Friday, February 29, 2008

Catholic League: McCain Embraces Anti-Catholic Bigot


Catholic League press release:
Yesterday, Senator John McCain said he was “very honored by Pastor John Hagee’s endorsement.” The Republican presidential hopeful also called Hagee “the staunchest leader of our Christian evangelical movement,” citing the minister’s pro-Israel stance.

Catholic League president Bill Donohue addressed this today:

“There are plenty of staunch evangelical leaders who are pro-Israel, but are not anti-Catholic. John Hagee is not one of them. Indeed, for the past few decades, he has waged an unrelenting war against the Catholic Church. For example, he likes calling it ‘The Great Whore,’ an ‘apostate church,’ the ‘anti-Christ,’ and a ‘false cult system.’ To hear the bigot in his own words, click here. Note: he isn’t talking about the Buddhists.

“In Hagee’s latest book, Jerusalem Countdown, he calls Hitler a Catholic who murdered Jews while the Catholic Church did nothing. ‘The sell-out of Catholicism to Hitler began not with the people but with the Vatican itself,’ he writes.

“For the record, Hitler persecuted the Catholic Church and was automatically excommunicated in 1931—two years before he assumed power—when he acted as best man at Joseph Goebbel’s Protestant wedding. Hitler even bragged about his separation from the Church. As for doing nothing about the Holocaust, Sir Martin Gilbert reminds us that Goebbels denounced Pope Pius XII for his 1942 Christmas message criticizing the Nazis (the New York Times lauded the pope for doing so in an editorial for two years in a row). Much to Hagee’s chagrin, Gilbert also says that Pius XII saved three quarters of the Jews in Rome, and that more Jews were saved proportionately in Catholic countries than Protestant countries. Indeed, Israeli diplomat Pinchas Lapide credited the Catholic Church with saving 860,000 Jews. No religion can match that.

“Senator Obama has repudiated the endorsement of Louis Farrakhan, another bigot. McCain should follow suit and retract his embrace of Hagee.”

Atty. Gen. won't probe of Bush aides

Go to AP original
WASHINGTON - Attorney General Michael Mukasey refused Friday to refer the House's contempt citations against two of President Bush's top aides to a federal grand jury. Mukasey said White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former presidential counsel Harriet Miers committed no crime.

As promised, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she has given the Judiciary Committee authority to file a lawsuit against Bolten and Miers in federal court.

"The House shall do so promptly," she said in a statement.

Mukasey said Bolten and Miers were right in ignoring subpoenas to provide Congress with White House documents or testify about the firings of federal prosecutors.

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The Changing Faiths of America

Study Shows Big Declines Among Major Denominations; A Boon for Evangelicals

Go to WSJ original
Nearly half of adults in the U.S. have switched to a faith other than the one in which they were raised or have dropped affiliation with any organized religion, according to a large survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

The study also found that one-third of respondents who were raised Roman Catholic had left the faith as adults. Yet, the overall number of Catholics in the U.S. has remained steady -- about 25% of adults -- buttressed by a wave of Catholic Latino immigration, Pew says.





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Stocks fall sharply on economic worries

Go to AP original
NEW YORK - Stocks fell sharply Friday after a series of depressing economic and corporate reports as well as high oil prices stoked concerns about the health of the economy. The major stock indexes fell more than 2.5 percent and the Dow Jones industrials lost 315 points.

Investors were unnerved by disappointing quarterly results from American International Group Inc. and Dell Inc. And an index of regional business activity that Wall Street regards as a good indicator of a broader report due next week had its weakest showing in more than six years.

Oil prices continued to stir concern about inflation after pushing past $103 per barrel for the first time.

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Iraq war 'caused slowdown in the US'

Go to The Australian original
THE Iraq war has cost the US 50-60 times more than the Bush administration predicted and was a central cause of the sub-prime banking crisis threatening the world economy, according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.

The former World Bank vice-president yesterday said the war had, so far, cost the US something like $US3trillion ($3.3 trillion) compared with the $US50-$US60-billion predicted in 2003.

Australia also faced a real bill much greater than the $2.2billion in military spending reported last week by Australian Defence Force chief Angus Houston, Professor Stiglitz said, pointing to higher oil prices and other indirect costs of the wars.

Professor Stiglitz told the Chatham House think tank in London that the Bush White House was currently estimating the cost of the war at about $US500 billion, but that figure massively understated things such as the medical and welfare costs of US military servicemen.

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New Abu Ghraib Photos: How Good People Turn Evil, From Stanford to Abu Ghraib

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT

Go to Wired.com original
MONTEREY, California -- Psychologist Philip Zimbardo has seen good people turn evil, and he thinks he knows why.

Zimbardo will speak Thursday afternoon at the TED conference, where he plans to illustrate his points by showing a three-minute video, obtained by Wired.com, that features many previously unseen photographs from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq (disturbing content).

In March 2006, Salon.com published 279 photos and 19 videos from Abu Ghraib, one of the most extensive documentations to date of abuse in the notorious prison. Zimbardo claims, however, that many images in his video -- which he obtained while serving as an expert witness for an Abu Ghraib defendant -- have never before been published.

The Abu Ghraib prison made international headlines in 2004 when photographs of military personnel abusing Iraqi prisoners were published around the world. Seven soldiers were convicted in courts martial and two, including Specialist Lynndie England, were sentenced to prison.

Zimbardo conducted a now-famous experiment at Stanford University in 1971, involving students who posed as prisoners and guards. Five days into the experiment, Zimbardo halted the study when the student guards began abusing the prisoners, forcing them to strip naked and simulate sex acts.

His book, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, explores how a "perfect storm" of conditions can make ordinary people commit horrendous acts.

He spoke with Wired.com about what Abu Ghraib and his prison study can teach us about evil and why heroes are, by nature, social deviants.

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Clinton aides threatened lawsuit over Texas caucuses

Go to McClathy Newspapers original
AUSTIN — The Texas Democratic Party warned Thursday that election night caucuses scheduled for next Tuesday could be delayed or disrupted after aides to Hillary Clinton threatened to sue over the party's complicated delegate selection process.

In a letter sent out late Thursday to both the Clinton and Barack Obama campaigns, Texas Democratic Party lawyer Chad Dunn warned a lawsuit could ruin the Democrats' effort to re-energize voters just as they are turning out in record numbers.

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GOP feels it is not getting enough Telecom money

Go to Roll Call original
With the House Democrats’ refusal to grant retroactive immunity to phone companies — stalling the rewrite of the warrantless wiretapping program — GOP leadership aides are grumbling that their party isn’t getting more political money from the telecommunications industry.

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Child Poverty and How to Stem America's Prison Madness

Go to Huffington Post original
Criminals, especially violent criminals, must be punished appropriately for their actions. Many deserve to go to jail.

America has followed this simplistic rationale for decades, and our prison population has ballooned to an all-time high. A jarring New York Times story reports that 1 in 99.1 Americans is currently behind bars. The cost for keeping them there last year was $44 billion, and that price is expected to rise to nearly $70 billion by 2011.

These out-of-control statistics are a national disgrace.

