Monday, August 4, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

It's hard to know who to feel sorry for-- Dana Milbank decided to leave his gig with Countdown with Keith Olbermann, and he did so because he didn't react well to having his reporting skills questioned. On the other hand, we've had issues with Olbermann as well. How about we call a Mulligan on this one and react with bemused detachment?

Update on Morgan Freeman: Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman, who is hospitalized in Memphis, Tenn., is expected to be OK after being injured in a car accident in Mississippi on Monday. "He has a broken arm, broken elbow and minor shoulder damage but he is in good spirits," Freeman's rep, Donna Lee, said in a statement Monday afternoon, according to People. "He is going to have surgery this afternoon or tomorrow to correct the damage. He says he'll be OK and is looking forward to a full recovery." In addition, the Associated Press reported that a business partner also said that Freeman suffered a broken arm and other injuries.

Every once in a while, you have to remind yourself that South America is actually a region that matters a great deal. And yet, why doesn't anyone ever pay attention to it? Deep in the northernmost reaches of the Amazon jungle, a land conflict between rice farmers and a handful of Indian tribes has turned so violent that the country's Supreme Court warns it could escalate into civil war. The court is expected to decide in August if the government can keep evicting rice farmers from a 4.2 million acre Indian reservation decreed by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in 2005. The evictions were stopped in April when rice farmers started burning bridges and blockading roads, and justices said they feared a "veritable civil war." The court's decision could help determine the future of the Amazon, whose remaining jungles provide a critical cushion against global warming. It could also redefine Brazil's policy toward its Indians at a time of frequent confrontations, as the country spends billions of dollars opening roads, building dams and promoting agribusiness across the world's largest remaining tropical wilderness. Unlike in most other Latin American countries, where indigenous people are fighting for rights in mainstream society, most of Brazil's Indians continue to live in the jungle and maintain their languages and traditions. These Indians have fought for decades to keep or regain their ancestral lands.

Uh, you need to call them fucking idiots, is what you need to do, because they are idiots for decrying what tire pressure can do to gas mileage: "As Senator McCain knows, Barack Obama has a comprehensive plan to provide real relief to Americans struggling with soaring prices and make the long-term investments we need to break our addiction to oil," the campaign writes in an email with the subject line "more from the low road."..."And while the McCain team may is busy amusing themselves, the fact is that the idea they’re attacking is supported by, among others, top McCain surrogate Joe Lieberman, conference call host Mike Rogers, Governors Charlie Crist and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Department of Energy, and NASCAR — all of whom have urged Americans to help save energy by minding tire pressure," the Obama team continued in the email. "But hey, who ever let the facts — or supporters’ positions — get in the way of a political attack? Aboard the Low Road Express, that’s no problem at all."

Goodbye to lenses?Researchers have come up with a microscopic microscope, tiny enough to fit on a fingertip, that can be cheaply mass-produced and used to scan blood and water for pathogens. The high-resolution microscope functions without the large and expensive lenses usually associated with such imaging devices. Instead, it combines the chip technology found in digital cameras with "microfluidics," the science of channeling liquid at scales far smaller than a common droplet. "The whole thing is truly compact -- it could be put in a cell phone -- and it can use just sunlight for illumination, which makes it very appealing for third-world applications," said Changhuei Yang, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and bioengineering at the California Institute of Technology and one of the lead developers of the device. Yang imagines a range of uses for the so-called optofluidic microscope, which measures about the size of George Washington's nose on a quarter and has the magnifying power of a top-quality optical microscope, according to the Caltech research team.

On to the jury: A jury of U.S. military officers began deliberating a verdict Monday for Osama bin Laden's driver in the first American war crimes trial since World War II. The panel of six jurors was reviewing evidence from a two-week trial at the Guantanamo Bay Navy base that has become the first full test of the Bush administration's system for prosecuting alleged terrorists. Salim Hamdan, a Yemeni held here since May 2002, faces a maximum life sentence if convicted of conspiracy and supporting terrorism. In closing arguments, prosecutors said Hamdan's service to the al Qaeda chief over five years in Afghanistan helped him execute terrorist plots including the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.

How about simply shutting the White House down for the rest of the year A senior White House official says staffers accompanying President Bush to China have been told to leave their BlackBerries at home, reports CBS News White House correspondent Peter Maer. The mobile e-mail blackout is the latest sign of U.S. concerns over Chinese cyber-spying. Sensitive presidential communications are always encrypted, but government cyber-security experts are worried about electronic eavesdropping on the BlackBerries, which are difficult to protect from snooping. BlackBerries have been banned on other presidential foreign trips but the order underscores specific concerns about Chinese spying during the Olympics...

What childishly simplistic person thought they were going to keep their promises? Chinese officials have not lived up to key promises they made to win the right to host the Olympics, including widening press freedoms, cleaning up their capital city's polluted air and respecting human rights. The failures were evident Monday:
A thick pall of smog covered Beijing, raising concerns that endurance events such as long-distance races would have to be moved out of the city. Some still held out hope that emergency measures would clear the city's air by Friday.

Near Tiananmen Square in the heart of the city, police scuffled with protesters who said they were evicted from their homes to make way for Games-related development.

Chinese censors continued to block access to politically sensitive Web sites for thousands of foreign journalists gathered at the Olympic press center.

These failures stand in contrast to the Herculean efforts China has made to prepare for the Olympics, building world-class venues, housing and other infrastructure.

The Evan Bayh bandwagon is starting to roll. More focus on Traumatic Brain Injury, please. This is something that needs to be dealt with, not campaigned on and forgotten: As speculation over the number two slot rises, presidential candidate Barack Obama and potential v.p. contender Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana joined forces Monday, signing a letter with eight other senators that urges Defense Secretary Robert Gates to increase medical coverage and care for Iraq war veterans left with serious brain injuries.

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