Monday, December 13, 2010

News That Matters - Monday, December 13, 2010 - The Wikileaks Edition

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The Earth is being eaten by machines. Not my problem!
Taking Speed can rearrange your genes. Not my problem!
I've become a humble bum, a drop-out from Humanity.
You may think my morals stink, but at least I keep my sanity.
I'd like to see us all become like saints, but since that cannot be,
Then it's simply not my problem!

- Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt in "Celebration"

“The conscientious person has two great things to fear: Chaos and Order.”
- Andrew Campbell

Good Monday Morning,

Tonight is the annual Geminid meteor shower but with a twist. Scientists say that this year the earth will pass directly through the stream of space dust calved off asteroid 3200 Phaethon the reported source. What's interesting is that most meteor showers are the dust of comets while this one is the dust of an asteroid. The problem is that they cannot account for all this dust coming off that asteroid and so the actual source of the Geminids remains a mystery. What's not mysterious is that observers under dark skies can expect to see upwards of 100-120 meteor per hour between midnight tonight and sunrise tomorrow morning.

In the early morning of December 21st, at 1:33AM, in fact, North America begins it's descent into darkness as the light of the moon is blocked by the earth's shadow in what will be a rare total eclipse of the moon, at least for our region. Totality, that point where the moon is completely blocked will be at 3:17AM. See this for more information.

An alert reader in Lake Carmel noted a spill of what appeared to be white latex paint into Lake Carmel yesterday. Police were called. The spill apparently came from a storm drain and while we can safely surmise that storm drains do not generally produce white paint on their own it leaves us to guess that some miscreant poured it in there as a means of disposal. There's always one in every crowd. Luckily, latex paint dissolves rather safely in water but the event underscores the need for additional education.

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Wikileaks - Straightening out the Confusion (and misinformation)
Many Europeans Find U.S. Attacks on WikiLeaks Puzzling

PARIS — For many Europeans, Washington’s fierce reaction to the flood of secret diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks displays imperial arrogance and hypocrisy, indicating a post-9/11 obsession with secrecy that contradicts American principles.

“What is most fascinating is that we see no cynicism in U.S. diplomacy. They really believe in human rights in Africa and China and Russia and Asia." - Renaud Girard
While the Obama administration has done nothing in the courts to block the publication of any of the leaked documents, or even, as of yet, tried to indict the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, for any crime, American officials and politicians have been widely condemned in the European news media for calling the leaks everything from “terrorism” (Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York) to “an attack against the international community” (Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton). Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates called the arrest of Mr. Assange on separate rape charges “good news.” Sarah Palin called for him to be hunted as an “anti-American operative with blood on his hands,” and Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate, said that whoever leaked the cables should be executed.

For Seumas Milne of The Guardian in London, which like The New York Times has published the latest WikiLeaks trove, the official American reaction “is tipping over toward derangement.” Most of the leaks are of low-level diplomatic cables, he noted, while concluding: “Not much truck with freedom of information, then, in the land of the free.”

Read More
If you go to the website for Stormfront or The Knights Party, two overtly white supremacist organizations, and care to make a donation, you click on the link and it brings you to Paypal. If you want to make a donation to Wikileaks PayPal won't take your money.
Reported in the global press last week this little conundrum seems to have missed the US media almost entirely. Does that mean that the media in America assigns an OKAY! to the KKK but not to open government?

Derrick Longely reports: The Ku Klux Klan website directs users to a site called Christian Concepts. It takes Visa and MasterCard donations for users willing to state that they are “white and not of racially mixed descent. I am not married to a non-white. I do not date non-whites nor do I have non-white dependents. I believe in the ideals of western Christian civilisation and profess my belief in Jesus Christ as the son of God.”
Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman has claimed that Julian Assange should be prosecuted for the release of some 251,000 diplomatic cables. Sarah Palin has said Wikileaks is "unAmerican". Other talking heads in the US media have called for his assassination. What they don't want you to know is that there are not 251,000 cables floating around out there but just a little over one thousand have been released to date. And - here's the kicker - Wikileaks is only releasing cables that the UK Guardian and/or the NY Times have already released. In the United States, media organizations are legally shielded in the release of such documents, a situation that came about due to the release of the "Pentagon Papers" so it's not exactly clear under what law a US court or Senator Lieberman or Ms Palin would prosecute.
But all this noise! These calls for physical violence and death for a man over.... what? Really now. With only a handful of cables available for anyone to actually read, on what sort of evidence has the Government of the United States and its agencies declared this is the end of the world as we know it?

