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Undernews For May 16, 2008

Undernews For May 16, 2008

FROM THE PROGRESSIVE REVIEW
Washington's Most Unofficial Source
611 Pennsylvania Ave SE #381
Washington DC 20003
202-423-7884
Editor: Sam Smith

16 MAY 2008

THE SWAMPOODLE REPORT

Better one Wright wing-nut than a whole party full of right-wing nuts. - Sam Smith

PAGE ONE MUST

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT APPEASING HITLER?

GUARDIAN, UK, 2004 Rumors of a link between the US first family and the Nazi war machine have circulated for decades. Now the Guardian can reveal how repercussions of events that culminated in action under the Trading with the Enemy Act are still being felt by today's president

George Bush's grandfather, the late US senator Prescott Bush, was a director and shareholder of companies that profited from their involvement with the financial backers of Nazi Germany.

The Guardian has obtained confirmation from newly discovered files in the US National Archives that a firm of which Prescott Bush was a director was involved with the financial architects of Nazism.

His business dealings, which continued until his company's assets were seized in 1942 under the Trading with the Enemy Act, has led more than 60 years later to a civil action for damages being brought in Germany against the Bush family by two former slave labourers at Auschwitz and to a hum of pre-election controversy.

The evidence has also prompted one former US Nazi war crimes prosecutor to argue that the late senator's action should have been grounds for prosecution for giving aid and comfort to the enemy. . .

While there is no suggestion that Prescott Bush was sympathetic to the Nazi cause, the documents reveal that the firm he worked for, Brown Brothers Harriman, acted as a US base for the German industrialist, Fritz Thyssen, who helped finance Hitler in the 1930s before falling out with him at the end of the decade. The Guardian has seen evidence that shows Bush was the director of the New York-based Union Banking Corporation that represented Thyssen's US interests and he continued to work for the bank after America entered the war.

Bush was also on the board of at least one of the companies that formed part of a multinational network of front companies to allow Thyssen to move assets around the world.

Thyssen owned the largest steel and coal company in Germany and grew rich from Hitler's efforts to re-arm between the two world wars. One of the pillars in Thyssen's international corporate web, UBC, worked exclusively for, and was owned by, a Thyssen-controlled bank in the Netherlands. More tantalising are Bush's links to the Consolidated Silesian Steel Company, based in mineral rich Silesia on the German-Polish border. During the war, the company made use of Nazi slave labour from the concentration camps, including Auschwitz. The ownership of CSSC changed hands several times in the 1930s, but documents from the US National Archive declassified last year link Bush to CSSC, although it is not clear if he and UBC were still involved in the company when Thyssen's American assets were seized in 1942.

Three sets of archives spell out Prescott Bush's involvement. All three are readily available, thanks to the efficient US archive system and a helpful and dedicated staff at both the Library of Congress in Washington and the National Archives at the University of Maryland.

The first set of files, the Harriman papers in the Library of Congress, show that Prescott Bush was a director and shareholder of a number of companies involved with Thyssen.

The second set of papers, which are in the National Archives, are contained in vesting order number 248 which records the seizure of the company assets. What these files show is that on October 20 1942 the alien property custodian seized the assets of the UBC, of which Prescott Bush was a director. Having gone through the books of the bank, further seizures were made against two affiliates, the Holland-American Trading Corporation and the Seamless Steel Equipment Corporation. By November, the Silesian-American Company, another of Prescott Bush's ventures, had also been seized.

The third set of documents, also at the National Archives, are contained in the files on IG Farben, who was prosecuted for war crimes.

A report issued by the Office of Alien Property Custodian in 1942 stated of the companies that "since 1939, these (steel and mining) properties have been in possession of and have been operated by the German government and have undoubtedly been of considerable assistance to that country's war effort".

Prescott Bush, a 6ft 4in charmer with a rich singing voice, was the founder of the Bush political dynasty and was once considered a potential presidential candidate himself. . .

In 1924, his father-in-law, a well-known St Louis investment banker, helped set him up in business in New York with Averill Harriman, the wealthy son of railroad magnate E H Harriman in New York, who had gone into banking.

One of the first jobs Walker gave Bush was to manage UBC. Bush was a founding member of the bank and the incorporation documents, which list him as one of seven directors, show he owned one share in UBC worth $125.

The bank was set up by Harriman and Bush's father-in-law to provide a US bank for the Thyssens, Germany's most powerful industrial family.

August Thyssen, the founder of the dynasty had been a major contributor to Germany's first world war effort and in the 1920s, he and his sons Fritz and Heinrich established a network of overseas banks and companies so their assets and money could be whisked offshore if threatened again.

By the time Fritz Thyssen inherited the business empire in 1926, Germany's economic recovery was faltering. After hearing Adolf Hitler speak, Thyssen became mesmerised by the young firebrand. He joined the Nazi party in December 1931 and admits backing Hitler in his autobiography, I Paid Hitler, when the National Socialists were still a radical fringe party. He stepped in several times to bail out the struggling party: in 1928 Thyssen had bought the Barlow Palace on Briennerstrasse, in Munich, which Hitler converted into the Brown House, the headquarters of the Nazi party. The money came from another Thyssen overseas institution, the Bank voor Handel en Scheepvarrt in Rotterdam.

By the late 1930s, Brown Brothers Harriman, which claimed to be the world's largest private investment bank, and UBC had bought and shipped millions of dollars of gold, fuel, steel, coal and US treasury bonds to Germany, both feeding and financing Hitler's build-up to war.

Between 1931 and 1933 UBC bought more than $8m worth of gold, of which $3m was shipped abroad. According to documents seen by the Guardian, after UBC was set up it transferred $2m to BBH accounts and between 1924 and 1940 the assets of UBC hovered around $3m, dropping to $1m only on a few occasions.

In 1941, Thyssen fled Germany after falling out with Hitler but he was captured in France and detained for the remainder of the war.

There was nothing illegal in doing business with the Thyssens throughout the 1930s and many of America's best-known business names invested heavily in the German economic recovery. However, everything changed after Germany invaded Poland in 1939. Even then it could be argued that BBH was within its rights continuing business relations with the Thyssens until the end of 1941 as the US was still technically neutral until the attack on Pearl Harbor. The trouble started on July 30 1942 when the New York Herald-Tribune ran an article entitled "Hitler's Angel Has $3m in US Bank". UBC's huge gold purchases had raised suspicions that the bank was in fact a "secret nest egg" hidden in New York for Thyssen and other Nazi bigwigs. The Alien Property Commission (APC) launched an investigation.

There is no dispute over the fact that the US government seized a string of assets controlled by BBH - including UBC and SAC - in the autumn of 1942 under the Trading with the Enemy act. What is in dispute is if Harriman, Walker and Bush did more than own these companies on paper. MORE

BUSH-HITLER TIMELINE

1924

WA Harriman establishes Union Banking Corp. in partnership with the German industrialist Fritz Thyssen, who will be a major donor to the Nazi Party.

1930s

CONSORTIUM NEWS - Prescott Bush was a fanatical opponent of Franklin D. Roosevelt. There were even rumors that Bush tried to encourage a military coup against Roosevelt after his election as President in 1933. But the evidence - while intriguing - has never been conclusive.

