Archive for May 13th, 2008
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My God. Is there no limit? ThinkProgress:
The AP reports today that the Pentagon has “dropped charges” against Mohammed al-Qahtani, a Saudi held at Guantanamo Bay since 2002 who was alleged to have been the so-called “20th hijacker” on 9/11.
Known as Detainee 063, Qahtani was the subject of a 2002 meeting at Guantanamo that included former Bush lawyer Alberto Gonzales, Cheney’s lawyer David Addington, and former Rumsfeld lawyer Jim Haynes. The trio approved the interrogations at Guantanamo, with Donald Rumsfeld then authorizing the “First Special Interrogation Plan” specifically for Qahtani. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) noted that these methods included:
[F]orty-eight days of severe sleep deprivation and 20-hour interrogations, forced nudity, sexual humiliation, religious humiliation, physical force, prolonged stress positions and prolonged sensory overstimulation, and threats with military dogs. The aggressive techniques, standing alone and in combination, resulted in severe physical and mental pain and suffering.
“This is a very dangerous individual who has provided us with valuable intelligence,” claimed former White House press secretary Scott McClellan in 2005. But as Marcy Wheeler notes, the dismissal raises questions about the credibility of torture-based evidence.
Renowned international lawyer Philippe Sands, who has extensively studied Qahtani, talked to PBS’s Bill Moyers about the interrogations of Qahtani on Friday. “And the bottom line of it was, contrary to what the administration said, they got nothing out of him,” Sands explained. Watch it:
In 2006, Qahtani recanted a confession he said he made after he was tortured. In fact, “Qahtani never made a single statement that was not extracted through torture or the threat of torture,” CCR notes.
Records of the interrogations of Qahtani, however, were “mysteriously lost.” Cameras that “run 24 hours a day at the prison were set to automatically record over their contents,” the Guardian reported last month.
Just made the second batch of pimento cheese. This time it was cheese, pimentos, mayo, ground black pepper, 1 tsp of Dijon mustard, 1 clove garlic, and 4 pieces crisp bacon. I had planned to use just 2 pieces of the bacon (the other 2 were for the salad tonight), but 2 pieces was not enough bacon flavor.
Next time I’ll try adding just a little horseradish to the above.
A new study using brain imaging quantifies the benefits of putting feelings into words when talking with a therapist or friend, or writing in a journal.
UCLA psychologists report different areas of brain are active when individuals communicate their feelings. In turn, the shift of brain activity is associated with better control of our emotions, making our feelings of sadness, anger and pain less intense.
The study showed that an area of the brain called the amygdale, which serves as an alarm to activate a cascade of biological systems to protect the body in times of danger, is less active when an individual labels feelings.
Further, another region of the brain is more active: the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex. This region is located behind the forehead and eyes and has been associated with thinking in words about emotional experiences.
It has also been implicated in inhibiting behavior and processing emotions, but exactly what it contributes has not been known.
“What we’re suggesting is when you start thinking in words about your emotions —labeling emotions — that might be part of what the right ventrolateral region is responsible for,” said lead author Matthew D. Lieberman.
Hendrik Hertzberg reports two casualties along with news from the front:
1. In Seattle, a fifty-six-year old man died last Thursday after being refused a liver transplant because he had followed his doctor’s recommendation to use marijuana to ease the symptoms of hepatitis C. From the Associated Press story:
His death came a week after a doctor told him a University of Washington Medical Center committee had again denied him a spot on the liver transplant list. The team had previously told him it would not consider placing him on the list until he completed a 60-day drug-treatment class…
The Virginia-based United Network for Organ Sharing, which oversees the nation’s transplant system, leaves it to individual hospitals to develop criteria for transplant candidates.
At some, people who use “illicit substances”—including medical marijuana, even in the dozen states that allow it—are automatically rejected. At others, patients are given a chance to reapply if they stay clean for six months.
The cruelty and stupidity of this beggars belief. This patient did not need “drug treatment.” He was already undergoing drug treatment. Nor did he need to get “clean.” He was already clean. It’s the drug war that’s dirty. (H/t: John Leone.)
2. Until about a week ago, Marie Day Walsh was a hyper-respectable fifty-three-year-old housewife living in suburban comfort in Del Mar, California, near San Diego, with her husband of twenty-three years. They have two grown daughters and another still in high school. Then came a knock on the door. She was arrested and carted off to jail.
