Wednesday, September 24, 2008

BREVITAS

HEALTH & SCIENCE

CNN -
Keeping a cell phone on talk mode in a pocket can decrease sperm quality, according to new research from the Cleveland Clinic. A Cleveland Clinic study shows that mobile phones left on talk mode in a pocket can hurt sperm quality. A Cleveland Clinic study shows that mobile phones left on talk mode in a pocket can hurt sperm quality. "We believe that these devices are used because we consider them very safe, but it could cause harmful effects due to the proximity of the phones and the exposure that they are causing to the gonads," says lead researcher Ashok Agarwal, the Director of the Center for Reproductive Medicine.

Boing Boing - A slender majority of members in the American Psychiatric Association have voted in favor of a resolution that forbids members from aiding in torture. This was spurred by the complicity of APA members in conducting torture-based interrogation at Guantanamo Bay and other American and American-affiliated secret prisons: The ban means those who are American Psychological Association members can't assist the U.S. military at these sites. They can only work there for humanitarian purposes or with non-governmental groups, according to Stephen Soldz, a Boston psychologist. Soldz is founder of an ethics coalition that has long supported the ban. Psychologists have been involved in decisions that approve of coercion methods, including "taking away comfort items like clothes and toilet paper from detainees" to help extract information from them, Soldz said.

OUTLYING PRECINCTS

Washington Post -
The lobbying firm founded and co-owned by Rick Davis, the campaign manager for Sen. John McCain's White House bid, received payments from Freddie Mac in recent months, despite assertions by Davis earlier this week that the firm's work for the mortgage giant had ended three years ago. An industry source told The Washington Post that Davis's firm, Davis Manafort, continued to receive monthly payments in the $15,000 range from Freddie Mac until very recently, confirming an ongoing financial relationship reported last night in several other publications. The source said Davis Manafort was paid for being on retainer to Freddie Mac but did little actual work after early 2007. Two unidentified sources told the newspaper Roll Call yesterday that Davis Manafort is still receiving payments from the mortgage giant, one of the financial institutions at the center of the nation's housing crisis. The New York Times reported last night that the payments stopped last month.


Yes & Nays, DC Examiner - Amazon.com has unveiled a new feature -- "Election 2008" -- in which it tracks the states buying more liberal or conservative books. And, surprise, surprise: Washington, D.C. buys more "blue" books than any other state in the country (66 percent of all book purchases). Following close behind are northeast states Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, Maine and Rhode Island. On the conservative front, Mississippi takes the lead in purchasing conservative books (77% of all purchases), followed by Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina and Arkansas. D.C.'s favorite blue book of the moment is Barton Gellman's "Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency." As for the rare Washington Republican, they're buying Robert Kagan's "Dangerous Nation: America's Foreign Policy from Its Earliest Days to the Dawn of the Twentieth Century" .

According to the Nader campaign, his candidacy actually helps Obama according to five national polls conducted over the past three months, as well as a Florida poll conducted last week and a Virginia poll this week. In each of the national polls, Obama's spread over Republican candidate John McCain widened by an average of more than 3 percent when Nader and Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr were included on the menu of choices. Nader appears to be more of a factor than Barr. Nader was ahead of Barr in four of the polls and tied in the other. On average, Nader polled 2 percent higher than Barr

Ben Smith, Politico
- Sen. John McCain's top campaign aides convened a conference call to complain of being called "liars." They pressed the media to scrutinize specific elements of Sen. Barack Obama's record.
But the call was so rife with simple, often inexplicable misstatements of fact that it may have had the opposite effect: to deepen the perception, dangerous to McCain, that he and his aides have little regard for factual accuracy. The errors in McCain strategist Steve Schmidt's charges against Obama and Sen. Joe Biden were particularly notable because they seemed unnecessary. Schmidt repeatedly gilded the lily: He exaggerated the Biden family's already problematic ties to the credit card industry; Obama's embarrassing relationship with a 1960s radical; and an Obama supporter's over-the-top attack on Sarah Palin when -in each case -the truth would have been damaging enough. . . As he went on to list a series of stories he thought reporters should be writing about Obama and Biden, in almost every instance he got the details wrong

Washington Post -
Biden seems to enjoy having journalists following him around, if only to have more people listen to his running commentary on whatever springs to his mind. A CBS reporter following Biden around estimated Biden has done 80 interviews since he was named vice president, compared to two by Palin.

