Later On

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

Archive for November 4th, 2009

John Cole nails it

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From Balloon Juice:

Remember the other day when Hillary Clinton asserted that she did not think drone attacks killing civilians could be viewed as a form of terrorism by the Pakistani populace? This cracked me up:

A letter about healthcare reform to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), apparently from former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, triggered a security scare that briefly shut down much of the Senate on Wednesday.

The typed letter, tucked inside a hand-written business envelope, appeared in Reid’s office without postage, in an outgoing mailbox bin. A Senate postal clerk noticed the envelope and alerted a Reid staffer, who in turn notified Capitol Police about 2 p.m.

A small swarm of officers responded, first shutting down the hallway outside Reid’s office and then taking the even rarer step of shutting down the wide Ohio Clock corridor that senators use for press conferences outside the Senate’s main entrance. Mindful of the ricin and anthrax attacks in 2001, teams of hazardous materials technicians were called and tested the envelope before opening it and discovering Koop’s letter.

“The staff in the Capitol in particular and on the Hill in general are very sensitive to mail that ends up in an office and hasn’t been cleared,” said Senate Sergeant at Arms Terry Gainer.

So, to review. When Pakistani citizens watch their friends and neighbors blown up by missile strikes, it is the position of this administration that they should not view it as terrorism. On the other hand, when we receive a letter without a stamp, we shut down a portion of the most powerful government in the world out of a general hysteria over terrorism.

I’m even going to go out on a limb and wager that more Af/Pak citizens have been killed by missiles than Americans have been by unstamped letters.

Written by Leisureguy

4 November 2009 at 5:07 pm

Posted in Daily life, Terrorism

Megs: The Food Transition – update

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Megs was balking at moving to the homemade food—eating some, but not enough. Her heart wasn’t in it.

After thinking it over, I realized that after 7 years of a 24/7 kibble buffet as her food, just getting her fully moved to canned food was quite a transition, and once she had made that, she deserved a chance to rest and solidify the new habit. So I’m now giving her canned food, no homemade, and we’re looking at the “95%” Evo line (95% duck, or turkey and chicken, or venison, or beef). The beef is of no interest to me, given the nature of US beef. Right now she’s having the venison and liking it a lot. I’ll also let her try the duck and the turkey and chicken. Whichever one she likes best will be her food for the next 2-3 weeks.

Then I will start by mixing a tiny bit of homemade into her regular canned food, and see how that goes.

Written by Leisureguy

4 November 2009 at 2:56 pm

Posted in Cats, Food, Megs

Upcoming change in movie structure?

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When you browse Amazon movie rentals, you are offered a two-minute free preview. (Probably the offer would be better were it for the movie’s trailer.) The problem is that movies today, with extensive credits, don’t make it past the opening credits.

I would bet that within a very short time we’ll see movies that open (as the classical James Bond films did) with a two-minute cliffhanger, credits to follow.

Written by Leisureguy

4 November 2009 at 2:46 pm

Posted in Daily life, Movies & TV

Clever way to supplement foreign-language study

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Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

4 November 2009 at 1:43 pm

Posted in Daily life, Education

New book on Pompeii

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This book sounds fascinating:

The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found

by Mary Beard

A review by Joy Connolly

Visit the ruins of Pompeii today, stroll to the famous "Villa of the Mysteries," and you will discover a room of enigmatic frescoes gleaming in the dim light, their crimsons and golds seeming as rich and resplendent as if they were painted yesterday. In a sense, they were: the walls of the room were heavily and repeatedly retouched, waxed and varnished with petroleum when they were discovered a century ago. The frescoes are typical of Pompeii’s charms, the way its many relics seem to testify to the constancy of human invention and encourage us to forget the passage of time. Stroll around the site a little more, and you’ll come across recognizable kitchenware, medical instruments and even graffiti: stickmen doodled in a doorway at the level of a child’s eye, a naked Venus painted on a bake shop wall like a centerfold pinned up in a modern garage, the lament (or is it a boast?) "Atimetus got me pregnant."

