Wednesday, May 31, 2006

"An Inconvenient Truth" Trailer Reviewed - Brilliant!

Mount Kilimanjaro 100 years ago (observe massive snowcap)

Mount Kilimanjaro today (no snowcap whatsoever). Image Credit: Groupthink

With trailers and reviews like this, who needs to see the movie? Apologies to all of those who find a tongue in cheek a little hard to swallow.

The following should be read loudly with a dramatic, theatric oratory style - sitting on a stool with just the right amount of backlighting.

This from Groupthink via Pajamas Media -

Open Letter to President Gore
By Prof Peter Kurgman, PhD^3 - 5/23/2006, 7:00 pm

Your Excellency:

I am frightened. Very frightened.

Because I have seen the trailer for your classic film, An Inconvenient Truth.

Your cinematic skills taught me that the future is one of "hundreds of millions of refugees," fires, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, nuclear disasters, and terrifying PowerPoint slides - all occurring within seven seconds.

You see, unlike you and me, most people do not know that ten of the hottest years ever were within the last fourteen years. Yes, that simple fact is too abstract for the masses of weak minds to understand - which is why I am glad that you mentioned it. But perhaps you should have illustrated that point by mentioning how the wettest ten hours all day happened to be in the last twelve hours? Or perhaps you should have used some simple sports analogy; e.g.., Baby Ruth's (or whatever her name was) most home runs were in her third, fifth, and sixth or whatever seasons. What were the odds of that happening?

And yet I am concerned. Along with you, President Gore, I weep for our planet and how it has been raped. Just dragged in the bushes and raped! Repeatedly raped. In every orifice and in every way, in and out, in and out, in and out, raped, raped, raped and raped. With open sores in contact with putrid bodily fluids, and with violent screams of suffering and impending death, our planet, our lovely lovely planet, is now covered with hideous scars and is permanently disfigured, with its internal organs mutilated beyond any hope of recovery. Mr. President, I understand that, and I thank you for illustrating it so well.

But back to the trailer. Thank you for mentioning that the hottest year ever was 2005. Dammit, why don't more people listen to you? We both know, that without the interference of humans, there would be no hottest year. All years would be equal. Just as all people would be equal without the right-wing religious zealots who stole your presidency. Yes, my President, you too were raped - just like Earth itself. And that is why you can empathize with the planet. Basically, you and Earth are feminine beings whose dignity has been violated. And believe me, I can sympathize with that.

But back to the trailer. At the 41st second, you speak truth to power: "The scientific consensus is that we are causing global warming." But, with all due respect, Mr. President, you forgot to mention the logical solution. Perhaps this is because you feel guilty about having children? Well, for the rest of us, there should be and must be mandatory human extinction to save the planet. No more breeding. Ever. Humans will never be able to foul this beautiful planet again.

But back to the trailer. The before-and-after pictures of Patagonia and Kilimanjaro with and without snow cover are startling. And deathly frightening. I, for one, have never seen any patch of land covered with snow - and then without snow! The juxtaposition of these landscapes made me violently ill, as I am sure it also made you violently ill. I vomited my cauliflower-and-tofu, Mr. President - and since your diet is just like mine, I know what a mess it must have been when you saw those pictures, because, with all due respect, Mr. President, your appetite looks much larger than mine.

But back to the trailer. You say that "temperature increases are occurring all over the world". I verified this phenomenon just today, in fact, when the temperature rose an astounding ten degrees between breakfast and lunch! And yes, I too would describe that as "the biggest crisis in the history of this country", just as you do in your movie!But the money quote is when you point at a white shape and state that "if this were to go, sea levels world-wide would go up twenty feet". And then, just like that, Florida, Shanghai, and Calcutta all change colors! And the "World Trade Center Memorial would be under water!" And then you show people in New Orleans and then an ice avalanche, and by then, I was completely petrified by amazement, fear, disgust, and loathing.

Mr. President, I am a very busy professor, swamped with responsibilities and burdens, and my hectic schedule leaves no time to see your movie. But that will not stop me from incessantly demanding that everyone I know (least of all my students!) see it several times. And I will make certain that they know why we are in such peril (humans, capitalism, Zionism), and what solutions are needed (human extinction, scientific socialism, and the destruction of the Zionist Entity).

Mr. President, your credibility is at a zenith, and your sharp and humane prescriptions for our planet must not be ignored. Our choice is simple: Listen to you, or suffer. And as much as I think we deserve the latter, we owe it to ourselves to follow the former.

Respectfully Yours, Professor Peter Alan Kurgman, PhD, PhD, PhD
Link Here>>

Maxine suggests a remedy to combat CO2 with Fear, Itch, Fear, Itch-Don't Plants Give Off Oxygen? post.

Additional Reference:
Global Warming Is Less Alarming, Scientists Say
NON-PROFIT, Non-Math on "Global Warming"

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Moral Relativism - Political Parties Gone Wild

When is it a good idea for a society to continue to give a group of people confidence for their ideas and point of view? In this case - NEVER.

Excerpts from Reuters -

Dutch pedophiles to launch political party
Reuters - 1 hour, 35 minutes ago

AMSTERDAM - Dutch pedophiles are launching a political party to push for a cut in the legal age for sexual relations to 12 from 16 and the legalization of child pornography and sex with animals.

The Charity, Freedom and Diversity (NVD) party said on its Web site it would be officially registered Wednesday, proclaiming: "We are going to shake The Hague awake!"

The party said it wanted to cut the legal age for sexual relations to 12 and eventually scrap the limit altogether.

"We want to make pedophilia the subject of discussion," he said, adding that the subject had been a taboo since the 1996 Marc Dutroux child abuse scandal in neighboring Belgium. "We have been hushed up. The only way is through parliament."

The Netherlands already has liberal policies on soft drugs, prostitution, and gay marriage, but the NVD is unlikely to win much support, the AD quoted experts as saying.

"They make out as if they want more rights for children. But their position that children should be allowed sexual contact from age 12 is of course just in their own interest," anti-pedophile campaigner Ireen van Engelen told the daily.

The party also said everybody should be allowed to go naked in public.

The party's program also includes ideas for other areas of public policy including legalizing all soft and hard drugs and free train travel for all.

Read All>>

Okay, free train travel for all - Now that's the ticket.

Sandtrap Play At It's Best

A golfer plays an iron shot out of the rough on a roadside desert golf track in Walvis Bay, Namibia, May 16, 2006. The nine-hole course dubbed the 'West Side Club' has no greens or tees, water or grass. Stinging sand and gusts of wind whistle through a lone row of palm trees on the edge of the forbidding Namib desert. Photo Credit: Stringer/Files/Reuters

Ahhh, yes! The siren song of addictive, compulsive behavior. We at MAXINE know it well; however, given my recent sandtrap play ... it looks like quadruple-bogey golf to me.

Keep your head down, as you take the shot - have the club land just about an inch or so behind the ball, remember to swing all of the way through the shot, if you look up to see the shot ... you will be looking at a bad shot, accuracy over distance!

Excerpts from Reuters via Yahoo! News -

Golf fanatics tackle Namibia's barren dunes
By Gordon Bell – REUTERS, Mon May 29, 2006

WALVIS BAY, Namibia - Elen Gubeb's tattered sandals and torn jeans don't match his pricey new Mizuno glove, but dress is not important at this home-made golf track on Namibia's desert coast, an unlikely golf hotspot.

The 20-year-old part-time caddy practices with a classic swing as the first of a group of eight players tees off from a small rocky mound nearby.
"I don't work, I just play golf everyday," says Gubeb, one of thousands of youths unable to find permanent work in the poor southern African nation.
The Namib, the world's oldest living desert, and the barren Skeleton Coast limit employment options in the former German colony that for decades was under the control of neighboring South Africa.
"Sometimes I imagine myself as Ernie Els or Tiger Woods, I use my imagination and love it," he adds in faltering English, clutching his Nike shirt.

