Tuesday, February 28, 2006

US 'settles 9/11 detainee's suit'

The US government has agreed to pay $300,000 (�172,000) to settle a lawsuit brought by an Egyptian arrested after the 11 September attacks, reports say.
Ehab Elmaghraby was detained for nearly a year and deported after being cleared of links to terrorism.
He claimed his rights were violated in custody and sought damages.
The settlement, in which the government did not admit wrongdoing, is said to be the first involving claims of dozens of Muslims arrested after 9/11.
The lawsuit was filed in August 2004 by Mr Elmaghraby and a Pakistani citizen, Javaid Iqbal. The latter is still pursuing the suit."

Petition: Replace O'Reilly with Donahue | The Huffington Post

This week, Bill O'Reilly has circulated a petition asking NBC Chairman Bob Wright to replace Keith Olbermann with Phil Donahue -- out of concern for MSNBC's ratings. Oh that O'Reilly. So devilishly clever.

In response, I've started a petition calling for Roger Ailes to replace O'Reilly with Donahue out of concern for O'Reilly's growing mental instability.

Join me in signing the petition here.

'Dear Your Honor Roger Ailes,

We, the undersigned, are becoming increasingly concerned about the mental health of the host of your 8:00 PM EST show. This host has claimed:

1) San Francisco should be attacked by al-Qaeda terrorists ('homicide bombers').

2) There's a conspiracy to cancel the extremely popular Christmas holiday, even though the culture of Christmas is prevalent in America for nearly three months of every year.

3) That opponents of his show favor personal attacks and smearing, while he routinely employs the pejorative 'pinheads' to describe anyone who disagrees with him.

4) That he never used the phrase 'shut up' even though he's on-record saying that phrase dozens of times.

5) He has yet to publicly address his sexual penchant for soapy falafel sandwiches and female underlings.

6) He routinely misrepresents factual information (often called 'lying'), then claims he told the truth, but will occasionally recant and admit to flagrantly misleading his viewers.

(For more citations of your 8:00 PM EST host's growing level of dysfunction, please visit: http://mediamatters.org/issues_topics/people/billoreilly where there are approximately 400 instances of your host's mental instability.)

As a result, we recommend that you uphold your 'fair and balanced' reputation and replace your 8:00 PM EST host with popular talk show host Phil Donahue.

In a recent petition to MSNBC, your host praised Mr. Donahue's ability to draw a large audience and referred to Mr. Donahue's 'honor and dignity' -- a perfect fit for Fox News Channel as your current host obviously endorses Donahue's ability to perform in prime time. So he's a perfect replacement for your 8:00 PM EST host who clearly could use some professional psychological assistance.

We look forward to the premiere of The Donahue Factor, weeknights at 8:00 PM on Fox News Channel.

The Undersigned '"

Bush and the Truthiness Taliban | The Huffington Post

Arianna Huffington: When it comes to our desire for the truth, Americans couldn't be more conflicted.

On the one hand, we're obsessed with forensic TV shows dedicated to the search for an utterly objective, scientifically immutable truth. CSI, CSI: Miami, CSI: NY, NCIS, Cold Case, Numb3rs, Bones. When Bill Petersen or David Caruso break the facts down to the level of DNA and sub-microscopic particles, they always get their perp. Wiggle room dies a rapid death in their labs. And we love getting to the truth.

But when we turn off the TV and turn our attention to far weightier matters, we seem willing -- indeed eager -- to forget about the facts and throw our arms around truthiness.

As Stephen Colbert, the godfather of truthiness puts it: 'I'm not a fan of facts. You see, facts can change, but my opinion will never change, no matter what the facts are.' Or, as the Colbert Report's mocking caption writer summed it up: 'Heart good, head bad.'

Of course, while Colbert uses the concept of truthiness to satirize our collective embrace of what we wish were true -- even when it's not, George Bush, Karl Rove, and the spinmeisters of the GOP message machine use it as their primary mode of communication.

Trust us. It's true because we say it is. What are you going to believe, your eyes or our soundbytes?

It's how they sold us the invasion of Iraq (Saddam-unleashed mushroom clouds could be the logo for the Truthiness Society). And it's how they are trying to sell us the consequences of that invasion as something other than an unmitigated disaster.

You'd think that only a satirist would try to spin the horrors of the last week in Iraq as a sign of progress. But it wasn't Colbert who surveyed the bloody sectarian violence pushing Iraq to the precipice of all-out civil war and declared that the bombing of the Golden Mosque would 'likely' turn out to have been a good thing. It was Rove.

And it wasn't the irreverent caption writer of Colbert's 'The Word' who put up chyrons asking ''Upside' to Civil War?' and 'All-Out Civil War in Iraq: Could it Be a Good Thing?'. It was Fox News.

And it was George Bush, the walking, talking, swaggering, shoot-from-the-gut embodiment of truthiness, who went in front of the American Legion -- as the death toll in Iraq was hitting 130 in the previous 48 hours -- and said, 'I'm optimistic... Out of negotiations now taking place in Iraq, a free government will emerge that will represent the will of the Iraqi people, instead of a cruel dictator, and that will help us keep the peace.'

Jesus may be the president's favorite philosopher, but when it comes to spinning the facts, Bush seems to be asking himself WWCS? (What Would Colbert Say?). The truthiness will set you fre"

Monday, February 27, 2006

Laugh, and the Voters Laugh With You, or at Least at You

New York Times: "REPRESENTATIVE JAMES P. MORAN, Democrat of Virginia, does not have the kind of record most lawmakers would herald on national television. He has offended Jews with impolitic remarks and made news for scuffling with his wife a day before she filed for divorce. A former boxer, he threatened to slug one House colleague, and has thrown a punch at another. So what in the world possessed him to appear on 'The Colbert Report,' the late-night Comedy Central show, and allow himself to be goaded into taking a swing at the host, Stephen Colbert? 'Because,' Mr. Moran explained, 'a little self-deprecation on the part of a politician is priceless.'Self-deprecation is often in short supply in Washington. But Mr. Colbert, playing the deadpan reporter in his 'Better Know a District' segments, is injecting a new levity into politics. Tongue firmly in cheek, he is on a quest to interview - or lampoon - all 434 members of the House. (The man who held the 435th seat, the disgraced California Republican Randy Cunningham, 'is dead to me,' Mr. Colbert declared.) So Mr. Colbert is creating a litany of fools on the Hill. He drew Jack Kingston, a Georgia Republican and seemingly boring white guy who once lived in Ethiopia, into a discussion of his 'African-American experience.' He tweaked Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, for proposing $300 million to stop school bullying: 'Was that bill your idea, or did somebody bigger put you up to it?' He asked the Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank, who is gay, about his wife. Mr. Frank was not amused. 'Two Stooges short of a good routine,' he complained.It might sound like just another silly comedy shtick, and Mr. Colbert, whose show is a spinoff of 'The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,' insists he is only trying to make himself 'look like an idiot.' Yet his work has a strain of anthropology. As he assembles a dupes' gallery, Mr. Colbert is showing a national audience what veteran Congress-watchers already know: the members are painfully, embarrassingly human. It is called the People's House for a reason."

Sunday, February 26, 2006

US leader crashed by trying to 'pedal, wave and speak at same time'

Scotsman.com News - US leader crashed by trying to 'pedal, wave and speak at same time': "HE MAY be the most powerful man in the world, but proof has emerged that President George Bush cannot ride a bike, wave and speak at the same time.
Scotland on Sunday has obtained remarkable details of one of the most memorably bizarre episodes of the Bush presidency: the day he crashed into a Scottish police constable while cycling in the grounds of Gleneagles Hotel.
The incident, which will do little to improve Bush's accident-prone reputation, began when he took to two wheels for a spot of early-evening exercise during last year's G8 summit at the Perthshire resort.
After a hard day's discussion with fellow world leaders, the president was looking for some relaxation. Instead, he ended up the subject of a police report in which the leader of the free world was described, in classic police language, as a 'moving/falling object'.
It was 'about 1800 hours on Wednesday, 6 July, 2005' that a detachment of Strathclyde police constables, in 'Level 2 public order dress [anti-riot gear],' formed a protective line at the gate at the hotel's rear entrance, in case demonstrators penetrated the biggest-ever security operation on Scottish soil.
The official police incident report states: '[The unit] was requested to cover the road junction on the Auchterarder to Braco Road as the President of the USA, George Bush, was cycling through.' The report goes on: '[At] about 1800 hours the President approached the junction at speed on the bicycle. The road was damp at the time. As the President passed the junction at speed he raised his left arm from the handlebars to wave to the police officers present while shouting 'thanks, you guys, for coming'.
'As he did this he lost control of the cycle, falling to the ground, causing both himself and his bicycle to strike [the officer] on the lower legs. [The officer] fell to the ground, striking his head. The President continued along the ground for approximately five metres, causing himself a number of abrasions. The officers... then assisted both injured parties.'"

Diana driver was secret informer - Sunday Times - Times Online

THE chauffeur of the car in which Diana, Princess of Wales died was working for the French secret service, the British team reinvestigating her death has been told.
The inquiry -headed by Lord Stevens, the former Metropolitan police commissioner - into the Paris car crash that killed Diana is now trying to obtain the chauffeur's files from French intelligence but is being delayed by the reluctance of the authorities to hand them over."

Bloggy, we hardly knew ye

No sooner had Al Gore invented the Internet than early adopters discovered a liberating opportunity: Anybody with a modem and an ego could share his or her thoughts with the world.

Remember what happened next? By the mid-1990s, a few self-publishers were sharing with tiny audiences links to Web sites they found interesting. In time, these hardy pioneers began adding commentaries--often insightful, usually irreverent--to their lists of links. In short, smart people were posting virtual logs of their interests and thoughts. In December 1997, the term "Web log" surfaced. In short order, we had the inevitable contraction: "blog."

After that, the deluge. Today there are 20 million blogs worldwide, a number that grows by thousands daily. The ones that matter most, of course, have gobs of readers--with enough eyeballs to attract investors and advertisers.

But will everyone live happily ever after?

