In Alito, G.O.P. Reaps Harvest Planted in '82

NY Times

"We boxed them in," one lawyer present during the strategy meetings said with pride in an interview over the weekend.

In 1982, the year after Mr. Alito first joined the Reagan administration, that movement was little more than the handful of legal scholars who gathered at Yale for the first meeting of the Federalist Society, a newly formed conservative legal group.

Judge Alito's ascent to join Chief Justice Roberts on the court "would have been beyond our best expectations," said Spencer Abraham, one of the society's founders, a former secretary of energy under President Bush and now the chairman of the Committee for Justice, one of many conservative organizations set up to support judicial nominees.

He added, "I don't think we would have put a lot of money on it in a friendly wager."

Judge Alito's confirmation is also the culmination of a disciplined campaign begun by the Reagan administration to seed the lower federal judiciary with like-minded jurists who could reorient the federal courts toward a view of the Constitution much closer to its 18th-century authors' intent, including a much less expansive view of its application to individual rights and federal power. It was a philosophy promulgated by Edwin Meese III, attorney general in the Reagan administration, that became the gospel of the Federalist Society and the nascent conservative legal movement.

Both Mr. Roberts and Mr. Alito were among the cadre of young conservative lawyers attracted to the Reagan administration's Justice Department. And both advanced to the pool of promising young jurists whom strategists like C. Boyden Gray, White House counsel in the first Bush administration and an adviser to the current White House, sought to place throughout the federal judiciary to groom for the highest court.

"It is a Reagan personnel officer's dream come true," said Douglas W. Kmiec, a law professor at Pepperdine University who worked with Mr. Alito and Mr. Roberts in the Reagan administration. "It is a graduation. These individuals have been in study and preparation for these roles all their professional lives."


Mapplethorpe Exhibit Opens in Havana

Don’t know how I missed this one, found it on Garfield at ask again later. Anyone that likes Mapplethorpe is cool by me.

HAVANA - Communist Cuba hasn't exactly been tolerant of homosexuality. In the late 1960s, Cubans were sent to labor camps for being gay, with homosexuality derided as an illness of the capitalist past. Even today, Cuban transvestites are sometimes detained and threatened with prison. But a new tolerance over the past decade has led to what many believed they would never see on the island: an exhibit by Robert Mapplethorpe, the controversial American photographer known for his homoerotic images.

The "Sacred and Profane" exhibit, which opened Wednesday at a recently restored gallery in the heart of Old Havana, features 48 photographs spanning Mapplethorpe's career. The exhibit runs through Feb. 15.


The political brain

Any time you subordinate the process of rational discrimination to adherence to a radical ideal you get fanaticism. Identity becomes fused with process, the operative can only gain a positive identity through repetition and participation in the ideological structure. A transference of subjectivity occurs between institutional ideals and ego. The person becomes their position. Engaging in a perverse narcissism where their identity is affirmed every time they reinforce the system that grants them their identity. The statement “without passion or prejudice” is ludicrous.

"None of the circuits involved in conscious reasoning were particularly engaged," says Westen. "Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones."

When it comes to forming opinions and making judgments on hot political issues, partisans of both parties don't let facts get in the way of their decision-making, according to a new Emory University study. The research sheds light on why staunch Democrats and Republicans can hear the same information, but walk away with opposite conclusions.

The investigators used functional neuroimaging (fMRI) to study a sample of committed Democrats and Republicans during the three months prior to the U.S. Presidential election of 2004. The Democrats and Republicans were given a reasoning task in which they had to evaluate threatening information about their own candidate. During the task, the subjects underwent fMRI to see what parts of their brain were active. What the researchers found was striking.

"We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning," says Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory who led the study. "What we saw instead was a network of emotion circuits lighting up, including circuits hypothesized to be involved in regulating emotion, and circuits known to be involved in resolving conflicts." Westen and his colleagues will present their findings at the Annual Conference of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Jan. 28.

But Freud was wrong, right?


Corn-fueled stoves causing a real heat wave

Corn is the new king when it comes to heating stoves.
It appears that every manufacturer of corn-fueled stoves in the United States and Canada is facing a backlog of orders because of the huge demand. Both manufacturers and dealers seem to have been caught by surprise by the wave of consumer interest.
Why all the sudden hullabaloo? Simple – nothing costs less to burn at this point than corn, which sells for about $2 per bushel. According to figures provided by Even Temp, maker of the St. Croix line of stoves, the cost per therm for 100,000 British thermal units is 42 cents. The same per therm cost for natural gas is $1.40 and $2.60 for propane (LP). Wood is 64 cents per therm.
And Dennis Buffington, a professor of engineering at Penn State University, provided these figures in a recent Wall Street Journal story about corn stoves: For 1 million BTUs of heat, it takes $16.47 in natural gas, $33.80 in propane and a mere $8.75 for corn.


DRM: Media companies' next flop?

Media players are risking a consumer backlash by deploying overzealous systems with such limitations, say experts at Wharton, especially in the wake of Sony BMG's decision last year to sell CDs with copy-protection software using "rootkits"--computer software frequently used by hackers to cloak the presence of viruses and spyware.

Sony says it didn't intend to create an opportunity for hackers to target consumers' PCs. On Jan. 6, a U.S. District judge in New York gave preliminary approval to a settlement under which Sony agreed to take back the 50 CD titles with DRM software and replace them with new, unprotected versions. Indeed, according to a document on the Sony BMG Web site, the DRM software was "intended simply to prevent copying beyond the level appropriate for personal use."

The Sony incident, however, raises a host of questions. First and foremost is whether consumers are being duped when they buy content, only to find there are restrictions on transferring music to multiple devices or, even worse, that the DRM software exposes their computer to security risks. Other questions include: Is DRM worth the effort? How can you balance the rights of consumers with the rights of media companies? And what's the future of DRM?



Happy New Year

Bursting Hollywood's 'Bubble'

By Monica Mehta, AlterNet

Q: A movie you want to see is releasing today in simultaneous formats. Would you rather:

1. See it in your living room, where it will air on pay-per-view cable TV at 9 p.m. and 11 p.m.?
2. Go to a theater and see it on a big screen?
3. Wait four days, when it comes out on DVD, and buy and see it then?

Today, the movie industry will have America's answer to this question.

It's the first time a high-profile director will be releasing his film in theaters, on DVD and on cable television simultaneously. And it might mean big changes in the way Hollywood does business over the next decade -- much the way downloaded music has changed the way the music industry operates.

