Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mum's the Word for NASA's Secret Space Plane X-37B

You would think that an unpiloted space plane built to rocket spaceward from Florida atop an Atlas booster, circle the planet for an extended time, then land on autopilot on a California runway would be big news. But for the U.S. Air Force X-37B project — seemingly, mum's the word.

There is an air of vagueness regarding next year's Atlas Evolved Expendable launch of the unpiloted, reusable military space plane.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Granite Park teacher honored by National Science Teachers

Published: Friday, Oct. 16, 2009 6:04 p.m. MDT

A Salt Lake City middle school teacher has been chosen by the National Science Teachers Association to participate in a yearlong professional development program.

Mark Towner is only in his second year teaching biology at Granite Park Middle School in Salt Lake City. He was a research biologist but then decided to go into teaching to give back to the community.

Towner, along with 184 other teachers nationwide, will learn how to promote quality science teaching, improve teacher content knowledge, enhance teacher confidence and promote classroom excellence. He will also work with a veteran teacher, participate in Web seminars and attend the NSTA National Conference in Philadelphia.

Towner feels he was selected because of the life experiences he can incorporate into teaching.

"This award is very important to Granite Park Junior High, the Granite School District and the state of Utah because it shows that professionals who have developed decades of life experience can pass that on to a younger generation," Towner said. "Instead of talking about science from a textbook, I have lived the science in the freezing cold of Alaska," he added.

Towner hopes to plug into a network of "crazy scientists" and be involved in a clearinghouse of ideas and experiments to improve his teaching.

The 2009 fellows were selected on the basis of several criteria including science background and interest in improving as a science educator.

Towner hopes the program will help him improve the lives of his students. "I am teaching eighth-grade science to Hispanic, African and Iraqi kids that will likely never have the opportunities that I have already lived," Towner said.

He added, "I have come to love these kids, and I just want to expose them to as many experiences as possible before the realities of their lives will likely take over."


© 2009 Deseret News Publishing Company | All rights reserved
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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Middle school teacher receives award

Middle school teacher receives award
by JM Martin
3 days ago | 11 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
 Granite Park Junior High School’s Mark Towner was one of 185 science teachers across the country to be named Science Teacher Fellow the National Science Teacher Association.
Granite Park Junior High School’s Mark Towner was one of 185 science teachers across the country to be named Science Teacher Fellow the National Science Teacher Association.

A science teacher working in a Title I school in South Salt Lake City has been chosen to receive a national award.

Mark E. Towner, a biology teacher at Granite Park Junior High School, was one of 185 science teachers selected nationwide to be a Science Teacher Fellow by the National Science Teacher Association for the 2009-2010 school year. This year will be Towner’s second teaching at the school.

“I love working with kids [and] I love science,” Towner said.

Before becoming a teacher, Towner was a research biologist. He was also founder and CEO of his own company before retiring from the private sector in 2003.

Towner said he decided to pursue teaching because he “wanted to give back to the community.” He also wanted to help fill the ongoing shortage of math and science teachers in the public schools.

Currently, Towner is working as a biology teacher while pursuing a master’s degree in education. Towner is pursuing higher education while working as part of the Alternative Route to Teacher Licensure Program through the state of Utah, a program designed to attract qualified individuals to teach in their field of expertise while completing licensure requirements.

Towner said he learned about the opportunity for the NSTA Science Fellow award through Todd Campbell, Ph.D., an assistant science professor teaching one of the classes Towner’s taking at Utah State University.

According to the website, the NSTA was “founded in 1944 and headquartered in Arlington, Va. [It] is the largest organization in the world committed to promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all. NSTA's current membership of 60,000 includes science teachers, science supervisors, administrators, scientists, business and industry representatives and others involved in and committed to science education.”

Benefits of the award include the opportunity to participate in professional development, mentoring programs, an invitation to the NSTA national conference and access to online pedagogy programs to help develop classroom skills and science lesson plans.