You're forgiven if you cling to the conventional wisdom that blogging, like half-pipe snowboarding, enjoys an unrelievedly rich future. Forgiven, but maybe behind the curve. A new report from Gallup pollsters, "Blog Readership Bogged Down," cautions that "the growth in the number of U.S. blog readers was somewhere between nil and negative in the past year."

H&R Block Fumbles on Its Own Tax Return - New York Times

Would you trust someone to do your taxes who can't even do his own?

That in a nutshell, is the marketing problem that H & R Block now faces. Its shares fell $2.18, to $23.01, yesterday after it reported disappointing quarterly earnings and a slow start to this year's tax filing season.But the real damage was caused by its second restatement of earnings stemming from problems with computing the state income taxes it should report on its earnings statement. It said it would restate its profits for the years ended April 2004 and 2005, and would have to restate profit reports for previous quarters in the current fiscal year.'From the looks of it, H & R Block has crossed over into the Bizarro universe, where up is down, back is forward, and black is white,' said Jack Ciesielski of Analysts Accounting Observer. 'As even a fourth-grade comics reader knows, Block is in the business of helping people with their taxes, yet in the Bizarro universe, they can't get their own taxes right.'In June, he noted, Block announced that it was restating its financials for 2003 and 2004, partly because of income tax accounting errors.While it may not be as embarrassing for most companies, Block's plight is hardly unique. Speaking to the Tax Council Policy Institute this month, Chris Cox, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, said that of the companies that have reported problems with internal controls, a third had cited tax issues. That was the second most frequently cited issue, trailing only revenue recognition as a source of control problems."

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Ohno solid gold in 500, finishes with 3 medals - Speedskating, short track - MSNBC.com

TURIN, Italy - Apolo Anton Ohno made this another Olympics to remember at the short track.Leading from start to finish, Ohno upset favored South Korean Ahn Hyun-soo to win gold in the 500 meters Saturday. And before the final night was done, he skated to his third medal of these Winter Games.With a burst at the end, Ohno passed an Italian skater to grab bronze for the Americans in the 5,000 relay.
So much for being a bust. For the second Olympics in a row, Ohno is a star.After two false starts by other skaters in the 500, Ohno anticipated the gun perfectly and broke away from the line clear of the other four finalists. He led the entire way and didnt have to worry about Ahn, who got caught up behind two Canadians, Francois-Louis Tremblay and Eric Bedard.Ohno looked back once, threw up his arms and let out a scream when he crossed the line first. He jumped into the arms of a U.S. coach and grabbed an American flag for the victory lap.Showing there were no hard feelings from Salt Lake City, Ahn came over to shake Ohno%u2019s hand in the middle of the rink."

Mancuso Storms To Skiing Gold

SESTRIERE, Italy, Feb. 24 -- Hooked on the drama of Olympic figure skating, Julia Mancuso couldn't tear herself away from Thursday night's broadcast of the ladies' final, even though her last race of the 2006 Games, Alpine skiing's giant slalom, was due to start at 9:30 a.m. the next day. She couldn't find the sister who had promised to cook her dinner, either, so Mancuso munched on a Pop-Tart and made do with leftover pasta.Not enough sleep and too many empty carbohydrates hardly sounds like the recipe for an Olympic medal. But Mancuso, 21, a breezy Californian who occasionally competes with a tiara on her head, struck gold nonetheless Friday by flinging herself fearlessly down a fog-shrouded, twisty, ice-packed course that sent more accomplished skiers careening into fences and slamming their poles in frustration.Mancuso completed the two required runs amid a snowstorm in 2 minutes 9.19 seconds -- more than half a second ahead of Finland's Tanja Poutiainen, who took silver, and more than a second ahead of bronze medalist Anna Ottosson of Sweden.In claiming the unexpected gold, Mancuso did her part to salvage what had been a calamitous Olympics for the much-ballyhooed U.S. ski team, which arrived here touting a goal of winning eight medals -- four times as many as the squad won at the 2002 Salt Lake Games.With eight of 10 Alpine events completed entering Friday's race, U.S. skiers had won just one medal -- gold in the men's combined, delivered by 21-year-old Ted Ligety, who, like Mancuso, had never won an international event. On Friday, Mancuso single-handedly doubled the team's medal tally and snapped an Olympic Alpine medal drought by U.S. women that dated from 1998, when Picabo Street won gold in the Super-G in Nagano, Japan.With her boyfriend, U.S. downhill skier Steven Nyman, having left Italy days earlier, Mancuso thrust her arms into the air when her winning time was posted, fell back in the snow and, after stepping out of her bindings, planted a kiss on one of her skis."

Friday, February 24, 2006

Another case where the White House leaked national security info. for political gains

That's the story Murray Waas has uncovered. Senator Rockefeller is making that claim in a letter to the White House (Think Progress has a pdf of the letter). Rockefeller points the finger at the Bush Administration officials for leaking national secrets to further their own political agenda : Given the Administrations continuing abuse of intelligence information for political purposes, its criticism of leaks is extraordinarily hypocritical. Preventing damage to intelligence sources and methods from media leaks will not be possible until the highest level of the Administration cease to disclose classified information on a selective basis for political purposes.At the center of the controversy is Bob Woodward who, you will recall, did not think the Plame leak was a big deal even though we all belatedly learned he had a central role in that scandal. This all starts to make sense once you read the post on Murray Waas' blog, www.whateveralready.blogspot.com: Did the leaks to Woodward damage national security? Michael Scheuer, the CIAs former head of the CIAs Bin Laden Unit, wrote in his book Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror: CAfter reading Mr. Woodwards Bush at War, it seems to me that the U.S. officials who either approved or participated in passing the information in documents and via interviews that is the heart of Mr. Woodwards book gave an untold measure of aid and comfort to the enemy."

NBC's Williams and Gregory failed to report the significance of Dubai Ports World's government ownership

In reporting on the United Arab Emirates (UAE) ports controversy, NBC's Brian Williams failed to inform viewers that Dubai Ports World is owned by the government of Dubai, a member of the UAE. NBC's David Gregory later indicated that the company is state-owned but entirely ignored the significance of this. In doing so, they obscured the source of the controversy surrounding the Bush administration's approval of a deal to grant the company control of six U.S. ports.
In his introduction to a February 22 report on the ports controversy, NBC's Nightly News anchor Brian Williams described Dubai Ports World (DPW) as 'a company from the United Arab Emirates' (UAE). But in leaving out the key fact that DPW is owned by the government of Dubai, a member state of the UAE -- rather than simply based in the UAE -- Williams obscured the source of the controversy surrounding the Bush administration's approval of a deal that would grant the company control of six U.S. ports. Indeed, critics of the deal have noted that because the company is state-owned, the law requires the administration to conduct a more thorough investigation of the sale than the review that was carried out.
In his subsequent report, NBC News chief White House correspondent David Gregory indicated that 'a country with terror links' would manage the ports, and not merely a company, but at no point noted the legal significance of this. Moreover, he reported a claim advanced by administration officials that critics of the deal 'were unfairly discriminating against a Middle Eastern country, given that the ports were previously run by a British company.' But Gregory failed to note that this argument conflates the two companies, ignoring a key distinction -- the prior owner was not controlled by a foreign government, British or otherwise.
Further, CNN reporters and anchors continued to refer to DPW as 'Arab-controlled' and 'Dubai-based,' without noting that it is owned by the government of a foreign nation."

Illinois Governor Confused by 'Daily Show' Interview

ST. LOUIS (Feb. 24) - Gov. Rod Blagojevich wasn't in on the joke. Blagojevich says he didn't realize 'The Daily Show' was a comedy spoof of the news when he sat down for an interview that ended up poking fun at the sometimes-puzzled Democratic governor.
'It was going to be an interview on contraceptives ... that's all I knew about it,' Blagojevich laughingly told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in a story for Thursday's editions. 'I had no idea I was going to be asked if I was 'the gay governor.''
The interview focused on his executive order requiring pharmacies to fill prescriptions for emergency birth control.
Interviewer Jason Jones pretended to stumble over Blagojevich's name before calling him 'Governor Smith.' He urged Blagojevich to explain the contraception issue by playing the role of 'a hot 17-year-old' and later asked if he was 'the gay governor.'
At one point in the interview, a startled Blagojevich looked to someone off camera and said, 'Is he teasing me, or is that legit?'
The segment, which aired two weeks ago, also featured Illinois Republican Rep. Ron Stephens, a pharmacist who opposes the governor's rule. Stephens has said he knew the show was a comedy.
'I thought the governor was hip enough that he would have known that, too,' Stephens said."

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Libby wants charges thrown out - Politics - MSNBC.com

WASHINGTON - Lawyers for Vice President Cheney's former top aide asked a federal judge Thursday to dismiss his indictment because the special prosecutor in the CIA leak case lacked authority to bring the charges.In a court filing, lawyers for I. Lewis Scooter Libby said his indictment violates the Constitution because Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald was not appointed by the president with the consent of the Senate.The defense attorneys also said Fitzgeralds appointment violates federal law because his investigation was not supervised by the attorney general. They said only Congress can approve such an arrangement."

FFor some, a new water worry

Chicago Tribune: "Wilmington, aware the water in its deep wells contained radium, a naturally occurring carcinogen but at levels above federal limits, in 1990 decided to quit drawing from them and tap into the Kankakee River. Officials did not know the river often contained another potentially harmful substance, radioactive tritium, at levels up to 100 times higher than natural--albeit in amounts deemed safe by the government. The tritium was a byproduct of nuclear power generation at an Exelon Corp. plant a few miles upstream. It came from legal, regulated emissions at the Braidwood Generating Station. Federal, state and Exelon Nuclear officials said the tritium poses no health threat to about 6,000 people in Wilmington and an unincorporated subdivision that taps into the city's public water supply. 'Personally, I would not let my kids drink that water,' countered Kathleen Burns, who holds a doctorate in public health and once did consulting work for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 'It's an unnecessary risk.' Will County Board member Deborah Rozak, who represents Wilmington, said she was unaware tritium often entered the city's water supply, and several residents interviewed Wednesday said they did not know either."

