Friday, February 27, 2009

Black citizens have reported a disturbing 350% increase in interracial high-fiving since January 20

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Holder Vows To End Raids On Medical Marijuana Clubs

 
 
Ryan Grim
 

Attorney General Eric Holder said at a press conference Wednesday that the Justice Department will no longer raid medical marijuana clubs that are established legally under state law. His declaration is a fulfillment of a campaign promise by President Barack Obama, and marks a major shift from the previous administration.

After the inauguration, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) continued to carry out such raids, despite Obama's promise. Holder was asked if those raids represented American policy going forward.

"No," he said. "What the president said during the campaign, you'll be surprised to know, will be consistent with what we'll be doing in law enforcement. He was my boss during the campaign. He is formally and technically and by law my boss now. What he said during the campaign is now American policy."

The exchange takes place at about the 25:00 mark here.

Holder's declaration is a high point for the movement to legalize medical marijuana, which has been growing for decades despite federal hostility.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/02/26/holder-vows-to-end-raids_n_170119.html

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Stimulus

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Time to rethink US sanctions on Cuba: top Republican senator

 
Time to rethink US sanctions on Cuba: top Republican senatorWASHINGTON (AFP) – The time is right for reevaluating US sanctions on Cuba, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says in a new report, calling for allowing Cuba to buy US goods on credit, US media reported Sunday.

Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana's opinions are attached to a report due to be released Monday that could add fuel to momentum toward change in almost five decades of US policy seeking to isolate Cuba, the Americas' only communist country.

The United States and Cuba do not have full diplomatic relations. And Washington has had a full economic embargo on Havana since 1962.

Former US president George W. Bush in recent years however allowed Cuba to purchase US food, as long as it was purchased in cash. US food sales to Cuba have surged, but US farm producers would sell much more if Cuba could get credit for its purchases.

The report due out Monday stops short of recommending an end to the US embargo, The Washington Post reported.

Lugar supports "lifting Bush administration restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba, reinstituting formal bilateral cooperation on drug interdiction and migration, and allowing Cuba to buy US agricultural products on credit," the Post said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has promised a "review" of Cuba policy without providing details.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20090222/pl_afp/uscubapoliticssanctionsdiplomacy;_ylt=ArhURdqV3.jZZQCWIXlYPY.yFz4D

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Yes We Scan

Prepared Statement of Carl Malamud

When FDR was elected president, Augustus E. Giegengack, a working printer and regular leather apron man was inspired to public service, aspiring to be be appointed Public Printer of the United States, head of the Government Printing Office.

Giegengack didn't know FDR, he didn't run in those circles. In WWI, he was the printer for Stars and Stripes, later on he ran operations for other print shops. So, to make his case, he went on the Rotary Club circuit in up-state New York and gave talks about his vision for the GPO. At the end of each talk, Augustus asked people to send him their letters of endorsement. Pretty soon he had a pile of 200 letters.

Gus Giegengack took those letters, bound them up real pretty, and sent them to the White House. He got the job, and went on to become the greatest public printer since Ben Franklin, printer to the pre-united states.

Gus had the gumption to go for the gold, and I am inspired by his example to tell you my vision for the GPO, an agency which opened its doors the day Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated, an agency which has worked to "Keep America Informed" for 148 years.

If I were given the honor to be nominated by the President and the further honor to be confirmed by the Senate, my platform for revitalizing the GPO and rebooting .gov is spelled out in in a detailed series of policy papers submitted to the Presidential Transition Team.

Please allow me to highlight a few of the items that I think we all need to pay attention to, and I invite you to contact me so we can continue to talk about these issues. Publication is a two-way street, and I hope this is the beginning of a long-term dialogue about the public domain and how the United States of America presents itself to the world:

Carl
Carl Malamud
Yes We Scan

To endorse Carl Malamud for the office of Public Printer of the United States, comment on any blog post or, send your endorsement or any questions directly to Carl by email:
     carl@media.org
or by twitter:
     @carlmalamud

Thank you for your support.

1. America's Operating System. The Government Printing Office serves all 3 branches of government and prints the Official Journals of Government. GPO should lead the effort to make all primary legal materials produced by the U.S. readily available. [ more ]

2. Librarians. Librarians are the bedrock of the public domain and the defenders of our fundamental right to access knowledge. GPO should work even more closely with our libraries and reform the Federal Depository Library Program to support them better. [ more ]

3. Jobs. As commodity printing goes the way of the PDF file and the copy machine, GPO must retrain and refocus its workforce, working with the unions and the employees so we may face the challenges of the future. If nominated and confirmed, I would work to establish a United States Publishing Academy, reviving the grand tradition of GPO being in the lead for workforce development, vocational training for students, and educating the rest of the U.S. government on how to print and publish effectively. [ more ]

4. Security. GPO produces passports and other secure documents. The current design for passports uses an RFID chip, which means that an American can be picked out of a crowd merely by having a passport in their pocket. If nominated and confirmed, I would ask security expert Bruce Schneier to form a Blue-Ribbon Commission to reexamine the design of passports and other secure documents so we can better protect the privacy and security of all Americans.

5. Jobs. The GPO workforce includes some of the best master printers, bookbinders, and other professionals of the publishing profession. With our cultural institutions, writers and other artists, and using the historical archives of the United States, the GPO should create more materials for the public domain, both as fully produced books as well as freely available master files for others to use and remix. [ more ]

6. Rebooting .Gov. There is no reason why the U.S. Government should not be one of the top 10 destinations on the Internet! GPO should work with the rest of the U.S. Government to radically change how we present information on the Internet. Some of the initiatives would include installing a cloud for .gov to use, enshrining principles of bulk data distribution into legislation, and a massive upgrade in the government's video capabilities. [ more ]

7. Full Transparency. GPO serves all 3 branches of government. As the nation's service bureau, GPO must be fully transparent in its own financial affairs and should be a forceful and effective advocate for the public domain. Most importantly, the GPO must be fully transparent to its clients—the Congress, the Executive Branch, and the Judiciary. If nominated and confirmed, I would pledge to serve on the front lines of customer service, working to understand the needs of our clients and the public.

http://yeswescan.org/

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Mardi Gras Obama

A carnival float caricaturing U.S. President Barack Obama lifting the Statue of Liberty is seen during the traditional carnival parade in Mainz, Germany, on Monday.
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Authors´ Guild vs. reality: Kindles and read-aloud

He doesn't actually say what that thing is. Presumably, he'd like Amazon to simply remove the feature. But if you take Blount at his word, then we can only assume the feature will spread to other platforms -- does he think that iPhones shouldn't be able to read your email to you as you jog? And if it can read your email, what's to stop it from reading your ebooks? Blount implies that there's a simple solution to his technological problem, but if you truly believe that it should be illegal to ask software to produce audio of copyrighted works, then Blount's lining himself up to fight the entire future of technology that can convert text to speech.

