Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Maybe our votes will actually be counted!

Whig of Cannablog notes what Debra Bowen says:
“As Secretary of State, I intend to begin a thorough review of all voting systems currently certified for use in the State of California.”
Ok. Prove it. We're watching.

Al Gore uses electricity!

This is obviously a hypocritical thing to do.

I bet he breathes air, too, damn him!

To break the tedium of complaining about this administration

A picture.

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The PNAC's vision of the future

Eternal Wars.

Juan Cole:
Iraq is an Oil War in the mind of politicians like Dick Cheney. It was necessary to deny it to China and other rivals thirty to fifty years in the future. It was necessary to open its vast petroleum fields up for exploration and cast aside anti-American Baath socialism.

Likewise, the religious rigidity of the Pushtun peoples of Helmand province is not the real reason for the US insistence on occupying Afghanistan. It is the vast Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan gas fields that Cheney has his eye on. It was the US hope to use a pipeline from Turkmenistan to supply Pakistan and India, and so forestall a deal by those two countries with Iran. The inability of the Bush administration to calm things down in Afghanistan sufficiently for anyone to dream of putting in such a pipeline and having it avoid routine sabotage has made it likely that Iran will break out of the Bush boycott toward the East.

Hunger for future rights to petroleum and positioning the US to remain a superpower in a world of hydrocarbon scarcity is also driving the campaign to get up a war against Iran. Why can Pakistan have a nuclear weapon, and that is all right, but Iran cannot? Pakistan has very little petroleum. Iran has a lot, and maybe 750 trillion cubic feet of gas in the southwest. If it gets a bomb, regime change becomes impossible, and if Iran wants to tie its supplies up in proprietary contracts with China and India, locking out the United States, it will be able to do so.

Continued heavy dependence on gas and oil therefore not only turns the world into a hothouse, with rising seas, ever more destructive hurricanes, and possibly disastrous shifts in the ocean currents, but it also drives the United States to more and more wars.

Juan Cole answers my question

I asked in this post:

Iraqi president out of the country....
Does this mean anything?

He observes:
Iraqi Vice President Accuses High Official

The Shiite Vice President, Adil Abdul Mahdi of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, has accused a high ministry official of attempting to kill him in a bombing on Monday. The deputy Minister of Labor, Ghazi al-Anbari, died in the blast, along with 10 others.

The Bush administration keeps saying that the US will stand down as the Iraqis stand up. But if the government officials are killing each other, they are more likely to lie down than stand up. This is not a good scene.
(via Steve Bates)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tomorrow we will find out exercise kills!

Vitamins may not be so good for you:

Taking certain vitamin supplements may adversely affect people's lifespan, researchers have suggested.

Millions worldwide use antioxidant supplements such as vitamins A and E, and beta-carotene.

Looking at dozens of previous research studies, Copenhagen University researchers suggested these appeared to raise, not lower, the risk of death.

A supplements industry expert said the Journal of the American Medical Association study was fatally flawed.

But nutritionists said it reinforced the need to eat a balanced diet, rather than relying on supplements.

While vitamin supplements have been popular for decades, the precise benefits they offer - if any - remain uncertain, despite hundreds of research projects.

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Giuliani's opinion of our soldiers

in his own words.

For those wishing to be blogrolled

Pharyngula is having Blogroll Open Enrollment day.

What can we do when we wake up to Star Wars

And Darth Cheney is our captain?
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A Center for Defense Information Analysis: (Cool site via Steve Bates)

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Pentagon's fiscal year 2008 (FY 08) budget request funds slightly more than $1 billion in programs that could provide anti-satellite and space-based weapons capabilities, according to a new analysis by the Center for Defense Information (CDI).

In the absence of a clear national strategy to secure the future use of space, the development and testing of such technologies and the deployment of dual-use capabilities without rules of the road for their operations will threaten other nations and drive U.S. policy toward space weaponization.

According to CDI Director Theresa Hitchens, one of the report's authors, “Congress must become more aware of these efforts, and ensure that such programs do not go forward without in-depth scrutiny of their purposes and possible long-term impacts on U.S. space security.”

Because I wouldn't doubt the neocons would love to own space, too. And of course we have to stay ahead of the Chinese....

When the Republicans are in power

Don't eat the food.

Via Americablog, the GOP's FDA:

The federal agency that’s been front and center in warning the public about tainted spinach and contaminated peanut butter is conducting just half the food safety inspections it did three years ago.

The cuts by the Food and Drug Administration come despite a barrage of high-profile food recalls.

“We have a food safety crisis on the horizon,” said Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia.

Between 2003 and 2006, FDA food safety inspections dropped 47 percent, according to a database analysis of federal records by The Associated Press.

More links to food problems.

Soldiers reject Bush's war

As they begin to see that nothing said has been proved true: (my bold)

Last weekend, shortly before his return to the States, John let DER SPIEGEL in on his plan over cocoa and ham sandwiches in a Berlin cafe. He is one of a growing number of American service members now going AWOL (absent without leave) from units stationed overseas. Though the US Department of Defense does not keep figures on such cases, a strong indication of their frequency is the number who receive "Chapter 11" discharges through Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and Fort Knox, Kentucky, the main processing centers for those who go missing overseas and turn themselves in, or are arrested, back home. Between October 2002 and September 2005, the two made an annual average of 1,546 such discharges. Last year the number grew to 1,988, or more than five per day.

John didn't start out a quitter. When he joined the military, he loved the idea of seeing the world. Family members were thrilled by his choice. His stepfather works for an oil company, his uncle for a weapons manufacturer.

In training, though, he had serious qualms. From inside, the Army struck John as brutal, controlling, "like a slavery contract." Iraq, his first war zone, did nothing to quiet his doubts. The communications specialist was sent to a base near Baghdad to repair a phone and Internet hookup that allowed communication between US facilities. John found himself holding a faulty fiberoptic cable labeled "Abu Ghraib." "I really felt like part of something bad at that point," he says. "I didn't directly have blood on my hands, but I was part of it."

Scan these links if you have any doubts as to the indifference the Bush administration has towards our soldiers.

One reason Condi Rice has not achieved much

Is that Elliot Abrams is diligently working behind the scenes to undo what she does:
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Abrams' personal influence over Bush could not possibly match Rice's, but his bureaucratic skills and political connections - notably to the so-called "Israel lobby" of pro-Likud Jewish organizations and the Christian Right - give him considerable clout. According to various sources, Abrams has been working systematically to undermine any prospect for serious negotiations designed to give substance to Rice's hopes - and increasingly impatient demands by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia - of offering the Palestinians a "political horizon" for a final settlement.

"The Bush administration has done nothing to press Israel to deliver on its commitments, beyond Washington's empty rhetoric about a two-state 'political horizon'," Henry Siegman, the longtime director of the US/Middle East Project at the influential Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in the International Herald Tribune just last week.

"Every time there emerged the slightest hint that the United States may finally engage seriously in a political process, Elliott Abrams would meet secretly with Olmert's envoys in Europe or elsewhere to reassure them that there exists no such danger," Siegman complained.

After the resignation of Cheney's chief of staff, I Lewis Libby, and the departure from the Pentagon nearly two years ago of Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, Abrams became the US administration's most influential neo-conservative, particularly regarding Middle East policy, which he oversees as deputy national security adviser for global democracy strategy.

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Well well well....lookee here

Iranian bombs found in Iraq!

