Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for February 2nd, 2007

Very cool: animated engines

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For the mechanically minded, animated models showing how various engines work. Of great interest to The Older Grandson, I imagine—as well as to his father.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 February 2007 at 7:23 pm

Posted in Technology

Remember the teacher spouting Creationist nonsense in class?

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And the student recorded it? The teacher initially denied that he had said any such thing, but then there was the recording…

Well, the school has taken care of that little problem: no more recording allowed.

After a public school teacher was recorded telling students they belonged in hell if they did not accept Jesus as their savior, the school board has banned taping in class without an instructor’s permission, and has added training for teachers on the legal requirements for separating church and state.

A junior at Kearny High School in New Jersey, Matthew LaClair, 16, complained to his principal after the teacher in his American history class, David Paszkiewicz, told students that evolution and the Big Bang were not scientific, that dinosaurs were aboard Noah’s ark and that only Christians had a place in heaven. He started recording the comments in September because, he said, he was afraid school officials would not otherwise believe that the teacher had made them. Matthew said he was ridiculed and threatened after his criticism became public.

After several students complained to the school board that their voices had been broadcast on the Internet and on television news programs without their consent, the board adopted a policy in mid-January that requires students to request permission from an instructor to record or videotape a class.

“Adoption of this rule at this time sends all the wrong messages,” said Paul LaClair, Matthew’s father. “We were in negotiations and this is extremely ill-advised and disrespectful, if not bad faith.”

About the same time, the school board president, Bernadette McDonald, addressed a memo to the Kearny School District community that every teacher would receive mandatory instruction about how to interpret the Constitution’s separation of church and state and how it should apply to classroom discussions. Ms. McDonald also asked the school board to adopt a policy showing “its strong commitment to the principle that the personal religious beliefs of our instructional staff have no place in our classrooms.”

Kenneth J. Lindenfelser, the board’s lawyer, said classes were being planned to inform students of their constitutional rights, to encourage them to come forward with questions and to explain that people “who exercise their rights should not be viewed negatively.”

School officials said they took “corrective action” against Mr. Paszkiewicz, but would not elaborate.

Meanwhile, Matthew said that Mr. Paszkiewicz recently told the class that scientists who spoke about the danger of global warming were using tactics like those Hitler used, by repeating a lie often enough that people come to believe it.

Mr. Lindenfelser said that the district did not investigate the report of that comment, which he said was not religious or a violation of “any kind of law.”

Written by LeisureGuy

2 February 2007 at 2:17 pm

The Administration trying not to mislead

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From the Carpetbagger:

What’s the best way to lower the number of casualties in Iraq? Easy, redefine “casualty.”

Statistics on a Pentagon Web site have been reorganized in a way that lowers the published totals of American nonfatal casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Dr. Michael Kilpatrick, deputy director of force health protection and readiness at the Defense Department, said the previous method of tallying casualties was misleading and might have made injuries and combat wounds seem worse and more numerous than they really were.

And if there’s one thing we know for sure, the administration certainly doesn’t want to be “misleading” about Iraq related numbers, right?

This “recalculation” of casualties was surprisingly helpful for the administration. On Monday, the Defense Department’s website said “nonmortal casualties” in Iraq totaled 47,657. But by changing the meaning of the word “casualty” nearly four years into the war, presto chango, the Defense Department now shows that number dropping to 31,493.

Paul Sullivan, director of research and analysis of Veterans for America, said the changes actually meant the Pentagon was trying to conceal the rising toll of injuries and illness.

Ya think?

The military’s credibility continues to decline.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 February 2007 at 1:53 pm

Friday cat blogging: Megs in the study

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Megs getting cleaned up Look at you Megs looking at you again

Here’s Megs getting ready for the photo shoot, then lolling about on top of the cord for the camera. If I were really good at Photoshop, I could remove the cord, but…

She’s sleeping on me every night all night now. Not sure why the change, and she’s not saying. I’m looking at one of these (the bed nest, third one down) for her, but will probably get this one instead. (I was inspired by Kevin Drum’s kitties.)

Written by LeisureGuy

2 February 2007 at 11:50 am

Posted in Cats, Megs

Maybe people are waking up

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Judges seem skeptical of the Bush case for holding suspects indefinitely with no charge and no trial:

In a series of probing and sometimes testy exchanges with a government lawyer, two of three judges on a federal appeals court panel here indicated Thursday that they might not be prepared to accept the Bush administration’s claim that it has the unilateral power to detain people it calls enemy combatants.

The case was brought by Ali al-Marri, a citizen of Qatar who is the only person on the American mainland being held as an enemy combatant, at the Navy brig in Charleston, S.C. Mr. Marri, a legal resident whom the government calls a sleeper agent for Al Qaeda, was arrested in Peoria, Ill., on Dec. 12, 2001, where he was living with his family and studying computer science at Bradley University.

