Saturday, November 15, 2008

Spam Turns Serious and Hormel Turns Out More

AUSTIN, Minn. — The economy is in tatters and, for millions of people, the future is uncertain. But for some employees at the Hormel Foods Corporation plant here, times have never been better. They are working at a furious pace and piling up all the overtime they want

The workers make Spam, perhaps the emblematic hard-times food in the American pantry.

Through war and recession, Americans have turned to the glistening canned product from Hormel as a way to save money while still putting something that resembles meat on the table. Now, in a sign of the times, it is happening again, and Hormel is cranking out as much Spam as its workers can produce.

In a factory that abuts Interstate 90, two shifts of workers have been making Spam seven days a week since July, and they have been told that the relentless work schedule will continue indefinitely.

Spam, a gelatinous 12-ounce rectangle of spiced ham and pork, may be among the world’s most maligned foods, dismissed as inedible by food elites and skewered by comedians who have offered smart-alecky theories on its name (one G-rated example: Something Posing As Meat).

But these days, consumers are rediscovering relatively cheap foods, Spam among them. A 12-ounce can of Spam, marketed as “Crazy Tasty,” costs about $2.40. “People are realizing it’s not that bad a product,” said Dan Johnson, 55, who operates a 70-foot-high Spam oven.

Hormel declined to cooperate with this article, but several of its workers were interviewed here recently with the help of their union, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 9. Slumped in chairs at the union hall after making 149,950 cans of Spam on the day shift, several workers said they been through boom times before — but nothing like this.

Spam “seems to do well when hard times hit,” said Dan Bartel, business agent for the union local. “We’ll probably see Spam lines instead of soup lines.”

Even as consumers are cutting back on all sorts of goods, Spam is among a select group of thrifty grocery items that are selling steadily.

Pancake mixes and instant potatoes are booming. So are vitamins, fruit and vegetable preservatives and beer, according to data from October compiled by Information Resources, a market research firm.

“We’ve seen a double-digit increase in the sale of rice and beans,” said Teena Massingill, spokeswoman for the Safeway grocery chain, in an e-mail message. “They’re real belly fillers.”

Kraft Foods said recently that some of its value-oriented products like macaroni and cheese, Jell-O and Kool-Aid were experiencing robust growth. And sales are still growing, if not booming, for Velveeta, a Kraft product that bears the same passing resemblance to cheese as Spam bears to ham.

Spam holds a special place in America’s culinary history, both as a source of humor and of cheap protein during hard times.

Invented during the Great Depression by Jay Hormel, the son of the company’s founder, Spam is a combination of ham, pork, sugar, salt, water, potato starch and a “hint” of sodium nitrate “to help Spam keep its gorgeous pink color,” according to Hormel’s Web site for the product.

Because it is vacuum-sealed in a can and does not require refrigeration, Spam can last for years. Hormel says “it’s like meat with a pause button.”

During World War II, Spam became a staple for Allied troops overseas. They introduced it to local residents, and it remains popular in many parts of the world where the troops were stationed.

Spam developed a camp following in the 1970s, mainly because of Monty Python, the English comedy troupe. In a 1970 skit, a couple tried to order breakfast at a cafe featuring Spam in nearly every entree, like “Spam, Eggs, Sausage and Spam.” The diners were eventually drowned out by a group of Vikings singing, “Spam, lovely Spam, wonderful Spam.”

(Familiar with the skit, Internet pioneers labeled junk e-mail “spam” because it overwhelmed other dialogue, according to one theory.)

Here in Austin, local officials have tried to capitalize on Spam’s kitschy cultural status, even if a decidedly unpleasant odor hangs over the town (a slaughterhouse next to the Hormel plant butchers 19,000 hogs a day). Austin advertises itself as “Spamtown,” and it boasts 13 restaurants with Spam on the menu.

Jerry’s Other Place sells a Spamburger for $6.29. Johnny’s “Spamarama” menu includes eggs Benedict with Spam for $7.35. At Steve’s Pizza, a medium Spam and pineapple pizza costs $11.58.

Financial Meltdown Summit Featured Lavish Dinner Menu, $300 Bottles of Wine

Nov. 14: President George W. Bush welcomes world leaders in the State Dining Room of the White House at the world financial summit.

WASHINGTON — Brother, can you spare a $300 bottle of wine?

