Wednesday, January 31, 2007

It feels wrong to be Right.

I like Newsweek magazine. I've had a subscription for over a year now, and its become my routine to find it in my mailbox ever Monday morning, carrying it around with me for the next 3 or 4 days. It makes great train fodder. They cover politics as an ongoing narrative, a weekly hour long drama if you will, starring Bush, Cheney, Rumsfield, Hilary, Obama, and a rash of other supporting characters. The current plot, for the past 3 weeks at least, is the drama between John McCain and Chuck Hagel. Both Republicans, both Vietnam Vets, both slightly scarred, and both from the stock of good old American white boys. Both eyeing a presidential bid. But the drama ensues because they oppose each other on the war. ***gasp*** And the question Newsweek is asking: Is it a better political play at this point to be for or against the war? If you don't stand for something, you'll be a nothing. At least in this exciting primary season (I now know what football fans must be feeling).

So, in short, Newsweek has wooed me to Chuck Hagel. Maybe its because they keep referring to him as a rebel, and I'm a sucker for that. Or maybe because he says things like "I think all 100 senators ought to be on the line on this. If you wanted a safe job, go sell shoes." Ha -love it. Calculated politics, based on polls and demographics, is whats crippling us from moving forward.

But he's still a Republican, and even saying I like one sounds like a dirty secret I should keep to myself, while trying to find something to blame like having read "Atlas Shrugged." But I hear that opening bell ringing, and I'm just excited to see the possibility of SOMETHING DIFFERENT. Even if its a Republican who isn't intent on sucking the life out of this planet.

Its like reality TV, because it IS reality. Tune on.


Feb. 5, 2007 issue - Chuck Hagel wears pain on his face. The senior senator from Nebraska earned two Purple Hearts in Vietnam, where a mine blew out his eardrums and delivered a sharp burn up the left side of his head. When he is thinking hard, his brow droops low, weighted and weary; when he smiles, his eyes slip into thin slits. His brother Tom calls this Hagel's "running gear"—the thick mask of intensity he shows the world.
That intensity was on display last Wednesday as he sat and stewed at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The panel was considering a resolution condemning President Bush's proposal to send 21,000 additional troops to Iraq; Hagel, a cosponsor of the resolution, would be the only Republican on the committee to vote for its passage. As he listened to his colleagues make their cases for and against the president's plan, Hagel told NEWSWEEK he noticed something missing: an acknowledgment that the Senate was talking about committing real troops, the men and women whose "fighting and dying" make a war. He had no prepared text but the words came easily as he took his turn at the mike. Calling Iraq the country's most divisive issue since Vietnam, he dared his fellow committee members to take a stand. "I think all 100 senators ought to be on the line on this," he said. "If you wanted a safe job, go sell shoes." For a moment, his colleagues were silent and stunned. Later that afternoon, Joe Biden, the committee's Democratic chairman, complimented him on his performance. "I've rarely seen such a powerful connection between the heart and the mind," Biden said. "That was deep in you."

Liberia gets all-female peacekeeping force


A unit of United Nations peacekeepers with a difference has arrived for work in Liberia - they are all women.

More than 100 female peacekeepers from India are there to work as an armed police unit to help stabilise Liberia which, after years of war, is trying to rebuild its own police force from scratch.

Stepping off the chartered plane in immaculate blue uniforms and berets, the 103 women were immediately on parade and probably bewildered by the media frenzy.

It is just a coincidence that the first all-female peacekeeping force is in Liberia, the first African country to elect a female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Crime is high especially in Monrovia and the war has left a degree of violence simmering just below the surface.

A Case for Impeachment

Not all lies are created equal. It is understood that there is a chasm of importance between little white lies and big black ones. Most would agree that lying about a consensual sexual affair, even by the president, is of significantly lesser concern than lying about the proliferation of nuclear weapons as an excuse to take the nation to war.
How then is it possible that a Republican-controlled Congress impeached President Bill Clinton over his attempt to conceal marital infidelity but that a Democratic-led Congress will not even consider impeaching this president for far more serious transgressions against the public trust? That is the question that arises from early revelations in the trial of Lewis Scooter Libby, Vice President Dick Cheneys former chief of staff.
This cases importance lies not in the narrow charge that Libby committed perjury in testifying about his role in the outing of CIA operative Valerie Wilson; that was merely one facet of a far-ranging plot to deceive Congress and the public about perhaps the most important issue of our time: the prospect of terrorists obtaining a weapon of mass destruction."

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Rape victim jailed after reporting attack

"TAMPA - A young woman was walking back to her car after the Gasparilla parade on Saturday when she says a man dragged her behind a building and raped her near the intersection of Howard and Swann.
She managed to get away and called 911. Police took her to the hospital and began a routine rape investigation.
When they started checking the victim's background, they discovered she had an arrest warrant out for her.
It was from an arrest when the woman was a juvenile and she was accused of not paying restitution. The woman says she was not aware there was a warrant out for her, and her attorney says it appears to be a paperwork error.
"They were more interested in prosecuting her for something that's a paperwork snafu from four years ago, that was juvenile. They were more interested in working on that than finding an experienced rapist," stated the victim's mother.
Still, the woman was put in handcuffs and taken to jail. She was not allowed bond, and the medical staff at the jail refused to give her the Morning After Pill even though it had been prescribed at the hospital.
"The medical supervisor would not allow her to take the pill because she said it was against her, the supervisor's, religion. So, here we have a medical supervisor imposing her beliefs on a rape victim," claimed the victim's attorney Virlyn Moore. "As a human being, how someone could be so violated by this monster and then the system comes along and rapes her again psychologically and emotionally - it's outrageous and unconscionable.""

Monday, January 29, 2007

Former Press Secretary Says Libby Told Him of Plame

Fleischer's Testimony On Timing Supports Prosecution's Case
WaPo: "Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer testified yesterday that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby divulged Valerie Plame's identity to him in July 2003, three days before Libby has told investigators he first learned of the undercover CIA officer.
Fleischer's narrative of Libby's "hush-hush" disclosures over a lunch table in a White House dining room made President Bush's former spokesman the most important prosecution witness to date in the week-old perjury trial of Vice President Cheney's onetime chief of staff.
Though a series of government officials have told the jury that Libby eagerly sought information about a prominent critic of the Iraq war, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, Fleischer was the first witness to say Libby then passed on what he learned: that Wilson's wife was a CIA officer who had sent him on a trip to Africa. Wilson's mission there was to explore reports, ultimately proved false, that Iraq had tried to buy nuclear material in Niger.
Fleischer, testifying under an immunity agreement with the prosecution, also made it clear that Libby had told him Wilson's wife held a position in the CIA's counterproliferation division, where most employees work in a covert capacity.
Fleischer said he believes Libby mentioned Plame's name, although he told the jury he could not be sure. Libby "added that this was something hush-hush or on the QT, that not many people knew this information," Fleischer testified.
The unusual spectacle of a president's top spokesman testifying in open court widened the rare view the trial is providing the jury -- and the public -- of the inner workings of a White House that has proudly guarded its privacy.
Libby is charged with lying to FBI agents and a grand jury as well as obstructing justice in a federal investigation of who revealed Plame's name to journalists, including columnist Robert D. Novak, who first published it July 14, 2003. He is not charged with the leak itself, which administration critics have contended was designed to discredit Wilson's argument that the White House was twisting his findings as it justified the invasion of Iraq.
Libby has pleaded not guilty to all five felony counts. He told investigators he learned about Plame's identity during a telephone call on July 10, 2003, with NBC's Washington bureau chief, Tim Russert. He and his attorneys contend he did not remember the conversations he had with reporters about Plame amid the crush of his national security work.
Fleischer's testimony buttressed Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald's case in at least two ways. Fleischer testified that his lunch with Libby -- the first he ever had with Cheney's top aide, a week before the press secretary was to leave his White House job -- took place on July 7, 2003, before Libby spoke with Russert.
Fleischer's also reinforced the prosecution's central argument: that Libby had been so determined to learn and spread information about Wilson and Plame that he could not have forgotten his efforts."

