MAXINE

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

Saturday, September 30, 2006

California, The Land Of Fruits, Nuts, & CHEESE

Sophie Horton, right, of Chicago tried on a cheesehead hat with her friend Alex Marohn, far left, of Sheboygan, Wis., from among many shapes, including top hat, cowboy hat, fireman’s hat, sombrero and crown. Image Credit: Andy Manis for The New York Times

California, The Land Of Fruits, Nuts, & CHEESE

Yes!, That’s right, CHEESE.

We all know the old impressions about California – There are no seasons … Land of fruits and nuts … Earthquakes … Hollywood … Wine … Convertibles … Surfin’ … San Francisco … Smoothies … Starlets … Car chases … Fires … Celebrity murder trials – Well, you get the idea!

As a matter of fact, California’s sixth ranking in world economies is fueled by agriculture, lending some weight to the expression “Land Of Fruits & Nuts” … and now “The Golden State” will soon be crowned as the the nation’s major cheese producer.

The expression “The Golden State” may now become even more true as it is bathed in the golden glow of chedder!

Excerpts from The New York Times -

Wisconsin’s Crown of Cheese Is Within California’s Reach
By MONICA DAVEY - NYT - Published: September 30, 2006

MONROE, Wis. — In a small yellow building tucked into rolling fields of corn and cows, men in aprons and rain boots stand guard over two enormous vats of thick white goop, no longer milk but not yet Muenster cheese.

People have toiled in these rooms, foggy with the smell of warm milk, for 116 years, which helps explain why Ivan Gobeli spits out an expletive at the predictions that
California will soon overtake Wisconsin as the nation’s top cheese producer.

Graphic Credit: The New York Times
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As if California’s capture of the top milk production title more than a decade ago was not demoralizing enough for Wisconsin, which still proclaims itself America’s Dairyland right on its license plates, the cheese crown is now at serious risk, too, perhaps changing hands as early as next year. Last year, Wisconsin made 2.4 billion pounds of cheese, while California crept ever closer, finishing with 2.14 billion pounds — triple the amount it made 15 years ago.

For Wisconsin, this is more than a simple battle over a commodity or a listing in an obscure federal agriculture publication. Cheese is the state’s history, its pride, its self-deprecating, sometimes goofy, cheesehead approach to life.

“Cheese really is part of our identity,” said Terese Allen, a former president of the Culinary History Enthusiasts of Wisconsin who writes about the state’s culinary folklore. “Cheese is the perfect illustration of the Wisconsin personality — casual, fun people who like to make fun of things, including ourselves.”

And so, by turns, the prospect of California’s dominance has sent Wisconsinites into various stages of cheese grief: denial (cows like cold weather, they say, and the hot West Coast climate will never produce the tasty pastures grown for them around here); condescension (many of California’s top cheese-making minds were imported from Wisconsin, they say); and, eventually, resigned indifference (it is the taste, the quality, they conclude, not the quantity of cheese that should matter most).

Wisconsin’s long affair with cheese began when its wheat crop faltered. In the mid-19th century, farmers realized that depleted soil and insect infestations made raising cows more manageable, and the state’s many immigrants from places like Germany and Switzerland, who brought cheese-making methods from the old country, got to work.
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Still, Wisconsin, which had overtaken New York in cheese production by 1910, has continued to reign as the nation’s largest and proudest producer. (New York is now fourth, and Idaho is third.)

Wisconsin boasts the nation’s only “Master Cheesemaker” certification, for its most accomplished veteran makers (there were 47 as of April) and one of the earliest cheese-making education programs, at the
University of Wisconsin.

But in recent decades, California began expanding its milk and cheese production at an astonishing pace. Signs of the growth began popping up all around: 21 awards to California cheeses in the prestigious American Cheese Society competition in 2002, for example, and a $21-million-a-year national advertising blitz starring talking “Happy Cows” from California, including images of a seemingly miserable cow making a break from a snowy, blustery field for sunnier pastures out West and the slogan, “Great cheese comes from happy cows.”
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Happiness notwithstanding, dairy economists predict California will win. Even John T. Umhoefer, the executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, a group more than a century old and devoted to advocating for its producers, quietly concedes the point. “They won’t roar by us, but they will pass us,” Mr. Umhoefer said.

This is where indifference has begun to seep in, and - perhaps by way of defense - a new battle emerges.

Around Wisconsin, to the news of California’s rising dominance, cheese makers say they are turning their focus to high-priced specialty, artisan and organic cheeses that take more time to produce, cheeses like Asiago, feta and blue cheese, and those with names newly dreamed up.

“We’re moving on from this whole quantity thing,” said Jeanne Carpenter of the state’s Dairy Business Innovation Center, who said specialty cheeses now accounted for 15 percent of the state’s production, up significantly from five years ago. “Where Wisconsin is going to make its mark now is in the quality of the cheese.”

Roger Godfrey, right, owner, and his two sons, Dan, left, and Mike, flipped block forms of Muenster cheese at Franklin Cheese Factory near Monroe, Wis. The forms have to be flipped every half hour for several hours. The state’s cheese makers worry that California will soon overtake Wisconsin as the nation’s top cheese producer. Image Credit: Andy Manis for The New York Times
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A spokeswoman for the California Milk Advisory Board, Nancy Fletcher, said new research there showed that the state was not just cranking out chunks of mozzarella: 11.3 percent of California’s cheese is of the fancy, specialty persuasion, Ms. Fletcher said, and the state now creates 250 varieties of cheese.

And so, the war for cheese prominence rages on, and Wisconsin’s identity crisis looms.

A few here suggest Wisconsin might be wise to begin considering substitute symbols — something tied more, perhaps, to the state’s vast production of cranberries, ginseng or brats, as bratwurst is known from Eagle River to Beloit.

If the term “cheesehead” was originally meant to convey some negative bumpkin image that outsiders (often from Chicago) had of those from Wisconsin, many who lived here, in turn, embraced it, defiantly chuckling at themselves. Foamation, the company in St. Francis that began manufacturing cheesehead hats in 1987 (and later ties, earrings, crowns, key chains, magnets and toilet seats), is having one of its busiest selling seasons in years.

A new generation is buying the items, said an employee, Denise Kaminski. “When you drive through Wisconsin, what do you see but cheese?” she said. “It’s who we are, and that’s not going away.”

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But before we get a little to "Cheese-Heady" about our new found status, we in California must remember ... we are also the land of the e. coli Spinach Scare!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Best ID Security May Not Be Just Biometric

Entrust IdentityGuard is carried or worn around the neck of the individual. Image Credit: Entrust, Inc. via Avisian publications

Best ID Security May Not Be Just Biometric

Specific identification of an individual short of a DNA make-up can be achieved through many identification processes. A large investment has been made in systems based on biometric access, radio based proximity information exchange, and video software that can recognize individuals through data mining identifiers associated with ones face ... or body type.

Maybe the best identification solution to implement can also be one of the simplest. Maybe the easiest way to insure the identification of an individual is to rely on a two step authentication process that requires the individual, after entering a password, to interact with the process via a matrix matching grid that uses the individual's brain.

Oh, and by the way, this security solution is inexpensive and simple to implement.

Excerpts from CR80News -

Grid-based two-factor authentication comes to campus cards
Sweden’s Goteborg University deploys a visual challenge and response solution from Entrust
By Andy Williams, Contributing Editor, CR80News - Monday, September 25 2006


You log in with your password, then you're met with another screen with the following: A3, F4, J5. No, you're not playing Bingo. It's part of an authentication system created by Dallas, Texas-based Entrust. To supply the correct answers to A3, F4 and J5, you need a grid supplied by the company. It's a security solution that one Swedish university has chosen to protect its student records.

Entrust IdentityGuard "X-Y" matrix grid pad. Image Credit: Entrust, Inc. via Avisian publications

"Grid authentication is about an X-Y coordinate lookup system," said Steve Neville, senior manager of ID products and solutions for Entrust, Inc. a secure digital identity provider. "It's like reading a map and it's about being able to respond to the random challenges of a coordinate on a grid."

To help prevent attacks on student data and protect the records of its 60,000 students and faculty while facilitating access for authorized parties, Goteborg University in Sweden recently implemented Entrust's IdentityGuard.
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A cost-conscious option for multi-factor authentication

The two-factor authentication system requires a password, plus the grid that's often printed on the back of a student's or faculty member's identification card, said Mr. Neville. It's a standard student card that's usable not only for identification but for other things, like accessing foodservice.
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Either way, the grid is useless without the password and the password useless without the grid. The grid is the 'something you have' and the password is the 'something you know' in the multi-factor authentication scenario.
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"We wanted an authentication solution that would provide strong security but also would be easy to use for our students and faculty and also be economical to manage," said Sven-Elof Kristenson, IT manager at Goteborg University. "Because we can combine the Entrust IdentityGuard grid authentication capability with the identity cards we already issue to our students and faculty at the beginning of the school term, it fit seamlessly into our existing system and will give us the ability to make even more services available online for everyone."

