U.S. hostage ‘may be dead’, says military, according to accounts pieced together from other recently released hostages of the Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines. “(They) say they are fighting for Muslim self-rule in the south of the

mainly Catholic Philippines but the group’s main pursuit has been kidnap for


Last year, it abducted scores of people, including Western tourists from a resort

in nearby Malaysia. Local officials say the group secured about $20 million in

ransom.” CNN

I’ve blinked in the past to articles reporting that piracy still flourishes on Asian seas; here are more details of how they operate, including reviving the time-honored practice of making their prisoners ‘walk the plank.’ MSNBC

Ban on Execution of the Retarded Is Vetoed in Texas. The governor explained that there were already safeguards against the execution of the retarded and that, anyway, Texas had not executed a mentally retarded person. Critics say six inmates with IQ’s of 70 or below have been executed in Texas since 1990. Li’l George, as he expounded during his European trip, seems to share Gov. Perry’s confusion in thinking that the U.S. judicial system “protects people who don’t understand the nature of the crime they’ve committed.” The law allows an insanity defense if the nature of the crime is not understood by reason of mental illness, but mental retardation is not a mental illness and does not in itself qualify a defendent for the insanity defense. Instead, mental capacity should be considered as a mitigating factor in sentencing. Advoocates of a ban on the execution of the retarded argue that it is as morally unacceptable as it is to execute a minor. New York Times

Talk-to-Yourself Radio: With Phil Hendrie Nothing Is as It Seems. Many consider him the funniest man on radio, if they get the joke, which is a send-up of the American talk radio universe as a whole.

“Those 2 percent used to dash off angry letters to the editor for your local

paper,” he said. “Now they practically run the country because of the platform

radio has given them.” Hendrie makes a living pushing them off the stage, one at

a time.

Listening to Hendrie talk about his audience is to a hear a man who embodies

both a Jeffersonian optimism about the intelligence of the average citizen and a

Menckenesque pessimism about the intelligence of the average citizen. New York Times Magazine

Listen to Hendrie in streaming audio here [via MetaFilter]

“Welcome. For the second year, the Surfrider Foundation is

publishing this State of the Beach report. Why? Because

inside you’ll find the disturbing truth about the current health

of our beaches. And it ain’t pretty.

This report assesses the state of America’s beaches by summarizing each

coastal state’s availability of information and status in these areas: General beach description,

Website access,

Beach access,

Surf zone water quality,

Shoreline structures,

Beach erosion,

Beach nourishment,

Surfing areas.”

And here is the full text and tables of The Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC)’s annual survey of water-quality monitoring and

public notification programs at U.S. beaches
. The survey, published in August 2000, is

based on information reported for 1999; contains beach-specific information in online maps.

Press release from the Seattle Independent Media Center announces its pyrrhic victory in the government’s case against it, about which I previously wrote here.

“Today, in a case involving internet press freedom, the US Government withdrew a previously-issued court order

directing the Independent Media Center in Seattle to hand over computer server logs. The April 21 order instructed

the IMC, a not-for-profit internet-based news organization, to hand over logs and other records pertaining to the

IMC’s coverage of anti-globalization protests in Quebec City. The government’s retreat represents a victory for the

IMC, where volunteers and a national legal team had been preparing to challenge the order in court.”

The release goes on to describe that the Government made its case (about the theft from Canadian police of documents detailing George Bush’s travel itinerary around the Summit of the Americas in Quebec in April) without the server logs from the IMC’s site, where an anonymous journalist had posted the documents. Nevertheless, they allowed the order to stand, continuing to absorb the organization’s volunteer legal resources, only withdrawing it on the eve of the IMC’s planned court filing in response.