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Real Jessica Lynch Rescue Video April 28, 2007

Posted by Dan in Main, Middle East, Must Read, News, Politics, Video, War.
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New video of PFC Jessica Lynch’s rescue from Iraqi hands over 4 years ago has risen to light. It is now clear just how different the reality of her extraction is from the White House reports at the time. I remember very clearly how the focus of American media shifted dramatically from the progress of the invasion, the failed hunt for Osama Bin Laden, the non-existant Weapons of Mass Destruction, and an ever elusive Saddam Hussein to this one missing Private. At the time, I was confounded… why was the media not reporting on the important things!? Why were we constantly forced to listen to an, as we now know, fabricated report of her capture, detainment, and rescue? It seemed ludicrous with all that was happening, to focus entirely on this one soldier.

Of course, I know now from my own conversations with reporters in Iraq at the time that the US Government simply was not providing information on anything other than Lynch. The reporters had to talk about her and her rescue because thats all the Government would talk about. Clearly, the White House wanted to distract the American public from the realities of a bungled war. If there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, we would’ve found some kind of evidence within the first few days of occupying Baghdad. When we didn’t, it became immediately apparent to the President, the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and anyone else “in the know” that the war was a massive mistake. By redirecting media focus to a “human story,” the capture and subsequent rescue of a cute, 19 year old girl seemed like just the thing to pull the wool over our eyes once again.

Now, we can see her rescue, as it really happened….

Click here to view more at liveleak.com

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Bush Using Troops in Iraq as Hostages Against Congress April 23, 2007

Posted by Dan in Main, Middle East, News, Politics, War.
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From The New York Times:
By Paul Krugman

There are two ways to describe the confrontation between Congress and the Bush administration over funding for the Iraq surge. You can pretend that it’s a normal political dispute. Or you can see it for what it really is: a hostage situation, in which a beleaguered President Bush, barricaded in the White House, is threatening dire consequences for innocent bystanders — the troops — if his demands aren’t met.

If this were a normal political dispute, Democrats in Congress would clearly hold the upper hand: by a huge margin, Americans say they want a timetable for withdrawal, and by a large margin they also say they trust Congress, not Mr. Bush, to do a better job handling the situation in Iraq.

But this isn’t a normal political dispute. Mr. Bush isn’t really trying to win the argument on the merits. He’s just betting that the people outside the barricade care more than he does about the fate of those innocent bystanders.

What’s at stake right now is the latest Iraq “supplemental.” Since the beginning, the administration has refused to put funding for the war in its regular budgets. Instead, it keeps saying, in effect: “Whoops! Whaddya know, we’re running out of money. Give us another $87 billion.”

At one level, this is like the behavior of an irresponsible adolescent who repeatedly runs through his allowance, each time calling his parents to tell them he’s broke and needs extra cash.

What I haven’t seen sufficiently emphasized, however, is the disdain this practice shows for the welfare of the troops, whom the administration puts in harm’s way without first ensuring that they’ll have the necessary resources.

As long as a G.O.P.-controlled Congress could be counted on to rubber-stamp the administration’s requests, you could say that this wasn’t a real problem, that the administration’s refusal to put Iraq funding in the regular budget was just part of its usual reliance on fiscal smoke and mirrors. But this time Mr. Bush decided to surge additional troops into Iraq after an election in which the public overwhelmingly rejected his war — and then dared Congress to deny him the necessary funds. As I said, it’s an act of hostage-taking.

Actually, it’s even worse than that. According to reports, the final version of the funding bill Congress will send won’t even set a hard deadline for withdrawal. It will include only an “advisory,” nonbinding date. Yet Mr. Bush plans to veto the bill all the same — and will then accuse Congress of failing to support the troops.

The whole situation brings to mind what Abraham Lincoln said, in his great Cooper Union speech in 1860, about secessionists who blamed the critics of slavery for the looming civil war: “A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, ‘Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!’ ”

So how should Congress respond to Mr. Bush’s threats?

Everyone talks about the political risks of confrontation, recalling the backlash when Newt Gingrich shut down the federal government in 1995. But there’s a big difference between trying to force a fairly popular president to accept deep cuts in Medicare — which is what the 1995 confrontation was about — and trying to get a deeply unpopular, distrusted president to set some limits on an immensely unpopular war.

