Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Lebanon says Coastal Area Now Safe to Swim & Fish

A year ago this July, Israel bombed Lebanon's crucial infrastructure. A pernicious oil slick spread over some of the most gorgeous beaches in the Mediterranean. The strategic attack against the power plant created a double assault, on both Lebanon's environment and its ability to retain a tourism base. A year later, a conference convened to assess progress in rebuilding.

Oil spills are a crime against nature repeated around the world and always years in the cleanup. Today, Lebanon's Environment Ministry director announced flatly, fish are safe to eat and the water is fine for swimmers. Skeptics abound. February $200,000,000 was pledged for clean up coffers. Only a meager percentage has made it to Lebanon's clean up coffers. Lebanon has huge environmental and political issues to solve. A spirit of resolve and generosity of spirit is required.

Lebanon does boast one of the most stunning authors and sculptors of the Middle East, the incomparable and insightful Khalil Gibran:
"Keep me away from the wisdom which does not cry, the philosophy which does not laugh and the greatness which does not bow before children."

"You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give." KG 1883-1931

Monday, July 30, 2007

Monsoon Misery: Millions Flee in Southeast Asia

Torrential rains and downpours are creating massive flooding chasing millions from their homes as they seek shelter atop bridges or available rooftops on higher ground. Over 100 people have lost their lives in India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

"The floods situation has turned worse overnight," Bhumidhar Burman, a minister in Assam in India's northeast, said. "We have stepped up our relief measures on a war footing."

Officials in neighboring Bangladesh said half a million people were stranded in their homes while tens of thousands had found shelter in close to 100 relief camps.

It has the makings of a large scale humanitarian crisis with residents in Bihar worrying about outbreaks of disease. Animals are seeking higher ground, often the same ground as the area's citizens. The military is treating this as a war zone and relief effort as the plights of its citizens grow worse by hour. Southeast Asia and China are experiencing flooding over a continued period of time moving large sections of the population. Elsewhere, the power is out. School continues as Indian children take exams by candlelight.

Mounting evidence shows the effects of Climate Change on Earth. The book, The Winds of Change: Climate Weather and the Destruction of Civilization by Eugene Linden is prescient with empirical evidence as it reviews the devastating effects of America's weather patterns with an eye towards extrapolation for global policy. Humanitarian resources are stretched to breaking and the season is not yet over.

Blood Diamonds No More

Liberia is liberating diamonds after a six year ban. The president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, plans to use the diamonds to fund infrastructure and renewal projects. Mining license applications will number ten in the final stages. Charles Taylor, the US educated former president, stands accused of escalating the sale of diamonds to fund private militias for depraved wars.

Blood diamonds were a primary source of funding West African conflicts. The saga of the legendary Sierra Leone diamond trade - smuggling, became the film Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo Di Caprio and Djimon Hounsou. International in scope, the Kimberly Process was implemented to resolve and verify diamond origins. Diamond authentication is crucial to buyers ensuring they are not funding terror or the subjugation of Africans.

DeBeers felt the chilling effects in the market after the movie debut. It is seeking to strengthen its already formidable place atop the diamond market even after an agreement to exit the Russian market in 2009. South African miners are staging strike actions against DeBeers in repudiating the company's compensation offer. A number of African countries are re-opening mining licenses. Flooding a shaky market with inventory will cause intense resistance amongst the biggest players in the diamond market. Diamonds can be a girl's best friend or the means by which evil is funded. We've seen both movies.

Glitter and Greed by Janine Roberts is a 2003 book outlining diamonds, mining conditions and DeBeers. The Heartless Stone by Tom Zoellener follows the diamond trade around the world, mining its secrets. The history of diamonds are captured in an excellent out of print book about DeBeers from the 90's by Stefan Kanfer, The Last Empire: DeBeers, Diamonds and the World.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Food & Pills - The New Enemy Combatants?

Wash down tainted food after popping a few potentially perilous prescription pills plus a lot of liquor and voilĂ !, a triple threat to the Quality of Life. Unfortunately, many governments around the world are suffering chagrin and security issues as food, pills and even water come under suspicion. Governments are the regulators and the enforcers. Enter the corporations. In America, corporations are considered people too.

A diabetic in Ireland, a bottled water drinker in China, a spinach eater in America have new trust in government issues. Meanwhile Sara Lee, an American conglomerate is voluntarily recalling its whole wheat bread. Another American entity (GSK) dispensed pills for diabetics via its subsidiary in Europe and Australia which is cause for palpitations over whether heart health after taking the pills is affected. The real question becomes why did the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approve the drugs without all of the facts.

How corporations expand a market (their strategy) is part of the issue. Pepsi, the global soft drink giant, now acknowledges Aquafina's bottled water is straight from the tap, otherwise known as a PWS - public water source, but priced as if it came from an exclusive mountain spring. There are only so many of those springs to go around for the global $11,000,000,000 bottled water industry.

A few years ago, David Kessler M.D., former FDA Commissioner, wrote a compelling inside story of how the FDA worked. This book, A Question of Intent, focused on tobacco but had a chilling story of how food fights were settled - down to what McDonald's had to list in its new requirements because it needed Oval Office approval before the final decision. Detailed, fascinating insight from the former pediatrician.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

In Africa The Lights Keep Going Out

Developed nations take bright lights for granted. Flip a switch, instant illumination. But not in Africa. Africa seeks to join the taking of electricity for granted, except - they cannot. Africans all over the continent know what the true price is for electricity - dwindling fresh water, clogging pollution from power sources and a lack of western capital investments for basic infrastructure because of circular tribal fights over resources.