But as Mary Beard shows in The Fires of Vesuvius, her marvelous excavation of Pompeii’s history, the city is rarely what it is billed to be. A leading historian of Roman culture, a prolific essayist and an irrepressible blogger, Beard punctures conventional pieties about history and culture with formidable scholarly authority, always paying keen attention to the layering effects of the passage of time. Her Parthenon, published in 2003, wove unfamiliar episodes in the temple’s history, notably its life as a mosque starting in the fifteenth century, into the tale of the monument’s makeover into the quintessential icon of Western civilization. The Roman Triumph, from 2007, reassessed the sources for the eye-popping imperial parade billed as a triumph in shows like HBO’s Rome, complete with horn-blasting legionaries and girls scattering rose petals. Beard’s purpose was to expose how the legalistic, institution-minded bias of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century historians of the classical era attributed to the civic life of imperial Rome a far more regularized and ideologically orthodox dimension than it is likely to have enjoyed through most of its existence.

With The Fires of Vesuvius, Beard has produced a lusciously detailed, erudite account of life in ancient Pompeii, and in keeping with her earlier work, she first clears the evidentiary ground. She reveals how a city badly roughed up by earthquakes, rebuilt, shaken again, partly evacuated, blasted and blanketed by volcanic ash from Vesuvius in 79 CE, then tunneled into, looted and finally forgotten was rediscovered in the eighteenth century, excavated, rebuilt, bombed by Allied forces in 1943 and reconstructed once more, becoming the "city in a bottle" dramatically if misleadingly packaged for tourists. (It was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1997.) Sensitive to the fragility of evidence, Beard frankly admits that much about Pompeii, even the exact date of its destruction in 79, will remain unknown. The eyewitness account of the younger Pliny, who wrote that his naturalist uncle died getting a closer look at Vesuvius on August 24-25, is undermined by medieval manuscript variants recording several different dates and the on-site discovery of autumnal vegetables and a coin minted later in the year. Beard insists on only one thing: "’Our Pompeii is not a Roman city going about its business, then simply ‘frozen in time’ as so many guidebooks and tourist brochures claim. It is a much more challenging and intriguing place."

Beard’s intent isn’t to spoil sunny Italian holidays with storms of skepticism. (She admits that she isn’t immune to Pompeii’s charms, including the Stabian Baths and the Temple of Isis.) Rather, the challenge of The Fires of Vesuvius rests in the way that its portrait of Pompeii overturns longstanding conceptions about the empire to which the city belonged. Most important is …

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Written by Leisureguy

4 November 2009 at 1:37 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, Education

Obama Administration flees from accountability

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Daphne Eviatar in the Washington Independent:

As Marcy Wheeler and Glenn Greenwald both pointed out over the weekend, Eric Holder on Friday once again declared that a case charging government lawbreaking must be dismissed because to let it continue would reveal important “state secrets.” That’s despite the fact that Attorney General Eric Holder not long ago announced that he’d be asserting the state secrets privilege much more sparingly, only when there are real, as opposed to speculative, state secrets at issue.

What’s particularly interesting about the assertion this time, though, is that it doesn’t appear to be simply covering up Bush-era government misconduct. The case,Shubert v. Bush, suggests an ongoing illegal government data-mining program that intercepts and listens in on a huge range of communications by U.S. citizens. Thecomplaint (PDF), filed by ordinary U.S. citizens living in Brooklyn, N.Y., who communicate with people in different countries, is a fascinating read that charges the government is engaged in a bizarrely vast surveillance dragnet. On the one hand, it sounds completely paranoid; on the other hand, it could be true.