Salon - Ralph Nader will be on the ballot in 45 states and Washington, D.C., his campaign announced. According to the Nader campaign's press release, this "is the most ballots Nader has ever been on . . . Nader was on 34 state ballots plus D.C. in 2004, and 44 plus D.C. in 2000."

Rick Davis, McCain's campaign manager was chief lobbyist for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in an effort to reject additional regulations. He earned for $300,000 a year on the job which lasted five years.

Newsweek reports that John McCain owns 13 cars - and that contrary to what McCain said in a recent TV interview, the fleet includes three foreign cars. The report shows that McCain wasn't being honest with voters during a recent interview with WXYZ TV in Detroit when he said: "I've bought American literally all my life, and I'm proud."

Jake Tapper, ABC - Gov. Sarah Palin is now talking about "a Palin and McCain administration." I've also heard her refer to McCain as "my running mate" -- a term I don't recall ever hearing a VP nominee use when discussing the guy at the top of the ticket. Maybe the fact that the crowds are leaving after she speaks, while McCain is speaking, is getting to her.

Political Wire - Neither of the previous two Democratic nominees, Al Gore and John Kerry, ever reached more than 50% in the WP/ABC poll. In fact, per George Stephanopoulos, not since 1948 has a candidate with a lead this big this late lost the election. . . [Obama reached 52% in the Wash Post poll]

STUPID SCHOOL ADMINISTRATOR TRICKS

Yale Daily News - The nearby towns of Milford and Trumbull are among 12 state school districts -- out of a total 166 across Connecticut -- that have begun administering breathalyzer tests to all high-school students before social gatherings such as dances or sporting events. Area school officials have defended the tests as an effective way to reduce underage drinking, but some, such as the local executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, have questioned their constitutionality by asserting that the tests violate the students' rights to privacy. ACLU of Connecticut Chief Executive Officer Andrew Schneider said the ACLU is asking school districts to stop testing students without suspicion, which the ACLU believes violates the Fourth Amendment prohibition against "unreasonable" searches and seizures.

EMENDATION

A recent story said that some DC students would be paid $50 every two weeks for good grades and approved deportment, but both the Washington Post and Tom Sherwood of Channel 4 say it's $100 every two weeks. So it looks like DC school superintendent Michelle Rhee can count; she just can't spell.

FREEDOM & JUSTICE

Minnesota Independent -
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman's office issued a statement announcing that the city attorney won't prosecute journalists who were cited by authorities at the Republican National Convention with "presence at an unlawful assembly," a misdemeanor charge. . . How many people that might include hasn't been tallied yet, but nearly 50 of the more than 800 people arrested or detained were onsite to cover the RNC, according to a MnIndy analysis . . . The pending charges against "Democracy Now!" host Amy Goodman and two of her producers are being dropped. [The prosecutor] explained that his office is declining prosecution in Goodman's case, "because the facts and circumstances related to Amy Goodman fell outside of our charging policy for obstruction of legal process cases," which is what she was cited for. .

