Friday, November 30, 2007

Hagel at CFR: Would Consider Running on Dem Ticket, Calls Hillary 'Capable'

Maverick Republican senator Chuck Hagel raised his criticisms of the Bush White House to a new level in New York yesterday, holding open the possibility that he could serve in a future Democratic administration or even run on a presidential ticket headed by a Democrat.
Mr. Hagel, who has become increasingly estranged from his party over the Iraq war, said that he would give the current administration “the lowest grade” in “almost every area.”
He added: “I have to say that this is one of the most arrogant, incompetent administrations I’ve ever seen.”
Mr. Hagel’s scorching attack came during an event at the Council on Foreign Relations. He accused the administration of having “squandered” the international sympathy and support for the United States that arose in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
“I think of this administration and what they could have done after 9/11, what was within their grasp,” Mr. Hagel said. “Every poll in the world showed 90 per cent of the world for us. Iran had some of the first spontaneous demonstrations on the streets of Tehran, supporting America. [The administration] squandered a tremendous amount of opportunity. There’s where they have failed the country.”
Mr. Hagel’s dissatisfaction with the Bush administration is well known—he even made a sarcastic crack yesterday about the frankness of his opinions being the reason “why I’m so highly regarded at the White House”—but the comments may have been his most trenchant to date.
Mr. Hagel will retire as the senior senator from Nebraska when his current term ends next year, and he announced in March that he would not seek the presidency. But when Ted Sorensen, the famed speechwriter for President John F. Kennedy, yesterday asked from the floor whether Mr. Hagel would consider an offer to run as vice-president on a ticket headed by a Democrat, the answer was intriguing.
“I think this is one of those years where anything is possible,” Mr. Hagel said. “I don’t think that question is going to be posed to me, so I probably wouldn’t have to worry about it. But if there was an area that I thought I could make a difference in… then I would entertain these kinds of serious questions. We are living through this remarkable time in history. Everything’s possible.”
The notion of Mr. Hagel as the vice-presidential nominee on a Democratic-led ticket currently seems a little far-fetched. But he seemed just as inclined to respond warmly to a more likely scenario—the offer of a position within a Democratic administration if that party takes the White House next year.
“I would consider a serious offer in any administration if it comes from a serious president who wants to do something to make our world better and our country stronger,” he said.
There was little comfort of any kind for Mr. Hagel’s party colleagues in his remarks. He opined that it was “likely” that Democrats would “add to their numbers” in Congress and in governors’ mansions across the nation next year, and suggested his party could experience “one of the great political defeats of our time.”
Asked which of the presidential candidates of either party came closest to his own thinking on foreign affairs, Mr. Hagel mentioned only Senator John McCain among Republicans, and even then stopped well short of full-throated endorsement.
He merely said that Mr. McCain was “the only one of the candidates I’ve worked closely with, of the Republicans.”
He continued:
“Now, Joe Biden: I’m very close to Joe Biden’s philosophy about foreign policy. I suppose of all the candidates out there, including McCain, I’m probably closer to Joe Biden. I think Biden would be a very good president.”
During these ruminations, Mr. Hagel also complained about the brevity required of the candidates during debates and about the media’s concentration on the presumed front-runners.
Deriding the style of the debates as resembling a “poor man’s Gong Show”, he asserted that the candidates “haven’t had the chance, most of them, to articulate the depth of a philosophy about foreign policy.
“On the Democratic side, the media just pays attention to three candidates—Hillary and Obama and Edwards. So guys who actually have something to say, like Biden and Dodd—not that the other three don’t—but those guys get shoved off into the background and they are lucky to get 30 seconds of anything.”
But when asked whether he saw dangers in the possibility that two families, the Bushes and the Clintons, could hypothetically occupy the White House for a continuous 28 years, Mr. Hagel demurred.
“That’s up to the voters, actually,” he said. “If the American people decide to elect Hillary Clinton, they elect Hillary Clinton. She’s certainly capable.”

Thursday, November 29, 2007

'Blogger' isn't a dirty word

By Gene Lyons
It's no exaggeration to say that the establishment media's initial response to the "blogosphere" was panic. The idea of mere citizens talking back to the press was unsettling to Washington media celebrities. Pundits who'd exhibited no qualms about the sordid imaginings of, say, the American Spectator or the Wall Street Journal editorial page, recoiled in horror at online mockery.
It was laugh-out-loud funny to see a Washington Post reporter infamous for treating Kenneth Starr's backstairs leaks like holy writ make a show of pretending the now-defunct Web site had literally accused her of prostitution.
How the system had always worked was this: They dished it out, everybody else had to take it.
Now that many print and broadcast outlets feature blogs of their own, it's no longer common to hear the word "blogger" pronounced with utter disdain.
Even so, competition from the groundlings still provokes unease. The latest high-minded worrier is University of Chicago law professor and sometime politico Cass R. Sunstein.
A Justice Department official during the Carter and Reagan administrations, Sunstein has written a book called " 2.0," essentially arguing that the Internet's "echo chamber effect" is responsible for increased political polarization and declining civility. In an interview with, he explained that social scientists find that when people talk only to those who agree with them, their views become more extreme.
"I don't like that Rush Limbaugh listeners call themselves 'ditto heads,'" Sunstein said. "It's funny, but it's kind of horrible. Fox News is a self-identified conservative outlet. The more extreme elements on the left treat their fellow citizens as if they're idiots, or as if they're rich people who don't care about anybody."
A former colleague and friend of Barack Obama, he yearns for greater recognition of the truism "that neither conservatives nor liberals have a monopoly on wisdom."
No sentient person thinks they do. We're all a mix of conflicting opinions. I've had run-ins with what I call the "anti-gravity left" during my own inglorious career. (I'm pro-hunting, for example, which drives sentimentalists nuts.) Today, however, I'd argue that Sunstein suggests a false dichotomy of little relevance to the current situation.
Among the blogs I read, there's no equivalent of the authoritarian impulses, intellectual dishonesty and rote chanting of the GOP party line that characterizes Limbaugh and his imitators on the right. Partly, that's because most are written by educated people who take pride in winning arguments without cheating, and to whom party orthodoxy is anathema.
In a saner climate, many wouldn't be called "left-wing" at all.
How liberal do you have to be to defend habeas corpus, Fourth Amendment privacy rights and the rule of law, as Glenn Greenwald does on his "Unclaimed Territory" blog at A former constitutional litigator, Greenwald brings rare clarity and passion to political issues with legal overtones.
Here are the political blogs I read every day:
Duncan Black's "Eschaton" blog ( combines the analytical skills of a doctorate-level economist with the irreverent wit of a Philadelphia wiseacre. If you'd been reading Eschaton (or Paul Krugman), you'd have seen the housing bubble and the subprime lending crisis coming.
Josh Marshall's doctorate is in history, but his blog specializes in gritty, detailed reporting. Marshall was on top of the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling scandal from the get-go. Link through TPM to Greg Sergeant's saucy "Horse's Mouth" media criticism blog.
n Bob Somerby's "The Daily Howler" ( provides salty press criticism you'll read nowhere else. "Radicalized" by the Washington media's 2000 "War on Gore" (his Harvard roommate), Bob can't abide liberal fecklessness about the way RNC-invented "narratives" dominate mainstream political coverage, and he doesn't mind offending "weak, worthless" liberal pundits who look the other way.
Eric Alterman's "Altercations" blog ( is another place to find impassioned disputation between the host and a wide variety of antagonists on everything from Israel's Likud party to the New York Mets. Sporting a doctorate in history, Eric's also the biggest Bruce Springsteen fan on the Internet. "Slacker Fridays," when the inimitable Charles Pierce's scathing missives appear, is a must. Media Matters columnists Eric Boehlert and Jamison Foser's dissections of the vices and follies of the "mainstream" media advance a point of view similar to The Daily Howler's somewhat more politely.
n Kevin Drum at and the inimitable Digby (, a writer of such analytical brilliance and prodigious output that she shames the rest of us idlers, are two bloggers I never miss. Read around for a while, follow the links to related sites, and you'll soon find your own favorites list.
A celebrated editor once told me that reading the letters submitted for publication to his magazine had persuaded him that contrary to media careerists in metropolitan enclaves, political intelligence and wisdom are scattered randomly across the American landscape. Thanks to the Internet, they no longer have to ask anybody's permission to speak out.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ex-girlfriend is killed after 'no' to TV proposal

Times Online : "Svetlana Orlova had no idea why she had been invited on to the daytime television show and she was shocked to find herself face to face with the man who had beaten her for years.
She was further stunned when he produced an engagement ring and proposed. Looking deeply uncomfortable, she shook her head.
The public rebuff cost her her life. Within days she had been stabbed to death and her former lover was under arrest for murder.
Now ministers in Spain are to hold crisis talks with broadcasters as the nation searches its soul over its trashy television culture.
Ricardo Navarro, 30, had told Patricia’s Daily Show, which has an audience of 2 million, that he and Ms Orlova had broken up because of a dispute over money. Ms Orlova contested that, saying: “There were many other things”, but without elaborating or mentioning that she had a restraining order against her former boyfriend.
Undeterred, Mr Navarro went on bended knee and asked her to marry him. “Come back,” he said sounding tearful, as the audience cooed. “You are everything for me.”
Ms Orlova shook her head slightly. “Well Svetlana, say something!” the host exclaimed. “We are all on tenter-hooks. Is that ‘no’, or ‘I don’t know’? Say it clearly.”
Five days later Mr Navarro was arrested after allegedly stabbing Ms Orlova repeatedly in the neck. She died in hospital.
Baldomero Limón of Boomerang, the production company responsible for the programme, said that producers were “devastated”, but denied any responsibility in Ms Orlova’s death, saying that they were also deceived by Mr Navarro. “Nothing made us suspect that a tragedy like this could occur.”
Viewers’ groups have called for the show to be taken off the air.
It is not the first time that a woman has been killed after appearing on Spanish television shows. In 1997, Ana Orantes, 60, was doused with petrol and burnt alive by her husband, José Parejo. Unable to get any help from the authorities, she had gone on a television show to speak of the beatings that she endured at his hands. In November 2004, Andrés Reyes killed his 18-year-old girlfriend after she appeared on a television show to speak about his abuse of her.
The Spanish Government has named the high rate of violence against women in Spain a priority and wants broadcasters to draw up a code of conduct for these programmes. “Domestic violence should not be a television spectacle,” MarÍa Teresa Fernández de la Vega, the Deputy Prime Minister, said.
Sixty-nine women have been killed by their partners this year. Despite government efforts, Spanish judges are accused of being sympathetic to men who are violent towards their partners. Women’s rights groups expressed outrage last week after a judge gave a reduced sentence to Mariano Navas, who stabbed his girlfriend in 2005, citing his “humiliation” on Patricia’s Daily Show as mitigating factor."