Similar secrecy and uncertainty surrounded the intricate web of ownership and control of Harriman's Union Banking Corp., which Prescott Bush administered in collaboration with backers of Germany's Nazi Party.

As a rising star at the Harriman firm, Prescott Bush became a director (effectively in charge) of Harriman's UBC, which had a financial relationship with German industrialist Fritz Thyssen, an early supporter of Adolf Hitler.

Brown Brothers Harriman supplied Thyssen with financing and other banking services that allowed the Nazis to build up their war machine. After Thyssen broke with Hitler in 1939, Thyssen's banking empire came under control of the Nazi government, with Prescott Bush continuing as a behind-the-scenes force in the relationship.

1937

Prescott Bush's investment firm sets up deal for the Luftwaffe so it can obtain tetraethyl lead.

1940s

NEW STATESMAN, APRIL 15, 2002 - In 1926, Averill Harriman welcomed a familiar name into his Wall Street firm (W A Harriman and Co) as senior partner - Prescott Bush, father to one American president and grandfather to another. The association was to end simultaneously in fabulous wealth and temporary ignominy - at the height of the Second World War, in 1942, the New York Herald Tribune reported that the Union Banking Corporation, of which Prescott Bush was a director and E Roland Harriman a 99 per cent shareholder, was holding a small fortune under the orders of Adolf Hitler's financier. Under the Trading with the Enemy Act, all of Union Banking Corporation's capital stock was seized.

INDYMEDIA, ISRAEL - On October 20, 1942, the U.S. government had had enough of Prescott Bush and his Nazi business arrangements with Thyssen. Over the summer, The New York Tribune had exposed Bush and Thyssen, whom the Tribune dubbed "Hitler's Angel." When the US government saw UBC's books, they found out that Bush's bank and its shareholders "are held for the benefit of . . members of the Thyssen family, [and] is property of nationals . . of a designated enemy country." . . .

On November 17, 1942, The US government also took over the Silesian American Corporation, but did not prosecute Bush . . . The companies were allowed to operate within the Government Alien Property custodian office with a catch - no aiding the Nazis. In 1943, while still owning his stock, Prescott Bush resigned from UBC and even helped raise money for dozens of war-related causes as chairman of the National War Fund.

After the war, the Dutch government began investigating the whereabouts of some jewelry of the Dutch royal family that was stolen by the Nazis. They started looking into books of the Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart. When they discovered the transaction papers of the Silesian American Corporation, they began asking the bank manager H.J. Kounhoven a lot of questions. Kouwenhoven was shocked at the discovery and soon traveled to New York to inform Prescott Bush. According to Dutch intelligence, Kouwenhoven met with Prescott soon after Christmas, 1947. Two weeks later, Kouwenhoven apparently died of a heart attack.

By 1948, Fritz Thyssen's life was in ruins. After being jailed by the Nazis, he was jailed by the Allies and interrogated extensively, but not completely, by US investigators. Thyssen and Flick were ordered to pay reparations and served time in prison for their atrocious crimes against humanity. . .

When Thyssen died, the Alien Property Custodian released the assets of the Union Banking Corporation to Brown Brothers Harriman. The remaining stockholders cashed in their stocks and quietly liquidated the rest of UBC's blood money.

Prescott Bush received $1.5 million for his share in UBC. That money enabled Bush to help his son, George Herbert Walker Bush, to set up his first royalty firm, Overby Development Company, that same year. It was also helpful when Prescott Bush left the business world to enter the public arena in 1952 with a successful senatorial campaign in Connecticut. On October 8th, 1972, Prescott Bush died of cancer. . .

In 1980, when George H.W. Bush was elected vice president, he placed his father's family inherence in a blind trust. The trust was managed by his old friend and quail hunting partner, William "Stamps" Farish III. Bush's choice of Farish to manage the family wealth is quite revealing in that it demonstrates that the former president might know exactly where some of his inheritance originated. Farish's grandfather, William Farish Jr., on March 25th, 1942, pleaded "no contest" to conspiring with Nazi Germany while president of Standard Oil in New Jersey. He was described by Senator Harry Truman in public of approaching "treason" for profiting off the Nazi war machine. Standard Oil, invested millions in IG Farben, who opened a gasoline factory within Auschwitz in 1940. The billions "Stamps" inherited had more blood on it then Bush, so the paper trail of UBC stock would be safe during his 12 years in presidential politics.

[Investigative journalist John] Loftus believes history will view Prescott Bush as harshly as Thyssen. "It is bad enough that the Bush family helped raise the money for Thyssen to give Hitler his start in the 1920s, but giving aid and comfort to the enemy in time of war is treason. The Bush bank helped the Thyssens make the Nazi steel that killed Allied solders. As bad as financing the Nazi war machine may seem, aiding and abetting the Holocaust was worse. Thyssen's coal mines used Jewish slaves as if they were disposable chemicals. There are six million skeletons in the Thyssen family closet, and a myriad of criminal and historical questions to be answered about the Bush family's complicity."

[Because of Israeli government suppression, this site is no longer available]

SARASOTA HERALD TRIBUNE The president of the Florida Holocaust Museum said Saturday that George W. Bush's grandfather derived a portion of his personal fortune through his affiliation with a Nazi-controlled bank. John Loftus, a former prosecutor in the Justice Department's Nazi War Crimes Unit, said his research found that Bush's grandfather, Prescott Bush, was a principal in the Union Banking Corp. in Manhattan in the late 1930s and the 1940s. Leading Nazi industrialists secretly owned the bank at that time, Loftus said, and were moving money into it through a second bank in Holland even after the United States declared war on Germany. The bank was liquidated in 1951, Loftus said, and Bush's grandfather and great-grandfather received $1.5 million from the bank as part of that dissolution . . . Loftus pointed out that the Bush family would not be the only American political dynasty to have ties to the "wrong side of World War II." The Rockefellers had financial connections to Nazi Germany, he said. Loftus also reminded his audience that John F. Kennedy's father, an avowed isolationist and former ambassador to Great Britain, profited during the 1930s and '40s from Nazi stocks that he owned. "No one today blames the Democrats because Jack Kennedy's father bought Nazi stocks," Loftus said. Still, he said, it is important to understand these historical connections for what they tell us about politics today. The World War II experience points out how easy it was then -- and remains today -- to hide money in multinational funds.
CONSORTIUM NEWS One of the Bush-connected companies, Consolidated Silesian Steel, made use of Nazi slave labor from concentration camps, including Auschwitz. After Germany declared war on the United States, the U.S. government investigated these relationships and seized Harriman's UBC in 1943 under the Trading with the Enemy Act. However, following the war, rather than face the ignominy of profiting off his dealings with the Nazis, Bush was compensated for the seizure of the bank, receiving a $1.5 million settlement from the U.S. government, an astonishing amount of money in 1945. .

SONGBIRDS DECLINE IN NORTH AMERICA

BRITANICA BLOG All over North America, populations of songbirds are declining. They have been doing so for the last couple of decades, to an extent that is alarming because, to make a poor play on words, songbirds are the proverbial canaries in the great coal mine that is the environment. The causes for the decline are imperfectly understood, but, increasingly, scientists are seeing it as a perfect storm of multiple causes.

