Best Viewed with IE or Opera. Sorry, Firefox works, but loses some sidebar layout,
'my profile' and other stuff... Anybody with a fix, please leave a comment. Many thanks in advance.

That said, if you must use Firefox (and I don't blame you, it's become my browser of choice, too)
...get the "IE Tab" extension. This allows you to view problem pages with the IE rendering engine. Very cool!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Top Fifty "Conservative" "Rock" Songs: An Effort in Mass Delusion:

Now the Rude Pundit's pretty sure that the lyrics to the song "Sweet Home Alabama," by proud Confederate flag wavers, when not going down screaming on a crashing plane, Lynyrd Skynyrd, contains these lines: "In Birmingham they love the governor" and "The governor's true." See, problem is that the governor of Alabama at the time the song came out, in 1973, was George Wallace, elected in 1970, well before the vile segregationist became born again and repudiated his doorway-blocking past. Of course, his major accomplishment around that time was learning to piss from a wheelchair. Still, the song's reference to Wallace and the baggage of the band's symbolism don't matter to the desperate-for-relevance tools at the National Review and their list of the top 50 "conservative" "rock" songs, an effort so pathetic and craven that it is easily one of the stupidest things ever. Ever.
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Study Finds No Cancer-Marijuana Connection - By Marc Kaufman

The largest study of its kind has unexpectedly concluded that smoking marijuana, even regularly and heavily, does not lead to lung cancer.
 
The new findings "were against our expectations," said Donald Tashkin of the University of California at Los Angeles, a pulmonologist who has studied marijuana for 30 years.
 
"We hypothesized that there would be a positive association between marijuana use and lung cancer, and that the association would be more positive with heavier use," he said. "What we found instead was no association at all, and even a suggestion of some protective effect."
 
Federal health and drug enforcement officials have widely used Tashkin's previous work on marijuana to make the case that the drug is dangerous. Tashkin said that while he still believes marijuana is potentially harmful, its cancer-causing effects appear to be of less concern than previously thought.
 
Earlier work established that marijuana does contain cancer-causing chemicals as potentially harmful as those in tobacco, he said. However, marijuana also contains the chemical THC, which he said may kill aging cells and keep them from becoming cancerous.
 
Tashkin's study, funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Drug Abuse, involved 1,200 people in Los Angeles who had lung, neck or head cancer and an additional 1,040 people without cancer matched by age, sex and neighborhood.
 
They were all asked about their lifetime use of marijuana, tobacco and alcohol. The heaviest marijuana smokers had lighted up more than 22,000 times, while moderately heavy usage was defined as smoking 11,000 to 22,000 marijuana cigarettes. Tashkin found that even the very heavy marijuana smokers showed no increased incidence of the three cancers studied.
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Could the feds snuff out a Vermonter's medical marijuana?

Shayne Higgins flinches and shields his eyes from the sun as though it were a laser beam cutting through his skull. He sits helplessly in his motorized wheelchair and waits, in visible pain, as two friends hastily assemble a makeshift ramp so he can roll into the house and out of the daylight.
 
Higgins is pale, gaunt and skeletal, with hollow, sunken eyes and limbs that are withered and curled from the ravages of advanced multiple sclerosis. He appears drained by the 10-minute ordeal of getting into the home of his friends "Willy" and "Tessa" (not their real names). Willy is Higgins' medical advocate and registered marijuana caregiver. About once a week, Higgins makes the laborious, 40-minute trip from his home at the Starr Farm Nursing Center in Burlington to this house in rural Chittenden County so he can smoke medical marijuana.
 
Higgins, 45, was diagnosed with MS in 1998 after suffering a seizure. Since then, he's lost his eyesight and most of his mobility. Higgins speaks in slow, slurred sentences and fades in and out of lucidity. His spaced-out demeanor is only partly due to the MS, Willy explains; mostly, it's a result of the 14 to 17 prescription drugs Higgins takes every day to control his pain, seizures and muscle spasms.
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The Shape of Days: Resigned

OK. Another conservative re-thinks his position. Good read. --pseudolus
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'You may write anything you want,' she said in an e-mail late last night, 'and I will never disapprove.' She's one of my oldest, dearest Internet friends ' pardon the absurdity ' and putting the lie to her words gives me no pleasure. But I have to do it.
 
Let there be no doubt, readers both casual and dedicated. This post will end friendships. This post will end my experiment with blogging as we know it. Because the blogosphere is a small town. A small town packed wall-to-wall with rickety wooden bridges. And I'm about to start flinging firebrands.
 
Because what I have to say is this: We have gone too far. We have to stop.
 
I believed, you know' I was sincere. I was sincere and I was shell-shocked. September 11 changed everything for me. I'd seen war up close ' or rather I thought I had ' and it changed everything.
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"Media Matters"- by Jamison Foser

A prety thorough analysis of how the so-called "liberal" media turn their guns on the left and let the right skate free of the same depth of coverage. --pseudolus
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The defining issue of our time is not the Iraq war. It is not the "global war on terror." It is not our inability (or unwillingness) to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable health care. Nor is it immigration, outsourcing, or growing income inequity. It is not education, it is not global warming, and it is not Social Security.
 
The defining issue of our time is the media.
 
The dominant political force of our time is not Karl Rove or the Christian Right or Bill Clinton. It is not the ruthlessness or the tactical and strategic superiority of the Republicans, and it is not your favorite theory about what is wrong with the Democrats.
 
The dominant political force of our time is the media.
 
Time after time, the news media have covered progressives and conservatives in wildly different ways -- and, time after time, they do so to the benefit of conservatives.
 
Consider the last two presidents. Bill Clinton faced near-constant media obsession with his "scandals," while George W. Bush has gotten off comparatively easy.
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Infernoptix - This screen will warm up when used

Forget big screen and flat panel TVs. The Infernoptix Digital Pyrotechnic Matrix is the latest in high-impact visual and audio entertainment. The 96-inch screen employs computer-controlled bursts of fire, in a 12 x 7 array, to create scrolling text, simple animations, freehand sketching (via mouse), and an audio level meter. There's even a percussion mode, which takes advantage of the concussive nature of each burst to allow scripting and playback of complex rhythms. Custom software ties it all together to allow precise and convenient control of all screen functions.


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Super Plastic Both Attracts and Repels Water - By Prachi Patel-Predd

An odd new material could be a boon in dry regions with limited access to clean water.
 
A new, practical method for making surfaces with patterns of areas that strongly attract and strongly repel water could lead to a highly efficient method for capturing clean water. This versatile material could also find uses in fabricating new types of devices for medical tests and chemical synthesis.
 
Scientists have reported numerous applications of water-attracting (superhydrophilic) and water-repelling (superhydrophobic) surfaces, including fog-free eyeglasses and windshields, and self-cleaning cloth and glass. Now a group of researchers in MIT's materials science and engineering department has combined those opposing characteristics on a single surface, by using a simple and versatile fabrication process.
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Friday, May 26, 2006

Shocked Again - by gadfly

Good round up here of the FTC investigation into the oil companies recent profiteering. Of course they were found innocent of any untoward behavior, by a bought and paid for partisan. --pseudolus
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Guess what? The FTC has given the oil companies a clean bill of health, insofar as price gouging. To quote Claude Rains' character (Captain Renault's) famous remark in the film “Casablanca,” I was shocked, shocked that George Bush's FTC would give the oil industry a pass on the way it's been screwing the American public. The FTC has succeeded in telling the American public that, when it comes to gasoline pricing, if something looks like gouging, feels like gouging, and acts like gouging, it isn't gouging.
 
