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Undernews For May 30, 2008

Undernews For May 30, 2008

Washington's Most Unofficial Source
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Editor: Sam Smith

30 MAY 2008


If you don't like the news, go out and make some of your own. - Scoop Nisker, KSAN-FM, San Francisco, 1969

News is what someone wants to suppress. Everything else is advertising - Former NBC news president Reuven Frank


Sam Smith

I spent most of my life thinking Congregationalists were kind of boring, like the Chevies of Protestantism. But then I hadn't done much theological rummaging in Chicago. Now we find that the action at Trinity Church is more than just about the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. The new guy recently brought in a guest preacher - a white Catholic priest named Michael Pfleger - who proved every bit Wright's equal, declaring along the way:

"When Hillary was crying--and people said that was put-on--I really don't believe it was put-on. I really believe that she just always thought 'This is mine. I'm Bill's wife. I'm white. And this is mine. And I jus' gotta get up. And step into the plate.' And then out of nowhere came, "Hey, I'm Barack Obama." And she said: 'Oh, damn! Where did you come from? I'm white! I'm entitled! There's a black man stealing my show.' She wasn't the only one crying! There was a whole lotta white people cryin'"

Barack Obama wasn't around the hear the performance, but he wasn't unfamiliar with Rev. Pfleger, having obtained for him, while a state senator, a $100,000 grant for the youth center at his church. Pfleger was also a rare member of the clergy to support Obama in his run against Robby Rush, according to James Taranto in the Wall Street Journal.

So now Obama is in trouble again. But why? After all, we're talking about a candidate so cautious that he changes positions in parenthetical phrases using the commas like they were chains on a playground swing set. Despite Wright and Pfleger, no one has come up with a single example of Obama saying anything outrageous about anything. And when you disconnect his teleprompters, his passion seems to wither under questioning like he was trying to guess which response his professor really wants. He even dances like a Harvard Law graduate.

So unless Obama is some alien creature whose true nature was transformed during space travel, the attempts to draw a parallel between his preacher pals and himself is ridiculous. Except for one thing. What's a stiff, ponderous guy like him doing hanging out with such types?

Part of the answer is that's the way you do things in Chicago if you want to get ahead. But something else occurs to me, namely that to someone like Obama, listening to Wright and Pfleger are like watching sports or pornography are to other men. He just gets to a point where he can't stand parsing, thoughtful responses, and post-partisanship and needs the high of hyperbole and hypocrisy performed with magnificent abandon. Wright and Pfleger are not reflections of his personality but his relief from it.

So let's not begrudge the guy having had a little fun. He'll soon be back sitting at the table, frowning, pretending to write something and trying to look as contemplative as possible. How would you like to talk about hope and dreams twelve times a day without any relief? Besides, it's a hell of a lot better than getting it off by screwing young aides in the Oval Office or invading Iraq. Under Obama, misapplied metaphors by misbegotten ministers is probably about as audacious as we can hope for and, come to think of it, we could use some quiet for a while.



NEW SCIENTIST A prototype European system uses multiple cameras and "Big Brother" software to try and automatically detect terrorists or other dangers caused by passengers. The European Union's Security of Aircraft in the Future European Environment project uses a camera in every passenger's seat, with six wide-angle cameras to survey the aisles. Software then analyses the footage to detect developing terrorist activity or "air-rage" incidents, by tracking passengers' facial expressions.

The system performed well in tests this January that simulated terrorist and unruly passenger behavior scenarios in a fake Airbus A380 fuselage, say the researchers that built it. . .

"It looks for running in the cabin, standing near the cockpit for long periods of time, and other predetermined indicators that suggest a developing threat," says James Ferryman of the University of Reading, UK, one of the system's developers.

Other behaviors could include a person nervously touching their face, or sweating excessively. One such behavior won't trigger the system to alert the crew, only certain combinations of them.


REUTERS If elected president, Democratic White House hopeful Barack Obama said one of the first things he wants to do is ensure the constitutionality of all the laws and executive orders passed while Republican President George W. Bush has been in office. Those that don’t pass muster will be overturned, he said.
Other goals for his first 100 days: work out a plan to withdraw troops from Iraq; make progress on alternative energy plans and launch legislation to reform the health care system


WILLIAM PFAFF, TRUTHDIG Jonathan Power, the experienced commentator on Third World affairs, has recently drawn attention to [a] case where policies aimed at one result have produced its opposite, this time in Israel. He quotes Edward Luttwak’s argument (last year, in Prospect magazine) that the Middle East since the end of the Cold War has lost its strategic interest for the West. It possesses oil, certainly. But it is much easier to buy oil on the international market than to invade countries and fight for it. The American experience in Iraq demonstrates that.

The West, and the United States in particular, has always acknowledged a strategic interest, as well as moral obligation, to defend a Jewish Israel. However, the strategic interest now is absent, and as Power says, there may soon no longer be a Jewish Israel.

Israel’s systematic colonization and annexation of the Palestinian territories over the last 40 years, and equally systematic opposition to the creation of an independent Palestinian state-no longer a serious prospect, as was evident during President’s Bush’s recent visit to Israel-have turned Israel into an Arab-Jewish state under Jewish control.

The Palestinian Authority, realistically speaking, has ceased to exist; it is simply an agent of the Israeli government. Israel’s problem now is how to survive as a religiously divided single state, half-free and half-occupied.

Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and current Prime Minister Ehud Olmert both warned their people that this would happen. It is why Sharon withdrew from Gaza. But that solved nothing, as the building of colonies continued, and continues.

Israel now finds itself a single amalgamated political entity with a huge Palestinian minority, which before long will become a majority, living in quasi-apartheid conditions. The defense of such a state can scarcely be described as a Western strategic interest.

