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May 23, 2003


War on War
That's clearly what's needed, in the wake of this stunner:
A small sample of Afghan civilians have shown "astonishing" levels of uranium in their urine, an independent scientist says. . . [b]ut he found no trace of the depleted uranium (DU) some scientists believe is implicated in Gulf War syndrome.

Other researchers suggest new types of radioactive weapons may have been used in Afghanistan.

The scientist is Dr Asaf Durakovic, of the Uranium Medical Research Center (UMRC) based in Washington DC.

Dr Durakovic, a former US army colonel who is now a professor of medicine, said in 2000 he had found "significant" DU levels in two-thirds of the 17 Gulf veterans he had tested.

In May 2002 he sent a team to Afghanistan to interview and examine civilians there.

The UMRC says: "Independent monitoring of the weapon types and delivery systems indicate that radioactive, toxic uranium alloys and hard-target uranium warheads were being used by the coalition forces."

It says Nangarhar province was a strategic target zone during the Afghan conflict for the deployment of a new generation of deep-penetrating "cave-busting" and seismic shock warheads. . . .

To test its hypothesis that some form of uranium weapon had been used, the UMRC sent urine specimens from 17 Afghans for analysis at an independent UK laboratory.

It says: "Without exception, every person donating urine specimens tested positive for uranium internal contamination.

"The results were astounding: the donors presented concentrations of toxic and radioactive uranium isotopes between 100 and 400 times greater than in the Gulf veterans tested in 1999. . . .

The average for his 17 "randomly-selected" patients was 315.5 nanograms, he said. Some were from Jalalabad, and others from Kabul, Tora Bora, and Mazar-e-Sharif. A 12-year-old boy living near Kabul had 2,031 nanograms.

The maximum permissible level for members of the public in the US is 12 nanograms per litre, Dr Durakovic said.

What I'm about to say may sound out of step or fashion — I mean, right now a decision to 'merely' research new designs for more convenient nuclear weapons comes across as the picture of moderation. But may God have mercy on the souls of the people who let this happen.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, Norah Vincent gets it just about right:

We're sorry that our hardy-har commander in chief dropped like the dopiest of deus ex machinas onto the deck of an aircraft carrier and used you for the cheapest of all cheap photo ops. The sign over his head read "Mission Accomplished," but you knew better, didn't you? His mission was accomplished, sure. He'd had his slick victory and come out clean, even if you were left stuck in the mud — or is "quagmire" at long last le mot juste?

Yes, regrettably, as it turns out, your buddies had to die in combat not in order to make the situation better in Iraq but, it seems, to make it worse and, of course, to get the president reelected. We're really, really, really sorry about that.

But, then, I guess when it comes right down to it, sorry just doesn't cut it now, does it?

No — no, it doesn't.

Greg G. @ 1:07 AM | # |


Dead Letter Office
Another serving of remaindered links, courtesy of the management. I need to come up with a way to implement a remaindered links sidebar, à la Dominey and Kottke — but with this site on Blogspot, the only solutions I come up with involve some ugly coding choices. [For instance, floating frames. Ugh.]

Feh, It can wait until the redesign. Or until At any rate, on with the show.

  • Now this site just cries out for a big, fat Googlebomb. Any suggestions?
  • Kurt Vonnegut on the world we live in:
    I note that construction has stopped of a Mark Twain Museum here in Hartford — behind the carriage house of the Mark Twain House at 351 Farmington Avenue.

    Work persons have been sent home from that site because American “conservatives,” as they call themselves, on Wall Street and at the head of so many of our corporations, have stolen a major fraction of our private savings, have ruined investors and employees by means of fraud and outright piracy.

    Shock and awe.

    And now, having installed themselves as our federal government, or taken control of it from outside, they have squandered our public treasury and then some. They have created a public debt of such appalling magnitude that our descendants, for whom we had such high hopes, will come into this world as poor as church mice.

  • A baseball world cup? Sounds like a stroke of genius. Bring it on.
  • George Soros — the man who broke the pound — tees off on the new discount dollar: "I now have a short position against the dollar because I listen to what the secretary of the Treasury is telling me."
  • A shake-your-head-and-cry story from Silver Rights:
    A teacher at Cleveland High School in Seattle was suspended with pay after reportedly referring to an African American student as a "n- - - - -" in front of his classmates.

    The incident happened during a computer class May 2. Several sources say the teacher became upset when a sophomore called an assignment "gay," sometimes used as a general derogatory term. The teacher, a white male, reportedly called the teen out into the hall and asked him how he'd like to be called a "n- - - - -."

    Brenda Little, deputy general counsel for Seattle Public Schools, said the teacher then walked back into the classroom with the boy, saying to the class, " 'Well, I guess the n- - - - - can come back in.'