America's disproportionate investment in corrections rather than prevention maintains what the Children's Defense Fund aptly calls the "Cradle to Prison Pipeline." This system is a terrible short-term and long-term investment, both fiscally and in lives.

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Disparity in Civics Classes

Go to AP original
CHICAGO (AP) — Her neighborhood, with its police cameras and abandoned buildings, isn't known for inspiring hope. Yet, 18-year-old Ariel Williams feels empowered.

She's lobbied her state lawmakers to increase education funding. She and other students traveled to Iowa in December to campaign for presidential candidates. And now she can't wait to vote in November's election.

They are the sort of results that happen when civics education is creative and engaging, according to a new study.

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Scientist dismissed from panel for proving television sets are toxic

Go to Los Angeles Times original
Under pressure from the chemical industry, the Environmental Protection Agency has dismissed an outspoken scientist who chaired a federal panel responsible for helping the agency determine the dangers of a flame retardant widely used in electronic equipment.

Toxicologist Deborah Rice was appointed chair of an EPA scientific panel reviewing the chemical a year ago. Federal records show she was removed from the panel in August after the American Chemistry Council, the lobbying group for chemical manufacturers, complained to a top-ranking EPA official that she was biased.

The chemical, a brominated compound known as deca, is used in high volumes worldwide, largely in the plastic housings of television sets.

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Media keeps a secret with Prince Harry


Go to AP original
NEW YORK - News organizations are generally the worst places to keep a secret. But for months, news of British Prince Harry's deployment to Afghanistan was kept from the public even though many prominent journalists knew about it.

Several organizations — including The Associated Press — agreed to keep the news under wraps to protect the prince and his fellow soldiers until the informal embargo was broken Thursday by the Drudge Report Web site.

The news out, British authorities decided Friday that the man third in line to the British throne should be pulled from Afghanistan. He had been serving with an army unit in the country's southern Helmand province since mid-December, and had been expected to stay until April.

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ALERT: Israeli Minister Threatens to Commit a “Holocaust” on Gaza



From DemocracyNow.org
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, at least 18 Palestinians have been killed in continued Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip. Thursday’s Palestinian toll includes four young boys, killed by bombs as they were playing soccer. The youngest was eight years old. Another Palestinian child was killed along with two adult civilians. Palestinian officials say at least nine Palestinian militants also died. At least thirty-one Palestinians, including nine children, have died in the past two days of Israeli attacks. Israel says its responding to Palestinian rocket fire, with forty-five rockets launched from Gaza on Thursday. One Israeli was killed this week in the town of Sderot, the thirteenth Israeli killed by Palestinian rockets in the last seven years. A seventeen-year old girl was lightly injured Thursday when Palestinian rockets struck the Israeli town of Ashkelon. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is warning of a full-scale Israeli invasion of Gaza. In what could be a first for an Israeli official, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai has threatened a “holocaust” in Gaza if rocket fire continues. Vilnai said: “The more Qassam fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, [the Palestinians] will bring upon themselves a bigger holocaust because we will use all our might to defend ourselves.”
From Yesterday: An opinion poll taken this week shows 64 percent of Israelis favor a ceasefire with Hamas—the highest majority to date. Hamas has made several proposals for a truce but the Israeli government has rejected its overtures.

more from BBC News:
Matan Vilnai said Palestinians risked a "shoah", the Hebrew word for a big disaster-and for the Nazi Holocaust.

Israeli air strikes have killed about 30 Palestinians in the past three days.

Four Palestinian boys were killed in an Israeli raid as they played in a field in northern Gaza on Thursday. Several militants, including a Hamas commander, were also killed.
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Video: The Gaza Massacre

U.S. Send Warships, including USS Cole, to Lebanon

Go to Reuters original
BEIRUT (Reuters) - The pro-Iranian Hezbollah group accused the United States on Friday of endangering regional stability by deploying a warship off Lebanon and vowed to defy what it called an act of military intimidation.

The United States said on Thursday it sent the destroyer USS Cole to the eastern Mediterranean because the Bush administration was concerned about Lebanon's political deadlock.

"The American move threatens the stability of Lebanon and the region and it is an attempt to spark tension," Hezbollah member of parliament Hassan Fadlallah told Reuters by telephone.

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Clinton Cosponsors Merc Ban

Press Release
Washington, DC – Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton announced today that she has cosponsored legislation to ban the use of Blackwater and other private mercenary firms in Iraq.

"From this war's very beginning, this administration has permitted thousands of heavily-armed military contractors to march through Iraq without any law or court to rein them in or hold them accountable. These private security contractors have been reckless and have compromised our mission in Iraq. The time to show these contractors the door is long past due. We need to stop filling the coffers of contractors in Iraq, and make sure that armed personnel in Iraq are fully accountable to the U.S. government and follow the chain of command," said Senator Clinton.

The legislation requires that all personnel at any U.S. diplomatic or consular mission in Iraq be provided security services only by Federal Government Personnel. It also includes a whistleblower clause to protect contract personnel who uncover contract violations, criminal actions, or human rights abuses.

Obama's Blackwater Problem



Go to Huffington Post original
A senior foreign policy adviser to leading Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama told me that if elected Obama will not "rule out" using private security companies like Blackwater Worldwide in Iraq. The adviser also said that Obama does not plan to sign on to legislation that seeks to ban the use of these forces in US war zones by January 2009, when a new President will be sworn in. Obama's campaign says that instead he will focus on bringing accountability to these forces while increasing funding for the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the agency that employs Blackwater and other private security contractors.

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U.S. Vets Break Silence on Their Own War Crimes

Go to IPS original
SAN FRANCISCO, Feb 28 (IPS) - U.S. veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are planning to descend on Washington from Mar. 13-16 to testify about war crimes they committed or personally witnessed in those countries.

"The war in Iraq is not covered to its potential because of how dangerous it is for reporters to cover it," said Liam Madden, a former Marine and member of the group Iraq Veterans Against the War. "That's left a lot of misconceptions in the minds of the American public about what the true nature of military occupation looks like."

Iraq Veterans Against the War argues that well-publicised incidents of U.S. brutality like the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the massacre of an entire family of Iraqis in the town of Haditha are not the isolated incidents perpetrated by "a few bad apples", as many politicians and military leaders have claimed. They are part of a pattern, the group says, of "an increasingly bloody occupation".

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$4 Gasoline? It’s News to Bush



When asked about the possibility of the price going that high, president says, ‘That’s interesting, I hadn’t heard that.’ He also says a tax hike on oil companies would drive the price up further.

Go to Los Angeles Times original
WASHINGTON - The prospect of sharply higher fuel prices, including $4-a-gallon gasoline, may not have made it into Oval Office briefing books, perhaps explaining why President Bush was surprised Thursday when a reporter mentioned what energy analysts are saying could happen soon in many parts of the country.“Wait, what did you just say? You’re predicting $4-a-gallon gasoline?” Bush responded to a reporter who said some analysts expect prices to soon climb that high. “That’s interesting. I hadn’t heard that. . . . I know it’s high now.”

The price of oil set another record Thursday, jumping $2.95 to close at $102.59 a barrel in New York futures trading.

