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Undernews for August 20, 2008

Undernews for August 20, 2008

Washington's Most Unofficial Source
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Editor: Sam Smith

20 AUG 2008


The politician who steals is worse than a thief. He is a fool. With all the grand opportunities around for the man with a political pull, there's no excuse for stealin' a cent. -- George Washington Plunkett


Step One: We must do something
Step Two: This is something
Step Three: Therefore we must do it
-- Jonathan Lynn & Antony Jay in "Yes, Minister"




Obama leads McCain by 1
Obama has lost 4 points vs. McCain in last 10 polls
Obama is 83 electoral votes ahead of McCain with 137 undecided.
Obama is 28 votes shorts of an electoral majority.
Nader is getting 1-2% of the vote and Barr around 6%
Dems pick up 3-5 Senate seats
Dems in House pick up as many as 16 or lose as many as 5
Dems pick up as many as 1 governorships or lose 1



Bob Herbert, NY Times - Around the same time that the McCain campaign was pocketing its oil industry windfall, the historian Douglas Brinkley was poring over letters in which Roosevelt, running for his first full term as president in 1904, was indignantly ordering his campaign to return a $100,000 contribution from the Standard Oil Company.

In a letter to his campaign manager, dated Oct. 26, 1904, Roosevelt said: "I must ask you to direct that the money be returned to them forthwith." As Roosevelt saw it: "We cannot under any circumstances afford to take a contribution which can be even improperly construed as putting us under an improper obligation."

That kind of thinking is long gone, from both parties. Barack Obama, as well as Senator McCain, has taken contributions from oil industry executives. But what is telling about this particular difference between Teddy Roosevelt and John McCain is that it is so illustrative of what Roosevelt was really about, and how fundamentally different that was from what Senator McCain and the latter-day Republican Party is about.

"The truth of the matter is that Roosevelt today would be on the left," said Mr. Brinkley, who is writing a biography of the former president titled "The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt's and the Crusade for America."

Roosevelt believed passionately in regulating industry and curbing the excesses of the great corporations. He favored the imposition of an inheritance tax and fought his party's increasing tendency to cater to the very wealthy. And, of course, he was a ferocious protector of the environment.

Roosevelt was known as the "trust-buster," but it was in the area of environmental conservation that he really made his mark. Mr. Brinkley, in a draft preface to the biography, tells how a number of bird species in the U.S. were headed for extinction as the 20th century approached, in large part because of the popularity of feathered hats for women.

By 1886, when the Audubon Society was founded, more than five million birds a year were being slaughtered to satisfy the millinery trade. The feather boom was especially big in Florida. Egrets, herons - just piles and piles of birds were being destroyed, many of them by men with semiautomatic weapons.

Roosevelt was outraged that what he termed "the despoilers" were threatening to ruin the bird populations along the Florida coasts. Having already championed the preservation of what became Yellowstone National Park, Roosevelt designated Pelican Island, which had a once-thriving bird population off the east central coast of Florida, as the nation's first federal bird reservation. . .

Roosevelt was a complicated fellow. Progressive in much of his politics and intensely concerned about the long-term welfare of the country and its people, he was also a social Darwinian and a conflict-loving imperialist.

What is not in question is that he was a far, far cry from John McCain and today's G.O.P.


Nick Pisa, Telegraph, UK - The Italian edition of Vanity Fair said that it had found George Hussein Onyango Obama living in a hut in a ramshackle town of Huruma on the outskirts of Nairobi.

Mr Obama, 26, the youngest of the presidential candidate's half-brothers, spoke for the first time about his life, which could not be more different than that of the Democratic contender.

"No one knows who I am," he told the magazine, before claiming: "I live here on less than a dollar a month."

According to Italy's Vanity Fair his two meter by three meter shack is decorated with football posters of the Italian football giants AC Milan and Inter, as well as a calendar showing exotic beaches of the world.

Vanity Fair also noted that he had a front page newspaper picture of his famous brother - born of the same father as him, Barack Hussein Obama, but to a different mother, named only as Jael.

He told the magazine: "I live like a recluse, no one knows I exist."

Embarrassed by his penury, he said that he does not does not mention his famous half-brother in conversation. "If anyone says something about my surname, I say we are not related. I am ashamed," he said.

For ten years George Obama lived rough. However he now hopes to try to sort his life out by starting a course at a local technical college.

He has only met his famous older brother twice - once when he was just five and the last time in 2006 when Senator Obama was on a tour of East Africa and visited Nairobi.

The Illinois senator mentions his brother in his autobiography, describing him in just one passing paragraph as a "beautiful boy with a rounded head".

Of their second meeting, George Obama said: "It was very brief, we spoke for just a few minutes. It was like meeting a complete stranger."

George added he was no longer in contact with his mother and said:"I have had to learn to live and take what I need. "Huruma is a tough place, last January during the elections there was rioting and six people were hacked to death. The police don't even arrest you they just shoot you. I have seen two of my friends killed. I have scars from defending myself with my fists. I am good with my fists."


Penn Live - A Gulf War veteran and his wife say they've been unfairly placed on a federal list that limits their commercial flight access and threatens his job as a commercial pilot. To fight back, the couple, who are Muslim, filed a lawsuit against a host of U.S. government agencies. "We don't know why they're on the list. They don't know why they're on the list. The government won't tell us why they're on the list," said Amy Foerster, an attorney with Saul Ewing, who is providing pro bono counsel and working with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and the Schuylkill County couple on the case, which was filed in U.S. district court. The suit filed against the U.S. departments of Homeland Security and Justice and the FBI, among others, is "unique" because Erich Scherfen, a New Jersey native who converted to Islam in the mid-1990s, is a commercial airline pilot whose flight privileges were revoked in April, said Witold Walczak, the legal director of the state ACLU chapter.

On Sept. 1, Scherfen will be terminated by his employer, Colgan Air, despite the airline's cooperation. "My livelihood depends on getting off this list," Scherfen said. What list he is on and which government entity maintains it is unclear, Walczak said. The federal government has declined to acknowledge flight restrictions placed on the pilot.

But Scherfen says he and his wife, Pakistan-born Rubina Tareen, have been detained for hours on several occasions in airports and even border crossings and been told by airport ticket agents and security personnel that they're on a "terrorist watch list."
CNN - James Robinson is a retired Air National Guard brigadier general and a commercial pilot for a major airline who flies passenger planes around the country. He has even been certified by the Transportation Security Administration to carry a weapon into the cockpit as part of the government's defense program should a terrorist try to commandeer a plane.

