Friday, November 20, 2009

Health fears over use of sweetener

Health fears over use of sweetener
Coca Cola and Pepsi switched to sweetening their US products with HFCS in 1984
30 Oct 2009

A sugary ingredient that is commonly used to flavour processed foods and soft drinks could be a major cause of high blood pressure, new research has found.

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is abundant in many types of foods and beverages, including fizzy drinks, biscuits, ketchup and bread, and was originally viewed as a “healthy” method of sweetening.

Its introduction 20 years ago has caused consumption of the fruit sugar fructose to rise sharply, alongside increasing levels of obesity.

Although healthy amounts of fructose exist naturally in fruit, excessive amounts of the sugar may be harmful. Studies have already shown that large quantities of fructose cause the liver to pump fats into the bloodstream that may damage arteries.

Links to insulin resistance and diabetes have been documented, with research also concluding that when people consume artificial sweeteners they have an increased desire to keep eating.

Researchers who carried out the new study in the US looked at more than 4500 adults with no prior history of high blood pressure.

Fructose intake was calculated by asking participants to rate their consumption of foods such as fruit juices, soft drinks, bakery products and confectionery.

The study found that people who ate or drank more than 74 grams of fructose per day, the equivalent to 2.5 sugary soft drinks, increased their risk of developing high blood pressure.

“Normal” blood pressure is said to be a reading of around 120/80 millimetres of mercury (mmHg) depending on age. The first figure relates to blood pressure when the heart is actively beating, the second is the reading of the blood pressure between beats.

More than 74 grams of fructose a day increased the chances of a higher reading of 135/85mmHg by 28%, the study found. It also increased the likelihood of a higher reading of 140/90mmHg by 36% and 160/100mmHg by 87%.

Since it was first developed in the United States in the 1970s, HFCS has widely replaced sugar as a result of the vast corn subsidies offered to farmers and the high price of sugar tariffs and quotas.

While there is no naturally occurring fructose in corn syrup, an enzyme was discovered in the 1950s that could turn its glucose content into fructose. This process was refined in the 1970s, leading to the mass production of HFCS. The product is also easier to blend and transport given its liquid form.

HFCS is now preferred over cane sugar among the vast majority of American food and drink manufacturers thanks to its low production costs. Coca Cola and Pepsi switched to sweetening their products with the substance in 1984, but continue to use sugar in other nations. Four main companies in the US control 85% of the HFCS market.

The use of HFCS in Europe has not been as widespread as in America. In 2005, the EU set a production quota of 303,000 tonnes a year. By contrast, the EU produced an average of 18.6 million tons of sugar annually between 1999 and 2001.

Americans today consume 30% more fructose than they did 20 years ago and up to four times more than they did 100 years ago, those behind the latest study reported yesterday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Nephrology in California.

Dr Diana Jalal, from the University of Colorado, and colleagues wrote in their paper: “These results indicate that high fructose intake in the form of added sugars is significantly and independently associated with higher blood pressure levels in the US adult population with no previous history of hypertension.”

Further work was needed to see if lowering fructose consumption could normalise blood pressure, Dr Jalal said.

Psychic 'mind-reading' computer

Psychic 'mind-reading' computer will show your thoughts on screen
By David Derbyshire
02nd November 2009

A mind-reading machine that can produce pictures of what a person is seeing or remembering has been developed by scientists.

The device studies patterns of brainwave activity and turns them into a moving image on a computer screen.

While the idea of a telepathy machine might sound like something from science fiction, the scientists say it could one day be used to solve crimes.

In a pioneering experiment, an American team scanned the brain activity of two volunteers watching a video and used the results to recreate the images they were seeing.

Although the results were crude, the technique was able to reproduce the rough shape of a man in a white shirt and a city skyline.

Professor Jack Gallant, who carried out the experiment at the University of California, Berkeley, said: 'At the moment when you see something and want to describe it you have to use words or draw it and it doesn't work very well.

'This technology might allow you to recover an eyewitness's memory of a crime.'

The experiment is the latest in a series of studies designed to show how brain scans can reveal our innermost thoughts.

Using a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner, normally found in hospitals, the American team scanned the brains of two volunteers while they watched videos.

The results were fed into a computer which looked for links between colours, shapes and movements on the screen, and patterns of activity in the brain.

The computer software was then given the brain scans of the volunteers as they watched a different video and was asked to recreate what they were seeing.

According to Dr Gallant, who has yet to publish the results of the experiment, the software was close to the mark.

In one scene featuring comic actor Steve Martin in a white shirt, the computer reproduced his white torso and rough shape, but was unable to handle details of his face.

In another, the volunteers watched an image of a city skyline with a plane flying past.

The software was able to recreate the skyline - but not the aircraft.

FCC Takes First Step Toward Net Neutrality Rules

FCC Takes First Step Toward Net Neutrality Rules
Grant Gross, IDG News Service
Oct 22, 2009

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has taken the first step toward creating formal net neutrality rules, despite a huge lobbying effort from opposing groups in recent days.

The FCC voted Thursday to open a rulemaking process and begin receiving comments on a proposal to create new net neutrality rules following a contentious debate on whether new regulations are needed.

The FCC is still months away from voting on the final regulations, but the rules, as proposed, would allow Web users to run the legal applications and access the legal Web sites of their choice, while prohibiting broadband providers from selectively blocking or slowing Web content. Providers could use "reasonable" network management to reduce congestion and maintain quality of service, but the rules would require them to be transparent with consumers about their efforts.

Under the FCC proposal, wireless broadband services would be included in the net neutrality rules. The FCC will seek comments on how to treat managed network services.

The rules are necessary to protect innovation on the Internet and preserve the openness that has allowed the Internet to blossom, said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

"The problem is not merely that we've seen some significant situations where broadband providers have degraded the data streams of popular lawful services and blocked consumer access to lawful applications," he said. "The heart of the problem is that ... we face the dangerous combination of an uncertain legal framework with ongoing as well as emerging challenges to a free and open Internet.

"Given the potentially huge consequences of having the open Internet diminished through inaction, the time is now to move forward with consideration of fair and reasonable rules of the road," he added.

But Commissioner Robert McDowell suggested the Internet has seen massive growth because of a lack of regulations. The proposed rules regulate network providers, but not Web applications vendors, while supporters assume new innovation will come from applications and not networks, he said.

"The Internet is perhaps the greatest deregulatory success story of all time," said McDowell, a Republican. "No government has ever succeeded in mandating innovation and investment."

New rules could inadvertently hurt the growth of the Internet and give a precedent to other nations that want to create all kinds of new Internet regulations, McDowell added. But he praised Genachowski for creating an open and collegial rulemaking process.

Net neutrality advocates began pressing hard for new rules in 2005, after the FCC phased out rules requiring traditional telecom carriers to share their broadband networks with competitors. That same year, the FCC approved four informal net neutrality principles, but broadband provider Comcast, in a lawsuit, has challenged the FCC's authority to enforce those principles.

Net neutrality advocates argue that formal regulations are needed because broadband providers could decide to block or slow some Web sites or applications in favor of others. Since the FCC deregulated network sharing rules in 2005, Web users have few choices for broadband providers and not many options for alternative service if their providers start blocking some Web content, net neutrality advocates say.

But opponents of net neutrality say new rules aren't needed. The FCC has taken action against broadband providers in just two cases, including one in which Comcast was accused of widespread slowing of the BitTorrent peer-to-peer service. New regulations could slow or halt new broadband investment, making it difficult to meet President Barack Obama's goal of bringing broadband to all U.S. residents, opponents say.

In addition to opposition from large broadband providers AT&T and Verizon Communications, a group of about 90 U.S. lawmakers raised concerns about new regulations in the past week. In addition, 44 telecom-related companies, including Cisco Systems, Alcatel-Lucent, Motorola and Nokia, wrote a letter to the FCC opposing new rules, as well as several minority groups concerned about the effect on broadband deployment.

On the other side are 28 digital rights and consumer groups, including Free Press and Public Knowledge, Internet pioneers including Vint Cerf and David Reed, and top executives of Web-based companies, including Google,, eBay and Facebook.

On Wednesday, 30 tech-focused venture capitalists sent a letter to the FCC supporting new rules, and this week, more than 20,000 U.S. residents have signed a letter calling for net neutrality rules, according to Save the Internet, a pro-net neutrality group.

Obama and Genachowski, both Democrats, have both said net neutrality rules are among their top tech priorities. Genachowski said the rules as proposed are not perfect or set in stone.

But FCC member Meredith Attwell Baker, a Republican, questioned whether the FCC has the authority to regulate broadband, even though she said the rulemaking process presents "thoughtful" questions about Internet freedoms.

New rules could hamper innovation from broadband providers and slow the jobs created through the Internet, she said. "I don't want to get in the way of that," she added. "If innovation and investment are confined to the corners of the Internet, consumers will suffer."

Modern man a wimp says anthropologist

Modern man a wimp says anthropologist
Wed Oct 14, 2009
John Mehaffey

LONDON (Reuters) - Many prehistoric Australian aboriginals could have outrun world 100 and 200 meters record holder Usain Bolt in modern conditions.

