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Saturday, June 17, 2006

When Will the Mainstream Media Get It Right? - by Jerry Lanson

My New York Times today paints a pretty grim picture of life in Iraq three-plus years into W's war of choice.

A graphic compares a variety of statistics this May (2006) to the last three. Other than a slight drop in U.S. military deaths from 77 last May to 68 this year, the graphic's stats are awfully disheartening:

-- Monthly incidents of sectarian violence -- up from 20 to 250

-- Daily insurgent attacks -- up from 70 to 90

-- Multi-fatality bombings -- up from 36 to 56

-- Iraqi civilian deaths -- up from 1,000 to 1,500

-- Number of insurgents -- up from 16,000 to 20,000

And so on.

Unfortunately this news appears in views, on Page A27, the opinion page, in a graphic compiled by a senior Brookings Institute fellow and his senior research assistant. The lead news story on Page 1 in my New York Times today is about an entirely different war -- the public relations war of the Republican Party aimed at obliterating any sense of reality among voters of what's really going on in Iraq. The Times reports the Republican offensive without comment, which is appropriate on the news pages. But it also reports this offensive with very little context, which is not appropriate.

WASHINGTON, June 15 -- The House and the Senate engaged in angry, intensely partisan debate on Thursday over the war in Iraq, as Republicans sought to rally support for the Bush administration's policies and exploit Democratic divisions in an election year shadowed by unease over the war.

It was one of the sharpest legislative clashes yet over the three-year-old conflict, and it came after three days in which President Bush and his aides had sought to portray Iraq as moving gradually toward a stable, functioning democracy, and to portray Democrats as lacking the will to see the conflict through to victory.

In the House, lawmakers moved toward a vote on a Republican resolution promising to "complete the mission" in Iraq, prevail in the global fight against terrorism and oppose any "arbitrary date for withdrawal...."

And what do the facts say in support of this Republican offensive? Well the story doesn't offer any. There is no evidence that proves or disproves the Republican's assertion that Iraq is moving toward a stable, functioning democracy. In its 6th paragraph, however, the article does prominently quote Republican House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, who says of Iraq, "It is a battle we must endure and one in which we can and will be victorious. The alternative would be to cut and run and wait for them to regroup and bring the terror back to our shores."

Back to our shores?

But wait. Doesn't The Times remember that Iraq under Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with either Al Qaeda or the bombing of the World Trade Center, according to U.S. intelligence? Doesn't it recollect that this mythical connection is one Republicans have insinuated for years through often-unchallenged quotes such as Hastert's? Has it forgotten that even before the war began, those opposing the war warned repeatedly that it would turn Iraq into the very breeding ground of terrorism that the United States was trying to eradicate?

The Times lead article mentions none of this context. Nor does it include any of the statistical context found on Page 27 of the same edition.
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When Will the Mainstream Media Get It Right?

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Farewell to Teflon - (UPDATED with rebuttal by Trevor Butterworth)

by Nora Ephron

I feel sad about Teflon.

It was great while it lasted.

Now it turns out to be bad for you.

Or, put more exactly, now it turns out that a chemical that's released when you heat up Teflon is in everyone's blood stream -- and probably causes cancer and birth defects.

I loved Teflon.

I loved the no-carb ricotta pancake I invented last year, which can be cooked only on Teflon. I loved my Teflon-coated frying pan, which makes a beautiful steak. I loved Teflon as an adjective; it gave us a Teflon president (Ronald Reagan) and it even gave us a Teflon Don (John Gotti, whose Teflon-ness eventually wore out, making him an almost exact metaphorical duplicate of my Teflon pans). I loved the fact that Teflon was invented by someone named Roy J. Plunkett, whose name alone you might have thought would have insured Teflon against becoming a dangerous product.

But this year DuPont, who makes polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) resin, which is what Teflon was called when it first popped up as a laboratory accident back in 1938, reached a $16.5 million settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency; it seems the company knew all along that Teflon was bad for you. It's an American cliché by now: a publicly-traded company holds the patent on a scientific breakthrough, it turns out to cause medical problems, and the company knew all along. You can go to the bank on it.

But it's sad about Teflon. Teflon wasn't really good when it first came onto the market. The pans were light and skimpy and didn't compare to copper or cast iron. They were great for omelettes, and of course, nothing stuck to them, but they were nowhere near as good for cooking things that were meant to be browned, like steaks. But then manufacturers began to produce Teflon pans that were heavy-duty, and you could make a steak that was as dark and delicious as one made on the barbecue. Unfortunately, this involved heating your Teflon pan up to a very high temperature before adding the steak, which happens to be the very way perfluoroctanoic acid (PFOA) is released into the environment. PFOA is the bad guy here, and DuPont has promised to eliminate it from all Teflon products by 2015. I'm sure that will be a comfort to those of you under the age of forty, but to me it simply means that my last years on this planet will be spent, at least in part, scraping debris off my frying pans.
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read the rest...Farewell to Teflon

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And in the interest at getting to the truth, here is Trevor Butterworth's analysis of the issue...


Nora Ephron is a Threat To Your Health
June 14, 2006
Trevor Butterworth
F amous author blogs overcooked baloney on Teflon

The risks from Teflon have been debated ad nauseum by scientists and regulators – and even lawyers – over the past year. There is a rich trove of scientific literature, including reams of risk analysis from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) - and none of it reaches the conclusion that you are at risk from eating food cooked in Teflon pots and pans.

But even though Nora Ephron has clearly read none of this literature, the magical effortlessness of blogging allows her to make the following, ludicrous claim over at the Huffington Post:

“I feel sad about Teflon.

It was great while it lasted.

Now it turns out to be bad for you.

Or, put more exactly, now it turns out that a chemical that's released when you heat up Teflon is in everyone's blood stream -- and probably causes cancer and birth defects.”

The chemical she refers to is PFOA (perfluorootanoic acid) a precursor chemical to Teflon which effectively “glues” the non-stick coating to a pan or pot

Among the many certainties in this health scare is that PFOA is not released when you heat up a frying pan without oil. Why? Most of the PFOA is incinerated in the process of sticking the Telfon layer to the pan. What remains is so difficult to extract, you would need to EAT THE FRYING PAN.

Please, don’t try this at home.
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read the rest...

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and in answer to my own question as to why DuPont paid a fine if PFOA was harmless...

Did EPA Move the Goalposts to Fine DuPont?

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Who Supports the Troops?

by John Nichols

The February Le Moyne College/Zogby International survey of U.S. troops serving in Iraq found that 72 percent of them thought the United States end its operations in that country by the end of 2006.

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate decided not to call for the withdrawal of combat troops by year's end when it shelved a measure proposing that "only forces that are critical to completing the mission of standing up Iraqi security forces" remain in Iraq in 2007.

After a stilted debate, the Senate voted to block the amendment 93-6.

Every Republican in the Senate voted for the amendment, which was advanced by their party leadership in as part of a coordinated political push by Karl Rove and the White House political shop to mock and minimize the debate about the war and create the impression that there is broad support for the long-term occupation of Iraq. So, too, did most Democrats, who chose not to oppose the latest administration strategy, just as they refused to challenge the Republicans prior to the disastrous 2002 and 2004 elections.

Who were the six senators who refused to play Rove's game and voted for the "Bring the Troops Home" amendment?

Barbara Boxer of California.

Robert Byrd of West Virginia.

Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.

Tom Harkin of Iowa.

Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts.

John Kerry of Massachusetts.

On the day when the 2,500th American died in the Iraq quagmire, the Senate was asked to approve the sentiment of the troops who say that it is time for them to get out of the middle of a foreign civil war.

The vast majority of senators decided to do the bidding of the president who deceived them about the "case" for war and who then played politics with national security and the lives of the young men and women who wear the uniform of the United States.

