Friday, May 16, 2008

BREVITAS

The U.S. government has injected hundreds of foreigners it has deported with dangerous psychotropic drugs against their will to keep them sedated during the trip back to their home country, according to medical records, internal documents and interviews with people who have been drugged. The government's forced use of antipsychotic drugs, in people who have no history of mental illness, includes dozens of cases in which the "pre-flight cocktail," as a document calls it, had such a potent effect that federal guards needed a wheelchair to move the slumped deportee onto an airplane. . . In a Chicago holding cell early one evening in February 2006, five guards piled on top of a 49-year-old man who was angry he was going back to Ecuador, according to a nurse's account in his deportation file. As they pinned him down so the nurse could punch a needle through his coveralls into his right buttock, one officer stood over him menacingly and taunted, "Nighty-night.". . . Involuntary chemical restraint of detainees, unless there is a medical justification, is a violation of some international human rights codes. The practice is banned by several countries where, confidential documents make clear, U.S. escorts have been unable to inject deportees with extra doses of drugs during layovers en route to faraway places. Washington Post

A 19-year-old freshman at the University of Oklahoma was elected mayor Tuesday of Muskogee, a city of 38,000 in the northeastern part of the state. With all precincts reporting, John Tyler Hammons won with 70 percent of the vote over former Mayor Hershel Ray McBride, said Muskogee County Election Board Secretary Bill Bull. "The public placing their trust in me is the greatest, humbling and most awesome experience I've ever had in my life," said Hammons, who is from Muskogee but attends the university in Norman. . . Hammons, who will be sworn in next week, said he plans to continue his college education but expects to transfer to a school closer to Muskogee.. . . Hammons said a key to his platform that resonated with voters was openness of government and keeping citizens better informed of city operations. Seattle Post Intelligencer

The Clinton campaign was caught unawares by the NARAL endorsement [of Obama] , which became public as Clinton advisers were holding a conference call with reporters. Asked by a reporter on the call for his response, Clinton's communications director Howard Wolfson said, "'Surprised' would be my response" and that Clinton's leadership and advocacy on abortion rights had been "second to none." The endorsement drew angry reaction from Clinton supporters, including Ellen R. Malcolm, the president of Emily's List - a group that raises money to support feminist candidates. Recalling Clinton's long support for pro-choice issues, Malcolm decried NARAL's move as "tremendously disrespectful to Sen. Clinton . . . to not give her the courtesy to finish the final three weeks of the primary process." Explaining her group's backing of Obama, Nancy Keenan, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement that she believes Obama is now certain to secure the nomination and that his differences with McCain on abortion rights and the selection of judicial nominees "will be a major reason many voters, especially pro-choice independent and Republican women, will cross party lines to support Sen. Obama in the fall." Mcclatchy

Republican presidential candidate John McCain said on Thursday that, if elected, he would like to take a page from the British government and appear in question-and-answer sessions with lawmakers. "I will ask Congress to grant me the privilege of coming before both houses to take questions, and address criticism, much the same as the prime minister of Great Britain appears regularly before the House of Commons," McCain said in excerpts of a speech he is to deliver later in Columbus, Ohio. Reuters

Ralph Nader, who still uses a manual Underwood typewriter, showed up at Google headquarters where he took questions for about an hour and did a YouTube interview

Alan Keyes, who was recently beaten 3-to-1 for the Constitution Party nomination for President, has decided to continue his run for President as an independent. Keyes is trying to start a new party called America's Independent Party. He has groupings of supporters in Texas, California, Florida, New York and Missouri. In what was their first major ballot-access hurdle, the Keyes campaign has failed to get on the ballot in Texas-collecting only 10,000 signatures. Third Party News

Obama calls TV reporter 'sweetie,' but she gets back at him, An example of spin control spinning out of control: video has 60,000 hits in 24 hours

Researchers at the University of Virginia found that if you're a member of one of the geeky "out groups" in high school surrounded by jocks, prom queens and cheerleaders, simply being comfortable with yourself and your peers -- no matter how nerdy others might think you are -- may go a long way in ensuring a successful social life in the future. The new findings, published today in the journal Child Development, suggest that how a teenager feels about himself or herself is the best indicator of future social functioning ABC News

"Prozac Nation: Revisited," a show that aired on National Public Radio member stations, "featured four prestigious medical experts discussing the controversial link between antidepressants and suicide. ... All four said that worries ... have been overblown." But the show did not disclose that all four "have financial ties to the makers of antidepressants," or that the series that produced the show, "The Infinite Mind," has received "unrestricted grants" from drug companies including Eli Lilly, the maker of Prozac. One guest, Peter Pitts, heads the industry-funded Center for Medicine in the Public Interest and is "senior vice president for global health affairs at the PR firm Manning Selvage & Lee," which counts among its clients Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and "more than a dozen other pharmaceutical companies