Monday, November 26, 2007

One Week's Worth of Food Around Our Planet |

A week's worth of food for a family in Chad. Lots of other families at the link.

Oil, Politics & Bribes

NOW shines a bright light on the scandalous connection between VECO Corporation—an Alaska-based oil services company—and Alaska's old-boy Republican network. Two state legislators have been convicted in Federal court for accepting bribes from VECO. The FBI has video and audio evidence that reveal VECO executives shockingly handing out cash to those legislators in exchange for promises to roll back a tax on the oil industry. But that may only be the tip of the oily iceberg. NOW's Maria Hinojosa learns that dozens more lawmakers are being eyed in the growing scandal, including one of the country's most powerful politicians, Alaska U.S. Senator Ted Stevens.

NOW investigates the bribes, the connections to Big Oil and the payoffs to obtain friendly tax policies.

The whole episode is online at Click the link for the video.

Leaders Gather in Annapolis for U.S.-Sponsored Middle East Summit, Hamas Not Invited

This transcript is available free of charge. However, donations help us provide closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing on our TV broadcast. Thank you for your generous contribution.
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AMY GOODMAN: Leaders from around the world will gather in Annapolis, Maryland, Tuesday to participate in US-sponsored Middle East peace talks. President Bush called for the international meeting in July of 2007 to advance stalled Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Delegates from over forty countries, including Syria, are expected to attend the one-day summit. Hamas was not invited.

A final agenda has yet to been drawn up, but a draft of a joint document was leaked to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. It makes no mention of the situation in Gaza, nor of core issues like settlements, borders, the separation wall, Palestinian refugees, and the status of Jerusalem.

Israeli and Palestinian officials arrived in Washington, D.C. over the weekend and said Sunday that the meeting would be an important starting point in strengthening dialogue and isolating "extremists" like Hamas.

Saeb Erekat, the advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said the summit could mark an important turning point in the region.

SAEB EREKAT: Today, it’s a critical juncture in the Middle East. Either we go the path of peace, stability, moderation, or we go on the path of extremism, deterioration, bloodshed, violence, and counter- violence. The key is in Annapolis.

AMY GOODMAN: Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said the follow-up to the summit would be crucial.

MARK REGEV: I think the test of Annapolis is not only to have a good meeting, but it’s in what happens in the weeks and the months following Annapolis. And what we're hopeful for is coming out of this meeting with an energized dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians on the core issues.

AMY GOODMAN: US officials also asserted the meeting is a chance to launch dialogue and not a renegotiating session on key issues.

Phyllis Bennis is a fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies, where she focuses on US Middle East policy. Her most recent book is Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer. She joins us now from Washington, D.C.

Phyllis Bennis, what do you expect to happen at this summit?

PHYLLIS BENNIS: Very little, Amy. I think there has been a great successful effort at tamping down expectations. But what has not been clarified is that the real goal of these meetings also have very little to do with actually reaching a just and comprehensive and lasting peace, which of course requires ending Israeli occupation and ending Israel’s policies of apartheid and discrimination.

There are two real goals for this meeting; neither of them have really anything to do with Palestinian rights, a Palestinian state, Israeli security or anything else. They are, number one, to shore up Arab States’ support for the US crusades against Iran and Iraq in the region, and, two, to rebuild Condoleezza Rice's legacy, which right now is grounded in her being the person who stood before the world in the summer of 2006, as Israeli bombs were devastating Lebanon, and said, “We don’t need a ceasefire yet.” She wants to change that. That’s a huge part of why this meeting is going forward.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the countries who are coming and who are not coming? We surprised, for example, by Syria?

PHYLLIS BENNIS: Well, the question of whether Syria would participate has been an on-again/off-again question for some time, and it remains, frankly, uncertain what role they will actually play. Syria is not sending their foreign minister, as the other Arab regimes are. They're sending a deputy foreign minister, a deliberate statement that this is not quite full participation.

The Syrians had said that they would not participate unless the issue of Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights, which Israel occupied in 1967 at the same time that it occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; as long as that was on the agenda, they would agree to participate. They now say that is on the agenda. US officials don’t say that. US officials say that any country who comes is welcome to raise whatever they want and, quote, "We won’t turn off the microphone.” That’s very different than saying that it is on the agenda. So, we don’t actually know whether or not there is going to be any opportunity for discussion of the Golan Heights beyond whatever speech, whatever formal speech, the Syrian deputy foreign minister might give.

AMY GOODMAN: And what about the exclusion of Hamas?

PHYLLIS BENNIS: Well, this has been known from the very beginning. The basis of this conference is grounded in the division within the Palestinian polity, the divide between the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority government in the West Bank led by Mahmoud Abbas and the Hamas-led government in Gaza.

The fiction that exists at this point is that Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, is not representing the Palestinian Authority, but rather representing the Palestine Liberation Organization, the umbrella organization, which does in fact represent all Palestinians. This is the same double role or double position that Mahmoud Abbas’s predecessor, Yasser Arafat, played. He was both the head of the PLO and the president of the Palestinian Authority. The difference, of course, is that Yasser Arafat, despite widespread dissatisfaction with many of his policies, was massively recognized as the representative, the legitimate symbol and political representative, of the entire Palestinian nation. That is not true of Mahmoud Abbas. There is enormous opposition to him. The PLO has not been functioning as an independent organization.

So, this sort of claim that Mahmoud Abbas is there not as the head of the PA, but rather as the head of the PLO, isn’t convincing Palestinians. And as a result, we see in the latest Palestinian poll concluded just yesterday 62% of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories expect failure from the talks in Annapolis. 47% believe that nothing will change as a result of these talks, despite the fact that 70% agree with holding peace talks. They just want peace talks that are really aimed at dealing with the serious core issues, not peace talks that are designed to be a photo op.

AMY GOODMAN: And how much territory does Mahmoud Abbas control?

PHYLLIS BENNIS: In fact, he doesn’t control any territory. He is the elected president in the West Bank, but the Israeli military is still very completely in control of that territory, as well as that of East Jerusalem and Gaza. So, in fact, he doesn’t control the territory at all. He is the Authority’s elected leader. But the Authority is governing crumbs, if you will, while the Israelis maintain control of the whole loaf.

The question that remains is how far is Mahmoud Abbas and his team prepared to go to make additional concessions in the name of the Palestinians, whether on issues of territory, particularly the question of settlements and most importantly, I think for many Palestinians, the question of the right of return. There have been claims from the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that he would not negotiate with anyone, including Mahmoud Abbas, who did not agree as a precondition to accept, in Israel's words, "Israel's existence as a Jewish state and as a state of all the Jewish people," meaning, Amy, that Jews like you and I, who have no ties in Israel, would have more rights permanently as quasi-citizens of Israel than the Palestinians who were expelled from the territory that is now Israel back in 1947 and ’48, that there would be no right of return, except to a putative Palestinian state that might be assembled out of some disconnected Bantustans in parts of the West Bank. That’s the proposal of the Israelis.

The US has agreed to that territorial approach, that the right of return would not apply, that Palestinians would be allowed to return, quote, "only to the new Palestinian state,” even if that was not their former homeland. Whether Mahmoud Abbas will, in fact, say those words, endorse that position, remains uncertain. Most Palestinians have said, he could not do that and survive as a political leader. Saeb Erekat, who we just heard from a moment ago, has said that the Palestinians will not accept the Israeli definition of Israel as a Jewish state and the state of the entire Jewish people, as opposed to being the state of all its citizens, including of course the 20% of Israeli citizens who are Palestinian. Whether that will, in fact, prevail as the official Palestinian position, we simply don’t know yet.

AMY GOODMAN: And two other questions about Lebanon and Iran. Lebanon, the fact that it doesn’t have a president right now, how will this play? And, of course, Iran -- here you have this gathering, mainly of Middle East leaders; what is the US pushing around Iran?

PHYLLIS BENNIS: Well, on the question of Lebanon, the political crisis is very strong. There is no agreement yet on -- between the two almost-equal factions in the government about how to choose the successor to President Lahoud, who just resigned at the end of his term. There are new negotiations scheduled for this coming weekend. But it does mean that Lebanon, even if other parties are discussing it -- for example, the Syrians or the Israelis -- the Lebanese are not in a position to play much of a role at this conference. I assume they will send an official delegation, but it will be understood that it will not be a delegation that is authorized to speak in any definitive way.

