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Undernews For September 11, 2008

Undernews For September 11, 2008

Washington's Most Unofficial Source
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Editor: Sam Smith

11 SEP 2008



Anchorage Daily News - Back in 1996, when she first became mayor, Sarah Palin asked the city librarian if she would be all right with censoring library books should she be asked to do so.

According to news coverage at the time, the librarian said she would definitely not be all right with it. A few months later, the librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, got a letter from Palin telling her she was going to be fired. The censorship issue was not mentioned as a reason for the firing. The letter just said the new mayor felt Emmons didn't fully support her and had to go.

Emmons had been city librarian for seven years and was well liked. After a wave of public support for her, Palin relented and let Emmons keep her job.

It all happened 12 years ago and the controversy long ago disappeared into musty files. Until this week. Under intense national scrutiny, the issue has returned to dog her. . .

Did Palin actually ban books at the Wasilla Public Library?

In December 1996, Emmons told her hometown newspaper, the Frontiersman, that Palin three times asked her -- starting before she was sworn in -- about possibly removing objectionable books from the library if the need arose.

Emmons told the Frontiersman she flatly refused to consider any kind of censorship. Emmons, now Mary Ellen Baker, is on vacation from her current job in Fairbanks and did not return e-mail or telephone messages left for her.

When the matter came up for the second time in October 1996, during a City Council meeting, Anne Kilkenny, a Wasilla housewife who often attends council meetings, was there.

Like many Alaskans, Kilkenny calls the governor by her first name.

"Sarah said to Mary Ellen, 'What would your response be if I asked you to remove some books from the collection?" Kilkenny said.

"I was shocked. Mary Ellen sat up straight and said something along the line of, 'The books in the Wasilla Library collection were selected on the basis of national selection criteria for libraries of this size, and I would absolutely resist all efforts to ban books.'"

Palin didn't mention specific books at that meeting, Kilkenny said.

Palin herself, questioned at the time, called her inquiries rhetorical and simply part of a policy discussion with a department head "about understanding and following administration agendas," according to the Frontiersman article.

Were any books censored banned? June Pinell-Stephens, chairwoman of the Alaska Library Association's Intellectual Freedom Committee since 1984, checked her files and came up empty-handed. . .


Robert Brent Toplin, History News Network - Ronald Reagan promised to take government off the backs of enterprising Americans. He told voters that government was not the solution to the nation's problems; it was the problem. "The nine most terrifying words in the English language," said Reagan, are, " ‘I'm from the government and I'm here to help.' " His speeches contained numerous warnings about the chilling effects of bureaucratic regulation. Government leaders think, he said, "If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.". . .

The main problem with Reagan's outlook was a failure to recognize that government regulation can serve business interests quite effectively. Many of the regulatory programs started by Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal in the 1930s aimed to promote fairness in economic competition. That legislation required greater transparency so that investors could more intelligently judge the value of securities in the stock market. The reforms mandated a separation of commercial and investment bank activities, since speculative investments by commercial banks had been one of the principal causes of the financial crash. Roosevelt's New Deal also created a bank insurance program, the FDIC, which brought stability to a finance industry that had been on the verge of collapse.

These and other improvements of the 1930s worked splendidly. For the next half century American markets operated with impressive stability. There were periods of boom and recession, but the country's financial system did not suffer from the kinds of shocks that have upset the American economy in recent years.

The turn away from rules that promote fair business practices fostered dangerous risk-taking. An early sign of the troubles occurred on Reagan's watch. When the requirements for managing savings and loan institutions became lax in the 1980s, leaders of those organizations invested money recklessly. Many institutions failed or came close to failure, and the cleanup cost more than $150 billion. Yet blame for that crisis did not stick to the Teflon President.

Recent troubles in the American economy can be attributed to a weakening of business regulation in the public interest, which is, in large part, a consequence of Reagan's anti-government preaching. In the absence of oversight, lending became a wildcat enterprise. Mortgage brokers easily deceived home buyers by promoting sub-prime loans, and then they passed on bundled documents to unwary investors. Executives at Fannie Mae packaged both conventional and sub-prime loans, and they too, operated almost free of serious oversight. Fannie's leaders spent lavishly to hire sixty Washington lobbyists who showered congressmen with campaign funds. Executives at Fannie were generous to the politicians because they wanted to ward off regulation.

Meanwhile, on Wall Street, brokerage firms became deeply committed to risky mortgage investments and did not make their customers fully aware of the risks. The nation's leading credit rating agencies, in turn, were not under much pressure to question claims about mortgage-based instruments that were marketed as blue chip quality. Government watchdogs were not active during those times to serve the interests of the public and the investors. . .

Reagan's views of the relationship between government and business helped to put the nation and the world into a good deal of trouble. It is time to recognize that the former president's understanding of economics was not as sophisticated as his enthusiastic supporters often claimed.


Reuters - Even as world financial markets broke down last year, personal wealth around the world grew 5 percent to $109.5 trillion, according to a global wealth report released by Boston Consulting Group.

It was the sixth consecutive year of expanding wealth. The fastest growth was among households in developing regions, such as China and the Gulf States and among families who were already rich.

That wealth also is increasingly concentrated among the richest.

The top 1 percent of all households owned 35 percent of the world's wealth last year. Meanwhile, the top 0.001 percent, ultra-rich households holding at least $5 million in assets, commanded $21 trillion -- a fifth of the world's wealth.

The planet also continues to mint new millionaires rapidly. The biggest jumps in 2007 came from emerging countries in Asia and Latin America. Overall, the number of millionaire households grew 11 percent to 10.7 million last year. . .

North American personal wealth growth slowed to 3.8 percent last year, compared with 9 percent in 2006, reflecting the mortgage crisis and the onset of the credit crunch last summer.


The Obama campaign, which seems to be floundering a bit, might wish to pick up on the theme suggested by CNN'S Jack Cafferty and Sirius talk show host Mark Thompson: are you better off than you were eight years ago?

Newsbusters - Shortly after the Democrats gaveled to order their 2008 nominating convention, CNN's Jack Cafferty did the party of Jimmy Carter a favor by pushing its economic message on his blog and the network's "The Situation Room" program with his question of the hour. Cafferty listed negative-sounding statistic after negative statistic, failing to offset them with even one praiseworthy accomplishment of the Bush administration, before asking CNN viewers if they are "better off" now than eight years ago:

"Ronald Reagan had some success with this question a few years ago and things weren’t nearly as crummy then as they are now: Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago? But this time it’s been 8 years. Think about it: unemployment is rising. The rate stands at 5.7% and we have lost 463,000 jobs since the first of the year. And so is inflation. It's accelerating at a faster rate than it has in 17 years. Gas prices are up 34% in the last year. Oil was around $26 a barrel when President Bush was inaugurated. . . it touched $147 a few weeks ago. More than 1 million homes are now in foreclosure."


Philadelphia Daily News - As the school year begins, Philadelphia School District officials face a seldom-discussed dilemma: The percentage of African-American teachers is declining, and now stands at its lowest point in decades.

