Made too much coffee? Got extra grounds? Before you throw it in the sink, consider one of these ideas, brought to you by AltUse.com:

1. Fertilize plants: Before you plant, mix your seeds with used coffee grounds. You'll increase your plant size, and the grounds will also ward off any underground pests attracted to your veggies. Works best for carrots and radishes.

2. Deter ants: Did you know that ants hate coffee? Use coffee grounds instead of traps to keep 'em out of the house without chemicals.

3. Rid the fridge of odors: Works like baking soda: Fill a small bowl with fresh, dry grounds of coffee and place it in the fridge. After a day or two, the smell should be gone.

4. Grill a burger: (OK, sort of a cheat since it's not for coffee itself, but the can.) Cut some holes in the bottom of an old metal coffee can to create a grill-like surface. At the top of the can, cut out a moderate size triangle. Place the can upside down and use the triangle to place newspaper or dry pine needles in to use as a fire starter. Light. Once the bottom of the can is hot enough you can use the surface as a makeshift grill and cook your meat, veggies, or anything else. Great for camping.

5. Stain wood: Brew a pot of fresh coffee and allow it to sit for a minimum of two days. Use a paintbrush to apply the coffee to unstained wood consistently and allow to dry over night. Apply as often as required to create the color and finish you desire.

Check back next Tuesday for more ways to reuse and use up your extras.

Chief Warrant Officer Heath Wieseler chats with his sister, Sgt. Andrea Wieseler, in a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter on COB Speicher Aug. 13. Heath and Andrea spent a few days together in Iraq after not seeing each other for more than two years. (US Army photo.)

Quote of the Day

From former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, describing his favorite congressman:

This is a guy that’s got the intellect, he’s got the energy, he cares, and he wants to legislate, knows how to legislate. He’s interested in getting across the finish line.

The congressman in question is Barney Frank, as described in a series of interviews given to Todd Purdum in Vanity Fair.  Paulson, who comes across in these interviews as almost astonishingly naive about how Washington works, basically says that Frank was the only honest, straightforward guy on the entire Hill.  "I just wish he were a Republican," he said.

Paulson has nice things to say about Nancy Pelosi too (“She was engaged, she was decisive, and she was really willing to just get involved with all of her people on a hands-on basis”).  And Tim Geithner (“He understands Treasury. He’s an internationalist....He’s smooth, but there’s ... inside, he’s tough as steel”).  But his fellow Republicans?  Not so nice:

“It’s not enough to just sit there and say, ‘I’m right, the other guys are wrong,’ ” he told me at one point, explaining why it was often so difficult working with some of the more doctrinaire members of the White House staff. “It’s not that there’s anything wrong with ideology. I’ve got my ideology and my philosophy. But those that say, ‘I won’t compromise,’ to prove a point, and then ‘I’m going to point a finger afterwards and say, See, I was right ... ’ ”

Sounds like he and John DiIulio could have a very simpatico conversation about the Bush White House if they ever got together for a beer or three.

We used to know how to live well with less energy. Take Lincoln's Cottage at the Soldiers' Home, where the president retreated from the heat of Washington DC—literally and figuratively—for three summers of the Civil War, and where he wrote the second draft of the Emancipation Proclamation. From June to November, 1862 through 1864, this cottage kept Lincoln cool.

How? First off, reports Saqib Rahim for Earth News, prior to air-conditioning, people actually thought about where they built their homes to capitalize on natural features like breezes. That meant taking into consideration trees, hillsides, sun, and shade.

The Cottage at the Soldiers' Home has been recently renovated as a National Trust historic landmark and the decision was made to maintain its 19-century cooling technologies. These read like a list of once-common sense that suddenly evaporated with the advent of air conditioning. The builders relied on smarts not watts. Some of their techniques included:

  • Orienting the building so a powerful crossbreeze blows when the front door and rear windows are opened
  • Installing tall windows with two sections, a top half to expel warm air and a bottom half to introduce it
  • Attaching shutters to block the sun or let light in when necessary
  • Decorating with lace curtains to minimize bugs not breezes

These are smart passive technologies we should consider as requirements in modern building design. Let's start with shutters—no, not those useless anachronisms flanking modern windows that do nothing except need paint. Real shutters, the kind that open and close, are a great way to moderate sunlight and reduce heat. Let's pair them with hinges again.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, which restored Lincoln's neglected cottage and opened it to the public last year, is seeking a LEED label (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) from the US Green Building Council. They believe old innovations deserve recognition too.  >

David Corn and Eugene Robinson joined Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball this evening to discuss Obama's relationship with the left and what's up next for health care reform.

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Today Adam Liptak gives us yet another reason to lament the financial meltdown in the newspaper industry.  In the past, it was most often newspapers that filed lawsuits demanding access to information that had been placed off limits for one reason or another.  But as their finances dwindle they can't afford to file these kinds of suits as often, and other types of publishers don't want to:

Consider the aftermath of a recent settlement in a lawsuit against Amtrak....As part of the settlement, the parties asked Judge Lawrence F. Stengel of Federal District Court in Philadelphia not only to vacate eight of his decisions in the case but also to “direct LexisNexis and Westlaw to remove the decisions” from “their respective legal research services/databases.”

