May 2009 Archives

Local scientists licensed Emulin, which they say can lower blood sugar.

By Kevin Bouffard The Ledger

Lake Alfred, FL - Two local scientists think they have unlocked the secret to a less toxic brownie.

OK, brownies aren't toxic for most people, but the sugar presents hazardous medical complications to 23.7 million diabetics in the U.S. and more than 250 million worldwide.
Joe Ahrens and Daryl Thompson, partners in ATM Metabolics, said they've discovered a natural compound that, when used as a food additive, can lower blood sugar in the human body. The partners have licensed their discovery, called "Emulin," for more than $100 million to one of the world's largest food ingredient companies, Ahrens said.

Citing a confidentiality agreement, Ahrens declined to name the company, but he described it as a European-based firm that provides sugars, starches and other food ingredients to food processors around the world. An official announcement from the company could take several months, Ahrens said. The deal culminates a six-year research effort that led to the February 2008 discovery of Emulin. The breakthrough sprang less from genius than from old-fashioned detective work, Ahrens said.

"Most people in science do not want to read the literature, and they miss the boat," he said from the company's Lake Alfred office. "We just did some old-fashioned, scientific gumshoe research."

One might call Emulin the fruits of their labors - tropical fruits, that is. The natural compound is derived from tropical fruits, such as citrus, grapes and a variety of berries. It aids the body in digesting and using sugars. "We found a way to make sugar safer for people," Thompson said.

Emulin won't help dieters, however, as it has no effect on the calories in the food product, Ahrens said. The ATM partners said they licensed their discovery with a food company because that's the fastest way to get Emulin into the market. Because it's a natural compound, Emulin would not require U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval as a food additive, he said. FDA regulations would prohibit any food product using Emulin from claiming to have a therapeutic effect, such as "prevents diabetes," Ahrens said, but it could make less definitive claims, such as helping to manage blood sugar levels.

Adding Emulin to a brownie or other sugary product would help diabetics because it would reduce the spike in blood sugar caused by such foods without the additive, Ahrens and Thompson said.

Blind Spot

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Blind Spot.

Its all interconnected and this film demonstrates how ignorant and stupid we all are. It has nothing to do with Gore and whether human caused global warming is real or not; those are mere side effects of a much larger dysfunction of humankind and the societal structures we build that threatens us all.

If you want to tell whether someone is conservative or liberal, what are a couple of completely nonpolitical questions that will give a good clue?

Would You Slap Your Father? If So, You're a Liberal

Nicholas D. Kristof

How's this: Would you be willing to slap your father in the face, with his permission, as part of a comedy skit?

And, second: Does it disgust you to touch the faucet in a public restroom?

Studies suggest that conservatives are more often distressed by actions that seem disrespectful of authority, such as slapping Dad. Liberals don't worry as long as Dad has given permission.

Likewise, conservatives are more likely than liberals to sense contamination or perceive disgust. People who would be disgusted to find that they had accidentally sipped from an acquaintance's drink are more likely to identify as conservatives.

The upshot is that liberals and conservatives don't just think differently, they also feel differently. This may even be a result, in part, of divergent neural responses.

This came up after I wrote a column earlier this year called "The Daily Me." I argued that most of us employ the Internet not to seek the best information, but rather to select information that confirms our prejudices. To overcome that tendency, I argued, we should set aside time for a daily mental workout with an ideological sparring partner. Afterward, I heard from Jonathan Haidt, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia. "You got the problem right, but the prescription wrong," he said.

Simply exposing people to counterarguments may not accomplish much, he said, and may inflame antagonisms.

A study by Diana Mutz of the University of Pennsylvania found that when people saw tight television shots of blowhards with whom they disagreed, they felt that the other side was even less legitimate than before.

The larger point is that liberals and conservatives often form judgments through flash intuitions that aren't a result of a deliberative process. The crucial part of the brain for these judgments is the medial prefrontal cortex, which has more to do with moralizing than with rationality. If you damage your prefrontal cortex, your I.Q. may be unaffected, but you'll have trouble harrumphing.

One of the main divides between left and right is the dependence on different moral values. For liberals, morality derives mostly from fairness and prevention of harm. For conservatives, morality also involves upholding authority and loyalty -- and revulsion at disgust.

Some evolutionary psychologists believe that disgust emerged as a protective mechanism against health risks, like feces, spoiled food or corpses. Later, many societies came to apply the same emotion to social "threats." Humans appear to be the only species that registers disgust, which is why a dog will wag its tail in puzzlement when its horrified owner yanks it back from eating excrement.

