Later On

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

Archive for February 25th, 2008

EPA still working hard against environmental quality

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EPA continues its mission under Bush to protect businesses regardless of the cost to the environment:

Under pressure from agriculture industry lobbyists and lawmakers from agricultural states, the Environmental Protection Agency wants to drop requirements that factory farms report their emissions of toxic gases, despite findings by the agency’s scientists that the gases pose a health threat.

The EPA acknowledges that the emissions can pose a threat to people living and working nearby, but it says local emergency responders don’t use the reports, making them unnecessary. But local air-quality agencies, environmental groups and lawmakers who oppose the rule change say the reports are one of the few tools rural communities have for holding large livestock operations accountable for the pollution they produce.

Opponents of the rule change say agriculture lobbyists orchestrated a campaign to convince the EPA that the reports are not useful and misrepresented the effort as reflecting the views of local officials. They say the plan to drop the reporting requirement is emblematic of a broader effort by the Bush-era EPA to roll back federal pollution rules.

“One of the running themes we have seen is they have taken numerous industry-friendly actions that are shot down in the courts, but they buy time for industry” in appeals and reviews that could extend years into the next administration, said Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, a nonprofit environmental group based in Washington.

The EPA requirement that farms report large emissions of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide from animal manure has been on the books since the 1980s. The EPA does not set limits for the releases; it merely requires that farms disclose emissions over certain levels. Local public health officials say that if people in an area started getting sick with symptoms pointing to emissions, knowing who was reporting big releases of the gases would be most helpful.

The EPA proposed dropping the farm emissions reporting requirement in the aftermath of lawsuits brought by communities against several big farms sought damages and stricter controls of emissions.

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25 February 2008 at 5:56 pm

Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early

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25 February 2008 at 4:45 pm

Posted in Daily life

Not back in the day

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We didn’t use to cook like this:

And here’s a serving suggestion.

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25 February 2008 at 4:18 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Jack Bauer: fiction. Ticking time bomb: fiction

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Need for torture: fiction.

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25 February 2008 at 3:54 pm

Posted in Bush Administration, GOP, Government

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More on the GOP smear machine

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Glenn Greenwald:

By far, the most significant pattern in how our political discourse is shaped is that the right-wing noise machine generates scurrilous, petty, personality-based innuendo about Democratic candidates, and the establishment press then mindlessly repeats it and mainstreams it. Thus, nothing was more predictable than watching the “Obamas-are-unpatriotic-subversives” slur travel in the blink of an eye from the Jack Kingstons, Fox News adolescent McCarthyites, and Bill Kristols of the world to AP, MSNBC, and CNN. That’s just how the right-wing/media nexus works.

Far more notable is Barack Obama’s response to these depressingly familiar attacks. In response, he’s not scurrying around slapping flags all over himself or belting out the National Anthem, nor is he apologizing for not wearing lapels, nor is he defensively trying to prove that — just like his Republican accusers — he, too, is a patriot, honestly. He’s not on the defensive at all. Instead, he’s swatting away these slurs with the dismissive contempt they deserve, and then eagerly and aggressively engaging the debate on offense because he’s confident, rather than insecure, about his position:

About not wearing an American flag lapel pin, Obama said Republicans have no lock on patriotism.”A party that presided over a war in which our troops did not get the body armor they needed, or were sending troops over who were untrained because of poor planning, or are not fulfilling the veterans’ benefits that these troops need when they come home, or are undermining our Constitution with warrantless wiretaps that are unnecessary?

“That is a debate I am very happy to have. We’ll see what the American people think is the true definition of patriotism.”

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25 February 2008 at 3:48 pm

Posted in Democrats, Election

“Still broken”

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Glenn Greenwald:

In 2001, A.J. Rossmiller — now a blogger at AmericaBlog — was a student at Middlebury College in Vermont. He had been considering a career in intelligence, and had a particular interest in the Middle East which had led him to spend time studying there. As was true for millions of Americans, the 9/11 attack had a profound impact on him — he grew up in New York and his father at the time worked in downtown Manhattan — and that event solidified his intention to become an intelligence officer.