Some of those causes are on a global scale. Because of climate change, for instance, there have been more hurricanes in the Atlantic basin, and these have tended to be more intense than hurricanes of past eras. Some scientists theorize that songbird populations in eastern North America are in decline because, as the songbirds migrate over open water, they are felled by violent squalls. Literally millions of migratory birds that cross the Gulf of Mexico are thereby at risk. Coastal breeding grounds, migratory stopovers, and wintering grounds are similarly threatened by rising sea levels. A recent National Wildlife Federation report ventures that rising temperatures and habitat loss mean that species such as the blue-headed vireo and the purple finch may soon be absent along the eastern seaboard.

Another cause of the decline may be the global problem of mercury pollution, which has increasingly turned up at high levels in songbirds under autopsy. Today a full third of the lakes in the United States are so polluted with mercury that warnings have been issued against eating fish taken from them. One-half of that mercury, it is estimated, comes from China, whose factories and power plants release nearly 600 tons of it into the atmosphere every year, along with 22.5 million tons of sulfur and other pollutants. The International Energy Agency predicts that China will account for more than a fifth of the growth in world energy demand in the next 25 years and for more than a quarter of the increase in greenhouse gas emissions. This means that its contribution to the mercury problem is likely to rise, whether North American producers do anything to reduce emissions or not.

An increase in monocultural agriculture-the planting of a single crop across vast areas-has reduced available habitat for many songbird species in all parts of the country. In the South, cotton growing is again on the rise; not only do the huge quantities of pesticides and herbicides used poison the birds, but the intensive plowing and flood irrigation also destroy habitat for the Eastern meadowlark, the bobwhite quail, the grasshopper sparrow, and other passerines. The conversion of huge tracts of land to corn production for ethanol-an intolerable waste of energy on other grounds-has similar effects in the Midwest. In South and Central America, the winter destination for many migratory species, forests and meadows are being cleared for the monocultural production of such crops as coffee and grain, the latter mostly to feed cattle. Couple these uses with the housing developments, industrial sites, and commercial zones that are taking the place of wildlife habitat to serve another monoculture-the exploding human population, that is-and the songbirds have few places left to go.

REPORT: DC MADAM WAS A CIA FAVORITE

WAYNE MADSEN REPORT There was no mistake that when Deborah Jeane Palfrey's phone records were made public by order of US Judge Gladys Kessler, shortly before she asked to be reassigned from the case, that Palfrey's Pamela Martin & Associates escort agency had some very intriguing clientele. If one were to have mapped the phone numbers on Palfrey's list, McLean, Virginia would have looked like the epicenter of an earthquake. McLean is the home to the CIA, Washington's top politicians, and assorted foreign and domestic business movers and shakers who travel in and out of the CIA's shadow. . .

As she left her Orlando condo for her mother's home [shortly before her alleged suicide], Palfrey was noticed taking a few suitcases with a white paper file box. Palfrey told the [building] manager the box contained some important papers, possibly having to do with her escort business. .

In fact, it is a certainty that one of the actual "corporate clients" of the PMA agency was the CIA itself. Palfrey's escorts included college professors, a naval officer, a legal secretary for one of Washington's top international law firms, essentially those who would be reliable to pick up needed intelligence from a designated target. PMA's clients included as many foreign political and business leaders as American ones. It was the potential for blackmail and seeking favors that made PMA, in business for over 13 years, a favorite for the CIA. No other escort agency in the Washington area provided the top-level credentials possessed by PMA. For that reason, PMA was the agency of choice for the CIA. . .

On September 1, 2007, WMR reported: "WMR has learned that on August 31, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the indicted Pamela Martin & Associates proprietor, filed a 'Motion for Pretrial Conference to Consider Matters Relating to classified information' under the 'Classified Information Procedures Act' with the U.S. District Court in Washington, DC. The purpose of the filing alerts the government that Palfrey's defense will likely involved the disclosure of evidence and identities presently deemed 'classified" by the U.S. government.'"

The CIPA is only invoked in cases when classified national security information must be revealed. It is now clear that Palfrey, who never admitted to this editor any links between her agency and the CIA, was a contractor for the spy agency. Palfrey's citing of CIPA is an indication that she signed a non-disclosure agreement with the CIA stating that she would never reveal classified information as a result of her special relationship with the agency unless authorized to do so. Palfrey's non-disclosure agreement would have resulted in her making no comment to the press about any relationship. However, it must be stated that Palfrey always insisted to this editor that it was quite possible that some of her employees may have had a relationship with U.S. intelligence but that she would not necessarily know that to be the case.

Palfrey was never comfortable with her court-appointed attorney Preston Burton. Burton once was a partner in the law office of Plato Cacheris in Washington. Cacheris' name is synonymous in DC circles with CIA scandals, particularly those dealing in espionage. Burton's resume of clients is a "Who's Who" of the past two decades of spy scandals: the CIA's Soviet spy Aldrich Ames, the FBI's Soviet spy Robert Hanssen, Oliver North's secretary Fawn Hall, Watergate convicted Attorney General John Mitchell, and Monica Lewinsky. Burton, himself, was involved in the defense of Ames, Hanssen, Lewinsky, as well as Ana Belen Montes, a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst convicted of spying for Cuba.

The top CIA cases involved the US Eastern District of Virginia court in Alexandria, where Plato Cacheris' brother, James Cacheris, serves as a senior judge. Known as the "rocket docket," Plato and James Cacheris have overseen a number of espionage cases, including Ames, that saw quick pleas and lifetime prison sentences. Mention the name Cacheris in Washington, DC and CIA comes instantly to mind among those who know the game. Palfrey was obviously aware of the CIA's past use of "rocket dockets" in Alexandria and Washington and the "exchange" of emails between U.S. Judge James Robertson, federal prosecutors William Cowden and Daniel Butler, and Burton on the weekend before Burton agreed to not call any defense witnesses and allow the case to be sent directly to the jury was a sure indication of outside interference in the case. Robertson, who replaced Kessler after she requested to be reassigned, promised to reveal the emails to the public, indicating he was legally required to do so. To date, to our knowledge, they have not been released. . .

There is another interesting postscript to the Palfrey case. Palfrey, after deciding to close down PMA and move to Europe, chose to buy an apartment in the former East Berlin. This editor discussed this with Palfrey and the consensus was that, for European prices, there were some good deals on real estate in eastern Berlin as the former Soviet sector has lagged behind in improving infrastructure. However, it was intriguing that Palfrey, who spent her time mostly in California and Florida, would have known about a good deal in East Berlin. Or did one of her agency handlers recommend it as the perfect place to get away from the "game" in Washington?

WILL CALIFORNIA BAN GAY MARRIAGE BY CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT?

JOSH GOODMAN, GOVERNING [The] ruling by the California Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage was historic. In six months, it could be history.

That's because California is likely to vote this fall on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Supporters of the measure submitted 1.1 million signatures to the Secretary of State (they only needed about 700,000) and are awaiting confirmation that gay marriage will appear on the November ballot.

There are some good reasons to think the amendment will pass. In 2000, Californians gave 61% of the vote to an initiative to prohibit gay marriage -- that's the law that the court overturned yesterday. The new proposal is for a constitutional amendment, while the 2000 vote was on a mere statute, but voters probably won't think too much about that distinction.