But there's one problem: James Robinson, the pilot, has difficulty even getting to his plane because his name is on the government's terrorist "watch list."

That means he can't use an airport kiosk to check in; he can't do it online; he can't do it curbside. Instead, like thousands of Americans whose names match a name or alias used by a suspected terrorist on the list, he must go to the ticket counter and have an agent verify that he is James Robinson, the pilot, and not James Robinson, the terrorist.

"Shocking's a good word; frustrating," Robinson -- the pilot -- said. "I'm carrying a weapon, flying a multimillion-dollar jet with passengers, but I'm still screened as, you know, on the terrorist watch list."

The American Civil Liberties Union estimates more than 1 million names have been added to the watch list since the September 11 attacks.

The FBI, which manages the Terrorist Screening Database, disputes that figure. It says that there are about 400,000 actual people on the list and that about 95 percent of those people are not U.S. citizens.

"There's going to come a point in time where everybody's on the list," Robinson said.

Jurist - The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that those placed on the government's "no-fly list" can challenge their inclusion on the list in federal district courts. The issue came before the court in a case brought by a woman on the list, in which a district court had ruled that it lacked jurisdiction because of a law exempting Transportation Security Administration orders from federal trial court review. Reversing the decision, the Ninth Circuit held that the Terrorist Screening Center which actually maintains the list is a subsection of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is therefore subject to review by the district courts:

In July, the US terror watchlist, which includes the no-fly list, was criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union for being too large, containing inaccuracies, and lacking safeguards to prevent the unnecessary targeting of passengers for additional security screenings. In March, the US Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General issued a report saying that FBI had submitted inaccurate information to the list, that the information was rarely reviewed before its submission, and even if discrepancies become apparent they were often left unchanged.


Stephen Rose, Huffington Post - McCain is a documented craps player. He has been known to play craps on impulse for 14 hours at a stretch. Of the game of craps, Anthony Holden comments, "We poker players don't call poker gambling. It is a game of skill. Craps is an absurd game of luck. You may have thrilling short term wins but only madmen play craps." . . .

How serious is the gambling urge for McCain? What does the love of craps say about his "realism" regarding actual battles and conflicts? Would McCain be willing to gamble with human lives?

Connie Bruck puts it like this: "The moment the car stopped at McCain's hotel in downtown New Orleans, he set out at his usual fast clip for Harrah's, across the street. McCain is an avid gambler. Wes Gullett, a close friend who worked for McCain for years, told me that they used to play craps in Las Vegas in fourteen-hour stints, standing at the tables from 10 a.m. to midnight. 'Craps is addictive,' McCain remarked, and he headed for the fifteen-dollar-minimum-bet tables."

Michael Scherer and Michael Weisskopf say: "Over time he gave up the drinking bouts, but he never quite kicked the periodic yen for dice. In the past decade, he has played on Mississippi riverboats, on Indian land, in Caribbean craps pits and along the length of the Las Vegas Strip. Back in 2005 he joined a group of journalists at a magazine-industry conference in Puerto Rico, offering betting strategy on request. 'Enjoying craps opens up a window on a central thread constant in John's life,' says John Weaver, McCain's former chief strategist, who followed him to many a casino. 'Taking a chance, playing against the odds.' Aides say McCain tends to play for a few thousand dollars at a time and avoids taking markers, or loans, from the casinos, which he has helped regulate in Congress. 'He never, ever plays on the house,' says Mark Salter, a McCain adviser. The goal, say several people familiar with his habit, is never financial. He loves the thrill of winning and the camaraderie at the table.

"Only recently have McCain's aides urged him to pull back from the pastime. In the heat of the G.O.P. primary fight last spring, he announced on a visit to the Vegas Strip that he was going to the casino floor. When his aides stopped him, fearing a public relations disaster, McCain suggested that they ask the casino to take a craps table to a private room, a high-roller privilege McCain had indulged in before. His aides, with alarm bells ringing, refused again, according to two accounts of the discussion. He clearly knows that this is on the borderline of what is acceptable for him to be doing," says a Republican who has watched McCain play. 'And he just sort of revels in it.'


Daily Kos - From Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish: "In all the discussion of John McCain's recently recovered memory of a religious epiphany in Vietnam, one thing has been missing. The torture that was deployed against McCain emerges in all the various accounts. It involved sleep deprivation, the withholding of medical treatment, stress positions, long-time standing, and beating. Sound familiar?

"According to the Bush administration's definition of torture, McCain was therefore not tortured. Cheney denies that McCain was tortured; as does Bush. So do John Yoo and David Addington and George Tenet. In the one indisputably authentic version of the story of a Vietnamese guard showing compassion, McCain talks of the agony of long-time standing. A quarter century later, Don Rumsfeld was putting his signature to memos lengthening the agony of "long-time standing" that victims of Bush's torture regime would have to endure. These torture techniques are, according to the president of the United States, merely "enhanced interrogation."

Sullivan's coup de grace: "In the Military Commissions Act, McCain acquiesced to the use of these techniques against terror suspects by the CIA. And so the tortured became the enabler of torture. Someone somewhere cried out in pain for the same reasons McCain once did. And McCain let it continue."


Ian Traynor, Guardian, UK - Pity Georgia's bedraggled first infantry brigade. And its second. And its hapless navy. For the past few evenings in the foothills of the Southern Caucasus on the outskirts of Joseph Stalin's hometown of Gori, reconnaissance units of Russia's 58th army have been raking through the spoils of war at what was the Georgian army's pride and joy, a shiny new military base inaugurated only last January for the first infantry, the army engineers, and an artillery brigade.

A couple of hours to the west, in the town of Senaki, it's the same picture. A flagship military base, home to the second infantry brigade, is in Russian hands. And down on the Black Sea coast, the radars and installations for Georgia's sole naval base at Poti have been scrupulously pinpointed by the Russians and destroyed.

Gori and Senaki are not ramshackle relics of the old Red Army of the type that litter the landscape of eastern Europe. "These bases have only recently been upgraded to NATO standard," said Matthew Clements, Eurasia analyst at Jane's Information Group. "They have been operationally targeted to seriously degrade the Georgian military."

