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Undernews For September 3, 2008

Undernews For September 3, 2008

Washington's Most Unofficial Source
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Editor: Sam Smith

3 SEP 2008



Los Angeles Times - This month, Ecuador will hold the world's first constitutional referendum in which voters will decide, among many other reforms, whether to endow nature with certain unalienable rights. Not only would the new constitution give nature the right to "exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution," but if it is approved, communities, elected officials and even individuals would have legal standing to defend the rights of nature. . .

The movement to give nature legal rights didn't start in Ecuador's Amazon forest or its Galapagos Islands -- it started years ago in the United States, in cities and towns seeking to fight off coal mines, incinerators and factory farms. Aided by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund in Pennsylvania, about a dozen municipalities have abandoned the old-fashioned way of halting development -- through the appeals process -- and are placing outright bans on environmentally disruptive activities.

For example, in Pennsylvania, Southampton prohibits corporate ownership of farms, and Wayne passed an ordinance that gives the town the power to keep out corporations with criminal histories. . . Ecuadorean officials called the group when they were crafting the new constitution, and now it's fielding calls from Australia, Italy, South Africa and Nepal, which is writing its first constitution.

No other country has gone as far as Ecuador in proposing to give trees their day in court, but it certainly is not alone in its recalibration of natural rights. Religious leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop of Constantinople, have declared that caring for the environment is a spiritual duty. And earlier this year, the Catholic Church updated its list of deadly sins to include polluting the environment.


ALEXANDER BURNS, POLITICO - Since John McCain announced that first-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin would be his running mate, Democrats have been quick to point out that the 44-year-old governor could soon be just "a heartbeat away from the presidency." The veiled reference to McCain’s advanced age is hard to miss.

It’s a macabre point to raise on the night when Palin will speak to the convention here - but a look at the actuarial tables insurance companies use to evaluate customers shows that it’s not an irrelevant one. According to these statistics, there is a roughly 1 in 3 chance that a 72-year-old man will not reach the age of 80, which is how old McCain would be at the end of a second presidential term. And that doesn’t factor in individual medical history, such as McCain’s battles with potentially lethal skin cancer. . .

The odds of a 72-year-old man living four more years, or one full White House term, are better. But for a man who has lived 72 years and 67 days (McCain’s age on Election Day this year), there is between a 14.2 and 15.1 percent chance of dying before Inauguration Day 2013, according to the Social Security Administration’s 2004 actuarial tables and the authoritative 2001 mortality statistics assembled by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Going by the Social Security Administration’s tables, that’s nearly ten times the likelihood that a man aged 47 years and 92 days (Barack Obama’s age on Election Day this year) will die before Jan. 20, 2013.

Using the NAIC tables instead, which factor in the fact that Obama has been a smoker for most of his adult life, a non-smoker McCain’s age is still six times as likely to die in the next four years as a smoker Obama’s age.. . .

Actuaries are quick to point out that mortality statistics describe broad population trends. They insist the models can’t necessarily be applied to individual people. . .

McCain has acknowledged in the past that his advanced age would be a factor in the presidential campaign, particularly when it came to choosing a running mate.

In April, the Arizona senator told radio host Don Imus: "I’m aware of [the] enhanced importance of this issue given my age."


William Yardley, NY Times - The traditional turning points that had decided municipal elections in this town of less than 7,000 people - Should we pave the dirt roads? Put in sewers? Which candidate is your hunting buddy? - seemed all but obsolete the year Ms. Palin, then 32, challenged the three-term incumbent, John C. Stein.

Anti-abortion fliers circulated. Ms. Palin played up her church work and her membership in the National Rifle Association. The state Republican Party, never involved before because city elections are nonpartisan, ran advertisements on Ms. Palin’s behalf. . .

"Sarah comes in with all this ideological stuff, and I was like, ‘Whoa,’ " said Mr. Stein, who lost the election. "But that got her elected: abortion, gun rights, term limits and the religious born-again thing. I’m not a churchgoing guy, and that was another issue: ‘We will have our first Christian mayor.’ "

"I thought: ‘Holy cow, what’s happening here? Does that mean she thinks I’m Jewish or Islamic?’ " recalled Mr. Stein, who was raised Lutheran, and later went to work as the administrator for the city of Sitka in southeast Alaska. "The point was that she was a born-again Christian."


Washington Post Editorial - In some areas, especially and not surprisingly on foreign policy, what the Alaska governor and surprise Republican vice presidential pick believes is a mystery. "I've been so focused on state government, I haven't really focused much on the war in Iraq," Ms. Palin told Alaska Business Monthly in March 2007. "I heard on the news about the new deployments, and while I support our president, Condoleezza Rice and the administration, I want to know that we have an exit plan."

In some areas of domestic policy, where her views are better known, Ms. Palin has staked out more conservative positions than has Sen. John McCain. For instance, whereas Mr. McCain would allow exceptions to a ban on abortion in cases of rape or incest, Ms. Palin opposes any exception other than to save the life of the mother. If her daughter were raped, she said in a 2006 debate, "I would choose life."