The question of Iran, of course, is very central. Even European diplomats, even the Israeli Meretz Party and many others around the world, are acknowledging that this summit has more to do with Iran than it does with the Palestinians. This is a summit designed to shore up Arab States’ support for the US escalations against Iran. This is a situation in which most Arab regimes would be only too happy to jump into the US -- to jump into bed with the US in attacking Iran. The problem is that the Arab people in all those Arab countries are not so keen on that, do not see Iran as a major enemy. So, in order to gain political credibility at home and avoid being overthrown, in some cases, those governments need to be able to give their people something. The US is essentially throwing them a bone, saying, “Here, give your people this, so that you can come onboard our anti-Iran crusade and stay onboard our war in Iraq.” The bone they are throwing to the Arab regimes is this photo op in Annapolis.

AMY GOODMAN: Phyllis Bennis, I want to thank you for being with us, fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies. Her latest book is called Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer. This is Democracy Now!, We will certainly follow what takes place tomorrow in Annapolis.


n. 1. a person who believes in the doctrine of the freedom of the will
2. a person who believes in full individual freedom of thought, expression and action
3. a freewheeling rebel who hates wiretaps, loves Ron Paul and is redirecting politics
By Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch
How to make sense of the Ron Paul revolution? What's behind the improbably successful (so far) presidential campaign of a 72-year-old 10-term Republican congressman from Texas who pines for the gold standard while drawing praise from another relic from the hyperinflationary 1970s, punk-rocker Johnny Rotten?
Now with about 5 percent (and climbing) support in polls of likely Republican voters, Paul set a one-day GOP record by raising $4.3 million on the Internet from 38,000 donors on Nov. 5 -- Guy Fawkes Day, the commemoration of a British anarchist who plotted to blow up Parliament and kill King James I in 1605. Paul's campaign, which is three-quarters of the way to its goal of raising "$12 Million to Win" by Dec. 31, didn't even organize the fundraiser -- an independent-minded supporter did.
When a fierce Republican foe of the wars on drugs and terrorism is able, without really trying, to pull in a record haul of campaign cash on a day dedicated to an attempted regicide, it's clear that a new and potentially transformative force is growing in American politics.
That force is less about Paul than about the movement that has erupted around him -- and the much larger subset of Americans who are increasingly disillusioned with the two major political parties' soft consensus on making government ever more intrusive at all levels, whether it's listening to phone calls without a warrant, imposing fines of half a million dollars for broadcast "obscenities" or jailing grandmothers for buying prescribed marijuana from legal dispensaries.
Paul, who entered Congress in 1976, has been dubbed "Dr. No" by his colleagues because of his consistent nay votes on federal spending, military intervention in Iraq and elsewhere, and virtually all expansions of federal power (he cast one of three GOP votes against the original USA Patriot Act). But his philosophy of principled libertarianism is anything but negative: It's predicated on the fundamental notion that a smaller government allows individuals the freedom to pursue happiness as they see fit.
Given such a live-and-let-live ethos, it's no surprise that at a time when people run screaming from such labels as "liberal" and "conservative," you can hardly turn around in Washington, Hollywood or even Berkeley without running into another self-described libertarian.
The lefty Internet titan Markos "Daily Kos" Moulitsas penned a widely read manifesto last year pegging the future of his party to the "Libertarian Democrat." The conservative pundit Jonah Goldberg declared this year that he's "much more of a libertarian" lately. Bill Maher, Christopher Hitchens, Tucker Carlson, "South Park" co-creator Matt Stone -- self-described libertarians all. Surely it's a milestone when Drew Carey, the new host of that great national treasure "The Price Is Right," becomes an outspoken advocate of open borders, same-sex marriage, free speech and repealing drug prohibition. As Michael Kinsley, an arch purveyor of conventional wisdom, wrote recently in Time magazine, such people are going to be "an increasingly powerful force in politics."
Kinsley is hardly alone in recognizing this trend. In April 2006, the Pew Research Center published a study suggesting that 9 percent of Americans -- more than enough to swing every presidential election since 1988 -- espouse a "libertarian" ideology that opposes "government regulation in both the economic and the social spheres." That is, a good chunk of your fellow citizens are fiscally conservative and socially liberal; in bumper-stickerese, they love their countrymen but distrust their government. Anyone looking to win elections -- or to make sense of contemporary U.S. politics -- would do well to understand the deep and growing reservoir that Paul is tapping into.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Treason is Not Old News

"I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious, of traitors." George Herbert Walker Bush, CIA dedication ceremony, April 26, 1999.

When Bush administration officials I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Karl Rove, Richard Armitage and Ari Fleischer betrayed Valerie Plame Wilson's identity as a covert CIA operations officer, they fell into the category of "the most insidious of traitors." Now we learn from the president's former press secretary, Scott McClellan, that the president himself "was involved" in sending him out to lie to the American public about the betrayal. If his direction to McClellan was deliberate and knowing, then the president was party to a conspiracy by senior administration officials to defraud the public. If that isn't a high crime and misdemeanor then we don't know what is. And if the president was merely an unwitting accomplice, then who lied to him? What is he doing to punish the person who misled the president to abuse his office? And why is that person still working in the executive branch? Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald made clear his suspicions about the culprit when he said "a cloud remains over the office of the vice president." But we may never know exactly what happened because President Bush thwarted justice and guaranteed the success of the cover-up when he commuted Scooter Libby's felony sentence on four counts of lying, perjury and obstruction of justice.
With the exception of MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews, and the intrepid David Shuster, the mainstream media would have you believe that McClellan's revelation is old news. "Now back to Aruba and the two-year old disappearance of a blond teenager." But treason is not old news. The Washington press corps, whose pretension is to report and interpret events objectively, has been compromised in this matter as evidence presented in the courtroom demonstrated. Prominent journalists acted as witting agents of Rove, Libby and Armitage and covered up this serious breach of U.S. national security rather than doing their duty as journalists to report it to the public.
So far there is no apparent desire for redemption driving the press to report on the treachery of senior officials. Instead, the mainstream press has compounded its complicity by giving the Bush administration yet another free pass and shifting blame. The New York Times failed to publish an article on McClellan's revelation and The Washington Post buried it at the end of a column deep on page A-15 in the newspaper. Earlier in the week, Newsweek magazine, owned by the Washington Post Company, proudly announced the identity of its new star columnist -- Karl Rove, one of the key actors in this collective treason. Robert Novak, who willfully disclosed Valerie's identity, having been twice warned not to do so by the CIA, and who transmitted his column to Rove before it was published, remains a regularly featured columnist in The Washington Post.
With nearly 70 percent of the public now believing that our country is on the wrong track, it is no wonder that many feel let down by major institutions, including the Washington press establishment that increasingly resembles the corrupt Soviet propaganda mill. One reporter from a major news organization even asked whether McClellan's statement wasn't just "another Wilson publicity stunt." Try following this tortuous logic: Dick Cheney runs an operation involving senior White House officials designed to betray the identity of a covert CIA officer and the press responds by trying to prove that the Wilsons are publicity seekers. What ever happened to reporting the news? Welcome to Through the Looking Glass.
Fearful of its access to the powerful, and defensive about its status in the high school social culture that permeates the capital of the Free World, much of the press has forgotten its responsibility to the public and the Constitution.
Presidents and those who aspired to be president in the past once took strong positions in defense of U.S. national security. Today, Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson has tried to build his support through fronting for the Scooter Libby Defense fundraising efforts. Meanwhile, other Republican candidates accuse Patrick Fitzgerald of being "a runaway prosecutor" and remain silent about the stain on Bush's presidency.
Where is the outrage? Where is the "contempt and anger?"

Eighth wonder of the world? The stunning temples secretly carved out below ground by 'paranormal' eccentric

Nestling in the foothills of the Alps in northern Italy, 30 miles from the ancient city of Turin, lies the valley of Valchiusella. Peppered with medieval villages, the hillside scenery is certainly picturesque.

But it is deep underground, buried into the ancient rock, that the region's greatest wonders are concealed.

Here, 100ft down and hidden from public view, lies an astonishing secret - one that has drawn comparisons with the fabled city of Atlantis and has been dubbed 'the Eighth Wonder of the World' by the Italian government.

For weaving their way underneath the hillside are nine ornate temples, on five levels, whose scale and opulence take the breath away.

Constructed like a three-dimensional book, narrating the history of humanity, they are linked by hundreds of metres of richly decorated tunnels and occupy almost 300,000 cubic feet - Big Ben is 15,000 cubic feet.

Few have been granted permission to see these marvels.

Indeed, the Italian government was not even aware of their existence until a few years ago.

But the 'Temples of Damanhur' are not the great legacy of some long-lost civilisation, they are the work of a 57-year-old former insurance broker from northern Italy who, inspired by a childhood vision, began digging into the rock.

It all began in the early Sixties when Oberto Airaudi was aged ten. From an early age, he claims to have experienced visions of what he believed to be a past life, in which there were amazing temples.

Around these he dreamed there lived a highly evolved community who enjoyed an idyllic existence in which all the people worked for the common good.

More bizarrely still, Oberto appeared to have had a supernatural ability: the gift of "remote viewing" - the ability to travel in his mind's eye to describe in detail the contents of any building.

"My goal was to recreate the temples from my visions," he says.

(click link for more pictures)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Rudy Guiliani: Criminal or Liar?

Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani raised serious questions about his record as a public servant when he announced on television that he had used “intensive questioning techniques” on New York mobsters and other criminals, and that his brand of intensive interrogation was difficult to differentiate from torture.

Giuliani put on his best tough-guy act in an interview with Al Hunt on “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” which aired on Nov. 2:

"I can’t say that I [know more about torture than Sen. John McCain], but I do know a lot about intensive questioning and intensive questioning techniques. After all, I have had a different experience than John. John has never run city, never run a state, never run a government. He has never been responsible as a mayor for the safety and security of millions of people, and he has never run a law enforcement agency, which I have done. Now, intensive questioning works. If I didn’t use intensive questioning, there would be a lot of mafia guys running around New York right now and crime would be a lot higher in New York than it is. Intensive question has to be used. Torture should not be used. The line between the two is a difficult one."