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- U.S. officers said Monday they had discovered a factory for assembling sophisticated roadside bombs from Iranian-made components - the first such facility uncovered in a religiously mixed province north of Baghdad.

The officers, who displayed weapons for reporters at a U.S. base in the capital, said the find provides more evidence that the Iranians are providing weapons used to kill Americans. They include EFPs - explosively formed projectiles - that fire a slug of molten metal capable of penetrating armored vehicles and have been blamed for killing more than 170 U.S. and coalition soldiers since 2004.

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(Picture is from the January find.)

No diplomacy, no talks, no containment of borders, Georgie and Dick just wanna nuke Iran! How many more of these finds do they have to set up before they can do it?

This Iraqi oil law

I do not think it means what you say it means:

Iraq's cabinet has approved a draft oil law which aims to equitably share revenues from its oil revenues among the country's ethnic groups.

The bill - allocating oil revenues between Iraq's 18 provinces based on their population levels - must now be submitted to parliament for a vote.

Prime Minister Nouri Maliki called the deal a "gift to all the Iraqi people".

But careful reading of the 'bill' indicates this:

Many Iraqi oil experts, such as Fouad al-Ameer, who was responsible for the leak, think this law is not an urgent item on the country's agenda. Other observers and analysis share Ameer's views and believe the Bush administration, foreign oil companies and the International Monetary Fund are rushing the Iraqi government to pass the law.

Not every aspect of the law is harmful to Iraq. However, the current language favors the interests of foreign oil corporations over the economic security and development of Iraq. The law's key negative components harm Iraq's national sovereignty, financial security, territorial integrity and democracy.

National sovereignty and financial security
The new oil law gives foreign corporations access to almost every sector of Iraq's oil and natural-gas industry. This includes service contracts on existing fields that are already being developed and that are managed and operated by the Iraqi National Oil Co (INOC).

For fields that have already been discovered, but not yet developed, the proposed law stipulates that INOC will have to be a partner on these contracts. But for as-yet-undiscovered fields, neither INOC nor private Iraqi companies receive preference in new exploration and development. Foreign companies have full access to these contracts.

The exploration and production contracts give firms exclusive control of fields for up to 35 years, including contracts that guarantee profits for 25 years. A foreign company, if hired, is not required to partner with an Iraqi company or reinvest any of its money in the Iraqi economy. It's not obligated to hire Iraqi workers, train Iraqi workers or transfer technology.

How many of the Iraqi politicians who vote this in will have to go into hiding with their stash of US money for giving away Iraqi resources?

And then you realize that Iraq as a failed state was the focus all along:

The law represents no less than institutionalized raping and pillaging of Iraq's oil wealth. It represents the death knell of nationalized (from 1972 to 1975) Iraqi resources, now replaced by production sharing agreements (PSAs) - which translate into savage privatization and monster profit rates of up to 75% for (basically US) Big Oil. Sixty-five of Iraq's roughly 80 oilfields already known will be offered for Big Oil to exploit. As if this were not enough, the law reduces in practice the role of Baghdad to a minimum. Oil wealth, in theory, will be distributed directly to Kurds in the north, Shi'ites in the south and Sunnis in the center. For all practical purposes, Iraq will be partitioned into three statelets. Most of the country's reserves are in the Shi'ite-dominated south, while the Kurdish north holds the best prospects for future drilling.

The approval of the draft law by the fractious 275-member Iraqi Parliament, in March, will be a mere formality. Hussain al-Shahristani, Iraq's oil minister, is beaming. So is dodgy Barnham Salih: a Kurd, committed cheerleader of the US invasion and occupation, then deputy prime minister, big PSA fan, and head of a committee that was debating the law.

But there was not much to be debated. The law was in essence drafted, behind locked doors, by a US consulting firm hired by the Bush administration and then carefully retouched by Big Oil, the International Monetary Fund, former US deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz' World Bank, and the United States Agency for International Development. It's virtually a US law (its original language is English, not Arabic).

Scandalously, Iraqi public opinion had absolute no knowledge of it - not to mention the overwhelming majority of Parliament members. Were this to be a truly representative Iraqi government, any change to the legislation concerning the highly sensitive question of oil wealth would have to be approved by a popular referendum.

In real life, Iraq's vital national interests are in the hands of a small bunch of highly impressionable (or downright corrupt) technocrats. Ministries are no more than political party feuds; the national interest is never considered, only private, ethnic and sectarian interests. Corruption and theft are endemic. Big Oil will profit handsomely - and long-term, 30 years minimum, with fabulous rates of return - from a former developing-world stalwart methodically devastated into failed-state status.

The smirk and the smug

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That is all.

Monday, February 26, 2007

More on the purging of prosecutors

New York Times:

Ms. Lam is one of at least seven United States attorneys fired recently under questionable circumstances. The Justice Department is claiming that Ms. Lam and other well-regarded prosecutors like John McKay of Seattle, David Iglesias of New Mexico, Daniel Bogden of Nevada and Paul Charlton of Arizona — who all received strong job evaluations — performed inadequately.

It is hard to call what’s happening anything other than a political purge. And it’s another shameful example of how in the Bush administration, everything — from rebuilding a hurricane-ravaged city to allocating homeland security dollars to invading Iraq — is sacrificed to partisan politics and winning elections.

U.S. attorneys have enormous power. Their decision to investigate or indict can bankrupt a business or destroy a life. They must be, and long have been, insulated from political pressures. Although appointed by the president, once in office they are almost never asked to leave until a new president is elected. The Congressional Research Service has confirmed how unprecedented these firings are. It found that of 486 U.S. attorneys confirmed since 1981, perhaps no more than three were forced out in similar ways — three in 25 years, compared with seven in recent months.


The charge of politics certainly feels right. This administration has made partisanship its lodestar. The Washington Post reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran revealed in his book, “Imperial Life in the Emerald City,” that even applicants to help administer post-invasion Iraq were asked whom they voted for in 2000 and what they thought of Roe v. Wade.

Congress has been admirably aggressive about investigating. Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, held a tough hearing. And he is now talking about calling on the fired U.S. attorneys to testify and subpoenaing their performance evaluations — both good ideas.

The politicization of government over the last six years has had tragic consequences — in New Orleans, Iraq and elsewhere. But allowing politics to infect U.S. attorney offices takes it to a whole new level. Congress should continue to pursue the case of the fired U.S. attorneys vigorously, both to find out what really happened and to make sure that it does not happen again.

What do they know we don't

About Osama?

FORT WORTH -- The Army's highest-ranking officer and the former leader of the secretive world of Special Operations offered his thoughts on the importance of capturing or killing Osama bin Laden during a luncheon Friday.

They're probably not what anyone expected.

"I don't know whether we'll find him," said Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff. "I don't know that it's all that important, frankly."

Is Osama alive? Dead? In the Bahamas? Paraguay? Pakistan? Or is Schoomaker just copying his commander-in-chief?
Bush: ....Terror is bigger than one person. And he's just -- he's a person who's now been marginalized. His network, his host government has been destroyed. He's the ultimate parasite who found weakness, exploited it, and met his match. He is -- as I mentioned in my speech, I do mention the fact that this is a fellow who is willing to commit youngsters to their death and he, himself, tries to hide -- if, in fact, he's hiding at all. So I don't know where he is. You know, I just don't spend that much time on him, Kelly, to be honest with you.

Is this why Bush and Cheney demanded the right to torture?

The Guardian asks:

America has deliberately driven hundreds, perhaps thousands, of prisoners insane. Now it is being held to account in a Miami court.

