Friday, June 30, 2006

California pair admit enslavement

BBC NEWS: "An Egyptian former couple have pleaded guilty to enslaving a 10-year-old girl in their southern California home.
The girl, who was brought to the US from Egypt, was forced to work 16-hour days and was not allowed to leave the house during her 20-month ordeal.
Abdel Nasser Eid Youssef Ibrahim, 45, and his ex-wife, Amal Ahmed Ewis-abd Motelib, 43, agreed to plead guilty to four federal charges.
They face jail terms of three years when they are sentenced in October.
The girl, whose name was not released, was brought to the US by the couple in August 2000 when she was 10."

Overreach Overturned

By Dan FroomkinSpecial to washingtonpost.comFriday, June 30, 2006; 1:00 PMYesterday's Supreme Court ruling, definitively curbing the Bush White House's assertion of nearly unlimited executive power in a time of war, puts the other two branches of government back in business.The Republican-controlled Congress, which has remained resolutely blind, deaf and dumb as President Bush took national security matters entirely into his own hands, now has little choice but to rouse itself to some sort of action.And in reasserting the rule of law, the high court has opened the way to what could be major legal action over other executive branch violations of established statutes -- about domestic spying, for instance. The ruling even raises the possibility that U.S. forces and Bush administration officials could be tried for war crimes.The rousing of the legislative and judicial branches is the ultimate nightmare of the unilateralists within Bush's inner circle, most notably Vice President Cheney and his chief of staff, David S. Addington. They had argued that nothing -- not Congress, not the courts, not traditional notions of basic human rights -- should limit the president from pursuing the nation's enemies however he saw fit.Worth watching closely: Whether the high court's decision will bolster the stature of other members of the administration, many of whom have reportedly had reservations about the Cheney-Addington approach all along. Or whether Cheney and Addington will continue to have Bush's ear, and will keep plotting in the shadows."

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Overeating for Fun and Profit

Chicago Reader: "One day Kendall College culinary student
Pat Bertoletti hopes to run his own restaurant.
But he may never be as famous for
his cooking as he is for stuffng his face.

By Kabir Hamid
June 30, 2006

IT WAS TEN o'clock on a Saturday morning
in May and Pat Bertoletti was in the tiny
bathroom of an airplane, spiking his hair
into a Mohawk with Got2B styling glue.
Normally he'd wait to do this in the men's
room at the destination airport, but his flight
had been delayed and he was getting nervous.
Upon landing in Houston, he'd be shuttled to
a Berryhill Baja Grill northwest of downtown,
where he would almost immediately
have to begin shoving as many beef tamales
as possible down his throat.
Bertoletti got to the restaurant just before
1 PM, the contest's scheduled start time.
Nearly 200 people were gathered in the parking lot,
sweating in the sun and the hot,
sticky air, while a live band
played Bob Marley covers. He
wandered off by himself to do
side stretches, listening to
Chicago punks Mexican
Cheerleader on his iPod. In the
previous month Bertoletti had
devoured nearly five pounds of
deep-fried asparagus in
Stockton, California, and 105
jalapeno poppers in Tucson. But
both times someone else had
devoured more. Around his
wrist was a rubber band that
had held together a bunch of
asparagus he'd eaten in preparation
for the California trip- a
reminder that second or third
place wasn't good enough.

As the restaurant's employees
brought out tamales a dozen at a
time, the competition's emcee,
Ryan Nerz, introduced the 13
contestants, among them a
female college student, a pro
wrestler from Baton Rouge, a
retired police officer, and a diesel
mechanic. Local favorite Levi
Oliver came out to a healthy
round of applause, and
Bertoletti, whom Nerz referred
to as %u201CDeep Dish,%u201D was
announced last. They all took
their places side by side at four
tables that had been pushed end
to end, packed together as tightly
as the tamales on their plates.
Almost as soon as the contest
started, all eyes were on
Bertoletti. He had rhythm: two
chomps, a swig of water, and the
tamale would disappear. Six and
a half minutes later he'd eaten
more than three dozen, breaking
Oliver's record from the year
before. The other competitors
started to sweat and grimace.
Oliver turned and vomited in a
nearby trash can, thereby disqualifying
himself. Bertoletti
just kept eating."

Robot rules make sure robots don't rule

ws Home | Story
Robot rules make sure robots don't rule
From:
By Ed Habershon and Richard Woods

June 20, 2006


THE race is on to keep humans one step ahead of robots: an international team of scientists and academics is to publish a "code of ethics" for machines as they become more and more sophisticated.
Although the nightmare vision of a Terminator world controlled by machines may seem fanciful, scientists believe the boundaries for human-robot interaction must be set now, before super-intelligent robots develop beyond our control.

"There are two levels of priority," says Gianmarco Verruggio, a roboticist at the Institute of Intelligent Systems for Automation in Genoa, northern Italy, and chief architect of the guide, to be published next month.

"We have to manage the ethics of the scientists making the robots and the artificial ethics inside the robots."

Verruggio and his colleagues have identified key areas that include ensuring human control of robots, preventing illegal use, protecting data acquired by robots and establishing clear identification and traceability of the machines.

"Scientists must start analysing these kinds of questions and seeing if laws or regulations are needed to protect the citizen," Mr Verruggio says.

Advertisement:
"Robots will develop strong intelligence and in some ways it will be better than human intelligence - but it will be alien intelligence. I would prefer to give priority to humans."

The analysis culminated at a recent meeting in Genoa of the European Robotics Research Network (Euron) to examine the problems likely to arise as robots become smarter, faster, stronger and ubiquitous.

"Security, safety and sex are the big concerns," says Henrik Christensen, a member of the Euron ethics group. How far should robots be allowed to influence people's lives? How can accidents be avoided? Can deliberate harm be prevented? And what happens if robots turn out to be sexy?

"The question is: what authority are we going to delegate tothese machines?" says Ronald Arkin, a roboticist at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

"Are we, for example, going to give robots the ability to execute lethal force, or any force, like crowd control?"

They hoped for Tut's mom, but tomb has no mummy

LUXOR, Egypt (AP) -- Archaeologists hoped the first tomb discovered in the Valley of the Kings in 80 years would hold the mummy of King Tut's mother. They opened the last of eight sarcophagi Wednesday, revealing no mummies but finding something almost as valuable: embalming materials and ancient woven flowers.

Hushed researchers craned their necks and media scuffled inside the stiflingly hot underground stone chamber as Egyptian antiquities chief Zahi Hawass slowly cracked open the coffin's lid -- for what scientists believe is the first time in more than 3,000 years. (Watch the media scramble to get a view of the sarcophagus -- 1:02)

But instead of a mummy, as archaeologists had expected, the coffin revealed a tangle of fabric and rusty-colored dehydrated flowers woven together in laurels that looked likely to crumble to dust if touched.

"I prayed to find a mummy, but when I saw this, I said it's better -- it's really beautiful," said Nadia Lokma, chief curator of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

The flowers were likely the remains of garlands, often entwined with gold strips, that ancient Egyptian royals wore around their shoulders in both life and death, she said.

"It's very rare -- there's nothing like it in any museum. We've seen things like it in drawings, but we've never seen this before in real life -- it's magnificent," Lokma said.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

UCSC head falls to death

Mercury News: "Denice Dee Denton, chancellor of the University of California-Santa Cruz, apparently jumped to her death Saturday morning from the 44th floor of a San Francisco building where she shared an apartment with her partner.
Denton, 46, landed on the roof of the building's parking structure, said San Francisco police Sgt. Neville Gittens. He was unsure if she had left behind a note. The medical examiner's office is investigating the death as a suicide.
The nationally recognized educator had been in the eye of controversy since she arrived at UC-Santa Cruz less than a year and a half ago.
Sources said Denton had retreated from the campus in the weeks before her death, canceling appointments and clearing her calendar. She began a short medical leave June 15, a campus spokesman said."

No More Drunk Dialing

By KEITH GARVIN
June 27, 2006
They were originally designed to simply make phone calls without tying callers to one location. But today's cell phones can do so much more, from snapping digital photos to sending text messages to playing video.
You can add one more feature to the list: a sobriety test.
That's right, cell phones with built-in Breathalyzers are set to hit the U.S. market. So after a night of too much to drink, you can pull out the device to see if you're fit to get behind the wheel.
South Korean manufacturer LG will introduce the LP4100 this year. The company placed several models on the market in that country last year and already has sold more than 200,000 units.
The phones were previewed at the annual Consumer Electronics Show %u2014 CES in Las Vegas earlier this year.
Here's how it works: Users blow into a small spot on the phone, and if they've had too much to drink the phone issues a warning and shows a weaving car hitting traffic cones.
'So they test it and it says don't drive so they leave their car or call the taxi,' explained Sung Mee Cho of Seju Engineering Inc.
The company also sells plug-in Breathalyzer adapters for some phones. None of the models tell you exactly how much you may be over or under the legal limit, but it can keep you from making other alcohol-related mistakes.
The LP4100 also allows users to set up the phone so on certain nights and after a certain time they do not call certain people in their phone book. Think ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend.
If you have a blood alcohol level over .08, the phone will not let you dial that person. So it not only promotes sobriety, but chastity and probably your dignity, as well."

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Clowns Sabotage Nuke Missile

--Clowns can stand on top of our nuclear weapons, and there is no one there to stop them!! Man, do I feel safe, it's a good thing we spend so much money on protecting the Homeland.--

On Tuesday morning, a retired Catholic priest and two veterans put on clown suits, busted into a nuclear missile launch facility, and began beating the silo cover with hammers, in an attempt to take the Minuteman III missile off-line. Seriously.

