Later On

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

Archive for April 2010

Two more good columns by Greenwald

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Obama’s criticisms of the Warren and Burger courts:

Yesterday I wrote about what seemed to be President Obama’s fairly stunning disparagement of the Warren and Burger Courts (expressed on the eve of naming Justice Stevens’ replacement), as he echoed the classic, decades-old, right-wing claim that those courts were guilty of the "error" of "judicial activism."  As I noted in an update, numerous people, in comments and via email, objected that I had misinterpreted Obama’s remarks, that he was merely noting the hypocrisy of the Right but not himself criticizing those courts.  As it turns out, The New York Times‘ Charlie Savage and Sheryl Gay Stolberg understood his remarks exactly as I did, as did the experts on both sides of the spectrum they interviewed, and the White House itself seemed to confirm that this is exactly what Obama intended to convey: …

Continue reading.

More Obama DOJ attacks on whistle-blowers:

In February, 2008, the Bush DOJ issued a subpoena to The New York Times‘ James Risen, demanding the identity of his source(s) for one chapter in Risen’s best-selling book, State of War.  The chapter in question described a painfully inept and counter-productive CIA effort to infiltrate the Iranian nuclear program, but which ended up instead passing on valuable information to the Iranians about how to build a bomb.  At the time that subpoena was issued, I wrote that it was a serious and "dangerous" escalation of the ongoing effort by Bush officials to intimidate journalists and their sources in order to choke off whistle-blowing disclosures, "the sole remaining avenue for a country plagued by a supine, slothful, vapid press and an indescribably submissive Congress."  I don’t recall a single progressive or Democrat — not one — defending that subpoena.

It should surprise absolutely nobody that, as Charlie Savage reports, the Obama DOJ has now re-issued the same subpoena to Risen.  As DOJ rules require [see Section III(A)(2)(l)], any such subpoenas (to journalists) require the personal approval of the Attorney General, and Savage reports that this subpoena was approved by Eric Holder.  The reason such subpoenas are so dangerous is because journalists are duty-bound to their sources to refuse to comply, and will likely end up in prison if they don’t.  Few things, if anything, are greater threats to the journalist-source relationship than DOJ subpoenas of this type.  And the idea that this particular leak jeopardized national security is nothing short of a joke, as Harper‘s Scott Horton makes clear: …

Continue reading.

I do not understand Obama’s determination to jail whistleblowers and to protect torturers and murderers. I guess he has values that differ from mine.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2010 at 3:19 pm

Robert Gates: Put off abolishing DADT until next year

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There’s always some reason to wait, some study to complete. Given that most advanced nations have militaries that include gays (including Israel and Britain, two of our allies), I would think that no study is needed: It works, and we can see it working, and it is consistent with American ideals to end discrimination. But Obama does not like to rush things, particularly things that deal with civil liberties. "Be patient" is his watchword. What a crock!

Amanda Terkel at ThinkProgress:

As part of the Obama administration’s plan to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), the Pentagon has convened a “Working Group” that is meeting with servicemembers, chaplains, and others individuals about how to repeal the ban on gay men and women serving openly in the military. The process is going to take until at least Dec. 1, 2010, and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has said that the President is committed to letting the group complete its work before moving forward. Some members of Congress have raised the possibility of passing DADT repeal legislation this year — before the review process is complete — and delaying implementation until next year.

However, today Defense Secretary Robert Gates sent House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) a letter (in response to an inquiry from Skelton) telling him that he doesn’t want Congress to take any action at all on DADT this year. From the letter obtained by ThinkProgress:

I believe in the strongest possible terms that the Department must, prior to any legislative action, be allowed the opportunity to conduct a thorough, objective, and systematic assessment of the impact of such a policy change; develop an attentive comprehensive implementation plan, and provide the President and the Congress with the results of this effort in order to ensure that this step is taken in the most informed and effective matter. [...]

Therefore, I strongly oppose any legislation that seeks to change this policy prior to the completion of this vital assessment process.

Gates’ moratorium on any DADT action this year is troubling. Thirteen Senate Democrats have introduced a bill to replace DADT with a new nondiscrimination policy that “prohibits discrimination against service members on the basis of their sexual orientation.” The Senate bill mirrors Rep. Patrick Murphy’s (D-PA) repeal bill in the House but goes several steps further, laying out a timeline for repeal and setting benchmarks for the Pentagon’s ongoing review of the policy.

Gates’ stance makes it significantly harder for Congress to help fulfill Obama’s pledge to repeal DADT and has some supporters of repeal questioning the Pentagon’s dedication to moving forward. Democrats in Congress will have a tougher time attracting moderate and Republican co-sponsors in light of this letter, and if Congress waits until next year — after the Pentagon review is completed — to move forward on legislation, the make-up of the legislature will be different and could again delay repeal.

In the meantime, service men and women will have their careers terminated because of a rule that is due to be changed. What’s wrong with that picture?

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2010 at 3:10 pm

Terrorist attacks in Arizona!!