The university also chose IdentityGuard because its grid authentication capability can be used to access records, file storage, reports, e-mail and calendar functions, said Mr. Neville. "It was a natural choice for stronger authentication. Ease of integration and usability also were factors that led to the decision to implement Entrust IdentityGuard."

Entrust IdentityGuard matrix grid pad information as it is applied to a computer log-in screen. Image Credit: Entrust, Inc. via Avisian publications

Adding 'machine fingerprinting' to the grid authentication

"ID Guard in and of itself is a platform for authentication," said Mr. Neville. It comes in six different flavors-authentication options --- ranging from the non-intrusive like machine fingerprinting and grid authentication to one-time password tokens, he added.

"One of the reasons Goteborg liked grid authentication is that it also delivers the flexibility to input other types of authentication. Inside our license model we don't force them to track which authentication they're using. They can choose which ones they want to use to protect student data," said Mr. Neville.

A risk can be assigned to student data to determine the type of authentication needed, he added. "It can be a simple process, like this type of information requires the grid and machine authentication. For students, the grid is totally fine because they're roaming around," said Mr. Neville.

ID Guard is a "software server based product that can also provide strong authentication for remote access," he added.
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"When they (Goteborg University officials) were looking at security solutions, they were very sensitive to cost and how much change would be required. They looked at ID Guard as a very attractive solution versus one that could only be deployed to faculty alone because of the cost. It was also something they found very unique and something they could trust."

Read All>>

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The 15% Solution - Really!, Right Now! - The Case For E15

The Rev. Bart Muller of Brighton refuels at a rare ethanol pump at a Citgo in Dearborn Heights. Image Credit: John T. Greilick / The Detroit News

The 15% Solution - Really! ... Right Now! The case for E15.

Lately, we all have been confronted with the realization that our dependence on foreign oil puts our county and our culture in real peril.

We have fascist monotheistic Muslim leaders and communistic dictators standing up in the chambers of the United Nations deriding our way of life without any power to back up their claims other than that they supply our nation with oil to fuel our free way of life.

Further, the radical Muslim world uses the resources gained through the sale of oil to our country to declare war and attack it with out provocation.

Some call for a boycott of Citgo as a reaction to statements made by Hugo Chavez at the UN, and others claim that we should all go out and purchase hybrid technology or flex-fuel automobiles - Right Now! – to place a dent in the flow of monies to these fascist monotheistic Muslim enemy forces that want to spread their influence on our freedoms and growth in our way of life.

Here is a strategy we can implement - Right Now! – through legislation without much increase in the investment and additional impact to our existing infrastructure.

Excerpts from the The Detroit News -

15 percent ethanol fuel is best bet
Sam R. Simon - The Detroit News

We often hear about beating high gas prices and breaking the bonds of Big Oil through increased production of E85 fuel, which is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. Greater use of ethanol certainly will decrease our national thirst for oil. Alternative fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol are important vehicles in our drive toward energy independence, and Michigan is helping lead the way.

This state is part of the growing national commitment to these renewable fuels. All of us should recognize their role in a stronger economy and cleaner environment. But rather than anoint E85 as the sole solution, we should cruise before we race.

In the short term, E15 is the best option because that 15-percent ethanol blend can be dispensed today from existing pumps and can safely power nearly every car.

Few service stations currently are able to sell E85, with just a dozen or so in our state and fewer than 1,000 nationwide. Moreover, automakers must make time-consuming, costly commitments to build flex-fuel vehicles.

Billions of dollars and many years are needed to convert retail fuel networks for E85, even with government subsidies. Adding that new product requires $60,000 to $100,000 in updated pumps and new storage tanks at each service station. Also, it will take many years to expand the nation's ethanol production to the point where E85 can be readily available. The E15 blend with 85-percent gasoline, by contrast, can flow now.

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It's no coincidence that Michigan is at the center of this growth industry. With an ideal combination of agricultural resources, automotive technology and research expertise, our state provides a natural base for America's greater use of alternatives to fossil fuels made from petroleum. We are extending Michigan's tradition of auto industry innovations with 21st century fuel research and development. As a participant in Michigan's fuel industry for 30 years, I'm excited about the future. My company began blending biodiesel last year and is an investor in the Michigan Biodiesel LLC plant that begins production soon in Bangor.
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State government is helping as well with recently passed legislation that decreases the tax on alternative fuels and gives economic incentives to encourage service stations and fuel plants to sell more renewable fuel.

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Alternative fuels blended here plant the seeds for lasting environmental, economic and energy security benefits. By embracing fuels made from home-state corn and soybeans, lawmakers nourish our state in important ways. The mass expansion of renewable fuels production will benefit us in years to come as E85 and biodiesel become cornerstones of our energy strategy. But as we look toward the future, let's also take advantage of today's opportunity and offer incentives for the immediate use of E15 fuel.
Read All>>

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Allmendinger Stalls Frenchie At Road America

AJ Allmendinger at Road America during Saturday qualifying. Photo Credit: Anthony Kent, USA LAT Photographic

Allmendinger Stalls Frenchie At Road America - Scores 5th Win Of The Season

Sebastian Bourdais will just have to wait to clinch this year's series championship and to capture bragging rights to three championships in a row.

Said AJ Allmendinger in the post race interview after notching his fifth win for Forsythe Racing this season, "I just wasn't going to let the Frenchman clinch the championship here on American soil."

Now, The Champ Car World Series takes its act "down-under" to Surfers Paradise, Australia (October 20 - 22, 2006) for the season's penultimate run before the season ending race in Mexico City (November 10 - 12, 2006).

This UPDATE from The Sports Network -

Allmendinger wins at Road America

Elkhart Lake, WI (Sports Network) - American A.J. Allmendinger captured Sunday's Grand Prix of Road America. The No.7 Forsythe Championship Racing driver crossed the finish line 0.674 seconds ahead of Bruno Junqueira.

The victory was the Allmendinger's fifth of the season and fifth of his Champ Car career and keeps him in the championship race.

While pole winner Dan Clarke took the green flag and smartly led the field through the first lap, an accident behind him brought out the caution flag even before the drivers had taken a second turn. Will Power, Bruno Junqueira and Jan Heylen were involved.

Sebastien Bourdais and Will Power lead into turn 3 the field at the start of Qualifying. Photo Credit: Leland Hill, USA LAT Photographic

On lap four, Charles Zwolsman went to the lead past Clarke, but he didn't get to enjoy the top spot for long as two-time series champion Sebastien Bourdais went flying by the No.34 Lola.

By lap seven, the Frenchman's lead was more than three seconds over Clarke, who had fought his way around Zwolsman. Six laps later the margin was almost nine seconds as Bourdais was setting a torrid pace.

But a caution flag brought on by a Power accident in turn one, quickly eliminated Bourdais' huge lead.

When they went back to green, Bourdais jumped on second-place Allmendinger. By lap 22, the margin was five seconds and his laps were more than two seconds better than the second-place car. The lead was up to 12 seconds when rookie Juan Caceres spun to bring out another caution flag.

Everyone pitted and while Bourdais took a full load of fuel, both Justin Wilson and Allmendinger "short-filled" to get out in front the points leader. Bourdais came back on track in fifth place behind the two "short-fill drivers" and Bruno Junqueira and Nelson Philippe who stayed out.

Suddenly, Bourdais's race car wasn't working as well as earlier and he was stuck behind his two closest championship challengers - Wilson and Allmendinger. He was still behind them with 15 laps to go.

Justin Wilson - Photo Credit: Phillip Abbott, USA LAT Photographic

The two leaders plus Wilson made their final pit stops leaving the race lead to Allmendinger and Bourdais. But they too had to make a final stop so unless they could build a sufficient margin, they would still have to pass cars for the win.

Allmendinger made his pit stop on lap 41, but Bourdais stayed out. The American got out in front of Junqueira for fourth place.

When would Bourdais stop and where would he return to the track?

Bourdais held more than 31 seconds on Allmendinger and Junqueira after 43 laps. The Frenchman finally made his stop on lap 44 and returned to the track about 100 yards ahead of the competition.

Now he only needed to hold him off for seven laps.

But on cold tires Bourdais couldn't hold off Allmendinger. The American went flying by Bourdais. So did Junqueira.