The trio -- members of the Luck, Wisconsin group Nukewatch -- said the break-in was part of "a call for national repentance" for the Hiroshima and Nagaski A-bombings in 1945.

The activists used bolt-cutters to get into the E-9 Minuteman III facility, located just northwest of the White Shield, North Dakota. "Using a sledgehammer and household hammers, they disabled the lock on the personnel entry hatch that provides access to the warhead and they hammered on the silo lid that covers the 300 kiloton nuclear warhead," the group said in a statement. "The activists painted 'It's a sin to build a nuclear weapon' on the face of the 110-ton hardened silo cover and the peace activists poured their blood on the missile lid."

Monday, June 26, 2006

Human Trails In Cyberspace


If the Internet is a new kind of social space, what does it look like?

That's a question of particular interest to social scientists eager to see what cyberspace might reveal about the nature of human behavior.

Researchers, after all, have long sought to map social groupings and interactions in the physical world. Now, with so much activity on computer networks, scientists can collect vast amounts of hard data on human behavior. Each blog points to other blogs in ways that reveal patterns of influence. Online chats can be tallied and parsed. Even the act of clicking on links can leave trails of activity like footprints in the sand.

'We're entering the golden age of social science,' says Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project. 'We know more than we ever did about what's on people's minds.'"

Click the image on this link, there is a very cool multimedia explanation with various maps. Very interesting, seriously, check it out.

Access for Sale

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Monday, June 26, 2006; 1:00 PM
It's not exactly breaking news that money buys access in Washington. But it's always worth noting who's selling what and for how much -- especially when the White House is involved.John Solomon writes for the Associated Press: 'Wanted: Face time with President Bush or top adviser Karl Rove. Suggested donation: $100,000. The middleman: lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Blunt e-mails that connect money and access in Washington show that prominent Republican activist Grover Norquist facilitated some administration contacts for Abramoff's clients while the lobbyist simultaneously solicited those clients for large donations to Norquist's tax-exempt group.'Those who were solicited or landed administration introductions included foreign figures and American Indian tribes, according to e-mails gathered by Senate investigators and federal prosecutors or obtained independently by The Associated Press. . . .'A Senate committee that investigated Abramoff previously aired evidence showing Bush met briefly in 2001 at the White House with some of Abramoff's tribal clients after they donated money to Norquist's group.'The 2002 e-mail about a second White House meeting and donations, however, was not disclosed. The AP obtained the text from people with access to the document.'The tribes got to meet Bush at the White House in 2002 again and then donated to Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, or ATR.'In another instance, Norquist made 'a special effort -- at Abramoff's request -- to introduce a British businessman and an African dignitary to Rove at another ATR event in summer 2002.'The White House response? 'The White House said Rove was unaware that Norquist solicited any money in connection with ATR events in both 2001 and 2002 that brought Abramoff's tribal clients and others to the White House.'
Safavian Who?
Remember David Safavian, the former White House procurement chief and Abramoff crony who was convicted of lying and obstruction of justice just last week? No? Read my column from last Wednesday .

It's hard to imagine how the criminal conviction of a White House official could fall off the media radar so quickly, but that's exactly what's happened -- with the exception of New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Rich (subscription required) who on Sunday linked Safavian to an even bigger scandal.

Rich writes that "what's most indicative of Mr. Safavian's public service is not his felonies in the Abramoff-Tom DeLay axis of scandal, but his legal activities before his arrest. In his DNA you get a snapshot of the governmental philosophy that has guided the war effort both in Iraq and at home (that would be the Department of Homeland Security) and doomed it to failure. . . .

"In this favor-driven world of fat contracts awarded to the well-connected, Mr. Safavian was only an aspiring consigliere. He was not powerful enough or in government long enough to do much beyond petty reconnaissance for Mr. Abramoff and his lobbying clients. But the Bush brand of competitive sourcing, with its get-rich-quick schemes and do-little jobs for administration pals, spread like a cancer throughout the executive branch."

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Democrats Cite Report On Troop Cuts in Iraq

By Michael Abramowitz and Thomas E. RicksWashington Post Staff WritersMonday, June 26, 2006; A01Senate Democrats reacted angrily yesterday to a report that the U.S. commander in Iraq had privately presented a plan for significant troop reductions in the same week they came under attack by Republicans for trying to set a timetable for withdrawal.Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said that the plan attributed to Gen. George W. Casey resembles the thinking of many Democrats who voted for a nonbinding resolution to begin a troop drawdown in December. That resolution was defeated on a largely party-line vote in the Senate on Thursday.'That means the only people who have fought us and fought us against the timetable, the only ones still saying there shouldn't be a timetable really are the Republicans in the United States Senate and in the Congress,' Boxer said on CBS's 'Face the Nation.' 'Now it turns out we're in sync with General Casey.'Sen. Carl M. Levin (Mich.), one of the two sponsors of the nonbinding resolution, which offered no pace or completion date for a withdrawal, said the report is another sign of what he termed one of the 'worst-kept secrets in town' -- that the administration intends to pull out troops before the midterm elections in November.'It shouldn't be a political decision, but it is going to be with this administration,' Levin said on 'Fox News Sunday.' 'It's as clear as your face, which is mighty clear, that before this election, this November, there's going to be troop reductions in Iraq, and the president will then claim some kind of progress or victory.'At issue was a report yesterday in the New York Times that Casey presented a private briefing at the Pentagon last week, in which he projected the number of U.S. combat brigades -- each numbering about 3,500 troops -- would decrease from 14 to five or six by the end of 2007. There are now about 127,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, including many support troops beyond the combat brigades.White House and Pentagon officials declined to confirm the projections, saying only that Casey met with President Bush on Friday to discuss how the military might proceed in Iraq after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki forms a new government. Bush has often said the U.S. military will stand down as Iraqi forces become adequately trained to handle security."

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The boys who cried wolf

By any reasonable measure, the Bush administration's track record on exposing dangerous terrorist plots isn't terribly impressive. When Abu Zubaydah was captured in Pakistan in March 2002, the president described him as al Queda's chief of operations and emphasized the significance of his capture. Bush was wrong. The plot to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge wasn't quite what it was cracked up to be. Jose Padilla was not actually prepared to detonate a dirty bomb in DC. Former Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge eventually conceded that flimsy evidence led the administration to raise the threat level in 2004.
So when news reports surfaced this week that federal officials had nabbed seven terrorists training in Miami to, among other things, attack the Sears Tower in Chicago, it seemed like great news and a key development in protecting Americans from terrorists on U.S. soil. But then there's that track record to consider, which reminds us that administration announcements like these aren't always what they appear. The media treated the capture of the 'Miami 7' as a very big deal, but was it?
Maybe not.
A plot to topple the Sears Tower in Chicago and attack the F.B.I. headquarters in Miami was 'more aspirational than operational,' a top bureau official said Friday, a day after seven Florida men were arrested on terrorism charges. [%u2026]
News of the arrests touched off widespread television coverage of the plot against the Sears Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world. But details of the indictment disclosed Friday at news conferences in Washington and Miami presented a less alarming picture.
'Less alarming' seems like a more-than-fair description. These alleged terrorists had no weapons, no bombs, no expertise, and no money. They didn't behave or operate as terrorists. They apparently swore an oath of allegiance to Osama bin Laden, but it now appears possible that the FBI informant who infiltrated the group had suggested the idea. For that matter, these guys weren't even Muslims, but instead practiced their own hybrid religion that combined Islam and Christianity.
Their 'plots' against the United States were 'embryonic at best.' The New York Daily News described the group, which was more a cult than a terrorist network, as the '7 Boobs.'
Just to be clear, I'm not saying that the capture of these lunatics is trivial. These people clearly wanted to kill innocent people and commit domestic terrorist attacks. Intelligence officials deserve kudos for infiltrating the group and stopping these would-be terrorists before they became dangerous.

That said, anyone who claims that the administration just broke up a plot to attack the Sears Tower is overstating what's occurred here. The "Miami 7" could hardly attack a convenience store.

Moreover, this seems to be a pattern with the Bush gang. There's a major announcement that receives blanket coverage about terrorist plots — which turns out to be far less significant than advertised. Dick Cheney said yesterday that this cult in Miami was "a very real threat." Except, after scratching beneath the surface just a little, there's ample reason to believe that's not the case.

Chalk up one more example of the boys who cry wolf….

Friday, June 23, 2006

Truth Is for 'Liberals'

by Eric Alterman
Here we are, five and a half years into the Bush Administration, and the
press corps still hasn't figured out how to handle the White House's
primary tactic of media management: lying.
During George W. Bush's first term, reporters had a powerful confluence
of motivations for their difficulty in calling the President to task.
First was tradition; mere journalists lacked the authority to call a
President a liar. Second, post-9/11 they were intimidated by Bush's
McCarthyite with-us-or-ag'in-us rhetoric as well as by a bloodthirsty
right-wing punditocracy. (New York Times White House reporter
Elisabeth Bumiller admitted that she and her colleagues found it
'frightening to stand up there,' and 'no one wanted to get into an
argument with the President at this very serious time.')
Finally, though much of what Bush said during his first term was
laughable, it was not easily disprovable in a normative sense. Would the
poor and the middle class be the primary beneficiaries of tax cuts
designed almost exclusively to enrich the extremely wealthy? Could
right-wing church groups and ideology factories replace the services
provided by traditional government health and welfare agencies? Does
abstinence-only education based on disinformation reduce teen pregnancy?
Were WMD-infested, bin-Laden-loving Iraqis eager to be 'liberated' by a
power that instructs them that our God is bigger than their God? 'Well
maybe,' replied most reporters. 'Time will tell.'"
Because the mainstream media make a fetish of a particularly brainless form of objectivity, the Bush Administration has been able to deceive the American public on a dizzying array of issues, from war to economics to science to, well, you name it. Lying has usually damaged the Presidents who do it, as I argued in my book When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception and Its Consequences. But the media proved so timid in the face of this Administration's deceptions that the reckoning was delayed long enough for Bush to squeak into a second term.