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Only: not. Just the usual GOP bullshit and misdirection.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2010 at 3:05 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

"Chickens for Checkups"

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Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2010 at 3:01 pm

‘The Other Wes Moore’ tells a tale of two inner-city destinies

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They knew the same neighborhoods, but in 2000, one Wes Moore was on his way to Oxford, the other on his way to prison. Sent by The Eldest, this story by Michael Sragow in the Baltimore Sun:

“The Other Wes Moore” is a book that bridges the gap between Inner Harbor and inner city in the most startling and revelatory ways. The title might suggest the tale of a hidden life. But it’s something completely different: the story of two Baltimore men with the same name, roughly similar backgrounds — and wholly opposite journeys.

The Wes Moore who was just on “Oprah” became a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the Johns Hopkins University, a Rhodes scholar, a White House Fellow and an Army officer in Afghanistan, as well as the author of this book. The other Wes Moore became a drug dealer, a thief and a convicted killer.

Instead of stoking the “good” Moore with a sense of pride and accomplishment, the contrast bedeviled and haunted him. Seeing reports of the crime juxtaposed in The Baltimore Sun with profiles of himself as the ultimate “local boy makes good” roused a driving curiosity. It kept getting fired up as the coverage of both men continued in 2000 and 2001.

“One of the titles I tried out for this book was ‘Baltimore Sons,’ ” he says. On June 9, 2001, The Sun reported that a judge had sentenced the criminal Wes Moore to life without parole. Exactly a month later, you could read The Sun’s coverage of Wes Moore, the Rhodes scholar, as one of People magazine’s top 50 bachelors. (He’s now married.)

Moore, who grew up in Southern Maryland and the Bronx, kept thinking about the coincidence even after two years at Oxford. He knew it had become a life-altering obsession.

“The thing just grabbed me and captured me,” he says.

He started immediately to see parallels to his own past. “When the stories started coming out early in the investigation, and reported that Wes’ mother had started to cooperate with police, and was making public statements to Wes and [his half-brother] Tony, saying, ‘come home, I’m worried about you, turn yourself in’ — just knowing the community, I guessed that the mother was the only parent in the house. … It resonated with me. I had seen my mother’s pain when she had to do things on her own.”

He had to follow his inchoate urge to investigate the life of someone he thought “may have carried part of me with him” into his prison cell. He sent a letter to him at the Jessup Correctional Institution.

“I wasn’t sure he would get what I wanted,” Moore now says, “and I wasn’t sure, even if he did, that he’d be interested in writing me back.” Having no expectations turned out to be freeing. “I had no fears of being disappointed in any way.” When he did respond, and the two began exchanging life stories in letters and occasional prison visits, the similarities and differences proved to be equally profound.

The age-old cry, “There but for the grace of God go I,” resounds throughout the book. The process of writing it fit two goals Moore has held throughout his adult life: introducing urban tribes to society at large, and helping adolescents achieve true manhood. He reminisced about what it was like to enter Hopkins a dozen years ago after graduating from Valley Forge Military Academy and College in Wayne, Pa…

Continue reading.

UPDATE: Another review found here.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2010 at 2:53 pm

Posted in Daily life

‘Discovering the Civil War’ at the National Archives

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Interesting story by Philip Kennicott in the Washington Post includes this important bit:

With Friday’s opening of "Discovering the Civil War," the National Archives launches what will be a long and potentially transformative era of Civil War commemorations. As the nation prepares for a string of 150th anniversaries — of every important battle, every political event, every proclamation — the country will again rehash the meaning of its most pivotal internal event. With an African American president, and a Southern political culture still in thrall to the myth of Confederate legitimacy, is there hope for any progress this time round?

The show proceeds thematically rather than chronologically. It raises large questions — What led to the secession of the South? Were there efforts to avoid war? — and then offers documents that should help visitors form answers. Early in the exhibition, viewers confront what might be called the Southern-apologist listening station, where you can both read, and listen to, a document laying out South Carolina’s reasons for secession. After some boilerplate language about the Constitution comes reason No. 1: The right to property, which for South Carolina included the right to human chattel, had been infringed.

There it is, in black and white, and coming at you through a very 1980s hand-held listening device: Slavery is the cause — the essential, primary, undeniable first and sufficient cause for the war. While much of the exhibition aims at nuance and complexity, this should be sufficient to unmask the old masquerade about what the South was fighting for. Efforts to make it seem problematic and complex are all too often part of a nostalgia game, nostalgia for a time when every white Southern man had a God-given right to be a racist, if he so chose.