Ms. Palin opposed putting polar bears on the endangered species list; Mr. McCain supports doing so. She would drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; Mr. McCain has opposed opening that area. Similarly, while she acknowledges the impact of global warming on Alaska and has appointed a commission to examine the issue, Ms. Palin has expressed skepticism about whether fossil fuels cause climate change. . .

Ms. Palin supported a ballot measure denying benefits to same-sex couples. "I believe that honoring the family structure is that important," she said. She supports teaching creationism in schools. ". . . Ms. Palin has said both that she supports government-funded vouchers to allow students to attend private or religious schools and that offering vouchers "is unconstitutional, it is as simple as that."


Talkng Points Memo - The founder of the Alaska Independence Party -- a group that has been courted over the years by Sarah Palin, and one her husband was a member of for roughly seven years -- once professed his "hatred for the American government" and cursed the American flag as a "damn flag."

The AIP founder, Joe Vogler, made the comments in 1991, in an interview that's now housed at the Oral History Program in the Rasmuson Library at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

"The fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred for the American government," Vogler said in the interview, in which he talked extensively about his desire for Alaskan secession, the key goal of the AIP.

"And I won't be buried under their damn flag," Vogler continued in the interview, which also touched on his disappointment with the American judicial system. "I'll be buried in Dawson. And when Alaska is an independent nation they can bring my bones home."

At another point, Volger advocated renouncing allegiance to the United States. In the course of denouncing Federal regulation over land, he said:

"And then you get mad. And you say, the hell with them. And you renounce allegiance, and you pledge your efforts, your effects, your honor, your life to Alaska."


From Alternet

Palin supports gunning down wolves from planes. . .

Palin doesn't believe global warming is man-made. . . According to the Washington Post, "Sarah Palin told voters there she wasn't sure climate change wasn't simply part of a natural warming cycle." Palin told the conservative Web site NewsMax, "I'm not one . . . who would attribute it to being man-made."

Palin staunchly opposes abortion, even in cases of rape and incest

Palin is under investigation for allegedly abusing her power as governor to help her sister in a messy divorce

A so-called political reformer, Palin has big money ties to Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, who has been indicted for political corruption

During her time as mayor, Palin drove a town deep into debt

Palin Tried to Ban Books From Local Library. . . Time reports that as mayor Palin asked the town librarian how to go about banning books from the local library. News reports from the time show that the librarian, who, strangely enough, was opposed to a tactic commonly employed by totalitarian regimes, had her job threatened for not giving her "full support" to the mayor.

Palin Apparently Doesn't Put 'Country First' . . . Officials of the Alaskan Independence Party say that Palin was once so independent she was once a member of their party, which since the 1970s has been pushing for a legal vote for Alaskans to decide whether or not residents of the 49th state can secede from the United States. And while McCain's motto -- as seen in a new TV ad -- is "Country First," the AIP's motto is the exact opposite -- "Alaska First - Alaska Always."

McCain, when introducing Palin on Friday in Ohio, praised her as a champion for "reform to end the abuses of earmark spending." . . Under her leadership, the state of Alaska has requested 31 earmarks worth $197.8 million in next year's federal budget …

From the age of 12 and for most of her adult life, Sarah Palin attended the Wasilla Assembly of God. . . The Huffington Post writes that the Church's preacher Ed Kalinins "preached that critics of President Bush will be banished to hell; questioned whether people who voted for Sen. John Kerry in 2004 would be accepted to heaven; charged that the 9/11 terrorist attacks and war in Iraq were part of a war 'contending for your faith;' and said that Jesus 'operated from that position of war mode.' [Said Kilinins], "What you see in Iraq, basically, is a manifestation of what's going on in this unseen world called the spirit world. … We need to think like Jesus thinks. . . Jesus called us to die. You're worried about getting hurt? He's called us to die."

In an address to the church three months ago, Palin also used disconcertingly religious language to frame the conflict in Iraq: "Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right. Also, for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending [U.S. soldiers] out on a task that is from God," she exhorted the congregants. "That's what we have to make sure that we're praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God's plan."


Paul Kane, Washington Post - Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee who revealed that her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant, earlier this year used her line-item veto to slash funding for a state program benefiting teen mothers in need of a place to live. . . Palin reduced funding for Covenant House Alaska by more than 20 percent, cutting funds from $5 million to $3.9 million. Covenant House is a mix of programs and shelters for troubled youths, including Passage House, which is a transitional home for teenage mothers. According to Passage House's web site, its purpose is to provide "young mothers a place to live with their babies for up to eighteen months while they gain the necessary skills and resources to change their lives" and help teen moms "become productive, successful, independent adults who create and provide a stable environment for themselves and their families.". . . Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, opposed funding to prevent teen pregnancies, a position that Palin also took as governor.


Matthew Mosk, Washington Post -- In addition to being a mayor and raising four children, Sarah Palin found time for another venture in her Wasilla years -- she was part-owner of an Anchorage car wash. Palin and husband Todd each held a 20 percent stake in Anchorage Car Wash LLC, according to state corporation records filed in 2004.

A review of Palin's gubernatorial disclosure filings indicates that she failed to report her stake in the company on the form that requires candidates for governor to disclose any interest in a non-publicly traded company. . .

A Feb. 11, 2007 letter to the governor's business partner advises that the car wash had "not filed its biennial report and/or paid its biennial fees," which were more than a year overdue. The warning letter was written on state letterhead, which carried Palin's name at the top, next to the state seal.

