Friday, June 29, 2007

Bald Eagle Soars Off Endangered Species List



Today I am proud to announce: the eagle has returned," said Secretary Kempthorne. "In 1963, the lower 48 states were home to barely 400 nesting pairs of bald eagles. Today, after decades of conservation effort, they are home to some 10,000 nesting pairs, a 25-fold increase in the last 40 years. Based on its dramatic recovery, it is my honor to announce the Department of the Interior's decision to remove the American Bald Eagle from the Endangered Species List."

More than half of Americans won't vote for Clinton

Survey provides a snapshot of the senator's challenges as she seeks the Democratic nomination for president
By William Douglas
MCCLATCHY WASHINGTON BUREAU
Contra Costa Times
Article Launched:
WASHINGTON -- More than half of Americans say they wouldn't consider voting for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for president if she becomes the Democratic nominee, according to a new national poll made available to McClatchy Newspapers and NBC News.
The poll by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research found that 52 percent of Americans wouldn't consider voting for Clinton, D-N.Y. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, was second in the can't-stand-'em category, with 46 percent saying they wouldn't consider voting for him.
Clinton has long been considered a politically polarizing figure who would be a tough sell to some voters, especially many men, but also Clinton-haters of both genders.
Thursday's survey provides a snapshot of the challenges she faces, according to Larry Harris, a Mason-Dixon principal.
"Hillary's carrying a lot of baggage," he said. "She's the only one that has a majority who say they can't vote for her."
Clinton rang up high negatives across the board, with 60 percent of independents, 56 percent of men, 47 percent of women and 88 percent of Republicans saying they wouldn't consider voting for her.
Romney struggled most with women: 50.9 percent said they wouldn't consider voting for him.
"It's the flip-flop of Hillary," Harris said of Romney. "One could suppose it's the Mormon issue -- we didn't ask follow-up questions -- but his religion is an issue."
On name recognition, Clinton also led the 2008 presidential pack in voter disapproval, with 42 percent saying they recognized her name and were unfavorable toward her, versus 39 percent favorable.
That gave her a double-digit lead in that bad-news category over Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, a Democrat. They each had 28 percent unfavorable recognition.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani had the highest favorable recognition at 43 percent, with Clinton close behind at 39 percent. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., was third at 36 percent, followed by McCain at 33 percent and Edwards at 32 percent.
McCain rang up the highest favorable rating among independent voters with 39.4 percent, followed by Giuliani with 37.3 percent. Edwards scored well with independents, too, with 31.1 percent favorable; Obama had 28 percent favorable.
The Mason-Dixon survey was conducted June 23-25 with 625 likely general-election voters. It has an error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Is your doctor playing judge?

SELF:"Family physician Debra Stulberg, M.D., was completing her residency in 2004 when West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park, Illinois, was acquired by the large Catholic system Resurrection Health Care. "They assured us that patient care would be unaffected," Dr. Stulberg says. "But then I got to see the reality." The doctor was struck by the hoops women had to jump through to get basic care. "One of my patients was a mother of four who had wanted a tubal ligation at delivery but was turned down," she says. "When I saw her not long afterward, she was pregnant with unwanted twins."
And in emergency scenarios, Dr. Stulberg says, the newly merged hospital did not offer standard-of-care treatments. In one case that made the local paper, a patient came in with an ectopic pregnancy: an embryo had implanted in her fallopian tube. Such an embryo has zero chance of survival and is a serious threat to the mother, as its growth can rupture the tube. The more invasive way to treat an ectopic is to surgically remove the tube. An alternative, generally less risky way is to administer methotrexate, a drug also used for cancer. It dissolves the pregnancy but spares the tube, preserving the women's fertility. "The doctor thought the noninvasive treatment was best," Dr. Stulberg recounts. But Catholic directives specify that even in an ectopic pregnancy, doctors cannot perform "a direct abortion"—which, the on-call ob/gyn reasoned, would nix the drug option. (Surgery, on the other hand, could be considered a lifesaving measure that indirectly kills the embryo, and may be permitted.) The doctor didn't wait to take it up with the hospital's ethical committee; she told the patient to check out and head to another ER. (Citing patient confidentiality, West Suburban declined to comment, confirming only that as a Catholic hospital, it adheres to religious directives "in every instance.")
Turns out, the definition of emergency depends on whom you ask. Dr. Christiansen, the pro-life ob/gyn, says she would not object to either method of ending an ectopic pregnancy. "I do feel that the one indication for abortion is to save the mother's life—that's clear in my mind," she says. "But the reality is, the vast majority of abortions are elective. There are very, very few instances where the mother's life is truly in jeopardy." She can recall having seen only one such situation: During Dr. Christiansen's residency, a patient in the second trimester of pregnancy had a detached placenta; the attending physician performed an abortion to save the woman from bleeding to death. "That was a legitimate situation," Dr. Christiansen says. But in general, "it's a pure judgment call. A doctor would have to be in the situation and decide whether it constitutes a life-threatening emergency or not."

Raise your hand if you'd like to be the test case."

Wikipedia posting is eerie twist in Benoit case

MSNBC: "ATLANTA - Investigators are looking into who altered pro wrestler Chris Benoit’s Wikipedia entry to mention his wife’s death hours before authorities discovered the bodies of the couple and their 7-year-old son.
Benoit’s Wikipedia entry was altered early Monday to say that the wrestler had missed a match two days earlier because of his wife’s death.
A Wikipedia official, Cary Bass, said Thursday that the entry was made by someone using an Internet protocol address registered in Stamford, Conn., where World Wrestling Entertainment is based."

Dinner and a PowerPoint?

WSJ: "Patricia Handschiegel's dates start like many other couples': "We cook an amazing dinner, grab a little wine," says the 36-year-old Los Angeles entrepreneur.
And then....? "We pull out our laptops and get some work done."
Toiling side-by-side for hours, "we laugh and have a great time," she says. "I know it doesn't sound fun," she adds, but working on dates has saved her from a worse fate: No social life at all. She says she is so busy running a Web site, launching a second one and working part-time in public relations, that "I probably wouldn't have left the house or office" for any man if she couldn't bring her laptop along.
You've heard of working vacations. Now comes "the working date." Many single people are so busy with careers that they don't have time for a social life. So they're increasingly blending work and romance. For some, the practice has provided a path to lasting love. For others, working dates are one more way to avoid intimacy, or just a major turn-off.
In part the phenomenon is driven by so many Americans working wall-to-wall hours. But also, more people are plunging into all-consuming entrepreneurial ventures at younger ages; "as an entrepreneur, you don't really separate" work and life, says Beth Schoenfeldt, New York, co-author of "Ladies Who Launch." And more women have high-powered careers, making them a match for men who can't stop working either.
A matching work ethic is becoming a kind of compatibility test for many career-minded singles. A typical working date for Scott Friedman, 47, of Denver, a motivational speaker and humorist, starts with, "'Look, I'm busy. You're busy. Why don't we order in and we'll work?'" With one recent partner who also has a demanding career, they would dine on Chinese food at his kitchen table, admiring the city lights from his windows. "Then we'd work for a few hours," he says. "At least," he reasons, he could glance at his date across the room. After that came dessert or a trip out for ice cream. "The actual social part of a four- to five-hour date would be 60 to 90 minutes," he says. The relationship ended for other reasons, but the dates "made me feel better, because I wasn't always the one saying, 'Geez, I have so much to do.'""

