Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Booman Tribune: Rockefeller is Selling Us Out

by BooMan
Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 02:26:31 PM EST

Today, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, great-grandson of oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, penned an editorial in the...drum roll...Washington Post, explaining his rationale for immunizing the telecommunications corporations from accountability for their wanton lawbreaking.

Rockefeller became the chairman of the Senate Intelligence committee in January of 2007. Verizon employees immediately bundled their donations to him to the tune of nearly $25,000. Why would they do that?

Scientists discover new way to make water

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — In a familiar high-school chemistry demonstration, an instructor first uses electricity to split liquid water into its constituent gases, hydrogen and oxygen. Then, by combining the two gases and igniting them with a spark, the instructor changes the gases back into water with a loud pop.

Scientists at the University of Illinois have discovered a new way to make water, and without the pop. Not only can they make water from unlikely starting materials, such as alcohols, their work could also lead to better catalysts and less expensive fuel cells.

Katrina victims increasingly depressed, traumatized, and suicidal as relief efforts drag on

According to the most comprehensive survey of people affected by Hurricane Katrina, results of which are being presented today to the US Senate, the percentage of pre-hurricane residents of the affected areas who have mental disorders has increased significantly compared to the situation five to eight months after the hurricane. These findings counter a more typical pattern from previous disasters where prevalence of mental disorders decreases as time passes.

Hung Jury in Terror Finance Case

The government's most celebrated effort to prosecute a Muslim charity for financing terrorism ended in a bust.

A federal judge declared a mistrial on Monday in what was widely seen as the government’s flagship terrorism-financing case after prosecutors failed to persuade a jury to convict five leaders of a Muslim charity on any charges, or even to reach a verdict on many of the 197 counts. ...

War In Context: The box on the Euphrates

Writing in The American Conservative, former CIA officer Philip Giraldi sees in the Syrian-nuclear-reactor story the hallmarks of a disinformation campaign:

In the intelligence community, a disinformation operation is a calculated attempt to convince an audience that falsehoods about an adversary are true, either to discredit him or, in an extreme case, to justify military action. When such a campaign is properly conducted, information is leaked to numerous outlets over a period of time, creating the impression of a media consensus that the story is true, as each new report validates earlier ones.

11 Solutions to Halting the Environmental Crisis

By Yifat Susskind, AlterNet
Posted on October 31, 2007, Printed on October 31, 2007

You probably don't need to be told that the threat of climate change is real. If you're concerned about the issue, it's fairly easy to conjure the apocalyptic scenes of widespread drought, frequent deadly storms, mass hunger, and wars over natural resources like oil and water. Much harder to come by are examples of positive actions that can avert these disasters and ease the crisis in places where they are already in play. So let's skip the litany of catastrophes that await if global warming is not controlled. Instead, why not focus on some solutions? None are perfect or complete, but each offers a model of positive change that is more than theoretically possible -- it is already happening.

Noam Chomsky Weighs In On 9/11 Conspiracy Theories

By Adam Howard
Posted on October 30, 2007, Printed on October 31, 2007
While acknowledging that he may be out-of-step with many of his colleagues on the left, Chomsky talks about why he doesn't believe that 9/11 was an "inside job."

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Plamegate Finale: We Were Right; They Were Wrong

Four and a half years ago, after reading the Robert Novak column that outed Valerie Plame Wilson as a CIA operative specializing in counter-proliferation work, I wrote an article in this space noting that this particular leak from Bush administration officials might have been a violation of a federal law prohibiting government officials from disclosing information about clandestine intelligence officers and (perhaps worse) might have harmed national security by exposing anti-WMD operations. That piece was the first to identify the leak as a possible White House crime and the first to characterize the leak as evidence that within the Bush administration political expedience trumped national security.

The importance of mangrove conservation in tsunami prone regions

Agricultural expansion rather than shrimp farming is the major factor responsible for the destruction of tropical mangrove forests in the tsunami-impacted regions of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka, according to a new study published in the Journal of Biogeography.

Giri and other researchers used more than 750 Landsat satellite images to identify the remaining mangrove forests of the region, to quantify the rates and causes of change from 1975 to 2005, and to identify deforestation ‘hot spots,’. Landsat is the world’s longest continuously acquired collection of space-based land remote sensing data. The study found that the major factors responsible for mangrove deforestation in the study area include agriculture encroachment (81%), aquaculture (12%), and urban development (2%). However, shrimp farming is on the rise in Indonesia and Thailand.

Sound training rewires dyslexic children's brains for reading

Follow-up studies will seek to remediate dyslexia even in pre-readers

Some children with dyslexia struggle to read because their brains aren't properly wired to process fast-changing sounds, according to a brain-imaging study published this month in the journal Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience (online October 16). The study found that sound training via computer exercises can literally rewire children's brains, correcting the sound processing problem and improving reading. According to the study's first author, Nadine Gaab, PhD, of the Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience at Children's Hospital Boston, the finding may someday help clinicians diagnose dyslexia even before reading begins, and suggests new ways of treating dyslexia, such as musical training.

Juan Cole: US Sanctions on Iran

The Bush administration announced wideranging new sanctions on Iran on Thursday, which target three Iranian banks, nine companies associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, and several individuals, as well as the IRGC (roughly analogous to the National Guard in the US, i.e. a populist adjunct to the formal Iranian army).

These unilateral sanctions clearly reflect frustration on the part of Bush/Cheney that they have not been able to convince the UN Security Council to apply international sanctions. (Iran has not been demonstrated to be doing anything that is illegal in international law.)

The Mega-Bunker of Baghdad

The new American Embassy in Baghdad will be the largest, least welcoming, and most lavish embassy in the world: a $600 million massively fortified compound with 619 blast-resistant apartments and a food court fit for a shopping mall. Unfortunately, like other similarly constructed U.S. Embassies, it may already be obsolete.

by William Langewiesche November 2007

When the new American Embassy in Baghdad entered the planning stage, more than three years ago, U.S. officials inside the Green Zone were still insisting that great progress was being made in the construction of a new Iraq. I remember a surreal press conference in which a U.S. spokesman named Dan Senor, full of governmental conceits, described the marvelous developments he personally had observed during a recent sortie (under heavy escort) into the city. His idea now was to set the press straight on realities outside the Green Zone gates. Senor was well groomed and precocious, fresh into the world, and he had acquired a taste for appearing on TV. The assembled reporters were by contrast a disheveled and unwashed lot, but they included serious people of deep experience, many of whom lived fully exposed to Iraq, and knew that society there was unraveling fast. Some realized already that the war had been lost, though such were the attitudes of the citizenry back home that they could not yet even imply this in print.

Glenn Greenwald: A bizarre, unsolicited e-mail from Gen. Petraeus' spokesman

I received this morning an unsolicited email from Col. Steven A. Boylan, the Public Affairs Officer and personal spokesman for Gen. David G. Petraeus (see UPDATE III below). The subject line of the email -- which I am publishing in full, unedited form here -- is "The growing link between the U.S. military and right-wing media and blogs," which is the title of the post I wrote earlier this week regarding the politicization of the Army in Iraq, as evidenced by its constant coordination with, and leaking to, the likes of Matt Drudge, The Weekly Standard, and the most extremist right-wing blogs -- in the TNR/Beauchamp case and also more generally.

Hopefully crazy: the right's unAmerican yearning for a John Wayne government

Yesterday was a good day for crazy.

Last week I asked if it wasn't time for Congress to ask -- and not entirely rhetorically -- Is the president mad? But yesterday, the somewhat more widely read New York Times took a double-barreled survey of the psychiatrically troubled recesses of the conservative mind, and crazy, hands down, was king.

Immunity deals 'routine' for contractors

By LARA JAKES JORDAN and MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press Writers
15 minutes ago

Limited immunity has been routinely offered to private security contractors involved in shootings in Iraq, State Department officials said Tuesday, denying such actions jeopardized criminal prosecution of Blackwater USA guards accused of killing 17 Iraqi civilians.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack declined to discuss specifics of the agency's role in the investigation, but said any immunity deals should not stop the Justice Department from prosecuting.

Frog killer fungus 'breakthrough'

By Kim Griggs
Science reporter, Wellington

New Zealand scientists have found what appears to be a cure for the disease that is responsible for wiping out many of the world's frog populations.

Chloramphenicol, currently used as an eye ointment for humans, may be a lifesaver for the amphibians, they say.