Now the results are in--and reporters, under siege from several directions, are still trapped in self-eviscerating sanctimony. Jim Lehrer explained the peculiar form of "objectivity" he and his colleagues practice to CJR Daily's Liz Cox Barrett not long ago: "I don't deal in terms like 'blatantly untrue,'" he averred. "That's for other people to decide.... I'm not in the judgment part of journalism. I'm in the reporting part of journalism." As Todd Gitlin pointed out on TPM Cafe, Lehrer's interview sounded an awful lot like Rob Corddry lecturing a befuddled Jon Stewart, "I don't have 'o-pin-i-ons.' I'm a reporter, Jon, and my job is to spend half the time repeating what one side says, and half the time repeating the other. Little thing called 'objectivity'--might wanna look it up someday."


Of course, even when they did catch Bush in the occasional bald-faced, easily demonstrable lie, most Washington journalists thought it gauche to make a big deal out of it. Dana Milbank wrote the classic 2002 Washington Post article about Bush's tendency to mislead, deliberately--all without ever using the "L" word. When asked by CNN's Howard "conflict of interest" Kurtz specifically about an incontrovertible lie by Bush about why we invaded Iraq--the President claimed that Saddam Hussein would not allow inspectors in--Milbank excused the liar: "This is just the President being the President." He meant it as a compliment.

Now Bush's lies are news again. When replacing his Treasury Secretary recently, he told another one that reporters have had trouble ignoring. Asked by Bloomberg's Richard Keil, "Has Treasury Secretary Snow given you any indication that he intends to leave his job anytime soon?" Bush responded, "No, he has not talked to me about resignation. I think he's doing a fine job." In fact, as Washington Post.com's Dan Froomkin reported, "Tony Snow [no relation] confirmed that Bush had offered John Snow's job to Goldman Sachs chairman Henry Paulson several days before the press conference, and the spokesman didn't deny that Bush and his treasury secretary had talked about it." Quizzed about the discrepancy, Tony Snow called Bush's response "artfully worded." By Bush Administration standards, that's sad but true.

Froomkin devoted a column to the incident, brazenly titled "Bush's Lie." In it he wondered at all the reasons reporters are reluctant to call a lie a lie. He quoted his own newspaper's coverage by Peter Baker and Paul Blustein, which gave no indication of the President's purposeful mendacity. "Bush, when asked about the Treasury Secretary at his news conference last night, indicated only that he had not spoken directly with Snow and quickly changed the subject to positive economic indicators." In other words: "Thank you, sir, may I have another?" (Also writing about the incident, Slate's John Dickerson explained, mystifyingly, "I'm reluctant to call it a lie, but the President abused our trust.")

Interestingly, Froomkin's attentiveness to the issue of what's true and what's false in the President's statements has earned him the reputation around the office of being an ideologue. Late last year Washington Post executive editor Len Downie spoke of his desire to "make sure people in the administration know that our news coverage by White House reporters is separate from what appears in Froomkin's column." National political editor John Harris admitted at the same time that he had "heard from Republicans" who thought Froomkin "unfair." To offer readers "balance," Post honchos demonstrated just what they consider to be the proper antidote to a twenty-year veteran reporter who submits Administration rhetoric to truth tests: In March they hired a 24-year-old former Bush/Cheney political operative named Ben Domenech, who had little (if any) experience as a journalist but plenty, it turned out, as a plagiarist.

So truth is for "liberals." Were it not for the fact that our democracy is being undermined by the liars in office, we might be flattered. But even the collapse of the President's popularity has not installed much backbone in the press corps. Bush can still lie about whatever he wants whenever he wants; treasury secretaries one day; war the next. It's "just the President being the President."

The impenetrable fog of Bill O'Reilly | Chicago Tribune

By Don Wycliff
Published June 22, 2006
If intellectual dishonesty could be said to have a face, I saw it Tuesday evening as I watched Bill O'Reilly's program on Fox News. I watched without the benefit of sound--if any was coming from the television it couldn't be heard over the din in the bar where I was in Mishawaka, Ind. But Fox conveniently runs a stripped-down text next to O'Reilly's image as he delivers his opening commentary. And there was, in addition, captioning beneath the picture for hearing-impaired viewers--or people who happen to be in noisy bars. O'Reilly was burned up about the mutilation and murders of those two American soldiers--Pfc. Thomas Tucker and Pfc. Kristian Menchaca--who were captured in Iraq by insurgents last week and whose bodies were retrieved Tuesday. What civilized person would not have been? The military didn't give a detailed public description of the conditions of the soldier's bodies, but decapitation seems to have been the least of the savageries inflicted on them--and may have been a grisly coup de grace. O'Reilly wasn't just mad about what had happened to these two young Americans; he wanted something done about it. We've got to get tougher and more aggressive, he opined. Outfits like the American Civil Liberties Union and Air America need to be 'exposed,' and all those who inadvertently help the enemy--like ministers who sign petitions against torture--should mind their p's and q's. And the Iraqi government ought to declare martial law in some parts of Iraq that O'Reilly considers in particular need of iron-fist treatment. After O'Reilly finished his rant, he brought on two retired generals who apparently serve as regular expert commentators on Fox. For several minutes Wild Bill and this posse took out after the murderous barbarians in Iraq, as well as the 'liberals' and dupes here in the U.S. who insist on hobbling the war effort by exercising their rights to think and speak freely. There was much fuming about 'taking the handcuffs off' and 'taking the gloves off' and people cowing the Bush administration and forcing it to fight the war 'defensively,' which after all was exactly how the war in Vietnam had been wrongly fought. And they all arrived at the same conclusion: The U.S. must fight this war to 'win' or bring our troops home. Bill. Bill. Bill. Bill. Bill. You ignorant sl ... How do you face yourself in the mirror each morning?"
Less than two years ago, George W. Bush won a second term in office with the biggest popular vote in American history. His party controls both houses of Congress. The ACLU is preoccupied with controlling the speech of its board of directors. The New York Times, which also came in for some of Bill's dishonorable mention, has not endorsed the winner in the last two presidential elections.

And yet you, Bill, are peddling the notion that Bush is hamstrung in fighting the Iraq war because of domestic doubt and opposition from the left.

And then there's your call for the Iraqi government to declare "martial law."

Bill, that is so-o-o-o Saddam of you. Don't you understand that to declare martial law, you have to have a functioning military? And that the reason Menchaca and Tucker and 130,000 or so of our neighbors and family members are in Iraq is precisely because it doesn't have a functioning military? And that the reason it doesn't have a functioning military is because we smashed it because Saddam Hussein ... Well, let's not go there.

Bill, does the name Eric Shinseki mean anything to you? On the assumption that it doesn't, let me explain that he was the Army chief of staff who was shown the door by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld after Shinseki had the audacity to tell members of Congress that we would need "several hundred thousand soldiers" to control Iraq after an invasion.

Bill, it wasn't the press or the Democrats or the ACLU or Air America that sent our soldiers to Iraq in numbers that evidently are too small to control the place. It was Don Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz who did that, because they had some notions about smaller, lighter, quicker forces that ... Well, let's not go there.

Bill, I understand your dilemma. You want to blame somebody for outrages like the murders of Menchaca and Tucker, but if you put the blame where it really belongs, you have to say bad things about some people for whom you have been a cheerleader.

It's OK , Bill. Nobody who cares about the truth takes you seriously anyway.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

FRONTLINE: the dark side

"amid revelations about faulty prewar intelligence and a scandal surrounding the indictment of the vice president's chief of staff and presidential adviser, I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, FRONTLINE goes behind the headlines to investigate the internal war that was waged between the intelligence community and Richard Bruce Cheney, the most powerful vice president in the nation's history."
Watch this documentary! Online, free, and very insightful.

Damn Republicans!

Damn Republicans!: "Please note the records and references near the end. --
Subject: Bush Resume
RESUME
George W. Bush
The White House, USA
EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE:
LAW ENFORCEMENT:
I was arrested in Kennebunkport, Maine, in 1976 for driving under the influence of alcohol.
I pled guilty, paid a fine, and had my driver's license suspended for 30 days.
My Texas driving record has been 'lost' and is not available.
I was previously only arrested two other times for destruction of university property, and theft of an 8 foot high wreath from the front of a hotel, but daddy got me out of those.
MILITARY:
I joined the Texas Air National Guard and went AWOL.
I refused to take a drug test or answer any questions about my drug use.
By joining the Texas Air National Guard, I was able to avoid combat duty in Vietnam.
COLLEGE:
I graduated from Yale University with a low C average.
I was a cheerleader."

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Did George Bush deface American flags in Vienna, Austria today?


UPDATE: The Associated Press caught Bush defacing American flags in 2003. The Democrats need to offer an amendment to the 'flag burning amendment' that says that writing on the flag is also illegal. Then let the Republicans decide if they're going to vote that George Bush defaced the flag, or whether they're going to defend defacing the flag. Either way, it will make for good theater. I see massive cardboard displays on the Senate floor with this picture blown up really large.A US embassy staffer in Vienna writes AMERICAblog and says he did. Reportedly, a slew of conservative Republican Bush supporters wanted to get Bush's autograph on US flags. And Bush signed them. Right on the flags. Kind of ironic right before Senate Republicans force us to debate 'flag burning,' again, simply because they have no more ideas left."

Heat Bursts Occur Across South-Central Nebraska Early Tuesday Morning, June 20th.

