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Undernews For November 10, 2008

Undernews For November 10, 2008

The news while there's still time
to do something about it

611 Pennsylvania Ave SE #381
Washington DC 20003
Editor: Sam Smith

10 November 2008


Wandering between two worlds, one dead, the other powerless to be born. -- Matthew Arnold



Patricia Cohen, NY Times - Three sets of researchers recently concluded that professors have virtually no impact on the political views and ideology of their students. If there has been a conspiracy among liberal faculty members to influence students, "they've done a pretty bad job," said A. Lee Fritschler, a professor of public policy at George Mason University and an author of the new book "Closed Minds? Politics and Ideology in American Universities."

A study of nearly 7,000 students at 38 institutions published in the current PS: Political Science and Politics, the journal of the American Political Science Association, as well as a second study that has been accepted by the journal to run in April 2009, both reach similar conclusions. "There is no evidence that an instructor's views instigate political change among students," Matthew Woessner and April Kelly-Woessner, a husband-and-wife team of political scientists who have frequently conducted research on politics in higher education, write in that second study. Their work is often cited by people on both sides of the debate, not least because Mr. Woessner describes himself as politically conservative.


Lest you think there isn't an American precedent for urban farming, check this photo CQ's Craig Crawford found of President Taft's pet cow, Pauline, grazing next to what is now the Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House. Below, a more recent photo of London

Guardian, UK - Londoners will be encouraged to turn flat roofs into vegetable plots as part of a scheme to grow food on 2012 patches of land across the capital by 2012, Boris Johnson said today. The "Capital Growth" project is the first initiative delivered by Rosie Boycott since she was appointed chair of London Food by the London mayor over the summer.

The former newspaper editor wants councils, schools, hospitals, housing estates, and utility companies to identify derelict land that can be turned into vegetable gardens by green-fingered Londoners keen to grow their own spuds rather than buy transported produce from the supermarket.

Boycott also envisages that spare pieces of land can be found on canal banks, banks of reservoirs, and disused railway yards.

Boycott said: "London has a good deal of green spaces - some derelict or underused - but not being used as well as they could be. We also have a veritable host of enthusiastic gardeners who are well equipped to turning derelict or underused spaces into thriving oases offering healthy food and a fantastic focus for the community. .

Boycott said in an interview in yesterday's Times that it was hoped that the 2012 makeshift plots could be found in time for the Olympics so that some of the homegrown food could be provided to athletes.

The demand for allotments has rocketed over recent years as environmental awareness has increased. But a survey conducted by the London assembly two years ago found Londoners in some parts of the capital were waiting up to 10 years for an allotment, due to a dramatic decline in the number of available plots caused by owners wanting to put the land to other uses. . .

Capital Growth - 30,000 people in London rent allotments to grow vegetables and fruit, and 14% of households grow vegetables in their garden.

There are 12,064 hectares of farmland in Greater London, representing approximately 8% of London's land area.

Farmland in London declined by 30% between 1965 and 1997.

In a survey conducted in 2005, about 57% of farmers in and around London were either approaching or over retirement age (i.e. aged over 55); less than 1% were under 30 (about 14% in total being under the age of 44). Some of the main barriers to entry for enthusiastic younger people wanting to take up food growing are money, access to land, appropriate business support, training, and connection to strong and loyal market outlets for their food. This is one of the things that Capital Growth will seek to address - connecting enthusiastic food growers with land, skills and community, to help them establish thriving food businesses for the future.


International Herald Tribune - The United States military since 2004 has used broad, secret authority to carry out nearly a dozen previously undisclosed attacks against Al Qaeda and other militants in Syria, Pakistan and elsewhere, according to senior American officials.

These military raids, typically carried out by Special Operations forces, were authorized by a classified order that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signed in the spring of 2004 with the approval of President George W. Bush, the officials said. The secret order gave the military new authority to attack the Qaeda terrorist network anywhere in the world, and a more sweeping mandate to conduct operations in countries not at war with the United States. . .

More than a half-dozen officials, including current and former military and intelligence officials as well as senior Bush administration policy makers, described details of the 2004 military order on the condition of anonymity because of its politically delicate nature. Spokesmen for the White House, the Defense Department and the military declined to comment.

The Pentagon has exercised its authority frequently, dispatching commandos to countries including Pakistan and Somalia.


Cory Doctorow, Locus Magazine - Until a very short time ago, copyright was an industrial regulation. If you fell under copyright's domain, it meant that you were using a piece of extraordinary industrial apparatus - a printing press, a motion-picture camera, a record press. The cost of this apparatus was significant, so adding a couple hundred bucks for the services of a skilled copyright attorney to the deal wasn't much of a hardship. It merely tacked a couple percentage points of overhead onto the cost of doing business.

When non-industrial entities (e.g., people, schools, church groups, etc.) interacted with copyrighted works, they did things that copyright law didn't have anything to say about: they read books, they listened to music, they sang around the piano or went to the movies. They discussed this stuff. They sang it in the shower. Retold it (with variations) to the kids at bedtime. Quoted it. Painted murals for the kids' room based on it. . .

Enter the Internet and the personal computer. These two technologies represent a perfect storm for bringing ordinary peoples' ordinary activity into the realm of copyright: every household has the apparatus to commit mass acts of infringement (the PC) and those infringements take place over a public conduit (the Internet) that can be cheaply monitored, allowing for low-cost enforcement against ordinary people by the thousand.

Copyright law valorizes copying as a rare and noteworthy event. On the Internet, copying is automatic, massive, instantaneous, free, and constant. Clip a Dilbert cartoon and stick it on your office door and you're not violating copyright. Take a picture of your office door and put it on your homepage so that the same co-workers can see it, and you've violated copyright law, and since copyright law treats copying as such a rarified activity, it assesses penalties that run to the hundreds of thousands of dollars for each act of infringement. . .

The reason copyright exists is because culture creates a market for creative works. If there was no market for creative works, there'd be no reason to care about copyright.

Content isn't king: culture is. The reason we go to the movies is to have something to talk about. If I sent you to a desert island and told you to choose between your records and your friends, you'd be a sociopath if you chose the music.

