Thursday, June 30, 2005

Masters of Our Domain

"Opponents of the Supreme Court's eminent domain case, Kelo v. City of New London, are moving quickly and creatively in their reactions. The Kelo decision strips the rights of private citizens by granting the government power to seize your home and transfer it to a private developer.

"On the same day the decision was given, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Representative Phil Gingrey (R-GA) introduced The Protection of Homes, Small Businesses, and Private Property Act (S. 1313/H.R. 3087) which would effectively nullify the high court's 5-4 decision.

"Congressman Steve King (R-IA), in symbolic protest against the 'injustice done to the 15 property owners in the case,' introduced an amendment to an appropriations bill that would have stripped 1.5 million from the Supreme Court budget.

"In addition, Logan Darrow Clements, CEO of Freestar Media, LLC, has requested that the town of Weare, NH grant him the house and property of Supreme Court Justice David Souter. Utilizing Weare's newly expanded power of eminent domain, Mr. Clements thinks Justice Souter's land would make a great location for the 'Lost Liberty Hotel.'

"The threat to freedom from the Kelo decision is very real. If a hostile government decides a shopping mall would produce a more profitable tax base than a church (which provides a more important moral base), then the government could grab the church's land." ...

Clements: "This is not a prank. The Towne of Weare has five people on the Board of Selectmen. If three of them vote to use the power of eminent domain to take this land from Mr. Souter we can begin our hotel development."

Reid mentions South Carolina senator for possible court vacancy

"Supreme Court Justice Lindsey Graham? The most powerful Democrat in the U.S. Senate seems to like the sound of it.

"Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday threw out Graham's name as one of four Republican senators 'who would be outstanding Supreme Court members.'

"Speaking with reporters Tuesday, Reid said he expects President Bush to consult with Democrats before naming a nominee for the court, which could soon have a vacancy. He also mentioned U.S. Sens. Mel Martinez of Florida, Mike DeWine of Ohio and Mike Crapo of Idaho." ...

Pro-life groups switch strategy, hoping to secure veto on stem cells

"Several leading conservative advocacy groups are revising their strategy on embryonic-stem-cell research by backing an up-or-down vote on a bill to expand federal funding in a shift that could force President Bush to issue his first veto.

"Pro-life conservative groups have brought considerable pressure to bear on Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) to scuttle legislation that would lift restrictions on federal spending on the research that Bush put in place in 2001. But some groups have decided to test Bush's vow to veto the bill and lifted their opposition to allowing the legislation to reach the Senate floor—where it is expected to pass with a significant majority." ...

"Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a physician who is pro-life and staunchly opposes allowing additional funding of embryonic-stem-cell research, is threatening to filibuster it, among other things.

"'He is considering offering several amendments … [and] an old-fashioned filibuster,' his spokesman John Hart said. Coburn might read aloud on the Senate floor 'thousands' of accounts of people treated with therapies derived from adult stem-cell research, which he maintains has been proved effective without venturing into ethically touchy areas."

It's Not the Heat, It's the Uncertainty

"The possible retirement of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist has taken shape as a hulking storm front approaching this anxious city. It won't rain. It won't blow over. It's just parked there. Rumbling.

"An entire industry of activist groups is waiting to lurch into action should the ailing jurist decide to create the first Supreme Court vacancy in 11 years—as many experts had expected him to do Monday, when the high court issued its last rulings for the current session.

"They all had game plans for what to do if Rehnquist announced his departure. But he didn't, and now Washington is stuck in a heightened state of readiness." ...

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Breyer casts decisive vote on religious displays

"What do the two apparently contradictory decisions on displays of the Ten Commandments announced Monday by the Supreme Court mean for religious expression in America?

"In a nutshell, the effect of the court's two rulings was to say, 'Old religious displays are OK; new ones are not.'

"By the barest plurality, the court approved historical exhibits of the Ten Commandments on public property, displays that put the Decalogue in 'a museum-like setting,' as Texas attorney general Greg Abbott repeatedly described it when the court heard oral arguments in Van Orden v. Perry on March 2.

"Perhaps the best way to look at the cases is through the eyes of Justice Stephen Breyer, the swing vote in the Texas case, in which the court by a 5-4 vote allowed the state of Texas to continue displaying on the grounds of the state capitol in Austin a monument with the Ten Commandments engraved on it." ...

"A moral message is permissible, said Breyer, and a display of the Ten Commandments does send one.