Composed by Steve Kisner / Warning Coordination Meteorologist

Heat bursts are caused by decaying thunderstorms and only develop in an extremely unique environment. The rare setup for a heat burst is dry air directly beneath a weakening elevated thunderstorm. When a thunderstorm is weakening air within the thunderstorm begins to sink. If this sinking air is very dry and high enough it will begin to accelerate toward the ground since it is more dense. Any remaining precipitation will fall through this dry air and quickly evaporate. As the air continues downward, it warms rapidly due to compression.

A heat burst is noted by a rapid increase in temperature, a drop in the dew point temperature and an increase in winds. Here are some readings that occurred this morning.

Lexington Airport

Time Temp Dew Pt. Wind
3:10 am 70 63 Southwest 8 mph
4:30 am 86 48 South 32 mph gusting to 42 mph
5:30 am 81 52 South 25 mph gusting to 32 mph
The peak temperature was 87 degrees at 4:22 am
Holdrege Airport

Time Temp Dew Pt. Wind
3:50 am 72 61 Southwest 10 mph
4:10 am 82 54 Southwest 27 mph gusting to 41 mph
4:30 am 82 52 Southwest 31 mph gusting to 42 mph
4:50 am 81 54 South 23 mph gusting to 36 mph
Hastings Airport

Time Temp Dew Pt. Wind
4:53 am 77 62 South 15 mph gusting to 24 mph
5:53 am 91 44 South 17 mph gusting to 38 mph
6:53 am 84 53 South 21 mph gusting to 35 mph
7:53 am 82 53 South 24 mph gusting to 38 mph
Peak temperature was 94 degrees at 4:47 am
Peak wind gust was from the south at 52 mph at 7:24 am
Kearney Airport

Time Temp Dew Pt. Wind
4:15 am 70 63 South 15 mph
4:55 am 88 50 Southwest 35 mph gusting to 52 mph
5:55 am 82 52 South 28 mph gusting to 38 mph
The peak temperature was 93 degrees.
Grand Island Airport

Time Temp Dew Pt. Wind
6:02 am 79 59 Southwest 6 mph
6:53 am 85 51 South 23 mph gusting to 35 mph
8:13 am 81 59 Southwest 8
Peak temperature was 87 degrees at 7:59 am
Peak Wind Gust was from the South at 40 mph at 6:30 am
The greatest temperature change was at Kearney, where readings went from 70 degrees to 93 degrees between 4 and 5 am. The highest wind gust was 52 mph at both the Hastings and Kearney airports.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Pentagon memo: Homosexuality a defect - U.S. Life - MSNBC.com

WASHINGTON - A Pentagon document classifies homosexuality as a mental disorder, decades after mental health experts abandoned that position.The document outlines retirement or other discharge policies for service members with physical disabilities, and in a section on defects lists homosexuality alongside mental retardation and personality disorders.Critics said the reference underscores the Pentagon's failing policies on gays, and adds to a culture that has created uncertainty and insecurity around the treatment of homosexual service members, leading to anti-gay harassment."

US makes missile defense system operational

Is this one of the administration's first success stories?



WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has moved its ground-based interceptor missile defense system from test mode to operational amid concerns over an expected North Korean missile launch, a U.S. defense official said on Tuesday.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed a Washington Times report that the Pentagon has activated the system, which has been in the developmental stage for years.

"It's good to be ready," the official said.US makes missile defense system operational - Yahoo! News

Perfect Vision Is Helping and Hurting Navy - New York Times

BETHESDA, Md., June 17 Almost every Thursday during the academic year, a bus carrying a dozen or so Naval Academy midshipmen leaves Annapolis for the 45-minute drive to Bethesda, where Navy doctors perform laser eye surgery on them, one after another, with assembly-line efficiency.
Nearly a third of every 1,000-member Naval Academy class now undergoes the procedure, part of a booming trend among military personnel with poor vision. Unlike in the civilian world, where eye surgery is still largely done for convenience or vanity, the procedure's popularity in the armed forces is transforming career choices and daily life in subtle but far-reaching ways.Aging fighter pilots can now remain in the cockpit longer, reducing annual recruiting needs. And recruits whose bad vision once would have disqualified them from the special forces are now eligible, making the competition for these coveted slots even tougher. But the surgery is also causing the military some unexpected difficulties. By shrinking the pool of people who used to be routinely available for jobs that do not require perfect eyesight, it has made it harder to fill some of those assignments with top-notch personnel, officers say.When Ensign Michael Shaughnessy had the surgery in his junior year at the Naval Academy, his new 20-20 vision qualified him for flight school. And that is where he decided to go after graduating last month ranked in the top 10 percent of his class, rather than pursuing a career as a submarine officer. 'The cramped environment in submarines is something that turned me off,' Ensign Shaughnessy, 22, said.For generations, Academy graduates with high grades and bad eyes were funneled into the submarine service. But in the five years since the Naval Academy began offering free eye surgery to all midshipmen, it has missed its annual quota for supplying the Navy with submarine officers every year."

Monday, June 19, 2006

TheoCons, NeoCons, CorporateCons, RichCons, LibertarianCons, PaleoCons and MilitaryCons

As with all big tent parties the Republicans are filled with factions who disagree about a great deal. Today I'm going to take a quick whirl through the 7 main factions.
The first are the TheoCons. The so-called Religious Right. People often think that clout and power in a movement is about money. It isnt, its about votes. And the TheoCons deliver votes. The problem in modern campaigning is finding people who can reliably deliver votes - the religious right, in any riding can often say 'I can delivery X thousand votes.' That's worth a lot - it may only be a few percentage points, but it's a few percentage points they can give you, or can deny - thousands of votes you dont have to try and reach through expensive saturation advertising or time consuming canvassing to identify your voters. Almost no other group can quantify the number of people they can get to vote in the way the religious right can, and that is the source of their power.
For the religious right the primary issue is the judiciary. They want, they need, to change its makeup. It's not an accident that Harriet Myers was the bridge too far for them for Bush - they were willing to eat a lot, but what they weren't willing to take a flyer on was the possibility that she might turn out not to vote their way on key issues like abortion.
The religious right is vulnerable to a concerted attack on them through the IRS and if Democrats get into power that's what they should consider doing (the counterargument is that it could hurt black churches). Tax exempt status is on the line for religious organizations which influence politics (as various attacks on liberal ministers have shown) and the religious right is much more vulnerable to this than the religious left.
The NeoCons are a philosophical movement. They are not a voting block and they cannot deliver any significant number of votes. They have power because their members are influential intellectuals, are long time senior political figures and because of their Israeli ties (yes, the Israeli lobby is, ummm, rather powerful in Washington, shall we say.)
Ex-liberals who found that Democrats weren't interested in changing the world one violent conquest at a time, NeoCons have a touchingly idealistic view of how war can spread democracy and how democratic nations will be happy to sell the US oil cheap (and more importantly, become consumer societies that buy US goods and services and thus aren't nothing but a giant sucking sound of oil wealth gushing into the hands of a few rich men while devastating the US's current account balance.)
keep reading...

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Why Sustainability is Important to You

from DailyKos:

""10 Things You Can Do to Live More Sustainably"

These are things anyone can do, no matter what their income level, no matter where they live. In fact, you can save a lot of money by living a more simple, sustainable life. You don't have to do all 10 - even one thing on this list is a step in the right direction:

* Buy Locally. Of every dollar you spend on cheap plastic crap at SprawlMart, over half (57 cents) leaves the local communityand takes the express train straight to corporate HQ. And that doesn't even take into account how huge the US trade deficit has become because of these corporate mega-stores, and how much US manufacturing has been forced out of the country to stay "competitive".

* Is this trip really necessary? Not only does gas cost you a lot more these days, but unnecessary driving around causes pollution, urbanization, and traffic wrecks. Before you hop in your H2 to get a pint of milk for tonight's dinner from the store 4 blocks away, stop and think.... can you walk there? Can you stock up instead of getting smaller, overpackaged and more expensive portions? Can you combine trips or purposefully NOT drive a few days a week?

* Turn off the TV. Not only will you shut off the constant stream of BUYBUYBUY that's shoved down your throat at maximum volume (thanks, President Reagan, for that corporate perk), but you will have TIME. Time to talk to your family. Time to read a good book (I recommend Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them). Time to take up a hobby that makes you happy. Time to exercise and take walks. Time to research issues important to you. Time to go to political meetings and help with campaigns and voter drives. I'm not saying stop watching ALL television (I recommend The Colbert Report), but at least stop suckling at its cold, hard teat so much.

* Teach your children well. Also make your kids (if you have them) turn off the TV and (gasp!) go outside. Their huge, pale eyes will take some time to adjust to the Yellow Face, and you should probably have some SPF 200 sunblock at first, but it will help them mature physically and mentally into intelligent people. Also lead by example and use your own journey into a more sustainable life as teaching moments. If you decide one day not to go into MegaBigBoxLots and are going to shop at Main Street Market instead, be sure to tell them why. Tell them no, they can't have that plastic toy cel phone from China this time because you're saving money to spend on raisins and oatmeal so you can make cookies together later.

* Reduce, reuse, recycle. Do I really need to explain this one?

* The Joneses are swimming in personal debt. Do you really want to keep up with them? I don't. We have no mortgage because we moved to my MIL's rural property and live in a singlewide we got for free, I'm paying off my one and only credit card (down to about $250), and we (unfortunately) have a large car loan that we're trying to pay down as quickly as possible. That's IT. That's ALL the credit we have, and we're trying to get rid of ALL credit completely ASAP. The Joneses can have their Shopping Channel trinkets and overpriced new kitchen cabinets. I'd rather work fewer hours and spend time with my family and doing hobbies I enjoy.