The White House dinner Friday night for foreign leaders working to resolve the global economic crisis featured traditionally gourmet selections for such an august gathering.

There was no risk of a menu meltdown to go along with the subject of the meeting — austere markets, lost jobs and homeowners with mortgages they can't afford.

The White House said the menu included fruitwood-smoked quail with quince gastrique; quinoa risotto; thyme-roasted rack of lamb; tomato, fennel and eggplant fondue; a salad course of endive, baked brie and walnuts; and a pear torte to cap the meal.

Among the wines: bottles of Shafer Cabernet "Hillside Select" 2003 — about $300 per bottle — for the main course and the much cheaper Landmark Chardonnay "Damaris Reserve" 2006 for about $40 per bottle with the appetizer course. The Chandon DEtoile RosDe sparkling wine that accompanied dessert runs around $30 a bottle.

Presidents pay for their own groceries, even while living in the White House. But during official or state dinners, such as Friday night's, U.S. taxpayers foot the bill.

Bush's guests for the dinner included Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd; Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Joseph Harper; Chinese President Hu Jintao; French President Nicolas Sarkozy; German Chancellor Angela Merkel; and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. About two dozen leaders in all attended the dinner in the White House's State Dining Room.


If you've thought Wall Street is being run by a bunch of clowns, yesterday you were right on the money.

Members of the Big Apple Circus took the reins of financial power by ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

The exchange invited Grandma the Clown and Master of Ceremonies Carrie Harvey to both honor the circus' 31st season of entertainment and perhaps bring a bit of Main Street levity to traders battered by a collapsing market.

After ringing the bell, Harvey and Grandma wandered the floor trying to spread joy and merriment, placing funny red noses on exchange officials to touch the funny bones of even the most shaken traders.

But by the end of a roller-coaster day of trading that saw the Dow Jones industrial average whipsaw from 300 points down to just above even and then right back down to finish off 337 points, good humor was in short supply.

"What can I say? The market ended down nearly 350 points. Even the Big Apple Circus clowns couldn't help," said Eckhart & Co. trader Peter Costa as he trudged off the floor.

Walter London, a trader with Coffey Inc., said he was so "depressed" that even a clown's mirth could do nothing to help.

"There was no lighter mood on the floor. Living this day in and day out is not fun," he said.

Some analysts said the attempt by the NYSE to send in clowns to brighten the grim mood was childish.

"It's like they're trying to be the Make-A-Wish Foundation, cheering up a terminally ill child," said Bill King, chief market strategist of M. Ramsey King Securities in Chicago. "It's a great metaphor for a financial system that has become a joke.

"It's great to try to create some levity, but there is definitely some unintended symbolism here."

Despite the gloom and doom, the circus members said they considered the experience an honor.

"It was the most phenomenal experience," Harvey said. "I rang the bell. It was so magical. I just felt privileged to be there.

"The power behind it - you are really ringing the bell, and it is loud," she said. "And I speak for Grandma as well."

By the time the market closed, all efforts at amusement were abandoned when officials - in a more traditional approach - tapped executives from the employee-management company Manpower to ring the closing bell.

Lucky man survives after being run over by train

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Talk about being lucky — a north Alabama man is alive after being run over by a train on Thursday afternoon. Huntsville Fire and Rescue officials said a train engineer spotted 61-year-old Arnold Romine lying across railroad ties. Witnesses said the conductor sounded the horn and tried to stop the train.

Firefighters said by the time the coal train was stopped, 8 rail cars had passed over Romine's body.

Miraculously, he suffered what appeared to be minor injuries. He was later treated and released at Huntsville Hospital.

Its unclear why Romine was lying on the tracks.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

QE2 liner runs aground on final farewell

LONDON (Reuters) - Queen Elizabeth 2, one of the world's most famous ocean liners, ran aground briefly off the south coast on Tuesday on her final farewell voyage.

The Cunard ship, which in her 39 years of service has sailed 5.9 million nautical miles, completed 806 trans-atlantic crossings and carried more than 2.5 million guests, ran into a sandbank as she was coming into her home port of Southampton.

"She touched a sandbank... but she's now clear and is on her way into port," Cunard spokesman Eric Flounders said. "She will be delayed by about 25 minutes."

He said the accident was "no more than a little bump" and there were no reports of any damage or injuries.

