December 30, 2007

Download Uproar: Record Industry Goes After Personal Use

Now, in an unusual case in which an Arizona recipient of an RIAA letter has fought back in court rather than write a check to avoid hefty legal fees, the industry is taking its argument against music sharing one step further: In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.

The industry's lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are "unauthorized copies" of copyrighted recordings.

The RIAA is desperate to hang on to its antiquated business model because it was so easy for the big record companies to make a shitload of money. However, that old model no longer works. In fact, it is dead and the RIAA is just trying to use its muscle to garner as much money as it possibly can through lawsuits instead of trying to devise a business model for the 21st century.

Seems all those years people were making mixed tapes just never happened because no lawsuits were filed during those days and mixed tapes were everywhere. They even made movies where mixed tapes played important roles in the story. Yet, today, if you transfer your legally purchased compact discs onto your computer you have cheated the record companies out of some money?

Um, no. I don't think so.

I feel cheated for having to purchase, for example, Pink Foyd's The Dark Side of the Moon and The Eagle's Greatest Hits 1971-1975 multiple times. Not only because I wore the LP's out, but because I also had to buy the cassette tape, then I had to buy the CD. I mean how many times should we have to buy the same freakin' album?

And that's the issue, isn't?

With today's technology, we only have to buy an album/song once. Then we'll have multiple backups in case a hard drive dies or whatnot. And if one does, we'll still have the album/songs we legally purchased and will not have to purchase them again.

That has to disturb the powers that be at the RIAA. They can't make their easy money any more.

Compound that with today's youth who believe music should be free, and the RIAA is in a world of hurt.

The RIAA's legal crusade against its customers is a classic example of an old media company clinging to a business model that has collapsed. Four years of a failed strategy has only "created a whole market of people who specifically look to buy independent goods so as not to deal with the big record companies," Beckerman says. "Every problem they're trying to solve is worse now than when they started."

And they are too stupid to see that.

Hey big record companies, keep treating your good customers like this and soon you won't matter.

Read the rest.

December 29, 2007

Police in thought pursuit

The Pope had his Index of Forbidden Books. Japan had its Thought Police against subversive or dangerous ideologies. And the United States Congress and President Bush have learned nothing from those examples.

Congress is perched to enact the "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 20007 (Act)," probably the greatest assault on free speech and association in the United States since the 1938 creation of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).


Denuded of euphemisms and code words, the Act aims to identify and stigmatize persons and groups who hold thoughts the government decrees correlate with homegrown terrorism, for example, opposition to the Patriot Act or the suspension of the Great Writ of habeas corpus.

The Act will inexorably culminate in a government listing of homegrown terrorists or terrorist organizations without due process; a complementary listing of books, videos, or ideas that ostensibly further "violent radicalization;" and a blacklisting of persons who have intersected with either list.

Political discourse will be chilled and needed challenges to conventional wisdom will flag. There are no better examples of sinister congressional folly.

We refuse to learn from history.

Supporters of these bills are blinded by fear and are enemies of freedom.

Read the rest.

Banazir Bhutto -- Take 2

I'm posting this again because of what she says at 6 minutes and 12 seconds into this November 2007 interview. Yes, she states that Osama bin Laden was assassinated by Omar Sheik. Am I the only one that finds that rather interesting?

Vatican denies exorcist expansion

In a follow up to an earlier story:

The Vatican is denying reports it plans to install more exorcists around the world so possessed people can get help quickly.

"Pope Benedict XVI has no intention of ordering local bishops to bring in garrisons of exorcists to fight demonic possession,'' Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told reporters in Rome Friday.

I wonder what the truth really is?

Read more.

Has global warming stopped?

The fact is that the global temperature of 2007 is statistically the same as 2006 as well as every year since 2001. Global warming has, temporarily or permanently, ceased. Temperatures across the world are not increasing as they should according to the fundamental theory behind global warming – the greenhouse effect.

Read more.

Did Bush Watch the Torture Tapes?

In this regards, the sequence of statements out of the White House is extremely revealing. It started with firm denials, then went silent and then pulled back rather sharply to a “President Bush has no present recollection of having seen the tapes.” This is a formulation frequently used to avoid perjury charges, a sort of way of saying “no” without really saying “no.” In between these statements, two more things unfolded that have a bearing on the question.


Are Bush’s denials that he has seen the torture tapes really credible? I don’t think so. And having seen them, the interest in their destruction would be equally fierce, which helps account for the involvement of the White House’s four most senior lawyers in the process. No doubt about it. The White House desperately wants to scapegoat some CIA people over this. But the trail leads to the White House, and that is clearly where the decision was taken. It will be interesting to see the techniques used by the Justice Department to obscure all of this. At this point, no one who’s tracked Justice Department antics over the past six years is anticipating anything but a crude cover-up.

Read more.

How much does your beauty or ugliness affect your salary?

Not only do beautiful people get paid better than those considered ugly, research has found that they're also more intelligent than their ugly counterparts.

One of the leading researchers on beauty and success, Daniel Hamermesh, an economist at the University of Texas, found over a decade ago during a series of surveys in the United States and Canada that when all other things are taken into account, ugly people earn less than average incomes, while beautiful people earn more than the average, says The Economist.


Beautiful people seem to be more intelligent too. In detailed studies done on the link between beauty and intelligence by Mark Prokosch, Ronald Yeo and Geoffrey Miller, who work at the University of New Mexico, they found that bodily symmetry was linked to performance on intelligence tests.

Companies with more beautiful people also have higher profits. Dr Hamermesh's study of "Dutch advertising firms showed that those with the most beautiful executives had the largest size-adjusted revenues-a difference that exceeded the salary differentials of the firms in question", notes The Economist.

So what happens when genetic engineering finally occurs (and it will occur, maybe not in your or your child's lifetime, but it will happen) and everyone is "beautiful"?

Read more.

Down the rabbit hole

Earlier this month, senator Sheldon Whitehouse made a stunning revelation: the president is not legally obliged to follow his own executive orders.


Whitehouse raised the issue in the context of the executive order that governs surveillance. As he explained, that executive order is the only thing preventing US intelligence agencies from spying on Americans when they travel abroad. But since the president can ignore that executive order if he chooses, that protection amounts to little. "[U]nless Congress acts," Whitehouse said, "here is what legally prevents this president from wiretapping Americans travelling abroad at will: nothing. Nothing." Of course, Americans would have no way of knowing that their government could wiretap them as they travel abroad, because they have no way of knowing whether the president has modified an executive order without revealing it publicly. On the contrary, since the order appears untouched, Americans would fairly believe they were safe from wiretaps overseas, all because the department of justice's office of legal council ruled the president doesn't have to tell us when he changes the rules.

The executive order governing surveillance may not be the only one that Bush has modified without revealing he has done so. It appears that Bush has also modified the executive order governing the treatment of classified information from its plain text meaning.

And we allow them to get away with this shit.

Read more.

Snorting a Brain Chemical Could Replace Sleep

In what sounds like a dream for millions of tired coffee drinkers, Darpa-funded scientists might have found a drug that will eliminate sleepiness.

I'm sure this technology will be used for just "good" endeavors.

Read more.

Pope's exorcist squads will wage war on Satan

The Pope has ordered his bishops to set up exorcism squads to tackle the rise of Satanism.


I kept reading.

Each bishop is to be told to have in his diocese a number of priests trained to fight demonic possession.


He said the Pope wants to restore a prayer seen as protection against evil that was traditionally recited at the end of Catholic Masses. The prayer, to St Michael the Archangel, was dropped in the 1960s by Pope John XXIII.

"The prayer is useful not only for priests but also for lay people in helping to fight demons," he said.


The Vatican is particularly concerned that young people are being exposed to the influence of Satanic sects through rock music and the Internet.

In theory, under the Catholic Church's Canon Law 1172, all priests can perform exorcisms. But in reality only a select few are assigned the task.

Under the law, practitioners must have "piety, knowledge, prudence, and integrity of life."

The rite of exorcism involves a series of gestures and prayers to invoke the power of God and stop the "demon" influencing its victim.

