Monday, March 31, 2008

Gas at record price



Go to Reuters original
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. retail price for gasoline set a new high of $3.29 a gallon after rising 3.1 cents over the last week, the federal Energy Information Administration said on Monday.

The national price for regular, self-service gasoline is up 58 cents from a year ago as expensive crude oil continued to be passed on to consumers at the pump, the Energy Department's analytical arm said in its weekly survey of service stations.

The American Petroleum Institute, the trade group for big oil companies, said on Monday that high crude prices are mostly behind consumer pain the pump.

U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday are expected to press the executives from five major oil companies, including ExxonMobil, BP and Shell, at a congressional hearing on soaring gasoline prices and the industry's billions of dollars in record profits.

more...

Obama wins most Texas delegates

Go to AP original
WASHINGTON - Sen. Barack Obama has won the overall delegate race in Texas thanks to a strong showing in Democratic county conventions this past weekend.

Obama picked up seven of nine outstanding delegates, giving him a total of 99 Texas delegates to the party's national convention this summer. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton won the other two, giving her a total of 94 Texas delegates, according to an analysis of returns by The Associated Press.

more...

Wal-Mart Sues Brain-Damaged Employee

The 52-year-old mother of three attended the funeral of her son, a soldier who died in Iraq, but she continues to ask how he's doing. When her family reminds her that he's dead, she weeps as if hearing the news for the first time.




Go to AlterNet original
Debbie Shank used to stock shelves at night for Wal-Mart so she could spend time in the afternoons with her three sons. Now she lives in a nursing home, requires around-the-clock medical care and owes Wal-Mart almost $500,000.

The story of the Shank family is heartbreaking in the sense that it could happen to anyone. Driving home one night, Debbie's car was hit by a tractor-trailier, leaving her brain-damaged and paralyzed. After collecting health insurance money for hospital bills (Debbie's policy with Wal-Mart paid for over $400,000 worth of emergency care), the Shanks sued the trucking company responsible for the accident, hoping to provide for Debbie's long term needs.

Now Wal-Mart has sued the Shanks, citing a line of fine print in Debbie's insurance policy that entitles the company to any lawsuit settlement. Wal-Mart intends to collect $470,000 from the Shanks, despite the fact that this will undoubtedly bankrupt Debbie's family.

more...

Paulson's bogus plan to regulate the markets



Go to Salon.com original
Wall Street's appraisal of Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson's much-ballyhooed plan for overhauling the United States financial regulatory structure? If we accept the movement of stock market indexes as evidence, the reaction was a mild shrug. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 46 points.

Given the huge play that the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times are lavishing on Paulson's plan, you'd think the mood would be a little more tense. After years of looking the other way, the sheriff is supposed back on the beat, promising to comprehensively change how the government oversees financial markets. Yay! No more distressing repeats of the embarrassing market turmoil that has plagued the global financial system since last August. The party's over, boys. We'll have no more of that get-rich-quick flimflam that you love so much.

Well, actually, no. My guess is that the main reason Wall Street isn't alarmed is that it knows quite well it has nothing to fear from Paulson's plan to, as Paul Krugman wrote in his column Monday, comprehensively rejigger the "org chart" for the federal government's regulatory apparatus. And as proof of that, you need look no further than the section of the executive summary of the 212-page "Blueprint for a Modernized Regulatory Structure" that is devoted to a consideration of "Futures and Securities."

more...


Also:
Clinton criticizes proposed Fed overhaul

Go to AP original
HARRISBURG, Pa. - Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday criticized the Bush administration's plan to overhaul regulation of U.S. financial institutions, saying the proposal "comes late and falls short."

The New York senator said the government must move more assertively to contain the mortgage and credit crisis rattling financial markets, especially in finding ways to ease soaring rates of home foreclosures.

"No amount of rearranging the deck chairs can hide the fact that our housing and credit markets are in crisis, and they're sinking deeper every day," Clinton said at a campaign appearance. "Every day we fail to take aggressive action is a day lost."

more...

Mobile phones 'more dangerous than smoking'

Cellphone use doubles the rate of brain cancers


Go to UK Independent original
Mobile phones could kill far more people than smoking or asbestos, a study by an award-winning cancer expert has concluded. He says people should avoid using them wherever possible and that governments and the mobile phone industry must take "immediate steps" to reduce exposure to their radiation.

The study, by Dr Vini Khurana, is the most devastating indictment yet published of the health risks.

It draws on growing evidence – exclusively reported in the IoS in October – that using handsets for 10 years or more can double the risk of brain cancer. Cancers take at least a decade to develop, invalidating official safety assurances based on earlier studies which included few, if any, people who had used the phones for that long.

more...

Tibet Protest at Olympic Ceremony

Go to TruthOut original
Athens - Greek officials handed over the Olympic flame to organizers of the Beijing Summer Games on Sunday, but demonstrators angered by China's clampdown in Tibet sought to disrupt the ceremony, evading heavy security to unfurl protest banners.

Shouting "Free Tibet" and flashing red banners blaring "Stop Genocie in Tibet," the demonstrators charged into a police cordon, trying to block the torch runner carrying the Olympic flame from making the final 100-meter run into an Athens stadium.

Backed by riot squads, scores of police officers detained 10 of an estimated 15 demonstrators, taking them to Greece's national police headquarters minutes after the ceremony began.

Athens mounted a major security operation for the event, deploying more than 1,000 police officers and changing the flame's route at least three times to prevent activists from upstaging Sunday's ceremony.

Yet even before the hand-over began, three supporters of the Falun Gong spiritual movement were detained outside the sprawling all-marble Panathinaiko Stadium for distributing leaflets on the movement, which is outlawed in China.

"They continue to remain in police custody and we have been given no reason by the authorities for their arrest," the Falun Gong supporters' lawyer, Ignatios Tatoulis, said.

more...

Czech PM Says US Radar Deal Almost Ready



Go to CommonDreams original
PRAGUE - An agreement on building part of a U.S. missile defense shield in the Czech Republic is almost ready for signing, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek was quoted as saying on Monday.

The United States wants to build a radar in the Czech Republic and place interceptor rockets in Poland as part of a system it says is intended to shield the United States and Europe from missile attacks by “rogue” states such as Iran.

Russia has fiercely opposed the plan, which would site U.S. military installations in its Soviet-era satellite states, and views it as a threat to its security.

“I have information that hopefully the last problems have been removed in the main agreement,” Topolanek told the daily Hospodarske Noviny in an interview.

He said an agreement may be announced at the NATO summit in Bucharest on April 2-4, and signed within weeks, but added that unspecified “conditionals” still remained.

more...

Gore Launches Ambitious Advocacy Campaign on Climate



Go to Washington Post original
Former vice president Al Gore will launch a three-year, $300 million campaign Wednesday aimed at mobilizing Americans to push for aggressive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, a move that ranks as one of the most ambitious and costly public advocacy campaigns in U.S. history.

more...