The FTC, in its report issued on May 22nd, found no anti-competitive, collusive or manipulative activity by the oil companies in the runup of gasoline prices following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. (The 222 page report is here (.pdf): a summary is here. Of course, this comes from the same agency that allowed the mega mergers in the oil industry which have, themselves, destroyed competition (.pdf) in that industry.
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Jake Shimabukuro brings the ukelele out of the shadows of Don Ho and cheesy Hawaiian tourist shows. Here he displays a grace and style some folks will only dream of and never attain. Enjoy. While My Guitar Gently Weeps

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Globe reports Bush marriage breakup

--- That's some serious 'journamalism'



--- That's some serious 'journamalism' --pseudolus
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Summary: In Patrick Healy's recent front-page New York Times article on the state of the Clintons' marriage, Healy noted that a "tabloid photograph" of former President Bill Clinton "was enough to fuel coverage in the gossip pages." Media Matters does not endorse the decision by elite media figures to take their cues from tabloids, but if they do so, we expect them to be consistent. As it happens, the cover of the May 29 edition of the Globe magazine contains a headline about another high-profile political couple: "BUSH MARRIAGE BREAKUP! EXCLUSIVE! SEPARATE LIVES IN THE WHITE HOUSE."
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Are You Bush Defenders Just Blowing Smoke, or Do You Really Not Get It? - by Andrew Bard Schmookler

Three recent public statements by defenders of the Bush regime have reminded me that one of the enduring challenges for the student of human affairs is to discover where self-deception ends and the deliberate deception of others begins.
 
Take for example the recent performance of President Bush's new press secretary, Tony Snow. In a recent press briefing, Snow was fielding questions about the NSA gathering of Americans' phone records.
 
Snow happily cited a quick poll indicating that almost two-thirds of Americans don't object to the government monitoring such records for the presumed purpose of catching terrorists. But when presented with other negative poll results, Snow declared that a president 'cannot base national security on poll numbers.'
 
A reasonable statement, but, as the press should immediately have asked: Mr. Snow, can a president base on poll numbers his decision whether or not to obey the law' And would you be interested in seeing what the American people would say to pollsters if asked, 'Can the president do whatever he wants, regardless of the law''
 
Who are you kidding, yourself or us' Do you really not get that the issue here is neither opinion polls nor national security, but rather a president who refuses to respect any legal limits to his powers'
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General Tommy Franks Shoots His Mouth Off - by Matthew Rothschild

Saturday night, General Tommy Franks was at the NRA's annual banquet, and he kept shooting his mouth off.
First, he ridiculed the other generals who've been criticizing Rumsfeld, saying they are publicity hounds who don't know what they're talking about.
Then, amazingly, he minimized the U.S. lives that have been lost in Iraq, a number that now stands at more than 2,440.
Said Franks: 'What we're talking about is neither 2,400, 24,000 or 240,000 lives,' he said, adding, 'Terrorism is a thing that threatens our lives.'
For Franks, there appears to be no outer limit of American lives he's willing to dispense with in this Iraq War, which had nothing to do with terrorism in the first place except as a pretext.
Franks's chilling comments were right in keeping with things he's already said before.
Here are two of his classics, during the Iraq War that he led.
One, 'We don't do body counts.'
Why should he, when he doesn't care'
And two, when a general beneath him raised the question of casualties if the U.S. rushed to Baghdad, Franks reportedly put his hand over his mouth and yawned.
It's not such a yawner, though, to the loved ones of those 2,440 soldiers.
And if the body count rose to, God forbid, 24,000 or 240,000, it wouldn't be a yawner, either.
The vast majority of Americans already say that the costs of the Iraq War already outweigh the benefits.
Tommy Franks and his commander in chief can keep discounting those costs.
But they aren't burying their loved ones.
Matthew Rothschild has been with The Progressive since 1983. His McCarthyism Watch web column has chronicled more than 150 incidents of repression since 9/11.
 
© 2006 The Progressive
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The Suburban Fantasy - by James Howard Kunstler

It's actually kind of funny to hear Americans complain these days about the cost of gasoline and how it is affecting their lives. What did they expect after setting up an easy-motoring utopia of suburban metroplexes that make incessant driving inevitable' And how did they fail to register the basic facts of the world oil situation, which have been available to us for decades'
 
Those facts are as follows: oil fields follow a simple pattern of production and depletion along a bell curve. Universally, when an oil field gets close to half the amount of oil it originally possessed, production peaks and then declines. This is true for all oil fields in the aggregate, for a nation and even the world.
 
In the United States, oil production peaked in 1970 and has been declining ever since. We extracted about 10 million barrels a day in 1970 and just under 5 million barrels a day now. Because our consumption has only increased steadily, we've made up for the shortfall by importing oil from other countries.
 
There is now powerful evidence in the production figures worldwide that we have reached global peak oil production. The collective nations of the earth will not make up for this by importing oil from other planets.
 
Contrary to a faction of wishful thinkers, the earth does not have a creamy nougat center of oil. Oil fields do not replenish themselves. Also contrary to the prevailing wish, no combination of alternative fuels will allow us to keep running the interstate highway system, Wal-Mart, Walt Disney World and the other furnishings of what Dick Cheney called our 'non-negotiable way of life.'
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Rise and Fall of the Enron Boys - by William Greider


Normally, I am a "bleeding heart" when it comes to long prison terms, but an appropriate sentence for the Enron boys might be six trillion years. Kenneth Lay with his million-dollar smile and Jeffrey Skilling with the cold, confident eyes of a viper made their company into the symbol and showpiece for a glorious era. It was the hyper-modern and market-efficient "new economy," in which the concept of wealth falling out of the sky became briefly hip and widely believed in respectable circles.
 
Enron led the way. Lay and Skilling showed us how it's done. And when Enron fell, the great national delusion turned to catastrophe. Unwitting investors lost $6 trillion overall. Millions of innocent bystanders lost much more in terms of their lives. So let Skilling and Lay now serve as symbol for the shame of modern American capitalism. Let these guys do the time for all those others, the corporate titans and financial con men, who got away.
 
Justice sometimes proceeds in strange ways. I am opposed to public hangings and other forms of scapegoating, but perhaps this time we need a spectacular ritual sacrifice to amplify the point made by that swift, sure conviction in Texas. These men in the good suits are criminals--criminals!--who must be made to set an example for all ambitious people who toil in business and finance.
 
These two thugs looted pension funds and destroyed the personal savings of families. They stole money from the rest of us, not to mention from government and other non-glamorous business enterprises. They rigged energy markets to drive up prices and bilk defenseless consumers (an old-fashioned swindle borrowed from nineteenth-century robber barons and newly decriminalized by deregulation). They swallowed viable, productive companies and wrecked them, especially wrecking the livelihoods of their employees. And, worst of all, they were best pals with politicians and political leaders as well as the most prestigious names in banking and finance--connections the Mafia would die for!
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Enron's Schemes "The Very Nature of Profit-Based, Market Capitalism" - by Wallace Roberts

Despite the conviction of a couple of bad apples at Enron, its top management is not the real culprit in this case. The real culprit is a bad idea: deregulation of the natural gas and electric power industries.
 
Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling, the former chairman and CEO respectively, can be said to be just "sharp traders," businessmen who did what the free market demands of rational players: take advantage of every loophole they could find to make a profit.
 