Taken at face value, these are shocking revelations. Was Giuliani implying that he conducted these interrogations while he was Mayor? Or perhaps when he was the number three official in the Reagan Justice Department? The references to “mafia guys” and the New York crime rate may be an attempt to evoke Giuliani’s career as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, where he made a name for himself as mafia-busting prosecutor.

In These Times called Giuliani’s press office seven times over the course of 48 hours, seeking clarification about his remarks. These calls and messages were unreturned as of press time.

It’s not clear exactly what techniques might fall under Giuliani’s rubric of “intensive questioning.” However, Giuliani said that the techniques that he favors are difficult to differentiate from torture.

It is far-fetched to think that Giuliani learned his enhanced interrogation techniques as mayor of New York.

“If Rudy is suggesting in any way that they used torture or aggressive interrogation in New York City then he is absolutely unfit to be president,” Giuliani’s former director of emergency management Jerry Hauer told the Huffington Post in an interview published on Nov. 6. Hauer added that local officials have no jurisdiction to torture anyone.

Giuliani’s alleged exploits don’t square with the policies and practices of the New York City Police Department, either.

“We are guided by what the constitution allows,” NYPD spokesman Sgt. Reginald Watkins told In These Times. “You can’t intimidate people into talking about a crime.”

I’ll Take Unasked Obvious Follow-Ups For $2000, Alex…

Some days, it feels like we are all stuck on the Island of Misfit Press. (No one wants an interview with a Charlie In the Box!) To wit, when presidential spokesperson Dana Perino says something like this:
White House press secretary Dana Perino said it wasn’t clear what McClellan meant in the excerpt. “The president has not and would not ask his spokespeople to pass on false information,” she said.
Well, you’d think there would be some follow-up questions along the lines of:
– Dana, that was a well-parsed dodge of an answer. Did the President stand by and allow others in the Administration to ask his spokesperson to pass on false information?
– Did the President knowingly allow members of the administration to feed false information to his spokesperson so that it would be passed to the public? And, a quick follow-up, if not, is the president always so unaware of what members of his staff are doing?
– Was the false information passed on by Karl Rove? And, if so, when did the President ascertain that Mr. Rove was passing on outright lies to the American public through the presidential spokesperson? What affirmative steps did the president take to be certain that the lies were corrected publicly, if any? Why did Mr. Rove then continue to work for the Bush Administration for _______ months — that whole “we’re going to restore character to the White House” thing was really just a slogan, wasn’t it, Dana?
– Did the lies fed to the American public through the presidential spokesperson come from the Vice President’s office? If so, did the president know about them running his press strategy? Is that how things are usually done in the Bush Administration with regard to crisis management — Dick Cheney’s office takes over the reins and drives the strategy? When did the President learn that his Vice President was directing lies to the American public through his official spokesperson? What did he do about it, if anything?
– When and how and from whom did the President learn of the lies being told to the American public by his official spokesperson? Did he disclose that information to the special prosecutor?
– Can you tell us anything about the shouting match that occurred between Patrick Fitzgerald and Dick Cheney during the Vice President’s interview with the Special Prosecutor? (Okay, that isn’t really a logical follow-up, but dammit I want someone with access to chase that rumor down….)
– Were there meetings between the Vice President, Mr. Libby, Mr. Rove, Mr. Card, President Bush and other members of the WHIG during which a media strategy was assembled for dealing with the questions raised in Mr. Wilson’s op-ed? If so, how many meetings? Who was present at each? What was discussed? Who was the point person in that pushback? When was this decided? How closely was the President following this public pushback?
– And, finally Dana, since the president’s prior spokesperson has admitted to deceiving the American public from that podium based on information told to him by others in the Bush Adminsitration, why should we believe anything you say?
See, that’s not so hard. Not exactly holding my breath for any of these to be asked, but still, it felt good to type them all out. Did the press learn nothing from Cathie Martin’s testimony on how easily they have been played by Bush Administration tactics and spin?
Oh, hell. Just go read TBogg. (spew warning — put down all liquid before clicking thru this link)

Will McClellan Be John Dean to Bush’s Richard Nixon?

by John Nichols
Scott McClellan’s admission that he unintentionally made false statements denying the involvement of Karl Rove and Scooter Libby in the Bush-Cheney administration’s plot to discredit former Ambassador Joe Wilson, along with his revelation that Vice President Cheney and President Bush were among those who provided him with the misinformation, sets the former White House press secretary as John Dean to George Bush’s Richard Nixon.
It was Dean’s willingness to reveal the details of what described as “a cancer” on the Nixon presidency that served as a critical turning point in the struggle by a previous Congress to hold the 37th president to account.
Now, McClellan has offered what any honest observer must recognize as the stuff of a similarly significant breakthrough.
The only question is whether the current Congress is up to the task of holding the 43rd president to account.
What McClellan has revealed, in a section from an upcoming book on his tenure in the Bush-Cheney White House, is a stunning indictment of the president and the vice president. The former press secretary is confirming that Bush and Cheney not only knew that Rove, the administration’s political czar, and Libby, who served as Cheney’s top aide, were involved in the scheme to attack Wilson’s credibility — by outing the former ambassador’s wife, Valerie Plame, as a Central Intelligence Agency analyst — but that the president and vice president actively engaged in efforts to prevent the truth from coming out.
“The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby,” writes McClellan in an excerpt from his book, What Happened, which is to be published next April by Public Affairs.
“There was one problem,” the long-time Bush aide continues. “It was not true. I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration “were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice President, the President’s chief of staff, and the president himself.”
Much has been made about the fact that outing Plame as a CIA operative was a felony, since knowingly revealing the identity of an intelligence asset is illegal. And much will be made about the fact that McClellan’s statement links Bush and Cheney to the cover-up of illegal activities and the obstruction of justice, acts that are themselves felonies.
But it is important to recognize that a bigger issue is at stake. If the president and vice president knowingly participated in a scheme to attack a critic of their administration — Wilson had revealed that the White House had been informed that arguments Bush and Cheney used for attacking Iraq were ungrounded — they have committed a distinct sort of offense that the House Judiciary Committee has already determined to be grounds for impeachment.
In the summer of 1974, Democrats and Republicans on the committee voted overwhelmingly to recommend the impeachment of President Richard Nixon for having “repeatedly engaged in conduct violating the constitutional rights of citizens, impairing the due and proper administration of justice and the conduct of lawful inquiries, or contravening the laws governing agencies of the executive branch and the purposed of these agencies.”
That second article of impeachment against Nixon detailed the president’s involvement in schemes to use the power of his position to attack political critics and then to cover up for those attacks.
The current chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Michigan Democrat John Conyers, voted for the impeachment of Nixon on those grounds.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

You First, Governor Huckabee

By Richard Cohen
Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee at the Iowa Republican Party's annual Reagan Dinner last month.

To the many people, both domestic and foreign, who are asking Mitt Romney to do as John F. Kennedy once did and make a speech explaining why his religion is not a threat to our cherished American way of life, I suggest that Romney respond by pointing to his Republican opponents and uttering two words: "You first."
Romney, of course, is Mormon while JFK was Catholic, but if the question is whether a candidate's religion should be of concern to the American people, the candidates who should respond are those who repeatedly assert that faith, not ideology, is what drives them and even leads them to question evolution. Such a candidate is Mike Huckabee, the affable former governor of Arkansas and, more to the point, an ordained Baptist minister. He raised his hand in the negative last May when all the GOP presidential candidates were asked whether they believed in the theory of evolution.
In doing so, Huckabee failed a religious test for the presidency established inadvertently by George W. Bush. Back before Bush, it was considered narrow-minded and, worst of all, elitist, to judge a person by the intensity of his religious convictions. Belief was not supposed to matter, and so it was impermissible to conclude anything about a person even if he thought Darwin was wrong or, more recently, that homosexuals chose their sexual orientation, presumably just to irritate the Christian right. Religion was irrelevant. Everyone said so -- and I agreed.
Bush changed that. He infused government with religion, everything from ineffective programs that promote sexual abstinence to an adamant refusal to authorize federal spending for most embryonic stem-cell research. The administration even erected barriers to the marketing of the Plan B morning-after pill. All these measures ran up against obstacles that were essentially religious, not strictly scientific, in nature.
Even the war in Iraq had an undeniably religious cast to it. It's not just that Bush told Bob Woodward that it was not his own father -- George H.W. Bush -- to whom he looked for strength, but "a higher father," it's also that the president consistently puts himself on the side of God in matters distinctly secular, such as his crusade for democracy. "I believe that God has planted in every human heart the desire to live in freedom," the president has said. Maybe so, maybe not, but that's not a sound basis for a foreign policy.
Now we have Huckabee talking in a similar manner. A fair reading of the Huckabee literature -- his Web site, interviews, etc. -- shows a similar religious inclination, and while on "The Charlie Rose Show" or something similar he can have moments of secular lucidity, his Web site forthrightly declares that he does not distinguish between his faith and his politics. "I don't separate my faith from my personal and professional lives," he says.
But a president should do exactly that. When Huckabee says he favors the teaching of intelligent design in public schools, he's taking a distinctly religious position. Intelligent design has no basis in science. And when any issue, any question, becomes a matter of faith, it means it cannot be argued. That's not what we do in a democracy. We argue about everything. (This column is my modest contribution.)
If anything, Romney is the anti-Huckabee. There is not the slightest hint that his religion has constrained his politics in any way. You name the issue and he's been for it and against it -- gun control, abortion, gay rights. Call this what you may, it is proof that Romney is not enslaved by any dogma. His religion, to which he is committed, is distinctly his business and would not, as far I can tell, have any bearing on his presidency.
At the moment, Huckabee appears to be coming on strong in Iowa. This is not as surprising as it might sound because, in 1988, the Rev. Pat Robertson came in second (to Bob Dole) and, of course, proceeded to nowhere. This is likely to happen to Huckabee, too. But this year the race is more wide open, there's no dominant front-runner, and Huckabee is proving to be a swell campaigner. If he wins Iowa, there's no telling what could happen.
So I call on Mike Huckabee to give the speech that others have urged from Romney. Tell us how your religious beliefs, your rejection of accepted scientific knowledge, will not impinge on your presidency. We know your faith matters to you. We want to know whether it will matter to us.