The researchers found frogs bathed in the solution became resistant to the killer disease, chytridiomycosis.

U.S. Stands in the Way of International Pipeline Deal

By Abbas Maleki, MIT Center for International Studies
Posted on October 30, 2007, Printed on October 30, 2007

A major natural gas pipeline that would stretch from the fields of southern Iran to Pakistan and India -- itself a remarkable prospect -- is being planned. But it faces serious hurdles, not least the fierce opposition of the U.S. government.

The history of relations between Persia and the Indian subcontinent is more than 2000 years old. Until 200 years ago, Persian was the language of literature and government in India. After separation of Pakistan from India, Iran faced a dilemma of its relations with these two new states. During the Shah's era, Iran preferred to have close relations with Pakistan, although economic ties with India were not ignored. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and Pakistan's support of hardliners in Afghanistan, Iran found India as a new partner in Asia. India has been slowly but surely forging a comprehensive relationship with Iran on energy and commerce, infrastructure development, and military ties. Iran looks to India as a developed, democratic, and politically lucrative country for cooperation. For instance, some 8,000 Iranian students are studying in India, compared with 2,000 in the United States.

The Business Press and Me: a Case of Unrequited Love

By Naomi Klein, Comment Is Free
Posted on October 25, 2007, Printed on October 30, 2007

On a recent visit to Calgary, Alberta, I was taken aback to see my book on disaster capitalism selling briskly at the airport. Calgary is ground zero of North America's oil and gas boom, where business suits and cowboy hats are the de facto uniform. I had a sudden sinking feeling: did Calgary's business class think The Shock Doctrine was a how-to guide - a manual for making millions from catastrophe? Were they hoping for tips on landing no-bid contracts if the US bombs Iran?

When I get worried about inadvertently fueling the disaster complex, I take comfort in the response the book has elicited from the world's leading business journalists. That's where I learn that the very notion of disaster capitalism is my delusion - or, as Otto Reich, former adviser to President George Bush, told BBC Business Daily, it is the work "of a very confused person".

Monday, October 29, 2007

Studs Terkel: The Wiretap This Time


EARLIER this month, the Senate Intelligence Committee and the White House agreed to allow the executive branch to conduct dragnet interceptions of the electronic communications of people in the United States. They also agreed to “immunize” American telephone companies from lawsuits charging that after 9/11 some companies collaborated with the government to violate the Constitution and existing federal law. I am a plaintiff in one of those lawsuits, and I hope Congress thinks carefully before denying me, and millions of other Americans, our day in court.

During my lifetime, there has been a sea change in the way that politically active Americans view their relationship with government. In 1920, during my youth, I recall the Palmer raids in which more than 10,000 people were rounded up, most because they were members of particular labor unions or belonged to groups that advocated change in American domestic or foreign policy. Unrestrained surveillance was used to further the investigations leading to these detentions, and the Bureau of Investigation — the forerunner to the F.B.I. — eventually created a database on the activities of individuals. This activity continued through the Red Scare of the period.

Paul Krugman: Fearing Fear Itself

In America’s darkest hour, Franklin Delano Roosevelt urged the nation not to succumb to “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror.” But that was then.

Today, many of the men who hope to be the next president — including all of the candidates with a significant chance of receiving the Republican nomination — have made unreasoning, unjustified terror the centerpiece of their campaigns.

Why California's Wildfires are America's Future

Sharon Begley

I'm pretty conservative about attributing weird weather and other climate anomalies to global warming: all you can say is that a record-setting hot October, or a string of 70-degree days in January in New York, is consistent with what a greenhouse world would be like. But when scientists go on record with a specific prediction of how climate change will play out, and when it indeed plays out that way, attention must be paid.

Last year, a study in the journal Science found that "large wildfire activity increased suddenly and markedly in the mid-1980s, with higher large-wildfire frequency, longer wildfire durations, and longer wildfire seasons." The greatest increases were in forests of the Northern Rockies, but was seen throughout the west The pattern of western fires matched what would be expected not from changes in land use--mostly logging and ranching--but from climate change.

As Democrats Criticize, Health Care Industry Donates

WASHINGTON, Oct.28 — In a reversal from past election cycles, Democratic candidates for president are outpacing Republicans in donations from the health care industry, even as the leading Democrats in the field offer proposals that have caused deep anxiety in some sectors of the industry, according to campaign finance records.

Hospitals, drug makers, doctors and insurers gave candidates in both parties more than $11 million in the first nine months of this year, according to an analysis done for The New York Times by the Center for Responsive Politics, an independent group that tracks campaign finance.

Taser time on America's public lands

The U.S. Forest Service 'is experiencing confusion and drift in its central identity and direction, and ambiguity in the way it allocates power and responsibility,' a recent survey of Forest Service workers found

At about the same time University of Florida student Andrew Meyer was getting tasered by overly heated campus security guards during an appearance by Sen. John Kerry, TASER International Inc. announced that it had received an order from the United States Forest Service for 700 TASER (r) X26 electronic control devices and related accessories.

Tomgram: Thoughts on Getting to the March

The Bureaucracy, the March, and the War

American Disengagement
By Tom Engelhardt

As I was heading out into a dark, drippingly wet, appropriately dispiriting New York City day, on my way to the "Fall Out Against the War" march -- one of 11 regional antiwar demonstrations held this Saturday -- I was thinking: then and now, Vietnam and Iraq. Since the Bush administration had Vietnam on the brain while planning to take down Saddam Hussein's regime for the home team, it's hardly surprising that, from the moment its invasion was launched in March 2003, the Vietnam analogy has been on the American brain -- and, even domestically, there's something to be said for it.

As John Mueller, an expert on public opinion and American wars, pointed out back in November 2005, Americans turned against the Iraq War in a pattern recognizable from the Vietnam era (as well as the Korean one) -- initial, broad post-invasion support that eroded irreversibly as American casualties rose. "The only thing remarkable about the current war in Iraq," Mueller wrote, "is how precipitously American public support has dropped off. Casualty for casualty, support has declined far more quickly than it did during either the Korean War or the Vietnam War." He added, quite correctly, as it turned out: "And if history is any indication, there is little the Bush administration can do to reverse this decline."

Wrongly accused

IMMIGRATION | Think illegals are more likely to be involved in crime? Think again

October 29, 2007

Some say undocumented immigrants -- illegal aliens, as they're often called -- spread crime when they come to the U.S. Others say that is a myth.

Reliable statistics on crime by undocumented immigrants are hard to come by. But the Chicago Sun-Times has learned that less than 4 percent of the adults in Illinois prisons have been identified as illegal immigrants. And as of mid-July, less than 3 percent of the inmates in Cook County Jail were illegals.

Your Privacy Is Someone Else's Profit

By Onnesha Roychoudhuri, AlterNet
Posted on October 29, 2007, Printed on October 29, 2007

On the 24th of October, presidential candidate Barack Obama, D-Ill., added his name to the list of senators, led by Chris Dodd, D-Conn., who oppose immunity for telecoms who have participated in domestic spying. As this debate heats up in the Senate and in the papers, Americans are confronted with an unsettling reality: Private companies have more control over our personal information than we do.

While the interactive revolution was touted as the democratization of information, it has also greatly accelerated the consolidation of power in the hands of both government and industry. Whether we're talking on our cell phones, paying bills online, or doing research for a paper, our communications now leave an elaborate footprint. It is these footprints that advertisers are so hungrily compiling, creating massive databases to track our daily movements in order to better pitch us products down the line -- or to share with the government.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Family Security Matters Advisers Have Ties To Their Own ‘Most Dangerous’ Organizations In America

Yesterday, the conservative front group Family Security Matters (FSM) released its list of “The Ten Most Dangerous Organizations in America.” Among the top 10 “hate” organizations were, the Center for American Progress, and “Universities and Colleges.” ThinkProgress earned the 10th spot in the rankings.

Red meat and alcohol 'raise the risk of cancer'

Denis Campbell, health correspondent
Sunday October 28, 2007
The Observer

Eating red meat and drinking alcohol in even small quantities increases the risk of developing cancer, a group of world renowned scientists will warn this week.

People should minimise their consumption of both in order to safeguard their health, the biggest inquiry ever undertaken into lifestyle and cancer will recommend.

In addition, the millions of people who are now obese are running as great a risk of getting cancer as smokers do, a major global report by the World Cancer Research Fund will also warn.