And students are suffering as a result, a growing body of research shows. One national organization found that increasing the percentage of black teachers is directly related to closing the so-called achievement gap - students of color lagging behind white peers. . .

Diversity advocates say that the situation has reached a point where the continued loss of black teachers has made it impossible for the district to achieve a racially balanced teaching force - a stipulation of a 30-year-old agreement with the federal Office of Civil Rights.

In 1978, when that agreement took effect, 36 percent of the district's teachers were black. Today, the figure has declined to 29 percent, the district says.

At the same time, the percentage of black students in the public schools has remained relatively stable at more than 60 percent.

To be sure, the trend is not confined to Philadelphia. Other school districts across the country also are grappling with declining numbers of black teachers while the number of students of color is increasing. . .

An analysis by the National Collaborative on Diversity in the Teaching Force found that increasing the percentage of teachers of color in classrooms is directly connected to closing the achievement gap. . .

Experts say that the number of black teachers is declining for various reasons, including higher pay in other school districts and in other professions.

C. Kent McGuire, dean of Temple University's College of Education, said that black women in particular have found increasing opportunities in "medicine, dentistry, law, you name it."

Black enrollment in the College of Education dropped from 17 percent in 2005 to 12 percent last year, he said.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act - which requires teachers to pass certification exams to keep their jobs - has abetted the decline in black teachers, a growing number of educators believe.

Although the district and the state Department of Education could not provide local numbers, the Educational Testing Service says that among African-American teacher candidates nationally, 69 percent are passing the certification tests, compared with 91 percent of white candidates.


Sharon Churcher, Daily Mail, UK - McCain likes to illustrate his moral fiber by referring to his five years as a prisoner-of-war in Vietnam. And to demonstrate his commitment to family values, the 71-year-old former US Navy pilot pays warm tribute to his beautiful blonde wife, Cindy, with whom he has four children.

But there is another Mrs. McCain who casts a ghostly shadow over the Senator's presidential campaign. She is seldom seen and rarely written about, despite being mother to McCain's three eldest children. And yet, had events turned out differently, it would be she, rather than Cindy, who would be vying to be First Lady. She is McCain's first wife, Carol, who was a famous beauty and a successful swimwear model when they married in 1965. She was the woman McCain dreamed of during his long incarceration and torture in Vietnam's infamous 'Hanoi Hilton' prison and the woman who faithfully stayed at home looking after the children and waiting anxiously for news.

But when McCain returned to America in 1973 to a fanfare of publicity and a handshake from Richard Nixon, he discovered his wife had been disfigured in a terrible car crash three years earlier. Her car had skidded on icy roads into a telegraph pole on Christmas Eve, 1969. Her pelvis and one arm were shattered by the impact and she suffered massive internal injuries. When Carol was discharged from hospital after six months of life-saving surgery, the prognosis was bleak. In order to save her legs, surgeons had been forced to cut away huge sections of shattered bone, taking with it her tall, willowy figure. She was confined to a wheelchair and was forced to use a catheter.

Through sheer hard work, Carol learned to walk again. But when John McCain came home from Vietnam, she had gained a lot of weight and bore little resemblance to her old self. Today, she stands at just 5ft4in and still walks awkwardly, with a pronounced limp. Her body is held together by screws and metal plates and, at 70, her face is worn by wrinkles that speak of decades of silent suffering.

For nearly 30 years, Carol has maintained a dignified silence about the accident, McCain and their divorce. But last week at the bungalow where she now lives at Virginia Beach, a faded seaside resort 200 miles south of Washington, she told The Mail on Sunday how McCain divorced her in 1980 and married Cindy, 18 years his junior and the heir to an Arizona brewing fortune, just one month later. . .

"My marriage ended because John McCain didn't want to be 40, he wanted to be 25. You know that happens. . . it just does." Some of McCain's acquaintances are less forgiving, however. They portray the politician as a self-centered womanizer who effectively abandoned his crippled wife to 'play the field'. They accuse him of finally settling on Cindy, a former rodeo beauty queen, for financial reasons. McCain was then earning little more than L25,000 a year as a naval officer, while his new father-in-law, Jim Hensley, was a multi-millionaire who had impeccable political connections. . .

Carol remained resolutely loyal as McCain's political star rose. She says she agreed to talk to The Mail on Sunday only because she wanted to publicize her support for the man who abandoned her. Indeed, the old Mercedes that she uses to run errands displays both a disabled badge and a sticker encouraging people to vote for her ex-husband. 'He's a good guy,' she assured us. 'We are still good friends. He is the best man for president.' But Ross Perot, who paid her medical bills all those years ago, now believes that both Carol McCain and the American people have been taken in by a man who is unusually slick and cruel - even by the standards of modern politics. 'McCain is the classic opportunist. He's always reaching for attention and glory,' he said. 'After he came home, Carol walked with a limp. So he threw her over for a poster girl with big money from Arizona. And the rest is history.'


Marjorie Cohn, Truthout - In the months leading up to the Republican National Convention, the FBI-led Minneapolis Joint Terrorist Task Force actively recruited people to infiltrate vegan groups and other leftist organizations and report back about their activities. On May 21, the Minneapolis City Pages ran a recruiting story called "Moles Wanted." Law enforcement sought to pre-empt lawful protest against the policies of the Bush administration during the convention.

Local police and sheriffs, working with the FBI, conducted pre-emptive searches, seizures and arrests. Glenn Greenwald described the targeting of protesters by "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." Journalists were detained at gunpoint and lawyers representing detainees were handcuffed at the scene.

"I was personally present and saw officers with riot gear and assault rifles, pump action shotguns," said Bruce Nestor, the president of the Minnesota chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, who is representing several of the protesters. "The neighbor of one of the houses had a gun pointed in her face when she walked out on her back porch to see what was going on. There were children in all of these houses, and children were held at gunpoint."

The raids targeted members of "Food Not Bombs," an antiwar, anti-authoritarian protest group that provides free vegetarian meals every week in hundreds of cities all over the world. They served meals to rescue workers at the World Trade Center after 9/11 and to nearly 20 communities in the Gulf region following Hurricane Katrina.

Also targeted, were members of I-Witness Video, a media watchdog group that monitors the police to protect civil liberties. The group worked with the National Lawyers Guild to gain the dismissal of charges or acquittals of about 400 of the 1,800 who were arrested during the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York. Pre-emptive policing was used at that time as well. Police infiltrated protest groups in advance of the convention.

Nestor said that no violence or illegality has taken place to justify the arrests. "Seizing boxes of political literature shows the motive of these raids was political," he said.

Further evidence of the political nature of the police action was the boarding up of the Convergence Center, where protesters had gathered, for unspecified code violations. St. Paul City Council member David Thune said, "Normally we only board up buildings that are vacant and ramshackle." Thune and fellow City Council member Elizabeth Glidden decried "actions that appear excessive and create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation for those who wish to exercise their First Amendment rights."