Following His Green Dream

Big Macs: Gore with Steve Jobs (far left)
By Tony Dokoupil and David A. Kaplan | NEWSWEEK
Al Gore just won a Nobel Prize for teaching the world to think green, but he's also showing he knows a thing or two about another kind of green: money. Since 2000, according to published reports, the former veep has transformed himself from a public servant with around $1 million in the bank to a sparkling private consultant with a net worth estimated to be north of $100 million. He's a senior adviser to Google, a board member at Apple and now a newly minted general partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the Silicon Valley venture-capital firm that made billions investing early in Netscape, Amazon and Google.
Gore has pledged to hand over his KP "salary" to Alliance for Climate Protection, a nonprofit he chairs. But the gift is more symbolic than material. Gore's salary—his cut of the 2 percent "management fee" that KP partners get on all investments—is typically a sliver of the total compensation that VCs receive. If Gore's profit-sharing deal is anything like the firm's other 23 partners, he's also in line to collect tens of millions of dollars a year. That's because partners carve up 30 percent of the profits if and when the alternative-energy start-ups that KP supports go public or are sold. (Kleiner Perkins declined to comment on Gore's compensation, but his communications director, Kalee Kreider, confirmed that he plans to donate only his "guaranteed income" to charity.) Should Gore's prospecting unearth a clean-energy gold mine the size of Google—which earned billions for KP partners—his share of the loot could make him U.S. history's richest ex-veep. Emphasis on "ex": Gore's relationship with KP is perhaps the strongest signal yet that his days in politics are over. The firm is notoriously secretive about its finances, and it's unlikely that KP would strike a deal with Gore if the association could subject the firm to public scrutiny. And anyway, with the kind of money Gore stands to make, why run for president?

Monday, November 19, 2007

I Am An Animal: The Story of Ingrid Newkirk and PETA Premieres Tonight

by Patrick Waldo
There's an interesting documentary on HBO tonight that I think you should watch. I Am An Animal follows People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals president Ingrid Newkirk and the controversial animal rights group. I recently got a chance to check it out and I wasn't disappointed. As a long time vegetarian, animal rights supporter, and PETA member, I'm excited about the attention the documentary will bring to the organization's causes. Usually the only time I see PETA in the news is during the last few minutes of a local news broadcast, and the tone is usually, "Well, here's a weird news item...". PETA's campaigns are so important that it annoys me to see them trivialized in a 30 second "Odd Items" segment. That's why I was relieved to see this documentary, which gives viewers a much deeper understanding of PETA's mission and Newkirk's passion to educate the masses about animal rights.
If you're weary of tuning in tonight for fear of seeing a one sided argument, you shouldn't worry. I Am An Animal does a good job of presenting both sides of the story, including opposition to PETA, and not the kind you might expect. After all, PETA has had its fair share of adversaries since the group was started some 27 years ago. Furriers, hunters, circuses, fast food chains, companies who test on animals, it would take me all day to list the people who feel threatened by PETA. But who cares about what some redneck squirrel hunter from Alabama has to say about animal rights? I think we all know what his main points are going to be. I'd rather hear the counterpoints of animal rights supporters who disagree with PETA's methods, which is exactly what you get with I Am An Animal.
What you also get is an unflinching look at PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk. I'm excited to see such a personal look into Newkirk's life, because she's a local celebrity in my hometown of Norfolk, Virginia, which also doubles as PETA's hometown. In my middle school years I used to take friends with me to volunteer at PETA's headquarters. Every couple of weeks PETA would host a volunteer and staffer get together, either at a members house or the headquarters. At one such party, my friend and I felt pretty out of place, as we were the only kids there. It wasn't long before Ingrid came over and struck up a conversation with us. She shared stories about her animal rights beginnings and made us feel like we weren't alone in our compassionate view of the world.
It was my dad, however, who had the best Ingrid run-in. He was at PETA's huge public dog park on the Elizabeth River with our golden retrievers when Ingrid came up to him and introduced herself. She wasn't there to convert anybody, just to pass along a friendly hello. After a few minutes of small talk, my dad told her he recently became a vegetarian and Ingrid gave him some advice on overcoming some of the biggest obstacles. She told him that many new vegetarians crave dairy and end up consuming way too much of it. She stressed how unhealthy a dairy-filled diet is and asked if he was going to stick around the dog park for a few minutes. Some people might expect such a passionate animal rights crusader to have come back with videos about the cruelties of the dairy industry. She could have brought my dad pamphlets that spell out the connection between the dairy industry and the veal industry. But her approach was much simpler, much friendlier. When she returned, Ingrid had brought hand-picked vegan gifts from her pantry, including an assortment of vegan cheeses and some soy-based products. This is the Ingrid Newkirk I know. Tonight, get to know her yourself.
I Am An Animal: The Story of Ingrid Newkirk and PETA premieres Monday, November 19 at 8 p.m. on HBO.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Life Of Bob Dylan

Heath Ledger, Bruce Greenwood and director Todd Haynes discuss their new movie, "I'm Not There," which is about the life and work of Bob Dylan. Michele Jarchin reports.

Identical, For 80 Years And Counting

Dora And Doris Have Dressed Alike All their Lives
(CBS) Don’t let your eyes fool you. Doris McAusland, an 80-year-old Wal-Mart greeter from Madison, Wisc., and Dora Bennett, an 80-year-old dining room attendant at Culver’s restaurant, are not one in the same. Although they are about as akin as they come.
“We’ve always been real close,” both women told CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman in unison.
Dora and Doris are identical twins.
“We said that together, didn’t we?” Dora asked. “We do that a lot.”
Born in 1927, they grew up sharing everything from the same dolls to the same taste buds.
Anchovies? “No,” both twins say in unison.
Duck? “Mother used to fix it.”
Kidney beans? “Only in chili.”
They met their husbands at the same church group - and got married on the same day.
They each had one son, retired from the same cafeteria job, and even had their hysterectomies together. And you thought synchronized swimming was impressive.
But what may be the most remarkable of all is the fact that in the last 80 years, they say no one has ever, ever seen them in separate outfits.
“Only once I think, we had different shoes on,” Dora said.
Oh, scandal!
“Quite a few of our friends teased us,” she explained. “They said, ‘oh, look, the twins are different!’”

Murdoch's free could hurt parts of Dow

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rupert Murdoch's plan to stop charging for access to The Wall Street Journal's Web site looks certain to increase online profits but could hurt other parts of Dow Jones & Co Inc business.
Free access would open up one of the world's premiere business news sources to all readers, attracting a flood of online advertising revenue and spreading the venerable business paper's reach around the globe.
But the plan could undercut Dow Jones's Internet news archive Factiva and its Dow Jones Newswires, which offer Wall Street Journal content that is unavailable anywhere else, Dow Jones spokeswoman Christine Mohan said.
Dow Jones's Enterprise Media division, which includes Factiva and Newswires, contributed only 35 percent of revenue but accounted for 67.2 percent of segment operating income in the first nine months of the year.
"The exclusivity of Journal content provides value beyond the Web site," Mohan said.
The exact impact is hard to come by, but Journal Publisher Gordon Crovitz said at a media industry conference in October that Dow Jones reaps more than half a billion dollars in subscription revenue across the company's offerings.
News Corp Chairman Murdoch began touting the benefits of a free Journal Web site even before agreeing to buy Dow Jones for $5.6 billion earlier this year.
He made his most forceful comments in Adelaide, Australia, this week, when he told shareholders he wants to boost's 1 million online subscribers to as high as 15 million "in every corner of the earth."
Murdoch's remarks caught Dow Jones executives by surprise. Some disagreed with the plans, said sources familiar with the matter. Hours after the remark, Dow Jones's consumer media group revenue chief Michael Rooney told newspaper business magazine Editor & Publisher that assumptions the Journal's Web site would be free are "jumping the gun."
Rooney added, "You don't just flip the switch."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Censors sued for cut steamy sex scenes

Yahoo! News: "BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese moviegoer is suing China's film watchdog in frustration with the censored version of Ang Lee's steamy World War Two drama "Lust, Caution," Beijing media reported Wednesday.
The Golden Lion award-winning film opened in China last month minus much of the on-screen sex and other scenes that Taiwan-born director Lee cut himself at the behest of local censors.
Dong Yanbin, a Ph.D student at the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, had filed a suit against the nation's film censor, the State Administration of Radio Film and Television (SARFT), for infringing upon his "consumer rights," the Beijing Times said.
"I felt greatly disappointed after seeing the movie," the paper quoted Dong as saying.
"Compared to Eileen Chang's original, the incomplete structure of 'Lust, Caution' and fragmented portrayal of the female lead's psyche makes it hard for the audience to appreciate the movie's art," Dong said.
Dong was seeking apologies and 500 yuan ($67) in "psychological damages" from both SARFT and UME, the cinema chain showing the movie, the paper said."

