Monday, August 30, 2004

I'm back and I have something for you to read...

Sorry I haven't posted in a bit... I've been studying all weekend for what was supposed to be "the hardest test of my entire life." Anyhow, now that I'm back and I've got your attention again (and I know it's fleeting, but please, bear with me), I thought I'd share this article from USA Today with you. I think it makes some very good points. Please read it and let me know what you think. Thanks, L.

The GOP doesn't reflect America
Michael Moore, Filmmaker


NEW YORK — Welcome, Republicans. You're proud Americans who love your country. In your own way, you want to make this country a better place. Whatever our differences, you should be commended for that.

But what's all this talk about New York being enemy territory? Nothing could be further from the truth. We New Yorkers love Republicans. We have a Republican mayor and governor, a death penalty and two nuclear plants within 30 miles of the city.

New York is home to Fox News Channel. The top right-wing talk shows emanate from here — Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly among them. The Wall Street Journal is based here, which means your favorite street is here. Not to mention more Fortune 500 executives than anywhere else.

You may think you're surrounded by a bunch of latte-drinking effete liberals, but the truth is, you're right where you belong, smack in the seat of corporate America and conservative media.

Let me also say I admire your resolve. You're true believers. Even though only a third of the country defines itself as "Republican," you control the White House, Congress, Supreme Court and most state governments.

You're in charge because you never back down. Your people are up before dawn figuring out which minority group shouldn't be allowed to marry today.

Our side is full of wimps who'd rather compromise than fight. Not you guys.

Hanging out around the convention, I've encountered a number of the Republican faithful who aren't delegates. They warm up to me when they don't find horns or a tail. Talking to them, I discover they're like many people who call themselves Republicans but aren't really Republicans. At least not in the radical-right way that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft and Co. have defined Republicans.

I asked one man who told me he was a "proud Republican," "Do you think we need strong laws to protect our air and water?"

"Well, sure," he said. "Who doesn't?"

I asked whether women should have equal rights, including the same pay as men.

"Absolutely," he replied.

"Would you discriminate against someone because he or she is gay?"

"Um, no." The pause — I get that a lot when I ask this question — is usually because the average good-hearted person instantly thinks about a gay family member or friend.

I've often found that if I go down the list of "liberal" issues with people who say they're Republican, they are quite liberal and not in sync with the Republicans who run the country. Most don't want America to be the world's police officer and prefer peace to war. They applaud civil rights, believe all Americans should have health insurance and think assault weapons should be banned. Though they may personally oppose abortion, they usually don't think the government has the right to tell a women what to do with her body.

There's a name for these Republicans: RINOs or Republican In Name Only. They possess a liberal, open mind and don't believe in creating a worse life for anyone else.

So why do they use the same label as those who back a status quo of women earning 75 cents to every dollar a man earns, 45 million people without health coverage and a president who has two more countries left on his axis-of-evil-regime-change list?

I asked my friend on the street. He said what I hear from all RINOs: "I don't want the government taking my hard-earned money and taxing me to death. That's what the Democrats do."

Money. That's what it comes down to for the RINOs. They do work hard and have been squeezed even harder to make ends meet. They blame Democrats for wanting to take their money. Never mind that it's Republican tax cuts for the rich and billions spent on the Iraq war that have created the largest deficits in history and will put all of us in hock for years to come.

The Republican Party's leadership knows America is not only filled with RINOs, but most Americans are much more liberal than the delegates gathered in New York.

The Republicans know it. That's why this week we're seeing gay-loving Rudy Giuliani, gun-hating Michael Bloomberg and abortion-rights advocate Arnold Schwarzenegger.

As tough of a pill as it is to swallow, Republicans know that the only way to hold onto power is to pass themselves off as, well, as most Americans. It's a good show.

So have a good time, Republicans. It could be your last happy party for awhile if all the RINOs and liberal majority figure it out on Nov. 2.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Guy Carries Mom in Basket

HABIB BEARY, BBC - Village womenfolk consider him a saint as he trudges along the national highway leading towards India's technology hub, Bangalore, in the southern state of Karnataka. Some of them prostrate themselves before the saffron-clad 32-year-old, Kailashgiri Brahmachari.

Swami, as he is described, is on an epic mission - he is carrying his aged, blind mother, Kethakdevi, on his shoulders on an all-India pilgrimage. He has already covered more than 6,000km (3,750 miles), beginning the journey in his native village of Piparia, near Jabalpur in the northern state of Madhya Pradesh eight years ago. If all goes well, Kailashgiri's grand plan is to end his spiritual quest at the next Kumbh Mela Hindu festival in the holy city of Varanasi in 2013.

The loving son carries two baskets on his shoulders, balanced by a wooden bar. In one, his mother, in the other his meagre belongings. "It does ache, but I am determined to complete the yatra [pilgrimage] even it takes another 12 years," says Kailashgiri. Villagers liken him to the Hindu mythological figure, Shravana Kumar, who is said to have carried his aged, blind parents on pilgrimages.

"In this modern age, this is very rare. It shows how much he cares for his mother," says Gowaramma, a grandmother from Buvanahalli, a village 25km from Bangalore.

"My message is simple," Kailashgiri says. "Take care of your parents. If you don't, your children will also neglect you."

Olympic Medals Per Capita

[Updated daily by the Australian Bureau of Statistics]

1 Bahamas
2 Australia
3 New Zealand
4 Greece
5 Norway
6 Georgia
7 Slovakia
8 Romania
9 Sweden
10 United Arab Emirates
11 Hungary
12 Lithuania
13 Bulgaria
14 Belarus
15 Denmark
16 Netherlands
17 Ukraine
18 France
19 Switzerland
20 Italy
21 Korea (South)
22 Chile
23 Great Britain
24 Japan
25 Germany
26 Czech Republic
27 Belgium
28 Cuba
29 United States
30 Zimbabwe

India didn't do too well... ;-)

Bush's CIA Nominee Tried to Gut Key Intelligence Programs

Have you seen the TV ads Bush has been running attacking Kerry for supporting legislation that would have cut the defense budget after the Cold War?

It turns out Bush's own nominee for Director of the CIA (Porter Goss) wanted to cut the intelligence budget by even more than Kerry.

Read the Washington Post article.


THE DAILY MISLEAD - President Bush has repeatedly criticized his opponent(1) for joining with Republicans to slightly reduce funding for intelligence after the end of the Cold War.(2) But a new report shows that the President recently nominated a CIA Director who tried to make far deeper cuts in intelligence, even as terrorist attacks against the United States increased.

Despite the known threat of terrorism, Bush nominated Rep. Porter Goss (R-FL) to be the new CIA Director - a man who has led the effort to cut the very intelligence priorities that are most critical to the fight against terrorism. As the Washington Post reports, Goss actually "sponsored legislation that would have cut intelligence personnel by 20 percent in the late 1990s." Goss insisted on these cuts even after the 1993 World Trade Center attack when America became aware of the serious terrorist threat. As the story notes, the cuts Goss supported are far larger than those proposed by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and were specifically targeted at "human intelligence." That is the very same priority which the 9/11 Commission and other independent experts say was lacking in the days and months leading up to the 9/11 attacks.(3)

The revelations about Goss come only a few weeks after similar evidence came to light showing that Vice President Cheney has also repeatedly tried to stop intelligence reforms and cut critical defense programs. For instance, in 1992, Cheney led the effort to block the very same intelligence reforms the 9/11 Commission said would have made the United States better prepared to deal with the threat of al Qaeda. Similarly, while the Bush-Cheney campaign has attacked Kerry for supposedly reducing defense spending,(4) it was Cheney himself in 2000 who admitted that as Defense Secretary, he "did in fact significantly reduce the overall size of the U.S. military."(5) And in 1990, it was Cheney who went to Capitol Hill to tout his effort to slash defense, bragging about "programs that I have recommended for termination."(6)

Sources:
1. "Bush chides Kerry on intelligence cuts," Washington Times, 3/09/04.
2. "Bush Strains Facts Re: Kerry's Plan To Cut Intelligence Funding in '90's," FactCheck.org, 3/15/04.
3. "Goss Backed '95 Bill to Slash Intelligence," Washington Post, 8/24/04.
4. "Remarks by the Vice President at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum," WhiteHouse.gov, 3/17/04.
5. "latimes.com: Cheney acknowledges defense cuts began on his watch," CNN.com, 8/24/00.
6. Congressional Testimony, 2/01/90.

Microsoft's Multicultural Missteps

JO BEST, CNET NEWS - Microsoft's lack of multicultural savvy cost the Redmond, Wash., behemoth millions of dollars, according to a company executive. The software giant has seen its products banned in some of the biggest markets on earth -- and it's all because of eight wrongly colored pixels, a dodgy choice of music and a bad English-to-Spanish dictionary. Speaking at the International Geographical Union congress in Glasgow last week, Microsoft's top man in its geopolitical strategy team, Tom Edwards, revealed how one of the biggest companies in the world managed to offend one of the biggest countries in the world with a political faux pas.