Only six members of the chamber charged with serving as the ultimate check and balance on the fools' missions of failed presidents chose to support the troops. Boxer, Byrd, Feingold, Harkin, Kennedy and Kerry will, of course, be vilified by Rove regenerated attack machine for having done so. It will be suggested that they sent the wrong message to the troops by voting as they did.

At the end of the day on which the American death toll topped 2,500, however, the only message the six senators sent to the troops was this: We agree with you.

John Nichols, The Nation's Washington correspondent, has covered progressive politics and activism in the United States and abroad for more than a decade. He is currently the editor of the editorial page of Madison, Wisconsin's Capital Times. Nichols is the author of two books: It's the Media, Stupid and Jews for Buchanan.

© 2006 The Nation


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Who Supports the Troops?

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A Man, a Plan … Baghdad

FINALLY! The Bush administration has a plan for Iraq.

A new one, I mean. The old plan — accept flowers from grateful Iraqis, locate WMD, create democracy and the rule of law, depart in five months — had definite appeal, but it didn't work out.

The new plan is that we're going to get the Iraqis to come up with a plan.

That's why the president paid a surprise visit to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki this week. Perhaps sensing that Maliki's response to a cheery "See you shortly!" from George W. Bush might be something along the lines of "Not if I see you first," Bush dropped in on Baghdad's Green Zone unannounced, giving Maliki only five minutes' notice of his arrival.

That's leadership for you. As the president explained: "One reason I went to Iraq yesterday, no matter how secretive the trip was, was to get a firsthand feel for how those people are thinking over there…. I understand leadership…. You've got to have a plan. And that's what I found in Iraq."

In fact, he found that the Iraqis have a "plan to succeed," "a robust plan" and "a plan to improve security." They also have a "plan to bring militias and other armed groups under government control," a plan a "plan … to improve the Iraqi judicial system," "a plan to revitalize the Iraqi economy" and "plans on electricity and energy."

The president may have mentioned other nifty Iraqi plans too, but after I got past 20 references to the word "plan" in the transcript of Bush's post-Baghdad news conference, I lost count. (The president also managed to use some form of the word "success" 33 times.)

But let's not get distracted here. The bottom line, for you doubters, is that Bush really does have a new Iraq plan. It consists of making it "clear to the government there that … it's really up to them to put a plan in place and execute it." Now is that a plan or what?
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A Man, a Plan … Baghdad

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Soldier's Duty: Say No to Illegal War

Lost in the media frenzy over the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, First Lt. Ehren Watada, of Fort Lewis, opened another front in the conflict over President Bush's war of choice in Iraq. At a news conference in Tacoma a few hours before al-Zarqawi's death, Watada announced his refusal of orders to deploy to Iraq on grounds that the war is illegal as well as immoral.

"An order to take part in an illegal war is illegal in itself," he said. "I felt it was my obligation as a leader to speak out against the willful misconduct at the highest level of the chain of command."

Watada is the first soldier to resist the war based on the Nuremburg Principles pioneered by U.S. prosecutors during Nazi war crimes trials after World War II and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (and the United States) in 1950.

Those principles hold soldiers, as well as heads of state, liable for "crimes against peace" (planning, preparing, initiating or waging a war of aggression or conspiring to do so), war crimes (violating "the laws or customs" of war) and crimes against humanity. A key phrase reads: "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relive him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."

As a 28-year-old from Hawaii and a college graduate, Watada signed up to bear arms for his country in March 2003. He went to officer training school, spent a year in Korea and then came to Fort Lewis last summer. He is not a conscientious objector to war and says he would go to Afghanistan if deployed there to find Osama bin Laden and fight the Taliban. Despite his doubts about the invasion of Iraq, as many did, he gave Bush the benefit of the doubt when he argued that overriding dangers required intervention.

Watada says the Army trains officers to take responsibility for their actions and to understand their missions. When assigned to be a leader of the Stryker Brigade based at Ft. Lewis, he began to study the war and was shocked at what he found. Based on constitutional and international law as well as exposes of atrocities committed against Iraqi civilians, "I concluded that not only is the war in Iraq morally wrong, but it is in fact, illegal." He says Bush committed "a betrayal and deception of the American people," ignored his obligations under international law and has perpetrated disastrous effects on Iraqi civilians and U.S. soldiers.

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Soldier's Duty: Say No to Illegal War

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Pattern Recognition in the Bush Media Era

by Danny Schechter

In a remarkable video constructed by David Olson and posted on Mediachannel.org some months back, we hear President Bush speaking explicitly in one of his often incoherent speeches about “catapulting the propaganda.” The President shares his belief—and no doubt the advice of his advisors that repetition of key phrases and message points is essential to influencing public opinion.

“See in my line of work,” he told students in Rochester New York on May 24, 2005. “you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.”

It is this key Pavlovian insight that animates the GOP media offensive and is often critical to its success. Let me repeat: It is this key Pavlovian insight that…..” How else to let “the truth to sink in?”

Here we have a President who seems so flustered and unfocussed revealing just how calculated he is about what he says and how he says it. He knows he is spewing propaganda and is proud of it.

In a media environment of so much “noise,” clutter and contentious argument, oft repeated simplistic phrases easily break though into public consciousness at a time when impressions and thought by association often drives meaning.

This approach is not fact-based but rather uses symbols and stylized sincerity more than serious explanation. That’s why it’s effective in an already dumbed down media environment.

Another favorite tactic is producing events with carefully chosen backdrops and organizing pre-planned well orchestrated events.

The President’s secret mission to save the mission in Iraq is the latest example of pre-emptive warfare by media to create a basis for looking tough and acting optimistically while the sh-t hits the fan. His audience most assuredly were not Iraqis but Americans for whom this kind of political theater seems to work well. With showbiz values already driving news biz presentations, Bush has been able to stoke up his supporters without changing anything on the ground. In this way, he can look like a winner while losing.
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Pattern Recognition in the Bush Media Era

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Corporate Democrats - by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman

If you wonder why things never change in Washington, look no further than a
report released yesterday by Russ Baker's Real News Project
(www.realnews.org).

The report documents 25 corporate Democrats -- corporate consultants with
strong ties to the Democratic Party leadership inside the beltway.

"Although establishment Democrats are, by and large, still more skeptical of
the corporate agenda than Republicans, they have become strikingly less so,"
Baker writes. "This has led to the creation of a kind of permanent corporate
governance structure that is truly bipartisan. Many of the firms employing
Democratic operatives have them working side-by-side with Republicans --
often the same Republicans they go up against in political campaigns. In
some cases, a so-called conservative Republican and a so-called liberal
Democrat are full partners in the same firm."

Case in point: Jack Quinn.

Jack Quinn served as Vice President Gore's Chief of Staff, and later as
Counsel to President Clinton. Now he is a partner in a political consulting
and lobbying firm with Republican insider Ed Gillespie -- Quinn Gillespie --
and together, "they have represented clients who want to drill in fragile
areas of Alaska, put the screws to already beleaguered American creditors,
and prevent the introduction of more healthy dairy substitutes in school
lunches," Baker writes.

Democratic consultants know no bounds when it comes to the corporate feeding
trough. They work for companies pushing genetically modified organisms, for
Big Pharma, for credit card companies and for gambling companies.

Here are the 25 Corporate Democrats profiled in Baker's report.

They'd make a great set of trading cards -- representing Democrats who have
traded in their ideals to push the corporate agenda:

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Greedy CEOs Can't Help Themselves - by Richard Gwyn

The Financial Times of London, although its pages are pink coloured, is
pretty grey. It puts a premium on detail and accuracy; it doesn't inject
spin into its stories; it would rather be right than be first.

So how come the Financial Times is the only paper that I know of to have
covered one of the hottest stories on the go?

This story is about an investigation being carried out by the New York
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) into what appears to be widespread
corporate fraud.

Admittedly, the nature of this fraud is complicated.

It involves allegations that a large number of companies have been lying to
the SEC and to their shareholders.

The specific, alleged lying comes in the form of what could be called
post-dated, secret, payments to corporate executives.

