindled forest fires, killed off fish and crops, stranded boats and the villagers who travel by them, brought disease and wreaked economic havoc.
In mid-October, the governor of Amazonas State, Eduardo Braga, decreed a "state of public calamity," which remains in effect as the drought's impact on the economy, public health and food and fuel supplies deepens. But other Brazilian states have also been severely affected, as have Amazon regions in neighboring countries like Peru, Bolivia and Colombia.With hundreds of riverside settlements cut off from the outside world, the Brazilian Armed Forces have for three months mounted what officials describe as the biggest relief operation that they and civil defense agencies have carried out together. Nearly 2,000 tons of food and 30 tons of medicine have already been airlifted by plane and helicopter to affected communities just in Amazonas State, the region's largest. "There have been years before in which we've had a deficit of rainfall, but we've never experienced drops in the water levels of rivers like those we have seen in 2005," said Everaldo Souza, a meteorologist at the Amazon Protection System, a Brazilian government agency in Manaus, the nine-state region's main city. "It has truly been without precedent, and it looks like it is only going to be December or January, if then, that things return to normal.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Alleged White House Jumper Wanted Chelsea Clinton

nbc4.com: "LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- An Arkansas man who was arrested after he jumped the fence onto the White House grounds this week reportedly was after Chelsea Clinton -- not anyone from President George W. Bush's family. According to a court-ordered report from the D.C. Department of Mental Health, Shawn Cox, 29, thought Clinton still lived at the White House. He thought he was destined to marry her"

Ecuadorean woman, 116, is world's oldest person

Reuters.com: "LONDON (Reuters) - A 116-year-old Ecuadorean woman was declared the oldest person in the world on Friday, lifting the title from a U.S. woman previously thought to be the oldest person alive, Guinness World Records said.Maria Esther Capovilla was confirmed as the oldest living person after her family sent details of her birth and marriage certificates to Guinness World Records.'We only told her yesterday she was the new Guinness world record holder,' Kate White, brand manager at the records publisher told Reuters. 'We hadn't heard of her before.''She's in very good health, she's got good sight, is able to read the papers and watch television, and doesn't walk with a stick,' White added.Capovilla was born in Guayaqull in western Ecuador on September 14, 1889, and lives there today with her daughter-in-law and son.She had five children, and has four grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren."

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Rummy Exit Rumored; Lieberman Eyed for Job

The New York Daily News
Thursday 08 December 2005 Washington - White House officials are telling associates they expect Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to quit early next year, once a new government is
formed in Iraq, sources said yesterday. Rumsfeld's deputy, Gordon England, is the inside contender to replace him,
but there's also speculation that Sen. Joe Lieberman - a Democrat who ran against
Bush-Cheney in the 2000 election - might become top guy at the Pentagon.
That's not as farfetched as it might first appear."

Spanish At School Translates to Suspension

"KANSAS CITY, Kan., Dec. 8 -- Most of the time, 16-year-old Zach Rubio converses in clear, unaccented American teen-speak, a form of English in which the three most common words are "like," "whatever" and "totally." But Zach is also fluent in his dad's native language, Spanish -- and that's what got him suspended from school.
"It was, like, totally not in the classroom," the high school junior said, recalling the infraction. "We were in the, like, hall or whatever, on restroom break. This kid I know, he's like, 'Me prestas un dolar?' ['Will you lend me a dollar?'] Well, he asked in Spanish; it just seemed natural to answer that way. So I'm like, 'No problema.' "
Zach Rubio, bottom right, was suspended for two days for speaking Spanish at school. From left are his sisters Sara and Victoria, stepmother Lourdes, brother Josh and father Lorenzo. (By Carmen Cardinal -- Kansas City Kansan)
But that conversation turned out to be a big problem for the staff at the Endeavor Alternative School, a small public high school in an ethnically mixed blue-collar neighborhood. A teacher who overheard the two boys sent Zach to the office, where Principal Jennifer Watts ordered him to call his father and leave the school.
Watts, whom students describe as a disciplinarian, said she can't discuss the case. But in a written "discipline referral" explaining her decision to suspend Zach for 1 1/2 days, she noted: "This is not the first time we have [asked] Zach and others to not speak Spanish at school."
Since then, the suspension of Zach Rubio has become the talk of the town in both English and Spanish newspapers and radio shows. The school district has officially rescinded his punishment and said that speaking a foreign language is not grounds for suspension. Meanwhile, the Rubio family has retained a lawyer, who says a civil rights lawsuit may be in the offing."