When coloring in 800,000 pixels on a map of India, Microsoft colored eight of them a different shade of green to represent the disputed Kashmiri territory. The difference in greens meant Kashmir was shown as non-Indian, and the product was promptly banned in India. Microsoft was left to recall all 200,000 copies of the offending Windows 95 operating system software to try to heal the diplomatic wounds. "It cost millions," Edwards said...

Another blunder from Microsoft involved the use of chanting of the Quran as a soundtrack for a computer game, which was roundly denounced by the government of Saudi Arabia and then banned.

A Spanish-language version of Windows XP, destined for Latin American markets, asked users to select their gender between "not specified," "male" or "bitch," because of an unfortunate error in translation.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Massai Protest

BBC - Kenyan riot police have used tear gas to disperse more than 100 Maasai protesters in traditional outfits in the capital, Nairobi. The Kenyan police said they used force because the protest was illegal.

The Kenyan government has rejected demands by ethnic Maasai protesters for the return of land leased to British settlers 100 years ago. Lands Minister Amos Kimunya said the government did not recognise the colonial-era treaties. The original lease expired this weekend on one million hectares of land, traditionally used by the Maasai and then occupied by white farmers.

Over the weekend, Kenyan police shot dead a 70-year-old Maasai tribesman who was trying to graze his cattle on a white-owned farm. Four other herdsman were injured in the shooting which took place 40 km north of Nanyuki township in central Kenya. Police said 71 people, all believed to be Maasai land protesters, were arrested.

"Hey, if they're not saying good things about me..."

DANA MILBANK, WASHINGTON POST - Now for an update on the White House's ongoing effort to kill the press corps. The White House travel office signed a contract last week with an airline called Primaris to fly the press corps to Bush events. The two-month-old company has only one airplane. True, media representatives gave their blessing to the deal. But that was before they learned that the company's president twice had his pilot's license revoked related to his flying of an "unairworthy" aircraft, that the chief executive flopped in his last attempt to start an airline and that the 15-year-old plane itself was damaged in a hailstorm a decade ago and spent most of the past two years mothballed in France.

When Games Imitate Life

BBC - For men without a partner, help may be at hand - in the form of a virtual girlfriend. The Hong Kong company Artificial Life, which developed the new game, says the girl will appear as an animated figure on the video screen of a mobile phone... All virtual girls will look the same - but each girl will behave differently - depending on how much money is spent on her.

On top of a general subscription, men will be charged a fee to buy flowers and gifts for the virtual girlfriend. In return, she will introduce them to different aspects of her life, like letting them meet her female friends - also electronic images. If players neglect her, she will refuse to speak.

But unlike other computer games, it seems that cash, not skill, will enable players to climb the different levels in the game... The company has plans to introduce a virtual boyfriend for women, although it remains to be seen how it will persuade them to spend extra money on the game.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Listen to Me...

this is an audio post - click to play

Sunday, August 22, 2004

More on Black Box Voting

AP - The three companies that certify the nation's voting technologies operate in secrecy, and refuse to discuss flaws in the ATM-like machines to be used by nearly one in three voters in November. Despite concerns over whether the so-called touchscreen machines can be trusted, the testing companies won't say publicly if they have encountered shoddy workmanship.

They say they are committed to secrecy in their contracts with the voting machines' makers — even though tax money ultimately buys or leases the machines. "I find it grotesque that an organization charged with such a heavy responsibility feels no obligation to explain to anyone what it is doing," Michael Shamos, a Carnegie Mellon computer scientist and electronic voting expert, told lawmakers in Washington, D.C.

The system for "testing and certifying voting equipment in this country is not only broken, but is virtually nonexistent," Shamos added. Although up to 50 million Americans are expected to vote on touchscreen machines on Nov. 2, federal regulators have virtually no oversight over testing of the technology. The certification process, in part because the voting machine companies pay for it, is described as obsolete by those charged with overseeing it...

Critics of reliance on touchscreen machines want not just paper records — only Nevada among the states expects to have them installed in its touchscreens come November — but also public scrutiny of the software they use. The machine makers have resisted...

Critics led by Stanford University computer science professor David Dill say it's an outrage that the world's most powerful democracy doesn't already have an election system so transparent its citizens know it can be trusted. "Suppose you had a situation where ballots were handed to a private company that counted them behind a closed door and burned the results," said Dill, founder of VerifiedVoting.org. "Nobody but an idiot would accept a system like that. We've got something that is almost as bad with electronic voting."

This is your PRESIDENT. Think about that.

This is Disturbing...

What would Bush look like as a girl?

What would Kerry look like as a woman?

The Scream

I was walking along the road with two friends.
The sun was setting.
I felt a breath of melancholy -
Suddenly the sky turned blood-red.
I stopped, and leaned against the railing, deathly tired -
looking out across the flaming clouds that hung like blood and a sword
over the blue-black fjord and town.
My friends walked on - I stood there, trembling with fear.
And I sensed a great, infinite scream pass through nature.

Edvard Munch, 22 Jaunuary 1892

That Was a Crazy Game of Poker

Well, K-Dawg's birthday bash extravaganza has now officially come to an end. But I'm happy to report that the evening's festivities came to a fruitful finish for moi.


The Gang of Five played Texas Hold'em tonight for a few hours; we had a real set of chips and everything. In case you're not familiar with the game, I recommend watching this variation of poker being played on ESPN on Tuesday nights sometime.

To buy into the game, each of us put $3 into the pool (I know, we're big rollers), and we decided the person who knocked off the rest of the opposition would get a prize of $10 with the person who came in second acquiring five fresh greenbacks.

Well, after much excitement and outright craziness, I managed to win the pot, eliminating Scrizzle in two big hands: 1st, a well-played trio of sevens for me vs. two pair for her and then -- to take it all -- a pair of kings, ace high for me to a pair of kings, ten high for her). I could go into more detail about this amazing game, but I feel that no matter what I write, it couldn't compare with the description given by a certain SarcasticGuy of his last Texas Hold'em experience.

So in lieu of more rambling by me, I'll turn the soapbox over to him. Here it is, rant #68:

So I was playing no limit Texas hold'em today with two friends. I was sucking ass and we decided to play a 3rd game. This game lasted 2 hours and at one point I had <4000 of a total 35000. I started playing defensively and eventually the other guy went out. I had around 7000. I got my hand and on the first flop I had a flush and bet well and went all in eventually and so did the other guy. He had a straight and I doubled my money. Then on the next hand I got a ROYAL FLUSH on the flop!!! I did the same thing and got him to go all in and he had 2K and 2J. We were about even. Next hand we went all in because we both were dealt 2A so poop. 3 hands later we eventually went all in again, I had 2K and 3J and the other guy had 4 threes. I lost but it was the most awesome game I have ever played, and I used up all my luck. :-(

If that didn't get you excited about gambling, I don't know if anything could. He should be in PR for the boats.

All right, I'm done gloating now. ;-) But I'll leave you with one of my favorite songs...

You can listen to it by going to the band's site and using the media player at the bottom of the screen. Actually, there are two versions of the song available there; one is recorded in studio (my favorite - The Wanderer album), but it seems to cut off halfway through on this site for me, so if you want to hear the song in its entirety, go with Disc 2 of Any Time Now.

"That Was A Crazy Game Of Poker" (O.A.R.)

My twenty thrown down in my fist of rage
And the man to my left just folded down
Johnny doubled up with a Royal Flush
I had three jacks and a pair of nines
My mind is turning just two shots more
There's not much left to play
Then dude walks in Black hat on top, what a mop
I'm lucky it wasn't a county cop, cause I'm just running out of time

Who's up for game two, what to do?
My wallet's getting thin and I just lost my watch last night
I got a problem, just one answer got to throw it all down
And kiss it goodbye

That was a crazy game of poker
I lost it all
But someday I'll be back again
And I'm never to fall
Never to fall

Who's up for game three?
I can barely see the bourbon drowning next to me
And I just lost it all
Well there's a man sitting next to me
Red with smiling eyes
It's funny I don't have no money tonight.

That was a crazy game of poker
I lost it all
But someday I'll be back again
And I'm never to fall
Never to fall

Bada biba... ... ...
I say now skitili dat dat dat well how bout that
I'm coming out the front never coming out the back
I walked into the bar yesterday
Cause I had something to do, something to say
And Johnny walked in right behind me and
I didn't turn around
Until I hear the sound of his feet falling
On the ground, looked over my shoulder
And I saw a clown
And I said what are you doing in the bar tonight?
And I said Johnny whatcha doing tonight?
He looked at me with a face full of fright
And I said how about a revolution?
And he said , right.

I say of, you say a, I say revolution, and you say Jah 2x

And I said what are you looking at?
He hit me across the face with a bat.
I grabbed my .45 and I said let's get out and go
Well so he opened the door, and said "now, whatcha here for?"
I said I'm wanderin' down the road 44
And I said I've been walking for about a thousand years
And my feet are growing tired
My eyes a little wired
Don't know what to do unless I retire
And he just said let's play some crazy poker
And I said Johnny whatcha doing tonight?
He looked at me with a face full of fright
And I said how about a revolution?
And he said right.