"But in Breyer’s view—and he is the rule-maker by default because he was the deciding vote in this case—the Texas display 'conveys a predominantly secular message' and therefore is permissible."

"One important factor for Breyer: The Austin Ten Commandments monument was in a park with other historical monuments around it. 'The setting does not readily lend itself to meditation or any other religious activity,' Breyer decided.

"Hinting at practical political consequences, Breyer also worried that if the court banned long-standing displays of the Ten Commandments, it might spark public outrage, 'the very kind of religiously based divisiveness that the Establishment Clause seeks to avoid.'"

"In his opinion for the court in the Texas case, Chief Justice William Rehnquist said the justices must be two-faced when they decide cases involving religion.

"'One face looks to the past in acknowledgment of our Nation’s heritage, while the other looks to the present in demanding a separation between church and state,' Rehnquist said. He said the court must 'neither abdicate our responsibility to maintain a division between church and state nor evince hostility to religion by disabling the government from in some ways recognizing our religious heritage.'

"As with Breyer, the emphasis in Rehnquist’s opinion was on the past—'acknowledgment of our Nation’s heritage.'

"What Justice Antonin Scalia wanted—and could not get from most of his colleagues—was a robust statement that religion is not merely part of America’s heritage but a vibrant part of American society and government today."

"Justice Breyer's reasoning will further confuse communities that wish to display religious monuments with historical significance—or is that historic monuments with religious significance?" ...

Rove assumes more public role

"He has risen to the highest ranks of the White House, carries the title of deputy chief of staff and presides over a broad portfolio of domestic and foreign issues. But even as he has morphed from political operative to policy adviser, Karl Rove retains the instincts of the direct-mail specialist he once was in Texas.

"The verbal strike he aimed at liberals and liberalism during a speech to the New York Conservative Party on Wednesday night came straight out of the direct-mail manual: pithy, provocative and designed to energize one side by torching the other.

"Rove's flamboyant remarks—in which he roused conservatives by saying liberals prefer 'therapy and understanding' for terrorists instead of retaliation—has put President Bush's top strategist back on stage. It's a place where he has seemed increasingly comfortable of late." ...

Monday, June 27, 2005

Billy Graham's last U.S. crusade

"The Rev. Billy Graham will be 87 later this year. He has prostate cancer and uses a walker to get around after a broken hip and pelvis. But the old Billy Graham is still there." ...

"The world we leave behind is about like the world was when I came into the world, just at the end of World War I. And the world was at each other's throats at that time. And thousands were being killed. Today we don't have a world war. But maybe we do in terrorism. But man's heart is the same. I don't see any difference in people's hearts."

"I remember one incident. I had spoken at a breakfast and John Kennedy was sitting beside me. And he whispered to me, he said, 'Will you ride back to the White House with me?' And I said, 'You know, Mr. President,' I said, 'I'm sick.' I said, 'I have a fever and I don't think I ought to ride in the car with you and go to the White House. Let me come over some other time.' And he smiled and he said, 'OK.' And I have often wondered what did he want to talk about? And I never got that opportunity because he died a few months later. And that, to me, is a mystery that I would like cleared up when I get to heaven.

"Graham calls this the last crusade, but he's mulling an invitation to London in the fall, for a rally and what would be his 13th meeting with the Queen.

"How sharp is Billy Graham? Well, right now you could say one lion is reading about two others. He tells me he's halfway through the book 'Franklin and Winston,' by Jon Meacham. In fact, he says he can't put it down."

Weary Father Left To Count the Days

"At some point last week, the people at Virginia Hospital Center gave Jason Torres a chair that reclines fully so he could more comfortably sleep by his wife's side, which was 'pretty exciting,' he said, mustering the best attitude he could.

"This was the 46th day, which was very much like the 45th day and the 44th: Susan, his 26-year-old pregnant wife, lay in her hospital bed in Arlington, brain dead, and thus by Virginia law dead, yet attached to a ventilator, IVs, tubes and monitors in the slim hope that her body could sustain the [baby] at least two more weeks before cancer reached her womb or her body just quit." ...

"By Friday, he said, life and death seemed in a tie: The melanoma had spread to Susan's lungs, but the [baby] had grown, too, and even kicked.

"In the week since Susan Torres's story became public, a relative handful of people have said it is demeaning to use her body as an incubator. Some have questioned the enormous amount of money being spent on the thinnest of hopes or cited Jason Torres's financial predicament as one more example of an inadequate health insurance system.

