MAXINE

"Aim at Heaven ... you get Earth thrown in - Aim at Earth and you get neither" - C.S. Lewis

Monday, July 31, 2006

Tiny "Designer Microbes" - A Greater Terror WMD

It has been five years since the first of the Anthrax terror scares where all of us were made aware of the effectiveness of bioterrorism.

Since then, a new technology has made it easier to genetically modify microbes and even create new ones from scratch. One doesn't even need living material to make up a batch of "designer microbes" that could wreak havoc and create emotional terror - the war effect we worry about from nuclear "dirty bombs", but much easier to make up and dispatch.

Excerpts from the Washington Post -

Custom-Built Pathogens Raise Bioterror Fears
By Joby Warrick - Washington Post Staff Writer - Monday, July 31, 2006; Page A01

STONY BROOK, N.Y. - Eckard Wimmer knows of a shortcut terrorists could someday use to get their hands on the lethal viruses that cause Ebola and smallpox. He knows it exceptionally well, because he discovered it himself.

In 2002, the German-born molecular geneticist startled the scientific world by creating the first live, fully artificial virus in the lab. It was a variation of the bug that causes polio, yet different from any virus known to nature. And Wimmer built it from scratch.

The virus was made wholly from nonliving parts, using equipment and chemicals on hand in Wimmer's small laboratory at the State University of New York here on Long Island. The most crucial part, the genetic code, was picked up for free on the Internet. Hundreds of tiny bits of viral DNA were purchased online, with final assembly in the lab.

Wimmer intended to sound a warning, to show that science had crossed a threshold into an era in which genetically altered and made-from-scratch germ weapons were feasible. But in the four years since, other scientists have made advances faster than Wimmer imagined possible. Government officials, and scientists such as Wimmer, are only beginning to grasp the implications.

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Five years ago, deadly anthrax attacks forced Americans to confront the suddenly real prospect of bioterrorism. Since then the Bush administration has poured billions of dollars into building a defensive wall of drugs, vaccines and special sensors that can detect dangerous pathogens. But already, technology is hurtling past it. While government scientists press their search for new drugs for old foes such as classic anthrax, a revolution in biology has ushered in an age of engineered microbes and novel ways to make them.
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"The biological weapons threat is multiplying and will do so regardless of the countermeasures we try to take," said Steven M. Block, a Stanford University biophysicist and former president of the Biophysical Society. "You can't stop it, any more than you can stop the progress of mankind. You just have to hope that your collective brainpower can muster more resources than your adversaries'."

The Bush administration has acknowledged the evolving threat, and last year it appointed a panel of scientists to begin a years-long study of the problem. It also is building a large and controversial lab in Frederick, where new bioterrorism threats can be studied and tested. But overall, specific responses have been few and slow.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declined so far to police the booming gene-synthesis industry, which churns out made-to-order DNA to sell to scientists. Oversight of controversial experiments remains voluntary and sporadic in many universities and private labs in the United States, and occurs even more rarely overseas.

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"There's a name for fixed defenses that can easily be outflanked: They are called Maginot lines," said Roger Brent, a California molecular biologist and former biodefense adviser to the Defense Department, referring to the elaborate but short-sighted network of border fortifications built by France after World War I to prevent future invasions by Germany.
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How to Make a Virus

Wimmer's artificial virus looks and behaves like its natural cousin -- but with a far reduced ability to maim or kill -- and could be used to make a safer polio vaccine. But it was Wimmer's techniques, not his aims, that sparked controversy when news of his achievement hit the scientific journals.

As the creator of the world's first "de novo" virus -- a human virus, at that -- Wimmer came under attack from other scientists who said his experiment was a dangerous stunt. He was accused of giving ideas to terrorists, or, even worse, of inviting a backlash that could result in new laws restricting scientific freedom.

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Wimmer's method starts with the virus's genetic blueprint, a code of instructions 7,441 characters long. Obtaining it is the easiest part: The entire code for poliovirus, and those for scores of other pathogens, is available for free on the Internet.

Armed with a printout of the code, Wimmer places an order with a U.S. company that manufactures custom-made snippets of DNA, called oglionucleotides. The DNA fragments arrive by mail in hundreds of tiny vials, enough to cover a lab table in one of Wimmer's three small research suites.

Using a kind of chemical epoxy, the scientist and his crew of graduate assistants begin the tedious task of fusing small snippets of DNA into larger fragments. Then they splice together the larger strands until the entire sequence is complete.


The final step is almost magical. The finished but lifeless DNA, placed in a broth of organic "juice" from mushed-up cells, begins making proteins. Spontaneously, it assembles the trappings of a working virus around itself.
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The technology envisions new species of microbes built from the bottom up: "living machines from off-the-shelf chemicals" to suit the needs of science, said Jonathan Tucker, a bioweapons expert with the Washington-based Center for Non-Proliferation Studies.

"It is possible to engineer living organisms the way people now engineer electronic circuits," Tucker said. In the future, he said, these microbes could produce cheap drugs, detect toxic chemicals, break down pollutants, repair defective genes, destroy cancer cells and generate hydrogen for fuel.

In less than five years, synthetic biology has gone from a kind of scientific parlor trick, useful for such things as creating glow-in-the-dark fish, to a cutting-edge bioscience with enormous commercial potential, said Eileen Choffnes, an expert on microbial threats with the National Academies' Institute of Medicine. "Now the technology can be even done at the lab bench in high school," she said.

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A Darker Side

In May, when 300 synthetic biologists gathered in California for the second national conference in the history of their new field, they found protesters waiting.

"Scientists creating new life forms cannot be allowed to act as judge and jury," Sue Mayer, a veterinary cell biologist and director of GeneWatch UK, said in a statement signed by 38 organizations.

Activists are not the only ones concerned about where new technology could lead. Numerous studies by normally staid panels of scientists and security experts have also warned about the consequences of abuse. An unclassified CIA study in 2003 titled "The Darker Bioweapons Future" warned of a potential for a "class of new, more virulent biological agents engineered to attack" specific targets. "The effects of some of these engineered biological agents could be worse than any disease known to man," the study said.

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"The capability of terrorists to embark on this path in the near- to mid-term is judged to be low," Charles E. Allen, chief intelligence officer for the Department of Homeland Security, said in testimony May 4 before a panel of the House Committee on Homeland Security. "Just because the technology is available doesn't mean terrorists can or will use it."

A far more likely source, Allen said, is a "lone wolf": a scientist or biological hacker working alone or in a small group, driven by ideology or perhaps personal demons. Many experts believe the anthrax attacks of 2001 were the work of just such a loner.
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A 2004 National Academy of Sciences report recommended that the committees take on a larger role in policing research that could lead to more powerful biological weapons.

In reality, many of these boards appear to exist only on paper. In 2004, the nonprofit Sunshine Project surveyed 390 such committees, asking for copies of minutes or notes from any meetings convened to evaluate research projects. Only 15 institutions earned high marks for showing full compliance with NIH guidelines, said Edward Hammond, who directed the survey. Nearly 200 others who responded had poor or missing records or none at all, he said. Some committees had never met.
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"We haven't yet absorbed the magnitude of this threat to national security," said O'Toole, who worries that the national commitment to biodefense is waning over time and the rise of natural threats such as pandemic flu. "It is true that pandemic flu is important, and we're not doing nearly enough, but I don't think pandemic flu could take down the United States of America. A campaign of moderate biological attacks could."
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Testosterone - Where There’s Money, There’s Doping

Floyd Landis at a news conference in Madrid. Image Credit: Jasper Juinen/Associated Press

Floyd Landis gave an interview and defended himself along with his Doctor stating that Testosterone is not a friend ... but an enemy to the bicycle racer's performance.

Further, Landis, through the statements of his lawyer, Luis Sanz, said he fully expected the backup test to come back with the same result, because the testosterone imbalance was produced naturally by his [Landis'] body.

What is at question here is the difference in levels between testosterone and epitestosterone that appear in the body. The blood testing showed an abnormal balance/ratio in the levels of testosterone/epitestosterone.

Excerpts from the New York Times -

Testosterone Seems to Be Enhancer of Choice
By JULIET MACUR – New York Times - Published: July 31, 2006

When a doping scandal shook the Tour de France on the eve of this year’s race, Floyd Landis climbed onto his bike, unscathed. When a doping investigation involved some of track and field’s most high-profile figures, the sprinter Justin Gatlin continued to compete, untouched.