The groundbreaking film in question is called "Bubble," and the director is Steven Soderbergh, who helmed such greats as "sex, lies and videotape," "Traffic," "Erin Brockovich" and "Che." Critics have called the movie "too indie" and "the weirdest goddamn movie ever released by a major American filmmaker," but the plotline seems fairly standard: A love triangle develops between workers at a doll factory in a small Midwestern town. A murder occurs. Mayhem ensues. Soderbergh used mostly nonprofessional actors from the West Virginia and Ohio locales where he shot the film and spent a mere $1.7 million making it. He had no script, instead teaching the actors to improvise scenes based on a screenwriter's outline, and the movie is a mere 73 minutes long.


El Salvador buries revolutionary


An estimated 100,000 people have attended the funeral of one of Latin America's best-known revolutionary leaders, Schafik Handal. The former commander of El Salvador's left-wing FMLN guerrillas died of a heart attack on Tuesday aged 75. Delegations came from across Latin America for the funeral. The crowd, perhaps the largest gathering in El Salvador in 25 years, chanted revolutionary slogans as they followed Handal's coffin.

The red shirts of the former guerrillas filled San Salvador's central square where the funeral mass was held, as well as the surrounding streets. Schafik Handal was the main leader of the political party formed by El Salvador's left-wing guerrillas at the end of the civil war in 1992.


Data Mining for Fun and Profit

Privacy spot

Tom Owad at applefritter.com has posted a detailed story on how he was able to use Amazon wishlists to profile thousands of people. By using the search function at Amazon, he accessed and downloaded over 260,000 publicly-available wishlists. He then searched the lists for "suspicious" books and authors, including Fahrenheit 451, Michael Moore, Rush Limbaugh, the Koran/Quran and, of course, Build Your Own Laser, Phaser, Ion Ray Gun and Other Working Space Age Projects.



Forum Spotlights Problems of Poor Women

By NATALIE OBIKO PEARSON, Associated Press Writer

Activists at the World Social Forum turned their attention Thursday to obstacles faced by poor women in Latin America, whom they called the primary, and often unheard, victims of globalization.

Several women's rights groups said free trade is further undermining the position of women in a region where machismo is entrenched, domestic violence is a problem and governments often take hard-line stances against abortion.

Some argued that open-market policies have hurt Latin American economic sectors, such as agriculture, that tend to employ more women than men.

"Poor women are not the same as poor men," said activist Francini Mestrun at an event organized by the Brazil-based Latin American Network of Women Transforming the Economy.

Rosana Heringer, a coordinator in Brazil for ActionAid International, said water privatization — a trend that has caused violent protests in Bolivia and Guatemala — especially affects women, who often are responsible for finding water in poor communities not served by for-profit utilities.

Latin American and Caribbean countries also have increasingly turned to tourism as a source of income, spawning a booming sex trade that has turned the trafficking of women into a profitable crime, some leading activists said.


Here Comes the Bullshit

So now Al “Dooo” Sharpton has tagged in on the you didn’t check with us bandwagon. Short and sweet . . . Aaron McGruder made fun of Black folk. Guess what? That’s what he gets paid to do. But he better watch out before Oprha gets him on her couch. Anybody notice that Mississippi Big Mamma startin’ to creep out in Oprah. I think it’s the hips. She’ll probably do a show about the “controversy” rather than covering the fact that 80% of Black people in New Orleans are GONE. I know she won’t talk about female prisoners we were not holding.

Al Sharpton v Aaron McGruder “Celebrity Death Match”

Aaron McGruder is a cartoonist, great cartoonist, funny, clever, innovative even but genius . . . no.

Al Sharpton, and McGruder is right on this point . . . AL SHARPTON HAS A PERM IN 2006! You can’t take him seriously. Sorry man, there is only one James Brown.

Finally, if you cared so damn much for Dr. King’s Legacy you would realize we don’t have time for this Bullshit!

Alone on the Internet? Hardly


NEW YORK (AP) -- The cyber-world expands people's social networks and even encourages people to talk by phone or meet others in person, a new study finds.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project also finds that U.S. Internet users are more apt to get help on health care, financial and other decisions because they have a larger set of people to which to turn.

Further rebuking early studies suggesting that the Internet promotes isolation, Pew found that it "was actually helping people maintain their communities," said Barry Wellman, a University of Toronto sociology professor and co-author of the Pew report.

The study found that e-mail is supplementing, not replacing, other means of contact. For example, people who e-mail most of their closest friends and relatives at least once a week are about 25 percent more likely to have weekly landline phone contact as well. The increase is even greater for cell phones.

"There's a certain seamlessness of how people maintain their social networks," said John Horrigan, Pew's associate director. "They shift between face-to-face, phone and Internet quite easily."

Meanwhile, Internet users tend to have a larger network of close and significant contacts -- a median of 37 compared with 30 for nonusers -- and they are more likely to receive help from someone within that social network.


Give'em hell!

A shout out to the warriors in the GWOT


US plans to 'fight the net' revealed

A newly declassified document gives a fascinating glimpse into the US military's plans for "information operations" - from psychological operations, to attacks on hostile computer networks.

Bloggers beware.

As the world turns networked, the Pentagon is calculating the military opportunities that computer networks, wireless technologies and the modern media offer.

From influencing public opinion through new media to designing "computer network attack" weapons, the US military is learning to fight an electronic war.

The declassified document is called "Information Operations Roadmap". It was obtained by the National Security Archive at George Washington University using the Freedom of Information Act.

Officials in the Pentagon wrote it in 2003. The Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, signed it.



In the name of the great and holy sacrament, the book we all love till read. Wait to they see what we have brewing across the sea; Zen-Sufi and Ximmeron-Taoist. How is that for religiously musical?

At first, it seems a surprising sight: inside a two-story mosque in sub-Saharan Africa's largest metropolis hangs a life-size portrait of Jesus Christ.

Yet worshipers at "The True Message of God Mission" say it's entirely natural for Christianity and Islam to cexist, even overlap. They begin their worship by praying at the Jesus alcove and then "running their deliverance" - sprinting laps around the mosque's mosaic-tiled courtyard, praying to the one God for forgiveness and help. They say it's akin to Israelites circling the walls of Jericho - and Muslims swirling around the Ka'ba shrine in Mecca.

This group - originally called "Chris-lam-herb" for its mix-and-match approach to Christianity, Islam, and traditional medicine - is a window on an ongoing religious ferment in Africa. It's still up for debate whether this group, and others like it, could become models for Muslim-Christian unity worldwide or whether they're uniquely African. But either way, they are "part of a trend," says Dana Robert, a Boston University religion professor.



