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Sex offenders’ faces to be displayed on billboards

February 21st, 2006

Associated Press in Mississippi
The Guardian

State authorities hope to have as many as 100 boards ready by the summer, showing images of sex offenders who are in prison, particularly those who preyed on minors. The signs will include details of their convictions.

Local official Don Taylor said the adverts were not designed to shame or further penalise offenders, but to combat the state’s “social pathologies”.

Funds restored to energy lab before Bush visit: Employees question timing of quick reversal in budget plans

February 21st, 2006


On the eve of a presidential visit to a renewable energy lab in Colorado, the Department of Energy said it has transferred $5 million to the operation, which had funding cut and employees laid off this month due to budget shortfalls….

The Department of Energy statement said the $5 million was transferred from other accounts and could be replaced with money from projects that “have failed to make progress.”

The Trust Gap

February 12th, 2006

The New York Times

We can’t think of a president who has gone to the American people more often than George W. Bush has to ask them to forget about things like democracy, judicial process and the balance of powers — and just trust him. We also can’t think of a president who has deserved that trust less.

…One of Mr. Bush’s biggest “trust me” moments was when he told Americans that the United States had to invade Iraq because it possessed dangerous weapons and posed an immediate threat to America. The White House has blocked a Congressional investigation into whether it exaggerated the intelligence on Iraq, and continues to insist that the decision to invade was based on the consensus of American intelligence agencies.

…Like many other administrations before it, this one sometimes dissembles clumsily to avoid embarrassment. (We now know, for example, that the White House did not tell the truth about when it learned the levees in New Orleans had failed.) Spin-as-usual is one thing. Striking at the civil liberties, due process and balance of powers that are the heart of American democracy is another.

State Department sees exodus of weapons experts

February 11th, 2006

By Warren P. Strobel
Knight Ridder Newspapers

State Department officials appointed by President Bush have sidelined key career weapons experts and replaced them with less experienced political operatives who share the White House and Pentagon’s distrust of international negotiations and treaties.

The reorganization of the department’s arms control and international security bureaus was intended to help it better deal with 21st-century threats. Instead, it’s thrown the agency into turmoil and produced an exodus of experts with decades of experience in nuclear arms, chemical weapons and related matters, according to 11 current and former officials and documents obtained by Knight Ridder.

The reorganization was conducted largely in secret by a panel of four political appointees. A career expert was allowed to join the group only after most decisions had been made. Its work was overseen by Frederick Fleitz, a CIA officer who was detailed to the State Department as senior adviser to former Undersecretary of State John Bolton, a critic of arms agreements and international organizations.

Undercover Agent in Fur Snares a Fake Veterinarian

February 10th, 2006

New York Times

Fred was the strong, silent type with no place to come in out of the rain. He was an alley cat from the streets of Brooklyn, long and lean with thick black stripes. … Fred never asked to be a hero, but he needed work. And neutering.

The place was New York City. Crime was the dish of the day, and the main course was injury to an animal with a side of petty larceny. The victim was Burt. Burt was a Boston terrier. He was about to find a friend who looked more like a foe.

Some Democrats Are Sensing Missed Opportunities

February 8th, 2006

New York Times

In interviews, senior Democrats said they were optimistic about significant gains in Congressional elections this fall, calling this the best political environment they have faced since President Bush took office.

But Democrats described a growing sense that they had failed to take full advantage of the troubles that have plagued Mr. Bush and his party since the middle of last year, driving down the president’s approval ratings, opening divisions among Republicans in Congress over policy and potentially putting control of the House and Senate into play in November.

…Senator Barbara Boxer… said: “We have a strategy. First is to convince the American people that what’s happening in Washington is not working. We have achieved that. Now we have to, at this stage, convince people that we are the ones to bring positive change.”

Gonzales Defends Surveillance: Senators From Both Parties Challenge Attorney General on Program

February 8th, 2006

By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales spent more than seven hours yesterday sparring with skeptical lawmakers over a controversial domestic eavesdropping program, defending its legality while refusing to answer dozens of questions about its operations or whether President Bush has authorized other types of warrantless searches or surveillance in the United States….

The Justice Department argues in a 42-page legal analysis that Bush has the inherent power to mount warrantless surveillance in a time of war, even if that includes spying on U.S. citizens or residents, and that Congress reinforced his power by passing a resolution authorizing the use of force against al Qaeda after the terrorist attacks. Although the administration has attracted support from some conservative scholars and many GOP lawmakers, legal and national security experts from both parties have argued that Bush overstepped his authority and may have broken the federal law that governs clandestine surveillance in the United States….

In one of the tensest exchanges, Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), a longtime critic of the administration’s counterterrorism policies, angrily accused Gonzales and Bush of misleading Congress by implying that the government was not engaged in wiretapping or other surveillance without a court’s approval.

Specter Criticizes Rationale for Spying

February 5th, 2006

By HOPE YEN Associated Press Writer

Sen. Arlen Specter said Sunday he believes that President Bush violated a 1978 law specifically calling for a secret court to consider and approve such monitoring. The Pennsylvania Republican branded Gonzales’ explanations to date as “strained and unrealistic.”

The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, predicted that the committee would have to subpoena the administration to obtain internal documents that lay out the legal basis for the program. Justice Department officials have declined, citing in part the confidential nature of legal communications.

Specter said he would have his committee consider such a step if the attorney general does not go beyond his prior statements and prepared testimony that the spying is legal, necessary and narrowly defined to fight terrorists.

Dark matter comes out of the cold

February 5th, 2006

By Jonathan Amos
BBC News science reporter

“The distribution of dark matter bears no relationship to anything you will have read in the literature up to now,” explained Professor Gilmore.

“It comes in a ‘magic volume’ which happens to correspond to an amount which is 30 million times the mass of the Sun.

“It looks like you cannot ever pack it smaller than about 300 parsecs - 1,000 light-years; this stuff will not let you. That tells you a speed actually - about 9km/s - at which the dark matter particles are moving because they are moving too fast to be compressed into a smaller scale.”

Eden and Evolution

February 5th, 2006

By Shankar Vedantam
Washington Post

While critics of evolution point to gaps in the fossil record — asking, for instance, why no fossils of intermediary species exist between land mammals and sea mammals — new discoveries regularly fill those holes. By 1994, observed Brown University biologist Ken Miller, scientists unearthed fossils of animals near the Indian subcontinent that had front and hind limbs capable of walking on land and flippering through water.

Why have such examples failed to convince doubters? Over many months of interviews about intelligent design, I gradually came to realize that evolution’s advocates and critics are mostly talking about different things. While the controversy over intelligent design is superficially about scientific facts, the real debate is more emotional. Evolution cuts to the heart of the belief that humans have a special place in creation. If all things in the living world exist solely because of evolutionary competition and natural selection, what room is left for the idea that humans are made in God’s image or for any morality beyond the naked requirements of survival? Beneath all the complex arguments of intelligent design advocates, Georgetown theologian John Haught agreed, “there lies a deeply human and passionately religious concern about whether the universe resides in the bosom of a loving, caring God or is instead perched over an abyss of ultimate meaninglessness.”

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