Alec Williams, director of golf at the country club in the capital city Windhoek, said interest in golf was growing fast among Nambia's youth.
Namibia, with just two million people, has been thrust into the spotlight with the surprise arrival of Hollywood stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to have their first baby in the remote west coast region.
There are only four grass courses in Namibia -- a country slightly smaller than France and Germany combined -- although almost all other reasonably-sized towns have "courses" made of a mixture of sand and oil.
The West Side Club has neither grass nor oil but the frustrations of the game are as brutally real as on any golf course.
The course's nine holes range from 110 meters (yards) on the par 3s to about 350 meters for a par 5, although the distances, after many years, remain an educated guess.
"I know it's a rich man's game, but we just want to try," explains Gubeb over the din of laughter as a 17-year-old novice burrows the Hippo driver into the sand, gently toppling the ball from the tee.
Read All>>

Monday, May 29, 2006

Fear, Itch, Fear, Itch-Don't Plants Give Off Oxygen?

Poison Ivy - Rhus radicans Image Credit: Science U

On the one hand we have Al Gore creating fear at the movies and on the other, the MSM machine creating itch in news stories about poison ivy - fear & itch ... all based on the theory of global warming. Honestly, don't growing plants give off oxygen and counteract the effects of carbon dioxide?

What are we complaining about - wear jeans and a long sleeve shirt when walking in the forest. This could be the answer to all of our problems, growing faster and bigger poison ivy for oxygen.

So, what do you think is happening over at Mount Merapi, Indonesia? Any CO2 there?

This from the AP via Yahoo! News -

Study: global warming boosts poison ivy
Associated Press - Mon May 29, 5:21 PM ET

WASHINGTON - Another reason to worry about global warming: more and itchier poison ivy. The noxious vine grows faster and bigger as carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere rise, researchers report Monday.

And a CO2-driven vine also produces more of its rash-causing chemical, urushiol, conclude
experiments conducted in a forest at Duke University where scientists increased carbon-dioxide levels to those expected in 2050 [estimated].

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas — a chemical that traps heat similar to the way a greenhouse does — that's considered a major contributor to global warming. Greenhouse gases have been steadily increasing in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution.

Poison ivy is common in woods around the country, making it a bane of hikers, campers, fighters of forest fires, even backyard gardeners. Its itchy, sometimes blistering rash is one of the most widely reported ailments to poison-control centers, with more than 350,000 reported cases a year.

Compared to poison ivy grown in usual atmospheric conditions, those exposed to the extra-high carbon dioxide grew about three times larger — and produced more allergenic form of urushiol, scientists from Duke and Harvard University reported.

Their study appears in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"The fertilization effect of rising CO2 on poison ivy ... and the shift toward a more allergenic form of urushiol have important implications for the future health of both humans and forests," the study concludes.
Link Here>>

"Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago, is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the so-called Pacific 'Ring of Fire', an arc of volcanos and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin. It has 76 volcanos, the largest number of any nation." (HT: IRWAN FIRDAUS, Associated Press Writer)

There has to be alot of CO2 production around this part of the Globe! Let's put in a greenhouse.

Don't ya' just love the instructive way these AP guys write? Man, I do.

UPDATE - Excerpts from Al Gore's statements made in England's Hay Festival:

This from BBC News -

Gore in Hay climate change plea
Former US vice-president Al Gore owned up to failing to get his climate change message across as a politician when he appeared at the Hay Festival. By BBC News Writer

In his first UK speech on the subject, Mr Gore promised to devote himself to the task of warning people about the impending "planetary emergency".

He appealed to the audience to act to halt the growing crisis.

"I will own up to shortcomings in my ability to communicate," said Mr Gore.
Mr Gore was the key note speaker of the 19th Hay Festival on the mid-Wales border.
But Mr Gore, fresh from an appearance at the Cannes film festival, delivered a starker message that the world was now facing a "danger which could bring the end of civilisation."
He was asked by a member of the Hay Festival audience to run for president again.

But Mr Gore replied: "I honestly believe that the role I can most usefully play is to try to change the minds of the American people...about what this crisis is about."
In a passionate speech, Mr Gore said: "We face a challenge in the conversation of democracy that we must be up to in order to save the climate balance on which our civilisation depends."
He said he believed scientists who said that there may be 10 years remaining to avoid "crossing the point of no return".

"Then does that change you? It should, it's happening on our watch," said the former vice-president.

He said he was "carbon neutral" himself and he tried to offset any plane flight or car journey by "purchasing verifiable reductions in CO2 elsewhere".
Read All>>

Hey Al, how does one make a Volcano "carbon neutral"? I suggest it would be about as possible as finding out the truth as to how "carbon neutral" you really are through "purchasing verifiable reductions in CO2 elsewhere".

A Current Kind Of Memory On Memorial Day

U.S. soldiers stand in a formation during a Memorial Day ceremony held at the Bagram U.S. military base, north of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, May 28, 2006. Photo Credit: AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd

Being a veteran of the Viet Nam Era, my past memories of Memorial Day are of the "honoring of the dead" type where the living and surviving members of the conflict rarely had a role and, in many cases, were vilified.

This era is different. I was watching a two hour Memorial Day special from the Discovery Channel that featured Long Beach's Jesse James of Monster Garage fame as he went to Iraq to visit with our troops, and something he said struck a note. What he said had an element of getting outside of ones own thinking that extends to include a greater community of Americans ... "If these people really believe in what they are doing, then I have to believe in [the value] what they are doing."

During the Viet Nam era, things were different, in that many of us who served were drafted and placed into service without really knowing what we believed in ... let alone believing in the mission of "what we were doing". Further, at home, there existed a disconnect between the mission of military effort and the greater community of Americans.

Today, I pray for all of those in our armed forces who have committed themselves and gave the ultimate sacrifice for all of us to live in freedom - but further - I will pray for the survivors of the fallen as well as all of those who have committed themselves to stand-up and serve in the armed forces so that we (and others throughout the world) may continue to live in freedom.

Excerpts from The Christian Science Monitor -

With war on, Americans have troops in mind
By Brad Knickerbocker, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor - Fri May 26, 4:00 AM ET

Americans will still fire up their barbecues, watch parades, and go camping this weekend. But for the first time in a generation, Memorial Days are coming during prolonged armed conflict. That has strengthened ties between civilians and soldiers, bringing a marked change in the way people will observe the holiday this year.

Politicians of all persuasions are pushing for better veterans' services, including healthcare for the living and survivors' benefits for those who've lost loved ones. Many states are now providing free tuition at public colleges and universities for the children of those killed in war zones.

Since terrorists attacked the United States in 2001, communities around the country have begun to bring back traditional Memorial Day ceremonies - many of them featuring Iraq war vets.

It's part of growing public interest in military affairs, historians say. And this time, unlike in the Vietnam era, declining support for the war has not eroded backing for the troops, say many of those taking part in Memorial Day ceremonies.
Part of this post-Vietnam urge to separate the warrior from the war has to do with the portrait of the typical soldier today. Unlike his or her father, who probably would have gone to Vietnam right out of school, today's GI is more likely to be older, to be married, and to have children. Especially among those in National Guard or Reserve units, he or she is likely to have strong work and community connections.

More family men and women in the war zone also means more dependents to care for in the wake of combat casualties. The 2,404 men and 55 women killed in Iraq have left an estimated 1,700 children without their parent.
"Memorial Day is about thanking those who are there and honoring those who didn't come back," says Rick Marsh, president of the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers' Association. "So we're sending them a little bit of Vermont, a little thank-you."
Rita Payne, who runs Roman Catholic programs at Fort Campbell, sees a growing reverence for Memorial Day.

"There is a more deepening of faith, of spirituality and just prayerfulness," she says. "People take it upon themselves to do something positive, and prayer seems to be our greatest weapon right now."
Read All>>

Sunday, May 28, 2006

#6 Sam Hornish Jr. wins the 90th Indianapolis 500!

Sam Hornish, racing for Team Penske, takes the traditional "sip" of milk for winning the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500 open-wheel auto race. Image Credit:

Andretti's fill out the podium!

A star is born in nineteen year old Marco Andretti leading after turn four of the last lap and getting beat in the second closest finish (0.0635 sec.) in Indianapolis 500 history. Rookie of the year honors go to Marco Andretti, long may he run!

Michael Andretti finishes third on strategy having a slow car all day. Fuel consumption management played a big role with both Hornish and Michael's run in the final stint to the end.

For Team Penske, this marks the 14th win with 10 different drivers.

