Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

January 29, 2009



Andrew Stern, Reuters
- U.S. roads, airports, schools, levees, dams, and other infrastructure are in overall poor shape and require a $2.2 trillion investment to bring them up to par, an engineering group said. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave infrastructure a grade of "D" as U.S. President Barack Obama seeks $825 billion in extra government spending and tax cuts to ease the economic crisis. Infrastructure earned the same dismal grade in 2005, but the group's estimated five-year price tag to fix it rose by $600 billion to $2.2 trillion.


Guardian, UK -
Elizabeth J Narcessian and HoJung Yoon, both at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, published finding in a 1997 study called False-Positive Urine Drug Screen: Beware the Poppy Seed Bagel. It concerned a patient whose urine mysteriously tested positive for morphine: "[The] results confirmed that ingestion of poppy seeds can result in a positive urine toxicology for morphine. The urines may remain positive from 24 to 48 hours after ingestion." . .


Morning Sentinel, ME -
Getting engaged was the last thing on Harmon's mind last Saturday when Trooper Joe Chretien of the Maine State Police pulled the Portland woman over on Interstate 95. Harmon, who was headed with her boyfriend, Gary Lapointe, to the Hollywood Slots casino in Bangor, had been driving 92 miles per hour in the 65 miles-per-hour zone. . . After filling out the paperwork, which led to a summons for speeding against the 23-year-old Harmon, Chretien's focus turned to Lapointe. "I noticed the gentleman in the passenger's seat," Chretien recalled. "He was kind of nervous to get my attention." Lapointe showed the trooper a black box from Zales jewelry store and the big diamond ring inside. "He said, 'I'm trying to figure out a way to ask her to marry me, and I just don't know how,'" Chretien said. "I was kind of dumbfounded and asked if he wanted me to provide a lead-in, and he said 'yes.'" Chretien told Harmon that Lapointe had something to tell her that might make her feel better about getting charged for speeding. Lapointe opened the door, got on the ground on one knee and proposed. . . "I said, 'Congratulations to both of you,' and went back to my car," he said. "They sat there for a couple of minutes, hugging and kissing. Then he got in the driver's seat, and drove away. It had a happy ending."

Everett Herald, WA -
Officers arrested an Everett man morning after they overheard him on a cell phone, apparently trying to make a drug deal. The suspect, 24, was inside a bathroom stall at the police department at the time. . . . A police sergeant who was in the restroom happened to overhear the man placing the call. It appeared the man was desperately trying to arrange drug deals. "In a bit of disbelief, the sergeant told his partner what he had heard," Goetz said. . . Police confronted the man as he left the bathroom. He reportedly thought he was at a probation office, not an Everett police station. "He asked an officer if he was a probation officer," Goetz said.

Guardian, UK - Naked alpine ramblers have been warned to keep their clothes on this spring or face fines under new legislation introduced by Swiss authorities intended to clamp down on a growing pastime. . . According to one naked hiker website, nacktwandern.de, the trend goes back to the start of the 20th century and has much to do with the new access it gives people to nature. . . Naked ramblers are drawn to Appenzell Innerrhoden - which is also famous for delaying giving women the vote until 1990 - by its beautiful landscape.

Don't Tase Me Bro' You can buy a gun, liquor and even some drug paraphernalia items in Coweta County, Georgia, but as of Monday, you can't buy a sex toy. In a special meeting, the Coweta County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a new obscenity ordinance prohibiting anyone from knowingly selling "any device designed or markets as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs," The Newnan Times-Herald reported.

Reuters - Police in Nigeria are holding a goat on suspicion of attempted armed robbery. Vigilantes took the black and white beast to the police saying it was an armed robber who had used black magic to transform himself into a goat to escape arrest after trying to steal a Mazda 323. "The group of vigilante men came to report that while they were on patrol they saw some hoodlums attempting to rob a car. They pursued them. However one of them escaped while the other turned into a goat," Kwara state police spokesman Tunde Mohammed told Reuters by telephone. "We cannot confirm the story, but the goat is in our custody. We cannot base our information on something mystical. It is something that has to be proved scientifically, that a human being turned into a goat," he said.


NY Times
- The Pew Research Center found that while more than 8 in 10 Americans rate where they live now as excellent, nearly half say they would rather live in a different type of community. City dwellers feel the most mismatched. A majority would rather live in a suburb, small town or rural area. The survey found that Denver, San Diego and Seattle top a list of 30 metropolitan areas that people preferred. Detroit, Cleveland and Cincinnati ranked lowest. New York was in the middle, between Washington and Dallas. All of the top 10 preferred areas are in the West or the South, but geography isn't necessarily the first priority for various groups. Young adults prefer New York and Los Angeles. Phoenix is the favorite of Republicans and San Francisco of Democrats.


Our new secretary of state's
husband received $6 million in so-called honoraria last year from foreign sources.