"So here we have a massive assault led by Federal Government law enforcement agencies on left-wing dissidents and protesters who have committed no acts of violence or illegality whatsoever, preceded by months- long espionage efforts to track what they do," Greenwald wrote on Salon.

Preventive detention violates the Fourth Amendment, which requires that warrants be supported by probable cause. protesters were charged with "conspiracy to commit riot," a rarely-used statute that is so vague, it is probably unconstitutional. Nestor said it "basically criminalizes political advocacy.". . .

During Monday's demonstration, law enforcement officers used pepper spray, rubber bullets, concussion grenades and excessive force. At least 284 people were arrested, including Amy Goodman, the prominent host of "Democracy Now!," as well as the show's producers, Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. "St. Paul was the most militarized I have ever seen an American city to be," Greenwald wrote, "with troops of federal, state and local law enforcement agents marching around with riot gear, machine guns, and tear gas cannisters, shouting military chants and marching in military formations."

Bruce Nestor said the timing of the arrests was intended to stop protest activity, "to make people fearful of the protests, but also to discourage people from protesting," he told Amy Goodman. Nevertheless, 10,000 people, many opposed to the Iraq war, turned out to demonstrate on Monday. A legal team from the National Lawyers Guild has been working diligently to protect the constitutional rights of protesters.


Washington Post - Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has billed taxpayers for 312 nights spent in her own home during her first 19 months in office, charging a "per diem" allowance intended to cover meals and incidental expenses while traveling on state business.

The governor also has charged the state for travel expenses to take her children on official out-of-town missions. And her husband, Todd, has billed the state for expenses and a daily allowance for trips he makes on official business for his wife.

Palin, who earns $125,000 a year, claimed and received $16,951 as her allowance, which officials say was permitted because her official "duty station" is Juneau, according to an analysis of her travel documents by The Washington Post.

The governor's daughters and husband charged the state $43,490 to travel, and many of the trips were between their house in Wasilla and Juneau, the capital city 600 miles away, the documents show.


Political Wire - A new BBC World Service poll shows that in all 22 countries surveyed, the citizens would prefer Sen. Barack Obama elected president of the United States instead of Sen. John McCain. In fact, Obama is preferred by a four to one margin on average across the 22,000 people polled.

In 17 of the 22 countries surveyed the most common view is that, if Barack Obama is elected president, America's relations with the rest of the world are likely to get better. If John McCain is elected, the most common view in 19 countries is that relations will stay about the same as they are now.

The countries polled: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Nigeria, Panama, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.

In addition, a separate poll of Americans found that 46% think an Obama presidency would improve U.S. relations with the world compared to just 30% for a McCain presidency.


Newsweek - An Anchorage judge three years ago warned Sarah Palin and members of her family to stop "disparaging" the reputation of Alaska State Trooper Michael Wooten, who at the time was undergoing a bitter separation and divorce from Palin's sister Molly.

Allegations that Palin, her husband Todd, and at least one top gubernatorial aide continued to vilify Wooten-after Palin became Alaska's governor and pressured state police officials to take action against him-are at the center of "Troopergate," a political and ethical controversy which has embroiled Palin's administration and is currently the subject of an official inquiry by a special investigator hired by the state legislature.

Court records obtained by Newsweek show that during the course of divorce hearings three years ago, Judge John Suddock heard testimony from an official of the Alaska State Troopers' union about how Sarah Palin-then a private citizen-and members of her family, including her father and daughter, lodged up to a dozen complaints against Wooten with the state police. The union official told the judge that he had never before been asked to appear as a divorce-case witness, that the union believed family complaints against Wooten were "not job-related," and that Wooten was being "harassed" by Palin and other family members.

Court documents show that Judge Suddock was disturbed by the alleged attacks by Palin and her family members on Wooten's behavior and character. "Disparaging will not be tolerated-it is a form of child abuse," the judge told a settlement hearing in October 2005, according to typed notes of the proceedings. The judge added: "Relatives cannot disparage either. If occurs [sic] the parent needs to set boundaries for their relatives."....

"It is the mother's [Hackett's] responsibility to set boundaries for her relatives and insure [sic] they respect them, and the disparagement by either parent, or their surrogates is emotional child abuse," Judge Suddock wrote....

Initially, Palin indicated she would cooperate with the investigation. But more recently, a lawyer hired by the state to represent her in the case asked the Alaska Attorney General to request that a state personnel board conduct its own special-counsel inquiry and demanded that the state legislature back off.


Leonad Doyle, Independent, UK - [Sarah Palin] wants to start drilling. She wants to block US moves to list the polar bear as an endangered species. And she has allowed big game hunters to shoot Alaska's bears and wolves from low-flying planes.

The 44-year-old governor says a federal government decision to protect the polar bear will cripple energy development offshore. As a result, she is suing the Bush administration, which ruled the polar bear is endangered and needs protection.

The US Geological Survey says climate change has shrunk Arctic summer sea ice to about 1.65 million sq miles, nearly 40 per cent less than the long-term average between 1979 and 2000.

In such a situation it was unconscionable for Governor Palin to ignore overwhelming evidence of global warming's threat to sea ice, says Kassie Siegel of the Centre for Biological Diversity.

"Even the Bush administration can't deny the reality of global warming," Ms Siegel said. "The governor is aligning herself and the state of Alaska with the most discredited, fringe, extreme viewpoints by denying this."

Governor Palin would also like to bring open-cast coal mining to Alaska's Brooks Range Mountains, an act of environmental vandalism in the eyes of many.

The Palin administration has allowed Chevron to triple the amount of toxic waste it pours into the waters of Cook Inlet. This, even though the number of beluga whales in the bay has collapsed from 1,300 to 350 - the point of extinction - because of pollution and increased ship traffic. .

Many oil companies abandoned Alaska when prices fell in the 1980s but they have been rushing back to drill and prospect areas that are among the least hospitable on earth. That spirit of the Klondike is already in full swing in Prudhoe Bay the epicenter of oil production and one of the world's largest industrial complexes. It's so big that BP, UPS and FedEx operate a special fleet of jets from Anchorage just to service to the region.

Hundreds of spills involving tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil and other petroleum products occur in the area each year. Decades-old spills are still a problem and 17,000 acres of wildlife and marine habitat have already been destroyed.

But Prudhoe is just a tiny fraction of the area being targeted by Governor Palin and the oil companies. A similar fate of environmental destruction awaits the entire coastal plain as well as the special areas of the western Arctic - home to migratory caribou herds, musk oxen, wolverines, grizzly and polar bears should a McCain-Palin administration be elected.

Trish Rolfe, who runs the Sierra Club's Alaska office, thinks Governor Palin has been a disaster for Alaska's environment. "The idea that she stands up to the oil companies is a joke," she says. "The governor pays lip service to the issue of global warming but denies it is man made. She will not even spend money to help the Inupiaq villages which are about to fall into the sea."


Paul Armentano, AlterNet - Voters who hoped that Barack Obama's call for "change" would include revamping U.S. drug policy are finding themselves with reasons to be skeptical.