Towner said he hopes that his time as an NSTA Science Teacher fellow will provide him the opportunity to better serve the students of Granite Park Jr., many of whom are economically disadvantaged.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Utah Science Teacher Mark E. Towner Selected For Fellowship Program in Prestigious NSTA New Science Teacher Academy

Kate Meyer, NSTA
(703) 312-9211

SALT LAKE CITY — September 21, 2009 — The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the largest professional organization in the world promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning, in partnership with the Amgen Foundation; Agilent Technologies Foundation; Astellas Pharma US, Inc. (“Astellas”); and Bayer Corporation, today announced that Mark Towner, a science teacher at Granite Park Middle School in Salt Lake City, Utah, was chosen from hundreds of applications nationwide to participate as an Amgen-NSTA Fellow in the 2009 NSTA New Science Teacher Academy. The only teacher selected from Utah, Towner will participate with 184 other science teachers from across the country in a year-long professional development program designed to help promote quality science teaching, enhance teacher confidence and classroom excellence and improve teacher content knowledge.

“At NSTA, we believe it is important to help educators develop their skills as teachers so that they can not only bolster student achievement, but better inspire passion for science in their students,” said Dr. Francis Eberle, executive director, NSTA. “We congratulate this year’s group of Fellows and are grateful for their commitment to science education and to their students.”

The 2009 Fellows were selected on the basis of several criteria, including showing evidence of a solid science background and displaying a strong interest in growing as a professional science educator. Each Fellow will receive a comprehensive NSTA membership package, online mentoring with trained mentors who teach in the same discipline, and the opportunity to participate in a variety of web-based professional development activities, including web seminars. In addition, each Fellow will receive financial support to attend and participate in NSTA’s 2010 National Conference on Science Education in Philadelphia.

Agilent Technologies Foundation and Bayer Corporation will each fund the participation of 10 science teachers as Agilent Foundation-NSTA Fellows and Bayer-NSTA Fellows, respectively. Astellas will support 15 science teachers from the Chicago area as Astellas-NSTA Fellows. The remaining 150 science teachers will be supported by the Amgen Foundation and named Amgen-NSTA Fellows.

Launched during the spring of 2007, the NSTA New Science Teacher Academy, co-founded by the Amgen Foundation, was established to help reduce the high attrition rate in the science teaching profession by providing professional development and mentoring support to early-career science teachers.

For a list of the 2009 Fellows or to learn more about the NSTA New Science Teacher Academy, please visit

Saturday, August 29, 2009

If they made a Movie, Nobody would believe it

Andrea, My Oldest Daughter is speaking....

The miracles of adoption never ceases to amaze me. When we first got Jiji's file we asked the orphanage for updated photos of Jiji. They sent us the photo below with Jiji standing next to this darling little girl.

We had made friends with a couple from Holland who had a baby that looked similar and I wrote them and told them that I think our daughters might have been cribmates. They were unsure as they just had a photo of their baby and had not picked her up yet, but there was a possibility. While we were in China I got an email from a mom that said she just about fell out of her chair when reading our blog and saw a photo of their daughter.

I visited her blog and sure enough the mystery baby in the photo was now named Tess and home with her family in ......ready for this......Rock Hill South Carolina only 45 minutes away from us!!!

From all the places in the world these two could have been sent to be sent to the same area is no less than a complete miracle. Ready for the next amazing part ..... Tess's name is Tess Hyde!! So we have Lizzie Heid and Tess Hyde, cribmates in Xiushan China, now living 45 minutes away from each other.

We had Tess's family over for dinner tonight and had a wonderful time. They brought photos of Tess and Jiji taken on the same day as the photo that I have in the same outfits. Precious. They are a great family and we quickly became good friends. Tess's mom visits her dad every other week who lives about 10 minutes from us, so we will have lots of play dates to keep these girls close as they grow up. As they grow older it will become such an important friendship. Very much like sisters.

Here is a photo of them in the crib at the orphanage...

and here is one of them playing tonight....

Next I need to find a mom who's daughter was called Tintin at the orphanage. Anyone? She was there when we picked up Jiji and was going to be picked up by her parents soon. The nanny told us that Tintin and Jiji played together a lot.

I was going to close this blog soon as our China story is over but I changed my mind. I'm going to continue to add to it every now and then with updates on Jiji and talk about special needs children in China that are looking for their families.

