Friday, March 07, 2008

Condi Rice and the 9/11 Commission

They knew, but did nothing. Read this excerpt of a book titled The Commission - The Uncensored History Of The 9/11 Investigation by Philip Shenon. Just how good a job did the 9/11 Commission do when it came to determining how much warning the Bush Administration had of the 9/11 attacks?
The warnings were going straight to President Bush each morning in his briefings by the CIA director, George Tenet, and in the presidential daily briefings. It would later be revealed by the 9/11 commission into the September 11 attacks that more than 40 presidential briefings presented to Bush from January 2001 through to September 10, 2001, included references to bin Laden.

Or this:
During his 2003 investigations it was startling to Mike Hurley, the commission member in charge of investigating intelligence, and the other investigators on his team, just what had gone on in the spring and summer of 2001 - just how often and how aggressively the White House had been warned that something terrible was about to happen.
What were Richard Clarke's emails to Condi Rice saying?
"Bin Ladin Public Profile May Presage Attack" (May 3); "Terrorist Groups Said Co-operating on US Hostage Plot" (May 23); "Bin Ladin's Networks' Plans Advancing" (May 26); "Bin Ladin Attacks May Be Imminent" (June 23); "Bin Ladin and Associates Making Near-Term Threats" (June 25); "Bin Ladin Planning High-Profile Attacks" (June 30); "Planning for Bin Ladin Attacks Continues, Despite Delays" (July 2)

Or this:
There is no record to show that Rice made any special effort to discuss terrorist threats with Bush. The record suggested, instead, that it was not a matter of special interest to either of them that summer.

. So why didn't we hear about any of this. Well, it seems that the 9/11 commission's chief director, Philip Zelikow, was a pretty good buddy of Condi Rice. Zelikow evidently didn't want any of this stuff shared with the public. So why didn't the Democratic members of the commission insist that this material be made public?
Much as the staff felt beaten down by Zelikow, so did the other Democratic commissioners. By the end, they had given up the fight to document the more serious failures of Bush, Rice, and others in the Administration in the months before September. Zelikow would never have permitted it. Nor, they realised, would Kean and Hamilton. The Democrats hoped the public would read through the report and understand that September 11 did not have to happen - that if the Bush Administration had been more aggressive in dealing with the threats flooding into the White House from January 2001 through to September 10, 2001, the plot could have been foiled. The Clinton administration could not duck blame for having failed to stop bin Laden before 2001.

Condi Rice - this is the person some think should be on the short list for the VP of a Republican President.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

NY Massage Therapy License

What does on need to do to obtain a license in NY to practice massage therapy? You can find the answer here. You actually have to know a few things.
Course in anatomy, physiology, neurology, myology or kinesiology, pathology, hygiene, first aid, CPR, infection control procedures, the chemical ingredients of products that are used and their effects, as well as the theory, technique and practice of both oriental and western massage/bodywork therapy.
This is to be done in not less than 1000 hours of coursework. Yes, 1000 hours of coursework. Then you need to pass a State exam. A license gives you the authority to practice massage therapy at upwards of $50/hour to provide a service that can actually be physically helpful.

Now ask yourself, what does one need to do in NY state to practice Reiki? Nothing. (Don't know about Reiki? Then go here to learn more) You go to someplace like here and become "attuned" to practice reiki. Then, New York state pretty much allows you to hang out a shingle and offer your "reiki treatments" at upwards of $50 per session (probably more) for a service that does absolutely nothing.

What is wrong with this picture?

