Thursday, October 30, 2008

Conspiracy Theory Rock

This cartoon appeared in the original March broadcast of the SNL episode, but was cut from the summer rerun. SNL producer Lorne Michaels told the New York Daily News he "didn't think it worked comedically." In an interview, Harry Shearer said "The truth is that Lorne wanted to continue working at 30 Rock."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Evidence of a Global SuperOrganism
"I am not the first, nor the only one, to believe a superorganism is emerging from the cloak of wires, radio waves, and electronic nodes wrapping the surface of our planet. No one can dispute the scale or reality of this vast connectivity. What's uncertain is, what is it? Is this global web of computers, servers and trunk lines a mere mechanical circuit, a very large tool, or does it reach a threshold where something, well, different happens?

So far the proposition that a global superorganism is forming along the internet power lines has been treated as a lyrical metaphor at best, and as a mystical illusion at worst. I've decided to treat the idea of a global superorganism seriously, and to see if I could muster a falsifiable claim and evidence for its emergence.

My hypothesis is this: The rapidly increasing sum of all computational devices in the world connected online, including wirelessly, forms a superorganism of computation with its own emergent behaviors."

Citizens uniting against fluoride

A group of private citizens in San Diego County is planning to file a large-scale lawsuit in federal court against public water districts and challenge the constitutionality of using industrial-grade hydrofluosilicic acid to fluoridate drinking water.

Jeff Green, national director of Citizens for Safe Drinking Water in San Diego, told WND, "We are raising funds for a lawsuit that has been prepared for plaintiffs who are asserting their constitutional rights under the Ninth and 14th Amendments to be free of what they term 'bodily intrusions' by a water wholesaler adding an unapproved drug into their water."

Monday, October 27, 2008

Will They Steal It?

The Stranger: "ith less than two weeks left in the presidential race, fears are a-flying in lefty circles. Will they actually let Barack Obama win? Will Diebold steal the election and give it to John McCain instead? Will martial law be declared so George Bush can be self-appointed to a third term? Will conservative thugs at polling places suppress minority turnout in the very swing states where the minority vote could really make the difference for the Democratic ticket? Is this shit I'm reading in Rolling Stone about voter-purging true? Because it's terrifying. Hold me!
HOLD ON. Yes, assessing the relative merits of the various strains of liberal election-paranoia is a tricky business. After all, during the last eight years we've seen several liberal fever-dreams turn into reality (see, for example, Florida Recount 2000 and Iraq War 2003–present). Still, some of the alarm about Election 2008 seems a bit much.
"There'll be tampering with voting machines in key states, just enough to swing it to McCain," begins a baroque, every-major-fear-encompassing scenario submitted to Slog (The Stranger's blog) by a commenter named Chip, who continues: "As the exit polls show Obama leading but tallies don't match, FOX News will repeat GOP talking points about how surprising it is that the Bradley effect is playing such a significant role in the elections. Massive riots will engulf Seattle, S.F., NYC, and D.C.; they will be suppressed violently by the U.S. Army. Bush will declare martial law. Obama will be shot by a lone gunman. McCain will valiantly die while trying to save him. Palin anoints Dick Cheney to the empty VP slot."
The threat of all of that happening, exactly as described, is quite minimal (alert level: green or even sea-foam). Same for commenter Kat's feared scenario: "Honestly, I've been saying from the beginning, I'll just be surprised if we don't wake up November 5 and Cheney is president."
Your paranoia is, of course, your own. So accept, reject, and/or ratchet up your interior angst as you like—you will anyway—but if you want to recalibrate your terror levels, consider the following reality check:"

The Typewriter Lives On

Alex Pham of the LA Times wrote a piece about a typewriter repair shop in Los Angeles that's enjoying a small resurgence.

"The simplicity of the typewriter is alluring to writers who may be overwhelmed (or underwhelmed) by increasingly elaborate technology. A typewriter is also appealing in its transparency -- whack a key, and watch the typebar smack a letter onto a piece of paper. Try figuring that out with a laser printer. Many people also find typewriters charming ambassadors of a bygone era. One recent customer asked Flores to fix her mother's college typewriter so she could type letters home when she went off to college.
All that helps to keep U.S. Office Machine humming at its inconspicuous corner of Figueroa Street and Avenue 58. Watch the video to see how three generations of the Flores family have helped keep the typewriting tradition alive."

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Long Live Plastics

Science News: "Because plastic products can be mass-produced cheaply, they have long been considered the poster child of a throwaway culture. Plastics are versatile: Some are soft and flexible, but others are completely rigid. A few mimic natural substances; some are infused with colors rarely found in nature. Others are as clear as glass. And some polymer substances composing plastics can be molded into shapes impossible to reproduce with materials such as wood.
Perhaps because they are so versatile, some objects made from plastics have become highly collectible. Some museum collections, in fact, specialize in items commonly made of plastic — toys, games and dolls, for example. Other museums couldn’t avoid the polymers if they tried: Plastics show up in everything from fabrics to furniture, sequins to sculpture.
Though often praised for their chemical stability, plastics don’t last forever. Vinyl can crack, polyurethane can get cloudy and flexible tubing can become stiff. Even Ken and Barbie, like anyone approaching 50, can succumb to blemishes, age spots and loss of skin tone.
A decade ago, a survey of museum collections in London confirmed the ephemeral nature of polymers: About one out of every eight plastic items showed signs of physical degradation such as cracking, discoloration or deformation, says Bertrand Lavédrine, an analytical chemist at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. That doesn’t mean the other plastic objects will stay in good shape. Even items that appear fine for long periods can suddenly deteriorate once chemical changes start, he notes.
Most chemical changes triggering polymer degradation are irreversible. But given the right conditions, the demise of plastics can be slowed. Often, however, the challenge is to find those conditions.
“The museum world, in particular, has suffered badly from a lack of detailed understanding about the materials and techniques used for the manufacturing, the conservation and the restoration of artifacts that are now in critical condition,” says Lavédrine.
Hence the need for the POPART project. This 42-month, multimillion-dollar program — whose name is a shortened version of “Preservation of Plastic ARTefacts in museum collections” — was launched in October to address many of the problems that curators now face. Funded by the European Commission, researchers from the dozen participating museums, government agencies and universities in eight countries will survey museum collections, study how certain polymers deteriorate, develop techniques to display and clean plastic items and design equipment that can quickly discriminate one type of plastic from another."

The Case For Very Hot Water

Science News: "For years, conservation advocates have told consumers to turn down the thermostat on their hot-water heaters — largely to save energy, but also to avoid scalding showers and baths. At least for some people, however, this green tactic could prove dangerous, new studies indicate.
“The number one cause of waterborne disease outbreaks in the United States,” says environmental engineer Marc Edwards, “is not contaminants leaving the water treatment plant (we do a good job of killing those). It’s the pathogens that grow in home water heaters.”
Last weekend, seven reporters attending the Society of Environmental Journalists annual meeting toured Edwards’ lab of at Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg — and were treated to some sobering information about water quality. Like that in water heaters.
On its website, the Department of Energy notes that, “Although some manufacturers set water heater thermostats at 140 ºF, most households usually only require them set at 120 ºF.” For each 10º drop in temperature, consumers can expect to see a three to five percent savings on energy use. Moreover, DOE points out, setting that thermostat to 120º could extend the heater’s lifetime by slowing the buildup of minerals and corrosion within it.
What DOE and other energy-conservation sites don’t point out is that 140 ºF will kill a number of potentially lethal waterborne organisms, like the ones responsible for Legionnaire’s disease and NTM, short for nontuberculous mycobacterial infections. Indeed, 120º provides a nurturing environment for such toxic microbes
Owing to lead-poisoning concerns, people should never drink hot tap water. That’s why the primary route to respiratory disease from these germs comes through inhalation of the steam associated with showering or hot tubs. Infections due to these home-grown germs are estimated to kill 3,000 to 12,000 Americans annually, Edwards says.
How come we haven’t heard about this? Mistaken for flu, many cases remain off the radar screen, he says. But check the web and you’ll find Edwards wasn’t exaggerating about a growing link between hot-water heaters and disease. A few months ago in the Journal of Water and Health, Joseph O. Falkinham III, also at Virginia Tech, and his colleagues reported on a shower link to NTM in a 41-year-old New York City physician."