The exhibition puts this material in a corner, literally and figuratively. It isn’t hidden, but it isn’t highlighted, a reflection, perhaps, of what Ken Lore, president of the Foundation for the National Archives, explained to journalists before the exhibition opening: No one will be forced to believe anything in particular about the war…

But the reason for the war was clearly to protect the institution of slavery, which the white South seems to have longed for ever since.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2010 at 2:31 pm

Posted in Daily life, Education

Bias Suit Advances Against Wal-Mart

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Ann Zimmerman and Nathan Kopel in the Wall Street Journal:

A federal appeals court ruled Monday that a gender discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. can go forward as a class-action case, in one of the biggest class-action lawsuits in history.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco voted 6-5 to affirm a federal judge’s decision to award class-action status to potentially one million women or more. The ruling increases the pressure on Wal-Mart to either settle claims of unfair pay brought by the women or risk going to trial.

The decision represents a serious blow to Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest corporate employer, as a denial of class-action status would have forced the women to pursue their cases individually. Fewer women would likely proceed in that event, due to high legal expenses.

Wal-Mart’s defense attorney said the company plans to appeal to the Supreme Court.

"We disagree with the decision of the sharply divided 6-5 court to uphold portions of the certification order, and are considering our options," Wal-Mart said in a statement.

Large class-action lawsuits aggregate many claimants with similar experiences into one action as opposed to presenting each one on its merits. As a result, individuals with relatively small sums at stake, as in this case, have an incentive to participate in the lawsuit.

"It’s generally understood that without a class action, most of the cases will go away," said Brian Wolfman, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, who also represents plaintiffs in class-action litigation. "When you are dealing with large companies with large resources, the only way for a plaintiff to be on the same battlefield is to aggregate claims as a class action."

In March, Wal-Mart announced a settlement on a much smaller class-action discrimination case, brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2001 over alleged discriminatory hiring practices at the Wal-Mart Distribution Center in London, Kentucky, from 1998 to February 2005. The commission alleged that Wal-Mart routinely hired men over equally or better qualified women at the facility.

Wal-Mart settled for about $12 million and agreed to improve its hiring and training practices at the center.

On Monday, Wal-Mart said in statement that …

Continue reading for Wal-Mart lies.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2010 at 2:27 pm

Good news for miners, not so good for Massey Energy

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Dennis G. at Balloon Juice:

On the heels of the news that the Feds are looking into a criminal probe of Goldman comes this news that the FBI and the DOJ are serious about finding the cause of the recent mining disaster in West Virginia:

NPR News has learned that the Mine Safety and Health Administration is the target of a federal criminal investigation surrounding the explosion of the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia three weeks ago—a disaster that killed 29 miners. The probe also targets Massey Energy, the owner of the mine.

Sources familiar with the investigation say the FBI is looking into possible bribery of officials of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the federal agency that inspects and regulates mining. The sources say FBI agents are also exploring potential criminal negligence on the part of Massey Energy, the owner of the Upper Big Branch mine.

I wait with bated breath, but could it be possible that some corporations might be held accountable for their criminal behavior?

Ah, a lad can dream.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2010 at 2:24 pm

Really- This Is All About Border Security

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John Cole at Balloon Juice:

Race and racism has nothing to do with it:

Just a week after signing the country’s toughest immigration bill into law, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer now must decide whether to endorse another bill passed by her state legislature — one that outlaws ethnic-studies programs in public schools.

***

Arizona’s superintendent for public instruction, Tom Horne, has said he’s backing the measure because ethnic-studies programs encourage “ethnic chauvinism”; he’s also suggested that such programs could breed secessionist sentiment among Hispanic students.

Since when is secessionist sentiment bad? Also, apparently accents will soon be verboten:

The Arizona Department of Education recently began telling school districts that teachers whose spoken English it deems to be heavily accented or ungrammatical must be removed from classes for students still learning English.

State education officials say the move is intended to ensure that students with limited English have teachers who speak the language flawlessly. But some school principals and administrators say the department is imposing arbitrary fluency standards that could undermine students by thinning the ranks of experienced educators.

Arizona wants to make it clear that the only acceptable accent is a proper German one.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2010 at 2:22 pm

The Horrible Gulf Oil Spill Reality versus the Energy Tomorrow Pantsuit

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Excellent post by Juan Cole (via Balloon Juice), with this nugget (but read the whole post):

BP, by the way, is British Petroleum, a descendant of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.

The Iranian parliament asked for a better deal from the AIOC in the late 1940s and early 1950s (they wanted a 50/50 cut of the profits, which was what ARAMCO offered Saudi Arabia).

The AIOC absolutely refused. In response, the Iranian parliament nationalized the AIOC holdings in 1951.

It was in order to restore Western Big Oil to its Iranian holdings that the CIA overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran in 1953, putting the shah back on the throne as a megalomaniacal capitalist dictator and puppet of Washington.

The enraged Iranian public overthrew the shah in 1978-79, establishing the Islamic Republic that has been a thorn in Washington’s side ever since.

So, BP’s earlier arrogance helped produce our current crisis with Iran, just as its current incompetence has produced the massive Delaware-sized oil slick now devouring Louisiana.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2010 at 2:19 pm

Apple App Store Bans Pulitzer-Winning Satirist for Satire

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Apple has since backed down due to bad publicity, but the direction they’re going is clear: "family-safe" apps and books that can be safely read by small children. Ryan Singel at Wired:

Editorial cartoonist Mark Fiore may be good enough to win this year’s Pulitzer Prize, but he’s evidently too biting to get past the auditors who run Apple’s iPhone app store, who ruled that lampooning public figures violated its terms of service.