But last week, Landis, the Tour de France winner, and Gatlin, who shares the world record in the 100 meters, were no longer on the outside looking in. They were ensnared in the net of drug testing, with the same substance, testosterone, at the center.

For some, last week’s news is a sign that doping controls have improved, but it may also be evidence that some athletes remain undeterred, tempted to break the rules by the promise of money and fame.

“Many more athletes are going to get caught, and it’s going to get ugly,” said Dr. Steven Ungerleider, an antidoping expert who wrote the book “Faust’s Gold: Inside the East German Doping Machine.” “I think people need to brace themselves for some darker clouds on the way here.”

Landis was found to have an illegally high ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone after his Stage 17 performance during the Tour, which moved him to third place in the standings from 11th and back into contention. If the results of his backup urine sample, which could be released as early as today, confirm the initial positive result, he will be stripped of his Tour de France title and face a two-year ban from the sport. If the result comes back negative, the doping charges will be dropped.

Gatlin, who also failed a drug test in 2001, may already face a lifetime ban. He tested positive for testosterone or its precursors on April 22, after the Kansas Relays, and announced the result Saturday.

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“When the smoke clears, I think we’ll all go back and look at what we’ve done to Floyd,” said Landis’s doctor, Brent Kay, in a teleconference Friday.
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In track and field, a host of athletes have tested positive for abnormal testosterone levels. The sprinter Dennis Mitchell, an Olympic gold medalist from the United States, tested positive for a high testosterone-to-epitestosterone, or T/E, ratio in 1998, claiming that alcohol and sex with his wife had caused the positive test. In 1997, the distance runner Mary Decker Slaney also tested positive for a high T/E ratio. Both athletes won on appeal, but an international panel overturned those decisions. They were barred from the sport for life.

But Kay could not see why a cyclist would take testosterone. He said it would make the rider slower because it is an anabolic steroid that builds muscle.

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Scientists like Dr. Donald H. Catlin, who runs the Olympic drug-testing laboratory at U.C.L.A., say that athletes might use testosterone to recover quicker. The former professional cyclist Jesús Manzano said he was given testosterone when he competed for the Kelme team, and said he immediately felt the positive effects.

In an essay in the Spanish sports newspaper AS on Saturday, Manzano wrote: “It gives you a lot of strength, and it works very well. It produces a euphoria.”


John Hoberman, a University of Texas professor who wrote the book “Testosterone Dreams: Rejuvenation, Aphrodisia, Doping,” said: “These people who are using it are probably doing what they thought was low dosing and thought they could probably get away with it. The idea that these are all clever people who are doing it right is erroneous.

“Some are doing it better than others. Some are using physicians. Some are using it on advice from another athlete.”

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Still, even Landis admitted that a dark cloud would remain over him and the sport. And Andy Rihs, Landis’s team owner and owner of the Swiss hearing-aid company Phonak, has agreed.

After so many of his riders have tested positive since the team’s inception two years ago, including the 2004 Olympic gold medalist Tyler Hamilton, Rihs announced last month that he would abandon his sponsorship of the team.

In an article in The Times of London last week, Rihs summed up the reason: “Where there’s money, there’s doping.”

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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Tasting vs. Breathing - Investigative Report

By the time Irma Ortiz discovered she had been breathing toxic fumes on her job as a mixer at Carmi Flavors near Los Angeles, she had lost at least 70 percent of her lung capacity. Ortiz, 44, a nonsmoker who used to lift 50-pound bags routinely, now finds walking so difficult she spends most of her time indoors. Image Credit: Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

When one goes to work in the general foods preparation marketplace, one doesn't expect that they would be working in an environment that is hazardous to one's health. Not so, according to an investigative report released by the Sacramento Bee.

It turns out that working in the food additives manufacturing environment, specifically with additives designed to enhance taste, one can severely compromise their lungs and diminish the capacity to process air to the bloodstream by as much as 80%.

The chemical that has been traced as the culprit is known as diacetyl and the precise number of workers already suffering respiratory effects from exposure this agent is unknown.

Excerpts from the Sacramento Bee -

Investigative Report: Flavoring agent destroys lungs
Two workers need transplants; threat could be widespread
By Chris Bowman -- Bee Staff Writer (Bee researcher Sheila A. Kern contributed to this report) - Published 12:01 am PDT Sunday, July 30, 2006 - Story appeared on Page A1 of The Bee


LOS ANGELES -- Hacking and gasping, Irma Ortiz could cart her groceries only so far before she'd catch other shoppers glaring at her.
Mortified, she'd abandon her cart on the spot and bolt for the door.

Frank Herrera could gun his dirt bike only so far before choking on the rush of air. Go. Stop. Go. Stop. Exasperated, he gave up riding.

Ortiz, 44, and Herrera, 34, are odd candidates for lung transplants, being nonsmokers and having considerable youth on their side.

How they lost 70 to 80 percent of their breathing capacity is no less astonishing. They acquired the same rare, lung-ravaging disease from breathing the same chemicals on the same type of job.

The two weren't working in a chemical or pesticide plant. Nor in a weapons plant. They didn't metal-plate, fumigate, degrease, demolish, smelt or weld.

They made, of all things, artificial food flavorings.

Harmless as that seems, two big labor unions that champion ironworkers and meat cutters are now fighting for the workers who whip up piña colada, butterscotch and other flavors that sell America's snack foods. Just last week, 40 job health experts joined the Teamsters and the United Food and Commercial Workers in urging the Bush administration to issue an emergency order restricting worker exposure to a widely used butter flavoring -- a chemical called diacetyl.

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The lung disease is as bad as its name suggests: bronchiolitis obliterans. It's a condition that literally obliterates the bronchioles -- the lungs' tiniest airways -- resulting in drastically reduced breathing capacity.

Ortiz and Herrera are the first Californians known by state health officials to have developed the disease from working in a flavoring factory, most likely from inhaling diacetyl's powerful fumes, the health investigators said.

But the search for victims has only just begun.

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Neither OSHA, the federal Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration, nor Cal-OSHA, its state counterpart, has set limits for worker exposure to diacetyl.

In California, state health department staff and Cal-OSHA regulators are expanding their investigation beyond the two plants where Ortiz and Herrera worked to the estimated 28 other flavoring companies statewide.

Last week, state officials enlisted the help of physicians at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in testing the breathing capacity of current and former flavoring workers, beginning with the Los Angeles-area plant where Ortiz worked.

Some of the same NIOSH doctors found a strong link between diacetyl and the lung disease a few years ago among workers at microwave popcorn factories in the Midwest. The disease permanently disabled dozens of popcorn workers and killed at least three, according to the doctors.

The flavoring industry's largest trade association also assumed a leading role in the California investigation. The Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association recently arranged for its respiratory disease experts at the National Jewish Medical Center in Denver to evaluate workers and inspect operations at companies.

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Consumers who prepare or eat frozen meals, pastries, candies, coffees and other foods containing these additives are not at risk, doctors say. That's because the chemical concentrations in the final products are much lower than those found in flavorings and snack food plants.
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Without proper protections, workers who make the flavor mixes in batches of 50 to 5,000 pounds can inhale highly toxic fumes as they pour chemical liquids into huge blenders.

The level of worker protection in the flavoring business varies from company to company as with other industries where job safety is largely self-policed.

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By all appearances, the factory appeared to be a model of industrial hygiene, with workers fully suited in protective gear, with meticulous storage, handling and labeling of hazardous chemicals, and worker safety training that goes beyond the law.

"This plant is typical of those in our association," said John Hallagan, the flavor association's chief spokesman and attorney.

Yet the stories of Ortiz and Herrera provide fresh and powerful evidence that some of the estimated 3,700 flavoring production workers nationwide continue to be exposed to highly toxic fumes.

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Few of the flavoring workers are unionized. Many of the estimated hundreds in California are immigrants like Ortiz and Herrera, and primarily speak Spanish.

The two worked 60 miles apart in Southern California, which hosts most of the flavoring factories on the West Coast -- Herrera at Mission Flavors & Fragrances Inc. in Orange County, and Ortiz at Carmi Flavor and Fragrance Co. near Los Angeles.

"They never said nothing to us about the chemicals there, the kinds of dangers or give us a warning like, you know, 'This is bad for you guys, protect yourselves better,' " Ortiz said of her former employer. "They never say nothing to us like that."

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Breathing the toxic fumes can drastically lower breathing capacity in a matter of months. The vapors inflame the bronchioles, crucial airways branching like twigs at the ends of the respiratory tree where oxygen enters the blood. Scar tissue builds up in the inflamed bronchioles, shrinking or completely blocking the tiny air tubes.
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Diacetyl's potent punch was no secret to its manufacturers.

