Tuesday, November 28, 2006
This may be the first major report of this winter season watch on the potential of a bird flu epidemic as was the case last year at this time.
Not to be alarmist, but get your N95 masks & canned foods laid in, water stock piles planned, migratory bird paths marked out, and have a plan where the potentials for contact are greatly reduced. If this threat is real ... you will be glad you did.
This from News-Medical.Net -
South Korea to cull pigs, cats and dogs as well as poultry, to stop bird flu
News-Medical.Net, Disease/Infection News - Published: Tuesday, 28-Nov-2006
In an attempt to halt the further spread of the current outbreak of bird flu in South Korea, as well as culling 236,000 poultry, the Agriculture Ministry also plans to cull hundreds of pigs, dogs and cats in the area.
As experts believe humans cannot contract bird flu from cats and dogs, the measure is viewed by many as an overreaction and not a decision based on scientific evidence.
South Korea contends that other countries also slaughters cats and dogs but do not reveal the fact.
The only country which has culled animals other than poultry to halt the spread of the virus is Indonesia which has killed pigs.
South Korea officials hope this will effectively end the country's first outbreak in three years of the highly virulent H5N1 strain of bird flu.
All poultry will be culled within a 500-metre radius of a farm in North Cholla province, about 170 km from Seoul, where the avian influenza strain has been detected.
Quarantine authorities have also banned the shipment of more than 5 million poultry from 221 farms within a 10-km radius of the farm and destroyed as many as 6 million eggs.
South Korea's poultry industry has again been badly hit by the outbreak as it was in the 4 month period between December 2003 and March 2004, when as many as 400,000 poultry at South Korean farms were infected by bird flu.
That outbreak prompted the culling of 5.3 million birds at a cost of 1.5 trillion to prevent the disease spreading.
According to the World Organisation for Animal Health, since 2003 as many as 50 countries and territories have been affected and millions of birds have died or been culled.
The World Health Organisation estimates to date that 153 people have died from the virus and another 258 have been sickened.
Most of the victims were Asians, with 98 deaths in Vietnam and Indonesia.
North Korea too is on a high alert and has increased measures to prevent bird flu.
Following an outbreak of bird flu at two poultry farms near Pyongyang in February 2005, North Korea says it inoculated poultry and increased checks along its borders.
As a precaution Japan and Hong Kong have 'temporarily' suspended poultry imports from South Korea.
Ahhhh!, no chicken for Tempura or Kung Pao!
Saturday, November 25, 2006
CITGO - The Consequence Of Words, The Power Of Action
In the last two and one-half months since Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez verbally assaulted President Bush and the United States during a speech at the United Nations, many Americans have taken to responding with their pocketbooks.
While standing at the main podium in the United Nations General Assembly hall, President Chavez said the following:
Excerpts from the CQ Transcripts Wire Wednesday, September 20, 2006; 12:28 PM
I think that the first people who should read this book are our brothers and sisters in the United States, because their threat is in their own house. The devil is right at home. The devil -- the devil, himself, is right in the house.
And the devil came here yesterday.
Yesterday, the devil came here. Right here. Right here. And it smells of sulfur still today, this table that I am now standing in front of.
Yesterday, ladies and gentlemen, from this rostrum, the president of the United States, the gentleman to whom I refer as the devil, came here, talking as if he owned the world. Truly. As the owner of the world.
I think we could call a psychiatrist to analyze yesterday's statement made by the president of the United States. As the spokesman of imperialism, he came to share his nostrums, to try to preserve the current pattern of domination, exploitation and pillage of the peoples of the world.
An Alfred Hitchcock movie could use it as a scenario. I would even propose a title: "The Devil's Recipe."
As Chomsky says here, clearly and in depth, the American empire is doing all it can to consolidate its system of domination. And we cannot allow them to do that. We cannot allow world dictatorship to be consolidated.
I have the feeling, dear world dictator, that you are going to live the rest of your days as a nightmare because the rest of us are standing up, all those who are rising up against American imperialism, who are shouting for equality, for respect, for the sovereignty of nations.
Our voice is an independent voice to represent the dignity and the search for peace and the reformulation of the international system; to denounce persecution and aggression of hegemonistic forces on the planet.
CHAVEZ (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): This is how Venezuela has presented itself. Bolivar's home has sought a nonpermanent seat on the Security Council.
Let's see. Well, there's been an open attack by the U.S. government, an immoral attack, to try and prevent Venezuela from being freely elected to a post in the Security Council.
The imperium is afraid of truth, is afraid of independent voices. It calls us extremists, but they are the extremists.
You know that my personal doctor had to stay in the plane. The chief of security had to be left in a locked plane. Neither of these gentlemen was allowed to arrive and attend the U.N. meeting. This is another abuse and another abuse of power on the part of the Devil. It smells of sulfur here, but God is with us and I embrace you all.
May God bless us all. Good day to you.
According to reports, business at many CITGO branded stations is down over 15%.
7-11 Stores has sought to distance itself from the CITGO brand.
Analysts don't expect anti-Chavez sentiment to have a lasting effect on CITGO’s bottom line, since gasoline consumers typically put price above principles.
But amid the backlash, the Houston company, last month, began running full-page ads in major newspapers touting its 4,000 U.S. employees, its program to provide discounted heating oil to needy Americans, and work on behalf of charitable causes, such as disaster relief and fighting muscular dystrophy.
CITGO won't discuss the campaign's cost, but says it's not an effort to repair any financial damage from a consumer backlash targeting more than 13,000 independently owned, CITGO-branded U.S. filling stations.
Image Credit: State of Florida via WIKIPEDIA
And now the state of Florida has begun an effort to undo it’s exclusive contract with CITGO to supply fuel to the Florida Turnpike (tollway).
Excerpts from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel –
CITGO dispute leads to turnpike posting signs about alternative fueling choices
By Erika Slife - South Florida Sun-Sentinel - Posted November 24 2006
In a response to a state legislator's concern about the exclusive contract Florida's Turnpike has with CITGO gas stations -- which are affiliated with Venezuela -- the state Department of Transportation says it will advertise other fueling options for motorists.
The action stems from a letter by Rep. Adam Hasner, R-Delray Beach, who raised the issue in September when Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called President Bush "the devil" during a speech at the United Nations. Hasner had asked state transportation officials to cancel CITGO’s contract to sell gas at turnpike service stations.
Image Credit: State of Florida via WIKIPEDIA
The exclusive contract with the CITGO operator doesn't expire until December 2008, according to an Oct. 31 response letter from Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Denver Stutler. In the meantime, the transportation department will use signs to inform motorists of alternative fueling options off the turnpike, the letter stated.
Transportation workers will begin installing the signs along the 312-mile tollway this winter, said Chad Huff, a spokesman for Florida's Turnpike. He did not know how much the signs will cost, or how many will be posted.
"The signs are being installed to allow customers to know what is available at those exits," Huff said.
CITGO Petroleum Corp., the U.S. subsidiary of Venezuela's state-run oil company, supplies fuel for the eight gas stations located along the 312-mile tollway.
Motorists who exit the turnpike to get gas will not be charged an additional toll to get back on.