The truth is, much in the way they lied about the effects of Four Loko which I reported on in detail last week, or lied about the connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, they're lying about this as well. In fact, they have no idea what is in the cables and if they'd shut their mouths and open their eyes what they'd see is what I've been saying for two weeks now: the US comes out looking pretty good.

If you're one of those people who think Mr. Assange is the devil and should be prosecuted under laws that do not exist, please write and tell me why. And when you do, be sure to include the cable you have a problem with. Extra credit will be given the person who names the American citizen who named a CIA operative over a political battle not that many years ago. Extra extra credit will be given if they can show that person was prosecuted.
WikiLeaks may make the powerful howl, but we are learning the truth
WikiLeaks has offered us glimpses of how the world works. And in most cases nothing but good can come of it

By Henry Porter

I have lost count of the politicians and opinion formers of an authoritarian bent warning of the dreadful damage done by the WikiLeaks dump of diplomatic cables, and in the very next breath dismissing the content as frivolous tittle-tattle. To seek simultaneous advantage from opposing arguments is not a new gambit, but to be wrong in both is quite an achievement.

Publication of the cables has caused no loss of life; troops are not being mobilised; and the only real diplomatic crisis is merely one of discomfort. The idea that the past two weeks have been a disaster is self-evidently preposterous. Yet the leaks are of unprecedented importance because, at a stroke, they have enlightened the masses about what is being done in their name and have shown the corruption, incompetence – and sometimes wisdom – of our politicians, corporations and diplomats. More significantly, we have been given a snapshot of the world as it is, rather than the edited account agreed upon by diverse elites, whose only common interest is the maintenance of their power and our ignorance.

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Julian and the charges

Rape is a scary sounding charge. Rape is something most nations and cultures in the world take rather seriously but it's also a word that has many different legal definitions attached to it. But police (and the media who parrot them) use the term primarily for one purpose and one purpose only: to condemn someone before trial and demonize their character to make the authorities look good. The charges levied against Mr. Assange last summer by two women in Sweden (one connected, conveniently, with the CIA), were dropped and then revived just last week. And for the record, both women had previously had sex with Mr. Assange without crying foul.

So, why now? Why have these charges resurfaced? Interestingly enough, Sweden has a very strong extradition treaty with the United States. Need I say more?

But let's assume, just for the moment, that in some strange diplomatic intrigue Mr. Assange is brought to the United States. This may give us a real opportunity to see how the USA PATRIOT Act works.
Mr. Assange has broken no US Laws but if he is extradited here he will most likely be held in a federal institution and under the guise of PATRIOT we can hold him for as long as we like without pressing charges and he can remain in prison indefinitely without access to legal counsel, if we should chose. In fact, PATRIOT is so convoluted that we can pass a law once he's here and then prosecute him for breaking that law even though it did not exist previously.
If you're following the releases, here is a current list of mirrors that are carrying them.

"Grammar is important! Capitalization is the difference between helping your Uncle Jack off a horse and helping your uncle jack off a horse." - Found on Facebook

Scottish Shortbread

You've been invited to the neighbors' for a holiday party and it's later this evening and you're empty handed but they asked everyone to bring "something". So what to do? In a pinch you can wow them with a little sweetness. You'll need:

1 1/4 sticks of softened butter
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon of regular sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt (important)

Whip that mess up together while you're heating the oven to 300 degrees.

Then, slowly add 1/3 cup sifted corn starch and 1 1/4 cups of sifted all purpose flour and mix well. Flour your hands and knead the dough until it's like silly putty. If it's too dry add a few drops of water but be careful to not let it get too wet. Once you're happy with it press it evenly into a baking pan and pierce it nicely with a fork all over.

Set this in the oven for about 45 minutes and when you take it out lightly score it with a knife to get it ready for bite-sized pieces. Let cool. Once cool you'll find the scores you made earlier allow the shortbread to break nicely into those bite-sized pieces.

Now you're not empty handed and the whole thing took an hour - 15 minutes in preparation, 45 minutes while you got dressed and 15 more to cool while you were getting your wife ready - she's always late for these things.

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And now, The News:
  1. Fox boss caught slanting news reporting
  2. Riverfront communities talk ‘smart growth’ and sharing services
  3. America's Park Preserves (And we're talking parking lots here).
  4. U.S. Military bases getting solar power arrays
  5. Using Waste, Swedish City Shrinks Its Fossil Fuel Use
  6. WikiLeaks cables portray Saudi Arabia as a cash machine for terrorists

Fox boss caught slanting news reporting

December 09, 2010 7:31 am ET by Ben Dimiero

At the height of the health care reform debate last fall, Bill Sammon, Fox News' controversial Washington managing editor, sent a memo directing his network's journalists not to use the phrase "public option."