But even before the recent surge in oil prices, analysts were predicting that the average price of a gallon of gasoline could reach $3.75 nationwide in the near term and top $4 in states such as California and Hawaii.

Bush’s acknowledged unfamiliarity with the recent cost of gasoline produced some fumes at the pump.

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Why Is Obama's Middle Name Taboo?

Go to Time Magazine original
Barack Hussein Obama, Jr.: that is the full name of the junior Senator from Illinois - neither a contrivance nor, at face value, a slur. But John McCain couldn't apologize quickly enough after Bill Cunningham, a conservative talk radio host, warmed up a Cincinnati rally with a few loaded references to "Barack Hussein Obama." Asked afterwards if it was appropriate to use the Senator's middle name, McCain said, "No, it is not. Any comment that is disparaging of either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama is totally inappropriate."

The pundits were quick to applaud McCain's fatwa against the use of Hussein, and broadcasters began trying to report on the controversy without actually saying the name too much, dancing around the offending word as if they were doing a segment on The Vagina Monologues. In both cases, the word comes off as not quite illicit, but certainly a little taboo.

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Clinton Offers Child Poverty Plan



Go to New York Times original
HANGING ROCK, Ohio (AP) -- Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton offered a plan to improve childhood nutrition and set a goal to reduce by half the 12 million youngsters living in poverty over the next dozen years.

The package of proposals includes a ''comprehensive'' early education initiative that starts with nurse's visits for pregnant women, lets children begin the Head Start program earlier and calls for universal pre-kindergarten programs.

The New York senator also says she would deal with childhood hunger by putting in place a food safety net, and give children ''greater access to healthy, fresh food.''

She spelled out her proposals in a speech Thursday at the child care development center on Ohio University's southern campus, and toured a Head Start program serving economically challenged southern Ohio. It was part of her effort to focus the Democratic campaign on bedrock economic issues.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Cuba's New Prez signs human rights treaties long opposed by Fidel

Go to AP original
UNITED NATIONS - Cuba's government signed two key international human rights treaties Thursday that Fidel Castro long opposed, but said it had reservations about some provisions and accused the United States of impeding the Cuban people's enjoyment of their rights.

Fidel Castro was still president when Cuba announced Dec. 10 that it would sign the accords on civil, political and economic rights and at the time he asked government television to re-air his objections in case Cubans had forgotten his opposition.

The formal signing came four days after Fidel's younger brother, Raul, permanently replaced him in the presidency after filling in during Fidel's illness since mid-2006.

Whether the signing by Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque marks a turning point for human rights on the communist island nation remains to be seen.

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Dan Rather: CBS bosses hiding truth about Bush



Go to Daily News original
Dan Rather slammed CBS Tuesday for trying to keep his court fight with the network out of the public eye.

The newsman - who has filed a $70 million lawsuit against the Tiffany network, where he anchored the "CBS Evening News" for 24 years - said "corporate overlords" are conspiring to withhold several key documents.

The 76-year-old was back in Manhattan Supreme Court for a hearing on his suit, which accuses CBS of sidelining him to make nice with the White House following a September 2004 report that questioned President Bush's Vietnam-era military service.

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Record Number of Americans in Prison



Go to AP original
NEW YORK - For the first time in history, more than one in every 100 American adults is in jail or prison, according to a new report tracking the surge in inmate population and urging states to rein in corrections costs with alternative sentencing programs.

The report, released Thursday by the Pew Center on the States, said the 50 states spent more than $49 billion on corrections last year, up from less than $11 billion 20 years earlier. The rate of increase for prison costs was six times greater than for higher education spending, the report said.

Using updated state-by-state data, the report said 2,319,258 adults were held in U.S. prisons or jails at the start of 2008 — one out of every 99.1 adults, and more than any other country in the world.

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McCain Withheld Controversial Email



Go to Huffington Post original
A little-known document shows that McCain may have taken steps to protect his Republican colleagues from the scope of his investigation.

In the 2006 Senate report concerning Abramoff's activities, which McCain spearheaded, the Arizona Republican conspicuously left out information detailing how Alabama Gov. Bob Riley was targeted by Abramoff's influence peddling scheme. Riley, a Republican, won election in November 2002, and was reelected in 2006.

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McCain Received $100,000 From Firm Of Abramoff Notoriety



Go to Huffington Post original
On the stump, Sen. John McCain has touted his work tackling the excesses of the lobbying industry to bolster his reputation as a "maverick" reformer.

"Ask Jack Abramoff if I'm an insider in Washington," McCain often contends. "You'd probably have to go during visiting hours in the prison, and he'll tell you and his lobbyist cronies of the change I made there."

But how much change did McCain actually effect? And is he all that removed from Washington's special interests?

A review of campaign finance filings shows that the Arizona Republican has accepted more than $100,000 in donations from employees of Greenberg Traurig, the very firm where Abramoff once reigned.

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Does John McCain Have a Birthplace Problem?




Go to Wall Street Journal Law Blog original

In 1936, McCain was born at the Coco Solo Air Base, in the then-American controlled Panama Canal Zone (pictured), to Jack McCain, a Navy officer, and Roberta McCain. If McCain wins the 2008 election, he’d be the first American to take the presidential oath who has an official birthplace outside the 50 states.

“There are powerful arguments that Senator McCain or anyone else in this position is constitutionally qualified, but there is certainly no precedent,” said Sarah H. Duggin, an associate professor of law at Catholic University. “It is not a slam-dunk situation.”

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Six month old baby, victim of Israeli bloodshed in Gaza



Go to ISN original
A Palestinian 6 month old baby was killed by shrapnel in the late-night air-strike in Gaza City that aimed the former headquarters of interior Ministry situated at the west of the strip and that in the framework of the ongoing Israeli attacks against Gaza Strip. Moreover, the attack wounded about 20 residents in the nearby area.

Israeli Apache attack helicopter gunship destroyed by three air-to-ground missiles the 6 floors building of the interior ministry in the deposed Hamas government in Gaza City and caused huge damages to the neighboring houses, witnesses said. On the other hand, Israeli helicopters launched 2 rockets at least on a blacksmith workshop in Al Zaitoun neighborhood and it also dispatched a rocket on a similar workshop in Khan Younis south of the strip. Yet, no deaths were reported. Moreover, in West Bank Israeli soldiers killed a Palestinian citizen.

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Most Israelis Want Their Government to Talk to Hamas

Go to Short News original
Recent polls show that 64% of Israelis want the Israeli government to broker a deal with the Palestinian Hamas government to call a ceasefire and aid in the release of an Israeli soldier captured in 2006.

The Tel Aviv University professor who organized the poll for the leading Isreili journal Ha'aretz said that the results show that the Israeli population were tired of the conflict and just wanted “a normal life”.

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Nobel laureate estimates wars' cost at more than $3 trillion

Go to McClatchy Newspapers original
WASHINGTON — When U.S. troops invaded Iraq in March 2003, the Bush administration predicted that the war would be self-financing and that rebuilding the nation would cost less than $2 billion.

