The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Fourth of July roundup

Happy Fourth, everybody. I intend to spend the day trying to think happy thoughts, but the day's news isn't cooperating with me.

CIA shuts down bin Laden unit: The Central Intelligence Agency has closed a unit that for a decade had the mission of hunting Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants, intelligence officials confirmed Monday.

The unit, known as Alec Station, was disbanded late last year and its analysts reassigned within the C.I.A. Counterterrorist Center, the officials said.

The decision is a milestone for the agency, which formed the unit before Osama bin Laden became a household name and bolstered its ranks after the Sept. 11 attacks, when President Bush pledged to bring Mr. bin Laden to justice "dead or alive."

The realignment reflects a view that Al Qaeda is no longer as hierarchical as it once was, intelligence officials said, and a growing concern about Qaeda-inspired groups that have begun carrying out attacks independent of Mr. bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Big pharma manipulates FDA to stop competition: Some at the FDA, as well as leaders in the generic drug industry, complain that "citizen petitions" -- requests for agency action that any individual, group or company can file -- are being misused by brand-name drugmakers to stave off generic competition.

The simple act of filing a petition, they say, triggers another round of time-consuming and often redundant reviews of the generics by the FDA, which can take months or years. In the process, consumers continue to pay millions of dollars more for the brand-name drugs.

White House cuts EPA research library budget 80%: The [10,000] signatories, who represent more than half of the agency's total workforce, sent a letter, released by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), saying the cuts would put thousands of scientific studies out of reach and hinder emergency preparedness, anti-pollution enforcement, and long-term research. For example, the letter said that about 50,000 original research documents would become completely unavailable because there is no budget to digitize them. Also, the staffers said that there are no plans to maintain interlibrary loan of documents.

Joe Lieberman, Democrat of convenience: If you follow blogs at all, you already know the story. Lieberman announced yesterday that he will run in New Hampshire's Democratic primary. But if he loses, he'll run anyway-- as an independent. And as a crybaby.

Right-wing bloggers' attacks on the Times Travel section fall apart: In the wake of the NYT piece that covered a posh Maryland neighborhood where both Cheney and Rumsfeld own homes, prominent conservatives advocated punishment-- and even murder-- for the paper's "treason" and terrorist sympathies. Then it was revealed that Rumsfeld himself had okayed the story. Some right-wing sites have acknowledged that they got it wrong. In a grudging and half-assed sort of way.

Fundamentalists blast Buffett for giving billions to charity: Yes, you read that right. He's being called a Nazi for giving tens of billions of dollars to combat poverty and disease in developing nations.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to which Buffett has pledged the bulk of his $44-billion fortune, devotes the vast majority of its funding to combating disease and poverty in developing countries. Less than 1 percent has gone to Planned Parenthood over the years. And the Gates Foundation does not permit its gifts to Planned Parenthood to be used for abortion services.

"The merger of Gates and Buffett may spell doom for the families of the developing world," said the Rev. Thomas Euteneuer, a Roman Catholic priest who is president of Human Life International.

Referring to Josef Mengele, the infamous Nazi death camp doctor, Euteneuer said Buffett "will be known as the Dr. Mengele of philanthropy unless he repents."