* Simplify! Stop for a moment and picture in your mind the most peaceful place you can imagine. What's there? What's NOT there? Is it a cluttered room full of George Carlin's STUFF? I didn't think so. What is all that stuff? Do you really, honestly need all that stuff? How much do you spend per month on a storage locker for the extra stuff you can't fit in your house? A fun exercise might be to cut or print out pictures of the most peaceful places you can find... places where you just want to go inside the picture and live there forever. Get rid of stuff until you have ONE room in your house that's like this, even if it's the bathroom. Then keep going.

* Grow your own, organically. Even if it's a few pots of herbs on a windowsill, you can grow your own food. It's satisfying, it takes pesticides out of your diet and the environment, and it adds life to your home. And it saves you a LOT of money! We have a very large organic garden plot full of potatoes, carrots, beans, pumpkins, corn, strawberries, onions, and loads of other stuff. We plan to increase this manyfold next year and be almost entirely self-sufficient (except a few things like chocolate, coffee, wheat flour, cane sugar, salt, spices, etc.). Even if you can't be this ambitious, just plant a few lettuce seeds in a window box... put a dwarf peach in a pot on your patio... take out a little bit of lawn and grow green beans... it's not hard. If you think you have a brown thumb, think again - food plants follow a pretty simple formula. Get a beginner's veggie/fruit/herb growing book and follow the directions carefully. If you need more advice, such as which varieties to plant, contact your local Department of Agriculture's Cooperative Extension which exists to help home gardeners succeed.

* Think about where everything comes from and where it goes. Meat is not a mysterious pink substance that comes from a styrofoam tray. Milk does not come from the milk faucet. The stuff in your house that says "Made in China" did not originally come from the store you bought it from. Who made these things? How were the animals treated that made your meat or milk? Where will your plastic yogurt container go when you throw it "away"? Where is "away"?

* Be willing to change your habits. This is the most important one of all. You have to not just think about these things, you have to act. Even if it means changing ONE thing this month, give it a try. Put a vase of flowers from your yard on your bathroom counter. Bake some bread. Stop driving to the store for your dinner ingredients every night - plan ahead for the week instead. Instead of zoning out in front of the boob tube watching some pointless and badly written sitcom, go to the library and get a nice coffee-table book on a subject you love. Take up a craft. Call a friend or someone in your family. Invite them over for a potluck (I'm big on potlucks). Go to a community event. Take a walk in the park.

Live sustainably. It really does matter."

Uh-oh, There is a New Decider in Town

Look out, Dubya, a new Decider's come a-roamin' inna town. It's NASA Administrator Michael Griffin:

NASA managers on Saturday picked July 1 to launch the first space shuttle in almost a year, despite recommendations against a mission by the space agency's chief engineer and safety offices.
During a poll of top managers, representatives from NASA's Office of Safety and Mission Assurance and the Office of the Chief Engineer recommended against flying until further design changes are made to the external fuel tank. Despite their recommendations, the dissenting managers didn't object to making a launch, NASA officials said.
The ultimate decision to fly was made by NASA administrator Michael Griffin.
'The administrator ... has the obligation to decide. That's what I do,' Griffin said. 'Our staff offices ... have the right, have the obligation, have the utter necessity to tell us exactly what they think. But all of that is advice.'

Shucks, Sherriff! Whatcha gonna do, if'n some'n else comes a-runnin' in here ands starts to up'n start decidin'?
I don't know if this is further evidence of the Bush effect on culture (or anti-effect), or just another stupid ass talking down to his public. Either way, Griffin had better hope that Shuttle goes off without a hitch, or his days of decidin' are over in these here parts."

Murtha smacks Rove around

Murtha on Rove:

MURTHA: He's in New Hampshire. He's making a political speech. He's sitting in his air-conditioned office on his big, fat backside-saying stay the course. That's not a plan! We've got to change direction. You can't sit there in the air-conditioned office and tell troops carrying seventy pounds on their backs, inside these armored vessels-hit with IED's every day-seeing their friends blown up-their buddies blown up-and he says stay the course? Easy to say that from Washington, DC."

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Man Arrested for Not Being Like Everyone Else

BEAVER CREEK – A man was arrested by Secret Service agents when he tried to approach Vice President Dick Cheney in Beaver Creek Village yesterday afternoon, said Secret Service spokesman Eric Zahren.

Cheney was walking outside when the agents charged with protecting him noticed the man, identified as Steven Howards, who “wasn’t acting like the other folks in the area,” Zahren said.

The Don't-Bother-to-Knock Rule

New York Times: "The Supreme Court yesterday substantially diminished Americans' right to privacy in their own homes. The rule that police officers must 'knock and announce' themselves before entering a private home is a venerable one, and a well-established part of Fourth Amendment law. But President Bush's two recent Supreme Court appointments have now provided the votes for a 5-4 decision eviscerating this rule.
This decision should offend anyone, liberal or conservative, who worries about the privacy rights of ordinary Americans. The case arose out of the search of Booker T. Hudson's home in Detroit in 1998. The police announced themselves but did not knock, and after waiting a few seconds, entered his home and seized drugs and a gun. There is no dispute that the search violated the knock-and-announce rule.The question in the case was what to do about it. Mr. Hudson wanted the evidence excluded at his trial. That is precisely what should have happened. Since 1914, the Supreme Court has held that, except in rare circumstances, evidence seized in violation of the Constitution cannot be used. The exclusionary rule has sometimes been criticized for allowing criminals to go free just because of police error. But as the court itself recognized in that 1914 case, if this type of evidence were admissible, the Fourth Amendment 'might as well be stricken.'"

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Now, What About Cheney?

Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-NY leads a group of several dozen House members who have urged Fitzgerald to officially expand his investigation to include an examination of the motives behind the leaks by Libby, focusing in particular on the question of whether the administration's intent was to discredit Ambassador Wilson's revelation that Iraq had never sought uranium from Niger or other African countries. If that is proven to be the case, Hinchey has argued, 'President Bush and other top members of his administration knowingly lied about uranium to the Congress, which is a crime.'
The New York congressman, who is the most determined Congressional watchdog with regard to the administration's misuse of intelligence information, was never one of those who waited for the Rove shoe to drop.
After the April revelation that Cheney's former chief of staff said he was authorized to go after Wilson by the president and vice president, Hinchey said: 'If what Scooter Libby said to the grand jury is true, then this latest development clearly reveals yet again that the CIA leak case goes much deeper than the disclosure of a CIA agent's identity to the press. The heart and motive of this case is about the deliberate attempt at the highest levels of this administration to discredit those who were publicly revealing that the White House lied about its uranium claims leading up to the war. The Bush Administration knew that Iraq had not sought uranium from Africa for a nuclear weapon, yet they went around telling the Congress, the country, and the world just the opposite. When Ambassador Joseph Wilson, Valerie Wilson's husband, publicly spoke out with proof that the administration was not telling the truth on uranium, the administration engaged in an orchestrated plot, which now reportedly includes President Bush, to discredit Ambassador Wilson and dismiss any notion that they had lied about pre-war intelligence.'
As Hinchey has argued for months, Libby's testimony about the authorization he received from Bush and Cheney must be seen in the context of a mounting body of evidence that rules, regulations and laws were bent far beyond the breaking point by the administration. The fact that Karl Rove has not been indicted does not eliminate that body of evidence. Nor does it resolve questions about Cheney's involvement in the scandal, or about the motivations of the president, the vice president and others who sought to discredit Ambassador Wilson for telling the truth. And it ought not serve as an excuse for shutting down an inquiry that has yet to examine 'the heart of the CIA leak case.

Tony Snow Attacks President Carter

Radio/television host Don Imus and White House Press Secretary Tony Snow attacked former President Jimmy Carter yesterday. Imus called Carter a dope and claimed his presidency had humiliat[ed] America, prompting laughter from Snow. Snow then drew two comparisons between Carter and Bush:
1. Whereas Bush snuck off to visit Iraq, Carter used to sneak off and fish on the weekends.
2. [U]nlike in the Carter years, whereyou had the humiliation of hostages being taken in Iran, in Bushs case, youve got the president whos showing up in Baghdad and talking with the new government.
Watch it:
A couple points:
1) Tony Snow is in no position to mock President Carter for vacationing. President Bush has spent more time vacationing than any president in modern history, with 319 days worth as of August 2005. President Carter took 79 vacation days during his 4 years in office, the lowest of any president in modern history.
2) Kidnapping has become a scourge of Iraqi unrest. Tony Snow claims the hostage crisis in Iran was a humiliation for President Carter. But at least 280 foreigners including many Americans and thousands of Iraqis have been taken hostage since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, and Baghdad has become the kidnap capital of the world.
In any case, apparently its now acceptable for a sitting White House Press Secretary to publicly level ad hominem attacks against a former President of the United States."

Rising Sea Level : NASA



NASA Missions Help Dissect Sea Level Rise
June 14, 2006

Sea level isn't, well, level. Nor is the rate by which sea level has been rising over the past few decades, but the trend is clearly up. Global sea level has risen an average of three millimeters (.1 inch) per year since 1993. Rising seas have the potential to affect billions of people around the globe, not just those living near coastlines. With the ocean soaking up more heat from a warming planet and glaciers melting at a record-breaking pace, is there any way to know where and when sea level may level off?