Meanwhile, there are big political risks on the other side. If Congress responds to a presidential veto by offering an even weaker bill, voters may well react with disgust, concluding that the whole debate over the war was nothing but political theater.

Anyway, never mind the political calculations. Confronting Mr. Bush on Iraq has become a patriotic duty.

The fact is that Mr. Bush’s refusal to face up to the failure of his Iraq adventure, his apparent determination to spend the rest of his term in denial, has become a clear and present danger to national security. Thanks to the demands of the Iraq war, we’re already a superpower without a strategic reserve, unable to respond to crises that might erupt elsewhere in the world. And more and more military experts warn that repeated deployments in Iraq — now extended to 15 months — are breaking the back of our volunteer military.

If nothing is done to wind down this war during the 21 months — 21 months! — Mr. Bush has left, the damage may be irreparable.

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Virginia Tech Shooting – 3D Virtual Timeline April 18, 2007

Posted by Dan in Main, News.
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My deepest condolences and sympathy for all of those who lost loved one in the recent shooting at Virgina Tech. I must admit, I have been shocked by what transpired. Schools are supposed to be places of learning, not terror. I found myself asking, like many, what could possibly have lead someone to commit such indiscriminate violence? This question may never fully be resolved, but The New York Times had posted an interactive timeline of the events that can help.

Picture 1-1

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Global Warming Threatens U.S. Security, Ex-Generals Report April 15, 2007

Posted by Dan in Environment, Main, Must Read, Politics, Science.

Earth Full Hires Copy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Global warming poses a “serious threat to America’s national security” and the U.S. likely will be dragged into fights over water and other shortages, top retired military leaders warn in a new report.

The report says that in the next 30 to 40 years there will be wars over water, increased hunger instability from worsening disease and rising sea levels and global warming-induced refugees. “The chaos that results can be an incubator of civil strife, genocide and the growth of terrorism,” the 35-page report predicts.

“Climate change exacerbates already unstable situations,” former U.S. Army chief of staff Gordon Sullivan told Associated Press Radio. “Everybody needs to start paying attention to what’s going on. I don’t think this is a particularly hard sell in the Pentagon. … We’re paying attention to what those security implications are.”

Gen. Anthony “Tony” Zinni, President Bush’s former Middle East envoy, says in the report: “It’s not hard to make the connection between climate change and instability, or climate change and terrorism.”

The report was issued by the Alexandria, Virginia-based, national security think-tank The CNA Corporation and was written by six retired admirals and five retired generals. They warn of a future of rampant disease, water shortages and flooding that will make already dicey areas — such as the Middle East, Asia and Africa — even worse.

“Weakened and failing governments, with an already thin margin for survival, foster the conditions for internal conflicts, extremism and movement toward increased authoritarianism and radical ideologies,” the report says. “The U.S. will be drawn more frequently into these situations.”

Joining calls already made by scientists and environmental activists, the retired U.S. military leaders call on the U.S. government to make major cuts in emissions of gases that cause global warming.

The Bush administration has declined mandatory emission cuts in favor of voluntary methods. Other nations have committed to required reductions that kick in within a few years.

“We will pay for this one way or another,” writes Zinni, former commander of U.S. Central Command. “We will pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today, and we’ll have to take an economic hit of some kind. Or we will pay the price later in military terms. And that will involve human lives. There will be a human toll.”

Top climate scientists said the report makes sense and increased national security risk is a legitimate global warming side-effect.

The report is “pretty impressive,” but may be too alarmist because it may take longer than 30 years for some of these things to happen, said Stanford scientist Terry Root, a co-author of this month’s international scientific report on the effects of global warming on life on Earth.

But the instability will happen sometime, Root agreed.

“We’re going to have a war over water,” Root said. “There’s just not going to be enough water around for us to have for us to need to live with and to provide for the natural environment.”

University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver said the military officers were smart to highlight the issue of refugees who flee unstable areas because of global warming.

“There will be tens of millions of people migrating, where are we going to put them?” Weaver said.

Weaver said that over the past years, scientists, who by nature are cautious, have been attacked by conservative activists when warning about climate change. This shows that it’s not a liberal-conservative issue, Weaver said.

