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Undernews For 28 March, 2008

Undernews For 28 March, 2008

Editor: Sam Smith

Washington's Most Unofficial Source


He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself. -- Thomas Paine

War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption and the Ice Capades. If this is the best God can do, I'm not impressed. Results like this do not belong in the resume of a Supreme Being. This is the kind of shit you'd expect from an office temp with a bad attitude - George Carlin



DANNY SCHECHTER, EDITOR & PUBLISHER - "It is somewhat surprising," Larry Elliott, economics editor of London's The Guardian observed recently, "that there is not already rioting in the streets, given the gigantic fraud perpetrated by the financial elite at the expense of ordinary Americans." If such a fraud was taking place, and if Wall Street's financial crisis, according to the usually staid Economist, was on the edge of "disaster" with a "financial nuclear winter" waiting in the wings, why were American news consumers among the last to know?

On the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq, our press was papered with retrospectives that dealt with every aspect of the conflict except its own miscoverage. At the same time, another and, arguably, more serious crisis had been underway longer and covered even more poorly.

The New York Times finally got around to examining war reporting as a business not journalism story on March 24 (below the fold), well after the unhappy anniversary. The story cited as a prime excuse for the fall-off in coverage, a study suggesting a "decline in public interest" as if that was not influenced by the lack of the issue's visibility. Other factors were the expense and danger of covering a Iraq.

Those excuses cannot justify the fact that most of the reporting on Wall Street's woes started only after the market melted down in August 2007,and not as this crisis built in intensity since 2001 when a housing bubble was engineered to replace the failed bubble. The financial world is not in Baghdad, not risky or expensive to cover. In fact, most media outlets have correspondents on the scene every day.

Was the press just not paying attention as hundreds of billions of dollars were swept into exotic structure investment vehicles over years, and then sliced and diced into CDO's and so-called asset based securities? A New York Times columnist even admitted that experts and advocates first warned them in 2001 that predatory lending practices were devastating poor neighborhoods but the issue was not covered in any depth for five years. This has resulted in nearly three million families facing foreclosure and the rest of us losing share and home values. . .

Most of the coverage has been relegated to not widely read business sections that focus on the ups and downs of the markets and the way the collapse of these arrangements have affected the fortunes of CEOS and business enterprises, not citizens, consumers and most of all homeowners, many of whom are or will be losing their homes.

Dean Starkman ,who studied the spotty "business" coverage in detail for the Columbia Journalism Review, concluded: "Today, as the credit crisis unravels, the business press can be fairly blamed for inattentiveness to the growing strains on middle-income borrowers. Maybe that's why so many middle-income people don't read it."

There is more to this very sad failure. Many newspapers and TV outlets were complicit. They accepted and made tons of money carrying slick and often deceptive advertising for shady mortgage lenders and credit card companies encouraging readers and viewers to accept more debt. Some major newspaper are tied into local real estate syndicates and get kickbacks from sales tied to their extensive advertising of homes for sale. . .

What's worse is that the coverage may have missed the truly criminal aspects of this crisis, the issue so far being raised mostly overseas. This will be fought out in courtrooms worldwide when those who purchased worthless mortgages sue the companies who sold them knowing their true value. Why are the RICO laws not being used to prosecute a scam involving so many "entangled" companies? There is no shortage of data on this fraudulent and discriminatory scheme.

Already the FBI is investigating 17 mortgage companies. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who never figured out that waterboarding is torture, now says his department is trying to figure out whether there is a larger criminal story.

Don't hold your breath for him to figure it out. Where is our mighty media that devoted so many acres of print to investigating Eliot Spitzer's victimless hypocrisy in looking into a far deeper failure that affects all of us and the future of our society?


This is one of these issues that too few want to talk about seriously: a generalized improvement - such as a new drug - that also has serious bad side effects. When you think about it, that's the basic story behind our environmental crisis: new things that did good we loved but also bad we ignored. While environmentalists and public officials gloss over the dangers of mercury in bulbs, their own instructions for handling broken bulbs points to a hazard more serious than they wish to discuss. .

STAR TRIBUNE, MN How many members of Congress does it take to change a light bulb? Americans may soon find out, courtesy of a contrarian piece of legislation introduced this month by Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. Titled the "Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act," the bill seeks to repeal the nationwide phase-out of conventional light bulbs, the kind that have been used for more than a century -- pretty much since the invention of the incandescent light bulb.

Bachmann, a first-term Republican, is challenging the nation's embrace of energy-efficient compact fluorescent lights, saying the government has no business telling consumers what kind of light bulbs they can buy. "This is an issue of science over fads and fashions," Bachmann said in an interview.

Her bill, the first challenge of its kind, raises safety questions about the small amounts of mercury in fluorescent lights. It also lands her squarely in the middle of the debate over global warming. . . "

"By 2012, incandescent light bulbs will be no more," Bachmann said. "Fluorescent bulbs are more polluting because of their mercury content. We are working on a light bulb bill. If the Democrats can hose up a light bulb, don't trust them with the country."

The electrical and manufacturing industries, in a rare alliance with environmentalists, portray Bachmann's mercury concerns as overblown. They argue that fluorescent lights actually reduce mercury emissions in the long run. That's because the new bulbs use so much less electricity, much of which is produced by burning coal, which emits greenhouse gases and mercury.

"That's not just the industry talking," said Mark Kohorst of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. "That's an accepted aspect of these products, and that's why they've been promoted so heavily."

Whatever one's views on global warming, Kohorst said, the energy savings of fluorescent lights are real. "The lamp thing has merit," he said. "Unfortunately, [Bachmann] has lumped it in with this whole conspiracy thing."

Environmentalists are more emphatic in downplaying the mercury hazards of fluorescent bulbs, which they say are minimal.

"There is 200 times more mercury in each filling in Congresswoman Bachmann's teeth than there is in a compact fluorescent light bulb," said Julia Bovey, a spokeswoman for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The federal government is also on board, with Congress' last energy bill, signed by President Bush in December, having mandated a phase-in to energy-saving bulbs starting in 2012. . .

The mercury content of fluorescent light bulbs has long been a concern of federal and state regulators. Minnesota is one of a handful of states that ban the disposal of fluorescent lights as general waste, and Xcel Energy, the state's biggest utility, actively reimburses many customers for recycling them.

The Environmental Protection Agency and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency outline a series of steps that homeowners should take to clean up broken fluorescent lights: Open windows, use rubber gloves, dispose of all material in sealed bags and remove it to a hazardous waste facility. "It's almost as if you have to call the haz-mat team out to your home," Bachmann said.

