Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Costas Zings Bonds Over 'Midget' Comment


Costas Zings Bonds Over 'Midget' Comment

Jul 27, 2007
AP Baseball Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - A day after Barry Bonds called him a "little midget man who knows (nothing) about baseball," broadcaster Bob Costas said he wasn't upset with the San Francisco Giants slugger and responded with a jab of his own.

"As anyone can plainly see, I'm 5-6 1/2 and a strapping 150, and unlike some people, I came by all of it naturally," Costas said Thursday in a telephone interview.

On this week's edition of HBO's "Costas Now," commissioner Bud Selig, Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling and chemist Patrick Arnold discussed Bonds, his pursuit of Hank Aaron's home run record and suspicions that Bonds has used steroids. Schilling and Arnold said they believed Bonds had taken performance-enhancing drugs.

Bonds viewed at least part of the show before Wednesday's game against Atlanta.

"I've actually always had a pretty cordial relationship with Barry," Costas said. "I have no ill feelings toward him personally. I regard him as one of the greatest players of all time who got an inauthentic boost and then became a superhuman player. I wish him no ill whatsoever."

Costas said he understood why Bonds might have denigrated him.

"He's under tremendous scrutiny and some pressure. It's no big deal," Costas said. "This is a consequence of doing your job, and I've never tried to do my job in any case with the intention of calling attention to myself. I think if people watch the program, they can judge for themselves."

Told before Thursday's series finale that Costas claimed he came by his physique naturally, Bonds responded, "How do you know?" before going on to say he didn't care.
AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this report.

German historian wants Hitler's book republished


German historian wants Hitler's book republished
By Adam Williams and Ayhan Uyanik
Fri Jul 27, 2007

A German historian is campaigning to get Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" published in Germany for the first time since World War Two, warning that a delay could turn the controversial book into a sensation.

But his drive has been criticized by Jewish groups, who say publishing the book too early would offend Holocaust survivors and send the wrong signal about Germany.

Hitler dictated the tome while in prison in Bavaria following the failed Munich "Beer Hall" putsch of 1923. It outlines a doctrine of German racial supremacy and ambitions to annex vast areas of the Soviet Union.

First published in 1925, it was a standard text in German schools after Hitler won power in 1933.

Now only purchasers who can prove an academic purpose may secure a copy of "Mein Kampf." Otherwise, it is not available in Germany, as the copyright holder, the state of Bavaria, refuses to authorize the printing of new copies.

Bavaria's copyright, assigned to it by the Allies after World War Two, expires in 2015, after which time anyone will be able to publish the book.

Professor Horst Moeller, director of the Munich Institute of Contemporary History, says waiting until that date is risky.

"You can be sure it will be sold as a sensation," Moeller told Reuters.

He argues that the existing publishing ban gives the book a dangerous mystique and advocates the printing of a new annotated edition as soon as possible which would include critical commentary on the text itself.

This, he says, would prevent the book from creating a sensation when the ban is lifted in 2015.

"You could prevent that happening, if an academic edition of the book was already available," he said.

But professor Salomon Korn, the vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told Reuters he was opposed to the historian's plan.

"I believe it is the wrong decision to reprint this book," he said. "The danger I see is that there could be a misunderstanding if this book, which is highly symbolic, comes into publication with German help."

He is also worried that World War Two survivors might be offended by a decision to reprint a book promoting Hitler's hatred of Jews.

"Mein Kampf," which translates as "My Struggle," is available online and published in most countries, including Israel.

History Will Judge Senate Democrats Harshly


Senator Feingold: History Will Judge Senate Democrats Harshly
Posted July 27, 2007

Read More: Breaking Politics News, U.S. Democratic Party, U.S. Congress, George W. Bush, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Russ Feingold, Harry Reid, U.S. Senate

When Senator Russ Feingold was on our show yesterday he made a devastating point -- history will not only judge President Bush harshly, but also the Democrats in Congress if they don't challenge him.

If George W. Bush is the worst president in US history, what does that say about Democrats who won't stand up to him?

You can watch this exchange here. And the whole interview can be seen here.

Here's the transcript:

CENK: Senator Hillary Clinton has called President Bush one of the worst Presidents in history. Senator Harry Reid, the Majority Leader, has as well. If you don't take action against the worst President in history, how will history judge Senate Democrats?

FEINGOLD: I would think harshly, and I think the senators need to re-evaluate what they're saying. How can you make that statement and do nothing? You're just supposed to say, "Okay, good, he's going to be gone in a few months"? That's not the job of governance. And we are trying to reverse his policies, but when they completely ignore the results of the election. We have got to reflect as a Congress this outrage and the outrage of the American people...

Remember, this isn't some political issue or just a question of how Democrats will be viewed for the 2008 elections. This is a historical question. When a president brazenly broke the law, what did Congress do? How did the opposition party respond?

The president said he did not have to follow the FISA law. What will history think of the Congress that let him make such an outrageous statement? What precedent do you set when Congress refuses to check an out of control president that claims "unitary executive" powers?

Of course it's not just the FISA law. The Bush White House has made a mockery of the Hatch Act by constantly injecting political considerations into official government business, which is also clearly illegal. Spending government money and resources strictly on political activities is a violation of the law. Does anyone care? Will anyone act to stop it?

Then there is the War Crimes Act that makes grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions a violation of US federal law. Wow, that law was smashed to smithereens, and then waterboarded. We're drowning in violations of federal statutes. Do we care anymore about what is legal and what is not? How many laws do you have to break before Congress takes action?

What message does this send to future presidents? The laws are optional and whether they are enforced or not will not depend on the rule of law, it will depend on political considerations. If you have enough political strength, you are above the law.

Senator Feingold is right. How will history judge the Congress that allowed the worst president in history to run roughshod over them? How will they judge a Congress that could not and would not hold a law breaking president to account?

Very harshly, indeed.



Mouth of the Potomac

This just in from "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," where Michael Moore is a guest this evening:

The Bush administration has subpoenaed Moore over his trip to Cuba with 9/11 rescue workers, which he included in his new documentary film, "Sicko."

- Ken Bazinet


BURBANK-July 26, 2007 – Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Michael Moore announced that the Bush Administration has subpoenaed him in the wake of his recent trip to Cuba on the July 26 episode of NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" (Monday-Friday, 11:35 p.m. - 12:37 a.m. ET). "I haven't even told my own family yet." Moore began, "I was just informed when I was back there with Jay that the Bush administration has now issued a subpoena for me."

The trip was part of his new film "Sicko" which tackles the question of affordable health care in the United States. Moore, who brought 9/11 rescue workers with him on his excursion, explains the reason for his trip, saying: "Took them to Guantanamo Bay because I heard the Al Qaeda Terrorists we have in the camps there, detained, are receiving free dental, medical, eye care, the whole deal, and our own 9/11 rescue workers can't get that in New York City."

In a continued effort to help the 9/11 rescue workers, Moore stated that on August 11, the Weinstein Company will be donating 11 percent of the box office receipts from "Sicko" to "help these workers and the other workers who need help," said Moore.

Also Moore told Leno on the show how his studio asked him to cut a certain segment out of his film. "I just tell the truth in our film. (Hillary Clinton) did something very courageous 14-years ago, saying all American's should be covered. She got beat up badly for it. Now she's the second-largest recipient of health care industry money in the U.S. Senate."

Moore continued: "In fact, I don't know if I should really talk about this on national television, but you know the head of the studio that's releasing this film...Harvey Weinstein is a big supporter of Hillary Clinton. For the months leading up to the release of the film, he kept calling me every day saying, 'I want you to take that scene out of the film, attacking Hillary.' I said, 'I'm no attacking her, I'm just telling the truth.'"

Moore explained, "I'm going to go after whoever is in power, doesn't matter if they are Democrat or Republican I'm going to try to be a voice for people that don't have a voice."

The segment remains in the film, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 19, 2007.

"The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" is from Big Dog Productions in association with Universal Media Studios. Debbie Vickers is the executive producer.

Racial divide


Racial divide
By Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports
July 26, 2007

RICHMOND, Va. – The crowded, chaotic sidewalk on Main Street, across from the federal courthouse, was an unlikely location for a lesson on the virtues of the fifth amendment.

But standing behind a throng that wanted a pound of Michael Vick's flesh – people that had just screamed for the Atlanta Falcons quarterback to "burn in hell" and held signs advocating his murder, torture and neutering – was Thomas Smith in work boots and a white t-shirt.

High above his head he held a simple sign with just a single word: "Constitution."

"These folks have convicted a man who hasn't even had a chance to defend himself," said Smith. "They just forget everything about America."

But here was America in full force, full vision, mixing it up while Vick pled not guilty to federal charges pertaining to an alleged dog-fighting ring on property he owned in rural Surry County. And front and center, impossible to ignore, was race.

Like Smith, almost all of the people supporting Vick or holding signs pleading for "due process" and "innocence until proven guilty" were African American.

On the other side was an emotional, angry, passionate anti-Vick group that was overwhelmingly white.

Certainly not every animal rights supporter was screaming for Vick to die. Many were just there to support the cause of caring for animals, ending the barbaric practice of dog fighting and using the massive media presence to benefit good.

But a significant number were focused on Vick. When he emerged from a black SUV and made a slow walk up a ramp and into the courthouse, they pushed toward police barriers and let loose.

"Burn in hell you (expletive) (expletive)," repeatedly screamed one woman.

"Die like those dogs," shouted another.

Not long after Vick got inside the courthouse – and in a scene that was repeated when he left less than two hours later – the two sides clashed in shouted voices and dueling signs.