Defend it against what? No Arab government has any interest in attacking it. The only threat to it is the hypothetical one of Iran’s as-yet-hypothetical nuclear weapons. But why should Iran attack it, as Israel undoes itself as a Jewish state?

It will have serious continuing problems of internal unrest and control, if Hamas and other groups function as domestic resistance movements. But no foreign country can do anything about that, nor would want to.

The Zionist movement, by insisting on keeping possession of Palestine, and the Palestinian population conquered in 1967, has destroyed the Jewish state it was its dream to create. This only now is being recognized.


HAROLD FORD JR. NEWSWEEK Do many rural or working-class people have questions about Obama? Sure. But these are less about race than about culture. Obama has not lived their lives.

That's OK. In the weeks and months ahead, he just needs to show that he respects them and understands the issues that matter to them-that he can make their lives better. Obama has run a first-rate primary campaign, energizing countless new voters. Now he's got to get off the big stage more often and meet with people where they work, play and pray. That means getting out to schools and factories, coffee shops, fairgrounds and houses of worship. He needs to earn their trust.

That lesson was driven home for me during my run for Senate in 2006, at a little bar-restaurant called the Lil' Rebel in Jackson, Tenn. I'd been to church, and during a morning prayer, Pastor Nathaniel Bond held my hands. "There are more Davids than Goliaths, and more answers than there are problems," he said. Later that day, as I was driving past the Lil' Rebel for the second time, heading out of town, I decided that I had heard those words for a reason. We turned the car around and pulled in. I wasn't scared, but my aide- a white guy-was slightly nervous. He told me that "if things don't go right, we'll just go."

When I walked in, the people couldn't have been nicer. They let us put bumper stickers on their vehicles-some next to Confederate flags and BUSH '04 STICKERS. They told me about another patron who was a big fan, and how upset he'd be that he had missed me. Well, about a week later, that guy approached me at a campaign event. "You should stop at every little place," he said. "You'll be surprised." I only regret the clock ran out on me before I could do more of that.

Obama has lots of time. He doesn't need to ride rodeo, or hunt if he doesn't like hunting. People know that the candidates running for president don't live just the way they live. But they want to know that they're understood, and that their daily struggles are respected. Obama should mingle. He should go to the states where he lost big: walk across Kentucky and West Virginia. He should take half a day and work as a fireman, a waiter, a mechanic.

He can't shy away from embarrassing himself. When Obama went bowling and shot a 37 (for seven frames, with the help of some small children), he should have seen that as an opportunity. He could have returned to the same bowling alley the next day to show how determined he was to improve. "I told you I'd come back," he could have said with a smile. "We're all going to come back and improve. We just need to address our challenges honestly and head on."


JOHN PITCHER, OMAHA WORLD-HERALD Imagine that just before composing his dark masterpiece, "Nebraska," Bruce Springsteen had come across the writings of Dr. Phil.

Norwegian expressionist Edvard Munch might never have produced his most famous painting, "The Scream", if he had suppressed his existential angst and - as many people do today - simply put on a happy face. The rocker, in a melancholic mood, might have read about five easy steps to beat his depression or about the antidepressants that would cure it.

In that weird parallel universe, would Springsteen have written "Nebraska," his bleak narrative about a rampaging serial killer? Or would he have composed something lighter, happier? Something like "Muskrat Love"?

You laugh, but North Carolina writer Eric Wilson thinks America's current addiction to happiness threatens the arts. Wilson writes about it in his new book, "Against Happiness", which paints a disturbing portrait of what happens to art in a world filled with "happy types."

Melancholia, a term dating back to the ancient Greeks, is a mood disorder characterized by general sadness. The term "clinical depression" dates back only about 100 years. It refers to a psychiatric disorder of pervasive low mood and loss of interest in life.

In recent decades, laypeople have begun to use melancholia and depression interchangeably to refer any kind of depressed mood. He predicts an America of vacant smiles and bland sameness. It's a place where poetry is a Hallmark card and where music is, well, Muzak.

"I fear we're creating a country where no one would aspire to write a novel like 'Moby-Dick' again," said Wilson, . . . "No one would even want to read it, because who needs 'Moby-Dick' when you've got Dr. Phil?". . .

Dr. Thomas Svolos, an adjunct professor and the vice chairman of the department of psychiatry at the Creighton University School of Medicine, thinks Wilson may be on to something. . .

"When you're melancholy, you tend to step back and examine your life," Svolos said. "That kind of questioning is essential for creativity."

But for happy types, life's deeper meaning may not be an active question. Wilson makes that point in his book, and Svolos thinks it points to an even broader cultural concern.

Before the 1950s, clinical depression was considered an extremely rare mental illness, affecting less than 5 percent of the population. . . Currently, 11 percent of American women and 5 percent of American men take antidepressants, the magazine Scientific American reported in February.

The New England Research Institute's recent study of health insurance plans found that 43 percent of those who were prescribed antidepressants had not received a formal psychiatric diagnosis. Their family doctors prescribed the pills, and usually there was no follow-up. . .

Wilson and Svolos insist that art and happiness should not be seen as either/or propositions.

They believe that serious mental illness should be diagnosed and treated with therapy and, when necessary, medicine. Depression should not be romanticized, they say.

But they also believe that ordinary melancholy - a term that dates back to the ancient Greeks - is a natural part of life. It may not be pleasant, but it can be beneficial, because it causes an emotional state of unrest that acts as a spark plug to creative thought. . .


ROLLING STONE - As China prepares to showcase its economic advances during the upcoming Olympics in Beijing, Shenzhen is . . . serving as a laboratory, a testing ground for the next phase of [a] vast social experiment. Over the past two years, some 200,000 surveillance cameras have been installed throughout the city. Many are in public spaces, disguised as lampposts. The closed-circuit TV cameras will soon be connected to a single, nationwide network, an all-seeing system that will be capable of tracking and identifying anyone who comes within its range - a project driven in part by U.S. technology and investment. Over the next three years, Chinese security executives predict they will install as many as 2 million CCTVs in Shenzhen, which would make it the most watched city in the world. (Security-crazy London boasts only half a million surveillance cameras.)