    [Link courtesy of George Kelly.]
  • Take the Post national? Why not?
  • Timothy Bergreen and Donna Brazile, from Wednesday's Wall Street Journal:
    Democrats need to return to the muscular national security principles of Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy and the other Democrats who understood that only by confronting threats abroad could our party achieve its other great mission of expanding equality, opportunity and progress here at home.
  • Yet more provocative thoughts abroad in the land about The Matrix Reloaded;
  • Coming soon to ESPN: extreme ironing!
  • To wrap up, Kevin Drum:
    [G]iven the fact that over the past 30 years we've been steadily cutting taxes on the rich, cutting federal spending, cutting welfare programs, and cutting Social Security, let's ask the question again: How low is low enough? How much cutting of these programs will satisfy you?

    Or will you not rest until they are gone completely?

Greg G. @ 12:38 AM | # |

May 22, 2003


The Digital Groundswell
My boss's affinity for John Edwards notwithstanding, I have to give props to Howard Dean for doing more than I've noticed from any other candidate to spark grassroots support among Democrats. The latest evidence comes in the form of this post-cum-press-release from the Dean Call to Action weblog:
Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean has raised $1 million without serving hors d'oeuvres, hitting the phones or mailing thousands of appeals. The money has come through the Internet, a possible sign of fund-raising trends to come.

The former Vermont governor and self-described underdog has used the Internet to complement traditional fund-raising techniques, collecting contributions through his Web site and e-mail at little cost to his campaign.

Dean hit the $1 million mark in Internet fund raising last week, becoming the first 2004 presidential hopeful to announce he has done so. Dean supporters also are using the Internet to organize volunteers across the country.
Not bad. Not bad at all.

More: Can Dean take the South? For thoughts on that, see the top news story in this week's Creative Loafing. Also: Ryan Lizza looks at the Dean phenomenon in the next New Republic.

Greg G. @ 5:53 PM | # |


Goin' to Chicago, Pt. I
Readers in Chicago should take a look at Gapers Block, a Morning News-style group site launched in the last few days by some of the city's best bloggers. Looks like a great addition to the blogosphere.

You know, Atlanta could use a site like that. Shifty Eye comes close, but two guys can only do so much. Some great talent lives here . . . Jessica? Reid? Melanie? Janeane? Jenn? Todd? Robert? J.R.? Joe? Frank? What say ye?

Greg G. @ 12:25 AM | # |

May 21, 2003


The Looting of America (cont'd)
More accounts of routine business in the time of George Bush:
  • Wall Street Journal :: "Chemical Manufacturers Elude Crackdown on Toxic Materials."
    For months after the terrorist attacks, the impassioned desire to protect Americans led even a Republican administration to crack down on important industries. Once those emotions subsided, Washington reverted to the traditional partisan debate over how deeply government should be involved in the market. Congress is once again weighing chemical security this year, but any law that passes will be much more business-friendly than first envisioned.

    It's not that the terrorist threat has disappeared. Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security raised its color-coded assessment of the risk of an attack to orange, the second-highest level on the scale. But many policy makers now seem more comfortable with voluntary industry responses, such as the chemical industry's code urging companies to beef up security whenever the government raises the threat level.

    "Liberals wanted to use the tragedy of Sept. 11 as an excuse to regulate more," says Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, the lead Republican legislator on chemical security.

  • Independent Lens :: Mountaintop Removal Mining:
    Mountaintop removal mining is the practice of blasting off the tops of mountains so machines called draglines can mine coal deposits. Coal mining companies dump the mountaintops into nearby valleys and streams to create "valley fills," converting mountain landscapes covered in hardwood forests into fields of sparse grass. Coal companies are stripping off the tops of mountains in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia.
  • Seattle Post-Intelligencer :: "SUV tax cut."
    Under current tax law, it's permissible to write off $25,000 from your taxes in the first year after the purchase of a 6,000-pound truck or SUV. (Then there's the gravy of 20 percent a year after that.)

    But the Senate bill increases the tax deduction to $100,000.

    Who did it? We don't even know, yet. There are no fingerprints on the amendment — legislation was going back and forth so fast Thursday night that this little gem slipped in quietly.

    Fortunately this bill is not law yet — but the House version has a similar proposal.

    But don't worry too much. Congress isn't finished yet. Lawmakers are also crafting a new energy bill — and one proposal calls for the elimination of a $2,000 tax deduction for fuel-efficient gas-electric hybrid vehicles.

  • Wired News :: "A Spy Machine of DARPA's Dreams."
    The Pentagon is about to embark on a stunningly ambitious research project designed to gather every conceivable bit of information about a person's life, index all the information and make it searchable.

    What national security experts and civil libertarians want to know is, why would the Defense Department want to do such a thing?

    The embryonic LifeLog program would dump everything an individual does into a giant database: every e-mail sent or received, every picture taken, every Web page surfed, every phone call made, every TV show watched, every magazine read.

    All of this — and more — would combine with information gleaned from a variety of sources: a GPS transmitter to keep tabs on where that person went, audio-visual sensors to capture what he or she sees or says, and biomedical monitors to keep track of the individual's health.