A serious race with a serious finish. 200 Laps - Session Time: 3h 17m 16s

Saturday, May 27, 2006

"Technology Smiling" - A Collage

This Mona Lisa, on exhibition in Beijing, is made of computer parts, and titled "Technology Smiling." Photo Credit: AP/EyePress

Mona Lisa Made From Computer Parts

(HT: Boing Boing)

Lance Armstrong Paces The Indy 500

Lance Armstrong, The Chevrolet Corvette pace car, and the 2006 starting field for Sunday's Indianapolis 500 with bicycles. Image Credit: Dana Garrett

An American legend leads out the Indianapolis 500, an American institution. The world's toughest competitor and the world's most watched sporting event ... a match made in heven.

Now, Lady and Gentleman, start your bicycles!

This from IndyCar.Com -

Steady pace
Seven-time Tour winner Armstrong prepares to drive Indy 500 Pace Car
By Dave Lewandowski -, Saturday, May 27, 2006

Lance Armstrong received his first bicycle at about the same age (7) as many IndyCar Series driver started racing go-karts. He wasn’t concerned that it was brown with yellow wheels. It had two wheels and he rode all across Plano, Texas.

Similarly, in his first competition, he wore a pink jacket on loan from his mother to combat the chilly morning New Mexico air. And when his hair fell out because of radiation treatments for cancer a decade ago, appearance didn’t concern Armstrong.

The seven-time Tour de France winner who will drive the Pace Car in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” fronted the field of 33 drivers who will compete May 28 – proud of his accomplishments in his grueling sport and proud of the foundation he started to aid cancer research and help those afflicted live strong. He might have retired from competitive cycling, but Armstrong is on another mission.

Each of the drivers straddled a sleek Trex bicycle bearing the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Wing & Wheel and 90th Indianapolis 500 event logos for a formal photograph on the frontstretch of the historic oval. Next, the bikes, bearing the signature of the driver, will auctioned with the proceeds benefiting the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

A brief question and answer session with Armstrong, 34, who will drive the 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Pace Car.

Q. Your name will now not only be connected to the Tour but connected to the Indy 500. That’s two very different world-class sporting events. How’s it feel to add another medal to the chest?

A. All I can say is that when we got the phone call to ask if I was interested in driving the Pace Car at Indy, it was a very short conversation. It was like: “Are you kidding? Of course.” It is a huge honor and something that I am very excited to do.”

Q. There are a lot of big names associated with the Indianapolis 500. Even Colin Powell was a Pace Car driver. What’s it like to be in that kind of company?

A. It is arguably one of the most famous sporting events in the world, and every year there can only be one guy to drive the Pace Car. For me to be selected and asked to come, it is a huge honor. To have the role and to come a year after a great man like Colin Powell is a big honor.

Q. What else do you think your positive thoughts will be besides being nervous?

A. It will be a rush driving around with 250,000 people there. In the opening laps is probably when they are the loudest they could be screaming for their favorite driver. You try to take all of that in. It will have been almost a year since I have heard that as a sportsman. It will be neat to get a little of that back.

Q. Talk about driving it (Corvette Z06) over. What are your initial impressions of the car?

A. It is always interesting the first time you get in a car. Obviously, the speed and the handling of it is different, and the different details of it. I mean, having the speedometer in the front windshield was something that I’ve never experienced before, and that took some getting used to. The power was there, and every red light was a temptation.

Q. Whether you’re going wheel to wheel for 500 miles in an IndyCar or going wheel to wheel in 12 stages of the Tour de France, there are certain components of an athlete that make them successful. What do you think those are?

A. I think when comparing cycling to other events like the Indy 500, sometimes in motorsports people don’t consider them to be athletes, but they are extremely fit. I know a lot of drivers that spend a lot of time on the bike and a lot of time in the gym, and I can tell you they are athletes.

Q. This is not only a great opportunity for you but for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Talk about how pleased you are to get additional exposure for your worldwide foundation.

A. You know, all of these opportunities are great for us. They are great for me as an athlete. They are great for me as a philanthropist; they’re great for the Foundation. It is just another opportunity to say, “Hey America, or to the world that cancer should be a national priority, a global priority.” It (cancer) is something that I think we’ve grown accustomed to and used to, and that has to change in this country. This is another chance for me to stand up as a cancer survivor and say: “I’m here; I won seven Tours. I’m driving the Pace Car at Indy, and oh, by the way, this country has to do more for the fight on cancer.”
Link Here>>

Waxing Bubba ... It's Really A Trend

"I'm asked to lie on my stomach while she administers the first phase of my treatment - a salt scrub." Image Credit:

The grooming of Man begins at a very early age and continues throughout one's life. First, we are asked to comb our hair by Mom, floss our teeth by Auntie, wear cologne by Grammie ... when does it all end? - NEVER

Society is moving in with trends that are adding layers (or taking them off) to this whole process of "Male Grooming". You begin to know you are in trouble when a mainstream media business publication has a whole article about being "Metrosexual" and new ... almost required if you view yourself as socially acceptable ... trends in male grooming.

Excerpts from BusinessWeek (of all publications) -

Metrosexuals: A Well-Groomed Market?
A new generation of men thinks it's okay to spend money on personal grooming products and the companies that make them are happy to oblige
By Vivian Manning-Schaffel – BusinessWeek, Branding - MAY 24, 2006

Since the advent of metrosexuality, companies have realized that they have a new market to capitalize on — men who spend their money on grooming and appearance supplies. Walk through the aisles of any US drugstore, and you'll notice an abundance of male-targeted personal grooming products, such as anti-aging eye-creams, shower gels and formula facial cleansers, slowly monopolizing the shelves.

With so many brands clamoring for their slice of the pie, metrosexuals have out and out become their own market segment. And as sales figures roll in, there is clear evidence that the metrosexual market is indeed quite viable.

"With men becoming more involved with their grooming habits and the explosive growth in the men's segment (dollar volume +49% in 2005), we saw a huge opportunity to introduce the male consumer to a new proposition in skincare," says Carol J. Hamilton, president of the L'Oréal Paris division of L'Oréal USA, Inc., whose Men's Expert line was among the first to hit the mass market a few years ago.

According to L'Oréal Paris' 2005 annual report, men's skincare — with its 11% growth in sales — was L'Oréal Paris' fastest growing sector. And it's not just a US-based trend. There are numbers that quantify this as a global trend. The same report states only 4% of European men used a skincare product in 1990, compared to a whopping 20% in 2003.

The numbers do not lie. Younger men are clearly more interested in taking care of themselves than their fathers or even their older brothers. But is it because metrosexuality has become more widely accepted by the masses or simply because of their generation's habits?

Edina Sultanik-Silver, owner of BrandPimps and Media Whores, a New York-based men's fashion public relations company, thinks metrosexual tendencies are a sign of the times.

"It's a generational thing. I think that Gen Y and millennial guys view all the creams and grooming preparations out there as OK and perfectly natural for them to use, rather than girly," says Sultanik-Silver. "The guys in these generations get their bodies waxed, work out, style their hair, go to tanning salons, etc., more than their predecessors. Possibly because they were raised on MTV, the Internet and reality shows, every minute of their lives is a photo-op, they always want to look like they're ready for their 15 minutes of fame, and don't think there's anything feminine about that."
"It (this trend) was mostly media driven, I believe," says Sultanik-Silver. "Everyone wants a piece of 'the next big thing.' Our popular culture is driven by image and consumerism right now. Word on the street was that men were interested in dressing up more, spending more on clothes, moisturizers, etc. Men's fashion and style were the hot buzz segment of the youth market and as a result, more brands began targeting young men as more retailers begin catering to them. To me, this signals the mainstreamization of metrosexualism," says Sultanik-Silver. "And it's going to continue to grow."
"Despite tremendous growth rates over the past several years, the men's treatment segment is still in its infancy," surmises Hamilton. "Today, less than 20% of men use a facial moisturizer. However, another 25% of men today say that they are interested in trying skincare treatments, but have not yet made the leap. On the whole, most men have moved away from any stigma associated with using what could be considered a more female product, but they are still not sure what to do and how to do it."

Young or old, metrosexuals apparently are here to stay. Eventually, the term "metrosexual" might even become dated. Then, metrosexuals simply would be known as men who enjoy their right to groom and shop for clothes.
Read All>>

Brazilian wax? ... Anyone?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Indy 500 Goes Organic For 2006 - With UPDATE

Team Ethanol driver Jeff Simmons practices at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This year, Indy 500 racers will drive cars that run on an ethanol-blended fuel. Image Credit: MSNBC

"Gasoline Alley" will never be the same.