The security cameras are just one part of a much broader high-tech surveillance and censorship program known in China as "Golden Shield." The end goal is to use the latest people-tracking technology - thoughtfully supplied by American giants like IBM, Honeywell and General Electric - to create an airtight consumer cocoon: a place where Visa cards, Adidas sneakers, China Mobile cellphones, McDonald's Happy Meals, Tsingtao beer and UPS delivery (to name just a few of the official sponsors of the Beijing Olympics) can be enjoyed under the unblinking eye of the state, without the threat of democracy breaking out. With political unrest on the rise across China, the government hopes to use the surveillance shield to identify and counteract dissent before it explodes into a mass movement like the one that grabbed the world's attention at Tiananmen Square.

Remember how we've always been told that free markets and free people go hand in hand? That was a lie. It turns out that the most efficient delivery system for capitalism is actually a communist-style police state, fortressed with American "homeland security" technologies, pumped up with "war on terror" rhetoric. And the global corporations currently earning superprofits from this social experiment are unlikely to be content if the lucrative new market remains confined to cities such as Shenzhen. Like everything else assembled in China with American parts, Police State 2.0 is ready for export to a neighborhood near you. . .

The workers at FSAN don't just make surveillance cameras; they are constantly watched by them. While they work, the silent eyes of rotating lenses capture their every move. When they leave work and board buses, they are filmed again. When they walk to their dormitories, the streets are lined with what look like newly installed streetlamps, their white poles curving toward the sidewalk with black domes at the ends. Inside the domes are high-resolution cameras, the same kind the workers produce at FSAN. Some blocks have three or four, one every few yards. One Shenzhen-based company, China Security & Surveillance Technology, has developed software to enable the cameras to alert police when an unusual number of people begin to gather at any given location.
In 2006, the Chinese government mandated that all Internet cafes (as well as restaurants and other "entertainment" venues) install video cameras with direct feeds to their local police stations. Part of a wider surveillance project known as "Safe Cities," the effort now encompasses 660 municipalities in China. . .

But the cameras that Zhang manufactures are only part of the massive experiment in population control that is under way here. "The big picture," Zhang tells me in his office at the factory, "is integration." That means linking cameras with other forms of surveillance: the Internet, phones, facial-recognition software and GPS monitoring.

This is how this Golden Shield will work: Chinese citizens will be watched around the clock through networked CCTV cameras and remote monitoring of computers. They will be listened to on their phone calls, monitored by digital voice-recognition technologies. Their Internet access will be aggressively limited through the country's notorious system of online controls known as the "Great Firewall." Their movements will be tracked through national ID cards with scannable computer chips and photos that are instantly uploaded to police databases and linked to their holder's personal data. This is the most important element of all: linking all these tools together in a massive, searchable database of names, photos, residency information, work history and biometric data. When Golden Shield is finished, there will be a photo in those databases for every person in China: 1.3 billion faces.


This is a fascinating example of how things might be different with Barack Obama as president. Don't worry about the arguments, just note the tone, a reminder of how much cheaper opposing op eds are compared with invasions.


An edited version of an article that appeared in Granma, the Cuban Communist party newspaper

GUARDIAN UK It would be dishonest of me to remain silent after hearing Barack Obama's speech delivered at the Cuban American National Foundation last Friday. I feel no resentment towards him, for he is not responsible for the crimes perpetrated against Cuba and humanity. Were I to defend him, I would do his adversaries a favor. I have therefore no reservations about criticizing him and expressing myself frankly.

What were Obama's statements? "Throughout my entire life, there has been injustice and repression in Cuba. Never, in my lifetime, have the people of Cuba known freedom. Never, in the lives of two generations of Cubans, have the people of Cuba known democracy . . . I won't stand for this injustice . . . I will maintain the embargo."

This man who is doubtless, from the social and human points of view, the most progressive candidate for the US presidency, portrays the Cuban revolution as anti-democratic and lacking in respect for freedom and human rights. It is the same argument US administrations have used again and again to justify crimes against our country. The blockade is an act of genocide. I don't want to see US children inculcated with those shameful values.

No small and blockaded country like ours would have been able to hold its ground for so long on the basis of ambition, vanity, deceit or the abuse of power, the kind of power its neighbor has. To state otherwise is an insult to the intelligence of our heroic people.

I am not questioning Obama's great intelligence, his debating skills or his work ethic. He is a talented orator and is ahead of his rivals in the electoral race. Nevertheless, I am obliged to raise a number of delicate questions. I do not expect answers; I wish only to raise them for the record.

Is it right for the president of the US to order the assassination of any one person in the world, whatever the pretext? Is it ethical for the president of the US to order the torture of other human beings? Should state terrorism be used by a country as powerful as the US as an instrument to bring peace to the planet?. . .

Is it fair to stage pre-emptive attacks? Is it honorable and sane to invest millions and millions of dollars in the military-industrial complex, to produce weapons that can destroy life on earth several times over? Is that the way in which the US expresses its respect for freedom, democracy and human rights?

Before judging our country, Obama should know that Cuba - with its education, health, sports, culture and science programs, implemented not only in its own territory but also in other poor countries around the world, and in spite of the economic and financial blockade and the aggression of his powerful country - is proof that much can be done with very little. Cuba has never subordinated cooperation with other countries to ideological requirements. We offered the US our help when hurricane Katrina lashed the city of New Orleans. Our revolution can mobilize tens of thousands of doctors and health technicians. It can mobilize an equally vast number of teachers and citizens who are willing to travel to any corner of the world to fulfill any noble purpose, not to usurp rights or take possession of raw materials.