"Others have simply helped Jason Torres with his share of the bill, which he estimates at $300,000 or more: About $175,000 has poured in so far, $15 checks from down the street, an anonymous $15,000 one, dollars from across the country, Canada, England and Australia.

"Mostly, though, the case has been notable for its rarity, for its medical complexity and for its lack of ethics controversy. Seasoned doctors who discuss those matters finish by saying that the case of Susan Torres is just plain sad."

"The question became whether to try to keep her body functioning with machines so the [baby] could grow, an ethical scenario akin to organ donation, said Robert M. Veatch, a professor of medical ethics at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University.

"In this decision, he and others said, it is Susan Torres's desires and values, as expressed by her or as divined by her husband, that are given the most weight, in light of the [baby]'s chances of survival.

"Jason Torres said he struggled a bit initially. A Catholic, he prayed to God and yelled at God, which he still does and figures is all right, "as long as there's a dialogue." Ultimately, he said, there was no question that his wife, who converted to Catholicism and who had refused early pregnancy tests for birth defects, would have wanted to continue despite the risks to the [baby]."

"Then, of course, there is the cancer: melanoma, which is particularly insidious in that it is one of the most aggressive forms and one of the few that can penetrate the placenta."

"The melanoma has metastasized, the cancerous cells traveling through Susan Torres's bloodstream, searching for a place to grow. So far, they have found the lymph nodes under her arms and, last week, her lungs."

"'The baby, to a certain extent, has an immune system that is distinct from the mom,' said Lynn M. Schuchter, an expert in melanoma at the University of Pennsylvania. 'So it's possible if foreign cells arrive, the immune system can handle it.'"

"If his wife's body holds out until the [baby] reaches its 25th week, the earliest point at which doctors believe a premature baby has a decent chance of survival, Torres is inclined to keep going."

"There have been moments over the past week when his brother regretted talking to the media, Justin Torres said. It is difficult for the family to hear the words 'dead' and 'brain dead' over and over. But they realized that they have traded privacy for the possibility of help."

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Woman kept alive in hopes of saving baby

"A 26-year-old pregnant woman with cancer whose brain function ceased last month is being kept alive with a respirator in hopes she can have a very premature baby who has a chance to survive." ...

"The couple has health insurance but expects it will cover only a fraction of the cost, currently running at least $7,500 a day, he says."

We can donate to the Susan M. Torres Fund.

They hope the baby will make it to "25 weeks—about mid-July—at which point the baby would have a chance of surviving outside the womb." ...

"If the case brings to mind that of Terri Schiavo, Torres said yesterday, there are really no similarities, because he and Susan's family are in agreement over her treatment and because they have, as best as they can, accepted that if it weren't for the baby, she would be gone."

We can pray!

Medical Mistrust

"Thirteen-year-old Katie Wernecke, the Texas girl often in the national news lately, has Hodgkin's disease.

"After she endured four rounds of chemotherapy, her parents believed she was OK. Then Katie developed what was thought to be pneumonia. When doctors recommended radiation treatment, Wernecke's parents refused it based on their belief that the side effects were too dangerous for a healthy girl.

"The state of Texas removed Katie from her parents' custody and ordered her to begin treatment. Now the latest reports say tests show Wernecke's cancer returned.

"On 'Today,' Wernecke's parents said they didn't want to deny her medical care. They said they wanted a full explanation of her condition in terminology they could understand. But Texas is maintaining custody." ...

"Texas Child Protective Services officials believe the recommendations of doctors at the hospital should overrule the parents. Robert Rosetti, program director over investigations at the CPS Nueces County office, claims the parents are being 'medically neglectful.'" ...

"This issue is about parental rights, not about religious rights," their attorney, Daniel Horne, said. "They just want to be informed of her treatment. They want to be involved in this."

"The state issued an Amber Alert that led to the seizure of Katie, who is undergoing tests at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. The couple's three sons also were taken and are in a foster home."

"Katie, who was diagnosed with cancer in January, does not want the treatment. 'I don't need radiation treatment. And nobody asked me what I wanted. It's my body,' she said in a videotaped message to her parents."

That begs the question, where is the National Organization for Women in all this? Why aren't they screaming at the top of their lungs for Katie's rights? What about the rest of the women's rights crowd?

Or does this fit all to well with "the doctor (or abortionist) knows best what women should do with their bodies?" Sure, they don't want to set a precedent for parental involvement, but what about Katie? She has specifically said she rejects this treatment to her own body as well?

