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Undernews For May 17, 2008

Undernews For May 17, 2008

Washington's Most Unofficial Source
611 Pennsylvania Ave SE #381
Washington DC 20003
Editor: Sam Smith

17 MAY 2008



NOAH SHACHTMAN WIRED The Air Force wants a suite of hacker tools, to give it "access" to -- and "full control" of -- any kind of computer there is. And once the info warriors are in, the Air Force wants them to keep tabs on their "adversaries' information infrastructure completely undetected."

The government is growing increasingly interested in waging war online. The Air Force recently put together a "Cyberspace Command," with a charter to rule networks the way its fighter jets rule the skies. The Department of Homeland Security, Darpa, and other agencies are teaming up for a five-year, $30 billion "national cybersecurity initiative." That includes an electronic test range, where federally-funded hackers can test out the latest electronic attacks. "You used to need an army to wage a war," a recent Air Force commercial notes. "Now, all you need is an Internet connection."

The Air Force Research Laboratory introduced a two-year, $11 million effort to put together hardware and software tools for "Dominant Cyber Offensive Engagement." "Of interest are any and all techniques to enable user and/or root level access," a request for proposals notes, "to both fixed (PC) or mobile computing platforms... any and all operating systems, patch levels, applications and hardware." This isn't just some computer science study, mind you; "research efforts under this program are expected to result in complete functional capabilities."


AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE - Albert Einstein described belief in God as "childish superstition" and said Jews were not the chosen people, in a letter, an auctioneer said. The father of relativity, whose previously known views on religion have been more ambivalent and fuelled much discussion, made the comments in response to a philosopher in 1954.

As a Jew himself, Einstein said he had a great affinity with Jewish people but said they "have no different quality for me than all other people". "The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. "No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this," he wrote in the letter written on January 3, 1954 to the philosopher Eric Gutkind, cited by The Guardian newspaper. . .

In it, the renowned scientist, who declined an invitation to become Israel's second president, rejected the idea that the Jews are God's chosen people. "For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions," he said. "And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people." And he added: "As far as my experience goes, they are no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything 'chosen' about them."


ARIZONA CENTRAL Sen. John McCain secured millions in federal funds for a land acquisition program that provided a windfall for an Arizona developer whose executives were major campaign donors, public records show. McCain, who has made fighting special-interest projects a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, inserted $14.3 million in a 2003 defense bill to buy land around Luke Air Force Base in a provision sought by SunCor Development, the largest of about 50 landowners near the base. SunCor representatives, upset with a state law that restricted development around Luke, met with McCain's staff to lobby for funding, according to John Ogden, SunCor's president at the time.

The Air Force later paid SunCor $3 million for 122 acres near the base. It was the highest single land transaction of the private lots purchased by the government - three times the county's assessed value and twice the military's estimated value. SunCor also donated another 122 acres. Alan Bunnell, a spokesman for SunCor's parent company, Pinnacle West Capital, said the donation was meant to minimize the company's tax bill and enhance the value of adjacent property it owns.. . .

McCain's campaigns have received $224,000 since 1998 from donors connected to Pinnacle West, including $104,100 for his current presidential run, according to a USA Today analysis of campaign-finance data compiled by the non-partisan CQ MoneyLine. Donors include employees of Pinnacle West and its subsidiaries, employees' spouses and the company's lobbyists and political committees.

Pinnacle West's Chief Executive Officer Bill Post, vice president and lobbyist Robert Aiken and former president Jack Davis, who retired in March, are fundraisers for McCain's current presidential campaign. SunCor President Steve Betts, who joined the company weeks after the military land deal, is a former campaign lawyer for McCain and has raised more than $100,000 for his current campaign.


BEN SMITH, POLITICO When Sen. John McCain was forced to distance himself from Pastor John Hagee earlier this year, he denounced the pastor's attacks on Catholicism. But asked why he wouldn't "repudiate" Hagee's endorsement of him, McCain found something to praise. "I'm grateful for his commitment to the support of the state of Israel, and I'm very grateful for many of his commitments around the world, including to the independence and freedom of the state of Israel," he told CNN's Campbell Brown on April 29. . .

Hagee, who leads the evangelical group Christians United for Israel, is a proponent of U.S. aid and support for Israel, and he is a major ally of Israeli conservatives who reject any "land for peace" formula in dealing with the Palestinians. But Hagee is viewed with distrust by some Jews and Israelis because his brand of Christian Zionism closely links support for Israel to the end of the world and the conversion of the Jews to Christianity.

Hagee's predictions are very clear. Armageddon, the final battle, could begin, he wrote in his 2007 book "Jerusalem Countdown," "before this book gets published." The Antichrist "will be the head of the European Union," he writes.

Using geographical calculations based on the Book of Revelation, he writes that Israel will be covered in "a sea of human blood" in the final battle. The Jews, however, will survive the battle, Hagee says, long enough to have "the opportunity to receive Messiah, who is a rabbi known to the world as Jesus of Nazareth."

"They will be blessed beyond their wildest imagination," he writes.

A spokesman for McCain, Brian Rogers, said, "John McCain's commitment to the state of Israel is clear, and he respects Pastor Hagee's commitment as well.


I've lived on Washington's Capitol Hill for some 20 years in two spurts - including editing a neighborhood paper during the time of the riots in the 1960s - but I could not recall anything like the hostility, sense of entitlement and insensitivity of recent messages that started cropping on a local listserv in response to a few teenage muggings, for which responsibility was quickly assigned a nearby public housing project, Potomac Gardens. The project has been there for decades; many of the complainants have only recently arrived on the Hill, and, as in other gentrfying parts of town, are demanding that their new neighborhood meet their standards. One resident even suggest hiring Blackwater to deal with the problem, while someone else proposed a march, not on city hall or the police station, but on the public housing project itself. It was all pretty depressing - until other voices began to be heard and I realized I was getting a unique view of how the Internet can serve as mediator, introducing people who might otherwise never meet. Here are a few excerpts from the discussion. - Sam Smith

-- Why not march through Potomac Gardens to protest and call attention to at least the following: the consistently awful management of PG and places like it in the city; the inherent unfairness of the disproportionate number of calls for police and ambulance service to -- or as a result of -- residents residing, on the dole, at PG; the childish absurdity and paucity of the "no-snitch" code embraced and perpetuated by PG residents; the ineffectual lip-service paid to those of us who fund, through our taxes, places throughout the city like PG, but who are constantly victimized by its residents and particularly by the children of its lease-holders; the absurdity of DC's juvenile shield laws that seem to fly in the face of the 1st Amendment when it comes to sharing information. . . and finally, the simplest, we're just all sick of the crap we have been force-fed by our civic leaders, PC pundits, and apologists alike, that living in an economically, racially, and demographically diverse urban environment entails accepting that we should expect to be assaulted, stolen from, and abused by those among us who are deemed "less fortunate?" - S&P

A number of other white neighbors supported the idea but then. .