Continuing to take Blount at his word, let's assume that he's right on the copyright question, namely, that:

1. Converting text to speech infringes copyright

2. Providing the software that is capable of committing copyright infringement makes you liable for copyright infringement, too

1. is going to be sticky -- the Author's Guild is setting itself up to fight the World Blind Union, phone makers, free software authors, ebook makers, and a whole host of people engaged in teaching computers to talk.

But 2. is really hairy. If Blount believes that making a device capable of infringing copyright is the same as infringing copyright (something refuted by the Supreme Court in Betamax in 1984, the decision that legalized VCRs), then email, web-browsers, computers, photocopiers, cameras, and typewriters are all illegal, too.

Time and again, the Author's Guild has shown itself to be the epitome of a venal special interest group, the kind of grasping, foolish posturers that make the public cynically assume that the profession it represents is a racket, not a trade. This is, after all, the same gang of weirdos who opposed the used book trade going online.

I think there's plenty not to like about the Kindle -- the DRM, the proprietary file format, both imposed on authors and publishers even if they don't want it -- and about Amazon's real audiobook section, Audible (the DRM -- again, imposed on authors and publishers even if they'd prefer not to use it). But if there's one thing Amazon has demonstrated, it's that it plans on selling several bazillion metric tons of audiobooks. They control something like 90 percent of the market. To accuse them of setting out to destroy it just doesn't pass the giggle-test.

One of the most powerful weapons in the publishing industry's arsenal is that it isn't the record or film industry. By and large, publishing is undertaken by bookish people who love books and bookselling and readers and writers. By and large, writers get a decent deal from their publishers -- especially relative to recording artists; most writers don't have to sign over their copyrights, don't have the promotion of their books deducted from their royalties, etc. By and large, publishers don't sue tool-makers or accuse readers of being crooks.

Unlike the record and film industries, who seem bent on doing everything in their power to build the moral case for ripping them off -- to convince the public that they are a passel of greedy, clueless technophobes who deserve to have their industries killed, if only to protect the 21st century from them -- there are very few people who feel this way about publishing and authorship.

Unless, that is, groups like the Authors' Guild continue to make us all out to be cut from the same cloth as media execs like Universal Music's Larry Kenswil, who once bellowed "FAIR USE IS THE LAST REFUGE OF THE SCOUNDREL" at me from a stage at the RSA in London.

Dear Mr Blount: you don't represent me. You don't represent the future of authorship. You and your group are jeopardizing the future of authorship and of society with your petty little grabs and ridiculous posturing. Cut it out before someone gets hurt.

http://www.boingboing.net/2009/02/25/authors-guild-vs-rea.html

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Poll: Majority Doesn’t Want Obama To Be Bipartisan

Greg Sargent's blog

You routinely hear it asserted that the public wants bipartisan comity in Washington, but some striking numbers buried in the internals of the new New York Times poll find that in the current context, precisely the opposite is true:

Which do you think should be a higher priority for Barack Obama right now — working in a bipartisan way with Republicans in Congress or sticking to the policies he promised he would during the campaign:

Working bipartisan way: 39%

Sticking to policies: 56%

So a sizable majority wants Obama to pursue his policies with our without Republican support. Meanwhile, a huge majority says that Republicans should emphasize working with Obama in a bipartisan way over pursuing their policy ideas:

Which do you think should be a higher priority for Republicans in Congress right now — working in a bipartisan way with Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress or sticking to Republican policies?

Working bipartisan way: 79%

Sticking to policies: 17%

I'm not sure I've ever seen poll numbers suggest this clearly that the public has no interest in bipartisanship for its own sake. The public doesn't seem to care about the preoccupations of process-obsessed Beltway pundits, and seems to be looking at the "bipartisanship" question through the prism of what they want their leaders to accomplish in policy terms.

http://theplumline.whorunsgov.com/president-obama/poll-majority-doesnt-want-obama-to-be-bipartisan/

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Anti "clean coal" short by the Coen brothers

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U.S. Energy Department Cannot Account for Nuclear Materials at 15 Locations

By Katherine McIntire Peters

WASHINGTON -- A number of U.S. institutions with licenses to hold nuclear material reported to the Energy Department in 2004 that the amount of material they held was less than agency records indicated. But rather than investigating the discrepancies, Energy officials wrote off significant quantities of nuclear material from the department's inventory records.

That's just one of the findings of a report released yesterday by Energy Department Inspector General Gregory Friedman that concluded "the department cannot properly account for and effectively manage its nuclear materials maintained by domestic licensees and may be unable to detect lost or stolen material."

Auditors found that Energy could not accurately account for the quantities and locations of nuclear material at 15 out of 40, or 37 percent, of facilities reviewed. The materials written off included 20,580 grams of enriched uranium, 45 grams of plutonium, 5,001 kilograms of normal uranium and 189,139 kilograms of depleted uranium.

"Considering the potential health risks associated with these materials and the potential for misuse should they fall into the wrong hands, the quantities written off were significant," the report says. "Even in small quantities normally held by individual domestic licensees, special nuclear materials such as enriched uranium and plutonium, if not properly handled, potentially pose serious health hazards."

Auditors also found that waste processing facilities could not locate or explain the whereabouts of significant quantities of uranium and other nuclear material that Energy Department records showed they held. In another case, Energy officials had no record of the fact that one academic institution had loaned a 32-gram plutonium-beryllium source to another institution.

http://gsn.nti.org/gsn/nw_20090224_7895.php

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Clinton's U.S. bond push could fill China's jails

by AMITY SHLAES

The Obama administration is too young to be cynical. Yet one of its leading figures has just struck a deal so cynical as to qualify as Nixonian.

That's the deal Hillary Clinton struck with the Chinese leadership.

The new secretary of state materialized in Beijing to ask the Chinese to shore up the tottering American economy by buying more U.S. bonds. On her way there, she made clear what we trade for China's economic support: The U.S. will henceforward downgrade human-rights priorities.

The ongoing push for such rights in China, she told reporters, "can't interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate crisis and the security crisis." (Read: can't interfere with bond auctions.)

The U.S. has long been uneven in its attitude toward China's abuse of its own citizens. Still, Clinton's move constitutes a devastating shift. It is a special betrayal for the hundreds of lawyers, journalists and rights advocates whom U.S. presidents, Democratic and Republican, encouraged to take the lead in reforming their country.

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601039&refer=columnist_shlaes&sid=a4wok76PhtdA

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A million dollars a day

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Denver's Rocky Mountain News publishing last edition

The Rocky Mountain News, Colorado's oldest newspaper and a Denver fixture since 1859, will publish its last edition today, and industry analysts said it won't be the last to be pulled under by financial woes.

The Rocky Mountain News, Colorado's oldest newspaper and a Denver fixture since 1859, will publish its last edition today, and industry analysts said it won't be the last to be pulled under by financial woes.

E.W. Scripps officials said Thursday that closing the Rocky, which has won four Pulitzer Prizes in the past decade, leaves Denver, like most U.S. cities, a one-newspaper town. The officials said the newspaper lost $16 million last year and the company was unable to find a buyer.

