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State & National
February 11, 2007
Gray Juvenile Trumpeter Swan
Front Page Photo by Peaches (Naona)
much should oil firms invest in alternative fuels? By DAVID
R. BAKER - To most people, a half-billion-dollar investment in
biofuel research looks like serious money.
That's the amount oil giant
BP said last week it will spend to create an alternative energy
research center with University of California Berkeley, the University
of Illinois and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
The research center represents
the latest example of Big Oil pumping cash into the search for
new sources of power. BP, in addition to the new Energy Biosciences
Institute at Berkeley, plans to spend $8 billion over 10 years
on its own alternative energy effort, which includes building
solar cells and wind farms.
But, for BP and other oil companies
reaping record profits, research on new energy sources is far
from their biggest investment.
BP's earnings hit $22 billion
in 2006. The company spent $15.5 billion during the year buying
back its own stock, almost twice what it may spend on renewable
power and alternative fuels in a decade.
Many renewable-energy advocates
say that, for now, oil company commitment to alternative energy
remains relatively small.
"While the rhetoric is
promising, in the end, they're still oil and gas guys,"
said Tyson Slocum, director of the energy program at the Public
Citizen watchdog group.
The companies counter that
they don't want to dump money into technologies that may not
pan out. - More...
Sunday PM - February 11, 2007
production may raise food prices By MIKE MEYERS - Full fuel
tanks could mean many more empty bellies within the next two
decades, according to new research.
The number of hungry people
worldwide could grow by more than 50 percent by 2020, as corn,
sugar and other food staples are increasingly devoted to making
fuel here and abroad, according to projections by economists
C. Ford Runge and Benjamin Senauer.
The same trend would bring
much higher food prices to the United States and the rest of
the developed world, the economists predict. The sharp increase
in world hunger isn't inevitable, however. The economists say
increased conservation could do more to wean the United States
from foreign oil than all the corn-based ethanol plants now online.
Corn and ethanol producers
dispute the claims.
"Based on the numbers
and the amount of ethanol we're producing, there's not a negative
implication for corn destined for the rest of the world,"
said Jeffrey Zeiger, executive director of the Alternative Fuels
Institute, a nonprofit group in Watertown, S.D.
However, pork, poultry and
egg producers are beginning to sound alarms of their own about
ethanol's impact on food prices. - More...
Sunday PM - February 11, 2007
The week in review By
THOMAS HARGROVE - IG: Pentagon misused spy reports before invading
Acting Defense Department Inspector
General Tomas Gimble reported Friday that the Pentagon made "inappropriate"
use of intelligence reports to convince the White House that
Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was plotting with al Qaeda to harm
the United States. Gimble said then-military policy chief Douglas
Feith "did not provide the most accurate analysis of intelligence
to senior decision makers." Senate Armed Services Committee
Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., said the report is "a devastating
condemnation" of Defense Department actions in the run-up
to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Another U.S. military helicopter
crashes in Iraq
A U.S. Marine CH-46 Sea Knight
helicopter crashed northwest of Baghdad on Wednesday, killing
all seven on board. It was the fifth American helicopter lost
in Iraq in less than three weeks. U.S. military authorities said
the latest crash may have suffered mechanical failure, although
an insurgency group claimed to have shot it down. The other four
craft were confirmed to have crashed due to enemy fire. The aging
helicopter fleet used in Iraq has been termed "tired iron"
by U.S. troops. The CH-46 began flying in 1964 at the outset
of the Vietnam War.
U.S. helicopters fire on Kurdish
U.S. assault helicopters fired
on a Kurdish bunker in Mosul, Iraq, on Friday during an attack
intended for members of al Qaeda. The U.S. military said the
"friendly fire" incident killed five, but Kurdish officials
said eight died and another six were wounded. U.S. and Iraqi
authorities said the air attack was made after ground forces
observed armed men in a bunker next to a building thought to
be used to manufacture bombs. U.S. officials said they ordered
the men to surrender before calling in the helicopter strike.
Astronaut charged with attempted
murder in love triangle
Space shuttle astronaut Lisa
Nowak was arrested Tuesday and charged with attempted first-degree
murder. Orlando, Fla., police said Nowak attacked Colleen Shipman
because she thought Shipman was a rival for the affections of
astronaut William Oefelein. Police found pepper spray, a knife,
a steel mallet and a BB gun in Nowak's car. The astronaut was
released on bail, ordered to stay away from Shipman and must
wear a personal tracking device. NASA officials said they are
reviewing their psychological testing procedures for active and
Drugs in hotel room where Anna
Nicole Smith died
Former Playmate of the Year
Anna Nicole Smith - and the widow of oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall
II - died Thursday after losing consciousness in her Florida
Police found prescription drugs
in her room but a medical examiner found no pills in her stomach.