A Miserable Failure

Noam Cohen writes in the New York Times that 'a favored online tactic to mock the president -- altering the Google search engine so the words 'miserable failure' lead to President Bush's home page at the White House -- has been neutralized.'Google announced on Thursday on its official blog that 'by improving our analysis of the link structure of the Web' such mischief would instead 'typically return commentary, discussions, and articles' about the tactic itself.'
Danny Sullivan writes for Search Engine Land that bloggers 'bombed' the Google results by linking the words miserable failure to the Bush bio"

In Veep's world, we're safer now than before Iraq

BY CARL HIAASEN
The wacky, upside-down world of Dick Cheney keeps getting weirder.
Last week he went on CNN and defiantly declared that the situation in Iraq is not so terrible.
This must have been surprising to the families of the 88 Iraqi civilians who were slaughtered the day before by car bombers at a busy Baghdad market.
Surprising to the loved ones and comrades of the 27 American troops who died last weekend, one of the costliest for coalition forces since the occupation.
Surprising to Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, soon to be commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, who two days earlier had informed a Senate panel that the situation there was ``dire.''
Surprising to Sen. John Warner and other top Republicans who have warned that Iraq is sliding into chaos, and have publicly questioned the decision to send more troops.
Surprising to Cheney's own boss, President Bush, who in a recent interview conceded that the administration's original game plan for Iraq was heading toward ``slow failure.''
Yet in his interview with Wolf Blitzer, Cheney brushed away as ''hogwash'' any suggestion that the war has been mishandled.
''Bottom line is that we've had enormous successes and we will continue to have enormous successes,'' he said.
There are several possible explanations for the vice president's bizarre performance:
He's crazy as a loon.
He's a compulsive liar.
He's gotten his prescriptions mixed up with Rush Limbaugh's.
Whatever the clinical reason might be, Cheney continues to float blissfully through a smug and surreal fog.
''The pressure is from some quarters to get out of Iraq,'' he said. 'If we were to do that, we simply validate the terrorists' strategy that says the Americans will not stay to complete the task, that we don't have the stomach for the fight.''
Oddly, Cheney's stout appetite for battle never manifested itself when he was of draft age, during the Vietnam War. Five times he declined his country's call to serve there.
Now, as the last cheerleader for the fiasco in Iraq, Cheney revels in the self-imagined role of Tough Guy. In fact, he is simply The Guy Who's Never Been Right.

Air America Rescued | The Huffington Post


Air America Radio, in Chapter 11 bankruptcy
proceedings since October, will be rescued at the 11th
hour by Manhattan real estate developer Stephen L.
Green.

Al Franken, the best-known host of the liberal
network, will announce his expected departure on his
show later today, to explore a run for the U.S. Senate
from Minnesota.

Green is the brother of Mark Green, the New York
Democrat who served as the city's public advocate in
the 90s and ran for mayor against Michael Bloomberg in
2001.

He has already signed a letter of intent, and plans to
finalize
a purchase agreement within the week.

Air America CEO Scott Elberg confirmed the sale. 'This
is a great
thing, for our affiliates, the company, the audience
and every employee
in our organization.'

Green is chairman of SL Green Realty Corp, a real
estate investment trust specializing in office
buildings with a market cap of $12 billion.

Brother Mark is a frequent guest on Air America, and
sat in for David Bender, the host of the Air America
show Politically Direct, for a couple of weeks earlier
this month.

When Franken leaves the network in a few weeks,
he'll be replaced by Thom Hartmann, who already has
a syndicated show on the network's lineup."

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Egypt derides 7 wonders of world contest



Yahoo News: "CAIRO, Egypt - Egypt is scoffing at a global contest to name the new seven wonders of the world, saying it is a disgrace that the ancient Pyramids of Giza — the only surviving structure from the traditional list of architectural marvels — must compete for a spot.
Top Egyptian officials have criticized the popular contest that urges people around the world to vote for their top sites from a list of 21 finalists that lumps the pyramids with upstart wonders like the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower and Peru's Machu Picchu.
The pyramids are "living in the hearts of people around the globe, and don't need a vote to be among the world wonders," said the head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, according to the state-run Middle East News Agency.
Egyptian officials refused to meet with the organizer of the "New 7 Wonders of the World" contest, the Swiss adventurer Bernard Weber, when he visited Egypt earlier this month, said the contest's spokeswoman Tia B. Viering. When Weber tried to hold a press conference near the pyramids, she said, police shut it down.
Organizers say the hostility is unwarranted, claiming the competition is supposed to renew international interest in culture and history, not strip the pyramids of their ancient status.
"The contest is not about taking something away, it's about moving something into modern times," Viering said.
The Egyptian pyramids are the only surviving structures from the traditional list of seven wonders of the ancient world, derived by later authors from various lists of marvels cited by ancient Greek and Roman writers.
Besides the pyramids, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the best known list includes the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Colossus of Rhodes, the ancient lighthouse that once stood on the island of Pharos in Alexandria, Egypt, and three other long-vanished edifices.
Choosing a new roster of world wonders has attracted ongoing interest over the years: The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, list of World Heritage Sites includes 830 selections.
Weber started his project in 1999, collecting nearly 200 nominations. That list was eventually narrowed to 21 by a panel of architectural experts, chaired by former UNESCO chief Federico Mayor.
But Weber wanted the masses to pick the top seven. People can vote on the Internet, by phone or by sending a cell phone text message until July 6. The seven winners will be announced on the symbolic date of July 7"

New 7 Wonders: http://www.new7wonders.com

Ask This > 25 questions for Dick Cheney


Dick Cheney is the most powerful American vice president in modern history. He is also the most secretive. As vice president, Cheney has carved out a largely unaccountable netherworld between the White House and the Senate where he can hide information from the public.
We compiled these questions in the course of reporting our Random House Book, available on Amazon.com and at local bookstores: Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency:
1. Why was your energy task force reviewing maps of Iraqi oilfields in 2001, two years prior to the Iraq War, while Iraq oil was embargoed on the open market?
2. After the initial military success in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2003, the Iranian government offered to negotiate with the United States regarding al-Qaeda, relations with Israel, and the Iranian nuclear energy and weapons program. Why did you kill the negotiations before they began?
3. Do you believe that in wartime there are any limits on the powers of the commander in chief, and if so, what are they?
4. What was the extent of your participation in the awarding of the no-bid single source contracts the Army Corps of Engineers awarded to Halliburton?
5. What were your intentions when you scribbled in the margins of The New York Times on July 6, 2003, %u201Cdid his wife send him on a junket?%u201D
6. At what point were you aware that Niger was not providing large quantities of uranium %u201Cyellow cake%u201D to Iraq?
7. Exactly how many times did you visit CIA headquarters prior to the Iraq War, and what did you ask of the CIA analysts with whom you met?
8. How do you explain the complete reversal of your position on invading and occupying Iraq, a course of action you unequivocally opposed as George H. W. Bush%u2019s secretary of defense?
9. How do you justify ignoring CIA pleas for more U.S. forces whenAmerican and Northern Alliance forces had Osama bin Laden trapped in a cave complex in Tora Bora?"

