#0049 RRS Newsletter for August 26, 2007
Table of Contents
Evangelist Hinn lands under a cloud
Iran closes barbers offering 'un-Islamic' cuts
TV station pulls plug on Keller
Newspapers across the country refuse to print Opus comic to avoid offending Muslims
Giuliani Boxes With God at Republican Debate
State board members oppose teaching intelligent design in schools
Troops allowed to enter Pakistan without notice
Justice argues for withholding Bush records
RRS Radio stream will be sporadic over next few days
JIST OF THIS POST: EXPECT THE STICKAM ROOM TO BE DOWN OFTEN OVER THE NEXT FEW DAYS. WE MIGHT EVEN MISS OUR FRIDAY NIGHT BROADCAST.
I have finally taken the plunge and spent quite a bit of money on enhancing the performance of the several computers we have here to run our show and everything else we do. As many of you know, I've had an issue since I started hosting our stickam stream 24/7 (or as close as I could come). I was unable to edit audio and host the stream at the same time. Because of this I have about 10 weeks of material on my desktop that isn't being touched because if I do so, I have to shut down the stream (or allow you to listen to my editing). Rooks computer (an ancient dog right now) in our office will soon double as the computer for the stream and my computer will be freed up for more editing. Both computers are getting major performance upgrades. I'll post the data I'm compiling from tests designed to show how well a computer is performing, when my enhancements are complete. I might even post a list of all the upgrades and let you nerds flame away. Sticking out tongue
Total expenses so far are around $3,000. If we make the enhancements to our sound (pro tools, new compatible mixer, pro audio card, and new mics) that we should make to step up our game, we'll be looking at about another $2,000. I am waiting to see how much our sound quality is enhanced when we try our new and improved computers, before I take that plunge. I should note, all of this was purchased with personal savings from before I started RRS, RRS doesn't generate enough income to make purchases like these (yet). I feel I'm investing in our future, I hope you folks stick around and enjoy it with us.
Because of all these enhancements, parts coming on different days, major computer overhauls, and product switching, a total of 4 computers being worked on, and my lack of knowledge on some of the installation procedures... you can expect that the stream will be down quite a bit over the next few days. I hope to have all of the work done by Tuesday (Aug 28th) of this coming week and we'll be stronger and better than ever before. The RRS conference room will be up as usual.
We have also made enhancements to our bandwidth, including two more enhancements on the way. This should max out the potential of audio and video being transmitted via the web. Once all of the upgrades are made, it will be reasonable to exclude our home as the source of any lag you receive while hanging out with us on stickam.
If you happen to build computers for a living or have a very thorough knowledge of the trade (intel cpus), and would be willing to be our tech support if we have any issues, please feel free to reach out. I think I have it covered, but it would be great to know I can call someone for a quick tip if needed. (skype search: "Brian Sapient")
RRS Michigan social gathering at Alberts
I've decided the next meeting will simply be a social gathering at a nearby restaurant/bar called Alberts on the Alley on Thursday, August 30th. I'll be getting there around 6:00 pm. If your not familiar, it's at the corner of Ford Rd. and Middlebelt at 5651 Middlebelt Rd, Garden City, MI - (734) 525-5231. The food is good, and the drink and food prices are great! I'm hoping this will draw more of you reclusive bastards out so we can discuss and just get to know each other. Hope to see you all there, but please RSVP me at email@example.com so I know how many will be attending.
Hope to see you there!
and the RRS MI team
First patent claimed on man-made life form, and challengedJune 7, 2007
Special to World Science
A research institute has applied for a patent on what could be the first largely artificial organism. And people should be alarmed, claims an advocacy group that is trying to shoot down the bid.
The idea of owning a species breaches “a societal boundary,” said Pat Mooney of the Ottawa, Canada-based ETC Group, which is asking the patent applicants to drop their claim. Creating and owning an organism, he added, means that “for the first time, God has competition.”
His group claims credit for spurring the European Patent Office last month to revoke a patent on genetically modified soybeans by St. Louis, Mo.-based Monsanto Co., after a 13-year legal challenge by ETC.
The artificial organism, a mere microbe, is the brainchild of researchers at the Rockville, Md.-based J. Craig Venter Institute. The organization is named for its founder and CEO, the geneticist who led the private sector race to map the human genome in the late 1990s.
The researchers filed their patent claim on the artificial organism and on its genome. Genetically modified life forms have been patented before; but this is the first patent claim for a creature whose genome might be created chemically from scratch, Mooney said.
Scientists at the institute designed the bacterium to have a “minimal genome”—the smallest set of genes any organism can live on.