The liner reached her home port of Southampton at around 7:25 a.m. , where she is due to receive a farewell visit from the Duke of Edinburgh.

Later the vessel will set off on her final voyage to Dubai where she will become a first class hotel and entertainment centre.

The QE2, which also served as a hospital ship transporting injured troops during the 1982 Falkland War, has carried many hundreds of famous passengers, among them Hollywood stars such as Elizabeth Taylor, Bob Hope and Paul Newman and British royalty including Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales.

Baby disappears, found safe under floorboards

Baby disappears, found safe under floorboards

Police released these photo of a 1-year-old found underneath the floorboards of a Woodburn home. KATU has altered the images to protect the child's identity.
Save a link to this article and return to it at www.savethis.comSave a link to this article and return to it at

Story Published: Nov 10, 2008 at 11:05 PM PST

Story Updated: Nov 12, 2008 at 7:16 AM PST
By Web Staff

WOODBURN, Ore. - The search for a 1-year-old girl who went missing from a Woodburn home in the middle of the night ended Monday morning after police found the child stuck underneath the floor.

Woodburn police said the child, Kate Higgins, was sleeping with her father, Lawrence Higgins Jr., and her older brother and sister in a bedroom at her grandparents' home at 1376 Sallal Road when her father awoke about 5 a.m. to discover her missing.

Though he initially assumed the child was with the grandparents, they had not seen the baby, and the family searched for about an hour before calling 911, police said.

Officers and the family searched both outside and inside the home without finding anything. Then, about 7:30 a.m., officers heard the child coughing in the bedroom and determined she was underneath the floor, police said.

They couldn't find an opening and ended up tearing up the floor only to find the child out of reach and at the other end of the room, police said. Despite trying to talk her out, the girl would not come to them. So they ended up using crowbars to tear up more of the floor until they reached her, police said.

Other than being dirty, police said, the child was OK. They still took her to the hospital to be checked out.

Police believe the child may have fallen off the bed and became wedged in a small opening in the floor. She wiggled through and then could not get out.

The incident alerted state Department of Human Services officials. Initially, police said DHS took custody of the three children because conditions at both the grandparents' and parents' homes were dirty and unsafe.

But on Tuesday, Lauri Stewart, a DHS spokeswoman, said the kids were actually taken into custody for a separate issue unrelated to the cleanliness of the homes. However, she would not go into more details. Stewart emphasized that DHS had no prior contact with this family before Monday's incident.

The child's grandmother, Penny Higgins, said a hearing is scheduled for Thursday. She said the kids are well-loved and cared for.

Flame thrown: Boy hurled through window when toilet exploded after he sprayed air freshener then sparked a lighte

Flame thrown: Boy hurled through window when toilet exploded after he sprayed air freshener then sparked a lighter

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 1:50 PM on 12th November 2008

A German schoolboy was blown out of his toilet and through a window when the lavatory exploded into a fireball after he sparked a lighter just moments after spraying the room with air freshener.

The toilet turned into an orange fireball when Dennis Bueller, 13, began playing with a lighter after he sprayed the downstairs WC in his home.

'I sprayed the toilet because it smelled,' said Dennis.

' Then I began fiddling with a lighter my dad left in there and suddenly there was this big orange whoosh! of flame. I woke up outside with my clothes burned off me and smelling like a barbecue.'

Dennis Bueller's toilet exploded after he sparked a lighter just moments after spraying some air freshener

The tin of Purple Rose air freshener stated that it was not to be used near naked flame but Dennis admitted he hadn’t read the instructions.

The boy from Recklinghausen was rushed to hospital but later transferred to a specialist burns unit. He has suffered burns over his face, arms, legs and upper body and will need months of treatment.

His father Artur Bueller said; 'Poor Dennis. When the doctors have to change his bandages he has to be knocked out, the pain is so great.

'He said the downstairs loo smelled but I think he realises he was a bit dim in playing with a lighter.'



Wednesday November 12 2008 byGeoff Marsh for

The government of Jersey today launched a stinging attack on police conduct during the island’s child abuse investigation.
Deputy Andrew Lewis, the home affairs minister, also confirmed the force’s chief officer, Graham Power, had been suspended.

He said: “It is evident that we didn’t receive all the information about the historic abuse inquiry that we should have received, and that some aspects of this critically important police investigation have not been conducted properly.”

During a press conference, he admitted he had deep regrets over the investigation.