I said that was the craziest game of poker that I ever saw
I said that was the craziest game of poker that I ever saw
But I'm not gonna quit and I'm not gonna stop
I don't give a shit cause I got the drop
Johnny just got two eyes just like mine
And I'm feeling kind of funky, kinda fine
Cause I drank a bottle of whiskey before I came
Came to the bar to see what's the same
I saw my man named Johnny sitting across the table from
And to my left was a man he had no gin
He didn't even think about starting to sin
The man to my right, wasn't feeling very nice
He looked kinda mad and I felt bad
Because I took his money last night
Now I'm just struggling
I need a honey bunny
I don't know what to say anymore
So I'm just going to go out the front door.

Mr. K., you ought to be born more often -- boy, I could make a killing.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Big Lies For Bush

BOSTON GLOBE - Imagine if supporters of Bill Clinton had tried in 1996 to besmirch the military record of his opponent, Bob Dole. After all, Dole was given a Purple Heart for a leg scratch probably caused, according to one biographer, when a hand grenade thrown by one of his own men bounced off a tree. And while the serious injuries Dole sustained later surely came from German fire, did the episode demonstrate heroism on Dole's part or a reckless move that ended up killing his radioman and endangering the sergeant who dragged Dole off the field?

The truth, according to many accounts, is that Dole fought with exceptional bravery and deserves the nation's gratitude. No one in 1996 questioned that record. Any such attack on behalf of Clinton, an admitted Vietnam draft dodger, would have been preposterous.

Yet amazingly, something quite similar is happening today as supporters of President Bush attack the Vietnam record of Senator John Kerry....

While a few details and dates of Kerry's Vietnam record are open to question, most of the accusations are laughable. Kerry's record of service in Vietnam is clear and, one would think, unassailable. Given the contrast in their Vietnam-era records -- Bush even let his pilot's license lapse while still in the Guard -- Bush might be expected to change the subject.

Yet the Kerry opponents, working with funders and political operatives closely linked to Bush personally, are attempting what is known in politics as the big lie -- an effort simply to contradict the truth repeatedly.

Both parties do it, but Republicans are developing a shocking expertise. The smearing of John McCain in South Carolina in 2000, the reprehensible attack to oust [war hero and triple-amputee] Senator Max Cleland of Georgia in 2002, and this utterly cynical campaign against Kerry by Bush's False Squad deserve only condemnation. Kerry has faulted a few of his own supporters who lampooned Bush's National Guard record. Now Bush should call off his dogs.

Veteran Breaks 35-Year Silence to Defend Kerry (Chicago Tribune)

'Swiftboat' connections to Rove, Bush family and Texas politicos (NY Times)



Illegal Coordination Between Florida Bush Campaign and Smear Group
(Washington Post)

Bush Adviser Quits After Appearing in Swift Boat Ad (CNN)

McCain Slams Bush

"You should be ashamed." <-- Take a couple secs and give it a look-see.

MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE - Sen. John McCain said it all, and said it straight: The TV ad smearing Sen. John Kerry's Vietnam War service was "dishonest and dishonorable." Just as important was what else McCain said: "It was the same kind of deal that was pulled on me."

Indeed it was. McCain was referring to vicious lies told about him during the 2000 Republican primaries; they were both false and effective. Now, as then, it is absolutely critical to the workings of this democracy that honorable men and women of all political persuasions step up to expose and discredit these shadowy character assassins.

It's beginning to happen. After weeks of simmering as a "he said, she said" series of attacks and defenses, the sleazy story of a new group calling itself Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is being laid bare for all to see. It's an ugly sight, full of old grudges, changed stories, unfounded insinuations and outright falsehoods.

Nearly all of Kerry's Vietnam crewmates, no matter their politics, have stepped up to defend him as a courageous leader. And now several newspapers have examined two sets of information: Vietnam War documents, and data showing funding and other ties between the newly formed veterans' group and GOP operatives close to President Bush and his political adviser, Karl Rove.

The records plainly point to McCain's conclusion: The accusations are dishonest, dishonorable -- and entirely reminiscent of the lies spread about McCain in 2000.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Keith!

I made everything all nice & shiny - just for you. :-)

Friday, August 20, 2004

'Kerry' crushes 'Bush' in Cockroach Derby

AP - Organizers say the event has an 80 percent accuracy rate in determining the winners of the election. Madagascar giant hissing cockroaches that represented the Massachusetts Democrat and the Republican incumbent didn't move when the race started. But with a little prodding, the "Kerry" roach sprinted down a 6- foot tube while the "Bush" roach never moved any of its six legs.

Brothers in Arms?

George W. Bush and John Kerry both spent their mid twenties in uniform. The similarities end there. (more...)

Iraqi Soccer Team Pissed at Bush

DAILY KOS - Bush is running an ad featuring the Iraq and Afghanistan Olympic teams. The Iraqi soccer team -- one of the darlings of these games -- is not amused.
Sadir had a message for U.S. president George W. Bush, who is using the Iraqi Olympic team in his latest re-election campaign advertisements.

In those spots, the flags of Iraq and Afghanistan appear as a narrator says, "At this Olympics there will be two more free nations -- and two fewer terrorist regimes."

"Iraq as a team does not want Mr. Bush to use us for the presidential campaign," Sadir told SI.com through a translator, speaking calmly and directly. "He can find another way to advertise himself."

Ahmed Manajid, who played as a midfielder on Wednesday, had an even stronger response when asked about Bush's TV advertisement. "How will he meet his god having slaughtered so many men and women?" Manajid told me. "He has committed so many crimes."
There is more in the article.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Superstitious Romanian Dies on Friday the 13th

AFP - A superstitious Romanian, who refused to leave his house throughout Friday the 13th to avoid bad luck, died after he was stung by a wasp in his kitchen, police said. Florin Carcu, 54, had even taken the precaution of asking his boss for permission not to go to work on the inauspicious Friday, the police in Cluj, central Romania, said in a statement.

"It was the strangest request I've ever received but I ended up giving him permission to stay at home because he seemed to be really scared of something bad happening to him on that day," Carcu's boss Gheorghe Domsa told the press. Doctors from the emergency services in Cluj said Carcu had been making coffee when he was stung by a species of wasp nicknamed "the wolf", which is very rare in Romania and whose sting is very poisonous. He died on the spot.

Mental Health Courts: Where Justice & Mercy Meet

JENNIFER GONNERMAN, VILLAGE VOICE - Every Tuesday morning, Judge Matthew D'Emic's courtroom brims with people who have unusual stories. A college student, convinced he was Jesus Christ, went on a robbery spree. A 19-year-old gave birth at home, then headed for a window and dropped her baby out. A young man burned down his mother's apartment after he heard voices ordering him to light the curtains on fire. A teenage girl, arrested for a minor crime, once tried to boil a puppy in front of her family.

For mentally ill people who commit a serious felony, there have long been just two options: Go to prison, or enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. Defendants who choose the latter have been confined indefinitely at places like Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center, the maximum-security hospital on Wards Island, where they can languish for years, maybe even the rest of their lives. Today, mentally ill people arrested in Brooklyn have a third choice: They can try to get their case heard in Mental Health Court, where the primary objective is to place people in treatment programs—not prison.

As mental hospitals across the country have been closing, replaced by a rickety network of outpatient services, mentally ill people increasingly find themselves in jails and prisons. An estimated 11 percent of inmates in New York state prisons are mentally ill; that's about 7,500 people. In state prisons nationwide, the likelihood is greater than one in six that an inmate has a serious mental illness.

There is a hefty price tag for locking up all these people, of course; it would be cheaper to treat them in their community. Mentally ill inmates are far more expensive to care for than other inmates, and they tend to stay in prison longer.

Mental health courts represent an innovative attempt to tackle this problem, and in recent years these courts have become increasingly popular. There are now 97 across the country, in places like Anchorage, Seattle, Akron, and St. Louis. The Mental Health Court in Brooklyn, which opened in 2002, was the first of its kind in New York State. Unlike many other mental health courts, the one in Brooklyn focuses primarily on people charged with felonies—drug sales, assault, robbery, arson, kidnapping, grand larceny. . .

There are four "phases" in Mental Health Court, and when defendants stay out of trouble for a certain period of time, they receive a certificate from the judge. After completing a treatment program—which lasts at least a year—a defendant "graduates" from the court, meaning that the felony is dismissed and the person is completely free. So far, the court has 19 graduates. Each received a handshake from the judge, applause from the audience, and a gift from the court's clinical director—usually an appointment book or a disposable camera or a box of chocolates.

This strategy of lavishing attention and giving regular rewards seems to work. "These are people who have been really sick their whole lives," says Lisa Schreibersdorf, executive director of Brooklyn Defender Services, who is often in the court. "Everyone's telling them how messed up they are, that they're a complete failure. They haven't had much positive response from anybody in authority their whole life, and here's a judge telling them they did a good job. They just brighten up when he pays attention to them." (more...)