Microwave Zaps Plastic Back Into Oil

Using a tweaked-out industrial-strength microwave oven, the Global Resource Company has developed a technique that turns plastic into oil and gas.

Key to the process is the oven, known as the Hawk-10, which emits 1200 different microwave frequencies. When hit with the right wavelength, hydrocarbon molecules that make up the plastic are broken down.

Beyond providing fuel and cleaning up landfill-clogging waste, the process also makes recycling easier.


"Take a piece of copper wiring," says Meddick. "It is encased in plastic – a kind of hydrocarbon material. We release all the hydrocarbons, which strips the casing off the wire." Not only does the process produce fuel in the form of oil and gas, it also makes it easier to extract the copper wire for recycling.

A New York scrap metal company has already promised to buy a Hawk-10 to break down plastic-containing automobile leftovers.

Hot Dog Champ May Miss July 4 Contest

It's like Tiger Woods tearing his rotator cuff, or LeBron James blowing out his knee. Takeru Kobayashi, the six-time defending Nathan's hot dog eating champion, received a chilling diagnosis: Jaw pain that limits how far he can open his mouth.

The disclosure set stomachs rumbling throughout the dog-eat-dog world of competitive eating in the days before the annual Independence Day chowdown.

On his blog earlier this week, the 29-year-old said a mouthful with the news that he was visiting a specialist and a chiropractor for relief of the bum jaw. "Already I can't open my jaws more than just a little bit," he wrote.

Word of the champ's woes spread quickly from Kyoto to Coney Island.

Some believe it is a ploy to unnerve his bun-swallowing rival, Joey Chestnut, who recently broke Kobayashi's world record by downing 59 1/2 dogs in 12 minutes. Others suggest it's a dodge to avoid Chestnut.

Or maybe it's true: a half-dozen years of inhaling hot dogs at the rate of one every 14 seconds really has hurt Kobayashi's overworked jaw.

Kobayashi was keeping his mouth shut Thursday, although he issued a statement promising to pursue treatment. "I intend to do everything I can to treat this condition in what little time I have," he said.

"I look forward to facing my fellow competitors on July 4," he said Thursday, although there was no guarantee that would happen.

A weak jaw won't cut the mustard in a competition where the winner will likely need to down more than 50 hot dogs and buns. During his six years as champion, the 165-pound Kobayashi has consumed 301 1/4 hot dogs -- a string of performances that made him the Michael Jordan of mass consumption.

His personal best was 53 3/4 last year. Chestnut, who smashed that mark June 2 in Phoenix, was among those perplexed by Kobayashi's reported condition.

"I hate to call anybody a coward, and I wouldn't call him that," said Chestnut, 23, from his San Jose, Calif., home. "But I don't know. He's shown up the six previous years. It's a strange coincidence, now that he's the underdog."

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Chimera embryos have right to life, say bishops

Human-animal hybrid embryos conceived in the laboratory - so-called “chimeras” - should be regarded as human and their mothers should be allowed to give birth to them, the Roman Catholic Church said yesterday.
Under draft Government legislation to be debated by Parliament later this year, scientists will be given permission for the first time to create such embryos for research as long as they destroy them within two weeks.
But the Catholic bishops of England and Wales, in a submission to the Parliamentary joint committee scrutinising the draft legislation, said that the genetic mothers of “chimeras” should be able to raise them as their own children if they wished.
The bishops said that they did not see why these “interspecies” embryos should be treated any differently than others.
The wide-ranging draft Human Tissue and Embryo Bill, which aims to overhaul the laws on fertility treatment, will include sections on test tube babies, embryo research and abortion. Ministers say that the creation of animal-human embryos - created by injecting animal cells or DNA into human embryos or human cells into animal eggs - will be heavily regulated.
They insist that it will be against the law to implant “chimeras” - named after the mythical creature that was half man and half animal - into a woman’s womb.
The bishops, who believe that life begins at conception, said that they opposed the creation of any embryo solely for research, but they were also anxious to limit the destruction of such life once it had been brought into existence.
In their submission to the committee, they said: “At the very least, embryos with a preponderance of human genes should be assumed to be embryonic human beings, and should be treated accordingly.
“In particular, it should not be a crime to transfer them, or other human embryos, to the body of the woman providing the ovum, in cases where a human ovum has been used to create them.
“Such a woman is the genetic mother, or partial mother, of the embryo; should she have a change of heart and wish to carry her child to term, she should not be prevented from doing so.”
The draft Bill will also allow the screening of embryos for genetic or chromosomal abnormalities that might lead to serious medical conditions, disabilities, or miscarriage. It will permit doctors to check whether an embryo could provide a suitable tissue match for a sibling suffering from a life-threatening illness.
The Bill would abolish the requirement for fertility clinics to consider the need for a father when deciding on treatment. This means clinics will no longer be able to deny treatment to lesbians and single mothers.
The Catholic bishops said that most of the procedures covered by the Bill “should not be licensed under any circumstances”, principally on the grounds that they violate human rights.

Monday, June 25, 2007

George W. Bush, the Musical


Relive Bush’s soiled legacy to the tune of Abba’s “Waterloo.” If ever there was a man who could carry off the line “I feel like I win when I lose,” it’s our president.

Watch it:

Saturday, June 23, 2007

N.J. Dog Crowned World's Ugliest


PETALUMA, Calif. (AP) - Elwood, a 2-year-old Chinese Crested and Chihuahua mix, was crowned the world's ugliest dog Friday, a distinction that delighted the New Jersey mutt's owners.
Elwood, dark colored and hairless—save for a mohawk-like puff of white fur on his head—is often referred to as "Yoda," or "ET," for his resemblance to those famous science fiction characters.

Celebrity's bag raises a few eyebrows


Actress Cameron Diaz appears to have committed a major fashion crime in Peru.

The voice of Princess Fiona in the animated Shrek films may have inadvertently offended Peruvians by touring there on Friday with a bag emblazoned with one of Mao Zedong's favourite political slogans. Peruvians suffered decades of violence from a Maoist guerrilla insurgency

While she explored the Inca city of Machu Picchu high in Peru's Andes, Diaz wore over her shoulder an olive green messenger bag emblazoned with a red star and the words 'Serve the People' printed in Chinese on the flap, perhaps Chinese Communist leader Mao's most famous political slogan.

While the bags are marketed as trendy fashion accessories in some world capitals, the phrase has particular resonance in Peru.

The Maoist Shining Path insurgency took Peru to the edge of chaos in the 1980s and early 1990s with a campaign of massacres, assassinations and bombings.

Nearly 70,000 people were killed during the insurgency.

Quote the star, "Ooops. like, I messed up! Sorry or whatever."

Friday, June 22, 2007

Study finds firstborn kids smarter

Older brothers and sisters, there's a reason you're the smart one in the family.

A new study adds support to theories that nurture, not nature, is behind the long-observed tendency for firstborn children to be more intelligent than their siblings.

The study, published Friday in the journal Science, analyzed a database of a quarter-million men born between 1967 and 1986. Results indicate that environmental factors -- in this case a child's "social rank" among his siblings -- may determine intelligence levels.

Since the late 19th Century, scientists have wondered whether the order in which children are born affects their intelligence and personality. In 1973, a study of 400,000 Dutchmen found a relationship between birth order and intelligence, with average IQ scores decreasing from first-borns through younger siblings.