In Nigeria, Angola and some other nations, virtually all businesses and many residents run private generators to supplement faltering public service, saddling economies with added costs and worsening pollution.

"I've been on the 20th floor of an apartment building in Luanda, and there would be generators on all the verandas, with the racket, the fumes," said Anton Eberhard, a former electricity regulator and an expert on power at the University of Cape Town. "And the lift isn't working, because the main power supply is off."

In normal times, South Africa's muscular chain of power plants fills the gaps of its neighbors. But South Africa now could experience up to seven years of its own electricity shortages. Rolling blackouts blanketed parts of the country in January, and sporadic power failures have persisted since.

The gravity of this year's shortage is all the more apparent considering how little electricity sub-Saharan Africa has to begin with. Excluding South Africa, whose economy and power consumption dwarf other nations', the region's remaining 700 million citizens have access to roughly as much electricity as do the 38 million citizens of Poland. (emphasis mine)

Rolling blackouts are big news in America because of their rarity. When they happen media people spout the amount of lost productivity for businesses. In Africa it is a multiplier of disaster because the grids are not robust. Before South Africa could bridge the gap, but they are facing their own power shortages. Nigeria, rich in resources and rife with corruption is unable to keep pace. Ghana is using funds from the World Bank to build its grid for, wait for it...

Several factors account for Ghana’s energy problems, and there is now an urgent need for a long-term visionary approach to sector management. The main objective of the Energy Development and Access project is to support long-term efforts aimed at (i) improving the performance of the power companies, (ii) increasing energy efficiency, (iii) scaling-up energy access to reduce inequity due to urban-rural imbalance, and (iv) enhancing renewable energy generation capacity.

Does all that fancy MBA talk mean everyone in Ghana will have access to the power grid?

Al Gore used a slide in the Oscar-winning film, An Inconvenient Truth that showed western nations awash in lights and electricity. From space, the African continent isn't lit up like a holiday parade. Everyone in a developed nation is just one prolonged blackout away from personally appreciating the every day travails of Africans and Iraqis.

Given the amount of strife in Africa, it behooves all of us with the lights on to learn, quickly. Oil forms the basis of environmental blight and economic boon to Africa. A prime goal is to provide enough energy to improve African Quality of Life in attaining developed status. The struggle and trade offs are outlined in two prodigious books; Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil by the highly readable John Ghazvinian and the painstakingly researched Poisoned Well: The Dirty Politics of African Oil by Nicholas Shaxson. I am looking for African authors on this subject - do you have recommendations?

Tibet Takes Strong Stance on Environment

Tibet and China remain interlocked and yet separate. The environment in the Tibetan autonomous region is warming. Tibet is receiving investment capital from China to build infrastructure. Tibet's caveat being protecting the environment first and foremost even from a healthy tourism industry. China is disposed to graceful action ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. An abundance of expected Olympic tourists has China cleaning up for guests and showing tolerance for new ideas on the environment. For now.

China's population is growing and its pollution increases with every new owner of a carbon emitting vehicle. Each new bouncing baby requires more electricity, energy, food and fresh water. This has wrought enormous changes to China's topography and increased efforts to preserve the environment and its reputation. China believes it is Tibet's universal, sometimes benevolent, overlord.

Tibet, the birthplace of the exiled Dalai Lama, is a sore spot within China's bureaucracy. Tibet is subject to the vagaries of history. History is mostly written by the winners of the struggle. To that end an incredible book, Tibet:Conversations with the Dalai Lama by Thomas Laird takes the reader to the magical myths and origins of the country. This book shares an abundance of insights about Buddhism directly from His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, a prolific author in his own right. Protecting the environment is a global calling to everyone of all faiths and no faith.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Meet the New Cuba Policy, Same as the Old...

Cuba has an entwined thorny history with the USA. Illegal entry into the USA grants fleeing Cubans a separate and unequal immigration stance, the horridly named "wet foot, dry foot"policy.

During the recent boiling over of immigration suds, no one really attacked that difference. Cubans come knowing the proviso, if they are Cuban and make it to land even by millimeters (dry foot), the immigration umpire yells "safe". Caught in US territorial waters in a flimsy boat or an inner tube as a Cuban, is ruled a foul (wet foot). Many take another chance.

Some rallied for "Keep Out" fences along the land-locked US-Mexican border. No one is funding a twin northern Canada fence, though the Millennium Bomber used that entry.

Nothing galvanizes US policy towards Cuba the way the name Castro does. Al Qaeda's Osama does not have near the same longevity of dominating policy. On both, the US has deemed them or their organization or country sponsors of terrorism. Yet, if you have a dry foot... Fidel Castro handed over the reigns to Raul Castro. The notable change is that Raul's speeches are shorter about the Revolution. There is talk of the needed structural changes for Cuba, but the more things change the more they stay the same.

