Category Archives: links

1047

Senator, You Used to Be a Pot Head — Now You’re Talking Like a Narc
July 6, 2007
By Norman Kent

Editor’s Note: The following is a letter addressed to Minnesota Republican Senator Norm Coleman — a strong advocate of the brutal federal drug laws on the books — reminding him that he used to be a happy, safe, fun-loving pot smoker.

My friend Norman,

Years ago, in a lifetime far away, you did not oppose the legalization of marijuana. Years ago, in our dorm rooms at Hofstra University, you, me, Billy, your future brother-in-law, Ivan, Jonathan, Peter, Janet, Nancy and a wealth of other students smoked dope.

Sure, we had to tape the doors shut, burn incense and open the windows, but we got high, and yet we grew up okay, without the help of the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s advice.

We grew up to become lawyers. Our other friends, as you go down the list, are doctors, professors, parents, political consultants and professionals. No one ever got cancer from smoking pot or diabetes from using a joint. And the days of our youth we look back fondly upon as years where we stood up, were counted and made a difference, from Earth Day in 1970 to helping bring down a president and end a war in Southeast Asia a few years later. We smoked pot when we took over Weller Hall to protest administrative abuses of students’ rights. You smoked pot as you stood on the roof of the University Senate protesting faculty exclusivity. As the President of the Student Senate in 1969, you condemned the raid by Nassau County police on our dormitories, busting scores of students for pot possession. Continue reading 1047

1040

I think war is a dangerous place.
     — George W. Bush

Our enemies…never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.
     — George W. Bush

Our nation is somewhat sad, but we’re angry. There’s a certain level of blood lust, but we won’t let it drive our reaction. We’re steady, clear-eyed and patient, but pretty soon we’ll have to start displaying scalps.
     — George W. Bush

If this were a dictatorship, it’d be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I’m the dictator.
     — George W. Bush

I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we’re really talking about peace.
     — George W. Bush

…the role of the military is to fight and win war and, therefore, prevent war from happening in the first place.
     — George W. Bush

Free nations are peaceful nations. Free nations don’t attack each other. Free nations don’t develop weapons of mass destruction.
     — George W. Bush

We know that dictators are quick to choose aggression, while free nations strive to resolve differences in peace.
     — George W. Bush

Evil men, obsessed with ambition and unburdened by conscience, must be taken very seriously–and we must stop them before their crimes can multiply.
     — George W. Bush

These people are trying to shake the will of the Iraqi citizens, and they want us to leave…I think the world would be better off if we did leave…
     — George W. Bush (on Iraqi Insurgency)

I respect the jury’s decision.
     — George Bush, seconds before changing the decision of the jury


NYC man held for reciting 1st Amendment
July 2, 2007
By TOM HAYS

Reverend Billy says he wants the New York Police Department to get right with the Constitution.

The performance artist — a cross between a street-corner preacher and an Elvis impersonator (but blond) — was arrested on harassment charges last week while reciting the First Amendment through a megaphone in Manhattan’s Union Square. On Monday, he donned his trademark white suit and returned to the scene of his alleged sin to demand that police repent.

“It feels so good to be back on the very spot where I was denied my First Amendment rights by reciting the First Amendment,” he told reporters over the din of an NYPD helicopter hovering overhead.

Reverend Billy, whose real name is Bill Talen, was joined by women in red choir robes who sang a hymn version of the amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech. Other activists distributed an amateur videotape of his arrest.

Eyes closed and hands raised, the pretend pastor whooped, “Bill of Rights-elujah!”

Talen, 57, has spent years using his mock persona as a fire-and-brimstone evangelist to rail against consumer culture — what he portrays as the Disneyfication of Manhattan. He was arrested this year on misdemeanor trespassing charges for protesting at a Starbucks; that case is pending.

His latest run-in with the law began after he turned up to support people gathering in Union Square last Friday for the monthly Critical Mass bike ride asserting cyclists’ rights.

The NYPD has aggressively policed the rides, arguing that they can interfere with traffic and threaten public safety. Advocates for Critical Mass have accused police of infringing on the riders’ constitutional rights to free speech and free assembly.

The video shows Talen preaching the “44 beautiful words of the First Amendment” to a visibly annoyed congregation of police commanders huddled a few feet away. At one point, an officer approaches and warns him that his sermon is breaking the law.

“What’s the law?” Talen asks.

“Harassment,” the officer answers.

When Talen persists, another officer comes up behind him and slaps on handcuffs. When being put in a police van, the satirist shouts, “We have a right to peaceful assembly!”