Coming up on the fifth anniversary of the invasion, a Nobel laureate now estimates that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are costing America more than $3 trillion.

That estimate from Noble Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz also serves as the title of his new book, "The Three Trillion Dollar War," which hits store shelves Friday.

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Afghan Prez controls only 30% of country

Go to The Scotsman original
THE Afghan government under President Hamid Karzai controls only 30 per cent of the country, the top US intelligence official said yesterday.

Michael McConnell, the director of national intelligence, told the Senate armed services committee that the resurgent Taleban controlled a further 10 to 11 per cent of the country. But more than six years after the invasion to oust the Taleban and establish a stable central government, most of the population was still under local tribal control, he said.

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Comcast admits to "Rent-A-Crowds" at FCC hearing

Go to Philadelphia Inquirer
Comcast Corp. admitted yesterday that it paid people to attend a government hearing. Company critics say the freelance attendees were there to crowd them out; Comcast says they were merely saving seats for employees.

The five-hour hearing Monday at Harvard University was organized by the Federal Communications Commission to address the issue of net neutrality, a hot-button topic for those who think there should be minimal restrictions on Internet traffic.

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U.S. Missile Base in Czech “Three Words” Away

Go to Radio Prague original
The Czech Republic and the United States are just “three words away” from a treaty on basing a U.S. anti-missile radar facility in Central Bohemia, according to the leaders of the two countries. Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek met U.S. President George W. Bush at the White House on Wednesday, and while a final treaty was not agreed, they seemed confident it would be soon. But the path to expanding missile defence to Central Europe does not appear smooth.

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Eskimos Sue Big Oil and Power for Ruining Village



Go to New York Times original
SAN FRANCISCO — Lawyers for the Alaska Native coastal village of Kivalina, which is being forced to relocate because of flooding caused by the changing Arctic climate, filed suit in federal court here Tuesday arguing that 5 oil companies, 14 electric utilities and the country’s largest coal company were responsible for the village’s woes.

The suit is the latest effort to hold companies like BP America, Chevron, Peabody Energy, Duke Energy and the Southern Company responsible for the impact of global warming because they emit millions of tons of greenhouse gases, or, in the case of Peabody, mine and market carbon-laden coal that is burned by others. It accused the companies of creating a public nuisance.

In an unusual move, those five companies and three other defendants — the Exxon Mobil Corporation, American Electric Power and the Conoco Phillips Company — are also accused of conspiracy. “There has been a long campaign by power, coal and oil companies to mislead the public about the science of global warming,” the suit says. The campaign, it says, contributed “to the public nuisance of global warming by convincing the public at large and the victims of global warming that the process is not man-made when in fact it is.”

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Gas Prices Soar, Posing a Threat to Family Budget



Go to New York Times original
Gasoline prices, which for months lagged behind the big run-up in the price of oil, are suddenly rising quickly, with some experts saying they could approach $4 a gallon by spring. Diesel is hitting new records daily, and oil settled at a record high of $100.88 a barrel on Tuesday.

The increases could not come at a worse time for the economy. With growth slowing, energy increases that were once easily absorbed by consumers are now more likely to act as a drag on household budgets, leaving people with less money to spend elsewhere. These costs could worsen the nation’s economic woes, piling a fresh energy shock on top of the turmoil in credit and housing.

“The effect of high oil prices today could be the difference between having a recession and not having a recession,” said Kenneth S. Rogoff, a Harvard economist.

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Turkey: No Pullout Date for Iraq

Go to Reuters original
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Turkey said on Wednesday it had "no timetable" to withdraw troops fighting Kurdish guerrillas in northern Iraq, resisting pressure from the United States and other allies to end the offensive quickly.

Thousands of Turkish troops crossed the border last Thursday to root out PKK fighters. The PKK has used remote mountainous northern Iraq as a base in their armed campaign for self-rule in the mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey.

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Californians Sitting on Toxic Couches, Lobbyists Keep it That Way



Go to OneWorld original
SAN FRANCISCO, Feb 26 (OneWorld) - Most of California's furniture contains toxic chemicals that have been linked to cancer, birth defects, hormone disruption, and neurological and reproductive dysfunction, according to a report released today.

The so-called halogenated fire retardants are particularly harmful to infants and children, said Friends of the Earth, the nonprofit citizens group that tested 350 items of furniture in stores and people's houses.

"We found that two thirds of furniture sold in retail stores and 50 percent of furniture in people's homes contain high amounts of halogenated fire retardants," said Russell Long, the group's vice president. "So for the typical consumer that may have five to ten pieces of furniture in their home, their home is full of these chemicals."

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Pentagon General Counsel Resigns

Go to The Nation original
William J. Haynes, the Pentagon's chief legal officer and overseer of Guantanamo's Military Commissions, is stepping down, amid mounting controversy over the tribunal process, so he can "return to private life," the Department of Defense announced late on Monday. Haynes' resignation comes exactly two weeks after landmark charges were brought against six "high-value" Guantanamo detainees.

Haynes "has served the Department of Defense and the nation with distinction," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in a statement. But Haynes will leave behind a commissions process that is embattled and discredited--and he bears much of the blame.

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EPA Head Mum About White House Waiver Scandal

Go to New York Times original
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The head of the Environmental Protection Agency refused to say Wednesday whether the White House sought to influence his decision denying California a waiver needed to implement a tailpipe emissions-reduction law.

Appearing before the Senate Environment Committee, EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson deflected repeated questions from Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., about any White House role in the decision in December blocking California and at least 16 other states from implementing the emissions reductions.

Johnson acknowledged having routine discussions about the issue with White House officials and others but refused to say whether the White House gave him any input.

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Automated Killer Robots ‘Threat to Humanity’



Go to Agence France Presse original
Increasingly autonomous, gun-totting robots developed for warfare could easily fall into the hands of terrorists and may one day unleash a robot arms race, a top expert on artificial intelligence told AFP.

“They pose a threat to humanity,” said University of Sheffield professor Noel Sharkey ahead of a keynote address Wednesday before Britain’s Royal United Services Institute.

Intelligent machines deployed on battlefields around the world — from mobile grenade launchers to rocket-firing drones — can already identify and lock onto targets without human help.

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Destroyed email records may not be recovered before Bush leaves office

Go to Truthout Report original
During a technical and tense Congressional hearing, the testimony of current and former White House officials and the head of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) revealed a possible explanation for the loss of millions of White House email records.

Previous investigations revealed the Bush administration removed the White House email archiving system put in place by the Clinton administration, and failed to replace it. Instead of implementing a standard archiving system like the ones used by businesses or other Federal agencies, the White House set up a procedure that amounted to taking email records and manually storing them on a hard drive.

The Bush archiving system was characterized as "primitive" by Steven McDevitt, a former information technology specialist in the White House Office of Administration. In 2002, McDevitt warned White House lawyers and administrative staff the stopgap system of manually archiving records was deeply flawed because an individual user could tamper with the records without leaving any evidence of their malfeasance behind.

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Yahoo battling 7 shareholder suits

Go to Yahoo original
SUNNYVALE, Calif. - Yahoo Inc. is facing seven shareholder lawsuits alleging the slumping Internet pioneer bungled its response to Microsoft Corp.'s unsolicited takeover bid.