In 2004, Rossmiller, upon graduating, joined the Defense Intelligence Agency, the intelligence branch of the Pentagon, as an intelligence officer. Roughly six months later, Rossmiller saw a DIA bulletin requesting volunteers to be assigned to Iraq to gather and analyze intelligence in the key war zones. Despite the fact that the memo absurdly imposed a deadline of 24 hours later for volunteering, despite the fact that he was a Democrat who was against the Iraq War from the start, and despite the fact that virtually everyone with whom he spoke — from friends and family members to DIA supervisors — was against his volunteering for such a dangerous and almost certainly futile mission, Rossmiller submitted his name to go to Iraq. He was sent there a couple of months later.

Rossmiller has now written a truly superb book about his experiences as a DIA intelligence officer, with a focus on his work in Iraq: Still Broken: A Recruit’s Insider Account of Intelligence Failures, from Baghdad to the Pentagon. The book documents with well-documented facts and abundant details how the intelligence process has become completely corrupted by the same disease that has infected virtually every arm of the federal government, from the Justice Department to the FDA, under the Bush administration: the subordination of objective facts and basic competence to political, ideological and propagandistic aims.

Rossmiller provides numerous first-hand accounts of how intelligence officers in Iraq were blocked from issuing intelligence conclusions regarding Iraq’s internal affairs that would undermine the political goals of the White House, and were often forced to sign on to unduly optimistic conclusions which they rejected because those conclusions were politically beneficial in selling the President’s policies and ensuring ongoing public support for the war. The principal strength of the book is that Rossmiller avoids grandiose assessments and instead confines the narrative to what he knows, to what he witnessed and experienced first-hand.

As the title of his book suggests, the structural corruption of the intelligence community is not merely a matter of historical interest but one of ongoing concern. Under this administration, intelligence officers — like federal prosecutors and drug regulators — have become trained to know that their careers advance when they issue conclusions and make decisions which are politically pleasing to administration ideologues (even if wrong), and they suffer if they opine or decide in a way that undermines the White House’s agenda (even when they are right). That creates — has created — a climate where corrupted and politicized intelligence (like corrupted and politicized prosecutions) has become institutionalized, normalized.

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25 February 2008 at 3:44 pm

A slow-motion military coup?

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Spencer Ackerman observes that something weird is happening:

Without much notice, something strange has happened to the intelligence community during the second term of President George W. Bush. The leaders of the 16-agency, $45 billion-a-year spy apparatus have started wearing stars and gold braid on their shoulders.

It’s more than a sartorial change. For the first time in American history, the people holding the most important positions in the civilian U.S. intelligence agencies and offices are now all military or ex-military men. First Gen. Michael Hayden, an active-duty Air Force officer, replaced civilian Porter Goss as the head of the Central Intelligence Agency in 2006. Then retired Vice Adm. Mike McConnell replaced civilian John Negroponte as Director of National Intelligence—the overall leader of the intelligence community—in 2007. Shortly thereafter, retired Air Force Gen. Jim Clapper ascended to chief of Pentagon intelligence, ultimately replacing civilian Steve Cambone. That’s to say nothing of the uniformed leaders of the various defense intelligence agencies, most notably Army Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander at the National Security Agency. Indeed, the most significant non-military head of an intelligence agency is Randall M. Fort, the bureaucrat who helms the State Department’s relatively puny Bureau of Intelligence and Research.

According to long-time observers, the militarization of the U.S. intelligence community goes further than the uniforms worn by agency leaders. Put another way, those leaders are symptoms of a more fundamental shift over the last several years. With the U.S. mired in Iraq and Afghanistan, intelligence has moved away from long-term forecasting and toward immediate support to military commanders prosecuting the wars.

“There needs to be a semi-independent voice that voices the broader strategic perspectives and is not driven by the [intelligence] demands of day,” said Robert Hutchings, who chaired the National Intelligence Council from 2003 until 2005. “The worry is not that Mike Hayden and Mike McConnell happen to be military officers; it’s that the system is now skewed to current intelligence, driven by military operations. That’s leaving too little left over for strategic analysis of what’s going on more broadly. And that leads to [an echo chamber effect]: this is what’s presented to policy-makers, and it just reinforces the worldview they began with.”