Why Doctors So Often Get It Wrong

New York Times: "ON a weekend day a few years ago, the parents of a 4-year-old boy from rural Georgia brought him to a children's hospital here in north Atlanta. The family had already been through a lot. Their son had been sick for months, with fevers that just would not go away. The doctors on weekend duty ordered blood tests, which showed that the boy had leukemia. There were a few things about his condition that didn't add up, like the light brown spots on the skin, but the doctors still scheduled a strong course of chemotherapy to start on Monday afternoon. Time, after all, was their enemy. John Bergsagel, a soft-spoken senior oncologist, remembers arriving at the hospital on Monday morning and having a pile of other cases to get through. He was also bothered by the skin spots, but he agreed that the blood test was clear enough. The boy had leukemia. 'Once you start down one of these clinical pathways,' Dr. Bergsagel said, 'it's very hard to step off.' What the doctors didn't know was that the boy had a rare form of the disease that chemotherapy does not cure. It makes the symptoms go away for a month or so, but then they return. Worst of all, each round of chemotherapy would bring a serious risk of death, since he was already so weak. With all the tools available to modern medicine %u2014 the blood tests and M.R.I.'s and endoscopes %u2014 you might think that misdiagnosis has become a rare thing. But you would be wrong. Studies of autopsies have shown that doctors seriously misdiagnose fatal illnesses about 20 percent of the time. So millions of patients are being treated for the wrong disease. As shocking as that is, the more astonishing fact may be that the rate has not really changed since the 1930's. 'No improvement!' was how an article in the normally exclamation-free Journal of the American Medical Association summarized the situation. This is the richest country in the world %u2014 one where one-seventh of the economy is devoted to health care %u2014 and yet misdiagnosis is killing thousands of Americans every year."

Woodward warns of secrecy trend

San Antonio Express-News: "The greatest threat to America's democracy is not terrorism but governmental secrecy, said Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bob Woodward, whose reporting 35 years ago pierced the veil of secrecy behind Richard Nixon's presidency.
Although a massive, coordinated attack on the country, making 9-11 look like a 'footnote,' is still possible, the nation faces a greater threat from the federal government's current secrecy drive, Woodward told an audience in San Antonio on Tuesday.
'Democracies die in darkness,' Woodward told the 500-person crowd of mostly business and community leaders as part of Trinity University's policy maker breakfast series, a 25-year tradition. The Bush administration, which gave Woodward remarkable access for his two books on the administration's war on terror, 'Bush At War,' in 2002 and 'Plan of Attack,' in 2004, has cloaked its decision-making in 'an immense amount of secrecy,' he said, 'too much, in my view.'
The administration says it needs to work in secret because of the nature of the Iraqi war and the surprise tactics terrorists rely on.
He also faulted a round-the-clock news cycle that emphasizes speed over accuracy and demands that journalists not just report but predict the future."

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Eight Neb. Co-Workers Share $365M Jackpot

Yahoo! News: "LINCOLN, Neb. - Eight workers at a Nebraska meatpacking plant are really bringing home the bacon now: They stepped forward Wednesday to claim the biggest lottery jackpot in U.S. history %u2014 $365 million.
The seven men and one woman bought the winning Powerball ticket at a convenience store near the ConAgra ham processing plant where they worked. At least three of the winners are immigrants %u2014 two from Vietnam and one from the Congo.
'This is great country!' said Quang Dao, 56, who came to the United States in 1988. He still has family in Vietnam and said he plans to help them financially with his winnings."

Media Matters - O'Reilly: U.S. should leave Iraq "as fast as humanly possible" because "there are so many nuts in the country"

O'Reilly: U.S. should leave Iraq 'as fast as humanly possible' because 'there are so many nuts in the country'

Summary: Bill O'Reilly suggested that the United States 'hand over everything to the Iraqis as fast as humanly possible' because '[t]here are so many nuts in the country -- so many crazies -- that we can't control them.' O'Reilly has previously called those advocating immediate withdrawal from Iraq 'pinheads' and compared them to Hitler appeasers.

During the February 20 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Bill O'Reilly suggested that the United States 'hand over everything to the Iraqis as fast as humanly possible' because '[t]here are so many nuts in the country -- so many crazies -- that we can't control them.' O'Reilly then claimed that the 'big mistake' was actually 'the crazy-people underestimation.'

As Media Matters for America has documented, during a November 30, 2005, appearance on NBC's Today, O'Reilly called those advocating immediate withdrawal from Iraq 'pinheads' and compared them to Hitler appeasers.

O'Reilly's comments followed his mention of a report regarding Karbala, a province in the Shiite-controlled Iraqi south. O'Reilly falsely claimed that 'the mayor of Karbala ... has banned any further government dealings with the American military in his province.' In fact, according to a February 20 Associated Press report, the Karbala governing council suspended contact with U.S. forces 'until U.S. forces apologize' for their behavior during a recent visit to the governor's office. The Karbala provincial spokesman complained that 'U.S. soldiers brought dogs inside the [governor's office] building,' which was 'considered an insult by the council,' and 'blocked roads leading to the governor's office, preventing council members and the governor from parking cars outside the building.' While the AP reported the Karbala spokesman's specific complaints, O'Reilly characterized the complaints as 'the mayor of Karbala' alleging that U.S. soldiers were 'not behaving well.'"

Bush unaware of port deal until after approval

BREAKING NEWSUpdated: 11:36 a.m. ET Feb. 22, 2006WASHINGTON - President Bush was unaware of the pending sale of shipping operations at six major U.S. seaports to a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates until the deal already had been approved by his administration, the White House said Wednesday. Defending the deal anew, the administration also said that it should have briefed Congress sooner about the transaction, which has triggered a major political backlash among both Republicans and Democrats. Bush on Tuesday brushed aside objections by leaders in the Senate and House that the $6.8 billion sale could raise risks of terrorism at American ports. In a forceful defense of his administration%u2019s earlier approval of the deal, he pledged to veto any bill Congress might approve to block the agreement."

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Report probes US custody deaths

BBC NEWS | Americas: "Almost 100 prisoners have died in US custody in Iraq and Afghanistan since August 2002, according to US group Human Rights First.
The details were first aired on BBC television's Newsnight programme.
Of the 98 deaths, at least 34 were suspected or confirmed homicides, the programme said.
The Pentagon told Newsnight it had not seen the report but took allegations of maltreatment 'very seriously' and would prosecute if necessary.
The report, which is to be published on Wednesday, draws on information from Pentagon and other official US sources."

Bush threatens veto in ports row

BBC NEWS: "US President George W Bush says he will veto any law blocking a deal giving an Arab company control of six US ports.
The threat came as Bill Frist, leader of the Republican Party in the Senate, said he would move a blocking law if the government did not delay the deal.
The deal would put six of the largest ports in the hands of Dubai Ports World of the United Arab Emirates.
Some lawmakers say the US will be more vulnerable to terrorism but officials say safeguards are in place.
The ports are currently run by British ports and shipping firm P&O, which has agreed a $6.8bn (�3.9bn) takeover by DP World.
The other ports are Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Orleans and Miami.
President Bush called on opponents to explain why they opposed a Middle Eastern firm taking over when they did not oppose a British company being in control."

Which Cut Is Older? (It's a Trick Question)

New York Times: "If some of the meat in supermarkets is looking rosier than it used to, the reason is that a growing number of markets are selling it in airtight packages treated with a touch of carbon monoxide to help the product stay red for weeks.
This form of 'modified atmosphere packaging,' a technique in which other gases replace oxygen, has become more widely used as supermarkets eliminate their butchers and buy precut, 'case-ready' meat from processing plants. The reason for its popularity in the industry is clear. One study, conducted at Oklahoma State University for the Cattlemen's Beef Board in 2003, said retailers lost at least $1 billion a year as meat turned brown from exposure to oxygen, because, though it might still be fairly fresh and perfectly safe, consumers simply judged meat's freshness by its color.The carbon monoxide is itself harmless at the levels being used in the treated packaging. But opponents say that the process, which is also used to keep tuna rosy, allows stores to sell meat that is no longer fresh, and that consumers would not know until they opened the package at home and smelled it. Labels do not note whether meat has been laced with carbon monoxide."

"In a firsthand look at the treated meat, a package of a conventionally wrapped rib steak and one with the carbon monoxide were both red when bought on Feb. 3 near Washington. They were then kept refrigerated. By Feb. 16, when they were photographed for the pictures that appear with this article, the conventional meat was brown, but the treated meat was still rosy. And as of yesterday, other treated meat bought at the same time was still red despite having been left unrefrigerated on a kitchen counter since Feb. 14."

To: Professor@University.edu Subject: Why It's All About Me

New York Times: "One student skipped class and then sent the professor an e-mail message asking for copies of her teaching notes. Another did not like her grade, and wrote a petulant message to the professor. Another explained that she was late for a Monday class because she was recovering from drinking too much at a wild weekend party.
Jennifer Schultens, an associate professor of mathematics at the University of California, Davis, received this e-mail message last September from a student in her calculus course: 'Should I buy a binder or a subject notebook? Since I'm a freshman, I'm not sure how to shop for school supplies. Would you let me know your recommendations? Thank you!'At colleges and universities nationwide, e-mail has made professors much more approachable. But many say it has made them too accessible, erasing boundaries that traditionally kept students at a healthy distance. These days, they say, students seem to view them as available around the clock, sending a steady stream of e-mail messages %u2014 from 10 a week to 10 after every class %u2014 that are too informal or downright inappropriate."

Second Apple worm targeting Macs found: experts

Reuters.com: "SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A new computer worm targeting Apple Computer Inc.'s Macintosh computers has been identified for the second time in one week, security experts said.The new worm, called OSX.Inqtana.A, spreads through a vulnerability in Apple's OS X operating system via Bluetooth wireless connections, antivirus company Symantec said.'We have speculated that attackers would turn their attention to other platforms, and two back-to-back examples of malicious code targeting Macintosh OS X ... illustrate this emerging trend,' said Vincent Weafer, senior director at Symantec Security Response."