Alexion Pharmaceuticals Reports Three-Year Cumulative Clinical Data of Eculizumab Therapy in Patients with Paroxysmal Nocturnal Hemoglobinuria

CHESHIRE, Conn., Dec. 12 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Patients with paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH) given eculizumab, a novel terminal complement inhibitor, have shown sustained and significant reductions in red blood cell destruction and in the need for blood transfusions, according to preliminary three-year cumulative results of an open-label extension study presented by investigators from Leeds Teaching Hospital, St. George's Hospital and Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Nasdaq: ALXN) at the 47th Annual American Society of Hematology Meeting and Exposition in Atlanta, Saturday December 10th. The 10 patient open-label extension program of an initial pilot trial is being conducted in the United Kingdom at two sites. All patients have now completed at least three years of chronic eculizumab therapy. In addition to reductions in hemolysis and the need for transfusions, the results also showed a sustained and stable increase in PNH red blood cell counts. PNH is a rare form of anemia for which there is no currently specific treatment.

Eculizumab is a monoclonal antibody drug that blocks the terminal complement pathway of the immune system. Terminal complement has been linked to the destruction of red blood cells, or hemolysis, characteristic of PNH, as PNH blood cells are deficient in natural inhibitors of the complement cascade.


Neanderthal man floated into Europe, say Spanish researchers

Meanwhile on the Isle of Patmos . . .
Spanish investigators believe they may have found proof that neanderthal man reached Europe from Africa not just via the Middle East but by sailing, swimming or floating across the Strait of Gibraltar.
Prehistoric remains of hunter-gatherer communities found at a site known as La Cabililla de Benzú, in the Spanish north African enclave of Ceuta, are remarkably similar to those found in southern Spain, investigators said. Stone tools at the site correspond to the middle palaeolithic period, when neanderthal man emerged, and resemble those found across Spain.
"This could break the paradigm of most investigators, who have refused to believe in any contact in the palaeolithic era between southern Europe and northern Africa," investigator José Ramos explained in the University of Cadiz's research journal.


Pixar, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Disney, Time Warner, Viacom and oh yeah . . . Pixar

It’s amazing that when these two started they were a couple of geeks, now they are on “opposing” sides of the vast and increasingly homogenized media landscape.UPN and WB (Time Warner and Viacom) merge. Bill Gates is now on the side of Viacom, and Steve Jobs now on the side of Disney, huge, huge. With Bill’s new joint venture with MTV, the FCC getting ready to mandate technology and Steve’s new seat on the board at Disney, technology and content have achieved a monopolistic coup. Bravo.

“A PC on every desktop and every PC running Microsoft.”

Steve and Bill – Pals.

Say it with me: Monopolistic Consolodation. Thanks Bill Moyers.

China's economy continues to soar

No Shit.

China's economy maintained its stellar growth last year, official figures have confirmed, expanding 9.9% in 2005. Growth has now been about 10% for three consecutive years and the economy shows no signs of slowing despite government efforts to restrain it.

Total economic output rose to 18.2 trillion yuan ($2.25 trillion) as soaring exports fuelled the country's growing trade surplus. Experts said China may now be the world's fourth-largest economy.


Po’ Little White Boy: John Walker Lindh

But seriously, take a look.

I believe the case of John Lindh is an important story and worthy of this audience's attention. In simple terms, this is the story of a decent and honorable young man, embarked on a spiritual quest, who became the focus of the grief and anger of an entire nation over an event in which he had no part. I refer to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. The reason I think this story is important is because our system broke down in the case of John Lindh. My goals today are first, just to tell you the story of John Lindh. Second, to ask you to reflect, based on the fact of John's case, on the importance and the fragility of the rights we enjoy under our Constitution. And my third point is to suggest that the so-called war on terrorism lacks a hearts and minds component.



Why I pay Too Much for Healthcare

FTCR: Insurers Inflated Med-Mal Claims to Justify Rate Hikes

In documents filed with state regulators and in statements to public officials, medical malpractice insurance companies consistently inflated the amount they estimated they would pay out in claims, according to a study by the nonprofit Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.

The report maintains that insurers then used the overstated figures to justify increases in doctors' premiums and pressure legislators to enact lawsuit restrictions.

The group charges that malpractice insurers inflated their losses by an average 46 percent each year between 1986 and 1994. During that period, insurers reported $39 billion in losses to regulators, but actually paid out only $27 billion in claims, according to the report.

FTCR called for an investigation of industry accounting practices that it said enable insurance companies to misrepresent their financial condition and charge potentially billions of dollars in excessive premiums.


A Mess

The Federal government will legislatively mandate a specific type of technology?

Broadcast and Audio Flag
Full Committee Hearing

Time frame (58:00 – 1:00:00)

U.S. Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) “And if we don’t do something were just going to kill off creative copyrighted material. . .”

Mr. Andy Setos

President of Engineering, Fox Entertainment Group

“Well we certainly won’t see creative, high quality material on local broadcast stations, that is where this is really focused, this really isn’t a copyright play its really in the interest of . . . broadcast stations.”


Business week

For nearly a decade, the nation's 1,700 TV stations have been promising to broadcast crystal-clear digital signals to viewers across the country. But somehow, rushing toward that end never seemed to be entirely in their best interest.

Those promises go back to a deal broadcasters made with the federal government under the 1996 Telecommunications Act and a follow-up congressional bill a year later. Broadcasters received free electronic airwaves -- which are technically owned by the public and controlled by the federal government -- for digital transmissions. In return, they had to give back the airwaves they now use for their old analog broadcasts, which had been doled out over several decades. But they didn't have to return it until 85% of U.S. households receive digital signals or the year 2006, whichever came later.


Digital rights management (DRM) technology is rapidly becoming a concrete reality, built into the products that consumers buy and affecting the way people obtain and enjoy movies, music, books, television programs, and other digital content. It is natural that the creators and owners of content are seeking technical locks to protect that content from the piracy that digital networks have made easier than ever. At the same time, those digital locks on content will have a profound effect on how people view, watch, use, and share information - especially through the new and powerful forms of communication offered by computers and the Internet.

The "broadcast flag" - a method for protecting digital television broadcasts - has emerged as one of the first major debates over government mandates for DRM copy protections. As the result of a Federal Communication Commission decision issued in November 2003, starting in July 2005 it will be illegal to manufacture or sell devices that receive over-the-air digital television broadcasts unless those devices include certain copy protection technologies.

La Verdad

Just thought I would kick the “way back” machine to 2001 and read through an old classic. The “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism.” Yes, the USA PATRIOT act of 2001.

