Senate Slashes Bush Tax Cut By More Than Half
President Bush yesterday formally announced his $74.7 billion plan to pay for the Iraq war and strengthen homeland security, but Democrats issued a stiff warning he would not be given a blank check to fight war and cut taxes at the same time. To drive home that point, the Senate voted 51-48 to slice Bush's tax cut by more than half, from a $726 billion 10-year plan to $350 billion. Senator Christopher J. Dodd said that although he was going to support Bush's war request, it was "disturbing" that the request comes "as the president continues to dig us further in debt by pushing through a massive tax cut to benefit the most affluent."
Air Force Reogranizes Academy
Air Force officials told a Senate panel Tuesday that four top officials of the Air Force Academy would be replaced because of a sexual assault scandal at the Colorado Springs facility. A congressional aide said after the closed briefing that two of the four positions would be filled by women. Senator Wayne Allard and Senator John Warner, Warner being the chairman of the armed services committee, have demanded that a woman be installed in one of the academy's two top posts. This comes in the aftermath of revelations of more than 60 sexual assault charges at the academy in the last ten years which were handled internally and not to the satisfaction of most observers. "Given what we've learned about the size of this problem, I think changing the leadership is insufficient in and of itself," said Cari Davis, executive director of a private rape crisis clinic in Colorado Springs that has counseled cadets.
3rd Member Of Al Qaeda Cell Pleads Guilty
A third member of an alleged terrorist sleeper cell in Lackawanna, New York pleaded guilty in Buffalo's federal court today. Yahya Goba adknowledged that he attended an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan and allowed a recruiter from the terrorist network to stay at his home through 9/11. Goba, who spent his time teaching religion to children in the Yemeni-American community, pleaded guilty to one count of providing material support to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. Goba is the third member of the cell to plead guilty to this charge, following Shafal Mosed's plead on Monday and the plead of a third member this January. Three more members of the cell still face trial but are negotiating a plea bargain to reduce their sentences. Authorities say that they have no evidence of terrorist plots by the group, only that they harbored and supported individuals involved in terrorist activities.
Prep For Baghdad Battle Continues
Coalition warplanes have struck more targets in and around Baghdad, including the headquarters of Iraqi satellite television, which was knocked off the air temporarily early this morning; the satellite channel has since resumed broadcasting. The primary goal of missions early Wednesday was to damage communications systems within Iraq, particularly within Baghdad, as coalition armies prepare for a potential land assault on the Iraqi capital near the end of this week. Elsewhere, coalition planes hit targets in and around the cities of Mosul and Kirkuk, near the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Local Kurdish leaders say US Special Forces troops, who have been scouting the region for months, have been directing allied planes to targets belonging to the Iraqi regime and carefully avoiding those belonging to Kurds.
Major Rise In Pneumonia Death Toll
The spread of the mysterious pneumonia-like disease severe acute respiratory syndrome continued today as China dramatically raised the death toll from the disease in its southern province of Guangdong on Wednesday, bringing the world toll to at least 50 and global infections to more than 1,000. Also, Singapore reported its first death from SARS while Hong Kong officials searched for dozens of foreign visitors who may have been exposed to the virus. China's previous report on the disease stated that they had observed 305 infections and five deaths from the disease, but yesterday increased those numbers to 24 deaths and 800 infections. The Chinese government has yet to admit any cases have occurred in the nation's capital, but doctors have confirmed two deaths. SARS has spread to Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, Canada and Germany, infecting nearly 500 in those nations, while suspected cases have been reported in the United States, Great Britain and Australia.
Canada, US Have Growing Rift Over War
The United States is upset and disappointed Canada has refused to join the war against Iraq and the issue has caused a "bump in relations," said Paul Cellucci, the US ambassador to Canada yesterday. Cellucci went on to say that the US would be ready to answer any security threat against Canada and that has left many Americans wondering why "Canada is not there for us now." At a speech to the Economic Club of Toronto, Cellucci went on to say, "It's disappointing to us and a lot of people in Washington are upset that Canada is not fully supporting us here." This statement came in response to the news that the Liberal party, which holds an overwhelming majority in the Canadian legislature, overwhelmingly voted down a motion to support forced disarmament in Iraq.
Frist Pledges Government Aid To Airlines
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist pledged to provide government aid to the US airlines as they face a slump in business due to the war with Iraq. The airlines, which lost $11.3 billion last year, are claiming that the war will add another $4 billion to losses for the year along with increased insurance costs and additional security needs. Carriers, including American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, have lobbied the White House and Congress for aid, arguing that more airlines will file for bankruptcy without the help. The carriers' Air Transport Association trade group estimated that combined losses may reach $10.7 billion this year due to the effects of the war. "Relief will be given to some extent" for the airlines either through legislation to pay for the Iraq war or some other bill, Frist told reporters yesterday, although he didn't specify an amount. Airline shares rose after his remarks.
