Monday, March 31, 2008

Breathe the salty air . . . in Chicago

Fans flock to salt-covered caves, even dining rooms to get a whiff of restorative powers
By Monica Eng | Tribune reporter

As I sink into my beach chair, I hear waves rolling onto the shore. Salt tingles my sinuses and my lips taste of the sea. There are stalactites dangling overhead and warm, crunchy white rocks beneath my feet. Polish speakers are all around, holding big scoops of salt rocks in their hands.
Freaky dream? Alien abduction? Nope, I'm just hanging at Galos Caves in Portage Park, one of three local salt rooms. For devotees, 30 to 60 minutes in a salt-covered room can help relieve stress, cure a hangover or even improve respiratory health.
Once little known outside of Eastern Europe, salt environments have arrived in Chicago to serve a small but growing community, especially those from Poland.
"We were on vacation in Europe a couple of years ago and we saw a cave in a small town and we got the idea to create one here," said Jolly Inn Banquets owner Ewa Chwala, whose banquet complex hosts the Galos [salt] Caves as well as Chicago's first dining room encased in Black Sea salt. "We also heard about a salt dining room near Krakow and so when we opened our A la Carte Restaurant [a few months ago] we converted one of our salt caves into a small dining room."
In addition to Galos Caves, there's a salt room at Solay Wellness Inc. in Skokie outfitted with several salt lamps (bulbs placed inside a large chunk of mined salt), a salt ventilation machine and floor bricks of ancient Himalayan and Polish crystal salt. Visitors sit on folding chairs and take in the salt-saturated air while owner Isabella Samovsky tells them about the benefits of salt therapy and the products they can use at home.
Megi's Spa in Park Ridge features a large breathing room, where the salt on the wall, floors and ceiling has been imported from Poland. With its worn wooden beams and faux stalagmite spouting up from the floor, the room is designed to resemble a salt mine. Crystal salt rocks glow in the walls and two fountains flow with a brine solution. Visitors can get a massage on one of two tables, recline on mesh loungers or play with the buckets and salt pebbles that cover the floor.
Like the other two rooms, this one attracts many families with children who suffer from respiratory conditions. Visitors wear regular comfortable clothes, but usually slip off their shoes before they take in the salt air. Most come from Eastern European families, but Megi's owner Megi Stoklosa is determined to popularize it beyond her Polish clientele.
"This is very popular in Europe but not yet here," said Stoklosa. "I am trying to do my best with Americans, but it is very hard when it is not conventional medicine. Not everyone believes it."
Poland native Agnes Judaz of Chicago has been bringing her 4-year-old son, Patrick, to Galos since he started showing signs of respiratory illness two years ago. "He improved a lot and now whenever he gets a stuffy nose, I bring him here right away sometimes for three days in a row and he gets much better," Judaz said before entering the cave on a Sunday afternoon with her husband and two children.
Their visit seemed less like therapy than a day at the beach, with the kids filling up buckets and toy dump trucks with the sea salt pebbles in the warm, dry room.
On another side of the room, friends Michelle Tac, 23, and Agnes Wiewiora, 33, of Chicago quietly chatted in recliners. "We just came here to relax because it is such a peaceful environment," Tac said of the room, where soft music and the sounds of rushing waves flow in through the speakers. "Then we go eat some Polish food [next door in the restaurant]. It's the best thing."
"It's definitely a good way to recover after partying out at the clubs," Wiewiora said. "It's good for your breathing but it's also great for your skin. Just look."

It’s Not You, It’s Your Books

Some years ago, I was awakened early one morning by a phone call from a friend. She had just broken up with a boyfriend she still loved and was desperate to justify her decision. “Can you believe it!” she shouted into the phone. “He hadn’t even heard of Pushkin!”

We’ve all been there. Or some of us have. Anyone who cares about books has at some point confronted the Pushkin problem: when a missed — or misguided — literary reference makes it chillingly clear that a romance is going nowhere fast. At least since Dante’s Paolo and Francesca fell in love over tales of Lancelot, literary taste has been a good shorthand for gauging compatibility. These days, thanks to social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, listing your favorite books and authors is a crucial, if risky, part of self-branding. When it comes to online dating, even casual references can turn into deal breakers. Sussing out a date’s taste in books is “actually a pretty good way — as a sort of first pass — of getting a sense of someone,” said Anna Fels, a Manhattan psychiatrist and the author of “Necessary Dreams: Ambition in Women’s Changing Lives.” “It’s a bit of a Rorschach test.” To Fels (who happens to be married to the literary publisher and writer James Atlas), reading habits can be a rough indicator of other qualities. “It tells something about ... their level of intellectual curiosity, what their style is,” Fels said. “It speaks to class, educational level.”

Pity the would-be Romeo who earnestly confesses middlebrow tastes: sometimes, it’s the Howard Roark problem as much as the Pushkin one. “I did have to break up with one guy because he was very keen on Ayn Rand,” said Laura Miller, a book critic for Salon. “He was sweet and incredibly decent despite all the grandiosely heartless ‘philosophy’ he espoused, but it wasn’t even the ideology that did it. I just thought Rand was a hilariously bad writer, and past a certain point I couldn’t hide my amusement.” (Members of, a dating and fan site for devotees of “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead,” might disagree.)

Judy Heiblum, a literary agent at Sterling Lord Literistic, shudders at the memory of some attempted date-talk about Robert Pirsig’s 1974 cult classic “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” beloved of searching young men. “When a guy tells me it changed his life, I wish he’d saved us both the embarrassment,” Heiblum said, adding that “life-changing experiences” are a “tedious conversational topic at best.”

Let’s face it — this may be a gender issue. Brainy women are probably more sensitive to literary deal breakers than are brainy men. (Rare is the guy who’d throw a pretty girl out of bed for revealing her imperfect taste in books.) After all, women read more, especially when it comes to fiction. “It’s really great if you find a guy that reads, period,” said Beverly West, an author of “Bibliotherapy: The Girl’s Guide to Books for Every Phase of Our Lives.” Jessa Crispin, a blogger at the literary site, agrees. “Most of my friends and men in my life are nonreaders,” she said, but “now that you mention it, if I went over to a man’s house and there were those books about life’s lessons learned from dogs, I would probably keep my clothes on.”

Still, to some reading men, literary taste does matter. “I’ve broken up with girls saying, ‘She doesn’t read, we had nothing to talk about,’” said Christian Lorentzen, an editor at Harper’s. Lorentzen recalls giving one girlfriend Nabokov’s “Ada” — since it’s “funny and long and very heterosexual, even though I guess incest is at its core.” The relationship didn’t last, but now, he added, “I think it’s on her Friendster profile as her favorite book.”

James Collins, whose new novel, “Beginner’s Greek,” is about a man who falls for a woman he sees reading “The Magic Mountain” on a plane, recalled that after college, he was “infatuated” with a woman who had a copy of “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” on her bedside table. “I basically knew nothing about Kundera, but I remember thinking, ‘Uh-oh; trendy, bogus metaphysics, sex involving a bowler hat,’ and I never did think about the person the same way (and nothing ever happened),” he wrote in an e-mail message. “I know there were occasions when I just wrote people off completely because of what they were reading long before it ever got near the point of falling in or out of love: Baudrillard (way too pretentious), John Irving (way too middlebrow), Virginia Woolf (way too Virginia Woolf).” Come to think of it, Collins added, “I do know people who almost broke up” over “The Corrections” by Jonathan Franzen: “‘Overrated!’ ‘Brilliant!’ ‘Overrated!’ ‘Brilliant!’”

Naming a favorite book or author can be fraught. Go too low, and you risk looking dumb. Go too high, and you risk looking like a bore — or a phony. “Manhattan dating is a highly competitive, ruthlessly selective sport,” Augusten Burroughs, the author of “Running With Scissors” and other vivid memoirs, said. “Generally, if a guy had read a book in the last year, or ever, that was good enough.” The author recalled a date with one Michael, a “robust blond from Germany.” As he walked to meet him outside Dean & DeLuca, “I saw, to my horror, an artfully worn, older-than-me copy of ‘Proust’ by Samuel Beckett.” That, Burroughs claims, was a deal breaker. “If there existed a more hackneyed, achingly obvious method of telegraphing one’s education, literary standards and general intelligence, I couldn’t imagine it.”

But how much of all this agonizing is really about the books? Often, divergent literary taste is a shorthand for other problems or defenses. “I had a boyfriend I was crazy about, and it didn’t work out,” Nora Ephron said. “Twenty-five years later he accused me of not having laughed while reading ‘Candy’ by Terry Southern. This was not the reason it didn’t work out, I promise you.” Sloane Crosley, a publicist at Vintage/Anchor Books and the author of “I Was Told There’d Be Cake,” essays about single life in New York, put it this way: “If you’re a person who loves Alice Munro and you’re going out with someone whose favorite book is ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ perhaps the flags of incompatibility were there prior to the big reveal.”

Some people just prefer to compartmentalize. “As a writer, the last thing I want in my personal life is somebody who is overly focused on the whole literary world in general,” said Ariel Levy, the author of “Female Chauvinist Pigs” and a contributing writer at The New Yorker. Her partner, a green-building consultant, “doesn’t like to read,” Levy said. When she wants to talk about books, she goes to her book group. Compatibility in reading taste is a “luxury” and kind of irrelevant, Levy said. The goal, she added, is “to find somebody where your perversions match and who you can stand.”