Talen was held overnight before being released without bail. A criminal complaint alleges he harassed police officers by approaching them and “repeatedly shouting at such officers through a non-electric bullhorn.”

Civil rights attorney Norman Siegel, appearing with Talen on Monday, called on prosecutors to drop the charges.

“The arrest was a false arrest,” Siegel said. “What Reverend Billy did last Friday night does not constitute illegal conduct.”

Prosecutors declined to comment. The New York Police Department, contacted Monday evening, said it had no comment.


White House won’t rule out Libby pardon
July 3, 2007
By MATT APUZZO

The White House on Tuesday declined to rule out the possibility of an eventual pardon for former vice presidential aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby. But spokesman Tony Snow said, for now, President Bush is satisfied with his decision to commute Libby’s 2 1/2-year prison sentence.

“He thought any jail time was excessive. He did not see fit to have Scooter Libby taken to jail,” Snow said.

Snow said that even with Bush’s decision, Libby remains with a felony conviction on his record, two years’ probation, a $250,000 fine and probable loss of his legal career. “This is hardly a slap on the wrist,” Snow said.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, who sentenced Libby to prison, declined Tuesday to discuss the case or his views on sentencing. “To now say anything about sentencing on the heels of yesterday’s events will inevitably be construed as comments on the president’s commutation decision, which would be inappropriate,” the judge said in an e-mail.

With prison seeming all but certain for Libby, Bush on Monday spared the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. His move came just five hours after a federal appeals court panel ruled that Libby could not delay his prison term. The Bureau of Prisons had already assigned Libby a prison identification number.

Snow was pressed several times on whether the president might eventually grant a full pardon to Libby, who had been convicted of lying and conspiracy in the CIA leak investigation. The press secretary declined to say anything categorically.

“The reason I’m not going to say I’m not going to close a door on a pardon,” Snow said, “Scooter Libby may petition for one.”

“The president thinks that he has dealt with the situation properly,” he added. “There is always a possibility or there’s an avenue open for anybody to petition for consideration of a pardon.”

Bush’s decision was sharply criticized by Democrats. Republicans were more subdued, with some welcoming the decision and some conservatives saying Bush should have gone further.

“The president’s getting pounding on the right for not granting a full pardon,” Snow suggested.

Asked whether Cheney had weighed in on the decision to commute Libby’s sentence, Snow said, “I don’t have direct knowledge. But on the other hand, the president did consult with most senior officials, and I’m sure that everybody had an opportunity to share their views.”


Experts: Terror suspects not brainwashed
July 3, 2007
By THOMAS WAGNER

Ayman al-Zawahri, al-Qaida’s No. 2. George Habash of the PLO. Mahmoud Zahar, the Hamas strongman in Gaza. All trained as doctors — as did at least seven suspects in the failed bomb attacks in Britain.

The general public often is shocked to see that doctors — the world’s healers — can become militants or even terrorist killers. But some experts believe it is part of a socio-economic trend in which wealthy families highly educate their sons, who sometimes become radical and have the education they need to become leaders.

“People often assume that terrorists are poor, disadvantaged people who are brainwashed or need the money. But the ones who actually perpetrate violence without handlers and manipulation are highly intelligent by necessity,” said Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert at the Swedish National Defense College in Stockholm.

“It’s only the smart ones who will survive security pressures in a subversive existence. Sometimes they are doctors, a profession that provides a brilliant cover and allows entry to countries like Britain,” he said in an interview Tuesday.

At least five of the eight suspects in the failed terrorist attacks in London and Glasgow, Scotland, were identified as doctors from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and India, while staff at a Glasgow hospital said two others were a doctor and a medical student.

“It sends rather a chill down the spine to think that people’s values can be so perverted,” said Pauline Neville-Jones, former head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, which advises the British government.

“It means obviously that you can’t make any assumptions, or have any preconceptions about the kind of people who might become terrorists. It does mean that you widen the net, obviously,” she said on BBC-TV.

Newspapers carried headlines such as “Dr. Terror,” “Doctor Evil” and “Terror cell in the NHS,” the country’s National Health Service.

“It’s really shocking,” said Elaine Paige, an office manager in London. “Given what doctors do in clinics and operating rooms, how could they want to destroy lives?”

But Robert Courtney, a designer in the British capital, said: “Nothing surprises me these days.”

“People from all walks of life are being pushed toward violence by the horrible situations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel and Palestine,” he said.

If doctors were leading the cell that plotted the attacks — which Prime Minister Gordon Brown said were “associated with al-Qaida” — it wouldn’t be a first. Al-Zawahri, an Egyptian who trained as a doctor, is Osama bin Laden’s top deputy, and he often speaks out in audio tapes on behalf of al-Qaida in favor of groups such as Hamas in Gaza.