Fiore irked Apple’s censorious staffers with his cartoons making fun of the Balloon Boy hoax and the pair that famously crashed a White House party, according to Laura McGann at the Neiman Journalism Lab.

Update 4/16 – Reacting to the bad publicity, Apple called Fiore and asked him to re-submit his app, which Fiore did Friday morning.

Fiore won a Pulitzer Monday for animations he made for the SFGate, the online home of the San Francisco Chronicle. But Fiore, who is a freelancer who runs a syndication business, was rejected by Apple in December for an app called NewToons that features his work.

According to a Dec. 21 e-mail reprinted by Neiman, Apple rejected his app because it “contains content that ridicules public figures and is in violation of Section 3.3.14 from the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement which states: Applications may be rejected if they contain content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, sounds, etc.) that in Apple’s reasonable judgment may be found objectionable, for example, materials that may be considered obscene, pornographic, or defamatory.”

Neither Fiore nor Apple responded to requests for comment.

The news of the rejection comes not long after Apple decided to purge its App store of content that included nudity, a retroactive ban that included apps from respected German publications such as Bild and Der Spiegel.

Fiore’s rejection may be especially disconcerting to news and media organizations, many of which are betting heavily on iPad apps as a way to get users to pay to read magazines and newspapers, and to get advertisers to pay print-ad prices for online content. (Online ads cost a small percentage of what ads in glossy magazines cost, in no small part because the net has almost infinite advertising space.)

Apple has built a little slab of Disneyland with its iPad, which is meant to be an experience unsullied by provocative or crude material. It’s beautiful and enticing — the company has already sold more than a half million of them in the first two weeks it’s been available — but it’s not the real world.

Publishers, including such august organizations such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Wired.com’s parent company Condé Nast, see a solution to their declining dead-tree ad sales in building a pay-to-play attraction in that park. But they need to understand that to do so, they have to play by Mickey Mouse’s rules.

The signs have been there from the start, as Wired.com’s Brian Chen pointed out in February. Apple banned an e-book reading application once because it figured out that iPhone users could use it to read a free version of the Kama Sutra. Then last week, Apple abruptly banned apps developed using programs that translate apps into multiple platforms.

Adding the news of Fiore’s ban to that, the publishing world is now officially on notice that the iPad is Apple’s, and unlike with their print and web editions, they don’t have the final say when it comes to their own content on an Apple device.

This makes me lose all interest in the iPad. Hell, I don’t even like the MPIAA movie-rating nonsense: violence gets PG-13, but a husband and wife being intimate: R, or even NC-17.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2010 at 2:00 pm

Wind farm off Cape Cod

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I assume that we’re finally getting the wind farm project going because Ted Kennedy is no longer in the Senate to block it. He was the prime obstacle, to his shame.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2010 at 1:52 pm

Obama will continue deepwater drilling

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No one ever said the man would back down due merely to facts—and he’s hanging tough on protecting torturers, giving himself power to order the death of American citizens without due process, and refusing to honor FOIA requests. What a mixed bag he is. Margaret Talev and John Fitzhugh have the story for McClatchy:

President Barack Obama on Friday appeared unwilling to scrap plans to expand oil and gas exploration, but promised that the administration will carefully study what mistakes led to the explosion of an oil drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that he had dispatched a team of Justice Department prosecutors to the Gulf Coast to monitor the unfolding environmental disaster and determine whether any laws were broken in the way British Petroleum operated the rig or responded to the disaster. In addition, a House subcommittee asked the oil services company Halliburton to provide documents regarding the company’s work at the rig.

"The British Petroleum oil spill has already cost lives and created a major environmental incident,” Holder said in a statement. “The Justice Department stands ready to make available every resource at our disposal to vigorously enforce the laws that protect the people who work and reside near the Gulf, the wildlife, the environment and the American taxpayers.”

The request to Halliburton by the House subcommittee on oversight and investigations came in response to a Wall Street Journal story Friday that suggested the initial explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon on April 20 may have been a result of incorrect application of cement used to plug gaps between the well pipe and the hole drilled into the seabed. When the cement does not fill the gaps, gas and oil can leak out and ignite. Eleven people were reported missing and presumed dead after the rig exploded. The Deepwater Horizon sank April 22.

In the week since, an estimated 5,000 42-gallon barrels of crude oil have spewed into the Gulf each day from at least three leaks in the well, creating a slick that covers more than 400 square miles. Thousands of people have been mustered in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida to repel the oil as it approaches the shoreline, but environmentalists say the spill already has damaged sea life.

Attorneys representing the owner of a Pass Christian, Miss., seafood company filed a class-action lawsuit Friday seeking not less than $5 million in economic and compensatory damages from BP. The president of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport predicted that the oil spill will be devastating.

