Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Tracking devices on library books, Yucca Mountain, Iraq, National Sales Tax, Bully Boy loves Blinky, Chemicals banned in Europe not in US

"I really started to get nervous about the state of democracy," he said. "Journalists are trying to pander to what they think young people want." The result, he writes in his book, is that we get more Britney Spears and less news about our government.
Most of the people surveyed for Mindich's book were well-versed in pop culture but could not identify all nine Supreme Court justices or name both of their U.S. senators. The lack of political knowledge endangers democracy, Mindich warned.
"We need to understand the difference between what our leaders say and what the facts are," he said.
Regardless of which political party occupies the White House, Mindich said, voters need to be able to decipher rhetoric. President Bush spoke about the Clear Skies initiative in his State of the Union address, but Mindich wondered how many people actually know that the bill will allow power plants to release more pollutants into the air?
"Only if we're empowered with information can we make decisions," he said. "You need the depth to hold leadership responsible."
The No. 1 reason cited for not keeping up with the news? Not enough time in the day. But because many people said they devote an average of four hours to entertainment, Mindich believes that skipping the news is not a matter of time, but one of choice.
On Thursday, Mindich met with Ithaca College students and faculty to discuss his findings. Many of the journalism students, who preferred to watch American Idol or the Daily Show over the news, agreed that time was not the main reason for not tuning in.
"I don't enjoy the news," said Sarah Ruane, a radio journalism student. "It's repetitive. I get bored."

The above is from The Ithaca Times, "This just in: Americans under 40 don't follow the news" by Kimberlyn David interviewing David T. Z. Mindich on the findings in his book Tuned Out: Why Americans Under 40 Don't Follow the News.

Don't enjoy the news because it's "repetitive?" What the heck is she talking about? We get plenty of new stories. Right now, we're getting Terry Schiavo nonstop and tell the chef to heat up some Michael Jackson because when this Schiavo craze dies down, we'll need something else to chew on ad infinitum, right? Right? That's a student majoring in journalism speaking. Are you scared? You should be.

And when the mainstream media forces one story down your throats non-stop, you know other things are going uncovered. So let's turn to the alternative weeklies to get a feel of some stories that we're not hearing about.

What the hell is going on in Berkeley? That's a question you might ask yourself if you read The Berkely Daily Planet's "Longtime Berkeley Activist Looks To Take on Library Controversies" by Matthew Artz.

It's now necessary, someone feels, to install tracking devices on library books. No, not bar codes that allow checkouts to be aided by a scanner. We're also not talking about the little device on the page that makes the beep-beep noise if the book's carried through the sensor detectors without being deactivated. These are tracking devices. From the story:

Facing growing anger from residents and librarians over plans to lay off workers and implement tracking devices on materials, the Berkeley Public Library Board of Trustees has selected a veteran of local political battles to join its ranks.
If approved by the City Council Tuesday, Ying Lee, 73, a former councilmember and legislative aide to Ron Dellums and Barbara Lee, will join the library board.
"I know the library is in a vulnerable situation and I thought this might be the last chance I get to do something useful," Lee said. She would join the five-member board in place of Jorge Garcia, whose second four-year term expired last week.
Councilmember Kriss Worthington said that he hoped that Lee, as the only progressive activist on the board, could influence her colleagues.
Lee said she is opposed to the board’s decision last year to install radio frequency identification devices (RFIDs) on the library's 500,000 volume collection. RFIDs are expected to make checkout more efficient, but opponents fear that they could be used by government authorities to track patrons.

People are being laid off, but the board wants to spend $500,000 on this tracking system. Read the story.

Let's go to Las Vegas City Life for Bob Loux's "Yucca Mountain of lies:"

The admission last week by the U.S. Department of Energy that its scientists falsified crucial site suitability information regarding the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository is likely just the tip of the iceberg. Anyone who has been around this project for any length of time knows that DOE scientists and researchers have been under tremendous pressure almost from the beginning to report findings supporting DOE's predetermined conclusions about the Yucca Mountain site.
This is not the first time the DOE has tried to hide findings that contradict the assumption that Yucca Mountain is capable of isolating waste. As early as the late 1980s, DOE was desperate to counter data developed by state scientists showing fast water pathways or "fracture flow" through the Yucca Mountain, a condition that could and should have disqualified the site. Later, after initial findings by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory confirmed the state's research, the DOE hired the U.S. Geological Survey to come up with data more to DOE's liking. The e-mails detailing falsified documents and data that are the subject of Secretary Bodman's recent admission relate directly to this work.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, DOE sought to suppress information indicating a repository at Yucca Mountain would emit so much radioactive radon gas that it would not be able to meet the EPA's radon release limits and would be a significant contributor to worldwide radon levels. When the information finally came out despite the DOE's efforts to hide it, the DOE got Congress to exempt Yucca Mountain from radon standards altogether.