Katherine Legge – “Warriors In Pink” livery. Photo Credit: Phillip Abbott, USA LAT Photographic

It should have been a great battle down the stretch between those three drivers, but with six laps to go, Katherine Legge slammed the wall at "The Kink" (the fastest corner on the track) sending her car into a million pieces and bringing out a full-course caution. After one lap, officials brought out the red flag halting the race with four laps to go.

She was "awake and alert" as they put her in the ambulance for the ride to the medical center and amazingly she was on her feet and waving to the crowd just a few minutes later.

The race finally resumed with two caution flag laps leaving just two laps for "racing" but there really wasn't much competition over the last eight miles. Allmendinger cruised to win unchallenged and kept his slight championship hopes alive.

Bourdais, Oriol Servia and Wilson completed the top-five.

Bourdais remains the championship leader with two races remaining in the season. He has a 58-point margin over Allmendinger and 67 over Wilson.

Reference Here>>

Where Wealth, Environmentalism, And Nationalism Collide

The view of the countryside around Ushuaia, Argentina - the southernmost city in the world. Image Credit: PBase

Where Wealth, Environmentalism, And Nationalism Collide

Argentina is a very large country with tremendous assets and beauty. The problem is that due to the type of leadership the country is based on, most of the citizens believe their only opportunity lies in the country’s main city and capitol, Buenos Aries.

The Government, unfortunately, does not view land ownership and stewardship in the way we in the United States view it – an opportunity to enrich oneself as one enriches the community.

One only has to look to Mexico to get an idea as to how Argentina views property ownership – it’s a Latin based view as opposed to a Christian based view. In short, control by a few as opposed to growth and control through individuals working for the betterment of a community.

Excerpts from The Washington Post -

Argentine Land Fight Divides Environmentalists, Rights Advocates
By Monte Reel - Washington Post Foreign Service - Sunday, September 24, 2006; Page A01

CONCEPCIÓN, Argentina -- From a flat patch of tree-studded savannah, the gaze stretches for miles: across a small pond where a marsh deer stops to drink, and over swampy wetlands where herons gingerly high-step.

Above it all, a small airplane drones. At the controls is Douglas Tompkins, an American who owns everything underneath him, paid for from the millions he earned as the founder of the North Face and Esprit clothing lines.

"It's an amazing piece of land," Tompkins said shortly after landing. "Extremely rich with biological diversity."

American Douglas Tompkins has donated some of his land in Argentina and Chile for parks. Photo Credit: Twp Photo

Now, many Argentine officials and social activists want to confiscate the property he says he bought to create an ecological preserve. They think that he and other wealthy foreigners who have bought enormous swaths of the Argentine and Chilean countryside are trying to wrest control of a continent under the guise of environmental preservation.

"We believe this is a new way of trying to dominate the South American countries," said Araceli Mendez, a congresswoman who represents this region and sponsored legislation last month that would expropriate Tompkins's land. "It is dangerous for the defense of our national security to have the concentration of so much land in the hands of foreigners."

Since the 1990s, the relatively cheap and expansive acreage of Argentina has attracted millionaires in search of unspoiled estates, including household names such as Ted Turner and Sylvester Stallone. But last month, Argentina's undersecretary for land and social habitat declared war on such land purchases with one highly symbolic act: He marched onto Tompkins's land, cut down a fence and called for the expropriation of the property.

Days later, he stood alongside the ambassadors of Venezuela and Bolivia -- two countries that recently have implemented measures to redistribute land from wealthy estate owners to the poor -- and made his intentions even clearer.

"We want to tell everyone: We're going to continue cutting down fences," said Luis D'Elia, the government secretary. "What is more important, the private property of a few, or the sovereignty of everyone?"
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Not only do these battles pit South American nationalism against foreign investors, they are drawing a bold line between two activist movements -- environmentalists and social justice advocates -- that are often grouped together under the same "progressive" label.
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The Catholic Church joined the chorus this month, issuing a 128-page document that warned against the "foreign-ization" of Argentine territory. Environmental groups, such as the Argentina Wildlife Foundation, have generally backed Tompkins.

"The social justice movements have been extremely poor at understanding ecological effects of their actions -- they're not green movements," said Tompkins, 67. "Concern about things like topsoil, which is the most valuable part of the land and often suffers under agrarian reform, is not being heard through the din of the need for the social redistribution of land. But that redistribution, for those who are not capable of handling it, will be a terrible blow to the future."

Since 1990, Tompkins and his wife -- Kristine McDivitt, the former chief executive of the Patagonia outdoor clothing company -- have bought about 4.7 million acres in Chile and Argentina. Their strategy is to identify properties in danger of ecologically damaging development, buy them, then create private parks that they eventually turn over to the local governments.

In Chile, they bought a large swath of land on the southern coast, creating a private park that they eventually turned over to the Chilean government to create the Parque Pumalin, which is roughly the size of Yosemite National Park. They did the same thing with the Monte Leon National Park on Argentina's side of Patagonia. Last year, they donated about 210,000 acres to Chile to form part of the Corcovado National Park.
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"They're shooting at the guy -- the only guy, practically, from the private sector -- who is buying land and then nationalizing it!" said a fired-up Tompkins, eating a bowl of granola for breakfast in the living room of the ranch house he keeps on the property.

Argentines, he said, don't understand his style of philanthropy. When he talks about eventually donating the land to the government, they suspect a catch. D'Elia has publicly hinted that he believes Tompkins is an agent of the U.S. government. That his property sits near the Guaraní aquifer -- the third largest source of fresh water in the world -- has raised suspicions that he is trying to gain control of South America's water supply. Some say that a U.S. military base about 450 miles away in Paraguay is indirect evidence that Tompkins and the U.S. government might be working together.
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Tompkins traces the beginnings of the discontent to an American style of land management that is resented here -- specifically, his efforts to hold his neighboring landowners to environmental standards.

He recently financed a legal case against a local forestry company trying to build a dike through wetlands. It was the kind of environmental complaint that is made every day in the United States, but not in a region of Argentina where private ranch owners -- or estancieros -- have held most of the political power for centuries.

"Suddenly they see someone come in and say, 'Hey, what about the rules?' " Tompkins said. "That sort of galvanized people into action against me."
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Tompkins, meanwhile, continued working on his property, overseeing projects such as the clearing of eucalyptus trees -- a non-native species that he is trying to replace with vegetation naturally found in the area.

"The Argentine government should look very carefully not at what passport someone carries," Tompkins said, "but at how they behave economically and ecologically."

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The way we see it here at MAXINE ... Tompkins is only trying to pursue a "Purpose Driven Life".

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Trees Show Greater Promise As E85 Feedstock

Cottonwoods can be either male or female. It is the fluffy white seeds produced by the females during early summer that give the tree its name. The seeds are very small, 1mm wide by 4 mm long, which is quite remarkable considering that they can become one of the largest trees in North America, up to 100 ft. high with massive trunks over 5 ft. in diameter. Photo Credit: Bob Gress

Trees Show Greater Promise As E85 Feedstock

It turns out that we do not need to consume or destroy food based crops or growing fields in order to reap the benefits of ethanol based bio-fuels.

Trees, specifically Cottonwood trees, can be raised and the leaves and twigs can be harvested and converted into Ethanol for use in E85 blended gasoline.

According to ECOworld via a study in 2005 by the U.S. Dept. of Energy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “United States has enough agricultural and forestry land to support production of over one billion tons of biomass, which could provide enough liquid bio-fuels to replace over a third of current transportation fuel consumption, and still continue to meet food, feed, and export demands.”

This from ECOworld -

Cellulosic Ethanol From Cottonwoods

We’ve always enjoyed growing cottonwood trees. They can grow about ten feet per year, and can eventually tower over 100 feet in height. If you want a quick forest, look no further.

As a feedstock for bioethanol, trees and crop forage display far greater potental via their cellulosic fibers than the yield from their food crops - sugar cane, cassava, corn - ever could.

As we point out in our post, “Ethanol From Cellulose,” the problem is that this process is much more technologically challenging. Simple extraction of oils and sugars from the food crops, as opposed to the forage, is much more viable today. But that may change.

In a report just released entitled “The First Tree Genome is Published,” the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute claims “the analysis of the first complete DNA sequence of a tree, the black cottonwood or Populus trichocarpa, lays the groundwork that may lead to the development of trees as an ideal “feedstock” for a new generation of biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol.”

The report goes on to say they have ”identified 93 genes associated with the production of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin, the building blocks of plant cell walls. The biopolymers cellulose and hemicellulose constitute the most abundant organic materials on earth, which by enzymatic action, can be broken down into sugars that in turn can be fermented into alcohol and distilled to yield fuel-quality ethanol and other liquid fuels.”