The new study, conducted by Petter Kristensen and Tor Bjerkedal, asked whether this relationship is due to biological or environmental effects. Using Norwegian government and military records, they compared first-, second- and third-born men with second- and third-born men whose older sibling or siblings died in infancy.

A difference of 2 IQ points

As predicted by previous studies, firstborn men performed better on a military intelligence exam than second-borns and third-borns by an average of 2 and 3.2 IQ points, respectively.

But second-born men with an elder sibling who died at a young age showed intelligence on a par with first-borns. Third-born men with one deceased elder sibling were similar in intelligence to second-borns, and those with two deceased older siblings had an average IQ more similar to first-borns.

The finding suggests that a child's "social rank" during upbringing, rather than birth rank, is predictive of IQ scores at ages 18 and 19. This observation rebuts theories that the decrease in intelligence with subsequent births is due to an unknown maternal effect of multiple births, which would have caused lower IQ scores in second- and third-borns regardless of an older sibling's death.

However, critics of the study questioned whether the authors' analysis obscured a multitude of other factors, such as parental intelligence and socioeconomic status.

"Birth order is notoriously difficult to study," Joe L. Rodgers, professor of psychology at the University of Oklahoma, said in a statement. "The basic problem is that factors that differ between families (and there are hundreds of those) can cause the appearance of birth order effects when they are not really there."

**Was there ever any doubt?**

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Was Bush Beef With Noriega Over Coke?

Fresh Intelligence : Radar Online: "The State Department's favorite conspiracy theorist is back and this time he's pointing fingers at President Bush (and his sidekick the military-industrial complex, of course).
John Perkins last best-selling book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, earned the ire of the agency, which devoted a whole section of its website to debunking the author's various theories about global corruption. Now Perkins is about to debut his new one, The Secret History of the American Empire. In it, he takes aim at corporate globalization and lobs a few more bombs. Among them:

• George W. Bush's cocaine habit and womanizing ways caused the invasion of Panama in 1989. According to the book, Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega installed cameras on Contadora Island, which was a safe haven where American politicians and businessmen could schmooze with, and bribe, Latin American politicos. There were "rumors that George W. was photographed doing coke and having kinky sex during the time his father was president," Jose, a top adviser to Brazilian president Lula da Silva, tells Perkins. "There was a theory in Latin America that Noriega had used incriminating photos of the younger Bush and his cronies to convince the older Bush, then president, to side with the Panamanian administration on key issues. In retaliation, H.W. invaded Panama and hustled Noriega off to a Miami prison. The building housing Noriega's confidential files had been incinerated by bombs.""

Osama bin Laden May Have Chartered Saudi Flight Out of U.S. after 9/11

Judicial Watch:"
(Washington, DC) -- Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, today released new documents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) related to the “expeditious departure” of Saudi nationals, including members of the bin Laden family, from the United States following the 9/11 attacks. According to one of the formerly confidential documents, dated 9/21/2001, terrorist Osama bin Laden may have chartered one of the Saudi flights.
The document states: “ON 9/19/01, A 727 PLANE LEFT LAX, RYAN FLT #441 TO ORLANDO, FL W/ETA (estimated time of arrival) OF 4-5PM. THE PLANE WAS CHARTERED EITHER BY THE SAUDI ARABIAN ROYAL FAMILY OR OSAMA BIN LADEN…THE LA FBI SEARCHED THE PLANE [REDACTED] LUGGAGE, OF WHICH NOTHING UNUSUAL WAS FOUND.” The plane was allowed to depart the United States after making four stops to pick up passengers, ultimately landing in Paris where all passengers disembarked on 9/20/01, according to the document.
Overall, the FBI’s most recent document production includes details of the six flights between 9/14 and 9/24 that evacuated Saudi royals and bin Laden family members. The documents also contain brief interview summaries and occasional notes from intelligence analysts concerning the cursory screening performed prior to the departures. According to the FBI documents, incredibly not a single Saudi national nor any of the bin Laden family members possessed any information of investigative value.
Moreover, the documents contain numerous errors and inconsistencies which call to question the thoroughness of the FBI’s investigation of the Saudi flights. For example, on one document, the FBI claims to have interviewed 20 of 23 passengers on the Ryan International Airlines flight (commonly referred to as the “Bin Laden Family Flight”). On another document, the FBI claims to have interviewed 15 of 22 passengers on the same flight.
“Eight days after the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, Osama bin Laden possibly charters a flight to whisk his family out of the country, and it’s not worth more than a luggage search and a few brief interviews?” asked Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Clearly these documents prove the FBI conducted a slapdash investigation of these Saudi flights. We’ll never know how many investigative leads were lost due to the FBI’s lack of diligence.”"

Not Buying It

NYTimes:"ON a Friday evening last month, the day after New York University’s class of 2007 graduated, about 15 men and women assembled in front of Third Avenue North, an N.Y.U. dormitory on Third Avenue and 12th Street. They had come to take advantage of the university’s end-of-the-year move-out, when students’ discarded items are loaded into big green trash bins by the curb.
New York has several colleges and universities, of course, but according to Janet Kalish, a Queens resident who was there that night, N.Y.U.’s affluent student body makes for unusually profitable Dumpster diving. So perhaps it wasn’t surprising that the gathering at the Third Avenue North trash bin quickly took on a giddy shopping-spree air, as members of the group came up with one first-class find after another.
Ben Ibershoff, a dapper man in his 20s wearing two bowler hats, dug deep and unearthed a Sharp television. Autumn Brewster, 29, found a painting of a Mediterranean harbor, which she studied and handed down to another member of the crowd.
Darcie Elia, a 17-year-old high school student with a half-shaved head, was clearly pleased with a modest haul of what she called “random housing stuff” — a desk lamp, a dish rack, Swiffer dusters — which she spread on the sidewalk, drawing quizzical stares from passers-by.
Ms. Elia was not alone in appreciating the little things. “The small thrills are when you see the contents of someone’s desk and find a book of stamps,” said Ms. Kalish, 44, as she stood knee deep in the trash bin examining a plastic toiletries holder.
A few of those present had stumbled onto the scene by chance (including a janitor from a nearby homeless center, who made off with a working iPod and a tube of body cream), but most were there by design, in response to a posting on the Web site freegan.info.
The site, which provides information and listings for the small but growing subculture of anticonsumerists who call themselves freegans — the term derives from vegans, the vegetarians who forsake all animal products, as many freegans also do — is the closest thing their movement has to an official voice. And for those like Ms. Elia and Ms. Kalish, it serves as a guide to negotiating life, and making a home, in a world they see as hostile to their values.
Freegans are scavengers of the developed world, living off consumer waste in an effort to minimize their support of corporations and their impact on the planet, and to distance themselves from what they see as out-of-control consumerism. They forage through supermarket trash and eat the slightly bruised produce or just-expired canned goods that are routinely thrown out, and negotiate gifts of surplus food from sympathetic stores and restaurants.
They dress in castoff clothes and furnish their homes with items found on the street; at freecycle.org, where users post unwanted items; and at so-called freemeets, flea markets where no money is exchanged. Some claim to hold themselves to rigorous standards. “If a person chooses to live an ethical lifestyle it’s not enough to be vegan, they need to absent themselves from capitalism,” said Adam Weissman, 29, who started freegan.info four years ago and is the movement’s de facto spokesman"