You know, there just aren't words.

Read the rest, if you must.

December 27, 2007

Alzheimer's sufferers should be electronally tagged

Elderly people suffering from Alzheimer's should be electronically tagged and tracked by satellite, says a leading charity.

Read more.

Egypt to copyright pyramids

In a potential blow to themed resorts from Vegas to Tokyo, Egypt is to pass a law requiring payment of royalties whenever its ancient monuments, from the pyramids to the sphinx, are reproduced.

Read more.

School's homeland security studies get noticed

The nation's first comprehensive high school homeland security program, a three-year course to help kids land jobs in the growing anti-terrorism industry, is in its infancy in Maryland. But it's recently been attracting the attention of educators and school districts from as far away as California and Florida.

Read more.

Airport profilers: They're watching your expressions

Travelers at Sea-Tac and dozens of other major airports across America are being scrutinized by teams of TSA behavior-detection officers specially trained to discern the subtlest suspicious behaviors.

Read more.

Pakistan's Bhutto assassinated at rally

Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated Thursday in a suicide attack that also killed at least 20 others at a campaign rally, aides said.

Read more.

December 26, 2007

Now even scientists say broccoli can cure cancer, not just prevent it

The FDA has long frowned upon anyone claiming that vegetables or superfoods cure cancer. It's been okay to say they "prevent" cancer, but a cure is apparently reserved only for the realm of drugs, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation (none of which actually cure anything, in reality). That's why this article is so interesting: it claims that compounds from broccoli could be used in a cure for cancer. And it's not just broccoli, it's other foods, too: cabbage, mustard greens, turnips and more.

Read more.

New view of distant galaxy reveals furious star formation

A furious rate of star formation discovered in a distant galaxy shows that galaxies in the early universe developed either much faster or in a different way from what astronomers have thought.
‘This galaxy is forming stars at an incredible rate,’ said Wei-Hao Wang, an astronomer at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Socorro, New Mexico. The galaxy, Wang said, is forming the equivalent of 4,000 Suns a year. This is a thousand times more violent than our own Milky Way galaxy.

Read more.

Paul: Iran attack on Israel, illusion

The 72-year-old politician made the remarks as Israeli officials are stepping up their war rhetoric against Tehran, over its nuclear program despite the recent reports confirming the peaceful nature of the country's activities.

Ron Paul also made it clear that he would cut the 'billions of dollars' in annual aid Washington provides for Israel if elected President.

Give 'em hell, Ron.

Read more.

Angry Populace Burning British Surveillance Cameras

"Motorists Against Detection, the vigilante anti-speed camera group have announced a summer of MADness which will see them target for destruction all speed cameras in the UK. It’s now going to be a period of zero tolerance against all speed cameras, said their campaigns director Capt Gatso.

Read more.

December 25, 2007

The torture tape fingering Bush as a war criminal

The Washington Post reported that “current and former officials” said the torture lasted weeks and even, according to some, months, and that the techniques included hypothermia, long periods of standing, sleep deprivation and multiple sessions of waterboarding. All these “alternative procedures”, as Bush described them, are illegal under US law and the Geneva conventions. They are, in fact, war crimes. And they were once all treated by the US as war crimes when they were perpetrated by the Nazis. Waterboarding has been found to be a form of torture in various American legal cases.

And that is where the story becomes interesting. The Bush administration denies any illegality at all, insists it does not “torture” but refuses to say whether it believes waterboarding is torture or not. But hundreds of hours of videotape were recorded of Zubaydah’s incarceration and torture. That evidence would settle the dispute over the extremely serious question of whether the president of the United States authorised war crimes.

And now we have found out that all the tapes have been destroyed.


But this case is more ominous for the administration because it presents a core example of what seems to be a cover-up, obstruction of justice and a direct connection between torture and the president, the vice-president and their closest aides.


Any reasonable person examining all the evidence we have - without any bias - would conclude that the overwhelming likelihood is that the president of the United States authorised illegal torture of a prisoner and that the evidence of the crime was subsequently illegally destroyed.


It’s a potential Watergate. But this time the crime is not a two-bit domestic burglary. It’s a war crime that reaches into the very heart of the Oval Office.

Read the rest.

Questions and Answers About Americans’ Religion

About 82% of Americans in 2007 told Gallup interviewers that they identified with a Christian religion. That includes 51% who said they were Protestant, 5% who were "other Christian," 23% Roman Catholic, and 3% who named another Christian faith, including 2% Mormon.

Because 11% said they had no religious identity at all, and another 2% didn't answer, these results suggest that well more than 9 out of 10 Americans who identify with a religion are Christian in one way or the other.

It's an honor to be in the minority.

There's a lot more. Read it here.

December 23, 2007

Toronto-area Catholic school board bans Pullman fantasy trilogy

After yanking The Golden Compass from its library shelves for review, a Toronto-area Catholic school board has decided to make the removal permanent.

At a board meeting Tuesday evening, the trustees of the Halton District Catholic School Board voted to ban the title as well as the remaining two books in atheist author Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy: The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass.

Read more.

Politics and Religion

We don't mix religion and Politics here. We used to, mind. Back in the 1700s, the Church, the Monarchy and the Government walked hand in hand. And woe betide anyone who got in the way of one, because in doing so, you'd offend all three.

Which is what I always thought you lot across the pond struggled to get away from. Wasn't that one of the main reasons your founding fathers left the mother country to create the land of the free? To rid themselves from the shackles of organized religion. And yet, as you prepare to celebrate the last Christmas of the Bush Presidency, here you are with a bunch of candidates fairly tripping over themselves to be the loudest and proudest to boast their loyalty to God.


Your ancestors ran away from England to set up a society where the church couldn't tell them how to live their lives.

And yet God doesn't have a say in English politics today. Whereas in America, he's now got the casting vote. Happy Christmas.

Read more.

Freedom not the sole domain of the religious

Romney’s speech reinforces the flawed argument that atheists, agnostics and other secular individuals are lesser Americans undeserving of the same freedoms afforded to those who believe in a god, however they might define it.

Read more.

Ron Paul will win by a landslide

Analysis/Opinion-Republican presidential candidate and Texas Congressman, Ron Paul, can win the presidency. Contrary to the pundits and media propaganda, Ron Paul is best positioned to win the GOP nomination.


The point is it is already too late to stop Paul. He’s going to win the Republican nomination.

As a general election candidate Ron Paul will win a 50 state landslide against any Democratic nominee.


Once people go to Paul’s website and review his issues and record they either reject Paul’s ideas or they are sold. Paul will not lose any supporters to another candidate once they are in his camp.

Read more.

December 22, 2007

The Vote for Endless War

Next summer, when the money runs out, a cutoff of funds will be unimaginable. The election will be too close. So our troops are committed till the end of the president's term; after all the talk, the Democrats have ended by obeying him. This capitulation marks the climax of one of the most extraordinary displays in history of a complex phenomenon: power wielded in the face of popular rejection, and power surrendered in spite of overwhelming public support. A president whose policy was disapproved by more than half of the American people chose to defy a majority whose midterm victory he himself had called "a rout." And the majority, saying they wished things were different, pleading the necessity of 60 rather than 50 votes, but never exacting reprisals or driving a hard bargain against defectors from their own ranks--the majority, again and again, backed down.

This definitive result of the 110th Congress will confirm the popular feeling that George W. Bush believes in his disaster more than the Democrats believe in anything.

We let them run the country this way.

Read more.

Texas Imposes "Pole Tax" on Strip Club Patrons

Texas, where strip clubs have given rise to Anna Nicole Smith and many other less-generously endowed performers, is about to make it more expensive to watch a little bump and grind. In what some have dubbed the "pole tax," the Lone Star State will require its 150 or so strip clubs to collect a $5-per-customer levy, with most of the proceeds going to help rape victims. The tax goes into effect on New Year's Day.

Club owners and some of their customers say the money is going to a noble cause, but they argue that the tax infringes on their First Amendment right to freedom of expression, that it will drive some bars out of business and that it unfairly links their industry to sex crimes. ...