As is standard practice, the CEOs and other senior executives of these
companies, are awarded "options," that is, the chance to buy hunks of
company stock at reduced prices.

The justification for these options is that they encourage the executives to
work hard - for their own benefit, first, but also for the benefit of
shareholders. This is because the higher company share prices go, the
greater will be the value to them of their options when they cash these in.

Regular shareholders will benefit, too, because the shares they own, even
though bought at regular market prices, will likewise be worth more when
they choose to cash in. This is a legitimate business incentive.

It becomes a wholly illegitimate non-incentive - a straight giveaway, an
outright rip-off - when the option is backdated.

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Trivializing Corruption

by David Sirota

Ninety thousand dollars in a Democratic Congressman's freezer. A Republican House Majority Leader indicted for money laundering, and a senior Republican thrown in jail for accepting bribes. Washington's biggest lobbyist thrown in jail for trying to buy off lawmakers. This is what the Washington Establishment and the media want America to believe is the worst form of corruption: a few dirty political hacks who had the nerve to violate our supposedly pristine democracy.

Certainly, these examples are egregious. But the intense focus on them by political leaders and the media to the exclusion of the real corruption destroying our democracy trivializes what corruption really is. That's not by accident -- it is a deliberate tactic of distraction, and shows just how bought off our political system really is.

Today, the lifeblood of American politics is money. Candidates must raise enormous sums of private cash to run for office -- sums that the wealthy and corporate interests are only too happy to provide in exchange for legislative favors. We are told by politicians that this system is "the greatest democracy in the world" when, in fact, it is very clearly the same form of bribery that has marked every corrupt regime looked down on by history books.

Money, of course, does not just buy favors -- it makes sure that the concept of corruption is only presented to the public by political leaders as anecdotes about a few bad apples, not a narrative about a broken system. Why? Because an indictment of the pay-to-play system that produced the bad apples could mean structural campaign finance reforms that challenge the power of the Big Money interests that underwrite our politicians. Thus, in the aftermath of recent congressional scandals, all we get is a pathetical discussion about weak lobbying "reform" proposals and even weaker sanctions against individual lawmakers.

Such narrowing of our political discourse is the most nefarious form of corruption of all. It shows how we now live in a country where the very boundaries of public policy debates are designed to ensure outcomes that never challenge Big Money interests. The truly corrupt interests that own American politics long ago realized that they do not have to pervasively violate our weak anti-corruption laws to get what they want. All they have to do is shower cash on as many lawmakers as possible. These lawmakers, uninterested in biting the hand that feeds them, consequently make sure the overall debate is rigged.


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THE MOST EFFECTIVE DEMOTED TERRORIST

THE MOST EFFECTIVE DEMOTED TERRORIST. Following up on Matt's item below, it's worth noting this Eli Lake report yesterday that a move was afoot to lower the price on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's head before he was killed because of a somewhat different assessment of his importance on the part of U.S. forces:

Even as American and Iraqi soldiers were closing in on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the commander of the American forces in Iraq was trying to get Washington to lower the terrorist leader's importance and profile.

In May, the Multinational Forces in Iraq sent a cable marked "secret" to the Pentagon requesting that the reward of $25 million for Zarqawi's capture be reduced, according to military and administration officials.

The request was part of a recalculation by American war planners who had noticed that the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq's role in the insurgency was gradually diminishing after Iraq's foreign fighters, Islamists, and irredentist Baathists in January formed a new umbrella terror organization known as the Mujahadin Shura Council, or consultative council of holy warriors.

The new constellation of car bombers and kidnappers significantly reduced the role of Al Qaeda in Iraq, relegating it to just one of a number of groups under the leadership not of the Jordanian-born Zarqawi, but an Iraqi, Abdullah Rashid al-Baghdadi.

This development, according to two military sources, persuaded America's top generals that the enemy's organization had become less reliant on a top-down hierarchy. The strategy to reduce the monetary reward for Zarqawi in part reflected a recognition that the man himself had been demoted.

Also, I'm inclined to agree with Eric Umansky, who, in the comments on Matt's item, questions Matt's comparison of Zarqawi to David Ben Gurion as well as his sense of who gets called what. This article on "Jewish Terrorism" makes it very clear that historians are quite willing to call certain founders of the Jewish state terrorists, but Ben Gurion is not the person at whom they generally point fingers.

--Garance Franke-Ruta
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TAPPED

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I think we need to stop President Bush from looking people in the eye.

Molly Ivins - Creators Syndicate

06.15.06 - AUSTIN, Texas -- I think we need to stop President Bush from looking people in the eye. On Tuesday, he told the new prime minister of Iraq that he had come to Iraq to "look you in the eye."

Do we even know if the cultural significance of "looking someone in the eye" is known or accepted in the Middle East? Even if Middle Easterners are kindly disposed toward looking one another in the eye -- say it's not considered rude or worse -- would they know what to make of Bush's declaration to U.S. troops that he came to look at "Prime Minister Maliki in the eyes and determine whether or not he is as dedicated to a free Iraq as you are."

Who knows if Iraqis think this is determinable by the deep-eye look. Come to think of it, I'm not sure it is.

People interpret things differently. Not long ago, I was in the beautiful home of an exceptionally rich person, even by Texas standards. And I saw what I took to be a lovely sort of "treatment" on the spiral staircase -- a swathe of cloth draped artistically about the twisting spiral. Commentator/author Bud Trillin was with me, and he thought the painters had been there and just left a drop cloth on the stair rail, which is the reason you can't take Bud anywhere. Maybe it's like that in the Middle East with the deep-eye look -- people just can't tell.

Now here's the media all in a tizzy because the president went to Iraq without telling hardly anyone -- a big shock. I don't want to ruin anyone's surprise, but I trust you have considered that the president couldn't let anyone know he was coming in advance because the bad guys would try to kill him. Sorry to take any of the fizz out of the celebration of the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, but let's not get overexcited.

Bush said his message to the Iraqi people is, "Seize the moment." Do we think they knew what he meant? Is carpe diem part of Iraqis' general knowledge? Then, the president urged the Iraqis to end sectarian strife. I, too, think this would be a good idea. Thought so for at least three years. Basically, what I'm getting at here is, do you suppose the rest if the world just assumes George W. Bush is a moron when he goes overseas?

I realize the trip was arranged to try to take advantage of the killing of Zarqawi, for Bush to "get a bounce out of it," as they say back in Washington politics. But I'm just not sure there's much bounce left in Iraq. It's not good enough anymore to turn a corner or see a light at the end of the tunnel -- too many corners, too many lights later. I guess we can still seize the moment, although the confusion over how Zarqawi died kind of undercuts that.

The trouble with Iraq is what keeps happening there. We haven't rebuilt the place -- in fact, it keeps getting worse in terms of basic services. You have to admit, leaving a place worse off than Saddam Hussein kept it is not a bragging point. Number of people killed keeps going up, signs of militias out of control, sectarian violence, spreading anarchy ... not good.

Years ago, Mrs. T. Cullen Davis, of tacky Texas murder trial fame, said as her husband tried to grab a fabulous necklace he gave her, "This ain't no takesie-backsie." (You may now take a deep breath while considering the depth of that comment.)

I feel that Iraq is also a "no takesie-backsie." It is a putrid human, social and political disaster, and getting worse, not better. The people who got us into this should not be forgiven - - they should not even get a "bounce" from it. There is only one thing I want from them -- to get us and our Army out of there, instead of cavalierly announcing that will be left to "future presidents."

(c) 2006 Creators Syndicate


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What Was Missing At YearlyKos -- In These Times

It must have been divine intervention by the Journalism Gods that on my flight to Las Vegas for YearlyKos, a conference billed as a gathering of the future of the Democratic Party, I happened to sit next to Lou, a potent symbol of the party’s past.