Early in 2004, Jacqueline Lang Weaver, a professor at the University of Houston Law Center, wrote, "In competitive electricity markets, participants can exploit legal loopholes or use market power to make millions of dollars in profits in a very short time period, and there is every reason to expect them to do so; it is the very nature of profit-based, market capitalism."
 
Enron played a unique role in deregulation, Weaver said, and the company's subsequent collapse was, in some important respects, a product of its genius in creating "a business model that tracked the opening of deregulated energy markets'and was accompanied by a powerful and well-financed political lobbying arm that worked to push government regulation out of the markets."
 
This point was echoed earlier this month when Robert McCullough, an independent analyst of the electric power industry who is a consultant to many of the agencies that were victims of Enron's trading schemes, testified before the U.S. Senate Policy Committee and described in detail the consequences of what he called "an unfortunate policy decision" made by the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in 1993.
 
"At the urging of Enron and other energy companies," he said, "CFTC relinquished control of energy-based forward transactions'The purpose of Enron's various market manipulation schemes was to promote an increase in long term prices'an increase that returned over a billion dollars in earnings on an enormous forward position that Enron accumulated just before the onset of the Western [California] Market Crisis."
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Controversial rhythm method study revealed

A British study suggests the Roman Catholic Church-approved "rhythm method" may kill more embryos than other methods of contraception.

The "rhythm method" relies on abstinence during the most fertile period of a woman's menstrual cycle. For women who have regular 28-day cycles, that occurs around days 10 to 17 of the cycle.

It's believed the method works by preventing conception from occurring. But Professor Luc Bovens of the London School of Economics says it may owe much of its success to the fact that embryos conceived on the fringes of the fertile period are less viable than those conceived toward the middle.
 
Bovens says it can be calculated that two to three embryos will have died every time the rhythm method results in a pregnancy.
 
Bovens cites anti-abortion rights activists who equate global oral contraceptive use to chemical abortion that is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths of embryos, or unborn children, every year.
 
But, says Bovens, if all oral contraceptive users converted to the rhythm method, they would be effectively causing the deaths of millions of embryos.
 
The study appears in the Journal of Medical Ethics.
 
Copyright 2006 by United Press International
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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Over 1400 TSA badges, uniforms, stolen since 2003.

Oh, great! Just great! How in hell can we expect any security at airports? This is just the stupidest shit ever. --pseudolus
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More than 1,400 identification badges and uniform items have been reported lost or stolen from Transportation Security Administration employees since 2003, according to documents obtained by a San Antonio television station. WOAI-TV received the documents under the Freedom of Information Act.
 
Los Angeles had the most ID badges missing with 120. Chicago O’Hare followed with 115. D-FW was first in Texas with 42.
 
Saul Wilen, a San Antonio-based terrorism prevention consultant, called the issue a very serious problem.
 
“If you have a badge and a uniform, you are invincible in terms of the system,” he said. “Not only can you get in and get around, you can get known and become a regular that becomes more and more recognized, so the next time you are less liable to have to go through the system’s security, and the next time even less.”
 
In a statement, the TSA denied that stolen badges could lead to security breaches.
 
What would be the appropriate theme music for this soap opera? How about “Sad but true” or “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue”?
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Powerline: The Iran "yellow star" sham is true

The war-mongers who are pining for the next phase of their Glorious War of Civilizations -- regime change in Iran -- thought they hit the jackpot last week when the pro-War, Israel-centric National Post of Canada published a column by neoconservative Amir Teheri which claimed that the Iranian parliament had passed a new law mandating "separate dress codes for religious minorities, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians, who will have to adopt distinct colour schemes to make them identifiable in public." The warmonger pundits immediately began screeching how they found definitive proof that Iran is the New Nazi Germany -- a new law requiring that Jews wear yellow identifying strips on their clothing.

But the story was a complete scam, total fiction, and everyone -- including the National Post and the pro-Israeli groups which were promoting the story --now acknowledge that the story was false. Everyone, that is, except for the fact-proof fanatics at Powerline, who continue to insist that it's true.

...Even the extremists who peddled this story now admit that it's false. Only Powerline continues to claim that it's true. Isn't that fairly definitively proof of the complete lack of credibility, integrity and honesty of TIME's Blog of the Year? There is no limit on what they are willing to fabricate in order to justify their defense of the administration and to push the country to war with Iran. But if this patently dishonest insistence on clinging to a plainly false story isn't enough to compel their removal from mainstream respectability, what would be?
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The War on Free Press - by Derrick Z. Jackson

Journalists. Get the rack ready! Our attorney general is coming for us, snarling like a guard dog at Abu Ghraib.
 
On Sunday, Alberto Gonzales told ABC's ``This Week" that he would consider prosecuting reporters who get their hands on classified information and break news about President Bush's terrorist surveillance program. ``There are some statutes on the book which, if you read the language carefully, would seem to indicate that that is a possibility, " Gonzales said, adding at one point, ``We have an obligation to enforce those laws."
 
Asked more specifically if The New York Times should be prosecuted for its initial story on government surveillance without warrants, Gonzales said, ``We are engaged now in an investigation about what would be the appropriate course of action."
 
It is almost funny to see Gonzales scour the statutes to harass journalists. This is the same administration that cannot spell the word law if you spot it the ``l" and the ``a." It has already set the presidential record in claiming the authority to circumvent the law in more than 750 cases.
 
Gonzales has been a prime cowboy in circling the wagons against the law. He issued the infamous ``torture memo" that advised President Bush to throw the Geneva Convention into the trash can for detainees in the war on terror.
 
Because the war ``is not the traditional clash between nations adhering to the laws of war," Gonzales reasoned to Bush, ``in my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions requiring that captured enemy be afforded such things as commissary privileges, script (i.e. advances of monthly pay), athletic uniforms and scientific instruments."
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Under the Cold Eye of History - by Robert P. Watson

Ever since 1948, when historian Arthur Schlesinger Sr. first polled leading scholars and asked them to rank our presidents, updated polls have been released every few years. As a participant in the current poll, I spent several weeks thinking long and hard about the best and worst of our country's presidents -- and about President Bush's eventual place in history.
 
As aides and supporters worry whether Bush's presidency can be "salvaged," I respectfully suggest the future of the country, rather than the president's legacy, is the topic more worth pondering. The forthcoming poll will be the first to include a preliminary ranking of this President Bush. So, here is my prediction:
 
There is much agreement by scholars as to the greatest presidents; they are Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, George Washington and Theodore Roosevelt, with Harry Truman, Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson not far behind. These great leaders provide a standard by which all presidents are measured -- and clues as to how Bush measures up. From the great presidents we know that the country is well-served by leaders who exhibit the following traits:
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Checks, Balances, and an FBI Raid on Congress - by John Nichols

No one seriously believes that William Jefferson is going to survive the political train wreck he has made of his congressional career. Even the notoriously forgiving voters of New Orleans – who just reelected gaffe-prone Mayor Ray Nagin – are not going to be comfortable with a congressman who hid $90,000 in cash in his refrigerator and got caught on an FBI tape talking about taking bribes.
 
The question now is whether the system of checks and balances established by the founders in 1787 will be another victim of the train wreck.
 
When Federal Bureau of Investigation agents raided Jefferson's suite of offices in the Rayburn House Office Building, they committed an act unheard of even in the darkest days of the Republic. On orders from the executive branch, federal agents entered the office of a member of the legislative branch and spent hours going through that office and removing materials they deemed necessary to an investigation.
 
