Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Bioenergy: Fuelling the food crisis?

The biofuel debate is electrifying the UN food price crisis summit in Rome, pitting nations against each other and risking transforming bioenergy - once hailed as the ultimate green fuel - into the villain of the piece, the root cause behind global food price spikes.

Somalis burn tyres and throw stones at a demonstration in Mogadishu against record-high inflation  (file picture)
Food price rises have caused political unrest in 30 countries

Biofuel uses the energy contained in organic matter - crops like sugarcane and corn - to produce ethanol, an alternative to fossil-based fuels like petrol.

But campaigners claim the heavily subsidised biofuel industry is fundamentally immoral, diverting land which should be producing food to fill human stomachs to produce fuel for car engines.

They say the growth of biofuels has had a distorting ripple effect on other food crop markets.

It takes the same amount of grain to fill an SUV with ethanol as it does to feed a person - we don't want any more subsidies for biofuels
Barbara Stocking
Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Director General Jacques Diouf agrees.

He says it is incomprehensible that "$11bn-$12bn (£5.6bn-£6.1bn) a year in subsidies and protective tariff policies have the effect of diverting 100 million tonnes of cereals from human consumption, mostly to satisfy a thirst for vehicles".

It is a viewpoint shared by Oxfam's Barbara Stocking, who told the BBC News website: "It takes the same amount of grain to fill an SUV with ethanol as it does to feed a person. We don't want any more subsidies for biofuels. This rush to biofuels is absolutely dreadful."

Blame game

Yet the exact ranking of responsibility for the food price rises which have caused political unrest in 30 countries and plunged many into hunger is hotly disputed.

No-one denies that biofuels have a role, but the figures on the sector's inflationary pressure vary wildly from just 3% to 30%.

The US, Brazil and the EU - the main players on the biofuel stage - maintain that soaring energy costs should shoulder a much larger portion of blame.

"Biofuels are not the villain menacing food security in poor countries," Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva told assembled heads of state in Rome.

Brazil's tropical climate allows the country to efficiently grow sugarcane for ethanol production, which now provides 40% of the country's transport fuel.

"I am sorry to see that many of those who blame ethanol - including ethanol from sugarcane - for the high price of food are the same ones who for decades have maintained protectionist policies to the detriment of farmers in poor countries and of consumers in the entire world."

The US, which heavily subsidises corn cultivation for ethanol, insists that biofuels account for "only 2-3% of the food price increases".

"We recognise that biofuels have an impact, but the real issue is about energy, increased consumption and weather-related issues in grain-producing countries," US Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said.

Bitter aftertaste?

But research from the Washington-based agricultural policy think tank, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), has come to very different conclusions.

"We've done some analysis looking at the contribution of biofuels demand on cereals prices indexes. We found that for the price increase from 2006-2007, we attribute about 30% to biofuels," explains the institute's biofuels expert, Mark Rosegrant.

"The most direct effect is the diversion of land from corn, sugarcane and other crops to biofuels instead of food and seed that also shifts land out of other crops, sometimes out of rice and wheat. Once the price of corn starts going up, there was some shift from poor consumers in Africa to alternatives like rice."

But all experts are at pains to highlight that the biofuel situation in Brazil and the US is very different.

Brazil, where sugarcane thrives, produces 19 billion litres (five billion gallons) of the total 52 billion litres of ethanol generated each year.

Their industry, which began 30 years ago, is highly developed, and the country has also introduced a successful tax incentive scheme to help small-scale rural farmers and ensure the profits from the ethanol sector are not concentrated.

Non-conventional crops

"The impacts are just so diverse, but there are some general patterns," FAO agricultural economist Keith Wiebe said.

"Studies tend to show that sugarcane used for ethanol in Brazil is the best performer - sugar is high in energy, Brazil is an efficient manufacturer and they actually burn the residue too."

He says Brazilian-produced ethanol, generated from sugarcane, emits between 80%-90% less carbon than petrol.

"But corn in the US is a different commodity, produced in a system that uses more fuel and fertiliser. Finally, when the crop is converted, lots of the energy comes from fossil fuels. Corn-based ethanol still does reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but only by 10%-30% less than fossil fuels."

Corn for ethanol remains a central plank of US agricultural and energy policy. The 2007 Energy Bill quintuples the country's biofuels target to 35 billion gallons by 2022.

The US continues to heavily sustain its corn-for-ethanol industry, paying out 50 cents a gallon for each of its 27 billion litres of ethanol produced.

Combined with farming subsidies, the ethanol sector receives a total of some $6bn in support each year. But the real hope, analysts say, lies not in conventional food crops, but so-called second-generation biofuels, which can be cultivated with little water and few fertilisers on marginal land that will not compete with food crops.

Researchers are looking at crops like jatropha, for example, already experimented with in India, as holding hope for a future free from the stark choice between food or fuel.

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Instant Messaging Proves Useful In Reducing Workplace Interruption

Employers seeking to decrease interruptions may want to have their workers use instant messaging software, a new study suggests. A recent study by researchers at Ohio State University and University of California, Irvine found that workers who used instant messaging on the job reported less interruption than colleagues who did not.

The study challenges the widespread belief that instant messaging leads to an increase in disruption. Some researchers have speculated that workers would use instant messaging in addition to the phone and e-mail, leading to increased interruption and reduced productivity.