UAE Would Also Control Shipments of Military Equipment For The U.S. Army

There is bipartisan concern about the Bush administrations decision to outsource the operation of six of the nation%us largest ports to a company controlled by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) because of that nations troubling ties to international terrorism. The sale of P&O to Dubai World Ports would give the state-owned company control of the ports of New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.
A major part of the story, however, has been mostly overlooked. The company, Dubai Ports World, would also control the movement of military equipment on behalf of the U.S. Army through two other ports. From today%u2019s edition of the British paper Lloyds List:
[P&O] has just renewed a contract with the United States Surface Deployment and Distribution Command to provide stevedoring [loading and unloading] of military equipment at the Texan ports of Beaumont and Corpus Christi through 2010.
According to the journal Army Logistician Almost 40 percent of the Army cargo deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom flows through these two ports.
Thus, the sale would give a country that has been a key transfer point for illegal shipments of nuclear components to Iran, North Korea and Lybia"

24-pack regular Pepsi cans recalled

Chicago Tribune: "Jewel-Osco announced a recall of 24-pack regular Pepsi cans after more than a dozen customers complained Monday of a 'chlorinelike' smell coming from inside them.
The recall applies to all stores in the Chicago area, although all the concerned cans were bought at one undisclosed store, said Lauri Sanders, a Jewel-Osco spokeswoman.
'We're not saying which store it is' in the Chicago area, she said.
But 'if a customer has any concerns about a Jewel product, they can get a refund or exchange for the recalled product,' she said.
The recall does not affect any Pepsi product except the 24-pack of regular Pepsi."

Monday, February 20, 2006

Teflon concerns may stick

Chicago Tribune: "Panmakers worry cancer questions will eat into sales
By Jerry Hirsch
Tribune Newspapers: Los Angeles Times
Published February 20, 2006

For home cooks and professional chefs, Teflon might be the best kitchen innovation since sliced bread became a cliche. A pan with the non-stick coating makes easy-to-lift omelets and cleans up like a dream. The concept of a cooking surface so smooth that nothing sticks even leapt into the political lexicon. A U.S. leader who weathered scandal and criticism became known as the Teflon president. Now, something finally seems to be sticking to Teflon--a nasty environmental tempest that has maker DuPont Co. and cookware companies worried that garage sales in the coming weeks will be stuffed with discarded non-stick pots and pans. Home chefs have questioned the safety of non-stick cookware since an Environmental Protection Agency advisory board asked regulators in late January to examine whether a chemical that gets slippery Teflon and similar coatings to bond to a pan can cause cancer. About 70 percent of the cookware sold in the U.S. has a non-stick coating, according to the Cookware Manufacturers Association."

U.S. church alliance denounces Iraq war

"PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil -- A coalition of American churches sharply denounced the U.S.-led war in Iraq on Saturday, accusing Washington of 'raining down terror' and apologizing to other nations for 'the violence, degradation and poverty our nation has sown.'
The statement, issued at the largest gathering of Christian churches in nearly a decade, also warned the United States was pushing the world toward environmental catastrophe with a 'culture of consumption' and its refusal to back international accords seeking to battle global warming.
'We lament with special anguish the war in Iraq, launched in deception and violating global norms of justice and human rights,' said the statement from representatives of the 34 U.S. members of World Council of Churches. 'We mourn all who have died or been injured in this war. We acknowledge with shame abuses carried out in our name.'
The World Council of Churches includes more than 350 mainstream Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox churches; the Roman Catholic Church is not a member. The U.S. groups in the WCC include the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist Church, several Orthodox churches and Baptist denominations, among others."

Nuclear plant declares, lifts emergency

SENECA, Ill. (AP) - Operators at a nuclear plant declared an emergency for several hours early Monday when instruments indicated a problem during a planned shutdown, but no damage was done, officials said.There were no injuries, no radiation released and no equipment damaged at the LaSalle Generating Station in LaSalle County, officials said. The plant, which is owned by Chicago-based Exelon Corp., is about 55 miles southwest of Chicago.The nature of the incident - a control rod not going into the reactor - automatically triggered the declaration of a 'site area emergency,' but 'it never really progressed into being a danger,' said Patti Thompson, spokeswoman for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.A site area emergency is the second-highest of the four categories in the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission's emergency response system. Emergency operations centers were activated in LaSalle and Grundy counties, Thompson said.The plant was scheduled to shut down early Monday for a refueling outage, but it did not shut down properly, officials said.Company officials said instruments showed three of the 185 control rods failed to insert fully into the reactor core and operators declared a 'site area emergency' at 12:28 a.m.Operators reset the control rod position indication system and then found one rod was out of position, company officials said.The investigation by Exelon Nuclear officials and NRC officials was continuing."

Sunday, February 19, 2006

On Great Lakes, Winter Is Served Straight Up - New York Times

PUT-IN-BAY, Ohio %u2014 Two years ago, Sophia Schroeder had the best birthday of her life. She stood on frozen Lake Erie near this town on South Bass Island and ate ice cream. Her father dragged her sled across the ice behind his snowmobile.
Later they ate birthday cake around a huge bonfire built right on the ice. 'That was my favorite birthday party ever,' said Sophia, now 7. This year, Sophia spent her birthday inside, playing video games with friends. 'It's really boring here without ice,' she said. For the first time that anyone in Put-in-Bay could remember, the Great Lakes were ice-free in the middle of winter. Even Lake Erie, the shallowest of the five lakes and usually the first to freeze over, was clear. 'There's essentially no ice at all,' said George Leshkevich, a scientist who has studied Great Lakes ice for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, since 1973. 'I've never seen that.'The unusually warm weather has upset the routine for hundreds of people who live year-round on islands in Lake Erie. On summer weekends, 14,000 tourists turn South Bass, the largest island on the American side of Lake Erie, into a teeming resort. 'You either make your money in the summer or you don't make it at all,' said Tip Niese, owner of the grocery store in Put-in-Bay, the only town on the island. The first ice usually forms in late November, and by January it locks into place. For islanders, it is the equivalent of summer"

Cell Phone Area Codes

New York Times: "JAY works in communications for a Washington think tank, but if you want to give him a ring, try Boston. Samantha studies international relations in Dupont Circle, but you'll have to call San Francisco to find her. Michele has been a congressional aide on Capitol Hill for nearly four years, but ask for her number, and you'll be calling Starkville, Miss. In a city known for its revolving door of young professionals, graduate students and eager-eyed Hill staffers, many a mobile phone number proves that home is where the cell is.Like a rear-windshield decal or an old college T-shirt, a cellphone number has become as much a part of an identity as a Social Security number. It represents a hometown, a college or a first job, and such memories are not casually thrown aside for a few good years with a 202 romance. For these area-code clingers, those 10 little digits provide a constant in the face of changing locations and uncertain futures. And, hey, it's great small talk.'It's totally like a networking thing,' said Ashley Kizler, 23, a native of Richmond, Va. A forensic psychology graduate student with a cheerleader's spunk, Ms. Kizler is a bit of a social butterfly, not to mention an ardent champion of the prefix 804.'You find someone else who has an 804 area code, and you're, like: 'Hey! What's going on! Richmond? Yeah!' ' Ms. Kizler howled in a show of hometown pride.Jay Heidbrink, 27, sees a person's cellphone number as a standout feature in a city where people are usually identified by what they do and where they work. 'You meet a lot of new people in D.C., and so you hand out your number a lot,' Mr. Heidbrink said. 'When it's not a 202 number they say: 'What area code is that? Where'd you go to school?' '"

Dreams Deferred

New York Times: "BED is a medicine,' instructs an Italian proverb. Increasingly, Americans are inverting that counsel by ingesting sleeping pills to speed their slumber. With complaints of insomnia mounting, and marketing by drug companies becoming ever more ubiquitous, we are turning in increasing numbers to drugs like Ambien and Lunesta. According to a recent report from the research company IMS Health, pharmacists in the United States filled some 42 million prescriptions for sleeping pills last year, a rise of nearly 60 percent since 2000. Are we running too quickly to the medicine cabinet? Or is insomnia genuinely reaching epidemic proportions, a consequence perhaps of the frenetic pace of modern life? In all likelihood, we have never slept so soundly. Yes, the length of a single night's sleep has decreased over the years (upward of 30 percent of adults average six or fewer hours), but the quality of our sleep has improved significantly. And quality, not quantity, sleep researchers tell us, is more important to feeling well rested. This is not to minimize the torment of insomnia over the course of a restless night. But for most of us, slumber is reasonably tranquil %u2014 especially when compared with what passed for a night's rest before the modern era. Despite nostalgic notions about sleep in past centuries, threats to peaceful slumber lurked everywhere, from lice and noxious chamber pots to tempestuous weather. Worst in this pre-penicillin age was sickness, especially such respiratory tract illnesses as influenza, pulmonary tuberculosis and asthma, all aggravated by bedding rife with mites. One 18th-century diarist recounts that asthma forced her husband to sleep in a chair for months, with 'watchers' required to hold his head upright. Among the laboring poor, whose living conditions were horrendous, sleep deprivation was probably chronic, prompting many to nap at midday, much to the annoyance of their masters.
As if these maladies were not enough, we now also know that pre-industrial families commonly experienced a 'broken' pattern of sleep, though few contemporaries regarded it in a pejorative light. Until the modern age, most households had two distinct intervals of slumber, known as 'first' and 'second' sleep, bridged by an hour or more of quiet wakefulness. Usually, people would retire between 9 and 10 o'clock only to stir past midnight to smoke a pipe, brew a tub of ale or even converse with a neighbor."

Daley wants security cameras at bars

CHICAGO — Surveillance cameras — aimed at government buildings, train platforms and intersections here — might soon be required at corner taverns and swanky nightclubs.

Mayor Richard Daley wants to require bars open until 4 a.m. to install security cameras that can identify people entering and leaving the building. Other businesses open longer than 12 hours a day, including convenience stores, eventually would have to do the same.

Daley's proposed city ordinance adds a dimension to security measures installed after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The proliferation of security cameras — especially if the government requires them in private businesses — troubles some civil liberties advocates.