-- I must say that I am alarmed by the idea of an angry mob storming Potomac Gardens and other public housing developments. . . I do not in any way underestimate the severity of the problem and the frustration and anger over these incidents, but a mass demonstration makes no distinction between the "good" parents and delinquent parents, the good kids and the bad. It comes across as an us/them confrontation, "we" the homeowners and "you" the "welfare beneficiaries of tax dollars." I don't like the sound of it and I don't see it as a way to promote any kind of dialogue or meaningful improvement. - Marika Rosen

-- I disagree with you. There needs to be a firmer and clearer establishment of "us" versus "them", specifically in the area of violent crime and victimization. We need to send a message that among "us," regardless of race and demographics, we do not tolerate being victimized by "them," consisting of people who directly and indirectly contribute to the violence against "us" and our victimization. I'm not suggesting writing off this generation of kids residing in places like PG, but I am stating emphatically that the time has come to forcefully send the message to them, their parents and their apologists that we, as a civilized and peace-loving segment of the greater community have had enough. That it is unacceptable for anybody living among us to violently and brutally assault and rob us.

- I feel for you and am so sorry about what happened to you on Tuesday night. I support your efforts to bring the community together to make our neighborhood safer. I've got to say, though, that a march on people's homes isn't the way to go. I know you're not trying to intimidate innocent families, and again, I fully appreciate your anger and desire to take back our streets, but honestly some of what I've read makes me think of KKK marches in the 60s. I agree with Tom and others who've said the main message is that we want to be safe in our neighborhoods. I like the idea of a broad-based march, but not a march on Potomac Gardens. - Marc

--- When I lived in Philly "Take Back the Night" marches were common and frequent. . . but these weren't people marching on the MLK Projects or the South Broad high rises. . . This was making a statement about the rights of people to walk down a sidewalk, sit on their porch or let their kids play on the stoop . . . I think that starting an idea with the assumption that people will turn this into a race and class thing is to allow it to become a statement that people aren't trying to make. This isn't about tearing down PG. . . t's about being able to be safe in our neighborhoods.

--- I honestly wonder if people know how they sound talking about the people who live in Potomac Gardens et al and the black kids in this neighborhood?

I by no stretch of the imagination think that what the kids who have been attacking people are right. I do think that they should be punished. That being said, every black youth who crosses your path in this neighborhood doesn't live in Potomac Gardens et al. I know of many black kids who live in a house just as nice as many of yours.

Also, did it occur to you that many of these kids are pissed off because their families have been displaced by the crazy prices of homes around here? The houses that they knew as their Grandma's, Aunties, cousin's are now yours. Yes, their anger is displaced but just think about it for a second. Then there is the fact that many of these kids are kids that have had to leave the neighborhood because their families couldn't afford the houses anymore and they come back to hang with their friends they grew up with. . . which again means they didn't come from the projects or section 8 housing.

I hope that you don't look at my daughter and just assume because she's black that she's in the projects. I mean really, we black people can and do amount to more than that.

This whole discussion has taken on an elitist, racist, angry mob slant. Isn't the whole idea to find a productive way to stop this? Can't something be done without making it look like this list is saying "hey all you poor black people, we don't want your kind around here?" I suddenly don't feel so welcome in this neighborhood anymore. - Manda (A single black parent who hopes her daughter never has to feel that she isn't wanted in her neighborhood!)

-- If you hadn't noticed, Potomac Gardens and the other low-income housing in the area are predominantly housed by African Americans. How could Manda, Bessie, or I not be offended by the tone and focus of your "idea". and - to make matters worse, your subsequent postings continue to suggest that low-income residents (a) - don't have morals; (b) don't know how to raise their children; and (c) - don't value living in a crime-free neighborhood.

I wonder what your exposure to inner-city life has been. I wonder just how many low-income housing projects you've lived near. And finally, I wonder if you really understand the dynamics of crime. Your focus on the low-income areas of our neighborhood and the people within them is the very thing that angers minorities (and maybe non-minorities) faced with an influx of "gentrifiers". This "us" versus "them" mentality is exactly what divides a community. How can you even suggest this approach and use "us" versus "them" in a message about building a community against crime??

Your repeated defenses of your statements later in the postings really demonstrate your ignorance of how to effectively deal with these kinds of issues. And I'm not saying I'm an expert on crime prevention or community development, but I'm pretty sure that community development can't result in a march directed on poor folks who are in our community.

In the past, we tried to combat crime by reaching out to our neighbors in hard-hit areas and encouraging them to join in the fight. To me, this would mean knocking on the doors of your neighbors who you don't ordinarily talk to and ask them if they would be willing to be more active in a neighborhood watch. . . or perhaps if they would participate more regularly in the Orange Hat activities or other. Or simply ask people to leave their porch lights on and call 311. It would not mean organizing a posse and marching on the homes of innocents and criminals, demanding change. How do you know that those criminals are even based in Potomac Gardens? How can running in the direction of a complex mean that the crime emanates from that complex? It might be your neighbor's nephew visiting his aunt who engaged in criminal mischief. But you'll never know because your blinders have you directed toward the low-income side of town.

For my part, I will continue to try and work within the community (insofar as my work schedule allows) with additional neighborhood watches, leaving my porch light on, and keeping a vigilant eye. I would not mind meeting with city officials to see if they have any ideas about how we can address these concerns - but I don't think the Housing Authority is the source for a solution . . .

I fully expect to get a heated response from you or others, but please think and breathe before writing back - I did, and I think calming down is what I needed to do. Please think about what you've said in past postings (perhaps re-read them) and think about what others have said in response to the postings and maybe we can come up with a more constructive solution to crime in the area - one other than a "march" on a housing project that some have only assumed holds criminals. - Rochelle, African American

--- I have been watching the conversation of the past several days, trying to figure out how to comment constructively. I'm pretty sure this post will fail spectacularly, but I am too angry and ashamed to stay quiet any longer.

Martin Luther King and his fellow marchers were Americans protesting immoral laws that rendered them second-class citizens. For people with every advantage (affluent, educated, white) to invoke Dr. King's name as they plan a march on their disadvantaged neighbors appalls me.

There have been constructive voices, people who speak of building alliances across racial and economic lines to achieve a common goal. But so many of the posts to this list have been angry and vindictive and, yes, racist and classist. (You don't need to use the n-word to be racist; repeat the word "babymomma" enough times and you've achieved the same effect. Likewise, saying, "it's because they're poor" is pretty much the definition of classism.)

I can't figure out what this march is supposed to achieve, either. I saw a reference to closing Potomac Gardens ¬ what, so homeless kids are less likely to commit crime?

Someone mentioned threatening parents of truant children with jail time. I must've missed the news that putting parents in prison improves their children's prospects ¬ I thought the evidence pretty clearly demonstrated the opposite.

If you're so passionate about reducing juvenile crime, how about proposing an intensive mentoring program at Potomac Gardens, so we can reach kids before they mug someone?