Small and wiry with a jutting jaw and the tense energy of a prizefighter, Lou expressed disappointment when I first sat down next to him. “I was hoping a couple of good-looking broads would take these seats,” he said. I laughed politely, penciling in a mental checkmark next to “Dirty Old Man.” But after take-off I noticed Lou pull out a copy of The Nation, and I nudged my editor sitting next to me. It was only a matter of time until Lou started to talk, launching into a two-hour disquisition on the evils of war, the Bush administration, the Christian right and Big Business.

“This Bush says he’s a born-again Christian,” he scoffed. “Born-again Barbarian is more like it.” Lou served in Korea and, like his father who was shot while serving in the Italian army during World War I, he “hates war.” He knew the Pentagon’s budget by heart. “War,” he said, “is a business. Just like everything else.”

As critical as he was of the war machine, he wasn’t a pacifist. “If you come to me in peace, with an olive branch, then I’ll respond with an olive branch,” he said. “But if you come up to me and punch me, I’m going to punch you right back in the face.”

He was born and raised in Steubenville, Ohio, a one-time steel town in the eastern edge of the state. After Korea, he spent seven years in the mill as a union man. “I was a rabble rouser,” he said. “The management tried to blackball me.” Steubenville was, in Lou’s day, a boomtown, but now more than 30,000 steel jobs have been reduced to 5,000 and all around him he sees creeping false consciousness. The men at the steel mill have started to turn rightwards, he says, thanks in part to their preachers. “I tell them, ‘You’re so dumb you don’t know your friends from your enemies.’”
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What Was Missing At YearlyKos -- In These Times

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"Audio Bone" - Bone Conduction Headphones

The
bone conduction head phone ”Audio Bone” from Pegasus
corporation Japan will available in 2 colors- Black (GDB-01) and white (GDB-02).The bone conduction technology sends vibrations through the skull straight into the brain for perfect, pure sound. With this
technology you can listen to stereo sound without covering the ear.
Without using amplifier, sufficient volume and sound quality is obtained with the new technology. The headphones with 80dB/mW Sensitivity, 8 Ohm impendence with 50Hz - 4 kHz frequency range weighs 60gms only. The length of the cord is 120 cms.



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Damn Interesting » No More Cavities?

The typical human mouth contains a writhing orgy of bacteria. Most of these microscopic organisms are benign, and some are even beneficial, but one particular variety is a conspicuous troublemaker: Streptococcus mutans. These ubiquitous bacteria thrive on sugars in the mouth, which they consume while excreting lactic acid. This acid is responsible for the great majority of tooth decay in humankind because it erodes the enamel and dentin of the teeth.

A Florida-based company called Oragenics may have found a way to rid our mouths of these acid-excreting organisms for good. This would make cavities a thing of the past, and put no small number of dentists out of business. But despite the obvious benefits, there is potential for disaster.

Oragenics' approach to stopping tooth decay is straightforward: they have used recombinant DNA technology to produce a new variety of S. mutans which does not excrete lactic acid. Instead, it excretes tiny amounts of an agent called Mutacin 1140 which is deadly to other strains of S. mutans, giving these new bacteria an edge over the existing organisms. Once the modified bacteria get a toehold in the mouth, the existing population of S. mutans will be methodically wiped out, leaving the non-acid-producing bacteria in its place. In the absence of acid-producing bacteria, the teeth have little to fear. Oragenics calls this new treatment Replacement Therapy.

If approved as a treatment, a single visit to the dentist would be all that is necessary. The patient's teeth would be swabbed with the modified bacteria for five minutes, allowing it to begin its work. Over the following months, the entire population of the unmodified S. mutans in the mouth would be completely supplanted. The new organisms' ability to muscle out the old riffraff should theoretically allow the new bacteria to reside indefinitely once it is established in the mouth– so it is possible that a single treatment will last for an individual's lifetime.

On the surface it seems like an elegant solution, but clearly there is the potential to upset delicate systems in nature, resulting in possible larger-scale side effects. If S. mutans is present in the ecosystem outside of mouths, there is a chance that the artificial strains might be accidentally introduced into those systems, possibly destroying the natural strains. The acidity in those environments might then be drastically reduced, resulting in unpredictable and irreversible changes. This is a risk shared with many genetically modified organisms.

Top: Rat teeth colonized with normal S. mutans.  Bottom: Top: Rat teeth colonized with modified non-acid-producing strain.Top: Rat teeth colonized with normal S. mutans. Bottom: Rat teeth colonized with modified non-acid-producing strain. (photo by Jeff Hillman)After extensive laboratory testing and animal trials with no observed side-effects, Oragenics has begun some early human trials. The first strains tested on humans have been deliberately crippled to require a daily "feeding" of a particular amino acid in order to survive. Using this method, researchers are confident that any of the bacteria which escape into the wild will not long survive. Also, the first people to be infected with the improved strain are denture wearers, which allows the subjects to remove their teeth at any time in case of trouble. The spouses of the subjects are also cooperating with the study, so researchers can reinforce their confidence that the bacteria is not horizontally transmissible, such as through kissing.

There is no doubt that eliminating cavities from humankind would improve our quality of life. But in a complex system such as the environment it is impossible to predict what will happen when a tiny segment of the ecosystem is replaced. Hopefully further research will provide a reliable ability to determine whether such concerns are valid, or whether they are merely the offspring of technology-stifling fear of the new and unfamiliar.

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SOURCE....

Damn Interesting » No More Cavities?

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Revealing How Marijuana Affects the Brain

By Emily Singer

Scientists have long known that the brain possesses natural chemicals similar to marijuana. While little is known about their precise function in the brain, studies suggest that these compounds, known as cannabinoids, and the receptors they bind to, play a role in diseases, including schizophrenia, Parkinson's disease, and obesity.

Now researchers at Johns Hopkins University have developed a way to image cannabinoid receptors in living animals. The tool will help scientists figure out how these receptors are altered in drug addiction and disease, as well as helping pharmaceutical companies to design drugs that better target this system.

"This is a real breakthrough," says Richard Frank, vice president of medical affairs at GE Healthcare in Princeton, NJ. "Scientists have long believed that the cannabinoid system is involved in diseases, but they've never been able to measure the receptor in living people's brains." The new tracer acts as a receptor antagonist -- meaning it blocks the receptor but does not activate it. That's important, says Frank, because the compound has no pharmacologic effect. In other words, it doesn't make the user feel "high."

Andrew Horti and Robert Dannals at Johns Hopkins designed a novel compound that selectively binds to the cannabinoid receptor, CB1, in the human brain, and labeled it with a radioactive tag. They then used imaging technology known as positron emission tomography (PET) to determine precisely where in the brain the receptors were present. "Such tracers offer the opportunity to study if receptors in the brain are static or if they increase or decrease when we're exposed to different substances [such as marijuana]," says Dannals, senior author on the study, whose results were presented at the Society of Nuclear Medicine meeting in San Diego last week. Such studies could give clues to addiction or other disorders.

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Technology Review: Emerging Technologies and their Impact


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Top 10 Accidental Discoveries

By Natasha Stillwell, April 19, 2004

Just this week I was filming an item with Pam Charbonneau at the Guelph Turf Institute. We were discussing lawn care and Pam introduced me to "Diatomaceous Earth". It's ground up fossilized diatoms- prehistoric algae and if you look at it under a microscope, it resembles tiny shards of glass. It's used in industry for filters but by accident, someone discovered it was a great insecticide. The DE lacerates the insect's exoskeleton then mops up its body fluids. The insect dies from dehydration. DE is still undergoing research as an organic lawn insecticide but it did motivate me to explore what other accomplishments we owe to serendipity.

So say hello to this weeks Top Ten Accidental Discoveries:

10. The Popsicle
Frank Epperson was but a young lad of eleven, when he accidentally came up with what some would later describe as the most important invention of the twentieth century. Who would say that exactly I'm not sure, but Lady Luck was surely smiling the day Frank, mixed himself a drink of soda water powder and water- a popular drink back in 1905. For some reason he never got round to drinking it and left it on the back porch overnight with the stirring stick still in it. Of course, when the temperature dropped overnight, the mixture froze and Frank had a stick of frozen soda water to show his friends at school. Eighteen years later, Frank remembered the incident and started producing what he called 'Epsicles' in seven fruit flavors. The name never took off, but today over three million 'Popsicles' are sold every year.

