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96 posts from April 2006

April 30, 2006

Sunday Sermonette: Chuck Colson's prison indoctrination

The Justice Department is planning a faith-based pre-release program. Well, if by "faith" you mean Chuck Colson's brand of evangelical Christianity...

The Justice Department plans to set aside cellblocks at up to half a dozen federal prisons for an ambitious pilot program to prepare inmates for release. But it has produced an outcry by saying that it wants a private group to counsel the prisoners according to a single faith.

The plans do not specify what that faith must be, but they appear to rule out secular counseling or programs that offer inmates guidance in a variety of faiths.

The Washington-based advocacy group Americans United for Separation of Church and State charged in a letter to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales that the Justice Department's Bureau of Prisons has tailored its bidding requirements to fit one particular program: an immersion in evangelical Christianity offered by Charles W. Colson's Prison Fellowship Ministries. [WaPo]

Yes, that's the Watergate Chuck Colson.

Via The Raw Story.

Iran attacks Iraq

The BBC is reporting that Iranian troops entered Northern Iraq and shelled Kurdish rebels, according to Iraqi officials. The Iraqi defense ministry says that Iranian forces made a similar incursion on April 21:

Iraqi Kurdish officials had said Iranian forces shelled Iranian Kurdish rebel positions inside northern Iraq on April 21 to repel an attack, wounding at least four civilians.

"Iranian forces bombed border areas in the Haj Umran area, the Iranian forces crossed 5 km over the border and bombed Lolan with more than 180 heavy artillery shells targeting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)," a ministry statement said. [Reuters]

The Iranians were targeting PKK guerrillas, not Iraqi or US forces. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, Washington and Tehran have to say about these incidents.

John Kenneth Galbraith dies at 97

The renowned liberal economist John Kenneth Galbraith died Saturday at the age of 97. [BBC]

I read "The New Industrial State" around the time I started my former life in advertising. The whole enterprise came into focus for me when I read Galbraith's characterization of the advertising industry as "the apparatus of persuasion and exhortation."

April 29, 2006

Lester Pearson, Illuminati Tool

Via belledamme222 of Fetch me my axe, what may be one of the greatest crackpot conspiracy theories of all time:

Lester Pearson, Illuminati Tool

Ex-FDA chief faces criminal charges

Former FDA commissioner Dr. Lester M. Crawford is facing criminal charges:

Dr. Crawford resigned in September, fewer than three months after the Senate confirmed him. He said then that it was time for someone else to lead the agency.

The next month, financial disclosure forms released by the Department of Health and Human Services showed that in 2004 either Dr. Crawford or his wife, Catherine, had sold shares in companies regulated by the agency when he was its deputy commissioner and acting commissioner. He has since joined a Washington lobbying firm, Policy Directions Inc.

The criminal investigation was disclosed at a court hearing in a lawsuit over the F.D.A.'s actions on the emergency contraceptive Plan B, a subject of bitter contention during Dr. Crawford's tenure as acting commissioner and commissioner. After the pill's maker, Barr Laboratories, applied three years ago to sell the pill over the counter, the agency repeatedly delayed making a decision on the application. [NYT]

News of the criminal case against Crawford came to light because of a civil suit over delays in the approval of Plan B.

April 28, 2006

Got plans for May Day?

Chris Kromm wonders why so few lefty bloggers are talking about the No Work, No School, No Sales, and No Buying-day to support immigrant rights on May 1:

What's going on? Why is the progressive blogosphere so completely out of touch? Is it because most of them closely identify with partisan politics, and the Democratic Party doesn't have a very clear position on the immigration issue? Is it due to a racial blindspot in the blogosphere, connected to its demographic make-up (and yes, I know Markos at DKos hails from El Salvador; I'm talking about the larger reality)? Do they not understand the historic nature of this movement?

Good question. Personally, I haven't said much about immigration issues because I don't know very much about progressive immigration policy alternatives.

I think that Chris's hypotheses are all plausible. I'm sure that racial, geographical, linguistic, and institutional factors contribute to the relatively low profile of immigration issues in the lefty blogosphere. However, I doubt that big liberal bloggers are deliberately shying away from this subject because of divisions in the Democratic Party.

I think the biggest stumbling block is that liberal bloggers get most of their raw material from the mainstream media, supplemented by direct PR outreach from interest groups. I've found my way onto at least 50 different mailing lists through blogging, none of them having to do with immigration.

In lieu of a conclusion, I'd like to solicit readers' opinions about the best resources for progressive immigration policy.

The tongue, like FireWire for the brain

Neuroscientists are using the tongue to relay detailed information from helmet-mounted sensors:

Researchers at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition envision their work giving Army Rangers 360-degree unobstructed vision at night and allowing Navy SEALs to sense sonar in their heads while maintaining normal vision underwater — turning sci-fi into reality. The device, known as "Brain Port," was pioneered more than 30 years ago by Dr. Paul Bach-y-Rita, a University of Wisconsin neuroscientist. Bach-y-Rita began routing images from a camera through electrodes taped to people's backs and later discovered the tongue was a superior transmitter. A narrow strip of red plastic connects the Brain Port to the tongue where 144 microelectrodes transmit information through nerve fibers to the brain. Instead of holding and looking at compasses and bluky-hand-held sonar devices, the divers can processes the information through their tongues, said Dr. Anil Raj, the project's lead scientist. In testing, blind people found doorways, noticed people walking in front of them and caught balls. A version of the device, expected to be commercially marketed soon, has restored balance to those whose vestibular systems in the inner ear were destroyed by antibiotics. [AP]

Eventually, this technology may enable people to "taste" sonar, or virtually any other kind of input that can be detected by an external sensor and translated into electronic impusles.

More information on Brain Port from Engadget.

April 27, 2006

Violence destabilizing 8 Iraqi provinces

The official line is that the civil war in Iraq is confined to only (sic) 4 of Iraq's 18 provinces. A recent report from the Government Accountability Office concludes that the violence is widespread in 8 provinces:

WASHINGTON, (UPI) -- Eight of Iraq's 18 provinces are dangerously unstable and violent, not just the four usually cited.

A Government Accountability Office report, based on recent State Department and U.S. military assessments in Iraq, suggests the country is on a downward slope. Insurgent attacks increased 23 percent between 2004 and 2005, and oil, electricity and water services are all below pre-invasion levels.

The assertion by the U.S. military and the Bush administration that Iraq's problems are limited to four provinces can be traced back to then-Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, who put forth that argument in a press conference with President Bush in September 2004. [UPI]

Via Juan Cole.

Skeptics' Circle alert


Make sure yours is built-in and shock-proof at the Skeptics' Circle.

Plan B and mythical teen sex cults

Goddess Tuptim Shrine, Bangkok, originally uploaded by S-E-B.

Why can't American women have the emergency contraceptive Plan B over-the-counter? Three words: "Teen sex cults." Actually, four words: "Mythical teen sex cults."

A group of New York women is suing the FDA for Plan B, OTC. Here's one of the documents that came up in discovery:

In the memo released by the FDA, Dr. Curtis Rosebraugh, an agency medical officer, wrote: “As an example, she [deputy operations commissioner Woodcock] stated that we could not anticipate, or prevent extreme promiscuous behaviors such as the medication taking on an ‘urban legend’ status that would lead adolescents to form sex-based cults centered around the use of Plan B.” [Newsweek]

The FDA says that urban legends cause adolescent sex cults centered around emergency contraception. Interesting theory.