He added: “While we welcome the conclusion of the police that there was no evidence of any murders having taken place, we need to understand, and will establish, why this was not made apparent earlier on in the investigation.
There was 'nothing suspicious' about bones, teeth, pits and cellars at the former children’s home.

“This matter has raised questions as to the role of the chief police officer. I have invoked the disciplinary code in respect of the officer and an investigation will be undertaken.”

He added: “We ask questions and we were given answers - we are now questioning these answers.”

The States of Jersey statement was made after police chiefs, recently installed as heads of the investigation, said no-one had been murdered at former children’s home Haut de la Garenne and previously released evidence had been inaccurate.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Marshmallow Eating Game Show

Marshmallow Eating Game Show

Just as creative as we have come to expect Japanese television shows, here two teams fight to try and be the fastest to eat some hanging marshmallows.

Of course they have a silly and interesting obstacle to overcome…

How your unique body odour could identify you as effectively as a fingerprint

How your unique body odour could identify you as effectively as a fingerprint

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 11:44 AM on 10th November 2008

woman holding her nose

Your body odour, like fingerprints, would remain distinctive even if you changed your diet, a new study revealed

Every person has a unique body odour, like their fingerprints, that could be used as an 'odourprint' to identify them, a new study has found.

Scientists revealed an individual's odour signature remains detectable even when their diet is changed to include strong smelling foods such as garlic and spices.

Mammals such as mice and humans are known to have unique genetically-determined body odours, called 'odourtypes'.

The Monell Chemical Senses Centre in Philadelphia conducted tests on mice, which were given different diets affecting their odour.

The results found their natural smell stayed the same and allowed them to be recognised by their peers.

'These findings indicate that biologically-based odorprints, like fingerprints, could be a reliable way to identify individuals,' said Monell chemist Jae Kwak.

'If this can be shown to be the case for humans, it opens the possibility that devices can be developed to detect individual odorprints in humans,' he added.

According to Kwak's colleague Gary Beauchamp, similar approaches are being used to investigate body odour differences associated with disease. Such research could lead to the development of electronic sensors for early detection and rapid diagnosis of disorders such as skin and lung cancer and certain viral diseases.

Monell conducts research on the senses of smell and taste. The results of their latest study are detailed in the October 31 issue of the online journal PLoS ONE.

Blogger jailed for 20 years over poem that mocked Burmese dictator<

Blogger jailed for 20 years over poem that mocked Burmese dictator
Myanmar Senior General Than Shwe

The poem spelled out "Power Crazy Senior General Than Shwe", referring to the Burmese dictator (above)
Richard Lloyd Parry, Asia Editor

A young blogger and a writer who disguised an attack on the country’s dictator in the form of a love poem have received heavy jail sentences, in the latest blow to opponents of Burma’s military dictatorship.

Nay Myo Kyaw, a 28-year old man who blogged under the name Nay Phone Latt, was sentenced to 20 years and six months in jail by a court in Rangoon.

The poet, Saw Wai, received a two year sentence for an eight-line Valentine’s Day verse published in a popular magazine. Even the lawyer representing the two men, Aung Thein, has been sent down for four months for “contempt of court” during his defence.

They join more than 2,000 other political prisoners in Burma’s jails, half of whom have been incarcerated since last September’s “Saffron Revolution”, when tens of thousands of Buddhist monks and political activists took to the streets in a failed uprising against the junta.
Related Links

* In tiny acts of defiance, a revolution still fickers

* Aid and water dry up in Burma

* Burmese junta releases dissident

The advocacy organisation, Reporters Without Borders, said: “The authorities have imposed an extraordinarily severe punishment on Nay Phone Latt just for using the Internet. This shocking sentence is meant to terrify those who go online in an attempt to elude the dictatorship’s ubiquitous control of news and information, and we call for his immediate release. Saw Wai, for his part, is being made to pay for his impertinence and courage as a committed poet.”

Mr Saw Wai’s poem, entitled ‘14th February’, was ostensibly a Valentine’s Day verse published last January in a popular weekly magazine. “You have to be in love truly, madly, deeply and then you can call it real love,” it read. “Millions of people who know how to love, please clap your hands of gilded gold and laugh out loud.”

But the first word of each line spelled out a pithier message about the leader of the country’s military government: “Power Crazy Senior General Than Shwe”. Mr Saw Wai was arrested the next day and charged with harming “public tranquility”.