Culture's imperative is to share information: culture is shared information. . .

The natural inclination of anyone who is struck by a piece of creative work is to share it. . . It's entirely possible that there's a detente to be reached between the copyists and the copyright holders: a set of rules that only try to encompass "culture" and not "industry." But the only way to bring copyists to the table is to stop insisting that all unauthorized copying is theft and a crime and wrong. . .

Because if copying on the Internet were ended tomorrow, it would be the end of culture on the Internet too. YouTube would vanish without its storehouse of infringing clips; LiveJournal would be dead without all those interesting little user-icons and those fascinating pastebombs from books, news-stories and blogs; Flickr would dry up and blow away without all those photos of copyrighted, trademarked and otherwise protected objects, works, and scenes. . .

If culture loses the copyright wars, the reason for copyright dies with it.


Progressive Review - The Washington Post, running a front page study supporting the use of statins by healthy people, took 24 paragraphs to reveal that the study was funded by Asta Zeneca, which makes Crestor. The Post cited a researchers claim that "the company had no influence over the analysis" even thouhgh "he and his hospital receive royalties from the high-sensitivity CRP, or HSCRP, test, adding that "other researchers said that was no reason to doubt the findings."

If the Post had covered auto safety this way it would have happily accepted a report funded by GM that seat belts weren't really necessary. And, of course, there was no mention of reports of muscle deterioration and memory loss from use of statins or of natural alternatives include red yeast rice. Maybe the editors just forgot. The New York Times story was just as bad.

Here's one important thing to remember about all medical research. Since 1850, the life expectancy of a white male has increased 37 years and 41 years for a white female, but over half that increase is the result of higher survival rates of those under 30. By the time you reach 70, all the money and effort we have spent on medicine has improved life expectancy by four years. Four white males over 60, life expectancy has gone up five years. Yet a major part of pharma marketing is directed to this audience.


Independent, UK - Britain's security agencies and police would be given unprecedented and legally binding powers to ban the media from reporting matters of national security, under proposals being discussed in Whitehall.

The Intelligence and Security Committee, the parliamentary watchdog of the intelligence and security agencies which has a cross-party membership from both Houses, wants to press ministers to introduce legislation that would prevent news outlets from reporting stories deemed by the Government to be against the interests of national security.

The committee also wants to censor reporting of police operations that are deemed to have implications for national security. The ISC is to recommend in its next report, out at the end of the year, that a commission be set up to look into its plans, according to senior Whitehall sources.

The ISC holds huge clout within Whitehall. . . Civil liberties groups say these restrictions would be "very dangerous" and "damaging for public accountability". They also point out that censoring journalists when the leaks come from officials is unjustified.


APTA - At a rate of 72 percent, voters across the country in 16 states approved 23 measures out of 32 state and local public transit-related votes. A statewide California ballot initiative that passed included $9.95 billion in bonds to finance high speed rail in California. In Los Angeles, a $40 billion measure passed that will finance new and existing bus and rail lines, along with other transportation projects. In the Seattle area, people voted to expand commuter rail and express bus service and to create a 55 mile light rail system by approving $17.8 billion, and in Honolulu, $3.7 billion was approved for a commuter rail system. The Western Reserve Transit Authority in Youngstown, OH was saved from shutting down by a positive vote by Mahoning County residents. . . 12 measures raising $40 million annually for local public transit systems were approved earlier this year. Adding yesterday's election totals to this earlier amount means that at least $75.4 billion for public transportation was approved by voters in 2008.


Christian Science Monitor - Bolivia has given US Drug Enforcement Administration officers three months to leave the country - claiming that agents were stirring up political strife in the deeply divided nation.

This fall, Ecuadorians voted yes to a new Constitution that calls for the closure by next year of one of the most important US operations in its war against drugs.

And for the fourth year in a row, Venezuela was singled out by President Bush - as was Bolivia for the first time - for having "failed demonstrably" in antidrug cooperation. . .

Early this month, Bolivian President Evo Morales, the nation's first indigenous leader who rose to power as head of the coca grower's federation, expelled the DEA, claiming that agents were stoking divisions in a country already violently divided over a new Constitution that seeks more state control over energy resources and more recognition for the indigenous.

"There were DEA agents who worked to conduct political espionage and to fund criminal groups so they could launch attacks on the lives of authorities, if not the president," Mr. Morales said last week

The DEA calls the claims baseless. "We go after drug traffickers.… We don't get involved in things outside our lane," says Garrison Courtney, spokesperson for the DEA. "These are really silly accusations."

The DEA presence in Venezuela has also been dramatically reduced in the past 18 months, according to State Department officials who characterize the reduction as evidence of Venezuela's weak support for international antinarcotics effort.

And Ecuador announced it will not renew the 10-year lease at the Manta airbase, one of the US's most significant operation zones in the region since 1999. President Rafael Correa, who promised in his campaign to close the base, calls it a matter of reciprocity. During a visit to Italy last year, he joked that if the US wanted its base, it would have to allow an Ecuadorian base in Miami.

The closure of Manta "will leave a serious gap in our abilities to monitor antinarcotics operations in the eastern Pacific," says one administration official who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on the record.


Timothy A. Canova, Dissent Magazine - History should deal harshly with Bill Clinton. Throughout his terms, real wages stagnated, manufacturing and service jobs moved overseas in large numbers, and the middle class was squeezed. With the federal government asleep at the wheel, there was a significant rise in predatory lending practices by banks and mortgage companies. By Clinton's final years in office, all of these trends had contributed to an ominous rise in delinquencies and foreclosures on subprime mortgage loans. This was particularly pronounced in urban America. In Chicago, for instance, foreclosures on subprime mortgages rose from 131 in 1993 to more than 5,000 in 1999. . .

It is true that the Bush tax cuts contributed to a rising federal deficit, but the Clinton years were also marked by large public deficits. It was only at the end that Clinton saw any surplus and that was after racking up more than a trillion dollars in federal debt. Moreover, the Clinton surplus was a function of several troubling trends, including the administration's never-ending policy of fiscal austerity. In fact, federal spending fell to about 18 percent of GDP, the lowest level for the end of any presidency since those of Dwight Eisenhower and, before that, of Herbert Hoover.