First there was Obama's flip-flop-flip-flop on the subject of decriminalizing marijuana. Speaking at Northwestern University in January 2004, Obama called America's so-called "war on drugs" an "utter failure," and recommended, "We need to rethink and decriminalize our marijuana laws." (Nearly 3 out of 4 Americans endorsed the policy in a 2002 CNN/Time Magazine poll, and 12 state legislatures have already enacted versions of pot decriminalization -- replacing criminal penalties with fine-only sanctions.)

Nevertheless, Obama reversed his pro-pot position during a televised November 2007 MSNBC debate, raising his hand to indicate his opposition to the policy. Following the debate, a spokesman for Obama claimed that the candidate had misunderstood the moderator's question and declared that Obama had, in fact, "always" supported decriminalization. Hours later, however, when presented with video footage of Obama's 2004 statements, the campaign reversed course once again, stating to the Washington Times that the Democratic nominee opposed decriminalizing weed.

Since being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004, Obama has voiced almost no criticism regarding America's punitive drug policies (despite his previous "utter failure" evaluation). As senator, Obama has championed popular anti-drug legislation like the "Combat Meth Act" and has lobbied in favor of increased funding for drug courts and U.S. drug interdiction efforts south of the border. . .

During his 35 years in Congress, political observers note that no Democrat has sponsored "more damaging drug war legislation" than Joe Biden. Biden led the charge in the Senate for passage of the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which -- among its numerous notorious provisions -- re-established mandatory minimum sentencing for drug crimes, expanded the use of federal asset forfeiture laws, and established the racially biased 100-to-1 sentencing disparity for the possession of crack versus powder cocaine. . .

Biden was also a key architect of the 1988 Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which enacted mandatory sentences for minor crack cocaine possession (five years in prison for possession of more than 5 grams), redefined low-level drug mules as drug "conspirators" (allowing these defendants to face the same penalties as drug kingpins), instituted random workplace drug testing programs for public employees, and established the multibillion-dollar anti-drug propaganda wing of the White House known as the Office of National Drug Control Policy . . .

More recently, Biden authored the so-called RAVE Act (aka the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act) -- clandestinely enacted into law in 2003 as a rider to federal "Amber Alert" legislation -- which permits federal law enforcement to prosecute business owners and event organizers who hold concerts where illicit drug use takes place. . . .

Biden is also a staunch supporter of U.S. anti-drug efforts abroad, such as Plan Columbia and Plan Afghanistan, and has even espoused for the use of mycoherbicides such as Fusarium oxysporum -- a genetically engineered fungal plant killer -- in illicit crop eradication efforts. . .


Glen Ford, Black Agenda Report - The current election cycle is, indeed, one for the history books. For the first time since the rebellions of the Sixties, we hardly hear the call for a Marshall-type plan to rebuild the cities - once the near-unanimous, unifying demand of virtually the entire spectrum of Black "leadership." Not that the demand has been made moot or passé by great achievements in rendering urban America more habitable to Blacks or more recent influxes of browns. The opposite is true: urban centers have become far more hostile environments to the non-affluent of all ethnicities. . .

In place of a massive public sector-led Marshall Plan to rehabilitate the cities for the benefit of the largely African American populations that inherited them by default through government-subsidized white flight, public policy now facilitates the Corporate Plan for the cities: Black removal.

If any handwriting-on-the-wall were needed to graphically illustrate the grand corporate scheme for the cities, it is written on the walls of the 70,000-plus unrehabilitated, empty homes of the scattered, mostly Black and poor classes of metropolitan New Orleans; in the rubble of countless demolished public housing projects across the nation, not one of which has ever been replaced unit-for-unit; and in the millions of affordable private dwellings that have been supplanted by habitats for well-to-do urban newcomers - a small fraction of whom are Black or brown. . .

With the ascension of Barack Obama, all Black agitation has been subordinated to his election, leaving African Americans as the only constituency that has presented no demands to the two corporate candidates. Black misleadership simply accepts what Obama feels comfortable in offering. His Denver acceptance speech shows Obama is prepared to give Blacks precisely what they have asked for: nothing. . .

Even as Hurricane Gustav bore down on New Orleans, Obama made only the most oblique reference to the 2005 catastrophe, with a swipe at "a government. . . that sits on its hands while a major American city drowns before our eyes." . . . If Obama cannot commit to making the displaced residents of New Orleans whole - despite, in his opinion, their having been victimized by government "incompetence" - then he will never lift a finger to derail the slow-motion displacement of gentrification elsewhere in urban America.


Jonathan Steele, Guardian, UK - Hundreds of children, some as young as nine, are being held in appalling conditions in Baghdad's prisons, sleeping in sweltering temperatures in overcrowded cells without working fans, no daily access to showers, and subject to frequent sexual abuse by guards, current and former prisoners say. . .

Daytime temperatures in Baghdad last week averaged 44C (112F). They barely drop below 38C at night. . .
Guards often take boys to a separate room in the prison and rape them, [a prisoner] alleged. They also break prison rules by lending their mobile phones to boys to ring home, on condition that each time their families top the phone up by $10 or $20. The teaching staff resigned en masse in November because of low pay, according to an international official. As a result, the children lounge around aimlessly with no daytime activities, other than an exercise yard.

Though the boys in the prison have been convicted, international standards for fair trials are never met. "Trials last on average for 25 minutes, no witnesses are called, confessions are used as the only evidence, and court-appointed defense lawyers get the case file on the day of the trial, leaving no chance to consult the defendant in private," an international adviser in Baghdad said on condition of anonymity. . .

Last year officials from the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq (Unami) visited Baghdad's Tobchi prison, where children awaiting trial are held. They reported that detainees provided "particularly worrisome allegations of ill-treatment or other abuse of juvenile males, several of whom told Unami they had been beaten and sexually abused while held in the custody of the ministries of the interior and defence prior to transfer to a juvenile facility. Upon examining them Unami observed injuries consistent with beatings."

The UN found severe overcrowding at Tobchi, with around 400 inmates in a prison with an official capacity of 206. "In some cells juveniles were taking turns to sleep on the floor without mattresses," the UN report said.


Tom Burghardt, Global Research - If incorporating personal details into an RFID (radio-frequency identification) chip implanted into a passport or driver's license may sound like a "smart" alternative to endless lines at the airport and intrusive questioning by securocrats, think again.

Since the late 1990s, corporate grifters have touted the "benefits" of the devilish transmitters as a "convenient" and "cheap" way to tag individual commodities, one that would "revolutionize" inventory management and theft prevention. Indeed, everything from paper towels to shoes, pets to underwear have been "tagged" with the chips. "Savings" would be "passed on" to the consumer. . .

RFID tags are small computer chips connected to miniature antennae that can be fixed to or implanted within physical objects, including human beings. The RFID chip itself contains an Electronic Product Code that can be "read" when a RFID reader emits a radio signal. The chips are divided into two categories, passive or active. A "passive" tag doesn't contain a battery and its "read" range is variable, from less than an inch to twenty or thirty feet. An "active" tag on the other hand, is self-powered and has a much longer range. The data from an "active" tag can be sent directly to a computer system involved in inventory control--or surveillance.

