Archive for February, 2009

WRAL is reporting the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office went on record Friday, (via a 92 page response to Peterson’s Motion for Appropriate Relief) saying that convicted murdered Michael Peterson should not get another day in court. The AG’s office filed it’s opinion, despite Judge Orlando Hudson’s decision last year to hold a hearing on whether Durham County prosecutors withheld evidence during Peterson’s murder trial.

In November of last year, Jason Anthony, a attorney who now represents Peterson filed documents in Durham County Superior Court which claimed prosecutors withheld crucial evidence about a tire iron found in a neighbors yard from Peterson’s defense lawyers during the original trial in 2003.  A letter found in a box of evidence by Peterson’s friends and family contained communications between a neighbor of Peterson’s and Durham County investigators regarding the discovery of a tire iron in the neighbors yard.  The discovery was made several weeks after Kathleen Peterson was murdered.  Anthony maintains the evidence might have changed the outcome of Peterson’s  trial due to the fact it could have been the murder weapon.

Judge Hudson announced in December 08, that he had decided to order a pre-trial conference to basically narrow down the potential issues to be heard at the evidentiary hearing. But according to District Attorney David Saacks  they were not required to disclose the tire iron evidence to Peterson’s attorney’s. Saacks is maintaining the discovery rules in effect in 2003 were different than those now on the books. From the N&O:

District Attorney David Saacks, a prosecutor who helped with the trial, said investigators logged the tire iron into evidence and then tested it as a possible murder weapon.

Saacks said recently that after doing the tests, investigators ruled out the tire iron as the cause of Kathleen Peterson’s death.

The log that showed the tire iron had been collected and tested was not turned over to defense lawyers, Anthony said, leading to his charge that evidence was withheld.

Saacks said earlier this week that in 2003, state law did not require prosecutors to turn over such evidence to the defense.

So why did Judge Hudson decide on a evidentiary conference? I believe he was simply ruling on the safe side, given the issue of previous prosecutorial misconduct in the Durham County’s DA’s office, plain and simple. In fact the AG’s office believes the latest claim by Peterson’s attorney is no more that pure rhetoric.

Indeed, defendant’s current counsel, Jason Anthony, is quoted in the Raleigh News and Observer on 13 November 2008 as stating to the press on the courthouse steps in Durham that “Durham is going to have the same experience it had before with the Duke [lacrosse]case.” According to the newspaper, Mr. Anthony further said, “This is the worst case of misconduct by the state that I have seen in my career.” One may infer from his misleading allegation about Mr.Nifong in the MAR, and his bluster in playing to the press, that Mr. Anthony hopes to prevail in this cause through rhetoric rather than through facts.

On Friday, Hudson said he would review the state’s response before deciding whether to go ahead. We can hope this will put an end to this sad case once and for all.


Good News

Source: The Triangulator

Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, has introduced a bill that would make it illegal for electric public utilities in North Carolina to purchase, or use, coal derived from dynamiting mountaintops in southern Appalachia. Half of the coal used to produce electricity in North Carolina is derived from the process, known as mountaintop removal, resulting in radically altered ecosystems, polluted streams and rivers, and billions of tons of toxic “coal slurry,” collected in artificial pools, or injected into ground soil. Other than Georgia, no other state in the U.S. uses more mountaintop removal-derived coal.

“Because North Carolina burns a significant amount of coal extracted by mountaintop removal coal mining, we have an obligation to eliminate or reduce the devastating social and environmental impacts of this mining in the Appalachian Mountains,” the bill states.

Harrison introduced a similar bill last year, saying she was motivated in part by 2008 Indies Arts Award winner Michael O’Connell’s documentary, Mountaintop Removal, which focuses on the devastating effect on Appalachian families.

Read the entire article here.

Source: Global Security NewsWire

Two veteran U.S. lawmakers have reintroduced legislation aimed at increasing the safety and security of facilities that handle materials that could be used in acts of bioterrorism, U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.) announced yesterday (see GSN, Aug. 22, 2008).