In a race from a place that exudes nothing but tradition, The Indianapolis 500, the open-wheel race cars will be running on "Cornfuel" (ethanol) this Memorial Day weekend for the first time in 95 years.

This change is now fueling speculation for a name change of the place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway where all of the cars for the race are prepared.

Should "Gasoline Alley" now become Ethanol Avenue? ... Corn-fed Court?

So!, are we going to now change the nickname of the place from "The Brickyard" to "The Cornpatch"?

Excerpts from MSNBC with contributions from AP -

Ethanol boosters hoping for Indy 500 win
Race cars to use ethanol blend for first time, boosting corn fuel’s profile
By Roland Jones - Business editor, MSNBC - Updated: 3:03 p.m. PT May 25, 2006

Speed will be of the essence for drivers racing around the oval at Sunday’s 90th running of the Indianapolis 500, but it won’t just be the drivers hoping to win big.

For the first time in the race’s 95-year history, cars in the Indy 500 will burn a fuel that is 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent methanol. It’s a fuel change that some in the ethanol industry hope will hasten the adoption of the alternative fuel among ordinary drivers.

Three big names in the ethanol industry are driving the fuel switch — ICM Inc., Broin Cos. and Fagen Inc. The companies, which engineer and build ethanol plants, have put up several million dollars as the prime sponsors of the No. 17 Team Ethanol Honda/Panoz/Firestone car to be driven by Jeff Simmons in the race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Simmons replaces Paul Dana, who died in a practice accident March 26.

The aim is to promote the power, fuel-efficiency and safety of ethanol in front of the estimated 300 million people who will view the race, said Tom Slunecka, executive director of the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council, which represents the three ethanol companies.

The Indy Racing League said this year that its Indy Car series would switch from pure methanol — a fuel derived from natural gas that replaced gasoline in the 1970s because it is less likely to ignite — to the new 90-10 blend of methanol and corn-derived ethanol. In 2007, the league plans to switch permanently to 100 percent ethanol.
“We could have put our name on the side of a car to promote ethanol, but instead we did it the hard way, so we arranged this fuel switch," said Slunecka. "It’s not marketing hype -- it’s true performance, and the IRL would never have agreed to this change if it lessened the performance of the vehicles in their races. We had to prove that these cars would perform just as well, and they’re already setting new records burning ethanol.”

Cars running on ethanol certainly pack a powerful punch. Pure ethanol — made from renewable plant sources like corn, wheat and sugarcane — has an octane rating of 113, compared with 107 for methanol and about 91 to 95 for gasoline. Several track records already have been set this season using the new fuel blend. In general the higher a fuel’s octane rating, the better the engine will perform.

The most common use of ethanol by American drivers is in E85 — a mixture of gasoline and ethanol with up to 85 percent ethanol by volume. E85, which is widely used in Brazil and Sweden, can be used in engines modified to accept higher concentrations of ethanol, which is corrosive and can damage ordinary engines.

“This is also going to decrease the amount of fuel a car needs, so the weight of the cars will be reduced and they’ll be able to increase their speed,” he said. “From a safety perspective, if there’s an accident there’ll be less fuel to burn. And unlike methanol, which is difficult to see when it’s burning, ethanol gives off more color and smoke when it burns, so if there is an accident it will be much easier for people to see it."
There are environmental advantages too. Ethanol burns more cleanly than gasoline or methanol, reducing emissions of carbon monoxide and particulate matter that can contribute to the greenhouse effect.

But not everyone is as excited about ethanol, which is doing little if anything to reduce fuel costs, currently above $3 a gallon in much of the nation.

“[Ethanol] has some good features. It's less of a pollutant than gas, but the mileage is not as good and we have serious problems to work out," he said. "Ethanol is not pipeline-friendly, as it can be easily contaminated with water, and if we want to replace gasoline with it, we’d need to use 87 percent of our farmland, so it has practical limits. In the end I’d say ethanol has its niche, but it has lots of problems that politicians tend to gloss over."

Slunecka is more optimistic.

“There’s always going to be some question about this. After all, we produce 4.6 billion gallons annually, compared with the 130 billion gallons of gasoline Americans use each year,” said Slunecka. “But we have increased production by 20 percent annually for the last few years, so changes are coming about, and at a certain point Americans who want a better environment and want to reduce our dependence on foreign oil need to stand up; you need to stand up as a consumer and say you are making a difference.”

Read All>>

UPDATE - 5-26-2006, 7:00 PM PST:

This from USA TODAY -

Dana's memory continues on in ethanol crusade
By A.J. Perez, USA TODAY

INDIANAPOLIS — Paul Dana won't be remembered years from now for what he accomplished in his three IRL IndyCar Series starts before his death.

His legacy will be in what fuels the series he strove to compete in.

Through his efforts, Dana helped sway series officials enough on ethanol to fast-track the bio-friendly fuel's inclusion in the series.

"The best tribute to his legacy is to continue promoting ethanol through racing," David Vander Griend, president and CEO of ICM — one of the premier design/engineering firms for ethanol processing facilities in the world — said in a statement.

Ethanol, which is typically derived from corn in the USA, currently comprises 10% of the fuel blend for the IndyCar Series. Next year it will be 100%, ending the reign of methanol that has powered IndyCars for nearly four decades.

Dana, 32, was killed when his car — sponsored by an ethanol lobbying group, Ethanol Promotion & Information Council (EPIC) — ran into the back of Ed Carpenter's stalled Vision Racing entry during the final warm-up for the season-opening race March 26 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Jeff Simmons replaced Dana at Rahal Letterman Racing and also took Dana's role as an ethanol advocate.

"Having the ethanol consortium behind me is a cause that I can get behind," Simmons said. "It's something that everybody can believe in."
Read All>>

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Respect For Stolen Data And Its Application

Copies of President Bush's and first lady Laura Bush's 2005 tax returns provided by the White House are shown in Washington Friday, April 14, 2006 . Image Credit: AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

Stolen data and its use is becoming a real problem in our country.

We hear about stolen records from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the fear of the impending spread of "identity theft" of 26.5 million military veterans, on the one hand ... and then we hear about what our legislators actually plan to do about social security and the "feel good" problem of working illegal immigrants (felons) and their assimilation into our systems.

What in the HECK is happening with the standards in this country?

This from the Opinion section in the New York Post -

By Arnold Alhert

May 25, 2006 -- IS "data theft" a serious crime? Depends on who's doing the stealing.

The theft of personal data involving 26.5 million American veterans is "a scandal," says Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid. Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, said "Twenty six million people deserve answers." That was this week.

Last week, the Senate voted 50-49 to allow illegal aliens to collect Social Security based on past illegal employment, even if the job was obtained using forged - or stolen - documents.

If the thief who stole the vets' data is caught exploiting that information, there is little doubt he will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law - unless, perhaps, that data is used by illegals to secure employment.

The moral? If you want to obtain stolen data, have an illegal alien steal it for you.
Link Here>> (free subscription)

Now take a look at Day By Day by Chris Muir (next post here) lest we think this is a partisan issue ... it just fits!

"Mr. Amnesty" - Day By Day

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

To Scan, Or Not To Scan? - That Is The Question

At the register, the contents of a customer's shopping cart are recorded and stored in a computer, giving the retailer a profile of the customer's purchases as well as help with inventory control, product placement and other strategic decisions. Photo Credit: JACOB LANGSTON/ORLANDO SENTINEL

If one stops to consider just how much information is floating around out there about themselves, one must get to the point that a modification in behavior is the only way to limit or protect ones identity information.

Truthfully, the Federal Government's NSA eavesdropping/wiretapping effort has nothing on you compared to the broader databases housed at retailing establishments.

This from the Orlando Sentinel -

Retailers gather data the same way spies do
'Data mining' provides valuable clues to customers' spending habits.
Chris Cobbs Sentinel Staff Writer Posted May 22, 2006

Using powerful search tools, computers can now sift through millions of electronic records to study patterns of behavior that could uncover terrorist plots -- or boost sales at the supermarket or drugstore.

"Data mining," as it's called, may have been used by the National Security Agency on millions of Americans' phone records in a quest to find planned acts of terrorism. Congress has expressed concern that such a secret data-gathering project, disclosed this month by USA Today, may violate citizens' privacy rights and civil liberties.