The back story: In 1975, when she was a nineteen-year-old hippie in Saginaw, Michigan, and her name was Susan LeFevre, she got arrested for peripheral involvement in a heroin deal. While awaiting trial, she took college courses. Hoping for mercy, she pleaded guilty. The judge, full of righteous wrath, sentenced her to ten to twenty years in prison. After a year or so, she walked away from a prison work site, escaping as she had offended: nonviolently. She had never been in trouble before and has never been in trouble since. Now she will probably be extradited to Michigan and imprisoned until she is in her sixties. Take a look at her and see if you think she is a menace to society.
3. Two years ago, a large-scale study by Dr. Donald Tashkin, of U.C.L.A., a pulmonologist whose previous studies of marijuana had been used by drug-enforcement authorities to support their view that pot is dangerous, unexpectedly concluded that there is no connection between marijuana smoking and lung cancer, even among heavy pot smokers, which he defined as people who had smoked more than twenty-two thousand joints, i.e., a joint a day for sixty years. The study, which was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, further suggested that pot might actually have some preventive effect.
The story didn’t get a lot of publicity, though the Washington Post did run a story on page A3. It will not surprise you to learn that it has had no effect on the nation’s drug “policies.”
Dr. Tashkin reiterated his findings last month before an audience of doctors and nurses. According to Fred Gardner’s detailed report,
Tashkin and his colleagues at U.C.L.A. conducted a major study in which they measured the lung function of various cohorts for eight years and found that tobacco-only smokers had an accelerated rate of decline, but marijuana smokers—even if they smoked tobacco as well—experienced the same rate of decline as non-smokers. “The more tobacco smoked, the greater the rate of decline,” said Tashkin. “In contrast, no matter how much marijuana was smoked, the rate of decline was similar to normal.” Tashkin concluded that his and other studies “do not support the concept that regular smoking of marijuana leads to COPD [Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease].”
On the other hand, imprisonment, disqualification for organ transplants, and the activities of the federal drug harassment industry remain hazardous to your health.
The above graph is from an Washington Post article by Joe Matthews on how well the news is reported in Spanish and in English. From the article:
… On most nights here [in LA], the most timely, serious and civic-minded local news is not available on the Internet, the radio or any of the half-dozen English-language stations that broadcast nightly shows that purport to be newscasts. At 11 p.m. each night here, the best newscasts in the market appear on two Spanish-language channels, Univision’s flagship KMEX and Telemundo affiliate KVEA.
This might come as a surprise to English-speaking Americans, who hear about the Spanish-language TV news only when its on-air personalities engage in soap-opera-style antics, such as the KVEA anchor-reporter who became the mistress of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. But I’ve been watching these two Spanish newscasts and their English competitors on the local ABC, NBC and CBS affiliates, and the content doesn’t lie. If immigrants took Schwarzenegger’s advice and flipped off Spanish stations in favor of English-language news, they wouldn’t have nearly as good an idea of what was happening in their adopted city, state and country.
Take a recent night, after a typical day of Los Angeles news. English-language TV led with the weather (it was raining, which is not as unusual as you might think during an L.A. winter), then moved into splashy reports with dramatic footage of a gang shootout and possible hostage situation in a city neighborhood. Less than eight minutes into the newscast, trivia took over. The CBS affiliate’s third piece involved new questions about the death of Marilyn Monroe. The NBC affiliate dwelled on a hepatitis scare at a party for celebrities and swimsuit models, then attempted a brief consumer-oriented investigation about people’s need to replace their tires more frequently. The ABC affiliate gave five minutes to movies and entertainment, from an Oscar preview to a sit-down interview with Jon Stewart.
In Spanish, viewers got fewer soft features and more deeply reported, longer pieces. KMEX mentioned the gang shootout but provided far more context, interviewing local residents about recent crime and about how local businesses and schools were affected by an hours-long neighborhood lockdown as police searched for a suspect. KMEX also aired a detailed report on a major beef recall from a local firm, a couple of pieces on local politics (including a roundup of what city and county leaders had done that day) and a four-minute examination of key policy issues in the presidential campaign. The Oscars went unmentioned. KVEA’s half-hour newscast, ” En Contexto” (which means what it sounds like), was even more substantive. It gave a thorough review of local political and government news, then delved deeply into nearly 20 minutes of explanation of rising home foreclosures and mortgage problems. (Yes, Spanish-language viewers were callously left to figure out that it was raining all by themselves.)