Music lessons pay off in higher earning

Yahoo! News: "TORONTO (Reuters Life!) - Those hours practicing piano scales or singing with a choral group weren't for nothing because people with a background in music tend to have a higher education and earn more, according to a new survey.
The poll by Harris Interactive, an independent research company, showed that 88 percent of people with a post-graduate education were involved in music while in school, and 83 percent of people earning $150,000 or more had a music education.
"Part of it is the discipline itself in learning music, it's a rigorous discipline, and in an ensemble situation, there's a great deal of working with others. Those types of skills stand you well in careers later in life," said John Mahlmann, of the National Association for Music Education in Reston, Virginia, which assisted in the survey.
In addition to the practical skills gained from studying music, people questioned in the online poll said it also gave them a sense of personal fulfillment.
Students who found music to be extremely or very influential to their fulfillment were those who had vocal lessons and who played in a garage band. Nearly 80 percent of the 2,565 people who took part in the survey last month who were still involved in music felt the same way."

'Virtual theft' leads to arrest

Habbo Hotel users create a character and can buy furniture
A Dutch teenager has been arrested for allegedly stealing virtual furniture from "rooms" in Habbo Hotel, a 3D social networking website.
The 17-year-old is accused of stealing 4,000 euros (£2,840) worth of virtual furniture, bought with real money.
Five 15-year-olds have also been questioned by police, who were contacted by the website's owners.
The six teenagers are suspected of moving the stolen furniture into their own Habbo rooms.
A spokesman for Sulake, the company that operates Habbo Hotel, said: "The accused lured victims into handing over their Habbo passwords by creating fake Habbo websites.
"In Habbo, as in many other virtual worlds, scamming for other people's personal information such as user names has been problematic for quite a while.
It is a theft because the furniture is paid for with real money
Sulake spokesman
"We have had much of this scamming going on in many countries but this is the first case where the police have taken legal action."
Habbo users can create their own characters, decorate their own rooms and play a number of games, paying with Habbo Credits, which they have to buy with real cash.
"It is a theft because the furniture is paid for with real money. But the only way to be a thief in Habbo is to get people's usernames and passwords and then log in and take the furniture.
"We got involved because of an increasing number of sites which are pretending to be Habbo. People might then try and log in and get their details stolen."
Six million people in more than 30 countries play Habbo Hotel each month.
Virtual theft is a growing issue in virtual worlds; in 2005 a Chinese gamer was stabbed to death in a row over a sword in a game.
Shanghai gamer Qiu Chengwei killed player Zhu Caoyuan when he discovered he had sold a "dragon sabre" he had been loaned.

Bridge Protest Leaves U.S. Team Vulnerable

The bridge world is in an absolute tizzy over a protest by the world champion U.S. women’s team, which held up a sign during its victory celebration in Shanghai last month that read: “We did not vote for Bush.” Some bridge fans have accused the group of treason, and the United States Bridge Federation has decided that its authority trumps free speech, a value some people vaguely remember associating with America.
While there are many villains in this story, many of them predictably stodgy and full of themselves, the French players have heroically backed their American rivals, who, they said, “were doing only what women of the world have always tried to do when opposing the folly of men who have lost their perspective of reality.”
The suggested punishment for these poor women, who say they were only responding to questions about torture and Iraq from their international colleagues, is beyond unreasonable, as you can read below.
While there’s something inherently humorous about a brouhaha of this magnitude over a bridge tournament, there’s also something truly appalling about an organization that claims to represent the United States in the eyes of the world seeking retribution over an act of dissent—particularly one that holds the majority opinion.
As for us bridge players in the Truthdig offices, we stand with the French.

New York Times:
Three players—Hansa Narasimhan, JoAnna Stansby and Jill Meyers—have expressed regret that the action offended some people. The federation has proposed a settlement to [team captain Gail] Greenberg and the three other players, Jill Levin, Irina Levitina and [Debbie] Rosenberg, who have not made any mollifying statements.
It calls for a one-year suspension from federation events, including the World Bridge Olympiad next year in Beijing; a one-year probation after that suspension; 200 hours of community service “that furthers the interests of organized bridge”; and an apology drafted by the federation’s lawyer.
It would also require them to write a statement telling “who broached the idea of displaying the sign, when the idea was adopted, etc.”

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

To escape cops, man runs -- into gator's jaws

Shortly after dark last Thursday night, a would-be thief jumped into a lake alongside the Miccosukee Resort and Convention Center to escape arrest.
He ended up dead -- apparently in the clenches of an alligator.
The rest of the details are as murky as the swamp water in the Everglades.
The Miccosukee Tribe, the governing body of the land, would not release the dead man's identity, nor that of another man they arrested. The tribe says both men were trying to break into a car in the West Miami-Dade casino's parking lot when police arrived. One surrendered to police; the other ended up at the bottom of the lake.
The Miccosukees, who are not compelled by law to make their records public, provided little more information.
''It's Miccosukee policy to not release the name,'' said Dexter Lehtinen, an attorney for the tribe. ``Normally, the tribe doesn't release this kind of information, but we got a lot of calls.''
The story was first reported by WPLG-ABC 10, but the station did not identify the deceased nor the arrested.
Sweetwater police assisted in the search for the body, which took three dives and nearly an entire day to find, but would not comment.
The man, who went missing about 8 p.m. Thursday, was found at 4:35 p.m. Friday.
The Miccosukees did not publicly acknowledge the death until Tuesday. According to the tribe, the man did have alligator teeth marks on his upper torso.
The medical examiner's office is looking into the cause of death, but will not release the identity of the suspect while the investigation is ongoing. Lehtinen added that the deceased's mother still had not been made aware of the death.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has in custody two alligators that may have been responsible for the attack, said Officer Jorge Pino. Both have been killed.
''A gator that size would see a grown man as prey,'' Pino said. ``We need to coexist with the wildlife. It's best not to go into a canal or a lake for an evening.''
Alligators are far more docile during the day, but at night they go looking for food.
Still, it's quite uncommon for an alligator to attack a person.
According to the FWC's website, there were just 242 unprovoked alligator attacks on humans -- 15 fatal -- between 1948 and 2004.
When it comes to releasing information to the public -- or even state and federal authorities -- what happens on the Miccosukee Reservation generally stays on the Miccosukee Reservation.
In 2000, the state's attorney's office fought the tribe over subpoenas the prosecutors wanted to serve in the case against Kirk Douglas Billie, a Miccosukee man the state said drowned his two young sons to spite his wife three years earlier.
Tribal leaders decided to ''forgive'' Billie, calling the boys' death an accident. The leaders also denounced efforts to prosecute Billie as ``white man's justice.''
A Miami federal judge upheld the Miccosukees' right to keep subpoena servers off the reservation.
Despite that ruling, Billie was ultimately convicted -- twice -- by Miami-Dade juries. His first life sentence was overturned on appeal. But in 2005, a jury convicted him on two counts of second-degree murder.
It is unclear if the surviving man from last Thursday's incident is still in police custody. All the Miccosukees would say was that he was arrested on burglary charges.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Your Privacy Is An Illusion: Bank intern busted by Facebook

Valleywag: "Who says Facebook is the province of the young? Increasingly, the 30something bosses of naive recent college grads are proving adept at turning the social network against its earliest adopters. Kevin Colvin, an intern at Anglo Irish Bank's North American arm, was busted when he told his manager, Paul Davis, that he'd miss work due to a "family emergency". Davis turned up the photo above, freshly posted to Facebook from the Halloween party Colvin apparently missed work to attend, and attached it to his reply, copying the rest of the office as he did it. The email thread is now spreading around the net. After the jump, the entire exchange, and the incriminating photo."

Mock tombstones draw anguished, curious

Carlos Arredondo honors his fallen son, Lance Cpl. Alexander Scott Arredondo, by placing his boots, medals and an American flag at a memorial of cardboad tombstones at Bayfront Park. His son was killed by a sniper in Iraq in 2004.

Carlos Arredondo honors his fallen son, Lance Cpl. Alexander Scott Arredondo, by placing his boots, medals and an American flag at a memorial of cardboad tombstones at Bayfront Park. His son was killed by a sniper in Iraq in 2004.
Ninety-seven-year-old Vicente Sabala was waiting for a bus on Biscayne Boulevard when he saw the curious tableau: a sea of cardboard tombstones dotting Mildred and Claude Pepper Bayfront Park.
The old man ambled over and stooped to read the inscription on one.
The tombstones are a silent protest, symbolic of the rising death toll from the war in Iraq.
''It's terrible,'' Sabala said after examining one. ``All war is terrible.''
And so it went on Veterans Day, as the curious and the bereaved stopped by Bayfront Park to see what organizers said was 2,800 cardboard markers, laid out in rows. Sponsors are the organizations Veterans for Peace and Democracy for America.
One of Monday's visitors was Calos Arredondo. He made headlines in 2004 when three Marines showed up at his door in Hollywood to inform him that his 20-year-old son, Lance Cpl. Alexander Arredondo, had been killed by a sniper in Iraq. In a fog or rage and grief, he rushed to the street and set fire to the Marines' van, badly burning himself in the process.
The Marines later forgave him and he was not prosecuted. But the sense of loss still gnaws at him.
Monday, he knelt at the cardboard tombstone bearing the name of his son -- awarded a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star and a Medal of Valor -- and said: ``I'm not here to argue about anything. I'm here to honor my son and other veterans who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
Arredondo, who buried his son in Boston where he now lives, placed an American flag, tightly folded into a triangle, at the base of the cardboard along with his son's dog tag, combat boots and camouflage uniform.
Although Arredondo said he was not there to make a political point, the organizers of the tombstone exhibit are most definitely making a point -- against the war in Iraq.
One of the tombstones noted that the toll from the war has climbed to 3,816, according to the latest tally by the Associated Press.
The tombstone exhibit first appeared in South Florida three years ago and has reappeared several times.
Simon Rose, a spokesman for Veterans for Peace, said there were fewer tombstones than dead soldiers this year because they ran out of room.

