••can ye pass the acid test?••

ye who enter here be afraid, but do what ye must -- to defeat your fear ye must defy it.

& defeat it ye must, for only then can we begin to realize liberty & justice for all.

time bomb tick tock? nervous tic talk? war on war?

or just a blog crying in the wilderness, trying to make sense of it all, terror-fried by hate radio and FOX, the number of whose name is 666??? (coincidence?)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

2 shoes!

Shoe-thrower expected to appear before Iraqi judge
By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD – The Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at President George W. Bush was expected to appear before a judge Wednesday in a first step of a complex legal process that could end in a criminal trial, a government official and the reporter's brother said.

Muntadhar al-Zeidi has been in custody since Sunday, when he gained folk hero status across the Arab world by throwing both shoes at Bush during a news conference. Bush ducked twice during the bizarre assault and was not injured.

Despite widespread sympathy for his act across the region, Iraqi authorities sent the case to the Central Criminal Court of Iraq, which handles security and terrorism cases.

An investigative judge will review the evidence and decide whether al-Zeidi should stand trial — a process that could take months. Iraq officials have recommended charging him with insulting a foreign leader, a charge which carries a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment or a small fine.

But investigative judges have sweeping powers under Iraqi law to amend and add charges — or even dismiss the case. If the judge finds enough evidence to warrant prosecution, a judicial panel will appoint three judges to hear the case and set a trial date.

Shiite lawmaker Bahaa al-Araji said he expected al-Zeidi, who's in his late 20s, to be released on bail in the next few days while the investigative judge considers the case.

Al-Baghdadia television, his employer, said al-Zeidi would be represented by Dhiaa Saadi, head of the Iraqi lawyers' association.

The head of Jordan's Bar Association, Saleh Armouti, said scores of lawyers have volunteered to help defend al-Zeidi. The association is dominated by hard-line Muslims and leftists critical of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who was standing beside Bush when the shoe attack occurred, issued no statement about how it planned to pursue the case.

Al-Zeidi's brother, Maitham, said he spoke with the reporter by telephone Tuesday and was told that he expected to be in court Wednesday morning.

Maitham al-Zeidi also said his brother sounded fit, despite claims by another brother that he had suffered a severe beating after being grabbed by Iraqi security at the Sunday press conference.

"Muntadhar has a broken leg, cracked ribs, some injuries under his eye, and his leg is also hurting him," al-Zeidi's brother Dhargham told The Associated Press. "He was taken to the hospital today around noon."

Dhargham said his information came from a friend who works as a security guard in the Green Zone where the shoe-throwing incident took place.

Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf also denied reports that al-Zeidi had been badly injured.

"The rumors about al-Zeidi being injured or being hurt are baseless," Khalaf told the AP. "You can check that when you see him in the criminal court tomorrow morning."

In Washington, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said it was up to Iraqi leaders to decide whether punishment is appropriate for al-Zeidi.

"The president believes that Iraq is a sovereign country, a democratic country, and they will have a process that they follow on this," said Perino, who suffered an eye injury in the fracas that followed the assault. "The president harbors no hard feelings about the incident."

The U.S. set up the Central Criminal Court after the 2003 invasion as the flagship tribunal, granting it nationwide jurisdiction specializing in terrorism cases. However, the court has been widely criticized for failing to meet international standards.

In a report released Monday, Human Rights Watch said defendants have been held for up to two years without a hearing and that defense attorneys often have little or no access to their clients or their case files before hearings.

"Iraqis who come before this court cannot expect justice," said Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch. He said security problems, lack of resources and heavy caseloads undermine "any notion that the central court is meeting basic fair trial standards."

Many Iraqis believe al-Zeidi was a hero for insulting an American president widely blamed for the chaos that has engulfed their country since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003.

In Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, located north of Baghdad, an estimated 1,000 protesters carried banners and chanted slogans on Tuesday demanding al-Zeidi's release.

A few hundred more also protested in Nasiriyah, a Shiite city about 200 miles southeast of Baghdad, and in Fallujah, a Sunni area west of the capital.

In Baghdad, Noureddin al-Hiyali, a lawmaker of the main Sunni bloc in parliament, defended al-Zeidi's actions and said he believed the reporter was likely motivated by the invasion of Iraq, the "dismantling of the Iraqi government, destroying the infrastructure" — all events he blamed on the Bush administration.

"International law approves peoples' right to resist occupation using all means, and Mr. Muntadhar al-Zeidi endeavored to resist occupation in his own manner," al-Hiyali said.