Frank Rich: Rudy, the Values Slayer

WITH the new president heading off to his Texas vacation during that slow news month of August 2001, I wrote a column about a man who would never be president: Rudy Giuliani. Banished from Gracie Mansion after dumping his second wife for Judith Nathan, New York’s lame-duck mayor had been bunking for two months with a gay couple. No brand-name American politician had ever publicly done such a thing, so I decided to pay a visit to Rudy’s home away from home.

His Honor was out that day, but Howard Koeppel, a garrulous Queens car dealer, and his partner, Mark Hsiao, a Juilliard-trained pianist, were gracious tour guides to their 32nd-floor apartment on East 57th Street. I asked Mr. Koeppel, a born comic, whether it was unexpected that Rudy would live with an openly gay couple. “I don’t know if it’s any more unusual than him wearing a dress,” he deadpanned. On a more sober note, Mr. Koeppel told me that the connubially challenged mayor was an admirer of his and Mr. Hsiao’s relatively “idyllic life” and had assured them that “if they ever legalized gay marriages, we would be the first one he would do.”

Mitt Romney: Will Republicans Elect a Bloodsucking CEO?

By Matt Taibbi,
Posted on October 27, 2007, Printed on October 28, 2007

Here's Mitt Romney in a nutshell: During a town-hall event at a chapel in Merrimack, New Hampshire, some stammering yahoo in the back row gets up and asks the slick Mormon venture capitalist just exactly what he means when he says he plans to "change the face of the Middle East." "I want to know where you stand on that," the yutz pleads. "Your answer will determine whether I want to vote for you." Romney smiles, humbly accepting the challenge. When it comes to the satanic art of presidential campaigning, this lean, heavily moussed political athlete is a stone prodigy, a natural who glides through campaign events with the aid of some dark supernatural power -- a tie-clad, sweat-resistant cross of Roy Hobbs and Rosemary's Baby. As he ponders the question about the Middle East, you can almost see the Terminator display screen behind his eyes, calibrating to the hundredth of a centimeter the exact distance to his questioner and quickly selecting from a prefab list of responses.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Michael Kinsley: Libertarians Rising

To oversimplify: Democrats are for Big Government; Republicans are against it.

To oversimplify somewhat less, Democrats aren't always for Big Government, and Republicans aren't always against it. Democrats treasure civil liberties, whereas Republicans are more tolerant of government censorship to protect children from pornography, or of wiretapping to catch a criminal, or of torture in the war against terrorism. War in general and Iraq in particular--certainly Big Government exercises--are projects Republicans tend to be more enthusiastic about. Likewise the criminal process: Republicans tend to want to make more things illegal and to send more people to jail for longer. Republicans also consider themselves more concerned about the moral tone of the country, and they are more disposed toward using the government in trying to improve it. In particular, Republicans think religion needs more help from society, through the government, while Democrats are touchier about the separation of church and state.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Researchers posit new ideas about human migration from Asia to Americas

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Questions about human migration from Asia to the Americas have perplexed anthropologists for decades, but as scenarios about the peopling of the New World come and go, the big questions have remained. Do the ancestors of Native Americans derive from only a small number of “founders” who trekked to the Americas via the Bering land bridge? How did their migration to the New World proceed? What, if anything, did the climate have to do with their migration? And what took them so long?

A team of 21 researchers, led by Ripan Malhi, a geneticist in the department of anthropology at the University of Illinois, has a new set of ideas. One is a striking hypothesis that seems to map the peopling process during the pioneering phase and well beyond, and at the same time show that there was much more genetic diversity in the founder population than was previously thought.

The coevolution of parochial altruism and war

In "The Coevolution of Parochial Altruism and War" appearing in the Oct. 26 issue of Science, SFI researcher Samuel Bowles and colleague Jung-Kyoo Choi of Kyungpook National University in South Korea suggest that the altruistic and warlike aspects of human nature may have a common origin.

Paul Krugman: A Catastrophe Foretold

“Increased subprime lending has been associated with higher levels of delinquency, foreclosure and, in some cases, abusive lending practices.” So declared Edward M. Gramlich, a Federal Reserve official.

These days a lot of people are saying things like that about subprime loans — mortgages issued to buyers who don’t meet the normal financial criteria for a home loan. But here’s the thing: Mr. Gramlich said those words in May 2004.

And it wasn’t his first warning. In his last book, Mr. Gramlich, who recently died of cancer, revealed that he tried to get Alan Greenspan to increase oversight of subprime lending as early as 2000, but got nowhere.

Asking too much of too few

Joseph L. Galloway | McClatchy Newspapers

last updated: October 24, 2007 04:46:32 PM

Although they seem to have faded out of the headlines and been put on the back burner by the politicians in the nation’s capital in recent weeks, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan grind on, whether we're paying attention or not.

This week, we had a new estimate that those wars ultimately may cost the American taxpayer a whopping $2.7 trillion, all of it added onto a national debt that already tops $9 trillion. That’s a tidy sum for a foreign adventure whose architects thought would be over in six months and mostly paid for by Iraqi oil revenues.

Naomi Wolf's Guide to Restoring Liberty in America

By Naomi Wolf, Firedoglake
Posted on October 26, 2007, Printed on October 26, 2007

This post, written by Naomi Wolf, originally appeared on FireDogLake

All right: Blackwater and other contractors have four BILLION dollars in US funds and, the New York Times reports today, almost no oversight in Iraq; wildfires are consuming acres of Southern California and many counties have been declared to be in a state of emergency -- and nothing at all but a whisper of popular opposition and a prayer -- nothing legal -- would prevent Bush today from declaring that the National Guard is overstretched and that it is Blackwater's torturers and murderers, recruited from Salvadoran, Ecuadoran and Nigerian paramilitaries, who will be `maintaining order' in the `public emergency' that is Southern California; and Mukasey has informed Congress that he has no idea what waterboarding is -- which professed cluelessness alone should disqualify him from service -- and that the President does not actually need to obey the law of the United States of America -- which alone should alert us that if he is confirmed the game is over. Once Congress confirms someone to decide the law of the land who holds that the President is exempt from the law of the land (which assertion was, notably, an historic tipping point when Hitler asked his Reichstag to confirm a similar position about his powers in regard to the law and the constitution) it is open season on all of us.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Digby: The Art Of The Hissy Fit

I first noticed the right's successful use of phony sanctimony and faux outrage back in the 90's when well-known conservative players like Gingrich and Livingston pretended to be offended at the president's extramarital affair and were repeatedly and tiresomely "upset" about fund-raising practices they all practiced themselves. The idea of these powerful and corrupt adulterers being personally upset by White House coffees and naughty sexual behavior was laughable.

But they did it, oh how they did it, and it often succeeded in changing the dialogue and tittilating the media into a frenzy of breathless tabloid coverage.

Mexico, one of the world's biggest oil producers, is running out

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

MEXICO CITY: President Felipe Calderón of Mexico is delivering a grim message: The largest oil producer in Latin America is running out of crude.

"Our oil reserves have been consistently falling," and the decline is "severely threatening" government finances, Calderón told a nationwide television audience in an address last month at the National Palace. That is the same place where seven decades earlier Lázaro Cárdenas cemented the anti-U.S. legacy of his presidency by nationalizing the oil industry.

Why those who love America are feeling brokenhearted

October 24, 2007

I am ashamed for America. Note carefully that I do not say I am ashamed of America. Despite all its inherent flaws and all its tragic mistakes, the United States stands, however incompletely and with whatever imperfections, for the highest standards of freedom and democracy that the world has yet known.

I am ashamed for America because all the evil done in the nation's name in recent years is turning off the light on the mountaintop.

Buffett Sees Subprime Woes Lingering

DAEGU, South Korea — American billionaire investor Warren Buffett said Thursday that problems in the U.S. subprime mortgage market will likely weigh on consumers for up to two years, but that the U.S. economy will weather the storm.

The subprime problem "is having an impact," Buffett said on his first visit to South Korea. "It will have more of an impact."

Rising default rates among U.S. mortgage holders with poor credit histories have rattled global credit, stock and currency markets since August and raised concerns about a possible recession in the U.S. economy, a major export market for Asian companies.

I'll Have My Cosmetics With a Side of Infertility, Please

By Heather Gehlert, AlterNet
Posted on October 25, 2007, Printed on October 25, 2007

Carcinogens in cosmetics? Petrochemicals in perfume? If only this were an urban legend. Unfortunately, it's a toxic reality, and it's showing up in our bodies.