The Sunnyvale-based company provided a breakdown of the suits in an annual report filed Wednesday with the Securities and Exchange. The documents didn't provide any new information about Yahoo's attempts to shoo away Microsoft, which is threatening to pursue a hostile takeover unless a friendly deal can be negotiated.

Yahoo's board believes Microsoft's offer, originally valued at $44.6 billion, is insufficient. Microsoft, though, has stood firm and is now preparing to overthrow Yahoo's 10-member board, which includes the company's co-founder and chief executive, Jerry Yang. Microsoft faces a March 14 deadline to nominate an alternate slate of directors.

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Bush Vows to Veto a Mortgage Relief Bill

Go to New York Times original
WASHINGTON — President Bush sided with banks and mortgage lenders on Tuesday, threatening to veto a bill being offered by Senate Democrats that would give more bargaining power to homeowners who face foreclosure.

Opening what is likely to be an intense political battle in the deepening mortgage crisis, the White House said it strongly opposed the bill, which would let bankruptcy court judges modify the terms of a mortgage as part of the restructuring of a debt in a bankruptcy filing.

Supporters of the legislation say it could prevent as many as 600,000 home foreclosures affecting people who took out tickler or other complicated mortgages and now face steep increases in interest rates and monthly payments.

Consumer and civil rights groups argue that the change in bankruptcy law would provide the surest way of helping families renegotiate mortgages that have been bundled into complex securities and sold to investors.

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Dollar Slides to New Lows


Go to Financial Times original
The euro broke new records above $1.50 against the dollar on Wednesday, pushing oil and precious metals to fresh peaks, while weighing on equity markets.

The dramatic moves followed weak US data and comments from the Federal Reserve which reinforced expectations of further aggressive US rate cuts.

Dollar weakness was widespread. There were records for the euro, which climbed as high as $1.5087, and the Swiss franc, which hit SFr1.0668. The dollar index, a measure of the US unit’s strength against a basket of currencies, fell to a record low of 74.264.

Tumbling US house prices and weak consumer confidence overshadowed rising producer price inflation on Tuesday. Later, the Federal Reserve’s Don Kohn said slowing growth was a greater risk than rising inflation.

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Soldier accused of staging shooting to avoid going to Iraq

Go to WVLT original
APPLE VALLEY, Calif. (AP) -- Authorities in Apple Valley, California, say a 101st Airborne Division soldier trying to avoid deployment to Iraq had a friend shoot him in the leg and then claimed he'd been wounded in a holdup.

Police said Army Pfc. Matthew John Myers of Apple Valley limped into a minimart about 9:30 p.m. Sunday and reported he had been walking on a golf course when a gunman stole his wallet and military identification and shot him in the right thigh.

A helicopter search failed to find a robber and San Bernardino County Sheriff's deputies became suspicious of the story because they could not find a blood trail or any shell casings and Myers could not describe the attacker.

No one has been arrested but the matter will be turned over to prosecutors.

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Major survey challenges Western perceptions of Islam

Go to Yahoo original
WASHINGTON (AFP) - A huge survey of the world's Muslims released Tuesday challenges Western notions that equate Islam with radicalism and violence.

The survey, conducted by the Gallup polling agency over six years and three continents, seeks to dispel the belief held by some in the West that Islam itself is the driving force of radicalism.

It shows that the overwhelming majority of Muslims condemned the attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001 and other subsequent terrorist attacks, the authors of the study said in Washington.

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Olympics water diversion threatens millions



Go to Financial Times
The diversion of water to Beijing for the Olympics and for big hydropower projects threatens the lives of millions of peasant farmers in China’s north-western provinces, according to a senior Chinese government official.

In an interview with the Financial Times, An Qiyuan, a member and former chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee for Shaanxi province and former Communist party chief of Shaanxi, warned of an impending social and environmental disaster because of overuse of scarce water resources.

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Ashcroft to Testify on Oversight Deal

Go to Washington Post original
Ashcroft, who left public service three years ago to start a private consulting firm, won the contract under a settlement the company reached with federal prosecutors in New Jersey. Under a recent government policy, companies facing criminal investigation can accept such outside supervision to avoid indictment.

Ashcroft's consulting firm stands to collect between $28 million and $52 million over 18 months for reviewing the operations of Zimmer Holdings, an Indiana company that makes replacement hips and knees. Zimmer last year settled government charges over kickbacks it allegedly provided doctors in exchange for using its products.

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Sharks Decline But Attacks Rise


Go to LiveScience original
A diver who suffered a fatal shark bite in the Bahamas this week is part of a trend of increasing attacks around the world despite plummeting populations of the majestic fish.

If sharks are so threatened in the world's waters, why are attacks on humans on the rise?

Because the global population of humans is growing fast, so more people go to the beach, said George Burgess, curator of the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History. And nowadays, beach-goers don't just go for a dunk. They hang out in shallow water (home for many sharks) for long periods of time to surf, windsurf, boogie-board, kayak and dive.

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In-Depth: History & Future of Sharks

Conservative Icon William F. Buckley Jr. dies at 82


Go to AP original
NEW YORK - William F. Buckley Jr., the erudite Ivy Leaguer and conservative herald who showered huge and scornful words on liberalism as he observed, abetted and cheered on the right's post-World War II rise from the fringes to the White House, died Wednesday. He was 82.

His assistant Linda Bridges said Buckley was found dead by his cook at his home in Stamford, Conn. The cause of death was unknown, but he had been ill with emphysema, she said.

Editor, columnist, novelist, debater, TV talk show star of "Firing Line," harpsichordist, trans-oceanic sailor and even a good-natured loser in a New York mayor's race, Buckley worked at a daunting pace, taking as little as 20 minutes to write a column for his magazine, the National Review.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Immigrants Commit Less California Crime



Go to Reuters original
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Immigrants are far less likely than the average U.S.-born citizen to commit crime in California, the most populous state in the United States, according to a report issued late on Monday.

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FCC tackles Net neutrality

Go to Hollywood Reporter original
During a field hearing at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., chairman of the House Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee, urged the FCC to take a more activist stance on network neutrality.

"The Internet is as much mine and yours as much as it is Verizon's and AT&T's or Comcast's. The key question for safeguarding the Internet is recognition that the nature of the Net is not the services provided by the carriers themselves. They don't provide Internet services, they provide Internet access. There's a difference"

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Gazans form human chain along Israeli border in protest at blockade


Go to UK Guardian original
Palestinians today formed a human chain in protest at Israel's blockade of Gaza as Israel deployed thousands of troops and police officers along the border.

About 5,000 people, many of them women, schoolchildren and university students, joined the chain outside the town of Beit Hanoun, about four miles from the border.

The crowd hoisted banners in English and Arabic, saying "End the siege of Gaza now", and "Your siege will not break our will".

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US Defense Chief in India to Push Arms Sales, Military Ties

Go to Agence France Presse original
NEW DELHI - US Defence Secretary Robert Gates plunged into one of the world’s hottest arms market Tuesday, saying rapidly expanding US-Indian defence ties were in both countries’ interests.