“. . . all I see is blond, brunette, redhead . . .”Cipher The Matrix



(1) IN GENERAL- Rule 6(e)(3)(C) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure is amended to read as follows:

`(C)(i) Disclosure otherwise prohibited by this rule of matters occurring before the grand jury may also be made--

`(I) when so directed by a court preliminarily to or in connection with a judicial proceeding;

`(II) when permitted by a court at the request of the defendant, upon a showing that grounds may exist for a motion to dismiss the indictment because of matters occurring before the grand jury;

`(III) when the disclosure is made by an attorney for the government to another Federal grand jury;

`(IV) when permitted by a court at the request of an attorney for the government, upon a showing that such matters may disclose a violation of State criminal law, to an appropriate official of a State or subdivision of a State for the purpose of enforcing such law; or

`(V) when the matters involve foreign intelligence or counterintelligence (as defined in section 3 of the National Security Act of 1947 (50 U.S.C. 401a)), or foreign intelligence information (as defined in clause (iv) of this subparagraph), to any Federal law enforcement, intelligence, protective, immigration, national defense, or national security official in order to assist the official receiving that information in the performance of his official duties.

`(ii) If the court orders disclosure of matters occurring before the grand jury, the disclosure shall be made in such manner, at such time, and under such conditions as the court may direct.

`(iii) Any Federal official to whom information is disclosed pursuant to clause (i)(V) of this subparagraph may use that information only as necessary in the conduct of that person's official duties subject to any limitations on the unauthorized disclosure of such information. Within a reasonable time after such disclosure, an attorney for the government shall file under seal a notice with the court stating the fact that such information was disclosed and the departments, agencies, or entities to which the disclosure was made.

`(iv) In clause (i)(V) of this subparagraph, the term `foreign intelligence information' means--

`(I) information, whether or not concerning a United States person, that relates to the ability of the United States to protect against--

`(aa) actual or potential attack or other grave hostile acts of a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power;

`(bb) sabotage or international terrorism by a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power; or

`(cc) clandestine intelligence activities by an intelligence service or network of a foreign power or by an agent of foreign power; or

`(II) information, whether or not concerning a United States person, with respect to a foreign power or foreign territory that relates to--

`(aa) the national defense or the security of the United States; or

`(bb) the conduct of the foreign affairs of the United States.'.

(2) CONFORMING AMENDMENT- Rule 6(e)(3)(D) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure is amended by striking `(e)(3)(C)(i)' and inserting `(e)(3)(C)(i)(I)'.


(1) LAW ENFORCEMENT- Section 2517 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by inserting at the end the following:

`(6) Any investigative or law enforcement officer, or attorney for the Government, who by any means authorized by this chapter, has obtained knowledge of the contents of any wire, oral, or electronic communication, or evidence derived therefrom, may disclose such contents to any other Federal law enforcement, intelligence, protective, immigration, national defense, or national security official to the extent that such contents include foreign intelligence or counterintelligence (as defined in section 3 of the National Security Act of 1947 (50 U.S.C. 401a)), or foreign intelligence information (as defined in subsection (19) of section 2510 of this title), to assist the official who is to receive that information in the performance of his official duties. Any Federal official who receives information pursuant to this provision may use that information only as necessary in the conduct of that person's official duties subject to any limitations on the unauthorized disclosure of such information.'.

(2) DEFINITION- Section 2510 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by--

(A) in paragraph (17), by striking `and' after the semicolon;

(B) in paragraph (18), by striking the period and inserting `; and'; and

(C) by inserting at the end the following:

`(19) `foreign intelligence information' means--

`(A) information, whether or not concerning a United States person, that relates to the ability of the United States to protect against--

`(i) actual or potential attack or other grave hostile acts of a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power;

`(ii) sabotage or international terrorism by a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power; or

`(iii) clandestine intelligence activities by an intelligence service or network of a foreign power or by an agent of a foreign power; or

`(B) information, whether or not concerning a United States person, with respect to a foreign power or foreign territory that relates to--

`(i) the national defense or the security of the United States; or

`(ii) the conduct of the foreign affairs of the United States.'.

(c) PROCEDURES- The Attorney General shall establish procedures for the disclosure of information pursuant to section 2517(6) and Rule 6(e)(3)(C)(i)(V) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure that identifies a United States person, as defined in section 101 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1801)).


(1) IN GENERAL- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, it shall be lawful for foreign intelligence or counterintelligence (as defined in section 3 of the National Security Act of 1947 (50 U.S.C. 401a)) or foreign intelligence information obtained as part of a criminal investigation to be disclosed to any Federal law enforcement, intelligence, protective, immigration, national defense, or national security official in order to assist the official receiving that information in the performance of his official duties. Any Federal official who receives information pursuant to this provision may use that information only as necessary in the conduct of that person's official duties subject to any limitations on the unauthorized disclosure of such information.

(2) DEFINITION- In this subsection, the term `foreign intelligence information' means--

(A) information, whether or not concerning a United States person, that relates to the ability of the United States to protect against--

(i) actual or potential attack or other grave hostile acts of a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power;

(ii) sabotage or international terrorism by a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power; or

(iii) clandestine intelligence activities by an intelligence service or network of a foreign power or by an agent of a foreign power; or

(B) information, whether or not concerning a United States person, with respect to a foreign power or foreign territory that relates to--

(i) the national defense or the security of the United States; or

(ii) the conduct of the foreign affairs of the United States.


The Way

Photo by romsrini

Know magic. Shun magic.

All Dreams are aspirations uncommitted.

Some dare dream dreams of greatness.

Some dream money,

Some dream fame.

And then,

There are those that dare dream:


Samuel Baron

Turning a Blind Eye to Wi-Fi

By Robert W. McChesney and John Podesta, Washington Monthly

Two decades ago, the chattering classes fretted about economic upheaval rising from Japan and the Asian Tigers. They feared an invasion of cars, microchips, and karaoke that would take away American jobs, take over U.S.-dominated industries, and shift cultural norms. In the 1990s, America responded with a boom in high technology and Hollywood exports. But a revolution is again brewing in places like Japan and South Korea. This time it's about "broadband" -- a technology that, in terms of powering economies, could be the 21st century equivalent of electricity. But rather than relive the jingoism of the 1980s, American policy makers would be wise to take a cue from the Asian innovators and implement new policies to close the digital divide at home and with the rest of the world.


Slavery Beneath the Golden Arches?

Coming soon to a job near you!

By Jordan Buckley and Katie Shepherd, WireTap

Exactly 50 years ago this weekend, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. answered a startling phone call from Minneapolis Tribune journalist Carl T. Rowan. Rowan had come across a wire report that the Montgomery bus boycott -- then entering its sixth week -- had been resolved by city officials and local black ministers.