Environmentalists argue that most of the steps are the same as cleanup from any broken glass accident, except for the special disposal requirements. Industry experts say the amount of mercury in new compact fluorescent lights -- about 5 milligrams, on average -- is small but significant enough to warrant common-sense safety precautions and consumer recycling efforts to keep it out of landfills.

"There are minuscule amounts of mercury, but it's a hazardous waste, and we want to take it seriously," said Kim Sherman, product portfolio manager at Xcel Energy.

MPCA spokesman Sam Brungardt said the use of compact fluorescent lights, which use one-fourth the energy of regular bulbs, should certainly be encouraged. If new legislation is needed, he said, it should be to encourage consumers to recycle. "You have to make it easy to do this," he said.

With or without the help of Congress, the market for compact fluorescent lights is growing. They are now more than 20 percent of the consumer market in the United States, up from 1 percent in 2001, according to Steve Rosenstock of the Edison Electric Institute

NPR 2007 The Environmental Protection Agency and some large business, including Wal-Mart, are aggressively promoting the sale of compact fluorescent light bulbs as a way to save energy and fight global warming. They want Americans to buy many millions of them over the coming years. But the bulbs contain small amounts of mercury, a neurotoxin, and the companies and federal government haven't come up with effective ways to get Americans to recycle them.

"The problem with the bulbs is that they'll break before they get to the landfill. They'll break in containers, or they'll break in a dumpster or they'll break in the trucks. Workers may be exposed to very high levels of mercury when that happens," says John Skinner, executive director of the Solid Waste Association of North America, the trade group for the people who handle trash and recycling.

Skinner says when bulbs break near homes, they can contaminate the soil.

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin, and it's especially dangerous for children and fetuses. Most exposure to mercury comes from eating fish contaminated with mercury,

Some states, cities and counties have outlawed putting CFL bulbs in the trash, but in most states the practice is legal.

Pete Keller works for Eco Lights Northwest, the only company in Washington state that recycles fluorescent lamps. He says it is illegal to put the bulbs in the trash in some counties in Washington, but most people still throw them out. . .

Experts agree that it's not easy for most people to recycle these bulbs. Even cities that have curbside recycling won't take the bulbs. So people have to take them to a hazardous-waste collection day or a special facility.

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency program concedes that not enough has been done to urge people to recycle CFL bulbs and make it easier for them to do so.

"I share your frustration that there isn't a national infrastructure for the proper recycling of this product," says Wendy Reed, who manages EPA's Energy Star program. That programs gives the compact bulbs its "energy star" seal of approval. . .

Reed says the agency has been urging stores that sell the bulbs to help recycle them. "EPA is actively engaged with trying to find a solution that works for these retailers around recycling the product, because it's really, really important," Reed says.

But so far, she says the biggest sellers of the bulbs haven't stepped up to the plate. "The only retailer that I know of that is recycling is IKEA," she says, referring to the Swedish-owned furniture chain store.

Reed says the EPA has been prodding other retailers, such as Wal-Mart, to do more. "We are working with Wal-Mart on it, we are making some progress. But no commitments have been made on the part of Wal-Mart," she says.

EPA also has asked retailers to sell the lower mercury compact bulbs that some manufacturers are making. Engineers say you can't cut mercury out completely.

General Electric has been making compact fluorescents for 20 years. Now the company admits that the little bit of mercury in each bulbs could become a real problem if sales balloon as expected. "Given what we anticipate to be the significant increase in the use of these products, we are now beginning to look at, and shortly we'll be discussing with legislators, possibly a national solution here," says Earl Jones, a senior counsel for General Electric.


What if I accidentally break a fluorescent lamp in my house?

The lamp contains a small amount of mercury, but you can clean this up yourself if you do the following:

Do not use a vacuum cleaner to clean up the breakage. This will spread the mercury vapor and dust throughout the area and could potentially contaminate the vacuum.

Keep people and pets away from the breakage area until the cleanup is complete.

Ventilate the area by opening windows, and leave the area for 15 minutes before returning to begin the cleanup. Mercury vapor levels will be lower by then.

For maximum protection and if you have them, wear rubber gloves to protect your hands from the sharp glass.

Carefully remove the larger pieces and place them in a secure closed container, preferably a glass container with a metal screw top lid and seal like a canning jar

Next, begin collecting the smaller pieces and dust. You can use two stiff pieces of paper such as index cards or playing cards to scoop up pieces.

Pat the area with the sticky side of duct tape, packing tape or masking tape to pick up fine particles. Wipe the area with a wet wipe or damp paper towel to pick up even finer particles.

Put all waste and materials into the glass container, including all material used in the cleanup that may have been contaminated with mercury. Label the container as "Universal Waste - broken lamp."

Remove the container with the breakage and cleanup materials from your home. This is particularly important if you do not have a glass container.

Continue ventilating the room for several hours.

Wash your hands and face.

Take the glass container with the waste material to a facility that accepts "universal waste" for recycling. To determine where your municipality has made arrangements for recycling of this type of waste, call your municipal office or find your town in this list municipal collection sites

When a break happens on carpeting, homeowners may consider removing throw rugs or the area of carpet where the breakage occurred as a precaution, particularly if the rug is in an area frequented by infants, small children or pregnant women.

Finally, if the carpet is not removed, open the window to the room during the next several times you vacuum the carpet to provide good ventilation.

The next time you replace a lamp, consider putting a drop cloth on the floor so that any accidental breakage can be easily cleaned up. If consumers remain concerned regarding safety, they may consider not utilizing fluorescent lamps in situations where they could easily be broken. Consumers may also consider avoiding CFL usage in bedrooms or carpeted areas frequented by infants, small children, or pregnant women. Finally, consider not storing too many used/spent lamps before recycling as that may increase your chances of breakage. Don't forget to properly recycle your used fluorescent bulbs so they don't break and put mercury into our environment.


Before Clean-up: Ventilate the Room

1. Have people and pets leave the room, and don't let anyone walk through the breakage area on their way out. 2. Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more. 3. Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system, if you have one.

Clean-Up Steps for Hard Surfaces

4. Carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag. 5. Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder. 6. Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes and place them in the glass jar or plastic bag. 7. Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.

Clean-up Steps for Carpeting or Rug

4. Carefully pick up glass fragments and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag. 5. Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder. 6. If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the bulb was broken. 7. Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister), and put the bag or vacuum debris in a sealed plastic bag.