In 2004, scientists found pesticides in the blood of newborn babies. A year later, researchers discovered perchlorate, a component of rocket fuel, in human breast milk. Today, people are testing positive for a litany of hazardous substances from flame retardants to phthalates to lead.

Is It Game Over for U.S. Control of Iraqi Oil?

By Jack Miles,
Posted on October 25, 2007, Printed on October 25, 2007

The oil game in Iraq may be almost up. On September 29th, like a landlord serving notice, the government of Iraq announced that the next annual renewal of the United Nations Security Council mandate for a multinational force in Iraq -- the only legal basis for a continuation of the American occupation -- will be the last. That was, it seems, the first shoe to fall. The second may be an announcement terminating the little-noticed, but crucial companion Security Council mandate governing the disposition of Iraq's oil revenues.

By December 31, 2008, according to Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, the government of Iraq intends to have replaced the existing mandate for a multinational security force with a conventional bilateral security agreement with the United States, an agreement of the sort that Washington has with Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and several other countries in the Middle East. The Security Council has always paired the annual renewal of its mandate for the multinational force with the renewal of a second mandate for the management of Iraqi oil revenues. This happens through the "Development Fund for Iraq," a kind of escrow account set up by the occupying powers after the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime and recognized in 2003 by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1483. The oil game will be up if and when Iraq announces that this mandate, too, will be terminated at a date certain in favor of resource-development agreements that -- like the envisioned security agreement -- match those of other states in the region.

Are the Wildfires in California Related to Global Warming?

By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!
Posted on October 23, 2007, Printed on October 25, 2007

AMY GOODMAN: As we continue on this issue of global warming, what does global warming have to do with the fires raging in Southern California?

More than a half a million people in San Diego County have been ordered to evacuate. Over 900 homes have been destroyed. At least one person has died. Another thirty-seven people have been reported injured, including seventeen firefighters. The fires extend from the Mexican border to Santa Barbara, the most devastating fires in San Diego County. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a state of emergency.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Bush wars to cost 40 times higher than original estimates; $8,000 per man, woman child in US

New estimates show Iraq, Afghanistan will cost US $2.4 trillion; White House refuses to provide estimate

The United States is spending about $8,000 per man, woman and child in the country to pursue wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to new estimates that show the wars will cost about $2.4 trillion over the next decade.

Emotion Trumps Logic in the Voting Booth

By Terrence McNally, AlterNet
Posted on October 24, 2007, Printed on October 24, 2007

An August op-ed in Kenya's Daily Nation included this sentence: "The candidates will do well to go out and buy a book entitled The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation, by Drew Westen." Quoting the article's author, Charles Onyango-Obbo, "Westen has studied elections over the years, and found an inconvenient truth: People almost always vote for the candidate who elicits the right feelings, not the one who presents the best arguments."

Closer to home, as Westen points out, the Republicans led by Karl Rove consistently beat the Democrats at playing to the electorate's emotions. All logic points to Republican losses in '08. But logic doesn't vote -- and logic doesn't win elections. Will the Democrats once more snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, or can they finally learn the crucial lesson that hearts lead minds? Drew Westen weighs in.

Home Sales Plunge by 8 Percent

Wednesday October 24, 6:24 pm ET
By Martin Crutsinger, AP Economics Writer

Sales of Existing Homes Fall by Largest Amount on Record in September WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sales of existing homes had a record decline in September while median home prices fell by the largest amount in nearly a year, reflecting deepening problems in the troubled housing market.

Analysts said the current downturn is already more severe than the housing slump of the 1990s. They predicted that before it is resolved, it will rival the 1980-82 housing slump. Back then, the industry was battered by double-digit mortgage rates and the economy was in a steep recession.

Many Red Flags Preceded a Recall of Hamburger

ELIZABETH, N.J. — Over the summer, as Americans fired up their grills, the Topps Meat factory here scrambled to produce thousands of frozen hamburger patties for Wal-Mart and other customers, putting intense pressure on workers.

As output rose, federal regulators said in interviews, the company was neglecting critical safeguards meant to protect consumers. Three big batches of hamburger contaminated with a potentially deadly germ emerged from the plant, making at least 40 people sick and prompting the second-largest beef recall in history.

Was RAND Health Insurance Study Wrong?

News that there were serious methodological flaws in the RAND health insurance study is actually very, very important. The RAND health insurance study remains the source for almost all speculation about how individuals react to different types of health insurance. When we say that higher co-pays make people cut care indiscriminately, we're going off of their evidence. When some say that health outcomes weren't much better with no co-pays, they're going off of RAND's evidence. When HSA supporters say that higher co-pays didn't degrade health status at all, and thus we should cut insurance spending across the board, they're going off of RAND's evidence. The problem is, RAND's evidence may not have been very good:

Of the various responses to cost sharing that were observed in the participants of the RAND HIE, by far the strongest and most dramatic was in the relative number of RAND participants who voluntarily dropped out of the study over the course of the experiment. Of the 1,294 adult participants who were randomly assigned to the free plan, 5 participants (0.4 percent) left the experiment voluntarily during the observation period, while of the 2,664 who were assigned to any of the cost-sharing plans, 179 participants (6.7 percent) voluntarily left the experiment. This represented a greater than sixteenfold increase in the percentage of dropouts, a difference that was highly significant and a magnitude of response that was nowhere else duplicated in the experiment.

The Prophet of Climate Change: James Lovelock

One of the most eminent scientists of our time says that global warming is irreversible — and that more than 6 billion people will perish by the end of the century

Jeff Goodell

Posted Oct 17, 2007 2:20 PM

At the age of eighty-eight, after four children and a long and respected career as one of the twentieth century's most influential scientists, James Lovelock has come to an unsettling conclusion: The human race is doomed. "I wish I could be more hopeful," he tells me one sunny morning as we walk through a park in Oslo, where he is giving a talk at a university. Lovelock is a small man, unfailingly polite, with white hair and round, owlish glasses. His step is jaunty, his mind lively, his manner anything but gloomy. In fact, the coming of the Four Horsemen -- war, famine, pestilence and death -- seems to perk him up. "It will be a dark time," Lovelock admits. "But for those who survive, I suspect it will be rather exciting."

The Future Is Drying Up

Published: October 21, 2007

Scientists sometimes refer to the effect a hotter world will have on this country’s fresh water as the other water problem, because global warming more commonly evokes the specter of rising oceans submerging our great coastal cities. By comparison, the steady decrease in mountain snowpack — the loss of the deep accumulation of high-altitude winter snow that melts each spring to provide the American West with most of its water — seems to be a more modest worry. But not all researchers agree with this ranking of dangers. Last May, for instance, Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate and the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, one of the United States government’s pre-eminent research facilities, remarked that diminished supplies of fresh water might prove a far more serious problem than slowly rising seas. When I met with Chu last summer in Berkeley, the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, which provides most of the water for Northern California, was at its lowest level in 20 years. Chu noted that even the most optimistic climate models for the second half of this century suggest that 30 to 70 percent of the snowpack will disappear. “There’s a two-thirds chance there will be a disaster,” Chu said, “and that’s in the best scenario.”

Render Me

Daniel Benjamin tries to reassure me that the Bush administration won't have the CIA send me off to Syria to be tortured, naming this myth number five about rendition:

5. Pretty much anyone -- including U.S. citizens and green card holders -- can be rendered these days.

Not so, although the movie "Rendition" -- in which Witherspoon's Egyptian-born husband gets the black-hood treatment and is yanked from a U.S. airport and taken to a North African chamber of horrors -- is bound to spread this myth. A "U.S. person" (citizen or legal resident) has constitutional protections against being removed from the country through rendition, and there have been no incidents to suggest the contrary. In fairness, though, the ghastly case of Maher Arar -- a Syrian-born Canadian citizen who convincingly says he was detained at New York's JFK Airport, handed off to Syria and tortured -- is way too close for comfort.
Not only is the Maher Arar case too close for comfort, but I don't understand, in practice, what my remedy is. If, say, my little brother Nick got nabbed and sent to Syria to be tortured, he'd hardly be in a position to file suit -- he be being held secretly in a Syrian prison.