Chertoff's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Sunday

It's hard work, being completely wrong on two unrelated issues in one Sunday morning appearance, but DHS Director Michael Chertoff managed to pull off this amazing double-header on 'Meet the Press' today.
First, he declared it A-OK that Dubai Ports World, a state-owned business from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), be put in charge of operations of six major U.S. ports.
That's the same UAE that, according to MSNBC, has a few public relations problems.
Critics have cited the UAE's history as an operational and financial base for the hijackers who carried out the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
In addition, they contend the UAE was an important transfer point for shipments of smuggled nuclear components sent to Iran, North Korea and Libya by a Pakistani scientist.
The kindest thing said about Chertoff's approval of outsourcing our port security was that it was 'unbelievably tone deaf' - and this from Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. Democrats Barbara Boxer, Evan Bayh and Robert Menendez were not quite so kind, with Boxer calling for legislation to limit the nation's infrastructure protection to American companies, Bayh calling for an in-depth look at the company and Menendez proclaiming this administration 'just does not get it.' Amen.
Chertoff, showing the executive branch charm we've come to expect from the Bush administration, conceded that 'Congress is welcome to look at this and can get classified briefings.' (Not that any input or objections will be taken into account, but ... hey ... our representatives can look at the issue before the president does what he wants to anyway!)"

Chertoff defends Arab port control - U.S. Security - MSNBC.com

WASHINGTON - Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff on Sunday defended the governments security review of an Arab company given permission to take over operations at six major U.S. ports. We make sure there are assurances in place, in general, sufficient to satisfy us that the deal is appropriate from a national security standpoint, Chertoff said on ABCs This Week. London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., was bought last week by Dubai Ports World, a state-owned business from the United Arab Emirates. Peninsular and Oriental runs major commercial operations in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.
U.S. lawmakers from both parties are questioning the sale, approved by the Bush administration, as a possible risk to national security. Its unbelievably tone deaf politically at this point in our history, Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C. said on Fox News Sunday. Most Americans are scratching their heads, wondering why this company from this region now, Graham said."

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Iranians rename Danish pastries

BBC NEWS: "Iranians wishing to buy Danish pastries will now have to ask for 'Roses of the Prophet Muhammad'.
Bakeries across the capital, Tehran, are covering up signs advertising the pastries and replacing them with ones bearing the dessert's new name.
The confectioners' union ordered the name change in retaliation for the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper.
The images have caused angry protests across the world.
The union said that their decision was prompted by the 'insults by Danish newspapers against the Prophet'."

Friday, February 17, 2006


February 13, 2006 Veterans For Peace, the turbulent new Iraq Veterans Against the War, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, and Gold Star Families for Peace all national organizations demanding a US withdrawal from Iraq will march with hurricane survivors, beginning March 14, 2006, from the historic Stone Street Baptist Church in Mobile for five days, through three states down coastal Highway 90, and arrive in New Orleans on March 19, the third anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. They are demanding not only an end to the Iraq war, but a large increase in resources to the Gulf Coast, with those resources being placed under democratic control by the actual survivors, along with an unconditional right of return
If we can build cities in the desert to wage war on foreigners, why cant we rebuild the cities of the Gulf Coast for justice? asks Paul Robinson, president of the Mobile, Alabama Chapter (#130) of Veterans For Peace. For months now, since Hurricane Katrina devastated the coastlines of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, Robinson has been heavily involved in relief and reconstruction efforts, with little response from the federal government.
So Robinson put out a call for national antiwar organizations to come to the Gulf Coast to make the connection between a $2 trillion war and the negligence of the same administration in addressing the needs of disaster victims.

Dr. King once said that every bomb dropped over Vietnam explodes in Harlem, says Vivian Felts, director of the Mobile-based hurricane relief organization Saving Ourselves (SOS). We are saying that every bomb released over Iraq is exploding from Mobile to New Orleans. And thats where we will walk.

On February 2, 2006, the Bush administration indicated it would ask Congress for an additional $120 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but only $18 billion for hurricane relief. This request came on the heels of a respected report from Columbia University economist Joseph E. Stiglitz (former chief economist of the World Bank) and Harvard lecturer Linda Bilmes that estimated the ultimate cost of the Iraq war would be in excess of $2 trillion. At the same time, all recent polls show that the majority of Americans now want the US to withdraw from Iraq.

The Walkin to New Orleans coalition that is planning the five-day march, which will be exclusively veterans, military families, and hurricane survivors, estimates that over 100 people will walk the entire march, with hundreds more from surrounding communities walking sections of it. They have even set up a web site explaining the connection to spending on an illegal war and the destruction of social services and disaster relief at home, at www.vetgulfmarch.org."

Madonna treated for hernia

LONDON, England (Reuters) -- U.S superstar Madonna has been treated for a hernia but is now "absolutely fine," her spokeswoman said on Thursday.

The singer, who performed at the Grammy awards in Los Angeles last week, re-appeared in public on Thursday night when she accepted a Brit record industry statuette in London as Best International Female Artist of the year.

"She had a minor procedure for a hernia and is absolutely fine now," the spokeswoman said, declining to elaborate.

Over half a million hernia repair operations were performed in the United States last year. A hernia develops when the outer layers of the abdominal wall weaken, bulge or actually rip.

The 47-year-old mother of two, widely regarded as one of the fittest stars in the pop business, is seen in a lycra leotard doing the splits at full stretch in the video for her latest single "Sorry."

Apple hackers encounter a poetic warning - Security - MSNBC.com

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Apple Computer Inc. has resorted to a poetic broadside in the inevitable cat-and-mouse game between hackers and high-tech companies.The maker of Macintosh computers had anticipated that hackers would try to crack its new OS X operating system built to work on Intel Corp.'s chips and run pirated versions on non-Apple computers. So, Apple developers deeply embedded a warning in the software in the form of a poem.Indeed, a hacker encountered the poem recently, and a copy of it has been circulating on Mac-user Web sites this week.
Apple confirmed Thursday it has included such a warning in its Intel-based computers since it started selling them in January.The embedded poem reads:'Your karma check for today:There once was a user that whinedhis existing OS was so blindhe'd do better to piratean OS that ran greatbut found his hardware declined.Please don't steal Mac OS!Really, that's way uncool.(C) Apple Computer, Inc.'Apple also put in a separate hidden message, 'Don't Steal Mac OS X.kext,' in another spot for would-be hackers.'We can confirm that this text is built into our products,' Apple issued in a statement. 'Hopefully it, and many other legal warnings, will remind people that they should not steal Mac OS X.'The hacking endeavors are, for now, relegated to a small base of geeks, but it underscores a potential risk Apple faces if a pirated, functional version eventually becomes as accessible and straightforward as installing other software on a computer.It's a risk that became apparent after Apple decided to make a historic transition to Intel-based chips, the same type that its rivals use in predominant Windows-based PCs. Apple previously relied on Power PC chips from IBM Corp. and Freescale Semiconductor Inc., but this year began switching its computers to the Intel platform.Various analysts have since hypothesized a worst-case situation in which Apple would lose control of its proprietary Macintosh environment: how its reputedly easy-to-use and elegant operating system would no longer be locked to its computers, a critical revenue pipeline for Apple.Such scenarios have raised the proverbial debate among Apple observers as to whether the company should just license its operating system to run on other machines, similar to Microsoft Corp.But Apple has repeatedly said it will not do that."

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Florida kids paid $1 a day to skip gym - Peculiar Postings - MSNBC.com

A middle school gym teacher let children sit out his class if they paid him $1 a day, collecting perhaps thousands of dollars, officials said Thursday.Terence Braxton, 28, took the payoffs between September and December, resigning after the principal learned of the scheme from a parent, authorities said.He is being sought on bribery charges.
The charges accuse Braxton of taking about $230 from six students, but sheriffs spokesman Mike Ward said the teacher%u2019s take was probably much greater."

MiamiHerald.com | 12/14/2005 | �

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Better living through video games?

"When he snags downtime from his schoolwork, Ryerson University student Brad Evans gabs with friends, grooves to Kanye West on his MP3 player and races virtual hotrods on his Sony PlayStation. All at the same time.
Before you assume gadgets and video games fry the minds of the future, consider this: Canadian researchers are finding evidence that the high-speed, multitasking of the young and wireless can help protect their brains from aging.
A body of research suggests that playing video games provides benefits similar to bilingualism in exercising the mind. Just as people fluent in two languages learn to suppress one language while speaking the other, so too are gamers adept at shutting out distractions to swiftly switch attention between different tasks.
A new study of 100 university undergraduates in Toronto has found that video gamers consistently outperform their non-playing peers in a series of tricky mental tests. If they also happened to be bilingual, they were unbeatable.
'The people who were video game players were better and faster performers,' said psychologist Ellen Bialystok, a research professor at York University. 'Those who were bilingual and video game addicts scored best -- particularly at the most difficult tasks.'
The York study, which tested subjects' responses to various misleading visual cues, is to be published next month in the Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology. Three other studies published in the past two years have also concluded that action video games can lead to mental gains involving visual skills and short-term memory.
No one is certain how this translates to general learning or everyday life. But Mr. Evans, 21, an aerospace engineering student, said years of gaming have added valuable dimensions to his thinking.
'I grew up with video games, starting with Nintendo and SuperMario . . . from the age of 8 or 9,' he said. 'I know it helps with my dexterity; it's good for co-ordination and faster reflexes.'
Prof. Bialystok suspects video gamers, like bilinguals, have a practised ability to block out information that is irrelevant to the task at hand."

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentine roses, candy go PC

The recipe for romance used to be so simple: Flowers. Chocolate. Jewelry. It's as synonymous with Valentine's Day as Cupid and his arrow.

But if your sweetheart has a social conscience, such tokens of affection could miss the target by a mile. In these politically correct times, gift gaffes go way beyond taking a vegan girlfriend out for veal scaloppine.

Chocolate truffles? Perhaps produced on the backs of child laborers. Roses? Often grown with harmful pesticides. That bauble in a tiny box? What of mining practices?

Monday, February 13, 2006

Choking back chocolate, for fun and money

Chicago Sun-Times: "Pat Bertoletti stopped by the Chicago Chocolate Co. on West Randolph last week and bought four pounds of chocolate. A Valentine's Day gift for his sweetheart?
Hardly. Bertoletti, a Kendall College student, was on a reconnaissance mission.
Eyes, cameras and dropped jaws will be turned on the 20-year-old Palos Heights native today as he competes in an eating contest of sugary proportions: all the chocolate he can swallow in seven minutes.
'I'm thinking three pounds is probably gonna win it,' he said.
Winning has been on Bertoletti's mind lately. He's fresh off the biggest victory in his burgeoning career as professional eater. On Feb. 1 in Hot Springs, Ark., he downed 11 half-pound corned beef sandwiches in 10 minutes, edging out Sonya Thomas, the nation's top-ranked eater, and fellow rookie Joey Chestnut, a 22-year-old California student."