The goodwill and determination of people constitute limitless resources that would not fit in the vault of a bank. They cannot spring from the hypocritical politics of an empire.


Sam Smith

To refresh memories of the glorious early days of the Iraq war, your editor went back to a piece he wrote for Harpers five years ago: a history of the Iraq invasion told entirely in official lies. Everything in the article, save a few tenses, were just as we were told by the Bush administration and their major advisors. These days, for example, we have reduced the lie about WMDs to an abbreviation but it was far more colorful that that. Here are some excerpts from the 2003 article, The Revision Thing, along with a few items that didn't make the final edit but are too good to forget:

Once again, we were defending both ourselves and the safety and survival of civilization itself. . . It was a struggle between good and it was a struggle between evil. . .

The fundamental question was, did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program? And the answer was, absolutely. His regime had large, unaccounted-for stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons--including VX, sarin, cyclosarin, and mustard gas, anthrax, botulism, and possibly smallpox. Our conservative estimate was that Iraq then had a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical-weapons agent. That was enough agent to fill 16,000 battlefield rockets. . . And according to the British government, the Iraqi regime could launch a biological or chemical attack in as little as forty-five minutes after the orders were given. There could be no doubt that Saddam Hussein had biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more. . .

It was a different kind of war because we were fighting people who sent youngsters to suicidal deaths and they tried to find a dark cave. They were lurching around in the dark corners of some cities around the world, ooching around the dark corners of the world and looking out, peeping out around the corner. . .

It was also a war where the enemy didn't show up with airplanes that they own, or tanks or ships. These were suiciders. [One] day we hauled a guy in named al Nashiri. That's not a household name here in America. [You] could understand why some went blank when they heard his name - yeah, those foreign names sure shut us down. . .

In the old days you could count tanks and figure out how strong the enemy was. This was an enemy that hid in caves. They tried to find the darkest cave, the deepest cave. It was a different kind of hater than we were used to. The old haters used tanks.. . .

Iraq possessed ballistic missiles with a likely range of hundreds of miles--far enough to strike Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, and other nations. We also discovered through intelligence that Iraq had a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas. We were concerned that Iraq was exploring ways of using UAVs for missions targeting the United States. . .

The Iraqi people were well on their way to freedom. The scenes of free Iraqis celebrating in the streets, riding American tanks, tearing down the statues of Saddam Hussein in the center of Baghdad were breathtaking. Watching them, one could not help but think of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Iron Curtain. . .

It was entirely possible that in Iraq you had the most pro-American population that could be found anywhere in the Arab world. If you were looking for a historical analogy, it was probably closer to post-liberation France. We had the overwhelming support of the Iraqi people. Once we won, we got great support from everywhere. . .

The U.S. devoted unprecedented attention to humanitarian relief and the prevention of excessive damage to infrastructure and to unnecessary casualties.

The United States approached its postwar work with a two-part resolve: a commitment to stay and a commitment to leave. The United States had no intention of determining the precise form of Iraq's new government. That choice belonged to the Iraqi people. We have never been a colonial power. We do not leave behind occupying armies. We leave behind constitutions and parliaments. We don't take our force and go around the world and try to take other people's real estate or other people's resources, their oil. We never have and we never will.

We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories. And we found more weapons as time went on. I never believed that we'd just tumble over weapons of mass destruction in that country. But for those who said we hadn't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they were wrong, we found them. We knew where they were. . .

We changed the regime of Iraq for the good of the Iraqi people. We didn't want to occupy Iraq. War is a terrible thing. We've tried every other means to achieve objectives without a war because we understood what the price of a war can be and what it is. We sought peace. We strove for peace. Nobody, but nobody, was more reluctant to go to war than President Bush. . .


SECRECY NEWS Government press releases could be temporarily marked as "controlled unclassified information" to protect them from premature disclosure, according to an official background paper on the new White House information security policy. Controlled unclassified information, or CUI, refers to information that does not meet the standards for classification but that is considered too sensitive for unrestricted public disclosure. The new CUI policy was issued by President Bush on May 7.

While the precise definitions of CUI and the implementing policy directives remain to be written, there are indications that CUI could end up as a catch-all category for information that agencies wish to withhold. Thus, "embargoed press releases" could be designated as CUI for at least a few hours, according to the newly released background paper

What if a member of the public wants to obtain information that some agency has marked as CUI? Well, he should file a Freedom of Information Act request, the background paper says.

"The FOIA process will provide a straightforward way for anyone to seek public release of CUI and ensure that all CUI for which there is a demand will be carefully reviewed for release." (at page 6).

But anyone who has filed a FOIA request knows that the FOIA process is not quite straightforward, nor does it produce a timely result.

The background paper thus affirms a view that information deemed "sensitive" shall be presumptively withheld, and any exceptions shall be handled through the FOIA process.

In truth, this policy of presumptive withholding is pretty much how the Bush Administration currently operates. And it makes no tangible difference if agencies use 100 different terms for "sensitive" or replace them all with one term, "controlled unclassified information."

But informal, discretionary disclosure was far more common in previous administrations, and it could be once again in some future administration. Institutionalizing presumptive withholding in a government-wide CUI policy could make it harder to overcome current secrecy practices when the opportunity to do so presents itself.


WASH POST Obama has not emphasized any signature domestic issue, or signaled that he would take his party in a specific direction on policy, as Bill Clinton did with his "New Democrat" proposals in 1992 that emphasized welfare reform or as George W. Bush did with his "compassionate conservatism" in 2000, when he called on Republicans to focus more on issues such as education. . .

