January 6th, 2011
Published January 06, 2011
Ellen Weiss resigned as senior vice president for news on the same day that NPR's board of directors completed its independent review of the dismissal of Williams. The directors recommended new internal procedures for personnel decisions and disciplinary action.
The board expressed confidence in CEO Vivian Schiller's leadership but voted to forgo her 2010 bonus because of "concern over her role in the termination process." Schiller drew criticism in November for saying Williams should keep his feelings about Muslims between him and "his psychiatrist or publicist" -- comments that she later apologized for.
Williams, who is a Fox News contributor, cheered the announcement.
"It's good news for NPR if they can get someone who is the keeper of the flame of liberal orthodoxy out of NPR," he told Fox News, which gave Williams a bigger role in the wake of his firing.
"She had an executioner's knife for anybody who didn't abide by her way of thinking," he said. "And I think she represented a very ingrown, incestuous culture in that institution that's not open to not only different ways of thinking, but angry at the fact that I would even talk or be on Fox."
Williams was fired by the nonprofit media organization because of remarks about his anxiety over seeing people dressed as Muslims on airplanes during an interview on Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor." The company said the remarks did not meet its "editorial standards."
But the company came under withering criticism for the dismissal because it appeared rash and unfair since other NPR analysts have expressed their opinions with impunity.
According to Williams, Weiss fired him over the phone without giving him a chance to defend himself in person. Williams said she accused him of bigotry although he was arguing against rash judgments about people of faith.
"She felt that there was no place for me because I crossed the lines of her journalistic standard," he said. "I think what I crossed was her politically correct red line in the sand."
January 6th, 2011
WASHINGTON – David Nichols studies the way psychedelic drugs act in the brains of rats. But he's haunted by how humans hijack his work to make street drugs, sometimes causing overdose deaths.
Nichols makes chemicals roughly similar to ecstasy and LSD that are supposed to help explain how parts of the brain function. Then he publishes the results for other scientists, hoping his work one day leads to treatments for depression or Parkinson's disease.
But Nichols' findings have not stayed in purely scientific circles. They've also been exploited by black market labs to make cheap and marginally legal recreational drugs.
"You try to work for something good, and it's subverted in a way," Nichols said. "I try not to think about it."
Now the 66-year-old chairman of the Purdue University pharmacology department is speaking out in one of the world's most prestigious scientific journals to describe an ethical struggle seldom discussed by brain researchers.
"You can't control what people do with what you publish, but yeah, I felt it personally," he said in a phone interview, explaining that his struggles are probably somewhat similar to those faced by the inventor of the machine gun, although not as severe. The journal Nature published his essay online Wednesday.
"What if a substance that seems innocuous is marketed and becomes wildly popular on the dance scene, but then millions of users develop an unusual type of kidney damage that proves irreversible and difficult to treat, or even life-threatening or fatal?" Nichols wrote. "That would be a disaster of immense proportions. This question, which was never part of my research focus, now haunts me."
Nichols has studied psychedelic drugs for more than 40 years, concentrating on serotonin. That's a basic chemical "that goes to every part of the brain. It's involved in appetite, sleep, sex, aggression, you name it," Nichols said in the interview with The Associated Press. "It really plays a key role in brain activation, the difference between being awake and being asleep."
Nichols estimates that at least five of his compounds — out of hundreds — have been turned into street drugs.
His drug work used to be a joking matter. People would ask him if he needed human test subjects, and he would respond: "No, it's just rat stuff."
"I never thought of these getting out of the lab," he told the AP. Sure, the field includes research into LSD and other hallucinogens, but Nichols never imagined his work escaping the lab and causing death. The worst would be maybe someone getting high on stuff they shouldn't, he figured.
"Every time we make a molecule now, I do think, 'Is this the one that's going to be a problem?' I never used to think that before," Nichols said.
One chemical was so potent that "I just stopped and said, 'We're not going to study this one. This stuff would hit the market big-time,'" he said.
That wasn't the case almost 20 years ago, when he developed something similar to ecstasy — but not nearly as potent. Back then it was a little-known street drug. He published his study, found little interest from pharmaceutical companies in his chemical, called MTA, and moved on.
But somebody in the illicit world of drug abuse read his research and synthesized that drug into tablets for street use. It was eerily called "flatliners." But it really didn't provide much of a high. "Flatline implies that you're brain dead," Nichols said. "Why would anyone take it?"
People did. They took too much. Their brains were flooded with serotonin, and they died. The first time Nichols was told about it, only two people had died.
"I sat in my office and thought. 'Wow, if you shoot somebody with a gun, you know you killed them, but if technology escapes and someone dies," Nichols said, his voice trailing off. "You're kind of disconnected from it."
At least five or six people died from that first drug. A second drug, a hallucinogenic called bromo-dragonfly, has killed two others. It could have been worse because it was chemically similar to a potent toxin that causes liver cancer, Nichols said.
A story last year in the Wall Street Journal said Nichols' published research is a favorite for European chemists who make black market street drugs. That hit him hard, but didn't surprise him. In the past year or so, he's been getting inquiries about his research from investigators and forensic labs.
Johns Hopkins University behavioral biology professor Roland Griffiths struggles with the same ethical questions when he studies the chemicals behind hallucinogenic mushrooms. But Griffiths believes the key to scientific progress is the free exchange of ideas, saying it's better than no information.