Psychologists have developed a "disgust scale" based on how queasy people would be in 27 situations, such as stepping barefoot on an earthworm or smelling urine in a tunnel. Conservatives systematically register more disgust than liberals. (To see how you weigh factors in moral decisions, take the tests at

It appears that we start with moral intuitions that our brains then find evidence to support. For example, one experiment involved hypnotizing subjects to expect a flash of disgust at the word "take." They were then told about Dan, a student council president who "tries to take topics that appeal to both professors and students."

The research subjects felt disgust but couldn't find any good reason for it. So, in some cases, they concocted their own reasons, such as: "Dan is a popularity-seeking snob."

So how do we discipline our brains to be more open-minded, more honest, more empirical? A start is to reach out to moderates on the other side -- ideally eating meals with them, for that breaks down "us vs. them" battle lines that seem embedded in us. (In ancient times we divided into tribes; today, into political parties.) The Web site is an attempt to build this intuitive appreciation for the other side's morality, even if it's not our morality.

"Minds are very hard things to open, and the best way to open the mind is through the heart," Professor Haidt says. "Our minds were not designed by evolution to discover the truth; they were designed to play social games."

Thus persuasion may be most effective when built on human interactions. Gay rights were probably advanced largely by the public's growing awareness of friends and family members who were gay.

A corollary is that the most potent way to win over opponents is to accept that they have legitimate concerns, for that triggers an instinct to reciprocate. As it happens, we have a brilliant exemplar of this style of rhetoric in politics right now -- Barack Obama.

Sermonette #546

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And the truth shall....


Dollhouse Saved

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One of my favorite shows has been saved from the dust bin. Yes!

dollhouse2.jpgGood news, Dollhouse is coming back for a second season. Maybe FOX will let Whedon do his thing for once. I heard they loved his new story arc. When will FOX learn that "stand alone" episodes don't usually work very well for Joss or most Sci-Fi shows if they want to build a loyal audience. We'll see. Here's a cool Whedon fan site.

Implausible Deniability

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Judging Empathy

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Stanley Fish takes on the concept of Obama's call for a Supreme Court appointee who brings empathy to jurisprudence. There's some interesting points involved. I fall on the side of the empathy team because law, to my mind, is a tool which should be in service to humanity rather than the reverse. Just because we can create an architecture that is a geometric wonder of internally consistent theorems we cannot expect that system to necessarily produce the more organic idea of justice, which is not, after all, what the system is intended to produce?

Empathy and the Law

Stanley Fish

President Obama wants Supreme Court justices who have empathy. What could be wrong with that, asks Dahlia Lithwick ("Once More, Without Feeling," "When did the simple act of recognizing that you are not the only one in the room become confused with lawlessness, activism, and social engineering?"

It may not be that simple. Obama's invocations of empathy combine a concern for the less advantaged with a theory of constitutional interpretation. Speaking to his choice to fill the seat soon to be vacated by Justice Souter, Obama said, "I will seek someone who understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a casebook; it is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives." That kind of judge, Obama explained, will have empathy: "I view the quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes."
The phrase "just decisions and outcomes" seems beyond reproach (who could object to it?), but many will hear it with suspicion and say, "Just outcomes would be nice and let's hope we have some, but what courts should deliver is legal outcomes." You might think that "legal" and "just" go together, and sometimes they do; but in the real world "just" and "legal" can come apart. A decision is just when it reflects an overarching vision of what is owed is to each man and woman. A decision is legal when it can be said to follow from established rules, statutes, precedents.
It is possible then that a legal decision, a decision that has a source and a pedigree in the laws that have been formally set down, could offend one's sense of justice. And, conversely, it is also possible that a decision widely regarded as substantively just -- yes, that's the way things should be -- could at the same time be seen as illegal, that is, as not following from the rules and principles of settled law. This is precisely the criticism that has been made of Brown v. Board of Education (most notably by Herbert Wechsler in his influential Harvard Law Review article "Toward Neutral Principles"); yes, the result is good, the critics acknowledge, but where, they ask, is its legal -- as opposed to its empathetic -- basis? And on the other side it was said, and is still said, that any jurisprudence that cannot accommodate Brown v. Board is a jurisprudence we must reject.
Indeed it has been argued, by Lon Fuller in a famous debate with H.L.A. Hart (Harvard Law Review, 1958), that a jurisprudence which generates outcomes offensive to justice doesn't deserve the name of law. It may come fully equipped with procedures, tests, distinctions and all the other marks of law, but it isn't law because, at its heart, it isn't good. The question Fuller and Hart debated is whether Nazi law was law. The positivist Hart said that law and morality are two distinct registers and that a system of law could be procedurally legitimate and at the same time rest on an immoral foundation. Fuller replied by distinguishing between "mere order" and "good order," and declared that a legal system "which clothes itself with a tinsel of legal form can so far depart from . . . the inner morality of law itself that it ceases to be a legal system."