But as Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Electronic Privacy Information Center state in a joint position paper, "RFID has the potential to jeopardize consumer privacy, reduce or eliminate purchasing anonymity, and threaten civil liberties." As these organizations noted, while there are beneficial uses of RFID, some attributes of the technology could be deployed in ways that threaten privacy and civil liberties:

- Hidden placement of tags. RFID tags can be embedded into/onto objects and documents without the knowledge of the individual who obtains those items. As radio waves travel easily and silently through fabric, plastic, and other materials, it is possible to read RFID tags sewn into clothing or affixed to objects contained in purses, shopping bags, suitcases, and more.

- Unique identifiers for all objects worldwide. The Electronic Product Code potentially enables every object on earth to have its own unique ID. The use of unique ID numbers could lead to the creation of a global item registration system in which every physical object is identified and linked to its purchaser or owner at the point of sale or transfer.

- Massive data aggregation. RFID deployment requires the creation of massive databases containing unique tag data. These records could be linked with personal identifying data, especially as computer memory and processing capacities expand.

- Hidden readers. Tags can be read from a distance, not restricted to line of sight, by readers that can be incorporated invisibly into nearly any environment where human beings or items congregate. RFID readers have already been experimentally embedded into floor tiles, woven into carpeting and floor mats, hidden in doorways, and seamlessly incorporated into retail shelving and counters, making it virtually impossible for a consumer to know when or if he or she was being "scanned."

- Individual tracking and profiling. If personal identity were linked with unique RFID tag numbers, individuals could be profiled and tracked without their knowledge or consent. For example, a tag embedded in a shoe could serve as a de facto identifier for the person wearing it. Even if item-level information remains generic, identifying items people wear or carry could associate them with, for example, particular events like political rallies.


Michael Schwartz and Tom Engelhardt, Tom Dispatch - As for "success" in Iraq, which we've been hearing quite a lot about lately in the U.S., here's one way to measure the administration's trust in its own "success": The Pentagon, we now learn, has just "recommended" to President Bush that there should be no further troop drawdowns in Iraq until a new president enters office in January 2009 - and even then, possibly in February, that no more than 7,500 Americans should be withdrawn, and only if "conditions" permit. So the administration's "success" in Iraq could, in terms of troop levels, be measured this way: The U.S. invaded and occupied that country in the spring of 2003 with approximately 130,000 troops. According to Thomas Ricks in his best-selling book Fiasco, by that fall, its top officials fully expected to have only about 30,000 troops still in the country, stationed at newly built American bases largely outside major urban areas.

In January 2007, when the president's desperate "surge" strategy was launched, there were still approximately 130,000 U.S. troops in the country, and, of course, tens of thousands of hired guns from firms like Blackwater Worldwide. Today, there are approximately 146,000 troops in Iraq (and the U.S. is spending more money on armed "private security contractors" than ever before). By next February, according to Pentagon plans, there would still be about 139,000 troops in Iraq, 9,000 more than in April 2003, as well as more than early in Bush's second term, as Juan Cole pointed out recently - and that's if everything goes reasonably well, which, under the circumstances, is a big "if" indeed.


Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam - The chickens are finally coming home to roost. After a failed war that ended up killing 1,000 Lebanese and 150 Israelis and caused billions in damage to both Israel and especially Lebanon, a partial bill has been presented to Israel by the UN:

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will demand that Israel pay Lebanon $1 billion in compensation over damages caused during the Jewish state's 2006 war against Hizbullah, Lebanese media reported Saturday.

According to the report the sum, based on World Bank appraisals, is aimed at covering the environmental and material damages caused by the Second Lebanon War to neighboring countries as well.

The fundamental part of the compensation demanded is for the damage caused to the Lebanese coast due to an oil spill following an Israeli bombing of a southern Beirut power plant, which the Lebanese said had caused "an ecological disaster."

According to the report, Ban plans to submit a report to the United Nations General Assembly at the end of the month, stating that damage Israel caused to the oil reservoir polluted Lebanon's coast, and that the pollution spread to neighboring countries, especially Syria.


Zach Patton, Governing - Crystalball clairvoyants of St. Johnsbury, Vermont: Rejoice! You can once again practice your sooth-saying gifts without fear of recrimination:

Soothsaying might still be banned in some parts of the country, but St. Johnsbury has repealed the ordinance against peering into the future that it had on the books since 1966.

Fear of fraud has prompted many communities to ban fortunetelling but critics say it's not government's place to decide whether such personal beliefs or practices are fraudulent.

Nationwide, the legality of fortune-telling is a mixed bag.

Last year in Philadelphia, city inspectors shut down more than a dozen psychics, astrologers and tarot-card readers after discovering a decades-old state law that still bans fortunetelling for profit.

Also last year, Louisiana's Livingston Parish made soothsaying, fortunetelling, palm reading and crystal-ball gazing illegal; a Wiccan minister filed a challenge to the law in federal court.

Other laws are on the books or have been challenged in Nebraska, Tennessee, Florida, North Carolina and Oklahoma, said Charles Haynes, a senior scholar with the First Amendment Center in Washington.

A ban in Lincoln, Neb., was struck down by a federal appeals court in 1998 as unconstitutional.

[We faced this problem while running an inner city newspaper in Washington, D in the 1960s.. We decided to accept the ads from fortune tellers as there was no way to distinguish the accuracy of their predictions about the distant future from those offered every Sunday in established churches. After all, if you can predict what will happen to someone after they die, you certainly can predict how their health is going to be next month.- TPR]


PR Watch - Sears has entered into a first-ever deal with the United States military to market a new line of officially sanctioned, military-styled clothing to men, women and boys. The military has officially licensed a "soldier chic" line of clothing to Sears called the "All American Army Brand First Infantry Division" collection. The garb, to be launched in 550 Sears stores in October -- just in time for the holiday season -- consists of "authentic lifestyle reinterpretations" of regulation uniforms and military-issued gear like T-shirts, hooded sweatshirts, denim and other outerwear. The partnership is part of a marketing strategy to raise the public profile of the U.S. military. Sears already carries some military-themed merchandise on its Web site, like a Modern Military Figure Special Forces Soldier toy for ages 8 and up, a musical DVD titled "Death Chants, Breakdowns and Military Waltzes, Vol. 2," which lists song titles like "Cadaver Recovery Man" and "Mud & Guts," and a Self-esteem Zip Military Style Vest for Juniors.


