Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Talking Turkey

Rice faces tough battle on Turkey trip - 31 Oct 2007 at 2:30pm - WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Turkey will push U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice this week to follow through on promises to help eradicate Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, but experts say the top U.S. diplomat's hands are tied.... "We are looking to the Iraqi government to act, to act to prevent terrorist attacks, and ultimately to act to dismantle that terror group that's operating on their territory," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said. But while Rice has promised U.S. action and urged the Iraqis to do more, defense officials have made clear there is no appetite for U.S. military action against the PKK.

GAO: U.S. hasn't taken advantage of Iraq's drop in violence - October 30, 2007 09:23:00 PM - WASHINGTON — The U.S. and Iraqi governments have failed to take advantage of a dramatic drop in violence in Iraq, according to a report issued Tuesday by a U.S. watchdog agency, which warned that prospects were waning "for achieving current U.S. security, political and economic goals in Iraq."

Longtime Bush adviser leaving State Dept - 31 Oct 2007 at 9:35am - WASHINGTON -- Karen Hughes, who led efforts to improve the U.S. image abroad and was one of President Bush's last remaining advisers from the close circle of Texas aides, will leave the government at the end of the year, she told The Associated Press.

Iraq, Afghan vets at risk for suicides - 31 Oct 2007 at 9:30am - WASHINGTON -- Mary Gallagher did not get a knock at the door from a military chaplain with news of her Marine husband's death in a faraway place. Instead, the Iraq war veteran committed suicide eight months after returning home.

AG nominee unsure about waterboarding - 31 Oct 2007 at 11:01am - WASHINGTON -- The White House said Wednesday that confirmation of Michael Mukasey as attorney general is not in jeopardy despite opposition from Democrats displeased with his views about an interrogation technique that simulates drowning.

Pentagon giving Turkey intel on rebels - 31 Oct 2007 at 12:04pm - WASHINGTON -- The U.S. military has started giving more intelligence - "lots of intelligence" - to Turkey to help it against rebels staging cross-border attacks from their hiding places in neighboring Iraq, the Pentagon said Wednesday.

Demand for White House's Abramoff data - 31 Oct 2007 at 1:43pm - WASHINGTON -- A House committee chairman on Wednesday demanded that the White House turn over hundreds of pages of material about Jack Abramoff, the latest attempt by Congress to compel the Bush administration to detail its contacts with the disgraced lobbyist.

Some US diplomats angry over Iraq posts - 31 Oct 2007 at 1:37pm - WASHINGTON -- Several hundred U.S. diplomats vented anger and frustration Wednesday about the State Department's decision to force foreign service officers to take jobs in Iraq, with some likening it to a "potential death sentence."

October ends with no executions - 31 Oct 2007 at 3:10pm - WASHINGTON -- For the first time in nearly three years, a month passed with no executions in the United States.

Thought for the day:
Don't throw away the old bucket until you know whether the new one holds water. -Swedish Proverb

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

In the News - 2007-Oct-30

Iraq To Lift Contractors' Immunity - 30 Oct 2007 at 10:24am - The Iraqi government is poised to pass new legislation that will lift immunity for foreign private security contractors working in the country. The move comes after public outrage over the Blackwater USA shooting in September.

US spent $43.5 billion on intel in 2007 - 30 Oct 2007 at 9:56am - WASHINGTON -- The U.S. government spent $43.5 billion on intelligence in 2007, according to the first official disclosure under a new law implementing recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission.

U.S. says monthly Iraq death toll moving lower - 30 Oct 2007 at 10:40am - The monthly toll of U.S. service members who have died in Iraq is on track to being the lowest in nearly two years, with at least 34 troop deaths recorded as of Tuesday, but the military cautioned it's too early to declare a long-term trend.

Bush to nominate new Veterans secretary - 30 Oct 2007 at 10:46am - WASHINGTON -- President Bush will nominate Dr. James Peake on Tuesday to direct the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is strained by the influx of wounded troops returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

US may delay troop reductions in Germany - 30 Oct 2007 at 2:16pm - WASHINGTON -- The United States may delay a plan to reduce the number of its troops based in Germany, a military spokesman said Tuesday.

Thought for the day:
Acceptance without proof is the fundamental characteristic of Western religion, rejection without proof is the fundamental characteristic of Western science. -Gary Zukav, "The Dancing Wu Li Masters"

Monday, October 29, 2007

Bartender? Immunity, All Around

Immunity deals offered to Blackwater guards - 29 Oct 2007 at 8:15pm - State Department investigators offered Blackwater security guards immunity during an inquiry into a shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians, government officials said. The State Department investigators from the agency's investigative arm, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, offered the immunity grants even though they did not have the authority to do so, the said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. Prosecutors at the Justice Department, who do have such authority, had no advance knowledge of the arrangement, they added. Most of the guards who took part in the episode were offered what officials described as limited-use immunity, which means that they were promised they would not be prosecuted for anything they said in their interviews with the authorities as long as their statements were true.
Accountability? What's that?

U.S. struggles with taint of torture - 29 Oct 2007 at 5:52pm - Six years after the Bush administration embraced harsh physical tactics for interrogating terrorist suspects, and two years after it reportedly dropped the most extreme of those tactics, the taint of torture clings to American counterterrorism efforts.

In the News - Oct-29

Muslim says copies of Quran confiscated - 29 Oct 2007 at 1:00pm - WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration urged the Supreme Court on Monday to bar a Muslim inmate from suing prison officials who allegedly confiscated two copies of his Quran and prayer rug.

Chalabi back in action in Iraq - October 28, 2007 09:26:00 PM - BAGHDAD-Ahmad Chalabi, the controversial, ubiquitous Iraqi politician and one-time Bush administration favorite, has re-emerged as a central figure in the latest U.S. strategy for Iraq.