I'm still trying to figure out how to post the video I made so hopefully that will come soon.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Sarah Barracuda to resign as Alaska Governor, Watch for a National TV Deal on Fox

Palin resigning as Alaska governor (AP)

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin announces that she is stepping down from her position as Governor in Wasilla, Alaska on Friday July 3, 2009. The former Republican vice presidential candidate made the surprise announcement, saying she would step down July 26 but didn't announce her plans. (AP Photo/The Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, Robert DeBerry)AP - Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin surprised supporters Friday and announced she is resigning from office at the end of the month without explaining why she plans to step down — throwing into question whether she would seek a run for the White House in 2012.

Monday, June 29, 2009

White Firefighters could Backdraft Sotomayor Appointment

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court ruled Monday that white firefighters in New Haven, Conn., were unfairly denied promotions because of their race, reversing a decision that high court nominee Sonia Sotomayor endorsed as an appeals court judge.

The ruling could alter employment practices nationwide and make it harder to prove discrimination when there is no evidence it was intentional.

New Haven was wrong to scrap a promotion exam because no African-Americans and only two Hispanic firefighters were likely to be made lieutenants or captains based on the results, the court said Monday in a 5-4 decision. The city said that it had acted to avoid a lawsuit from minorities.

The ruling could give Sotomayor's critics fresh ammunition two weeks before her Senate confirmation hearing. Conservatives say it shows she is a judicial activist who lets her own feelings color her decisions. On the other hand, liberal allies say her stance in the case demonstrates her restraint and unwillingness to go beyond established precedents.
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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Better Hope Mitt runs because if he doesn’t, an ominous scenario presents itself:

John Kerry on Sanford: Too bad Palin didn’t go missing too

posted at 6:38 pm on June 24, 2009 by Allahpundit
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Don’t be too hard on Waffles. His humor’s always been laced with nastiness, which is why he periodically finds himself in clusterfarks over “botched jokes.” It’s not that he hates Palin. He’s just a jerk.

The Bay State senator was telling a group of business and civic leaders in town at his invitation about the “bizarre’’ tale of how South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford had “disappeared for four days’’ and claimed to be hiking along the Appalachian Trail, but no one was really certain of his whereabouts.

“Too bad,’’ Kerry said, “if a governor had to go missing it couldn’t have been the governor of Alaska. You know, Sarah Palin.’’

The Democratic-centric crowd laughed.

He said this before Sanford’s presser so it’s not an adultery dig at her, just an “I wish you were lost and left for dead somewhere” dig. Which, believe it or not, isn’t the nastiest Palin attack circulating in the ’sphere today.

Pew’s got a new poll out today showing Romney’s net favorable rating at +12, compared to just +1 for Sarahcuda. With Sanford and Huntsman now out of the game, Jindal almost certainly biding his time until 2016, and Palin possibly too polarizing to win against The One, we’d all better hope Mitt runs. Because if he doesn’t, an ominous scenario presents itself:

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Yo Ho Yo Ho - Oh Crap!


U.S. Navy unveils new high-tech ship it says can chase down pirates off the coast of Somalia faster and more aggressively than previous vessels. | PHOTOS | VIDEO
Pentagon to Create Force for Digital Warfare

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Obama Taxman Cometh

Let me tell you how it will be;
There's one for you, nineteen for me.
'Cause I�m the taxman,
Yeah, I�m the taxman.

Should five per cent appear too small,
Be thankful I don't take it all.
'Cause I�m the taxman,
Yeah, I�m the taxman.

(if you drive a car, car;) - I�ll tax the street;
(if you try to sit, sit;) - I�ll tax your seat;
(if you get too cold, cold;) - I�ll tax the heat;
(if you take a walk, walk;) - I'll tax your feet.


'Cause I�m the taxman,
Yeah, I�m the taxman.

Don't ask me what I want it for, (ah-ah, mister Wilson)
If you don't want to pay some more. (ah-ah, mister heath)
'Cause I�m the taxman,
Yeah, I�m the taxman.

Now my advice for those who die, (taxman)
Declare the pennies on your eyes. (taxman)
'Cause I�m the taxman,
Yeah, I�m the taxman.

And you're working for no one but me.


Monday, March 09, 2009

Mormon TV: Harvard video goes viral

Posted by Michael Paulson March 6, 2009 02:34 PM

A 20-year-old Harvard junior from Idaho has captured the attention of Mormondom with the slow viral spread of a six-month-old video (above) in which she explains her faith to journalist Sally Quinn.

