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Unearthed: News of the Week the Mainstream Media Forgot to Report

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Home Foreclosures Could Affect Voting Rolls

The mortgage foreclosure crisis may pose a problem in the November election as voters still registered at their former addresses could lose the opportunity to vote or be forced to cast provisional ballots which might not get counted. The problem could impact election results in battleground states, particularly Ohio, where several cities were hit hard by foreclosures and Republican operatives jump on any opportunity to challenge voter eligibility in heavily Democratic urban areas. In 2004, the Ohio Republican Party challenged the registration of more than 31,000 Democratic voters statewide after letters it mailed out in a targeted disenfranchisement effort came back as undeliverable. Ohio's requirement that voters show ID at the polls along with a new state law requiring counties to mail their own notices to all registered voters set the stage for another round of pre-election challenges by Ohio Republicans. Other battleground states where foreclosures could impact voter eligibility include Florida, Michigan, Nevada, Colorado, New Jersey and Georgia.

Pentagon Seeks to Transport Deadly Chemical Weapons On U.S. Highways

A proposed Pentagon plan to ship deadly chemical weapons to military sites in four states in order to accelerate their destruction would expose neighboring communities to potentially catastrophic risks. In order to meet a Congressional deadline requiring the destruction of the chemical weapons stockpile by 2017, the Pentagon wants to ship munitions to military destruction sites in Utah, Oregon, Alabama and Arkansas. The weapons shipments, which would include lethal nerve agents and mustard gas, could travel up to 1,200 miles on U.S. highways in some instances if the plan is approved. Lawmakers from the affected states object to the plan, citing the potential risk of terrorist attack and traffic accidents among other concerns. Congress would have to repeal laws forbidding the transport of the weapons in order for the proposal to proceed. The Pentagon previously confirmed that it would miss the 2012 deadline agreed upon at the 1993 international Chemical Weapons Convention.

Georgia Judge Blocks Coal Plant Due to Global Warming Concerns

In an unprecedented ruling, a Georgia Superior Court judge stopped the construction of a coal-fired power plant due to the enormous emissions of carbon dioxide the plant would generate without a system to capture the global warming pollution. Judge Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore relied on the pivotal April 2007 Supreme Court decision confirming that carbon dioxide - the main driver of global warming - is a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. Judge Moore ruled that "[t]here is no dispute that the proposed power plant would be a 'major emitting facility' as defined by the [Clean Air] Act," which therefore mandates that the plant incorporate the "best available control technology" to limit CO2 emissions. "There was no effort to identify, evaluate or apply available technologies that would control CO2 emissions and the permit contains no CO2 emission limits," Moore wrote in her June 30 ruling, overturning a lower court's decision to issue an air-pollution permit to Dynegy's Longleaf power plant near Columbus, Georgia. The Sierra Club and Friends of the Chattahoochee brought the suit against Dynegy, arguing that the proposed plant would emit 9 million tons of CO2 annually - the equivalent of emissions from 1.3 million cars - far more than a typical coal-fired plant which emits an average of 3.7 million tons annually, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. Dynegy plans to appeal the ruling.

Japan Automakers Control 34.7 Percent of U.S. Market, Detroit Falters

Consumer demand for more fuel-efficient cars and hybrids due to record high gas prices is causing a predictable problem for Detroit's Big Three automakers. The market share of GM, Ford and Chrysler dropped to 45.8 percent of the total U.S. market as consumers continue to shun Detroit's bloated selection of gas-guzzlers and the companies scramble to overhaul their selections to finally focus on efficiency. Conversely, Japanese automakers are struggling with U.S. inventory shortages of popular fuel-sipping models like the Toyota Prius and hybrid Camry. The three major Japanese automakers increased their U.S. market share to 34.7 percent, led by Honda which overtook Chrysler to gain third place in U.S. market sales. A J.D. Power survey found that 72 percent of Americans are interested in buying a hybrid. While Detroit's gas-guzzling SUVs sit on dealer lots, Toyota reports that customers face a six-month waiting list in some areas for the popular Prius and similar shortages of other efficient models.

Justice Department Seeks to Use Racial Profiling Rather Than Evidence to Launch Terror Probes

The Justice Department proposes to let the FBI use racial profiling rather than hard evidence to launch investigations into U.S. citizens suspected of terrorist activities. The plan would enable FBI agents to investigate Americans based on a review of public records including racial and ethnic background, military training and travel to regions of the world known for terrorist activity, regardless of whether any hard evidence on targeted individuals exists. The plan would shatter America's long-standing legal doctrine of the presumption of innocence, and enable the FBI to operate "by assuming that everyone's a suspect, and then you weed out the innocent," said Caroline Fredrickson of the American Civil Liberties Union. The changes - which do not require congressional approval - would allow FBI agents to ask Arab- and Muslim-Americans open-ended questions about their activities or investigate them if their work or travel backgrounds match trends that analysts deem suspect.

