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Current Topic: Current Events

Bittersweet chocolate
Topic: Current Events 10:22 am EST, Feb 14, 2003

Of the $1.1 billion in boxed chocolates that Americans are expected to buy on Valentine's Day, very little will be untainted by the scourge of child labor. Although some who buy those bonbons will do so without knowing the sinister history of their purchases, others, like the chocolate makers, will have known for at least two years, if not longer, that cocoa beans imported from the Ivory Coast -- used to make nearly half the chocolate consumed in this country -- are harvested in large part by children, some as young as 9, and many of whom are considered slaves, trafficked from desperately poor countries like Mali and Burkina Faso.

Bittersweet chocolate

Total Information Awareness: Down, but not out
Topic: Current Events 12:47 pm EST, Jan 29, 2003

On Jan. 23, the Senate unanimously passed a measure requiring the government to produce a detailed report on the TIA system's goals, costs and consequences. The senator sponsoring the amendment, Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said he was worried that TIA -- a Defense Department research project that aims to identify terrorists by analyzing personal data collected in computer databases -- was being developed without congressional oversight; his plan, he said, would cause the program to be "respectful of constitutional protections and safeguards, while still ensuring that our nation can continue to fight terrorism."

But while Congress asks for reports, TIA is already steaming forward. According to people with knowledge of the program, TIA has now advanced to the point where it's much more than a mere "research project." There is a working prototype of the system, and federal agencies outside the Defense Department have expressed interest in it.

Most alarmingly, an examination of the research that has been conducted so far into TIA reveals that even while the project has been charging ahead, only token attention has been paid to perhaps its most critical aspect -- privacy and civil liberties protection. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is taking the lead on TIA, has stymied the efforts of outside groups to find out more about TIA's protections.

Scary update on what's happening here - good to see that Congress is concerned about constitutionality and privacy, bad to see that the administration is still trying to side-step those checks and balances.

Total Information Awareness: Down, but not out

This Modern World
Topic: Current Events 7:45 am EST, Jan 27, 2003

Heh, you gotta love satire.

Some people think it's important to reduce our dependence on foreign oil... but clearly, they just don't get it! If we have to adjust our standard of living in any way whatsoever... well... haven't Saddam and his terrorist buddies already won?

For all you gas guzzlers out there.


This Modern World

The Salon Interview: John Edwards
Topic: Current Events 11:00 pm EST, Jan 13, 2003

While I'm not in a position to have chosen who I'm voting for next election, here's an interview that keeps me from lumping John Edwards into the pile of "no votes". Salon offers free 24 hour memberships for sitting through about 2 minutes of advertisements in case you don't have a membership.

You do have complaints about the role the judicial system plays in the war on terrorism, especially when it erodes civil liberties. Can you point to excesses from this administration in its pursuit of national security?

Yes, absolutely. One of the things I have proposed is taking domestic intelligence away from the FBI and setting up a more effective intelligence agency. And if that were done I'd also set up an individual civil rights and civil liberties watchdog to monitor what's happening with that agency. It would require record-keeping of data, whether what they're doing on the Internet or if they're monitoring religious entities like mosques or churches. It would make sure there are no constitutional and no civil liberties violations by this agency.

One of the things going on right now that I think is unacceptable is the way the Bush administration is dealing with those they call enemy combatants. I know my position on this is not popular, but it's my belief that designating someone, an American citizen, an enemy combatant, and putting them in jail, where they do not have access to a lawyer, where they cannot get a hearing, or go before a judge, where they are not given a chance to prove that they did nothing wrong -- it violates everything we believe in America. I think it's just wrong.

The Salon Interview: John Edwards

Steve Case to resign from AOL Time Warner
Topic: Current Events 11:34 pm EST, Jan 12, 2003

Case said he would resign because "some shareholders continue to focus their disappointment with the company's post-merger performance on me personally."

Personally, I think that both Time/Warner and AOL were making too much of their money off of each other, thinking that once they were all in one big happy family there would be another mega corporation to sell services and advertising to.

Steve Case to resign from AOL Time Warner

Bush to California: Choke on this
Topic: Current Events 6:20 pm EST, Dec 16, 2002

"The Bush administration talks until they're blue in the face about respecting state authority on environmental issues," says Drew Caputo, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group. From drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to snowmobiles in Yellowstone, the Bush administration argues that they're only supporting what locals want. But not in California. "Basically their position is, 'we respect state authority, but only when the state agrees with the oil industry,'" says Caputo.

The Bush administration's position in California, it's worth noting, is in sharp contrast to its policy in Florida. Bush has pledged $235 million to buy out similar leases in the coastal waters of Gov. Jeb Bush's Florida. But Bush owes nothing to California, a state that not only went for Gore in 2000, but even eschewed the so-called Bush effect that dominated this year's elections in other states, electing Democrats to the state's highest offices from governor to treasurer.

Yet another example of the current administration pushing the agenda of their backers over the will and rights of the states and citizens of the United States. I would say "Re-Elect Gore in 2004" but he isn't running, so instead I'll fervently say, "Vote Anti-Bush in 2004."


Bush to California: Choke on this

Senator Bill Nelson's Speech on Homeland Security
Topic: Current Events 10:51 am EST, Nov 26, 2002

It looks like there was another Senator with a head on his shoulders during the debate of the Homeland Security Bill. Too bad that so far we've only found two. This article points to a partial transcript of Senator Bill Nelson's (D-FL) speech on the Senate floor.

This past week, I was riveted by the news of the revelations about how the Department of Defense is developing a computer system to grant intelligence and law enforcement authorities the power to secretly access ordinary citizens' private information, including e-mail, financial statements and medical records -- to access that private information without the protections of a court order. Clearly, in this post-9/11 world, we need to develop tools that will enable our government to keep us safe from terrorists by disrupting their operations. But these tools need to be balanced against the protection of innocent people's right to privacy. If the right to privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion.

Here, here!

Senator Bill Nelson's Speech on Homeland Security

Make Your Own Bush Speech!
Topic: Current Events 10:03 am EST, Nov 25, 2002

Yes! Now you can make your very own incoherent Bush speech with this handy dandy flash page.

Make Your Own Bush Speech!

Robert Byrd's Speech on the Homeland Security Bill
Topic: Current Events 11:00 am EST, Nov 21, 2002

On Tuesday, the Senate voted 90-9 to approve the landmark Homeland Security bill. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., was one of the few senators voting against it, and in an address on the Senate floor, he raised fundamental questions about the need for the new agency and whether it will have the desired impact. What follows is the full transcript of his remarks during the conclusion of the Homeland Security debate.

At least one person in the Senate knew to call the kettle black.

Robert Byrd's Speech on the Homeland Security Bill

Meet Mr. Anti-Google
Topic: Current Events 11:47 am EDT, Aug 29, 2002

A webmaster in Texas is leading a campaign against Google, stating that not only does it violate privacy (in the form of a 36 year cookie sent to your browser that could tie all of your search terms together) but that it is biased towards old web sites, rather than true applicability to the search terms.

Meet Mr. Anti-Google

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