Even House Speaker Dennis Hastert, the Illinois Republican who has been no great friend of the Constitution, awakened from the comatose state that has usually characterized his response to White House assaults on the system of checks and balances.
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Bush Prepares to Cut and Run in Afghanistan - by Bob Burnett

We've heard a lot of rhetoric from the Bush Administration about "staying the course" in Iraq. About how it is America's responsibility to stay as long as it takes to ensure that Iraq becomes a stable democracy. Those who've opposed this position-whether they have advocated an immediate withdrawal, a staged departure, or simply the preparation of a transition plan-have been branded as dolts, as advocates of a "cut and run" philosophy. What's gotten little notice is that in Afghanistan the Administration is pursuing the very same cut and run policies that the accuse others of espousing in Iraq.
 
If you haven't been paying attention to Afghanistan, you're not alone. It hasn't been in the news. For good reason, as things aren't going well there. The Taliban has regained control of much of the territory they lost once the US forces arrived in 2001, particularly in the South and East. The Taliban has been conducting a guerilla campaign of "civil terror" and it's succeeding.
 
On March 1st President Bush made a four-hour visit to Afghanistan. For Dubya everything was "coming up roses;" he spoke glowingly of the progress there, described it as "inspiring." Nonetheless, the US is withdrawing 4000 troops (20 percent of the total), and drastically reducing support for infrastructure improvement. Bush tells the world that we will stay the course, but Afghans feel that we are bailing out.
 
What went wrong? The simple answer is everything that the President has tried. As has glaringly proven to be the case in Iraq, the Bush Administration never had a plan for Afghanistan and, therefore, never dealt with the systemic problems.
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Shoppers' Thirst for Palm Oil Threatens to Wipe out Orangutan - by Martin Hickman

An estimated 5,000 orangutans are killed each year in Malaysia and Indonesia by the burning of vast tracts of virgin forest to supply the world's growing demand for palm oil. Building roads to the plantations has made the situation worse, by opening up the jungle for poachers, who kill orangutan mothers and sell their babies as pets to Asian families.
 
WWF, formerly the World Wildlife Fund, estimates that 80 per cent of orangutan habitat has been lost in the past 20 years. Experts warn that at current rates of deforestation, the orangutan will be extinct in the wild in just 12 years. Its disappearance would set a dismal precedent for the survival of other endangered animals such as the polar bear and the tiger.
 
"The orangutan is one of the monkeys closest to us. We still have a lot to learn about them," said Mark Attwater of the Orangutan Foundation.
 
Dr Willie Smits, of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, said the loss of the orangutan had hastened in the last three years, "and palm oil plantations take the brunt of the blame".
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Can You Still Hate Wal-Mart? - by Mark Morford

 It's a shockingly eco-friendly plan from the world's most toxic retailer. Did hell just freeze over? 
Sometimes you just have to let the possibility breathe.
 
Sometimes you just have to allow that something grand and good and healthy might actually be born from the bowels of the dank and ravenous megacorporate world, like flowers from a dung heap, like vodka from old potatoes, even if it comes right alongside the nastiest, most abusive federal environmental policy you will see in your lifetime.
 
Take Wal-Mart, the most famously offensive, town-destroying, junk-purveying, labor-abusing, sweatshop-supporting, American-job-killing, soul-numbing, seizure-inducing, hope-curdling retailer in the known universe (just ask the fine local town of Hercules), moving upward of $300 billion in cheap mass-produced slurm every year via nearly 5,000 landscape-mauling eyesore stores stretching all the way from Texas to China and Argentina and South Korea and Mexico and your backyard, with U.S. stores accounting for fully 8 percent of all retail sales in our entire nation.
 
There has been, to date, very little good to say about this most voracious and powerful of low-end, trashy retailers, and certainly nothing from anyone even remotely concerned with the health of the planet and of the attuned consumers who inhabit it. Wal-Mart has always been, quite appropriately, the devil.
 
Until now. As juicy and warmhearted eco-blog Treehugger mentions in its latest Wal-Mart roundup (and as the New York Times later discussed in its huge "Business of Green" section last week), it seems that back in October, Wal-Mart's president, Lee Scott, delivered a "secret" speech to employees about "21st Century Leadership," in which he outlined a whole slew of what can only be called truly remarkable and potentially world-altering agenda items to help ensure the future health of the world's biggest shopping hell.
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Climate Change is the Major Problem Facing the World - by David Attenborough

I was sceptical about climate change. I was cautious about crying wolf. I am always cautious about crying wolf. I think conservationists have to be careful in saying things are catastrophic when, in fact, they are less than catastrophic.
 
I have seen my job at the BBC as a presenter to produce programmes about natural history, just as the Natural History Museum would be interested in showing a range of birds of paradise - that's the sort of thing I've been doing. And in almost every big series I've made, the most recent one being Planet Earth, I've ended up by talking about the future, and possible dangers. But, with climate change, I was sceptical. That is true.
 
Also, I'm not a chemist or a climatologist or a meteorologist; it isn't for me to suddenly stand up and say I have decided the climate is changing. That's not my expertise. The television gives you an unfair and unjustified prominence but just because your face is on the telly doesn't mean you're an expert on meteorology.
 
But I'm no longer sceptical. Now I do not have any doubt at all. I think climate change is the major challenge facing the world. I have waited until the proof was conclusive that it was humanity changing the climate. The thing that really convinced me was the graphs connecting the increase of carbon dioxide in the environment and the rise in temperature, with the growth of human population and industrialisation. The coincidence of the curves made it perfectly clear we have left the period of natural climatic oscillation behind and have begun on a steep curve, in terms of temperature rise, beyond anything in terms of increases that we have seen over many thousands of years.
 
People say, everything will be all right in the end. But it's not the case. We may be facing major disasters on a global scale.
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Bush Democracy Doctrine, 2003(?)-2006, R.I.P - by Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON - Less than 18 months after U.S. President George W. Bush declared in his 2005 Inaugural Address his unequivocal commitment to the "ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world", tyrants, particularly in the Islamic world, are taking heart.
 
From North Africa to Central Asia, top U.S. officials are busy embracing dictators -- and their sons, where appropriate -- even as they continue to mouth the pro-democracy rhetoric that became the hallmark of the administration's foreign policy pronouncements, particularly after the 2003 invasion of Iraq failed to turn up evidence of weapons of mass destruction or ties to al Qaeda.
 
Particularly notable in just the past month have been White House receptions for Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's heir-apparent, his son Gamal; the praise lavished by Vice President Dick Cheney on Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev during a recent visit to Almaty; and last week's normalisation of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
 
"You add up all the pieces, and the message to the world is, 'We have a lot of other business than just democracy in this region'," according to Thomas Carothers, director of the Democracy and Rule of Law Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) here. "And that business means friendly relations with all sorts of autocrats."
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Wednesday, May 24, 2006


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Liberty Over Safety - By Robert Parry



Until now, every generation of Americans has traded safety for liberty. From the Lexington Green to the Normandy beaches, from the Sons of Liberty to the Freedom Riders, it has been part of the American narrative that risks are taken to expand freedom, not freedoms sacrificed to avoid risk.
 
The Founders challenged the most powerful military on earth, the British army, all the while knowing that defeat would send them to the gallows. The American colonists spurned their relative comfort as British subjects for a chance to be citizens of a Republic dedicated to the vision that some rights are “unalienable” and that no man should be king.
 