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Risque Photos of American Idol’s Antonella Barba – What’s the Big Deal? February 23, 2007

Posted by Dan in Main, News, Politics, Sex.

Again… these photos are fine!!!! Like the poor Ms. Nevada, the text version of this story permeating through the media paints a different picture… literally. These are the photos which have caused so much controversy. Another great example of the media blowing things way out of proportion, just to find a scandal. And I’m sure we’ll hear over the next few weeks how American Idol is contributing to the sexualization of America…. We’ve been hearing all about what MTV has done. Personally, I’m sick of this. Times change, thats the nature of the world. And if one thing remains constant, its that those who can’t keep up are always left behind. I mean, does anyone really want to be Amish? Case in point. (I’m tired of our country being so far behind the rest of the world).

This is the infamous “topless girls at the beach” shot. They were friggin’ tanning!

And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of the rest of these:

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Boys will be Boys… So Shut-Up about your Book, Lady February 19, 2007

Posted by Dan in Main, Must Read, News, Politics, Religion, Sex.

I have been neglecting my blog for the past week… I know. But, work was crazy and the only news seemed to be about Anna Nicole Smith, Britney Spears’ shaved head, or some hikers stupid enough to get lost… none of which I actually consider to be “news” as the events have absolutely no relevance to anyone but those directly involved.

So imagine my surprise when today I was in my car and heard on CNN (satellite radio) that a 17 year old had been sent to jail for 10 years because he had sex. Thats absurd! Clearly some over-zealous father was upset that his daughter turned out to be ‘less than chaste’ and he exercised power he probably shouldn’t have to ruin the life of the boy who she “consensually had intercourse with.” Why did tax dollars pay for this? Why will they be used to pay for this kid’s incarceration? What a waste.

But, my real problem was this woman that CNN had on, who was giving her opinion of what the Bible has to say about sex. Of course, the average age of marriage 2000 years ago was shortly after puberty, the biological indicator, or in the mid teens, but this historical fact did not enter her argument for “family values.” Its not one I’m going to rehash here, but her main point was this: “People who wait until marriage live happier lives.” She actually said that, and I can’t believe the reporter doing the interview didn’t smack her in the face. Anyone who’s actually been married knows this is far from the truth, but thats ignoring the fact that what she said is absolutely impossible to prove or back up with evidence/study/research of any quality.

So where was the voice of reason in this “newscast”? Where was the sociologist (person who studies people) asking “What the hell are you talking about?” In fact, there was no expert of any kind. The woman herself wasn’t even a Biblical Historian (someone who studies the Bible), simply a devout believer with some B.S. Church of This or That credentials.

Where is the accountability in NEWS!? When did saying whatever you want replace factual descriptions of events? When did advancing some religious agenda become more important than the issue that A SEVENTEEN YEAR OLD WAS SENT TO JAIL FOR HAVING SEX!!!!!!!! This is when you take the time to talk about how screwed up our Courts are, not how screwed up our families are. You analyze what happened: why this kid ended up in jail, what occurred during the trial, what evidence was presented, and not why he wasn’t reading the Bible more!

…. My 2 cents

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Web 2.0 in Five Minutes – Video February 8, 2007

Posted by Dan in Main, Science, Snipets, Technology, Video.
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This video is amazing. Its both a description and a demonstration of how the Internet is changing the way we interact as a species.

“The machine is Us/ing Us” is deeply profound conclusion, and one in which I find no fault. We both drive the forces behind the Internet and are driven by them. We share a common language that transcends all borders, even those of reality: Binary. This video is really just the tip of an iceberg so large it stretches all the way to our core. Within the next 10 years, humanity will undergo a transition unlike anything we have been through before. As barriers between communication are broken down, we will find that the only way for us to exist is as a united species.

More on that next time….

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Why Are Astronauts Dating Each Other? February 7, 2007

Posted by Dan in Main, News, Science, Space.
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Astronaut Lisa Nowak attempted to murder a colleague, Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman, when it was discovered that another astronaut, Navy Commander Bill Oefelein, was having relationships with both women. As a result, NASA has agreed to revamp its psychological screening process. But, the question that many are asking is, why were astronauts allowed to date each other in the first place?