Some Tutsi men in Rwanda exceeded the current world high jump record of 2.45 meters during initiation ceremonies in which they had to jump at least their own height to progress to manhood.

Any Neanderthal woman could have beaten former bodybuilder and current California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in an arm wrestle.

These and other eye-catching claims are detailed in a book by Australian anthropologist Peter McAllister entitled "Manthropology" and provocatively sub-titled "The Science of the Inadequate Modern Male."

McAllister sets out his stall in the opening sentence of the prologue.

"If you're reading this then you -- or the male you have bought it for -- are the worst man in history.

"No ifs, no buts -- the worst man, period...As a class we are in fact the sorriest cohort of masculine Homo sapiens to ever walk the planet."

Delving into a wide range of source material McAllister finds evidence he believes proves that modern man is inferior to his predecessors in, among other fields, the basic Olympic athletics disciplines of running and jumping.

His conclusions about the speed of Australian aboriginals 20,000 years ago are based on a set of footprints, preserved in a fossilized claypan lake bed, of six men chasing prey.


An analysis of the footsteps of one of the men, dubbed T8, shows he reached speeds of 37 kph on a soft, muddy lake edge. Bolt, by comparison, reached a top speed of 42 kph during his then world 100 meters record of 9.69 seconds at last year's Beijing Olympics.

In an interview in the English university town of Cambridge where he was temporarily resident, McAllister said that, with modern training, spiked shoes and rubberized tracks, aboriginal hunters might have reached speeds of 45 kph.

"We can assume they are running close to their maximum if they are chasing an animal," he said.

"But if they can do that speed of 37 kph on very soft ground I suspect there is a strong chance they would have outdone Usain Bolt if they had all the advantages that he does.

"We can tell that T8 is accelerating toward the end of his tracks."

McAllister said it was probable that any number of T8's contemporaries could have run as fast.

"We have to remember too how incredibly rare these fossilizations are," he said. "What are the odds that you would get the fastest runner in Australia at that particular time in that particular place in such a way that was going to be preserved?"

Turning to the high jump, McAllister said photographs taken by a German anthropologist showed young men jumping heights of up to 2.52 meters in the early years of last century.


"It was an initiation ritual, everybody had to do it. They had to be able to jump their own height to progress to manhood," he said.

"It was something they did all the time and they lived very active lives from a very early age. They developed very phenomenal abilities in jumping. They were jumping from boyhood onwards to prove themselves."

McAllister said a Neanderthal woman had 10 percent more muscle bulk than modern European man. Trained to capacity she would have reached 90 percent of Schwarzenegger's bulk at his peak in the 1970s.

"But because of the quirk of her physiology, with a much shorter lower arm, she would slam him to the table without a problem," he said.

Manthropology abounds with other examples:

* Roman legions completed more than one-and-a-half marathons a day carrying more than half their body weight in equipment.

* Athens employed 30,000 rowers who could all exceed the achievements of modern oarsmen.

* Australian aboriginals threw a hardwood spear 110 meters or more (the current world javelin record is 98.48).

McAllister said it was difficult to equate the ancient spear with the modern javelin but added: "Given other evidence of Aboriginal man's superb athleticism you'd have to wonder whether they couldn't have taken out every modern javelin event they entered."

Why the decline?

"We are so inactive these days and have been since the industrial revolution really kicked into gear," McAllister replied. "These people were much more robust than we were.

"We don't see that because we convert to what things were like about 30 years ago. There's been such a stark improvement in times, technique has improved out of sight, times and heights have all improved vastly since then but if you go back further it's a different story.

"At the start of the industrial revolution there are statistics about how much harder people worked then.

"The human body is very plastic and it responds to stress. We have lost 40 percent of the shafts of our long bones because we have much less of a muscular load placed upon them these days.

"We are simply not exposed to the same loads or challenges that people were in the ancient past and even in the recent past so our bodies haven't developed. Even the level of training that we do, our elite athletes, doesn't come close to replicating that.

"We wouldn't want to go back to the brutality of those days but there are some things we would do well to profit from."

(Editing by Clare Fallon; To query or comment on this story email

Medical-pot backers react to new Obama policy

Medical-pot backers react to new Obama policy
Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 20, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO -- Medical marijuana advocates in California said the Obama administration's announcement of new guidelines for pot prosecutions Monday contained some hopeful signs, but lacked the specifics needed to keep patients and their suppliers out of court.

"It's an extremely welcome rhetorical de-escalation of the federal government's long-standing war on medical marijuana patients," said Stephen Gutwillig, state director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

Dale Gieringer, California coordinator of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said the administration's advice to U.S. attorneys that they respect state law - such as California's Proposition 215, the 1996 measure legalizing medicinal use of the drug - was encouraging.

However, he added, "the policy has major loopholes that give prosecutors broad discretion to determine what they think is legal."

A Justice Department memo, sent Monday to federal prosecutors in California and 13 other states whose laws allow medical use of marijuana, provides guidelines to implement the policy Attorney General Eric Holder announced in March: that federal authorities should refrain from arresting or prosecuting people who are complying with their state's laws.

Federal prosecutors should focus on major drug traffickers and networks, rather than on those who "are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws" on medical marijuana, said Deputy Attorney General David Ogden.

But he added some qualifications: Prosecutors can go after those who sell marijuana for profit, a category that federal authorities have commonly invoked in charging growers and sellers of medicinal pot.

San Francisco's U.S. attorney, Joseph Russoniello, asserted in August that most of California's 300 marijuana dispensaries make profits, in violation of state guidelines, and are therefore open to federal prosecution.

Ogden also said the Justice Department would fight any effort by people now charged with marijuana-related crimes in federal court to claim that they were simply following state law. And even those who are clearly complying with a state's law can be investigated and prosecuted, he said, in the pursuit of "important federal interests."

'Lot of discretion'

"It leaves a lot of discretion up to the U.S. attorneys," said Kris Hermes of Americans for Safe Access, an advocacy group for patients who use marijuana. "We hope that these guidelines rein in rogue prosecutors like Russoniello. There's no guarantee that's going to happen."

Russoniello's office is prosecuting owners of two Hayward-area medical marijuana dispensaries that were licensed by local governments. In March, after Holder's announcement, federal agents raided Emmalyn's California Cannabis Clinic in San Francisco, which had a city permit. No charges were filed.

Russoniello's office referred inquiries Monday to the Justice Department, where spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said Ogden's memo was intended to provide "guidance and clarification" to prosecutors and does not change administration policy.

Judges go easy

Since Holder's announcement, prosecutors have told several federal judges in California that the new policy did not justify leniency for marijuana defendants whose cases originated during President George W. Bush's administration.

Judges have nonetheless imposed lighter sentences than the Justice Department wanted, notably a one-year term for a Central Coast pot club operator for whom prosecutors sought five years.

Although Monday's guidelines, like Holder's earlier statement, do not expressly apply to pending cases, defense lawyers will argue to judges that the Obama administration's memo justifies a break in sentencing, said Joe Elford, lawyer for Americans for Safe Access.

He also predicted that some prisoners would cite the memo in asking President Obama for clemency.

The guidelines don't say how federal authorities would respond if California legalized marijuana for personal use, as proposed in an Assembly bill and several pending initiatives. But Gutwillig, whose organization advocates legalization, said he saw a glimmer of hope.

"The Obama administration has taken a further step today to follow the lead of the states on marijuana policy," he said.

E-mail Bob Egelko at

This article appeared on page A - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

New Age Mafia Rivalry Causes Deaths?

Thursday, October 15, 2009
New Age Mafia Rivalry Causes Deaths?

ALEXANDRIA, Minn. (Wireless Flash - FlashNews) – A new mafia rivalry may be to blame for a couple of sketchy, sweaty deaths. Two people recently died at a “sweat lodge” retreat in Arizona hosted by New Age author James Arthur Ray.

He charged $9,000 a head to stuff 64 people into a tiny, sauna-like room covered in tarps and blankets, promising they’d be spiritually cleansed by the ritual.

Two people died and many suffered oxygen deprivation, but visionary Jaye Beldo thinks a curse may be partly to blame. In addition to Ray’s own negligence, Beldo believes the retreat was sabotaged by a rival “New Age mafia” that’s jealous of Ray’s success.

They may have cursed Ray into abandoning common sense for greedy profit, since “sweat lodges” were used by Native Americans to actually help people, not make money off them.

Beldo believes New Age leaders are trying to “take each other out” so they’re the only ones able to swindle cult followings with their “teachings.”

Copyright © 2009 Wireless Flash News Inc. All rights reserved. Wireless Flash® and FlashNews® are registered trademarks of Wireless Flash News Inc.

'A Toast to Your Psychic Health!'

Steve Jobs - CEO of the Decade

Steve Jobs's legacy
Steve Jobs - CEO of the Decade
Harvard professor Nancy F. Koehn shows us how Steve Jobs stacks up with other great entrepreneurs in history.
By Nancy F. Koehn, contributor
November 5, 2009

(Fortune magazine) -- First and foremost, Steve Jobs is an entrepreneur. And that is how history will long remember him. Not primarily as a fiduciary or an institution builder or an administrator (though he has worn all those hats), but rather as an individual who relentlessly pursued new opportunities.