Comcast To Stop Slowing Peer-to-Peer Traffic

Go to MediaPost original
FACED WITH PRESSURE FROM THE Federal Communications Commission, cable company Comcast said Thursday it will end its practice of slowing traffic to peer-to-peer sites.
The company said it will work with BitTorrent to develop and implement a new "protocol agnostic" system for handling Web traffic by the end of the year. "We will have to rapidly reconfigure our network management systems, but the outcome will be a traffic management technique that is more appropriate for today's emerging Internet trends," said Tony Werner, Comcast Cable's chief technology officer, in a statement.

Comcast has been on the defensive about its network management practices since at least last October, when an investigation by The Associated Press revealed that the company was slowing traffic to peer-to-peer sites.

more...

Key McCain advisors were lobbyists for shady lender



Go to New York Daily News original
When Sen. John McCain addressed the nation's burgeoning mortgage mess last week, he insisted it was time for a little "straight talk."

"I will not play election-year politics with the housing crisis," the GOP presidential hopeful insisted while unveiling his plan, which many have since described as friendlier to the mortgage industry than the Democrats' proposals.

What McCain did not say - which some believe smacks of politics - is that two of his top advisers were recently lobbyists for a notorious lender in the mortgage meltdown.

more...


Also:
Top 10 Craziest Things John McCain Has Said While You Weren't Watching

Go to Alternet original
Much of McCain's madness has been lost in the fog of the ongoing battle for the Democratic nomination -- so here's a recap of what you've missed.

the list...

Analysis: Bush deserves the blame for U.S. economic mess

Go to Tuscun Weekly original
By TOM DANEHY
I recently used the phrase "the Bush economy" in a column, and I received several e-mails taking me to task for making a simplistic attack on President Bush.
To summarize the e-mails: Supposedly, after one reaches a certain level of sophistication, he comes to the realization that the president of the United States has no real impact on the national or global economies, which are much too large and complex to be affected by one person, no matter how powerful that person's position is. Well, as Val Kilmer said in the movie that's been on Encore so many times in the past two weeks that they're thinking of changing the cable outlet's name to the Tombstone Channel, "I beg to differ, Sir."

more...

CNN Scrubs Dobbs’ Racially Charged Comment From Transcript»

From ThinkProgress.org:
Referring to Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-IL) recent speech on race while speaking with a group of journalists last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the U.S. “still has trouble dealing with race because of a national ‘birth defect’ that denied black Americans the opportunities given to whites at the country’s very founding.” Rice added that this “birth defect” makes it “hard for us to talk about it, and hard for us to realize that it has continuing relevance for who we are today.”

When asked to respond to Rice’s remarks on the Situation Room last Friday, CNN host Lou Dobbs became agitated. TPM’s Josh Marshall noted that Dobbs explained “how he’s sick of ‘cotton pickin’ black leaders telling him how he can and can’t talk about race (he catches himself at the last minute — sorta).”

Watch it:

Gallup: Obama lead over Clinton largest this year



Go to Baltimore Sun original
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Barack Obama now has a 10-percentage point lead over Hillary Clinton in a national tracking poll conducted by Gallup, the largest lead he has posted in the poll this year.

Gallup reported Obama now leads among Democrats 52 percent against 42 percent for Hillary Clinton, the third day in a row he has held a statistically significant lead against Clinton in the poll.

The movement in the national poll follows a week in which Clinton was widely lampooned for exaggerated accounts she gave of a visit to Bosnia in which she claimed she ran for cover under sniper fire. After the pilot of her plane and reporters who were on the trip with her disputed the account, she conceded she her account was a "mistake" and chalked the incident up to campaign-trail fatigure. But the exaggeration rapidly became fodder for late-night comics and video spoofs on the Internet.

more...

Tidal power comes to Northern Ireland



Go to UK Guardian original
Weighing 1000 tonnes, with a width of 43 metres from tip to tip and resembling an underwater upturned windmill its makers claim it represents a clean green alternative to climate-destroying fossil fuels.

As SeaGen - the world's first and largest commercial scale tidal stream energy generator - was laid down in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland, yesterday the company behind it claimed this form of tidal power has the potential to supply up to 10% of the UK's energy within a decade.

more...

Report: Eliot Spitzer Linked To Second Prostitution Ring



Go to Huffington Post original
NY Post links former New York governor Eliot Spitzer to Wicked Models, a high-priced prostitution ring busted this week. His spokeswoman denies he was a client. Three weeks ago Spitzer stepped down as governor when he was linked to Emperors Club VIP. Based in midtown Manhattan, Wicked Models was run by a buxom blonde named Kristin "Billie" Davis, who also saw clients. Davis, 32, is currently being held on $2 M bail after pleading not guilty to promoting prostitution and money laundering.

more...

China as regulatory powerhouse?

Can veto a Yahoo-Microsoft merger and more


Go to International Herald-Tribune original
SAN FRANCISCO: Microsoft's attempted hostile takeover of Yahoo may encounter an unexpected hurdle in August when a new anti-monopoly law takes effect in China, extending its economic influence far beyond its borders.

The law is intended to strengthen an existing set of antitrust regulations the Chinese established in 1993. It would make China a third sphere of regulatory influence, matching the power of the European Union and the United States, according to legal specialists in the United States and in China who have studied it.

Formally enacted by the National People's Congress last year to take effect Aug. 1, the measure gives Chinese regulators authority to examine foreign mergers when they involve acquisitions of Chinese companies or foreign companies investing in Chinese companies' operations. Beijing could also consider national security issues, according to a report by Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency.

The law could give China influence in Microsoft's efforts to buy Yahoo because in August 2005, Yahoo, a premier search portal, invested $1 billion for a 40 percent stake in Alibaba.com, the largest e-commerce company in China. Alibaba officials have said that they believe that a Microsoft takeover of Yahoo would set in motion a buyback provision, making it possible for them to gain independence from Microsoft.

more...

Google: No kids allowed

Terms of service means under 18 then no search, YouTube or Gmail


Go to NewsBlog original
Google's terms of service, while ignored by the vast majority of users, contain a pretty shocking clause: Under 18's are not permitted to use any of Google's Web properties. That's right, kids--no search, YouTube, Gmail, news, or images.

Under 18s wishing to watch YouTube videos of skateboarding dogs, or perform research for a school project will have to go elsewhere--Ask.com or Microsoft's Live.com search, perhaps. The message from Mountain View seems clear: We don't want your (underage) business.

more...

When heartburn is more serious

Higher risk for cancer

Go to AP original
WASHINGTON - Chronic heartburn is a daily acid bath for the esophagus, and complications from it are on the rise.

New government figures show a worrisome increase in esophagus disorders from severe acid reflux. The worst one, esophageal cancer, is continuing its march as the nation's fastest-growing malignancy.

What to do if you're one of the estimated 3 million Americans whose eroded esophagus means high risk for this especially deadly cancer? More doctors are trying to zap away the worst damage, beaming radiofrequency energy down the throat to burn off precancerous cells.

more...