"Florida taxpayers should not have to support an exclusive contract with CITGO and Hugo Chavez," said Hasner. "This goes back to the fact that I've been a leader in Tallahassee in the area of promoting energy independence and that's where this arises. It's my belief that we as a country and a state should not be dependent to countries that are hostile to us for our energy future."
CITGO has more than 13,000 independently owned and operated stations in the country. More than 1,400 are located in Florida, McCullom said. After Chavez made his remarks about Bush, calls were made to boycott the stations. Wheeler, meanwhile, said there has been "no significant change" in sales at the turnpike stations.
A spokesman for Jeb Bush said that the governor had already directed transportation officials to look for new fueling options for motorists.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Lebanon's Funeral For Assassinated Government Minister, Pierre Gemayel
On this Thanksgiving day, we at MAXINE are thankful for the many blessings we have here in tha United States.
We also extend heartfelt prayers to those who wish to have a stable, homogenious Lebanon.
Protester outside of Martyrs Square in Beirut before the funeral of Pierre Gemayel. Image Credit: Pajamas Media
Pajamas Media Postings -
Lebanon's Funeral For Assinated Government Minister, Pierre Gemayel
The Mideast, 215 (November 23, 2006) -- Pierre Gemayel's funeral turns into anti-Syrian rally
Funeral transformed: The mourning ceremony essentially became an angry political rally exposing the hatreds and schisms that have paralyzed the state and threatened an increasing cycle of violence, with crowds chanting slogans cursing the president of Syria, Bashar al Assad, cursing the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah,and cursing the Christian leader, General Michel Aoun, who has allied his party with Hezbollah.(NY Times)
Amin Gemayel, father of slain minister and former Lebanese president addresses the crowd: “The martyrdom of Prime Minister Hariri ignited the independence of Lebanon, and today we should commit ourselves for a second independence, and we should not stop until real change and reform is achieved by electing a new president…. The countdown has begun for the tribunal for all assassinations, not only of the persons killed but the whole people of Lebanon … the blood of Pierre and the blood of all martyrs…Today his soul is with all of us and will cement our determination until we achieve all the goals for which they sacrificed themselves.” (Liveblogged from CNN’s live broadcast translation)
Service ends, speeches begin: Outside the cathedral where the funeral took place, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and Saad Hariri, son of slain Rafik Hariri, address the crowd. They are at a podium protected with thick bulletproof glass. Amin Gemayel, father of the late Pierre Gemayel, is standing at the podium with the other personalities, looking at the crowd and saluting. (al-Jazeera live coverage)
Look who showed up: Nabih Berri, one of the Shia leaders, is attending the funeral. “It remains to be seen if that is purely a condolence visit, or, hopefully, a political message (a further isolation of Hezbollah).” (Beirut Spring)
Liveblogging the funeral “Words cannot covey what I feel right now nor what I am seeing. I truly hope and pray to God that Sheikh Pierre Gemayel and Samir Chartouni will be the last martyrs ever in Lebanon. I doubt it but I do hope so….The coffins have just reached the church. May we all pray for their souls and the soul of every man/woman/child who died under aggression.” (Rampurple)
Casket carrying the body of Pierre Gemayel. Image Credit: Pajamas Media
500,000 people in attendance, according to the Lebanese Red Cross. (al-Jazeera live broadcast, no link)
Thousands in Streets to Honor Slain Lebanese Minister: Tens of thousands of Lebanese gathered Thursday to bid farewell to Pierre Gemayel, and his anti-Syrian allies turned his funeral into a powerful show of force against opponents led by Hezbollah militants and their backers in Damascus. The massive crowd rallied in Martyrs’ Square in downtown Beirut as Pierre Gemayel’s family and dignitaries prepared to hold a prayer service at a nearby cathedral. (AP/Breitbart)
Mehlis points finger: Former chief U.N. investigator Detlev Mehlis accused “pro-Syrian forces in Lebanon” of involvement in Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel’s assassination. The German prosecutor who led the investigation into ex-Premier Rafik Hariri’s murder before handing over the U.N.-backed probe to Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz in January also said Tuesday’s killing was an attack on the United Nations. (Nahranet)
115 killed in Baghdad: A series of car bombs killed 115 people in the Shi’ite militia stronghold of Sadr City, Baghdad, an Interior Ministry source said. (Reuters) — LATER: AP ups the death toll to 144.
France OKs shooting Israeli jets: French soldiers in Lebanon who feel threatened by aggressive Israeli overflights are permitted to shoot at IAF fighter jets, a high-ranking French military officer told The Jerusalem Post.
Too much: The new Marine Corps commandant said Wednesday that the longer than anticipated pace of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan is putting an unacceptable strain on his troops.
Talking with this enemy? Neo-neocon writes on what it means talking with Iran and Syria over Iraq.
We can work it out: The prime minister of Iraq will sit down for the first time next week with representatives of insurgent groups in his most concerted effort yet to quell the country’s sectarian war. (Fox News)
Peretz under fire, and we’re not talking Kassams: Pressure is growing on Israeli defense minister Amir Peretz to resign. (Haaretz)
Monday, November 20, 2006
A Blanket Of Dirt That Cools - A "Nobel" Idea!
Wasn't that (a blanket of dirt) what killed the dinosaurs? ... But I digress, it was a meteor that hit the earth and kicked up dirt that covered the earth and killed the Dino's (and their food supply).
Well, guess what, some egghead Nobel laureate thinks it might be a plausible idea to kick up some dirt of our own to counteract the effects of the greenhouse gasses we humans are contributing to the atmosphere that are warming our globe.
What happens to us if we over do it? We may all become dog team owners and aspire to run in the Iditarod, build igloos, and name our kids "Nanook". Problem though ... the nights may last a millennium or two - - oopsie!
Excerpts from the Associated Press -
Could smog protect against global warming?
U.N. climate-change conference
By Charles J. Hanley - The Associated Press - Thursday, November 16, 2006
NAIROBI, Kenya - If the sun warms the Earth too dangerously, the time may come to draw the shade.
The ''shade'' would be a layer of pollution deliberately spewed into the atmosphere to help cool the planet. This over-the-top idea comes from prominent scientists, among them a Nobel laureate. The reaction here at the U.N. conference on climate change is a mix of caution, curiosity and some resignation to such ''massive and drastic'' operations, as the chief U.N. climatologist describes them.
The Nobel Prize-winning scientist who first made the proposal is himself ''not enthusiastic about it.''
''It was meant to startle the policy makers,'' said Paul J. Crutzen, of Germany's Max Planck Institute for Chemistry. ''If they don't take action much more strongly than they have in the past, then in the end we have to do experiments like this.''
Serious people are taking Crutzen's idea seriously. This weekend, NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., hosts a closed-door, high-level workshop on the global haze proposal and other ''geoengineering'' ideas for fending off climate change.
In Nairobi, meanwhile, hundreds of delegates were wrapping up a two-week conference expected to only slowly advance efforts to rein in greenhouse gases blamed for much of the 1-degree rise in global temperatures in the past century.
The 1997 Kyoto Protocol requires modest emission cutbacks by industrial countries - but not the United States, the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases, because it rejected the deal. Talks on what to do after Kyoto expires in 2012 are all but bogged down.
When he published his proposal in the journal Climatic Change in August, Crutzen cited a ''grossly disappointing international political response'' to warming.
