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Undernews For May 21, 2008

Undernews For May 21, 2008

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

21 MAY 2008


Better a president willing to talk with dictators, then one whose aides were employed by them - Sam Smith



LIA TARACHANSKY, RABBLE, CANADA - Once the catastrophe hit it was a long time before people started to understand what was really going on. By then, the world had abandoned the already marginalized communities, leaving them to fend for themselves while being largely displaced and devoid of rights.

Walking through the still devastated neighborhoods, the poverty is simply striking. Abandoned, barely standing homes are interspersed with a few renovated ones here and there. International and national volunteers converge to pour their efforts into single projects, but what they leave behind is perhaps even more telling than what they've originally found.

As they scrape together the resources to rebuild, others see an opportunity in the devastation. A large evacuation, such as that of the 9th Ward of whose 17,000 original residents 14,000 remain displaced, produces quite a business opening. Cheap real estate has become the market of choice for opportunists as every abandoned plot boasts a "for sale" sign.

Effectively, an ethnic cleansing is underway as the predominantly black population of such neighborhoods as New Orleans East and the 9th Ward has disappeared. In the former, it is actively and aggressively being replaced by suburban, predominantly white residents. In the latter, the destruction is still too significant for a strong gentrification to take place. In the city's centre, public housing projects have decreased by 80 per cent largely thanks to home demolitions.

Residents with previous offenses or those that have ever had an encounter with the police are being evicted. Residents without employment and those with substance abuse problems, whether current or past, are also being handed eviction slips. As soon as enough residents are out the building is demolished, and an empty plot is replaced with condominiums or a parking lot.

Meanwhile thousands live in temporary housing (issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency). While the Agency's emergency funding expired on June 30, 2006, its issued trailers have produced more problems than solutions. A study commissioned by The Sierra Club identified that the trailers in which thousands live contain toxic levels of formaldehyde, arsenic, and such microorganisms as E. coli, Salmonella, and staphylococcus. Besides visible disease, being exposed to formaldehyde can lead to headaches, depression and impairment of memory according to the national Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Homelessness is worsening and the fight for the displaced people's "right of return" becomes more difficult as many are prevented from getting back to their homes by the Housing Authority of New Orleans or by a lack of federal funding access. This right of return depends first and foremost on the financial prospects of the resident. For example, one sign on what used to be a public housing project in New Orleans East reads, "if you lived here you'd be home by now," alluding to the fact that the area's former residents couldn't afford the new privatized housing. Many have lost documentation necessary for reclaiming their homes, while bureaucratic lineups make the suffering worse.

Resistance to the mass gentrification is met with nothing but police repression, as the December 2007 protests demonstrated. Opposing the demolition of undamaged public housing projects containing 4,500 living units, activists and residents were tasered, badly beaten and subjected to various chemical weapons.

But not everyone's been kicked to the curb. Various levels of government have been consistently signing multi-million dollar deals with subcontractors for demolitions, construction and other services. Appraisers, inspectors, and mediators are all paid under the blanket of the "reconstruction effort."

One such deal was signed with the Kennedy Associates and MetroplexCore corporations, who were paid millions for demolishing the 723-unit C.J. Peete public housing complex. Ties have been found between executives of the corporations and representatives on the Housing and Urban Development body responsible for the assignment. As reporter Edward T. Pound of The National Journal revealed, high-end executives of these corporations have been previously appointed by George W. Bush to the Boards of Directors of Texas universities and banks while he served as the state's governor.

As recently as April 2008, Shaw Environmental & Infrastructure Inc., a subcontractor of the Department of Defense, has been awarded a $695 million contract for "the design and construction for improvement of hurricane protection of the inner harbour navigation canal" in the city.

To keep this system rolling, New Orleans houses almost two thousand troops. Officers of the U.S. Coast Guard with M6/A1 rifles patrol every trip the public ferry takes between downtown New Orleans and the historic Algiers neighborhood. Hummers with Army personnel are sprawled on most corners, as officers patrol the city in marked or unmarked vans.