Something remarkable is going on in a Miami courtroom. The cruel methods US interrogators have used since September 11 to "break" prisoners are finally being put on trial. This was not supposed to happen. The Bush administration's plan was to put José Padilla on trial for allegedly being part of a network linked to international terrorists. But Padilla's lawyers are arguing that he is not fit to stand trial because he has been driven insane by the government.
It's difficult to overstate the significance of these hearings. The techniques used to break Padilla have been standard operating procedure at Guantánamo Bay since the first prisoners arrived five years ago. They wore blackout goggles and sound-blocking headphones and were placed in extended isolation, interrupted by strobe lights and heavy metal music. These same practices have been documented in dozens of cases of "extraordinary rendition" carried out by the CIA, as well as in prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Many have suffered the same symptoms as Padilla. According to James Yee, a former army Muslim chaplain at Guantánamo, there is an entire section of the prison called Delta Block for detainees who have been reduced to a delusional state. "They would respond to me in a childlike voice, talking complete nonsense. Many of them would loudly sing childish songs, repeating the song over and over." All the inmates of Delta Block were on 24-hour suicide watch.

Human Rights Watch has exposed a US-run detention facility near Kabul known as the "prison of darkness" - tiny pitch-black cells, strange blaring sounds. "Plenty lost their minds," one former inmate recalled. "I could hear people knocking their heads against the walls and the doors."

These standard mind-breaking techniques have never faced scrutiny in an American court because the prisoners in the jails are foreigners and have been stripped of the right of habeas corpus - a denial that, scandalously, was just upheld by a federal appeals court in Washington DC. There is only one reason Padilla's case is different - he is a US citizen. The administration did not originally intend to bring Padilla to trial, but when his status as an enemy combatant faced a supreme court challenge, the administration abruptly changed course, charging Padilla and transferring him to civilian custody. That makes Padilla's case unique - he is the only victim of the post-9/11 legal netherworld to face an ordinary US trial.

Now that Padilla's mental state is the central issue in the case, the government prosecutors are presented with a problem. The CIA and the military have known since the early 1960s that extreme sensory deprivation and sensory overload cause personality disintegration - that's the whole point. "The deprivation of stimuli induces regression by depriving the subject's mind of contact with an outer world and thus forcing it in upon itself. At the same time, the calculated provision of stimuli during interrogation tends to make the regressed subject view the interrogator as a father-figure." That comes from Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation, a declassified 1963 CIA manual for interrogating "resistant sources".

Some city in the United States will be nuked

And we are distracted with the state of Anna Nicole Smith's decomposition and the Oscars. Paul Slansky of Huffington Post:

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are our native Manchurian candidates - could anyone from anywhere else have damaged us more? Muslim terrorists are obsessed with the idea of killing as many Americans as possible. They wake up thinking about it, they spend their days thinking about it, they go to bed thinking about it, and then they dream about it. It is what their entire lives are about, and everything Bush and Cheney have done in the Middle East has increased the numbers of such people exponentially. By any laws of logic and reason, this means that they have made us not safer but, rather, enormously less safe.

We had no trouble calling the suicide bombers crazy for believing that seventy-two virgins would be waiting for them in Heaven. Is born-again Bush any less nuts to believe he'll be rising up to Heaven during the Rapture? For all we know, Armageddon has been his intentional goal from the start. It's almost the only explanation that makes sense. America is Flight 93. It's been hijacked and it's about to crash, and every single one of us has to charge the cockpit.

We have been warned. Al Qaeda is still "determined to strike in U.S." Michael Scheuer is the new Richard Clarke, and he says they're going to set off a nuke here. And if we know it, Bush and Cheney know it, every congressman and senator knows it, and everyone in the media knows it. And yet it's not a big story. Hello? Government people? Media people? I live in L.A. and I'm terrified. You live in New York and Washington, the two likeliest targets. Why aren't you shrieking in the streets?

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NRA turns on one of their own

For daring to say bringing military-style assault rifles to shoot prairie dogs was unnecessary. His tv show is now in limbo:

SEATTLE -- Modern hunters rarely become more famous than Jim Zumbo. A mustachioed, barrel-chested outdoors entrepreneur who lives in a log cabin near Yellowstone National Park, he has spent much of his life writing for prominent outdoors magazines, delivering lectures across the country and starring in cable TV shows about big-game hunting in the West.

Zumbo's fame, however, has turned to black-bordered infamy within America's gun culture -- and his multimedia success has come undone. It all happened in the past week, after he publicly criticized the use of military-style assault rifles by hunters, especially those gunning for prairie dogs.

"Excuse me, maybe I'm a traditionalist, but I see no place for these weapons among our hunting fraternity," Zumbo wrote in his blog on the Outdoor Life Web site. The Feb. 16 posting has since been taken down. "As hunters, we don't need to be lumped into the group of people who terrorize the world with them. . . . I'll go so far as to call them 'terrorist' rifles."

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Uh oh, Jim. Shouldn'ta said that...


Bryan of Why Now? says it best:
The US was attacked by Sunni fundamentalists on 9/11/2001. Without capturing those responsible, we turned our attention and military might on the most secular state in the region, and are now being belligerent towards a Shi’ia country. By doing this we have allowed our attackers to recover and rebuild their organization after the initial damage caused by the war in Afghanistan.

[For those who came in late: Saddam was an enemy of al Qaeda and Iran, Iran was an enemy of Saddam and al Qaeda, and al Qaeda was an enemy of Saddam and Iran. None of the three was allied in any way to the other two. This is why Iran has benefited from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq: two of its major enemies have been weakened.]

The US finds itself bogged down in two wars, winning neither, anticipating a third, while the world is distancing itself from us. Our military is sagging under the strain and the Treasury is in debt to the world.

Cheney in his own words

Hoisted by his own petard (thank you, Thers):
Dan Froomkin:
Vice President Cheney is going out of his way to make it clear that he doesn't think he has anything to apologize for.
And then Froomkin quotes Cheney's non-apologies about Iraq, quagmires, amassing of power, Pelosi, and Scooter Libby.

Now it's the UN who is forcing us to stay and fight

Keith Olbermann explains the feeble White House explanation and the Congress' move to annul the war authorization.

Update: Glenn Greenwald takes apart Lieberman and Kristol:

Most despicably, and most destructively, Bush followers like Lieberman and Bill Kristol have actually been insisting that Americans have a duty to allow them to spew their lies about Iraq without challenge. That's what Lieberman means when he demands that Congress "put the brakes on" criticisms of the war and that "instead of undermining Gen. Petraeus before he has been in Iraq for even a month, let us give him and his troops the time and support they need to succeed." It is what he has always meant when he preached to Americans that "in matters of war we undermine presidential credibility at our nation's peril." It's the same thing Bill Kristol means when he instructs Americans to remain "quiet for six or nine months," and it is what Dick Cheney has always meant when he continuously claims that criticisms of the war undermine America and help the Enemy.

The demands that Americans refrain from criticism of the war and the Leader have nothing to do with trying to create unity so that troop morale remains high. What they really want is the ability to continue to lie to Americans about Iraq without being challenged.

Update Think Progress:

Actually, the White House did not invade Iraq “under U.N. authorization.” President Bush had promised to take the issue to the U.N. Security Council “no matter what the whip count,” but never did. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan described the invasion of Iraq as “not in conformity with the UN charter…from the charter point of view, it was illegal.”

