UNDERNEWS

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

February 23, 2009

BREVITAS

OBAMALAND

WCCO
- The Obama administration, siding with former President George W. Bush, is trying to kill a lawsuit that seeks to recover what could be millions of missing White House e-mails. Two advocacy groups suing the Executive Office of the President say that large amounts of White House e-mail documenting Bush's eight years in office may still be missing, and that the government must undertake an extensive recovery effort. They expressed disappointment that Obama's Justice Department is continuing the Bush administration's bid to get the lawsuits dismissed.

Telegraph UK -
Obama has been embroiled in a cronyism row after reports that he intends to make Louis Susman, one of his biggest fundraisers, the new US ambassador in London. The selection of Mr Susman, a lawyer and banker from the president's hometown of Chicago, rather than an experienced diplomat, raises new questions about Mr Obama's commitment to the special relationship with Britain. . . Mr Susman's reputation for hoovering large amounts of cash from deep pockets saw him nicknamed "the vacuum cleaner" when he raised more than $240million for John Kerry's White House bid in 2004.

WAR DEPARTMENT

Blackwater
is still in Iraq and still a bunch of mercenaries no democracy should have, but at least they have recognized where they stand in American society and thus have changed their name to Xe.

MID EAST

Guardian, UK -
Detailed evidence has emerged of Israel's extensive use of US-made weaponry during its war in Gaza last month, including white phosphorus artillery shells, 500 lb bombs and Hellfire missiles. In a report, Amnesty International detailed the weapons used and called for an immediate arms embargo on Israel and all Palestinian armed groups. It called on the Obama administration to suspend military aid to Israel. The US has long been the largest arms supplier to Israel; under a current 10-year agreement negotiated by the Bush administration the US will provide $30 bn in military aid to Israel.

Tikun Okam - the Israel lobby is up in arms over this one! Former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Chas W. Freeman, will be appointed to head the National Intelligence Council. . . JTA provides the "damning" evidence of Freeman's heresy: "In 2005 remarks to the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, Freeman said that 'as long as the United States continues unconditionally to provide the subsidies and political protection that make the Israeli occupation and the high-handed and self-defeating policies it engenders possible, there is little, if any, reason to hope that anything resembling the former peace process can be resurrected. Israeli occupation and settlement of Arab lands is inherently violent. And as long as such Israeli violence against Palestinians continues, it is utterly unrealistic to expect that Palestinians will stand down from violent resistance and retaliation against Israelis.'. . . In 2008, in a speech to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Security Studies Program, he said, 'We have reflexively supported the efforts of a series of right-wing Israeli governments to undo the Oslo accords and to pacify the Palestinians rather than make peace with them."

ECO CLIPS

Mayor Gavin Newsom, San Francisco -
San Francisco has taken an important first step toward creating the electric vehicle infrastructure of the future [with] installation of electric vehicle charging stations in front of San Francisco City Hall. These stations - called Smartlets - are on loan to the city from Coulomb Technologies. Car-sharing companies Zipcar and City Car Share will use two of the charging stations - giving the public the opportunity to drive plug-in vehicles before they are mass produced. The third charging station will be used by a plug-in car in the City of San Francisco municipal fleet. We have the highest number of hybrid cars owners in the United States.

Washington Post - A virulent new version of a deadly fungus is ravaging wheat in Kenya's most fertile fields and spreading beyond Africa to threaten one of the world's principal food crops, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization. Stem rust, a killer that farmers thought they had defeated 50 years ago, surfaced here in 1999, jumped the Red Sea to Yemen in 2006 and turned up in Iran last year. Crop scientists say they are powerless to stop its spread and increasingly frustrated in their efforts to find resistant plants.

Guardian, UK - An expert advisory committee has been quietly scrapped after it warned the future safety of Britain's ageing nuclear plants was being put at risk by poor performance, delays and budget cuts. The Nuclear Safety Advisory Committee, which has been offering critical advice to Britain's health and safety watchdog for nearly 50 years, was disbanded without any public announcement. . . Some former members privately suspect that NUSAC was shut down in October because it could have hampered government plans for a new program of nuclear reactors. "This was just the time to get rid of a potential pest and spanner in the works of the brave new world of nuclear regulation and build," said one.

MEDIA

Bloomberg -
The owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News filed for bankruptcy amid declining advertising sales, more than 2 years after a buyout led by local businessman Brian Tierney.

US News - Former White House press secretary Dana Perino says that when she got into the business, some 97 percent of all queries came in a phone call. "Now, that's flipped," she says. And while that has cut down on misquotes, it's put a damper on personal relationships between reporters and sources. . . After cleaning out her E-mail inbox one weekend in her last month, she found 2,071 new E-mails waiting for her the following Monday, mostly from reporters.

CYBER NOTES

CNET -
Microsoft says it made an accounting error when it laid off some employees last month and now feels the best way to correct the error is with what will likely add up to a public relations blunder. The software giant, which recently laid off 1,400 employees, sent letters to some of those former workers letting them know that their severance payouts were a bit too "generous" and respectfully requested that the former employees pay back that money. . . The company declined to specify how many of these letters were sent out, and it's unknown how much the overpayments total, but it did indicate that some laid-off employees were also undercompensated.