The Dutch climatologist, awarded a 1995 Nobel in chemistry for his work uncovering the threat to Earth's atmospheric ozone layer, suggested that balloons bearing heavy guns be used to carry sulfates high aloft and fire them into the stratosphere.
While carbon dioxide keeps heat from escaping Earth, substances such as sulfur dioxide, a common air pollutant, reflect solar radiation, helping cool the planet.
Tom Wigley, a senior U.S. government climatologist, followed Crutzen's article with a paper of his own on Oct. 20 in the leading U.S. journal Science. Like Crutzen, Wigley cited the precedent of the huge volcanic eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991.
Pinatubo shot so much sulfurous debris into the stratosphere that it is believed it cooled the Earth by .9 degrees for about a year.
Los Angeles Smog - Looking out from an office building in Sherman Oaks, one can see the thick pall of smog hanging above San Fernando Valley. Image Credit: photos©urban75 (2003)
Wigley ran scenarios of stratospheric sulfate injection — on the scale of Pinatubo's estimated 10 million tons of sulfur — through supercomputer models of the climate, and reported that Crutzen's idea would, indeed, seem to work. Even half that amount per year would help, he wrote.
A massive dissemination of pollutants would be needed every year or two, as the sulfates precipitate from the atmosphere in acid rain.
Wigley said a temporary shield would give political leaders more time to reduce human dependence on fossil fuels — the main source of greenhouse gases. He said experts must more closely study the feasibility of the idea and its possible effects on stratospheric chemistry.
"One of the main reasons I do not want to live out my days in Los Angeles. The smog can be pretty intense at times. Granted, it used to be worse, but the quality of air is still not acceptable." Image Credit: losangelesdailyphoto.blogspot.com
Nairobi conference participants agreed.
''Yes, by all means, do all the research,'' Indian climatologist Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the 2,000-scientist U.N. network on climate change, told The Associated Press.
But ''if human beings take it upon themselves to carry out something as massive and drastic as this, we need to be absolutely sure there are no side effects,'' Pachauri said.
Philip Clapp, a veteran campaigner for emissions controls to curb warming, also sounded a nervous note, saying, ''We are already engaged in an uncontrolled experiment by injecting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.''
By telephone from Germany, Crutzen said that's what he envisioned: global haze as a component for long-range planning. ''The reception on the whole is more positive than I thought,'' he said.
Pershing added, however, that reaction may hinge on who pushes the idea. ''If it's the U.S., it might be perceived as an effort to avoid the problem,'' he said.
NASA said this weekend's conference will examine ''methods to ameliorate the likelihood of progressively rising temperatures over the next decades.'' Other such U.S. government-sponsored events are scheduled to follow.
If this egghead was ''not enthusiastic about it'' - WHY BRING IT UP?
Who are you, Al Gore - media mogul, presidential aspirant, oh, and weatherman?
This UPDATE from The Brussels Journal via Pajamas Media -
Global Warming: Relax and Enjoy
From the desk of Richard Rahn on Fri, 2006-11-17 09:10
Yes, the world is getting warmer, but the Earth does this roughly every 1,500 years, and we cannot stop it. The good news is humans and most other species tend to do better during the warm periods.
There is a wonderful new book, “Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1,500 Years,” by distinguished climate physicist Fred Singer and award-winning environmental economist Dennis Avery. The conclusion of their book in a nutshell is that, yes, the world is getting a bit warmer, but this is just the natural cycle. They provide overwhelming evidence this warming would occur with or without mankind increasing CO2 emissions or doing anything else. The good news is that if we realize we cannot stop global warming, and concentrate on constructively dealing with the problems it causes – which are all manageable at reasonable cost – and then enjoy the benefits, mankind will do just fine.
We have already had two cycles in recorded history; the Roman warming (200 B.C. to 600 A.D.) which was a very prosperous period, and the medieval warming (900 to 1300) during which farms were created in Greenland and Iceland. The modern warming period began about 1850, well before mankind was producing massive amounts of CO2.
Despite the general warming trend since 1850, we have had cooler periods, notably from 1940 to 1978, when many leading scientists were warning us we were rapidly heading for a new ice age. I can still remember those doomsday scenarios being played out on TV specials at the time.
The reason for skepticism is the very selective use of data presented by the end-of-the world crowd, such as Al Gore and this month by former World Bank economist Nicholas Stern. The common solutions that always come from the crisis-of-the-day gang are for more government spending, higher taxes and more government control, with little or no discussion of the downside of bigger government and higher taxes.
U.S. taxpayers now pay about $4 billion per year to global change scientists and government bureaucrats associated with global warming. If global warming were found to be not much of a problem, what do you think would happen to the budgets, employment and advancement opportunities of those with a vested interest in global warming?
Mr. Gore causes the emission of several hundred times the CO2 – by flying around the world in private jets, riding in limos, etc. – than the typical person does. Hence you would think if he really believed his scaremongering he would just stay home and give his speeches, etc., through teleconferencing and other electronic media. This would show greater commitment, but it would not be as much fun.
The Singer-Avery book is meticulously researched and footnoted (unlike many of the presentations from the scaremongers), and, as they note: “The 1,500-year cycle is not an unproven theory like the model-based predictions for the Greenhouse Theory. The 1,500 year climate cycle is real, based on a wide variety of physical evidence from around the globe.” (It comes from ice cores, sediment layers, isotopes, etc.)
The sun has far greater influence on climate than most people understand. The sun does not shine with a constant intensity, the Earth does not rotate around the sun in a constant orbit – during some periods it is more elliptical than others, and the Earth wobbles about its axis, all of which cause solar heating to vary. These effects swamp anything humans are likely to do to the climate.
So relax and enjoy the few extra days of summer and the milder winters – like our Roman and Viking ancestors did.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
United States State Department e-Passport - Image Credit: SecureIDNews eDigest
RFID Technology For RFID Technology's Sake, It's Full Steam Ahead At The State Department
Well, the right to privacy veil is about to be tested and potentially ripped wide open as the U.S. State Department puts the hammer down on the production and release of the new RFID embedded e-Passports.
As noted here back in August, a German computer security consultant, in a demonstration of RFID enabled passport information cloning, placed a new U.S. e-Passport on top of an RFID reader … and within four seconds the data on the RFID chip embedded in the new United States passport appeared on the screen in the Golden Reader Tool template. New e-passports come with a metallic jacket to prevent someone from surreptitiously "skimming," or reading the data on the chip from afar. But, as noted, to allow authorities to read the data on the RFID passport chip, the passport owner must remove the document from the shield before passing it over the RFID reader. It is at this point any passport is vulnerable to a skimming scam - from a distance.
Implementing technology for technology’s sake in order to make the process of identification faster and easier on the government workers may be the undoing of a true secure identification in our passport document approach. Truth is, there are also concerns that this new e-Passport may actually SLOW THINGS DOWN!
Excerpts from SecureIDNews -
ePassport issuance cranks up in U.S.
State Department rolls out citizen issuance though controversy still surrounds the project
By Marisa Torrieri, Contributing Editor, SecureIDNews - Tuesday, November 14 2006
In spite of a summer of criticism that included a prominent researcher's much-talked-about EU e-passport cloning demo, the U.S. State Department issued the first e-Passports and e-Passport readers.