It’s one thing to spin history; it’s quite another to rewrite it from scratch.

The top ten: new and improved!

But that is not saying much.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The gap between the rich and poor grows wider

Which is obviously a good thing. Who wants those poor people looking in your windows?

Washington, DC (AHN) - A new report released on Saturday says the gap between rich and poor is growing even wider and the number of poor is at a 30-year high. An analysis of census data from 2005 found that nearly 16 million Americans are living in "deep to severe poverty."

The study found that although worker productivity has increased, job and wage growth has not.

"Severe poverty" was defined as a family of four with two children earning less than $9,903, and "deep poverty" was a family of four living with an income under $5,080.

McClatchy newspapers analyzed the Census data and found the number of poor Americans rose 26 percent from 2000 to 2005.

If nuclear winter, global warming, or a terrorist strike don't get us

We're going to run out of food.
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KALAMAZOO, Mich., Feb. 25 Michigan's $350 million fruit industry is in peril after the recent death of countless honeybees from what is called Colony Collapse Disorder.

Michigan Department of Agriculture official Mike Hansen told the Kalamazoo (Mich.) Gazette that with honeybees dying at an alarming rate in 22 U.S. states the 2007 fruit harvest is at risk.

Michigan has about 125 crops, and 60 to 65 of those are dependent on honeybee pollination, the state beekeeper said. With reported losses of bees reaching up to 90 percent in some states, scientists have found no cure for what they labeled Colony Collapse Disorder.

Update: But then again, maybe the bees are just pissed off:

Fort Pierce, FL (AHN) - Angry bees forced a Florida middle school to shut down for over three hours after a man operating a bulldozer nearby hit a hive of Africanized honey bees. After being chased by the bees for several hundred yards, the man was stung several times but was not seriously injured.

Assclowns running rampant

Jurassicpork catches them in action!

Condi tells Congress to stop telling her hus...

The boy king what to do. He's getting cranky.
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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged the Democratic-controlled Congress not to interfere in the conduct of the Iraq war and suggested President Bush would defy troop withdrawal legislation.

But Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said lawmakers would step up efforts to force Bush to change course. "The president needs a check and a balance," said Levin, D-Mich.

Rice said proposals being drafted by Senate Democrats to limit the war amounted to "the worst of micromanagement of military affairs." She said military leaders such as Gen. David Petraeus, the new U.S. commander in Iraq, believe the president's plan to send more troops is necessary.

"I can't imagine a circumstance in which it's a good thing that their flexibility is constrained by people sitting here in Washington, sitting in the Congress," Rice said. She was asked in a broadcast interview whether Bush would feel bound by legislation seeking to withdraw combat troops within 120 days.

"The president is going to, as commander in chief, need to do what the country needs done," she said.

Rumsfeld and Cheney loved to play post-nuclear shadow government games

With the Pentagon's assistance in deep bunkers from back in the cold war era:
The games were designed to test a program known as COG, Continuity of Government, and they concerned the ability of the government to continue to function during and after a nuclear attack. Everything about these exercises was secret. "There are seven levels of classification used in the government," one former senior Pentagon official told me when I raised the subject. "You are asking about the most secret level of all." Plans to enable the government to survive a nuclear attack dated back to the early days of the cold war, when vast bunkers were excavated in the countryside around Washington in which the various organs of government could take shelter. At least one of these, in the rural Virginia town of Culpeper, was even supplied with Barbie dolls for the diversion of officials' children sitting out the war underground. Over the years these efforts became ever more elaborate, and of course vastly more expensive. A major development occurred in the early 1980s, when Ronald Reagan was sold not only on the notion of a missile defense shield, but also on the practicality of fighting a prolonged strategic nuclear war, lasting up to six months. This decision lent added emphasis to the need for keeping the machinery of government going amid the radioactive ruins.
This highly secret program was known as Project 908, and among the individuals earmarked to take power when disaster struck was Donald Rumsfeld. Every so often he would disappear from his Chicago office, leaving no word of where he was headed, or why. Once off the map, he would be moved on a military transport to one of the secret headquarters created as part of the COG network.
Rumsfeld loved these games. There were others who were frequent players in the exercises, notably Dick Cheney. "Cheney and the others often had other priorities," recalls the former Pentagon official. "Rumsfeld always came." He wasn't just trying to organize a devastated country. He was fighting World War III, or at least simulating what nuclear theory suggested such a conflict would be like.

Herein lies an aspect of Rumsfeld's career -- and character -- that remained deeply buried even after word of his participation in the COG exercises leaked out. Faced with the most awesome choices a simulated environment could present, placed in a situation that was designed and advertised as a rehearsal for what might one day be terrifyingly real, Rumsfeld had one primary response. He always tried to unleash the maximum amount of nuclear firepower possible.

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Gee... nuclear wars, secret bunkers, shadow governments.... why does this sound so familiar?

Sunni, Shiite, Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Iranian, Saudi Arabian, Pakistani, Iraqi

Just who are we giving money to? Have we considered the blowback on this?... forget I asked that of this crew in the Bush White House....

Listen to Seymour Hersh:

Hersh says the U.S. has been “pumping money, a great deal of money, without congressional authority, without any congressional oversight” for covert operations in the Middle East where it wants to “stop the Shiite spread or the Shiite influence.” Hersh says these funds have ended up in the hands of “three Sunni jihadist groups” who are “connected to al Qaeda” but “want to take on Hezbollah.”

Hersh summed up his scoop in stark terms: “We are simply in a situation where this president is really taking his notion of executive privilege to the absolute limit here, running covert operations, using money that was not authorized by Congress, supporting groups indirectly that are involved with the same people that did 9/11.”
And Hersh says the US has been running secret operations inside Iran.

Hersh talking to Wolf Blitzer

BLITZER: Your bottom line is that Negroponte was aware of this, obviously, and he wanted to distance himself from it? That is why he decided to give up that position and take the number two job at the State Department?

HERSH: He — that is one of the reasons, I was told. Negroponte also was not in tune with Cheney. There was a lot of complaints about him because he was seen as much of a stickler, too ethical for some of the operations the Pentagon wants to run.

As you know, this Pentagon has been running covert operations. I think Mr. Gates' job and one of the things he wants to do is get some control over it. But under Rumsfeld we were running operations all over the world with who knows what money and who knows what authority, because most of those operations were not briefed to the intelligence committees.

And the Pentagon has basically been open about it in saying, hey, this is military stuff that has nothing to do with CIA operations. We have nothing to do with them. We are running military operations. And the president has the authority to do this.

But Negroponte was unhappy about — in general about some of the things. He also, I don't think, liked — he may not have been terrific at his job, that is another factor. But certainly John Negroponte went through this issue, Iran-Contra in the '80s, when we had the first big debate over the use of unlawfully obtained money to buy arms.

We know, the whole arms-for-hostages business was to generate cash to fight the war — the Contra war against the Sandinistas, that mess that we had. Negroponte was ambassador to Honduras there, very sensitive to the issue that took place 20 years ago. He did not want a repeat of it.

And I frankly — it is something that I think to be asking him in congressional session or whatever. But I have that — you know, I understand this is very serious stuff. And my magazine understands this is very serious stuff.

And we have really taken a lot of time with this story and couched it as carefully as we could and with all of the caveats, this is serious business.