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25 February 2008 at 3:17 pm

Conservatives: “If it works, we don’t like it.”

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It’s been pointed out many times that putting the GOP in charge of the government is not a good idea: the GOP strongly believes that the government doesn’t work, so when they are in control, they make sure that it doesn’t. And if some government program is working, they immediately shut it down—it’s contrary to the message, you see? And it’s not just in the US:

Since 2003, addicts in Vancouver, British Columbia have been able to shoot up with free heroin at a supervised “safer injection facility,” the first of its kind in North America. It has been a success, in the view of the 500 people who use it daily, their downtown east side neighbors (who report less crime), the city government (which sees it as part of its pre-2010 Winter Olympics beautification campaign) and even the cops. Research published in the British Medical Journal, the Lancet and elsewhere shows the facility has helped slow the spread of HIV and cut crime. Counselors available at the site have helped get many addicts off drugs. The same approach has been used for decades in Western Europe.

But conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper doesn’t like it and has enlisted American help to strengthen his case. The Drug Free America Foundation, a Department of Justice-funded, Republican-dominated Florida group that started out as a controversial youth drug rehab program has run a series of reports attacking the center and its “harm reduction” approach on a pseudoscientific online journal. The site, which describes itself “online open access journal” in fact simply runs opinion pieces that attack drug policies the foundation opposes. Nothing wrong with that, but the the Canadian government seems to have been duped into thinking this is actual science.

The Vancouver facility operates under a waiver that prevents the people who run it from being arrested as drug smugglers. Harper has said he may suspend the waiver in June. Canadians are less phobic of such “harm reduction” facilities than us Puritan Americans, but it remains to be seen whether Harper thinks he can win a few votes by shutting it down.

“[The facility] has had a number of benefits, but there are groups who’d rather maintain the status quo than try something new,” Dr. Evan Wood, an HIV epidemiologist at the University of British Columbia who conducts research at the center, told me. “The U.S. is the hotbed of this ‘enforcement first’ philosophy.”

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25 February 2008 at 3:06 pm

More FISA weirdness from the GOP

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It makes no sense, does it?

For House Democrats, who left Washington last week without acting on legislation to expand White House spying powers, Attorney General Michael Mukasey has a few words of caution: The nation’s intelligence programs, he wrote in a Feb. 22 letter (pdf here) to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.), are now officially plunged into uncertainty due to your inaction.

The comments come six days after the Protect America Act (PAA) expired. That law granted the White House the power to conduct electronic surveillance on some U.S. residents without judicial oversight. It also offered legal amnesty to the phone companies that had cooperated with the warrantless wiretapping program before the PAA arrived.

A Senate-passed bill granted the White House both of those stipulations, but House leaders refused to consider the proposal last week. As a result, Mukasey wrote today, the phone companies are less cooperative, and the country is in greater peril.

“We have lost intelligence information this past week as a direct result of the uncertainty created by Congress’ failure to act,” reads the letter, which was also signed by Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell.

Seemingly unfazed, House Democrats—who tried unsuccessfully last week to extend the PAA for 21 days—are moving forward with their plan to remove the telecom immunity provision. And what of the imminent threat posed by the Democrats’ inaction? “If Republicans believed that, then they should have joined us in passing the extension,” said Stacey Farnen Bernards, spokeswomen for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

Meanwhile, House and Senate Democrats met yesterday and today to hash out differences between the two chambers’ proposals. They were alone because the Republicans didn’t show up.

Don Stewart, spokesperson for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), said there’s been plenty of negotiation on the topic already, and Republicans are satisfied with the bill they’ve got.

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25 February 2008 at 3:02 pm

DoJ official lied on waterboarding

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Spencer Ackerman:

A prominent member of the House Judiciary Committee called a senior Justice Department official a liar in an exclusive interview with The Washington Independent. The congressman urged the official to resign over an apparent falsehood about waterboarding and proceeded to urge the prosecution of President George W. Bush and former Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales for “violat[ing] the law with impunity.”