We may never know, however, because if Attorney General Eric Holder has his way, the case will be dismissed before the lawyers even get a chance to investigate. That’s because the government has “to protect against a disclosure of highly sensitive, classified information that would irrevocably harm the national security of this country,” as Holder said in a statement released late on Friday. Holder has once again invoked the so-called “state secrets privilege,” this time reluctantly, he says, because “there is no way for this case to move forward without jeopardizing ongoing intelligence activities that we rely upon to protect the safety of the American people.”

In fact, federal courts handle classified and sensitive information all the time without disclosing it publicly, by filing records under seal and requiring the lawyers involved in the case to obtain security clearance. It’s unclear why that wouldn’t work in this case. But one implication of Holder’s statement is that the spying and data-mining program is ongoing, so to reveal it would harm national security.

Another equally disturbing implication of Holder’s statement is …

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4 November 2009 at 1:32 pm

Divert some defense spending to infrastructure

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Very interesting post by Matthew Yglesias:

Ryan Avent asks what would happen if for just one year we spent as much on infrastructure investments as we do on the Department of Defense:

With that kind of money you could entirely build out a national network of true high-speed rail. One year’s worth of defense spending gets you that. Which makes one wonder: where are all the economists, wringing their hands over cost-benefit analyses of these defense expenditures?Does anyone doubt that the net benefit of $100 billion spent on high-speed rail is easily higher than that for the last $100 billion spent on defense? Have a look at this if you’re unsure.

And while the gains to new investments in infrastructure (and not just in transportation) would be large, it isn’t as though we lack critical needs.What was the cost, human and economic, of the I-35 bridge collapse? Of the Metro crash and resulting limitations on service? Of the Bay Bridge shutdown? And of course, investments in infrastructure constitute positive contributions to the economy, which ultimately strengthen our ability to direct resources toward defense. Aimless defense spending, on the other hand, may well make us poorer and less secure.

Ryan’s link was to my post comparing …

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4 November 2009 at 1:28 pm

Wal-Mart: Working hard to infect America

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Mary Kane writes in the Washington Independent:

During the summer, when swine flu was not yet a widespread reality in the United States, giant retailer Wal-Mart made the news for being in talks with the government about possibly distributing the swine flu vaccine through its extensive network of stores.

But now the swine flu has Wal-Mart under scrutiny for a very different reason: Accusations that the retailer is leaving employees infected with swine flu little choice but to come to work, due to its punitive sick leave policies.

Citing a report by the National Labor Committee, the Institute for Southern Studies’ argues on its blog Facing South that Wal-Mart is essentially contributing to the spread of swine flu by making it financially prohibitive for employees to miss work when they fall ill.

Employees of the Arkansas-based retail giant — even its food handlers — feel they have no choice but to work when they’re sick. That’s because the company gives workers demerits and deducts pay for staying home when they’re sick or caring for sick children.

It gets worse: …

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4 November 2009 at 1:25 pm

IQ drug does work

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Interesting article by Ed Cumming in Intelligent Life:

One evening this summer, in our final term at Cambridge, my roommate Katie threw a party. Our set was in a 17th-century attic, and its sloping ceilings framed a gorgeous view: a panorama taking in King’s College Chapel, the billiard-table lawns of the backs and the stately river. In that room you felt the mass of student life that had passed before you: even the doorframe had a musty glamour. Yet on this occasion I had no interest in joining the bright young things drinking vodka from coffee mugs. This wasn’t any virtue on my part. It was down to a drug: modafinil, an aid to concentration. I sat at my desk, head in an essay. I scarcely noticed the party until I looked up and saw it had finished. I had finished the essay too: 2,000 words in an hour and a half.

I was an ordinary student, but the drug let me feel intermittently extraordinary. Before, I would labour languidly over essays. Now, I would concentrate until they were done. I’m sure it improved my results. And I wasn’t alone: chemical cognitive enhancement is becoming part of student life.