On April 3, 2007, the state went further and issued a "certificate of involuntary dissolution" because of the car wash's failure to file its report and pay state licensing fees.


Wired - The Earth may be in the midst of the greatest extinction ever, according to a new mass extinction scoring system. "The current extinction resembles none of the earlier ones, and may end up being the greatest of all," write Istanbul Technical University researchers A. M. Celal Sengor, Saniye Atayman and Sinan Ozeren.

Their system, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, attempts to quantify those periods when more than half of all species disappeared. In addition to the current mass extinction, this has happened at least five times: the End Ordovician, Late Devonian, End Permian, End Triassic and End Cretaceous. The latter -- marking the end of the Age of Dinosaurs -- receives the most attention, but scientists have been unable to decide which extinction was most significant.

That debate may finally be settled, though the answer is unsettling.

"If unchecked, the current extinction threatens to be the greatest killer of all time," write the researchers. . .

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature estimates that 800 plant and animal species have gone extinct in the last 500 years, with more than 16,000 currently threatened with extinction -- and those lost or threatened organisms come the from mere 41,000 species so far assessed by science. More than a million have been described but remain unstudied.

The most troubling figures, however, come not from the total species lost but the rate at which they're vanishing: 1,000 times faster than usual. But even that alarming rate may be too conservative. According to a paper recently published in Nature, modeling errors led scientists to grossly underestimate the survival chances of threatened species.


Wired - States and cities, struggling with gargantuan budget deficits, are increasingly selling or leasing vital transportation infrastructure to private companies. . .

One of the biggest proposed deals is a plan to lease the 537-mile Pennsylvania Turnpike, the nation's oldest major toll road, to a private investment group that includes Citigroup and the Spanish firm Abertis. The legislature votes on the deal next month; if it goes through, Abertis will pay $12.8 billion to run the turnpike for 75 years. That's a big chunk of change.

If last year's bridge collapse in Minneapolis made one thing clear, it's our infrastructure is a mess. The American Society of Civil Engineers says it will cost $1.6 trillion to get things shipshape again. With many states grappling with growing budget deficits, no one expects to see the problem tackled anytime soon. Turning over our infrastructure to the free markets may be the best way to save it, and the Department of Transportation under President Bush has made no secret of its interest in doing just that. . .

But plenty of people don't see it that way. Labor unions worry private ownership of public infrastructure puts their contracts at risk, and a large percentage of people think anything built with their tax dollars should stay in public hands. It doesn't help that a lot of the companies striking these lucrative deals are foreign. The Dubai Ports fiasco showed how well that goes over with the public.

The Penn Turnpike deal has garnered a lo t of headlines, but it's one of many such deals. In 2005, a consortium of companies including Australia's Macquarie Infrastructure Group and Spain's Cintra paid $1.8 billion to operate the Chicago Skyway bridge, and Abertis took over the Orlando airport a year later. Like it or not, these deals have delivered results. The Skyway has fewer potholes, high-speed electronic toll collection and reversible lanes to improve traffic flow. Abertis has invested $70 million in the Orlando airport.


Coldsnap Logal Collective - In an outrageous series of state-sanctioned actions, police raided an activist convergence space and several homes in the past 24 hours, detaining multiple people on extraordinarily flimsy pretences, arresting several, confiscating computers and laptops, and even handcuffing a small child.

At least five separate raids have been reported throughout the Twin Cities, with the primary focus appearing to be the confiscation of computers and personal affects.

"These actions are clearly intended to have a chilling effect on dissent prior to the launch of the Republican National Convention," said Natalia, a local activist and mother of two, who asked that her surname be withheld. "The message being conveyed is: 'If need be, we will terrorize your children to dissuade you from voicing your opinion.'"

- Last night, police raided an activist meeting location. All occupants, including a five year old child, were detained, handcuffed, and photographed. Computers were removed from the space, and some personal property (like notebooks) were seized;

- A private residence on 17th St. was raided this morning and had its door kicked in. The same five year old child was again terrorized by armed law enforcement. The police continue to threaten to board up the house unless minor code violations (like a broken door) are remedied;

- A private residence in St. Paul, occupied by local residents and out-of-town journalists, was raided on the basis of an identical search warrant to the one presented last night at the Convergence Space (it specified "bomb-making materials," though nothing of the sort was apparently seized);

- A private residence on Harriet Ave. was raided and has been threatened with being boarding up. Other similar actions are being reported, but fuller details are not yet available.

It is evident from all reports that there was no real concern about "bomb-making materials" or anything similar. On the contrary, these actions were taken to suppress dissent and detain activists.

SF Chronicle - "Certainly there were troublemakers and they deserved to be arrested," said Teresa Nelson, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union-Minnesota. "But we're very troubled that the police were using heavy-handed tactics. We heard reports from people who were listening to music in the park and who were surrounded and detained." Nelson's organization will be in court today to try to regain some of the material seized in the raids. "That is constitutionally protected material," she said.

Editor & Publisher - At least four journalists were among those detained, including Associated Press photographer Matt Rourke and Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now!, a nationally syndicated public radio and TV news program. Goodman was intervening on behalf of two producers for her program, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, when she was arrested, said Mike Burke, another producer.