Further tests will be made. Family members and acquaintances
said they believe drugs were responsible for the demise of the
39-year-old former blue-jeans model. "She was too drugged
up," Smith's mother, Vergie Arthur, said on network television.
Smith's 20-year-old son, Daniel, died suddenly five months ago
from what a medical examiner said was a fatal interaction from
methadone and two anti-depressant drugs.
Pelosi under fire for Air Force
House Republicans, angered
by weeks of tough floor tactics by Democrats, on Thursday began
a barrage of criticism against Speaker Nancy Pelosi's proposed
use of expensive Air Force aircraft to provide non-stop transportation
to her California home. Because of the distance, Pelosi's aircraft
must be larger than the commuter-sized craft used by former Speaker
Dennis Hastert. Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla., said Pelosi's request
for a C-32, the military version of the Boeing 757, is "an
extravagance of power that the taxpayers won't swallow."
White House spokesman Tony Snow said the controversy is "silly."
Sunday PM - February 11, 2007
Washington Calling: Street
gangs in military ... Potty parity ... Morse Code By LISA
HOFFMAN - The FBI says it has uncovered members of the Bloods,
Crips, Hells Angels, Black Disciples, Mara Salvatrucha and nearly
every other U.S. street gang serving in uniform on military bases
stateside and overseas.
At Fort Lewis in Washington
state, for instance, nearly 130 gang and extremist group members
have been identified since 2005, with many believed responsible
for criminal misconduct on base. At Fort Hood in Texas, the Army
has identified 23 gang-bangers since 2003, including one soldier,
who was a Gangster Disciple leader, convicted of two aggravated
In its Jan. 21 report, the
FBI said the gang members "constitute only a fraction of
military personnel," but are increasing in the ranks and
posing both a crime and national security threat.
The military services say some
of the increase can be explained by a greater focus on the problem,
which they say they are actively battling at installations in
Germany, Japan and Iraq, as well as at Fort Campbell, Ky., Fort
Bragg, N.C., and Fort Bliss, Texas.
Forget Iraq, Iran, health care
and the outsourcing of jobs overseas. Rep. Edolphus Towns is
taking on an issue of truly earth-shaking importance: potty parity.
Draping the subject in more
elegant language, the New York Democrat has just introduced H.R.
693, the Restroom Gender Parity in Federal Buildings Act of 2007.
It would, he promises, bring
women the last full measure of equality, by mandating that any
building anywhere in the country that receives $1.5 million or
more in federal funds must have a two-to-one ratio of women's
and men's restrooms.
"Most women who have ever
attended a sold-out sporting event have a story about important
plays they've missed because they were standing in line, waiting
for the restroom," Townes said in announcing his legislation.
"Meanwhile, their male companions were able to zip in and
out of the washroom." (Not to mention zip up.)
No matter what comes of immigration
reform, the recent swell of newcomers has already changed the
American landscape in ways only now beginning to be understood.
A study by the National Academy of Sciences' Transportation Research
Board finds that immigrant workers are a big factor in reducing
clogged roadways - although they make up less than 14 percent
of the work force, they represent 40 percent of large carpools,
and are more likely than other workers to bike, walk or take
Researchers at Ohio State University
and Cornell University found that increased Hispanic and Asian
immigration into the United States reduced the number of interracial
or cross-ethnic marriages involving native-born Hispanic and
Asian-American men. The drop of about 5 percent in the last decade
ended what had been a decades-long trend of more marriages to
whites. But with the immigration influx, these men found greater
numbers of potential brides from their own groups.
Tap out a dot and a dash Feb.
22 to mark the end of a long era in telecommunications. That's
the last day that Federal Communications Commission rules mandate
that people seeking an amateur (ham) radio operator's license
are required to demonstrate proficiency in Morse Code - the long
and short key first developed for the telegraph back in the 1840s.
The United Nations' committee
that oversees communications signals dropped the requirement
four years ago, but protests by nostalgic American hams delayed
the U.S. government's move to drop the code test until now. -
Sunday PM - February 11, 2007