But the same methods are also widely used by retailers, who assemble computerized collections of customers' purchases along with their names, addresses, income levels and other tidbits, giving businesses clues to people's buying habits on a giant scale.

Although some experts contend that such data mining may be an invasion of privacy, others say it's actually more about spending than spying.

"They have no interest in doing anything malicious with the data, because their interest is economic," he said. "They don't want to harm you -- they want you to come back to them and shop."

A common way to accumulate information is through discount or loyalty cards. When the card is used at the checkout register, details of what's in the customer's shopping cart are recorded and stored in a computer, giving the retailer a purchase profile of the customer as well as help with inventory control, product placement and other strategic decisions.

The benefits to shoppers include targeted coupons for favorite products and in-store credits based on a percentage of purchases made the previous quarter.
Among grocery chains, there is a split among Publix Super Markets and Albertsons on the use of the discount cards, a key element in data mining.

Publix tried them in the early 1990s but doesn't use them now because of concerns about privacy, spokesman Dwaine Stevens said.

"The privacy of our customers' shopping is a priority," he said. "We don't track individual buying habits. Information about individuals is not in our archives."

Publix doesn't need information obtained from a shopping database to track its inventory, Stevens added.

Albertsons also puts a premium on privacy but says customers like the discounts they receive from the company's "targeted marketing" program, spokesman Shane McEntarffer said.

Newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel use data mining to help tailor their marketing efforts as they seek to increase subscribers, said Ashley Allen, spokeswoman for Orlando Sentinel Communications, which publishes the newspaper.

Consumer advocates and privacy-rights groups raise concerns about the security of such shopping data, noting that the average American appears in as many as 50 commercial databases.

"All this personal information is a hot commodity that businesses are collecting, using and sharing," said Brad Ashwell, consumer and democracy advocate for Florida PIRG (Public Interest Research Group).

"The more information that's compiled, the easier it is for others to find, which contributes to ID theft. We want to see regulations and hard consequences."

"In the private sector, it's driven by marketing, while in national security, the search is for dangerous individuals," he said. "But the larger issue is how much data is collected and how long it's stored. Consider that Google stores every search query that's ever been typed, and you get a feel for it."

However, those fears are unfounded, said Britt Beemer, the Orlando-based chairman of America's Research Group, a consumer-behavior research company.

"I work for some of the biggest Fortune 500 companies, and none of them rent or share information about customers," he said. "All the people in the consumer-interest groups see a bogeyman behind every tree."

Read All>>

To scan, or not to scan - that really IS the question!

Post republished at Symblogogy, the automatic identification & data capture weblog for all things AIDC.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

What Is So Wrong About Reporting It All?

Just not enough ink to go around? Writer's cramp, maybe? Agenda, that's it ... Agenda!

This from Captain's Quarters -

What The AP Discarded
Posted by
Ed Morrissey , AKA Captain Ed, at May 23, 2006 10:04 PM

The AP ran an
earlier story on the Osama bin Laden tape that included an admission implicating two Gitmo detainees in the 9/11 attack. However, the the AP later ran "excerpts" of the Bin Laden tape, that admission curiously went unreported -- even though it would have a significant impact on the debate over the fate of Gitmo detainees.

This is what ran in the original piece by Maamoun Youssef, which I have also cached
The terror mastermind did indicate that two suspects had links to the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon: "All the prisoners to date have no connection to the Sept. 11 events or knew anything about them, except for two of the brothers," bin Laden said [emphasis mine -- CE]. But he did not provide names or elaborate further and it wasn't possible to determine if or where they were held.
However, that passage cannot be found in the AP excerpts. It does, however, include this:
"And then I call to memory my brothers the prisoners in Guantanamo — may Allah free them all — and I state the fact, about which I also am certain, that all the prisoners of Guantanamo, who were captured in 2001 and the first half of 2002 and who number in the hundreds, have no connection whatsoever to the events of September 11th..."
Note the strategic appearance of the ellipses at the end of the quote in the later article. The AP wants to cut off Osama before he admits that Gitmo holds two accessories to the 9/11 attacks. One would think that a news organization might have found that somewhat, oh, newsworthy.
Link Here>>

Simply baffling.

UPDATE (May 24, 2006 - 7:11 AM PST):

I was just watching Andrea Mitchell report on the TODAY program on NBC about this issue and she repeated the information conveyed by the AP edited version - "Osama stated, that all the prisoners of Guantanamo, have no connection whatsoever to the events of September 11th" - PERIOD!

Good on ya' Andrea.

Oil & Water? - No!, It's Oil And Governments That Don't Mix

This from Johan Norberg -

In Dagens Industri today I continue to write on oil, today about how oil controlled by governments create authoritarianism, corruption and poverty. (See also Tom Friedman´s first law of petropolitics)

Let´s not forget that most OPEC-countries didn´t nationalise their oil until the early 1970s. Between 1950 and 1973 these countries got more than 4 percent richer every year, 1973-2003 they got almost 1 percent poorer every year.
Link Here>>

HT: Pajamas Media

Report Card On The Global War On Terror

Mailers Council Quarterly Report Card on Postal Productivity. Image Credit: Mailers Council

Self assessment is a good thing. It doesn't matter who does it or when. It is good to stop, take a breath, take account, and then move forward with a renewed confidence.

The problem lies in the fact that many functional segments in our society do not believe in the process of self assessment. The media and our political leaders may be the most egregious examples of those in our society who run and hide from this invigorating, eye opening, and cleansing process.

This opinion from the New York Post -

By Ralph Peters – Opinion, New York Post

May 23, 2006 -- WITH the formation of Iraq's new government, it's a good time to take stock of where we stand in our confrontation with Islamist terror. You wouldn't know it from the outrageously dishonest headlines, but we're winning.

We could do even better, if we put national security above partisan politics.

Our enemies are far from giving up, of course. But they realize now that Americans won't quit after suffering the first dozen casualties. That came as a shock after the cowardice of past presidential administrations.

Our enemies can still grab the tactical initiative by killing the innocent, but terrorists around the world have been shoved onto the strategic defensive. We tend to overlook that. So let's consider just how far we've come:

* The mainstream media said it couldn't be done, so the Iraqis did it: Under new Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, they formed a permanent government based on free elections. (Those free elections were supposed to be impossible, too - remember?)

Yes, Iraq could still break into bloody bits. But it hasn't, despite ceaseless predictions of doom. Now the great danger isn't from terrorists but from a premature troop draw-down before our midterm elections. We could throw it all away over a few congressional seats.

* Headlines from Afghanistan always read "Five Soldiers Killed and Wounded," not "150 Taliban Killed." If today's journalists reported the Battle of Midway, we'd read "U.S. Aircraft Shot From Skies," with a brief mention of the destruction of the Japanese carrier fleet buried at the bottom.

The Taliban was decisively defeated. That doesn't mean it's gone. The religious madness the Taliban represents will remain at the edges of Afghan life - it's part of the cultural package, just as bigotry haunts the fringes of our society. But Afghanistan's a far less-menacing place than it was. In the real world, that's enough.

* Pakistan's a worsening problem - overshadowed by the less immediate issue of Iran. Taliban remnants and al Qaeda terrorists survive because the Pakistani military is afraid to go into the country's tribal areas to root out them out. Riddled with extremists, nuclear armed and incapable of controlling its own territory, Pakistan should have Washington in crisis mode.

* Al Qaeda has been broken. Yes, its remnants remain deadly. Yes, autonomous terror cells pose a growing threat. But the organization behind 9/11 has seen its surviving leaders driven into caves and remote villages where they live in constant fear. Islamist terror may have moved beyond al Qaeda, but our government and our military deserve credit for shattering the greatest international terror ring in history.

* The United States has taken this war to our enemies and to their homelands - without suffering another terrorist strike on our soil. While that long-awaited strike still seems only a matter of time, the greatest strategic surprise to this columnist has been the inability of our enemies to hit back to date. Kudos to the feds and the folks in uniform. In the Global War on Terror (or whatever it's called this week), the cardinal indicator of success is what doesn't happen.

* A fundamental reason why we've remained safe from further attacks on our homeland has been intelligence successes. While our intel system is far from all it could be, it's not nearly as incompetent as it's portrayed to be.

Poor intel has become an easy excuse for flawed decision-making. We need to be honest with ourselves: No matter how much we improve, we'll never have perfect intelligence. To pretend otherwise is to lie to the American people. Instead of blaming our institutions, leaders in both parties have to lead.