Having "most" of the tax proceeds go to rape victims is a low blow. I mean, who would go against that idea. The bottom line though is that strip clubs are frowned upon by some (apparently not by at least 8 million people in Texas) and they will try anything to get rid of them.

Read more.

Charlie's movie

The Reagan-era officials said the movie promotes the left-wing myth that the CIA-led operation funded Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda and ultimately produced the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Bin Laden, the officials said, never got CIA funding or weapons, and was not directly involved in Islamist extremist activities until years after the Afghan operation ended after the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989.

We'll see if they protest too much.

Read more.

FBI Prepares Vast Database Of Biometrics

The FBI is embarking on a $1 billion effort to build the world's largest computer database of peoples' physical characteristics, a project that would give the government unprecedented abilities to identify individuals in the United States and abroad.

Digital images of faces, fingerprints and palm patterns are already flowing into FBI systems in a climate-controlled, secure basement here. Next month, the FBI intends to award a 10-year contract that would significantly expand the amount and kinds of biometric information it receives. And in the coming years, law enforcement authorities around the world will be able to rely on iris patterns, face-shape data, scars and perhaps even the unique ways people walk and talk, to solve crimes and identify criminals and terrorists. The FBI will also retain, upon request by employers, the fingerprints of employees who have undergone criminal background checks so the employers can be notified if employees have brushes with the law.


At the West Virginia University Center for Identification Technology Research (CITeR), 45 minutes north of the FBI's biometric facility in Clarksburg, researchers are working on capturing images of people's irises at distances of up to 15 feet, and of faces from as far away as 200 yards. Soon, those researchers will do biometric research for the FBI.

Covert iris- and face-image capture is several years away, but it is of great interest to government agencies.

All in the name of "fighting terrorism" of course.

"Terrorism": the death nail of free societies everywhere.

Read more.

Sex education found to help teenagers delay sex

They found teenage boys who had sex education in school were 71 percent less likely to have intercourse before age 15, and teen girls who had sex education were 59 percent less likely to have sex before age 15.

Sex education also increased the likelihood that teen boys would use contraceptives the first time they had sex, according to the study by researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Read more.

Whales may have descended from small deer-like critter

It sounds like a stretch, but a new study suggests that the missing evolutionary link between whales and land animals is an odd raccoon-sized animal that looks like a long-tailed deer without antlers. Or an overgrown long-legged rat.

The creature is called Indohyus, and recently dug up fossils reveal some crucial evolutionary similarities between it and water-dwelling cetaceans, such as whales, dolphins and porpoises.

Read more.

No proof airport security makes flying safer-study

Airport security lines can annoy passengers, but there is no evidence that they make flying any safer, U.S. researchers reported on Thursday.

A team at the Harvard School of Public Health could not find any studies showing whether the time-consuming process of X-raying carry-on luggage prevents hijackings or attacks.

They also found no evidence to suggest that making passengers take off their shoes and confiscating small items prevented any incidents.

It's all about "conditioning".

Read more.

A Pre-Historic Nuclear War? Reflections on Worlds Before Our Own

Perhaps the most potentially mind-boggling evidence of an advanced prehistoric technology that might have blown its parent-culture away is to be found in those sites which ostensibly bear mute evidence of prehistoric nuclear warfare.

Large areas of fused green glass and vitrified cities have been found deep in the strata of archaeological digs at Pierrelatte in Gabon, Africa; the Euphrates Valley; the Sahara Desert; the Gobi Desert; Iraq; the Mojave Desert; Scotland; the Old and Middle Kingdoms of Egypt; and south-central Turkey. In contemporary times, such material as fused green glass has only been known at nuclear testing sites (where the sand had melted to form the substance). It is quite unsettling to some to consider it possible that these sites provide evidence of a prehistoric nuclear war. At the same time, scientists have found a number of uranium deposits that appear to have been mined or depleted in antiquity.

If it is possible that nuclear annihilation of a global civilization did occur in prehistoric times, it seems even more urgent to learn who we really are before we find ourselves doomed to repeat the lessons left to us, by a world before our own.

Read more.

December 19, 2007

Death Ray Replaced By The Voice of God

While U.S. efforts to deploy it's microwave Active Denial System (which transmits a searchlight sized bean of energy when makes people downrange feel like their skin is on fire) continue to be delayed, another non-lethal system, LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Device) has been quietly deployed to Iraq. And there the story gets a little strange.


Anyone whose head was touched by this beam, heard a painfully loud sound. Anyone standing next to them heard nothing.


This apparently gave the army guys some ideas, for there are now rumors in Iraq of a devilish American weapon that makes people believe they are hearing voices in their heads.


Islamic terrorists tend to be superstitious and, of course, very religious. LRAD can put the "word of God" into their heads. If God, in the form of a voice that only you can hear, tells you to surrender, or run away, what are you gonna do?

Read more.

FBI's Forensic Test Full of Holes

Hundreds of defendants sitting in prisons nationwide have been convicted with the help of an FBI forensic tool that was discarded more than two years ago. But the FBI lab has yet to take steps to alert the affected defendants or courts, even as the window for appealing convictions is closing, a joint investigation by The Washington Post and "60 Minutes" has found.

The science, known as comparative bullet-lead analysis, was first used after President John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963.

Read more.

Mars Melt Hints at Solar, Not Human, Cause for Warming, Scientist Says

Simultaneous warming on Earth and Mars suggests that our planet's recent climate changes have a natural—and not a human-induced—cause, according to one scientist's controversial theory.

Read more.

MPAA rejects Gibney's 'Dark' poster

The MPAA has rejected the one-sheet for Alex Gibney's documentary "Taxi to the Dark Side," which traces the pattern of torture practice from Afghanistan's Bagram prison to Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo Bay.


The image in question is a news photo of two U.S. soldiers walking away from the camera with a hooded detainee between them.

An MPAA spokesman said: "We treat all films the same. Ads will be seen by all audiences, including children. If the advertising is not suitable for all audiences it will not be approved by the advertising administration."

It sure doesn't look like all films are treated equally.

Read more here and then check out the trailer here.

December 17, 2007

Bush administration: Back off CIA tape probe

The Bush administration wants a federal court and congressional committees not to pursue investigations into the destruction of videotapes showing CIA interrogations of two al Qaeda suspects.

Read more.

Synthetic DNA on the Brink of Yielding New Life Forms

Now researchers are poised to cross a dramatic barrier: the creation of life forms driven by completely artificial DNA.

Scientists in Maryland have already built the world's first entirely handcrafted chromosome -- a large looping strand of DNA made from scratch in a laboratory, containing all the instructions a microbe needs to live and reproduce.

In the coming year, they hope to transplant it into a cell, where it is expected to "boot itself up," like software downloaded from the Internet, and cajole the waiting cell to do its bidding. And while the first synthetic chromosome is a plagiarized version of a natural one, others that code for life forms that have never existed before are already under construction.

Read more.

December 15, 2007

Next-Gen Sex Gets Its Jollies From Web 2.0

But if I've learned anything from writing Sex Drive over the years, it's this: Technology constantly challenges us to examine how we think, and how we feel, about sexuality. How we adapt technology for sex and sex for technology gives us a window into our assumptions, our clichés, our wishful thinking, our fears and our behavior.

Read more.

The land of the free - but free speech is a rare commodity

You can say what you like in the US, just as long as you don't ask awkward questions about America's role in the Middle East.

It used to be said that academic rows were vicious because the stakes were so small. That's no longer true in America, where a battle is underway on campuses over what can be said about the Middle East and US foreign policy.

Read more.

Report Says That the Rich Are Getting Richer Faster, Much Faster

The increase in incomes of the top 1 percent of Americans from 2003 to 2005 exceeded the total income of the poorest 20 percent of Americans, data in a new report by the Congressional Budget Office shows.

The poorest fifth of households had total income of $383.4 billion in 2005, while just the increase in income for the top 1 percent came to $524.8 billion, a figure 37 percent higher.