The answer actually has more to do with the speed of light, than any corporate convention. Science currently believes the speed at which light travels, 299,792,458 meters per second or 670,616,629 miles per hour. Yet, even at that extreme speed, the Universe is so large that a journey outside of our solar system to the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, would still take 4 and half years. At more realistic speeds, the trip could take hundreds. The problem because obvious… either we need to keep people alive for hundreds of years, or entire generations will live out their lives traveling between the stars. In response, NASA has gently been encouraging its astronauts to develop relationships between one another, to study that aspect of human interaction in space.

While NASA is reassessing its psych screening procedures for astronauts, perhaps they should also address the conduct between them. On the other hand, I believe NASA has just learned a very valuable lesson about relationships in space: They’re exactly like relationships on Earth.

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Bush’s $2.9 Trillion Budget – Who Gets What? February 5, 2007

Posted by Dan in Main, Must Read, News, Politics, Snipets, War.
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 82Dv News Pres.-Bush-Visit 060704-A-7377C-099
Lets get a breakdown of exactly what this budget increases and decreases funding for, Agency by Agency…

Generally, Bush proposes taking funding from Domestic programs and diverting it to Anti-Terrorism and the War in Iraq. The President’s budget plan eliminates or reduces 141 federally funded programs, while cutting non-security discretionary spending by $2.2 billion.

Listed alphabetically, this is how each Government Agency will fare (Washington Post):

Department of Agriculture

The Agriculture Department is hit with the third-largest percentage decrease in spending of any department. Reductions would come from a 5 percent cut in commodity price supports, and in cuts to rural development, forest service, conservation and research programs.

The administration proposed similar cuts in commodity prices last year, but Congress rejected them under pressure from farm interests.

Among the winners are wetlands preservation — with a proposal to spend $400 million to restore 250,000 acres, as opposed to 150,000 acres for 2006 — and defense of the food supply, which would increase by $69 million to $322 million. The budget includes an additional $57 million for avian flu protection, surveillance and stockpiling of poultry vaccines.

Department of Commerce

The department’s budget fall under Bush’s proposals, to $6.139 billion, with increasing spending on the president’s “American Competitiveness Initiative” offset by cuts in other areas.

Among the agencies to come under the knife would be Commerce’s biggest, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which would suffer a 4.3 percent cut, to $3.681 billion. Acknowledging the need to spend more on tracking hurricanes, the budget provides increases of $110 million for development and acquisition of weather satellites and other funds for improved forecasting.

The budget for Commerce that concentrates on competitiveness — the National Institute of Standards and Technology — would fall as well, from $757 million to $581 million. But that is mainly because Bush is proposing — as he has repeatedly in the past — to eliminate the Advanced Technology Program and slash the Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program, both of which were Clinton administration favorites. Spending would rise to $540 million for NIST’s scientific and technical research and services and construction of research facilities.

Department of Defense

The nearly $440 billion defense budget contains $110.8 billion for military personnel, including a modest 2.2 percent pay increase, as well as $84.2 billion for weapons systems and $73.2 billion for research and development.

Some of the major budget items include $6.6 billion for the Army’s program to expand and modernize its brigades for easier deployment, and $3.7 billion for the Army’s next generation of vehicles and communications known as the Future Combat System.

Also included are $2.6 billion to begin construction of two Navy DD(X) destroyers, as well as nearly $1 billion for two Littoral Combat Ships aimed at improving the Navy’s ability to operate in coastal waters. An additional $1.9 billion will go toward developing and purchasing new unmanned aerial vehicles as part of the Pentagon’s goal of expanding reconnaissance by the drones.

The growth in defense spending has slowed compared with earlier this decade, suggesting the defense buildup that began in 1999 and accelerated in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks is winding down.

Department of Education

Education advocates expressed disappointment that the budget for the Education Department provides no new money for Title I funding for poverty aid to school districts, and fails to increase the federal Pell Grants, a need-based financial aid program for college students. Title I funding is up since Bush took office, but there has not been an increase in Pell grants for five years.

The $63 billion budget eliminates 42 programs — including parent-resource centers, vocational programs and drug-free schools.