Michael Neibauer, DC Examiner
- About a thousand members of D.C.'s Irish community may be exempted from the city's smoking ban so they can continue the annual rite of toasting St. Patrick with a tumbler in one hand and a cigar in the other. Ward 2 D.C. Councilman Jack Evans has introduced legislation sparing the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, a social organization that comprises much of Washington's elite Irishmen, from the ban for their 81st annual St. Patrick's Day dinner at the Capital Hilton on March 17. The city's smoke-free law provides an economic hardship waiver for struggling bars and restaurants, Evans said, but it leaves no wiggle room for a single event, like the St. Patrick's Day gala or Fight Night at the Washington Hilton. . . Evans is a member of the Friendly Sons organization, though he claims not to partake in the cigar end of the toasting tradition


Times, UK -
The disgraced chief executive of Lehman Brothers transferred ownership of a $14 million Florida mansion to his wife for $100 in a possible attempt to move assets beyond the reach of infuriated investors of the collapsed bank. Richard Fuld, who led the 158-year-old investment bank to its demise last September, sold the beach-front house to his wife, Kathleen, for $100 on November 10, according to Marin County real estate records. . . Cityfile.com, the New York website that uncovered the secret sale, speculated: "Could Fuld be worried about the flurry of lawsuits from incensed shareholders and creditors?"


- Conflict and humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo have taken the lives of an estimated 5.4 million people since 1998 and continue to leave as many as 45,000 dead every month, according to a major mortality survey released today by the International Rescue Committee. "The conflict and its aftermath, in terms of fatalities, surpass any other since World War II," says the aid group's president, George Rupp. "Congo's loss is equivalent to the entire population of Denmark or the state of Colorado perishing within a decade. Although Congo's war formally ended five years ago, ongoing strife and poverty continue to take a staggering toll."


Carlos Miller, Indy Bay
- Seconds after BART police officer Johannes Mehserle shot and killed Oscar Grant, police immediately began confiscating cell phones containing videos that have yet to see the light of day. In fact, the only videos that have been seen by the public were filmed by people who managed to leave the scene before police confronted them.
In one instance, police chased after Karina Vargas after she stepped on the train, banging on the window and demanding her to turn over the camera. The train sped away with Vargas still holding her camera. . . The truth is, police had no legal right to confiscate a single camera. "Cops may be entitled to ask for people's names and addresses and may even go as far as subpoenaing the video tape, but as far as confiscating the camera on the spot, no," said [attorney] Marc Randazza.


Times, UK
- Russia held out an olive branch to President Barack Obama by suspending plans to deploy missiles in Europe, according to a report in Moscow. An official from Russia's General Staff in Moscow told Interfax news that the move had been made because the new United States leadership was reconsidering plans to establish a missile defence shield in eastern Europe. Mr Putin said on Monday that he was "cautiously optimistic" about the potential for improved relations with the US because the Obama Administration had shown a willingness to reconsider the missile shield.

Michelle Tan, Army Times -
Army Secretary Pete Geren has ordered a stand-down of the Army's entire recruiting force and a review of almost every aspect of the job is underway in the wake of a wide-ranging investigation of four suicides in the Houston Recruiting Battalion. Poor command climate, failing personal relationships and long, stressful work days were factors in the suicides, the investigation found. The investigating officer noted a "threatening" environment in the battalion and that leaders may have tried to influence statements from witnesses. . . The one-day stand-down of all 7,000 active Army and 1,400 Army Reserve recruiters will be Feb. 13. The soldiers will receive training on leadership, a review of the expectations of Recruiting Command's leaders, suicide prevention and resiliency training, coping skills and recruiter wellness, Turner said.


New Scientist
- Emperor penguins are likely to be melted out of house and home by climate change, according to a new study. Earlier work suggests that Antarctica's penguins are already suffering from warming temperatures. Now a group of researchers have combined what is known about emperor penguin ecology with forecasts from 10 leading climate change models to forecast the future of the species. It doesn't look good. The models predict that, unless fossil fuels are phased out, there is more than a one-in-three chance that 95% of the Adelie Land colony of eastern Antarctica - the best studied emperor penguin colony - will be gone by 2100.


Raw Story
- A few weeks ago, George Washington University Constitutional Law professor Jonathan Turley, while appearing on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann, essentially said that the Obama administration would "own" any war crimes -- such as the reported waterboarding of 9/11 suspect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- if it chose to look the other way. On Monday's show Turley went a little further and suggested that if Obama impedes investigations or prosecution that he wouldn't just be an "apologist," but also an "accessory.". . .


The Washington Post is no longer going to have a stand alone book section. Writes the NY Times: "The New York Times Book Review is now the largest remaining stand-alone Sunday tabloid section. . . In addition to being included in the Sunday paper, the Book Review is sold as a separate section on its own to 23,500 subscribers. An additional 4,200 sections are sold in bookstores across the country. The San Francisco Chronicle publishes an eight-page book review that is inserted into its Sunday Insight section, but has its own front cover and is designed to be pulled out, editor John McMurtrie said. . . The Los Angeles Times lost its stand-alone Sunday section in 2007."

Radar - Due to falling sales and a worsening economy, venerable humor mag Mad is giving up its monthly schedule to come out quarterly. The magazine, which began as a comic book in 1952 and shifted to magazine size with issue #24, sold 2 million copies at its peak. Current figures are roughly one-tenth that.


Phil Papers
is a comprehensive directory of online philosophy articles and books by academic philosophers. It monitors journals in many areas of philosophy, as well as archives and personal pages. It also accepts articles directly from users

New American Dream is a new progressive web site with politics, poetry and interviews. The spirit behind it is Mike Palecek, who has been a reporter, editor and publisher as well as being a Iowa Democratic Party nominee for the House of Representatives in 2000. He received 65,000 votes in a conservative district on an anti-military, anti-prison, pro-immigration platform, even after endorsing Ralph Nader over Al Gore.


Rules of Thumb -
If there are more than three cars in line ahead of you at a bank or fast-food drive-up window, you'll save time if you get out of the car and go inside. - Bill Lowe, Birmingham, Alabama


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