“People don’t understand the magnitude of this. It is hard to comprehend,” said Dr. Moby Solangi, who’s studied the impact of crude oil on the environment since the 1970s.

At the Mississippi State Port in Gulfport, U.S. Navy sailors loaded oil containment booms onto the offshore service vessel John Coghil in preparation for deploying them to the west of Ship Island in hopes of preventing the oil slick from coming ashore.

The oil was expected to begin nearing Mississippi’s coastline later Friday and ports were taking steps to limit its impact. Long Beach, Miss., closed its harbor to small craft.

“We don’t know what we’re looking for except a mess,” said harbor security officer Joe Moore.

New Jersey’s two U.S. senators, both Democrats, joined two New Jersey members of Congress and much of Florida’s congressional delegation in demanding that Obama reverse his announced plans to open up the East Coast of the United States to oil drilling.

In a letter to Obama, Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Frank Lautenberg and Reps. Frank Pallone and Rush Holt said the Gulf oil spill is "only the latest example of the real risk drilling poses to coastal communities and the economies they support."

The letter pointed out that drilling along the coast of Virginia would come within 100 miles of the Jersey Shore and that drilling off Delaware would place rigs within 10 miles of New Jersey.

“While we appreciate the White House’s announcement that no additional offshore drilling will be authorized until a full investigation of the accident is complete, we urge you to go further and reverse your decision on proposed new offshore oil and gas drilling for the outer continental shelf," the letter said. "This incident exposes the many deficiencies in worker safety, blow out avoidance technology, and oil spill clean-up plans for operations in the outer continental shelf. We simply are not prepared to make our pristine Jersey shoreline the next test case for the oil companies’ experiment in how to maximize profits and minimize regulations.” …

Continue reading. Yeah, seeing firsthand the kind of catastrophe we can expect, no reason to stop drilling, eh? Anything for oil!

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2010 at 1:50 pm

Investigating The Many Different Types Of Autism

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Kimberly Crandell:

Anyone who has worked with children with autism knows that, based on symptoms alone, this disorder is comprised of several different types. Yet, surprisingly, no authoritative study exists to validate this supposition. That is about to change.

For the first time ever, a long-term study of boys and girls with and without autism is being  conducted. Jam-packed with scientific evaluations of each participant that will provide data scientists can use for decades to come, this study is destined to determine once and for all if there are subtypes of autism, and, if so, exactly what those subtypes are.  This ambitious study is taking place at the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute.

Named the Autism Phenome Project (“phenome” means “all observable characteristics”) it is the largest and most comprehensive assessment of children with autism ever attempted. It aims to distinguish among recognized subgroups, or phenotypes, of autism, linking them with distinct patterns of behavior and biological changes. Ideally, the findings will lead to targeted — and thus more effective — treatments specific to each child’s type of autism.

“Some children have autism symptoms from birth, others not until their second birthday,” explains principal investigator David Amaral, who serves as the M.I.N.D. Institute’s research director. “Which ones have gastrointestinal problems or immune problems? Who is more likely to have seizures? At the moment, we don’t really have the big picture.”

“This project is designed to gather sufficient information about a large enough group of kids to parse them into homogeneous, or similar, subtypes,” he adds. “At that point, researchers can explore the causes of each type of autism.”

As co-principal investigator Sally Rogers puts it, “The M.I.N.D. Institute was created to bring scientists together who had expertise among them in all the aspects of autism so that we could look at the whole of autism in a single study, rather than just one part at a time. That’s what the Autism Phenome Project (APP) is all about: parents, children and researchers forming a team to tackle all of autism, at once.”

Led by Amaral, a multi-disciplinary team of more than 50 M.I.N.D. Institute scientists began a pilot study in 2006 of 55 boys and girls aged 2 to 3.5 years, and their families. The project is ultimately projected to include 1,200 children. The mix will include 800 families with children with autism and 400 families with typically developing children, the latter as a control group.

“It’s a numbers game, in a sense,” explains Amaral, a UC Davis professor of psychiatry and  behavioral sciences. “If, for example, there are 10 subtypes, then you’re bound to be more  certain about your results with 1,000 subjects than with just 100.”

The participating children and their families are making an admirable commitment, as will the others who join this longitudinal study in the months to come: subjects are followed for three to eight years via approximately six UC Davis visits the first year and one to two visits in each of the subsequent years.

That first year involves the most exhaustive evaluations, covering everything from medical exams, behavioral assessments and genetic analyses to brain structure imaging, brain function assessments and immune profiling.

“It’s enormously gratifying for me to see how enthusiastic and excited the families are to  participate in this groundbreaking study,” says Susan Rumberg, the study’s family support liaison. “Whether they have children with autism or typically developing children, these families
just want to help to find a cure. It’s really a noble goal.”