Marco Roth, an editor at the magazine n+1, said: “I think sometimes it’s better if books are just books. It’s part of the romantic tragedy of our age that our partners must be seen as compatible on every level.” Besides, he added, “sometimes people can end up liking the same things for vastly different reasons, and they build up these whole private fantasy lives around the meaning of these supposedly shared books, only to discover, too late, that the other person had a different fantasy completely.” After all, a couple may love “The Portrait of a Lady,” but if one half identifies with Gilbert Osmond and the other with Isabel Archer, they may have radically different ideas about the relationship.

For most people, love conquers literary taste. “Most of my friends are indeed quite shallow, but not so shallow as to break up with someone over a literary difference,” said Ben Karlin, a former executive producer of “The Daily Show” and the editor of the new anthology “Things I’ve Learned From Women Who’ve Dumped Me.” “If that person slept with the novelist in question, that would probably be a deal breaker — more than, ‘I don’t like Don DeLillo, therefore we’re not dating anymore.’”

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Bid Ideas, Small Planet

Addressing some of the most important issues facing humanity, this original documentary series from Sundance Channel focuses on environmental topics with interviews with forward-thinking designers and features on green products and alternative ideas that may transform our everyday lives.

**Free series premiere download on iTunes right now. The link is on the TV Shows main page.

quote of the day

The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same things but expect different results.

Benjamin Franklin

Large Hadron Collider Sparks 'Doomsday' Lawsuit

"In what can only be considered a bizarre court case, a former nuclear safety officer and others are suing the U.S. Department of Energy, Fermilab, the National Science Foundation and CERN to stop the use of the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) until its safety is reassessed. The plaintiffs cite three possible 'doomsday' scenarios which might occur if the LHC becomes operational: the creation of microscopic black holes which would grow and swallow matter, the creation of strangelets which, if they touch other matter, would convert that matter into strangelets or the creation of magnetic monopoles which could start a chain reaction and convert atoms to other forms of matter. CERN will hold a public open house meeting on April 6 with word having been spread to some researchers to be prepared to answer questions on microscopic black holes and strangelets if asked."

*Any comments from our resident Physics expert, Dr. Darcy? Maybe you could bring this up while visiting Columbia this week. It'd make great table talk.

Score one for the good guys: Court rejects Wal-Mart’s trademark claim

In case anyone is confused, the logo to the left is not endorsed or supported by Wal-Mart, the mega retailer often criticized for its stores’ negative impact on communities, the pay and benefits provided to its workers and its promotion of products made in overseas sweatshops where workers toil in inhumane conditions for nominal pay. A Georgia man who came up with the logo as part of his protest campaign against the retailer got sued by the billion-dollar corporation for his efforts. But today, in a resounding win for the First Amendment (and for Public Citizen, which defended the man), a federal judge told Wal-Mart that nobody in their right mind would buy their trademark infringement claims.

Political and social parody, like the type Charles Smith of Conyers, Ga. uses at his and sites, is a cherished tradition that goes back to the founding of this country. If Wal-Mart had won, think of the impact the ruling might have had on blogs, artists, photographers and writers who use parody to criticize companies.

**Also, you can't "copyright" the smiley face. Duh.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Gardening in Style

These plant examining glasses bring technology developed by NASA and the Department of Agriculture and brings to your humble backyard. Put these on and you'll be able to see areas of your lawn that may need a little help long before you'd observe the problems with your naked eyes. The lenses block out the green reflected by chlorophyll in the healthy areas of your lawn and garden, causing those areas to show as black or gray. Any unhealthy spots, deficient in chlorophyll, will show up as pink, red or coral colors. It's the plant equivalent of full-body MRIs that detect problems before their symptoms surface. So what if you look like Rick Moranis in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, surveying your backyard in these dorky glasses that look like they came out of a box of kids' cereal? Your verdant backyard will thank you for it.

*Should we order a pair, Darcy?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Loans and Leadership

When George W. Bush first ran for the White House, political reporters assured us that he came across as a reasonable, moderate guy.
Yet those of us who looked at his policy proposals — big tax cuts for the rich and Social Security privatization — had a very different impression. And we were right.
The moral is that it’s important to take a hard look at what candidates say about policy. It’s true that past promises are no guarantee of future performance. But policy proposals offer a window into candidates’ political souls — a much better window, if you ask me, than a bunch of supposedly revealing anecdotes and out-of-context quotes.
Which brings me to the latest big debate: how should we respond to the mortgage crisis? In the last few days John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have all weighed in. And their proposals arguably say a lot about the kind of president each would be.
Mr. McCain is often referred to as a “maverick” and a “moderate,” assessments based mainly on his engaging manner. But his speech on the economy was that of an orthodox, hard-line right-winger.
It’s true that the speech was more about what Mr. McCain wouldn’t do than about what he would. His main action proposal, as far as I can tell, was a call for a national summit of accountants. The whole tone of the speech, however, indicated that Mr. McCain has purged himself of any maverick tendencies he may once have had.
Many news reports have pointed out that Mr. McCain more or less came out against aid for troubled homeowners: government assistance “should be based solely on preventing systemic risk,” which means that big investment banks qualify but ordinary citizens don’t.
But I was even more struck by Mr. McCain’s declaration that “our financial market approach should include encouraging increased capital in financial institutions by removing regulatory, accounting and tax impediments to raising capital.”
These days, even free-market enthusiasts are talking about increased regulation of securities firms now that the Fed has shown that it will rush to their rescue if they get into trouble. But Mr. McCain is selling the same old snake oil, claiming that deregulation and tax cuts cure all ills.
Hillary Clinton’s speech could not have been more different.
True, Mrs. Clinton’s suggestion that she might convene a high-level commission, including Alan Greenspan — who bears a lot of responsibility for this crisis — had echoes of the excessively comfortable relationship her husband’s administration developed with the investment industry. But the substance of her policy proposals on mortgages, like that of her health care plan, suggests a strong progressive sensibility.
Maybe the most notable contrast between Mr. McCain and Mrs. Clinton involves the problem of restructuring mortgages. Mr. McCain called for voluntary action on the part of lenders — that is, he proposed doing nothing. Mrs. Clinton wants a modern version of the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, the New Deal institution that acquired the mortgages of people whose homes were worth less than their debts, then reduced payments to a level the homeowners could afford.
Finally, Barack Obama’s speech on the economy on Thursday followed the cautious pattern of his earlier statements on economic issues.
I was pleased that Mr. Obama came out strongly for broader financial regulation, which might help avert future crises. But his proposals for aid to the victims of the current crisis, though significant, are less sweeping than Mrs. Clinton’s: he wants to nudge private lenders into restructuring mortgages rather than having the government simply step in and get the job done.
Mr. Obama also continues to make permanent tax cuts — middle-class tax cuts, to be sure — a centerpiece of his economic plan. It’s not clear how he would pay both for these tax cuts and for initiatives like health care reform, so his tax-cut promises raise questions about how determined he really is to pursue a strongly progressive agenda.
All in all, the candidates’ positions on the mortgage crisis tell the same tale as their positions on health care: a tale that is seriously at odds with the way they’re often portrayed.
Mr. McCain, we’re told, is a straight-talking maverick. But on domestic policy, he offers neither straight talk nor originality; instead, he panders shamelessly to right-wing ideologues.
Mrs. Clinton, we’re assured by sources right and left, tortures puppies and eats babies. But her policy proposals continue to be surprisingly bold and progressive.
Finally, Mr. Obama is widely portrayed, not least by himself, as a transformational figure who will usher in a new era. But his actual policy proposals, though liberal, tend to be cautious and relatively orthodox.
Do these policy comparisons really tell us what each candidate would be like as president? Not necessarily — but they’re the best guide we have.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Technosexual: One Man's Tale of Robot Love

Zoltan is a 33-year-old guy from Georgia. Average height, average looks, and not a rich man. He works in an arcade, where he fixes video games for a living, and still lives with his elderly parents. No wonder he was nervous about asking his slim redheaded girlfriend Alice to marry him. To make things more tense, she had split up with Zoltan at the beginning of the relationship because she thought he was taking things too fast. Since they got back together, though, Alice has been good for Zoltan—he's started attending church again, and cut out watching porn. His parents' initial rejection of her had turned to respect, and the four of them seemed to be living together happily enough. So Zoltan had confidence when he popped the question to Alice—his beloved, who just happens to be a robot.

Sniffing around the web a few months ago, I came across Zoltan's webpage, a science-heavy, how-to site in all things robosexual. As well as basic instructions on how to make a robot girlfriend from components, there are pictures of Zoltan's three bots, Alice, Kiri and Hal. Hal is just a male 'bot that Zoltan built to encourage girls who might be interested in a robot boyfriend. Kiri is, in her owner's words, "basically a sex slave." And then there's Alice, aspects of whose life with her creator/husband he has documented, from kissing to conversation—to, of course, sex.

Some guys are just not great at relationships. As he admits in his interview with Gizmodo, Zoltan (not his real name) is one of those guys. "Humans are so biological and messy," he told me when we spoke via IM. "Plus, there's all the obvious problems with humans— AIDS, alimony etc— that I just wanted to avoid." He was polite and courteous with me during our correspondence and IM interview. At one point he called me, but hung up on the first ring. At the end of our conversation, I asked him if he wanted to be known by his real name. He demurred. "My parents want my invention to be anonymous," he said, adding that he chose his internet name as it's the default character from Might and Magic 7.