White people screaming for justice; black people asking if they still remember everything justice entails.

That a case involving dog fighting can break so quickly along racial lines is a testament to how it bubbles below just about everything in this country. We all wish it wasn't so, including both sides here. No one wanted this. Almost no one even wanted to acknowledge it. But it was there, plain as day in black and white.

"I wouldn't say it's a racial thing," said David Williams, an African American, in a hopeful tone. "It's not racial. But for these animal rights people to take one person and crucify him isn't fair."

The thing is, the "animal rights people" here were an estimated 90 percent white. The pro-Vick/due process crowd was probably 95 percent black.

Obviously, both animal rights advocates and due process proponents come in all colors. And certainly a circus show like this, revved up by a massive media presence, isn't representative of America.

But, then again, I also know what I saw and what I heard.

"They are not going to give the man a chance?" Williams said. "You're innocent until proven guilty. He hasn't even had a trial yet."

There should be two undeniable, 100 percent agreed upon truths concerning this case: First, dog fighting is a barbaric felony and whoever participated in it on Vick's property should get hammered by the justice system.

Second, Vick deserves the right to defend against the charges. The indictment cites four "cooperating witnesses," but presuming each is a dog fighter himself, potentially facing prosecution unless they rolled on Vick, who and how reliable are they?

That said, the U.S. Attorney's office is known for its detail and diligence – this isn't some hack county prosecutor like the Duke lacrosse case. They rarely lose, so the challenge for Vick is serious and significant. But he has the right to fight.

"This is going to be a hard-fought trial," agreed Billy Martin, Vick's attorney.

It may not be any less intense than the scene out on Main Street, where two sides, clearly divided and easily identifiable, both anchored in righteous beliefs and moral causes went at it.

Two black women held a sign declaring: "I support Mike Vick due process." That caused vocal jeering from the protesters, which in turn caused the women to taunt them back by waving the sign at them. Later two men had to be separated by security as their debate descended toward physical confrontation, all as a crowd surrounded shouting in all directions.

And on and on it went on this hot Southern sidewalk.

Dan Wetzel is Yahoo! Sports' national columnist. Send Dan a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

Lindsay: "I Wasn't Driving, the Black Kid Was"


Lindsay: "I Wasn't Driving, the Black Kid Was"
Posted Jul 27th 2007
Filed under: Lindsay Lohan, Celebrity Justice

Just before Lindsay Lohan was arrested early Tuesday morning, she commandeered a car and took three men hostage -- this, according to the three men who were in the car with her.

TMZ interviewed all three, and here's the lowdown: Rewind to Monday afternoon. Dante Nigro, Jakon Sutter and Ronnie Blake drove to Malibu with the boyfriend of Lindsay Lohan's assistant. Lindsay and her assistant ran into Dante and friends. Later, the assistant text-messaged Dante, saying Lindsay wanted to invite him to a Malibu party that night.

Later, Dante says, he and his friends drove to the party. Dante and the assistant's boyfriend were let in, but Jakon and Ronnie were rejected and stayed outside. Dante says Lindsay was never without a drink during the evening and he even did a shot with her.

At one point, Lindsay's assistant and her boyfriend walked outside and got into an argument. Lindsay came out and got angry at her assistant. The assistant then said, "I quit," which enraged Lindsay.

Ronnie says Lindsay looked "very messed up" and "raging."

Dante and crew were ready to leave. The GMC Denali they were in belonged to Dante, but he was sitting in the front passenger seat. Ronnie and Jakon were in the back seat. The assistant's boyfriend was behind the wheel. The keys were in the ignition when the assistant's boyfriend got out and continued the argument with his girlfriend. She then got in her car and left.

According to the group, Lindsay suddenly jumped in the driver's seat of the Denali, started the engine and began driving -- chasing the assistant's car. Ronnie says he was so fearful, he jumped out of the vehicle as it accelerated. Just as he hit the ground, he says Lindsay ran over his foot and just kept going.

Dante and Jakon say Lindsay then hit Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. Dante says he tried to grab the wheel, prompting Lindsay to say, "If you touch me I'll sue you." Jakon says they pleaded with her to stop.

Dante says they were going 100 mph. They say Lindsay caught up with the assistant and began doing circles on PCH, around the assistant's car.

They say at one point, Lindsay boasted, "I can't get in trouble. I'm a celebrity. I can do whatever the f*** I want."

The now former assistant finally lost Lindsay on PCH. Dante says Lindsay thought the assistant was going to her mother's house in Santa Monica so Lindsay went there. It just so happened that the assistant's mother was pulling into the driveway as Lindsay arrived.

Dante says the mother panicked at Lindsay's crazy driving, and backed out of the driveway in fear -- not knowing who was behind the wheel. The guys say Lindsay then began to chase her at speeds of up to 80 mph through Santa Monica, blowing multiple red lights.

Dante realized the mother was driving to the police station and warned Lindsay if she didn't stop she'd get in hot water. He says Lindsay responded, "I'm a celebrity. I'm not going to get in trouble."

The two cars stopped in a parking lot near the cop shop. When police arrived, Dante says it seemed as if Lindsay told officers, "I wasn't driving. The black kid was driving."

Dante and Jakon say they saw Lindsay flunk the field sobriety test. They say when she tried touching her nose, she almost fell over.

As Ronnie put it "It was pretty much the worst night of my whole summer."

Lohan's reps had no comment.

Spitzer knew more, says poll


Spitzer knew more, says poll
Friday, July 27th 2007

ALBANY, N.Y. - Half of New Yorkers suspect Gov. Eliot Spitzer knew more than he has said about a plot by his aides to use state police against Republican Senate leader Joseph Bruno, according to a WNBC-Marist College poll released Friday.

Eight in 10 voters also think Spitzer should testify in any further investigation. Even so, Spitzer - who has told reporters he was misled by his aides - continues to enjoy strong job approval ratings in the poll, which was conducted Wednesday and Thursday amid heavy news coverage of the controversy.

Meanwhile, the man who detailed the scandal in a report Monday, Democratic Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, is for the first time Albany's most popular statewide official. Cuomo's rating jumped to 52 percent, up from 40 percent in March. Even Republicans - 40 percent - and upstaters - 46 percent - say he is doing an excellent or good job.

Cuomo's investigative report found that although no laws were broken, two top Spitzer aides collected state police data for release to a reporter to discredit Bruno for using state aircraft on days he attended Republican fundraisers. Spitzer suspended one aide and transferred the other.

Cuomo has also spent much of the spring on his national investigation of conflicts of interest between student loan companies and colleges. The state Legislature and Congress acted on reforms Cuomo recommended.

But the poll focused on Spitzer, the "Sheriff of Wall Street" during his eight years as attorney general and a Democrat who won a historic share of the vote last year, in part by promising to clean up Albany.

"On the one hand, you have political fallout of a major nature for the governor," said Lee Miringoff of the Marist poll. "The good news is that the events of the past week didn't dramatically change how voters view him."

Spitzer was rated excellent or good in his job by 47 percent of those polled, up from 43 percent in March. But that's low for the Democrat who won office in November with a historic 69 percent of the vote, Miringoff said.

And New Yorkers still think Spitzer is the guy for the job: 66 percent - more than in March - think he is good for the state and more than half think he is a "new kind of independent politician" who is changing Albany for the better. Still, 41 percent feel his style is too confrontational for a governor.

"People don't think he was forthcoming (in the scandal). They think he should testify," Miringoff said. "But as far as how he's doing in Albany, that is basically intact."

Bruno, however, remains in low esteem outside his Albany-area district. The poll found that just 26 percent of New Yorkers said the longtime Senate majority leader was doing an excellent or good job. The story is the same for Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver of lower Manhattan, who attracted the highest ratings from only 28 percent of those polled.

There was no immediate comment from Spitzer or Bruno. Cuomo spokesman Jeffrey Lerner declined comment.

The telephone poll of 554 registered voters has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

On the Web:


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Fare-Free Public Transit


Fare-Free Public Transit Could Be Headed to a City Near You
By Dave Olsen, The Tyee
Posted on July 26, 2007

The time has come to stop making people pay to take public transit.

Why do we have any barriers to using buses and urban trains? The threat of global warming is no longer in doubt. The hue and cry of the traffic-jammed driver grows louder every commute. And politicians are getting the message. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has ordered his staff to seriously examine the costs of charging people to ride public transit. And Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York, recently voiced to a reporter his top dream: "I would have mass transit be given away for nothing and charge an awful lot for bringing an automobile into the city."

Consider this sampling of communities providing free rides on trolleys, buses, trams and ferries: Staten Island, N.Y.; Island County, Wash.; Chapel Hill, N.C.; Vail, Colo.; Logan and Cache Valley, Utah; Clemson, S.C.; Commerce, Calif.; Châteauroux, Vitré, and Compiègne, France; Hasselt, Belgium; Lubben, Germany; Mariehamn, Finland; Nova Gorica, Slovenia; Türi, Estonia; and Övertorneå, Sweden.

Or speak, as I have, with transit officials in parts of Belgium and the state of Washington, where fare-free transit has hummed along smoothly now for years.

Raising fares kills ridership

As even conservatives like California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger trumpet a green agenda, more people are taking a hard look at just how many of their tax dollars subsidize the private car versus less polluting buses and trains. You have to figure in roads, parking and other infrastructure, tax breaks for car and fuel companies, as well as subsidies for car-carrying ferries and federal income tax reductions and write-offs for companies that use motor vehicles.

By some estimates, the government subsidy to each private vehicle owner is about $3,700, while a common cost for providing a single trip by transit is about $5.