From the Metroactive News & Issues, we can read "The Byrne Report: Is War Fun?" by Peter Byrne:

The scribe forgot to ask what it's like to watch a pal bleed to death in 125 degree weather surrounded by starving children who, justifiably, loathe American invaders. Nor did the Press Democrat ask the returnees what it's like to murder Iraqi women and children as you panic to save your own precious butt and fire at random, even at your own troops.
Not that our brave men and women from the 579th necessarily did that--nor did they necessarily torture prisoners, or summarily shoot wounded Iraqis whose only crime was fighting American aggression, as other U.S. soldiers have done.
No, our local soldiers did not necessarily commit those particular types of war crimes. But the very act of invading Iraq on false pretenses, carpet-bombing homes and hospitals and killing by some estimates as many as 100,000 civilians is, according to the international laws adhered to by most civilized nations, prosecutable as a war crime.

From the Balitmore City Paper, David Axe takes a look at "Second Stringers: As the Iraq War Drags On, the Army Depends More on the National Guard and Reservists--Inexperienced, Undertrained, And Ready to Go Home:"

It was on one of the 1052nd’s runs down south on Oct. 27, 2004, that the company was hit by a roadside bomb that killed Staff Sgt. Jerome Lemon and injured another soldier--the unit's only casualties. Lemon, 42, a convoy commander with the 1052nd and a cop back home, died right outside Anaconda’s gate in broad daylight when insurgents exploded a bomb alongside his flatbed truck. The blast knocked Lemon's head clean off his shoulders and onto the floorboards. Dozens of 1052nd soldiers witnessed the attack and some were badly traumatized.
Now, four cold months later, after some 1052nd soldiers have completed more than 100 convoys totaling more than 20,000 miles combined, most of the unit's soldiers are ready to come home.
"What’s the point?” Spc. Justin Segres, 22, of Aiken, says of the war. “We ain’t found no WMDs." Worse, says Spc. Jeremiah Cumbee, a 23-year-old from Andrews, is that the National Guard "done did the biggest part" in this dubious war, and "got no props for it."

Don't miss Frank Rubino's story in The Philadelphia Weekly. It's entitled "In Dubious Battle
A Mt. Airy soldier says there's no way to fulfill her commitment without giving up her kids
From the article:

The baby's hungry, so Theresa Battle dutifully stirs mashed potatoes in the cramped kitchen of her Mt. Airy apartment. Collar-length braids framing her angular face, she relates how her sense of motherly obligation compelled her to join the Army in the first place.
"I did it for my kids," the garrulous 36-year-old explains. "I wanted to get off public assistance, become self-sufficient and provide for them. I knew I could do it, too."
That was in June of 2000, before Battle's personal life, not to mention the world, changed dramatically.
Before Battle, who was more than a decade older than virtually all the other boot camp recruits at Fort Jackson, S.C., sustained training-related stress fractures of her left leg, of a toe on her left foot, and of her pelvis.
Before she suffered another stress fracture-of another toe-from jogging and marching during Army truck driving school at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
Before her 9-year-old son Chaé attempted suicide six months after Battle enlisted, a nightmare that prompted her to request and receive a hardship discharge from active duty in March 2001. And before Battle gave birth to her fourth child and second son Tracy Jr. 22 months ago.
All those befores considered, it's easy to understand why Battle was flabbergasted to learn two months ago that the Army, which needs truck drivers in Iraq and Afghanistan, has revoked her inactive ready reserve (IRR) status and wants her back in uniform ASAP.
"I know they need people, but how am I supposed to walk out the door and say bye to my kids?" she asks tearfully.
[. . .]

"She said that if I didn't report, I'd be AWOL and subject to arrest," Battle recalls. "She said that if I couldn't come up with a childcare plan, I'd have to place my kids in foster care."

Boise Weekly carries a warning from Ted Rall that has nothing to do with living wills. "Death by Consumption: The push for a national sales tax" finds Rall reminding us of how important it is too pay attention to this issue and to know our history. From the article:

They've trashed protection for bankrupt consumers and sunk their fangs into the soft fleshy throat of Social Security. Now Republicans are laying the groundwork for the ultimate goal in their ongoing war against the idea that government has a duty to mitigate economic injustice: replacing the income tax with a national sales tax.
If current GOP trial balloons lead to full flight, their long-hoped-for dismantling of the progressive tax structure in place since World War I could involve going beyond the flat income tax long championed by Steve Forbes to a system that's fully regressive. The smaller your salary, the higher the percentage of taxes you would pay. Our social devolution to McKinley-era America would be complete.
In the latest reminder that Alan Greenspan has become ideologically indistinguishable from right-wing econoquack Milton Friedman, the once-acclaimed Fed chairman told Congress on March 3: "Many economists believe that a consumption tax would be best from the perspective of promoting economic growth-particularly if one were designing a system from scratch-because a consumption tax is likely to favor savings and capital formation."