Infrastructure in America: Colorado town to be without drinking water for 3 weeks



Go to San Diego Union-Tribune original
DENVER – High concentrations of chlorine being used to purge salmonella from a southern Colorado town's water system were expected to drop far enough Saturday that residents could use the water for showering.
The disinfection process in Alamosa began Tuesday, five days after officials confirmed the presence of the bacteria in the water. The source is still unknown.

300 people have become ill, with 73 cases of salmonella confirmed.
During the cleansing, the chlorine level in Alamosa's tap water is more than five times greater than what's needed to keep a swimming pool clean. Authorities say it could be April 7 before levels are low enough in the 50-mile network of pipes that residents can drink the water.

In the meantime, volunteers and the National Guard are passing out clean water at distribution points, and officials say the tap water is usable only for flushing toilets.

more...

Treasury Secretary proposes sweeping rule changes to mortgage industry

Among Treasury chief's recommendations: Widening Fed's reach and creating a federal regulator for mortgage industry

Go to CNN original
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson on Monday proposed a set of sweeping changes to the nation's financial system, including a broad expansion of the Federal Reserve's powers, in what could herald the biggest regulatory overhaul of Wall Street since the Great Depression.

The plan comes as concerns about the housing crisis and its fallout in the financial system continues to fuel calls for change in Washington. The changes, if enacted, would be largely invisible to consumers but would drastically alter how the financial services industry is regulated.

"Government has a responsibility to make sure our financial system is regulated effectively," Paulson said. "And in this area, we can do a better job."

more...

Iran helped broker ceasefire in Iraq



Go to Raw Story original
It was reported on Sunday that Iranian officials had helped broker a ceasefire agreement in the recent fighting between Iraq's government and radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Iran has close ties to both al-Sadr's movement and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and representatives of two of the parties in Maliki's coalition traveled to Iran to finalize the talks.

CNN's Nic Robertson reported from Baghdad on Monday that the ceasefire appears to be holding and stores in Basra are reopening. Robertson also explained that the recent violence represented conflict among Shi'ite factions, which was why the Iranians were able to act as brokers.

more...

Iraqis' Basra fight not going well



Go to CNN original
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Iraqi military push into the southern city of Basra is not going as well as American officials had hoped, despite President Bush's high praise for the operation, several U.S. officials said Friday.

A closely held U.S. military intelligence analysis of the fighting in Basra shows that Iraqi security forces control less than a quarter of the city, according to officials in both the United States and Iraq, and Basra's police units are deeply infiltrated by members of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army.

"This is going to go on for a while," one U.S. military official said.

more...

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson resigns amid ethics investigations



Go to CNN original
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson resigned Monday, amid multiple ethics investigations and criticism from top lawmakers.

Jackson said he will step down on April 18. He did not mention the allegations in his brief statement Monday, saying only that he wanted to attend to personal and family matters.

The resignation came after criticism from members of Congress that Jackson has refused to respond adequately to allegations of impropriety.

No names have been floated as candidates to replace Jackson, a long-time friend of President Bush from their days in Texas.

more...

Vytorin, a popular cholesterol drug, fails to improve heart disease



Go to CNN original
CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- Leading doctors urged a return to older, tried-and-true treatments for high cholesterol after hearing full results Sunday of a failed trial of Vytorin.

Millions of Americans already take the drug or one of its components, Zetia. But doctors were stunned to learn that Vytorin failed to improve heart disease even though it worked as intended to reduce three key risk factors.

"People need to turn back to statins," said Yale University cardiologist Dr. Harlan Krumholz, referring to Lipitor, Crestor and other widely used brands. "We know that statins are good drugs. We know that they reduce risks."

The study was closely watched because Zetia and Vytorin have racked up $5 billion in sales despite limited proof of benefit. Two Congressional panels launched probes into why it took drugmakers nearly two years after the study's completion to release results.

Results were presented at an American College of Cardiology conference in Chicago Sunday and published on the Internet by the New England Journal of Medicine.

more...

Record Number, 28 Million Americans Expected To Turn To Food Stamps As Economy Worsens



Go to All Headline News original
Washington, D.C. (AHN) - With the U.S. economy worsening and more people losing their jobs the number of Americans who turn to using food stamps to help them buy groceries is expected to reach a record high of 28 million this year. That is the largest number since the supplementary program was introduced in 1960 as part of the nation's effort to end poverty, which hasn't happened.

Food stamps have always been meant to supplement a family's income rather than pay for a month's worth of groceries and the dollar amount of benefits varies with a person's income and family size.

But critics say that with recent increases in the price of food that the amount the government gives each person for food stamps should also increase.

Food stamp recipients face the same problem other Americans have when they get to the grocery store. Prices are up on basic food items, shrinking the purchasing power of food stamps.

more...

Autism: Unraveling the Mystery



Go to CNN original
ELLICOTT CITY, Maryland (CNN) -- It remains one of the greatest mysteries of medicine. Although autism will be diagnosed in more than 25,000 U.S. children this year, more than new pediatric cases of AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined, scientists and doctors still know very little about the neurological disorder.

Unlike childhood diabetes or pediatric leukemia, there is no blood test, no scan, no image that can detect autism. Diagnosis relies totally on behavioral observation and screening. And that's not easy.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, three distinctive behaviors characterize autism: lack of social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors or narrow, obsessive interests. But children with autism display these symptoms in many different ways, some as mild as avoiding eye contact, while others are totally immersed in a world of their own.

more...

Texas Prosecutes Little Old Ladies for Voter Fraud

State's Attorney General has prosecuted Democrats who help seniors vote by mail while ignoring documented Republican ballot box stuffing.

Go to Alternet original
Willie Ray was a 69-year-old African-American City Council member from Texarkana who wanted her granddaughter, Jamillah Johnson, to learn about civil rights and voting during the 2004 presidential election. The pair helped homebound seniors citizens get absentee ballots, and once they were filled out, put them in the mail.

Fort Worth's Gloria Meeks, 69, was a church-going, community activist who proudly ran a phone bank and helped homebound elderly people like Parthenia McDonald, 79, to vote by mail. McDonald, whose mailbox was two blocks away from her home (she recently died), called Meeks "an angel" for helping her, a friend of both women said.

And until he recently moved out of state, Walter Hinojosa, a retired school teacher and labor organizer from Austin, was another Democratic Party volunteer who helped elderly and disabled people vote by getting them absentee ballots and mailing them.

Today, Ray and Johnson have criminal records for breaking Texas election law and faced travel restrictions during a six-month probation. Gloria Meeks is in a nursing home after having a stroke, prompted in part, her friends say, by state police who investigated her -- including spying on Meeks while she bathed -- and then questioned her about helping McDonald and others to vote. Hinojosa, meanwhile, has left Texas.

Their crime: not signing their name, address and signature on the back of the ballots they mailed for their senior neighbors, and carrying envelopes containing those ballots to the mailbox. Since 2005, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican, has been prosecuting Democratic Party activists, almost all African-Americans and Latinos, as part of an effort to eradicate what he said was an "epidemic" of voter fraud in Texas.

more...