The announcement would, of course, prove to be a fabrication of local authorities, and the boycott would endure another 11 months, resulting in the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Alabama's bus segregation laws.

Today -- in the face of a recent revelation that McDonald's appears to buy its tomatoes through at least one convicted slaver -- the fast food giant has resorted to a similarly shameful tactic: taking token measures to avoid confronting the severe human rights abuses that may be hidden within its supply chain.

Since 1997, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) -- a community group from Southern Florida representing thousands of farmworkers -- has uncovered, investigated and helped to prosecute six separate slavery cases. In 2003, three CIW members were awarded the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award for their work in liberating over 1,100 individuals involuntarily held in agricultural work camps along the East Coast.

Last November, CIW called upon McDonald's to partner with them in confronting the violence and subpoverty wages of modern-day farm labor. McDonald's complicity in farmworker misery is not only emblematic of the industry as a whole, but its substantial clout as a fast-food monolith qualifies it as an apt candidate for working to end the extreme injustice


A Heretic for Our Times

By Jay Walljasper, Ode

'Science is the last unreformed institution'

Sheldrake's bold theories about how the universe works sparked controversy in 1981 with the publication of A New Science of Life. Actually it wasn't the book itself that brought Sheldrake's ideas to prominence but an incendiary editorial by the editor of the respected British journal Nature, Sir John Maddox, who fumed, "This infuriating tract…is the best candidate for burning there has been for many years." That was quite a lot of attention for a young scientist, especially one who at that time was working as a plant physiologist in India.

What so infuriated Maddox was Sheldrake's theory of "morphic resonance" -- a complicated framework of ideas proposing that nature relies upon its own set of memories, which are transmitted through time and space via "morphic fields". The theory holds that these fields, which operate much like electrical or magnetic fields, shape our entire world. A panda bear is a panda bear because it naturally tunes into morphic fields containing storehouses of information that define and govern panda bears. The same with pigeons, platinum atoms, and the oak trees on Hampstead Heath, not to mention human beings. This theory, if widely accepted, would turn our understanding of the universe inside out -- which is why Sheldrake has so often felt the wrath of orthodox scientists.


US Havana messages outrage Castro

Cuban President Fidel Castro has condemned the US for broadcasting illuminated messages on the building of its mission in Havana. The US says the messages, including quotes from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are an attempt to break Cuba's "information blockade". President Castro said it was a gross provocation and a US attempt to break off all relations with Cuba. He called for a mass protest on Tuesday outside the US interests section.


Ford preparing for mass job cuts

Ford is due to unveil plant closures and 30,000 job cuts aimed at reviving the fortunes of its US business. The carmaker, the first to use production lines in its factories, is facing increased competition from Asian rivals such as Toyota and Nissan.

Ford's auto business reported losses of $1.7bn (£950m) in the first nine months of 2005, and tough times are predicted. Despite the problems, Ford said on Monday that fourth quarter earnings rose by 19%, topping market forecasts. The company said that net income was $124m in the last three months of 2005, compared with $104m in the same period a year earlier. Ford is expected to outline its restructuring plan later today.



Google Resists Total Information Awareness

scientia est potentia
Google has refused to comply with a US government subpoena for information about how people use its search engine, opening one of the first legal battles over whether law enforcement agencies should have access to the increasingly far-reaching data held by search engine companies.

The legal tussle could also raise questions in internet users' minds over whether information about their personal searches on websites like Google's could be seized by the government, Google has warned.

The company argues that the government could obtain the information from other public sources and that acceding to the request "would suggest that it is willing to reveal information about those who use its service".

The DoJ says it needs data from Google to prove that filtering software is not effective in protecting minors from pornographic websites.

Google argues in correspondence filed in a California court that the DoJ's request for information, issued in August, 2005, was "overbroad, unduly burdensome" and "vague".

"Google is not a party to this lawsuit and their demand for information overreaches. We had lengthy discussions with them to try to resolve this, but were not able to and we intend to resist their motion vigorously," Nicole Wong, associate general counsel, said.

The DoJ said in a filing this week that the court should compel Google to comply with the subpoena, in part because some of Google's competitors had already co-operated with the request, and because the government was not seeking any information that would reveal the identity of the website's users.


Iran moves foreign assets amid sanction threat

By Gareth Smyth and Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran, Finncial Times
Iran is moving foreign exchange out of European banks in advance of a possible referral to the United Nations Security Council and imposition of economic sanctions over its nuclear programme.

Ebrahim Sheibani, Central Bank governor, told reporters on Friday that Iran would "transfer the foreign exchange reserves wherever we consider expedient" and confirmed a shift from Europe had begun.

Mr Sheibani refused to give details or to say where the funds were going, although ISNA, the semi-official Iranian news agency, said the destination was southeast Asia.

On the internationall currency markets, the dollar fell briefly on Friday against the euro and safe-haven Swiss franc on the news .

"Clearly the Iran situation is the key focus at the moment, our view is that eventually it will settle down, but it's expected to rumble on for a while and so maybe at the margins slightly supportive of the safe-haven currencies like the Swiss Franc," Kevin Grice, senior economist at American Express Bank, said.

The Central Bank manages Iran's 'windfall' oil revenue, which could amount to around $25bn in the Iranian year ending in March 2006, and has kept an unknown amount in Europe.

"The nuclear issue and the chance of sanctions is the main reason for this," said an economy analyst in Tehran. "But there is also alarm from what Italy did."

A ruling by an Italian court last month upheld a 1996 US law that holds responsible for "terrorist" acts those nations designated by the US government as "sponsors of international terrorism".

A court in Rome ordered Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (BNL) to freeze an account held by the Iranian government, over the deaths of three Americans in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories at the hands of Palestinian bombers.

Iran has protested that its official accounts were protected by the Vienna Convention governing diplomatic relations.

But families of US citizens killed in the bombing of its Beirut embassy in 1983 by Hizbollah, the Lebanese Shia militant group, are planning to follow suit - asking European courts to seize Iranian assets after a US ruling that Iran should pay $126m in damages.

Davoud Danesh-Jafari, Iran's economy minister, said on Thursday the seizure of Iranian assets was both contrary to "global regulations" and damaging for Europe's banks.

"Such acts would make oil-rich countries anxious to transfer their capital out of European banks into safer places," he said.

While officials do not expect sanctions against Iran within the next few months - while diplomacy runs its course, and a compromise over the nuclear issue, probably brokered by Russia, remains possible - analysts are assessing their possible impact.

The media in Iran has this week highlighted the upward pressure on oil prices simply through talk of sanctions.