Disposal of Clean-up Materials

8. Immediately place all cleanup materials outside the building in a trash container or outdoor protected area for the next normal trash. 9. Wash your hands after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing clean-up materials. 10. Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your specific area. Some states prohibit such trash disposal and require that broken and unbroken mercury-containing bulbs be taken to a local recycling center.

Future Cleaning of Carpeting or Rug: Ventilate the Room During and After Vacuuming

11. The next several times you vacuum, shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system and open a window prior to vacuuming. 12. Keep the central heating/air conditioning system shut off and the window open for at least 15 minutes after vacuuming is completed.


DAVID ROVICS, INDYMEDIA Last weekend I sang at an antiwar protest in downtown Portland, Oregon, on the fifth anniversary of the ongoing slaughter in Iraq. In both its good and bad aspects, the event downtown was not unusual. Hard-working, unpaid activists from various organizations and networks put in long hours organizing, doing publicity, and sitting through lots of contentious meetings in the weeks and months leading up to the event. On the day of the event, different groups set up tents to network with the public and talk about matters of life and death. There was a stage with talented musicians of various musical genres performing throughout the day, and a rally with speakers in the afternoon, followed by a march. Attendance was pathetically low.

In large part I'm sure this was due to the general sense of discouragement most people in the US seem to feel about our ability to effect change under the Bush regime. It was raining especially hard by west coast standards, and that also didn't help…

The crowd grew to its peak size during the rally and march, but was almost nonexistent before the 2 pm rally. There was only a trickle of people visiting the various tents prior to the rally, and the musicians on the stage were playing to a largely nonexistent audience. . .

Why? I wasn't at the meetings -' thankfully, I'm just a professional performer, not an organizer of anything other than my own concert tours, so I only know second-hand about what was said. There's no need to name the names of individuals or the smaller groups involved with the coalition in this case -' the patterns are so common and so well-established that the names just don't matter. Some people within the peace coalition were of the opinion that the war in Iraq was too serious a matter to have a festival connected to it. Because, I imagine, of some combination of factors including the nature of consensus decision-making, sectarianism on the part of a few, and muddled thinking on the part of some others, those who thought that a festival should happen -' and should be called a festival -' were overruled. . .

Dedicated leftists may sit through the speeches of Fidel Castro or Hugo Chavez, but transcendent poetry of Pablo Neruda and the enchanting melodies of Silvio Rodriguez cross all political and class lines. You will have to try hard to find a Spanish-speaking person anywhere in the Americas who does not love the work of that Cuban communist, Silvio. You'll have to search hard to find a Latino who does not have a warm place in their heart for that murdered Chilean singer-songwriter, Victor Jara.

Talk to any Arab of any background, no matter how despondent they may be about the state of the Arab world, try to find one whose eyes do not light up when you merely mention the names Mahmoud Darwish, Marcel Khalife, Feyrouz, Um Khultum. Try to find anyone in Ireland but the most die-hard Loyalist who doesn't tear up when listening to the music of Christy Moore, whatever they think of the IRA. And ask progressives on the streets of the US today how they came to hold their political views that led them to take the actions they are now taking, and as often as not you will hear answers like, "I discovered punk rock, the Clash changed my life," or "I went to a concert of Public Enemy, and that was it."

Music -' and art, poetry, theater -' is powerful (if it's good). The powers that be know this well. Joe Hill and Victor Jara are only a small fraction of the musicians killed by the ruling classes for doing what they do. . .

Enter 2008. Knowing the essential power of music, the very industry that sells us music mass-produced in Nashville and LA has done their best to kill music. For decades, the few multi-billion-dollar corporations that control the music business and the commercial airwaves have done their best to teach us all that music is something to have in the background to comfort you as you try to get through another mind-numbing day of meaningless labor in some office building or department store. It's something to help you seduce someone perhaps, or to help you get over a breakup. It is not something to inspire thought, action, or feelings of compassion for humanity (other than for your girlfriend or boyfriend).

There are always exceptions to prove the rule, but by and large, the writers and performers in Nashville and LA know what they're being paid to do, and what they're being paid not to do -' if it ever occurred to them to do anything else in the first place. But even more potently, all those millions of musicians aspiring to become stars, or at least to make a living at their craft, know either consciously or implicitly that any hope of success rides on imitating the garbage that comes out of these music factories. Of course, there are the many others who write and sing songs (and create art, plays, screenplays, etc.) out of a need to express themselves or even out of a desire to make a difference in the world, but they are systematically kept off of the airwaves, out of the record deals, relegated largely to the internet, very lucky if they might manage to make a living at their craft. Fundamentally, though, they are made to feel marginal, and are looked at by much of society as marginal, novelties, exotic. Although they are actually the mainstream of the (non-classical) musical tradition in the US and around the world, although the kind of music they create has been and is still loved by billions around the world for centuries, in the current climate, especially in present-day US society, they are a marginal few.

And no matter how enlightened we would like to think we are, the progressive movement is part of this society, for good and for ill. Most of us have swallowed this shallow understanding of what music is. The evidence is overwhelming. There are, of course, exceptions. Folks like the organizers of the annual protests outside the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia -' School of the Americas Watch -' are well aware of the potency of culture, and use music and art to great effect, inspiring and educating tens of thousands of participants every November.

On the other end of the spectrum are the ideologically-driven people who have turned hatred of culture into a sort of art. I have to smile when I think of the small minority of Islamist wackos who tried to storm the stage at one rally I sang at in DC in 2002, shouting, "No music! No music!" Security for the stage was being provided by the Nation of Islam, who faced off with this group of Islamists, who ultimately decided that throwing down with the Jewels of Islam behind the stage that day wasn't in their best interests, apparently.

But much more prevalent, and therefore much scarier, are groups like the ANSWER "Coalition." (I put "coalition" in quotes because I have yet to meet a member of a group that theoretically makes up the "coalition" that has had any say in what goes on at their rallies. . .

Millions of people in the US who regularly go to antiwar protests are unaware of who is organizing them. They just want to go to an antiwar protest. ANSWER has become almost synonymous with "antiwar protest". . . I tend to avoid anything having to do with ANSWER or the little-known, shadowy Worker's World Party, but a few years ago I was driving across Tennessee listening to CSPAN on my satellite radio, and they broadcast the full four hours of an ANSWER protest in DC. I sat through it because I wanted to hear it from beginning to end, for research purposes, and Tennessee is a long state to drive through from west to east, had to do something during that drive. There was one song in the four-hour rally. Although I've been an active member of the left for twenty years, I recognized almost none of the names of the people who spoke at the rally. Every speech was full of boring, tired rhetoric, as if they were out of a screenplay written by a rightwing screenwriter who was trying to make a mockery out of leftwing political rallies. . .