Instead, research showed that instant messaging was often used as a substitute for other, more disruptive forms of communication such as the telephone, e-mail, and face-to-face conversations. Using instant messaging led to more conversations on the computer, but the conversations were briefer, said R. Kelly Garrett, co-author of the study and assistant professor of communication at Ohio State.

“The key take away is that instant messaging has some benefits where many people had feared that it might be harmful,” Garrett said.

“We found that the effect of instant messaging is actually positive. People who used instant messaging reported that they felt they were being interrupted less frequently.”

The study involved 912 people who worked at least 30 hours per week in an office and used a computer for at least five hours in a workday. Randomly selected participants from 12 metropolitan areas took a telephone survey between May and September 2006. The results were published recently in the Journal of Computer Mediated Communication.

The key to unlocking the effects of instant messaging lies in how people are using the technology, Garrett said.

Instead of dropping in unexpectedly, many are using the technology to check in with coworkers to see when they are available. Many also use the technology to get quick answers to general questions or to inquire about current work tasks instead of engaging in longer face-to-face conversations.

“We find that employees are quite strategic in their use of instant messaging. They are using it to check in with their colleagues to find out if they’re busy before interrupting them in a more intrusive way,” Garrett said.

Because of its unique setup, instant messaging allows users to control how and when they communicate with coworkers. The technology gives people the ability to flag their availability or postpone responses to a more convenient time, and because it is socially acceptable to ignore or dismiss a message, many use the technology to put off more disruptive conversations, he said.

“People see a new technology and they are innovative in how they use it. They will tailor their use of the technology to their needs and their expectations. And with IM, people had enough time to learn about the technology at home and to find ways to use it productively,” Garrett said.

“It is not the case that people are engaging in extensive conversations or trying to resolve complex problems over this very limited medium. Instead, people are using the technology to solicit answers to quick questions from colleagues and coordinate their conversations at more convenient times,” he said.

Ease of use and similarities to e-mail could foster greater acceptance of instant messaging in the workplace. And while the study provides clear evidence that instant messaging can be used successfully in the workplace, Garrett said the technology will not likely be as widely used as e-mail.

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FedEx to Rename Kinko's, Record $696 Million in Costs (Update2)

FedEx Corp., the largest air-cargo shipper, will record a cost of $696 million to rename the Kinko's unit as FedEx Office to win more large business customers.

The non-cash charge of $2.22 a share will be taken in the fiscal fourth quarter, which ended on May 31, FedEx said today in a statement. The cost, linked to use of the Kinko's name and goodwill from the unit's 2004 acquisition, will be $891 million before taxes, the Memphis, Tennessee-based company said.

The change follows FedEx's decision in December to slow expansion of the office-supply and copy unit to about 70 outlets in fiscal 2009 from 300 in 2008. FedEx Kinko's accounted for about $1.59 billion in sales, or 5.6 percent of FedEx's total, through the first nine months of the fiscal year.

``Kinko's is an acquisition they have struggled with in many ways since the beginning,'' said Donald Broughton, an Avondale Partners LLC analyst who has a ``buy'' rating on FedEx. ``They are very marketing savvy, so they will tweak the branding of their service offerings.''

By lowering the value of the purchase, FedEx will improve its reported return on equity, Broughton said in an interview. The non-cash charge also ``will not affect cash flows and should not change the stock price,'' he said.

FedEx acquired the chain to gain access to small shippers who pay higher prices, to make it easier for them to use FedEx and to compete with the UPS Stores of United Parcel Service Inc., the largest package-delivery company.

There are about 1,900 FedEx Office locations worldwide, up from 1,200 when FedEx bought Kinko's for $2.4 billion.

`Back Office'

``The name FedEx Office more accurately represents our broader role of providing superior information and services,'' Brian Philips, the unit's chief executive officer, said in the statement. ``We are a back office for small businesses and a branch office for medium to large businesses and mobile professionals.''

FedEx today also boosted its quarterly dividend to 11 cents a share from 10 cents, the first increase since February 2007. The dividend is payable July 1 to stockholders of record as of June 13.

FedEx fell $1.06 to $90.65 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading today. The shares have risen 1.7 percent this year.

The Kinko's purchase was too expensive, said Broughton, who is based in Nashville, Tennessee.

``It's not that it's not a nice addition to the product and it's not that t hasn't worked,'' Broughton said. ``It's that they paid $2.4 billion for 1,200 storefronts. Kinko's isn't worth $2 million a storefront.''

To contact the reporter on this story: Mary Schlangenstein in Dallas at

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Credit card rewards are a real rip off

What has your rewards card done for you lately? Not much most likely.

NEW YORK ( -- You got burned with frequent flier miles, which were nearly impossible to redeem and hardly worth the hassle, so credit card issuers turned to other kinds of incentives to entice you to charge more. But most rewards programs aren't much better, and consumers are still eager to sign up for them despite the same old traps.

About 85 percent of U.S. households participate in at least one rewards program, according to a study released Monday by Consumer Reports. And though rewards do spur consumers to spend more, the study found that confusing rules and restrictions make most reward cards more trouble than they're worth.

"They make it 100 times more complicated," said a former marketing executive at CitiCards, referring to the popular rewards programs. For example, when you read the fine print, you might find that some rewards are limited to certain brands, or expire if not used within a certain timeframe.

Of the different reward cards available, the most popular programs are cash back, where customers receive a percentage of expenditures back in either a check or money off of their next bill. Other reward cards rack up "points" which can be redeemed for various items, or offer people discounts at certain hotels, stores, restaurants and gas stations.