Iran exports around 2.5m barrels of crude a day and is the world's fourth largest producer.

The country has been subject to comprehensive American sanctions since the 1979 Islamic Revolution toppled the US-backed Shah. But many European companies - including the energy majors Shell, Total and Statoil - are active in Iran.

Aspartame: Bill would ban food containing sweetener

If passed, halt on sale of products with aspartame in state will begin July 1 . . . Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, is sponsoring a bill that would ban the sale of food products containing aspartame. The popular sweetener, sold under the brand names of NutraSweet and Equal, is found in thousands of products, including diet sodas, but the bill calls it a poison.


Black Jesus

Billed as the world's first black Jesus movie, "Son of Man" portrays Christ as a modern African revolutionary and aims to shatter the Western image of a placid savior with fair hair and blue eyes.

The South African film, which premieres on Sunday at the U.S. Sundance festival in Utah, transports the life and death of Christ from first century Palestine to a contemporary African state racked by war and poverty.

Jesus is born in a shanty-town shed, a far cry from a manger in a Bethlehem stable. His mother Mary is a virgin, though feisty enough to argue with the angels. Gun-wielding authorities fear his message of equality and he ends up hanging on a cross.

"We wanted to look at the gospels as if they were written by spindoctors and to strip that away and look at the truth," director Mark Dornford-May told Reuters in an interview.

"The truth is that Christ was born in an occupied state and preached equality at a time when that wasn't very acceptable."

By portraying Jesus as a black African, Dornford-May hopes to sharpen the political context of the gospels, when Israel was under Roman occupation, and challenge Western perceptions of Christ as meek, mild and European.

"We have to accept that Christ has been hijacked a bit -- he's gone very blonde haired and blue-eyed," he said. "The important thing about the message of Christ was that it is universal. It doesn't matter what he looked like."

In fact, there was a film called "Black Jesus" made in 1968 and starring Woody Strode, but it is described as a political commentary rather than an interpretation of the life of Christ.



Revenge of the Mutt People

Like Jason, I go wandering and this is what I find, “Only a white man would wrestle a hog with a butcher knife. An Indian would shoot the motherfucker with a gun.” Reminds me of someone I know. With a line like that I had to read on. If it wasn’t so true . . .Take a look: Joe Bageant

So I took these pigs home and, using a huge old butcher’s knife, slashed their throats in the woods, right in front of my two kids -- ages two and four at the time -- without flinching even as the pigs screamed almost like humans and thrashed around, splashing thick dark glops of blood everywhere. It bothered me not one bit, just like it never bothered my daddy or granddaddy. Nor did it seem to bother my children as they watched, just like it didn’t bother me as a child when my uncle handed me sacks of barn kittens to drown in the crick. And Walter would shake his head and say, “Only a white man would wrestle a hog with a butcher knife. An Indian would shoot the motherfucker with a gun.”

My point here is that we rural and small town mutt people by an early age seem to have a special capacity for cruelty, compared say, to damned near every other imaginable group of Americans. For instance, as a child did you ever put a firecracker up a toad’s ass and light it? George Bush and I have that in common. Anyway, as all non-whites the world round understand, white people can be mean. Especially if they feel threatened -- and they feel threatened about everything these days. But when you provide certain species of white mutt people with the right incentives, such as free pork or approval from god and government, you get things like lynchings, Fallujah, the Birmingham bombers and Abu Ghraib.


Cuba and Venezuela: A Bolivarian Partnership

Like Denzel said . . .learn that shit!

Civilize the body, make savage the mind.

José Martí and Simón Bolívar, two of Latin America's most respected independence fighters, recognized nearly a century ago that their homelands would never be free of imperial domination, until Latin America came together in solidarity as a united force. Martí and Bolívar's insights remain relevant in the age of neo-liberal globalization. The colonizers of their centuries have been replaced by multinational corporations and imperial states with the ability to blow up the world many times over, terrorizing the global populace. Their collective power is augmented by seemingly untouchable supranational bodies (i.e. the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization) that allow them to come together to devise the most effective ways to control the world and amass wealth.

Martí and Bolívar would be delighted to see the unique partnership that has developed between Cuba and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela -- the relationship that defies the logic of neo-liberalism and takes an important step toward Latin American unity. Cuba and Venezuela demonstrate -- to a world where all are forced into a "race to the bottom" -- that empowering the poorest people through a needs-based partnership is not only possible but also desirable. Their mutual-aid exchanges in educational materials, medical services, and preferential prices of oil are a living counter-example to the competitive and exploitative nature of "free trade."


Rice: No Point in More Iran Negotiations

Versailles? Don’t worry about it.

See ya’ll in March.

France, with the support of the United States, rejected Iran's request for more negotiations on the Islamic republic's nuclear program, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saying Wednesday "there's not much to talk about" after Iran resumed atomic activities. As European countries pushed ahead with efforts to have Iran brought before the U.N. Security Council for its nuclear activities, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused them of trying to deprive Iran of peaceful technology. "We are asking they step down from their ivory towers and act with a little logic," Ahmadinejad said. "Who are you to deprive us from fulfilling our goals?


Educational Apartheid in America's Public Schools

More black students than ever are getting the boot from public schools. Things are so bad that the NAACP announced it would hold public hearings in some cities on the racial disparities in school discipline. It's none too soon. In a 1999 report on school discipline, the U.S. Department of Education found that while blacks made up less than 20 percent of the nation's public school students, they comprised nearly one out of three students kicked out of the schools. Five years later, nothing had changed. In a report called "Educational Apartheid in America's Public Schools," the Children's Defense Fund found that black students are still expelled and suspended in disproportionate numbers to whites.


Leaked memo reveals strategy to deny knowledge of detention centres

What the hell ever happened to the Downing Street memo?

The government is secretly trying to stifle attempts by MPs to find out what it knows about CIA "torture flights" and privately admits that people captured by British forces could have been sent illegally to interrogation centres, the Guardian can reveal. A hidden strategy aimed at suppressing a debate about rendition - the US practice of transporting detainees to secret centres where they are at risk of being tortured - is revealed in a briefing paper sent by the Foreign Office to No 10.



US army in Iraq institutionally racist, claims British officer

These will be the police officers in your city within the next few years.