The project, which began in the early 2000s, was partly a philosophical exercise: to help define life itself better by identifying its bare-bones requirements. But it was also fraught with commercial possibilities: if one could reliably recreate a standardized, minimal life form, other useful genes could be added in as needed for various purposes.
For instance, “If we made an organism that produced fuel, that could be the first billion- or trillion-dollar organism,” said Venter in the June 4 issue of Newsweek magazine. The scientists based the design on the bacterium Mycoplasma genitalium, in which they had identified an estimated 265 to 350 core genes required for life.
Other researchers, pursuing similar research with other species, have since claimed to be able to reduce this so-called minimal gene somewhat further. The boundary of what’s really the “minimum” gets fuzzy because some of these pared-down creatures are so genetically challenged that they hang on to life only with a lot of help.
In their U.S. patent application published May 31, Institute scientists chose a somewhat more robust 381 to 386 genes as their “minimal genome” for a hypothetical microbe, based on M. genitalium, but dubbed Mycoplasma laboratorium.
In practice, the organism is “being patented for what it is not,” ETC said in a statement this week.
In the patent application, the scientists also discussed the possibility of creating the genes from scratch using chemical methods, then injecting these into a cell whose own genome has been removed. Whether that has actually been done yet is unclear, but “many people think Venter’s company has the scientific expertise to do the job,” said Mooney.
“The same patent application has been published internationally to be submitted at over 100 national patent offices,” said ETC’s Jim Thomas in an email.
The Venter Institute did not respond to requests for comment. But Venter and colleagues have argued that the stripped-down cell or other synthetic microbes could be useful in tasks ranging from generating cheap energy to aiding in agriculture and climate change remediation.
By creating a man-made organism as a platform for other genes to be added at will, like software on a computer, “Venter’s enterprises are positioning themselves to be the Microsoft of synthetic biology,” ETC said in a statement.
The organization claimed there could be drawbacks to allowing one company to monopolize this information. For instance, the microbe could be harnessed to build a virulent pathogen, Thomas said.
It could be a blow for “open source” biology – the idea that researchers should have free access to the fundamental tools and components of synthetic biology, the new and growing science of re-designing and re-building natural biological systems from the ground up for various purposes.
“Before these claims go forward, society must consider their far-reaching social, ethical and environmental impacts,” Thomas wrote in the email. In its statement, the ETC Group said it will be writing to Venter, to the U.S. Patent Office and the World Intellectual Property Organization urging them to quash the patent effort until such a public debate takes place.
Carl Sagan - Pale Blue Dot
Posted this before, but it rocks! So it bears repeating. R.I.P. Carl...
Jupiter: Friend Or Foe?
Science Daily — The traditional belief that Jupiter acts as a celestial shield, deflecting asteroids and comets away from the inner Solar System, has been challenged by the first in a series of studies evaluating the impact risk to the Earth posed by different groups of object.
On Friday 24th August at the European Planetary Science Congress in Potsdam, Dr Jonathan Horner presented a study of the impact hazard posed to Earth by the Centaurs, the parent population of the Jupiter Family of comets (JFCs). The results show that the presence of a Jupiter-like planet in the Solar System does not necessarily lead to a lower impact rate at the Earth.
Dr Horner, from the UK's Open University (OU), said, "The idea that a Jupiter-like planet plays an important role in lessening the impact risk on potentially habitable planets is a common belief but there has only really been one study done on this in the past, which looked at the hazard due to the Long Period Comets. We are carrying out an ongoing series of studies of the impact risks in planetary systems, starting off by looking at our own Solar System, since we know the most about it!"
The team at the OU developed a computer model that could track the paths of 100,000 Centaurs around the Solar System over 10 million years. The simulation was run five times: once with Jupiter at its current mass, once without a Jupiter, and then with planets of three-quarters, a half and a quarter the mass of Jupiter (for comparison, Saturn is about a third of the mass of Jupiter). The team found that the impact rate in a Solar System with a planet like our Jupiter is about comparable to the case where there is no Jupiter at all. However, when the mass of Jupiter was between these two extremes, the Earth suffered an increased number of impacts from the JFCs.
Dr Horner said, "We've found that if a planet about the mass of Saturn or a bit larger occupied Jupiter's place, then the number of impacts on Earth would increase. However if nothing was there at all, there wouldn't be any difference from our current impact rate. Rather than it being a clear cut case that Jupiter acts as a shield, it seems that Jupiter almost gives with one hand and takes away with the other!"