Wonder why Blinky Bob Schieffer is so often mentioned at The Daily Howler for getting the story wrong of late? Viewers aren't going wild for Scheiffer, but the White House loves him. From Joe Hagan's "Dan Rather Gone, But White House Isn't Sated Yet" (The New York Observer):

The day Mr. Fleischer spoke, it appeared that CBS News had finally cleaned house after the six-month public ordeal surrounding the flawed 60 Minutes Wednesday report on George W. Bush’s Texas Air National Guard story. The program’s executive producer, Josh Howard, finally resigned Tuesday, after an 11-week holdout; Mary Mapes, the ousted producer accused of having "myopic zeal," sold her side of the story to St. Martin's Press for a lot of money; Mr. Rather remained on vacation in Texas for two weeks.
But the question of whether the network's public floggings and displays of humility -- from the panel report to the staff purge to the early retirement of Mr. Rather -- had aided in re-establishing its relationship with the White House remained open.
The answer depended on whom you asked: the White House and its allies, or CBS News.
"Relations were really, really horrible during that whole thing, and then the White House took a different view when Dan stepped down," Mr. Roberts said. "Everything was affected by the tenure of the guy at the head of the Evening News. It’s really subsided."

[Note: What a loyal guy that John Roberts is, no?]
In contrast, Mr. Roberts said, he and Bob Schieffer, the 67-year-old Texan and Face the Nation host who is temporarily replacing Mr. Rather as evening anchor, are held in higher esteem by White House officials.

Amy Goodman interviewed Joe Hagan (author of the above piece) for Democracy Now! on
February 17th of this year. From that interview:

AMY GOODMAN: They didn't conclude they were -- that they could guarantee their -- that they were real. But everyone thinks that they -- it was proven that they were not authentic.
JOE HAGAN: That is one of the -- that's a huge issue. This report comes out, it’s supposed to be the most exhaustive report ever, and it doesn't actually conclude whether the documents are false or not, which -- I mean, that's -- if that question mark lies out there, then how can you draw any conclusions from any of this? I just find it really unbelievable and, you know, basically, there's just this huge assumption in the mainstream media, that it's like a left-wing partisan thing, which is kind of ridiculous when you consider that four or five years ago The Boston Globe actually already reported all of this information, just without the documents. I mean, about Bush's National Guard service. We already kind of know that there are gaps in his National Guard record, and that he didn't fulfill his duty. This is just already on the record and reported. So, here they just had a document that was supposed to be the smoking gun that, you know, finally makes it 100% provable, and -- you know -- it's just [trails off...]
AMY GOODMAN: So why hasn't the White House called for an investigation –
JOE HAGAN: That is a –
AMY GOODMAN: -- into the falsification of government documents?
JOE HAGAN: -- incredible question. And, if, you know, if you were to -- I have spoken with really highly respected, top TV industry people who spin very elaborate conspiracy theories to me about what they think is going on here: If CBS doesn't want to know, the Thornburgh report doesn't want to know, and the White House doesn't want to know, well, what's going on here? Is it just one crazy guy who typed this up in his place? But I don't know about that.

Finally from the Hartford Advocate, Kelly Hearn's "Beauty, and the Beast: There are cancer-causing chemicals in cosmetics. They've been banned in Europe, but the U.S. industry wants to keep them" deserves attention.

Phthalates, the chemicals used in some cosmetics, may keep your nail polish hard and shiny and your tresses thick and glossy, but in animal tests they cause birth defects, disrupt hormone systems and lead to reproductive problems.
Those are just a few of the reasons the European Union recently banned them. Now, despite a huge outcry from the $35 billion cosmetics industry, some California lawmakers are trying to ban phthalates in the U.S.
California Assemblywoman Judy Chu has introduced a bill that would ban the same two types of phthalates as the EU did. In part because the FDA does not conduct pre-market health testing of cosmetics ingredients (nor require cosmetics makers to do so), Chu was moved to present a similar bill last year that would have banned phthalates and other chemicals blacklisted by entities like the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the European Union and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Those efforts were defeated. But if passed this session, Chu's Phthalates Ban Bill (AB 908), would be the first ever phthalate ban in the United States.