And while cash back, gas and grocery rewards credit cards can offer some relief for costly essential items, they often carry higher annual percentage rates than traditional credit cards, Consumer Reports said. Looking at some of the more generous credit card rewards programs, the study found that rates varied from 9.74% to as much as 19.99%.

"If the rates are high, the cost to carry a balance will often erase any savings the rewards program may offer," said Amanda Walker, senior project editor at Consumer Reports.

Some reward cards also carry annual fees, making it even less likely that consumers will come out ahead. And even the more generous programs have limits on how much consumers can earn in rewards, not to mention looming deadlines by which the rewards must be used.

And in addition to the complicated rules, fees and higher interest rates, customers are leaving unused rewards on the table. More than 41 percent of reward cardholders either rarely or never even bother to use their rewards, said a 2006 survey by GMAC Mortgage and Harris Interactive.

To avoid the pitfalls and get the most back from your card, Consumer Reports offers these tips:

Consider where you shop. Opt for cards that will earn rewards at stores and services you use most often, or offer savings on items that you actually buy regularly. Airline and hotel discounts, for example, are not particularly useful for those who aren't frequent travelers.

Project your spending. Figure out how much you're likely to spend, and translate that into cash back or points, depending on which program your card uses. For points, figure out how many you need to get the rewards you want. Make sure to subtract the annual fee, if your card has one. If you realize that you'd have to spend a small fortune to earn only a tiny reward, try another card.

Favor cash back. Points often end up unused - a plus for the credit card companies who got you to spend more without having to give you anything in return. But cash back accumulates without you actually having to do anything. Plus, Consumer Reports found that cash back cards tend to offer better rewards than point equivalents.

Skip credit if you carry a balance. If you don't pay your bills of in full, you may want to pass on the rewards cards altogether. Because rewards cards often have higher interest rates, you may end up paying much more in interest than you reap in rewards.

Do the math on do-good programs. Do-gooders might be enticed by cards that give rewards to charity. But they usually pay very low rates - about 25 to 50 cents for every $100 you charge. You're probably better off going with the cash back, and then sending money to a charity yourself. You'll end up with a larger donation - and a tax deduction.

Use airline miles fast. If you do still use airline miles and manage to save up enough for a trip, make sure to use them right away. Airlines are always changing their redemption rules, and considering how much the big carriers are struggling these days, holding onto unused miles can cost you.

Avoid temptation. Research has shown that credit card customers are tempted to charge more in order to earn points toward a reward such as new digital camera or set of golf clubs. But overspending for a "freebie" often doesn't pay.

Are you buried under a pile of debt and need help getting out? Did you recently manage to pull yourself out of debt and want to share your story? Tell us about your experience with debt and how the current credit crisis is affecting you. Send us your photos and videos, or email us to share your story. To top of page

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Whatever Happened to Whatever Happened to the Bees?

One year ago, the world was transfixed by the unexplained collapse of honeybee colonies in North America and Europe. Doom was predicted for entire sectors of global agriculture. And then we forgot about it.

Perhaps "forgot" is a bit harsh; the public's attention simply shifted, as is natural, and grocery store shelves are still stocked. But that doesn't mean Colony Collapse Disorder has gone away. On the contrary, as a recent spate of one-year-later news stories show, bee colonies suffered an unusually high winter die-off; beekeepers are scrambling to sustain colonies; and nobody's yet figured out what's killing the bees, but the causes may be many and intertwined: viruses, pesticides, stress, fungus, parasites.

Exacerbating the problem is the nature of modern beekeeping. If any lesson stuck in our collective consciousness after last summer's concerns, it's of the reliance of U.S. agriculture on commercial beekeepers and the reality of beekeeping as an industry that's no more natural than a high-density feedlot. For a description of these conditions and a nice roundup of the story until now, read this Guardian article by Alison Benjamin, co-author of A World Without Bees.

Original here and Wikipedia attack truth and promote anti Semitic hate

To clear some stuff up. I was kicked out by a moderator from because he didn’t like the views I was posting. I was not spamming. To think the hate from forums like do not translate to real life read my latest post. Seattle Court rules it is Okay to shoot Jews: A jihadi who shoot 6 will screaming “Death to Jews!” gets a mistrial America is no longer safe for Jews

UPDATE: WOW it looks like this is now on the front page. All the Obama supporters check this out CHANGE– Obama Plays Pretend At AIPAC Today OBAMA still hates Jews and Israel

UPDATE: It looks like this post has been dugg called “How Israeli Activists Cheat on Digg In their own words” which I find strange considering the fact that the pro jihadis are the ones gaming digg by reporting their opposition as spam and getting them kicked off digg. The 3rd party tool some one left in my comments doesn’t help anyone cheat it just show the bias. Diggers don’t for get to read my solution to the “Palestine” problem.

When searching for something in a search engine wikipedia and stories are usually the first results. It looks as if anti-Semitic moderators at these two sites are trying to rewrite history with anti-Israeli lies. It is important to do what ever we can in order to prevent jihadi propaganda from brainwashing billions of internet users. Do what you can to help win this war against influential misdirected moderators that control the flow of information.