Nader says he set campaign speech record

Yahoo! News: "BOSTON – Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader says he now holds the world record for most campaign speeches in a single day.
Nader, who is on the ballot in 45 states but is polling in single digits, said he delivered at least 255 minutes of speeches in 21 Massachusetts communities on Saturday. Nader said that was enough to get him into the Guinness Book of World Records.
To get in the record books, Guinness officials said Nader needed to give at least 150 minutes of speeches, with each speech lasting at least 10 minutes. And each time, there must be at least 10 people watching who didn't come with Nader.
Beginning at 8:15 a.m. Saturday in Westfield, Nader used several different settings for his speeches, including a deli, a farmer's market and a library. Each time, he stayed anywhere from 15 minutes to a half hour.
"Given that monstrous bailout bill, it's still the same message: taxation without representation," Nader said in one speech to about 40 supporters in front of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
Nader closed his day with an 11:30 p.m. campaign party in Sheffield.
The 74-year-old Nader said he didn't expect to be tired. "When you're seeking justice, as I have for so many years, it's invigorating, not fatiguing," he said.
Nader said he hopes his Massachusetts tour persuades thousands of voters to support him and help build a powerful "third political force." He also said he wants to highlight a campaigning style that focuses on local communities, rather than large rallies with carefully screened crowds."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Guns N’ Roses Bring A Free Dr Pepper To All Americans: Here’s How To Get Yours!

MTV Newsroom: "Now that the November 23 release date for Guns N’ Roses’ oft-delayed, more-than-a-decade-in-the-making album, Chinese Democracy, seems to be a reality, Dr Pepper owes every American a can of soda.
Back in March, the beverage company said that it would give every man, woman, and a child in the U.S. a free can of Dr. Pepper should Guns N’ Roses release Chinese Democracy before the close of 2008. And now, the event no one — certainly not the folks at Dr Pepper — thought would happen is rapidly approaching.
“We never thought this day would come,” Tony Jacobs, vice president of marketing for Dr Pepper, said in a statement issued Wednesday. “But now that it’s here, all we can say is: The Dr Pepper’s on us.”
So, how does Dr Pepper plan on dispensing the free sodas? Well, on November 23 — and only on November 23 — thirsty Americans can log on to the official Dr Pepper Web site and register all of their vitals, so that the company can mail them a coupon for a free 20-ounce can of the drink. Once that coupon arrives in the mail, redeem it wherever Dr Pepper is sold. The last step in the process, according to the press release: “Drink your Dr Pepper slowly to experience all 23 flavors. Dr’s orders.”
As we said, registration for the free Dr Pepper coupons is available only for 24 hours, beginning at 12:01 a.m. ET on November 23, and the coupons will have an expiration date of February 28, 2009. Obviously, there is a coupon limit — one per person.
So get out your straws and chill those glasses, kids — the Dr will be in your fridge soon, all thanks to Mr. Axl Rose."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


MSNBC: Economic angst has Americans stockpiling 'beans, bullets and Band-Aids'
"SEATTLE - Atash Hagmahani is not waiting for the stock market to recover. The former high-tech professional turned urban survivalist has already moved his money into safer investments: Rice and beans, for starters.
“I hoard food,” says Hagmahani, 44, estimating that he has enough to last his family a year or two. “I’m not ashamed to admit it.”
“People keep asking when this (economic crisis) is going to clear up,” says Hagmahani, who agreed to be interviewed on the condition that he be identified only by this pseudonym, which he uses for his survivalist blog, or by his first name, Rob.
The answer, he predicts, is that the country is entering what he calls a “Greater Depression.” “Maybe they jolly well better get used to the change in lifestyle.”
Hagmahani is not alone in concluding that desperate times call for serious preparations.
With foreclosure rates running rampant, financial institutions teetering and falling, prices for many goods and services climbing, and jobs being slashed, many Americans are making preparations for worse times ahead. For some, that means cutting spending and saving more. For others, it means taking a step into survivalism, once regarded solely as the province of religious End-of-Timers, sci-fi fans and extremists.
That often manifests itself as a desire to secure basic emergency resources — what survival guru Jim Wesley Rawles describes as “beans, bullets and Band-Aids.”
Rawles, speaking by phone from an “undisclosed location” somewhere between the Cascades and the Rocky Mountains, said he has seen traffic on his Web site,, explode in the last year.
Getting ready for ‘TEOTWAWKI’
“There are a lot more people — a lot more eager people — who are trying to get themselves squared away logistically,” said Rawles, who lectures and writes books on preparing for and surviving “TEOTWAWKI” — The End Of The World As We Know It."

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Domains - Rachel Maddow - A Pundit in the Country "Rachel Maddow, host of left-leaning chat shows on Air America Radio and MSNBC, both named “The Rachel Maddow Show”, spends downtime in an 1865 house in western Massachusetts.

Biggest misconception about pundits: That we all hang out together. I don’t know any of these people. Maybe all the pundits are hanging out and not inviting me.

Worst thing about job: My self-doubt that this is a worthy thing to contribute to the world. It’s fun, but I worry that it is self-indulgent.

Her 190-mile commute: It’s an opportunity for me to turn my brain off. My apartment in New York is only 275 square feet. So just being able to stretch out is great.

Always on her: A handkerchief. One of my liabilities as a broadcaster is that I am little teary. Having a handkerchief is handy. My partner, Susan Mikula, buys me cute ones.

Worst thing about Obama: He’s measured to a fault. He is so calm and cool and collected that sometimes I want to know what he feels.

Best thing about McCain: He’s very funny.

Morning routine: I arrive in Massachusetts around 2 a.m. Saturday. I wake up so that I can put the trash and recycling together and get it to the dump, which closes at 11 a.m. Me and the dog go to the dump. Then we drive to a sheep farm and I let the dog look at the sheep.

Gadget she can live without: We have no television. Susan wants to buy one, but where we live there’s no cable. So we’d have to put up a satellite dish, and we already have one for the Internet. To have two dishes on the roof would be crazy.

Prized possession: I have a file of letters and bits of ephemera from friends who have died. I have had lots of friends who died of AIDS.

Concession to vanity: I’ve had to get contact lenses. I only put them in while I’m on TV. They are a miracle device that allows me to be on TV without glasses, which everyone tells me I can’t wear on TV.

Favorite movie: “The Manchurian Candidate,” original version.

Always in fridge: Champagne. I always keep a bottle, because you might need to celebrate at any moment, and a bunch of mustard, because I am a mustard person."

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Global Rich List

Global Rich List:
"Every year we gaze enviously at the lists of the richest people in world.
Wondering what it would be like to have that sort of cash. But where
would you sit on one of those lists? Here's your chance to find out.

Just enter your annual income into the box below and hit 'show me the money'."

Chicago Tribune endorsement: Barack Obama for president

However this election turns out, it will dramatically advance America's slow progress toward equality and inclusion. It took Abraham Lincoln's extraordinary courage in the Civil War to get us here. It took an epic battle to secure women the right to vote. It took the perseverance of the civil rights movement. Now we have an election in which we will choose the first African-American president . . . or the first female vice president.

In recent weeks it has been easy to lose sight of this history in the making. Americans are focused on the greatest threat to the world economic system in 80 years. They feel a personal vulnerability the likes of which they haven't experienced since Sept. 11, 2001. It's a different kind of vulnerability. Unlike Sept. 11, the economic threat hasn't forged a common bond in this nation. It has fed anger, fear and mistrust.

On Nov. 4 we're going to elect a president to lead us through a perilous time and restore in us a common sense of national purpose.

The strongest candidate to do that is Sen. Barack Obama. The Tribune is proud to endorse him today for president of the United States.

On Dec. 6, 2006, this page encouraged Obama to join the presidential campaign. We wrote that he would celebrate our common values instead of exaggerate our differences. We said he would raise the tone of the campaign. We said his intellectual depth would sharpen the policy debate. In the ensuing 22 months he has done just that.

Many Americans say they're uneasy about Obama. He's pretty new to them.

We can provide some assurance. We have known Obama since he entered politics a dozen years ago. We have watched him, worked with him, argued with him as he rose from an effective state senator to an inspiring U.S. senator to the Democratic Party's nominee for president.

We have tremendous confidence in his intellectual rigor, his moral compass and his ability to make sound, thoughtful, careful decisions. He is ready.

The change that Obama talks about so much is not simply a change in this policy or that one. It is not fundamentally about lobbyists or Washington insiders. Obama envisions a change in the way we deal with one another in politics and government. His opponents may say this is empty, abstract rhetoric. In fact, it is hard to imagine how we are going to deal with the grave domestic and foreign crises we face without an end to the savagery and a return to civility in politics.