US forces hand over Karbala to Iraq - 29 Oct 2007 at 10:10am - American-led forces have handed control of the province of Karbala to Iraqi authorities.

IAEA sees "good" Iran cooperation ahead of talks - 29 Oct 2007 at 9:45am - TEHRAN (Reuters) - A senior U.N. nuclear agency official said cooperation with Iran was "good" ahead of talks on Monday about Tehran's disputed atomic work, after an Iranian warning that new U.S. sanctions could harm ties with the agency.

IRAQ: Number of girls attending school dropping, say analysts - October 29, 2007 05:57:00 PM - BAGHDAD, 29 October 2007 (IRIN) - Education specialists in Iraq are worried about the low school attendance of girls as it could create a huge educational gap.

FEMA spokesman loses spy job offer - 29 Oct 2007 at 2:47pm - WASHINGTON -- The man who staged a fake Federal Emergency Management Agency news conference has lost a chance to be National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell's top public information officer.

Escaped 'Cole' Bomber Found in Yemen - October 29, 2007 08:33:00 AM - The man convicted for the 2001 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, which killed 17 American soldiers and wounded 39 others, has resurfaced in Yemen after he and more than 20 others escaped from prison. Newsweek's Michael Isikoff says all signs indicate that the United States is powerless to force the Yemeni government to put Jamal al-Badawi back on death row.

Thought for the day:
It is easier to stay out than get out. -Mark Twain (1835 - 1910)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The War on Diplomacy

Dutch lawmakers offended by US lawmaker - 27 Oct 2007 at 11:54am - WASHINGTON -- Dutch lawmakers who recently visited the Guantanamo Bay military prison said they were offended by a testy exchange in Washington with a senior congressional Democrat. The lawmakers said that Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told them that "Europe was not as outraged by Auschwitz as by Guantanamo Bay."... Before the Guantanamo exchange, the lawmakers had discussed a debate in the Netherlands about whether the country should maintain its 1,600 troops serving in NATO's Afghanistan operations. "You have to help us, because if it was not for us you would now be a province of Nazi Germany," Lantos said, according to the Dutch lawmakers. "The comments killed the debate," said Harry van Bommel, a member of the Socialist Party. "It was insulting and counterproductive."

Turk-Iraq Conflict Could End With PKK Ceasefire - 27 Oct 2007 at 11:36am - Turkey has massed as many as 100,000 troops along Iraq's northern border, preparing for ground action against the Kurdish Workers Party, or PKK. Avoiding conflict would require the PKK to issue an unconditional ceasefire, which would calm the rhetoric.

US to order diplomats to serve in Iraq - 27 Oct 2007 at 11:31am - WASHINGTON -- In the largest call-up of U.S. diplomats since the Vietnam War, the State Department is planning to order some of its personnel to serve at the American Embassy in Iraq because of a lack of volunteers.
Who exactly did they expect to volunteer for a job like that?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Faux News

FEMA workers masquerade as reporters - 26 Oct 2007 at 1:15pm - WASHINGTON -- One way to get decent coverage in this rough-and-tumble city is to arrange to have your own employees interrogate you at your news conference.

Iraqi proposals on Kurdish rebels unsatisfactory: Turkey - 26 Oct 2007 at 2:59pm - ANKARA (AFP) - Turkey is not satisfied with the proposals Baghdad submitted at crisis talks here Friday to tackle Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq and wants more urgent measures, the foreign ministry said.

US steering clear of Kurdish fight - 26 Oct 2007 at 1:36pm - WASHINGTON -- The top U.S. military commander in northern Iraq said Friday he plans to do "absolutely nothing" to counter Kurdish rebels operating from the region and staging deadly cross-border attacks into Turkey.

Thought for the day:
I'm as pure as the driven slush. -Tallulah Bankhead (1903 - 1968)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Program — Sticks, Sticks, and More Sticks

Bush offers eavesdropping program docs - 25 Oct 2007 at 4:42pm - WASHINGTON -- The White House offered Thursday to let the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee view classified documents that they have demanded on President Bush's eavesdropping program. The offer was an attempt to speed progress on legislation that would legalize the program.
The committee is understandably interested in the documents as evidence of past practice. But what could possibly be contained therein that would justify legalization of the program at all, let alone speeding it up?

Analysis: Sanctions haven't slowed Iran - 25 Oct 2007 at 4:24pm - WASHINGTON -- Economic sanctions in place for decades haven't stopped Iran from pursuing nuclear ambitions the Bush administration says are a cover for a nuclear bomb or, if administration allegations are true, from funding terrorism across the Middle East.

"Yes, I'd be more than happy to share my
thoughts on Congressional oversight."

The pic accompanying the article is great; Condi has learnt well from Cheney.

The Other Big Problem

Gates doubts Europeans' war commitment - 25 Oct 2007 at 2:40pm - HEIDELBERG, Germany -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday questioned the commitment of some NATO allies to winning in Afghanistan, saying the outcome there is at "real risk" because some European nations are unwilling to provide enough troops and resources to the mission.
After running off to Iraq, is the U.S. pulling its weight in Afghanistan?

"The failure to meet commitments puts the Afghan mission - and with it, the credibility of NATO - at real risk," he added in remarks that were notably critical of European governments that have been close security, political and economic partners of the United States for more than five decades.
Is he certain he really wants to get into the "credibility" issue?

Nude sleepwalkers raise alarm for UK hotel chain - 25 Oct 2007 at 9:31am - A surge in naked sleepwalking among guests has led one of Britain's largest budget hotel groups to re-train staff to handle late-night nudity.
No, I didn't find any associated video.