His arrival coincided with news that India successfully tested its first nuclear capable missile from a submerged platform, completing its goal of developing air, land and sea-based ballistic missiles.

Asked if helping to arm an emerging nuclear power carried risks, Gates said, “We have to deal with the world as we find it.”

“India is the world’s largest democracy. It is in our interest to develop this relationship, just as it is in India’s,” he told reporters in New Delhi after strolling the grounds of the tomb of 16th century Mughal emperor Humayun.

He cited the ambitious schedule of US-Indian exchanges and exercises, and the growing defence trade relationship.

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Obamacans: They're Republican red and true blue to Obama



GOP renegades seeking a candidate capable of ending the Washington partisanship are surfacing in the senator's campaign in surprising numbers. 'Obamacans,' he calls them.
Go to Los Angeles Times original
DELAWARE, OHIO -- Chatter bounces off the bare walls and checkered linoleum floor as Josh Pedaline and other Barack Obama supporters burn through their call sheets.

A map of Delaware County splays across a tabletop. Another table is laden with cookies, pretzels and other snacks. Volunteers sit elbow to elbow, pecking at cellphones and pitching the Illinois Democrat in advance of Ohio's March 4 primary. The scene is a typical campaign boiler room.

Except that four of the 13 dialing away are lifelong Republicans, including Pedaline, 28, who reveres Ronald Reagan and twice voted for President Bush.

"I am so sick and tired of the partisanship," Pedaline says before starting his night shift at Obama's outpost in this affluent Columbus suburb. "I don't want to be cheesy and say, 'He'll bring us all together.' But he seems like someone willing to listen to a good idea, even if it comes from a Republican."

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Monday, February 25, 2008

What the heck is the Secret Service thinking?

Is Obama Safe?
Go to Roanoke Times original
Now, I don't know about you, but that unnerves me for a number of reasons. First, Barack was given Secret Service protection in May, earlier than any other presidential candidate because of death threats. At least one federal official in the know said some of the threats had racial overtones.

Second, I read about the Texas security lapse moments after reading an Associated Press story about the hushed worry among blacks that the first serious black presidential contender could be assassinated. Some people are so freaked they plan not to vote for Obama out of concern for his personal safety. (That's a cop-out, but it's out there.) For historical reasons, you also would think the Secret Service would be particularly gun-shy about letting their guard down in Dallas.

Furthermore, I have some trepidation about my industry reporting such a lapse. This doesn't rise to the same level of a national security matter, but if definitely merited some serious discussion in the newsroom.

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'60 Minutes' Story Blackouted



Go to ThinkProgress original
Last night, CBS’s 60 Minutes aired its long-awaited report on Alabama’s incarcerated former governor Don Siegelman, featuring allegations that Karl Rove personally told a Republican operative in the state to find evidence that Siegelman was cheating on his wife.

Siegelman, a Democrat, was convicted in 2006 for conspiracy, bribery and fraud. But observers from all sides of the political spectrum are now questioning whether his prosecution “was pursued not because of a crime but because of politics.”

Though the report aired last night, it was not seen by everyone who may have wished to view it. In several Alabama locations, “the show was blocked - black screen - during the Siegelman segment of 60 Minutes only.” Harper’s Scott Horton, who has investigated the Siegelman prosecution and was interviewed for the segment, reports:

I am now hearing from readers all across Northern Alabama–from Decatur to Huntsville and considerably on down–that a mysterious “service interruption” blocked the broadcast of only the Siegelman segment of 60 Minutes this evening. The broadcaster is Channel 19 WHNT, which serves Northern Alabama and Southern Tennessee.

WHNT originally claimed last night that the blocked segment was due to “a techincal(sic) problem with CBS out of New York.” But that claim was contradicted by CBS in New York, who told Horton, that “there is no delicate way to put this: the WHNT claim is not true. There were no transmission difficulties. The problems were peculiar to Channel 19.”

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Obesity More Dangerous Than Terrorism



Go to Agence France Presse original
World governments focus too much on fighting terrorism while obesity and other “lifestyle diseases” are killing millions more people, an international conference heard Monday

Overcoming deadly factors such as poor diet, smoking and a lack of exercise should take top priority in the fight against a growing epidemic of preventable chronic disease, legal and health experts said.

Global terrorism was a real threat but posed far less risk than obesity, diabetes and smoking-related illnesses, prominent US professor of health law Lawrence Gostin said at the Oxford Health Alliance Summit here.

“Ever since September 11, we’ve been lurching from one crisis to the next, which has really frightened the public,” Gostin told AFP later.

“While we’ve been focusing so much attention on that, we’ve had this silent epidemic of obesity that’s killing millions of people around the world, and we’re devoting very little attention to it and a negligible amount of money.”

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Arctic ‘Doomsday Vault’ Filled With World’s Seeds Comes to Life



Go to Agence France Presse original

AN Arctic “doomsday vault” filled with samples of the world’s most important seeds will be inaugurated in Norway today.

The vault aims to provide humankind with a Noah’s Ark of food in the event of a global catastrophe.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Nobel Peace Prize winning environmentalist Wangari Matai will be among the personalities present at the inauguration of the vault, which has been carved into the permafrost of a remote Arctic mountain, just 1000km from the North Pole.

The vault, made up of three spacious cold chambers each measuring 27m by 10m, creates a long trident-shaped tunnel bored into the sandstone and limestone.

It has the capacity to hold up to 4.5 million batches of seeds from all known varieties of the planet’s main food crops, making it possible to re-establish plants if they disappear from their natural environment or are obliterated by major disasters.

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John McCain and the Rick Renzi 35-Count Indictment

Go to Huffington Post original

In 2006, Senator John McCain campaigned heartily for his fellow Arizona Republican Rick Renzi's reelection to his third term in the House of Representatives. At campaign rallies and fundraisers McCain said that Representative Renzi was an important part of the Republican Congressional delegation from Arizona and he praised Mr. Renzi's "honesty and integrity." McCain was so impressed by Mr. Renzi's virtuousness that he recruited him to serve as the co-chair of his presidential campaign in his home state.

With the recent stories about McCain using the Commerce Committee to serve the financial interests of his corporate benefactors, wouldn't it be wise for McCain to put on the GOP ticket for 2008 a man known for his "honesty and integrity?" If Sean Hannity and other choir boys in the Right's Greek Chorus are correct in their assertion that the news of McCain's past impropriety in the Senate is nothing more than a "liberal" newspaper smearing an honest politician, then I hope they stand up also for McCain's old friend and ally: the Honorable Rick Renzi.

The outrages of The New York Times continued this past weekend when the paper ran a story reporting that a federal grand jury indicted Congressmember Renzi on 35 counts of corruption, fraud, money laundering, extortion and other crimes. Surely, this is yet another "hit and run smear" attack by the Times. Any man that John McCain vouches for and says is "honest" and has "integrity" must be beyond reproach.