Honest Reporting has the story about what is going on at wikipedia. It looks like the moderators are going after people that are trying to correct the anti-Semitic lies and anti Israel propaganda. I have personally experience the same disgraceful moderation and uncheck hated of jews and the truth at just see what readers have to say about the wikipedia story. It is scary. I highly recommend reading what Honest Reporting wrotes but I think Honest Reporting is being too civil in response to the problem.

continue reading to hear more about more problems with .

For the last three years I have been trying to combat the anti-Semetic bigots on It got so bad over the last six months that I spent more then two hours a day building up like minded people and creating a collation to combat stories and comments ranging from out right lies about Israel to blood liable to blaming the Jews for all the worlds problems including 9-11.

Two months ago I was kicked out but it was understandable because I was posting muliti paragraph responses and multiple links to clear up misinformation in one comment thread. I was given an option to restore my account, after I complained. But I didn’t want to admit that I was braking the terms of service with the site because I saw so many promoting baseless hatred of the jewish people and jihadi propaganda use the same approach. I also had hundreds of electro-jihadis (extreme leftist and fundamentalist muslims from around the world using electronic means to spread hatred of Jews, Israel, and America, in an attempt to brainwash and demoralize others so Radical Islam can be established world wide) following me, so I decieded to start out fresh.

I changed my practices. I didn’t post multi paragraph responses and I only put one or two different links to overcome jihadi counter points per story. However, yesterday I was kicked out of I was for sure not breaking the terms of service. I posted links to a story showing Hamas’s support of Obama. It looks like the moderators don’t care when people say Hitler was right and put links blaming jews for all the worlds problems, but they do care if one wants to show a different light on someone who they support. When I asked why this time I got a response saying that I was breaking the terms of service and that the decision was final. Keep in mind electro-jihadis post several times more links in the comment section were not banned.

I conclude the only reason I was banned is the ideological values of the moderators. But I might be wrong in regards to being banned for that Obama link because I also left links in different stories ranging form refuting charge that the Israel Lobby is responsible for the war in Iraq, to posting link in a story pointing out how people calling Israel founding a catastrophe are misguided.

I am starting to document disgusting comments with screen shoots. I am trying to capture the hate-filled comments next to the advertisements on the page. I think it is important for companies to know what there product is being associated with. It is the advisors that are supporting the hate and paying the salaries of the misguided, jihadi, or just plain evil moderators.

Once I get enough screen shoots I am going to make a short video and lead a campaign to persuade companies to not help fund the hate-fest at I could use some help in collecting screen shots and ideas for the short. I am also looking for a good voice for voice overs. Leave a comment if you have a good voice and a microphone. I don’t have the best voice and it is easy to send audio files these days. and wikipedia need fair and unbiased moderators that will ban electro-jihadis not people that are trying to correct them. Wikipedia and get top search results. The lies being told at these sites due to poor moderation gives miss information to the billions of internet users that could read these lies and be mislead.

It is important to do something now before it is too late. This amount of miss information if it goes unchecked will result in another holocaust.

UPDATE: It seems as if has blocked my IP address from logging in.

UPDATE: A new story on the front page of that looks like a chapter from the protocols of the elders of zion

Original here

2016 Summer Olympics finalists

Chicago has advanced to the final phase of the contest to become host city of the 2016 Summer Olympics, although it has ground to make up on its three remaining rivals before the International Olympic Committee's 110 members choose the winner Oct. 2, 2009.

The IOC executive committee decided Wednesday to eliminate three of the original seven bidders, Prague; Doha, Qatar; and Baku, Azerbaijan. That leaves Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, Madrid and Tokyo.

Wednesday's decision was based on evaluations in a report made by an IOC working group. Chicago wound up tied for third with Doha in the rankings. Tokyo placed highest -- followed by Madrid -- with Rio in fifth. The IOC executive board used the rankings as guidance rather than ultimate selection criteria.

"This is a key hurdle to have passed,'' said Bob Ctvrtlik, the U.S. Olympic Committee vice-president for international relations. "Now the bid committee and the city and the USOC and the nation have to unite behind Chicago.''

From information provided by each city, the bids were ranked overall and in 11 areas on a 10-point maximum. Chicago ranked no higher than second in any of the 11 and fifth in three: government support, legal issues and public opinion; sports venues; and transport concept.

To put that in perspective, 2012 Summer Games host London finished third overall behind Paris and Madrid in the rankings at the same stage of the process.''

"We know where we are strong, and we know where we are weak,'' Ctvrtlik said. "We respect the analysis that has been done.''

Both the USOC and Chicago 2016 officials expected the report to show concerns about transport, given the aged nature of the city's subway and bus systems, and finance, since the U.S. is the only country where the games cost is not completely guaranteed by government entities.

Those concerns were well founded.

The report was particularly hard on Chicago's transport. It cited inconsistencies in the amount the city planned to spend on road and transit projects and said the many sports venues along Lake Michigan are well connected to Lake Shore Drive but not close to rail lines and stations.

"The working group had difficulty in identifying the location of transport projects and therefore assessing the coherence between transport projects and the Olympic Games concept,'' the report said.

The low grade in sports venues came from the working group's worry that four major venues require private funding and "the construction budgets appear low.''

The report also noted that the wording of Chicago's guarantee does not fully conform with the Olympic Charter, which demands the host city and Olympic organizing committee assume all financial responsibility for putting on the Games.

Chicago has come up with a $1.15 billion guarantee against operations, including $500 million from the city, $500 million in projected operating surplus and a $150 million pledge from the state, which has not been approved yet.