The Pray for Katie blog has updates from the family on Katie's progress. They have their three sons back after being forced to consent to a questionable search of their home.

Mini-City Plan Discourages Use of Cars

"Fairfax County planners last night offered a vision for a mini-city at their westernmost Metro station that would begin to transform how people live and commute in Washington's largest suburb.

"In a place where cars and growth have always gone together, the county wants to offer incentives to the residents and workers in the planned MetroWest development at the Vienna station to not even own a car—let alone drive one.

"From high-priced parking spaces to cash rewards for riding Metro, a consultant laid out a series of carrots and sticks for developer Pulte Homes to reduce by almost half the number of car trips that otherwise would be generated by 13 residential and office towers planned next to the Metro station.

"If the county approves the strategies, Fairfax's controversial experiment with dense, transit-oriented development would become a laboratory for a movement in the fight against sprawl and traffic as well as a blueprint for the county's future of urban-style growth that rises up rather than out." ...

"UrbanTrans, a District-based transportation management firm and the county's consultant, offered several options at a public meeting last night, including showers in offices for bike riders, personalized traffic troubleshooters for residents, handy Zipcars on the site for planned or unplanned errands, cash rewards for employees who show that they are using transit, free Smartcards and even company cars for workers to do errands at lunch."

"County officials would return regularly to monitor whether the car-trip numbers are where they should be. If they aren't, Pulte could be required to pay out of a fund it negotiates with the county, a technique used in Montgomery County."

"'Flex hours and Metro vouchers won't stop 6,000 new people from increasing traffic congestion,' said Mark Tipton, a member of Fairfax Citizens for Responsible Growth, a group pushing for fewer homes at MetroWest."

"'Anytime you put in a system that requires somebody to permanently change their behavior means the government has to monitor people to make sure they behave properly,' Pisarski said. The idea is well-intentioned, but over the years it will fall apart, he added."

Tool to cut spending little used

"More than three years after the Bush administration undertook an effort to streamline the federal programs that make up most government spending, little has been cut." ...

Clay Johnson, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, … testified [Tuesday] before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee on federal financial management, government information and international security.

"The panel is chaired by Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican who at times has needled even fellow Republicans about government spending.

"He noted that federal spending accounts for 19 percent of the gross domestic product and at the current rate will account for 40 percent of GDP by 2040."

The "hearing was sparsely attended, but Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, New Jersey Democrat, made a point to appear. He said he wants to ensure that cuts are not made on partisan grounds.

"Mr. Coburn said he intends to hold both parties accountable for reining in spending.

"Comptroller General David Walker testified before the committee and reminded Mr. Coburn about a book published by the Government Accountability Office that describes the unsustainable path of government spending.

"Mr. Coburn said he needed no reminder; he has read the book twice."

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Ballgame a New Wrinkle for Metro This July 4

"You know there's always a big crowd on the National Mall each Fourth of July. And you know the subway can get jam packed. But this year, … the Washington Nationals are playing the New York Mets that afternoon at RFK Stadium." ...

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

WiFi now in Historic Old Town, Alexandria

Last week, "Alexandria began providing free wireless Internet access in its historic center, the first local government to offer alfresco Web surfing at no charge.

"The one-year pilot program provides outdoor wireless service in an eight-block zone stretching from Washington Street to the Potomac River along King Street—the Old Town main drag that attracts tourists and residents with its shops and restaurants.

"The system, which relies on broadcasting equipment atop City Hall, the Torpedo Factory and a couple of utility poles, is aimed at outdoor cafe patrons or people who prefer parks to workstations, city officials said." ...

"Craig T. Fifer, Alexandria's e-government manager, said the city wants to provide a luxury amenity to its residents while testing a system it could use for more prosaic municipal tasks, such as monitoring traffic.

"And it's great public relations. The service will 'promote Alexandria as a high-technology area,' Fifer said. 'We often market ourselves as a historic area, but this technology helps put us on the high-tech map.'"

"Alexandria's effort cost about $20,000 to start and will be $7,800 yearly to maintain."

The Open Park Project also points out that publicly available wireless access in open spaces also improves public safety and homeland security. "In the event of any future catastrophe in Washington, when buildings must be evacuated and commercial wireless communications networks may become overloaded, as occurred on 9/11, Open Park's network will provide an independent outdoor emergency communications service for anyone working at or around the Mall, including Smithsonian employees."