A few days ago I got to meet with a representative of the NY State Attorney General's office and I asked him the same questions. The NY State Attorney General's office claims to be concerned with consumer issues. They don't particulary care for consumers being ripped off. The AG representative promised me he would look into the matter. I've got his card so I won't let him forget.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Hillary on Top

Hillary Clinton has hinted at sharing the Presidential ticket with Barack Obama. Who should be on top of the ticket? Hillary says Ohio voters want her on top of the ticket.
"That may be where this is headed, but of course we have to decide who is on the top of ticket. I think the people of Ohio very clearly said that it should be me."
But someone please explain why Ohio voters should decide who is on the top of a joint Democratic Presidential ticket. Shouldn't the Democratic candidate for President be the person who has won the most delegates...the most votes? We've already had one President appointed in this country. We don't need another. If Hillary wants to be on top she needs to win the votes to put her there.

It appears that, last night, Clinton only picked up 1 or 2 more delegates than did Obama.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

George Bush Wanted in Vermont

Police in Brattleboro, VT and Marlboro, VT have been ordered to arrest Pres. G.W. Bush and V.P. Dick Cheney if they ever show their faces in either of those towns.
"I realize it's an extreme thing to do, and really silly in a way," said Robert George, 74, a retired photographer. "But I'm really angry about us getting involved in the war in Iraq and him (Bush) disrespecting the will of the people."
[Photo from]

Difficulties for Hillary Clinton

It's going to be near impossible for Hillary Clinton to win more pledged delegates than Barack Obama. Don't believe me? Then go to Slate's Delegate Calculator and play with the numbers yourself. There are 14 more state primaries plus Guam and Puerto Rico. Enter your best guess numbers into each State or Territory and you will see that unless Clinton beats Obama by very high percentages, she will not get more pledged delegates than does Obama.

So even if Hillary Clinton gets all delegates of Guam and Puerto Rico, she could win the next 10 primaries by a margin of 55% to Obama's 45% (unlikely) and still not have more pledged delegates than Obama.

Can Malaria Be Eradicated?

Count me as a skeptic. Malaria will not be eradicated, at least not in our lifetime. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has taken on the eradication of malaria in what may be a quixotic cause. The current state of the art in protecting Africans from becoming infected with malaria is insecticide impregnated bednets.

Malaria can be eradicated from certain geographical areas. The United States is a good example. This effort was successful primarily due to ridding ourselves of the vector - the mosquito carrier of malaria.

There are several factors necessary for malaria to thrive. First, you need to have the proper species of mosquito vector. It has to be certain species of the Anopheles mosquito. The vector of malaria in Africa is Anopheles gambiae which prefer to feed on people indoors, thus the effectiveness of bednets (and of insecticides such as DDT which are sprayed indoors). Second, you need a human population for human malaria to be transmitted. Lastly, you need the proper malaria parasite. Malaria parasites are very species specific. There are 4 species of malaria that infect humans: Plasmodium vivax, P. falciparum, P. ovale and P. malariae. The killer species of malaria is P. falciparum.

Malaria can be epidemic, as it was in the USA or endemic as it is in most of Africa. In endemic malaria, the disease is present all year, whereas endemic malaria is seasonal. Endemic malaria is often called "stable malaria" and epidemic malaria called "unstable malaria". Much more about the geographic distribution of malaria in Africa can be learned at

In the 1950's, with the discovery of anti-malaria drug chloroquin and the insecticide dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane(DDT), a somewhat successful effort to eradicate malaria was undertaken by the World Health Organization. A good example of this effort was seen in Sri Lanka. The number of malaria cases in Sri Lanka dropped from 1 million cases in 1955 to 18 cases in 1963. Unfortunately, keeping the levels of malaria at that level was a very expensive proposition. Development of insecticide resistance by the mosquito and drug resistance by the malaria parasite did not help. In 1969 the WHO admitted defeat and the efforts to eradicate malaria globally was abandoned.

What about anti-malaria drugs? Drug companies have no incentive to discover new anti-malarial drugs because the very countries that need such drugs cannot afford to buy them. Artemisinin (qinghaosu), a chemical compound derived from the shrub Artemisia annua is one of the latest drugs used to treat malaria. But malaria parasite resistance to this drug is developing.