Where Science and Culture Met


"The developments of the past year show that the 'accepted wisdom' on science isn't as quickly or as widely accepted as perhaps it once was — partly because of a skeptical political climate, and partly because the Internet provides wider access for dissenting views. Those societal challenges are sparking the rise of a new breed of scientists: media-savvy folk who aren't afraid to join the fray themselves."

Brothers die on the road, 15 minutes apart - U.S. Life - MSNBC.com

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Sheriff's deputy Andy McDowell was forced to live a parent's worst nightmare twice in a matter of minutes.After he was taken to the site where one of his two sons was killed in a car crash early Wednesday, McDowell was driven past another fatal accident. Only later did he learn that the fiery wreck took the life of his only other child. You take the most unimaginable hell that a parent could be told and double that, Warren County Deputy Coroner Dwayne Lawrence said."

Biker cleared after 128mph chase

BBC NEWS: "A US motorcyclist who zoomed through Nebraska at over 128mph (205kph) has been cleared of reckless driving.
Judge John Steinheider reluctantly ruled that speed alone was not enough to prove reckless driving under Nebraska law.
Biker Jacob Carman accelerated away from a traffic policeman after he was clocked at 82mph (131km/h).
But Judge Steinheider acquitted him of reckless driving, fining Mr Carman only for having out of date documents.
'As much as it pains me to do it, speed and speed alone is not sufficient to establish reckless driving,' the judge said.
State prosecutors admitted that they could have won a conviction for speeding, but had opted to pursue a charge of reckless driving."

US blocks ICRC access to suspects

BBC NEWS: "The US has admitted for the first time that it has not given the Red Cross access to all detainees in its custody.
The state department's top legal adviser, John Bellinger, made the admission but gave no details about where such prisoners were held.
Correspondents say the revelation is only likely to increase suspicion that the CIA has been operating secret prisons out of international oversight.
The issue has dogged Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's tour to Europe.
Mr Bellinger made the admission in Geneva.
He stated that the group International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had access to 'absolutely everybody' at the prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which holds suspects detained during the US war on terror.
When asked by journalists if the organisation had access to everybody held in similar circumstances elsewhere, he said: 'No'. He declined to explain further.
Until now the US administration has been careful in its language, says the BBC's state department correspondent Jonathan Beale.
It has always said that the ICRC has access to all prisoners held at US defence department facilities - leaving open the question of whether there are CIA prisons elsewhere."

WSJ.com - Too Much Information?

Colleges Fear Student Postings
On Popular 'Facebook' Site
Could Pose Security Risks
By REBECCA BUCKMAN
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
December 8, 2005
The hottest Web site on college campuses is Facebook, a group of free online communities where students can gossip about friends and interests, share photos, and flirt. It's a more in-depth, online version of the paper facebooks, filled with photos and brief biographies, which many colleges still hand out to incoming freshmen. It has become so ubiquitous that "facebooking" someone -- as in checking out their photo and personal profile online -- is standard campus lingo.
But some students post much more detailed, personal information on Facebook, including cellphone numbers, physical addresses and even racy photos. That has led some universities to question whether it poses various privacy and security risks -- including student harassment. Any backlash could give Facebook Inc. a black eye just as it is ramping up its operations, raising venture capital and hiring more staff.
I'm floored at some of the [information] students put up about themselves" on Facebook, says Lori Zientara Edgeworth, an administrator at the University of Toledo in Ohio. Ms. Edgeworth says she has seen photos posted of underage students drinking at parties. She's also handled disciplinary cases related to Facebook, most of them sparked by students who felt threatened about comments or photos posted about them or classmates online. Ms. Edgeworth is now considering some workshops on the dangers of putting too much personal information online.
Other colleges are exploring ways to limit students' exposure to Facebook. Last summer, the University of New Mexico, citing possible security breaches of the school's own computer systems, banned students from accessing Facebook from university computers. In October, the University of Virginia sent an email warning students to "use caution" when cruising sites like Facebook. The University of Missouri, meanwhile, recently formed a task force to address privacy issues linked to Facebook.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A Story To Go With That Big Mac?