Since then, despite some ups and downs, the course of the American nation has been to advance those ideals and broaden those freedoms.
 
In the early years of the Republic, African-American slaves resisted their bondage, often aided by white Abolitionists who defied unjust laws on runaways and pressed the government to restrict slave states and ultimately to eliminate slavery.
 
With the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln’s emancipation of the slaves, the United States underwent a painful rebirth that reaffirmed the nation’s original commitment to the principle that “all men are created equal.” Again, the cause of freedom trumped safety, a choice for which Lincoln and thousands of brave soldiers gave their lives.
 
In the latter half of the Nineteenth Century and into the Twentieth, the Suffragettes demanded and fought for extension of basic American rights to female citizens. These women risked their reputations and their personal security to gain the right to vote and other legal guarantees for women.
 
When fascist totalitarianism threatened the world in the 1930s and 1940s, American soldiers turned back the tide of repression in Europe and Asia, laying down their lives by the tens of thousands in countless battlefields from Normandy to Iwo Jima.
 
The march of freedom continued in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights fighters – both black and white – risked and sometimes lost their lives to tear down the walls of racial segregation.
 
For two centuries, this expansion of freedom always came with dangers and sacrifices. Yet, the trade-off was always the same: safety for liberty.
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Humans not to blame for ice age mass extinction - Alok Jha, Science correspondent

A rare good-news story for those concerned about the impact humans have had on the Earth: the mysterious mass extinction of large mammals at the end of the last ice age was not the fault of our marauding species as previously thought. New research concludes that the disappearance of mammoths and wild horses in the Americas more than 10,000 years ago is likely to have been the result of natural shifts in the Earth's climate.
 
Dale Guthrie, of the institute of Arctic biology at the University of Alaska, conducted a radiocarbon dating experiment on more than 600 fossilised bones of mammoths, horses and other large mammals from Alaska and the Yukon Territory to test the three proposed explanations for the mass extinction. These are that disease wiped out the animals; over-hunting of mammoths by humans led to a shift in the local environment, reducing the grasslands and inadvertently killing off other species; and the "blitzkrieg" idea, which imagines newly arrived human hunters devastating large mammals, driving mammoths and horses to extinction and forcing bison and wapiti - a type of deer - into reduced habitats.
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Penn Jillette Radio Show


I've been listening to his radio show (via podcast download) and I can say he 'brings teh funny.' If you can get past his libertarian philosophy he is very entertaining. He and I at least share the skeptic's outlook on life and he has a woderful friendship with The Amazing Randi, one of the leading skeptics of our time, and has him in for visits occasionally. His callers are great, too. The podcast show is only 45 minutes long and makes for a great break in the day. Check him out at the link below or live over a local radio station in a few major markets. ...PennFM

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William Jefferson, D-Wall Street - by John Nichols

Nancy Pelosi has shown little interest in holding George Bush to account, as evidenced by the House Minority Leader's determination to distance herself from discussions of censuring – let alone impeaching – the president for the high crimes and misdemeanors that have characterized his tenure.
 
So it not all that surprising that Pelosi, despite her promise to "clean up" Congressional corruption, has been slow to demand genuine accountability from a member of the House Democratic Caucus she leads. The minority leader has backed an ethics committee inquiry into charges against Congressman William Jefferson, D-Louisiana, the "star" of a Federal Bureau of Investigation tape in which what sounds like a bribe of $100,000 is accepted. But she so far has refrained from suggesting the obvious: that it is time for the severely scandal-plagued Jefferson to resign.
 
Let's be clear, if Tom DeLay needed to go, so does Jefferson.
 
What makes Pelosi's refusal to cut Jefferson loose so disappointing is the fact that Democrats owes the congressan from New Orleans no loyalty. Indeed, if ever there was a member of Congress who merited abandonment by his party, official censure and a hasty exit from the legislative branch, it is William Jefferson.
 
Putting aside the bribery probe, Jefferson has a horrific record of breaking with his Democratic colleagues to sell out his constituents, his country and the poorest people in the world. He may be a Democrat, but on the issues that really matter Jefferson has served the Bush administration and Wall Street more diligently than a number of Republicans.
 
Jefferson's has been one of the steadiest Democratic votes for the president's foreign policy agenda. The Louisianan voted to authorize Bush to use force against Iraq, consistently supports emergency "supplemental" spending to maintain the occupation of that country, and favors deployment of the "Star Wars" Strategic Defense Initiative. He voted for the USA Patriot Act when it was rushed through Congress in 2001, and was a big backer of Vice President Cheney's national energy policy. And, though his record on social issues is mixed, Jefferson has on a number of occasions cast his lot with the White House and its social-conservative allies to help enact restrictions on abortion, school prayer initiatives and a Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
 
But Jefferson's deepest loyalty is not to the Bush administration. Rather, it is to big business. In a Congress where there are plenty of Democrats who are friendly to the legislative agenda of corporate America, Jefferson is devoted to it. This Democrat puts more than a few responsible Republicans to shame when it comes to doing the bidding of Wall Street.
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Pain Management: A Double Standard? - by William Fisher

Two weeks from now, a South Carolina pain management physician will surrender at the Talladega, Alabama, prison to begin serving a 2.5-year sentence for drug trafficking, racketeering, and money laundering.
 
Dr. Michael Jackson is one of hundreds of pain management specialists arrested, charged and jailed by federal and state authorities for violating the Controlled Substances Act, designed to limit the dispensing of illegal prescription drugs by doctors and their use by patients.
 
Meanwhile, the high profile right-wing radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, charged with "doctor shopping" for prescription medication for chronic back pain, reached a settlement with the Florida State Attorney, which his attorney said will be dismissed in 18 months if Limbaugh complies with court guidelines. As a primary condition of the dismissal, Limbaugh must continue to seek treatment only from the doctor he has seen for the past 2.5 years.
 
In an interview, Dr. Jackson said the contrast between his treatment and Limbaugh's underlines "a widespread double standard - one for the 'haves' and another for the 'have-nots'."
 
"Not only do celebrities have access to the best lawyers, but they utilize their status in society, as I would have, if I were a 'somebody,'" Dr. Jackson told us.
 
He said, "The 'haves' include a long list of individuals," in addition to Limbaugh -- Senator Edward M. Kennedy's son, Congressman Patrick Kennedy, Miami Dolphins' football star Ricky Williams, former baseball great Darryl Strawberry, Florida Governor Jeb Bush's daughter, Noelle, former Pittsburgh Steelers football quarterback Joe Gilliam, and a multitude of other athletes, movie stars, and family members of the well-to-do", Dr. Jackson charged.
 
He added: "As for the 'have-nots', there is only one group to mention -- the poor. With few exceptions, they're the ones that fill the jails. And the 'haves' who have gone to jail only did so because they violated their probations; otherwise, they would be in rehab," Jackson told us. He said these included Strawberry, Downey, Gilliam, and Noelle Bush.
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Rove Strategy Isn't Unimpeachable - by Jesse Jackson

There they go again. The Republican National Committee, the right-wing noise machine and their spear carriers in the mainstream media, have been in attack mode over the last few weeks. This time their target is Rep. John Conyers, the distinguished senior Democrat who will become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee if Democrats win the House back this fall.
 
With the president and the DeLay Congress about as popular as big oil CEOs, the RNC is desperate to demonize Democrats. So they cooked up a campaign claiming that if Democrats win the House, Conyers is geared up to impeach the president. This threat, they suggest, will rouse the disaffected Republican base and bring them out to vote in large numbers.
 