Heather Higginbottom, who runs Obama's policy office at the campaign's Chicago headquarters, cited education as one area in which Obama offers ideas that are not traditionally Democratic, arguing that the problem is not all about schools or funding, but about parents who let their children watch too much television. She said his proposal to give teachers bonus pay if they receive special training or if their students score high on standardized tests is an idea that some liberal-leaning teachers unions oppose. And she said the campaign has brought "fresh thinking" on many issues, particularly on one of Obama's favorites: increased government transparency. . .

David Axelrod, Obama's top political adviser, said that the campaign will devote more staff members to policy (there are now seven) and that the senator's speeches will increasingly highlight his proposals. "The next six months is going to be about competing visions for this country," he said. "Obama is looking forward, and his policies will reflect that."

Obama's domestic policy proposals, including expanding health care to all Americans and offering tax cuts for the middle class while raising taxes for those who make more than $250,000 a year, differ little from those that Clinton and other Democrats have proposed during the primaries. His ideas for solving the nation's housing crisis are similar to those of congressional Democrats, offering aid to people who cannot pay their mortgages and proposing a second economic stimulus package.


GUARDIAN, UK - Israel describes it as a vital security barrier, while the UN says it's illegal. But as far as the guerrilla graffiti artist Banksy is concerned, the 425-mile long barrier that separates Israel from the Palestinian territories is a vast concrete canvas too tempting to resist. . .

Packing his stencils and spray cans, he went to the Middle East to share his vision with those living on the Palestinian side. His visit is recorded in the nine stenciled pictures, some surreal, some poignant, he left on the gigantic barrier. His latest work was on his website, labeled "holiday snaps".

Although the paintings themselves are not overtly political, his feelings about the wall are apparent from his statement: "The Israeli government is building a wall surrounding the occupied Palestinian territories. It stands three times the height of the Berlin Wall and will eventually run for over 700km - the distance from London to Zurich. The wall is illegal under international law and essentially turns Palestine into the world's largest open prison."

But he concedes: "It also makes it the ultimate activity holiday destination for graffiti writers.". . .

The barrier, which is made of concrete walls and razor-wire fences, has been cited as illegal by the UN, which has ordered it dismantled, though Israel says the wall protects it against suicide bombers.


MICHAEL CLADERONE, POLITICO - CNN's Jessica Yellin talked to Anderson Cooper about Scott McClellan's tell-all memoir and agreed with the former press secretary that White House reporters "dropped the ball" during the run-up to war. But Yellin went much further, revealing that news executives--presumably at ABC News, where she'd worked from July 2003 to August 2007--actively pushed her not do hard-hitting pieces on the Bush administration. "The press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war presented in way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the president's high approval ratings," Yellin said.. . .

A shocked Cooper jumped in, asking, "You had pressure from news executives to put on positive stories about the president?"

"Not in that exact. . . They wouldn't say it in that way, but they would edit my pieces," Yellin said. "They would push me in different directions. They would turn down stories that were more critical, and try to put on pieces that were more positive. Yes, that was my experience."



ZOGBY - The vast majority of readers still like to read the old-fashioned way - 82% said they prefer to curl up with a printed book over using the latest in reading technology, a new Random House/Zogby poll shows. Women (85%) are more likely than men (79%) to say they prefer reading printed books. Reading printed books also has greater appeal among older respondents, although it is by far the preferred method among all age groups. Just 11% of respondents said they are comfortable reading books in other formats, such as online or with an e-book reader or PDA. Men (13%) are more open than women (8%) to reading books in other formats, as are 13% of those younger than age 30, compared to just 6% of those age 65 and older.

The survey finds most readers often head to a bookstore knowing exactly what they're looking for - 43% of respondents said they do this somewhat often, while nearly as many (38%) very often head to a bookstore with a particular book in mind. But just because they're focused on a certain book, most admit they're likely to be tempted by other books once at a store - 77% said that when they go into a bookstore for a specific book, they sometimes make additional, unplanned book purchases. For nearly half (48%), the first thing that draws them to a book while browsing in a bookstore is the subject, followed by the author (24%) and the book's title (11%).

Most said they typically read just one book at a time, but a sizable 40% said they usually are reading between two and four books at once. Another 3% said they generally read more than four books at one time.

While 19% said they borrow most of the books they read from the library, the vast majority of Americans (78%) said they own most of the books they read.

35% admit to folding over the pages, while 13% confess to sneaking a peek at the ending before finishing a book. Just 6% divulged that they have neglected to return a library book.

Two in three respondents (68%) said they typically read a book just once, but 18% said they usually go back for a second read and 10% generally read a book three times or more.

Once a book has been read, most respondents said it goes back on their shelf at home (57%), but others are more likely part ways once they finish - 20% usually pass books on to a friend or family member, while 14% give them away and just 3% said they typically sell their books once their done reading them.



The University of Wisconsin-Madison is set to become the biggest university with an openly gay leader. .. Cornell University Provost Biddy Martin was recommended to be the next chancellor at UW-Madison. . . Martin, the No. 2 official at Cornell since 2000, is a professor of women's studies and German studies and author of the 1995 book "Femininity Played Straight: The Significance of Being Lesbian." About eight to 10 openly gay people have become college presidents and chancellors but mostly at small colleges, said Candace Gingrich of the Human Rights Campaign. AOL


A judge has upheld North Carolina’s high standard requiring tens of thousands of signatures to be collected before a group is officially recognized as a political party, ruling there’s no fundamental right for the party of a voter’s choice to be on the ballot. The Libertarian Party sued the state in 2005, arguing requirements to get on the ballot and stay on it are too onerous, violating party members’ freedom of speech and association. The Green Party of North Carolina later joined the lawsuit. Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood, who heard the case in a non-jury trial earlier this month in Wake County, ruled May 27 that the "state has a compelling interest in requiring a preliminary modicum of support before recognizing a political party and placing its candidates on the ballot." Hobgood wrote that the state has an interest "in avoiding confusion, deception and even frustration of the democratic process in the general election.". . . This year, under the law, groups had to collect nearly 70,000 voter signatures to receive official party status - one of the highest thresholds in the country, according to the party leaders and candidates who sued. First Amendment Center