What about an anti-malaria vaccine? Efforts to develop such a vaccine have been ongoing since the late 1960's. Three types of vaccines could be potentially effective against malaria. Vaccines against the blood stages (merozoites) of the parasite; vaccines against the liver stages (sporozoites)of the parasite and vaccines that would result in killing the parasite while inside the mosquito (gametocytes). None of the vaccines tested thus far result in 100% clearance of the parasite.

Will malaria be eradicated any time soon? It is unlikely. Use of drugs, insecticides, public health measures and a lot of money could result in a great reduction of malaria in some regions of the world. But eradication of malaria is not in the near future. Moreover, we need to worry about the effects of global warming on the spread of malaria.

Jeff Healy

Jeff Healy of the Jeff Healy Band died of cancer last Sunday in Toronto. Healy was a jazz musician who played his guitar in an unusual style due to his blindness.

Monday, March 03, 2008

John McCain Makes Science $hit Up

Republican Presidential candidate, Senator John McCain, displayed his ignorance of science last Friday when commenting on the cause of autism.
"It’s indisputable that (autism) is on the rise amongst children, the question is what’s causing it. And we go back and forth and there’s strong evidence that indicates that it’s got to do with a preservative in vaccines."
Does McCain actually know the evidence that thimerosal causes autism or is he just making stuff up? McCain thinks the scientific community is divided on the issue of thimerosal causing autism. Let's see who disagrees with Mr. McCain: the Centers for Disease Control, the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Food and Drug Administration. Maybe McCain just has a high regard for Bobby Kennedy Jr. and falls for Kennedy's opinions on the causes of autism.

The evidence that vaccines containing thimerosal causes autism is so slim that it now borders on none. But you would never know that if you Googled "thimerosal autism". Maybe that's what John McCain did. The number one link on that Google search is the National Autism Association which makes the argument that it is "biologically plausible" that thimerosal-containing vaccines are the cause of autism. Doing a search on thimerosal autism on PubMed gives you quite different results. For example this article, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which concludes:
Our study does not support a causal association between early exposure to mercury from thimerosal-containing vaccines and immune globulins and deficits in neuropsychological functioning at the age of 7 to 10 years.
Or this study done by the California Department of Public Health which concludes:
The DDS data do not show any recent decrease in autism in California despite the exclusion of more than trace levels of thimerosal from nearly all childhood vaccines. The DDS data do not support the hypothesis that exposure to thimerosal during childhood is a primary cause of autism.
Maybe it's a good thing that no Presidential candidates have signed up for the Science Debate 2008.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

USA! We're Number 1

In the number of adults in prison.
Using state-by-state data, the report says 2,319,258 Americans were in jail or prison at the start of 2008 one out of every 99.1 adults. Whether per capita or in raw numbers, it's more than any other nation.

Prisons are big business in the Adirondacks so I guess this is good news for us. I'm not sure what it says about life in the USA. This is costing the states upwards of 49 billion dollars per year. Fortunately, New York State is one state that spends less than the national average on corrections. NYS has also had a decrease in the number of persons incarcerated. But for every dollar NY spends on higher education, it spends 0.73 cents on corrections. That's 3.597 billion dollars for higher education and 2.622 billion for corrections. 13.6% of NYS employees work for the department of corrections. That's higher than every state in the Northeast.

See the whole Pew report here (pdf).

Immunity for Telecoms or Bush

Why is G.W. Bush so adament about getting immunity for giant telecoms concerning evesdropping on US citizens? The telecom companies don't seem to be begging for immunity. Why would that be? Possibly because the US government already indemnified the telecoms against any possible lawsuits.

It seems much more likely that immunity for Telecoms is necessary so that we don't learn about exactly what G.W. Bush has been up to during the last 7 years. Bush has all but said this is the case:
Allowing the lawsuits to proceed could aid our enemies, because the litigation process could lead to the disclosure of information about how we conduct surveillance