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Health-care insurance gaps affect all of us

Go to Courier-Journal original
WASHINGTON -- Maria Gomez knows firsthand the devastation that can hit families who don't have health insurance.

Gomez is chief executive of Mary's Center for Maternal and Child Care in Washington, D.C. The clinic serves Latinos who have no insurance or are underinsured.

The fact that 47 million people -- 9 million children -- are uninsured has been one of the top issues in the presidential campaign. Equally troubling is this statistic: The lack of health-care coverage is most acute among Hispanics and African Americans, many of whom work in low-wage jobs without benefits or are employed by small businesses that don't offer coverage.

"Things are getting worse," Gomez said. "What we are seeing is a lot of people coming in who cannot qualify for government programs."

The cost for those with coverage is escalating in part because the number of uninsured Americans keeps rising, said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a nonprofit organization that advocates high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans.

Using data from the Census Bureau, the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the National Center for Health Statistics, Families USA determined that the unpaid expenses for the uninsured added an average of $922 in 2005 to the premiums for employer-provided family health insurance. That extra cost could rise to $1,502 in 2010.

Increasingly, employers are shifting a larger portion of their health premiums to employees. You may be able to afford your policy today, but it's possible you may not in the future.

Since 2001, premiums for family coverage have increased 78 percent.

more...

Snort coke, shaft the environment

Cocaine: Now with even more added guilt


Go to The Register original
Snorting cocaine is an environmental crime whatever your views on drug use, scientists declared last week.

A panel of scientists meeting at the Natural History Museum in London last week detailed how the production of the drug and its trafficking affect biodiversity and contribute to climate change.

The production of a gram of cocaine means the destruction of four square metres of Colombian forest, they said, raising the question of which supermodels, popstars and city types should be lined up with hummer drivers and big game hunters in the environmental most-wanted stakes.

Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the planet, and also the biggest cocaine producer. Bad combination.
Cocaine production is a threat to environment is all its stages, said Liliana Davalos, lecturer in Molecular Ecology at the Open University, UK. The first step of the cycle is the destruction of forest to plant coca. Every year, 100 thousand hectares of Colombian forest is destroyed for this end. The plantations also use tons of herbicides that are forbidden in many other countries. Since the UK is one of the world’s largest consumption markets for cocaine, it makes concerns about organic tomatoes and pesticides seem futile.

Then, the coca leaves must be soaked in solvents to release their psychotropic substances. Every year, 20 million litres of acetone, 13 million litres of gasoline and 81 thousand litres of sulphuric acid are used in this process and then thrown away, untreated, in rivers and water streams.

more...

Colombian Troops Kill Farmers, Pass Off Bodies as Rebels'



Go to Washington Post original
SAN FRANCISCO, Colombia — All Cruz Elena González saw when the soldiers came past her house was a corpse, wrapped in a tarp and strapped to a mule. A guerrilla killed in combat, soldiers muttered, as they trudged past her meek home in this town in northwestern Colombia.

She soon learned that the body belonged to her 16-year-old son, Robeiro Valencia, and that soldiers had classified him as a guerrilla killed in combat, a claim later discredited by the local government human rights ombudsman. “Imagine what I felt when my other son told me it was Robeiro,” González said in recounting the August killing. “He was my boy.”

Funded in part by the Bush administration, a six-year military offensive has helped the government here wrest back territory once controlled by guerrillas and kill hundreds of rebels in recent months, including two top commanders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

But under intense pressure from Colombian military commanders to register combat kills, the army has in recent years also increasingly been killing poor farmers and passing them off as rebels slain in combat, government officials and human rights groups say. The tactic has touched off a fierce debate in the Defense Ministry between tradition-bound generals who favor an aggressive campaign that centers on body counts and reformers who say the army needs to develop other yardsticks to measure battlefield success.

more...

80 year-old, wheelchair-bound man arrested for wearing anti-war t-shirt

Go to CommonDrems.org original
An 80-year-old church deacon was removed from the Smith Haven Mall yesterday in a wheelchair and arrested by police for refusing to remove a T-shirt protesting the Iraq War.

Police said that Don Zirkel, of Bethpage, was disturbing shoppers at the Lake Grove mall with his T-shirt, which had what they described as "graphic anti-war images." Zirkel, a deacon at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Wyandanch, said his shirt had the death tolls of American military personnel and Iraqis - 4,000 and 1 million - and the words "Dead" and "Enough." The shirt also has three blotches resembling blood splatters.

Police said in a release last night that Zirkel was handing out anti-war pamphlets to mallgoers and that mall security told him to stop and turn his shirt inside out. Zirkel refused to turn his shirt inside out and wouldn't leave, police said. Security placed him on "civilian arrest" and called police. When police arrived, Zirkel passively resisted attempts to bring him to a police car, the release said.

But Zirkel said he was sitting in the food court drinking coffee with his wife Marie, 77, and several others when police and mall security officers approached and demanded they remove their anti-war T-shirts.

more...

TV, film actors' unions sever ties



Go to AP original
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Unions representing film and television actors will negotiate separately with producers in upcoming contract talks after board members of the TV actors union voted Saturday to sever a long-standing agreement between the two guilds.

The vote by the board of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists came hours before a meeting with the Screen Actors Guild and just three months before the expiration of the contract covering movies and prime-time shows.

Despite a sometimes rocky 27-year relationship the unions had shown recent signs of peace as they prepared for the upcoming talks.

The two groups had hoped at Saturday's meeting to set a start date for negotiations. Instead of discussing strategies the sides swapped accusations.

more...

Texas' 10% admission could teach colleges a thing or two

Go to USA Today original
Ten years ago, after a federal court blocked Texas colleges from considering race as a factor in admissions, the state, with George W. Bush as governor, came up with an innovative alternative. In an attempt to make affirmative action colorblind, the top 10% of graduates at each of the state's high schools was granted automatic admission to state universities.
While politically popular, the law was met with skepticism by many experts in both education and civil rights. Some educators feared that even the best students at inner city and rural high schools would never survive academically at the University of Texas. Civil rights leaders complained that the law was rooted in cynicism because it achieves integration in college by relying upon continued segregation of Texas high schools.

Ten years later, we know a little more about the law: It works. Maybe even a little too well.

more...

Iraq's Sadr orders followers off streets



Go to Reuters original
NAJAF, Iraq (Reuters) - Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called on his followers on Sunday to stop battling government forces after a week of fighting in southern Iraq and Baghdad threatened to spiral out of control.

A crackdown on Shi'ite militants in the southern oil port of Basra has sparked an explosion of violence that has risked undoing the past year's improvements in Iraq's security.

"Because of the religious responsibility, and to stop Iraqi blood being shed ... we call for an end to armed appearances in Basra and all other provinces," Sadr said in a statement given to journalists by his aides in the holy Shi'ite city of Najaf.

"Anyone carrying a weapon and targeting government institutions will not be one of us."