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Bear Guzzles 36 Beers, Passes Out at Campground

REUTERS - A black bear was found passed out at a campground in Washington state recently after guzzling down three dozen cans of a local beer, a campground worker said on Wednesday. "We noticed a bear sleeping on the common lawn and wondered what was going on until we discovered that there were a lot of beer cans lying around," said Lisa Broxson, a worker at the Baker Lake Resort, 80 miles (129 km) northeast of Seattle.

The hard-drinking bear, estimated to be about two years old, broke into campers' coolers and, using his claws and teeth to open the cans, swilled down the suds. It turns out the bear was a bit of a beer sophisticate. He tried a mass-market Busch beer, but switched to Rainier Beer, a local ale, and stuck with it for his drinking binge. Wildlife agents chased the bear away, but it returned the next day, said Broxson. They set a trap using as bait some doughnuts, honey and two cans of Rainier Beer. It worked, and the bear was captured for relocation.

My Notes on Complement

(a.k.a. Why You Shouldn't Go to Medical School)

These actually sort of read like a Dr. Seuss book:

The complement system involves a cascade of proteolytic reactions that produce several different products which contribute to the elimination of invading microbes by:
1. direct killing of microbes by destruction of biological membranes
2. chemotactic attraction of inflammatory cells, and by
3. enhancing phagocytosis of microbes.
Complement components are synthesized by macrophages, monocytes, intestinal epithelial cells and the liver.
--They are released into the serum in an inactive form.
Complement may be activated via 3 different mechanisms, the Classical pathway, the Alternate pathway, and the Lectin Pathway.
--The Classical Pathway requires antigen-antibody complexes, but the Alternate and Lectin Pathways do not.

Classical Pathway

First component to become activated is C1.
C1 is a complex consisting of 3 proteins, C1q, C1r and C1s.
C1 =(C1q:C1r2:C1s2) held together by Ca+ ions.
C1q contains 6 globular heads.
It is activated when >2 of these heads bind to Fc's of either IgG or IgM.
--C1q receptors of Fc are exposed due to conformational changes of Ig molecule following antigen binding.

2 IgG molecules must be close to each other to activate C1q.
Activated C1q activates C1r which in turn activates C1s.
--C1s cleaves C4 into C4a and C4b.
C4b binds onto cell membrane adjacent to Ig molecules and also binds C2.
--C2 is cleaved by the action of C1s and C4b, but remains associated with C4 as an active C4b2a complex = C3 convertase.
--C4b2a cleaves C3 into C3a and C3b.

A single C4b2a complex can activate hundreds of C3 molecules so this is an important amplification step.
--C3b binds to the cell membrane in the immediate vicinity of its activation and binds onto C4b2a to form C4b2a3b which activates C5.
--C3a remains in the fluid phase and promotes inflammation.

The assembly and activation of components C5-C9 results in cytolytic activity.
--C5-C9 is called the membrane attack complex.
C4b2a3b = C5 convertase - cleaves C5 into C5a and C5b.
--C5a remains in fluid phase and promotes inflammation.
--C5b combines with C6 and C7 to form the C5b67 complex which inserts itself into the membrane's lipid bilayer and focuses the activity of C8 and C9.

C5b678 forms small pores and has some lytic activity, but polymerization of C9, a perforin like molecule, around the C5b678 complex results in transmembrane channels that contribute substantially to cell lysis.
--Ions pass through these channels resulting in osmotic disturbance.
--Water rushes into the cell resulting in swelling, membrane damage, loss of macromolecules and eventually, death.

Lectin Pathway
Activated by terminal mannose residue that are common to bacteria, but rare in mammalian cells.
Circulating Mannose Binding Lectin (MBL) forms a complex with 2 Mannose Associated Serine Proteases (MASP 1 and 2) on the surface of bacteria with terminal mannose residues.
MASP-1 becomes activated in the complex, cleaving C4 and C2 to form C4b,2a, the classic C3 convertase.
The remainder of the pathway is the same as the classic pathway.

Alternate Pathway
Can become activated whenever there is some free C3b around.
--Free C3b can be generated by classical pathway, or by proteases derived from coagulation cascade, bacteria, or inflammatory cells.
--C3b like molecules (C3*H2O) can also appear due to spontaneous conformational changes.
C3b exists in trace amounts in normal serum and can bind onto foreign substances (e.g. bacterial surfaces).

C3b can combine with serum factor B producing a C3bB complex which becomes activated when serum factor D cleaves B yielding C3bBb.
--C3bBb is a C3 convertase.

The C3bBb complex dissociates rapidly, but is stabilized by a serum protein called properdin (P).
The C3bBbP complex is a stable C3 convertase.
--The C3b product of this cleavage can bind more factor B and factor D, etc.
C3bBbPC3b acts as a C5 convertase, and the rest of the pathway is similar to the classical pathway.
Free C3b is normally inactivated rapidly in serum by factors H and I (C3b inactivator).
It is believed that factors setting off the alternate pathway somehow protect C3b from inactivation.

Controls
C1 esterase inhibitor (C1INH) forms a complex with C1r and C1s causing their dissociation from C1q, thus inhibiting classical pathway.
C1INH deficiency is inherited in an autosomal dominant manner, and results in herditary angioedema.
--Patients suffer from local edema in various organs throughout the body.

Several other proteins regulate C3 convertase (C4b2a) generated in classical pathway.
They bind C4b, displacing C2a.
--These include:
--C4b binding protein (C4BP)
--Decay Accelerating Factor (DAF)
--Membrane Cofactor Protein (MCP)
--Complement Receptor 1 (CR1)
--Once C2a is displaced, factor I can cleave C4b, (C4BP, MCP, or CR1 are required as cofactors).

Alternate pathway is also regulated.
Factor H competes with factor B for binding sites on C3b present on cell surfaces.
--Sialic acids of mammalian cells favor binding of Factor H, terminating cascade.
--Bacterial cells, which lack sialic acid, favor binding of Factor B, continuing cascade.
Factor H also displaces Bb from C3 convertase (C3bBb) by binding C3b.

CD59, a protein that is widely distributed in mammalian membranes, prevents lysis of bystander cells by binding C5b-8 in the membrane and preventing polymerization of C9.

Other Biological Effects
C3b and C4b are opsonic.
--PMN's & macrophages have receptors for these, and other C' components.
C3a, C5a, and to a lesser extent, C4a are anaphylatoxins = substances that induce degranulation of mast cells and/or basophils, which release several substances including histamine.
--These cells have specific receptors for these molecules.

Anaphylatoxins produce increased capillary permeability and smooth muscle contraction--local edema--delivery of more antibody and complement.
--C5a is also very chemotactic for neutrophils.
C' can enhance B cell response to antigens by means of C3d binding to CD21 of the B cell coreceptor complex (CD21:CD19:CD81).
--When C3d binds CD21, B cell is activated by lower concentrations of Ag.
Deposition of C3b on immune complexes aids their removal.

Complement Deficiency
Heterozygotes have about 1/2 normal levels of the component in question and have few clinical manifestations.
Patients who are homozygous for a defective component may have clinical manifestations.
--C3 deficiency - recurrent pyogenic infections.
--C1, C4, or C2 deficiency - not real significant, but may have difficulty clearing immune complexes (predisposed to SLE).
--Late component deficiencies - gonococcal and meningococcal infections.

You know you're a Republican when you believe...

...Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush's daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him and a bad guy when Bush needed a "we can't find Bin Laden" diversion.

...Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is Communist, but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.

...The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our highest national priority is enforcing U.N. resolutions against Iraq.

...A woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body, but multi-national corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind without regulation.

...Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton.

...The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.

...If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex.

...A good way to fight terrorism is to belittle our long-time allies, then demand their cooperation and money.

...Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy. Providing health care to all Americans is socialism.

...HMOs and insurance companies have the best interests of the public at heart.

...Global warming and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.

...A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable offense. A president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy.

...Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which include banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet.

...The public has a right to know about Hillary's cattle trades, but George Bush's driving record is none of our business.

...Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness and you need our prayers for your recovery.

...You support states' rights, which means Attorney General John Ashcroft can tell states what local voter initiatives they have the right to adopt.

...What Bill Clinton did in the 1960s is of vital national interest, but what Bush did in the '80s is irrelevant.

Bush Twins Hope to Attend Gay Wedding

LLOYD GROVE, NY DAILY NEWS - When Washington-area beautician Erwin Gomez and his longtime partner James Packard celebrate their marital vows with 400 of their closest friends next month, two of Gomez's best customers will probably be in attendance: President Bush's twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara. Yesterday, the 39-year-old Gomez - a makeup expert for the Elizabeth Arden shop in the D.C. suburb of Chevy Chase, Md. - told Lowdown that the First Twins have become devotees of his popular eyebrow waxes over the past few weeks. And, Gomez added, Bush's daughters have expressed an enthusiastic desire to go to Gomez and Packard's Sept. 11 wedding celebration at their home in Laytonsville, Md. "I gave them the party invitation, and they said, 'That sounds great, we'd love to come - it sounds like a lot of fun,'" Gomez said.