Independent, UK - At a conference in the Thai city of Chiang Mai, 100 entomologists and biologists discussed the plight of the firefly, which – anecdotal evidence suggests – is disappearing from habitats as diverse as gardens in Tennessee and river-banks in southeast Asia.
In Bam Lomtuan, for instance, an hour outside Bangkok, the insects were once a tourist attraction, with thousands setting the banks of the Mae Klong River aglow with natural illumination.

Preecha Jiabyu, who used to row tourists out to see them, said that nowadays only the lights of hotels, restaurants and roads were visible. To see trees lit with the creatures so abundant in his youth, he had to row two miles out of town. . .

Researchers in Europe and the US believe urban sprawl and industrial pollution have destroyed the habitat of fireflies or glow worms. The spread of artificial lights may also be a factor, disrupting mating behaviour.

"It is clear they are declining," said Stefan Ineichen, a delegate at last week's symposium. Mr Ineichen, who studies fireflies in Switzerland, said: "When you talk to old people about fireflies, it is always the same. They saw so many when they were young, now they are lucky to see one."


Telegraph, UK - Sarah Palin's record in office is facing increasing scrutiny after it emerged that she misled Republican supporters when she was presented to the nation as Senator John McCain's running mate.

Mrs Palin told a cheering audience in Ohio that she had turned down an offer from the US Congress to build the so-called "Bridge to Nowhere", which would have connected Gravina Island with Ketchikan International, an airport in Alaska's southeast serving just 200,000 passengers a year. Mr McCain routinely cites the project as a symbol of wasteful central government spending.

As she introduced herself to Republicans and the American public on Friday, the virtually unknown Mrs Palin said: "I championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. In fact, I told Congress ... 'thanks, but no thanks' on that bridge to nowhere. If our state wanted a bridge, I said we'd build it ourselves."

However it emerged that in a 2006 interview with the Anchorage Daily News during her gubernatorial campaign, Mrs Palin had a different view of the bridge.

Asked "would you continue state funding for the proposed Knik Arm and Gravina Island bridges?" she replied: "Yes. I would like to see Alaska's infrastructure projects built sooner rather than later. The window is now - while our congressional delegation is in a strong position to assist."

When Congressional funding was withdrawn because of an uproar in Washington about the expense of the project, she cancelled it, but in a regretful tone.

"Despite the work of our congressional delegation, we are about $329 million short of full funding for the bridge project, and it's clear that Congress has little interest in spending any more money on a bridge between Ketchikan and Gravina Island."


NY Times - As 50 million children return to classes across the nation, crippling increases in the price of fuel and food, coupled with the economic downturn, have left schools from California to Florida to Maine cutting costs. Some are trimming bus service, others are restricting travel, and a few are shortening the school week. And as many districts are forced to cut back, the number of poor and homeless students is rising.

"The big national picture is that food and fuel costs are going up and school revenues are not," said Anne L. Bryant, executive director of the National School Boards Association. "We're in a recession, and it's having a dramatic impact on schools.". . .

Detroit has laid off at least 700 teachers, Los Angeles 500 administrators and Miami-Dade County hundreds of school psychologists, maintenance workers and custodians.

Schools in many states have cut bus stops to save diesel. Districts in California and Ohio have gone further and eliminated bus service either completely or for high schools, leaving thousands of students to find their own way to school.

In Maine, officials worried about the cost of heating their classrooms this winter have restricted travel for field trips to save money. Districts in Louisiana, Minnesota and elsewhere have taken a more radical measure and adopted four-day school weeks. Hundreds of districts, responding to higher food prices, are charging more for cafeteria meals.

In interviews, educators in many states said they were seeing more needy families than at any time in memory.


Evansville Courier Press - Bankruptcy is becoming more common among the elderly, according to a report written by the Consumer Bankruptcy Project. Robert Musgrave, the Chapter 13 trustee of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Southern Indiana, said he doesn't have to look at a report to know that is the case. . . Musgrave often sees two sets of circumstances that force the elderly into bankruptcy. Many people retire from a job with loans - on credit cards or in mortgages - even though they hadn't planned to be in debt at that point in their life. While making payments was fairly easy when they still worked, it suddenly becomes difficult on a reduced income. tendency to get a new mortgage or a second mortgage late in life also seems to be adding to the troubles. . .
According to the Consumer Bankruptcy Project, most bankruptcies are still filed by young people. Still, their percentage of the total filings has fallen between 1991 and 2007, the organization said in its study, which will be published in the Harvard Law and Policy Review in January.

In 1991, those who were 55 or older accounted for about 8 percent of bankruptcy filers. In 2007, they accounted for 22 percent. And the filing rate of those between the ages of 65 and 74 rose by 125 percent. For those between 75 and 84, it rose by 433 percent. Meanwhile groups younger than 55 saw their bankruptcy filings decrease by double digits.


Mark A. LeVine, History News Network - Lost in the international uproar over Russia's Olympic-eve invasion and occupation of Georgia and now the political and meteorological storms sweeping across the United States is a seismic shift in the dynamics of another conflict, one which offers a similarly vexing challenge to the core policy goals of the United States, Europe and many Middle Eastern governments to that posed by a newly belligerent Russia.