The study shows that if there is no giant planet present, the JFCs will not be diverted onto Earth-crossing orbits, so the impact rate at the Earth is low. A Saturn-mass planet would have the gravitational pull to inject objects onto Earth-crossing orbits, but would not be massive enough to easily eject objects from the Solar System. This means that there would be more objects on Earth-crossing orbits at any given time, and therefore more impacts.
However, a planet with Jupiter's vast mass can give objects the gravitational boost to eject them from the Solar System. Therefore, if Jupiter deflects JFCs to an Earth-crossing orbit, it may well later sweep them right out of the Solar System and off the collision course with the Earth.
The group is now assessing the impact risk posed to the Earth by the Asteroids and will go on to study the Long Period Comets, before examining the role of the position of Jupiter within our system.
Jupiter family of comets
The Jupiter Family of Comets (JFCs) are short period comets with an orbital period of less than 20 years. Their orbits are controlled by Jupiter and they are believed to originate from the Kuiper Belt, a vast population of small icy bodies that orbit just beyond Neptune. Famous JFCs include Comet 81P/Wild 2, which was encountered by the Stardust spacecraft in January 2004 and Comet Shoemaker Levy-9, which broke up and collided with Jupiter in July 1994.
Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by European Planetology Network.
Dark Side of Uranus's Rings Revealed
August 23, 2007—A rare glimpse of Uranus's "dark side" is hinting at the planet's recent turbulant times, researchers say.
The first image of Uranus snapped by a ground-based telescope—the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii—shows for the first time the dusty rings edge-on to the Earth (bottom), offering a unique view of their dark side.
The solar system's seventh planet was discovered in 1781, but its rings weren't found until 1977. NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft sent back the first images of the rings in 1986.
A series of previous Keck images (top) shows how astronomers' view of the rings has changed since 2004.
The new image shows that the rings' dust pattern has changed significantly since the 1980s, suggesting that Uranus has suffered occassional large impacts over the past 21 years.
Imke de Pater of the University of California, Berkeley, led a study of the image appearing this week in the online advance edition of the journal Science.
"We think that dusty rings in general are sustained by impacts," de Pater said. "The rings of Jupiter exist because small meteorites continuously bombard the moons in Jupiter's system."
Study co-author Heidi Hammel of the Space Science Institute in Ridgefield, Connecticut, added that Uranus has been "the unappreciated underdog of the outer solar system for too long.
"It is refreshing to see such dynamic change and exciting evolution in the rings and the planet."
Evangelist Hinn lands under a cloudBenny Hinn readies for crusade and defends lavish healing ministry
Aug 17, 2007 04:30 AM
Pastor Benny Hinn, in Toronto this weekend for two days of miracle cures and old-time gospel, makes no apologies for all the money his far-flung ministries take in each year.
"The gospels are free, but the means of delivering the gospels is really expensive," Hinn, who got his start in Toronto 30 years ago, told the Star.
Tonight and tomorrow, Hinn brings his Texas-based Miracle Crusade to the Air Canada Centre, attracting up to 20,000 to each of his three shows.
The shows are free but, as at all his crusades, donations will be sought and many buckets will be passed as the audience sings rousing hymns along with a mass choir amid a light show worthy of a rock concert. While Hinn acknowledges people come mainly to see and take part in the healing miracles, that is left to the feverish end – they will first hear him preach, pray and sing in his trademark white suit.
But Hinn arrives under a cloud after the CBC's The Fifth Estate this week challenged his claims of miracle cures and described a lavish lifestyle of fancy cars, a 7,000-square-foot ocean-side mansion and luxury travel to five-star hotels on a private jet.
In the show, reporter Bob McKeown estimates Benny Hinn Ministries takes in as much as $250 million a year in donations and proceeds from sales of such items as autographed bibles.
Hinn, who keeps his finances private, doubts the show will hurt turnout at the ACC.
"They will never stop people from coming to meetings such as ours."
Followers donate money, he says, to ensure his work, including curing the sick, continues.
"They believe that God heals and they want to see something like this go on. They also understand it takes money to rent stadiums."
Hinn's sessions have gained a reputation for sudden miracle cures for cancer, blindness, diabetes and even AIDS over the past 30 years since his humble beginnings in a church hall at Bloor and Yonge. People dramatically fall to the floor proclaiming their health after a touch from Hinn's hand.
Hinn, however, professes to having nothing to do with making anybody healthy. "The Lord has not called me to heal people," he says. "He heals the people."