At least one of them, the German giant BASF, had performed experiments in the 1970s showing diacetyl fumes to be extraordinarily effective at killing lab rats.

"That was a big surprise to everybody," said the flavor industry's Hallagan. His trade group did not learn of the internal study until October 2001.

But the flavoring group apparently did know as early as 1985 that breathing high concentrations of diacetyl posed a breathing hazard -- to humans -- according to the association's "ingredient data sheet" on the chemical.

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Ortiz -- a nonsmoker and a one-time robust worker -- has lost 80 percent of her breathing capacity.

"Before I used to be more healthy, but not no more. I gave all my strength to Carmi, to the company. I leave all my strength there."

The disease is irreversible. And it could worsen over time.

Already, doctors have deemed Ortiz eligible for a double-lung transplant. She plans to add her name to the waiting list in August.

If Ortiz undergoes the operation, at best she could resume an active life for several years. At worst, she could suffer a known complication of lung transplants:

Bronchiolitis obliterans -- all over again.

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Friday, July 28, 2006

"Seeing Material" - Tunnel Of Books

Tunnel syndrome: A woman looks at a tunnel made out of books during the "Diversity of Taiwan 2006" exhibition in Taipei. Image Credit: AFP/Sam Yeh

Stick Out Your Tongue - It's Not Rude, Really

"Listerine PocketPaks® strips dissolve instantly, killing over 99% of bad breath germs* to immediately freshen your breath anytime, anywhere. Since you never know when you'll need fresh breath, make sure you're always prepared with Listerine PocketPaks®. This way, you'll always be certain you're putting your best foot forward." Image Credit: Pfizer Consumer Healthcare

No, really, it is going to be good for your health.

Edible film delivery systems for vitamins, electrolytes, even food tastes and preservation is a growing market. This stuff isn't just for breath and social interaction anymore, there are even strips for "Fido".

Excerpts from Business Week Magazine-

It's On The Tip Of Your Tongue
As more medicines take the form of "edible film," the market is exploding
Business Week Magazine - July 31, 2006


They're little green patches of film that melt instantly on your tongue, releasing bursts of minty breath freshener strong enough to wipe out all signs of that garlic shrimp you had for lunch. Sound familiar? They're Listerine PocketPaks, and they're made of a material that folks in the food industry call "edible film." Introduced by Pfizer Inc. in 2001, PocketPaks sparked a craze. Now everything from sushi to Sudafed is showing up on store shelves all wrapped up in melt-in-your-mouth film.

Consumers are lining up for the chance to stick out their tongues. Retail sales of edible film, at about $100 million a year today, are expected to hit at least $350 million by 2008, says James Rossman, a former maker of edible film who is now a consultant in Tampa. In 1999 sales were just $1 million, mostly from niche products such as the edible underwear that's a favorite gag gift at bachelor parties. "Listerine broke the market wide open," says Rossman -- who, by the way, in 1974 had a hand in inventing some of the first edible undies.

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Over-the-counter drugmakers are breathing new life into tired brands by pressing them into flavored strips. In 2004, Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis (NVS ) introduced Triaminic and Theraflu Thin Strips. This April it followed up with Gas-X Thin Strips, a new twist on a nearly 30-year-old brand.
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Patients with four legs and fur may be the next target for drugs-on-film. Albert Ahn, a veterinarian and spokesman for Hartz Mountain Corp. in Secaucus, N.J., says his company is looking at edible film as an alternative to stuffing pills down pets' throats. "Dogs and cats are pill con artists," he says. "They hide them under their tongue or in their jaw and then spit them out when you're not looking." Strips stick -- and some drugs can also be given at lower doses on films because they are absorbed better through the tongue. Ahn estimates that pet pharmaceuticals represent a $1 billion market.
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Some meat manufacturers are using films to cure and glaze ham. There are electrolyte strips that athletes can consume in lieu of sports drinks to fight dehydration. Film might someday be used as a moisture barrier, separating the tomato sauce from the crust on a frozen pizza, for example, so the crust stays crisp. "These films can improve the quality and shelf life of food," says Tara McHugh, research leader for an Albany (Calif.) unit of the Agriculture Dept.

And get this: Matthew de Bord, owner of Origami Foods in Pleasanton, Calif., has developed films made of carrot, and tomato with basil, which can be used in place of seaweed to wrap sushi. "Some people have an aversion to seaweed, or they just want an alternative," de Bord reasons. Costco Wholesale Co. is testing sushi wrapped in de Bord's films at some of its stores in California. Wonder how that might play in Tokyo.

Read All>>


And this from Ediblefilms.org -

In the race to provide superior edible film and coating technology options to the food industry, researchers in the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of California at Davis, led by Dr. John Krochta, are making significant advances in the use of whey proteins, a component of milk.

In the early 1990s, these researchers discovered the potential for whey proteins as a superior alternative to the already-existing protein and polysaccharide edible films and coatings, and as a method to additionally reduce the synthetic polymer films being used by food manufacturers. Since this discovery, research has focused on documenting the properties of whey protein film and coating formulations and developing concepts for the efficient production of stand-alone films and effective food coatings made from whey protein.
Link Here>>

So, stick out your tongue ... it's good for you!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Congress Makes Stand For "Meta-Tag" Decency


On Tuesday, Congress passed a bill that would make it a federal felony to embed misleading "tag" language or photo material that would ultimately lead minors to site that are designed for adult pornography.

Under the provisions of the bill, a Webmaster could be sentenced up to 20 years in a federal prison (and assessed a fine) if it was established that the publisher intentionally used misleading "words" or "images" to confuse or entice minors to view sexually provocative material on a possibly harmful Web site.

Excerpts from CNET News -

Congress spanks naughty sex sites
President Bush is expected to sign a bill that targets Net drug sales and sneaky Web sites deemed "harmful to minors."
By Declan McCullagh - Staff Writer (with contribution from Anne Broache, CNET), CNET News.com - Published: July 25, 2006, 1:48 PM PDT


The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a bill that would make it a federal felony for Webmasters to use innocent words like "Barbie" or "Furby" but actually feature sexual content on their sites.
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Because the U.S. Senate already approved the measure in a voice vote last week, it now goes to President Bush for his signature. Bush, who previously endorsed the bill, has scheduled a signing ceremony for Thursday afternoon on the White House grounds.

"America's children will be better protected from every parent's worst nightmare - sexual predators - thanks to passage" of the legislation, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said in a statement on Tuesday.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, in a statement issued after the House approved the bill by voice vote, said: "We've all seen the disturbing headlines about sex offenders and crimes against children. These crimes cannot persist. Protecting our children from Internet predators and child exploitation enterprises are just as high a priority as securing our border from terrorists."

The 163-page Child Protection and Safety Act represents the most extensive rewriting of federal laws relating to child pornography, sex offender registration and child exploitation in a decade.

If the bill becomes law, it's not clear which Webmasters would become federal felons. Sites like Kontraband.com, which show Barbie and Ken dolls having simulated sex, could be in trouble, depending on how prosecutors and juries interpret the language. (Kontraband offers video clips and photographs, some of which are racy.)

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A key phrase in the legislation (click for PDF) promises prison time only if a Webmaster has the "intent to deceive" a casual visitor.

In addition, the Child Protection and Safety Act, or Walsh Act (named for Adam Walsh, who was abducted and murdered in 1981 at 6 years old), would:

• Punish the intentional Internet sale or distribution of "date rape drugs" by making the act a new federal crime with up to 20 years in prison. The list of offending drugs would include gamma hydroxybutyric acid (sometimes called liquid ecstasy), ketamine, and flunitrazepam (better-known under the trade name Rohypnol).

• Force sex offenders to provide a DNA sample, a requirement that many states already have adopted.

• Create a national sex offender registry to be run by the FBI, with "relevant information" on each person. It's supposed to permit geographical lookups based on ZIP code.

• Fund a series of pilot programs, lasting up to three years, to tag sex offenders with tracking devices that would let them be monitored in real time. The devices would include a GPS downlink (to provide exact coordinates), a cellular uplink (to transmit the coordinates to police), and two-way voice communications.