Yet big or small, most transit systems are scraping by or on the brink of financial collapse, paradoxically because of their reliance on the farebox. Revenue for any system drops when ridership dips or when fares are increased. Yes, when fares are increased. This is so well proven it has a name: the Simpson-Curtain rule. Most often the dip in ridership is caused by a fare hike.

To understand this cycle better, let's imagine that you are in charge of a transit system. You feel pressure to increase service or to maintain service despite increasing costs. You need to raise more money. Politically and practically, for most systems, the easiest way is to raise fares. But soon after, ridership goes down. It drops 3.8 percent for every 10 percent increase in fares, researchers have found. Which means you either haven't gained much new revenue, or worse, you've started spiraling downward.

Just one example is Toronto's transit system, which went into a 12-year downward spiral throughout the 1990s after a series of fare increases and resultant service cutbacks. The authoritative Transit Cooperative Research Program in Washington, D.C., has clearly documented how fare increases always result in lower ridership.

Fare-free success stories

Recently I met the people who run Island Transit in Whidbey Island, Wash., and rode their fare-free bus system. It's a serious operation with 56 buses and 101 vans. Ridership tops a million a year. Its operating budget is $8,392,677 -- none of it from fares, all from a 0.6 percent sales tax collected in Island County.

Despite the pressure to conform, the pressure to make users pay and the pressure from conservative politicians at all levels, Island Transit has been fare-free from day one and is proudly so 20 years later. Not one Island Transit bus, shelter or van has advertising on it. All of Island Transit's buses are bike rack equipped and wheelchair accessible. For folks with disabilities, Island Transit also offers a paratransit service with door-to-door service.

Island Transit has developed a simple policy around dealing with behavior that is unruly or disturbing to others: "The operator is the captain of their own ship." This is backed up by a state law regarding unlawful bus conduct. A bothersome rider first gets a written warning. The next time, his or her riding privileges are revoked. These privileges are only restored after completing a Rider Privilege Agreement. Island Transit has further protected its employees by installing a camera system in every vehicle. The big brotherness of it is acknowledged, but the safety of their operators simply takes priority. "Show me another transit system in Washington state," said Island Transit operator Odis D. Jenkins, "where the teenagers more often than not say 'thank you' when they get off."

Done right, fare-free transit can transform society, says Patrick Condon, an expert on sustainable urban development who knows the system in Amherst, Mass. "Free transit changed the region for the better. Students, teens and the elderly were able to move much more freely through the region. Some ascribed the resurgence of Northampton, Mass, at least in part, to the availability of free transit. Fares in that region would have provided such a small percentage of capital and operating costs that their loss was made up for by contributions by the major institutions to benefit: the five colleges in the region," says Condon, a professor at the University of British Columbia.

Another success story, a decade old, can be found in Hasselt, Belgium. This city of 70,000 residents, with 300,000 commuters from the surrounding area, has made traveling by bus easy, affordable and efficient. Now, people in Hasselt often speak of "their" bus system and with good reason. The Boulevard Shuttle leaves you waiting for at most five minutes, the Central Shuttle has a 10-minute frequency, and systemwide you never have to wait more than a half an hour.

A prime lesson offered by Hasselt is the fact that it radically improved the bus system as well as its walking and cycling infrastructure before it removed the fareboxes. In 1996, there were only three bus routes with about 18,000 service hours/year. Today, there are 11 routes with more than 95,000 service hours/year.

The transit system in Hasselt cost taxpayers approximately $1.8 million in 2006. This amounts to 1 percent of its municipal budget and makes up about 26 percent of the total operating cost of the transit system. The Flemish national government covered the rest (approximately $5.25 million) under a long-term agreement.

Hasselt City Council's principal aim in introducing free public transport was to promote the new bus system to such a degree that it would catch on and become the natural option for getting around. And it did -- immediately. On the first day, bus ridership increased 783 percent! The first full year of free-fare transit saw an increase of 900 percent over the previous year; by 2001, the increase was up to 1,223 percent, and ridership continues to go up every day.

Planning essential

So how did Hasselt make it happen?

On Jan. 1, 1991, the Flemish Authority brought together three public transport companies and joined them into one autonomously operating state company. This company's raison d'etre is to provide transport for the whole of Flanders. That was the beginning of the Flemish Transport Co., since then generally known under the name "De Lijn." This structure allows it to buy buses more cheaply, and it can even share buses among the different city and regional systems whenever they're needed.

"To be successful," says Jean Vandeputte, the chief engineer-director for the City of Hasselt, "I think that the public transport system must not be crowded at the start. Our project was originally organized to attract more passengers and to have less cars in the city center. The buses also need separate lanes, because traveling by bus has to be faster than by car, so the infrastructure of intersections and streets has to be adapted. The buses have to be modern, clean ... you need to have more bus stops. And the shelters must be attractive."

By making public transport free of charge, it became possible to guarantee the right to mobility for all residents in Hasselt. Their position was that an improved public transport system simply means a better use of the public space that will not only improve the quality of traffic, but the quality of life in general.

The Hasselt experience before 1997 was not much different than anywhere else in the Western world. Car ownership in Hasselt rose by 25 percent from 1987 to 1999, while the population increased by only 3.3 percent during this same period. Although Hasselt is the fourth largest city in Belgium, it ranked first in car ownership during those years.

After implementing fare-free transit, over 40 percent of the people visiting hospitals switched from a car to the bus. Over 32 percent of the people "going to market" switched from using cars to buses. Overall, in November 1997, 16 percent of all bus riders studied previously drove a car. It is important to understand that this was achieved by the elimination of fares, the expansion of service and the implementation of bus priority measures such as bus lanes.

Karl Storchmann, a researcher at Yale University, has documented that even the 12 percent of bus riders that were previously cyclists, as well as the 9 percent that switched from walking to the bus in Hasselt, will produce a net positive change for society, since pedestrians and cyclists "belong to the most endangered road users, [and] every decrease in these modes will lead to a reduction of automobile-caused costs [i.e., deaths and injuries]."

Because Hasselt's policy makers understand that bikes are the most sustainable form of transport, today in Hasselt one can borrow a bicycle, tandem, scooter or wheelchair bike free of charge. On the Groenplein (behind the town hall) you can also borrow a stroller free of charge for your little one (as its website states, "Handy when your toddler can't make the distance"). And two wheelchairs are available for free loan from the tourism bureau. The city's center is cleared of cars, offering instead a network of pedestrian shopping streets."

This approach has saved the City of Hasselt millions of Euros on transportation infrastructure costs, and clearly the city isn't afraid to innovate. As Hasselt Mayor Steve Stevaert declared, "We don't need any more new roads, but new thought highways!"

The costs of collecting fares

A prime reason to quit charging people to take the bus is that collecting bus fares costs a lot of money. It takes both machines and people to sell, make and distribute tickets and collect, count and deposit cash.

King County's Metro Transit System, which includes the city of Seattle and an estimated population of just under 2 million, concludes, after a comprehensive assessment, that the cost of collecting fares will hit about $8 million this year -- enough to buy 18 new buses.

A major analysis of U.S. public transit systems found that for larger systems, fare collection costs can be as high as 22 percent of the revenue collected. Another study showed that New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority spends roughly $200 million a year just to collect money from transit riders. What about switching to "smart card" technology? Wouldn't that save money? In Toronto, the city's Transit Commission estimates the switch will cost almost $250 million (or about 520 new buses) for card readers, vending machines and retrofits, and over $10 million a year (22 new buses) after that, which has some transit authorities saying the money could be better used in improving service.

For similar reasons, some cities have decided it just doesn't pay to police people who don't pay fares. In 1996, the Maryland Mass Transit Administration (MTA) wanted to figure out how to stop those few riders that cheat; its Central Light Rail Line was "barrier free." MTA wanted to know whether it should start using barriers in order to force people to pay their fares.

The study found that more people would pay, yes, but the cost of making them pay would be higher than the revenue from extra fares collected. Much higher. The least expensive alternative would cost the MTA $18.54 for each potential fare dollar recovered over a 10-year period. In other words, if $1 million is currently lost to fare evasion, it would cost at least $18.5 million to collect that money.

Spread the burden and benefit

All of which brings us back to the logic of fare-free transit.

Whidbey Island's transit planners did their own studies two decades ago. In 1986 they did an extensive cost-benefit analysis of collecting fares and found that either no significant revenue would be generated for Island Transit, or that the costs of collecting fares would exceed the revenue generated.

Other systems that didn't plan well have had near disastrous experiences, in particular Austin, Texas. As one study from Florida State University concludes, "There has not been a full fare-free policy instituted on a systemwide basis since the experiment in Austin. The negative consequences of these experiments, the Austin experiment in particular, have left lasting impressions on transit operators throughout the country."

But a lot of opposition to the idea is grounded less in practicalities, more in ideology.

It's a matter of faith among most transit officials, for example, that if you remove the fare, the service becomes worthless.

"Be aware that when one moves the price of something to zero, in addition to challenging capacity, one is stating that the product or service is not an economic good -- that is, that it has no value," warned one transit official. "Pricing signals value. I would suggest you keep it nonzero."

Perhaps North America's transit planners need to switch jobs with builders of roads and bridges. Those transportation essentials are, after all, usually paid for through taxes or bonds, and we use them without being charged each time we roll over them.

Imagine if a government tried to put a farebox into every car. Each time drivers took a trip, they would have to dig into their pockets to find a couple dollars -- in exact change.

And yet, we force the poorest among us to live this way. In British Columbia's Lower Mainland, one of the most expensive places to live in North America, a family traveled from a suburb to Vancouver by public transit during spring break. It cost the mother and her three sons $26 in day passes.