As part of Bush’s American Competitiveness Initiative, funding has been increased to improve math and sciences education in K-12. There is $100 million proposed for America’s Opportunity Scholarships, which offer vouchers to attend private schools and expanded tutoring for students who attend poor-performing public schools — an initiative Congress has previously rejected.

The budget provides $200 million for School Improvement Grants to help states meet No Child Left Behind Act proficiency goals, but Democrats say that is insufficient. And there is $1.475 billion for a new program to help at-risk high school students struggling to reach grade level in reading and math.

Department of Energy

The department budget is essentially flat; the president’s budget shows a modest increase of $20 million to nearly $23.6 billion, but the agency says it is actually a decrease of $6 million from fiscal 2006. Included is $250 million to fund a global nuclear energy program that the administration hopes will lead to the expansion of nuclear power production domestically and abroad. The department called yesterday for the development of technology to recycle nuclear fuel and create waste that is less hazardous and more difficult to use in weapons.

The budget adds money to research some alternative fuel technology. Environmental groups said the funding increases are insufficient.

Some programs designed to increase energy efficiency would be cut, as would research money for hydropower and geothermal energy. The spending plan cuts funding for oil and natural gas research programs. The administration, which sought unsuccessfully to cut the programs last year, said the industry can afford to pursue the research on its own given high oil and natural gas prices.

Environmental Protection Agency

The agency took another financial hit with a proposed budget of $7.32 billion for fiscal 2007. By contrast, Bush proposed spending $7.62 billion last year, and $8.37 billion for fiscal 2004.

EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson said the agency was managing its resources wisely, by putting more money into homeland security efforts and cleaner diesel fuel. But public health advocates and congressional Democrats questioned some of the proposed spending cuts, including reducing funding for state and local clean air programs by more than $35 million, a cut of about 16 percent.

Department of Health & Human Services

Bush is requesting a $58 billion increase for Health and Human Services, bringing total budget authority to $698 billion. Discretionary spending, however, would fall by $1.5 billion to $66 billion.

Two mandatory programs — Medicare and Medicaid — consume 84 percent of the HHS budget. The administration aims to squeeze $36 billion out of Medicare over the next five years, by cutting hospital payments, establishing competitive bidding for lab services and increasing premiums. For the first time this year, wealthy seniors will be charged higher premiums. The monthly premium would rise from $88.50 today, to between $100 and $155. By 2016, the administration projects 3.8 million seniors would pay the higher amounts.

Last year, Bush proposed trimming Medicaid growth by $45 billion over 10 years. Congress reduced that to a $5 billion cut over five years. The new budget calls for Medicaid savings of $13.5 billion over five years.

The Food and Drug Administration request is almost 4 percent over 2006, to about $2 billion. Much of the increase would expand food security and avian flu programs.

Overall, the National Institutes of Health would receive the same amount of money, although some is being shifted around. The National Cancer Institute would be reduced $40 million while the director’s office would receive $140 million more for new projects.

HHS wants to trim $1.1 billion in state block grants that support job training, day care and mental health services. At the same time, the department would start several new programs, including the $50 million First Lady’s Youth at Risk Initiative.

Department of Homeland Security

The president proposes increasing the Department of Homeland Security’s budget of $31 billion for fiscal 2007, by $177 million. DHS also plans to collect $4.5 billion in existing and new fees, bringing its overall discretionary budget to $35.4 billion, a 6 percent boost.

The administration would raise $1.3 billion by hiking security fees for air travel, to $5 a flight for nonstop passengers from $2.50.

Homeland Security would spend $869 million to add 1,500 border patrol agents and 6,700 detention bed spaces. Congress requires adding 2,000 agents per year.

The budget would trim state and local programs by $258 million, or 9 percent, to $2.5 billion, including grants for law enforcement, terrorism prevention, training, emergency management and technical assistance, similar to cuts that Congress rejected last year. Instead, money would be beefed up for targeted urban areas, infrastructure protection and risk-based programs for all states and 75 metropolitan areas.

Department of Housing & Urban Development

The $33.6 billion budget for the Housing and Urban Development Department is a decrease from 2006 that is largely felt in HUD’s signature program for distributing grants to states and cities for urban development.