Separately, the Senate is expected to vote this year on a related but broader proposal dealing with Web labeling. That legislation says that Web site operators posting sexually explicit information must slap warning labels on their pages or face prison terms of up to five years.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

UNIFIL - Picture Worth One-Thousand Words

Since 1978, the UN has had UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) set up. And since 1978, they have not lifted a single finger to stop rocket attacks towards Israel. Since then, they have not lifted a finger to stop Hizbollah from building a full army under their noses. Since then, they have not lifted a finger when Hizbollah built military posts right next to UNIFIL posts. Image & Caption Credit: Small Dead Animals

Jed Babbin explains:

"The U.N.'s years-long record on the Israel-Lebanon border makes mockery of the term "peacekeeping." On page 155 of my book, "Inside the Asylum," is a picture of a U.N. outpost on that border. The U.N. flag and the Hezbollah flag fly side by side. Observers told me the U.N. and Hezbollah personnel share water and telephones, and that the U.N. presence serves as a shield against Israeli strikes against the terrorists."

HT: Michelle Malkin

"Monopoly" Goes Plastic - Bankless Banking Is Next

This photo provided Tuesday, July 25, 2006, by Hasbro Inc., shows a British version of the classic Monopoly board game released this week which abandons traditional paper money, right, for an electronic debit card system. Hasbro, the game's maker, says it's considering similar changes in future editions. Image Credit: AP Photo/Hasbro, Inc.

So, after debit cards, what's next? Credit cards?!

We can see it all now ...

People will be running up hugh debts, renters will not be able to get evicted due to "section 8" rules, players will be able to default on property loans then re-negotiate interest rates and "keep" their car, BOARDWALK and the SHORT LINE Railroad (just like Donald Trump).

How can anyone let this happen? ... Oh yea!, that's right, this will mimick real life - not the ideals of real life.

Excerpts from AP via Yahoo! News -

New Monopoly game uses debit card, no cash
By RAY HENRY - Associated Press Writer - Wed Jul 26, 7:14 AM ET

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - A British version of the classic Monopoly board game released this week substitutes a Visa-imprinted debit card for the stacks of yellow, blue and purple play money long hoarded by children worldwide.

"We started looking at what Monopoly would look like if we designed it today," said Chris Weatherhead, a Britain.-based spokesman for Hasbro Inc., which makes the best-selling board game. "We noticed consumers are using debit cards, carrying around cash a lot less."

British players might not be the only ones switching to plastic. Officials at Pawtucket-based Hasbro say they're considering a similar change for American versions.
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In the new British version of Monopoly Here & Now, players type amounts into a palm-sized scanner and swipe their debit cards to seal the deal.

While the change may startle some Monopoly fans, the game has been revised several times before. Consumers can now buy Monopoly editions inspired by the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings movies, or even a version featuring SpongeBob SquarePants, an animated TV character.

An earlier version of Monopoly Here & Now was released last year in England and still included paper money, Weatherhead said.

But the game had been modernized in many other ways. Some addresses have changed — and the game now includes Kensington Palace Gardens, near Buckingham Palace, and Notting Hill Gate, the setting of a 1999 movie starring Julia Roberts.

Cards that once rewarded players for winning a beauty contest now compensate them for winning a reality TV show. Completing a full circuit around the board is worth two million English pounds, not 200.
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At least one Monopoly devotee seemed ambivalent about the potential changes.

Krisi Lee of Antioch, Calif., owns 19 versions of the game, including the electronic one on her cell phone. She sometimes competes in a Monopoly tournament run by her mother, which usually attracts about 50 players.

She wants her young daughter to learn how to count Monopoly paper money before touching the real stuff, she said. But Lee, 28, isn't a purist.

"That is the here and now," she said. "That's what we do. For a $3 purchase, I use my debit card."
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Saturday, July 22, 2006

S2 Mile Marker Mystery Tour – follow-on #2

Watering and supplies aid station at mile marker 47 on the San Diego County Road S2 in the Anza Borrego Desert State Park in Southern California (within 10 miles of the border with Mexico). Photo Credit: Edmund Jenks/6-10-2006

The “S2” illegal immigration infrastructure is larger than just a simple conspiracy. This Underground Railroad is alive and well, aided by the nations of Mexico and the United States. Our sovereignty and security here in the United States hangs in the balance.

Item #1 – back on July 14, 2006, the Senate voted 100 to 0 to pass a $32 billion-plus Homeland Security bill that included 2.2 billion dollars for border security and control.

This would sound like progress except for the fact that the bill does not provide funding for the fencing that was previously approved in a vote back in May.

I guess the Senate is just not serious enough about this country's sovereignty and security in this post 9/11 world.

Upon further investigation (Washington Times) of the provisions added to the bill found this - Kris Kobach, who was a counsel to the attorney general under John Ashcroft, told a House subcommittee last week that one of the most unusual aspects of the Senate bill is a provision -- slipped into the more-than-800-page bill moments before the final vote -- that would require the United States to consult with the Mexican government before constructing the fencing.

"Now, from my experience as a Justice Department official, when we had consultation requirements with the State Department, just getting two agencies in the executive branch to consult took months or years," said Mr. Kobach, now a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law. "If you add this, three levels of government and a foreign power, your delay" will never end.
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Item #2 - In light of the reviews of the latest version of the senate bill to address immigration - "Senate immigration bill 'far worse' than in '86", Washington Times (free subscription), July 19, 2006, we now have Mexico funding efforts to stage their citizens at supply stations near the border. These stations prepare those who intend to cross the border illegally through the provision of food and water.

Excerpts“Mexico funds staging areas for illegals”

The Mexican staging area for illegal aliens that New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson demanded this week be bulldozed is among hundreds of similar sites along the border sponsored and maintained by the Mexican government.

Many of the sites are marked with blue flags and pennants to signal that water is available. Others, such as the Las Chepas site that Mr. Richardson denounced, are a collection of old, mostly abandoned buildings or ranch houses where illegals gather for water and other supplies -- sometimes bartering with smugglers, or "coyotes," for passage north.

Rafael Laveaga, spokesman for the Mexican Embassy in Washington, yesterday said his government "has a duty and obligation by law to protect Mexican citizens at home and abroad."

Many of the Mexican aid stations are maintained by Grupo Beta, a Mexican government funded humanitarian organization founded in the early 1990s. Driving through the desert regions south of the border in brightly painted orange trucks, Grupo Beta's job is to protect migrants along the border, not arrest them.

A branch of Mexico's National Migration Institute, Grupo Beta also helped pass out fliers warning migrants that the Minuteman volunteers, whom they described as "armed vigilantes," were waiting across the border to hurt them.

In addition to the aid stations, the Mexican government has distributed more than a million copies of a 32-page handbook advising migrants how to cross into the United States. The book, known as "Guia del Migrante Mexicano," or "Guide for the Mexican Migrant," contains tips on avoiding apprehension by U.S. authorities.

Aid stations for illegal aliens also exist in the United States, many of them established and supplied by various humanitarian organizations such as Humane Borders, a Tucson faith-based group that targets illegal aliens who the organization said might otherwise die in the desert.

Humane Borders, established in 2001, has 70 water stations along the U.S. side of the border, each with two 50-gallon tanks next to a 30-foot-mast with a blue flag.

Many are on well-traveled migrant routes. Others have been placed, with permission, on property owned by Pima County, Ariz.; the National Park Service; the Bureau of Land Management; and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Another U.S. group, known as No More Deaths, set up an aid camp last month near Arivaca, Ariz., helping stranded border-crossers with food, water and medical assistance. The Ark of the Covenant camp will remain in operation through September.
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I still have not been able to determine if the State of California is underwriting the mystery of the S2 mile marker aid stations or even who is responsible for maintaining them. What is important is that the activity on S2 is designed only to aid migrants to illegally enter the United States successfully and these efforts, as well as the other efforts described above portend a greater problem.

There is an “Underground Railroad” set up and aided by individuals and governments on both sides of the border for the expressed purpose to have migrants successfully enter into the United States without documentation.

In a “9/10/2001” world, this activity would only be an inconvenience to our country’s immigration policies --- but in a “9/11” world, this activity can and will give us all a chance to witness more terrorism at home and the delivery of a dirty bomb may just be but a small probability away.

I continue to look for responses to the overall “S2 Mile Marker Mystery Tour”
Original Post>>

Note: I suspect that "Grupo Beta" is mexican spanish for "Plan B" in that "Plan A", a successful culture and economy in Mexico, doesn't seem to be panning out!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Grupo Beta & U.S. Senate Seemingly Working Hand-In-Hand

Grupo Beta, an aid group funded by Mexico, uses blue flags to mark water stations south of the border. Image Credit: MAYA ALLERUZZO - THE WASHINGTON TIMES

In light of the reviews of the latest version of the senate bill to address immigration - "Senate immigration bill 'far worse' than in '86", Washington Times (free subscription), July 19, 2006, we now have Mexico funding efforts to stage their citizens at supply stations near the border. These stations prepare those who intend to cross the border illegally through the provision of food and water.

