But first:

Hurricanes are not supposed to start before June 1, and I am told no hurricane in recorded history has ever hit Central America. So what are we to make of hurricane Adrian, that hit El Salvador last night? Could the global climate be changing?

SELL YOUR OLD CELL

You will cry when you see how little you get – I am offered $8 for my Nokia 6200, $68 for my not so old Treo 600 – but if you have old cell phones lying around, this (courtesy of the estimable Alan Rogowsky) could be the way to recycle them.

{ADHERE}Bumper Sticker{ADHERE}

Paul Lerman: ‘Well, I did get the bumper sticker to drag and drop to my car, but to do it I had to pull the car into my office – which is on the second floor, so that was a bit tough. But what an amazing thing, this ‘adhesive’ command function. Better living thru HTML!’

☞ Can {scent=gardenia} be far behind?

HYBRID BATTERY LIFE

Allan Maylis: ‘My 2004 Honda Civic hybrid has an 8 yr 80,000 mile warranty on the battery pack – which takes up a small amount of trunk space. In California and states that follow California emission rules, the warranty is 10 yrs or 150,000 miles on the battery pack (whichever comes first). Although the best quoted cost is $3000 at this time, it will likely be much less at a later point in time when hybrids are produced in large quantities. Meanwhile I am averaging 45 mpg.’

Gray Chang: ‘The warranty on the hybrid car batteries is pro-rated. If the warranty is 7 years and the batteries give out after 6 years, the manufacturer will pay for one-seventh the cost of the new batteries. The reason for buying a hybrid car is not so much the cost savings, but to have the feeling that you are helping the environment. I wonder if anyone has carefully studied how much the environment is really helped. It must take considerable extra resources and energy to build the batteries, electric motor, and other hardware for the hybrid car. That’s why the car costs more. Certainly, the car uses less fuel, but how much extra fuel was required to build the car in the first place?’

☞ Good question, but intuitively, there is so much energy wasted in braking, that capturing that wasted energy in a battery instead . . . well, others with advanced chemistry and engineering degrees will chime in, but my guess is that the environmental benefits of hybrids are real.

Robert Pohl: ‘I have read somewhere that a fleet operator in NYC has run his Priuses for over 200,000 miles with no need to change the battery. Googling around a little, I find this:

In the lab – Toyota tested Prius to 200,000 miles with no degradation of the battery. In the field – Insights/Priuses exist with over 200,000 miles (see ebay for some examples).

Expert opinion – I’m an electrical engineer. I’ve read all the research I could find, and it shows that a battery will last indefinitely, as long as it’s held within 30-70% of capacity. This cycle avoids the under-and-overcharging that kills batteries & extends life indefinitely.

Now I admit that if you abuse your car (example: drag racing) it will kill the battery. But such abuse will also kill the engine. And the transmission. And the suspension.

In fact, I expect the battery will last longer than the engine will.

‘I note that he assumes that the battery will be kept charged between 30-70%; I’ve noticed on my (Honda) Hybrid that this is exactly what the charging program does. The battery rarely gets completely full, and even more rarely completely empty. And, on the plus side, since the charger is what brakes the car (most times) the brakes get almost no wear; last time I had the car in for a service check, the people there commented on how good my brakes still were.’

Russell Turpin: ‘Time for some economic common sense. Cars are a commodity item that quickly depreciate. They should be purchased from one’s discretionary cash. For most of us who do NOT have a vast fortune, that means we are looking at used cars of modest price. My last car purchase was in 1998, when I bought a 1981 Olds 98 for $1,800. A gas guzzler? Oh, my yes. But keep the $25K more that a hybrid would cost into the bank, and the interest covers that quite nicely. And it still is in the bank. That’s not to say I will never purchase a Hybrid. But like any sensible person of moderate means, it will be in ten years (a) when I know which ones have a good maintenance track record, and (b) when used ones are available at a good price. The vast majority of people make a poor financial decision when they purchase a new car. It doesn’t matter whether it is a new hybrid or a new SUV. They are committing themselves to a large expenditure of capital that they can ill afford, and to which there are reasonable alternatives. Revive your cheapskate nature, Andy! I know it’s in you. Tell people they shouldn’t be purchasing new cars, unless they’re already so well-off that the price tag really is discretionary.’

☞ It’s true. That new-car smell is the most expensive fragrance in the world. But somebody has to buy new cars, and they should be hybrids.

And now:

NEWSWEEK

This Greg Palast column is strident, but not without some reason. With checks and balances fast disappearing in our government, the role of the press becomes ever more crucial. Yet if it’s not about Michael Jackson or Paula Abdul or steroids, the press all but ignores it. Nuclear annihilation? Warren Buffett was on Ted Koppel’s Nightline a couple of late-nights ago explaining that ‘loose nukes’ are the world’s foremost problem . . . unlike Social Security, a true crisis that must be dealt with sooner rather later . . . but this was rare coverage if the topic, and on a show likely to be canceled later this year. (How depressing to think Nightline may disappear.) Anyway . . .

COWARDICE IN JOURNALISM AWARD FOR NEWSWEEK
Goebbels Award for Condi
by Greg Palast

“It’s appalling that this story got out there,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on her way back from Iraq.

What’s NOT appalling to Condi is that the US is holding prisoners at Guantanamo under conditions termed “torture” by the Red Cross. What’s not appalling to Condi is that prisoners of the Afghan war are held in violation of international law after that conflict has supposedly ended. What is NOT appalling to Condi is that prisoner witnesses have reported several instances of the Koran’s desecration.