"The way they reacted, they were very open-minded." Never mind that their father supports a constitutional ban of gay marriages. Heterosexual marriage, Bush said in February, is "the most enduring human institution" and "cannot be severed from its cultural, religious and natural roots without weakening the good influence of society."

Save the Couches Campaign

DETROIT FREE PRESS - Matt Grinshpun spends hours on the three couches on the porch of his big red house on Oakland Street in Ann Arbor. Grinshpun, a junior at the University of Michigan, and his 14 roommates at the Lester House co-op use them as a place to study, visit and even dine during the warm months. "I live on this porch," said Grinshpun, 19, of Midland as he lounged last week on a dark green couch with floral cushions. "When fall starts, 15 people will eat dinner on the porch. Couches are rather central to the way things work around here."

But Ann Arbor fire officials say the couches are a fire hazard and want them removed from hundreds of front porches in student neighborhoods around campus, where they are often placed near a barbeque grill. The couches have created a major debate in Ann Arbor as the City Council prepares to vote tonight on an ordinance to ban upholstered furniture of all kinds on outside porches and decks. Many students say the proposed ordinance infringes on their property rights and vow to mount a "save the sofa" campaign next month. The council has scheduled a Sept. 7 public hearing before taking a second vote, which is required to pass the ordinance.

Poletown Decision Overruled

INSTITUTE FOR JUSTICE - In a case with nationwide implications to halt the abuse of eminent domain, the Michigan Supreme Court reversed its infamous Poletown decision, which had allowed the condemnation of private property for so-called "economic development." In a unanimous decision July 30, the court decisively rejected the notion that "a private entity's pursuit of profit was a 'public use' for constitutional takings purposes simply because one entity's profit maximization contributed to the health of the general economy."

In the 1981 Poletown decision, the Michigan Supreme Court allowed the City of Detroit to bulldoze an entire neighborhood, complete with more than 1,000 residences, 600 businesses, and numerous churches, in order to give the property to General Motors for an auto plant. That case set the precedent, both in Michigan and across the country, for widespread abuse of the power of eminent domain.

It sent the signal that courts would not interfere, no matter how private the purpose of the taking. But in Hathcock, the Court called Poletown a "radical departure from fundamental constitutional principles."

"We overrule Poletown," the Court wrote, "in order to vindicate our constitution, protect the people's property rights and preserve the legitimacy of the judicial branch as the expositor, not creator, of fundamental law."

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Fun Stuff

Nice Cat (Thanks Scrizzly One)

Creep - Radiohead (Thanks BvN)

Trampoline Game (Thanks Bammul Mopsy)

Comboling (Another Thanks to Mr. Mopsy)

Princeton Review's Latest Rankings

Biggest jock schools

1 University of Florida
2 Penn State University Park
3 Florida State University
4 University of Notre Dame
5 Clemson University

Best party schools

1 SUNY at Albany
2 Washington and Lee University
3 University of Wisconsin-Madison
4 West Virginia University
5 Ohio University-Athens

Cold sober schools

1 Brigham Young University (UT)
2 Wheaton College (IL)
3 United States Naval Academy
4 Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
5 Webb Institute

Happy students

1 Pomona College
2 William Jewell College
3 Stanford University
4 New College of Florida
5 Dartmouth College

Least happy students

1 New Jersey Institute of Technology
2 SUNY at Stony Brook
3 SUNY at Albany
4 Seton Hall University
5 United States Coast Guard Academy

(Rankings based on student responses.)

The Bushism Is Back

DANA MILBANK, WASHINGTON POST - Earlier this month, President Bush was almost done with a speech to a group of minority journalists when he dropped a rather startling proposal. "We actually misnamed the war on terror," he said. "It ought to be the Struggle Against Ideological Extremists Who Do Not Believe in Free Societies Who Happen to Use Terror as a Weapon to Try to Shake the Conscience of the Free World." ...

Ladies and gentlemen, the Bushism has returned. The malapropisms that adorned Bush's 2000 campaign before going into remission during much of his presidency have reemerged to garnish his reelection bid...

He summed up his candidacy the previous day in Davenport, Iowa: "We stand for things." ...

There was this discussion of Iran policy last week: "As you know, we don't have relationships with Iran," Bush said. "I mean, that's -- ever since the late '70s, we have no contacts with them, and we've totally sanctioned them. In other words, there's no sanctions -- you can't -- we're out of sanctions."

In that same session, Bush might have listeners worried about their civil liberties when he ran into plural trouble. "Let me put it to you bluntly," he ventured. "In a changing world, we want more people to have control over your own life."

This year's standard for Bushisms was the Aug. 6 meeting of minority journalists, where Bush offered a range of creative phrases.

Taxes? "I cut the taxes on everybody. I didn't cut them. The Congress cut them. I asked them to cut them."

Discrimination? "I knew this was going to be an issue in our country, that there would be people that say, 'There goes a Muslim-looking person.' "

Immigration reform? "I have talked about it lately. I talked about it this winter."

57-Year-Old Vet Called Up

BRITTNEY BOOTH, MONITOR, TX - He’s 57 years old, afflicted with skin cancer, partially deaf and suffers from high blood pressure. But the U.S. Army still wants Master Sgt. Luis Jaime Treviño. On July 14, the Vietnam and Desert Storm veteran received his third order to report to active duty — mobilized for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"I was very shocked," Treviño said, a member of the Army’s Individual Ready Reserve. IRRs are not part of a reserve unit, do not get paid and do not attend monthly reserve training... Treviño is to report to a mobilization unit Sept. 15 at Fort Jackson, S.C. "If I do not execute these orders, I go to jail," he said.

Bush Says Indians Were Given Sovereignty

LEWIS KAMB, SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER - Here's the transcript of what Bush said last week at the Unity: Journalists of Color conference in Washington, D.C., when Seattle Post-Intelligencer Editorial Page Editor Mark Trahant, a Shoshone-Bannock Indian, asked President Bush his views on what tribal sovereignty meant:

Question: What do you think tribal sovereignty means in the 21st century, and how do we resolve conflicts between tribes and the federal and the state governments?

President Bush: Tribal sovereignty means that; it's sovereign. You're a -- you've been given sovereignty, and you're viewed as a sovereign entity. And, therefore, the relationship between the federal government and tribes is one between sovereign entities...

A word that has since raised eyebrows across Indian country, and one that, almost immediately after leaving the president's lips, had Democrats licking theirs:

Given.

To many Native Americans -- and Democrats, alike -- the president's answer spoke volumes about what they see as his ignorance of Indian issues. And to many, the operative word in Bush's response was the verb "given."

As the continent's first societies, American Indian tribes hold their status as sovereign nations with an almost sacred reverence; an inherent standing as self-governing, independent bodies dating back millennia, something that's always existed.

Sovereignty is "the nearest and dearest, No. 1 issue in Indian Country," said Jacqueline Johnson, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based National Congress of American Indians. "It's not something that was given to us. As tribes, we see sovereignty as something we've always had."

Who Got What

ABC NOTE - The Wall Street Journal 's Jackie Calmes reports that President Bush's three tax cuts have benefited the top 1 percent of taxpayers by more than 70 times the average benefit for the middle 20 percent of tax payers, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Olympic Icons Taken From Nazi Era

DAILY TIMES, PAKISTAN - The most beloved emblems of the modern Olympics have a decidedly dark past. The torch relay, which culminated in Friday’s ceremonial lighting of the flame at the Olympic stadium, was a creation of Adolf Hitler, who tried to turn the 1936 Berlin Games into a celebration of the Third Reich. And it was Hitler’s Nazi propaganda machine that popularised the five interlocking rings as the symbol of the games. Today, both are universally recognised icons of the Olympics. But historians say neither had much, if anything, to do with the games born centuries ago in Ancient Olympia.

Monday, August 16, 2004

The Peasants Speak: Chavez in a Landslide

GREG PALAST, BALTIMORE CHRONICLE - There's so much BS and baloney thrown around about Venezuela that I may be violating some rule of US journalism by providing some facts. Let's begin with this: 77% of Venezuela's farmland is owned by 3% of the population, the 'hacendados.'

I met one of these farmlords in Caracas at an anti-Chavez protest march. Oddest demonstration I've ever seen: frosted blondes in high heels clutching designer bags, screeching, "Chavez - dic-ta-dor!" The plantation owner griped about the "socialismo" of Chavez, then jumped into his Jaguar convertible.

That week, Chavez himself handed me a copy of the "socialist" manifesto that so rattled the man in the Jag. It was a new law passed by Venezuela's Congress which gave land to the landless. The Chavez law transferred only fields from the giant haciendas which had been left unused and abandoned.

This land reform, by the way, was promoted to Venezuela in the 1960s by that Lefty radical, John F. Kennedy. Venezuela's dictator of the time agreed to hand out land, but forgot to give peasants title to their property.

But Chavez won't forget, because the mirror reminds him. What the affable president sees in his reflection, beyond the ribbons of office, is a "negro e indio" -- a "Black and Indian" man, dark as a cola nut, same as the landless and, until now, the hopeless. For the first time in Venezuela's history, the 80% Black-Indian population elected a man with skin darker than the man in the Jaguar.