The finalists immediately can begin international promotion of their bids, through advertising, interaction with global media and lobbying of IOC members.

The next formal event in the bid campaign takes place at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where each finalist will send observer teams to learn first-hand how a Summer Games runs, to assess how they can use the pluses and minuses of China's organization to improve their own candidature -- and to chat up IOC members.

"We will take full advantage of the opportunity to spend the full time in Beijing for the Olympics and Paralympics,'' said Patrick Ryan, chairman of the Chicago 2016 bid committee.

"Every candidate city will be there and wanting to communicate as much as they can about their city and their bid -- as much as IOC members are willing to take the time to listen to.''

Since the goal is to convince a majority of IOC members rather than the global public that Chicago's bid is the best, the impact of advertising is diminished.

"We would also like to convince other people of sport who have influence with IOC members,'' Ryan said. "People in (international sports) federations. People in national Olympic committees.''

After Beijing, the cities begin working in earnest on the "bid book'' -- a highly detailed candidature file that generally runs to 400 pages. That file must be submitted to the IOC by Feb. 12, 2009.

The IOC will then send an evaluation commission for three-day visits to each city, likely next April and May. That commission prepares a report released a month before the final vote. It does not contain an official ranking of the candidates.

Since the IOC banned members from making inspection visits to candidate cities -- except for business or personal matters -- in the wake of the bid city vote-buying scandal that erupted in 1998, many cities have been frustrated in trying to overcome their unfamiliarity to many IOC members.

That is an issue for Chicago. Ryan said fewer than 25 percent of the members have visited Chicago, and Mayor Richard M. Daley told the Tribune Monday the city's "profile was very important.''

In April, IOC president Jacques Rogge said that to alleviate the familiarity issue, all candidate cities and IOC members would be invited to a meeting at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland some time next year, probably late spring.

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Appeals court stays execution for Harris County killer

Derrick Juan Sonnier was sentenced to die for the 1991 stabbing deaths of Melody Flowers, 27, and her 2-year-old son, Patrick.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice

HUNTSVILLE — Two last-minute appeals filed today halted Texas' first planned execution after a nine-month hiatus.

The Court of Criminal Appeals granted the stay after attorneys for the Texas Defender Service took up Derrick Juan Sonnier's case in the last few days. The length of the stay has not been determined.

The 40-year-old was sentenced to die for the 1991 stabbing deaths of Melody Flowers, 27, and her 2-year-old son, Patrick.

The Texas Defender Service submitted an appeal arguing that the state recently made changes to its three-drug cocktail protocol. The changes have not been reviewed by any court. The second appeal also contends the lethal injection protocol violates the constitutional prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. That contention has not been addressed by Texas courts after a Kentucky decision.

Michelle Lyons, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said the protocol had not changed. Prison officials, however, made changes to internal written procedures in light of the Supreme Court's ruling on lethal injection in April, which upheld the procedure used in Texas and dozens of other states.

The state, for example, added the minimum amount of training executioners receive.

"We clarified in writing what we were already doing," Lyons said, "The protocol remains the same."

If the execution had occurred, Sonnier would have been the first Texan to be put to death since September, when the Supreme Court took up a Kentucky case that challenged the constitutionality of the lethal injection process. Sonnier had been scheduled to die in February, but prosecutors set aside that date to await the high court's ruling.

Two of Flowers' daughters and other family members had planned to witness today's execution.

On Sept. 16, 1991, police found Flowers in the tub of her Humble apartment.

The single mother of five had been bludgeoned with a claw hammer, raped, strangled and stabbed. Her body was dumped in the partially filled bathtub. The stabbed body of her toddler, Patrick, was on top of her.

Sonnier was dating one of Flowers' close friends and lived near Flowers and her children. Authorities said Sonnier had stalked Flowers for months, once even slipping into her apartment when she was not home.

The day of the murders, neighbors reported seeing Sonnier with a wounded hand wrapped in a towel. In his apartment, where Sonnier lived with his girlfriend, police found Flowers' bloody blouse and a blood-soaked towel that also belonged to her.

Police later found a grocery bag stashed in a field near the complex that had his bloody socks, shoes, and other items that connected him to the crime.

Sonnier has maintained his innocence in the case.

Original here

Helped establish 'don't ask, don't tell'

Scholar advised Joint Chiefs of Staff on compromise policy allowing homosexuals to serve in military

As one of the world's foremost military sociologists, Charles Moskos had the ear of top-ranking American generals and powerful politicians.

His "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding the service of homosexuals in the military may be what's known about him by the general population, but it's a small part of the legacy of the popular Northwestern University professor, his colleagues said.

Under the policy, gays and lesbians may serve only if they keep their sexual orientation private and do not engage in homosexual acts.

Dr. Moskos' research examined the modern military experience in unprecedented detail, gleaned in part from his ease with the rank-and-file soldiers.

"He truly had an impact on the military," said Gen. Wesley Clark in a statement. "He gave many of us the reassurance that someone out there knew us, cared about us and could help see our best interests as a nation and a military were looked after."

A colleague, Wendell Bell, professor emeritus of sociology at Yale University and Dr. Moskos' graduate thesis adviser, said, "He could bond with anybody: a raw recruit or a general or even someone very high up in the Pentagon; sugar cane workers, prime minsters or professors."

Dr. Moskos, 74, died of cancer Saturday, May 31, in his home in Santa Monica, Calif., his family said.