This endorsement makes some history for the Chicago Tribune. This is the first time the newspaper has endorsed the Democratic Party's nominee for president.

The Tribune in its earliest days took up the abolition of slavery and linked itself to a powerful force for that cause--the Republican Party. The Tribune's first great leader, Joseph Medill, was a founder of the GOP. The editorial page has been a proponent of conservative principles. It believes that government has to serve people honestly and efficiently.

With that in mind, in 1872 we endorsed Horace Greeley, who ran as an independent against the corrupt administration of Republican President Ulysses S. Grant. (Greeley was later endorsed by the Democrats.) In 1912 we endorsed Theodore Roosevelt, who ran as the Progressive Party candidate against Republican President William Howard Taft.

The Tribune's decisions then were driven by outrage at inept and corrupt business and political leaders.

We see parallels today.

The Republican Party, the party of limited government, has lost its way. The government ran a $237 billion surplus in 2000, the year before Bush took office -- and recorded a $455 billion deficit in 2008. The Republicans lost control of the U.S. House and Senate in 2006 because, as we said at the time, they gave the nation rampant spending and Capitol Hill corruption. They abandoned their principles. They paid the price.

We might have counted on John McCain to correct his party's course. We like McCain. We endorsed him in the Republican primary in Illinois. In part because of his persuasion and resolve, the U.S. stands to win an unconditional victory in Iraq.

It is, though, hard to figure John McCain these days. He argued that President Bush's tax cuts were fiscally irresponsible, but he now supports them. He promises a balanced budget by the end of his first term, but his tax cut plan would add an estimated $4.2 trillion in debt over 10 years. He has responded to the economic crisis with an angry, populist message and a misguided, $300 billion proposal to buy up bad mortgages.

McCain failed in his most important executive decision. Give him credit for choosing a female running mate--but he passed up any number of supremely qualified Republican women who could have served. Having called Obama not ready to lead, McCain chose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. His campaign has tried to stage-manage Palin's exposure to the public. But it's clear she is not prepared to step in at a moment's notice and serve as president. McCain put his campaign before his country.

Friday, October 17, 2008

I Voted!

I just got back from voting! It was really quick and easy, and I want to remind everyone that in most states you can vote early. So get it out of the way as soon as you can! It feels good to be apart of a historic election, and to cast my vote to help turn this ship around. YO-BAMA!

and also, check out this cool video my friend made:


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Stayin' Alive

Study shows the disco hit helps bystanders remember lifesaving rhythm

"Under most circumstances, it's best to keep the beat of the Bee Gees song “Stayin' Alive” out of your head, but heart specialists have come up with one good reason to remember: It could save someone's life.
Turns out the 1977 disco hit has 103 beats per minute, a perfect number to maintain — and retain — the best rhythm for performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR.
A small study by University of Illinois College of Medicine researchers in Peoria has found that 10 doctors and five medical students who listened to the "Saturday Night Fever" tune while practicing CPR not only performed perfectly, they remembered the technique five weeks later.
“It’s a song everyone seems to know, whether they want to or not,” said Dr. David Matlock, the resident and researcher who led the study. He hopes further research will confirm its use in lay people trained in CPR as well.
Results of the study are set to be presented later this month at the annual meeting of the American College of Emergency Physicians in Chicago.
One trouble with CPR training, Matlock said, is that most practitioners, from trained medical professionals to people who take classes at the local fire department, fail to perform the potentially lifesaving technique aggressively enough.
“We stress that you have to push hard and you have to push fast,” he said. “If you don’t push hard enough and you don’t go fast enough, you don’t push that blood where it needs to go.”"

Loudness War

The phrase loudness war (or loudness race) refers to the music industry's tendency to record, produce and broadcast music at progressively increasing levels of loudness each year to create a sound that stands out from others and the previous year.

This phenomenon can be observed in many areas of the music industry, particularly broadcasting and albums released on CD and DVD. In the case of CDs, the war stems from artists' and producers' desires to create CDs that sound as loud as possible or louder than CDs from competing artists or recording labels.[1]

However, as the maximum amplitude of a CD is at a fixed level, the overall loudness can only be increased by reducing the dynamic range. This is done by pushing the lower-level program material higher, while the loudest peak sounds are either destroyed or severely diminished. Certain extreme uses of compression can introduce distortion or clipping to the waveform of the recording.

Surreal Reykjavik

It feels surreal to drive the streets of downtown Reykjavik. The banks are lid up and people are working there. The logo’s are still outside the houses. The ads are still running saying how wonderful and trustwurthy the banks are. Range Rovers and BMWs are still filling the streets and the parking lots. Bankers in their suit walk the streets with heavy eye brows. There’s a strange silence.

It’s like we know the system is broken, we know it’s gone, but we can’t see it. We can’t tell what’s real, what’s still there, and what are just the ghosts of yesterday, when Iceland was one of the richest countries in the world. A pale reflection of the golden age in Icelandic economy which is now going up in flames. Where’s the smoke?

The world is treating us like we’re dead. Bank accounts frozen. No buziness without cash payments in advance. No currency can be bought. The stock market is closed (not that I have anything left there). Imports have stopped because of closed currency markets and diapers, flour, sugar and other neccesities are selling out in the shops.

I would like to remind the world that the banks went down because of a chain reaction – that started in the US. I’m not going to tell you the chain of events, the intervention of politicians, the misunderstandings, the dispute with Britain where they used their anti-terrorist laws to confiscate Icelandic assets. I’m not trying to find someone to blame. But I would like to tell you that we still have a lot of innovative and prominent companies in Iceland, and you might actually get a pretty good deal there at the moment, as the Icelandic Krona is so low.

So if you want to seize the opportunity and go on a shopping spree, here are a few Icelandic companies that are still alive and kicking, like:

CCP (Eve Online) – online games

Stiki – Risk Management Studio – information security

Gavia – submarines

Lysi – fish oil for a longer life

Arctic Trucks – super jeeps (like the one Top Gear used to go to the North Pole)

And loads of other prominent companies.

People are well aware of the pshycological effect of the bank crises. For me, it’s the biggest shock since my mother-in-law’s sudden death. I fear that the society will be going through a similar cycle. We’re in stage one – the disbelieve and numness. When routine hits us and we realize that we don’t have our money and can’t pay the bills, start losing our cars and homes, then the real sorrow and sadness sinks in. And it happens at the worst time of the year, when the nights are getting longer and longer. In December we have 20 hours of complete darkness. That will be a very tough month. Suicides are already being reported.

The minister of education, Þorgerður Katrín Gunnarsdóttir, has sent an email out to all schools in the country with some guidelines on how to react. In the television ads are running reminding people that the most precious things in life – are free! Helplines have been opened. And people are being reminded that if you’re not one of those going broke, keep on spending like normally. The economy really needs it.
Let’s hope it works. I try do my share in all this with my new website and writing. 'Glenn Beck Highlights Threat Of Martial Law Following Economic Crisis'

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bill O'Reilly Vs. Paul Krugman (2008 Nobel Prize Winner for Economics)

it's almost painful to watch, but i decided to post it anyway. kenzie is very excited for Krugman's Nobel Prize.