This from the Washington Times Insider -

Mexico funds staging areas for illegals
By Jerry Seper - THE WASHINGTON TIMES - August 18, 2005

The Mexican staging area for illegal aliens that New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson demanded this week be bulldozed is among hundreds of similar sites along the border sponsored and maintained by the Mexican government.

Many of the sites are marked with blue flags and pennants to signal that water is available. Others, such as the Las Chepas site that Mr. Richardson denounced, are a collection of old, mostly abandoned buildings or ranch houses where illegals gather for water and other supplies -- sometimes bartering with smugglers, or "coyotes," for passage north.

Las Chepas, law-enforcement authorities said, also is a center for drug smugglers looking to move marijuana and cocaine into the United States.

Rafael Laveaga, spokesman for the Mexican Embassy in Washington, yesterday said his government "has a duty and obligation by law to protect Mexican citizens at home and abroad."


He said record high temperatures in the desert areas south of New Mexico and Arizona this year had resulted in the death of many illegal aliens.

"We try to spread the word on the dangerous conditions these people will face in the desert, along with reports of historically high temperatures," he said. "What we are doing is part of an effort to prevent those deaths."

Many of the Mexican aid stations are maintained by Grupo Beta, a Mexican governmentfunded humanitarian organization founded in the early 1990s. Driving through the desert regions south of the border in brightly painted orange trucks, Grupo Beta's job is to protect migrants along the border, not arrest them.

In April, Grupo Beta worked with the Mexican military and the Sonora State Preventive Police to move would-be illegal aliens out of the desert areas just south of the U.S. border to locations east and west of Naco, Ariz., to avoid the Minuteman Project volunteers holding a vigil on the border.

A branch of Mexico's National Migration Institute, Grupo Beta also helped pass out fliers warning migrants that the Minuteman volunteers, whom they described as "armed vigilantes," were waiting across the border to hurt them.

In addition to the aid stations, the Mexican government has distributed more than a million copies of a 32-page handbook advising migrants how to cross into the United States. The book, known as "Guia del Migrante Mexicano," or "Guide for the Mexican Migrant," contains tips on avoiding apprehension by U.S. authorities.

Aid stations for illegal aliens also exist in the United States, many of them established and supplied by various humanitarian organizations such as Humane Borders, a Tucson faith-based group that targets illegal aliens who the organization said might otherwise die in the desert.

Humane Borders, established in 2001, has 70 water stations along the U.S. side of the border, each with two 50-gallon tanks next to a 30-foot-mast with a blue flag.

Many are on well-traveled migrant routes. Others have been placed, with permission, on property owned by Pima County, Ariz.; the National Park Service; the Bureau of Land Management; and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Another U.S. group, known as No More Deaths, set up an aid camp last month near Arivaca, Ariz., helping stranded border-crossers with food, water and medical assistance. The Ark of the Covenant camp will remain in operation through September.

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As for the Senate's bill on immigration, it is uglier that the attempt that passed back in 1986 and signed by Ronald Reagan.

Excerpts from the Washington Times -

Senate immigration bill 'far worse' than in '86
By Charles Hurt - THE WASHINGTON TIMES - July 19, 2006

The latest immigration bill approved by the Senate is "far, far worse" than the 1986 immigration bill that granted amnesty to 2.7 million illegal aliens and created the magnet for the millions more who have come here since, a House panel was told at a hearing yesterday.

In addition to providing legalization to about four times as many illegal aliens as did the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), witnesses said, the current bill also repeats mistakes made 20 years ago that will render the border-enforcement provisions and employer sanctions meaningless.

"The Senate amnesty would condemn the United States to the same harmful consequences that IRCA caused," James R. Edwards Jr. of the Hudson Institute told the House Judiciary's subcommittee that handles immigration. "Only now, its effects would be far, far worse."

----
Democrats on the panel, for the most part, criticized Republicans for holding what they called a "mock hearing" and accused them of trying to score political points off the explosive issue just months before the next election.

Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas, ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, said the reason the 1986 bill did not work is that it was not "comprehensive" enough, a criticism she also leveled at the enforcement-only bill approved by the House last year.

"Although IRCA had legalization programs and new enforcement measures, it did not address all of the essential issues," she said. "For instance, it failed to provide enough legal visas to meet future immigration needs."


Mrs. Jackson-Lee also castigated Republicans for smearing the Senate bill with the term "amnesty" because it will grant citizenship rights to some 10 million illegal aliens already here.

"It was derived from the Latin word 'amnesti,' which means amnesia," she said after giving the definition. "S.2611 does not have any provisions that would forget or overlook immigration law violations."


Replied Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican: "I don't care what we call it. It's a bad bill, and America knows it's a bad bill."
----
Rep. Silvestre Reyes, a Texas Democrat who served 26 years in the Border Patrol, was among those who testified yesterday. He accused Mr. Bush and Republicans in Congress of wasting time with the hearings.

"Talk is cheap," he said. "What border residents want and what Americans want when it comes to border security and immigration reform is action."

----
"Why should Americans have any reason to believe that the supposed enhanced enforcement provisions in Reid-Kennedy will be effectively enforced by the administration any more than successive administrations have enforced IRCA?" Mr. Hostettler asked. "The administration will probably implement amnesty for millions of illegal aliens quite quickly. Enforcement will likely lag behind if it occurs at all. We will find ourselves in exactly the same place we found ourselves 20 years ago."
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With all of this power and effort being spent on not protecting our soverignty from the governments on both sides of the border, it's a wonder that the United States even exsists.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Israel - Hezbollah War: The Boots Of Israel Are Moving


The tip of the spear has begun its thrust in earnest. The time of traction is in play.

Excerpts from AP via Yahoo! News -

Israeli troops battle Hezbollah guerrillas
By HUSSEIN DAKROUB, Associated Press Writer (with contributions from AP correspondent Sam F. Ghattas and Zeina Karam in Beirut, Lebanon, and Ravi Nessman in Jerusalem) - 8 minutes ago

BEIRUT, Lebanon - Israeli troops clashed with Hezbollah guerrillas on the Lebanese side of the border Wednesday, while warplanes flattened 20 buildings and killed at least 19 people, officials said, as fighting between the two sides entered its second week.

Hundreds of Americans boarded a luxury ship at Beirut's port that was to carry them from the country, with many complaining about the slow pace of the U.S. evacuation effort. Europeans and Lebanese with foreign passports already have fled by the thousands.

Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV, meanwhile, reported that the Islamic militant group struck an Israeli air base 30 miles from the Lebanese border. It gave no details and Israeli officials would not comment on the record, but that distance would make it the deepest strike by Hezbollah into northern Israel in more than a week of fighting.

Israeli bombers, which had been focusing on Hezbollah strongholds in southern Beirut, also hit a Christian suburb on the eastern side of the capital for the first time. The target was a truck-mounted machine that was used to drill for water but could have been mistaken for a missile launcher. The vehicle was destroyed, but nobody was hurt in that attack.

Military officials said Israeli troops crossed the border in search of tunnels and weapons. Hezbollah claimed to have "repelled" Israeli forces near the coastal border town of Naqoura. Casualties were reported on both sides.

The Israeli army confirmed there were clashes with Hezbollah in the border area and that some Israelis had suffered casualties. The army would not elaborate. Hezbollah's Al-Manar television channel reported that two Israeli soldiers had been killed and three wounded, but that could not be confirmed.

Israel, which has mainly limited itself to attacks from the air and sea, had been reluctant to send in ground troops because Hezbollah is far more familiar with the terrain and because of memories of Israel's ill-fated 18-year occupation of south Lebanon that ended in 2000.

----
Israel declared Tuesday it was ready to fight Hezbollah guerrillas for several more weeks, raising doubts about international efforts to broker an immediate cease-fire. The fighting has killed nearly 300 people and displaced 500,000.

"It will take us time to destroy what is left," Brig. Gen. Alon Friedman, a senior army commander, told Israeli Army Radio on Wednesday.

Israel stressed it did not plan to target Hezbollah's main sponsors, Iran and Syria, during the current fighting.
"We will leave Iran to the world community, and Syria as well," Vice Premier Shimon Peres told Army Radio. "It's very important to understand that we are not instilling world order."