These are dark days for the newspaper business. Hearst threatened this week to close the San Francisco Chronicle unless major budget cuts are imposed or a buyer is found, and is prepared to close the Seattle Post-Intelligencer if it cannot be sold before April. Gannett is looking for a buyer for the Tucson Citizen in Arizona.

Four owners of 33 U.S. daily newspapers have sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the past 2 ½ months. This past weekend, there were separate bankruptcy filings by New Haven (Conn.) Register publisher Journal Register Co. and by the owners of The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2008791505_rocky27.html

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Yet another modest proposal to save papers

by MIKE HENDERSON

...the proposal:

The federal government would create an agency pertaining to online news organizations unaffiliated with other media entities (print, television, radio, etc.). It could be that such a gesture would be made easier given an administration led by a president far more cyber-savvy than any of his predecessors (combined). The agency, a minimal bureaucracy in size and budget, could be called the Federal Journalism Administration. It would have just three functions: to collect revenue, to audit online-only news organizations and to distribute revenue, to wit:

Collection. The administration would receive money from two sources. Both are directly related to online news organizations; each makes billions not just by being conduits for entertainment but for conveying news and other information. The administration would receive all money from a 5 percent surcharge on the sales in the United States of all new computer hardware; it also would receive the 5 percent surcharge added to the fees we pay to Internet providers. (The latter could be allowed to set the surcharge at, say, 6 percent, keeping the extra 1 percent for their trouble.) A computer retailing for $800 would then cost $840; Internet service of $50 a month would cost $52.50 or $53.

Auditing and distribution. FJA auditors would determine the amount of money distributed to online-news organizations (definition pending) according to a formula including volume of traffic to a news website and percentage of original, staff-produced content. An online-only P-I might carry 100 percent original content and might, because of this, generate a high volume of traffic to the site. If so, it would qualify for more of the distributed money than, say, Crosscut.com (which -- full disclosure -- I have written for since the site first posted in April of 2007). This is because Crosscut, as it now exists, has a lot of linked content to go with its original journalism. Those at recently launched news organizations such as Crosscut would have the incentive to enhance quality by striving to provide a growing percentage of original content.

It's worth noting that such a plan would tend to reward news organizations monetarily precisely as they have been remunerated for the better part of two centuries. The unalterable formula for fiscal success has been that advertising (generating perhaps 80 percent of newspapers' revenue) grows with circulation and circulation is a function of quality (or the perception of quality: some like The New York Times; others prefer the Post). Staffers at this online-only P-I, then, like those at Crosscut, would have the incentive to produce quality because it would bring more traffic to the website and thus generate more from the FJA pot of distribution funds.

Such a cyber P-I also would be welcome to create and maintain its own stream of advertising revenue. Gone, of course, would be a lot of the expense of production and distribution (ink, paper, delivery trucks, etc., now provided to the P-I by the Times under service/revenue/cost-sharing terms of a joint operating agreement).

Would such a plan produce enough money to save 150 journalists' jobs at the P-I? It might. The U.S. Department of Commerce indicates that $150 billion was spent on computer hardware in 2007. At about the same time PEW/Internet reported that 150 million individuals in the U.S. subscribed to online services. If 90 million American homes have Internet service, then Americans may be paying $5 billion a year for the utility. Conservatively, then, such a plan might generate -- fairly painlessly and cleanly -- as much as $7.5 billion a year to help support online-only journalism. Paying 150 quality journalists each $60,000 a year (benefits included) each is $9 million, less than a third of what Alex Rodriquez is slated to make this baseball season.

How many other online-only news enterprises could be supported with the rest of the $7.5 billion? Well, divide it by $70,000. The sum would support about 107,000, interesting given that the American Society of Newspaper Editors reported less than a year ago that there were at the time only 52,000 working journalists in the U.S. A lot of them make a lot less than $60,000 a year; many facing unemployment would gladly accept less.

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/401558_hendersononline27.html

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The last newspaper to fold

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Support the Troops

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Johann Hari: Despite these riots, I stand by what I wrote

The answer to the problems of free speech is always more free speech

by Johann Hari
 
Last week, I wrote an article defending free speech for everyone – and in response there have been riots, death threats, and the arrest of an editor who published the article.

I argued this was a symbol of how religious fundamentalists – of all stripes – have been progressively stripping away the right to freely discuss their faiths. They claim religious ideas are unique and cannot be discussed freely; instead, they must be "respected" – by which they mean unchallenged. So now, whenever anyone on the UN Human Rights Council tries to discuss the stoning of "adulterous" women, the hanging of gay people, or the marrying off of ten year old girls to grandfathers, they are silenced by the chair on the grounds these are "religious" issues, and it is "offensive" to talk about them.

This trend is not confined to the UN. It has spread deep into democratic countries. Whenever I have reported on immoral acts by religious fanatics – Catholic, Jewish, Hindu or Muslim – I am accused of "prejudice", and I am not alone. But my only "prejudice" is in favour of individuals being able to choose to live their lives, their way, without intimidation. That means choosing religion, or rejecting it, as they wish, after hearing an honest, open argument.

A religious idea is just an idea somebody had a long time ago, and claimed to have received from God. It does not have a different status to other ideas; it is not surrounded by an electric fence none of us can pass.

That's why I wrote: "All people deserve respect, but not all ideas do. I don't respect the idea that a man was born of a virgin, walked on water and rose from the dead. I don't respect the idea that we should follow a "Prophet" who at the age of 53 had sex with a nine-year old girl, and ordered the murder of whole villages of Jews because they wouldn't follow him. I don't respect the idea that the West Bank was handed to Jews by God and the Palestinians should be bombed or bullied into surrendering it. I don't respect the idea that we may have lived before as goats, and could live again as woodlice. When you demand "respect", you are demanding we lie to you. I have too much real respect for you as a human being to engage in that charade."

An Indian newspaper called The Statesman – one of the oldest and most venerable dailies in the country – thought this accorded with the rich Indian tradition of secularism, and reprinted the article. That night, four thousand Islamic fundamentalists began to riot outside their offices, calling for me, the editor, and the publisher to be arrested – or worse. They brought Central Calcutta to a standstill. A typical supporter of the riots, Abdus Subhan, said he was "prepared to lay down his life, if necessary, to protect the honour of the Prophet" and I should be sent "to hell if he chooses not to respect any religion or religious symbol? He has no liberty to vilify or blaspheme any religion or its icons on grounds of freedom of speech."

Then, two days ago, the editor and publisher were indeed arrested. They have been charged – in the world's largest democracy, with a constitution supposedly guaranteeing a right to free speech – with "deliberately acting with malicious intent to outrage religious feelings". I am told I too will be arrested if I go to Calcutta.

What should an honest defender of free speech say in this position? Every word I wrote was true. I believe the right to openly discuss religion, and follow the facts wherever they lead us, is one of the most precious on earth – especially in a democracy of a billion people riven with streaks of fanaticism from a minority of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. So I cannot and will not apologize.

