Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

OK, now what? After one spectacular failure, the $700 billion financial industry bailout found a second life Wednesday, passing in the Senate and gaining ground in the House where conservative opposition seemed to soften. Bipartisan supporters rallied around a unity theme - a stark contrast to the political bickering that marked Monday's shocking House defeat...Senators loaded the economic rescue bill with tax breaks and other sweeteners for the right and left, hoping to secure approval in the House by Friday.

This means the bigfoot got at him, yep: A hiker in rugged eastern California found an ID and other items possibly belonging to Steve Fossett, the adventurer missing more than a year since going on a pleasure flight in a borrowed plane, authorities said Wednesday. The items were found in the area of the town of Mammoth Lakes, Inyo National Forest spokeswoman Nancy Upham said. "We have some ID that has the name Steve Fossett," Mammoth Lakes police Investigator Crystal Schafer said. "They were turned in to us and are in our possession."

Mehsud about to be history? The leader of Pakistan's increasingly bold Taliban movement is very ill, but intelligence officials in the United States and Pakistan have cast doubt on reports that Baitullah Mehsud may have died. Mehsud is only in his mid to late thirties, but is believed to suffer from multiple health issues, including diabetes and kidney problems.

You better keep up with demand, Congress: The Web site for the House of Representatives has been overwhelmed this week by a deluge of visitors trying to e-mail their congressmen and download the financial bailout bill the House rejected Monday. The site on Monday saw three to four times its normal traffic, according to Jeff Ventura, a spokesman for the House chief administrative officer. The traffic has slowed down the site and made it inaccessible to some, a problem that continued into Tuesday morning. "It's extraordinary -- the highest level of Web traffic we've seen," Ventura said Tuesday. "This doesn't even compare to the release of the 9-11 Commission Report." Those annoying E-mail generators from advocacy groups don't help.

If you study the genes of mice, you'll get a pretty good idea of how humans have migrated: A paper published in a Royal Society journal analyses the genetic make-up of house mice from more than 100 locations across the UK. It shows that one distinct strain most probably arrived with the Vikings. Rodents from Orkney are among those helping the scientists. It has been shown that mice from the islands have a DNA signature similar to their Scandinavian relations. But this house mice (Mus musculus domesticus) were also found in areas around the Atlantic coast of Europe reached by the Norse explorers, said Professor Jeremy Searle, from York University. "If we look at the genetic patterning of the mice, we find they have patterning that very much relates to human history; and so we get a particular genetic type of mouse that is found in the region where the Norwegian Vikings operated," he told BBC News.

When was the last time you thought about the Bhopal disaster? There are no takers for the toxic waste left behind at the site of the world's worst industrial accident. In the early hours of 3 December 1984, a toxic chemical leaked from a pesticide plant then run by the US company, Union Carbide, in the city of Bhopal in India's northern state of Madhya Pradesh. Nearly 3,000 people died on the night of the leak. There have been at least 15,000 related deaths since. For the last 24 years, 390 metric tonnes of the waste has been lying on the premises of the now defunct plant - and no way has yet been found to dispose of it safely.

It needs IT professionals, NOT hackers...The U.S. military needs a two-edged cyber capability that can not only defend its .mil and .smil domains from outside attacks but, if necessary, launch cyber attacks against intruders. To do that, the individual services need to recruit and train more cyber-qualified personnel, Air Force Gen. Kevin Chilton, chief the U.S. Strategic Command, said today. The military is dependent on its .mil and .smil domains for everything from e-mail exchanges to employment of its nuclear arsenal. StratCom’s vast portfolio includes operating and defending those domains. The importance, Chilton said, is self-evident. “On your worst day, you want to be able to make sure that the military network still works so that you can effect either the defense of the United States ... or an offensive action, should they be required,” Chilton said in a meeting with Military Times reporters and editors. "Hackers" are not the answer. Finding the IT professionals who can run circles around "hackers" is what you need to do. Or, better yet--train them and retain them.

Fort Hood, Texas dealing with surge in troop deaths: Army officials are investigating how a soldier died in his Fort Hood barracks, the latest in a string of deaths at the Central Texas post the past two months. Cpl. Scott Vickrey, 23, of Fayetteville, Ark., was found unconscious Sunday night by his squad leader and was pronounced dead after medical services personnel arrived, according to Fort Hood officials. His cause of death has not been determined. A U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division official did not immediately return calls to The Associated Press on Wednesday seeking comment about Vickrey’s death or several others. At least six deaths have been reported since late July at the sprawling post that’s home to about 52,000 troops.

Maryland State Police found to have overstepped bounds while watching activists: A report has concluded the Maryland State Police intruded on the ability of law-abiding residents to express themselves freely by conducting surveillance of anti-war and death-penalty opposition groups. The review of the 14-month surveillance in 2005 and 2006 was conducted by former Maryland Attorney General Stephen Sachs. He spoke about the findings in Annapolis with Gov. Martin O'Malley and Maryland State Police Superintendent Col. Terrence Sheridan. Sachs says he found that police investigators believed they were seeking to protect the public from potential disturbances through the surveillance, but they failed to consider its impact on civil liberties.

Suspicions raised about US AFRICOM: The U.S. Africa Command, the Pentagon's first effort to unite its counterterrorism, training and humanitarian operations on the continent, launches Wednesday amid questions at home about its mission and deep suspicions in Africa about its intentions. U.S. officials have billed the new command, known as Africom, as a sign of Africa's strategic importance, but many in Africa see it as an unwelcome expansion of the U.S.-led war on terrorism and a bid to secure greater access to the continent's vast oil resources. Several countries have refused to host the command, and officials say Africom will be based in Stuttgart, Germany, for the foreseeable future. U.S.-based aid groups and some in Congress have expressed worries that Africom will tilt U.S policy in Africa away from democracy-building and economic development and toward security objectives such as stemming the growth of militant Islamist groups in Somalia and North Africa, some of which have ties to al Qaida.

Another discovery: An industrial chemical blamed for sickening thousands of infants in China was found in candy in four Connecticut stores this week, a state official said Wednesday. Days after contaminated White Rabbit Creamy Candy was found in California, Connecticut Consumer Protection Commissioner Jerry Farrell Jr. said tests found melamine in bags of the candy sold at two New Haven stores, a West Hartford market and an East Haven store.

Will the bailout make things worse? The bailout, I mean rescue plan, can be seen as nothing less than a new Ponzi scheme. It works like this: Fed as only lender, in an attempt to keep the financial system from imploding; TARP needed to keep Fed balance sheet intact so that it can continue as only lender; Treasury will need to significantly increase the amount of Ts (public money) auctioned to fund TARP; Panic serves to encourage T. buyers, especially for bills; This represents a liquidity trap: TARP recipients of Ts will hoard cash to buy Ts: rinse and repeat. This results in drying up of lending to corporations/crowding out private capital - no new credit lines; The Fed becomes a holder of private capital, the later of which is now frozen to protect that capital from deteriorating, The rollover scheme will restrict even more lending in the private sphere for purposes of keeping the financial sphere on life support, but with the consequence of furthering the deterioration of the 'real' economy.