A lengthy study authored in 2005 by the U.S. Dept. of Energy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that the “United States has enough agricultural and forestry land to support production of over one billion tons of biomass, which could provide enough liquid biofuels to replace over a third of current transportation fuel consumption, and still continue to meet food, feed, and export demands.” Here is the full text of this report.

It could be a while before cellulosic refining is commercially viable, but in the meantime there are many economically viable examples of primary refining of sugars and oils from plant crops to produce bioethanol and biodiesel fuel. In the rapidly evolving market for alternative fuels and alternative automotive drivetrains, don’t write off biofuels, or the next generation of internal combustion engines.
Reference Here>>

iPod Covers For Form, Fun & Function

This morning, MAXINE was surfing around and stumbled on to a weblog that listed its choices for the "Top 5 Strangest iPod Cases".

We really did not agree with the order of choice at TechEBlog, but the array of covers was very creative and many carried along with the design, a function beyond the attractive presentation.

So, here is our order starting with the most strange case ... this case defies straight forward logic but has function and fun wrapped up in the form.

iKitty


You can’t get much stranger than the iKitty. This cat-inspired silicone case features a bendable tail and a screen protector to prevent those annoying scratches. Image Credit: akihabaranews/TechEBlog-#4



The case with the highest level of function followed by form then fun is this one that by its design is definitely the most durable.



Bulletproof iPod Case



A Japanese modder created this custom 5mm Aluminum A5052 case for his iPod — which can stop a 0.22 bullet — to prevent it from being crushed by the handrail on those busy subway trains. Image Credit: mobilhawk/TechEBlog-#2



The next case is similar to the "Bulletproof iPod Case" but is better suited to a mass produced marketplace. Durable yet trendy given the times we live in today - this case is battlefield ready.



YoTank Mililtary-Grade iPod Cases



YoTank introduces a new line of military-grade digital audio player cases that can withstand “a RPG or mortar shell explosion 85 percent of the time.” Cases are machined from solid blocks of aluminum and fit the iPod Nano/Video/Mini or Creative Zen Vision:M players. Prices start at $35, more info here. Image Credit: gizmodo/TechEBlog-#1



This case gets the vote for the most whimsical and impractical. The function is low, but this case gets high marks for form and fun



Fluffpod



Imagine putting your brand new iPod in one of these strange looking fur cases called “Fluffpod” — made from “super silky soft fluffpod signature fur” and lined with silky soft satin. One question, aren’t cases supposed to protect your iPod? Image Credit: ilounge/Tech Blog-#3



And in the last-but-not-least department is a cover that speaks for itself and is probably more "theft-worthy" than the iPod it protects. The form, fun & function are almost irrelevant.

Louis Vuitton iPod Case



This might be the first iPod case that costs more than the player itself. The Louis Vuitton Classic Ipod Cover by Takashi Murakami features peach natural calf leather lining, golden brass pieces, and a multicolor canvas. Pricing has not yet been set but we expect it to retail at around $285+. Image Credit: chipchick/TechEBlog-#5

HT: TechEBlog


Saturday, September 16, 2006

For 'NOW', Moderate Muslims, And Blacks In America - Darfur Is A Real Problem!

Freshly displaced Darfuris await the arrival of the UN relief coordinator Jan Egeland in the rebel held town of Gereida in southern Darfur, 07 May 2006. Image Credit: AFP/Getty

For 'NOW', Moderate Muslims, And Blacks In America - Darfur Is A Real Problem!

Where are the National Organization for Women (NOW), moderate American Muslims (so-called), and African-American leaders (the usual suspects) when it comes to issuing statements and mobilizing political pressure and attention to the events in Sudan?

I hear nothing but crickets.

The silence is deafening.

Excerpts from the Washington Post -

For Darfur Women, Survival Means Leaving Camp, Risking Rape
By Craig Timberg - Washington Post Foreign Service - Saturday, September 16, 2006; Page A12

GRAIDA, Sudan, Sept. 15 -- The tall, light-skinned man reeking of sweat and cigarettes often gallops his horse right into the nightmares of Darelsalam Ahmed Eisa, 18. Each time, she said, he throws her to the ground, pushes up her skirt and forces himself inside her while muttering: " Abdah. Abdah. Abdah ."

Slave woman. Slave woman. Slave woman.

He was in her dreams just last night, she recalled, as real and horrifying in his green camouflage uniform as he was the day he raped her two months ago. But when Eisa awoke this morning, there was no time for terror, no time for tears. She covered herself in an orange and blue cloth, grabbed the family's ax and departed for the perilous Darfur countryside, out of the relative safety of a sprawling camp for people displaced by the violence in this region of western Sudan.

In the wilderness, Eisa can find grass for the donkeys and firewood for cooking. But it is also where government-backed militias known as the Janjaweed roam, terrorizing villagers. Violence and disease in Darfur have killed as many as 450,000 people since 2003, and an estimated 2 million have been forced to flee their homes
.

Darfur, Sudan – Graphic Credit: Washington Post

The government and a rebel group reached a cease-fire agreement in May, but since then, rapes in and around camps for people displaced by the fighting have surged, aid groups and residents say. The International Rescue Committee has recorded more then 200 sexual assaults among residents of a single camp near Nyala, a town in South Darfur state, during a five-week period in July and August.

More and more often, women in Darfur face the starkest of choices: risk being raped by leaving the camps in search of firewood and grass, or starve. If they invite their brothers or husbands along to protect them, the Janjaweed will still rape the women, they say, and kill the men.

"It is better for me to be raped than for my brother to be killed," said Eisa, soft-spoken and round-faced, with hair braided into tight rows beneath her head scarf. She has two children, ages 2 and 5, but no husband. He divorced Eisa last year, she said, after she quarreled with one of his elder wives.
----
After walking for about two hours, they had nearly reached the better grass when dozens of Janjaweed militiamen on horses and camels suddenly appeared, surrounding the young women.

Aziza tried to run but was caught within seconds and struck in the face. Eisa froze. Quickly and roughly, the men separated the two sisters and their friend, with a man taking each one to a secluded spot.

The tall, light-skinned man was riding a reddish-brown horse, Eisa said. He was clean-shaven and armed with a machine gun. "I will take you," the man told Eisa. "My wife needs a slave."

He then ordered Eisa to lie on her back, but she refused. She knew that if he raped her and the community learned of the attack, she would probably never be able to remarry.

Her defiance enraged the man. He aimed the gun at Eisa and shouted: "I will shoot you! I will shoot you!"

At that moment, a second Janjaweed man stepped in. "Don't waste a bullet on a woman!" he said. "Just throw her."

The tall man hurled Eisa to the dirt and crawled atop her.

A few minutes later, the rapes were over but not the ordeal. The Janjaweed tied the young women together at their wrists and beat them with their fists and the butts of their guns.
----
The young women told their friends and relatives about the attack but not about the rapes. But over the next few weeks, gossip began to spread. Neighbors assumed the worst, about the attack, about Eisa, her sister and their friend.

"They scorn you. They laugh at you," Eisa said. "They look at you as if you are strange, as if they haven't seen you before."

The only good news came about two weeks later. After living in fear that the rape might have made her pregnant, Eisa's period arrived. The relief, she said, was overwhelming.

By the time Eisa reached the end of her story, she and her sister had arrived at the spot where they planned to collect firewood. With expert swings of the ax -- so hard Eisa's head scarf fell to her shoulders -- she and Aziza cut the largest branches off two trees, stripped the bark and bundled the still-moist wood.

With their donkeys long gone -- stolen in the Janjaweed attack -- the sisters hoisted the bundles onto their heads and began the long walk back to the camp beneath the relentless Darfur sun.

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Friday, September 15, 2006

Rob Reiner IS "Screwie"!

Rob Reiner as “Screwie” getting hit in the head by Yankee Irving - the worst player on the sandlot (if only). Image Credit: IDT Entertainment

Rob Reiner IS “Screwie”!

Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse for the exploits for Actor turned Director turned ousted Bureaucrat … Rob “Meathead” Reiner remakes himself into “Screwie”, a not so funny “Borsht Circuit” style comic baseball.

The beauty of this voice-over role for Rob is that it utilizes a talent he picked up while being the commissioner of California’s improperly and potentially illegally run First Five cigarette tax money funded education program (currently under investigation). Rob had a failed attempt at “Screwing” Californians into paying for universal pre-school for all (Proposition 82) too now failing at a voice-over role as a baseball appropriately named “Screwie”.