The bloggernacle, as Mormon wags call the extensive network of Mormon bloggers, is abuzz over Rachel Esplin's poised handling of a series of questions about whether she wears sacred undergarments, how she responds to allegations that Mormonism is a cult, how she views the role of women in her church, and what her relationship is with Jesus. "For more than 20 minutes, Rachel's delivery was as unstoppable as the incoming tide,'' gushed MormonTimes. "What is fascinating about this video is the aplomb with which Rachel answers the questions,'' writes Krista at Glass Half Full. "I feel very inadequate now!" blogged Chels of the McGees. And Mark Towner, who blogs as The Captains Spyglass, called the video, "Something every Latter Day Saint Member needs to watch and contemplate."

The video is not exactly a clip from the Colbert Report or the Daily Show -- it's 21 minutes long, without a joke in sight. But the video appears to have captured the attention of Mormons, who tend to be highly attentive to and concerned about how they are perceived in the broader culture. The fascination seems to be in part because of Esplin's youth, and in part because she is at Harvard, which, of course, remains a symbol of the mainstream elite.

Esplin, from Blackfoot, Idaho, is the president of the Harvard Latter-day Saint Student Association. She is also an East Asian Studies major who is planning to get married this summer and expects to graduate in December; she hopes eventually to go to law school. Earlier today I called her to ask her about the video, which is posted on the web site of Harvard Hillel, where the panel on which Esplin appeared took place. Here's a partial transcript of our conversation:

Q: What has happened since the video was posted in September?
A: It's been pretty crazy. I didn't even send it to my family members, but my mom found it by Googling my name, and it just started getting e-mailed around. Some BYU professors started showing it and forwarding it, and then a lot of people told me they watched it in seminary or at family home evening.

Q: Why do you think people are so interested in this particular video?
A: I think people latched onto the fact that I'm 20, and haven't been on mission, and haven't been to the temple yet. And I think Harvard is part of it -- there's a significant LDS presence here, with 50 undergrads, and 50 or 60 at the law school, and some at the business school -- and Mormons have a history at Harvard back to the late 1800s, and a couple of our apostles went to Harvard, so in addition to Harvard being Harvard in the world at large, in the LDS community it has a particular significance.

Q: How has this impacted you?
A: It has been a really strange feeling. I know interfaith discussions like this are happening all over, so it's strange that mine has become so popular, and it's something it didn't necessarily merit. But it's helped me realize that doing things like this, and finding ways to encourage others to do so, is significant. Last spring I organized a "Meet the Mormons" panel at Harvard, and it was a good event, and now I'm working with the LDS Association president at MIT to help other schools do similar events.

Q: What's the goal?
A: There are a few different goals. We believe it's just a good way to show our religion, to show we love everyone, and that we're interested in learning about other people and hope others will learn about us. And this was born out of a time when our religion was in the news a lot, with Mitt Romney and other factors -- a lot is written about us in the media, and it's not all true, so there's a desire to clarify misconceptions. And then, I guess I believe in the idea that one of the best ways to help build our church is to establish friends who are not in the church.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

A day of Faith

Something every Latter Day Saint Member needs to watch and contemplate.

Day of Faith: Personal Quests for a Purpose - 3. Rachel Esplin from Harvard Hillel on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Report demonstrates new investments in education and science timely

Written by Craig A. on February 25th, 2009

The answers to our problems don’t lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth.

President Barack Obama, February 25, 2009

The New York Times has a story on a new report showing the United States has slipped over the past decade when it comes to innovation. Innovation The report, by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, concludes the United States ranks sixth among 40 nations based on factors such as venture capital investment, scientific researchers, spending on research and educational achievement.

While the United States remains sixth overall, it ranked dead last in terms of improvement in its score from 1999 - the present. It is troubling indicators like this President Obama was drawing our attention to in last night’s speech when he stated "Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma. An yet, just over half of our citizens have that level of education."

In light of today’s Information and Technology and Innovation Foundation report, the President’s call for a new commitment to education, research and development, and a new energy efficient economy couldn’t have been more timely. It is indeed "time for America to lead again" and I am confident we will.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Can this be the answer? WOW

If this really works, This could end our dependence on Oil to fuel our cars.