----
Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman, said the incursion was not large scale.

"This is an operation which is very measured, very local," Gillerman told CNN. "This is no way an invasion of Lebanon. This is no way the beginning of any kind of occupation of Lebanon."

Last week, Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah vowed to defeat any Israeli invasion, saying his guerrillas were "longing" to engage their opponents in ground battles.

"Any ground invasion will be good news for the resistance because it will bring us closer to victory and humiliating the Israeli enemy," Nasrallah said.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Israel - Hezbollah War, Cease Fire Talk & Demands

Rescue workers help a seriously wounded man from a building which took a directly hit by a rocket fired from Lebanon in the northern Israeli city of Haifa yesterday. Image Credit: AP

MidEast War: XV - UPDATE from Pajamas Media

Excerpts from The Washington Times -

Israel signals its cease-fire demands
By Joshua Mitnick - THE WASHINGTON TIMES - July 18, 2006

TEL AVIV -- Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spelled out Israel's terms for ending its six-day siege of Lebanon yesterday, demanding the return of two kidnapped soldiers, an end to rocket attacks on Israel and the deployment of the Lebanese army to keep Hezbollah away from the common border.

The remarks were backed with Israeli air strikes on gas stations, factories and the homes of Hezbollah members across Lebanon which left 48 dead, according to a Reuters news agency count. The Iranian-backed guerrilla group lobbed fresh volleys of Katyusha rockets into northern Israeli towns and cities, including the port city of Haifa.

Blasts rocked Beirut through the day and smoke rose from a blazing fuel depot. In Haifa, a Katyusha strike collapsed the facade of the top two floors of a three-story building, leaving at least two injured. The death toll after nearly a week of fighting stood at 210 Lebanese and 24 Israelis.

As the United States and European countries scrambled to evacuate their nationals from Beirut, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin arrived in the Lebanese capital hoping to spur cease-fire talks. But Israeli leaders said they were determined to continue their offensive as long as necessary.

"There are moments in the life of any nation where it stares reality in the face and says 'enough,' " said Mr. Olmert in his first address to parliament since the fighting began. "So I say to everyone: 'Enough.' Israel will not be held hostage to a terrorist gang, nor a terrorist authority."

----
At least 100 members of the North Carolina-based 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit are in the region aboard amphibious landing ships, the AP said, but only 64 Americans so far have been evacuated. Others have left overland through Syria, which has offered to facilitate them.

France yesterday removed about 700 people aboard a chartered cruise ship, and Italy evacuated 350, most of them Europeans.

The Lebanese buffer zone proposed by Israel would extend for less than a mile and be enforced from the air and by armored divisions at the border rather than ground forces stationed inside Lebanon, a Defense Ministry spokeswoman said.

She described the zone as an "initial" measure and said Israel wouldn't force an evacuation of Lebanese civilians from the region.

"No one on the Israeli side wants to return to the status quo ante, where you go to the northern border and you see Hezbollah flags instead of Lebanese flags and Hezbollah soldiers instead of Lebanese soldiers," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev.

Israel used infantry units to maintain a 13-mile-wide buffer strip in southern Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s to protect its cities from Hezbollah rocket and mortar attacks. The zone was dismantled when Israel unilaterally withdrew its forces from southern Lebanon in May 2000.
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This is the LAST threshold before other countries get thrown into the "popcorn popper". Agree or Syria and Iran are going to get some serious heat to deal with.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Israel-Hezbollah War - Linked Update - PJM 6

Police stands in guard at the site of a rocket attack by Hezbollah guerrillas at the train station in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, Sunday July 16, 2006. Lebanese guerrillas fired a relentless barrage of rockets into Haifa on Sunday, killing eight people at a train station and wounding seven others, police said. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed that there would be 'far-reaching consequences' for the attack. In the background the hole left on the roof by the incoming rocket. Image Credit: AP Photo/Oded Balilty

This is a developing linked post; click here for more stories - July 16, 2006

Note: The best current resource for updates from Lebanese and Israeli bloggers covering the conflict can be found @ Truth Laid Bear. An excellent map of the war theatre can be found there.

Excerpts from AP via Yahoo! News -

Hezbollah rockets hit Haifa, killing 8
By JOSEF FEDERMAN, Associated Press Writer


HAIFA, Israel - Lebanese guerillas fired a relentless barrage of rockets into the northern Israeli city of Haifa on Sunday, killing eight people at a train station and wounding seven others in a dramatic escalation of a five-day-old conflict that has shattered Mideast peace.

Soon after the Haifa attack, Israeli airstrikes reduced entire apartment buildings to rubble and knocked out electricity in swaths of the Lebanese capital Sunday.


Israel had already bombarded southern Beirut, a teeming Shiite districts where Hezbollah has its headquarters, prior to the Haifa bombing. A series of 18 explosions rocked Beirut before sunrise.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed that there would be "far-reaching consequences" for the rocket attack — the worst since Israel pulled out of southern Lebanon in 2000 after an 18-year occupation. Smoke rose over Haifa and air raid sirens wailed as the dead and wounded were evacuated. Other rockets hit the city's major oil refinery, gas storage tanks and a major street during the busy morning rush hour.
----
Israeli officials blamed Syria and Iran for providing the weaponry that hit Haifa — raising the specter of a wider regional confrontation.

The airstrikes in Beirut reduced an entire apartment building to rubble and knocked out electricity in swaths of the capital. Hezbollah's Al-Manar television station briefly went off the air

The Israeli air force dropped leaflets over south Lebanon telling residents to leave immediately before an imminent attack.

"In two or three hours we are going to attack the south of Lebanon heavily," said Maj. Gen. Udi Adam, the head of Israel's northern command,

It was the sharpest escalation since fighting began last Wednesday after Hezbollah guerillas penetrated Israel in brazen raid, killing eight soldiers and capturing another two. The fighting opened a second front for Israel, which had already been fighting Hamas-linked militants in the
Gaza Strip following the capture of another Israeli soldier on June 25.
----
Hezbollah said it fired dozens of rockets at Haifa at 9 a.m.

"After the enemy continued all night their destructive shelling of (Beirut's) southern suburb and other areas ... the resistance movement fired dozens of rockets on Haifa," the Hezbollah statement said.

Rockets fired by Lebanese militants also hit Acco, Nahariya and several other northern towns, and residents of the region were told to head to bomb shelters. Israeli rescue teams said 20 people were injured in Haifa and Acco, four of them seriously.

"The attacks were meant to harm citizens, and this is an evil war of Hezbollah against the state of Israel and its residents," Olmert said.

Adam, the head of Israel's Northern Command, said Iranian troops were helping Hezbollah fire Iranian-made missiles at Israel. Hamid Reza Asefi, an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, denied claims that his country had troops in Lebanon or had given missiles to Hezbollah.

Hezbollah guerillas hit Haifa with a rocket for the first time ever Thursday. Israel responded by stepping up its airstrikes in Lebanon.

Olmert said that Israel's offensive did not intend to harm Lebanese civilians.

"We want to live our lives in peace and in good neighborly relations," he said. "Unfortunately, there are those who misinterpret our wishes for peace in the wrong way. We have to no intention of bending in the face of these threats."

"Our enemies are trying to disrupt the lifestyle in Israel. They will fail," he said.
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Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Israel-Hezbollah War - Linked Update - PJM 4

Arab Foreign Ministers attend a foreign ministers emergency meeting in Cairo July 15, 2006. Arab governments convened an emergency meeting of their foreign ministers in Cairo on Saturday to discuss ways to bring an end to Israeli attacks on Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. Image Credit: REUTERS/Suhaib Salem (EGYPT)

The link below is a developing post at Pajamas Media; once launched, scroll down for more stories - Posted 6:00 AM PST July 15, 2006

The Israel-Hezbollah War Part Four

Note: The best currrent resource for updates from Lebanese and Israeli bloggers covering the conflict can be found @ Truth Laid Bear.

Excerpts from AP via Yahoo! News -

Israel targets Hezbollah in south Beirut
By SAM F. GHATTAS, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 9 minutes ago

BEIRUT, Lebanon - Israeli warplanes pounded Hezbollah's south Beirut stronghold and roads around the country, killing at least 15 Lebanese as they fled the onslaught. Hezbollah expanded its rocket fire, hitting another of Israel's main cities, and Israel warned that the guerrillas could strike Tel Aviv.