Another poster mentioned the carrot and the stick. Sticks might work on donkeys, but carrots are far more effective at changing human behavior. (Sticks tend to piss us off.) A lower birth rate isn't a cause of affluence; it comes as a result of it. If we want young women to stop having a lot of children at an early age, we have to increase their opportunities so they have an incentive not to. If we want young men to steer clear of their criminal behavior, likewise: They need an incentive not to.

What if HillEast funded a modest scholarship toward the college tuition of any child at Potomac Gardens who earned his or her high school diploma and did not get pregnant or get into trouble with the police? That's an incentive to straighten up and fly right.

A march whose message seems to be "We're rich and white and better than you, get out of our way!" might be more satisfying than other, more constructive options ¬ but it's an incentive to commit mayhem.

Look, I get it: You're scared and angry. Guess what? So are those kids. Scared they'll have to leave the only home they've known, scared that their neighborhood is changing, scared they'll never know anything but poverty, scared they'll die before they're 20. The truth is, they have a lot more reason to be scared than you do. And just because they're expressing their fear as anger doesn't mean you can't come up with something more constructive. - Molly Wyman, Hill resident for 40 years come Tuesday

--- Hey Molly. . . you and I live fairly close to each other, so let's talk about who is appalled, and let's talk about fear. Think of this. . . if MLK was alive today, would he be appalled to know that he gave his life to civil rights, and this is how the kids and families use those civil rights against white people. Would he be appalled that these young black kids are committing racially motivated hate crimes. I think both you and I know the answer is a resounding yes, he would be appalled. Hey white people deserve peace and justice too!

So, he fought to end immoral laws that rendered blacks being placed as second class citizens. Well, I'm not about to become a second class citizen to the criminals. I'm not about to live in fear that my partner and I (gay partner, not business partner) might get beaten down by some young ignorant thug who has an equally ignorant parental structure. That is my fear everyday, that my tall skinny blonde boyfriend might not make it home from the metro because of these thugs. I'm not going to stand for it. I don't care "why" they are that way. I don't care if they are poor, or black, or have baby mommas, or were a product of one. I care about my loved one getting home from the three block walk safe. . . Clearly, you will not be part of the solution.

--- I suppose I'll attend to be community like. . . but is charging those rock throwing arms of the "gang of four" with our home cooked meals really going to solve the problem? I think, probably not. Then again, they'll know we are out of our homes, so please make sure to lock your roof hatches.

--- I'm proposing a weekly Friday Night Potluck Dinner and Discussion to be held at Potomac Gardens ¬ open to all members of our community. I will invite Chief Lanier and Commander Kamperin from MPD to join us, as well as the leadership at Potomac Gardens, and I hope to create a conversation about safety, perceptions, and how our neighborhood builds strength in the community among all neighbors.

I'll host the first Friday Night Potluck in two weeks on Friday May 30th, 6:00 ¬ 7:30 pm. Given Memorial Day Weekend next week, I think this is our first opportunity. We'll hold them each week on Friday evening through the month of June and if the residents feel we need to continue, then we can keep it going on a weekly basis after that. - Best, Tommy (the white city councilmember from the area)


Could this be happening with Washington think tanks as well?

GOLBE & MAIL, CANADA The Department of National Defense sets quotas for how many times a year a military think tank it subsidizes must appear in the news media, a contract made public at the request of the NDP shows. Critics say the five-year, $500,000 deal with the Conference of Defence Associations crosses the line from promoting debate to paying for supportive commentary - especially troubling when the Harper government is trying to sustain public backing for the Afghan mission. They say it also raises questions about the millions spent by National Defense each year on grants to other think tanks and universities and called on the department to disclose the terms of those deals as well. .

The March, 2007, contract says the grant is part of a program to ensure an "independent voice for discussion and debate on security and defence issues outside of the academic sphere." It sets out 13 "expected results" for the CDA, including the requirements to:

"Attain a minimum of 29 media references to the CDA by national or regional journalists and reporters;"

"Attain the publication of a minimum of 15 opinion pieces (including op-eds and letters to the editor in national or regional publications)."


WASH POST A psychologist who helps lead the post-traumatic stress disorder program at a medical facility for veterans in Texas told staff members to refrain from diagnosing PTSD because so many veterans were seeking government disability payments for the condition.
"Given that we are having more and more compensation seeking veterans, I'd like to suggest that you refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD straight out," Norma Perez wrote in a March 20 e-mail to mental-health specialists and social workers at the Department of Veterans Affairs' Olin E. Teague Veterans' Center in Temple, Tex. Instead, she recommended that they "consider a diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder."

VA staff members "really don't . . . have time to do the extensive testing that should be done to determine PTSD," Perez wrote.

Adjustment disorder is a less severe reaction to stress than PTSD and has a shorter duration, usually no longer than six months, said Anthony T. Ng, a psychiatrist and member of Mental Health America, a nonprofit professional association.

Veterans diagnosed with PTSD can be eligible for disability compensation of up to $2,527 a month, depending on the severity of the condition, said Alison Aikele, a VA spokeswoman. Those found to have adjustment disorder generally are not offered such payments, though veterans can receive medical treatment for either condition.


TOM ENGELHARDT, TOM DISPATCH - 1,390,000: the number of subprime foreclosures over the next two years, as estimated by Credit Suisse analysts. . .

1,000,000: the number of "missions" or "sorties" the U.S. Air Force proudly claims to have flown in the Global War on Terror since 9/11, more than one-third of them (about 353,000) in what it still likes to call Operation Iraqi Freedom. . .

509,000: the number of names found in 2007 on a "terrorist watch list" compiled by the FBI. . . By February 2008, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, the names on the same FBI list had ballooned to 900,000.

300,000: the number of American troops who now suffer from major depression or post-traumatic stress, according to a recent RAND study. .

51,000: the number of post-surge Iraqi prisoners held in American and Iraqi jails at the end of 2007. . .

5,700: the number of trailers in New Orleans -- issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as temporary housing after Hurricane Katrina -- still occupied by people who lost their homes in the storm almost three years ago. . .

658: the number of suicide bombings worldwide last year, including 542 in Afghanistan and Iraq, "more than double the number in any of the past 25 years. . .

511: the number of applicants convicted of felony crimes, including burglary, grand larceny, and aggravated assault, who were accepted into the U.S. Army in 2007, more than double the 249 accepted in 2006. . .

0: the number of terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda or similar groups inside the United States since September 11, 2001.

So consider "the homeland" secure. Mission accomplished.


AP - A Hollywood private investigator was convicted of federal racketeering and other charges for digging up dirt for his well-heeled clients to use in lawsuits, divorces and business disputes against the rich and famous. Anthony Pellicano, 64, was accused of wiretapping stars such as Sylvester Stallone and running the names of others, such as Garry Shandling and Kevin Nealon, through law enforcement databases to help clients in legal and other disputes. Pellicano was found guilty of all but one of the 77 counts against him. He looked at the judge with his arms crossed and didn't react when verdicts were read.