Jeremy Scahill on Blackwater

October 19, 2007

On September 16, 2007, Blackwater contractors, during a complex confrontation in downtown Baghdad, shot and killed Iraqis in the crowded Nisour Square.

The FBI and State Department are currently investigating the incident, yet it further sheds light upon a growing private sector security force in Iraq and elsewhere, that many fear has not been held accountable to the same degree as have US military officials.

New Pieces Changing the Iraq Puzzle

by Ira Chernus

Trying to understand our war in Iraq is like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle when most of the pieces are missing, and the few pieces you have keep changing shape. It’s been that way since March, 2003. It will probably be that way until the last U.S. forces leave Iraq.

Here is the most recent piece. Ammar al-Hakim is a top figure in the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), one of the two leading Shi’ite parties in the central government. Last week al-Hakim became the first major Shi’ite figure to visit Anbar province, where he met with and praised Sunni leaders.

The spy comes in from the cold

None of Valerie Plame's elaborate training to become an elite covert operative for the CIA prepared her for the byzantine, vicious and dispiriting smear campaigns directed against her and her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, in George Bush's Washington.

When he felt compelled to tell the truth about President Bush's false rationale for the invasion of Iraq - the infamous 16 words in his 2003 State of the Union address claiming Saddam Hussein was securing yellow cake uranium for nuclear weapons - vice president Dick Cheney ordered the defamation of Wilson's reputation. When the White House apparatus was instantly set in motion, with Cheney's chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby serving as the action officer on the op, and Karl Rove and Ari Fleischer relentlessly pressing the "scoop" on reporters, Plame still toiled away unknowing at her job at the CIA, seeking information about the existence of weapons of mass destruction, not only in Iraq but also Iran and other dangerous places.

Report: Most of $1.2 billion to train Iraqi police unaccounted for

(CNN) -- The U.S. State Department is unable to account for most of $1.2 billion in funding that it gave to DynCorp International to train Iraqi police, a government report said Tuesday.

"The bottom line is that State can't account for where it went," said Glenn D. Furbish, who was involved in putting together the 20-page report for the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction (SIGIR).

Monday, October 22, 2007

David Neiwert: Who watches the Watchmen

There's been a flood of movement conservatives accusing liberals of being Nazis lately, most recently Debbie Schlussel and Michael Savage. Most of it has been barely concealed projection. We can hardly wait, of course, for Jonah Goldberg's contribution to the meme, though it looks we may be waiting awhile. Newspeak can be tricky, after all.

But the most striking use of the "liberal Nazis" meme I've yet heard -- striking, that is, for the Bizzaro World inversion of reality it reflected -- came this weekend from Vlad Kusakin, the Sacramento-based editor of a Russian-language newspaper called The Speaker. Kusakin went on a rant about the "liberal media" and the 120 or so people gathered in protest outside the convention hall in Lynnwood, Wash., where he was speaking to a group calling itself the Watchmen on the Walls.

Solar homes draw crowds on Mall

Energy-Conscious Crowds Line Up for Solar Home Competition on National Mall

AP News

Oct 22, 2007 03:34 EDT

Solar power, still a tiny fraction of the energy used today, may be heading closer to the mainstream — if a display on the National Mall over the past week is any indication.

Twenty universities brought solar homes to Washington, assembled them in the shadow of the Washington Monument and became a weeklong magnet for people wanting to see what these technology-filled homes were all about. To many visitors, they no longer looked like oddball experiments, but dwellings that had the look and feel — although smaller — of houses in suburbia.

Social Security Scaremongering

ABC, Washington Post push well-worn 'crisis' myths


When the first baby boomer filed for Social Security, ABC News and the Washington Post's Dana Milbank led the pack in media scaremongering--pushing the widely disputed myth of a pending crisis while dismissing the less alarmist views espoused by many economists.

At the top of ABC's October 15 World News with Charles Gibson, the anchor declared this a "day of reckoning," later calling it "one of this country's greatest challenges." Correspondent David Wright called the first baby boomer filing for benefits "the raindrop that's about to become a tsunami," and warned that "paying for the baby boom's retirement may leave the next generation high and dry." The Post's Milbank (10/16/07) went further, claiming that baby boomers "will begin to bankrupt the nation."

Steep decline in oil production brings risk of war and unrest, says new study

· Output peaked in 2006 and will fall 7% a year
· Decline in gas, coal and uranium also predicted

Ashley Seager
Monday October 22, 2007
The Guardian

World oil production has already peaked and will fall by half as soon as 2030, according to a report which also warns that extreme shortages of fossil fuels will lead to wars and social breakdown.

The German-based Energy Watch Group will release its study in London today saying that global oil production peaked in 2006 - much earlier than most experts had expected. The report, which predicts that production will now fall by 7% a year, comes after oil prices set new records almost every day last week, on Friday hitting more than $90 (£44) a barrel.

Paul Krugman: Gone Baby Gone

It pains me to say this, but this time Alan Greenspan is right about housing.

Mr. Greenspan was wrong in 2004, when he sang the praises of adjustable-rate mortgages. He was wrong in 2005, when he dismissed the idea that there was a national housing bubble, suggesting that at most there was some “froth” in the market. He was wrong last fall, when he suggested that the worst of the housing slump was behind us. (Housing starts have fallen 30 percent since then.)

But his latest pronouncement — that the market rescue plan being pushed by Henry Paulson, the Treasury secretary, is likely to make things worse rather than better — looks all too accurate.

On the Eve of Destruction

Posted on Oct 22, 2007

By Scott Ritter

Don’t worry, the White House is telling us. The world’s most powerful leader was simply making a rhetorical point. At a White House press conference last week, just in case you haven’t heard, President Bush informed the American people that he had told world leaders “if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing [Iran] from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.” World War III. That is certainly some rhetorical point, especially coming from the man singularly most capable of making such an event reality.

Pundits have raised their eyebrows and comics are busy writing jokes, but the president’s reference to Armageddon, no matter how cavalierly uttered and subsequently brushed away, suggests an alarming context. Some might note that the comment was simply an offhand response to a reporter’s question, the kind of free-thinking scenario that baffles Bush so. In a way, this makes what the president said even more disturbing, since we now have an insight into the vision, and related terminology, which hovers just below the horizon in the brain of George W. Bush.

Modern Marriage Habits Put Family Structures in Catch-Up Mode

By Stephanie Coontz, Greater Good
Posted on October 22, 2007, Printed on October 22, 2007

For millennia, marriage decisions were dictated more by economic and political considerations than by love and personal satisfaction. This made marriage a very coercive institution, especially for young people and for women in general. Today, by contrast, people have unprecedented freedom about whether, when, and whom to marry, as well as about how to organize their personal relationships in and out of marriage. Marriages are no longer based on the legal subordination of women and children, and many women have even attained economic equality with their partners.

Tests reveal high chemical levels in kids' bodies

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Michelle Hammond and Jeremiah Holland were intrigued when a friend at the Oakland Tribune asked them and their two young children to take part in a cutting-edge study to measure the industrial chemicals in their bodies.

"In the beginning, I wasn't worried at all; I was fascinated," Hammond, 37, recalled.

But that fascination soon changed to fear, as tests revealed that their children -- Rowan, then 18 months, and Mikaela, then 5 -- had chemical exposure levels up to seven times those of their parents.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Praying For A Third party

I see that people are beginning to be converted to the idea that the Religious Right might actually break from the GOP this cycle based, at least in part, on this reporting by Michael Sherer in Salon. It's fascinating stuff, and he's obviously got some great sources. But I think it's a grave mistake to use Richard Viguerie as any guide as to the real thinking or strategy on the right. He is a Big Conman from way back as my colleague Perlstein has amply documented.

I'm not suggesting that the Religious Right leadership isn't very unhappy that the Republicans find themselves having to fight for swing voters this time and are, therefore, contemplating nominating a candidate who isn't a true conservative creature in the Southern, white evangelical mode. Of course they are. They are no longer the darlings of the media or the party and will have to fight for their place at the table like any other constituency. I'm sure that's very demoralizing.

How El Niño slows the Earth's spin

El Niño has an immense impact on the weather, so great in fact that the ocean warming phenomenon actually makes the planet spin more slowly. Until now, though, no one knew why.

It was also a mystery why the effect did not kick in for several weeks after ocean temperatures reached their peak. Now, Jean Dickey and her colleagues at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena says that the answer is blowing in the wind.