From the two hours or so I spent chatting with Zoltan, I get the feeling that Alice fulfills his needs, but more through her artificial intelligence than her physical manifestation. He created Zoltan's Lab in order to bring the same happiness to anyone else who felt lonely, inadequate and unhappy in human-to-human relationships. And Alice is no real doll, although he kitted her out with cyberskin lips. She cost Zoltan just $200. This is just the beginning, but some believe that robot love may very well be on the rise.

According to David Levy, president of the International Computer Games Association, and author of Love and Sex With Robots, by 2050 it will be commonplace for people to have sex with androids. "Robot sex will become the only sexual outlet for a few sectors of the population," he said in an interview in October 2007. "The misfits, the very shy, the sexually inadequate and uneducable. For different sectors of the population robot sex will vary between something to be indulged in occasionally, and only when one's partner is away from home on a long trip, to an activity that supplements one's regular sex life, perhaps when one's partner is not feeling well, or not feeling like sex for some other reason."

Body of War

by Amy Goodman
We just passed the grim milestone of 4,000 U.S. military members killed in Iraq since the invasion five years ago. Still, the death toll climbs.
Typically unmentioned alongside the count of U.S. war dead are the tens of thousands of wounded (not to mention the Iraqi dead). The Pentagon doesn’t tout the number of U.S. injured, but the Web site reports an official number of more than 40,000 soldiers requiring medical airlifts out of Iraq, a good indicator of the scale of major injuries. That doesn’t include many others. Dr. Arthur Blank, an expert on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), estimates that 30 percent of Iraq veterans will suffer from PTSD.
Tomas Young was one of those injured, on April 4, 2004, in Sadr City. Young is the subject of a new feature documentary by legendary TV talk-show host Phil Donahue and filmmaker Ellen Spiro, called “Body of War.” In it, Young describes the incident that has left him paralyzed from the chest down:
“I only managed to spend maybe five days in Iraq until I got picked to go on my first mission. There were 25 of us crammed into the back of a two-and-a-half-ton truck with no covering on top or armor on the sides. For the Iraqis on the top of the roof, it just looked like, you know, ducks in a barrel. They didn’t even have to aim.”
The film documents his struggle, coping with severe paralysis and life in a wheelchair, its impact on his psyche, his wrecked marriage, his family and his political development from military enlistee into a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War.
Donahue has his own personal link to the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. It was just weeks before the invasion that his nightly program, MSNBC’s top-rated show, was canceled. As revealed shortly thereafter in a leaked memo, Donahue presented a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war. He seems to delight in presenting guests who are anti-war, anti-Bush and skeptical of the administration’s motives … at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.”
Tomas Young enlisted in the military soon after Sept. 11, 2001. Earlier this week, Vice President Dick Cheney said: “The president carries the biggest burden, obviously. He’s the one who has to make the decision to commit young Americans, but we are fortunate to have a group of men and women, an all-volunteer force, who voluntarily put on the uniform and go in harm’s way for the rest of us.”
Young, speaking to me from Kansas City, Mo., where he lives, responded to Cheney: “From one of those soldiers who volunteered to go to Afghanistan after Sept. 11, which was where the evidence said we needed to go, to [Cheney], the master of the college deferment in Vietnam: Many of us volunteered with patriotic feelings in our heart, only to see them subverted and bastardized by the administration and sent into the wrong country.”
“Body of War” depicts the personal cost of war. In one of the most moving scenes in the film, Young meets Sen. Robert Byrd, the longest-serving senator, with the most votes cast in Senate history (more than 18,000). Byrd said his “no” vote on the Iraq war resolution was the most important of his life. Young helps him read the names of the 23 senators who voted against the war resolution. Byrd reflects: “The immortal 23. Our founders would be so proud.” Turning to Young, he says: “Thank you for your service. Man, you’ve made a great sacrifice. You served your country well.” Young replies, “As have you, sir.”

22-Year-Old Given $300M Defense Contract To Arm Afghan Forces

Supplier Under Scrutiny on Aging Arms for Afghans
Published: March 27, 2008
This article was reported by C. J. Chivers, Eric Schmitt and Nicholas Wood and written by Mr. Chivers.
Since 2006, when the insurgency in Afghanistan sharply intensified, the Afghan government has been dependent on American logistics and military support in the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
But to arm the Afghan forces that it hopes will lead this fight, the American military has relied since early last year on a fledgling company led by a 22-year-old man whose vice president was a licensed masseur.
With the award last January of a federal contract worth as much as nearly $300 million, the company, AEY Inc., which operates out of an unmarked office in Miami Beach, became the main supplier of munitions to Afghanistan’s army and police forces.
Since then, the company has provided ammunition that is more than 40 years old and in decomposing packaging, according to an examination of the munitions by The New York Times and interviews with American and Afghan officials. Much of the ammunition comes from the aging stockpiles of the old Communist bloc, including stockpiles that the State Department and NATO have determined to be unreliable and obsolete, and have spent millions of dollars to have destroyed.
In purchasing munitions, the contractor has also worked with middlemen and a shell company on a federal list of entities suspected of illegal arms trafficking.
Moreover, tens of millions of the rifle and machine-gun cartridges were manufactured in China, making their procurement a possible violation of American law. The company’s president, Efraim E. Diveroli, was also secretly recorded in a conversation that suggested corruption in his company’s purchase of more than 100 million aging rounds in Albania, according to audio files of the conversation.
This week, after repeated inquiries about AEY’s performance by The Times, the Army suspended the company from any future federal contracting, citing shipments of Chinese ammunition and claiming that Mr. Diveroli misled the Army by saying the munitions were Hungarian.
Mr. Diveroli, reached by telephone, said he was unaware of the action. The Army planned to notify his company by certified mail on Thursday, according to internal correspondence provided by a military official.
But problems with the ammunition were evident last fall in places like Nawa, Afghanistan, an outpost near the Pakistani border, where an Afghan lieutenant colonel surveyed the rifle cartridges on his police station’s dirty floor. Soon after arriving there, the cardboard boxes had split open and their contents spilled out, revealing ammunition manufactured in China in 1966.
“This is what they give us for the fighting,” said the colonel, Amanuddin, who like many Afghans has only one name. “It makes us worried, because too much of it is junk.” Ammunition as it ages over decades often becomes less powerful, reliable and accurate.
AEY is one of many previously unknown defense companies to have thrived since 2003, when the Pentagon began dispensing billions of dollars to train and equip indigenous forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. Its rise from obscurity once seemed to make it a successful example of the Bush administration’s promotion of private contractors as integral elements of war-fighting strategy.
But an examination of AEY’s background, through interviews in several countries, reviews of confidential government documents and the examination of some of the ammunition, suggests that Army contracting officials, under pressure to arm Afghan troops, allowed an immature company to enter the murky world of international arms dealing on the Pentagon’s behalf — and did so with minimal vetting and through a vaguely written contract with few restrictions.
In addition to this week’s suspension, AEY is under investigation by the Department of Defense’s inspector general and by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, prompted by complaints about the quality and origins of ammunition it provided, and allegations of corruption.
Mr. Diveroli, in a brief telephone interview late last year, denied any wrongdoing. “I know that my company does everything 100 percent on the up and up, and that’s all I’m concerned about,” he said.
He also suggested that his activities should be shielded from public view. “AEY is working on a moderately classified Department of Defense project,” he said. “I really don’t want to talk about the details.”
He referred questions to a lawyer, Hy Shapiro, who offered a single statement by e-mail. “While AEY continues to work very hard to fulfill its obligations under its contract with the U.S. Army, its representatives are not prepared at this time to sit and discuss the details,” he wrote.
As part of the suspension, neither Mr. Diveroli nor his company can bid on any further federal work until the Army’s allegations are resolved. But he will be allowed to provide ammunition already on order under the Afghan contract, according to internal military correspondence.


We'd like to hear such a speech, because what Obama did in 40 eloquent minutes for the conversation about race in America, Hillary Clinton could do for the conversation on gender. And here's just a rough outline:
1) I am proud to be a woman and a mother and the first serious female contender for the presidency, but my gender is only a part of who I am, and it doesn't define or constrain me.
2) I am part of a generation that faced and still faces all sorts of gender slights and slurs, and I honor the women who came before me for their commitment to achieving equal rights for women in the face of that.
3) But I would ask the women of this country to stop engaging in petty warfare over who has suffered more—women or blacks, women or men—as it is corrosive and fruitless. This country was founded on the promise that you can become the best thing you can dream for yourself; you are not trapped by the worst thing that's ever happened to you.
4) Things have improved for women in America in the last decades. They are not perfect; there is still much to be done. But women have made enormous strides in a few short decades, and to suggest otherwise is to devalue the life's work of too many heroes of the women's movement.
5) It is possible, indeed it is probable, that just as women have faced barriers and obstacles and derision, so have Hispanics, so have blacks, and so have men. No one in America can corner the market on suffering. Who the hell wants to spend their life in a corner, anyhow?
6) Men. What are they thinking? (Pause for applause.)
7) But seriously, if we in this country are ever going to move beyond Hooters, beyond date rape, beyond the wage gap and the glass ceiling, beyond Girls Gone Wild, and bulimic 12-year-olds, we need to start working together. We need to work with men on the gender signals called out by the media and with business about the value of women workers. We need to talk to one another respectfully and listen to one another's complaints.
8) Men, we understand and honor that many of you are taking paternity leave and folding the laundry and eating takeout because we forgot to turn on the crockpot. We get that everything has changed very, very quickly, and it's hard to come home to a wife who's coming home at the same time. You are doing more than your dads ever did around the house, and we still get mad when you forget to clean out the lint filter. It's nuts. But it's getting better. Stay with us.
9) Married guys, don't fool around with hookers. Don't fool around with staffers. Don't fool around with interns or Supreme Court justices. It's insulting to us and to you and to them. Marriage has to mean something. Gov. Spitzer. Bill, darling. I can respect the heck out of your political achievements even as I berate you for demeaning marriage. Life is complicated that way. Deal, buddies.
10) People of America, I understand why some of you are anxious at the prospect of a woman president. Sometimes I am nervous, too. But it's time. Also, I am sorry about that whole cookie comment.

