Thursday, April 13, 2006

COM: Blogatithmic #119

I and the Bird is up in a phenomenal new edition at Cup O'Books! Check it out. Freedom Files has a new episode on gender rights. There is also a new episode i missed on youth rights here.

The Texas State Film Festival is next weekend, including Kat Candler's jumping off bridges that includes Wimberley One-Act star Bryan Chafin: friday, April 21st, “Rescue Me”, directed by Stacy Schoolfield (“Barney”) and “jumping off bridges”, directed by Kat Candler (“cicadas, Roberta Wells”) will screen in the Alkek Theater at Texas State University in San Marcos, TX. The screening is free to the public.

“RESCUE ME” - 7:30pm - 8:15pm, Alkek Theater -- It takes all kinds of people to care for all kinds of animals. Come meet some of the people who make animals one of the biggest parts of their lives. You'll meet St. Gordon who works with the hard luck cases at TLAC, a group who spay and neuter feral cats and Texas' own, Kinky Friedman. You'll also meet some of their best friends: Scooter, Triscuit and Mr. Magoo.

“JUMPING OFF BRIDGES” - 8:30pm - 10:30pm, Alkek Theater -- Set in a tranquil suburban neighborhood in Texas, jumping off bridges follows Zak Nelson and his three best friends. Carefree and adventurous, together, the three escape their everyday lives, until a tragic event divides their friendships and brings childhood secrets to light. “jumping off bridges” premiered at the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival and stars Bryan Chafin (“The Patriot, cicadas”), Michael Emerson (“Saw, The Practice, The Legend of Zorro, Television Series, "Lost"“), Rhett Wilkins (“The Puffy Chair”) and Glen Powell Jr (“Spy Kids 3, Into the West, Fast Food Nation”). *The Austin Chronicle* hails, "Austin filmmaker Kat Candler is one of the most astute observers of teenage behavior working behind a camera today, and “jumping off bridges”, her powerful, resonant examination into the impact of suicide on those left behind is as realistic a narrative portrait of love, death, and human debris as anything you're ever likely to see onscreen. Candler's ability to take some of the darkest and most jagged truths about fear, regret, sadness, loss, suffering and pain and break them open for her audience to experience in ways that are both optimistic and honest makes her one of the most important and promising young filmmakers on the cinematic landscape." –

Directions to Alkek Theater/Library. Free to the Public. Q&A to follow each screening. To learn more about the films and Storie Productions, go to

From the US National Soccer Team Players Association:

U.S. and Jamaica Play to a 1-1 Draw
By Keith Parsons, AP Sports Writer

CARY, N.C. (April 11, 2006) AP -- Tony Meola got his 100th cap. Now he and the rest of the U.S. hopefuls can only wait for coach Bruce Arena to choose the World Cup roster.

"For me, it was just a great night, and I did it with a great group of guys that really appreciated the first 99 as much as they appreciated tonight," the 37-year-old goalkeeper said. "They let me know about it all week."

Ben Olsen scored the tying goal in the 25th minute off a record-setting assist from Landon Donovan, Meola became the ninth U.S. player to reach 100 international appearances and the United States salvaged a 1-1 tie against Jamaica on Tuesday night.

It was the final exhibition game before Arena settles on the 23 players he will take to Germany this summer. A day earlier, he told the team not to worry about making the final cut. He wanted them simply to have fun.

"It's getting down to the nitty gritty," defender Chris Albright said. "I mean, obviously you enjoy playing the game, but everybody's thinking about making the team. I just tried to give it everything I had."

Before the kickoff, Meola was honored as the ninth U.S. player to reach 100 caps -- soccer's term for international appearances. He was the starting goalkeeper at the 1990 and 1994 World Cups, and the No. 3 goalkeeper four years ago.

Meola hadn't played for the national team since May 16, 2002, and his addition to the roster was seen largely as a symbolic gesture by Arena. Barely four minutes into the game, it appeared Meola might be in for a long night when Jamaica took a 1-0 lead.