"There is a presence of our armed forces near Gori and Senaki. We make no secret of it," said the general staff in Moscow. "They are there to defuse an enormous arsenal of weapons and military hardware which have been discovered in the vicinity of Gori and Senaki without any guard whatsoever."

The "enormous arsenals" are American-made or American-supplied. American money, know-how, planning, and equipment built these bases as part of Washington's drive to bring NATO membership to a small country that is Russia's underbelly.

The American "train and equip" mission for the Georgian military is six years old. It has been destroyed in as many days. And with it, Georgia's NATO ambitions. "There are a few countries that will say 'told you so'" about the need to get Georgia into NATO," said Andrew Wilson, Russia expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations. "But many more will want to walk away from the problem. And for the next few years, Georgia will be far too busy trying to pick itself up."

If Georgia and NATO are the principal casualties of this week's ruthless display of brute power by Vladimir Putin, the consequences are bigger still, the fallout immense, if uncertain. The regional and the global balance of power looks to have tilted, against the west and in favor of the rising or resurgent players of the east.

In a seminal speech in Munich last year, Putin confidently warned the west that he would not tolerate the age of American hyperpower. Seven years in office at the time and at the height of his powers, he delivered his most anti-western tirade

To an audience that included John McCain, the White House contender, and Robert Gates, the US defence secretary and ex-Kremlinologist, he served notice: "What is a unipolar world? It refers to one type of situation, one centre of authority, one centre of force, one centre of decision-making. It is world in which there is one master, one sovereign. This is pernicious . . . unacceptable . . . impossible."

This week, he turned those words into action, demonstrating the limits of US power with his rout of Georgia. His forces roamed at will along the roads of the Southern Caucasus, beyond Russia's borders for the first time since the disastrous Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

As the Russian officers sat on the American stockpiles of machine guns, ammunition, and equipment in Gori, they were savoring a highly unusual scenario. Not since the Afghan war had the Russians seized vast caches of US weaponry. "People are sick to the stomach in Washington," said a former Pentagon official. And the Russians are giddy with success.


Jon Ponder, Pensito Review. The McCain campaign is fighting hard against charges that McCain cheated on the rules of debate at a rightwing evangelical forum in a California megachurch over the weekend by cribbing the questions in advance. . .

Even "Pastor Rick" Warren, the multimillionaire evangelist who hosted the event --- and who clearly favored McCain in the questioning --- has admitted that despite his assertion to the audience that McCain was sequestered in a "cone of silence" during the live session with Obama, McCain was, in fact, in his car during much of Obama's session, where he certainly could have listened to the interview.

And this exchange from the forum appears to indicate that McCain knew that Warren was going to ask him a very specific question about the Supreme Court. Notice how McCain asks if he can go "back" to a question about the court:

WARREN: Let's deal with abortion. I, as a pastor, have to deal with this all the time, every different angle, every different pain, all of the decisions and all of that. Forty million abortions since Roe v. Wade. Some people, people who believe that life begins at conception, believe that's a holocaust for many people. What point is a baby entitled to human rights?

MCCAIN: At the moment of conception. (APPLAUSE). I have a 25- year pro-life record in the Congress, in the Senate. And as president of the United States, I will be a pro-life president. And this presidency will have pro-life policies. That's my commitment. That's my commitment to you.

WARREN: OK, we don't have to beleaguer on that one. Define marriage.

MCCAIN: A union --- a union between man and woman, between one man and one woman. That's my definition of marriage. Could I --- are we going to get back to the importance of Supreme Court Justices or should I mention --

WARREN: We will get to that.

MCCAIN: OK. All right. OK.

WARREN: You're jumping ahead. . .

What's suspicious here is that the topic of the Supreme Court had not come up in McCain's interview, so it was not a topic to go "back" to. On the other hand, Obama had been asked a question about the Supreme Court during his earlier session, which McCain supposedly had not heard.


Drum Major Institute - A nationwide poll, conducted by Global Strategy Group for DMI, found middle-class households worried about the present, pessimistic about the future, but not nearly so divided on issues of public policy as the typical media reports of country divided by red and blue might lead us to believe. In fact, there's broad bipartisan support for a range of progressive policies.

77% of middle-class households think things are off on the wrong track in America now. With stagnant wages and unemployment on the upswing, jobs and the economy were the top concern. High gas prices ranked #2 overall.

Middle-class voters are split on the presidential race (about half leaning toward McCain and half to Obama) but there's a lot of agreement around public policy with strong support for progressive measures. 75% of middle-class respondents - including 57% of Republicans - think a universal national health insurance plan is an excellent or good idea. 71% want to see a law requiring employers to provide paid family and medical leave. 78% wish their representative in Congress had voted to health coverage for uninsured low-and middle-income kids. 68% say their rep should have voted to make it easier for people to organize labor unions.

62% would allow bankruptcy judges to change mortgage payments to avoid foreclosures.

If these policies are so popular, why isn't the nation moving in a more progressive direction? One problem is that most middle-class Americans don't know how their members of Congress actually voted on the issues in question. While two-thirds of middle-class adults say they try to follow what Congress is doing at least somewhat closely, most get very few communications from their representatives. 72% cannot name a single piece of legislation passed by Congress in the past two years that has benefited them or their families. In part, this reflects a grim assessment of Congress' efficacy. But it also says something about the lack of connection between the nation's legislators and their middle-class constituents. 68% of middle-class adults would like their rep to support taxing hedge fund managers at the same rate as others in their income bracket. But 69% don't know if that's how their rep actually cast the vote. It's hard to hold your representative accountable if you don't know what they're up to. FULL REPORT


Population Reference Bureau - In mid-2008, world population stood at 6.7 billion, up from 6.0 billion in 1999. The next milestone, 7 billion, will likely be passed in 2011 or 2012.

During the 20th century, nearly 90 percent of population growth took place in countries classified as less developed by the United Nations - all countries in Africa, Asia (except Japan), Latin America and the Caribbean, and Oceania (except Australia and New Zealand). This remarkable development resulted from an unprecedented decline in death rates in LDCs brought about by the spread of public health measures, health care, and disease prevention, particularly after the end of World War II in 1945. These improvements evolved over centuries in the more developed countries, but the LDCs were able to benefit from them virtually overnight.

The imbalance in population growth seen over the last century will only intensify in the years to come.