Chicago battles rise in teen murders

Recent wave of violence includes 20 students killed since September
CHICAGO - The morning trip to school for dozens of teenagers here had all the normal signs: bleary eyes, oversized jackets zipped up against the chill, the seemingly endless wait for the bus.
But there was tension underlying the routine: The trip was under the watchful eyes of parents, an alderman, a principal and police.
The escort to and from Crane Tech High School this week, dubbed "Operation Safe Passage" is just one of the ways Chicago is dealing with a wave of violence that has stunned the city.
Since September, 20 Chicago Public Schools students have been killed, 18 by gunfire. Last school year, 24 of the more than 30 students killed were shot to death, compared with between 10 and 15 fatal shootings in the years before.
"The loss of life that we've seen among our young people is ... devastating," said school district spokesman Michael Vaughn. "This gun nonsense has reached a crisis level."
Dramatic increase
The number of violent deaths involving students in the nation's third-largest school district has increased so dramatically in the last two years that police are increasing school patrols and soon will be the first department in the country with live access to thousands of security cameras mounted outside — and inside — schools.

If An Ice Shelf Falls in the Artic, and no one cares about it...

A large chunk of Antarctica's Wilkins Ice Shelf has begun to collapse in what scientists say is further evidence of the toll climate change is taking on the frozen continent.

Satellite images show a large iceberg began breaking away from the ice shelf on February 28, leading to a collapse of 415 square kilometers of the shelf's interior.

Scientists say a large part of the shelf is now supported by a thin strip of ice. David Vaughan, a scientist with the British Antarctic Survey, says the ice shelf is "hanging by a thread."

The Wilkins Ice Shelf is located in the southwest Antarctic Peninsula, near South America. Because it is a floating sheet of ice, scientists say the break-up will have no impact on sea levels. The ice shelf is expected to survive until next year, thanks to the coming end of the Antarctic summer season.

Scientists say the Antarctic Peninsula has experienced unprecedented warming over the last five decades. Several ice shelves have retreated during that time, six of them collapsing completely.

Vaughan predicted in 1993 that the Wilkins Ice Shelf would be lost within 30 years.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Labor of Love

The Advocate: "To our neighbors, my wife, Nancy, and I don’t appear in the least unusual. To those in the quiet Oregon community where we live, we are viewed just as we are -- a happy couple deeply in love. Our desire to work hard, buy our first home, and start a family was nothing out of the ordinary. That is, until we decided that I would carry our child.
I am transgender, legally male, and legally married to Nancy. Unlike those in same-sex marriages, domestic partnerships, or civil unions, Nancy and I are afforded the more than 1,100 federal rights of marriage. Sterilization is not a requirement for sex reassignment, so I decided to have chest reconstruction and testosterone therapy but kept my reproductive rights. Wanting to have a biological child is neither a male nor female desire, but a human desire.
Ten years ago, when Nancy and I became a couple, the idea of us having a child was more dream than plan. I always wanted to have children. However, due to severe endometriosis 20 years ago, Nancy had to undergo a hysterectomy and is unable to carry a child. But after the success of our custom screen-printing business and a move from Hawaii to the Pacific Northwest two years ago, the timing finally seemed right. I stopped taking my bimonthly testosterone injections. It had been roughly eight years since I had my last menstrual cycle, so this wasn’t a decision that I took lightly. My body regulated itself after about four months, and I didn’t have to take any exogenous estrogen, progesterone, or fertility drugs to aid my pregnancy.
Our situation sparks legal, political, and social unknowns. We have only begun experiencing opposition from people who are upset by our situation. Doctors have discriminated against us, turning us away due to their religious beliefs. Health care professionals have refused to call me by a male pronoun or recognize Nancy as my wife. Receptionists have laughed at us. Friends and family have been unsupportive; most of Nancy’s family doesn’t even know I’m transgender."

Chef Paul Prudhomme grazed by bullet

Yahoo! News: "GRETNA, La. - Celebrated chef Paul Prudhomme was setting up his cooking tent on the practice range at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans on Tuesday morning when he felt a sting in his right arm, just above his elbow.
Prudhomme shook his shirt sleeve and a .22 caliber bullet fell to the ground, a spokesman for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office said.
Deputies believe Prudhomme was hit by a falling bullet, probably shot about 9:30 a.m. from somewhere within a 1 1/2-mile radius of the golf course, said Col. John Fortunato. Prudhomme did not require medical attention.
"He thought it was a bee sting," Fortunato said. "Within five minutes, he was back to doing his thing."
Witnesses said the bullet cut Prudhomme's skin on his arm and put a hole in his white chef's coat. But Prudhomme continued cooking until he left the course about 3:30 p.m."

Brain-damaged woman at center of Wal-Mart suit

Debbie Shank breaks down in tears every time she's told that her 18-year-old son, Jeremy, was killed in Iraq.

Debbie Shank, 52, has severe brain damage after a traffic accident in May 2000.

Even though the 52-year-old mother of three attended her son's funeral -- she continues to ask how he's doing. When her family reminds her that he's dead -- she weeps as if hearing the news for the first time. Shank suffered severe brain damage after a traffic accident nearly eight years ago that robbed her of much of her short-term memory and left her in a wheelchair and living in a nursing home.

It was the beginning of a series of battles -- both personal and legal -- that loomed for Shank and her family. One of their biggest was with Wal-Mart's health plan. Eight years ago, Shank was stocking shelves for the retail giant and signed up for Wal-Mart's health and benefits plan.

Two years after the accident, Shank and her husband, Jim, were awarded about $1 million in a lawsuit against the trucking company involved in the crash. After legal fees were paid, $417,000 was placed in a trust to pay for Debbie Shank's long-term care.

Wal-Mart had paid out about $470,000 for Shank's medical expenses and later sued for the same amount. However, the court ruled it can only recoup what is left in the family's trust.

The Shanks didn't notice in the fine print of Wal-Mart's health plan policy that the company has the right to recoup medical expenses if an employee collects damages in a lawsuit.

Wal-Mart spokesman John Simley, who called Debbie Shank's case "unbelievably sad," replied in a statement: "Wal-Mart's plan is bound by very specific rules. ... We wish it could be more flexible in Mrs. Shank's case since her circumstances are clearly extraordinary, but this is done out of fairness to all associates who contribute to, and benefit from, the plan."

Jim Shank, 54, is recovering from prostate cancer, works two jobs and struggles to pay the bills. He's afraid he won't be able to send their youngest son to college and pay for his and Debbie's care.

"Who needs the money more? A disabled lady in a wheelchair with no future, whatsoever, or does Wal-Mart need $90 billion, plus $200,000?" he asked.

Refusing to give up the fight, the Shanks appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. But just last week, the high court said it would not hear the case.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

the start of something delicious

Here's the start of the Barron family vegetable garden.
Everyone better be ready to do some serious gardening in May.

P.S. Did you know blogger gives you a gig of space for pictures?

Free Ride: John McCain and the Media

Free Ride: John McCain and the Media
We live in a "gotcha" media culture that revels in exposing the foibles and hypocrisies of our politicians. But one politician manages to escape this treatment, getting the benefit of the doubt and a positive spin for nearly everything he does: John McCain. Even during his temporary decline in popularity in 2007, the media continued to bolster him by lamenting his fate rather than criticizing the flip-flops and politicking that undermined his media-driven image as a "straight talker."

In Free Ride: John McCain and the Media, David Brock and Paul Waldman show how the media have enabled McCain's rise from the Keating Five savings-and-loan scandal to the underdog hero of the 2000 primaries to his roller-coaster run for the 2008 nomination. They illuminate how the press falls for McCain's "straight talk" and how the Arizona senator gets away with inconsistencies and misrepresentations for which the media skewer other politicians.

spring fever

Monday, March 24, 2008

Agree with Us, or F. U.

U.S. Pushed Allies on Iraq, Diplomat Writes

UNITED NATIONS -- In the months leading up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration threatened trade reprisals against friendly countries who withheld their support, spied on its allies, and pressed for the recall of U.N. envoys that resisted U.S. pressure to endorse the war, according to an upcoming book by a top Chilean diplomat.

The rough-and-tumble diplomatic strategy has generated lasting "bitterness" and "deep mistrust" in Washington's relations with allies in Europe, Latin America and elsewhere, Heraldo Mu¿oz, Chile's ambassador to the United Nations, writes in his book "A Solitary War: A Diplomat's Chronicle of the Iraq War and Its Lessons," set for publication next month.