The Captain Having Fun

Monday, February 09, 2009

Stirba today announced that the Supreme Court's unanimous decision today in Pearson v. Callahan

1/21/09 - Stirba today announced that the Supreme Court's unanimous decision today in Pearson v. Callahan, argued to the Supreme Court by Peter Stirba, is likely to have sweeping implications in favor of government officials in the area of qualified immunity in defense of federal civil rights actions.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Top 5 Internet Defamation Law Blogs

Even though things have been going really well here at the California Defamation Law Blog, I even realize that there are plenty of other good blogs about internet defamation out there, and, only a limited number of people interested in learning about defamation. This has been a worry of mine for some time now.

But no more. Today I made a decision to recommend my favorite blogs about online defamation even if I lose a few readers. Bear in mind that some of the following blogs discuss other topics in addition to internet defamation.

Here we go, in no particular order.

1. Technology & Marketing Law Blog - This blog is written by Eric Goldman, an associate professor at Santa Clara University School of Law. This is the first place I go if I want to know the latest on defamation cases related to I also like Eric's coverage of section 230 cases.

2. Citizen Media Law Project - Jointly affiliated with Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet & Society and the Center for Citizen Media, CMLP's mission is to educate others about online speech. CMLP has a great database called "Legal Threats," which has detailed descriptions of current defamation cases, often including the complaint. This is definitely a good site for the pro-defendant point of view.

3. Dozier Internet Law On Defamation - John Dozier is an experienced Internet lawyer and a definite authority regarding defamation law.

4. Internet Defamation Law Blog - The name says it all. I read this blog to stay current on section 230 decisions.

5. Internet Cases - Written by Evan Brown, an Internet lawyer in Chicago, this blog clearly covers much more than defamation. But what's great about it is that Evan writes detailed posts with insightful commentary. His commentary on the Roommates decision was particularly good.

If you liked this post, please bookmark it in Thanks!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Internet Defamation Gets Noticed

Too many bloggers are unaware of the dangers they face when they write a new post or comment on another blog. For reasons I've discussed before, bloggers mistakenly believe that all speech is protected by the First Amendment, when in fact several forms of speech are not, including defamation as an example.

This is why I'm glad that Seth Godin posted "Don't Get Sued," which sheds light on this important problem. Godin writes: "Before you write something negative about another person, you need to realize that the casual nature of your post doesn't protect you from a lawsuit." Well-said. I would add that you should especially be careful when making negative remarks about a business because businesses are more likely to sue you (or least threaten legal action) to protect their reputation.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Defamation and False Light here in Utah

In law, defamation (also called calumny, libel, slander, and vilification) is the communication of a statement that makes a false claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government or nation a negative image. Slander refers to a malicious, false and defamatory spoken statement or report, while libel refers to any other form of communication such as written words or images. Most jurisdictions allow legal actions, civil and/or criminal, to deter various kinds of defamation and retaliate against groundless criticism. Related to defamation is public disclosure of private facts, which arises where one person reveals information that is not of public concern, and the release of which would offend a reasonable person. Or an untruthful oath.[1] "Unlike [with] libel, truth is not a defense for invasion of privacy."[2]

False light laws are "intended primarily to protect the plaintiff's mental or emotional well-being."[3] If a publication of information is false, then a tort of defamation might have occurred. If that communication is not technically false but is still misleading, then a tort of false light might have occurred.[3]

Sunday, January 25, 2009

AP IMPACT: Lobbyists skirt Obama's earmark ban

By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, Associated Press Writer Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Associated Press Writer – 1 hr 9 mins ago

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama's ban on earmarks in the $825 billion economic stimulus bill doesn't mean interest groups, lobbyists and lawmakers won't be able to funnel money to pet projects.

They're just working around it — and perhaps inadvertently making the process more secretive.

The projects run the gamut: a Metrolink station that needs building in Placentia, Calif.; a stretch of beach in Sandy Hook, N.J., that could really use some more sand; a water park in Miami.

There are thousands of projects like those that once would have been gotten money upfront but now are left to scramble for dollars at the back end of the process as "ready to go" jobs eligible for the stimulus plan.

The result, as The Associated Press learned in interviews with more than a dozen lawmakers, lobbyists and state and local officials, is a shadowy lobbying effort that may make it difficult to discern how hundreds of billions in federal money will be parceled out.