US slaps sanctions against Iran military, banks - 25 Oct 2007 at 10:44am - WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States on Thursday slapped sanctions on Iran's military and three state-owned banks, sharply ratcheting up tensions over the Islamic state's nuclear drive and alleged backing for terrorism.

Afghans years away from taking over own security: Hillier - 25 Oct 2007 at 10:40am - Afghanistan won't be able to take charge of its own security for a decade or so, Canada's top soldier said Thursday as he called for other countries to step up their support of NATO's mission.

Turkey dismisses U.S. objections on Iraq - 25 Oct 2007 at 10:34am - Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday that U.S. objections would not stop Turkey from crossing into Iraq to eliminate Kurdish rebels. The Turkish military said it had killed more than 30 insurgents who were poised to launch an attack on the border.

U.S. envoy warns of growing power of Iraqi militias - 25 Oct 2007 at 1:26pm - BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The U.S. military has succeeded in delivering a crippling blow to al Qaeda in Iraq, but this has only served to highlight "the other big problem" -- the power of Shi'ite militias, Washington's envoy to Iraq said on Thursday.

Thought for the day:
The best way to predict the future is to invent it. -Alan Kay

Above the Law

A Top Republican Joins in Question for Nominee - 25 Oct 2007 at 12:59am - Arlen Specter joined Democrats in questioning the basis for the assertion by Michael B. Mukasey that the president ?can act outside the law? on national security issues.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


War costs may total $2.4 trillion - 24 Oct 2007 at 9:10am - The cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could total $2.4 trillion through the next decade, or nearly $8,000 per man, woman and child in the country, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate scheduled for release Wednesday.... In the months before the March 2003 Iraq invasion, the Bush administration estimated the Iraq war would cost no more than $50 billion.

White House: Report not 'watered down' - 24 Oct 2007 at 10:02am - WASHINGTON -- The White House on Wednesday denied that it "watered down" congressional testimony that the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention delivered on the impact climate change is having on public health.

Remote-controlled aircraft will patrol Arctic: military - 24 Oct 2007 at 9:41am - The Canadian military plans to buy a fleet of remote-controlled aircraft to patrol the Arctic, an official told CBC News.

Report: Turkish planes, gunships attack Kurds - 24 Oct 2007 at 9:59am - Turkish warplanes and helicopter gunships attacked positions of Kurdish rebels along the rugged Iraqi-Turkish border on Wednesday, the country's official Anatolia news agency reported.

State Department security chief resigns - 24 Oct 2007 at 1:32pm - WASHINGTON -- The State Department's security chief announced his resignation on Wednesday in the wake of last month's deadly Blackwater USA shooting incident in Baghdad and growing questions about the use of private contractors in Iraq.

Bush touts Cuban life after Castro - 24 Oct 2007 at 2:39pm - WASHINGTON -- President Bush on Wednesday blistered Cuba's regime and challenged the international community to help the people of the communist island shed Fidel Castro's rule and become a free society.
Has he nothing better to do?

Rice says US erred in Canadian's arrest - 24 Oct 2007 at 2:32pm - WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged on Wednesday that the United States mishandled the case of a Canadian engineer seized by U.S. officials and taken to Syria, where he and the Canadian government say he was tortured.

Thought for the day:
Home computers are being called upon to perform many new functions, including the consumption of homework formerly eaten by the dog. - -Doug Larson


White House cut warming impact testimony - 23 Oct 2007 at 8:31pm - WASHINGTON -- The White House severely edited congressional testimony given Tuesday by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the impact of climate change on health, removing specific scientific references to potential health risks, according to two sources familiar with the documents. Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Atlanta-based CDC, the government's premier disease monitoring agency, told a Senate hearing that climate change "is anticipated to have a broad range of impacts on the health of Americans." But her prepared testimony was devoted almost entirely to the CDC's preparation, with few details on what effects climate change could have on the spread of disease. Only during questioning did she describe some specific diseases that likely would be affected, again without elaboration.... "It was eviscerated," said a CDC official, familiar with both versions, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the review process. The official said that while it is customary for testimony to be changed in a White House review, these changes were particularly "heavy-handed," with the document cut from its original 14 pages to four. It was six pages as presented to the Senate committee.

Senate passes health funds that Bush opposes - 23 Oct 2007 at 8:52pm - WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate on Tuesday ignored a veto threat and easily passed legislation that would spend more than President George W. Bush wants this year for social programs including health care, education and job training.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

They Endangered Folks

US says Iraq air strike kills 11, mostly civilians - Oct 23, 2007 8:38 AM EDT - BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The U.S. military said it killed 11 people in a helicopter attack on a group of men seen planting a roadside bomb north of Baghdad on Tuesday, but police and residents said the dead were farmers, women and children.... Major Peggy Kageleiry, the U.S. military spokeswoman in northern Iraq, said an Apache attack helicopter had spotted five men planting a roadside bomb near the city of Samarra, 100 km (60 miles) north of the Iraqi capital. The helicopter "engaged" the men, who then ran into a nearby house that was also targeted. Kageleiry said an initial investigation showed five "military age males" and six civilians were killed in the strike. "They chose to go into a house with civilians to hide. They endangered folks on the ground by doing that. We send condolences to the families of those victims and we regret any loss of life," she said.
With troop strength in Iraq at an all-war high, is it really necessary to engage roadsidebombers (especially those known to be in a house with civilians) by helicopter?

Former attorney general raps White House - 23 Oct 2007 at 12:31pm - WASHINGTON -- A Republican U.S. attorney general from the first Bush administration told a House panel Tuesday he thinks the Justice Department had political aims in prosecuting a high-profile Democratic coroner from Pennsylvania.