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a ruling that would have forced Mississippians to register by political party and show photo identification at the polls to be able to vote. U.S. District Judge Allen Pepper in Mississippi ruled last year that the state should re-register all voters to allow people to declare themselves as Democrats, Republicans or members of another party. Or, Pepper said, people could register as unaffiliated with any party. Pepper had said Mississippi must restructure its party primary system by Aug. 31, 2008. Under current law, Mississippians do not declare a party affiliation when they register to vote. First Amendment Center

Senate candidate Al Franken 's satirical and explicit take on virtual sex and other topics, published in Playboy magazine eight years ago, is drawing concern instead of laughter from some Minnesota Democrats. Rep. Betty McCollum, who supported the comedian's rival Mike Ciresi until he dropped out of the race for the party's nomination for the Senate, complained Thursday that she and other Minnesota Democrats will be on the same November ballot as a candidate "who has pornographic writings that are indefensible.". . . At one point in the Playboy piece titled "Porn-O-Rama!" Franken called the Internet a "terrific learning tool," writing that his 12-year-old son was able to use it for a sixth-grade report on bestiality.

At a Wisconsin town hall meeting, John McCain told the crowd we are "succeeding" in Iraq and that things are "quiet" in the Iraqi city of Mosul. That same day, there were two suicide bombings in the not-so sleepy town and a third in a neighboring area.

Craig Crawford: Among the myths surrounding the Democratic fight over seating delegates from Florida and Michigan, one that stands out is a persistent inference that Barack Obama was somehow involuntarily kept off the Michigan primary ballot. . . It was the Illinois senator's written and personally signed request to the Michigan Secretary of State's office on Oct. 8, 2007, that prompted his exclusion. Obama's choice to stay off the ballot was a conscious political maneuver designed to please Iowa Democrats angered by Michigan's early primary date. Clinton, to her detriment in Iowa, chose to stay on Michigan's ballot. As strange as some of Clinton's demands might seem to be in this matter, it would be truly bizarre to give any Michigan delegates to a candidate who voluntarily took his name off the ballot.


BOSTON GLOBE Does Dunkin' Donuts really think its customers could mistake Rachael Ray for a terrorist sympathizer? The Canton-based company has abruptly canceled an ad in which the domestic diva wears a scarf that looks like a keffiyeh, a traditional headdress worn by Arab men. Some observers, including ultra-conservative Fox News commentator Michelle Malkin, were so incensed by the ad that there was even talk of a Dunkin' Donuts boycott. . . The company at first pooh-poohed the complaints, claiming the black-and-white wrap was not a keffiyeh. But the right-wing drumbeat on the blogosphere continued and by yesterday, Dunkin' Donuts decided it'd be easier just to yank the ad


With eight months left in President Bush's term, scores of senior officials already are heading for the exits, leaving nearly half the administration's top political positions vacant or filled by temporary appointees, federal statistics show. More than 200 pending nominations are languishing on Capitol Hill, bogged down in political fights between Democrats and the White House. At the same time, agencies have begun preparing for a new administration, including plans to temporarily install career employees in senior positions at the Department of Homeland Security during the transition. The White House also has taken the unusual step of ordering federal agencies to stop proposing regulations -- meaning that new rules on issues including greenhouse gases and air-traveler protection are unlikely to be finalized before Bush leaves office. Washington Post


TONY NEWMAN, HUFFINGTON POST Courtland Milloy of the Washington Post wrote a heart-breaking story that exemplifies the wasteful and counterproductive way our society deals with illegal drug use. Mr. Milloy talks about Frances Johnson, a 68-year-old grandmother in Washington, D.C. who faces eviction simply because her grandson was arrested for possessing a small amount of marijuana. The federal government's public housing system has a "one strike and you're out" policy for any drug law violation -- even if that violation occurs miles away from home. . . The New York Civil Liberties Union released a report earlier this month that found 83 percent of those charged with marijuana possession over the last 10 years are black or Latino even though federal surveys show that whites are more likely to use pot. If you are poor and live in public housing, your whole family is punished for a drug offense--even for smoking a joint. But if you are middle class and do not rely on public housing or other benefits it is a "personal" issue. Despite our arresting a staggering 800,000 people for marijuana last year, marijuana is as easily available as ever -- to find some, just inquire around your local high-school.


Students in public schools have math scores that are just as good if not better than those of students in private schools, according to a new national study. The research focused across several years on 9,791 kindergarten through fifth-grade students. "These data provide strong, longitudinal evidence that public schools are at least as effective as private schools in boosting student achievement," said researcher Christopher Lubienski of the University of Illinois. Combined with other, yet-unpublished studies of the same data, which produced similar findings, "we think this effectively ends the debate about whether private schools are more effective than publics," said Lubienski, whose research has dealt with all aspects of alternative education. This is important, he said, because many current reforms, such as No Child Left Behind, charter schools and vouchers for private schools, are based on the assumption that private schools offer better education than public schools. . . Unlike literacy, math is viewed as being less dependent on a student's home environment and more an indication of a school's effectiveness, Sarah Lubienski said. Live Science



Recycling in New York City is no more expensive than trash removal, and will become cheaper in just a few years, according to a new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council. . . According to NRDC, recycling costs no more than trash disposal (ie, burying it in a landfill) and it amounts to a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. . The study has implications for the rest of the country because it is one of the first of its kind. Further, the economic factors that make recycling economically sensible in New York City - escalating costs of exporting trash to rural landfills and the increasingly strong market for recycled materials - are likely to be similar in other cities, particularly in the Northeast.