Tristero at Hullabaloo:
Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker has a concise article explaining only a fraction of the fiendishly complex twists and turns of the political situation in the Middle East right now. As you read it - and you'll have to read it several times even to begin to understand the vertigo-inducing complexities - perhaps, like me, you will shudder to remember that the US is led by a "gentleman's C+" and a demented flake who shot his friend in the face, neither of which have had a lick of genuine experience in the Middle East, not to mention a glimmer of understanding as to how the world works. These are the people who deliberately are sending your children, your friends, and your neighbors to mutilation and death in a faraway desert for no sensible purpose whatsoever.

Digby at Hullabaloo:
And now the Bush administration has spawned untold numbers of future war criminals who will claw their way back into power so they can "prove" they were right the first time. This pattern is repeating itself over and over again and we simply have to figure out a way to put an end to it.

Today we have the DOD equivalent of Brownie running around with boatload of cash making deals with Muslim extremists and Saudi princes, whom the administration has divided up into completely useless designations of "reformer" and extremist." Nobody knows who's talking to who or what agenda they really have. Liberals think up complex plots like this and make them into movies. Republicans steal billions from the taxpayers and actually try to implement their hare-brained schemes.

Osama determined to strike within the United States

With a nuclear device.

Frank Rich of the New York Times:
...The intelligence and counterterrorism officials back then were privately sounding urgent warnings like those in last week’s Times, culminating in the President’s Daily Brief titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” The system “was blinking red,” as the C.I.A. chief George Tenet would later tell the 9/11 commission. But no one, from the White House on down, wanted to hear it.

The White House doesn’t want to hear it now, either. That’s why terrorism experts are trying to get its attention by going public, and not just through The Times. Michael Scheuer, the former head of the C.I.A. bin Laden unit, told MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann last week that the Taliban and Al Qaeda, having regrouped in Afghanistan and Pakistan,

“are going to detonate a nuclear device inside the United States”

(the real United States, that is, not the fictional stand-in where this same scenario can be found on “24”). Al Qaeda is “on the march” rather than on the run, the Georgetown University and West Point terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman told Congress. Tony Blair is pulling troops out of Iraq not because Basra is calm enough to be entrusted to Iraqi forces — it’s “not ready for transition,” according to the Pentagon’s last report — but to shift some British resources to the losing battle against the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan.

Iraqi president out of the country....

Does this mean anything?

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has been flown to Jordan for medical treatment after falling ill, his office said on Sunday.

"Because of his hard work in past days, President Jalal Talabani has become ill and the doctors advised him to take some tests," a brief statement said.

"There is no cause for concern," it said without providing details of his condition.

Talabani, 73, has served as president since April 2005. He founded one of Iraq's main Kurdish political parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and spent the years of Saddam Hussein's rule in exile in Syria.

Update 2/26: Things that make you say 'Wait a minute....'

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Iraq's Shiite vice president narrowly escaped assassination Monday as a blast ripped through a government meeting hall just hours after it was searched by U.S. teams with bomb-sniffing dogs. At least 10 people were killed.

Adel Abdul-Mahdi was slightly wounded in the explosion, which splintered chairs, destroyed a speakers' podium and sent a chilling message that suspected Sunni militants can strike anywhere despite a major security crackdown across Baghdad.

As U.S. forces sealed off the area around the municipal building, investigators grappled with the troubling question of how the bomb was smuggled into the ministry of public works _ a seven-story structure with crack surveillance systems from its days as offices for Saddam Hussein's feared intelligence service.

The bomb _ possibly hidden in the podium _ went off moments after the minister for public works finished a speech in the third-floor chamber, witnesses said. Abdul-Mahdi had made a welcoming address a few minutes earlier, raising speculation the bomb could have been on a timer-trigger that missed the vice president by sheer luck.

Any creep with a digital camera

Can invade a woman's privacy without her even knowing:'s not only upset ex-boyfriends or other vengeful characters that are keeping prosecutors busy. Peeping Toms who film women secretly are also highly active. They use camera phones or tiny digital cameras to provide the sex-hungry Internet community with fresh voyeuristic material around the clock: footage of changing rooms, public toilets, swimming pools or tanning booths.

In 2004, Google listed about 4 million sites featuring the search words "upskirt" and "downblouse." Now the number has climbed to almost 8 million. Some links lead to popular websites like MyVideo, accessed by millions of people every day. "There are countless women out there who have no idea they're being presented nude or semi-naked on such Internet sites," says Maeser from Bavaria's Office of Criminal Investigation.

It's often difficult enough for the investigators to convict the perpetrators if they happen to catch them. But preventing the further circulation of such images is entirely impossible. If they appeal to Internet users, they're downloaded hundreds of times within just a few hours, and then traded and passed on. And so lawyer Tobias Strömer can only advise his clients to get used to the idea of featuring in a permanent online peep show: "This will never end for you," he says.

And it is so easy to do.
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Cheney in Oman

Promising what to whom?

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Vice President Dick Cheney landed in the U.S.-allied Arab monarchy of Oman on Sunday and went directly to talks with its foreign minister, Omani government officials said.

A U.S. embassy spokesman in Oman declined to detail Cheney's plans or the focus of his visit to the sparsely populated oil-producing state, which allows the United States use of four air bases. But an Omani government official said Cheney was to discuss regional security issues, including the U.S. standoff with Iran over its nuclear program. The official, in the capital Muscat, spoke on condition of anonymity because he was unauthorized to speak to the press.

Oman sits across the strategically important Strait of Hormuz from Iran, through which two-fifths of the world's oil passes.

The sultanate allows the United States to use the air bases - including one just 50 miles from Iran - for refueling, logistics and storage of pre-positioned military supplies. Little has been revealed publicly about U.S. military ties with the reclusive country, a deeply sensitive topic inside Oman, an isolated country on the southeastern corner of the Arabian peninsula that has been a quiet U.S. military ally for decades.

The British leaving Basra exposes US troops to danger

Which Cheney cheerfully says is a good thing:
In reality, southern Iraq is a quagmire that has defeated all British efforts to impose order, and Blair was pressed by his military commanders to get out altogether -- and quickly. The departure has only been slowed, for the moment, by the pleas of Bush administration officials like Cheney. And far from the disingenuously upbeat prognosis offered by the vice president, the British withdrawal could spell severe trouble for both the Iraqi government and for U.S. troops in that country.

The British helped provide the security that allowed private supply convoys bearing fuel, food and ammunition to travel from Kuwait up through Shiite-held territory to the U.S. military's forward operating bases in and around Baghdad and in Anbar province. Col. Pat Lang, a retired senior officer with the Defense Intelligence Agency, has pointed out that if Shiite militias began attacking those trucks, American troops in the center-north of the country would become sitting ducks for the Sunni Arab guerrillas.


It is unsurprising, therefore, that U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad protested British withdrawal plans last month, telling the BBC, "Our preference would be -- the longer we stay together here, the better." He was certainly speaking on behalf of Cheney, even if the vice president, confronted with the actual departure of America's most important ally, now chooses to feign optimism. Cheney's sunny misdirection obscures the dangers of a British withdrawal in the absence of any sign of reconciliation by Iraq's warring factions. Without a United Nations peacekeeping force or the like to tamp down violence, the British retreat from Basra is unlikely to produce positive results. In the worst-case scenario, it could leave vital U.S. supply lines vulnerable and allow a key exporting port to be closed or hijacked, endangering the survival of the Baghdad government.