9. Velcro
In the early 1940's, Swiss inventor George de Mestral was walking his dog. When he got home, he noticed his dog's coat and his pants were covered with cockleburrs. When he took a closer look under the microscope he discovered their natural hook-like shape.

He recognized the potential for a new fastener, but it took him eight years to perfect the invention. Eventually he developed two strips of nylon fabric, one containing thousands of small hooks, just like the burrs, and the other with soft loops, just like the fabric of his pants. When the two strips were pressed together, they formed a strong bond, but one that's easily separated, lightweight, durable, and washable. Voila Velcro!

8. Superglue
Superglue, or Krazy Glue, is actually a substance called 'cyanoacrylate'. Dr. Harry Coover accidentally discovered it twice, the first time in 1942, when he was trying to develop an optically clear plastic for gun sights and the second time nine years later, when he was trying to develop a heat-resistant polymer for jet canopies. On both occasions his new product proved to be too sticky for the job, in fact he got into trouble when he stuck together and ruined a very expensive pair of glass lenses. Finally he realized his super sticking glue might have a use and in 1958 it was marketed as Superglue.

In fact Superglue turned out to be more than just useful. It saved the lives of countless soldiers in Vietnam when it was used in to seal battlefield wounds before the injured could be transported to a hospital.

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read the rest....EXN.ca | Discovery

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New Scientist Breaking News - The dirty truth about allergies

A study that compared lab rodents with their wild counterparts could shed light on whether overly hygienic environments cause allergies and autoimmune disease.

Blood tests found more of a particular kind of immune protein in the wild animals, which may mean they are better at coping with potential allergens, researchers say.

It is estimated that some 40 to 50 million people suffer from allergies in the US alone. The fact that Western populations appear to have the highest rate of allergies prompted some scientists to come up with the “hygiene hypothesis”, which argues that exposure to more natural environments such as farms early in life helps train the body to respond appropriately to harmless microbes and pollen.

In increasingly sterile Western societies, people are no longer exposed to these allergens, which is why they suffer from so many allergies, the hypothesis claims.
Wild rodents

To investigate this, William Parker of the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, US, and his colleagues collected 58 wild rats and 10 wild mice. They extracted blood from the animals and compared serum levels of antibodies with those found in 45 rats and 20 mice bred and raised in the laboratory - which they claim parallels the cleaner environment of modern homes

They discovered that the wild rodents had significantly higher levels of IgE and IgG antibodies, which are produced in response to contact with foreign particles, than their laboratory counterparts.

The wild rats and mice had 2.5 times and 11.5 times as much IgE as the laboratory rodents, respectively. And they had about double the IgG of their lab-raised counterparts.

Previous tests on US hospital personnel and farmers in Rwanda showed that people living in traditional villages also had higher IgE levels than those in modern environments, says Parker, although people who live in hygienic environments and suffer from allergies also have high levels of IgE.
Calming effect

Parker speculates that chronically high IgE levels - from exposure to plant particles and non-lethal microbes in childhood - somehow prevent the immune system from overreacting to them.

He adds that a similar process may take place with IgG antibodies, sometimes associated with autoimmune disease.

The new findings are worth following up with further studies, says Jean Francois Bach of the Necker Hospital for Children in Paris, France. “The idea that there is a difference between wild and lab animals is significant,” he says.

But he adds that the findings do not necessarily support the hygiene hypothesis, since IgE can be elevated by other things, such as parasites.

Journal reference: Scandinavian Journal of Immunology
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SOURCE....
New Scientist Breaking News - The dirty truth about allergies

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Friday, June 16, 2006


click on picture to "embiggen" view........

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Patton's trip to Amsterdam


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tip o' the hat to Hoffmania for the link

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The Pictures of Corruption: How Hastert Used Tax Dollars to Turn a $1.5 Million Profit

Here’s a graphic timeline explaining how House Speaker Dennis
Hastert (R-IL) used a federal earmark to turn a $1.5 million profit:


August 2002: “Hastert and his wife bought a 195-acre farm in Plano in 2002, of which 69.5 acres had no access to roads.” The parcel is located in Hastert’s congressional district (IL-14).


February 2004: Hastert and two partners purchase another 69 acres adjacent to the original property. Here’s a picture of the two parcels, outlined in yellow:



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read the rest here...


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Around The Rings

Iraq Olympics Chief: "We Need Help"
Iraqi NOC President Ahmed Al Sammarai. (ATR)
(ATR) The president of the National Olympic Committee of Iraq tells Around the Rings his Executive Board will meet Thursday to consider what to do about the spread of violence to attacks on the nation's Olympics hopefuls.

"We need help from the government," says a frazzled-sounding Ahmed Al Sammarai by telephone from Baghdad.

"We have already written to them saying we need financial support. We need security guards if they are training in Iraq. We will have to see in terms of training camps and facilities if other, friendly nations will accept some of our athletes to train," he says.

Last week, two tennis players and their coach were gunned down, perhaps for failing to obey a neighborhood edict against wearing shorts.

Two weeks ago, 15 members of an Iraqi taekwondo team and two drivers were kidnapped west of Baghdad on their way to training in Jordan. One of the athletes was a bronze medalist from the Asian Games.
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read the rest here...Around The Rings

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From the Department of Early Warnings | Needlenose

Bushies on the march to bring in Bin Laden before Nov. elections.


From the Department of Early Warnings | Needlenose

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Would-be groom bares all in losing streak

Unclaimed Territory - by Glenn Greenwald: Specter falsely denied proposing amnesty for the Administration's illegal eavesdropping

Last Friday, Walter Pincus of the Washington Post reported that Sen. Arlen Specter had proposed legislation which included blanket amnesty for anyone who has violated FISA, i.e., a "provision that seems to ensure that no one would be held criminally liable if the current program is found illegal under present law."

That same day, the ACLU issued a Press Release objecting that Specter was trying "to win administration support by . . . creat[ing] a retroactive exception to criminal liability when warrantless wiretapping is done at the president’s direction under a claim of inherent authority." These reports created a limited but intense backlash -- there was abundant fury in the blogosphere over the notion that Congressional Republicans would attempt to shield the president and his aides from criminal liability arising out of their illegal eavesdropping conduct, and CNN's Jack Cafferty said that Specter "has turned out to be yet another gutless Republican worm cowering in the face of pressure from the administration and fellow Republicans. "

But almost immediately, that controversy became extremely confused and muddled because Specter went on CNN on Sunday and categorically and unambiguously denied the truth of these reports. When asked directly by Wolf Blitzer if he had proposed "blanket amnesty to anyone who authorized these wiretaps," Specter said:--------------
read the rest here...Unclaimed Territory - by Glenn Greenwald: Specter falsely denied proposing amnesty for the Administration's illegal eavesdropping

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Another Blank Check for Perpetual War

The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives maintained its track record of providing absolutely no checks and balances on the Bush administration's warmaking this week, when it voted 351-67 to authorize another $66 billion in "emergency" spending for the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

While the House will hold a symbolic "debate" on the Iraq imbroglio Thursday, that endeavor has been so constrained by the House Republican leadership that it will be of no more consequence than the discourse in a mock legislative exercise for high school students – although, in fairness to the students, a mock Congress would undoubtedly take the Constitutional imperative of shared responsibility for warmaking more seriously than does the actual Congress.

What was truly frustrating about the House vote on the emergency funding was the general failure of the Democrats – who have again delayed announcement of their agenda for this year's election campaign – to mount a coherent opposition to a war that an overwhelming majority of Americans characterize as a mistake.