House works to reduce vet suicide rates - 23 Oct 2007 at 2:57pm - WASHINGTON -- Congress took steps Tuesday to reduce the high rate of suicides among former members of the armed forces, but only after a gun rights senator succeeded in removing a plan to track veterans treated for mental illnesses.

Thought for the day:
I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who overcomes his enemies. -Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC)

Monday, October 22, 2007

What It Takes to Succeed

Bush wants $46 billion more for wars - 22 Oct 2007 at 12:51pm - WASHINGTON -- President Bush asked Congress on Monday for another $46 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and finance other national security needs. "We must provide our troops with the help and support they need to get the job done," Bush said.... "I know some in Congress are against the war and are seeking ways to demonstrate that opposition," Bush said. "I recognize their position and they should make their views heard. But they ought to make sure our troops have what it takes to succeed. Our men and women on the front lines should not be caught the middle of partisan disagreements in Washington, D.C."
But "succeed" at what? Has he ever defined what the job is?

Kurdish rebels offer Turkey conditional ceasefire - 22 Oct 2007 at 1:01pm - SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq (AFP) - Kurdish rebels offered Ankara a ceasefire on Monday, on condition that the Turkish military abandons plans for a incursion into Iraq and ends attacks against the separatist group.

Gates ups pressure on NATO over Afghan commitment - 22 Oct 2007 at 1:06pm - KIEV (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Robert Gates criticized NATO allies on Monday for failing to send enough troops and equipment to Afghanistan, setting the stage for tense discussions in the alliance later this week.

Violence in Iraq drops sharply: Ministry - 22 Oct 2007 at 1:01pm - BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Violence in Iraq has dropped by 70 percent since the end of June, when U.S. forces completed their build-up of 30,000 extra troops to stabilize the war-torn country, the Interior Ministry said on Monday.

Waxman: Blackwater violated tax laws - 22 Oct 2007 at 1:32pm - WASHINGTON -- The Democratic chairman of a House watchdog committee said Monday that Blackwater USA violated tax laws and may have defrauded the government of millions of dollars, a charge the embattled security firm said is groundless.

NSA cooperation: OK for e-mail, IM companies? - October 22, 2007 12:27:00 PM - White House wanted immunity for phone companies over possible cooperation with NSA, but new bill also would shield e-mail, IM providers. A new Senate bill would protect not only telephone companies from lawsuits claiming illegal cooperation with the National Security Agency. It would retroactively immunize e-mail providers, search engines, Internet service providers and instant-messaging services too.

Thought for the day:
The key to being a good manager is keeping the people who hate me away from those who are still undecided. -Casey Stengel (1890 - 1975)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Good Robot, Bad Robot

Robot Warriors In Iraq - 21 Oct 2007 at 8:00pm - In an effort to reduce future U.S. casualties - the battle for Iraq has claimed 3,800 Americans - the Pentagon is looking to a high-tech solution as it recruits the first generation of robot warriors, reports Russ Mitchell.

Robot Cannon Kills 9, Wounds 14 - October 18, 2007 | 11:00:00 AM - We're not used to thinking of them this way. But many advanced military weapons are essentially robotic -- picking targets out automatically, slewing into position, and waiting only for a human to pull the trigger. Most of the time. Once in a while, though, these machines start firing mysteriously on their own. The South African National Defence Force "is probing whether a software glitch led to an antiaircraft cannon malfunction that killed nine soldiers and seriously injured 14 others during a shooting exercise on Friday."

Friday, October 19, 2007

In Public

White House defends Mukasey - 19 Oct 2007 at 1:23pm - WASHINGTON -- The White House on Friday defended Attorney General-nominee Michael Mukasey's refusal to say whether he considers waterboarding a form of torture, saying it is a difficult issue to discuss in public.
What's so difficult about it? Simply say it won't happen on your watch, just like you say in private. You do say that in private, don't you?

Intel panel OKs surveillance bill - 19 Oct 2007 at 9:00am - WASHINGTON -- The Senate Intelligence Committee voted Thursday to strengthen court oversight of government surveillance while protecting telecommunications companies from civil lawsuits for tapping Americans' phones and computers without court approval.

U.S. officer in Iraq gets two-year jail sentence - 19 Oct 2007 at 11:46am - BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A senior U.S. army officer who was Saddam Hussein's jailer was himself jailed after a court martial in Baghdad on Friday found him guilty of charges including illegal possession of secret documents.

Magistrate urges order for White House - 19 Oct 2007 at 1:53pm - WASHINGTON -- A U.S. magistrate on Friday rejected arguments by the Bush administration and urged a federal judge to order the White House to preserve copies of all its e-mails.

Thought for the day:
Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple. -Barry Switzer (1937 - )

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Last Resort Before What?

US military action last resort in Iran - 18 Oct 2007 at 8:48pm - WASHINGTON -- While military action against Iran is a last resort, the U.S. has the resources to attack if needed despite the strains of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the top U.S. military officer said Thursday.
Just like military action was the "last resort" in Iraq in 2003?

In The News - Oct-18

Report: Teaching Iraqis may take years - 18 Oct 2007 at 10:01am - WASHINGTON -- It will take the U.S. "years of steady engagement" in Iraq to teach local and provincial officials to govern themselves and provide their citizens with basic services, investigators said Thursday.

Putin Slams U.S. For "Pointless" Iraq War - 18 Oct 2007 at 9:59am - Russian leader Vladimir Putin has slammed President Bush's foreign policy, accusing the U.S. of fighting a "pointless" war in Iraq aimed at controlling the country's oil reserves. He also gave a new warning against U.S. missile defense plans.

U.S. Accused of Poor Help for Iraqi Refugees - 18 Oct 2007 at 11:09am - The flow of refugees from the war in Iraq is becoming a humanitarian crisis. Thousands have applied for refugee status in the U.S., but only a trickle has arrived. Critics weigh the moral obligations the United States may have toward displaced Iraqis, especially those who worked with the invading force.