Cheers & Jeers - Bush visit

Thanks to a Freedom of Iraqi Information request, C&J reveals Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki's official activities after he was told that President Bush would be arriving in 5 minutes:
Extinguish joint. Turn on fans. Stuff copies of Juggs back under mattress. Defense Minister Jassim, meet Mr. Swiffer. Shoo camels out... Wait! Make camels lick dishes clean, then shoo out. Spackle bullet holes in foyer with toothpaste. Dab of Speed Stick...spritz of CK One...Dollop of Brylcreem. Plastic covers on furniture. Pull jockstrap off chandelier. Flush... Flush!... PlungePlungePlunge... Flush!! Replace Hendrix CD with Toby Keith. Guzzle Red Bull. 'Paris, darling, please wait in the bedroom, I'll make it up to you I promise.'[Ding Dong!]
'Mr. President, such a---cough cough---unexpected pleasure...'
As for the President's agenda, Rob Corddry has the recap:
The president was here for five hours. The first fifteen minutes were spent with the new prime minister, then a quick power nap to sleep off jet lag. That took two hours. Quick chat with the troops, judged a local hummus cook-off and then... With an international flight, you kinda want to get to the airport two hours ahead. You got the check-in, security, duty free shopping. (He picked up a bottle of perfume for Laura---Ahmed Chalabi's Desperation. It's an intoxicating blend of Sunni and Shiite aroma. Smells awful.)
Just his being there for five hours makes a statement. It told the Iraqi people: 'I'm with you. I stand behind you. And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm getting the fuck out of here.'
---The Daily Show"

Reality Bites

by DarkSyde
At YearlyKos I had the opportunity to work with a gifted individual who advises political candidates and pundits on everything from body language to speech. Later on, he asked me what my role here was, and what sound-bite I might use to describe it. I replied, 'I don't think I need a sound-bite, science is the study of reality, make a habit of ignoring reality for wishful thinking, and you will effing die.' After a second or two he said, 'I think you just found your sound-bite.'
The latest glaring example of willful GOP ignorance also came to me from YK. Rep. Brad Miller, (D-North Carolina) told me about his recently introduced ammendment to H. R. 5450--a bill that would codify the existence of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Miller Amendment is entitled Restoring Scientific Integrity to Research and Policy Making. It seeks to expand protection available for government scientists who report wrongdoing of any kind. Once again, the GOP preferred to ignore reality and opt for wishful thinking. And sooner or later, some of us just might pay for their short-sighted incompetence with our lives.
NOAA was originally created by an executive order issued by the Nixon administration in 1970. The mission of the fledgling organization was to 'better protect life and property from natural hazards...for a better understanding of the total environment... [and] for exploration and development leading to the intelligent use of our marine resources...' . That mission remains the same today. With more people than ever living on or near the ocean, we increasingly depend on the fine work done by NOAA forecasters and researchers. They study and record weather related phenomena, in part to understand changes in climate, including global climate change, and they provide data and forecasts for severe weather and water cycle events. Hurricane updates and warnings throughout the blogosphere and elsewhere rely heavily on real-time data gathered and published by NOAA. Congress has never authorized NOAA as an independent agency with a mission that is firmly established in law. H. R. 5450 would rectify that."

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Chris Matthews Test of Attractibility

As Shakespeare's Sister is reporting, Chris Matthews waxed prophetic about how hot -- or not -- Ann Coulter is. Here's the transcript, via Shakes:

MATTHEWS: Do you find her physically attractive, Tucker?

CARLSON: I'm not going to answer that, because the answer, I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings. That's not the point.

MATTHEWS: Positively.

COSBY: Don't ask me that question.

MATTHEWS: Mike, do you want to weigh in here as an older fellow. Do you find her to be a physically attractive woman?

BARNICLE: I'm too old to be doing that. I had enough fights in my life.

MATTHEWS: OK, Rita, do you find her to be a physically attractive woman?

COSBY: I'll throw it back to you, Chris, do you find her attractive.

MATTHEWS: You guys are all afraid to answer. No, I find her I wouldnt put her well, she doesnt pass the Chris Matthews test.

Hmm, well this got me thinking. What is, exactly, the 'Chris Matthews test?' Was he speaking metaphorically? Or was there... aw, heck, you know where this is going.
Sure enough, my staff of faithful Spittleborgs discovered the actual test which Chris Matthews' uses to see if people can be considered, by him, as attractive. And here it is, in all its glory. (Click the thumbnail for the full size test form.)

For more on Chris Matthews alleged sexual preferences, click here.matthewstest_thumb.jpg

Hawking: Space key to human survival

HONG KONG (AP) -- The survival of the human race depends on its ability to find new homes elsewhere in the universe because there's an increasing risk that a disaster will destroy Earth, world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking said.

Humans could have a permanent base on the moon in 20 years and a colony on Mars in the next 40 years, the British scientist told a news conference.

"We won't find anywhere as nice as Earth unless we go to another star system," added Hawking, who came to Hong Kong to a rock star's welcome Monday. Tickets for his lecture Thursday were sold out.

Hawking said that if humans can avoid killing themselves in the next 100 years, they should have space settlements that can continue without support from Earth.

"It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species," Hawking said. "Life on Earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers we have not yet thought of."

Hillary Clinton Faces Anti-War Critics - Forbes.com

A liberal crowd both booed and cheered Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton Tuesday after she encouraged Democrats to have a 'difficult conversation' about their position on the Iraq war in order to win over middle-of-the-road voters.
Clinton's attempt to strike a moderate stance on the divisive issue of the war contrasted sharply with the angry words of another potential presidential contender, Sen. John Kerry, the party's 2004 standard-bearer, who called the war 'immoral' and a 'quagmire.'
At a speech before a liberal gathering dubbed 'Take Back America,' the New York senator took grief from those in the audience critical of her vote for the Iraq war and her opposition to an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops.
'I do not think it is a smart strategy, either, for the president to continue with his open-ended commitment, which I think does not put enough pressure on the new Iraqi government,' said Clinton, before turning to the anti-war liberals' core beef with her.
'Nor do I think it is smart strategy to set a date certain. I do not agree that that is in the best interests,' said Clinton, prompting loud booing from some at the gathering.
Clinton has been seen as the early favorite among potential Democratic candidates for president in 2008, but she is increasingly at odds with anti-war liberals over her past vote and current position on Iraq.
'Sometimes this is a difficult conversation, in part because this administration has made our world more dangerous than it should be,' she said.
After addressing Iraq, Clinton quickly turned to the 2006 election, saying her party needs to speak to middle-class Americans and overcome disagreements.
'If we're going to win in November then we have to be smarter, tougher, and better prepared than our opponents, because one thing they do know how to do is win and we have to reach out to people who may not be able to agree with us,' she said.
"

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Hey Bob, Where’s Your Letter?

"I have to say I don't know what all the fuss is about.
When I first heard that Rove got a letter saying that Fitzgerald did not intend to bring charges against him, I immediately thought as emptywheel did of a conversation we had between the Plame panelists last Thursday. Emptywheel took a poll of those who thought Rove had flipped and both Joe Wilson and Larry Johnson raised their hands. Christy acknowledged that it was awfully weird for someone to testify before a grand jury five times and NOT be cooperating in some fashion with the prosecution. Today emptywheel offers this account:
I was one of those who raised her hand halfway. My logic is this:
Dick Cheney is dragging down the White House. He is largely responsible for the mess in Iraq. He is trying to sabotage any attempts to negotiate honestly with Iran. And he is exposing everyone in the Administration to some serious legal jeopardy, in the event they ever lose control of courts. At some point, Dick Cheney's authoritarianism will doom Bush's legacy.
But you can't make him quit. His is a Constitutional office, he was elected along with Bush, so you can't make him resign like you can with your Treasury Secretary or your Environmental Secretary. What better way to get rid of him, then, than to expose him to legal proceedings? It gives you the ability (farcical, but no matter) to say that you have severed all ties with his policies and legacies.

It's become ever more apparent as time goes on and Fitzgerald releases bits of information in his filings that this was a Dick Cheney operation. Rove may have gotten involved because smearing people is his idea of a good time, but the Cheney scrawlings on Joe Wilson%u2019s op-ed are the 'blue dress' of this case. Look at Conrad Black. Look at George Ryan. I'm sorry, but Fitzgerald had Rove dead to rights if he wanted him, and anyone who thinks he got nothing for something has been following the story of a different prosecutor than I have been."

Monday, June 12, 2006

What Would Ann Coulter Do?

"As female college activist groups go, the Network of Enlightened Women, or NeW, is a very different breed. They don't distribute condoms on the Quad or march for a woman's right to choose. Instead, they bake chocolate chip cookies and protest campus productions of Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues, a controversial play about female sexuality that conservatives say degrades women and glorifies rape.

Barely two years old, NeW is a small but fast-growing campus alternative to the Feminist Majority and the National Organization of Women, with a foothold in seven states. More importantly, it has already gained the attention and support of the most powerful conservative women in Washington.

This Friday controversial pundit Ann Coulter, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao and others will address the leaders of NeW and their peers at the Conservative Leadership Seminar, a Capitol Hill conference where aspiring right-wingers learn from the pros. The seminar is sponsored by the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute, an organization that mentors young conservative women. Though conservatives rising up on campus isn't exactly a new phenomenon, until now there hasn't been a group on campus that has specifically taken on modern feminism the way national groups like the Independent Women's Forum and the Eagle Forum have done in Washington."

Meow, Down Kitty.

