Washington state weapons stash biggest ever

Seattle Times staff reporter Mike Carter reports that federal prosecutors have released photos of some of the weapons found in storage sheds in Bellevue and Spokane in what they contend is “one of the largest personal arsenals of dangerous weapons in this region’s history.” Dozens of machine guns, grenade launchers, explosive shells and plastic explosives were among hundreds of military weapons they say were illegally owned and stored by Spokane resident Ronald Struve.

According to documents filed today, the 65-year-old Struve told agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives “that he thought he would need to use the firearms and explosives at some unspecified date in the future. “Struve had a number of anti-government materials in his residence, including a bumper sticker that read, ‘End the Fed,’ ” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Woods.

If convicted, Struve faces up to 10 years in prison.

To read Carter’s story on the case, click here.

Phew! Pretty hefty arsenal. Looks like this dude was ready to form his own army.

Israeli troops used phosphorus shells in Gaza

The light green 155mm shells are white phosphorus rounds

Israel has admitted — after facing mounting pressure — that its troops might have used banned white phosphorus shells during its three-week Gaza offensive. As the last Israeli troops left the Gaza Strip, the military said it would look at claims by the United Nations and human rights groups that it improperly used the munition, in contravention of international law.

In another repercussion of foreign condemnation of Israeli tactics, the military made an unprecedented decision on Wednesday to conceal the identities of field commanders who had been interviewed by the Israeli media. Military censors decided shortly before the airing and publication of the interviews that names would be withheld and faces blurred in television reports.

The decision results from concerns about attempts to pursue war crimes prosecutions against Israeli officials in foreign courts. During a visit to the Southern Command, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told soldiers that the Government would protect them “like a fortified wall” against potential prosecutions, according to news reports.

Nothing new about Israeli war crimes. The murder of thousands of civilians is always justified by Israeli politicians – and their loyal followers – who are convinced one Israeli life is worth dozens of Arabs. And the occupied land is worth even more.

Animal rights campaigners jailed

Seven animal rights activists who blackmailed companies linked to an animal testing laboratory have been jailed for between four and 11 years.

They used paedophile smears, criminal damage and bomb hoaxes to intimidate companies associated with Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) in Cambridgeshire.

Heather Nicholson, Gerrah Selby, Daniel Wadham and Gavin Medd-Hall were found guilty of conspiracy to blackmail. Gregg and Natasha Avery, of Hampshire, and Daniel Amos admitted the charge.

Sentencing the activists, Mr Justice Butterfield called the campaign “urban terrorism” and a “relentless, sustained and merciless persecution” which had made the victims lives “a living hell”.

He said he accepted that the seven had genuine deeply-held beliefs that animal testing was wrong, and had the right to protest against it. But he told them that companies had the right to conduct vital biomedical research and the right to conduct lawful trading…

“You are not going to prison for expressing your beliefs, you are going to prison because you have committed a serious criminal offence.”

Another defendant, Trevor Holmes, 51, from Newcastle, was cleared.

Political amateurs with no ability to define or implement, comprehend political strategy and tactics. Their approach to the task they defined had little to differentiate it from religious fanatics willing to kill or maim civilians to make their point.

Sad, but true.

Homeland Security holds passengers hostage – then turns them away

Some passengers on a diverted Aeromexico flight finally reached their destination in Seattle, Washington, on Wednesday after spending 16 hours in limbo.

The plane was scheduled to fly from Mexico City, Mexico, to Seattle on Tuesday, but was diverted to Portland, Oregon, because of thick fog, said Kara Simonds, a spokeswoman for Portland International Airport. In Portland, the passengers were not allowed to exit the plane for four hours because the airport did not have enough customs agents to process them, according to CNN affiliate KING.

KING also reported several passengers became so angry that police boarded the plane and told them to stay there or be arrested.

Fire officials tried to calm down the outraged passengers by providing them with burgers from a local fast-food restaurant during their wait, Simonds said.

Passengers were then flown back to Mexico City after officials could not solve the issue with customs agents.

I’ll bet Homeland Insecurity had enough TSA buffoons on hand to harass outbound passengers, though?

All the seasons of Earth now arrive two days earlier

Daylife/AFP/Getty Images

Not only has the average global temperature increased in the past 50 years, but the hottest day of the year has shifted nearly two days earlier, according to a new study by scientists from the University of California, Berkeley, and Harvard University.

Just as human-generated greenhouse gases appear to the be the cause of global warming, human activity may also be the cause of the shift in the cycle of seasons, according to Alexander R. Stine, a graduate student in UC Berkeley’s Department of Earth and Planetary Science and first author of the report.

“We see 100 years where there is a very natural pattern of variability, and then we see a large departure from that pattern at the same time as global mean temperatures start increasing, which makes us suspect that there’s a human role here,” he said…

The researchers also found that the difference between summer and winter land temperatures has decreased over the same 50-year period, with winter temperatures warming more than those in summer. They found that in non-tropical regions, winter temperatures over land warmed by 1.8 degrees Celsius and summer temperatures increased by 1 degree. Ocean warming has been somewhat less…

“We’re saying that, on top of the long term trend of warmer summer and winter highs, peak warming is coming earlier within the year,” Fung said. “It’s not just the onset of spring, but the peak…”

Continue reading

Is Texas ready to turn back the clock on evolution?