Of the 351 votes to continue no-strings-attached funding of the Bush administration's wars, 204 came from Republicans while 146 came from Democrats. Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders cast the final vote in favor of the "emergency" funding package, which also included $28.5 billion for Hurricane Katrina assistance, border security and farm subsidies.

Democrats who voted in favor of the spending included Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Rahm Emanuel, D-Illinois. Fresh from a primary campaign in which she made anti-war sounds in order to fend off a challenge from the left, California Democrat Jane Harman returned to her pro-war voting pattern. And Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin, who is locked in a tight Democratic primary contest for his state's open Senate seat with anti-war candidate Kweisi Mfume, also voted to hand the Bush administration another blank check.--------------

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Another Blank Check for Perpetual War

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The REAL U.S. unemployment rate...

Booman Tribune ~ A Progressive Community: "In fact, I like it so much I made a similar one for the US:

"
read the rest...here

================

and a good sized chunk of the un-employed and under-employed could be due to this...

Ex-Cons Need Not Apply

Believe in the American credo, do you? Second chances, bootstraps, clean slate, all that? Good for you. I do too. Let's see whether you still do after reading this.

A vast class of men and women — maybe 13 million of them — live under an unbreakable glass ceiling. They committed a crime, and they helped to put that ceiling in place themselves. But isn't there a statute of limitations on punishment? Can't someone help them turn that glass ceiling into a sunroof?

These people, ex-felons mostly, are out of the cell, but they're still in "the box" — the little square on almost every job application that asks, "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?" Most of us breeze by it. For those millions — and another 650,000 who are paroled or released every year — that box is the end of the line. Check that box, and check off your chance for a job.

Why should you care? Because you pay for it too, one way or another. Connect the dots: One Californian in five has a criminal record (in no small part because the "war on drugs" has been cramming prisons with first-time offenders). Two-thirds of the prison population is brown or black. In South Central L.A., for example, more than half the people don't work, and nearly one-third live below the poverty line. "The box" is one of many reasons why.

Janet D. is 51, with a long misdemeanor record for prostitution and drugs. Eight years ago she was arrested in an alley at 3 a.m. buying dope. A Superior Court judge named Craig Veals gave her a choice: two years in prison or a year in drug rehab. She took rehab, sullenly, but now, once a year, she goes back to thank him, to show him she's still clean. Last time he didn't even recognize her, with her suit and her briefcase and her hair all done up.

Employers are harder to impress. Janet got an associate of arts degree in clerical work, but agencies can only send her to temp jobs that don't put "the box" on the application. She just spent four months in a temp job, and the company was eager to hire her full time. She passed two interviews. She passed a drug test. Then she came home to a blinking light on the answering machine — a call from the temp agency.

"The message," Janet told me, was " 'You know that thing you worried about? Well, it came up. And your assignment has ended.'

"I was devastated, and I thought, 'Some dope would sure be good right now,' and I said, 'No, I can't do that.' And I had this credit card, and I thought, 'Some shopping would make me feel better,' and I said, 'No, I can't do that either. I have come too far.' "

read the rest...here

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A Vote of No Confidence

"Before his swearing-in, Bilbray said he looked forward to replacing the images of airplanes that used to decorate the walls with photos of surfboards and sailboats.” — USA Today

Unfortunately, the immigrant-bashing Brian Bilbray wasn’t talking about decorating his dorm room. California’s newest congressman is moving into the Rayburn House Office Building, specifically the office vacated by Randall “Duke” Cunningham, bribe taker extraordinaire, who is now serving eight years in prison. Bilbray edged past Democrat Francine Busby in a special, allegedly closely watched election on June 6, allowing Republicans to hold the 50th District in traditionally conservative San Diego County.

And the folksy detail about Bilbray’s taste in poster art, in lieu of reportorial outrage, seems to signal that, once again, America has moved on from a shoddily conducted election — making Congress seem about as trustworthy as a New Orleans rebuilt atop the toxic waste stirred up by Hurricane Katrina. Somebody’s going to get sick from this sooner or later.

Indeed, the “democracy extremists” out there — the ones who take procedural integrity seriously, especially in the era of electronic voting — are sick already.

Let’s forget for a moment the political significance of Bilbray vs. Busby, or even who won, and pare the contest down to one essential fact: The use of Diebold optical-scan and touchscreen machines in last week’s voting in San Diego County was subject to rigid procedural standards set down both by the California Secretary of State’s office and the National Association of State Election Directors, the point of which was to guarantee that the machines arrived at their polling places untampered with and inviolate.--------------

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A Vote of No Confidence

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Scientists respond to Gore's warnings of climate catastrophe

In the interest of presenting both sides of the controversy here is a link to follow. Personally I am still on the fence on this one. --pseudolus
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Scientists respond to Gore's warnings of climate catastrophe

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CNN.com - Drug caches found in Home Depot vanities - Jun 14, 2006

- Drug caches found in Home Depot vanities - Jun 14, 2006: "(CNN) -- Large quantities of drugs were found inside merchandise from at least two Home Depot stores in Massachusetts, and authorities are investigating, police said Wednesday.

A contractor late last week discovered two 50-pound 'bricks' of marijuana wrapped in plastic bags inside a bathroom vanity he had purchased at a Home Depot store in Tewksbury, said Chief of Detectives Lt. Dennis Peterson.

The estimated street value of the marijuana is around $145,000, Peterson said.
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Home Depot or Home Dope?

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The Blog | Peter Daou: Ann Coulter Identifies John Murtha as a Target for Murder | The Huffington Post

"I posted an extended guest entry on Crooks and Liars earlier today explaining why I think Ann Coulter should not be ignored by the online community. Since Coulter-fatigue is setting in, I'm posting the entire essay below to reiterate why I believe it's premature to drop the issue and why the media should be held accountable for giving her a platform.

First this (via QandO), from an interview on Right Wing News:

John Hawkins: How about dashing off a quick sentence or even just a word or two about the following individuals...

John Murtha: The reason soldiers invented 'fragging.'

Here's the definition of 'fragging' for those who don't know:

'Frag is a term from the Vietnam War, most commonly meaning to assassinate an unpopular member of one's own fighting unit by dropping a fragmentation grenade into the victim's tent at night.

A fragging victim could also be killed by intentional friendly fire during combat. In either case, the death would be blamed on the enemy, and, due to the dead man's unpopularity, no one would contradict the cover story. The intended victim of a fragging was sometimes given warnings, of which the first might be a grenade pin on the sheet of the victim, and later on, a tear gas grenade.'

Here's how a rightwing blogger reacts:

'Absolutely disgusting. I have very little love for Mr. Murtha - and I recently agreed with his opponent Diana Irey when she said his words and actions of late were not that of a patriot. But there's no excuse - NONE - for the allusion to soldiers who kill other soldiers. It's despicable - and frankly, so is Coulter.'"
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Ann Coulter

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Surfing Safe

Hello, all! I found a nice site to help anyone shore up their defenses on their Windows pc. Very informative. A good page to bookmark and browse at your leisure or if you find yourself in trouble already. --pseudolus
-----------------------------

Surfing Safe: "A warm welcome to all you surfers out there. Surfing safe is dedicated to stop the spreading of spyware, adware, viruses, trojans, worms, you name it, they all come together in one word: malware. Malware enters your system in many ways, via email, 'free' software, which isn't that free after all, filesharing, opening unsafe attachments, etcetera. Fortunately there are a lot of companies and stand-alone producers in the battle against this malware.

On the left side of the page you'll find information, reviews, tutorials, installation guides and known problems and solutions concerning antivirus software, divided in virus protection and virus scanners. And a firewall section, also including reviews, tutorials and known problems and solutions. Besides the software part, we also provide a dictionary to explain a few terms, such as spyware, virus, adware and even scripting and DDos. And, of course, we take a look at some popular browsers and instant messaging programs, their security and how you can raise their security level. To conclude, the Safe Surfing rules and To-do list provide some valuable information on preventing infections. When you did get infected, take a look at the 'Help I think I'm infected section'"

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

CNN.com - Police don't have to knock, justices say - Jun 15, 2006

CNN.com - Police don't have to knock, justices say - Jun 15, 2006

==================

now contemplate this next point...