The vast majority of contemporary, very talented, dedicated musicians. . have rarely or never been invited to sing at a local or national protest rally (even if some few of us have, many times). The vast majority of progressive conferences do not even include a concert, or if they do, it's background music during dinner on Saturday night. I can count on one hand the number of times I have heard Democracy Now! or Free Speech Radio News mention that a great leftwing artist is doing a tour of the US. The number of fantastic musicians out there who have even been played during the station breaks on Democracy Now! is a tiny fraction of those that are out there . . .

If the point is to inspire people to action, a song is worth a hundred speeches. If the point is to educate people, a three-minute ballad is easily equal to any book. (They'll read the book after they hear the song, not the other way around.)

It is often said that we are in a battle for the hearts and minds of the people of this country. It is us versus CNN, NPR, Bush, Clinton, etc. In this battle, style matters, not just content. In this battle, it is absolutely imperative that we remember that it is not only the minds we need to win, but the hearts. At least in terms of the various forms of human communication, there is nothing on Earth more effective in winning hearts than music and art. We ignore or sideline music and art at our peril. It's time to listen to the music.

Some of our articles on this topic



CBS - A German resident held by the U.S. for almost five years tells 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley that Americans tortured him in many ways - including hanging him from the ceiling for five days early in his captivity when he was in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Even after determining he was not a terrorist, Murat Kurnaz says the torture continued. Kurnaz tells his story for the first time on American television this Sunday, March 30, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Kurnaz, an ethnic Turk born and raised in Germany, went to Pakistan in late 2001 at age 19 to study Islam and wound up in Pakistani police custody. It was three months after 9/11, and Kurnaz says the U.S. was offering bounties for suspicious foreigners. Kurnaz says he was "sold" to the Americans for $3,000 and brought to Kandahar as terrorist suspect.

He claims American troops tortured him in Afghanistan by holding his head underwater, administering electric shocks to the soles of his feet, and hanging him suspended from the ceiling of an aircraft hangar and kept alive by doctors. "Every five or six hours they came and pulled me back down and the doctor came," he recalls. "He looked into my eyes. He checked my heart and when he said 'okay,' then they pulled me back up," he tells Pelley.


NY TIMES Americans owe a staggering $1.1 trillion on home equity loans - and banks are increasingly worried they may not get some of that money back.

To get it, many lenders are taking the extraordinary step of preventing some people from selling their homes or refinancing their mortgages unless they pay off all or part of their home equity loans first. In the past, when home prices were not falling, lenders did not resort to these measures.

Such tactics are impeding efforts by policy makers to help struggling homeowners get easier terms on their mortgages and stem the rising tide of foreclosures. But at a time when each day seems to bring more bad news for the financial industry, lenders defend the hard-nosed maneuvers as a way to keep their own losses from deepening.

It is a remarkable turnabout for the many Americans who have come to regard a home as an A.T.M. with three bedrooms and 1.5 baths. When times were good, they borrowed against their homes to pay for all sorts of things, from new cars to college educations to a home theater.

Lenders also encouraged many aspiring homeowners to take out not one but two mortgages simultaneously - ordinary ones plus "piggyback" loans - to avoid putting any cash down.

The result is a nation that only half-owns its homes. While homeownership climbed to record heights in recent years, home equity - the value of the properties minus the mortgages against them - has fallen below 50 percent for the first time, according to the Federal Reserve.

Lenders holding first mortgages get first dibs on borrowers' cash or on the homes should people fall behind on their payments. Banks that made home equity loans are second in line. This arrangement sometimes pits one lender against another.


US NEWS & WORLD REPORT The Washington Post reports this morning that 20 "top fundraisers" for Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign "upbraided" House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for suggesting last week that Democratic superdelegates "should back the candidate with the most pledged delegates and urged her to respect the right of those delegates to back whomever they choose at the end of the primary season." The AP reports that in a letter to Pelosi, Clinton's supporters "said superdelegates 'must look to not one criterion but to the full panoply of factors that will help them assess who will be the party's strongest nominee in the general election.'"

The New York Times adds that the letter, "which carried threatening overtones in noting that many signatories were major Democratic donors, highlighted the deepening rift inside the party among supporters for Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama." Roll Call reports the "donors also pointedly noted their own contributions to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. 'We have been strong supporters of the DCCC. We therefore urge you to clarify your position on super-delegates and reflect in your comments a more open view to the optional independent actions of each of the delegates at the National Convention in August.'"

" The New York Daily News reports that the "brazen move by Camp Clinton stunned veteran Democrats, particularly because at least eight of the letter's authors have not donated to" the DCCC since Pelosi became speaker. One unnamed Democrat is quoted saying Clinton "looks desperate. There is no way they should have threatened to do this. It is terrible. . . I am sure Obama is raising money off of it already."


AP A Texas woman who claims she was forced to remove a nipple ring with pliers in order to board an airplane called for an apology by federal security agents and a civil rights investigation. "I wouldn't wish this experience upon anyone," Mandi Hamlin, 37, said at a news conference. "My experience with TSA was a nightmare I had to endure. No one deserves to be treated this way."

Hamlin said she was trying to board a flight from Lubbock to Dallas on Feb. 24 when she was scanned by a Transportation Security Administration agent after passing through a larger metal detector without problems.

The female TSA agent used a handheld detector that beeped when it passed in front of Hamlin's chest, the Dallas-area resident said.

Hamlin said she told the woman that she was wearing nipple piercings. The female agent then called over her male colleagues, one of whom said she would have to remove the body piercings, Hamlin claimed.

Hamlin said she could not remove them and asked if she could instead display her pierced breasts in private to the female agent. But several other male officers told her she could not board her flight until the jewelry was removed, she said.

She was taken behind a curtain and managed to remove one bar-shaped nipple piercing but had trouble with the second, a ring.

"Still crying, she informed the TSA officer that she could not remove it without the help of pliers, and the officer gave a pair to her," said Hamlin's attorney, Gloria Allred, reading from a letter she sent to the director of the TSA's Office of Civil Rights and Liberties. . . .

Hamlin showed reporters at the news conference how she took off the second ring by applying pliers to the torso of a mannequin that had a peach-colored bra with the rings on it.

She said she heard male TSA agents snickering as she took out the ring. She was scanned again and was allowed to board even though she still was wearing a belly button ring.