After the prayers, songs and preaching from the charismatic minister, Hinn tells the crowd he is getting a message from God that people in the audience are being cured, and he asks them to come to the stage. The Fifth Estate used hidden cameras to show staff screening audience members coming forward, ensuring none with obvious physical ailment get near Hinn.
"It's always somebody that has some kind of illness that can't be readily seen" that makes it to the stage, Justin Peters, a Baptist minister in Mississippi who studied Hinn, tells the CBC.
Hinn says the cures take place in the audience, not on stage, so no one still in a wheelchair is allowed on stage. God, he says, has obviously not cured these people.
"I won't let them up, because they haven't been healed," he says.
The CBC tracked down some of the people claimed to have been cured, only to find that they were either still sick, never had the condition they were supposedly cured of, or had died.
Speaking to the Star, Hinn says he is forced to rely on the word of those coming to his crusades to tell him they are cured.
"It's not my job to claim that they are healed. I have never done that," he says. "I'm not a doctor."
Hinn defends his use of luxury hotels and a private Gulfstream jet detailed by the CBC, saying they offer greater efficiency and security.
"People in my position will have threats," he told the Star. "If you ask for a secure (hotel) floor, you're going to pay more money."
Hinn also criticized the CBC for using hidden cameras and old footage he says depicts his wife just before she had a nervous breakdown.
Iran closes barbers offering 'un-Islamic' cuts
TEHRAN (AFP) - Iran has shut down barber shops offering unconventional Western hair styles amid a police crackdown on dress deemed un-Islamic, reports said.
"Over the past 15 days, 13 barbers' shops that had not respected the union's directives have been closed down," police commander Mohammad Ali Najafi said.
He told the Etemad daily that the barbers' union had banned eyebrow-plucking for men as well as "deviant Western styles".
"Eleven women's beauty saloons were also shut down for not having a licence or for violations such as tattooing, which is banned by a health ministry directive," he added.
Tehran's barbers' union said in April that police had issued a directive forbidding its members from giving men offbeat hairstyles. The directive also banned the use of cosmetics in male salons.
Shoulder-length, spiky or heavily gelled styles for men have long angered Iran's religious conservatives.
Police also launched a renewed crackdown last month against women whose skimpy headscarves or figure-hugging clothing violate the dress code in force in Iran.
TV station pulls plug on Keller
The televangelist says complaints from local Muslims are to blame.
By SHERRI DAY, Times Staff Writer
Published August 24, 2007
ST. PETERSBURG - For the first time in nearly five years, controversial Christian televangelist Bill Keller is going off the air.
Keller - known for his vitriolic criticism of religious, political and pop culture figures - said Thursday his program was yanked in response to pressure from local Muslims.
Earlier this month, officials from the Council on American Islamic Relations wrote to executives at CBS asking them to investigate Live Prayer with Bill Keller, an hourlong nightly program.
In a May 2 broadcast, the televangelist said Islam was a "1,400-year-old lie from the pits of hell" and called the Prophet Mohammed a "murdering pedophile." He also called the Koran a "book of fables and a book of lies."
CAIR officials asked for equal air time for Florida Muslims to counter Keller's assertions. The show, which aired nightly from 1to 2 a.m., is broadcast on WTOG-TV CH. 44, a CBS-owned station that airs the CW network locally.
"I'm saying nothing now that I haven't been saying for five years," said Keller, who plans to hold his last broadcast on Aug. 31. "Ultimately, it was pressure by CAIR that intimidated these people into taking me off the air. It was not mutually agreeable. They told me they were taking me off the air, period."
But WTOG station manager Laura Caruso said the decision to end Keller's contract was a programming one, made by station executives and the televangelist.
"It really doesn't have anything to do with any special interest groups or anybody in the community," Caruso said. "I think he has a good program, and I wish him all the success in the world."
CAIR claims credit
After speaking with CBS executives, CAIR claims credit for Keller's demise on WTOG. His contract, set to end in December, will terminate on Sept. 11.
"They really based their decision upon our letter," said Ramzy Kilic, CAIR's civil rights coordinator. "They really did not know that Bill Keller was involved with this kind of anti-Muslim rhetoric."
Acting on complaints from bay area Muslims, CAIR officials began monitoring Keller's programs in May.
History of controversy
This is not the first time Keller, 49, has upset religious groups. Since he began his Live Prayer Internet ministry in 1999, he has skewered Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and Scientologists, calling them false religions and cults. He also speaks against abortion, calls Oprah a "new age witch" for embracing diverse religions and says megachurch pastor Joel Osteen is a "gutless wonder."