This from the New York Post -

BRONX BUMMER
Even Derek Jeter couldn't put life into the mild baseball flick "Everyone's Hero."
By KYLE SMITH – New York Post - September 15, 2006
Rating: ****

(two stars out of four stars)


CHECK out the loser in the Yankee cap who can do nothing but strike out. "The Alex Rodriguez Story"? No, "Everyone's Hero," a tame CGI cartoon for the simple-minded: the very young, the very old and Yankee fans.

The 1932 World Series is about to begin in The Bronx, where a kid named Yankee Irving is the worst player on the sandlot. His only friend is another misfit: Screwie (Rob Reiner, channeling Jackie Mason), a talking baseball fouled out of Yankee Stadium who dreams of being a home-run ball - or at least breaking a window.

When the kid's dad, a janitor at the stadium, allows him inside the locker room to peek at Babe Ruth's bat, the bat gets stolen. The boy is the chief suspect, so the father gets fired. But the real thief is a pitcher for the Chicago Cubs acting on orders from the Cubs' manic owner, who is desperate to win the Series and spends his spare time torturing bobblehead dolls of the Babe.

The magic-of-baseball movie has been dying ever since the fans started to notice that the team that wins the most championships simply buys them in a drunken spree every winter. But "Everyone's Hero" manages to give peewees a history lesson about the Negro Leagues and connect on a few decent jokes. Reading the newspaper, Screwie says, "There's a horse jumping off a diving board. Oh wait, that's Eleanor Roosevelt."


Rob Reiner as “Screwie” in drag – delivering a “tour de force”. Image Credit: IDT Entertainment

There is something here to bore everyone from age 8 to 80 (bland ballads, straight-line plot, a boring villain from the evil-redhead school).

But tiny tots will enjoy the booger jokes and pratfalls, plus the scene where the kid actually gets to play for the Yankees.

Retirees will lap up both Reiner's Catskills shtick - which is older than Julio Franco - and the way the kid slowly learns the fundamentals of the game while trying to recover the bat and save the Yankees and his dad's job. (The bat also talks, by the way - in the voice of Whoopi Goldberg, who trades insults with the baseball: "Your stitches are gonna need stitches.")

Strangely, though, the script mangles the '32 World Series (then why specify the year?) and doesn't even mention its most memorable (supposed) event, Ruth's "called shot."

The movie credits Christopher Reeve, who has been dead for two years, as lead director, which is a pretty shameless publicity ploy even by Hollywood standards. Reeve may have been a swell guy, but he wasn't an animator.

(The production notes say Reeve, whose son pointed out the short story the film is based on, did "much of the storyboarding and prep work" - you can do that by puffing through a tube?)

The oft-repeated message of the film is "keep on swinging." Keep on spinning, is more like it.

EVERYONE'S HERO

**

Louisville sluggard.
[ed. OUCH!]

Running time: 85 minutes. Rated G (all ages).
Reference Here>>

After this movie, every time “Meathead” opens his mouth on something political, or tries to have everyone else pay for something HE believes in … Rob Reiner IS “Screwie”!

Try as hard as you may, you just can’t make this stuff up.

Rob Reiner's best line in the movie trailer? "Ow!, My head!, My butt!, My head!, My butt!, My head!"

Thursday, September 14, 2006

“Bats” About Border Security Fences

The endangered lesser long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris curasoae) is one of a few bat species that undergoes long distance migrations. To survive these migrations, the bats must time their travel to coincide with the flowering or fruiting activity of their food plants. The floral resources they depend upon have been threatened by wildland habitat conversion and fragmentation. Rural residents have also mistaken these large-bodied bats for vampire bats and their caves have been targeted for destruction. In order to implement effective conservation strategies, it is crucial that we understand bat habitat requirements and migratory corridor locations. Image Credit: Merlin D. Tuttle, Bat Conservation International

“Bats” About Border Security Fences

Where are the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals when we “need” them? – busy wearing chicken suits outside of fast food restaurants or buying stock so that they can attend company stockholder meetings to make their point, I guess.

If PeTA were truly interested in the plight of animals, they would direct their efforts to have our Government put up a fence along our southern border. This fence would protect valuable habitat that many animals (and plants) need to live and survive.

Excerpts from The Washington Times –

Long-nosed bats evict a covey of aliens
By Stephen Dinan - THE WASHINGTON TIMES - September 14, 2006

CABEZA PRIETA N.W.R., Ariz. -- Three years ago, the endangered lesser long-nosed bat had been ousted from a cave here, one of just four known maternity roosts in the United States, by illegal aliens who used the cave as a cool rest stop on their route north.

Now, the aliens are out of the cave, the bat is back -- and all it took was a fence.

Even as the U.S. Border Patrol and now the National Guard fight to keep people from crossing illegally into the United States, a secondary battle is being waged to keep some of the nation's most pristine lands and endangered species from becoming collateral damage.

"All the actions we try and do, a lot of it gets minimized or marginalized by the traffic we have to deal with," said Curt McCasland, assistant manager and biologist at Cabeza Prieta, a national wildlife refuge the size of Rhode Island that contains 56 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Years of border-control efforts to the east and west have funneled illegal aliens straight into southern Arizona and across its three wildlife refuges, national forest and park land, an Air Force bombing range and the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation.

It's a fragile ecosystem where car tracks or even walking trails can remain for decades after they are last used. And aliens leave behind abandoned vehicles and millions of pounds of garbage -- estimates run between 5 and 8 pounds per illegal crosser.

"Some areas are so polluted by trash and human waste that the cleanup has to be contracted to professional companies with employees outfitted with haz-mat suits," said Roger DiRosa, Cabeza Prieta's manager.
----
But those who take care of the federal lands are fighting back with increased attention and new techniques -- even if they sometimes worry about the choices they have to make, such as the bat-cave fence.

Illegal aliens started using the cave in 2002, chasing the 4,000 to 6,000 bats that use it away that year, and again in 2003. Mr. McCasland said they thought briefly about trying a gate in front of the cave, but research suggested the bats might still avoid the cave. and the refuge decided it couldn't afford to take a chance and lose the bats for a third year.

Some see the success of fencing in Cabeza Prieta as an obvious solution -- both to the environmental issue and the whole border.

Female lesser long-nosed bats undergo a single pregnancy each year (Ceballos et al. 1997, Fleming and Nassar 2002). In the group of northward migrating bats, mating takes place between October and December in south-central Mexico. After migrating north and a gestation period of about 6 months, females give birth to a single pup in northern maternity roosts (hot caves), most of which are located in the Sonoran Desert. After the young are weaned, maternity roosts disband and adults and young bats migrate south in late summer and early fall. Image Credit: Yar Petryaryn

"Fencing the cave brought the bats back. Fencing the border would be cheaper than the cleanup and would bring the environmental quality back," said Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican, who has visited the cave. "A border fence could help lessen the environmental, economic, drug and crime impacts on American society by directing all traffic through the legal ports of entry."
----
The House will vote today on a bill to build a double-walled fence along 700 miles of the border.

The bat-cave fence, which is much simpler, tops out at 10 feet tall, and has sharp points that jut outward at the tips to deter climbers. It was completed in 2004, and the bats have returned each year since.

In that time, Mr. McCasland said he has detected just one breach, and said it was because of a flaw in the design, which they will correct.

He said their fence is proof that fencing can work in some places, but he said it's still not the right solution for more remote locations, where the Border Patrol simply doesn't have the staff to man it.

"If you're not patrolling it and you can't respond to it quickly, it's not going to give you the result you need," he said. "Even if it takes them 15 minutes to get over the first fence, and 15 minutes to get over the second fence, there's no one coming" to capture them.

He said a better strategy is ground-based radar, cameras and sensors to track movement, and having enough Border Patrol agents to respond.

For the federal lands, the border conflict is absorbing time and money.

Between a third and half of Cabeza Prieta's annual budget goes to personnel, equipment and repair costs associated with illegal immigration.
----
Buenos Aires includes about five miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, and the main problem there is foot traffic -- some 200,000 to 300,000 illegal aliens that walk through the refuge each year -- while the major problem at the more remote Cabeza Prieta is vehicles cutting trails and being abandoned.

That was the case at Organ Pipe Cactus, until officials recently finished a vehicle barrier. That has cut vehicle traffic by 95 percent.

Dense stands of organ pipe cactus in Coastal Thornscrub are important feeding areas for nectar-feeding bats on their northward migration. Image Credit: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

As bad as the aliens are, the Border Patrol also sometimes tears up the land in pursuit of illegal crossers, which has drawn the ire of some environmental groups. But officials here say they understand the job the Border Patrol agents are doing and are thankful for them.