Subcontractors such as Blackwater and Halliburton-KBR have also visited the streets of New Orleans. In a September 2005 article in The Nation, Jeremy Scahill wrote, "DynCorp, Intercon, American Security Group, Blackhawk, Wackenhut and an Israeli company called Instinctive Shooting International are fanning out to guard private businesses and homes, as well as government projects and institutions."


ABC NEWS - Under a new fundraising structure created by the campaign and the Republican National Committee, a donor can give up to $70,000 to the "McCain Victory 2008," significantly more than the $2,300 individual donor limit set by campaign finance laws. If a donor gives the maximum amount the money is split into multiple funds that all benefit McCain's campaign: the first $2,300 of that money goes to the McCain campaign itself, the next $28,000 goes to the RNC, and the rest is divided among four swing states the campaign plans to target in the general election. Those targeted states are: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Colorado and New Mexico.


RADAR - Speculators are dumping their money into the markets and creating bizarre feedback loop in which speculator demand increases as prices rise. Or so says Michael W. Masters a hedge fund manager who testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. . .

Addressing the argument that ethanol production has resulted in less food production, he points out that "Index Speculators have stockpiled enough corn futures to potentially fuel the United States ethanol industry at full capacity for a year." In addition, speculators are currently sitting on enough wheat futures to supply every American with "all the baked goods they can eat for the next two years."

"Think about it this way," Masters told the committee. "If Wall Street concocted a scheme whereby investors bought large amounts of pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices in order to profit from the resulting increase in prices, making these essential items unaffordable to sick and dying people, society would be justly outraged. Why is there not outrage over the fact that Americans must pay drastically more to feed their families, fuel their cars, and heat their homes?"


RICHARD SILVERSTEIN, TIKUN OLAM Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has proposed in discussions with the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, that a naval blockade be imposed on Iran as one of several ways to pressure Iran into stopping its uranium enrichment program. . .

There's just a wee problem with his suggestion: does anyone recall Egypt shutting down the Straits of Tiran and blockading the shipping of a certain country in 1967? Remember what happened next? Yes, a full-scale war. A naval blockade is an act of war and Iran would take it as such. The idea that such a blockade would somehow be short of "violent" is foolhardy in the extreme.


NY TIMES In 2002, as evidence of prisoner mistreatment at Guantanamo Bay began to mount, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents at the base created a "war crimes file" to document accusations against American military personnel, but were eventually ordered to close down the file, a Justice Department report revealed Tuesday. . .

In one of several previously undisclosed episodes, the report found that American military interrogators appeared to have collaborated with visiting Chinese officials at Guantanamo Bay to disrupt the sleep of Chinese Muslims held there, waking them every 15 minutes the night before their interviews by the Chinese. In another incident, it said, a female interrogator reportedly bent back an inmate's thumbs and squeezed his genitals as he grimaced in pain.

The report describes what one official called "trench warfare" between the F.B.I. and the military over the rough methods being used on detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan and Iraq.

The report says that the F.B.I. agents took their concerns to higher-ups, but that their concerns often fell on deaf ears: officials at senior levels at the F.B.I., the Justice Department, the Defense Department and the National Security Council were all made aware of the F.B.I. agents' complaints, but little appears to have been done as a result.

The report quotes passionate objections from F.B.I. officials who grew increasingly concerned about the reports of practices like intimidating inmates with snarling dogs, parading them in the nude before female soldiers, or "short-shackling" them to the floor for many hours in extreme heat or cold.

Such tactics, said one F.B.I. agent in an e-mail message to supervisors in November 2002, might violate American law banning torture.

More senior officials, including Spike Bowman, who was then the head of the national security law unit at the F.B.I., tried to sound the alarm as well.

"Beyond any doubt, what they are doing (and I don't know the extent of it) would be unlawful were these enemy prisoners of war," Mr. Bowman wrote in an e-mail message to top F.B.I. officials in July 2003.