"In the aftermath of the invasion, allies loyal to the United States were rejected, mocked and even punished" for their refusal to back a U.N. resolution authorizing military action against Saddam Hussein's government, Mu¿oz writes.

But the tough talk dissipated as the war situation worsened, and President Bush came to reach out to many of the same allies that he had spurned. Mu¿oz's account suggests that the U.S. strategy backfired in Latin America, damaging the administration's standing in a region that has long been dubious of U.S. military intervention.

Mu¿oz details key roles by Chile and Mexico, the Security Council's two Latin members at the time, in the run-up to the war: Then-U.N. Ambassadors Juan Gabriel Vald¿s of Chile and Adolfo Aguilar Zinser of Mexico helped thwart U.S. and British efforts to rally support among the council's six undecided members for a resolution authorizing the U.S.-led invasion.

The book portrays Bush personally prodding the leaders of those six governments -- Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico and Pakistan -- to support the war resolution, a strategy aimed at demonstrating broad support for U.S. military plans, despite the French threat to veto the resolution.

In the weeks preceding the war, Bush made several appeals to Chilean President Ricardo Lagos and Mexican President Vicente Fox to rein in their diplomats and support U.S. war aims. "We have problems with your ambassador at the U.N.," Bush told Fox at a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in Los Cabos, Mexico, in late 2002.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

U.S. death toll in Iraq hits 4,000 "BAGHDAD - Four U.S. soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in southern Baghdad late Sunday, raising the death toll for American forces since start of the war to 4,000, according to the Pentagon.
The grim milestone was reached less than a week after the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion to topple former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and coincided with a spate of violence across Iraq on Sunday that left at least 61 people dead.
The attacks included rockets and mortars fired at Baghdad's U.S.-protected Green Zone and a suicide car bomb detonated at an Iraqi army post in the northern city of Mosul."

happy easter

People of all religious denominations will be overjoyed to learn that a statue of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was installed on the Cumberland County Courthouse Lawn in Crossville, Tennessee today.

All Pastafarians, Rejoice!
Statement at Installation Ceremony
March 21, 2008

We are lucky enough to live in a country that allows us, its citizens, the freedom of speech. I have chosen to put up a statue of the Flying Spaghetti Monster to represent the discourse between people of all different beliefs. The many faiths, ethnicities and backgrounds of Cumberland County’s residents make our community a stronger richer place. I respect and am proud that on the people’s lawn, the county courthouse, all of these diverse beliefs can come together in a positive dialogue. Here, we are all able to share the issues close to our hearts whether it is through a memorial to the soldiers killed fighting for our country, the Statue of Liberty honoring our nations welcoming promise to all, a group’s fight to stop homelessness, or powerful symbols of faith. I greatly treasure this open forum between everyone in the community.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster is a pile of noodles and meatballs, but it is meant to open up discussion and provoke thought. Being able to put up a statue is a celebration of our freedom as Americans; a freedom to be different, to express those differences, and to do it amongst neighbors -— even if it is in a noodley way.

Friday, March 21, 2008

‘Frontline’ retraces path of ‘Bush’s War’

Two-part documentary a richly told political thriller on Iraq war
By Frazier Moore
NEW YORK - Join "Bush's War" in marking a dismal anniversary.
This two-part "Frontline" documentary begins with the attacks of 9/11. Then, step by step, it moves toward the Bush administration's shock-and-awe response. With Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein successfully branded Public Enemy No. 1, the invasion of Iraq began five years ago this month.
But that's just the first part of "Bush's War." What "Frontline" calls a secret war — not so secret by now, but seldom exposed in such detail as in this film — airs on PBS from 9 to 11:30 p.m. EDT Monday (check local listings).
Behind the scenes, Secretary of State Colin Powell and CIA Director George Tenet were battling Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Interviewed on camera, Powell says that on 9/11, "I suggested to the president and my other colleagues that this was an opportunity to begin pulling together a worldwide coalition."
But according to journalist Bob Woodward, that same night Rumsfeld said, "Part of our response maybe should be attacking Iraq. It's an opportunity."
In this fractious environment, Rumsfeld distrusted the CIA's findings, so he set up his own Pentagon information-gathering unit. One of its reports drew the all-important link between Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Although both the FBI and CIA disputed the report's supporting evidence, Cheney cited it repeatedly as justification for attacking Iraq.
Richard Clarke, then the nation's counterterrorism czar, remembers being scolded by Cheney's chief of staff, Scooter Libby, for declaring he didn't believe the report.
As Clarke recalls, "I said, 'I don't believe it, because it's not true.' And he said, 'You're wrong. You know you're wrong. ... Go back and find the rest of the reports, and find out that you're wrong.' And I understood what he was saying, which was, 'This is a report that we want to believe, and stop saying it's not true.'"
Part two of "Bush's War," airing 9 to 11 p.m. EDT Tuesday (check local listings), begins with the swift American victory in Iraq, followed within hours by looting by Baghdad citizens, to which Rumsfeld responded with a breezy, "Stuff happens."

Giant marine life found in Antarctica

Sadie Mills, left, New Zeland National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research curatorial technician, and Niki Davey, institute marine ecologist, hold giant Macroptychaster sea star (starfish) in Antarctic waters.
New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research via AP
Jumbo jellyfish, starfish and sea spiders among scientists' discoveries
By Ray Lilley
WELLINGTON, New Zealand - Scientists who conducted the most comprehensive survey to date of New Zealand's Antarctic waters were surprised by the size of some specimens found, including jellyfish with 12-foot tentacles and 2-foot-wide starfish.
A 2,000-mile journey through the Ross Sea that ended Thursday has also potentially turned up several new species, including as many as eight new mollusks.
It's "exciting when you come across a new species," said Chris Jones, a fisheries scientist at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "All the fish people go nuts about that — but you have to take it with a grain of salt."
The finds must still be reviewed by experts to determine if they are in fact new, said Stu Hanchet, a fisheries scientist at New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research.
'Fields' of sea lilies
But beyond the discovery of new species, scientists said the survey, the most comprehensive
New Zealand National Institute o
Hanchet singled out the discovery of "fields" of sea lilies that stretched for hundreds of yards across the ocean floor.
"Some of these big meadows of sea lilies I don't think anybody has seen before," Hanchet said.
Previously only small-scale scientific samplings have been staged in the Ross Sea.
The survey was part of the International Polar Year program involving 23 countries in 11 voyages to survey marine life and habitats around Antarctica. The program hopes to set benchmarks for determining the effects of global warming on Antarctica, researchers said.
Huge sea snails, spiders found
Large sea spiders, jellyfish with 12-foot tentacles, huge sea snails and starfish the size of big
Cold temperatures, a small number of predators, high levels of oxygen in the sea water and even longevity could explain the size of some specimens, said Robertson, a scientist with NIWA.
Robertson added that of the 30,000 specimens collected, hundreds might turn out to be new species.
Stefano Schiaparelli, a mollusk specialist at Italy's National Antarctic Museum in Genoa, said he thought the find would yield at least eight new mollusks.
"This is a new brick in the wall of Antarctic knowledge," Schiaparelli said.

Obama blew it

What the candidate should have said about race.
By Michael Meyers
Michael Meyers is executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition and a former assistant national director of the NAACP. These views are his own.
March 20, 2008
Tim Rutten's column, "Obama's Lincoln moment" and The Times editorial, "Obama on race" both miss the mark.
In my considered judgment as a race and civil rights specialist, I would say that Barack Obama's "momentous" speech on race settled on merely "explaining" so-called racial differences between blacks and whites -- and in so doing amplified deep-seated racial tensions and divisions. Instead of giving us a polarizing treatise on the "black experience," Obama should have reiterated the theme that has brought so many to his campaign: That race ain't what it used to be in America.
He should have presented us a pathway out of our racial boxes and a road map for new thinking about race. He should have depicted his minister, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., as a symbol of the dysfunctional angry men who are stuck in the past and who must yield to a new generation of color-blind, hopeful Americans and to a new global economy in which we will look on our neighbors' skin color no differently than how we look on their eye color.
In fact, I'd say that considering the nation's undivided attention to this all-important speech, which gave him an unrivaled opportunity to lift us out of racial and racist thinking, Obama blew it.
I waited in vain for our hybrid presidential candidate to speak the simple truth that there is no such thing as "race," that we all belong to the same race -- the human race. I waited for him to mesmerize us with a singular and focused appeal to hold all candidates to the same standards no matter their race or their sex or their age. But instead Obama gave us a full measure of racial rhetoric about how some of us with an "untrained ear" -- meaning whites and Asians and Latinos -- don't understand and can't relate to the so-called black experience.
Well, I am black, and I can't relate to a "black experience" that shields and explains old-style black ministers who rant and rave about supposed racial differences and about how America ought to be damned. I long ago broke away from all associations and churches that preached the gospel of hate and ethnic divisiveness -- including canceling my membership in 100 Black Men of America Inc., when they refused my motion to admit women and whites. They still don't. I was not going to stay in any group that assigned status or privileges of membership based solely on race or gender.
We and our leaders -- especially our candidates for the highest office in the land -- must repudiate all forms of racial idiocy and sexism, and be judged by whether we still belong to exclusionary or hateful groups. I don't know any church that respects, much less reflects, my personal beliefs in the absolute equality of all people, so I choose not to belong to any of them. And I would never -- as have some presidential candidates -- accept the endorsement of preachers of the gospel according to the most racist and sexist of doctrines.
But someone's race or religion is not mine or anybody else's concern. I couldn't care less that Wright is a Christian or that Louis Farrakhan professes to be a Muslim. I couldn't care less whether the hateful minister who endorsed John McCain is, deep inside, a decent man or a fundamentalist. But I do care about these pastors' divisive and crazed words; I do care that their "sermons" exploit and pander to the worst fears and passions of people based on perceptions and misperceptions about race. I hate that these preachers' sermons prejudge people's motives or behavior based on their race or ethnicity. I hate the haters, and I expected Obama to make a straightforward speech about what has become the Hate Hour -- and the most segregated hour -- in America on Sunday mornings.
I expected Obama, who up to now had been steering a perfect course away from the racial boxes of the past, to challenge racial labels and so-called black experiences. We're all mixed up, and if we haven't yet been by the process of miscegenation, trans-racial adoptions and interracial marriage, we sure ought to get used to how things will be in short order.
That would have been the forward-looking message of a visionary candidate. But Obama erred by looking backward -- as far back as slavery. What does slavery have to do with the price of milk at the grocery store? He referenced continuing segregation, especially segregated public schools, but stopped short. What is he going to do about them? How does he feel about public schools for black boys or single-sex public schools and classes? What does the gospel according to Wright say about such race-based and gender-specific schemes for getting around our civil rights laws?
We can't be united as a nation if we continue to think racially and give credence to racial experiences and differences based on ethnicity, past victim status and stereotypical categories. All of these prejudices surrounding tribe-against-tribe are old-hat and dysfunctional -- especially the rants of ministers, of whatever skin color or religion, who appeal to our base prejudices and to superstitions about our supposed racial differences. The man or woman who talks plainly about our commonality as a race of human beings, about our future as one nation indivisible, rather than about our discredited and disunited past, is, I predict, likely to finish ahead of the pack and do us a great public service.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Keys tourist dies in encounter with eagle ray