Japan Changes Name of Iwo Jima

TOKYO — Japan has returned to using the prewar name for the island of Iwo Jima _ site of one of World War II's most horrific battles _ at the urging of its original inhabitants, who want to reclaim an identity they say has been hijacked by high-profile movies like Clint Eastwood's "Letters from Iwo Jima."
The new name, Iwo To, was adopted Monday by the Japanese Geographical Survey Institute in consultation with Japan's coast guard.
Surviving islanders evacuated during the war praised the move, but others said it cheapens the memory of a brutal campaign that today is inextricably linked to the words Iwo Jima.
Back in 1945, the small, volcanic island was the vortex of the fierce World War II battle immortalized by the famous photograph by Joe Rosenthal of The Associated Press showing Marines raising the American flag on the islet's Mount Suribachi.
"Frankly, I don't like it. That name is so much a part of our tradition, our legacy," said Haynes.
Haynes, 87, heads the Combat Veterans of Iwo Jima, a group of about 600 veterans that travels to the island every year for a reunion. He is working on a book about the battle called "We Walk by Faith: The Story of Combat Team 28 and the Battle of Iwo Jima." He doesn't plan to change the name.
"It was Iwo Jima to us when we took it," said Haynes. "We'll recognize whatever the Japanese want to call it but we'll stick to Iwo Jima."
Before the war, the isolated spit of land was called Iwo To _ pronounced "ee-woh-toh" _ by the 1,000 or so people who lived there. In Japanese, that name looks and means the same as Iwo Jima _ Sulfur Island _ but it has a different sound.
The civilians were evacuated in 1944 as U.S. forces advanced across the Pacific. Some Japanese navy officers who moved in to fortify the island mistakenly called it Iwo Jima, and the name stuck. After the war, civilians weren't allowed to return and the island was put to exclusive military use by both the U.S. and Japan, cementing its identity.
Locals were never happy the name Iwo Jima took root. But the last straw came this year with the release of Eastwood's "Letters from Iwo Jima" and "Flags of Our Fathers," war films that only reinforced the misnomer.
In March, Ogasawara, the municipality that administers Iwo To and neighboring islands, responded by adopting a resolution making Iwo To the official name. Ogasawara residents and descendants of Iwo To evacuees petitioned the central government to follow suit.
"Though we're happy for Iwo To, which has been forgotten by history, the islanders are extremely grieved every time they hear Iwo To referred to as Iwo Jima," the local Ogasawara newspaper quoted the resolution as saying of the Eastwood movies.

As More Toys Are Recalled, Trail Ends in China

NY Times: "WASHINGTON, June 18 — China manufactured every one of the 24 kinds of toys recalled for safety reasons in the United States so far this year, including the enormously popular Thomas & Friends wooden train sets, a record that is causing alarm among consumer advocates, parents and regulators.
The latest recall, announced last week, involves 1.5 million Thomas & Friends trains and rail components — about 4 percent of all those sold in the United States over the last two years by RC2 Corporation of Oak Brook, Ill. The toys were coated at a factory in China with lead paint, which can damage brain cells, especially in children.
Just in the last month, a ghoulish fake eyeball toy made in China was recalled after it was found to be filled with kerosene. Sets of toy drums and a toy bear were also recalled because of lead paint, and an infant wrist rattle was recalled because of a choking hazard.
Over all, the number of products made in China that are being recalled in the United States by the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission has doubled in the last five years, driving the total number of recalls in the country to 467 last year, an annual record."

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Texas Crowd Kills Man After Car Hits Kid

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - A crowd attacked and killed a passenger in a vehicle that had struck and injured a child, police said Wednesday.
Police believe 2,000 to 3,000 people were in the area for a Juneteenth celebration when the attack occurred Tuesday night. The man who was killed had been trying to stop the group from attacking the vehicle's driver when the crowd turned on him, authorities said.

The Austin Police Department identified the victim as David Rivas Morales, 40. The child was taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Police spokeswoman Toni Chovonetz said she had no further information, including how many people were involved.

The driver was able to get away is cooperating with investigators, police said.

Juneteenth marks the day Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston in 1865 to share news of the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves two years earlier on Jan. 1, 1863.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Google pushes 100-mpg car

CNN Money: "NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Google said Tuesday it is getting in on the development of electric vehicles, awarding $1 million in grants and inviting applicants to bid for another $10 million in funding to develop plug-in hybrid electric vehicles capable of getting 70 to 100 miles per gallon.
The project, called the RechargeIT initiative and run from Google's philanthropic arm, Google.org, aims to further the development of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles - cars or trucks that have both a gasoline engine and advanced batteries that recharge by plugging into the nation's electric grid.
"Since most Americans drive less than 35 miles per day, you easily could drive mostly on electricity with the gas tank as a safety net," Dan Reicher, director of Climate and Energy Initiatives for Google.org, wrote on the organization's Web site. "In preliminary results from our test fleet, on average the plug-in hybrid gas mileage was 30-plus mpg higher than that of the regular hybrids."
The project also aims to develop vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology, allowing cars to sell their stored power back to the nation's electricity grid during times of peak demand."

Monday, June 18, 2007

Yes Men Strike Oil: Civil Disobedients Make Modest Flesh-to-Fuel Proposal



Without oil, at least four billion people would starve. This spiral of trouble would make the oil infrastructure utterly useless" -- unless their bodies could be turned into fuel.

That was the satirical message delivered by two corporate ethics activists to the Gas and Oil Exposition 2007 in Calgary, Alberta. The activists, part of political trickster collective the Yes Men, used the Exposition to stage their latest theatre of corporate absurdity, with Exxon/Mobil and the Natural Petroleum Council playing the fools.

The prank, intended as a critique of the fossil fuel industry's influence on energy policy, caused confusion and consternation on the final day of the Exposition, one of the industry's largest gatherings.

The NPC, which is led by former Exxon-Mobil CEO Lee Raymond, advises the White House on gas and oil issues. They were expected to announce the findings of a Raymond-chaired study, commissioned by the Department of Energy, on joint US-Canadian energy policy.

Instead, attendees of the day's $45.00 keynote luncheon were addressed by the Yes Men's Andy Bichlbaum, who identified himself as an NPC representative named Shepard Wolff.

After noting that current energy policies will likely lead to "huge global calamities" and disrupt oil supplies, Wolff told the audience "that in the worst case scenario, the oil industry could "keep fuel flowing" by transforming the billions of people who die into oil," said a Yes Men press release.

Yes Man Mike Bonnano, posing as an Exxon representative named Florian Osenberg, added that "With more fossil fuels comes a greater chance of disaster, but that means more feedstock for Vivoleum. Fuel will continue to flow for those of us left."

The impostors led growingly suspicious attendees in lighting Vivoleum candles made, they said, from a former Exxon janitor who died from cleaning a toxic spill. When shown a mock video of the janitor professing his desire to be turned in death into candles, a conference organizer pulled Bonanno and Bichlbaum from the stage.

As security guards led Bonanno from the room, Bichlbaum told reporters that "Without oil we could no longer produce or transport food, and most of humanity would starve. That would be a tragedy, but at least all those bodies could be turned into fuel for the rest of us."

How children lost the right to roam in four generations



When George Thomas was eight he walked everywhere.

It was 1926 and his parents were unable to afford the fare for a tram, let alone the cost of a bike and he regularly walked six miles to his favourite fishing haunt without adult supervision.