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VALERIE STRAUSS, WASHINGTON POST Thirty students file into the gym of Montgomery County's largest elementary school. Each grabs a pedometer, and, to the strains of "Cotton-Eye Joe," starts to jump and stretch, twist and balance, roll and crab walk.

For almost an hour, teacher Cindy Lins keeps them moving. Then the pedometers are checked, and the energy output assessed. Fourteen students have gone as far as a half-mile. Many are breathing harder than when they came in, rating a "moderate."

The fitness class at Spark M. Matsunaga Elementary School in Germantown is an innovation, although it might not look like it. As schools are thwarted by mandates and lack of money in their efforts to offer more physical education, they are trying to offer better physical education. At Matsunaga, the focus is on fitness, not competitive sports. Students are taught that aerobic activity helps physically and mentally. "It helps get rid of our excess energy and makes it easier to focus in class," said Jonathon Bateky, 11. . .

Today there are programs built around standards set by states and school systems. In Maryland, six physical education standards were approved in 2006: exercise physiology, biomechanics, social-psychological principles, motor learning, physical activity and skillfulness.


CHRIS FRATES, POLITICO - When a federal judge ordered Rep. Jim McDermott to pay House Minority Leader John A. Boehner and his attorneys more than $1 million in damages and legal fees for leaking an illegally taped phone call to the media, Boehner said he pursued the case because “no one - including members of Congress - is above the law.”

Why, then, is the Ohio Republican trying to squash similar lawsuits against telecommunications companies who cooperated with the government in warrantless electronic surveillance, ask the attorneys behind the class action suits.

“Mr. Boehner is trying to kick millions of Americans out of court in a wiretapping case while collecting more than $1 million in his own wiretapping case. It’s the height of hypocrisy and seems to indicate that members of Congress are entitled to their day in court but the average American is not,” said Kevin Bankston, a senior staff attorney at the consumer rights nonprofit the Electronic Frontier Foundation. . . .

Boehner’s efforts put him in the position of arguing that telecom companies are above the law in violating their customers’ privacy rights, say those lobbying against letting the companies off the hook.


NY TIMES EDITORIAL The Bush administration has proposed welcome new regulations to curb the deceptive, hard-sell tactics often used to foist private Medicare policies on unwary consumers. Unfortunately, it has been unwilling to eliminate the root cause of the problem: the high subsidies that prop up these plans and make them so attractive to high-pressure marketers.

The worst abuses have been committed by predatory marketers selling the comprehensive policies known as Medicare Advantage plans. The government pays these plans 13 percent more, on average, than the same services would cost in the traditional Medicare program. The subsidies are even more egregious - averaging 17 percent above cost - for the so-called private fee-for-service plans within Medicare Advantage. All told, the unjustified subsidies will cost the government more than $50 billion from 2009 to 2012.

Small wonder that plans use high-pressure tactics to market these lucrative policies. In the worst cases, sales agents have masqueraded as Medicare officials, forged the signatures of elderly clients, switched people from traditional Medicare into private plans that don't include their doctors and barged into homes to pressure semiliterate people into signing. . .


SVETLANA SHKOLNIKOVA, USA TODAY - Weight discrimination, especially against women, is increasing in U.S. society and is almost as common as racial discrimination, two studies suggest. Reported discrimination based on weight has increased 66 percent in the past decade, up from about 7 to 12 percent of U.S. adults, says one study, in the journal Obesity. The other study, in the International Journal of Obesity, says such discrimination is common in both institutional and interpersonal situations -- and in some cases is even more prevalent than rates of discrimination based on gender and race. (About 17 percent of men and 9 percent of women reported race discrimination.)

Among severely obese people, about 28 percent of men and 45 percent of women said they have experienced discrimination because of their weight. .

Institutional discrimination involved health care, education or workplace situations, such as cases in which people said they were fired, denied a job or a promotion because of their weight. Interpersonal discrimination focused on insults, abuse and harassment from others.