The mainstream media fell for the bait. The ever-cooperative Tim Russert grilled Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi, suggesting that Conyers should take down the Web site explaining his resolution providing for a bipartisan committee to investigate the administration and to recommend whether or not impeachment hearings should begin. (Pelosi, to her credit, didn't fold. She said the Democrats would investigate the handling of intelligence leading up to the war, the corruption in the war and other administration misdeeds. She reminded Russert that checks and balances were the essence of the Constitution.)
 
But Democrats were spooked. Their excitable inside-the-Beltway strategists began worrying that the Democratic left would blow the election by alienating voters in swing districts. Pelosi then had her spokesperson announce that ''impeachment wasn't in the cards'' if Democrats took back the House.
 
It is hard to sort out which is more pathetic: the RNC for hyping this gambit, the press for falling for it or Democratic leaders for cowering at the first sign of a dustup.
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Ain't No Need to Worry - by Sean Gonsalves

This week's phrase for Orwell's dust bin is: ''If you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about'' - as in, despite the illegality of the NSA's apparent ''data-mining'' spy program, ''if you're not doing anything wrong (illegal), you have nothing to worry about.''
 
The phrase, of course, begs the question: Who could possibly be opposed to such an important intelligence tool in the never-ending ''war on terror''? And if you don't think about it, it makes perfect sense.
 
Granted, it gives those pesky know-nothing peaceniks an opportunity to throw Benjamin Franklin's observation in the face of endless war hawks (''those who would give up liberty for security deserve neither''), but pay that no mind, my fellow citizen-soldier. Just remember, ''if you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.'' Never mind that the whole idea silently denies that secret power breeds corruption and abuse or that it completely ignores history (i.e., government spying on terrorists like Martin Luther King).
 
''If you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.'' I mean, you can find people's Social Security numbers, medical records, photos, addresses and all manner of highly confidential material on the Internet. So what's the big deal if the government spies on us to make sure none of us are terrorists?
 
OK, sure, there's a huge difference between some stalker using sometimes questionable Internet information to target you and the most powerful government in the world run by a president who thinks his constitutional views are authoritative (except they don't apply to anyone in his administration). That doesn't matter when you realize how patriotic you're being when you simply trust the public pronouncements of the most secretive government in the history of the United States.
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Afghans' uranium levels spark alert - By Alex Kirby

A small sample of Afghan civilians have shown "astonishing" levels of uranium in their urine, an independent scientist says.
 
Critics suspect new weapons were used in Afghanistan
He said they had the same symptoms as some veterans of the 1991 Gulf war.
 
But he found no trace of the depleted uranium (DU) some scientists believe is implicated in Gulf War syndrome.
 
Other researchers suggest new types of radioactive weapons may have been used in Afghanistan.
 
The scientist is Dr Asaf Durakovic, of the Uranium Medical Research Center (UMRC), based in Canada.
 
Dr Durakovic, a former US army adviser who is now a professor of medicine, said in 2000 he had found "significant" DU levels in two-thirds of the 17 Gulf veterans he had tested.
 
In May 2002, he sent a team to Afghanistan to interview and examine civilians there.
 
The UMRC says: "Independent monitoring of the weapon types and delivery systems indicate that radioactive, toxic uranium alloys and hard-target uranium warheads were being used by the coalition forces." There is no official support for its claims, or backing from other scientists.
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The Snooping Goes Beyond Phone Calls

How the government sidesteps the Privacy Act by purchasing commercial data
 
 
Furor and confusion over allegations that major phone companies have surrendered customer calling records to the National Security Agency continue to roil Washington. But if AT&T Inc. (T ) and possibly others have turned over records to the NSA, the phone giants represent only one of many commercial sources of personal data that the government seeks to "mine" for evidence of terrorist plots and other threats.
 
The Departments of Justice, State, and Homeland Security spend millions annually to buy commercial databases that track Americans' finances, phone numbers, and biographical information, according to a report last month by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. Often, the agencies and their contractors don't ensure the data's accuracy, the GAO found.
 
Buying commercially collected data allows the government to dodge certain privacy rules. The Privacy Act of 1974 restricts how federal agencies may use such information and requires disclosure of what the government is doing with it. But the law applies only when the government is doing the data collecting.
 
"Grabbing data wholesale from the private sector is the way agencies are getting around the requirements of the Privacy Act and the Fourth Amendment," says Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington and a member of the Homeland Security Dept.'s Data Privacy & Integrity Advisory Committee.
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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Americans don't like President Bush personally much anymore, either


WASHINGTON - It's not just the way he's doing his job. Americans apparently don't like President Bush personally much anymore, either.

A drop in his personal popularity, as measured by several public polls, has shadowed the decline in Bush's job-approval ratings and weakened his political armor when he and his party need it most.

Losing that political protection - dubbed "Teflon" when Ronald Reagan had it - is costing Bush what the late political scientist Richard Neustadt called the "leeway" to survive hard times and maintain his grip on the nation's agenda. Without it, Bush is a more tempting target for political enemies. And members of his party in Congress are less inclined to stand with him.
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Think Progress » 2000 lbs.

Weight 76-year-old Pat Robertson claims he can leg press thanks to his 'age defying protein shake.'
 
Clay Travis at CBS Sportsline notes 'That would mean a 76-year-old man broke the all-time Florida State University leg press record by 665 pounds over Dan Kendra. 665 pounds. Further, when he set the record, they had to modify the leg press machine to fit 1,335 pounds of weight. Plus, Kendra's capillaries in his eyes burst. Burst.' 
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Secret Guarding: The new secrecy doctrine so secret you don't even know about it.


By Henry Lanman
Posted Monday, May 22, 2006, at 3:57 PM ET
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Last Thursday, a federal court in Virginia threw out a lawsuit against the government that had been brought by a German citizen named Khalid el-Masri. El-Masri alleged that the government had violated U.S. law when�as part if its "extraordinary rendition" program�it authorized his abduction, drugging, confinement, and torture. His captors allegedly shuttled him on clandestine flights to and from places like Kabul, Baghdad, and Skopje, Macedonia, during the five months of his detention. He was released only when the government realized it had kidnapped the wrong man. El-Masri has substantial evidence to back up his story, and German prosecutors have verified much of it. And, while the government has not confirmed that it took el-Masri as part of its extraordinary rendition program, it has not shied away from admitting the program exists; it has in fact trumpeted it as an effective tool in the "war on terror." So why then was el-Masri's lawsuit thrown out? Because the judge accepted the government's claim that any alleged activities relating to el-Masri were "state secrets."

Never heard of the "state secrets" privilege? You're not alone. But the Bush administration sure has. Before Sept. 11, this obscure privilege was invoked only rarely. Since then, the administration has dramatically increased its use. According to the Washington Post, the Reporters' Committee for Freedom of the Press reported that while the government asserted the privilege approximately 55 times in total between 1954 (the privilege was first recognized in 1953) and 2001, it's asserted it 23 times in the four years after Sept. 11. For an administration as obsessed with secrecy as this one is, the privilege is simply proving to be too powerful a tool to pass up. read the rest...
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  • Decline And Fall in the US - by William Reese-Mogg

    On November, which is only six months away, the United States will have mid-term elections. These will include all the seats in the House of Representatives, one third of the Senate and some governorships of the individual states.
     