What's more, gay marriage opponents have a near-perfect record in these fights. When states' electorates have voted on constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage, 26 out of 27 times they have passed. The only one that didn't was in Arizona, where the amendment also would have forbidden civil unions and domestic partnerships.

Of course, conservative states have been more likely to hold votes on gay marriage than liberal ones. But some fairly Democratic states, including Oregon, Wisconsin and Michigan, have approved gay marriage bans.. . .

That said, there are also good reasons to think the amendment might fail, allowing gay marriage to continue.

Since that 2000 vote, sentiment in California has clearly shifted in favor of gay rights (it's also shifted nationwide to a greater or lesser extent depending on the state). Polls conducted in the past few years typically have shown that half or slightly less than half of Californians favor gay marriage. However, no one to my knowledge has conducted a poll this year on the topic.

The campaign against the amendment will also have bipartisan support. Most Democratic officeholders favor gay marriage, which is why the legislature twice sent Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger bills to allow same-sex couples to wed.

Schwarzenegger vetoed those bills (saying he was deferring to the court), but he has also pledged to oppose the constitutional ban, deeming it a "total waste of time." . . .

BIODIVERSITY OF VERTEBRATES DROPPED BY NEARLY A THIRD IN LAST 35 YEARS

NEW SCIENTIST The latest data on the global biodiversity of vertebrates shows that it has fallen by almost one-third in the last 35 years. But experts say it may still underestimate the effect humans have had on global species counts. The Living Planet Index follows trends in nearly 4,000 populations of 1,477 vertebrate species and is said to reflect the impact humans have on the planet. It is based on a wide range of population datasets, such as commercial data on fish stocks and projects such as the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring scheme.

New figures show that between 1970 and 2005, the global LPI has fallen by 27%. This suggests that the world will fail to meet the target of reducing the rate of biodiversity loss set by the 2002 Convention on Biological Diversity.

COUNTERINTUITIVE NEWS: LOW SALT DIETS ASSOCIATED WITH HEART DISEASE

High-salt diets may not increase the risk of death, contrary to long-held medical beliefs, according to investigators from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. They reached their conclusion after examining dietary intake among a nationally representative sample of adults in the U.S. The Einstein researchers actually observed a significantly increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease associated with lower sodium diets. . .

After adjusting for known CVD risk factors, such as smoking, diabetes and blood pressure, the one-fourth of the sample who reported consuming the lowest amount of sodium were found to be 80% more likely to die from CVD compared to the one-fourth of the sample consuming the highest level of sodium. The risk for death from any cause appeared 24% greater for those consuming lower salt, but this latter difference was not quite large enough to dismiss the role of chance.

ONE IN SEVEN PUBLIC SCHOOLS DISTRICTS DO STUDENT DRUG TESTS WITHOUT ANY CAUSE

NORML One in seven public school districts randomly drug tests their student body, according to survey data published this month in the American Journal of Public Health. The percentage is approximately 50 percent higher the total number of schools that reported performing suspicionless drug testing five years ago.

Among the schools that employ random drug testing, 93 percent test student athletes, while 65 percent test students who engage in extracurricular activities - a practice that was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2002 in a 5-4 decision.

Twenty-nine percent of school districts that perform drug testing impose it upon the entire student body, a practice that extends "beyond current Supreme Court sanctions."

Last year the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on School Health resolved, "There is little evidence of the effectiveness of school-based drug testing," and warned that students subjected to random testing programs may experience "an increase in known risk factors for drug use." The Academy also warned that school-based drug testing programs could decrease student involvement in extracurricular activities and undermine trust between pupils and educators.

MALIKI REFUSES TO JOIN BUSH & PATREAUS IN CON ABOUT IRAN

GARETH PORTER, ANTI WAR Early this month, the George W. Bush administration's plan to create a new crescendo of accusations against Iran for allegedly smuggling arms to Shiite militias in Iraq encountered not just one but two setbacks. The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki refused to endorse US charges of Iranian involvement in arms smuggling to the Mahdi Army, and a plan to show off a huge collection of Iranian arms captured in and around Karbala had to be called off after it was discovered that none of the arms were of Iranian origin.

The news media's failure to report that the arms captured from Shiite militiamen in Karbala did not include a single Iranian weapon shielded the US military from a much bigger blow to its anti-Iran strategy.

The Bush administration and top Iraq commander Gen. David Petraeus had plotted a sequence of events that would build domestic US political support for a possible strike against Iran over its "meddling" in Iraq and especially its alleged export of arms to Shiite militias.

The plan was keyed to a briefing document to be prepared by Petraeus on the alleged Iranian role in arming and training Shiite militias that would be surfaced publicly after the al-Maliki government had endorsed it and it used to accuse Iran publicly.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, told reporters on Apr. 25 that Petraeus was preparing a briefing to be given "in the next couple of weeks" that would provide detailed evidence of "just how far Iran is reaching into Iraq to foment instability." The centerpiece of the Petraeus document, completed in late April, was the claim that arms captured in Basra bore 2008 manufacture dates on them.

US officials also planned to display Iranian weapons captured in both Basra and Karbala to reporters. That sequence of media events would fill the airwaves with spectacular news framing Iran as the culprit in Iraq for several days, aimed at breaking down Congressional and public resistance to the idea that Iranian bases supporting the meddling would have to be attacked.

But events in Iraq diverged from the plan. On May 4, after an Iraqi delegation had returned from meetings in Iran, al-Maliki's spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, said in a news conference that al-Maliki was forming his own Cabinet committee to investigate the US claims. "We want to find tangible information and not information based on speculation," he said.

Another adviser to al-Maliki, Haider Abadi, told the Los Angeles Times' Alexandra Zavis that Iranian officials had given the delegation evidence disproving the charges. "For us to be impartial, we have to investigate," Abadi said.

Al-Dabbagh made it clear that the government considered the US evidence of Iranian government arms smuggling insufficient. "The proof we have is weapons which are shown to have been made in Iran," al-Dabbagh said in a separate interview with Reuters. "We want to trace back how they reached [Iraq], who is using them, where are they getting it."

Senior US military officials were clearly furious with al-Maliki for backtracking on the issue. "We were blindsided by this," one of them told Zavis.

EMINENT DOMAIN IS A CIVIL RIGHTS ISSUE

DAVID T. BEITO & ILYA SOMIN, KANSAS CITY STAR Few policies have done more to destroy community and opportunity for minorities than eminent domain. Some 3 to 4 million Americans, most of them ethnic minorities, have been forcibly displaced from their homes as a result of urban renewal takings since World War II.

The fact is that eminent-domain abuse is a crucial constitutional rights issue. The Alabama Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will hold a public forum at Birmingham's historic Sixteenth Street Baptist church to address ongoing property seizures in the state. The church was not only a center of early civil rights action, but also, tragically, where four schoolgirls lost their lives in a bombing in 1963.

Current eminent domain horror stories in the South and elsewhere are not hard to find. At this writing, for example, the city of Clarksville, Tenn., is giving itself authority to seize more than 1,000 homes, businesses and churches and then resell much of the land to developers. Many who reside there are black, live on fixed incomes, and own well-maintained Victorian homes.