In May, Keller raised the ire of Americans United for Separation of Church and State when he wrote devotionals on Liveprayer.com saying that a vote for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney equals a vote for Satan. The group asked the IRS to investigate Keller for a possible violation of tax laws, which prohibit tax-exempt nonprofit groups from engaging in partisan politics. Keller, took the debate to a national audience on The O'Reilly Factor, where he sparred with host Bill O'Reilly, who called Keller's words "irresponsible, un-Christian, uncharitable and flat-out wrong."
In his nearly eight years with the Live Prayer ministry, Keller estimates he and his volunteer staff have answered more than 60-million e-mail prayer requests and helped introduce 190,000 people to Christ. Last year, he took the show to a national audience by buying a late-night time slot on the i Network. His national platform lasted only a few months because of lack of financing.
New program in works
Keller remains undaunted. He is a regular guest on the Howard Stern Show and also plans to start a new morning program, Live Prayer AM on WTTA-Ch. 38 in the bay area. Keller says the one-hour live program will feature his trademark sermonettes but also will include lifestyle issues and local secular guests. It is scheduled to air at 7:30 a.m. on Sept. 3.
"I'm going to keep doing what I do," Keller said. "I'm going to bring a biblical message. It is what it is."
Newspapers across the country refuse to print Opus comic to avoid offending Muslims
Here is the offending comic.
Giuliani Boxes With God at Republican Debate
State board members oppose teaching intelligent design in schools
© 2007 The Associated Press
AUSTIN — A majority of State Board of Education members said the theory of intelligent design should be left out of the science curriculum for public schools.
The board will rewrite the science curriculum next year and some observers expect backers of intelligent design to push for the theory's inclusion.
In interviews with The Dallas Morning News, 10 of the board's 15 members said they wouldn't support requiring the teaching of intelligent design. One board member said she was open to the idea. Four board members didn't respond to the newspaper's phone calls.
Proponents of intelligent design contend that life is too complex to have occurred by chance, requiring instead the guidance of an unnamed supernatural being. Critics say it's a ploy for introducing creationism — the biblical account of the origin of humans — into science classes.
"Creationism and intelligent design don't belong in our science classes," said Board of Education Chairman Don McLeroy, who described himself as a creationist. "Anything taught in science has to have consensus in the science community and intelligent design does not."
McLeroy, R-College Station, said he doesn't want to change the existing requirement that evolution be taught in high school biology classes. But he joined several of his colleagues in arguing that biology textbooks should cover the weaknesses of the theory of evolution.
McLeroy and three other socially conservative board members voted against the current biology texts in 2003 over the evolution issue. The textbook debate comes up again in 2011.
Charles Darwin's theory of evolution describes the process by which new species of life arise from lower life forms. Today, most scientists embrace evolution through natural selection as the cornerstone of biology.
David Bradley, the board's vice chairman, said he believes "God is responsible for our creation." But the Beaumont Republican said he's not interested in changing the current requirement for teaching evolution, nor would he support a move to include the theory of intelligent design in science classes.
Board member Pat Hardy said she was open to the idea of intelligent design curriculum, but she added that she doesn't advocate putting any religious teachings into science classes.
"I am open to having intelligent design in there because there is a large body of evidence unanswered by the theory of evolution. We first need to hear from science educators and experts about whether this should be done," said Hardy, R-Weatherford.
Other board members who said they believe the curriculum should continue to include evolution and not be changed to accommodate intelligent design were: Geraldine "Tincy" Miller, R-Dallas; Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands; Gail Lowe, R-Lampasas; Bob Craig, R-Lubbock; Mavis Knight, D-Dallas; Rick Agosto, D-San Antonio; Lawrence Allen, D-Houston; and Mary Helen Berlanga, D-Corpus Christi.
The four board members who didn't respond to the newspaper's inquiry were Democrat Rene Nunez of El Paso and Republicans Cynthia Dunbar of Richmond, Terri Leo of Spring and Ken Mercer of San Antonio.
Troops allowed to enter Pakistan without noticeNew documents show U.S. permits pursuing terror suspects across border
Newly uncovered “rules of engagement” show the U.S. military gave elite units broad authority more than three years ago to pursue suspected terrorists into Pakistan, with no mention of telling the Pakistanis in advance.
The documents obtained by The Associated Press offer a detailed glimpse at what Army Rangers and other terrorist-hunting units were authorized to do earlier in the war on terror. And interviews with military officials suggest some of those same guidelines have remained in place, such as the right to “hot pursuit” across the border.