What is appalling to her is that these things were REPORTED. So to Condi goes to the Joseph Goebbels Ministry of Propaganda Iron Cross.

But I don’t want to leave out our President. His aides report that George Bush is “angry” about the report — not the desecration of the Koran, but the REPORTING of it.

And so long as George is angry and Condi appalled, Newsweek knows what to do: swiftly grab its corporate ankles and ask the White House for mercy.

But there was no mercy. Donald Rumsfeld pointed the finger at Newsweek and said, “People lost their lives. People are dead.” Maybe Rumsfeld was upset that Newsweek was taking away his job. After all, it’s hard to beat Rummy when it comes to making people dead.

And just for the record: Newsweek, unlike Rumsfeld, did not kill anyone — nor did its report cause killings. Afghans protested when they heard the Koran desecration story (as Christians have protested crucifix desecrations). The Muslim demonstrators were gunned down by the Afghan military police — who operate under Rumsfeld’s command.

Our Secretary of Defense, in his darkest Big Brother voice, added a warning for journalists and citizens alike, “People need to be very careful about what they say.”

And Newsweek has now promised to be very, very good, and very, very careful not to offend Rumsfeld, appall Condi or anger George.

For their good behavior, I’m giving Newsweek and its owner, the Washington Post, this week’s Yellow Streak Award for Craven Cowardice in Journalism.

As always, the competition is fierce, but Newsweek takes the honors by backing down on Mike Isakoff’s expose of cruelty, racism and just plain bone-headed incompetence by the US military at the Guantanamo< prison camp.

Isakoff cited a reliable source that among the neat little “interrogation” techniques used to break down Muslim prisoners was putting a copy of the Koran into a toilet.

In the old days, Isakoff’s discovery would have led to Congressional investigations of the perpetrators of such official offence. The Koran-flushers would have been flushed from the military, panels would have been impaneled and Isakoff would have collected his Pulitzer.

No more. Instead of nailing the wrong-doers, the Bush Administration went after the guy who REPORTED the crime, Isakoff.

Was there a problem with the story? Certainly. If you want to split hairs, the inside-government source of the Koran desecration story now says he can’t confirm which military report it appeared in. But he saw it in one report and a witnesses has confirmed that the Koran was defiled.

Of course, there’s an easy way to get at the truth. RELEASE THE REPORTS NOW. Hand them over, Mr. Rumsfeld, and let’s see for ourselves what’s in them.

But Newsweek and the Post are too polite to ask Rumsfeld to make the investigative reports public. Rather, the corporate babysitter for Newsweek, editor Mark Whitaker, said, “Top administration officials have promised to continue looking into the charges and so will we.” In other words, we’ll take the Bush Administration’s word that there is no evidence of Koran-dunking in the draft reports on Guantanamo.

It used to be that the Washington Post permitted journalism in its newsrooms. No more. But, frankly, that’s an old story.

Every time I say investigative reporting is dead or barely breathing in the USA, some little smartass will challenge me, “What about Watergate? Huh?” Hey, buddy, the Watergate investigation was 32 years ago — that means it’s been nearly a third of a century since the Washington Post has printed a big investigative scoop.

The Post today would never run the Watergate story: a hidden source versus official denial. Let’s face it, Bob Woodward, now managing editor at the Post, has gone from “All the President’s Men” to becoming the President’s Man — “Bush at War.” Ugh!

And now the Post company is considering further restrictions on the use of confidential sources — no more “Deep Throats.”

Despite its supposed new concern for hidden sources, let’s note that Newsweek and the Post have no trouble providing, even in the midst of this story, cover for secret Administration sources that are FAVORABLE to Bush. Editor Whitaker’s retraction relies on “Administration officials” whose names he kindly withholds.

In other words, unnamed sources are OK if they defend Bush, unacceptable if they expose the Administration’s mendacity or evil.

A lot of my readers don’t like the Koran-story reporter Mike Isakoff because of his goofy fixation with Monica Lewinsky and Mr. Clinton’s cigar. Have some sympathy for Isakoff: Mike’s one darn good reporter, but as an inmate at the Post/Newsweek facilities, his ability to send out serious communications to the rest of the world are limited.

A few years ago, while I was tracking the influence of the power industry on Washington, Isakoff gave me some hard, hot stuff on Bill Clinton — not the cheap intern-under-the-desk gossip — but an FBI report for me to publish in The Guardian of Britain.

I asked Isakoff why he didn’t put it in Newsweek or in the Post.

He said, when it comes to issues of substance, “No one gives a sh–,” not the readers, and especially not the editors who assume that their US target audience is small-minded, ignorant and wants to stay that way.

That doesn’t leave a lot of time, money or courage for real reporting. And woe to those who practice investigative journalism. As with CBS’s retraction of Dan Rather’s report on Bush’s draft-dodging, Newsweek’s diving to the mat on Guantanamo acts as a warning to all journalists who step out of line.

Newsweek has now publicly committed to having its reports vetted by Rumsfeld’s Defense Department before publication. Why not just print Rumsfeld’s press releases and eliminate the middleman, the reporter?

However, not all of us poor scribblers will adhere to this New News Order. In the meantime, however, for my future security and comfort, I’m having myself measured for a custom-made orange suit.

Greg Palast was awarded the 2005 George Orwell Prize for Courage in Journalism at the Sundance Film Festival for his investigative reports produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation. See those reports for BBC, Harper’s, The Nation and others at www.GregPalast.com.

 

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