Or so thinks the Krugman. I think he's right. Do not underestimate the levels of franticness that people who crave control can achieve once they have been so completely removed from the levers of power. How else to explain the goofy stuff they've been coming up with lately? And now Krugman points out that there are starting to be negative practical implications caused by their freakout.

State of Paralysis

Paul Krugman

insanity.jpgCalifornia, it has long been claimed, is where the future happens first. But is that still true? If it is, God help America.

The recession has hit the Golden State hard. The housing bubble was bigger there than almost anywhere else, and the bust has been bigger too. California's unemployment rate, at 11 percent, is the fifth-highest in the nation. And the state's revenues have suffered accordingly. What's really alarming about California, however, is the political system's inability to rise to the occasion.

Despite the economic slump, despite irresponsible policies that have doubled the state's debt burden since Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor, California has immense human and financial resources. It should not be in fiscal crisis; it should not be on the verge of cutting essential public services and denying health coverage to almost a million children. But it is -- and you have to wonder if California's political paralysis foreshadows the future of the nation as a whole.

Transcending the Human

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Its going to happen. Its just complexity thresholds. Quantity after a certain point does in fact produce new quality. I've always considered humanity an evolutionary stepping stone. We're as transitional as any other species has been, there's nothing special or fixed about our position in the tide except that we are the first major feedback loop that is involutional and well as evolutional.

The Coming Superbrain

John Markoff

Mountain View, Calif. -- It's summertime and the Terminator is back. A sci-fi movie thrill ride, "Terminator Salvation" comes complete with a malevolent artificial intelligence dubbed Skynet, a military R.&D. project that gained self-awareness and concluded that humans were an irritant -- perhaps a bit like athlete's foot -- to be dispatched forthwith.

The notion that a self-aware computing system would emerge spontaneously from the interconnections of billions of computers and computer networks goes back in science fiction at least as far as Arthur C. Clarke's "Dial F for Frankenstein." A prescient short story that appeared in 1961, it foretold an ever-more-interconnected telephone network that spontaneously acts like a newborn baby and leads to global chaos as it takes over financial, transportation and military systems.

cyborg.jpgToday, artificial intelligence, once the preserve of science fiction writers and eccentric computer prodigies, is back in fashion and getting serious attention from NASA and from Silicon Valley companies like Google as well as a new round of start-ups that are designing everything from next-generation search engines to machines that listen or that are capable of walking around in the world. A.I.'s new respectability is turning the spotlight back on the question of where the technology might be heading and, more ominously, perhaps, whether computer intelligence will surpass our own, and how quickly.

The concept of ultrasmart computers -- machines with "greater than human intelligence" -- was dubbed "The Singularity" in a 1993 paper by the computer scientist and science fiction writer Vernor Vinge. He argued that the acceleration of technological progress had led to "the edge of change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth." This thesis has long struck a chord here in Silicon Valley.

Artificial intelligence is already used to automate and replace some human functions with computer-driven machines. These machines can see and hear, respond to questions, learn, draw inferences and solve problems. But for the Singulatarians, A.I. refers to machines that will be both self-aware and superhuman in their intelligence, and capable of designing better computers and robots faster than humans can today. Such a shift, they say, would lead to a vast acceleration in technological improvements of all kinds.

Declares it torture after only 6 seconds.

Following in the footsteps of Christopher Hitchens and Mike Guy of Playboy, conservative Chicago radio shock-jock Eric 'Mancow' Muller decided to submit himself to a round of waterboarding on-air Friday, in this instance in order to prove that it is, in fact, not torture.

Turns out, however, things didn't quite go as planned for Muller, reports NBC Chicago:

With a Chicago Fire Department paramedic on hand, Mancow was placed on a 7-foot long table, his legs were elevated, and his feet were tied up.

Turns out the stunt wasn't so funny. Witnesses said Muller thrashed on the table, and even instantly threw the toy cow he was holding as his emergency tool to signify when he wanted the experiment to stop. He only lasted 6 or 7 seconds.

And the verdict: "It's way worse than I thought it would be," Muller said. And though he was somewhat loathe to admit, he found it to be "absolutely torture."

View more news videos at:

Komodo Myth Debunked

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Komodo dragons kill with venom, not bacteria, study says

zilla200.jpgA new study dispels the widely accepted theory that the Komodo dragon kills by infecting its prey with toxic bacteria. Instead, the world's largest lizard delivers a powerful bite with its serrated teeth and uses a powerful venom to bring down its victims.