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-despite-these-riots-i-stand-by-what-i-wrote-1608059.html

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Do we still pretend that we abide by treaties?

by Glenn Greenwald

On Friday in Salon, Joe Conason argued that there should be no criminal investigations of any kind for Bush officials "who authorized torture or other outrages in the 'war on terror'."  Instead, Conason suggests that there be a presidential commission created that is "purely investigative," and Obama should "promis[e] a complete pardon to anyone who testifies fully, honestly and publicly."  So, under this proposal, not only would we adopt an absolute bar against prosecuting war criminals and other Bush administration felons, we would go in the other direction and pardon them from any criminal liability of any kind.

I've already written volumes about why immunizing political officials from the consequences for their lawbreaking is both destructive and unjust -- principally:  the obvious incentives which such immunity creates (and, for decades, has been creating) for high-level executive branch officials to break the law and, even worse, the grotesque two-tiered system of justice we've implemented in this country (i.e., the creation of an incomparably harsh prison state for ordinary Americans who commit even low-level offenses as contrasted with what Conason calls, approvingly, "the institutional reluctance in Washington to punish political offenders").  Rather than repeat those arguments, I want to focus on an issue that pro-immunity advocates such as Conason simply never address.

The U.S. really has bound itself to a treaty called the Convention Against Torture, signed by Ronald Reagan in 1988 and ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1994.  When there are credible allegations that government officials have participated or been complicit in torture, that Convention really does compel all signatories -- in language as clear as can be devised -- to "submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution" (Art. 7(1)).  And the treaty explicitly bars the standard excuses that America's political class is currently offering for refusing to investigate and prosecute:  "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture" and "an order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture" (Art. 2 (2-3)).  By definition, then, the far less compelling excuses cited by Conason (a criminal probe would undermine bipartisanship and distract us from more important matters) are plainly barred as grounds for evading the Convention's obligations.

http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/02/16/treaties/index.html

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Tibetan New Year Protests Around the World Today: Boycotting Losar.

Today, February 25, 2009, is the date on which Tibetan New Year -- Losar -- begins. Many Tibetan exiles around the world are observing Losar in a different manner this year. Some are forgoing traditional observances to instead protest human rights abuses by the Chinese government inside Tibet. There are reports that Chinese authorites are effectively making Losar celebrations inside Tibet compulsory, and reactions have led to violent clashes.

Some links to coverage: a post about civil disobedience today from the exiled Tibetan poet Woeser. In the LA Times, China expects Tibet to celebrate, or else -- snip:

On Feb. 14, a 39-year-old Tibetan monk set off a furor when he walked through a public market in the Tibetan plateau's Lithang county carrying a photograph of the Dalai Lama and chanting, "No Losar." Hundreds of people reportedly joined the protests, which continued into the next two days, according to the Dharamsala-based Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy. The group said that Chinese police detained 21 people, some of whom were badly beaten, and that the county has been locked down for the holiday.

Reports say that as many as 20,000 additional soldiers and paramilitary troops have been deployed in Tibetan areas and that in Qinghai province, village leaders were threatened with arrest if they urged people not to celebrate the holiday.

http://www.boingboing.net/2009/02/25/tibetan-new-year-pro.html

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Orwell in Babylon: Obama's War-Continuing "Withdrawal" Plan

Written by Chris Floyd   

It would be superfluous in us to point out that a plan to "end" a war which includes the continued garrisoning of up to 50,000 troops in a hostile land is, in reality, a continuation of that war, not its cessation. To produce such a plan and claim that it "ends" a war is the precise equivalent of, say, relieving one's bladder on the back of one's neighbor and telling him that the liquid is actually life-giving rain.

But this is exactly what we are going to get from the Obama Administation in Iraq. Word has now come from on high – that is, from "senior administration officials" using "respectable newspapers" as wholly uncritical conduits for government spin – that President Obama has reached a grand compromise with his generals (or rather, the generals and Pentagon poobahs he has inherited -- and eagerly retained -- from George W. Bush) on a plan to withdraw some American troops from the country that the United States destroyed in an unprovoked war of aggression. Obama had wanted a 16-month timetable for the partial withdrawal; his potential campaign rival in 2012, General David Petraeus, wanted 23 months; so, with Solomonic wisdom, they have now split the difference, and will withdraw a portion of the American troops in 19 months instead.

But the plan clearly envisions a substantial and essentially permanent American military presence in Iraq, dominating the politics and policy of this key oil nation – which was of course one of the chief war aims of the military aggressors in the Bush Administration all along. By implementing his war continuation plan, Obama will complete the work of Bush and his militarist clique. From the New York Times:

Even with the withdrawal order, Mr. Obama plans to leave behind a "residual force" of tens of thousands of troops to continue training Iraqi security forces, hunt down foreign terrorist cells and guard American institutions...


And a "senior military officer" dispatched to pipe the spin to the Los Angeles Times added another potential role for the remaining American troops: fighting Iraq's war for it. He was also refreshingly frank on the plan's ultimate intentions:

The senior officer said the troops also could help protect Iraq from outside attack, something the Iraqis cannot yet do.

"When President Obama said we were going to get out within 16 months, some people heard, 'get out,' and everyone's gone. But that is not going to happen," the officer said.


No indeed, that is "not going to happen." One of the most remarkable aspects of Obama's "war lite" plan is its brazen and absolute disregard for the agreement signed between the United States and the supposedly sovereign Iraqi government guaranteeing the complete withdrawal of all American troops by the end of 2011. Of course, this "agreement" was always considered a farce by everyone – except for the American corporate media, which kept reporting on the "tough negotiations," as if the pact would have any actual meaning in the real world. The agreement was vitiated by escape clauses allowing the Iraqi government to "request" a continued American military presence after the 2011 deadline; and considering that any Iraqi government in place in 2011 will be helplessly dependent on American guns and money to maintain its power, such a "request" has always been a dead certainty. So I suppose we must at least admire the Obama Administration's candor in dropping all pretense that U.S. forces are going to leave Iraq at any time in the foreseeable future.

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It was the worst of times

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Politics of the Plate: The Price of Tomatoes

If you have eaten a tomato this winter, chances are very good that it was picked by a person who lives in virtual slavery.

 
tomato

Working at breakneck speed, you might be able to pick a ton of tomatoes on a good day, netting about $50 at 45 cents per 32-pound basket. But a lot can go wrong.

Driving from Naples, Florida, the nation's second-wealthiest metropolitan area, to Immokalee takes less than an hour on a straight road. You pass houses that sell for an average of $1.4 million, shopping malls anchored by Tiffany's and Saks Fifth Avenue, manicured golf courses. Eventually, gated communities with names like Monaco Beach Club and Imperial Golf Estates give way to modest ranches, and the highway shrivels from six lanes to two. Through the scruffy palmettos, you glimpse flat, sandy tomato fields shimmering in the broiling sun. Rounding a long curve, you enter Immokalee. The heart of town is a nine-block grid of dusty, potholed streets lined by boarded-up bars and bodegas, peeling shacks, and sagging, mildew-streaked house trailers. Mongrel dogs snooze in the shade, scrawny chickens peck in yards. Just off the main drag, vultures squabble over roadkill. Immokalee's population is 70 percent Latino. Per capita income is only $8,500 a year. One third of the families in this city of nearly 25,000 live below the poverty line. Over one third of the children drop out before graduating from high school.