Lynn McAfee, director of medical advocacy at the non-profit Council on Size and Weight Discrimination in Mt. Marion, N.Y., is not surprised by the findings. "Until we clean up language like 'war on obesity' and have authorities speak out about it, discrimination will continue to increase," she says. . .

No federal laws against weight discrimination exist, although some cities, including Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, have banned discrimination locally. The Massachusetts Legislature had hearings last month on a proposed law.

We have been a rare journalistic voice reporting this for some time and have a page devoted to big people and their problems


FAIR In a March 6 editorial, "What We'd Like to Hear," the Times editorial writers spoke poignantly about the need for serious candidate discussion of topics that go to the heart of our democracy. "After eight damaging and divisive years, there is certainly a lot that needs to be debated," the editorial said, and listed six pressing concerns, ending with "unrelenting assaults on civil rights, civil liberties and the balance of powers in government."

Apparently no one else at the Times was listening. The thumbnail sketches of candidates prepared by the Times campaign team for the "New York Times Election Guide 2008" do not mention civil liberties, civil rights or the balance of powers among the seven issues meriting analysis of candidate positions-healthcare, abortion, climate change, immigration, Iraq, Iran, the economy.

Nor is the New York Times alone. The next president will have a critical role in creating a balance between security and liberty, a central theme of democracy and something that has shifted dramatically under this presidency. But the Washington Post and Fox News also fail to include civil liberties in their issue tracking, and CNN addresses them only in terms of how the candidates will "conduct the war on terror.". .

In segmented coverage, journalists covering such issues rarely report on the positions of candidates, and when they do, those positions are rarely examined.

Worse, the news personnel guiding presidential debates simply ignore the subject altogether. An army of television personalities have moderated debates: CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper and Suzanne Malveaux; NBC's Brian Williams and Tim Russert; MSNBC's Chris Wallace; ABC's Charles Gibson, Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos. No question has been asked about FISA of candidates of either party, and only a single question about warrantless spying on Americans in a year of debates-more than 30-according to a Media Matters analysis. The sole question was directed to Republican candidate Mitt Romney by Fox News correspondent Wendell Goler, who asked whether he would approve of eavesdropping on mosques.

Journalists serving as debate moderators have asked few questions about torture. . . Why doesn't the rest of the press use its 1st Amendment powers to call attention to threats to other civil liberties?


From Move On

John McCain voted against establishing a national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Now he says his position has "evolved," yet he's continued to oppose key civil rights laws.

According to Bloomberg News, McCain is more hawkish than Bush on Iraq, Russia and China. Conservative columnist Pat Buchanan says McCain "will make Cheney look like Gandhi."

His reputation is built on his opposition to torture, but McCain voted against a bill to ban waterboarding, and then applauded President Bush for vetoing that ban.

McCain opposes a woman's right to choose. He said, "I do not support Roe versus Wade. It should be overturned."

The Children's Defense Fund rated McCain as the worst senator in Congress for children. He voted against the children's health care bill last year, then defended Bush's veto of the bill.

He's one of the richest people in a Senate filled with millionaires. The Associated Press reports he and his wife own at least eight homes. Yet McCain says the solution to the housing crisis is for people facing foreclosure to get a "second job" and skip their vacations.

Many of McCain's fellow Republican senators say he's too reckless to be commander in chief. One Republican senator said: "The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He's erratic. He's hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me."

McCain talks a lot about taking on special interests, but his campaign manager and top advisers are actually lobbyists. The government watchdog group Public Citizen says McCain has 59 lobbyists raising money for his campaign, more than any of the other presidential candidates.

McCain has sought closer ties to the extreme religious right in recent years. The pastor McCain calls his "spiritual guide," Rod Parsley, believes America's founding mission is to destroy Islam, which he calls a "false religion." McCain sought the political support of right-wing preacher John Hagee, who believes Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for gay rights and called the Catholic Church "the Antichrist" and a "false cult."