PR Watch - The U.S. Labor Department has only "ruled in favor of [corporate] whistleblowers 17 times out of 1,273 complaints filed since 2002," and has dismissed 841 cases. Many of the dismissals were based "on the technicality that workers at corporate subsidiaries aren't covered" by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. The act, passed after the Enron and Worldcom scandals, contained the first federal protections for corporate whistleblowers. Senator Patrick Leahy, who helped draft the act, says it covers workers in corporate subsidiaries. "Otherwise," he explained, "a company that wants to do something shady, could just do it in their subsidiary." The Labor Department disagrees. One of the whistleblower cases it dismissed involves communications giant WPP. A former staffer at WPP's ad firm Ogilvy & Mather claims he was fired "in retaliation for his cooperation with a federal criminal investigation into his employer's billing practices." Two former Ogilvy executives received prison sentences for overbilling the U.S. government, but the staffer's whistleblower complaint was dismissed. Even though WPP describes its firms as "centrally integrated," the Labor Department ruled that Ogilvy is a subsidiary not covered by Sarbanes-Oxley.


Business Week - Len Burman, a former Treasury tax official who is now a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, says if Obama's proposals-which include plans to rescind the Bush tax cuts on couples making more than $250,000, close corporate tax loopholes, and tax private equity earnings known as "carried interest" as ordinary income-were adopted in 2009, married couples with earnings in the lowest quintile of the population would see their aftertax income rise 5.8%. Those in the next quintile would see an increase of 4%. Those breaks would be paid for by those with high incomes: the top 1% of taxpayers would see aftertax income fall 8.4%.

Under McCain's proposals, by contrast-including an extension of the Bush tax cuts for all taxpayers, a corporate tax cut, and a larger reduction in estate taxes than Obama would support-far more of the benefits would go to the top. If his plans went into effect in 2009, married couples in the bottom fifth of the population would see aftertax income go up just 0.2%, while those in the next quintile would see a 0.7% hike. But those in the top quintile would see a bump up in after tax income of 2.7%.

"It's just flat wrong" to say people would do worse under Obama, says Burman. "Most lower- and middle-class people would pay less taxes under Obama than they would under the proposals being put forth by McCain."


Patrick Cockburn, Independent UK - The United States has spied extensively on Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and other Iraqi government leaders, the American investigative journalist Bob Woodward has revealed. "We know everything he says," the journalist quotes one source as saying, in his fourth book on George Bush's presidency. The U.S. administration's decision to spy continually on Mr. Maliki shows deep distrust of the Iraqi leadership by the U.S. The surveillance took place even while Mr. Maliki was speaking to Mr. Bush by video-phone once a week. . .

The prime aim of U.S. espionage targeting Iraqi officials has been to find out the true relations between the Baghdad government and Iran, though this motive is not referred to in Mr Woodward's book. Washington has been deeply suspicious of Mr. Maliki and his predominantly Shia government for maintaining close relations with Tehran even while the U.S. was threatening to go to war with Iran.

At one moment in 2006-7 U.S. officials in Iraq were complaining privately that they could not get enough information about more sophisticated and lethal roadside bombs killing American troops because so much of the U.S. intelligence effort was focused on the Iraqi government. "Hundreds of our people were doing nothing but listening to Iraqi officials," said a source.



She hasn't owned a TV since she was 17, about the same time as she came out as a lesbian.

She was a Rhodes scholar, getting her doctorate in political science from Oxford.

She sometimes arrives at work nine hours before her show to get ready.



Forward - While Barack Obama has struggled to capture the Jewish vote, it turns out that one of his wife's cousins is the country's most prominent black rabbi - a fact that has gone largely unnoticed. Michelle Obama, wife of the Democratic presidential nominee, and Rabbi Capers Funnye, spiritual leader of a mostly black synagogue on Chicago's South Side, are first cousins once removed. . . Funnye (pronounced fuh-NAY) is chief rabbi at the Beth Shalom B'nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation in southwest Chicago. He is well-known in Jewish circles for acting as a bridge between mainstream Jewry and the much smaller, and largely separate, world of black Jewish congregations, sometimes known as black Hebrews or Israelites. He has often urged the larger Jewish community to be more accepting of Jews who are not white.

Jeff Stein, CQ - [Sarah Palin's] first, and apparently only, foreign travel came last year, to visit members of the Alaska National Guard stationed in Kuwait, and wounded troops in Germany, according to her deputy communications director, Sharon Leighow. That was roughly equal to the travels of George W. Bush when he entered the White House in 2001. The erstwhile Texas governor had visited China when his father was ambassador to Beijing in the 1980s, and Israel, and there were the famous "lost weekends" in Mexico during his drinking years . . .

Radio Online - A Los Angeles man is suing conservative Talker KRLA-AM/Los Angeles claiming the station, and parent Salem Communications, misrepresented their broadcast license by serving the interest of the Republican Party rather than the public reports the Glendale News Press. David Birke filed the complaint on August 27 against seven talk hosts, Salem and Salem President/CEO Ed Atsinger, claiming that they use the public airwaves to push a Republican agenda. Syndicated hosts Laura Ingraham, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Miller, Mike Gallagher and Kevin James are listed as defendants.
According to the complaint, "Salem Entities and Atsinger had no intention of serving the public interest, convenience and necessity. Instead, these defendants always intended to use the public airwaves to serve the interests exclusively of the GOP at the state and national level." The suit also alleges that KRLA has never allowed a Democrat to host a show; uses call screening to "suppress" calls from Democratic supporters; and violates "campaign finance laws by providing free media for advertising, attacks on Democrats, fundraising, and promotion exclusively to GOP officials and candidates."

Rich Mauer, Anchorage Daily News - Gov. Sarah Palin used state funds in June when she traveled from Juneau to Wasilla to speak to graduating evangelical students and urge them to fan out through Alaska "to make sure God's will be done here." State records show that Palin submitted a travel authorization for a quick round-trip visit to attend the June 8 graduation of the Master's Commission program at the Wasilla Assembly of God, the church where she was baptized at age 12. The only other item on the agenda for that trip was a "One Lord Sunday" service involving a network of Mat-Su Christian churches earlier that morning at the Wasilla sports complex. . Palin's spokeswoman in the governor's office, Sharon Leighow, said the state paid for the trip because Palin was invited to the events as the governor, not as a private citizen.

Political Wire - Sen. Barack Obama's campaign is "very much on track toward its goal of signing up 150,000 new voters" in Virginia "by the early October voter registration deadline, on top of the 142,000 new voters who registered during primary season," according to the Washington Post. "There is no way of knowing how many of the newly registered will vote for Obama, especially since Virginia does not record voters by party affiliation. But the campaign is encouraged by the demographic profile of the new voters -- about 40 percent of those who registered in August are aged 25 or under."

Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam - Biden dismissed the prominent role played by the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, saying the group "doesn't speak for the entire Jewish community," and it "doesn't speak for the state of Israel, no matter what it insists on any occasion." The Delaware senator also attacked critics who have questioned his support of Israel saying, "I will take a back seat to no one, and again, no one in AIPAC or any other organization, in terms of questioning my support of the State of Israel." I think I can count on one hand the number of times a candidate for higher office has defended himself from such an attack by publicly fighting back and attacking AIPAC by name. . . . And I don't think Joe Biden is foolish. He knows what he can and can't get away with. He is confident enough in his record to warn AIPAC that their supporters are mouthing nonsense and that he will take them to task by name if they persist. I think too he knows that AIPAC no longer rules the roost in DC. They used to maintain their power with an iron fist. But I think that now there is more room to breath for candidates.