Three UC Berkeley students will drive across India in an event called the Rickshaw Run this June, despite parental disapproval, warnings from the event's Web site that roads may be "terrible and non-existent" and the knowledge that at least one team has been arrested while competing in a previous race. Seniors Sonny Sabhlok and Brian Wong and junior Allen Rodriguez, who is an employee of The Daily Californian, will have just over two weeks to travel the 2,400 mile route from Nepal to the south of India in a doorless, three-wheeled autorickshaw roughly the size of a golf cart. They will be the youngest team making the journey to Pondicherry, India. . . The event is organized by the British company the Adventurists. To participate, teams must raise at least $2,000 before the race to be donated to charity. The company offers no support or guidance beyond providing teams with their rickshaws and training them for one day. Teams plan their own route and cover all their own costs. . . According to event manager Lamorna Trahair, the Rickshaw Run generally raises a total of about $177,000, which goes to two charities in India. Daily Californian


Taking popular painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen could lower the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, a study has found. The research, published in the journal Neurology, suggests that people who took NSAIDs, the drug group which aspirin and ibuprofen belong to, have a more than 20 per cent reduced risk of developing Alzheimer's. Telegraph, UK

Two monkeys have been trained to eat morsels of food using a robotic arm controlled by thoughts that are relayed through a set of electrodes connecting the animal's brain to a computer, scientists have announced. The astonishing feat is being seen as a major breakthrough in the development of robotic prosthetic limbs and other automated devices that can be manipulated by paralysed patients using mind control alone.Scientists eventually plan to use the technology in the development of prosthetics for people with spinal cord injuries or conditions such as motor neurone disease, where total paralysis leaves few other options for controlling artificial limbs or wheelchairs. They hope one day to develop robotic machines that feel like a natural extension of the human body, which would enable the technology to be adapted for a wide variety of purposes, from driving a car to operating a fork-lift truck. Reuters


The production of traditional books rose 1% in 2007, to 276,649 new titles and editions, but the output of on-demand, short run and unclassified titles soared from 21,936 in 2006 to 134,773 last year, according to preliminary figures released by R.R. Bowker. The combination of the two categories results in a 39% increase in output to 411,422.


A thunderstorm knocked out the power to her home, shutting off the massive metal machine that had helped her breathe for nearly 60 years. It was about 3 a.m. when the electricity went out at Odell's home in Jackson, a small Tennessee town about 90 miles northeast of Memphis. An emergency generator did not start, and Odell died as her father and brother-in-law took turns pumping the iron lung manually. Dianne Odell, 61, was believed to be the nation's oldest survivor of polio to have spent almost all of her life inside an iron lung. She had been confined within the 7-foot-long, 750-pound machine ever since she was paralyzed at the age of 3 by bulbospinal polio. That was in 1950, just a few years before a polio vaccine was discovered.. . . Using a voice-activated computer, she wrote a children's book about a tiny star that wanted to be a wishing star. She even helped out with local political campaigns, making phone calls for state senators. LA Times

The shelf of a large Toronto bookstore after students "quietly moved the contents to other places in the bookstore, like Fiction, Humor, Sexuality, Erotica, Cuisine, Parenting, Mental Disorder, Parapsychology and the Occult."
Headline of the day: US defends arms sales to Taiwan, criticizes Chinese missile buildup


Read the first letter of each graf


NOTE: You can post your comments on any of the above stories by going to our Undernews site and searching for the headline. Once posted, a copy is immediately mailed to the Review and we pick some of the most interesting to publish here.


- - Poverty isn't a economic classification, it is a social disease. The root cause is structural: literal isolation of the underclass. Edwards project wants to throw nickels and dimes. Edwards (Obama, Clinton, etc., ad museum) has no interest in anything but business as usual. Heaven forbid he would propose that his Wall Street tycoon peers put trillions of their wealth to work in rural and urban ghettos.


- - They didn't ignore them. They're just not aware that such quaintly archaic things as 'civil liberties' still exist.


Concerning the planned "I Believe" license plates

- - Fine - so long as there is also a specialty license plate with the motto: "Your Belief Is Bunk!"

- - Or perhaps: Oh Lord, please save me from your followers!

- - It is a medium distance method for identifying superstitious fools.


- - One way to begin to get rid of the reasons for fear (by those who have adopted the trench "them/us" mentality) is to continue to build on what sounds to me like a pretty solid foothold on communitarian possibilites for action. The alternative I would like to suggest here applies to everyone else besides Potomac Gardens residents: i.e., the creation of a network of exchanges that could soon rely on an alternative economic accounting system within the neighborhood: local "money" to allow for bartering and multi-bartering --an effective way of making fair trade possible among those who do not have sufficient access to the central bank's scarce commodity. Also, exacting from local schools an open-door policy to all civic groups able to organize apprenticeships free from the square curriculum that has been imposed on most people with the poor results we know. An alternative system of exchanging knowledge along with an alternative monetary system are two key elements for creating community: healthy communities instead of the sick, sick anti-social landscape of so much urban dwelling. - MAMADOC

- - Ah yes. . . divide and conquer. Just what those in power like. As long as people are fighting among themselves, they aren't fighting the powerful.


- - Oh what a joy it has been seeing Bishop Madison for over 25 years, as a pastor, Senior Minister and Bishop. I remember the conversation we had downstairs of the Motherhouse Newport News, the year before he was chosen as Bishop. His love remained the same. My son and I will always remember you. - Minister Ross Hailey


- - I would expect any American to be well-aquainted with this country's basic principle: idiots with too much money are easily parted from it. It is, after all, the entire basis of our economy.

- - I'm American, but I do live in rural Nebraska. Maybe I need to get out more, or make friends with the idle rich.


