October 29, 2004
An army of ten thousand will protect voter's rights next Tuesday
Three partners and an associate from the law firm, Hurley, McKenna & Mertz, are traveling to Florida to guard against voter interference. They are amount the over ten thousand lawyer monitors—partisan and nonpartisan—volunteering their time in Florida and other battleground states key to deciding who will be the next president.
"As a lawyer, I never have liked it when somebody bullies someone out of their civil rights," says Hurley, a registered Democrat and veteran trial lawyer. "I have a guttural response to that."
Democrats will have at least 2,000 lawyers like Hurley headed to Florida, with another 8,000 distributed throughout the country. The GOP has its own army of lawyers supporting the GOP "Victory" legal team to monitor the polls and act as first responders if problems arise. The Rainbow/PUSH Coalition teamed up with the National Bar Association to announce plans to send teams of lawyers to monitor polls, especially in battleground states. Other activist organizations have announced similar monitoring efforts.
FBI Widens Probe of Halliburton
The FBI has expanded an investigation into allegations of contract irregularities by Halliburton Co. subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root Inc. in Iraq and Kuwait. Government auditors claim that KBR may have overcharged the government $61 million for fuel, a charge that Halliburton has denied.
Halliburton also is being investigated by the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission regarding work it did in Nigeria, Iran and Iraq.
The FBI requested an interview with Bunnatine H. Greenhouse, a Pentagon official who complained recently that the Army gave KBR preferential treatment when granting it a $7 billion classified contract to restore Iraq's oil fields just before the war began in March 2003, her lawyers said yesterday.
Vice President Cheney once was Halliburton's chief executive. Those who oppose the re-election of Bush and Cheney have accused the Bush administration of favoring the giant oil-services company.
Halliburton spokeswoman Wendy Hall dismissed Greenhouse's charges as politically motivated. Hall said "the old allegations by Bunny Greenhouse have once again been recycled, this time one week before the election." Halls words suggest a Halliburton belief that it is not just Bush and Cheney who are directly affected by the outcome of this election.
GOP works to prevent newly registered voters from voting in this election
Today’s Washington Post reports that Republicans are challenging the validity of tens of thousands of voter registrations in Ohio and other key states in the presidential election. In response, a coalition of civil rights and labor groups sued the GOP, contending the Republican efforts were aimed at removing eligible minority voters from the rolls.
Ohio’s Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell (R) worked with other election officials who asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati to allow GOP challenges to 35,000 voters from mostly urban and minority areas to proceed before the election. As of late last night, the court had not ruled.
Republicans in Wisconsin attempted to challenge the registrations of 5,600 voters in Milwaukee but were turned down in a unanimous decision by the city's bipartisan election board.
Earlier this month, a similar effort by a former Nevada GOP operative to question 17,000 Democratic voters in Las Vegas was rejected by election officials there.
Republicans have also filed plans in Florida and Colorado to place watchers who can challenge voters in those key states on Election Day.
Preventing minority voters from participating in an election is an old GOP trick. Courts in the past found that Republicans used tactics that were aimed at intimidating minority voters and suppressing their votes.
In 1981, the Republican National Committee sent letters to predominantly black neighborhoods in New Jersey, and when 45,000 letters were returned as undeliverable, the committee compiled a challenge list to remove those voters from the rolls. The RNC sent off-duty law enforcement officials to the polls and hung posters in heavily black neighborhoods warning that violating election laws is a crime.
Undeliverable mail is the basis for this year's challenges in Ohio. Republicans also sent mail to about 130,000 voters in Philadelphia, another heavily black and Democratic stronghold.
In 1986, the RNC tried to have 31,000 voters, most of them black, removed from the rolls in Louisiana when a party mailer was returned. The consent decrees that resulted prohibited the party from engaging in anti-fraud initiatives that target minorities or conduct mail campaigns to "compile voter challenge lists."
Arizona, a Republican stronghold, (Phoenix’s leading newspaper was originally called the “Arizona Republican”) has a proposition on its ballot that would require voters to: proof they are citizens at the time they register to vote and requires proof of identity at the time of voting.
In 1964, William Rehnquist, the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, reportedly sat outside a polling place, brimming with black citizens, in the poorest neighborhood in Phoenix and quizzed voters ad nauseam about where they were from, how long they'd lived there. A passage of the Constitution was read and people who spoke broken English were ordered to interpret it to prove they had the language skills to vote.
Let’s hope that in 2004 the Republican party’s efforts and the Republican candidate are as successful in influencing the outcome of the vote as they were in 1964.
October 28, 2004
Discovery of previously unknown species of miniature human
The Sidney Morning Herald reports that the remains of a previously unknown species of miniature human, about the size of a modern three-year-old, that co-existed for tens of thousands of years with our own species and might have died out only 500 years ago (yes, you read that right – five hundred years ago) was recently found in a cave on the remote Indonesian island of Flores. Link to American press coverage.
The discovery of the species, published today in the journal Nature, is being hailed as one of the most important in a century in the study of human origins. Until now, it had been thought our only recent cousins were the Neanderthals in Europe, who died out about 30,000 years ago. Click here to read the Nature's coverage of this amazing discovery.
Professor Mike Morwood, an archaeologist from the University of New England said the little people were thought to have evolved from larger archaic humans, Homo erectus, who managed to sail across to Flores from Java about 800,000 years ago.
"They weighed around 25 kilograms and had a brain smaller than most chimpanzees," Professor Morwood said. "Even so, they used fire and made sophisticated stone tools. Despite tiny brains, these little humans almost certainly had language."