Production began in late August at the Colorado Passport Agency and will expand to 17 other passport-issuing facilities throughout the United States in coming months.
And by the looks of things, most in the high-tech industry say it's a case of so-far, so-good. Pilot testing concluded in April 2006 and the bulk of this year was spent preparing for issuance. In 2005, more than 10 million passports were issued in the U.S. so this preparation is no small task.
The new passport's features include multi-layered security to authenticate passport holders and prevent unauthorized reading (called skimming) or eavesdropping:
**A 64 kbps contactless RFID chip in the rear cover of the passport
**A metallic shielding material within passport's cover
**A randomized unique identification (RUID) feature will mitigate the risk that an e-passport holder could be tracked.
As of late, "there's really nothing new that's come out as far as any security vulnerabilities in the passport or any changes that have been made to improve the passport," says Randy Vanderhoof, chairman of the Smart Card Alliance. "Everything seems to be going pretty well."
But others say the "feelings are mixed"
"Certainly some issues have been addressed, such as cover design and authentication between the passport and the reader," says Bob Blakley, principal analyst for The Burton Group, former chief scientist for security and privacy at IBM. Though these have been dealt with, "security vulnerabilities aren't the only thing one should worry about."
Another concern, for example, is that reading the new technology may decrease travel as new passports could take longer to verify resulting in longer lines and other disruptions.
Much media attention has been paid to the possibility of counterfeiting the passport through cloning. "Certainly some attention needs to be paid as to whether good copies can be made of the electronic passports," Mr. Blakley says. "The new passport is significantly different than the old passport, and has not been extensively tested. I think it will be a while before we know if significant issues arise in terms of security of the passport. I think it’s likely we will discover there are additional issues that need to be addressed."
It's true one of the most common hack attacks involves intercepting information that travels across the air via RF-enabled communication between chips and readers, but the data is protected by other security measures that make such scenarios unlikely, Mr. Vanderhoof says.
"This German researcher had taken a German passport, and with some technology he acquired over the Internet was able to make an electronic passport and show that he could copy it into another device," explains Mr. Vanderhoof. "(But) what sounded like a vulnerability was not a vulnerability. Making a duplicate copy of the chip doesn't give someone an opportunity to enter the country. The procedure at the border entry point involves reading the chip data and comparing it to the printed data that is inside the passport document along with the appearance of the individual who is standing in front of the border agent. Copying the chip does nothing because the copied data won't match the printed data and photo of another passport or person holding it."
If a chip was duplicated and inserted into another passport, the photo stored in the chip would not match the physical photo in the book. The person would be caught at the checkpoint. And because of the security measures used to store data in the chips, it makes it vastly more difficult to change data than to simply duplicate it.
This is precisely the point of the inclusion of the new technology into the passports. In the past, counterfeit passports had no electronic checks and balances so fraudsters would insert their photo into another person's real document to cross borders. While most agree that no security effort is foolproof, the new e-passports are light years ahead of the prior iterations in regards to security.
Mr. Blakley adds, "there has been a lot of attention paid to the inclusion of the RFID chip, but it's only one of a number of important changes - and all of those [variables] need to be looked at, not just the RFID chip."
For more on the Electronic Passport, including links to transcripts with federal officials, visit the Bureau of Consular Affairs' Web site at http://travel.state.gov.
Identity theft is identity theft, ok, so one may not be able to clone a passport and enter the country but now one can easily breech the vail of personal identity information.
Besides, with the new leadership just voted in on the legislative side of our government, secure borders are not a priority, so why should we be so focused on a new high tech passport process? If they do not care, why should we?
We at MAXINE, as well as others, will wait and see.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Kentucky Fried Chicken in a PR inspired marketing effort, decided that it was time to lay down a "first" that no other company can claim. KFC fashioned a company logo on the desert floor outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. A full color logo (made with tiles) that is large enough to be seen from space.
Image Credit: KFC
This from Reuters -
KFC targets extraterrestrials with huge logo
Reuters - Tue Nov 14, 2006 2:48pm ET
NEW YORK (Reuters) - From space, extraterrestrials and astronauts can look back to earth and see The Great Wall of China -- and KFC's Colonel Sanders.
The KFC Corp. on Tuesday launched a rebranding campaign with an 87,500 square-foot image of Colonel Sanders in the Nevada desert which the company says makes Kentucky Fried Chicken the world's first brand visible from space.
"If there are extraterrestrials in outer space, KFC wants to become their restaurant of choice," KFC President Gregg Dedrick said in a statement.
The logo consists of 65,000 one-foot by one-foot painted tile pieces that were assembled like a giant jigsaw puzzle.
"If we hear back from a life form in space today - whether NASA astronauts or a signal from some life form on Mars - we'll send up some Original Recipe Chicken," said Dedrick.
The logo also depicts an updated version of KFC icon Colonel Sanders who wears his signature string tie but with a red apron instead of his classic white double-breasted suit.
The logo was built at the remote Area 51 desert near Rachel, Nevada, which KFC said was known as the UFO capital of the world and famous for its association with UFO conspiracy theories.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
The Long Term Struggle Nobody Wants To See
The Bush administration calls it the “War On Terror”.
Nancy Pelosi and the more liberal in the Democrat Party who were recently elected to take power over the legislative branch of our government call it “just another problem to be solved”.
Still others wish to discount the uncivil treatment of humanity going on throughout the world by calling it a “Clash Of Cultures”.
The truth can be seen in the actions of this one group of philosophical zelots and how they encounter others, especially Christians, in daily life.
This group of religious fascists needs to be checked for if the world is at risk … America and its freedoms are at risk.
This from The Washington Times -
Christianity seen at risk of extinction in birthplace
By Brian Murphy - ASSOCIATED PRESS - November 12, 2006
BETHLEHEM, West Bank -- The death threat came on simple white fliers blowing down the streets at dawn. A group calling itself "Friends of Muhammad" accused a local Palestinian Christian of selling cell phones with offensive sketches of the Muslim prophet.
The Oct. 19 message went on to curse all Arab Christians and Pope Benedict XVI, still struggling to calm Muslim outrage from his remarks on Islam.
While neighbors defended the merchant -- saying the charges were bogus -- the frightened phone dealer went into hiding, not reassured when authorities dismissed the message as a harmless rant.
Now the dealer is thinking of going abroad.
Call it a modern exodus, the steady flight of the Palestinian Christian minority that could lead, some predict, to the faith being virtually extinct in its birthplace within several generations -- just one of many dwindling pockets of Christianity across the Islamic world.
This will be a major theme the pope is expected to carry to Turkey for a four-day visit beginning Nov. 28 -- his first papal visit to a predominantly Muslim nation. The Vatican calls it "reciprocity": Muslim demands for greater sensitivity from the West must be accompanied by stronger protections and rights for Christian minorities in Islamic strongholds.
Map of Bethlehem - The "O Little Town" situated several miles south of Jerusalem is not so little any more. - Image Credit: Mustardseed.net
In some places, such as Pakistan, that means more safeguards from extremist attacks. In Indonesia and elsewhere, it touches on appeals to curb sectarian clashes. In Turkey, Iraq and much of the Middle East, it seeks to preserve communities dating back to the days when Jesus' first apostles preached.
