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

May 1, 2009




Pro Publica
- Our ever-watchful Change Tracker tool spied a flurry of activity at whitehouse.gov yesterday - the administration updated more than two dozen web pages. Changes included some sweeping edits and complete rewrites to "The Agenda" area of the site, now renamed as "Issues." A few specific changes we noticed:

- The Iraq page was deleted and replaced with a single paragraph on the foreign policy page.

- Like many issues pages the civil rights page was dramatically cut. 756 words devoted to supporting the LGBT community have been replaced with two sentences.


JTA - Prosecutors asked a judge to drop charges against two ex-AIPAC staffers accused of passing along classified information. The acting U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia said restrictions on the government's case imposed by Judge T.S. Ellis III made conviction unlikely. Given the diminished likelihood the government will prevail at trial under the additional intent requirements imposed by the court and the inevitable disclosure of classified information that would occur at any trial in this matter, we have asked the court to dismiss the indictment," Dana Boente said. The motion all but guarantees a dismissal. . . The dropping of the case comes just days before the start Sunday of AIPAC's annual policy conference in Washington.

Philip Weiss reports that ten billboards opposing aid to Israel, mounted in the Albuquerque area, have been removed despite a contract to leave them up for eight weeks. No explanation at this point.


TMZ - The folks at Porky's BBQ said their number one seller -- the juicy, tasty, mouth-watering pulled pork -- has dropped in sales by 40 percent since the "epidemic" struck Earth.


BBC - Scientists have identified why excessive fertilization of soils is resulting in a loss of plant diversity. Extra nutrients allow fast growing plants to dominate a habitat, blocking smaller species' access to vital sunlight, researchers have found. As a result, many species are disappearing from affected areas. A team from the University of Zurich, writing in Science, warned that tighter controls were needed in order to prevent widespread biodiversity loss.


Dean Baker, Prospect - How Do You Distinguish an "Enraged" Republican from a Republican Who Claims to Be "Enraged?" I don't know the answer to that one but perhaps the [Washington] Post can tell us. It told readers that Republican members of Congress "were enraged" over the $1.2 trillion deficit projected for the 2010 budget. Given that the major cause of the deficit is an economic crisis brought about by the policies pursued by a Republican president, some people may wonder whether the Republicans really were enraged, as opposed to just trying to score political points. However, the Post was able to determine that the Republican rage was genuine. Perhaps they can share their method for distinguishing real rage from feigned outrage with their readers.


St Louis Today • A woman has filed a lawsuit against Chuck E Cheese, claiming the beloved mouse character at a child-theme restaurant put his paws where they didn't belong. Jennifer Sorbello, 22, of Arnold, filed the suit in St. Louis County Circuit Court, accusing a man dressed in the mascot costume, William Thigpen, of groping her breast. . . "He looked at her, reached out, grabbed her breast and moved along," said Mark Potashnick, Sorbello's attorney. "Her jaw dropped in shock and disgust."

NY Post - Teresa Tambunting, who is charged with stealing as much as $12 million in gold from her Queens jewelry-manufacturer employer, gave a wry grin when she spotted a Post photographer outside her Scarsdale home yesterday. Tambunting allegedly swiped 500 pounds of gold belonging to Jacmel Jewelry by stashing small pieces in her handbag with a false bottom over six years. Sources said the 50-year-old married mother of three may have a form of obsessive-control disorder that leads her to hoard items, including the gold. Investigators have recovered about $7.3 million in gold pieces that Tambunting allegedly kept stashed in 12 large plastic treasure chests in her home. But they are still probing what happened to another $4.7 million of gold that could still be missing.


The Review is moving soon to its New England regional office on Casco Bay, Maine, but will leave an occasional note for readers in its DC homeland.

Excellent piece by Harry Jaffe about the wonderful Tom Blagburn who just died. As Jaffe notes: " Before community policing became a buzz phrase, Blagburn was building bridges between cops and schools and government agencies and churches. He saw decades ago that the fabric of Washington’s urban community was in tatters, and he sought to knit it back together."

According to the Post, cab drivers are complaining that income is down 30% thanks to the switch to meters (of which the Review was a lonely opponent). Now the powers that be want to suspend the cab driver licensing course for more than two years to prevent a "potentially catastrophic oversupply" of new cabbies. Michael Neibauer tells the grim story of a legislative body in the midst of the worst recession since the 1930s actually trying to prevent people from getting a job - and a job that historically has been one of the most important for local upward mobility.


Above the Law - Mark Levy, Washington-based counsel and chair of Kilpatrick Stockton's Supreme Court and Appellate Advocacy practice, died in the firm's D.C. office. . .

"We in the legal community are losing someone who is hard to replace," says Kilpatrick Stockton partner Dennis Gingold, who has worked with Levy and calls him one of the District's finest appellate lawyers.

In fact Levy had been laid off a couple of days earlier


Russ Baker Podcast - Russ Baker's Family of Secrets is a difficult and disturbing book, but a very important one. Russ, an investigative journalist for twenty years, has a propensity to follow the trail of a story wherever it leads, often to the consternation of others. Here, he's taken several years to trace out the Bush family's involvement in political intrigue and intelligence skullduggery. He places, for example, "Poppy" Bush in the middle of both the JFK assassination and Nixon's Watergate drama. Not speculatively, mind you, but in a massively documented way. It's shocking and frightening material, too much for the mainstream media to handle. Nevertheless, book blurbs from the likes of Roger Morris and Bill Moyers attest to its legitimacy. Russ scrupulously avoids drawing conclusions that can't be proven - actually, a weakness of the book, in my view - letting documented facts speak for themselves. - George Kenney, Electric Politics


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