Modafinil was never meant for people like me. It was invented to stop narcoleptics falling asleep, then adapted to let soldiers stay up all night. But gradually it was noticed that as well as increasing wakefulness, the drug imp roved concentration. I first sought my own hit after realising that four or five of my friends were using it to help them revise. With finals looming, they wanted to boost their concentration and fight the urge to slack off. The modern student wages a constant battle against the forces of distraction, the flit from screen to screen. Though technologically literate, we find it hard to dwell on any idea for very long. My friends had found an antidote.

I jumped at the chance to join them. The drug wasn’t hard to get hold of. Though it is prescription-only in Britain and America, modafinil is readily available online under a range of pseudonyms: Modalert, Modapro, Provigil. One friend had set himself up as an unofficial dealer in concentration. He bought in bulk from India for $2-4 per 100mg pill, and sold them on at cost. With some  taking it daily, he found demand increasing all the time.

As one of his customers, having taken modafinil on and off for six weeks leading up to exams, I can say this much: it works. It makes you work better. When I took it, as long as  I was reasonably fresh, I felt my alertness gently elevated. There was no amphetamine euphoria or caffeine twitchiness, but a heightened wakefulness and an overwhelming desire to finish the task at hand. The effect usually lasted about six hours, from a dose of 100-200mg.

It was not all positive…

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Written by Leisureguy

4 November 2009 at 1:23 pm

The neurological case for arts education

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Very interesting post by Jonah Lehrer:

Michael Posner and Brenda Patoine make a neuroscientific case for arts education. They argue that teaching kids to make art has lasting cognitive benefits:

If there were a surefire way to improve your brain, would you try it? Judging by the abundance of products, programs and pills that claim to offer "cognitive enhancement," many people are lining up for just such quick brain fixes. Recent research offers a possibility with much better, science-based support: that focused training in any of the arts–such as music, dance or theater–strengthens the brain’s attention system, which in turn can improve cognition more generally.

We know that the brain has a system of neural pathways dedicated to attention. We know that training these attention networks improves general measures of intelligence. And we can be fairly sure that focusing our attention on learning and performing an art–if we practice frequently and are truly engaged–activates these same attention networks. We therefore would expect focused training in the arts to improve cognition generally.

They even have some longitudinal evidence:

In 2004, E. Glenn Schellenberg of the University of Toronto at Mississauga published results from a randomized, controlled study showing that the IQ scores of 72 children who were enrolled in a yearlong music training program increased significantly compared with 36 children who received no training and 36 children who took drama lessons. (The IQ scores of children taking drama lessons did not increase, but these children did improve more than the other groups on ratings of selected social skills.)

Just a few additional thoughts…

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Written by Leisureguy

4 November 2009 at 1:19 pm

Lawsuit against government settled

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I wish it had gone to trial. I’m fed up with "the U.S. government admits no liability or fault." The settlement should have required to them to admit fault—and a few people should be fired and/or prosecuted individually. The story by Christine Kearney of Reuters begins:

The U.S. government will pay $1.26 million to five Muslim men detained for months without charges after the September 11 attacks who sued for unlawful imprisonment and abuse, their lawyers said on Tuesday.

The men claimed they suffered inhumane and degrading treatment in a Brooklyn detention center, including solitary confinement, severe beatings, incessant verbal abuse and a blackout on communications with their families and attorneys.

Rachel Meeropol, a lawyer for the Center for Constitutional Rights who brought the case in Brooklyn federal court, said it was the largest settlement so far for claims of abuse in the United States following the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The Justice Department agreed to settle the suit, which was filed in 2002 after hundreds of immigrants were rounded up and held for months following the attacks, according to the CCR.

A spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department was not immediately available to comment on the settlement, in which the U.S. government admits no liability or fault. The five men were all eventually released after being cleared of any connection to terrorism but then deported…

Continue reading. I assume the government deported them simply out of embarrassment and a determination to admit no errors. Sometimes I despise some in government.