"We started slow. Give them credit, they came at us," Meola said. "After about 15 or 20 minutes, I thought we picked up the pace and played fairly well. All in all, I thought it was a good performance."

Donovan got his 23rd career assist, moving him ahead of Los Angeles Galaxy teammate Cobi Jones for the most in national team history as the Americans avoided losing for the first time in 17 games against Jamaica (9-0-8).

"Oh, that's right, I forgot about that," Donovan said when told of his record. "It was Cobi before, right? I got it in less caps, and I'll tell him this week. That's cool, man."

Albright had a couple of opportunities to put the Americans ahead, but goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts came through each time with fine saves. Both came off headers following a free kick by Donovan, with Ricketts narrowly deflecting the ball away from the goal each time.
"He was letting balls go through his hands all night, and he makes the save on a couple of headers," Albright said. "You've just got to take your hat off to him."

Albright certainly needed to play well, as he likely is one of the players hoping for a spot on the World Cup roster. The others who appear questionable are Olsen, Steve Ralston, Eddie Johnson, Pat Noonan, Josh Wolff, Brian Ching and John O'Brien.

Ralston limped off with a groin injury in the second half, and O'Brien, who has been hampered by a similar ailment, made his first appearance for the national team since August.

Arena will announce the U.S. roster May 2, and it will be finalized May 15.

"We were able to use this game as an opportunity to see some players," Arena said. "The part that I felt was valid was that we watched our players have to deal with coming from behind, being down a goal. I thought they responded pretty well, from the 25th minute mark on."

Jamaica took a surprising lead on a great effort by Teafore Bennett. He outran defender Frankie Hejduk to take Jermaine Hue's pass near the box, and Meola was caught out of position.

He couldn't get to the ball quickly enough, and Bennett used his left foot to put it in.

"The first 15 or 20 minutes, we decided we were going to press and try to score," Bennett said. "We worked hard, and it paid off."

The United States came back to tie it on a brilliant move from Donovan. After Noonan was fouled, Donovan wisely took the free kick before the Reggae Boyz were ready.

"I think too often we let teams off the hook," Donovan said. "When you get fouled, there's a lot of times you can put the ball down and play, and teams are kind of walking back. At this level, it can make a difference."

He sent the ball to Olsen, who carried it in alone before taking a shot.

It ricocheted off the left hand of Ricketts and into the net, sending the capacity crowd of more than 8,000 at the SAS Soccer Park in suburban Raleigh into a frenzy. Arena will bring his team back next month to train for the World Cup.

Some environmental insights (via Mike Quinn and Jeremy Taylor):

Sharon Y. Strauss, Campbell O. Webb, and Nicolas Salamin. April 11, 2006. Exotic taxa less related to native species are more invasive. PNAS 103(15): 5841-5845. Abstract: Some species introduced into new geographical areas from their native ranges wreak ecological and economic havoc in their new environment. Although many studies have searched for either species or habitat characteristics that predict invasiveness of exotic species, the match between characteristics of the invader and those of members of the existing native community may be essential to understanding invasiveness. Here, we find that one metric, the phylogenetic relatedness of an invader to the native community, provides a predictive tool for invasiveness. Using a phylogenetic supertree of all grass species in California, we show that highly invasive grass species are, on average, significantly less related to native grasses than are introduced but noninvasive grasses. The match between the invader and the existing native community may explain why exotic pest species are not uniformly noxious in all novel habitats. Relatedness of invaders to the native biota may be one useful criterion for prioritizing management efforts of exotic species.