Cuba's rich and vibrant history is smothered by oppression. The US has a history of touting Democracy and slavery at the same time. At some point, the cognitive dissonance regarding the dialogue needs to take place, especially when the fence is advocated against a country we import oil from and have not designated them a sponsor of terrorism.
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Cuba's rich intellectual history is documented in the poems of Jose Marti (1853-1895). Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana by Ann Louise Bardach is a must read book that is part Cuba travelogue providing precious insight into all sides of the debate that divides families and loyalties. An org chart of connections to families in the US; especially Miami, and Havana is invaluable. Tad Szulc wrote Fidel: A Critical Portrait that informs and challenges what drove his actions.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

NASA Confirms Sabotage & Drunken Astronauts

To my knowledge, there is no intergalactic chapter of MADD. Soberly, NASA might want to check. There are serious, yet anonymous claims in a health study of at least two incidents of astronauts being cleared to fly when legally drunk. Even more serious are the actual charges of sabotage in a NASA report before Endeavor left on its mission. On purpose, wires were cut. Why remains a mystery. Liftoff for another shuttle is scheduled on August 7th.

This year, NASA is just tanking on its public relations efforts. There was the Houston based astronaut wearing a special absorbent diaper chasing down her love interest's paramour in Florida who gets off the front pages due to Anna Nicole. Shuttle mission sees international blame game ensue after complete computer systems failure.

Former shuttle commander Eileen Collins was as stunned as anyone to learn of the astronaut alcohol claims in the upcoming health report.

Collins worries this will hurt the image of the astronauts, at least in the short term. "I hope people can really look at the good things astronauts do," she said.

Himmel, who retired in 1981 as associate director for what is now Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, wasn‘t surprised to learn the information was anonymous.

"Let‘s face it. Astronauts are a bunch of brothers and sisters, OK, and they‘ll cover each other‘s backsides because they‘re part of the team," he said. "And who knows what the role of the particular ones was to be. If he was just to sit in the middle seat somewhere and just be a passenger, you kind of say, ‘Well, gee, I hope he doesn‘t vomit on the way up.‘"(emphasis mine)

Er, how much money is spent on these very brainy and talented people? No wonder those in charge of NASA's astronaut evaluation team are feeling a bit of radiant heat. These days, who knows who has The Right Stuff? The nascent first female space program is chronicled in Right Stuff: Wrong Sex by Margaret Weitekamp.

Russia Races to Claim Arctic Oil & Gas

A Russian naval ship is back in the hunt after an engine blew, slowing down their quest to claim the rich stores of oil and natural gas below the Arctic seas. Russia's claim is based on geographically demonstrating that the North Sea's rich energy fields are an extension of its territory.

Manifest Destiny, Russian-style, reaches for the North Pole - a new potential battlefield. The cost of mining the abundant resources is currently secondary to ensuring that the claim to ownership is in the right hands. Canada is calling this a stunt while Russia is scouring for ice breaking ships.

The United Nations will be the first recipient of claim, counter-claims and international border disputes. An ability to resolve issues peacefully are not part of the UN's recent track record. The UN's Security Council features Russia and the USA as part of its five permanent Security Council members with the ability to veto or block the other's wishes and claims. Both nations are dependent on fossil fuels to propel their economies and military industrial complexes. Currently President Bush can no longer creepily claim to look into President Putin's eyes and "know" his soul.

This is The Hunt for Red October updated for the 21st century with all sides armed to the teeth.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Human Poker Players Defeat Computer

One of the people playing poker with the scary sobriquet "Unabomber" and donning a hoodie, wins against a computer's teams software. The Artificial Intelligence research team chose two professional poker players for overall characteristics against the software rather than selecting on the singularity being the best poker players.

Out of four rounds, the humans won two against the software dubbed Polaris. Subtleties of poker with bluffing and "tells" are much harder on either side of this high tech card game. Jeff Laak, aka Unabomber, kept talking aloud to the laptop and of course, no feelings or friendships suffered damage in the competitive process.

The human team reached a draw in the first round even though their total winnings were slightly less than that of the computer. The match rules specified that small differences were not considered significant because of statistical variation.
On Monday night, the second round went heavily to Polaris, leaving the human players visibly demoralized.

“Polaris was beating me like a drum,” Mr. Eslami said after the round.

However, during the third round on Tuesday afternoon, the human team rebounded, when the Polaris team’s shift in strategy backfired. They used a version of the program that was supposed to add a level of adaptability and “learning.”

The match was challenging and layered in its sophistication for Polaris with the use of bots. Humans play poker based on cues and clues. Some of the best poker books may need some upgrades and updates as Polaris goes into its next generation. Video Poker has a Big Brother.

Miers & Bolten Face Contempt of Congress

In your face says Congress, clearly and succinctly with contempt citations. Co-equal branch of US Government means something very different today, than it did yesterday, to the hierarchical Bush Administration.

Executive Privilege is about to be put to the test under adverse conditions. Republicans were embarrassed with yet another sloppy performance by Bush's friend from Texas, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Maybe the Democrats are going to tie a yellow ribbon around him. He deserves Impeachment. Gonzales was so awful their were bi-partisan calls for a Special Prosecutor. Bush does not need another one of those per se, but America does to get to the Truth.

Will update in the morning when I get up - its almost 2 am PST.

Is Al Qaeda Bush's Beetlejuice?

The way the curse works is you have to say it three times to summon the Evil. It doesn't matter whether it is spoken softly, stated harshly or yelled loudly. President Bush summons the al Qaeda/Beetlejuice boogeyman with every ounce of his verbal capacity at every opportunity.

Bush does his "Beetlejuice" thing like clockwork - Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda. BOO!

Al Qaeda is everywhere in Iraq, nowhere to be captured in Afghanistan, but has a forwarding address in Pakistan. The 9/11 Commission reported no link between Iraq and 9/11 terrorism, but the most uninformed president of the United States keeps trying to make a lie the truth. Ugh! Lemmings who believe that 9/11 and Iraq are linked watch the befuddled Fox News where accuracy is not as high on the list as "fair and balanced".

