Archive for January 19th, 2007
Frederick Black had served for more than a decade as acting U.S. Attorney to the territory of Guam, having been appointed by President George H. W. Bush in 1991. In 2002 he was directing a long-term investigation into allegations of public corruption in the administration of Gov. Carl Gutierrez—a probe that had already produced numerous indictments of Guitierrez’ cronies. But a day after a Guam grand jury issued a subpoena demanding records from the Guam Superior Court that documented payments to Republican lobbyist extraordinaire Jack Abramoff, Black was relieved of his position.
In an article headlined, “Bush Removal Ended Guam Investigation,” The Los Angeles times reported that “a U.S. grand jury in Guam opened an investigation of controversial lobbyist Jack Abramoff more than two years ago, but President Bush removed the supervising federal prosecutor, and the probe ended soon after.” With at least six prominent federal prosecutors recently removed from office, many of them managing large scale public corruption cases, many are wondering if history is not repeating itself.
Among those fired were Carol Lam, the U.S. Attorney for San Diego, who last year won a conviction against Congressman Duke Cunningham (R-CA) in the biggest bribery conviction in history, and Paul Charlton of Arizona, whose office is investigating charges involving land deals and influence peddling against of Republican Congressman Rick Renzi (R-AZ).
Also stepping down is the U.S. Attorney for Nevada, Daniel Bogden, whose office last year won corruption convictions against two Clark County, Nevada Commissioners and may be looking into campaign law violations by at least one member of the state’s Congressional delegation. Next door in New Mexico, David Iglesia is being asked to leave after winning convictions in the past year of two former New Mexico State Treasurers.
Then there’s northern California’s U.S. Attorney, Kevin Ryan, who has not made his mark by ferreting out wrongdoing by public officials but is certain to have stepped on the toes of a number of their most generous contributors with his high profile investigations of back-dated stock options given to numerous executives in major corporations. He has also announced that he is leaving his job.
Avoid those contaminated with lead:
If you’re banking on a daily vitamin to make up for any deficiencies in your diet, you may be getting a whole lot more — or less — than you bargained for.
Of 21 brands of multivitamins on the market in the United States and Canada selected by ConsumerLab.com and tested by independent laboratories, just 10 met the stated claims on their labels or satisfied other quality standards.
Most worrisome, according to ConsumerLab.com president Dr. Tod Cooperman, is that one product, The Vitamin Shoppe Multivitamins Especially for Women, was contaminated with lead.
“I was definitely shocked by the amount of lead in [this] woman’s product,” he said. “We’ve never seen that much lead in a multivitamin before.”
Other products contained more or less of a particular vitamin than listed on the label. And some did not dissolve in the correct amount of time, meaning they could potentially pass through the body without being fully absorbed.
“Half the products were fine, half were not,” said Cooperman.
ConsumerLab.com is a Westchester, N.Y.-based company that independently evaluates hundreds of health and nutrition products and periodically publishes reviews. In the new report, released to MSNBC.com, the company purchased a selection of the popular multivitamins on the market as well as some smaller brands and sent them, without labels, to two independent laboratories to be tested.
On a positive note, several of the most popular multivitamins on the market did pass muster, said David Schardt, a senior nutritionist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group in Washington, D.C.
These included Centrum Silver, Member’s Mark Complete Multi (distributed by Sam’s Club), One A Day Women’s and Flintstones Complete.
“I think this confirms the advice often given: You’re safer choosing a well-known brand sold by some company or store that you have confidence in,” Schardt said. “There are no guarantees but that’s your best bet.”
Paul Bremer screwed Iraq to a parade rest and got away with a Presidential Medal of Freedom. But at last—at long last—he’s going to have to answer some questions.
It’s ugly, and they’ve done it before. ThinkProgress reports:
As many as eight U.S. Attorneys are leaving or being pushed out of their positions by the Bush administration. Several of these prosecutors are working on high-profile cases, such as Carol Lam, who ran the investigation into the corruption of former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA).
The San Diego Union-Tribune has noted that Lam appears to be the “victim of strong-arm political pressure from Washington, where officials apparently wanted to hand her job to a partisan operative.” U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins, who was pushed out by the Bush administration in December, was replaced with a “37-year-old protege of White House political adviser Karl Rove.”
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has denied political motivations behind the resignations, recently telling Congress, “Nothing could be further from the truth.” He added that they were a “sign of good management” by the Bush administration.