"'No earmarks' isn't a game-ender," said Peter Buffa, former mayor of Costa Mesa, Calif. "It just means there's a different way of going about making sure the funding is there."

It won't be in legislative language that overtly sets aside money for them. That's the infamous practice known as earmarking, which Obama and Democratic congressional leaders have agreed to nix for the massive stimulus package, expected to come up for a House vote this week.

Instead, the money will be doled out according to arcane formulas spelled out in the bill and in some cases based on the decisions of Obama administration officials, governors and state and local agencies that will choose the projects.

"Somebody's going to earmark it somewhere," said Howard Marlowe, a consultant for a coalition working to preserve beaches.

Lobbyists are hard at work figuring out ways to grab a share of the money for their clients, but the new rules mean they're doing so indirectly — and sometimes in ways that are impossible to track.

Congressional earmarks have had a bad name since the 2004 scandal that sent superlobbyist Jack Abramoff to prison and earned the congressional spending committees a new nickname: "The Favor Factory."

Obama, who campaigned promising a more transparent and accountable government, is advocating a system that will eventually let the public track exactly where stimulus money goes through an Internet-powered search engine. In addition, Democratic lawmakers have devised an elaborate oversight system, including a new board to review how the money is spent.

But none of that will happen until after the bill becomes law. Even critics of the earmarks system acknowledge that specifying projects upfront offers some measure of transparency.

"We hate earmarks, but at least it's a way of tracking where influence is had," said Keith Ashdown of the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense. "There is a challenge now that projects will be added behind closed doors without a paper trail."

Indeed, some lawmakers hearing from local groups say they're doing their own lobbying of governors and state and local officials who could have say-so over the funds.

"I've talked to my governor and suggested some things I think are important in our area," said Republican Rep. C.W. Bill Young, who represents St. Petersburg, Fla. "He knows what the needs are."

Democratic Rep. Ed Pastor of Arizona suggested it's not entirely accurate to say there will be no earmarks in the measure. "There are and there aren't," Pastor said. "A lot of it depends on what the formula looks like."

For instance, the House measure, which includes $358 billion for road, water and energy programs among others, gives priority to transportation projects in high-unemployment areas that could be begun and completed quickly and that state and metropolitan transportation authorities have included in their long-term plans.

In California, Buffa, now board chairman of the Orange County Transportation Authority, said he's changed his strategy from asking for specific projects to pleading for more favorable general guidelines, including more money for infrastructure projects overall and a formula that lets cities — not states — decide how to spend it.

His organization has enlisted Potomac Partners, a large firm that specializes in lobbying for project spending, to help.

In most cases, lawmakers know exactly which projects in their districts can benefit from the money, even though the legislation won't spell them out. State and local officials have released lists of projects that could start quickly and be completed within a few years.

In Orange County, they include freeway improvements and the Placentia Metrolink station. The American Shore and Beach Preservation Association, which is pushing for more water projects to be funded, wants repair and restoration of beaches from Sandy Hook, N.J., to Newport Beach, Calif.

Members of Congress are privately outlining their priorities, too.

"Everybody's making their list and checking it twice," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the minority leader. "You are inevitably going to have a lot of projects that are not going to pass the smell test."

Some groups are careful not to get too specific, fearing that public scrutiny could draw unwelcome attention to projects easily caricatured as special-interest goodies, such as a 2007 earmark for spinach growers that found its way into an Iraq war spending bill or the now-infamous "Bridge to Nowhere" in Alaska.

The United States Conference of Mayors released a 300-plus-page list of some $150 billion in "ready-to-go" projects that quickly became fodder for criticism. It included money for the Miami water park, which McConnell has ridiculed publicly, and a skate park in Portland, Maine.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials was more guarded about its list of 5,000 projects totaling $64 billion. No specific projects were mentioned — just the number in each state and an overall dollar amount — making it impossible for lawmakers, advocacy groups or members of the public to criticize any one item.

Peter J. "Jack" Basso, an association executive, said it's up to states to decide what goes on their "ready-to-go" wish lists, but that the projects must meet rigorous tests including clearing environmental reviews.

"We really rely on them to pick things that, frankly, are not bridges to nowhere," Basso said.

Sunday, January 11, 2009