in a little bit we'll be leaving to spend the weekend in cleveland, hanging out with friends and doing arty stuff. we likely won't have much computer time, so i imagine i won't do much blogging after we return sunday night.
catch ya later.¶
Federal officials say the Congressional bribery investigation now includes Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, based on information from convicted lobbyists who are now cooperating with the government.
Part of the investigation involves a letter Hastert wrote three years ago, urging the Secretary of the Interior to block a casino on an Indian reservation that would have competed with other tribes.
Despite a flat denial from the Department of Justice, federal law enforcement sources tonight said ABC News accurately reported that Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert is "in the mix" in the FBI investigation of corruption in Congress.
"You guys wrote the story very carefully but they are not reading it very carefully," a senior official said.
ABC's law enforcement sources said the Justice Department denial was meant only to deny that Hastert was a formal "target" or "subject" of the investigation.
"Whether they like it or not, members of Congress, including Hastert, are under investigation," one federal official said tonight.
The investigation of Hastert's relationship with Abramoff is in the early stages, according to these officials, and could eventually conclude that Abramoff's information was unfounded.
Dressed as bloodthirsty orcs and warning Europe to "get ready to get scared" the rockers from Arctic Lapland took the stage as Eurovision outsiders and left as winners who had taken the contest to what Terry Wogan described as a new level of foolishness with their song Hard Rock Hallelujah.
While some Hoosiers, including an Indiana congressman, have questioned why illegal immigrants weren't arrested at last month's immigration protests, local and federal officials say they have neither the staff nor the jail space to do it.
U.S. Rep. John Hostettler, R-Ind., was among those questioning why law enforcement didn't make mass arrests at the marches.
(as just one example, indiana's own john hostettler was upset that la migra wasn't out in full force during the protests, checking everyone's papers and arresting immigrants en masse. how that could have worked, i'm not sure: does IPD have the capability to run background checks on 20,000-50,000 people in an afternoon? if, for the sake of argument, half of those protesters were undocumented immigrants, where would we put these 10,000-25,000 arrestees while they awaited processing and deportation? and that's just indianapolis, one of many cities to see large rallies.)
Whether English is America's "national language" or its national "common and unifying language" was a question dominating the Senate immigration debate.
The Senate first voted 63-34 to make English the national language after lawmakers who led the effort said it would promote national unity.
But critics argued the move would prevent limited English speakers from getting language assistance required by an executive order enacted under President Clinton. So the Senate also voted 58-39 to make English the nation's "common and unifying language."
"We are trying to make an assimilation statement," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one of two dozen senators who voted Thursday for both English proposals.
White House spokesman Tony Snow said Friday that President Bush supports both measures.
"What the president has said all along is that he wants to make sure that people who become American citizens have a command of the English language," Snow said. "It's as simple as that."
Naturalization is the process by which U.S. citizenship is conferred upon a foreign citizen or national after he or she fulfills the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The general requirements for administrative naturalization include:
- a period of continuous residence and physical presence in the United States;
- residence in a particular USCIS District prior to filing;
- an ability to read, write, and speak English;
- a knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government;
- good moral character;
- attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution; and,
- favorable disposition toward the United States.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., disputed charges that making English the national language was racist or aimed at Spanish speakers.
The special grand jury that’s been investigating state government hiring practices today indicted Gov. Ernie Fletcher on three misdemeanor charges of conspiracy, official misconduct and political discrimination.
The jury also indicted former transportation Cabinet official Sam Beverage with perjury, which is a felony. And the jury also submitted to Franklin Circuit Judge William Graham 14 more indictments that are under seal.
Those indictments cover crimes that may have occurred before Aug. 29, 2005 when Fletcher pardoned all administration officials except himself.
This has been a politically motivated, media-driven investigation from the start.
As Governor Fletcher has said repeatedly, his conscience is clear. He has done nothing wrong.
We are evaluating the charges and, likewise, we are studying our recourse of action in the wake of this malicious prosecution.
Because of the politicization of this entire investigation, we are filing a motion at this time to disqualify Greg Stumbo and his entire office from further participation in this matter.
The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.
The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren't suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.
"It's the largest database ever assembled in the world," said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA's activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation. The agency's goal is "to create a database of every call ever made" within the nation's borders, this person added.
For the customers of these companies, it means that the government has detailed records of calls they made — across town or across the country — to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others.
According to sources familiar with the events, Qwest's CEO at the time, Joe Nacchio, was deeply troubled by the NSA's assertion that Qwest didn't need a court order — or approval under FISA — to proceed. Adding to the tension, Qwest was unclear about who, exactly, would have access to its customers' information and how that information might be used.