Earlier reports, based on tax returns, showed that in 2005 the top 10 percent, top 1 percent and fractions of the top 1 percent enjoyed their greatest share of income since 1928 and 1929.

Isn't that eerie?

Read more.

Bush Demands Freedom to Torture

From the Washington Post:

President Bush's repeated insistence that "we don't torture" appeared even more transparently bogus yesterday as the White House threatened to veto a House bill that would explicitly ban a variety of abhorrent practices.

The bill would require U.S. intelligence agencies to follow interrogation rules adopted by the armed forces last year.

What does that mean? As Pamela Hess writes for the Associated Press, those rules explicitly prohibit "forcing detainees to be naked, perform sexual acts, or pose in a sexual manner; placing hoods or sacks over detainees' heads or duct tape over their eyes; beating, shocking, or burning detainees; threatening them with military dogs; exposing them to extreme heat or cold; conducting mock executions; depriving them of food, water, or medical care; and waterboarding."

Administration officials have consistently refused to confirm or deny whether any of those methods have been sanctioned by the White House and are in use. But really all you need to know is this: According to yesterday's formal statement of administration policy, limiting intelligence agencies to the army rules "would prevent the United States from conducting lawful interrogations of senior al Qaeda terrorists to obtain intelligence needed to protect Americans from attack."

The White House then asserted, without a scintilla of evidence (see Tuesday's column): "Such interrogations have helped the United States disrupt multiple attacks against Americans at home and abroad, thus saving American lives."

Read the rest.

Designer baby fear over heart gene test

A British couple have won the right to test embryos for a gene that leads to high cholesterol levels and an increased risk of heart attacks, The Times has learnt.

Read more.

December 14, 2007

U.S. student scores grim

Some politicians don't seem to grasp the difference between science and faith, so it's no wonder scientific theory befuddles U.S. high school students. In the recent results of the Program for International Student Assessment given to 15-year-olds in 30 industrialized countries, Americans posted average science scores lower than 16 other countries.

In math, U.S. students had average scores below 23 other countries. The highest achievers in science were Finland, Hong Kong and Canada, while the best math performers were Finland, Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong.

"A key fact that is often missed in the reporting of international test results is that most of the countries that the U.S. outscores — like Mexico and Turkey — are not even among its economic peers," said Andrew Coulson, director of the Cato's Center for Educational Freedom. "When you look only at the world's wealthy, industrialized countries you find that the U.S. ranking falls still further. The overall results — which are already sobering — actually overstate how well we're doing."

Read more.

Torture, Destruction of Evidence, Obstruction of Justice--Just a Typical Day in the Bush Administration

The recent discovery of documents related to the torture videotapes that were destoyed is old news, not new. The fact is that since 2001, our government has tortured, lied about the torture, and destroyed court ordered evidence and documents of the torture. In other words, they've done everything they can to cover their own asses.

Read more.

It's Secular

The office of the president is a secular office in a secular government. There is not a word in the Constitution that authorizes the president or anyone else in the federal government to make a religious decision.

Why then are both voters and candidates wasting their time talking about religion? The personal religious beliefs of the candidates should be considered irrelevant. Furthermore, people should not forget that there are a lot more professors of religion than practitioners. What a person claims to believe and how that person leads his or her life are often quite different.


One can find faults with all religions. One should not forget, however, that the same can be said of all secular philosophies, ideologies and institutions. Nothing human is or ever will be perfect.

As for the presidential candidates, people should be asking not what these people claim to believe about God, but what have they actually done? How do their lives measure up to their speeches? Do they demonstrate a belief in and a concern for the Constitution? Do they have a wide knowledge of the world as it truly is? Are they catering to special interests? Are they independent thinkers or followers?

The presidential race is, after all, a search for a secular leader, not for a pope or ayatollah. The United States is in deep trouble politically, financially and economically. It will take a smart, sane and courageous person to get us out. Opportunists and people who sell their souls for campaign contributions may well preside over our national collapse.

Read the rest.

Light + Sound = New Weapon

Military funded researchers are preparing to test a nonlethal weapon that combines light and sound. Nicholas C. Nicholas, chief scientist of Penn State's Applied Research Laboratory, told an audience yesterday at a nonlethal weapons conference that in the first half of next year, the lab plans to test DSLAD, the Distributed Sound and Light Array Debilitator. It'll use essentially off the shelf technology to see if combining aversive noises with light produce some special debiliating effects. Anecdotal effects include dizziness and loss of balance, and of course, nausea. In other words, DSLAD could be another potential "puke ray."

Isn't that special?

Read more.

The CIA may use waterboarding on Al-Qaeda, but the simple truth is torture does not work

So what should we make of this? Clearly there is a need for interrogation, but where does interrogation stop and torture begin?


At a time when we are being relentlessly told that the war on terror is ultimately about ideas, ideologies, values or hearts and minds, it does the West's cause no good to be associated with torture in the world's dark basements.


Torture does not simply degrade the torturer and his victims while giving succour to its apologists; it sullies any regime connected with it, along with those White House lawyers and their sinister attempts to justify it with distinctions about "intense" or "harsh" interrogation.

There is very little evidence that torture works.

History will not, and should not, treat us kindly.

Read the rest.

Principal Tells Teachers To Dumb-Down Standards

Last month, Principal Bennett Lieberman sent off a stern memo to teachers.

"If you are not passing more than 65 percent of your students in a class, then you are not designing your expectations to meet their abilities, and you are setting your students up for failure, which, in turn, limits your success as a professional."

Was he ordering teachers to dumb down their classes?

The memo continued:

"Most of our students come from the lowest third percentile in academic achievement, have difficult home lives, and struggle with life in general. They DO NOT have a similar upbringing nor a similar school experience to our experiences growing up."

Need I say more?

Read the rest.

Global Carbon Tax Urged at UN Climate Conference

Like we didn't see this one coming:

A global tax on carbon dioxide emissions was urged to help save the Earth from catastrophic man-made global warming at the United Nations climate conference. A panel of UN participants on Thursday urged the adoption of a tax that would represent “a global burden sharing system, fair, with solidarity, and legally binding to all nations.”


Schwank said at least “$10-$40 billion dollars per year” could be generated by the tax, and wealthy nations like the U.S. would bear the biggest burden based on the “polluters pay principle.”

Read more and expect to give up even more of your money soon.

December 12, 2007

Vatican astronomer likens creationism to superstition

Speaking in Glasgow this week, Brother Guy Consolmagno said that scientists should protect against the tendency of religion to slide into superstition. In turn, he said, science needs religion "in order to have a conscience." In the case of creationism, he said, believers have constructed a theory that is not supported by scientific facts.

Read more.

December 11, 2007


So here's what the tapes would have shown: not just that we had brutally tortured an al-Qaeda operative, but that we had brutally tortured an al-Qaeda operative who was (a) unimportant and low-ranking, (b) mentally unstable, (c) had no useful information, and (d) eventually spewed out an endless series of worthless, fantastical "confessions" under duress. This was all prompted by the president of the United States, implemented by the director of the CIA, and the end result was thousands of wasted man hours by intelligence and and law enforcement personnel.

Nice trifecta there. And just think: there's an entire political party in this country that still thinks this is OK.

Read more.

Climate change hits Mars

Scientists from Nasa say that Mars has warmed by about 0.5C since the 1970s. This is similar to the warming experienced on Earth over approximately the same period.

Since there is no known life on Mars it suggests rapid changes in planetary climates could be natural phenomena.

Read more.

Senate Bill 1959 to Criminalize Thoughts, Blogs, Books and Free Speech Across America

The end of Free Speech in America has arrived at our doorstep. It's a new law called the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act,
and it is worded in a clever way that could allow the U.S. government
to arrest and incarcerate any individual who speaks out against the
Bush Administration, the war on Iraq, the Department of Homeland
Security or any government agency (including the FDA). The law has
already passed the House on a traitorous vote of 405 to 6, and it is
now being considered in the Senate where a vote is imminent. All over
the internet, intelligent people who care about freedom are speaking
out against this extremely dangerous law:
Philip Giraldi at the Huffington Post, Declan McCullagh at CNET's, Kathryn Smith at, and of course Alex Jones at

bill is the beginning of the end of Free Speech in America. If it
passes, all the information sources you know and trust could be shut
down and their authors imprisoned. NewsTarget could be taken offline
and I could be arrested as a "terrorist." Jeff Rense at
could be labeled a "terrorist" and arrested. Byron Richards, Len
Horowitz, Paul Craig Roberts, Greg Palast, Ron Paul and even Al Gore
could all be arrested, silenced and incarcerated. This is not an
exaggeration. It is a literal reading of the law, which you can check
yourself here:

Read more.