Fast forward to 2007 and Mr Thomas's eight-year-old great-grandson Edward enjoys none of that freedom.

He is driven the few minutes to school, is taken by car to a safe place to ride his bike and can roam no more than 300 yards from home.

Even if he wanted to play outdoors, none of his friends strays from their home or garden unsupervised.

The contrast between Edward and George's childhoods is highlighted in a report which warns that the mental health of 21st-century children is at risk because they are missing out on the exposure to the natural world enjoyed by past generations.

The report says the change in attitudes is reflected in four generations of the Thomas family in Sheffield.

The oldest member, George, was allowed to roam for six miles from home unaccompanied when he was eight.

His home was tiny and crowded and he spent most of his time outside, playing games and making dens.

Mr Thomas, who went on to become a carpenter, has never lost some of the habits picked up as a child and, aged 88, is still a keen walker.

His son-in-law, Jack Hattersley, 63, was also given freedom to roam.

He was aged eight in 1950, and was allowed to walk for about one mile on his own to the local woods. Again, he walked to school and never travelled by car.

By 1979, when his daughter Vicky Grant was eight, there were signs that children's independence was being eroded.

"I was able to go out quite freely - I'd ride my bike around the estate, play with friends in the park and walk to the swimming pool and to school," said Mrs Grant, 36.

"There was a lot less traffic then - and families had only one car. People didn't make all these short journeys."

Today, her son Edward spends little time on his own outside his garden in their quiet suburban street. She takes him by car to school to ensure she gets to her part-time job as a medical librarian on time.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Lineman, Dead at 36, Exposes Brain Injuries

NY Times: "WEST SENECA, N.Y., June 13 — Mary Strzelczyk spoke to the computer screen as clearly as it was speaking to her. “Oh, Justin,” she said through sobs, “I’m so sorry."
Justin Strzelczyk was killed during a high-speed police chase on Sept. 30, 2004, when his pickup collided with a tractor-trailer and exploded.
The images on the screen were of magnified brain tissue from her son, the former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Justin Strzelczyk, who was killed in a fiery automobile crash three years ago at age 36. Four red splotches specked an otherwise tranquil sea — early signs of brain damage that experts said was most likely caused by the persistent head trauma of life in football’s trenches.
Strzelczyk (pronounced STRELL-zick) is the fourth former National Football League player to have been found post-mortem to have had a condition similar to that generally found only in boxers with dementia or people in their 80s. The diagnosis was made by Dr. Bennet Omalu, a neuropathologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. In the past five years, he has found similar damage in the brains of the former N.F.L. players Mike Webster, Terry Long and Andre Waters. The finding will add to the growing evidence that longtime football players, particularly linemen, might endure hidden brain trauma that is only now becoming recognized.
“This is irreversible brain damage,” Omalu said. “It’s most likely caused by concussions sustained on the football field.”
Dr. Ronald Hamilton of the University of Pittsburgh and Dr. Kenneth Fallon of West Virginia University confirmed Omalu’s findings of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a condition evidenced by neurofibrillary tangles in the brain’s cortex, which can cause memory loss, depression and eventually Alzheimer’s disease-like dementia. “This is extremely abnormal in a 36-year-old,” Hamilton said. “If I didn’t know anything about this case and I looked at the slides, I would have asked, ‘Was this patient a boxer?’ ”"

America Comes Up Short

NYTimes"Traveling through Europe recently, I’ve been able to confirm through personal experience what statistical surveys tell us: the perceived stature of Americans is not what it was. Europeans used to look up to us; now, many of them look down on us instead
No, I’m not talking metaphorically about our loss of moral authority in the wake of Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. I’m literally talking about feet and inches.
To the casual observer, Europeans — who often seemed short, even to me (I’m 5-foot-7), when I first began traveling a lot in the 1970s — now often seem tall by American standards. And that casual observation matches what careful researchers have found.
The data show that Americans, who in the words of a recent paper by the economic historian John Komlos and Benjamin Lauderdale in Social Science Quarterly, were “tallest in the world between colonial times and the middle of the 20th century,” have now “become shorter (and fatter) than Western and Northern Europeans. In fact, the U.S. population is currently at the bottom end of the height distribution in advanced industrial countries.”
This is not a trivial matter. As the paper says, “height is indicative of how well the human organism thrives in its socioeconomic environment.” There’s a whole discipline of “anthropometric history” that uses evidence on heights to assess changes in social conditions.
For example, nothing demonstrates the harsh class distinctions of Britain in the age of Dickens better than the 9-inch height gap between 15-year-old students at Sandhurst, the elite military academy, and their counterparts at the working-class Marine School. The dismal working and living conditions of urban Americans during the Gilded Age were reflected in a 1- 1/2 inch decline in the average height of men born in 1890, compared with those born in 1830. Americans born after 1920 were the first industrial generation to regain preindustrial stature.
So what is America’s modern height lag telling us?"

Congress subpoenas White House over prosecutor firings

Congressional Democrats have threatened for months to subpoena former White House officials related to the Capitol Hill investigation of why several federal prosecutors were fired. Today the lawmakers are finally acting on their repeated warnings.

They issued a subpoena to the White House for e-mails related to the prosecutors' firings and they want them by June 28.

This from the letter over the signature of Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich) chair of the House Judiciary Committee.



We issue this subpoena with extreme reluctance, and only after making repeated attempts, as reflected in letters of March 9, March 22, March 28, and May 21, to secure voluntary cooperation from the White House in this matter. In response to a series of attempts to secure such cooperation, however, and a clear warning that we would have no choice but to utilize compulsory process if voluntary cooperation was not forthcoming, you have simply repeated the same unacceptable "take it or leave it" offer you made several months ago. Our Committee has made abundantly clear that we appreciate and respect the institutional prerogatives of the White House and that we remain ready and willing to resolve the issues on a cooperative basis. Unfortunately, we have not seen any indication of such willingness from the White House.

As recited in detail in previous letters, and as demonstrated again by documents produced just yesterday by the Justice Department, there can be no doubt that White House officials played a central role in originating, supervising, approving, and dealing with the aftermath of the plan to replace at least nine U.S. Attorneys since President Bush's re-election, a role that remains largely unexplored and inadequately understood. Many of these facts are recounted in previous letters from Senator Leahy and from me, on May 16 and 21, respectively.
To cite just a few examples, e-mails provided by the Department of Justice show that Karl Rove and Harriet Miers were involved from the very beginning in plans to remove U.S. Attorneys after President Bush's re-election, and that the Department official who compiled the lists of U.S. Attorneys to be fired, Kyle Sampson, was in frequent contact with White House officials on the subject. Yet after extensive review of Department documents and on-the-record interviews with a variety of senior current and former Department officials, no one at the Department seems to know who suggested putting most of the U.S. Attorneys on the list to be fired. One such U.S. Attorney, David Iglesias, appears to have been put on the firing list only after Karl Rove relayed complaints about Mr. Iglesias to the White House Counsel's office and the Department, and only after Mr. Rove was specifically enlisted by several prominent New Mexico Republicans in their effort to have Mr. Iglesias fired. E-mails demonstrate that shortly before the implementation of the firing plan, final circulation to "Karl's shop" was considered a "pre-execution necessity."