Largely unreported in the American and Western media, on August 10, two days after the start of both the Russian invasion and the Olympics, Palestinian lead negotiator Ahmed Qurie declared that if the peace process did not advance towards a final settlement soon, Palestinians would stop pursuing a two-state solution and demand the establishment of a bi-national state with Israel.

As Qurie, better known as Abu Alaa', explained it, "The Palestinian leadership has been working on establishing a Palestinian state within the '67 borders... If Israel continues to oppose making this a reality, then the Palestinian demand for the Palestinian people and its leadership (would be) one state, a bi-national state."

Less than two weeks earlier, PA President Mahmoud Abbas similarly argued that he might dissolve the PA and demand a bi-national state if progress was not made soon. . .

Today the mere possibility of a bi-national solution so frightens Israel's leaders that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert equated it with apartheid, warning that if the two-state process failed, Israel would "face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, and as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished."

The reason Israel would be "finished" is clear: Given the current state of relations between Jews and Palestinians it is difficult to envision Jews maintaining control over the territory, holy places, military, economy, and immigration of Israel/Palestine in a bi-national state, especially after the demographic balance shifts in favor of Palestinians, as many experts believe it is close to doing.

In such a situation Israel as a Jewish state would either "vanish from the pages of time," as Iranian President Ahmedinejad has infamously advocated, or an all-out civil war would erupt that would likely result in the exile of the vast majority of Palestinians from both Israel and the Occupied Territories. . .

A generation ago, Israeli geographer Meron Benvenisti argued in his 1987 West Bank Data Base Project that by the mid-1980s the Occupied Territories had become so integrated into Israel that it was no longer possible to separate them. By the time Palestinians and Israelis were ready to negotiate a "divorce" in the early 1990s it was too late to do so. . .

With Palestinians wielding bi-nationalism as a threat and Israelis imagining it as a curse, it's not surprising that the idea still has relatively few supporters. But what if a bi-national state was reimagined as a positive development, one that allows for the greatest possible realization of both Jewish and Palestinian aspirations? Indeed, the idea had this connotation for progressive Zionists such as the Brit Shalom movement during the pre-1948 period, and an increasing number of Israeli academics and activists are giving the idea a second look today.

Even Theodor Herzl, in Zionism's ur-text, Altneuland (Old-New Land), describes the future Jewish state as one where Jews and Palestinians have equal rights and responsibilities in the civic and economic life of the country.

Of course, Herzl also imagined "spiriting" Palestinians "across the border" to ensure the creation of a Jewish state. And it is precisely such paradoxical sentiments towards Palestinians - wanting to live with them as good neighbors and wanting to get rid of them in order to ensure unfettered possession of the land - that has defined the serpentine trajectory of Zionism during the last century.
Today it seems we are back to Herzl's Old-New Land, with no one sure which path will lead to a peaceful future.


Guardian, UK - Concerns over the destruction of the Brazilian rainforest resurfaced at the weekend after it emerged that deforestation jumped by 64% over the last 12 months, according to official government data.

Brazil's National Institute for Space Research this week said that around 3,145 square miles - an area half the size of Wales - were razed between August 2007 and August 2008.

With commodity prices hitting recent highs and loggers and soy farmers pushing ever further into the Amazon jungle, satellite images captured by a real-time monitoring system, known in Brazil as Deter, showed that deforestation was once again on the rise after three years on the wane.

The figures launched the controversy over how best to preserve the Amazon rainforest onto the front pages of Brazilian newspapers, and triggered a war of words between environmental campaigners and members of the government who claim that their struggle to protect the rainforest is not being given sufficient recognition. . .

Environmental campaigners fear that Brazil's push to expand its economy and develop the Amazon region is posing increasing threats to Brazil's natural resources. They accuse the government of retreating from its promises to defend the Amazon rainforest, which has been decimated since the 1970s by a mixture of logging, cattle ranching and soy farming.

"The president [Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva] said there would be no steps backwards," the former environment minister Marina Silva said in an interview published yesterday in the O Globo newspaper. "But suddenly there is a conjuncture of things that go against everything that was being done."


Ken Silverstein and Sebastian Jones, Harpers - During the 2008 campaign the beliefs of various candidates' pastors has attracted a great deal of attention, especially the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, as well as John Hagee, who endorsed John McCain. So now seems a good time to examine the viewpoints of Sarah Palin's two most recent pastors, as expressed in their sermons.

Since becoming governor in 2006, Palin has attended the Juneau Christian Center, where Mike Rose serves as senior pastor. Her previous pastor was David Pepper of the Church on the Rock in Palin's hometown of Wasilla - a church that "was kind of a foundation for her.". . .

Mike Rose, senior pastor at Juneau Christian Center

From a April 27, 2008 sermon: "If you really want to know where you came from and happen to believe the word of God that you are not a descendant of a chimpanzee, this is what the word of God says. I believe this version."

From a July 8, 2007 sermon: "Those that die without Christ have a horrible, horrible surprise."

From a July 28, 2007 sermon: "Do you believe we're in the last days? After listening to Newt Gingrich and the Prime Minister of Israel and a number of others at our gathering, I became convinced and I have been convinced for some time. We are living in the last days. These are incredible times to live in."