Watching images on a flat screen for prolonged periods impairs the development of a child’s vision, leading to nearsightedness and problems with shifting focus, experts say.

Read more.

Drivers could pay extra for life in fast lane

Drivers could be offered the option of paying to overtake queues of traffic on motorways under an idea secretly being considered by the Highways Agency.

An extra lane – dubbed a “Lexus lane” because of the perception that only wealthier drivers could afford to use them – would be added either by widening the road or using the hard shoulder. A toll would be introduced to ensure that the extra capacity did not simply fill up with extra traffic.

Read more.

Rapid acceleration in human evolution described

Human evolution has been moving at breakneck speed in the past several thousand years, far from plodding along as some scientists had thought, researchers said on Monday.


Many of the recent genetic changes reflect differences in the human diet brought on by agriculture, as well as resistance to epidemic diseases that became mass killers following the growth of human civilizations, the researchers said.


Genes have evolved relatively quickly in Africa, Asia and Europe but almost all of the changes have been unique to their corner of the world. This is the case, he said, because since humans dispersed from Africa to other parts of the world about 40,000 years ago, there has not been much flow of genes between the regions.

Read more.

DNA Dating Service Comes To Boston

A new dating service that says it's the first to use DNA matching to find that "perfect someone" is scheduled to launch in Boston Tuesday. promises its technology will use DNA to find a date with "a natural odor you'll love, with whom you'd have healthier children and a more satisfying sex life."

Read more.

December 8, 2007

Atheism trusts in humanity's potential

All you believers out there humor me for a minute (or more, depending on how fast you read). Use your imagination and run with what I'm saying, I think it's worth the time.

The argument between atheists and those who believe in a God, Supreme Being or deity is well known to most of us: followers of religion see atheists as shortsighted, immoral and self-centered. Atheists see the religiously devout as shortsighted, na've, and blind to reason.

I am an atheist, and I feel that many of my friends don't understand what atheism truly means, because frankly, it's a lot more than believing there's no God.


To atheists, God is just an extension of the human mind. It's the way people express feelings they don't want immediately connected to them.

Think about it. "I don't hate gay people; it's just that God says it's wrong." Take God away and that says: "I don't like gay people." Is that logic flawed? I guarantee you 99 out of 100 devout Catholics who think homosexuality is wrong based on the Bible don't like homosexuals anyway. People join clubs and organizations that share similar interests and views, how is religion any different?


That's the ultimate problem, I think, that atheists have with religion.

Its rules are stifling, and set limitations on humanity that aren't real, and are ultimately damaging.

In reality, you can change anything you want to, the only limitations set on you is by you.

But if you believe that God has created a world with rules and unalterable realities, you translate that to believe that society has the same unchangeable facets.

Atheism doesn't ruin the world by removing a pivotal structure of social stability and order.

Atheists don't believe religion is what creates social stability; we believe it limits our potential as a limitless species.

Read more.

Public schools don't teach atheism

The writer is confused about the difference between belief in God and belief in a religion. Each religion teaches about their god and the expected behavior of those that believe in that specific religion. You cannot say people are atheistic because they don't believe in your god, your religion or the majority religion in your country.

Read more.

Panic spreads as Uganda reports 101 Ebola cases

The outbreak, which started in August, has sparked panic amongst officials, health workers and the public, with the medical union calling on staff to refuse looking after patients unless they are issued proper protective gear.

Read more.

Ready to feel ashamed? Latest science from Japan

What do they teach in US schools again?... Oh yeah global warming, the bird flu, and terrorism alerts.

Check 'em all out.

NYPD tricking innocent people into committing nonexistent crimes, then charging them with felonies!

Find a wallet, go to jail? New York undercover cops have been leaving wallets and purses around in public spots in the city, then arresting anyone who picks them up and doesn’t present them to a nearby uniformed officer. Some arrestees have otherwise clean records and say they intended to use ID inside the bags to notify the rightful owners. Putting money inside the bags didn’t lead to serious enough charges, in the coppers’ view, so they began salting them with live American Express cards so that the finders could be charged with grand larceny, with four years behind bars.


The NYPD revealed Wednesday its Operation Lucky Bag stings have snared nearly 300 people - many of whom had no rap sheet before they fell for the ruse.

Read more.

Spies Like You and Me

I have no idea how Mr. Inskeep feels about this issue. He was just asking questions. But the last thing in the world that the United States needs is a signal from presidential wannabes that it’s a good idea to turn ordinary American citizens into immigrant-hunting busybodies.


She couldn’t have been more correct. Enlisting ordinary Americans in a nationwide hunt for so-called illegals is a recipe for violence and hysteria, a guarantee of tragedy.

And maybe that's what "they" want.

Read more.

December 7, 2007

Suburban Sex Parties Draw Complaints

The most popular address on Cedar Ridge Drive is Jim Trulock's split-level home, which has a group sex room and attracts as many as 100 people to swinger parties featuring "Naked Twister" nights.

But the festivities could soon be over. In response to neighbors' complaints, the city has outlawed sex clubs in residential areas. Citations have been issued, and search warrants may be next.

Read more.

IDF to show US nuclear data on Iran

Disappointed after failing to make their case on Iran and influence the outcome of the United States's National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) released this week, Military Intelligence will present its hard core evidence on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program on Sunday to the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff during a rare visit he will be making to Israel.

I know, I know, big surprise.

Read more.

Holy Highway: Evangelicals Pray to "Light" Interstate 35

Running right through the heart of the Twin Cities is a spiritual road that dozens of evangelical churches say is specifically mentioned in the Bible as the "Way of Holiness." They call it the "Highway of Holiness." Others call it Interstate 35.


The scriptural basis for the new movement comes from Isaiah 35:8, which reads, "And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it." Because of chapter 35, believers say the highway mentioned must be Interstate 35. In addition, a number of people in the "Highway of Holiness" movement claim to have had prophetic experiences that involve Interstate 35.

You know, the stupidity leaves me speechless.

Read more.

The Age Of Thought Crime Has Begun

So it's official. Thought crimes in the UK now do exist, and you can receive long jail sentences for committing a thought crime.

This isn't Orwell's 1984. It's worse :

Read the rest.

The Viacom Permalance Slave System

Here's what we hear from what we believe has truly become the Viacom sweatshop. (One Viacom permalancer estimates that almost 50% of the staff are contract workers at this point.) A 50-hour workweek will now be standard, at least at MTV Digital (which means no overtime until after 50 hours, and no overtime at all for higher-level people, like producers and segment producers), and all will go from a day rate to an hourly rate. Healthcare, which was offered to permalancers after a staggering year of service, will now be offered only to employees who have worked 1,280 hours (25 of those 50-hour workweeks) in any one division. And that's the catch: Get transfered, as often happens, from VH1 to MTV or the like, and you start over on that clock.


Tuition reimbursement is gone. Dental is gone. Commuter pre-tax deductions via WageWorks is gone. The healthcare goes from United Healthcare to Aetna.

Best of all: The company has asked workers to sign the paperwork before they attend the informational session that explains it.

Read more.

The Forged Origins of The New Testament

It has often been emphasised that Christianity is unlike any other religion, for it stands or falls by certain events which are alleged to have occurred during a short period of time some 20 centuries ago. Those stories are presented in the New Testament, and as new evidence is revealed it will become clear that they do not represent historical realities. The Church agrees, saying:
"Our documentary sources of knowledge about the origins of Christianity and its earliest development are chiefly the New Testament Scriptures, the authenticity of which we must, to a great extent, take for granted."
(Catholic Encyclopedia, Farley ed., vol. iii, p. 712)

Read the rest.