So why, with a huge majority of the electorate behind him, twice in elections and today with a nearly two-to-one landslide victory in a recall referendum, is Hugo Chavez in hot water with our democracy-promoting White House? (more...)

Good News

Chavez appears to be winning...

Neuroscience in the Morning

Paper Trail Disappears in Test

WIRED - When Sequoia Voting Systems demonstrated its new paper-trail electronic voting system for state Senate staffers in California last week, the company representative got a surprise when the paper trail failed to record votes that testers cast on the machine. That was bad news for the voting company, whose paper-trail, touch-screen machine will be used for the first time next month in Nevada's state primary. The company advertises that its touch-screen machines provide "nothing less than 100 percent accuracy." It was good news, however, for computer scientists and voting activists, who have long held that touch-screen machines are unreliable and vulnerable to tampering, and therefore must provide a physical paper-based audit trail of votes. "It goes to our point that a paper trail is very much needed to (ensure) that the machine accurately reports what people press," said Susie Swatt, chief of staff for state Sen. Ross Johnson (R-Irvine), who witnessed the glitch in the Sequoia machine.

Great Moments in Catholic Theology

KARA LOTT , COAST STAR, NJ - The First Holy Communion made by 8-year-old borough resident Haley Waldman in April is considered invalid in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church since the Holy Eucharist she received did not contain any wheat. The young girl's mother, Liz Waldman, said this week she had just recently learned of the ruling made by the church.

Haley was diagnosed with celiac disease, a genetic disorder in which the body's immune system attacks the lining of the small intestines in response to a food protein called gluten — found in wheat, rye, oats, barley, and related grains. Symptoms in children include weight loss or failure to gain weight, irritability, listlessness and diarrhea.

In following the traditions of Jesus Christ at the Last Supper, the Roman Catholic Church says its Communion hosts must contain some wheat, which contains gluten. An anonymous church in the area offered Haley a gluten-free Communion host for her first Holy Eucharist after St. Denis Church officials in Manasquan refused.

However, St. Denis did offer Haley other options, including a low-gluten host, which would contain .01 milligrams of gluten and has been endorsed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops — but Ms. Waldman did not accept on the grounds that any traces of gluten in her daughter's system could be toxic.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

India's Condoms Pop Up in the Strangest Places

THE AGE, AUSTRALIA - Millions of the condoms distributed free in India to combat AIDS and a soaring population are being used for other purposes such as waterproofing roofs, reinforcing roads and even polishing saris, say health workers. In fact, only a quarter of the 1.5 billion condoms manufactured each year in India were being "properly utilized", said a report by doctors at King George's Medical University in Lucknow.

According to two university reports, rural villagers have used them as disposable water containers to wash, after relieving themselves in the fields. India's military have covered gun and tank barrels with condoms as protection against dust. Of the 891 million condoms meant to be handed out free, a considerable proportion were acquired by road-building contractors who mixed them with concrete and tar and used the mixture to construct roads, rendering road surfaces smooth and resistant to cracks.

Builders spread a bed of condoms beneath cement plastering on roofs, ingeniously preventing water seepage during the monsoon rains. Weavers in Varanasi used around 200,000 condoms a day to lubricate their looms and to polish the gold and silver thread used to embroider the saris they produced. Sari maker Yusuf Bhai said they purchased the condoms from agents, who reportedly acquired them from agencies involved in family planning and AIDS prevention schemes.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Strong Words for the Chickenhawks

AP -- Sen. Tom Harkin called Vice President Dick Cheney a "coward" for avoiding service in Vietnam and called on President Bush to end the "backdoor draft."

The Iowa Democrat was responding Friday to the call-up of a Des Moines police officer who has already completed his eight-year military commitment.

Harkin echoed comments earlier this week by Des Moines Police Chief William McCarthy, who said the military's treatment of Des Moines Police Officer Rodell Nydam was "evil."

Nydam, 26, is being called back to Iraq despite finishing his National Guard commitment in April. He's being called up under the military's "stop loss" exemption, which can extend duty in wartime.

Harkin, who served as a jet pilot in the Navy, said the exemption wasn't intended for situations like the war in Iraq. He said first responders like Nydam are needed to protect the community.

"The part of the U.S. code that provides for this anticipates major wars, major national emergencies," Harkin said. "That is not what we're confronting right now. You think about using this law only in (extreme cases), only when we're really in dire, dire need."

Harkin also shot back at Cheney, who said in a visit to Iowa on Tuesday that presidential candidate John Kerry lacks a basic understanding of the war on terrorism and cannot make America safer...

"When I hear this coming from Dick Cheney, who was a coward, who would not serve during the Vietnam War, it makes my blood boil," Harkin said. "Those of us who served and those of us who went in the military don't like it when someone like a Dick Cheney comes out and he wants to be tough. Yeah, he'll be tough. He'll be tough with somebody else's blood, somebody else's kids. But not when it was his turn to go."

Tom giving blood.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Woman with No Limbs Sues Air France

AP - A woman sued Air France in federal court Friday, saying an employee told her she could not board a flight because she has no limbs. Adele Price, 42, who was born with birth defects caused by the leprosy treatment drug thalidomide, said at a news conference the employee told her that "one head, one bottom and one torso cannot and will not be allowed to fly on Air France" without help.

Price claims she suffered emotional and psychological damage and endured large expenses to complete a trip from Manchester, England, to New York on Aug. 19, 2000. Price said she paid someone to fly with her and eventually completed the trip.

In England, Price had been told by an Air France agent that she would need clearance from an American doctor to return home, according to the lawsuit. When Price provided that clearance to an Air France agent in New York, she was asked for additional medical clearance, which forced her to stay in the United States another five days and cancel all the business she had intended on the trip, the lawsuit said. She eventually bought a ticket on British Airways, which let her travel alone.

Keyes Wants to End Election of Senators

I thought this was a joke when I first saw it. I was wrong.

AP - Alan Keyes said Friday he would like to end the system under which the people elect U.S. senators and return to pre-1913 practice in which senators were chosen by state legislatures.

The Republican Senate candidate in Illinois, asked about past comments on the election process, said the constitutional amendment that provided for popular election of senators upset the balance between the people and the states...

Keyes' Democratic rival, state Sen. Barack Obama of Chicago, issued a statement saying he supports popular election of U.S. senators.

"I certainly trust the people of Illinois to choose who they want to represent them in the U.S. Senate," he said. "That is the very basis of our democracy."

Thursday, August 12, 2004

It Came Baaack.....

House centipede

House centipede

^^^^^^^^^^^^^ The coolest critter ever. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^

No More Lazy Little Monkeys

BBC - Scientists in the United States have found a way of turning lazy monkeys into workaholics using gene therapy. Usually monkeys work hard only when they know a reward is coming, but the animals given this treatment did their best all the time... Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health near Washington DC, led by Dr Barry Richmond, have now developed a genetic treatment which changes their work ethic markedly.

"Normal monkeys and people procrastinate - tend not to work very well when they have a lot of time to get the job done, and work better when the reward is nearer in time," Dr Richmond says. "The monkeys under the influence of the treatment don't procrastinate."

The treatment consists of blocking an important brain chemical - dopamine. After about 10 weeks it had worn off, and the monkeys were back to their usual unmotivated selves.

Porter Goss on His Qualifications to be CIA Director

A bad sign: The potential new head of the CIA said the nomination came as a complete surprise. --Craig Kilborn

MATT GUNN - Just as I sat down last night to offer you my opinion on whether or not Bush's appointment for CIA director, Rep. Porter Goss, was a good choice, I was given access to this transcript of outtakes from Fahrenheit 9/11:

INTERVIEWER: [Y]ou come from intelligence. This is what you did, this is what you know.

REP. GOSS: Uh, that was, uh, 35 years ago.

INTERVIEWER: Okay.

REP. GOSS: It is true I was in CIA from approximately the late 50’s to approximately the early 70’s. And it's true I was a case officer, clandestine services officer and yes, I do understand the core mission of the business. I couldn't get a job with CIA today. I am not qualified. I don't have the language skills. I, you know, my language skills were romance languages and stuff. We're looking for Arabists today. I don't have the cultural background probably. And I certainly don't have the technical skills, uh, as my children remind me every day: 'Dad you got to get better on your computer.’ Uh, so, the things that you need to have, I don't have.

– Rep. Porter Goss, March 3, 2004, Washington, DC


(Video)

Let's review: Goss asserts he lacks the language skills, the cultural background, the technical skills – "the things that you need to have" – to even get a job with the CIA, much less lead it. I defer to his judgment.

NBC Refuses to Let Documentary Use Embarrassing Bush Clip

WIRED - In August, Robert Greenwald will release an updated version of his award-winning film, Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War. Greenwald has added a clip of President George W. Bush's February interview with Tim Russert on Meet the Press, NBC's Sunday morning talk show. In the clip, the president defends his decision to go to war - astonishingly unconvincingly. Greenwald asked NBC for permission to run the one-minute clip - offering to pay for the right, as he had done for every other clip that appears in the film. NBC said no. The network explained to his agent that the clip is "not very flattering to the president." Greenwald included it anyway.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Still Monkeying Around

Where'd the Boxing Orang-utans Go?