At Cabeza Prieta, the bat cave isn't the only fight. The endangered Sonoran pronghorn, a deerlike creature that has the distinction of being the fastest land animal in North America, is caught in the middle of both a drought and the wave of illegal immigration.

In 2001, the population dropped from about 150 animals down to 19.

To meet their mission of protection, the managers have sometimes had to make difficult decisions that seem to aid the illegal aliens.

One example is the 250-gallon water tanks they have placed in the refuge as a way to keep the illegal aliens from smashing irrigation water pipes meant to help grow the plants to feed the pronghorn.

"I wasn't real thrilled about it, but we had no other option," Mr. McCasland said. "It was either that or let them break it."

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Of course we know what PeTA’s real agenda actually is … it’s veganism.

We should be happy that the Organ Pipe Cactus isn’t on the menu or Long-Nosed Bats wouldn't have anything to eat or pollinate.

UPDATE:

House Votes to Erect Fence Along U.S.-Mexico Border
FOX NEWS - Thursday, September 14, 2006

WASHINGTON — The House voted for the second time in a year to erect a fence along a third of the U.S.-Mexican border, part of a Republican effort to keep illegal immigration an issue before voters.

A new 700 miles of double-layered fencing won approval on a 283-138 vote, a bigger margin than last December when the House passed it as part of a broader bill that also would have made being an illegal immigrant a felony. The nearly 2,000-mile border now has about 75 miles of fencing.

Click here to see how your representative voted.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said the separate fence bill was needed to show Americans "we can take meaningful action to secure the border."

The House's bill last December and one passed by the Senate last May are so far apart on issues that Republican leaders haven't even tried to negotiate a compromise.

The main difference is that the Senate bill would provide legal status to millions of illegal immigrants already in the U.S., a concept supported by President Bush but opposed by most House Republicans. The Senate bill calls for 370 miles of fencing along the Mexican border.

Supporters of the new House bill said the new fencing would let Border Patrol agents focus more on apprehending illegal immigrants crossing from Mexico rather than having to man the entire border.

"We have to come to grips with the fact that our Border Patrol agents need a border fence on our southern border ... where we're now facing infiltration by members of terrorist organizations like Hezbollah," said Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif.

The bill passed Thursday doesn't pay for the fence. Republicans, estimating the cost at more than $2 billion, said that will be covered in a later spending bill. Democrats estimated the fence would cost $7 billion, based on information from the Department of Homeland Security on costs per mile of a double-layer fence.

"This is nothing more than political gamesmanship in the run-up to the midterm elections. Sounds good. Does nothing," said Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla.

Democrats accused Republicans of playing upon voters' fears to score political points. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, said Republicans were trying to confuse Americans into thinking "Osama Bin Laden is heading north in a sombrero."

The bill also directs the Homeland Security Department to take control of the border in 18 months and gives border agents new authority to stop fleeing vehicles. And it calls for a study of the need for a fence on the U.S.-Canadian border.

Meanwhile, the House Administration Committee approved a bill to make states to ask for photo identification from voters by November 2008 and proof of citizenship by 2010.

The full House could vote on it as early as next week.



Friday, September 08, 2006

Episcopal Bishops: Speech Requires Rebuttal, Right?

Some leading Episcopal bishops have sharply criticized the decision to invite former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami to speak at the Washington National Cathedral, the seat of the presiding bishop of the church's American branch. Image Credit: Donovan Marks

Episcopal Bishops: Speech Requires Rebuttal, Right?

There is dissention amongst the Episcopal Bishops, and this time it is not about whether females should become congregational leaders or same-sex marriage. The bishops are disturbed that past Iranian leader, Muhammad Khatami, has been invited to speak at Washington National Cathedral.

The issue that bothers the bishops the most is that past President Khatami will be speaking at the Cathedral with out any other speakers that might have a differing point of view than that of this "reformist" Iranian leader.

With all of the Point-Counterpoint discussions that have happened this year within the American "Province" of the global Anglican Communion, it seems that this point of order would actually carry the day. But, Noooooooo! The American Episcopal Church clearly has no interest in tradition when it comes to public discourse either.

Excerpts from The Episcopal News Service -

Khatami's visit to National Cathedral generates mixed reactions
By Matthew Davies - Wednesday, September 06, 2006 - Episcopal News Service

Iran's former president, Muhammad Khatami, has been invited to speak at Washington National Cathedral on September 7, a move that has stirred up strong protest from three Episcopal bishops, but one that is regarded by Cathedral officials as a gesture toward reconciliation.

The Rev. Canon John L. Peterson, director of the Cathedral's Center for Global Justice and Reconciliation, explained that "although former president Khatami is viewed negatively by some, he is important as the most moderate Iranian voice willing to discourse with Americans on matters of peace among the Abrahamic faiths."

Bishops John B. Lipscomb of Southwest Florida, Edward S. Little of Northern Indiana, and Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island protested the scheduled speech in a September 5 statement, describing the event as "ill-conceived" and "inappropriate," and calling for its cancellation.

The statement claimed that Khatami's actions "do not support the goal of reconciliation for which our Church has so fervently prayed and worked" and noted that during his term in office, "women continued to be marginalized, and homosexual persons were executed."

The bishops also pointed out that Khatami has neither renounced Iran's nuclear ambitions nor "the virulent anti-Semitism of the current regime, known for its Holocaust denial and call for the destruction of the State of Israel."
----
The three bishops raised concerns that Khatami's presence at the Cathedral would further compromise relationships with the Jewish community, "and further reveal our shallow understanding of the complexities of the tragedy in the Middle East."
----
The bishops noted their appreciation of the Cathedral's "commitment to diversity and transformative conversation. However, without the inclusion of those with differing perspectives, this event is an inappropriate expression of that commitment, and does not further our ability as a Church to foster reconciliation in a divided world."

Felice D. Gaer, chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent, bipartisan federal agency, wrote to Peterson, calling on the Cathedral to ensure that Khatami is questioned about his own record on human rights and religious freedom.

Gaer noted the irony of inviting Khatami to speak on the role of the Abrahamic faiths in the peace process when, in his own country, "Khatami presided as President while religious minorities -- including Jews, Christians, Sunni and Sufi Muslims, Baha'is, dissident Shia Muslims, and others -- faced systematic harassment, discrimination, imprisonment, torture, and even execution based on their religious beliefs."
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The Episcopal Bishops have a point.

Lecture by Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami
Thursday, September 7, 2006 – Full Text Here

Excerpt -

Here, I must call attention to the fact that there is a profound difference between my criticism of modernism and the perspective from which I make my argument, and that of modernity’s famous critiques in the West; particularly from a philosophical viewpoint. They see no discerning power in reason and consider it a mere weapon that destroys all including itself, and compare it to a rusty tool that is only suitable for a museum. It must be kept in mind that without acknowledging the discerning ability of reason, we cannot utilize it as a tool for criticism. This discussion regarding discernment, and particularly its relation to domination and power, is beyond the scope of our current discussion. It suffices to state that without the discerning power of reason, we cannot have a clear view of the most vital human concepts such as human rights, peace, justice and freedom, and therefore we cannot strive towards their implementation.

This is by no means an invitation to the European rationalism and logocentrism belonging to an era before post-modernism. The West, being the greatest victim of over- reliance on reason, is seeking the help of intellectuals and philosophers to deprive reason of every credit and privilege that was once bestowed upon it.

MAXINE SAYS ... PLEASE, REBUTT THIS!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Diplomacy Assignments Become Real World

Rome's Spanish Steps, cleaned and reopened for Christmas 1995. Image Credit: philg@mit.edu

Diplomacy Assignments Become Real World

Not all of us can go jettin’ around, sippin’ champagne and nipplin’ caviar … some of us actually have to wake up and do the heavy lifting of world diplomatic leadership.

Sad but true, this diplomacy job business just isn’t what it used to be – waking up near the “Spanish Steps” or the “Champs Elysee” and having a nice lunch at leisure on the country's money in order to gain consensus on a moot and lopsided United Nations anti-USA vote.

Excerpts from The Washington Post -

Finding diplomats for perilous posts
By Nicholas Kralev - THE WASHINGTON TIMES - September 7, 2006

The State Department has begun the first major overhaul of its assignment system in decades, making it more difficult for U.S. diplomats to avoid serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and other dangerous posts that the Bush administration views as crucial in the war on terrorism.

Senior department officials said that no jobs will be available for bidding by Foreign Service officers until all open positions in the critical posts have been filled. They also said that they would resort to "directed assignments" if the new scheme fails to achieve the desired results.

"We are going to start filling the toughest posts first," one senior official said. "We are still doing this on a voluntary basis, but, obviously, if we ever have to go to directed assignments, we will, because the bottom line is, you have to get your best, most talented people in the hardest and most important positions."