Disney and McDonald's could be teaming up to offer digital entertainment with your Happy Meal. "Patents filed by Disney reveal plans to drip-feed entertainment into a portable player while the owner eats in a restaurant. You only get the full programme by coming back to the restaurant a number of times to collect all the instalments. McDonalds could use the system instead of giving out toys with Happy Meals, suggests Disney’s patent."

Court: Disabled Can't Escape Student Loans

Chicago Tribune: "WASHINGTON --
America's seniors and disabled cannot escape debts from old student loans, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday, freeing the government to pursue Social Security benefits as part of an effort to collect billions in delinquent loans. The Bush administration had argued that the ability to withhold Social Security benefits is an important tool in the pursuit of $5.7 billion in student loan debt that is over 10 years old. Overall, outstanding loans total about $33 billion. "

The Age of Y

Chicago Tribune: "Can you IM, e-mail, listen to your iPod and complete a company project at the same time?
Are you seeking meaning--not just money--at your 9-to-5?
Do you look for mentors among your more-experienced workers?
Answer yes, and you may be a member of Generation Y, which is making waves in the workplace--for better or worse.
'Generation Y wants more meaningful work and is looking for more give-and-take from their employers,' said John Challenger, CEO of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. 'They want a lot of responsibilities and also to do work that is interesting to them.'
Most researchers define Gen Y as the age group born between 1978 and 1989, making the oldest of them 27 and the youngest 16, researcher Bruce Tulgan said. Unlike previous generations, Gen Y enters the office with clear-cut goals and ambitions, according to Tulgan, who founded RainmakerThinking Inc. to study young people in the workplace.
'Generation Y's main concerns are control, timing and customization,' Tulgan said. 'They'll trade off some financial benefits for more control over where they work, who they report to and how long they work each day.'
Clear career growth, increasing responsibility and ongoing performance feedback are critical to Gen Y workers, who are accustomed to being listened to and respected by their doting parents, said Anastasia Goodstein, editor of a blog called Ypulse."

Model Accused Of Hiring Hit Man To Kill For Cheese

Today's THV KTHV Little Rock: "Police in Memphis say a woman mistook a block of white cheese for a cocaine stash and tried to hire a hit man to kill four men and steal it. Police say Jessica Sandy Booth was mistaken about the hit man, too. He was an undercover policeman. Booth is 18. She's charged with four counts of attempted murder and four more of soliciting a murder. Authorities say Booth was in the men's house recently and thought a block of queso fresco cheese was cocaine. The cheese is used in cooking. Police say Booth, who is an aspiring model, told the hit man she needed $7,900 to pay a modeling agency. The undercover officer was recording Booth's conversation and police say they have her saying any children old enough to testify would have to be killed as well. People in the home gave police permission to search it. They found only the cheese. "

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Police Baffled by Booby-Trapped Pens

Los Angeles Times: "It seemed like something out of a Looney Tunes episode, but school officials and detectives weren't laughing about the baffling case of the booby-trapped pens. Three pens have exploded over the last few months at two high schools in the El Monte Union High School District.
The pens, which were lying on the ground in various parts of the schools, detonated when people pulled off the caps. The victims suffered minor burns and scratches on their hands and faces. The latest incident occurred about 7:10 a.m. Friday at El Monte High School when a student found a marker in a boys' restroom, took off the cap and watched it explode in his hands. On Monday, students were still talking about the incident, with several saying that they were worried about their own safety. Meanwhile, detectives were chasing leads. 'There was a rumor they were coming from ice cream carts,' said Det. Gary Spencer of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's arson and explosives detail. 'We found pyrotechnics on the ice cream carts, but they didn't have any pens. None of the improvised devices could be traced back to the ice cream carts.' Spencer, a veteran of the explosives squad, said he's never seen a case quite like this. His theory is that the device was homemade, but he's not sure why someone would want to set the traps. 'I wouldn't say it's a trick %u2014 people are getting injured,' he said. 'Whether they're doing it for mischief or they intend to injure people %u2014 that's something to be determined.' Nick Salerno, an assistant superintendent for the district, said he believes the first two pens looked like 'Bic-type pens,' and El Monte High Principal Joel Kyne said the one at his school was a black felt marker. The incidents started at Rosemead High School on Aug. 24, when students were registering for school. A construction worker at the school saw the pen lying on the ground near a line of students and picked it up. He suffered minor injuries when the pen exploded. About three weeks later, a female resident of Rosemead was walking just outside the school's fence when she saw a pen lying on the ground. She pulled the cap off, and the pen exploded. The woman suffered minor burns and her skin was punctured by pieces of the pen. She was treated at a local hospital."