David Pepper, senior pastor at Church on the Rock:

From an November 25, 2007 sermon: "The purpose for the United States is… to glorify God. This nation is a Christian nation."

From a October 28, 2007 sermon: "God will not be mocked. I don't care what the ACLU says. God will not be mocked. I don't care what atheists say. God will not be mocked. I don't care what's going on in the nation today with so much horrific rebellion and sin and things that take place. God will not be mocked. Judgment day is coming. Where do you stand?"

From a October 28, 2007 sermon: "Just giving in a little bit is a disastrous thing…You can't serve both man and God. It is one or the other."


Glenn Greenwald, Salon - Protesters here in Minneapolis have been targeted by a series of highly intimidating, sweeping police raids across the city, involving teams of 25-30 officers in riot gear, with semi-automatic weapons drawn, entering homes of those suspected of planning protests, handcuffing and forcing them to lay on the floor, while law enforcement officers searched the homes, seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets.

Jane Hamsher and I were at two of those homes this morning -- one which had just been raided and one which was in the process of being raided. Each of the raided houses is known by neighbors as a "hippie house," where 5-10 college-aged individuals live in a communal setting, and everyone we spoke with said that there had never been any problems of any kind in those houses, that they were filled with "peaceful kids" who are politically active but entirely unthreatening and friendly. . .

In the house that had just been raided, those inside described how a team of roughly 25 officers had barged into their homes with masks and black swat gear, holding large semi-automatic rifles, and ordered them to lie on the floor, where they were handcuffed and ordered not to move. The officers refused to state why they were there and, until the very end, refused to show whether they had a search warrant. They were forced to remain on the floor for 45 minutes while the officers took away the laptops, computers, individual journals, and political materials kept in the house. . .

Several of those who were arrested are being represented by Bruce Nestor, the President of the Minnesota chapter of the National Lawyers' Guild. Nestor said that last night's raid involved a meeting of a group calling itself the "RNC Welcoming Committee", and that this morning's raids appeared to target members of "Food Not Bombs," which he described as an anti-war, anti-authoritarian protest group. There was not a single act of violence or illegality that has taken place, Nestor said. Instead, the raids were purely anticipatory in nature, and clearly designed to frighten people contemplating taking part in any unauthorized protests.

Nestor indicated that only 2 or 3 of the 50 individuals who were handcuffed this morning at the 2 houses were actually arrested and charged with a crime, and the crime they were charged with is "conspiracy to commit riot." Nestor, who has practiced law in Minnesota for many years, said that he had never before heard of that statute being used for anything, and that its parameters are so self-evidently vague, designed to allow preemptive arrests of those who are peacefully protesting, that it is almost certainly unconstitutional, though because it had never been invoked (until now), its constitutionality had not been tested.

There is clearly an intent on the part of law enforcement authorities here to engage in extreme and highly intimidating raids against those who are planning to protest the Convention. The DNC in Denver was the site of several quite ugly incidents where law enforcement acted on behalf of Democratic Party officials and the corporate elite that funded the Convention to keep the media and protesters from doing anything remotely off-script. But the massive and plainly excessive preemptive police raids in Minnesota are of a different order altogether. Targeting people with automatic-weapons-carrying SWAT teams and mass raids in their homes, who are suspected of nothing more than planning dissident political protests at a political convention and who have engaged in no illegal activity whatsoever, is about as redolent of the worst tactics of a police state as can be imagined.



Democracy Now host Amy Goodman was unlawfully arrested in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota at approximately 5 p.m. local time.

Goodman was arrested while attempting to free two Democracy Now! producers who were being unlawfully detained. They are Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. Kouddous and Salazar were arrested while they carried out their journalistic duties in covering street demonstrations at the Republican National Convention. Goodman's crime appears to have been defending her colleagues and the freedom of the press.

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher told Democracy Now! that Kouddous and Salazar were being arrested on suspicion of rioting. They are currently being held at the Ramsey County jail in St. Paul.

Democracy Now! is calling on all journalists and concerned citizens to call the office of Mayor Chris Coleman and the Ramsey County Jail and demand the immediate release of Goodman, Kouddous and Salazar. These calls can be directed to: Chris Rider from Mayor Coleman's office at 651-266-8535 and the Ramsey County Jail at 651-266-9350 (press extension 0).


Blaine Harden, Washington Post - The number of cyclists has doubled in a decade in cities as disparate as Berlin and Bogota. Global bicycle production has increased for six consecutive years, according to a report by the Earth Policy Institute. . .

Yet when it comes to using a bike for everyday transportation, the boom appears to have bypassed many countries. While Northern Europe and Japan have figured out how to make bicycle commuting a safe, cheap alternative to driving, the United States, Canada, Australia and Britain have not. And the world's two most populous nations, China and India, are discarding bicycles in favor of cars. A rising middle class in both countries views cycling as an unhappy reminder of the recent past, when nearly everyone was poor. . .

Commuters in Northern Europe have been lured out of their cars by bike lanes, secure bike parking and easy access to mass transportation. At the same time, steep automobile taxes, congestion-zone fees and go-slow rules have made inner-city driving a costly pain in the neck. In the Netherlands, where such carrot-and-stick policies have been in place for decades, 27 percent of all trips are by bike. . .