Komodo dragons are native to the islands of Indonesia. They can weigh more than 220 pounds (100 kilograms) and grow up to 10 feet (3 meters) in length.

But their bites are not as strong as that of a crocodile, for example. And they cannot hold down their prey. So, researchers wondered, what lay behind the dragons' hunting success?

Until now, scientists thought the dragons infected their prey with bacteria that lurked in the bits of meat stuck between their teeth.

The explanation made sense, because many victims would not immediately fall. They'd wander off and collapse later, allowing the dragon to feast on the corpse at leisure.

The new study upends that theory.

It was conducted by a team of scientists led by Dr. Bryan Fry from the University of Melbourne in Australia.

According to their research, the dragon's bite weakens and immobilizes the prey. It then injects venom from special glands in the mouth.

The venom keeps blood from clotting around the prey's wound. And it causes a drop in the blood pressure. The blood loss and the blood pressure drop combine to weaken the animal.

The theory is consistent with what happens to the prey soon after it's bitten, the scientists said. The prey becomes still and unusually quiet, and it bleeds profusely.

"The combination of this specialized bite and venom seem to minimize the dragon's contact with its prey, and this allows it to take large animals," Fry said in a statement released by the University of Melbourne.

Since Washington Won't Discuss Single-Payer, What's The Strategy?

By Isaiah J. Poole

David Sirota's post Tuesday asks why Washington political leaders won't even discuss a single-payer health care system, with a leading Democrat going so far as to exclude single-payer advocates from participating in a Senate Finance Committee hearing last week at which several single-payer advocates ended up getting arrested

In a two-part interview on The Real News Network, Roger Hickey, who as co-director of the Institute for America's Future is working closely with the Health Care for America NOW! coalition, addressed the question by conceding that politicians aren't ready to make the leap.

"It's clear that the American political system right now is not going to deal with single-payer," Hickey tells Paul Jay of TRNN. "And it's not just the Senate, although that's the worst situation. There's a group of members of the House of Representatives who are supportive of single-payer, but they're a small minority. And everybody knows that when the deals get done and the bills get written, there is not going to be a pure single-payer bill on the table, or it will be on the table but off to the [side]."

Hickey and Health Care for America NOW! are leading the effort to get Congress to create a public health insurance plan that would compete with private plans. The fight in Congress right now, as Robert Borosage points out in his column today, is with insurance companies who want to protect their near-monopoly from a public plan that would curtail their ability to raise prices and reduce quality.

"The danger," Hickey says, "is that what we'll end up doing is like what they did in Massachusetts: requiring everybody to buy insurance, throwing subsidies that the insurance companies for the very poor, and creating a system where we pretending to be covering everybody but we're really not. And we are certainly not doing it in a way that challenges the prerogatives of the insurance companies in our system."

From Olbermann's WTF!?! segment:

According to gay marriage would provide $16 billion, 800 million to the economy - if gay marriage were allowed. Kind of squashing the idea that Republicans have put forward that gay marriages would hurt small business by increasing costs for spousal benefits.
WTF indeed.





Does it feel warm to you?

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View images from around the world that show signs of global warming.

Fires set by ranchers clearing forest in Norther Brazil.


Hey, at least they left a few trees standing and probably wiped out more than a few strains of virii that might've turned into huge future pandemics. Its a good thing, aight?

Ethical Killers

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Anybody want to be the beta tester?

Robot warriors will get a guide to ethics

By Eric Bland

robotwarrior.jpgSmart missiles, rolling robots, and flying drones currently controlled by humans, are being used on the battlefield more every day. But what happens when humans are taken out of the loop, and robots are left to make decisions, like who to kill or what to bomb, on their own?

Ronald Arkin, a professor of computer science at Georgia Tech, is in the first stages of developing an "ethical governor," a package of software and hardware that tells robots when and what to fire. His book on the subject, "Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots," comes out this month. He argues not only can robots be programmed to behave more ethically on the battlefield, they may actually be able to respond better than human soldiers.

As Smash-and-Grab Capitalism Collapses, the French Economy Shines

By William Pfaff

Many in Britain and the United States are in mourning for what's taken as the suicide of the American (or Thatcherite, or Chicago-school) model of capitalism, accompanied by the non-interventionist state that hands the national economy over to business and financial leaders to run.

Not least among the mourners ought to be The Economist magazine in London, a major part of whose charm has always been the insolent certitude with which it expresses its views. It is not a publication used to lunching on its own words. But The Economist too has become a victim of the world crisis, and its current issue's cover story pays a handsome tribute to the success of the formerly scorned, centralized, interventionist, Colbertist French economic model, and the state practices and values that support it.