Rumberg serves as a resource for APP families, her many duties including …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2010 at 1:43 pm

Reducing the pressure for profit

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Businesses do not focus on profit to the exclusion of all else. To some extent, their profit orientation is required by law. John Tozzi in Bloomberg BusinessWeek:

When Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield sold Ben & Jerry’s to Unilever (UN) for $326 million a decade ago, they did so reluctantly. They liked the payout but feared the new owners would ignore the social goals famously embraced by the ice cream maker. The board, though, felt it had no choice but to accept Unilever’s offer. "The legal advice was that the primary concern for the directors was the financial interests of the shareholders," says Greenfield.

Entrepreneurs who want to put principles before profits—even after their companies go public—may soon have the legal cover to do just that. On Apr. 13, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed a law creating legal entities known as "benefit corporations" and giving them greater protection from shareholder lawsuits. California and Vermont have similar bills in the works and legislators in at least three other states, including New York, are considering them. While many entrepreneurs applaud the measures, corporate governance experts worry about the rights of shareholders.

Interest in so-called socially responsible businesses by investors and entrepreneurs has grown in recent years. More than $2.7 trillion —about 11% of all assets under professional management—were in some kind of socially responsible investment in 2007, the latest data from Bloomberg show. More than 30,000 U.S. companies are members of socially responsible or sustainable business organizations, according to B Lab, a Berwyn (Pa.) nonprofit that certifies businesses as socially responsible.

Under the new Maryland law, benefit corporations must spell out their values in their charters, report annually on activities that benefit the public, and submit to third-party auditing of their societal impact. Becoming a benefit corporation, or shedding that status, would require approval of two-thirds of shareholders.

A California bill would have similar provisions for what it calls "flexible-purpose corporations." In Vermont, a bill creating benefit corporations passed in the state senate and is awaiting action by the lower house. Such measures would "better insulate [companies] from the pressures of short-term ism that dominate the public equity markets," says Jay Coen Gilbert, co-founder of B Lab, which has certified 296 companies as B Corporations.

Many more privately held companies are likely to seek benefit corporation status…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2010 at 1:30 pm

Posted in Business, Government, Law

More Evidence Links Genetics And Smoking

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Interesting:

Scientists studying the DNA marker profiles between smokers and non-smokers have found several genetic variants that are associated with key smoking behaviors.

In a new Nature Genetics paper, the international research team reported that three genetic regions are associated with the number of cigarettes smoked per day, one with smoking initiation and one with smoking cessation.

The variants on chromosome 15 associated with heavy smoking lie within a region that contains nicotinic receptor genes, which other scientists have previously associated with nicotine dependence and lung cancer.

Researchers used data from genome-wide association studies to establish the genetic links to smoking. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) search for genetic variants involved in a disease which may ultimately help prevent, diagnose, and treat the disease. Because smoking behavior is associated with many diseases, such as heart disease and cancer, the researchers were able to assemble more data to test the links between genetic variants and smoking than any one study could provide alone.

“We hope that this work will allow researchers from multiple disciplines to develop a better understanding of the genetics of addiction and evaluate how drug-gene interactions could be used to create and tailor therapies to improve the rates of smoking cessation,” said Helena Furberg, Department of Genetics, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

“More work needs to be done before these findings can be used to treat smokers who wish to quit. At this time, testing for these variants will not tell you anything meaningful about your risk of smoking or nicotine dependence. Of course, all smokers should be encouraged to quit regardless of their genetic make-up,” she added.

Citation: The Tobacco and Genetics Consortium, ‘Genome-wide meta-analyses identify multiple loci associated with smoking behavior’, Nature Genetics, April 2010; doi:10.1038/ng.571

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2010 at 1:25 pm

Posted in Daily life, Health, Science

BP Had Other Problems in Years Leading to Gulf Spill

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Abraham Lustgarten at ProPublica:

BP, the global oil giant responsible for the fast-spreading spill in the Gulf of Mexico that will soon make landfall, is no stranger to major accidents.

In fact, the company has found itself at the center of several of the nation’s worst oil and gas–related disasters in the last five years.

In March 2005, a massive explosion ripped through a tower at BP’s refinery in Texas City, Texas, killing 15 workers and injuring 170 others. Investigators later determined that the company had ignored its own protocols on operating the tower, which was filled with gasoline, and that a warning system had been disabled.

The company pleaded guilty to federal felony charges and was fined more than $50 million by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Almost a year after the refinery explosion, technicians discovered that some 4,800 barrels of oil had spread into the Alaskan snow through a tiny hole in the company’s pipeline in Prudhoe Bay. BP had been warned to check the pipeline in 2002, but hadn’t, according to a report in Fortune. When it did inspect it, four years later, it found that a six-mile length of pipeline was corroded. The company temporarily shut down its operations in Prudhoe Bay, causing one of the largest disruptions in U.S. oil supply in recent history.

BP faced $12 million in fines for a misdemeanor violation of the federal Water Pollution Control Act. A congressional committee determined that BP had ignored opportunities to prevent the spill and that "draconian" cost-saving measures had led to shortcuts in its operation.