Between 2008 and 2050, virtually all population growth will take place in the LDCs. Overall, the small amount of population growth projected for MDCs will be largely accounted for by the United States and Canada. But most of that growth will likely be due to immigration from LDCs. While the LDCs are projected to increase from 5.5 billion in 2008 to 8.1 billion in 2050, the MDCs are projected to grow from 1.2 billion to just 1.3 billion.

During 2008, about 139 million babies will have been born worldwide and 57 million people will likely die, so that global population will increase by 82 million. Overall, women would average about 2.6 children at the pace of childbearing in 2008, but that figure varies substantially from region to region and country to country. In MDCs, women average 1.6 children, a number insufficient to forestall eventual population decline. Some European countries and Japan are already experiencing more deaths annually than births. In the LDCs, excluding the large statistical effect of China, women average 3.2 children, twice that of the wealthier countries.

In the 50 UN-defined least developed countries, the number is even higher-4.7 children per woman.


For the first time, the world population is evenly divided between urban and rural areas. By 2050, urban residents are likely to make up 70 percent of the world's population. . .

More than half of urban growth occurs in cities with populations of 500,000 citizens or fewer.

Megacities-urban areas with populations of 10 million or more-only account for 8 percent of the urban population.

Virtually all of the urban population growth will be happening in less developed regions. By 2050, North America's population may be 90 percent urban.

Urban populations consume more food, durable goods, and energy than their rural counterparts.


Books: What They Teach You at Harvard Business School

Philip Delves Broughton

Christopher Hart, Sunday Times, UK - In 2004, the journalist Philip Delves Broughton walked away from what sounds like a peach of a job, Paris bureau chief for the Daily Telegraph, to enroll in Harvard's world-famous MBA course. . .

Feelings of unease emerge even before he arrives. He reads a student guide on What to Bring. "Don't bring that guitar . . . Don't bring any books from literature or history classes . . . Don't bring your cynicism. Do bring all the diverse rest of you. We can't wait to share the experience." Immediately, his bolshie British bullshit- detector thrums into life: "Who were these people? And why did they talk like this? Why can't I bring my cynicism? Or my books? Aren't they a part of the ‘diverse rest of me'?" . . .

He is surprised at the large presence of earnest Mormons and unimaginative former-military men in this cauldron of capitalism. But gradually this begins to make sense, for HBS is pervaded with an oppressive atmosphere of unquestioning obedience and creepy religiosity. There is the confessional My Reflected Best-Self exercise, to encourage students "to create a developmental agenda for leveraging their reflected best-self" and "work maximally from positions of strength". Approved results sound like this: "I do not take on the negative energy of the insecure . . . I stay centered . . . I try to model the message of integrity, growth and transformation." . .

The weirdest and creepiest episode is when a student writes to the entire school, confessing to a "regrettable property- damage incident", a gorgeous euphemism for urinating against a neighboring student's door. "His behaviour had made him realize he still had work to do figuring out exactly who he was." . . . Even more creepily, Delves Broughton finds that he no longer responds to such tosh with a healthy snort of laughter. "It was serious, right? Leadership. Core values. Transformation. Being true to oneself." It takes his wife - his American wife - to inject some common sense. "These people are freaks.". . .

For all its vast reputation, power and pomposity, you feel that HBS neither understands the complexity nor acknowledges the chaotic unpredictability of the world economy any better than anyone else. More conclusively, it encourages its little alumni to major in hypocrisy. You go there for one simple reason: to make shedloads of money. Fine, so it's no crime in itself to want to be absurdly and pointlessly rich, although it's certainly no virtue. What sticks in the gullet is graduates' self-flattering delusion that they're on some kind of crusade, their "very American" insistence, as Delves Broughton puts it, on being not only "the most powerful, the richest and most successful", but also "the most morally good". At the same time as learning how to manipulate billions in order to profit, say, from ordinary people's fretful indebtedness during a recession, you can believe that you are a philanthropic leader of men. Yet these are people whose answer to their own question, "How will I know how much is enough?" is, "When you've got your own jet." Any notion that such jet-setting plutocrats are truly concerned about the rest of us, or the planet, or the future, is laughable. . .

These money-loving graduates must nurture "heightened self-awareness" and "a strong moral compass", they must "foster integrity strategies", acquire "leadership and values". But why the hell would the rest of us want to be led by these spreadsheet-reading, PowerPoint-presenting swots who've devoted the best years of their lives simply to making moolah?


Joan Walsh, Salon - Rick Warren tells Beliefnet that Barack Obama is going to have to do more than "talk faith" to win evangelical votes, and compares an evangelical Christian voting for a pro-choice politician to a Jew voting for a Holocaust denier. . .

Warren dismissed Obama supporters' complaints about John McCain not being in a "cone of silence" where he couldn't hear the questions as "sour grapes" -- which kind of implies Obama lost the contest. The fact is, Warren knew that McCain hadn't arrived yet when he started the event, but he nonetheless told the audience the GOP contender was in a "cone of silence" that sounded very much like a green room without television or radio. That sounds like a lie, Rick, and lying is wrong. It breaks one of the Ten Commandments.

I know some liberals love Rick Warren, but to me he seems like yet another preening narcissistic televangelist -- especially as he was high-fiving Obama about their multimillion-dollar book deals, and kvetching about how $250,000 a year in Orange County isn't "rich." Let's think about the least of our brothers, OK, Rick?


Social Issues Research Center - In the late 1930s Tom Harrisson and his colleagues at the Mass-Observation Unit conducted what is probably the earliest, and certainly the most extensive, study of pub-going. The team of social anthropologists did little else for nearly two years but sit in pubs and observe the complex rituals of behaviour that subtly underlie everyday life in the local. . .

Harrisson and his colleagues showed [clearly that] the pub as a British institution towered over its rivals for attention, commitment and, indeed, 'donations': "Of the social institutions that mould men's lives between home and work in an industrial town, such as Worktown, the pub has more buildings, holds more people, takes more of their money, than church, cinema, dance hall, and political organizations put together."

Today, little in reality has changed. There may now be rather fewer pubs in relation to the population and many certainly look rather different from the vaults and taprooms of old. But . . . the pub retains its unique position in British society, and for much the same reasons as in Harrisson's day. As he noted then, it is "the only kind of public building used by large numbers of ordinary people where their thoughts and actions are not being in some way arranged for them; in the other kinds of public building they are the audiences, watchers of political, religious, dramatic, cinematic, instructional or athletic spectacles. But within the four walls of the pub, once a man has bought or been bought his glass of beer, he has entered an environment in which he is a participator rather than a spectator.". . .