He positions himself as pro-environment, but he scored a 0-yes, zero-from the League of Conservation Voters last year.



NY TIMES For Claudius Conrad, a 30-year-old surgeon who has played the piano seriously since he was 5, music and medicine are entwined - from the academic realm down to the level of the fine-fingered dexterity required at the piano bench and the operating table. "If I don't play for a couple of days," said Dr. Conrad, a third-year surgical resident at Harvard Medical School who also holds doctorates in stem cell biology and music philosophy, "I cannot feel things as well in surgery. My hands are not as tender with the tissue. They are not as sensitive to the feedback that the tissue gives you." Like many surgeons, Dr. Conrad says he works better when he listens to music. And he cites studies, including some of his own, showing that music is helpful to patients as well - bringing relaxation and reducing blood pressure, heart rate, stress hormones, pain and the need for pain medication.

But to the extent that music heals, how does it heal? The physiological pathways responsible have remained obscure, and the search for an underlying mechanism has moved slowly.

Now Dr. Conrad is trying to change that. He recently published a provocative paper suggesting that music may exert healing and sedative effects partly through a paradoxical stimulation of a growth hormone generally associated with stress rather than healing. . .

Dr. Conrad's music dissertation examined why and how Mozart's music seemed to ease the pain of intensive-care patients. He concentrated not on physiological mechanisms but on mechanisms within Mozart's music. . .

Dr. Conrad noted that Mozart used distinctive phrases that are fairly short, often only four or even two measures long, and then repeated these phrases to build larger sections. Yet he changed these figures often in ways the listener may not notice - a change in left-hand arpeggios or chord structures, for instance, that slips by unremarked while the ear attends the right hand's melody, which itself may be slightly embellished.

These intricate variations are absorbed as part of a melodic accessibility so well organized that even a sonata for two pianos never feels crowded in the ear, even when it grows dense on the page. The melody lulls and delights while the underlying complexity stimulates.

But even if this explains the music's power to stimulate and relax, "an obvious question that comes up," Dr. Conrad said, "is why Mozart would write music that is so soothing."

Mozart's letters and biographies, Dr. Conrad said, portray a man almost constantly sick, constantly fending off one infection or ailment after another.

"Whether he did it intentionally or not," Dr. Conrad said, "I think he composed music the way he did partly because it made him feel better."



FRANK SCIMONE, RADIO NETHERLANDS The owners of cafes in the centre of Amsterdam are again up in arms against what they say is the umpteenth attempt to turn the city into a prudish provincial backwater.

A majority of the Amsterdam district council 'Amsterdam Centrum' have voted in favor of a measure that would forbid customers from sitting outside on a terrace past midnight. A Dutch newspaper says the centre of Amsterdam is moving another step towards becoming a 'Staphorst on the Amstel'. Staphorst is considered the most strict and devout Calvinist town in the Netherlands.

Previously the district council ruled that customers cannot drink while standing. The free newspaper De Pers quotes an owner of a pub in Amsterdam, who says with a deep sigh: "Now we'll have to hire an extra employee to act as a sort of police officer who will walk around seeing to it that customers don't drink while standing. They will also have to ensure that customers are gone (from the terrace) by midnight. . when they'd rather sit there until four." Earlier, the council ruled that outside terraces cannot be heated because it is a waste of energy and hence environmentally unfriendly.

In recent years the district council, which was founded in 2002, has come into conflict with the owners of pubs, cafes and nightclubs as well as members of the gay community who say that a mania for rules and regulations is making Amsterdam prudish, provincial and boring. . .

The Amsterdam City Council is also in the process of "cleaning up" the city. Permits for a large numbers of rooms in the Red Light District, where prostitutes stand behind windows, are being rescinded.

The rooms are being turned into fashion shops and the women replaced by mannequins in designer clothes. Recently the town council ordered the closure of the famous sex club Yab Yum as well as the live-sex theatre Casa Rosso.