He urged the government to take that into consideration when deciding what to do with al-Zeidi.

The head of the Iraqi Union of Journalists described al-Zeidi's action as "strange and unprofessional" but urged al-Maliki to give him clemency.

"Even if he has committed a mistake, the government and the judiciary are broad-minded and we hope they consider his release because he has a family and he is still young," Mouyyad al-Lami told AP Television News. "We hope this case ends before going to court."
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. military operations, including the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, have cost $904 billion since 2001 and could top $1.7 trillion by 2018, even with big cuts in overseas troop deployments, a report said on Monday.

A new study released by the nonpartisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, or CSBA, said the Iraq conflict's $687 billion price tag alone now exceeds the cost of every past U.S. war except for World War II, when expenditures are adjusted for inflation.

With another $184 billion in spending for Afghanistan included, the two conflicts surpass the cost of the Vietnam War by about 50 percent, the report said.

CSBA said U.S. military operations have already reached $904 billion since 2001, including the two wars as well as stepped-up military security activities at home and the payout in war-related veterans' benefits. The estimate includes allocated spending into 2009.

In contrast, a separate Government Accountability Office study released on Monday said Congress has provided the Pentagon with $808 billion for the Bush administration's global war on terrorism from 2001 through September 30, 2008, including $508 billion for Iraq and $118 billion for Afghanistan, the Philippines and the Horn of Africa.

The CSBA study said U.S. taxpayers could pay another $416 billion to $817 billion over the next decade, even if the combined troop deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan were slashed to between 30,000 and 75,000.

That would bring the cost for both wars to between $1.3 trillion and $1.72 trillion for 2001 through 2018, and even higher when federal borrowing costs are included, CSBA said.

The United States has 143,000 troops in Iraq and 31,000 in Afghanistan. Washington has agreed to withdraw its forces from Iraq by the end of 2011, under a newly signed agreement with the Iraqi government. But U.S. officials are planning to add more than 20,000 forces in Afghanistan within 12 to 18 months.

One reason for the ballooning costs is the Bush administration's habit of funding the wars through supplemental budget requests, a practice that CSBA said has eroded congressional oversight and weakened the Pentagon's long-term planning and budgeting processes.

The Bush administration and Congress have also pursued significant tax cuts since 2001 and robust spending increases, rather than following the established approach of funding war costs by combining tax increases with curbs on domestic spending and borrowing.

"The Bush administration has taken a starkly different approach to financing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," the CSBA study said in its executive summary.

In fact, CSBA said war cost projections rise significantly when interest payments on the federal debt are included in the calculations.

Overall costs would reach $1.4 trillion to $1.8 trillion from 2001 through 2018 if borrowing were assumed to cover 10 percent of underlying military operations.

CSBA said war cost projections would climb to between $2 trillion and $2.5 trillion, if all costs were covered by borrowing.
Stimulus Package To First Pay for Routine Repairs
By Alec MacGillis and Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, December 14, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama calls it "the largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s." New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg compares it to the New Deal -- when workers built hundreds of bridges, dams and parkways -- while saying it could help close the gap with China, where he recently traveled on a Shanghai train at 267 mph.

Most of the infrastructure spending being proposed for the massive stimulus package that Obama and congressional Democrats are readying, however, is not exactly the stuff of history, but destined for routine projects that have been on the to-do lists of state highway departments for years. Oklahoma wants to repave stretches of Interstates 35 and 40 and build "cable barriers" to keep wayward cars from crossing medians. New Jersey wants to repaint 88 bridges and restore Route 35 from Toms River to Mantoloking. Scottsdale, Ariz., wants to widen 1.5 miles of Scottsdale Road.

On the campaign trail, Obama said he would "rebuild America" with an "infrastructure bank" run by a new board that would award $60 billion over a decade to projects such as high-speed rail to take the country in a more energy-efficient direction. But the crumbling economy, while giving impetus to big spending plans, has also put a new emphasis on projects that can be started immediately -- "use it or lose it," Obama said last week -- and created a clear tension between the need to create jobs fast and the desire for a lasting legacy.

"It doesn't have the power to stir men's souls," said David Goldberg of Smart Growth America. "Repair and maintenance are good. We need to make sure we're building bridges that stand, not bridges to nowhere. But to gild the lily . . . where we're resurfacing pieces of road that aren't that critical, just to be able to say we spent the money, is not what we're after."