Immokalee is the tomato capital of the United States. Between December and May, as much as 90 percent of the fresh domestic tomatoes we eat come from south Florida, and Immokalee is home to one of the area's largest communities of farmworkers. According to Douglas Molloy, the chief assistant U.S. attorney based in Fort Myers, Immokalee has another claim to fame: It is "ground zero for modern slavery."

The beige stucco house at 209 South Seventh Street is remarkable only because it is in better repair than most Immokalee dwellings. For two and a half years, beginning in April 2005, Mariano Lucas Domingo, along with several other men, was held as a slave at that address. At first, the deal must have seemed reasonable. Lucas, a Guatemalan in his thirties, had slipped across the border to make money to send home for the care of an ailing parent. He expected to earn about $200 a week in the fields. Cesar Navarrete, then a 23-year-old illegal immigrant from Mexico, agreed to provide room and board at his family's home on South Seventh Street and extend credit to cover the periods when there were no tomatoes to pick.

Lucas's "room" turned out to be the back of a box truck in the junk-strewn yard, shared with two or three other workers. It lacked running water and a toilet, so occupants urinated and defecated in a corner. For that, Navarrete docked Lucas's pay by $20 a week. According to court papers, he also charged Lucas for two meager meals a day: eggs, beans, rice, tortillas, and, occasionally, some sort of meat. Cold showers from a garden hose in the backyard were $5 each. Everything had a price. Lucas was soon $300 in debt. After a month of ten-hour workdays, he figured he should have paid that debt off.

http://www.gourmet.com/magazine/2000s/2009/03/politics-of-the-plate-the-price-of-tomatoes?printable=true

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Tooth fairy: gene that could give you a set of these without seeing a dentist's chair

• Researchers claim enamel 'tissue' may be regrowable
• Discovery raises hope for end to cavities and fillings

Tough tooth enamel
Tough tooth enamel evolved to give carnivores longlasting teeth for survival
but more than 55% of adults in the UK have cavities.
 
The days of whining drills and shrieking patients that can make a trip to the dentist an experience to dread may be numbered, according to scientists who claim that they may have found a way to regrow rotting teeth.

Researchers studying tooth development have singled out a gene that controls the growth of enamel, the hard outer layer of teeth, which cannot grow back naturally once it is damaged by tooth decay. The discovery sheds fresh light on the way teeth form and could pave the way for new dental treatments that heal decayed teeth by regenerating a layer of enamel, making traditional drilling and filling obsolete.

Scientists at Oregon State University found the gene after noticing that mice born without it grew teeth with no enamel covering.

Tooth enamel is the hardest tissue in the body and begins to form when humans are still embryos. Specialised cells called ameloblasts in the tooth bud make enamel by releasing calcium phosphate minerals into a protein "scaffold" that shapes them into tightly packed rods of enamel.

When our teeth are fully formed, they erupt from the gums and the enamel-forming cells die off, making it impossible for our teeth to regrow new enamel later. For most animals this is not a problem, but in humans, the large amount of sugar and starch in our diet is turned into acid by bacteria living on our teeth, which slowly dissolve the enamel to make a hole in the tooth. If untreated, cavities can cause life-threatening infections in the body.

If scientists can perfect a way of regrowing teeth and replacing the drill in the dentist's surgery, it could have important knock-on effects for patients.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2009/feb/24/dental-research-enamel-gene

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Who's the chimp?

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Why No More 9/11s?

The Terrorists-Are-Dumb Theory

Don't mistake these guys for criminal masterminds.

This is the first in a series of eight essays exploring why the United States suffered no follow-up terror attacks after 9/11. To read the series introduction, click here.

The 9/11 attacks were heralded as the harbinger of a new era of foreign-based terrorism in the United States. What if they were really a fluke?

Al-Qaida's successful elimination of the Twin Towers, part of the Pentagon, four jetliners, and nearly 3,000 innocent lives makes the terror group seem, in hindsight, diabolically brilliant. But when you review how close the terrorists came to being exposed by U.S. intelligence, 9/11 doesn't look like an ingenious plan that succeeded because of shrewd planning. It looks like a stupid plan that succeeded through sheer dumb luck.

Consider:

• Conspirator Khalid Almihdhar, who was (at least theoretically) under U.S. surveillance for his suspected role in the bombing of the USS Cole, aroused suspicion at a San Diego flight-training school with his impatient request that he be taught how to fly a Boeing jet. (On 9/11, Almihdhar would help crash American Flight 77 into the Pentagon, killing 189 people.)

• Another conspirator, Nawaf Alhazmi, aroused suspicion when he boasted to a fellow gas-station employee that he would become famous. (Alhazmi would go down with Almihdhar on Flight 77. For more on what the Federal Bureau of Investigation knew about Almihdhar and Alhazmi prior to 9/11, click here.)

• By late July, former Central Intelligence Agency chief George Tenet told the 9/11 Commission, "the system was blinking red," and earlier that same month, FBI special agent Kenneth Williams sent a memo from the Phoenix office to Washington noting "an inordinate number of individuals of investigative interest" attending flight school in Arizona. (To read the memo, click here.)

• In early August, President Bush received a classified daily brief famously titled "Bin Laden Determined To Strike in U.S." (To read it, click here.)

• Later in August, the FBI's Minneapolis office interrogated Zacarias Moussaoui, who had aroused suspicion at a Minnesota flight school by asking about New York City flight patterns and whether a jetliner's cockpit doors could be opened while it was airborne. (To read a summary of what the Minneapolis office knew as of Aug. 19, click here.) Moussaoui's recklessness and volatility made his al-Qaida superiors reluctant to use him in the 9/11 attack; he was likely being held in reserve for a future al-Qaida attack, or possibly as a backup pilot for 9/11.

• Tenet, despite knowing "the system was blinking red," did nothing after he was briefed about Moussaoui on Aug. 23. (To read Tenet's "Terrorist Threat Review Update" for that day, click here.)

• In trying to obtain a warrant to examine Moussaoui's laptop, a field officer in the FBI's Minneapolis office told FBI headquarters that he was "trying to keep someone from taking a plane and crashing into the World Trade Center." The FBI did not obtain the evidence of Moussaoui's al-Qaida link deemed necessary to obtain that warrant until two days after 9/11.

Nearly eight years after the attacks, it remains physically sickening to review these for-want-of-a-nail details about what the U.S. government knew prior to 9/11. The various intelligence agencies' failures to pool their knowledge about the plot should surprise no one familiar with Washington's bureaucratic culture. But it's equally true that to count on so extreme a degree of government dysfunction, as al-Qaida effectively did, was foolhardy in the extreme. The terrorists took an unacceptably high risk that they'd get caught, and, just barely, they beat the odds. That they succeeded does not prove they were smart to try.

http://www.slate.com/id/2211994

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OBAMA RENEGES ON A BIG ONE

by Jim Hightower

Amazing! If George W had done this, I would have blasted him.