Army to keep extending troops' service - 18 Oct 2007 at 12:06pm - WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Army will continue to rely on an unpopular program that forces some soldiers to stay on beyond their retirement or re-enlistment dates, despite repeated pressure from Defense Secretary Robert Gates to reduce and eventually eliminate the practice.

AG nominee reticent on waterboarding - 18 Oct 2007 at 1:47pm - WASHINGTON -- In an intense exchange Thursday with three Democrats, President Bush's nominee for attorney general left the door open for allowing a terrorism-era interrogation technique that simulates drowning.

US lawmakers apologize in torture case - 18 Oct 2007 at 2:48pm - WASHINGTON -- Lawmakers apologized Thursday to a Canadian engineer for his detention by U.S. officials, who took him to Syria where the man says he was tortured and held for nearly a year without charges.

Bill would cap global warming gases - 18 Oct 2007 at 3:12pm - WASHINGTON -- A Senate blueprint for tackling global warming would require power plants and vehicles to reduce their greenhouse gases by 70 percent. A chief sponsor said President Bush's approach of voluntary action will not meet the goal.

Report warns of new ethnic cleansing in Iraq - 18 Oct 2007 at 2:58pm - WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. officials in Baghdad fear a new outbreak of "ethnic cleansing" between Sunnis and Shi'ites next year after the U.S. security crackdown ends, a government watchdog said on Thursday.

Intel bill includes telecom immunity - 18 Oct 2007 at 2:57pm - WASHINGTON -- Telecommunications companies that helped the government eavesdrop on domestic phone and computer lines between 2001 and 2007 without court orders can escape civil lawsuits if the government certifies they acted with the president's authorization, under a draft Senate bill.

Bill to protect gay workers advances - 18 Oct 2007 at 2:54pm - WASHINGTON -- Democrats on Thursday sent to the full House legislation that would prohibit workplace discrimination against gays, lesbians and bisexuals, despite bitter complaints from some because transgendered workers would not be protected under the bill.

Thought for the day:
I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth. -Umberto Eco (1932 - )

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Turning Points

Mystery underwear stymies Guantanamo investigators - 17 Oct 2007 at 8:30pm - GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) - The U.S. military has ended an inquiry into who smuggled unauthorized underwear and a bathing suit to two prisoners at Guantanamo Bay without learning the source of the contraband skivvies, an attorney said on Wednesday.
Really, probably the only greater question than "where would the terrorists be kept if Guantanamo were to be closed?" is where the illegal undies came from.

Blackwater likely to be out of Iraq - 17 Oct 2007 at 8:03pm - WASHINGTON -- A State Department review of private security guards for diplomats in Iraq is unlikely to recommend firing Blackwater USA over the deaths of 17 Iraqis last month, but the company probably is on the way out of that job, U.S. officials said Wednesday.
Iraq is way ahead of the U.S. on this.

Pentagon to alert 8 Guard units for duty - 17 Oct 2007 at 8:03pm - WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon is preparing to alert eight National Guard units that they should be ready to go to Iraq or Afghanistan beginning late next summer, The Associated Press learned Wednesday.
Wasn't it just yesterday that the AP declared the planned withdrawal of some forces from Diyala province a "turning point" in the war?

Iraq drawdown to begin in volatile area - Tue Oct 16, 7:48 PM ET - WASHINGTON - Commanders in Iraq have decided to begin the drawdown of U.S. forces in volatile Diyala province, marking a turning point in the U.S. military mission, The Associated Press has learned.
Yes, I think it was.

House surveillance bill pulled - 17 Oct 2007 at 8:59pm - WASHINGTON -- Republicans successfully maneuvered to derail a Democratic government eavesdropping bill Wednesday, delaying a House vote until next week at the earliest.

To Torture or Not to Enhance Interrogation Techniques

Mukasey: President Can't Authorize Torture - 17 Oct 2007 at 1:00pm - Attorney General-designate Michael Mukasey said today the president doesn't have the authority to use torture techniques against terrorism suspects, a stance not taken by predecessor Alberto Gonzales and considered key to the nominee's confirmation.

Terror-fighting center chief steps down - 17 Oct 2007 at 1:40pm - WASHINGTON -- The chief of the nearly three-year-old National Counterterrorism Center announced his resignation Wednesday, vacating an important post in the Bush administration's efforts against al-Qaida and other extremist groups.

Turkey approves Iraq incursion plan - 17 Oct 2007 at 1:41pm - ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey's parliament resoundingly approved a motion on Wednesday allowing troops to cross into northern Iraq to hunt down Kurdish rebels there, but its Western allies and Baghdad urged Ankara to refrain from military action.

Thought for the day:
Either I've been missing something or nothing has been going on. -Karen Elizabeth Gordon

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

"Can't Discuss"?

Phone carriers quiet on U.S. surveillance program - October 15, 2007 08:27:00 PM - Officials from AT&T, Verizon and Qwest tell Congress they can't discuss specifics about their companies' roles. Major U.S. telephone carriers refused to answer questions from the Democratic-led Congress about their possible participation in President Bush's warrantless domestic spying program, according to documents released by lawmakers Monday.
It might be interesting to hear the legal argument why they "cannot discuss" their participation in illegal activities.

Gates: United front needed on Iran nukes - 16 Oct 2007 at 11:27am - WASHINGTON -- The United State alone cannot force Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday. Gates called Iran as "an ambitious and fanatical theocracy," and said he has yet to find "the elusive Iranian moderate," according to remarks prepared for delivery at the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.
The Defense Department is pretty big -- he ought to be able to get one or two people to assist him in that search.