Three doctors have played prominent roles in militant Islamic groups in Gaza in recent years. Mahmoud Zahar, one of the main Hamas leaders, was the personal physician of the founder of the group, Sheik Ahmed Yassin. Zahar became a Hamas spokesman and leader in the late 1980s alongside his mentor. Yassin, a paraplegic, was killed in an Israeli airstrike in 2004.

Yassin’s successor was Abdel Aziz Rantisi, a pediatrician. He was killed by an Israeli airstrike shortly after Yassin. He was introduced to radical Islam during his medical studies in Cairo.

Also, the founder of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Mohammed al-Hindi, received his medical degree in Cairo in 1980. He returned to Gaza and formed the militant group a year later.

Habash, who trained as a pediatrician in a family of Christian Palestinian merchants, founded and led the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which was behind a spate of aircraft hijackings in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Martin Kramer, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said people often wrongly conclude that a good education and prosperity works against development of terrorists.

“The Sept. 11 bombers were better educated than the average person,” said Kramer, who also is a senior fellow at the Shalem Center, a Jerusalem think tank. “Educated people have long been drafted to fight in jihadi causes. For example, many mujahadeen fighting the Russians in Afghanistan were highly educated engineers and doctors.”

Whatever happens in the fast-moving investigation of Britain’s terrorist attacks they already have opened a debate about the country’s reliance on foreign doctors.

For years, foreign physicians who lived outside the European Union could travel to Britain on a regular visa — without a job offer or a work permit — and find employment with the National Health Service for up to three years.

That freewheeling system was designed to help Britain cope with a doctor shortage. Last year the regulations were tightened — not out of concern for security but because Britain needs fewer foreign doctors. But today’s National Health Service clinics and hospitals still rely heavily on them.

According to figures supplied by the General Medical Council, a regulatory agency, 37 percent of the 238,739 doctors practicing in Britain trained and qualified as physicians overseas. That includes 27,558 doctors from India, 6,634 from Pakistan, 1,987 from Iraq and 184 from Jordan, the agency said.


and, finally, this comes under the category DUH!

if they don’t remember where osama bin laden, then they might just as well create another one… you can’t have too many osama bin ladens hanging around…

Armed Sunnis: gains now, risks later
July 3, 2007
By ROBERT H. REID

The U.S. tactic of using armed Sunni tribesmen in the fight against al-Qaida in Iraq offers short-term gains to weaken the insurgency, but could set the stage for a full-scale sectarian civil war when the Americans begin to draw down their forces.

The danger that these alliances of convenience could backfire becomes all the greater if Iraq’s Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish leaders fail to achieve genuine political reconciliation — the key to ending the conflict.

Instead, signs point to further polarization, despite some progress hammering out deals on sharing the oil wealth and returning many former Saddam Hussein loyalists to government jobs. Parliament could take up the oil bill as early as Wednesday.

“If anything, the use of Sunni tribes in the West has created new forms of Sunni versus Shiite polarization,” former Pentagon analyst Anthony Cordesman told a House committee last week.

Nevertheless, U.S. military officials insist the strategy is working to quell the violence, especially in Anbar province. The western desert region — threaded by the Euphrates River — had been largely written off as a haven for insurgents. But major Sunni tribal leaders agreed to come together to fight al-Qaida in Iraq late last year.

Since then, al-Qaida in Iraq has been mostly driven out of Anbar’s main population centers, according to Marine Brig. Gen. John Allen, the deputy commander for U.S. forces in western Iraq. Those include longtime troublespots such as Ramadi, Haditha and Fallujah that had been the major strongholds of the Sunni insurgency.

Encouraged by the shift in Anbar, U.S. commanders have sought to replicate the model in Diyala province northwest of Baghdad — the scene of an ongoing offensive to regain control of the provincial capital of Baqouba.

Breakaway members of the 1920 Revolution Brigade, an insurgent group led by former Saddam backers, serve as scouts and intelligence gatherers, identifying al-Qaida hideouts.

“They are tired of al Qaida and the influence of al Qaida in their tribes and in their neighborhoods,” Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil, the U.S. commander for Baghdad, told reporters last week. “And they want them cleaned out and they want to form an alliance in order to rid themselves of this blight.”

U.S. officials insist they aren’t actually arming the Sunni tribesmen but simply utilizing them. Nearly every household in Iraq has at least one weapon and the country is awash in guns.

“We’ve given them a little ammo, some flares, but mostly humanitarian aid. We’re not arming these guys, we’re just changing the direction they’re pointing their guns in,” Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the U.S. ground forces commander, said last month.