Eminent domain has always had an outsized impact on the constitutional rights of minorities, but most of the public didn't notice until the U.S. Supreme Court's 2005 ruling in Kelo v. City of New London. In Kelo, the Court endorsed the power of a local government to forcibly transfer private property to commercial interests for the purpose of "economic development."

The Fifth Amendment requires that such seizures be for a "public use," but that requirement can be satisfied, the Court ruled, by virtually any claim of some sort of public benefit. Many charge that Kelo gives governments a blank check to redistribute land from the poor and middle class to the wealthy.

Few protested the Kelo ruling more ardently than the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In an amicus brief filed in the case, it argued that "the burden of eminent domain has and will continue to fall disproportionately upon racial and ethnic minorities, the elderly, and economically disadvantaged." Unfettered eminent domain authority, the NAACP concluded, is a "license for government to coerce individuals on behalf of society's strongest interests."

Some earlier civil rights champions, by contrast, often ignored, or worse helped to undermine, the rights of property owners. Ironically, the same U.S. Supreme Court which handed down Brown v. Board in 1954 also issued Berman v. Parker, in which the Court allowed the District of Columbia to forcibly expel some 5,000 low-income African-Americans from their homes in order to facilitate "urban renewal." It was Berman that enabled the massive urban renewal condemnations of later decades, which many critics dubbed "Negro removal" because they too tended to target African-Americans.

Four years ago, the city of Alabaster, Ala., used "blight" as a pretext to take 400 acres of rural property, much of it owned by low-income black people, for a new Wal-Mart. Many of the residents had lived there for generations, and two other Wal-Mart stores were located less than fifteen miles away. Several of the landowners, particularly those who lacked political clout and legal aid, ended up selling out at a discount.

In the three years since Kelo, 42 states, including Alabama, have enacted new laws limiting eminent domain power, but many of the new laws contain loopholes that make them easy to circumvent. Some 19 states have forbidden takings for "economic development" but continue to permit the exact same kinds of condemnations under the guise of alleviating "blight" - a concept defined so broadly that virtually any property the government covets can be declared "blighted." If takings end up becoming a key constitutional rights issue for minorities in the 21st century, it will be fitting that the crusade against them begins in Alabama, where their victims have suffered most greatly.

TWO LAME DUCKS CELEBRATE IN ISRAEL

DONALD MACINTYRE INDEPENDENT, UK It doesn't get much cheesier than this. Certainly, not all Carole King fans will applaud the choice of her "You've Got a Friend" as the centerpiece of the entertainment provided for President George Bush last night at an event in Jerusalem to salute his unswerving support for the Israeli leadership over the past seven years. . .

On this, his second, and presumably last, visit to the Holy Land as the President of the United States, Mr Bush brought with him some "beautiful presents" for Mr Peres. But as Channel One's reporter Ayala Hasson tantalizingly explained, the details could not be disclosed "for security reasons". What could this mean?

True, the newspaper Yedhiot Ahronot had in the morning speculated that the US President would mark Israel's 60th by transferring "goodies" negotiated between the two governments in the preceding weeks, such as "advanced types of armament, fighter planes, cruise missiles and new radar systems that will increase the early-warning time for surface-to-surface missile fire". But you had to hope that the mysterious gifts he brought to lunch at the Israeli President's official residence yesterday were a little more, well, homely.

Unwittingly or not, the choice of the King song "When you're down and troubled/ And you need a helping hand/ And nothing, whoa, nothing is going right. . . soon I'll be there" had a more personal sub-text. For the President did his best yesterday to "be there" for Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, facing what may be his most serious police investigation yet into past funding he received from the American businessman Morris Talansky during his terms as Jerusalem mayor and industry minister.

Mr Bush, who had told Israeli reporters in Washington on Monday that Mr Olmert was an "honest guy", hugged him in greeting after touching down at Ben Gurion airport yesterday. Mr Olmert was picked up on the broadcasters' microphones telling the US National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley: "Holding on, holding on, don't worry.". . .

Not all Israeli commentators have been that impressed. Yedhiot carried a piece by Yitzhak Benhorin pointing out that Mr Bush's approval rating had a hit a "nadir" of 31 per cent while Mr Olmert's was as "soft as pudding". The article was headlined: "A meeting of two lame ducks."

PALESTINIANS MOURN 60TH ANNIVERSARY OF 'THE CATASTROPHE'

GUARDIAN, UK While Israelis celebrated the 60th anniversary of their nation's birth with fireworks and barbecues, sirens wailed across the Palestinian territories today in mourning. It was a day of grief for Palestinians, who refer to the founding of Israel as the Catastrophe, or al-Nakba.

Thousands took to the streets to commemorate those exiled or killed in the conflict that followed the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. More than 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled, their property was expropriated and they have not been allowed to return.

Nearly 5 million Palestinians and their descendants still live in makeshift refugee camps across the neighbouring region.

President Mahmoud Abbas today spoke of the "pain and suffering" of the Palestinians. . .

To mark the anniversary, schools and universities were closed for the day and people marched to Israeli checkpoints. At noon, traffic came to a standstill and sirens sounded across the territories to mark the start of a two-minute silence.

GREENHOUSE GASES HIGHEST IN AT LEAST 800,000 YEARS

Reuters Greenhouse gases are at higher levels in the atmosphere than at any time in at least 800,000 years, according to a study of Antarctic ice on Wednesday that extends evidence that mankind is disrupting the climate. Carbon dioxide and methane trapped in tiny bubbles of air in ancient ice down to 3,200 meters (10,500 ft) below the surface of Antarctica add 150,000 years of data to climate records stretching back 650,000 years from shallower ice drilling. . . Before the Industrial Revolution, levels of greenhouse gases were guided mainly by long-term shifts in the earth's orbit around the sun that have plunged the planet into ice ages and back again eight times in the past 800,000 years.

BIDEN SHOWS OBAMA HOW TO HANDLE BUSH

Politico Sen. Joe Biden, piling on to Democratic complaints about President Bush's speech in Israel today:
"This is bullshit, this is malarkey. This is outrageous, for the president of the United States to go to a foreign country, to sit in the Knesset . . . and make this kind of ridiculous statement."

Speaking before the Knesset, Bush said that "some people" believe the United States "should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along."

"We have heard this foolish delusion before," Bush said. "As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: 'Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.' We have an obligation to call this what it is - the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.". . .

"He is the guy who has weakened us," he said. "He has increased the number of terrorists in the world. It is his policies that have produced this vulnerability that the U.S. has. It's his [own] intelligence community [that] has pointed this out, not me."

Biden noted that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have both suggested that the United States ought to find a way to talk more with its enemies.

"If he thinks this is appeasement, is he going to come back and fire his own cabinet?" Biden asked. "Is he going to fire Condi Rice?"

MILITARY RECRUITMENT OF CHILDREN VIOLATES INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENT

Jim Lobe Inter Press Service Pressed by the demands of the "global war on terrorism", the United States is violating an international protocol that forbids the recruitment of children under the age of 18 for military service, according to a new report released by a major civil rights group that charged that recruitment practices target children as young as 11 years old.

