#0053 RRS Newsletter for September 5, 2007

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Hello, my fellow heathens. For the rest of the month I will be posting on a regular three a week schedule, I may continue this trend next month, we'll see how it goes. So on every Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday the newest editions will be up. Some of you may have noticed the counters at the bottom recently, with that I've been keeping track of how many and what days readers have been loging in to read the newsletter, and the aforementioned days seem to be the most popular, counts on Friday and Sunday being especially high. However, the reason for the newly placed regularity is two-fold. The other reason is to better manage my time, since I will be going on vacation from the 19th to the 28th, and there is much to do in the interum in preparation. In the time I will be gone, there will be no newsletter posts (I'm sure you can all manage, lol) so I encourage you all to browse through the previous editions, as I'm sure there are many of you who haven't seen them all. While I'm gone, any questions, contributions, or comments you have will be fielded by my good friend and helper Adrian (a.k.a. Skeptictank, a.k.a. Freudian slip n' slide). Regulars to the chat room are probably familiar with him already.

Thanks for reading, if you have any comments or suggestions you can reach me directly HERE. Or on Myspace HERE.
Stay rational,
Jack
and the RRS MI team



Table of Contents

Click HERE to find your local affiliate!

Rational Response Squad News

Greydon Square Album Available!

RRS Affiliate News

Healthy Addict leading the charge Discrimintory Policy at major college challenged by RRS MSCD Texas State/Church Separation Rally – Austin – Sep 8 2007

Science News

Natural Selection Tale of the Peacock Evolution of the eye Single-Atom Data Storage, Single-Molecule Switching Could Lead To New Computer Devices Ancient Pig DNA Study Sheds New Light On Colonization Of Europe By Early Farmers

Religion

Bush Snubs Wiccan War Widow Hitchens on Islam Scientology faces criminal charges Nepal airline sacrifices goats to appease sky god Man cuts off his penis ‘to stop him sinning’

Government

Advisers tell Bush to stand pat on Iraq Michigan Dems skewer national party over primary Bush 'worst president'

Community

Atheist Blood Drive Atheists for Autism Research Charity! Religious Victim of the day Iraq, Iran, Iconquer

Entertainment

Religious comedy South Park vs The Mormons Richard Pryor - Religion Boston Legal - Alan Shore Greatest trial (Scientology).





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Healthy Addict leading the charge





Ashley (a.k.a. Healthy Addict) of RRS Ohio is leading a project to debunk the claims put forth by the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Several other local affiliate heads have signed on to help her in scientificaly refuting each and every claim put forth by the "Museum". The cooperative affiliate heads are, Zombie of RRS Ontario, Bumbklaatt of RRS Colorado, Lunar Shadow of RRS Northern California, Voiderest of RRS Texas, Will Power of RRS Alabama, and myself, Jack of RRS Michigan. This project is still in it's infancy, so more news as it developes. If you would like to assist us in our efforts, contact one of us, Voiderest and myself are regulars here on this site, and the others can be found in the affiliate section HERE , or by clicking their names above. The ultimate goal is to have the resulting material presentable and coherent in a format for tours of the "Museum" for children, to point out to them why all the claims put forth by AIG are horribly inaccurate in any kind of scientific context.