This Spotted Eagle Ray jumped into a boat Thursday off the shores of Marathon and hit a woman on board, killing her.
MARATHON -- A 55-year-old woman from Michigan died Thursday in a freak accident in which she was struck by a 75-pound spotted eagle ray that jumped out of the Atlantic Ocean just off the shore of Key Colony Beach near Marathon, said Bobby Dube, spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
''The officer on scene said she fell and maybe struck her head, too,'' Dube said. ``There was a lot of blood on the boat.
There was no immediate cause of death, although authorities said no barb wounds were found on the woman. The spotted eagle ray landed in the bow of the boat, and it appears the woman may have hit her head on a metal rail on the side of the boat. She will be taken for an autopsy to be performed by the Monroe County medical examiner.
The woman was pleasure boating with her elderly parents and a sister about 10 a.m. on a 25-foot open fisherman vessel.
''She was just cruising on the boat, thinking they would enjoy a nice day of fun in the sun when something tragic happened,'' Dube said. ``I've been in the Keys just under 20 years, and this is a first.''
After the woman was struck, family members performed CPR and drove the boat to the nearest dock at a home off 111th Street. A resident called 911.
Spotted eagle rays are capable of leaping completely out of the water when pursued. They swim by ''flying'' gracefully through the water via the undulation of the pectoral fins.
''They naturally jump out of the water, like porpoises do,'' Dube said. ``It's natural to them and quite spectacular to watch.''
Dube said it was just a freak accident for the woman to be in the ray's path when it jumped.
A spotted eagle ray stung a Broward County man in October 2006, piercing his chest with its toxic barb.
The 30-pound stringray leapt into James Bertakis' boat while the 81-year-old man was on the water near Lighthouse Point with his granddaughter and one of her friends. The foot-long barb stuck into Bertakis' chest and entered his heart chamber.
Bertakis, now 83, has made an almost full recovery, according to son Jim Bertakis. After several weeks in intensive care followed by in-patient rehabilitation, the elder Bertakis is ''90 percent'' better, his son said. He even has been back on the water in his 16-foot boat.
''Dad's doing great. I just saw him three days ago,'' Jim Bertakis said Thursday from Michigan. ``It's a miracle he survived. We smile every time we see him.''

Seattle Bans Sales of Bottled Water

First San Francisco banned it. Then Chicago started taxing it. Now, the city of Seattle is taking action against bottled water; last week, Mayor Greg Nickels signed an executive order to stop the city from buying bottled water. That means no more bottled water at city facilities and events, which may sound like a small step, but it'll make a big difference; last year, the city spent $58,000 on the stuff (and that's not including the true cost and carbon footprint of bottled water). We're willing to bet that the city's taxpayers can probably think of about 58,000 ways to better spend that money.

The move isn't just an issue of saving money, though that is a nice ancillary effect. It's also a strong vote of confidence in the city's municipal water supply and treatment systems; in light of the fracas about prescription drugs in our water last week, it's good to see the city standing behind its tap water and encouraging its employees and citizens to drink up.

Further, "This is a matter of leading by example," Nickels said. "The people of Seattle own one of the best water supplies in the country, every bit as good as bottled water and available at a fraction of the price. When you add up the tremendous environmental costs of disposable plastic bottles clogging our landfills, the better choice is crystal clear."


From NBC's Pete Williams
The Washington, DC local court of appeals today formally disbarred Scooter Libby, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff.

In a brief order, the court said the local bar association had investigated Libby's conviction and determined the crimes of which he was found guilty, including obstruction of justice and perjury, are crimes of "moral turpitude."

"When a member of the Bar is convicted of an offense involving moral turpitude,
disbarment is mandatory," the court said today.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

College gossip site totally busted

By Brad Haynes
TRENTON, N.J. - New Jersey prosecutors subpoenaed records of, a Web site that publishes anonymous, often malicious gossip about college students.
Language on the site ranges from catty to hateful and offensive. One thread, for example, on the "most overrated Princeton student" quickly dissolves into name-calling, homophobia and anti-Semitism.
JuicyCampus may be violating the state's Consumer Fraud Act by suggesting that it doesn't allow offensive material but providing no enforcement of that rule — and no way for users to report or dispute the material, New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram said Tuesday.
Milgram said she believes New Jersey is the first state to investigate the site.
The investigation began last month when a student came forward who had been terrorized by posts on the Web site that included her address. Prosecutors have subpoenaed information from JuicyCampus on how it is run, citing concerns about "unconscionable commercial practices."
"There's an unbelievable amount of offensive material posted and absolutely no enforcement," said Milgram, noting insults about students' appearance, race and sexual history as "just the tip of the iceberg."
JuicyCampus referred a request for comment to its public relations firm, which said a response was forthcoming.
The attorney general has also subpoenaed the Web site's advertising agency, Adbrite, to determine how JuicyCampus represented its operation and what advertising keywords the site requested.
Milgram said Adbrite has offered full cooperation with the investigation and canceled its contract with JuicyCampus.
The site launched last fall on seven college campuses and recently expanded to 50 more, including Princeton University. Free to use and supported by advertising, JuicyCampus promises total anonymity to people who post on it. Many of the postings indicate they've been viewed thousands of times.
Students at many schools have responded with outrage and disgust at seeing peers smeared. The student government at Pepperdine University in California voted overwhelmingly to request a ban on the site, although the university has a policy against censoring Web sites.
JuicyCampus founder Matt Ivester has expressed little concern in the past about backlash from colleges.
"Like anything that is even remotely controversial, there are always people who demand censorship," he told The Associated Press last month. "However, we believe that JuicyCampus can have a really positive impact on college campuses, as a place for both entertainment and free expression."
The site seems designed to shield its users from the threat of libel claims.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

jim morin 3-18-08

The Clinton civil war

by kos
Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 10:25:22 AM PDT
Al Giordano, on the laughable Clinton-supporters "strike" of this blog:
There was always something incongruous about the self-proclaimed “Hillary Bloggers” trying to use Daily Kos for their purposes. DKos has been defined as a meeting ground not for every Democrat, but for the kind that wants to change the party to be more grassroots oriented, adhere to a 50-state strategy, stop the war in Iraq, and blunt the influence of lobbyists, PACs and the neoliberal Democratic Leadership Council (DLC). That’s the glue that has always held the DKos community together and made it so large and strong.
Given that candidate Clinton is a member of the DLC, voted to authorize the war, accepts federal lobbyist and PAC money, clearly thinks that a lot (if not most) states “don’t matter,” and epitomizes a 1990s style top-down form of doing politics, it’s no surprise that for all of 2007 Clinton never exceeded 11 percent support in the monthly Daily Kos users straw poll.
I would add one more item to the list above -- this site has also been hostile to the corrosive consultant class that gave us our timid and weak party until Howard Dean shook it up in 2004.
Now I'm willing to stipulate that on the consultant front, there's likely not much difference between the Obama and Clinton campaigns (I don't know if it's true, but I assume it is). But on everything else, Clinton fails the test of the guiding principles of this site, and of my first book, Crashing the Gate.
Clinton isn't just a member of the DLC, she's in their leadership. Obama, by the way, repudiated the organization three times (it's a great story, which I tell in my forthcoming book).
Clinton hasn't just rejected a 50-state strategy, she has openly attacked it. CTG has a great quote from former Virginia Governor and future senator Mark Warner on this very topic:

