Monday, July 14, 2008

BREVITAS

Physorg As unwelcome as they are, higher gasoline prices do come with a plus side – fewer deaths from car accidents, says a researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. . . . If gas remains at $4 a gallon or higher for a year or more, traffic deaths could drop by more than 1,000 per month nationwide, said Michael Morrisey, Ph.D., director of UAB’s Lister Hill Center for Health Policy and a co-author on the new findings. "It is remarkable to think that a percent change in gas prices can equal lives saved, which is what our data show," Morrisey said. "For every 10 percent rise in gas prices, fatalities are reduced by 2.3 percent. The effects are even more dramatic for teen drivers."

Scientific Blogging Millions of pounds of lead used in hunting, fishing and shooting sports wind up in the environment each year and can threaten or kill wildlife, according to a new scientific report. Lead is a metal with no known beneficial role in biological systems, and its use in gasoline, paint, pesticides, and solder in food cans has nearly been eliminated. Although lead shot was banned for waterfowl hunting in 1991, its use in ammunition for upland hunting, shooting sports, and in fishing tackle remains common. While noting that more information is needed on some aspects of the impact of lead on wildlife, the authors said that numerous studies already documented adverse effects to wildlife, especially water birds and scavenging species, like hawks and eagles. Lead exposure from ingested lead shot, bullets, and fishing sinkers also has been reported in reptiles, and studies near shooting ranges have shown evidence of lead poisoning in small mammals.

Think Progress - Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) regularly hypes the threat posed by Iran, saying they are "intent on acquiring nuclear weapons" and even attacking Democrats for allegedly not recognizing "the threat posed by an Iran with nuclear ambitions." But when ABC’s Charlie Gibson asked McCain if an Israeli strike against Iran would be "jusified" in light of Iran’s recent missile tests, McCain said that he couldn’t determine "the nature of the threat" from Iran: "I can’t know whether a strike would be justified because I don’t know the progress or the significance or the nature of the threat. I know the threat is growing because of the continued development of nuclear weapons." Later in the interview, however, McCain insisted that the Iranian threat was nevertheless "serious."

A new poll ranks the first words that come to people's minds when you mention either of the two top presidential candidates. For McCain, in order, it's old, military service and record (or qualifications). For Obama it's outsider (or change), lack of experience and dishonest. Not a great start for the new Jesus and a reminder of how different voters' views can be from either campaign spin or media myths.

John Nichols The Nation - In other countries, such as France, presidential debates are open not merely to the two most prominent candidates but to the nominees of all parties that display a reasonable measure of national appeal. The discussions are livelier and more issue-focused, and they tend to draw the major-party candidates out -- providing insights that would otherwise be lost in the carefully-calculated joint appearances that pass for fall debates in the U.S. The corrupt Commission on Presidential Debates -- which was set up by former chairs of the major parties and their big-media allies to limit access to the most important forums for presidential nominees -- has made mockery of the democratic process. And some, admittedly very foolish people, have actually convinced themselves that one-on-one "debates" organized by party insiders to fit the schedules of friendly television networks are meaningful.

Fair Vote Massachusetts has became the 20th state legislative chamber to pass a national popular vote bill.

International Herald Tribune The nation's banks are in far less danger than they were in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when more than 1,000 federally insured institutions went under during the savings-and-loan crisis. The debacle, the greatest collapse of American financial institutions since the Depression, prompted a government bailout that cost taxpayers about $125 billion. But the troubles are growing so rapidly at some small and midsize banks that as many as 150 out of the 7,500 banks nationwide could fail over the next 12 to 18 months, analysts say. Other lenders are likely to shut branches or seek mergers.

Dose Nation On November 30th a referendum will be held among the people of Switzerland about whether to completely legalize possession, sale, and cultivation of cannabis. We're talking legalization, not grey area style toleration as in the Netherlands. Meaning, that if successful, pot would be sold in supermarkets just like alcohol, if you're an adult. (with the only ban left being advertising of cannabis, so it would be similar to tobacco ad bans). The funny thing is the initiative is even supported by conservative politicians there, conceding that past drug policies have failed in reducing the number of cannabis users, thus they're now willing to try the legalization/regulation route.