Written by Leisureguy

4 November 2009 at 12:45 pm

The Wire at Harvard

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Dan Colman has an interesting post at Open Culture:

David Simon once called his HBO series, The Wire, “a political tract masquerading as a cop show.” Think of it as a five season, 3600 minute, artistic depiction of the escalating breakdown of urban society. The show is art. But it is also life in the biggest sense. And it’s why some thinkers have likened the epic series to (or even elevated it above) Tolstoy’s War & Peace. Now comes this… According to The Harvard Crimson, William J. Wilson, a Harvard sociology professor, will teach a new course that uses The Wire as “a case study for poverty in America,” saying that “The Wire has done more to enhance our understanding of the systemic urban inequality that constrains the lives of the poor than any published study.” If you haven’t seen this series, and if this whets your appetite, you can find a nice deal on Amazon. The full series now goes for $125.00, 50% off the list price.

Written by Leisureguy

4 November 2009 at 12:40 pm

Senate GOP pouts about climate bill.

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The GOP is pulling stunts again, boycotting the discussion of the bill in committee. There’s quite a good post at Climate Progress, which begins:

How lame are the GOP’s delaying tactics on the climate bill? Even the Washington Post’s editors — no friend of climate action or clean energy — criticized them today in piece titled, “Unhelpful atmosphere,” pointing out that “GOP members want the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to perform a series of modeling runs that would be more extensive than those it has done on similar legislation” and “EPA Associate Administrator David McIntosh said Tuesday that the differences [between the House and Senate bill] wouldn’t even show up in the agency’s computer modeling, leaving little reason to conduct a completely new analysis before committee work commences.”  The editorial noted, “Draft texts of Kerry-Boxer have been publicly available since the end of September, and a more complete version has been out for more than a week. The GOP should be ready to offer amendments, particularly after Ms. Boxer extended the deadline for their submission to Tuesday evening….  Ms. Boxer brought Mr. McIntosh into the room Tuesday to answer just such questions. It would have been constructive if GOP committee members had been there to question him.”

Guest blogger Noreen Nielson, director for energy communications at progressive media, shares some further insight on the GOP’s delaying tactics…

Continue reading to see what Ms. Nielson has to say. She does include this interesting table:

So the question is: What is the real motivation behind the Republican members blocking clean energy reform? The costs of doing nothing to combat climate change greatly outweigh the costs of acting now. We’re spending $1 billion a day on foreign oil, money that could instead be invested here at home to help create 1.7 million new jobs, increase our security and lessen our pollution.

Perhaps it has something to do with the $3,507,321the seven minority members of the EPW Committee have received from Big Oil, along with millions more from utilities, mining and the national resource sector. This is in addition to the billions Big Oil has spent on lobbying, astroturfing and smear campaigns. Exxon Mobil alone spent $7.2 million on lobbying in the last quarter – more than the total of the entire alternative energy sector.


*All data accessed today from

Written by Leisureguy

4 November 2009 at 12:36 pm

A new era for US drug policy?

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CBS News has a special report written by Ken Millstone that’s quite interesting:

Ethan Nadelmann is feeling good. Really good.

As the founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, Nadelmann has long advocated for the liberalization of U.S. drug laws — specifically, making marijuana legal, regulated and taxed and ending criminal penalties on the possession and use of all other drugs.

For most of that time the Alliance has been relegated to the fringe of serious policy discussions, a space long occupied – or so the stereotype goes – by radical libertarians and readers of the marijuana enthusiast magazine High Times.

But things are changing. The last few months are "the first time I’ve ever felt that the wind is at my back and not in my face," Nadelmann said. "There’s a tremendous amount of momentum across the board."

Consider the developments of the last year. In March, Virginia Sen. Jim Webb introduced a bill calling for a wholesale overhaul of the criminal justice system in the United States. Our system is cripplingly large, he argued, and marred by wrongful incarcerations, poor rehabilitative treatment and mental health care and a price tag of $44 billion a year on prisons alone.