    Until recently it was assumed that the Republicans would retain control of both Houses of Congress. The advantage of incumbents, and skilful gerrymandering, mean that only a few seats in Congress normally change hands. Now, however, there is less certainty; the public opinion polls have turned sharply against the Republicans; the President’s ratings are particularly bad.
     
    According to recent polls in The Washington Post, the Democrats are in the lead on all the main issues, including health, education, the economy, taxes, immigration, Iraq, the price of oil and the War on Terror. President Bush’s approval rating has dropped to 33 per cent, with only 32 per cent approval for his handling of Iraq. These figures make it possible that the Democrats will win a majority in the House of Representatives and conceivably in the Senate as well.
     
    In 1973 I was one of the few commentators who expressed much sympathy for President Nixon during the inquiries into Watergate that led to his resignation. I was wrong on the major issue; Nixon was guilty. I was proved right in my concern that Watergate would be a dangerous precedent. Future presidents might suffer the same treatment for partisan reasons, with committee inquiries in both Houses, press investigations, special prosecutors and possibly even impeachment. Presidents are particularly vulnerable in their second terms, when their powers of patronage decline.
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    Here Comes The Sun With New Solutions For Worlds Energy Woes


    Tallahassee FL (SPX) May 23, 2006
    The number is staggering: Approximately 2 billion of the world's people -- nearly one-third of the human population -- have no access to electricity.

    Consequently, they do without many of the amenities that people in the developed world take for granted -- everything from air conditioning and refrigeration to television, indoor lighting, and pumps that supply drinking water. And without electricity to power factory operations or other commercial endeavors, those 2 billion people remain mired in an endless cycle of poverty.

    One Florida State University researcher is working to break that cycle through the development of new energy technologies that are easy to install, environmentally sound and -- perhaps most importantly -- inexpensive to produce. Anjane'yulu' Krothapalli holds the Don Fuqua Eminent Scholar Chair of Engineering at FSU.

    He has established a new research center at FSU, the Sustainable Energy Science and Engineering Center (www.sesec.fsu.edu), which is developing technologies that have the potential to transform much of the developing world. Such technologies also could help the United States and other developed nations deal with ever-rising energy costs and combat the spread of global warming.

    "The principles really are very simple," said Krothapalli, a professor of mechanical engineering at the Florida AandM University-FSU College of Engineering since 1983. "At SESEC, we are exploring ways to combine existing technologies to convert solar radiation to heat; to use that heat to produce steam to run a low-cost, highly efficient turbine; and then to use the power generated by that turbine to run a small electric generator.
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    America Behind Bars - by Neal Peirce

    Has America become a "prison nation"?
     
    Check our culture.
     
    We wink an eye as our youth are exposed to such films or television offerings as "Slam," "Prison Break," HBO's "Oz" and "Get Rich or Die Tryin'." Or such highly violent video games as "Grand Theft Auto." The constant message: If you're angry, strike out violently; if you're crossed, seek revenge.
     
    Prison images are spreading across society. Example: baggy trousers. The "fashion" started in prisons, where belts are forbidden because they can be used as weapons. Result? Trousers fall. Now the dropping-pants, underwear-exposing trend can be seen on almost any street, in almost any mall.
     
    Go to schools and ask youngsters for a show of hands whether they have a father, mother, brother, uncle or anyone close to them in prison. In many cities and suburbs, most kids' hands go up. And small wonder: More than 2 million Americans are behind bars, the most — in absolute numbers, and share of the population — of any nation on Earth.
     
    Or ask school kids: "What's a sentence?" Ideally, they'd reply it's a group of words with a subject and predicate. But no, in many schools the reply is quite different: "Five to 10 years."
     
    Our dilemma: America seems to have concluded that the way to deal with misconduct and violent expression of anger is imprisonment. Our drive to be "tough on crime" is exposing vast numbers of people to prison life, triggering more crime in the process. Psychologists understand the dynamics of aggression and which behaviors will lower it. But we focus on the tail end — incarceration — rather than the logical front end — prevention.
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    2006: The Year the Progressive Movement Became a Movement - by David Sirota

    There are many reasons to be optimistic these days if you are a progressive. A look accross the 2006 campaign landscape shows that our movement is no longer theoretical - it is very real, and increasing in power every single day. But as the Denver Post today notes in a piece about our growing movement, progressives also face stiff opposition in the form of a corrupt political Establishment desperate to preserve the status quo. The confrontation brewing between this new movement and the Establishment is not to be downplayed - it is escalating, and it will have profound results that go far beyond just one election.
     
    The Denver Post notes that those defending the status quo are, to be sure, entrenched. "Political corruption comes in two varieties," the Post notes. "There are brazen payoffs, and then there is a kind of gooey rot: the venal abandonment of principles, spurred by the favors of corporate lobbyists and the need for campaign cash." Ultimately, "All but the toughest pols and pundits get seduced, and over time, the party establishment starts to stipulate: globalization is a blessing, free trade is sacred, billionaires need tax breaks, job loss is inevitable, workers are expendable, wages will decline, the war in Iraq is necessary."
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    Another Busy Hurricane Season Predicted


    Miami (UPI) May 23, 2006
    The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is calling for another very busy Atlantic hurricane season, predicting as many as 16 named storms. The annual predictions, issued as part of National Hurricane Preparedness Week, encourage people to make preparations to better protect their lives and livelihoods.

    "For the 2006 north Atlantic hurricane season, NOAA is predicting 13 to 16 named storms, with eight to 10 becoming hurricanes, of which four to six could become 'major' hurricanes of Category 3 strength or higher," said NOAA Administrator Conrad Lautenbacher.

    On average, the North Atlantic hurricane season produces 11 named storms, with six becoming hurricanes, including two major hurricanes.

    ABC News noted NOAA didn't do too well in predicting the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season:
    -- In May 2005, NOAA predicted the summer Atlantic would see 12 to 15 named tropical storms. There were 28.
    -- It predicted seven to nine storms would become hurricanes, with winds of at least 74 mph. Fifteen did.
    -- It predicted three to five of the hurricanes would be "major," with winds of at least 111 mph. Seven became major, with six striking the United States.

    The North Atlantic hurricane season runs June 1-Nov. 30.
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    Another Busy Hurricane Season Predicted

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    The Lawn Racket - by Stan Cox

    Now that May is here, perhaps you're looking out at your lawn and thinking it needs mowing. Instead, you might want to think about whether you need that lawn at all.
    The problem isn't grass. Humans first lived on the grasslands of Africa, and until not so long ago, grasslands covered far greater swaths of North America than they do now.
     
    But landscapes like those bear little resemblance to the classic American lawn -- an industrial, shocking-green carpet whose very survival depends on our polluting the environment and disturbing the peace.
     
    Other kinds of home landscapes can grow pollution-free. A natural-yard movement is showing that  combinations of rugged plants, including grasses, can be far more interesting than a standard lawn while requiring little mowing, no spraying or fertilizing, and even no irrigation.
     
    By contrast, the “perfect” lawn is a monotony of color and texture, yields no useful harvest, and may rarely even be trod upon. But for growing the lawn-care industry a crop of hard cash, the synthetic grasslands of suburbia are fertile ground indeed. To replace all of that high-maintenance turf with something more resilient -- to stow all that equipment and dispose of all those chemicals -- would cause a $35 billion industry to wither.
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    Crisis Shortage Poses Crisis for White House! - by Beth Quinn

    As George Bush's approval rating fell below 30 percent last week, the White House scrambled to locate a new crisis for the president to "face like a man," thereby perpetuating the charade that he's a leader.
     