From the first Apple computers to the breakthrough innovations of the past eight years -- the iPod, iTunes, the iPhone, and his Apple stores -- he has chased new possibilities without being deterred by whatever obstacles he encountered.

Over and over again he has turned his eye and his energy -- and at times, it has seemed, his entire being -- to what might be gained by creating a new offering or taking an unorthodox strategic path.

That puts him in the company of other great entrepreneurs of the past two centuries, men and women such as Josiah Wedgwood, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, and Estée Lauder.

Each of these people -- and especially Steve Jobs -- has been defined by the intense drive, unflagging curiosity, and keen commercial imagination that have allowed them to see products and industries and possibilities that might be. Each of these individuals has also been extremely hardworking, demanding of themselves and others. All have been compelled more by the significance of their own vision than by their doubts.

Jobs came of age in a moment of far-reaching economic, social, and technological change that we now call the Information Revolution. (Not so long ago -- in the early 1990s -- we used the term Computer Revolution, a shift in language that speaks to the breadth of change involved.) Wedgwood, the 18th-century British chinamaker who created the first real consumer brand, grew up in the Industrial Revolution, another period of profound change. And Rockefeller laid the foundations of the modern oil industry in the 1870s and 1880s, when the railroad and the coming of mass production were transforming the U.S. from an agrarian into an industrial society.

Like Wedgwood and Rockefeller, Jobs has had a sense -- analytic and intuitive -- that in a time of great transformation, a lot is up for grabs. Imbued with a perception of his own importance on a stage where everything from telephony to music distribution to consumers' relationships with technology is being disrupted, Jobs felt there was simply no time to lose.

This understanding has fueled the rapid-fire pace of his actions and his obsession with "what's next?" in products (although he would never rush to market a product he thought imperfect). It may have also fed his often harsh, dictatorial, and somehow still-inspiring management style.

People who work with Jobs talk about his maniacal attention to the smallest design detail. For Jobs, working in a world of engineers who are focused on the power of technology, this paradigm has never been enough. Yes, his products must be functional and fast. But they must also be beautiful.

One of Steve Jobs' two heroes reflects that commitment to both aesthetics and functional integrity. According to Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, a longtime friend, Jobs greatly admires Gustave Eiffel, the designer of the famous Parisian tower and the Statue of Liberty. "Eiffel is an interesting character," Ellison explained, "because he was a terrific engineer and had a wonderful artistic sense."

When Jobs decided to open the now remarkably successful Apple retail stores in 2001, the money and time that he and his team put into their design -- which involved building a prototype of a store in a warehouse -- were intended to create an experience that went deeper than retail.

And overhauling the initial store layout, not to mention going through three types of lighting just to make sure iMacs would shine as brilliantly in the stores as they did in glossy print ads, has paid off handsomely. Apple stores reached $1 billion in sales faster than any retail business in history.

Customers in the stores have no idea of the resources that Jobs invested in what was initially seen as a very risky venture for the company. And from Jobs' perspective, they do not need to know. As he once explained to Fortune, "They just feel it. They feel something's a little different."

Not surprisingly, Jobs has been widely labeled as one of the most hands-on CEOs in America. Biographers have said similar things about Andrew Carnegie, who was obsessed with the minute aspects of driving down costs in the young steel industry in the 1890s, and about Henry Ford, who, 20 years later, was fixated on all aspects of bringing a Model T to every American household.

Ford, as did Jobs, put great faith in his judgment about where consumer desire was headed. "If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they'd have said a faster horse," the carmaker allegedly commented. For virtually his entire career, Jobs has taken that comment to heart, serving as a kind of one-man band of market research and product development.

In an interview with Fortune, Jobs once described how he had turned new technologies into products: "There's a certain amount of homework involved, true, but mostly it's just picking up on things you can see on the periphery. Sometimes when you're almost asleep, you realize something you wouldn't otherwise have noted. I subscribe to a half-dozen Internet news services, and I get about 300 e-mails a day, many from people I don't know, hawking crazy ideas. And I've always paid close attention to the whispers around me."

The MacBook Air and the iPod, like the Macintosh in the early 1980s, owe much more to the "whispers" Jobs has heard, his imagination, and his precise product standards than they do to any organized focus group.

Estée Lauder, the ambitious, empathic entrepreneur who created a huge new market for fine skin care, cosmetics, and fragrances in the postwar period, had the same sixth sense about the consumer. She admired and sometimes emulated Old World European nobility, especially their classic taste and grace in everyday living.

And she brought this inspiration to the making, packaging, and marketing of her products. For Lauder, makeup was much more than a combination of chemicals that women used to improve their appearance. Cosmetics were a vehicle for self-expression and customer empowerment. They were also a source of daily joy and positive energy.

Like Lauder, Jobs is primarily concerned with products that enhance our everyday life, a belief that takes shape in Apple's "digital hub" strategy. According to Jobs, we are now in the midst of the third age of computing, the age of a "digital lifestyle" (the first era was the age of productivity, spanning 1980 to 1994, and the second was the age of the Internet, which lasted from 1994 to 2000).

In this stage of evolution, personal computers like the iMac and MacBook connect and enhance a wide range of products, from digital cameras to smartphones to MP3 players, all of which are reconfiguring how we interact with TV, film, and music as well as each other.

In this context, Jobs sees the products that Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) has developed -- such as the iPod, iTunes, and the iPhone -- as offerings that help us each be better than we would be without them. Many years ago Jobs called the computer a "bicycle for the mind," a remarkable tool that greatly increases man's efficiency of locomotion, broadly conceived. Even now, as Apple releases products that expand our traditional notion of the computer, he continues to give us devices that complement and enhance our everyday life.

It is hard to imagine that his influence would have run so deep in our society if he hadn't been able to consistently communicate his vision of a richer digital life to employees, customers, Wall Street, and others.

And he has done this charismatically. Jobs has a kind of aura or mystery around him that has made him a celebrity. (In a recent Junior Achievement poll, American teenagers voted Jobs the person they most admire -- ahead of Oprah Winfrey and the Olsen twins.)

When the Apple founder, who is always meticulously rehearsed, walks onstage for a keynote event, the audience responds as if he were a rock star or a religious prophet. People scream. Employees, customers, analysts, and rivals hang on his every word. Industry experts run to their computers furiously to enter their latest blog entry on the future of high tech.

When he introduced the iPhone in early 2007, Jobs hailed it as a "revolutionary and magical product that is literally five years ahead of any other mobile phone." In design and capabilities, it was "like having your life in your pocket. It's the ultimate digital device." And it's ultimate marketing.

The more we learn about this brilliant, dogged, at times merciless, and yet supple entrepreneur, the more we realize that he believes he is out to change the world. And that's what seems to motivate him. He shows almost no need to display his financial worth and power. (Jobs does have a Gulfstream V, but there are few other trappings of great wealth around him or his family.)

No, the revolution of which Jobs is so much a part is unfolding by virtue of the products he makes and how consumers use them. It is a mostly peaceful revolution that will, in Steve Jobs' eyes, liberate men and women around the world.

More than 15 years ago, before most of us e-mailed regularly or had added the word "playlist" to our vocabulary, Jobs sketched out his vision of the Information Revolution's impact to Rolling Stone: "Putting the Internet into people's houses is going to be really what the information superhighway is all about, not digital convergence in the set-top box." And this development, in tandem with vast increases in computing power, meant for Jobs that the world is "clearly a better place. Individuals can now do things that only large groups of people with lots of money could do before. What that means is, we have much more opportunity for people to get to the marketplace -- not just the marketplace of commerce but the marketplace of ideas. The marketplace of publications, the marketplace of public policy. You name it."

If Jobs is right about the ways in which the Information Revolution both empowers individuals and democratizes existing power structures -- and the jury is still out on this -- his historical legacy may indeed be greater than his impact on business. It may just bear some resemblance to Jobs' other hero, Mohandas Gandhi, who staged another kind of peaceful and far-reaching revolution some 70 years ago and who saw opportunity where others saw only obstacles.

Jobs' ability to change technology, music, and entertainment has earned him great authority. Ironically, Jobs has chosen not to exercise it outside the boundaries of his industry. Unlike Rockefeller and Carnegie, each of whom created powerful foundations with big agendas for social change, Jobs has shown little interest in philanthropy. And he rarely speaks out on political or environmental issues. For a man as passionate as Jobs, one who loves Bob Dylan and the countercultural zeitgeist that he has come to represent, this seems strange. Out of keeping with the enormous ego for which Jobs is famous (and infamous). But maybe that's next.

Nancy F. Koehn is a historian at the Harvard Business School; her most recently published book is titled "The Story of American Business."

Obama in New Orleans

Obama in New Orleans: The callous face of the US ruling elite
By Patrick Martin
17 October 2009

In a brief, four-hour stopover in New Orleans en route to a fund-raising dinner with millionaire Democrats in California, President Barack Obama made perfunctory promises to the people of the devastated city, barely disguising his indifference to their plight.

The visit, coming one day after the stock market soared above 10,000 and the Wall Street Journal estimated that compensation at major banks and financial firms would hit a record $140 billion this year, underscored the chasm that separates rich and poor in Obama’s America.