The precise role of White House officials, however, has been kept a mystery. After an initial round of false statements to Congress on that subject - including written misstatements that the Department was forced to correct, and false testimony that remains uncorrected to this day - Justice Department witnesses have been unable or unwilling to shed any meaningful light on the basic facts regarding who at the White House played what role in selecting these U.S. Attorneys for replacement and why. Also troubling in this regard is an incident Monica Goodling described to the House Judiciary Committee, in which the Deputy Attorney General apparently sent her away from a Senate meeting saying that her presence might prompt Senators to ask questions about the role of the White House in the U.S. Attorney firings and replacements. Taken together, these facts raise grave questions about the role of the White House and its political supporters in the U.S. Attorney firings, and about the Administration's extensive efforts to minimize or conceal that role. Only fair access to White House information will allow these crucial questions to be answered.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Judge orders man not to have girlfriend

Yahoo! News: "PETERBOROUGH, Ontario - A judge has ruled that a 24-year-old Canadian man is not allowed to have a girlfriend for the next three years.
The ruling came after Steven Cranley pleaded guilty on Tuesday to several charges stemming from an assault on a former girlfriend.
Cranley, who has been diagnosed with a dependent personality disorder, attacked his girlfriend in an argument after their breakup.
He tried to prevent her from phoning the police by cutting her phone cord and punched and kicked her. He finally stabbed himself with a butcher knife when police did arrive, puncturing his aorta.
Doctors say Cranley has difficulty coping with rejection and runs a high risk to re-offend if he becomes involved in another intimate relationship.
Justice Rhys Morgan said Cranley "cannot form a romantic relationship of an intimate nature with a female person.
"That is the only way I can see the protection of the public is in place until you get the counseling you need."
Cranley had already served 146 days in pre-trail custody, which Morgan said was enough jail time in this case.
His lawyer says the no girlfriend order is the first of its kind that he has encountered."

Text in time saves nimble-fingered teen

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - A Malaysian teen-ager woken by a night-time noise dashed off a warning text message to her mother just in time to be rescued from an intruder who burst into her bedroom.

Alerted by the mother's screams, relatives rushed to the rescue, breaking down a door and scaring off the man, who escaped through the back of the house, the New Straits Times said.

Salima Mohamad Noor, 17, said a man broke into her bedroom and placed a knife at her neck just as she finished sending the message on her cellular telephone.

"I was terrified and started screaming when he threatened to kill me," the newspaper quoted Salima as saying. "He also said no one would come to my rescue as he had already locked my mother's bedroom door from the outside."

But her mother's loud screams drew the attention of Salima's uncle, who kicked open the front door, frightening away the intruder, the paper added.

About 80 percent of Malaysia's population of roughly 26 million own a cell phone, statistics show, with many teenagers proficient in text messaging, as a cheaper way of talking to friends than telephone calls.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Chinese surname shortage sparks rethink

Yahoo! News: "BEIJING (AFP) - With more than a billion people now sharing just 100 surnames, Chinese authorities are considering a landmark move to try to end the confusion, state media reported Tuesday.
Current Chinese law states that children are only allowed take the surname from either their mother or father, but the lack of variety means there are now 93 million people in China with the family name Wang.
In a country of around 1.3 billion people, about 85 percent share only 100 surnames, according to a nationwide survey conducted by the Ministry of Public Security in April and published in the China Daily newspaper on Tuesday.
The survey found 92 million people shared the surname Li, while 88 million were called Zhang. A further seven surnames -- including Chen, Zhou and Lin -- are held by at least 20 million Chinese.
Another report by the Chinese Academy of Sciences found at least 100,000 people share China's most popular name, Wang Tao."

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Katie Couric

Dan Rather has a few words about news in America, and Katie Couric.
Check out the camera work! So Bizarre!


When College Ends, So Does Activism


JWhy selling out is a depressingly rational choice for many graduates
(In These Times)



Jaime Nelson could make anyone feel lazy. Over the past four years, Nelson, an undergraduate activist at the University of Michigan, has led writing workshops with Michigan's incarcerated, organized voter registration drives to battle the anti-affirmative action ballot initiative in 2006, and united local immigrant rights and labor organizations through the Restaurant Workplace Project, a coalition that sought to expose the dangerous working conditions faced by undocumented employees of Ann Arbor's dining establishments.

She did this on top of a work schedule--divorced from her political work--that would make Horatio Alger squirm. As a supervisor at the university library, Nelson checked out books five nights a week until 2 a.m. Two summers ago, she took a job as one of only two women on a road-paving crew in her native Kalamazoo. When she worked as a full-time unpaid intern for the public defender's office in Washington D.C., she logged an additional 30 hours a week as a hotel attendant.

Why would anyone put herself through this? Nelson had to balance her conscience with her checkbook. Paying for college was her responsibility. "My parents just didn't have money and I didn't want to ask them for it," she says, "so everything that I had, I had to pay for basically by myself."

In April, she graduated with almost $30,000 in student loans. So she's keeping her job at the library at night while searching during the day for work in progressive politics, which she knows won't pay enough to cover both her cost of living and her current debt. "School debt is the best kind of debt to have," she says, "but it's still debt."

Nelson is quick to point out that others have it much worse than her, but her story illustrates a growing trend among the recent crop of college graduates. Despite a job market that will treat the class of 2007 favorably, employment in progressive politics is a dicey enterprise for many left-leaning activists and thinkers. The value of jobs varies across industries and organizations, but few are economically sustainable or intellectually stimulating, which is a problem for students and progressive veterans alike.

Political McJobs
That few entry level political jobs exist is part of the problem, as documented by Columbia University sociology professor Dana R. Fisher in her book, Activism, Inc. Fisher spent two years studying one of the country's largest canvassing companies, part of an exploitative industry that has employed millions of young Americans. In the late '90s, progressive organizations--concerned with raising money and membership totals but conscious of their costs--began outsourcing their organizing campaigns to centralized intermediary organizations. This model is efficient but problematic. "Outsourcing makes sense if you're just thinking about your bottom line," Fisher says. "The problem is that it doesn't make sense if you're trying to build lasting connections with future progressive leaders or with local people."

Under this canvassing system, young organizers become contingent labor, susceptible to low pay, long hours, no benefits and no training in the real skills necessary to succeed in building local power. In some ways, the model cultivates a culture of deprivation; young people are taught to think that sacrifice is a prerequisite for progressive change and thus they tolerate exploitation for the sake of the movement. And because most organizations outsource these jobs, participating in this crooked system is one of the few avenues for paid work. "One could question," says Fisher, "whether Saul Alinsky, Ralph Nader or Cesar Chavez would have become successful at leading different aspects of the progressive movement if they came up through the model we have today."

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Teen runner dies after muscle cream overdose

MSNBC: "NEW YORK - A medical examiner blamed a 17-year-old track star’s death on the use of too much anti-inflammatory muscle cream, the kind used to soothe aching legs after exercise.
Arielle Newman, a cross-country runner at Notre Dame Academy on Staten Island, died after her body absorbed high levels of methyl salicylate, an anti-inflammatory found in sports creams such as Bengay and Icy Hot, the New York City medical examiner said Friday.
The medical examiner’s spokeswoman, Ellen Borakove, said the teen used “topical medication to excess.” She said it was the first time that her office had reported a death from using a sports cream."