Sadr's statement appeared aimed at averting a full-scale confrontation between his followers and Iraqi and U.S. forces that would plunge southern, mainly Shi'ite Iraq into chaos.

more...

Staff Alleges Abuses by Top Iraq Auditor



Go to Washington Post original
Federal investigators called at least nine current and former employees of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction before a grand jury in Richmond on March 18, and the FBI has summoned others for questioning this week, marking a new phase in the probe of allegations against SIGIR chief Stuart W. Bowen Jr., according to witnesses and other sources familiar with the investigation.

The FBI and U.S. attorneys have been investigating whether Bowen and his top deputy, Ginger Cruz, improperly accessed staff e-mails in violation of federal law. Current and former SIGIR employees interviewed by the FBI and questioned before the grand jury have complained of mismanagement and abuse of authority, including retaliatory firing of staff members.

more...

Katrina Victims May Have to Repay Money



Go to AP original
NEW ORLEANS - Imagine that your home was reduced to mold and wood framing by Hurricane Katrina. Desperate for money to rebuild, you engage in a frustrating bureaucratic process, and after months of living in a government-provided trailer tainted with formaldehyde you finally win a federal grant.

Then a collector calls with the staggering news that you have to pay back thousands of dollars.

Thousands of Katrina victims may be in that situation.

more...

Another Jobs Loss May Sink Stocks Again

Investors Await Data on Jobs, Manufacturing to See if They're Correctly Assessing the Economy

Go to AP original
NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks may already be pricing in a recession, but they haven't priced in a very deep one. If this week's data on the job market and manufacturing are worse than Wall Street is anticipating, investors should not be surprised to see another tumble.

To be sure, the stock market is usually pretty adept at sizing up the economy. And many market experts are saying stocks may have already hit bottom. But considering how much mystery still surrounds the mortgage crisis -- not to mention the fact that many analysts are starting to pare back their estimates for 2008 corporate profits -- calling the stock market's decline over is a bit premature.

more...

Low-Tech answers to high-tech problems

Go to Yahoo original
Sometimes the answer is not to go out and buy another gizmo or gadget. Here are some new uses for everyday things that can help you get out of a jam.

Wet phone?
The toilet, the sink, a puddle, the laundry… it's so easy for your phone to wind up soaked through and through. Everyone has an opinion on how best to dry out a wet cell phone, but the technique I like best is to remove the battery and place the phone in a bowl of uncooked white rice. The rice wicks the water from the phone. (If your phone uses a SIM card, remove it too. At least you'll have your data.)

Drying out a wet phone with a hair dryer is often a first impulse, but heat can damage the phone even more. For more ideas on drying, from using silica gel to halogen lamps, see Wikihow.

Sleep through the alarm clock?

OK, this one will cost you a cheap wineglass. Break the stem and put your phone inside. The glass amplifies the sound. This one (and photo) come courtesy of Lifehacker.


Need a filter for your camera flash?

Cell phones demand that you get up close and personal when you take a photo, and often the flash will wash the color right out of your subject. To diffuse the flash, use a white coffee filter to make an impromptu filter. I tear the bottom off the cone and put the ruffles around my phone like one of those doggie flea collars.


Taming cords

There are plenty of products you can buy to help keep your gadgets' cords together, but the tube at the end of the toilet paper roll gives you the same results. Real Simple ran this photo in a recent issue.


DVDs with scratches
A lengthy discussion at Lifehacker compared techniques for getting through a movie when your DVD is scratched. The consensus called for either furniture polish or car wax. Apparently the wax fills the scratch and you can watch the movie without missing a scene.

Just put a gob of the stuff right on the disk and wipe. The secret involves using a cloth like an eyeglass cleaner (not a napkin or tissue) to wipe the wax in.

Floss your keyboard with sticky tape
This one reminds me of Garrison Keillor's running duct tape saga, but sticky tape is pretty handy when it comes to removing the crumbs that get embedded in your keyboard. (You would never think of eating at the keyboard, would you?) Seriously, hold the tape in your hands and do a flossing-like thing between the keys. Hey, get the lint off your pants while you're at it.

Flash drive trees
Somehow flash drives multiply in our house like amoebas. Now don't laugh, but those inexpensive earring trees have a second life as a flash drive sorter. With your flash drives all hanging from the tree, you can pick the one that coordinates best with your wardrobe each day.

Got a favorite low-tech tip to share?

Cash-strapped Clinton fails to pay bills



Go to Politico original
Hillary Rodham Clinton’s cash-strapped presidential campaign has been putting off paying hundreds of bills for months — freeing up cash for critical media buys but also earning the campaign a reputation as something of a deadbeat in some small-business circles.

A pair of Ohio companies owed more than $25,000 by Clinton for staging events for her campaign are warning others in the tight-knit event production community — and anyone else who will listen — to get their cash upfront when doing business with her. Her campaign, say representatives of the two companies, has stopped returning phone calls and e-mails seeking payment of outstanding invoices. One even got no response from a certified letter.

more...

Also:
Obama Says Clinton Should Keep Running
Go to AP original
Johnstown, Pennsylvania - Barack Obama refused Saturday to go along with other Democrats who are calling for Hillary Rodham Clinton to step away from the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

"My attitude is Senator Clinton can run as long as she wants," Obama said.

Obama told reporters he did not agree with one of his supporters, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, when he said earlier this week that Clinton cannot win the nomination and should therefore drop out. "I hadn't talked to Pat about it," Obama said.

At stops throughout the day, Clinton raised the question of whether she should leave the race - eliciting loud jeers from supporters.

more...

Ballot shortages a continuing problem

Go to AP original
It's a simple question with no simple answer: Why do polling places across America keep running out of ballots when it's no secret that this contentious primary season keeps breaking voter turnout records?

For one, even the best-made plans have gone awry; officials in state after state have ordered more ballots, only to see turnouts exceed their most ambitious estimates.

Some states — California, for example — extended registration deadlines, in part to give would-be voters more time to sign up for the first Democratic presidential nomination race between a black man and a woman.

But some election officials say those extensions have necessitated a form of fortune telling when it comes to deciding how many ballots to order.

more...

Freed Alabama Ex-Governor Sees Rove, Politics in His Case



Go to New York Times original
Montgomery, Alabama - Former Governor Don Siegelman of Alabama, released from prison today on bond in a bribery case, said he was as convinced as ever that politics played a leading role in his prosecution.

In a telephone interview shortly after he walked out of a federal prison in Oakdale, La., Mr. Siegelman said there had been "abuse of power" in his case, and repeatedly cited the influence of Karl Rove, the former White House political director.

"His fingerprints are smeared all over the case," Mr. Siegelman said, a day after a federal appeals court ordered him released on bond and said there were legitimate questions about his case.

more...