Obama has waited nine months from his inauguration to visit the city which in 2005 became a worldwide symbol of the failure of the Bush administration and the callousness of the US ruling elite, as more than 1,000 Americans died and hundreds of thousands of poor and working class people lost everything in Hurricane Katrina.

The New Orleans visit was intended as a photo-op, with heartwarming footage of cheering school children and grateful citizens, but the reality of growing popular disillusionment and anger intruded when a college student challenged Obama during his appearance at a town hall meeting at the University of New Orleans.

Gabriel Bordenave, 29, cited the continued stalling by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on funds to rebuild the main health care facility for the poor of New Orleans, Charity Hospital. “I expected as much from the Bush administration,” he told Obama, “but why are we still being nickel-and-dimed?”

Obama responded defensively with political boilerplate. His administration was “working as hard as we can as quickly as we can,” he said, citing unspecified “complications” in coordinating efforts with state and local governments—although he had just defended Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin when they were booed by the crowd during introductions.

“I wish I could just write a check,” he continued, and someone in the audience shouted out, “Why not?”

Obama was visibly put out, first by Bordenave’s question, then by the interruption. He proceeded to lecture his critics: “You say, why not? There’s this whole thing about the Constitution.” He then continued that in Washington, “everyone will attack you for spending money, unless you are spending it on them.”

This was a thinly concealed slur. His audience of hurricane survivors, Obama was suggesting, were just another special interest group seeking money from the federal government. Bordenave later told the New York Times, “I kind of thought (the Constitution reference) was a blow-off answer.”

While claiming that his administration would not follow the example of its predecessor in ignoring the suffering caused by Katrina, Obama mimicked one of the most notorious episodes of the Bush presidency. Bush left his Texas ranch to fly over the hurricane zone in early September 2005, on his way to Washington. Obama stopped off in New Orleans for three hours and 45 minutes on his way to a fundraising event in San Francisco.

At the Westin St. Francis Hotel, nearly 1,000 well-heeled supporters packed a ballroom, paying up to $1,000 each, while 160 high rollers chipped in $34,000 per couple for dinner with the president upstairs. Obama was introduced at the dinner by Mark Gorenberg, managing director of the venture capital firm Hummer Winblad. Joining them at the podium was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose husband is a multimillionaire real estate investor.

Obama’s performance in New Orleans was so callous and arrogant that it drew criticism from two African-American columnists usually in the administration camp, both writing on their newspapers’ web sites. Jim Mitchell of the Dallas Morning-News observed that the president “snaps at a person who asks a very reasonable question—why the area doesn’t have a full service hospital back up and running so many years after Katrina.” He added that Obama’s response was “snide, elusive, and surprisingly, politically tone deaf.”

Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post called Obama’s “brief display of drive-by compassion” in New Orleans “by far the worst outing of his presidency thus far.” Dismissing Obama’s claim that it was difficult to expedite the flow of funds to the storm-ravaged area, he wrote: “We now know that our government can make hundreds of billions of dollars available to irresponsible Wall Street institutions within a matter of days, if necessary. We can open up the floodgates of credit to too-big-to-fail banks at the stroke of a pen. But when it comes to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, well, these things take time.”

The contrast is indeed stark. While Obama boasted of having freed up $1.5 billion in federal funds for Gulf Coast recovery projects since taking office, this compares to more than $12 trillion made available to Wall Street financial interests—8,000 times more. Obama’s new money for Katrina recovery is less than one week’s expenditure on the war in Afghanistan.

The indifference of the president was demonstrated in the perfunctory character of his tour of the hurricane zone. He stopped at a public charter school in the Lower Ninth Ward, the same school visited by George W. Bush during one of his post-Katrina jaunts. The school sits in an area that remains 75 percent uninhabited. Then the presidential motorcade made its way to the University of New Orleans field house for an hour-long town hall, and Obama was on his way back to the airport.

Obama did not bother to visit the other areas hardest hit by Katrina, including the vast New Orleans East area, which remains the site of mile upon mile of flood damage, or the Mississippi and Alabama Gulf Coast.

It was not that Obama lacked time to go to these areas. The day after his stopover in New Orleans, he was back in the region for an event with George H. W. Bush, to mark the 20th anniversary of the former president’s “A Thousand Points of Light” foundation, at Texas A&M University. In all, Obama spent far more time with venture capitalists and Bush loyalists than with the people of New Orleans.

The visit to the Bush foundation was particularly provocative. It amounted to a message to the American people that when the next disaster hits, they should look to private charity, not the federal government, for assistance.

This is in keeping with the record of the Obama administration on reconstruction of the storm-ravaged Gulf Coast. Last month, the Institute for Southern Studies published a survey of 50 community leaders from coastal Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, who gave the Obama administration a D+ for its recovery efforts, only slightly better than the D- they awarded the Bush administration.

The only area where Obama rated a C- was in his willingness to “publicly acknowledge the challenges facing recovering Gulf Coast communities.” In other words, Obama is better than Bush in talking about recovery, but gets the same D’s for doing anything about it.

The administration’s lowest scores came on the biggest reconstruction issues: helping displaced families return home, rebuilding infrastructure, increasing protection against hurricanes, and reviving the coastal economy through job-creation.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune cited an Obama administration document revealing that the Second Congressional District of Louisiana, which comprises most of Orleans Parish and the entire city of New Orleans, was receiving the lowest amount of funding for any congressional district in the country from the economic stimulus package passed last February.

The social needs in the area remain enormous. According to a study by the Brookings Institution, there are 62,557 homes vacant or abandoned in Orleans Parish, about one third of the total number of homes in existence before Katrina. A survey showed that 40 percent of these abandoned or vacant homes showed signs of habitation, in some cases by the former owners attempting to rebuild, in other cases by squatters and the homeless.

The Katrina Recovery Index published by the Institute of Southern Studies gives a glimpse of the dimensions of the social crisis in New Orleans, more than four years after Katrina:

• 100,000 displaced persons from New Orleans are now living in Houston, Texas.

• The percentage of households with children in New Orleans has fallen from 30 percent to 20 percent.

• Only 752 federal housing vouchers have been issued in New Orleans; since the waiting list for vouchers was established, 16 people on it have died.

• Rents in New Orleans are up 40 percent since Katrina.

• Demand for emergency food relief at New Orleans-area food pantries is up 35 percent.

• 60 percent of New Orleans school children now attend privately-operated charter schools.

• 43 percent of the city’s medical facilities have not reopened since Katrina.

• Two-thirds of the city’s population reports chronic health problems, up 45 percent since 2006.

• The suicide rate in New Orleans is up 200 percent since Katrina, while only one local hospital provides in-patient mental health care.

• Louisiana ranks 50th among US states for overall health care quality.

Michael Moore's Action Plan

"Michael Moore's Action Plan: 15 Things Every American Can Do Right Now"
You've Seen the Movie -- Now It's Time to ACT!
Thursday, October 22, 2009


It's the #1 question I'm constantly asked after people see my movie: "OK -- so NOW what can I DO?!"

You want something to do? Well, you've come to the right place! 'Cause I got 15 things you and I can do right now to fight back and try to fix this very broken system.

Here they are:


1. Declare a moratorium on all home evictions. Not one more family should be thrown out of their home. The banks must adjust their monthly mortgage payments to be in line with what people's homes are now truly worth -- and what they can afford. Also, it must be stated by law: If you lose your job, you cannot be tossed out of your home.

2. Congress must join the civilized world and expand Medicare For All Americans. A single, nonprofit source must run a universal health care system that covers everyone. Medical bills are now the #1 cause of bankruptcies and evictions in this country. Medicare For All will end this misery. The bill to make this happen is called H.R. 3200. You must call AND write your members of Congress and demand its passage, no compromises allowed.

3. Demand publicly-funded elections and a prohibition on elected officials leaving office and becoming lobbyists. Yes, those very members of Congress who solicit and receive millions of dollars from wealthy interests must vote to remove ALL money from our electoral and legislative process. Tell your members of Congress they must support campaign finance bill H.R.1826.

4. Each of the 50 states must create a state-owned public bank like they have in North Dakota. Then congress MUST reinstate all the strict pre-Reagan regulations on all commercial banks, investment firms, insurance companies -- and all the other industries that have been savaged by deregulation: Airlines, the food industry, pharmaceutical companies -- you name it. If a company's primary motive to exist is to make a profit, then it needs a set of stringent rules to live by -- and the first rule is "Do no harm." The second rule: The question must always be asked -- "Is this for the common good?" (Click here for some info about the state-owned Bank of North Dakota.)

5. Save this fragile planet and declare that all the energy resources above and beneath the ground are owned collectively by all of us. Just like they do it in Sarah Palin's socialist Alaska. We only have a few decades of oil left. The public must be the owners and landlords of the natural resources and energy that exists within our borders or we will descend further into corporate anarchy. And when it comes to burning fossil fuels to transport ourselves, we must cease using the internal combustion engine and instruct our auto/transportation companies to rehire our skilled workforce and build mass transit (clean buses, light rail, subways, bullet trains, etc.) and new cars that don't contribute to climate change. (For more on this, here's a proposal I wrote in December.) Demand that General Motors' de facto chairman, Barack Obama, issue a JFK man-on-the-moon-style challenge to turn our country into a nation of trains and buses and subways. For Pete's sake, people, we were the ones who invented (or perfected) these damn things in the first place!!