Unhappy Meals



NY Times: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy. I hate to give away the game right here at the beginning of a long essay, and I confess that I’m tempted to complicate matters in the interest of keeping things going for a few thousand more words. I’ll try to resist but will go ahead and add a couple more details to flesh out the advice. Like: A little meat won’t kill you, though it’s better approached as a side dish than as a main. And you’re much better off eating whole fresh foods than processed food products. That’s what I mean by the recommendation to eat “food.” Once, food was all you could eat, but today there are lots of other edible foodlike substances in the supermarket. These novel products of food science often come in packages festooned with health claims, which brings me to a related rule of thumb: if you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid food products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a good indication that it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat.
Uh-oh. Things are suddenly sounding a little more complicated, aren’t they? Sorry. But that’s how it goes as soon as you try to get to the bottom of the whole vexing question of food and health. Before long, a dense cloud bank of confusion moves in. Sooner or later, everything solid you thought you knew about the links between diet and health gets blown away in the gust of the latest study.
Last winter came the news that a low-fat diet, long believed to protect against breast cancer, may do no such thing — this from the monumental, federally financed Women’s Health Initiative, which has also found no link between a low-fat diet and rates of coronary disease. The year before we learned that dietary fiber might not, as we had been confidently told, help prevent colon cancer. Just last fall two prestigious studies on omega-3 fats published at the same time presented us with strikingly different conclusions. While the Institute of Medicine stated that “it is uncertain how much these omega-3s contribute to improving health” (and they might do the opposite if you get them from mercury-contaminated fish), a Harvard study declared that simply by eating a couple of servings of fish each week (or by downing enough fish oil), you could cut your risk of dying from a heart attack by more than a third — a stunningly hopeful piece of news. It’s no wonder that omega-3 fatty acids are poised to become the oat bran of 2007, as food scientists micro-encapsulate fish oil and algae oil and blast them into such formerly all-terrestrial foods as bread and tortillas, milk and yogurt and cheese, all of which will soon, you can be sure, sprout fishy new health claims. (Remember the rule?)
By now you’re probably registering the cognitive dissonance of the supermarket shopper or science-section reader, as well as some nostalgia for the simplicity and solidity of the first few sentences of this essay. Which I’m still prepared to defend against the shifting winds of nutritional science and food-industry marketing. But before I do that, it might be useful to figure out how we arrived at our present state of nutritional confusion and anxiety."

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Man-made diamonds make the grade



LA Times: Manufactured gems, now rated like their mined counterparts, give the industry a run for its money.
"THE GEMOLOGICAL Institute of America has just become a girl's best friend. The venerable industry authority, best known for promulgating the four Cs of diamond judging — color, clarity, cut and carat — has ended its long-standing practice of grading only natural diamonds. This month, over the objections of the powerful diamond mining lobby, it began rating gemstones created in a lab.
Laboratory diamonds, even though they're labeled by the Carlsbad-based institute as synthetic, are not to be confused with cubic zirconia or other shopping-channel substitutes. That would be like comparing lentil loaf to chicken. Manufactured diamonds are molecularly identical to the ones extracted from the Earth.
Real diamonds, but without the messy ethical concerns? Less environmentally damaging and less expensive? And with Valentine's Day coming up? Some may wonder what's the controversy.
Controversy comes when technology disrupts an industry — and diamonds are a $60-billion industry. In nature, a diamond crystallizes over billions of years as carbon material is subjected to enormous amounts of heat and pressure. About 250 tons of ore are mined for each one-carat gem. In a laboratory, on the other hand, the carbon-to-diamond transformation takes a few days.
The emergence of technology that can create diamonds sometimes superior to mined ones poses yet another challenge to an industry already combating an image problem. Heightened awareness about the role of diamonds in funding African civil wars in the late 1990s created a backlash, and the movie "Blood Diamond" brought more attention to the issue. The industry has been working overtime to reassure consumers averse to "conflict diamonds" that procedures have changed; now most diamonds are certified as "conflict free."
The industry's latest battle, over terminology, is being fought with the non-mined competition. The synthetic diamond industry wants to market its gems as "cultured diamonds," hoping to gain wider acceptance. The diamond establishment, mindful that cultured pearls destroyed the natural pearl industry, has filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission seeking to prohibit the use of the term. The FTC will post its decision on its website, though it has set no deadline."

Strict Vegan Ethics, Frosted With Hedonism


"ISA CHANDRA MOSKOWITZ, a vegan chef, does not particularly like to talk about tofu. Ditto seitan, tempeh and nutritional yeast.
Ms. Moskowitz, 34, was born in Coney Island Hospital, lives in Brooklyn, and is a typically impatient and opinionated New Yorker. She can’t stand how slowly most cooks peel garlic, makes relentless fun of Rachael Ray and rolls her eyes at the mention of California hippies.
But as a vegan and a follower of punk music since age 14, she is also part of a culinary movement that helped turn the chaotic energy of punk culture of the 1970s and 1980s into a progressive political force.
“Punk taught me to question everything,” Ms. Moskowitz said. “Of course, in my case that means questioning how to make a Hostess cupcake without eggs, butter or cream.”"

Can Polyester Save the World?


New York Times"JOSEPHINE COPELAND and her 20-year-old daughter, Jo Jo, visited Primark at the Peacock Center mall here, in the London suburbs, to buy presents for friends, but ended up loaded with clothes for themselves: boots, a cardigan, a festive blouse, and a long silver coat with faux fur trim, which cost £12 but looks like a million bucks. “If it falls apart, you just toss it away!” said Jo Jo, proudly wearing her purchase.
Environmentally, that is more and more of a problem.
With rainbow piles of sweaters and T-shirts that often cost less than a sandwich, stores like Primark are leaders in the quick-growing “fast fashion” industry, selling cheap garments that can be used and discarded without a second thought. Consumers, especially teenagers, love the concept, pioneered also by stores like H&M internationally and by Old Navy and Target in the United States, since it allows them to shift styles with speed on a low budget.
But clothes — and fast clothes in particular — are a large and worsening source of the carbon emissions that contribute to global warming, because of how they are both produced and cared for, concludes a new report from researchers at Cambridge University titled “Well Dressed?”
The global textile industry must become eco-conscious, the report concludes. It explores how to develop a more “sustainable clothing” industry — a seeming oxymoron in a world where fashions change every few months.
“Hmmm,” said Sally Neild, 44, dressed in casual chic, in jeans and boots, as she pondered such alien concepts, shopping bags in hand. “People now think a lot about green travel and green food. But I think we are a long way from there in terms of clothes. People are mad about those stores.”
It is hard to imagine how customers who rush after trends, or the stores that serve them, will respond to the report’s suggestions: that people lease clothes and return them at the end of a month or a season, so the garments can be lent again to someone else — like library books — and that they buy more expensive and durable clothing that can be worn for years."

Friday, January 26, 2007

In Clue to Addiction, Brain Injury Halts Smoking - New York Times


Scientists studying stroke patients are reporting today that an injury to a specific part of the brain, near the ear, can instantly and permanently break a smoking habit. People with the injury who stopped smoking found that their bodies, as one man put it, forgot the urge to smoke. The finding, which appears in the journal Science, is based on a small study. But experts say it is likely to alter the course of addiction research, pointing researchers toward new ideas for treatment. While no one is suggesting brain injury as a solution for addiction, the finding suggests that therapies might focus on the insula, a prune-size region under the frontal lobes that is thought to register gut feelings and is apparently a critical part of the network that sustains addictive behavior. Previous research on addicts focused on regions of the cortex involved in thinking and decision making. But while those regions are involved in maintaining habits, the new study suggests that they are not as central as the insula is.
The study did not examine dependence on alcohol, cocaine or other substances. Yet smoking is at least as hard to quit as any other habit, and it probably involves the same brain circuits, experts said. Most smokers who manage to quit do so only after repeated attempts, and the craving for cigarettes usually lasts for years, if not a lifetime.
“This is the first time we’ve shown anything like this, that damage to a specific brain area could remove the problem of addiction entirely,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which financed the study, along with the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. “It’s absolutely mind-boggling.”
Others cautioned that scientists still knew little about the widely distributed neural networks involved in sustaining habits.
“One has to be careful not to extrapolate too much based on brain injuries to what’s going on in all addictive behavior, in healthy brains,” said Dr. Martin Paulus, a psychiatric researcher at the University of California, San Diego, and the San Diego V.A. Medical Center. Still, Dr. Paulus said, the study “opens up a whole new way to think about addiction.”
The researchers, from the University of Iowa and the University of Southern California, examined 32 former smokers, all of whom had suffered a brain injury. The men and women were lucid enough to answer a battery of questions about their habits, and to rate how hard it was to quit and the strength of their subsequent urges to smoke.
They all had smoked at least five cigarettes a day for two years or more, and 16 of them said they had quit with ease, losing their cravings entirely.
The researchers performed M.R.I. scans on all of the patients’ brains to specify the location and extent of each injury.
They found that the 16 who had quit easily were far more likely to have an injury to their insula than to any other area. The researchers found no association between a diminished urge to smoke and injuries to other regions of the brain, including tissue surrounding the insula.
“There’s a whole neural circuit critical to maintaining addiction, but if you knock out this one area, it appears to wipe out the behavior,” said Dr. Antoine Bechara, a senior author of the new paper, who is a neuroscientist at the Brain and Creativity Institute at U.S.C. His co-authors were Dr. Hanna Damasio, also of U.S.C., and Nasir Naqvi and David Rudrauf of the University of Iowa.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Son, A Father, 911 and The President