Other problems followed. There were more spills in Alaska. And BP was charged with manipulating the market price of propane. In that case, it settled with the U.S. Department of Justice and agreed to pay more than $300 million in fines.

At each step along the way, the company’s executives were contrite.

"This was a preventable incident. … It should be seen as a process failure, a cultural failure and a management failure," John Mogford, then BP’s senior group vice president for safety and operations, said in an April 2006 speech about the lessons learned in Texas City. "It’s not an easy story to tell. BP doesn’t come out of it well."

In a 2006 interview with this reporter after the Prudhoe Bay spill, published in Fortune, BP’s chief executive of American operations, Robert Malone, said, "There is no doubt in my mind, what happened may not have broken the law, but it broke our values."

Malone insisted at the time that there was no pattern of mismanagement that increased environmental risk…

Continue reading. They’re always contrite: that doesn’t affect profits.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2010 at 1:22 pm

Posted in Business, Government, Law

Alternative PE For Teens On Autism Spectrum

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Interesting post by Ron Rubio:

When Dr. Valerie Paradiz invited me to join the staff of her brainchild school for those on the autism spectrum called the ASPIE School in Boiceville, NY, I was most honored and extremely excited.

The school, one of the first in the nation at the time, provided a setting where twelve males and later one female, all on the autism spectrum including Asperger’s syndrome, would take high school required classes in a supportive environment, as well as being safely mainstreamed into classes with the public high school next door. The ASPIE School operated for three years from 2003-2006.

My position was alternative physical education teacher and providing mentoring support during some other classes. The background I provided as a professional dancer/choreographer and a practitioner of the martial arts for more than 25 years, as well as operating a private practice for 10 years mentoring mainly young males with Asperger’s syndrome ages 9 –19, was very helpful for the work at the ASPIE School. I was able to teach life transition skills, healthy living, body core strength building and effective physical coordination, and most importantly, developing the mindful stamina to deal with daily life stresses with calmness and self- confidence.

The basic goal of an alternative PE class for the ASPIE School was to provide a safe environment to learn the following: developing basic physical tools needed for most social games and activities, learning ‘team-like’ cooperation which is great in teaching social virtues, and just plain learning that the idea of being a little bit more physical in one’s life helps tremendously in understanding how to be more body-centered in order to balance out the overly ‘high functioning in my head’ strengths. This in turn leads to learning the vital social and life-coping strategies so important for the pre-teen and teen life.

Since most public high school P.E. experiences generally involve a ‘sink or swim’ or ‘are you cool or not?’ mentality, evaluation based of the activities you can do or not do, for the ASPIE student who lacks the basic social skills needed to be accepted in a classroom situation, a regular PE class – as my aspie clients would confess to me – is an experience from a certain type of Hades. It is very unsafe because of personal fears, bullying by the physically adept, intimidating P.E teachers and the overly stimulating space of various smells, clothing requirements, sounds, temperatures and light. And you can just forget about the infamous P.E shower time!

This is where I came in. The values and virtues of the martial training component of my alternative P.E classes worked effectively as the interface with these students because of their deep interests in computer video games like ‘Warcraft’, many of which have warrior themes and characters. One important warrior virtue is defining the line between fiction and fact – knowing what really is happening from what is being conjured in one’s mind from past fears and pre-conceived ideas of past trauma and bad experiences, which in my experience in mentoring young people is one of the core life transition concepts to understand and to implement. Recognizing the truth of one’s current thinking about what is really happening in one’s everyday experiences helps an Aspie individual to decide whether to have a severe meltdown due to stress/anxiety/fear or to implement a grounded and well thought out resolution to challenging the aggravating situation at hand.

The main goals I had developed for the ASPIE alternative PE class were simple. I offered the ASPIE students what I provided in my private practice. The objectives here were developing the understanding of the mind/body coordination needed in simple physical activities such as walking, running, catching, and throwing. I utilized a lot of aikido martial art movement and wooden sword training for the breathing focus, the calmness of mind and the self-confidence to prevail through the stresses of any given moment.

I was able to empathize with and understand both the physical limitations and the debilitating emotionally stressful life experienced by most of the Aspie students. I recognized the students’ underdevelopment of a self-confident vibrant core so essential for a growing pre-teen and teen. This weakness of inner strength was displayed in their lack of emotional and physical presence connection with the space and time of the world around them.

For example, Aspies tend to stand too close or too far. They might speak too loud, in an inflectionless voice, or with a slight whisper response. They might be found bumping into you, bumming into me, and bumming into themselves. I observed their slumping posture of the body in a spacey unawareness. I can emphasize with them. When I was young I was a very quirky, clumsy, spaced-out kid who stuttered.

Thus I included other avenues for personal development that would address posture, presence and pride in the alternative P.E classes at ASPIE.
I meant to instill a sense of pride in the self to individuals who came to me beaten down by the over-stimulated world around them, their poor self- perceptions, and the after-effects from the bad experiences that until now had defined them.