  • The Charlotte Observer :: "Hog Farm Waste May Hurt Health."
    PAULDING, Ohio - Robert Thornell says that five years ago an invisible swirling poison invaded his family farm and the house he had built with his own hands. It took his memory, his balance and his ability to work. It left him with mood swings, a stutter and fistfuls of pills.

    His 14th doctor said he knew the source of the maladies: cesspools the size of football fields belonging to the industrial hog farm a half-mile from the Thornell home.

    A growing number of scientists and public health officials around the country say they have traced a variety of health problems of neighbors of huge industrial farms to vast amounts of concentrated animal waste, which emit toxic gases while collecting in open-air cesspools or evaporating through sprays. The gases, hydrogen sulfide and ammonia, are poisonous.

    The waste is collected in pools because the concentration of hogs is so high that it must be treated before it can be used as fertilizer.

    Livestock trade officials and Bush administration regulators say more study is needed before any cause and effect can be proven. . . [but] in Iowa, one of the country's two biggest pork-producing states (North Carolina is the other), state environment officials started conducting air quality tests for hydrogen sulfide and ammonia at six neighborhood locations around hog farms last month. Brian Button, an air information specialist with the state, said preliminary data showed that 22 times in April, the gases exceeded the state's recommended air standards of 15 parts per billion of hydrogen sulfide and 150 parts per billion of ammonia, averaged over an hour.

    [Dr. Kaye] Kilburn [of the University of Southern California], who runs a business diagnosing neurological disorders, said that over the last three years he had seen about 50 patients, including Thornell and his wife, Diane, who had suffered neurological damage he judged to be a result of hydrogen sulfide poisoning from industrial farms. . . .

    Paul Isbell of Houston, Miss., started experiencing seizures after a hog farm moved in down the road. Julie Jansen's six children suffered flulike symptoms and diarrhea when industrial farms moved into their neighborhood in Renville, Minn. Kilburn found that one of Jansen's daughters has neurological damage; she has problems with balance and has lost some feeling in her fingers. . . .

    Bush administration officials are negotiating with lobbyists for the livestock farms to establish voluntary monitoring of air pollution, which will give farms amnesty for any Clean Air Act violations while generating data that will enable regulators to track the type and source of pollutants more accurately.

  • The New York Times :: "ChevronTexaco to Stop Sponsoring Met's Broadcasts."
    ChevronTexaco announced yesterday that it would withdraw its support from the Metropolitan Opera's Saturday afternoon live radio broadcasts after the 2003-4 season, ending the longest continuous commercial sponsorship in broadcast history.

    Joseph Volpe, general manager of the Met, said that he was determined to continue the broadcasts without ChevronTexaco and that he would look for a new sponsor.

    Started on Christmas Day in 1931 with Humperdinck's "Hansel and Gretel," the Met matinee broadcasts have introduced opera to millions of people around the world.

    Mr. Volpe said the broadcasts had been "the single most powerful audience development program in introducing opera to families" and had inspired opera stars. "Many of the singers today first discovered opera on the radio broadcasts," he said.

    Patricia E. Yarrington, ChevronTexaco's vice president for public and government affairs, said in a statement, "As our business has evolved, we believe it is important to focus more of our resources directly with the countries and markets where we do business."

Greg G. @ 7:20 PM | # |

May 20, 2003


It Is Not the Silver Spoon That Bends . . . 
Did anyone — presuming that you and every other sentient being spent time at the multiplex last weekend — notice a brief and well-timed glimpse of a certain Texan during one of the pivotal scenes of The Matrix Reloaded?

I missed the trailer for Revolutions after the credits, by the way.

A friend who stayed in the theater told me he closed his eyes for it, but still felt miffed — because he heard Keanu's voice, which meant that Neo was still alive. I never had the illusion that he'd somehow not be alive, so I decided to mock the idea with an alternative scenario: "no, actually, Neo dies in the next film, and they replace him with Negro, who gets played by Chris Rock."

Come to think about it, that's a film I want to see. =,

Greg G. @ 1:31 AM | # |

May 19, 2003


Say You Miss Me
So what happened while I was out?
  • Kevin Drum said what I wanted to about Jayson Blair:
    Here's a question for you: was the infamous "diversity program" that Jayson Blair was part of really an attempt by the New York Times to hire more black reporters? And did they promote Blair too fast and overlook too many mistakes because he was black?

    That's the conventional wisdom among — well, among people who don't like affirmative action in the first place — but there's really something odd about it. After all, the Times is the preeminent paper in the country and can hire practically anyone it wants. If the Times just wanted more black reporters, its reputation and pay scales make it easy to cherry pick the very best of them any time it wants.

  • Hezbollah spotted a growth opportunity;
  • Texas Democrats took a roadtrip;
  • Tom DeLay decided that America needs more submachine guns;
  • Interior secretary Gale Norton decided that America has too many trees;
  • The Senate concluded that half of a terrible tax cut was better than none;
  • Hunt as we might for Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, we still haven't found what we're looking for; and . . .
  • The Braves went to San Diego and swept the Padres.
Well, at least that went right.

Greg G. @ 10:55 PM | # |