Kitty-killer label litters Frist resume for president

There's a potential pothole in U.S. Sen. Bill Frist's road to the White House: He's a confessed kitty killer.
He fessed up in his 1989 book, "Transplant," to adopting cats from shelters when he was in medical school, treating them like pets for a while, and then using them in his research experiments. Maybe in hindsight, Trent Lott should have seen it coming.
To his credit, the future senator wrote that it was a "heinous and dishonest thing to do."
Last week, Frist started shopping around a new memoir to New York and Tennessee publishers. Here's the burning question: How will he spin the cat tale?
It came up in Tennessee's 1994 Republican primary, when Frist faced five opponents for the nomination. It was Chattanooga's Bob Corker (he's in a similar cat fight for Frist's seat now) who tried to inflame the feline furor. Corker sent beef-and-bacon-flavored
9 Lives Cat Treats to reporters and put out a press release saying Frist had lost the Garfield vote.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

CHICAGO'S MASTER PLAN

Chicago Tribune
: "Chicago is set to unveil new plans for becoming a bicyclist's haven. And this time, it means business. The new Bike 2015 Plan wastes little time on breezy rides in the park. Instead, the city's Department of Transportation is bent on getting people to bike to work, to school, to stores and to mass transit stops, cobbling together a 500-mile network of designated routes. Understanding that bicyclists' greatest enemies--aside from sloth--are car doors, right-lane passers and other street perils, planners looked around the world for new safety ideas. From Geneva, Switzerland, they got the idea of raised bike lanes, a layer of pavement above street level and below the curb that would help dissuade motorists from veering into cycling territory. By 2010, the city hopes to experiment with raised lanes in a few locations. In Copenhagen, Cambridge and other places, planners saw bicycle lanes colored a startling shade of teal green, thermoplastic markings they hope to duplicate at some Chicago intersections to try to warn right-turning cars to watch for bikes."

Saturday, June 10, 2006

NASA shelves climate satellites - The Boston Globe

``Today, when the need for information about the planet is more important than ever, this process of building understanding through increasingly powerful observations . . . is at risk of collapse,' said Berrien Moore III, director of the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space at the University of New Hampshire.Moore is cochairman of a National Research Council committee that will recommend NASA's future earth science agenda later this year. It is unclear, however, whether NASA will follow those recommendations.``NASA has canceled, scaled back, or delayed all of the planned earth observing missions,' he said."

Friday, June 09, 2006

Oil Prices Jump Amid Instability in Iraq

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Oil prices rose by more than $1 a barrel Friday, reversing a three-day decline. Brokers attributed the rise to tough talk from an Iranian cleric and the kidnapping of a senior Iraqi petroleum industry official -- proof that the killing of al-Qaida's leader in Iraq did not mark the end of instability in that country."

*What a stupid article. Honestly, let's think about this for a minute. Instability in Iraq? Hmm... It's been unstable since the end of April 2003. Is the AP truly considering this news? Or have they lost the ability to report, and thus decided to pay desk jockeys to blab about a day's events. I.E.. Oil prices go up: why? Oh it must be because investors realized Zarqawi's death didn't create a sustainable stability in Iraq. Furthermore, Since when did Iran want to have 'talks' over crumpets and chilled juniper tea? This lead is an unintellectual, emotional babble. Frankly, I think it's a joke. Kinda like Pink's new song, Where Have All the Smart Reporters Gone?
Thanks for letting me babble.

Pentagon sets its sights on social networking websites

New Scientist: "'I AM continually shocked and appalled at the details people voluntarily post online about themselves.' So says Jon Callas, chief security officer at PGP, a Silicon Valley-based maker of encryption software. He is far from alone in noticing that fast-growing social networking websites such as MySpace and Friendster are a snoop's dream.
New Scientist has discovered that Pentagon's National Security Agency, which specialises in eavesdropping and code-breaking, is funding research into the mass harvesting of the information that people post about themselves on social networks. And it could harness advances in internet technology - specifically the forthcoming 'semantic web' championed by the web standards organisation W3C - to combine data from social networking websites with details such as banking, retail and property records, allowing the NSA to build extensive, all-embracing personal profiles of individuals.
Americans are still reeling from last month's revelations that the NSA has been logging phone calls since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. The Congressional Research Service, which advises the US legislature, says phone companies that surrendered call records may have acted illegally. However, the White House insists that the terrorist threat makes existing wire-tapping legislation out of date and is urging Congress not to investigate the NSA's action.
Meanwhile, the NSA is pursuing its plans to tap the web, since phone logs have limited scope. They can only be used to build a very basic picture of someone's contact network, a process sometimes called 'connecting the dots'. Clusters of people in highly connected groups become apparent, as do people with few connections who appear to be the intermediaries between such groups. The idea is to see by how many links or 'degrees' separate people from, say, a member of a blacklisted organisation."

Pentagon sets its sights on social networking websites

New Scientist: "'I AM continually shocked and appalled at the details people voluntarily post online about themselves.' So says Jon Callas, chief security officer at PGP, a Silicon Valley-based maker of encryption software. He is far from alone in noticing that fast-growing social networking websites such as MySpace and Friendster are a snoop's dream.
New Scientist has discovered that Pentagon's National Security Agency, which specialises in eavesdropping and code-breaking, is funding research into the mass harvesting of the information that people post about themselves on social networks. And it could harness advances in internet technology - specifically the forthcoming 'semantic web' championed by the web standards organisation W3C - to combine data from social networking websites with details such as banking, retail and property records, allowing the NSA to build extensive, all-embracing personal profiles of individuals.
Americans are still reeling from last month's revelations that the NSA has been logging phone calls since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. The Congressional Research Service, which advises the US legislature, says phone companies that surrendered call records may have acted illegally. However, the White House insists that the terrorist threat makes existing wire-tapping legislation out of date and is urging Congress not to investigate the NSA's action.
Meanwhile, the NSA is pursuing its plans to tap the web, since phone logs have limited scope. They can only be used to build a very basic picture of someone's contact network, a process sometimes called 'connecting the dots'. Clusters of people in highly connected groups become apparent, as do people with few connections who appear to be the intermediaries between such groups. The idea is to see by how many links or 'degrees' separate people from, say, a member of a blacklisted organisation."

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Brin Says Google Compromised Principles

WASHINGTON (AP) - Google Inc. (GOOG) co-founder Sergey Brin acknowledged Tuesday the dominant Internet company has compromised its principles by accommodating Chinese censorship demands. He said Google is wrestling to make the deal work before deciding whether to reverse course.
Meeting with reporters near Capitol Hill, Brin said Google had agreed to the censorship demands only after Chinese authorities blocked its service in that country. Google's rivals accommodated the same demands - which Brin described as 'a set of rules that we weren't comfortable with' - without international criticism, he said.
'We felt that perhaps we could compromise our principles but provide ultimately more information for the Chinese and be a more effective service and perhaps make more of a difference,' Brin said.
Brin also addressed Internet users' expectations of privacy in an era of increased government surveillance, saying Americans misunderstand the limited safeguards of their personal electronic information.
'I think it's interesting that the expectations of people with respect to what happens to their data seems to be different than what is actually happening,' he said."

Google co-founders Sergey Brin, right, and Larry Page speak with reporters during Googles Press Day...

A Sixth Sense for a Wired World


Wired News: A Sixth Sense for a Wired World: "What if, seconds before your laptop began stalling, you could feel the hard drive spin up under the load? Or you could tell if an electrical cord was live before you touched it? For the few people who have rare earth magnets implanted in their fingers, these are among the reported effects -- a finger that feels electromagnetic fields along with the normal sense of touch.

It's been described as a buzzing sensation, a tingling, an oscillation, movement, pure stimulation and, in the case of body-modification expert Shannon Larrett's encounter with a too-powerful antitheft gateway at a retail store, 'Like sticking your hand in an ultrasonic cleaner.'

Body-mod artists Jesse Jarrell and Steve Haworth's original idea was to implant a magnet to carry metal gadgets. It turns out that doesn't work: If you try to carry something magnetic on your implant regularly, the pinched skin between the magnets dies and your body rejects the implant. But they came up with a new application when a mutual friend suffered an accident that left a shard of iron in his finger. He worked with audio equipment, and found that he could tell which speakers were magnetized from the sensation that passed through his finger at close range.

That gave Jarrell and Haworth a new direction: Could they obtain that effect deliberately, extending the sense of touch into a sense of magnetism?"

Lioness in zoo kills man who invoked God - Yahoo! News

"KIEV (Reuters) - A man shouting that God would keep him
safe was mauled to death by a lioness in Kiev zoo after he
crept into the animal's enclosure, a zoo official said on
Monday.
'The man shouted 'God will save me, if he exists', lowered
himself by a rope into the enclosure, took his shoes off and
went up to the lions,' the official said.
'A lioness went straight for him, knocked him down and
severed his carotid artery.'
The incident, Sunday evening when the zoo was packed with
visitors, was the first of its kind at the attraction. Lions
and tigers are kept in an 'animal island' protected by thick
concrete blocks."

Monday, June 05, 2006

Help Stop the Federal Marriage Amendment

"Help Stop the Federal Marriage Amendment
Your help is urgently needed. Senators Bill Frist and Rick Santorum have scheduled a Senate vote on the discriminatory Federal Marriage Amendment as a way to play politics with the Constitution.
This would harm American families in hopes of mobilizing a few more voters before the mid-term elections.
The Federal Marriage Amendment would, for the first time ever, amend the U.S. Constitution to mandate discrimination against individuals and their families. It would prohibit states from defining marriage themselves and jeopardize the protections that same-sex couples and their children have for health insurance, hospital visitation, and medical decisions.
The vote is scheduled to take place the week of June 5. It is critical that you contact your senators right now and tell them to oppose the Federal Marriage Amendment. We are also asking senators to vote against %u201Ccloture,%u201D the motion to cut off debate, because that is likely to be the only vote on this discriminatory amendment."

SEND THIS LETTER TO YOUR SENATORS - BETTER LATE THAN NEVER!!