A senior British officer has criticised the US army for its conduct in Iraq, accusing it of institutional racism, moral righteousness, misplaced optimism, and of being ill-suited to engage in counter-insurgency operations. The blistering critique, by Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, who was the second most senior officer responsible for training Iraqi security forces, reflects criticism and frustration voiced by British commanders of American military tactics. What is startling is the severity of his comments - and the decision by Military Review, a US army magazine, to publish them. American soldiers, says Brig Aylwin-Foster, were "almost unfailingly courteous and considerate". But he says "at times their cultural insensitivity, almost certainly inadvertent, arguably amounted to institutional racism". The US army, he says, is imbued with an unparalleled sense of patriotism, duty, passion and talent. "Yet it seemed weighed down by bureaucracy, a stiflingly hierarchical outlook, a predisposition to offensive operations and a sense that duty required all issues to be confronted head-on."


Salesforce CEO calls site outages unavoidable

Salesforce.com Chief Executive Marc Benioff said on Tuesday that a recent site outage was an embarrassment for his company, but that new technology will soon make its systems more resilient. The Dec. 20, 2005, outage cut many companies off from critical data for hours on a busy, pre-holiday business day. It also called into question how well Salesforce, which stores customer and sales records for thousands of businesses, is holding up under rapid growth. Benioff, who has not commented much about the incident publicly, said in an interview at a San Francisco media event that outages are an inevitable part of computing and that they happen very rarely at Salesforce.

"We don't want outages and we're doing everything we can not to have them, but we'll occasionally have them," he said. "That's part of computing...nothing runs at 100 percent availability." Salesforce, based in San Francisco, claims an availability or "uptime" rate of between 99 percent and 100 percent. Yet a handful of customers that complained to CNET about the Dec. 20 glitch said smaller, less disruptive outages occur more frequently than they anticipated.


Army Orders Soldiers to Shed Dragon Skin or Lose SGLI Death Benefits

By Nathaniel R. Helms

Two deploying soldiers and a concerned mother reported Friday afternoon that the U.S. Army appears to be singling out soldiers who have purchased Pinnacle's Dragon Skin Body Armor for special treatment. The soldiers, who are currently staging for combat operations from a secret location, reported that their commander told them if they were wearing Pinnacle Dragon Skin and were killed their beneficiaries might not receive the death benefits from their $400,000 SGLI life insurance policies. The soldiers were ordered to leave their privately purchased body armor at home or face the possibility of both losing their life insurance benefit and facing disciplinary action.


Leonard South, camera operator for Hitchcock films, dies at 92

Leonard J. South, the camera operator on such classic Alfred Hitchcock films as "The Birds" and "North by Northwest," has died. He was 92. South died Jan. 6 of pneumonia in a Northridge nursing home, said his son, film editor Leonard South II. The elder South also had Alzheimer's disease. South was the camera operator on nearly a dozen Hitchcock films over a 30-year span. He was behind the lens for famous Hitchcock scenes including Cary Grant's flight from a menacing crop-duster in "North by Northwest" and the grisly crow attack on Tippi Hedren in "The Birds." "Hitch was always trying to push the limits on techniques and to be different," South said in 1987. "The crew and actors went along, but I tell you, those (crop-duster and bird) scenes were some of the hardest I've ever been involved in. They called for absolutely perfect timing in situations that were really rather scary."



Mustafa! They have Beads!

Too often, the tribes' introduction to modernity comes from oil company negotiators. By finessing them into signing away oil access in morally deplorable contracts, these deals channel the legendary purchase of Manhattan Island for $24 worth of trinkets. But they are learning fast. Increasingly savvy to the oilman's ways, tribes here are putting on war paint, grabbing spears and shotguns, and saying no, sometimes violently, to the world's most powerful interests.

Scanning bookshelves in his tiny law office in Quito, Ecuador, Bolivar Beltran's disdain for Big Oil is as legible as the contracts that map their nefarious ways.

"These were all negotiated in secret," says the soft-spoken attorney and Ecuadorian congressional aide, explaining how he used a lawsuit last year to obtain pages of once-classified contracts between the Ecuadorian military and 16 multinational oil companies.

In November, when I visited him, Beltran handed me a grainy photocopy of a contract dated 2001. Then another bearing an official government seal. Soon a small table is covered, his finger running down keywords that spill off the page. Occidental Oil. Ecuadorian Ministry of Defense. Counterintelligence. Kerr-McGee. Armed Patrols. Military detachments. Burlington Resources.


A Constitutional Crisis

Following is the text of a speech delivered by Al Gore in Washington

The FBI privately called King the "most dangerous and effective negro leader in the country" and vowed to "take him off his pedestal." The government even attempted to destroy his marriage and blackmail him into committing suicide.

This campaign continued until Dr. King's murder. The discovery that the FBI conducted a long-running and extensive campaign of secret electronic surveillance designed to infiltrate the inner workings of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and to learn the most intimate details of Dr. King's life, helped to convince Congress to enact restrictions on wiretapping.

The result was the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA), which was enacted expressly to ensure that foreign intelligence surveillance would be presented to an impartial judge to verify that there is a sufficient cause for the surveillance. I voted for that law during my first term in Congress and for almost thirty years the system has proven a workable and valued means of according a level of protection for private citizens, while permitting foreign surveillance to continue.


If You Don't Know K Street, You Don't Know Jack

By , The Progress Report

In his dealings with K Street lobbyists, DeLay explicitly stated he would operate by "the old adage of punish your enemies and reward your friends." (To gain influence over legislation, trade associations and corporate lobbyists were ordered to do three things: (1) refuse to hire Democrats, (2) hire only deserving Republicans as identified by the congressional leadership and (3) contribute heavily to Republican coffers.) Despite being admonished by the House Ethics Committee numerous times for his conduct, DeLay's pay-to-play machine continued to plow full-speed ahead. With federal benefits up for sale, corporations quickly identified the need to need to hire more lobbyists, giving rise to one of the greatest growth industries in America. Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, proudly proclaimed in 2002 that [conservatives] "will have 90-10 [percentage advantage in staffing] on K Street and 90-10 business giving."

Lost in the pay-to-play system is any concern for good governance. In a recent editorial, the Wall Street Journal said the real problem "isn't about lobbyists so much as it is the atrophying of its principles. As their years in power have stretched on, House Republicans have become more passionate about retaining power than in using that power to change or limit the federal government. Gathering votes for serious policy is difficult and tends to divide a majority. Re-election unites them, however, so the leadership has gradually settled for raising money on K Street and satisfying Beltway interest groups to sustain their incumbency. This strategy has maintained a narrow majority, but at the cost of doing anything substantial. ... Ideas are an afterthought, when they aren't an inconvenience."