Guests at last night's State of the Union address didn't just include basketball players and Iraq war veterans. One guest -- who has the most gripping story to tell -- was ignored by the President and the media last night. His name was Ceasar Borja and he was a guest of NY Senator Hillary Rodman Clinton. Just two hour before the President began speaking, Borja received nows that his father had died.Borja's dad, Cesar, 52, was a Filipino immigrant, a former Army paratrooper and an NYPD cop who never missed a day of work in 20 years.He volunteered for months of 16-hour shifts at Ground Zero so he could make overtime for his wife, Eva, and their three children: Ceasar, whom he called 'Kuya,' the Filipino word for older brother; son Evan, 16, and daughter Nhia, 12.He retired in 2003. He started coughing soon after. By the time he was properly diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis last fall, he could barely walk and his lungs were filled with scar tissue.He checked into Mount Sinai Medical Center on Dec. 19. He died there at 6 p.m. last night.
Instead of returning immediately to New York, Borja decided to attend the speech.
the 21-year-old promised his family that he was going to sit in front of President Bush, exactly as planned, to bear witness to the suffering of thousands of others like his dad.

"He passed away right when I'm down here fighting for him. This is the most I've ever done for Dad," he told his mom. "Mommy, you know I'm strong, Mom. You were with him, though, right? Good. That's all that matters to me. Comfortably and no pain."

Borja was shivering as he talked on a dark sidewalk outside a Capitol Hill restaurant. Other Ground Zero victims and staffers from Sen. Hillary Clinton's office wrapped him in their arms and sat him down at an empty table. Tears started to fall.

"Dad always knew the man I could become, and I love him for that," Borja said. "Dad didn't go down without a fight, Mom. You know that."
Borja is on a mission:
“I want a meeting with the president to make the case directly about how important these health programs are,” Borja told The Associated Press.

“I want him to hear from me, how my father died a hero last night, and there are many heroes that will and are continuing to die because they’re not given the proper medical attention or not given enough help from the federal government,” said the 21-year-old college student, his voice breaking with emotion.

Senate Republicans are melting down over Iraq

All the Republicans, save one, on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted against the resolution opposing Bush's plan to escalate the war in Iraq. Led by their chairman, the usually reasonable Dick Lugar (R-IN), they tried to spin this debate the way they always do - it would send a bad message to the terrorists if we disagree with Bush:A vote for the resolution 'will confirm to our friends and allies that we are divided and in disarray,' [Lugar] said.So, all the Republicans on the committee except Senator Hagel (R-NE) voted against the resolution.Only problem? That didn't stop those same Republicans from making statements right before the vote confirming that they oppose Bush's escalation plan, and thus confirming to our allies and our enemies that we are divided and in disarray.Lugar called the Bush strategy 'dubious' even as he denounced the resolution as 'the legislative equivalent of a sound bite.' Sen. John E. Sununu (R-N.H.) said additional troops should not be deployed until the Iraqi government showed more resolve. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said she opposed the president and was not afraid to tell him so. And Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) said he had delivered a tough message to the White House personally: 'You are not listening.''Congress has allowed this war to go on without anyone having a stake,' said an exasperated Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). 'We passed the debt on to future generations. Nobody has sacrificed but the military men and women and the families.'So, the Senate Republicans are opposed to the Bush escalation plan, are willing to voice that opposition publicly, but they feel that if they actually vote their opposition then somehow this will magically signal our allies, our troops, and our enemies that we are divided and in disarray over Iraq when their own public statements have already made clear to our allies, our troops, and our enemies that we are divided and in disarray. Well, actually, scratch that. We're not divided at all. The overwhelming majority of Americans think this plan is insane. We are united in that. But by refusing to vote, the Republicans only prove what weak-kneed weasels they have become. The Republican party simply has no backbone to do anything to stop the madness of King George. If you thought 2006 was a tidal wave at the ballot box, just wait and see how the voters are going to treat these rubber-stamps in two years."

Rolling Stone : Why Gore Should Run -- And How He Can Win

The ideal candidate for the Democrats may be the man who won the popular vote in 2000 -- and who opposed the war in Iraq from the very start
TIM DICKINSON

A stiff Vice President campaigns on his
administration's legacy of unprecedented prosperity. Looks terrible
on TV. Bows out, following a disputed vote count. Then, two terms
later, with no incumbent in the race, he re-enters the fray.
Promises to change the course of a disastrous war founded on lies.
And charges to victory. I'm referring, of course, to the 1968
campaign of Richard Milhous Nixon. But four decades later, history
has a chance to repeat itself for Albert Arnold Gore.

If the Democrats were going to sit down and construct the perfect
candidate for 2008, they'd be hard-pressed to improve on Gore.
Unlike Hillary Clinton, he has no controversial vote on Iraq to
defend. Unlike Barack Obama and John Edwards, he has extensive
experience in both the Senate and the White House. He has put aside
his wooden, policy-wonk demeanor to emerge as the Bush
administration's most eloquent critic. And thanks to An
Inconvenient Truth, Gore is not only the most impassioned
leader on the most urgent crisis facing the planet, he's also a
Hollywood celebrity, the star of the third-highest-grossing
documentary of all time.

'He's perceived very differently now than he was six years ago,'
says Frank Luntz, the Republican consultant who advised George W.
Bush to dispute global warming during the 2000 and 2004 elections.
'He's an icon. Imagine that: Al Gore, Mr. Straight and Narrow, Mr.
Dull on Wheels -- now he's culturally cool.'"

Longoria's man Desperate to wed on 7-7-07 - Gossip: The Scoop - MSNBC.com

Eva Longoria and Tony Parker are hoping that the number seven will bring them luck.The Desperate Housewives star got engaged to the San Antonio Spurs guard in November after a two-year romance that had its ups and downs, and are planning to get married on July 7, 2007, because Parker thinks the date is lucky, according to Us Weekly. Tony is extremely superstitious and thinks 07-07-07 is the day most lucky to get married on, a source told the mag."

Monday, January 22, 2007

A vitamin a day may do more harm than good

MSNBC.com: "If you're banking on a daily vitamin to make up for any deficiencies in your diet, you may be getting a whole lot more — or less — than you bargained for.
Of 21 brands of multivitamins on the market in the United States and Canada selected by ConsumerLab.com and tested by independent laboratories, just 10 met the stated claims on their labels or satisfied other quality standards.
Most worrisome, according to ConsumerLab.com president Dr. Tod Cooperman, is that one product, The Vitamin Shoppe Multivitamins Especially for Women, was contaminated with lead.
"I was definitely shocked by the amount of lead in [this] woman's product," he said. "We've never seen that much lead in a multivitamin before."
Other products contained more or less of a particular vitamin than listed on the label. And some did not dissolve in the correct amount of time, meaning they could potentially pass through the body without being fully absorbed.
"Half the products were fine, half were not," said Cooperman."