“I suspect he’s lying,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the chairman of the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, said about Steven G. Bradbury, head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. Nadler believes Bradbury misled the panel about the definition of waterboarding during a colloquy over the procedure’s legality.

Bradbury testified before Nadler’s panel on Feb.14 in a rare Capitol Hill appearance. Not only has Bradbury, who was never confirmed by the Senate, remained in office beyond the time required by law for a recess appointment, but The New York Times reported in October that he authored secret legal memoranda in 2005 and 2006 effectively legalizing torture methods, including waterboarding—despite an apparent Justice Department repudiation of torture in December 2004.

In response to questions from Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), Bradbury said that waterboarding, as used by the CIA in 2002 and 2003, falls short of its more lurid descriptions. “If it doesn’t involve severe physical pain and it doesn’t last very long,” then it may not qualify as illegal under the Federal Torture Statute, he testified. However, Bradbury said that there has been “no determination by the Justice Department that the use of waterboarding, under any circumstances, would be lawful under current law.”

Nadler asked Bradbury how “not being able to breathe as your lungs fill with water” could be legal. Bradbury replied in an unanticipated fashion. “Well, with respect, Mr. Chairman,” he said, “your description is not an accurate description of the procedure that’s used by the CIA.”

A back-and-forth ensued that did not establish precisely what the CIA did to al-Qaeda detainees. Bradbury’s defense of what waterboarding is distinguished it from “those cases of water torture [that] have involved the forced consumption of mass amounts of water and often large amounts of water in the lungs.”

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Written by Leisureguy

25 February 2008 at 2:59 pm

Posted in Bush Administration, GOP, Government

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Health of the Chesapeake Bay

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The Chesapeake Bay, once a great protein factory creating foodstuffs for the region, has fallen prey to pollution, the result of externalizing costs: businesses and communities, rather than pay the expense of cleaning up their pollution and sewage, dump it for others to take care of. In particular, Pennsylvania has for decades taken a cavalier attitude toward the pollution being dumped via its waterways into the Chesapeake. But now the laws have changed, and they must clean up their own mess. They’re finding that it’s expensive. I have little sympathy for them: they enjoyed the dance but now do not want to pay the piper.  Here’s the story:

HUNTINGDON, Pa. – Few residents in this central Pennsylvania town regularly, if ever, head to the Chesapeake Bay to enjoy its many recreational opportunities, though they may be saddled with higher sewer bills to help clean it up.

A 2010 deadline looms for Pennsylvania to comply with federal mandates to reduce pollution that flows into waterways that eventually empty into the 200-mile-long Chesapeake, the nation’s largest estuary and one of its great natural resources.

Improvements to sewage treatment plants could cost hundreds of millions of dollars , and that is scaring municipalities in the bay’s vast watershed, which includes parts of six states.

“They’re looking at it and saying, ‘My God, how are we going to pay for this?'” said John Brosius, deputy director for the Pennsylvania Municipal Authorities Association.

In Huntingdon, a foul odor wafts across the grounds of the wastewater treatment facility along the snowy banks of the Juniata River , about 200 miles and a 3 1/2-hour drive to the mouth of the Chesapeake. Borough manager Ken Myers must help guide an estimated $10 million project to upgrade a plant that operates on an annual $1.6 million budget.

With financial aid from the state or federal government unlikely, borough council last year approved a 40 percent increase in sewer rates over four years to foot the bill.

“Government makes regulations and provides no assistance to accomplish them,” Myers said.

A matrix of Pennsylvania streams and other waterways feed into the Susquehanna River, which in turn empties into the Chesapeake. Pennsylvania contributes more sewage, farm runoff and other pollutants than any of its watershed neighbors, so environmentalists are keeping a close eye on the state’s progress.

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25 February 2008 at 2:57 pm

YouTube outage due to Pakistan

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Pakistan’s attempts to block access to YouTube have been blamed for a near global blackout of the site on Sunday.

Google, the owner of YouTube, blamed the outage on “erroneous internet protocols”, sourced in Pakistan.

BBC News has learned that the nearly two-hour long blackout was almost certainly connected to Pakistan Telecom and internet service provider PCCW.