Regardless of where the weapons come from, the risk is that the Sunni tribesmen won’t cooperate with the Shiite-led central government if they succeed in crushing their al-Qaida rivals. The effort could end up simply creating new Sunni militias, further undermining the authority of an already weak central government.

In rural areas, tribal loyalty is often stronger than allegiance to the national government, especially when the central administration is weak.

“There’s no question that the people with guns in Iraq are looking after their own self-interest,” said Jon Alterman, a Mideast expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “And they don’t have any sentimental attachment to the central government in Baghdad.”

Mindful of that risk, the Shiite government’s initial reaction to arming Sunnis in Anbar and elsewhere was cool. Last month, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said arming Sunnis was simply creating new militias.

Later, al-Maliki said his remarks were misunderstood and that the program should be carried out “under the supervision of Iraqi authorities and through the government.”

But the effort to arm the Sunnis grew in part out of U.S. frustration with Iraqi officials, notably in the Shiite-led Interior Ministry.

U.S. officers had complained privately that they had found Sunnis willing to join but the Shiites at the ministry in Baghdad would not authorize the slots.

“We’ve been forced to go beyond the central government because the central government’s reach doesn’t extend much beyond the Green Zone, and local police are often extensions of militias in any event,” Alterman said. “We’ve been forced to cut out the middleman because there’s no effective middleman to be had.”

The success of the program will likely depend on whether the Iraqis make progress in reaching power sharing agreements among the Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish communities. That would reinforce a sense of national cohesion — which the country now lacks.

Prospects for lasting agreements appear uncertain. The main Sunni political bloc has refused to attend Cabinet meetings to protest an arrest warrant against a colleague. Muqtada al-Sadr’s Shiite faction has also suspended its participation in government.

Those issues would have to be resolved before meaningful agreements can be struck.

Frederick Kagan, a former West Point professor and senior analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, acknowledges that the Americans and Iraqis must be careful to ensure that the Sunnis are eventually integrated into the security forces.

But Kagan believes the gamble is worth it.

“We are serving as the bridge between the Sunni insurgents and tribal leaders and the Shia government,” Kagan wrote in The Weekly Standard. “Before the end of last year, there were virtually no Sunnis willing to step on that bridge. Now, five months into the surge, tens of thousands are walking on it.”


1038

this article doesn’t have anything directly to do with toxoplasma gondii, but it raises the question of why cats “domesticated themselves”, especially considering how prevalent toxoplasma gondii has become in human beings as a result of their interactions with cats… i’ve just got to wonder what the toxoplasma gondii microbe is really up to…

Why Do Cats Hang Around Us? (Hint: They Can’t Open Cans)
Genetic Research Suggests Felines ‘Domesticated Themselves’
June 29, 2007
By David Brown

Your hunch is correct. Your cat decided to live with you, not the other way around. The sad truth is, it may not be a final decision.

But don’t take this feline diffidence personally. It runs in the family. And it goes back a long way — about 12,000 years, actually.

Those are among the inescapable conclusions of a genetic study of the origins of the domestic cat, being published today in the journal Science.

The findings, drawn from an analysis of nearly 1,000 cats around the world, suggest that the ancestors of today’s tabbies, Persians and Siamese wandered into Near Eastern settlements at the dawn of agriculture. They were looking for food, not friendship. Continue reading 1038

1034

Exonerated defendant sues RIAA for malicious prosecution
June 25, 2007
By Eric Bangeman

Former RIAA target Tanya Andersen has sued several major record labels, the parent company of RIAA investigative arm MediaSentry, and the RIAA’s Settlement Support Center for malicious prosecution, a development first reported by P2P litigation attorney Ray Beckerman of Vandenberg & Feliu. Earlier this month, Andersen and the RIAA agreed to dismiss the case against her with prejudice, making her the prevailing party and eligible for attorneys fees.

The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the District of Oregon late last week and accuses the RIAA of a number of misdeeds, including invasion of privacy, libel and slander, and deceptive business practices.

Andersen is a disabled single mother residing in Oregon. In 2005, she was sued by the RIAA for file-sharing, accused of sharing a library of gangsta rap over Kazaa. She denied the allegations and filed a counterclaim alleging fraud, racketeering, and deceptive business practices by the record labels. Despite the lack of any evidence of infringement apart from an IP address, the RIAA continued to press ahead with the case until the abrupt dismissal earlier this month.

Andersen lays out an unsavory account of the music industry’s actions as it attempted to dig up evidence that she was guilty of infringement. Early on, an employee at the Settlement Support Center, the RIAA’s prelitigation collections agent, allegedly told Andersen that he believed she had not infringed any copyrights according to the complaint.