Greg Palast - In swing-state Colorado, the Republican Secretary of State conducted the biggest purge of voters in history, dumping a fifth of all registrations. Guess their color. In swing-state Florida, the state is refusing to accept about 85,000 new registrations from voter drives - overwhelming black voters. In swing state New Mexico, half of the Democrats of Mora, a dirt poor and overwhelmingly Hispanic county, found their registrations disappeared this year, courtesy of a Republican voting contractor.

Obama is backtracking on his plan to rescind Bush's tax cuts for wealthy Americans, saying he won't do it if the country is in a recession.

That list of books that Sarah Palin reportedly wanted banned according to various web sites is actually a generic list of books that have been banned one place or another. Besides, as Wonkette points out, "Does anybody actually believe Sarah Palin has even heard of these books?"

McClatchy Newspapers - A new 30-second TV ad attacks Barack Obama's record on education, saying that Obama backed legislation to teach " 'comprehensive sex education' to kindergartners." The announcer then says, "Learning about sex before learning to read? Barack Obama. Wrong on education. Wrong for your family." Why that's wrong: This is a deliberately misleading accusation. It came hours after the Obama campaign released a TV ad critical of McCain's votes on public education. As a state senator in Illinois, Obama did vote for but was not a sponsor of legislation dealing with sex ed for grades K-12. But the legislation allowed local school boards to teach "age-appropriate" sex education, not comprehensive lessons to kindergartners, and it gave schools the ability to warn young children about inappropriate touching and sexual predators. Republican Alan Keyes tried to use Obama's vote against him in the 2004 U.S. Senate race. At the time, Obama spoke about wanting to protect young children from abuse. He made clear then that he was not supporting teaching kindergartners about explicit details of sex.

LA Times - A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows that McCain is now winning among white women 52% to 41% after having been statistically tied with Obama in that crucial category just a month ago.

Obama has promised to double funding for private charter schools, part of a national effort to undermine public education.

"No one knows what war is like other than my family. Period." - Meghan McCain, daughter of Sen. John McCain

Palin is still scared of the press. Reporters have been told that all Palin flight conversations will be off the record unless it's announced to the contrary.

Hillary Clinton says that returning the GOP to the White house is like "asking the iceberg to save the Titanic."

The Libertarians are on 42 state ballots, the Green Party 32, Constitution Pary 33 and Nader 41.

Political Wire - Sen. John McCain has now gone four weeks without holding a formal press conference and three weeks since his last town hall meeting, according to Fox News. McCain's new campaign strategy: staged rallies with his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin.


Russia Today - The U.S. military provided combat training to Georgian commandos just months before Georgia attacked South Ossetia, according to an investigation by the Financial Times newspaper. It reports that a 15-man team of American special forces veterans spent 70 days training Georgia's elite troops outside the capital Tbilisi. The Financial Times obtained a recruitment email sent by a Pentagon contractor, MPRI, and a U.S. European Command spokesman confirmed the existence of the training programme when questioned about the email. The trainers were paid US $2000 per week plus expenses to train the Georgian troops. . . While U.S. "train and equip" operations are often highly publicised, the military has remained tight-lipped about the Georgian program. "We can confirm the programme exists, but ... we do not discuss specifics to ensure the integrity of the programme," a U.S. European Command spokesman told the Financial Times. A second 70-day training phase was due to begin on August 11, four days after the Georgian attack on its breakaway republic of South Ossetia. The trainers had already arrived in Georgia when hostilities began and were staying in Tbilisi.


Seattle Post-Intelligencer - The state Supreme Court upheld a $4.8 million verdict in favor of 11 pipefitters who claimed they were fired for raising safety concerns at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The workers filed suit nine years ago against Fluor Federal Services of Richland, a contractor at the south-central Washington nuclear site. They claimed they were laid off after refusing orders to install a valve they believed was too weak for the job. A Benton County Superior Court jury awarded them damages in 2005. . . Supporters of the workers were thrilled. "This is a decision that is going to resonate throughout Hanford for decades," said Tom Carpenter, executive director of Hanford Challenge, a watchdog group. . . The Hanford site was created as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project to build an atomic bomb. Today, it is the nation's most contaminated nuclear site, with billions of dollars of taxpayer-funded cleanup work expected to last decades.

Metaefficient - The world's largest biomass power plant running exclusively on chicken manure has opened in the Netherlands. The power plant will deliver renewable electricity to 90,000 households. It has a capacity of 36.5 megawatts, and will generate more than 270 million kwh of electricity per year. . . If the chicken manure were to be spread out over farm land, it would release not only CO2, but also methane, a very potent greenhouse gas. By using the manure for power generation, the release of methane is avoided.
The biomass power plant will utilize approximately 440,000 tons of chicken manure, roughly one third of the total amount produced each year in the Netherlands.

Tree Hugger - What is a city to do for its 1500 vehicle strong diesel-powered transportation fleet after already converting them all to run on biodiesel? Reduce the distance that biodiesel travels from point of manufacture to the filling station. . . Though San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has only just announced the project and it still needs to go through additional approval steps, the city of San Francisco and Darling International have indicated that they hope to build a biodiesel processing facility near Pier 92 on the city's waterfront. The 7.5-10 million gallon per year facility would used locally-sourced recycled fats, waste grease and tallow to produce biodiesel, albeit in relatively small quantities for a commercial plant. . . This facility will serve as a model for cities throughout the world.

Washington Post - California is poised to pass the first law in the nation linking greenhouse gas emissions to urban planning. . . The measure, known as SB375, aims to give existing and new high-density centers where people live, work and shop top priority in receiving local, state and federal transportation funds. The idea is that such developments check sprawl and ease commutes, in turn cutting the car pollution wafting through the Golden State

MSNBC - Worldwide sea levels may rise by about 2.6 to 6.6 feet by 2100 thanks to global warming, but dire predictions of larger increases seem unrealistic, U.S. scientists said. They examined scenarios for loss of ice from Greenland, Antarctica and the world's smaller glaciers and ice caps into the world's oceans, as well as ocean expansion simply due to rising water temperatures. Their calculations yielded estimates for global sea level increases by the end of the century that are lower than many existing projections, but alarming nonetheless.

Groovy Green - Like Colorado, Utah has laws on the books that make it illegal to collect rainwater that falls on one's property. A Utah car dealer installed a cistern and rainwater collection system to feed a on-site car wash that has water recycling technology. This was in an attempt to "go green". He was thwarted by the state government, and eventually had to work out a deal. Local residents who collect rainwater will not be bothered at this point because "there are bigger fish to fry. . . Colorado state law mandates that any water falling from the air is not yours. . . Here's the exact wording: "Colorado Water Law requires that precipitation fall to the ground, run off and into the river of the watershed where it fell. Because rights to water are legally allocated in this state, an individual may not capture and use water to which he/she does not have a right. We must remember also that rain barrels don't help much in a drought because a drought by its very nature supplies little in the way of snow or rain.". . . Additionally, any and all water that comes from tap may only be used once. "Denver water customers are not permitted to take their bath or laundry water (commonly referred to as gray water) and dump it on their outdoor plants or garden. . . The Colorado Springs Gazette said the following: "The rain barrel is the bong of the Colorado garden. It's legal to sell one. It's legal to own one. It's just not legal to use it for its intended purpose."