Pakistan, a key U.S. partner in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, has long viewed such incursions as a threat to its sovereignty. Islamabad protested loudly this month when Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama pledged to grant U.S. forces the authority to unilaterally penetrate Pakistan in the hunt for terrorist leaders.
Washington repeated assurances it would consult before any such incursions.
Grounds for entering
But summaries of the rules of engagement on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in April 2004 say chasing al-Qaida leaders across the frontier was fair game.
One summary states that “Entry into PAK authorized for” the following reasons:
- “Hot pursuit” of al-Qaida, Taliban and terrorist command-and-control targets “from AFG into Pakistan (must be continuous and uninterrupted).”
- If the head of U.S. Central Command, which oversees American forces in the Middle East and Central Asia, approved direct action “against The Big 3,” listed as Osama bin Laden; his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri; and Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar. The three are still believed to be hiding in the border region.
- If the Defense secretary approved such an incursion.
Other grounds for incursions into Pakistan, according to this summary, were “personnel recovery,” including rescuing troops after the downing of aircraft; and troops “in contact with” the enemy, meaning under fire.
As for “geographic limits,” the memo states: “General rule: penetrate no deeper than 10 km,” or 6.2 miles.
Told of the guidelines, Pakistani military spokesman Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad said, “This is all nonsense. Pakistan never allowed the coalition forces to enter into our territory while chasing militants. There was no such agreement, there was no such understanding.”
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Todd Vician said this week he could not comment. “As a policy we don’t talk about rules of engagement, certainly not about current rules in place for any operations in Afghanistan, Iraq or any other operation,” he said.
Revelations from Tillman probe
The 2004 documents were included among 1,100 pages of investigative documents generated by the Army’s probe into the death of NFL player-turned-Ranger Pat Tillman, whose platoon was operating in the region at the time.
E-mail exchanges between Ranger officers in the documents make no mention of a requirement to inform Pakistan in advance of strikes into that country.
However, one summary mentions a chain of required notifications, which resulted in Pakistan being apprised — apparently after the fact. One rule says “joint task force commander must inform CENTCOM immediately” and ensure the “Mil Liaison team” in Islamabad was notified.
Operations officers had a hot line to that liaison office, which would in turn inform Pakistani officials, according to a U.S. officer who served in the region and is knowledgeable about operations within Afghanistan during that mid-2004 period. On some occasions, the officer said, Pakistanis would detect ground or air incursions and request explanations from the Americans, who would open inquiries.
Justice argues for withholding Bush recordsSays administration office not subject to Freedom of Information Act
WASHINGTON - Opening a new front in the Bush administration's battle to keep its records confidential, the Justice Department is contending that the White House Office of Administration is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
The department's argument is in response to a lawsuit trying to force the office to reveal what it knows about the disappearance of White House e-mails.
The Office of Administration provides administrative services, including information technology support, to the Executive Office of the President. Most of the White House is not subject to the FOIA, but certain components within it handle FOIA requests. Last year the Office of Administration processed 65 FOIA requests.
However, the Justice Department maintained in court papers filed Tuesday that the Office of Administration has no substantial authority independent of President Bush and therefore is not subject to the FOIA's disclosure requirements.
The office has prepared estimates that there are at least 5 million missing White House e-mails from March 2003 to October 2005, according to the lawsuit filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a private advocacy group.
Missing or not?
The White House has said it is aware that some e-mails may not have been automatically archived on a computer server for the Executive Office of the President.
The e-mails, the White House has said, may have been preserved on backup tapes.
"The Office of Administration is looking into whether there are e-mails not automatically archived; and once we determine whether or not there is a problem, we'll take the necessary steps to address it," said White House spokesman Scott Stanzel.
The first indication of a problem came in early 2006 when special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald raised the possibility that records sought in the CIA leak investigation involving the outing of Valerie Plame could be missing because of an e-mail archiving problem at the White House.
The issue came into focus early this year amid the uproar over the firing of U.S. attorneys. It turned out that aides to Bush improperly used Republican Party-sponsored e-mail accounts for official business and that an undetermined number of e-mails had been lost in the process.
Acting like an agency
The Justice Department Web site, which lists all FOIA contacts inside the government, identifies seven units inside the Executive Office of the President as responding to FOIA requests, including the Office of Administration.
The Office of Administration "has certainly acted like an agency in the past," said Meredith Fuchs, general counsel to the National Security Archive, a private group advocating public disclosure of government secrets.
Fuchs' organization filed a request in February 2006 after Fitzgerald revealed that e-mails might be missing. When the Office of Administration finally denied the private group's request in June of this year, the office said it was not an "agency" as defined by the Freedom of Information Act and was therefore not subject to the law's requirements.