Born to Greek immigrants on the Near West Side of Chicago, Dr. Moskos was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1956 after graduating from Princeton University with a degree in sociology. The two years he spent with the military would go on to influence the bulk of his professional career.

"He was very proud to be an enlisted man," said his wife of 41 years, Ilca. "Whenever somebody on the street would call him sir, he'd say, 'Don't call me sir, I work for a living.' "

After his military service, Dr. Moskos worked toward a doctorate at UCLA, where he studied new governments in the Caribbean with Bell. But after obtaining his PhD in sociology, he returned to his primary interest—the people and policies of the U.S. armed services.

"He was mainly concerned with military people and military institutions and how people could serve their country," said John Allen Williams, professor of political science at Loyola University Chicago. "As an enlisted person himself who was drafted, he felt the elite of this country should be willing to give back to the country in some measure of what the country had given them, in either military or civilian service."

Dr. Moskos' research ranged from the process of racial integration in the armed services, to the various motivations for soldiers to enlist in the military, to the relationship between the civilian and military spheres after the end of the Cold War, Williams said. Far from the stereotype of the aloof, sheltered academician, Dr. Moskos collected his data by talking directly to soldiers stationed abroad, sometimes in the thick of war.

"He was a military ethnographer; his phrase was, give me a hard anecdote over a squishy statistic every day," Williams said.

"His real empathy was with the rank and file, having been a grunt himself," said Allen Schnaiberg, a professor emeritus in sociology at NU. "He really felt he had a unique perspective to offer, and he was both sympathetic and actually quite courageous in putting himself at risk by putting himself out with the troops."

Dr. Moskos' work earned him the position of advising the highest-ranking officials in the U.S. military and several awards, including the Distinguished Service Medal, the highest honor the Army awards to civilians.

Though he also helped design the public service organization AmeriCorps and studied Greek-Americans, Dr. Moskos' most noted contribution was to advise the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, enacted into law by Congress in 1993. Though the measure attracted controversy, Dr. Moskos defended it as a compromise that was essential given the attitudes of the soldiers he had interviewed.

"Charlie was not afraid of controversy," Williams said. "He didn't seek it out, and his goal was to find areas of common agreement and to do so in a way that was respectful of others, but he was a person of very strong principle; he wasn't going to surrender principle to reach a false consensus."

Many of those who debated Dr. Moskos on the "don't ask, don't tell" policy and other issues ended up befriending him, his colleagues and family said.

"He had this gift of talking to people on the extreme opposition and yet they could remain friends," his wife said.

Dr. Moskos met his future wife when he was a graduate student at UCLA, she said. He picked her up using the line "How's the water?" at the beach on an October afternoon in 1962. They married in Chicago in 1966, had two sons and lived in Evanston for 37 years before retiring to Santa Monica in 2003.

Even after his move, he returned to NU each fall to teach an introductory sociology course that would attract as many as 600 students, said NU Provost Daniel Linzer.

Dr. Moskos also is survived by two sons, Andrew and Peter, and two grandchildren.

Visitation will be held from 4 to 9 p.m. Thursday in Smith-Corcoran Funeral Home, 6150 N. Cicero Ave., Chicago. Services will be held at 10 a.m. Friday in St. Andrew's Greek Orthodox Church, 5649 N. Sheridan Rd., Chicago.

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Polygamist case price tag: $7 million

(CNN) -- Removing 460 children from a polygamist sect compound and then reuniting them with their families will cost Texas $7 million, according to the state Department of Family and Protective Services.


A sect member and child are reunited at the Hendrick Home for Children in Abilene, Texas.

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The children were ordered returned to their families this week after the Texas Supreme Court found that the state did not have enough evidence to show that abuse was happening at the Yearning for Zion ranch near Eldorado.

The price tag includes costs from fighting a court battle to retain custody of the children, attempting to determine their parentage through DNA testing and reuniting the children with their parents.

The $7 million does not include more than $500,000 in estimated costs incurred by local governments whose law enforcement agencies were involved in the April 3 ranch raid, according to a budgetary presentation given to Texas lawmakers last month.

The raid was prompted by an anonymous caller who claimed that men at the ranch were involved in sexual relationships with young girls.

The ranch is owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a Mormon offshoot that practices polygamy. Child welfare officials said they found a "pervasive pattern" of sexual abuse through forced marriages between underage girls and older men. FLDS members have denied that any sexual abuse occurred and say they are being persecuted because of their religion.

Albert Hawkins, executive commissioner of Texas Health and Human Services, told the state Senate Finance Committee that as of May 15, the state had spent more than $5.2 million to provide food, shelter and counseling to the FLDS children. The bulk of those costs included employee overtime and transportation, Hawkins said.

Meanwhile, a state district judge told senators that legal costs in the case had topped $2.2 million. Most of that burden falls on Tom Green County, where the district court hearings were taking place, and Schleicher County, where the ranch is located, said Judge Ben Woodward, according to a Senate statement.

Neither county, Woodward said, has the money to cover the legal costs. "We're at a point now where we're going to start limping along pretty badly," he said.

The court costs estimate, presented to the Senate on May 20, does not appear to reflect the cost of an appeal handled by the Texas 3rd District Court of Appeals. The appeals court overturned the district court's ruling that the children should remain in state custody.