If passed, the Select Agent Program and Biosafety Improvement Act of 2009 would assess federal oversight of high-security biological research laboratories, heighten training at the sites and create a system for reporting safety or security lapses. The bill would also reauthorize funding for the U.S. Select Agent Program, which sets rules governing the movement and use of potential biological-weapon agents. Similar legislation lapsed in the Senate last year.

“We must support scientific research while also making sure select agents are kept out of the hands of terrorists and are used safely and securely in our laboratories,” Burr, who co-sponsored the bill with Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), said in a statement. “Reauthorizing the Select Agent Program is vital to ensuring our nation’s safety and security, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to reauthorize and improve the program.”

“Our ability to protect Americans against modern-day dangers depends on robust scientific research to counter biological threats. The bill that we introduce today helps protect Americans from biological threats, while also protecting scientific freedom and integrity,” Kennedy added in the release.

A comparable bill sponsored by Representative Jane Harman (D-Calif.) is being considered in the House (U.S. Senator Richard Burr release, Feb. 26).

Image:Meteorologist Allan Huffman

Image:Meteorologist Allan Huffman

Yes go ahead say it, I’m a weather weenie. There is nothing I look forward to more than a few flakes and folks I’m not talking about my friends😆 . According to the latest computer models we are once again in for some white stuff. Here is the latest from Meteorologist Allan Huffman’s weather page, Raleigh Weather Examiner.

Hi folks, after digesting the latest model data that has come out today, my confidence is growing that this going to be a significant snowstorm for the upsate of South Carolina through much of central and east-central North Carolina, and eastern and southeastern Virginia. Areas where this could also be a big deal, but  where I have lower confidence are, northern and north-central Georgia, the mountains and foothills of North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, and central Virginia.

As far as amounts go, I will try to zero in on this tomorrow, but as of now I would say a general 4-8 inch snow is likely in the dark blue areas, with the upside being isolated areas of 10-12 inches.  Again, I will try to zero in on this tomorrow.

Oh yeah, now that’s what I’m talking about. Hey Suzanne what time should I come over to shovel the barn?


Folks over at NoNAIS, have an action alert regarding an upcoming Congressional hearing on the National Animal Identification System (NAIS).

The U.S. House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry will hold a hearing on NAIS on March 11. Bills to put NAIS into law, HR875 and companion Senate S814, are being pushed through Congress, as well as an Appropriations Bill with funding for NAIS. This hearing is critical to blocking mandatory NAIS.

It is going to take all of us, small farmers, homesteaders, pet owners and consumers to put a halt to this absurd legislation. Don’t know much about NAIS? Go here to learn more and let’s end the madness now.

Salon/Reuters/Eduardo Munoz

Salon/Reuters/Eduardo Munoz

“Violent protests and riots are breaking out everywhere as economies collapse and governments fail. War is bound to follow”.

Michael Klare at Salon examines the current economic meltdown from a global perspective and ask the question, Are we next? It is a must read.

Dems plan housing push amid dissent

Source: The Hill

Democrats are prepared to bring the party’s housing bill to the floor Thursday, even as centrist members try to limit one of its key provisions.

Centrist Democrats want to limit the number of people who can get their home loans shrunk by bankruptcy judges.

“We want to make sure that people who’ve been offered a modification don’t just use bankruptcy to shop for a better option,” said Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the centrist New Democrat Coalition.

The bankruptcy legislation is the most contentious part of a broader bill to reinvigorate the housing market. House liberals and the original sponsors of the provision, known as “cramdown” in the financial industry, say there is no reason for the centrists’ concerns, but said they can live with some proposed changes.

“The changes under discussion would still be an effective bill,” said Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.), who authored the bankruptcy provision, “and would give homeowners more options than they currently have.” Limiting the bill too much, said Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Ga.), could cause problems passing the bill.

“You’ll start losing votes when you too drastically affect the availability of the remedy for no good reason,” said Marshall, a bankruptcy attorney who originally opposed the bill until he and Miller crafted language they could both live with.

More here.

Myrick asks for money, then opposes bill

Source: Charlotte Observer

The $410 billion spending bill that Rep. Sue Myrick opposed Wednesday included millions of dollars for the Charlotte area that she inserted in the legislation, including $20million to expand the city’s light-rail system.