Discrimintory Policy at major college challenged by RRS MSCD

August 31, 2007 - Friday



POLICY ISSUE UPDATE-1


We had a meeting today with one of the student Trustees at MSCD (Metropolitan State College of Denver).  He is a Trustee to the Board of Directors, which includes the President of MSCD.  He was a very educated and extremely knowledgeable man who saw that our argument was not only legitimate, but also, that it was reasonable and logical. The nature of issue stems from the first paragraph of the MSCD "Class on religious holidays policy", which states "Students at Metropolitan State College of Denver (MSCD) who, because of their sincerely held religious beliefs, are unable to attend classes, take examinations, participate in graded activities or submit graded assignments on particular days shall without penalty be excused from such classes and be given a meaningful opportunity to make up such examinations and graded activities or assignments provided that advance written notice that the student will be absent for religious reasons is given to the faculty members during the first two weeks of the semester."  The issue we have is that people who have religious beliefs are given extra time to complete tests, assignments, etc… While others cannot, (e.g. , including but not limited to atheists/agnostics/skeptics/humanists).  The groups described above, can't do this because they aren't a religion.  Now, we don't want atheism defined as something that it's not, of course, our main issues are that of subjective application of the policy, academic dishonesty, and outright discrimination. Mr. Harris, the student Trustee we talked to, not only agreed with us but also gave us ideas that we hadn't thought about that supported our concerns/issues.  He even gave us a third way in which the policy could be dealt with that we had not thought ourselves. He has said that in his next meeting with the President of MSCD, which is soon; we should have a email from him to share by next Thursday at the latest, he will bring it up and is giving it very serious thought, consideration and effort.  He said "a policy that is intended to encourage diversity, actually discourages diversity", going on later to a say, referring to the subjectivity of the policy, "if you're German teacher sent you the policy back and gave you a definite no and your philosophy teacher, saying yes because he/she would probably see your point, would be a definite yes.  You would then have P&~P which is a contradiction."  The problem of course is that both teachers would be justified under the policy.  Also, as Mr. Harris agreed, that the policy could be used, unfairly, to get more time on papers, tests or other assignments which would be unfair to the rest of the students in the respective class.  Finally, as Chalmer rightly pointed out to Mr. Harris, that no religion or philosophical viewpoint is more deserving of respect than any other, as in the case that a Christian teacher might and could deny a Wiccan or a Muslim "religious holidays" off because of personal bias. And even though there is a process to deal with this, it is quite unnecessary for both student and faculty.  To sum up, Mr. Harris, student trustee to the board of directors, agrees with us and can explain and articulate our concerns very well.  He is essentially on our side and will be making things happen soon and we will keep you updated.

Rational Response Squad @ MSCD
Update 1





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Texas State/Church Separation Rally – Austin – Sep 8 2007





Are you tired of hearing about all of the religious bills and now laws coming from our Texas state government lately? Don't you think it's time we had a rally for state/church separation here in Texas?

Come take part in the 2007 Texas State/Church Separation Rally here in Austin, at the Texas State Capitol Building on Saturday, September 8, from noon till 3pm. We'll have speakers from lots of Freethought groups there, including:

American Atheists www.atheists.org
The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkersmaaf.info
The Freethinkers at the University of Texas at Arlingtonwww.freethinkersofuta.org
The Freethinkers Association of Central Texaswww.freethinkersact.org
The Rational Response Squadwww.rationalresponders.com

Four of the goals of this rally are the following:

  1. To speak out for the civil rights of non-religious Americans.
  2. To vocally promote the separation of government from religion.
  3. To show support for the Croft family in Carrollton who have sued over the moment of silence in their public school. (No matter how the case ends, or whether it's over by then or not.)
  4. To protest the flurry of religious bills and now religious laws coming from our current Texas State Legislature.

To all local and national Freethought group leaders: We need more group leaders to come speak. Please contact me if you'd like some speaking time at this rally. We also have some great individual speakers lined up, including at least two Foxhole Atheists.

We'll have some signs and banners, but all groups are urged to bring your group's banner. This needs to be a show of strength in numbers, and we now have more Freethought groups in Texas than ever before. PLEASE mark this date and time on your calendar:

Saturday, September 8, 2007 from noon till 3pm.

The State Capitol Building is located at the corner of 11th St. and Congress Ave. in beautiful downtown Austin. We have permission to rally on the south steps. All parking meters in Austin are free on weekends. The date and time were planned for maximum convenience for the most number of folks attending. So come on down!

The Texas Constitution

"Article 1 - BILL OF RIGHTS

Section 4 - RELIGIOUS TESTS

No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office,

or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding

office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the

existence of a Supreme Being."