Losing the minds of the next generation

By killing them in the halls of learning:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- A suicide bomber triggered a ball bearing-packed charge Sunday, killing at least 41 people at a mostly Shiite college whose main gate was left littered with blood-soaked student notebooks and papers amid the bodies.

Witnesses said a woman carried out the attack at the business school annex to Mustansiriyah University, but Interior Ministry officials said they were still investigating those reports. The school's main campus was hit by a string of bombings last month that killed 70 people.
And chasing away doctors:

According to a December 2006 report by the Washington-based Brookings Institution, 34,000 physicians were registered in Iraq before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Since then, about 12,000 have fled and 2,000 have been killed, it said.

At al-Jarrah, two doctors have been kidnapped and killed. Two were kidnapped and released. Three have left Baghdad. Thirteen remain on staff.

"It's a campaign to drain the country," said Aviad Najeed, a surgeon at al-Jarrah. "A very, very well-organized one. We don't know who's behind it."

Sitting in their lounge, a windowless room with lockers and leather chairs, four doctors at al-Jarrah talked about the hope they had after the invasion. They recalled buying oranges and flowers to greet U.S. troops. They thought the Americans would bring the best technology and medicines.

And professionals:

(01-16) 04:00 PST Washington -- Iraq is in the throes of the largest refugee crisis in the Middle East since the Palestinian exodus from Israel in 1948, a mass flight out of and within the country that is ravaging basic services and commerce, swamping neighboring nations with nearly 2 million refugees and building intense pressure for emigration to Europe and the United States, according to the United Nations and refugee experts.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, which appealed for $60 million in emergency aid last week, believes 1.7 million Iraqis are displaced inside Iraq, whose prewar population was 21 million. About 50,000 Iraqis are fleeing inside Iraq each month, the United Nations said, and 500,000 have been displaced since last February's bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra. These figures are as of January 2007.

The Bush administration and the governments of Jordan and Syria, the nations that accept the bulk of the refugees, have been reluctant to acknowledge the humanitarian crisis, experts said.

"I think everyone at this point is in denial about the human consequences of the war," said Kathleen Newland, director of the Migration Policy Institute, who is familiar with the State Department's views.

The Iraqi health-care system was once considered one of the best in the Middle East, with the most up-to-date equipment and well-educated doctors. Iraqis could get basic health care free, and each town had at least one hospital. That changed when the U.N. Security Council imposed an embargo after Iraq invaded Kuwait, leading to the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Medical instruments and drugs used to be shipped from Germany, France, Japan and Switzerland. Now, hospitals buy cheaper supplies from Egypt, Jordan and India, the doctors said.
One good way to ruin a secular country right in the middle of the Middle East and Asia is to gut it of the people who love it enough to try and save it. Nice job, Bush.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Just because Bush says so

Apparently no longer counts for much:
VIENNA, Austria -- Despite growing international concern about Iran's nuclear program and its regional ambitions, most U.S. intelligence shared with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency has proved inaccurate and none has led to significant discoveries inside Iran, diplomats here said.

The officials said the CIA and other Western spy services have provided sensitive information to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency at least since 2002, when Iran's long-secret nuclear program was exposed. But none of the tips about supposed secret weapons sites provided clear evidence that the Islamic Republic is developing illicit weapons.

"Since 2002, pretty much all the intelligence that's come to us has proved to be wrong," said a senior diplomat at the IAEA. Another official here described the agency's intelligence stream as "very cold now (because) so little panned out."

The reliability of U.S. information and assessments on Iran is increasingly at issue as the Bush administration confronts the emerging regional power on multiple fronts: its expanding nuclear effort, its alleged support for insurgents inside Iraq and its backing of Middle East militant groups.

Mutiny on the Bounty

(Via Rorschach at No Capital) Times Online:
SOME of America’s most senior military commanders are prepared to resign if the White House orders a military strike against Iran, according to highly placed defence and intelligence sources.

Tension in the Gulf region has raised fears that an attack on Iran is becoming increasingly likely before President George Bush leaves office. The Sunday Times has learnt that up to five generals and admirals are willing to resign rather than approve what they consider would be a reckless attack.

“There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.”

A British defence source confirmed that there were deep misgivings inside the Pentagon about a military strike. “All the generals are perfectly clear that they don’t have the military capacity to take Iran on in any meaningful fashion. Nobody wants to do it and it would be a matter of conscience for them.

“There are enough people who feel this would be an error of judgment too far for there to be resignations.”

A generals’ revolt on such a scale would be unprecedented. “American generals usually stay and fight until they get fired,” said a Pentagon source. Robert Gates, the defence secretary, has repeatedly warned against striking Iran and is believed to represent the view of his senior commanders.

The threat of a wave of resignations coincided with a warning by Vice-President Dick Cheney that all options, including military action, remained on the table. He was responding to a comment by Tony Blair that it would not “be right to take military action against Iran”.

OMG! I thought I was so far afield I was joking

When I asked what had happened to the illegals picked up in the DHS raids.

Lo and Behold! Talk Left blog:

What holds 400 illegal immigrants from 30 countries, 170 of them children? The T. Don Hutto Family Detention Center, for which the Corrections Corporation of America receives $2.8 million per month.

A jail by any other name is still a jail. A detention camp is still a detention camp. That the prisoners wear scrubs instead of orange jumpsuits or pink underwear doesn't change a thing.

The Government invited the media today. Surprise, for the first time there was pizza on the menu. How humane. They brought in plastic potted plants to warm up the place. The Government says its more like a community college than a jail.

What a farce. Can the "students" leave? Of course not. It's a jail.


Outside the blocky buildings with thin slit windows, protesters from a local group called Texans United for Families held up signs saying, “Don’t Jail Children for Profit.”

“If they can put an ankle bracelet on Martha Stewart so she doesn’t run off to Jamaica,” said a protester, Jose Ortan, a computer technician, “they can find ways to do it for immigrant families.”

Devil's Tower at Daily Kos provides his thoughts and notes that the reporters weren't allowed to interview the detainees during the tour.

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Update 2/26: Peterr at Firedoglake reports:

Last December, Pach highlighted the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids on various Swift meat processing plants, sweeping up all manner of workers. Some were legal, others were not, but "working while brown" seemed to be the common denominator. One of the most problematic issues, to me, was the handling of children and families. Little thought seemed to have been given to how to deal with the children in school whose parents were swept up. Churches and other groups stepped up, but the lack of concern on the part of ICE for the children affected by this was appalling.

This past Thursday, the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) and the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, two well-known and non-partisan NGOs, released a report entitled Locking Up Family Values (large pdf - 2 MB). It details the conditions at two model "family detention facilites" run by ICE, and the story is appalling.

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children felt it vital to examine the implications of this expanding penal approach to family detention in order to inform the development of policy and practice that serves the best interests of children and families. To that end we visited both the T. Don Hutto Residential Center and the Berks Family Shelter Care Facility and talked with detained families as well as former detainees. What we found was disturbing:

• Hutto is a former criminal facility that still looks and feels like a prison, complete with razor wire and prison cells.
• Some families with young children have been detained in these facilities for up to two years.
• The majority of children detained in these facilities appeared to be under the age of 12.
• At night, children as young as six were separated from their parents.
• Separation and threats of separation were used as disciplinary tools.
• People in detention displayed widespread and obvious psychological trauma. Every woman we spoke with in a private setting cried.
• At Hutto pregnant women received inadequate prenatal care.
• Children detained at Hutto received one hour of schooling per day.
• Families in Hutto received no more than twenty minutes to go through the cafeteria line and feed their children and themselves. Children were frequently sick from the food and losing weight.
• Families in Hutto received extremely limited indoor and outdoor recreation time and children did not have any soft toys.