The Community Development Block Grants Fund, whose core program budget is slashed by about 20 percent, helps pay for such things as sewers and affordable housing in needy areas, as well as support programs such as the Special Olympics and initiatives for native populations.

Other programs to redevelop commercial and industrial facilities, distribute grants to rural areas and offer loans to urban communities will be consolidated into the block grant fund.

The budget boosts funding to fight homelessness and to help low-income families afford housing and first-time homebuyers afford down payments and closing costs.

The request does not include funds for rebuilding in Hurricane Katrina-affected areas, though Congress recently added money for that.

Department of Interior

This department would face a nearly 3 percent cut under Bush’s $10.5 billion budget proposal, but as with all the secretaries whose departments took cuts, Interior’s Gale A. Norton said the agency would be able to meet its responsibilities.

Bush wants to provide more money for energy development on public lands, something he has long championed, boosting the department’s energy programs by 10 percent to a total of $467.5 million.

On the other hand it would cut $100 million from the current national parks budget, putting funding for national parks at $2.16 billion. The programs that would lose the most money include land acquisition, construction and maintenance.

Tom Kiernan of the National Parks Conservation Association said Bush’s proposal does nothing to address the $600 million annual shortfall facing national parks and “likely means . . . higher entrance fees for fewer services in our parks.”

Department of Justice

The administration wants to cut department spending by $1.5 billion for a total of $19.5 billion, largely by slashing $1.1 billion from popular state and local programs.

Congress has resisted proposals to gut the law enforcement grants, such as ones to hire police or pay for jailing illegal immigrants.

Bush proposed to increase FBI funding by $371 million, or 6.5 percent, but not for new agents or analysts. Instead, the money would go to build secure facilities, headquarters space and other infrastructure for intelligence and counterterrorism programs, including $100 million for the Sentinel program, the replacement for the computerized Virtual Case File system the FBI abandoned last year.

The Drug Enforcement Administration would get an increase of $71 million, or 4.3 percent, some of it for intelligence sharing and Afghanistan operations.

Department of Labor

The department’s budget would trim to $10.9 billion from $11.3 billion for fiscal 2007.

Funding for the Employment and Training Administration would decrease by $648 million to $9.4 billion, including cuts in the Workforce Investment Act. Some of those funds would be allocated to states under a new proposal, Career Advancement Accounts. Workers entering the workforce or transitioning between jobs would use the funds to purchase education and training. The total of the CAA program would be $3.4 billion.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s budget would increase by $11.2 million to $483.7 million; the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s would increase by $10 million to $287.8 million.


Spending: $16.8 billion

Percentage Change from 2006: +1 percent


• Budget anticipates continued operation of the Space Shuttle through 2010 with 16 flights planned to complete the International Space Station and one flight to service the Hubble Space Telescope.
• Budget increases spending for solar system exploration, Earth-Sun science, exploring systems and technology. Decreases are set for education, business partnerships.
• Agency plans to shift some programs between operational centers.
• Plans call for a reduction in full time workers from 18,410 to 17,979.

Department of State

Spending for the State Department and key international affairs programs would climb by $3.7 billion to $33.9 billion. Reflecting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s interest in public diplomacy, the proposal would boost spending on educational and cultural programs by 11 percent, to $474 million, with an emphasis on Muslim countries. The budget reserves $115 million to foster training in foreign languages such as Arabic and Urdu by Americans. At the same time, Voice of America would eliminate radio service in Russian and other languages.

A big chunk of the money is $3 billion for the Millennium Challenge Corp., a relatively new foreign aid tool that would tie aid to a country’s meeting certain criteria.

The budget would reduce aid in such areas as development assistance and child survival and health. It would expand a new office devoted to reconstruction and stabilization in post-conflict countries, and would create a $75 million fund to quickly deploy civilian personnel to unstable regions.

Department of Transportation

The administration is seeking $65.6 billion to fund the nation’s transportation system, up from $65.5 billion for fiscal 2006. But the majority of the money is part of the highway and aviation trust funds. Excluding that, the request is a decrease of about $13.2 billion.

As part of the smaller budget, the administration is seeking about $50 million to fund the nation’s essential air service program, down from $100 million last year. The program subsidizes airline operations for flying into smaller cities.