Another factor that contributed to the final Clinton surplus was the inflated U.S. dollar and huge capital inflows that were attracted to dollar-denominated investments, all of which pumped up economic growth and tax revenues. It was therefore Clinton's commitment to the Washington Consensus platform of free trade and unrestricted capital mobility that made those hot money inflows possible while also setting the stage for the reversal of portfolio capital flows and today's declining dollar.

During Clinton's first three years in office, the federal government borrowed more than $1 trillion, much from abroad. Then between 1996 and 1998, foreign ownership of U.S. government securities rose 26 percent, from $669 billion to $847 billion. Under Bush, foreign ownership of U.S. government securities rose another 88 percent to $1.6 trillion by 2005.

During the Clinton years, mortgage debt grew by nearly two-thirds, from $4.1 trillion to $6.8 trillion. Under Bush, mortgage debt then doubled to $13 trillion in 2006. Likewise, under Clinton, consumer debt doubled from $856 billion to $1.7 trillion. Under Bush, it grew by another one-third to $2.3 trillion in 2006.

Much of this debt was borrowed from foreigners flush with dollars, a result of our huge trade deficits. This was the underside of the Clinton bubble economy, and it set the course for the Bush years. U.S. trade deficits also translated into increased foreign ownership of corporate America. Foreign ownership of U.S. corporate stocks and bonds rose nearly 50 percent in Clinton's final three years, from $1.9 trillion to $2.8 trillion, and then another 53 percent under Bush to $4.3 trillion. . .

Unfortunately, the myth of the Clinton economy has too often served to limit discussion about the political forces behind the present crisis in the Washington Consensus. For instance, Hillary Clinton, in promising a high-level emergency panel to recommend ways to overhaul at-risk mortgages, proposed in March that such a council of wise men should include two of the people most responsible for undermining the integrity of financial markets, former treasury secretary Robert Rubin and former Federal Reserve chair Alan Greenspan.


It seems Obama's transition team has gotten a bit ahead of itself. On Friday we reported that Obama, according to a statement on the transition team's web site, "will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by developing a plan to require 50 hours of community service in middle school and high school and 100 hours of community service in college every year."

As we noted, this plan is in sync with programs proposed by Obama's new chief of staff, Rahm Emmanuel, and by others close to the president-elect.

The item was reported by the Review and the conservative site Newsbusters but hardly any place else.

By Sunday, going to the page brought up this: "The page you requested is not available right now."

Yet, curiously, on another url one found the original proposal and layout, but substantively changed. National service is not longer a requirement, but only a goal:

Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by setting a goal that all middle school and high school students do 50 hours of community service a year and by developing a plan so that all college students who conduct 100 hours of community service receive a universal and fully refundable tax credit ensuring that the first $4,000 of their college education is completely free.

It appears that Obama has backed off the backdoor draft, setting some sort of record for politician mind-changing.

But is this change permanent? We have no idea but will stay on the case.


In the closing days of the campaign, Ralph Nader wrote this letter to Barack Obama

Ralph Nader - In your nearly two-year presidential campaign, the words "hope and change," "change and hope" have been your trademark declarations. Yet there is an asymmetry between those objectives and your political character that succumbs to contrary centers of power that want not "hope and change" but the continuation of the power-entrenched status quo.

Far more than Senator McCain, you have received enormous, unprecedented contributions from corporate interests, Wall Street interests and, most interestingly, big corporate law firm attorneys. Never before has a Democratic nominee for President achieved this supremacy over his Republican counterpart. Why, apart from your unconditional vote for the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, are these large corporate interests investing so much in Senator Obama? Could it be that in your state Senate record, your U.S. Senate record and your presidential campaign record (favoring nuclear power, coal plants, offshore oil drilling, corporate subsidies including the 1872 Mining Act and avoiding any comprehensive program to crack down on the corporate crime wave and the bloated, wasteful military budget, for example) you have shown that you are their man?

To advance change and hope, the presidential persona requires character, courage, integrity-not expediency, accommodation and short-range opportunism. Take, for example, your transformation from an articulate defender of Palestinian rights in Chicago before your run for the U.S. Senate to an acolyte, a ditto man for the hard-line AIPAC lobby, which bolsters the militaristic oppression, occupation, blockage, colonization and land-water seizures over the years of the Palestinian peoples and their shrunken territories in the West Bank and Gaza. Eric Alterman summarized numerous polls in a December 2007 issue of The Nation magazine showing that AIPAC policies are opposed by a majority of Jewish-Americans.

You know quite well that only when the U.S. government supports the Israeli and Palestinian peace movements, that years ago worked out a detailed two-state solution (which is supported by a majority of Israelis and Palestinians), will there be a chance for a peaceful resolution of this 60-year plus conflict. Yet you align yourself with the hard-liners, so much so that in your infamous, demeaning speech to the AIPAC convention right after you gained the nomination of the Democratic Party, you supported an "undivided Jerusalem," and opposed negotiations with Hamas-the elected government in Gaza. Once again, you ignored the will of the Israeli people who, in a March 1, 2008 poll by the respected newspaper Haaretz, showed that 64% of Israelis favored "direct negotiations with Hamas." Siding with the AIPAC hard-liners is what one of the many leading Palestinians advocating dialogue and peace with the Israeli people was describing when he wrote "Anti-semitism today is the persecution of Palestinian society by the Israeli state."

During your visit to Israel this summer, you scheduled a mere 45 minutes of your time for Palestinians with no news conference, and no visit to Palestinian refugee camps that would have focused the media on the brutalization of the Palestinians. Your trip supported the illegal, cruel blockade of Gaza in defiance of international law and the United Nations charter. You focused on southern Israeli casualties which during the past year have totaled one civilian casualty to every 400 Palestinian casualties on the Gaza side. Instead of a statesmanship that decried all violence and its replacement with acceptance of the Arab League's 2002 proposal to permit a viable Palestinian state within the 1967 borders in return for full economic and diplomatic relations between Arab countries and Israel, you played the role of a cheap politician, leaving the area and Palestinians with the feeling of much shock and little awe.

David Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator, described your trip succinctly: "There was almost a willful display of indifference to the fact that there are two narratives here. This could serve him well as a candidate, but not as a President."

Palestinian American commentator, Ali Abunimah, noted that Obama did not utter a single criticism of Israel, "of its relentless settlement and wall construction, of the closures that make life unlivable for millions of Palestinians. . . Even the Bush administration recently criticized Israeli's use of cluster bombs against Lebanese. But Obama defended Israeli's assault on Lebanon as an exercise of its `legitimate right to defend itself.'". . .

Israeli writer and peace advocate-Uri Avnery-described Obama's appearance before AIPAC as one that "broke all records for obsequiousness and fawning, adding that Obama "is prepared to sacrifice the most basic American interests. After all, the US has a vital interest in achieving an Israeli-Palestinian peace that will allow it to find ways to the hearts of the Arab masses from Iraq to Morocco. Obama has harmed his image in the Muslim world and mortgaged his future-if and when he is elected president.," he said, adding, "Of one thing I am certain: Obama's declarations at the AIPAC conference are very, very bad for peace. And what is bad for peace is bad for Israel, bad for the world and bad for the Palestinian people."

A further illustration of your deficiency of character is the way you turned your back on the Muslim-Americans in this country. You refused to send surrogates to speak to voters at their events. Having visited numerous churches and synagogues, you refused to visit a single Mosque in America. Even George W. Bush visited the Grand Mosque in Washington D.C. after 9/11 to express proper sentiments of tolerance before a frightened major religious group of innocents. . .

Perhaps nothing illustrated your utter lack of political courage or even the mildest version of this trait than your surrendering to demands of the hard-liners to prohibit former president Jimmy Carter from speaking at the Democratic National Convention. This is a tradition for former presidents and one accorded in prime time to Bill Clinton this year.

Here was a President who negotiated peace between Israel and Egypt, but his recent book pressing the dominant Israeli superpower to avoid Apartheid of the Palestinians and make peace was all that it took to sideline him. Instead of an important address to the nation by Jimmy Carter on this critical international problem, he was relegated to a stroll across the stage to "tumultuous applause," following a showing of a film about the Carter Center's post-Katrina work. Shame on you, Barack Obama!

But then your shameful behavior has extended to many other areas of American life. You have turned your back on the 100-million poor Americans composed of poor whites, African-Americans, and Latinos. You always mention helping the "middle class" but you omit, repeatedly, mention of the "poor" in America.

Your presidential campaign again and again has demonstrated cowardly stands. "Hope" some say "springs eternal." But not when "reality" consumes it daily.


BBC - Spammers are turning a profit despite only getting one response for every 12.5m e-mails they send, finds a study. By hijacking a working spam network, US researchers have uncovered some of the economics of being a junk mailer.

The analysis suggests that such a tiny response rate means a big spam operation can turn over millions of pounds in profit every year. It also suggests that spammers may be susceptible to attacks that make it more costly to send junk mail.

The spam study was carried out in early 2008 by computer scientists from University of California, Berkeley and UC, San Diego. . . "The best way to measure spam is to be a spammer," wrote the researchers in a paper describing their work.


Slate - The narrow margin of victory for California's Proposition 8, an amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage, may be attributable to millions of dollars in donations from members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The Mormons' support for the ballot measure is no small irony given the Church's onetime support of polygamy. The Church disavowed that doctrine in 1890 so that Utah could become a state, but renegade Mormon sects continue to practice polygamy today. . .

LDS leaders expressed support for Proposition 8 in letters to congregations, Web videos, and outreach efforts with the Protect Marriage Coalition. Church elders pressed followers to "support in every way possible the sacred institution of marriage as we know it to be." That translated into at least $14 million in donations from individual Mormons and Mormon-owned businesses, according to a 25-page spreadsheet posted on the Web site (excerpts below and on the following two pages).

Stop All Monsters - The Mormons dumped tons of money into California to take away the rights of gay Californians to marry. They won. Now, we fight back. So, first up on the Mormon boycott list is Brent Andrus. Brent runs a few hotels, called the Courtyard Marriott, Fairfield Inn Marriott, Residence Inn Marriott and the Spring Hill Suites Marriott.
Please do not do business with these hotels.

Sam Smith, Progressive Review - I've long felt that on both the abortion and the gay marriage issue, activists were not strong enough in making the case that negative laws on such matters are irrefutably the result of religious views and regulations and hence government's involvement represents making a law "respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" in clear violation of the Constitution.

In other words, instead of considering the issue from the viewpoint of women or gays, look at it from the viewpoint of religions or churches within religions that permit such practices as abortion or gay marriage. They don't have to be in the majority; they simply have to exist. In effect, the government is placing Catholicism or Mormonism above more liberal faiths.

It can be rightfully argued that the government has some interest in such matters - most significantly from the health standpoint - but it may not ignore the Constitution simply because a prohibition is traditional or favors the religions of the majority of voters.

In 1802, Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptists: "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their 'legislature' should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State."

James Madison's views were similar: "Congress should not establish a religion and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contrary to their conscience, or that one sect might obtain a preeminence, or two combined together, and establish a religion to which they would compel others to conform."

Wikipedia - From the early Christian era, marriage was thought of as primarily a private matter, with no religious or other ceremony being required. Prior to 1545, Christian marriages in Europe were by mutual consent, declaration of intention to marry and upon the subsequent physical union of the parties. The couple would promise verbally to each other that they would be married to each other; the presence of a priest or witnesses was not required. This promise was known as the "verbum." If made in the present tense (e.g., "I marry you"), it was unquestionably binding; if made in the future tense ("I will marry you"), it would constitute a betrothal. But if the couple proceeded to have sexual relations, the union was a marriage. One of the functions of churches from the Middle Ages was to register marriages, which was not obligatory. There was no state involvement in marriage and personal status, with these issues being adjudicated in ecclesiastical courts.