1. Each of us must get into the daily habit of taking 5 minutes to make four brief calls: One to the President (202-456-1414), one to your Congressperson (202-224-3121) and one to each of your two Senators (202-224-3121). To find out who represents you, click here. Take just one minute on each of these calls to let them know how you expect them to vote on a particular issue. Let them know you will have no hesitation voting for a primary opponent -- or even a candidate from another party -- if they don't do our bidding. Trust me, they will listen. If you have another five minutes, click here to send them each an email. And if you really want to drop an anvil on them, send them a snail mail letter!

2. Take over your local Democratic Party. Remember how much fun you had with all those friends and neighbors working together to get Barack Obama elected? YOU DID THE IMPOSSIBLE. It's time to re-up! Get everyone back together and go to the monthly meeting of your town or county Democratic Party -- and become the majority that runs it! There will not be many in attendance and they will either be happy or in shock that you and the Obama Revolution have entered the room looking like you mean business. President Obama's agenda will never happen without mass grass roots action -- and he won't feel encouraged to do the right thing if no one has his back, whether it's to stand with him, or push him in the right direction. When you all become the local Democratic Party, send me a photo of the group and I'll post it on my website.

3. Recruit someone to run for office who can win in your local elections next year -- or, better yet, consider running for office yourself! You don't have to settle for the incumbent who always expects to win. You can be our next representative! Don't believe it can happen? Check out these examples of regular citizens who got elected: State Senator Deb Simpson, California State Assemblyman Isadore Hall, Tempe, Arizona City Councilman Corey Woods, Wisconsin State Assemblyman Chris Danou, and Washington State Representative Larry Seaquist. The list goes on and on -- and you should be on it!

4. Show up. Picket the local branch of a big bank that took the bailout money. Hold vigils and marches. Consider civil disobedience. Those town hall meetings are open to you, too (and there's more of us than there are of them!). Make some noise, have some fun, get on the local news. Place "Capitalism Did This" signs on empty foreclosed homes, closed down businesses, crumbling schools and infrastructure. (You can download them from my website.)

5. Start your own media. You. Just you (or you and a couple friends). The mainstream media is owned by corporate America and, with few exceptions, it will never tell the whole truth -- so you have to do it! Start a blog! Start a website of real local news (here's an example: The Michigan Messenger). Tweet your friends and use Facebook to let them know what they need to do politically. The daily papers are dying. If you don't fill that void, who will?


1. Take your money out of your bank if it took bailout money and place it in a locally-owned bank or, preferably, a credit union.

2. Get rid of all your credit cards but one -- the kind where you have to pay up at the end of the month or you lose your card.

3. Do not invest in the stock market. If you have any extra cash, put it away in a savings account or, if you can, pay down on your mortgage so you can own your home as soon as possible. You can also buy very safe government savings bonds or T-bills. Or just buy your mother some flowers.

4. Unionize your workplace so that you and your coworkers have a say in how your business is run. Here's how to do it (more info here). Nothing is more American than democracy, and democracy shouldn't be checked at the door when you enter your workplace. Another way to Americanize your workplace is to turn your business into a worker-owned cooperative. You are not a wage slave. You are a free person, and you giving up eight hours of your life every day to someone else is to be properly compensated and respected.

5. Take care of yourself and your family. Sorry to go all Oprah on you, but she's right: Find a place of peace in your life and make the choice to be around people who are not full of negativity and cynicism. Look for those who nurture and love. Turn off the TV and the Blackberry and go for a 30-minute walk every day. Eat fruits and vegetables and cut down on anything that has sugar, high fructose corn syrup, white flour or too much sodium (salt) in it (and, as Michael Pollan says, "Eat (real) food, not too much, mostly plants"). Get seven hours of sleep each night and take the time to read a book a month. I know this sounds like I've turned into your grandma, but, dammit, take a good hard look at Granny -- she's fit, she's rested and she knows the names of both of her U.S. Senators without having to Google them. We might do well to listen to her. If we don't put our own "oxygen mask" on first (as they say on the airplane), we will be of no use to the rest of the nation in enacting any of this action plan!

I'm sure there are many other ideas you can come up with on how we can build this movement. Get creative. Think outside the politics-as-usual box. BE SUBVERSIVE! Think of that local action no one else has tried. Behave as if your life depended on it. Be bold! Try doing something with reckless abandon. It may just liberate you and your community and your nation.

And when you act, send me your stories, your photos and your video -- and be sure to post your ideas in the comments beneath this letter on my site so they can be shared with millions.

C'mon people -- we can do this! I expect nothing less of all of you, my true and trusted fellow travelers!

Michael Moore

Major Nidal Malik Hasan, jihadist or patsy?

Major Nidal Malik Hasan, jihadist or patsy?
By Jerry Mazza
Online Journal Associate Editor
Nov 13, 2009

The story as it unwinds seems too scripted to be true. That Army psychiatrist and Major Nidal M. Hasan went on a rampage at Fort Hood with two guns blazing, a .357 Magnum and a semi-automatic pistol with laser target-finder, after shouting the Arabic phrase ‘Allah Akbar’ (God is Greatest) as he opened fire, and will live (so far) to talk about it, though an Army-appointed lawyer says he will never get a fair trial.

Hasan coincidentally received his masters in chemistry at Virginia Tech, famous for the infamous Seung-Hui Cho, the campus killer gunman credited on April 19, 2007, with the deadliest shooting rampage in modern history. Seung-Hui’s sister curiously works for a State Department office that oversees billions of dollars in American aid for Iraq. See the link to Citizens for Legitimate Government on him and his ‘Missing Records.’ It’s more of the script, the association of Hasan with Seung-Hui.

Consider, too, that in 2007, Major Hasan, who received his medical degree in psychiatry from Walter Reed Hospital, spoke there, warning of threats within the ranks of Muslim Soldiers in a 50-slide Power-Point presentation, titled The Koranic World View As it Relates to Muslims in the U.S. Military. “He stood before his supervisors and about 25 other mental health staff members and lectured on Islam, suicide bombers and threats the military could encounter from Muslims conflicted about fighting in the Muslim countries of Iraq and Afghanistan,” reports the Nov. 10 Washington Post, which includes Hasan’s entire presentation.

Hasan went so far as to say, “It’s getting harder and harder for Muslims in the service to morally justify being in a military that seems constantly engaged against fellow Muslims.” How and why these words didn’t get his military superiors to question him seems beyond understanding, unless that, too, was part of the script. Could it be that they felt he was speaking the truth? But there was a more than veiled threat in the presentation, which you’ll see if you read it.

In fact, Hasan entered Walter Reed in 2003 and spent six years as an intern, resident and fellow. He was transferred to Fort Hood as a psychiatrist in July 2009 and was to leave soon for Afghanistan and had asked on numerous occasions not to be deployed. He even offered the U.S. government its money back for his Walter Reed education, every dollar of it. He did not want to fight fellow Muslims. Yet no one raised an eye? This is a U.S. Army major speaking, not some slacker from the sticks trying to dodge combat.

Of course, aside from his glaringly strong (if not correct) feelings against the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, his supervisors found him quite competent counseling wounded PTSD soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. In the NY Times’ Details Emerge about Fort Hood suspect’s history, “Col. Kimberly Kesling, deputy commander of clinical services at Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood, said she had known Hasan.

“‘You wouldn’t think that someone who works in your facility and provided excellent care for his patients, which he did, could do something like this,’ Kesling said. She described him as ‘a quiet man who wouldn’t seek the limelight’ and said she was shocked when she heard he was the suspect in the shootings.’” One can only imagine the tales he heard, which would only bolster his philosophical antipathy to the War on Terror, which he considered and claims to be a war on Islam, with which any number of Americans would agree.

This is all vaguely reminiscent of supposed communist-sympathizer Lee Harvey Oswald and his feelings for Cuba, which purportedly drove him towards a similar “lone gunman” assassination of President Kennedy, which today is amply questioned by millions of Americans who believe it involved the CIA, the Mob, the Defense Industry, and George H.W. Bush, Sr., among a number of the usual suspects.

Yet, an ABC News headline from Nov. 9 screams Officials: U.S. Army Told of Hasan Efforts to Contact al Qaeda: Army Major in Fort Hood Massacre Used ‘Electronic Means’ (the computer) to Connect with Terrorists: “U.S. intelligence agencies were aware months ago that Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan was attempting to make contact with an individual associated with al Qaeda, two American officials briefed on classified material in the case told ABC News. According to the officials, the Army was informed of Hasan’s contact, but it is unclear what, if anything, the Army did in response.”

Why is it unclear, or is it just being withheld, or is there nothing of consequence to report, or is it a sheer lie?

This is coming from ABC News, which on every anniversary of JFK’s assassination, runs a “last word” piece on how it was committed by a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, the network being a long-standing CIA front. And here, they have automatically established that the fabled ‘Al Qaeda,’ created, funded, and branded by the CIA, was in contact with Major Hasan. So, what did they do about it? Nothing! Read the balance of the article for the indignant ire of the politicians, so reminiscent of all the leads to the CIA and other presences in the JFK assassination, whose inquiry was led by Allan Dulles, the CIA head Kennedy fired in “1961 over Operation Northwoods, a proposed covert CIA operation aimed at gaining popular support for a war against Cuba by framing Cuba for stage real or simulated attacks on American citizens.”