Also:
Commentary: Why is the GOP Concerned About Donald Siegelman?
by Steven Reynolds
Go to All Spin Zone original
Donald Siegelman has been freed from jail. As many know, Siegelman was Governor of Alabama and was prosecuted for giving a position on a Board in the state to a major contributor, Richard Scrushy. I suppose if we were doing a tit for tat thing, that would mean every major contributor President Bush appointed to Ambassadorships is up for investigation, but that’s not how the US DOJ was working under President Bush and Alberto Gonzales. Nope, they prosecuted only Democrats for that sort of thing, even when Senior preosecutors in their office counseled otherwise. Scott Horton in Harpers, over a year ago, noted, basically, that miscarriage of justice should be seen as obstruction of justice on the part of the Bush appointed US Attorneys.

A couple of interesting things here. First, Siegelman would not be released unless there were a strong possiblity his appeal would go through.

more...

German Chancellor says she will not attend opening of Beijing Olympics



Go to UK Guardian original
The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, yesterday became the first world leader to decide not to attend the Olympics in Beijing.

As pressure built for concerted western protests to China over the crackdown in Tibet, EU leaders prepared to discuss the crisis for the first time today, amid a rift over whether to boycott the Olympics.

The disclosure that Germany is to stay away from the games' opening ceremonies in August could encourage President Nicolas Sarkozy of France to join in a gesture of defiance and complicate Gordon Brown's determination to attend the Olympics.

more...

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Treasury unveils plans for regulatory shake-up

Go to Financial Times original
The Treasury Department on Monday plans to unveil a series of recommendations that would radically reshape the regulation of the US financial services industry, giving broad new powers to the Federal Reserve to tackle systemic risk.

The move comes amid growing pressure in Congress to overhaul financial regulation in the US, after the credit crisis exposed significant lapses in the government’s ability to monitor Wall Street and prevent it from making overly risky bets on mortgages. Some of the largest institutions suffered multi-billion dollar losses, and the Fed this month was forced to take the dramatic step of offering emergency cash to investment banks.

The US Treasury had been working on its “blueprint” for regulatory reform since March 2007, in an effort to bolster US capital markets amid growing competition from overseas. But the continued turmoil in the financial markets added urgency to its efforts, and raised the political stakes. Several powerful Democratic lawmakers, including Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Chuck Schumer of New York, have called for tighter regulation to be imposed on US financial institutions this month.

One of the main features of Treasury’s plan, which however is unlikely to be fully implemented for several years, would give the Fed greater power to regulate financial firms such as investment banks and hedge funds, when their actions could pose a threat to the system. However, the proposal falls short of permanent regulation by the Fed of investment banks such as Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch, which some lawmakers have suggested.

more...

McCain Myth Buster: John McCain and Health Care

Today's McCain Myth: John McCain understands how to address the challenges facing America's working families, like getting quality health care.

WASHINGTON, March 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- John McCain claims he delivers "straight talk on health system reform." In his speech today inLos Angeles, the Republican candidate will try to demonstrate that he understands the economy, but his previous health care proposals show that he doesn't. [johnmccain.com, accessed 3/24/08]

Just yesterday the Washington Post detailed how American families are struggling to get quality health care as costs continue to skyrocket. But all McCain offers is more of the same failed Bush health care policy focusing on tax credits, a plan that was dead on arrival. In fact, McCain sided with President Bush instead of America's kids when he had the chance, voting against a program to give more children health care. [Washington Post, 3/24/08; Wall Street Journal, 10/11/07; Washington Post, 1/25/07; Senate Vote #307, 8/2/07]

My friends, it's time for a little straight talk. John McCain's health care agenda would do little to reduce the ranks of the uninsured. And with the economy continuing to slide, Americans don't want another president who just doesn't understand the challenges they face. But that's all they'd get with John McCain.

McCain's Plan Just Like Bush's. "Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) has proposed reining in health-care costs, in part by treating the value of employer-sponsored health-care plans as income and providing a $5,000 per family tax credit for those who buy health insurance. He also supports free-market proposals aimed at stoking competition and giving patients more information, which he believes will increase pressure on health providers to control costs." In fact, "President Bush proposed a similar idea" to the tax credits in McCain's plan, which was dead-on-arrival in Congress in early 2007, because the plan only awarded those who purchased insurance in the private market. [Washington Post, 3/24/08; Wall Street Journal, 10/11/07; Washington Post, 1/25/07]

McCain Won't Help Uninsured. McCain's plan does not focus on "reducing the ranks of the uninsured," of which there are about 47 million, or one in seven Americans. [Wall Street Journal, 10/11/07]

McCain Opposed Reauthorizing SCHIP and Providing Insurance For Millions of Uninsured Children. McCain voted against reauthorizing the State Children's Health Insurance Program for five years, expanding the program by $35.2 billion. [Senate Vote #307, 8/2/07]

After casting himself as a "Maverick" in 2000, the new John McCain is walking in lockstep with President Bush, pandering to the right wing of the Republican Party, and embracing the ideology he once denounced. On the campaign trail McCain has callously abandoned many of his previously held positions, even contradicted himself, in a blatant attempt to remake himself into a candidate Republicans can accept in 2008. So just who is the real John McCain? The Democratic National Committee will present a daily fact aimed at exposing the man behind the myth.

Paid for and authorized by the Democratic National Committee, http://www.democrats.org.

This communication is not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

SOURCE Democratic National Committee

Copyright © 2008, PRNewswire

What's the deal with Bush and his 100,000 acre Paraguay hideaway?

Property sits on one of the largest underground water reserves on Earth



Go to UK Guardian original

Meeting the new couple next door can be an anxious business for even the most relaxed home owner. Will they be international drug traffickers? Have they got noisy kids with a penchant for electronic music? As worries go, however, having the US president move in next door must come fairly low on the list.
Unless of course you are a resident of northern Paraguay and believe reports in the South American press that he has bought up a 100,000 acre (40,500 hectare) ranch in your neck of the woods.

The rumours, as yet unconfirmed but which began with the state-run Cuban news agency Prensa Latina, have triggered an outpouring of conspiracy theories, with speculation rife about what President Bush's supposed interest in the "chaco", a semi-arid lowland in the Paraguay's north, might be.

Some have speculated that he might be trying to wrestle control of the Guarani Aquifer, one of the largest underground water reserves, from the Paraguayans.

Rumours of Mr Bush's supposed forays into South American real estate surfaced during a recent 10-day visit to the country by his daughter Jenna Bush. Little is known about her trip to Paraguay, although officially she travelled with the UN children's agency Unicef to visit social projects. Photographers from the Paraguayan newspaper ABC Color tracked her down to one restaurant in Paraguay's capital Asunción, where she was seen flanked by 10 security guards, and was also reported to have met Paraguay's president, Nicanor Duarte, and the US ambassador to Paraguay, James Cason. Reports in sections of the Paraguayan media suggested she was sent on a family "mission" to tie up the land purchase in the "chaco".

more...

What can and cannot be spoken on television about Iraq

Go to Salon.com original
I'm going to re-post the segment I posted yesterday, from Charlie Rose's fifth anniversary Iraq show, because I want to encourage as many people as possible to watch it. If I could recommend one article or segment for Americans to read or watch regarding the current Iraq debate, it would be this interview -- the entire interview -- with Sinan Antoon and Ali Fadhil, an Iraqi professor and journalist, respectively, currently living in the U.S.:

go to video...