JEFF MANNING, THE OREGONIAN A newly surfaced memo from banking giant JPMorgan Chase provides a rare glimpse into the mentality that fueled the mortgage crisis. The memo's title says it all: "Zippy Cheats & Tricks." It is a primer on how to get risky mortgage loans approved by Zippy, Chase's in-house automated loan underwriting system. The secret to approval? Inflate the borrowers' income or otherwise falsify their loan application.

The document, a copy of which was obtained by The Oregonian, bears a Chase corporate logo. But it's unclear how widely it was circulated or used within Chase. . .

Even if the memo was penned by a single employee, it illustrates an attitude prevalent in certain corners of the mortgage industry during the boom years. . . During the boom, it was common for lenders and brokers to get paid more for risky subprime loans than for 30-year fixed-rate loans because the higher-interest loans fetched a higher price on Wall Street. .

The document recommends three "handy steps" to loan approval:

Do not break out a borrower's compensation by income, commissions, bonus and tips, as is typically done in a loan application. Instead, lump all compensation as the applicant's base income.

If your borrower is getting some or all of a down payment from someone else, don't disclose anything about it. "Remove any mention of gift funds," the document states, even though most mortgage applications specifically require borrowers to disclose such gifts.

If all else fails, the document states, simply inflate the applicant's income. "Inch it up $500 to see if you can get the findings you want," the document says. "Do the same for assets."

Chase's Kelly said the bank has never encouraged any of the suggestions in the memo.


GUARDIAN, UK The Bush administration is scrambling to engage with Pakistan's new rulers as power flows from its strong ally, President Pervez Musharraf, to a powerful civilian government buoyed by anti-American sentiment.

Top diplomats John Negroponte and Richard Boucher travelled to a mountain fortress near the Afghan border yesterday as part of a hastily announced visit that has received a tepid reception.

Senior coalition partner Nawaz Sharif gave the visiting Americans a public scolding for using Pakistan as a "killing field" and relying too much on Musharraf.

Yesterday the new prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, said he warned President George Bush in a phone conversation that he would prioritize talking as well as shooting in the battle against Islamist extremism. "He said that a comprehensive approach is required in this regard, specially combining a political approach with development," a statement said.

But Gilani also reassured Bush that Pakistan would "continue to fight against terrorism", it said.

Since 2001 American officials have treasured their close relationship with Musharraf because he offered a "one-stop shop" for cooperation in hunting al-Qaida fugitives hiding in Pakistan.

But since the crushing electoral defeat of Musharraf's party last month, and talk that the new parliament may hobble the president's powers, that equation has changed. Now the US finds itself dealing with politicians it previously spurned.

The body language between Negroponte and Sharif during their meeting spoke volumes: the Pakistani greeted the American with a starched handshake, and sat at a distance .

In blunt remarks afterwards, Sharif said he told Negroponte that Pakistan was no longer a one-man show. "Since 9/11, all decisions were taken by one man," he said. "Now we have a sovereign parliament and everything will be debated in the parliament."

It was "unacceptable that while giving peace to the world we make our own country a killing field," Sharif said, echoing widespread public anger at US-funded military operations in the tribal belt.

"If America wants to see itself clean of terrorism, we also want our villages and towns not to be bombed," he said. . .

The timing of the American visit - before the new cabinet is announced - has offended Pakistanis. "It flies in the face of normal protocol at a time when public opinion is rife that they are making a last ditch effort to save Musharraf," said Talat Hussain, a prominent journalist.

It is unclear how Pakistan's foreign policy will be formulated in future. Musharraf's power may have been cut but the strong army is lurking in the shadows, and the coalition is wrangling over cabinet posts, including that of foreign minister.


BRAD BLOG Last week, in the wake of their AVC Advantage touch-screen voting systems having been found to have failed in at least six counties following New Jersey's Super Tuesday Primary, and on the heels of much-deserved ridicule for having threatened Princeton computer scientists with legal action should they go forward with an independent technical review of their voting systems, as requested by NJ election officials, Sequoia Voting systems issued a laughable press release headlined "Sequoia Voting Systems supports third party reviews and testing of its election equipment" . . .

So who is this "Kwaidan Consulting of Houston, Texas," whom the geniuses at Sequoia have selected to carry out their independent, third-party review? . . .

Kwaidan appears to be little more than one guy by the name of Mike Gibbons, whose MySpace page, until last week, boasted of wanting most to meet "A well endowed blonde nymphomaniac (half my age or take the difference of her bustline and waistline added to her current age) that likes to be under the influence of Jim Beam whiskey in a dimly lit room at least 3 times a week."

Since folks began last week trying to figure out exactly who this "Kwaidan Consulting" is, the "Who I'd Most Like to Meet" section of Gibbons' page was quickly changed as of last weekend. It now expresses Mike's desire to meet "Jesus Christ, Sir Issac Newton, Albert Einstein and James Clerk Maxwell," instead of the blonde nymphomaniac he had previously been hoping for.

And just to shore up the Sugar Land, Texas 50-year old's credentials as a serious person, appropriate to the important task of carrying out a legitimate technical review of Sequoia's failed voting systems (the same ones which are set to be used in the upcoming Pennsylvania Primary), the photo of sexy Mike leaning on his babe-magnet pickup truck --- on of his "eleven (11) Mopar Muscle Cars" --- was promptly replaced with a shot of himself posing with George H.W. Bush.

The "About Me" section of the page, which previously explained the reason his hair was so long to be "None of your f**king business @$$hole," was swapped smartly with a quote about "The right of citizens of the United States to vote," as taken from the 15th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Is this guy made for Sequoia Voting Systems and the Corporate Election Industry, or what?

CACHED VERSION OF MYSPACE PAGE Executive, former CEO, former Section 16B Officer (twice) of Publicly Traded Company (NYSE & NASDAQ), former Board Member of Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce, former President, former Executive Vice President (twice), former Electrical Engineer, former Mathematics instructor at LSU, formerly responsible and naive. 7 figure salary obsessed with making it 8 figures. Hey making money is a harmless vice :-) I am very rebellious and hate authority figures. I don't take crap from anyone (yes you too) anymore! Why is my hair so long? None of your f**king business @$$hole. Who I'd like to meet: A well endowed blonde nymphomaniac (half my age or take the difference of her bustline and waistline added to her current age) that likes to be under the influence of Jim Beam whiskey in a dimly lit room at least 3 times a week :-) She should also appreciate expensive gifts, International travel, exotic high performance sports cars, lavish houses, designer clothing and huge amounts of spending cash. Additional Note: Being able to discuss the fundamental differences between Kierkegaard and Right Guard is considered a plus (though not a mandatory criteria). \

REVISED VERSION OF MYSPACE PAGE About me: Executive, former CEO, former Section 16B Officer (twice) of Publicly Traded Company (NYSE & NASDAQ), former Board Member of Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce, former President, former Executive Vice President (twice), former Board Member of Stone Tablet Ministries (praise God),former Electrical Engineer, former Mathematics instructor at LSU, now Consulting exclusively to the automated election services industry the cornerstone of democracy. "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." - Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1870)


DAILY GREEN The latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau reinforce a vision of the United States where population growth and suburban sprawl will have to confront serious water shortages in the years to come.