Of course, echoing ABC News is the New York Times with U.S. Knew of Suspect’s Tie to Radical Cleric. Aha, even more ties on the path to jihad, even more foreknowledge: “Intelligence agencies intercepted communications last year and this year between the military psychiatrist accused of shooting to death 13 people at Fort Hood, Tex., and a radical cleric in Yemen known for his incendiary anti-American teachings [itals mine].” And what did they do about it?

“But the federal authorities dropped an inquiry into the matter after deciding that the messages from the psychiatrist, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, did not suggest any threat of violence and concluding that no further action was warranted, government officials said Monday.” Oh, then why mention it in the first place? It goes on . . .

“Major Hasan’s 10 to 20 messages to Anwar al-Awlaki, once a spiritual leader at a mosque in suburban Virginia where Major Hasan worshiped, indicate that the troubled [now he’s nuts] military psychiatrist came to the attention of the authorities long before last Thursday’s shooting rampage at Fort Hood, but that the authorities left him in his post.” Why? Why? Why? Unless it’s all sheer BS.

Is this not reminiscent of 9/11 and the continued incompetence before, during and after it of various intelligence and government agencies, not to mention NORAD, the Pentagon, the executive branch? And nary a soul was fired after the terrible event.

All they could do was blame 19 head-shots of Muslims pulled out of a file by FBI Director Robert Mueller, who wouldn’t claim with complete surety their authenticity. And then the next step was declaring the War on Terror and preemptively, illegally, attacking Afghanistan, supposedly in search of (the Muslim goat) Osama bin Laden, who supposedly engineered it. Several years after 9/11, he was taken off the FBI’s Most Wanted list for the crime for lack of evidence to prove he was responsible for it. And then there was Iraq, claiming this time (the Muslim goat) Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and was about to use them any second, which was subsequently proven totally false.

So now Hasan is buried in Al Qaeda next to a radical cleric with strong anti-American teachings. Paydirt! The news networks have created a grid-like spider-web that holds its fly morsel, Hasan, to shame Islam. Does this not buttress the whole sagging “conspiracy theory” of the administration, particularly as more and more books, DVDs, architects, engineers, military men, pilots speak out against the flaws in the administration’s “9/11 conspiracy theory?” Does this not hit us over the head again with “a Muslim did it, remember 9/11?” Why was the intelligence at Fort Hood, the FBI, and CIA asleep at the wheel -- perhaps part of the script?

It also comes out in the same Times story linked above, “In 2000 and 2001, Mr. Awlaki [the radical cleric] served as an imam at two mosques in the United States frequented by three future Sept. 11 hijackers. Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi attended the Rabat mosque in San Diego, where Mr. Awlaki later admitted meeting Mr. Hazmi several times but ‘claimed not to remember any specifics of what they discussed,’ according to the report of the national Sept. 11 commission.” Uh huh, uh huh, we’re building to something here and . . .

“Both Mr. Hazmi and another hijacker, Hani Hanjour, later attended the Dar al Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Va., after Mr. Awlaki had moved there in early 2001. The Sept. 11 commission report expressed ‘suspicion’ about the coincidence, but said its investigators were unable to find Mr. Awlaki to question him.” Yes, but . . .

“Major Hasan attended the same Virginia mosque, but it is not known whether they met there.” Hasan attended the same mosque, but it’s not known if he and Hani, the idiot who couldn’t fly a Cessna, met there. But nevertheless we take from this, if you’re political I.Q. isn’t below 40, the implication that Hasan was connected to the hijackers, because he’s a “nut killer terrorist,” too.

Yet who left him to do his killing but the very people in charge of his career. Or maybe someone in the backroom said, “Hands off Hasan. We have other plans for him. He’s in the bigger picture.” Ah, so much like Oswald, or David Chapman who shot John Lennon. Chapman then calmly sat down on the sidewalk after he did it, waiting for the police to come and take him. His handler, the doorman Jose Perdomo, went gone for the day, saying bye-bye to Chapman, as this Manchurian patsy went off to life imprisonment. And not in a mental hospital, but in a straight-up prison, which he “chose” to do, uh huh, uh huh.

And yet there’s more. Hasan supposedly wasn’t a lone gunman. No, he had three accomplices they say, one dead, and two in custody. Sort of makes sense. I mean to kill 13 people and wound 29 in a matter of minutes, supposedly thrusting a hundred rounds of ammo into the clips of his two pistols, Hasan would have to be John Wayne plus Superman. It would ruin the whole movie. But who are the accomplices? Well, there’s an account from CNN of the capture of one of them on a golf course two and a half miles away as 30 to 40 sirening cars full of MPs came to get him. Here is the short piece . . .

“(CNN) -- A senior officer who was playing golf Thursday near Fort Hood, Texas, told CNN he witnessed the arrest of one of the two surviving suspects of the shooting at the Army installation.

“Shortly after the shooting, the officer said, military police told him to clear the course and he saw other MPs surround the building that held the golf carts, he said.

The senior officer said he ducked into a nearby house for cover as 30 to 40 cars carrying MPs approached.

“He said he saw a soldier in battle-dress uniform, his hands in the air. The MPs ordered him to lie on the ground and open his uniform, presumably to ensure he was not carrying explosives, the senior officer said.” Presumably, they found no bomb.

“He said an MP told him that authorities considered the man to be a suspect in the shootings after having overheard the man say he was with the shooter. The man was surrounded for 25 to 30 minutes, until a convoy of vehicles arrived, led by a Ford Crown Victoria and carrying men in suits, and he was taken away, the senior officer said.” Sirening up to a suspect in 40 cars, wow, that’s stealth for you. And who was the man? And where is he now?

But they probably caught a few other suspects as well. I wonder if they’re all Muslims. And speaking of that, how do we jibe Hasan’s violent nature with Reuters’ article U.S. Army gunman’s act “impossible” – grandfather, who by the way lives on the West Bank in Palestine, where the Hasan family came from via Jordan to America.

“AL-BIREH, West Bank, Nov 7 (Reuters) - The grandfather of a U.S. Army psychiatrist accused of shooting dead 13 people and wounding 30 others at a base in Texas said on Saturday he found it impossible to believe his grandson had committed the act.

“’He is a doctor and loves the U.S.’ Ismail Mustafa Hamad told Reuters in an interview at his home in the Palestinian town of al-Bireh. ‘America made him what he is.’” Now, there’s a certain, deep irony to that statement.

The article concludes ”Hasan, who had spent years counseling wounded soldiers, many of whom had lost limbs fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, last visited him in the occupied West Bank some 10 years ago. Hamad said he had since visited his grandson in the United States. Hamad appeared to rule out a political motive.” Didn’t the poor old man know everything is political everywhere in this universe?

And so it goes, the contradictions, the lies, the suspected truth of what this orchestrated event means, and how it will bolster, supercharge resentment against Muslims once again and perpetuate our wars against their nations. And the folks who hold the puppet strings, will we be seeing them, hearing from them, or just listening to their news releases? Conflicting, accusatory, guilt in the highest from association, etc. All I can say is, “Good night, America, and good luck.”

Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer living in New York City. Reach him at His new book, “State Of Shock: Poems from 9/11 on” is available at, Amazon or

After Mickey’s Makeover, Less Mr. Nice Guy

After Mickey’s Makeover, Less Mr. Nice Guy
November 4, 2009

LOS ANGELES — For decades, the Walt Disney Company has largely kept Mickey Mouse frozen under glass, fearful that even the tiniest tinkering might tarnish the brand and upend his $5 billion or so in annual merchandise sales. One false move and Disney could have New Coke on its hands.

Now, however, concerned that Mickey has become more of a corporate symbol than a beloved character for recent generations of young people, Disney is taking the risky step of re-imagining him for the future.

The first glimmer of this will be the introduction next year of a new video game, Epic Mickey, in which the formerly squeaky clean character can be cantankerous and cunning, as well as heroic, as he traverses a forbidding wasteland.

And at the same time, in a parallel but separate effort, Disney has quietly embarked on an even larger project to rethink the character’s personality, from the way Mickey walks and talks to the way he appears on the Disney Channel and how children interact with him on the Web — even what his house looks like at Disney World.

“Holy cow, the opportunity to mess with one of the most recognizable icons on Planet Earth,” said Warren Spector, the creative director of Junction Point, a Disney-owned game developer that spearheaded Epic Mickey.

The effort to re-engineer Mickey is still in its early stages, but it involves the top creative and marketing minds in the company, all the way up to Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chief executive.

The project was given new impetus this week with the announcement that, after 20 years of negotiations, the company has finally received the blessing of the Chinese government to open a theme park in Shanghai, potentially unlocking a new giant market for all things Mickey.

Disney executives are treading carefully, and trying to keep a low profile, as they discuss how much they dare tweak one of the most durable characters in pop culture history to induce new generations of texting, tech-savvy children to embrace him. Disney executives will keenly watch how Epic Mickey is received, to inform the broader overhaul.