WAR DEPARTMENT

Jeff Stein, CQ -
A bipartisan study commission headed by two former U.S. senators is recommending that the United States tell Iran in no uncertain terms that it will suffer a nuclear attack if it launches a nuclear attack on anybody else. "A nuclear deterrent strategy would require moving to a declared U.S. stance threatening the potential use of nuclear weapons should Iran ever use a nuclear weapon or allow its proxies to do so," said the report from The Bipartisan Policy Center, which is co-chaired by former senators Charles Robb, D-Va., and Dan Coats, R-Ind. "While threatening any use of nuclear weapons even as a defensive capacity or in a retaliatory manner remains a taboo subject among Washington policymakers, it is irresponsible to delay further such discussions given the implications of Iran developing nuclear weapons or the capacity to develop such weapons," it said. . . Likewise, Iran should be told it will suffer the same consequences if a terrorist group affiliated with it, such as Lebanon-based Hezbollah, uses a nuclear weapon, said the group, which is stocked with heavyweight former U.S. military and diplomatic figures associated with both Republican and Democratic administrations. . . As an alternate strategy, the report said, the U.S. and its allies should start positioning military forces at bases surrounding Iran to deter it from using nuclear weapons.

Reuters - The United States will not have enough forces available to meet a request for more troops from NATO's top commander in Afghanistan until next spring at the earliest, the U.S. defense chief said Tuesday. "Without changing deployment patterns, without changing length of tours, we do not have the forces to send three additional brigade combat teams to Afghanistan at this point," Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

ECO CLIPS

Scientific Blogging
- Two research teams are announcing this month that they have successfully converted sugar-potentially derived from agricultural waste and non-food plants-into gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and a range of other valuable chemicals. Chemical engineer Randy Cortright and his colleagues at Virent Energy Systems of Madison, Wisc., and researchers led by NSF-supported chemical engineer James Dumesic of the University of Wisconsin at Madison are now announcing that sugars and carbohydrates can be processed like petroleum into the full suite of products that drive the fuel, pharmaceutical and chemical industries. The physical properties of Virent's Biogasoline product spontaneously separate from water. This requires very little energy for processing compared with the energy-intensive process of distillation required for ethanol purification.

Daily Kos - Yes, there are a billion different reasons why it's important Democrats win this year. But every once in a while, I hit a headline that gives me an extra little reminder. Here's today's: "EPA won't limit rocket fuel in U.S. drinking water."

WORLD

Guardian, UK -
A poised performance by Dame Helen Mirren in the film The Queen has, until now, provided the nation with the only clues about the atmosphere in Buckingham Palace and Balmoral Castle after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997. Mirren's portrayal told us that the Queen found Downing Street's involvement irritating at first, though the royal family ultimately accepted Tony Blair's advice to open up. Prince Philip was grumpy, but realized that Blair, who hailed Diana as the "people's princess", had touched a chord. Now the nation is given a taste of the true atmosphere behind closed doors thanks to an inside account of Tony Blair's Downing Street by the television journalist Adam Boulton, which is serialized in [the] Guardian. . . In an extract of the book, Boulton writes: "The events of that week in September 1997 were very sad, but as the spinners from Downing Street came to Buckingham Palace and started to kick around what roles Harry and William should play in the funeral, the Queen had relished the moment when Philip had bellowed over the speakerphone from Balmoral: 'Fuck off. We are talking about two boys who have lost their mother'. Once the arrangements had been sorted out Blair read the lesson very melodramatically that day in the abbey."

BATTLE FOR THE NORTH POLE

FURTHERMORE. . . .

292 tow trucks
set a new record by parading together through NYC recently. They left Shea Stadium in Queens and ended up on an abandoned airport landstrip where they spelled they formed the word "New York." The previous record was 83 tow trucks in Washington state.

Rules of Thumb - A clock in most any gym is usually fast by at least a few minutes, but rarely more than fifteen minutes. This a common trick used by the gym, admittedly often the result of gym members who end their workout at closing time but expect to shower and dress afterwards. If the gym has TVs, you can gauge the real time by the transition from one scheduled program to another, or tune to CNN or another station with a "crawl" that includes the current time.

New Scientist - Scientists have discovered a gene responsible for a mysterious disease that causes Labrador retrievers to lose control of their hind legs when they run too hard.

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