But nearly everywhere in Muslim lands, Christian populations are in decline.
No place is this more striking than in the Holy Land.
For decades, it was mostly economic pressures pushing Palestinian Christians to emigrate, using family ties in the West or contacts from missionary schools. The Palestinian uprisings -- and the separation barrier started by Israel in 2002 -- accelerated the departures by turning once-bustling pilgrimage sites such as Bethlehem into relative ghost towns.
The growing strength of radical Islamic movements has added new worries. During the protests after the pope's remarks in September, some of the worst violence was in Palestinian areas with churches firebombed and hit by gunfire.
"Most of the Christians here are either in the process of leaving, planning to leave or thinking of leaving," said Sami Awad, executive director of the Holy Land Trust, a Bethlehem-based peace group. "Insecurity is deep and getting worse."
The native Palestinian Christian population has dipped below 2 percent of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Arab East Jerusalem, down from 15 percent or more a half-century ago, by some estimates. Meanwhile, the Muslim Palestinian birthrate is among the highest in the world.
Star of the Nativity - Inside the church is the traditional site of where Jesus was born.In this Catholic church a star has been built to commemorate this event. - Image Credit: Mustardseed.net
Dire predictions abound. The Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land said Christians could become "extinct" in the region within 60 years.
"It certainly doesn't look good for us," said Mike Salman, a Palestinian Christian who has conducted studies on demographic trends.
A walk along Shepherd Street puts a face to the lament.
Hannah Qumsieh spends his days playing Internet poker, fretting about unpaid bills and trimming his lemon trees at his house overlooking the field where the Bible says an angel told shepherds of the birth of Jesus. Mr. Qumsieh retired from the Palestinian tourism office last year, but has received no pension checks since the militant faction Hamas won elections in January and the West slashed aid to the Palestinian Authority.
"If I had money to leave, I would," he said, casting a glance at the newly built white stone house next door in Beit Sahour, one of the last Christian-dominated enclaves in the West Bank. Bethlehem, just up the hill, is now less than 20 percent Christian.
Some are trying to change the momentum.
Groups dedicated to Muslim-Christian cooperation are active. During the protests over Benedict's remarks, militiamen from Islamic Jihad vowed to protect a West Bank church. A poll released Oct. 18 by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion found 91 percent of respondents opposed attacking churches to protest the pope's comments.
Palestinian Christians -- dominated by Greek Orthodox and Latin Rite churches loyal to the pope -- now face sharp questions about whether their hearts lie in their homeland or in the West. It gets even more complicated because of the strong support for Israel and Jewish settlers from American evangelical Christians.
"We are stuck in no man's land," said a leading Palestinian Christian activist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of reported death threats. "In the eyes of the West, we are Arabs. In the eyes of Arabs, we are a fifth column."
At MAXINE, we would like to see a world that operates from a perspective of "live and let live", but in this struggle, it's "make uncomfortable and get rid of" all those who might disagree with you -- this approach is first applied to the Christians -- then anyone else who believes in a life lived in self determination and self reliance (really, anyone else).
Would some please inform the newly elected legislative leadership here in America? This approach to dealing with others is not "just a problem to be solved".
Monday, November 06, 2006
Of Basketball Floors, Friendship, And An·o·nym·i·ty
Today is the day before an anticipated "landslide" election where the airwaves are filled with vile, slander, and puffery.
Ads paint Republicans and Democrats alike in the absolute worst light and it all can become a bit disheartening as to the prospects of actually having human relations of lasting value.
With this as a backdrop, here is a story about a gift and the real value of why people bother to communicate and share some time together throughout this life we live.
This from the Sports Section of the Los Angeles Times -
By Bill Plaschke - LA Times - November 5, 2006
An anonymous donation will introduce generations of Trojans to Jim Sterkel, and comes as quite a surprise to Mrs. Sterkel
The name is in giant cardinal letters, stripped across two sides of the new basketball court in this city's new basketball treasure, the signature on USC's signature arena.
It will be stepped upon by generations of Trojans basketball players.
It will be seen by millions of Galen Center fans.
Yet it is cloaked in mystery.
Jim Sterkel Court.
"Are you sure?" asks his wife, Joanne Sterkel. "His name is on what?"
It's on the hardwood, scripted there forever, officially scuffed for the first time on Nov. 16, when the Trojans open the season against South Carolina.
It honors a former Trojan who played only two seasons in the mid-1950s. He never averaged more than 10 points a game. His teams never won more than 16 games. He never graduated.
Jim Sterkel Court.
"You're kidding me," asks his daughter Jill. "Are you sure you have the right man?"
He spent a lifetime working as a Johnson Wax salesman. He died of cancer in 1997. He left behind a wife of 38 years and three children and a modest Hacienda Heights home.
Outside that home today there hangs a college banner.
A UCLA banner.
He wasn't a Trojans donor, he never had Trojans season tickets, and if he had any Trojans memories, he kept them to himself.
Jim Sterkel Court.
"I have no idea who put his name on there," says his wife. "And I have no idea why."
A most amazing story in this city of stars, a sports centerpiece decorated in average, laced in ordinary, painted in a nobody.
Or was he?
THE GIFT: As a tribute to his former college roommate, a USC donor gave $5 million to have the court at the Galen Center bear his friend’s name. Image Credit: Mel Melcon / LAT
This tale, like many Hollywood tales, starts quietly, in the suburbs, in adolescence.
Two boys meet at Mark Keppel High in Alhambra.
One likes to play sports, the other likes to watch sports, and together they become as one, chasing fun and fear and dreams.
They attend separate junior colleges, but remain close. When they both enroll in USC in the fall of 1955, they become roommates.
One is a 6-foot-7, 230-pound center named Jim Sterkel.
The other, for reasons you will understand later, is Anonymous.
Anonymous was the businessman, Sterkel was the jock, and it was through sports that Anonymous best understood his friend.
"Jim came home from a game at USF one time with two black eyes," Anonymous said. "It took him a while to admit that he had taken just two shots, and that Bill Russell had blocked both of them right back in his face."
It was then that Anonymous realized Sterkel's honesty and lack of ego, something his teammates already knew.
"The thing everyone remembers most about Jim was, he was just a real good-natured guy," said former Trojans guard Ken Walker. "There was not a mean bone in his body."
After scoring all of nine baskets in his junior year, Sterkel was voted the team's most improved player in his senior year, averaging 9.6 points and 8.6 rebounds.
"He was never a great player, no," said Anonymous. "But he was the kind that kept showing up."
After their senior years, the roommates set upon vastly different courses of life, but never strayed too far.
Anonymous became a business tycoon, while Sterkel became a suburban salesman and church leader, yet they still met for family dinners, fishing trips and pep talks on the phone.
Sterkel was the kind of guy who didn't smoke, didn't swear, and would lead his church in services and on its basketball courts.
He was the kind of guy neighbors phoned if they needed a television fixed or pipe unclogged. Giant and bespectacled and always smiling, he was the kind of guy who hugged everyone.
Anonymous was the kind of guy who, while leading a faster-paced life, gained strength from Sterkel's daily consistency.
"It's hard to find friends who last a lifetime," Anonymous recalled. "For me, Jim was that guy."