The judge agreed, and the database companies complied.

“In the infrequent event that we are ordered by the court to remove a decision from Westlaw,” explained John Shaughnessy, a spokesman for the service, which is owned by ThomsonReuters, “we will comply with the order, deleting the text of the decision but keeping the title of the case and its docket number. We also publish the court’s order to remove so there’s a clear record of the action.”

In cases like this, newspapers have traditionally refused to cooperate.  What's more, they filed suits to keep this kind of information public not just out of concern for their business, but because their owners were genuinely obsessed with First Amendment rights.  Newer businesses, conversely, tend to either have reason to cooperate with the government, or else think of these suits strictly from a perspective of whether they're economically worth it.  We've still got the ACLU, of course, but they can't pick up all the slack.  In the great power struggle between government secrecy and the public's right to know, the demise of the newspaper industry is a victory for the bad guys.

This September, the Playboy Mansion will host a bash to benefit the environment—making it the latest unlikely bedfellow of the green movement.

The swanky cocktail gala, co-hosted by the Entrepreneurs Organization, promises celebrity sightings (it's sponsors include Billy Zane and Matthew Modine), casino games and, of course, scantily clad bunnies. At $600 a head, proceeds will benefit the Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Organization, a UN-backed IGO dedicated to developing green technology.

But is this a shining example of eco do-goodery, or yet another case of Tinseltown greenwashing? As Dave Gilson wrote in Mother Jones last year, "(Hollywood is) turning the traditional messages of the environmental movement on their heads, replacing existential anxiety with a relentlessly feel-good, prime-time-ready version of saving the planet." 

Notes the event's invitation: "We we will open our doors to celebrities and others that share our desire to celebrate life and promote a better world."

If only it were that easy.

Young people who choose to serve in the armed services deserve our thanks. But all too often the choice to enlist isn't rooted in patriotism. Rather, it's a decision that's made when a teenager has few other options. And it doesn't help that military recruiters have infiltrated public schools in order to convince kids as young as 15 to join up instead of go to college.

David Goodman examines the intersection between military recruiting and public education in his piece, "A Few Good Kids?". Goodman shows that the military doesn't just rely upon persuasive recruiters. It's got other tricks up its sleeve, like luring potential recruits to undercover Army websites and using secretly obtained personal information to target students. And it's all completely sanctioned by No Child Left Behind.

Here's an excerpt:

The military has long struggled to find more effective ways to reach potential enlistees; for every new GI it signed up last year, the Army spent $24,500 on recruitment. (In contrast, four-year colleges spend an average of $2,000 per incoming student.) Recruiters hit pay dirt in 2002, when then-Rep. (now Sen.) David Vitter (R-La.) slipped a provision into the No Child Left Behind Act that requires high schools to give recruiters the names and contact details of all juniors and seniors. Schools that fail to comply risk losing their NCLB funding.

Read the whole thing here.

Doctors, nurses, psychologists, and other health care professionals complicit in the US torture program should be subject to an independent investigation, and those found to have violated professional ethics or the law should be prosecuted and/or lose their license and professional society memberships. That sentiment, from the nonprofit Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), may well mark the first time a doctors' group has demanded true accountability of its professional peers.

Back in 1986, PHR was founded on the idea that health care professionals—given "their specialized skills, ethical commitments, and credible voices, are uniquely positioned to investigate the health consequences of human rights violations and work to stop them." Little did the founders realize they would one day be looking into the activities of their own government and colleagues.

Cheney: Screw the Law

Twice, Dick Cheney, as vice president of the United States, took an oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." Apparently, he did not take those words seriously, for on Sunday, he said that it was fine by him if government officials broke the law.

Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Cheney made news--once again--by attacking the Obama administration. He denounced Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to appoint a special prosecutor to examine possible CIA abuses of terrorism suspects. He decried Obama and the Democrats as soft on national security. He suggested that he had wanted to undertake military action against Iran before the Bush-Cheney administration ended, but that his "colleagues"--including President Bush--were not as gung-ho. All of this generated the predictable headlines and cable chatter.

But one short exchange between the former veep and host Chris Wallace did not receive the attention it merited. After Cheney defended the use of enhanced interrogation techniques (aka torture), Wallace asked him about the alleged abuses mentioned in a CIA report recently released. Cheney insisted, "It was good policy." The host followed up:

Wallace: So even these cases where [CIA interrogators] went beyond the specific legal authorization, you're OK with it?

Cheney: I am.

Interrogators can break the particular rules and laws that govern their actions, and Cheney has no problem with that. (Wallace did not press him further on the matter.) This is a rather Jack Bauer-ish approach to the old Barry Goldwater line, "extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice." Yet Cheney's taking it further: breaking the law to break terrorists is no problem.

Over the past several years, there has been a debate over how far the United States should go to defend itself against non-state actors who have expressed a desire to attack America with nuclear weapons. Decision-makers, policy wonks, and citizens have tried to figure out where to draw the appropriate lines. But Cheney is essentially saying, "To hell with that--even if there are lines, they don't matter."

Which means that for almost eight years, the United States had a vice president who did not believe in the rule of law. What a win for the terrorists.

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