"France's economy," it writes, "has been less hard hit than many. Its GDP is expected to shrink by 3 percent this year ... against 4 percent in Britain, 4.4 percent in Italy, and 5.6 percent in Germany. It is less dependent on exports than Germany, and consumer spending in the first quarter of 2009 was up on the same period last year. The government ... is set to have a deficit in 2009 (6.2 percent of GDP) well below those in America (13.6 percent) and Britain (9.8 percent)."

French household debt is half that in America, no bank has failed, none has been nationalized, executive pay is reasonable, and "the income gap between the top 10 percent and the bottom 10 percent is far smaller than in Britain or America." The country is crisscrossed by 230-mph TGV trains, 80 percent of the power is nuclear (and more is exported), its auto producers are in reasonably good shape, Air France is the most profitable airline in the world, and French-dominated Airbus sells more planes than Boeing.

The French are uncertain of what to make of this tribute, since self-denigration is (oddly enough) a national characteristic, and they have only recently elected Nicolas Sarkozy, another font of certitudes, who won the presidency while insisting to the French that the "French model" was obsolete and that France had to learn new ways to live by adopting the "Anglo-Saxon" model of laissez-faire capitalism, market freedom and financial innovation.

It is, of course, premature to say that what the French call capitalisme sauvage [unfettered capitalism] is dead. One doubts that it's really dead--the cadaver twitches; the Obama administration in the U.S. has yet to drive a stake through its heart. A decade from now, Barack Obama might well be discovered on the board of Goldman Sachs, and Timothy Geithner will almost certainly be there. But the capitalism they serve may not quite be the same.

The United States is certain to learn something from the French success in long-term state planning, infrastructure development and, one would hope, will build a vastly improved health system (the World Health Organization considers France's the best in the world) and other social protections.

The business model that has dominated the British and American economies since the 1960s, and been propagated worldwide, crashed because it is inherently unstable. It works in only one direction, to take value away from the real economy and give it to stockholders and bankers. It's an asset-stripping system that benefits company managers and directors, bankers, stock traders and financiers. To workers and their families, who in the past believed that they had a stake in the business economy, and to the communities suffering de-industrialization, it said, "Too bad, but you'll be better off in the long term--if you are still around."

To be fair, this was the unintended result of an ideological position of political origin, which claimed that unregulated property ownership is the fundamental right of a free society, and which in its American version subordinated the interests of the labor force and local and national communities to the pursuit of ever-higher returns on investment.

This doctrine concerning property rights historically was a reaction against the 20th century totalitarian communism that intended to destroy private property. While the modern economic system makes a natural appeal to greed, its theoretical origins lie in the work of certain Central European intellectuals--notably Frederick Hayek, Karl Popper and, to an extent, Joseph Schumpeter--who were exiles from the political crisis in Europe and fearful of the abuse of centralized government power.

The business model that Margaret Thatcher, her advisers and conservative Americans constructed from this foundation was condemned to its eventual self-destruction by its disequilibrium.

The classic English and Scottish economists (Adam Smith, David Ricardo, etc.) believed that a business enterprise was an agent of social benefit, in that it created goods and wealth, but also had obligations to its workforce and society as a whole. The same values are responsible for the "French model," and are now demonstrating that they can succeed in bad times as well as good.

from Media Matters

Karl Frish


This week one thing became abundantly clear: Media conservatives want to talk about torture -- well, not really; they want to blame House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for failing to stop the Bush administration's torture policies. You know, the policies conservatives contend worked great to keep us safe. Have trouble following their logic? That's sort of the point -- a shell game is designed to confuse the audience, forcing members of it to select the wrong shell and lose whatever money they've thrown on the table. There's little difference between that curbside gambling and what we're seeing now from conservatives.

In the process of focusing on what Pelosi and other congressional Democrats knew about the Bush administration's use of harsh interrogation techniques, as the GOP has advocated, some in the media have ignored evidence that the Bush administration began using the tactics in question before briefing congressional Democrats, and that upon learning of the techniques in 2003, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee expressed concerns to the CIA, but did not have the authority to force a change. Indeed, according to a May 2005 Bush Justice Department memo, following the Bush administration's authorization of the harsh interrogation techniques, CIA officials used one of the most controversial techniques, waterboarding, on Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah in August 2002 -- before any congressional Democrats had been briefed on any of the tactics. According to the same Justice Department memo, CIA officials waterboarded Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in March 2003 -- after Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) had reportedly raised concerns to the CIA about the techniques in February 2003.