"No Knock" Meet "Castle Doctrine"

By Nathan Newman - TPMuckraker

Two conservative legal doctrines are on a collision course. Today, the rightwing majority upheld the right of the police to enter homes without warning.

But recently, states like Florida have been passing NRA-backed "Castle Doctrine" bills that give homeowners the right to assume an unknown intruder is there to do bodily harm and can therefore be shot without any obligation by the homeowner to establish that the intruder is actually a danger.

Now, the text of such Castle Doctrine laws don't actually protect you if you shoot a police officer, but if the police don't identify themselves when they enter a home, it'll create a pretty bad legal tangle for juries when defendants can claim they thought the officer was an unknown intruder against whom they had the right to shoot on sight.

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The Truth About Cars Low Tech, No Tech

"visor1.jpgOne afternoon, while watching a radar-controlled German ubersedan drive itself, the fading sun struck my eyes. Surrounded by microprocessors, solenoids, relays, pumps, controllers, fans, sensors, circuit boards and endlessly coursing electrons, I did what every driver must do: I reached up for a vinyl-covered board and pivoted it down to cover a small patch of windshield through which I now could no longer see. Excuse me? The $105k four-door was crowded with technology, all of it entertaining, much of it only occasionally useful. Yet no one had thought to correct, improve, replace, redesign or reconceptualize a device as primitive as the Budweiser Clydesdales’ blinders. What’s that all about?

In an era when even ordinary sunglasses readily change their opacity, and upmarket carmakers play pointless electroluminescent tricks with sunroofs, we still lower plastic panels in front of our face to block the sun on the windshield. You can't see through sunvisors. They cover only limited areas of the windshield. And because they pivot on a mechanical device as sophisticated as a drawer-pull, you can move them through, at best, two axes. In short, the sunvisor is a low-tech nightmare that needs immediate attention. In this it is not alone.

My first car was a 1936 Ford Phaeton. The vehicle had rubber strips on metal sticks that flapped back and forth to sort of clear the water off the windshield. The aforementioned 2007 supersedan has rubber strips on metal sticks that flap back and forth to sort of clear the water off the windshield glass. I've piloted Learjets that didn't have windshield wipers; they use artfully directed hot air. On final approach in the rain– the only time you're bothering to clear the windshield in a jet– the Lear wasn't going any faster than any big Mercedes, BMW or Audi."
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"The Truth About Cars Low Tech, No Tech:"

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click on picture to "embiggen" view........

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click on picture to "embiggen" view........

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Where is Katrina money going?

Newspapers and blogs (including progressive ones) are trumpeting the latest tale of FEMA mismanagement in the wake of Katrina, outlined in a recent GAO report and reported in this widely-circulated AP story:
The government doled out as much as $1.4 billion
in bogus assistance to victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, getting
hoodwinked to pay for season football tickets, a tropical vacation and
even a divorce lawyer, congressional investigators have found.

The GAO concluded that as much as 16 percent of the billions of dollars in FEMA help to individuals after the two hurricanes was unwarranted.
Republicans are seizing on the report as evidence of the need to scale back Katrina aid and launch a massive investigation:
"This
is an assault on the American taxpayer," said Rep. Michael McCaul,
R-Texas, chairman of the subcommittee that will conduct the hearing.
"Prosecutors from the federal level down should be looking at
prosecuting these crimes and putting the criminals who committed them
in jail for a long time."
While stories of FEMA
incompetence are no surprise, one should ask the question: are wrongful
payments to Katrina victims really bankrupting the American people?

Dig down into the story, and starting at paragraph 11 one finds some actual numbers which don't support the hype. In reality, only 1,500 cases of potential fraud have been confirmed to date, at a cost of $16.8 million -- a far cry from the "$1.4 billion" blasting across headlines today.

Second,
the new report is just a projected estimate, based on GAO's assumption
that it is "95 percent confident that improper and potentially
fraudulent payments" are higher than what is now confirmed. And their
projection doesn't give a firm number, just a range: "between $600 million and $1.4 billion" in wrongful outlays. Always beware of news headlines based around the phrase "as much as ..."

The GOP's outrage over possible
mis-spent money on Katrina survivors is especially disengenuous given
their nonchalance over hundreds of millions in no-bid Katrina contracts
known to have been awarded to Halliburton, Bechtel, Blackwater and other companies. FEMA promised to re-bid the contracts, but as we exposed at Gulf Coast Reconstruction Watch, they never did.

The hundreds of thousands of people displaced by Katrina need more
federal support, not less. The vast majority are still struggling to
make ends meet, endlessly bracing themselves for news that FEMA and
other agencies are ready to pull the plug on assistance for housing and
other needs. See, for example, this recent action alert from Color of Change:
Last
month FEMA started denying long-term housing assistance to evacuees who
by its own standards should have been found eligible. After being
presented with evidence, FEMA acknowledged the problem but made no
guarantee that it would fix it, or that those unfairly denied would
have a chance to qualify for long-term assistance.

Please take a moment to email David Paulison, Director of FEMA, letting him know that this is unacceptable.
Again,
there's no doubt some have taken advantage of Katrina aid funds (and
FEMA's disarray). But how does that compare to the scandal of the
billions shoveled to politically-connected contractors and for unused
FEMA trailers -- 10,000 still sitting empty in Hope, Ark. -- while so little has been spent on rebuilding the Gulf coast and helping those genuinely in need?

And why are progressive websites playing along?
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Katrina rip-off

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The Carpetbagger Report > Once again, taking 'stock' of Bush's record

"From time to time, it's helpful to look back and see how the administration performs by its own standards. In February 2004, for example, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao was on CNN defending the Bush administration's economic policies. When Judy Woodruff noted the president's poor record on job creation, Chao suggested there's only one number that matters.

Woodruff: I want to cite the one economic analyst with Credit Suisse First Boston. He said, these are his words, quote, 'very disappointing; we're not getting the jobs to replace the stimulus in the economy which will fade once the first quarter ends.' Another economist said, 'It's the weakest job-creation rate relative to economic growth on record.'

Chao: Well, the stock market is, after all, the final arbiter.

In retrospect, Chao may have wanted to pick a different standard of measurement, because if the stock market is 'the final arbiter,' Bush has some explaining to do.

Yesterday, the Dow Jones closed at 10,706.14. On the day Bush was sworn into office in January 2001, the Dow Jones stood at 10,732.46.

In other words, after five-and-a-half years of Bush's presidency and a series of budget-busting tax cuts, the stock market has a cumulative gain of negative 26 points.

Under Reagan, the Dow went up 148%. Under Clinton, it grew 187%. After five-and-a-half years, Bush isn't quite breaking even.

Sure, Republican administrations have consistently under-performed Democratic administrations on stock market growth, but who would have guessed that nearly five years after Bush took office, the Dow wouldn't have grown at all?
Tags: stock market, Dow Jones, Bush, Reagan, Clinton

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The Truth About Cars Garage Life

By Bryan Myrkle

I remember spending an agonizing afternoon on my back, butt and knees on the cold concrete floor of my dad’s garage, trying to coerce a transmission, axle and wheel assembly back together. We’d just replaced my Jetta’s clutch, fried by a combination of adolescent exuberance and insensitive pedal technique. But, like some twisted Rubik’s cube, the various pieces defied logical integration. As afternoon drew into evening, my dad had a brainwave. “Let’s try again in the morning.” The next day, the parts simply fell into place; final assembly was as obvious as a pimple on a prom date.

That timeout was the trick that helped everything flow. It’s a technique I still use when confronted with seemingly insoluble problems: mechanical, psychological and spiritual. Like any boy who spends quality time working on cars, I learned a lot of life’s lessons in my Dad’s garage. Strange, then, that home repair, this crucible of character, this once pervasive American right of passage, seems endangered. I wouldn’t have expected our society to give up its garage culture without a fight. But then I wouldn’t have expected its original benefactors to be the same people conspiring to take it away.