Nine of the 10 fastest growing counties were located in South or West, with water-stressed areas like Phoenix, Atlanta and parts of Texas among the leaders.

A whopping 102,000 people moved to Maricopa, Ariz. between 2006 and 2007, capping a period of rapid expansion that has seen more than 800,000 people move in since 2000. Nearby Pinal County, Ariz. has seen its population increase by two-thirds since 2000.

Phoenix, like much of the Southwest, relies on massive dams and aqueducts from the Colorado River to remain viable. Meanwhile the desert region has been suffering through a decades-long drought. One recent study predicted that Colorado River reservoirs could run dry in less than 15 years – not enough time to pay off the mortgage on all those new homes. Clark County, near Las Vegas, Nev., which also relies on the Colorado River, also made the list of 10 fastest-growing counties by sheer numbers, with 461,000 new residents sine 2000.

Atlanta, too, has been sprawling outward, with three suburban counties making the nation's top 10 list for fastest rate of population growth since 2000, with population growth between 56% and 62%. The Southeast has confronted an historic drought in the past year, and some long-term projections say global warming could result in the traditionally wet region being starved for water in the coming decades. The demand for water has prompted Georgia to fight Alabama and Florida for rights to some river systems, and Tennessee for others. . .

The fastest-growing region of the country by some measures, the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas, is also staring at a looming water crisis, according to some projections. "In short, demand is projected to grow faster than supply," a 2004 North Texas Future Fund report states. "By the year 2010, the deficit could be 272,000 acre-feet, and by 2050 the deficit could reach 1.1 million-acre feet per year-and amount greater than total current demand."


CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR In December, 37 countries faced a food crisis, reports the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, and 20 nations had imposed some form of food-price controls. In Asia, where rice is on every plate, prices are shooting up almost daily. Premium Thai fragrant rice now costs $900 per ton, a nearly 30 percent rise from a month ago.

Exporters say the price could eclipse $1,000 per ton by June. Similarly, prices of white rice have climbed about 50 percent since January to $600 per ton and are projected to jump another 40 percent to $800 per ton in April.

The skyrocketing prices have prompted millers to default on rice supply contracts and bandits to steal rice as they aim to hoard the crop, and sell it later, as prices continue to rise.

"The farmers are afraid as their fields have been robbed in the nighttime," says Sarayouth Phumithon, an official at the Thai government's Bureau of Rice Strategy and Supply. "This is just the beginning. The problem will get worse if the price keeps increasing."

The reported thefts in five rice-growing provinces in central Thailand are the first signs of criminal activity in this region stemming from the sharpest global spike in commodity prices since the oil crisis in the mid-1970s. Across the world, higher food prices are triggering thefts and violence – both by people who can't afford to eat and those who want to make an easy buck. . .

So far this year, the UN agency says 56 trucks have been hijacked in Sudan; 36 trucks remain missing, and 24 drivers are unaccounted for. The WFP says that banditry has reduced by half the amount of food normally transported to the western region of Darfur at this time of year.


Reason Magazine collected some reactions to Mike Gravel becoming a Libertarian

Wayne Allyn Root: Gravel is in no way, shape or form a Libertarian. He's just a big government, big-spending, redistribute the wealth, liberal- big difference. He's clearly stumbled into the wrong party. Worse, he's a Green Party supporter and potential candidate as well. The Green Party is not in any way compatible with the Libertarian Party. They are polar opposites of the political spectrum. On Gravel's name recognition: I'm impressed and respectful of any former or present U.S. Senator. But his name recognition is near zero. When was he last in the news? I've have yet to find one person I know that has heard of him. My educated guess is that being a Senator from Alaska is a lot like being the Maytag repairman- lonely and anonymous!

From George Phillies: I am delighted to welcome Senator Gravel to the Libertarian party. I have met him before. . . . We welcome converts to the choir; we don't make them Chief Deacon. Some of Gravel's core positions, e.g., universal single-payer health care, simply are not Libertarian. There is no way to sell those stands to Libertarian convention delegates. Correspondingly, Gravel has no way to win the Libertarian Presidential nomination

Anthony Gregory: In his announcement to supporters of his intentions to run as an LP presidential candidate, he writes, "The fact is, the Democratic Party today is no longer the party of FDR. It is a party that continues to sustain war, the military-industrial complex and imperialism - all of which I find anathema to my views." This is just hysterical. Of course, FDR created the military-industrial complex. To the extent the Democrats are no longer the party of FDR, that is a good thing -- and indeed, one could argue the GOP became the party of FDR with Nixon, Reagan and the two Georges Bush.

The New Skeptic: Libertarians have a serious image problem, and people like Gravel and Ron Paul have not helped. Besides that, the Randians (oh no a word I just made up!) are in that "big tent" and stink the whole thing up. People who are serious but realistic about small government and civil liberties want nothing to do with the kooks.

Andre Walker at PeachPundit: I don't mean to knock the Libertarian Party because I believe that we need more than just two political parties engaged in the debate over the direction or our nation. However, with Mike Gravel now in the Libertarian Party's ranks, it makes it a bit more difficult for the Libertarians to be considered as a viable third option for disenchanted Republicans and Democrats. You need more Bob Barrs and Neal Boortzs and less Mike Gravels.



Washington Times, 1998

Election eve 1996: US jets fire on Iraqi radar sites

January 26, 1998: President goes on TV to deny Lewinsky affair; sends top officials on tour to build support for attack on Iraq. Warns Hussein not to "defy the will of the world."

June 30, 1998: Judge Suzan Webber Wright orders unsealing of Clinton's Jones case deposition; US jets fire on Iraqi radar sites.

August 20, 1998: Monica Lewinsky appears before grand jury; Clinton attacks alleged terrorist centers in Sudan and Afghanistan.

November 13, 1998: Clinton settles Paula Jones suit for $850,000; Clinton orders, then aborts, massive missile attack on Iraq.

Impeachment eve 1998: Clinton launches massive missile attack on Iraq.