Although millions of Americans recreate on bikes, they ride them for just 0.4 percent of their trips to work, according to the U.S. Census.

Germans are 10 times more likely than Americans to ride a bike and three times less likely to get hurt while doing so. On any given workday, more commuters park their bikes at train and subway stations in Tokyo (704,000) than cycle to work in the entire United States (535,000), according to the Tokyo government and the U.S. Census.


Ralph Nader - Biden will have a tough time when people find out that as MBNA's man in the Senate--MBNA has been his biggest financial backer, after contributing $214,000 over his career--he was the long-time champion and key architect of, in the words of Chair of the Senate Banking Committee, Senator Chris Dodd, "one of the "worst bills ever," the anti-consumer bankruptcy law, which helped pave the way for the present foreclosure crisis by shifting the risk for engaging in predatory lending practices from predatory lenders to hapless borrowers. . He was the one who worked through two presidential administrations to ram this legislation through, first with President Clinton who had the good sense to veto it, and then President Bush who had the moral bankruptcy to sign it.



Times, UK - Russia is planning to send members of its security forces to train their counterparts in Afghanistan for the first time since the Soviet Union withdrew from the country in 1989, The Times has learnt. At a meeting with President Karzai in Tajikistan last week President Medvedev offered to send 225 Russian police officers to help to train the Afghan National Police, according to Afghan officials. Mr Karzai, who met the Russian leader at a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, accepted his offer and the details are being discussed, the officials said. . . The number may be tiny compared with the 70,000 or so troops from Nato, the US and its allies now deployed in Afghanistan, some of whom are already training the ANP, but the agreement highlights Russia's determination to reassert its influence in Central Asia, the Caucasus and other regions that it sees as lying within its strategic "sphere of influence".


SF Chronicle - Thousands of people from throughout the Bay Area converged on San Francisco's streets Sunday, but they weren't protesting anything. Instead, people of all ages rode bicycles and scooters and jogged and strolled on 4.5 miles of waterfront streets closed to car traffic for the city's first Sunday Streets event.. . . Mayor Gavin Newsom first proposed the street closures in July, modeling it after a program in Bogota, Colombia. Other cities across the world and in the United States have similar street closures. Newsom took criticism for not taking enough time to talk with merchants and neighborhoods that would be affected. The complaints persuaded city officials to shorten the length of the street closures and cut the time that cars would be banned.


Physorg - Writing in the journal Nature Geoscience, a team of researchers led by University of Wisconsin-Madison geologist Anders Carlson reports that sea level rise from greenhouse-induced warming of the Greenland ice sheet could be double or triple current estimates over the next century. . . The most recent estimates of sea level rise due to melting of the Greenland ice sheet by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggest a maximum sea level rise during the next 100 years of about 1 to 4 inches. That estimate, Carlson and his colleagues note, is based on limited data, mostly from the last decade, and contrasts sharply with results from computer models of future climate, casting doubt on current estimates of change in sea level due to melting ice sheets. According to the new study, rising sea levels up to a third of an inch per year or 1 to 2 feet over the course of a century are possible.


Wired - Perhaps the most startling call for forces [for New Orleans] comes from Blackwater, the controversial private security contractor. The firm -- which patrolled New Orleans after Katrina -- is "compiling a list of qualified security personnel for possible deployment into areas affected by Hurricane Gustav," according to an e-mail obtained by R.J. Hillhouse. They're looking for current sworn law enforcement officers, with "arrest powers" and "armed status (must indicate Armed and/or Semi Auto. Revolver only not accepted)." The firm is also looking for "current/active/licensed/registered armed security officer[s]," but "only from the following states: OR, WA, CA, NV, NM, AZ, TX, FL, GA, SC, NC, VA, MD, IL, OK." Applicants "must be US citizens," the e-mail notes. "Contract length is TBD."


Toronto Star
- The Green Party has wooed Independent MP Blair Wilson to its ranks, giving the party its first politician in the House of Commons and as a result, a spot in the televised election debates. Because the party now has a MP, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May will be entitled to participate in the televised leaders' debates in the election that is expected to be called within days.

Del Ali, Research 2000 - As Palin's cultural views become better known -- she opposes abortion in all cases and opposes the use of birth control pills and condoms even among married couples -- she will undoubtedly scare the hell out of the soccer moms and 98% of Hillary voters.


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.


I have a brother in Phoenix who has been telling me this stuff for years. But you have put it all together. The link between the Mafia and modern politics begins with Kennedy's killing and moves on. Why are we surprised? - Paul, Hager City, WI

And the Kennedy fortune came from. . .


Democrats - always there to protect and welcome free speech.. Obama's web site, You Tube site, Facebook and MYspace have full time censors that filter blogger comments. Obama claims to protect our civil liberties. . . After renewing the Patriot act in 2006 and voting for FISA in June, no one should be shocked. He's got a pattern of hypocrisy.


The responses are about what would be expected in a Puritan-founded country like America that still takes ancient myths as literal truth. Thank god I live in the EU where things are a little more rational.