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Activists Priming for Supreme Court Battle

"Activists on the right and left are priming for a battle supreme. If President Bush nominates the first new Supreme Court justice in more than a decade, a fight is expected to break out within hours of an announcement.

"Overnight, the Internet will buzz with e-mails, pro and con. Radio and television talk show hosts will jawbone about the testy Senate confirmation battle that's anticipated. Television ads will air for and against Bush's pick. Grass-roots groups will cheer or boo the nominee—with shouting perhaps the loudest in states with senators up for re-election next year.

"A vacancy could occur later this month when the court's term closes." ...

"'The American people ought to prepare themselves to participate in one of the most extensive debates and conversations that's been had in more than a decade about the Supreme Court,' said Nan Aron, director of the liberal Alliance for Justice, one of two organizations steering a coalition of groups on the left.

"In the conservative corner is the Committee for Justice. Director Sean Rushton says his group is the "air traffic controller" of the right-of-center campaign to seat a conservative judge in the mode of justices Clarence Thomas or Antonin Scalia. He said many groups on the right say that if Rehnquist is going to step down, they hope Congress could finish the confirmation process before the August recess."

"The group holds weekly conference calls with conservative groups, raises money and keeps in touch with powerful players in Washington with a role in the Supreme Court nomination process. Committee for Justice is steered by C. Boyden Gray, the White House counsel to former President George H.W. Bush who helped Thomas through a contentious confirmation amid allegations of sexual harassment.

"Gray also is on the board of Progress for America, a group that spent heavily to oppose Sen. John Kerry in last year's election and spent more than $3 million to help Senate Republicans prevent filibusters on judicial nominations."

"In the ring on the right are: Edwin Meese, former attorney general for President Reagan; and Leonard A. Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society, which has assembled a list of conservative lawyers and law professors willing to weigh in when the battle begins.

"Helping rally the religious right is Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, a nonprofit public interest legal group founded by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson.

"The newly formed Judicial Confirmation Network distributes information through other conservative groups, including Focus on the Family, Americans for Tax Reform, Family Research Council and the Americans for Limited Government. The network has operations, manned by paid staff, up and running in Virginia, Maine, Florida, Arkansas, Nebraska and Colorado."

Senators Mentioned As Possible Justices

"If there is a Supreme Court vacancy this summer, President Bush may look no farther than the Capitol for a member of Congress who can be confirmed quickly. Past presidents have done it, more than two dozen times.

"While admittedly long shots, GOP Sens. Jon Kyl of Arizona and John Cornyn of Texas are being talked up by some conservatives as possible nominees for the high court.

"Seen as most likely to step down is Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who at 80 is fighting cancer. Retirement also might be attractive option for Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, 75, and John Paul Stevens, 85." ...

"Twenty-six men who served in Congress—10 only in the Senate, 12 only in the House and four in both chambers—later joined the Supreme Court. The revolving door has turned the other way only once: David Davis resigned from the court in 1877 to represent Illinois in the Senate as an independent."

"The Senate has never rejected one of its own for the high court."

"Former Sen. John Ashcroft, R-Mo., had a hard time getting past Democratic senators to become Bush's first attorney general. The Senate voted to confirm him 58-42, the narrowest margin ever for an attorney general."

First-place Nationals: happy to have a home

"Washington's latest love affair with baseball may still be young and, like all romances, fraught with peril. So far, though, it's outlasted both the cherry blossoms and the threatened mother-of-them-all filibuster in the U.S. Senate over judicial nominations.

"On this weekday night, nearly 30,000 came to aging RFK stadium to watch the Nationals put on a rare power display and beat the Oakland A's. They cheered for players they hadn't heard of six months ago, and wore shirts bearing a team name that was just as unfamiliar.

"It didn't hurt that these were the first-place Washington Nationals. The last time a team bearing the name Washington was on top of the standings this late in a season, the nation was in the midst of the Great Depression." ...

"It's a success story for baseball, which certainly could use one these days. Thirty-four years after the Senators left town, the Nationals seem destined for a long stay.

"That's just fine with the players, who like the fact they are settled. First place is nice, but they're just happy to be wanted."

Friday, June 10, 2005

Want to buy a Cave?

Organ Cave: a National Natural Landmark, and just nominated Historic Landmark.

"Located in beautiful southeastern West Virginia, Organ Cave is the second largest commercial cave in the eastern United States, and one of the oldest commercial caves in the country.

"A Natural National Landmark with over 45 miles of mapped passageways, Organ Cave is the 22nd largest cave in the world and there are still 200 known passageways that have yet to be explored."