Friday, June 08, 2007

Bush's war on Whole Foods

Slate: "The U.S. attorney scandal has raised fears that the Bush administration is misusing the levers of government to punish political opponents. Now I think I've uncovered another sinister example of the administration using government lawyers to stick it to liberals. And this time, Bush is aiming for the belly!
The background: We're in the midst of a merger mania, and the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department's antitrust division—the agencies tasked with assuring that mergers don't harm consumers by reducing competition—have approved almost every deal. If the nation's largest hog producer buys the second-largest hog producer? OK. Telecommunications giants SBC and AT&T want to merge? No problem. Giant supermarket company Albertson's and giant supermarket company SuperValu get together? You got it.
But when Whole Foods, the extremely successful, bobo-friendly, high-end, blue-state organic grocery chain and Wild Oats, the less successful, bobo-friendly, high-end, blue-state organic grocery chain, say they want to merge, the answer is no. This week, the FTC sued to stop this puny ($670 million) merger, saying the planned deal would "eliminate[e] the substantial competition between these two uniquely close competitors in numerous markets nationwide in the operation of premium natural and organic supermarkets" and result in higher prices and less consumer choice.
One fear of antitrust types is that a company will buy a rival just to eliminate the competition and thus harm consumers. But Whole Foods and Wild Oats are not like Citigroup and Chase, which frequently have bank branches across from each other. Look at the disparity in sales—$5.6 billion for Whole Foods and $1.2 billion for Wild Oats—and scope. Neither is a nationwide chain. Whole Foods boasts 195 stores, and Wild Oats has 110 stores. Whole Foods has four stores in Manhattan. Wild Oats doesn't have a single store in New York state. Whole Foods has 17 outlets in Massachusetts to Wild Oats' three. Sure, they overlap in a few markets, such as West Hartford, Conn., and Denver. But mostly, the organic chains operate in different places. "If Whole Foods is allowed to devour Wild Oats, it will mean higher prices, reduced quality, and fewer choices for consumers," said Jeffrey Schmidt, director of the FTC's Bureau of Competition. Yet Schmidt's own region is evidence that these two chains don't seriously compete. He has probably never shopped at a Wild Oats, since there isn't one in the District of Columbia, Virginia, or Maryland, a region that boasts 18 Whole Foods."

President Bush taken ill at G8 | International News | News | Telegraph

Telegraph: "President George W Bush has been taken ill on the final day of the G8 summit and is resting in his room.
President Bush has taken ill with a stomach ailment
Dan Bartlett, a White House counsellor, said Mr Bush had a stomach ailment which he described as "not serious".
"We're not sure if it was something he ate last night or this morning," he said.
Mr Bush decided to meet Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, in his private quarters earlier today for an hour. The new French leader confirmed Mr Bush was not in top form.
"I have just come out of a meeting with President Bush who is slightly unwell," Mr Sarkozy said. "He will join the working session when he can."
The President returned to meetings at the summit later in the day"

He really looks like he's drinking a beer in the accompanying photo:

Is he off the wagon?

Who Will Be the Last Bush Loyalist?

Whoever you are, don't forget to kill the lights.
By Timothy Noah
Posted Wednesday, June 6, 2007, at 7:44 PM ET
Things have gotten so bad for President Bush that the June 6 Washington Post quotes an unidentified White House adviser suggesting that if Bush were to pardon I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the consequences would be minimal because Bush's current political difficulties are already as bad as they can get. "You can't hang a man twice for the same crime," says this anonymous source. A separate Post piece, by Dan Balz, published the same day, pronounced Bush the "unexpected loser" in the June 5 Republican debate, noting that "on issue after issue" the candidates "shredded the president's performance over the past four years." Bush's approval rating, at 35 percent, remains in the same toilet it's been flailing in for most of the past year.
Two years ago, when I inaugurated a series of Chatterbox columns under the rubric "Bush Abandonment Watch," the desertions were coming so fast and furious that over the course of one month I ended up writing nine columns on the topic. More recently, I've been writing about outright betrayal among the Bush faithful, but even those folks have become too numerous to keep track of. As an election year approaches, the relevant question is becoming not "who's going to jump ship?" but rather "who's not going to jump ship?" Already the Bush faithful have winnowed down to the fiercely devoted. An informal effort to identify the members of this fight-to-the-finish Republican Guard yields the following names:
Andy Card
Alberto Gonzales
Don Evans
Harriet Miers
Karl Rove
Karen Hughes
Fred Barnes
Mary Matalin
Laura Bush
Barbara Bush
Barney

There are some notable-but-deliberate omissions. A week ago, I'd have put White House counselor Dan Bartlett on the list, but the timing of his announced departure on June 2 strikes me as ever-so-slightly disloyal, because it invited the Washington Post to insinuate (falsely, I suspect) that Bartlett's exit was linked to Bush's "sagging public approval ratings." Hey Dan, couldn't you wait until things were going a little better for the chief? What's that you say? Oh. You've been waiting six months already. Point taken.
I leave the Bush twins off the list because their relationship with their father is something I know zero about, which is just the way Bush wants it. I leave the president's father, former President George H.W. Bush, off the list because too many rumors have accumulated alleging that Poppy thinks Dubya screwed the pooch in Iraq. (Why does he even stay friends with that Scowcroft guy?) Michael Gerson, Bush's former speechwriter, is now a columnist for the Washington Post, a position that sooner or later will occasion criticism of his former patron. The same will hold for White House spokesman Tony Snow when he returns to journalism; he knocked Bush before he was his press guy, and he'll knock him again when he's done. I leave Vice President Dick Cheney off the list because right about now I imagine he's having one hell of a shouting match with President Bush demanding a pardon for Libby (Cheney's former chief of staff) that Bush doesn't feel ready to give. Probably my most controversial omission is Condoleezza Rice, whose lifelong good-daughter tendencies have persuaded the secretary of state never to tell her president/work husband when he's full of it. But is ass-kissing the same thing as loyalty? Cordelia didn't think so in King Lear, and neither do I. Condi has shed daddies before when they've outlived their usefulness. Just ask her onetime mentor, Brent Scowcroft. Apparently it wasn't the first time (subscription required).
So much for who won't stay loyal. Among those who will, who will be the most devoted, the most fervent, the most steadfast? Who will be George W. Bush's Rabbi Baruch Korff? Alberto Gonzales and Karl Rove many years ago hitched their wagons to Bush, and Bush in turn stood by them when it would have been far more prudent to cut them loose. Don Evans has drunk the Kool-Aid, and Harriet Miers has subjected herself to endless personal humiliation on the president's behalf. Laura Bush plighted her troth, Barbara Bush bled in labor, and Barney slept at his feet. But the greatest love of all is the love that is most freely given. I therefore name Fred Barnes, Bush's most enthusiastic defender in the press, the Last Bush Loyalist. If not Bush's Rabbi Korff, he is certainly Bush's Sidney Blumenthal. Long may he reign.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Why We Need Fringe Candidates

The Nation: "Why do they run? Don't they know they do not have a snowball's chance in hell of getting the nomination? What are they in it for? The lecture fees? Or are they egomaniacs who accept the ridicule if that's the price of fifteen minute's worth of Secret Service protection?
Now that we are in the debate season, fringe candidates are placed on the wings of the line of podiums up on the stage. Mainstream candidates, the frontrunners, get the middle positions and are asked the most questions. As time passes and we move closer to actual voting, the fringies get shoved so far out on the margins you cannot see them anymore. They are gone with whatever it was they were peddling.
The studio analysts, those fanny-dragging voices of conventional banality, dismiss them with a light hand and the merest suggestion that they are political straight men on stage to offer themselves up for a laugh or two at their own expense. You must listen closely to recognize that what these overly sincere crackpots may be peddling is exactly what their parties say they believe in and stand for."