The administration has been resisting disclosure of information on an array of fronts.
In September 2006, Vice President Dick Cheney's lawyer instructed the Secret Service that it "shall not retain any copy" of material identifying visitors to the vice president's official residence. The lawyer, Shannen Coffin, wrote the letter as The Washington Post sought copies of Cheney's visitors.
Atheist Blood Drive
In an attempt to show the world that atheists are every bit as charitable as the religious of society, and that we need no "divine warrent" to be so, the RRS has set up a daughter organization called Atheist Volunteers. We hope you will all chip in. The most prominent of it's projects is the Atheist Blood drive.
Atheists for Autism Research Charity!
Check these guys out, and donate if you can!
Religious Victim of the day
Smalkowski fire, accident or arson?Taken from a Myspace bulletin from Nicole:
Burn them Witches
It was early afternoon. About a hundred in the shade. One of those August scorchers. Been outside most of the day. You get use to it but it adds up. Then it is time for a cold beer and find a spot away from the glaring sun.
I told Chez I was going inside and would be in the living room. He took off his bandanna and soaked it in the cow tank. Putting it back on his head, he said “okay” and went about his business like it was a cool autumn day.
I was sitting on the couch cooling off from the heat outside when Nicole came in and said there was a fire coming toward the house from the south.
We always worry about someone starting fires near our place. Though we were not too concerned about one being started from the road to the south. That road was about a mile and a half away and just too far for a fire to get to us before the fire trucks from town could get here.
But today was different. The fire trucks for miles and from towns around were at a fire in a canyon about 15 miles to the north.
So the stage was set. Over 100 degrees, low humidity, wind blowing to the north at a good clip and last but not least no fire trucks.
When I saw the fire, first thing that came to mind was that it was set. Too perfect for a roll of the dice. I was puzzled how close it was to my house and no one around but a local cop driving down our dirt road. I did not know about the fire up north in the canyon to where all the fire trucks had gone. When I saw who the cop was my focus was on him for he is one of the people in our lawsuit in Federal Court. He was the last thing I needed on my mind now and on my property. A lawyer warned me that the police would try and set me up and have no contact with anyone we are suing. So now I have one eye on him and the other on the fire. He drove over and asked what could he do. I told him I could have used his help when they were trying to railroad me into jail two years ago. Thought it best to tell him to get out of here and send the fire trucks in. Cannot trust anybody. Especially the ones with badges and guns, and especially one of the people in our lawsuit in Federal Court!
I don’t know what pisses me off more what these people did or how they act like nothing happened and you’re my long lost pal. I know we are in cattle country but it sure piles high, real high out here. Sorry if I am not polite. But this was no time for more things on the plate. What if we have to leave and the badges throw something in my house or say they found something on my property. I have heard many a story.
Paranoid? You bet I am. If you know the story then you know why. Even with a raging fire a few 100 feet from wiping out our house the switches in my mind trigger the memory of the hell we already went through. It consumes my thoughts and for an instant my blood starts to boil for I remember what this cop and others have done. I see the cop leave the property and my attention turns back to the fire. I wonder when the fire trucks will get here and who lit this barbeque?
My wife calls my name. I look over and see her taking our 5 year old to the car to get ready to leave. I tell her to go if it gets any worse but I am not going anywhere.
I look around and see Nicole on the roof hosing it down. Chez was setting our livestock free. He was having a problem with the goats. They all ran back into the barn. I ran over as the flames behind him were dancing high into the sky. I could feel the heat from the blaze on my face and body. This was getting hairy. Chez was focused, too focused. I holler to hurry that the fire was right behind him. He said, “I know”. No fear, I see no fear in his eyes. I grin and tell him what to do and we get the goats out of the barn. We let the cows into the front pasture. The smoke was getting pretty thick and we were both coughing.
The fire was coming right for the house and moving pretty quick. The flames were very high and topped off with a thick gray white smoke. I could not believe how high the fire was rising from just only prairie grass.
I had tried to make a firebreak with the little tractor but it was just to slow. So I opened up the drains in the pool to flood the yard. I was constantly checking the direction of the wind. Nicole points to a lot of fire trucks but they stay on the road north of us. I hand her the video camera. Eventually a fire truck comes down our road. They spray some water near the fence then leave and then another one comes and waits near the house I talk to the driver. He is from another town and says we should get ready to leave. A grader plows a firebreak between the fire and us. The fire is close. My wife looks at me and says there is nothing we can do to stop it. I told her to get in the car. Our 5-year-old Bridgette was looking out the back window. I look around. Nicole and Chez are right next to me and my four dogs keeping close. The flames are high and dancing like flags in the wind. Well it looks like this fire is going to do what this town could not do. We took whatever they dished out and threw at us. They tried to take me from our family, my wife from our family, our children from us! We stood our ground. Now a wall of flames and fire is coming at us to take our home. Skin and bone can only do so much. I curse at the flames. I curse them all. The bastards are going to get us this time.