Outed CIA officer was working on Iran, intelligence sources say

The unmasking of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson by White House officials in 2003 caused significant damage to U.S. national security and its ability to counter nuclear proliferation abroad, RAW STORY has learned.

According to current and former intelligence officials, Plame Wilson, who worked on the clandestine side of the CIA in the Directorate of Operations as a non-official cover (NOC) officer, was part of an operation tracking distribution and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction technology to and from Iran.

Speaking under strict confidentiality, intelligence officials revealed heretofore unreported elements of Plame's work. Their accounts suggest that Plame's outing was more serious than has previously been reported and carries grave implications for U.S. national security and its ability to monitor Iran's burgeoning nuclear program.Advertisement

While many have speculated that Plame was involved in monitoring the nuclear proliferation black market, specifically the proliferation activities of Pakistan's nuclear 'father,' A.Q. Khan, intelligence sources say that her team provided only minimal support in that area, focusing almost entirely on Iran.

Plame declined to comment through her husband, Joseph Wilson."

Chicago Tribune | The Swamp

The atmosphere can get pretty testy in the White House press briefing room from time to time.
But there were no cameras rolling in the Monday morning 'gaggle'' today, the morning after news belatedly broke about Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shooting a hunting companion on Saturday. The broadcast sessions of press encounters with White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan are saved for formal afternoon briefings, with the morning gaggles serving as more informal warm-ups. And David Gregory, the chief White House correspondent for NBC News, was warmed up.
Why was the White House relying on a Texas rancher to get the word of Cheney's hunting accident out over the weekend, asked Gregory, accusing McClellan of 'ducking and weaving.''

David, hold on the cameras aren't on right now,'' McClellan replied. 'You can do this later.''

'Don't accuse me of trying to pose to the cameras,'' the newsman said, his voice rising somewhat. 'Don't be a jerk to me personally when I'm asking you a serious question.''

'You don't have to yell,'' McClellan said.

'I will yell,'' said Gregory, pointing a finger at McCellan at his dais. 'If you want to use that podium to try to take shots at me personally, which I don't appreciate, then I will raise my voice, because that's wrong.
Calm down, Dave, calm down,'' said McClellan, remaining calm throughout the exchange.

'I'll calm down when I feel like calming down,'' Greogry said. 'You answer the question.'

'I have answered the question,'' said McClellan, who had maintained that the vice president's office was in charge of getting the information out and worked with the ranch owner to do that. 'I'm sorry you're getting all riled up about.''

'I am riled up,'' Gregory said, 'because you're not answering the question,''

McClellan insisted he understood that reporters deserve an answer.

'I think you have legitimate questions to ask,'' the press secretary said. 'The vice presidents office was the one that took the lead to get this information out I don't know what else to tell you... That's my answer.''"

More Questions Raised About Delay in Reporting Cheney Misfire

NEW YORK The more than 18-hour delay in news emerging that the Vice President of the United States had shot a man, sending him to an intensive care unit with his wounds, grew even more curious late Sunday. E&P has learned that the official confirmation of the shooting came about only after a local reporter in Corpus Christi, Texas, received a tip from the owner of the property where the shooting occurred and called Vice President Cheney's office for confirmation.
The confirmation was made but it is not known for certain that Cheney's office, the White House, or anyone else intended to announce the shooting if the reporter, Jaime Powell of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, had not received word from the ranch owner.
One of Powell's colleagues at the Corups Christi paper, Beth Francesco, told E&P that Powell had built up a strong source relationship with the prominent ranch owner, Katharine Armstrong, which led to the tip. Powell is chief political reporter for the paper and also covers the area where the ranch is located south of Sarita, about 60 miles from Corpus Christi. Armstrong did not notify reporters at larger papers in Dallas, Houston, Austin, or other cities.
Armstrong called the paper Sunday morning looking for Powell, who was not at work. When they did talk, Armstrong revealed the shooting of prominent Austin attorney Harry Whittington, who is now in stable condition in a hospital. Powell then called Cheney's office for the confirmation around midday. The newspaper broke the story at mid-afternoon -- not a word about it had appeared before then.
The Cheney spokesman with whom Powell spoke, Lea Anne McBride, would not comment on whether the Cheney office or the White House would have ever released the information had the Caller-Times not contacted them.
'I%u2019m not going to speculate,' McBride said, according to Powell. 'When you put the call into me, I was able to confirm that account.'
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, peppered with questions about the incident at his Monday morning press 'gaggle,' explained that the White House had deferred to the Vice President's office in the matter, and the latter deferred to the ranch owner.
He also revealed that President Bush had been informed about the shooting Saturday night, but not Cheney's role in it until Sunday.
Francesco, at the Corpus Christi paper, said she felt it was a bit odd that her newsroom had not received any information about the shooting since 'we often call law enforcement in the area, even on weekends. We checked in and didn%u2019t hear anything about it.' In some states, all serious shooting incidents must be immediately reported to police. "

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Trust Gap - New York Times

The Trust Gap - New York Times: "We can't think of a president who has gone to the American people more often than George W. Bush has to ask them to forget about things like democracy, judicial process and the balance of powers - and just trust him. We also can't think of a president who has deserved that trust less.
This has been a central flaw of Mr. Bush's presidency for a long time. But last week produced a flood of evidence that vividly drove home the point. DOMESTIC SPYING After 9/11, Mr. Bush authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on the conversations and e-mail of Americans and others in the United States without obtaining a warrant or allowing Congress or the courts to review the operation. Lawmakers from both parties have raised considerable doubt about the legality of this program, but Attorney General Alberto Gonzales made it clear last Monday at a Senate hearing that Mr. Bush hasn't the slightest intention of changing it."

Senators: Cheney Should Be Probed in Leak - Yahoo! News

"WASHINGTON - Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald should investigate Vice President Dick Cheney and others in the
CIA leak probe if they authorized an aide to give secret information to reporters, Democratic and Republican senators said Sunday.
Sen. Jack Reed (news, bio, voting record), D-R.I., called the leak of intelligence information 'inappropriate' if it is true that unnamed 'superiors' instructed Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, to divulge the material on
Sen. George Allen (news, bio, voting record), R-Va., said a full investigation is necessary.
'I don't think anybody should be releasing classified information, period, whether in the Congress, executive branch or some underling in some bureaucracy,' said Allen, who appeared with Reed on 'Fox News Sunday.'
According to court documents disclosed last week, Libby told a federal grand jury that he disclosed in July 2003 the contents of a classified National Intelligence Estimate as part of the Bush administration's defense of intelligence used to justify invading Iraq.
Fitzgerald said in the documents it was his understanding that 'Mr. Libby testified that he was authorized to disclose information about the NIE to the press by his superiors.'
The White House has refused to comment on the case.
'I think this calls into question in terms of Fitzgerald's investigation of the conduct of the vice president and others,' Reed said. 'I think he has to look closely at their behavior.'
Allen expressed confidence in Fitzgerald, whom he called 'a very articulate, professional prosecutor.'
'And I think the facts will lead wherever they lead, and I think he will prosecute as appropriate,' Allen said.
Libby, 55, was indicted on charges that he lied to
FBI agents and the grand jury about how he learned CIA operative
Valerie Plame's identity and when he told reporters. He is not charged with leaking classified information."

Wikipedia reviewing US, Canadian and British political bios - Yahoo! News

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The founder of the vast online reference site,
Wikipedia, said that volunteers were checking the biographies of American, Canadian and British lawmakers following some online spin-doctoring.
The huge online encyclopedia, which can be edited by anyone logging onto its site, is checking its biographies after it emerged some US lawmakers' biographies had benefited from flattering updates.
The volunteers who run Wikipedia discovered the online updates had originated from computers in the US Congress, sparking a wider review of other political biographies hosted on the site."

Friday, February 10, 2006

Cartoons as published in the Danish Jyllands-Posten - Opinions

Daily Illini: "To the right you'll see a series of cartoons about the Islamic prophet Muhammad that have fueled a firestorm of debate all over the world. These cartoons are bigoted and insensitive to the Islamic faith because they are depictions of the prophet Muhammad. In much of the Muslim faith, there is an absolute ban on drawing or portraying religious figures. I agree they are bigoted and insensitive, as do many others. However, this serious controversy has not been addressed by the press. By refusing to run the cartoons, Americans have no idea how 'offensive' they are. The ensuing death threats, riots, murders and laying siege to embassies, leave most of us confused and appalled.
Recently, the U.S. State Department criticized the editorial cartoons, originally published in the Danish Jyllands-Posten. A student newspaper in Wales had all of their papers confiscated after they published the cartoons. Editors have resigned from the New York Press after the cartoons were pulled from the press at the 11th hour. Only one of the major newspapers in this country has run an example of the cartoons. "

Smoking Dutch Cleanser

Maureen Dowd - New York Times: "Vice President Dick Cheney bitterly complains that national security leaks are endangering America.
Unless, of course, he's doing the leaking, tapping Scooter Libby to reveal national security information to punish a political critic. President Bush says he will not talk about specific security threats to America. Unless, of course, he needs to talk about a specific threat to Los Angeles to confuse the public and gain some cheap political advantage. The White House says it has done everything possible to protect the homeland. Unless, of course, it hasn't. Then it can lie to hide the callous portrait of Incurious George in Crawford as New Orleans drowned. The attorney general can claim that torture and warrantless wiretapping are legal, and mislead Congress. Unless, of course, enough Republicans stand up and say, as Arlen Specter told The Washington Post, that if the lickspittle lawyer thinks all this is legal, 'he's smoking Dutch Cleanser.'"