* Domestic politics hurt us in our struggle against terrorists. The phony claim that the government "spies on American citizens" is about party sympathies and the upcoming elections, not about threats to our freedom. To the chagrin of a biased media, a convincing majority of Americans believe it's just fine to listen in on terrorist phone calls.

If journalists really cared about our right to privacy, they'd be tackling online auction houses, corporate information-sharing and Internet spyware - not wartime efforts to prevent another 9/11.

* At least 40 times more Americans will die on our highways this year than will be lost in Iraq. More Americans will be murdered in Prince George's County outside of Washington, D.C., than are likely to die in Afghanistan. We're doing pretty well overseas; our crunch-time strategic problems are here at home: the inexcusable lack of a serious alternative-fuels policy; the need to face our immigration crisis with honesty, decency and respect for the rule of law - and, above all, a political system held captive by extremists on the left and right, corrupted by an irresponsible media culture.

Plenty remains to be done. We must see our Iraq mission through to the end - unless the Iraqis fail themselves. We must restore integrity and common sense to our foreign policy by ceasing to pretend that the Saudis are our friends and by living up to our rhetoric about support for democracy. And we need to take a very hard line on China's currency manipulation and cheating on trade.

Still, any fair-minded review of the last several years of American engagement abroad would conclude that, despite painful mistakes, we've changed the world for the better. The results have been imperfect, as such results always will be. But the bewildering sense of gloom and doom fostered my many in the media is as unjustified as it is corrosive.

Our global report card right now?

A for effort. B for results. C for consistency. D for media integrity. And F for domestic political responsibility.
Link Here>>

Monday, May 22, 2006

"Mr. Lordi" At Eurovision 2006 - Athens, Greece

Lordi's lead singer, Mr. Lordi, on the way to winning the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest. Image Credit: The Advertiser Newspapers Pty Limited, Adelaide, Australia

Lordi!, Lordi! - It's A Hardrock Upset Over Europop

The group Lordi celebrate after their win in the Eurovision final at the Indoor Olympic stadium in Athens, early Sunday, May 21, 2006. Finland's Lordi took the first position of the Eurovision contest with the song ''Hard rock hallelujah''. Photo Credit: AP/Petros Giannakouris

With 5" platform boots, rubber facepart applique's, and a graveyard character look, Finnish 'horror-rock' group Lordi, wins against techno, and europop groups at this year's Eurovision contest held in Greece.

The cartoon-like metalheads with their spark-spewing instruments, fought off a strong challenge from the Russian heart-throb Dima Bilan to take the 51st annual music prize.

Excerpts from the Associated Press via Yahoo! -

Finns 'Turn the Amps Up,' Win Eurovision
By JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press Writer - Sat May 20, 11:01 PM ET

ATHENS, Greece - There's a giant stadium, highly toned participants, intense rivalry and flag-waving fans from many nations.

It's not the Olympics: It's the Eurovision Song Contest, the annual kitsch extravaganza, known for its bland dance music and bubble-gum pop, that sees acts from 24 countries face off before tens of millions of television viewers.

But in a stunning upset for the contest that launched the Swedish group ABBA, a Finnish metal band with monster masks and apocalyptic lyrics won the contest late Saturday.

The band Lordi scandalized some of their compatriots when their song "Hard Rock Hallelujah" was chosen to represent the nation. At a press conference, the band's frontman said his plan for the final was to "scream louder. And turn the amps up."

"This is a victory for rock music ... and also a victory for open-mindedness," the band's lead singer, Mr. Lordi, said after the win — Finland's first. "We are not Satanists. We are not devil-worshippers. This is entertainment."

Combining crunchy guitars, a catchy chorus and mock-demonic imagery, Lordi is reminiscent of U.S. '70s stars KISS — an acknowledged inspiration of Mr. Lordi.

Band members never appear without their elaborate masks and makeup, and do not reveal their true names.

Lordi beat an unusually eclectic 24-nation field, which ranged from the perky pop of Danish teenager Sidsel Ben Semmane and Malta's Fabrizio Faniello to the balladry of Ireland's
Regarded by many as the contest good taste forgot, Eurovision is adored by fans of camp everywhere.

"You don't imagine something so bad could be so good," said Carmela Pellegrino, an Australian who traveled to Athens from London to watch rehearsal ahead of Saturday's finale.

Since 1956, it has pitted European nations against one another in pursuit of pop music glory. Previous winners include '60s chanteuse Lulu, ABBA — victors in 1974 with "Waterloo" — and Canada's Celine Dion, who won for Switzerland in 1988.

Saturday's showdown was broadcast live in 38 countries to a TV audience estimated at 100 million. Some 13,000 fans packed the indoor arena used during the 2004.

Lordi received a trophy shaped like an ancient Greek column, and the show opened with a garish musical number inspired, organizers said, by Greece's rich history, mythology and sparkling seas. The hosts — Greek pop singer Sakis Rouvas and "Access Hollywood" correspondent Maria Menounous — made their entrance by "flying" onto the set, which resembled an ancient theater.

Some of the acts, like Switzerland's Six4One, stuck to the classic Eurovision formula of catchy tunes and blandly uplifting lyrics, singing, "If we all give a little, we can make this world a home for everyone."
Yet Eurovision victory is no guarantee of fame.

Dion and ABBA went on to glory — as did Olivia Newton John, who lost to ABBA while competing for Britain in 1974. Other winners have sunk without trace, victims of the "curse of Eurovision."
Read All>>

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Turnabout Is Not Fairplay In Mexico - de Nada, Immigrant

With all of the demonstrations and threats of lawsuits toward the USA by Mexican nationals and the Mexican Government, one would think Mexico is only asking the USA to be a little more like their nuanced approach on the subject of immigrant participation in their country, do you think?

Ahhhh!, NO!

Excerpts from AP via Yahoo! News -

Mexico Works to Bar Non-Natives From Jobs
By MARK STEVENSON, Associated Press Writer - Sun May 21, 12:12 PM ET

Arnold Schwarzenegger had migrated to Mexico instead of the United States, he couldn't be a governor. If Argentina native Sergio Villanueva, firefighter hero of the Sept. 11 attacks, had moved to Tecate instead of New York, he wouldn't have been allowed on the force.

Even as Mexico presses the United States to grant unrestricted citizenship to millions of undocumented Mexican migrants, its officials at times calling U.S. policies "xenophobic," Mexico places daunting limitations on anyone born outside its territory.

In the United States, only two posts — the presidency and vice presidency — are reserved for the native born.

In Mexico, non-natives are banned from those and thousands of other jobs, even if they are legal, naturalized citizens.

Foreign-born Mexicans can't hold seats in either house of the congress. They're also banned from state legislatures, the Supreme Court and all governorships. Many states ban foreign-born Mexicans from spots on town councils. And Mexico's Constitution reserves almost all federal posts, and any position in the military and merchant marine, for "native-born Mexicans."

Mexico's Interior Department — which recommended the bans as part of "model" city statutes it distributed to local officials — could cite no basis for extending the bans to local posts.

After being contacted by The Associated Press about the issue, officials changed the wording in two statutes to delete the "native-born" requirements, although they said the modifications had nothing to do with AP's inquiries.

"These statutes have been under review for some time, and they have, or are about to be, changed," said an Interior Department official, who was not authorized to be quoted by name.

The foreign-born make up just 0.5 percent of Mexico's 105 million people, compared with about 13 percent in the United States, which has a total population of 299 million. Mexico grants citizenship to about 3,000 people a year, compared to the U.S. average of almost a half million.

"There is a need for a little more openness, both at the policy level and in business affairs," said David Kim, president of the Mexico-Korea Association, which represents the estimated 20,000 South Koreans in Mexico, many of them naturalized citizens.

"The immigration laws are very difficult ... and they put obstacles in the way that make it more difficult to compete," Kim said, although most foreigners don't come to Mexico seeking government posts.

Some Mexicans agree their country needs to change.

"This country needs to be more open," said Francisco Hidalgo, a 50-year-old video producer. "In part to modernize itself, and in part because of the contribution these (foreign-born) people could make."

Others express a more common view, a distrust of foreigners that academics say is rooted in Mexico's history of foreign invasions and the
loss of territory in the 1847-48 Mexican-American War. [link to history links]
Some say progress is being made. Mexico's president no longer is required to be at least a second-generation native-born. That law was changed in 1999 to clear the way for candidates who have one foreign-born parent, like President Vicente Fox, whose mother is from Spain.