Mr Nay Phone Latt is a youth member of the National League for Democracy, the opposition party led by the Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, whose victory in 1990 elections has never been acknowledged by the generals.

He is the owner of three internet cafés in the capital, Rangoon, and his Burmese language blog, which was not explicitly political, described the difficulties of day to day life in Rangoon.

But he was regarded as an inspirational figure among Burmese bloggers in general, who contributed greatly to the “Saffron Revolution” by e-mailing across the world digital photographs of the massive anti-government demonstrations and the brutal crackdown which suppressed them.

As well as crimes against 'public tranquility', Mr Nay Phone Latt was charged with offences under the country’s video and electronics laws.

“I was expecting him to get 10 or 12 years in prison at the most,” his mother, Aye Aye Than, said. “I never imagined he would get this much. The authorities have been excessively cruel with him.”

She was not allowed to attend the closed hearing in Insein Prison, a huge British colonial structure in north-west Rangoon, where many political prisoners are held.

Bo Kyi, of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a Burmese exile group based in Thailand, said: “Trials of political activists are totally unlawful. There is no possibility of justice through these proceedings.

Detainees are being denied food and water during hearings and are forced to stand for long periods of time. When they try to protest by turning their backs to the court, they are grabbed by the neck and forced to face the court. These proceedings amount to further mental torture for activists.”

Army Retiree and Grandpa, 60, Volunteers for Iraq

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Maj. James Richards Jr. thought his 22-year Army career was done when he retired in 1993. But when the military called, the 60-year-old volunteered for another hitch and deployed to Iraq.

The Fayetteville Observer reported Monday that Richards, a married father of five with several grandchildren, deployed to Iraq two months ago to become the headquarters company commander for the Fort Bragg-based 44th Medical Command.

"As corny as it may sound ... I was wanting to serve the country again, and I felt like I was still mentally and physically in good enough shape to do that," Richards said in a telephone interview from Iraq.

Richards, of Huntsville, Ala., started his military career during the Vietnam War and retired at age 45. But when the Army started a program about four years ago to welcome back volunteer retirees in good enough shape to return to active duty, Richards offered to return.

Last fall, the Army called.

Richards took a leave of absence from his job as a contractor for the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville. He deployed to Iraq on Sept. 7.

"I can honestly say that every day since I've come back on active duty, I've been excited about being able to put on a uniform again," he said.

The voluntary one-year commitment hasn't meant joining a patrol or kicking down doors in a search for Iraqi insurgents.

"For an old guy like me, that's been a plus," Richards said. "Unfortunately, I have to say there are days that you realize you're not as young as you used to be. I also say I think I'm more mature and think things through better."

Back home in Alabama, his wife, Angela, said her husband seemed like he needed a new challenge and embraced his latest mission. They have five daughters, a couple of grandsons and four granddaughters.

"I am concerned, of course," Angela Richards said. "We are both mature adults and realize things can happen. Things can happen in your house. I just pray for his safety and all the soldiers."

Since he last wore a uniform, the Army's spit-shined black boots have been replaced by desert footwear. Insignia and patches once sewn onto uniforms are now applied with Velcro.

"I guess one of the things I've noticed with the younger soldiers, especially, body art seems to be very popular now. More popular than years ago," Richards said.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Study: Music Headphones Can Interfere With Heart Devices

NEW ORLEANS — Have a pacemaker or an implanted defibrillator? Don't keep your iPod earbuds in your shirt pocket or draped around your neck — even when they're disconnected. A study finds that some headphones can interfere with heart devices if held very close to them.

They might even prevent a defibrillator from delivering a lifesaving shock, say doctors who tested them.

"Headphones contain magnets, and some of these magnets are powerful," said the study's leader, Dr. William Maisel, a cardiologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and a heart device consultant to the federal Food and Drug Administration.

"I certainly don't think people should overreact to this information," but it's smart to keep small electronics at least a few inches from implanted medical devices, and not let someone wearing headphones lean against your chest if you have one, he said.

"The headphone interaction applies whether or not the headphones are plugged in to the music player and whether or not the music player is on or off," he added.

Maisel's research was presented Sunday at an American Heart Association conference.