Stalwarts of Texas-style education return home
Daylife/AP Photo by Matt Slocum

The latest round in a long-running battle over how evolution should be taught in Texas schools began in earnest Wednesday as the State Board of Education heard impassioned testimony from scientists and social conservatives on revising the science curriculum.

The debate here has far-reaching consequences; Texas is one of the nation’s biggest buyers of textbooks, and publishers are reluctant to produce different versions of the same material.

Many biologists and teachers said they feared that the board would force textbook publishers to include what skeptics see as weaknesses in Darwin’s theory to sow doubt about science and support the Biblical version of creation.

“These weaknesses that they bring forward are decades old, and they have been refuted many, many times over,” Kevin Fisher, a past president of the Science Teachers Association of Texas, said after testifying. “It’s an attempt to bring false weaknesses into the classroom in an attempt to get students to reject evolution.”

Even as federal courts have banned the teaching of creationism and intelligent design in biology courses, social conservatives have gained 7 of 15 seats on the Texas board in recent years, and they enjoy the strong support of Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican.

The chairman of the board, Dr. Don McLeroy, a dentist, pushed in 2003 for a more skeptical version of evolution to be presented in the state’s textbooks, but could not get a majority to vote with him. Dr. McLeroy has said he does not believe in Darwin’s theory and thinks that Earth’s appearance is a recent geologic event, thousands of years old, not 4.5 billion as scientists contend.

Business leaders, meanwhile, said Texas would have trouble attracting highly educated workers and their families if the state’s science programs were seen as a laughingstock among biologists.

Being a laughingstock is a Texas specialty – not limited to biology.

Presto! Another fund manager disappears…

Daylife/Reuters Pictures

Federal regulators on Wednesday charged a missing hedge fund manager with fraud, saying he misled investors and overstated the value of investments in the six funds by about $300 million.

The Securities and Exchange Commission won a court order freezing the assets of Arthur G. Nadel, of Sarasota, Fla., and other defendants in the case.

Nadel owed investors a $50 million payout, told his wife in a note he felt guilty and threatened to kill himself, according to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. The authorities believe that Nadel, 76, planned his Jan. 14 disappearance.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Tampa, the SEC said Nadel recently transferred at least $1.25 million from two of the funds to secret bank accounts that he controlled…

The SEC said Nadel’s funds currently appear to have assets totaling less than $1 million — while he claimed in sales materials for three of the funds that they had about $342 million in assets as of Nov. 30. The materials also boasted of monthly returns of 11 to 12 percent for several of the funds last year, when they actually had negative results.

The SEC has been doing it’s usual “praiseworthy” job of investigation and oversight.

This is supposed to be a quasi-judicial agency regulating and examining the actions of brokers and corporations selling securities. Looks like their prime activity was drawing their salaries.

Republicans delay Holder’s approval – want protection for torture

Daylife/Reuters Pictures

Republicans on Wednesday delayed a confirmation vote on attorney general nominee Eric Holder, some demanding assurances he would not prosecute U.S. agents for torture if they thought their methods were in compliance with the law…

With questions about torture and other matters, Republicans invoked their right to delay for one week the Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote on Holder, who had already been expected to endure one of the rockier confirmation processes in President Barack Obama’s new cabinet.

Holder still appears virtually certain to eventually win confirmation by the full Senate

During his confirmation hearing before the Judiciary Committee last week, Holder broke with the Bush administration and said waterboarding, an interrogation technique that involves simulated drowning, was torture and thus illegal.

Asked if he would prosecute for torture, Holder said “no one is above the law.” But he also quoted Obama about the need to move ahead…

Holder said he would ensure that interrogations complied with treaty obligations and were effective. He pledged to review all Justice Department legal opinions on the matter.

Republicans want forgiveness for torture – I think that’s clear. They’re no different from the “Good Germans” who only “followed orders” while working in concentration camps.

Iraq religious parties may face election backlash

Iyad Allawi, head of the secular Iraqi National Accord
Daylife/Reuters Pictures

When Iraqis last voted in 2005, some in Washington feared the mainly Muslim nation would veer in the direction of Iran, an Islamic theocracy, instead of becoming the moderate democracy they envisioned for post-Saddam Iraq.

The question when Iraqis elect new provincial leaders on January 31 will be whether the religious parties that have dominated politics since then can hang on to power despite a bitterness felt by voters starved of services and security.

Religious parties didn’t keep their promises. They exploited our problems,” said Safaa Kadhim, a teacher in Basra, reflecting anger voiced across Iraq toward the major parties, mostly founded along sectarian lines and seen by many as corrupt and self-serving…

All face challenges from fledgling tribal and nationalist movements almost six years after the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, and after years of horrific sectarian bloodshed in which tens of thousands died.

“What I can say is that Iraqis now want to vote for the better candidate, regardless of his religious sect,” said Kaddum al-Muqdadi, a political analyst in Baghdad.

Ryan’s article is broad and detailed. A worthwhile read. A topic you should be keeping up with unless you like surprises – next month.

Personally, I think the religious parties will maintain more power than many expect. In troubled times, folks tend to stick to the devil they know. We just finished with eight years of that foolishness.