But the pace of change is slow. The state of Baja California still requires candidates for the state legislature to prove both their parents were native born.
Read All>>

New Iraqi Government Formed - 2 stories, 1 report

NEW GOVERNMENT: Iraqi President Jalal Talabani applauds as the new Cabinet is approved by the Council of Representatives, Iraq’s parliament, meeting in the Baghdad Convention Center. Photo: Getty images - ht: LA Times

The Associated Press reporter in this momentous announcement finds it hard to just report the importance of this political milestone ... Iraq - a nation reborn, freely elected and formed for the first time in the history of man.

Nope! It is more important to report and review the violence of those who want to embrace terror against the wishes of the majority in the same announcement report.

Two edits, same report from the AP via Yahoo! News -

Iraq's Parliament Approves New Cabinet
By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Associated Press Writer - May 20, 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq's parliament approved a national unity government Saturday, achieving a goal Washington hopes will reduce violence so U.S. forces can eventually go home.
In a show of hands, the 275-member parliament approved each of the 39 Cabinet ministers proposed by incoming Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The new Shiite Muslim, Sunni Arab and Kurdish ministers then took their oaths of office during the nationally televised session in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone.

The installation, coming after months of political wrangling following Dec. 15 parliamentary elections, completed a democratic process that began after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

In his first address, al-Maliki told parliament he would make restoring stability and security the top priority of his new administration. He said he would "work fast" to improve and coordinate Iraqi security forces so they can reduce attacks by insurgent groups and militias.

Al-Maliki also said he would set "an objective timetable to transfer the full security mission to Iraqi forces, ending the mission of the multinational forces."

Al-Maliki, a Shiite, said he would be acting interior minister for now, and he made Salam Zikam al-Zubaie, a Sunni Arab, the temporary defense minister. Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh, a Kurd, was made acting minister for national security.

Al-Maliki hopes to fill all three posts with politicians who are independent and have no affiliation with any of Iraq's militias.

Many of Iraq's insurgent groups are Sunni led, and a key goal of the government is to win the support of Sunnis and to recruit as many of them as possible into Iraq's security forces.

The Bush administration hopes the new national unity government of Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds can calm violence and pave the way for beginning the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

In a speech after the inauguration, President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, predicted that the new government will help his oil-rich country resolve its many problems.

"It will achieve security, stability, peace and prosperity. Working with our people and our allies, this national unity government will purge Iraq of its evil forces, allowing it to once again become independent and prosperous," Talabani said.

The Cabinet includes two women: human rights minister Wijdan Mikaeil, the only Christian chosen, and women's affairs minister Fatin Abdel-Rahman.

The top ministers include Hussain al-Shahristani, a Shiite who will oversee oil; Bayan Jabr, a Shiite in charge of the Finance Ministry; Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd who is foreign minister; and Abed Falah al-Sudani, a Shiite heading the trade ministry.

The legislative session began about 1:30 p.m., 2 1/2 hours later than planned as al-Maliki held last-minute meetings with other politicians, apparently to hammer out final agreements on some of the Cabinet posts.

And this edit of the same report -

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq's parliament approved a national unity government Saturday, achieving a goal Washington hopes will reduce violence so U.S. forces can eventually go home. But as the legislators met, a series of attacks killed at least 27 people and wounded dozens.

Police also found the bodies of 21 Iraqis who apparently had been kidnapped and tortured by death squads that plague the capital and other areas. The wounded included two British soldiers whose convoy was hit by a roadside bomb in the southern city of Basra, police said.

But the challenges facing the new government were obvious when al-Maliki was unable to make a final decision about the top three security posts: defense minister, who oversees the Iraqi army; interior minister, who is responsible for police; and minister for national security.

It was apparent how tough that will be. Before the Cabinet was approved and inaugurated by parliament, legislators turned down a motion by Sunni Arab leader Saleh al-Mutlaq to postpone the session. Al-Mutlaq then walked out with about 10 other Sunni deputies.
U.S. and Iraqi forces didn't impose daytime curfews or ban traffic in Baghdad and major cities, as they did during earlier national elections and a constitutional referendum. But security was heavy in the Green Zone and the capital's airspace was closed to commercial flights at Baghdad's international airport. The government and U.S. officials declined to say why.

Meanwhile, violence continued across the country.

Suspected insurgents set off a bomb hidden in a paper bag in a Shiite district of Baghdad, killing 19 people and wounding 58, police said. The blast occurred near a food stand in Sadr City where men gather to wait for jobs as day laborers, police Maj. Hashim al-Yaser said.

"It was a huge explosion," said Mohammed Hamid, who works in a bakery in the area. "We carried many of the injured to ambulances and helped remove the bodies."

Sadr City is the stronghold of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who operates a powerful militia, one of many that exist in the capital outside the control of the government. Al-Maliki hopes to disband such militias and integrate them into the country's military and police.

In the western border town of Qaim, a suicide car bomber killed at least five people and wounded 10 in an attack on a police station, said the head of the local hospital, Hamdi al-Alousi. He did not have any details about the attack.

In the northern city of Mosul, a suicide bomber apparently trying to target a U.S. military convoy instead killed three Iraqi civilians, police Brig. Abdul-Hamid al-Jibouri said.

Police found the bodies of 21 people who apparently had been kidnapped and tortured, six in Baghdad and 15 in Musayyib, about 40 miles south of the capital. All appeared to be victims of death squads that have killed hundreds in sectarian violence, personal vendettas and kidnappings for ransom.

Two Reports, No Edits Here>>

We all know war is not pretty, but why, now there is an new, freely elected government in Iraq, can't we get reports separated out like we would normally do from a responsible world press? Political Reports about the politics of the new government in Iraq and War Reports about the war on terror, unrest, and the violence in Iraq.

Perspective can be achieved in opinion reports, and clarity of reporting can be achieved by separating out the information for the subject of the actual report.


Bush Praises Political Progress in Iraq
By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer Sun May 21, 10:47 AM ET

WASHINGTON - The inauguration of
Iraq's new government marks a new era in relations with the country that the U.S. has occupied for more than three years, President Bush said Sunday.

"The formation of a unity government in Iraq is a new day for the millions of Iraqis who want to live in peace," Bush said. "And the formation of the unity government in Iraq begins a new chapter in our relationship with Iraq."

Bush briefly spoke to reporters from the White House with his wife, Laura, at his side, to highlight the political development without mentioning the violence that still rages in Iraq.
The president did not speak of the spree of bombing, mortar rounds and a drive-by shooting that killed at least 18 Iraqis and wounded dozens — most of them hit by a suicide bomber who targeted a Baghdad restaurant during Sunday's lunch hour.

Bush said he called President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani to congratulate them on working together.

"I assured them that the United States will continue to assist Iraqis in the formation of a new country because I fully understand that a free Iraq will be an important ally in the war on terror, will serve as a devastating defeat for the terrorists and al-Qaida and will serve as example for others in the region who desire to be free."

Read All>>

UPDATE #2 - 1:23 PM, PST:

Iraqi Prime Minister Vows to End Violence
By PATRICK QUINN, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 44 minutes ago

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq's new prime minister promised Sunday to use "maximum force" if necessary to end the brutal insurgent and sectarian violence wracking the country, while a suicide bomber killed more than a dozen people at a restaurant in downtown Baghdad.

Although he focused on the need to end bloodshed, Nouri al-Maliki also had to address unfinished political negotiations at a Cabinet meeting on the government's first full day in office.

Al-Maliki said the appointment of chiefs for the key Defense and Interior ministries should not "take more than two or three days." He is seeking candidates who are independent and have no ties to Iraq's myriad armed groups.

The two ministries, which oversee the army and the police, are crucial for restoring stability, and al-Maliki needs to find candidates with wide acceptance from his broad-based governing coalition of Shiites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds.

Failure to set the right tone could further alienate the disaffected Sunni Arab minority, which is the backbone of the insurgency. Or it could anger Shiite militias, some of which are thought to number in the thousands.