White House aide resigns amid probe of Cuba funds

Go to McClatchy newspapers original
WASHINGTON — A White House aide has resigned amid a Justice Department investigation into allegations that he misused an unspecified amount of U.S. grant money intended to promote democracy in Cuba.

Felipe Sixto, a Cuban-American from Miami, was the special assistant to President Bush for inter-governmental affairs, dealing with Cuba, Native American issues, state legislators, Latino elected officials and Puerto Rico.

The White House announced his resignation Friday. Before joining the administration last summer, Sixto had been chief of staff to Frank Calzon, the head of the Washington-based Center for a Free Cuba, which receives some of the funds through the U.S. Agency for International Development.

more...

Clinton urged to quit presidential race



Go to Financial Times original
Hillary Clinton faced calls on Friday to drop out of the presidential race as senior Democrats warned that her divisive battle with Barack Obama was harming the party’s chances of winning the White House in November.

Patrick Leahy, the powerful Vermont senator, said it was almost impossible for Mrs Clinton to win the nomination and urged her to step aside and allow the party to unify around Mr Obama. “There is not a good reason for drawing this out,” he said.

Recent opinion polls have indicated that more than 20 per cent of Clinton and Obama supporters would defect to Mr McCain in November if their favoured candidate failed to win the nomination.

more...

Mexico deploys troops to US border

Go to Al Jazeera original
Mexico is deploying about 2,500 troops to its US border to tackle mounting violence between drugs gangs that has left hundreds of people dead, authorities say.

The troops, including 425 federal police and 100 agents from the attorney general's office, will be sent to Juarez city in Chihuahua state, Mexico's interior minister, said on Friday.

"Criminal networks that make their living from growing, distributing and consuming drugs have taken over this land, where for some breaking the law and crime have become a way of life," Juan Camilo said.

Guillermo Galvan, the defence minister, said that the military force will be supported by "180 tactical military vehicles, three airplanes and 13
molecular [drug] detection units".

more...

Siegel heirs awarded Superman Action Comics #1 copyright

The question of the Siegels' rights to SuperBOY is as of yet unresolved.


Go to New York Times original
LOS ANGELES — Time Warner is no longer the sole proprietor of Superman.A federal judge here on Wednesday ruled that the heirs of Jerome Siegel — who 70 years ago sold the rights to the action hero he created with Joseph Shuster to Detective Comics for $130 — were entitled to claim a share of the United States copyright to the character. The ruling left intact Time Warner’s international rights to the character, which it has long owned through its DC Comics unit.

And it reserved for trial questions over how much the company may owe the Siegel heirs for use of the character since 1999, when their ownership is deemed to have been restored. Also to be resolved is whether the heirs are entitled to payments directly from Time Warner’s film unit, Warner Brothers, which took in $200 million at the domestic box office with “Superman Returns” in 2006, or only from the DC unit’s Superman profits.

Still, the ruling threatened to complicate Warner’s plans to make more films featuring Superman, including another sequel and a planned movie based on the DC Comics’ “Justice League of America,” in which he joins Batman, Wonder Woman and other superheroes to battle evildoers.



If the ruling survives a Time Warner legal challenge, it may also open the door to a similar reversion of rights to the estate of Mr. Shuster in 2013. That would give heirs of the two creators control over use of their lucrative character until at least 2033 — and perhaps longer, if Congress once again extends copyright terms — according to Marc Toberoff, a lawyer who represents the Siegels and the Shuster estate.

“It would be very powerful,” said Mr. Toberoff, speaking by telephone on Friday. “After 2013, Time Warner couldn’t exploit any new Superman-derived works without a license from the Siegels and Shusters.”

Time Warner lawyers declined to discuss the decision, a spokesman said. A similar ruling in 2006 allowed the Siegels to recapture their rights in the Superboy character, without determining whether Superboy was, in fact, the basis for Warner Brothers’s “Smallville” television series. The decision was later challenged in a case that has yet to be resolved, said Mr. Toberoff, who represented the family in that action.

This week’s decision by Stephen G. Larson, a judge in the Federal District Court for the Central District of California, provided long-sought vindication to the wife and daughter of Mr. Siegel, who had bemoaned until his death in 1996 having parted so cheaply with rights to the lucrative hero.

“We were just stubborn,” Joanne Siegel, Mr. Siegel’s widow, said in a joint interview with her daughter, Laura Siegel Larson. “It was a dream of Jerry’s, and we just took up the task.”

The ruling specifically upheld the Seigels’ copyright in the Superman material published in Detective Comics’ Action Comics Vol. 1. The extent to which later iterations of the character are derived from that original was not determined by the judge.

In an unusually detailed narrative, the judge’s 72-page order described how Mr. Siegel and Mr. Shuster, as teenagers at Glenville High School in Cleveland, became friends and collaborators on their school newspaper in 1932. They worked together on a short story, “The Reign of the Superman,” in which their famous character first appeared not as hero, but villain.

By 1937, the pair were offering publishers comic strips in which the classic Superman elements — cape, logo and Clark Kent alter-ego — were already set. When Detective Comics bought 13 pages of work for its new Action Comics series the next year, the company sent Mr. Siegel a check for $130, and received in return a release from both creators granting the company rights to Superman “to have and hold forever,” the order noted.

In the late 1940s, a referee in a New York court upheld Detective Comics’ copyright, prompting Mr. Siegel and Mr. Shuster to drop their claim in exchange for $94,000. More than 30 years later, DC Comics (the successor to Detective Comics) gave the creators each a $20,000-per-year annuity that was later increased to $30,000. In 1997, however, Mrs. Siegel and her daughter served copyright termination notices under provisions of a 1976 law that permits heirs, under certain circumstances, to recover rights to creations.

Mr. Toberoff, their lawyer, has been something of a gadfly to Warner in the past. In the late 1990s, for example, he represented Gilbert Ralston, a television writer, in a legal battle over his rights in the CBS television series “The Wild Wild West,” which was the basis for a 1999 Warner Brothers film that starred Will Smith. The case, said Mr. Toberoff, was settled.



Compensation to the Siegels would be limited to any work created after their 1999 termination date. Income from the 1978 “Superman” film, or the three sequels that followed in the 1980s, are not at issue. But a “Superman Returns” sequel being planned with the filmmaker Bryan Singer (who has also directed “The Usual Suspects” and “X-Men”) might require payments to the Siegels, should they prevail in a demand that the studio’s income, not just that of the comics unit, be subject to a court-ordered accounting.

Mrs. Siegel and Ms. Larson said it was too soon to make future plans for the Superman character. But they were inclined to relish this moment.

“I have lived in the shadow of this my whole life,” Ms. Larson said. “I am so happy now, I just can’t explain it.”

Zimbabweans vote in tense election



Go to Al Jazeera original
Zimbabweans are voting in an election which opponents of Robert Mugabe, the current president, say is being rigged in his favour.