BBC - Bangkok police are investigating the apparent deaths of 41 orang-utans at the city's Safari World wildlife park. Park officials said the animals died from natural causes, but police suspect they may have been killed or moved elsewhere to avoid DNA tests.

The park is already under investigation for allegedly smuggling orang-utans from Indonesia and Malaysia. Last week it was forced to suspend its controversial orang-utan kick-boxing fights due to international pressure.

When police went to the park in July with an order to seize all the orang-utans, officers found only 69 of the animals, despite records showing that there should have been 110. Safari World claimed the 41 missing animals were cremated after they died of diarrhoea and respiratory diseases.

Police suspect that the park may be trying to cover its tracks, after allegations were made that it illegally smuggled the endangered animals into Thailand. But Safari World officials claimed their orang-utans were not smuggled, but the fruits of a successful captive breeding programme.

The park has been the target of animal rights campaigners for some time. Last week, the Thai authorities forced Safari World to suspend its orang-utan fights while they investigated claims of cruelty and exploitation. The orang-utans, in boxing gloves and brightly-coloured shorts, have featured at the park for decades.


Fay Wray Dies at 96

TELEGRAPH.CO.UK - Fay Wray, the damsel in distress in King Kong, has died aged 96. Although she appeared in many films, Wray will forever be remembered as the helpless blonde carried to the top of the Empire State Building by the giant ape in the 1933 classic.

She died on Sunday at her apartment in Manhattan, said Rick McKay, a friend and director of the last film in which she appeared. There was no official cause of death. "She just kind of drifted off quietly as if she was going to sleep," Mr McKay said.

Odds and Ends

First, to answer the question Sarah asked - No. (If a person is disconnected from AIM and is then automatically reconnected, he or she will not appear as idle to other users until the next login.)

Second, to pass along some B-links (ha ha, now that's a good term):

Suck It In (Yep.)

Cows With Guns (This song has long been a favorite of the Henry family, now put to animation.)

What Bush Looks Like Drunk (Background: this was shot at a 1992 wedding, years after Bush supposedly went cold turkey in July 1986.)

And finally, to share a weird experience I had driving back from the medical school tonight:

I'm almost home, coming up on the last traffic light before my apartment complex, when I see what looks like a possum slowly crossing the road (from the left lane into mine). I slow down and think, "Wow, I've never seen a possum around here before." But as I get closer to the creature, I realize that my so-called "possum" was really nothing more than a blue Wal-Mart bag slowly blowing across the street. Somewhat disappointed by this fact, I turn my eyes to the sidewalk to the right and front of me, and literally less than 2 seconds after I had recognized my mistake, I see a REAL possum jauntily strolling around a street lamp!

So... I'm left with a handful of scenarios to explain this odd occurrence:

1. Pure coincidence.
2. I'm losing my mind, seeing possums everywhere.
3. A shape-shifting possum that can teleport itself at will.

Hmmm... Not sure what to think.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

A Couple of Stories About Our First Cousins

Red head day honours monkey birth

BBC - In honour of the arrival of a rare red head at London Zoo, humans with the same hair colour are being given cut price entry to the venue on Sunday. The baby Francois Langur monkey, named Laa Laa, will only keep her bright ginger fur for up to six months before it turns black. The bright colour helps her mother keep a close eye on her. Red heads can visit the central London zoo with a friend with any hair colour on a two-for-one basis.


Koko the gorilla calls for the dentist

CNN - When Koko the gorilla used the American Sign Language gesture for pain and pointed to her mouth, 12 specialists, including three dentists, sprang into action. The result? Her first full medical examination in about 20 years, an extracted tooth and a clean bill of health.

About a month ago, Koko, a 300-plus-pound ape who became famous for mastering more than 1,000 signs, began telling her handlers at the Gorilla Foundation in Woodside she was in pain. They quickly constructed a pain chart, offering Koko a scale from one to 10. When Koko started pointing to nine or 10 too often, a dental appointment was made. And because anesthesia would be involved, her handlers used the opportunity to give Koko a head-to-toe exam.

Twelve specialists -- a Stanford cardiologist, three anesthesiologists, three dentists, an ear and throat specialist, two veterinarians, a gastroenterologist and a gynecologist -- volunteered to help.

The team came to Koko Saturday, bringing portable X-ray and ultrasound machines. They set up shop at her "apartment," which looks like a remodeled box car, complete with a makeshift toilet, television, DVD player and lots of toys. After four hours of tests -- including a colonoscopy, gynecological exam, dental work, X-rays, and ultrasounds -- doctors pronounced her fit. Koko, who celebrated her 33rd birthday July 4, was due for a checkup. While gorillas in captivity are known to live into their 50s, they are susceptible to heart disease and a thickening of the arteries.

Her teacher, Francine Patterson, was at her side when the anesthesiologist prepared to put her under in the morning, and apparently Koko asked to meet her specialists. They crowded around her, and Koko, who plays favorites, asked one woman wearing red to come closer. The woman handed her a business card, which Koko promptly ate.

Otherwise, Koko was calm.

Trial by Jury Becoming a Thing of the Past

ARIZONA DAILY STAR - Jury trials are in a sharp decline. More criminal defendants are opting for plea deals and companies are finding it cheaper to settle disputes through arbitration or other means ... About 40 years ago, more than 11 percent of civil cases in federal courts were resolved by trials. Today it is under 2 percent. Federal criminal trials have fallen by one-third over the past 40 years. Federal judges who once heard nearly 40 trials a year now preside over fewer than 13.

All this has dismayed lawyers and some judges. "This ain't law, folks," Patrick Higginbotham, a federal appeals court judge from Dallas, said Saturday at an ABA meeting. He said trials in state courts are also on the decline. Lawyers accept part of the blame, acknowledging their costly fees and massive paperwork demands before a trial. Some lawyers recommend that clients settle out of court because they have more control and the results often can be kept secret. "Trial lawyers are becoming a misnomer," said Robert Clifford, a Chicago lawyer who contends judges contribute to the situation by strongly encouraging settlements.

Iraq Issues Warrant for Chalabi Arrest

AP - Iraq has issued an arrest warrant for Ahmad Chalabi, a former governing council member, on counterfeiting charges and another for Salem Chalabi, the head of Iraq's special tribunal, on murder charges, Iraq's chief investigating judge said Sunday ... His nephew, Salem Chalabi, heads the tribunal that is due to try Saddam on war crimes charges.

DHinMi asks some questions:
"Why were the indictments issued when they were out of the country? Were they tipped off that the indictments were impending? (Anyone heard from Paul Wolfowitz lately?) And where exactly are the Chalabis? Are they in Iran?

What does this do to the scheduled trial of Saddam Hussein? Will Salem Chalabi's indictment delay the trial? And finally, why did indictments for two separate and quite possibly unconnected crimes come down on the same day, and only after the Chalabis were out of the country?

This is going to require some real effort to sort out."
Hmmm.

On Leaks

Anybody else remember the Sandy Berger story? Well, turns out he was cleared of withholding material from the 9/11 commission, but as far as I could tell, there was hardly a peep from the press about it.

Meanwhile, there's Republican Senator Richard Shelby, who had led a personal crusade to criminalize the leaking of classified information by government officials during the Clinton administration.

Oh yeah, then he went out and leaked classified info. Hmmm - aren't double standards great?

Obama's Got a Challenger

You may remember him from his unsuccessful runs for the presidency in '96 and 2000 - Mr. Alan Keyes!

The fact that he wants to run for the Senate from Illinois is interesting, considering he lives in Maryland.

Keyes on Running for Office in another state in 2000:

"And I deeply resent the destruction of federalism represented by Hillary Clinton's willingness to go into a state she doesn't even live in and pretend to represent people there. So I certainly wouldn't imitate it."

Source: Fox News, "Special Report with Brit Hume," March 17, 2000

Saturday, August 07, 2004

300-Game Winners

1. Cy Young, 511
2. Walter Johnson, 417
3. Grover Cleveland Alexander, 373
3. Christy Mathewson, 373
5. Warren Spahn, 363
6. Pud Galvin, 361
7. Kid Nichols, 360
8. Tim Keefe, 341
9. Steve Carlton, 329
10. John Clarkson, 327
11. Eddie Plank, 326
12. Nolan Ryan, 324
12. Don Sutton, 324
14. Roger Clemens, 322
15. Phil Niekro, 318
16. Gaylord Perry, 314
17. Tom Seaver, 311
18. Hoss Radbourn, 310
19. Mickey Welch, 309
20. Lefty Grove, 300
20. Early Wynn, 300
20. Greg Maddux, 300

Kerry & Edwards in KC

KC STAR - Missouri Democrats saved the best for last Friday night, giving John Kerry a huge Kansas City send-off on his post-convention trip.

A crowd the Secret Service estimated at 22,000 plus — aides called it the biggest Kerry has seen along the campaign trail in his quest for the presidency — filled the parking lots and the Liberty Memorial slope in front of Union Station where Kerry and his running mate, John Edwards, rallied the party faithful.