The 9/11 Commission even put out a report in book form with recommendations that remain credenzaware six years after 9/11.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Forest Funding & Globalization

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Forests play a major environmental and aesthetic role in the real world. Fantasy features forests symbolically and for the woodsy beauty of abundant metaphors. The World Bank is seeking to raise enthusiasm for a $250 million USD Fund to save the Earth's forests. From a strategic standpoint, it is starting on a small scale by focusing on deforestation efforts in developing nations.

The World Bank is more attuned to using monetary means for leverage with Third World countries while using resource management from First World nations. The Forest Fund is seeking donors, but the true measure of its success is whether they seek collaboration and cooperation for coalitions that have a sustainable strategic platform from which to grow and celebrate their successes. Australia has split its contributions roughly in half with Indonesia deforestation a regional priority.

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Large scale initiatives have come under fire from some of the executive leadership decisions made inside the closed branches of the World Bank. Globalization and trade policies affect developing countries as they maneuver amongst the giant redwoods of global finance. The nations trade and leveraging what few assets a developing nation may have to gain financial credit. Climate Change and how developing nations deal with the pressure to use their assets, i.e. forests, water and other precious resources, are under constant peer review by environmentalists.

Books do a more thorough review of the World Bank and offer a variety of perspectives. Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize winner in Economics and critic of World Bank policies, writes often about the need for the "Greening" of Globalization. A book examining the inner workings is Imperial Nature: The World Bank and Struggles for Social justice in the Age of Globalization by Michael Goldman distributed by Yale Press. The Globalizers: the IMF, World Bank and Their Borrowers authored by Ngaire Woods gives a history tour of its founding at Bretton Woods and the effects of the policies of the institutions.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Soda - The Unhealthy Drink?

Depending on where one is from, it is either soda or pop or soda pop. But one, just one, is a potential risk to an adult's health. It's sweet, tastes great and may be low on calories, does that matter? According to the research, no. A lifestyle that may be construed as unhealthy further exacerbates the health risk.

Fast Food Nation is an excellent terrifying book that underlines the crunchy issues about what we imbibe. Children drinking inordinate amounts of soda are at risk for diabetes among other long term health dangers. Coupled with the amount of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) in soft drinks does not bode well.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

So Far, 110th Congress is a Failure

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The 110th Congress is setting itself up for utter humiliation. The ungodly War in Iraq has not ended, though lame Republicans continue to support the death and destruction prevalent in Iraq. Republican cognitive dissonance is so bad they speak with forked tongues about ending the war and always vote with the failed policies of George W. Bush, endangering us all. Republicans have done their version of reading The Pet Goat, like their mentor George Bush did while the World Trade Center Towers were being attacked. Republicans voted against decency, the Rule of Law and the Constitution so many times displaying no honor, just shame in being obstructionist and enabling the tyranny of the Cheney/Bush administration.

Meanwhile a fair few Democrats abandoned accountability and the Rule of Law to fund and enable the Iraq Debacle, the Military Commission Act and a host of other egregious sins against The Constitution. Many were willing to give Congress a bit of time to get its sea legs and they decided the ship should stay tied to the shoreline where the risks of capsizing are negligible. A Democratic Congress given the reins of power chose milquetoast strokes, rather than strong independent stances on Principle, then greased their moderate blue dog bottoms to slide on one of the steepest giant spill rides to the bottom of the polls, ever. They chose to capitulate, not agitate, as Frederick Douglass, as the Republican freed slave advocated.

This has led to a rift and a lack of a singular voice to lead the 110th Congress. The people are far ahead of this placid Congress that enabled and lashed itself to the Moby Dick of the 21st Century, George Bush. Senator Feingold trills and tinkles on Meet the Press this morning to reintroduce the bold non-legal, non-binding Censure which does nothing to uphold the Rule of Law or culminate in an Impeachment inquiry. Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Impeachment is off the table because they were working on other things, like a pay raise for minimum wage earners and themselves. There are over 3600 dead Americans and 650,000 dead Iraqi's, abuses of power in Iraq and America and this was the best they could do?

The supposedly moderate members of a Bush poodle-coiffed Congress believed America was with them - the polls show a whopping No on that. Americans are on the side of getting out of Iraq, holding up the Constitution and the Rule of Law. We have an Amber Alert out on Congress - where can they be?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Midnight with Harry Potter!

My badge of Honor today is a wristband. My deluxe edition of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince still has the bright orange one tucked right inside the cover as a memento. The wristband is a must have, so get it - early. It means have a Midnight strategy in place if apparating to the local bookstore. The other way is waiting on Saturday with people sitting on front porches waiting for the familiar delivery logos on trucks. That wait would finish me off, plus I *heart* going to the bookstore.

Who knew getting such a beloved book would involve professional strategizing? First, sleep - a nap if possible, but most likely forget about it. Would seeing Order of the Phoenix at the movies be better than finishing up Book 6 so you can just dive right in fully in the moment? But that's getting too far ahead.

In southern California, there are all types standing in line for HP. Every now and then you have your garden fertilizer Aunt Petunia-like troll who screams shrilly you are going to Hell, as if that's persuasive. Little kids of every age spend hours on costumes. Magical Adults choose their favorite professor or Umbridge, Weasleys, Centaurs or a hapless Fudge because they have just gotten off work. Kids play games. Adults watch all the sugar from Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans and Butterbeer just send kids into sugar orbit. They haven't even waited in line yet. Scary!