The Charlotte Republican’s “earmarks,” and others requested last year but stalled by Washington gridlock, are one step closer to finally getting funded.

Myrick’s projects include $380,000 for the Garden Parkway in Gaston County, $237,500 for the U.S. 74 Monroe Bypass and $142,500 for “streetscaping and pedestrian walkways” along Gilead Road in Huntersville.

Myrick co-sponsored the $20 million for the Charlotte rapid transit system with Rep. Mel Watt, a Charlotte Democrat, and Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.

The projects are included in the “omnibus” spending bill needed because Congress failed to pass nine of its 2009 appropriations bills.

It passed the House largely on a party-line vote, with Democrats accusing Republicans of hypocrisy for opposing a bill they helped stuff with pet projects. It must still be considered by the Senate.

More here.

Source: John Byrne – The RawStory

Poisonous anthrax that killed five Americans in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks doesn’t match bacteria from a flask linked to Bruce Ivins, the researcher who committed suicide after being implicated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a scientist said.

Spores used in the deadly mailings “share a chemical ‘fingerprint’ that is not found in the flask linked to Bruce Ivins,” Roberta Kwok wrote in Nature News, citing Joseph Michael, a scientist at the Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Michael analyzed letters sent to the New York Post and offices of Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy, and found a distinct “chemical signature” not present in the flask known as RMR-1029, which Ivins could access in his laboratory at Fort Detrick, Maryland.

“Spores from two of those show a distinct chemical signature that includes silicon, oxygen, iron, and tin; the third letter had silicon, oxygen, iron and possibly also tin,” Kwok wrote. “Bacteria from Ivins’ RMR-1029 flask did not contain any of those four elements.”

The results don’t necessarily exonerate Ivins.

The mailed spores could have been removed from the flask and grown under different conditions, resulting in varying chemical contents, Jason Bannan, a microbiologist and forensic examiner at the FBI’s Chemical Biological Sciences Unit in Quantico, Virginia, told Kwok.

“It doesn’t surprise me that it would be different,” said Bannan.

The FBI has asked the National Academy of Science to perform an independent review of the anthrax investigation data. The two sides are working on a contract for the study.

Ivins, 62, a biodefense researcher who spent years searching for a better anthrax vaccine, overdosed on Tylenol and Codiene last year after learning that the FBI was preparing to indict him on murder charges

While some of the projects in the [stimulus] bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending. It includes … $140 million for something called ‘volcano monitoring.’ Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, DC.

Here you will find the list of 101 reasons why Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal scares me. Does anyone in the GOP think before they open their mouths anymore, and did I hear someone say presidental hopeful, don’t you mean hopeless? Gov. Jindal, try telling the folks who live around the active volcanos in the US that volcano monitoring is wasteful spending. Come on, a fifth grader knows that the U.S. is home to several active volcanos and one that could end life as we know it, which continues to rumble.

Through 5 January 2009, seismic activity has markedly decreased. It is possible that the swarm has ended, though a return of activity may occur as Yellowstone swarms of the size usually last for tens of days to many weeks. About 500 earthquakes occurred between Dec. 26 through Jan. 1. Three hundred of the earthquakes (including all >M2.0) have been reviewed by seismologists. There have been 86 earthquakes with M > 2.0 and 16 earthquakes > M3.0. About 200 smaller earthquakes have yet to be reviewed. Depths are difficult to determine accurately. The best located earthquakes have depths on the order of 3 to 10 km (1.8 to 6.0 miles).

It is also important to note that:

A modern full-force Yellowstone eruption could kill millions, directly and indirectly, and would make every volcano in recorded human history look minor by comparison. Fortunately, “super-eruptions” from supervolcanoes have occurred on a geologic time scale so vast that a study by the Geological Society of London declared an eruption on the magnitude of Yellowstone’s biggest (the Huckleberry Ridge eruption 2.1 million years ago) occurs somewhere on the planet only about once every million years.

Whew, dodged that bullet but the next time the GOP mocks something that has anything to do with science instead of exploding we should just consider the source and Good luck to the good folks of Louisiana, it looks like you’re going to need it.

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