For those without well-paying jobs, a bus fare of any amount can be a barrier to finding work, making it to school, visiting friends and relatives or even getting food to eat.

Wouldn't it make more sense to treat public transit the way we treat most road infrastructure and pay for it all by some method of taxation?

Reality check

But before we act, let's make a few important guiding principles clear:

Taking the farebox out of any bus without a plan is just a recipe for disaster. That's the lesson from Island Transit on Whidbey Island and Hasselt, Belgium, which proves beyond doubt that fare-free systems can be safe, clean and very friendly.

Making transit free of charge won't in itself allow huge numbers of people to abandon their cars. We'll need more public transit vehicles, running more frequently, too. The decade-old experience in Hasselt has shown that investing in the service prior to the removal of the fareboxes not only makes the transition smoother, it will get people on the bus and out of their cars.

We need to pay, one way or another. There isn't a transit system on the planet that pays for itself solely through the farebox. If we want a transit system that is adequate, reliable and gets those lonely drivers out of their cars, we need to find funding formulas that are adequate and reliable.

Let us remind ourselves of what really matters. We don't have much time left to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions before catastrophic climatic changes irreversibly occur. It seems absurd, therefore, to continue to make it more difficult than it already is for people to use the bus and train.

Fare-free transit is not only feasible, it may well be critical for us to survive as a species. It can save us money, and it contributes to a much more fair, equitable and mobile society.

The only thing left to do is to let your transit providers and elected officials know how you feel. Speak up now -- for our children and for our planet.

Sixteen reasons to stop charging

Consider the many benefits:

A barrier-free transportation option to every member of the community (no more worries about exact change, expiring transfers or embarrassment about how to pay)

Eliminating a "toll" from a mode of transportation that we as a society want to be used (transit is often the only way of getting around that charges a toll)

Reducing the inequity between the subsidies given to private motorized vehicle users and public transport users

Reducing the need for private motorized vehicle parking

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, other air pollutants, noise pollution (especially with electric trolleys), and runoff of toxic chemicals into fresh water supplies and ocean environments

Reducing overall consumption of oil and gasoline

Eliminating the perceived need to spend billions on roads and highways

Contributing significantly to the local economy by keeping our money in our communities

Reducing litter (in some cities transfers and tickets have overtaken fast food packaging as the most common form of street garbage)

Saving trees by eliminating the need to print transfers and tickets

Allowing all bus doors to be used to load passengers, making service faster and more efficient

Allowing operators (drivers) to focus on driving safely

Giving operators more time to answer questions

Providing operators a safer work environment since fare disputes are eliminated

Eliminating fare evasion and the criminalization of transit-using citizens

Fostering more public pride in shared, community resources

Bear in mind that free public transit eliminates the significant costs of fare collection and combating fare evasion. It also cuts costs associated with global warming, air and noise pollution, litter collection and garbage removal.

Dave Olsen is a bicycle and public transit consultant, researcher and advocate who lives in Vancouver. You can reach him via editor@thetyee.ca.

This article is adapted from a five-part series published by The Tyee, Canada's leading independent source of online news and views. The series was reader-funded through charitable donations to the Tyee Fellowship Fund for Solutions-oriented Reporting.

New "Last Supper" theory


New "Last Supper" theory crashes Leonardo Web sites
Fri Jul 27, 2007

A new theory that Leonardo's "Last Supper" might hide within it a depiction of Christ blessing the bread and wine has triggered so much interest that Web sites connected to the picture have crashed.

The famous fresco is already the focus of mythical speculation after author Dan Brown based his "The Da Vinci Code" book around the painting, arguing in the novel that Jesus married his follower, Mary Magdelene, and fathered a child.

Now Slavisa Pesci, an information technologist and amateur scholar, says superimposing the "Last Supper" with its mirror-image throws up another picture containing a figure who looks like a Templar knight and another holding a small baby.

"I came across it by accident, from some of the details you can infer that we are not talking about chance but about a precise calculation," Pesci told journalists when he unveiled the theory earlier this week.

Websites http://www.leonardodavinci.tv/, http://www.codicedavinci.tv/, http://www.cenacolo.biz/ and http://www.leonardo2007.com/ had 15 million hits on Thursday morning alone, organizers said, adding they were trying to provide a more powerful server for the sites.

In the superimposed version, a figure on Christ's left appears to be cradling a baby in its arms, Pesci said, but he made no suggestion this could be Christ's child.

Judas, whose imminent betrayal of Christ is the force breaking the right-hand line of the original fresco, appears in an empty space on the left in the reverse image version.

And Pesci also suggests that the superimposed version shows a goblet before Christ and illustrates when Christ blessed bread and wine at a supper with his disciples for the first Eucharist.

The original Da Vinci depicts Christ when he predicts that one among them will betray him.

Aquafina labels to spell out source - tap water


Aquafina labels to spell out source - tap water
By Martinne Geller
Thu Jul 26, 2007

PepsiCo Inc. will spell out that its Aquafina bottled water is made with tap water, a concession to the growing environmental and political opposition to the bottled water industry.

According to Corporate Accountability International, a U.S. watchdog group, the world's No. 2 beverage company will include the words "Public Water Source" on Aquafina labels.

"If this helps clarify the fact that the water originates from public sources, then it's a reasonable thing to do," said Michelle Naughton, a Pepsi-Cola North America spokeswoman.

Pepsi Chief Executive Indra Nooyi told Reuters earlier this week the company was considering such a move.

Pepsi's Aquafina and Coca-Cola Co's Dasani are both made from purified water sourced from public reservoirs, as opposed to Danone's Evian or Nestle's Poland Spring, so-called "spring waters," shipped from specific locations the companies say have notably clean water.

Coca-Cola Co. told Reuters it will start posting online information about the quality control testing it performs on Dasani by the end of summer or early fall.

"Concerns about the bottled-water industry, and increasing corporate control of water, are growing across the country," said Gigi Kellett, director of the "Think Outside the Bottle" campaign, which aims to encourage people to drink tap water.

San Francisco's mayor banned city employees from using city funds to buy bottled water when tap water is available. Ann Arbor, Michigan passed a resolution banning commercially bottled water at city events and Salt Lake City, Utah asked department heads to eliminate bottled water.

Critics charge the bottled water industry adds plastic to landfills, uses too much energy by producing and shipping bottles across the world and undermines confidence in the safety and cleanliness of public water supplies, all while much of the world's population is without access to clean water.

But industry observers said such opposition is unlikely to drain U.S. sales of bottled water, which reached 2.6 billion cases in 2006, according to Beverage Digest. The industry newsletter estimated that U.S. consumers spent about $15 billion on bottled water last year.

"Consumers have an affection for bottled water. It's not an issue of taste or health, it's about convenience," the newsletter's publisher, John Sicher, said. "Try walking up (New York City's) Third Avenue on a hot day and getting a glass of tap water."

Dave Kolpak, a portfolio manager at Victory Capital Management, said the environmental objections will have little impact on the bottom line for either Pepsi or Coke, though he admitted it could slow the market's growth rate.

"Pepsi and Coke do not make a lot of profit" on bottled water, said Kolpak, adding that people may talk about the issue, but will likely continue buying some bottled water. Victory Capital owns about 3 million shares of PepsiCo among its $62 billion under management.

Raul Castro speaks of Cuba


Raul Castro speaks of Cuba needing 'structural changes'
By Ray Sánchez, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
July 27, 2007

CAMAGUEY, CUBA — An estimated 100,000 cheering loyalists crammed a plaza here as acting President Raul Castro presided for the first time over ceremonies marking the start of the Cuban Revolution.

In a one-hour speech, Castro acknowledged that the economy has failed to meet the needs of working people and signaled the need for unspecified "structural changes."

"No one country can afford to spend more than what they have," he said during a ceremony peppered with praise for his convalescing older brother, Fidel. "To have more, we have to begin by producing more, with a sense of rationality and efficiency."

Raul Castro's first major policy address since taking power came a year after Fidel Castro's last public appearances, when the longtime Cuban president gave speeches in the eastern cities of Bayamo and Holguin. Five days later, in a statement read on television, Fidel Castro announced that he had to undergo emergency surgery and ceded the presidency, the leadership of the Communist Party and military responsibilities to his younger brother.

"These have truly been very difficult months, although with a diametrically different impact to that expected by our enemies, who were wishing for chaos to take hold and for Cuban socialism to collapse," he said, referring to U.S. predictions.

Raul Castro also reiterated his willingness to open discussions with the U.S., saying that if the next U.S. administration after the 2008 election "desists from their arrogance and decides to converse in a civilized manner, it would be a welcome change."

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack responded: "The only real dialogue that's needed is with the Cuban people."

Philip Peters, a Cuba expert at the Lexington Institute think tank in Virginia, said Raul Castro appeared to set the stage for serious structural changes in a centralized economy molded largely by his brother.

"He's creating the expectation that they are looking at some larger policy changes," Peters said. "It's a way to tell the public they recognize a lot of people have trouble making ends meet."

Cuba watchers and some dissidents question whether Raul Castro will be able to implement even modest economic reforms as long as his brother is alive. Fidel Castro's behind-the-scenes presence would probably deter him, they said.

Dual Spocks for Abrams' Star Trek


Dual Spocks for Abrams' Star Trek
By Natalie Finn

Four Vulcan ears are always better than two.

J.J. Abrams, creator of Lost and Alias and the auteur who will be reviving the Star Trek franchise next year, said Thursday that his take on the sci-fi classic will feature dual Mr. Spocks, the younger of the two to be played by Heroes villain Zachary Quinto, as reported earlier this week by E! Online's TV blog.