Keeping cartoon characters trapped in amber is one of the surest routes to irrelevancy. While Mickey remains a superstar in many homes, particularly overseas, his static nature has resulted in a generation of Americans — the one that grew up with Nickelodeon and Pixar — that knows him, but may not love him. Domestic sales in particular have declined: of his $5 billion in merchandise sales in 2009, less than 20 percent will come from the United States.

“There’s a distinct risk of alienating your core consumer when you tweak a sacred character, but at this point it’s a risk they have to take,” said Matt Britton, the managing partner of Mr. Youth, a New York brand consultant firm.

In Epic Mickey, the foundation of which a group of interns dreamed up in 2004, the title character still exhibits the hallmarks that younger generations know: he is adventurous, enthusiastic and curious. “Mickey is never going to be evil or go around killing people,” Mr. Spector said.

But Mickey won’t be bland anymore, either. “I wanted him to be able to be naughty — when you’re playing as Mickey you can misbehave and even be a little selfish,” Mr. Spector said.

In many ways, it is a return to Mickey at his creation. When the character made its debut in “Steamboat Willie” in 1928, he was the Bart Simpson of his time: an uninhibited rabble-rouser who got into fistfights, played tricks on his friends (pity Clarabelle Cow) and, later, was amorously aggressive with Minnie.

Epic Mickey, designed for Nintendo’s Wii console, is set in a “cartoon wasteland” where Disney’s forgotten and retired creations live. The chief inhabitant is Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a cartoon character Walt Disney created in 1927 as a precursor to Mickey but ultimately abandoned in a dispute with Universal Studios. In the game, Oswald has become bitter and envious of Mickey’s popularity. The game also features a disemboweled, robotic Donald Duck and a “twisted, broken, dangerous” version of Disneyland’s “It’s a Small World.” Using paint and thinner thrown from a magic paintbrush, Mickey must stop the Phantom Blot overlord, gain the trust of Oswald and save the day.

Consumers will not be able to buy the game before fall of next year. Anticipation is intense. “Wow! This is amazing,” said Eli Gee on “I’m really... REALLY excited.”

Other observers are less impressed. “The approach warrants a lot of caution given the difficulty that publishers have had gaining traction on the Wii,” said Doug Creutz, a media analyst at Cowen and Company.

Industry veterans with experience in the family niche think that the Disney brand can overcome such hurdles.

“This is a huge opportunity to create more relevancy for Mickey and pull him into the fastest-growing entertainment medium,” said Jim Wilson, the chief executive of Atari’s North American business. “If it’s a good game — and given the strength of the developer and I.P., the likelihood of that is high — people are going to buy it.”

Not that the idea is not radical. “I was told to withhold judgment until I had seen the whole pitch,” said Graham Hopper, executive vice president for Disney Interactive Studios.

Disney has big video game ambitions, spending at least $180 million on their development this year alone. It has had successful spinoff titles, but no true self-published blockbusters. Disney generated about $86 million in retail sales from January to September in the United States, according to NPD data. Nintendo of America, the leading seller of games, had about $1 billion in sales.

Mr. Iger solved a right problems with the game by making a deal with NBC Universal in 2006. In the negotiations, Mr. Iger persuaded NBC Universal to trade the Oswald rights for rights to Al Michaels, the sportscaster. NBC wanted Mr. Michaels for its new football franchise and Mr. Michaels wanted to go, but Disney held him in a longtime contract through its ESPN unit.

In the interim, Mr. Spector has struggled with the correct 3-D model of the mouse, consulting with animators and John Lasseter, the Pixar co-founder.

Considerable effort has gone into instilling a backdrop of choice and consequence. Players can either behave in an entirely happy way and help other characters — and have an easier go of it in the wasteland — or choose more selfish, destructive behavior with a harsher outcome, including a Mickey that starts to physically resemble a rat.

“Ultimately,” Mr. Spector said, “players must ask themselves, ‘What kind of hero am I?’ ”

When it comes to Mickey, Disney is asking it, too.

A version of this article appeared in print on November 5, 2009, on page A1 of the New York edition.


Part I

Maxim Meets Battlestar Galactica

These photos of Grace Park & Tricia Helfer remind me I should've been following Battlestar Galactica more closely...

Photos courtesy of Maxim and

Part 2: M.I.A.

M.I.A. in a shark shirt and leather pants...

Part 3: Shakira Rolling Stone Cover

Part 4: Jessica Alba Machete Poster

Part 5: Eliza Dushku in Dollhouse
We're going to miss this show...

The Coming Labor War in the NFL

By Dave Zirin

When Rush Limbaugh was unceremoniously dumped in his efforts to secure a minority share of the St. Louis Rams, he may have been little more than collateral damage in a brewing collision between NFL owners and the NFL Players Association. After the union raised objections, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell squashed Limbaugh like a waterbug. Given the potential conflict brewing between NFL management and labor, Rush was a public relations disaster Goodell could hardly afford.

The collective bargaining agreement is due to expire at the end of the 2010 season and all signs are that an era of labor/management partnership is not at hand. As Sports Illustrated senior writer Peter King wrote this week, “It's going to get ugly. There's better than a 50-percent chance, I believe, of some work stoppage in 2011, as incredibly golden-goose-killing as that sounds.”

The idea of a labor stoppage could revive a rack of memories the owners want best buried. During the 1980s, the NFL was the site of two of the most bitter sports strikes/lockouts in history. In 1987, when “scab football” was played by “the replacements” in front of half empty stadiums, locked out players in some NFL cities brought rifles to their picket lines. In others, they physically assaulted the scab players that attempted to break the lines. In today’s 24-hour sports media environment, the idea of round-the-clock picket line drama, is nothing the owners want.

The negotiations also occur within the context of a new study showing that retired NFL players suffer from advanced Alzheimer’s disease and other brain trauma at five times the national rate among men over 50. For men under 50, the number is 19 times the national rate. Congress held hearings in the subject last week and both the union and the owners are going to be pressed to explain why so little has been done for so long. For years the owners have spoken about concussions the way the tobacco industry used to bleat about lung cancer. They would say “research has not shown” that football causes the attendant brain injuries. Those days are done. Both the union and owners will be pressed to address this during the upcoming negotiations.

But that will require a spirit of cooperation that may not exist as negotiations are brought to a boil. The issues that separate them seem minor: NFLPA President Smith and the union want more financial transparency. The owners want to dial back concessions they made in the last CBA and get a larger share of the revenue back.

But the two main sources of tension aren’t on the bargaining table: The first is the economy. The NFL, long thought to be recession proof is feeling the squeeze. In the best of times, football is a blue-collar game at white-collar prices. But this year attendance has dropped, in no small part because ticket prices remain prohibitive even amidst the crisis. A family of four, purchasing modest concessions, will now pay over $400. The result is that empty seats dot stadiums around the country. This leads to “blackouts” where games aren’t broadcast in local markets. In 2008, only nine games were blacked out during the entire season. In 2009 Jacksonville alone has already announced that they will have to blackout eight. The league will want to cut costs in this climate and the union will feel a need to hold the line. The golden goose has lost a bit of its luster.

It’s worth noting that the NFL is only highest profile example of the economic crisis pervading the world of sports. The National Football League's red-headed stepchild, the Arena Football League, had to cancel its last season. In 2009, 21 of the 30 Major League Baseball teams saw attendance drops. The Ladies Professional Golf Association has seen their corporate sponsorships flee and the Women’s National Basketball Association eliminated roster spots in preparation for a downturn.,

The National Basketball Association in particular has looked vulnerable in the current climate. The league took out a $175 million line of credit to aid financially failing teams even though Commissioner David Stern tried to spin this as a sign of the league's health, which was a little bit sad. The NBA also has contract negotiations after the 2010 season which could make the NFL battle look tepid by comparison. It’s this dire economy which stands as the primary reason labor peace won’t be coming to the NFL.

While the dire economy is the primary reason to bet against labor peace in the NFL, another good one is new Players Association president DeMaurice Smith. The NFLPA is generally seen as the weakest of the sports unions because it’s the only league without guaranteed contracts. Smith, a connected Capitol Hill lawyer, was elected in March following the sudden death of Gene Upshaw, wants to show that despite not being a former player he will be strong for his players. Upon assuming leadership he said, “There isn’t a day where I don’t hope for peace, but at the same time, there isn’t a day where we won’t prepare for war.”

Smith has told ESPN that he has called upon his players to put aside 25 percent of their salaries over the next two years. “I look at the way in which it looks like we’re moving to this lockout, and first and foremost, we have to be in a position where our young men are in a position to be able to take care of themselves and their families,” he said.

It’s this combative stance, along with declining revenues that signal to many an NFL watcher that the golden goose might soon be cooked.

Dave Zirin is the author of “A People’s History of Sports in the United States” (The New Press) Receive his column every week by emailing Contact him at .

Something About Nicole

Thanks to Richard Metzger & for the following...

Tattle Tales are true tales of sex, madness, and the planet by guest writers. And this week's offering is a humdinger of a Tale. "Jeffrey Zeldman Presents" was one of the first sites I ever visited on the web. Years later, Jeffrey Zeldman contributes this week's Tale of the Week. I'm a happy, happy Halcyon. If you've never visited, make it your first stop after you read this incredible tale. Or go now. We'll wait for you.