TEXAS STATE DIRECTOR

Joe Zamecki
(512)382-9283
jzamecki@atheists.org
Located in North Austin, Texas





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Natural Selection Tale of the Peacock





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Evolution of the eye





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Single-Atom Data Storage, Single-Molecule Switching Could Lead To New Computer Devices





Science Daily IBM has announced two major scientific achievements in the field of nanotechnology that could one day lead to new kinds of devices and structures built from a few atoms or molecules.

Although still far from making their way into products, these breakthroughs will enable scientists at IBM and elsewhere to continue driving the field of nanotechnology, the exploration of building structures and devices out of ultra-tiny, atomic-scale components. Such devices might be used as future computer chips, storage devices, sensors and for applications nobody has imagined yet.

The work will be unveiled tomorrow in two reports being published by the journal Science.

In the first report, IBM scientists describe major progress in probing a property called magnetic anisotropy in individual atoms. This fundamental measurement has important technological consequences because it determines an atom’s ability to store information. Previously, nobody had been able to measure the magnetic anisotropy of a single atom.

With further work it may be possible to build structures consisting of small clusters of atoms, or even individual atoms, that could reliably store magnetic information. Such a storage capability would enable nearly 30,000 feature length movies or the entire contents of YouTube – millions of videos estimated to be more than 1,000 trillion bits of data – to fit in a device the size of an iPod. Perhaps more importantly, the breakthrough could lead to new kinds of structures and devices that are so small they could be applied to entire new fields and disciplines beyond traditional computing.

In the second report, IBM researchers unveiled the first single-molecule switch that can operate flawlessly without disrupting the molecule's outer frame -- a significant step toward building computing elements at the molecular scale that are vastly smaller, faster and use less energy than today's computer chips and memory devices.

In addition to switching within a single molecule, the researchers also demonstrated that atoms inside one molecule can be used to switch atoms in an adjacent molecule, representing a rudimentary logic element. This is made possible partly because the molecular framework is not disturbed.

The Science of The Small: Understanding the Magnetic Properties of Atoms

In the paper titled “Large Magnetic Anisotropy of a Single Atomic Spin Embedded in a Surface Molecular Network,” the researchers used IBM’s special scanning tunneling microscope (STM) to manipulate individual iron atoms and arranged them with atomic precision on a specially prepared copper surface. They then determined the orientation and strength of the magnetic anisotropy of the individual iron atoms. 

Anisotropy is an important property for data storage because it determines whether or not a magnet can maintain a specific orientation. This in turn allows the magnet to represent either a “1” or “0,” which is the basis for storing data in computers.

“One of the major challenges for the IT industry today is shrinking the bit size used for data storage to the smallest possible features, while increasing the capacity,” said Gian-Luca Bona, manager of science and technology at the IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California. “We are working at the ultimate edge of what is possible – and we are now one step closer to figuring out how to store data at the atomic level. Understanding the specific magnetic properties of atoms is the cornerstone of progressing toward new, more efficient ways to store data.”

Lilliputian Scale Devices: Single Molecule Logic Switching

In the paper titled “Current-Induced Hydrogen Tautomerization and Conductance Switching of Naphthalocyanine Molecules,” IBM researchers describe the ability to switch a single molecule “on” and “off,” a basic element of computer logic, using two hydrogen atoms within a naphthalocyanine organic molecule. Previously, researchers at IBM and elsewhere have demonstrated switching within single molecules, but the molecules would change their shape when switching, making them unsuitable for building logic gates for computer chips or memory elements.

Switches inside computer chips act like a light switch to turn the flow of electrons on and off and, when put together, make up the logic gates, which in turn make up electrical circuits. Having ever smaller switches allows the circuits to be shrunk to ever smaller sizes, making it possible to pack more circuits into a processor and boosting speed and performance.

These molecular switches could one day lead to computer chips with speeds as fast as today's fastest supercomputers, but much smaller in size; with some speculating even building computer chips so small they could be the size of a speck of dust or fit on the tip of a needle.