Nearly 2 million people worldwide have pacemakers, defibrillators or other devices to help their hearts beat faster, slower or more regularly. Tests by the FDA earlier this year concluded that iPods or other music players posed no threat to these devices as long as they were used properly.

Maisel and other doctors wanted to know if the same was true of headphones. They tested eight models — earbuds and those that hook over the ear — in 60 people with heart devices.

When headphones were about an inch from the device, interference was detected nearly one-fourth of the time — in four of the 27 pacemaker patients and 10 of the 33 with defibrillators. A pacemaker reset itself in one patient.

Patients having such interference might not feel anything, or may have heart palpitations. But the interference could temporarily deactivate a defibrillator, keeping it from delivering a lifesaving shock if one were needed.

The magnet's effect falls off rapidly with distance from the device, and heart device function returns to normal as soon as the headphone is out of range.

The study did not test larger or noise-canceling headphones. The size of the headphone doesn't necessarily relate to magnetic strength; small, portable ones typically use neodymium, which is one of the most powerful and concentrated magnetic substances, Maisel said.

A separate study presented at the heart conference found no danger to heart devices from cell phones equipped with Bluetooth wireless technology.

Cell phones, anti-theft security devices and a host of other electronics have sparked fears in the past, but studies generally find no danger to heart devices with ordinary, prudent use, said Dr. Douglas Zipes, past president of the American College of Cardiology and professor of cardiology at Indiana University.

"Reassurance to the public is what's warranted. I still get questions, what about my microwave?" he said.

Dr. Kenneth Ellenbogen, a heart device expert at Virginia Commonwealth University and a spokesman for the heart association, said the solution is simple: "Keep your headphones on your ears and when they're not on your ears, you shouldn't put them over your chest or your pacemaker."

Sunday, November 9, 2008



Posted: 5:41 am
November 8, 2008

Tobacco-sniffing dogs have been deployed to the former Deutsche Bank building to ensure nicotine-addicted workers don't light up on the job and spark another deadly fire.

For the past month, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation has resorted to deploying "tobacco detection canine" teams (pictured) at the building.

Careless smoking by workers inside the condemned building is blamed for the Aug. 18, 2007, fire that killed two firefighters. One year later, investigators found beer cans and empty cigarette packs inside the building left behind by workers.

"This is just one part of the project team's multifaceted approach to ensuring that all site regulations are strictly followed and enforced," said LMDC spokesman Mike Murphy.

Will there be disclosure of UFO files under the Obama administration?

by Dan Bacher
Friday Nov 7th, 2008 6:24 PM
Lawyer Stephen Bassett of the Paradigm Research Group (PRG) is now spearheading a national political campaign, the “Million Fax on Washington” campaign, to pressure Obama to release UFO files and "end the UFO Truth Embargo."

Will there be disclosure of UFO files under the Obama administration?

By Dan Bacher

If there was ever a chance to disclose the truth about the massive UFO cover up by the U.S. national security state since 1947, it could come under the incoming Obama presidential administration.

John Podesta, chief of Obama's transition team and Clinton’s Chief of Staff from 1998 to 2001, has been a longtime advocate of openness in government and a strong supporter of the release of UFO documents by the U.S. In a ground breaking news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. with investigative reporter Leslie Kean in 2002, he urged the federal government to "open the books" on government UFO investigations.

"I think it's time to open the books on questions that have remained in the dark on the question of government investigations of UFOs," said Podesta. "It's time to find out what the truth really is that's out there. We ought to do it because it's right, we ought to do it because the American people, quite frankly, can handle the truth and we ought to do it because it's the law." (

However, his enthusiasm for the release of UFO files doesn’t make Podesta a “believer” in alien life. In an interview with the Las Vegas Journal, Podesta said that he was "skeptical that there is extraterrestrial life."

Lawyer Stephen Bassett of the Paradigm Research Group (PRG) is now spearheading a national political campaign, the “Million Fax on Washington” campaign, to pressure Obama to release UFO files and "end the UFO Truth Embargo." Bassett, in an interview this week on the George Noory radio show, expressed strong optimism about the possibility of the opening of long-hidden UFO documents under an Obama administration, particularly when an advocate of UFO document disclosure like John Podesta is heading his transition team.

"The United States has a new President Elect and PRG is notifying the political media to be on alert for a large quantity of faxes and emails heading for the senatorial office of Barrack Obama and later the Transition Office," according to a news release from Bassett's group on November 5.