But these replacements are not the first time the administration has punished U.S. Attorneys for going after White House allies. In 2002, U.S. Attorney Frederick A. Black launched an investigation into Jack Abramoff’s “secret arrangement with Superior Court officials to lobby against a court reform bill then pending in Congress.” On Nov. 18, 2002, Black issued a grand jury subpoena to the Guam Superior Court to turn over all records involving the lobbying contract with Abramoff. The administration swiftly punished Black:
A day later, the chief prosecutor, US Attorney Frederick A. Black, who had launched the investigation, was demoted. A White House news release announced that Bush was replacing Black.
The timing caught some by surprise. Despite his officially temporary status as the acting US attorney, Black had held the assignment for more than a decade.
An internal Justice Department investigation concluded that the White House did not improperly retaliate against Black for raising allegations against Abramoff. But the probe into Abramoff’s activities in Guam died shortly after Black stepped down. Congress needs to question the White House about whether the Cunningham investigation will meet a similar fate when Lam resigns.
Quantum mechanics is strange and spooky:
Researchers at the University of Rochester have made an optics breakthrough that allows them to encode an entire image’s worth of data into a photon, slow the image down for storage, and then retrieve the image intact.
While the initial test image consists of only a few hundred pixels, a tremendous amount of information can be stored with the new technique.
The image, a “UR” for the University of Rochester, was made using a single pulse of light and the team can fit as many as a hundred of these pulses at once into a tiny, four-inch cell. Squeezing that much information into so small a space and retrieving it intact opens the door to optical buffering–storing information as light.
“It sort of sounds impossible, but instead of storing just ones and zeros, we’re storing an entire image,” says John Howell, associate professor of physics and leader of the team that created the device, which is revealed in today’s online issue of the journal Physical Review Letters. “It’s analogous to the difference between snapping a picture with a single pixel and doing it with a camera–this is like a 6-megapixel camera.”
“You can have a tremendous amount of information in a pulse of light, but normally if you try to buffer it, you can lose much of that information,” says Ryan Camacho, Howell’s graduate student and lead author on the article. “We’re showing it’s possible to pull out an enormous amount of information with an extremely high signal-to-noise ratio even with very low light levels.”
Optical buffering is a particularly hot field right now because engineers are trying to speed up computer processing and network speeds using light, but their systems bog down when they have to convert light signals to electronic signals to store information, even for a short while.
Quite clearly a deliberate effort by the tobacco companies:
A reanalysis of nicotine yield from major brand name cigarettes sold in Massachusetts from 1997 to 2005 has confirmed that manufacturers have steadily increased the levels of this agent in cigarettes. This independent analysis, based on data submitted to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) by the manufacturers, found that increases in smoke nicotine yield per cigarette averaged 1.6 percent each year, or about 11 percent over a seven-year period (1998-2005). Nicotine is the primary addictive agent in cigarettes.
In addition to confirming the magnitude of the increase, first reported in August, 2006 by MDPH, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) extended the analysis to:
- ascertain how manufacturers accomplished the increase — not only by intensifying the concentration of nicotine in the tobacco but also by modifying several design features of cigarettes to increase the number of puffs per cigarette. The end result is a product that is potentially more addictive.
- examine all market categories — finding that smoke nicotine yields were increased in the cigarettes of each of the four major manufacturers and across all the major cigarette market categories (e.g. mentholated, non-mentholated, full-flavor, light, ultralight).
It starts when you’re young—very young:
A new study concludes that low birthweight babies born with low sodium (salt) in their blood serum will likely consume large quantities of dietary sodium later in life. In the study, researchers also found that newborns with the most severe cases of low sodium blood serum consumed ~1700 mg more sodium per day and weighed some 30 percent more than their peers. These data, taken together with other recent findings, make it clear that very low serum sodium in pre-term and new born infants is a consistent and significant contributing factor for long-term sodium intake, a key marker for obesity.
The results are from the study “Lowest Neonatal Serum Sodium Predicts Sodium Intake in Low-Birthweight Children,” conducted by Adi Shirazki, Edith Gershon, and Micah Leshem, all of the University of Haifa, Haifa; Zalman Weintraub of the Galilee Medical Center, Nahariya; and Dan Reich of the Ha’Emek Medical Center, Afula, Israel. The study is published in the American Journal of Physiology — Regulatory, Integrative, and Comparative Physiology. The Journal is one of 11 peer-reviewed research journals published each month by the American Physiological Society (APS).
Forty-one children born prematurely and identified through the archives of the Ha’Emek and Galilee Medical Centers (Israel) participated in the investigation with the written permission of their guardians. The youngsters were admitted to the study based on whether they had received neonatal diuretic treatment during their first month of life (n=23) or were a matched control having received no diuretic treatment (n=18). Of the total, 21 were Arabs (14 boys, 7 girls) and 20 were Jews (11 boys, 9 girls), ranging between 8-15 years of age.