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Kucinich Files Impeachment Bill

OLD NEWS in a way, but nonetheless, good news for those of us fighting the good fight....


04/25/07 "ICH" -- -- Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, has dropped the first impeachment shoe, filing a bill calling for the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney.

Kucinich, defying the leadership of the Democratic Party, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who have been struggling mightily to prevent impeachment from occurring during the waning years of the Bush presidency, on Tuesday filed three articles of impeachment, claiming that Cheney violated his oath of office and the Constitution, for deceiving Congress and the American people about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, about alleged but nonexistent links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, and finally for making threats to invade Iran.

The bill now goes to the House Judiciary Committee, where Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) and the rest of the committee's members will have to decide whether go hold formal hearings on the charges.
The move by Kucinich comes as impeachment is gaining ground among the broader public. Today, the Vermont House of Representatives will hold a floor debate and vote on a resolution calling for Congress to initiate impeachment proceedings against both President Bush and Cheney. That measure would be a companion to a similar resolution passed last week by Vermont's state Senate. If the state's lower house passes its version, Vermont will be the first state in history to pass a bi-cameral resolution on impeachment.

Under Thomas Jefferson's Manual for the Rules of the House, under which the US House of Representatives has operated for over 200 years, such a resolution would require the House to take up the impeachment issue, just as would a member's bill of impeachment.

The speaker of the Vermont House of Representatives, Lynn Symington, had strenuously opposed the resolution, and has been keeping it bottled up in the House Judiciary Committee, but following passage of the resolution in the state Senate, and a massive grassroots campaign by Vermont impeachment activists, she has been forced to relent and let the measure go forward. Passage is not a sure thing, however.

Similar measures are being pushed in at least 10 other state legislatures, while two such efforts, in New Mexico and Washington state, were killed thanks to pressure from the national Democratic Party leadership.

On April 28, demonstrations are planned in Washington, DC and all around the nation, calling for impeachment to begin against both Bush and Cheney. To find the location nearest you, click on the Impeachment banner to the right of this article.

The mainstream corporate media, which has so far been largely ignoring the issue of impeachment, will have to go to extra lengths of censorship to block out the popular movement now, with a bill on the floor of the House, and with impeachment resolutions passing in the Vermont state legislature. It will be interesting to see how the nation's news gatekeepers handle the story now that it is breaking out into the open so forcefully.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Consumers feel the heat from rising food prices

Star Tribune:
"Rising gasoline prices have been getting all the attention, but the cost of another, more-important staple is actually rising even more: food.
In the past year, food prices have increased 3.7 percent and are on track to jump by as much as 7 percent by year's end. The current increase is more than double the 1.8 percent jump seen the year before, according to the consumer price index.
Meanwhile, gas prices rose 2.9 percent. Only the cost of health care rose more, and then just slightly.
While companies up and down the food chain see the increases, they're only beginning to pass them on to consumers. But with the start of grilling season -- meat prices particularly hurt -- some consumers are already tweaking their spending habits.
A recent study shows that more consumers are using coupons. Marilyn Pearson just resorted to clipping them again, though she hasn't changed what she buys. On a recent evening, the St. Paul resident's shopping cart was filled with collard greens, meat and other supplies for a barbecue. She's noticed the price of meat, some vegetables and dairy going up, but figures, "You gotta eat, you gotta buy."
While food prices are rising pretty much across the board, items related to corn are affected the most. That's because increasing demand for ethanol, made from corn, is driving up corn prices, which farmers use to feed their poultry and cattle. The high price of corn is also affecting prices of everything from cereal and other products with corn as an ingredient to the oils used to make potato chips.
But corn is only one culprit. Higher labor, packaging and fuel costs all play a role. Bad weather in California and Florida was the main contributor to a 20 percent spike in citrus fruit prices as well as higher prices for some vegetables. A drought this summer could cause prices to rise even more than current projections."

Saturday, June 02, 2007

California man tops Kobayashi's hot dog record

22-year-old from San Jose scarfs down more than 59 franks in 12 minutes

Joey 'Jaws' Chestnut stuffs hot dogs into his mouth en route to setting the record for a 12-minute period:at the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest.
PHOENIX - A California man smashed the world record for hot dog eating at a contest Saturday, gobbling up more than 59 franks in 12 minutes.

Joe Chestnut, 22, of San Jose, shattered the record held by Takeru Kobayashi of Japan by downing 59½ “HBDs” — hot dogs and buns — during the Southwest Regional Hot Dog Eating Championship at the Arizona Mills Mall in suburban Tempe.

Kobayashi’s old record of 53¾ was set last year at Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest, held at Coney Island in New York, said George Costos, who helps runs the regional contests for Nathan’s.

Chestnut placed second in last year’s world championships, consuming 52 hot dogs.

“He’s unbelievable — he just keeps on going,” said Ryan Nerz, who works for Major League Eating, which he describes as “a world governing board for all stomach-centric sports.”

“These guys’ numbers have just been going up at a tremendous clip,” Nerz said. “I always thought there was a limit — a limit to the human stomach and a limit to human willpower — but I guess not.”

Chestnut won a free trip to New York, a year’s supply of hot dogs and a $250 gift card to the mall.

Friday, June 01, 2007

An Egghead for the Oval Office

Al Gore has been in town launching his new book, "The Assault on Reason," and you could have predicted the buzz: Is he about to jump into the race? What you probably wouldn't have predicted is the counter-buzz that Gore, poor fellow, is just too ostentatiously smart to be elected president.

In the book, you see, Gore betrays familiarity with history, economics, even science. He uses big words, often several in the same sentence. And in public appearances he doesn't even try to disguise his erudition. These supposedly are glaring shortcomings that should keep Gore on the sidelines, rereading Gibbon and exchanging ideas about the structure of the cosmos with Stephen Hawking.

Leave aside the question of whether Gore is even thinking about another presidential run, or how he would stack up against the other candidates. I'm making a more general point: One thing that should be clear to anyone who's been paying attention these past few years is that we need to go out and get ourselves the smartest president we can find. We need a brainiac president, a regular Mister or Miss Smarty-Pants. We need to elect the kid you hated in high school, the teacher's pet with perfect grades.

When I look at what the next president will have to deal with, I don't see much that can be solved with just a winning smile, a firm handshake and a ton of resolve. I see conundrums, dilemmas, quandaries, impasses, gnarly thickets of fateful possibility with no obvious way out. Iraq is the obvious place he or she will have to start; I want a president smart enough to figure out how to minimize the damage.

I want a president who reads newspapers, who reads books other than those that confirm his worldview, who bones up on Persian history before deciding how to deal with Iran's ambitious dreams of glory. I want a president who understands the relationship between energy policy at home and U.S. interests in the Middle East -- and who's smart enough to form his or her own opinions, not just rely on what old friends in the oil business say.

I want a president who looks forward to policy meetings on health care and has ideas to throw into the mix.

I want a president who believes in empirical fact, whose understanding of spirituality is complete enough to know that faith is "the evidence of things not seen" and who knows that for things that can be seen, the relevant evidence is fact, not belief. I want a president -- and it's amazing that I even have to put this on my wish list -- smart enough to know that Darwin was right.