Kerry, flanked by the two candidates' wives and some of their children, began his talk at about 10:15 p.m. — more than two hours after some had arrived — calling out: “Hello, Kansas City, how are you? What I should say — ‘Hi, may I help you?'” using the well-known salutation at a well-known barbecue establishment...

The event, on another surprisingly cool summer evening, ranks as one of the best attended political gatherings in the city since the Republican national convention in 1976.

The event capped a three-day swing through Missouri that began Wednesday night in Hannibal and continued Thursday with a train trip through the state's midsection reminiscent of whistle-stop tours of the past. In fact, Harry Truman used one of the cars in the Kerry train in his now-legendary 1948 run for the presidency.

A friend of mine, who happened to live down the street, turned on the TV while Edwards was speaking last night, and quickly realized this rally was taking place just a couple of blocks away from her apartment. Having long been a fan of Kerry, she grabbed her keys and cell phone and bolted out the door. As she ran along the sidewalk toward Union Station, she told me she could hear the words from the loudspeaker grow louder and clearer the closer she came. Pulling out her phone, she dialed her brother (another big Kerry-backer), and he too was able to hear the sounds of the crowd as it roared its approval for the next President of the United States. She made it just in time for the elder John's speech, breathless and excited.

After Kerry had finished speaking, I began walking back toward my car, when this friend spotted me (not like that's really hard to do nowadays), ran over to catch up with me and recounted her story. It was the first time she had ever heard a presidential candidate speak in person, and she said she was absolutely thrilled to have had the chance to see the junior Senator from Massachusetts (even from waaaay back in the crowd). Her last-minute effort to get a mere glimpse of the Johns was so inspiring, I felt I just had to share it with you. If people are willing to run half-a-mile on a moment's notice to see the men who are aspiring to replace Smirky & Smarmy, I think it certainly bodes well for this November
.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Kerry: 57 - Cheney: 2

OVERSPUN - Donna Brazile on Crossfire today asked Republican strategist Ed Rogers how many bills Dick Cheney passed in his decade plus in the Congress.

Two. Two bills. Two.

Kerry passed 57. If 57 bills equals an unaccomplished career, as Bush has been saying this week, what does that say about Cheney? (Obviously, for the moment we're putting aside the fact that he's a crook who cooked the books while CEO of Halliburton.) By Bush's standards, Cheney is incredibly unaccomplished as a legislator.

Kerry, however, has 57 Varieties!

More Black-Is-White-ism

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Facing a tough reelection battle, President George W. Bush shrugged off official figures showing stunningly anemic job creation in July and insisted the US economy was "strong and it's getting stronger."

Government figures showed US employers hired a meagre 32,000 extra workers in July, shocking analysts who had generally predicted a gain of 243,000 and shattering expectations of a rebound from sluggish job growth in June.


In a speech to some 7,000 minority journalists, Bush made no reference to the news and said instead that he had been right to push trillion-dollar tax cuts through the US Congress. "It was to stimulate the economy. It was to help people have more money in their pocket, so they would demand additional goods or services," he told the UNITY: Journalists of Color convention.

Employment in June was even weaker than previously reported, the Labor Department said, with net jobs up just 78,000, far lower than even the modest 112,000 initially estimated. Stunned investors sent the Dow Jones industrials average down 105.75 points, or 1.06 percent, to 9,857.28 after just 40 minutes of trade.

Foreigners Own Half of U.S. Debt

REUTERS - Data showing foreigners own half the U.S. debt has raised concerns about a possible tipping point for America's reliance on foreign capital, though the U.S. Treasury Department sees little risk from the holdings ... Foreign holdings accounted for just 20 percent of U.S. debt in 1993 but they have swelled in recent years as Asian banks loaded up on U.S. Treasuries, seeking to depress their currencies against the dollar to boost exports. Economists say the influx of offshore capital has helped support the U.S. economy by lowering market interest rates and bridging the country's large budget and trade deficits.

Veteran Retracts Criticism of Kerry

MICHAEL KRANISH, BOSTON GLOBE - A week after Senator John F. Kerry heralded his wartime experience by surrounding himself at the Democratic convention with his Vietnam "Band of Brothers," a separate group of veterans has launched a television ad campaign and a book that questions the basis for some of Kerry's combat medals.

But yesterday, a key figure in the anti-Kerry campaign, Kerry's former commanding officer, backed off one of the key contentions. Lieutenant Commander George Elliott said in an interview that he had made a "terrible mistake" in signing an affidavit that suggests Kerry did not deserve the Silver Star -- one of the main allegations in the book. The affidavit was given to The Boston Globe by the anti-Kerry group to justify assertions in their ad and book. Elliott is quoted as saying that Kerry "lied about what occurred in Vietnam ... for example, in connection with his Silver Star, I was never informed that he had simply shot a wounded, fleeing Viet Cong in the back."

The statement refers to an episode in which Kerry killed a Viet Cong soldier who had been carrying a rocket launcher, part of a chain of events that formed the basis of his Silver Star. Over time, some Kerry critics have questioned whether the soldier posed a danger to Kerry's crew. Crew members have said Kerry's actions saved their lives.

On edit: Veteran Retracts Retraction

Inundated with calls to verify the statement, Elliott grew media shy and said through his wife he would not talk. Earlier in the day, Mrs. Elliott said her husband was playing golf and would call back when he returned in the afternoon.

Elliott later issued another affidavit -- witnessed and notarized -- this time saying he was misquoted by the Globe and reaffirming his belief that Kerry has "not been honest about what happened in Vietnam."

Elliott also wrote: "Had I known the facts, I would not have recommended Kerry for the Silver Star for simply pursuing and dispatching a single wounded, fleeing Viet Cong."

Martin Baron, editor of The Boston Globe, said in a statement: "Regarding George Elliott's statements on John Kerry's military service, which ran in the Globe this morning, the Globe stands by the article. The quotes attributed to Mr. Elliott were on the record and absolutely accurate."

Next week the group will step up its campaign against the candidate with a book, "Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry." Veterans supporting Kerry called the ad a "smear campaign" and two whose lives were saved by Kerry hit back.

"What these people have said is not true and a lot of it is grossly inaccurate," said James Rassmann, who has appeared at many campaign appearances with the candidate. "These gentlemen appear to be making this up as they go along and they are not keeping their stories straight," he said. Fred Short, who also served with Kerry, said the ad shows "The Bush campaign has nothing to talk about, so they resort to these dirty tricks."

Meanwhile Republican Sen. John McCain, another Vietnam veteran, called the attack dishonorable and dishonest. The Bush administration distanced itself from the advertisement Thursday but did not condemn it.

Wal-Mart Costs Taxpayers

ARIZONA CENTRAL - Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s employee wages and benefits policies cost California taxpayers $86 million annually to provide health care and other public assistance to the retailer's underpaid workers, according to a new study... UC Berkeley's analysis, released Monday, is based on the premise that Wal-Mart's paltry pay scale forces the retailer's workers to supplement their incomes with Medicaid, food stamps and other taxpayer-backed assistance programs at an unusually high rate.

The study estimated Wal-Mart employs roughly 44,000 California workers who make an average of $9.70 per hour - 31 percent below the $14.01-per-hour average of other large retailers with at least 1,000 employees. The study calculated Wal-Mart's wages using 2001 payroll figures disclosed in a sex discrimination lawsuit against the retailer. But Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart said the study's job and wage estimates for California are outdated. The world's largest retailer employs 60,500 California workers who are paid an average of $10.37 per hour, said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Cynthia Lin.

Bush Finally Tells the Truth

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." --George Bush, Aug. 5, 2004

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

The Baseball That Kept Coming Home

Boys in Freeport, Maine, playing with their only baseball early in the last century, lose it when one of the players hits it towards a passing train and it is caught by a sleeping car porter. The boys write the Maine Central RR for help in getting it back and they get far more than they bargained for.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Election Day!

In case anyone cares, here's how I'm voting on federal and statewide election races:

Amendment 1 - No
Amendment 2 - No

Governor - Bob Holden
Lt. Governor - Ken Jacobs
Sec. of State - Robin Carnahan
State Treasurer - Jason Klumb
Attorney General - Jay Nixon
State Senate (District 31) - Larry Snider
State Representative (District 124) - Johnnie Franzeskos
U.S. Rep (District 4) - Ike Skelton
U.S. Senate - Nancy Farmer

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Hunting Germany's Linguistic Gems

Germany's most beautiful word? Take your pick:

Lebenslust - zest for life
Erdbeermund - voluptuous lips
Teufelsbraten - rascal
Wolkenkuckucksheim - cloud cuckoo land
Glueck - happiness
Liebe - love
Mitgefuehl - compassion
Pusteblume - dandelion
Sehnsucht - longing
Vergissmeinnicht - forget-me-not

Source: Deutscher Sprachrat

The Incumbent

"If you want change in this country, you ought to vote for President Bush."

--Matthew Dowd, Bush/Cheney Strategist, Fox News Sunday.