Scott HarrisonClarity is important for water, and it's also true for charity.

When Scott Harrison founded charity: water in 2006, he was targeting people who were "disenchanted with charity," he said in an interview last week. "Most of my friends said the main reason they weren't giving to charity is because they didn't know how much of their money was actually going to go to people in need."

Harrison's solution was to connect donors to their gifts. "We'll never do a [water] well unless we can get a GPS, a photo, a name, and population ... and publicly place them all on Google Earth for transparency," he said.

And 100 percent of donated money from the public goes to water projects in developing nations. Harrison didn't have this worked out initially but has developed the concept of "The Well," in which benefactors give $1,000, $2,000, or $5,000 a month to support the charity's operational costs. That allows the organization to use public donations exclusively for water projects.

charity: water also places an emphasis on design. "I wanted charity to look like Apple," Harrison said. "Why shouldn't we be telling stories with sophistication, with elegance, with authenticity? And telling them in a newsy way?"

Water for Christmas, a local fundraising campaign for charity: water, will be bringing Harrison to the Quad Cities for a number of events November 21 through 23, including an Iowa Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce dinner. (See the schedule here.) Water for Christmas has raised more than $100,000 for charity: water in the year it's been active.

Each year, Project Censored selects 25 "important national news stories that are underreported, ignored, misrepresented, or censored by the U.S. corporate media."

For the full summary for each of this year's selections, including the original sources and Web resources, visit ProjectCensored.org/top-stories/category/two-thousand-and-ten-book/.

1. U.S. Congress Sells Out to Wall Street

Federal lawmakers responsible for overseeing the U.S. economy have received millions of dollars from Wall Street firms. Since 2001, eight of the most troubled firms have donated $64.2 million to congressional candidates, presidential candidates, and the Republican and Democratic parties. As senators, Barack Obama and John McCain received a combined $3.1 million. The donors include investment bankers Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley, insurer American International Group, and mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Some of the top recipients of contributions from companies receiving Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) money are the same members of Congress who chair committees charged with regulating the financial sector and overseeing the effectiveness of this unprecedented government program. In total, members of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, & Urban Affairs, Senate Finance Committee, and House Financial Services Committee received $5.2 million from TARP recipients in the 2007-8 election cycle. President Obama collected at least $4.3 million from employees at these companies for his presidential campaign.

Nearly every member of the House Financial Services Committee, which in February 2009 oversaw hearings on how the $700 billion of TARP bailout was being spent, received contributions associated with these financial institutions during the 2008 election cycle. "You could say that the finance industry got their money's worth by supporting members of Congress who were inclined to look the other way," said Lawrence Jacobs, the director of the University of Minnesota's Center for the Study of Politics & Governance.

For instance, in 2004 when the Securities & Exchange Commission adopted a major rule change that freed investment banks to plunge tens of billions of dollars in borrowed money into subprime mortgages and other risky plays, congressional banking committees held no oversight hearings. Congressional inaction also allowed mortgage agents to earn high fees for peddling loans to unqualified homebuyers and prevented states from toughening regulations on predatory lending practices.

Author Matt Taibbi writes that some of the most egregious selling of the U.S. government to Wall Street happened in the late 1990s, when "Democrats, tired of getting slaughtered in the fundraising arena by Republicans, decided to throw off their old reliance on unions and interest groups and become more 'business-friendly.' Wall Street responded by flooding Washington with money, buying allies in both parties." In the 10-year period beginning in 1998, financial companies spent $1.7 billion on federal campaign contributions and another $3.4 billion on lobbyists. Wise political investments enabled the nation's top bankers to effectively scrap any meaningful oversight of the financial industry.

Fall/Winter 2009 Dining Guide. Click to download.The fall/winter 2009 Quad Cities' Dining Guide is now available, featuring listings for more than 700 area restaurants.

You can get the Dining Guide three ways:

  • Pick it up in the October 29 issue of the River Cities' Reader.
  • Download a .pdf of it here.
  • Browse and search the listings online at RCReader.com/dining, at which listings are regularly updated.

Zacharia Furio before ..."This is a big risk even talking to you," said Alexander Iaccarino. "I'm afraid of being prosecuted for this. 'Cause I'm not absolutely sure that any of this is legal."

It was October 16, more than three months after it all started and two weeks before its finale: the Zombie Pride Parade on Halloween night in downtown Davenport.

Looking back with that information, it's easy to see what Iaccarino was up to, and easy to laugh at it.

But when he told me that he was concerned about getting arrested, he sounded sincere and serious. And when he launched ZWatch.org on July 10, things were less cheeky. The Web site talked about a man named Zacharia Furio who was missing, and it alluded to a secretive organization called the QC Department of Biological Sciences.

Iaccarino and a small group of friends then produced videos, photos, and faked documents to tell the story of the H1Z1 virus and a local cover-up, slowly revealing a zombie narrative. The story was supported by some conspirators, such as local author Brian Krans (http://bit.ly/4erGco), and missing-persons posters. (Incidentally, the "H1Z1" idea was not original with Iaccarino; the name and concept of an H1N1-related zombie plague showed up several months before ZWatch: Google.com/search?q=h1z1, http://bit.ly/eiZhp.)