The country ordered ISPs to block the video-sharing website because of content deemed offensive to Islam.

The BBC News website’s technology editor, Darren Waters, says that to block Pakistan’s citizens from accessing YouTube it is believed Pakistan Telecom “hijacked” the web server address of the popular video site.

Those details were then passed on to the country’s internet service providers so that anyone in Pakistan attempting to go to YouTube was instead re-directed to a different address. But the details of the “hijack” were leaked out into the wider internet from PCCW and as a result YouTube was mistakenly blocked by internet service providers around the world.

The block on the servers was lifted once PCCW had been told of the issue by engineers at YouTube.

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25 February 2008 at 2:49 pm

Posted in Government, Technology

Smears starting

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Joshua Marshall at TalkingPointsMemo:

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. Ben Smith, at The Politico, flags that today CNN’s running a ‘online poll’ asking if Barack Obama has enough patriotism to be president. As Ben, with some understatement, put it’s “it’s odd to see the mainstream media drive a largely whispered question that none of his main, named critics — Hillary, McCain, or the RNC — will touch.” Yeah, I’d say so.That’s how it works. Starts at right-swing smear sites and hoax emails. Then the AP’s Nedra Pickler, who specializes in scooping up this slop and laundering it into the mainstream press, writes it up for the AP that runs across the country. And then picks it up and makes it a regular part of the campaign conversation.

I doubt some top exec at CNN came up with this or any name anchor. It’s some producer in the bowels of the operation. But it amounts to the same thing because it’s part of the culture and there’s no accountability.

Get ready for more.

Written by Leisureguy

25 February 2008 at 2:42 pm

Posted in Democrats, Election, Media

Current account balance for various countries

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Information from the CIA Web site. China has the largest positive balance. Challenge: find the USA.

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25 February 2008 at 12:24 pm

When people get serious

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From Snarfd:


Prairie View A&M in Prairie View, Texas is a historically black university that is home to about 8,000 students who heavily skew towards the Democrats. Texas Republicans gerrymandered the crap out their district and then placed the early voting stations seven miles from campus. I don’t know if you remember being carless on campus, but a seven mile trip is tough to swing if the bus doesn’t go there.

So what did the students at Prairie View A&M do?

They walked. They set out in a group of hundreds of students, took over a high way, and walked the seven miles from campus to the polling station.

Written by Leisureguy

25 February 2008 at 11:49 am

Posted in Daily life, Election

12 cartoons that won the Herblock Award

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John Sherffius won the Herblock Award based on these 12 cartoons.

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25 February 2008 at 11:29 am

Is it worth 3 trillion dollars? Honestly?

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From the London Times, by Joseph Stiglitz, who was chief economist at the World Bank and won the Nobel Memorial Prize for Economics in 2001, and Linda Bilmes, a lecturer in public policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. This is from their book, The Three Trillion Dollar War, to be published by Allen Lane on February 28 (£20).

The Bush Administration was wrong about the benefits of the war and it was wrong about the costs of the war. The president and his advisers expected a quick, inexpensive conflict. Instead, we have a war that is costing more than anyone could have imagined.

The cost of direct US military operations – not even including long-term costs such as taking care of wounded veterans – already exceeds the cost of the 12-year war in Vietnam and is more than double the cost of the Korean War.

And, even in the best case scenario, these costs are projected to be almost ten times the cost of the first Gulf War, almost a third more than the cost of the Vietnam War, and twice that of the First World War. The only war in our history which cost more was the Second World War, when 16.3 million U.S. troops fought in a campaign lasting four years, at a total cost (in 2007 dollars, after adjusting for inflation) of about $5 trillion (that’s $5 million million, or £2.5 million million). With virtually the entire armed forces committed to fighting the Germans and Japanese, the cost per troop (in today’s dollars) was less than $100,000 in 2007 dollars. By contrast, the Iraq war is costing upward of $400,000 per troop.