When Sterkel retired from Johnson Wax, Anonymous hired him for a job at his company.
When Sterkel first noticed a lump in his testicles, he told Anonymous, who immediately drove him to the doctor for the beginning of his long and fatal relationship with cancer.
While Sterkel was dying, Anonymous' young son also contracted cancer. Sterkel wrote Anonymous a poem, sealed it, and ordered it only to be read if Anonymous' son died.
Less than two years after Sterkel's death, Anonymous' son died of leukemia. He unsealed and read the poem. He said he still feels its imprint today.
"I'll never forget that he took the time out of his own life during his final days to do this for me, to try to inspire my life even when he was losing his own life," Anonymous said.
It was this inspiration that Anonymous remembered when he was approached by USC with an offer to make a donation to put his name on the new court.
He could have given the school his son's name. Most people would have given their own name.
Instead, he wrote a check for about $5 million and gave the name of Jim Sterkel.
"Some people don't deserve to be forgotten," Anonymous said. "Maybe this will keep him around a little longer."
At first, USC officials were stunned. Then, they were moved.
"A great example of the Trojan family," said Mike Garrett, athletic director.
Anonymous had only one request, that the donation be forever nameless, so USC refused to provide me with his name.
Even once I figured it out, Anonymous did not answer repeated interview requests for this story until he was finally promised that it would not include his name.
"The joy I have in remembering Jim would be significantly reduced if people knew who I was,'' he said.
When he finally agreed to the interview, my first question had been rolling around in my gut for a week.
"So what exactly did Jim Sterkel do for you to warrant this incredible honor?" I asked. "Did he give you a kidney? Did he pull you out of a burning car?"
"He did much more than that," he said. "He was my friend."
Some might think that Jim Sterkel's name was placed on the court not only for his memory, but for his family.
Well, Anonymous still hasn't told the family.
When I contacted them about the court, they had no idea. They had not read about it in the newspapers, or seen it on the USC website, or heard the buzz on the blogs.
Jill, a former Olympic gold medal swimmer, began crying. She politely excused herself, hung up the phone, and we talked later.
"My dad was never famous, he never cared about that," she said. "He was just a good guy and a great parent."
Upon hearing the news, Joanne also wept in disbelief.
After her initial shock, she figured out that there could be only one possible donor, and she correctly identified him, but she remained puzzled.
"He was such a good husband, such a good man, but do people really notice those things anymore?" she said of Jim.
Anonymous knew the family well -- photos of him and Jim are on the several walls of the house -- but he said he just didn't want to call attention to the gift.
In fact, he hasn't even spoken to the family since Jim's death.
Noting that Joanne attended UCLA, he said, "I thought it might be neat if she first saw the name when she was watching the Bruins play at Galen Center on television."
Actually, the family has not yet made any plans to see the court.
And USC, honoring the donor's anonymity, has no plans to contact them in this regard.
"We're just happy that a good person like Jim Sterkel can be remembered on our campus in perpetuity," said Don Winston, the university's associate athletic director and fund-raising whiz. "We've heard a lot of folks saying, 'Who's Jim Sterkel?' Now they will know."
Some folks are asking that question angrily.
There is talk in some USC circles that the naming of the court should not have been sold, but rather given to a former Trojans basketball hero like Bill Sharman, Tex Winter or Paul Westphal.
After all, John Wooden's name is on the UCLA court, and Lute Olson's name is on the Arizona court.
To which Anonymous says, "If you have a friend for 50 years, isn't that big enough?"
And it is. Of course it is.
In a town where sidewalks are filled with the names of people famous for acting like someone else, what is wrong with celebrating the name of someone who was great at just being himself?
In a town where five percent of the people are stars and the rest of them are like us, what's wrong with celebrating us?
A most amazing story in this city of stars, a sports centerpiece decorated in average, laced in ordinary, painted in a nobody.
Gosh, it's beautiful.
Reference Here (free subscription)>>
In a town where sidewalks are filled with the names of people famous for acting like someone else, what is wrong with celebrating the name of someone who was great at just being himself?
In a town where five percent of the people are stars and the rest of them are like us, what's wrong with celebrating us?
A most amazing story in this city of stars, a sports centerpiece decorated in average, laced in ordinary, painted in a nobody.
Gosh, it's beautiful...
...It certainly is!
And when tomorrow comes, go out and VOTE with a happy heart.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
It's Official, The Long, Slow, Slide Of Tradition Is Complete!
Yesterday, the Episcopal Church, in its OWN wisdom, decided to throw all sacred tradition aside and complete a process it started back in 1974 when it first bucked original tradition with the ordination of its first woman priest.
This from The Washington Times -
The bishop presiding is a woman
By Julia Duin - THE WASHINGTON TIMES - November 5, 2006
The Right Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori was installed yesterday as the Episcopal Church's first female chief pastor, a job that will include shepherding a denomination on the verge of a historic split over homosexual clergy, same-sex blessings and biblical authority.
Bishop Jefferts Schori made one allusion to the potential split facing the church. About one-tenth of the 2.4-million-member denomination has been threatening to leave since the 2003 consecration of New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, an active homosexual.
"If some in this church feel wounded by recent decisions, then our salvation, our health as a body, is at some hazard, and it becomes the duty of all of us to seek healing and wholeness," Bishop Jefferts Schori said.
She also called on her listeners to find "the will to make peace with one who disdains our theological position -- for his has merit, too, as the fruit of faithfulness."
The two-hour investiture service yesterday made Bishop Jefferts Schori the highest-ranking woman in the 77-million-member worldwide Anglican Communion, of which the Episcopal Church is one part.
The service opened with chants by Paiute, Shoshone, Ute, Sioux and Chippewa drummers. They led a lengthy procession of about 180 bishops and priests into the cathedral at 11 a.m., carrying vessels that burned an incense "prayer offering" of sweetgrass, sage and cedar.
Liturgical dancers followed, waving green, red, gold and purple banners and streamers as they escorted a stream of interfaith visitors representing Christian, Buddhist, Jewish and Muslim traditions.
She then was presented with symbols of her office, including a book of the Gospels, water symbolizing baptism, bread and wine and oil. When Bishop Griswold presented her with an ornate silver primatial staff at 11:25 a.m., thereby transferring the power of his office over to her, the congregation erupted in cheers.
"Katharine Jefferts Schori is a marvelous successor," he said after the service. "I look forward to her leadership."
Newark, N.J., Assistant Bishop Carol Gallagher, hobbled by a sprained ankle, said she made a special effort to attend the ceremony for the first female presiding bishop.
"I could not miss this," she said. "I just had to be here today. It has meant the world to all of us."
None of the bishops at the gathering appeared to include those from seven Episcopal dioceses that have refused to accept Bishop Jefferts Schori's leadership as presiding bishop and have appealed to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams for an alternate. The archbishop has said the matter will be addressed at a meeting of the world's Anglican archbishops in Tanzania in February.
Before her investiture, Bishop Jefferts Schori extended an invitation to four Anglican bishops -- who opposed her June 18 election as presiding bishop -- asking them to meet with her when they visit the United States in mid-November. There is no sign the Anglican prelates, who are meeting with conservatives from the seven dioceses in Northern Virginia, responded.