Development of conventional silicon-based CMOS chips is approaching its physical limits, and the IT industry is exploring new, truly disruptive technologies to achieve further increases in computer performance. Modular molecular logic is a possible candidate, though still several years from reality. The next step for the Research team is to build a series of these molecules into a circuit, then figure out how to network those together into a molecular chip.

The concept of using molecules as electronic components is still in its infancy. Only a few examples of individual molecules serving as switches or memory elements have been demonstrated to date. Most of these molecules are complex, three-dimensional structures and change their shape when switching. Placing them on a surface while maintaining their function is extremely difficult, making them unsuitable as building blocks for computer logic.

The switching within the molecule used by the IBM researchers is well-defined, highly-localized, reversible, intrinsic to the molecule, and does not involve changes in the molecular frame. Therefore, this molecule could be used as a building block for more complex molecular devices that serve as logic elements. As the shape of the molecule does not change during switching, single switches can be coupled in a controlled way. The switching process should also work with molecules embedded in more complex structures.

"Accidental" Science

Although the IBM Research team had been screening various molecules to discover if they would be suitable for molecular switches, in the case of naphthalocyanine, the tests being performed were not to observe switching but rather to examine molecular vibrations, since understanding vibrations of molecules is important for devices operating at the atomic level. During those tests, team members were surprised to observe results that were intriguing for switching at the molecular scale, and they shifted their focus from studying vibrations to studying switching, leading to this breakthrough.

“One of the beauties of doing exploratory science is that by researching one area, you sometimes stumble upon other areas of major significance,” said Gerhard Meyer, senior researcher in the nanoscale science group at the IBM Zurich lab. “Although the discovery of this breakthrough was accidental, it may prove to be significant for building the computers of the future.”

IBM’s Nanotechnology Leadership

These new results are the latest in a series of achievements in nanoscale science at IBM Research. Two IBM scientists in Switzerland won the 1986 Nobel Prize in physics for their early 1980s invention of the STM. Over the past 20 years, IBM Almaden researchers have pioneered the use of STMs for positioning atoms into precisely designed structures that reveal fundamental atomic-scale properties and may have potential uses in information storage, transmission and processing.


Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by IBM.






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Ancient Pig DNA Study Sheds New Light On Colonization Of Europe By Early Farmers





Science Daily The earliest domesticated pigs in Europe, which many archaeologists believed to be descended from European wild boar, were actually introduced from the Middle East by Stone Age farmers, new research suggests.

The research by an international team led by archaeologists at Durham University, which is published recently in the journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, analysed mitochondrial DNA from ancient and modern pig remains. Its findings also suggest that the migration of an expanding Middle Eastern population, who brought their 'farming package' of domesticated plants, animals and distinctive pottery styles with them, actually 'kickstarted' the local domestication of the European wild boar.

While archaeologists already know that agriculture began about 12,000 years ago in the central and western parts of the Middle East, spreading rapidly across Europe between 6,800 -- 4000BC, many outstanding questions remain about the mechanisms of just how it spread. This research sheds new and important light on the actual process of the establishment of farming in Europe.

Durham University's Dr Keith Dobney explained: "Many archaeologists believe that farming spread through the diffusion of ideas and cultural exchange, not with the direct migration of people. However, the discovery and analysis of ancient Middle Eastern pig remains across Europe reveals that although cultural exchange did happen, Europe was definitely colonised by Middle Eastern farmers.

"A combination of rising population and possible climate change in the 'fertile crescent', which put pressure on land and resources, made them look for new places to settle, plant their crops and breed their animals and so they rapidly spread west into Europe."

The research, funded by the Wellcome Trust, the Leverhulme Trust, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Smithsonian Institution also showed that within 500 years after the local domestication of the European wild boar, the new domestics completely replaced the Middle Eastern pigs that had arrived in Europe as part of the 'farming package'.