- - The US Government psychologically tortured Deborah Jeane Palfrey to the point of suicide, (in other words to the point of murder). From an international human rights point of view she was totally innocent.
Why did the US Government do such a thing to her? So they could steal her assets and life savings and claim everything was done legally.

Deborah worked hard for her money, she was an intelligent, successful and hard working business woman.
In her 52 years of existence she never hurt one soul, she was a sweet and beautiful person. Every single government official involved with her case (or torture) have her blood on their hands. The US government basically murdered her just so they could steal her money. Only a very cruel government could do such a thing.

(Deborah - I as a fellow human being love and respect you with all my heart, I know you were innocent just like Jesus was innocent of all charges brought upon him before he was crucified - God bless your soul). - Brenda from England


- - Sad to say it, but the protest was probably the most educational experience they had in all 12 years of public schooling.

- - Beautiful! Maybe there is a shred of hope for the future. We need more kids like this!


- - Anyone who thinks they can attribute an evil to a specific purpose of God needs to join Job on the ash heap and contemplate Isaiah 55:8: "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord'. = Thrysus


- - "Morphine comes from poppies, cannabinoids from marijuana, and LSD from mushrooms..." said Gerald Weissmann, M.D.". . . Actually, psilocybin comes from mushrooms. LSD comes from ergot, a grain fungus.


- - There are a lot of chemicals in that "growth medium" that will end up in ground water and streams. And the grinding process is energy intensive. Recycling is a more elegant solution.

- - This process certainly would reuse the materials the plastic is composed of. That certainly meets most people's definition of recycling.


- - Al-Marri’s capture six years ago might be the Bush administration’s biggest domestic counterterrorism success story. Authorities say he was an al Qaeda sleeper agent living in middle America, researching poisonous gases and plotting a cyberattack. To justify holding him, the government claimed a broad interpretation of the president’s wartime powers, one that goes beyond warrantless wiretapping or monitoring banking transactions. Government lawyers told federal judges that the president can send the military into any U.S. neighborhood, capture a resident and hold him in prison without charge, indefinitely.

If the president gets these powers, it’s the end, gang. The writ of habeas corpus is 400 years old. The Bush administration is, rather incredibly, arguing that the "commander in chief" power of the U.S. Constitution authorizes them to vaporize it. Even if you subscribe to a Hinderakeresque view of the current president, just remember, every future president will have this power, too. Think about the asinine process by which we chose our presidents. Think about what sorts of character traits it takes to want to go through all of the bullshit we’ve seen already this campaign season, and what traits it takes not only to endure all of that, but to win. Now think about giving those people these kinds of powers.

The Bush administration has defined "terrorism" in broad, vague terms. As Charlie Savage points out in his book, Takeover, it includes not only Islamic terrorism, but domestic terrorism, and the Bush administration claims these powers not just against terrorists, but against the people who "aid" them.

It’ll take decades to figure out just how much damage this president has done to the Constitution. And it’s really almost impossible to overstate just how serious this is.


- - Most CFLs today on the market contain less than 5 mgs of mercury and there are CFL options out there that contain as little as 1.5 mgs of mercury- which can hardly be called a "significant amounts of mercury" considering that many item in your home contain 100s of times more of mercury including your computer. Mercury levels in CFLs can never be "nonexistent" since mercury is a necessary component of a CFL and there is no other known element that is capable of replacing it. But CFLs actually prevent more mercury from entering the environment. According to the Union of Concerned Scientist, "a coal-fired power plant will emit about four times more mercury to keep an incandescent bulb glowing, compared with a CFL of the same light output". - Krissy


- - As Gloria Clemente (Rosie Perez's character in White Men Can't Jump) says: Sometimes when you win, you really lose, and sometimes when you lose, you really win, and sometimes when you win or lose, you actually tie, and sometimes when you tie, you actually win or lose. Winning or losing is all one organic mechanism, from which one extracts what one needs. - Tom Puckett


- - This so-called cinch of the Green Party nomination is a perversion of the green value of grassroots democracy. Ralph Nader got 61% of the vote in her so-called home state of California, yet our delegates are ignoring the will of our own voters? Most of these "state parties" unlike the one in CA are mostly on paper and meet in living rooms and garages with a handful of people getting more delegate votes than thousands of Green voters.

McKinney loses when it comes to Green voters and for the rigged Green convention to steal the nomination from Nader for a second time running only confirms the bankruptcy of the Greens as a political force in this country. It’s a total replay of the disaster of 2004 when David Cobb, who finished third place in CA (and fourth place with 11% of the vote in his fake home county of Humboldt, losing even to Lorna Salzman, who has never stepped foot in Humboldt). David Cobb nearly destroyed the Greens that year, and now his minions are finishing the job.

I had intended to attend the Green convention in Chicago this year, if at least to give voice to the Greens in Humboldt who would otherwise be betrayed in their clear and consistent preference for Nader. But if this convention is rigged before I even get there with paper tiger state parties under a rigged electoral college-style system overturning the will of Green voters, then why bother? Congratulations Greens, you’ve finally driven a 12-year Green organizer right out of your corrupted and useless party. - Charles Douglas, Nader/Gonzalez Elector, California, State Coordinating Committee, GP of CA, 1997-2000


- - Self-ghettoization, irrespective of race, will in the end nearly always lead to an incestuous rut. It's laughable to see those who trumpet the richness to be found in such ideas as 'diversity' and 'multiculturalism' championing what amounts to self-imposed segregation as a way to greater pluralism of expression, and then falling into a state of shock when the end product turns out to be nothing more than narrow, single-viewpoint junk. Radio One should be a clear object lesson to those who believe that minority owned corporate entities are somehow magically free of the same lowest-common-denominator, bottom-line corruptions that their white-run counterparts are.


- - I'd only add that this crisis isn't just affecting families, but also singles who earn in the average wage worker category as well. Because we don't always breed does not mean we don't count--or vote.

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