Pentagon: US missile hit Qatar farm - 16 Oct 2007 at 11:54am - WASHINGTON -- A U.S. Patriot missile was accidentally fired from a military base in Qatar, hitting a nearby farm, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

Putin warns against Iran attack on landmark visit - 16 Oct 2007 at 9:27am - TEHRAN (AFP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin Tuesday warned against military action against Iran and backed its right to nuclear energy, during the first visit to the country by a Kremlin chief since World War II.

Bush hosts Dalai Lama amid Chinese outrage - 16 Oct 2007 at 3:06pm - WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush hosted the Dalai Lama on Tuesday despite China's warning that U.S. plans to honor the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader could damage relations between Beijing and Washington.
So it's now not only Russia, but also China that it's perfectly acceptable to infuriate, but Turkey mustn't be disturbed in the slightest way. Is it only because Turkey's cooperation makes the United States' continued occupation of Iraq much easier? Or is there some fundamental principle I've missed? It's worth recalling that both Russia and China did what they could to prevent the U.S. from embroiling itself in the current Iraq fiasco.

Thought for the day:
With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. -Steven Weinberg (1933 - )

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Agony of Victory

Al Qaeda In Iraq Defeated? - 15 Oct 2007 at 12:29pm - U.S. military commanders in Iraq have reportedly gained new confidence in the fight against their most deadly enemy, al Qaeda in Iraq, after a series of success stories, but intelligence officials are hesitant to label the resilient group defeated.
How many times can you win the same war?

Putin urges dialogue with Iran over nuclear programme - 15 Oct 2007 at 10:53am - WIESBADEN, Germany (AFP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday called for patience in talks with Iran about its nuclear programme, saying that the same tactic had paid off in North Korea.
The good cop?

Oil prices scale historic heights in London and New York - 15 Oct 2007 at 11:17am - LONDON (AFP) - World oil prices hit record peaks on Monday, smashing through 85 dollars in New York in the face of heightened tensions between Turkey and Kurdish rebels in the northern region of crude producer Iraq.
Heckuva job, Bushie.

Rare condition may have killed man jolted by Taser: RCMP - 15 Oct 2007 at 12:42pm - The man who died at Vancouver International Airport after jolts from a Taser may have had a rare condition known as excited delirium, RCMP speculated Monday.
Yeah, it was the rare condition that killed the man who coincidentally happened to be "jolted" by a taser -- rare condition, yeah, that's the ticket.

Turkish govt asks parliament to let troops enter Iraq - 15 Oct 2007 at 2:33pm - ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey's cabinet asked parliament on Monday for permission to launch attacks on Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq that Washington fears could destabilize one of the most peaceful areas of the country.
Again, isn't the idea of Washington having concerns over destabilising Iraq rather ludicrous?

Thought for the day:
I never vote for anyone; I always vote against. -W. C. Fields (1880 - 1946)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Back Off

Putin warns U.S. over missiles - 12 Oct 2007 at 10:33am - In a tense start to talks on a range of thorny issues, President Vladimir Putin on Friday warned U.S. officials to back off a plan to install missile defenses in eastern Europe or risk harming relations with Moscow.
Will the Bush administration be as sensitive to Russian concerns over the missile shield as it seems to be to Turkish concerns over "Armenian genocide" labeling -- or will it not give two kopeks?

Turkey Defiant On Possible Iraq Invasion - 12 Oct 2007 at 11:15am - Turkey's prime minister has vowed to pursue Kurdish militants into northern Iraq if his military sees fit, even if it means severely compromising his country's relationship with Washington - the latest development in a fast-building diplomatic row.

Troops: Blackwater Shooting "Criminal" - 12 Oct 2007 at 11:30am - The first U.S. troops to arrive on the scene after Blackwater USA guards shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians found no evidence that the Iraqis fired any weapons at the guards, the Washington Post reports. The soldiers called the incident "criminal."
This would seem significant, in light of what the U.S. military does and doesn't consider illegal with regard to its own conduct.

CIA investigates conduct of its inspector general 12 Oct 2007 at 3:00am - The internal inquiry is prompted by senior agency officials who say they were criticized unfairly in the watchdog's reports on secret overseas prisons. CIA Director Michael V. Hayden has mounted a highly unusual challenge to the agency's chief watchdog, ordering an internal investigation of an inspector general who has issued a series of scathing reports sharply critical of top CIA officials, according to government officials familiar with the matter.

Lawmakers back CIA's inside critic - 12 Oct 2007 at 2:18pm - WASHINGTON -- Congress will "aggressively preserve" the independence of the CIA's internal investigator, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said Friday in response to reports that the CIA has launched a critical review of its inspector general's work.

Torture claimants urge PM to lift veil on inquiry - 12 Oct 2007 at 12:34pm - Three Arab-Canadians who allege Canadian security officials contributed to their torture overseas are calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to make the inquiry into their cases fully public.

Texan mayors threaten court to stop border fence - 12 Oct 2007 at 1:39pm - LAREDO, Texas (Reuters) - Texan mayors on the border with Mexico are threatening to take the U.S. government to court and are encouraging ranchers to do the same to block construction of a fence to keep out illegal immigrants.

Thought for the day:
Not only is there no God, but try getting a plumber on weekends. -Woody Allen (1935 - )

Thursday, October 11, 2007

She Should Know

Rice says Iran 'lying' about nukes - 11 Oct 2007 at 9:01pm - SHANNON, Ireland -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday accused Iran of "lying" about the aim of its nuclear program, saying there's no doubt Tehran wants the capability to produce nuclear weapons and has deceived the U.N.'s atomic watchdog about its intentions.
She speaks as one with considerable experience in the field of lying about nukes.