And serving as young Spock's older and wiser incarnation will be none other than Leonard Nimoy, who was on hand when the good news was announced during Paramount Pictures' panel at Comic-Con, aka fanboy heaven, in San Diego.

"People have been asking me why I'm doing this movie, and I think the answer is obvious—we have a great director, a wonderful script, and a wonderful young actor playing Spock, so…it was logical," said the 76-year-old Nimoy, to everybody's proudly dorky delight.

Per the closely guarded script penned by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, Quinto will star as Spock in his pre-Wrath of Khan days. Nimoy, meanwhile, will have a meaty cameo.

When asked how much of his take on the half-Vulcan Enterprise veteran will be inspired by Nimoy, Quinto, was last seen opening skulls and getting skewered as the power-hungry Sylar on Heroes, said: "Well, as much as he'd like it to be, since he's working on the film, which is an honor."

But, "I certainly intend to bring my own spin to it, and working with these guys, I'm sure I'll find it," he added.

Abrams' addition to the canon, which is slated for a Christmas Day 2008 release, couldn't be coming at a better time, at least for Trekkers, considering there hasn't been a new addition to the cinematic series in more than five years, and because, for the first time in what seems like forever, there is no first-run Star Trek spinoff series on the air right now.

While the last cinematic permutation of the series was 2002's Star Trek: Nemesis, Nimoy hasn't played big-screen Spock since 1991's Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

Shooting on the new film—which, taking a cue from Casino Royale and Batman Begins, will bring us back to where it all began for Spock and pal James T. Kirk—is expected to kick off in November.

Abrams, who promised that he'd return to Comic-Con next year with more scoop, said that the role of young Kirk has not yet been cast and that they're trying to find a way to get William Shatner involved.

And…Star Trek isn't the only long-dormant franchise that's injecting some old blood and playing host to a familiar face.

Director Steven Spielberg also revealed (via video feed) Thursday at Comic-Con that Karen Allen, Harrison Ford's love interest from Raiders of the Lost Ark, will appear in the upcoming fourth Indiana Jones movie

Joined (on tape) by cast members Ford (in full Indy gear), Shia LeBeouf and Ray Winstone, Spielberg delighted fans with the news that the spunky Marion Ravenwood was primed for a comeback.

No additional footage from the as-yet untitled film was presented, but the audience sounded psyched enough, allowing the all-star crew behind the ambitious endeavor to rest on their laurels for just a little longer.

"I'm here on the set of Indiana Jones and the…and that's the title of our film," Spielberg joked.

Fans were treated to clips from the upcoming Iron Man film, directed by Jon Favreau and starring Robert Downey Jr. as the metal-enhanced superhero, as well as to the trailer for Robert Zemeckis' take on the medieval epic Beowulf, featuring Winstone and Angelina Jolie.

'Simpsons' Trivia, From Swearing Lisa To 'Burns-Sexual' Smithers


Jul 26 2007
'Simpsons' Trivia, From Swearing Lisa To 'Burns-Sexual' Smithers
Show's creators, voice talents, spill more than a dozen secrets.
By Larry Carroll

LOS ANGELES — After 18 years and 400 episodes, you might think you know everything about "The Simpsons." But, on the verge of the show's movie debut this weekend, the creators and voice talents gave us the scoop on Springfield — a town that has nearly as many secrets as it does citizens who've met their tragic demise riding the Escalator to Nowhere. So hold onto your Duffman hat and get ready to let out a few Frink-like exclamations, as we present the "Simpsons" trivia that even the most loyal geeks don't know.

Eat My Catchphrase — "Well, 'Eat my shorts,' that was an ad-lib that I did in one of the earlier table reads," revealed Nancy Cartwright, who voices Bart. "It's something that I said when I was in the marching band in high school. We would march from the high school to the football stadium [and were supposed to chant] 'Fairmont West! Fairmont West!' but it changed my senior year to 'Eat my shorts!' " Laughing, she added: "Only the people that were sitting in the front row could get what we were saying."

3AT MY 5H0RT5 — While most celebs in L.A. hide behind tinted windows, Cartwright embraces her notoriety to the point where her convertible car has vanity plates featuring one of Bart's catchphrases (and no, it's not 3AT MY 5H0RT5). "That's Nancy," laughed Yeardley Smith, who voices Lisa. "She's way out there."

The Man Behind Artie Ziff — "When I did 'The Way We Was' episode, I went through my high school yearbook for character ideas and designs because that was the period we were parodying," series and movie director David Silverman remembered. "And [Homer's high school rival] Artie Ziff is based on a friend of mine — the way he looked and the way he dressed. The guy's named Michael ... wow, I forget his name now," Silverman laughed. "I haven't seen him in a long time, but it is based on him ... and he definitely knows this."

The Man Who Lived ... Twice — The "Simpsons Movie" features the death of a prominent Springfield resident, but don't shed too many tears, warns executive producer James L. Brooks. "There is a rebirth that might have to take place soon [on the show]," he hinted. "Yeah, that's right," added executive producer Al Jean, saying that they'll bring the character back à la Dr. Marvin Monroe. "I won't say who it is that dies. But he does say, 'Bye everybody!' "

A Secret Identity Revealed! — After years of anticipation, a "Simpsons" episode revealed the Comic Book Guy's name to be Jeff Albertson. Matt Groening, however, invokes his rights as creator to contradict that plot point. "I had a different, much more tragic design, but I was out of the room when [the writers] named him," insisted Groening, revealing the character's stalker tendencies. "In my mind, 'Louis Lane' was his name, and he was obsessed and tormented by Lois Lane."

An Odd Coupling — As those who've seen the early "Simpsons" shorts know, Homer's voice was originally modeled after a famous actor. "I started doing Walter Matthau back when we were doing the one-minute things on 'The Tracey Ullman Show,' " remembered Dan Castellaneta, who voices Homer. "But once we started doing the show, we'd do nine to 10 hours of recording, and I couldn't sustain that voice over that period of time. So, I had to find something a little more comfortable to do." Added Castellaneta: "I never met Walter Matthau, unfortunately, but he was one of my favorite actors."

Not That There's Anything Wrong With That — Once and for all, Silverman set the record straight on Homer's co-workers' overly friendly relationship, saying: "Lenny and Carl are very good friends, and [whether they're gay] depends on the show ... part of the joke is you think they are, and then they talk about their girlfriends." As for Waylon Smithers? "That cat's almost out of the bag," he laughed. "But [Smithers] seems to be focused on one particular human, as opposed to anything beyond that. [Rather than being gay], he's sort of 'Burns-sexual.' "

Todd and Mr. Peabody — "Todd Flanders' voice is like Sherman from 'Mr. Peabody and Sherman,' " revealed Cartwright, whose love for the "Rocky and Bullwinkle" segment also yielded a cameo by those characters in the "Treehouse of Horror V" episode. "Todd turned out to be sort of like Sherman," she laughed, doing the voice: "Yes, Professor!"

Homer the Clown? — Herschel Pinkus Yerucham Krustofski might be better known as Krusty the Clown, but when Groening looks at the character, he still can't help but think of Homer. "Krusty the Clown was originally Homer Simpson's secret identity," he grinned, remembering an early episode that was supposed to have Homer dressing up like a clown. (Homer actually became a Krusty impersonator in season six's "Homie the Clown.") "If you look at the basic design of the clown, it's just Homer's body clowned out."

It Tastes Like ... A Comedy Legend — "Ralph Wiggum is named after Ralph Kramden," Jean revealed. "We were trying to write up this character who is a doofus kid, and we loved 'The Honeymooners,' so we threw that in."

Bart's Secret Phobia — What's the best "Simpsons" deleted scene of all time? "There was a scene where Bart got trapped in a mummy sarcophagus," Jean remembered, offering up his favorite. "Marge is outraged, but Homer says, 'That boy has got to get over his fear of coffins!' It was cut from the movie, but it will be in a show this fall."

Moe Szyslak vs. the FCC — When Hank Azaria and the other voice talents record their lines, they swear — a lot. "Somewhere in the archives, there's a tape of each of the characters swearing expletives, including Lisa," Smith said. "I think the outtakes of 'The Simpsons' would be a phenomenal DVD extra."

What a Way to Make a Living — Homer has held 188 jobs over the show's run. "Well, those are side jobs — he's worked at the nuclear plant forever," Brooks laughed. "That's his steady gig — let's call it one job and 187 part-time jobs."

Bob's Your Uncle — "What movie did 'Sideshow Bob' Terwilliger get his name from? 'The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T.,' " said Castellaneta, citing a 1953 cult classic. "The character's name is Dr. Terwilliker, an evil piano teacher. That's where Matt got the name." Despite the fact that the names are spelled different and fans have long believed Krusty's evil sidekick is named after a street in Oregon, the voice of Krusty says he and Groening are both big fans of the flick.

A Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy — Ever notice how many "Simpsons" characters are southpaws? "That was a tribute to me, and everyone else who is left-handed," Groening chuckled. Added Silverman: "Bart is left-handed, and that led to Flanders being left-handed, which led to the Leftorium."

Bizarro Bart and Lisa — Two decades ago, Cartwright and Smith read for each other's future roles — so, what would Springfield be like if Bart and Lisa switched vocalists? "Oh! I wouldn't be here!" Cartwright insisted. "There's no way I would have been cast as Lisa Simpson!" Smith tells a similar story: "I always sounded too much like a girl," she grinned. "I read two lines as Bart and they said, 'Thanks for coming!' "

Tillman Death: Friendly Fire or "Friendly" Fire?

