Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

Just call the 2007-2008 docket "The Kennedy Court" It was a complicated, complex and infuriating year of Supreme Court decisions. Two things emerged as irrefutable: There was something for everyone to love and for everyone to hate. And Anthony Kennedy, who has emerged a the swing vote, is the most influential man America. John Roberts might be the Chief Justice, but it is Kennedy's court.

Mugabe wins in a stunning upset...NOT! The sham election in Zimbabwe is over and Mugabe and his thugs have clung to power by running on the platform "Win, or War" and Mugabe himself saying that "only God" could remove him from office. The voting was Friday, the predetermined results were released on Saturday and the inauguration was Sunday.

The McCain strategy: Concentrate on foreign policy while Americans are stressed to breaking by domestic issues It comes down to this...McCain is trying to drive his campaign a direction the American public doesn't want to go. [T]hat strategy has provoked consternation and confusion among some fellow Republicans. There is, after all, the cautionary lesson of 1992, when President George H.W. Bush lost his reelection bid. One big reason was that voters believed Bush -- who was partial to foreign policy -- was less attuned to their pocketbook pain than was his more domestic-minded opponent, Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton...That campaign, not incidentally, was the last time the economy played such a large role in a presidential election. In a worrisome sign for McCain, surveys show that economic issues again top the political agenda, with most voters saying Obama would do a better job addressing healthcare, record gas prices, even taxes -- usually a GOP strong suit -- than McCain.

Tragedy in Arizona: Two medical helicopters collided in midair Sunday afternoon near an Arizona hospital, killing at least seven people and critically injuring three, a federal official said. All three people on one of the helicopters were killed in the Flagstaff collision, including a patient and the pilot, said Ian Gregor, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration. Four others were killed and three critically wounded, Gregor said. He wasn't sure if they were all on the second helicopter or whether some were on the ground. Both helicopters were Bell 407 models, according to the FAA. One was operated by Air Methods of Englewood, Colo., and the other by Classic Helicopters of Woods Cross, Utah. Neither company returned calls from The Associated Press on Sunday. The cause of the collision near Flagstaff Medical Center is being investigated. Hospital spokeswoman Starla Addair said she did not have any information to release. The crash started a 10-acre brush fire that authorities were able to extinguish, said Coconino County sheriff's spokesman Gerry Blair.

Change is always good: Neither rain nor snow nor gloom of the empty Federal Triangle: The GSA is considering a public-private partnership for the underutilized Old Post Office building. Redevelopment might include restaurants, residences and/or a hotel in place of or in addition to the current government offices (while preserving the building, of course).

Now the Euros can see your personal information: The United States and European Union are close to an agreement to share private data of their citizens, including credit card information, travel history and internet browsing information, The New York Times said Saturday. Negotiations that begun in February 2007 however have to yet address whether Europeans can sue the US government for mishandling information, according to an internal report on the potential agreement obtained by the daily. The negotiations are being conducted by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Justice and State departments, and their European counterparts, the daily said. A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson did not have an immediate response on the report when contacted Saturday by AFP. One of the unresolved issues is the EU's privacy rights claims that would allow its citizens to sue the US government for any mishandling of their information, under the US Privacy Act of 1974. The administration of President George W. Bush opposes such a move, the Times reported, because the Privacy Act gives US nationals -- but not foreigners -- the right to sue so the Act would have to be sent back to the Democratic-controlled Congress to be amended. So why not just give everyone amnesty and say to hell with it?

Calculated Risk writes about Lawrence Summers and some dire warnings: Lawrence Summers writes in the Financial Times: What we can do in this dangerous moment: It is quite possible that we are now at the most dangerous moment since the American financial crisis began last August.

Of course, once the species rebounds, the Republicans will do whatever they can to kill it off anyway: Ten times as many sockeye salmon are returning to the Columbia River as last year, which could mean the highest return for Idaho’s most endangered fish in more than 30 years. The Columbia River sockeye run has already doubled initial predictions and is on track to be the highest return since the 1950s. Some of those fish will return to Idaho, but how many remains to be seen. This year's sockeye return is a rare shot of good news for a fish that has struggled to survive for decades. Sockeye were the first Idaho salmon listed on the Endangered Species list in 1991. Officials expected a larger-than-average sockeye run due in part to improved river migration and ocean conditions and more young fish migrating from Idaho, but they could not explain the surprise abundance.

Who's worried? The most powerful atom-smasher ever built could make some bizarre discoveries, such as invisible matter or extra dimensions in space, after it is switched on in August. But some critics fear the Large Hadron Collider could exceed physicists' wildest conjectures: Will it spawn a black hole that could swallow Earth? Or spit out particles that could turn the planet into a hot dead clump? Ridiculous, say scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French initials CERN - some of whom have been working for a generation on the $5.8 billion collider, or LHC. "Obviously, the world will not end when the LHC switches on," said project leader Lyn Evans. David Francis, a physicist on the collider's huge ATLAS particle detector, smiled when asked whether he worried about black holes and hypothetical killer particles known as strangelets. "If I thought that this was going to happen, I would be well away from here," he said.

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