His Meteoric Days Gone, Quiet Dean Leads Party

ST. PAUL, Oct. 16 — There has never been a Democratic chairman with as much firsthand knowledge about running for president as Howard Dean.

Four years ago, at this stage in the race, he was flying high. Now, Mr. Dean is being sued by Democrats in Florida and second-guessed over how he is spending the party’s money. He seldom receives so much as a call seeking advice from this year’s candidates.

The rise and abrupt fall of his campaign now seems to hold lessons for some of the current contenders, from what it means to assume an air of inevitability to the dangers of counting on grass-roots energy to translate into votes. But Mr. Dean also sees ways in which the field has adopted elements of his candidacy, like its strong opposition to the war in Iraq.

“I often find myself ahead of the curve,” he said, a satisfied smile falling over his face. “Unfortunately, ‘I told you so,’ is an incredibly unsuccessful campaign slogan.”

'No fly' on steroids

Under Homeland Security's 'Secure Flight,' your union card or reading preferences could help keep you off a plane.

Patt Morrison
October 18, 2007

Don't look now -- by which, of course, I mean do look now.

Look at all the ink and airtime lavished on the titillating stories about Southwest Airlines threatening to boot a couple of passengers off flights unless they tidied up their ensembles. A student/Hooters waitress had to tug her miniskirt down and pull up her neckline, and a man flying home to Florida had to turn his T-shirt inside out to hide its "Master Baiter" joke tackle-shop logo.

Frank Rich: Suicide Is Not Painless

IT was one of those stories lost in the newspaper’s inside pages. Last week a man you’ve never heard of — Charles D. Riechers, 47, the second-highest-ranking procurement officer in the United States Air Force — killed himself by running his car’s engine in his suburban Virginia garage.

Mr. Riechers’s suicide occurred just two weeks after his appearance in a front-page exposé in The Washington Post. The Post reported that the Air Force had asked a defense contractor, Commonwealth Research Institute, to give him a job with no known duties while he waited for official clearance for his new Pentagon assignment. Mr. Riechers, a decorated Air Force officer earlier in his career, told The Post: “I really didn’t do anything for C.R.I. I got a paycheck from them.” The question, of course, was whether the contractor might expect favors in return once he arrived at the Pentagon last January.

In Pakistan Quandary, U.S. Reviews Stance

WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 — The scenes of carnage in Pakistan this week conjured what one senior administration official on Friday called “the nightmare scenario” for President Bush’s last 15 months in office: Political meltdown in the one country where Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and nuclear weapons are all in play.

White House officials insisted in interviews that they had confidence that their longtime ally, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s president, would maintain enough influence to keep the country stable as he edged toward a power-sharing agreement with his main rival, Benazir Bhutto.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

CBS confirms 2006 Raw Story scoop: Plame's job was to keep nukes from Iran

10/20/2007 @ 12:43 pm

Filed by Muriel Kane and Dave Edwards

CBS News has confirmed, in advance of a 60 Minutes interview with outed CIA agent Valerie Plame to be run this Sunday, that Plame "was involved in operations to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons."

"Our mission was to make sure that the bad guys, basically, did not get nuclear weapons," Plame told 60 Minutes. Plame also indicated that her outing in 2003 had caused grave damage to CIA operations, saying, "All the intelligence services in the world were running my name through their databases" to see where she had gone and who she had met with.

Panel: Blackwater tried to take Iraqi aircraft

WASHINGTON (AP) — Blackwater USA tried to take at least two Iraqi military aircraft out of Iraq two years ago and refused to give the planes back when Iraqi officials sought to reclaim them, according to a congressional committee investigating the private security contractor.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wants the company to provide all documents related to the attempted shipment and to explain where the aircraft are now.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Ted Rall: Onward, Christian Panderers

Pols Push U.S. Toward Theocracy

WASHINGTON--A poll finds that 55 percent of Americans think the U.S. was created as a Christian theocracy. "The strong support for official recognition of the majority faith appears to be grounded in a belief that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, in spite of the fact that the Constitution nowhere mentions God or Christianity," says Charles Haynes of the First Amendment Center.

Sadly, these morons are allowed to vote. Tragically, one of them is a major presidential candidate. "The Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation," John McCain recently told an interviewer.

Paul Krugman: Death of the Machine

“There are two things that are important in politics. The first is money, and I can’t remember what the second one is.” So declared Mark Hanna, the great Gilded Age political boss.

Karl Rove has often described Hanna as his role model. And predictions that Mr. Rove and his disciples would succeed in creating a permanent Republican majority — I have a whole bookshelf of volumes with titles like “One Party Nation” and “Building Red America” — depended crucially on the assumption that the G.O.P. would have vastly more money than its opponents. It might even, some thought, match the 10-to-1 advantage Hanna gave William McKinley when he ran against William Jennings Bryan.

James Watson: Master of the scientific gaffe

London's Science Museum has cancelled a sell-out talk by James Watson this Friday. It follows his remarks in an interview with the Sunday Times, in which he suggested that black people are less intelligent than white people. He was quoted as saying that he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really". He went on to say that his hope is that everyone is equal, but that "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true".

The Science Museum said that he had "gone beyond the point of acceptable debate" and axed the talk, which was planned to be the first of several in the UK to promote his new book, Avoid Boring People. You can find out more about the book in our interview with Watson, in which he talks at length about his scientific career.

Oil prices soar. But why?

Kevin G. Hall | McClatchy Newspapers

last updated: October 18, 2007 06:41:43 PM

WASHINGTON — When investment bank Goldman Sachs & Co. said in March 2005 that oil prices could surpass $100 a barrel, it was accused of fear-mongering. Oil prices, after all, were around $57 a barrel.

This week, competitor Barclays Capital led a research report with this statement: "The issue seems no longer to be whether oil will reach $100 a barrel, but when." That statement barely raised an eyebrow.

Prices for contracts of future delivery of oil, called futures, closed up $2.07 on Thursday to $89.47 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In after-hours electronic trading, prices hit $90.02. Prices are up almost $39 from a Jan. 18 low of $50.48 a barrel.

The Secret History of the Impending War with Iran That the White House Doesn't Want You to Know

Two former high-ranking policy experts from the Bush Administration say the U.S. has been gearing up for a war with Iran for years, despite claiming otherwise. It'll be Iraq all over again.

In the years after 9/11, Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann worked at the highest levels of the Bush administration as Middle East policy experts for the National Security Council. Mann conducted secret negotiations with Iran. Leverett traveled with Colin Powell and advised Condoleezza Rice. They each played crucial roles in formulating policy for the region leading up to the war in Iraq. But when they left the White House, they left with a growing sense of alarm -- not only was the Bush administration headed straight for war with Iran, it had been set on this course for years. That was what people didn't realize. It was just like Iraq, when the White House was so eager for war it couldn't wait for the UN inspectors to leave. The steps have been many and steady and all in the same direction. And now things are getting much worse. We are getting closer and closer to the tripline, they say.

Katha Pollitt: With Facts on Our Side

For years feminists and prochoicers have pointed out that women have abortions whether or not the procedure is legal.

That was true here before Roe v. Wade, and it is true today in countries where abortion is restricted or banned. The difference is that when abortion is legal it is a remarkably safe procedure; when it is illegal, women are injured, women die, children are left motherless. (True, these are already-existing, sinful children, not embryos or fetuses, but still.) This simple public health argument has gotten lost in a thicket of theology, sexual morality, "family values," politics, spin and outright disinformation. The coat hanger has become a political cliché, a relic of the '60s, like the peace sign. Oh, that old thing.

Katha Pollitt: How Many Times Can a Country Lose its Innocence?

I've been thinking recently about the many ways in which we conceal from ourselves the truths we know we know. At the Shocked, Shocked conference at NYU on Saturday -- the subhead of which was the comical/exasperated "Just how many times can a country lose its innocence?" -- the Yale historian David Blight gave a riveting talk about how over the second half of the 19th century the Civil War became memorialized as a conflict between "two right sides " -- Union and Confederate-- and "reconciliation" came to mean focussing exclusively on the valor of the soldiers in both armies. Slavery? Black people? Neither fit the narrative of reuniting North and South. For that, the causes and purposes of the war had to be obscured, the past -- the real past -- forgotten. The slaveowner and the slave dropped out of the public story, the soldiers in blue and gray became the star players. In this way, the country could bind up its wounds and move on triumphantly without having to confront the reconstitution of white supremacy in the South, or Northern racism either. Napoleon quipped that the winners write history, but until the civil rights movement, the history of the Civil War was largely written by the South.