The special features of the local - the layout, the decor, the music in some cases, the games, the etiquette and ritual practices and, of course, the drinking - are all designed to promote positive social interaction, reciprocity and sharing. In this sense the British pub has much in common with dedicated drinking places in other parts of the world. In Austrian lokals, for example, the anthropologist Thomas Thornton observed that "intimate social groups. . . come into being there, even if only to last the night. Benches surround the tables, forcing physical intimacy between customers. Small groups of twos or threes who find themselves at the same or adjoining tables often make friends with their neighbours and share wine, schnapps, jokes and game-playing the rest of the evening."

In almost all drinking-places, in almost all cultures, the unwritten laws and customs involve some form of reciprocal drink-buying or sharing of drinks. This practice has been documented in drinking-places from modern, urban Japan and America and rural Spain and France to remote traditional societies in Africa and South America and has long been recognized by anthropologists, sociologists and even zoologists - so fundamental is this practice to the survival of any social species. . .

The British pub, like its 'foreign' counterparts, meets timeless and global human needs - that is why it survives and will continue to do so despite the many other opportunities we have for 'joining' and for networking. We may sign up to an online community to communicate with like-minded people who share our interests across the globe, or we may reveal selected aspects of ourselves on Facebook. These are, however, 'non-local' by definition. They are what the late urban planner Melvin Webber, predicting over thirty years ago the internet trends that we witness today, called 'community without propinquity'. They are, in a very significant sense, different. They may extend our social and professional lives and allow much wider patterns of interaction, but they do not replace the more traditional and timeless face-to-face activities that take place in the special social institutions created to facilitate them - central among them, the pub.


Emily Feder, AlterNet - I arrived at JFK Airport two weeks ago after a short vacation to Syria and presented my American passport for re-entry to the United States. After 28 hours of traveling, I had settled into a hazy awareness that this was the last, most familiar leg of a long journey. I exchanged friendly words with the Homeland Security official who was recording my name in his computer. He scrolled through my passport, and when his thumb rested on my Syrian visa, he paused. Jerking toward the door of his glass-enclosed booth, he slid my passport into a dingy green plastic folder and walked down the hallway, motioning for me to follow with a flick of his wrist. Where was he taking me, I asked him. "You'll find out," he said. . .

No one who had been detained knew precisely why they were there. A few people were led into private rooms; others were questioned out in the open at desks a few feet from the crowd and then allowed to pass through customs. Some were sent to another section of the holding area with large computer screens and cameras, and then brought back. . .

There was one British tourist in the group. Paul (also not his real name) was traveling with three friends who had passed through customs soon after their plane landed and were waiting for him on the other side of the metal barrier; he suspected he had been detained because of his dark skin. When he asked if he could go to the bathroom, one of the guards said, "I wouldn't." "What if someone has to?" I asked. "They will just have to hold it," the guard responded with a smile. Paul began to cry. I watched as he, over the course of four hours, went from feeling exuberant about his trip to New York to despising the entire country. "I speak the Queen's English," he said to me. "I'm third-generation British. I came to America because I've always wanted to come here, and now they've got me so scared that all I want to do is go home. We're paying for your stupid war anyway.". . .

Within a few hours of my arrival, I saw at least 10 people denied the right to use the bathroom or buy food and water. . .

After four hours, I finally demanded to speak to the guards' supervisor, and he was called down. I asked if the detainees could file a formal complaint. He said there were complaint forms (which, in English and Spanish, direct one to the Department of Homeland Security's Web site, where one must enter extensive personal information in order to file a "Trip Summary") but initially refused to hand them out or to give me his telephone number. "The Department of Homeland Security is understaffed, underfunded, and I have men here who are doing 14-hour days." He tried to intimidate me when I wrote down his name -- "So, you're writing down our names. Well, we have more on you" -- and asked me questions about my address and my profession in front of the rest of the people detained. I pointed out a few of the families who had missed their flights and had been waiting seven hours. His voice barely controlled, his lip curled into a smirk. . .


Jerusalem Post - It seems that Obama recognizes that while his résumé titles are impressive, his actual accomplishments are weak. It's as if he were jockeying to be the next company CEO with little to show for his prior high-profile management positions. So, he does what anyone else does who has spent years coasting on charisma without doing any heavy work: he pads his resume--stretching the truth here, stealing credit there, and creating the illusion of achievement during his lackadaisical, undistinguished tenure in previous jobs.

Take Obama's first general election ad. We are told that Obama "passed laws" that "extended healthcare for wounded troops who'd been neglected," with a citation at the bottom to only one Senate bill: The 2008 Defense Authorization Bill, which passed the Senate by a 91-3 vote. Six seNATOrs did not vote-including Obama. Nor is there evidence that he contributed to its passage in any material way. . .

Or take one of Obama's standard lines: his claim of "twenty years of public service." As pundit Michael Medved has pointed out, the numbers don't add up. . . Three years in the US Senate (two of which he's spent running for President), plus seven years in the Illinois State Senate (a part-time gig, during which time he also served as a law professor) equals, at most, ten. Even if we generously throw in his three years as a "community organizer" (whatever that means, let's count it as public service), that still adds up to just thirteen.

Obama's other activities since 1985 have included Harvard Law School, writing two autobiographies (including several months writing in Bali), prestigious summer law firm jobs, three years as an associate at a Chicago law firm, and twelve years part-time on the University of Chicago Law School faculty. As Medved notes, it takes quite the ego to consider any of those stints "public service." Which of them is Obama including?

Obama made yet another inflated boast last month during his visit to Israel. At his press conference in Hamas rocket-bombarded Sderot, Obama talked up "his" efforts to protect Israel from Iran:

"Just this past week, we passed out of the US Senate Banking Committee - which is my committee - a bill to call for divestment from Iran as way of ratcheting up the pressure to ensure that they don't obtain a nuclear weapon."

Nice try. But as even CNN noted, Obama is not even on that committee. That is one peculiar "mistake" to simply have made by accident. .