It was only after the Council of Trent in 1545, as part of the Counter-Reformation, that a Roman Catholic marriage would be recognized only if the marriage ceremony was officiated by a priest with two witnesses. The Council also authorized a Catechism, issued in 1566, which defined marriage as, "The conjugal union of man and woman, contracted between two qualified persons, which obliges them to live together throughout life."

This change did not extend to the regions affected by the Protestant Reformation, where marriage by consent continued to be the norm. As part of the Reformation, the role of recording marriages and setting the rules for marriage passed to the state; by the 1600s many of the Protestant European countries had a state involvement in marriage.

In the early modern period, John Calvin and his Protestant colleagues reformulated Christian marriage by enacting the Marriage Ordinance of Geneva, which imposed "The dual requirements of state registration and church consecration to constitute marriage" for recognition. That was the first state involvement in marriage.

In England and Wales, Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act 1753 required a formal ceremony of marriage, thereby curtailing the practice of Fleet Marriage. . . The Act required a marriage ceremony to be officiated by an Anglican priest in the Anglican Church with two witnesses and registration. The Act did not apply to Jewish marriages or those of Quakers, whose marriages continued to be governed by their own customs.

San Francisco Gate - A day after California voters approved a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, the incendiary issue returned to the state Supreme Court, where gay and lesbian couples and the city of San Francisco filed lawsuits seeking to overturn Proposition 8. . .

And Attorney General Jerry Brown, who represents the state in court, said he would defend the legality of the thousands of same-sex marriages conducted in the 5 1/2 months leading up to election day - even though sponsors of Prop. 8 say the measure was intended to invalidate those marriages. That controversy is also likely to end up before California's high court and could reach the U.S. Supreme Court. . .

A research institute at UCLA has estimated that 18,000 same-sex couples have married in California since the state Supreme Court's ruling legalizing such marriages took effect June 16. . .

Prop. 8 would overturn the court's 4-3 ruling May 15 that declared same-sex couples had the right to marry under the California Constitution on the grounds of privacy and equal protection. Backers of the measure made the court a focus of their campaign, accusing "activist judges" of thwarting the will of voters who had approved a similar measure as an initiative statute in 2000. . .

Although their lawyers would not discuss their strategy publicly, each suit seeks to overturn Prop. 8 on the basis of state law and avoids federal constitutional claims that could send the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Gay-rights advocates have tried to keep such disputes away from the nation's high court, out of fear that the justices would issue a nationwide ruling rejecting any right of same-sex marriage under the U.S. Constitution.


Clintonistas advising Obama and/or on the possible appointment list

Madeleine Albright
Carol Browner
Warren Christopher
Stephanie Cutter
Bill Daley
Tom Donlon
Maria Echaveste
Christopher Edley
Rahm Emmanuel
Jamie Gorelick
Richard Holbrooke
Frederico Pena
John Podesta
Susan Rice
DennIs Ross
Robert Rubin
Wendy Sherman
Lawrence Summers
Christine Varney


NY Times - Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers's policies and his tenure as Harvard president have surfaced as issues. Timothy F. Geithner, also seen as a Treasury candidate, has been criticized for a link to policies of the current secretary. . .

In the days since Mr. Obama was elected, liberal bloggers have sought to ignite an online opposition by recalling the rocky five years Mr. Summers spent as president of Harvard, where he angered many women and blacks before resigning in 2006.

Reaching back farther, other Web sites have resurrected a 1991 memorandum that Mr. Summers signed as an economist at the World Bank that suggested parts of Africa could be repositories for toxic waste. . .

Mr. Geithner presents a different problem for Mr. Obama, who staked his campaign on a call for change in Washington, especially in areas of economic policy. Though a nonpartisan Federal Reserve official, Mr. Geithner is tightly linked with the policies of the current Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., and the Bush White House. Among the public, there remains deep skepticism over the wisdom and fairness of the bank bailouts.

Many on Wall Street still question Mr. Geithner's role in allowing the investment bank Lehman Brothers to collapse into bankruptcy, an event some believe exacerbated the financial crisis. Some also say Mr. Geithner relies too much on financial executives for guidance and, except in the Lehman case, is too quick to come to their rescue.

"He is too tied to Wall Street and too tied to this administration," said Joseph Mason, banking professor at Louisiana State University and a critic of the bailout plans. . .

In angering feminists, blacks and environmentalists over time, Mr. Summers has hurt himself with three groups that make up much of the base of the Democratic Party - making him a prime example of the constituent politics that Mr. Obama must maneuver around in coming weeks.

While at Harvard, Mr. Summers sparked a furor by suggesting that innate factors might help explain why more men than women go into scientific fields and excel there.

"There is no need for Obama to open that can of worms and court controversy when there are other good people" who could lead the Treasury, said one Democratic source who asked to remain unnamed. While Mr. Summers could weather the attacks, he also faces skepticism among colleagues, even those who admire him as an outstanding economist with a successful record at the Treasury, as being arrogant and sometimes condescending. . .


Time - As Joel Hunter explains it, his telephone prayer session with Barack Obama on Tuesday, roughly 10 hours before Obama was declared winner of the presidential election, was not intended to be as intimate as it ended up. Obama, says Hunter, "just wanted to pray with some folks," and his religious liaison arranged a conference call with Hunter, Dallas Pentecostal megapastor T.D. Jakes, Houston Methodist minister (and George Bush favorite) Kirbyjon Caldwell and Otis Moss II, the retired pastor of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland. But Obama was delayed, Jakes had to appear on live TV, and Caldwell had to board a plane, explains Hunter; so the candidate ended up praying with just Moss and Hunter.

Hunter won't divulge the prayer's content other than to say that Obama "trusts God and the American people and just wanted to commend himself to each." The 60-year-old champion of what some call the New Evangelicalism also downplays the session's possible importance for his own status, noting that Obama has always been "very good about keeping religious leaders in the loop." Though he says he has prayed with Obama twice before, Hunter adds, "I find it hard to believe that I'm in the inner prayer circle."