A senior Israeli intelligence official said Iranian troops helped Hezbollah fire a missile that damaged an Israeli warship off the Lebanese coast Friday night.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information, said about 100 Iranian soldiers are in Lebanon and helped fire the Iranian-made, radar-guided C-102 at the ship that killed one and left three missing.

The Lebanese guerrilla force has shown an increasing sophistication since snatching two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid, sparking Israel's largest assault against Lebanon in 24 years.

Five Hezbollah rockets hit Tiberias in northern Israeli on Saturday, causing no injuries — the first rocket attack on Tiberias, about 22 miles south of the border, since the 1973 Mideast War. An Israeli intelligence official said Hezbollah has rockets with ranges of 60 to 120 miles that could reach Tel Aviv, Israel's largest metropolitan area.

At least 88 people have died in Lebanon, most of the them civilians, in the four-day Israeli offensive, sparked by Hezbollah's capture of two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid. On the Israeli side, at least 15 have been killed — four civilians and 11 soldiers.
----
As the fighting continued unabated, Lebanon sought support from fellow Arabs whose foreign ministers were meeting at an emergency session in Cairo on Saturday to discuss the the worst Israeli attack since the 1982 invasion of the country.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh presented his fellow Arab League members with a draft resolution condemning Israel's military offensive and supporting Lebanon's "right to resist occupation by all legitimate means."

President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin also discussed the worsening situation, but the two appeared divided on how to restore calm.

Bush blamed Hezbollah and Syria for the escalating violence in the Middle East. "In my judgment, the best way to stop the violence is to understand why the violence occurred in the first place," Bush said. "And that's because Hezbollah has been launching rocket attacks out of Lebanon into Israel and because Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers."

Putin said it was unacceptable to try to reach political goals through abductions and strikes against an independent state. "In this context we consider Israel's concerns to be justified," he said. At the same time, he said, "the use of force should be balanced."
----
Israel launched its offensive after Hezbollah guerrillas crossed the Israel-Lebanon border on Wednesday and captured two Israeli soldiers. Israel has bombarded Lebanon's airport and main roads in the most intensive offensive against the country in 24 years, while Hezbollah has launched hundreds of rockets into Israel.
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Friday, July 14, 2006

When A Vote To Approve Isn't A Vote Of Approval

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), said that if his colleagues were serious about building the fence that they promised, they would find the funding. Image Credit: Rod A. Lamkey Jr. - THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Senate, yesterday, voted 100 to 0 to pass a $32 billion-plus Homeland Security bill that included 2.2 billion dollars for border security and control.

This would sound like progress except for the fact that the bill does not provide funding for the fencing that was previously approved in a vote back in May.

I guess the Senate is just not serious enough about this country's sovereignty and security in this post 9/11 world.

Excerpts from The Washington Times -

Senate denies funds for new border fence
By Charles Hurt - THE WASHINGTON TIMES - July 14, 2006

Less than two months after voting overwhelmingly to build 370 miles of new fencing along the border with Mexico, the Senate yesterday voted against providing funds to build it.

"We do a lot of talking. We do a lot of legislating," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Republican whose amendment to fund the fence was killed on a 71-29 vote. "The things we do often sound very good, but we never quite get there."

Mr. Sessions offered his amendment to authorize $1.8 billion to pay for the fencing that the Senate voted 83-16 to build along high-traffic areas of the border with Mexico. In the same vote on May 17, the Senate also directed 500 miles of vehicle barriers to be built along the border.

But the May vote simply authorized the fencing and vehicle barriers, which on Capitol Hill is a different matter from approving the federal expenditures needed to build it.

"If we never appropriate the money needed to construct these miles of fencing and vehicle barriers, those miles of fencing and vehicle barriers will never actually be constructed," Mr. Sessions told his colleagues yesterday before the vote.

Virtually all Democrats were joined by the chamber's lone independent and 28 Republicans in opposing Mr. Session's amendment to the Homeland Security Appropriations Act. Only two Democrats -- Sens. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Thomas R. Carper of Delaware -- supported funding the fence.

All told, 34 senators -- including most of the Republican leadership -- voted in May to build the fence but yesterday opposed funding it.

----
Sen. Judd Gregg, the New Hampshire Republican who historically has fought to increase border security and enforcement of federal immigration laws, was among those who opposed Mr. Session's amendment.

"We should build these walls; there's no question about it," he said. "But the real issue here is the offset that's being used, and the offset creates a Hobson's choice for almost everyone here."


Mr. Session's amendment would have required across-the-board cuts to the rest of the Homeland Security appropriations bill, Mr. Gregg said, which would mean cutting 750 new border-patrol agents and 1,200 new detention beds for illegal aliens that he included in the bill.
----
Mr. Sessions said, "We will rightly be accused of not being serious about the commitments we've made to the American people with regard to actually enforcing the laws of immigration in America, which many Americans already believe we're not serious about.

They don't respect what we've done in the past, and they should not. We have failed, and it's time for us to try to fix it and do better."

Kris Kobach, who was a counsel to the attorney general under John Ashcroft, told a House subcommittee last week that one of the most unusual aspects of the Senate bill is a provision -- slipped into the more-than-800-page bill moments before the final vote -- that would require the United States to consult with the Mexican government before constructing the fencing.
----
"Now, from my experience as a Justice Department official, when we had consultation requirements with the State Department, just getting two agencies in the executive branch to consult took months or years," said Mr. Kobach, now a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law. "If you add this, three levels of government and a foreign power, your delay" will never end.
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You know, the more I read about what the Senate did yesterday - No money for a border fence and a requirement to consult with Mexico, a foreign government, before we construct a fence on our side of the border - it is getting me a little crazy.

What ARE these 100 publicly elected ladies and gentlemen thinking? Do they really represent the interests of the United States when they knowingly place in a bill that got approved, language that usurps the authority of our own government to act?

A vote to approve isn't an approval when one does not fund and, FURTHER, when one requires the counsel of a foreign power before one may proceed. This is not good.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

When Wage Stratification Is A GOOD Idea!

Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez testifies on Capitol Hill yesterday before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration reform. Photo Credit: Associated Press

Hey, vote for this bill. Honestly, we should vote for this bill so that we can finally stratify our labor force.

If we can not enforce our immigration laws, then we will have illegals lining up to claim alien status to receive higher wages. This "law" may have the self-regulating affect of employers wanting to hire the more "cost effective" native/citizen laborer.

Excerpts from The Washington Times -

Senate bill seeks more pay for aliens
By Charles Hurt (with contributions from Jeffrey Sparshott) - THE WASHINGTON TIMES - July 13, 2006

The Senate immigration bill would require that foreign construction laborers here under the guest-worker program be paid well above the minimum wage, even as American workers at the same work site could earn less.

The bill "would guarantee wages to some foreign workers that could be higher than those paid to American workers at the same work site," says a policy paper released this week by the Senate's Republican Policy Committee. "This is unfair to U.S. workers, inappropriate, and unnecessary."

----
"Two-thirds of the people who voted for that bill coming out of the Senate were Senate Democrats, led by Harry Reid and Senator Kennedy. So, it's the Reid-Kennedy bill," House Majority Leader John A. Boehner said yesterday when asked why he refuses to credit any of the Republicans who were instrumental in drafting the bill or any of the 23 Senate Republicans who voted for it.

For their part, Democrats have begun calling it the "Frist-McCain" bill, a reference to Mr. Frist and Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who has been one of the chief architects of the Senate bill.

----
A recent article he read about immigration in Time magazine, he said during a hearing on immigration, "was right on target in identifying the underlying racism and xenophobia which really grips us despite our denial of it."

But provisions of the Senate bill such as the wage guarantee for foreign workers raise concerns among more than just racists and xenophobes. “That certainly is negotiable to me," Mr. McCain said yesterday.

The Davis Bacon Act of 1931 (DBA) requires that the local prevailing wage be paid to all workers employed in federally contracted construction or projects done for the District of Columbia. Those wages -- up to four or five times higher in some fields than the federal minimum wage of $5.15 per hour -- are set by the Department of Labor.

The Senate's immigration bill would require that the higher wages be paid to foreign temporary workers in all construction occupations, even if the project isn't federally funded and doesn't otherwise fall under DBA.

"In other words, foreign workers employed in a construction job for which a DBA wage rate has been determined could be guaranteed wages higher than those paid to American workers doing the same job on the same private construction project for the same employer," the policy paper reports.