Financial implications were also a concern, the sources said. Carriers that illegally divulge calling information can be subjected to heavy fines. The NSA was asking Qwest to turn over millions of records. The fines, in the aggregate, could have been substantial.
Trying to put pressure on Qwest, NSA representatives pointedly told Qwest that it was the lone holdout among the big telecommunications companies. It also tried appealing to Qwest's patriotic side: In one meeting, an NSA representative suggested that Qwest's refusal to contribute to the database could compromise national security, one person recalled.
In addition, the agency suggested that Qwest's foot-dragging might affect its ability to get future classified work with the government. Like other big telecommunications companies, Qwest already had classified contracts and hoped to get more.
Unable to get comfortable with what NSA was proposing, Qwest's lawyers asked NSA to take its proposal to the FISA court. According to the sources, the agency refused.
The NSA's explanation did little to satisfy Qwest's lawyers. "They told (Qwest) they didn't want to do that because FISA might not agree with them," one person recalled. For similar reasons, this person said, NSA rejected Qwest's suggestion of getting a letter of authorization from the U.S. attorney general's office. A second person confirmed this version of events.
Qwest's refusal to participate has left the NSA with a hole in its database. Based in Denver, Qwest provides local phone service to 14 million customers in 14 states in the West and Northwest. But AT&T and Verizon also provide some services — primarily long-distance and wireless — to people who live in Qwest's region. Therefore, they can provide the NSA with at least some access in that area.
WTWO general manager Duane Lammers, who helped create the weather commercial, said The Daily Show "must have been pretty hard up for material ... I didn't quite understand the point."
Tuesday Lammers said the weather commercial was his work and that of is promotions director. He said it had gotten a lot of attention in the TV industry and that "people who work in our business think it's a great spot."
He insisted jabs at WTHI were "not personal — we don't say anything bad about anyone at WTHI. We pointed out technical flaws."
WTHI's chief meteorologist, Kevin Orpurt, does not concur.
On air with the weather at WTHI since 1984, Orpurt said the WTWO commercial "really kind of hurt my feelings because we pride ourselves here on giving the best coverage we can, and the implication was that we do not."
Known to come into the station and appear on air in the middle of the night during tornado watches and other severe weather events, Orpurt said WTWO's "implication that WTHI's coverage has a dead zone is simply not true."
"I guess it's funny if you watch [the Daily Show]," Lammers said, but he doesn't think Stewart's program is "particularly mainstream."
Insisting that it is not censorship because "anybody can get in their car and drive 20 miles to view this show if they want," WTWO general manager Duane Lammers made the decision earlier this week to "pre-empt" the series premiere. At the time he announced the move on the station’s Web site, Lammers had not seen "Daniel," which didn't matter because his decision wasn't about the content of the program, he said.
In a midweek telephone interview, Lammers told me he was trying to make a point about the heavy hand of network regulatory practices, not become the poster boy for the American Family Association's ferocious nationwide campaign to keep the controversial new series about a troubled Episcopalian priest off the air.
"It's not about this program, it's about the system in general, the regulatory environment," Lammers said Wednesday. "I don't know why the American Family Association picked my name out of a hat ... They're misstating my reasons for doing this."
Our relationship with NBC has always provided for the right to reject programming. I am reaffirming that right to let them know I will not allow them to make unilateral decisions affecting our viewers.
Second, I want to draw attention to the worst offenders of indecency on television ... the cable industry, which faces no decency regulations, nor a license renewal.
If my action causes people in our community to pay more attention to what they watch on television, I have accomplished my mission.
"In the 20 minutes I watched I didn't see one redeeming quality at all."
Also the chief operating officer for WTWO's parent company, Nexstar Broadcasting Group, Lammers said he has watched a lot of television in his time, but never seen anything like "Daniel." One scene, he said, "was so bad, I can't even tell people about it — I don't talk that way."
The makers of combat video games have unwittingly become part of a global propaganda campaign by Islamic militants to exhort Muslim youths to take up arms against the United States, officials said on Thursday.
Tech-savvy militants from al Qaeda and other groups have modified video war games so that U.S. troops play the role of bad guys in running gunfights against heavily armed Islamic radical heroes, Defense Department official and contractors told Congress.
One of the latest video games modified by militants is the popular "Battlefield 2" from leading video game publisher, Electronic Arts Inc of Redwood City, California.
Jeff Brown, a spokesman for Electronic Arts, said enthusiasts often write software modifications, known as "mods," to video games.
"Millions of people create mods on games around the world," he said. "We have absolutely no control over them. It's like drawing a mustache on a picture."
"Battlefield 2" ordinarily shows U.S. troops engaging forces from China or a united Middle East coalition. But in a modified video trailer posted on Islamic Web sites and shown to lawmakers, the game depicts a man in Arab headdress carrying an automatic weapon into combat with U.S. invaders.