JUDGE BACKS CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR AGAINST ARMY

Low doses of cannabis and alcohol have contrasting effects upon psychomotor performance, according to clinical trial data published in the current issue of the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention. Investigators at Hebrew University and the University of the Negev in Israel assessed the impact of alcohol and THC on simulated driving performance in fourteen subjects. . . "Average speed was the most sensitive driving performance variable affected by both THC and alcohol but with an opposite effect," authors wrote. "Smoking THC cigarettes caused drivers to drive slower in a dose-dependent manner, while alcohol caused drivers to drive significantly faster than in ‘control' conditions." Both alcohol and low doses of cannabis impaired drivers' ability to maintain lane position and significantly increased subjects' reaction time. Neither low doses of alcohol nor THC significantly increased subjects' total number of collisions. . . Two recent examinations of fatal accident crash data indicate that alcohol, even at low doses, greatly increases drivers' crash risk compared to cannabis. A 2007 case-control study published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health reported that US drivers with blood alcohol levels of 0.05 percent were three times as likely to have engaged in unsafe driving activities prior to a fatal crash as compared to individuals who tested positive for marijuana. Similarly, a 2005 review of French auto accident data reported that drivers who tested positive for any amount of alcohol had a four times greater risk of having a fatal accident than did drivers who tested positive for marijuana in their blood.

In an age where governments of every political stripe distort economic data to promote their own self-interests, it's hardly surprising that they present inflation statistics that are wildly at odds with the reality faced by consumers and businesses, and regarded with utter disbelief. In the latest US government report on inflation for instance, there was a glaring "seasonal adjustment," for energy prices that cast great doubt as to the accuracy of the findings. US Labor Dept apparatchiks said consumer prices rose a smaller than expected 0.2% in April, tamed by energy prices, which were unchanged last month. Utilizing an obscure "seasonal adjustment," Labor figured that gasoline prices actually fell 2% in April, which doesn't reflect the reality of what consumers were paying at the pump. Furthermore, the IMF's global food price index rose 43% over the last 12-months, but the US consumer price index for food is only 5.1% higher. Gary Dorsch, Financial Sense

A publishing institution, faithfully mailed at least twice a year to thousands of stores and libraries for about as long as the industry has existed, may be on its way out: The paper catalog. Harper Collins announced that it was planning to make their listings of upcoming releases available only online, calling the current system both economically and environmentally indefensible. . . Other major publishers are moving in a similar direction, including Penguin Group (USA) and Random House Inc. - AP

Officially, Authonomy is a "social network for writers and book-lovers alike". Just as MySpace allowed bands to succeed without the prior approval and investment of record companies, so Authonomy will theoretically help separate the unpublished wheat from the chaff. The idea is that aspirant scribes can upload up to 10,000 words to the site and then have their masterworks judged by what HarperCollins refers to as "keen, talent-spotting readers" - other people, that is, who have registered on the network.

No longer will the disgruntled writing masses be able to complain that their work has not been published because it has been vetoed by elite, snobbish publishing industry professionals. Now they will be kyboshing each other. (Or launching each other's careers.) . . . I imagine that the hearts of those behind Authonomy are in the right place, but it's hard to ignore the suspicion that what they are really doing is outsourcing the unlovely task of sluicing through the slush pile. . . . I think Authonomy may end up being a nice polite way for the publishers to say that they're not accepting unsolicited submissions anymore. If the launch goes well, I'd wager that anyone asking about submissions will be directed to hit the site, keeping editors' (and editorial assistants') desks clear for them to get on with the books agents have sent them, the ones they are genuinely interested in. - Guardian

Bookstore sales rose 1.3% in March, to $1.03 billion, according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. Sales have increased every month so far in 2008 and finished the first quarter up 5.1%, to $4.46 billion. The 1.3% March increase was the smallest gain in 2008. Publishers Weekly

Pinal County Sheriff Chris Vasquez has plagiarized more than a dozen times in his monthly letters since taking office three years ago, lifting text from numerous Web sites, journalists, lawmakers and even President Bush. The plagiarism is extensive. And in many cases, the text is copied verbatim and unattributed with copied material that ranges in size from a few sentences to entire speeches. Vasquez admitted that he directly "copies and pastes" material from outside sources into many of his letters without attribution. He added that he doesn't think it's wrong. "You can call it plagiarism if you want," Vasquez said. "I'm just providing a public service." The letters are distributed to newspapers across the county that print them each month. They also were posted on Vasquez's campaign Web site. However, they were removed Wednesday afternoon after the Tribune inquired about them. David Biscobing, East Valley Tribune, Az

CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT APPROVES GAY MARRIAGE

In Uganda, which has one of the lowest levels of electricity in Africa, Motorola has launched an initiative to provide solar cell phone recharging stations that can be run by local, entrepreneurial women. Each kiosk is charged by a 55-watt inverted solar panel and can charge up to 20 phones at a time. The women who run the kiosks, meanwhile, are also equipped to sell handsets and operator SIM cards and to provide repair services. For local people without their own phones, the kiosks effectively function as a local "phone booth" for making occasional calls as well.