Instead, Sammon wrote, Fox's reporters should use "government option" and similar phrases -- wording that a top Republican pollster had recommended in order to turn public opinion against the Democrats' reform efforts.

Journalists on the network's flagship news program, Special Report with Bret Baier, appear to have followed Sammon's directive in reporting on health care reform that evening.

Sources familiar with the situation in Fox's Washington bureau have told Media Matters that Sammon uses his position as managing editor to "slant" Fox's supposedly neutral news coverage to the right. Sammon's "government option" email is the clearest evidence yet that Sammon is aggressively pushing Fox's reporting to the right -- in this case by issuing written orders to his staff.

As far back as March 2009, Fox personalities had sporadically referred to the "government option."

Read More

Riverfront communities talk ‘smart growth’ and sharing services

FISHKILL – To increase the effectiveness of implementing New York’s new smart growth legislation, representatives of riverfront municipalities along the Hudson gathered Wednesday in Fishkill to learn more about smart growth and discuss means of inter-governmental collaboration.

Through both working and informative sessions at the day-long conference, organized by Historic Hudson River Towns, representatives were able to share their specific concerns for their individual communities and their role in the state’s new Smart Growth Plan.

According to the New York State Director of Smart Growth Planning Paul Beyer, the Smart Growth Act is aimed at moving towards regional cooperation when it comes to planning projects being funded by the state.

Read More

America's Park Preserves (And we're talking parking lots here).

The US parking infrastructure is vast and little is known about its scale and environmental impacts. The few parking space inventories that exist are typically regionalized and no known environmental assessment has been performed to determine the energy and emissions from providing this infrastructure. A better understanding of the scale of US parking is necessary to properly value the total costs of automobile travel. Energy and emissions from constructing and maintaining the parking infrastructure should be considered when assessing the total human health and environmental impacts of vehicle travel. We develop five parking space inventory scenarios and from these estimate the range of infrastructure provided in the US to be between 105 million and 2 billion spaces.

Read More

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U.S. Military bases getting solar power arrays

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., Dec. 8 (UPI) -- High-gain solar power arrays are being installed on two U.S. military bases to demonstrate performance, upgradability and quick deployment.

Skyline Solar of California said the contract from the U.S. Department of Defense is worth $1.58 million.

"The competitive bid process and the resulting (Defense) contract validate Skyline Solar's ability to deliver proven performance, upgradability and rapid scale," said Skyline Chief Executive Officer Thomas Rohrs. "The projects on U.S. bases will demonstrate the unique effectiveness of Skyline's HGS technology in helping to meet the energy needs of our military and government institutions."

Read More

Using Waste, Swedish City Shrinks Its Fossil Fuel Use

By Elisabeth Rosenthal

KRISTIANSTAD, Sweden — When this city vowed a decade ago to wean itself from fossil fuels, it was a lofty aspiration, like zero deaths from traffic accidents or the elimination of childhood obesity.

But Kristianstad has already crossed a crucial threshold: the city and surrounding county, with a population of 80,000, essentially use no oil, natural gas or coal to heat homes and businesses, even during the long frigid winters. It is a complete reversal from 20 years ago, when all of their heat came from fossil fuels.

But this area in southern Sweden, best known as the home of Absolut vodka, has not generally substituted solar panels or wind turbines for the traditional fuels it has forsaken. Instead, as befits a region that is an epicenter of farming and food processing, it generates energy from a motley assortment of ingredients like potato peels, manure, used cooking oil, stale cookies and pig intestines.

A hulking 10-year-old plant on the outskirts of Kristianstad uses a biological process to transform the detritus into biogas, a form of methane. That gas is burned to create heat and electricity, or is refined as a fuel for cars.

Read More

WikiLeaks cables portray Saudi Arabia as a cash machine for terrorists

Saudi Arabia is the world's largest source of funds for Islamist militant groups such as the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba – but the Saudi government is reluctant to stem the flow of money, according to Hillary Clinton.

"More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups," says a secret December 2009 paper signed by the US secretary of state. Her memo urged US diplomats to redouble their efforts to stop Gulf money reaching extremists in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide," she said.

Three other Arab countries are listed as sources of militant money: Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

The cables highlight an often ignored factor in the Pakistani and Afghan conflicts: that the violence is partly bankrolled by rich, conservative donors across the Arabian Sea whose governments do little to stop them.

The problem is particularly acute in Saudi Arabia, where militants soliciting funds slip into the country disguised as holy pilgrims, set up front companies to launder funds and receive money from government-sanctioned charities.

Read More

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