NASA Debunks Part of Global Warming Myth, Will Media Report It?

Is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration filled with climate change deniers?

Such seems likely to be alleged by hysterical alarmists in the press when and if they read a new study out of NASA which determined that "not all the large changes seen in Arctic climate in recent years are a result of long-term trends associated with global warming."

Read more.

C.I.A. Destroyed Tapes of Interrogations

The Central Intelligence Agency in 2005 destroyed at least two videotapes documenting the interrogation of two Al Qaeda operatives in the agency’s custody, a step it took in the midst of Congressional and legal scrutiny about the C.I.A’s secret detention program, according to current and former government officials.

The videotapes showed agency operatives in 2002 subjecting terror suspects — including Abu Zubaydah, the first detainee in C.I.A. custody — to severe interrogation techniques. They were destroyed in part because officers were concerned that tapes documenting controversial interrogation methods could expose agency officials to greater risk of legal jeopardy, several officials said.

You think?

Read more.

December 6, 2007

Teen births up for first time in 15 years

In a troubling reversal, the nation's teen birth rate rose for the first time in 15 years, surprising government health officials and reviving the bitter debate about abstinence-only sex education.

Read more.

Secrets Case Eyes Jurors' Religion

As two pro-Israel lobbyists near trial on charges of trafficking in classified information, a federal judge is preparing to grapple with some thorny questions, such as what to ask potential jurors about their religion and whether it is legal to knock jurors off the case based on their perceived religious affiliations.

Read more.

Evolution and Texas

Is Texas about to become the next state to undermine the teaching of evolution? That is the scary implication of the abrupt ousting of Christine Comer, the state’s top expert on science education. Her transgression: forwarding an e-mail message about a talk by a distinguished professor who debunks “intelligent design” and creationism as legitimate alternatives to evolution in the science curriculum.

In most states, we hope, the state department of education would take the lead in ensuring that students receive a sound scientific education. But it was the Texas Education Agency that pushed out Ms. Comer after 27 years as a science teacher and 9 years as the agency’s director of science.


It was especially disturbing that the agency accused Ms. Comer — by forwarding the e-mail message — of taking a position on “a subject on which the agency must remain neutral.” Surely the agency should not remain neutral on the central struggle between science and religion in the public schools. It should take a stand in favor of evolution as a central theory in modern biology. Texas’s own education standards require the teaching of evolution.

Read more.

Major copyright bill boosts penalties, creates new agency

In the aftermath of the $222,000 jury verdict that the Recording Industry Association of America recently won against a Minnesota woman who shared 24 songs on Kazaa, the U.S. Congress is preparing to amend copyright law.

Politicians want to increase penalties for copyright infringement.

It's no joke. Top Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday introduced a sweeping 69-page bill that ratchets up civil penalties for copyright infringement, boosts criminal enforcement, and even creates a new federal agency charged with bringing about a national and international copyright crackdown.


Probably the most extensive part of the PRO IP Act is its creation of a new federal bureaucracy called the White House Intellectual Property Enforcement Representative, or WHIPER. The head of WHIPER would be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

First off the name is ridiculous. Secondly, notice that the federal government gets even bigger. Thirdly, this copyright crap is getting way out of hand.

Read more.

Robot soldiers

House vote on illegal images sweeps in Wi-Fi, Web sites

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bill saying that anyone offering an open Wi-Fi connection to the public must report illegal images including "obscene" cartoons and drawings--or face fines of up to $300,000.

"Obscene cartoons and drawings"?

Just about anything can be labeled "obscene" by someone.

It gets worse:

Wednesday's vote caught Internet companies by surprise: the Democratic leadership rushed the SAFE Act to the floor under a procedure that's supposed to be reserved for noncontroversial legislation. It was introduced October 10, but has never received even one hearing or committee vote. In addition, the legislation approved this week has changed substantially since the earlier version and was not available for public review.

What? And we let them get away with doing this shit.

Not one Democrat opposed the SAFE Act. Two Republicans did: Rep. Ron Paul, the libertarian-leaning presidential candidate from Texas, and Rep. Paul Broun from Georgia.


The definition of which images qualify as illegal is expansive. It includes obvious child pornography, meaning photographs and videos of children being molested. But it also includes photographs of fully clothed minors in overly "lascivious" poses, and certain obscene visual depictions including a "drawing, cartoon, sculpture, or painting." (Yes, that covers the subset of anime called hentai).

Can you believe that shit? A cartoon. No child is being harmed by a cartoon. And isn't that the point of this ridiculous legislation: protect the children. The children being harmed are real children being abused, not stupid cartoon characters.

There are two more points worth noting. First, the vote on the SAFE Act seems unusually rushed. It's not entirely clear that the House Democratic leadership really meant this legislation to slap new restrictions on hundreds of thousands of Americans and small businesses who offer public wireless connections. But they'll nevertheless have to abide by the new rules if senators go along with this idea (and it's been a popular one in the Senate).

The second point is that Internet providers already are required by another federal law to report child pornography sightings to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which is in turn charged with forwarding that report to the appropriate police agency. So there's hardly an emergency, which makes the Democrats' rush for a vote more inexplicable than usual.

We should be concerned that this is how legislation gets passed; that we live in a nanny state where even the cartoons you watch/read are subject to government inspection and possibly a criminal activity.

Read more (while you are still allowed to read some online material).

December 5, 2007

Girls Make History by Sweeping Top Honors at a Science Contest

Girls won top honors for the first time in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology, one of the nation’s most coveted student science awards, which were announced yesterday at New York University.


Read more.

The sum of all fears: organized religion

It has become a rule, some sort of law of the popular culture upon which any open-minded human worth her soul can rely with utter and perfect clarity.

It goes like this: If there is a piece of art, a TV show, a column, a book, a movie, a blog, a movement, a wine bottle or sexual position that somehow deeply threatens the various ultraconservative sects of Christian-blasted America to the point where their pale, dour representatives demand boycotts and distribute angry pamphlets to try to stop people from experiencing said hunk of culture because of how negatively it portrays their seething, condemnatory God, well, it's time to break out the Champagne. Or buy that book. Or get very, very naked. Or all of the above.

So it is with the first movie made from Philip Pullman's astonishing "His Dark Materials" trilogy, "The Golden Compass," a complex, mystically gorgeous, spiritually dense, big-budget fantasy epic so far removed from the cute wizardry of Harry Potter and the thin, childish, monochromatic Christian morality of, say, "The Chronicles of Narnia," that it might as well be a Coen brothers movie. On acid.


The nefarious thing the books aim to kill is religious authority. It's about the destruction of dogma. It's about power, about who wants to control and manipulate life on Earth, about the blind, ignorant, even violent adherence to insidiously narrow codes of thought, belief, behavior, sex, desire and love.

This, of course, is the God of organized religion. This is the false deity that promotes numb groupthink, inhibits growth and abhors the feminine divine (perhaps the books' most beautiful, inspiring theme), the same paranoid, dreadful God that votes for George W. Bush because he will smite the icky gays and protect us from vile pagans and Buddhists and Muslims and feminists and frumpy genius atheist British writers. If humanity is to flourish, to get over its addiction to war and guilt and fear, this is the false God that should - that must - die.


Read more.

Justice Department sides with RIAA against Jammie Thomas

The Bush administration has officially entered the file-sharing lawsuit pitting the major record labels against a Minnesota woman named Jammie Thomas. And it's siding with the record labels.

There's a shocker.

Translation: It was perfectly reasonable for a jury to slap Thomas with a $222,000 penalty for making 24 songs available on Kazaa.

Read more.

Facebook Admits Ad Service Tracks Logged-Off Users

Facebook has confirmed findings of a CA security researcher that the social-networking site's Beacon ad service is more intrusive and stealthy than previously acknowledged, an admission that contradicts statements made previously by Facebook executives and representatives.

Read more and stay off Facebook.