Funding for Amtrak is cut to $900 million from $1.2 billion that Congress passed last year.

The budget includes $13.7 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration for hiring safety inspectors, air traffic controllers and the construction of airport runways.

Department of the Treasury

The administration is proposing to hold the budget for the department and for its main subsidiary, the Internal Revenue Service, essentially flat for the coming year.

Discretionary budget authority would total $11.6 billion, up from about $11.5 billion for fiscal 2006. IRS spending authority would rise 0.2 percent to $10.591 billion from $10.545 billion.

The IRS, after years of shifting resources to improve taxpayer service, has come under fire for what critics see as inadequate attention to enforcement. So the agency has been swinging back in recent years, and that trend would continue next year as budget authority for taxpayer assistance, return processing and other management functions would decline 1.2 percent, while enforcement would rise by 1.8 percent.

Department of Veterans Affairs

The Department of Veterans Affairs would see one of the biggest increases in discretionary spending for any agency: a boost of $2.6 billion to $35.7 billion. Most of the spending goes to health care — the department expects to treat 5.3 million veterans next year.

Once again the VA budget calls for increasing prescription drug co-payments for non-disabled, higher-income veterans from $8 to $15. It would require them to pay an annual enrollment fee of $250. Congress has rejected this in the past.

Overall, the VA budget would rise to $80.6 billion, including $42.1 billion for entitlements, such as disability payments and rehabilitation programs. Officials hope to avoid a repeat of last year, when the VA received $1.2 billion in emergency funding after it had underestimated the number of personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who would seek VA medical treatment.

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Humans ‘Very Likely’ Cause of Global Warming, Report Warns February 2, 2007

Posted by Dan in Main, Must Read, News, Politics, Science, Technology.
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NY Times Reporter Andrew C. Revkin brings some great insight:

PARIS, France (AP) — The world’s leading climate scientists, in their most powerful language ever used on the issue, said global warming is “very likely” man-made, according to a new report obtained Friday by The Associated Press.

The report provides what may be cold comfort in slightly reduced projections on rising temperatures and sea levels by the year 2100. But it is tempered by a flat pronouncement that global warming is essentially a runaway train that cannot be stopped for centuries.

“The observed widespread warming of the atmosphere and ocean, together with ice-mass loss, support the conclusion that it is extremely unlikely that global climate change of the past 50 years can be explained without external forcing, and very likely that is not due to known natural causes alone,” said the 20-page report.

Human-caused warming and rises in sea-level “would continue for centuries” because the process has already started, “even if greenhouse gas concentrations were to be stabilized,” said the 20-page report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The report by a group of hundreds of scientists and representatives of 113 governments contains the most authoritative science on the issue. It was due for official release later Friday morning in Paris.

The phrase “very likely” translates to a more than 90 percent certainty that global warming is caused by man.

What that means in layman’s language is “we have this nailed,” said top U.S. climate scientist Jerry Mahlman, who originated the percentage system.

It marked an escalation from the panel’s last report in 2001, which said warming was “likely” caused by human activity. There had been speculation that the participants might try to up the ante to “virtually certain” man causes global warming, which translates to 99 percent chance.

On sea levels, the report projects rises of 7-23 inches by the end of the century. That could be augmented by an additional 4-8 inches if recent surprising polar ice sheet melt continues.

The 2001 report projected a sea level rise of up to 35 inches.

Many scientists had warned that this was being too cautious and said sea level rise could be closer to 3 to 5 feet because of ice sheet melt.

But despite losing on that battle, scientists said the report is strong.

“There’s no question that the powerful language is intimately linked to the more powerful science,” said one of the study’s many co-authors, Andrew Weaver of the University of Victoria, who spoke by phone from Canada. He said the report was based on science that is rock-solid, peer-reviewed, conservative and consensus.

“It’s very conservative. Scientists by their nature are skeptics.”

The scientists wrote the report, based on years of peer-reviewed research; government officials edited it with an eye toward the required unanimous approval by world governments.

In the end, there was little debate on the strength of the wording about human activity most likely to blame.

“That is a big move. I hope it is a powerful statement,” said Jan Pretel, head of the department of climate change at the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute.

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