Perhaps not, but as the only white Evangelical in the prospective quartet, Hunter would be a good candidate for the next President's bridge to white Evangelicalism, which he courted on Election Day but had only marginal success in winning over. Hunter is a bona fide megapastor in Orlando, Fla., and and a longtime mover in the Evangelical world. "For a long time now, Joel has been directly politically engaged as a Christian leader, in a nuanced and multifaceted way," notes Andy Crouch, editor of the Vision Project at the Evangelical monthly Christianity Today. On a number of key positions, morevoer, he has shown his independence of the religious right.

Hunter shares his movement's typical pro-life and anti-gay-marriage social commitments. But he became best known to the mainstream press in 2006 when an arrangement for him to take over as head of the Christian Coalition, the political machine founded by Pat Robertson, imploded as it became clear that Hunter intended to steer it into more moderate waters. He has since made a name (and Fundamentalist foes) combating global warming, championing comprehensive immigration reform and extolling a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Less ambiguously than any other leader (including Purpose-Driven Life author Rick Warren, who hedges more bets), Hunter is the avatar of the New Evangelicalism, which is increasingly contesting the priorities of classic religious-right figures like James Dobson. . .

Hunter says he got to know Obama last spring during a long phone conversation. During the call, Hunter made a pitch for the expansion of faith-based partnerships between government and church. Of course, says the preacher, "that was an easy sell, because [Obama] really does want to call forth the American people to do volunteer service." He is aware that Obama's support for faith-based projects currently includes an important post-Bush caveat: programs receiving government money can't restrict their employees to co-religionists. Hunter opposes the restriction but maintains, "If we look hard enough, we can find suitable arrangements that really do protect both sides." He adds, "If you don't get into conversations that have never been entered into before, you will not win the kind of progress that has never been made before."

In fact, Hunter, author of the book A New Kind of Conservative: Cooperation Without Compromise, sees Obama as a kindred spirit. They both, he says, believe that "people with differences working together without compromising our values or losing our distinctives is essential for progress." Thus Hunter also plays down another potential bone of contention between the new President and Evangelicals - Obama's July 2007 pledge to Planned Parenthood that "the first thing I'd do, as President, is sign the Freedom of Choice Act" - a bill that could wipe out many of the inroads conservatives have made into strict interpretation of Roe v. Wade. "I think [the FCA] is a horrible idea," Hunter says. "But it's just a bill in committee," and it would take time to reach the presidential desk. "Circumstances and constituencies evolve, so I'm not sure that a promise he made to a particular constituency some time ago will even be relevant in two years."


Lawrence Summers
Chuck Hagel
Richard Lugar
John Kerry
Eric Holder
Robert Gates


Albert Eisele, The Hill, Havana - Fidel Castro, it seems, views the election of Sen. Barack Obama as a possible first step toward ending a half-century of hostile relations between Cuba and the United States. But he's not about to take the first step towards achieving that elusive goal, even though the Cuban public appears overwhelmingly in favor of closer economic and diplomatic ties with the U.S., and convinced that Obama (D-Ill.) is more likely to make that happen than Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) would have been. . . A statement by Castro made public by the state-run media just hours before the polls closed in the U.S. . . sharply criticized the U.S. and McCain, while praising Obama, whom he called "surely more clever, better educated and calm than his Republican adversary" and "the best political speaker in the United States in the past decades."

And, in what American officials here interpreted as a sign that it will be difficult for the Cuban government to criticize America's first black president when nearly 34 percent of the country's 11.2 million citizens are black or mixed-race, Castro pointedly referred to Obama's racial background while condemning America's racial history.


Robert Novak, Real Clear Politics - In serious conversations among Republicans since their election debacle Tuesday, what name is mentioned most often as the Moses, or Reagan, who could lead them out of the wilderness before 40 years? To the consternation of many Republicans, it is none other than Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House.

Gingrich is far from a unanimous or even a consensus choice to run for president in 2012, but there is a strong feeling in Republican ranks that he is the only leader of their party who has shown the skill and energy to attempt a comeback quickly.

Even one of his strongest supporters for president in 2012 admits it is a "very risky choice." But Republicans are in a desperate mood after the fiasco of John McCain's seemingly safe candidacy. . .

One Republican critic of Gingrich concedes that he has an "unlimited" energy flow and a constant stream of ideas, an important commodity in a party that appears to have run short of ideas during the Bush years. But there is widespread concern about what is described in the party as Gingrich's deep "character flaws" that would be difficult to overcome in a presidential campaign. . .

Riley Yates, New Hampshire Union Leader - Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich yesterday in Manchester said the country will be forced to reexamine freedom of speech to meet the threat of terrorism. Gingrich, speaking at a Manchester awards banquet, said a "different set of rules" may be needed to reduce terrorists' ability to use the Internet and free speech to recruit and get out their message.

"We need to get ahead of the curve before we actually lose a city, which I think could happen in the next decade," said Gingrich, a Republican who helped engineer the GOP's takeover of Congress in 1994.


NY Times - Public defenders' offices in at least seven states are refusing to take on new cases or have sued to limit them, citing overwhelming workloads that they say undermine the constitutional right to counsel for the poor.

Public defenders are notoriously overworked, and their turnover is high and their pay low. But now, in the most open revolt by public defenders in memory, many of the government-appointed lawyers say that state budget cuts and rising caseloads have pushed them to the breaking point.

In September, a Florida judge ruled that the public defenders' office in Miami-Dade County could refuse to represent many of those arrested on lesser felony charges so its lawyers could provide a better defense for other clients. Over the last three years, the average number of felony cases handled by each lawyer in a year has climbed to close to 500, from 367, officials said, and caseloads for lawyers assigned to misdemeanor cases have risen to 2,225, from 1,380.

"Right now a lot of public defenders are starting to stand up and say, 'No more: We can't ethically handle this many cases,' " said David J. Carroll, director of research for the National Legal Aid and Defender Association

"In my opinion, there should be hundreds of such motions or lawsuits," said Norman Lefstein, a professor at the Indiana University School of Law and an expert on criminal justice. "I think the quality of public defense around the country is absolutely deteriorating," Mr. Lefstein said, asserting that unless states spent more on lawyers, the courts would force them to delay trials or, as has happened in a few cases, threaten to drop charges against unrepresented defendants.