One website which has collected thousands of signatures protesting against the council's policies writes: "This is where Rembrandt rose to fame, Michiel de Ruyter departed for his epic journeys, the great author Descartes wrote his best works and (besides Paris) the first city to erect lights. . . we were then progressive. Now. . . our city seems more like a provincial village than one with the allure of an international metropolis. . . The beautiful vibrant city centre is being literally paralyzed. A city is a city with all of its achievements, as well as its bad habits. . . When someone moves to the country he can't ask for a ban on fertilizer, roosters and mooing. . . Amsterdam should remain Amsterdam. A fantastic place where for centuries freedom and individual development have been of paramount importance."


SAFETY IDEAS from the Naval Safety Center:
Don't prop your car up with kitchen chairs


NASA Within days of the magnitude 7.9 earthquake that shook China’s Sichuan Basin, floods became a hazard. The earthquake and its aftershocks sent earth and rock tumbling down mountains into rivers, creating natural dams behind which lakes quickly built up. As of May 19, 21 lakes had formed throughout the basin, said China Daily. This series of images shows the formation of one such lake (Yansai Lake) in Beichuan County. . .

Acquired on May 14, 2006, the top image shows the region under normal springtime conditions. Two tiny villages flank the river, the man-made surfaces regularly shaped and bright. The towns are connected by light-colored roads, which line the river on both sides and merge at a bridge where the river narrows on the right.

On May 15, 2008, three days after the initial earthquake, both the bridge and the roads it connected had disappeared under murky water. Some sections of the villages remained above the waterline, as did portions of the roads leading to the villages. The tops of trees, perhaps on slightly higher ground, formed tiny islands near the shores of the growing lake.

Formosat-2 took the final image on May 19, 2008. By this time, water levels in the earthquake lake had risen enough to immerse both villages and the entire road network. Tan debris floats on the surface of the water, concentrated over the locations of the villages.

Earthquake-created dams present a dual danger. Apart from the upstream floods that occur as a lake builds behind the natural dam, the piles of rubble that form the dam may be unstable. Another quake or simply the pressure of water behind it could burst the dam, sending a wall of water downstream. Downstream floods may also occur when water begins to cascade over the top of the dam. Thousands of people were evacuated from Beichuan on May 17 when one such lake threatened to burst, said China Daily.


SurveyUSA is doing a series of McCain vs. Obama head to head match-up polls in different states testing an almost mystifying number of vice presidential possibilities for each nominee. Their poll of Pennsylvania is out and the snapshot is that John Edwards is Obama's strongest pick. The real headline though is the baseline number: McCain vs. Obama without veep nominees attached. On that SurveyUSA has Obama beating McCain 48% to 40%. Talking Points Memo

The poll shows Obama neck and neck if he uses Sebelius or Hagel. Rendell is a wash, even in Pennslvania but Edwrds could bring in 2-8 more points depending on whom McCain picks for his veep.

Charlie Black, the chief campaign adviser for Republican Party Presidential aspirant John McCain, has dismissed calls that he should resign due to his many years of lobbying work for BKSH & Associates, calling the calls "complete inside-the-beltway nonsense." Move On recently launched an advertisement demanding McCain fire Black. "John McCain's chief adviser, lobbyist Charlie Black, worked for some of the world's worst dictators -- mass murderers, terrorists, and tyrants. Call McCain and tell him to fire Charlie Black," the group's website states. Black defended working for dictators -- including Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines and Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire -- insisting that he never worked for foreign clients "without first talking to the State Department and the White House and clearing with them that the work would be in the interest of U.S. foreign policy." - PR Watch

Unmentioned in national reporting [about Obama's Portland appearance] was the fact that Obama was preceded by a rare, 45-minute free concert by rock stars, The Decemberists. The Portland-based band has drawn rave reviews from Rolling Stone magazine, which gave their 2005 album Picaresque four and a half stars (out of five), and another four and a half stars for 2007's The Crane Wife. . . Here's how the local paper The Oregonian, which estimated the crowd at 72,000, reported the rally: "Obama was the biggest star at Sunday's gathering -- though a popular Portland band, The Decemberists, provided the warmup act. With blue skies and temperatures in the 80s, many in the crowd said Waterfront Park was simply the place to be." Newsbusters