JOSEPH FARRAH, WORLDNET DAILY, JULY 2005 - A significant portion of the [Clinton's] Shadow Team's operations were carried out by private investigators, among them: Terry Lenzner, founder and chairman of the powerful Washington, D.C., detective firm Investigative Group International; high-ticket San Francisco private eye Jack Palladino and his wife Sandra Sutherland; and Hollywood sleuth Anthony J. Pellicano. .

Hillary's secret police tend to be a tight-lipped bunch, professionally skilled at keeping a low profile. However, we know more about Anthony "The Pelican" Pellicano than about most Hillary operatives, thanks to his boastfulness and taste for the limelight. Pellicano's violent career as a private investigator reveals much about the sorts of qualifications Hillary sought in her Shadow Team.

In the January 1992 issue of GQ magazine, Pellicano boasted of the dirty work he had performed for his clients, including blackmail and physical assault. He claimed to have beaten one of his client's enemies with a baseball bat. "I'm an expert with a knife," said Pellicano. "I can shred your face with a knife."

FBI agents raided Pellicano's West Hollywood office on Nov. 22, 2002, and arrested him on federal weapons charges. In his office, they found gold, jewelry, and about $200,000 in cash - most of it bundled in $10,000 wrappers - thousands of pages of transcripts of illegal wiretaps; two handguns; and various explosive devices stored in safes, including two live hand grenades and a pile of C4 plastic explosive, complete with blasting cap and detonation cord.


RICHARD HEINBERG, GLOBAL PUBLIC MEDIA The airline industry has no future. The same is true for airfreight. No air carrier has a viable plan to make a profit with oil at current prices- much less in years to come as the petroleum available to world markets dwindles rapidly. That's not to say that jetliners will disappear overnight, but rather that the cheap flights we've seen in the past will soon be fading memories. In a few years jet service will be available only to the wealthy, or to the government and military.

Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic says he wants to use biofuels to power his fleet of 747's and Airbuses. There are still some bugs to be worked out in terms of basic chemistry, but it might be possible in principle- if only we could make enough biodiesel or ethanol without further driving up food prices and wrecking the soil. Even then it would be very costly fuel.

Are there other options for powered flight? Hydrogen could be burned in jet engines, but doing so would require a complete redesign of our commercial aircraft fleet, and H2 would be expensive to make- unless the growing trend toward more costly electricity (as we phase out depleting, polluting coal and increasingly scarce natural gas) can somehow be reversed. . . There are good reasons to cut down on air travel voluntarily: flying not only swells our personal carbon emissions but spews CO2 and other pollutants into the stratosphere, where they do the most damage. However, the worsening scarcity of the stuff we use for making jet fuel takes the discussion out of the realm of optional moral action and into that of economic necessity and personal adaptation. . .

Those who live far from family will be more than inconvenienced, as will the hundreds of thousands who work for the airline industry directly or indirectly, or the millions who depend on tourism or airfreight for an income. These folks will have few options: teleconferencing can accomplish only so much.

Our species' historically brief fling with flight has been fun, educational, and enriching on many levels to those fortunate enough to benefit from it. Saying goodbye will be difficult. But maybe as we do we can say hello to greater involvement in our local communities.


ERIC SCHMITT AND TIM GOLDEN, NY TIMES The Pentagon is moving forward with plans to build a new, 40-acre detention complex on the main American military base in Afghanistan, officials said, in a stark acknowledgment that the United States is likely to continue to hold prisoners overseas for years to come.

The proposed detention center would replace the cavernous, makeshift American prison on the Bagram military base north of Kabul, which is now typically packed with about 630 prisoners, compared with the 270 held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. . .

The proposal for a new American prison at Bagram underscores the daunting scope and persistence of the United States military's detention problem, at a time when Bush administration officials continue to say they want to close down the facility at Guantanamo Bay.

Military officials have long been aware of serious problems with the existing detention center in Afghanistan, the Bagram Theater Internment Facility. After the prison was set up in early 2002, it became a primary site for screening prisoners captured in the fighting. Harsh interrogation methods and sleep deprivation were used widely, and two Afghan detainees died there in December 2002, after being repeatedly struck by American soldiers.

Conditions and treatment have improved markedly since then, but hundreds of Afghans and other men are still held in wire-mesh pens surrounded by coils of razor wire. There are only minimal areas for the prisoners to exercise, and kitchen, shower and bathroom space is also inadequate.


MARCUS BARAM, ABC NEWS The probe into Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's finances has all the ingredients -- alleged, of course -- of a classic Hollywood political thriller. These include allegations of cash bribes hidden in cases of Slim Fast, bribes paid to install speed bumps on a residential street and envelopes full of cash slipped to Olmert. . .

In the last two weeks, three American businessmen have been brought in for questioning by Israeli authorities investigating alleged irregularities in Olmert's campaign fundraising.

Thursday, former New York limousine driver Avi Sherman told Israeli TV that he delivered suspected bribes, including bundles of money tucked into cases of Slim Fast diet products and cash in envelopes, to Olmert. He claimed they were given to him by S. Daniel Abraham, the founder of the diet-food empire.

Abraham, a billionaire and longtime Democratic fundraiser, strongly denied the allegations, telling Army Radio, "Of course I never gave any money to Ehud Olmert. The very question is insulting to me. This is my reputation at risk and I have no reason to risk it.". . .


CALABASH One of the most exciting and progressive aspects of Senator Barack Obama's candidacy is the incredibly wide range of people he continues to energize and inspire. He has become a true world figure now. One way this can be seen is in the music Obama is inspiring globally. Here is a sampling of some of the tastiest worldbeat music currently being produced as tributes to the hope Barack Obama is bringing to people everywhere.

Track 1: Mighty Sparrow - 'Barack the Magnificent'

First up from Trinidad, is Mighty Sparrow, the Calypso King of the World, whose career spans over five decades and whose music spans the globe.

The respect of the world that we now lack, If you want it back, then vote Barack! Because this time we come out to vote!

Stop the war! Stop genocide in Darfur! No matter what, Get health care for who have not! The Foreign Relations Committee, Can attest to his tenacity, For homeland and job security.

He stood his ground When the war was a conception, Said it was wrong, So he didn't go along, Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton They said of Barack's opinion, "He's a man of resplendent vision! ...

Barack! Barack! On the Senate Affair Committee he's a giant! Barack! Dignifiedly resilient, And with rock star status he's Barack The Magnificent! ...

Barack! Barack! The first black President to lead this mighty nation! Barack! We'll regain worldwide respect with Obama's vision and excellent comprehension!


WALL STREET JOURNAL - In "Let Them In," Jason L. Riley, a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board, argues the case for open borders, reminding us of the immigrant contribution to America's economy and culture, correcting various myths about legal and illegal immigration, and chiding Republicans for their restrictionist tendencies. Some excerpts:

The work-force effect: "The reason that immigrant workers tend not to elbow aside natives for jobs and depress wages has to do with the education and skills that foreigners typically bring to the U.S. labor market. Most immigrants fall into one of two categories: low- skilled laborers or high-skilled professionals. One-third of all immigrants have less than a high school education, and one-quarter hold a bachelor's or advanced degree. Most native workers, by contrast, are concentrated betwixt those two extremes. Hence, immigrant workers tend to act as complements to the native U.S. workforce rather than substitutes. There is some overlap, of course, but this skill distribution is the reason immigrants and natives for the most part aren't competing for the same positions."