    Alas, it appears that Bush's spendthrift ways have caught up with him. He squandered all the crises at his disposal during his first five years in office. He's plumb out of crises with which to keep us from noticing that his tax cuts benefit only the rich.
     
    In fact, Americans have grown crisis-weary and only a handful of people are still willing to believe the sky is falling every time Bush proclaims a new crisis.
     
    He's trying to crisis-up immigration right now - an issue that's rarely considered a crisis until an election is approaching, as it is now.
     
    But immigration has proved to be such a dismal little crisis that Bush felt the need to jack up the fear last week by calling out the National Guard to help man the U.S.-Mexico border.
     
    (Note to Bush: The National Guard is in Iraq right now fighting one of your previously made-up crises, so they aren't available for the Mexico gig.)
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    Undersea Channels Could Aid Oil Recovery


    Cambridge MA (SPX) May 22, 2006
    Undersea channels filled with porous material could help extract millions of additional barrels of oil from beneath the seafloor, researchers announced Monday.

    Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Shell Oil's international exploration and production arm said they have been examining such channels, which are filled with highly permeable and porous sedimentary deposits that extend deep below the sea floor.

    The structures form when sediment-laden currents flow off the outer continental shelf and into channels on the deep-ocean floor, depositing layers of sand, silt and clay as they go. Over millions of years, the channels can become filled with porous sandstone covered by impermeable mud – creating a perfect trap for oil and gas that seep up from below.

    Typically, companies recover only 30 percent to 40 percent of the oil in a given reservoir. Because a single reservoir may contain 1 billion barrels, increasing recovery efficiency by even a single percentage point would mean a lot of additional oil.
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    Undersea Channels Could Aid Oil Recovery

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    Can Things Get Any Worse? - by Molly Ivins

    AUSTIN, Texas—Looking at the wreckage of the Bush administration leaves one with the depressed query, “Now what?” The only help to the country that can come from this ugly and spectacular crackup is, in theory, things can’t get worse. This administration is so discredited it cannot talk the country into an unnecessary war with Iran as it did with Iraq. In theory, spending is so out of control it cannot cut taxes for the rich again; the fiscal irresponsibility of the Bushies is already among its lasting legacies.
     
    As we all know, things can always get worse, and often do. I rather think it’s going to be up to the Democrats to hold the metaphoric hands of this crippled administration until it limps off stage. The Republican National Committee has a new scare tactic for the faithful: You must give to the party, or else the Democrats will spend the next two years investigating the administration (horror of horrors). Those who recall the insanely trivial investigations of the Clinton years may indeed regard this as the ultimate waste of time and money (as even Ken Starr concluded, there never was anything to Whitewater), but in fact it could be a therapeutic use of the next biennium. In fact, the offenses are not comparable.
     
    Suppose we really did stop to investigate why and how and who is responsible for the lies, the deformed policies and the inability to govern in this administration. There is a wealth of lessons to be learned about the dangers of ideological delusion and of contempt for governance.
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    US Sets up £215m Deal for Afghan Arms - from Russia - by Thomas Harding

     American defence officials have secretly requested a "prodigious quantity" of ammunition from Russia to supply the Afghan army in case a Democrat president takes over in Washington and pulls out US troops.
     
    The Daily Telegraph can disclose that Pentagon chiefs have asked arms suppliers for a quote on a vast amount of ordnance, including more than 78 million rounds of AK47 ammunition, 100,000 rocket-propelled grenades and 12,000 tank shells - equivalent to about 15 times the British Army's annual requirements.
     
    The Bush administration is said to want the deal because of worries that the next president could be a Democrat, possibly Hillary Clinton, who may abandon Afghanistan.
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    Coerced Confessions - A Corporate Abuse

    In a recent column I wrote about police interrogation tactics that lead a surprising number of people to confess to crimes they didn't commit. It turns out that corporate America has followed suit. Many large corporations take a "loss prevention" approach that utilizes training manuals modeled after the leading police manuals -- using the very techniques that cause false confessions. Indeed, the group that produces the leading manual, John Reid and Associates, boasts about its infiltration into loss prevention.
     
    When a large chain finds money missing (which, needless to say, happens often), and is convinced that one of its employees is guilty of theft, in come trained interrogators with well-honed tactics of isolating the individual and cutting off all escape routes until he feels he is better off confessing - even if he's innocent. (The June 2005 issue of Scientific American Mind features an excellent discussion of the prevailing interrogative methods and their perils titled True Crimes, False Confessions by Saul M. Kassin and Gisli H. Gudjonsson).
     
    It's even worse in the case of private companies than the police, because they don't have to issue Miranda warnings and give employees the opportunity to consult an attorney and remain silent. Instead, they place the defenseless employee in a small, claustrophobic room and systematically break down his will - confronting him with fabricated evidence of his guilt, threatening to fire him instantly (and get the police involved) unless he confesses and promising leniency if he does so.
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    New Clues To Limb Formation And Loss In Sea Mammals


    Rootstown OH (SPX) May 23, 2006
    Researchers from the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine have revealed the genetic basis behind one of the best-documented examples of evolutionary change in the fossil record: how whales lost their hind limbs.

    Writing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Hans Thewissen and his colleagues report that ancient whales--four-footed land animals not unlike large modern dogs--evolved into graceful, streamlined swimmers through a series of small genetic changes during the whales' embryonic development.
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    New Clues To Limb Formation And Loss In Sea Mammals

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    Home Depot CEO Builds Huge Nest Egg

    I own some Home Depot stock, so I'll be casting 30 of the 2.1 billion votes at the 2006 annual meeting Thursday. The proposals are usually dull, but there's a nice snarky one this year about excessive executive compensation that blasts company CEO Robert Nardelli:
     
    In our view, senior executive compensation at Home Depot has been excessive in recent years. In each of the last three years, CEO Robert Nardelli has been paid a base salary of more than $1,800,000, well in excess of the IRS cap for deductibility of non-performance-based compensation. His bonus in each of those years has been at least $4,000,000, and he was awarded restricted stock valued at over $8,000,000 in 2002, 2003 and 2004. Mr. Nardelli has also received a disturbingly large amount of compensation in form of "loan forgiveness" and tax gross-ups related to that forgiveness, which totaled over $3,000,000 in each of the past three years.
     
    We believe that the current rules governing senior executive compensation do not give stockholders enough influence over pay practices. In the United Kingdom, public companies allow stockholders to cast an advisory vote on the "directors remuneration report." Such a vote isn't binding, but allows stockholders a clear voice which could help reduce excessive pay. U.S. stock exchange listing standards do require shareholder approval of equity-based compensation plans; those plans, however, set general parameters and accord the compensation committee substantial discretion in making awards and establishing performance thresholds for a particular year. Stockholders do not have any mechanism for providing ongoing input on the application of those general standards to individual pay packages. (See Lucian Bebchuk & Jesse Fried, Pay Without Performance 49 (2004))
     
    During the six years Nardelli has led Home Depot, he's earned $154.3 million plus millions more in stock options. The company's stock price dropped 6 percent last year and is lower than when he arrived in 2000, while in the same period, Lowe's delivered 200 percent return for its shareholders. "The board at Home Depot has rewarded Nardelli for mediocre to poor performance," Paul Lapides, director of the corporate governance center at Kennesaw State University, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "The pay for Lowe's former chairman is a quarter of Nardelli's annual pay, and Lowe's has outperformed Home Depot in the last six years."
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