Bertoletti's Kind of Town

International Federation of Competitive Eating - IFOCE: "Chicago's Patrick Bertoletti, who credits the music of Irish punk bands as the driving force behind the creation of his signature roast leg of lamb with mixed berry coulis, will compete at the GoldenPalace.net St. Valentine's Day Chocolate Massacre in Chicago on February 13th.
Badlands Booker, Yellow Cake Subich, Frank Wach, Bubba Yarbrough and Kevin Carr will also be competing at the event, which will be held at the Chicago Chocolate Company at 847 W. Randolph, but many believe Bertoletti will beat all comers and take top honors on Monday.
A student, who studies culinary art at Kendall College, Bertoletti raised a number of eyebrows in January when he beat Sonya Thomas, the top-ranked eater in America, at the corned beef sandwich eating championship in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Joey Chestnut also competed in that event, taking second in a hard fought overtime battle with Sonya.
Bertoletti continued to surprise the eating community when he finished an impressive 3rd in front of a number of veteran competitive eaters at the recent GoldenPalace.com World Grilled Cheese Eating Championship at Planet Hollywood in New York City.
"I can't forecast where we'll be at the end of this first quarter, but if Bertoletti wins Monday's event he'll be entering '06 as strong as any other eater on the circuit," said Charles Hardy, commissioner of the IFOCE. "Erik the Red, Hall, and Chip have shown skills, but Bertoletti is looking Chestnut-like of late.""

Truth? Fiction? Journalism? Award Goes to . . .

New York Times: "Journalists like to think of themselves as presenting as accurate a picture as they can of the real world.
The American Association of Petroleum Geologists takes a broader view. It is presenting its annual journalism award this year to Michael Crichton, the science fiction writer whose latest book, 'State of Fear,' dismisses global warming as a largely imaginary threat embraced by malignant scientists for their own ends. 'It is fiction,' conceded Larry Nation, communications director for the association. 'But it has the absolute ring of truth.' That is not the way leading climate scientists see it. When the book was published in 2004, climate experts condemned it as dangerously divorced from reality. Most of these scientists believe human activity, chiefly the burning of fossil fuels, is changing the atmosphere's chemistry in ways that threaten unpredictable, potentially damaging effects. The book is 'demonstrably garbage,' Stephen H. Schneider, a Stanford climatologist, said in an interview yesterday. Petroleum geologists may like it, he said, but only because 'they are ideologically connected to their product, which fills up the gas tanks of Hummers.' Daniel P. Schrag, a geochemist who directs the Harvard University Center for the Environment, called the award 'a total embarrassment' that he said 'reflects the politics of the oil industry and a lack of professionalism' on the association's part. As for the book, he added, 'I think it is unfortunate when somebody who has the audience that Crichton has shows such profound ignorance.'"

The Blog | Mark Kleiman: Will Bush Fire Cheney, Or Quit? | The Huffington Post

George W. Bush thinks that 'revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies, and endangers our country.'
If revealing classified information is illegal, then it's a crime, right?
And George W. Bush promised that 'If somebody committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration,' right?
Now it comes out that 'Scooter' Libby has testified that his 'superiors' authorized him to reveal classified information in an attempt to discredit Joseph Wilson's account of his trip to Africa and thus to defend the idea that the Administration had a basis for claiming that Saddam Hussein had been trying to buy uranium in Niger.
Libby's boss was Dick Cheney; Libby was Cheney's chief of staff. His only other 'superior' would have been ... George W. Bush.
So either Cheney or Bush (or both) ordered the release of classified information, which according to Bush is a crime. And anyone who commits a crime has to leave the administration.

So which is it? Is Bush going to ask for Cheney's resignation, or offer his own?

Of course, the whole pretense the Administration opposes 'revealing classified information' never passed the giggle test. Bush's opposition is, of course, to revealing information that discredits his policies. That's why it's a blessing not to have an Official Secrets Act: this way, we have some hope that official malfeasance and misfeasance will come out. As Henry Kissinger said a long time ago, 'I never leak. I de-classify.'"

Thursday, February 09, 2006

CNN.com - Ex-FEMA chief: I may�tell all about Katrina - Feb 9, 2006

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former disaster agency chief Michael Brown is indicating he is ready to reveal his correspondence with President Bush and other officials during Hurricane Katrina unless the White House forbids it and offers legal support.

Brown's stance, in a letter obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, follows senators' complaints that the White House is refusing to answer questions or release documents about advice given to Bush concerning the August 29 storm.

Brown quit as director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency days after Katrina struck. He left the federal payroll November 2.

Cheney 'Authorized' Libby to Leak Classified Information (02/09/2006)

Cheney 'Authorized' Libby to Leak Classified Information

Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, testified to a federal grand jury that he had been 'authorized' by Cheney and other White House 'superiors' in the summer of 2003 to disclose classified information to journalists to defend the Bush administration's use of prewar intelligence in making the case to go to war with Iraq, according to attorneys familiar with the matter, and to court records."

Censoring Truth - New York Times

The Bush administration long ago secured a special place in history for the audacity with which it manipulates science to suit its political ends. But it set a new standard of cynicism when it allowed NASA's leading authority on global warming to be mugged by a 24-year-old presidential appointee who, quite apart from having no training on that issue, had inflated his resume.
In early December, James Hansen, the space agency's top climate specialist, called for accelerated efforts to reduce industrial emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases linked to global warming. After his speech, he told Andrew C. Revkin of The Times, he was threatened with 'dire consequences' if he continued to call for aggressive action.
This was not the first time Dr. Hansen had been rebuked by the Bush team, which has spent the better part of five years avoiding the issue of global warming. It was merely one piece of a larger pattern of deception and denial.
The administration has sought to influence the policy debate by muzzling the people who disagree with it or %u2014 as was the case with two major reports from the Environmental Protection Agency in 2002 and 2003 %u2014 editing out inconvenient truths or censoring them entirely.
In this case, the censor was George Deutsch, a functionary in NASA's public affairs office whose chief credential appears to have been his service with President Bush's re-election campaign and inaugural committee. On his resume, Mr. Deutsch claimed a 2003 bachelor's degree in journalism from Texas A&M, but the university, alerted by a blogger, said that was not true. Mr. Deutsch has now resigned.
The shocker was not NASA's failure to vet Mr. Deutsch's credentials, but that this young politico with no qualifications was able to impose his ideology on other agency employees. At one point, he told a Web designer to add the word 'theory' after every mention of the Big Bang.
As Dr. Hansen observed, Mr. Deutsch was only a 'bit player' in the administration's dishonest game of politicizing science on issues like warming, birth control, forest policy and clean air. This from a president who promised in his State of the Union address to improve American competitiveness by spending more on science."

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

How far can athletic performance go? - Diet & Fitness - MSNBC.com

By Samuel GreengardMSNBC contributorUpdated: 6:24 p.m. ET Feb. 2, 2006When Eric Heiden skated to glory at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y., many observers believed that it ranked among the greatest achievements in sports history. The 21-year-old Wisconsin native captured five gold medals in speed skating, in events ranging from sprints to long distance. In the 10,000 meter race, Heiden blazed to a world record of 14:28.13 %u2014 more than 6 seconds faster than any skater before him.Today, Heiden%u2019s winning times wouldn%u2019t elicit anything more than a yawn.At the 2002 winter games in Salt Lake City, for example, his time would have placed him dead last in a field of 18 competitors. There, Dutch skater Jochem Uytdehaage captured gold while setting a world record of 12:58.92. Today, another Dutch skater, Carl Verheijen, has shaved the record to 12:57.92."

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Exotic Hunting Thrives in Texas

James Westhead BBC News, Washington

As we bounce through the dusty undergrowth in a four-wheel drive, glimpsing rare antelope and even giraffes, we could be forgiven for thinking we are on safari in Africa - but we are not.

Hunting unusual species is a multi-million dollar industry
This is the YO ranch in Texas. Its website proudly claims it is a "Mecca for hunting", with more than 50 different species including endangered animals from all over the world.
A price list offers a huge choice of rare species charging up to $8,500 a kill.
It is one of a staggering 500 ranches in Texas alone that in recent years have switched from raising longhorn cattle to the far more profitable, multi-million-dollar industry known as "exotic hunting", where hunters compete for the largest and most unusual trophies to display on their walls.

Our guide, YO hunting director Eric White, is keen to show how he carefully breeds and manages herds of rare antelope like the endangered scimitar-horned oryx - virtually extinct in its native Africa but thriving on his 6,000-acre (2,400-hectare) ranch in Texas.
"Hunters are amazed. Around every bend you never know what you're going to see," he says.
"You could see a zebra, an oryx or an addax deer. You can see animals here that you can almost no longer find in Africa or India.

"We are preserving entire species here in Texas."

Firing back
The only problem is that these species are being saved simply to be killed, often in a cruel and unsporting fashion, according to animal welfare campaigners.

These animals are on the brink of extinction, and we need to do everything we can to preserve them
Michael Markarian, HSUS

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) recently carried out an undercover investigation into exotic hunting in Texas.
Its investigators found many ranches were not as ethically run as the YO. They filmed animals that appeared so tame they did not run away from hunters and even approached them apparently believing they would be fed.
"In some of these facilities you can pick the animal you want and have it moved into a hunting pen then shoot it the next day," the Humane Society's Michael Markarian says.
"It's like picking a lobster out of a tank at a restaurant. It's not sportsmanship, there's no fair chase."
When they are shot, the society says, the animals usually die a slow and lingering death as hunters do not want to spoil their trophy by shooting them in the head.

YO hunting director Eric White insists he is the real conservationist
Now the animal campaigners are firing back in the courts.
The society is challenging a recent decision by the Bush administration which granted a special exemption to hunting ranches, removing protection for certain endangered animals.
It means hunters can continue to hunt and kill three species of endangered antelope in captivity - the dama gazelle, the addax and the scimitar-horned oryx - so long as they give 10% of profits to conservation.
But the Humane Society's Michael Markarian counters: "These animals are on the brink of extinction, and we need to do everything we can to preserve them.
"Yet the United States government is saying the only way you can save animals is by shooting them. It's Orwellian logic. It's not conservation, it's nothing more than animal cruelty."
'Honourable activity'
On the YO ranch, Eric White insists it is he who is the real conservationist. He claims to have returned rare and endangered animals to help re-breeding programmes in their native countries.
If the captive-bred hunting exemption were removed, he argues, there would be no incentive for him or others to breed endangered species and the scimitar-horned oryx and the like would simply gradually die out.