Tillman Death: Friendly Fire or "Friendly" Fire?


AP: New details on Tillman's death
By MARTHA MENDOZA, AP National Writer

Army medical examiners were suspicious about the close proximity of the three bullet holes in Pat Tillman's forehead and tried without success to get authorities to investigate whether the former NFL player's death amounted to a crime, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

"The medical evidence did not match up with the, with the scenario as described," a doctor who examined Tillman's body after he was killed on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2004 told investigators.

The doctors — whose names were blacked out — said that the bullet holes were so close together that it appeared the Army Ranger was cut down by an M-16 fired from a mere 10 yards or so away.

Ultimately, the Pentagon did conduct a criminal investigation, and asked Tillman's comrades whether he was disliked by his men and whether they had any reason to believe he was deliberately killed. The Pentagon eventually ruled that Tillman's death at the hands of his comrades was a friendly-fire accident.

The medical examiners' suspicions were outlined in 2,300 pages of testimony released to the AP this week by the Defense Department in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

Among other information contained in the documents:

• In his last words moments before he was killed, Tillman snapped at a panicky comrade under fire to shut up and stop "sniveling."

• Army attorneys sent each other congratulatory e-mails for keeping criminal investigators at bay as the Army conducted an internal friendly-fire investigation that resulted in administrative, or non-criminal, punishments.

• The three-star general who kept the truth about Tillman's death from his family and the public told investigators some 70 times that he had a bad memory and couldn't recall details of his actions.

• No evidence at all of enemy fire was found at the scene — no one was hit by enemy fire, nor was any government equipment struck.

The Pentagon and the Bush administration have been criticized in recent months for lying about the circumstances of Tillman's death. The military initially told the public and the Tillman family that he had been killed by enemy fire. Only weeks later did the Pentagon acknowledge he was gunned down by fellow Rangers.

With questions lingering about how high in the Bush administration the deception reached, Congress is preparing for yet another hearing next week.

The Pentagon is separately preparing a new round of punishments, including a stinging demotion of retired Lt. Gen. Philip R. Kensinger Jr., 60, according to military officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the punishments under consideration have not been made public.

In more than four hours of questioning by the Pentagon inspector general's office in December 2006, Kensinger repeatedly contradicted other officers' testimony, and sometimes his own. He said on some 70 occasions that he did not recall something.

At one point, he said: "You've got me really scared about my brain right now. I'm really having a problem."

Tillman's mother, Mary Tillman, who has long suggested that her son was deliberately killed by his comrades, said she is still looking for answers and looks forward to the congressional hearings next week.

"Nothing is going to bring Pat back. It's about justice for Pat and justice for other soldiers. The nation has been deceived," she said.

The documents show that a doctor who autopsied Tillman's body was suspicious of the three gunshot wounds to the forehead. The doctor said he took the unusual step of calling the Army's Human Resources Command and was rebuffed. He then asked an official at the Army's Criminal Investigation Division if the CID would consider opening a criminal case.

"He said he talked to his higher headquarters and they had said no," the doctor testified.

Also according to the documents, investigators pressed officers and soldiers on a question Mrs. Tillman has been asking all along.

"Have you, at any time since this incident occurred back on April 22, 2004, have you ever received any information even rumor that Cpl. Tillman was killed by anybody within his own unit intentionally?" an investigator asked then-Capt. Richard Scott.

Scott, and others who were asked, said they were certain the shooting was accidental.

Investigators also asked soldiers and commanders whether Tillman was disliked, whether anyone was jealous of his celebrity, or if he was considered arrogant. They said Tillman was respected, admired and well-liked.

The documents also shed new light on Tillman's last moments.

It has been widely reported by the AP and others that Spc. Bryan O'Neal, who was at Tillman's side as he was killed, told investigators that Tillman was waving his arms shouting "Cease fire, friendlies, I am Pat (expletive) Tillman, damn it!" again and again.

But the latest documents give a different account from a chaplain who debriefed the entire unit days after Tillman was killed.

The chaplain said that O'Neal told him he was hugging the ground at Tillman's side, "crying out to God, help us. And Tillman says to him, `Would you shut your (expletive) mouth? God's not going to help you; you need to do something for yourself, you sniveling ..."
Associated Press reporters Scott Lindlaw in Las Vegas and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed to this story.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Giant prehistoric tusks found in Greece


Giant prehistoric tusks found in Greece
By DEREK GATOPOULOS, Associated Press Writer

Researchers in northern Greece have uncovered two massive tusks of a prehistoric mastodon that roamed Europe more than 2 million years ago — tusks that could be the largest of their kind ever found.

The remains of the mastodon, which was similar to the woolly mammoth but had straighter tusks as well as different teeth and eating habits, were found in an area about 250 miles north of Athens where excavations have uncovered several prehistoric animals over the past decade.

One of the tusks measured 16-feet-4-inches long and the other was more than 15 feet long, the research team said. They were found with the animal's upper and lower jaws — still bearing teeth — and leg bones, said Evangelia Tsoukala, an assistant professor of geology at the University of Thessaloniki, who led the team that excavated the site.

"To find a tusk 5 meters (more than 16 feet) long, that was a big surprise," Tsoukala told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from the site late Wednesday.

"It's a very significant find because with these sections of the skeleton we can draw conclusions about this animal and its development," she added. "We are also looking for clues about its extinction."

Mastodons, an ancestor of the elephant, roamed Europe, Asia and North America, but how they became extinct remains a mystery. They are thought to have disappeared in Europe and Asia some 2 million years ago, but survived in North America until 10,000 years ago.

Tsoukala said the male animal discovered in Greece lived about 2.5 million years ago.

"This animal was in its prime. It was 25 to 30 years old; they lived until about 55. It was about 3.5 meters (11 1/2 feet) tall at the shoulder, and weighed around six tons," Tsoukala said.

Dutch researcher Dick Mol, who assisted with the excavation, said plant material found near the tusks would be analyzed to try to determine the environment the animal lived in.

He said the skeleton could also provide information.

"It's really a gold mine," said Mol, a research associate at the Museum of Natural History in Rotterdam. "These are the best preserved skeletons in the world of this species."

Dave Martill, a paleontologist at the University of Portsmouth in England, said scientists can analyze the growth rings in the tusks to learn more about the world's climate at the time the mastodon lived.

"These animals, in their bones, hold a whole load of information about the environment at the time — not just the animal," said Martill, an independent expert not connected with the excavation.

The bones will also be scoured for the remote chance of finding DNA material.

Researchers from Germany and the United States recently analyzed genetic material from an American mastodon recovered from fossils up to 130,000 years old found in Alaska, providing clearer insight into the evolution of elephants.

If DNA is recovered from the animal found in Greece — which Mol acknowledges is "very doubtful" — it could allow researchers to compare it to other European and American mastodon fossils at an unprecedented level of detail.

The tusks were discovered in October by an excavation machine operator working at a sand quarry, but it took months for the scientific investigation to be organized.

Tsoukala, who has been conducting excavations in the region since 1990, found a mastodon tusk measuring more than 14 feet long in the same area 10 years ago. She said the latest discovery is more significant because the skeletal remains are more complete.
On the Net:

Museum of Natural History in Rotterdam:


Study of mastodon DNA:


Thessaloniki University's Department of Geology:


As dirt piles up, fans may yet wash hands of it all


July 26, 2007, 7:45AM
As dirt piles up, fans may yet wash hands of it all
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? Your place has been taken by thugs and crooks and cheats.

At least that's the way it has felt the last few weeks as our sports world seems to have spun out of control. One instance of bad behavior has been followed by another and then another.

Dog torture. Point shaving. Steroids. Guns. Brawls. Strippers. High-speed chases. Are these isolated examples of a few bad apples? Or is something else at play?

Thanks to the likes of Barry Bonds, Michael Vick and Tim Donaghy, even the fun and games are no longer fun and games. We're pelted by scandal, endlessly and relentlessly.

After years of coddling athletes, after allowing them to think they don't have to play by the rules others play by, are we getting what we deserve?

Once upon a time, you looked to the sports pages to escape the sewer of everyday life. No more.

If you saw the look on NBA commissioner David Stern's face Tuesday, you learned everything you need to know about sports in 2007.

Stern might be the most brilliant man in sports — brilliant and thin-skinned and condescending. That David Stern was nowhere to be found Tuesday. This one was frightened and humbled as he faced reporters to discuss charges that Donaghy, who recently resigned as an NBA referee, had bet on games, including perhaps some in which he officiated.

The FBI apparently believes Donaghy made calls to manipulate either the outcome or the point spread. These charges cut to the heart of everything sports is supposed to be. One of the reasons we go to games is because we believe anything can happen. David can slay Goliath.

Suspension of belief

If we find the outcomes of some games have been fixed, if some games were nothing more than staged events for a scared loser, fans will be a long time believing in the NBA again.

Stern is hoping and praying the FBI finds Donaghy to be a lone wolf who got himself into trouble with gambling debts and did what mobsters ordered him to. If it turns out Donaghy is part of a larger conspiracy, if he names the names of other refs and perhaps even some players, the NBA will have taken a crippling hit.

It's a really bad week when Donaghy isn't the most repulsive player on the stage. That honor belongs to Vick.

I have trouble working up any rage for the Atlanta Falcons quarterback because I simply can't wrap my mind around what he's accused of doing. I can't comprehend any human being is capable of such things.

A federal felony indictment places Vick in a key role in a Virginia dogfighting ring. If you can swallow that much of the story, brace yourself. It gets much worse.

Who's the animal?