Webb called the situation a "national disgrace," and said the elephant in the room is sky-high incarceration rates for drug users due to the U.S.’s 40-year-old War on Drugs.

California, the first state to make marijuana legal for medical use, is considering a bill to legalize and tax marijuana for all residents; it had its first hearing in the state assembly last week. Massachusetts voted to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. The attorney general of Arizona has said that legal marijuana might be an answer to the Mexican drug cartel violence spilling over into his state.

And a Gallup poll released last month shows that support for national marijuana legalization has climbed steadily since the early 1980s, recently hitting an all-time high of 44 percent.

"That is the most extraordinary poll result as I have seen in all my years working in this," Nadelmann said. "We haven’t changed our position, but we are basically more and more part of the mainstream discussion." He likens the situation to movements like gay rights and civil rights that made rapid strides in relatively short periods.

"We’re getting awfully close to something that looks a lot like a tipping point," he said.

The recent reform push hasn’t been limited to the United States, either. In August, …

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4 November 2009 at 11:54 am

More "state secrets" used to hide bad things

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You’d think that laws would not be hidden under "state secrets"—how can you obey a law whose contents are kept secret?—but what’s shaping up under secret development of international copyright laws is very very bad. Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

4 November 2009 at 11:51 am

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

Creepy dolls

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Lots more dolls to view.

Written by Leisureguy

4 November 2009 at 11:46 am

Posted in Daily life

Penalties for drug use must reflect harm

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Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Penalties for drug use must reflect harm“, posted with vodpod

Big contretemps in the UK government because the Home Secretary sacked a scientist for delivery findings that didn’t like match current government policy—so two more have resigned. David Nutt, the fired scientist, writes in The Times:

In July this year I gave a lecture on the assessment of drug harms and how these relate to the legislation controlling drugs. According to Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, some contents of this lecture meant I had crossed the line from science to policy and so he sacked me. I do not know which comments were beyond the line or, indeed, where the line was, but the Government has lost its major expert on drugs and drug harms and may indeed lose the rest of its scientific advisers in the field.

All drugs are potentially harmful and many of the harms can be measured. We can use scientific methods to estimate these and produce a ranking, and compare our scores with their location in the Misuse of Drugs Act. Heroin and cocaine appear to be in the correct place (Class A), whereas Ecstasy (Class A) and cannabis do not (Class B).

The reason for making drugs illegal is to let society reduce harms by punishing their sale and use. The purpose of having the ABC classes is to scale penalties according to relative harms. Possession of a class A drug for personal use can lead to seven years in prison, for class B, it is five years and for class C, two years.

The classes are also important in educating the public about the relative harms of drugs. So it is imperative that the classification of drugs truly reflects their harms, otherwise injustices may occur and the educational message be undermined. Scientific inquiry into drug harms must also be honest and accurate so that the best quality evidence is available to the experts and government. Legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco are as harmful as many illegal drugs and currently score highly on our ranking list.

What are appropriate penalties for drug use? This question has moral and practical aspects, but the penalties must reflect the real and relative harms of drugs.

My sacking has cast a huge shadow over the relationship of science to policy. Several of the science experts from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) have resigned in protest and it seems likely that many others will follow suit. This means the Home Office no longer has a functioning advisory group, which is very unfortunate given the ever-increasing problems of drugs and the emergence of new ones. Also it seems unlikely that any “true” scientist — one who can only speak the truth — will be able to work for this, or future, Home Secretaries.

Others have suggested a way forward: create a truly independent advisory council. This is the only realistic way out of the current mess.

Here’s the list of drugs in order by how harmful they are:

Professor David Nutt’s harm index, published in a controversial paper entitled Estimating Drug Harms: a risky business, is based on scores allocated for 20 substances based on physical harms, dependence and social harms.

He identifies three main factors that determine the harm associated with any drug of potential abuse: a) the physical harm to the individual user caused by the drug; b) the tendency of the drug to induce dependence; c) the effect of drug use on families, communities and society.