The 46-page report, "Soldiers of Misfortune", which was prepared by the American Civil Liberties Union for submission to the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, also found that the U.S. military disproportionately targets poor and minority public school students.

Military recruiters, according to the report, use "exaggerated promises of financial rewards for enlistment, [which] undermines the voluntariness of their enlistment." In some cases documented by the report, recruiters used coercion, deception, and even sexual abuse in order to gain recruits. Perpetrators of such practices are only very rarely punished, the report found. . .

The increased aggressiveness of military recruiters is due in major part, according to the report, to the increased pressure to meet enlistment quotas caused by ongoing U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to which nearly 200,000 soldiers and marines are currently deployed. . .

The Protocol, which is attached to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, is designed to protect the rights of children under 18 who may be recruited by the military and deployed to war. Among other provisions, the Protocol sets an absolute minimum age for recruitment of 16 and requires that all recruitment activities directed at children under 18 be carried out with the consent of the child's parents or guardian, that any such recruitment be genuinely volunteer, and the military fully inform the child of the duties involved in military service and require reliable proof of age before enlistment.

While the United States is one of only two countries -- the other being Somalia -- to have never ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the U.S. Senate ratified the Protocol in 2002, making it binding under U.S., as well as international, law. Unlike most other industrialized countries that set their minimum recruitment age at 18, the Senate decided on 17 as the absolute minimum for the United States.

Sam Smith, 1996 - The Pentagon has greatly expanded JROTC programs. In 1995, the American Friends Service Committee found retired military personnel teaching approximately 310,000 students, ages 14 and up, in about 2200 high schools (with another 700 on the docket). As the AFSC pointed out:
Public schooling strives to promote respect for other cultures, critical thinking and basic academic skills in a safe environment. In contrast, JROTC introduces guns into the schools, promotes authoritarian values, uses rote learning methods, and consigns much student time to learning drill, military history and protocol, which have little relevance outside the military.

It pays off, though, for the Pentagon. Although the JROTC denies it is engaged in recruiting, 45% of all cadets completing the program sign up, mostly as enlisted personnel. AFSC also found that JROTC programs are more often found in schools with a high proportion of non-white students -- now providing 54% of all cadets -- and in non-affluent schools.
And what are these cadets being taught? Says the report:

A comparison of the JROTC curriculum and two widely used civilian high school civics and history textbooks demonstrates that the JROTC curriculum falls well below accepted pedagogical standards. Units on citizenship and history are strikingly different from standard civil texts on these subjects.
For example, . . . the JROTC text portrays citizenship as being primarily achieved through military service, provides only a short discussion of civil rights; and downplays the importance of civilian control of the military. . . .

In comparison to the civilian history text, historical events in the JROTC curriculum are distorted . . History is described as a linear series of accomplishments by soldiers, while the progress engendered by regular citizens is marginalized. America's wars are treated as having been inevitable.

While it claims to provide leadership training with broad relevance, in fact the JROTC curriculum defines leadership as respect for constituted authority and the chain of command, rather than as critical thinking and democratic consensus-building . . . Finally, the text encourages the reader to rely uncritically on the military as a source of self-esteem and guidance.

Further, at a time that schools are trying desperately to discourage violence, the JROTC is teaching students how to kill more effectively. It is also teaching them -- in a text that addresses the "Indian menace" that "Fortunately the government policy of pushing the Indians farther West, then wiping them out, was carried out successfully. "
And just where did the idea come from for the expansion of military indoctrination in our high schools? From none other than that very media model of a major modern general: Colin Powell.

Following the LA uprising in 1992, writes Steven Stycos in the Providence Phoenix, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff "proposed a massive expansion of the program. Powell urged the new units be targeted to inner-city youth as an alternative to drug use and gang membership." In New England the number of students involved nearly tripled.
Was Powell seeking citizen officers to balance the academy-trained military? Absolutely not. The JROTC students are grunt-fodder. Besides, while referring to ROTC as "vital to democracy," Powell closed 62 college-based ROTC units during this same period. The inevitable result was that the proportion of academy-trained officers rose and the role of the citizen-officer diminished.

HOW MEDIA USE OF NUMBERS PLAYS THE RACE CARD

Crispin Sartwell, LA Times - American "political analysis" has become obsessed with demographics.For example, pundits and pollsters held that the Democratic contests in Ohio and Pennsylvania between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama turned on the vote of "white working-class men," a constituency seemingly in thrall to Clinton. Those primaries supposedly showed Obama's problem for the general election. . .

This kind of analysis, though it comes in the form of numbers, is both fundamentally non-empirical and fundamentally non-explanatory. Take an election, for example, that finishes 54% to 46% in Clinton's favor. Now say that white working-class men constitute 12% of the vote, and 10 of every 12 of them (10% of the overall vote) go for Clinton. Obviously, white working-class men were the pivot on which the election turned. If Obama could have broken off half the vote that went to Clinton, he would have won: He would have increased his vote by 5% and reduced hers by 5%, and won 51% to 49%.

But notice that the vote of any like-sized segment is equally explanatory. If most "soccer moms" or most "people ages 35 to 44" or most people "with annual incomes between $50,000 and $70,000" or most "people in the southeast corner of the state" voted for Clinton, we can say that had they voted for Obama, he would have won.

So the assertion that the result turned on the votes of white working-class men is completely unsupported by the demographics. It no more turned on that group than on any other substantial group that supported Clinton. . .

The way that polling and demographics slice up the population is, ultimately, a matter of preference; it does not derive from, but is a presupposition of, the "science." Searching for segments of the electorate that vote as a bloc, demographers split the population up into groups they decide are important or salient. And their decisions don't necessarily reflect empirical results -- they are more an index of their own social attitudes, presumptions and prejudices.

It would be nearly as scientific to rig up any segment of the population and regard it as decisive: blue-collar women, black and white, under 35; black men plus Latino women; left-handed divorcees. . .

When you bring a set of racial or gender-based categories to the data, the divisions these attitudes represent will always be confirmed as the most important divisions in our society. That just reinforces the problematic divisions that infested the attitudes of the pollsters in the first place. And then, at the end of each election, our divisions of race, gender and class are, in our imaginations, stronger.

The right response to the notion that "scientific polling" shows that the election outcome turns on white men or black women or soccer moms is a shrug of the shoulders and the arch of an eyebrow.

Sam Smith - Pat Buchanan tried to explain to Chris Matthews that if white voters in West Virginia were voting on the basis of ethnicity, so were black voters in Philadelphia, but the former gets much greater media attention. Matthews didn't want to hear, perhaps because he may be planning to run for Senator in Pennsylvania and needs the black vote, but the point is correct. The media has no way of knowing from poll results whether choices have been made out of ethnic prejudice, ethnic loyalty or a totally unrelated issue. But it doesn't help ethnic relations to suggest that white voters who don't vote for a black candidate are prejudiced, while giving black voters voting for a black candidate a pass. There are, in fact, striking similarities between prejudice by white conservatives against blacks and that of white liberals against poor whites. And it certainly doesn't help to call someone you've just dubbed a racist a "hillbilly."