President Bush has condemned racial profiling as "wrong in America" and openly criticized an airline in 2001 for refusing to let an Arab-American Secret Service agent board a commercial flight, stating "If he was treated that way because of his ethnicity, that will make me madder than heck."

Serious Methodological Flaw Discovered in Wildlife Extinction Rates - Likely 100 Times Faster

Methods used to predict wildlife extinction rates dramatically underestimate the bleak outlook for endangered species, which may become extinct 100 times faster than previously thought, according to a study in the journal Nature. Scientists say the error means the threat to global biodiversity is much more serious than previously believed. Current methods used to predict when wildlife species will die out dramatically underestimate the speed at which extinctions could come by failing to account for the proportion of males to females in a wild population, and failing to account for the variation of reproductive success between individuals in the wild.

"The older models could be severely overestimating the time to extinction. Some species could go extinct 100 times sooner than we expect," one author of the study said. An estimated 16,000 species worldwide currently face extinction, a figure sure to rise when conservation groups account for these methodological flaws in upcoming analyses.

Greenpeace Activists Held By Japanese Without Bail For Exposing Illegal Whale Meat Transfers

Two Japanese Greenpeace activists face theft and trespass charges for exposing corruption in the Japanese whaling fleet, and will likely be held without bail until their trial. The two activists tracked a package sent by crewmembers of the Nisshin Maru whaling "research" ship that was marked "cardboard" and shipped to a private address. Greenpeace intercepted the package - one of dozens of similar packages offloaded from the ship - and found it actually contained thousands of dollars worth of prime whale meat cuts. While Japan claims its annual Southern Ocean whaling expeditions are conducted strictly for research purposes, Greenpeace claims much of the meat is embezzled by the ship's crew and finds its way onto Japan's black market. The group turned the intercepted package over to Tokyo authorities as evidence and provided additional documentation from Greenpeace's four-month investigation into corruption in the Japanese whaling industry. Instead of investigating the crew or bureaucrats in charge of the program, Tokyo police raided Greenpeace Japan's office, seizing computers, documents and cell phones, and arrested the two activists. The pair were held for three weeks without charge before learning they are accused of theft and trespass, and face likely convictions under Japan's strict laws.

EPA Whistleblower Reveals Cheney Deleted Half of CDC Testimony on Global Warming Health Impacts

A former EPA administrative staffer claims the Vice President's office ordered the deletion of every mention of the health impacts of global warming from draft testimony on climate change by the director of the Centers for Disease Control. Former EPA associate deputy administrator Jason Burnett - who resigned last month citing the Bush administration's inadequate response to global warming - told the Environment and Public Works Committee that Cheney's office and the White House Council on Environmental Quality instructed him to "work with CDC to remove from the testimony any discussion of the human health consequences of climate change." The cuts amounted to six pages out of the 14 pages submitted by the CDC director for White House review, and included a table of the likely public health impacts of global warming.

U.S. Exports to Iran Grew Tenfold Under Bush Administration
U.S. exports to Iran increased tenfold under President Bush, who labeled the country part of an "Axis of Evil" yet oversaw the escalated trading of weapons and consumer products worth $546 million to Iran since 2001. The U.S. exported at least $148,000 in weapons and military gear to Iran during Bush's time in office, including rifles and aircraft carrier accessories. An Associated Press review found that the Bush Treasury Department denied only 178 out of at least 4,523 license applications by companies seeking to export goods to Iran during Bush's presidency. Cigarettes accounted for $158 million of the exports to Iran, more than any other product. Senator John McCain responded to the news of rising U.S. cigarette exports to Iran by joking crudely, "maybe that's a way of killing 'em."

Guantanamo Interrogations Based on Faulty Chinese Communist Techniques
Military trainers at Guantanamo taught interrogation techniques for possible use on detainees based on a document copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of methods used by Chinese Communist interrogators on American prisoners during the Korean War. Despite the original study's conclusion that many of the confessions obtained through use of the "coercive management techniques" were false, the Pentagon based its training on Communist methods that the United States long labeled as torture. The title of the original study from which the interrogation methods used in the recent past by the CIA and the military was "Communist Attempts to Elicit False Confessions From Air Force Prisoners of War." President Bush repeatedly argued that the use of the communist techniques by military and CIA interrogators helped provide critical intelligence and prevented new terrorist attacks.

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