NUMBER OF KENNETH STARR-LIKE INVESTIGATIONS that could have been carried out for the price of the first day's assault on Baghdad by Tomahawk missiles: 7

THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION fired more missiles at Iraq in three days than during the whole first Gulf War.

MONICA MATH FOUND ON THE NET When one mentions the word coincidence, he is entering the field of statistics. Two pivotal events: 1. Monica testifies. 2. House votes on impeachment.

These pivotal events are not related to bombing runs. In the same year as the two pivotal events we have two bombing runs. Sudan-Afghanistan and Iraq.

Odds of one bombing run occurring on a pivotal event day: 91:1 Odds of both bombing runs occurring on pivotal event days: 66,248:1

Proof: Odds of one bombing run happening on one of the pivotal days-- The first bombing run would have a chance of 2 in 365 or 2/365 and if it missed the second bombing run would have the same chance of 2 in 365 or 2/365. the two chances add together 2/365 + 2/365 = 4/365. this reduces to 1/91.25 or odds of 91:1.

Odds of both bombing runs happening on the two pivotal days-- The first bombing run has to occur on one of the pivotal days which is a chance of 2 in 365 or 1/182. The second bombing run then has to occur on the remaining pivotal day which is a chance of 1 in 364 or 1/364. It is 364 because the first pivotal day is now out of the picture (n-1). Since the two events depend on each other happening to occur together, they multiply. 1/182 X 1/364 = 1/66,248 or odds of 66,248:1.



THE DAILY GREEN In another cautionary tale about the potential danger of toxic pesticides, scientists have published a new study on further evidence of a possible link between Parkinson's disease and long-term chemical exposure. As the UK's Guardian reports, a study of more than 300 people with the neurological disease found that sufferers were more than twice as likely to report heavy exposure to pesticides over their lifetime as family members without the disease. . .

As the Guardian points out, this isn't the first study that suggests a link between pesticides and Parkinson's, which many doctors think is probably often the result of complex interactions between genes and environmental triggers. A survey of more than 10,000 people with the disease, undertaken by the Parkinson's Disease Society, suggested that 9% had long-term pesticide or herbicide exposure.

A recent study published in the Annals of Neurology had drawn a link between workers exposed to the industrial solvent trichloroethylene, or TCE, and Parkinson's Disease.



NBC 30, MASHANTUCKET CT - New forensics evidence presented during a symposium at Foxwoods suggests Sirhan Sirhan did not fire the fatal shots that killed Sen. Robert Kennedy in 1968. Experts from all over the world met Wednesday to discuss problems in crime solving during the annual symposium, hosted by the Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science. This year's event was about conspiracies and solving complex crimes.

Dr. Robert Joling, a forensics investigator who has studied the Robert Kennedy assassination for almost 40 years, determined that the fatal shots must have come from behind the senator. Sirhan, however, was 4 to 6 feet in front of Kennedy and never got close enough to shoot Kennedy from behind, the investigator said.

The other evidence was the Pruszynski recording. This is the only audio recording of the assassination. Another scientist analyzed it and concluded that at least 13 shots were fired from two different guns.

Philip Van Praag, a forensic engineer, said he made three discoveries. The first two demonstrate that there must be more than one shooter, he said. The third conclusion is that the shots fired by the second shooter matched the firearm a security guard behind Kennedy carried.

Joling and Van Praag presented their findings together, although the two investigated the Kennedy shooting independently. They had never met until last year. During a seminar, they realized their separate findings were perfectly wed.



He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself. -- Thomas Paine

War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption and the Ice Capades. If this is the best God can do, I'm not impressed. Results like this do not belong in the resume of a Supreme Being. This is the kind of shit you'd expect from an office temp with a bad attitude - George Carlin


BIRMINGHAM NEWS A federal appellate court today ordered former Gov. Don Siegelman released from prison while he appeals his 2006 conviction, but denied co-defendant Richard Scrushy's request to be released. Siegelman attorney Vince Kilborn said Siegelman would be released sometime Friday morning. "His wife and his daughter, Dana, are driving out to get him," Kilborn said. . . Siegelman has been in an Oakdale, La., prison camp for nearly nine months. A federal jury in 2006 convicted Siegelman and Scrushy of federal funds bribery. Prosecutors alleged Scrushy bought a seat on a state board with a $500,000 donation to Siegelman's lottery campaign. The judges wrote that Siegelman met both requirements for an appeal bond: He is not a flight risk and his appeal raises a substantial question of law or fact likely to result in reversal or an order for a new . . . The court did not elaborate on what those questions were. Siegelman's lawyers, among other issues, have argued prosecutors didn't prove that Siegelman and Scrushy struck a "quid pro quo" deal to swap the money for the appointment.

POLITICO A new Pew poll reports that the Wright affair hasn't really hurt Obama among Democrats, but he's still having trouble with the older, white, working-class members of his party. . . In addition, nearly a quarter of Democrats (23 percent) who hold a negative view of Obama believe he is a Muslim. The survey also notes: There is little evidence that the recent news about Obama's affiliation with the United Church of Christ has dispelled the impression that he is Muslim.

- Emily's List, which has steered nearly $1 million to elect Hillary Clinton to the White House in its first foray into a presidential race, is about to make its move on Pennsylvania. The group has been a steady factor in Clinton's primary victories. Next week Emily's List will launch a major ground initiative on Clinton's behalf in and around Philadelphia ahead of the state's April 22 primary

OBAMA - If FDR can meet with Stalin and Nixon can meet with Mao and Kennedy can meet with Khrushchev and Reagan can meet with Gorbechav, then the notion that we can't meet with some half-baked dictator is ridiculous.

JOE KLEIN, TIME - Let's say the elders of the Democratic Party decide, when the primaries end, that neither Obama nor Clinton is viable. . All they'd have to do would be to convince a significant fraction of their super delegate friends, maybe fewer than 100, to announce that they were taking a pass on the first ballot at the Denver convention, which would deny the 2,025 votes necessary to Obama or Clinton. What if they then approached Gore and asked him to be the nominee, for the good of the party-and suggested that he take Obama as his running mate? A prominent fund raiser told me, 'Gore-Obama is the ticket a lot of people wanted in the first place."