BREVITAS

BUSH CRIME WATCH

The U.S. government has injected hundreds of foreigners it has deported with dangerous psychotropic drugs against their will to keep them sedated during the trip back to their home country, according to medical records, internal documents and interviews with people who have been drugged. The government's forced use of antipsychotic drugs, in people who have no history of mental illness, includes dozens of cases in which the "pre-flight cocktail," as a document calls it, had such a potent effect that federal guards needed a wheelchair to move the slumped deportee onto an airplane. . . In a Chicago holding cell early one evening in February 2006, five guards piled on top of a 49-year-old man who was angry he was going back to Ecuador, according to a nurse's account in his deportation file. As they pinned him down so the nurse could punch a needle through his coveralls into his right buttock, one officer stood over him menacingly and taunted, "Nighty-night.". . Involuntary chemical restraint of detainees, unless there is a medical justification, is a violation of some international human rights codes. The practice is banned by several countries where, confidential documents make clear, U.S. escorts have been unable to inject deportees with extra doses of drugs during layovers en route to faraway places. Washington Post

OUTLYING PRECINCTS

A 19-year-old freshman at the University of Oklahoma was elected mayor Tuesday of Muskogee, a city of 38,000 in the northeastern part of the state. With all precincts reporting, John Tyler Hammons won with 70 percent of the vote over former Mayor Hershel Ray McBride, said Muskogee County Election Board Secretary Bill Bull. "The public placing their trust in me is the greatest, humbling and most awesome experience I've ever had in my life," said Hammons, who is from Muskogee but attends the university in Norman. . . Hammons, who will be sworn in next week, said he plans to continue his college education but expects to transfer to a school closer to Muskogee.. . . Hammons said a key to his platform that resonated with voters was openness of government and keeping citizens better informed of city operations. Seattle Post Intelligencer

The Clinton campaign was caught unawares by the NARAL endorsement [of Obama] , which became public as Clinton advisers were holding a conference call with reporters. Asked by a reporter on the call for his response, Clinton's communications director Howard Wolfson said, "'Surprised' would be my response" and that Clinton's leadership and advocacy on abortion rights had been "second to none." The endorsement drew angry reaction from Clinton supporters, including Ellen R. Malcolm, the president of Emily's List - a group that raises money to support feminist candidates. Recalling Clinton's long support for pro-choice issues, Malcolm decried NARAL's move as "tremendously disrespectful to Sen. Clinton . . . to not give her the courtesy to finish the final three weeks of the primary process." Explaining her group's backing of Obama, Nancy Keenan, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement that she believes Obama is now certain to secure the nomination and that his differences with McCain on abortion rights and the selection of judicial nominees "will be a major reason many voters, especially pro-choice independent and Republican women, will cross party lines to support Sen. Obama in the fall." Mcclatchy

Republican presidential candidate John McCain said on Thursday that, if elected, he would like to take a page from the British government and appear in question-and-answer sessions with lawmakers. "I will ask Congress to grant me the privilege of coming before both houses to take questions, and address criticism, much the same as the prime minister of Great Britain appears regularly before the House of Commons," McCain said in excerpts of a speech he is to deliver later in Columbus, Ohio. Reuters
Ralph Nader, who still uses a manual Underwood typewriter, showed up at Google headquarters where he took questions for about an hour and did a YouTube interview

Alan Keyes, who was recently beaten 3-to-1 for the Constitution Party nomination for President, has decided to continue his run for President as an independent. Keyes is trying to start a new party called America's Independent Party. He has groupings of supporters in Texas, California, Florida, New York and Missouri. In what was their first major ballot-access hurdle, the Keyes campaign has failed to get on the ballot in Texas-collecting only 10,000 signatures. Third Party News

Obama calls TV reporter 'sweetie,' but she gets back at him, An example of spin control spinning out of control: video has 60,000 hits in 24 hours

SCHOOLS & THE YOUNG

Researchers at the University of Virginia found that if you're a member of one of the geeky "out groups" in high school surrounded by jocks, prom queens and cheerleaders, simply being comfortable with yourself and your peers -- no matter how nerdy others might think you are -- may go a long way in ensuring a successful social life in the future. The new findings, published today in the journal Child Development, suggest that how a teenager feels about himself or herself is the best indicator of future social functioning ABC News

CORPORADOS

"Prozac Nation: Revisited," a show that aired on National Public Radio member stations, "featured four prestigious medical experts discussing the controversial link between antidepressants and suicide. .. All four said that worries ... have been overblown." But the show did not disclose that all four "have financial ties to the makers of antidepressants," or that the series that produced the show, "The Infinite Mind," has received "unrestricted grants" from drug companies including Eli Lilly, the maker of Prozac. One guest, Peter Pitts, heads the industry-funded Center for Medicine in the Public Interest and is "senior vice president for global health affairs at the PR firm Manning Selvage & Lee," which counts among its clients Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and "more than a dozen other pharmaceutical companies

PEACE

JUDGE BACKS CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR AGAINST ARMY

DRUG BUSTS

Low doses of cannabis and alcohol have contrasting effects upon psychomotor performance, according to clinical trial data published in the current issue of the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention. Investigators at Hebrew University and the University of the Negev in Israel assessed the impact of alcohol and THC on simulated driving performance in fourteen subjects. . . "Average speed was the most sensitive driving performance variable affected by both THC and alcohol but with an opposite effect," authors wrote. "Smoking THC cigarettes caused drivers to drive slower in a dose-dependent manner, while alcohol caused drivers to drive significantly faster than in ‘control' conditions." Both alcohol and low doses of cannabis impaired drivers' ability to maintain lane position and significantly increased subjects' reaction time. Neither low doses of alcohol nor THC significantly increased subjects' total number of collisions. . . Two recent examinations of fatal accident crash data indicate that alcohol, even at low doses, greatly increases drivers' crash risk compared to cannabis. A 2007 case-control study published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health reported that US drivers with blood alcohol levels of 0.05 percent were three times as likely to have engaged in unsafe driving activities prior to a fatal crash as compared to individuals who tested positive for marijuana. Similarly, a 2005 review of French auto accident data reported that drivers who tested positive for any amount of alcohol had a four times greater risk of having a fatal accident than did drivers who tested positive for marijuana in their blood.

MONEY & WORK

In an age where governments of every political stripe distort economic data to promote their own self-interests, it's hardly surprising that they present inflation statistics that are wildly at odds with the reality faced by consumers and businesses, and regarded with utter disbelief. In the latest US government report on inflation for instance, there was a glaring "seasonal adjustment," for energy prices that cast great doubt as to the accuracy of the findings. US Labor Dept apparatchiks said consumer prices rose a smaller than expected 0.2% in April, tamed by energy prices, which were unchanged last month. Utilizing an obscure "seasonal adjustment," Labor figured that gasoline prices actually fell 2% in April, which doesn't reflect the reality of what consumers were paying at the pump. Furthermore, the IMF's global food price index rose 43% over the last 12-months, but the US consumer price index for food is only 5.1% higher. Gary Dorsch, Financial Sense

WRITTEN WORDS

A publishing institution, faithfully mailed at least twice a year to thousands of stores and libraries for about as long as the industry has existed, may be on its way out: The paper catalog. Harper Collins announced that it was planning to make their listings of upcoming releases available only online, calling the current system both economically and environmentally indefensible. . . Other major publishers are moving in a similar direction, including Penguin Group (USA) and Random House Inc. - AP