The talent imperative: Immigration policies that limit industry's access to talent become ever more risky as the marketplace becomes ever more global. If we want American innovators and entrepreneurs to continue enhancing America's wealth and productivity ¬ and if we want the United States to continue as the world's science and technology leader ¬ better to let Apple and Google and eBay make their own personnel decisions without interference from Tom Tancredo and Lou Dobbs."

The political danger: "Americans may rail against illegal aliens in telephone surveys, but election results have shown time and time again that it's seldom the issue that decides someone's vote. The lesson for the GOP is that hostility to immigrants is not a political winner. That's been the lesson in the past, and given demographic trends, as well as a voting public that is more racially and ethnically tolerant than at any time in U.S. history, it's likely to be the lesson in the future."

The policy challenge: "Reasonable people agree that illegal immigration should be reduced. The question isn't whether it's a problem but how to solve it. Historically, the best results have come from providing more legal ways for immigrants to enter the country. Most of these people are not predisposed to crime or terrorists in waiting. They are economic migrants who would gladly use the front door if it were open to them. Post 9/11, knowing who's in the country has rightly taken on an urgency. But painting Latino immigrants as violent criminals or Islamofascists won't make us any safer. Nor will enforcing bad laws and policies, as opposed to reforming them. On the whole, immigrants are an asset to America, not a liability. We benefit from the labor, they benefit from the jobs. Our laws should acknowledge and reflect this reality, not deny it."


RICK MOORE A major report entitled "Unlocking America," coauthored by nine leading criminology and penal experts--including the University of Minnesota's Joshua Page--explores the causes of the exploding prison population and offers suggestions for reversing the numbers. Among the report's recommendations are eliminating prison as a sanction for technical parole and probation violations, reducing the length of some prison sentences, and reducing the number of people incarcerated for "victimless" crimes, including many drug offenses.

"We need to reduce the number of people that are going to prison and be methodical about reserving prison beds and allocating resources for the most serious and violent offenders, and figure out alternative sanctions for other offenders," Page says.

According to Page, the number of people incarcerated grew for various reasons. More people have been given prison sentences instead of alternative sanctions such as probation, particularly for drug offenses. In addition, sentences have become longer, with mandatory minimum sentences and the implementation of "truth-in-sentencing"--which reduces the amount of time that can be deducted from a sentence for good behavior (making it more "true" to the original sentence).

Last year, roughly 32 percent of new admissions to Minnesota prisons were for people who violated the terms of their probation or parole, known as "technical violators," [Joshua Page, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota] says. (This could be for reasons like failing a drug test or not finding work.) "And then if you add the 21.6 percent that are for drug offenses, more than half of Minnesota's prison population are for [technical] violators and drugs." Page and the other authors [of a new report] recommend de-criminalizing victimless crimes, meaning people would not receive any criminal punishment for drug use, prostitution, and the like. They also suggest that states use alternative sanctions for some offenders who currently serve prison sentences--for instance, selective property offenders. Options might include paying restitution or performing community service, whether it's picking up trash on the side of the road or serving food at a homeless shelter.

UNLOCKING AMERICA President Bush was right. A prison sentence for Lewis "Scooter" Libby was excessive- so too was the long three year probation term. But while he was at it, President Bush should have commuted the sentences of hundreds of thousands of Americans who each year have also received prison sentences for crimes that pose little if any danger or harm to our society. In the United States, every year since 1970, when only 196,429 persons were in state and federal prisons, the prison population has grown. Today there are over 1.5 million in state and federal prisons. Another 750,000 are in the nation's jails. The growth has been constant- in years of rising crime and falling crime, in good economic times and bad, during wartime and while we were at peace. A generation of growth has produced prison populations that are now eight times what they were in 1970. And there is no end to the growth under current policies.

The PEW Charitable Trust reports that under current sentencing policies the state and federal prison populations will grow by another 192,000 prisoners over the next five years. The incarceration rate will increase from 491 to 562 per 100,000 population. And the nation will have to spend an additional $27.5 billion in operational and construction costs over this fi ve-year period on top of the over $60 billion now being spent on corrections each year.

This generation-long growth of imprisonment has occurred not because of growing crime rates, but because of changes in sentencing policy that resulted in dramatic increases in the proportion of felony convictions resulting in prison sentences and in the length-of-stay in prison that those sentences required. . . .

Prisons are self-fueling systems. About two-thirds of the 650,000 prison admissions are persons who have failed probation or parole - approximately half of these people have been sent to prison for technical violations. Having served their sentences, roughly 650,000 people are released each year having served an average of 2-3 years. About 40% will ultimately be sent back to prison as "recidivists"- in many states, for petty drug and property crimes or violations of parole requirements that do not even constitute crimes. This high rate of recidivism is, in part, a result of a range of policies that increase surveillance over people released from prison, impose obstacles to their reentry into society, and eliminate support systems that ease their transition from prison to the streets.

Prison policy has exacerbated the festering national problem of social and racial inequality. Incarceration rates for blacks and Latinos are now more than six times higher than for whites; 60% of America's prison population is either African-American or Latino. A shocking eight percent of black men of working age are now behind bars, and 21% of those between the ages of 25 and 44 have served a sentence at some point in their lives. At current rates, one-third of all black males, one-sixth of Latino males, and one in 17 white males will go to prison during their lives. Incarceration rates this high are a national tragedy.2 Women now represent the fastest growing group of incarcerated persons. In 2001, they were more than three times as likely to end up in prison as in 1974, largely due to their low-level involvement in drug-related activity and the deeply punitive sentencing policies aimed at drugs. The massive incarceration of young males from mostly poor- and working-class neighborhoods- and the taking of women from their families and jobs- has crippled their potential for forming healthy families and achieving economic gains. The authors of this report have spent their careers studying crime and punishment. We are convinced that we need a different strategy. Our contemporary laws. . .

By far the major reason for the increase in prison populations at least since 1990 has been longer lengths of imprisonment. The adoption of truth in sentencing provisions that require prisoners to serve most of their sentences in prison, a wide variety of mandatory minimum sentencing provisions that prevent judges from placing defendants on probation even when their involvement in the conduct that led to the conviction was minor, reductions in the amount of good time a prisoner can receive while imprisoned, and more conservative parole boards have significantly impacted the length of stay. For example, in a special study by the U.S. Department of Justice on truth in sentencing, between 1990 and 1997, the numbers of prison admissions increased by only 17% (from 460,739 to 540,748), while the prison population increased by 60% (from 689,577 to 1,100,850). . . .