As Chrystia Freeland, U.S. managing editor of the Financial Times, said on MSNBC's Morning Joe, "[M]aking Nancy Pelosi into the big culprit of waterboarding is to move the spotlight to the wrong place." She's spot on, but that's just what we've seen this week.

In fact, Greg Sargent from The Washington Post Co.'s Plum Line blog detailed a crucial point about the ongoing Bizarro World coverage of the torture "debate" and how the forgotten issue of why the Bush administration OK'd the use of torture has morphed into a question about the credibility of Democrats. Wrote Sargent, "Multiple news accounts this morning report that Pelosi's credibility is in question after yesterday's press conference, in which she accused the CIA of lying about what they told members of Congress about the agency's use of torture. This theme was sounded by MSNBC, WaPo's Dan Balz, the New York Times write-up, and many others. That's as it should be. But I challenge you to find a news account that stated with equal prominence that the CIA's credibility is also in question."

To illustrate just how far off the deep end media conservatives have jumped, we need look no further than Fox News' Dick Morris -- master of the disingenuous -- who this week expressed his interesting opinion that Pelosi should "step down" because "it is in the best interest of the American people."

Morris wasn't alone. More and more, Fox News' attention to this story is beginning to look like an all-out campaign to boot the California Democrat from the speaker's chair.

The same day Morris made his comments, on America's Newsroom, Fox News contributor Andrea Tantaros stated, "I think the Democrats need to come out and call for her to tell the truth or resign, because she is really -- she's hurting her colleagues." When co-host Megyn Kelly asked Tantaros, "Is it that bad? Are we at the point where a resignation demand should be made?" Tantaros responded, "Absolutely. And I think her colleagues need to do it. I think they need to call for her to either come out, tell what she knew, when she knew it, testify. If they find her to be lying, then she needs to step down."

Additionally, on the next day's edition of America's Newsroom, Kelly asked Rep. Steve King (R-IA) of Pelosi: "[C]an she be held accountable, if indeed the American public believes that she lied, if the members of the House believe that she lied, and on top of lying, she then threw our CIA under the bus? What can be done to take away the speakership? What would be the procedure for that?" The same day, the supposedly unbiased Fox Nation, a Fox News website, also posted the headline "Watch Nancy Twist in the Wind: Is Her Speakership in Jeopardy?"

I see your question, Fox Nation, and I'll raise you one: "Will Fox News' incessant twisting of the truth in pursuit of Speaker Pelosi's scalp further call into question the right-wing cable network's journalistic integrity?" In a word, yes.

Humans Rule

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Conservative Momentum

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Bacteria Talk

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We're all aware that bacteria are becoming more and more resistant to antibiotics and that it represents a huge future problem. Or did. Check out this new approach to the problem that promises an entirely new field that uses the communication between bacteria to control or eliminate their ability to act in concert to produce collective pathogenic behavior.

What and When did Pelsosi Know?

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It doesn't matter. There's nothing she could have done about any torture techniques.

Congress's Torture Bubble

By Vicki Divoll

Just four members of Congress were notified in 2002 when the Central Intelligence Agency's "enhanced interrogation techniques" program was first approved and carried out, according to documents released by the agency last week. They were Senators Bob Graham and Richard Shelby and Representatives Porter Goss and Nancy Pelosi, then the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate and House intelligence committees -- the so-called "Gang of Four." Each was briefed orally and it was understood that they were not to speak about the program with anyone, including their colleagues on the committees.

It's logical to ask, so what if it was only four members? If they objected to the program, why didn't they take steps to change it or stop it? Maybe they should have tried. But as a practical matter, there was very little, if anything, the Gang of Four could have done to affect the Bush administration's decision on the enhanced interrogation techniques program. To stop it, they needed the whole Congress.

The framers of the Constitution gave aggregate, not individual, powers to the legislative branch. For the Gang of Four to have waved their arms and yelled at mid-level C.I.A. briefers, or written harsh letters to the president and vice president, would have been useless. Four members do not have the ability, on their own, to bring the great weight of the constitutional authority of Congress to bear.

There are C.I.A. "covert action" activities -- like the detention and interrogation program -- that because of their significance, and risks, require participation from both the White House and the Congressional intelligence committees in their initiation and oversight. The National Security Act defines covert action programs as those designed "to influence political, economic, or military conditions abroad, where it is intended that the role of the United States government will not be apparent or acknowledged publicly."

The C.I.A. is prohibited by law from conducting covert action activities without express presidential approval -- and this is not a requirement that the agency takes lightly. The National Security Act also requires that when the president approves a covert action program the two Congressional intelligence committees shall be "notified." The committees do not have disapproval power, nor can they force changes at that time. But the law does require the executive branch to provide timely, written notice to the full committees -- which together consist of fewer than 40 members -- of the plans.