Dr Greger Larson, who performed the genetic analysis said: "The domestic pigs that were derived from the European wild boar must have been considered vastly superior to those originally from Middle East, though at this point we have no idea why. In fact, the European domestic pigs were so successful that over the next several thousand years they spread across the continent and even back into the Middle East where they overtook the indigenous domestic pigs. For whatever reason, European pigs were the must have farm animal."

The research is part of an ongoing research project based at Durham University which explores the role of animals in reconstructing early farming, ancient human migration and past trade and exchange networks around the world.



Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by Durham University.






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Bush Snubs Wiccan War Widow





From Jennifer Emick,
Your Guide to Alternative Religions.
FREE Newsletter. Sign Up Now!
Bush Snubs Wiccan War Widow
This is hardly surprising, but it does seem remarkably cruel even for Bush- after visiting an American legion event in Reno, President Bush met with the families of Nevada soldiers killed in combat, with one glaring exception. Not inviited was widow Roberta Stewart, who successfully fought for her husband to receive a Wiccan emblem on his tomb. Not only was she not invited, it seems he went out of his way to make a point by inviting other relatives of her husband, and the wife of another Guardsman who was killed in the same incident as Sgt. Stewart. Ms. Stewart seems to have been callously singled out for exclusion solely on the basis of her faith and her efforts to honor her husband.
Wednesday August 29, 2007

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Hitchens on Islam





Taken from the audio book of "god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything", and read by the author.

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Scientology faces criminal charges

By CONSTANT BRAND, Associated Press Writer Tue Sep 4, 10:40 AM ET



BRUSSELS, Belgium - A Belgian prosecutor on Tuesday recommended that the U.S.-based Church of Scientology stand trial for fraud and extortion, following a 10-year investigation that concluded the group should be labeled a criminal organization.

Scientology said it would fight the criminal charges recommended by investigating prosecutor Jean-Claude Van Espen, who said that up to 12 unidentified people should face charges.

Van Espen's probe also concluded that Scientology's Brussels-based Europe office and its Belgian missions conducted unlawful practices in medicine, violated privacy laws and used illegal business contracts, said Lieve Pellens, a spokeswoman at the Federal Prosecutors Office.

"They also face charges of being ... a criminal organization," Pellens said in a telephone interview.

An administrative court will decide whether to press charges against the Scientologists.

In a statement, Scientology's Europe office accused the prosecutor of hounding the organization and said it would contest the charges.

"For the last 10 years, the prosecutor has been using the media, trying to damage the reputation of the Church of Scientology and not being able to put a case in court," Scientology said. "As a consequence, this created a climate of intolerance and discrimination" in Belgium.

It added that the prosecutor's recommendations suggested Scientology was guilty even before a court could hear the charges, making it "difficult for the Church of Scientology to recover and properly defend (itself) before the court."

Scientology has been active in Belgium for nearly three decades. In 2003, it opened an international office near the headquarters of the European Union to lobby for its right to be recognized as an official religious group, a status it does not enjoy in Belgium.

A Belgian parliamentary committee report in 1997 labeled Scientology a sect and investigations were launched into the group's finances and practices, such as the personality tests conducted on new members.

Investigators have spent the past decade trying to determine how far Scientology went in recruiting converts after numerous complaints were filed with police by ex-members alleging they'd been the victims of intimidation and extortion.

Justice officials seized financial records, correspondence, bank statements and other papers in their decade-long probe to track the flow of money to Scientology. Police also raided the offices of several consultancy firms linked to the Church of Scientology.

Pellens said that prosecutors expect Scientology to mount a strong legal challenge to the charges at a court hearing, which could come in the next two to three months. She acknowledged that could delay the case for years.

Belgium, Germany and other European countries have been criticized by the State Department for labeling Scientology as a cult or sect and enacting laws to restrict its operations.

The German government considers Scientology a commercial enterprise that takes advantage of vulnerable people.

The Los Angeles-based Church of Scientology, which is seeking to expand in Europe and be recognized as a legitimate religion, teaches that technology can expand the mind and help solve problems. The church, founded in 1954, counts actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta among its 10 million members.