DRUG BUSTS

Wise Perception -
Cannabis is a safer drug than aspirin and can be used long-term without serious side effects, says a book by a leading Oxford scientist. The Science of Marijuana, by Dr Leslie Iversen of Oxford University's department of pharmacology, found many "myths" surrounding marijuana use, such as extreme addictiveness, or links with mental illness or infertility are not supported by science. He also found cannabis is an inherently "safe drug" which does not lead to cancer, infertility, brain damage or mental illness. Legalization of the drug for medical conditions should be considered, he says. . . The author, a fellow of the prestigious Royal Society, found cannabis was far less toxic than other drugs and had "an impressive record" compared with heroin, cocaine or tobacco and alcohol.

INDICATORS

NY Times - Demand at food banks across the country increased by 30 percent in 2008 from the previous year, according to a survey by Feeding America, which distributes more than two billion pounds of food every year. And instead of their usual drop in customers after the holidays, many pantries in upscale suburbs this year are seeing the opposite. . . The number of food-stamp recipients was up by 17 percent across New York State, and 12 percent in New Jersey, in November from a year before. When a mobile unit of the Essex County welfare office, as part of a pilot program to distribute food-stamp applications in other counties, stopped in Shop-Rite parking lots recently in Morris County, it was swamped.

New Scientist - A study of racial discrimination in the US workplace suggests that mixed-race Americans are discriminated against just as much as black people in terms of salary. . . An analysis of more than 3 million respondents revealed the average pay was $15.74 per hour for people of mixed race, $17.39 for black people and $22.04 for white people. This was despite the fact that 18 per cent of mixed-race people had college degrees, compared with 11 per cent of black people and 28 per cent of white people. The wage gap remained even after Fairlie controlled for factors such as age and socioeconomic conditions.

Pew Research - When asked whether they would rather live in a neighborhood with more McDonald's or more Starbucks, Americans manage to typecast themselves by just about every demographic and ideological characteristic under the sun; overall, more Americans choose McDonalds (43%) over Starbucks (35%), but the split is more pronounced -- and rather predictable -- when analyzed demographically. Liberals want coffee; conservatives choose burgers. Younger Americans vote for caffeine; older Americans decidedly pick the value menu. When one controls for all the factors tested, the variables that do the most to explain whether someone chooses Starbucks over McDonalds are: having a college degree, having a high income, being a liberal, being a Westerner and being a woman.

LOCAL HEROES

Washington Post - Maryland Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr.'s intent wasn't so much to create a law as to spark a debate on how the National Guard should be used in time of war. Madaleno's bill would allow the governor to prohibit the federal deployment of the Maryland Guard unless Congress authorizes the use of military force or passes a declaration of war. It declares that the authorization of force that Congress passed in 2002 for the Iraq invasion is no longer valid because "Iraq does not pose a continuing threat to the national security of the United States." Madaleno (D-Montgomery) said the Maryland Guard's repeated deployments in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts have exhausted its resources and worn out equipment that is needed on the home front in case of an emergency, such as a hurricane or tornado. . . "The ongoing use of the National Guard puts a huge strain on emergency services in every state," he said. "And if we're going to have these long deployments in open-ended conflicts, we have to figure out what their role is.". . . The legislation is part of a broader movement called "Bring the Guard Home," in which a collection of peace organizations have promoted similar legislation, none successful, in other states. And it follows attempts by other states to limit the amount the Guard can be called to federal duty. In 2005, for example, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer asked the Pentagon to return his state's citizen-soldiers from Iraq so that they could help combat wildfires. The request was denied

FURTHERMORE. . .

Clinton Still in Denial -
In [an] interview with CNN, Clinton . . . vehemently denied that the repeal of Glass-Steagall or his administration's housing policies helped cause the financial crisis. - Time

New Scientist
- Last year a single letter written by Albert Einstein changed hands for over $400,000. But could a printout of an email or an electronic file ever reach similar heights?. . . Booksellers, collectors and libraries are already trading in digital objects, Joan Winterkorn, of antiquarian booksellers Bernard Quaritch, told attendees at the Digital Lives conference at the British Library earlier this week. . . So far, however, digital archives have been traded as just a small fraction of a larger, mainly paper-based, archive, and to date the paper component has largely driven the prices achieved. Indeed, no-one is quite sure how much the digital ephemera of an author's work are worth.

Rules of Thumb - When reciting sonnets while walking briskly, figure fourteen sonnets per mile. . . . You should be able to balance a good conductor's baton one and one quarter inch up the shaft from the handle. If it balances any further up the shaft than that, you will find yourself holding the baton incorrectly to compensate. Your arm will get tired.

We have long admired the entries in the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for academics featured in the Annals of Improbable Research. From time to time, we will share some of the entries. . . Ryan Phillips has joined the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists. He says: "I am a first year Pharmacology graduate student at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and a member of the MD/PhD program. I use capillary electrophoresis to measure enzyme activity in single cells."



2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blackwater is a term used in water management to denote water contaminated with feces.

February 23, 2009 6:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How many studies on pot is it going to take before we remember that it was one of THE economic forces until after WWII?

It's ironic that people accuse pot smokers of being stupid and brain dead. Denying the usefullness of cannabis is pretty damned stupid.

Let's hope the sea is changing.

And how about some fashionable hemp clothes, already? Is that too much to ask?

February 25, 2009 12:36 AM  

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