After the RIAA filed suit, Andersen’s complaint says that she provided the name, location, and phone number of the person she believed was behind the Kazaa account “gotenkito,” the account the RIAA accused her of using for copyright infringement. “Instead of dismissing their false claims, the defendant Record Companies persisted in their malicious prosecution of her they publicly libeled her with demanding and repulsive accusations [sic]” that she listened to misogynistic rap music according to the complaint.

The RIAA is also accused of trying to contact Andersen’s then eight-year-old daughter without her knowledge. “Knowing of her distress, the RIAA and its agents even attempted to directly contact Kylee,” reads the complaint. “They called Ms. Andersen’s apartment building looking for Kylee. Phone calls were also made to her former elementary school under false pretenses… Ms. Andersen learned of these tactics and was even more frightened and distressed.”

Andersen says that the RIAA acted negligently throughout the proceedings and engaged in fraud and negligent misrepresentation by demanding that she enter into a four-figure settlement for copyright infringement that she never engaged in. The RIAA is also accused of violating both federal and state RICO statutes, the intentional infliction of emotional distress, and  invasion of privacy. Andersen seeks statutory and punitive damages along with attorneys fees.

We explored the possibility of charging the RIAA with malicious prosecution last month. Attorney Rich Vasquez of Morgan Miller Blair told Ars Technica that he believed the RIAA could be vulnerable to such charges, but it would be an uphill battle to make them stick. Still, the complaint paints a very unflattering picture of the RIAA and its agents engaging in activity that was in many cases questionable and unethical at best.

The history of file-sharing litigation shows that Atlantic v. Andersen was not an isolated case of mistaken identity, and should Andersen get a favorable result here, other former defendants may follow her lead. That could lead to a potentially very costly class-action suit against the RIAA. “You’d have to have a lot of winners,” said Vasquez. “If you have enough people bringing charges of malicious prosecution, you could then show a pattern of practices on the part of the RIAA.”

The RIAA told Ars that it would have no comment on Andersen’s lawsuit.

1033

UK Gov boots intelligent design back into ‘religious’ margins
Not science, not likely to be science
25th June 2007
By Lucy Sherriff

The government has announced that it will publish guidance for schools on how creationism and intelligent design relate to science teaching, and has reiterated that it sees no place for either on the science curriculum.

It has also defined “Intelligent Design”, the idea that life is too complex to have arisen without the guiding hand of a greater intelligence, as a religion, along with “creationism”.

Responding to a petition on the Number 10 ePetitions site, the government said: “The Government is aware that a number of concerns have been raised in the media and elsewhere as to whether creationism and intelligent design have a place in science lessons. The Government is clear that creationism and intelligent design are not part of the science National Curriculum programmes of study and should not be taught as science. ”

It added that it would expect teachers to be able to answer pupil’s questions about “creationism, intelligent design, and other religious beliefs” within a scientific framework.

The petition was posted by James Rocks of the Science, Just Science campaign, a group that formed to counter a nascent anti-evolution lobby in the UK.

He wrote: “Creationism & Intelligent design are…being used disingenuously to portray science & the theory or evolution as being in crisis when they are not… These ideas therefore do not constitute science, cannot be considered scientific education and therefore do not belong in the nation’s science classrooms.”


Former Ex-Gay Ministry Leaders Apologize
June 28, 2007

Three former leaders of a ministry that counsels gays to change their sexual orientation apologized, saying although they acted sincerely, their message had caused isolation, shame and fear.

The former leaders of the interdenominational Christian organization Exodus International said Wednesday they had become disillusioned with promoting gay conversion.

“Some who heard our message were compelled to try to change an integral part of themselves, bringing harm to themselves and their families,” the three said in a statement released outside the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center.

The statement was from former Exodus co-founder Michael Bussee, who left the group in 1979, Jeremy Marks, former president of Exodus International Europe, and Darlene Bogle, the founder of Paraklete Ministries, an Exodus referral agency.

The statement coincided with the opening of Exodus’ annual conference, which is being held this week at Concordia University in Irvine.

Exodus’ president, Alan Chambers, said the ministry’s methods have helped many people, including himself.

“Exodus is here for people who want an alternative to homosexuality,” Chambers said by phone. “There are thousands of people like me who have overcome this. I think there’s room for more than one opinion on this subject, and giving people options isn’t dangerous.”

Founded in 1976, the Orlando, Fla.-based Exodus has grown to include more than 120 ministries in the United States and Canada and over 150 ministries overseas. It promotes “freedom from homosexuality” through prayer, counseling and group therapy.