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak is proud that his city was able to quickly rebuild the Interstate 35 bridge that collapsed into the Mississippi River in 2007 while making sure to include capacity for a future transit line on it. But he worries that many of the road and bridge upgrades around the country will not be done in a similarly farsighted way, given the time pressures.

"The quickest things we can do may not be the ones that have the most significant long-term impact on the green economy," he said. "Unless we push a transit investment, this will end up being a stimulus package that rebalances our transportation strategy toward roads and away from [what] we need to get off our addiction to oil."

Mayors say there would be a better chance for a long-term impact if the money were focused on metropolitan areas where investments could make the most difference in reducing congestion and lessening dependence on cars. They doubt that will happen if infrastructure funding goes directly to state capitals.

In Seattle, Mayor Greg Nickels said that the list of projects submitted by Washington state included only one in Seattle, for a ferry dock, while the city has ambitious hopes for removing a hulking highway ramp in a revitalized neighborhood and accelerating a light-rail expansion.

"Metro areas really are the engines of the economy, and to the extent that this can go directly to the metro areas rather than a cumbersome state process, it will have more effect," Nickels said. "States can do a nice job in rural counties, but in metro areas it's not always a good relationship or very nimble."

As it stands, Congress, wanting to keep things simple, plans to disburse the money under existing formulas -- funding for roads and bridges will go to state governments, while money for public transit will go to the local agencies that receive transit funding.

State officials are playing down concerns about their proposed projects' value. New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine said repairing a swath of roads and bridges is ambitious in its own right. "We could spend money on further provision of rail to Port Elizabeth and Port Newark, but if the highways weren't paved, we actually wouldn't have the ability to have the trains get to the spot to take the goods to the local distribution outlet," he said. "Those deferred maintenance investments are fundamental to maintaining a capital infrastructure."

Oklahoma transportation director Gary Ridley justifies his state's wish list in similar terms. Its highway pavements "are probably 40 years old, and some of them have been replaced, but a lot of them haven't," he said. "It's not like we're grabbing these out of the air."

On the trail, Obama spoke often of the potential for high-speed rail linking the cities of the industrial Midwest. But the transit projects being proposed also tend to be on a smaller scale: extending bus rapid-transit lanes, buying new commuter rail cars, upgrading commuter rail lines.

"Everyone would like grand projects, but the fact of the matter is that we're really trying to put people to work," said William Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association. "A large number of small projects spread across the country make more impact than a handful of big projects in a few places."

The business community approves of the project list, noting that study groups have pegged total infrastructure repair needs at $1.6 trillion. "It's not sexy, but it's jobs," said J.P. Fielder, a spokesman for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "It's not dams and giant beautiful works of art. It's these low-end roads connecting certain places."

The Obama transition team is aware of the tension created by its goal of immediate stimulus but contends it can be resolved. For one thing, one aide said, some of the most legacy-building aspects of the recovery plan will be in areas other than transportation infrastructure -- such as expanding the electric grid, retrofitting schools to make them energy efficient and modernizing medical record-keeping.

Defending the emerging list of projects, the aide, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said there simply is a vast need for repairs. But the aide said that the Obama team also has its eye out for longer-term projects to invest in, and that for all the emphasis on quick spending, the recovery plan is considered a two-year undertaking. What is still to be determined is how some of those more ambitious projects would be chosen and how that money would be apportioned.

Others in Washington and at the state level also hope for a consensus between the short and long term. Early in 2009, they say, states will be able to spend stimulus money mostly on badly needed maintenance, as well as new projects that are ready to begin. Considerations about the country's future transportation needs will come later, they say, in the debate surrounding the regular transportation budget, which will be up for its five-year reauthorization next fall.

"It's apples and oranges. It is stimulus and economic recovery versus a long-term strategic plan for the nation's infrastructure," said Tony Dorsey, a spokesman for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. He noted that a few items on the states' wish lists are of a larger scale: California wants to rebuild the southern access to the Golden Gate Bridge, while New Jersey wants to accelerate the construction of a second rail tunnel under the Hudson River.

The construction industry also sees a two-step process. "Do the rinky-dink projects, the smaller projects," said Frank Rapoport, head of the global infrastructure practice at the McKenna, Long & Aldrich law firm. Then, later in 2009, he said, the government should use any leftover stimulus money to leverage private equity to tackle larger challenges, possibly via Obama's proposed infrastructure bank.

That approach sounds good to Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, which funds some infrastructure projects. "This is a once-in-50-year opportunity," she said. "We ought to repair what needs to be fixed and take a chunk of the cash and do that, but while we're doing that, develop an overall blueprint for how the rest of the money should be spent."