Then there are the SPOILERS lurking online and in line, possibly in front of you, who will turn to the last page and may or may not keep it to themselves. Before the doors re-open, its fun to trade theories as long as you check that the fellow Wizarding person practices CONSTANT VIGILANCE about spoilers too. Jo Rowling condemned American Dementor leaks and is she ticked. Good. (No links, because I won't look!) Thwarting them requires some Fred & George Mischief Managed thinking - once in line, headphones, big ones, with jazz playing loudly. It means no clicking on any link for the next 24 hours that even feels Potterish. It's great having watched Keith Olbermann, MSNBC anchor, announce his fear of spoilers and getting redacted news memos about them from staff.

It means not talking to people as you get in or on your version of a Firebolt, Floo Powder or Thestral and go home. Set up a drink, pillows, napkins, snacks and when the sun comes up, keep reading - I hope I'm still smiling at the end through my grief knowing it is the very last time.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Ticket Prices Rise for Space Tourists

Excess gravity on the mass value of the US dollar is inflating the price for the ultra rich to jet off to the International Space Station's version of a spa weekend. Transportation provided by Russia's Soyuz capsule includes all meals and lodging. Each round trip first class ticket will cost $40 million US for a 2008 or 2009 booking. Prior trips for 2007 were at the bargain basement price of $30 million USD. Space Adventures requires a nominal 20% deposit and a certificate of health to handle the pressures of the trip before and during. The pictures from space are priceless.

Living day to day at the International Space Station has its thrills and moments of utter boredom. A recent trip saw all six of the Space Station's computers crash and a concerted effort to reconcile hardware and software issues like a Help Desk on Earth, only they were traveling at over 17,000 miles per hour. Inhabitants of the ISS, exercise often , jerry-rig equipment and clean up for occasional visits from crews of the US space shuttles. Chris Jones(video at the link) writes a terrific tell all account of the perils of space and the last visit of Columbia's crew. With the loss of Columbia heavy on their hearts, the ISS crew had to make their own emergency landing at the same time. They too were feared lost. Too Far From Home tells the poignant insider story of the last chess move between astronaut friends forever parted and the awesome pictures as the ISS orbited our Earth. It's a first class read.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Elders Seek Peace with Madiba Magic

An esteemed group of World Leaders gathered together Wednesday, on Nelson Mandela's birthday, to begin working on Peace as The Elders. Slowed by physical age, yet filled with the eternal spirit of Peace, the fighter for social justice lent his presence to the auspicious gathering. Mandela is the source of the wise and generous Madiba Magic.

Among The Elders & Nobel Laureates

Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest which garnered her a prominent empty chair honoring her absence. None of The Elders has a formal role or government mandate, but they have global connections and clout, which the group will leverage to wage Peace.

Learning more about The Elders is a Google click away, yet nothing gives profound insight quite like what is revealed inside a book's pages. Some of the bibliography of notable books on or by the group include: The Long Walk to Freedom a riveting and detailed Nelson Mandela's autobiography (plus I must mention the brand new Shades of Freedom describing the Apartheid Movement in rich and painful detail with an extended foreword from Nelson Mandela), Our Endangered Values by Jimmy Carter, God Has A Dream by Desmond Tutu. Banker to the Poor is Muhammad Yunus's autobiographical contribution to the fascinating world of micro-finance. Mary Robinson the former United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights was the seventh president of Ireland and serves on several high profile and powerful global initiatives and boards.

Underground Water found in Africa!

A shimmering discovery in the midst of massive human heartbreak, utter devastation and a desert makes the mirage of fresh clean water, real. The true hope is for this amazing discovery to be a catalyst to stop the genocide and war over resources in Darfur.

"Much of the unrest in Darfur and the misery is due to water shortages," said geologist Farouk El-Baz, director of the Boston University Center for Remote Sensing, according to the AP news agency.
An underground lake the size of America's Lake Erie is in the middle of an area of intense desertification. It brings great joy, yet immense caution should be the watchword. If this is an underground aquifer, the source of replenishment is ancient and not likely to refill. The sheer numbers of desperate farmers and nomads digging wells means conservation and protection must be part of the solution. Once the water is pumped, crop selection needs careful attention as certain grains and animals require vast amounts of water. The water may be used more efficiently on other, better choices. Property rights need settlement from an unimpeachable source of Justice, otherwise the seeds of destruction are sewn in the blessings of the fresh water.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Harry Potter - One Last Time

I am anticipating Friday night at the stroke of twelve with the fervor of a four year old. It will be fun to see small magical kids and 7th year adults, all overexcited in their Hogwarts costumes and drunk on Pumpkin Juice served up legally at the local bookstore. It is a publishing bonanza never seen before and odds are low on it ever being repeated, though it is wonderful to have an opportunity to try.

I was astonishingly late to the Harry Potter phenomenon. My opportunity through family and friends was enormous to get with it early. As the bibliophile, I bought sets for family. I bought the paperbacks for a little boy who already had a set. The extra set, virginal in its plastic, sat there amidst royalty with Queen Noor and His Holiness the Dalai Lama or buried by exalted historians Adam Hochschild, Nell Painter, Louis Menand, Tocqueville and David McCoullough. I excavated them by accident when a stack fell over and multi-colored spines caught my attention. I said why not, my elitism could stand to see what the fuss was all about.