CIA Tactics Endorsed In Secret Memos

Waterboarding Got White House Nod
By Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
The Bush administration issued a pair of secret memos to the CIA in 2003 and 2004 that explicitly endorsed the agency's use of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding against al-Qaeda suspects -- documents prompted by worries among intelligence officials about a possible backlash if details of the program became public.
The classified memos, which have not been previously disclosed, were requested by then-CIA Director George J. Tenet more than a year after the start of the secret interrogations, according to four administration and intelligence officials familiar with the documents. Although Justice Department lawyers, beginning in 2002, had signed off on the agency's interrogation methods, senior CIA officials were troubled that White House policymakers had never endorsed the program in writing.
The memos were the first -- and, for years, the only -- tangible expressions of the administration's consent for the CIA's use of harsh measures to extract information from captured al-Qaeda leaders, the sources said. As early as the spring of 2002, several White House officials, including then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Cheney, were given individual briefings by Tenet and his deputies, the officials said. Rice, in a statement to congressional investigators last month, confirmed the briefings and acknowledged that the CIA director had pressed the White House for "policy approval."
The repeated requests for a paper trail reflected growing worries within the CIA that the administration might later distance itself from key decisions about the handling of captured al-Qaeda leaders, former intelligence officials said. The concerns grew more pronounced after the revelations of mistreatment of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and further still as tensions grew between the administration and its intelligence advisers over the conduct of the Iraq war.
"It came up in the daily meetings. We heard it from our field officers," said a former senior intelligence official familiar with the events. "We were already worried that we" were going to be blamed.
A. John Radsan, a lawyer in the CIA general counsel's office until 2004, remembered the discussions but did not personally view the memos the agency received in response to its concerns. "The question was whether we had enough 'top cover,' " Radsan said.
Tenet first pressed the White House for written approval in June 2003, during a meeting with members of the National Security Council, including Rice, the officials said. Days later, he got what he wanted: a brief memo conveying the administration's approval for the CIA's interrogation methods, the officials said.
Administration officials confirmed the existence of the memos, but neither they nor former intelligence officers would describe their contents in detail because they remain classified. The sources all spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not cleared to discuss the events.
The second request from Tenet, in June 2004, reflected growing worries among agency officials who had just witnessed the public outcry over the Abu Ghraib scandal. Officials who held senior posts at the time also spoke of deteriorating relations between the CIA and the White House over the war in Iraq -- a rift that prompted some to believe that the agency needed even more explicit proof of the administration's support.
"The CIA by this time is using the word 'insurgency' to describe the Iraq conflict, so the White House is viewing the agency with suspicion," said a second former senior intelligence official.
As recently as last month, the administration had never publicly acknowledged that its policymakers knew about the specific techniques, such as waterboarding, that the agency used against high-ranking terrorism suspects. In her unprecedented account to lawmakers last month, Rice, now secretary of state, portrayed the White House as initially uneasy about a controversial CIA plan for interrogating top al-Qaeda suspects.
After learning about waterboarding and similar tactics in early 2002, several White House officials questioned whether such harsh measures were "effective and necessary . . . and lawful," Rice said. Her concerns led to an investigation by the Justice Department's criminal division into whether the techniques were legal.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Rolling Stone ends large format after 4 decades

A comparison of Rolling Stone magazine's last issue in its larger format, bottom, and its shrunken new issue. The old format was an inch taller and two inches wider.
Editor says it’s time to embrace change — so Obama is on first new cover
NEW YORK - Rolling Stone magazine is shrinking with the times.
After more than four decades of standing out with a larger format than other magazines, it will step back and look like everyone else starting with the Oct. 30 issue, due out this week.
The adoption of a standard format could boost single-copy sales and reduce production costs for advertising inserts such as scent strips and tear-out postcards. The magazine says any cost savings, though, will be offset by the inclusion of more pages and the shift to thicker, glossier paper.
Like other devoted readers, Eddie Ward, 35, said he will miss the old format, which was an inch taller and two inches wider. But he looks forward to the change and might even buy a “more fashionable” bag to carry his belongings.
“For years since I graduated from college, I have refused to buy a small messenger bag ... since it couldn’t fit my Rolling Stone,” said Ward, a publicist who lives in New York. “I never wanted to crease the pages or put cracks in the cover.”
Rolling Stone chose Barack Obama, who is campaigning for president on a theme of change, for the cover of the Oct. 30 issue. By contrast, the last issue in the oversize format featured a cartoon of Obama’s opponent, John McCain.
“Like the man we are featuring on the cover for the third time in seven months ... we embrace the idea of change,” editor Jann S. Wenner wrote in the new issue. “Not change for the sake of change, but change as evolution and growth and renewal, change as the kind of cultural renaissance that gave birth to Rolling Stone more than four decades ago.”
Magazines constantly undergo redesigns — The Atlantic, for instance, debuts new sections with its November issue out Tuesday. A few also have changed dimensions over the years, including TV Guide, which grew into a full-size format in 2005.
In fact, Rolling Stone has changed formats twice before. It first published in 1967 as a tabloid-size newspaper because that was all its budget covered. It began printing on a four-color press in 1973 and magazine-quality paper in 1981, when it also shrank to its just-abandoned 10-by-12-inch size and adopted the feel of a magazine-newspaper hybrid.
The switch to a standard format completes the magazine’s transformation into, well, a magazine and comes as readers depend less on the printed pages for breaking news common in newspapers, said Anthony DeCurtis, a longtime writer for the magazine.

Now that's fast food

Patrick Bertoletti eats a final jalapeno after winning the 2008 La Costena "Feel the Heat" Jalapeno Eating Challenge in Little Village last week. Bertoletti ate 127 jalapenos. (Chris Sweda/Sun-Times)
September 24, 2008
He isn't human. Can't be.
Outwardly, of course, he looks the part. His hands, ears, even gelled Mohawk haircut up close, they're all very lifelike.
Patrick Bertoletti holds more than 20 world eating records.
With a strong emphasis on soft-form and sweet foods, he also shines in a Chicago specialty, with an impressive -- if not untouchable -- pizza-eating accomplishment. Among Pat's records:
16-inch pizza: 22 slices, 10 minutes.
Doughnuts: 47 glazed and cream-filled doughnuts, 5 minutes.
Grits: 21 pounds, 10 minutes.
Ice cream: 1.75 gallons, 8 minutes.
Key lime pie: 10.8 pounds, 8 minutes.
Kolacky: 44 cherry kolaches, 8 minutes.
Oysters: 34 dozen Acme oysters, 8 minutes.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches: 42, 10 minutes.
Waffles: 29 (8-ounce) waffles, 10 minutes.
Whole turkey: 6.91 pounds roast turkey meat, 8 minutes.
(To learn more about the super eater, or to find out about one of his upcoming competitions, visit Bertoletti's Web site, He also is a regular on Steve Dahl's show between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m. Fridays on Jack FM (WJMK-FM, 104.3). )
But when you see what he does, you think: He must be a machine. A Terminator of sorts. With a binge eating kind of superpower.
He's 23-year-old Patrick Bertoletti, the second-ranked competitive eater in the world. And during this stormy Sunday afternoon, in Mi Tierra Restaurant in Little Village, he's eating jalapeno peppers. Lots of them; 127, to be exact. In eight minutes.
At the La Costena "Feel the Heat" Jalapeno Eating Challenge, Bertoletti easily outpaced an elite field of professional gurgitators, his closest challenger -- 105-pound Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas -- coming in second with 117 peppers. And despite what to all onlookers was an overwhelmingly impressive masticatory achievement more than worthy of the contest's $2,500 first place prize, the soft-spoken Bertoletti, whose lofty performance expectations rival those of any world-class athlete, was far from satisfied.
"I was aiming for 200, but the jalapenos were harder than I'd expected," Bertoletti explained somewhat apologetically, just minutes after the final tally was announced. Wiping perspiration from his face as mariachi music blared in the background, he waved to a vocal group of fans who strained to get a peek at the Chicagoan who has carved out an international reputation as one of the world's most gifted speed eaters.
"I started eating competitively about four years ago," Bertoletti said. "My sister Susan told me to enter this local pizza contest, she knew I'd be good at it. Even though I won, I knew I could do better. I began looking into other competitions, and discovered the IFOCE [International Federation of Competitive Eaters]. From there, I started entering their contests, I got a lot better."
The New York-based International Federation of Competitive Eaters -- now officially promoted as Major League Eating -- oversees and sanctions cash-sponsored eating contests throughout the world. Some have become quite famous (Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog-Eating Contest is perhaps the best known), and several of its top-ranked competitors have made side careers from their prize winnings.
"I've won probably $150,0000 since I started doing this," estimated Bertoletti, "but it's not really about the money for me."
The Kendall College graduate, who works as a cook for a local caterer when he's not traveling to eating contests as far away as Prague, Czech Republic, says that while he has his "competitive streaks," his motivation to compete stems more from finding his niche with a discipline in which he excels.
"I played sports my whole life but was not very good," he said. "But with [competitive eating], when I do my best, it shows. I can definitely leave my mark."
Leaving his mark is perhaps an understatement. In the past few years, Bertoletti has set nearly two dozen world records ("I think 22?" he says, not quite sure at the current total), becoming one of MLE's most popular and accomplished competitors.
"Pat Bertoletti is quite simply one of the best competitive eaters ever," gushed Ryan Nerz, spokesman for Major League Eating. "His jaw strength is phenomenal, his swallow timing exquisite. ... [He] is extremely appealing to sponsors ... because he is young, charismatic, articulate, knowledgeable in the culinary arts and distinctive looking."
Bertoletti says competitive eating contests require different techniques, depending on the food, and jalapenos are no different. Interspersed between rapid-fire chewing of the plump La Costena peppers, Bertoletti chugged nearly 100 ounces of chocolate milk (a stand-alone achievement), a necessary antidote to the jalapeno heat. Throughout the machinelike process, he looked unfazed, focused on the task at hand, an iPod blaring motivating tracks of encouragement.
"It's a mix of Mexican Cheerleader and Dillinger Four," Bertoletti revealed. "I listen to it during every contest ... I know how many songs I need to get through for the contest, and it helps me stay focused."
As the crowd thins and Bertoletti adjusts his belt buckle, he appears slightly winded, if not tired. Understandable for the grueling eight-minute workout he's just endured.
"My body's not gonna be happy with me tonight," he says matter-of-factly, rubbing his stomach lightly for effect. "Jalapenos aren't fun."
It's a perfect afternoon for resting on a couch anyway, I mention, gesturing to the steady rain shower outside.
"Not gonna happen," he says, gathering his gear and preparing to leave. "I've gotta head to work. I had to cut my shift short this morning to make this contest, I've got another four hours [of work] tonight."
Now that's a work ethic.
You'd expect nothing less from a world champion.