Something About Nicole
by Jeffrey Zeldman

Let's talk about sex.

And movie stars.

And Stanley (Spartacus, 2001, A Clockwork Orange, Lolita, Full Metal Jacket, The Shining) Kubrick, brilliant though reclusive filmmaker, who has spent the last five years making "Eyes Wide Shut," a movie starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, and costarring Harvey Keitel.

Make that formerly costarring Harvey Keitel.

Yes, there is dirt, and yes, I am here to share it with you.

You know, friends, in my role as the web's answer to Barbara Walters, I am frequently asked, "Could you move, please? I was sitting there."

But I am also frequently asked about those "insider gems" and "delightful tidbits" which only a "connected insider" such as myself could possess.

And this is one of those tidbits.

And I'm sharing it with you.

So here goes.

Most of Keitel's scenes have been shot, and the movie is close to good to go.

But there is a problem.

Keitel and Kidman just did a scene in which Keitel's character is supposed to stand behind Kidman's character and masturbate.

Keitel is not only a fine actor, he is a method actor.

You probably see what is coming – as it were.

Kidman didn't.

Keitel did not simulate masturbation, he engaged in it on the set.

Now, in the heat of action, many of us lose sight of our goals, and succumb to an overwhelming impulse. Keitel is, in that respect, no different from you or I, dear reader.

He ejaculated into Nicole Kidman's hair.

She walked quickly off the soundstage.

The next morning, Stanley Kubrick, one of the great living geniuses of cinema, was confronted by Mr. and Mrs. Tom Cruise.

The two told him simply, "Us or Keitel."

Kubrick reluctantly fired Mr. Keitel.

A replacement actor was hired (his name escapes me – it's not Wilfred Brimley, but it's also not an actor who is likely to duplicate Keitel's accident).

Good scenes which were shot and edited are now being redone at great expense because Keitel cannot appear in the picture.

Whether the film will be as good without Keitel, we will never know.

But now you, gentle readers, know the unpublishable truth. Verified by two sources at the company financing the film.

I can picture the conversation at Nobu:

SCORCESE: Harvey, Harvey, what's this about you and Kubrick? Robert, this tuna is great.

DENIRO: (nods)

KEITEL: (shrugs)

DENIRO: You know what I heard ...

SCORCESE: Pass the saki?

DENIRO: ... I heard this motherfucker got himself fired ...

KEITEL: Shut the fuck up.

DENIRO: ... 'cause he came in Nicole Kidman's hair!


KEITEL: Shut the fuck up.

SCORCESE (OVER): Get the fuck out of here! Harvey?

KEITEL: Yeah. (SHRUG.) Came in 'er hair.


DENIRO (OVER): Jesus, I can't breathe.



SCORCESE: I'd a done that.


DENIRO: So, was it good?


KEITEL: It was pretty good.


KEITEL (faint smile): I'd do it again.

DENIRO: So the fuck would I.

SCORCESE: I would do that.


(An elegant waitress presents the bill.)

DENIRO: (tearing up bill) On the house, Harve.

Events involving "Eyes Wide Shut" are based on anecdotes related to your humble web author by various Hollywood insiders who may never speak to us again. The scene at Nobu is entirely imaginary – as should be obvious. But nothing is ever obvious to lawyers, hence this disclaimer. We will deny it all, if pressed.

Zappa Meets Kirby

World’s Finest – Royal Flush 6 Exclusive!
Step inside the Fourth World as we relive that one magical day when…
by Jeff Newelt • Illustration by Rick Veitch • Photos by Michael James Zuccaro
Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

I’ve always been a sucker for the big teamup: Superman / Shazam. Hulk / Thing. chocolate & peanut butter. So when I came across a photo of Jack Kirby and Frank Zappa embracing finally, my synapses started firing like FBI at Waco.

Were they friends? Did they hang? Play action figures together? WTF! I had to know.

For those not so in-the-know as us ubergeekanoids, Jack Kirby was the visionary artist who created The Fantastic Four, X-Men, Hulk, Thor, Silver Surfer, Captain America…the Marvel universe sprang forth from his (and writer Stan Lee’s) head. In the ’70s, Jack went solo, rocking out idiosyncratic cosmic characters – the New Gods, Omac, Forever People, Eternals, Devil Dinosaur, Kamandi, Demon, all nutty, jazzy, psychedelically mythic stuff.

Frank Zappa was a musical iconoclast and genius composer/producer/guitar player. He wove together humor, avant-garde classical guitar-rock, doo-wop, dada, jazz-fusion, and political satire, hired the badass-est musicians, and rolled with world leaders like Czech playwright/philosopher Vaclav Havel. His songs are like audio comic books, hypervisual with colorful characters and scenarios like “Camarillo Brillo,” which includes the lines “She had a snake for a pet / and an amulet / and she was breeding a dwarf / But she wasn’t done yet / She had gray-green skin / A doll with a pin / I told her she was awright / But I couldn’t come in.” Sounds just like a character out of Kirby’s Demon.

Jack and Frank, both universe builders, one music, the other, comics. But what was the connection?

Fast-forward to present day. I’m at a conference in New Mexico teaching social media to female entrepreneurs, and one lady says, “Yer not one of those comics people, are you? My husband’s one, Steve Sherman.” D’OH! Steve Sherman was one of Kirby’s fabled assistants! I reached out to Steve and turns out Jack and Frank Zappa were not only pals, but also essentially neighbors. How was this friendship kept secret so long?

A mere week later, I wind up having drinks with fellow Flusher Paul Pope and none other than Frank’s youngest son, Ahmet Zappa! We learned all about Kingdom Comics, the new graphic novel line Ahmet is helming for Disney.

Contextual rewind: Not just a comics impresario, Ahmet’s been rocking in different media since he was a wee young lad. He was lead singer/songwriter in Z, a band he formed with his brother Dweezil in the early ’90s, an actor on Roseanne and Growing Pains and in films such as Pump up the Volume and Jack Frost, and most recently hosted VH1’s But Can They Sing?

So I had to show Ahmet my Blackberry screensaver, the image I had found of his dad and Jack together, and Ahmet goes, “Whoa, I never saw that! That’s in my living room… Jack would come over and smoke cigars and Frank would smoke cigarettes, and they’d talk and talk.”

One of the things Frank and Jack had in common: the prodigious amount of cosmic goodness that extruded from their respective noggins was not the result of drugs; they both enjoyed tobaccy but only the unwacky. We had other stuff to discuss that evening, so I made Ahmet promise to reconnect ASAP to spill the magic beans on this egregiously undocumented duo. And he kept his promise.

Ahmet, one of four Zappa kids, the other three being Moon Unit (the oldest), Dweezil (second oldest), and Diva (youngest), was always into superheroes his entire life.

“I loved Spider-man; it’s the jam,” gushed Ahmet. “My dad loved comics and was the first to advertise rock n’ roll in comics, for We’re Only In It For The Money [in Fantastic Four #72, 1968, Natch!]. My mother made Dweezil and I costumes of Spider-Man and The Mighty Thor.”
The son of a gregarious rock star, Ahmet grew up meeting every celebrity musician under the sun. But it wasn’t a rocker who gave Ahmet that first feeling of being around greatness. “I was not starstruck at all by rock stars because music is its own language and my father spoke it, so we spoke it,” Ahmet explains matter-of-factly. “This totally demystified the fame or the celebrity. There was no currency for ‘oooh, that guy sold a million records, we just cared about good music. One of the most significant moments in my life is when my dad said, ‘meet Jack, he’s the guy who created all those superheroes you love.’ That blew my little mind. I thought it was awesome and weird that my dad had this friendship with this guy. It was like meeting like a real magician!”

And Jack brought some presents for the kids, but oddly, they weren’t comics. “Actually, he first came over with these Mr. Men books, you know Mr. Tickle, Mr. Impossible… I thought they were fantastic, and was like ‘did you do these too?’ Weird. Dunno why he brought those instead of his own books, but later, of course, he wound up giving us comics too. Jack gave me this Silver Surfer book. I didn’t know what to make of this silver dude on a surfboard; it didn’t make any sense but, he was super cool. This was around the time Empire came out and was HUGE [1981 –ed.], and I remember Jack confided in Frank that he felt like the stories he created helped shape the Star Wars saga, that he saw direct parallels between his characters and the movie’s story arcs.”

Of all rock stars in the world, Zappa, famously an outspoken champion of free speech and artist’s rights, was the ultimate sympathetic ear.

“He told my dad stuff like, ‘Darth Vader was Doctor Doom and the Force is the Source’ and that George Lucas ripped him off. Now this you may not know, and I was only a kid, but I remember learning at the dinner table that my dad was asked to write the music for Star Wars; he turned it down, he said he wasn’t interested. That would’ve been really strange, the lives of us Star Wars fans woulda taken a different turn and that whole score woulda sounded like Tatooine Cantina music.”

Two powerful worlds that happened to collide one special night in 1981. A friendship began and a mutual bond was formed. These two titans are now sadly no longer with us, but their spirit lives on now through their family keeping tradition alive.

The only regret, Royal Flush readers, is that we’ll never get to visit the parallel universe where Frank Zappa actually got to score Star Wars. The place called the Fourth World. ?