Proponents of prison expansion have heralded this growth as a smashing success. But a large number of studies contradict that claim. Most scientific evidence suggests that there is little if any relationship between fluctuations in crime rates and incarceration rates. In many cases, crime rates have risen or declined independent of imprisonment rates. New York City, for example, has produced one of the nation's largest declines in crime in the nation while significantly reducing its jail and prison populations.Connecticut, New Jersey, Ohio, and Massachusetts have also reduced their prison populations during the same time that crime rates were declining. A study of crime and incarceration rates from 1980 to 1991 in all 50 states and the District of Columbia shows that incarceration rates exploded during this period. The states that increased incarceration rates the least were just as likely to experience decreases in crime as those that increased them the most. . . Other studies reach similar conclusions, finding "no consistent relationship between incarceration rates and crime rates" and "no support for the ‘more prisoners, less crime' thesis." . . .

Incarceration may not have had much impact on crime, but it has had numerous unintended consequences, ranging from racial injustice and damage to families and children to worsening public health, civic disengagement, and even increases in crime. Bruce Western demonstrates the extraordinarily disparate impact of imprisonment on young black males compared to any other subgroup of society. For example, he shows that nearly one-half of all young black males who have not finished high school are behind bars, an incarceration rate that is six times higher than for white male dropouts. He then shows how incarceration damages the lifetime earnings, labor market participation, and marriage prospects for those who have been to prison and concludes that the U.S. prison system exacerbates and sustains racial inequality. British penologists Joseph Murray and David Farrington have analyzed data sets about child development from three nations and found that parental incarceration contributes to higher rates of delinquency, mental illness, and drug abuse, and reduces levels of school success and later employment among their children. . .

The failure of efforts to develop methods of accurately identifying the small number of offenders who do commit particularly horrendous crimes after serving their sentences fueled demands for longer sentences across the board. The logic of this argument was that if we can't single out the truly dangerous, we will assume that anyone with two or three convictions for a relatively wide range of offenses is a dangerous habitual criminal, and keep them all in prison for an extremely long time. On the basis of this reasoning, a number of states adopted mandatory sentencing, truth in sentencing and in some states "three strikes" laws, all of which extend prison sentences. These laws have done little to reduce crime. Few convicted persons have the requisite number of previous felony convictions to qualify for the enhanced sentences. This is because rates of return to serious crime on the part of those released from prison are not high. Just 1.2% of those who served time for homicide and were released in 1994 were rearrested for a new homicide within three years of release, and just 2.5% of released rapists were arrested for another rape. Sex offenders were less likely than non-sex-offenders to be rearrested for any offense. . . .

The U.S. Department of Justice conducted a major study of criminal involvement of prisoners who had been released in 1994. It found that only 5% of the 3 million arrests made in seven states between 1994 and 1997 were of recently released prisoners.47 California's "three strikes" law has had a number of evaluations; almost all found that it failed to reduce crime. These studies make clear that, while many people who are released from prison end up back behind bars, they are but a fraction of the overall crime problem. Lengthening their sentences, as a means of dealing with crime will at best have only marginal impact. . .

At the turn of the 19th century reformers realized that brutal prisons embitter prisoners rather than reform them. Yet this persistent faith that prisoners can be discouraged from returning to crime by subjecting them to harsh penalties, or that the population at large can be deterred more effectively with severe penalties than with milder ones, has never had empirical support. Decades of research on capital punishment have failed to produce compelling evidence that it prevents homicide more effectively than long prison sentences. Community penalties, it has been shown, are at least as effective in discouraging return to crime as institutional penalties. Rigorous prison conditions substantially increase recidivism. Evaluations show that boot camps and "scared straight" programs either have no effect on recidivism or increase it.


STEPHAN FARIS, ATLANTIC During the tobacco wars of the 1990s, attorneys Steve Susman and Steve Berman stood on opposite sides of the courtroom. Berman represented 13 states in what was then seen as a quixotic attempt to recover smoking-related medical costs, and conceived the strategy that would break the tobacco industry's back: an emphasis on charges of conspiracy to deceive the public about the dangers of cigarettes. Susman had turned down offers to represent Massachusetts and Texas against the cigarette makers; instead he defended Philip Morris-until 1998, when the industry settled for more than $200 billion, the biggest civil settlement ever. Now, a decade later, the two lawyers find themselves on the same side of the aisle, working on a case that seems just as improbable as the ones that brought down Big Tobacco ever did-and with implications that could be at least as far-reaching. . .

As scientific evidence accumulates on the destructive impact of carbon-dioxide emissions, a handful of lawyers are beginning to bring suits against the major contributors to climate change. Their arguments, so far, have not been well received; the courts have been understandably reluctant to hold a specific group of defendants responsible for a problem for which everyone on Earth bears some responsibility. Lawsuits in California, Mississippi, and New York have been dismissed by judges who say a ruling would require them to balance the perils of greenhouse gases against the benefits of fossil fuels-something best handled by legislatures.

But Susman and Berman have been intrigued by the possibilities. Both have added various environmental and energy cases to their portfolios over the years, and Susman recently taught a class on climate-change litigation at the University of Houston Law Center. Over time, the two trial lawyers have become convinced that they have the playbook necessary to win big cases against the country's largest emitters. It's the same game plan that brought down Big Tobacco. . .

In February, Berman and Susman-along with two attorneys who have previously worked on behalf of the village and an environmental lawyer specializing in global warming-filed suit in federal court against 24 oil, coal, and electric companies, claiming that their emissions are partially responsible for the coastal destruction in Kivalina. More important, the suit also accuses eight of the firms (American Electric Power, BP America, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Duke Energy, ExxonMobil, Peabody Energy, and Southern Company) of conspiring to cover up the threat of man-made climate change, in much the same way the tobacco industry tried to conceal the risks of smoking-by using a series of think tanks and other organizations to falsely sow public doubt in an emerging scientific consensus.

This second charge arguably eliminates the need for a judge to determine how much greenhouse-gas production-from refining fossil fuel and burning it to produce energy-is acceptable. "You're not asking the court to evaluate the reasonableness of the conduct," Berman says. "You're asking a court to evaluate if somebody conspired to lie." Monetary damages to Kivalina need not be sourced exclusively to the defendants' emissions; they would derive from bad-faith efforts to prevent the enactment of public measures that might have slowed the warming.

Berman and Susman aren't alone in drawing parallels between the actions of the defendants and those of the tobacco industry. The Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental advocacy group, has accused Exxon¬Mobil of adopting the cigarette manufacturers' strategy of covertly establishing "front" groups, promoting writers who exaggerate uncertainties in the science, and improperly cultivating ties within the government. The oil company, it says, has "funneled approximately $16 million to carefully chosen organizations that promote disinformation on global warming."


LA TIMES Los Angeles officials will revive a controversial proposal to recycle wastewater as part of a plan to curb usage and move the city toward greater water independence. . . Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's effort could cost up to $2 billion and affect a wide range of daily activities. For example, residents would be urged to change their clothes' washers, and new restrictions would be placed on how and when they could water lawns and clean cars. . . . Builders would be pushed to install waterless urinals, weather-sensitive sprinkler systems and porous parking lot paving that allows rain to percolate into groundwater supplies.