But that plan assumes that there will be enough money, political will and public support left over after an initial burst of spending to fuel broader investments. It is unclear how much money will be devoted to infrastructure in the stimulus package, which could surpass $500 billion. But the highway officials association has identified more than 5,000 road and bridge projects costing $64 billion that are ready to go, and the transit officials' association has identified 736 projects costing $12.2 billion that could start within 90 days.

If the stimulus funds many of those projects in the short term, there could be less appetite for increasing Washington's long-term investment beyond the roughly $50 billion a year it spends annually now. And on Capitol Hill, members of both parties agree that the focus has to be on the short term.

"Filling the potholes or repaving a stretch of road may not be as visual as the Hoover Dam or the Golden Gate Bridge, but that paved road is going to make a lot of difference in people's lives," said Jim Berard, spokesman for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. "Will there be political will and money" for later spending? "We don't know. We'll build that bridge when we come to it. Trying to do bigger-type infrastructure improvement at this point would be irresponsible. You'd be fiddling while Rome burst into flames."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Microsoft Security Advisory (961051)

Vulnerability in Internet Explorer Could Allow Remote Code Execution

Published: December 10, 2008 Updated: December 17, 2008

Microsoft has completed the investigation into a public report of this vulnerability. We have issued MS08-078 to address this issue. For more information about this issue, including download links for an available security update, please review MS08-078. The vulnerability addressed is the Pointer Reference Memory Corruption Vulnerability - CVE-2008-4844.


• You can provide feedback by completing the form by visiting Microsoft Help and Support: Contact Us.

• Customers in the United States and Canada can receive technical support from Microsoft Product Support Services. For more information about available support options, see Microsoft Help and Support.

• International customers can receive support from their local Microsoft subsidiaries. For more information about how to contact Microsoft for international support issues, visit International Support.

Microsoft TechNet Security provides additional information about security in Microsoft products.


The information provided in this advisory is provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Microsoft disclaims all warranties, either express or implied, including the warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose. In no event shall Microsoft Corporation or its suppliers be liable for any damages whatsoever including direct, indirect, incidental, consequential, loss of business profits or special damages, even if Microsoft Corporation or its suppliers have been advised of the possibility of such damages. Some states do not allow the exclusion or limitation of liability for consequential or incidental damages so the foregoing limitation may not apply.


• December 10, 2008: Advisory published

• December 11, 2008: Revised to include Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.01 Service Pack 4, Internet Explorer 6 Service Pack 1, Internet Explorer 6, and Windows Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 as potentially vulnerable software. Also added more workarounds.

• December 12, 2008: Revised to correct operating systems that support Windows Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2. Also added more workarounds and a reference to Microsoft Security Advisory (954462).

• December 13, 2008: Revised to add the workaround, Disable XML Island functionality. Also, in a FAQ entry, clarified the list of recommended workarounds and added the blog post URL for recommended workarounds.

• December 15, 2008: Updated the workarounds, DisableXMLIsland functionality and Disable Row Position functionality of OLEDB32.dll.

• December 17, 2008: Advisory updated to reflect publication of security bulletin.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The threat of punishment actually does stamp out freeloaders, tending to transform them into rule-following members of a society, a new study suggests.

The research results show how established norms and rules in a society could keep freeloaders in check and increase pro-social behavior, such as helping others or sharing with them rather than looking out for number one.

In the past, studies have found that while punishing freeloaders can increase their cooperation with others, the punishment itself was too costly and in the end, punishment wouldn't be worth it. These past studies were based on short-term effects, however.

The new study shows that over the long term, punishment gets ingrained in people's psyches in a way that causes them to fear getting into trouble. This fear can keep otherwise freeloaders, who would normally act as sponges to soak up the generosity of others without having to contribute any time or money, on the straight-and-narrow.

"I believe the experimental work is extremely important and timely, as many researchers had voiced concern whether punishment is not too costly a tool to promote cooperation," said Karl Sigmund of the University of Vienna, who was not involved in the current study. Sigmund studies the evolution of cooperation among other topics.

The research will be published in the Dec. 5 issue of the journal Science.

Queue rules

Lead researcher Simon Gächter, a professor of the psychology of economic decision making at the University of Nottingham in England, gives an example to explain the phenomenon. He recalls waiting in line for a taxi outside of New York’s Kennedy airport when someone cut in line. Another guy in line went up and told the line-cutter he needed to get back in the queue.

"This is punishment, because the guy was embarrassed and turned red," Gächter told LiveScience. "It's also costly for the guy who did it because you never know [what could happen]."