Jo Rowlings hooked me. In record time, I finished the now precious set which only went up to Goblet and rushed out immediately to find Order of the Phoenix in hardback. I am a confirmed adult Potter-aholic who has had the most amazing discussions - out and out fights online and off on whether Snape was Good or Evil with kids and amazingly, adults - grocery clerks, lawyers, the tire guy, MBAs, doctors, stylists, CEOs, IT professionals, executive assistants, and the gardener. Now this Umbridge- inspired ignoramus from the Ministry of Propaganda is lamenting our lack of tasteful reading - Bah humbug!
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Please take the poll and tell us why that one was your favorite.

Alarm Bells of Climate Change are Clanging Around the Globe

From the UN to the US, Climate Change is discussed, debated and derided by the ill-informed in politics every day as the Debate about Global Warming rises to a threatening crescendo. Climate Change strikes a high level of fear into the heart of politicians as they struggle to catch up with the People.

The General-Secretary of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon, wrote out his bleak rationale that the effects of Climate Change are the root cause for Darfur's ravages of war for control of Sub-Saharan's remaining resources. On July 10, the Economics and Social Council of the United Nations adopted A Declaration, which:
called for the widest possible cooperation by all countries to develop an effective and appropriate response to climate change.
Wars over dwindling resources are part of military planning. Most think of oil, but everyone should consider water as the population escalates to 8 billion people and the amount of fresh water decreases.

Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution, and Profit by Vandana Shiva is a must have or read resource book on water and what is occurring with the world's food supply. Her bio and other books are listed at the link.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Democrats Cash Cow Delivers the Milk of Money

First, Barack Obama delivered a message to Hillary Clinton , do not ever underestimate me again. Her pet fundraiser, Terry McAuliffe was quite boastful when Hillary announced her presidential run, she was inevitable. Not so fast, Obama's fundraising is resetting campaign strategy on all sides.

Hillary is scampering to catch up to Barack in numbers of people and primary dollar bills. Now Obama has the cash to eat into her lead in the polls. Make no mistake, money is free speech in politics. Hillary is formidable and now has a challenge worthy of her strengths.

Folks are horrified at the amount of money in politics. But you have to pay to play. The two Titans of the Democratic field are setting records. Many think the money is from fat cats and corporate types. Obama's money is rolling in from small donor offsetting advantages candidates have with big donor influence. Small donors are making their free speech rights heard too, but they will also be on the ground and on the internet more so than any big donors. It's a new day in Politics!

The vaunted Clinton political machine had scores of big donors, Hollywood, endorsements, name recognition and a former president on the team. Barack Obama, the charismatic newbie, started with notions of hope and an idea for revamping the political structure. Obama cleaned Clinton's clock and is building an army of support from a mix of small and big donors and focusing on primary money. Clinton had $10,000,000 to rollover from her 2006 senate campaign. Obama has more cash on hand at the end of an amazing second quarter of fundraising for Democrats.

No other Democrats in the presidential race are within hailing distance of these two on cash this far ahead of the Iowa & Nevada caucuses and New Hampshire & South Carolina primaries. An inordinate amount of cash is needed to compete on February 5th. Those are some of the most expensive media markets on the planet and underscore why early money to lock in media buys is important. SUPER Tuesday marks the shift away from retail politics. That is why the early money deeply matters. Money creates buzz and the WOW factor, the media flocks to it like bees, they pollinate the people with their pre-conceived narrative and it seeds endorsements.

Nothing but Bad News on the Republican side. Ron Paul has two commas worth of cash on hand. Former inevitable front runner, John McCain is now carrying his own bags after downsizing his campaign, hopes and cash to a meager $250,000 on hand. Former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore threw in the towel. He couldn't compete with McCain on cash.

Most of the candidates have released books. Two of the Democrats had New York Times Number one best sellers, Living History - Clinton & The Audacity of Hope - Obama. Money in Politics can be checked at Open Secrets and the Federal Election Commission.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Iraq: Bush's Titanic Disaster

In the face of insurmountable evidence, George W. Bush refuses to accept reality on the latest Babylon Civil War. He repeats his mantra; Iraq is winnable, if we stay the course, if we give the military more time and until I decide what to do next.

Egads!, that's the problem right there, a complete over reliance on the US military while misusing their military skills as Iraqi law enforcement. The contention and ideal of staying the course with each new version of his Iraq Debacle policies shames an already tarnished and diminished president, forever eliminating him as a world leader worth hearing.

Surge Iraq 2.0 is under review, too bad it is not a peer review by a responsible co-equal branch of government. Republicans have been obstructionist by saying one thing and voting another in righting the ship of state. No wonder Bush gets to keep extending his drippy stay at Camp Delusional. The 2007 Surge is taking heavy verbal artillery fire from Democrats and a few tough sounding Republicans. Bush's shriveled hopes rely on a September report from General Petraeus that he hopes to trumpet from every minaret that he can make Iraq work out, until he is finally out of America's White House .

Meanwhile, Iraq's Prime Minister Maliki says America can exit stage right at anytime.

A decorated veteran member of the 101st Airborne gave a rebuttal to Bush's Iraq happy talk on the radio Saturday. Brandon Friedman will release the book, The War I Always Wanted by Zenith Press in August of 2007.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Presidential Requirement: Preserve, Protect & Defend the Constitution

That is a key part of the Oath of Office for an American president as proscribed directly in The Constitution. Members of the US Senate and the House of Representatives, government officials, the Judiciary and our nation's military swear a slightly different Oath using the words support and defend. A memorable oath took place with the ceremonial use of Jefferson's Koran combining the past with the present, unnerving a few Christian hypocrites. The Oath does not have a religious value, but many use holy texts to underline their commitment.