"This cave is a living museum with the largest collection of Civil War hoppers left in the USA. This cave consists of fossils and petroglyphs, and Native American writings with age and meaning still unknown.

"Along with the cave, is a gift shop, cafe, and vinyl sign shop plus a limekiln."

Starting bid: $5 million

RadioShack: Strong Signals Amid The Static

"If we needed further evidence that the 'edifice complex'—or corporate lust for shiny new headquarters buildings—is a contrary indicator of performance, we got it from RadioShack (RSH). Just 16 days after the March grand opening of its Fort Worth campus, the retailer cut its earnings guidance. The stock sank 11%." ...

"Wall Street's disappointment in RadioShack can't be blinked away. After gaining 3% last year, comparable-store sales fell 1% in the first quarter. Yet there's no reason to start tapping out S-O-S.

"RadioShack's gross margin comes to 50.2%, according to Capital IQ, a unit of S&P. These are not quite the margins of, say, an Intel (INTC) (57.6%), but they kill those of rival Best Buy (BBY) (23.7%) or even luxury retailer Neiman Marcus Group (NMG) (35.2%). Yes, sales growth is important, but a fat gross margin solves many problems because even small sales gains mean a leap in profit.

"Gary. As in Gary Kusin, the newest independent director on RadioShack's board. He did not respond to my inquiries, but in a pair of recent Securities & Exchange Commission filings, he reported purchasing 40,000 RadioShack shares for $996,942. The trades made Kusin, whose day job is CEO of FedEx Kinko (FDX), the biggest owner among RadioShack's outside directors. Alone, this big insider buy is no reason to call your broker.

"But as John Linehan, manager of the T. Rowe Price Value Fund (TRVLX), told me, "I'd much rather see [insiders] buying than selling." His fund owns the stock for its ability to generate steady free cash flow. Linehan thinks RadioShack is worth something closer to $35.

"While the company carries noticeably more debt than Best Buy and Circuit City Stores (CC), its current valuation compares favorably. Besides those risks common to retailers—weaker economy, lower consumer spending—investors in RadioShack also must worry that it will borrow more money to drive sales growth via such current initiatives as store remodelings.

"A redesigned Web site is due by September, and fresh advertising from a new ad agency is set for the fourth quarter. That said, on any nice surprise the stock is priced to jump."

House: Appointment Viewing

"Each season there are great series that for various reasons aren't found by audiences (UPN's Kevin Hill) and not-so-good ones that are (CBS's Still Standing). Then there's a series like House. This medical drama has been no less skilled than Desperate Housewives and Lost in reinventing its genre.

"Still, it was hard to persuade viewers to come to yet another show about doctors. Gradually, an average of some 17 million did, in part because the series managed to turn the stereotype of the humane TV doctor upside down and introduce Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) as the most insulting, cranky, son-of-a-gun doctor since, well, no one comes to mind.

"House is merely playing off the current fascination with detective-like procedural work. But it's Laurie's acting—the guy is such a hoot that you tune in just to hear him vent—that gives the series its allure. House managed to create more appointment-viewing business, or, as NBC used to call it, 'must-see TV.'" ...

Me being a mere 28 years old, no one else came to mind either. However, I persuaded one of my part time associates at my store to watch House and he saw the season finale. His senior self said it reminded him of Ben Casey, the 1960's "Gritty realistic hospital drama featuring manly Dr. Casey against the medical establishment."

Fresh faces in Congress stress cooperation

"USA TODAY interviewed eight House and Senate freshmen at the beginning of their term in January and caught up with them last week as they headed into their sixth month in office.

"For some, it has been a baptism by fire. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., who defeated Democratic leader Tom Daschle, is working with Democrats to force a review of a Pentagon decision to close an Air Force base in his state. Martinez cast the deciding vote to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration, despite protests in his home state.

"And there have been trying personal moments. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., installed a webcam in her office, so she can have midweek face time with her husband and three young children in Florida. On nights when he returns to his apartment in a building mostly occupied by Georgetown law school students, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., misses his wife and two daughters back in Chicago. Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, still can't get over how much his one-bedroom Capitol Hill condo cost." ...

"When it comes to naming their biggest disappointment, the freshmen are unanimous: 'The continuing rancor between Republicans and Democrats,' Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, says."

"The freshmen say Congress is much more partisan than the legislatures where they served. 'The issues are polarizing,' Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., says.