Failure to identify Scotland’s H5N1 swan highlights need for better data. 12-04-2006. UK Government officials have confirmed that the H5N1-positive swan discovered in
Cellardyke, Scotland was a Whooper Swan, Cygnus cygnus, not as previously thought a Mute Swan, Cygnus olor. In contrast to the mainly resident/sedentary Mutes Swan, Whooper Swans are migratory. The Icelandic breeding population winters in North-west Europe, including Britain and Ireland, the low countries and the Baltic. H5N1 was confirmed in several Whooper Swans in the Baltic during February and March. “It seems plausible that the bird found in Scotland may have originated in this region and was attempting to migrate back to Iceland to breed, before becoming too sick to continue and alighting on the sea,” said Andre Farrer of the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK). Full story here.

More reasons to be ashamed of the administration of the Moron-in-Chief (via the ACLU):


In a stunning reversal of its claim that national security was at risk, the government has given up its legal battle over a gag order on Connecticut librarians affected by the controversial National Security Letter (NSL) provision of the law. The decision to abandon their opposition to the ACLU's challenge came after Congress voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act.

The reauthorization still allows the FBI to gag NSL recipients and forces courts to rubberstamp FBI decisions. The ACLU fought many of the more extreme measures of the Patriot Act during the course of the reauthorization debate. In a notable victory, the Act no longer denies NSL recipients the right to challenge the law.

Once the necessary court procedures are complete, which may take several weeks, the librarians will be introduced to the public and will be able talk openly for the first time about their objections to secret FBI demands for patrons' library and e-mail records.

"The government's claim that gagging librarians was necessary to protect national security has evaporated now that the political battle is over," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. "The American public should keep this in mind the next time a government official invokes national security in defense of secrecy."

The case was one of two challenges brought by the ACLU in New York and Connecticut to a surveillance power that was dramatically expanded by the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act power permits the FBI to demand, without court approval, records of people who are not suspected of any wrongdoing. Anyone who receives such a demand -- known as a National Security Letter (NSL) is gagged from disclosing that the FBI demanded records.

The government has given up on the specific gag in the Connecticut case, but is pursuing its appeal of the New York decision, which struck down the entire National Security Letter provision as unconstitutional. It argues that the recent changes made by the Reauthorization Act cured any constitutional defects in the law.

In fact, the amended NSL provision still allows the FBI to gag NSL recipients and forces courts to rubberstamp FBI decisions, said the ACLU, which asked the Second Circuit to affirm the decision striking down the law.

More information about the ACLU's challenges to National Security Letters is online here.


A major police investigation into methamphetamine production unlawfully targeted South Asian convenience store owners and clerks based on race and national origin, according to evidence unveiled last week by the ACLU. The ACLU asked a federal court to dismiss all remaining charges related to the controversial investigation in northwest Georgia, dubbed "Operation Meth Merchant."

According to law enforcement's own records as well as testimony from former investigators and informants involved in Operation Meth Merchant, the investigation intentionally targeted South Asians without any evidence of wrongdoing, while ignoring known white suspects.

Undertaken by local and state police in partnership with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Operation Meth Merchant was purportedly aimed at convenience store owners and clerks selling legal household products, such as cold medicine, cooking fuel and matchbooks, which police claimed they knew would be used to make the illegal drug methamphetamine.

By the time Operation Meth Merchant was completed, almost 20 percent of the South-Asian-owned stores in the area were indicted, while only 0.2 percent of stores owned by whites or other ethnic groups were similarly accused. All in all, South-Asian-owned stores were nearly 100 times more likely to be targeted.

The charges arising from the investigation relied on the assumption that the South Asian store owners and clerks, most with limited English proficiency, understood slang terms used by police-directed informants during transactions, such as "cook," to mean that the products sold would be used to make methamphetamine.

"They only sent me to Indian stores...they wanted me to say things like 'I need it to go cook' or 'Hurry up, I've got to get home and finish a cook'," said an undercover informant in a sworn statement attached to the ACLU's legal papers. "The officers told me that the Indians' English wasn't good, and they wouldn't say a lot so it was important for me to make these kinds of statements."

Additional facts about Operation Meth Merchant may be found here.

Yep . . . real kayaker, real shark, real photo . . .

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