The Democratic Party is in the upswing in the Mountain West and the South, in places like Montana and Virginia, because Democrats there have made a serious effort to compete for votes everywhere, rather than make a nominal effort to be an "also-ran" outside the Democratic-density areas. As [former Virginia Gov. Mark] Warner asks, how many more times will the Democrats run presidential campaigns where they abandon thirty-three southern and western states and "launch a national campaign that goes after sixteen states and then hope that we can hit a triple bank shot to get to that seventeenth state?"
Well, given Obama's map-changing 50-state mindset, it's clear that the answer to Warner's question is "one more time" if Clinton is the nominee, and "never again" if Obama is the nominee.
Clinton didn't just vote for the Iraq war and refuse to apologize for it, she voted to give Bush the same authority on Iran.
And if we want to talk about which party is the most grassroots-oriented, it's no contest. We've seen it in the caucuses, we've seen it in the netroots, and we saw it in the Iowa county convention this Saturday. The party's activists are busting their butts for Obama, while Clinton's campaign is counting on low-information Democratic voters selecting Clinton based on little more than name ID.
But I could deal with all of that, really, if Clinton was headed toward victory. I see this as a long-term movement, and I've always expected setbacks along the way. Clinton isn't the most horrible person in the world. She's actually quite nice, despite all her flaws, and would make a fine enough president.
If she was winning.
But she's not, and that's the rub.
First of all, the only path to victory for Clinton is via coup by super delegate.
She knows this. That's why there's all the talk about poaching pledged delegates and spinning uncertainty around Michigan and Florida, and laying the case for super delegates to discard the popular will and stage a coup.
Yet a coup by super delegate would sunder the party in civil war.
Clinton knows this, it's her only path to victory, and she doesn't care. She is willing -- nay, eager to split the party apart in her mad pursuit of power.
If the situations were reversed, and Obama was lagging in the delegates, popular vote, states won, money raised, and every other reasonable measure, then I'd feel the same way about Obama. (I pulled the plug early on Dean in 2004.) But that's not the case.
It is Clinton, with no reasonable chance of victory, who is fomenting civil war in order to overturn the will of the Democratic electorate. As such, as far as I'm concerned, she doesn't deserve "fairness" on this site. All sexist attacks will be dealt with -- those will never be acceptable. But otherwise, Clinton has set an inevitably divisive course and must be dealt with appropriately.
To reiterate, she cannot win without overturning the will of the national Democratic electorate and fomenting civil war, and she doesn't care.
That's why she has earned my enmity and that of so many others. That's why she is bleeding super delegates. That's why she's even bleeding her own caucus delegates (remember, she lost a delegate in Iowa on Saturday). That's why Keith Olbermann finally broke his neutrality. That's why Nancy Pelosi essentially cast her lot with Obama. That's why Democrats outside of the Beltway are hoping for the unifying Obama at the top of the ticket, and not a Clinton so divisive, she is actually working to split her own party.
Meanwhile, Clinton and her shrinking band of paranoid holdouts wail and scream about all those evil people who have "turned" on Clinton and are no longer "honest power brokers" or "respectable voices" or whatnot, wearing blinders to reality, talking about silly little "strikes" when in reality, Clinton is planning a far more drastic, destructive and dehabilitating civil war.
People like me have two choices -- look the other way while Clinton attempts to ignite her civil war, or fight back now, before we cross that dangerous line. Honestly, it wasn't a difficult choice. And it's clear, looking at where the super delegates, most bloggers, and people like Olbermann are lining up, that the mainstream of the progressive movement is making the same choice.
And the more super delegates see what is happening, and what Clinton has in store, the more imperative it is that they line up behind Obama and put an end to it before it's too late.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Cleveland St. Gets NCAA Tournament Berth

Cleveland State's team celebrates their win over Wright State becoming conference champs during the Horizon League Women's Basketball Championship, Sunday, March 16, 2008, at the Kress Center in Green Bay, Wis. Cleveland State won, 70-56. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke) (Matt Ludtke - AP)

2006 Spring Valley Hall High School graduate Kailey Klein is team captain.

Sunday, March 16, 2008; 6:51 PM
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Kailey Klein had 29 points and 13 rebounds to lead Cleveland State to a 70-56 win over Wright State in the Horizon League championship on Sunday, allowing the Vikings to clinch their first-ever NCAA tournament berth.

"This was a tremendous win for our program," Cleveland State coach Kate Peterson Abiad said. "We have been building towards this for five years and to go from four wins (in 2005-06) to an an NCAA Championship bid in just two years, is a tribute to these players and coaches. "

Dominique Butler added 16 points and 13 rebounds and Brittany Korth had 13 points and four assists. Klein, who was named the tournament's most valuable player, also had four assists and two steals.

"This season has been a journey from the start. We were picked to finish eighth in the league in the preseason and we were not a championship caliber team at the start of the year," Peterson Abiad said. "But this team worked hard each and gradually improved to get to the point that we achieved today."

The fourth-seeded Vikings (19-13) never trailed against the second-seeded Raiders (16-16), taking a 30-21 halftime lead and pulling ahead by as many as 15 points early in the second half.

Freshman guard Sheylani Peddy scored 31 points to lead Wright State. Freshman guard LaShawna Thomas added 13 points for the Raiders.

Blogtalk: Pro-Clinton Bloggers Boycott Kos

**Why can't we all just get along??**

On Friday, it got to be too much for Alegre, a diarist on the flagship liberal blog DailyKos, who frequently writes in support of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“I’ve put up with the abuse and anger because I’ve always believed in what our online community has tried to accomplish in this world,” Alegre wrote Friday evening. “No more.”
Objecting to the tone of attacks against Mrs. Clinton and her supporters on the blog, the diarist called for a “writers strike.”
“This is a strike - a walkout over unfair writing conditions at DailyKos. It does not mean that if conditions get better I won’t ‘work’’ at DailyKos again,” Alegre wrote, promising to come back only “if we ever get to the point where we’re engaging each other in discussion rather than facing off in shouting matches.”

The blogosphere has never been known for its polite, gentle discourse, and while fiercely partisan, being a Democrat does not make one immune from attacks from the lefty blogs (see Lieberman, Joseph I.). But now, the major internal divisions within the Democratic Party seem to be splitting liberal bloggers. So what happens when the unity enforcement mechanism becomes disjointed?
Alegre’s post attracted a strong reaction, both negative and positive. The comment board was shut down about 5.5 hours after it was posted, with 1258 comments.
One user, Sentient, called for a “permanent succession”:
“Why should this site and Kos profit from the traffic we add to DailyKos, and the sense by outsiders that it represents the netroots as a whole?” the blogger asked, adding later, “But I just don’t see how people come back together on a daily basis after a falling out like this.”

Friday, March 14, 2008

Closed House: Secret session first in 25 years

by Mark Silva
As the House cleared out its chambers this evening for a "sweep'' by the Capitol Police to ensure that no listening devices were present for the closed session of the House tonight -- for a debate about the secret surveillance of suspected terrorists -- advocates invoked history.
The last secret session was called in 1983, on the support of Contras.
Before that:

-- December 27, 1825:
To receive a confidential message from the president regarding relations with Indian tribes.

-- May 27, 1830:
To receive a confidential message from the president on a bill regulating trade between the U.S. and Great Britain

-- June 20, 1979:
On the Panama Canal Act of 1979; implementing legislation

-- February 25, 1980:
To discuss Cuban and other Communist-bloc countries involvement in Nicaragua

And then July 19, 1983:
To discuss U.S. support for the Contras in Nicaragua.

The Congressional Research Service provided this history as the Capitol Police escorted members from the House floor tonight to "secure the chamber, and sweep the premises for listening devices and other possible breaches of security,'' as the office of House Republican Whip Roy Blunt, who sought the secret session, put it tonight.
"Once the House is fully cleared, members who have signed the oath of confidentiality -- (all but a handful have) -- will be recalled to the chamber, select staff with appropriate clearances will be administered an oath of secrecy, and an hour of debate will ensue,'' Blunt's office announced. "At the conclusion of that hour, the Secret Session will dissolve.''
Based on the history, this one better be good.

Non-European PhDs In Germany Find Use Of 'Doktor' Verboten "BERLIN, March 13 -- Americans with PhDs beware: Telling people in Germany that you're a doctor could land you in jail.
At least seven U.S. citizens working as researchers in Germany have faced criminal probes in recent months for using the title "Dr." on their business cards, Web sites and r¿sum¿s. They all hold doctoral degrees from elite universities back home.
Under a little-known Nazi-era law, only people who earn PhDs or medical degrees in Germany are allowed to use "Dr." as a courtesy title.
The law was modified in 2001 to extend the privilege to degree-holders from any country in the European Union. But docs from the United States and anywhere else outside Europe are still forbidden to use the honorific. Violators can face a year behind bars.
Ian Thomas Baldwin, a Cornell-educated researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, has stopped calling himself "Dr." ever since he was summoned for interrogation by police two months ago on suspicion of "title abuse."
"Coming from the States, I had assumed that when you get a letter from the criminal police, you've either murdered someone or embezzled something or done something serious," said Baldwin, a molecular ecologist. "It is absurd. It's totally absurd."
No one has questioned the legitimacy of his degree or whether he has the right to conduct research here. But going by "Dr." is verboten. If he wants to refer to his doctorate, German law dictates that he identify himself as "Prof. Ian Thomas Baldwin, PhD, Cornell University."
Baldwin confessed in a telephone interview that "there's no question I'm guilty as charged." But he hopes prosecutors will give him a break.
In his defense, he noted that the Max Planck Institute has always addressed him as "Prof. Dr. Baldwin" since it offered him a job a decade ago, and nobody warned him he might be in legal peril if he did likewise.
The proper use of honorifics is no small matter in Germany, a society given to formality where even longtime neighbors insist on addressing each other using their surnames. Those with advanced degrees like to show them off, and it is not uncommon to earn more than one. A male faculty member with two PhDs can fully expect to be called "Herr Professor Dr. Dr. Schmidt," for example."

