Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Niche Market of the Day
Last week the status of the salon as a place of intimacy and shared secrets was confirmed with the news that fuchsia-pink vending machines selling upmarket sex toys are being installed in hairdessers across the country. —In "I love my hairdresser: The cutting edge"
Quote of the Day
The two men were not traditional mobsters. They were better. They could get away with murder because these two men were New York City police detectives. —Mitra Hormozi, the New York prosecutor at the trial of Mafia cops Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa as quoted in "Detectives 'spent decades as killers for the Mafia', court is told"
And that's the word from the state government!
How much force by the police is justified? (3/2/06)
Arctic sea ice fails to re-form
Sea ice in the Arctic has failed to re-form for the second consecutive winter, raising fears that global warming may have tipped the polar regions in to irreversible climate change far sooner than predicted.
Satellite measurements of the area of the Arctic covered by sea ice show that for every month this winter, the ice failed to return even to its long-term average rate of decline. It is the second consecutive winter that the sea ice has not managed to re-form enough to compensate for the unprecedented melting seen during the past few summers.
Scientists are now convinced that Arctic sea ice is showing signs of both a winter and a summer decline that could indicate a major acceleration in its long-term rate of disappearance. The greatest fear is that an environmental "positive feedback" has kicked in, where global warming melts ice which in itself causes the seas to warm still further as more sunlight is absorbed by a dark ocean rather than being reflected by white ice.
Although sea levels are not affected by melting sea ice - which floats on the ocean - the Arctic ice cover is thought to be a key moderator of the northern hemisphere's climate. It helps to stabilise the massive land glaciers and ice sheets of Greenland which have the capacity to raise sea levels dramatically.
Professor Peter Wadhams, of Cambridge University, who was the first Briton to monitor Arctic sea ice from nuclear submarines, said: "One of the big changes this winter is that a large area of the Barents Sea has remained ice-free for the first time. This is part of Europe's 'back yard'. Climate models did predict a retreat of sea ice in the Barents Sea but not for a few decades yet, so it is a sign that the changes that were predicted are indeed happening, but much faster than predicted."
ID-free bus routes for Denver passengers
Remember Deborah Davis, the Denver woman who was arrested last September for refusing to show her ID while riding a public bus? The Feds decided not to prosecute in December, and Davis has been able to ride the bus unmolested ever since. But the manner in which that was achieved is a little odd.
The problem arose in the first place because several public bus routes pass through the Lakewood Federal Center. As the buses enter the property, a private security guard sometimes demands IDs of the passengers. So the solution that the Regional Transportation District (RTD) came up with was to detour around the Federal Center if the rent-a-cop showed up and if a passenger objected. Weird, huh?
It looks as if the RTD is getting a clue. They've just announced a plan to change three bus routes so that they will not enter the Federal property. These are routes with a destination beyond the property. Two routes that terminate on the property will continue unchanged and presumably may require ID checks.
Monday, March 13, 2006
Cross-dresser of the Day
During his nine-month trip to the Persian Gulf, Jackson was spotted shopping in Bahrain dressed as an Arab woman, and was said to have plans to have a house built there. —Richard Luscombe in "Reality check for Jackson as Neverland shuts"
The ease with which the Chicago Tribune turned up the names of some 2600 CIA employees and "the locations of some two dozen secret CIA facilities around the United States" surprises me a great deal less than it has apparently surprised the media. Most of the secrets of the U.S. government, the CIA included, are secrets only in the sense that they remain unknown to ordinary citizens. Foreign governments seem to have little trouble in staying abreast.
Of course when such truths are exposed it might raise the question of the reason for the secrecy in the first place—is it for reasons of national security or for reasons of domestic politics. That is the truly unexposed exposé.
But the Tribune's use of the internet to do the research certainly points to the increasing ease with which the government's "secrets" may be ferreted out. So now we read—
Several "front companies" set up to provide cover for CIA operatives and its small fleet of aircraft recently began disappearing from the Internet, following the Tribune's disclosures that some of the planes were used to transport suspected terrorists to countries where they claimed to have been tortured.
So if you spot a commercial aircraft with no presence on the Web, the company may be either too primitive to fly or you might wonder if it's a CIA front.
Delicious Irony of the Day
Lord Goldsmith was incensed over the breach of trust which, coincidentally, came as the men discussed whether the law could be changed to enable the use of bugged telephone calls in court cases.
— Nigel Morris and Helen McCormack in "Met chief under fire for taping phone calls with Attorney General"
Press suppression in Spain
Statewatch, a British organization that monitors the decline of civil liberties in the European Union, calls attention to recent developments in the case of Euskaldunon Egunkaria, the only Basque newspaper at the time of its closure on February 20, 2003. The newspaper was closed—
on orders from investigating magistrate Juan del Olmo of the Audiencia Nacional (a Madrid-based court which has exclusive competence for trying cases involving terrorist offences).
Ten members of the newspaper's staff were arrested, including the editor-in-chief Martxelo Otamendi, and seven face charges that may result in sentences of between one and fourteen years in prison for "forming an illegal organisation". Del Olmo considers that the setting up and the development of the Euskaldon Egunkaria project was part of "one of ETA's long term strategies", whereas defendants argue that all the judge does is to amass elements of suspicion rather than delivering any evidence against them.
All assets of the paper were quickly liquidated.
Four defendants, including the editor-in-chief, said they were tortured while in custody—
Otamendi claim[ed] that a gun was pointed to his head, that a plastic bag was placed over his head, and that he was forced to strip, get down on all fours and crouch and stand repeatedly.
The men made these allegations upon their release, and the Spanish government responded quickly—
This resulted in counter-charges being brought against them by the Interior Minister (headed by Ángel Acebes at the time) for presenting "false" reports of torture, for "slander" against the Guardia Civil and, in line with the government's policy at the time, for "collaborating with the terrorist group [ETA]" through the presentation of false torture claims.
Perhaps the Spanish authorities showed Bush and Rumsfeld how to deal with the Amnesty International report on Guantánamo last May. They simply dismissed the allegations of torture by saying that the detainees had been trained to lie.
Upon the third anniversary of the arrests, the Spanish court has now taken further steps—
the 2nd Chamber of the Audiencia Nacional has confirmed the "provisional" charges and authorised the pre-trial proceedings to continue, rejecting the appeals filed by defence lawyers to drop the case in a writ in which the cases of the different defendants are treated jointly, that states that there is "clear evidence of crime".
The Cultural Association in support of Egunkaria has also released a report [pdf] to coincide with the anniversary that gives a chronology and the statements of support from Amnesty International and the International Pen Club.
Why isn't the press defending freedom of the press? (6/16/04)
Allawi stands up for freedom of the press — Yeah, sure (7/19/04)
The Indymedia seizure and the media (10/12/04)
Polish editor fined over Polish Pope jokes (1/26/05)