PHILIP GREENSPUN'S WEBLOG The Justice Department has approved the merger of XM and Sirius satellite radio. That leaves the Federal Communications Commission as the last line of defense for consumers. The main argument that the Justice Department used to grant these folks a monopoly on satellite radio is that it isn't a monopoly on music. A person could use an MP3 player, listen to standard AM and FM stations, or hire a violinist to sit in the back seat of his or her car. What has been lost in the press coverage of this event is that XM and Sirius are the only companies equipped to offer nationwide data broadcast services. Each 64 kbps data stream could be used for a music channel or to broadcast aviation weather, traffic jam information, or any other data important enough for people to pay. These data channels are more lucrative than the music channels. Aviation weather costs $50 per month for one channel, none of which need be paid out as a royalty because the information is all provided free by the federal government. Traffic information is $10 per month for one channel. Music costs about $13 per month for 100 channels.


AP A judge has denied a prosecutor's subpoena of a reporter's notes from an interview with a suspect in a drug robbery that spawned four murders. Indianapolis Star reporter Vic Ryckaert interviewed the suspect, Jasper Frazier, by phone shortly before Frazier surrendered to authorities in Toledo, Ohio, in January.

AP Under pressure from federal regulators, Comcast Corp. reversed its stance over hampering online file-sharing by its subscribers and promised yesterday to treat all types of Internet traffic equally. The Internet service provider said it would collaborate with BitTorrent Inc., the company that invented a more efficient successor to file-sharing services such as Napster and Kazaa, to improve the transmission of large files over the Internet -' and it will eventually stop delaying file transfers on the basis of the specific technology used. . .
At issue was whether a service provider like Comcast has the right to control which types of Internet traffic it will let through, block or delay. . . FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said that while he was "pleased" that Comcast had reversed course, he remained concerned that the nation's largest cable company wasn't stopping the practice now. Comcast gave itself until year's end.

A student strip-searched for drugs when she was in eighth grade took her case to a federal appeals court, arguing through a lawyer that school officials had violated her constitutional rights by overzealously enforcing a strict policy against alcohol, narcotics – and, in her case, Ibuprofen. Savana Redding says she was "confused" and "ashamed" after the officials in Safford, Ariz., suspected her in 2003 of giving other students prescription Ibuprofen pills and ordered her to expose her breasts and pelvic area during a search in the school nurse's office. She denied having any pills, and none were found. Her mother later filed on her behalf a federal lawsuit claiming the search was unreasonable and therefore illegal. "A strip search, particularly of an adolescent, is a grave invasion of privacy and should be reserved for emergency situations," Andrew Petersen, one of Redding's lawyers, said in a written statement. "The misguided actions of these school officials must not become the status quo in our nation's schools.". . .


WASH TIMES The California appellate court that recently appeared to outlaw home-schooling in California has now agreed to rehear the case, raising hopes among home-schooling supporters that the court will revise its ruling. "Because this ruling impacts all Californians, we believe the case deserves a second look," said Gary McCaleb, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, which asked the 2nd District Court of Appeal for a rehearing of the case, "In re: Rachel L." Home-schooling advocates nationwide were outraged with the appellate court's unanimous Feb. 28 ruling that ordered two parents to send two of their children to school -' as the children requested, through their lawyer -' instead of home-schooling them. Unpublished court papers show that the family has been involved in the child welfare system for 20 years, amid charges of physical abuse by the father and sexual molestation of several of the daughters by a family friend. The court-appointed lawyer for the two youngest children, aged 10 and 8, recommended to a juvenile court judge that he order the children sent to school for their own education, safety and well being.


NORML Liberalizing marijuana laws is not associated with increased cannabis use among the general public, according to a scientific review published this month in the journal Current Opinion in Psychiatry. "The vast majority of people who use cannabis do so for a limited period of time with few or no negative consequences," states the review. "The negative effects associated with cannabis use are small compared with the negative effects associated with other pleasure drugs, such as nicotine, alcohol, and cocaine. "Prohibition and criminalization [are] not very likely to lead to different [cannabis] consumption rates or less risky drug use patterns, whereas it may lead to increased contacts of its users with the criminal scene and the legal system, leading to negative effects on their future development."


TREE HUGGER A report from the Urban Institute calculated losses from agricultural thefts in the United States are now $5-billion -- though the real figure is perhaps 10 times higher, because uninsured farmers often don't report their losses. Those producers with thousands of bushels stored might not even notice their missing grain for months. According to Kevin Libin in the National Post, a Manitoba farmer had his truck stolen, emptied of seed, and returned. "It's somebody that knew what they were doing," the farmer said, adding that he suspects the $10,000 load of seed, the price of which has tripled in 12 months, "probably isn't too far from here." In Kansas, police began investigating nearly a dozen reports of thieves driving their trucks up to farm bins and siphoning out tens of thousands of dollars worth of wheat. A bushel of spring wheat, which has historically traded between $3 and $7, has spiked as high as $24 in recent weeks.



WAITER RANT Every server has good days and bad days. Old pros like me should be able to roll with the punches. But business at Café Machiavelli's has been so bad lately that my patience is wearing thin. We're down five hundred covers a week since I started. That's bad. Waiters are getting cut on Saturday nights. Working a thirteen hour double last Thursday earned me a paltry sixty bucks. The staff members at the bottom of the tip totem pole, the bus people, are really hurting. One guy told me how he was having a hard time affording Pampers. Several bussers have already left, looking for greener pastures. The sad part is that there are no greener pastures. Things are bad all over. I don't know if America's economy is in a recession or not, but the restaurant industry sure as hell is.



The story by Todd Spivak on Obama as a Chicago politician came from the Dallas Observer, not the Dallas Morning News


THE LOCAL, SWEDEN - Sweden's Board of Agriculture has issued an extensive set of new guidelines regulating how pet owners treat their dogs and cats. Among other things, the 15 pages of new guidelines set specifications for how often dogs and cats receive food and exercise, the size and design of their living quarters, as well as the quality of the air Swedish pets breathe. . . The guidelines mandate, for example, that dogs and cats should be checked on at least twice a day and "should have their need for social contact satisfied." Pets kept indoors should be within view of a window allowing sunlight, and dogs kept outdoors should have access to both sunny and shaded areas, as well as protection against wind and rain. Levels of ammonia and carbon dioxide in the air must also be kept below 10 parts per million and 3000 parts per million, respectively.

Following news of a shipping snafu that sent nuclear fuses to Taiwan, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ordered a full inventory of nuclear weapons and related components, CNN reports: "The order comes in the wake of the discovery last week that four nuclear warhead fuses were accidentally shipped to Taiwan in 2006." Gates' memo, issued Wednesday, calls for all items to be accounted for by serial number. . . The inventory review, which will involve thousands of items, is due to Gates in 60 days. Pentagon officials said the request was ordered, in part, because this latest incident comes after the August 2007 accidental flight of six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles on a B-52 bomber across the country.


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