Duck survives two days in fridge

BBC NEWS: "A duck in the US state of Florida has survived gunshot wounds and a two-day stint in a refrigerator.
A hunter shot the duck, wounding it in the wing and leg. Believing the bird was dead, he left it in his fridge at his home in Tallahassee.
The hunter's wife got a fright when she opened the fridge and the duck lifted its head, a local veterinarian said.
Staff at the Goose Creek Animal Sanctuary who are treating the bird said it has a 75% chance of survival."

Getting Up in My Business by Nicole Bell

As a progressive, I tend towards a more libertarian view of things. I don't believe the government has any right getting into our personal lives. That's why stories like this just fill me with so much anger.
BizmarckTribune:
North Dakota's Legislature is encouraging disrespect for the law by making it illegal for a man and woman to live together without being married, a legislator says.
If North Dakota prosecutors began enforcing the anti-cohabitation law, which provides a 30-day jail term and a $1,000 fine, the state would need a '$10 billion prison,' Sen. Tracy Potter, D-Bismarck, said Wednesday.
[..]North Dakota is one of the few states that outlaws cohabitation, which is defined as a man and woman living together 'openly and notoriously' as if they were married.
It is listed as a sex crime in state law, alongside adultery and incest. There are few records of a cohabitation case being prosecuted, aside from a North Dakota Supreme Court appeal in the 1930s."

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Don't go back, Max.


Cody's going back to Iraq. He wasn't supposed to, but this newly announced "surge" policy changed that. He won't be leaving until midsummer.
I really don't want him to go, or anyone else for that matter. When he was there, every time I read a headline about more deaths or violence, my heart rate would go up and my palms got a little sweaty. And then when I found out it didn't involve him, I'd be relieved. That is until I realized that its somebody else's Cody that took the fall this time. And then all I could do is wipe the water collecting at the bottom of my eyelids and move on.
I understand the point Barbara Boxer was trying to make about the war being personal. Knowing someone there changes the way someone back in the US sees the whole situation. Every news report now involves a name and a face and a life that you just want to come home. Its not just the anonymous "marine," the anonymous flag draped coffin coming home, all protected by patriotism and sense of honor. Those don't mean as much as having the person you love with you.
20,000 is a lot of our young people. I just hope its enough to make the difference and be done with this whole disaster. When I saw that picture last week of Bush crying during a medal of honor ceremony, it gave me hope that he was starting to get it - that these aren't just dispensable toy soldiers.

Anyway, just trying to keep up with my goal of posting every week. Here's a poem I wrote before Cody left the first time:

"Don't go to Iraq, Max"

dark bloody desert
folding bodies in the sand
bombs breaking buildings
putting rubble in their hands

got a gun and golden bullets
but they don't provide the clips
gave you paddles and buckets
and put you on a sinking ship

a kid knocks the door down
then you'll come charging in
the first soldier to find fate waiting
the second war that we won't win.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Man plans to propose in Super Bowl ad - Business of Super Bowl - MSNBC.com

For football fans, the Super Bowl is all about the intrigue of which team will win. For a few suspecting women this year, it may be about wondering, am I going to get a ring during this thing?A man named JP, who doesnt use his real name so as to keep his plans secret from his girlfriend, has been trying to use the Internet for months to raise more than $2 million needed to buy a single, 30-second Super Bowl advertising spot.The reason? So he could use the most-viewed television event of the year to ask for his girlfriends hand in marriage.
When his online fundraising plan fell short, JP brought in outside help, including a publicist and an advertising expert.Joe Morin, chief executive of an online product placement company called Storybids Inc., saw an opportunity in JPs plea. He offered to find a sponsor for the ad if JP would let him sell product placement rights in a video of the would-be brides response.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Colbert on O'Reilly's Show

Chinese Antimissile Test : Comparing Our Nations Top Media

As we may have all heard by now the Chinese have successfully tested a weapon intended to destroy satellites in outer space. This puts most American military and industrial satellites at risk. And it is the first missile test to take place in outer space since the mid '80s. Let's compare how the world covers the story.
Headlines from around the world

Moscow: "Chinese Ballistic Missile Test are Exaggerated Rumors"
Canada: "Beijings Space Gambit"
Australia: "Chinese Missile Test Knocks Out Satellite"
Germany: "Chinese Missile Blows Up Own Satellite, Tensions Rise"
Reuters: "Japan, Britain Join Concern Over Chinese Missile Test"
ABC News: "Just When You Thought Outer Space Was Safe"
Fox News: "Chinese Anti-Satellite Test Sparks Furor"



And Another Sidenote

"In late August, President Bush authorized a new national space policy that ignored calls for a global prohibition on such tests. The policy said the United States would “preserve its rights, capabilities, and freedom of action in space” and “dissuade or deter others from either impeding those rights or developing capabilities intended to do so.” It declared the United States would “deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to U.S. national interests.” "

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Senate GOP stop ethics reform


Given the role damaging role corruption played against the GOP in the 2006 elections, one might think that Republicans would be anxious to get on the right side of ethics reform. One would be wrong. Yesterday, the Senate GOP voted en masse against ending debate on the Senate ethics bill. The GOP's first filibuster stops ethics reform. Nice work - the Washington Post explains:Senate Republicans scuttled broad legislation last night to curtail lobbyists' influence and tighten congressional ethics rules, refusing to let the bill pass without a vote on an unrelated measure that would give President Bush virtual line-item-veto power.The bill could be brought back up later this year. Indeed, Democrats will try one last time today to break the impasse. But its unexpected collapse last night infuriated Democrats and the government watchdog groups that had been pushing it since the lobbying scandals that rocked the last Congress. Proponents charged that Republicans had used the spending-control measure as a ruse to thwart ethics rules they dared not defeat in a straight vote.'It's as obvious as the sun coming up somewhere in this world that they tried to kill this bill,' a furious Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said last night in an interview. 'And all 21 Republican senators up for reelection are going to have to explain how they brought down the most significant reform ever to come before this Congress. They brought this baby down.'Ethics reform is the first piece of legislation being considered this year for obvious reasons. Corruption matters to voters. It doesn't matter to the Senate Republicans. They've already shown their true colors."

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Turley Reacts to Pentagon Attack on Due Process


A senior Pentagon official responsible for detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, said he finds it "shocking" that top US attorneys are rushing to defend "terrorists" locked up there.

"The major law firms in the country … are out there representing detainees," Cully Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, said in a Federal News Radio interview Thursday, available online.

"And you know what, it's shocking," he said.

He's In!



WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Sen. Barack Obama said Tuesday he is taking a first step toward running for president next year.

"I will be filing papers today to create a presidential exploratory committee," the Illinois Democrat said, adding that he will announce his final decision February 10 from his hometown of Chicago.