And that's just from the summary.

Painting over the mold

And sweeping under the rug. Bryan of Why Now? talks about what they will have to do to fix the out buildings of Walter Reed complex. First, you need to move the soldiers. (my bold)

Living in Florida I have a lot experience with roaches and the other problems, and I do house rehabilitations. I know what it takes to do the job, and what is described in the article won’t cut it.

First you need to get all of the people out of the building because you who have to fumigate, but you don’t waste any time or money on that until you remove the carpets, curtains, furniture and, especially, mattresses. You can sort the furniture and mattresses and treat them separately, but they can’t be reused for an extended period.

Next you check and make sure you don’t have any roof leaks or plumbing leaks. Both roaches and mice need water, so if there is no available source inside, they will go outside. Water is also the culprit in most deterioration of buildings. There is no point in going further until you stop the leaks.

After solving the leak problems, if you have loose wallpaper now is the time to strip it, but wear a mask and eye protection. You should also “square” any holes that need to be patched.

Then you slap HEPA/sheetrock filters into the shopvacs and really get rid of the surface dirt and dust. You don’t want to breathe the crap, and you want it captured, not blown around.

It’s now time to wipe everything down with a solution of chlorine bleach and water. You aren’t cleaning as much as killing mold and mildew. This is followed with soap and water to prepare the building for repairs and painting.

This is the point at which you fumigate to kill the roaches.

Now you are ready to make your repairs and begin painting. If you don’t prepare the building, any repairs or painting will only be good for weeks, rather than years.

So... I wonder which way the repairs will go: do it fast or do it right?

"Some of the paint is still wet against that wall, so be careful," Walter Reed public affairs officer Donald Vandrey, standing on the bed in his socks, advised the film crews. "They just finished repainting it about 10 minutes ago."

Mission accomplished?

Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley thought so. After the media tour of Building 18, the Army's surgeon general gave a news conference. "I do not consider Building 18 to be substandard," he said of a facility Priest and Hull found full of "mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses" and other delights. "We needed to do a better job on some of those rooms, and those of you that got in today saw that we frankly have fixed all of those problems. They weren't serious, and there weren't a lot of them."

Kiley might have had a stronger case if men wearing Tyvek hazmat suits and gas masks hadn't walked through the lobby while the camera crews waited for the tour to start, or if he hadn't acknowledged, moments later, that the entire building would have to be closed for a complete renovation. The general also seemed to miss a larger point identified by other officials: Walter Reed's problem isn't of mice and mold but a bureaucracy that has impeded the recovery of wounded soldiers.

Britney Spears found in Bush's pants!!

Uh... no. I read too fast the title of the link Sagemarm sent to me:

Spears are latest discovery in chimps' toolbox.

And Sagemarm points out a hilarious quote: (my bold)

The study reports that the chimps used a multi-step method for making their spears — breaking them off trees, stripping leaves, trimming both ends and sharpening tips with their teeth. The researchers saw the chimps jab the spears forcefully into tree cavities holding the monkeys.

Only infants and female chimps used the spears, Pruetz says. In one case a mother was seen jabbing at a tree hole while holding an infant. Just one of the 22 observed attempts resulted in the chimps killing a monkey.

"Another blow against 'Man, the hunter'," says archaeologist Stanley Ambrose of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The study supports other findings that females are the chief tool-users among chimps, he says, and may add to arguments about such a division among early humans.

Hunting described in the study resembles the known chimp practice of "termite fishing," in which chimps plunge sticks into insect mounds to "fish" out the inhabitants for dinner, says anthropologist John Shea of Stony Brook (N.Y.) University. "This is just a rather long extension of that behavior, not true projectile use of spears," he says.

The earliest archaeological evidence for human use of thrown spears dates to roughly half a million years ago, says Shea. He doubts chimp anatomy would ever allow them to throw spears. Even if female chimpanzees used these probes more than males, he says that it does not follow that female early humans used analogous implements more than their male counterparts, he says.

"Chimpanzees are analogs for, not examples of, early hominins (humans)," he adds, cautioning about applying the results too broadly, in particular in considering the role of savannas in human origins.

So you guys who are threatened by the idea of females hunting can relax.

Don't forget to count the contractors in the Iraqi War casualties

Even though we don't know how many are over there, in what capacity, and who they are working for. Even though there is no oversight and no accountability.

As cookie jill over at skippy, the bush kangaroo's site says:
sure they're making up to $10,000 month tax-free but they're getting killed over in iraq just like our much lower paid and taxed armed forces. there have been up to 800 civilian contractor deaths...but, their lives lost aren't counted by the government's "statistics".
Another one of Bush and Cheney's little problems...

Friday, February 23, 2007

Remember April 13, 2036

And start building those spaceships!

SAN FRANCISCO, California (Reuters) -- An asteroid may come uncomfortably close to Earth in 2036 and the United Nations should assume responsibility for a space mission to deflect it, a group of astronauts, engineers and scientists said on Saturday.

Astronomers are monitoring an asteroid named Apophis, which has a 1 in 45,000 chance of striking Earth on April 13, 2036.

Although the odds of an impact by this particular asteroid are low, a recent congressional mandate for NASA to upgrade its tracking of near-Earth asteroids is expected to uncover hundreds, if not thousands of threatening space rocks in the near future, former astronaut Rusty Schweickart said.

For those who fret that someone somewhere is gay

And is unconcerned with what others think, Mustang Bobby will explain it for you:
As far as how or why people are gay, I don't know how to make it any plainer: no one chooses to be gay any more than one chooses to be left-handed, blonde, or six feet tall. The research into the science on the subject and the search for the "gay gene" goes on, but overwhelming empirical evidence points to the probability that sexual orientation is hard-wired at the factory and the tired old explanations of a domineering mother and distant father plus all the other grasps at straws that the fundamentalists and other anti-gay forces use have been relegated to the trash heap of reputable psychiatric medicine along with leeches. Yes, the idea of a gay gene is a theory, but since no one has come up with any other explanation, I'm willing to accept it. If it was environmental or parenting, how come my three siblings are all straight?

Fundies jump on the word "theory" as if it leaves open the possibility that there are other explanations; evolution is only a theory, they say, so there's no real proof that it opposed to the story in Genesis, which, according to them, is incontrovertible. But, to quote Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." A scientific theory is arrived at when all other possibilities have been excluded. Gravity is a theory. No one can prove to an absolute certainty how it works, but science has pretty much ruled out "intelligent falling." Real science is always subject to debate and new ideas; it does not possess the insecure absolutism of mythology. And even if it's proven that there are other reasons why some people are attracted to those of their own gender, what does it matter, and why does it matter to an absolute stranger like James Dobson, Pat Robertson, or any of the other people who can't seem to mind their own business?
Mustang Bobby is brilliant as usual. Go and read the whole thing and then rejoice that people like him are on this earth.

That dog!

Karl Weber blogs at World Wide Webers and takes offense at Dinesh D'Souza. His post title: The Muslim Street Is Not Ready To Follow Jerry Falwell.
...I am currently in Bangladesh, a Muslim country where conservative social mores are very much in force--alcohol is almost entirely unavailable, women dress extremely modestly (even on the beach), men dominate the business world, public displays of affection are unheard-of, etc. But every single Bangladeshi I have encountered expresses strong dislike for President Bush--and, without prompting, many mention their respect for President Clinton and their hope that Hillary Clinton will be president some day.