Prohibitions during the 1990s drought -- banning residents from washing driveways and sidewalks, letting sprinklers flood into gutters and watering grass in midday -- would be enforced again, with additional restrictions. One part of the proposal would limit lawn watering to certain days of the week.

Cities facing the same challenges, including Long Beach, have already moved to curtail residential and commercial water usage and punish waste. . .

Los Angeles' plan -- a copy of which was made available to The Times -- would invest in projects to capture and store rainfall and clean up a sprawling, contaminated water supply beneath the San Fernando Valley. About $1 billion would be allocated for reclamation, including a politically sensitive plan to use treated wastewater to recharge underground drinking supplies serving the Valley, Los Feliz and the Eastside.

A similar system was approved and built in the 1990s, then abandoned after critics labeled it a "toilet-to-tap" scheme. . .

One critic said voters should decide whether the water supply will be blended with treated wastewater. "It's grossly unfair for the mayor, the City Council or the DWP to decide consumers are going to be using this recycled water," said Gerald A. Silver, president of Homeowners of Encino.

But Millie Hamilton, an Encino Neighborhood Council member and docent at the city's Tillman Water Reclamation Plant, said recycling is safe, needed and nothing new. "There is no new water on this planet," said Hamilton, who was referred to The Times by the mayor's office. "We are drinking the same water the dinosaurs drank. All our water has been and is being recycled."

WALL STREET JOURNAL Cities ranging from San Diego to Denver already recycle wastewater for irrigation and industrial use. Some communities, such as the Tampa Bay area of Florida, desalinate seawater, which is generally more expensive than recycling. Many cities are also pushing water-conservation initiatives such as implementing restrictions on when residents can water lawns or offering rebates for high-efficiency washers and toilets.

But cities considering large-scale systems that recycle wastewater to drinking standards may face an uphill battle. Such initiatives -- dubbed "toilet to tap" proposals by critics -- have encountered resistance in the past as a result of cost and the overall yuck factor. In 2001, Los Angeles scrapped a $55 million wastewater-recycling project that would have provided the equivalent of the annual water needs of 200,000 city residents. A similar proposal in San Diego was derailed in the late 1990s amid an outcry that poor neighborhoods would be forced to use the wastewater from rich neighborhoods.. . .

The concept of recycling wastewater to meet drinking-water standards isn't new. A handful of cities in the U.S. and abroad have done it on smaller scales and sometimes with older technology. In most cases, the water is disinfected and pumped into an aquifer or reservoir where it remains for a period of time before being distributed to the public through drinking-water wells -- a concept known as indirect potable reuse. Wastewater in Orange County is treated with reverse osmosis to remove viruses, salts and pharmaceuticals.

Recurring droughts and growing populations are increasing the allure of recycling. In Los Angeles, groundwater contamination in the San Fernando Valley, where the majority of the city's groundwater supply is produced, has limited water available for pumping. "If we don't commit ourselves to conserving and recycling water, we will tap ourselves out," says Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in a statement.

A new system in Orange County, Calif., where water demand is expected to increase 16% between 2010 and 2030, is the largest and most high-tech in the world. . . Other cities that are planning their own projects say they are using the Orange County system as a standard.

It is a three-step process: Sewer water that has already been treated by the county's sanitation district goes through a microfilter to remove solids and bacteria. It then undergoes a reverse-osmosis treatment, which passes the water through a membrane filter that removes viruses, salts, pharmaceuticals and other materials. Finally, it is treated with ultraviolet light and hydrogen peroxide to get rid of contaminants that are left.

The water is then pumped into a groundwater basin where it mixes with other water and filters through materials like sand, gravel, and clay. It takes about a year for the water to travel to a drinking-water well -- so county residents aren't yet drinking water that has been treated with the new system. The Orange County Water District, which manages the county's groundwater basin, compares its quality to that of distilled water.

Parts of Orange County, though, have been drinking treated wastewater since the 1970s through a system called Water Factory 21, which used reverse osmosis on a smaller scale. That system, when it existed, recycled just five million gallons a day.

Doctors and engineers say recycled water is safe to drink. Indeed, reverse osmosis coupled with ultraviolet light and hydrogen peroxide treats wastewater beyond what federal and state drinking standards require, they say.


ALBANY TIMES UNION Two years ago, Tunde Clement stepped off a bus at the city's main terminal downtown. Clement, a black man, was carrying a backpack and coming from New York City. That may have been enough to pique the interest of undercover sheriff's investigators scanning the crowd with their eyes. They cornered Clement and began peppering him with questions. He was quickly handcuffed and falsely arrested. He was taken to a station to be strip-searched and then to a hospital, where doctors forcibly sedated him with a cocktail of powerful drugs, including one that clouded his memory of the incident.

A camera was inserted in his rectum, he was forced to vomit and his blood and urine were tested for drugs and alcohol. Scans of his digestive system were performed using X-ray machines, according to hospital records obtained by the Times Union. The search, conducted without a search warrant, came up empty.

In all, Clement spent more than 10 hours in custody before being released with nothing more than an appearance ticket for resisting arrest -- a charge that was later dismissed.

For years, the Albany County Sheriff's Department's controversial tactics at the downtown bus depot have drawn harsh criticism from defense attorneys and civil rights advocates. Seven years ago, the state's highest court issued a searing rebuke of their methods while overturning the conviction of a passenger who'd been arrested carrying three ounces of cocaine.

The Court of Appeals said it was improper for the investigators to board buses from New York City and flash their badges, waiting for passengers to react.

The operations have continued and have been mostly successful, from the department's perspective. But not always. An arrest two years ago involving a man found with a kilo of cocaine in his backpack was subsequently thrown out by an Albany County judge, who ruled the cops had no legitimate reason to approach and question the man.

During the hearing that led to that dismissal, Terence L. Kindlon, the defendant's attorney, accused a sheriff's investigator of lying and embellishing his testimony by using precise language -- "I sensed 'criminality was afoot' " -- directly from the Court of Appeals ruling, according to a court transcript.

Kindlon, an Albany defense attorney since the early 1970s, says the bus station searches have endured no matter what courts have decided since the early 1980s.

Twenty years ago, Kindlon and another defense attorney, Joseph Donnelly, who is now deceased, hired a private investigator to stake out the bus station and monitor the detectives working there.

"Donnelly and I were hearing that just about every black man who came through the bus station was being literally grabbed and dragged into the men's room and searched," Kindlon said. "Occasionally, of course, they would get lucky and find some drugs. But the vast, overwhelming majority of black men searched were clean."

At that time, the bus station details were being manned by the Albany Police Department, which later discontinued the practice. But Sheriff's Inspector John Burke, a longtime city vice detective, took over the bus station operation when he retired from the Albany force and took a job with the Sheriff's Department.

Sheriff's officials scoff at suggestions they violate anyone's rights.

"There's not too many cases that have been thrown out," said Sheriff James L. Campbell. He said a 2001 court ruling forced "a change in the way we had to do it. ... What we started doing is studying their mannerisms when they get off (a bus) and how they're walking."