This was no fluke. The next night, KMEX broke the news that the LAPD had more Latino officers than white officers, and KVEA ran a piece on the pay and working conditions of security guards. Meanwhile, their English-language rival KABC was finishing another Oscar preview and beginning a heartwarming story involving dogs.
Two videos of good fitness exercises with a medicine ball.
Well, well—those weapons made in Iran and given to Iraqi insurgents? They weren’t made in Iran after all. Take a look:
In a sharp reversal of its longstanding accusations against Iran arming militants in Iraq , the US military has made an unprecedented albeit quiet confession: the weapons they had recently found in Iraq were not made in Iran at all.
According to a report by the LA Times correspondent Tina Susman in Baghdad: “A plan to show some alleged Iranian-supplied explosives to journalists last week in Karbala and then destroy them was canceled after the United States realized none of them was from Iran. A U.S. military spokesman attributed the confusion to a misunderstanding that emerged after an Iraqi Army general in Karbala erroneously reported the items were of Iranian origin. When U.S. explosives experts went to investigate, they discovered they were not Iranian after all.”
Interesting possibility, in an article by Hugh Williamson in Financial Times:
Germany believes China, India and the US should be forced to adopt higher environmental and health standards if they want to export food products to the European Union, says Horst Seehofer, Germany’s farm minister.
His comments echo calls by Paris for new EU barriers to free trade in response to rising global demand for food. Michel Barnier, France’s farm minister, last month called for curbs on “free-market liberalism”, a view reflected by Mr Seehofer: “We need more market liberalisation, but under fair conditions.”
Perhaps another sign of the end of the US hegemony. We have long judged other countries and told them what they must do—now the shoe may be slipping onto the other foot.
Lifehacker asks its readers, “What’s good about Vista?” and the comments are well worth reading. It’s far from all bad.
Healthbolt mentioned this, and now this little article:
A research team at the University of Washington has created a video game called Foldit, which challenges dexterous gamers to fold protein strands according to the actual laws of physics—thereby helping to determine the 3-dimensional shapes of proteins that could mean cures for diseases from Alzheimer’s to HIV.
The game, developed by a group of biochemists, computer scientists, and engineers, resembles an elaborate form of Tetris. It uses the same protein-folding software as the Rosetta@home project, which was created in 2005—also by U. of Washington researchers—as an effort to use volunteers to calculate every possible protein shape in the human body—a task so enormous that if every computer in the world was working on it simultaneously, it would still take centuries to complete. But while the Rosetta project asks participants to donate only their unused computer power, Foldit takes advantage of the “natural 3-D problem-solving skills” of all those masterful X Box players out there.
So far, around 1,000 players have tested the system, though it formally opened to the public last week. Interested in having a go? Just click here. Though novices beware—you’re liable to get a thumping by haptagud, daemonk, mincus, thuza, and Spontan, all of whom are probably 13-year-old boys.
Very interesting article suggesting that copyright is headed for the dustbin of history. Worth reading in its entirety, but this snippet in particular caught my eye as an example of unintended consequences:
On June 27, 2005, the US Supreme Court decided to hold companies that make file-sharing software responsible for copyright infringements perpetrated by the software’s users. Everyone expected that they would rule as they did when Universal City Studios sued Sony over the Betamax in 1984: there were legitimate uses of the technology, and it shouldn’t be held responsible simply because it can be used unlawfully. Instead, however, they ruled that file-sharing software actively encourages piracy and the makers should be held accountable.
The Supreme Court’s action has done the exact opposite of what MGM and the other content distributors who brought the suit hoped it would. File-sharing software will become open-source and public domain. File-sharing will continue to grow ever more popular, but now there will be no one to sue. The Supreme Court’s ruling hasn’t even delayed the inevitable; it has actually brought it closer.
This is the time of year that people move, and Cool Tools has some excellent moving tips. Bookmark them for your next move.
A good walk on Monday, and excellent weather for it: clear, sunny, slightly cool, occasional breeze. I’m listening to Wuthering Heights, which makes me eager for the next day’s walk. (I’ve not read the novel.)
I liked the Sandalwood fragrance so much that I chose QED’s Sandalwood shaving soap this morning—a very nice fragrance and a very good soap, as shown by the lather that the G.B. Kent BK4 produced. The Gillette Fat Boy with a previously used Treet Black Beauty produced a smooth shave, and I used my own mix of oils for the polishing pass. And, of course, TOBS Sandalwood aftershave once more.