Monday, October 13, 2008 The Man Who Stuck His Head Inside a Particle Accelerator

So with all the recent news about the Large Hadron Collider, many of you may have this nagging question: what, exactly, would happen if you stick your head in the particle accelerator?

Well, actually, we know the answer to that because someone did stick his head into a particle accelerator. Here’s the story of Anatoli Bugorski:

Bugorski, a 36-year-old researcher at the Institute for High Energy Physics in Protvino, was checking a piece of accelerator equipment that had malfunctioned - as had, apparently, the several safety mechanisms. Leaning over the piece of equipment, Bugorski stuck his head in the space through which the beam passes on its way from one part of the accelerator tube to the next and saw a flash brighter than a thousand suns. He felt no pain.

From what we know about radiation, about 500 to 600 rads is enough to kill a person (though we don’t know of anyone else who has been exposed to radiation in the form of a proton beam moving at about the speed of sound). The left side of his face swollen beyond recognition, Bugorski was taken to a clinic in Moscow so that doctors could observe his death over the following two to three weeks.

Over the next few days, skin on the back of his head and on his face just next to his left nostril peeled away to reveal the path the beam had burned through the skin, the skull, and the brain tissue. The inside of his head continued to burn away: all the nerves on the left were gone in two years, paralyzing that side of his face. Still, not only did Bugorski not die, but he remained a normally functioning human being, capable even of continuing in science. For the first dozen years, the only real evidence that something had gone neurologically awry were occasional petit mal seizures; over the last few years Bugorski has also had six grand mals. The dividing line of his life goes down the middle of his face: the right side has aged, while the left froze 19 years ago. When he concentrates, he wrinkles only half his forehead.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Good help is hard to find

The restaurant Kayabukiya, located outside of Tokyo, employs monkeys (they receive tips).

Black Waterside - Bert Jansch

This man has been my discovery for the week. I'm learning how to play "Anji" at the moment. Neil Young famously called him the Jimi Hendrix of acoustic guitar, and I guess he's been an inspiration for a lot of musicians. Along w/ Davey Graham, they added an incredibly skilled dimension to the 60s british folk revival. (or so says wikipedia. hahaha). oh, i also learned that davey graham introduced DADGAD tuning.

and, led zeppelin ripped this tune off and called it Black Mountain Side.

Whoa. This is good inspiration for my future library

Wearing a huge can-you-believe-it grin is the collection's impresario, the 52-year-old Internet entrepreneur and founder of Walker Digital — a think tank churning out ideas and patents, it's best-known for its lucrative "I started an R&D lab and have been an entrepreneur. So I have a big affinity for the human imagination," he says. "About a dozen years ago, my collection got so big that I said, 'It's time to build a room, a library, that would be about human imagination.'"

Walker's house was constructed specifically to accommodate his massive library. To create the space, which was constructed in 2002, Walker and architect Mark Finlay first built a 7-foot-long model. Then they used miniature cameras to help visualize what it would be like to move around inside. In a conscious nod to M. C. Escher (whose graphics are echoed in the wood tiling), the labyrinthine platforms seem to float in space, an illusion amplified by the glass-paneled bridges connecting the platforms. Walker commissioned decorative etched glass, dynamic lighting, and even a custom soundtrack that sets the tone for the cerebral adventures hidden in this cabinet of curiosities. "I said to the architect, 'Think of it as a theater, from a lighting and engineering standpoint,'" Walker says. "But it's not a performance space. It's an engagement space."

Friday, October 10, 2008


"It is time for an addition to the Gawker glossary. We need an abusive term—a new one—for banker. The financial slang of the last twenty years has been begrudgingly admiring. Any respect has been lost of course in a few months of bank collapses and the last few sickening days on the stockmarket. Bankers now draw the opprobrium they did during the Depression. So it would be timely to revive a word from the 1930s used to describe a hybrid of banker and gangster: the bankster."

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Joe six-pack?

"Who exactly is Joe Six-Pack and who are these hockey moms? That's what I'd like to know. ... Is that supposed to be terminology that is of common ground to all Americans? I don't find that. It leaves a lot of people out." -- Rep. Yvette Clarke

I pulled this quote from a Glen Beck article on and must say that I am taking it totally out of the context Beck was using it in. His article highlights how Democrats are tending to cry racism whenever Obama's record is questioned – to me the quote has a totally different significance.

Listening to the Vice Presidential debates last Tuesday I couldn’t help but think along similar lines as Representative Clarke. I understand that the McCain-Palin campaign is firmly in the hands of the “Rovies” - the GOP political machine responsible for, at least in part, the successful campaigns of Ronald Reagan (Presidential 1984), George W. Bush (Congressional 1978, Gubernatorial 1990, Presidential 2000) and the unsuccessful campaigns for George H.W. Bush (Presidential 1980, 1992) – and they are a group of individuals that, if nothing else, have shown their capability to win elections but what are they trying to accomplish? I mean, I don’t personally know very many “Joe six-packs” and I don’t think I know any “hockey moms” at all, but it’s not a stretch to say that those people were already voting Republican before this mass appeal to the simpletons. I don’t get it. I’m neither a Democrat nor Republican (a different conversation all together) but it seems to me that in the middle of the defining revolutionary election of our time the focus should be on showing capacity for change instead of pigeon holing yourself by appealing to your already established voter base - even though that’s how you’ve won the previous two elections. Ok, so you need to make sure that their interests are attended to but you can do that just by sticking to the core principles and traditional ideologies which, being Republicans, they were going to do anyways. The times are changing. There is serious doubt among the American people that we as a nation are capable of weathering the many storms we currently face. With these changing times our politicians must embrace the idea of changing politics and so far McCain has yet to let his walk mirror his talk.

The only way the Republicans have a shot at this election is by A) Creating some level of reasonable doubt about the experience and decision making abilities of Obama and B) Convincing undecideds that McCain is committed to bringing real change into the White House. Resorting back to the standard Republican campaign practices of sticking to a handful of talking points, reinforcing the notion of stability and belittling your opponent seem like the opposite of change if you ask me. Now I DO think McCain would bring real change to Washington – don’t forget that for the past 20 years or so he has been the mold-breaking conservative, the lone wolf, the one whom Democrats always thought might be on the verge of changing stripes, one of the only tolerable Republicans besides Colin Powell and a few choice others– but how are you supposed to convince fence straddlers like myself that you are the steward of change if so far you’ve done nothing to distinguish yourself.

If he is going to make a real run at this and not get completely trounced I think McCain should abandon the strategy of constantly returning to buzzwords and catch phrases (maverick, pork barrel politics, cronyism, drill baby drill, etc.), focusing on a small number of chosen issues (erroneous government spending, lowering taxes, a more practical approach to Iraq and Afghanistan, elimination of dependence on foreign oil, government reform), highlighting a small number a personal experiences and achievements (being a POW, forecasting the financial crisis, history of appealing to both sides of the political spectrum, not being controlled by special interest groups), and continuously creating doubt about the character of his opponent (contradictory voting history, questionable personal acquaintances, unrealistic expectations for change, naivety, inability to comprehend certain foreign policy issues). Instead, at some point McCain is going to have to break out of the protective shell of cautiousness and humanize himself. Stand in front of the American public and say, in an unscripted way, this is who I am, this is what makes me different from my opponent and different from the republicans that have come before me and this is why I am the most capable candidate for the position. I've seen Obama do that, and I've seen McCain consistantly duck and deflect those types of questions. Despite McCain’s ability to establish a familiar personality during his primary campaign he has yet to display any of that same veal and vigor or straight talking, no nonsense approach since winning the nomination and if he can’t reestablish that soon it will be “good night Irene” for McCain and for Rovian campaign politics because the American people have been fooled by dumbed down language and appeals to emotion for a long time - but that time has come to an end.