Burke, who runs the sheriff's Drug Interdiction Unit, said investigators need a reasonable suspicion to stop and frisk someone. That could be something as subtle as a passenger walking out an entrance door, leaving a bag unattended or going into a bathroom stall and not pulling down his or her pants, he said. . .

In some cases, prisoners or people under arrest can be forcibly sedated without a court order if they are in imminent danger, such as when a bag of drugs bursts open inside them and they begin to have a seizure or fall unconscious. But the hospital's records indicate Clement was behaving normally and showed no signs of any medical emergency. . .

The following month, Clement received a $6,792 bill from Albany Med for the procedures. Hospital records indicate the final diagnosis as "hemorrhoids."


Daily Green The controversy over the safety of the chemical bisphenol A continues, as the U.S. FDA issues a statement saying that the agency sees no reason to tell consumers to stop using products that contain it, Reuters reports. This includes polycarbonate baby bottles, water bottles and more (which should be labeled with the #7 recycling code).

The FDA's statement, released in a climate of heavy pressure from the chemical industry, is in contrast to developments in Canada. On April 19 the Canadian government began a 60-day public comment period on whether polycarbonate baby bottles should be banned in the country. Observers have said a comprehensive ban on polycarbonate is even possible up north in the near future.

For its part, Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., makers of Nalgene bottles, have announced that they will stop using polycarbonate. Wal-Mart says it expects all baby bottles it carries to be free of the material by early next year, and Toys R Us has discussed a similar plan.

If such major players are clearly expressing concern over BPA, what legs does the FDA have to stand on for its reassurance? According to Reuters, the FDA's associate commissioner for science, Norris Alderson, said the feds are reviewing safety concerns, and pointed to two industry-funded studies claiming it poses no risk.


ABC Chicago's top cop revealed some new strategies to fight crime in the city-- adding semi-automatic weapons, an armor-plated vehicle, and full SWAT dress in crime hot spots. . . Part of the strategy includes deploying SWAT team members and other specialized officers in full battle dress to crime hot spots. The measure began last month and will continue. Critics believe it to be cosmetic and meant to intimidate. . .
"I don't want people to think we're going into war, but I think it does send a strong message. If they're in SWAT-type uniform and you're driving through the neighborhood visible, interacting with neighbors and community members, it sends a strong message and serves as a deterrent to violence," said Supt. Jody Weis, Chicago Police Department.

Weis is also moving ahead with plans to equip - within the next three years - all 1,700 of the department's patrol cars with M-4 carbines, a semi-automatic rifle that SWAT team members now carry. Putting them in squads will require training for every officer authorized to use an M-4. .

The police also showed off a 'bearcat,' a 16,000 pound, armor-plated, bomb-protected vehicle meant to deliver SWAT team members into destinations under fire.


The private mercenary firm Blackwater is facing new scrutiny over its announced plans to build a training facility in Southern California. San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders has demanded a probe into whether Blackwater misrepresented itself when it sought permits for the facility's construction. According to local media reports, Blackwater apparently didn't file under its own name, instead using the names of two subsidiaries. Earlier this year, local residents successfully blocked Blackwater from opening an 824-acre military complex known as Blackwater West in the rural town of Potrero, California. . . Prensa Latina reports that the director of the Border Project of the American Friends Service Committee, Pedro Ríos, notes that there are signs that the mercenary group is determined to build on the border with Mexico, only half a kilometer from the Mexican city of Tijuana and some 300 meters from a U.S. Border Patrol station. Periodico

Blackwater has started to look at ways to expand its business outside Iraq and is seeking financing to do so. . . Blackwater has advertised in security industry journals repositioning itself as a peacekeeping force. The adverts show mothers feeding babies and Blackwater guards smiling as children play in a street. It has also set up a division called Greystone, which is seeking to win protection work from the UN, aid organizations and foreign companies. A defence industry source said: "Theirs is nearly all US government work and if that goes they are in trouble." Times, UK



RICHARD SILVERSTEIN, TIKUN OLAM Haaretz's Daphna Berman writes about a fascinating new study by sociologist Chaim Waxman about the nature of youth affiliation with the American Jewish community. Two elements of the report precisely tracked my own ideas on the subject: the alienating tendencies of American Jewish leadership and the impact of the web on Jewish affiliation and identity.

[Waxman] raises some fascinating issues worth considering:

"[American] Jews'. . . engagement in civic activities. . . [has] weakened. Their rate of volunteering for communal causes has also declined, and they are much less likely to join Jewish organizations. Thus, the 2000/2001 National Jewish Population Survey found that there was a decline of close to 20 percent in affiliation with major American Jewish membership organizations between 1990-2000. Another indicator of the weakening bonds of community is in rates of philanthropic giving to Jewish causes. Charity and philanthropy have historically been among the primary manifestations of belonging to the community, and their rates have been declining during the past decade or two.

"Some of the reasons for the decline in communal participation relate to the increasing perception that the communal leadership is elitist, parochial, self-serving, and resistant to innovation and to the active involvement of those who are not members of the "good old boys club," the circle of wealthy, old men who are at the helms of most major Jewish organizations. At least since the 1960s, younger people in the West have been raised to "question authority" and distrust "the Establishment," and they now they do so, sometimes adamantly."

I would slightly broaden Waxman's critique to include a hidebound unwillingness to confront new political and social ideas especially regarding Israel. In addition to a knee-jerk support for intransigent Israeli policies which refuse to recognize the need to finally resolve the Israeli-Arab conflict on terms that will not necessarily be completely to Israel's liking.

Waxman also notes the significant impact of the web on Jewish life, identity and affiliation:

"The increasing significance of cyberspace has probably played a role in contributing to the decline in communal participation, for several reasons. Cyberspace affords the opportunity for one to feel part of a community without actually being affiliated with it. One can participate virtually in a idle variety of community functions without ever coming into face to face contact with any members of the community (as members) or with any of the organizations of the community. The virtual community offers the opportunity to partake in some of the community's offering without the cost of having to tolerate undesirable aspects of communal life, and it appears as a "win-win" alternative. On the other hand, it is quite possible that it is in the nature of cyberspace to undermine group identity, to contribute to 'post-ethnicity.'"

While I appreciate Waxman's sensitivity to the question of cyberspace and its impact on Jewish life, I think his sense of affiliation with the conventional community has given him too narrow a perspective on this issue. He neglects several important considerations: a Jew may be affiliated with the community yet use the web to broaden and deepen Jewish knowledge; a Jew may be alienated from the community, yet use the web to replace communal engagement with a full and legitimate Jewish identity. Waxman assumes that a traditional sense of affiliation is a be-all and end-all of Jewish identity. He assumes that anything less will lead to an overall decline in the quality of Jewish life. I'm not so sure. I wouldn't go so far as to say that cyberspace could ever replace traditional communal life. But it certainly will supplement it and in some cases replace it for the most alienated Jews.

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