A Bigger Disaster Than Katrina?

Jimmy Carter calls Dick Cheney a 'disaster' - 11 Oct 2007 at 8:42am - Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on Wednesday denounced Vice President Dick Cheney as a "disaster" for the country and a "militant" who has had an excessive influence in setting foreign policy.

U.N. says prosecute Iraq contractors who commit crimes - 11 Oct 2007 at 8:42am - BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The United Nations wants probes to determine whether private security contractors in Iraq have committed war crimes and for governments to ensure that the rule of law is applied, U.N. officials said on Thursday.

Report: Marines want out of Iraq - 11 Oct 2007 at 7:56am - The U.S. Marine Corps is pressing to remove its forces from Iraq and send Marines instead to Afghanistan to take the lead in combat there, The New York Times reported in Thursday editions.

Ex-Attorney General Gonzales Hires Lawyer - 11 Oct 2007 at 6:54am - As the investigation continues into the firing of eight federal prosecutors, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has hired a criminal defense attorney: George Terwilliger, a former official at the Justice Department.

State Dept. may phase out Blackwater - 11 Oct 2007 at 3:29am - WASHINGTON -- The State Department may phase out or limit the use of private security guards in Iraq, which could mean canceling Blackwater USA's contract or awarding it to another company in line with an Iraqi government demand, The Associated Press has learned.

Analyst warns against partitioning Iraq - 11 Oct 2007 at 10:05am - WASHINGTON -- Limiting the power of Iraq's central government and giving more control to ethnically divided regions might lead to large-scale violence and intervention by neighboring countries, an analyst says.

U.S. wants Canadian airlines to disclose passenger info: report - 11 Oct 2007 at 11:35am - Canadian airlines flying over the U.S. will have to submit passenger information under a proposed U.S. program, even if the destination is not the States.

Blackwater Sued for Sept. 16 Shootings - 11 Oct 2007 at 1:12pm - Families of Iraqis who died in a shooting involving Blackwater USA contractors in Baghdad sued the company Thursday, saying the firm violated U.S. law and fostered a culture of lawlessness among its employees.

Thought for the day:
The direct use of force is such a poor solution to any problem, it is generally employed only by small children and large nations. -David Friedman

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Mess With Texas

Bush, Texas at odds over death case - 10 Oct 2007 at 2:18pm - WASHINGTON -- Neither the president nor an international court can tell Texas how to treat criminal defendants, the state's top Supreme Court advocate told the justices in a lively argument Wednesday over the fate of a Mexican citizen on death row.
Mustn't Texas treat criminal defendants in accordance with applicable federal law? Or have I missed Texas seceding from the United States?

Bush pushes for telecom immunity - 10 Oct 2007 at 12:42pm - WASHINGTON -- President Bush said Wednesday that he will not sign a new eavesdropping bill if it does not grant retroactive immunity to U.S. telecommunications companies that helped conduct electronic surveillance without court orders.
Immunity would be in no one's interest but that of Bush and of those who aided and abetted his illegal wiretapping.

Security guards fired randomly: Iraq official - 10 Oct 2007 at 8:15am - BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi officials on Wednesday accused guards working for a foreign security company of firing randomly when they killed two women in the latest incident involving private security contractors that has outraged Iraqis.

UN says millions of displaced Iraqis face grim future - 10 Oct 2007 at 7:40am - The United Nations says the plight of millions of displaced Iraqis is likely to worsen in the next few months.

Judge OKs injunction against illegal worker plan - 10 Oct 2007 at 1:06pm - SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A U.S. federal court judge on Wednesday granted a preliminary injunction barring the Bush administration from going ahead with a controversial program to remove illegal immigrants from the U.S. work force.

Panel: Give vets disability pay quickly - 10 Oct 2007 at 2:50pm - WASHINGTON -- Injured veterans suffering long waits for disability checks could have their claims processed immediately with audits done later, if need be, the head of a special commission said Wednesday.

Thought for the day:
There are no wrong notes; some are just more right than others. -Thelonius Monk

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

In the News – Oct-09

Iraqis Seeks Restitution from Blackwater USA - 9 Oct 2007 at 9:11am - An Iraqi government report calls for the U.S. government to sever ties with the private security contractor Blackwater USA. It also wants the company to pay $8 million in compensation to the families of each of the 17 people killed last month by Blackwater guards in Baghdad.

Court rejects alleged CIA kidnap victim - 9 Oct 2007 at 10:11am - WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court on Tuesday terminated a lawsuit from a man who claims he was abducted and tortured by the CIA, effectively endorsing Bush administration arguments that state secrets would be revealed if the case were allowed to proceed.

Report: White House Ruins Terrorist Intel - 9 Oct 2007 at 11:00am - SITE Institute, a private intelligence company, has told the Washington Post that the White House leaked an Osama bin Laden video to the media last month, ruining years of sleuth work to uncover al Qaeda secrets. The White House denies the claim.

Democrats to unveil wiretapping bill - 9 Oct 2007 at 12:01pm - WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department would have to reveal to Congress the details of all electronic surveillance conducted without court orders since Sept. 11, 2001, including the so-called Terrorist Surveillance Program, if a new Democratic wiretapping bill is approved.

Thought for the day:
Opinions founded on prejudice are always sustained with the greatest of violence. -Francis Jeffrey (1773 - 1850)

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The War on Terror Is the Enemy in the War on Terror

Report says war on terror is fuelling al Qaeda - 7 Oct 2007 at 7:28pm - LONDON (Reuters) - Six years after the September 11 attacks in the United States, the "war on terror" is failing and instead fuelling an increase in support for extremist Islamist movements, a British think-tank said on Monday.