A Virginia law banning a type of late-term abortion is still unconstitutional, even though a similar federal ban was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday. The 2-1 decision by a panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirms the same court's 2005 ruling striking down the law. The Supreme Court had ordered the appeals court to take another look at Virginia's statute after the ruling on the federal ban. The appeals court cited a key difference between the federal and state bans on the procedure that abortion opponents call "partial-birth abortion." The federal law protects doctors who set out to perform a legal abortion that by accident becomes the banned procedure. The Virginia statute provides no such protection. - ABC



One of the worst journalist headaches is getting someone's name wrong. Far worse is when you know and admire the person for the fine work they do, such as we inexplicably did yesterday renaming Catherine Austin Fitts by calling her Carolyn. We apologize for the appellatory anarchy.


An anti-war Democratic congressman is demanding to know why there were uniformed Defense Department personnel watching House proceedings from a public gallery Thursday, who they were and what they were doing. "If they were here on official duty, this was an abhorrent misallocation of our military resources at a time of war," Northern California Rep. Pete Stark asserted Friday in a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates. . . "At a time when our nation is at war, our troops are overextended, and the administration is literally asking for emergency military spending, what good to the 'war on terror' is having U.S. generals and other top-ranked officers - who were likely accompanied by staff and escorted by their chauffeurs - spending hours sitting in the gallery of the House of Representatives?" Stark asked. The query drew a stinging response from a Pentagon spokesman. "It seems that Rep. Stark issued his press release before sending his letter to Secretary Gates because we have yet to receive it, but without knowing the particulars of the incident he is inquiring about I can tell you that there is nothing unusual about military officers visiting and/or observing the workings of Congress," said spokesman Geoff Morrell. . . Stark said he didn't have a problem if the military personnel were there on their own time, but if they were there on official duty he wanted to know why. He asked Gates for an accounting by Monday of the name, rank, branch and duties of each of the officers as well as how many staff members and drivers were involved. AP


The global burden of disease is shifting from infectious diseases to non-communicable diseases, with chronic conditions such as heart disease and stroke now being the chief causes of death globally, according to a new WHO report. The shifting health trends indicate that leading infectious diseases - diarrhea, HIV, tuberculosis, neonatal infections and malaria - will become less important causes of death globally over the next 20 years. . . Maternal mortality: in developed countries, nine mothers die for every 100 000 live births, while in developing countries the death rate is 450 and in sub-Saharan Africa it is 950. . . Health-care costs: 100 million people are impoverished every year by paying out of pocket for health care.

Dylan Tweed has joined the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists. He says: "I started my PhD in 2005, in the field of large scale structure formation. I'm currently working on the semi-analytical galaxy formation model GalICS with the horizon-project french consortium. I don't know why girls put flowers on my head in spring."


Carbon nanotubes, one of the most exciting materials developed by the nanotechnology revolution, may be as dangerous as asbestos to those who breath in the minute structures. About 10,000 times thinner than a human hair, carbon nanotubes hold huge technological promise for revolutionizing electronics, building materials and a variety of other industries. That according to a widely reported study in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. Like asbestos, the long, thin carbon nanotubes could cause mesothelioma, a cancer of the lungs, according to animal studies. The risk would be primarily to workers, not users of products, researchers believe. The study could put a cautionary brake on the development of nanotechnology. Skeptics have for years warned that the development of tiny new materials could have new, unanticipated and undesirable consequences for human health. Daily Green


Two million British citizens have left the UK in a decade, the greatest exodus from this country in almost a century, new figures will show. . . However, 3.9 million foreigners arrived over the decade, including more than 500,000 in 2006. . . The Institute for Public Policy Research, a think-tank, has estimated that there are more than 5.5 million British citizens living abroad. Telegraph



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