Wait – George W did do this, and I did blast him!

The "this" is a recent move by President Barack Obama's justice department to usurp the judicial branch's Constitutional authority to hear a legal case. Obama's lawyers have told the Court of Appeals that it may not proceed with a case brought by five victims of Bush's immoral and illegal program of "extraordinary rendition" – a program that sent war prisoners abroad to be tortured.

In a bid to halt the court proceeding, the Obama presidency has invoked an autocratic doctrine known as "state secrets," arguing that the very subject matter of this case is a government secret of such importance that it cannot bear discussion in a courtroom. This is the same hokey legalistic effort that the Bushites had used to dodge public accountability for their illegal torture program.

Obama's use of the state secrets gimmick to continue covering up Bush's illegalities is ridiculous, because the "secrets" being hidden are hardly secret. From books to TV exposés, the world knows about them. As the ACLU lawyer for the victims noted, "The only place in the world where these claims can't be discussed is in this courtroom."

Obama's stand is also a direct betrayal of voters who cheered last year when he frequently and vehemently denounced Bush's use of torture, extraordinary rendition, and – yes – state secrets. Yet, after only one month in office, and in a single case, he has reneged on all three of those principled stands.

What we've learned here is not that Obama is suddenly without principle, but that we have to be vigorous in demanding that he hold true to his principles. One group we can trust to help us do this is the ACLU. Contact it at : www.aclu.org.

http://www.jimhightower.com/node/6732

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Sasha Obama Keeps Seeing Creepy Bush Twins While Riding Tricycle Through White House

Bush Twins
The ghostly former first daughters, shortly after a White House elevator reportedly overflowed with cherry daiquiri.

WASHINGTON—A little more than a month after the first family's move to the White House, reports of strange happenings have continued to surface, with Sasha Obama confirming Tuesday that she had once again been visited by the eerie specter of the Bush twins.

Sasha, who was playing in the East Wing of the executive mansion so as not to disturb her busy father, reported seeing the former first twins while riding her Big Wheel tricycle down the Cross Hall corridor. The frightening apparitions, the 7-year-old said, emerged out of thin air and were dressed in identical outfits consisting of spaghetti strap tank tops and denim skirts.

"At approximately 4:36 p.m., we received a detailed account from Sasha Obama about a series of manifestations in the White House," press secretary Robert Gibbs announced. "However, a thorough search conducted by security officials has thus far uncovered nothing."

Added Gibbs, "Whatever grotesque and haunting images the president's youngest daughter thought she saw must have been a figment of her imagination."

http://www.theonion.com/content/news/sasha_obama_keeps_seeing_creepy?utm_source=a-section

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Iraq Reconstruction: the Greatest Fraud in US History?

A Theft Bigger Than Madoff

By PATRICK COCKBURN

In what could turn out to be the greatest fraud in US history, American authorities have started to investigate the alleged role of senior military officers in the misuse of $125bn (£88bn) in a US -directed effort to reconstruct Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The exact sum missing may never be clear, but a report by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) suggests it may exceed $50bn, making it an even bigger theft than Bernard Madoff's notorious Ponzi scheme.

"I believe the real looting of Iraq after the invasion was by US officials and contractors, and not by people from the slums of Baghdad," said one US businessman active in Iraq since 2003.

In one case, auditors working for SIGIR discovered that $57.8m was sent in "pallet upon pallet of hundred-dollar bills" to the US comptroller for south-central Iraq, Robert J Stein Jr, who had himself photographed standing with the mound of money. He is among the few US officials who were in Iraq to be convicted of fraud and money-laundering.

Despite the vast sums expended on rebuilding by the US since 2003, there have been no cranes visible on the Baghdad skyline except those at work building a new US embassy and others rusting beside a half-built giant mosque that Saddam was constructing when he was overthrown. One of the few visible signs of government work on Baghdad's infrastructure is a tireless attention to planting palm trees and flowers in the centre strip between main roads. Those are then dug up and replanted a few months later.

Iraqi leaders are convinced that the theft or waste of huge sums of US and Iraqi government money could have happened only if senior US officials were themselves involved in the corruption. In 2004-05, the entire Iraq military procurement budget of $1.3bn was siphoned off from the Iraqi Defense Ministry in return for 28-year-old Soviet helicopters too obsolete to fly and armored cars easily penetrated by rifle bullets. Iraqi officials were blamed for the theft, but US military officials were largely in control of the Defense Ministry at the time and must have been either highly negligent or participants in the fraud.

http://www.counterpunch.org/patrick02162009.html

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Inside source reveals FEMA & DHS preparing for mass graves and martial law near Chicago

By D. H. Williams

An Indiana county municipal official in the vicinity of Chicago reveals the contents of his meetings with FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security. The initial requests seem reasonable enough when FEMA asks the county officials to prepare a Hazard Mitigation Plan to deal with flooding, fires, high winds and tornadoes.

But as the required meetings and calls with FEMA and DHS continue over a two year period their request become more unusual, raising suspicions of county officials.

"We want to know every important thing in this county. We want to know where police departments are. Where weapons are stored. Hazardous material. Where can we land a helicopter. Where are the airports. How big a plane can you land at the airport. Where are all the bridges. Where are all the power stations. Where are all the generating stations.Where are all the substations. They literally wanted to know where everything was. I'm sitting there thinking man if there was ever martial law. This kind of information is exactly the kind of stuff they are going to want. We're just laying it all out for them right there."

During the legally mandated meetings held with FEMA and DHS different disaster scenarios were reveled to county officials:

  • In late December 2008 municipal officials were invited to Indianapolis for a briefing on the state of Indiana. There were told if industry were to collapse for example GM going bankrupt resulting in mass unemployment a depression would soon follow and municipalities could expect to loose 40% of their funds.
  • Every county in the nation would be required to prepare a Hazard Mitigation Plan.
  • The county should prepare a plan to vaccinate the entire population within 48 hours and practice the plan several times.
  • FEMA inquired to where mass graves could be placed in the county and would they accept bodies from elsewhere.
  • The sheriff's department via the state sheriff association was told that no .223 ammunition rounds would be available as the military would be purchasing all stocks.
  • The county was asked to make plans for "hardening" of police and fire stations, putting in hardened bunker type buildings around town.
  • The county was asked to make plans for the possibility of up to 400,000 refugees from Chicago.
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Liberty

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Republican spite

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Orwell in Babylon: Obama's War-Continuing "Withdrawal" Plan

It would be superfluous in us to point out that a plan to "end" a war which includes the continued garrisoning of up to 50,000 troops in a hostile land is, in reality, a continuation of that war, not its cessation. To produce such a plan and claim that it "ends" a war is the precise equivalent of, say, relieving one's bladder on the back of one's neighbor and telling him that the liquid is actually life-giving rain.

