Blogs

Feds Miss Deadline to Help Polar Bears

| Wed Jan. 9, 2008 7:00 PM EST

polar-bear150x180.jpgFederal authorities missed the deadline this week to classify polar bears as "endangered." Seems rampant habitat loss due to global warming isn't compelling enough to get them listed.

Well, today three conservation groups announced that they're going to sue the Department of the Interior to get the endangered status for the bear.

This all started last January, when an Interior Secretary proposed putting polar bears on the federal endangered list. The Endangered Species Act requires a final decision no later than a year after such a proposal. While the government claims that the deadline was missed because of the complex science involved, and because there has never been a species listed due to global warming, conservationists say that the federal government consistently uses such administrative excuses to keep animals off the list or meddle in scientific findings.

Just to give some context for the "science" part of the argument, a National Geographic study found that polar bears may be extinct by 2050 due to global warming, and in summer 2007, there was 40% less Arctic ice than there was in 2000, according to a study by the National Snow and Ice Data Center. As we wrote about last year, global warming is leading to extinctions across the global board. Unfortunately, we may not have the time it takes to convince the federal government otherwise, or to compel the feds to get their paperwork in order.

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Bored With Rock and Roll? How About Shock and Roll? Now You Can Taser With a Beat

| Wed Jan. 9, 2008 3:40 PM EST

leopard%20taser.jpgIf giving people 50,000 volt electric shocks just doesn't thrill you like it used to, don't despair: TASER International has a fashionable solution! For a few hundred dollars, you can get yourself a brand new leopard-print stun gun, and an mp3-equipped holster to put it in. Read more over at The Riff.

—Casey Miner

Bored With Rock and Roll? How About Shock and Roll? Now You Can Taser With a Beat

| Wed Jan. 9, 2008 3:40 PM EST

leopard%20taser.jpg

Ever feel like shocking people just ain't what it used to be? Like your self-defense experience is a little bit...boring? TASER International, whose 50,000 volt "electronic control technology" has helped redefine "trigger-happy," knows what you're missing: a new leopard-print stun gun, and an mp3-equipped holster to put it in.

Yes, for just a shade more than $450, you can own not just a weapon, but a personal protection experience. So says TASER head Rick Smith. "Personal protection can be both fashionable and functionable," Smith elaborated in a press release announcing the company's plans to "unleash" the new weapon and holster. Weapon, you say? Thought TASERs were nonlethal? Well, they are—as long as you don't suffer from over-exhaustion, a heart condition, a back condition, or "excited delirium," and avoid the perils of "Sudden In-Custody Death Syndrome," which according to TASER "results from a complex set of physiological and psychological conditions characterized by irrational behavior, extreme exertion, and potentially fatal changes in blood chemistry." Symptoms include "extreme agitation" and "sweating profusely."

The company claims that these conditions, and not the device itself, account for the more than 150 recorded deaths of people who were for the most part perfectly healthy before receiving (often repeated) shocks from the device. But whatever: Seizures are such a buzzkill. Ditch those squares, rock on to your own soundtrack, and don't forget: shoot early and often. Ain't no party like a TASER party.

—Casey Miner

Ron Paul Loses His Luster

| Wed Jan. 9, 2008 3:28 PM EST

With results in from New Hampshire, the wild and pervasive fantasies surrounding the Paul campaign should finally be laid to rest. For months Paul supporters have swamped the comments section of this and pretty much every other major blog with the idea that his poll numbers were vastly underreported, either due to a media conspiracy, or the fact that his young, cell-phone-wielding supporters weren't counted in typical phone polls. I've pointed out that Dean supporters made pretty much the same, baseless case in 2004, and it's now clear that nothing has changed since then: In Iowa, Paul won 10 percent of the vote (phone polls had given him 9 percent) and in New Hampshire he won 7.6 percent (phone polls had given him 6 to 10 percent). In short, the Ron Paul myth should be about as dead as the decomposed remains of Guy Fawkes.

Government Secrecy Guru Reflects on Agee's Death

| Wed Jan. 9, 2008 1:36 PM EST

Steve Aftergood runs the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS). From that perch, he has documented the shrinking of government transparency and civil liberties, including just in recent months, Cheney's office famously declaring itself exempt from both the executive and legislative branches for the purposes of refusing to submit itself to any form of oversight and security office procedures, as well as the National Archives secretly removing declassified documents from its shelves. He's sued the CIA for years to ask for the disclosure of the intelligence budget, published taxpayer-funded non-secret Congressional Research Service reports which Congress otherwise won't make available, and closely followed press coverage of well, the more secretive government agencies for years. As a long time close CIA watcher, I asked Aftergood to comment on controversial former CIA officer Philip Agee's death, and he obliged:

He was a man of his time, and his time was the 1970s. His public persona was shaped by anger at the U.S. Government and the CIA in particular over what he saw as its immoral, imperialist tendencies. He chose to break the rules of non-disclosure, and he paid a price in terms of exile, public opprobrium, etc. I doubt that the "celebrity" he enjoyed was much of a compensation.