What A Metaphor -- for the present day Episcopal Church, when Bishop Jefferts Schori's female counterpart, Newark, N.J., Assistant Bishop Carol Gallagher, hobbled to attend the ceremony -- "Of A Hobbled Church".
Well, there is always the Catholic Church ......... ?
I'll take my Christian faith worship evangelical style, thank-you. It is easier to take than to see Episcopal/Anglican tradition slammed to the floor as it has in the church that had introduced me to Christian worship in the first place.
It was very interesting to note the phrase in the story "escorted a stream of interfaith visitors representing Christian, Buddhist, Jewish and Muslim traditions" when this Church was busy dissin' TRADITIONS through this very ceremony.
Friday, November 03, 2006
House Organ For Dems Uncovers Evidence Of Nukes In Iraq
After years of articles exclaiming "Bush Lied And People Died", a chant asserting that the president lied about the nuclear activity and ambitions of Saddam Hussein and the threat Iraq posed to the free world, The New York Times found evidence that the ability to make nukes did in fact exist in Iraq.
In a story designed to mock the federal government's effort to post information found in documents taken out of Iraq, The New York Times in its glee to show the Bush Administration in a poor light, proves that there was factual document evidence Iraq had the wherewithal to produce a nuclear weapon ... and that the posting of this information poses a threat to the United States.
Suddenly, The New York Times is worried about the security of the United States
Excerpts from The New York Times -
U.S. Web Archive Is Said to Reveal a Nuclear Primer
By WILLIAM J. BROAD - Published: November 3, 2006
Last March, the federal government set up a Web site to make public a vast archive of Iraqi documents captured during the war. The Bush administration did so under pressure from Congressional Republicans who had said they hoped to "leverage the Internet" to find new evidence of the prewar dangers posed by Saddam Hussein.
But in recent weeks, the site has posted some documents that weapons experts say are a danger themselves: detailed accounts of Iraq's secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb.
Last night, the government shut down the Web site after The New York Times asked about complaints from weapons experts and arms-control officials. A spokesman for the director of national intelligence said access to the site had been suspended "pending a review to ensure its content is appropriate for public viewing."
The documents, roughly a dozen in number, contain charts, diagrams, equations and lengthy narratives about bomb building that nuclear experts who have viewed them say go beyond what is available elsewhere on the Internet and in other public forums. For instance, the papers give detailed information on how to build nuclear firing circuits and triggering explosives, as well as the radioactive cores of atom bombs.
The government had received earlier warnings about the contents of the Web site. Last spring, after the site began posting old Iraqi documents about chemical weapons, United Nations arms-control officials in New York won the withdrawal of a report that gave information on how to make tabun and sarin, nerve agents that kill by causing respiratory failure.
The campaign for the online archive was mounted by conservative publications and politicians, who said that the nation's spy agencies had failed adequately to analyze the 48,000 boxes of documents seized since the March 2003 invasion. With the public increasingly skeptical about the rationale and conduct of the war, the chairmen of the House and Senate intelligence committees argued that wide analysis and translation of the documents - most of them in Arabic - would reinvigorate the search for clues that Mr. Hussein had resumed his unconventional arms programs in the years before the invasion.
The Web site, "Operation Iraqi Freedom Document Portal," was a constantly expanding portrait of prewar Iraq. Its many thousands of documents included everything from a collection of religious and nationalistic poetry to instructions for the repair of parachutes to handwritten notes from Mr. Hussein's intelligence service. It became a popular quarry for a legion of bloggers, translators and amateur historians.
Among the dozens of documents in English were Iraqi reports written in the 1990s and in 2002 for United Nations inspectors in charge of making sure Iraq had abandoned its unconventional arms programs after the Persian Gulf war. Experts say that at the time, Mr. Hussein's scientists were on the verge of building an atom bomb, as little as a year away.
European diplomats said this week that some of those nuclear documents on the Web site were identical to the ones presented to the United Nations Security Council in late 2002, as America got ready to invade Iraq. But unlike those on the Web site, the papers given to the Security Council had been extensively edited, to remove sensitive information on unconventional arms.
The deletions, the diplomats said, had been done in consultation with the United States and other nuclear-weapons nations. Mohamed ElBaradei, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which ran the nuclear part of the inspections, told the Security Council in late 2002 that the deletions were "consistent with the principle that proliferation-sensitive information should not be released."
In Europe, a senior diplomat said atomic experts there had studied the nuclear documents on the Web site and judged their public release as potentially dangerous. "It's a cookbook," said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of his agency's rules. "If you had this, it would short-circuit a lot of things."
The New York Times had examined dozens of the documents and asked a half dozen nuclear experts to evaluate some of them.
Peter D. Zimmerman, a physicist and former United States government arms scientist now at the war studies department of King's College, London, called the posted material "very sensitive, much of it undoubtedly secret restricted data."
Some of the first posted documents dealt with Iraq's program to make germ weapons, followed by a wave of papers on chemical arms.
At the United Nations in New York, the chemical papers raised alarms at the Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, which had been in charge of searching Iraq for all unconventional arms, save the nuclear ones.
In April, diplomats said, the commission’s acting chief weapons inspector, Demetrius Perricos, lodged an objection with the United States mission to the United Nations over the document that dealt with the nerve agents tabun and sarin.
Soon, the document vanished from the Web site. On June 8, diplomats said, Mr. Perricos told the Security Council of how risky arms information had shown up on a public Web site and how his agency appreciated the American cooperation in resolving the matter.
In September, the Web site began posting the nuclear documents, and some soon raised concerns. On Sept. 12, it posted a document it called "Progress of Iraqi nuclear program circa 1995." That description is potentially misleading since the research occurred years earlier.
The Iraqi document is marked "Draft FFCD Version 3 (20.12.95)," meaning it was preparatory for the "Full, Final, Complete Disclosure" that Iraq made to United Nations inspectors in March 1996. The document carries three diagrams showing cross sections of bomb cores, and their diameters.
On Sept. 20, the site posted a much larger document, "Summary of technical achievements of Iraq's former nuclear program."It runs to 51 pages, 18 focusing on the development of Iraq's bomb design. Topics included physical theory, the atomic core and high-explosive experiments. By early October, diplomats and officials said, United Nations arms inspectors in New York and their counterparts in Vienna were alarmed and discussing what to do.
The New York Times, who had no problem in releasing current 2001-2006 information on our security efforts and interrogation efforts to protect the United States, now has a problem with the release of information on weapons programs out of Iraq - pre 1991 - stating that this poses a threat to the security of the United States.
Good work NY Times! Iraq had nukes. Thanks for the heads-up!
This editorial UPDATE from The New York Post -
ELECTIONEERING OF THE TIMES
Editorial From The New York Post
November 4, 2006 -- Yesterday's front-page story in The New York Times about the U.S. Web archive of captured documents detailing Saddam Hussein's quest for nuclear weapons raises a lot of serious questions - certainly more serious than the one the paper itself was trying to highlight.
The point of the Times story, coming just four days before the critical midterm congressional elections, was clear: The Bush administration messed up big-time by posting on the Web a collection of documents on Iraqi WMD programs that "could help states like Iran develop nuclear arms."