But this is exactly what we are going to get from the Obama Administation in Iraq. Word has now come from on high – that is, from "senior administration officials" using "respectable newspapers" as wholly uncritical conduits for government spin – that President Obama has reached a grand compromise with his generals (or rather, the generals and Pentagon poobahs he has inherited -- and eagerly retained -- from George W. Bush) on a plan to withdraw some American troops from the country that the United States destroyed in an unprovoked war of aggression. Obama had wanted a 16-month timetable for the partial withdrawal; his potential campaign rival in 2012, General David Petraeus, wanted 23 months; so, with Solomonic wisdom, they have now split the difference, and will withdraw a portion of the American troops in 19 months instead.

But the plan clearly envisions a substantial and essentially permanent American military presence in Iraq, dominating the politics and policy of this key oil nation – which was of course one of the chief war aims of the military aggressors in the Bush Administration all along. By implementing his war continuation plan, Obama will complete the work of Bush and his militarist clique. From the New York Times:

Even with the withdrawal order, Mr. Obama plans to leave behind a "residual force" of tens of thousands of troops to continue training Iraqi security forces, hunt down foreign terrorist cells and guard American institutions...


And a "senior military officer" dispatched to pipe the spin to the Los Angeles Times added another potential role for the remaining American troops: fighting Iraq's war for it. He was also refreshingly frank on the plan's ultimate intentions:

The senior officer said the troops also could help protect Iraq from outside attack, something the Iraqis cannot yet do.

"When President Obama said we were going to get out within 16 months, some people heard, 'get out,' and everyone's gone. But that is not going to happen," the officer said.


No indeed, that is "not going to happen." One of the most remarkable aspects of Obama's "war lite" plan is its brazen and absolute disregard for the agreement signed between the United States and the supposedly sovereign Iraqi government guaranteeing the complete withdrawal of all American troops by the end of 2011. Of course, this "agreement" was always considered a farce by everyone – except for the American corporate media, which kept reporting on the "tough negotiations," as if the pact would have any actual meaning in the real world. The agreement was vitiated by escape clauses allowing the Iraqi government to "request" a continued American military presence after the 2011 deadline; and considering that any Iraqi government in place in 2011 will be helplessly dependent on American guns and money to maintain its power, such a "request" has always been a dead certainty. So I suppose we must at least admire the Obama Administration's candor in dropping all pretense that U.S. forces are going to leave Iraq at any time in the foreseeable future.

But the hypocrisy – the literally murderous hypocrisy – of claiming that this plan "leaves Iraq to its people and responsibly ends this war," as Obama asserted in his State of the Union speech, is sickening. It does no such thing, and he knows it.

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McDonald's Denies Heroic Employee Worker's Comp

I hope that, as is usual with these types of cases, once publicity gets out, McDonald's will back down. McDonald's has denied workers compensation benefits to an employee who was shot when he ejected a customer who had been beating a woman inside the restaurant. Why, you might ask? Well ...

A surveillance video of the incident, which had been posted to YouTube, was taken down after McDonald's charged copyright infringement (AKA, they wanted it pulled because of bad PR). However, TV station KARK has posted video that is not subject to copyright infringement. It's obvious from the video that Nigel Haskett, then aged 21, was a hero.

Nigel Haskett was working at a McDonald's in Little Rock, Arkansas last summer when he saw a patron, later identified as Perry Kennon, hitting a woman in the face. Haskett tackled Kennon, threw him out, and then after returning to the store, collapsed. Police say he was shot multiple times.

As a result of that act of heroism, Haskett has had multiple operations, and faces a $300,000 medical bill.

Sgt. Cassandra Davis of the Little Rock PD said:

He was an employee of the McDonald's; he was at work. He wasn't involved in the physical or verbal altercation initially. He did come to the aid of the female that was involved in the disturbance.

Sounds like a Good Samaritan Act, which according to this post, and the examples herein, if they provide Good Will Benefit toward the employer, and are thus "free advertising," are covered, even if the person is on a lunch break.

Of course, McDonald's actions now are probably not earning it good will with most people.

Misty Thompson, a rep of the administrator for McDonald's workers compensation plan said:

"... we have denied this claim in its entirety as it is our opinion that Mr. Haskett's injuries did not arise out of or within the course and scope of his employment."

http://www.huliq.com/3257/77700/mcdonalds-denies-heroic-employee-workers-comp

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'Secret' was deadly for Montana town saturated in asbestos, prosecutors say

Trial begins in the case of W.R. Grace company, accused of knowingly exposing Libby, Mont., residents to asbestos. About 1,200 have sickened or died. The defense says there was no conspiracy.

By Kim Murphy
A Town's Hidden ThreatReporting from Missoula, Mont. -- For 27 years, W.R. Grace & Co. operated a vermiculite mine in Libby, Mont., producing bags of puffy white granules that were marketed all over the U.S., perfect for insulating attics and aerating gardens and potting soil.

The trouble was, the vermiculite contained small quantities of asbestos, a cancer-causing fiber that could, even in tiny quantities, fatally lodge itself in the lungs.
Asbestos exposure and cancerThe material posed a risk not only to mine workers, but also to those who touched the workers' clothing or used the high school running track and community ice-skating rink, both built with asbestos-laden mine tailings donated by the company.

That was the Maryland-based chemical company's "secret," federal prosecutors alleged Monday as W.R. Grace and five of its former executives went on trial here in a case that environmental law experts describe as the most significant criminal prosecution the U.S. has ever filed against an alleged corporate polluter.

"There's never been a prosecution in the United States where so many people have been sickened or killed as a result of environmental crime," said David Uhlmann, formerly the Justice Department's top environmental-crimes prosecutor and now a professor at the University of Michigan Law School.
 
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-montana-asbestos-trial24-2009feb24,0,5879847.story
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Report: 4 million Americans lost health insurance since recession began

by Mary Beth Lehman

An estimated 4 million Americans have lost their health insurance since the recession began, and as many as 14,000 people could be losing their health coverage every day, according to a report by liberal think tank Center for American Progress' Action Fund.

The report also claims at least half of the 4 million who lost their insurance coverage still are uninsured. Before the recession started there were an estimated 46 million Americans without health insurance.

The recent rocky economic climate, however, has likely increased the number of uninsured at the rate of 14,000 a day, according to the center.

The report uses estimates from Urban Institute researchers that a one percentage point rise in the national unemployment rate causes 2.4 million people to lose employer-sponsored health coverage. Of those people, 1 million rely on Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program and 1.1 million end up uninsured.

Since data was last collected in the spring 2007, the unemployment rate has grown from 4.4 percent to 7.6 percent, and as a result, an estimated 3.5 million people have lost their health insurance and are now uninsured.

http://www.bizjournals.com/albany/stories/2009/02/16/daily58.html

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Evolution Charts

And all without Circe's help

Preferable

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7 Days: Franken on Franken, Air America, "Senator Maddow" & More

Sen.-elect Al Franken hasn't spoken to the national media since November, until now.
 
Mark Green

by Mark Green: President of Air America Media

Here he talks about his suspended animation as an almost-senator, about a career arc uniquely going from satire to senate, and about how 42% plurality -- almost exactly what Lincoln, Wilson, Nixon & Clinton got -- means that he'll pursue a kind of Obamian bi-partisan tone.