Colbert Tells College Graduates: Get Your Own TV Show

Editor and Publisher: "NEW YORK At the close of his commencement speech before 250 graduates (and 4000 others) at tiny Knox College in Galesburg, Ill. on Saturday, satirist Stephen Colbert left them with a piece of advice: Get your own TV show. 'It pays well,' he observed, 'the hours are great and you have fans. Eventually, some nice people will give you an honorary degree for doing jack squat.'
This advice could be crucial, for earlier he had observed: 'I don't know if they've told you what's been happening in the world while you've been matriculating. The world is waiting for you people with a club....They are playing for KEEPS out there, folks.'
Colbert, who slipped in and out of his rightwing blowhard TV persona on Comedy Central, 'The Colbert Report,' received an overwhelmingly positive response compared with the mixed reaction at the recent White House Correspondents Dinner. Afterward, students presented him with a purple 'Veritasiness Tour' t-shirt (which translates, very roughly, as 'truthiness').
He had opened his speech with: 'My name is Stephen Colbert, but I actually play someone on television named Stephen Colbert, who looks like me, and talks like me, but who says things with a straight face he doesn't mean.'
In that vein, Colbert considered the immigration debate: 'It's time for illegal immigrants to go - right after they finish (building) those walls.' People keep saying immigrants built America, 'but here's the thing, it's built now. I think it was finished in the '70s sometime. From this point it's only a touch-up and repair job.'
His suggestions for securing the U.S.-Mexico border went beyond walls to include moats, fiery moats and fiery moats with fire-proof crocodiles.
He added that the border with Canada also has to be secure so Canadians cannot bring their 'skunky beer' into the country. He backed English as the official language of the United States - 'God wrote (the Bible) in English for a reason: So it could be taught in our public schools.'.'"

Link to transcript

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Bush challenges hundreds of laws - The Boston Globe

Bush challenges hundreds of laws - The Boston Globe

By Charlie Savage, Globe Staff | April 30, 2006
WASHINGTON -- President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.
Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, ''whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.
Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty ''to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to ''execute" a law he believes is unconstitutional.

Bar group will review Bush's legal challenges - The Boston Globe

Bush has challenged more laws than all previous presidents combined.

``I think one of the most critical issues in the country right now is the extent to which the White House has tried to expand its powers and basically tried to cut the legislative branch out of its own constitutionally equal role, and the signing statements are a particularly egregious example of that," Edwards said. ``I've been doing a lot of speaking and writing about this, and when the ABA said they were looking to take a position on signing statements, I said that's serious because those people carry a lot of weight.


Really interesting article, Please read.

Mass Natural

New York Times: "'Elitist' is just about the nastiest name you can call someone, or something, in America these days, a finely-honed term of derision in the culture wars, and 'elitist' has stuck to organic food in this country like balsamic vinegar to mache. Thirty years ago the rap on organic was a little different: back then the stuff was derided as hippie food, crunchy granola and bricklike brown bread for the unshaved set (male and female division). So for organic to be tagged as elitist may count as progress. But you knew it was over for John Kerry in the farm belt when his wife, Teresa, helpfully suggested to Missouri farmers that they go organic. Eating organic has been fixed in the collective imagination as an upper-middle-class luxury, a blue-state affectation as easy to mock as Volvos or lattes. On the cultural spectrum, organic stands at the far opposite extreme from Nascar or Wal-Mart.
But all this is about to change, now that Wal-Mart itself, the nation's largest grocer, has decided to take organic food seriously. (Nascar is not quite there yet.) Beginning later this year, Wal-Mart plans to roll out a complete selection of organic foods -food certified by the U.S.D.A. to have been grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers - in its nearly 4,000 stores. Just as significant, the company says it will price all this organic food at an eye-poppingly tiny premium over its already-cheap conventional food: the organic Cocoa Puffs and Oreos will cost only 10 percent more than the conventional kind. Organic food will soon be available to the tens of millions of Americans who now cannot afford it - indeed, who have little or no idea what the term even means. Organic food, which represents merely 2.5 percent of America's half-trillion-dollar food economy, is about to go mainstream. At a stroke, the argument that it is elitist will crumble. This is good news indeed, for the American consumer and the American land. Or perhaps I should say for some of the American land and a great deal more of the land in places like Mexico and China, for Wal-Mart is bound to hasten the globalization of organic food. (Ten percent of organic food is imported today.) Like every other commodity that global corporations lay their hands on, organic food will henceforth come from wherever in the world it can be produced most cheaply. It is about to go the way of sneakers and MP3 players, becoming yet another rootless commodity circulating in the global economy.Oh, but wait. . .I meant to talk about all the good that will come of Wal-Mart's commitment to organic. Sorry about that. When you're talking about global capitalism, it can be hard to separate the good news from the bad. Because of its scale and efficiency and notorious ruthlessness, Wal-Mart will force down the price of organics, and that is a good thing for all the consumers who can't afford to spend more for food than they already do. Wal-Mart will also educate the millions of Americans who don't yet know exactly what organic food is or precisely how it differs from conventionally grown food."

Is It Raining Aliens? Hallelujia

Is It Raining Aliens? - Popular Science

loudy, reddish rainwater in Godfrey Louis’s laboratory in southern India may hold, well, aliens. In April, Louis, a solid-state physicist at Mahatma Gandhi University, published a paper in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Astrophysics and Space Science in which he hypothesizes that the samples—water taken from the mysterious blood-colored showers that fell sporadically across Louis’s home state of Kerala in the summer of 2001—contain microbes from outer space.
Specifically, Louis has isolated strange, thick-walled, red-tinted cell-like structures about 10 microns in size. Stranger still, dozens of his experiments suggest that the particles may lack DNA yet still reproduce plentifully, even in water superheated to nearly 600˚F. (The known upper limit for life in water is about 250˚F.) So how to explain them? Louis speculates that the particles could be extraterrestrial bacteria adapted to the harsh conditions of space and that the microbes hitched a ride on a comet or meteorite that later broke apart in the upper atmosphere and mixed with rain clouds above India. If his theory proves correct, the cells would be the first confirmed evidence of alien life and, as such, could yield tantalizing new clues to the origins of life on Earth.

Last winter, Louis sent some of his samples to astronomer Chandra Wickramasinghe and his colleagues at Cardiff University in Wales, who are now attempting to replicate his experiments; Wickramasinghe expects to publish his initial findings later this year.

Meanwhile, more down-to-earth theories abound. One Indian government investigation conducted in 2001 lays blame for what some have called the “blood rains” on algae. Other theories have implicated fungal spores, red dust swept up from the Arabian peninsula, even a fine mist of blood cells produced by a meteor striking a high-flying flock of bats.

Louis and his colleagues dismiss all these theories, pointing to the fact that both algae and fungus possess DNA and that blood cells have thin walls and die quickly when exposed to water and air. More important, they argue, blood cells don’t replicate. “We’ve already got some stunning pictures—transmission electron micrographs—of these cells sliced in the middle,” Wickramasinghe says. “We see them budding, with little daughter cells inside the big cells.”

Louis’s theory holds special appeal for Wickramasinghe. A quarter of a century ago, he co-authored the modern theory of panspermia, which posits that bacteria-riddled space rocks seeded life on Earth. “If it’s true that life was introduced by comets four billion years ago,” the astronomer says, “one would expect that microorganisms are still injected into our environment from time to time. This could be one of those events.”

The next significant step, explains University of Sheffield microbiologist Milton Wainwright, who is part of another British team now studying Louis’s samples, is to confirm whether the cells truly lack DNA. So far, one preliminary DNA test has come back positive.“Life as we know it must contain DNA, or it’s not life,” he says. “But even if this organism proves to be an anomaly, the absence of DNA wouldn’t necessarily mean it’s extraterrestrial.”

Louis and Wickramasinghe are planning further experiments to test the cells for specific carbon isotopes. If the results fall outside the norms for life on Earth, it would be powerful new evidence for Louis’s idea, of which even Louis himself remains skeptical. “I would be most happy to accept a simpler explanation,” he says, “but I cannot find any."

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Couple's Supposedly Destroyed Hard Drive Purchased In Chicago

ChannelCincinnati.com: "CINCINNATI -- A year ago, Henry and Roma Gerbus took their computer to Best Buy in Springfield Township to have its hard drive replaced.Henry Gerbus said Best Buy assured him the computer's old hard drive -- loaded with personal information -- would be destroyed.'They said rest assured. They drill holes in it so it's useless,' said Gerbus.A few months ago, Gerbus got a phone call from a man in Chicago.
'He said, 'My name is Ed. I just bought your hard drive for $25 at a flea market in Chicago,'' said Gerbus. 'I thought my world was coming down.'Gerbus and his wife had good reason to worry.A total stranger had access to the couple's personal information, including Social Security numbers, bank statements and investment records.Through information listed on the hard drive, the man in Chicago was able to contact the couple"

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Purpose-Driven Life Takers

Christian fundamentalist Tim LaHayes series of Left Behind books has been made into a Grand Theft Auto-style video game. Preview: The main character says Praise the Lord after blowing away a heathen.
(Talk2action has more.)
Lets see: Weve got a deputy undersecretary of defense who sees the war on terror as a fight between Judeo-Christians and Satan; a president who has called the war on terror a crusade and, now, video game makers encouraging preteens to kill heathens.
If those are the people being saved, Leave Me Behind.
L.A. Times:
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.
As the video game industry gathers at the Los Angeles Convention Center this week for the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, a devout group of publishers is praying for a direct strike on their elusive target: the eternal souls of game players.
One game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces, which debuts today at the expo, features plenty of biblical smiting, albeit with high-tech weaponry as players battle the forces of the Antichrist in a smoldering world approaching Armageddon.
The creators hope the game packs enough action to appeal to a generation of kids reared on such titles as Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and subtly coax them to consider their own spirituality."