University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Art Caplan said there are times when you can share too much scientific information — with nuclear weapons, biological weapons and the like — despite the desire for open research. And this may be one of those cases given the large black market out there, he said.
Caplan said Nichols' essay "should lead to more careful thinking about the unintended consequences of scientific advances."
January 6th, 2011
By JIM ABRAMS
The Associated Press
Thursday, January 6, 2011; 1:22 PM
WASHINGTON -- House Republicans' reading of the Constitution was interrupted Thursday by a woman who shouted "except Obama, except Obama" to the venerable document's words on a U.S. citizen's eligibility to be president.
Just as Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., was reading "no person, except a natural-born citizen, or a citizen of the United States" is eligible for the presidency, a woman in the visitor's gallery yelled out that it did not apply to President Barack Obama.
Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, who was presiding over the House, banged the gavel and halted the proceedings, warning that such action from members of the public was a violation of House rules. The woman was quickly removed by Capitol police.
Lawmakers took turns reciting each verse and article of the document. Republicans in charge of the chamber rattled it off with missionary zeal, as if in a school civics class. Democrats pitched in, but with seemingly less ardor.
Historians said it was the first time the 222-year-old governing document had been read in its entirety on the House floor.
So-called "birthers" claim Obama is ineligible to be president because they say there's no proof he was born in the United States, with many of the skeptics questioning whether he was actually born in Kenya - his father's home country.
The Obama campaign issued a certificate of live birth in 2008, an official document from Hawaii showing the president's birth date, city and name, along with his parents' names and races. The certificate doesn't list the name of the hospital where he was born or the physician who delivered him, information collected by the state as part of its vital records. Hawaii's health director said last year and in 2008 that she had seen and verified Obama's original vital records.
Republicans and their tea party allies, who campaigned during the past election on the need for Washington to stop flouting limits on the powers of the federal government as defined by the Constitution, said the reading of the Constitution gave proof to their dedication to the nation's original principles. Democrats viewed the proceedings with more suspicion.
Before the reading began, Democrats questioned the GOP decision not to read sections of the 222-year-old governing document that were later amended, such as the Article I, Section 2 clause that classified slaves as three-fifths of a person for the purpose of congressional apportionment and taxation.
"It's a consequence of who we are," Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., D-Ill., son of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, said in reference to the three-fifth's clause and its deletion from the reading.
Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash, while saying the reading was "special for all of us," asked whether it was "not intended to create some statement of congressional intent."
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., who organized the reading, noted that Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a pioneer of the civil rights movement, has been asked to read the Thirteenth Amendment that abolishes slavery. He said he hoped the event would "inspire many more Americans to read the Constitution."
The recital began with new Speaker John Boehner, reading the "We the People" preamble. Then Boehner's predecessor Nancy Pelosi recited the first paragraph of Article I that describes the powers of the legislative branch.
They were followed, more or less alternating between parties, with lawmakers repeating momentous clauses on the rights and responsibilities of the three branches of governments and more prosaic sections regarding the oversight of forts and dockyard and the ban on office holders receiving gifts from foreign princes.
The entire reading of the seven articles and 27 amendments of the Constitution took about an hour and a half. Members volunteered on a first-come-first-serve with the reading of the Second Amendment clause on the right to bear arms going to freshman Republican Frank Guinta of New Hampshire.
For the first hour of the recital the Republican side of the chamber was full, while far fewer Democrats occupied the other side. After an hour, the number of Republican listeners also declined.
January 6th, 2011
(CNN) -- Authorities in Maryland are investigating the deaths of about 2 million fish in Chesapeake Bay.
"Natural causes appear to be the reason," the Maryland Department of the Environment said in a news release. "Cold water stress exacerbated by a large population of the affected species (juvenile spot fish) appears to be the cause of the kill."
The investigation comes days after the deaths of an estimated 100,000 fish in northwest Arkansas. Authorities suspect disease was to blame there, a state spokesman said.
In Maryland, preliminary tests showed water quality to be acceptable, officials said.
"The affected fish are almost exclusively juvenile spot fish, 3 to 6 inches in length," the Maryland department said. A recent survey "showed a very strong population of spot in the bay this year. An increased juvenile population and limited deep water habitat would likely compound the effects of cold water stress."
Large winter kills of spot fish have occurred at least twice before in the state, in 1976 and 1980, the department said.
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January 6th, 2011
House Democrats' goal is to make Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) the Speaker of the House again, their campaign chairman said Wednesday evening.
Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), set his goal as nothing short of winning back control of the House in the 2012 elections.
"We're all trying to win it back," Israel said on MSNBC when asked if it was Democrats' goal of winning back enough seats to make Pelosi, the former Speaker and new minority leader, the next Speaker.
Democrats lost 63 seats in the 2010 congressional elections, which delivered Republicans control of the House. Democrats would need to win 25 seats now held by Republicans to flip control of the House back in their favor.
Republicans, going into the 2010 contests, had been coy about naming a number of seats they thought they would gain, or, until the end of the campaign, outright predicting that they would win back the majority.
Israel's confidence could well shift over the next two years -- in an optimistic or pessimistic way -- as political events unfold between now and 2012.
"Look, I'm focused on gaining 25 seats back so that we can regain the majority and continue to protect the middle class -- not vote against the middle class, which is what the Republicans did just 20 minutes ago on the floor of the House," Israel said, referencing one of the first House votes on Wednesday afternoon.
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