In all cases, the oath of office involves affirming or swearing an Oath to uphold the US Constitution, the culmination of Democracy. The precious Blood of the citizenry flowed within the borders of this country and in other sovereign nations in support and defense of the ideals and principles contained within the Constitution since the founding of this republic. Now The Constitution and what it means is at stake and few are paying attention.

There is a bill for Cheney's Impeachment that has gained more c0-sponsors. That is not enough. Bush and Cheney have refused cooperation with an equal branch of government, wiretapped illegally and admitted the illegality, used faulty intelligence to send the nation into the most misbegotten and incompetently run war, renditioned people to secret prisons, agreed to suspension of the hallowed use of Habeus Corpus, outed an undercover CIA official, allowed the destruction of a US city as the victims of Katrina were left in squalor, lost billions in funds in Iraq, created a culture that allowed the manifestation of Abu Gharib and on and on. It is as if the Bush/Cheney cabal is daring Impeachment by a sheepish Congress. The books alone on the malfeasance and maliciousness of this administration will forever scorch the Bush administration's legacy for generations to the 10th power to come. So much for Bush's wish to be rescued by Lady History.

On Friday, July 13th, Bill Moyers on PBS, invited the author of the first article of Impeachment for Bill Clinton, Bruce Fein and John Nichols on to discuss the current Constitutional Crisis and its required Remedy. Crimes need the investigation and leadership of the House of Representatives. Speaker Pelosi stated Impeachment was "off the Table". Nancy, the Table belongs to the People. That violates your Oath of Office to support and defend. There must be a moral leader who understands that the Constitution stands above partisan politics, reinforces the foundation of the Rule of Law and is willing to lose his or her political job over it. The Constitution laid out the rationale and the Founders anticipated just this scenario. Impeachment is embedded in the parchment for a Purpose. Are we without Leadership that understands its Purpose and forgot its Oath?

Moyer's PBS special last night with conservatives agreeing that Impeachment is the Remedy is must see TV. To learn more about the House of Representatives, the body responsible for investigatinons that may possibly lead to any president's impeachment, please read the beautifully researched book by Robert V. Remini, The House: The History of the House of Representatives. Upon reflection, he wishes he had named the book The People's House.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Marvels of Architecture Produce Digital Walls of Water

Spain will feature the innovative and intriguing design from MIT at Expo Zaragoza 2008. William J. Mitchell, head of MIT's Design Laboratory and former Dean of Architecture at MIT explains the technology:
Equipped with suitable sensors, Water Walls can detect the approach of people and, "like the Red Sea for Moses, open up to allow passage through at any point," said Mitchell. "This provocatively subverts the fundamental architectural conception of an opening as something, like a door, found at a fixed location."
The theme of the Expo is water. This architecture displays the fusion of water, art, technology in an astounding display of imagination. A video presentation from Wired is here.

From an Italian perspective, Chris Parades provides the poetic combination of water and architecture, naturally named Architecture Water. As always, when architecture and art are combined the books are beautiful while adorning many a coffee table, but they are meant to be treasured. And yes, they are pricey, very pricey. But if in Spain, go see the water walls live when it opens and report back here!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

President to Address Nation on Al Qaeda Threat

The president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, has a nation divided by distrust, religious and secular anger and grief and makes his point on Thursday, Pakistan time. The bloody siege at the Red Mosque ended in a hail of gunfire; leaving more than 70 dead along with the Muslim cleric, Abdul Rashid Ghazi. The cleric led a violent revolution for installing a Taliban-style management in Pakistan. Did Musharraf's intelligence service, ISI, let him down or tell him no problem, it was a slam dunk?

There are angry vows of retribution over the destruction of the mosque from Al Qaeda. From somewhere close by, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian and the number two the US can't find, has vowed vengeance for the destruction of the mosque by the Pakistani commando units.

This comes atop the American Homeland Security Chief, Michael "The Gutsy Predictor" Chertoff abusing this nation's trust by announcing he thought there were going to be spectacular terrorist events but he had no specific credible information for this summer. No worries; it was a gut check, that the White House is running away from as fast as it can. That comes atop the same day the Bush Administration announced a strengthening threat from al Qaeda, which seems to be a catch all de facto name for all armed people against the US now. Talk about mixed messages!

Understanding the ISI and the predicament Musharraf is in, are well documented and Pulitzer Prize winning books. Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden From the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 by Steve Coll, documents the ISI's history and the heavy influence from Saudi Arabia. Also, The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright has excellent biographical and rationale detailed that upends everything learned from the traditional media. Anything by Karen Armstrong goes a long way to explaining spiritual underpinnings. But my favorite book on explaining religions is by Huston Smith, aptly titled The World's Religions and is written from the perspective of practicing that religion. What other sources for enlightenment would you add?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Water & Rat Woes in China

Floods and landslides areas are recording deaths in the hundreds and damage in the billions. From massive flooding to a migration of two billion rats, yes with a b, through central China's water system are making headlines. The rats gnawed and chewed their way through dikes and flood control systems to reach higher ground. Farmers are dismayed at the crop destruction and the sheer numbers.