Bob Dylan's new 'Bootleg' CDs: More Range Than a Prius

Someday Bob Dylan's going to die -- probably in a hotel room in a two-bit city, after playing his 300th concert of the year on his endless "I don't wanna go home" tour -- and then everybody will suddenly realize he was America's Picasso. (Or is it Shakespeare?)

For days afterward, we'll be subjected to the Great Man for Dummies lecture. Dylan, the protest singer. Dylan goes electric. Dylan the cryptic recluse. The born-again Christian. And then the astonishing mid-life -- well, for a musician, late-life -- revival.

Somewhere in there will be a mention of the Bootleg recordings, as if they're footnotes to the real records. You know: outtakes. Which got released only because this guy inspired reverence and his devotees couldn't get enough.


Tell Tale Signs: the Bootleg Series Vol. 8 is some of the best Dylan I have ever heard. And there's a lot of it: 27 songs, weighing in at around 135 minutes. As I write, is selling the two-CD set for $13.99, which makes this beyond a bargain.

The songs were recorded between 1989 and 2006. It's a fascinating period -- in these years, Dylan streamlined his music, rediscovered his love of the blues, and made CDs that are shockingly accessible. And he was prolific; music poured out of him, he couldn't keep away from it. Although his voice is a disaster now -- my wife and I worship at his shrine, but we don't feel we ever need to see him in concert again -- between 1989 and 2006 he still had it. The result: CDs that shine.

This may not be apparent to you the first few times you hear it. What you hear may make you think this is a white man imitating a Southern blues master, with an occasional break for stripped-down rock and a bit of folk. True, but nothing here is an imitation -- Dylan dearly loves American roots music, and he's taken it into his DNA.

Just look at his picture on the cover of the unusually helpful booklet that accompanies these CDs. White jacket, black collar. White shirt, black Kentucky Colonel tie. His face is a portrait of bright lights and late nights and beds that are not his own. His hair is an uncombed mass of ringlets. He has a circus master's mustache. All he needs is a cape and a cane.

If these visual cues fairly scream 19th century, you've got your first clue. Dylan's up on what's happening now -- some phrasing suggests he's gone to school on rap -- but he's really working a more ancient vein. That's another reason you'll have trouble really hearing the brilliance; the surface is so familiar you don't think to look for depth.

There's a junior Dylanologist in our family, and he's been listening harder and longer to some of these songs than I have. In an excited e-mail, he wrote me: "His lyrics are so rhythmic. He'll have a simple walking baseline and then do all the syncopation with verse. And he'll repeat the same line over and over again. But it's not repetitive, because he changes the meter of the phrase subtly each time."

Okay, so the junior Dylanologist knows far too much. But he got that knowledge because repeated listening to Dylan is so rewarding.

These two CDs? Very rewarding. The music has more range than a Prius. You can play it as pleasant background -- music to cook by. It's fun in the car. And at the deepest levels, I think, Dylan offers us an alternate vision of America, the whole man-woman thing and even Life itself.

I remember how, after Andy Warhol died, Julian Schnabel was asked to name some exciting new artists. "Andy," he said sadly. Thinking about exciting new musicians, I'd say: Bob Dylan, born in 1941.

Don't wait until he's gone to find out.

debate follow up - Chicago <3 planetarium

"My friends, during last night's presidential debate, McCain took That One to task for approving funding for an "overhead projector." Howard Covitz, who used to work at Chicago's Adler Planetarium, prepared this helpful graphic for McCain to show the difference between an overhead projector and a planetarium projector."

keeping up with campbell

Sheriff: I will stop enforcing evictions

Legal, real estate experts wonder how Dart's promise will play out
By Azam Ahmed and Ofelia Casillas | Chicago Tribune reporters
October 9, 2008
As the nationwide mortgage crisis puts the squeeze on homeowners, the Cook County sheriff's office is on pace to evict more people than ever from foreclosed homes.
At least it was until Wednesday, when Sheriff Tom Dart announced he wouldn't do it anymore.
Dart cited the growing number of evictions that involve rent-paying tenants who suddenly learn their building is in foreclosure because the landlord neglected to pay the mortgage. By refusing to do any foreclosure-related evictions, the hope is that banks will change their policies.
As it happens, the decision also will spare from eviction those legitimately in foreclosure.
It is the latest, and perhaps most curious, government response to the soaring number of foreclosures. Even as federal bailouts and rescues are under way, the local action provoked a mixture of respect and confusion from housing advocates and banks.
Indeed, some mortgage experts suggested Dart's vow could compound problems by making lenders reluctant to extend credit at a time when loans are already hard to get.
In Cook County, foreclosures are expected to reach a record high of 43,000 this year, compared with 18,916 in 2006.
The sheriff's office is on pace to conduct 4,500 foreclosure-related evictions, compared with less than half that number in 2006. About one-third of those are rent-paying individuals.
Katrina McMullin, 34, was paying her rent on time, but that didn't stop a deputy from coming to her Northwest Side door with a notice of eviction. She had received no notice from her landlord.
"How dare they take my rent and still evict me?" said McMullin, who is staying in the apartment after hiring a lawyer. "It wasn't fair."
Then there are the homeowners on the brink, including Rossana Trujillo. She has been in negotiations with the bank to come up with a means to pay down her $340,000 debt without losing her home, the first for her husband and three children.
She's not hopeful.
"Our home, we are going to lose it," she said. "Paying the mortgage, there was not enough money for gas or for food."
And although the sheriff's move may spare her in the near term, ultimately it will not keep her from facing foreclosure.
Dart acknowledged he is at risk of violating court orders to evict and could be found in contempt. But he says he also is responsible for making sure justice is being done. "We will no longer be a party to something that's so unjust," he said.
Cook County Circuit Chief Judge Timothy Evans could not be reached for comment. Dart planned to meet with judges Thursday.
The move relates to evictions based on mortgage foreclosures, not those involving violations of rental agreements.
Still, most officials in surrounding counties, also struggling with unprecedented levels of foreclosures, found the move beyond the scope of a sheriff.In Will County, Sheriff Paul Kaupas was apprehensive about halting evictions and suggested the courts should suspend eviction orders.
Pat Barry, spokesman for Kaupas, said, "If we disregard the law, what kind of message are we sending?"
Kane County Sheriff Patrick Perez said he understood Dart's motivation, having worked in the civil division dealing with evictions.


Online video hub Hulu is breaking into feature-length-for-free territory by streaming Crawford, a documentary about the Texas town President George W. Bush calls home.
Running one hour and 15 minutes, Crawford will be featured on Hulu's front page for seven days. Shot in high def, the movie follows a variety of citizens as they experience mixed feelings about the town's most famous resident.
Producer-director David Modigliani said in a statement: "When I learned Bush moved to Crawford in ’99 ... I'd bought the folksy narrative -- the origin myth -- completely. I wanted to see this town he'd made into a symbol. And I wanted to make a film indicting him for it. Thankfully, I found something far more compelling -- the 705 people of Crawford, Texas."
Crawford premiered at South by Southwest this year and played a number of film festivals before hooking up with Hulu to become the slick site's first movie premiere. The movie should make for an illuminating companion piece to Oliver Stone's Bush biopic, W, which is set for Oct. 17 release.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

After Bailout, AIG Executives Head to Resort

Less than a week after the federal government offered an $85 billion bailout to insurance giant AIG, the company held a week-long retreat for its executives at the luxury St. Regis Resort in Monarch Beach, Calif., running up a tab of $440,000, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said today at the the opening of a House committee hearing about the near-failure of the insurance giant.
Showing a photograph of the resort, Waxman said the executives spent $200,000 for rooms, $150,000 for meals and $23,000 for the spa.
"Less than a week after the taxpayers rescued AIG, company executives could be found wining and dining at one of the most exclusive resorts in the nation," Waxman said. "We will ask whether any of this makes sense. "
The committee will ask the company's executives about their multimillion-dollar pay packages -- some of which they continue to receive -- as well as who bears responsibility for the company's high-risk investment portfolio, which led to its near collapse just weeks ago.
"They were getting their manicures, their pedicures, massages, their facials while the American people were paying their bills," thundered Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), of the executive retreat at the Monarch Resort.
The House committee, which took on executive compensation at bankrupt Wall Street firm Lehman Brothers yesterday, has received "tens of thousands" of pages of documents from AIG, Waxman said.
Those documents show that as the company's risky investments began to implode, the company altered its generous executive pay plan to pay out regardless of such losses.
AIG lost over $5 billion in the last quarter of 2007 due its risky financial products division, Waxman said. Yet in March 2008, when the company's compensation committee met to award bonuses, Chief Executive Martin Sullivan urged the committee to ignore those losses, which should have slashed bonuses.

