Wednesday, March 16, 2005

News for March 16th: Spreading the Disease Edition

A little nod to that poor, maligned band. Why must they blame anthrax for everything?

Oh yeah, I think I called this yesterday. Interesting that Bush’s approval rating on social security dipped and we got new warnings and this…and guess what? The story that it’s not anthrax has barely even surfaced. I listen to the news in the morning and yesterday the story was everywhere. Today I had to go and search to find out the truth. What do you want to bet this will be cited as a positive in the future, even though this is the truth?

New Tests For Anthrax Negative
Threat to Public Health Unlikely, Pentagon Says

By Spencer S. Hsu and Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, March 16, 2005; Page A01

U.S. military officials said last night that they were confident that there is no public health threat at mailrooms at the Pentagon and a Fairfax County office complex because a series of tests performed yesterday all came back negative for deadly anthrax bacteria.

Based on a positive overnight test on material from the Pentagon, public health and postal officials acted throughout the day on the assumption that the capital region faced an anthrax threat for the first time since 2001. Defense Department officials recommended that nearly 700 people begin antibiotic treatment, and the U.S. Postal Service began medicating 200 workers at its main government mail center at V Street NE in the District, which was shuttered for testing. Virginia moved antibiotics for 3,000 people to Fairfax.

Mail service to the federal government in Washington was shut down. Deliveries of mail, food and office supplies to the Pentagon were halted. U.S. health officials issued a nationwide alert urging doctors to look out for cases of anthrax exposure.

But analysis of more than 70 samples subsequently taken from filters, surfaces and machines at both mailrooms showed no trace of anthrax bacteria, living or dead.

A senior military official said investigators are concentrating on the possibility that the sample from the Pentagon actually was contaminated at a contractor's laboratory in Richmond. The material, a swab taken from a filter on a biohazard detector, was then passed on to Army scientists at Fort Detrick on Monday. They confirmed the positive finding early yesterday

"The probability is low to very low that we're dealing with a true health threat," said William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs.

More at the Washington Post.

Well, isn’t this just ducky news. Looks like OPEC has lost control of oil prices. What does this mean for the prospects of peak oil? Still looking like just a myth?

OPEC says it's lost control of oil prices
Cartel producers say they can't keep up with strong global demand

With world oil prices north of $50 a barrel and rising, OPEC ministers meeting in Iran Wednesday will be grappling with a problem they haven’t confronted in the cartel’s 45-year history. In the past, OPEC tried to cool overheated prices by pumping more when supplies got too tight. But most OPEC producers say they’re already pumping as fast as they can. And despite the high cost of a barrel of crude, world demand shows no signs of slowing.

As a result, some OPEC ministers say, they’ve run out of options in trying to rein in the price of crude. Global oil demand has taken up most of the slack in extra OPEC capacity. Consumption is now believed by many analysts to be pressing up against the limits of what the world can produce. Saudi Arabia is the only country believed to have any surplus production left, and even then the Saudis are pumping close to 90 percent of capacity, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

"There is not much we can do,” Algerian Oil Minister Chakib Khelil told reporters Tuesday in Isfahan, Iran, the site of Wednesday’s meeting.

"OPEC has done all it can do.” Qatar Oil Minister Abdullah al-Attiyah said. “This is out of the control of OPEC."

But that hasn’t eased political pressure on the cartel. On Tuesday, several oil ministers said they had received calls from U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman. Sen. Ron Wyden (D Ore.) said Tuesday he’s not convinced that OPEC’s hands are tied by global demand reaching the limits of production capacity.

More at MSNBC .

This is just an interesting little tidbit. Another arm of Hillary’s Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.

Group Tied to Norton Says It Is Tax-Exempt IRS Status, Lobbying at Issue in Probes
By Jon Kamman and Billy House
The Arizona Republic

Monday 14 March 2005

A Republican environmental group with links to Interior Secretary Gale Norton and former powerhouse lobbyist Jack Abramoff claims it is a tax-exempt corporation and does not have to account publicly for at least $250,000 that Indian tribes report contributing to it at his urging.

But the IRS says it has no record that the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy has been granted tax-free status as a corporation.

The absence of IRS approval raises questions about the extent of the council's political activities.

A news report Sunday drew connections between the group and the casino gaming interests of an Abramoff client. Also, another tribe disclosed late last week that it had been steered by the lobbyist to make $75,000 in contributions to the conservative-leaning council. The council, known as CREA, is organized two ways under the same name. As a political advocacy group, it is required to publicly disclose its contributors and expenditures. As a corporation, it can obtain tax-exempt status and keep its donors confidential, but is limited in the extent of its lobbying activities.

CREA would not provide documentation of any application to become what the Internal Revenue Service designates a "social welfare organization."

In other developments, Norton acknowledged to The Arizona Republic last week that she has had "brief discussions" with the group since becoming Interior secretary in 2001, and the Washington Post reported that CREA's leader had communicated with Norton's aides in 2001 and 2002 about issues related to Abramoff's Indian gaming interests.