Look at his record: he's now completed over half of a Senate term; yet, is there even one signature issue he has taken hold of, other than his own presidential run? Similarly, as the New York Times recently pointed out, Obama spent twelve years on the University of Chicago Law School faculty--singularly famous for its intellectual ferment and incubator of scholarship--and produced not even a single scholarly paper. He was President of Harvard Law Review, but wrote nothing himself. Even as a state legislator for seven years-or community organizer for three years, there is little that shows his imprint. OK, to be fair, he did write two books. About himself.


Mother Jones - During Saturday's presidential forum at Rick Warren's California megachurch, John McCain was asked to name the "three wisest people" he would "rely heavily on" if elected president. . . McCain chose Gen. David Petraeus; former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, one of his economic advisers; and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a leading figure in the civil rights movement.

This is not the first time McCain has invoked Lewis' name on the campaign trail. Earlier this year, in Selma, Alabama, he told the story of civil rights marchers trying to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in a 1965 march from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery. Waiting at the crest of the bridge were a brigade of police and state troopers who meted out an attacks so violent that the day is known today as Bloody Sunday.

Central in McCain's telling was John Lewis, a man of just 25 who was at the front of the march and absorbed the first blow. Millions of Americans, McCain noted, "watched brave John Lewis fall.". . .

Rep. Lewis said in a statement requested by Mother Jones, "I cannot stop one human being, even a presidential candidate, from admiring the courage and sacrifice of peaceful protesters on the Edmund Pettus Bridge or making comments about it." But, he added, "Sen. McCain and I are colleagues in the US Congress, not confidantes. He does not consult me. And I do not consult him."


Some 100 college and university president have signed a statement calling for legislators to discuss lowering the drinking age to 18. From the statement:

It's time to rethink the drinking age

In 1984 Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, which imposed a penalty of 10% of a state's federal highway appropriation on any state setting its drinking age lower than 21.

Twenty-four years later, our experience as college and university presidents convinces us that…

Twenty-one is not working

A culture of dangerous, clandestine binge-drinking-often conducted off-campus-has developed.

Alcohol education that mandates abstinence as the only legal option has not resulted in significant constructive behavioral change among our students.

Adults under 21 are deemed capable of voting, signing contracts, serving on juries and enlisting in the military, but are told they are not mature enough to have a beer.

By choosing to use fake IDs, students make ethical compromises that erode respect for the law.
How many times must we relearn the lessons of prohibition?

We call upon our elected officials:

To support an informed and dispassionate public debate over the effects of the 21 year-old drinking age.

To consider whether the 10% highway fund incentive encourages or inhibits that debate.

To invite new ideas about the best ways to prepare young adults to make responsible decisions about alcohol.

We pledge ourselves and our institutions to playing a vigorous, constructive role as these critical discussions unfold.


Albania No minimum age
Austria 14
Denmark No minimum drinking age
Finland No minimum drinking age
France 16 (beer, wine
Germany 16 (beer, wine
Hungary No minimum age
Italy 16
Poland No minimum drinking age
Portugal 16
Romania No minimum drinking age
Russia No minimum drinking age
Spain 16
Switzerland 16
United Kingdom 5 (on private property with parental consent)


Howard Kurtz, Washington Post - Washington, which likes to think of itself as the indispensable city for high-stakes journalism, is losing its luster. A full-blown withdrawal is underway, with newspaper companies reducing their troops here or pulling them out altogether.

"The folks back home see a Washington bureau as a luxury," says Bill Walsh, a former correspondent for the New Orleans Times-Picayune who recently left journalism. "They get plenty of copy from the wires to fill up their pages. I don't know that there's a real understanding of Washington."

The latest to pull the plug is the Newhouse News Service, which employs 11 reporters. Linda Fibich, the bureau chief, says the individual Newhouse papers, from Newark to New Orleans, will have to decide whether to pay for their own correspondents to be stationed in the capital. .

Newspapers are under fierce financial pressure, shrinking their staffs as advertising revenue plunges. Barely a day goes by without another grim announcement: The San Francisco Chronicle, offering buyouts to 125 journalists. The Cincinnati Enquirer, looking to cut 50. Florida's Sarasota Herald-Tribune, slicing its staff by a third in two years. Newhouse's Newark Star-Ledger, saying it will sell the paper unless the staff is cut by 20 percent. . .


Christian Science Monitor - As of early 2008, at least 190,000 private personnel were working on US-funded projects in the Iraq theater, [a] Congressional Budget Office survey found. That means that for each uniformed member of the US military in the region, there was also a contract employee - a ratio of 1 to 1.

"It is ... exceptional the degree to which the military's currently relying on such contractors," said CBO director Peter Orszag at an Aug. 12 press conference. In the Korean conflict, the ratio was 2.5 uniformed personnel for each contractor. In Vietnam, the comparable figure was 5 to 1.

The Balkans conflict of the 1990s provided a glimpse of the future, as it also featured a 1-to-1 military-to-civilian worker ratio. . .

But in the Balkans, the overall deployment numbers "were of a much smaller scale than what we are seeing in Iraq," Mr. Orszag said.

The CBO estimates the total cost of these military contractor operations from 2003 through 2008 to be $100 billion. That's about 20 percent of all US funding for operations in Iraq.

Most of this money went for logistics support - food-service operation, fuel distribution, equipment maintenance, and procurement and property management.

Roughly $12 billion of the $100 billion total paid for private security contractors - the gun-toting guards of Blackwater and other paramilitary personnel providers.


Allen puts a polite spin on it, but Rick Warren significantly misled viewers on how much prep Obama and McCain got. It was clear simply from the speed and lack of reflection with which the candidates replied that they weren't surprised by the questions.

Mike Allen, Politico Playbook - So it turns out that Pastor Rick Warren, in an effort to increase the candidates' comfort level with his pioneering format, gave each of them a heads-up on several of the hardest questions he asked Saturday night during his "the Saddleback Civil Forum on the presidency."

A source close to Warren tells Playbook that the candidates knew in advance they would be asked their own greatest moral failure, America's greatest moral failure, and the three wisest people in their lives.

The source said Obama also knew he would be asked if he'd be willing to commit to an emergency plan for orphans, like President Bush has for AIDS. . .


Frank Rich, NY Times - As I went on vacation at the end of July, Barack Obama was leading John McCain by three to four percentage points in national polls. When I returned last week he still was. . .