Most Americans have yet to feel these costs. The price in blood has been paid by our voluntary military and by hired contractors. The price in treasure has, in a sense, been financed entirely by borrowing. Taxes have not been raised to pay for it – in fact, taxes on the rich have actually fallen. Deficit spending gives the illusion that the laws of economics can be repealed, that we can have both guns and butter. But of course the laws are not repealed. The costs of the war are real even if they have been deferred, possibly to another generation.

On the eve of war, there were discussions of the likely costs. Larry Lindsey, President Bush’s economic adviser and head of the National Economic Council, suggested that they might reach $200 billion. But this estimate was dismissed as “baloney” by the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. His deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, suggested that postwar reconstruction could pay for itself through increased oil revenues. Mitch Daniels, the Office of Management and Budget director, and Secretary Rumsfeld estimated the costs in the range of $50 to $60 billion, a portion of which they believed would be financed by other countries. (Adjusting for inflation, in 2007 dollars, they were projecting costs of between $57 and $69 billion.) The tone of the entire administration was cavalier, as if the sums involved were minimal.

Even Lindsey, after noting that the war could cost $200 billion, went on to say: “The successful prosecution of the war would be good for the economy.” In retrospect, Lindsey grossly underestimated both the costs of the war itself and the costs to the economy. Assuming that Congress approves the rest of the $200 billion war supplemental requested for fiscal year 2008, as this book goes to press Congress will have appropriated a total of over $845 billion for military operations, reconstruction, embassy costs, enhanced security at US bases, and foreign aid programmes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As the fifth year of the war draws to a close, operating costs (spending on the war itself, what you might call “running expenses”) for 2008 are projected to exceed $12.5 billion a month for Iraq alone, up from $4.4 billion in 2003, and with Afghanistan the total is $16 billion a month. Sixteen billion dollars is equal to the annual budget of the United Nations, or of all but 13 of the US states. Even so, it does not include the $500 billion we already spend per year on the regular expenses of the Defence Department. Nor does it include other hidden expenditures, such as intelligence gathering, or funds mixed in with the budgets of other departments.

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25 February 2008 at 10:58 am

Taxi to the Dark Side wins best documentary.

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Watch the acceptance.

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25 February 2008 at 10:49 am

60 Minutes segment on Rove

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The segment was blacked out in parts of Alabama.

As ThinkProgress explains:

Last night, CBS’s 60 Minutes aired its long-awaited report on Alabama’s incarcerated former governor Don Siegelman, featuring allegations that Karl Rove personally told a Republican operative in the state to find evidence that Siegelman was cheating on his wife.

Siegelman, a Democrat, was convicted in 2006 for conspiracy, bribery and fraud. But observers from all sides of the political spectrum are now questioning whether his prosecution “was pursued not because of a crime but because of politics.” (Watch video here.)

Though the report aired last night, it was not seen by everyone who may have wished to view it. In several Alabama locations, “the show was blocked – black screen – during the Siegelman segment of 60 Minutes only.” Harper’s Scott Horton, who has investigated the Siegelman prosecution and was interviewed for the segment, reports:

I am now hearing from readers all across Northern Alabama–from Decatur to Huntsville and considerably on down–that a mysterious “service interruption” blocked the broadcast of only the Siegelman segment of 60 Minutes this evening. The broadcaster is Channel 19 WHNT, which serves Northern Alabama and Southern Tennessee.

WHNT originally claimed last night that the blocked segment was due to “a techincal(sic) problem with CBS out of New York.” But that claim was contradicted by CBS in New York, who told Horton, that “there is no delicate way to put this: the WHNT claim is not true. There were no transmission difficulties. The problems were peculiar to Channel 19.”

WHNT now has a different explanation on its website:

NewsChannel 19 lost our program feed from CBS. Upon investigation, WHNT has learned that the CBS receiver that allows us to receive programming from CBS failed. WHNT engineers responded as quickly as possible to restore the feed at 6:12 p.m.

WHNT says it “will re-air the broadcast of that segment.”

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25 February 2008 at 10:35 am

Great movie box-office graphic

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Take a look. Put your cursor on any of the strands to see title and get a “click for details.” Great for movie maniacs.

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25 February 2008 at 10:27 am

Posted in Business, Movies & TV

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