For comparison, $7 million would pay for 137 police officers in the city of Mesquite, Texas, at a salary of $51,060, according to a figure from a job posting. It would also pay for 180 new teachers at the average statewide salary of $38,857 given by the Texas State Board for Educator Certification and would more than double resources available for a state program aimed at children of incarcerated parents, according to the state's budget for fiscal 2008-09. In that budget, the program receives $5 million.

Texas Child Protective Services referred all questions about the costs of the operation to the state's Health and Human Services department. In response to the Texas Supreme Court ruling last week, CPS said in a statement that it "has one purpose in this case: to protect the children. Our goal is to reunite families whenever we can do so and make sure the children will be safe."

The removal of the children was thought to be the largest child protection case in the nation's history. If they had remained in state custody, Hawkins told lawmakers, the estimated monthly cost for their care would have been $1.3 million.

District Judge Barbara Walther, who decided after a chaotic hearing last month that the state would retain custody of the children, also ordered DNA testing to identify parents and children, as child protection officials said they were thwarted by FLDS members who gave them conflicting or misleading information about their names, ages and familial ties.

Those DNA test results, obtained by a North Carolina lab, were beginning to come in Tuesday, the Child Support Division of the Texas Attorney General's Office said. The lab was starting to deliver reports to the court, the office said, and CPS should have them by the end of the week.

Some 599 DNA samples were taken, the office said. Of those, only 36 were of adult males. Now that the children are being returned, CPS will decide how to use the results in its continuing case involving its oversight of the FLDS.

State Sen. Steve Ogden told officials during the hearing that the final costs would probably be more than the estimated figures presented.

"The cost of this operation is going to be a lot more than is on this sheet of paper," he said. "It doesn't reflect what is going on now, and there are huge legal costs out there that we haven't even discussed yet."

He asked officials to rework their analyses of future costs so the state isn't caught by surprise when the next legislative session begins in January.

However, all that is largely a moot point now, as FLDS children were allowed to reunite with their families beginning Monday. Though the state Supreme Court upheld the ruling that the state had no right to seize the 460 children, the justices said that court oversight of the FLDS could be accomplished through other means.

Also during the hearing, state Sen. Bob Duell questioned whether Texas could force FLDS adults to bear some of the costs. However, given the subsequent court decisions, it appears unlikely the FLDS could be forced to bear any financial responsibility.

To those familiar with FLDS history, the raid called to mind a 1953 mass arrest in the hamlet of Short Creek on the Utah-Arizona state line. More than 400 FLDS members were arrested and more than 200 children taken into foster care. However, news photographs of wailing mothers and children won public sympathy, and the raid backfired on then-Arizona Gov. Howard Pyle, who ordered it. In the next election, Pyle was voted out of office.

"For 50 years, [the FLDS] used the Short Creek raid as [a] reason to keep their people secretive and isolated," Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff told the Los Angeles Times in a story Saturday. "We said that was not going to happen again. Well, it has happened again."

Eldorado residents, meanwhile, expressed frustration with the outcome of the raid and the court's finding that the state had no right to remove the children.

"I said from the word go, if there's sex with underage girls, nail their butt," Curtis Griffin, owner of the local fuel depot, told the Los Angeles Times. "But nail the right people. We're going to wind up with a $30 million bill here in this little county because these people didn't have their ducks in a row."
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Elephants caught in Sri Lanka war

Elephants drink from a river in Sri Lanka
There are nearly 4,000 wild elephants in Sri Lanka

"Gunshot wound, this is a gunshot wound, and this one, there are so many gunshot wounds," said Sri Lankan government vet, Doctor Chandana Jayasinghe.

He was standing next to the huge, slumbering bull elephant in a clearing in the jungle, hypodermic syringe in hand.

"It is normal, they all have gunshot wounds."

The men of the Wildlife Conservation Department had ventured into the tangled scrub to find the wounded elephant.

Treading carefully not to snap twigs and prompt a charge, they had moved up close, so near they could see his ears flapping behind the thick greenery, before one man shot him with a tranquiliser dart.

Now he lay on his side, slow, heavy breaths rattling in his trunk.

They gave him antibiotic injections and sprayed disinfectant on his wounds, some old and calloused, others new and raw.


The renewed civil war between Sri Lanka's government and the separatist Tamil Tigers is claiming many victims, among them increasing numbers of the island's wild elephants.

Of the 74 elephants which died in the north and north-west region last year, 44 were killed by gunfire.

The others fell victim to poison, were deliberately electrocuted by farmers who connected wire fences to the mains, or fell down wells.

Just four died of natural causes.

A Sri Lankan Home Guard stands on a highway with wild elephants in the background
The home guards are now being trained not to shoot at elephants

The elephants are not straying into the frontlines.

Wildlife officials say the shootings are in part an unintended consequence of a government initiative to deploy thousands of new home guards to villages near the frontlines and to arm local people.

"Due to present security conditions people are armed by the government to protect themselves from the Tamil Tigers," says Manjula Amararathne from the Wildlife Conservation Department.

"But in some areas people use such weapons to kill elephants also."

There are as many as 4,000 wild elephants in Sri Lanka and many live in uncomfortably close proximity to man.

Farms are being carved out of what was once jungle and the remaining forest patches are getting smaller.

As dusk falls, local farmers set out to patrol their fields, peering into the gloom and starting at shadows.

They set off crackers to try to frighten away foraging herds.


It is not just crops that are damaged by the elephants, houses are frequently knocked down, and people are killed too.