Yes, Chicago love.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Collection of 'crack tax' up in 2006

KnoxNews: "Tennessee collected almost $1.8 million in taxes on cocaine, crack, moonshine and other 'unauthorized substances' in 2006, the second year the tax was in effect.
The $1,773,535 collected last year marked a 3.4 percent increase from 2005.
Drug dealers, moonshiners and other purveyors of controlled and illicit substances are supposed to purchase tax stamps under the 2-year-old law, the state Department of Revenue said in a release.
The tax, dubbed the 'crack tax' when enacted, has come under attack from attorneys across the state because it is assessed against the accused before their guilt or innocence was decided.
Sellers don't have to provide any identifying information in order to get the tax stamp.
If a drug dealer is caught with unauthorized substances that don't have stamps, however, the state moves to collect taxes on those substances.
The tax applies to substances including cocaine, crack, methamphetamine, marijuana, moonshine and non-tax-paid liquor"

Vallejo man's cell phone ignites in pocket, causing serious burns

SF Gate
"A cell phone apparently ignited in a man's pocket and started a fire that burned his hotel room and caused severe burns over half his body, fire department officials said.
Luis Picaso, 59, of Vallejo was in stable condition Monday at UC Davis Medical Center with second and third-degree burns to his upper body, back, right arm and right leg, Vallejo Fire Department assistant chief Kurt Henke said.
Firefighters arrived at the residential hotel late Saturday night to find Picaso lying on the bathroom floor after the cell phone in Picaso's pants pocket set fire to his nylon and polyester clothes, department spokesman Bill Tweedy said.
"It was either a malfunction or some type of glitch in his phone," Tweedy said, adding that investigators found no other possible ignition source, such as matches or open flame, nearby.
The flames spread to a plastic chair, setting off a sprinkler that held the fire in check until firefighters arrived, he said.
Authorities declined to name the manufacturer and model of the phone.
The fire and water caused $75,000 damage to the room and a business on the ground floor, Tweedy said."

Woman dies after being in water-drinking contest

SACRAMENTO — A 28-year-old woman found dead hours after taking part in a radio station's water-drinking contest died of water intoxication, the coroner's office said Saturday.

Assistant Sacramento County Coroner Ed Smith said a preliminary investigation found evidence "consistent with a water intoxication death." Also known as hyponatremia, water intoxication occurs when the body's sodium level falls below normal. Overdrinking dilutes the sodium in the bloodstream, causing the brain to swell and push against the skull. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, weakness and, in severe cases, seizures, coma and death.

John Bolton calls Iraq situation a Civil War



C&Ler Rowan emailed the tip:

I am watching Channel 4 News live from the UK and John Bolton has just called what's going on in Iraq NOW a "civil war" and he is saying that the issue is ensuring that the "surge" in troops prevent the existing civil war from spiralling completely out of control.

Interesting how the marching-in-step neocons can sometimes be a little looser with their language when they are on TV that will not be seen in the US. (h/t Scarce for the video)

Friday, January 12, 2007

BOXER'S LOW BLOW - New York Post

The following is an excerpt from the aboved linked article.
This is not journalism. This is opinion writing. That's all fine and dandy, but don't coat it like it's a news story. Please.
Can you say slippery slope? Or, better yet, runaway freight train take me away.


"'Who pays the price? I'm not going to pay a personal price,' Boxer said. 'My kids are too old, and my grandchild is too young.'
Then, to Rice: 'You're not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, with an immediate family.'
Breathtaking.
Simply breathtaking.
We scarcely know where to begin.
The junior senator from California apparently believes that an accomplished, seasoned diplomat, a renowned scholar and an adviser to two presidents like Condoleezza Rice is not fully qualified to make policy at the highest levels of the American government because she is a single, childless woman.
It's hard to imagine the firestorm that similar comments would have ignited, coming from a Republican to a Democrat, or from a man to a woman, in the United States Senate. (Surely the Associated Press would have put the observation a bit higher than the 18th paragraph of a routine dispatch from Washington.)"

Thursday, January 11, 2007

More than Meets the Eye

I’ve had this new attitude forming lately. Or perhaps more accurately, I’m reverting back to an outlook I had when I was younger, and lost somewhere along the way. It just seems like when I was young, say 10 years old, I looked at the world and thought anything was possible. I was raised on X-Files, Star Trek Next Generation, and Discovery channel shows on haunted places and UFO sightings. I liked books about Atlantis, historical conspiracies or secret societies. Its not that I was on the side of believing or not believing these things, but my mind was certainly open to entertaining the possibilities.
Was it just a child’s imagination? Or did somewhere down the line, I just adopted an attitude towards reality that what you see is what you get. Everything in history books is all we know; politics is for the most part straightforward; if science hasn’t attempted to explore a phenomenon, its because it isn’t worth investigating. I guess its boils down to some sort of gradual trust: again, what you see is what you get.
But lately, I’ve been letting my imagination run loose again. Because, lets face it, if what you see is what you get, then what I see is either boring or bullshit. And I’m trying to adapt a positive attitude for the new year.
This whole thing started with a book. It was passed onto me, I had no expectations going in, and when it started to take a left turn, I was completely surprised and pleased. “Travels,” by Michael Crichton. Yes, the thriller writer. Yes the guy who said global warming is BS. But this is his non-fiction collection of biographical stories, written in the 80s. It starts with his med school years (at Harvard med), then transitions into his travels as successful writer and hollywood director with disposable income, and an almost clinical obsession with exploring and curiosity about the world: Bangkok, Kilmanjaro, Shangri-La, remote jungles, dangerous deep-sea diving, slums of Jamaica, etc. Along the way, he started to become curious about psychic phenonemon, and then embarked down a path of exploring things like auras, hypnosis, past life regression, energy fields, etc., but with a scholarly approach that was refreshing. So, from the horses mouth, here is a list of his conclusions from the last chapter:
"1. Consciousness has legitimate dimensions not yet guess at.
2. At least some psychic phenomena are real. Psychic phenomena are generally categorized as telpathy (communication between minds), clairvoyance (perception at a distance), precognition (perception of events before they occur), and psychokinesis (influencing objects or events by thought alone).
3. There are energies associated with the human body that are not yet understood. These energies can be felt and seen, and they are related to healing, sickness, and health.
I DON’T belive in levitation, flying saucers, UFOs, ancient astronaut landing sites in Peru, Cermuda Triangle, extraterrestrials, palmistry, numerology, astrology, psychic surgery, rebirthing, bio-rhythms, coincidence, or pyramid power. I hold no opinion, either because evidence is lacking, or because the issue seems to me fundamentally a matter of faith. These beliefs include reincarnation, past lives, entities, poltergeists, ghosts, the yeti, the Loch Ness monster, and the power of crystals."
As for the personal experience he had that led him to these conclusions, I will have to leave that up to you to read the
book.
But all this really got me thinking. What’s out there that I don’t know about? What’s right in front of my own eyes and I just don’t see it?

So next, I happened to get Season 2 of Mindfreak for my birthday. Criss Angel is a illusionist who does some weird unexplainable things, like making people or himself disappear, making himself float from one building to another in broad day light, etc. Better to be seen than written about. But everyone’s has seen a magic trick and thought, okay, so how’d he do it? It seems like a big secret you’re not in on, and nothing is more frustrating than that. I wanna make things float or disappear. Trick, or hey, even not, its still something I want to be able to do. Performance magic has a very long history, back with Bible references or ancient Egyptians culture. Even ripped from today's headlines, David Copperfield got out of being robbed because he was able to unload his wallet without notice before handing it to the thief. So be it walking on water, hypnotising people on the streets, parlor tricks, or simply crafty slight of hand, I guess in general magic just appeals to that same sense of “what if.”
On the heels of that book and then the TV series, my eyes have been peaked to strange things. First there’s the story of UFO’s over O’Hare that’s made its way across the media cycle. Its hard to say whats going on there, but it’s a great thing to debate with people. Even I have seen something weird and unexplainable in the night sky; it was in college, I was with a group of people, we weren’t inebriated in any way (I swear!), but what we saw left everyone saying, WTF?! Fun. So we’ve all got our opinions, the question is, who has the truth? (That got X-Files, I know).
I had a good conservation last week with a friend about all this, and he
turned me onto a few other weird things that I’ll just leave you to wikipedia when you’ve got some time to kill. Has anyone heard of Bohemian Grove? It’s a exclusive “campground” in California, that “ hosts a two-week encampment of some of the most powerful men in the world.” Looking at a list from wikipedia, the “powerful men” is almost an understatement: from Presidents (Bush Jr., Clinton, Nixon, Reagan) to business leaders (Riley Bechtell, David Rockefeller), its very impressive, if at all valid.
A YouTube search reveals some pretty interesting videos. Its too frightening to think about these rich white boy fraternities, pulling strings and patting each other on the back. But to think that such a thing is completely non-existent is just plain stupid. Its history, its documented, and its simply human nature. Secrets….
Finally, other things that are just strange are the Georgia Guidestones (aka the American Stonehenge), Easter Islands, Aleister Crowley, Mrs. Piper, etc. The list goes on and on.
It’s a big world, and its an even bigger universe. Stretching your mind can help, even if reality turns out to not be so strange. But what if we could see another solution to the War, if we could revolutionize the poisoned political system, if we could find a better way to earn money and live; I’m just trying to find a door where I once saw a wall. I guess all this just seems like a good place to start.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Simon Sez: Dylan Is a Dud


From Rollingstone.com: We have always been in Simon Cowell’s corner. His expert evisceration of American Idol contestants is unequivocally entertaining. So we used to feel pretty confident that there was nothing he could do to truly offend or horrify us. After all that is his THING…and nobody does it better. But then he went and shit talked Bob Dylan.