So Much Porn, So Little Time--For Accounting

| Wed Jan. 9, 2008 1:03 PM EST

sunrisephoto.jpgLast year, the SEC opened an investigation into accounting irregularities at Sunrise Senior Living, one of the nation's largest chains of retirement communities and assisted-living facilities, after the company restated its earnings by some $130 million. If anyone was wondering how the company might have misplaced so much money, it might look to former CFO Bradley Rush, who apparently was using his office computer to check out a lot more than the company's finances.

After Sunrise sacked Rush last year, he sued for wrongful termination, arguing that he was rooting out fraud at the time he was fired. However, during the litigation, the Washington Post reports that Sunrise disclosed that it had found some 25,000 unique pornographic images on Rush's laptop, including movies, after he left the firm. With his hard drive so crowded with T&A, it's hard to imagine there was much room there for Sunrise spreadsheets.

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All Praise Jesus' General

| Wed Jan. 9, 2008 12:55 PM EST

Sometimes, the blogosphere does something the mainstream media would never dare to do. And it is awesome.

Mothers, Don't Let Your Sons Grow Up To Be...

| Wed Jan. 9, 2008 12:40 PM EST

Contractor%20Children%27s%20Book.jpg

...military contractors. Yep, the acceptance of the modern-day rent-a-soldier (never call them mercenaries; they hate that!) has finally filtered through the culture, right down to the realm of children's books. Hot off the press, you can now encourage your kids to join the ever-thickening ranks of the private military industry with the purchase of a new book. Targeting the 9-to-12 year-old set (and written at a fifth grade reading level), Jared Meyer's Working in a War Zone: Military Contractors includes 64 pages of text, accompanied by full color photographs of contractors doing their thing. (Meyer, a self-described author, consultant, and speaker—see his personal website here—has also penned such sundry titles as Frequently Asked Questions About Being an Immigrant Teen and Occupation Nation: How to Treat Your Health Like It's a Full-Time Job). According to the book's promotional blurb on its publisher's website:

People rarely think about the workers who provide products and services to the military and rebuild war-torn areas. The people who do these jobs, military contractors, have as important and exciting a career as anyone else in the military. This book brings readers right into the thick of the action. A variety of military contractor careers are profiled and brought to life. Readers learn about the daily dangers experienced by these professionals, and the importance of the work they accomplish.

And hey, if you like this one, there's more! Rosen Publishing's "Extreme Careers" series includes other jobs that would surely be a great fit for your 10-year old, including hostage rescue, disaster relief, frontline combat, and homeland security, among others.

Consider it a sign of the times.

CounterSpy: Rogue CIA Officer Philip Agee Dies

| Wed Jan. 9, 2008 11:29 AM EST

The AP reports that former CIA offcer turned rogue agent Philip Agee has died in Cuba. He was 72. From the AP obit:

Agee quit the CIA in 1969 after 12 years working mostly in Latin America at a time when leftist movements were gaining prominence and sympathizers. His 1975 book ''Inside the Company: CIA Diary,'' cited alleged CIA misdeeds against leftists in the region and included a 22-page list of purported agency operatives.

I encountered the Agee story up close when I was working last year on a biographical afterword about outted former CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson. Plame had served her first foreign tour in Greece, several years after the killing of the Athens CIA station chief Richad Welch by a Greek terrorist group, N17. While it turned out that contrary to initial belief, it was not Agee's writings but local Greek press revelations of Welch's identity and address that exposed him to his assassins, Welch's murder and Agee's acts prompted Congress to pass the law, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, that was mulled again after the outting of Plame, as my colleague David Corn first reported.

After Her Big Win, Status Quo or Change at Clinton HQ?

| Wed Jan. 9, 2008 9:13 AM EST

Last night--that is, at 1:30 in the morning--I ran into a top Hillary Clinton adviser at the bar in the Radisson Hotel in Manchester, New Hampshire. She was beaming. Earlier in the day, she had said to me, "I'm just praying the spread is 9.9 percent"--meaning she was hoping that Barack Obama would not win by double digits. Well, that was then. Joking, I said that I could imagine Clinton sending Mark Penn, her chief strategist, a telegram that said, "Stop. Come back. Stop. All is forgiven. Stop." Her eye opened wide and she exclaimed, "Oh, I hope not." Clinton's narrow victory in New Hampshire, she said, was not a vindication, but a warning. "We still need to retool," she explained. "This is not over." Clinton would have to change plenty from here on: be more open to the media, not be so over-handled. New Hampshire, she added, had been a near-death experience for Hillary Clinton. "We need to learn from our mistakes," she said. This aide was hoping for big changes within the Clinton campaign. Will that come? I asked. "You never know, politics can be unpredictable," she said with a smile.