“What would prevent you from plucking up anyone and saying, ‘You are an enemy combatant?’ ” Judge Roger L. Gregory of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit asked the administration’s lawyer, David B. Salmons.

Mr. Salmons said the executive branch was entitled to make that judgment in wartime without interference from the courts. “A citizen, no less than an alien, can be an enemy combatant,” he added. [And Cheney is just the guy to decide that, eh? - LG]

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

2 February 2007 at 11:14 am

Summary of NIE findings

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From ThinkProgress:

The key judgments of the long-delayed Iraq National Intelligence Estimate have been released. Read them HERE. Below, some important findings:

The term “civil war” “accurately describes key elements of the Iraqi conflict,” though it “does not adequately capture the complexity of the conflict”:

The Intelligence Community judges that the term “civil war” does not adequately capture the complexity of the conflict in Iraq, which includes extensive Shia-on-Shia violence, al-Qa’ida and Sunni insurgent attacks on Coalition forces, and widespread criminally motivated violence. Nonetheless, the term “civil war” accurately describes key elements of the Iraqi conflict, including the hardening of ethno-sectarian identities, a sea change in the character of the violence, ethno-sectarian mobilization, and population displacements.

Iran is “not likely to be a major driver of violence or the prospects for stability”:

Iraq’s neighbors influence, and are influenced by, events within Iraq, but the involvement of these outside actors is not likely to be a major driver of violence or the prospects for stability because of the self-sustaining character of Iraq’s internal sectarian dynamics. Nonetheless, Iranian lethal support for select groups of Iraqi Shia militants clearly intensifies the conflict in Iraq.

The overall security situation “will continue to deteriorate” in next 12-18 months

Iraqi society’s growing polarization, the persistent weakness of the security forces and the state in general, and all sides’ ready recourse to violence are collectively driving an increase in communal and insurgent violence and political extremism. Unless efforts to reverse these conditions show measurable progress during the term of this Estimate, the coming 12 to 18 months, we assess that the overall security situation will continue to deteriorate at rates comparable to the latter part of 2006.

“Rapid withdrawal” of U.S. forces would likely lead to a “significant increase in the scale and scope of sectarian conflict in Iraq”:

Coalition capabilities, including force levels, resources, and operations, remain an essential stabilizing element in Iraq. If Coalition forces were withdrawn rapidly during the term of this Estimate, we judge that this almost certainly would lead to a significant increase in the scale and scope of sectarian conflict in Iraq, intensify Sunni resistance to the Iraqi Government, and have adverse consequences for national reconciliation.

Yet the Bush Administration still refuses to recognize that what is happening in Iraq is a civil war. Denial of reality continues to be strong in the Administration.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 February 2007 at 11:03 am

Apparently the problem in Iraq is the US, not Iran

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From McClatchy Washington Bureau:

The U.S. military drive to train and equip Iraq’s security forces has unwittingly strengthened anti-American Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia, which has been battling to take over much of the capital city as American forces are trying to secure it.

U.S. Army commanders and enlisted men who are patrolling east Baghdad, which is home to more than half the city’s population and the front line of al-Sadr’s campaign to drive rival Sunni Muslims from their homes and neighborhoods, said al-Sadr’s militias had heavily infiltrated the Iraqi police and army units that they’ve trained and armed.

“Half of them are JAM. They’ll wave at us during the day and shoot at us during the night,” said 1st Lt. Dan Quinn, a platoon leader in the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, using the initials of the militia’s Arabic name, Jaish al Mahdi. “People (in America) think it’s bad, but that we control the city. That’s not the way it is. They control it, and they let us drive around. It’s hostile territory.”

The Bush administration’s plan to secure Baghdad rests on a “surge” of some 17,000 more U.S. troops to the city, many of whom will operate from small bases throughout Baghdad. Those soldiers will work to improve Iraqi security units so that American forces can hand over control of the area and withdraw to the outskirts of the city.

The problem, many soldiers said, is that the approach has been tried before and resulted only in strengthening al-Sadr and his militia.

Amid recurring reports that al-Sadr is telling his militia leaders to stash their arms and, in some cases, leave their neighborhoods during the American push, U.S. soldiers worry that the latest plan could end up handing over those areas to units that are close to al-Sadr’s militant Shiite group.

“All the Shiites have to do is tell everyone to lay low, wait for the Americans to leave, then when they leave you have a target list and within a day they’ll kill every Sunni leader in the country. It’ll be called the `Day of Death’ or something like that,” said 1st Lt. Alain Etienne, 34, of Brooklyn, N.Y. “They say, `Wait, and we will be victorious.’ That’s what they preach. And it will be their victory.”

Quinn agreed.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

2 February 2007 at 10:55 am

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