Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Overnight - A roundup of news items that you might have missed

Busted by your own kin? The BTK case was an early use of an emerging tool in law enforcement: analyzing the DNA of a suspect's relatives. In the BTK example, police had a suspect and were looking to tie him to the crime. But now, states are moving to conduct familial searches of criminal databases, looking for close-to-perfect matches with DNA from crime scenes. A partial match with a convicted criminal could implicate a brother or daughter or father of the convict. Such searches, advocates say, constitute a powerful law enforcement tool that, experts say, could increase by 40 percent the number of suspects identified through DNA. As things stand in some states, lab analysts who discover a potential suspect in this way may not be permitted to share that information with investigators. Such a policy, said William Fitzpatrick, a New York state district attorney, "is insanity. It's disgraceful. If I've got something of scientific value that I can't share because of imaginary privacy concerns, it's crazy. That's how we solve crimes." It's not insanity--it's called privacy, but in this day and age, who cares, right?

No shit, Sherlock: Terrorists are actively studying U.S. aviation security to find ways to get around our systems -- Transportation Security boss Kip Hawley told CBS News. Hawley says the ongoing trial of eight British men who plotted to blow up multiple U.S.-bound aircraft in August 2006 shows that U.S. aviation security must be agile and must evolve to stay ahead of terrorists. The men are accused of planning to use liquid bombs assembled from components sneaked past security in sports drinks bottles. That plot led to the ban on water bottles and other containers of shampoo and toiletries in carry-on baggage. Of course, it might have just been bullshit.

Consumers should watch this story unfold: Congressional lawmakers of both parties have found something to agree on: The credit card industry, they say, has evolved beyond the scope of regulations intended to protect consumers, and it requires reining in. Where they differ is how to do it. House Democrats are pushing legislation -- the Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights, sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) -- that would force card companies to disclose looming rate increases, eliminate confusing fees and cease the retroactive application of hiked rates to existing balances. Republicans, siding with the banks, prefer to leave the task of reform to federal regulators, who are in the process of crafting new rules for the industry. The debate highlights the difference in each party's approach to business oversight, as lawmakers aim to modernize federal rules governing the highly influential banking industry.

Yeah, why should we? Why bother? That really is the big question facing us as individuals hoping to do something about climate change, and it’s not an easy one to answer. I don’t know about you, but for me the most upsetting moment in “An Inconvenient Truth” came long after Al Gore scared the hell out of me, constructing an utterly convincing case that the very survival of life on earth as we know it is threatened by climate change. No, the really dark moment came during the closing credits, when we are asked to . . . change our light bulbs. That’s when it got really depressing. The immense disproportion between the magnitude of the problem Gore had described and the puniness of what he was asking us to do about it was enough to sink your heart.

But on a positive note, we sure are buying a lot of Hybrids: Sales of hybrids increased 38% in 2007, and the trend shows no sign of letting up. I called a couple of dealerships in my area and was told by a couple of salesmen that people are doing their homework and educating themselves before they walk onto the lot. "Gone are the days that I can sell a car because it's a shade of blue that sets off her eyes," said the sales rep I spoke to. A salesman at a Toyota dealership told me that if consumer demand stays at this level or increases, he predicts that every new car will be a hybrid in a decades time.

And guess what else! Going green won't bankrupt us! Having lost the battle on the science front, the climate change contrarians have switched talking points, insisting that we still can't do anything about it because it would lead to economic ruin. Alas, no...they get to loose on that front, too. Economic forecasting models indicate that their economic fearmongering is as unfounded as their science-denying was wrong.

Patrick McHenry should maybe just let it go You remember McHenry - he is the two-bit congressman from North Carolina who called a sentry in the Green Zone a "two bit security guard" for turning him away from the gym because he didn't have proper credentials. Now he is threatening to sue his primary opponent for making hay - and an attack ad - out of the incident.

Former Bush Justice Dept. official due in court Tuesday to face charges of accepting gifts on a quid pro quo arrangement from an aide to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Prosecutors filed papers with the court indicating that Robert E. Coughlin II, the former deputy chief of staff of the department's criminal division, would be pleading guilty.

Tainted Heparin identified in 11 countries
U.S. officials on Monday announced that they had established a clear link between the contaminant and 81 deaths in the United States. China disputes the assertion and wants to inspect the facility in the United States where the final product was assembled and packaged.

Life expectancy declines in poor counties
while life expectancy is at an all-time high when considering the overall population of the United States, there is a tragic trend of declining expectancy among the rural poor in Appalachia, the Mississippi Valley and parts of Texas. Smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure are killing both genders, in impoverished pockets throughout the country, but women appear to be more affected than men, suffering sharper declines in life expectancy and suffering strokes that compromise quality of life at a higher rate than men as well.

[Tonight's roundup was a joint effort by Pale Rider and Blue Girl]