Polar bears were listed on Wednesday as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act because their sea ice habitat is melting away. But the new protection was not accompanied by any proposals to address either climate change, which environmentalists say causes the deterioration of the bears' habitat, or drilling in the Arctic for the fossil fuels that spur the climate-warming greenhouse effect. In announcing the government's decision one day before a court-ordered deadline, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne acknowledged that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions contributed to the global warming damaging the polar bears' habitat. "While the legal standards under the Endangered Species Act compel me to list the polar bear as threatened, I want to make clear that this listing will not stop global climate change or prevent any sea ice from melting," he said at a briefing. Reuters

Climate change will lead to a "fortress world" in which the rich lock themselves away in gated communities and the poor must fend for themselves in shattered environments, unless governments act quickly to curb greenhouse gas emissions, according to the vice-president of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Prof Mohan Munasinghe was giving a lecture at Cambridge university in which he presented a dystopic possible future world in which social problems are made much worse by the environmental consequences of rising greenhouse gas emissions. . . The scenario, which he termed "barbarisation" was already beginning to happen, he said. "Fortress world is a situation where the rich live in enclaves, protected, and the poor live outside in unsustainable conditions. "If you see what is going on in some of the gated communities in some countries you do find that rich people live in those kind of protected environments. If you see the restrictions on international travel you see the beginnings of the fortress world syndrome even in entering and leaving countries," he said. Guardian, UK

A divided federal appeals court panel has upheld a Nevada school district's dress code, issuing a ruling that an ACLU attorney says seeks to "eviscerate" a seminal Supreme Court opinion protecting student speech. In 2003, the Clark County School District adopted a standard dress code for all county students. It also established a means for individual schools to create more-restrictive uniform policies. Many schools in the district adopted such uniform policies.

Writing in the International Journal of Liability and Scientific Enquiry, Patrick Kierkegaard of the University of Essex, England, suggests that there is scant scientific evidence that video games are anything but harmless and do not lead to real world aggression. Moreover, his research shows that previous work is biased towards the opposite conclusion. . . Kierkegaard studied a range of research papers, several of which have concluded since the early 1980s that video games can lead to juvenile delinquency, fighting at school and during free play periods, and violent criminal behavior. Evidence from brain scans carried out while gamers play also seem to support a connection between playing video games and activation of regions of the brain associated with aggression. However, Kierkegaard explains, there is no obvious link between real-world violence statistics and the advent of video games. Despite several high profile incidents in US academic institutions, "Violent crime, particularly among the young, has decreased dramatically since the early 1990s," says Kierkegaard, "while video games have steadily increased in popularity and use. For example, in 2005, there were 1,360,088 violent crimes reported in the USA compared with 1,423,677 the year before. "With millions of sales of violent games, the world should be seeing an epidemic of violence," he says, "Instead, violence has declined." Research is inconclusive, emphasises Kierkegaard. It is possible that certain types of video game could affect emotions, views, behaviour, and attitudes, however, so can books, which can lead to violent behaviour on those already predisposed to violence.

For nearly three in 10 households, don't even bother trying to call them on a landline phone. They either only have a cell phone or seldom if ever take calls on their traditional phone. The federal figures, showed that reliance on cells is continuing to rise at the expense of wired telephones. In the second half of last year, 16 percent of households only had cell phones, while 13 percent also had landlines but got all or nearly all their calls on their cells. The survey also found that: Low-income people are likelier than the more affluent to have only cell phones.. . . Those with only cells tend to be living with unrelated roommates, renters rather than homeowners, and Hispanics and blacks rather than whites. . . About a third of those under age 30 only have cell phones Chicago Tribune

Frank Schaeffer's memoir, Crazy for God, offers an unexpected mirror into the American experience. From being one of the brains behind the founding of the evangelical political right, to his stalwart, enthusiastic support for Obama today, Schaeffer's trajectory has taken him through various stations of faith. Strong character having been bred into him, he's managed eventually to come to terms with it all. An example of personal resiliency by a brilliant writer. PODCAST

HOW FOOD PORTIONS HAVE CHANGE OVER TIME

HOW MORE THAN 1,000 UNINSURED MUSICIANS GOT MEDICAL CARE

NEW YORKERS TAKE OVER PARKING SPACES AS REC AREAS

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