The Savage Nation

‘Shove it up your pipe. I don’t wanna hear anymore about Islam…Take your religion and shove it up your behind…I’m sick of you…What kind of religion is this?…What kind of world are you living in when you let them in here with that throwback document in their hand, the Koran, a book of hate?…They need deportation, and without due process…They need to be forcibly converted to Christianity…It’s the only thing that can probably turn them into human beings.”

CAN YOU JUST IMAGINE, ladies and gents, the shrieking and howling taking place this very moment if the victims of this tirade had been Jews instead of Muslims, or if the author of this tirade–rather than being a hardcore Zionist Jew–had been a Christian or Muslim scholar of some sort or even–heaven forbid–a big-time media type?

Read more.

Bush Drops Standard on Iran as Credibility Questioned

President George W. Bush, his credibility under fire because of intelligence that Iran halted its nuclear weapons drive in 2003, adopted a new argument yesterday to justify tougher sanctions: Just knowing how to produce a bomb is dangerous.

Can you believe this shit?

Read more.

The Pioneer Anomaly

For the last three years, NASA analysts have reported a slow but steady "tug" on the Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft as they head outward in opposite directions from the sun. Based on the gravity-only model of the universe under which observational research is constrained, the research team has no explanation for what has been termed the "Pioneer Anomaly."

Read more.

Water shortages are likely to be trigger for wars

If global warming continues, water shortages could trigger more wars, Dr Zhang told The Times: “We are on alert, because this gives us the indication that resource shortage is the main cause of war. Human beings will definitely have conflicts over this; whether it turns to war depends on the quality of the social buffer available to each nation, but the danger is right there.”

Read more.

'Monster' Arctic Reptile Remains Found

Remains of a bus-sized prehistoric "monster" reptile found on a remote Arctic island may be a new species never before recorded by science, researchers said Tuesday.

Initial excavation of a site on the Svalbard islands in August yielded the remains, teeth, skull fragments and vertebrae of a reptile estimated to measure nearly 40 feet long, said Joern Harald Hurum of the University of Oslo.

"It seems the monster is a new species," he told The Associated Press.

Read more.

Over 40 million in U.S. can't afford health care: report

More than 40 million people in the United States say they cannot afford adequate heath care and go without drugs, eyeglasses or dental treatment, according to a federal report released on Monday.

That's roughly 13% of the US population.

Read more.

Getting inside their heads ... really inside

What do Rudy Giuliani's messy personal life, John McCain's temper and Hillary Clinton's inability to seem authentic have in common? Maybe nothing. They may be just overblown issues in the otherwise normal lives of candidates under the political microscope.

Such symptoms, however, may mean a lot -- such as evidence of underlying brain dysfunction. Sometimes people with messy personal lives have low prefrontal cortex activity associated with poor judgment; sometimes people with temper problems have brain damage and impulse control problems; sometimes people who struggle with authenticity have trouble really seeing things from someone else's perspective.


Should we go so far as to do brain scans? Of candidates for the Oval Office? Some people might consider discussing brain health a ridiculous idea. Not me.

As a neuropsychiatrist and brain-imaging expert, I want our elected leaders to be some of the "brain healthiest people" in the land. How do you know about the brain health of a presidential candidate unless you look? The brain is involved in everything humans do: how we think, how we feel, how we get along with others, how we negotiate, how we pay attention in meetings and how we turn away the advances of White House interns or decide to invade a country based on contradictory intelligence.

Three of the last four presidents have shown clear brain pathology.


A national leader with brain problems can potentially cost millions of people their lives.


Ensuring that our president has a healthy brain may be more than an interesting topic of conversation. It can be important information to put into the election equation. A president with brain problems could wreak havoc on the U.S. and the world at large. Maybe we shouldn't leave the health of our president's brain to chance. We have the tools; shouldn't we look?

Interesting question.

Read the rest.

December 4, 2007

The Fallout from the Iran Nukes Report

Anyone following the Iran nuclear issue via the presidential debates might have been shocked to learn Monday that the U.S. intelligence community now believes that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program four years ago, and is unlikely to have restarted it.

Read more.

December 2, 2007

CNN: Corrupt News Network

THE United States is at war in the Middle East and Central Asia, the economy is writhing like a snake with a broken back, oil prices are relentlessly climbing toward $100 a barrel and an increasing number of Americans just can't afford to be sick with anything that won't be treated with aspirin and bed rest.

So, when CNN brought the Republican presidential candidates together this week for what is loosely termed a "debate," what did the country get but a discussion of immigration, Biblical inerrancy and the propriety of flying the Confederate flag?


Selecting a president is, more than ever, a life and death business, and a news organization that consciously injects itself into the process, as CNN did by hosting Wednesday's debate, incurs a special responsibility to conduct itself in a dispassionate and, most of all, disinterested fashion. When one considers CNN's performance, however, the adjectives that leap to mind are corrupt and incompetent.


HERE'S what Pew found: By an overwhelming margin, Americans think the war in Iraq is the most important issue facing the United States, followed by the economy, healthcare and energy prices. In fact, if you lump the war into a category with terrorism and other foreign policy issues, 40% of Americans say foreign affairs are their biggest concern in this election cycle. If you do something similar with all issues related to the economy, 31% list those questions as their most worrisome issue. As anybody who has looked at their 401(k) or visited a gas pump would expect, that aggregate figure has increased dramatically since Pew started polling in January. Back then, for example, concerns over the war outpaced economic anxieties by fully 8 to 1. By contrast, just 6% of the survey's national sample said that immigration was the most important electoral issue. Moreover, that number hasn't changed in a statistically meaningful way since the first of the year. In other words, more than nine out of 10 Americans think something matters more than immigration in this presidential election.

So, why did CNN make immigration the keystone of this debate? What standard dictated the decision to give that much time to an issue so remote from the majority of voters' concerns? The answer is that CNN's most popular news-oriented personality, Lou Dobbs, has made opposition to illegal immigration and free trade the centerpiece of his neonativist/neopopulist platform.


Those are significant swings of opinion, yet the poll also found that more than half of Americans still favor withdrawing American troops. That disconnect is a real issue for the GOP candidates, all but one of whom support the war. Unless we're going to believe that the self-selecting YouTube questioners were utterly different from the rest of American voters, it seems pretty clear that CNN ignored these complex -- and highly relevant concerns -- for an issue that served its ratings interests -- immigration -- or ones that made for moments of conventional television conflict, like gun control, which doesn't even show up in surveys of voters' concerns.

Glad to see this in the LA Times.

Read the rest.

The 'tut-tut' police keep us on the street and narrow

The nanny-state at work:

The fun police have slapped an "adults only" warning on a new DVD of classic episodes, which featured a world in which children played in the street, a monster gorged on cookies and a bad-tempered puppet lived in a bin.

The episodes, made between 1969 and 1974, have been released in the US with the caution: "These early Sesame Street episodes are intended for grown-ups and may not suit the needs of today's preschool child."

I guess I'm a screwed up adult considering those were the episodes I watched as a child.

Back then, Big Bird's bumbling friend Mr Snuffleupagus was still imaginary, which might encourage "delusion behaviour". And trash-loving Oscar the Grouch has been targetted for his blatant bad manners and questionable hygiene.

"We might not be able to create a character like Oscar today," Parente told The New York Times.

I loved Mr. Snuffleupagus! I guess that means I'm delusional. And Oscar, I thought he was the funniest.

Griffiths said children could tell the difference between fantasy and reality and did not blindly mimic the behaviour of clearly fictional characters.

"People who claim to be protecting children always make the assumption that what children see is what they will do," he said. "Underlying that is the assumption that kids can't tell the difference between fantasy and real life and I have found that to be consistently bogus."

Ah, the voice of reason.

I guess, I'll be getting these early seasons of Sesame Street and showing to my preschool child. I'm wondering if I should stay away from today's "politically correct" seasons.

Read more.

White House to Cut Anti-Terror Funds

The Bush administration intends to slash counterterrorism funding for police, firefighters and rescue departments across the country by more than half next year, according to budget documents obtained by The Associated Press.