"But others say the process deepens the partisan divide. Wasserman Schultz was stunned to learn that Democrats and Republicans sit on opposite sides of the dais during committee hearings. In Florida, she says, lawmakers took the first empty seat and often ended up striking up conversations with members of the opposite party.

"Obama says he's disappointed by the fact that "there very rarely is real debate" in the Senate. 'Each of us is speaking to an empty floor and to C-SPAN and giving stock speeches,' Obama says."

"What pleases the freshmen most is the ability to have an influence, despite their lack of seniority. McHenry, the youngest member of Congress at 29, says, 'You can still take on large issues and have an impact.'"

DHS Black Helicopters at Reagan National

From the CQ Midday Update: "Is that a fleet of black Department of Homeland Security helicopters sitting on the tarmac at Washington Reagan National?

"'Yes,' DHS spokesman Gary Bracken told CQ’s Homeland Security Daily. Those are indeed black Blackhawk helicopters operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

"Uh ... isn't that an unfortunate color, given the sensitivities of the 'black helicopter crowd,' those bunkerbound square-staters bracing for a world government takeover? Relax, folks. The choppers are used in 'a wide variety of missions,' including border intercepts and the transport of criminals, said the spokesman.

"DHS never uses the black helicopters for the kind of domestic spy work that captivates conspiracy theorists. It uses smaller blue-and-white helicopters for surveillance, Bracken said."

Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Windows Command Line to be overhauled

"The command line interface to the Windows Server OS will be changed to the new Monad Shell (MSH), in a phased implementation to take place over the next three to five years."

"Monad was started as a project to provide a more powerful command line competitive with the BASH shell on Unix and Linux, using ideas gleaned from WMIC, but using the .NET Framework as its core component instead."

Microsoft Senior Vice President Bob Muglia: Monad "will exceed what has been delivered in Linux and Unix for many years. It will take three to five years to fully develop and deliver." ...

In other Microsoft announcements, "at Microsoft's ongoing TechEd conference in Orlando, Microsoft corporate VP for security Gordon Mangione announced that Internet Explorer 7.0—available later this year—will run with reduced security privileges,"
and "Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced the impending availability of the next beta for Longhorn, the company's next-generation Windows, [is] due for commercial release in late 2006.

"Though Ballmer did not specify whether a beta for Longhorn Server was also pending, he did characterize Longhorn's eventual release as the most important for Microsoft since Windows 95."

Katherine Harris to Run for Senate in 2006

"Republican Rep. Katherine Harris, who as Florida's secretary of state was both praised and vilified for her part in the 2000 presidential recount, said Tuesday she will run for the Senate next year against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson." ...

Senate Ends Brown Nomination Filibuster

"The GOP-controlled Senate on Tuesday ended a nearly two-year Democratic filibuster of California judge Janice Rogers Brown, putting her on track to become the second black woman on what many people consider to be the nation's second highest court.

"The 65-32 vote virtually assures the conservative jurist and Alabama native's confirmation Wednesday evening to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, part of a historic deal to avert a partisan showdown over judicial filibusters." ...

Monday, June 6, 2005

Stem Cell Advances May Make Moral Issue Moot

"If only human embryonic stem cells could sprout anew from something other than a human embryo. Researchers could harvest them and perhaps harness their great biomedical potential without destroying what some consider to be a budding human life." ...

Saturday, June 4, 2005

Laptops Outsell Desktops for First Time

"In a sure sign that the era of mobile computing has arrived, notebooks have for the first time outsold desktops in the United States in a calendar month, the research firm Current Analysis says." ...

NASA Naps

"Despite NASA recommendations that astronauts sleep 8 hours a day, they usually don't. Strange sights and sounds, the stress of riding a powerful rocket, the lack of a normal day-night cycle—all these things tend to keep space travelers awake. Studies show that astronauts typically sleep 0.5 to 2.5 hours less than they do on Earth." ...

Blogs Face Possible FEC Regulation

"The Federal Election Commission is considering whether to require political bloggers to disclose whether they are receiving funds from a political campaign, the latest step in a larger debate over whether political activity on the Internet should be regulated by the government." ...

Kim Gandy: 'We don't need two Republican parties'

"Democratic Party efforts to recruit anti-abortion candidates and take a more moderate position on abortion drew fire Friday from Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women.

"She told activists at the Campaign for America's Future meeting that leading Democrats are trying too hard to redefine the party's stance on key issues.