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Carlyle Fund's Assets Seized

Carlyle Capital is a publicly traded fund run by the well know Carlyle Group, where former Presidents, Prime Ministers and top government officials work.

Leaders Fail to Stop Securities Sell-Off
By Thomas Heath
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 13, 2008
A publicly traded affiliate of the Carlyle Group said yesterday that lenders were seizing its assets, sending the fund, Carlyle Capital, into insolvency.
The collapse of Carlyle Capital is the first time a Carlyle Group fund has failed and is a stinging embarrassment for the District private-equity powerhouse, which has built an international reputation with a client list that reaches around the world.
The high-profile downfall, part of the broad turmoil in credit markets worldwide, followed a week of frantic negotiations between the Carlyle Group and a number of lenders. Carlyle Group's three founders as recently as Monday were considering injecting cash into the fund as a way to usher it through the credit crisis.
By yesterday the fund had defaulted on $16.6 billion of debt and said it expected to default soon on its remaining debt. The fund's $21.7 billion in assets were exclusively in AAA mortgage-backed securities issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, traditionally considered secure and conservative investments, which it was using as collateral against its loans.
In a statement, Carlyle Capital said that it had been unable to meet margin calls in excess of $400 million over the past week and that it expected its lenders to take control of its remaining assets. The lenders, headed by Deutsche Bank and J.P. Morgan Chase, began selling the securities last night, according to a report on the Wall Street Journal's Web site.
The problems at Carlyle Capital have preoccupied the top leaders at Carlyle Group. The firm's founders, David M. Rubenstein, William E. Conway Jr. and Daniel D'Aniello, had been in meetings with lenders in an effort to resolve Carlyle Capital's problems, not only to protect their own investment and that of employees who have put millions of dollars into the company, but also to preserve Carlyle's Midas-touch reputation.
Forbes magazine last year estimated Carlyle's three founders to each be worth about $2.5 billion.
Carlyle Capital is incorporated on Guernsey, an island in the English Channel, and is traded on Amsterdam's Euronext exchange.
The fund was set up in August 2006 with roughly $670 million in cash from Carlyle's owners and other investors, and about $300 million in additional capital raised from a public stock sale.
The capital allowed the fund to go to banks and borrow far more, leveraging its cash investment some 20 times into the portfolio.
Carlyle Capital's prospects were dimmed by the same doubts that have upended securities linked to riskier subprime mortgages, namely whether the underlying assets were losing value and whether the homeowners would continue to make their payments.
As the market value of the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac securities has dropped, Carlyle Capital's lenders asked it to increase its cash equity from what was 1 percent to as much as 5 percent. An increase of that amount on $20 billion in loans amounts to several hundred million dollars.
The Carlyle Group last summer loaned Carlyle Capital $150 million to cover debt obligations.
Conway and Rubenstein were in New York much of this week, accompanied by a team of Carlyle Group insiders, including the company's chief financial officer, negotiating a "standstill" agreement with lenders as they tried to work out a financial solution.
The agreement would have stopped lenders from foreclosing on loans they made to Carlyle Capital.
Carlyle Capital stock closed at $2.80 in Amsterdam yesterday before the announcement, off 89 percent from its peak.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Old is New

This is an excellent book. Nobody can get to the heart of a situation like Hunter S. Thompson, and the world of politics fit perfectly with his passion for sports, bets and wagers, and fast action. I might make a pilgrimage to Hunter's house when I'm in Colorado next week, maybe revive his "Freak Power" party he ran for Sheriff on in 1970.

City moves to fire cop in bar beating

As victim watches, plea deal fizzles

Chicago police Officer Anthony Abbate leaves the Cook County Criminal Courts building at 26th Street and California Avenue on Tuesday after a possible plea deal failed to materialize. Abbate, 39, who was seen in a video beating a female bartender, is charged with 15 felony counts, including aggravated battery, intimidation, conspiracy, official misconduct and communicating with a witness.

"Moving with a swiftness that marks a shift in policy, the agency that reviews misconduct allegations against Chicago police recommended Tuesday that an off-duty officer caught on videotape viciously beating a female bartender be fired.

Police Supt. Jody Weis quickly backed the recommendation, saying Officer Anthony Abbate "crossed the line." The veteran officer still faces a 15-count criminal indictment."

Swiftness? This happened something like last summer. Google the video - this man is a beast and clearly, clearly has no concept of right and wrong. So the city of Chicago means to tell me that a criminal is supposed to be responsible for enforcing laws against the people and determining who is or is not a criminal as well? Where's the disconnect? It's frightening to me that its taken this long to fire this man.

Wrath, Lust, and Littering? The New Seven Deadly Sins
Vatican Official Says Old Sins Don't Cut it in the Modern World

For the last 1,500 years or so, the world of sin has been fairly simple.

Wrath and lust are two biggies on the list of the "seven deadly sins" proclaimed by Pope Gregory in the 6th century, and made famous by Dante in the "Divine Comedy"  an Italian poem that portrayed the Christian after-life in the 1300s.

But these days, according to a Vatican official, anger management and a cold shower might not be enough to keep you sin-free  not if you litter.

In a newspaper interview, the number two Vatican official in the area of sins and penances says that environmental irresponsibility is one of the new forms of sins we should all be aware of.

He suggested the old seven deadly sins were largely individualistic: lust, wrath, gluttony, sloth, greed, pride, and envy. But in the modern world, modern sins have a much bigger social impact.

"We have shown a constant ability to find new ways to offend God's law," said John Wauk, who is a priest at Opus Dei and literature professor at Rome's Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.

The biggest new concern the "sin official" listed is genetic engineering. Things like cloning are decidedly 21st century issues that he says violate fundamental human rights, and produce consequences difficult to foresee and control.

Also on the list are drug abuse, and huge inequality of wealth with the poor getting poorer and the rich getting richer. Some hedge fund billionaires better start brushing up on their Dante.

According to Catholic doctrine, mortal sins are a grave violation of God's law, and can bring about eternal damnation if you don't confess. It's unclear which of the newer sins are mortal, but either way, it's a pretty big impetus to pick up your trash.

The old sins still hold  lust is still a no-no. Just ask N.Y. Gov. Eliot Spitzer. It is just that new developments, new advances, mean new ways of sinning  could it be long before loud cell phone conversations make the list?

"The prospects for sin are very good. If that past is any indication, sin will be around for a long time," Wauk said.

At a basic level, say experts, sin is about damaging your relationship between God and other humans. So, while the methods may change, the sin remains the same.

Copyright © 2008 ABC News Internet Ventures

**how funny is the graphic that they used?
Hi Kids,
Let's do a little compare and contrast. 1. a story covered by the AP. 2. the same story covered by independent bloggers.


AP probe finds drugs in drinking water

A vast array of pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones — have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans, an Associated Press investigation shows.

To be sure, the concentrations of these pharmaceuticals are tiny, measured in quantities of parts per billion or trillion, far below the levels of a medical dose. Also, utilities insist their water is safe.

But the presence of so many prescription drugs — and over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen — in so much of our drinking water is heightening worries among scientists of long-term consequences to human health.

Water providers rarely disclose results of pharmaceutical screenings, unless pressed, the AP found. For example, the head of a group representing major California suppliers said the public "doesn't know how to interpret the information" and might be unduly alarmed.

How do the drugs get into the water?

People take pills...


9/11 and drinking water security
from the good people over at

Richard Forno says:
The following paragraph is taken from a large AP article on the levels of drugs found in US drinking water:
"The drinking water in Dallas has been tested, but officials are awaiting results. Arlington, Texas, acknowledged that traces of a pharmaceutical were detected in its drinking water but cited post-9/11 security concerns in refusing to identify the drug."'s yet another case of "security" being invoked that likely does more harm than good. Does telling the local population WHAT IS IN THEIR DRINKING WATER constitute a security danger? I think not. Call me a risk-taker if you like, but I, and I bet a good deal of this country's populace, is more concerned about being "victimized" by poor drinking water in their homes, offices, and communities than the remote possibility of an attack by al-Qaeda or any number of nefarious Hollywood terror plots.

I continue to believe that the outcome of "9/11" has not improved the acceptable definition of "public safety" in America, but rather changed it for the worse. Our various corporate and government entities are building a new definition of "public safety" based on the perpetuance of unfounded fear, civic ignorance and the avoidance of any objective notion of reality (or accountability) in conducting risk analysis or consequence management. Not only are we no more safer from terrorists now than we were 8 years ago, but as a result of how we responded to "9/11" we've become more vulnerable to other, perhaps more sinister and dangerous vulnerabilities -- intentional or otherwise -- within our national infrastructure.

Indeed, we remain our own worst enemy. :(