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Nepal airline sacrifices goats to appease sky god

Tue Sep 4, 10:39 AM ET



KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Officials at Nepal's state-run airline have sacrificed two goats to appease Akash Bhairab, the Hindu sky god, following technical problems with one of its Boeing 757 aircraft, the carrier said on Tuesday.

Nepal Airlines, which has two Boeing aircraft, has had to suspend some services in recent weeks due the problem.

The goats were sacrificed in front of the troublesome aircraft on Sunday at Nepal's only international airport in Kathmandu in accordance with Hindu traditions, an official said.

"The snag in the plane has now been fixed and the aircraft has resumed its flights," said Raju K.C. (Eds: name correct), a senior airline official, without explaining what the problem had been.

Local media last week blamed the company's woes on an electrical fault. The carrier runs international flights to five cities in Asia.

It is common in Nepal to sacrifice animals like goats and buffaloes to appease different Hindu deities.





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Man cuts off his penis ‘to stop him sinning’





31 August 2007

SALAMANCA – A man cut off his own penis and threw it in a toilet ‘so he would stop sinning’.

The 30-year-old was recovering in the Hospital Clinico Universitario in Salamanca in western Spain.

Doctors said his condition was ‘stable’ and he was not in danger of losing his life.

The man, from Salamanca, cut off his penis with a knife on Thursday morning.

The local newspaper La Gaceta reported when relatives called emergency services, he told ambulance workers he did it “so would not sin any more”.

A relative found the man, who has not been named, in the house where they lived in the city and raised the alarm.

He was bleeding heavily.

The newspaper said it was not known if the man’s penis could be sewn back.

There was also a suggestion he may be suffering from psychological problems.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]




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Advisers tell Bush to stand pat on Iraq

By MATTHEW LEE and ANNE GEARAN, Associated Press Writers 19 minutes ago



WASHINGTON - President Bush's senior advisers on Iraq have recommended he stand by his current war strategy, and he is unlikely to order more than a symbolic cut in troops before the end of the year, administration officials told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

The recommendations from the military commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker come despite independent government findings Tuesday that Baghdad has not met most of the political, military and economic markers set by Congress.

Bush appears set on maintaining the central elements of the policy he announced in January, one senior administration official said after discussions with participants in Bush's briefings during his surprise visit to an air base in Iraq on Monday.

Although the addition of 30,000 troops and the focus on increasing security in Baghdad would not be permanent, Bush is inclined to give it more time in hopes of extending military gains in Baghdad and the formerly restive Anbar province, officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to describe decisions coming as part of the White House report on Iraq due to Congress next week.

The plan they described is fraught with political risk. While Republican leaders on Tuesday suggested the GOP may be willing to support keeping troops in the region through spring, it is unclear whether rank-and-file party members who face tough elections next year will be willing to follow their lead.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told reporters he would like to ensure a long-term U.S. presence in the Middle East to fight al-Qaida and deter aggression from Iran.

"And I hope that this reaction to Iraq and the highly politicized nature of dealing with Iraq this year doesn't end up in a situation where we just bring all the troops back home and thereby expose us, once again, to the kind of attacks we've had here in the homeland or on American facilities," said McConnell, R-Ky.

With Monday's back-to-back review sessions in Iraq, Bush has now heard from all the military chiefs, diplomats and other advisers he planned to consult before making a widely anticipated report to Congress by Sept. 15. Petraeus and Crocker are to testify before Congress on their recommendations next week.

The United States would be hard-pressed to maintain the current level of 160,000 troops in Iraq indefinitely, but Bush is not expected to order more than a slight cut before the end of the year, officials said.

Bush himself suggested that modest troop cuts may be possible if military successes continue, but he gave no timeline or specific numbers. Options beyond a symbolic cut this year include cutting the tour of duty for troops in Iraq from 15 months back to the traditional 12 months, one official said. If adopted, that change would not come before the spring.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday during a trip to Australia, Bush restated his view that decisions about troop levels should be based on recommendations from military commanders and noted that Petraeus and Crocker would be delivering reports soon enough.