How convincing was it? On August 7, the Rock Island Argus/Moline Dispatch ran a front-page article titled "In Search of Zach: Is Story of Missing Man Just an Internet Hoax?" The story (http://bit.ly/1kq4nV) certainly suggested that ZWatch and Furio weren't real, but it also allowed for the possibility that they were authentic. There remained a seed of doubt, which is all it takes.

If you're torn about how worried to be about the H1N1 flu virus, you're not alone.

Consider: "I think the hysteria of H1N1 concerns me the most." That's Paul M. Bolger, medical director for emergency medicine at Trinity Regional Health System.

"Let's say it's equivalent to a seasonal flu" in terms of symptom severity and mortality, countered Louis M. Katz, the medical director of the Scott County Health Department, an infectious-diseases specialist, and the executive vice president for medical affairs of the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center. "Multiply 30[,000] or 40,000 [typical annual deaths in the United States from seasonal influenza] times five or six, or three or four, in terms of number of deaths. It's a big deal. It's a huge deal. Both from the standpoint of what we call morbidity and mortality - illness and death - and from the impact on societal operations and infrastructure."

This is a worst-case scenario, right? "No, it's what's going to happen," Katz said.

These aren't really contradictory; they're just different perspectives. But they express the general realities about H1N1 that appear to be in conflict: Our brief experience with this new strain of influenza suggests that its symptoms are generally less severe than the seasonal flu's and that its death rate is comparable, but because there's virtually no immunity in people under 60, it has the potential to affect a greater percentage of the population and cause widespread problems.

When we decided to break up our 2009 Best of the Quad Cities into two sections, the change had several benefits. For one, it allowed us to include more categories while making it easier for people to participate by cutting down on the number of categories on each ballot. And it allowed us to write articles about more winners.

This second half of balloting covers Arts, Culture, & Entertainment; Night Life; Shopping & Services; and People. (Food & Dining; Civics & Government; Media; and Recreation were covered in our April 1, 2009, issue. Those results can be found here.)

Over the course of two issues, our readers have voted on the best of the Quad Cities in roughly 120 categories, and we've written articles about almost 30 winners. In two rounds of voting, we had nearly 750 valid ballots. (This time, we required participants to provide reasonable responses in 20 categories.)

We also decided, with our summer balloting, to release the results online first, and readers have used the comments section over the past few weeks to debate the inclusion of certain categories (gay bar), the scope of certain categories (actor/actress), and the winners (band). That feedback is valuable in crafting future ballots, but we hope it also it encourages future participation. If you don't like some of the results this time around, make sure you and your friends vote the next time.

At the beginning the school year, in a chemistry class at St. Ambrose University, Professor Margaret Legg offered students the option to buy a less-expensive e-book instead of the usual physical textbook. No one opted for the digital version.

Kelsey Berg, a sophomore majoring in biology, said she had already bought the hardcover edition. Had the e-book been offered before she bought it, Berg said she still wouldn't have purchased it. "I don't like reading on a computer. It's hard to concentrate," she said, adding that it wasn't worth the cost, either, because one can't sell an e-book back.

Many college students are embracing digital and open-source textbooks, which are accessed through computers and digital readers such as Amazon's Kindle. For some, it provides a more convenient way to carry multiple textbooks. Beyond being easier on students' backs, e-books are also better for the environment, because no natural resources are used in the production or transportation of a physical book.

But the major selling point is a lower cost compared to new textbooks. Textbooks cost an average of $900 per semester, according to the federal Government Accountability Office. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) has been advocating for reducing the prices of textbooks, which they say have risen faster than the rate of inflation in the past several years.

Although e-books are often 50 percent less expensive than unused print editions of textbooks, the cost evaluation isn't quite so clear-cut. In many cases, there's little or no cost savings to students in the long run.

And some people, like Berg, resist e-books for other reasons.

Brewmaster/Blue Bastard Dan Cleaveland

The Blue Cat Brew Pub opened 15 years ago this year, and given its institutional status in the Quad Cities, it's hard to believe that starting out, its proprietors knew next to nothing about how to brew beer or run a brewpub.

As co-owner and brewmaster Dan Cleaveland tells it, his sister Martha wanted to open a bar/restaurant, and after she learned about the brewpub model, she saw a business opportunity: There were no brewpubs in the Quad Cities.

Dan had never brewed beer. "She thought I'd make a good brewer," he said last week. Why? "I was a scientist, I guess."

To borrow a phrase from the New York Culinary Institute: "Forgive us if we celebrate the end of summer." Sure, the bounty from the farm shines in the warmer weather; asparagus, berries, and delicate greens abound. But late summer brings its own windfall. This is really when the summer yield reaches its peak.

In the Quad Cities, there is a farmers' market nearly every day of the week, and you will find grocery stores bringing more seasonal, locally grown food into their produce sections. Taking advantage of the abundance of the harvest is a must. The following are seasonal food and beverage suggestions -- starting with the wine.

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