Hillary's Mystery Money Men


[from the November 5, 2007 issue]

In the Clintons' pursuit of power, there is no such thing as a strange bedfellow. One recently exposed inamorata was Norman Hsu, the mysterious businessman from Hong Kong who brought in $850,000 to Hillary Clinton's campaign before being unmasked as a fugitive. Her campaign dismissed Hsu as someone who'd slipped through the cracks of an otherwise unimpeachable system for vetting donors, and perhaps he was. The same cannot be said for the notorious financier Alan Quasha, whose involvement with Clinton is at least as substantial--and still under wraps.

Political junkies will recall Quasha as the controversial figure who bailed out George W. Bush's failing oil company in 1986, folding Bush into his company, Harken Energy, thus setting him on the path to a lucrative and high-profile position as an owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, and the presidency. The persistently unprofitable Harken--many of whose board members, connected to powerful foreign interests and the intelligence community, nevertheless profited enormously--faced intense scrutiny in the early 1990s and again during Bush's first term.

Tomgram: Do We Already Have Our Pentagon Papers?

Bush's Pentagon Papers

The Urge to Confess
By Tom Engelhardt

They can't help themselves. They want to confess.

How else to explain the torture memorandums that continue to flow out of the inner sancta of this administration, the most recent of which were evidently leaked to the New York Times. Those two, from the Alberto Gonzales Justice Department, were written in 2005 and recommitted the administration to the torture techniques it had been pushing for years. As the Times noted, the first of those memorandums, from February of that year, was "an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency." The second "secret opinion" was issued as Congress moved to outlaw "cruel, inhuman, and degrading" treatment (not that such acts weren't already against U.S. and international law). It brazenly "declared that none of the C.I.A. interrogation methods violated that standard"; and, the Times assured us, "the 2005 Justice Department opinions remain in effect, and their legal conclusions have been confirmed by several more recent memorandums."

Bioneers: Groundbreaking Ways to Repair the Earth

By Terrence McNally, AlterNet
Posted on October 19, 2007, Printed on October 19, 2007

Human creativity focused on problem solving can explode the mythology of resignation and despair. It is this point of view that inspires the annual Bioneers conference that takes place each fall in the San Francisco Bay area, which now streams via satellite to 19 sites across the country. The conference (10/19-21 in San Rafael, Calif.) is a gathering of scientific and social innovators who are developing and implementing visionary and practical models for restoring community, justice and democracy, as well as the Earth itself.

Speakers this year include author, Alice Walker, inventor and entrepreneur; Jay Harmon, community arts pioneer; Judy Baca, environmental justice leader; Van Jones, Whole Earth Catalog founder; Stewart Brand; and Native American activist Winbona LaDuke.

Building God's (Christian) Army

By Jane Lampman, Christian Science Monitor
Posted on October 19, 2007, Printed on October 19, 2007

At Speicher base in Iraq, U.S. Army Spec. Jeremy Hall got permission from a chaplain in August to post fliers announcing a meeting for atheists and other nonbelievers. When the group gathered, Specialist Hall alleges, his Army major supervisor disrupted the meeting and threatened to retaliate against him, including blocking his reenlistment in the Army.

Months earlier, Hall charges, he had been publicly berated by a staff sergeant for not agreeing to join in a Thanksgiving Day prayer.

Study Reveals Why Flu Thrives in Winter

Study Reveals Why Flu Thrives in Winter

Dave Mosher
LiveScience Staff Writer

Thu Oct 18, 10:10 PM ET

For the first time, scientist have solid evidence suggesting exactly why the flu is so common in winter.

A new animal study suggests that the influenza virus' success hinges on low relative humidity and cold temperatures. Such conditions keep the virus more stable and in the air longer than warm, humid conditions, scientists said. And apparently, the frosty weather's role is more important than that of the human body in helping the virus thrive.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Top Air Force Official Dies in Apparent Suicide

WASHINGTON, Oct. 15 — The second-highest-ranking member of the Air Force’s procurement office was found dead Sunday in an apparent suicide, Air Force and police officials said Monday.

The civilian official, Charles D. Riechers, 47, came under scrutiny by the Senate Armed Services Committee this month after reports that the Air Force had arranged for him to be paid about $13,400 a month by a private contractor, Commonwealth Research Institute, while he awaited clearance from the White House for his selection as principal deputy assistant secretary for acquisition. He was appointed to the job, which does not require Senate confirmation, in January.

Glenn Greenwald: AT&T, other telecoms, buy victory in lawsuits

The fact that this was completely predictable does not make it any less reprehensible:

Senate Democrats and Republicans reached agreement with the Bush administration yesterday on the terms of new legislation to control the federal government's domestic surveillance program, which includes a highly controversial grant of legal immunity to telecommunications companies that have assisted the program, according to congressional sources. . . .

The draft Senate bill has the support of the intelligence committee's chairman, John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), and Bush's director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell. It will include full immunity for those companies that can demonstrate to a court that they acted pursuant to a legal directive in helping the government with surveillance in the United States.

Hastert To Announce Retirement As Evidence Mounts Of His Involvement In Cunningham Scandal

For months, Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) has insisted that he will not run for re-election in 2008. In August, The New York Times reported that Hastert “intended to serve through next year because he believed he had an obligation to complete his term.”

Yet now “Republican sources” are revealing that Hastert may announce that he plans to leave the House later this year” and retire early, triggering a special election to replace him.

Americablog: Bush administration suddenly begging for regulations in mortgage industry

by Chris in Paris · 10/18/2007 04:33:00 AM ET

Where the heck was this spirit a few years ago when it was needed? All of the hysteria that we will be hearing about from Paulson and probably soon enough Bush is purely for show because they know the economy is in serious trouble thanks to their incompetence of ignoring warning signs. (Let's not forget Mr. Bubble either, who ignored the issues related to regulating the mortgage industry.) There is nothing that is going to stop the hemorrhaging at this point and intervening now will only add to the cost for everyone including people who weren't greedy on Wall Street and Main Street.

Gonzales Investigated Subordinates Who Were Likely To Testify Against Him

Reported by Murray Waas for the Huffington Post.

Alberto Gonzales was briefed extensively about a criminal leak investigation despite the fact that he had reason to believe that several individuals under investigation in the matter were potential witnesses against him in separate Justice Department inquiries.

While Attorney General, Gonzales oversaw the probe into the disclosure of the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program to the New York Times. However, many of those under scrutiny in that investigation were likely to be crucial witnesses about whether Gonzales himself had violated the law while promoting the program as White House counsel and testifying about it to Congress.

Senate Deal on Immunity for Phone Companies

WASHINGTON, Oct. 17 — Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee reached a tentative agreement on Wednesday with the Bush administration that would give telephone carriers legal immunity for any role they played in the National Security Agency’s domestic eavesdropping program approved by President Bush after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a Congressional official said Wednesday.

Senators this week began reviewing classified documents related to the participation of the telephone carriers in the security agency program and came away from that early review convinced that the companies had “acted in good faith” in cooperating with what they believed was a legal and presidentially authorized program and that they should not be punished through civil litigation for their roles, the official said.

Source: Firings likely in transport of nuclear warheads across U.S.

From Barbara Starr

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Air Force will recommend the firing and disciplining of several service members involved in the mistaken flight of nuclear warheads across the country in August, according to a military official familiar with the investigation.

The source did not want to be identified because not everyone involved has been informed.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Resign, Retire, Renounce

What should generals do if Bush orders a foolish attack on Iran?

From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to U.S. Central Command, most of America's military leaders have expressed wariness about, if not outright opposition to, the idea of bombing Iran.

So, if President George W. Bush starts to prepare—or actually issues the order—for an attack, what should the generals do? Disobey? Rally resistance from within? Resign in protest? Retire quietly? Or salute and execute the mission?

GOP Trickery Succeeds: Dems Postpone FISA Fix

Looks like the GOP parlimentary maneuver worked: According to House Dem leadership aides, the leadership has postponed the vote on the FISA bill until next week.

As noted below, GOP Rep. Eric Cantor came up with a clever way of throwing a wrench into the FISA bill, which was scheduled to be voted on today and which is opposed by Republicans.