In general, most people do wait their turn in line, and such an enforcer isn't needed, he added.

Other examples of situations that require cooperation to achieve socially beneficial outcomes include: voting, paying taxes, fighting corruption, teamwork, work morale, neighborhood watch, recycling, tackling climate change and so on, the researchers say.

Money game

Here's how Gächter revealed the beneficial nature of punishment over the long run: He and his colleagues had 69 groups of three individuals play money games.

Each participant received 20 tokens and had to decide how many tokens to keep and how many to contribute to a group project. Keeping a token meant a person gained the token's total worth. For each token contributed, every participant would earn 0.5 money units, regardless of his or her own contribution.

So the cost of contributing to the group would be one money unit, with a return on that token of only 0.5 money units. That makes it in the participant's material self-interest to keep the tokens. Yet if all tokens are kept by members, each group member will earn 20 money units; if all tokens are put into the community pot, each member will earn 30 money units.

The participants were split into groups, with each group playing either 10 or 50 rounds of the game and either having the ability to punish other group members or having no punishment abilities. For the punishment scenario, a player could deduct tokens from others after finding out the players' contributions.

The catch: Each point deducted reduces that punished player's earnings by three money units and costs the punisher one money unit.

Punishment works

The results showed there were far fewer freeloaders, or players who kept all the tokens for themselves, in the games that allowed punishment compared with the no-punishment games.

Even though punishment increased cooperation, in the 10-round games, most groups fared better with more total tokens when there was no punishment allowed.

"The reason why this works is that there are actually people out there who are willing to sacrifice to punish the freeloaders," Gächter said. "The freeloaders now stop freeloading, they start cooperating more, but it also takes a lot of punishment to get them there."

But in the longer games, punishment did pay off in the end.

Within the punishment scenarios, the players raked in nearly 10 tokens more when the game was played for 50 rounds as compared with 10 rounds. In addition, players earned a lot more in the punishment game lasting 50 rounds compared with the no-punishment game with that number of rounds.

The earnings were so high in the long-term punishment game because people not only cooperated more, contributing more tokens to the shared pot, there was also less punishment needed, so fewer tokens got deducted from players.

"In the long run, [punishment] is not detrimental, because the freeloaders now know there are punishers out there," Gächter said. "So punishment just works as a threat. Everybody behaves nicely because they fear punishment. Therefore, punishment is very rarely needed."

The research was funded by the University of Nottingham and the British Academy.

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Monday, December 01, 2008

Bush uses final 50 days in office to tout legacy
By BEN FELLER, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush says history will judge him, but he is getting his own crack first. Bush is using his final 50 days in office to tout his legacy, hoping to leave a lasting impression of overshadowed progress. On Monday, World AIDS Day, Bush was heralded for his leadership in fighting the disease, a point that even his Democratic critics readily concede.

The anti-AIDS program Bush championed in 2003 has delivered lifesaving medicine to more than 2 million people in five years, up from 50,000 people before it began. Many of those helped live in impoverished sub-Saharan Africa, where AIDS is the leading killer.

"I would hope that when it's all said and done, people say, `This is a guy who showed up to solve problems,'" Bush said at a global health forum. "And when you have somebody say there's a pandemic that you can help, and you do nothing about it, then you have frankly disgraced the office."

For most of his last year in office, Bush has shied away from legacy talk for two reasons. One is that he did not want to seem as if he were looking back when he was still running the country. The other is that he did not want to get dragged into the 2008 presidential campaign by defending his record.

That's over now. Once Democrat Barack Obama beat Republican John McCain for the White House, Bush's final agenda has shifted focus. He is still active on the crises of the day — the economic mess, the terrorist attacks in India — but he is notably carving out time to emphasize priorities of the last eight years.

That is why on Tuesday, he'll be in Greensboro, N.C., to trumpet a program that mentors children of prisoners. It is part of a nationwide mentoring program that Bush promoted in his 2003 State of the Union address, the same time he announced his Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

On Friday, Bush will give a speech defending his efforts in the Middle East. In the coming weeks, he is expected to reflect on the No Child Left Behind Act, the signature domestic policy win from his first term; and on the two-year anniversary of a controversial troop build up that helped shore up security in Iraq.

All that follows a quietly building pattern of Bush speeches in which he has defended his record on helping veterans, promoting volunteerism, putting his stamp of judicial philosophy on the Supreme Court, and standing by trade even in tough economic times. The effort has been overshadowed by bigger news.