So why isn't Obama romping? The obvious answer - and both the excessively genteel Obama campaign and a too-compliant press bear responsibility for it - is that the public doesn't know who on earth John McCain is. The most revealing poll this month by far is the Pew Research Center survey finding that 48 percent of Americans feel they're "hearing too much" about Obama. Pew found that only 26 percent feel that way about McCain, and that nearly 4 in 10 Americans feel they hear too little about him. It's past time for that pressing educational need to be met.

What is widely known is the skin-deep, out-of-date McCain image. As this fairy tale has it, the hero who survived the Hanoi Hilton has stood up as rebelliously in Washington as he did to his Vietnamese captors. He strenuously opposed the execution of the Iraq war; he slammed the president's response to Katrina; he fought the "agents of intolerance" of the religious right; he crusaded against the G.O.P. House leader Tom DeLay, the criminal lobbyist Jack Abramoff and their coterie of influence-peddlers.

With the exception of McCain's imprisonment in Vietnam, every aspect of this profile in courage is inaccurate or defunct.

McCain never called for Donald Rumsfeld to be fired and didn't start criticizing the war plan until late August 2003, nearly four months after "Mission Accomplished." By then the growing insurgency was undeniable. On the day Hurricane Katrina hit, McCain laughed it up with the oblivious president at a birthday photo-op in Arizona. McCain didn't get to New Orleans for another six months and didn't sharply express public criticism of the Bush response to the calamity until this April, when he traveled to the Gulf Coast in desperate search of election-year pageantry surrounding him with black extras.

McCain long ago embraced the right's agents of intolerance, even spending months courting the Rev. John Hagee, whose fringe views about Roman Catholics and the Holocaust were known to anyone who can use the Internet. . . McCain is scheduled to appear at an Atlanta fund-raiser being promoted by Ralph Reed, who is not only the former aide de camp to one of the agents of intolerance McCain once vilified (Pat Robertson) but is also the former Abramoff acolyte showcased in McCain's own Senate investigation of Indian casino lobbying.

Though the McCain campaign announced a new no-lobbyists policy three months after The Washington Post's February report that lobbyists were "essentially running" the whole operation, the fact remains that McCain's top officials and fund-raisers have past financial ties to nearly every domestic and foreign flashpoint, from Fannie Mae to Blackwater to Ahmad Chalabi to the government of Georgia. No sooner does McCain flip-flop on oil drilling than a bevy of Hess Oil family members and executives, not to mention a lowly Hess office manager and his wife, each give a maximum $28,500 to the Republican Party. . .

Most Americans still don't know, as [Josh] Marshall writes, that on the campaign trail "McCain frequently forgets key elements of policies, gets countries' names wrong, forgets things he's said only hours or days before and is frequently just confused." Most Americans still don't know it is precisely for this reason that the McCain campaign has now shut down the press's previously unfettered access to the candidate on the Straight Talk Express. . .


Sharon Jayson, USA Today - A comprehensive study of suicidal thinking among college students found more than half of the 26,000 surveyed had suicidal thoughts at some point during their lifetime. . . Of the 15,010 undergraduates, average age 22: 55% had ever thought of suicide; 18% seriously considered it; and 8% made an attempt. Among 11,441 graduate students, average age 30: Exactly half had such thoughts; 15% seriously considered it and 6% made an attempt. . .

Within the 12 months before answering the survey, 6% of undergraduates and 4% of graduate students reported seriously considering suicide. However, among those students who thought about it within the past year, an episode of suicidal thinking was typically brief. For both groups, more than half of these episodes lasted a day or less, with about one-third reporting such thoughts lasted an hour or less. Suicidal thinking is frequently recurring, though. The study also found that among those who thought about killing themselves within the past year, just under half of both groups told no one.


Guardian, UK - In the pantheon of people who succeed in bringing a little happiness into the world, songwriters rank very highly. . . Until recently, there were fears that the digital revolution - enabling free downloads from the internet - would produce a crisis for songwriters relying on small royalties from recorded public performances for their livelihoods. Happily, it is not so. Unlike record companies, they have adapted speedily to the realities of the web. According to figures published this month by the MCPS-PRS Alliance, a 9% drop in revenues from "physical" products, such as CDs and DVDs, has been more than offset by a 15% rise in income from internet sites and broadcasters following deals with websites such as iTunes, YouTube and Bebo. Revenue from bars and live performances was up 5.4%. If record companies had embraced the digital revolution instead of taking strong-arm tactics against some of their customers, they might have done better.



Leslie Cole, Oregonian - Welcome to the 57th Avenue Block Dinners, where earlier this summer five households hired a private chef to turn the potluck concept on its head. The families, some with young kids, some single or empty nesters, visit a different house each week, showing up with their appetites at 6 p.m. each Tuesday.

Kids are welcome. Entrekin, a blonde from Alabama with her favorite vegetables tattooed on her forearms, shops and cooks. And instead of chicken wings and seven-layer dip, these folks -- who mostly aren't vegan or even vegetarian -- fill their plates with the likes of quinoa, tahini and beets, and go back happily for more.

The price of this postmodern potluck meal: $25 a household or $15 an individual, plus grocery costs.

The Block Dinners started in June, when Gates and her husband, Eric Loebel, were looking for a way to offer more hours to Entrekin, the private chef they hired last year to cook for their family a few times a week. They asked friends on the block if they wanted to pitch in for a weekly gro


This is the most popular map to be submitted at Strange Maps. Here are some the regional difference of what the stuff in a can or bottle is called:

Coke: this generic term for soft drinks predominates throughout the South, New Mexico, central Indiana and in a few other single counties in Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. ‘

Pop dominates the Northwest, Great Plains and Midwest. The world ‘pop' was introduced by Robert Southey, the British Poet Laureate (1774-1843), to whom we also owe the word ‘autobiography', among others. In 1812, he wrote: "A new manufactory of a nectar, between soda-water and ginger-beer, and called pop, because ‘pop goes the cork' when it is drawn."

Soda: prevalent in the Northeast, greater Miami, the area in Missouri and Illinois surrounding St Louis and parts of northern California. ‘Soda' derives from ‘soda-water' (also called club soda, carbonated or sparkling water or seltzer). It's produced by dissolving carbon dioxide gas in plain water, a procedure developed by Joseph Priestly in the latter half of the 18th century. The fizziness of soda-water caused the term ‘soda' to be associated with later, similarly carbonated soft drinks.