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Also, New Questions Raised Over McCain Lobbying Story

from DemocracyNow.org

In news on John McCain’s run for the White House, Newsweek has uncovered more information on the McCain lobbying scandal. Last week McCain issued a sweeping denial to rebut a New York Times story about his ties to a Washington lobbyist. According to the Times, McCain wrote two letters to the Federal Communications Commission regarding Paxson Communications, a client of the lobbyist Vicki Iseman. At the time, McCain served as chair of the Senate Commerce Committee. Last week, McCain said he never spoke to anybody from Paxson or the lobbying firm about the matter. But that claim seems to be contradicted by McCain’s own past statements. In 2002 McCain said “I was contacted by Mr. Lowell Paxson on this issue. He wanted their approval very bad for purposes of his business.” McCain’s quote appears in a sworn deposition from 2002 obtained by Newsweek.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Media Edited Michelle Obama's Statements

Some media outlets have edited out the word "really" from Michelle Obama's "Proud of my Country" statement:

The real statement from the C-SPAN original (0:26)


The statement you may have heard from various right-wing sites

Friday, February 22, 2008

Insignia Digital Photo Frames Shipped With a Virus



Go to Yahoo original
A frightening new computer virus is making the rounds, and it's coming in through an unlikely source: Those cute, innocuous, and unavoidable digital picture frames.

SFGate has the story of a nasty piece of malware that has been riding along with Insignia brand photo frames, which were largely sold in Best Buy and Sam's Club stores (and possibly other outlets) over the holidays. The virus, which I've yet to find an actual name for, is reportedly "easy to clean," according to Insignia, but at least one IT expert (who was running antivirus software) tells a horror story about it, saying it took him 12 hours to rebuild his own, infected machine. All from simply plugging the frame into his PC.

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10,000 Turkish troops enter Iraq

Go to Sydney Morning Herald
TURKEY has sent up to 10,000 troops into northern Iraq to hunt down Kurdish guerillas, despite earlier warnings from the United States against such a ground offensive.

"A land operation is a whole new level," a US deputy assistant Secretary of State, Matthew Bryza, said in Brussels yesterday.

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Report: Rove Wanted Dirt on Alabama Governor

Go to New York Times original
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A former Republican campaign worker claims that President Bush's former top political adviser, Karl Rove, asked her to find evidence that the Democratic governor of Alabama at the time was cheating on his wife, according to an upcoming broadcast of ''60 Minutes.''

Jill Simpson, who has long alleged that Rove may have influenced the corruption prosecution of former Gov. Don Siegelman, makes the claim against Rove in a broadcast scheduled to be aired Sunday, according to a statement from CBS.

Simpson testified to congressional investigators last year that she overheard conversations among Republicans in 2002 indicating that Rove was involved in the Justice Department's prosecution of Siegelman. She has never before said that Rove pressed her for evidence of marital infidelity in spite of testifying to congressional lawyers last year, submitting a sworn affidavit and speaking extensively with reporters.

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Serbs set U.S. Embassy office ablaze, killing 1



Go to Free Republic originalBELGRADE, Serbia -- Angry Serbs broke into the U.S. Embassy and set fire to an office Thursday night as rioters rampaged through Belgrade's streets in a day of mass protest against Western support for an independent Kosovo.

At least 150,000 people rallied in Belgrade, waving Serbian flags and signs proclaiming "Stop USA terror," to denounce the bid by Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority to create their own nation out of what Serbs consider the heartland of their culture.

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Grain Prices Zoom

Grain prices hurt two ways. Wheat prices push up bakery expenses while high corn prices boost cost of hog and chicken feed
Go to Toronto Star original
Canada's largest food processor says it will raise its prices next month – for the second time in six months – as it attempts to offset the impact on its bottom line of soaring grain costs and a rising Canadian dollar.

Maple Leaf Foods Inc., whose brands include Maple Leaf fresh poultry and pork as well as Dempster's bread, didn't rule out another price hike later this year if costs keep escalating.

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U.S. secretly moved suspects via British isle

CIA admits it was wrong when it told ally Diego Garcia wasn't used for renditions
Go to San Francisco Chronicle original
In an embarrassing reversal, Britain admitted Thursday that one of its remote outposts - the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia - had twice been used by the United States as a refueling stop for the secret transfer of two terrorism suspects.

The CIA admitted that previous data given to America's strongest ally "turned out to be wrong." British Foreign Secretary David Miliband told Parliament that recent talks with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice showed that two suspects had been on flights to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Morocco in 2002 that stopped on Diego Garcia, a U.S. base on British soil.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair came under heavy criticism for Britain's close alliance with Washington in the war in Iraq and its part in the U.S.-led war on terrorism. The latest disclosure could pressure the United States to identify other countries used in extraordinary renditions, a practice of transferring suspects without formal extradition proceedings that human rights groups say opens the door for third-party countries to torture and interrogate suspects outside international standards.

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Many McCain Advisers Also Lobbyists


Candidate's Rhetoric Seemingly At Odds With Their Role In His Campaign

Go to Hartford Courant original
WASHINGTON — - For years, Sen. John McCain has railed against lobbyists and the influence of "special interests" in Washington, touting on his campaign website his fight against "the 'revolving door' by which lawmakers and other influential officials leave their posts and become lobbyists for the special interests they have aided."

But when McCain huddled with his closest advisers at his rustic Arizona cabin last weekend to map out his presidential campaign, virtually every one was part of the Washington lobbying culture he has long decried.

His campaign manager, Rick Davis, co-founded a lobbying firm whose clients have included Verizon and SBC Telecommunications. His chief political adviser, Charles R. Black Jr., is chairman of one of Washington's lobbying powerhouses, BKSH and Associates, which has represented AT&T, Alcoa, JP Morgan and U.S. Airways.

Senior advisers Steve Schmidt and Mark McKinnon work for firms that have lobbied for Land O' Lakes, the UST Public Affairs, Dell and Fannie Mae.

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DemocracyNow.org Radio: Behind the John McCain Lobbying Scandal

From DemocracyNow.org A Look at How McCain Urged the Federal Communications Commission to Act on Behalf of Paxson Communications
On Thursday, the New York Times revealed McCain repeatedly wrote letters to government regulators on behalf of Paxson Communications and other clients of the telecommunications lobbyist, Vicki Iseman. We speak to Angela Campbell, the attorney for the Alliance for Progressive Action and QED Accountability Project, the community groups that sought to block Paxson’s takeover of a Pittsburgh public television license.

Listen to Segment now...

NAFTA Superhighway: Real or Myth

Go to Oakland Press original

While facets of a proposed NAFTA Superhighway may indeed fall within the myth category, the idea is not really a laughing matter.

Certainly, anything that prompts 43 congressmen, including three presidential candidates, to co-sponsor a resolution decrying it must have a grain of truth to it.

History is replete with examples of far-fetched notions -- like putting a man on the moon -- turning into reality.

And the idea of seamless travel encompassing the United States, Mexico and Canada is anything but fanciful.

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Texas' complicated rules may favor Obama



Go to AP original
DALLAS - Hillary Rodham Clinton has been waiting to get to Texas to begin her comeback against a surging Barack Obama. She might be more careful about what she wishes for.