Fox News - UC Berkeley officials are preparing to remove the last remaining tree-sitters protesting a planned sports center next to Memorial Stadium. Workers are erecting scaffolding around the redwood where four protesters were still perched Tuesday. UC officials did not say how and when they plan to remove them. The protest began 21 months ago in an effort to prevent the campus from clearing an oak grove to make room for the new sports center. But the university has cut most of the trees after getting court clearance last week. The university has refused to meet the protesters' demand that it donate $6 million to environmental and Native American groups as part of an agreement for the tree-sitters to come down voluntarily. Campus spokesman Dan Mogulof said Monday the university is preparing for what it hopes will be a "quick and safe extraction" in the coming days. One of the tree-sitters, who goes by the name Huck, said he and the other three protesters with him plan to stay put.


John W. Warnock, Global Research - The most important current issue in Afghanistan is the drought, the crop failure, and the prospect of famine. This story has received no coverage in the North American media. Over the last winter Afghanistan received well-below normal rainfall and mountain snow pack. The spring runoff was light, and crop yields from irrigated agriculture have been significantly reduced. There are conditions of drought throughout the country. In many areas there are no crops and livestock has perished from lack of pasture. Wheat provides the staple food, and production is 60 percent below average. Recent rains have brought flooding, as the land has been hardened by the drought. Floods are more common because over the past few decades 60% of the woodland has been removed by the population seeking fuel for cooking and winter heating. The jump in fuel prices has raised the cost of the delivery of food from neighboring countries. Food prices are rising. The price of a 50 kg bag of wheat flour is now $35. One half of the population in Afghanistan lives on less than $2 per day. The government of Afghanistan reports that 42% of the population lives in "extreme poverty", defined as a per capita income of less than $120 per year. The United Nations Mission in Afghanistan reported in August that "at least four million most vulnerable people have already been pushed into the ‘high-risk food-insecurity ‘ category." Children are the most vulnerable. One in five children die before the age of five, mainly due to malnutrition. In response, the United Nations and other food agencies have called for an emergency fund of $404 million in order to purchase food. To date less than 20% has been forthcoming from donor countries.


Springwise - Catering to those who are frustrated with the inconvenience of traditional laundry and dry-cleaning services - many of which, like banking, can involve parking hassles and limited hours - [San Francisco's] Laundry Locker offers on-site convenience and 24-hour service through a fleet of lockers located in apartment buildings throughout the city. Customers begin by creating an account online, then they place their dirty clothes in any available locker and pocket the key. (In addition to servicing lockers in 355 apartment buildings, Laundry Locker also operates several kiosks throughout the city, and home delivery is available as well.) Laundry Locker personnel check all locations each day and send an email confirming and requesting payment for each order received. Dry cleaning is cleaned and packaged, including minor repairs at no extra charge, for prices beginning at USD 2.25 per shirt. Regular washing, meanwhile, is separated into white and colored loads and washed separately from that of other customers, then neatly folded for pick-up. Wash-and-fold pricing begins at USD 1.35 per pound, and users can specify online exactly how they want their laundry done. Clean garments are then returned to the same locker by 5 p.m. the following day, Monday through Saturday, with notification to the customer via SMS and email. Users simply unlock the locker they originally used and take out their clean clothes-packaged in a personal laundry bag Laundry Locker provides-leaving the locker available for the next customer.


Reuters - Just one can of the popular stimulant energy drink Red Bull can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke, even in young people, Australian medical researchers said day. The caffeine-loaded beverage, popular with university students and adrenaline sport fans to give them "wings", caused the blood to become sticky, a pre-cursor to cardiovascular problems such as stroke. "One hour after they drank Red Bull, (their blood systems) were no longer normal. They were abnormal like we would expect in a patient with cardiovascular disease," Scott Willoughby, lead researcher from the Cardiovascular Research Centre at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, told the Australian newspaper. Red Bull Australia spokeswoman Linda Rychter said the report would be assessed by the company's head office in Austria. . . The results showed "normal people develop symptoms normally associated with cardiovascular disease" after consuming the drink, created in the 1980s by Austrian entrepreneur Dietrich Mateschitz based on a similar Thai energy drink.
Red Bull is banned in Norway, Uruguay and Denmark because of health risks listed on its cans, but the company last year sold 3.5 billion cans in 143 countries. One can contains 80 mg of caffeine, around the same as a normal cup of brewed coffee.

Furious Seasons - An explosive study in the August Journal of Psychiatric Research . . . contends that the placebo effect in anti-depressants is much larger than I think anyone in the research world expected. It's a meta study re-analyzing eight anti-depressant trials comprising 3,063 people diagnosed with depression. The study was done by Arif Kahn et al. Kahn is well known in the research world and runs a large clinical research facility in the Seattle area. So he's a long way from being an anti-meds advocate. In the study, which looked at trials that went longer than 12 weeks (some went as long as 12 months), Kahn found that 79 percent of patients on placebo remained well compared to 93 percent of anti-depressant responders. That would give an overall effect size of the anti-depressants studied of 14 percent, well under the usual 25 percent to 30 percent in shorter anti-depressant trials. . .




BBC - Poet Laureate Andrew Motion has said that the job of writing verse for the Royal Family is "thankless" and gave him a case of writer's block. Motion told the Ealing Arts Festival in London that the Queen "never gives me an opinion on my work for her". "I won't be including any of that work in my future collections," he said, adding he "did what I had to do".. . The 55-year-old said the job has been "very, very damaging to my work". . . . "I dried up completely about five years ago and can't write anything except to commission."
Speaking about the occasion of the Queen's 60th wedding anniversary when his poem was read by Dame Judi Dench in Westminster Abbey, Motion said: "Afterwards the Queen stopped me and said 'thank you', but I have no idea if she really liked it."

Reuters - Prosecutors in Russia want to ban the award-winning satirical U.S. cartoon South Park, calling the series "extremist" after receiving viewer complaints, a spokeswoman said.

Daily Mail, UK - Telford Town Park in Shropshire, where council workers have been told to confront lone adults in the park to check if they are pedophiles. Park wardens have been ordered to stop and interrogate anyone who is not accompanied by children. The visitors who are quizzed have to explain their presence and risk being thrown out or reported to police if their answers are not satisfactory. . . Rachel Whittaker and Neil Donaldson were ejected because they had not undergone Criminal Records Bureau checks or risk assessments before entering the park - a requirement under the Child Protection Act. . . . Former childcare social worker John Evans said: 'It is authoritarian madness which can only be based on ignorance. It is absurd, it is insulting and it is dangerous as it panics people about the dangers their children face.'

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