Bassett said that letters would begin arriving in the second week of November after clearing security screening. "What is notable about this particular correspondence is it will be calling on the new president to 1) demand and receive a full briefing from his military and intelligence heads regarding the extraterrestrial presence issue 2) press the new Congress to immediately call hearings to take government witness testimony to relevant events and evidence, 3) formally acknowledge the extraterrestrial presence to the American people - Disclosure, and 4) release for peaceful development extraterrestrial derived technologies studied and reverse engineered for six decades in black budgeted research programs,” according to Bassett.

"The Million Fax on Washington was launched to motivate the American people to send a clear collective statement to the President Elect, between November 5, 2008 and January 20, 2009, that the people in this matter 'CAN handle the truth' and 'DO have a right to know,” he said.

Political pressure to release UFO documents long held in secret files by the U.S. government and other countries is building momentum. Last November 12, former Arizona Governor Fife Symington moderated a distinguished panel of former high-ranking government, aviation, and military officials from seven countries who discussed encounters with UFOs and official investigations at the National Press Club. Filmmaker James Fox and investigative journalist Leslie Kean of CFi, the Coalition for Freedom of Information, organized the event.

Brazil under President Lula da Silva, Chile under Presidents Ricardo Lagos and Michele Bachelet, Bolivia under President Evo Morales, the Peruvian military, the French government and Great Britain's Ministry of Defense have released or have begun to release their government's UFO files.

Among political progressives in Latin America, UFOs are an important issue and have factored in campaigns, such as the campaign of Socialist Party President Lagos of Chile several years ago. He actually ran an ad, targeted at young people and students, about his promise to release UFO files. There is little or no ridicule whatsoever about this issue among Latin American progressives and the public.

This contrasts with the U.S. where many "progressives" are so brainwashed and culturally conditioned by the corporate media and U.S. government cover-up, in spite of their pronouncements otherwise, that they believe the national security state propaganda about UFOs and Roswell. Rather than actually investigate the issue, they ridicule the courageous political activists who challenge the official CIA/national security state official story denying the reality of UFOs.

However, this is all rapidly changing as more and more people in the U.S. and throughout the world challenge the lies they have been told about UFOs for decades by government agencies. I urge everybody to support the Million Fax on Washington campaign! Stand up for democracy and an end to the government cover-up!

Here is the latest news release from the Paradigm Research Group:

The Million Fax on Washington is a project of the Paradigm Research Group

Press Release - November 5, 2008

Washington, DC – The United States has a new President Elect and PRG is notifying the political media to be on alert for a large quantity of faxes and emails heading for the senatorial office of Barack Obama and later the Transition Office.

Letters will begin arriving in the second week of November after clearing security screening. What is notable about this particular correspondence is it will be calling on the new president to 1) demand and receive a full briefing from his military and intelligence heads regarding the extraterrestrial presence issue, 2) press the new Congress to immediately call hearings to take government witness testimony to relevant events and evidence, 3) formally acknowledge the extraterrestrial presence to the American people - Disclosure, and 4) release for peaceful development extraterrestrial derived technologies studied and reverse engineered for six decades in black budgeted research programs.

The Million Fax on Washington was launched to motivate the American people to send a clear collective statement to the President Elect, between November 5, 2008 and January 20, 2009, that the people in this matter “CAN handle the truth” and “DO have a right to know.”

Straightforward instructions and additional information are available at: This initiative is gaining international attention, and citizens of other countries are joining the effort. The decision by the United States Government, formalized in 1952, to embargo the truth regarding an extraterrestrial presence engaging the human race impacts all peoples and nations.

PRG has created a Facebook group page - Million Fax on Washington. Facebook is the most powerful networking community on the Internet with one hundred million active users, and PRG expects this community to contribute a significant portion of the letters, faxes and emails to the President Elect. PRG executive director Stephen Bassett has conducted 30 plus media interviews on the Million Fax with more scheduled throughout the 77 days of the presidential transition.


Stephen Bassett
PRG [at]

2 Clergymen Arrested After Brawl Between Monks Next to Jesus' Tomb Site

JERUSALEM — Israeli police rushed into one of Christianity's holiest churches Sunday and arrested two clergymen after an argument between monks erupted into a brawl next to the site of Jesus' tomb.