More at the Arizona Republic.

And, speaking of conspiracies, here’s one hiding out in plain sight:

For evangelicals, a bid to 'reclaim America'

For the faithful who gathered in Florida last month, the goal is not just to convert individuals - but to reshape US society.

By Jane Lampman | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. – For the Reback daughters, the big attraction was the famous Ten Commandments monument, brought to Florida on tour after being removed from the Alabama judicial building as unconstitutional. The youngsters - dressed in red, white, and blue - clustered proudly around the display.
For more than 900 other Christians from across the US, the draw at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church last month was a national conference aimed at "reclaiming America for Christ." The monument stood as a potent symbol of their hopes for changing the course of the nation.
"We have God-sized problems in our country, and only God can solve them," Richard Land, a prominent leader of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), told the group.

Their mission is not simply to save souls. The goal is to mobilize evangelical Christians for political action to return society to what they call "the biblical worldview of the Founding Fathers." Some speak of "restoring a Christian nation." Others shy from that phrase, but agree that the Bible calls them not only to evangelize, but also to transform the culture.

In material given to conference attendees, the Rev. D. James Kennedy, Coral Ridge pastor wrote: "As the vice-regents of God, we are to bring His truth and His will to bear on every sphere of our world and our society. We are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government ... our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors - in short, over every aspect and institution of human society."

More at the Christian Science Monitor .

Finally, rather than a quote of the day, I’d like to post a letter I received from Howard Dean. The subject matter is a topic that’s close to my heart: Republican attempts to stifle any and all dissent, to keep anyone from stopping their agenda at any cost necessary. We can’t let them continue to steamroll us – the American people. Here is why Dean is sending out the letter:

Senate near meltdown over judges
A vote on nominee William Myers may be a rehearsal for a next Supreme Court justice.

By Gail Russell Chaddock | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

WASHINGTON – Thursday's vote on the first of President Bush's blocked judicial nominees sets up a test of a "nuclear option" whose fallout could effectively bring the US Senate to a stop for the balance of the 109th Congress - and affect the balance on US courts for decades.

The pitched partisan battle revolves around a change in rules that seem arcane, but the impact could reach a wide range of issues before US federal courts, from consumer and environmental protections to civil liberties and the role of government in the post-9/11 era.

Given the high stakes, with activists on both sides ramping up this week to urge firmness in party ranks, it appears unlikely that moderates can avert a showdown.

The focus, for now, is on the nomination of William Myers to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Judiciary Committee is expected to send his nomination to the full Senate with a 10-8 party-line vote - a signal that Democrats plan to filibuster the nomination on the floor. When they do, Republicans plan to use their Senate majority to change the rule for ending debate - killing filibusters with a majority, not the 60 votes now required.

"Both parties understand that this is a dress rehearsal for the Supreme Court," says Sheldon Goldman, a political scientist and expert on judicial nominations at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. "It's been nicknamed the nuclear option because the fallout would be radioactive as far as our politics goes."

With Chief Justice William Rehnquist expected to retire from the US Supreme Court, the Senate rules on nominations have immediacy beyond the broader question of the ideological tenor of US courts.

Activists on both sides paint it as an epic event: "As Republican leaders prepare to overturn 200-year-old rules in the Senate to eradicate the need for bipartisan support and stack the Supreme Court, we've got to show Democratic and Republican senators that this is a grass-roots issue," said organizers for MoveOn PAC in the run-up to a rally on Wednesday.

More at the Christian Science Monitor.

Now here’s the letter:

Dear Crimnos,

Sometimes partisan politics gets overheated -- I know that as well as anyone. But when one party controls all three branches of government, and then seeks to change the fundamental principles and rules of our democracy, we need to talk about it soberly and seriously.

The Republican Senate leaders have decided to fundamentally alter the role of Congress -- they want to give George Bush unprecedented power to manipulate the legislative branch and the courts.

Today Harry Reid and the Democratic Senators asked us, the American people, to help them preserve the right of our elected representatives to speak their mind on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

We have to act. Sign this petition, which we will deliver to every U.S. Senator, asking them to protect the right to free speech in the Senate. If they don't, it is not only their voice that will be silenced -- it will be ours:

Here are the facts: George Bush has appointed judges to lifetime positions at a better rate than any president in nearly three decades. More than 95% of his nominees have been approved. Only ten nominees have been refused -- all because they are unqualified and out of the mainstream.

But that's not enough. And on this issue, as on Social Security, it is becoming more and more obvious to everyone that the Republican leadership is out of touch with reality.

More Americans voted against George Bush than any sitting president in history. And that same day, across the country, the Democratic candidates for Senate received over 4 million more votes than Republicans.

Americans did not endorse the fringe agenda to dismantle Social Security. And they did not endorse dismantling the system of checks and balances that have served our country for over 200 years.

Please tell your Senator to stand up for free speech:

This is not a partisan issue -- it is an American issue. And we all must act together in order to protect our democracy.

Thank you.

Governor Howard Dean, M.D.

Posted by crimnos @ 9:11 AM