I'm thankful that my being an atheist does not mean the wholesale jettisoning of such concepts as fidelity and basic decency and kindness. Nice to know though, that over there in Europe you're free of such 'Puritan' detritus as better emotions and higher conduct. In truth however, I have a feeling that your mentality trends more from inherent flaws in your moral makeup and general psyche than anything to do with geographic locale.

Love and sex are not the same thing people.

The commenters who've been championing Edwards' behavior and chortling over their own oh-so-progressive 'liberation' from such 'antiquated, Victorian' concepts as fidelity and decency toward a dying life-partner make me understand all the more my horror and disgust with the 'god-damned human race' (to quote Mark Twain).

Thanks to you, I'm the more content to live amongst my beloved animals--who harbor more true feelings of loyalty and love than most of you--and avoid the nauseating human race as much as I can. Again, to quote Twain: "If there were any race other than the human race, I'd go join it." I know I'm truly thankful that I don't have to be the one condemned to share my life with such incredibly shallow, hateful types, and I only pity the ones who are stuck with you as partners. I hope none of them ever develop a terminal illness and have to discover the empty souls of the people they chose to share their lives with.

I really wonder if Sam and Co. (meaning the loyal TPR dittoheads) would be expending the same amount of sympathetic ink over a Republican politician caught cheating on his spouse under the same circumstances? Somehow I very much doubt it.

If Sam behaved the way obnoxious fools like you keep claiming he does, this story wouldn't be here at all. Give it a rest.


Like it or not, what's happening in Arkansas is what happens when you have a legal and policing machinery that's largely completely abandoned its' stated objectives to protect the populace. A drastic state of affairs will always have someone applying drastic remedies, a fact that alleged 'progressives' never do seem to get through their small and rather badly-formed minds.

Every generation believes its way of thinking on almost any given topic imaginable is the last possible word that could ever be expressed. This generation is no exception. Like the Victorians, they presume themselves to be the final and irrevocable authority on all manners and behaviors. I for one tend to be highly skeptical toward those who like to crow over the 'modernity' of their thoughts and attitudes. There is, after all, no more ancient concept than that of 'the modern'--and none more quickly and easily outdated, it follows without saying.


How is it Biden is cozy with some lobbyists but not rich like almost all of his senatorial peers? If he hasn't been feeding at the trough, I give him a pass. - WH, ME


It's unfortunate that the Palestinians continue to suffer from the war they started. Probably the best thing for them to do at this point would be to recognize Israel. Once that's done serious negotiations can begin, and they can hopefully get their own state. But it's foolish to think that their suffering will end without them taking responsibility for it and ending the war. If the Palestinians continue to pursue the same policies that they have pursued for the past 60 years then they can expect the same results. It's time for them to rejoin the international community, and recognize Israel and international law. That's the only way out.


Whoever said that race doesn't exist and is a social construct is another politically correct idiot. Of course race exists - different races are not because of geographic location - they are different in almost all ways. Only the dreamers in the multiculturalism fraud like to tell us that race is just our imagination. - Jake Arlen


I'm waiting for the first 'progressive' to jump on here and explain to us how the phenomenon of wartime rape is clear evidence of the Darwinist theory in action, as evidenced by the human male biological impulse in wartime. After all, we've already been treated to a fair number of views here that ascribe Edwards' debased behaviors as nothing more than the Darwinian exercises of the alpha male in power, so I certainly don't see why we can't be charitable and expand this perversion--um, I mean application--of old Charles's theories to cover the antics of our brave fighting boys.

Comparing Edwards consensual affair with rape? There is no comparison. You really do need help.

Having read this whole piece, the salient point seemed to be that most of the troops involved in the abuse were abused as a children or witnessed abuse as children. What the incidence of rape and other violent abuse in the military says about the larger society should be obvious. Nobody cares when the victims are poor women or poor children which is why DOD covers its ass instead of enforcing the regs.


While we're watering down Phelps' accomplishments let's throw in the fact that 44 of 48 world records set this year, before the Olympics started, were done by people wearing the new Speedo LZR Racer swimsuit which reduces drag by as much as 10%.

Funny how quickly in these discussions we forget real giants like Edwin Moses. How many races without a defeat and for how long? 122 consecutive wins over nine years, nine months, and nine days. A winning streak that was proceeded by his establishing world records in the hurdles a year earlier. He still holds 26 of the 100 fastest times of the sport. As if that weren't enough, in 1990 he competed in the World Cup bobsled race and won the two-man bronze medal with Brian Shimer.


Just what is the point of yard signs anyway? Do you know anybody who decided who to vote for based on a sign in somebody's yard? I don't.


On ProRev's popularity: It's as simple as this. If you want real news, you won't find it from any corporation. People who want to read important things they won't find elsewhere will find Undernews and come back to it. What I like about Sam Smith, may he never stop updating, is his unique combination of a willingness to bash both parties and deep knowledge of the Democratic party.

What do I read to stay informed? I read Asia Times, WSWS, Undernews, Counterpunch, The Guardian (admittedly corporate), and DU for fast breaking news. I read blogs, some obscure, some lefty, some right-wing, some extremist, but it balances out. They're much more likely to be motivated to report the facts than the advertising-driven giants, who as part of the USA's political power structure pretend to be balanced but practice a deeply unbalanced selective reporting.

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