They evolved into dwarfs, like the elephants on the island, because small creatures had a better chance of survival on a remote island where there was little food and no major predators.
Homo erectus spread from Africa to Asia more than a million years ago, but were eventually replaced by our species, Homo sapiens, who left Africa about 120,000 years ago, according to the leading theory of human movement.
The little Homo floresiensis species survived on Flores long after Homo sapiens had moved into the region and begun to colonise Australia and New Guinea 50,000 years ago.
Bert Roberts, of the University of Wollongong, said there were a lot of detailed folk tales on Flores about little people. "These stories suggest there may be more than a grain of truth to the idea that they were still living on Flores up until the Dutch arrived in the 1500s," Professor Roberts said. "The stories suggest they lived in caves. The villagers would leave gourds with food out for them to eat, but legend has it these were the guests from hell. They'd eat everything, including the gourds."
October 27, 2004
President Yasser Arafat appears critically ill
Yasser Arafat collapsed this evening, was unconscious for about 10 minutes and remained in a ``very difficult situation,'' Palestinian officials said. An ambulance was rushed to his West Bank headquarters according to Israeli and Palestinian officials and Palestinian report that doctors were fighting desperately to save Arafat’s life.
Arafat’s wife, Suha, was summoned from Paris and is expected to arrive in Ramallah tomorrow. Arafat’s longtime personal physician, Ashraf Kurdi, is en route from Jordan to join the medical team. “Arafat’s aides called me urgently,” said Kurdi. “They refused to tell me what his condition was.”
An uppity woman
Bob Whitson, at Howling At A Waning Moon just introduced me to Taylor Marsh, a talk radio personality, national radio guest and liberal political commentator talking about politics, relationships, religion and family values. She is promotes herself as the Democrat antidote to right-wing talk in politics on the Democratic Party, elections, John Kerry, national and foreign affairs, social and women’s issues. Neo-con trolls leave comments on her site. Click here to find out what the right finds so damn infuriating.
Bush Administration suppresses scientific information on global warming
James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, told a University of Iowa audience on Tuesday that the Bush Administration is trying to stifle scientific evidence of the dangers of global warming in an effort to keep the public uninformed.
Mr Hansen said the administration wanted to hear only scientific results that "fit predetermined, inflexible positions." Elaborating, Hansen explained that the scientific community generally agreed that temperatures on Earth were rising because of the greenhouse effect - emissions of carbon dioxide and other materials into the atmosphere that trap heat. These rising temperatures, scientists believed, could cause sea levels to rise and trigger severe environmental consequences, he said. Mr Hansen said such warnings were consistently suppressed, while studies that cast doubt on such interpretations received favourable treatment from the Bush administration.
Mr. Hansen also said that reports that outlined potential dangers of global warming were edited to make the problem appear less serious. “This process is in direct opposition to the most fundamental precepts of science," he said.
This information came to me through an online subscription to the Sidney Morning Herald. Bob Whitson has an in depth look at how, under the Bush administration, science has become a partisan issue.
Deja Vu all over again: 58,000 absentee ballots are missing in Florida
Absentee voters in Florida are complaining that their absentee ballots -- ostensibly mailed in early October -- have not been delivered.
There are contradictory stories as to whether the ballots were ever received by the Post Office. Broward deputy supervisor of elections Gisela Salas said postal service officials had assured Broward elections supervisor Brenda Snipes that the ballots had moved out of the post office to which they had been taken by the elections office.
U.S. Postal Service Inspector Del Alvarez, said it had yet to be determined if the ballots reached the post office. “It’s highly unlikely that 58,000 pieces of mail just disappeared,” he said. “We’re looking for it, we’re trying to find it if in fact it was ever delivered to the postal service.”
Can we afford "four more years"?
The Bush Administration issues a misleading explanation for the disappearance of Al Quaqaa munitions
The New York Times reports that the Bush Administration’s explanation for the disappearance of 380 tons of explosives at Al Quaqaa is unlikely. White House officials reasserted yesterday that 380 tons of powerful explosives may have disappeared from a vast Iraqi military complex while Saddam Hussein controlled Iraq, saying a brigade of American soldiers did not find the explosives when they visited the complex on April 10, 2003, the day after Baghdad fell. Col. Joseph Anderson, the commander of the Second Brigade of the Army's 101st Airborne Division, who stopped at Al Quaqaa on April 10, 2003 tells a contradictory story.
Col. Anderson reports that he and his men, “stumbled on” Al Quaqaa and at the time – and did not search the facility while they were there. Col. Anderson reports that he had not been informed and had no reason to know that Al Qaqaa, was considered sensitive, or that international inspectors had visited it before the war began in 2003 to inspect explosives that they had tagged during a decade of monitoring.
"We happened to stumble on it,'' he said. "I didn't know what the place was supposed to be. We did not get involved in any of the bunkers. It was not our mission. It was not our focus. We were just stopping there on our way to Baghdad. The plan was to leave that very same day. The plan was not to go in there and start searching. It looked like all the other ammunition supply points we had seen already."
One of the reasons why I admire and support our military is because the military leaders that I’ve know – and I’ve known a few – have been earnest men of principle. Some of them could run circles around me intellectually. And some of them seemed almost incapable of critical reasoning. But to a man they fully understood and religiously adhered to the concepts of honor and duty. As a result, I am absolutely certain that it is Col. Anderson who is speaking the truth. If the Bush Administration would start giving our military leaders all known information and listening to our military leaders informed ideas and advice about this present war things in Iraq would improve to the benefit of the Iraqi people, the United States, and the Middle East in general. The only interest that might suffer is American oil companies and its constituents, such as Haliburton.