Clinton has been banking on the state's large Hispanic population — typically about a quarter of the turnout in Democratic primaries — to give her a victory on March 4. But the Democratic Party in President Bush's home state has a complicated, hybrid primary-caucus that might just be better suited for Obama.

"I had no idea how bizarre it is," Clinton told reporters this week. "We have grown men crying over it."

Unlike other states that allocate delegates by congressional districts, Texas distributes 126 of its delegates among its 31 state Senate districts using a formula based on Democratic voter turnout in the 2004 and 2006 general elections. The 31 districts contain from two to eight delegates. The March 4 primary vote in each Senate district will allocate that district's delegates.

The turnout formula has assigned more delegates to urban centers with a lot of young or black voters that tend to favor Obama and fewer delegates to poorer Hispanic areas expected to favor Clinton. Austin, which includes the University of Texas, gets eight; Houston gets seven and Dallas gets six.

Clinton has spent most of her time so far in the southern, largely Hispanic part of the state. She has made two trips to Hidalgo County, where the Senate district awards just four delegates. She has left the rest of the state to her husband, former President Clinton, who appeared in a dozen cities in East and West Texas in the last week.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

McCain's Affair with Lobbyist: Legal? Ethical? Damaging?



Go to US News original
Hints of a campaign scandal involving Sen. John McCain and a female telecom lobbyist broke into the open today, with the New York Times running a front-page story that features unnamed McCain aides' suspicions of a romantic relationship between the Senator and Vicki Iseman. Some details of the story reports of an improper relationship between McCain and a lobbyist had appeared on the Drudge Report earlier in the primary season. The NYT story says that in 2000, "waves of anxiety swept through" McCain's "small circle of advisers" because "a female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on a client's corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself - instructing staff members to block the woman's access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity." After media reports that McCain "had written letters to government regulators on behalf of the lobbyist's client, the former campaign associates said, some aides feared for a time that attention would fall on her involvement." McCain, 71, "and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, 40, both say they never had a romantic relationship. But to his advisers, even the appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee Mr. McCain led threatened the story of redemption and rectitude that defined his political identity."

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McCain Loan Raises Fed. Election Board Questions



Go to AP original
WASHINGTON (AP) — The government's top campaign finance regulator says John McCain can't drop out of the primary election's public financing system until he answers questions about a loan he obtained to kickstart his once faltering presidential campaign.

Federal Election Commission Chairman David Mason, in a letter to McCain this week, said the all-but-certain Republican nominee needs to assure the commission that he did not use the promise of public money to help secure a $4 million line of credit he obtained in November.

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Peace Sign Turns 50



Go to The Nation original
One of the most widely known symbols in the world, turns fifty this week. It was first displayed on home-made banners and badges in London on February 21, 1958, to mark the launching of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).

The sign was later appropriated by scores of disparate protest movements, the US counter culture (which made it truly famous) and, because the designer has refused to copyright the symbol, by scores of marketers and advertisers. For reasons unknown the peace sign has resonated like no other and it's now, at fifty, one of the most widely recognized symbols in the world.

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Bulletproof Host Keeps Wikileaks Up

Go to The WHIR original
Wikileaks, the whistleblower resource that a federal judge in California ordered shut down last week, remains mostly available online almost a week after the injunction was issued, thanks in part to the efforts of PRQ (prq.se), its Sweden-based hosting company that was not so quick to comply with the takedown notices it received from lawyers.

more...

New Links for WikiLeaks

Click here for WikiLeaks' other websites

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

US Banks Quietly Borrow $50bn from Fed

Go to Financial Times original
US banks have been quietly borrowing massive amounts of money from the Federal Reserve in recent weeks by using a new measure the Fed introduced two months ago to help ease the credit crunch.

The use of the Fed's Term Auction Facility, which allows banks to borrow at relatively attractive rates against a wider range of their assets than previously permitted, saw borrowing of nearly $50bn (£26bn) of one-month funds from the Fed by mid-February.

US officials say the trend shows that financial authorities have become far more adept at channelling liquidity into the banking system to alleviate financial stress, after failing to calm money markets last year.

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U.S. Leaves Holes in Texas-Mexico Border Wall

From DemocracyNow.org
The Department of Homeland Security is coming under criticism over where it’s building a new border wall between Texas and Mexico. According to the Texas Observer, the Bush administration is suing many poor landowners along the border in an effort to force them to give up property for the eighteen-foot steel and concrete wall. But at the same the time, the Department of Homeland Security is leaving large gaps in the wall to avoid building the wall on the property of wealthy residents. In the small town of Granjeno, the wall abruptly ends at the property of Dallas billionaire Ray L. Hunt, whose family runs Hunt Oil. Hunt is a close friend of President Bush and serves on the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.

Court Limits Suits Over Medical Devices

Go to AP original
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court on Wednesday made it harder for consumers to sue manufacturers of federally approved medical devices.

In an 8-1 decision, the court ruled against the estate of a patient who suffered serious injuries when a catheter burst during a medical procedure.

The case has significant implications for the $75 billion-a-year health care technology industry, whose products range from heart valves to toothbrushes.

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Connecticut State Representative Jason Bartlett Comes Out


Go to GayWired original
Democratic Connecticut State Representative Jason Bartlett made the decision on Thursday to come out publicly as a gay man. Bartlett says he has always preferred to keep his personal life private, but felt the announcement was needed to quell the rumor mill about his sexual orientation.
Bartlett's coming out makes him unique in the political world as the first openly gay black state legislator, according to the Washington Blade. The 41-year-old representative stated that he has been out to his family for some time, but rumors about his sexual orientation prompted him to come out publicly.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

NAFTA May Be Obama's "Sleeper" Issue to Beat Clinton

Go to CQ Poltics original
If there is a sleeper issue with the potential to catapult Barack Obama past Hillary Rodham Clinton in the remaining delegate-rich Rust Belt states, it is the North American Free Trade Agreement, according to political experts.

Many of the working-class white Democrats who form a pillar of Clinton's base blame the pact and trade agreements like it for the migration of the American manufacturing base to other countries. And it was her husband, Bill Clinton, who pushed it through Congress during his first term in the White House.

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Obama, McCain win in Wisconsin, CNN projects



Go to CNN original
CNN-Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain will win in Wisconsin, CNN projects. The victory marks the ninth consecutive win for Obama over rival Hillary Clinton.

In the Republican race, Wisconsin gives McCain at least 13 more delegates; 24 more delegates are to be awarded to the winner of each congressional district.

more...

Häagen-Dazs Suffering From Loss of Bees, Funds Research



Go to Financial Times original
Häagen-Dazs, the luxury ice-cream brand, has become the first large food company to fund research into honey bee “colony collapse disorder” – the mystery syndrome blamed for the destruction of about 25 per cent of the US bee population since late 2006.

The brand, owned in the US by Nestlé, is making a $250,000 grant (€170,000, £130,000) to university researchers in California and Pennsylvania.

Katti Pien of Häagen-Dazs said almost 40 per cent of the brand’s flavours were dependent on bee pollination and could be threatened by CCD. Bees pollinate ingredients in about a third of the food consumed in the US.

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