Washington Post The financial world was fixated on Capitol Hill as Congress battled over the Bush administration's request for a $700 billion bailout of the banking industry. In the midst of this late-September drama, the Treasury Department issued a five-sentence notice that attracted almost no public attention.
But corporate tax lawyers quickly realized the enormous implications of the document: Administration officials had just given American banks a windfall of as much as $140 billion. The sweeping change to two decades of tax policy escaped the notice of lawmakers for several days, as they remained consumed with the controversial bailout bill. When they found out, some legislators were furious. Some congressional staff members have privately concluded that the notice was illegal. But they have worried that saying so publicly could unravel several recent bank mergers made possible by the change and send the economy into an even deeper tailspin

Bloomberg - The Federal Reserve is refusing to identify the recipients of almost $2 trillion of emergency loans from American taxpayers or the troubled assets the central bank is accepting as collateral. Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said in September they would comply with congressional demands for transparency in a $700 billion bailout of the banking system. Two months later, as the Fed lends far more than that in separate rescue programs that didn't require approval by Congress, Americans have no idea where their money is going or what securities the banks are pledging in return.

Dean Baker, Prospect - The [Washington] Post told readers today that Federal Reserve Board chairman Ben Bernanke "response to the financial crisis has won him plaudits from congressional Democrats who view him as pragmatic and non-ideological." That may be true, but it might also be worth mentioning that Bernanke completely missed the housing bubble. Furthermore, even after it began to burst he repeatedly downplayed its consequences. In March of 2007, after the first shock waves from the subprime market were being felt, Bernanke assured Congress that the fallout was likely to be restricted to the subprime market. The following year, after Bear Stearns failed, he told Congress that he didn't see another Bear Stearns out there. Six months later, Lehman Brothers and AIG failed. If Bernanke had been quicker to recognize the severity of the problems created by the collapse of the housing bubble, he may have been able to prevent much of the current financial chaos.

Bloomberg - American International Group Inc. got a $150 billion government rescue package, almost doubling the initial bailout of less than two months ago as the insurer burns through cash at a record rate. AIG will get lower interest rates and $40 billion of new capital from the government to help ease the impact of four straight quarterly deficits, including a $24.5 billion third- quarter loss posted today by the New York-based company. Taxpayers will take on the extra risk to give Chief Executive Officer Edward Liddy more time to salvage AIG. The insurer, which needed U.S. help to escape bankruptcy in September, has posted about $43 billion in quarterly losses tied to home mortgages. Liddy's plan to repay the original $85 billion loan by selling units stalled as plunging financial markets cut into their value and hobbled potential buyers.

Washington Post - A plan is in the works at the Treasury to use bailout money to take ownership stakes in a wide array of companies beyond the banking sector. But Treasury officials have indicated that participants in its recapitalization program must be financial firms subject to federal regulation. That means GMAC, GM's auto financing arm, may be eligible for quick help, but GM itself may not. The rescue legislation gives Paulson authority to consider the automakers for future programs, such as auctions to purchase troubled assets. But the Treasury has yet to establish rules for those programs, which means such help could be months away. . . Obama and other key Democrats vowed during the campaign to support as much as $50 billion in low-interest loans for the car companies. On Friday, during his first news conference since his election as president, Obama spoke at length about the "hardship" the industry faces and referred to the auto industry as "the backbone of American manufacturing."

BBC - US mortgage finance firm Fannie Mae has reported a significant increase in third-quarter losses in the wake of the slowing housing sector. Losses hit $28.99bn in the three months to 30 September from a loss of $1.4bn a year earlier, largely due to a tax-related charge of $21.4bn. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were bailed out by the US government in a record US corporate rescue deal in September. . . The Washington-based firm said it expected house prices to continue falling in 2008 in its upper range of estimates between 7% and 9%. Together Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac own or guarantee almost half of all US home loans.


Deborah Howell, Washington Post - The Post provided a lot of good campaign coverage, but readers have been consistently critical of the lack of probing issues coverage and what they saw as a tilt toward Democrat Barack Obama. My surveys, which ended on Election Day, show that they are right on both counts. My assistant, Jean Hwang, and I have been examining Post coverage since Nov. 11 last year on issues, voters, fundraising, the candidates' backgrounds and horse-race stories on tactics, strategy and consultants. We also have looked at photos and Page 1 stories since Obama captured the nomination June 4. Numbers don't tell you everything, but they give you a sense of The Post's priorities.

The count was lopsided, with 1,295 horse-race stories and 594 issues stories. The Post was deficient in stories that reported more than the two candidates trading jabs; readers needed articles, going back to the primaries, comparing their positions with outside experts' views. There were no broad stories on energy or science policy, and there were few on religion issues. . . The op-ed page ran far more laudatory opinion pieces on Obama, 32, than on Sen. John McCain, 13. There were far more negative pieces (58) about McCain than there were about Obama (32), and Obama got the editorial board's endorsement. The Post has several conservative columnists, but not all were gung-ho about McCain.


Womens E News - Voters in Milwaukee overwhelmingly approved a ballot referendum Tuesday that requires paid sick leave for workers. . . Sixty-nine percent of voters said yes to the measure, which was spearheaded by 9to5, the National Association of Working Women. Milwaukee is the third city in the nation--after San Francisco and Washington, D.C.--to approve a paid leave measure even though it was strongly opposed by the mayor and business leaders, who said it would stifle job creation. The new law requires employers to provide nine paid sick days, but permits businesses with less than 10 employees provide only five. Sick leave can also be used to handle medical or legal issues stemming from domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.


