Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wednesday Morning Quick Hits

This mornings "quick hits" is actually the last six items that were supposed to go into last nights newswrap. A thunderstorm passed overhead and caused the lights to flicker, and I lost my connectivity until this morning when the lawyers office next door opened up for the day. Losing my connection prompted a panicked phone call last night to Warren so the roundup would publish. By the way - Tip o the hat to both him and the Mrs. We need to giggle and chat more often...

Oh, my yes, do we ever need a reprise of the Truman Committee
Democrats and republicans alike found common ground in taking the Army to the woodshed over the contract that went to a 21 year old piece of club-hopping trash. Chairman of the Oversight Committee, Henry Waxman of California, could barely contain his disgust. The awarding of the contract to Diveroli and AEY, he said, revealed a "fundamentally flawed system," noting that Defense Department officials had overlooked AEY's "long record of failed and dubious performance." That record, as compiled by the committee, included delivering damaged helmets to Iraq, falsely blaming a hurricane in Miami for failing to deliver 10,000 pistols to Iraq's security forces and delivering the wrong model of laser pointer and rifle attachments to the U.S Embassy in Colombia. "It appears that anyone — no matter how inexperienced or unqualified — can win a lucrative federal contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars," Waxman said, adding that it was "hard to imagine a less-qualified company than AEY."

Everglades restoration ahead!
The state of Florida has reached a deal with U.S. Sugar to buy the company and restore the everglades. Under the conditions of the deal the company will draw down production over the next six years, and receive $1.7 billion dollars. In exchange, the state will take control of 187,000 acres and allow the ecosystem to revert to it's natural state so water once again will flow from Lake Okeechobee, in the heart of the state, south to Florida Bay. Governor Charlie Crist, rumored to be on McCain's short-lost for vice president, said the deal was “as monumental as the creation of the nation’s first national park, Yellowstone.”

Charter Communications backs off plans to monitor internet usage
The fourth-largest cable provider in the country has backed away from a plan to monitor the internet usage of it's customers after public outcry that likened the program to wiretapping. The idea also met a buzzsaw in the form of Rep. Edward Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts. "Given the serious privacy concerns raised by the sophisticated ad-serving technology Charter Communications planned to test market, I am pleased to hear that the company has decided to delay implementation of this program, which electronically profiled individual consumer [W]eb usage," Markey said in a statement. "I urge other broadband companies considering similar user profiling programs to similarly hold off on implementation while these important privacy concerns can be addressed."

Back to work, Hillary
Eighteen months after launching her presidential bid, Hillary returned to the Senate today. She was greeted with both tears and cheers. Displaying extraordinary class, she took the opportunity to issue a plea for a united Democratic party. "We're going to work very hard to elect Senator Obama. If you care about the issues I care about ... you really have to stay with us in the Democratic Party and vote for Senator Obama," she said. Got that everyone? Get with the program. About half of all Democrats cast their primary ballots for her, but when the equation was balanced, she came up short. Get over it. She has. It's about the Supreme Court and what kind of odious Scalia-flavored crap we would be forced to endure for fifty freakin' years if John McSame were elected.

This is the sort of thing that makes me giddy
Researchers at King's College in London have turned to the natural biochemistry of birds to further our understanding of the mechanism of severe allergic reactions in humans and to develop new treatments. In asthmatic and anaphylactic reactions, the bloodstream is flooded with a biochemical molecule called IgE, which binds tightly to white blood cells. The molecule in birds, called IgY, appears to be an ancient forerunner of IgE, and gives researchers a window that looks back eons. "This molecule is like a living fossil - finding out that it has an ancient past is like turning up a coelacanth in your garden pond. By studying it, we can track the evolution of allergic reactions back to at least 160m years ago, said Dr. Alex Taylor, one of the researchers."

EU nations move to curb flood of Iraqi refugees
With the war grinding on and violence on the uptick since the so-called Surge™ has begun to draw down, more and more Iraqis are reaching the point they simply can't take the car bombs and the threats of violence and the sectarian killing any more and are fleeing their homeland. Violence and terror drive hundreds of Iraqi families from the country every single day. Now the EU is being forced to make some tough decisions: Who will be allowed to stay in Europe - and will Iraqi Christians have greater chances than Muslims? In Germany, the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has become a driving force in the refugee debate. In May, a delegation of CDU members of parliament traveled to Damascus, Syria, and Amman, Jordan, to meet with refugees and UN personnel there. The parliamentarians were especially interested in Iraqi Christians, arguing that they would be easier to integrate into German society, but UNHCR representatives are vehemently opposed to selective acceptance of refugees. "The German offer is certainly generous," a spokeswoman in Damascus said, not without irony. "But if the Germans only want Christians, they'll have to set up their own registry."

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