"I was just a boy when the infidels came to my village in Blackhawk helicopters," a narrator's voice said as the screen flashed between images of street-level gunfights, explosions and helicopter assaults.
Flogging would have a high deterrent factor, be inexpensive, would not keep the perpetrator from working to support himself and any dependents, could be administered swiftly, and most importantly, would alter behavior. If properly, publicly administered, the corporal punishment would steer the offending citizen to chose constructive recreational alternatives to drug abuse.
One aspect of Tuesday's primary election troubles DeKalb County Clerk Jackie Rowan.
Her voice trembled as she described having to turn away a handful of veterans who tried to use their Veterans Administration medical cards as the required photo identification.
Rowan said the veterans became upset, refusing to cast provisional ballots, when she explained to them they could not use identification that did not have an expiration date or a stamp indicating that it never expired.
"(It was) bad," she said. "They all accused us of not wanting them to vote.
"I feel their pain. They served in the service for us, and they worked hard and paid taxes."
Dean, in his second trip to Indianapolis in recent weeks, and Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker said Tuesday's primary election showed some Hoosiers were denied the right to vote. A hotline set up by the national party received a few hundred complaints, with more still coming in.
Dean cited some of the complaints the party has received about the law, which requires a government-issued photo ID with an expiration date. One was a newlywed in Marion County who was turned away because her photo ID showed her maiden name.
Another, he said, was a Vanderburgh County woman who went to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to get the required government-issued ID. She was turned away, and lost the right to vote, because her voter registration card, Social Security card and medical card weren't enough proof of identity, and she didn't have her birth certificate.
Rokita said the biggest problem in Tuesday's primary election came not from the new photo ID law, but from the fact that many polling places had been changed in order to make them accessible to the physically disabled.
Democrats in Congress insisted on those changes, which Rokita said "caused more disenfranchisement than anything else. . . . Yet you don't hear them complaining about that."
In response to panicked partisan panty-bunching caused by Spanish remakes of The Star Spangled Banner, we pointed this week to a Morse Code MP3 and a binary expression of the American national anthem.
BoingBoing reader Remy Porter kindly translated that binary code into this sound file (157K MP3 Link). It's an unsigned 8-bit PCM rendition at a 2400Hz sample rate. If it sounds like monotone noise, well, that's 'cause it is. Remy explains:Generally binary data ends up coming out like that. For a fun experiment, grab a JPG and a linux box and type:
cat /path/to/jpg > /dev/sound
- being far more random, those have much more noise; bleeps and bloops across a wide range. ASCII text- which I assume this was encoded from- has a much smaller randomness- a VERY small randomness, and it ends up sounding about the same.
Nothing is generating more punchlines today than word that Secretary of State Todd Rokita has a state helicopter on standby, ready to fly around the state in case of election problems.
This news has conjured up images of Rokita as Captain Election, steering his helicopter around Indiana, clad in a superhero's outfit and saving voters from ballot problems.
Forget those images.
Rokita's spokesman said the helicopter would more likely be used by technicians racing to out-of-the-way counties in need of assistance. The spokesman said it is unlikely Rokita would actually join the technicians on a trip. But, he added, the helicopter is a sign that Rokita is thinking "outside the box."
Of course he is. Most superheroes do.
Secretary of State Todd Rokita, inspecting a voting station that included six precincts at the Indianapolis Children's Museum, this morning predicted a statewide voter turnout of between 20 and 25 percent.
The Marion County turnout may be even lower -- between 12 and 15 percent of registered voters, County Clerk Doris Anne Sadler predicted.
That would be consistent with turnouts in non-presidential election years. The rainy weather also may be dampening turnout.
As of 11 p.m., only about 100 people had voted in the museum's six precincts combined.
Rep. Julia Carson, D-Ind., caused a momentary problem when she showed her congressional ID to precinct workers. The ID does not have an expiration date as required by the new state law. A Republican poll inspector declared it a valid ID and Carson cast her ballot.
Book packagers (also known as book producers) act as liaisons between publishing houses and everyone who works to put together a book--authors, artists, editors, photographers, researchers, indexers, and sometimes even printers. Publishing houses often don't have enough in-house resources to handle all of the books they want to publish, so they out-source certain projects to third parties. In addition to assembling the other components necessary for a finished book, these packagers are responsible for hiring authors to write manuscripts.
Sometimes, packagers pitch their own ideas to publishers, and other times, the publishers hire packagers to develop projects they've originated. Packagers function as an interesting conglomerate of agent, editor, and publisher. They are an integral part of the publishing industry, yet even major book distributors aren't aware that the books they carry were created by companies other than the publishing houses.