This is partly because Hillary Clinton actually visited Bangladesh while first lady, impressing local people with her interest and openness. But it is mainly because they feel that both Clintons respect Muslim people and culture, while Bush, by contrast, is viewed as an arrogant bully.

As for Clinton's personal morality, which social conservatives in the US find so distressing--and which you might assume would horrify the strait-laced Muslims: When Bill is mentioned in conversation, I often recount my favorite anecdote about him, which is about the time Mary-Jo and I were having dinner in a French bistro in Chappaqua and Bill came in to have dinner with not one but two beautiful young women. (True story.)

When I told this tale to a group of six or seven Bangladeshi men the other night, they all reacted exactly the way Americans usually react--with a big, appreciative laugh, as if to say, "That dog!" There was certainly no suggestion that Clinton lost any stature in their eyes as a result.

Dinesh D'Souza may wish that the typical Muslim hated the cultural decadence of the American left and admired the rigid moralism of American conservatives. He may even believe that to be the case. The only problem is that there is no evidence to suggest he is right.
Update 2/24 from Vanity Press taking on Beck and D'Souza:
There's a lot more to the question of morality than sexual behavior, of course, but sexual behavior is one of the things Beck is thinking about when he makes his claims about moral collapse. And he's simply full of it. The facts (those, yes) just don't bear these claims out.

And that's the real problem with culture-war critiques like D'Souza's, Beck's, and, yes, Helmy's: they have nothing to do with what's happening in the real world. If you want to look at real immorality, then you might want to consider things like torture, corruption, crooked elections, and misleading countries into war. But people like D'Souza and Beck don't want you to think about that. D'Souza, Beck, and an army of others have made up a fake version of Western society, and promoted it so hard and so effectively that it's become more real to them, and apparently to some others, than the actual society in which they live.

If that imaginary society really is hated worldwide, and is mistaken for the real one, well, then whose fault is that?

There's lots of good fish in the sea (Gilbert and Sullivan)

I think I'm noticing a pattern here:

Prehistoric frilled shark usually very deep sea, found in shallower waters off Japan. It is in bad shape and dies hours later.

Colossal squid, known by the scientific name Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni, are estimated to grow up to 46 feet long and have long been one of the most mysterious creatures of the deep ocean.

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New Zealand Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton said the whopper, weighing an estimated 990lbs, took two hours to land in Antarctic waters.

The fishermen were catching Patagonian toothfish south of New Zealand "and the squid was eating a hooked toothfish when it was hauled from the deep," he said.

And this:

"The study, published in the Jan. 5 issue of the journal Science, also noted the population of eelpouts dropped as average summer temperatures increased. The impact was also observed in the short term such that eelpout numbers decreased the year immediately after a warm summer.

Animals tolerate a limited range of environmental conditions. Anything out of their tolerance window can cause damage. Fish in the North Sea have evolved to tolerate a wider range of temperatures than fish elsewhere because of the large seasonal fluctuations there.

However, warming waters and their impact on oxygen supply can stress fish to the point their thermal tolerance range is thrown off and they perish, the scientists said.

In the future, eelpouts could prove to be important bioindicators that would help experts assess what might happen to other marine species in the region, the scientists explained. "
Are these creatures moving about and coming up from the deep because of what we are doing to the oceans?

Climate changes are affecting the behavior and population of many different types of fish.

Studies have shown a decrease in the number of fish is consistent with the increase in global temperature.

The population density has been decreasing as global warming hits various areas of the ocean.


Ha! Nudibranches in all their sensuous forms, undulating within the embrace of the sea....

What is a nudibranch pray tell? Wikipedia:

These sea slugs are soft-bodied snails. The adult form is without a shell or operculum (a bony plate covering the opening of the shell, when the body is withdrawn).

The word "nudibranch" comes from Latin nudus meaning "naked", and Greek brankhia meaning "gills". The name is appropriate since the dorids (infraclass Anthobranchia) breathe through a branchial plume of bushy extremities on their back, rather than using gills. By contrast, on the back of the aeolids in infraclass Cladobranchia there are brightly colored sets of tentacles called cerata.

Nudibranchs have cephalic (head) tentacles, which are sensitive to touch, taste, and smell. Club-shaped rhinophores detect the odors.

They are hermaphroditic, but can rarely fertilize themselves.

Nudibranchs typically deposit their eggs within a gelatinous spiral.

They are carnivorous. Some feed on sponges, others on hydroids, others on bryozoans, and some are cannibals, eating other sea slugs, or, on some occasions, members of their own species. There is also a group that feeds on tunicates and barnacles.

Body forms can vary wildly. They lack a mantle cavity. Their size varies from 40 to 600 mm.

They occur worldwide at all depths, but they reach their greatest size and variation in warm, shallow waters.

Among them can be found the most colorful creatures on earth. Because sea slugs, in the course of evolution, have lost their shell, they have had to evolve another means of defense: camouflage, through color patterns that make them invisible (cryptic behavior) or warn off predators as being distasteful or poisonous (aposematic behavior). Champions in their colorful display are the Chromodorids. The nudibranchs that feed on hydroids store the hydroid's nematocysts (stinging cells) in the dorsal body wall. This enables the nudibranch to ward off potential predators.

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Why nudibranchs? Got me. Phila of Bouphonia seems to be obsessed with them and posts every Friday.

So I decided we needed a poem:

I never thought I'd like to eat
A nudibranch: a crunchy treat!
Besides them being quite aquatic
I doubt we'd think them so erotic
Dealing with their toxic display
They'd prolly taste better if they were gray.


Phila of Bouphonia reminds us our world is worth loving.

Proof that age does not guarrantee wisdom

And it doesn't help if you've lost a few extra neurons from partying hard during a very prolonged youth:
And this is a coming time. It really is.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

More proof of squirrel terrorism!

Joining forces with cats!

Does Cheney have access to the red button?

Since he is really the co-president and has amassed enormous powers for himself, can he declare war all by himself and tell the military to attack Iran? Is Bush that hypnotized that he would do what Cheney tells him to do? How close are we to pre-emptively nuking a sovereign nation?

The International Atomic Energy Agency concluded that Iran had expanded its nuclear programme, defying UN demands for it to be suspended. Hundreds of uranium-spinning centrifuges in an underground hall are expected to be increased to thousands by May when Iran moves to “industrial-scale production”. Senior British government sources have told The Times that they fear President Bush will seek to “settle the Iranian question through military means” next year, before the end of his second term if he concludes that diplomacy has failed. “He will not want to leave it unresolved for his successor,” said one.

But there are deep fissures within the US Administration. Robert Gates, the Defence Secretary, who has previously called for direct talks with Tehran, is said to be totally opposed to military action.

Although he has dispatched a second US aircraft carrier to the Gulf, he is understood to believe that airstrikes would inflame Iranian public opinion and hamper American efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. One senior adviser to Mr Gates has even stated privately that military action could lead to Congress impeaching Mr Bush.

Condoleeza Rice, the Secretary of State, is also opposed to using force, while Steve Hadley, the President’s National Security Adviser, is said to be deeply sceptical.

The hawks are led by Dick Cheney, the Vice-President, who is urging Mr Bush to keep the military option “on the table”. He is also pressing the Pentagon to examine specific war plans — including, it is rumoured, covert action.