"We are aware of the security challenge and its effects. So we believe that facing this challenge cannot be achieved through the use of force only, despite the fact that we are going to use the maximum force in confronting the terrorists and the killers who are shedding blood," al-Maliki said.
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Saturday, May 20, 2006

Twelve Steppin’ With Elephants - One Day At A Time

Asian Elephants ‘drinking’ it in at the Pinnawela Elephant preserve.
Image Credit: Galen R. Frysinger

This is not your everyday program.

They will not be sitting around in "rooms" working through their obsessions with others and drinking coffee.

The motto of this program just may be - "One Ride At A Time" - giving a new weight to the meaning of the phrase - "Easy Does It"!

Report from AP via The Washington Times -

Rogue elephants to escape death by entering rehab
By Bharatha Mallawarachi - ASSOCIATED PRESS - May 20, 2006

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- Some of Sri Lanka's wildest, most destructive elephants could get reprieves from possible death sentences -- but they will have to spend some time in rehab first.

Elephants that rampage through villages, destroy crops or kill people will be caught, tamed and put to work giving rides to tourists and park rangers.

Wildlife conservation chief Dayananda Kariyawasam said his department had already identified 20 to 30 of the worst rogue elephants for the program, which is designed to keep angry villagers from killing them.

Wild elephants are increasingly entering villages in search of food as deforestation destroys their habitat.

A century ago, 10,000 to 15,000 elephants roamed wild in Sri Lanka, but today only about 3,000 remain, largely as a result of poaching and habitat loss.

Rampaging elephants have killed at least 84 persons in Sri Lanka since early 2005, and villagers have destroyed 156 of the beasts by shooting or electrocuting them, according to government figures.

The pardoned pachyderms will not get any free rides -- in fact, they will give them. "We will be using them for [wildlife] protection work," Mr. Kariyawasam said. "Officials can ride on them, where vehicles can't go, to prevent poaching."

The animals also will be used to promote the island's tourism industry, giving rides in elephant safaris, Mr. Kariyawasam said.

Capturing wild elephants was officially banned in 1937, though the government has made some exceptions.

Most of those have been for elephants to be used by temples for traditional Buddhist processions. More are needed, and many Buddhists hope the government decision will help alleviate an elephant shortage.

Sunil Rambukpotha of the Millennium Elephant Foundation, an elephant rights group, said there currently are only 153 tame elephants in Sri Lanka, and 63 of them are over 60 years old, toward the end of their natural life spans.

"As a result, we face immense hardships in carrying out our religious processions, which is part of our culture," he said.

For centuries, aristocratic families in Sri Lanka have kept elephants as status symbols with the consent of kings and later the British Empire, which ruled the country for more than 100 years until 1948.
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Now, if only there would be a twelve step program for rogue PETA protesters. "Easy Veg-it"

Friday, May 19, 2006

Yellow, Red, Blue - Not Badges Of Honor - UPDATED

The United States, whose President George W. Bush (R) is pictured here, Canada and Australia, whose Prime Minister John Howard (L) is pictured here on 16 May 2006 in Washington D.C., lost little time in blasting Iran for a report, quickly denied, that Tehran may force non-Muslims to wear colored badges in public. Photo Credit: AFP/File/Brendan Smialowski

Absolutely troubling! Iranian parliment is pondering a rule that all Jews, Christians, and other non-muslims must wear colored badges on their clothes while in public.

Hugh Hewitt dedicated a large segment of his show to this report and it should make everyone shudder who believes that all men (genderless) are created equal.

Excerpts from AFP via Today Online -

US and allies concerned by reports Iran to tag non-Muslims
AFP - Posted: 20-May-2006 06:25 hrs (Time is GMT + 8 hours)

The United States, Canada and Australia lost little time in blasting Iran for a report, quickly denied, that Tehran may force non-Muslims to wear colored badges in public.

While acknowledging they had no details beyond a report in a Canadian newspaper, the three countries went on the offensive in separate statements, with Washington and Ottawa evoking the atrocities of Nazi Germany.

"If you did have such an occurrence, whether it was in Iran or elsewhere, it would certainly be despicable," US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in Washington. "I think it has clear echoes of Germany under Hitler."

The National Post newspaper, citing human rights groups, reported Friday that Iran's parliament had passed a law this week that sets a public dress code and requires non-Muslims to wear a special insignia.

Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians would be forced to wear a yellow, red or blue strip of cloth, respectively, on the front of their clothes, according to the newspaper.

"Unfortunately, we have seen enough already from the Iranian regime to suggest that it is very capable of this kind of action," Harper [Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada] said in Ottawa.

"I think it boggles the mind that any regime on the face of the earth would want to do anything that could remind people of Nazi Germany," he added.

"The fact that such a measure could even be contemplated, I think, is absolutely abhorent."

Howard also expressed indignation during an official visit to Canada, calling the report "appalling" if confirmed.

"Anything of that kind would be totally repugnant to civilized countries, if it's the case, and something that would just further indicate to me the nature of this regime," he said.

Iran's new hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has already come in for widespread criticism for suggesting that the Holocaust was a myth and calling for Israel to be wiped off the face of the map.

The United States, Canada and Australia lost little time in blasting Iran for a report, quickly denied, that Tehran may force non-Muslims to wear colored badges in public.

While acknowledging they had no details beyond a report in a Canadian newspaper, the three countries went on the offensive in separate statements, with Washington and Ottawa evoking the atrocities of Nazi Germany.

In Ottawa, Harper's parliamentary secretary, Jason Kenney, also told the House of Commons that Canadian officials were trying to verify the claims and were "deeply concerned".

"Should these reports turn out to be true, this government will condemn in the strongest terms possible this kind of revisiting of the darkest period of the last century. It is something that the entire civilized world should condemn," Kenney said.
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by Amir TaheriBenador Associates May 22, 2006

Regarding the dress code story it seems that my column was used as the basis for a number of reports that somehow jumped the gun. As far as my article is concerned I stand by it. The law has been passed by the Islamic Majlis and will now be submitted to the Council of Guardians. A committee has been appointed to work out the modalities of implementation.

Many ideas are being discussed with regard to implementation,including special markers, known as zonnars, for followers of Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism, the only faiths other than Islam that are recognized as such. The zonnar was in use throughout the Muslim world until the early 20th century and marked out the dhimmis, or protected religious minorities. (In Iran it was formally abolished in 1908). I have been informed of the ideas under discussion thanks to mysources in Tehran, including three members of the Majlis who had tried to block the bill since it was first drafted in 2004. I do not know which of these ideas or any will be eventually adopted. We will know once the committee appointed to discuss them presents its report, perhaps in September.

Interestingly, the Islamic Republic authorities refuse to issue anofficial statement categorically rejecting the concept of dhimmitude and the need for marking out religious minorities. I raised the issue not as a news story, because news of the new law was already several days old, but as an opinion column to alert the outside world to this most disturbing development.

Iranian author and journalist Amir Taheri is a member of Benador Associates.
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3-D Image Pollution @ Google Earth

Image Credit: Google

Google Earth Pollution!

Where's Greenpeace and the science community when we need them the most?

This from "Google Watch" via eWEEK News & View's -

Google Earth Pollution, in 3-D!
By Ben Charny - Google Watch

Google's nascent 3-D experiment is enabling a bit of a problem: Google Earth pollution.

Since late April, Google's been making available a number of free programs to create 3-D images, then upload them onto Google Earth maps, or the 3D Warehouse, a place where the graphic can be
downloaded by others.

The goal was to bring
3-D to the masses. It's sure working.

Take a gander at the Empire State Building, via Google Earth's "fly to" feature. There's now several 3-D images of buildings near the Empire State Building, including one of the Chrysler Building.

To some people, these new images only add to the existing clutter on the maps. The Google Maps screen was so filled with names of locations and businesses as the image resolves into Manhattan that, at one point, all the scrunched-up names and symbols totally obscured the satellite photo.

As to the clutter and in Google's defense, Manhattan is a special case, where there are hundreds of listings to cram onto the map. And Google makes available a quick and relatively painless way to get rid of all of the, assuming here, paid listings.

Of course, the 3-D features showing up on Google Earth can all be avoided by not downloading the network software Google makes available.

But a lot of Google Earth users are sure to like the new additions. The 3-D imagery is a kind of high-tech graffiti that adds an interesting flavor to the maps. The King Kong image for the Empire State was a nice touch, for instance.

So in a way, for a lot of people it's kind of welcome clutter.

But Google's got a difficult task on-hand of walking the fine line between cute and so cluttered it's tough to make things out.
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