"They didn't see the elephant until they came near it," said Asanga Reno, standing by the freshly dug grave of his mother Ranjini.

"They were afraid of the elephant and the elephant panicked too."

Asanga Reno has been given compassionate leave from Sri Lanka's navy to come back to bury his mother.

Manjula Amararathne from the Wildlife Conservation Department
The Wildlife Conservation Department wants to keep man and elephant apart

As is traditional in Sri Lanka the last yards to the grave were fenced off with white streamers that blew in the hot breeze.

The elephant pulled Ranjini off the back of the motorbike on which she was travelling home from the fields, and threw her down by the side of the road.

By the time her husband got there she was dead.

The Wildlife Conservation Department is trying to keep man and elephants apart.

They are erecting low-voltage electric fences around villages.

Plants palatable to elephants are being cultivated in the remaining jungle patches so the animals are less tempted to go and forage elsewhere.


And new recruits to the home guards are being given special training - they are being taught to shoo away the animals rather than turning their guns on them.

"We train them to avoid them and not to harm them, how to protect them and by doing that, how to love fauna and flora," said Major Priyantha Rathnapriya, who is in charge of the Galakiriyagama training camp.

"Definitely, we don't shoot any more. We don't do that."

Back in the jungle the bull elephant was being encouraged to show signs of waking up after his treatment.

One of the team from the Wildlife Conservation Department was poking it gently with a stick and shouting: "Come on, elephant. Get up my son."

The elephant will survive his wounds, which had been cleaned.

But thick as the jungle was where he was lying, fields and houses were just a few hundred metres away.

There is a high chance he could be shot again, another casualty of the conflict between man and elephants.

"Actually this is the main problem, I think the elephants should be in the jungle," said the grieving Asanga Reno at his mother's graveside.

"We can't do anything. The elephant won't live in the jungle."

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Swiss Shredded Nuke Documents

Swiss President Pascal Couchepin.

Normally placid Switzerland has been caught up in uncharacteristic intrigue since the government announced that it secretly destroyed highly technical blueprints for producing nuclear weapons. At a press conference on May 23, President Pascal Couchepin said the documents had been shredded to prevent them from falling into terrorists' hands. "The information contained in these papers presented a considerable risk to the security of Switzerland and the international community as a whole," he said.

But that explanation has only enlivened controversy over who ultimately ordered the shredding, and to what end. "There are more questions about this affair than there are answers," says Ken Egli, an editor at the International Relations and Security Network (ISN) at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.

In 2004 Swiss authorities, acting on a tip from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), arrested engineer Friedrich Tinner and his sons Marco and Urs on the suspicion of helping to supply gas centrifuge parts for use in Libya's now abandoned nuclear weapons program. They allegedly acted between 2001 and 2003 through the trafficking ring operated by Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's atom bomb. Khan, under house arrest in Pakistan, last week claimed he'd been coerced into his 2004 confession to helping Libya, North Korea and Iran with nuclear weapons.

The tens of thousands of pages of blueprints and technical information, reportedly secured on Urs Tinner's property, were to be used as evidence against the Tinners, who are still incarcerated pending further investigation. Swiss authorities said the documents were shredded under IAEA's supervision on November 14, 2007. Contacted by TIME, IAEA's spokesperson refused to comment on its role or involvement in the affair. Couchepin too declined to answer further questions.

The official stonewalling has fueled speculation that the United States, and specifically the CIA, has pressured the Swiss government to destroy the documents to aid its own efforts to stop nuclear smuggling, whatever the effect on the Tinners' trials. "The decision to destroy evidence related to an ongoing investigation is highly unusual and has raised questions over the possibility of CIA involvement," Egli says, pointing out that during his press conference Couchepin conceded that the Swiss government had also blocked an investigation into charges levelled by the federal attorney that Urs Tinner was engaging in illegal actions for a foreign country. Allegations that Tinner was a CIA agent were made in a book The Nuclear Jihadist by Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins, as well as by the former U.N. weapons inspector David Albright. "What strikes me as interesting is what international connections did Tinner have, and if he really was a CIA agent, what impact did this have on the government's decision to shred the documents?" Egli adds.

Although no tangible proof has surfaced of U.S. involvement, the mere implication that a foreign power might have interfered in Swiss affairs is generating outrage in some political circles. The Green Party has called for an immediate parliamentary investigation of the allegations, saying, "The explanation given by Mr. Couchepin is not very convincing."

Others have expressed concern over the way the Federal Council — Switzerland's executive government — has unilaterally handled this matter, bypassing the courts and parliament. "If the government wanted to act on behalf of the U.S, it needed to maintain as much secrecy as possible in case those documents really were a threat to the security of the state," says Thomas Fleiner, director of the Federalism Institute at Fribourg University. "But such an evaluation should have been done by the court and not by the executive branch."

The government's secretive maneuver has also raised concerns at the Administrative Commission that oversees the Federal Council's activities pertaining to state security and intelligence services. "We want to know the reason and the legal basis," says commission president Bruno Fasel, adding that his group was kept in the dark about the shredding. The commission has launched its own investigation, with the findings to be released in the fall.

As the scandal plays out mostly in the media and the political arena, the Swiss public remains largely unmoved. "In general, Swiss people trust their government and hold it in high regard," says Egli. "The feeling is that if the government destroyed the documents, they surely had valid reasons to do so. It really doesn't affect their lives one way or another."

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