The fireman is getting ready to make a stand. He says better get ready to go. My wife drives the car to the front of the driveway. I realize I am standing there all by myself with smoke spinning around. Where are the kids? I look around and see Nicole back on the roof watering it down and Chez holding the hose up to her. Then my wife comes over to me and says “It is no use, better get them down.” She is right… I nod my head and wave the kids to come down. Nicole looks at me like, what for? Chez has already figured it out. He looks me dead in the eye. He deserves better. I wave again. It is time to go.
As they run to the car, I run over to the fireman. He is ready to do battle with the raging inferno. He says, “You better go”. I make like the words blew by me like the smoke and we both watch as this tidal wave of flame and smoke bares down on us. No time to think. No time to run. No more time.
Then the wind changes direction and then like a freight train switching tracks the fire heads to the northeast. We hold our breath as it just misses the goat barn and pen. It burns though another ten-acre pasture heading for the road. The firemen and all the other fire trucks stopped the fire at the road to the north.
Little by little the firemen and their trucks leave to go to the fire up north in the canyon. The fireman at our house says he’s leaving and I say thanks and shake his hand.
I head to the house. Chez is right behind me. It is time for a cold beer.
We work well into the night and early morning putting out little fires still smoking out in the fields. A power line pole was about to fall down. We called the power company. They came out and replaced it. Lost a good portion of our barbwire fences and poles. Looks like some charred battlefield. I would say about sixty acres. All the livestock is fine. All in all we faired well. The wind had changed and so did our luck.
I am real proud of my family. Flames as high as telephone poles coming at you are no joke. They are so high and hot that they seem closer. It could have been worse. I suppose we should have just run but then again we should have just moved.
We went and looked where the fire started, very odd burn pattern. It started right along the road in a spot where no one can see you and headed north-northeast right to our place. You can see in the pictures of when it gets near the buildings it angled more to the northeast.
The Firefighters had business on my property. The two sheriff deputies that somehow were at our house, what were they doing here? We did not call them. Shouldn’t they be where the fire started or something? Maybe they want to get a rise out of me or find some juicy tidbit for the trial. They know I don’t want them here. I’ve seen their kind lied under oath to try and get me put in jail and some other things. Many people know about it but out here it is okay. You see we are Atheists, and these good Christians want us out of here.
Someone should be investigating this fire. There is ample cause, but if it was arson, do you really think they would want it known? Lawyers are trying to make it look like these are good people and we cause all the problems. Arson would not fit into that pretty little picture. What a great place to live. I wonder if this had happen to one of their friends homes would they just brush it off?
As we gazed out over our new charred vista we talked about how this coincidence seemed a little too much of a coincidence and the odd burn pattern. No one has come to tell us about the origin this blaze.
This isn’t the first time for coincidences out here. One time when the good people and Sheriff wanted me in jail and had no legal way to do it. They asked the bail bondsman to pull my bail but he refused to do it. That night a fire started off a dirt road with the wind blowing the fire towards the bondsman’s place. Yep, just another coincidence.
The local paper wrote up a big story about the fire in the canyon. No mention of what happened out here and that it might be arson. I am not surprised. The publisher of the paper once told me that Atheists are spit in the face of the good Christians.
It is now 3am. My wife says that’s weird the phones are out again. We look at each other. Most likely nothing.
Well we have livestock to care for, fences to mend and dinner to make. Life goes on. We will carry on but it is always there looming. That empty gut anxiety of what is coming next.
At the end of the next day we sit around to take stock and hope some good will come out of it
A few days later we get a call from our lawyers, our Federal Civil Rights Case just got the green light from the court.
Bill Maher - APATHEIST
The Hour: Interview with Christopher Hitchens
Huge thanks go to everyone that has helped me out on this endeavor. Specifically, Zombie, head of RRS Ontario for multple article submissions, Voiderest of RRS Texas, my coding guru without whom many of the features of this newsletter (like the Table of Contents) would not be in place, Brian Sapient for his guiding hand and for the space in which this is published, and all of you who have contributed articles. Cheers go out to you all!!!
The darkness of godlessness lets wisdom shine.