There are two main reasons for a publishing house to hire a packager: labor-intensive books, and series books.
Anything other than a standard, text-only book by a single author qualifies as a "labor-intensive book." Books that are highly illustrated or contain lots of photographs, require several authors, or utilize special gimmicks and merchandise (for example, a gardening book that includes packets of seeds as a "bonus," or a book about tarot card reading that includes a deck of cards and silk cloth) fall into this category. Commonly, these include coffee table books, textbooks, reference books, and children's books, though packaged books can really run the gamut. They cover every genre and book style.
Packagers are also known for producing series books. Quite often, a successful series will become a "fill-in-the-blanks" exercise, wherein talented writers and artists can easily continue the series. In these cases, publishing houses may develop an outline, then pass it over to a packager to bring it to completed project. The packager then sends the outline to a commissioned author. Once complete, the packager delivers the final product to the publisher in print-ready condition. Occasionally, they even handle the printing.
For her part, Skurnick thinks that the realities of the market, but not any malicious plagiarism on Viswanathan's part, may account for the similarities with Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings. "They seem like very brief and stupid phrases to copy," Skurnick said after reading the passages in question. "I'm sure the same phrases are in like 20 teen novels... I think in the case of teen fiction, obviously there are stock characters, there's a stock plot often, there’s sort of these stock areas — the boy, the body, the family, the friend."
Skurnick continues, "The impulse at a place like the 17th Street is to have a house voice. There are just reams and reams of stuff that's written... It's unavoidable that certain phrases will be recycled or said in a certain way... Often what you'll find is that, it's not that anyone is copying, it's just that [these phrases] are the first things a mediocre writer would reach for."
But was Viswanathan the mediocre writer doing the reaching, or were the stock phrases in question implanted, consciously or otherwise, by the professional packagers at 17th Street? Skurnick — who admits to knowing little about the specifics of the case — could not say. She did insist, however, that Viswanathan's borrowings, if they were hers, would have been almost impossible for editors to catch: "It sounds like the market is geared to a certain type of book, and [17th Street] just worked on that with her, and some stuff slipped though — God knows why... But I have to say, [as a] teen editor, you just see the same shit over and over again."
The relationships between Alloy and the publishers are so intertwined that the same editor, Claudia Gabel, is thanked on the acknowledgments pages of both Ms. McCafferty's books and Ms. Viswanathan's "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life." Ms. Gabel had been an editorial assistant at Crown Publishing Group, then moved to Alloy, where she helped develop the idea for Ms. Viswanathan's book. She has recently become an editor at Knopf Delacorte Dell Young Readers Group, a sister imprint to Crown.
Ms. Gabel did not return calls for comment. But Stuart Applebaum, a spokesman for Random House, the publishing company that owns Crown, said Ms. Gabel, who worked at Alloy from the spring of 2003 until last November, had left the company "before the editorial work was completed" on Ms. Viswanathan's book.
"Claudia told us she did not touch a single line of Kaavya's writing at any point in any drafts," said Mr. Applebaum, who added that Ms. Gabel was one of several people who worked on the project in its conceptual stage.
Enter book packagers, who traditionally respond to a perceived market opportunity by researching, commissioning and producing books for publishers. Our bookstores are filled with decorating and entertaining titles, film and TV tie-ins, many of which are sumptuously produced, well marketed and perfectly fine this way. But in recent years—and this is what is disturbing—the kinds of books packagers do has widened. As is now generally known, a packager called Alloy Entertainment not only shares the copyright with Viswanathan on Opal, but has had a serious hand in the making of some of the most successful YA books around. The packaging of Opal has caused a particular stir because it has been published, despite its young themes, as a novel for adults. Such "real" novels we consider to be personal works of art, or entertainment, anyway, not something produced by a committee awash in demographics.
Okay, call me naïve. Before the withdrawal, one longtime book packager told me she thought packaging of "crossover" books was just beginning. But, she said, it's not so much about subjugating good old-fashioned publishing to a marketing survey, but about the fact—maybe you've heard this one already?—that most in-house editors "don't have the time" to put blue pencil to paper on all the manuscripts they buy; they're way too busy lunching and acquiring and managing up.
We've known for years that publishers, probably including Little, Brown, have long employed freelance editors and "book doctors," of which packagers are just an institutional version. But Little, Brown has to resort to this? Realizing that a major house is willing to pay major money for a book that executives knew was going to require major work smacks of something majorly disturbing. It suggests that even the most well-bred publishing houses are not as desperate to find promising writers and great novels as they are to find attractive authors (preferably with interesting backstories) with whom they can match up test-marketed, packaged stories. And then they can take all the credit.
Or blame, as the case may be.