Vick and his thugs also are charged with torturing dogs, with hosing them down and then electrocuting them, with throwing them to the ground again and again until they died.

Wait, there's more. Vick's case has opened a door into a sickening NFL subculture.

''I would bet you that every player in the NFL knows someone who has been to a dogfight," Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber told a reporter this week.

One fool is one fool too many. But Barber doesn't seem to be alone. Emmitt Smith, the NFL's all-time rushing leader, joined the chorus of supporters for Vick last weekend when he said the government was picking on Vick.

''Granted, he might have been to a dogfight a time or two, maybe five times, maybe 20 times, may have bet some money, but he's not the one you're after," Smith said. ''He's just the one who's going to take the fall — publicly."

Sure. Vick's only sin was going to a few dogfights and cheering as one dog mauled another. And maybe he tortured the losing dog a few times. No big deal — right, Emmitt?

What kind of world do these people live in? Are they so out of touch that they think anything they choose to do is fine because they're special?

Statements like Smith's will do nothing to counter the widespread belief that the NFL is populated by thugs. Nothing could be further from the truth, but still.

One day, it's another Cincinnati Bengal getting arrested for driving under the influence. The next, there's Tennessee Titans cornerback Pacman Jones, who has been banned from the NFL for an assortment of incidents.

Bonds a relative boy scout

If things keep going as they are, Bonds is going to look like a good citizen. All he allegedly did was take illegal performance-enhancing drugs on his way to becoming baseball's all-time home run king.

Bonds has 753 home runs, two behind Hank Aaron, and should pass him sometime in the near future. Bonds thus becomes the poster boy for an era in which a large number of players took steroids.

As the players union fought testing, as owners focused on economic issues, the most sacred page of baseball's record book is now a joke. Bonds won't be out of the headlines even after he breaks the record. The New York Daily News reported that Bonds probably will be indicted for perjury and/tax evasion this fall.

Tipping point?

Funny thing is, for all the sermonizing about the damage done to sports, fans don't seem to care. Baseball is going to break its all-time attendance record for the fourth straight season, and almost no one believes the NFL will suffer in any substantive way from players getting into trouble. The NBA was already a marginalized sport, so evidence of point shaving likely won't hurt the league much more than it was already hurt.

But while Bonds, Vick and Donaghy have yet to be convicted of anything, there's a sense that things are coming apart, that sports in this country has reached some sort of tipping point. Maybe fans really will get tired of the dirt. Maybe they'll turn the channel and stop buying tickets. Only then, when the TV cash isn't there and the luxury suites are empty, might there be more urgency about cleaning it up.


French President Travels to Libya


Associated Press
French President Travels to Libya

TRIPOLI, Libya - French President Nicolas Sarkozy promised to boost relations with long-isolated Libya as he met with the oil-rich country's leader Moammar Gadhafi on Wednesday as a reward for releasing six Bulgarian medical workers.

Libya is hoping for increased cooperation with Europe and the United States after it freed the six, who had been held for more than eight years on charges they infected children with AIDS.

The medics had twice been sentenced to death for allegedly infecting some 426 children in the coastal city of Benghazi in the late 1990s - charges that were widely denounced abroad as false. Libya commuted their sentences to life in prison and allowed them to fly to Bulgaria on Tuesday, where they received a presidential pardon.

During Sarkozy's visit, France and Libya signed wide-ranging cooperation agreements in areas including defense, health, the fight against terrorism and civilian nuclear power.

Under a deal sealed by the medics' release, the European Union agreed to a package of aid for Libya and the prospect of increased trade ties. The Europeans also said they would encourage contributions to a Libyan fund set up to compensate families of the children infected with the HIV virus.

In Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she hoped to travel to Libya soon. "I know that American companies are very interested in working in Libya," Rice also said.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev said his country might write off the $54 million debt owed to it by Libya - although he underlined that it was a humanitarian gesture that should not be seen as "paying ransom, or admitting (the medics') guilt."

Libya reacted to the pardon Wednesday, summoning Bulgaria's top diplomat to the foreign ministry to deliver a note of protest. "The release is in violation of agreements ... between the two countries," the note said, demanding an official explanation.

That protest came hours after the organization representing the children's families denounced the Bulgarian decision.

Sarkozy's visit had been contingent on the release of the medics, whose freedom he had made a foreign policy priority since taking office in May.

The EU has been negotiating with Tripoli for months, trying to find a resolution to the crisis. French first lady Cecilia Sarkozy made two trips to Libya this month to push for the medics' release; on Tuesday, she scored the coup of flying them home to Bulgaria aboard a French presidential plane.

France and Libya "affirm their desire to give new momentum to bilateral relations, and to build a strategic partnership between the two countries," the leaders said in a joint statement.

The countries agreed to boost cooperation on areas including fighting terrorism, research, education, the economy and migration, the statement said. They urged stability in Sudan and Chad and "underlined the need to work together to resolve armed conflicts on the African continent."

One agreement touched on defense cooperation, and in another memo, leaders pledged to work together on "peaceful applications for nuclear energy," the statement said. The issue is sensitive, and French anti-nuclear group Sortir du Nucleaire accused Sarkozy of handing over nuclear technology to the Libyans in exchange for the nurses.

Bulgaria's pardon of the medical workers brought an angry denunciation from the Libyan organization representing the children's families.

"We deeply condemn and are deeply disappointed at the absurdity and disrespect shown by the Bulgarian presidential pardon," the association said in a statement faxed to The Associated Press. It called on Interpol to have police arrest the medics again in Bulgaria, "so that they can spend the rest of their sentences in prison."

But the association avoided any mention of Gadhafi's decision to allow the medics to return to Bulgaria.

The medical workers denied infecting the children and said their confessions were extracted under torture. During their trials, international experts testified that the infections were caused by unclean conditions at the hospitals where they were treated.

Three medics, meanwhile, said at a news conference in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia that they would testify against the Libyan officers alleged to have tortured them.

"We can forgive, but we cannot forget what has happened to us," said Nasya Nenova, one of the nurses.

Nenova, Kristiana Valcheva and Ashraf al Hazouz said they were ready to testify against 11 Libyan police officers in a Bulgarian probe of the alleged torture.

If convicted, the accused will face up to 10 years in prison.

The Libyans will be investigated for allegedly using coercion, torture and threats to extract the false confessions from the medics, prosecutor Nikolai Kokinov said.

Libyan officials contend that with the medics' release, the country's slate with the outside world is clean.

In 2003, Libya accepted responsibility for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people, and agreed to pay restitution to the victims. Gadhafi also said he was dismantling his nuclear weapons program, bringing a major breakthrough in U.S.-Libyan ties. The steps brought a lifting of U.S. and European sanctions.

Since then, international investment has increased in Libya's oil sector - its only considerable industry, providing most of its gross domestic product of nearly $75 billion.

Sarkozy's trip follows a visit in May by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who also worked toward the medics' release.

In July, President Bush nominated an ambassador to Tripoli, where the U.S. reopened its embassy in May 2006.

But Libya's failure so far to pay the last portion of the $270 million it promised to families of the Lockerbie victims could hold up a greater warming of ties with the U.S. Some senators are moving to block upgrading of the embassy until all reparations are paid.

While the EU appears ready to increase ties to some extent with Libya, an even closer relationship depends on political reforms that many doubt Gadhafi is ready to carry out.

Attack of the Killer Jumbo Squid!!!

Attack of the Killer Jumbo Squid!!!


Voracious jumbo squid invade California
Associated Press

Jumbo squid that can grow up to 7 feet long and weigh more than 110 pounds are invading central California waters and preying on local anchovy, hake and other commercial fish populations, according to a study published Tuesday.

An aggressive predator, the Humboldt squid — or Dosidicus gigas — can change its eating habits to consume the food supply favored by tuna and sharks, its closest competitors, according to an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.

"Having a new, voracious predator set up shop here in California may be yet another thing for fishermen to compete with," said the study's co-author, Stanford University researcher Louis Zeidberg. "That said, if a squid saw a human they would jet the other way."

The jumbo squid used to be found only in the Pacific Ocean's warmest stretches near the equator. In the last 16 years, it has expanded its territory throughout California waters, and squid have even been found in the icy waters off Alaska, Zeidberg said.

Zeidberg's co-author, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute senior scientist Bruce Robison, first spotted the jumbo squid here in 1997, when one swam past the lens of a camera mounted on a submersible thousands of feet below the ocean's surface.

More were observed through 1999, but the squid weren't seen again locally until the fall of 2002. Since their return, scientists have noted a corresponding drop in the population of Pacific hake, a whitefish the squid feeds on that is often used in fish sticks, Zeidberg said.

"As they've come and gone, the hake have dropped off," Zeidberg said. "We're just beginning to figure out how the pieces fit together, but this is most likely going to shake things up."

Before the 1970s, the giant squid were typically found in the Eastern Pacific, and in coastal waters spanning from Peru to Costa Rica. But as the populations of its natural predators — like large tuna, sharks and swordfish — declined because of fishing, the squids moved northward and started eating different species that thrive in colder waters.

Local marine mammals needn't worry about the squid's arrival since they're higher up on the food chain, but lanternfish, krill, anchovies and rockfish are all fair game, Zeidberg said.

A fishermen's organization said Tuesday they were monitoring the squid's impact on commercial fisheries.

"In years of high upwellings, when the ocean is just bountiful, it probably wouldn't do anything," Zeke Grader, the executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. "But in bad years it could be a problem to have a new predator competing at the top of the food chain."