Another official said that the best way for Foreign Service officers to ensure they have another job when their current assignment ends will be to opt for Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Pakistan and other hardship posts in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.

Those who prefer to be posted in less dangerous places in Asia and Latin America or the much sought-after European countries will have to wait for assignments longer and may not know where they would go until weeks before reporting at their new post.

Each year in late August, the State Department publishes an internal list of all positions in Washington and overseas that will become available the following summer. Officers bid for the jobs they are interested in, and most of them receive a new assignment by the end of the year.
----
Positions at posts with a "hardship differential" of 15 percent or more will be filled by Jan. 18, and with 10 percent or more by March 20. Only then will non-hardship assignments be made, Mr. Staples said. The differential refers to increases in pay and other benefits to reflect risk.
----

"We found that State's assignment system did not effectively meet the staffing needs of hardship posts, and that State had difficulty filling positions there, particularly at the mid-levels," the authors of the document said in a letter to Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who requested the GAO report.

Mr. Lugar "feels the State Department still is not adequately staffed for stabilization and reconstruction efforts," said his spokesman, Andy Fisher.

He has encouraged the administration to implement a section" of the Stabilization and Reconstruction bill that he co-sponsored with Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat and the committee's ranking member, which "would develop a 250-person active duty corps," Mr. Fisher said.

The State Department has had a hard time filling positions in Iraq and Afghanistan, even though it has offered various incentives for serving there, such as higher pay and benefits packages, better chances for promotion and guaranteeing officers one of their top five choices of an onward assignment.

Although most of those who volunteer for risky posts do so to serve their country, some of the officers are too junior for the positions they occupy, and others volunteer more for the benefits than the service, officials say. In addition, many sent to hardship posts arrive with minimum language, cultural and security training, which limits their effectiveness in the field.
----

Reaction to the new assignment system in the Foreign Service has been mixed. While officers understand the need to staff priority posts, "there is also widespread concern that long-standing assignment rules and practices are being hastily jettisoned," said the American Foreign Service Association, the diplomats' union.

"Many still perceive that the new system devalues their past and sometimes extended service in hardship posts," the association said. "Members feel as if the excellent work performed by the Foreign Service in many important but less difficult posts is no longer valued or rewarded."

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Its a highly prized government job ... suck it up and stand for something, or are you of the camp that leadership on "freedom world values" will make it that you might not be liked?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

... And Baby, Makes Terror

Nestle Good Start 2 Essentials Infant Formula, Powder 12 oz (340 g). Good Start 2 Essentials is the only formula specially designed for your baby's changing nutritional needs. It has all the nutrition your active baby needs. Plus, just three 8 fluid ounce servings provide 100% of your baby's daily calcium requirement. Which makes Good Start 2 Essentials an ideal formula choice to help bring out the very best in your baby. Image Credit: Nestlé USA

... And Baby, Makes Terror

Crime is crime, no matter how it is applied ... but this should shake some people's view of what actions make-up a hate crime ... a different type of hate crime.

These people exploit the theft of supplies that babies need so they can support terror networks, networks that make up bombs that are eventually targeted at everyone - including babies!

There are many in politics (on the left) who believe that this terror war thing is just made up stuff. Terror war only exists because of our current executive administration. Ok!? ... Then just WHO are these guys!!

Excerpts from the Cleveland Plain Dealer -

Baby formula brings millions on black market
Theft rings raise concerns about connection to terrorism
Amanda Garrett and Mark Rollenhagen - Plain Dealer Reporters - Sunday, September 03, 2006


The Cleveland grocer rolled into Akron with $100,000 in cash and a mission.

Hasana Abdalla planned to buy a truckload of stolen baby formula, something he had done more than a dozen times before, a police report said.

But this was a setup.

Local and federal officials swooped in, seized Abdalla's money, impounded his red 2006 Mercedes and arrested him as part of a nationwide crackdown on the lucrative black-market trade in baby formula.

In all, court records indicate six men now face charges in Summit County, including Abdalla and Ramzi Shalash, an Akron convenience store owner who has relatives who have been convicted of dealing in stolen baby formula. Shalash's uncle and two cousins once sold $44 million of formula in just 15 months, according to federal court records and newspaper reports.

Much of the Akron case - including what Shalash and three others are charged with - is a mystery because only a portion of the Aug. 24 indictment is publicly available. It also charges Ahmed Ateyat, 39, of Hickory Hills, Ill., with attempting to receive stolen property.

Since 9/11, federal officials from North Carolina to Texas have broken apart theft rings dealing in massive quantities of baby formula and health and beauty products such as diabetes test strips and contact lens solution.

Most of the theft ringleaders arrested have been of Middle Eastern descent. Federal officials have repeatedly said they worry the black-market profits may be funding terror, but none of the 11 baby-formula cases reviewed by The Plain Dealer involved terror-related charges.

Before 9/11, many local police dismissed formula thefts as routine shoplifting - desperate people stealing to feed their children or drug addicts looking to make a fast buck.

But court documents in some of the cases reveal something else.

The Middle Eastern men running these organized crime schemes don't necessarily do the stealing.

They hire others to hijack tractor-trailers of baby formula. They also pay organized groups of shoplifters who blanket the country, picking up only what sells on the black market.

In houses, in warehouses, even in motel rooms, the groups stockpile the loot. A second team is then paid to "clean" the items, a tedious job, peeling off labels and security tags with a hair dryer and adhesive removers, according to government documents.

Other teams then relabel the items - sometimes with false expiration dates - and sell them by the case. Convenience stores in poor city neighborhoods often buy the stolen goods, but records show that major chains such as Wal-Mart and Target also unwittingly have purchased pallets of pilfered baby formula, razors and other items that were stolen from their own stores.

FBI Director Robert Mueller last year singled out Middle Eastern crime rings dealing in baby formula, telling the Senate Committee on Intelligence that the groups not only pose a potential health risk - selling expired baby formula - but also are a potential source of funding for terrorist groups abroad.

Some of the Middle Eastern men who run these black-market operations send money to the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Lebanon. Whether any of it has funded terror is unclear. Investigators say they lose the trail once the cash hits the Middle East.

FBI counterterrorism officials have told Congress they remain troubled because some sympathizers of groups like Hamas and Hezbollah have been involved in the black-market trade.
----
Shalash - standing behind security glass at Gas and Save, his gas station and convenience store on West Exchange Street in Akron - suggested someone may have used his name to buy stolen formula.

"I've never been involved in anything like that," he said.

His store sells baby formula from behind the counter.

Shalash acknowledged that he is related to residents of Lexington, Ky., who have been convicted of dealing in stolen baby formula. Shalash, who once lived in Lexington, said he doesn't see them anymore, adding that he has lived in Akron 21 years and doesn't know anything about their business.
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Shalash's uncle - Mohammed "Big Man" Shalash - appears to have founded a baby formula empire years ago at a Lexington warehouse. After federal officials raided the business in the mid-1990s, the uncle fled to the Palestinian territories before being indicted on racketeering and conspiracy charges. His family said he later died there.

One of the Big Man's sons, convicted of racketeering, is a fugitive. He was sentenced to five years in prison but fled before his sentence began. Another is serving a four-year sentence for dealing in stolen goods.

Last year, two other members of the Shalash family were convicted in a baby-formula scheme. In that case, the FBI set up a sting operation, with an agent posing in 2004 as a professional thief who specialized in boosting tractor-trailers.

It appears a similar sting happened in Akron, but police will not discuss the investigation. They referred questions to a U.S. Department of Agriculture agent, who did not return calls.

Hasana Abdalla, the Cleveland grocer, was arrested about 1 p.m. Aug. 11 in a warehouse area near Interstate 76 in south Akron.

About 12 hours later, the Illinois man, Ahmed Ateyat, was arrested in the same area when, according to police, he showed up with $50,000 in cash and a Chevy cargo van.
Reference Here>>

Additional information about the increase in shoplifting and the Retailing Marketplace's security systems response at Symblogogy.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

File Under: Shut-Up And Direct…Or Act…Or Voice Over

Rob Reiner’s next project due out September 15th – “Everyone’s Hero” – where “Meathead” takes on the challanging voice-over role of ... “Screwie” … you can't make this stuff up … haaa, haaa, haaa, hoooaa, wow, oh man! – Image Credit: Apple Trailers

File Under: Shut-Up And Direct … Or Act … Or Voice-Over

Rob Reiner, not content to just lick his wounds and lay low until the investigation into his potential gross misuse of public monies is over, feels the need to go out and pop-off on a couple of fronts over the last week or so.