Al-Jazeera Websites Hit By Crackers
The English and Arabic websites of Qatar-based broadcaster al-Jazeera were forced down this morning after a spate of suspected computer attacks last night. Neither aljazeera.net, which gets the most hits of any Arabic website in the world, nor english.aljazeera.net, which launched on Monday, were available this morning after suspected attacks crashed both sites. Al-Jazeera communications manager Jihad Ali Ballout said the company was doing everything possible to get the sites up and running. "Our people are doing our best but it could take some time," he said. "I am so concerned this is happening when there are clear lines that should be drawn." It is suspected that this may be a retaliation against al-Jazeera's decision to air video of American POWs on the network.
Consumer Confidence Takes A Dive
Consumer confidence plunged to its lowest level in almost 10 years this month, the Conference Board reported yesterday, to 62.5, the fourth lowest level since the index began in 1967. The typical consumer response to such low confidence is to invest in long-term purchases, such as a home. "Americans are so depressed now that they go out and buy a home," said Ed Yardeni, the chief investment strategist of Prudential Securities. Another potentially good investment in this reduction of consumer confidence is stocks; historically, whenever the consumer confidence level reaches this level, the stock market begins a major jump within a year as it predates an economic rebound.
Science & Technology
Nvidia, IBM Sign Deal
Nvidia has signed a three-year chip-making agreement with IBM, making TSMC no longer Nvidia's only parther in terms of manufacturing graphics chips. IBM will begin manufacturing GeForce FX chips at 0.13 micron this summer, and in the future will begin manufacturing Nvidia parts at 90 nm resolution once the process becomes commercially available, which is expected to occur late this year. Nvidia is likely to split the three-chip GeForce FX line between TSMC and IBM on a chip-by-chip basis. Nvidia was keen to play down any suggestion that it was unhappy with TSMC's 0.13 micron work, which is held by some observers to be the reason for the delayed introduction of the GeForce FX 5800.
Another Windows Flaw Disclosed By Microsoft
Just one week after Microsoft alerted the public to a serious security vulnerability in a component of its Windows 2000 operating system, a security researcher has posted code to exploit that vulnerability. The exploit was posted to two online discussion lists for computer security experts by Rafael Núñez, a senior research scientist. The exploit affects users using the WebDAV extensions to the IIS web server package often used with Windows 2000. The problem is at a very low level within Windows 2000, however, and leads others to be concerned about whether or not other exploits may take advantage of this problem.
Apple, Adobe In Rift
Yesterday, Adobe added a page to their website stating that Adobe products run faster on Microsoft Windows-based computers than comparable Apple machines. The page on Adobe's site points out test results published last year in Digital Producer, a magazine for video editors. The tests compare the performance of comparable high-end PC and Mac products (a Dell PC with a 3.06GHz Pentium processor versus a Mac G4 with dual 1.25GHz processors) on three Adobe applications. The tests revealed that across the board the PCs performed better on virtually all tasks. "We get a lot of requests for performance data on the video side," Trescot said. "We thought we would post some of that information. It's not really about advocating one platform over another; it's about if you prefer a PC, here's information that might help you."
Troop Post-Deployment Physical Exams Discussed
A top Pentagon health official conceded Tuesday that conducting physical examinations of troops after military deployments might help prevent a recurrence of gulf war illness. This concession comes in the light of recent criticism of the military for its inability to follow a 1997 law that requires medical screenings of troops before and after deployment. William Winkenwerder, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, also told a congressional hearing that the Pentagon's brief health questionnaire, which it plans to give to troops as a substitute for physical exams, might not be adequate. "I've already initiated an effort to reassess this survey to see if it collects all the information," he said. The issue came about from a House Government Reform subcommittee looking into the health care of the deployed forces particularly in light of lessons learned from the first Gulf War.
Harvard Claims Link Between Virus, Multiple Sclerosis
A virus that is believed to infect up to 95% of all Americans may play a crucial role in triggering multiple sclerosis, Harvard researchers reported today. This news could potentially provide an important clue to understanding MS, a disease whose root causes have eluded scientists for decades. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, writing in the March 26, 2003 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, provide some of the most persuasive evidence so far that the Epstein-Barr virus may play a role in the cascade of genetic and environmental forces that combine to cause multiple sclerosis. "It's not easy to find the causes of any disease, but in terms of MS especially, we know very little," said Dr. Alberto Ascherio, the Harvard epidemiologist who directed the study.
Skating Organizations In Chaos
The new World Skating Federation appeared in front of the media for the first time yesterday, but it didn't take long for its scramble with the International Skating Union for figure skating supremacy to get a little heated. Formed by high-profile officials, coaches and former skaters who are disgruntled and discouraged by the operation of the ISU, the WSF had already contacted Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, to tell him of its existence. Ron Pfenning, the president of the WSF, said he told Rogge that the new federation believes the ISU has failed figure skating and "is no longer able to lead us in the right direction for the future growth of our sport," along with several other suggestions for management of ice skating in the future. Pfenning also said the actions of ISU president Ottavio Cinquanta had caused many ISU members concern because "of his failure to represent the matters before us. ... Since the Winter Olympic Games of 2002, the leadership of the ISU has directed the sport ... down a path that could irreparably harm the sport."