According to the New York Post, Cowell recently indirectly refuted the long-standing (and patently ridiculous) rumor that the American troubadour might appear as a guest judge on a future American Idol by saying that he prefers Kelly Clarkson’s music to Bob Dylan’s. We’re presuming this was said without sarcasm…or drugs.

“I’ve never bought a Dylan record,” claims the Idol maker. “A singing poet? It just bores me to tears.” But he didn’t stop there. He goes on to say that a Dylan-inspired season of American Idol would suck. “I’ve got to tell you, if I had 10 Dylans in the final of American Idol, we would not be getting 30 million viewers a week. I don’t believe the Bob Dylans of this world would make American Idol a better show.”

Monday, January 08, 2007

Downtown Austin reopens after dead birds found | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle


More than 10 blocks of downtown along Congress Avenue reopened this afternoon after police said the area where 63 grackles, sparrows and pigeons were found dead and sickened posed no danger to people.
Preliminary tests for pesticides and other harmful chemicals came back negative, said Dr. Adolfo Valadez, the medical director for Austin and Travis County Health and Human Services.
'There is no threat to public health at this time,'' Valadez said.
Valadez said the massive shutdown of streets and buildings from Cesar Chavez Street to the Capitol was a 'typical'' post-9/11 precaution and wasn't influenced by tomorrow's start of the state's 80th legislative session.
Officials still aren't sure what killed the birds, whose carcasses were found overnight scattered along Congress Avenue between Sixth and Eighth streets.
'It really is not unusual to see a large number of birds die off,'' he said. 'I think we lose sight of that because we tend to live in the city and don't really pay too much attention to that.''
Bird die-offs often are caused by bacterial infections, weather or intentional poisoning, Valadez said.
Further testing would be done by Texas A&M University's veterinary school and an Iowa animal testing facility operated by the Centers for Disease Control, he said. It could take weeks before the results come back, he said."

Friday, January 05, 2007

FOX NEWS wastes no time in attacking Pelosi

Wooden snowmen protest global warming in Norway


"Hans sez, 'I briefed my students at Norway's Westerdals Communication on a one-day project today: 'make a wooden object out of plywood and place it somewhere in Oslo.'

'They made this great collection of wooden snowmen, demonstrating in front of the Parlament, asking for a better life situation. We've experienced the warmest winter in 60 years. Norway is really lagging behind when it comes to full filling the Kyoto protocol.
The national newspaper, Dagbaldet, ran a story on it."

Let's start it here in Chicago. For realz.

Ma Bell Is Back. Should You Be Afraid?

Ma Bell is back. Blown into eight pieces by an antitrust court in 1984, AT&T, like a self-repairing robot, has slowly put itself back together. Last Friday, the Federal Communications Commission, demanding net neutrality and other conditions, approved AT&T's acquisition of BellSouth. That will make AT&T - once again - the world's largest technology company. And don't just think big. Think Goliath, with about $110 billion in annual revenue, more than 300,000 employees, and 90 million paying accounts. Google, by way of comparison, brings in about $9 billion a year. Even Microsoft, at $45 billion, is a mere elephant compared to the AT&T mammoth.

So, should you be afraid? A little. AT&T will wield power over the nation's information networks to a degree unprecedented in the Internet age. How you feel about that depends on whether you trust the company, and unfortunately, AT&T has the corporate version of a criminal record. From the 1950s through the 1970s, AT&T - while creating the greatest network on earth - also killed long-distance competition, bottled up new technologies like the cell phone and home answering machine, and resisted the innovations that were later known as "the Internet." Some will argue that letting AT&T run the nation's networks is like putting Hannibal Lecter in charge of making dinner."

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Death of a Statesman

Floating about the media and the public consciousness for the past few days has been death of high profile men, and I'’d like to take a quick moment to wrap it up: their ceremonies, their impressions left on others, and their final thoughts. They all say something about the time we live in, although I won't attempt to be that high-minded tonight to pretend to know exactly what that something means. I just wanted to present this bit of information in one place, in order to let it all marinate together.

Let's start with President Ford's funeral. Pomp and circumstance abound: parades, his body was brought all over the country, from California, to Washington, and finally to Michigan. They held a casket viewing in his home state of Michigan where nearly 57,000 people viewed the body, some wearing his alma matter Michigan Statparaphernaliaia as they went by. There were Eagle Scouts (Ford was one) and limos, and eulogies by Bush Jr., Henry Kissinger, and Tom Brokaw. Very nice. As I watched some of the service this afternoon while at the gym, this funny quote came across the close captioning. I'’m not sure who the commentator was who said it, but it struck me as odd: to sum up, he said that the elaborate funerals for presidents are like what the Vatican is to the Catholic Church: a reminder of its power and presence. Having this grand funeral is a reminder to the American people and the world of the power of the American government and the reverence were supposed to feel for these people. Someone else's conclusion, not mine. Just thought I'd pass that thought along.

Now lets contrast that to Hussein's execution. It seemed to be a page out of another era. Hanging? Gallows? When I saw the headline anewsstandwstand, my first reaction was, were they out of stones? It seems oddly barbaric and outdated, like stoning someone in a public square. Now, the US government is trying to avoid discussing the matter at all. You’d think Bush would have held another press conference, roll out the old "“Mission Accomplished" banner, but instead, they let an unrecognizable military figure do the talking: Major General William Caldwell said, "“If you're asking me: 'Would we have done things differently?' Yes, we would have. But that's not our decision. That'’s the government of Iraq'’s decision." Yeah, OK. No control, right. Didn't this take place on a U.S. military base? We’re supposed to believe our government is all powerful on the one hand, but on the other, were supposed to believe things like this are completely out of their control (just like that illegally taken video, paradoxically splashed EVERYWHERE in the mainstream media - I saw the video link in the column right next to the article in the Chicago Tribune condemning the fact that it even exists). Seems like a mixed message. A carefully controlled mixed message.

Now for the complete 180, there’s the funeral services of James Brown. Three memorial events in three days: on Thursday, he was led through the streets of Harlem in a gold coffin pulled by a horse-drawn carriage to the Apollo Theatre; Friday, 300 relatives and close friends gathered for a 90 minute ceremony in North Augusta, South Carolina, and finally Saturday was the public funeral in Augusta, Georgia with the elusive Michael Jackson in attendance. And to end it all, Brown’s backing band “The Soul Generals” held an all night jam session on Saturday as a final tribute. Grand, fabulous, spectacular - one nation, under funk.

Three completely different men, three completely different send offs. As far as the life they lived to deserve as such, here is how other’s summed up the lives these men lived: Gerald Ford was described by the Michigan Governor as “a paradoxical gift of remarkable intellect and achievement, wrapped in plain brown wrapper.” Sadaam Hussein was famously called the “Butcher of Baghdad,” but described by officials as “courteous” and “dignified” as he was led to his death. James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, was listed as an inspiration to countless, including Michael Jackson who said after seeing him on TV as a child, “right then and there, I knew that was exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life because of James Brown.”