First, he needed to have his opinion be known in a very public way about Mel Gibson and his personal troubles (noted in a post here at MAXINE, last week).

This week, it’s all about the United States and how we blew our chances to have other nations just fall in love with us - as if - this world politics thing is just like living a “high school” life.

This from Contact Music, United Kingdom -

REINER UPSET THAT US DIDN'T EMBRACE WORLD SUPPORT AFTER 9/11
Posted By contactmusic.com - 9/02/2006 10:11

Movie maker ROB REINER fears America missed a golden opportunity to repair generations of global animosity after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

With the fifth anniversary of the 2001 atrocities fast approaching, the WHEN HARRY MET SALLY director regrets US politicians didn't jump at the chance to boost America's image around the world. He explains, "It was a terrible tragedy that could've been a tremendous opportunity. And then it was horribly, horribly squandered.

"The French headlines read, 'We are all Americans.' There was never a time in this nation's history where we had the entire world behind us.

"It was a unique time where you had the last remaining super power on the planet with the entire world behind you. "(Now) we have the entire world hating us and not on our side at a time when things are really critical."

Reference Here>>

“Meathead” must like picking big targets to chew on … Last week, it’s Mel Gibson, arguably the world’s richest one movie director/producer with “The Passion Of The Christ” … Today, it’s “the last remaining super power on the planet”, as stated by Rob, himself … Tomorrow, what will it be, maybe he will take on the largest target that remains – HIS OWN EGO!?

The truth is Rob Reiner mistakes world empathy for “attitudes of being behind you”. What these other countries of the world are actually thinking to themselves is a little more like – I am sorry for your loss and I’m glad it wasn’t our country! ... now let us get back to competing in the world markets for goods and services.

I really think Rob "Meathead / First Five" Reiner just is doing what he can to keep his name in the news so that he can promote his up coming projects (the next one is to be released September 15th - its a "voice-over" job).

Taepodong-2 Missile Score: USA-2 / North Korea-0

An interceptor missile launched from the Ronald W. Reagan Missile Defense Site at Vandenberg Air Force Base yesterday, moves to its target. Image Credit: Associated Press

Taepodong-2 Missile Score: USA-2 / North Korea-0

Yesterday, the U.S. "officially" tested its ballistic missile defense system with resounding results.

Last July 4th, North Korea tested the viability of its missile program with less than stellar success. Some speculate that the USA had a hand in the failure of North Korea's Taepodong-2 that ended up "landing" into the ocean in the Sea Of Japan.

This from a dispatch issued July 5th, 2006 - CNN -

North Korea tested a long-range missile and several smaller missiles, U.S. sources told CNN. Graphic Credit: CNN

U.S. officials: North Korea tests long-range missile
Wednesday, July 5, 2006; Posted: 12:03 a.m. EDT (04:03 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- North Korea test-fired a long-range missile and five shorter-range rockets early Wednesday, but the closely watched long-range test failed within a minute, U.S. officials said.

The tests began shortly after 3:30 a.m. local time (2:30 p.m. Tuesday ET) and lasted for about five hours.

The Taepodong-2 missile, which some analysts believed capable of hitting the western United States, failed after about 40 seconds, U.S. officials said.

The U.N. Security Council planned to meet Wednesday morning to discuss North Korea's actions.

North Korean Foreign Ministry officials confirmed the tests Wednesday to reporters for two Japanese broadcasters, NHK and TV Tokyo.
U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley described the missile launches as "provocative behavior," but said they posted no immediate threat to the United States.

Washington dispatched Christopher Hill, its top negotiator in the six-party talks with the two Koreas, Japan, China and Russia, to consult with U.S. allies in Asia after the tests, Hadley said.

Hill has been the top U.S. negotiator in the six-party talks aimed at convincing North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program.

A statement from the White House said the United States "strongly condemns" the launches and North Korea's "unwillingness to heed calls for restraint from the international community."

"We are consulting with international partners on next steps," the statement said.
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Intelligence agencies around the region had been watching preparations for the long-range test, but the shorter-range missiles were launched from a different site. At least four of those missiles were variants of the Soviet-era Scud series, with ranges estimated from about 100 to over 600 miles.

The Taepodong-2 landed about 200 miles west of Japan in the Sea of Japan, a U.S. military source said.

A spokesman for South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun said after a National Security Council meeting Wednesday that North Korea must take responsibility for events resulting from its firing of the missiles.
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"It's very difficult technology. They very clearly have not mastered it," he said. "Most estimates are they will not master it for another 10 years."
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And on Monday, North Korea's state-run media accused the United States of harassing it and vowed to respond to any pre-emptive attack "with a relentless annihilating strike and a nuclear war with a mighty nuclear deterrent." (
Watch why North Korea is talking about annihilating the U.S. -- 2:04)

The White House has dismissed that threat as "hypothetical." (
Full story)

But the U.S. Northern Command increased security measures at its Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station in Colorado Springs, Colo., a few weeks ago, a military official confirmed Tuesday.

The base is the seat of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, and some of its command-and-control operations might have been used if the United States attempted to use its ballistic missile interceptors -- which have a mixed record of success -- to shoot down a potential Taepodong-2 test.

Rick Lehner, a spokesman for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, told CNN that two interceptor missiles were activated at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in anticipation of the test and could have been fired by controllers at NORAD. Lehner said nine other interceptors were activated at Fort Greely, Alaska.
Reference Here>>

So now it is official that the USA can shoot down NK's Taepodong-2 missile.

For North Korea's part, they issued a statement claiming that the successful test carried out by the USA yesterday was a provacative "Act-Of War" ... to that, we at MAXINE say "Bring It On!"

Head of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency Air Force Lt Gen Henry Obering told a briefing this was about as close as "we can come to an end-to-end test of our long-range missile defense system." Image Credit: earthtimes.org

Excerpts from The Washington Times -

U.S. test missile hits a Korean bull's-eye
By Bill Gertz - THE WASHINGTON TIMES - September 2, 2006

The U.S. missile defense system yesterday shot down an incoming dummy warhead simulating the last-stage trajectory of a North Korean Taepodong-2 missile, a milestone that U.S. officials expect to counter critics of earlier tests.

It was the first time a dummy North Korean missile was intercepted, and the sixth successful intercept since 1999, said officials from the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency.

"What we did today is a huge step in terms of our systematic approach to continuing to field, continuing to deploy and continuing to develop a missile defense system for the United States, for our allies, our friends, our deployed forces around the world," said Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, director of the Missile Defense Agency.

He said there is "good chance" the system would be successful against a Taepodong-2 launched from North Korea.

Seven North Korean missiles launched July 4 included a long-range Taepodong-2 that failed less than a minute after launch.
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Pentagon officials said the warhead was destroyed in outer space above a point several hundred miles west of Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

The test began with a target missile fired from the Kodiak Launch Complex on Kodiak Island, Alaska, at 1:22 p.m. and its last stage was rammed by the high-speed interceptor launched from Vandenberg 17 minutes later. The interceptor used data gathered from an early warning radar located at Beale Air Force Base near Sacramento, Calif., and electronics that were used to track and identify the 4-foot-long warhead and guide it into a high-speed, midspace collision.

Both missiles were traveling at 15,000 to 18,000 mph, making the intercept a difficult technical challenge for what the Pentagon calls the Ground-based Midcourse Defense System. The system uses sensors in space, at sea and on the ground, along with communication links stretching from Japan to Colorado.

North Korea's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland issued a statement, carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, saying the test "clearly shows that it is the U.S. which is increasing tensions on the Korean Peninsula and threatening war against our country." As a result, Pyongyang will boost its "self-defensive deterrent," a phrase North Korea often uses for its nuclear program.

Unlike earlier tests, the interceptor was not launched from nearby Fort Greely, Alaska. Its success is expected to counter critics who said the Missile Defense Agency had been using artificial conditions and equipment for its previous tests, instead of realistic weapons trajectories and operational conditions.

"This test validated the confidence that I've expressed in the past with the performance of the system." Gen. Obering told reporters.
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"We did intercept the re-entry vehicle, and we did use the operational radar data to provide the initial track for that intercept, and the kill vehicle performed its own discrimination and targeting of the kill vehicle," the general said.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld applauded the result, saying it will "increase confidence" in missile defense capability, but warned that the system is not perfected.
[ed. yea ... right!]
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Asked when a realistic "end-to-end" test of the system could be held, Gen. Obering said: "Well, you know, I don't want to ask the North Koreans to launch against us. That would be a realistic end-to-end test. Short of that, this is about as good as it gets with respect to that."

Read All>>

You just havta' love this last statement from an obviously delighted carreer Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, director of the Missile Defense Agency - "This is about as good as it gets!"