FCC Majority Backs Open-Access Plan


FCC Majority Backs Open-Access Plan for Airwaves
By Kim Hart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 25, 2007; D02

A majority of the members of the Federal Communications Commission told a House panel yesterday that they support an open-access requirement for the coming radio spectrum auction that would give consumers more choices for cellphone devices and services.

The open-access proposal, first outlined about two weeks ago by FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin, has become central to the debate over how the airwaves will be used when television broadcasters give them up in 2009. The FCC plans to auction these airwaves to companies in January. The measure would require the highest bidder to use a third of the airwaves to build a network that is available to all wireless devices and services.

The hearing yesterday before the House subcommittee on telecommunications and the Internet was the first time the commissioners publicly shared their views about the rules for the auction and was probably the last chance for Congress to weigh in before commissioners vote on the rules, perhaps as early as next week. Democratic Commissioners Jonathan S. Adelstein and Michael J. Copps said they supported the open-access plan, while Republican Commissioners Deborah Taylor Tate and Robert M. McDowell said they were undecided.

The Martin proposal was unpopular among Republican subcommittee members, who say the auction should be free of conditions -- in part because rules could reduce the revenue it generates, which is expected to be about $15 billion. About $10 billion of that has been allocated for federal use. Democrats on the panel supported the provision on the grounds that it would give consumers more choices than wireless providers like AT&T and Verizon Wireless now provide.

Google, which has expressed interest in bidding, has said the open-access requirement is not enough to allow a new entrant into the wireless market. On Friday, the company said it would spend at least $4.6 billion to bid on the spectrum if the FCC also mandated that the winner lease some of the airwaves to other companies offering broadband services that do not restrict devices or services. Martin has resisted what is being called the "wholesale" measure, saying it would discourage the winner from investing in the network.

Excluding AT&T, the wireless industry opposes any restrictions on how the spectrum will be used. Last week, AT&T said that it supported Martin's proposal but would not make a decision about whether to bid until the FCC's rules were finalized.

"The proposal is not designed to facilitate the entry of any one company," Martin said. "While there isn't a company that supports my proposal, I think consumers will."

McDowell said he was leaning against Martin's proposal for open access because it could raise prices for consumers. Although McDowell said he would like to see the wireless industry become less restrictive in the devices and services it offers consumers, he questions whether that should happen through "natural evolution or government mandate."

Several lawmakers expressed concern that the open-access rule would shut small and rural companies out of the auction. If a condition is placed on the largest piece of the spectrum, well-established carriers such as AT&T and Verizon may opt to bid on smaller licenses eyed by rural carriers, Rep. J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said.

Martin said he favored breaking up the spectrum into licenses of various sizes to let a diverse mix of companies participate in the auction.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Images of the Future


Images of the Future
By Annalee Newitz, AlterNet
Posted on July 24, 2007

The future is a crowded graveyard, full of dead possibilities. Each headstone marks a timeline that never happened, and there's something genuinely mournful about them. I get misty-eyed looking at century-old drawings of the zeppelin-crammed skyline over "tomorrow's cities." It reminds me that the realities we think are just around the corner may die before they're born.

A few weeks ago I was trolling YouTube and stumbled across a now-hilarious documentary from 1972, Future Shock, based on the 1970 futurist book of the same name by Alvin Toffler. The documentary focused on a few themes from the book and tarted them up by throwing in a lot of trippy effects and sticking in Orson Welles as a narrator.

As Welles intones ponderously about how fast the future is arriving, we learn that "someday soon" everybody will be linked via computers. Essentially, it was an extremely accurate prediction about Internet culture. Score one for old Toffler.

Things go tragically incorrect when the documentary turns to biology. Very soon, Welles assures his audience, people will have complete control over the genome and drugs will cure everything from anxiety to aging. Through the wonders of pharmaceuticals, we'll become a race of immortal super-humans. It sounds almost exactly like the kinds of crap that futurists say now, 37 years later. Singularity peddlers like futurist Ray Kurzweil and genomics robber baron Craig Venter are always crowing about how we're just about to seize control over our genomes and live forever. So far we haven't. But every generation dreams about it, hoping they'll be the first humans to cheat death.

Some dreams of the future, however, shouldn't outlast the generation that first conceived them. Suburbia is one of those dreams. In the fat post-war years of the 1940s and '50s, it seemed like a great idea to build low-density housing to blanket the harsh desert landscapes of the Southwest. But now the green lawns of Southern California have become an environmental nightmare of water-sucking parasitism. Just think of the atrocious carbon footprint left behind when you lay pavement, wires, and pipes over a vast area so that nuclear families can each have huge yards and swimming pools instead of living intelligently in high-density green skyscrapers surrounded by organic farms.

Oh wait -- I just gave away my own crazy futurist dreams, inspired by urban environmentalism. Today, many of us imagine that the future will be like the green city of Dongtan, an ecofriendly community being built outside Shanghai using recycled water, green building materials, and urban gardens that will allow no cars within its limits. The hope is that Dongtan will have a teeny tiny carbon footprint and be a model of urban life for the future. Of course, that's what suburbia was supposed to be too -- a model of a good future life. No future is ever perfect.

Perhaps the saddest dead futures, though, are the ones whose end may mean the end of humanity. I suppose one could argue that the death of an environmentally conscious future is in that category. But what I'm talking about are past predictions that humans would colonize the moon and outer space. As the dream of a Mars colony withers and the idea of colonizing the moons of Saturn and Jupiter becomes more of a fantasy than ever before, I feel real despair.

Maybe my desperate hopes for space colonization are my version of Kurzweil's prediction that one day we'll take drugs that will make us immortal. Somehow, I think, if we could just have diverted the global war machine into a space-colony machine sometime back in the 1930s, then everything would be all right. Today the planet wouldn't be suffering from overpopulation, plague, and starvation. We'd all be spread out across the solar system, tending our terraforming machines and growing weird crops in the sands of Mars.

Of course, we might just be polluting every planet we touch and bringing our stupid dreams of conquering the genome to a bunch of poor nonhuman creatures with no defenses. But I still miss that future of outer-space colonies. I can't help but think it would be better than the future we've got.

Annalee Newitz (annalee@techsploitation.com) is a surly media nerd whose Martian colony has a better space elevator than yours.

NYC buildings use ice to keep cool


NYC buildings use ice to keep cool
By COLLEEN LONG, Associated Press Writer
Tue Jul 24, 2007

As the summer swelters on, skyscrapers and apartments around the city will crank up air conditioners and push the city's power grid to the limit — but some have found a cool alternative.

Some office towers and buildings are keeping their AC use to a minimum by using an energy-saving system that relies on blocks of ice to pump chilly air.

"If you take the time to look, you can find innovative ways to be energy efficient, be environmental and sustainable," said William Beck, the head of critical engineering systems for Credit Suisse.

The systems save companies money and reduce strain on the electrical grid in New York, where the city consumes huge amounts of power on hot summer days.

Ice cooling also cuts down on pollution. A system in Credit Suisse's offices at the historic Metropolitan Life tower in Manhattan is equal to taking 223 cars off the streets or planting 1.9 million acres of trees to absorb carbon dioxide from electrical use for a year, according to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Such a reduction in pollution is valuable in a city where the majority of emissions come from the operation of buildings. Officials said there are at least 3,000 ice-cooling systems worldwide.

Because electricity is needed to make the ice, water is frozen in large silver tanks at night when power demands are low. The cool air emanating from the ice blocks is then piped through the building. At night the water is frozen again and the cycle repeated.

The idea of using ice to cool rooms is a throwback to the eras before Willis Carrier devised the first air-conditioner. An early method of cooling air in India involved hanging wet grass mats over windows. In the 1800s, a physician in Florida blew air over buckets of ice to cool hospital rooms.

Today, ice storage can be used as the sole cooling system, or it can be combined with traditional systems to help ease the power demands during peak hours.

At Credit Suisse, for example, the company must cool 1.9 million square feet of office space at the historic Met Life tower.

In the basement, three main cooling rooms house chilling machines and 64 tanks that hold 800 gallons of water each. Credit Suisse has a traditional air conditioning system, but engineers use the energy-saving system first.

Construction on the system took about four months, and company engineers say it is extremely efficient.

"When you make something mechanical, it can break, but a big block of ice ... isn't going to do anything but melt," said Todd Coulard of Trane Energy Services, which built the Credit Suisse system.

Trane, the air conditioning arm of American Standard, also developed a system for Morgan Stanley's Westchester County offices and just completed a new system for its offices on Fifth Avenue. A new Goldman Sachs headquarters will also have ice cooling.

Credit Suisse is considering installing the systems in offices around the globe, but nothing has been decided yet. Coulard, an expert in energy efficiency, was hired by the company four years ago to develop the energy services department.

"The idea of not only saving money for large companies, but doing something that benefits the environment, is win-win," he said. "It's doing the right thing."

Ice storage at Credit Suisse lowers the facility's peak energy use by 900 kilowatts, and reduces overall electric usage by 2.15 million kilowatt-hours annually — enough to power about 200 homes, officials said.

At the Morgan Stanley facility in Westchester County, the system reduces peak energy use by 740 kilowatts and overall electricity usage by 900,000 kilowatt hours annually.

Both companies received incentives from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority under a program designed to improve the power grid and help businesses reduce operating costs.

The technology is not for every office space. There has to be room to install the large tanks — and costs are considerable. Credit Suisse spent more than $3 million to renovate its cooling system and Morgan Stanley's costs were comparable, meaning the technology is best suited to large companies.

"This is for companies that want to go green, but there (need) to be other benefits, returns on investments," Coulard said. "It works for larger companies because their cooling costs are so considerable."