We're turning wild animals into domestic animals. The hunter is no longer using his instincts and his reflexes
Robert BrownAmerican Wildlife Society
"What species has the Humane Society ever saved?" he asks.
"They just want to save one animal - perhaps called Bambi - but we have a long-standing record of saving entire species and entire habitats. Hunting is the only way to generate enough dollars to do it."
However there are growing ethical concerns even within the American hunting community about this new highly-commercialised approach to a traditional sport.
Robert Brown, an experienced hunter and president of the American Wildlife Society, says:
"We're turning wild animals into domestic animals. The hunter is no longer using his instincts and his reflexes.
"That's deplorable and turns the public against what is an honourable activity necessary for wildlife management and may one day spoil hunting for the rest of us."

Top Ten Surprising Facts About Osama Bin Laden:

10. Plans to release next threatening videotape in high-definition
9. In the seventies, had a gay fling with the blind sheikh
8. Secretly likes Kosher pickles
7. Middle name: Duane
6. Stole 'Death to America' catchphrase from Fran Tarkenton
5. Got cave hooked up with Sirius so he can listen to Howard Stern
4. Knows all the words to the Black Eyed Peas song 'My Humps'
3. After Colts loss to Steelers, declared jihad on Mike Vanderjagt
2. Has a bumper sticker that reads, 'Don't blame me, I voted for Kerry'
1. The son-of-a-bitch is still alive
---Late Show with David Letterman"

Rove counting heads on the Senate Judiciary Committee

The White House has been twisting arms to ensure that no Republican member votes against President Bush in the Senate Judiciary Committee's investigation of the administration's unauthorized wiretapping.
Congressional sources said Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove has threatened to blacklist any Republican who votes against the president. The sources said the blacklist would mean a halt in any White House political or financial support of senators running for re-election in November.
'It's hardball all the way,' a senior GOP congressional aide said.
The sources said the administration has been alarmed over the damage that could result from the Senate hearings, which began on Monday, Feb. 6. They said the defection of even a handful of Republican committee members could result in a determination that the president violated the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Such a determination could lead to impeachment proceedings.
Over the last few weeks, Mr. Rove has been calling in virtually every Republican on the Senate committee as well as the leadership in Congress. The sources said Mr. Rove's message has been that a vote against Mr. Bush would destroy GOP prospects in congressional elections.
'He's [Rove] lining them up one by one,' another congressional source said.
Mr. Rove is leading the White House campaign to help the GOP in Novembers congressional elections. The sources said the White House has offered to help loyalists with money and free publicity, such as appearances and photo-ops with the president.
Those deemed disloyal to Mr. Rove would appear on his blacklist. The sources said dozens of GOP members in the House and Senate are on that list.
So far, only a handful of GOP senators have questioned Mr. Rove's tactics.
Some have raised doubts about Mr. Rove's strategy of painting the Democrats, who have opposed unwarranted surveillance, as being dismissive of the threat posed by al Qaeda terrorists.
'Well, I didn't like what Mr. Rove said, because it frames terrorism and the issue of terrorism and everything that goes with it, whether it's the renewal of the Patriot Act or the NSA wiretapping, in a political context,' said Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican."

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Swamp

Chicago Tribune
: "Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has apparently just been introduced to the infamous temper of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)
In a flaming letter, McCain accuses Obama of %u201Cdisingenuousness%u201D for allegedly backing out of a commitment he made to McCain to participate in a bipartisan effort at lobbying reform.
My colleague Jeff Zeleny is working on a story for tomorrow%u2019s Chicago Tribune and is trying to nail down the details of what exactly happened between McCain and Obama. We are also working to get a response from Obama's office.
But whatever the details, it's clear that one of the Senate's biggest celebrities has gotten on the wrong side of another high-wattage senator.
The McCain letter is below. And here's a PDF file of Obama's letter which outraged McCain."

Plastic traffic cop slows cars in Russia

Seattle PI: "MOSCOW -- This is one Russian traffic cop who will never issue a ticket or take a bribe: he's made of plastic.
A life-size mock-up of a traffic police officer is prompting more drivers to obey the speed limit on a highway in western Russia, the plastic policeman's flesh-and-blood colleagues said in a report on state-run Channel One television Sunday.
'Our monitoring has shown that drivers here ... are more disciplined: they slow down,' said Ivan Zybin, the deputy commander of a traffic police detachment in the Belgorod region near the Ukrainian border.
A bit like the kind of flat cardboard cutout that enables tourists to snap photos with world leaders, this fake human figure comes complete with a nearly two-dimensional patrol car, a speed gun and a black-and-white baton - held up to signal travelers to be cautious.
But Alexei Zakharov, the officer who served as the model for the mock-up, said that the sight of his plastic double prompts some drivers to do more than slow down.
'Some drivers stop and come up to him to show their documents, others sit in their cars and wait for the inspector to approach them. They sit there for five minutes and they drive away,' he said."

The Truthiness Teller

Newsweek Entertainment - MSNBC.com: "Feb. 13, 2006 issue - We live in a dangerous world. Fortunately, we've got Stephen Colbert fighting on our side. Colbert defends America when lesser men cut and run. Got a problem with White House wiretapping? He doesn't. 'This is a war against secret enemies that may not end,' Colbert has told the world. 'Don't we need secret powers that have no limit?' Doubts about Iraq? 'Doesn't taking out Saddam feel right?' he asks. When Colbert criticizes something like the Abu Ghraib Prison scandal, it's not the policy he dislikes%u2014it's the missed opportunity. 'It's time to bring torture back to this side of the pond and put Americans back to work,' he says. The biggest threat facing America now, Colbert says, isn't Iraq or Al Qaeda, or even Simon Cowell. It's the Associated Press."

Exclusive: Can the President Order a Killing on U.S. Soil? - Newsweek Politics

Newsweek Politics - MSNBC.com: "Feb. 13, 2006 issue - In the latest twist in the debate over presidential powers, a Justice Department official suggested that in certain circumstances, the president might have the power to order the killing of terrorist suspects inside the United States. Steven Bradbury, acting head of the department's Office of Legal Counsel, went to a closed-door Senate intelligence committee meeting last week to defend President George W. Bush's surveillance program. During the briefing, said administration and Capitol Hill officials (who declined to be identified because the session was private), California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked Bradbury questions about the extent of presidential powers to fight Al Qaeda; could Bush, for instance, order the killing of a Qaeda suspect known to be on U.S. soil? Bradbury replied that he believed Bush could indeed do this, at least in certain circumstances."

Gonzales Defends Legality of Surveillance

Yahoo! News: "WASHINGTON - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales insisted Monday that President Bush is fully empowered to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants as part of the war on terror. He exhorted Congress not to end or tinker with the program.
Gonzales' strong defense of Bush's program was challenged by Republican Sen. Arlen Specter (news, bio, voting record), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and committee Democrats during sometimes contentious questioning.
Specter told Gonzales that even the Supreme Court had ruled that 'the president does not have a blank check.' Specter suggested that the program's legality be reviewed by a special federal court set up by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
'There are a lot of people who think you're wrong. What do you have to lose if you're right?' Specter, R-Pa., asked Gonzales.
The attorney general sidestepped the question directly, just saying, 'Obviously, we would consider and are always considering methods of fighting the war effectively against Al Qaida.'"

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Talk About Renting a Hole in the Wall

New York Times: "So you think your place is small? One night recently, a group of architecture students staying up late in a loft in Brooklyn took to amusing themselves by stuffing a mattress into a hole cut into the wall above a bedroom door. Then they tried the mattress out for comfort. Not half bad! It occurred to one of them, Nick Freeman, that people might pay money to call that elevated mattress home.
So Mr. Freeman posted an ad on the Web site Craigslist: '$35- elevated mattress-sized space between rooms.' He used a minimalist pitch. 'Opening between hall and room available for long/short-term use, accessible by ladder, sheets and pillows not provided.' The ad went up around noon, and by the end of that day, Mr. Freeman had a dozen potential takers.'I was actually surprised with the amount of places that fall into that category - kind of like 'I'll rent a corner,' ' said Drew Hart, who answered the ad. 'I went to look at a place recently in Queens; I wasn't aware until I got there that it was a cloth shower curtain separating part of the living room.'Into the six-ring circus that is the housing market in New York City - where a house can sell for $40 million, an apartment can rent for $25,000 a month and extended families sleep in shifts in single rooms - came the airborne mattress, at least briefly."

Good Luck With That Broken iPod

New York Times: "MY iPod died.
It happened right after Christmas %u2014 a Christmas, I hasten to add, in which I gave my wife the new video iPod, making it the latest of the half-dozen iPods my family has bought since Apple began selling them in October 2001. We also own five Apple computers, and have become pathetically loyal because of our reliance on the iPod. To the extent that Apple is using the iPod to drive sales of other Apple products, the Nocera family is proof that the strategy works; we've probably spent more than $10,000 on Apple hardware since the iPod first came out. Alas, at least three of the iPods were replacements for ones that broke.This time, though, I decided to get my iPod fixed. After all, it wasn't even two years old and had cost around $300. Like all iPods, it came with a one-year warranty. Although Apple sells an additional year of protection for $59, I declined the extended warranty because the cost struck me as awfully high %u2014 a fifth of the purchase price of the device itself. Anecdotal evidence %u2014 like chat boards filled with outraged howls from owners of dead iPods %u2014 strongly suggests that you can write the rest of this story yourself. You start by thinking: 'I'll just call Apple!' But it's so hard to find the customer support number on Apple's Web site that you suspect the company has purposely hidden it. Eventually, you find the number and make the call. Although the tech support guy quickly diagnoses your problem %u2014 a hard drive gone bad %u2014 he really has only one suggestion: buy a new iPod. 'Since it is out of warranty,' he says, 'there's nothing we can do.' You're a little stunned. But you're not ready to give up. On the Apple site, there's a form you can fill out to send the iPod back to Apple and get it fixed. But you do a double-take when you see the price. Apple is going to charge you $250, plus tax, to fix your iPod. There is no mistaking the message: Apple has zero interest in fixing a machine it was quite happy to sell you not so long ago."