Officially, Authonomy is a "social network for writers and book-lovers alike". Just as MySpace allowed bands to succeed without the prior approval and investment of record companies, so Authonomy will theoretically help separate the unpublished wheat from the chaff. The idea is that aspirant scribes can upload up to 10,000 words to the site and then have their masterworks judged by what HarperCollins refers to as "keen, talent-spotting readers" - other people, that is, who have registered on the network.
No longer will the disgruntled writing masses be able to complain that their work has not been published because it has been vetoed by elite, snobbish publishing industry professionals. Now they will be kyboshing each other. (Or launching each other's careers.) . . . I imagine that the hearts of those behind Authonomy are in the right place, but it's hard to ignore the suspicion that what they are really doing is outsourcing the unlovely task of sluicing through the slush pile. . . . I think Authonomy may end up being a nice polite way for the publishers to say that they're not accepting unsolicited submissions anymore. If the launch goes well, I'd wager that anyone asking about submissions will be directed to hit the site, keeping editors' (and editorial assistants') desks clear for them to get on with the books agents have sent them, the ones they are genuinely interested in. - Guardian

Bookstore sales rose 1.3% in March, to $1.03 billion, according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. Sales have increased every month so far in 2008 and finished the first quarter up 5.1%, to $4.46 billion. The 1.3% March increase was the smallest gain in 2008. Publishers Weekly

Pinal County Sheriff Chris Vasquez has plagiarized more than a dozen times in his monthly letters since taking office three years ago, lifting text from numerous Web sites, journalists, lawmakers and even President Bush. The plagiarism is extensive. And in many cases, the text is copied verbatim and unattributed with copied material that ranges in size from a few sentences to entire speeches. Vasquez admitted that he directly "copies and pastes" material from outside sources into many of his letters without attribution. He added that he doesn't think it's wrong. "You can call it plagiarism if you want," Vasquez said. "I'm just providing a public service." The letters are distributed to newspapers across the county that print them each month. They also were posted on Vasquez's campaign Web site. However, they were removed Wednesday afternoon after the Tribune inquired about them. David Biscobing, East Valley Tribune, Az

CYBER NOTES

CBS has bought CNET for $1.8 billion. Notes Slashdot: It seems reasonable to ask how much longer they'll let news.com remain an IT-centric site.

THE MIX

CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT APPROVES GAY MARRIAGE

ECO CLIPS

In Uganda, which has one of the lowest levels of electricity in Africa, Motorola has launched an initiative to provide solar cell phone recharging stations that can be run by local, entrepreneurial women. Each kiosk is charged by a 55-watt inverted solar panel and can charge up to 20 phones at a time. The women who run the kiosks, meanwhile, are also equipped to sell handsets and operator SIM cards and to provide repair services. For local people without their own phones, the kiosks effectively function as a local "phone booth" for making occasional calls as well.

Polar bears were listed on Wednesday as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act because their sea ice habitat is melting away. But the new protection was not accompanied by any proposals to address either climate change, which environmentalists say causes the deterioration of the bears' habitat, or drilling in the Arctic for the fossil fuels that spur the climate-warming greenhouse effect. In announcing the government's decision one day before a court-ordered deadline, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne acknowledged that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions contributed to the global warming damaging the polar bears' habitat. "While the legal standards under the Endangered Species Act compel me to list the polar bear as threatened, I want to make clear that this listing will not stop global climate change or prevent any sea ice from melting," he said at a briefing. Reuters

Climate change will lead to a "fortress world" in which the rich lock themselves away in gated communities and the poor must fend for themselves in shattered environments, unless governments act quickly to curb greenhouse gas emissions, according to the vice-president of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Prof Mohan Munasinghe was giving a lecture at Cambridge university in which he presented a dystopic possible future world in which social problems are made much worse by the environmental consequences of rising greenhouse gas emissions. . . The scenario, which he termed "barbarisation" was already beginning to happen, he said. "Fortress world is a situation where the rich live in enclaves, protected, and the poor live outside in unsustainable conditions. "If you see what is going on in some of the gated communities in some countries you do find that rich people live in those kind of protected environments. If you see the restrictions on international travel you see the beginnings of the fortress world syndrome even in entering and leaving countries," he said. Guardian, UK

FREEDOM BEAT

A divided federal appeals court panel has upheld a Nevada school district's dress code, issuing a ruling that an ACLU attorney says seeks to "eviscerate" a seminal Supreme Court opinion protecting student speech. In 2003, the Clark County School District adopted a standard dress code for all county students. It also established a means for individual schools to create more-restrictive uniform policies. Many schools in the district adopted such uniform policies.

SCIENCE & HEALTH

Writing in the International Journal of Liability and Scientific Enquiry, Patrick Kierkegaard of the University of Essex, England, suggests that there is scant scientific evidence that video games are anything but harmless and do not lead to real world aggression. Moreover, his research shows that previous work is biased towards the opposite conclusion. . . Kierkegaard studied a range of research papers, several of which have concluded since the early 1980s that video games can lead to juvenile delinquency, fighting at school and during free play periods, and violent criminal behavior. Evidence from brain scans carried out while gamers play also seem to support a connection between playing video games and activation of regions of the brain associated with aggression. However, Kierkegaard explains, there is no obvious link between real-world violence statistics and the advent of video games. Despite several high profile incidents in US academic institutions, "Violent crime, particularly among the young, has decreased dramatically since the early 1990s," says Kierkegaard, "while video games have steadily increased in popularity and use. For example, in 2005, there were 1,360,088 violent crimes reported in the USA compared with 1,423,677 the year before. "With millions of sales of violent games, the world should be seeing an epidemic of violence," he says, "Instead, violence has declined." Research is inconclusive, emphasises Kierkegaard. It is possible that certain types of video game could affect emotions, views, behaviour, and attitudes, however, so can books, which can lead to violent behaviour on those already predisposed to violence.

INDICATORS

For nearly three in 10 households, don't even bother trying to call them on a landline phone. They either only have a cell phone or seldom if ever take calls on their traditional phone. The federal figures, showed that reliance on cells is continuing to rise at the expense of wired telephones. In the second half of last year, 16 percent of households only had cell phones, while 13 percent also had landlines but got all or nearly all their calls on their cells. The survey also found that: Low-income people are likelier than the more affluent to have only cell phones.. . . Those with only cells tend to be living with unrelated roommates, renters rather than homeowners, and Hispanics and blacks rather than whites. . . About a third of those under age 30 only have cell phones Chicago Tribune

FIELD NOTES

Frank Schaeffer's memoir, Crazy for God, offers an unexpected mirror into the American experience. From being one of the brains behind the founding of the evangelical political right, to his stalwart, enthusiastic support for Obama today, Schaeffer's trajectory has taken him through various stations of faith. Strong character having been bred into him, he's managed eventually to come to terms with it all. An example of personal resiliency by a brilliant writer. PODCAST

FURTHERMORE . . . .

HOW FOOD PORTIONS HAVE CHANGE OVER TIME

HOW MORE THAN 1,000 UNINSURED MUSICIANS GOT MEDICAL CARE

NEW YORKERS TAKE OVER PARKING SPACES AS REC AREAS

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