"Whether or not that's part of the policy I announce to the nation ... why don't we see what they say and then I'll let you know," Bush said.

Adm. William Fallon, the head of U.S. Central Command, which oversees American forces in the Middle East and Central Asia, said Tuesday he saw signs of broad progress in Iraq.

"In the less than six months I've been in this job, I have seen a substantial change and it gives me some significant optimism that this place may just work out the way we had envisioned, or some had envisioned, when the tasks were undertaken," Fallon said in remarks to the Commonwealth Club of California, a public affairs forum.

A Pentagon official said Petraeus has not specifically recommended trimming tours by three months. Bush's troop increase will end by default in April or May, when one of the added brigades is slated to leave, unless Bush makes other changes to hold the number steady.

In an interview with ABC News, Petraeus suggested a drawdown next spring would be needed to avoid further strain on the military. Asked if March would be that time, he said, "Your calculations are about right."

Republican support could hinge on Petraeus' testimony next week. If he can convince lawmakers that the security gains won in recent months are substantial and point toward a bigger trend, GOP members might be more likely to hold out until next spring. They also might be more easily persuaded if Bush promises some small troop drawdowns by the end of the year, as was suggested to the White House by Sen. John Warner of Virginia, an influential Republican on security matters.

Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., returning from a weekend trip to Iraq, said Tuesday a small round of troop withdrawals might be the ticket to forcing political progress in Iraq. The position was a new one for the senator, who faces a tough election next year.

"I think the unmistakable message has to be sent to the Shiite leadership that there is no blank check for Iraq," Coleman told reporters on a conference call.

Also Tuesday, the Government Accountability Office, Congress' investigative and auditing arm, reported that Iraq has failed to meet 11 of its 18 political and security goals.

The study was slightly more upbeat than initially planned. After receiving substantial resistance from the White House, the GAO determined that four benchmarks — instead of two — had been partially met.

But the GAO stuck with its original contention that only three goals out of the 18 had been fully achieved. The goals met include establishing joint security stations in Baghdad, ensuring minority rights in the Iraqi legislature and creating support committees for the Baghdad security plan.

U.S. Comptroller David Walker said the GAO did not soften its report due to pressure from the administration and reached its conclusions on its own. Walker said Congress should ask itself what it wants to achieve in Iraq and can do so realistically.

"After we answer that, we can reassess what the appropriate goal is of U.S. forces," he said in an interview Tuesday.

Democrats said the GAO report showed that Bush's decision to send more troops to Iraq was failing because Baghdad was not making the political progress needed to tamp down sectarian violence.

"No matter what spin we may hear in the coming days, this independent assessment is a failing grade for a policy that simply isn't working," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.


The report does not make any substantial policy recommendations, but says future administration reports "would be more useful to the Congress" if they provided more detailed information.


___


Associated Press writers Anne Flaherty and Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.






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Michigan Dems skewer national party over primary

Gordon Trowbridge / Detroit News Washington Bureau



WASHINGTON -- Two influential Michigan Democrats today accused national party officials of selectively enforcing primary calendar rules -- punishing Florida and Michigan for moving up their presidential contests while ignoring a likely shift by New Hampshire.

"We are determined that Michigan not be bound by rules that are not effectively enforced against other state," U.S. Sen. Carl Levin and Michigan Democratic National Committee member Debbie Dingell wrote in a toughly worded letter to DNC Chairman Howard Dean.

They accuse Dean and the DNC of selectively enforcing its rules by docking Florida of all its national convention delegates as punishment for moving its primary inside the January window reserved for just four states, including New Hampshire. Michigan is likely to suffer the same penalty because it voted to move its primary to Jan. 15. Gov. Jennifer Granholm made that move official today by signing a bill that passed the Legislature last week.