Other, lesser-used terms include ‘dope' in the Carolinas and ‘tonic' in and around Boston, both fading in popularity. Other generic terms for soft drinks outside the US include ‘pop' (Canada), ‘mineral' (Ireland), ‘soft drink' (New Zealand and Australia). The term ‘soft drink', finally, arose to contrast said beverages with hard (i.e. alcoholic) drinks.



Rachel Maddow happily gets her own show on MSNBC beginning September 8. Weeknights at 9 pm Eastern.


Dean Baker, Prospect - There has been an enormous rise in wage inequality over the last three decades. Most economists attribute this increase in inequality to the increased premium that highly valued skills can command in a globalized economy. Fannie Mae (along with the rest of the financial sector) is working hard to prove these economists wrong. Daniel Mudd, the CEO of Fannie Mae, has earned tens of millions of dollars in this position over the last three years. In exchange for this extraordinary compensation, more than 1000 times what a minimum wage earner pulls down, Mr. Mudd pushed Fannie in bankruptcy. How many minimum wage earners could do that?


During his weekend interview with Rev. Rick Warren, Sen. John McCain said that if he were president he would have never nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, David Souter or John Paul Stevens to the Supreme Court. McCain wasn't a seNATOr when Stevens was nominated, but why did he nevertheless vote to confirm Ginsburg, Breyer, and Souter? It seems he was for them before he was against them.

The California State Senate has passed a bill that would establish a committee to figure out how electric cars could make more noise so they would be safer. The bill gives them only until 2010 to come up with an answer and we'll let you know if they find anything.

Ken Silvestein, Harpers - Mark Warner, who's running for Virginia's open seat to the U.S. Senate and will serve as the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, has received more than $206,000 from lobbyists since the beginning of the year, a Real Time Investigations analysis of recently released disclosure records show. That makes Warner the top recipient of money contributed directly by lobbyists to congressional campaigns in 2008. Overall, Warner, the former Virginia governor who is seeking the seat now held by retiring Republican Sen. John Warner, has raised $18 million since he announced his candidacy in September 2007, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Ballot Access - This year, the Socialist Party used an almost-forgotten method for getting its presidential candidate on the Iowa ballot. Iowa gives statewide minor party and independent candidates a choice of either submitting 1,500 signatures, or attracting 250 voters to a meeting. The latter method seems difficult, and as far as is known, no one had used it since 1968, when it only required 50 attendees. However, recently the Secretary of State ruled that the 250-person meeting requirement may be satisfied by holding a meeting at an outdoor location. The Socialist Party set up its meeting at an outdoor spot on the campus of the University of Iowa. That spot had lots of pedestrian traffic. Persons walking by were asked to sign, and that person was considered an attendee. . . By contrast, Oregon has a very rigid idea about such meetings. Oregon has a 1,000-person attendence alternative for statewide independent candidates, but all 1,000 voters must be in a room simultaneously, or the meeting is invalid.

The Libertarians, according to Ballot Access, are on the ballot in 38 states, the Constitution Party in 28, the Greens in 24 and Nader in 22.


Star Bulletin, HI - A native Hawaiian sovereignty group briefly took control of the grounds of Iolani Palace last night, leading to the arrest of at least 22 protesters. Palace officials closed the historic site "until further notice" to assess any possible damage. About 25 members of the Kingdom of Hawaii, Nation, with its self-proclaimed king Akahi Nui, began locking the gates at about 5:30 p.m. One palace employee was allegedly assaulted at the palace gates. The takeover occurred on the Statehood Day holiday, which commemorates Hawaii becoming a state. It was the second time since late April that a Hawaiian sovereignty group took over the grounds of the historic site. . . "The king of Hawaii has returned to his throne, and the state of Hawaii is under a state of arrest by a federal marshal to ensure the interests of the USA," said a written statement handed out to the media.

Eavesdrop DC - Overheard in the atrium at the HQ of one of the national intelligence agencies. . . Young woman to her female buddy. . . "It just wasn't meant to be. He refused to self-actualize me."


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.


Is it really relevant to use Radiohead - one of the most successfull bands of our time - as an example of how musicians don't lose out through illegal downloads? Recent figures from the European Commission revealed that 80% of musicians in the UK will earn less than L5k this year, if we want them to keep making music for us to enjoy it is important that they are compensated for their work. This does not necessarily mean the consumer has to pay and it is clear that many consumers welcome legal download services when they know where to go. At We7 we pay artists for their music with advertiser's money. In return the advertiser gets effective targeted advertising - everyone is happy. - Steve Purdham, CEO We7

Musicians don't make less than 5k because of illegal downloads. They make less than 5k because the contracts forced on them by music publishers are unconscionable acts of piracy.


The concept of agnosticism has gone through some odd changes. The original, and in my opinion the only, definition has gotten lost. It does not refer to a state of doubt about whether or not god exists. An agnostic is one who sees that it is not possible to prove either the existence or non-existence of one or more gods and/or goddesses making the question itself meaningless.


Ted Kennedy is Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Has been for years. You can try to contact him to see if he might someday hold hearings on pension problems, which is his responsibility, but I wouldn't hold your breath. He's the son of a multi-millionaire and doesn't really understand what it means to have to pay your bills.


One of the biggest (and most quickly swept under the rug by the media) ancillary revelations to come out of the Watergate scandal was the fact that corporations donate heavily and illegally to both parties, and that tidbit of news came our way something like 35 years ago. In the total absence of anything resembling responsible reform or regulation by either Republicans or Dems, of course this mess would only worsen. I sometimes think that's the major reason no real change can ever take place in this country--the public has a collective memory span of about three days, maybe less, and so the revelations of governmental corruption and malfeasance come to their attention every morning as something totally new under the sun.

The fact that candidates have abandoned their principles before does not make John McCain a good choice foe president and does not make Barack Obama any less of an ambitious whore. If you care at all about the issues you claim you're concerned with, you should consider Ralph Nader. - Bleeding Heart

Quite possibly Ivins was innocent
. FBI has a long record of outright criminality, incompetence. They intimidated Steven Hatfill shamelessly. His lawyer says they followed him everywhere, leaked his medical report to the compliant press, abused him at every opportunity in front of everyone. If Hatfill committed suicide, and it is possible FBI harassed him precisely with that goal in mind, we would have definitely heard it was Hatfill who did it - committing suicide because law was catching up with him. So many strong willed people break down in such situations. - Ajit

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