Iraqi Blackwater probe raises toll - 7 Oct 2007 at 8:10pm - An official Iraqi investigation into a deadly shooting involving Blackwater USA security guards raised the number of Iraqis killed to 17 and found the gunfire was unwarranted, the government said Sunday.

US appears guilty of torture: Pelosi(AFP) - 7 Oct 2007 at 4:10pm -

AFP - The United States appears to be illegally torturing terror suspects contrary to denials by President George W. Bush, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday.

Thought for the day:
Never keep up with the Joneses. Drag them down to your level. -Quentin Crisp

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

In the News – 2007-Oct-03

U.S. protests shrink while antiwar sentiment grows - 3 Oct 2007 at 8:36am - WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Crowds at antiwar rallies in Washington have dwindled even as U.S. opinion has turned against the war in Iraq, as organizers feud and participants question the effectiveness of the street protests.

U.S. in Iraq says finds list of foreign fighters - 3 Oct 2007 at 8:29am - BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The U.S. military said on Wednesday it had discovered a list of some 500 al Qaeda militants recruited to fight in Iraq from a range of European, Middle East and north African countries.

Questions raised over US terror exercise - 3 Oct 2007 at 11:48am - WASHINGTON -- The nation is preparing for its biggest terrorism exercise ever later this month when three fictional "dirty bombs" go off and cripple transportation arteries in two major U.S. cities and Guam, according to a document obtained by The Associated Press.

Senate approves intelligence bill - 3 Oct 2007 at 2:22pm - WASHINGTON -- The Senate has scrapped its bid to obtain the archive of daily intelligence briefings given to the president on Iraq prior to the 2003 invasion.

Iraq PM Maliki questions future of Blackwater - 3 Oct 2007 at 2:30pm - BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki questioned on Wednesday whether U.S. private security firm Blackwater had any future role in Iraq because of the high number of shooting incidents in which it had been involved.

Thought for the day:
The fascination of shooting as a sport depends almost wholly on whether you are at the right or wrong end of the gun. -P. G. Wodehouse (1881 - 1975)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Democrats propose tax surcharge for war - 2 Oct 2007 at 11:44am - WASHINGTON -- Democrats on Tuesday proposed an income tax surcharge to finance the approximately $150 billion annual cost of operations in Iraq, saying it is unfair to pass the cost of the war onto future generations.
Can't wait to hear the opposition response to this -- à la the proposal to tax cigarettes to pay for health insurance -- "Then we'll never be able to end the war: think of all the revenue we'd lose!"

U.S. contractor Blackwater defends actions in Iraq - 2 Oct 2007 at 9:10am - WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. security contractor Blackwater on Tuesday staunchly defended its actions in Iraq, saying there had been a "rush to judgment" over a shooting incident on September 16 in which 11 Iraqis were killed.

British PM says that 1,000 troops will return home by Christmas - 2 Oct 2007 at 8:26am - BAGHDAD (AFP) - Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited Iraq on Tuesday and announced that 1,000 British troops could be home by Christmas as he aims to hand control of Basra province back to the Iraqis within two months.

Judge Blocks Program to ID Illegal Immigrants 2 Oct 2007 at 8:25am
A federal judge in San Francisco blocks the start of a controversial program to find illegal immigrants in the nation's workforce. Under the plan businesses face penalties if they keep workers whose Social Security numbers don't match their names.

House Democrats seek Jan 2009 Iraq pullout - 2 Oct 2007 at 11:48am - WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush's request for nearly $200 billion more to fund the Iraq war will not be approved unless it is linked to a plan to bring home U.S. combat troops by January 2009, the head of the House appropriations committee said on Tuesday.

Legality of US eavesdropping questioned - 2 Oct 2007 at 11:41am - WASHINGTON -- A former top lawyer for the Bush administration on Tuesday said that parts of the President Bush's controversial eavesdropping program were illegal.

War costs up again for FY 2008 - 2 Oct 2007 at 2:28pm - WASHINGTON -- War spending could be $20 billion higher this year than last. The Pentagon has requested $189.3 billion for the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan during the budget year that began Monday. That's compared to $169 billion in the fiscal year 2007 that just ended.

Thought for the day:
What luck for rulers that men do not think. -Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945)

Monday, October 01, 2007

Blackwater Report – September Iraq Civilian Deaths – And More

Report Depicts Recklessness at Blackwater - 1 Oct 2007 at 2:41pm - Guards for Blackwater USA have shot innocent Iraqis and have sought to cover up the incidents, sometimes with the help of the State Department, a report prepared for Congress says.

Civilian deaths in Iraq halve in September: government - 1 Oct 2007 at 8:00am - BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Civilian deaths from violence across Iraq fell by 50 percent in September, according to government data published on Monday, matching a drop in U.S. military casualties attributed to a boost in troop numbers. Information from the health, interior and defense ministries registered 884 civilians killed in September, the lowest monthly total this year, down from 1,773 in August.

U.S. top court won't hear Guantanamo prisoner's case - 1 Oct 2007 at 12:05pm - WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday turned down an appeal by a Guantanamo prisoner whose legal challenges had forced changes to President George W. Bush's anti-terrorism program last year.

Texas oilman pleads guilty in Iraq oil/food case - 1 Oct 2007 at 11:35am - NEW YORK (Reuters) - Texas oilman Oscar Wyatt pleaded guilty on Monday to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one of five charges against him for his role in the U.N. oil-for-food scandal.

Chertoff: Illegals 'degrade' environment - 1 Oct 2007 at 1:52pm - WASHINGTON -- Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff on Monday defended the construction of a fence along the southwest border, saying it's actually better for the environment than what happens when people illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico line.

Thought for the day:
Stoop and you'll be stepped on; stand tall and you'll be shot at. -Carlos A. Urbizo