The added components, drawn from the martial arts and the performing arts, included dance/theater and acting exercises such as theater improvisation, body control and voice projection. These exercises were designed to improve their self-confidence and have this reflected in how they stood, walked, talked, sat, worked, and interacted with others.

The martial training of the class helped with …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2010 at 1:18 pm

‘Cyber War’ author Richard Clarke: U.S. needs radical changes to protect against attacks

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Ellen Messmer in Bloomberg BusinessWeek:

In his new book, Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It, Richard Clarke says nations are building up their online armies and weapons largely far from public view, increasing the danger of a deliberate or accidental cyberwar, which in turn could trigger violent conflicts across the globe.

"Cyber war has already begun," Clarke writes. "In anticipation of hostilities, nations are already preparing the battlefield.’ They are hacking into each other’s networks and infrastructures, laying in trapdoors and logic bombs — now, in peacetime. This ongoing nature of cyberwar, the blurring of peace and war, adds a dangerous new dimension of instability."

The United States, he says, has a weak cyber-defense posture and should make radical changes, such as regulating ISPs to be able to play a role, under government supervision, in defending the country should a serious cyberattack strike.

Is the U.S. the nation most vulnerable to cyberattack?

Clarke, turning 60 this year, served as special advisor to the president for cyber security in 2001 and now teaches at Harvard’s Kennedy School for Government and works at Good Harbor Consulting. He tapped Robert Knake, international affairs fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, with a specialty studying cyberwar, as co-author of the new book, expected out April 20. (See exclusive excerpt here.)

But Cyber War at heart is Clarke’s passionate view on the dangers lurking just below the surface and what steps might be taken to prevent cyberwar. With a background decades ago in nuclear arms control and espionage in the Cold War, he compares that era with today’s secretive world of military cyber commands operating over the Internet where attacks, such as disruptive denial-of-service attacks, break-ins and dangerous Trojans that could steal or alter data, are extremely difficult to trace back to their source.

"The force that prevented nuclear war — deterrence — does not work well in cyber war," Clarke says. "The entire phenomenon of cyber war is shrouded in such government secrecy that it makes the Cold War look like a time of openness and transparency."

With considerable detail, Clarke and Knake render vivid accounts of how significant waves of cyberattacks in the past few years have hit Estonia, Georgia, South Korea and the United States, among other places, and why some in particular bear the hallmarks of state-sponsored efforts to disrupt an adversary’s Internet-based banking, media and government resources.

It’s known that the United States, China, Russia, North Korea, Israel, France and others have established cyber military structures to serve as …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2010 at 1:10 pm

The auto bailout worked—to a degree

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From Jeff Bennett and Mike Ramsey in the Wall Street Journal:

A year after the U.S. government swooped in to rescue two crippled auto giants, the car business is showing signs of life again—and so are local economies across the heartland that depend on it.

As soon as General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC finished racing into and out of bankruptcy court last fall, orders for headlamps and other car parts began streaming back to two factories here in this southern Illinois hamlet. The factories quickly re-hired about 400 of their 550 laid-off workers, giving Flora, Pop. 4,772, a big shot in the arm.

Local businesses are perking up. …

OTOH, Kathleen Pender notes in the San Francisco Chronicle:

You’d think that General Motors Co., having been rescued by U.S. taxpayers, would be more up-front with them.

In an ad that has been blanketing the airwaves since last week, General Motors Chairman and chief executive Ed Whitacre boasts that "we have repaid our government loan, in full, with interest, five years ahead of the original schedule."

In a press release, Whitacre said GM was able to repay the loans "because more customers are buying vehicles like the Chevrolet Malibu and Buick LaCrosse."

Neither the ad nor the press release mentioned that GM repaid its government loan with other government money, or that U.S. taxpayers could lose money on the roughly $50 billion they still have invested in General Motors.

In a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner last week, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said the repayment "appears to be nothing more than an elaborate TARP money shuffle."

Treasury spokeswoman Meg Reilly says Geithner hopes to respond to Grassley’s letter, perhaps by today. General Motors did not respond to calls for comment.

How did taxpayers get into this situation?

Before and during its bankruptcy, the U.S. Treasury loaned General Motors $49.5 billion from the Troubled Assets Relief Program.

When GM emerged from bankruptcy as a new company in July, the Treasury converted most of those loans into a 60.8 percent stake in the new company’s common stock, $2.1 billion in preferred stock and $7.1 billion in loans. About $400 million in loans was repaid almost immediately, leaving GM with about $6.7 billion in government debt. The balance of the loan was originally due July 2015, but the date was later accelerated to June 30, 2010.

GM had already repaid $2 billion in loans. Last week, it announced it had repaid the remaining $4.7 billion.

The automaker, however, didn’t repay any of the loans from its earnings. Repayments came from "other TARP funds currently held in an escrow account," according to a report by the special inspector general overseeing TARP funds.

The money in the escrow account was …

Continue reading. Sad to say, businesses routinely lie, and they lie without hesitation.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2010 at 1:06 pm

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