But the board agreed to ignore the losses from the financial products division and gave Sullivan a cash bonus of over $5 million. The board also approved a new compensation contract for Sullivan that gave him a golden parachute of $15 million, Waxman said.
Joseph Cassano, the executive in charge of the company's troubled financial products division, received more than $280 million over the last eight years, Waxman said. Even after he was terminated in February as his investments turned sour, the company allowed him to keep up to $34 million in unvested bonuses and put him on a $1 million-a-month retainer. He continues to receive $1 million a month, Waxman said.
Waxman also looked skeptically at the executives' defense that the troubles in the business had to do with larger economic forces and not their own bad decisions.
When a former AIG auditor, Joseph St. Denis, expressed concerns, Cassano told him "I have deliberately excluded you from the valuation ... because I was concerned that you would pollute the process," according to Waxman.
St. Denis resigned in protest.
PricewaterhouseCoopers, AIG's auditor, told the company in March 2008 that the "root cause" of AIG's problems was that people assessing risk did not have enough access to the financial products division, where the risky investments originated.
Waxman further suggested that Sullivan had deliberately misled investors.
On Dec. 5, 2007, Sullivan expressed confidence to investors. But a week before, PricewaterhouseCoopers warned Sullivan that the company "could have a material weakness relating to these area," committee members said.
-- Peter Whoriskey

Nepal declares young girl new living goddess

3-year-old will be worshipped as incarnation of the Hindu deity Taleju
KATMANDU, Nepal - Hindu and Buddhist priests chanted sacred hymns and cascaded flowers and grains of rice over a 3-year-old girl who was appointed a living goddess in Nepal on Tuesday.
Wrapped in red silk and adorned with red flowers in her hair, Matani Shakya received approval from the priests and President Ram Baran Yadav in a centuries-old tradition with deep ties to Nepal's monarchy, which was abolished in May.
The new "kumari" or living goddess, was carried from her parents' home to an ancient palatial temple in the heart of the Nepali capital, Katmandu, where she will live until she reaches puberty and loses her divine status.
She will be worshipped by Hindus and Buddhists as an incarnation of the powerful Hindu deity Taleju.
A panel of judges conducted a series of ancient ceremonies to select the goddess from several 2- to 4-year-old girls who are all members of the impoverished Shakya goldsmith caste.
The judges read the candidates' horoscopes and check each one for physical imperfections. The living goddess must have perfect hair, eyes, teeth and skin with no scars, and should not be afraid of the dark.
As a final test, the living goddess must spend a night alone in a room among the heads of ritually slaughtered goats and buffaloes without showing fear.
Father is sad, proud
Having passed all the tests, the child will stay in almost complete isolation at the temple, and will be allowed to return to her family only at the onset of menstruation when a new goddess will be named to replace her.
"I feel a bit sad, but since my child has become a living goddess I feel proud," said her father Pratap Man Shakya.
During her time as a goddess, she will always wear red, pin up her hair in topknots, and have a "third eye" painted on her forehead.
Devotees touch the girls' feet with their foreheads, the highest sign of respect among Hindus in Nepal. During religious festivals the goddesses are wheeled around on a chariot pulled by devotees.
Critics say the tradition violates both international and Nepalese laws on child rights. The girls often struggle to readjust to normal lives after they return home.
Nepalese folklore holds that men who marry a former kumari will die young, and so many girls remain unmarried and face a life of hardship.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Average 'Joe Sixpack' Sarah Palin is Worth $1.2 Million

AP (Wasilla, Alaska): Sarah Palin and her husband have pieced together a uniquely Alaskan income that reached comfortably into six figures even before she became governor, capitalizing on valuable fishing rights, a series of land deals and a patchwork of other ventures to build an above-average lifestyle.

Add up the couple's 2007 income and the estimated value of their property and investments and they appear to be worth at least $1.2 million. That would make the Palins, like Democratic vice presidential rival Joe Biden and his wife Jill, well-off but not nearly as wealthy as multimillionaire couples John and Cindy McCain and, to a lesser extent, Barack and Michelle Obama.

One measure of financial health: While there is a home loan, Palin reported no personal credit card debt on her most recent financial report as Alaska governor. That compares to average household credit card debt among Americans of $9,840 last year

Republican Security Expert Warns Of Rigged Election

Jim Morin

Fla. fairgoers catch toddler dropped from ride

MIAMI -- Fairgoers at a central Florida carnival caught a 2-year-old girl whose mother was forced to drop her after they were both stranded 30 feet off the ground on a ride.

Paramedics also rescued the woman. No injuries were reported.

The "Crazy Bus" kiddie ride, which rotates like a small Ferris wheel, began to move as passengers were trying to exit Saturday, forcing Sherri Pinkerton to dangle by one arm while holding her daughter, Gracie, in the other.

She then dropped the girl, who was caught by fairgoers.

"I let go of her and she grabbed my shirt," Pinkerton told WKMG-TV. "So, I had to pry her hands off my shirt and let her fall."

Pinkerton said she could not hang on while also holding her daughter.

"There was nothing I could do," she said. "I couldn't hold both of us. I held onto her for as long as I could."

Port Orange paramedic Scott Russell said Monday he found Pinkerton dangling over the ride at a carnival about six miles south of Daytona Beach.

Russell and another paramedic used a ladder to climb to her. When they reached the top, they also found six screaming children inside.

"We got all the kids to move to the back of the ride, and we helped the woman climb back in," Russell said.

A message seeking comment was left with Pinkerton. State inspectors are investigating whether the ride malfunctioned or whether operator error was to blame.

Zeitgeist: Addendum

Hi Friends,

There is a new zeitgeist movie available online entitled "Zeitgeist: Addendum." You can watch the full movie at the link above. It focuses a lot of attention on the monetary system, especially relevant to the current situation.

Zeitgeist (pronounced [ˈt͡saɪtgaɪst] (help·info)) is a German language expression literally translated: Zeit, time; Geist, spirit, meaning "the spirit of the age and its society". The word zeitgeist describes the intellectual, cultural, ethic and political climate of an era or also a trend

Sunday, October 05, 2008

RNC to File FEC Complaint on Obama Fundraising Practices

The Trail | "A lawyer for the Republican National Committee today said the party will ask the Federal Election Commission to look into the source of thousands of small-dollar contributions to the presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama.
The RNC is alleging that the Obama campaign was so hungry for donations it "looked the other way" as contributions piled up from suspicious, and possibly even illegal foreign donors.
"We believe that the American people should know first and foremost if foreign money is pouring into a presidential election," said RNC Chief Counsel Sean Cairncross.
Cairncross alleged there was mounting evidence of this, and cited a report in the current issue of Newsweek magazine that documents a handful of instances where donors made repeated small donations using fake names, such as "Good Will" and "Doodad Pro."
The Newsweek report says that earlier this year the Obama campaign returned $33,000 to two Palestinian brothers in the Gaza Strip who had bought T-shirts in bulk from the campaign's online store -- purchases that count as campaign contributions. The brothers had listed their address as "Ga.," which the campaign took to mean Georgia rather than Gaza.
"While no organization is completely protected from Internet fraud, we will continue to review our fundraising procedures," Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt told the magazine.
At the heart of the RNC complaint is a federal fundraising rule that lets campaigns accept donations under $200 without itemizing the names and addresses of the donors on its campaign finance reports. The rule was intended as a matter of practicality -- it did not seem reasonable to ask a campaign to gather that information from every five-dollar donor.
But the Obama campaign has raised more than $200 million this way, a staggering sum for donations that will not be subjected to outside scrutiny.
Obama campaign aides said today that a number of steps have been taken to safeguard against foreign or illegal contributions coming in in smaller increments. The measures include: requiring donors to present a passport at fundraising events held for Americans overseas, ending contributions to the Obama Store from contributors with addresses outside the U.S. or its territories, and requiring donors to enter a U.S. passport number when contributing via the Americans Abroad page."