ABA Journal The dean of Massachusetts School of Law at Andover is planning a September conference to map out war crimes prosecutions, and the targets are President Bush and other administration officials. The dean, Lawrence Velvel, says in a statement that "plans will be laid and necessary organizational structures set up, to pursue the guilty as long as necessary and, if need be, to the ends of the Earth." Other possible defendants, he said, include federal judges and John Yoo, the former Justice Department official who wrote one of the so-called torture memos. . . "The DOJ lawyers who wrote the corrupt legal memos giving attempted cover to Bush's actions have been rewarded by federal judgeships, cabinet positions, and high falutin' professorships," he writes. Yoo is a professor at the University of California-Berkeley law school, while another former Justice Department official who signed a Yoo memo, Jay Bybee, is a judge on the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Joby Warrick Washington Post A CIA analyst warned the Bush administration in 2002 that up to a third of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay may have been imprisoned by mistake, but White House officials ignored the finding and insisted that all were "enemy combatants" subject to indefinite incarceration, according to a new book critical of the administration's terrorism policies. The CIA assessment directly challenged the administration's claim that the detainees were all hardened terrorists -- the "worst of the worst," as then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said at the time. But a top aide to Vice President Cheney shrugged off the report and squashed proposals for a quick review of the detainees' cases, author Jane Mayer writes in "The Dark Side," scheduled for release next week. "There will be no review," the book quotes Cheney staff director David Addington as saying. "The president has determined that they are all enemy combatants. We are not going to revisit it." The reported exchange is one of dozens recounted by Mayer in a volume that describes how Cheney and his legal advisers pushed for policies on domestic wiretapping, detention and interrogation of suspected terrorists in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. . . "For the first time in its history, the United States sanctioned government officials to physically and psychologically torment U.S.-held captives, making torture the official law of the land in all but name," she writes.

Think Progress The Sunday Times reports Stephen Payne, a Bush pioneer and a political appointee to the Homeland Security Advisory Council, was caught on tape offering access to key members of the Bush administration inner circle in exchange for "six-figure donations to the private library being set up to commemorate Bush’s presidency." In an undercover video, Payne is seen promising to arrange a meeting for an exiled leader of Krygystan with Dick Cheney or Condoleezza Rice. (Not President Bush because "he doesn’t meet with a lot of former Presidents these days," Payne says. "I don’t think he meets with hardly anyone.") All it will take for him to arrange this high-level meeting, says Payne, is "a couple hundred thousand dollars, or something like that". . . The Times reports, "The revelation confirms long-held suspicions that favors are being offered in return for donations to the libraries which outgoing presidents set up to house their archives and safeguard their political legacies." Bush loyalists previously said they had "identified wealthy

Senator Russ Feingold I sit on the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, and I am one of the few members of this body who has been fully briefed on the warrantless wiretapping program. And, based on what I know, I can promise that if more information is declassified about the program in the future, as is likely to happen either due to the Inspector General report, the election of a new President, or simply the passage of time, members of this body will regret that we passed this legislation. I am also familiar with the collection activities that have been conducted under the Protect America Act and will continue under this bill. I invite any of my colleagues who wish to know more about those activities to come speak to me in a classified setting. Publicly, all I can say is that I have serious concerns about how those activities may have impacted the civil liberties of Americans. If we grant these new powers to the government and the effects become known to the American people, we will realize what a mistake it was, of that I am sure.

Pharmed Out The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America has released a newly revised Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals that prohibits distribution of branded pens, mugs, and notepads but preserves industry speaker programs and pharmaceutical company involvement in medical education. "Pharma is pitching the pens in order to preserve industry involvement in medical education ­ the most subtle and effective means of influencing prescribing behavior," says Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman, director of Pharmed Out.

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