Pakistan deletes 'pro-Bush' poem

BBC NEWS: "Pakistan's government is to remove a poem from a school textbook after it emerged the first letters of each line spelt out 'President George W Bush'.
The anonymous poem, called The Leader, appeared in a recent English-language course book for 16 year-olds.
Critics say it praises Mr Bush. Its rhyming couplets describe someone 'solid as steel, strong in his faith'.
Officials cannot explain how the poem entered the curriculum. Pupils are being told to ignore it.
The textbook is due to be reprinted next year."

BBC NEWS | Technology | Wikipedia tightens online rules

Online encyclopaedia Wikipedia has tightened its submission rules following a complaint.
Prominent journalist John Seigenthaler described as 'false and malicious' an entry on Wikipedia implicating him in the Kennedy assassinations.
When he phoned Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia's founder, he was told there was no way of finding out who wrote the entry. Wikipedia has since removed the entry and now requires users to register before they can create articles.
But visitors to the site will still be able to edit content already posted without having to register.
The case has highlighted once again the problem of publishing information online."

Monday, December 05, 2005

Rolling Stone : The Man Who Sold the War

Meet John Rendon, Bush's general in the propaganda war
The road
to war in Iraq led through many unlikely places. One of them was a chic
hotel nestled among the strip bars and brothels that cater to foreigners in
the town of Pattaya, on the Gulf of Thailand.

On December 17th, 2001,
in a small room within the sound of the crashing tide, a CIA officer
attached metal electrodes to the ring and index fingers of a man sitting
pensively in a padded chair. The officer then stretched a black rubber tube,
pleated like an accordion, around the man's chest and another across his
abdomen. Finally, he slipped a thick cuff over the man's brachial artery, on
the inside of his upper arm.

Strapped to the polygraph machine was
Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, a forty-three-year-old Iraqi who had fled his
homeland in Kurdistan and was now determined to bring down Saddam Hussein.
For hours, as thin mechanical styluses traced black lines on rolling graph
paper, al-Haideri laid out an explosive tale. Answering yes and no to a
series of questions, he insisted repeatedly that he was a civil engineer who
had helped Saddam's men to secretly bury tons of biological, chemical and
nuclear weapons. The illegal arms, according to al-Haideri, were buried in
subterranean wells, hidden in private villas, even stashed beneath the
Saddam Hussein Hospital, the largest medical facility in Baghdad.

It
was damning stuff -- just the kind of evidence the Bush administration was
looking for. If the charges were true, they would offer the White House a
compelling reason to invade Iraq and depose Saddam. That's why the Pentagon
had flown a CIA polygraph expert to Pattaya: to question al-Haideri and
confirm, once and for all, that Saddam was secretly stockpiling weapons of
mass destruction.

There was only one problem: It was all a lie. After a
review of the sharp peaks and deep valleys on the polygraph chart, the
intelligence officer concluded that al-Haideri had made up the entire story,
apparently in the hopes of securing a visa.

The fabrication might have
ended there, the tale of another political refugee trying to scheme his way
to a better life. But just because the story wasn't true didn't mean it
couldn't be put to good use. Al-Haideri, in fact, was the product of a
clandestine operation -- part espionage, part PR campaign -- that had been
set up and funded by the CIA and the Pentagon for the express purpose of
selling the world a war. And the man who had long been in charge of the
marketing was a secretive and mysterious creature of the Washington
establishment named John Rendon."