Livan Hernandez Traded To Montreal Expos
Yesterday, the San Francisco Giants traded Livan Hernandez, Edwards Guzman and $3.2 million to the Montreal Expos for pitcher Jim Brower and a player to be named. This trade unites 1997 World Series hero Livan with his brother Orlando Hernandez on the roster of the Expos. "I feel good, not good, but you need to go. It's the only way sometimes. You need to go play and forget everything that happened," Hernandez said. Hernandez's 3 1/2 year run with the San Francisco Giants was full of ups and downs as the virulent pitcher often ignored coaching advice for better or for worse. "I think he was set in his ways," pitching coach Dave Righetti said. "I told him the other day, 'I know something is going to happen. It's obvious something is going on.' We couldn't hide it. But I said, 'There are things you can do to get better.' You never know with anybody, did we get the most out of him or was there more there? I'll always go through that with Livo, just as I did with Shawn Estes and Alan Embree and John Johnstone."
CNN Fires Connie Chung
Effective immediately, CNN has canceled Connie Chung Tonight, the prime-time newsmagazine that had been on the air only since last June. Also gone is anchor Connie Chung, the broadcast network news star CNN had wooed to become its crown jewel in a new star-strewn prime-time lineup. This comes after severe ratings disappointments for the show, expected to compete strongly with The O'Reilly Factor on Fox News. Although the show did improve ratings in the timeslot for the network, Bill O'Reilly's competing program actually increased its ratings lead over the life of Chung's program. The split was apparently amicable and is viewed as another move in CNNs general trend to return to less personality-based news programming in the wake of a reorganization there.
Lenny Kravitz Releases Duet With Iraqi
Lenny Kravitz recorded a strongly political song entitled We Want Peace with popular Iraqi singer Kadim Al Sahir in Miami, Florida last week. The single was released yesterday on the website of Rock The Vote, a national organisation which encourages young people to become involved in politics. Kravitz said he had chosen to link up with Rock the Vote "because of its strong stance with young people as defenders of free expression." Kravitz joins a growing list of recording artists releasing protest songs directly to the internet to bypass a cautious radio market. REM, the Beastie Boys, John Mellencamp and former Rage Against the Machine frontman Zack de la Rocha have all released anti-war songs via the internet in recent weeks. Kravitz's song features Palestinian musician Simon Shaheen on strings and Lebanese artist Jamey Hadded on percussion.
And Now, Some Typical Daylog Fare
Download Protest Songs and Perform Them For Friends!
I invite you to download a number of war protest songs that artists have released in the last week or so directly to the internet. Here are links to some of these songs; you'll have to cut-and-paste them into your browser to use them. I also encourage other noders to node these songs, as they provide effective commentary on political perspectives on the war. Note: if you have links to other songs or better links to these, let me know by email at email@example.com. Also, note that I am trying to keep this list of reasonable length with non-obscure artists; please don't send me mp3's of your local garage band putting out a two chord song of rage.
The Beastie Boys - In A World Gone Mad - http://demand1.stream.aol.com/ramgen/timeinc/uk/ipcmedia/nme/audio/mar03/BeastieBoys.rm
Zack de la Rocha with DJ Shadow - March of Death - http://bitpimps.com/happy_times/Zack%20de%20la%20Rocha%20and%20DJ%20Shadow%20-%20March%20of%20Death.mp3
Mick Jones (formerly of The Clash) - Why Do Men Fight? - http://www.poptones.co.uk/news.shtml
Lenny Kravitz with Kadim Al Sahir - We Want Peace - http://www.lennykravitz.com/rockthevote/index_popup.asp
Madonna - American Life - http://www.toto691.co.uk/Madonna_American_Life_192.mp3
John Mellencamp - To Washington - http://www.mellencamp.com/news/old_news/John_Mellencamp_To_Washington.mp3
REM - The Final Straw - http://www.remhq.com/finalStraw/finalstraw.html
Cat Stevens - Peace Train - http://www.yusufislam.org.uk/audio/peacetrain.shtml
Saul Williams / Cold Cut / DJ Spooky - 6-track EP, including Pledge of Resistance, September 12th, and Bloodletting - http://www.notinournamemusic.com/home.php
Yoko Ono - Give Peace A Chance - http://www.eastwest.nu/mp3.mp3
Lent Diary, Day 22
In my daylog for February 19, 2003, I outlined my plan for a challenging Lenten discipline: no food or water during daylight hours. Visit that daylog for more details.
I had previously believed that Easter was coming as soon as April 13, 2002. It turns out I was wrong, and my discipline will go on longer than expected.
It rather took me by surprise, this discovery, as I had made plans for the week of the 14th to eat lunch with several people who I have been postponing recently, so now I'm busy rescheduling lunch dates.
It will build my strength, though.