Or perhaps we can let their own words cast insight. I gathered some of the last remarks by these three men: Gerald Ford (during a previously unaired interview with Bob Woodward): “Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction, and now, I’ve never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do.” “I just don’t think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security.” Sadaam Hussein (in a letter drafted shortly before his hanging): “I call you now and invite you not to hate, because hatred does not leave space for a person to be fair and it will blind your vision and close all doors of thinking.” James Brown (shortly before passing): “I’m going away tonight.”

Just imagine these three men sitting together in some sort of post-life waiting room: Gerald Ford, Saddam Hussein, and James Brown. Hmmm… and it makes you wonder.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

NPR : Michael Franti & Spearhead: Music and Politics

NPR : Michael Franti & Spearhead: Music and Politics I'm in the midst of listening to this very interesting interview/excellent music. I have distant familiarty with Michael Franti, but I'm finding I respect his message and his music. Just thought my fellow bloggers could use something to listen to while computing around.

NPR : UFO Is Reported at O'Hare; Feds Are Silent

In November, a gray, metallic, saucer-like object was spotted hovering above Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. As many as 12 United Airlines employees spotted the object and filed reports with United.
Officials at the airline say they have no knowledge of the incident, and the Federal Aviation Administration is not investigating.
Melissa Block speaks with Chicago Tribune transportation reporter Jon Hilkevtich, who reported on the incident."

Olbermann: Special Comment on %u201CSacrifice%u201D

Keith Olbermann stepped up and slapped Bush's plan to use the word 'sacrifice' as an excuse to send more troops to Iraq. Bush needs a new catch phrase to try and deceive the nation with, but Republican talking points won't work on the people anymore. They are fed up with Bush and this war and sending more troops to die is not an answer. John McCain and Lieberman will now wear the McCain Doctrine around their necks%u2014as Bill Kristol drools with glee as he'll finally get his wish.
Video-WMP Video-QT (big file)
Olbermann: If in your presence an individual tried to sacrifice an American serviceman or woman, would you intervene? Would you at least protest? What if he had already sacrificed 3,003 of them? What if he had already sacrificed 3,003 of them and was then to announce his intention to sacrifice hundreds, maybe thousands, more?

Rough transcripts below the fold

Finally tonight, a Special Comment about 'Sacrifice.'
If in your presence an individual tried to sacrifice an American serviceman or woman, would you intervene?
Would you at least protest?
What if he had already sacrificed 3,003 of them?
What if he had already sacrificed 3,003 of them and was then to announce his intention to sacrifice hundreds, maybe thousands, more?
This is where we stand tonight with the BBC report of President Bush's 'new Iraq strategy' and his impending speech to the nation, which it quotes a senior American official, will be about troop increases and 'sacrifice.'"

Does this HDTV make me look fat? - CNN.com

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- Vanity, thy name is hi-def TV.The holiday shopping season was expected to sharply boost the number of U.S. homes with high-definition televisions to nearly 33 million. In the eyes of a growing number of image-obsessed on-air personalities, that's 33 million clear reasons to be concerned.Besides spectacular vistas and shockingly real playing fields, hi-def clarity puts any and all wrinkles, pimples and pores on display in well-lit bathroom-mirror detail.Some TV types say big-screen HDTV could lead to the end of the extreme close-up as we know it. Others predict hi-def fears could soon be reflected in artists' contracts.When 'Good Morning America' debuted in high-definition last year, host Diane Sawyer, 61, noted that viewers will now know when she's stayed up too late the night before. 'They will see it right there,' Sawyer said, indicating the puffiness under her eyes.Dissolve to the TV industry's behind-the-scenes pros, who are developing new ways to help the talent keep up appearances in today's hi-def world.'The grain structure of film allows a softness that HD video tends not to have, posing more challenges, especially when it comes to capturing female faces,' says Stephen McNutt, director of photography for the Sci Fi Channel's 'Battlestar Galactica.''We seem not to care about seeing men in a rougher, more edgier way,' he explains, 'whereas females, we're used to seeing them in a softer, more appealing way. So there's a little more filtration needed, and you have to approach it from a different standpoint.'"

Skinny girls to blame for late trains? - AM New York

Skinny girls to blame for late trains? - AM New York: "Subway late? Blame the lady wearing a size 0.
These women -- many fainting during the morning rush hour due to crash diets -- have been a leading cause of subway delays in the past year, according to MTA personnel.
'Sick customer,' MTA-speak for a subway delay caused by an ill passenger, was the No. 3 cause of disruptions between October 2005 and October 2006, an analysis of agency statistics shows.

'You have women trying to get their bodies tight for the summer and they wont eat,' said Asim Nelson, a Transit emergency medical technician based in Grand Central Station. 'Not eating for three or four days, you are going to go down. If you dont eat for 12 hours you are going to get weak.'

Talisa McGraw, 17, sheepishly admitted to skipping breakfast and dinner the night before she fainted on a downtown No. 4 train on her way to Manhattan Village Academy at about 8 a.m. last month.

'I felt dizzy and light and dropped down. Luckily someone got me a seat and called the conductor,' she said. At Grand Central, Nelson brought her to his small office, monitored her vital signs and waited for an ambulance to take her to a hospital for a check-up.

In all, Nelson treated five women that morning, all of who fainted or reported feeling weak."

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

CNN apologizes for Obama gaffe in Bin Laden graphic


A Monday night broadcast of CNN's Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer confused America's 'number one enemy' with one of America's most popular senators, RAW STORY has learned. CNN apologized for the error, which came after a series of incidents in recent months in which Illinois Democrat Senator Barack Obama was subtly or directly linked with militant Islamic personalities who have been hostile to the United States.

During the Jan. 1 broadcast of Wolf Blitzer's nightly news program, a pre-commercial preview of the show's next segment included a story on the hunt for Al Qaeda's leadership. Over a photo of Osama Bin Laden and his second-in-command Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Blitzer stated, according to the transcript, 'Plus, a new year, but the same mission. Will 2007 bring any new changes in the hunt for Osama bin Laden?'

But instead of asking 'Where's Osama?' the graphic over the two Islamists read 'Where's Obama?' referencing the surname of popular Illinois Democratic Senator Barack Obama.

A later segment of the show, which took up the topic of the 2008 presidential election, did discuss Senator Obama's political prospects if he chooses to run for president.

Blitzer apologized during this morning's coverage of the Gerald Ford funeral."

Monday, January 01, 2007

World faces hottest year ever, as El Niño combines with global warming

A combination of global warming and the El Nino weather system is set to make 2007 the warmest year on record with far-reaching consequences for the planet, one of Britain's leading climate experts has warned.
As the new year was ushered in with stormy conditions across the UK, the forecast for the next 12 months is of extreme global weather patterns which could bring drought to Indonesia and leave California under a deluge.
The warning, from Professor Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, was one of four sobering predictions from senior scientists and forecasters that 2007 will be a crucial year for determining the response to global warming and its effect on humanity.
Professor Jones said the long-term trend of global warming - already blamed for bringing drought to the Horn of Africa and melting the Arctic ice shelf - is set to be exacerbated by the arrival of El Nino, the phenomenon caused by above-average sea temperatures in the Pacific.
Combined, they are set to bring extreme conditions across the globe and make 2007 warmer than 1998, the hottest year on record. It is likely temperatures will also exceed 2006, which was declared in December the hottest in Britain since 1659 and the sixth warmest in global records.
Professor Jones said: 'El Nino makes the world warmer and we already have a warming trend that is increasing global temperatures by one to two tenths of a degrees celsius per decade. Together, they should make 2007 warmer than last year and it may even make the next 12 months the warmest year on record.'"