Denver Post The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado is questioning whether [a]staged confrontation by police [at the Democratic national convention] pretending to be violent inflamed other protesters or officers during the most intense night of the four-day event. . . According to a use-of-force police report obtained by the ACLU, undercover Denver detectives staged a struggle with a police commander to get pulled out of the crowd without blowing their cover. The commander knew they were working undercover, and the plan was to pull them out of the crowd and pretend they were under arrest so protesters would be none the wiser. A Jefferson County deputy, unaware of the presence of undercover police, thought that the commander was being attacked and used pepper spray on the undercover officers. The report says that the commander and an undercover detective were sprayed, but it does not indicate how many others were affected. The report also doesn't say whether the pepper spray used on the undercover police was the first deployment of chemicals that night or whether the riot was already underway.

Newly released documents reveals the FBI tracked journalist and author David Halberstem for over two decades.


Tree Hugger - This is why Shawn-Yu Lin of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute thinks he can change the solar power game: "To get maximum efficiency when converting solar power into electricity, you want a solar panel that can absorb nearly every single photon of light, regardless of the sun's position in the sky. Our new antireflective coating makes this possible." Lin says that he's gotten around the problem of solar panels absorbing only part of the light which hits them by develop a seven-layer coating which allows the panel to absorb 96.21% of the sunlight that falls on it. This compares to untreated panels which may only be able to use about two-thirds of the light hitting them. What's more, because this coating allows the panel to do this with all angles of light hitting it, it could eliminate the practice used by some solar arrays of using mechanical trackers to follow the sun throughout the day.

Guardian, UK - Nuclear power plants smaller than a garden shed and able to power 20,000 homes will be on sale within five years, say scientists at Los Alamos, the US government laboratory which developed the first atomic bomb. The miniature reactors will be factory-sealed, contain no weapons-grade material, have no moving parts and will be nearly impossible to steal because they will be encased in concrete and buried underground. The US government has licensed the technology to Hyperion, a New Mexico-based company which said last week that it has taken its first firm orders and plans to start mass production within five years. 'Our goal is to generate electricity for 10 cents a watt anywhere in the world,' said John Deal, chief executive of Hyperion. 'They will cost approximately $25m each. For a community with 10,000 households, that is a very affordable $250 per home.'. . . 'You could never have a Chernobyl-type event - there are no moving parts,' said Deal. 'You would need nation-state resources in order to enrich our uranium. Temperature-wise it's too hot to handle. It would be like stealing a barbecue with your bare hands.'

Tree Hugger - Late last month, the Australian Solar Sailor company announced they'd signed a deal with China's biggest shipping line, COSCO, to fit some of their jumbo jet sized solar-powered sails to a tanker and bulk carrier. The 30 meter long sails, festooned in photovoltaic panels are expected to catch enough wind to reduce fuel costs by between 20% and 40%, whilst those PV cells will provide the ships with 5% of their electricity. A computer automatically angles the sails for maximum wind and solar efficiency, and if all goes to plan the sails will have recovered their initial cost within four years.

Renee Schoof, McClatchy Newspapers - In the next few weeks, the Bush administration is expected to relax environmental-protection rules on power plants near national parks, uranium mining near the Grand Canyon and more mountaintop-removal coal mining in Appalachia. The administration is widely expected to try to get some of the rules into final form by the week before Thanksgiving because, in some cases, there's a 60-day delay before new regulations take effect. And once the rules are in place, undoing them generally would be a more time-consuming job for the next Congress and administration. The regulations already have had periods of public comment, and no further comments are being taken. The administration has proposed the rules and final approval is considered likely.


Spiegel, Germany - A court in Poland ruled that it was not slanderous to refer to President Lech Kaczynski as a duck.


Telegraph, UK - Brighton & Hove City Council has apologized after a worker accidentally said "Oh s---" during the recording. Callers first hear a man asking them to "hold the line" before a woman interrupts him and says the computer system is down, before uttering the swear word.. . . Resident Gary Morrill, 48, said he hoped no old age pensioners had heard the offensive remark. He said: "It's a typical council mess up. It would be very offensive if an old lady had called the number and heard that when all she wanted was some council tax advice."


Channel 4, DC - Jersey City councilman Steven Lipski has reportedly been arrested for urinating on a crowd of concertgoers from the balcony of a Washington D.C. nightclub. Jersey City councilman Steven Lipski said he "resolved not to touch alcohol again." The New Jersey councilman who allegedly urinated on a crowd of concertgoers from the balcony of a Washington, D.C. nightclub swore off booze on Sunday -- two days after he was busted for the embarrassing stunt. Lipski was in D.C. to see a Grateful Dead tribute band and was spotted relieving himself by one of the club's staffers around 9:50 p.m.

In order to save money, rest rooms at 19 New Jersey state parks will be closed through March 31, but only on weekends when the most people will there.


BBC - The owner of an Indian food store in Bristol has received a apology letter and L100 from a former drug addict who stole cigarettes from the shop in 2001.
Imran Ahmed, 27, who runs Raja Foods in St Marks Road, Easton, said he was stunned to open the remorseful letter. It begins: "Dear Sirs, I am writing this letter to make amends to you for something I have done in the past.". . . The thief's letter continues: "About seven years ago I was walking past your shop late one night when I noticed that someone had broken into it.I used this opportunity to enter your shop where I stole 400 cigarettes. The money enclosed (L100) is to pay for those cigarettes which I stole from you. At that time I was heavily using drugs and my life was in a mess, now I no longer use drugs and I strive to lead a decent and honest life. "As part of my ongoing recovery I try to put right all of the wrongs I have done in the past, at least where I can, and this is why I am giving you back the money which I stole from you."

Telegraph UK - A Daily Telegraph/YouGov poll commissioned to mark the 60th birthday of the Prince this Friday showed that only 17 per cent wanted the Duchess to become Queen. When the same question was asked on her 60th birthday in July 2007, the number in favor was 28 per cent. The drop in popular support will be a blow to the Prince, who wants his wife to also become his Queen on his accession.

MTV Switch - Gum can be re-chewed by simply adding sugar. Once you've extracted all the flavor, simply coating your chewed gum in sugar (or Splenda, if that's what you prefer) can make it taste as good as new. There are additional ways to alter this formula, such as adding hot sauce and cinnamon to imitate Big Red, or mint leaves for cleaning up your stinky breath.




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