GREEN: Ok, can you now finally admit that you miss your 12-3 pm Air America timeslot and regret leaving for a senate bid?

FRANKEN: Well, no I don't. I'm really looking forward to getting into the Senate, and it looks like it's going to happen, and I hope it happens soon. So no, I don't. If I had lost, I might regret it, but I don't think I did that.

GREEN: We talked before air about an election night a few years back when I spent two hours in an emotional deep freeze not knowing whether I had won or lost a close and big race. So how have you handled a three month -- and counting -- emotional deep freeze?

FRANKEN: Well, Frannie and I Iook at each other at night, usually right before we go to bed, and go like: "How long is this gonna go on?" But, it really looks now that it's going to get resolved in my favor, and soon, and so I'm actually excited to get there. So that sort of overcomes the frustration of: "How long can this go on?"

GREEN: What's the hold-up? Haven't you been certified the winner by the secretary of state of Minnesota?

FRANKEN: Well, I've been certified as the winner of the recount. So I just want to be fair to everybody. When I was certified by the state canvassing board as the winner of the recount, Coleman, as is his right, filed a legal contest contesting the outcome of the recount. And that was January 6th, the day that I could've been seated as the winner of the recount. Then we went to trial January 26th, and this is the fourth week. At the end of this past week, the judges issued a ruling, which we think is a great ruling, which narrowed the standards and scope of the absentee ballots that have been previously rejected...then the Coleman people kind of did a 180. They had not wanted these ballots included at all, but now that they're behind, they wanted them all included. The narrowing of the universe of these absentee ballots that could be counted is such that we really believe we're going to win, and we're going to win soon.

GREEN: I can't think of precedents for you -- an over three month counting delay in seating a senator...and also a comedian moving on to the Senate. Are there any?

FRANKEN: Comedy to the Senate? Well, there certainly hasn't been a satirist or a political satirist who's done that. So, that really was uncharted territory during the campaign. But I think it's a good thing. Some people thought that it was an odd career arc, but to me it made absolute sense. I had always been obviously interested in politics; DFL politics in Minnesota was when I was a teenager. And the reason I wrote political satire was because I thought it -- politics -- was important... that public policy was important. Then I transitioned into books, then into radio. So it all, actually, made total sense to me, as puzzled as many people were and continue to be.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-green/my-interview-with-al-fran_b_168764.html

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British Medical Journal Attacks HonestReporting

 

The BMJ falsely accuses HonestReporting of attempting to stifle debate and freedom of speech.

One of the most prominent weapons deployed by Israel's detractors is to accuse pro-Israel organizations and their supporters of being part of a shadowy and highly effective "Israel lobby". The charge of shutting down all criticism of Israel and destroying freedom of speech is usually deployed, however, precisely to delegitimize organizations such as HonestReporting and curtail their own right to respond to anti-Israel bias.

Needless to say, if an "Israel lobby" was so influential over the media, there would be no need for HonestReporting to exist. Yet as the Jerusalem Post reports:

The editors of the 'BMJ' (British Medical Journal)'s widely read print and Internet editions have declared that they will "ignore" all "orchestrated e-mail campaigns" related to politics, and have just published an article strongly criticizing the "pro-Israel lobby" for using this weapon in the form of "pornographic," "abusive" and "obscene" attacks - many by people "who have never read the original articles" they comment on.

In its latest edition, the BMJ devotes some five articles (1, 23, 4, 5) reviewing the "perils of criticizing Israel" and a substantial amount of print is concentrated on attacking HonestReporting itself.

Chief amongst these is Karl Sabbagh's analysis of hundreds of e-mails sent to the BMJ in response to an article published way back in 2004. According to Sabbagh, "It seems likely that most of the hostile emails resulted from a request from HonestReporting, a website operated from the United States and Israel." Citing HonestReporting and holding it responsible for a number of abusive e-mails, he states:

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with organising an effective lobby group, but lobbying for Israel seems to be in a different category from, say, lobbies against fluoridation and MMR vaccine. The ultimate goal of some of the groups that lobby for Israel or against Palestine is apparently the suppression of views they disagree with.

We certainly concede that abusive e-mails are absolutely unacceptable from both a moral standpoint and because such responses to the media are entirely counterproductive. We would remind our subscribers to always write courteously and from an informed perspective. (Click here to see letter writing tips.)

HonestReporting is not trying to block people from expressing themselves. It only holds people accountable for their statements. This is how democratic discourse is advanced. In addition, HonestReporting is promoting, not stifling, debate by getting the public involved in the issue. Those who accuse the organization of stifling debate are actually the ones seeking to suppress the voices of our readers – the people who express themselves through emails to editors.

Indeed, the writer summarily dismisses the legitimacy or relevance of the hundreds of e-mails received by the BMJ from HonestReporting subscribers. It is easier to dismiss such people as deranged or part of an organized conspiracy than to actually deal with the content of their complaints, which the BMJ fails to do. HonestReporting stands by its original critique of Derek Summerfield's 2004 article that compared the IDF's acts to those of the 9/11 terrorists.

http://www.honestreporting.com/articles/45884734/critiques/new/British_Medical_Journal_Attacks_HonestReporting.asp

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Business can regulate itself

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Pull the plug on U.S. automakers

BY DERRICK Z. JACKSON

President Obama, this is your moment. This is your time to beat Buicks into bullet trains, Suburbans into subways, and Hummers into hybrid buses. To borrow from your speeches, there is a moment in the life of every generation, if you are to make your mark on history, when you must tell an iconic industry that its incompetence is inoperable.

It is time, Mr. President, to take General Motors and Chrysler off taxpayer life support.

Politically, this is even more difficult than ending the Iraq war. In your very first press conference as president-elect, with Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm standing behind you with your transition economic team, you declared, "The auto industry is the backbone of American manufacturing ... a critical part of our attempt to reduce our dependence on foreign oil." .

That was nice to give them the benefit of the doubt, Mr. President, but all GM and Chrysler have done since then is connive for more time on the federal respirator, despite the flat line on the boardroom monitor. They have been on notice for months to come up with a revolutionary restructuring plan in exchange for the $17.4 billion in bailout aid it has already received. Last week, GM said it may need another $16.6 billion from the United States and another $6 billion from the governments of Canada, Germany, Britain, Sweden, and Thailand. Chrysler says it needs another $5 billion from you and me. For that, it came up with a projected loss of another 50,000 jobs, with plans so vague that the Wall Street Journal wrote that it contained "only a relatively few major new restructuring steps."

That is not even the final straw for pulling the plug. Within the restructuring plan submitted this week to the Treasury Department, GM wants an additional $8.4 billion from the Department of Energy to produce "alternative fuel and advanced propulsion" vehicles, with yet another request coming by March 31. This is a stunningly unjustifiable level of welfare for a company that arrogantly peered out of its SUVs and pickups, sneering down on the smaller Japanese cars.

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/401259_jacksononline25.html

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Salvador Dali of the Day

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About Me

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I am not that other Michael Dare.

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