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When the construction business finally gets hip to this process, aliens will not get hired because they are too expensive ... or the Government could just heavily fine companies that hire the illegally documented/undocumented laborers which IS A LAW already on the books.

Of course, there would need to be an effort placed on muzzling groups like the ACLU and La Raza from the inherent discrimination that this law would set up ... not the discrimination of the wage stratification, but the discrimination brought about by a company wanting to save money by hiring the lowest cost labor.

Isn't this why we have an immigration problem in the first place!?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Creationism Breakthrough: Of Mice & Men Revisited



“For the first time we have created life using artificial sperm” - Professor Karim Nayernia. Image Credit: Kamir/BBC

This guy looks too happy ...

He should, I guess, he just proved that man can make sperm cells in a lab environment.

Through the isolation of embryonic stem cells, scientists in the lab, have created sperm cells, then implanted these cells into the females of the species of mice that were used in the experiment and created offspring.

So when do you think we begin to enter "the slippery slope", and who decides when we may have slipped a little too much?

This breakthrough offers a whole new spin on "Knockout Mouse Ranching" - Atrificial mouse brothels?

Excerpts from a report published in the journal 'Developmental Cell' via BBC Health -

'Lab-made sperm' fertility hope
By BBC - Last Updated: Sunday, 9 July 2006, 23:01 GMT 00:01 UK

Scientists have proved for the first time that sperm grown from embryonic stem cells can be used to produce offspring.

The discovery in mice could ultimately help couples affected by male fertility problems to conceive.

And by understanding embryo developmental processes better, a host of other diseases might be treated using stem cells, they say.
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The experiment was carried out using mice and produced seven babies, six of which lived to adulthood.

However, the mice showed abnormal patterns of growth, and other problems, such as difficulty breathing.

As well as the safety concerns, using stem cells to create sperm also raises ethical questions.

For the first time we have created life using artificial sperm

Stem cells are special because they have the potential to develop into any tissue in the body.
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They encouraged these early-stage sperm cells, known as spermatogonial stem cells, to grow into adult sperm cells and then injected some of these into female mouse eggs.

The fertilised eggs grew and were successfully transplanted into female mice and produced seven babies.
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In the future, men with fertility problems might be able to have their own stem cells harvested using a simple testicular biopsy, matured in the lab and then transplanted back.

It is estimated that one in seven UK couples have difficulty conceiving - about 3.5 million people. In about a third of all couples having IVF, male fertility is a contributory factor.

It is more difficult to say whether artificial sperm produced this way could ultimately be used as a new treatment for male infertility.
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Professor Harry Moore, professor of reproductive biology at the University of Sheffield, said: "These processes in the test-tube are far from perfect as the mice that were born by this process were abnormal.
"We therefore have to be very cautious about using such techniques in therapies to treat men or women who are infertile due to a lack of germ stem cells until all safety aspects are resolved. This may take many years."

Anna Smajdor, a researcher in medical ethics at Imperial College London, said: "The creation of viable sperm outside the body is a hugely significant breakthrough and offers great potential for stem cell research and fertility treatments.

"However, sperm and eggs play a unique role in our understanding of kinship and parenthood, and being able to create these cells in the laboratory will pose a serious conceptual challenge for our society."

Josephine Quintavalle, of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, agreed.

She said the use of adult stem cells from sources such as umbilical cord blood had consistently produced more promising results than the use of embryonic stem cells.
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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

When Hatred (not disagreement) Trumps Public Safety

Alert and not-so-alert readers of NYTimes.com will notice a little something different this morning: a major redesign of the site’s look and feel, from top to bottom (almost). The home page, that hugely symbolic focal point of any site, went live at 11:33p Eastern Standard Time Sunday, April 2, 2006. Image Credit: Khoi Vinh/Subtraction 7.0

It is amazing as to what lengths the "4th Estate" would go to make certain that it destroys those who wish to lead in a different manner than it (the 4th Estate) believes leadership should be done.

I can agree with disagreement ... I cannot agree with the putting of public safety in jeopardy because of a disagreement. The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times will never know the damage they have done with the disclosure of government information gathering programs, but the people who know the people murdered on trains in the city of Bombay (Mumbai), India have an idea.

This from Hugh Hewitt -

From testimony of Stuart Levey, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, U.S. Department of the Treasury before the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations:

In short, the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program has been powerful and successful, grounded in law and bounded by safeguards. It represents exactly what I believe our citizens expect and hope we are doing to prosecute the war on terror.

Much has been said and written about the newspapers’ decision to publish information about this program. As a government official, I must first point out that the newspapers almost certainly would not have known about this program if someone had not violated his or her duty to protect this secret.

At the same time, I do very much regret the newspapers’ decision to publish what they knew. Secretary Snow and I, as well as others both inside and outside the government, made repeated, painstaking efforts to convince them otherwise. We urged that the story be held for one reason only: revealing it would undermine one of our most valuable tools for tracking terrorists’ money trails. We were authorized to set these arguments out for the relevant reporters and editors in an effort to convince them not to publish. In a series of sober and detailed meetings over several weeks, we carefully explained the program’s importance as well as its legal basis and controls. We strongly urged them not to reveal the source of our information and explained that disclosure would unavoidably compromise this vital program.

These were not attempts to keep an embarrassing secret from emerging. As should be clear from my testimony above, I am extremely proud of this program. I am proud of the officials and lawyers in our government whose labors ensured that the program was constructed and maintained in the most careful way possible. And I am proud of the intelligence analysts across our government who have used this information responsibly to advance investigations of terrorist groups and to make our country safer. I asked the press to withhold the story because I believed – and continue to believe – that the public interest would have been best served had this program remained secret and therefore effective.

Some observers have argued that the disclosure of the program did little damage because terrorist facilitators are smart and already knew to avoid the banking system. They correctly point out that there has been an overall trend among terrorists towards cash couriers and other informal mechanisms of money transfer – a trend that I have testified about. They also hold up as public warnings the repeated assertions by government officials that we are actively following the terrorists’ money.

Of Immigration, Assimilation, Americanism, Service

General Peter Pace, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, chokes up at the hearing. Photo Credit: By Joe Raedle -- Getty Images

Few of us who were born here in the United States really understand the struggle to become free.

The one thing though, that we do understand, is the gratefulness one has once freedom is achieved.

This is why many of us become confused when we see hundreds of thousands of people, carrying foreign country flags as we did in May, demanding immigrant rights similar to those who have attained citizenship. We are confused by the push for rights for and by immigrants without assimilation, Americanism, and service to this country.

General Pace's witness in front of members of Congress yesterday, served as stark contrast backdrop in the changes of attitude by immigrants, and those who support them, in the immigration debate.

Excerpts from The Washington Post -

General Speaks of Immigrant Father
Congressional Hearing Turns Personal
By Glenn Frankel and Daniela Deane - Washington Post Staff Writers - Tuesday, July 11, 2006; Page A03

MIAMI, July 10 -- A congressional hearing on immigration came to a dramatic pause Monday when Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, choked up as he talked about his Italian immigrant father and the opportunities that America had given to his family.

A hush fell over the auditorium at Miami Dade College as Pace, a Marine who was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and grew up in Teaneck, N.J., was overcome with emotion and struggled to continue reading from his statement as the opening witness at the field hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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After he composed himself, Pace described his older sister, who went to law school, and his older brother, who, like himself, attended the Naval Academy and was a Marine.

"There is no other country on the planet that affords that kind of opportunity to those who come here," Pace concluded. The audience burst into applause.

Pace's father was born in Italy in 1914, immigrated to the United States and became an electrician in New York City, raising four children there. The first Marine to be named chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Pace has been chairman since September 2005 after serving as vice chairman for four years.

Pace, whose last name means "peace" in Italian, is a 1967 graduate of the Naval Academy and has served in Thailand, Korea and Japan.

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Field hearings are being held around the country on the separate House and Senate immigration bills currently before Congress. The subject of the Miami hearing, chaired by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner (R-Va.), was the contributions immigrants have made to the armed forces.

The House bill calls for tighter border controls, 700 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border and funding for local law enforcement agencies along the border. It also calls for tougher deportation standards and stringent enforcement of rules governing employers who hire undocumented workers.


The Senate's immigration bill, co-sponsored by Kennedy and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), includes similar provisions. But it also outlines a method for an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants to become U.S. citizens and calls for a guest-worker program that would provide legal residency status for as long as six years.
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Let's end the confusion now - PUT UP THE FENCE ... deport found illegals ... deeply fine companies hiring known illegals.