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Debate analysis: linguisticly speaking

(CNN) -- An analysis carried out by a language monitoring service said Friday that Gov. Sarah Palin spoke at a more than ninth-grade level and Sen. Joseph Biden spoke at a nearly eighth-grade level in Thursday night's debate between the vice presidential candidates.
Sen. Joe Biden used 5,492 words during the debate; Gov. Sarah Palin used 5,235.
The analysis by the Austin, Texas-based Global Language Monitor said Palin, governor of Alaska and the GOP vice presidential nominee, used the passive voice in 8 percent of her sentences, far more than the 5 percent used by the Democratic senator from Delaware.
The analysis noted that the "passive voice can be used to deflect responsibility; Biden used active voice when referring to [Vice President Dick] Cheney and [President] Bush; Palin countered with passive deflections."
"It obscures the doer of the action," said Language Monitor President Paul Payack, an independent with no political affiliation.
The two candidates were nearly even in total number of words spoken. The normally voluble Biden restrained his tendency to ramble by uttering just 5,492 words during the 90-minute debate, versus 5,235 for Palin, Payack said.
In last week's debate between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain, Obama spoke 8,068 words during the 90-minute event, while McCain spoke 7,150, Payack said.
Thursday night's debate between the vice presidential candidates "was more collegial, thinking out loud as opposed to just hammering points," Payack said in trying to explain the difference. "It was a much calmer style."
His analysis ranked the candidates' speech on several other levels, too. Here's the breakdown:
Grade level: Biden, 7.8; Palin, 9.5 (Newspapers are typically written to a sixth-grade reading level.)
Sentences per paragraph: statistically tied at 2.7 for Biden and 2.6 for Palin.
Letters per word: tied at 4.4.
Ease of reading: Biden, 66.7 (with 100 being the easiest to read or hear), versus 62.4 for Palin.
The analysis said Abraham Lincoln spoke at an 11th-grade level during his seven debates in 1858 against incumbent Stephen A. Douglas in their race for a Senate seat from Illinois.
But higher grade level doesn't necessarily mean better sentence, Payack said. He pointed to Palin's second-to-last sentence in the debate, which the formula put at a grade level of 18.3:
"What I would do, also, if that were ever to happen, though, is to continue the good work he is so committed to of putting government back on the side of the people and get rid of the greed and corruption on Wall Street and in Washington," Palin said.
"When she said it, it sounded good, but on paper it's a completely different animal," Payack said. "It's like, what is that?"
But Biden had his own challenging moments, such as this 32-word gem, rated grade 15.6: "The middle class under John McCain's tax proposal, 100 million families, middle-class families, households to be precise, they got not a single change; they got not a single break in taxes."
Payack praised the usually longer-winded Biden for showing restraint here. "In a typical Joe Biden thing, this sentence would serve as a launching point to even more complex and convoluted statements. Last night, he was particularly reserved, and you only had to be a college graduate to decipher it, according to the readability statistics."

Wednesday, October 01, 2008



by Michael C. Ruppert

Tuesday, September 29, 2008, 7 P.M. PDT - For years I have told you exactly what was going to happen and it has. Today's economic meltdown, with the Dow dropping 777 points and $1.2 trillion in equity lost is no exception. In our second FTW Economic Alert back in 2002 I predicted a market crash that saw $1 trillion in shareholder equity lost in the following three months -- $1.2 trillion was destroyed just today. That and much more.
In FTW's fourth and last Economic Alert ( -- just 11 days before our offices were burglarized on June 25, 2006 -- I specifically warned that this day (metaphorically speaking) would come. What prompted that alert was an unprecedented move by President George W. Bush to give the National Director of Intelligence, John Negroponte, the authority to exempt "certain" Wall Street firms and banking giants from reporting their financial records to the Securities and Exchange Commission. It was this move which permitted everything that has happened over the last month. That move allowed smaller banks and investors to continue buying pigs (without lipstick) in a poke while average Americans were led to believe that everything was OK. If you don't believe me, go read the Economic Alert for yourself. It's all right there -- everything.

And if you had followed every piece of advice I gave in that warning -- two years ago -- today's events would have made you money. They would have strengthened your family. They would have made you immune to the panic that today touched American public consciousness.

Gold is likely to explode in price in short order. $2,000 an ounce is possible within six months.

Since 2003 I have told my readers that the destruction of the U.S. economy was planned, essential and a foregone conclusion. It has to do with Peak Oil. There is no economy without energy. The world is running out of oil faster than almost anyone had predicted. Even previously optimistic opponents of Peak Oil have acknowledged that global decline is now between 5.8% and 9% per year. That means that if the world produces 85 million barrels per day this year, it will possibly produce less than 80 Mbpd next year. Demand destruction is conserving a resource for which there is no replacement and this is what has always been intended. An $8 drop in price today has done nothing to reignite demand. The United States, with 5% of the world's population using a quarter of the world's oil, was/is the ONLY point of demand destruction available that will save human industrialized civilization. I have said that consistently for many years. I told you that the real Powers That Be had gotten or would get their money out and safe before they crashed everything. They did... It was your money. It was our money.

Those who read FTW for years know that time after time, and year after year my predictions have been proven correct. The United States economy is being deliberately destroyed. The fact that it was Republican House members who blocked the bailout today confirms that they are helping the Bush Administration complete its last mission before leaving office: the complete destruction of the American economy and the financial crippling of the American people. I believe the intent is, and has been, to leave a newcomer African-American president with an economy on life support which will expire early in his watch. Every Obama campaign ad that now promises to "turn the economy around" only tightens the noose around his neck. The subconscious "Jerome Corsi" message is, "Blame the backs" next year when you get it that the Great Depression was a picnic compared to what is coming.

This is now the fast crash scenario. It is further complicated by two things.

First; today's failure coincidentally occurred at the beginning of Rash Hashana. I am not suggesting that Jewish members of congress had any part of this. It would not be, however, the first time that great crimes have been committed and subsequently blamed on Jews. The subconscious "Jerome Corsi" message is "Blame the Jews". Congress will now not reconvene until Thursday, October 7. Seeing the meltdown and collapse of the U.S. financial system, and the failure of the U.S. government, a two-day congressional stand down will give other nations time to realign and adjust their finances before it is possible to see another House vote. In my opinion foreign economies will be energetically disengaging from the U.S. economy and the dollar in tranches as big as possible without totally destroying the value of their holdings. During that time, with the markets open, giants like Citigroup (not the only one) will be exposed. They have been counting on the bailout. Citigroup may survive but others will not. The ones who do survive will ultimately be corporations that have been in on this plan. Goldman Sachs will most certainly survive. Berkshire Hathaway will undoubtedly survive.

Just a few days ago China ordered its banks to stop lending to U.S. banks.

Second; Venezuela, North Korea, Russia, rebels in Nigeria, and pirates off Somalia are becoming increasingly more aggressive. They do this not with the intent of physically attacking the United States itself, but with breaking its credibility and economic back. The U.S. has been humiliated in Georgia and North Korea is firing up its nuclear plants again. I have predicted this for years also and it is totally understandable given the belligerent, hostile and bullying foreign policy of the United States over the last eight years. I predict that on the geopolitical scene we are going to see (or not) some very serious realignments beginning over the next two weeks. They will be irreversible. The world is fragmenting along purely geographical lines. Yes, I predicted that too.


But it doesn't matter. I have broken an unspoken deal with the government to remain retired and not speak out. The legal harassments against me continue and I have just now crossed my own Rubicon. I am now preparing for physical attacks in the hopes that they do not occur. You who know how right I have been can help protect me by speaking my name in public, by writing to media outlets, to Congress and telling them about "Crossing the Rubicon" and our incredible record at FTW. Given that we predicted all of this, is it not reasonable to expect that someone might look to us and our work for solutions? Isn't it reasonable to point others to the map we made? Isn't that the right thing to do?

Given that everything I have predicted is coming true; given that we are witnessing the planned destruction of the U.S. economy; given that it was Republican members of congress who delayed the bailout bill... is it still so impossible to believe that Dick Cheney orchestrated and executed 9-11? They have almost handed off the carcass and evidence to a doomed Obama presidency. Oh yes, he'll win in a landslide... while the Bushes and their "base" will be laughing all the way to the bank.

Please help protect me. Speak my name. Please help others. Point them to "Rubicon" and the FTW archives and teach them the map so they can find their own paths through this.

It is a good day to die.

Michael C. Ruppert

"Fascism ought more properly be called corporatism because it is the perfect merger of power between the corporation and the state." -- Benito Mussolini