Within each category there are three components, leading to a nine-category matrix of harm, with scores of zero to three for each category. This is the final list based on that classification. In brackets is the classification given under the Misuse of Drugs Act, with Class A attracting the most serious penalties.

1. Heroin (Class A)
2. Cocaine (Class A)
3. Barbiturates (Class B)
4. Street methadone (Class A)
5. Alcohol (Not controlled)
6. Ketamine (Class C)
7. Benzodiazepine (Class B)
8. Amphetamine (Class B)
9. Tobacco (No class)
10. Bupranorphine (Class C)
11. Cannabis (Class B)
12. Solvents (Not controlled)
13. 4-MTA (Class A)
14. LSD (Class A)
15. Methylphenidate (Class B)
16. Anabolic steroids (Class C)
17. GHB (Class C)
18. Ecstasy (Class A)
19. Alkylnitrates (Not controlled)
20. Khat (Not controlled)

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4 November 2009 at 11:32 am

Joe Lieberman’s trail of broken promises

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4 November 2009 at 10:04 am

Mexico’s dead-journalists problem

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John Ross writes in the Rag Blog:

Three years after he was gunned down by Oaxaca state security agents October 27, 2006, while filming a confrontation between activists and local police during the oft-violent campaign to oust tyrannical governor Ulisis Ruiz Ortiz (URO), a prominent member of the once-and-future ruling PRI party, U.S. photojournalist Brad Will is still dead.

So are 55 other journalists working in Mexico over the past ten years (eight more remain missing), according to a roster painstakingly complied by Reporters Without Borders, the Paris-based journalists’ group. Sixteen of those on the kill list have been slain since Brad’s still unresolved death. With rare exception, the murders of journalists in Mexico are never solved.

Will, a 35 year-old community activist and troubadour turned Indymedia reporter, covered social protest in such Latin American hot spots as Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, and Chiapas before arriving in Oaxaca to interview leaders of the APPO (Oaxaca Peoples’ Popular Assembly) and striking teachers whose prolonged street protests demanding URO’s removal as governor galvanized that conflictive southern state during the summer and fall of 2006. Will is the only non-Mexican on the death list held by Reporters Without Borders.

Read the rest of this entry »

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4 November 2009 at 10:02 am

The CIA hates being held accountable

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Very intriguing story by Michael Doyle in McClatchy:

Two colleagues who once fought drugs in California have won satisfaction in a 15-year legal battle that shone a bright spotlight on the nation’s spies.

Capping a remarkable courtroom ride, former Drug Enforcement Administration agent Richard Horn and attorney Brian Leighton secured a $3 million financial settlement from the Justice Department. The confidential settlement filed Tuesday ends a lawsuit that embarrassed past and present CIA officials.

"No one should have to endure what we did for 15 years," Leighton said Tuesday evening. "The government greatly miscalculated our endurance and resolve."

In the original lawsuit filed by Leighton in U.S. District Court in Washington, Horn claimed a CIA officer and a diplomat had collaborated in illegally eavesdropping on his conversations.

Leighton declined Tuesday to describe how the $3 million would be divided, but he called the payment "big time." As is customary, the settlement doesn’t include any admission of wrongdoing by the Justice Department or individual defendants.

"It might also light a fire under future plaintiffs to vindicate their rights," Leighton said.

The Justice Department, too, gets something out of the settlement. After succeeding for years in keeping the entire lawsuit sealed, government officials were facing the possibility that sensitive practices and prior investigations would be exposed.

"This case has been pending for 15 years, and the parties and the United States have now reached a comprehensive, global settlement of claims after extensive negotiations," Justice Department attorney Alexander Haas stated in a legal filing Tuesday night…

Continue reading. You’ll notice that the Justice Department tried to use the "state secrets" ploy until the judge got fed up with their lies.

Written by Leisureguy

4 November 2009 at 9:58 am

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

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