It is unlawful for the executive branch to limit notification, as it did here, to the Gang of Four. There is no such entity recognized in the National Security Act. Federal law does provide, however, for notification of fewer lawmakers than the full intelligence committees, but only when "extraordinary circumstances affecting vital interests of the United States" are at stake. Under those very limited situations, the notification may be to the "Gang of Eight," which includes the majority and minority leadership of the House and Senate, in addition to the intelligence committee leaders.

It should be noted that there is a legal argument that the interrogation program was merely foreign intelligence "collection," and not "covert action" at all, because it was used to elicit information that already existed in the minds of the detainees. In that case, there is no exception in the law for Gangs of Four or Eight, and every member of the two committees should have been notified.

What it boils down to is this: many of the laws mandating Congressional notification of covert action programs were enacted after the Senate's Church Committee hearings in the late 1970s had revealed widespread abuses by the intelligence agencies domestically and overseas. The House and Senate intelligence committees -- created at that time -- were designed to be the "eyes and ears" of the full Congress on significant intelligence activities. These committees were entrusted with the faith of the American people to oversee aggressive intelligence operations done in all of our names, and to ensure that they are necessary, effective and consistent with American laws and values.

Learned something today

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Originally posted by Pinhook:

The address [by Obama] is to the Arabic-speaking world, half of which is Egyptian. And a tenth of Egyptians are Christian, the Coptic variety that's been around a long time.

To conflate the Arabic-speaking world with the "Muslim world" is a common error, that even this journalist makes.

Indonesians -- the largest Muslim country in the world -- pay about as much attention to Egypt as we Americans pay to that other large "Christian" country, Brazil.

Stewart on Wanda

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Mental Gender Bender

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Following the logics of this one is really a looping affair.
Try it on and see how far you get.

Is My Marriage Gay?

By Jennifer Finney Boylan

AS many Americans know, last week Gov. John Baldacci of Maine signed a law that made this state the fifth in the nation to legalize gay marriage. It's worth pointing out, however, that there were some legal same-sex marriages in Maine already, just as there probably are in all 50 states. These are marriages in which at least one member of the couple has changed genders since the wedding.

I'm in such a marriage myself and, quite frankly, my spouse and I forget most of the time that there is anything particularly unique about our family, even if we are -- what is the phrase? -- "differently married."

Deirdre Finney and I were wed in 1988 at the National Cathedral in Washington. In 2000, I started the long and complex process of changing from male to female. Deedie stood by me, deciding that her life was better with me than without me. Maybe she was crazy for doing so; lots of people have generously offered her this unsolicited opinion over the years. But what she would tell you, were you to ask, is that the things that she loved in me have mostly remained the same, and that our marriage, in the end, is about a lot more than what genders we are, or were.

Deirdre is far from the only spouse to find herself in this situation; each week we hear from wives and husbands going through similar experiences together. Reliable statistics on transgendered people always prove elusive, but just judging from my e-mail, it seems as if there are a whole lot more transsexuals -- and people who love them -- in New England than say, Republicans. Or Yankees fans.

I've been legally female since 2002, although the definition of what makes someone "legally" male or female is part of what makes this issue so unwieldy. How do we define legal gender? By chromosomes? By genitalia? By spirit? By whether one asks directions when lost?

We accept as a basic truth the idea that everyone has the right to marry somebody. Just as fundamental is the belief that no couple should be divorced against their will.

For our part, Deirdre and I remain legally married, even though we're both legally female. If we had divorced last month, before Governor Baldacci's signature, I would have been allowed on the following day to marry a man only. There are states, however, that do not recognize sex changes. If I were to attempt to remarry in Ohio, for instance, I would be allowed to wed a woman only.

Gender involves a lot of gray area. And efforts to legislate a binary truth upon the wide spectrum of gender have proven only how elusive sexual identity can be. The case of J'noel Gardiner, in Kansas, provides a telling example. Ms. Gardiner, a postoperative transsexual woman, married her husband, Marshall Gardiner, in 1998. When he died in 1999, she was denied her half of his $2.5 million estate by the Kansas Supreme Court on the ground that her marriage was invalid. Thus in Kansas, any transgendered person who is anatomically female is now allowed to marry only another woman.

Go Wanda!

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Wanda Sykes got rough at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. Great job.

Part 1

Part 2

Watch the vid and see.

How many police does it take to silence the voice of the people?