Social networkers warned of risk

BBC NEWS: "A quarter of the 11 million Britons who use social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook may be leaving themselves open to identity fraud.
Get Safe Online, a government-backed campaign group, is warning against posting personal details online.
Its research also showed eight million people leave home wireless networks unprotected against intruders.
And more than half of the over-65s polled use a single password for every website they visit, the group said.
The group is advising older internet users to change their passwords more often.
'Rich pickings'
Tony Neate, managing director of, said a date of birth and address details were enough for someone to set up a credit card in another name.
"Although some of these details may seem harmless, they actually provide rich pickings for criminals," he said.
Cabinet Office minister Gillian Merron said the risks can be easily fixed and did not mean people should stop using social networking sites and wireless networks.
The poll of 2,000 adults also showed that nearly 30% admitted searching for former girlfriends and boyfriends on the sites ,and almost one in three used them to find out about their boss, colleagues or a job candidate.
The survey also found 13% of social networkers had posted information about or photos of other people without their consent. "

Sunday, November 11, 2007

So Happy Together

Bill archenemy Richard Mellon Scaife now has 'admiration' for him. Huh?
A New Game Plan: The Clintons made quiet attempts to disarm their most vocal opponents
By Mark Hosenball | NEWSWEEK
Nov 19, 2007 Bill Clinton is never at a loss for company. When he's not globe-trotting or charming audiences for as much as $400,000 a speech, he's often schmoozing visitors in his suite of offices in Harlem. Last July, the former president sat down with a billionaire impressed with the William J. Clinton Foundation's campaign against AIDS in Africa. The two men chatted amiably over lunch for more than two hours, and the visitor pledged to write Clinton's foundation a generous check. But there was something unusual, if not plain weird, about the meeting. NEWSWEEK has learned that the billionaire so eager to endear himself to the former president was Richard Mellon Scaife—once the Clintons' archenemy and best-known as the man behind a "vast, right-wing conspiracy" that Hillary Clinton said was out to destroy them.
Scaife was no run-of-the-mill Clinton hater. In the 1990s, the heir to the Mellon banking fortune contributed millions to efforts to dig up dirt on President Clinton. He backed the Clinton-bashing American Spectator magazine, whose muckrakers produced lurid stories about Clinton's alleged financial improprieties and trysts. Scaife also financed a probe called the Arkansas Project that tried, among other things, to show that Clinton, while Arkansas governor, protected drug runners.
The Arkansas Project largely came up empty, and most of the stories were ignored by all but the most avid Clinton antagonists. But one Scaife-backed conspiracy theory got widespread attention. In 1993, White House aide and Clinton friend Vince Foster was found dead of a gunshot wound in a park outside Washington, D.C. Three official investigations concluded the death was a suicide. Yet Scaife dollars helped promote assertions that Foster had been murdered—the not-so-subtle subtext being that the Clintons had something to do with it. Scaife hired Christopher Ruddy, a reporter who doggedly pursued the conspiracy theory in a Scaife newspaper, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Though discredited, the story resonated with people who believed Clinton was hiding dark secrets. Scaife and Ruddy later started Newsmax, a Web site and magazine that attacks their enemies and lauds their heroes.
Bill Clinton now finds himself the unlikeliest of Scaife heroes. Last month Ruddy posted a softball interview with Clinton on the Newsmax site (sample question: "What is the best thing about being an ex-president?"). A worshipful cover story followed in the current edition of the magazine. Clinton, it gushed, is "a political and cultural powerhouse" who is "part Merlin and part Midas—a politician with a magical touch."
What is going on here? Scaife declined to comment, but Ruddy tells NEWSWEEK he and Scaife believe Clinton's life since leaving office has been "very laudable," and that he is doing "very important work representing the country when the U.S. is widely resented in the world." He said they never suggested Clinton was involved in Foster's death, and insisted they were not among those hyping alleged Clinton sex scandals, though he acknowledged their work may have encouraged others.
Whatever the reasons for Scaife's change of heart, it's not hard to figure out why the Clintons would embrace a former nemesis. As they prepared for Hillary's presidential run, the Clintons made quiet attempts to disarm, or at least neutralize, some of their most vocal opponents. Last year Hillary accepted an offer from Rupert Murdoch (who always hedges his bets) to host a fund-raiser for her Senate campaign. The New York Times reported that the Clinton camp has also made efforts to open a line of communication to blogger Matt Drudge, who has served as a conduit for anti-Clinton GOP leaks.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Edwards @ John Mellencamp concert

It was 7 p.m. on a Friday night in Des Moines and I was driving to meet friends L, M and S at Wells Fargo Arena where I would see one of my favorite bands, Los Lobos, open for John Mellencamp. The sound of my phone ringing pierced the interior of my car. It was the Edwards campaign. I was advised that John Edwards might appear on stage with Mellencamp. So, after my brief interlude of enjoyment of all that is Los Lobos, it was back to work typing on the blackberry. Here is what transpired, according to my notes:

Mellencamp came on stage at 8:55 p.m. The woman standing in front of me raised her beer in salute as Mellencamp opened with "Ain't that America" to open. The second song, Paper & Fire, featured (mostly) women in the audience screaming as Mellencamp slung his guitar over his back and danced. It was during the third song -- I'm on My Way -- that Mellencamp shed his jacket and many of the women screamed again. In the midst of the fourth number, Understanding, Mellencamp caught a white bra in his left hand as it was thrown onto the stage.

The band members left the stage at the conclusion of song number four. Mellencamp grabbed an accoustic guitar and started talking with the crowd. He talked about how "his generation" had failed in doing many of the things they'd set out to do -- like legalizing marijuana. Mellencamp then told the crowd the last time he'd smoked was in 1972. Mellencamp next asked the crowd about "The Golden Rule" and after he said, "Do unto others," the crowd responded with the rest of it. Mellencamp, standing alone on stage with his guitar, then launched into Tough It Out and Be the Best You Can followed by Jesus Can You Give Me a Ride Back Home? and another song about youth and love. The crowd erupted as he started Small Town and sang the lyrics as though Wells Fargo Arena were one of those sing-along piano bars.

It's at this point Mellencamp gestures and John Edwards walks on stage. After a few cheers boos overtake the hall. "I've been in your small towns," Edwards said as Mellencamp stepped aside to give Edwards a place behind the microphone. "...You didn't come here to listen to me," Edwards continues as he winds down with a "thank you," waves and walks to the darkened edge of the stage.

The crowd is mostly booing at this point. "I came for a concert," one man behind me yelled. "Refund. Refund," another chanted a few rows back. One person in the crowd made this observation: "Are they booing Edwards specifically or booing because they don't like politics?" Mellencamp tells the crowd he's "had a lot of fun with that guy," and begins playing his guitar and singing Small Town again. The crowd slowly begins to sing along again. Edwards stood on the darkened edge of the stage until the song was over, then exited. Mellencamp didn't say anything at the song's end, and there was a swell of chatter among the audience members. Mellencamp then launched into a rehash of Farm Aid -- mentioning Willie Nelson and others involved -- and then the music began again -- with the full band -- by about 9:36 p.m. (according to my Blackberry).

Mellencamp a little while later talked about the song he wrote in response to the Jena, Louisiana, case, and offered up a two-word expletive to lambaste that city's mayor, who had criticized the song. Mellencamp's final number was "Authority."

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Indian girl has extra limbs removed

BANGALORE, India (CNN ) -- An Indian toddler born with four arms and four legs was recovering in the intensive care unit early Wednesday after surgeons in India successfully completed a mammoth 27-hour operation to remove her "parasitic twin," head surgeon Dr. Sharan Patil said.

Lakshmi Tatma, 2, sits in the lap of her mother, Poonam, a day before the marathon surgery.

Speaking to reporters, Patil said although 2-year-old Lakshmi Tatma is being monitored closely after a team of some 30 surgeons removed her four additional limbs, she is "stable and sound."

The operation was conducted by specialists in pediatrics, neurosurgery, orthopedics and plastic surgery. Without it, doctors say, Lakshmi would be unlikely to survive beyond early adolescence.

"Every step of it was successful," Patil said of the operation. "There was no set back what so ever. The team worked through the night relentlessly."

Later in the day the girl's parents are slated to visit her, he said. Her parents have been given regular updates but were not allowed to see their daughter during the operation.

It's a dog's life as the world's tallest pooch meets the smallest

Daily Mail"Despite their radical difference in size, these two dogs have something in common - Gibson the Great Dane and Boo Boo the toy Chihuahua are both world record holders.
Measuring a whopping 107cm, gentle giant Gibson was named tallest dog back in 2004. Joining him in the hall of fame for 2007 is tiny Boo Boo who only measures 10.16cm tall and is smaller than Gibson's head.
The two celebrity hounds, who were both bred in America, met up to celebrate Guinness World Records Day 2007.
Boo Boo's owner Lana Elswick has bred Chihuahuas in Kentucky for 19 years and said she always knew her one-year-old pooch was special.
The tiny mutt was only about the size of a thumb when she was born; so small, in fact, that she had to be fed with an eye dropper every two hours before she could eventually nurse a bottle. Now she is a diminuitive diva.
"She has the attitude of a big dog she would let me know if anyone was around and she would try to guard me if she could," said Ms Elswick.
Both dogs were bred in America
Owner Sandy Hall lives with her dog Gibson in Sacramento, California. The Great Dane is also the world's tallest therapy dog and regularly visits children's hospitals.
"He just puts a smile on people's faces," Ms Hall said.
"In one split second, people forget their cares and worries.""

Toy containing 'date-rape' drug pulled

SYDNEY, Australia

Australian officials ordered a popular Chinese-made children's toy pulled from the shelves after scientists found it contained a chemical that converts into a powerful "date rape" drug when ingested.