Just how helpful is open to debate; the paper's own experts don't seem to agree. And at least one of them seems to have a vested interest in embarrassing the White House: He's been a longtime repeat contributor to the Democratic National Committee and to John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign.
But the story confirms something else again: Saddam had an active program to build nuclear weapons - and, at one point, was "as little as a year away" from actually building one.
Indeed, the plans he'd assembled were so advanced that they constituted, in the words of one unnamed diplomat consulted by the Times, "a cookbook" that would be helpful to regimes like Iran that are actively seeking WMDs - though not to terrorist groups, or even less-developed states.
Or, as Jim Geraghty writes on National Review Online, "the anti-war crowd is going to have to argue that the information wasn't dangerous in the hands of Saddam Hussein, but was dangerous [when] posted on the Internet."
Indeed, some of the documents were said to be identical to ones submitted just months before the 2003 invasion to the U.N. Security Council by inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency. This certainly suggests that, even then, the IAEA was seriously concerned by Saddam's quest for WMDs.
In other words, George W. Bush didn't lie the country into war.
Which is precisely the kind of information that congressional Republicans suspected was in those documents - 48,000 boxes of which were seized after Saddam's ouster - when they pressured the administration to make them public in the first place.
And which makes us wonder why the White House has been so reluctant to do that on its own.
In fact, the Times story essentially confirms the credibility of other - even more incriminating - captured documents from the same cache that have been translated and posted to various blogs and Web sites, like Captain's Quarters (captainsquartersblog.com).
Documents that, among other things, detail Saddam's relationship with al Qaeda and his coordination with the suicide bombers of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Or his post-9/11 efforts to make ricin, a poisonous gas.
All of which sounds pretty much like a genuine threat to global stability and security.
But that's not the message the Times is pressing in its conveniently timed November Surprise.
The Times would have us believe that the Bush administration, through its own carelessness, has helped spread nuclear proliferation.
The documents themselves tell a different story.
The real threat was posed by Saddam Hussein, whose longtime quest for nuclear weapons was ended, once and for all, by his removal from power.
The world is safer for it.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
A Balk For 'Screwie' - The Meat Is Out Of The Grinder
As mentioned here last spring in the run-up to the primary elections in California, Rob Reiner was under investigation for the probable illegal use of state collected monies in his pursuit of an initiative that he had held dear to his political future.
In posts here at MAXINE entitled "Hewitt's Pebble Now A Boulder", "Grinding Meathead", and "Grinding Meathead - Part Deux", it looked as though Rob Reiner might have some e'splainin' to do in his relationships and activities that surrounded his promotion of proposition 82 - Universal Pre-School for all children in California.
As a sitting Chairman of California Children and Families Commission, also known as the California First 5 Commission, Rob Reiner was entrusted with the management and use of approximately 300 million plus dollars of collected tax monies from cigarettes.
It now turns out, in the opinion of the audit commission set up to investigate the whole mess, the "California First 5 Commission" had lapses in the management of some of the contracts they had negotiated.
Excerpts from the Los Angeles Times –
Auditor reports contract lapses by Reiner panel
By Dan Morain, Times Staff Writer - 11:12 AM PST, October 31, 2006
SACRAMENTO -- A state commission chaired by Hollywood entertainer Rob Reiner [ed. TV's "Meathead" in "All In The Family" and most recently voice of "Screwie", a baseball, in the cartoon feature "Everyone's Hero"] suffered from lapses in its contracting, failed to properly award millions of dollars in contracts and did not adequately justify many of its payments, according to a state audit released today.
The nonpartisan California Bureau of State Audits found that the California Children and Families Commission, also known as the California First 5 Commission, used tax money to overpay for some services and failed to follow state rules when it awarded some contracts.
"We found a number of problems with the way it awards and manages these contracts," the report said, referring to the tens of millions in advertising and public relations contracts awarded since the commission was created after voters approved Proposition 10 in 1998.
"As a result, the state commission paid for services it had not contracted for, effectively preventing that money from being used to further the other activities allowed by the contract, namely purchasing printed ad space or broadcast media time," the audit said.
"Our review determined that the state commission had clear legal authority to conduct its public advertising campaigns related to preschool," the auditors found.
The audit said the "content of these advertisements and their timing were consistent with applicable legal restrictions related to the use of public funds for political purposes and confirmed that the state commission did not contribute any of its public funds to campaign accounts used to support the various ballot measures."
The commission answered the auditors by saying it "is deeply committed to making itself a model for state contracting practices, and has already begun to implement new policies and practices and improve staff training."
They can say anything they want about me,” Reiner says of critics. “I’ll take the hits as long as I reach my goal.” Image Credit: Lori Shepler / LAT
Among its findings, the audit said the commission:
• Did not follow state policy when it used a competitive process to award three contracts valued at more than $47.7 million and failed to provide sufficient justification for awarding one $3 million contract and six amendments totaling $27.6 million using the noncompetitive process.
• Paid $1.2 million more than it should have for administrative overhead because it did not follow state policy that limits such payments.
• Paid invoices totaling $673,000 in 2002 and 2003 for fees and expenses of a contractor's employees. These payments violated the contract, "effectively preventing these funds from being used to further other activities that were allowable under the terms of the contract."
Such problems "caused the state commission to make some questionable payments to contractors for items such as laptop computers valued at $10,000, food catering costs and monthly parking fees," the audit said.
And this from the San Francisco Chronicle -
Audit largely clears panel founded by Rob Reiner
But some evidence of mismanagement of funds discovered
By Lynda Gledhill, Chronicle Sacramento Bureau - Wednesday, November 1, 2006
The audit in large part clears the First 5 California Children and Families Commission, created by and formerly headed by Rob Reiner, of charges that it spent money on advertisements that were timed to help boost support for a Reiner-sponsored ballot measure that would have created universal preschool.
But the auditor found the commission improperly paid media consultants $673,000 and did not follow state law as to rewarding contracts.
"I'm definitely concerned about the $600,000, but in the bigger scheme of things, I'm relieved we didn't have mismanagement of funds for political purposes," said Assemblyman Dario Frommer, D-Los Feliz (Los Angeles County), who was one of the lawmakers who requested the audit.
Frommer expressed some relief, but the other lawmaker who had initiated the inquiry said that it showed a pattern of mismanagement.
"This is an agency that is unaccountable and has frankly run amok," said Sen. Dave Cox, R-Fair Oaks (Sacramento County). "This may very well not have violated the law in regards to use of funds for political purposes, but it doesn't pass the smell test."
The First 5 California Children and Families Commission was created in 1998 by Proposition 10, a ballot measure Reiner helped create. The panel helps dole out money raised by a 50-cent tax on cigarettes to anti-smoking and early childhood education programs.
Reiner quit the commission in March after questions were raised about the appropriateness of his role, saying he did not want to detract from efforts to pass Proposition 82 in June. That measure would have taxed the state's highest wage earners to guarantee all California 4-year-olds a constitutional right to free preschool, but it was resoundingly defeated.
Under Prop. 10, the state commission is required to spend 6 percent of its funds on educational outreach. Between January 2000 and August 2005, the commission entered into seven contracts with four media and public relations firms.
I guess, now, it can be said that California only had the stomach for a "vegetarian meal". No meat here!