The Homeland Security Department has given $23 billion to states and local communities to fight terrorism since the Sept. 11 attacks, but the administration is not convinced that the money has been well spent and thinks the nation's highest-risk cities have largely satisfied their security needs.


Read more.

Black Alabama political groups split presidential endorsements

Turner said Clinton is the Democrat most likely to win in November "because of her husband and because of some other things, mainly because she's white."

Read more.

December 1, 2007

Is God Using NAFTA Superhighway to Stop Homosexuality?

A number of Christians have come to believe, because of recent prophecies, dreams, and visions, that I-35 is the highway spoken in Isaiah 35, verse 8: “And a highway will be there, it will be called the way of holiness.”

The world we live in.

Read more.

Bombs away?

We are also witnessing what appears to be a chilling rerun of the Iraq debacle. Confronted with evidence that calls into question the status of Iran's nuclear program, the Bush administration is shifting its rhetoric.

Read more.

Water Power

Reckoning: The Economic Consequences of Mr. Bush

When we look back someday at the catastrophe that was the Bush administration, we will think of many things: the tragedy of the Iraq war, the shame of Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib, the erosion of civil liberties. The damage done to the American economy does not make front-page headlines every day, but the repercussions will be felt beyond the lifetime of anyone reading this page.

I can hear an irritated counterthrust already. The president has not driven the United States into a recession during his almost seven years in office. Unemployment stands at a respectable 4.6 percent. Well, fine. But the other side of the ledger groans with distress: a tax code that has become hideously biased in favor of the rich; a national debt that will probably have grown 70 percent by the time this president leaves Washington; a swelling cascade of mortgage defaults; a record near-$850 billion trade deficit; oil prices that are higher than they have ever been; and a dollar so weak that for an American to buy a cup of coffee in London or Paris—or even the Yukon—becomes a venture in high finance.

And it gets worse. After almost seven years of this president, the United States is less prepared than ever to face the future. We have not been educating enough engineers and scientists, people with the skills we will need to compete with China and India. We have not been investing in the kinds of basic research that made us the technological powerhouse of the late 20th century. And although the president now understands—or so he says—that we must begin to wean ourselves from oil and coal, we have on his watch become more deeply dependent on both.

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Republicans Report Much Better Mental Health Than Others

Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats or independents to rate their mental health as excellent, according to data from the last four November Gallup Health and Healthcare polls.

Of course Republicans rate their own mental health as excellent. Many of them live with their heads in the sand, only seeing what they want to see. Many have little concern for their fellow human beings on the planet, much less the planet itself. There's no way they (Republicans) can possibly be responsible for any of the mess the human race is in, and they have even less responsibility for the shape the planet is in. It appears they don't see that we humans are in this thing together and should all be treated equally. Rather, they appear to do what needs to be done in order to achieve power and wealth for themselves and/or their buddies. (Yes, I'm well aware that this also applies to many people who are not Republicans.)

Regardless if one is a Republican or not, self-reporting that one's own mental health is excellent is like alcoholics denying they have a drinking problem. Neither is in the position to make that diagnosis.

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Show seeks to love match migrants and U.S. citizens

A Los Angeles company is touting a new reality game show called "Who Wants to Marry a U.S. Citizen" that aims to create televised matrimony between legal citizens and immigrants who have temporary visas.

The show's backers at Morusa Media hope to make a sort of love match between reality TV and a national obsession with immigration. But the producers make no promise that a marriage will occur or lead to U.S. citizenship.

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November 30, 2007

Pope Criticizes Atheism in Encyclical

Pope Benedict XVI strongly criticized atheism in a major document released Friday, saying it had led to some of the "greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice" ever known.

In his second encyclical, Benedict also critically questioned modern Christianity, saying its focus on individual salvation had ignored Jesus' message that true Christian hope involves salvation for all.

The document, titled "Saved by Hope," is a deeply theological exploration of Christian hope: that in the suffering and misery of daily life, Christianity provides the faithful with a "journey of hope" to the Kingdom of God.

"We must do all we can to overcome suffering, but to banish it from the world is not in our power," Benedict wrote. "Only God is able to do this."

And that's bullshit. That last statement is nothing but a cop out. All it does is give humanity permission to keep acting in barbaric ways.

And by the way, hasn't religion led to some of the "greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice" ever known? Oh, yeah, it has. But, as always, the religious need someone else to blame and demonize to make their actions seem more honorable and justified. Well, guess what, both the religious and non-religious have committed some major atrocities throughout history. You and your church, Mr. Pope, do not get off without some of the blame.

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Genetic Cosmetic Makes Old Skin Like New

Scientists at Stanford have reversed the aging of skin in mice, making it look and act like new skin.

The researchers first discovered a protein that plays a role in skin aging. Then they used a lotion that inhibited the protein in a genetically engineered mouse. After two weeks of treatment with their genetic cosmetic, the skin of older mice displayed the look and genetic profile of younger skin.

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Golden Compass author hits back

The author of the book on which the new film The Golden Compass is based has hit back at critics who accuse him of peddling "candy-coated atheism".

Philip Pullman dismissed as "absolute rubbish" accusations by the US-based Catholic League that the film promotes atheism and denigrates Christianity.

Don't "candy-coat" it. Tell it like it is.

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Column: The time has come to move past religion

Returning today, however, the Madman would say that God is still dead while religion is still as deadly and as ungodly as ever.


It is no surprise then that non-believers have had enough of the killing in God's name, or Jesus' name, or Mohammed's name, or for Allah. The age of religion is over, and it is by keeping such obsolete notions alive that they become deadlier.


Today, science can explain much of the unknown, and we have complex religions to take care of the rest. But what has changed? Certainly not our propensity for killing, violence, greed and deceit.


They are being called by some the New Atheists, while they might be seen as New Madmen approaching our Christian society with fingers pointed, saying, ``Look at what you've done. You don't really believe or we wouldn't be still living in a world beset with the same moral outrages as in centuries past. It is time to move on.''


However bold they might be, nothing is going to change overnight. Tens of thousands of years of fear and faith are not going to wither away without a natural process of evolution.

Aggressive atheists, however, may be part of that process -- helping push consciousness to higher levels that not only don't need religion to live, but don't need it to kill and make war.

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Sudan protesters: Execute teacher

Hundreds of protesters brandishing swords and sticks gathered outside Khartoum's presidential palace Friday to vent their anger against a British teacher jailed for allowing children to name a teddy bear "Mohammed."

About 600 Islamic demonstrators piled out of mosques, chanting: "By soul, by blood, I will fight for the Prophet Mohammed." Some of the protesters demanded the teacher's execution, according to The Associated Press.

The agency reports that some chanted: "No tolerance: Execution," and "Kill her, kill her by firing squad."

This is the world we have created.

Fucking pathetic.

And religion is a "good" thing? Hmmmmm. I'm trying to find the "good" here, people.

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Study: 'Huge jump' in Microsoft flaws since last year

Between 2006 and 2007, there was an almost threefold rise in Microsoft flaws, Qualys said on Wednesday.

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MTV to offer all 'South Park' clips online

MTV Networks plans to make every clip from every episode of hit animated comedy South Park available for free online next year as part of a strategy to reach consumers everywhere.

The decision from the biggest division of media conglomerate Viacom follows on the heels of the The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, whose popularity online has helped boost television viewership.

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McCain blames Rise of Hitler on Ron Paul

In a new low of despicable looniness, at the Republican debate in St. Petersburg, John McCain equated those Americans who want to stop militarily occupying Iraq with Hitler-enablers. He actually said that, saying that it was 'isolationism' of a sort that allowed Hitler to come to power.

It gives a person a certain amount of faith in one's fellow Americans that McCain was booed by the Republican crowd for this piece of calumny. Comparisons to Hitler should be automatic grounds for a candidate to be disqualified from being president.

But then McCain is the same person who joked about bombing Iran. He thinks that killing all those children from the air would be funny?

John, buddy,...shut up. You are washed up and irrelevant.

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