A half billion people evacuated the projected path of China's swollen Huaihe River before it overruns its banks. This rainy season is in southern provinces is displacing people and causing strain on the flood control system. It has been slow to react to pending disaster.

Meanwhile under investigation is 'fake' water' bottled and stored, after being sold as fresh. It is causing renewed health concerns as the search for the origins of the water continues. The lack of oversight has permeated food, pet food and now China's bottled water market.

China's population is still growing and will require fresh clean water to sustain the people and the food required for such a large population. Yet, China's infrastructure or the integrity of the systems are not growing to meet the future needs. Overwhelming is the thought. China has a storied history of engineering and innovations and that spirit is needed now more than ever.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Bill Clinton Has a Book on The Way

Bill and Hillary have been quite busy lately. In the midst of Hillary's presidential campaign comes an announcement of Bill's book, GIVING by Knopf which published his book My Life. Timing is everything!

Clinton, who recently hit the campaign trial on behalf of his wife, Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton, plans a U.S. tour to promote the book, the publisher said.

Clinton, who was elected U.S. president in 1992 and served two terms, lately has spent time building up his charitable Clinton Foundation, which works to address global health, poverty, environmental and economic concerns.

"I've done my best in this book to demonstrate what I've seen firsthand through my foundation's work in Africa and around the world," Clinton said in a statement.

Hillary and Bill are modifying the African proverb, It Takes A Village to It Takes a Clinton Village to run for president and be a shining star in the publishing world too. Some guy, named Barack Obama understands the melding of publishing and the political, too.

A Hypocritical Politician & Adultery

A/The DC Madam exposed another self-righteous politician today who said one thing and "did" another. Unfortunately for David Vitter, he is from Louisiana, a state with a rogues gallery of epic characters with flaws of excess featured in an Academy Award winning film and a Pulitzer prize winning novel by Robert Penn Warren among other literary works. If a politician campaigns on a bedroom platform of honoring family values, its quite difficult to have the confession taken seriously only after being caught in flagrante delicto with phone record evidence as it were. That must have been a tough discussion with the wife who probably had some strong words about sin, honor, and marriage vows for the family values guy.

Do as I say, not as I am Doing should be on some politicians business cards. Vitter can get a bulk discount with Rudy Giuliani, Antonio Villaraigosa, Gavin Newsom, Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, John McCain, Bernard Kerik, Bob Livingston, ...

Monday, July 9, 2007

Marrying Books & News

Current events fascinate me. Not the Paris Hilton and Tinkerbelle dined at the Ivy type of breaking news, but something that matters. Budgets and underdeveloped bottomlines ushered in a gold rush era of news-for-profit, to our detriment and unfaithfulness to the brands.

My definition of real news is what is needed to make life better or a real difference in another's life. Comfort the Afflicted and Afflict the Comfortable is an adage that retains its classic luster. TV news is fast moving, requires pictures, often lacks context with commentary at the depth of a teaspoon. Into the information void marches words, at least 60,000 strong, heralding inspiration, insight, knowledge or fodder for the fireplace. Reading a book is a commitment. I love all types of books, but my heart holds a special fondness for nonfiction.

For me, blogging is an enterprise to wed the news of the day/hour/minute with books that entrance, infuriate or enlighten as I discover in a trusted book more than the news could ever speedily dish between interfering ads. Mind Sorbet is the synergy of wants and wishes to marry nonfiction books and bits and bytes of information for discussion.

It is no wonder that many reporters produce books on subjects that were pared for space and/or time. The Good News is they are now discovering the power of pixel dust. It seems surprising given that many fine books come sans pictures.

I want more books on interesting topics spawned by media efforts. My goal is to Link to news and related books, building a body of knowledge across media platforms. C-SPAN does it, but on the weekends the two live separately with Book TV and in-depth (uninterrupted) discussion on issues of the day separated.

I look forward to doing it here with humor, sarcasm and a healthy dose of realism. With all my worldly Mind Sorbet, I thee endow...

Constitutional Armageddon Ahead?

The Marbled Four Branches of American Government

President Bush invoked executive privilege on behalf of aides, so they would not testify before Congress. Congress can declare contempt. The enforcement of the subpoena goes to the Justice Department. And the Justice Department reports to the White House. There-in lies the loop-de-loop thrill ride a 75 year young Congressman named John Conyers, Jr., is about to get on for the duration. Executive Privilege is for the president, not for former aides who chatter and connive amongst themselves. Cue the most expensive lawyers to thrash it out in public.

The latest breaking news brinkmanship is between a stubborn codger of a humiliated president and the mettle of a razor thin majority Democratic Congress. With Ruffles and Flourishes, Congress caved in once already to the lame duck's demands on the Iraq Supplemental. Now the stage is set for a classic summer battle in Washington. Neither branch of government is Paris Hilton popular. Democrats have a better chance of being victors, but the Courts will weigh in. Who picked those judges again? Bush also has a microphone, but may not want to face it after his commutation of his lying and obstructing aide, Scooter Libby.

Surging Democratic opposition plus the right to declare contempt literally and figuratively has given Democrats renewed strength. This is in Bush's privileged executive astro-turfed South Lawn and still has him reaching for the antacids as he simultaneous tries to cast the Iraq surge as a huge hit - Broadway style, not Fallujah I. The Bush legacy is inherently filled with contempt on everything it touches - a reverse Midas effect.

Stay tuned for the summer's hot legal thriller! (Not available in bookstores yet.)