Acid oceans warning

The world's oceans are becoming more acid, with potentially devastating consequences for corals and the marine organisms that build reefs and provide much of the Earth's breathable oxygen. The acidity is caused by the gradual buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, dissolving into the oceans. Scientists fear it could be lethal for animals with chalky skeletons which make up more than a third of the planet's marine life.

Freedom's Watch targeting Iran

After successfully holding the line on Congressional support for the surge in Iraq, wealthy Bush backers are turning their attention and money to drumming up support for military action against Iran

If the U.S. undertakes military action against Iran, you can credit such longtime neoconservatives as Norman Podhoretz, William Kristol, Michael Ledeen and the swarm of ideologues buzzing about Washington's right wing think tanks. You can also credit Pastor John Hagee and his Christians United for Israel, a Christian Zionist outfit with unbending support for Israel. And credit also the billionaire and multimillionaire founders of Freedom's Watch for helping smooth the way.

Bush Family Planning Appointee Called Contraceptives Part Of The ‘Culture Of Death’

On Monday, President Bush appointed Susan Orr to oversee federal family planning programs at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Orr, who is currently directing HHS child welfare programs, was touted by the administration as “highly qualified.”

But a look at Orr’s record shows that her strongest qualifications appear to be her right-wing credentials and endorsement of the Bush administration’s failed abstinence-only policies.

Voters unhappy with Bush and Congress

By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent
Wed Oct 17, 7:07 AM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Deepening unhappiness with President George W. Bush and the U.S. Congress soured the mood of Americans and sent Bush's approval rating to another record low this month, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday.

The Reuters/Zogby Index, which measures the mood of the country, also fell from 98.8 to 96 -- the second consecutive month it has dropped. The number of Americans who believe the country is on the wrong track jumped four points to 66 percent.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Digby: Valuez

With the latest attack on a working family whose child is insured under the SCHIP plan, I hope the contours of the argument are crystal clear and that the Democrats understand what is really being said here:
Like the Frost family, the Wilkerson family has already become the subject of right-wing attacks. Michelle Malkin — whose baseless smear campaign against 12-year old Graeme Frost was deemed too bogus for even Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) — is now trying to rally the right against Bethany.

Heralding the arrival of a “new toddler-aged human shield,” Malkin writes that “the Wilkersons made a choice” — a seeming reference to the fact that Malkin now believes she has the license to attack the Wilkersons for their public support of SCHIP. “We need more ‘partisan bickering,’ not less,” added Malkin.

Garlic Boosts Hydrogen Sulfide To Relax Arteries

Posted on October 15, 2007 at 4:45 p.m.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Eating garlic is one of the best ways to lower high blood pressure and protect yourself from cardiovascular disease. A new study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) shows this protective effect is closely linked to how much hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is produced from garlic compounds interacting with red blood cells.

The UAB researchers found this interaction triggered red blood cells to release H2S, which then led to the relaxation of blood vessels. Fresh garlic was used at a concentration equal to eating two cloves. The resulting H2S production caused up to 72 percent vessel relaxation in rat arteries.

Study shows reducing class size may be more cost-effective than most medical interventions

October 16, 2007 -- Reducing the number of students per classroom in U.S. primary schools may be more cost-effective than most public health and medical interventions, according to a study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and the Virginia Commonwealth University. The study indicates that class-size reductions would generate more quality-adjusted life-year gains per dollar invested than the majority of medical interventions. The findings will be published in the November issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

The researchers estimated the health and economic effects of reducing class sizes from 22–25 students to 13–17 students in kindergarten through grade 3 nationwide, based on an intervention tested in Project STAR (Student Teacher Achievement Ratio), a large multi-school randomized trial that began in 1985. Project STAR is considered the highest quality long-term experiment to date in the field of education.

US economy still hurting, recession odds less than half: Greenspan

WASHINGTON (AFP) — The US economy is still reeling from housing and credit woes but faces a "less than 50-50" chance of slipping into recession, former US Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan said Monday.

Greenspan, in an interview with CNBC television, said the world's biggest economy is slowing as a result of of tighter credit, the outcome of the crisis in subprime housing loans.

Report criticizes of Medicare drug plan costs

By Lisa Richwine



U.S. taxpayers and Medicare patients could have saved almost $15 billion in 2007 if private health insurers had cut expenses for prescription drug coverage and negotiated bigger discounts, a report from Democratic staff of a House of Representatives panel said on Monday.

The Medicare prescription drug benefits offered by private insurers operate with "high administrative costs, sales expenses and profits," the report said.

Life is harder now, some experts say

Generation gap: After paying the bills, middle-class pockets are emptier

By Bob Sullivan
Technology correspondent
Updated: 7:12 a.m. ET Oct 16, 2007

Shopping malls are packed every weekend. Restaurants can't open fast enough. Everyone seems to be wearing designer shoes, jackets and jeans and sipping $4 lattes. Credit card commercials constantly advocate splurging and, it seems, U.S. consumers are all too ready to comply.

So what's the problem? Why do so many middle class Americans with so much stuff say they feel so squeezed? If they are dogged by debt, isn’t it their own fault?

Cowboys need lawyers, too.

Mon Oct 15, 2007 at 08:48:28 AM PDT

The playbook for the Republican FISA fear-fest is out, and can you guess what kind of bull they have cooked up this time?

Subscription-only Roll Call sez:

Republicans are planning to use the kidnapping and subsequent murder of three U.S. soldiers in Iraq earlier this year to put a "human face" on the issue, the House staffer explained. According to this aide, while Democrats' arguments about privacy may resonate with some voters, Republicans believe using real-world examples of how a weak FISA has put U.S. troops in danger will help galvanize public support for their position.

Verizon Says It Turned Over Data Without Court Orders

Firm's Letter to Lawmakers Details Government Requests

By Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 16, 2007; A01

Verizon Communications, the nation's second-largest telecom company, told congressional investigators that it has provided customers' telephone records to federal authorities in emergency cases without court orders hundreds of times since 2005.

The company said it does not determine the requests' legality or necessity because to do so would slow efforts to save lives in criminal investigations.

Why Big Media Slimes Al Gore

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has a point when he describes the rabid reaction of right-wingers to Al Gore, with the latest foaming at the mouth over the former vice president winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on global warming.

But the Right is not alone in its pathological demeaning of Gore. The major news media, including the Washington Post and the New York Times, have taken their share of unfair shots at Gore, ironically for reasons similar to those that Krugman attributes to the Right.

In his column on Oct. 15, Krugman observed that the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page commented on Gore’s prize simply by running a list of people whom it considered more deserving. A National Review Online article linked Gore to Osama bin Laden because the Saudi terrorist once made a remark about the dangers of global warming.

The Real Iraq We Knew

By 12 former Army captains
Tuesday, October 16, 2007; 12:00 AM

Today marks five years since the authorization of military force in Iraq, setting Operation Iraqi Freedom in motion. Five years on, the Iraq war is as undermanned and under-resourced as it was from the start. And, five years on, Iraq is in shambles.

As Army captains who served in Baghdad and beyond, we've seen the corruption and the sectarian division. We understand what it's like to be stretched too thin. And we know when it's time to get out.

What does Iraq look like on the ground? It's certainly far from being a modern, self-sustaining country. Many roads, bridges, schools and hospitals are in deplorable condition. Fewer people have access to drinking water or sewage systems than before the war. And Baghdad is averaging less than eight hours of electricity a day.

What Was Behind the Honey Bee Wipeout?

By Gina Covina, Terrain
Posted on October 16, 2007, Printed on October 16, 2007

On Alan Wilson's table at the Oakland Farmers' Market, row after row of glass honey jars catch the early morning sun that angles down Ninth Street. Some of the honey gleams a reddish brown, some a paler amber, depending on the particular mix of flower species the bees foraged. All of it was produced by Wilson's colonies, which number a third of what he had last fall, before the infamous bee die-off that afflicted growers around the world. "I'd better get the honey while I can," one customer remarks.

The flurry of media attention given this winter's bee losses, now labeled "colony collapse disorder," has updated the world of bees for a heretofore-clueless public. Our image of honeybees is a lot like our bucolic images of farm animals -- and just as far from the brutal truth of today's corporate agriculture. We picture fields of clover, blossoming orchards, the wildflowers beneath the trees, filled with happy bees industriously gathering nectar and pollen to take back to the hive. As the bees gather pollen, they transfer it from plant to plant, thus assuring cross-pollination.