Three children have been hospitalized over the past 10 days after swallowing beads from Bindeez, named Australia's toy of the year at an industry function earlier this year.

The beads in the toy, sold by Australia-based Moose Enterprises, are arranged into designs and fuse together when sprayed with water.

Scientists say the beads contain a chemical that the human body metabolizes into the so-called "date rape" drug gamma hydroxy butyrate. When eaten, the compound -- made from common and easily available ingredients -- can induce unconsciousness, seizures, drowsiness, coma and death.

The New South Wales state minister for fair trading, Linda Burney, ordered the toys pulled from store shelves Tuesday when it was learned a 2-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl were admitted to a Sydney hospital after swallowing large quantities of the beads.

A 19-month-old toddler from Queensland also was receiving medical help after eating the beads, the state's chief health officer, Jeannette Young, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

"The number of product recalls of well-known toys is highly disturbing to me," Burney said. "In the meantime, I would urge parents to immediately remove any Bindeez products from their children."

Naren Gunja from Australia's Poisons Information Center said the drug's effect on children was "quite serious ... and potentially life-threatening."

A statement from the New South Wales Fair Trading Department said the product was supposed to used a nontoxic compound used in glue, but contained the harmful chemical instead.

Moose Enterprises could not immediately be reached for comment.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Michael Mukasey: We Are Here For You

The confirmation vote for Michael Mukasey, nominee for United States Attorney General, is scheduled for Tuesday, November 6. In his confirmation hearing Judge Mukasey was asked for his opinion on waterboarding as a constitutionally valid technique for interrogation. Mukasey replied, "I don't know what's involved in the technique. ... I think it would be irresponsible of me to discuss particular techniques with which I am not familiar." would like to offer to help the nominee become more familiar with water-based coercive interrogation techniques. Using unclassified sources, news reports, and historical records we are attempting to put together as clear a picture as possible of this technique, its history, its legality, and the scope of its use. We are also attempting to organize a group of doctors, paramedics, lawyers, and volunteers to allow anyone who remains confused or unclear on the details of waterboarding to safely subject themselves to as much of the technique as they are willing to endure.

We look forward to advising, educating, and assisting Michael Mukasey, future candidates, public figures, and anyone else who professes ignorance of our nation's most controversial coercive interrogation technique.

FBI will have anyone you call a terrorist detained

STOCKHOLM (AFP) - A man in Sweden who was angry with his daughter's husband has been charged with libel for telling the FBI that the son-in-law had links to al-Qaeda, Swedish media reported on Friday.

The man, who admitted sending the email, said he did not think the US authorities would stupid enough to believe him.

The 40-year-old son-in-law and his wife were in the process of divorcing when the husband had to travel to the United States for business.

The wife didn't want him to travel since she was sick and wanted him to help care for their children, regional daily Sydsvenska Dagbladet said without disclosing the couple's names.

When the husband refused to stay home, his father-in-law wrote an email to the FBI saying the son-in-law had links to al-Qaeda in Sweden and that he was travelling to the US to meet his contacts.

He provided information on the flight number and date of arrival in the US.

The son-in-law was arrested upon landing in Florida. He was placed in handcuffs, interrogated and placed in a cell for 11 hours before being put on a flight back to Europe, the paper said.

The FBI contacted Swedish intelligence agency Saepo, which discovered that the email tipping off the FBI had been sent from the father-in-law's computer.

The father-in-law has been charged with aggravated libel.

Project Censored’s Top 25 Censored Stories of 2008

If you haven’t been exposed to Project Censored, plan on spending several hours reading about the kind of media suppression and bias that we cover daily here at C&L.

Every year they compile a list of the top 25 news stories that you just didn’t hear about through the traditional media. Here’s 2008’s List:

# 1 No Habeas Corpus for “Any Person”
# 2 Bush Moves Toward Martial Law
# 3 AFRICOM: US Military Control of Africa’s Resources
# 4 Frenzy of Increasingly Destructive Trade Agreements
# 5 Human Traffic Builds US Embassy in Iraq
# 6 Operation FALCON Raids
# 7 Behind Blackwater Inc.
# 8 KIA: The US Neoliberal Invasion of India
# 9 Privatization of America’s Infrastructure
# 10 Vulture Funds Threaten Poor Nations’ Debt Relief
# 11 The Scam of “Reconstruction” in Afghanistan
# 12 Another Massacre in Haiti by UN Troops
# 13 Immigrant Roundups to Gain Cheap Labor for US Corporate Giants
# 14 Impunity for US War Criminals
# 15 Toxic Exposure Can Be Transmitted to Future Generations on a “Second Genetic Code”
# 16 No Hard Evidence Connecting Bin Laden to 9/11
# 17 Drinking Water Contaminated by Military and Corporations
# 18 Mexico’s Stolen Election
# 19 People’s Movement Challenges Neoliberal Agenda (Free Trade through Central and South America)
# 20 Terror Act Against Animal Activists
# 21 US Seeks WTO Immunity for Illegal Farm Payments
# 22 North Invades Mexico
# 23 Feinstein’s Conflict of Interest in Iraq
# 24 Media Misquotes Threat From Iran’s President
# 25 Who Will Profit from Native Energy?

Background and updates on all these stories available at Project Censored.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Stewart Will Keep Striking 'Daily' Writers Afloat

Mixed Media -"In a show of solidarity with his fellow scribes, the Daily Show host has told his writing staff that he will cover all their salaries for the next two weeks, according to a well-placed source. He has also vowed to do the same for writers on The Colbert Report. A Comedy Central spokesman referred my inquiry about this to Stewart's personal publicist, who has yet to respond. [Updated: He denies it. See below.]
Stewart's intention, says the source, is to ensure his writers will face no financial hardship should the strike, which kicked off at 3 a.m. local time, conclude within that timeframe.
Meanwhile, both Stewart and Stephen Colbert are reportedly working on their contingency plans in case it doesn't. "There are indications that Mr. Stewart and Mr. Colbert will come back in tweaked form if the strike is a long one, leaning on interviews and other writer-free approaches to keep both programs alive in a very busy political season," reports today's Times.
It should come as no surprise that Stewart is a union die-hard: He tells the current issue of Rolling Stone that his childhood heroes included socialist leaders Eugene V. Debs and Norman Thomas.

UPDATE, 2:20 P.M.: Confusion: Jon Stewart's rep just called back to deny the information above. I checked back with my source, who set me straight on a few details: Stewart is not paying writers out of his own pocket, but through Busboy, his production company. And it's not just writers who are getting their salaries covered but all the shows' employees. "He's hoping that it wraps up amicably and quickly, and over the course of that time he wants to look out for his employees," he says.
But when I ran this by Stewart's rep, he emailed back, "While I hesitate to knock down every rumor that comes up, the assertion that Jon and/or Busboy Productions will be paying for the staff is false and we have no further comment beyond this at this time."
I'm pretty sure there's some truthiness here (sorry), but it may take some more digging to determine exactly what the situation is."

There's a science to CBS' 'Big Bang Theory'

By Gary Strauss, USA TODAY
Revenge of the nerds?
Not quite. But geek heaven abounds on CBS' The Big Bang Theory (tonight, 8:30 ET/PT), one of the rare TV sitcoms to employ a physicist.
The science must be working: The freshman series is one of the fall season's few to gain traction, building audience from its How I Met Your Mother lead-in and averaging about 9 million viewers. CBS has already extended the show for a full season.
Bang's premise is basic fish-out-of-water buddy comedy, with a twist. Physicists/roommates Sheldon and Leonard (an homage to the legendary TV producer) are serenely comfortable in their pocket-protectored lives. But the two come unstrung when comely waitress Penny (Kaley Cuoco) moves in next door. She's no rocket scientist, but the sweet blond bombshell has plenty to teach the naive pair about life.
"Leonard and Sheldon are kind of rock stars in their world of science, but God knows they have a lot of growing to do when it comes to social graces," says Johnny Galecki, who plays Leonard.
But the science gets some attention, too. David Saltzberg, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California-Los Angeles, checks scripts and provides dialogue, math equations and diagrams used as props. He says he's more consultant than contributor.
"Physicists love to nitpick, so for the 100 in the 10 million people who might watch the show, I try to get it as close to 100% accurate as I can," he says. "But if I try to suggest a funny line, there are all sorts of reasons it doesn't work." He does sometimes slip in an inside joke, though, such as the answers to a UCLA graduate class exam.
"Very often, we'll write a speech and say 'science to come,' " says executive producer Chuck Lorre. "Saltzberg fills it in. He's a terrific guy with a great sense of humor."
The cast also spent time at UCLA hanging with students and faculty, "stealing little bits of mannerisms and wardrobe," says Galecki, best known for playing Sara Gilbert's boyfriend on Roseanne. (Gilbert has a recurring role on Big Bang.)
Jim Parsons, who plays über-geek Sheldon, says spouting the scientific dialogue "can be a major pain in the (posterior). When we tape, I have to make sure I get up an hour earlier than I need to. I sit down with a physics dictionary."
A recent kiss was described as a "bio-social exploration with a neurochemical overlay."
Lorre and co-creator Bill Prady developed Bang off Prady's experiences as a computer programmer in the 1980s. "Bill told me these extraordinary stories about these insanely intelligent men who had unbelievable difficulty operating in the mundane world — geniuses who had trouble figuring out how much to tip a waitress," Lorre says.
Galecki and Parsons concede they're both a bit geekish in real life, qualities that help them relate to their characters. Galecki was largely tutored on-set from the third grade. His scientific knowledge is negligible, he says, but he understands what it's like to be an outsider.
So does Parsons, who was raised in football-crazed Texas but favored theater. Parsons says science isn't his strong suit, either: He once failed a meteorology class.
"None of this works if it's not relatable," he says, "if you don't see a bit of yourself in the characters."