In their letter, Levin and Dingell say Michigan's move was prompted by statements on Aug. 9 from New Hampshire's chief election official, Secretary of State Bill Gardner. Gardner appeared that day with the head of the South Carolina Republican party, endorsing South Carolina's decision to move its GOP primary and indicating that New Hampshire would move ahead of Jan. 22, the DNC-established date for the New Hampshire primary.

All the major Democratic presidential candidates said over the weekend they will not campaign in Michigan or Florida, signing a pledge circulated by officials in New Hampshire and the other three approved early states.

Granholm said today Democratic candidates will appear on the Michigan ballot, pledge or no. "While political maneuvering will no doubt continue, our move to January 15th is final," she said in a written statement issued by her office.

Michigan Democrats also were signaling their intention to engage in the presidential race even if the candidates aren't around.

"We're going to have a vigorous campaign," said former Gov. James Blanchard, the co-chairman of Hillary Clinton's Michigan campaign.

Blanchard said he agrees with Republicans, that Democrats could be hurt if their candidates boycott the state during the primary season.

But he said the pledge that Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards and other candidates have signed leaves open plenty of room for activity.

The pledge specifically exempts fundraising, meaning the state's donors are still fair game for candidates. Blanchard also suggested that visits by candidates' spouses might be allowable.

You can reach Gordon Trowbridge at (202) 662-8738 or gtrowbridge@detnews.com .





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Bush 'worst president'

MORE than half of all Australians believe George W. Bush is the worst president in American history, a new poll shows.



The Galaxy poll, commissioned by the Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPW), found 52 per cent of Australians believed Mr Bush was the United States' worst-ever president.

Just 32 per cent said he was not, while the remainder were undecided.

MAPW spokesman Robert Marr said it was timely for gauging the Australian public's view of the US president, who will arrive in Sydney for the APEC summit today.

"We thought it was important to get an accurate opinion of Australians' views towards President Bush," Dr Marr told ABC radio today.

"And whether they agree with former president Jimmy Carter that George (W.) Bush was actually the worst president of US history.

"The result was there is a clear majority of Australians who believe George (W.) Bush is the worst ... and that is based primarily on his Iraq war policy."

Dr Marr also said similar polls in the United States showed it was not anti-American to be anti-Bush.

"George Bush is not representing American views these days, as over 60 per cent of Americans disagree with his policy in the Iraq war," he said.

"We don't have to go along with every hare-brained military action that he suggests, and unfortunately (Prime Minister John) Howard didn't have the courage to stand up against George Bush and not get involved in the Iraq war."




Read the original story HERE!





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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.

Click HERE to get more info on this important project!

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Atheists for Autism Research Charity!





Check these guys out, and donate if you can!



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Religious Victim of the day





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Iraq, Iran, Iconquer





Iraq, Iran, Iconquer
Why is everyone leaving the Bush Administration? Are we going to attack Iran? Is Larry Craig Gay? Will President Bush turn America into the first Galactic Empire? Staks explores these questions and more in this very special depressing episode of Dangerous Talk.
Listen RIGHT NOW or whenever on Dangerous Demand. You can also listen to many of our other shows on Dangerous Demand now or whenever. Also check out DangerousTalk.net where you can watch Dangerous TV on our YouTube page, read our fantastic Editorial Columns, view and be part of our Picture Gallery, enter our competitions & projects, comment on the show and columns through our forums, and more... oh, and vote for the Most Dangerous Song and the Most Dangeorus Art too.
Help us Impeach Bush by joining the "No Confidence" campaign and donate to Atheists for Autism Research too. All on DangerousTalk.net.
-Staks
Be Dangerous America!

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Religious comedy





James Inman - Fundamentalists





Paul McDermott on the Creation Museum





Bill Hicks - Gideons





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South Park vs The Mormons





...and by the way, this is really what they believe. "Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb!"

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Richard Pryor - Religion





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Boston Legal - Alan Shore Greatest trial (Scientology).





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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!!!