'You can't work on a car yourself anymore.' It's true: you can't. Even small garages would be lost without sophisticated and expensive diagnostic computers. Beyond that, imports have raised the electro-mechanical game to a level of near-total non-intervention. For decades, nothing could have been further from the truth; hundreds of thousands of cars received their regular maintenance and repair at the hands of their owners. One 1920's product manual urged owners not to be afraid of tackling these jobs: 'Our company service men have no more brains than you do.'

Now, all products are disposable. The impulse to fix instead of replace is gone, destroyed by the unstoppable efficiencies of mass production. Basic maintenance is either cheaply provided or rendered unnecessary. Change your own oil? About as likely as writing a personal letter. Check the transmission fluid? No way to do it on my car. The last time I bought wiper blades, the guy had installed them before I left the parking lot. Today’s corner garages are for pumping gas, slapping on an inspection sticker or parking."

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Aston Martin DB9


By Jay Shoemaker



10.jpgWalking up to the Aston Martin DB9, I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to drive it or sleep with it.   If
running your hand over the DB’s sculptured haunches and taut
lines doesn’t give you a warm feeling in your nether regions, you
should surrender your pistonhead privileges at the door.  Very
few inanimate objects attain this level of beauty; those that do either
rock your world or break your heart, or, as in this case, both.    


Eventually, I stopped stalking the DB9 and went to open the
door. This requires a patient, concerted effort; the doors are operated
via a cantilevered handle imbedded in the sheet metal.
 You push in to make the door handle to pop out.  The portals are perfectly balanced. Their swan-like upward arcing motion stops anywhere you choose in its cycle.  Aston hasn’t offered this level of engineering precision or attention to detail since, um, ever. 


50.jpgEnter the cabin and the aroma of fine leather and natural wood overwhelms your brain’s olfactory center.  Again, running your hand over everything is a subconscious response.  Although
there’s lots of room forward and back, the seats only offer a
narrow slot between the high bolsters for your bottom, so anything from
short and skinny to tall and skinny works just fine.  The leather is hand-fitted and feels very plush, thick and warming.  In
fact, the longer your sits in them at anything above room temperature,
the more you wish for perforations and active ventilation. 

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<a href="http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1581">Aston Martin DB9</a>


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The Consortiumnews.com

: "By Robert Parry
June 14, 2006

Over the past quarter century, South Korean theocrat Sun Myung Moon has been one of the Bush family’s major benefactors – both politically and financially – while enjoying what appears to be protection against federal investigations into evidence that his cult-like organization has functioned as a criminal enterprise.

Indeed, the newest disclosure about Moon funneling money to a Bush family entity bears many of the earmarks of Moon’s business strategy of laundering money through a complex maze of front companies and cut-outs so it can’t be easily followed. In this case, according to an article in the Houston Chronicle, Moon’s Washington Times Foundation gave $1 million to the Greater Houston Community Foundation, which in turn acted as a conduit for donations to the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library.

The Chronicle obtained indirect confirmation that Moon’s money was passing through the Houston foundation to the Bush library from Bush family spokesman Jim McGrath. Asked whether Moon’s $1 million had ended up there, McGrath responded, “We’re in an uncomfortable position. … If a donor doesn’t want to be identified we need to honor their privacy.”

But when asked whether the $1 million was intended to curry favor with the Bush family to get President George W. Bush to grant a pardon for Moon’s 1982 felony tax fraud conviction, McGrath answered, “If that’s why he gave the grant, he’s throwing his money away. … That’s not the way the Bushes operate.”

McGrath then added, “President Bush has been very grateful for the friendship shown to him by the Washington Times Foundation, and the Washington Times serves a vital role in Washington. But there can’t be any connection to any kind of a pardon.” [Houston Chronicle, June 8, 2006, citing the work of private researcher Larry Zilliox.]

But Moon has many other interests beyond clearing his criminal record with a presidential pardon.

While it’s true Moon has sought a pardon since the latter years of Ronald Reagan’s administration, Moon also has counted on powerful political connections to shield his business activities from renewed federal investigation that otherwise might have pried into criminal offenses ranging from money laundering to evading the U.S. embargo on the rogue state of North Korea.

Moon has achieved this remarkable insulation for his operations largely by spreading around hundreds of millions of dollars for political activities, charitable functions and the publication of one of Washington’s daily newspapers, the Washington Times.

The founder of the South Korean-based Unification Church has made himself particularly useful to the Bush family and other prominent Republicans who have returned the favor by speaking at his events, lavishing praise on his business on his business operations and granting him Capitol Hill space for some of his ceremonies."---------------
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Michelle Malkin: DO YOU THINK THIS IS FUNNY?

Oh, Michelle! If you think the suicide of some young Iraqui men held in U.S. custody without rights for an indefinite period of time is worth a cocodile "Boo-frickin'-hoo" from you, what do you expect from me for this? Double "Boo-frickin'-hoo", sweetie. Double! --pseudolus
====================
Michelle Malkin: DO YOU THINK THIS IS FUNNY?
By Michelle Malkin · May 20, 2006 11:23 AM


Pat yourselves on the backs, you tolerant liberal bastards.

***

This is hardly the first time liberals have made Asian whore ping-pong ball jokes about me.

But Wonkette has now mainstreamed it. And I'm sick of it. Are you proud of yourselves? Do you get a bonus from Nick Denton for scraping the bottom of the barrel?

***"

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Arctic Expedition Will Investigate Alien-Like Glacier


"These sulfur springs in the Arctic may just put us one step closer to answering that age old question: are we alone in the Universe?" - Dr. Benoit Beauchamp.
by Staff Writers
Calgary, Canada (SPX) Jun 15, 2006
A scientific expedition to a remote glacier field in Canada's High Arctic may help researchers unlock the secrets about the beginning of life and provide insights for future exploration of our solar system.

A team assembled by the University of Calgary's Arctic Institute of North America plans to spend two weeks studying a sulfur-spewing spring on the surface of an ice field not far from the North Pole this summer, after it was discovered by Institute Executive Director Dr. Benoit Beauchamp during his travels in the area.

Beauchamp, U of C adjunct professor Dr. Steve Grasby from the Geological Survey of Canada, and two graduate students will conduct the first extensive study of the spring after initial tests showed the geological oddity is home to a unique form of bacteria that has adapted to thrive in a cold and sulfur-rich environment.

"We really want to try and understand the plumbing system for this spring and where all this sulfur is coming from," Beauchamp said. "This is a very unusual feature on the earth's surface and it's an extreme ecosystem that could be a good model for how life first begins in a harsh environment."

The spring has also attracted the attention of the Canadian Space Agency and NASA, which are helping to fund the expedition, because it likely provides the best example on Earth for the conditions believed to exist on the surface of Jupiter's moon Europa. Ice-covered Europa is considered one of the best candidates for finding evidence of life on other planets within our solar system.

Sending a probe to the planet is high on NASA's list of possible projects. Graduate student Damhnait Gleeson from the University Colorado, on a project sponsored by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will be taking part in the study to determine if it will be worthwhile testing spacecraft and remote-control rover equipment on the glacier in the future.

"These are exciting times for planetary exploration in Canada, said Dr. Alain Berinstain, Director of Planetary Exploration and Space Astronomy at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). "With the development of the Canadian Analogue Research Network (CARN) by the CSA, there are more opportunities than ever for Canadian researchers to further our understanding of other planets by studying analogues sites on Earth," Berinstain said.

"These sulfur springs in the Arctic may just put us one step closer to answering that age old question: are we alone in the Universe?"

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<a href="http://www.terradaily.com/reports/Arctic_Expedition_Will_Investigate_Alien_Like_Glacier.html">Arctic Expedition Will Investigate Alien-Like Glacier</a>


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