The clash broke out between Armenian and Greek Orthodox monks in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, revered as the site of Jesus' crucifixion, burial and resurrection.

It began as Armenian clergymen marched in an annual procession commemorating the 4th-century discovery of the cross believed to have been used to crucify Jesus. It ended with the arrival of dozens of riot policemen who separated the sides, seizing a bearded Armenian monk in a red-and-pink robe and a black-clad Greek Orthodox monk with a bloody gash on his forehead. Both men were taken away in handcuffs.

Six Christian sects divide control of the ancient church. They regularly fight over turf and influence, and Israeli police are occasionally forced to intervene.

The feud revolves around a demand by the Greek Orthodox to post a monk inside the Edicule — the ancient structure built on what is believed to be the tomb of Jesus — during the Armenian procession. The Armenians refused, and when they tried to march the Greek Orthodox monks blocked their way.

"We were keeping resistance so that the procession could not pass through ... and establish a right that they don't have," said a young Greek Orthodox monk with a cut next to his left eye. The monk, who gave his name as Serafim, said he sustained the wound when an Armenian punched him from behind and broke his glasses.

Father Pakrat of the Armenian Patriarchate said the Greek demand was "against the status quo arrangement and against the internal arrangement of the Holy Sepulcher." He said the Greeks attacked first.

Archbishop Aristarchos, the chief secretary of the Greek Orthodox patriarchate, said his monks had not initiated the violence. "I'm sorry that these events happened in front of the Holy Sepulcher, which is the most holy religious monument of Christianity," he said.

After the brawl, the church was crowded with Israeli police holding assault rifles and equipped with riot gear, standing beside Golgotha, where Jesus is believed to have been crucified, and the long smooth stone marking the place where tradition holds his body was laid out.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police were forced to intervene after fighting was reported. They arrested two monks, one from each side, he said.

The feud is only one of a bewildering array of rivalries among churchmen in the Holy Sepulcher.

The Israeli government has long wanted to build a fire exit in the church, which regularly fills with thousands of pilgrims and has only one main door, but the plan is on hold because the sects cannot agree where the exit will be built. In another example, a ladder placed on a ledge over the entrance sometime in the 19th century has remained there ever since because of a dispute over who has the authority to take it down. More recently, a spat between Ethiopian and Coptic Christians is delaying badly needed renovations to a rooftop monastery that engineers say could collapse.

Oregon town elects nation's first transgender mayor

Oregon town elects nation's first transgender mayor

Oregon town elects nation's first transgender mayor

SILVERTON, Ore. (AP) - Plenty of politicians reinvent themselves. But none quite like Mayor-elect Stu Rasmussen.

Rasmussen, 60, has been a fixture in Silverton politics for more than 20 years, and had twice before been the mayor of this small city 45 miles south of Portland. Those terms, however, were before the breast implants and before the once-discreet crossdresser started wearing dresses and 3-inch high heels in public.

In a week when America loudly chose its first African-American president, Silverton quietly made Rasmussen the country's first openly transgender mayor, according to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a group that works to help openly lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people win elected office.

Rasmussen displays a picture of his former self.
Rasmussen unseated incumbent mayor Ken Hector, with whom he had long clashed — 1,988 votes to 1,512. Because Rasmussen's appearance is no secret, it was policy issues that dominated the campaign.

"I've blackmail-proofed myself," said Rasmussen.

The story of Rasmussen's election was first reported by JustOut, a bimonthly publication for Portland's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities.

"Stu never sought this recognition out," said Stephen Marc Beaudoin, the reporter who broke the story. "He's interested in doing a great job for the community that he loves. The gender identity thing is just a total backseat thing."

That comes across when Rasmussen speaks in his decidedly masculine voice. Though he dresses more like Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Rasmussen describes himself with a word assigned to Todd Palin.

"I am a dude," he said. "I am a heterosexual male who appears to be a female."

His longtime live-in girlfriend, Victoria Sage, told The Oregonian newspaper that she and Rasmussen have been an item for almost 35 years.

"I heard a quote, and I don't know who said it but I think it's fabulous, that Silverton is a place where Mennonites and transvestites can get along," she said.

The quote rang true when two cowboys came across the new mayor on a downtown sidewalk. "Good job, Stu," one of them said to the man wearing a leather skirt and maroon stockings.

"Congratulations, Mr. Mayor," called the other.