"Leading Democrats, including New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who heads Democratic efforts to win seats in the Senate, and party chairman Dean have been overly eager to recruit supporters—and candidates—who don't support abortion choice, she said.

"In Pennsylvania, anti-abortion candidate Bob Casey Jr. is the front-runner among Democrats to challenge incumbent Republican Sen. Rick Santorum.

"Phil Singer, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, rejected Gandy's criticism. 'We're focused on getting the best candidates to run in the 2006 races without any kind of litmus test,' Singer said. 'If Democrats lose seats this cycle, we'll see a fundamentally different America.'"

"Efforts by Democrats and others to blend religion and politics also drew Gandy's criticism. 'So many political leaders are trying to be Republican lite and they're being encouraged by the Democratic Party,' she said. 'Please, somebody tell them we don't need two Republican parties.'" ...
Psalm 24: "The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him."

That includes you and me!
Bill Clinton on Social Security: "You and I know that this is a pure cash-in, cash-out program and that it will be draining revenue from the Treasury decades before the formal bankruptcy date. We have to act soon." —Page 39

Thursday, June 2, 2005

AM radio plays vital role: "It may be the computer age, but city and county governments across the nation are turning to an old reliable—AM radio—to reach their residents with important messages.

"From offering warnings of emergency road closures to touting community events, low-power, government-operated radio stations are broadcasting around the clock to anyone who cares to listen.

"And, soon, some may broadcast hurricane information, if necessary.

"In Deltona, where a municipal station went on the air last fall, officials are even considering broadcasting City Commission meetings. Casselberry is just weeks away from going on the air, and Orlando soon will test a station.

"'AM radio is as old as the hills, but this is a new idea for emergency management,' said Bill Baker, president of Information Station Specialists, a Zeeland, Mich., company that builds, installs and obtains federal licensing for stations.

"The stations have been around for years, Baker said, but there has been a surge in interest during the past couple of years. He credits that to the availability of Homeland Security dollars.

"Increased interest in Florida, Baker said, is also being driven by last year's hurricanes."
When it comes to technical security risks, it's amazing how influential a site like Slashdot can be in persuading a company to take action and respond.

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Pssst, Circle R's a secret no longer: "Circle R lives on in a facility that looks more Hollywood than Fort Worth.

"Circle R Media, the production house that shot and edited commercials for the Circle R advertising group, survived because of a deal quietly brokered 1 1/2 years ago by Ed Delaney, who ran Circle R Media for RadioShack until he arranged for its sale to a group of private investors."
Bill Clinton: "Most of the major errors I made in my life, both political and personal, were made when I was too tired. Now, if you work harder and you work smart, you can make more decisions and do more good. But if you work so hard that you can't be smart anymore and you outrun your organizational and management capacities, then you make mistakes."
'Charisma' lands dozens of retail distribution deals: "'Charisma,' already one of the largest circulation Christian magazines in the country, has landed new distribution deals with Wal-Mart and dozens of other retail chains nationwide, including Rite-Aid, Kroger, 7-Eleven and Barnes & Noble.

"The company says it also is in negotiations with other retailers.

"In a prepared statement, Stephen Strang, the founder of 'Charisma,' one of the publications produced by Strang Communications of Lake Mary, says the new deals will allow the magazine to grow sales further by extending its distribution beyond its list of subscribers and about 1,000 Christian bookstores and 2,200 churches that sell the monthly publication."
Think Ahead as Hurricane Season Begins: "The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season began Wednesday, and Pepco says it's not too early to prepare for the possibility of a destructive storm.

"The National Weather Service predicts an above-average storm season this year."

A thorough familiarity with useful weather links, and mobile access to them is also recommended.

In Florida, Tax-Free Hurricane Shopping Begins today: "Generators started flying off the shelves Wednesday at home improvement stores, just like they did right after Hurricane Charley last year.

"There's no storm coming, but there's also no sales tax on hurricane supplies for the next 12 days."

"Flashlights, batteries, tarps, and more are sales-tax free, but everyone has a reason why they want one of the generators. 'It was so hot. Really, really hot. I lost a lot of food,' said Orlando resident Vickie Napier.

"To give you an idea of how the first day of this tax-free sale is going, at the Ocoee Lowe's store, they sold seven generators in the first hour they were open. That's the amount they would normally sell over the entire day that the store is open.

"Sales of $700 or more were common. Tax-free days cover a wide range of hurricane supplies and customers refuse to lose out this time."

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you build one.
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