That's a question a despot might ask in a totalitarian police state. But this week the Senate Finance Committee thought it was a hilarious joke as they ejected one brave activist after another, for protesting that not even one spokesperson for single payer health care was being allowed to sit at the hearing table. Yes, Senator Max Baucus (MT), who had preemptively declared that consideration of a single payer option was off the table, actually joked "We need more police." [1:58 on video] And the rest of the Senate panel just laughed their heads off.

Senator Chuck Grassley (IA), the ranking Republican, not to be outdone in his contempt for the people, then asked if there was "somewhere they can watch it on television [2:05 on video]," which elicted additional hearty guffaws. Yes, what a wonderful entertaining show that would be, the spectacle of the will of the people being excluded while corporate special interests, like butchers, carve up our pocketbooks and our bodies.

It's time for the U.S. Senate to get the message that we the people are not just a joke to be laughed off. Why is it that not ONE senator on that committee has the integrity to stand up for a even handed debate of health care issues? Why should any of them be elected to public office ever again?


"Put Single Payer Health Care On The Table Now."

GOP Bumper Sticker?

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from Huff Post

"Outrage," a new documentary from filmmaker Kirby Dick, takes issue with the secret lives of closeted gay politicians -- especially conservative Republicans who outwardly oppose gay rights.

The film, which premiered last week at the Tribeca Film Festival, features tell-alls from men who say they've had relationships with various Republicans, including Florida Governor Charlie Crist, Bush strategist Ken Mehlman and former Senator Larry Craig.

According to Magnolia Pictures, "Outrage" is a "searing indictment of the hypocrisy of closeted politicians with appalling gay rights voting records who actively campaign against the LGBT community they covertly belong to."

In the documentary, Dick lambastes the mainstream media for not better investigating the politicians' "hypocrisy" and double lives. He told New York magazine that the film explores "the issues surrounding closeted politicians and their hypocrisy in voting anti-gay -- and how these people have harmed millions of Americans for many years."

"Outrage" premieres May 8 in five cities, including Washington, D.C.

"Outrage" Documentary:

Stand With Dr Dean

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Give America a choice. We support healthcare reform that allows individual Americans to choose either a universally available public healthcare option like Medicare or for-profit private insurance. A public option is the only way to guarantee healthcare for all Americans and its inclusion is non- negotiable.

Any legislation without the choice of a public option is only insurance reform and not the healthcare reform America needs.


The Future of Food at Hulu is a must see look at the facts behinds genetically modified food and the corporations who patent it.

"The Future of Food provides an excellent overview of the key questions raised by consumers as they become aware of GM foods... [The film] draws questions to critical attention about food production that need more public debate."

--- Film Review by Thomas J. Hoban,
Nature Biotechnology Magazine,
March 2005, Volume 23 No. 3

"If you eat food, you need to see The Future of Food..."


"This stylish film is not just for food faddists and nutritionists.
It is a look at something we might not want to see: Monsanto, Roundup and Roundup-resistant seeds, collectively wreaking havoc on American farmers and our agricultural neighbors around the world. In the end, this documentary is a eloquent call to action."

--- The Telluride Daily Planet

Black Cat Sunday Message

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Job Search

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Warhead Engineer

Job Description:

Our client is a leading national provider of cutting-edge securities technology seeking an experienced Engineer specializing in missile creation. This position as the Warhead Engineer includes efforts in support of development activities as well as on-going production.

The primary responsibility for this position is technical cognizance of warhead development, missile integration, warhead qualification, and system level qualification. You will be responsible for all technical aspects of the program, including technical oversight and performance evaluations of any subcontracted warhead design and/or manufacturing and support of evaluation and qualification testing, working with procurement and quality, and reporting to a Program Manager.

The Warhead Engineer will also be responsible to provide support to on-going warhead production. As a member of the supplier IPT, the Warhead Engineer will participate in status meetings, review documentation changes, review test plans and reports, and participate in FRB activities, and will investigate and analyze root cause of any excessive variability in production lot acceptance tests.

Candidates for this placement are required to have working knowledge of and / or experience with warhead design, warhead performance assessment (computer modeling), production, and testing (performance, safety, environmental).

Job Experience:

  • Bachelor's Degree from an accredited college in a related discipline, with 9 years of professional experience; or 7 years of professional experience with a related Master's Degree
  • Working knowledge of and / or experience with warhead design, warhead performance assessment (computer modeling), production, and testing (performance, safety, environmental)
  • Must have experience in the area of ordnance development or high-energy explosives
  • Experience with finite element modeling, high-speed target impact simulation and warhead testing is a plus

***Must be able to obtain a security clearance***

Minimum Education Required: Bachelor

Years of Experience Required: More than 5 years

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