The Neoconservative Persuasion

From the August 25, 2003 issue The Weekly Standard: What it was, and what it is.
by Irving Kristol

WHAT EXACTLY IS NEOCONSERVATISM? Journalists, and now even presidential candidates, speak with an enviable confidence on who or what is "neoconservative," and seem to assume the meaning is fully revealed in the name. Those of us who are designated as "neocons" are amused, flattered, or dismissive, depending on the context. It is reasonable to wonder: Is there any "there" there?

Viewed in this way, one can say that the historical task and political purpose of neoconservatism would seem to be this: to convert the Republican party, and American conservatism in general, against their respective wills, into a new kind of conservative politics suitable to governing a modern democracy. That this new conservative politics is distinctly American is beyond doubt. There is nothing like neoconservatism in Europe, and most European conservatives are highly skeptical of its legitimacy. The fact that conservatism in the United States is so much healthier than in Europe, so much more politically effective, surely has something to do with the existence of neoconservatism. But Europeans, who think it absurd to look to the United States for lessons in political innovation, resolutely refuse to consider this possibility.

Neoconservatism is the first variant of American conservatism in the past century that is in the "American grain." It is hopeful, not lugubrious; forward-looking, not nostalgic; and its general tone is cheerful, not grim or dyspeptic. Its 20th-century heroes tend to be TR, FDR, and Ronald Reagan. Such Republican and conservative worthies as Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, and Barry Goldwater are politely overlooked. Of course, those worthies are in no way overlooked by a large, probably the largest, segment of the Republican party, with the result that most Republican politicians know nothing and could not care less about neoconservatism. Nevertheless, they cannot be blind to the fact that neoconservative policies, reaching out beyond the traditional political and financial base, have helped make the very idea of political conservatism more acceptable to a majority of American voters. Nor has it passed official notice that it is the neoconservative public policies, not the traditional Republican ones, that result in popular Republican presidencies.


For the Perplexed

"the fundamental premise of the Bush Doctrine is true: The United States possesses the means—economic, military, diplomatic—to realize its expansive geopolitical purposes. Further, and especially in light of the domestic political reaction to the attacks of September 11, the victory in Afghanistan and the remarkable skill demonstrated by President Bush in focusing national attention, it is equally true that Americans possess the requisite political willpower to pursue an expansive strategy."

Damn, remember when the neocons were a joke?

Remember when you weren’t sure what “requisite political willpower” was?

Whatever happened to Jeffersonian Democracy?

Why are the Republicans Jacksonians?

Why did we fight World War I?



To the cast and crew of ANY 1 MAN. Break a leg fella’s.

If you happen to be in Philly at the Society Hill Playhouse on Friday or Saturday (13-14th) check out this phenomenal 1 man show!


Check Mate

This is what happens when you let lawyers run amuck, they are, by design, trained to serve (Esq). They will always defer to some form of executive authority and are possessed of a morality that is based on retribution and victory. They are what they are: mercenary.

Ted Kennedy brought out Alito's record as a federal judge upholding abusive law-enforcement officers' behavior: strip-searching a ten-year-old girl, and pointing loaded guns at an unarmed family, after breaking into a home to enforce an eviction order. But we have still not heard Alito provide a satisfactory answer to a direct question about the most important issue hovering over these hearings: executive power. Alito backpedaled on a phrase in his 1985 job application to the Justice Department when Kennedy quoted it to him: "I believe very strongly in the supremacy of the elected branches of government." Alito said he regretted his choice of words. It was "poorly phrased," and in fact he believed, and always has believed, in the balance of power among equal branches of government. But Kennedy went on, "Your record still shows . . . excessive, almost single-minded deference to executive power."


Booming nations 'threaten Earth'

Greedy and inefficient.

Earth lacks the water, energy and agricultural land to allow China and India to attain Western living standards, a US think-tank has warned. The Worldwatch Institute said the booming economies of China and India are "planetary powers that are shaping the global biosphere". Its State of the World 2006 report said the two countries' high economic growth hid a reality of severe pollution. It said the planet's resources could not keep pace with such growth.

"The world's ecological capacity is simply insufficient to satisfy the ambitions of China, India, Japan, Europe and the United States as well as the aspirations of the rest of the world in a sustainable way," the report added. It said that if China and India were to consume as much resources per capita as Japan in 2030 "together they would require a full planet Earth to meet their needs", it said. The institute's report said that in the next few years the choices China and India made could lead to political and economic instability, or they could usher in an age of better stewardship of resources and more efficient technology.


Twin blow cuts Nigerian oil flow

Nigeria's oil production has been cut by 10% after an explosion and the kidnapping of four foreign oil workers. In the southern Delta region, gunmen in three boats boarded a vessel and seized the men, said a spokesman for oil giant Royal Dutch Shell. Diplomats say the hostages come from the UK, the US, Honduras and Bulgaria, although Shell has not confirmed this. Elsewhere in the Delta, a major pipeline that feeds an export terminal has been ruptured by militants. Overall, production is down by some 220,000 barrels a day - almost 10% of Nigeria's average output of 2.6m barrels. Meanwhile, the first audit of Nigeria's oil and gas industry has been published and, without finding direct evidence of fraud, it reveals "accounting weaknesses". Discrepancies worth hundreds of millions of dollars were found between what oil companies paid in taxes and what the government said it received.



Xbox "modders" face 17 years in prison


Two owners of a Hollywood video game store, as well as a third man, were indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday for modifying Xbox video game consoles to disable copy protection, and preloading copyrighted games onto the machines for sale.


'Doomsday' seed bank to be built

Norway is planning to build a "doomsday vault" inside a mountain on an Arctic island to hold a seed bank of all known varieties of the world's crops. The Norwegian government will hollow out a cave on the ice-bound island of Spitsbergen to hold the seed bank.

It will be designed to withstand global catastrophes like nuclear war or natural disasters that would destroy the planet's sources of food. Seed collection is being organised by the Global Crop Diversity Trust. "What will go into the cave is a copy of all the material that is currently in collections [spread] all around the world," Geoff Hawtin of the Trust told the BBC's Today programme.


Rice backs EU over action on Iran

Damn this looks like Iraq

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has urged the UN to confront Iran's "defiance" over its nuclear programme. Earlier, foreign ministers from the UK, France and Germany said the time had come for Iran's nuclear issue to be dealt with by the UN Security Council. However, Iran says it is still willing to discuss its programme and has urged the EU to step back from referral. Russia did not rule out referring Iran to the Security Council but said not all diplomatic steps had been taken. The UK, France and Germany - the so-called EU three - met in Berlin on Thursday in response to Iran's decision to resume nuclear research this week. Speaking afterwards, they said talks with Iran had reached a "dead end" and called for an emergency session of the UN's nuclear watchdog, which could refer Iran to the council and lead to possible sanctions.