Morgan Tsvangirai and Simba Makoni, the two other presidential candidates, have accused Mugabe's Zanu-PF party of adding phantom voters to the electoral roll and restricting access to state media.
About 9,000 polling stations began opening at 7am (0500 GMT) in elections for the presidency, parliament, senate and local councils. The vote is due to end 12 hours later.

more...

High prices spark fresh gold rush in California



Go to Financial Times original
It has been almost 160 years since the first California gold rush but, with prices hitting record highs, prospectors are once again flocking to the state’s rivers and deserts in search of the precious metal.

Gold’s ascent – prices crossed the $1,000 an ounce barrier this month and remain well above $900 – has sent sales of mining equipment soaring.

more...

Friday, March 28, 2008

'Earth Hour' Friday 8pm local time: Turning off your lights for one hour



Go to Yahoo original
SYDNEY (AFP) - Twenty-six major cities around the world are expected to turn off the lights on major landmarks, plunging millions of people into darkness to raise awareness about global warming, organisers said.

'Earth Hour' founder Andy Ridley said 371 cities, towns or local governments from Australia to Canada and even Fiji had signed up for the 60-minute shutdown at 0900 GMT on March 29.

"There are definitely 26 (cities) that we think, if it all goes to plan, we are going to see a major event of lights going off," he told AFP.

Cities officially signed on include Chicago and San Francisco, Dublin, Manila, Bangkok, Copenhagen and Toronto, all of which will switch off lights on major landmarks and encourage businesses and homeowners to follow suit.

Ridley said it was also likely that other major European cities such as Rome and London, and the South Korean capital Seoul, although not officially taking part, would turn off lights on some attractions or landmarks.

The initiative began in Sydney last year and has become a global event, sweeping across 35 countries this year.

From 8:00 pm local time in Sydney, the energy-saving campaign will see harbourside icons such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House bathed only in moonlight, restaurant diners eat by candlelight and city skyscrapers turn off their neon signs.

more...

Tapes’ Destruction Hovers Over Detainee Cases



Go to New York Times original
WASHINGTON - When officers from the Central Intelligence Agency destroyed hundreds of hours of videotapes documenting harsh interrogations in 2005, they may have believed they were freeing the government and themselves from potentially serious legal trouble.

But nearly four months after the disclosure that the tapes were destroyed, the list of legal entanglements for the C.I.A., the Defense Department and other agencies is only growing longer. In addition to criminal and Congressional investigations of the tapes’ destruction, the government is fighting off challenges in several major terrorism cases and a raft of prisoners’ legal claims that it may have destroyed evidence.

“They thought they were saving themselves from legal scrutiny, as well as possible danger from Al Qaeda if the tapes became public,” said Frederick P. Hitz, a former C.I.A. officer and the agency’s inspector general from 1990 to 1998, speaking of agency officials who favored eliminating the tapes. “Unknowingly, perhaps, they may have created even more problems for themselves.”

In a suit brought by Hani Abdullah, a Yemeni prisoner at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a federal judge has raised the possibility that, by destroying the tapes, the C.I.A. violated a court order to preserve all evidence relevant to the prisoner. In at least 12 other lawsuits, lawyers for prisoners at Guantánamo and elsewhere have filed legal challenges citing the C.I.A. tapes’ destruction, said David H. Remes, a Washington lawyer representing 16 prisoners.

“This is like any other cover-up,” Mr. Remes said. “We’ve only scratched the surface.”

more...

NPR News: National Pentagon Radio?

Go to AfterDowningStreet.com original
While the Iraqi government continued its large-scale military assault in
Basra, the NPR reporter’s voice from Iraq was unequivocal on the morning of
March 27: "There is no doubt that this operation needed to happen."

Such flat-out statements, uttered with journalistic tones and without
attribution, are routine for the U.S. media establishment. In the "War Made
Easy" documentary film, I put it this way: "If you’re pro-war, you’re
objective. But if you’re anti-war, you’re biased. And often, a news anchor
will get no flak at all for making statements that are supportive of a war
and wouldn’t dream of making a statement that’s against a war."

So it goes at NPR News, where -- on "Morning Edition" as well as the evening
program "All Things Considered" -- the sense and sensibilities tend to be
neatly aligned with the outlooks of official Washington. The critical
aspects of reporting largely amount to complaints about policy shortcomings
that are tactical; the underlying and shared assumptions are imperial.
Washington’s prerogatives are evident when the media window on the world is
tinted red-white-and-blue.

more...

Net Neutrality's Quiet Crusader



Go to Washington Post original
Bearing video cameras, laptops and cellphones, a small army of young activists flooded into a recent federal meeting in protest.

Members of public-interest group Free Press weren't there to support a presidential candidate or decry global warming. The tech-savvy hundreds came to the Federal Communications Commission's hearing at Harvard Law School last month to push new rules for the Internet.

For the first time, Congress and the FCC are debating wide-reaching Web regulations and policies that would determine how much control cable and telecommunications companies would have over the Internet. The issue has given rise to a new political constituency raised on text messaging and social networking and relies on e-mail blasts and online video clips in its advocacy.

Although Free Press has generated buzz for its aggressive and sometimes controversial tactics online, its ringleader in Washington is an unlikely crusader. A soft-spoken 30-year-old PhD candidate, Ben Scott has become an operator in multibillion-dollar battles involving corporate titans, regulators and consumers debating policies over who controls the media and the Internet.

more...

As Uranium Firms Eye N.M., Navajos Are Wary



Go to Washington Post original
AMBROSIA LAKE, N.M. -- Twenty years after uranium mining ceased in New Mexico amid plummeting prices for the ore, global warming and the soaring cost of oil are renewing interest in nuclear power -- and in the state's uranium belt.

At least five companies are seeking state permits to mine the uranium reserves, estimated at 500 million pounds or more, and Uranium Resources Inc. (URI), a Texas-based company, wants to reopen a uranium mill in Ambrosia Lake.

Industry officials say a uranium boom could mean thousands of jobs and billions in mineral royalties and taxes for the state.

But the deposits are largely in and around Navajo land, and the industry's poor record on health and safety as it extracted tons of the ore in past decades has soured many Navajos on uranium mining. In 2005, the Navajo Nation banned uranium mining and milling on its land, and thousands of tribe members are receiving or seeking federal compensation for the health effects of past uranium exposure.

more...

Analysis: Poll-Bush’s Job Approval at 28% - What Is in the Kool-Aid Republicans Drink?

Go to Pensito Review original
Here is more confirmation, not that any is needed, that over a quarter of Americans are dangerously delusional. A new poll from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press has George Bush’s job approval rating at 28 percent, which is remarkably — no, stupendously — high by any rational measure.

Bush has been polling around 30 percent for months. Statistically speaking, all of these Bush lovers are Republicans. Seven years on, it is still a giant mystery what these people see in him.

Good news, though. Fewer people are identifying themselves as Republicans, according to Pew.

more...