For example, just as Bush was talking about the global fight against AIDS on Monday, Obama was dominating cable news with the announcement of his national security team. Bush has shown no resentment about the diminishing spotlight and has gone to extra lengths to cooperate with Obama's team.

But the White House has no intention of quietly shutting off the lights.

It wants the country to remember more than the war in Iraq, the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe, and all the government bailouts to help a crashing economy. Bush's highest approval this year was only 34 percent in January, and it dipped as low as 26 percent in October, according to AP-Ipsos and AP-GfK polls.

"Everybody wants to be liked," Bush said at Monday's forum when influential pastor Rick Warren chatted with him about the AIDS effort. "But being liked because you've actually done something constructive that's measurable is the best way to try to be liked."

The president, with help from Congress, was the force behind the anti-AIDS effort. At $15 billion, it was the largest international health initiative devoted to one disease. Congress has since renewed it at $48 billion to battle AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis around the world over the next five years.

More than 10 million people have received broad care of all kinds through the program.

Bush toured African nations in February, inspecting health clinics and meeting families who have found new hope. He was greeted joyously.

"I wish the American people could see what we have seen ... People literally lining the roads in Tanzania, all waving and anxious to express their love and appreciation to the American president, who represents the American people," he said Monday.

Noting the reception he sometimes gets at home, Bush said: "It was good to see them all waving with all five fingers, I might add."
Clean People Are Less Judgmental

Senior Writer

A vigorous hand wash or shower could cause a person to be less judgmental.

A new study, set for publication in the December issue of the journal Psychological Science, reveals that when a person feels physically clean, he or she cuts others more moral slack.

The findings add to past research that has shown a link between physical warmth and generosity as well as physical chill and social isolation. Other past research has shown that sins seem to nudge people to clean themselves, a phenomenon the researchers dubbed the "Macbeth effect" after the dramatized murderess who tried scrubbing her hands to clean off imaginary blood.

"When we exercise moral judgment, we believe we are making a conscious, rational decision, but this research shows that we are subconsciously influenced by how clean or 'pure' we feel," said lead researcher of the new study Simone Schnall, a psychologist at the University of Plymouth in England. "Take for example the situation of a jury member or voting in an election - if the jury member had washed their hands prior to delivering their verdict, they may judge the crime less harshly."

She added, "Similarly, someone may find it easier to overlook a political misdemeanor had they performed an action that made them feel 'clean' prior to casting their vote."

The results come from two experiments with university students. In the first one, 40 students had to complete 40 scrambled sentence tasks, each involving four words. By underlining any three words, a sentence could be formed. One group of students worked on sentences that included some "clean" words, such as "pure," "washed," "immaculate" and "pristine," while another group read neutral words.

The participants then rated a series of moral dilemmas on a scale ranging from "perfectly OK" to "extremely wrong." The dilemmas included keeping money found inside a wallet, putting false information on a resume, killing a terminally ill plane crash survivor in order to avoid starvation and using a kitten for sexual arousal.

The students who read the clean-word sentences judged such transgressions to be less wrong compared with the other students in the experiment.

In the second experiment, students watched a three-minute clip from the dark drug film "Trainspotting," which had been shown to elicit feelings of disgust. Then, half of the students washed their hands while the others didn't. The students rated the same six moral vignettes as had students in the first experiment. The hand-washers gave less severe ratings to the vignettes than did those who didn't wash their hands.

Schnall said the students who had washed their hands or read about cleanliness likely misinterpreted their physically pure feelings as being about the moral vignette. Her past research showed the same link between disgust and moral judgments.

"If I feel disgusted because I sit at a dirty desk, and I think about how wrong it is to not return a lost wallet, then I mistakenly think the feeling of disgust is about 'oh that's a disgusting thing to do,' whereas in reality it's coming from the desk," Schnall told LiveScience.

She added, "If I feel clean because I've washed my hands, I think 'well it's not such a bad thing to do,' but that's only because my physical sensation is of the sort."

She hopes to test out the finding with real-life scenarios to see how well it applies.

LiveScience.com chronicles the daily advances and innovations made in science and technology. We take on the misconceptions that often pop up around scientific discoveries and deliver short, provocative explanations with a certain wit and style. Check out our science videos, Trivia & Quizzes and Top 10s. Join our community to debate hot-button issues like stem cells, climate change and evolution. You can also sign up for free newsletters, register for RSS feeds and get cool gadgets at the LiveScience Store.

so bush and cheney aren't war criminals after all. i merely forgot to wash behind my ears!